Sunday, December 3, 2017

"The Austen Escape" by Katherine Reay

The Austen Escape is the fourth Katherine Reay book I've read, and unfortunately I did not find it as enjoyable as previous books.

Mary goes on a Jane Austen–inspired trip to England with her friend Isabel to stayin Bath, acting and dressing as though they belonged in one of Jane Austen's novels.  However, while there, Isabel has a sort of mental break after some cruel words from her father and believes she is actually the character she's playing. Mary's frustration at her friend's backstabing man-stealing ways get pushed aside as she must wait until Isabel remembers who she is before confronting her.

This novel had a fun, easy to read writing style. Mary was shown to be a strong woman, engineer, and  loyal to her family and friends. However, her relationship with the love interest of the story, Nathan, made her seem immature and lacking in social skills. For example, she overhears half a phone conversation and instead of talking about it, takes several drastic actions including buying a plane ticket to leave the country and attempting to leave without telling Nathan.

It's an interesting concept that you could vacation in a place where you could live out your favorite stories, but Isabel's memory problem interfered with my enjoyment of that aspect of the story too much. I'd recommend reading this book only if you really enjoyed Dear Mr. Knightley, Lizzy & Jane, and The Brontë Plot as I did. Even still, I was not as captivated by this story.

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

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Come As You Aren't: A Role-Playing Game for Adventurous Couples

I found Come As You Aren't: A Role-Playing Game for Adventurous Couples to be uninspiring and poorly executed. That's not to say that everyone would feel that way; for me I think it was mostly that I had certain expectations and this game did not meet them.

First, there are no rules. The two-sentence description on the back of the box is all you get. It's probably to promote creativity or something, but it just felt undeveloped to me. The concept is you choose a Who card, a What card, and a Where  card and write down a time and place and put inside the included envelope. You leave then it for your partner to find.

I have so many questions. According to that, there's only one Who card. So I'm assuming Partner 1 picks out the scenario and Partner 2 enacts all of it? Leaving Partner 1 to improvise? I find it kind of annoying that the game doesn't provide a set of people on a Who card. I suppose this is where the creativity comes in--you could add a second card maybe? Instead though, you get one with a cheesy name, occupation, accessory, and a little three sentence description of their personality (also cheesy). Every description is written with unnecessary ellipses or em-dashes for the card to explain it's own joke. Every. Time.

For example:
D. Major

Concert Violinist

Black Bow Tie

D. Major can't seem to stay out of treble...treble clef that is. [continues for three more sentences]


Red Inkwell

Bestselling Author

Notebook and Pencil

Red Inkwell has a nice, well-rounded body...of work. [continues on]

I don't particularly want to be any of these people. But I do like that they each have an accessory so there is an element of dress up involved, which would help to get in character.

For the What, I would have hoped for a scenario, some kind of storyline. Instead, it's a small thing that doesn't seem like it would naturally come up at all and doesn't relate to the "role-playing" character aspect. "Be the one to suggest to go into the bedroom" is odd because 1) aren't you at a random place as described by the cards? and 2) the adventure level here is pretty low.  "At some point spill water on your partner and suggest a change of clothes" is another card. My partner and I agreed that we'd be annoyed if this were to happen. This has going for it though that Partner 1 is choosing something that Partner 2 will do, so at least they're choosing something they would like to have happen?

Where cards range from the weird/scary "A Public Restroom," "A Bathroom," "An Alley" to the mundane "A Parking Lot," "A Hallway,""A Kitchen." I think the aspect of writing a specific place to meet probably negates the need so specify whether the restroom is public or not, but there's a separate card for some reason.

Lastly, the box design. It's a slide out tray, which led to the included envelope sliding right out of the box and is now lost forever. No idea where that went. It seems like it would be an easy way to lose all of the cards too, but to my knowledge that didn't happen to me.

I would not recommend this role-playing game, but that doesn't mean that others would have the same view. I love to play card, board, and role-playing games, and perhaps that is why this one didn't work out for me as it left too much ambiguity.

