Thursday, June 29, 2017

Just Look Up by Courtney Walsh

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I think this is the first book I have ever ready by Courtney and I hope it isn't the last. I really enjoyed this book. Yes, it had the predictable romance in it, but there was something else in here, something that I think a lot of use could relate to if we are willing.

Look at the title for instance. On first glance, if you think about why that title, you would assume, because the book is Christian fiction, that it would mean looking up to Jesus. Well, in all actuality, the main characters in this book don't seem to have a real close, walking relationship with Jesus. There isn't a lot of prayer mentioned, which could be the biggest downfall of the book to me. But still the main character, Lane, by the end has uttered at least one desperate prayer and I have to believe God is working in her life in some way. Again, I think we can all relate, at least I can, to the desperate prayers being shot heavenward as one sentence snippets. But when I read the author's note at the end of the book, I don't think that was the purpose of the title at all. She talked about being in New York and watching people and realizing they were all glued to their phones looking down. And she just wanted to tell them to look up, to look around, to take in the sights.

And that is how Lane was too, for most of the book. Her phone was her lifeline, her job, her security, her identity. She was wrapped up in it and wasn't looking up and around. How many of us can relate?

Lane has some real identity issues. Work was her security, hence the solid connection to her phone. She had grown up feeling like a misfit, feeling like very few people really cared for her, including her parents. She was overweight and people called her Pudge. She was serious, not the fun loving thrill-seeking girl. Her brother would come home early on Friday nights just to hang out with her because he knew she would be home alone. So she left her small town and didn't look back until an accident brought her home and face to face with all these people. I'm not going to tell you how it ends, you can probably already figure it out.

But the bigger issue is where do we put our identity? Do we shut people out because we have been hurt and betrayed and are unwilling to take a risk on people again? Do we put too much emphasis on our productive identity and not on our social relationships? Is it time to untether from our phones and look up and around and see the blessings all around us?

I really enjoyed this book and am looking forward to reading more by Courtney Walsh. I received this book from Tyndale and was not required to write a positive review.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Run with Me by Sanya Richards-Ross

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The Story of a U.S. Olympic Champion

I had never heard of Sanya Richards-Ross before I read this book, which I suppose is not that surprising as I don't keep up with athletes and their performances all that much. I will have to say that, after reading this book, I am very impressed with the dedication and hard work required of someone who makes running their career.

Let's be honest here, I hate running. I am out of breath before I've run 10 meters, much less 400 meters, so the story of Sanya and her dedication to running since she was 9 is impressive to me.

This book was written with the 8 to 12 year old audience in mind. It's been awhile since I've been that age and I don't have any children that age to use as a comparison. I thought the book was definitely written in easy to understand language. I would say that some of the concepts seemed like they might be a bit hard to understand, especially for an 8 year old, concepts about God's grace and things. On the other hand, the personal discipline that Sanya had at that age would be a great challenge for that age group to emulate. The book was about 99% about her running and her races and her championships which could get a little boring for this age group.

I did enjoy the book, but I wouldn't have minded hearing about other parts of her life, things she did besides running, what Sanya's doing now, and so on. That would have added a bit more interest for me.

But again on the flip side, I really liked how Sanya brought God into the running aspect of her life. She relied on Him in her races and made comparisons of how the various aspects of racing can be applied to the race of life.

All in all, it's a good book and will go into my library of children's books and I will hope that in a few years my own children will enjoy reading it.

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

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Glad News! by Samy Tanagho

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I did not read the description of this book very well when I asked to review it. I was thinking it was a book that was going to explain how to refute Islam and give me a good background for that.

It does that, in a way, but it is geared to be read by a Muslim. Samy does a very good job of incorporating verses from both the Koran and the Bible and showing how Christianity is superior. It was interesting to me to note how much the Koran approves of the Bible and recommends it, even above their own book.

The book is written is a very simple easy-to-understand format. Like I said, it was very different from what I was expecting, but that was my own fault. I found it a little hard to follow because I know virtually nothing about the Koran, so all the references got a little mind-boggling, but I think for a Muslim well-versed in the Koran, Samy did an very good job of taking the concepts apart piece by piece and explaining Christianity.

