Devotions for Christmas – A Review

devotions-for-christmas-coverDevotions for Christmas: A celebration to bring you joy and peace published by Zondervan, is a lovely Christmas and December  devotions book that doesn’t just center on advent like many books for this time of year do. Instead, it takes you through the crazy, busy holiday season with very nicely done devotions. Simplifying life and giving you a moment to really enjoy the holiday season for what it is; a celebration of Christ. Each day has an incredibly appealing photograph of something Christmas-y themed, mostly over a two page spread, which I love. The images are clear and crisp and make you want to decorate. There are simple prayers and each topic is very appealing. Days like ‘Surprise Packaging’,  ‘Family Traditions’, ‘Home for the Holidays’,  ‘Holiday Memories’, ‘Christmas Leftovers’, and one of my favorites, ‘The Aroma of Christmas’.   Simple prayers, verses at both the beginning of each day and mixed within the text, and a whole 31 days of devotions, makes for an incredibly nice ‘coffee table’ book and a wonderful book for the Christmas season.

a-charlie-brown-christmas-abc-11302015-1276x850I was very pleased with this book when it arrived, one being that it is a hardback. I had expected a thin paperback and I am a fan of hardback books because I feel that they will last longer than other books.  The photographs are so incredibly beautiful feeling like they are right out of  a really classy magazine, like Martha Stewart.  The book will put you right in the spirit of Christmas, which sometimes is hard with all the ‘commercialization’ as Charlie Brown says.  It makes you want to sit down and take a moment. I am also very pleased that it is the entire month of December instead of just an advent devotional. I had assumed that this was only going to have 25 days, as it was a Christmas devotional, but it is for the whole month into New Year’s Eve. This is a really nice book for that reason. Because the holiday season doesn’t just stop on the 25th.

I was incredibly pleased with this book. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants a really nice devotional that is not only useful, but pretty, for the holiday season. I also think it would be a lovely gift.   5 out of 5 stars.

This book was provided to me for my honest review with no compensation from Booklook Bloggers and Harper Collin’s Christian Publishing.

Kate

One of the Few – A Review

I was given the opportunity to read One of the Few: A Marine Fighter Pilot’s Reconnaissance of the Christian Worldview by Jason B. Ladd, when the author contacted me and asked me if I’d be willing to review his book. I snapped at the chance as I have never had an author ask me for a review.

One of the Few is Jason’s personal account of his life in the marines and his coming to faith. The book is divided into three parts,  Part One being Jason’s story of being a ‘military brat’ and going into the service and finally deciding to be a fighter pilot. We learn about some of his family life and his relationship with his wife who was a Christian, while Jason was not. Then one little question from Jason’s wife starts Jason on the path to discovery of Christ.  As he traverses the training of being a pilot, he also searches out what being a Christian is about. Part two takes a look at the concepts of certain versions of Christianity(I say this because it’s not a ‘this is the only way it is’ in my opinion depending on which area of Christianity you are in) and having a worldview and bouncing those beliefs off of what is going on in life.  Part three is supposed to be about using Jason’s background in peace, war and defense to prepare you for the spiritual warfare you will encounter in life and how to deal with if you are struggling.

The first part of the book captured my interest in the training Jason did in the military, along with little bits and pieces of how being a person of faith applies to life, but towards the  end of Part one, I started to not understand what Jason was getting at in regards to military training and applying it to faith. I also struggled with all of the military acronyms. In my opinion, if you are going to have that many acronyms, have an index of them at the end of the book or beginning or somewhere because, after only one explanation of what the acronym is, I forget it. Then when they are used over and over, I have no idea even what I’m reading. That happened a lot.

By the time I got to Part two, I struggled with what the core of the book was. I honestly am not even quite sure what part two was about except for segments on various Christian ideas. I wasn’t sure how it applied to anything except for feeling like it was a ‘do this, don’t do that’ rambling sort of narrative mixing in Jason’s continued research into being a Christian. While it’s supposed to be about putting your Christian faith up against what you see in the world, and is it right or wrong, I never got that impression.

