Saturday, April 29, 2017

English Lessons by Andrea Lucado (My own thoughts mixed in)

English Lessons: The Crooked Path of Growing Toward Faith by [Lucado, Andrea]

The Crooked Path of Growing Toward Faith

Apparently, the subtitle has changed since the book I received. Mine was an uncorrected proof and the subtitle says "The Crooked Little Grace-Filled Path of Growing Up".  I think both apply.

This is Andrea's memoir from her year spent at Oxford getting her Master's degree and writing her thesis. There is basically nothing about her studies, but lots about her journey, in making friends, and finding her place in Oxford and also in life. England isn't necessarily known as a Christian country despite the old churches that still remain there. This caused Andrea to doubt what she grew up believing and wondering if it wasn't better to just go through life without faith as her non-Christian friends seemed so okay and content not believing in God. But in the end, she realizes that her faith is her foundation.

There are a few things I want to quote and comment on. When one of her friends asked her what her pillars were, she recited the creed. "I was shaky and not confident. I was unnerved by the smart, Oxford graduate across from me, but I said it, and sometimes saying it out loud is all we can do. Sometimes reciting the Creed we are uncertain about is what leads us to eventual certainty, or at least to a deeper assurance. This is why we write and sing hymns. This is why we read one book over and over and over again. Words, remembering them, saying them and writing them, are foundational for us. Our words make up who we are."  I like this thought. Sometimes going through the motions is all we feel capable of and I think that is okay. At one point in the book, Andrea also talks about letting other people's faith carry us for a bit when we struggle to find our way. Relying on that faith of our fathers in times of stress and turmoil.

Reading this book at this time of year and remembering the goodbyes of two years ago makes some of the things she says more real. When life is hard and you are struggling and groping, just continuing to do the foundational things more out of a sense of duty than any heartfelt reason is all that you can cling to carry you through. Eventually, you can come out into the light and you will again feel and believe the things you clung to so tenuously. I know there may be those that doubt that, but I think there is some truth in there.

Another thing Andrea talks about is good-byes. "Say the good-bye. Actually say the word, and then the words that need to be said before it and after it. Articulate it. Make it real, for yourself and if the good-bye is to someone else, for the other person too. If words need to be said, say them. If they need to be written, write them. Whatever you need to do." And I would add, do that on a regular basis, because you never know when the final good-bye will happen.

And then on saying good-bye to one's self. "Sooner or later we have to say good-bye to that someone we were before. To the parts of us that no longer fit. This is okay, I think. If we continued on in life with every version of us that we have ever been, we would all be very large and heavy people having difficulty walking down the street." It is about shedding the old skin and wearing a new skin that is "More humble and maybe less pretty and taut, but at least more honest." Life changes us and we need to accept that as well. While we may not notice the changes at the time, we can look back and see the changes.

And finally, if you made it this far, this is the last piece I want to quote and I think it is so fitting for this time of year for me, the second anniversary of some hard and sad good-byes. "We all have people over our mantels, don't we? The frames and the faces change as we go along, but we remember each of them. They have imprinted us in one way or another. All the people that make up so much of who we are and are becoming. No matter how far from them we go, no matter how disparate our twigs and sticks and leaves are in the end, the people over our mantels have played a part in creating us, and that keeps them with us in a way that no fire can burn up." I just love that thought of a picture over the mantel. Life is moving on and two years have passed since Dad and Cheryl and Bentley left this earth, but their picture lives on in my heart over my mantel. I will never forget them and I want to be a better person for having said good-bye to them. I would have rather not said good-bye, but this is life and so good-byes happen whether we are ready or not. And so to say good-bye in a real and authentic way without denying the fact that they are gone allows me to truly appreciate their lives and legacies.
I guess anyway, this was a new thought to me when I read this, but I like it. And I want to be changed and to be a better person because I have been willing to grieve and say good-bye.

Okay, this is a combination of a book review and my own thoughts on some of these subjects that Andrea addressed. If you made it this far, then good for you. I enjoyed the book. And for those of  you who don't know, Andrea would be a daughter to the all-popular Max Lucado, whose writings I very much enjoy, though, I think, he writes with a completely different, although very engaging, style as well.

