Thursday, September 21, 2017

"Start Where You Are Note Cards" by Meera Lee Patel

Meera Lee Patel, author of Start Where You Are, created a beautiful 12 note card and keepsake box set. The front of each card is decorated with a beautiful watercolor design and quote. The inside and back of the cards are blank, except for the copyright.

The quotes are primarily from famous authors, though some historical figures are also included:
  • Courage, dear heart. --C.S. Lewis
  • Simplify, simplify. --Henry David Thoreau
  • If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people to collect wood, and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea. --Anotoine de Saint-Exupéry
  • Real courage is when you know you're licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through, no matter what. --Harper Lee
  • Be patient and touch. Someday this pain will be useful to you. --Ovid
  • Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken. --Oscar Wilde
  • One never knows. --Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
  • The world only exists in your eyes. You can make it as big or as small as you want. --F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • At first glance it may appear too hard. Look again. Always look again. --Mary Anne Radmacher
  • Only in the darkness can you see the stars. --Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can. --Arthur Ashe
  • Fears are paper tigers. --Ameila Earhart
The quotes cover a variety of uplifting, inspirational topics. Some could be used to send for a specific occassion (overcoming fears, some life challenge), but others seem to be the type of thing that you would send "just because" with any kind of note inside.

Since they're so artistically designed, anyone would be delighted to receive one. My favorite cards are Amelia Earhart's tiger, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's boat, and Oscar Wilde's card, which features a colorful elephant.

I'm a little disappointed that Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's name is not hyphenated and doesn't have an accent on the attribution of the cards. However, that's quite minor and the only thing that's not absolutely perfect about these cards. It is kind of funny though since he is the only author represented on two cards and he is the one with his name misprinted.

I will actually keep the box the cards came in, too. It's decorated with colorful leaves and says "Every answer is inside you."

All in all, I love these cards and can't wait to send them out to my friends and family.

I received a copy of this note card set from the publisher, but was not required to post a positive review.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

"Finding Gobi: The True Story of One Little Dog's Big Journey" by Dion Leonard

I'd really enjoyed the children's book Gobi: A Little Dog With a Big Heart by Dion Leonard, illustrated by Lisa Manuzak, so I was excited to read the young readers version, Finding Gobi: The True Story of One Little Dog's Big Journey.

Both books tell the story of an ultra-marathon runner, Dion, meeting a little dog named Gobi during a race. Together they run many miles and become very close. It's a touching story and Leonard makes it even more so by occasionally telling the story from Gobi's perspective.

The children's picture book focused on meeting Gobi and running the race together, with only brief mention of the difficulties Leonard would have getting Gobi adopted and back to his home country in a one-page author's note at the end. In contrast, the young readers version finishes the race by page 65 of 190 pages. After reading the children's book I expected the race to also be the focal point of this book, and was disappointed. Reading about the race and how Gobi was able to participate in different stages was highly entertaining.

However, most of this book is about Gobi being lost in big city, potential extortion, and logistics of transporting a pet across various countries. Not to say that it was all uninteresting, but 125 pages of it was just too much. The hints of potential sinister dealings and the idea that someone could have stolen Gobi to extort money was dark for a young readers book. I'm guessing there was more evidence of this than presented, but it still felt out of place both because it was an unproven theory and because it could be really scary for young readers.

I would have enjoyed reading much more about the race, and much less about the getting Gobi home part. As it is though, I'd still highly recommend Gobi: A Little Dog With a Big Heart for children, but I wouldn't want to recommend Finding Gobi: The True Story of One Little Dog's Big Journey for young readers. As an adult reader, it was decent, but without more race details I would have to pass on this one.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher but was not required to post a positive review.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

"The Promise of the Dawn" by Lauraine Snelling

The Promise of the Dawn is Lauraine Snelling's first book of her Under the Norther Skies series. Signe, her husband (Rune), and their three boys move from Norway to America to help Rune's uncle clear trees and care for sick Aunt Gerd. Since there wasn't many jobs available in Norway, the family accepts, even though they know it will be a difficult journey, hard work, and a lot of time before they'd be able to buy their own house.

Things in America are even harder than the family imagined. The aunt and uncle they had never met are rude and harsh, expecting more than the hard work the entire family gives all day long. The novel is primarily focused on watching the family members learn to stand up for themselves and love their aunt and uncle despite the hardships. On top of working hard to cut trees all day, tend the garden, cook meals, take care of Aunt Gerd, care for farm animals, and keep the house clean, Signe also learns that she's pregnant, which provides new challenges and an urgency to get their own house.

Uncle Einar is a hard character throughout the novel. He doesn't even show much love for his wife. However, Aunt Gerd changes quite a bit through the novel and eventually appreciates fully all that Signe, Rune, and the boys have been doing to help. I ended up really enjoying Signe and Gerd's relationship as it grew in the last quarter of the book.

Another favorite plot line was that Signe befriends the locals in a way that Uncle Einar and Aunt Gerd could never do after Uncle Einar had scared all of the neighbors away with his harshness. In Signe's moment of need, she recieves help from all of the neighbors, something that reminded her of her community in Norway.

Signe struggles with her relationship with God, but it doesn't really seem genuine to me. A freak accident in the woods (which ends up not being that bad, really) makes her question her previously strong faith. Eventually though she comes back to God and the family makes a point to attend church and become a part of the religious community as well.

Overall, I found the book to be very character driven. Not much happens outside day-to-day chores, but it is interesting nonetheless. There are definitely some big moments, but the main intrigue is in seeing how this family adjusts to this new life together in a new country.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher, but was not required to post a positive review.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

"Gobi: A Little Dog With a Big Heart" by Dion Leonard, Illustrated by Lisa Manuzak

Gobi: A Little Dog With a Big Heart is an adorable children's book that shares the true story of a stray dog who runs with ultra-marathon runner through the Gobi desert.

