Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Stones for Bread Review

I loved the book "Stones for Bread" by Christa Parrish. This book really had all the makings of a great novel - not just in the Christian genre, but across the board. At first I thought it was going to be hard to get into because there is a lot of detail about bread making in this book. But it wasn't long before I was sucked in. The way Parrish writes really made me get lost in the book. Liesl McNamara, the main character of the book, is obsessed with bread. Her whole life revolves around bread. But you can see her evolving throughout the book. She takes in friends, new coworkers, perhaps a man, tries new things, and even finds her faith again through a long series of events. I just love the way this book was written, and it makes me want to check out Christa Parrish's other works. There are also eleven artisan bread recipes, which I enjoyed reading (and drooling over) and impressed me thoroughly. I highly recommend this book. If you don't usually enjoy the Christian genre (I know some in this genre are quite sappy and cheesy), I think you should try this one. I feel sure you'll like it as well.

Thank you to Litfuse Publicity Group and Thomas Nelson for a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.

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christa parrish stones for bread

Monday, November 25, 2013

Just in Time for Thanksgiving

Really, I should say "Just in Time for the Holidays". About the time Thanksgiving is here, you see people warming up for Christmas. My preparation for our church Angel Tree event starts in September, and as social media expands, I see countless posts on Facebook and Twitter about helping families in our community with Thanksgiving dinners, groceries, and Christmas presents for children. I think this is wonderful, but as a person who sees many of these donations, I know that a lot of times, people give their leftovers. They give the jacket that their mother-in-law bought for their child and their child hated it. They give the jeans that have small holes starting in the knees. They give the green beans that are expiring in two weeks. Or the book that has ripped pages. This used to be me. I used to pick through Brianna's clothes and pick out the items she never wore, and then those were the items I would give away. My perspective has changed over the years though. Earlier this year I urged her to pick out one of her MANY winter jackets and told her we were giving at least one to the Angel Tree. She picked out her favorite one and told me that was the one she wanted to give. I will admit, I'm pretty sure I frowned. I mean, that coat was pretty cute. And it was her favorite! Why in the world would she give it away? But, she did. I couldn't think of a good reason for her not to give it if she wanted to. And shouldn't she give her very best anyway? Shouldn't I? We only recently discussed the Widow's Mite (Mark 12:41-44, if you are clueless), and about being cheerful givers. So I must be a good example to her. And I have learned, and continue to remind myself, that this stuff that I own... is just stuff. I don't deserve it more than anyone else. In fact, someone else probably needs it much more than I do. I pray that God continues to soften my heart about this, because I admit I am disappointed in people as a whole when I open up donations to Fed By Faith to find stained clothing or expired food. I know that sometimes it's a mistake. An oversight. But sometimes, it's because we don't want to give our best.

I just finished a book called "Stones for Bread" by Christa Parrish. I want you to read an excerpt from the book that made me go off on this rant. All you really need to know is that this is spoken from the point of view of Liesl, the owner of a bread shop called Wild Rise.

It began in high school, when our Key Club collected food for a local pantry. We went out Halloween night, and instead of gathering candy we asked for canned goods and brought a van-load back to the school cafeteria. We stacked the food on a table, organizing it as best as our hormone-saturated brains could manage - pasta and sauces here, other noodles next, soups, canned meats, rice, vegetables, the pickles and strange items on the end. I took a jar of blue-cheese-stuffed Greek olives from one of the bags, the dust on the lid so thick it was sticky. I couldn't blow it off, finding instead a box of Kleenex and scrubbing the top before adding it to the tower of beets and gherkins and mincemeat filling.

It bothered me for days, and I grappled with my feelings, the idea that someone would use a food donation to rid the pantry of disliked or never-used food. I mentioned it to Jennie, who said, "Maybe they just thought someone else would want them. There are people out there who really like green olives. Or maybe that was all they had to give."

I knew it was true. Some old man on a fixed income who adores olives but couldn't afford them would feast on them in his senior apartment, picking them straight out of the jar with his fingers and squeezing the cheese onto his tongue before squishing the olive in his mouth. He'd drink the packing oil and watch The Amazing Race, and go to bed full and happy.