One advantage that Samy has too is he learned Arabic, so he has been able to read the Koran in the Arabic language and also read the books of the most important Muslim scholars and commentaries would wrote about the Koran and Islam. He has spent 30 years sharing Christ with Muslims and his wife, Hala, often joins him to share her story of being imprisoned for becoming a Christian.

This is a very good book and I would recommend it if you have a Muslim friend with questions about Christianity.

I received this book from Moody Publishers and was not required to write a positive review.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Threads of Suspicion By Dee Henderson

Threads of Suspicion (An Evie Blackwell Cold Case) by [Henderson, Dee]

I am a Dee Henderson fan. She is a good author that mixes mystery, crime with romance and can write a pretty good story. But she totally outdid herself on this one. I could totally read lots of this style of fiction.

Cold cases are very interesting to me because they involve a lot of digging and a lot of guess work and not so much  in your fact, heart-stopping crime scenes. It's fascinating to me to watch Evie dig into an old case and see what she can come up with that is different from all the detectives before her. How accurate it is to real life I don't know, but I find it very interesting.

Warning: Spoilers ahead.

So in this book, I don't want to give away too much about the book, but she is working with David, another detective. They are each working their own crime, but float ideas off each other and work back and forth. So you already know where the story is going, right? Wrong. David is in a long-term relationship with a very popular singer.

Why aren't they married, you might ask? Because David became a Christian before they were married and he believes the Bible when it says not to marry an unbeliever and so he refuses to marry his girlfriend as long as she is not a Christian. I really liked David in this book. He is very devoted to God, talks to Him about his job, sees Him as a very personal, all-knowing God. He is committed. And this is good for Evie, the main character, in strengthening her relationship with God. She is also in a relationship, one in which she needs to decide if she wants to get married or not.

This was another reason I loved the book. It didn't turn out as expected and I love that, while there was still a bit of romance, it was actually somewhat of a real-life thing. The two partners working together didn't magically fall in love, etc. etc.

Okay, I feel like I've given enough spoilers about this book. I don't like to do that, but in order to really express why I liked the book, I felt like I needed to. That being said, I said nothing about the cold case files being worked and those are interesting in and of themselves, so go read the book.

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

Thursday, June 15, 2017

I'll Push You by Patrick Gray and Justin Skeesuck

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A Journey of 500 miles
Two Best Friends, and One Wheelchair

This is an amazing story. Justin was diagnosed with a rare muscular disease and has lost the use of his hands and arms. He is unable to take care of himself anymore. Patrick is his best friend basically since birth. Their families have taken trips together and spend time at each other's houses every year. Patrick will take time off of work to go to Justin's house to take care of him to give Justin's wife a break. This is dedication and true friendship.

Now Justin has the dream of walking the famous Camino de Santiago, a spiritual pilgrimage through the mountains and rough terrain of northern Spain. Patrick volunteers to push him these 500 miles. It is an arduous trip requiring much planning, many resources, a new wheelchair and even so, many tired and sore muscles. It cannot be done on their own. People volunteer to come along and help, pilgrims walking the journey with them stop and help. Complete strangers become friends united on this journey, maybe only for a couple hours, maybe a couple days.

While very physically taxing for Patrick to do the hard work of pushing Justin in his wheelchair, Justin is pushing Patrick in a completely different way. (It also is hard on Justin with all the jostling and bumping he experiences in the wheelchair.) Patrick has allowed the need to succeed, to be successful, to take care of himself and his family to get in the way of relationships. He has let his family down. Justin has tried to embrace every moment. He knows his disease will eventually kill him. He misses being able to play with his kids and hug his wife, but he is determined to make the most of every moment. Through this six-week-journey, Patrick has had to face that he has let his family down, that work has taken priority and he is determined to change that. He has also had to face his pride. It was hard for him to accept help in getting Justin over these mountains. Justin has had to learn to accept help because of his many limitations.

It's a beautiful friendship that is rare in today's standards.

There are a few things shared in the book that I wanted to share here, things that struck me. One was the living in the moment, enjoying each and every moment. This is something I have been working on in my own life. But I can get distracted and be only half present. I want to take the time to stop and listen and look and really really see what's going on. They talk about this a bit in a part on Sabbath. "And we're learning how to keep close to use the relationships and moments that define who we are. If we didn't practice this sort of Sabbath in our friendship, if we hadn't taken this break to walk the Camino together, we'd have missed out on all of this.

