Doodletopia Cartoons by Christopher Hart

Book description:

Welcome to Doodletopia! Your first stop in this paradise of creativity? The world of cartoons. Your tour guide Christopher Hart is ready to introduce you to the interactive, artistic possibilities of creating your own exciting, hilarious, off-the-wall cartoon characters, gags, and more.

Unlike other doodle books that leave you stranded, with no help at all, Doodletopia: Cartoons pairs fun doodle-based activities with the sort of insightful (and laugh-out-loud funny) advice and tips that countless readers have come to expect from cartooning master Christopher Hart. For the first time ever, you can pick up your pencils, pens, markers, or crayons, and draw, doodle, or color right on the same page as the author.

From finishing cartoon faces to selecting costumes to completing wacky cartoon scenes,
the opportunities for creative expression are endless. So what are you waiting for? Open up
and start doodling!

My review:

I am such a fan of Christopher Hart. His distinctive style is visually appealing, fun, and quirky.

This is book is so easy to follow and use that even non-artists (like myself) are able to duplicate the characters. I like the way each character is broken down into step by step directions on how to draw them.

There is also a lot of creativity encouraged in the pages of this book. Once the drawing of the characters is experienced, readers are prompted to work on developing expressions.

Some of the pictures are halfway drawn so that readers can complete the other half of the drawing. It is nice to have the additional guidance of what the drawing should look like.

This is a great book for anyone of any age that would like to develop drawing skills or learn how to draw. There is something for everyone. I can’t wait until Hart comes out with a new 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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I Hope You Dance by Beth Moran

Book description:

Can dancing mend Ruth’s broken heart?

Ruth Henderson has moved back in with her parents–something she swore she would never do, especially not at the age of thirty-three. But in the face of the mountain of debt left by her late partner, and the fact that her teenage daughter, Maggie, is expressing her grief through acts of delinquency, there was really only one option.

Returning to a house Ruth swore never to set foot in again is bad enough. Add to this an estranged father, whirlwind mother, and David–the boy next door who broke her heart–and it is little wonder Ruth can barely make it out of bed.

But then, reunited with her old friend Lois, Ruth is persuaded to go along to a monthly girls’ night. Here she meets a bunch of incredible women and for the first time since leaving home at eighteen, Ruth begins to make some genuine friends.

She also has her first ever date–with the charming Dr. Carl Barker. However, after a disastrous dinner, and an upset Maggie still struggling with her father’s death, Ruth promises her daughter she won’t go out with any other men. A promise she quickly regrets when David, the boy next door, asks her to dance. . .

My review:

This is the second book I have read by Beth Moran and I have to say that I am a fan!

I love the descriptiveness of the setting and the picture into life in Nottingham, England. The stories are artfully crafted in such a way that the pace starts slowly, but then picks up until you are racing to the end, just to find out what happens to everyone.

In my opinion, Moran’s strength and gift is in writing characters. She provides readers with a variety of characters that are easy to love and identify with. It is difficult to root for a character that you can’t identify with at all, but Moran’s characters are so real that I can identify with several.

This is a book filled with life and loss and love. It gives readers hope and reminds us that there are second chances. It shows us that life isn’t always pretty, but all things work together for good.

If you have never read Moran before, you should give this one a try. Then you can read her other book, Making Marion. You won’t be disappointed!

I received a complimentary copy of this book Kregel Publications in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

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Philippians by Sue Edwards

Book description:

A “how-to” study for finding joy in authentic relationships and community

Women long for healthy, deep relationships with those around them. Knowing what those look like can be tricky, however. Where do we go to seek them? How can we approach them? How can we maintain those relationships, despite our own weaknesses?

Sue Edwards is happy to lead the way through Scripture to discover and maintain beloved, organic friendships. Paul’s letter to early Christians is an ideal place to find these answers. This short letter highlights the skills that strengthen authentic connections–skills like trust, humility, healthy self-sacrifice, a generous spirit, and more. It also sheds light on how to overcome toxic connection-killers like envy, comparison, and critical attitudes.