Perhaps the person who donated the olives thought this, or for her, the donation was her widow's mite. I imagined she thought nothing, though. Simply saw the jar hiding at the back of their pantry, some Secret Santa gift from the office holiday party two, oh wait, three years ago, and dropped the olives into the bag with the extra package of bread stuffing from Thanksgiving, the four-for-a-dollar can of creamed corn, and a box of Rice-A-Roni that has yet to be eaten because she accidentally grabbed the wrong flavor.

Do everything as if unto the Lord. Offer up everything as if for the Lord, including jars of olives to the food pantry. Or leftover loaves of bread. Years later, that's finally how I make sense of it, where it settles out for me. If Jesus knocks on my door today, will I rummage through my home and give him the food I don't like, the outgrown jacket with stains and a broken zipper, the dirty Crock-pot in the basement, the one with the chipped lid and the mice nesting inside I've yet to find time to toss into the Salvation Army's dumpster?

Whatever you did for the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.

So I pack the bread in bags, like I will for any paying customer. I don't send burnt loaves or stale loaves [to the local food pantry] or any kitchen experiment I don't believe is quality enough to sell. I will not give to the least of these anything I will not offer to my Lord, should he walk into Wild Rise one afternoon and ask for a little something to eat.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

God's Great Plan Review

I absolutely love it when I get the chance to read a new book with my kids. I jumped at the chance to review "God's Great Plan" by Melissa Cutrera. I was not disappointed at all. The book begins with creation and goes throughout the fall of man, our sin, why God sent Jesus to die on the cross for us, and how we can receive salvation through God. But it is done on a child's level and in simple rhymes. It was nice to read over and over again with my kids, and even at ages 3 and 4 they enjoyed this book. The pictures done by illustrator Matthew Sample II are amazing as well. They are really vivid and stood out. I highly recommend this book to anyone with children.

Thank you to Cross Focused Reviews and Shepherd Press for a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Marriage in Middlebury Review

What a sweet romance novel Anita Higman has come up with in her book "A Marriage in Middlebury". I enjoy Christian romance if it is well-written and not too cheesy, and I would recommend Higman's novel to most anyone who enjoys this genre. It covers the spectrum of star-crossed lovers, a happy ending, comedy, and characters who are not irritating. In my mind, that's a good book.

You will like these characters who are charming and live in a great little town. You will feel emotional when you find out the background of Charlotte and Sam, who missed an opportunity to wed decades ago when they were in love. And it sounds to me like this is just the first in a series? I'd hop on board to continue reading about these characters.

Thank you to Litfuse Publicity Group and Abingdon Press for a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.

Related by Chance Review

The book I just finished by Deb DeArmond is called "Related by Chance, Family by Choice: Transforming Mother-in-Law & Daughter-in-Law Relationships".

I'll be honest, as I read this book I was just reminded of how blessed I am in the relationship I actually have with my mother-in-law. I definitely see her as a close friend and another mother, although no one could replace my biological mother. This book, even though it didn't personally help me with an issue in my life, was still a great read and made great points.

Throughout the book, DeArmond includes survey results and quotes from mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law from around the country. Some stories are heartbreaking and some made me feel disbelief in the anger that is sometimes held in these relationships. If your relationship with your MIL or DIL is like that, I strongly encourage you to read this book.

Each chapter will touch on things such as love, cleaving to your spouse, communication, and other important things that can disrupt the relationship between MIL and DIL. Each chapter also has a lot of scripture to back up what DeArmond is saying, self-assessments to fill out, a plan of action for each category she touches on, and a prayer. I can absolutely see how I would utilize this book to help my relationship with my MIL if I needed it. I think this book will help a lot of ladies, so please recommend it to those you know who are struggling in this area.

Thank you to Litfuse Publicity Group and Kregel Publications for a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Mighty League Storybook App Review

I am not going to lie. I was incredibly excited to be able to test a new interactive app for my Kindle from Blackfish.

Description of the book: The adorkable JMan and his plucky hedgehog sidekick, Mr. Redge are the unstoppable, secret superhero team who save a classmate from the poking pranks of Dr. Evil Touch! Join this quirky duo on their quest to stop a bully, make the school playground a peaceful place, and more importantly, make a new friend who likes crime fighting, capes and karate, too. Discover JMan's hidden notebook on each page about what it's like to be an Aspie.