This book was given me by Blogging for Books and I was not required to write a positive review.


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Berenstain Bears Read-Along Classics

The Berenstain Bears 5-Minute Inspirational Stories: Read-Along Classics (Berenstain Bears/Living Lights) by [Berenstain w/ Mike Berenstain, Stan and Jan]

5-Minute Inspirational Stories by Stan and Jan Berenstain with Mike Berenstain

I may have mentioned my love of the Berenstain Bears a time or so on here when I've done reviews of their books. Their Living Lights Series is a Christian-based series that teaches godly principles. This book is a collection of 12 stories including:

The Berenstain Bears God Loves You! (in spite of who you are or what you do)
The Berenstain Bears Say Their Prayers (God hears our prayers and answers but not always how we think.)
The Berenstain Bears Love Their Neighbors (A bear version of the Good Samaritan)

And so on.

I do love the good principles that are taught throughout the book through forgiveness, not gossiping, etc. My only complaint is one little filler/swear word. I consider it a swear word yet, but in our day, I think it is so common that people don't even think of it as a swear word. I'm not saying that it makes it right or wrong, it's just a word I don't want my daughter learning to say.

I read bits and pieces of the book to my two-year-old, but mostly just read it to myself. She does like Berenstain Bears, but we were outside so her attention span wasn't as long as normal.

The illustrations are as good as always. The stories are divided into paragraphs with the pictures scattered throughout.

It's a lovely padded book perfect for gift giving. I wasn't that keen on reading that many stories to my daughter anyway because this book is going to get tucked away in the drawer for a future gift. It's too pretty not to give as a gift. It's a bigger book, more like an 8.5 x 11 size and then is 3/4 to an inch thick.

This book was given me by Book Look Bloggers. I was not required to write a positive review.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Behind the Scenes by Jen Turano

Product Details

Apart from the Crowd

This was a fluffy book, by this I mean that there wasn't a lot of depth or insight I gained from reading the book, but it was fun, fluffy read that required no thought.

It's the story of a wallflower in New York society. By wallflower I mean someone who wasn't really accepted into society and so spent their time at events, up against the wall or hiding in corners observing the goings on of the elite class.

Permilia was an outspoken girl with a heart for others, despite being raised in privilege. She tried to be frugal while still maintaining the fashion style her stepmother required of her. She did this by finding out of the way dressmakers who were working to put bread on their table, but who had very nice fashion sense. This is probably the takeaway from the book, to care about people less fortunate than we are and to not allow our wealth to make us look down on others less fortunate.

And of course, there is one of the wealthiest men in the city, who Permilia gets into debates with, haggles with over pricing, and generally messes with his view of women. They, of course, fall in love. He sets her up to be vice-president of his department store and she adds great value to his business and life.

I enjoyed the story, though I will admit that Permilia seemed a little dense about society standards even though she was "only a wallflower". It just seemed a little unreal, but then I don't really know what it was like back then either.

This book was given me by Bethany House. I was not required to write a positive review.

Treasured Grace by Tracie Peterson

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Heart of the Frontier Book One

This was a Christian Historical fiction book where, of course, the main two characters fall in love with each other, so I'm not going to go into that too much. You know how it works, the feelings, the misunderstandings, the corrections, etc. But I do like Tracie's writing and I think she does a good job at what she does.

What I really liked about this book was the historical event that Tracie sought to portray as accurately as possible. That even was the Whitman Mission in Oregon Country and the Indian's attack and subsequent massacre of Dr. Marcus Whitman and his wife Narcissa and the men that were staying there. And then how they held the woman and children hostage, raped the women, and how they were ransomed by Peter Ogden. Of course, Tracie took liberties with her characters, but she tried to stick with the main facts and the stories that surrounded it. I did a tiny bit of research on it as well and found it to be quite accurate and fascinating. I really did not know anything about the mission and even less about the attack.

While I don't think reading historical fiction is your best way to learn about history, it is a most interesting way and I like it when I can learn true facts from a fiction story.