By the time I got to Part three, I was entirely lost. You could take each segment withing each chapter on its own, possibly, but combined, I never quite figured out what was going on. Basically, the book is combined of a bunch of essays that don’t necessarily connect enough to understand what the total package is. Jason explains what the three parts of the book are about in the introduction, but I felt like he was unable to accomplish it in a concise manner where you understood how each point related to each other.   Roughly five pages into part three , I felt like Jason was not  accomplishing the third goal he had laid out  in his introduction. From this point, I struggled with finishing the book. I had already needed to skip ahead in Part two, hoping that the book would make more sense if I read Part three. Another problem for me was Jason takes an incredibly academic look at Christianity. For me, who grew up in the church, reading all of the more in-depth theological discussions left me feeling tired and bored and scrambling to figure out how it related to Jason coming to be a Christian. Jason also states his opinion about his specific beliefs as fact, a problem I’ve found with Christian authors. For a person who has not been a Christian for very long to state things that way, tends to turn me off a bit. Religions are made of opinions and my opinions are different than Jason’s so they cannot be stated as fact.  I actually felt like Jason had a great idea for this book, but then he jotted it out so quickly, it appeared to have lost its outline which he states in his introduction.

In the end, I’m not quite sure who would find this book helpful other than those questioning their faith and wanting to look at a more academical approach to faith, though at the same time, I felt like it was only barely scratching the surface and wasn’t quite helpful enough for even that.

Another little tick that I found frustrating was all of the notes at the end of each chapter. In most traditionally published books, the notes are at the end of the book, which I find, leaves a clean look to the book. Rarely do I read any of the footnotes or notes in a book, so having them contained at the end of the book leaves a more clean look to reading and gives less of a distraction.

Unfortunately, I find myself having to give this book only 2 out of 5 stars.

Kate

Life is Better at the Beach – A Review

089689Life is Better at the Beach by Christina Vinson, published by Thomas Nelson, is a beachy, devotional-y, inspirational-y charming book. Truly beach and nautically inspired, the book gives you fifteen rules for living life like the beach. Not so much as making sandcastles every day and picking up seashells, but more along the lines of “life is [blank]” but let’s take some ‘rules’ from being on the beach and apply them to life.

For instance, life at the beach is sandy, but at home dirt must stay outside, hands must be clean and the house must be just so, but Christ didn’t live in perfect, clean conditions, and it’s okay to be a bit dirty. Dig in the dirt, make cookies and let the flour spill. It’s okay.  Rules for beach life: Read a book, watch the sunset, pick up shells, make a sandcastle, soak in the sun, take a nap, walk barefoot……

There are gorgeous pictures of the ocean, sea, waves, sunsets, sandcastles, sand, shells, coastlines, everything beach related. There are inspirational quotes and verses that apply to life in a simple way. I think the book is perfect to pull off the shelf, or to leave out for a daily jolt of reminders how to take the simple things in life. Small enough to slip into a purse or book bag, it’s a nice book to take along with you.

This book is lovely with a host of sea colors, pictures that inspire and make you want to be at the beach. The quotes are both Biblical and non- Biblical and all apply in a nice way to compliment the pictures and each section of the book. The segments are short so you can read just a little at a time and be inspired. I find this book to be one you want to leave out on a table to constantly pick up and read a little excerpt or reminder to take a breath, notice the little things in life, remember Christ, and just ‘chill out.’ One of my favorite sections is Rule #11 Read a Book. I mean, I can’t imagine people not having time to read a book, but it’s such a nice reminder, and since I love books, well, it totally applies to me. (Honestly, anything beach related applies to me as well.)

I would give this book a 4.5 out of 5 stars. A few less stars just because I was expecting a bit more of a devotional book and found it to be just a little less ‘devotional’, but still a really charming book. The colors and images alone are my thing. I don’t get to the beach hardly ever, so this is like a little retreat to have in hands. One I will find myself picking up over the years to just be reminded to calm down.

Kate
I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.com&gt; book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html&gt;

Where’s The Writer Been?

