Friday, August 28, 2015

(Review) The Biggest Story: How The Snake Crusher Brings Us Back To The Garden by Kevin DeYoung and illustrated by Don Clark

Publication Date: August 31, 2015.
Publisher: Crossway.
Genre: Nonfiction, story of the Bible-OT to NT.
Age: 5-11.
Source: Self-purchase.
Rating: 5 stars for excellent.


Beginning with Adam and Eve living in the garden, to their thrust from the garden, and their eldest son who murdered his brother, the reader is swept into the story of the Bible.
The emphasis of The Biggest Story is how Jesus is the snake crusher promised in Genesis chapter 3. Jesus is our redeemer, our Savior.
Other Bible characters covered are:
A divided kingdom

My Thoughts:

Several beginning elements I love about The Biggest Story:
  • The title. Kids can relate to small, big, biggest. The title is aptly, The Biggest Story. 
  • The pages are thick and sturdy.
  • Bold and vivid colors are used in the illustrations. 
  • The shapes used in the illustrations are squares, rectangles, circles, and triangles. At first thought, this might be a minor point, but for a child, shapes are one of the first things a child learns. Shapes help "shape," or create a memory. I believe shapes can be a memory tool to help retain a story. 
How many adults can explain how the Old Testament and New Testament complete and compliment one another?
The Biggest Story shares the complete picture of how Jesus is the snake crusher (Garden of Eden story.) Throughout the Old Testament, people embraced God and then turned away from Him, they went back and forth between obedience and disobedience, until the kingdoms fell and the people were taken away from the Promised Land. People cannot save themselves. People cannot be counted on to make the "right" decision and stay with it. Most importantly, people are not righteous before a Holy God. Thus, people need a Savior. Jesus is the Redeemer and Savior of sin.

I believe building a strong foundation of understanding in a child about Jesus Christ, God, sin, the Bible, the relationship we have in Christ Jesus, and why we need a Savior will strengthen their faith as they become a grown-up. To attend church alone, does not explain why we are there, or why we believe in God. It's only going through the motions like a habitual routine.

A bond develops when we read to our children. We push the outer world away and focus on our child. Our child understands even at a young age, mommy, or daddy, is with us, and thus we are important and loved. 
Developing and nurturing a relationship with God in our children, is the most important task we have as a Christian parent. We have our child only a brief time, make haste.

I'm giddy about The Biggest Story. I purchased the book as a Christmas gift for my 9 year old grandson, Dawson. I can't wait to read the book to him!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

(Review) The Plain Choice by Sherry Gore with Jeff Hoagland

Publication Date: August 25, 2015.
Publisher: Zondervan
Genre: Nonfiction, biography.
Pages: 192. Pages 9-188 is the story.
Source: Free copy from Book Look Bloggers/Harper Collins, in exchange for a review.
Rating: 3 1/2 star rating for good to very good.

Author's page at Amazon

Books by Sherry Gore:
Me, Myself, and Pie
Made With Love
Simply Delicious Amish Cooking
Taste of Pinecraft

Sherry Gore is the editor and chief of Cooking and Such magazine. The website is under construction.


The Plain Choice is the biography of Sherry Gore. Sherry grew up in a dysfunctional home. As a young person she rebelled and made poor choices. In mid-life, Sherry made an about face change and became an Amish-Mennonite.

My Thoughts:
I debated on whether to give The Plain Choice 3 stars or 4 stars. After careful thought, I decided on a 3 1/2 star rating.
At first sight, The Plain Choice is a slim volume for a biography. Slim equals brief. I feel the biography needed to be longer. The full price is $15.99, which is basically $16.00. This is a pricey biography at 179 pages for the story itself. I have an idea as to why the book is brief, but to explain the reasons would give the ending away.
I enjoyed reading Sherry Gore's story, and I feel a bit closer to a person I've followed on Facebook for a few years.
Sherry is a determined person. Once she made up her mind to change from living the life she'd been living, and become a Beachy Amish-Mennonite, she poured herself whole-hearted into a new life. I believe Sherry is an amazing and admirable person.
In the Christian book market, there is a large field of Amish type books. Only a few nonfiction books have been written on the Amish-Mennonite Plain People. It is easy to determine a one set stereo-type of the Plain People. One set of rules and culture for every one. This is not true. I learned through Sherry's story, not all Amish-Mennonite's are removed from technology and modern conveniences. It depends on the churches and communities as to how "modern" they become.
I'd read other reviewers remark, Sherry Gore did not impress them with her radical change to become Amish-Mennonite, it appeared to them she was not sincere. I did not see that she was pretending. I did see through her story, she had come to the realization the past choices she'd made had not worked. Most important, God was not acknowledged in her life. The pinnacle point is when she was immersed in baptism to her old life, and embraced a newness of life in Christ Jesus.
Sherry Gore is transparent in sharing her "old life" and in beginning a new life as an Amish-Mennonite. She does not minimize past poor choices. She was and still is, an imperfect human living in an imperfect world. However, Sherry Gore is saved by grace through Jesus Christ our Lord. 