Another good point of the story is the main character's sister Hope, was at the attack, was raped and became pregnant. While she was contemplating suicide, hope was offered to her and she chose to give her baby life and allow another couple to raise her as her own. Through this time, Hope was able to experience a bit of healing and hope in her own life as she realized her suffering was bringing someone else great joy.

This book was given me by Bethany House. I was not required to write a positive review.

The Frightening Philippi Jail by Gary Bower

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Illustrated by Barbara Chotiner

A Faith that God Built book

This is the second Faith that God Built book that I have and I really, really like them. For any of you that know the book "The House that Jack Built" it is the same idea. There is an initial sentence and every line is added to it, so that by the end of the book, you have the whole story on the final pages, but it is fun to read it and to hear it build on each other. It does rhyme as well adding to the charm of reading it.

While there's not a specific age attached to the book, it's just called juvenile nonfiction, my two year old loves these books. Since I just got this one, I don't know how she will like this one, but the other book we have, (she calls it the "Ark book"), we read a couple times a week at least. So I'm thinking this one will also be well-liked.

This book is about Paul and Silas being in jail and singing praises to the prisoners who were "crusty and cold with nothing to nibble but crackers with mold". And then how God set them free and saved the jailer. It's a nice little story and I am happy to add it to my collection.

The pictures are well done as well. To me they very well portray the creepiness of what a jail cell would have looked like with the bugs and rats and slugs.

I was given this book by Tyndale House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

What Has Happened to the Early Church?

35 empty tomb clip art . Free cliparts that you can download to you ...

So this is not the post I mentioned yesterday, but it was that came to me while having my devotions this morning. I have been slowly working my way through a Bible Study called "An Unexplainable Life" taken from Acts 1-12. Slowly is a key word here. It's a ten week study that I started at the beginning of the year and I am now nearing the end of week two. There's been some lack of self-discipline involved as well, but let's not get into that now.

This morning I was reading about the early church again. Do you know what they did E.V.E.R.Y D.A.Y? They worshipped God together, they ate together, they praised God together, they enjoyed the favor of the people together. And they did this all with joy and gladness. What has happened? Or should I say, what would happen if today's church would try that? What if everything we did was done with joy and gladness? What if, when we got together with other Christians we spend our time praising God instead of gossiping and complaining about other Christians? 

What would change? How would you change? How would I change? How would relationships change? How would churches grow? At the end of all this, the Bible says, "And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved." And why not? With that kind of attitude, wouldn't people come in droves? Why would they come to your church? Because you have a church full of praise and gratitude? Or would they come because they are attracted to fightings and bitterness and gossip? It's a huge challenge for me. I want to be the person that's annoyingly optimistic, that sees the good in every situation. I want to be part of a church like that too.

Another thing, do you know what Jesus prayed in his prayer in John 17:20-23? First of all, he prayed for us, even here today, "I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message." Then He prays that we may be one in Christ so that the world can see and believe that God sent Jesus. He wanted us to be "brought to complete unity". Why? "Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me."

So maybe we should quit fighting each other and start praising together. I think we all know churches who are struggling or who have struggled in the past. This is not God's way. Yes, I believe there are times when there are Biblical issues that need to be addressed and people may have to split ways, but are there times that we make Biblical issues out of personal preferences? Are there times we ignore Biblical concepts, like praising God continually and being unified, because we want to follow a man or a man-made concept and therefore we justify our attitudes? I I am not your judge, but I know I have been way too guilty of this. 

I want to be one of these people who is so busy praising God, I don't have time for bitterness, envy, debate, deceit, jealousy, gossip, etc. etc. to become a part of my life or of my family's life. 

Just my two cents on the verses I read today. I would love to hear others' thoughts on these verses as well. 

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The Lucky Few by Heather Avis

Product Details

Finding God's Best in the Most Unlikely Places

God, Adoption, Down Syndrome, Love are a few of the themes that carry through in this book. Many things come to mind when you hear these words and rather than confuse a book review and a blog post, I may actually do a blog post in the next little while addressing some of those thoughts. So stay tuned for that.