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

Saturday, October 28, 2017

"God Gave Us Family" by Lisa Tawn Bergren, art by David Hohn

God Gave Us Family is an adorable children's book with a great message--families can look different than your own, but they are all special and loved by God. The story is told from a wolf pup's conversation with its parents.

The types of family differences covered include family size (only child to many children), adoption, single parenting, and being raised by grandparents. It also talks about different ways lifestyles, such as raccoons staying out late at night.

It also covers the good (and not so good) aspects of the pup's own dealing with cousins that are sometimes annoying, but also enjoying their company to build forts and play hide-and-go-seek.

I love the message of this book that all families are unique and that's a good thing! This book tries to teach respect, understanding, and appreciation of families.

The illustrations add a lot of value to the story as well. They are beautifully colorful and artistically drawn so that you can see individual strokes, almost like colored pencil drawings. The wolf cubs are very cute and all of their play-time activities look very fun. I also appreciated the aesthetic of the inside of the front and back covers, which is decorated with a drawing of string lanterns.

The back of the book suggests that this book is age-appropriate for 3-8 year old children. It also lists other books in the "God Gave Us" series, including Thankful Hearts, You, Christmas, Love, Easter, and Sleep. This was the first book I've read of the series though.

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

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

"The Proving" by Beverly Lewis

The Proving is a sweet tale of discovery for a young former Amish-woman, Mandy, who returns to run her family's bed and breakfast following her mother's unexpected death. her inheritance of the inn was conditional upon her running it profitably for one year. After being moved away for five years and having given up her Amish lifestyle, there was a lot of adjustments to be made. Most of all, the rift with her twin sister Arie would be impossible to ignore once she moved back.

Mandy quickly learns that the Amish community she left isn't so willing to help out at the B&B while she owns it, dressing and acting like an Englisher. Firing Arie so she didn't have to work with her caused further strife with extended family. Soon working all by herself trying to keep up the B&B, Mandy is incredibly overworked and stressed. Still, she does her best to keep everything running, while also not working on the Lord's day.

It's not long before a difficult guest, Trina, shows up, constantly complaining and driving Mandy crazy. Desperate for help to run the B&B though, Trina may just be the answer to Mandy's prayers.

I was not a fan of the way that Trina's story line was introduced. After 3 chapters about Mandy, all of a sudden the 4th introduced Trina, but didn't go back to her again until 30 pages later. By that time, honestly I couldn't remember who she was and had to go back and look.

I was also thrown off by the epilogue being in first-person from Mandy's point of view after the entire book had been from third person point of view. Not that I'm against switching things up since the epilogue is different, but I just didn't see the benefit of it. It would have worked just the same as being in third person, so it could have stayed consistent. If anything, it would have actually worked better because it just seemed less genuine.

However, those minor annoyances did not get in the way of my enjoyment of this book. The Proving is a novel full of faith, friendships, family, love, and work ethic. I especially liked the ways that Mandy learned more about how her mother ran the inn while she was away, and  how Mandy began to have similar methods. It was immersive to read of the day-to-day tasks of running the inn. It sounded like a place that would be lovely to visit--a meadow full of butterflies, incredible homemade breakfasts, and a host who cares deeply about her guests.

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

"One Christmas Bear" written and illustrated by Anne Vittur Kennedy

"Two tiny mice get a ride, and off they go!
Two funny foxes making angels in the snow."

One Christmas Bear is a 20-page board book with a unique cut-out shape. Though it is a board book, it is not as thick as many others and the pages can still bend and flex. It is a counting book that follows a polar bear and other arctic animals participating in various snowy activities.

Each page features one sentence of text, which rhymes with the adjacent page's sentence. The spreads each have a large number in the bottom right corner that indicates the number. The number begins both sentences of the spread.

The last spread breaks the pattern with four lines of text on each page, but imparts the important message that "Little acts of kindness, our friends and families dear, Merry time together--gifts from God to last all year!" This is only part of the book that has directly religious content.

The illustrations are very cute and colorful--a difficult feat in a book about snow! My favorite illustration is of four jolly snowmen because each one is a different animal shape: bunny, bear, dog, and mouse. The caribou are especially well-drawn (and are wearing wreathes, bells, or scarves around their necks!).