Rather than focusing around a conflict, this book instead focuses on the power of friendship. The biggest challenge the runner and dog duo must overcome is a water crossing, which the runner carries the dog across. After the story ends, an author note expresses further challenges, including losing the dog in a city and having to wait an quarantine period before being able to take the dog back to his home country to live. I liked that the book stayed focused on their friendship, though I was also interested to read more of the story in the author's note.

I loved the illustrations of the dog, Gobi. She's a scruffy-looking pup with big, loving eyes. The author's photo on the book jacket shows Dion holding Gobi, who looks very similar to the illustrations, though less scruffy.

I really enjoyed the writing, too, which shared perspectives of Dion and Gobi.

The cover is very well done with Gobi's name in large glossy letters and Gobi herself glossy and bounding through a matte desert scene.

I received a copy of this book from Book Look, but was not required to post a positive review.

Review: Rewordable: The Uniquely Fragmented Word Game

I love board games/card games, and I love word games, but unfortunately, Rewordable didn't really measure up to my favorites of either distinction. 

For your turn, you play a word using cards from your hand and cards from the available pool of three cards or by adding hand cards to an existing word on the table. Points are given at the end of the game based on achieved objectives (cardboard chips for meeting goals such as playing a 7-letter word or playing a card using only yellow cards) and one point for each letter in words you own.

In the example above, I stole the words FRY and INTEND from my opponents by adding the ER card to make FRYER from my hand and by adding ING to INTEND. I also used a turn to add IN to COMING, which was my own word. You can also add letters to the middle of words as long as you're not reordering any letters.

Stealing words from opponents was fun. I also liked that you could strategically earn more than one objective chip a turn, which made for interesting challenge beyond just picking a good word to play.

However, I didn't feel that this game left enough room for creativity. I felt very limited in my options each turn. Also, because there is a common pool of cards, it was difficult to plan ahead, which led to a lot of time waiting for players to plan their moves.

I played the game twice, with four players. It can accommodate from 2-8, so it's worth noting that the game could be very different with a larger or smaller group of players. However, I'd hesitate to even attempt 8 players based on how long waiting between turns took with only four.

Overall, I was not super impressed with the game. I have a large collection of board games and card games and I can't see choosing this one over any other.

I received a copy of this game from Blogging for Books, but was not required to write a positive review.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

"Wow! The Good News in Four Words" by Dandi Daley Mackall

Wow! The Good News in Four Words is a 30-page children's book that explains God's salvation plan. The four words are keywords repeated throughout the book: wow, uh-oh, yes, and ahh.

These keywords are anchors to important themes. As explained in the "Note to Parents" at the beginning, Wow is that "God, the Creator, loves us"; Uh-oh is that "we have all sinned, and the result is a broken world and separation from God"; Yes is that "Jesus died for us and rose from the dead--through him we are offered forgiveness and a new beginning...if we say yes"; Ahh is "saying yes to Jesus gives us eternal life and peace"; Wow is "as we grow in faith, we'll want to tell others the Good News." Each of these themes is given one or more Bible passages as references. Additional Bible passages are listed at the end of the book for each keyword.

The book travels from "Let there be light," to Adam and Eve, to the birth of Jesus, to Jesus' death and resurrection. After that, the book switches to more general examples of what this means in life, including Christ is the Life and the Truth and the Way, and the fruit of the Spirit, for example. Simple short sentences are used, with three rhyming lines per stanza. Some pages have one stanza, some have two, but the amount of text is never overwhelming so that the child would lose interest.

The illustrations, drawn by Annabel Tempest, are captivating. They are very busy with a lot of detail--tons of things to look at. It's one of those books where you'll see something new every time you read. As is usual for me, I judge the artist on how cute the animals are, and these ones are excellent. They are cartoon-ish and adorable. I appreciate the frequency with which they appear. Animals fill the pages talking about the Garden of Eden, but also appear scattered throughout the second half of the book.

The only weird thing is that the keywords that have already been used appear along with the current keyword in-text, but kind of faded out. It doesn't really make sense to read them aloud, and therefore I don't really see why they are there. The only thing they possibly do is provide a road map of where the book came from. It doesn't include the keywords yet to come though.

I revived a copy of this book from the publisher, but was not required to post a positive review.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

"Precious Moments Little Book of Bible Stories" by Jean Fischer

Precious Moments Little Book of Bible Stories is a small padded-cover board book. It contains 16 stories, ranging from "The Beginning" to "Jesus Lives!" and "Tell the Good News!" Each story is given a name, the Bible chapter or chapters it is based upon, and a short paragraph, while the opposite page has a related one sentence rhyming prayer and a one sentence Bible verse. Each is illustrated in the Precious Moments style--child-like, with colorful pastels and lots of animals.There's also a decorative flower border around the story pages.

The Bible stories are written in short sentences, with easy to understand words. Clarity seems to be the main goal, to the point of taking away some of the interest. However, I still think it would be a good introduction to the Bible stories because they are so short and easy to understand.

True to Precious Moments style, even the adults are drawn very child-like, with the exception of Jesus and Goliath, who are drawn as young men. I especially like the large number of animals in the illustrations, which I think would be appealing to children. For example, there's a story called "Jesus Loves Children" (based on Matthew 19, Mark 10, and Luke 18) that features two separate illustrations--one with a young boy and girl reading a book with a puppy stealing a lick of the child's lollipop, while the other shows four friends, one holding a baby bird and one a puppy.

The pages kind of stick together a little bit, making the pages hard to turn. I think this will get easy with each re-read though. The pages are very sturdy and durable.

I think the number of stories in this book is just right, along with the length of the story. There's just enough detail to tell the story.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher, but was not required to post a positive review.