"Whether resting in my friendship with Justin or in my relationships with my wife and children, I find a greater appreciation for whoever is at my side when I take a moment to keep them close, to be present with them.......Every moment we rest in the presence of others and appreciate the time, beauty, and joy they have to offer, we practice Sabbath. It's a existence...a way of life."

And then this is another quote from Patrick as he wrestled with himself at the Iron Cross. He had really struggled with Justin's diagnosis earlier on and had become bitter at God for it. This is kind of flashback to those times and also to right now where he realizes he needs to relinquish safety in order to really experience life in all fullness.  "That's when I realized that, more often than not, the miracle isn't the absence of struggle, disease, or pain; it is the presence of grace and certainty, the ability to face strife, the unknown, or a slow death, without fear." This is in the flashback section where he had just heard Justin say that he wouldn't trade his current condition to be able to walk again and it had completely shocked Patrick. "Every human interaction, every relationship is an opportunity to provide for one another, to provide time, energy, resources, hope, love, compassion, or grace. There is no limit to what we can provide for others, or what others can provide for us."

This was a great book, filled with good thoughts like this, filled with humor, and just good human kindness. I highly recommend it. It's an easy and fast read. There is also a documentary out about their journey. A film crew went along at the request of Patrick's boss who said it would be selfish for them not to share this unusual friendship with the world.

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

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Beginner's Bible Carry-Along Treasury

The Beginner's Bible Carry-Along Treasury

By Zondervan 

So I got this book with the deluded hope, I'm sure, that this would be a good book for Amber to take along to church and look at and hopefully keep her occupied for the two hours that church lasts. However that turns out, the book is a delight either way.

The handle feels like a cheap little plastic thing in comparison with the rest of the book, but I think it will hold up all right. The book is on the smaller side so perfect to carry along. The closure is magnetic so a child can easily open and close. The pictures are bright and colorful. The stories cover some of the popular stories from both the Old and New Testaments. 

We haven't sat down and read any stories, but I'm confident they will hold my two-year-olds attention, but she loves books and these stories are short. 

I am very pleased with the book and even if it doesn't help with sitting still in church, it looks like such a fun book/Bible to carry along. I should clarify, it is more of a Bible story book than Bible. Though it's called a Bible, it is just the common Bible stories. 

I would recommend this book for 2 to 5 year olds. It would make a great gift for that little person in your life.

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

Monday, June 12, 2017


I have been convicted.

I taught Sunday School yesterday on the Israelites and their rebellion about entering Canaan. I asked the question about attitudes and preconceptions affecting our situations and experiences. And how to keep a positive perspective, even when life looks hard.

And one lady made the comment about gratitude and it has stuck with me. Isn't that pretty much the answer?

How you can grumble about a situation and crabby and pessimistic and see the worst in the situation if we are grateful? It's hard to complain when you have a grateful spirit.


So D is home late tonight, I'm guessing something didn't go well in the woods. I don't know what, but I know it involved unloading and reloading and that's usually not a normally occurrence, so... I have a choice. I can be grumpy because I don't know if we can wait to eat until he gets home and I just don't want to get supper on and eat by ourselves. Or I can be grateful he had work all day today, and that he tackled what needed to be done and that, Lord willing, he will be home later. And if we need to eat, it will be perfectly okay.

I can grumble and be discontent that this pregnancy has once again landed me on the couch or I can choose to be grateful that so far this baby is still growing and developing as he should inside and not outside in a NICU.  Let's just say, that really helps put things in perspective.

And days when I am discouraged with the job of mothering a high-energy two-year old, I only need to stop and think and really look at her. Then I see a very, Very, VERY chatty little person who is developing her own personality, who loves her music and her schoolwork and was just working on developing her muscles with resistance band (which by the way have got to be about the best toy ever). And when I stop and look, I see a mom who is so blessed beyond measure with a little girl who is mostly good and cheerful and busy and developing on schedule  and then I wonder, what did I do to deserve this?

There are so many things to be grateful for in life and I want to make a commitment to see the good in each day. There are way too many negative people in this world who seem to delight in seeing the worst in every situation. And I've been there, done that, and it isn't that fulfilling or satisfying. I would much prefer to be that annoyingly grateful, optimistic person.

I have tried a bit of this with my Instagram account of trying to post the little moments or the happy moments of the day.