On the cover of the book, the words and part of the bear's scarf are metallic red. The background around the pear is dusted in glitter. Those features, added together with a cute rhyming story of winter fun with lots of different friends, make this book a nice item to gift to a child this Christmas season.

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

Friday, October 6, 2017

"I'm Not a Scaredy-Cat: A Prayer for When You Wish You Were Brave" by Max Lucado, illustrated by Shirley Ng-Benitez

I'm Not a Scaredy-Cat is an adorable children's book about a skittish cat who has a prayer to repeat to help make it not afraid anymore. 

Written by Max Lucado, the text is funny and a joy to read. It follows several repetitions of the cat saying, "I'm not a scaredy-cat...except when:" and gives two examples of things that startle the cat, followed by a prayer. The cat's prayer is a child's version of Philippians 4:6-9: "God, you are good. God, you are near. God, you are here! And, God, you love me." 

I actually laughed several times reading this, including a fear that the cat had that seemed very familiar to me, as I have a scaredy-dog: "A leaf from a tree / Landed right on my knee. / I jumped with a bump, / fell down with a thump."

The illustrations, done by Shirley Ng-Benitez, are some of the best I've seen in children's books. The cat is so cute, with realistic fur and a cartoon face. The cat has so much personality, down to it's blue bandanna. There's also a fuzzy caterpillar that just has the best facial expression. I love the image chosen for the cover--the cat is afraid of the sprinkles on a donut. When you first open the book, the end paper is an adorable donut and sprinkle pattern.

Right after the end paper, there's a dedication page with to, from, and date, making this perfect for gifting to a child in your life. There's a letter to parents that talks about fears and how parents can help their children face their fears. I didn't find it particularly necessary or helpful. It did mention the goal of the book to instill a godly bravery in the heart of children. 

I love this book and would recommend it to anyone with children, especially those who also love cats or donuts!

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

A Box of Awesome Things Matching Game by Wee Society

A Box of Awesome Things is a Matching Game for children ages three and up. It contains 20 pairs of "awesome things" to match during the game. The instructions are printed in easy to understand and explain language inside the lid of the box. It's just a normal matching game though, so the most complicated rule is that there is a blank card set that you can use to design your own "awesome thing" matching pair.

This game is a very cute idea, including little jokes about things that are not included because they're not awesome (cavities, garbage, splinters, flat tires, pink eye). The cards are sturdy cardboard and bright colors. The reverse side has a consistent white background with colorful shapes. My favorite cards were science, confetti, s'mores, trapdoors, and camouflage (truly awesome things!). I really like the way the confetti image partially obscures the word, as though it were real confetti. The camouflage card is pretty witty as well, with just a pair of eyes showing.
The back of the box says the cards are meant to spark conversation, but I found masking tape uninspiring, and also thought argyle would be a weird thing to try to teach a three year old. I was very disappointed in the picture quality of tacos and yellow. The taco is just a yellow semi-circle, with no colorful toppings or anything. Yellow is a weird half-yellow half-white box, which especially doesn't make sense when there's a pure yellow shape for taco.
I also think the box design is really poorly done. It is a flip top box, which means it would be horrible for travelling as well as would spill everywhere if it were knocked off a shelf, as a children's game is likely to have happen! The cards are snug in compartments in the box, so to get them out, you have to tip the box over, but then the divider of the box tries to come out, too.

Overall, I think it's a decent matching game and I particularly like the creative aspect of adding your own matching pair. However, I was pretty disappointed in the box design and the quality of the taco and yellow cards, specifically.

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

Sunday, October 1, 2017

"Picturing Heaven: 40 hope-filled devotions with coloring pages" written by Randy Alcorn and illustrated by Lizzie Preston

Picturing Heaven contains 40 hope-filled devotions with coloring pages, written by Randy Alcorn
and illustrated by Lizzie Preston.

Each devotion features a particular theme. On the left page of the spread, one or two Bible verses are followed by a paragraph of discussion. The right pages is a full-page illustration to color related to the devotion topic.

