Friday, November 13, 2015

Book Review: Forgiven, The Amish School Shooting, a Mother's Love, and a Story of Remarkable Grace

Forgiven: The Amish School Shooting, a Mother’s Love, and a Story of Remarkable GraceForgiven: The Amish School Shooting, a Mother’s Love, and a Story of Remarkable Grace by Terri Roberts
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

T his book... Wow. I thought when I chose this book to review that it would be difficult to read. I spent probably 90% of my reading time in tears. This book is authored by Terri Roberts, the mother of the man who shot ten girls in an Amish school house and then shot himself. I grew up and still live (after a few detours) in another area in Pennsylvania with a large Amish population and I remember when this happened. We were shocked. Having grown up seeing the Amish daily, I couldn't imagine why anyone would choose to do this to them, and especially to a schoolhouse full of children. Also difficult was hearing that several of the girls shot were 7 years old: the age of my own oldest daughter now. So this part of the author's story definitely brought me to tears, the horror of the experience. But what also brought me to tears repeatedly were the expressions of grace brought to life. I remember hearing about the gracious response of the Amish population in Lancaster, but this book just brings it so vividly alive. It is amazing what a representation of Christ's grace these Amish families, the same Amish families who lost daughters, or watched their daughters suffer as the recuperated, or continue caring for daughters to this day who may never walk or talk or be as they were, what grace they extended to the author and her husband as well as the perpetrator's wife and children. I don't know that it ever crossed my mind, even once, how his parents would feel knowing what their son had done. She writes this story so transparently and beautifully. She shares her struggles of being a mother of faith who prayed fervently for her sons almost every single day of their lives and her anger at God for not stepping in and answering her prayers and changing the story. This story is full of grace, forgiveness, healing and God's love. If you have struggled with your circumstances, please pick up this book. It spoke to me as a mom of a boy born without part of his brain, who is severely developmentally delayed. It spoke to me as a mom who gets frustrated with her children and struggles with showing grace. No matter what your situation, this book is excellent and moving and beautiful.

I recieved a copy of this book from the author in exchange for my honest review. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Testing! Women's Ascent Pullover

I finally sewed something for myself!  

I was lucky to test the women's Ascent Pullover by 5 Out Of 4 Designs! I love that these are great versatile everyday patterns. My absolute favorite part of her patterns is that she takes the time to make them nursing friendly!  
Sorry, this one was a quick kid shot for a fit picture!

The only downside is that I'm finishing up nursing my last baby of 4... where were these patterns when I started?!  This is an awesome pattern for a nursing mama in the fall! You can make this pullover all one solid color, or add contrast panels like mine. The sleeves can also have the contrast panels, but as I ran out of the butterfly so I just added piping instead.
You can see the tab for the hidden nursing zipper above the pocket! 

The pattern also includes the option for these great hidden zippered pockets.  The pattern directions and line drawings are clear and helpful and the designer always adds helpful hyperlinks to help you jump quickly to the options in the pattern that you need without wasting time flipping through pages.  Another favorite thing is the no trim pages!  The patterns are so quick to put together since you don't waste time cutting off strips. The PDF sizes are also layered so you can only print the sizes you need. 
This pattern is great with just plain, cheap antipill or blizzard fleece (which is what mine is) or you can make it with microfleece, french terry or other snuggly fabrics.  One tester made one with cotton lycra (sized down) for a super cute top.  I think you could easily add a full length zipper for a great fleece jacket.  Tons of options and a great layering piece for fall and winter! 

Make sure you check out 5 Out Of 4 Patterns for this and other great patterns for the whole family. She already has the men's version for sale, and a kid pattern is in the works.   I LOVE her work out top, the Agility Tank and Dress, which I used to make a nursing swimsuit which was amazing to have during our week at the beach! 
Please don't laugh too hard at my swimsuit and jeans look... I was comfy. :)

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Book review: Murder Freshly Baked

Murder Freshly BakedMurder Freshly Baked by Vannetta Chapman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Another fun, simple, clean mystery. I enjoy this series more than other Amish books I have read. The main character is Amber, who runs the tourist town, and her friends including Tate, her husband, Pam her assistant, and  her Amish coworker Hannah help solve the mystery of the murder of a young man from the community, as well as the "Poison Poet" who has been leaving pies along with poems about the poisons that are supposedly  lacing the baked goods. I think I have said about the first book, and I feel the same way about this one: these books are not for deep thinkers, they aren't going to change your life. They are easy to read, fun clean mysteries. Entertaining and enjoyable (And recommended) if that is what you are looking for!