And now, my little girl has climbed up on my legs and is "sitting on mom's lap" behind my computer, going, "ready, set, go." I don't know where she learned that or her other new favorite of "let's race".

Women Who Move Mountains by Sue Detweiler

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Praying with confidence, boldness, and grace

This is a 193 Page book that talks about prayer and then a 21 Days to Spiritual Breakthrough Devotional at the back of the book. The book was in a different format than I am used, but I think there are some good points to the way it is written. The odd chapters talk about "I Am....", "I Am Chosen" "I Am Honored." I Am Secure" and etc. The even chapters talk about learning to pray.. with faith, with conviction, with grace, etc. The even chapters are more like a Bible study with lots of verses to look up and questions to answer. I think those chapters could be very valuable if you took the time to go through them and answer the questions and journal your thoughts.

For me, I didn't find the book to be so much about praying with fervor as getting rid of the things in your life that could hinder your prayer life. Each odd chapter started with a story of someone who had overcome whatever the chapter was about. Maybe I read it too fast, but I was expecting more of a how-to-pray book. Now, this book might actually be more of what we need. If there are things in my life that hinder my communication with God, those need to be dealt with first.

I probably started with a bit of mental block as well. Sue talks about being raised Mennonite and had a story or two of her Mennonite friends. I know there are many "varieties" of Mennonites, but the stories didn't really resonate with me and my own Mennonite culture, so I struggled with that a bit. Also the fact that she is an ordained pastor, which again is contrary to my culture and often makes me treat the author with a little more caution.

All that to say, that I think there is much good to be gained from this book even so.

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

Under a Summer Sky by Melody Carlson

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Yup, this book is pretty much what it looks like. I was a little disappointed in it. I am realizing the more nonfiction I read, the better the fiction has to be to be worth it. I also realize that I look at fiction differently that I have to review than fiction that I just read for the sheer lark of it. Fiction that I review, I want to have more substance and growth. And yes, it's a pride thing because I don't want to look like a shallow reader for the books I read. So maybe that's been the biggest difference rather than my style of reading actually changing.

Now, let me also explain a little bit about why it was disappointing. I haven't read a lot of Melody Carlson's books, but I have one called "Armando's Treasure". I've read it long enough ago that I don't remember a lot of it, but I do remember it being a really, really good book with a fair amount of depth. Now, I could be completely wrong if I were to reread it today, but that was the premise that made me pick this book.

Now this is a very well-written story. Melody is a good author and can tell a good story, but that's pretty much all it was. I didn't find a lot of nuggets to go after, except for one thing. Nicole, who is the main character in the story, is a fill-in manager at an art gallery working with a very difficult employee. Rather than fire the employee like she is encouraged to do, she gives her some boundaries and tries to work with her. At the end of the book, the difficult employee actually gives her a compliment or two. I was impressed with Nicole's persistence to giving second chances. Isn't that what we are all called to do at times? Isn't that what God does with us over and over? He gives us many more chances than just two.

There was really no hold on to your seats drama, just the unfolding of a romantic love story that didn't seem real true to life. But as far as well-written, I would give Melody great kudos for that. I enjoyed the book as it was, simply a book with no high drama and no real inspiring points, just a nice chick flick.

There was also no real faith expressed in this book, a few random prayers by two of the characters, one of which stated he doesn't always pray before meals just when he feels really grateful. Really?

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

Friday, June 9, 2017

Chazown by Craig Groeschel

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Discover and Pursue God's Purpose for Your Life

What makes you want to get up in the morning? What fills you with a sense of passion? What makes you angry with a righteous indignation? What fills you with bliss? These are questions to ask as you seek to find what God's will is for your life.

God has a plan for you and a purpose, and there are many people just aimlessly wondering through life with no purpose and no direction and no fulfillment.

This book was challenging to me to seek out what God has for me and to do my part for His Kingdom. Craig talked about three main areas that can help reveal to us our Chazown: core values, spiritual gifts, and past experiences. What talents do we have? What do we value and hold dear to us? What have our past experiences taught us?

And there are the smaller areas of life, but areas that still need to be guided and disciplined in a godly manner: relationships, finance, work, physical health, and God. He calls these the spokes.