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

(Review) The Best Yes: Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Endless Demands by Lysa Terkeurst

Publication Date: August 19, 2014.
Publisher: Thomas Nelson. 
Genre: Nonfiction, Christian living, time management.
Pages: 272.
Chapters: 19.
Source: self-purchase.
Rating: 5 stars for excellent.

Barnes and Noble
Christian Book---$7.99

The back cover of the book does not share the thrust of the book's emphasis. I purchased the book because of the author, secondly for the title and subtitle. The subtitle states the summary of the book perfectly: Making Wise Decisions In The Midst Of Endless Demands. If you ponder the subtitle, making wise decisions is what most Christians want to make; however, how can this be achieved? Lisa Terkeurst examines, explains, and answers the question of making wise decisions.

My Thoughts:
The Best Yes is one of those books where in the beginning, I'm not quite sure what I've gotten myself into; however, before long I'm glued to the pages and cannot lay the book down until the last page.
I wish I'd had this book when I was in my twenties and thirties. At this point in life, I have learned (and sometimes through trial and error) how to make wise decisions. I've also learned there is no "perfect choice." Lastly, life is a journey, and as a Christian, God has taken the bad choices I made in life, and in His grace and mercy has blessed me immeasurably. God makes the ugly beautiful.

The Best Yes is filled with memorable quotes. At the end of the book, many of these quotes are enlarged and ready to cut-out (since photocopying is not okay.) I've not seen other nonfiction books display memorable quotes in the book for key emphasis.

Some examples of quotes are:

  • "We must not confuse the command to love with the disease to please."
  • "The one who obeys God's instruction for today will develop a keen awareness of His direction for tomorrow." 
  • "Our decisions aren't just isolated choices. Our decisions point our lives in the directions we're about to head. Show me a decision and I'll show you a direction." 
  •  "Humility and wisdom are a package deal. And often the people who have the most wisdom have experienced the most humility. Or sometimes even the most humiliation."
Some examples of chapter titles are:
"Chapter 3: Overwhelmed Schedule, Underwhelmed Soul."
"Chapter 4: Sometimes I Make It All So Complicated."
"Chapter 10: Managing Demands Means Understanding Expectations." 
"Chapter 18: When My Best Yes Doesn't Yield What I Expect." 

Also, at the end of the book is a helpful tool section for decision making. Questions to ask when making decisions. 

The paperback copy does not have discussion questions. There is a study guide and DVD that can be bought separately. 

Lastly, do I believe The Best Yes is written to an audience of only young women? No. Making wise choices is a subject women of any age can relate to and learn from. However, as I stated in the above review, some of Terkeurst's points in decision making I'd already learned. 

(Review) Irish Meadows, Courage To Dream Book One by Susan Anne Mason

Publication Date: July 2015.
Publisher: Bethany House.
Genre: Fiction, horse farm, family saga.
Pages: 384.
Source: Free paperback copy from Bethany House in exchange for a review.
Rating: 2 stars for okay.

Barnes and Noble
Christian Book

Two sisters, Brianna and Colleen, live under the heavy control of their father. Their father, James O'Leary, is anxious and determined his girls will marry wealthy men.
James O' Leary owns a Long Island, New York horse farm named Irish Meadows. The year is 1911.
Meanwhile, two young men join the cast of characters. Their presence adds conflict. Gil Whelan, who once lived at Irish Meadows, returns to work with the horses. Rylan Montgomery has just finished seminary.

My Thoughts:
The story is okay, but over-all fell flat.

  • Characters, story line, and added elements (most of them) were predictable. 
  • Gil Whelan is not a strong character (disappointing.) I yearned for more oomph, or chutzpah from him. 
  • There was a twist in the story and I appreciated this. One of the daughters shared a secret, she also evolved as a character. I feel her story became the most important story in Irish Meadows. She alone needed a book!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Bible Reading Update

The last Bible reading update was on July 6, 2015. 
Since July 6, I've read:
2 Samuel chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24. 
1 Kings chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22.
2 Kings chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25.
1 Chronicles chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29. 
2 Chronicles chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36. 
James chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. 