I received a copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.  

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Thursday, May 21, 2015

Book Review: Samantha Sanderson, Off the Record

Samantha Sanderson Off the Record is another addition to the Faithgirlz series. This is the third book in the Samantha Sanderson books about a middle school girl who wants to be an investigative journalist. 

This is an entertaining mystery for young readers as Samantha tries to find out who installed a virus that changed grades in the school's system.  Along the way, she struggles with following the Bible's directive to love you neighbor, which she chose as a New Year's resolution at the encouragement of her youth leaders.  

It's great to have clean faith based books for my daughter to read without having to worry about what themes or values she's learning from them.  The main character Sam and her friend Macayla have lots of fun together and and strong and savvy girls, without all the typical middle school drama.  

I really enjoy reading kids' books and young adult books, however this is one that is aimed a little too young for adult readers to enjoy.  It is however great for younger kids, and I can definitely see my 7 year old advanced reading daughter enjoying this book and this series!  Recommended as a good, faith based, entertaining mystery for young girls. 

I recieved a copy of this ebook from the author in exchange for my honest review. 

Monday, May 18, 2015

Book Review: The Hiding Place

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is such an excellent book. I enjoy reading historical fiction, especially about the holocaust. This is one of the best in terms of how Corrie's and Betsey's faith colors their time in the camps. For those who aren't familiar with Corrie Ten Boom's story, it begins before the war has reached Holland and tells the story of the family's faith and how it is shown in all aspects of their lives. As e story progresses, effects of the war begin trickling down. For example, their business contacts in Germany become "out of business" and all of them are Jewish. As time goes on, Holland is taken by the Nazis and the family puts their faith into action by become part of the underground which hides the Jews.

I loved this beginning part, getting a peek into Corrie's lovely family and her life before the war. However, for me, the best part of the story begins when members of the family are taken into custody and sent into the camps. Most books on the Holocaust are so interesting to read, yet leave your heart aching at all the injustice and hate the Jewish people, and other minorities, endured. This book tells of Corrie and Betsey's amazing faith in God and how that affected their time in the camps. Corrie struggles at times, but ultimately follows her sister's example and they become such a light for Christ in the darkness of the camp. The stories of God's faithful response to their love for him are numerous. They show such grace in their journey, and frequently talk of how difficult and painful it must be for their captors! They share the light of the gospel with so many of their fellow inmates as well as with their guards.

The whole story is so inspirational to me. I think is how easily we are distracted from our faith by our silly problems and difficulties, and it is humbling to read of their faith in light of the terrible situations they went through. They did not become bitter or hateful, but showed so much love to fellow inmates and guards, even after the war.

This is the abridged young readers edition, and I felt it was very well done. These themes are so difficult to read in any book for young people, but I would definitely say this is an excellent first book for a young reader to jump into books on the war.  The focus is definitely less on the death and mistreatment and more on Corrie and her family's faith in action. That said, it is still a book about concentration camps so there are mentions of death, including brief mention of few instances of mass murder that we know to have happened in those times. They are not graphically depicted however, for example, they hear the waves of gunshots and then it is stated how many men were killed that day. Parents will have to gauge how ready their child is for these themes but the cover recommends it for ages 9-12. I would say that's a good starting range, though I would add that it is an excellent book for any age over that! It's been too many years since I have read the original to be able to compare, though I may have to look it up now! This is definitely a book I recommend to all readers who are ready to read about the war.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion. 

Book Review: How To Enjoy Reading Your Bible

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I picked up this book thinking I would flip through, read enough to do a decent review, and stash it in the shelf for later thorough reading and study.  I ended up reading it cover to cover in a short time!  I tend to get frustrated with books "like this" as they are good at inspiring you to want change but not so great in the details of how to actually get there.  Not so here. This author has a very conversational and easy to read writing style. The best part though is that this book is so usable. He gives very concrete tips and steps on getting more out of your Bible reading time, and is good at inspiring you as to the why as well.  The book starts out with tip #1, "Remember Why You Are Doing This,"  and continues on to challenge you to read more and to read the whole story. He gives tips on keeping your focus during your Bible reading time.  He also convinced that this experience is designed to be done together, in community with other believers and urges the reader to find a partner or small group with whom to share the experience. He includes several challenges, such as a sixty day adventure, where one focuses on a book of the bible for sixty days. This chapter details this journey with a study/reading plan for 2 books of the Bible, Philippians and 2 Timothy. In this chapter he also lays out a brief description of his method for studying Scripture, which he states is also detailed in another book, which I would love to get my hands on! He also suggests two four month challenges, one being a Bible Read Thru.

