Wednesday, September 30, 2015

101 Family Meal-time Devotions

101 Family Meal-time Devotions by Greg Johnson (Amazon, Goodreads)
Genre: Devotional
ISBN: 978-1630583774
Expected Publication Date: October 1st 2015 by GoTandem
Rating: 4/5

From Goodreads: You’re convinced that “Family Devo Time” is a terrific idea, but like so many past attempts … they just seem to fizzle out. The kids get bored, your spouse looks at you quizzically, and the whole experiment is quickly forgotten—packed away as “yet another good intention.” Guess what? It doesn’t have to be that way! Each of these 101 five-minute readings will bring family devotions to life, helping your children (ages 6-12) develop important Christian values. Each devotional describes true-to-life situations at home and at school. Relevant scripture passages and thought-provoking questions are included to spark meaningful family discussion.

This book is such a great idea. The idea of spending meal-time talking about important things resonates with me, because that’s what my family did. They didn’t do it from a book, or from a list of questions. But I think on the days when our conversations didn’t happen organically, it would have been very useful to have this sort of book.

The stories are (I feel) mainly for younger children who are still feeling their way around in their personality and relationship with God, and still trying to apply basic truths like speaking with love, not getting frustrated, not being afraid to be friends with someone who is a little different.

There are some devotionals that kids read to adults, which I think awesome! Some of the most important moments for me  as a kid (and even now) was when my parents were honest with me about their struggles. Some things I’ve heard from my parents that have impacted my life:

  • “I wanted so badly to be mean to that person, and it was really hard not to.”
  • “Your father frustrated me today but God told me to love him and respect him, and sometimes that means forgiving him even when he makes me upset.”
  • “Your mother and I are very different people. But we don’t fight or argue. We love each other and that means sometimes we sit down and have to talk out our problems. Because it’s not about being right, it’s about keeping our relationship healthy and God-glorifying.”
  • “Haley, I snapped at you this evening and that was wrong. Forgive me?”

And the thing about devotionals like this is, you don’t use them by themselves: they are a diving board you use to get to the good stuff. For instance, a devotional about wanting to snap at someone could remind you of a time you did snap at someone, and how you should have handled the situation, and then a story of a victory in a similar situation.

The text itself wasn’t edited very well, and I’m assuming it’s because I was reading an ARC. and even if those typos don’t get fixed, it won’t take away from the content.

I think this book is an awesome tool for young kids (ages 4-12) and their parents to get into the habit of having God-glorifying conversations that build each other up and prepare them for life, and empower them to make worshipful decisions.

Monday, September 28, 2015

The Ice Twins

The Ice Twins by S.K.Tremeyne, narrated by Penny Rawlins, Sandra Duncan, and Angus King
Genre: Literary Fiction, Tragedy
ISBN: 9780007563036
Rating: 4

Amazon | Goodreads | Audible

One of Sarah's daughters died. But can she be sure which one?

A year after one of their identical twin daughters Lydia dies in an accident, Angus and Sarah Moorcroft move to the tiny Scottish island Angus inherited from his grandmother, hoping to put together the pieces of their shattered lives.

But when their surviving daughter Kirstie claims they have mistaken her identity - that she, in fact, is Lydia - their world comes crashing down once again.

As winter encroaches, Angus is forced to travel away from the island for work, Sarah is feeling isolated, and Kirstie (or is it Lydia?) is growing more disturbed. When a violent storm leaves Sarah and her daughter stranded, they are forced to confront what really happened on that fateful day.

This was literally the most depressing book I’ve ever read. Like, literally. The writing was lyrical and descriptive (almost too much so), and it was hard to listen to because of the emotional devastation of the characters. It was a rollercoaster because out of the three main characters (daughter, husband, wife) you loved all of them, you hated all of them, but you weren’t sure which one was the bad guy (and there was definitely a bad guy). And then once you figured out which one you hated the most, it would switch on you. Suffice to say, this made it an emotional trip.