Goal setting was another thing he touched on. Setting short-term goals with a long range plan in mind. And accountability to help you know where you've gotten off track and to keep you on track.

A few quotes:
Key Thought: If you don't know where you're going in life, put aside your pride--stop and ask.
Key Thought: God's gifts in your equip you for your gift to the world.
Key Thought: Accountability closes the gap between intentions and actions.

I really enjoyed this book. For me as a wife and a stay-at-home mom, it's easy to get bogged down in the day-to-day and not look at how I could be using my talents right here where I am. Are there things that I would like to do, but am afraid to take the step? Are there people that I can encourage and be a blessing to without even leaving my own home? And my husband and daughter, there are so many ways that I can serve God through serving them. I do feel I am where God has called me, but I also recognize that there are many ways that I could be living more effectively in His will and thriving my way through life and not just merely surviving each day. That was a challenge to me.

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

Monday, June 5, 2017

The Turquoise Table by Kristin Schell

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Finding Community and Connection in Your Own Front Yard

First, let me talk about the beauty of the book itself. When I requested this book, I was expecting a normal paper-back book about 5x7, you know the standard size. But when I got it? I got a beautiful hardcover book that was more 6.5x8. Not only that, but it has a ribbon marker that comes with it. Inside, scattered throughout the book are beautiful pictures. The writing and size of font begs you to grab a cup of coffee, put your feet up and start reading, which is sort of what I did, except I couldn't put my feet up and my coffee might have been gone already. (We were on a 15 hour trip.) The book begs to sit on a coffee table, it's so beautiful

The premise of the book is get out of your back yard and into your front yard. Engage the people in your neighborhood. Sit outside, invite people over, keep it simple. Hospitality is different from entertaining. You don't have to have a fancy spread, just have a welcoming heart. Kristin shares how she uses plastic cups and a water pitcher to sit out on her picnic table to welcome people. She also now has a dog water dish and some dog treats as well so that people walking their dogs can stop and get a drink and the dogs can too. Be friendly, be open, be observant.

It was a good read, a reminder that we are here for so much more than just ourselves and I need to be open and willing to engage in community. Now granted, I don't live in town, so there's not a lot of people walking by my house, actually pretty much no one ever walking by my house, but hospitality isn't limited to living in town. It's not even limited to sitting at a turquoise picnic table in your front yard. Hospitality is first cultivated in the heart and then it spills out over into practical living in many different ways.

I don't have any quotes to share from the book, because I left it at my sister's house this weekend. I had to show her the book because it was so pretty and fit something we were talking about and then she started reading it as well. It's a great gift for someone who is looking for ideas and ways to engage people. There are simple tips and tricks as well as some fun little recipes to try. The book is an easy and fast read, and I don't think you'll be sorry you read it.

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

Gifts from Heaven Compiled by James Stuart Bell

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True Stories of Miraculous Answers to Prayer

Sometimes it's easy to wonder if God is still doing miracles today. It's easy to question if He really cares as much about us today as He did about the people back in the Early Church. And then it becomes easy to question why? If God doesn't perform miracles today, why not? Is it because of our unbelief, our dependence on technology and medicine and our pocket book to save us?

Reading this book helped me realize again that God is still doing miracles today. Sometimes they are big and amazing and over the top and sometimes they are small and hidden and you must look hard to find them. Sometimes the miracle is in what didn't happen. When the little girl was hit by a car, she didn't fly under the vehicle, she flew up. She had very few injuries and nothing permanent as a result of that experience. She was still hit, but God protected her from sever injury. That's a miracle.

This book has a wide variety of miracles, if you want to call it that. Some of them are small miracles, if there is such a thing and some of them are dramatic healings or involve angels. But for me the good reminder is that God is still in the miracle-working business. Maybe it's me who isn't in the miracle-believing or miracle-looking-for business and I need to work to change that.

How many times has God kept me safe without me even being aware of it. We just got back from a 4 day trip out to PA and back. Hundreds of miles passing thousands of cars and nearly hitting several deer. Is safety on trips when traveling within feet of other vehicles not miraculous? Do we take these things for granted?

It was a good book for me to read and be reminded again that God does answer prayer.

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

Raising World Changers in a Changing World by Kristen Welch

How One Family Discovered the Beauty of Sacrifice and the Joy of Giving This right here, this is a good book. I highly recommend that yo...