This book is usable solo, though he is adamant that one should find a reading buddy or small group for several reasons which he discusses in the book.  He really encourages the reader not to miss this part of the experience.  To that end, he includes a discussion guide after each chapter in the book.  He also adds an appendix with a small group study on Ephesians, where he details how a group could go about studying the book together.  Another useful tool is a chronological reading plan so one can read through the bible chronologically, rather than just reading through the books.

I'd recommend this book for readers at all points of their Christian walk. The tips would be helpful to anyone interested in deepening their faith.  I'm definitely going to be passing this one on to our small group at church in hopes to use it together. I look forward to using the tips to go to another level in my relationship with Christ as well.

I recieved a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. 

Monday, May 11, 2015

Book Review: The Great Big Pressure Cooker Book

I was intrigued by this book, The Great Big Pressure Cooker Book, for several reasons. First of all, I have used a pressure cooker before for canningbut for making a quick meal, its been many many years and even then, it was only with explicit instructions from my friend's mom!  I would have no clue now how to use one to make a meal, but anything that makes my life in the kitchen shorter and easier, I'm all for!  Secondly, I was lucky enough to review these authors' slow cooking cookbook, and remembered that they put some cool features into their cookbook, and am excited to find they continued them here! 

These books are so well laid out, with some great additions to help you be successful in your use of a pressure cooker! The book begins with an intro section (which as I perused seemed humorous as it included the four pressure cooker personality types: "the Nervous Nellie or Are you crazy? That thing's dangerous! I knew a woman...") and a brief troubleshooting guide. For example, the intro to each recipe includes such helpful information as effort (not much, a little, and a lot!),  and the specific pressure, time, and release needed. The ingredients helpfully stand out from the page with bold red print, and the numbered steps are also in bold red.  There are grey boxes that identify when directions vary for stove top versus electric pressure cookers. I really like the Tester's Notes at the end, where they offer tips, substitutions etc. 

There are recipes of all kinds, breakfast, soups, meats, vegetarian, desserts.  This cookbook is so diverse and I believe will really appeal to all types of cooks, foodies and people who prefer plainer food alike, as there is such variety. In the soup section, for example, you'll find simple recipes such as Hamburger Soup, Taco Soup, Tomato Soup and Broccoli Cheddar Soup, as well as more interesting recipes like Lamb Soup with Tomatoes, Cinnamon and Dill, Coconut Shrimp Soup or Cioppino. There are even basics like how to make soft, medium or hard boiled eggs. One of the complaints about the authors' slow cooker book was that the ingredients were strange. While there were a few strange ingredients to me (juniper berries? Game hens...), most were either things I cook with frequently, or would at least know where to find.  

If you are interested in learning about pressure cooking, this would be a great book to start out with the basics and then move into more interesting food, if that's your thing. If not, then stick to the "normal" recipes and you'll enjoy it too.  

One more note: this is a COOKBOOK. Not a coffee table book.  I frequently see people complaining in their reviews about the lack of pictures for each recipe.  Honestly, if you want that, then stick to blogs and online recipes.  If you want a real cookbook, chock full of information and recipes (500!!!), then try this one out.  Personally, I'll be looking for a pressure cooker to add to my kitchen!

I recieved a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: Case for Grace for Kids!

Case for Grace for Kids
by Lee Strobel
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was an excellent book for all ages. Lee Strobel, author of the well known Case for Christ, etc books writes this book aimed at kids. The author explores different aspects of grace through interview with several different people. He first shares some of his own story, struggling with understanding Christ's grace. He then moves on to interviews with people he sought out because of their amazing faith in spite of their circumstances.  He begins with Stephanie, a Korean woman who shares how she was abandoned by her mother, moves on to Andrew Palau, son of the evangelist Luis Palau, and others.  I love that he included an interview with Craig, who is just "a nice person".  While the more intense stories definitely show the wonderful grace of God, his story was so relatable for me.  One of the more intense stories tells of Christopher, a young  Cambodian man who grew up in Phnom Penh and lived through the genocide of the Khmer Rouge. This was an amazing story, however, this would be the one reason I might wait a bit to share this book with my 7 year old, at least in its pure form. The book is not graphic, but I'm not sure I'm ready to share that kind of history with her. I would definitely read it while editing it down a bit for her.  Other than this, I though this was an excellent book for so many ages!  Even as a 30-something mother of four, I felt touched and inspired by this book.  It's not at all dumbed down for kids. It's an excellent presentation of God's grace in a very understandable way.  I loved that the author at the beginning of one chapter, went back through and reviewed what exactly each interviewee had taught us about grace. The book ends with the Gospel story shared including a prayer to accept Jesus and encouragement to share with someone if one prayed it.  This is an excellent book for elementary kids through adults, especially adults who don't love to read, or are very new to the faith and would like an introduction to the idea of grace. This book will be sticking on our shelf indefinitely, and I look forward to reading it with my kids!