I realized that I’ve been a little unfocused when it comes to blogging when I got a notice from the book review site that my account had been deactivated. Just as I was working on a new review! Crazy summer. I’ll blame that. And that I have been spending more time writing within my actual writing instead of blogging. You have to give up a lot of stuff to be a writer. Even your sanity at times.

That being said, I have some posts in the works, and a couple of reviews coming down the pipeline. Along with that, in just 10 days I will be doing another Write 31 Days. This year’s theme will be 31 Days of Autumn Photography, or something titled like that. Then come November I will be participating in Writer’s Digest PAD challenge again. So things are coming. So sorry to be behind the times. And gosh, I hope I get my Gold status back again on the BookLookBloggers.

Kate

Curio – A Review

_225_350_Book.1802.coverCurio by Evangeline Denmark is a new steampunk-esque, alternate universe, young adult novel set in a time period of late 1800s in Colorado in the wonderfully named Mercury City.  A city of miners, rules, regulations, members of the opposite sex who are unable to touch each other if unmarried, curfews, and Chemists. The people are ruled by the Chemists who control them with a potion that is their only way to have nutrition, instead of food, yet there is Grey. Grey, a young woman, has a secret. She is able to eat solid foods unlike others.

When Grey’s friend, Whit is taken away for improper behavior towards Grey, and the Chemists come after Grey, her grandfather sends her to the hidden world in his shop….Into the Curio.  A place where porcelain and clockwork people exist. Running off of water, steam and magic.  It’s a place she will have to learn to navigate to save her friends and family.

I was so excited to read this book, but as it has taken me nine months to post a review, that should say something as to how well I liked the book…. Unfortunately I have struggled trying to read this book and figure out what is going on half the time. The first part about Mercury City and all the things going on pulled me in, and I was excited about this young woman in a red coat that can’t be touched even by her young male friend. I happen to love steampunk, specifically things a la Etiquette and Espionage by Gail Carriger, but this style of steampunk left me with a blah taste in my mouth. Creative at points, but losing me quickly to the slow-ish story-line, I have just struggled to like this book. I especially don’t like the porcelain sentient beings being called Porcies. It reminds me of pigs (called porcine) and it annoys the heck out of me. That’s my own personal thing, nothing against the author.

Also, unfortunately, as I write this review, I am in the DNF (did not finish) category with this book. I have plans to finish it at some point, in which I might change my opinion, but if I can’t even get through the first 22% of the book( Kindle for PC) without being bored out of my mind, then I don’t have a lot of high hopes for it to get any better.  Due to the inability for the author to really keep me interested, I’m only going to give this a 2 out of 5 star rating.  I really hate doing that, but this book is just not to my taste. I’d say the biggest issue is just not having a clue what is going on.  There isn’t enough detail to really explain anything and I’m left wondering about a lot of things.

This book was provided to me for my honest opinion by BookLookBloggers. I was in no compensated for my opinion.

Kate

That’s Not Hay in My Hair – A Review

that's_not_hay_in_my_hair_bookThat’s Not Hay in My Hair by Juliette Turner takes you from the hustle and bustle of New York City to the wide open spaces of one of our largest states, Texas. Jules and her mom have made New York City their home, but that’s all about to change for 12-year-old Jules.  They are about to move back to her mom’s hometown and a 300-acre ranch in Texas. Complete with dogs, horses, and longhorns big enough to take out a small car.  From tiny apartments and busy streets, to open land as far as the eye can see, we travel from the bustle of the Big apple to the open skies of Texas, a big switch for a ‘city girl.’  But Jules learns to adapt with her mom at her side and her cats, dogs, and sweet horses at her side.  There is tragedy, but one learns the circle of life on a ranch and that sometimes friends/pets, don’t last forever, but it’s okay. That’s Not Hay in My Hair is a fun look at how your life can change in the country and is a sweet story for a young girl.