As I said, the writing was almost so descriptive that it was annoying. And it wasn’t all of it, there were just some parts where I thought “Okay, I get it, move on with the story please.” Another thing was some of the dialogue was redundant. I realize you’re dealing with a traumatized child here, and they tend to repeat themselves and not elaborate, but there are artful ways of writing that without driving your reader crazy. (Example, thought not a direct quote: “tell me what happened?” “Nothing.” “Tell me?” “no. nothing.” “Please?” “Nothing.” “Please sweetheart.” “No! Nothing.” and on and on we go.)

But the story itself wrapped up with an intensely confusing and fulfilling climax, and even a week later it is still haunting me… the ghost may never go away.

The narration was combined: there were three people reading. Rawlins for the voice of Sarah, the mother; Duncan for the voice of Angus before the climax; King for the voice of Angus after the climax (which I thought was really weird, honestly). I liked Rawlins and King, but not Duncan at all. I also would have liked Rawlins to do the voice of the daughter for the whole thing, not just her chapters, since her voice was really good for it. It would have been so much editing though.

The Ice Twins was an overall good reading experience and despite it’s minor flaws I would recommend it to anyone who likes drama, romance, or general fiction.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Witch Hunter

The Witch Hunter by Virginia Boecker, narrated by Nicola Barber (Amazon, Goodreads, Audible)
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Adventure
ISBN: 031632700X
Published June 2nd 2015 by Hachette Audio
Rating: 4.5

From Goodreads:

The magic and suspense of Graceling meet the political intrigue and unrest of Game of Thrones in this riveting fantasy debut.
Your greatest enemy isn't what you fight, but what you fear.
Elizabeth Grey is one of the king's best witch hunters, devoted to rooting out witchcraft and doling out justice. But when she's accused of being a witch herself, Elizabeth is arrested and sentenced to burn at the stake.
Salvation comes from a man she thought was her enemy. Nicholas Perevil, the most powerful and dangerous wizard in the kingdom, offers her a deal: he will save her from execution if she can break the deadly curse that's been laid upon him.
But Nicholas and his followers know nothing of Elizabeth's witch hunting past--if they find out, the stake will be the least of her worries. And as she's thrust into the magical world of witches, ghosts, pirates, and one all-too-handsome healer, Elizabeth is forced to redefine her ideas of right and wrong, of friends and enemies, and of love and hate.
Virginia Boecker weaves a riveting tale of magic, betrayal, and sacrifice in this unforgettable fantasy debut.

The Witch Hunter brought me back to my first year of discovering the YA genre, when I was craving an adventure, compelling set of characters, a brave strong heroine, and a sweet romance. I loved this book. I especially liked seeing a strong-willed confident woman fighting for what she believes… and when she is shown—lovingly, gently—of how wrong she is, turns around to fight for what she knows is right. Beautifully written, full of adventure and excitement and very hard choices, The Witch Hunter is the great start of an awesome new series!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

White Crocodile

White Crocodile by K.T.Medina (Amazon, Goodreads)
Genre: Thriller, Crime
ISBN: 9781478927822
Published June 30th 2015 by Little, Brown & Company (first published August 5th 2014)
Rating: 3.5

From Goodreads:

An atmospheric debut thriller in which a woman must hunt down the ferocious killer responsible for her husband's murder.

Tess Hardy thought she had put Luke, her violent ex-husband, firmly in her past. Then he calls from Cambodia, where he is working as a mine-clearer, and there's something in his voice she hasn't heard before: Fear. Two weeks later, he's dead.
Against her better judgment, Tess is drawn to Cambodia and to the killing fields. Keeping her relationship to Luke a closely guarded secret, Tess joins his team of mine clearers, who are shaken to the core by Luke's sudden death. Even in their grief, the group remains a tightly knit and tightly wound community in which almost everyone has something to hide.
At the same time, the circle of death begins to expand. Teenage mothers are disappearing from villages around the minefields, while others are being found mutilated and murdered, their babies abandoned. Everywhere there are whispers about the White Crocodile, a mythical beast that brings death to all who meet it. Caught in a web of secrets and lies, Tess must unravel the truth, and quickly. The crocodile is watching, and Tess may be its next victim.
Combining the technical expertise of military suspense with a richly drawn sense of place, White Crocodile forges new ground in the thriller genre. Medina's internationally acclaimed debut announces the arrival of a prodigiously talented novelist whom readers will be discussing for years to come.