Philipians: Discovering Joy Through Relationship works its way through Paul’s words as a model for deep, authentic community and healthy relationships between believers. When readers reach the end, they’ll have a thorough sense of the content of this ancient letter, and of its relevance for today. Although Paul was under house arrest, he was able to draw joy from his relationships, and we can do the same, no matter our circumstances. Edwards strives to ensure that this Bible study will do more than transfer intellectual information; it will also transform hearts and inspire practice and application.

My review:

I really enjoyed working through this Bible study on the book of Philippians. I need a lot of help with relationship building because I have a hard time letting my guard down and allowing anyone to get too close. I really appreciated the lessons and was inspired to take some risks in reaching out to others in the love of God.

I expected a study just on the book of Philippians, but was pleasantly surprised when I found cross-references to other books of the Bible. I also enjoyed the additional information in the sidebars of the pages giving explanations to ideas from the study. For example, why calling Jews “dogs” was such an insult of the time.

The book is thin in width, but packed with information. I liked the overall size of the book because it fit nicely with my Bible.

Overall, there isn’t anything negative I can say about the book. Even for those that have read and/or studied Philippians before, it is a valuable resource and provides a fresh way of looking at this small but interesting book of the Bible.

If you are looking for a user-friendly study to aid in your study of Philippians, this is a great choice!

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

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A Thousand Shall Fall by Andrea Boeshaar

Book description:

Nineteen-year-old Carrie Ann Bell is independent and spirited. The only thing she really fears are the Union soldiers fighting against her Confederate friends. When her youngest sister runs away from home, brave Carrie Ann is determined to find her and bring her back. Disguised as a soldier, she sets off–only to find she’s fallen into the hands of the enemy.

Her childhood friend Confederate Major Joshua Blevins has warned her against these Yankees: they’re all devils, ready to inflict evil on unsuspecting young women. When Colonel Peyton Collier arrests her for her impersonation of an officer, it seems to confirm all her fears.

Soon, though, she finds herself drawn to the handsome, gallant colonel. He rescued her, protected her, and has been every inch the gentleman. Carrie Ann discovers that her foe has become her ally–and more than that, someone she could love. But the arrival of Joshua in the Union camp as a spy will test her loyalties. Will she protect someone who has been like family or be loyal to this stranger to whom she wants to offer her heart? When her world is being torn apart around her, whom should she trust?

Set against the backdrop of the American Civil War, A Thousand Shall Fall is framed around compelling characters and a very romantic setting in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. Andrea Boeshaar’s extensive research guarantees historical accuracy and romance genre enthusiasts and Civil War buffs alike will enjoy the Christian perspectives on actual historical events.

My review:

I had a hard time getting into this book. It seemed rather slow to take off and I had some doubts whether I would be able to finish it or not. However, eventually the storyline started moving along a little bit faster and became more interesting to me.

I liked the way that Carrie Ann’s character bucked traditional roles of the time and exercised independence. The way she took care of her family was admirable. I also enjoyed Peyton’s aunt as a very independent woman.

I also enjoyed the descriptiveness of the writing. Boeshaar makes it easy for readers to imagine the places and the experiences on the battlefield during the Civil War.

Overall, this was an ok book for me. I never got to the point where I couldn’t put it down and was racing to the end to find out what was happening. I could appreciate the descriptive writing and the characters, but the plot was just too slow for too long for me to be super excited about it.

On a final note, at the end of the book, Boeshaar gave a sneak peak into book two of the series, Too Deep for Words. As I was reading it, I couldn’t wait to read it. I think that I will enjoy that one much more because I am already familiar with the characters.

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

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The Daniel Fast for Weight Loss by Susan Gregory

Book description:

If you’re tired of chasing the latest diet fad only to find that you’ve gained weight, it’s time to try an entirely different approach. The Daniel Fast for Weight Loss succeeds where other programs fail because it focuses on your relationship with God as well as on your relationship with food. Once you discover the pleasures of eating the food God has provided for optimum health, you will not want to turn back. The Daniel Fast for Weight Loss offers a strategic, biblically based plan backed by solid research that will eliminate your cravings and help you to drop those unwanted pounds once and for all.