This is the story of Josh and Heather Avis and their journey through adoption. Not just normal adoption, but the adoption of two special needs children with heart defects who needed open heart surgery. Their middle child, Truly, did not have special needs as far as Down Syndrome, but she was a wide open, energetic, wild and free child, so she kept them very busy as well.

It's the story of saying yes to God and having your lives forever changed. I really liked the emphasis on saying yes to God and being willing to do what He calls you to do.

Another thing I appreciated was the open honesty that Heather expressed in the book. One area where I think she was vulnerable was in her relationship with her middle child, Truly. She didn't have the warm, fuzzy feelings for Truly and it bothered her, but she chose to love in action and that love ran much deeper than any warm, fuzzy feelings ever could. She was open and honest with this and I believe she can be a big help to other mothers who can struggle with similar feelings.

I would recommend this book to anyone looking to know what God can do with a yes even if it seems wild and crazy and overwhelming.

This book was given me by Book Look Bloggers. I was not required to write a positive review.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Still Life by Dani Pettrey

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This is book two in the series Chesapeake Valor

I'm really not sure what to say about this book. Let me start with the good stuff. It is very well-written. This is the second book I've read and Dani is a very gift author in her writing style. The story captures a group of friends who often investigate crimes together and are very good at what they do. To fully understand this book, you do need to have read book one. For me, I struggled a bit because it has been awhile since I read book one.

There is an element of trust that happens in this book. Avery has a very bad past and is struggling to fully believe that God loves her in spite of it, that her giving her life over to Christ truly does make her a new person and her past doesn't need to drag her down. Parker, her boyfriend, does a very good job of assuring her of that as well as still loving her despite her past and allowing her to tell her story at her own pace.

All that being said, I found the storyline rather disturbing. I won't go into a lot of details on here both to protect the essence of the story and because I don't want it on my blog. I am not doubting that there are psychos out in the world like that with a sick enough mind to do what happened in the book, but to me it was all around gross and creepy. I would certainly not be wanting just anyone to pick up the book and read it. The element of suspense and unexpected endings was alive and well put in this book, but the main story just ruined so much of it for me.

It's also not a book I would recommend reading just before going to bed. Every time I woke up, the story was on my mind gnawing at me, wondering how it really was all going to end.

I received this book from Bethany House and was not required to write a positive review.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

The One True Love of Alice-Ann by Eva Marie Everson

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This is the second book that I have read by Eva Marie Everson. It was pretty good, but not as good as the first one I read, Five Brides. But that is just my opinion.

This is a very well-written story that took place during World War II. A very smitten 16-year-old Alice Ann sends off her "one true love", one of her brother's best friends,  to war after telling him she loves him, etc. etc. He wasn't necessarily of the same persuasion. As stories like these go, her brother's other best friend, comes back wounded from the war and she spends time reading to him. Anyway, I'm not going to spoil the story, but she discovers who her true love is.

In my mind, there was a lot of conflict between which man she really loved, when I thought it should be pretty obvious, but maybe I need to remember that she was only 19-years-old and I can only imagine how indecisive I would be at that time, especially when she thought the first man was dead, but then shows up alive later.

Despite Alice-Ann's conflicting romantic notions, she does display impressive character. She lives on a farm where help is hard to come by because of the war. They have some German prisoners helping them, which they treat with respect and kindness. Alice-Ann works hard, at the bank during the day and then helping on the farm at night and on Saturday, plus she does take the time to read to the wounded man as well. Her work ethic and care and compassion comes through very strongly, which is what we need so badly in this day and age, in my opinion.

When she was battling her romantic life, her sister-in-law and aunt both gave her a Bible verse to use as her guide. It was the most surprising verse, to me at least. "The troubles of my heart are enlarged, O bring thou me out of my distresses." Psalm 25:17 When I first read that verse, I was like whatever, but then the explanation given with it made perfect sense. When we are facing troubles, it is easy to look to ourselves to figure a way out, but this verse is asking God to lead us out of our distress. I need to remember that. I want to find my own way, do my own thing, rely on my own prowess, but in reality, it is God and God alone who can successfully navigate the murky waters and bring me out into the best place He alone orchestrates. I want to remember that.