White Crocodile was a book that surprised me. At first I was only interested because of the idea of mine clearers. Then there was an explosion. Then I got to know the characters a little more. It was fair paced but not as fast as I’d have liked. About halfway I began to get really curious about the plot, and then it started getting fast and surprising me at every turn. From there it didn’t let go. I feel like it could have started stronger (especially considering how good the ending was). The narration was good except every once in a while a line was so quiet I could barely hear it. All in all it was a very nice listening experience for a crime novel with a really exciting surprising ending.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

One-Skein Wonders for Babies!

One-skein Wonders for Babies: 101 knitting projects for infants and toddlers Edited by Judith Durant (Amazon, Goodreads)
Genre: knitting
ISBN: 9781612124803
Published: September 8th 2015 by Storey Publishing, LLC
Rating: 4

I love babies. I love the One-skein wonders series. So it’s natural that I would love this book.

I love knitting and crocheting but I’m not the most patient long-term project minded person. I also really like pictures. Generally I decide what to make (knit, sew, cook) based on the picture. That’s one thing I really like about this book: all the patterns have at least one picture (usually more) plus diagrams! I also really like the page-layout and the color-blocks.

This is perfect for anyone who wants a quick project for a precious little one.

From Goodreads: This irresistible collection offers 101 original knitting projects for babies and toddlers -- each using just a single skein of yarn! From mittens and hats to tees, sweaters, hoodies, pants, dresses, socks, and bootees, you'll find the perfect wearable for every child and every occasion. You'll also discover beautiful bibs, blankets, and sleep sacks, plus adorable stuffed toys, blanket buddies, and more. These beautiful projects were contributed by designers and crafters around the world, and each comes with complete step-by-step instructions and a photograph of the finished piece.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Review: Feed Your Athlete

Feed Your Athlete: A Cookbook to Fuel Your Performance by Michael Kirtsos and Joseph Ewing (Amazon, Goodreads)
Genre: Cookbook, Health
ISBN: 9781465435378
Published: June 2nd 2015 by DK
Rating: 5

I am extremely impressed by this book. The sheer amount of work that went into making this such a valuable tool will, I hope, bounce back to benefit many people.

This is not just a cookbook. This is a reference book. The book starts with a rundown of the different kinds of athletes and their specific dietary needs (with constant reminder that everyone is different and you should check with your doctor or dietician to confirm diet changes). Then it provides practical's on how to meet those needs. Not just recipes (that are all divided up by high or low fiber, low fat, high carb, and high protein) but also meal plans, detailed appendix, water replacement recipes, recovery meals and drinks, and even athlete-friendly deserts. It covers how to determine how many calories you need, how to balance your energy, measure your BMI and BFP, and eating for each stage of training, up through recovery from a performance or event.

The recipes themselves are detailed and easy to follow, and most of them fall into the Easy category (which automatically gives it a plus). It includes a rundown of the categories, prep time, ingredients, yield, make ahead and freeze plans, substitutions in case you want to make it gluten-free or vegetarian, and the breakdown of nutrition information.

There were a few recipes, mostly baking recipes like muffins and breads, that I thought could have used less sugar. There are lots of ways to substitute sugar, oil, and eggs by using things like avocado, apple sauce, peanut butter, honey, agave, etc. and I thought there could have been more of that happening. There were a few drinks that seemed like they had too much sugar in them as well. Sugar really is an athlete’s poison (actually it’s everyone’s poison). And honestly I don’t see how a fudge pop with pudding and whipped topping as the only ingredients belong in a healthy athlete cookbook. But even including those few recipes, this book still blew me away. It should be a staple in every health-conscious home, and every athlete’s shelf.