Susan Gregory, “The Daniel Fast Blogger” and bestselling author of The Daniel Fast, is back with a spiritual and practical roadmap to this wildly popular 21-day fast for anyone who wants to lose weight and develop a lifestyle of health in a way that honors God. Way beyond a diet plan, The Daniel Fast for Weight Loss includes more than 90 new recipes, multiple tips for successful fasting, a 21-day devotional, and practical guidance for maintaining weight loss and good eating habits even after you complete your Christ-centered fasting experience. Embark on a life-changing journey toward happiness and confidence about the body God designed for you.

My review:

I had heard of the Daniel fast before, but was unfamiliar with the specific guidelines and what foods were allowed and not allowed.

Gregory does a great job in explaining the Biblical basis for the Daniel fast and how to navigate meals during the fast.

Without a doubt, the Daniel fast is a restrictive approach to eating. However, I appreciated all the recipes that Gregory included in her book. It takes the idea of the Daniel fast from eating bowls of oatmeal and pieces of fruit and vegetables to meals that the entire family can eat.

I also appreciated Gregory sharing her love of coffee in the book. Coffee is the hardest thing for me to give up. Her advice to cut back before beginning the fast was very helpful.

Although the eating guidelines in the book were very helpful, it is the devotional guide that makes or breaks the fast. Twenty-one days is a long time for this reader to go without meat and cheese, my go-to snacks. The devotionals keep the focus on deepening a relationship with God and appreciating our bodies as part of God’s creation. For me, it makes all the difference in the fast.

If you are curious about the Daniel fast, or if you are doing the Daniel fast and want some extra encouragement and support with a devotional guide, this book is a great choice!

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

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Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World by Kristen Welch

Book description:

“But everyone else has it.” “If you loved me, you’d get it for me!” When you hear these comments from your kids, it can be tough not to cave. You love your children―don’t you want them to be happy and to fit in?

Kristen Welch knows firsthand it’s not that easy. In fact, she’s found out that when you say yes too often, it’s not only hard on your peace of mind and your wallet―it actually puts your kids at long-term risk. In Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World, Kristen shares the ups and downs in her own family’s journey of discovering why it’s healthiest not to give their kids everything. Teaching them the difference between “want” and “need” is the first step in the right direction. With many practical tips and anecdotes, she shares how to help kids become hardworking, fulfilled, and successful adults.

It’s never too late to raise grateful kids. Get ready to cultivate a spirit of genuine appreciation in your family and create a home in which your kids don’t just say―but mean!―“thank you” for everything they have.

My review:

As a parent, it can be difficult when your child asks for something that “everyone else has”. It is nearly impossible to determine if they “need” that smartphone and if the benefits of having it justify the risks.

The best part about this book is the way that Welch encourages her readers over and over again that it is not too late to emphasize gratefulness in our families and gives us specific guidelines on how to change the atmosphere in our homes from a child-centered home to a Jesus-centered home.

The only negative thing I can say about this book is the number of times that Welch reminded readers that she is not an expert in parenting. I don’t know if the disclaimer was requested from the editor or if it was something Welch wanted to put in, but it was mentioned far too frequently. In my opinion, a disclaimer in the introduction and maybe in the first and last chapter would have been more than sufficient. No one is an expert in parenting – even parenting “experts”. We are all just people who love our kids trying to do the best we can.

I appreciate the stories that Welch shared about her family and children and things they have said and done. To me, that is more beneficial than a lot of parenting books. I just want to know things that have worked (or not) with other parents. That is one area that Welch excels at as a writer, sharing anecdotes about her family to encourage her readers.

I could identify with a lot of struggles that the Welch family has encountered. It was ironic that the very week that I read this book, my youngest said to me, “If you really loved me, you would take me to the skateboard shop.” Having the tools I acquired from Welch fresh in my mind gave me the confidence to pause and have a discussion about the statement instead of saying, “Yes” or “No”.

This is a great book for any parents wanting to make thoughtful and deliberate lessons to their children to raise a generation of grateful people.

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

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Whispers in the Reading Room by Shelley Gray

Book description:

Lydia’s job at the library is her world—until a mysterious patron catches her eye . . . and perhaps her heart.

Just months after the closure of the Chicago World’s Fair, librarian Lydia Bancroft finds herself fascinated by a mysterious dark-haired and dark-eyed patron. He has never given her his name; he actually never speaks to a single person. All she knows about him is that he loves books as much as she does.

Only when he rescues her in the lobby of the Hartman Hotel does she discover that his name is Sebastian Marks. She also discovers that he lives at the top of the prestigious hotel and that most everyone in Chicago is intrigued by him.

Lydia and Sebastian form a fragile friendship, but when she discovers that Mr. Marks isn’t merely a very wealthy gentleman, but also the proprietor of an infamous saloon and gambling club, she is shocked.

Lydia insists on visiting the club one fateful night and suddenly is a suspect to a murder. She must determine who she can trust, who is innocent, and if Sebastian Marks—the man so many people fear—is actually everything her heart believes him to be.

My review:

I am not a huge fan of mystery novels, but I have to admit that I really enjoyed this one. The writing was so descriptive and detailed that it made the setting and the characters come alive.

The characters really do make this story. I love the multiple layers of Sebastian and how he is a diamond in the rough. He is such a good person, but has all the baggage from his past that is holding him back.

I do wish there were more character lessons in the book. Hunt and Bridget have some spiritual discussions, but there weren’t many lessons to take away from the story.

I would love to read a follow-up story featuring Hunt and Bridget. I would be interested to see where their relationship might go and it would be great to revisit Sebastian and Lydia.

All in all, this book offers a little bit for everyone, whether you are a romance fan, mystery fan, or a history fan.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson Fiction Guild in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

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The Wedding Chapel by Rachel Hauck

Book description:

A lonely wedding chapel built as a tribute to lost love just might hold the long-awaited secret to hope and reconciliation.

For sixty years, the wedding chapel has stood silent and empty. Retired football hall-of-famer Jimmy “Coach” Westbrook built the chapel by hand, stone by stone, for his beautiful and beloved Collette Greer, whom he lost so many years ago. The chapel is a sanctuary for his memories, a monument to true love, and a testament to his survival of the deepest pain and loss.

Photographer Taylor Branson left her hometown of Heart’s Bend, Tennessee, to make a new life for herself in New York. She had lots to run away from, not least of all a family history of broken promises and broken dreams. Love catches Taylor off guard when she falls for Jack Forester, a successful advertising executive, and their whirlwind romance leads to an elopement—then to second guesses. Jack, in spite of his very real love for Taylor, is battling his own demons and struggles to show her his true self and the depths of his love for her.

Taking a photography assignment in Heart’s Bend, Taylor is thrown back into a past of family secrets buried deep beneath the sands of time. When Taylor and Coach’s journeys collide, they each rediscover the heartbeat of their own dreams as they learn that the love they long to hold is well worth the wait.

My review:

This story is the perfect example of my favorite kind of love story. It is realistic and filled with true love, not just feelings of love, but actual life-long, sacrificial love. I also enjoy stories that explore kinds of love different from romantic love. This one has a lot of different levels and types of love.

The best part about this book is that I really didn’t have any idea where it was heading or where it would end up. It seems like romance books usually follow a basic framework that is easy to anticipate what the conflict or resolution would be. This one had some nice twists and surprises.

There wasn’t really anything negative I could say about this book. The characters were easy to relate to, the plot was well-crafted, and there were some surprises. There was a little bit more sexuality than one would usually find in a Christian romance, but it is still a nice, relatively clean novel.

This book would appeal to anyone who loves a nice romance book, especially one with deeper levels of love.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the Thomas Nelson Fiction Guild in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

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The Lion Comic Book Hero Bible by Jeff Anderson

Book description:

A stunning new comic book version of the Bible, now given the superhero treatment by the team behind The Lion Graphic Bible and The Manga Bible

The story of the Bible is a unique tale of origins and cosmic powers; of the ageless battle between good and evil; of human potential and human treachery; and of a Messiah—a savior for the world. This is indeed the stuff that graphic novels are made of. Superheroes are the biggest comic genre of all, with many heroes having their origins in biblical characterization and imagery. This is the first Bible retelling to engage with the superhero genre. The Lion Comic Book Bible is a dynamic expression of the Bible’s depth and power, produced in the style of Marvel Comics. You’ve heard of Spiderman, Superman, and Wonder Woman. Now meet Earthman, Lawman, Warrior Man, and many others. With dynamic illustration using a range of styles, Siku (Old Testament) and Jeff Anderson (New Testament) bring the Bible stories alive for a new and graphically sophisticated generation.

My review:

I was so excited to read this comic-book style adaptation of the Bible. I thought it would have great appeal for my youngest reader.

When the book arrived, I was a little surprised at how dark and sinister the images on the cover was. I flipped through the pages and saw that the darkness continues throughout the book.

The stories adhere to the stories from the Bible. However, as stated in the description, the names are changed. For example, Adam becomes Earthman. I would have enjoyed it more if the names remained unchanged.

I’m not really sure if this book would spark young readers interest in reading stories from the Bible. Ideally, it would. I can imagine it would have some benefit in giving them an overview of the story, so that it is familiar when they hear it again. However, with the names changing, they might not make the connection.

I’m not sure this is the book I would recommend for parents, grandparents, or teachers to expose young readers to Bible stories. I think there are better books that maintain accuracy without being so sinister.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Kregel Publications in exchange for my honest review.

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Dinosaurs Marvels of God’s Design by Dr. Tim Clarey

Book description:

A thoroughly researched, definitive guide to dinosaurs for Christian readers!

This book fills a critical need for sound science about dinosaurs from a biblical viewpoint, focusing on the five major dinosaur groups. Dinosaurs are in the news every day, as well as viewed in museums and on science channels. Unfortunately, these portrayals always push an evolutionary agenda. This book counters those arguments with solid, accurate, and biblically-based science:

Explains the latest findings in dinosaur biology, behavior, extinction, and more
Covers the complete spectrum of dinosaur-related topics, from the earliest dinosaur discoveries to debate over why they went extinct
Provides a visually stunning, dynamic exploration into the history of dinosaurs through the most current discoveries few have seen before!

Because of secular books and television shows, many Christians struggle to explain how dinosaurs fit in the biblical timeline. The word “dinosaur” is not found in the Bible, causing some well-meaning Christians to turn to secular science for an explanation, including more speculation than actual fact. Unfortunately, this misdirection has caused many people to lose faith in the Bible, especially the young generation. This book will restore faith in the Word of God as it connects the Bible with science. Read and discover how dinosaurs are part of God’s creative glory!

My review:

The topic of dinosaurs is one that is challenging to explain to young children when you don’t subscribe to the belief that millions of years ago there was a big bang that created life that in turn developed into creatures that evolved into different creatures, and eventually into humans.

There are so many questions related to dinosaurs that don’t have easy answers. Obviously, dinosaurs existed because we can find skeletons and fossilized remains. However, when did they live and what happened to them? This book answers those questions and so many more!

I wish I had access to this book a decade ago when my kids were studying dinosaurs. It answers all of my questions about dinosaurs with scientifically sound explanations and it has amazing pictures on every page. I also loved the in-depth look at all the different kinds of dinosaurs that Dr. Clarey covered. Everyone knows about the T-Rex, but I enjoyed reading about some lesser-known dinosaurs. I learned about dinosaurs I had never heard of before!

It would be great if this book was widely available to students of all ages to provide them with a balanced look at the facts about dinosaurs. I will certainly be telling everyone I know with children about this book so that they have better information about dinosaurs!

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

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