About the app: This INTERACTIVE storybook app is based on the real JMan, Jonathan Murphy, and his REAL LIFE adventures growing up with ASPERGER'S SYNDROME. Written by his sister, Molly Murphy, and narrated by Jonathan, the story is told by someone who sees his world from a very unique perspective. It promotes SELF-ACCEPTANCE, AWARENESS, and an UNDERSTANDING for others who are different.

The description states that this is for ages 5-11, but I will say my kids younger than five really enjoyed it as well. There are tons of special features in this app, such as changing the superhero, interacting with the hedgehog, different types of narration, tons of interactive sounds and animations, and there's even something you can download to go along with it that aligns with Common Core!

I think this is a really fun, cool app. Adults will realize fairly quickly the JMan has Asperger's Syndrome. Younger kids won't catch on right away but they'll get the point - he is different, and that's okay. I like the discussions that can come from something like this. I do highly recommend this for all parents, no matter the age of your children, really.

Thank you to Litfuse Publicity for providing me with this free app in exchange for an honest review.

Dear Mr. Knightley Review

Well, I love finding new fiction books that I enjoy and I love finding new fiction authors that I enjoy. So I definitely appreciated this book, "Dear Mr. Knightley" by Katherine Reay.

Samantha Moore is an extreme introvert who is offered a college scholarship with one strange requirement - she must write regular updates on her school progress to the director of the scholarship. The letter-writing begins to feel like a journal to her, and she relates things to this mysterious "Mr. Knightley" that she could never tell anyone else.

The character of Samantha is probably either going to intrigue you or irritate you. At first she irritated me, but as the plot grew, I began to understand her. Samantha hides behind quotes of books. She is extremely introverted and doesn't know how to properly interact with people. In the beginning I felt like this was completely unrealistic but as I learned about her background of emotional turmoil and foster homes, I realized I don't have experience with anyone with that background, so I don't know what "typical" is for them.

Yes, there's a mushy, happy ending, so don't fret. Also, God's love is more embedded, I guess, in the book, rather than pointed out a lot. God is shown a lot in people's actions in this book. I liked it.

I would recommend this book to people, and particularly if you enjoy Jane Austen!

Thank you to Litfuse Publicity and Thomas Nelson for providing me a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Snow on the Tulips Review

I have to admit, I don't normally like books that are set in other countries or other time periods. I feel like I have to stretch my brain to understand them, when I just want a light read. But I was really surprised at how much I enjoyed "Snow on the Tulips" by Liz Tolsma. It's a fictional story set in the Netherlands, and has every topic you could ask for, from war to romance to courage and faith to suspense. The author does a great job of adding drama to the story, and it seems very realistic. I really enjoyed the characters and I really enjoyed the story.

I would definitely recommend this book, even if you don't usually enjoy historical fiction. Like I said, I was surprised at my enjoyment of this book, even though I put off reading it for a couple of weeks. Once I started reading it, I finished it really quickly because it was very good.

Thank you to Litfuse Publicity Group and Thomas Nelson for a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, November 11, 2013

My Hope is Found Review

I got "My Hope is Found" by Joanne Bischof to review mainly because I have read a couple of her other books that I enjoyed. I didn't realize this was the third book in the Cadence of Grace series. Fortunately, it took an extremely short time for me to realize the relationships between characters and figure out what had happened between these characters in the other books. Bischof did a great job of updating in a way that I could easily come in on book three and feel like I knew everything about these characters.

This is a romance set in the early 1900's, so if you enjoy that genre of books you will definitely enjoy this one. Lonnie is a lady who is loved by two men, and she really can't decide between them either. Funny thing is, one of them is her ex-husband, who she still hasn't forgiven for some things, and the other man is a preacher, and a really great man. This is the story of her decision between the two of them, and the struggles in faith they all go through.

I do recommend you read this book, although I would suggest we all go read the rest of the books in the series, if they are as good as this one.

Thank you to Waterbrook Multonah Publishers for a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Why Christ Came Review

I loved using Joel Beeke and William Boekestein's book "Why Christ Came: 31 Meditations on the Incarnation" with my regular devotions.

I do think these could easily be read just one at a time, throughout the month, over and over again as the months pass. I did not read this book like that for two reasons - I wanted to finish the book in time to review it, of course, but also because it was just really good.