From Goodreads: Feed Your Athlete features 150 nourishing whole-food meals and snacks for training, competition, and recovery for both endurance and strength athletes, plus fast and easy preparation tips and nutritional information. Athletes know how important it is to get the right fuel for their workouts and events. Feed Your Athlete makes it simple to fuel yourself or your athlete before, during, and after sporting events and training with 150 all-natural, real-food recipes for meals, snacks, portables, sports drinks, and more. Icons and assessments help determine optimal nutrition for any type of sport, and include high-carb, high-protein, low-calorie, low-fat, or high- or low-fiber options.
Created for endurance and strength athletes (but great for athletes of all kinds), Feed Your Athlete shows how to cook easy meals and take-alongs that taste good — and make active bodies feel great by delivering the fuel that they need to perform at their peak.


Einkorn: Recipes for Nature’s Original Wheat by Carla Bartolucci (Amazon, Goodreads)
Genre: Cookbook
ISBN: 978-0804186476
Published: August 4th 2015 by Clarkson Potter
Rating: 4.5

The idea of Einkorn is that there is a wheat out there that has not been genetically modified. It hasn’t been modified because it has a smaller yield and the berries are fairly small. It was left alone while other forms of wheat were played with and changed. The idea is because it hasn’t been played with and changed, people who are gluten intolerant can eat it with no problem because it has a different chemical reaction than regular wheat does.

It’s definitely an intriguing concept. I am not gluten intolerant, and I didn’t know where to get said wheat since that is literally the only thing the book didn’t cover. It covered sprouting, rolling, grinding, processing, every type of cooking process you can imagine. It included a history of wheat, how she and her husband found out about Einkorn, and about the amazing changes in their health after they started using it. But not where to get it. So that was a bit of a letdown, and is the only reason this baby didn’t get 5 stars from me. I did find it available online on amazon so it’s not like it’s impossible to buy. I was just surprised the book didn’t have a specific source listed.

the recipes were vast and diverse: Breads and Crackers, quick breads, breakfast, cookies, pastries, pudding, pizza, pasta, street food, and more. Almost every recipe had a full page beautiful photograph to go with it. The recipes ranged from basic to complicated but they all looked delicious.

Even if I never get my hands on Einkorn wheat berries, I look forward to using this cookbook on a regular basis!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Review: Secrets of a Proverbs 31 Woman

31 Woman by Rae Simmons (Amazon, Goodreads)
Genre: Spiritual Wisdom
ISBN 9781630588618
Published April 1st 2015 by Barbour Books
Rating: 5

I really like this book. I would buy this book for me, or for a friend. I’d keep a copy in my car to hand out to someone I though needed it. I’d recommend it to any woman who has been told she should “be above rubies” and should mirror a P.31 woman, but never given a practical to-do list on how to make that happen.

I mean, real Godly women wouldn’t need that to-do list, right? They would just know. They would read the Bible and just understand without help.

Nope. I’m a “to-do list” kind of girl!

This book was awesome. It goes through the history and background of specific words, how illustrations used in the Bible translates to our day and age, and what that means for us. It was beautiful and, most importantly, encouraging.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Review: Upcycle Your Wardrobe

Upcycle your Wardrobe: 21 patterns… by Mia Fher
Genre: Craft and Sewing
ISBN: 9780764348495
Published July 28th 2015 by Schiffer Publishing Ltd
Rating: 2

There is upcycling, and there is “taking boring clothes and making them into other boring clothes that fit you better but are still totally boring.” This book basically the latter claiming to be the former, with the exception of two (out of 21) designs that I really like... that being said, they’re things I’ve seen on the internet before. I gave it a 2 not a 1 because the step-by-step and the photos were very good.

Don’t waste your time and money, there are better projects on Pinterest.