This book features a table of contents so you can seek a particular theme, or go through the devotions in order. The introduction explains the book's purpose, to develop a view of the New Earth God is preparing for us. The book is intended to serves as both a creative expression and a spiritual inspiration. In line with both of those goals, there is also a blank page provided for sketches at the end as well as a lined page for notes.

An example of a devotional is "Earth's present beauty: Just a hint of what's to come," which starts by quoting Isaiah 6:3, about the earth being filled with his glory. The devotional discussing is quite beautiful: "When we see a roaring waterfall, beautiful flowers, a wild animal in its native habitat, or the joy in the eyes of our pets when they see us, we sense that this world is--or at least was meant to be--our home. If we want to know what the ultimate Heaven and our eternal home will be like, the best place to start is by looking around us" (40). The accompanying picture is of waterfalls and intricately patterned mountain cliffs. It's actually a little hard to tell what it is without the context of the devotional and prior to color being on the page.

The coloring pages are ideal for those who love to color intricate patterns. Every image is made up a smaller shapes to color in. For example, even images of animals like elephants that are realistically much the same color are broken up into little areas to color. This allows for more imaginative color pairings and time to reflect upon the devotion as you color repetitive patterns. Every page also has some parts already colored in with a yellow-gold color. I'm not really sure why that was done this way, and I'm not a huge fan of it. The printed color stands out among colored pencils or markers as being unnatural.

However, the cover of the book features a gold foil filling in some of the images, along with printed colors fading to black and white illustrations. It is beautifully done and a very attractive cover. The book is also a nice square size, giving ample room for the illustrations.

My favorite pages are the ones with animals on them, as that it what I prefer to color. The devotions vary somewhat in terms of quality, but most are quite good. I see this book as a successful coloring devotional, but the stand alone parts aren't spectacular. This book offers a lot of opportunity for quiet reflection. I could see accompanying it with prayer as well.

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

Thursday, September 21, 2017

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

Image result for "Start Where You Are Note Cards" by Meera Lee PatelMeera 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.

Monday, July 31, 2017

"Princess Prayers" by Crystal Bowman

Princess Prayers is a 26-page padded cover board book. The cover also has glitter in select places, giving the book a really nice first impression.

Each spread of pages includes a prayer and a picture. On the left page, there's a two stanza rhyming prayer and a Bible verse that the prayer is based upon. Each prayer is titled with a theme such as "I'm Sorry," "Keep Me Safe," and "God Made It All." The book opens with a morning prayer and closes with a bedtime prayer.

The illustrations are of familiar princess from the Princess Joy (also Charity and Grace) Sticker & Activity Book. They are very colorful and often feature animals, including horses, sheep, butterflies, bunnies, and dogs. The prayer pages are outlined in colorful, intricate designed border, such as flowers, jewels, or butterflies.

The rhyming prayers are easy to read and understand. They are closely tied to the Bible verse, which is a neat way to introduce children to the way the Bible sounds. I could see a family reading this together all in one sitting, or turning to prayers that fit specific situations, such as beginning the day with "My Morning Prayer."

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

Friday, July 28, 2017

"Just Sayin'" by Dandi Daley Mackall

Just Sayin' is a quick easy read with a somewhat gimmicky letter-writing storytelling method.

Nick's father and Cassie's mother suddenly break off their engagement, leaving the would-be step-siblings feeling sad and confused. 11-year-old Cassie is a big fan of letter writing, and thus starts writing to several people. Correspondences shown in the book include Nick, his father, his sister, Cassie, her mother, her grandmother, her pastor, Jesus, and Nick and Cassie's idol, a TV comedian famous for his insults.

Together, Nick and Cassie try to figure out what caused their parents to break up and scheme to get them back together again, through entering an insult contest where the prize was a family cruise.

Each letter is written in a different "handwriting" or typeface, as well as shown on different types of paper (lined, ripped out of notebook, etc.). Occasionally there's also an image of a pen laying on the page. The story is told only through letters and therefore necessitates people including a lot of detail in letters that they wouldn't normally. For example, Cassie writes her would-be stepsister Julie about the first time they met including every detail. Not only is it hard to believe that an 11-year-old would remember such detail, but also think to write about it. Another example is that Cassie's grandmother ends up also writing letters to the TV comedian and writes about her family's lives, including telling a complete stranger about her daughter and would-be son-in-law's breakup.

