Blindsided by God by Peter Chin

Book description:

When Peter Chin moved his family into an inner-city neighborhood to plant a church, he was sure he was doing what God wanted. But in the span of a few months his family experienced a heartbreaking miscarriage, a break-in at their home, a breast cancer diagnosis, and the termination of their health insurance. Why would God allow these things to happen?

But God had one more surprise prepared for the Chins: a child, conceived in the most unlikely and dangerous of circumstances, through whom Peter would realize that although God’s ways were wild and strange, they were always good.

Filled with twists and turns, deep insights, and surprising humor, Blindsided by God explores the reality of suffering, the mystery of God’s ways, and why, even in the darkest times, there’s always reason for hope.

My review:

There isn’t anything not to like about this book.  Right from the first chapter Chin pulls readers in with his humor and humility.  Then he holds our attention with the many trials he and his family face.  It is an uncommon book that can you want to cry one minute and then laugh out loud the next.

What makes this book so great is that Chin’s story could be anyone’s story.  We all face trials and tests.  It isn’t even that uncommon for our trials and tests to compound upon one another, just as Chin’s did.  The reminder in the book is that no matter what happens, whether we understand it or not, God is in control and He is good.  We don’t have to lose hope.

I loved the stories of surprising sources of support and encouragement, especially from the driver that Chin rear-ended on his wife’s first day of chemo.  It served as a reminder to me to try and offer grace and mercy to others in all circumstances because we really don’t know what they are going through.

This is a great book for anyone to read, whether you or someone you know is going through a trial related to cancer, or just trials of life.  It offers encouragement and reassurance that even in the darkest of days, we are not alone.

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

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Lift the Flap Bible by Candle Tiny Tots

Book description:

What’s under the flaps? Find out in this collection of eight very simple Bible stories in a large cased board book format. Each story is told across a double-page spread and there are flaps on every page. Bright, quirky illustrations full of wit and color from Louise Anglicas are perfect for this engaging introduction to Bible stories.

Stories are: Noah and the Ark, Moses and the Bulrushes, Daniel and the Lions, Jonah and the Great Fish, Born in a Stable, Boy with Loaves and Fishes, The Lost Sheep, and Man Lowered Through the Roof.

My review:

This is such a fun book to read with young children.  The illustrations are bright, colorful, and hold the interest of youngsters.  Each page has several flaps to open and discover what is hiding underneath.  It is nice that the flaps open at different angles and are different sizes, to help develop fine motor skills while the prose develops listening skills.  This book is perfect to instill a love of books from a very young age.

I also like the sturdiness of the book.  The book and pages are as thick as a board book, and the flaps will hold up to a lot of opening and closing.  All in all, this book is great for little hands to explore.

The stories included in the book will introduce children to people from the Bible and help them become acquainted with their stories and settings.  The language is simple and easy to understand.

If you are looking for a book for very young children, this is the one for you.  It will hold up to many years of being read and loved.

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 Postage Stamp Vegetable Garden, by Karen Newcomb

Book description:

To accommodate today’s lifestyles, a garden needs to fit easily into a very small plot, take as little time as possible to maintain, require a minimum amount of water, and still produce prolifically. That’s exactly what a postage stamp garden does. Postage stamp gardens are as little as 4 by 4 feet, and, after the initial soil preparation, they require very little extra work to produce a tremendous amount of vegetables–for instance, a 5-by-5-foot bed will produce a minimum of 200 pounds of vegetables.

When first published 40 years ago, the postage stamp techniques, including closely planted beds rather than rows, vines and trailing plants grown vertically to free up space, and intercropping, were groundbreaking. Now, in an ever busier world, the postage stamp intensive gardening method continues to be invaluable for gardeners who wish to weed, water, and work a whole lot less yet produce so much more.

My review:

There is a lot of information in this book that can be found in other gardening books, especially in the first third of the book.  The garden plans are nice to look at and imagine the possibilities in relationship to my backyard area, but I wouldn’t say it was anything revolutionary.  Newcomb shares information with readers about seeds versus seedlings and heirloom versus hybrid seeds that anyone that has planted a garden before is probably already familiar with.

However, in the middle to latter part of the book, I did learn new techniques for increasing the yield of a smaller garden and most importantly, pest control.  I loved the diagrams for growing vertical melons and cucumbers.  I can’t wait to try some of Newcomb’s recipes for deterring pests, especially gophers!  But the best information for me was the crop stretching techniques she shared.  I was already familiar with the idea of reseeding immediately after one plant was done, but was always a little leery because I didn’t know what to plant.  Other gardening books encourage the practice, but warn against reseeding from the same family because it attracts pests that are drawn to certain families of vegetables.  Newcomb suggests specific crops that do well after particular plants in a very user-friendly way.

Newcomb also explains very easy ways to compost that are a little different from other gardening books that I’ve read.  I loved her barrel idea!  It makes composting easy for anyone.

Overall, this is a great book for anyone new to gardening, but I think that any gardener can glean some useful information from this book.  If you are looking to get the most bang for your garden space, check out The Postage Stamp Vegetable Garden.

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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If Jesus Had a Child by Dr. B. Glenn Wilkerson

Book description:

As a parent who wants to do the best job possible guiding your child through the social and emotional minefield that characterizes today’s world, do you struggle with the following issues? • How do I bully-proof my child? • Is it normal for my children to fight with one another? • How involved should I be in my child’s homework? • Why is my child “parent-deaf”? • What causes my child’s misbehavior, and what can I do about it? If Jesus Had a Child uses illustrations, story-telling, and humor to explore Jesus’ answers to questions that concern the minds and occupy the hearts of parents.

