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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