Juliette Turner and her mother, actress and author, Maggie Turner

Juliette Turner and her mother, actress and author, Maggie Turner

I was quite excited to read this book because it sounded hilarious in the description. I had also been expecting this book to be about high school, but instead, it is actually for middle grade and even a bit younger. Juliette Turner is a 17-year-old author, daughter of Maggie Turner, who is known for being an author herself and staring on Northern Exposure in the late 80s. While the book is sweet and great for a young girl, I found it to be filled with too many gasps, exclamations, dramatic pauses, and just a tad too much in the expressions. Something I might expect from a young author. 17 is a very young age to be authoring. (this is coming from someone who writes herself and has been writing since age 14. Dramatic moments pepper my earlier writings quite liberally)  So while I applaud any young author, I am a bit critical about the style of the work. I was a little lost as to whether this was a semi-autobiographical novel as the storyline seems a bit similar to Miss Turner’s life. I had been expecting total fiction, but when I read the bio for the author and most of it matches up with the book, I was left wondering if it was a glorified retelling of one’s life.  I think Miss Turner needs to wait a few more years and learn a bit more about life before her writing matures. She has the capacity to write good fiction, but needs to read a lot more and live a few more years learning about life to tone down the excitement of her writing. I do also have to say that I do believe the only reason this book was possibly published was because Miss Turner and her mother are relatively famous. It gave her an edge to have a published book at such a young age.

Not great fiction, but clean and decent. Since I have a rating system of 1 to 5 stars and I can’t really give it a half star on Amazon, I’ll stick with three, but I think it is a little less. Decent and clean enough for a young girl, and I might have liked it at 12, but not the greatest fiction in the world.

This book was provided to me by Thomas Nelson/HarperCollins Christiona Publishing, and BookLookBloggers for my honest review. I was in no way compensated for my opinion.

Kate

Counting on a Cowboy – A Review

In the follow-up novel to Debra Clopton’s Betting on Hope, comes Counting on a Cowboy, Bo Monahan’s story.  You have the somewhat confirmed bachelor, Bo, brother to Tru from Betting on Hope, suddenly saddled with a toddler.  A little boy who supposedly came from an indiscretion Bo had with a woman a while ago who never told him about the baby.  Then there is Abby Knightly running from a past, running to ‘hope’ in Wishing Springs, Texas, a place  she read about in the paper.  You have Abby who has lost so much in her life– which I won’t be giving away here since it’s super easy to figure out–a husband and the hope of children. Now you have Bo turning to Abby to help him navigate a baby that has come out of nowhere, and what is better than a woman right there who knows how to take care of children? So you have Bo fighting his attraction for Abby because he’s a bachelor, and Abby fighting her attraction to Bo because she has lost so much and isn’t ready for someone else to be in her life because she still has so much guilt. Will these two ever come together over their mutual attraction and love of Bo’s little boy?

I found this book very hard to get through. I found the writing leaving me wanting to smack my head and just dragging on. I only somewhat understood Bo’s sudden desperation to have Abby help him out with the unexpected baby on his doorstep, but at the same time, it was almost like he was frantic. Then you have Abby who wants to settle down in a small town she has read about, but at the same time, she’s leery about certain things. I just sat there going, get on with it. I don’t understand two people fighting this attraction. I have never been one to hide that I am interested in someone. Granted, I have never had tragedy take a part of me away and ‘mess’ with my own thoughts. So I will give Abby that, but honestly, you can see right away that she likes Bo. So why run from that? It’s not like anyone said you had to marry the man right away. I’m a little tired of all these leery females. I get why a woman might be leery if she liked a man whom she thought liked someone else, but seriously, don’t act so scared all the time.

Unfortunately, I have to give this book only 3 out of five stars. It’s too slow and just not my cup of tea.  Just like Debra Clopton’s previous book, this left me exhausted.

Kate

This book was sent to me free of charge by HarperCollins Christian Publishing, Thomas Nelson, and BookLookBloggers for my honest review. I have in no way been compensated in any way.