Review: Knit the Sky

Knit the Sky by Lea Redmond (Amazon, Goodreads, Book site)
Genre: craft, knit/crochet
ISBN: 9781612123332
Expected publication: August 25th 2015 by Storey Publishing, LLC
Rating: 4

Knit the sky was whimsical and exciting. The book is quite different from the traditional knitting book, in that it doesn’t give step-by-step instructions, specific patterns, or have photos. Instead, it has colorful watercolor illustrations and beautiful inspiring text that paints a picture in the mind and leads the knitter to the place the writer wants them to be. The idea of giving inspiration for a project but not a specific pattern was challenging and new to say the least… but it worked for the book. It can be for a beginner knitter who wants the freedom to explore and not fit themselves into a pattern (just to grow as an artist) or for a free-former like myself, who doesn’t really follow patterns anyway and just wants the basic idea, or for an advanced knitter or pattern maker ready to push their creativity to the next level. It would even work for a crocheter (since most of it is make-up-as-you-go anyway).

I love it and am looking forward to making my own beautiful project! check back in a few weeks to see what I’ve made!

From Goodreads:

Look up from your knitting needles and explore with the world around you! That's the mantra of Lea Redmond, the creative instigator behind Knit the Sky. Challenging herself to capture the changing colors of the sky in her knitting, Redmond loaded up her yarn basket with shades of blue, gray, and white and set out to knit a strip reflecting each day's shades. In 365 days, she imagines having a one-year weather report in the shape of a scarf. This is just one of 30 adventurous knitting challenges she shares with readers in this whimsical, inspiring collection. These are knitting projects like no other, as the goal is not just to have a finished project but to have a one-of-a-kind piece that tells a story about the knitter's life experience. Some of the projects invite the knitter to engage with others: friends knitting two scarves at once on the same needles, or a grandmother sharing a "basket of berries" with her grandchildren through matching basketweave-patterned hats. Others encourage contemplation: a knit 1, breathe 1 meditation stitch; creating an heirloom scarf for a yet-to-be descendent; or using a map to a favorite place as the basis for a pattern stitch. Accompanied by basic instructions for all the needed stitches, techniques, and patterns, Knit the Sky is a complete creativity starter kit for any knitter looking for a fresh approach to the craft.

Check out the Knit the Sky website to download a free pattern from the book!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Quick Crocheted Accessories

Quick Crocheted Accessories in 3 skeins or less by Sharon Zientara (Amazon, Goodreads)
Genre: Craft, crochet
ISBN: 9781620337981
Published July 1st 2015 by Interweave
Rating: 3

When I look for a pattern book, I look for something that has a lot of patterns that I’ve never seen before, or wouldn’t not think up on my own (since I’m a bit of a free-former and pattern-maker myself). The books I’m really impressed with are the ones that are full of original pieces that strike me, but look do-able and manageable. Now I realize that’s a pretty high bar to set. But as a reviewer and a crocheter, I wouldn’t spend money on a book that was anything less than that.

Quick Crocheted Accessories has two patterns that I really like and was impressed with, that I haven’t seen before. There were three others that I’d seen similar things, but I really liked Zientara’s design. All the others were relatively simple, unexciting, or things I’ve seen before.

The photos were very nice, and the book has both diagrams and instructions. But I would have liked to see more original accessories.

Monday, August 3, 2015

The Mountain Can Wait

The Mountain Can Wait by Sarah Leipciger 
Genre: Literary Fiction
ISBN: 9781478985945
Published May 19th 2015 by Little, Brown & Company
Rating: DNF

I felt like this book was going to be an epic journey of self discovery and redeeming family and resolving past mistakes, but it was more like reading the journal of a boring person. A person with an interesting life, mind you, but the person himself was boring. I can’t even remember the main character’s name. It felt disconnected and random, jumping around and telling snapshots and things that happened, but no real plot. A bunch of things does not equal plot.

I felt this way the first time I tried listening to it, and so I put it down. Then one Saturday I was bored so I tried again and I got the same vibe, so I quit. I got about 6 or 8 chapters in.


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