This book was given me by Tyndale Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

You Know You're a Mom by Harry H. Harrison JR

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A book for Moms who Spend Saturdays at the Soccer Field instead of the Spa

This is a fun little gift book, coffee table book if you're looking for that gift for a mom you know, a good friend, a baby shower gift, etc. etc.

It's a fun easy read that I read all in one day. It was a little different than I expected and I wasn't sure what a male author would have to say that was pertinent to a Mom, but I thought Harry did a good job.

There are seven chapters covering pregnancy, baby, toddler, schoolkids, working mom, teens, and adult kids. There are just little phrases in the chapters, some of them feel very applicable now already, some are humorous, some are real life, some are goals I would like to attain to.

I'll give you a few examples:

"You Know You're a Pregnant Mom when.... You buy a book of one hundred thousand baby names--and then name your baby after your grandmother......You stare in the mirror and decide that the whole "pregnancy glow" thing must be a myth."

"You Know You're the Mom of a Baby when....You realize all the books were helpful, but you would have been better of spending that time sleeping.....You're worried your six-month-old doesn't have enough friends......You worry how to keep your baby safe in an unsafe world."

You Know You're the Mom of a Toddler when.....Everything you won is mysteriously sticky....You're happy when your child cries for Daddy instead of for you....You understand a child's moral development is dependent on his emotional well-being....You realize great teenagers are created in childhood.....You realize the whole family has clean laundry except for you."

This was a fun book to read. I haven't decided if I will keep it in hopes someday we will have a coffee table or if I will pass it along to a mom who may need a bit of humor in her life.

This book was given to me by Book Look Bloggers and I was not required to write a positive review.

Monday, April 3, 2017

If I'm Found by Terri Blackstock

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This is the second book in the series "If I Run" and it ends just as cliff-hanging as book one did. I haven't read many books by Terri Blackstock, but I might need to change that. Mystery, intrigue isn't generally my style and actually, quite honestly varying first-person books are not my style at all either, but in this series Terri has done such a good job of weaving everything together that I had a hard time laying the book down. I will have to admit to postponing supper preparations last evening so that I could finish the book.

It's quite a bit thicker than the book "If I Run" was and continues directly from the end of that book into this one. It's been quite a while since I read the first book in the series, but I was able to grab a hold and keep up with the action. Casey Cox has been mislabeled the killer of her best friend, but she was framed to keep the true killers, the cops who were involved in money laundering, from being found out. Now, she is on the run from the bad cops and also the PI who found her in the last book and let her walk. The PI is on her side and they are collecting evidence to bring these cops to justice and team up together in this book to work on it. The PI must maintain that he is actively searching for her, even though he has found her and is actively communicating with her.

Okay, I don't know if any of that made sense. One thing that sticks out in this book is Casey's compassion and caring spirit. She sees injustice and she is out to try to right the wrong even at the risk of getting caught herself. If she is caught by the wrong guys, she knows it is likely she will be killed before she ever makes it to her jail cell, but she can't let suffering go without trying to help. In this book, it was a suicidal man and a sexually abused little girl. The man had been accused of sexually abusing her, when in reality her parents were selling her body in exchange for drugs. Just sickening and even though it is a fiction story, I'm gonna guess it's not unheard of. So in an attempt to rescue the little girl and bring the parents to justice both for their daughter and for murder of the man, she is nearly caught and escapes with a gunshot wound.

Okay, I have given you enough spoilers now, but Casey's commitment to justice in the face of her own quagmire of troubles is amazing to me. Throughout this book, she also seeks after God. She wasn't raised in a Christian home, but she is interested in this God. She attends church, she starts to pray and starts to feel God working in her life.

I really enjoyed this book and am a little bummed that it's gonna be a year before the final book in the series comes out.

I received this book from Book Look Bloggers and was not required to write a positive review.

These Healing Hills by Ann Gabhart

Set in Kentucky in the Appalachian Mountains during the time of the Frontier Nursing Service and the end of World War II comes a story tha...