Overall though, it was a really enjoyable read, with some suspension of disbelief. I doubt any of those factors would bother the intended juvenile audience. There's a lot of humor in this book, especially with the insult contest where Nick and Cassie show off their skills.

There's also a great message to the book, where Cassie realizes that words are powerful--and can be hurtful. After exchanging letters with her pastor, she begins to read the Bible and write letters to Jesus. The change in her attitude is significant, but believable. Instead of saying insulting things that can be hurtful, she switches to more general statements and observations that are actually even more hard-hitting than a standard insult would've been. One of such "insults" she uses is "a sharp tongue does not necessarily indicate a sharp mind," a general statement not directed at hurting anyone (159).

I would definitely recommend this book for children around the ages of the protagonists. Other than Nick sneaking off to take a bus on his own, the message overall is very positive and it's highly entertaining.

I received this book for free but was not required to post a positive review.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

"Hag-Seed" by Margaret Atwood

Hag-Seed is the second Shakespeare retold book I've read from Hogarth Shakespeare. Written by Margaret Atwood, it's the retelling of The Tempest. I was unfamiliar with The Tempest prior to reading this novel.

Stage director Felix suffers a betrayal right as he's preparing his masterpiece, The Tempest, for stage. With his prestigious position stolen from him, he becomes a recluse, nearly off-the-grid. He assumes a new identity and employment as a theater director for a prison program, where he finally plots his revenge against those who wronged him.

Suffering also from the loss of his young daughter many years ago, Felix is a bit of a wild card--you're never sure just how far he'll go. He goes through his days imagining what his daughter would be doing at every moment, talking with her, and pretending she is there with him.Parallels between The Tempest play he's directing with inmates and the revenge plot he's crafted are  very clear, even down to some of the people in Felix's life having similar names to Shakespeare's plays.

My favorite part of the book was the inmates. They were distinct and showed growth through the novel; they loved the theater program and thus made the it the very best they could.

The play within a novel where basically the plot of the play actually happens provided a refreshing way to get to know the play, without completely giving everything away. After the epilogue, there is a brief plot summary of the original play, which fills in any gaps and ties the two stories fully together. I now feel very familiar with the story of the play.

I wasn't as invested in the whole revenge plot as the rest of the novel, which really slowed down my reading. Obviously the book needed conflict of some kind, and it was also paralleling The Tempest, but especially since it had been 12 years, I kind of just wanted it to be over with.

I received this book for free, but was not required to write a positive review.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

To Review: "Hag-Seed" by Margaret Atwood

Next up to review is Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood. It's a retelling of Shakespeare's The Tempest, published by Hogarth Shakespeare.

I've read another novel from the same publisher that was the retelling of The Winter's Tale, which was called The Gap of Time, by Jeanette Winterson. Though I wasn't a huge fan of that retelling, I do like Shakespeare and Margaret Atwood, so perhaps this one will be a better fit!

I've read Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale and Oryx and Crake (with The Blind Assassin sitting in my to-be-read pile!). Looking forward to getting into Hag-Seed and letting you know how it is!

Sunday, June 4, 2017

"Jesus Loves Me! A Sing-Along Book" illustrated by Gynux

Image result for Jesus Loves Me! A Sing-Along Book illustrated by Gynux

Jesus Loves Me! A Sing-Along Book is a children’s board book containing three verses of the song Jesus Love Me. It is 20 pages long of thinner weight board pages. It opens so that the pages can lie flat, which is really nice since the pictures always are across the entire spread.

The pictures feature animals going on a nature walk while playing instruments, as the book is supposed to be sung to/with children. Along the nature walk, the animals engage in other activities in addition to playing instruments, such as catching a butterfly, saving a kitten from a tree, having a picnic, and building a campfire.

The last spread features a bunch of the animals looking at the book with the instruments, as though they are actually reading/playing along. The other side of the pages is sheet music for the first verse and chorus. Since all of the verses are the same tune, this can be used to play the entire song.

