Sunday, August 2, 2015

My Princesses - Learn to Share/Be Brave


My daughter, Laurel, and I were recently able to read through two books in the new "My Princesses" series.  Written for little girls (but my 5 year old son also loved them) these stories teach moral and biblical truths through the lives of two little girls, Grace and Hope.

In Learn to Be Brave by Stephanie Rische, Grace and Hope encounter a bully on the playground.  As they learn about the biblical story of Esther, the two little girls are able to extend kindness and make a new friend!  My son particularly enjoyed this book because he resonated with the problem solving skills presented.

In Learn to Share by Aime Carlson, Grace and Hope get into an argument and end up ripping a favorite dress.  Their Mom wisely recalls the biblical miracle of the boy with two loaves and five fishes, encouraging the girls to share as the boy did.  Their resolution is sweet and realistic.  My daughter truly loved this story and has asked me to read it over and over again.  

Both books are beautifully illustrated by Heather Heyworth, and contain a bible verse for memorization that reflects the story's theme.

I love these books and am thankful
for this fun series that teaches biblical truths, encourages Godly character, and appeals to little ones.  Check them out, especially if you have daughters!

Disclosure of Material: I received a complimentary copy from Tyndale Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

God Gave us Angels - Lisa Tawn Bergren


I have a soft spot in my heart for Lisa Tawn Bergren's "God Gave Us" series.  When my oldest was born, my mom gifted us with a copy of her most popular childrens' book, God Gave Us You.  The simple story and sing-song lines had me in tears the first time I read them aloud to my son. When we added our daughter, God Gave Us Two joined our shelves, and the sweet story of a growing family helped soothe the sibling rivalry that a new baby brings.  And as we brought our newest son home, we fell in love with God Found Us You, the story of an adoptive family who waited so long to know their precious child.

So- I jumped at the chance to read God Gave Us Angels, Tawn Bergren's lastest book in the series-and it doesn't disappoint.

This book follows Little Cub as he begins to ask questions about angels, heaven, and the God of the Universe.  It sweetly and simply offers explanations to many of the curious questions our children ask as they begin to explore the world.  Although the biblical references are subtle, they are there, and Bergren brings everything back to the central theme of worshipping our Creator.

There are a few things that prevented this book for getting a perfect five stars.  It is fairly wordy, and while my five year old soaked it up and asked a lot of questions, my three year old would not sit through it.  We were still able to look at pictures but had to edit the story, so, keep that in mind if your kids are younger.  Also, theology wise, there is a lot left out and the explanations are fairly vague, so be prepared to have good discussions with your kids, especially if you have an inquisitive five year old like I do!

Overall, this is a great book to add to your collection.  I enjoyed ours so much that I bought a copy for my sweet little niece.  Hopefully you will enjoy it too!

Disclosure of Material: I received a complimentary copy from Random House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Unwrapping the Greatest Gift - Ann Voskamp


I love Ann Voskamp.  She is one of those women who just has a way of saying something and you go, "ah ha, I get it now."  Her latest offering, Unwrapping the Greatest Gift, is a collection of advent writings that point the family to the heart of Christmas- Jesus.

Every year at Christmas my husband and I sit down and intentionally plan how we're going to approach the season.  We strive to maintain a balance between the busy joy of all the traditional holiday activities and the quiet, still reverence of the birth of our Savior.  We want our children to celebrate Jesus, not Christmas, and there is a difference.  

Unwrapping the Greatest Gift is meant to be read each day leading up to Christmas.  Ann's writing is flowery and verbose, but she poignantly traces the lineage of Christ as she weaves numerous Bible stories together in a celebration of Advent.  Each daily reading has scripture references and questions to encourage family participation.  This would be ideal to use as a family devotional during Advent season.

Included are digital files for ornaments that kids can color and hang on the Jesse tree.  Unwrapping the Greatest Gift is a great little package that truly showcases the gift of Jesus and helped turn our family's heart toward Him this holiday season.

I do have a few grumbles. Ann can tend to be a bit over the top with her language choices.  Oftentimes this book spoke way above my kids' heads, clearly written in a style more suitable for adults.  Also, I had a few issues with interpretations and liberties that were taken with scripture.  The flood was portrayed as a purely loving event, and Satan was hurled down from heaven on Christmas Eve.  Again, these devotions are gorgeously written and the imagery is beautiful, but I did not agree with some of the theological interpretations.

Still, this is a beautiful book that accomplishes what it sets out to do; encourage us to make Jesus and his great gift the focus of our holiday season.  May we always do so.

Disclosure of Material: I received a complimentary copy from Tyndale Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Friday, August 29, 2014

The Bahn Mi Handbook - Andrea Ngyuen


The Bahn Mi Handbook by Andrea Nyguen is an absolutely stunning cookbook.  Who knew sandwiches could be so captivating!  But it turns out, Nyguen isn't just writing any old sandwhich cookbook, she is paying homage to the bahn mi, a delightful mix of French and Vietnemese influences.