In addition, I'm reading 2 Corinthians, 12 times, in 12 different translations this year. Recently, I read from The Interlinear Greek/English Bible and The New English Bible.

Links of interest:
7 Ways To Stick With Your Daily Bible Reading, from Lifeway Women. 
Bible Studies in Spanish, from Lifeway Women. 
Fight Trials Like Jesus by Kelly Belarie. 
How To Get Through What You Can't Get Over by Jennifer Rothschild. 
The Truth About Margaret Sanger by Tim Challies. 

I love this Facebook page on cast iron cooking:
Hillbilly Cast Iron Cooking. 

Other favorite Facebook pages on cooking:
Grit Magazine,
Eating Well,
Cook's Illustrated Magazine,
Taste of Home,
Lodge Cast Iron,
and Homestead Survival.

A new book I just read and will be reviewing soon:
For more information visit the Crossway site: The Biggest Story. 

Scripture links courtesy of Bible Gateway. 

Are you reading your Bible? 

Friday, August 21, 2015

(Review) Oswald: Return of the King, The Northumbrian Thrones II by Edoardo Albert

Publication Date: July 27, 2015.
Publisher: Lion Fiction/Kregel.
Genre: Historical fiction.
Pages: 448.
Source: Free paperback copy from Kregel in exchange for a review.
Rating: 4 stars for very good.

Barnes and Noble

Further links for reading:
Justus, Anglican
England Northeast, a timeline

Oswald, from a 13th century manuscript. 

Oswald, Return of the King, is book two, in The Northumbrian Throne series. In book one, Edwin is king of Northumbria (kingdoms of Bernicia and Deira.) He is killed in battle. After a battle with Cadwallon, Oswald becomes the King of Northumbria, reuniting the two kingdoms. Oswald's brother is Oswiu. Their mother is Acha, the sister of Edwin.
The time period of Oswald's life is AD 605-642.

In Oswald, Return of the King, Oswald's life is portrayed from the point he finds out Edwin has been killed in battle, until the final battle between Oswald and Penda. Penda is king of Mercia (Midlands.)

My Thoughts:
I've loved this series of books. I'd read Edwin: High King of Britain, and gave the book 5 stars for excellent. I missed the continuing story of Edwin's surviving wife and children. However, I loved being introduced to Oswald, and his mother, and siblings.
Oswald is a man with a conscience. He is a moral man. He is an Arthurian type hero. He has temptations and imperfections, but he is a person of high character. I'd wondered if he had not become king, might he have lived in a monastic order? He is a believer in Christ Jesus. He has been baptized. I noticed he seemed to be a person fit for solitude, prayer, and reflection. On the other hand, he is a man ready for war. At a young age, his father prepared him for combat. Oswald is a courageous and faithful person. He faces battles with courage, whether in everyday life, or in war.
His brother Oswiu, seems more fit for chasing pretty girls, or any girl who would have him.
The two brothers do not reflect the same qualities. I wondered if the younger brother living under his older brother's shadow, "played" the part of the younger, less mature brother?
Oswald, Return of the King is a story of good characters, versus bad characters. Good equals moral. Bad equals evil.
The vivid descriptions of the scenery, weather, and environment brought the story to life.
Oswald: Return of the King is a story both male and female readers can enjoy.
Some of Oswald's life is of legend. Edoardo Albert took what is known about Oswald, and weaved in fiction with what might have happened. His goal was to breathe life into Oswald, in order to share this time period, and the kings who lived in an age when England was not united, but had several kingdoms who made alliances, and also broke them. 

Thursday, August 20, 2015

(Review) NKJV Journaling Bible

Publication Date: September 2015.
Publisher: Holman/B and H Publishing Group.
Genre: Bible.
Pages: 1376.
Source: Free copy from B and H Publishing in exchange for a review.
Rating: 4 stars for very good.

Christian Book

I'm a Bible journaler. I'm currently reading the ESV journaling Bible for daily Bible reading. I've shared in several posts my Bible doodling/art work and Precept symbol notations. I utilize these elements while reading through the Bible. Bible journaling is a new interest I began in January.

The NKJV is one of my favorite translations. The reading of the translation is beautiful, flowing, and pleasant to read. It is a favorite translation for daily Bible reading.

The NKJV Journaling Bible had been set for publishing in July, but it is now set for a September publishing date.