The 31 reasons why Christ came may or may not be all-encompassing. I haven't done enough research on my own to know. But the 31 reasons presented in this book are fantastic and will make you so grateful for what Christ has done for you. God's plan is amazing and it is laid out in this book. The reasons range from revealing God's love for sinners to bringing peace to calling sinners to repentance. It's a really beautiful book and will help you see the magnitude of God's love. It's an easy read, easy to understand, backed up by scripture and I highly recommend it to all.

Thank you to Cross Focused Reviews and Reformation Heritage Books for a book in exchange for an honest review.

Awakening Faith Review

I'm not usually into supplementing along with my devotions, mainly because I tend to get distracted by books enough as it is, so I try to focus only on the Bible. But this past week I incorporated a book, "Awakening Faith" by James Stuart Bell, into my devotional time. I just read a couple or a few (depending on my time frame) each day. I have to say, I really enjoyed these devotions. The back copy states, "In the age of social media, where glib sayings abound, one yearns to read some deeper wisdom about life and faith on a regular basis. - Mark Galli". That is certainly true about this book.

You will run across familiar names of faith in this book, such as Augustine, but I didn't know many of the men referred to throughout this book. Fortunately, the author includes a short snippet about each writer at the back of the book. It was so interesting to read about these men of great faith.

I definitely recommend this devotional. The devotions are short but contain a lot of wisdom. They are easy to understand but they make you think. Very well written.

Thank you to Cross Focused Reviews and Zondervan for a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Value of Time

This is an excerpt from a book called "Seasons of the Heart", a compilation of devotions.

"But this I say, brethren, the time is short..." - 1 Corinthians 7:29

To the Christian, how valuable is time! God has given it to us only minute by minute, to show us how precious a thing it is that He grants in these small drops. How soon is time over! How short is the longest life! And yet time is given to prepare for eternity. As we spend our time, so shall we spend eternity. The question "Where shall I spend eternity?" must be decided in time. When eternity begins, it will be too late.

Time is given us to serve the Lord in. Time is given us to repent in and to believe the gospel. Time is given us to do our duty in our station. Time is given us to do good to others. How much time is wasted! Idle gossip from house to house, too much attention to dress rather than neatness, foolish reading - so many things to waste precious time!

But there is one idea I should like you to have, one thought that I
trust the Spirit may write in all our hearts, and I pray He may keep in them, too, for Satan and the world would wish us to think far otherwise. This is it: time is given us to prepare for eternity. I am answerable to God for my use or abuse of time.

Let us pray to God to give us grace to spend our time in His service, in doing our duty in our day and generation, and in preparing for the life to come. Then, when time shall be over, we shall enter upon a glorious eternity through Christ our Lord. The ungodly and the careless will then wish, when wishing will be vain, that they had in like manner devoted their time to God. What would sinners in like manner give at the last for one short day! Oh, then, be wise now. Be wise in time. Consider your ways, and prepare for a life that shall never end!

- Elizabeth Julia Hasell

Monday, November 4, 2013

Critical Reaction Review

Apparently "Critical Reaction" is Todd Johnson's debut novel. I never would have guessed that if the back cover didn't tell me that.

The novel involves an explosion that takes place at a nuclear plant. Two survivors of that night have their own thoughts of the events leading up the explosion and things that they saw during the chaos of the explosion. Anyone who could verify their accounts has gone missing. Others change their stories when confronted by higher-ranking people in the company. Kieran, one of the survivors, won't stop pushing and decides to sue the company. This book is his story.

I will say, this is not an "easy" book to read. It will make you think. But the story is so intriguing and keeps going deeper and deeper, that you will just have to keep reading out of curiosity. It's well-written and very detailed, but not to the point that you're rubbing your eyes and dozing off out of boredom.

I highly recommend this book, particularly if you like law-type fiction or suspense.

Thank you to Bethany House for providing me with a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

January Pictures

 Slowly catching up! Here are pictures from our life in January 2013.

Kaleb hard at work!

A totally normal picture for my children:

 Rick Strickland doing special singing at church:

 Impact Service at church:

 "I don't need a nap!" 20 minutes later...

 Pretending to sleep on the comfortable hardwood floor:

Stephen's Christmas present from me - Zac Brown Band in concert: