So Long, Insecurity Teen Edition by Beth Moore

Book description:

This magazine-style book mixes words of wisdom from Moore with pictures, quizzes, surveys, scripture, and more to help girls ages 12-16 live based on God’s truth about them as opposed to the world’s false messages.

Features in each chapter include: Q & A with Beth (taken from adult book but written to appeal to a younger audience), Sweet Notes (scriptures that pertain to the chapter’s subject), Your Stats (a survey/poll of what girls think regarding the subject), Interviews with real girls (and a few teen spokespeople), a quiz to help girls gauge where they are, Bible characters with similar issues, and a wrap-up section for discussion with a friend or in a group.

Girls will have fun reading about boys, fashion, the media, gifts and skills, competing with other girls, and how they can live as secure girls despite the distractions from the world.

My review:

This is a very engaging book for teen girls.  It is colorful with a lot of pictures of teen girls and their comments and observations about issues common to teen girls.  I really liked the way a lot of different types of girls were represented.  My favorite part was the way Moore took women from the Bible and shared their story in a status update.  It was short, simple, and to the point, but it brought their story to life.

As a parent, I enjoyed reading through the book because it helped me see some issues through different eyes and also gave me ideas for different ways to share lessons I try to share with the young women in my life.  Two books that Moore shares with her readers – I’m No Angel by Kylie Bisutti and Popular by Tindell Baldwin – I had read previously and noted that they were very good tools to use with our girls.  The lessons included in those books and in this one can not be repeated enough.

The only small criticism I have is based on feedback from my girl.  She wished there were more choices in the quizzes and felt that some of the choices didn’t quite fit her.

This is a great book for anyone who has a teen girl in their lives and would make a great gift.  It is a great tool to open the doors of communication.

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Danger on a Silent Night by Marianne Hering & Nancy I Sanders

Book description:

Beth and Patrick travel to the Holy Land. Patrick joins the wise men as they travel toward Jerusalem. Beth winds up at Herod’s palace and sees the king’s reaction when he finds out about the newly born King of the Jews. The cousins meet up at the palace. Devout Simeon tells them where they can find the baby Jesus. Beth and Patrick set out with the wise men only to discover they’ve been followed by one of Herod’s soldiers. Knowing that death is in store for the Baby Jesus if the soldier finds Him, Beth and Patrick carry out a plan to keep the baby safe.

My review:

I thought this was one of the most clever Imagination Station books.  It is a great way for children to learn about Herod’s plan to kill Baby Jesus through the adventure of Patrick and Beth.  I haven’t come across many fictional books for children related to Herod’s quest to kill Baby Jesus.

I’ve read several of these books and have never been disappointed with the lessons shared with younger readers.  The books are engaging, interesting, easy to read for younger readers, and good read alouds for children who aren’t reading yet.  I thought the illustrations in this one were very nice.

If you are looking for a great series to provide young readers with a look at history through the eyes of faith, this is the one for you.  I love it as an alternative to the Magic Treehouse books.

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Uncommon Marriage Bible Study by Tony & Lauren Dungy

Book description:

A companion study to Tony and Lauren Dungy’s popular book Uncommon Marriage, this 5-week guide for couples or small groups delves into Scripture to explore the blessings and challenges couples face today. Drawing on biblical truths and their own personal experiences, Tony and Lauren share the importance of making time for each other, resolving conflict well, staying strong and committed through difficult times, coping with changes and big decisions, praying together, building a spiritual foundation for your family, and more. The Uncommon Marriage Bible Study will help equip your marriage to survive tough issues and flourish with joy, purpose, and partnership—in other words, to be a marriage that is truly uncommon. The book also includes icebreakers for groups, a leader’s guide, and links to free resources for churches.

My review:

I was really excited to read this book because I was hoping it would fill the void I felt after reading the Dungy’s book Uncommon Marriage.  I was hoping to get tangible guidance to draw even closer to my husband. 

I did like this book better than the companion book, but was disappointed to find that most of this study was based on reading the companion book.  I would have appreciated more biblical references and principles.  The best thing about this book was that the questions offered were easy to utilize with a small group.  However, I wish there were more questions to use one on one with your spouse.

The one thing I really didn’t like about this book was how totally dependent it was on the companion book.  It would have been better for me to have the discussion questions as an appendix at the back of the other book, since this book requires you to read the other one anyway.

Overall, this book was a little disappointing for me.  I think that there are other books out there for couples that provide more of an impact on improving marriage relationships (ie. anything by Gary Chapman).  If you are a fan of the Dungys or loved their Uncommon Marriage book, you would probably enjoy this book more than I did.

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The Butterfly and the Violin by Kristy Cambron

Book description:

Manhattan art dealer Sera James watched her world crumble at the altar two years ago, and her heart is still fragile. Her desire for distraction reignites a passion for a mysterious portrait she first saw as a young girl—a painting of a young violinist with piercing blue eyes.

In her search for the painting, Sera crosses paths with William Hanover, the grandson of a wealthy California real estate mogul, who may be the key to uncovering the hidden masterpiece. Together, Sera and William slowly unravel the story behind the painting’s subject: Austrian violinist Adele Von Bron.

A darling of the Austrian aristocracy, talented violinist, and daughter to a high-ranking member of the Third Reich, Adele risks everything when she begins smuggling Jews out of Vienna. In a heartbeat, her life of prosperity and privilege dissolves into a world of starvation and barbed wire.

As Sera untangles the secrets behind the painting, she finds beauty in the most unlikely of places: in the grim camps of Auschwitz and in the inner recesses of her own troubled heart.

My review:

I couldn’t put this book down and read it in about two hours. I don’t particularly enjoy books that change perspectives between multiple characters. However, both Adele’s and Sera’s stories are so interesting that it didn’t bother me.

This is a very artistically written book and the description of life in Austria and in Auschwitz is very realistic. I also really enjoyed the topic of a violinist in Auschwitz. It is well-documented that the Nazis forced musicians to play at various times in the camps, but this is the first book I’ve read written from the perspective of one of the players. I also appreciated the bit of history Cambron included about the uprising in Auschwitz shortly before the liberation of the camp.

The only criticism I have of the book is the backtracking of Adele’s story. The alternating present day and past perspective didn’t bother me, but I found the backtracking from 1942 to 1939 unnecessary. Readers got more of the story of Adele and Vladimir, which was nice, but I felt like I already had a good picture of their friendship.

If you are a fan of historical fiction, particularly WWII fiction, this is a great book and a very fast read. Spend an afternoon at the beach or in front of the fire and you can read the entire book, it is that engrossing.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from BookLook Bloggers in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

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The New Colored Pencil by Kristy Ann Kutch

Book description:

If you want to create colorful, radiant works of art, colored pencil and related color media (wax pastels, watercolor pencils, and so on) provide you with limitless options for adding vibrancy to your creations. In The New Colored Pencil, artist and instructor Kristy Ann Kutch guides you through the latest developments in color drawing media with examples of and recommendations for the newest pencil brands, drawing surfaces, and groundbreaking techniques (including using the Grid Method, grating pigments, blending with heat, and more). Supported by step-by-step demonstrations and showcasing inspiring art from some of today’s best colored pencil artists, The New Colored Pencil shows you how to use color theory to your advantage, combine color media, create and enhance textures, and experiment with surfaces to create interesting effects. Whether you use traditional wax-based, or watercolor colored pencils, The New Colored Pencil will take your art to the next level.

My review:

This is a lovely book. I was amazed at the beautiful pictures that were created with colored pencils! I have to admit that I am not a very good artist, but I learned a lot from this book.

Kutch shared many different techniques, many that I have never encountered before, and then provided step by step instructions on how to practice the techniques. She started with traditional colored pencils, and then progress to water-soluble colored pencils. In all honesty, I had no idea there were so many different types of colored pencils to choose from, or that you could do so many different things with colored pencils.

I can’t say that this book made me a better artist, but I can say that I know a lot more about drawing with colored pencils. If you are an artist, or know someone who is, this is a great book! It will inspire innovation, creativity, and encourage you to stretch your limits with drawing with colored pencils. It is a very interesting and educational book!

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

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Uncommon Marriage by Tony & Lauren Dungy

Book description:

What does it take to build a marriage that will last? Tony and Lauren Dungy have together known the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. They fell in love, built a family, and made sports history when Tony became the first African American head coach to win the Super Bowl. Yet they’ve also gone through difficult, relationship-testing setbacks, including job loss and devastating personal tragedy. In a culture where it seems harder and harder to make marriage last, what has kept the Dungys strong through it all? In Uncommon Marriage, Tony and Lauren share the secrets that hold them together, revealing what they’ve learned so far about being a good husband or wife; getting through times of loss, grief, or change; staying connected despite busy schedules; supporting each other’s dreams and goals; and helping each other grow spiritually. They offer encouragement and practical advice to equip your marriage to survive tough issues and flourish with joy, purpose, and partnership—in other words, to be a marriage that is truly uncommon.

My review:

I like to read books about lifelong successful marriages because I’m always interested in getting tips on how to grow closer through the years. This was a nice book and interesting story about the Dungy marriage. However, it wasn’t quite what I expected. I really felt like any couple could have written the book. It didn’t seem that uncommon to me. The book description is accurate in describing that the Dungy experienced relationship-testing setbacks such as job loss. However, again I felt that other couples could have written it and perhaps even better. Some couples in America have had to cope with job losses that lasted for much longer times. This is just one small example from the book that I found lacking.

I just wanted more from this book. As I reflect on my disappointment in this book, I realize that the title mislead me and heightened my expectations. I just didn’t view it as illustrating an uncommon marriage. It demonstrated a loving, committed, and successful marriage, but not necessarily uncommon. I probably would have enjoyed it more if it had been titled The Story of Our Marriage. It seemed to me that is what the book was about.

Next on my reading list is the companion study book. I’m hoping that the companion book offers more information on improving and deepening “common marriages”.

Despite the overall negative tone of my review, I do think there are a lot of readers out there that would really enjoy this book. If you are a fan of football, or are already fans of the Dungys, then you would probably enjoy this book more than I did. If you are looking for a book that inspires you to improve your marriage, I think that others out there that are more effective.

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Just 18 Summers by Rene Gutteridge & Michelle Cox

Book description:

After the tragic death of Butch Browning’s wife, Jenny, four families begin to realize how precious—and fleeting—their time together is. Each is at a different stage in life: Butch is facing single parenthood. The O’Reillys are expecting their first child. The Andersons are approaching an empty nest, and the Buckleys are so focused on providing their children with everything that they’ve forgotten what they truly need. With just eighteen summers before their children are grown, how do they make the most of that time when life so often gets in the way?

As summer flies by, each of these parents must learn about guilt and grace . . . and when to hold on to their kids and when to let go.

My review:

Wow, what a book! This is the best book I’ve read in a long time. I laughed, I cried, and I was sad when it was finished. It was the best book I’ve ever read at capturing life. The struggle all parents face is balancing the demands of life with the desire to spend time with our children, all while fighting the ticking of the clock of time, moving us forward to that day when our children are adults. This book captures the struggle perfectly.

I don’t typically enjoy books where the story is told through the eyes of different characters, especially when the relationships between those characters are tenuous. For example, friend of a friend type thing. The great thing about this book is that the different perspectives flow seamlessly together.

Gutteridge and Cox completely captured parenthood – the good, the bad, and the ugly. I couldn’t stop laughing at the characterization of Daphne, the soon-to-be-first-time-mom. I totally related to all the baby-proofing steps and the manic parenting book reading. I probably would have done the pool noodles as well, had I thought of it. It was so funny to read the interaction between Ava and Daphne. However, the most important thing was the message. We can prepare and fret and worry and obsess over the safety of our children, but God is the one holding them and carrying them through this life. We ultimately have to rest in that.

This book is a must read. It is just so very, very good. It isn’t often that I come across a book that won’t leave my bookshelf to travel to a friend’s house, but this is one of them that stays with me!

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