Features of the Bible:

  • Eight point text.
  • The margin size is 1.75 inches. I measured the entire side length and it is longer, a little over 2 inches. The lines that are on the sidebar are 1.75 inches, but total sidebar is a little over 2 inches. 
  • Words of Christ Jesus in red.
  • The Bible lays flat. 
  • Cream colored pages.
  • The presentation page is cream color, and with a side margin of dark purple. 
  • Contents page.
  • God's Plan For Salvation page.
  • Three extra pages between OT and NT that are lined for art work, or taking notes.  
  • Daily Bible Reading Plan chart.
  • 30 page concordance.
  • Eight maps.  
  • The Bible is bonded leather and hardcover. However, I found it flexible, not stiff and not softcover, but slightly flexible. 

My Thoughts:

The notable differences at first sight between the NKJV Bible and the ESV Journaling Bible (my copy.)

  • The ESV is 7.5 point, but bold print; versus the NKJV at 8 point, and not bold print. 
  • The ESV does not have the words of Christ Jesus in red. The NKJV has the words of Christ Jesus in red. 
  • The ESV has matte pages. The NKJV is matte, but there is a little sheen on the pages I can feel. In addition, the pages in the NKJV feel a tiny bit thinner. 
  • The ESV Bibles have many choices in covers. At this time, the NKJV by B and H Publishing, has one choice in a cover. The cover is two tone brown and bonded leather. The Bible's cover is handsome. 
  • The sizes match up as, ESV is 9.50 x 6.50 x 1.75. The NKJV is 8.50 x 6.50 x 1.50.
  • The ESV Bible has no concordance. The NKJV Bible has a 30 page concordance. 
  • The ESV Bible has smaller side margins. The NKJV Bible has larger side margins (see features of the Bible details.) 
Overall, both Bibles are solid and admirable.
I do feel it is up to what the person purchasing the Bible is intending to use the Bible for: artwork and writing, or writing alone. 
If artwork is going to be used, then the thicker pages of the ESV Bible can handle water-based paints better, even if the person uses Gesso, thicker pages seem to do better.
Using ink pens, for example a Micron pen, or Gelly Roll pen, work well in both Bibles. Neither Bible was left with smudges, nor bleed through. 

Lastly, but no less important: 
Enlarging print in a Bible creates a thicker Bible; but I say enlarge the print please! 

Friday, July 31, 2015

(Review) A Love Like Ours (Porter Family Novels) by Becky Wade

Publication Date: May 5, 2015.
Publisher: Bethany House.
Genre: Christian fiction.
Pages: 368.
Source: Free paperback copy from Bethany House.
Rating: 4 stars for very good.

Christian Book

Jake and Lyndie knew each other when they were kids growing up in rural Texas. Lyndie moved away to California when she was ten and Jake twelve. Twenty years later Lyndie begins working with Jake at the Whispering Creek Ranch Thoroughbred farm. Jake is quiet, withdrawn, stoic. He is a Marine Veteran of the war in Iraq. He has PTSD. He has both physical scars and those scars that lay hidden. The chemistry between them is evident, but Jake's haunting memories are a deterrent.

My Thoughts:
I was not sure I wanted to read this story. My son is a Veteran. He is 100% disabled due to PTSD. My hold-back in reading the novel, was I was not sure how the author would portray a Veteran with PTSD. A Love Like Ours is obvious from the title that it's a love story. Having a relationship with a person who has PTSD is tough. It is an ongoing everyday process. I did not want to read a sappy-happily-every-after novel, because the reality is that there is no such thing. It does not exist. This does not exist in any type of relationship, but add PTSD and the serious problems rise. I'm relieved to state, A Love Like Ours, is realistic in regards to the symptoms and how Jake deals or does not deal with PTSD. Flash-backs and nightmares are common symptoms of PTSD and Jake exhibits these. If there is a future book with the characters of Jake and Lyndie, I'm hoping the story will continue in presenting life with PTSD, and the ongoing healing process.
I don't care for the front cover of the book. I'm not sure why Christian fiction books have the same kind of covers: beautiful thin models of perfection. All the covers are beginning to run together as being the same thing over and over. Can't there be something else on the front cover? A Love Like Ours has the setting at a horse ranch, couldn't the front cover be of a horse ranch, or horses, or scenery?
I'm not a big fan of romance novels, probably because they seem unrealistic, silly. I really liked A Love Like Ours. There was real life problems to contend with, serious issues from Jake's PTSD, and other family health problems. I felt the author gave both realism and hope. The characters showed they knew they needed to deal with painful unresolved memories and yet they had hope for the future. They also knew life was a work in process.