Waiting Here For You: An Advent Journey of Hope – A Review

_225_350_Book.1777.coverDuring the holiday season, we are so focused on the holiday in general that we forget what the true season of Christmas is about. Waiting Here For You: An Advent Journey of Hope by Louie Giglio is an advent devotion book meant to help us slow down, stop, and reflect what Christmas and the advent are really about. Each day starting with November 26th, Paster Giglio guides us in scripture, a reflection relating to the scripture, meditation (which is usually a Christmas poem or song) and finally a prayer.  So 30 days of thinking about how we are waiting for Christ  and the remembrance of his birth, which for Christians, is a very sacred time of year.  So, when we get a little too busy with buying the gifts, preparing the Christmas meals and dealing with family and travel and all the frustrations that may come, this very thing, almost pocket sized book is just right for pulling out. Lighting a candle and meditating and focusing on Christ.

Christmas lights on Aleksanterinkatu.

Christmas lights on Aleksanterinkatu. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have loved advent since I was a little girl when we would read the Christmas story through the four weeks of December, lighting a green candle each week for the wise men, Mary and Joseph, The shepherds, the angels, and finally a red candle for Jesus. There were the colorful calendars and it was a very memorable and sacred time of year for me. I eagerly looked forward to it. As time as gone by, I have slowly let that slipe away, and this book is perfect for putting you right back into the calming frame of mind of what Christmas is really about. While I am terrible at devotions and having a daily schedule for reading my Bible, and I didn’t technically finish this book in a daily order, it’s still a lovely small book, perfect for the season. There is something incredibly calming about the red, black, white and grey colors of the book. So calming in fact that I ended up writing a sonnet about red berries with the colors of black, white and grey. This book is perfect for any Christian that want to get back to what advent is about. I love it’s slim size and I love that the meditations are songs I know, but may not know all the lyrics. I liked that it was a very Christmas themed book in that it had the traditional songs that Christians know for the season. From Oh Come All Ye Faithful, O Come Oh Come Emmanuel, Silent Night, and O Holy Night. Lovely hymns Christians know and love.

I would highly recommend this book to any Christian who wants do practice adven but feels too old for the calendars and childish themes. This is a lovely book. Five out of Five stars.

Kate

This book was sent to me free of charge for my honest opinion and review from HarperCollins Christian Publishing, Thomas Nelson, and BookLookBloggers.

The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest – A Review

_225_350_Book.1586.coverThe Huntress of Thornbeck Forest by Melanie Dickerson is a ‘Medieval Fairy Tale” taking the themes of Robin Hood and the Swan Princess and weaving a story of intrigue, romance, deception, and redemption.  Odette is a young woman bound and determined to help the poor orphans of Thornbeck, sneaking out at night to hunt in the margrave’s forest. She is a poacher.  Jorgen is the margrave’s forester responsible to maintain the woodland animals for the margrave, but now he has to hunt down a poacher who is taking much more than should ever be taken. Not to mention his father, the previous forester, was killed by a poacher.  Jorgen doesn’t know Odette is the poacher he is hunting, but he does know she is one of the most amazing maiden’s in Thornbeck and he longs to be with her despite their differences in station.  For Odette is the niece of a wealthy merchant and Jorgen is just a forester.

Sinister forces are at play, trying to drive these two lovers apart.  There is another who desires to marry Odette; the son of the Burgomeister, Mathis.  But he is not all he appears, nor is Odette’s uncle, Rutger, who says all he wishes is for Odette to be happy.

So is the dilemma of a beautiful maiden, an honest man, and forces trying to tear the two from each other.  What will happen when Jorgen discover’s that Odette is his poacher? Only you who is willing to pick up the book and find out.