If you've never had a bahn mi before, I suggest you remedy that immediately.  The juxtaposition of crunchy French bread with five spice roasted pork and pickled vegetables is a taste sensation you'll never forget.  The Vietnamese have perfected the sour/sweet/salty combination that makes this sandwhich really pop.  In my humble opinion, the bahn mi is pretty much perfection.

Andrea Ngyuen, who runs a fantastic food blog called Viet World Kitchen, really hits it out of the park with this cookbook. There are so many variations to try, from the traditional spiced pork, to chicken and salmon patties, to vegetarian options.  Every sauce, spice, and pickled condiment has a recipe included.  Also, she breaks down in simple language and pictures how to construct the sandwich, which is an art form all it's own.

You can try a recipe for Caramel Shrimp, Thai Omelets, or Lemon Grass Sloppy Joes.  Eat it alone or stuff into a crusty sandwich roll with all the perfect toppings.  Bahn mi bliss!  Seriously, every single recipe is mouth watering.

If you're into adventerous cooking, or have wanted to learn how to step into cooking Asian cuisine with little to no fuss, I highly recommend trying these recipes.  Nyguen succeeds at demystifying Asain cuisine with this lovely handbook.

Disclosure of Material: I received a complimentary copy from Random House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Kitchen Confidence - Kelsey Nixion


I fell in love with Kelsey Nixon while watching her cook her way to winning Next Foodnetwork Star a few years ago. Now her first cookbook, Kitchen Confidence: Essential Recipes and Tips That Will Help You Cook Anything, has hit the shelves!  Her delicious, healthy, and easy recipes are ones I can recreate in the kitchen and feed my family.  Honestly, this cook book is fantastic!

The book begins with all of Kelsey's essential kitchen items- tools, pantry ingredients, and a simple how to guide.  It is a wonderful overview for beginner cooks and even introduces a few useful techniques for the more seasoned chef.

The recipes are varied, easy to follow, and delicious.  All courses are covered, from breakfast to appetizers to desserts, as well as party planning menus.  They are simple but interesting recipes, each one with an interesting ingredient or twist that causes the dish to rise above its average counterpart.

Our family favorites were:
- Skillet Sausage Hash with Eggs
-Tarragon Chicken Salad
- Creamed Corn
- Essential Stove-top Mac n Cheese (to die for!)
- Summer Bean Pea Salad
- Skillet Blueberry Peach Cobbler

This cookbook is beautifully laid out with colorful pictures on most pages, fun fonts and tidbits about the recipes.  If you like cooking, or need more confidence in the kitchen, I highly recommend Kelsey Nixon's cookbook!

Disclosure of Material: I received a complimentary copy from Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

The Family Project - Glenn Stanton & Leon Wirth


Well.  I had high hopes for this book because I feel passionately that the value and purpose of the "family" is something that has been lost to our culture in recent years.  Family has become such a watered down version of what the Bible laid it out to be.  It does not hold to the vision God created it for.  Instead of using our families as vehicles to reach the lost, serve our neighbors, and grow and tell the stories of our faith, family has become a way to satisfy our cultural desires for health, weath, and prosperity.

I had hoped that The Family Project by Focus on the Family would have concrete ideas about how to steer our current Christian culture's identity of family back to a Godly foundation.  Instead, the book is mostly a historical exposition on what family has meant throughout the generations- from Genesis to the the 21st century.  And while it is at times interesting, and most certainly very well researched and thought out, the overall message promised ("what to do about the reality that the idea of family is dying") is never delivered.  We get a lovely history and biblical worldview of what family is and was designed to be, but no real plan as to how to get there.

This book was a little too scientific and historical for me.  If that is what you're looking for then it will be right up your alley!  I was hoping for a clarion call to the culture- a biblical mandate to revisit the truths of the Bible, to build our families around a faith in God that dramatically changes the desires and purposes of our lives here on Earth.  That did not happen.

All in all, The Family Project fell a little flat.

Disclosure of Material: I received a complimentary copy from Tyndale Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

What Once Was Lost - Kim Vogel Sawyer


What Once Was Lost by Kim Vogel Sawyer is an inspiring story about hope and redemption through the eyes of a single woman and an orphaned boy.

Christina Willems is struggling to run her deceased father's poor farm after it is destroyed by a fire.  She is particularly invested in the life of a little boy who is orphaned, blind and has no place to turn.  When Levi Johnson, a grumpy widower, agrees to take him in, lives are changed for the better.

I appreciated how this novel addressed many issues that are near and dear to my heart.  Sawyer touches on the many prejudices that the poor, orphans, and people with disabilities face.  She showed how sometimes the church is not the place of refuge for these peole that it should be.  Still, there were times I wasn't sure if I would finish this book.  The main protagonist, Christina, was hard to sympathize with.  She was vey stubborn and headstrong, refusing to seek help when necessary and causing almost implausible trouble because of it.  In the end I found it was downright frustrating to muddle through the plot in order to get to the resolution.  The resolution, however, was very sweet.

I adore Kim Vogel Sawyer, and while this was not my favorite of her offerings, I do recommend it based solely on the careful and thorough way she explores the topics of poverty, fatherlessness, and prejudice.

Disclosure:  This book was provided to me by Waterbrook Multnomah for my honest review.  All opinions are my own.