Friday, August 19, 2011

The Hour that Matters Most - Les & Leslie Parrot w/ Stephanie Allen, Tina Kuna


I wanted to like The Hour that Matters Most a lot more than I did.  That's not to say that it is a bad book, in fact it is most definitely not bad at all.  The premise behind the book is excellent - that the dinner hour is the most valuable hour a family can spend together.  Subjects range from talking to your children, instilling manners, and cultivating dinnertime wisdom.  The authors talk about how the dinner table should be a safe place for your children, a respite from the world that they can come to each and every day.  I really appreciated the psychology behind why eating as a family is so important, I have to say that I agreed with almost everything the authors said.

Still, I feel like the authors fell a little short of the mark in the actual execution of the book.  It basically reads like a magazine, with little tidbits here and there that gloss over issues but provide no real subject depth.  At times it felt as if I were reading various unrelated articles; let's just say that cohesiveness is not this book's strong point.  I was also disappointed with the scant recipes that were offered.  I was left wanting more ideas of how to create meals that the family actually wants to sit down and eat.  For some people the hardest part about family dinners are the meals themselves.

The Hour that Matters Most does offer wonderful ideas for creating a happy family mealtime.  I find it hard to fault a book that is trying to resurrect the long lost art of eating dinner together.  If anything, this book does a great job convincing the reader that it absolutely does matter whether you sit down to eat with your children.  I came away convinced of the value of eating together and determined to continue this practice within my family.  If you're interested in why this is so important, or just need a kick in the pants to get started, this book is for you.

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

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Cherished - Kim Cash Tate


Kim Cash Tate is a wonderful author of Christian fiction.  Her characters are typically African American, but she chooses to emphasize their community in Christ - not skin color- a fact that has always made her books interesting to me.  In order to understand the novel Cherished, you also need to have an understanding about the place the author is writing from...the message that resonates in her heart.  To give you a little background, Kim Cash Tate is an African American woman.  However, Tate considers herself 'Colored with Christ', and since coming to know Jesus as an adult has aligned herself with Christ first, before any skin color.  This was a dramatic shift in the author's world view and she writes her novels with a firm belief that we are all brothers and sisters in Christ, with a spiritual heritage that transcends any racial boundaries.  I absolutely love this about all of her novels.

Cherished is the story of Heather Anderson and Kelli London's unlikely friendship.  Both are young women who have distanced themselves from God after traumatic life events leave them broken.  Weighed down by sin and guilt, Kelli abandons her first love- writing music that glorifies God.  Heather, damaged by her own impure choices, longs for unconditional love.  When Kelli and Heather come face to face with their past they find the hope and redemption they have been looking for.

I enjoyed reading this book and found that I could relate to many circumstances that the characters faced.  I also appreciated the strong gospel message, particularly the emphasis on forgiveness and loving as Christ loves.  Still, there were times when things seemed to wrap up a little too neatly for my taste.  Life is messy, and we often have to crawl out of the pit by the grace of God just to survive.  At times, it felt as if the characters would just "pray it out" and then everything would work out the way it was supposed to.  I absolutely believe in the power of prayer, but many times the answer is no...or wait.  In Cherished, everything seemed a little too perfect, and the moments that were supposed to be beautiful were actually cheapened by the ease with which they seemed to arrive.

Still, this was a really good read.  Cherished was uplifting and encouraging.  I particularly loved how the theme of music was central to the story.  We got to take a peek into the Christian recording artist's world, something I enjoyed thoroughly.  If you like reading feel good fiction with spiritual depth, I would recommend any of Kim Cash Tate's novels.  

Disclosure of Material: I received this book free from the publisher via Book Sneeze. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Little Blue Truck - Alice Schertle


When you have an 18 month old you are always on the look out for good board books.  You just never know what is going to hold a toddler's attention for more than a few seconds.  Some books will only make it two sentences before they are thrown back onto the shelf, never to be read again.  But occasionally, when the story, pictures and words are just right, a book will make it all the way to the end, only to be re-read again!  Such was the case with Little Blue Truck.  This gem is written by Alice Schertle and illustrated by Jill McElmurry.  It was given to us as a gift from a relative and is currently the first choice every time we read.  We have read it over 10 times today...he obviously loves it!

Little Blue Truck is a sweet story about a cheerful truck who helps a preoccupied dump truck learn the value of making friends.  It is the perfect length, long enough to be interesting but short enough to hold even the smallest of attention spans.  The words are wonderfully lyrical, evoking a song-like quality.  The reader gets to mimic animal sounds and truck sounds, rhyme along (my son can already say some of the words at the right time in the story), and learn a valuable moral lesson.

The illustrations are also lovely and we are still finding new things to look at on each page.  My son is captivated by the little truck, shouting out "beep" every time we turn the page.  And as soon as it is over, he asks me to "peese" read it again.  Of all the books we own, this is my favorite.  It does not sing songs, make noise, flash lights, pop-up pictures, have touch and feel pages, or fluorescent coloring.  It is just a special story.  That is what makes it perfect.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Cure for the Common Life -Max Lucado


Cure for the Common Life by Max Lucado is about finding your "sweet spot" in life.  After reading about this book I thought that it might be better suited for my husband, as he is actively pursuing God's call in regards to his career.  Therefore, this review will be a little bit different...since my husband read the book I decided to interview him!  Here is his take on it:

Rene': What is the overall message you took away from reading Cure for the Common Life?
Josh: That God created us uniquely and gave each of us talents and passions to accomplish tasks for His glory .  By looking back at our own personal history, the things we've enjoyed doing, things we felt a great sense of accomplishment in achieving, we can recognize our personal "sweet spots". 

Rene': So what are some examples of "sweet spots" and how do they influence your choice of career?
Josh:  According to Max Lucado, "sweet spots" are where God's glory, your every day life, and your personal strengths intersect.  There are so many people who do not enjoy going to work, who live a mundane life that is built around preserving a lifestyle instead of glorifying God.  If we can find our sweet spots, the place where God has created us to serve, then we can wake up with energy, willing to make a big deal out of God every day of our life.   To use your gifts to make God known, that is essentially our career.

Rene': Did you enjoy the author's writing style?
Josh: Very much so, I enjoyed his use of real world examples.  He also had a good sense of humor and the book was fun to read.  At times it did seem choppy- he liked to use short sentences to get his point across, sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn't.

Rene': Did Cure for the Common Life encourage you spiritually?
Josh:  In a sense, yes.  He uses a lot of Scripture to illustrate his points and reflected on many people from the Bible and how their sweet spots were used by God.  It is definitely a motivational book, but the use of Scripture makes it less a self-help book and more a glorify-God book.

Rene': So, have you discovered your sweet spot?
Josh: Yes, from this book I was able to look back on my life and discover areas that God has gifted me in, things that he uniquely created me for.  Cure for the Common Life was a tangible tool that helped me ask the right questions so I could see these patterns in my life.  I would absolutely recommend it!

Obviously, my husband really enjoyed reading this book.  If you feel as though you're living a common life and you want to discover a passion for pleasing God and not men, pick this book up.

Disclosure of Material: I received this book free from the publisher via Book Sneeze. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.