 

I was hopeful that this book would be all it was described to be, what with it being a ‘fairy tale’ and mixing Robin Hood and the Swan Princess, as those are fairy tales I love.  Unfortunately, this was about as fairy tale as any historical fiction…. meaning it lacked what I would term a fairy tale.  A remake of two classic stories, but not really magical in any way.  I also found it dragged on for three quarters of the book and I was left wondering what all the point of anything was. Finally, the deception and intrigue made sense three quarters through and I was interested enough to scan through the rest of the story, but I was left fairly bored.   While I enjoyed Ms. Dickerson’s “The Captive Maiden”, a retelling of Cinderella, this one left me dragging my heels to finish it.  I felt that all the proprieties that would be for that time period thrown out the window to the point of it being almost ridiculous, and there was a point at which I thought historical fact was also tossed by the wayside… Mostly in the description of a wound that was septic. While the word is ancient Greek, I’m just a little skeptical about its usage.  That’s actually fairly minor in just the plot of the story not having enough of something to keep me interested.  As a historical novel, and I stress that term, not fairy tale, it’s not bad. I think many people would like the simplicity….. which is not actually a compliment. I thought the character’s thought processes were enough to make me bang my head against the book. And it was written too simply for my taste. I could say this is great as a young adult novel, but definitely not enough meat for an adult story. I just can’t say this one story was really my cup of tea.  Unfortunately I have to give it only 2 out of 5 stars.  Which I hate to do.

 

This book was provided to me free for my honest opinion and review. I have been in no way compensated.

 

Kate

Whenever You Come Around – A Review

_225_350_Book.1585.coverWhenever You Come Around : A Kings Meadow Romance by Robin Lee Hatcher

Charity Anderson grew up in Kings Meadow having a crush on Buck Malone through high school, but then she went to college, partied, and made some big mistakes that she has kept from everyone, even herself. She grew up and became a semi famous author. A flood forces her to leave her Boise home in the hands of contractors for massive repairs, so she relocates back to her parent’s home in Kings Meadow for the summer while they are off in Europe for a vacation of a lifetime. She’s there to write her new novel, a romance story she really hasn’t ever written before. Fortunately, or unfortunately, Buck Malone is her parent’s neighbor. When a fluke accident with Buck, Charity, and Charity’s dog, Cocoa, leaves Buck with a broken ankle and wrist, Buck is left having to rely on friends, family, and Charity to help him get through this time. A time that will be tough since he is a back country guide, and now his business is at a complete standstill.

But matters of the heart are at stake as Charity and Buck grow closer, despite Charity’s past coming back to sink it’s claws into what could be a marvelous relationship.  Meanwhile, Buck is struggling with the fact that he’s been a bit of a lady’s man in Kings Meadow and he doesn’t want to settle down.  Or does he?  Will Charity’s sweetness work on him, softening him up?  Will Buck’s strength give Charity the ability to tell her secrets she’s kept from everyone?  Will Charity stay or go home to Boise?  Will Buck heal and go back to his guide business?  Only time will tell in this short, sweet romance.

I was in the mood for a ‘western’ themed book when I selected this.  It is part of series of stories Robin Lee Hatcher has set in King’s Meadow. The struggles are real, and I really like the fact that the heroine was a writer/author. I have a penchant for those types of stories.  The writing was really good and I loved how Ms. Hatcher brought in touches of modern things, like Pinterest and cell phones and various other things that I find a lot of authors leave out of books taking place in our current time.  The mistakes Charity had made in the past and kept secret were real, and how she kept them a secret was part of what made her a woman who found it hard to trust other people

Spoiler Alert Highlight to Read

Charity partied in college, got drunk, slept with a former high school classmate, got pregnant, then the baby miscarried

For the most part, this was a pretty romance. Nothing spectacular, though I did like how Charity and Buck were immediately affected by their first kiss. I just thought the story dragged out a little longer than needed and added bits of information left me wondering where I was in the story and how it fit.  It’s not so much that they didn’t fit, but they needed to fit a little better so the moving from scene to scene flowed better and I wasn’t left wondering how something moved the story forward. There are some aspects I was left scratching my head over.  And I felt the ending was a little too long in coming.  It really wasn’t until the last three pages that the whole story and issues were solved and BOOM! story is over.  I think an epilogue would have been helpful because I felt like I was left hanging in the middle of the story.

I’m curious about trying more of Ms. Hatcher’s books. I would give this a 3 out of 5 stars.

 

This book was provided to me free from BookLookBloggers and HarperCollins Christian Publishing for my honest review. I was in no way compensated for my opinion.

 

Kate