I recieved a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

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Monday, March 30, 2015

Book Review: Motivate Your Child

I recieved a review copy of Motivate Your Child by Dr. Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller. To be completely honest, I haven't had a chance to read the book yet.  But from flipping through it, this looks like one I'm going to read next! In one of the first chapters, the authors, who write the book from a Christian worldview, discuss how the aim of this book is to raise kids who do things because of internal motivation, or because of what is right, rather than an external motivation more along the lines of Pavlov's dog and its bell. The book's chapters present a discussion on the topics presented and then bring it to life and let us see it in action with a story of a family using the ideas. The authors talk about taking the time to develop your strategies as a parent, and taking the time to choose your tone of voice, words and actions carefully, thus setting the example for our kids to think before they speak and act. This one hits a little close to home for me!

This book to me, seems to be one more about seeing parenting as teaching your child, developing character and spiritual growth. I am so looking forward to reading how to shift away from the frustration, repitition and behavioral change.  I'd definitely recommend this book to christian parents.

I will try to update again as I really dive in, but just flipping through has already convicted me of some of my parenting practices and excited me to have a different atmosphere in our home!

I recieved a copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: Q&A A Day

I reviewed Q&A A Day from Potter Style. I was excited to try it as I almost bought the kids' version to do with my children.  I love the idea of it, and the book is really cute. Its a solid little hardback, about 6 inches tall and 1 1/2 inches thick with gold gilted edges. Each page has the date and space to answer a question every year for five years.  Granted, you have to be able to write small, as the space given is pretty tiny.

The issue I have with this version is that the questions don't really inspire me.  As I flip through it, I didn't find myself looking forward to answering the questions.  They felt more like work, like something I'd have to spend time figuring out how to answer.  So if you are an artsy poetic lover of words who wants to be inspired to journal, this will probably be up your alley.  For me, a busy mom with too many hobbies already, I don't see myself spending the time on it.  I'd rather spend a few minutes jotting memories of my experiences with my kids than figuring out  "how my parents would describe me", or writing down the last fruit I ate.

I recieved a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Book Review: I Can Learn the Bible

I got to review this cute book from Thomas Nelson Publishers.  This is a great little hard backed book, an excellent devotional to work through with your kids!  Each devotional centers around a verse, explaining its meaning and encouraging memorization. It is intended for each devotional to be used over the course of a week, and in the introduction, the author gives suggestions for each day's activity.  The illustrations are darling, and the pages are thick and sturdy.  The verses chosen are excellent, encouraging our faith and walk with God.  I will definitely work through this with my children, these are excellent verses and devotions for children as well as adults! I would recommend this for families that want a devotional good for a range of ages, as it is simple enough for younger children, yet can spark discussion and conversation with older children.  It could easily be used for a child's personal devotions as well.

I recieved a copy of this book from the publishers in return for my honest review.

Book Review: Sabotaged

Sabotaged (Alaskan Courage #5)Sabotaged by Dani Pettrey
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Sabotaged by Dani Pettrey is the last book in the Alaskan Courage series which follows the McKenna family siblings. This book follow Reef McKenna, the black sheep who returned to the fold in a previous book and his childhood friend Kirra as they delve into the mystery of the disappearance of Kirra's cousin Meg.  Kirra and Reef are volunteering for the annual Iditarod race when they find out that Kirra's uncle is being forced to forget the race and complete another mission in order to save his kidnapped daughter, Meg.  Reef and Kirra team up to find Meg and discover what Uncle Frank is up to, with the help of Reef's siblings. I enjoyed this book, the mystery was entertaining.  The romance was a little over the top for me, as the interest is already there for both and they are a little sicky sweet from the get go!  The conflict in the romance comes from a bad experience Kirra had in college which she hasn't really gotten over.  I enjoyed this entire series, this book was a good clean easy read.  I'd recommend this book (and the series, though I'd say it isn't completely necessary to  have read others in the series, but it does make this book more enjoyable) to those who are looking for clean mysteries with a great message of faith. I will say that if you are used to more in depth, intricate plots, this may be a bit simplistic.

i recieved a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

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