The book is of high-quality, with a foam board cover. The animals are cute, but the illustrations aren’t my favorite style; they’re slightly more towards realistic in textured drawing, but with extra expressive faces.

I wasn’t super familiar with the second and third verse of the song, since usually all I heard growing up was the first verse (“Jesus loves me! This I know, for the Bible tells me so. Little ones to him belong; they are weak, but He is strong! Yes, Jesus loves me! Yes, Jesus loves me! Yes, Jesus loves me! The Bible tells me so.”). This would be a really fun way to sing along with children who love music, or if you play an instrument, you could even play along given the music at the end. The sheet music is simple to follow along.

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

Monday, May 29, 2017

"All Things Bright and Beautiful" illustrated by Dawn Machell

Image result for all things bright and beautiful book  the lord god made them allAll Things Bright and Beautiful: the Lord God Made Them All is a padded board book with a handled spine. I can definitely see young ones carrying around this book full of colorful illustrations and glittered pages. 

It is described as a rebelling of a well-loved hymn. The story starts and ends by saying that God created all things bright and beautiful. In between, several examples are listed, such as the seasons, plants, and animals.

Each spread of pages contains rhyming text, colorful animals, and glitter. The 10-page book contains a surprising amount of text for its small size, but did not feel like too much. The book is six sentences long in total, with each page I'm the last spread containing a while sentence. 

I love the artistic style, which is simplistic but modern and full of interesting colors and always glitter! I especially like the adorable smiling moose, the glittered river, and the way extra colors and designs were added to the elephant’s ears and birds’ wings. This book is adorable and so cheerful, with all of the animals showing off smiling faces. I would definitely recommend this to anyone with young children, or for giving as baby shower gifts!

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

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

"Tuesdays with Morrie" by Mitch Albom

I'd originally read Tuesdays with Morrie as a part of my high school sociology class. I was moved by it so much that I remember it clearly years later and was excited to read the new 20th anniversary edition.

For those unfamiliar with the book, Tuesdays with Morrie is life lessons from a dying professor to his former student.Though Mitch had lost contact with his old professor over the years, after seeing him on the news, he made an effort to get back in touch. The result was weekly Tuesday visits in which they talked about the world, feeling sorry for yourself, regrets, death, family, emotions, fear of aging, money, how love goes on, marriage, our culture, forgiveness, and the perfect day. The book is told from Mitch's perspective as an interview with Morrie.

For who have already read the original Tuesdays with Morrie, the message "giving is living" is given much more importance. The short afterword only added six pages, but they were six important pages. Pages that said that Morrie's lessons were still impacting Mitch and still impacting the world.

My only complaint with this book, which I don't remember being an issue when I first read it, was that the writing style was repetitive due to the interview style. Often Morrie would say something and Mitch would repeat a word or phrase that Morrie had just said in the form of a question, as a way of getting an explanation. It didn't really bother me until I was reading it aloud and it felt redundant.

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed my second read through of Tuesdays with Morrie. This book is a great gift for students, teachers, and people who want the world to be a more loving place. This new edition is perfect for showing the last impact of giving kindness.

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

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Terry Pratchett's "Wyrd Sisters"

I finally finished Terry Pratchett's Wyrd Sisters and in the end, I enjoyed it much more than the Colour of Magic.

Though I wasn't a huge fan of the plot itself, the characters were unforgettable with spot-on wittiness. I especially loved meeting Death and watching a romance unfold between a witch and a fool.

I think I'll probably attempt some more Terry Pratchett books in the future, but I stand by my thought that I do better with a physical book than audio book for Pratchett's humor. Any suggestions on the next Pratchett book to read? There's so many options!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Beginning a new journey: MA in English!

I'm excited to announce I've been accepted to a masters of English program! I'll begin taking classes this fall, one at a time while working full time at the university.

My first course will be "literary studies," which even with the course description was super vague. So I have no idea what I'm getting in to with this one, but I hope there will be some great books to read and interesting discussions with new classmates.

The university offers a focus on children's literature, so I'm planning to do that. It looks like I'll be able to take a children's literature class in the spring.

I can't wait to get started and see where this journey leads!

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Summer Reading Ideas

I'm going on a trip in a few months and already trying to plan my book-load! I don't know whether I should take the paper books that I have that I've been meaning to read, or whether to splurge and purchase some eBooks for ease of travel!

What are your strategies for books when traveling? I never estimate correctly how much reading time I will have and either take way too many books or not least if I choose to take my Nook I won't have that problem!

Happy summer reading to everyone!

Monday, May 1, 2017

"The Ebb Tide" by Beverly Lewis

The Ebb Tide introduces Sallie Riehl, a young Amish-woman who has not yet committed to the church, a tension point amidst her family. Sallie has strong faith and wants to be baptized, but she has dreams of travel that would be impossible once she joined. While Sallie waitressed at a diner, a family of regulars asked her to nanny for their daughter over the summer at their beach house. Finally given an opportunity to travel and see more of the world than her hometown, Sallie agrees.

Autumn, the young girl Sallie nannies for, is having a hard time adjusting to no longer being an only child after the birth of her younger brother. During their summer at the beach, Sallie prays for Autumn and tries in many ways to show her the blessing of having a sibling.

Sallie also meets Kevin, a marine biologist familiar with the Amish traditions. They have a quick friendship driven by shared love of travelling and God. She knows she shouldn't fall for him, not when perfectly good Perry Zook was waiting to court her back home. Sallie is tempted by many fancy things she wasn't exposed to at home and comes to question where her heart lies--joining the Amish church, or following her heart and seeing the world.

I really liked the characters of this novel. Every interaction had God at its center and felt very meaningful, but not overdone. Sallie has a great relationship with her Aunt, her soon-to-be married sister Frannie, Autumn, and Kevin, so even going between multiple story lines was always interesting. Sallie's kind an loving heart seemed genuine and her struggles were believable.

Because this book was half set in the Amish town, half on the beach, it was much more modern and easier to relate to than other books of this genre--making it the best I've read thus far.

My husband commented that I wasn't reading this book as fast as some others. I explained that while I was enjoying, it was also terribly predictable. I told him how many of these Amish Christian fiction books feature young female protagonists with one or more love interests, interactions with non-Amish-folk (Englishers), and undoubtedly would have a wedding in the epilogue. To prove my point, I flipped to the end of the book and skimmed part of the epilogue and read aloud, "blending of our hearts as husband and wife." I was only five chapters in to the book and I didn't know how we'd get to the ending, or who's wedding it was in the epilogue, but I knew it was the inevitable outcome.

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

Monday, April 24, 2017

To Review: "Tuesdays with Morrie" by Mitch Albom

I was pretty surprised when I saw that Blogging for Books was looking for reviewers for Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom.

Image result for tuesdays with morrie

Since Tuesdays with Morrie originally was published in 1997, this year there is a 20th anniversary edition.

I'd read Tuesdays with Morrie when I was in high school and thoroughly enjoyed it. Of Mitch Albom's books, I've also read The Five People You Meet in Heaven and For One More Day.

I'm really looking forward to reading it again now. Look for my review coming soon!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Relistening to Audio Books: "Ready Player One" by Ernest Cline

I first listened to the Ready Player One audio book last September. I enjoyed it so much and thought my husband would enjoy it, too.

Image result for ready player one audiobook

So six months later, I listened to it again with him this time, and I enjoyed it just as much, if not more. It was so fun to experience it with another listener.

I don't think I could read a book so soon after reading it the first time, but for this audio book, it worked out perfectly.

Now, we're both excited to see the movie next year! I don't think there's even a trailer out for it yet, but I'm hoping to see something soon...

Friday, April 14, 2017

To Review: "The Ebb Tide" by Beverly Lewis

After reading and reviewing Beverly Lewis' The Atonement last April, I'm excited to announce that I've just received a copy of her new book, The Ebb Tide, to review!
Oh to see the ocean, Sallie thought. And to spend the summer as a nanny. She shook her head in amazement. This seemed to good to be true, but she really must talk it over with Dat and Mamm, especially since she'd be gone so long.
And after I promised Mamm I'd take baptism classes this summer... 
--From the back cover 
Look for that post coming soon!