My review:

Every parent knows what a difficult job raising children can be.  We want the best for our children and we want to do the best by our children to raise them to be the best people they can be.  Sometimes, despite our best efforts, our children fight with their siblings or blatantly disobey.  Wilkerson offers a wonderful book to help parents navigate potential landmines and offers realistic advice on how to turn around behavior.

From the very beginning chapters of this book, Wilkerson gave me strategies that I could implement immediately to make my parenting skills better.  Sometimes parenting books spend so much time talking about problems that I find myself asking, “But what should I do to avoid the problems?” and they never offer any instruction on how to make changes.  This book offers tangible strategies (as well as a helpful chart) on what to do to be a better parent by modeling our parenting after the actions of Jesus.

At the end of the book, Wilkerson lists a short checklist of only six points that parents can do daily to be great parents.  It was so helpful that I copied it so that I can refer to it daily and remind myself of things I should do.

This is a great for parents of all stages, whether of toddlers, tweens, teens, or any age in between.  It would make a great gift for new parents or anyone struggling with the daily pressures of child-rearing.  It has my highest recommendation.

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

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Sabotaged by Dani Pettrey

Book description:

Growing up, goody-two-shoes Kirra Jacobs and troublemaker Reef McKenna were always at odds. Now, working together as search-and-rescue for Alaska’s arduous Iditarod race, a growing attraction seems to be forcing aside old arguments. Then Reef catches Kirra sneaking from camp in the middle of the night.

Kirra’s uncle, a musher in the race, has disappeared. Kirra and Reef quickly track the man, but what they discover is harrowing: Frank’s daughter has been kidnapped. Kirra and Reef, along with the entire McKenna family, are thrown into a race to stop a shadowy villain who is not only threatening a girl’s life–but appears willing to unleash one of the largest disasters Alaska has ever seen.

My review:

I was hooked by this book from the start.  I thought the setting of the Iditarod race was really interesting and I looked forward to learning a little bit about life in Alaska.  Kirra and Reef were interesting characters and I was pulled in to the story right off the bat.

There were several things I liked about the plot, too.  Pettrey did a great job alluding to Kirra’s secret without giving it away and then revealing it at just the right time.  Sometimes authors build up character secrets too much and I start to think, “I get it, they have a secret” and it becomes a distraction from the plot.  I also think the way it was revealed was excellently crafted.

However, despite all of the positives going for this book, at some point it fell flat for me.  I had to force myself to continue reading it for the purpose of reviewing it.  As I thought about why it lost my interest, I realized that I didn’t really have an emotional investment in Meg.  Obviously I wanted Kirra to find her cousin, but it was pretty low-stakes for me.

If you are a fan of mysteries, you will probably enjoy this book.  Obviously if you have read the other books in the series, you will want to read this final installment.  However, if you haven’t read the other books in the Alaskan Courage series, another one might be a better place to start.

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

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The Unveiled Wife by Jennifer Smith

Book description:

As a young bride, Jennifer Smith couldn’t wait to build her life with the man she adored. She dreamed of closeness, of being fully known and loved by her husband. But the first years of marriage were nothing like she’d imagined. Instead, they were marked by disappointment and pain. Trapped by fear and insecurity, and feeling totally alone, Jennifer cried out to God: What am I doing wrong? Why is this happening to us? It was as if a veil had descended between her and her husband, and between her and God—one that kept her from experiencing the fullness of love. How did Jennifer and her husband survive the painful times? What did they do when they were tempted to call it quits? How did God miraculously step in during the darkest hour to rescue and redeem them, tearing down the veil once and for all? The Unveiled Wife is a real-life love story; one couple’s refreshingly raw, transparent journey touching the deep places in a marriage that only God can reach. If you are feeling disappointment or even despair about your marriage, the heart-cry of this book is: You are not alone. Discover through Jennifer’s story how God can bring you through it all to a place of transformation.

My review:

This is one of those very powerful books that has the ability to change lives for the better.  Smith’s honesty and encouragement inspired me to take an honest look at my own failings and see where I can change.

I love the layout of this book!  Sometimes nonfiction books can be a little dry or readers can get so caught up in the story of the author that we don’t look at ways to apply their knowledge to our own lives.  However, Smith shares the story of her marriage in short, interesting chapters and then follows up with relevant questions at the end of the chapter to aid readers in looking at their own marriage relationship.

While reading the book, I kept flipping back to the cover and thinking to myself, “But she looks so happy now!”  It encouraged me to keep reading, even though it was difficult at times to imagine how the Smith’s marriage survived.  It is truly a testament to how diligently seeking God can heal a marriage.

I’ve read several books that have been the result of the author first starting a blog and then it morphing into a book.  A couple of them I have checked out the blog afterward and read some of the posts.  This is the first book where I checked out the blog with the intention of following the blog and reading it on a regular basis.

This is a really great book about marriage.  I haven’t enjoyed a book about deepening the marriage relationship so much since some of the Gary Chapman books.  I can’t give any higher compliment than that to Smith and her wonderful book.

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

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For the Right Reasons by Sean Lowe

Book description:

After The Bachelorette broke his heart, Sean Lowe suspected his “nice guy” image hurt him. The show never emphasized it, but Sean committed to living according to biblical standards of sexuality, even as producers emphasized the risqué and promiscuous. A Texas boy from a Baptist home, Sean tells the story of how he went from a Division I college football player to a fan favorite on reality television, taking readers behind the scenes of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette to see the challenges of living out his values and faith—and ultimately winning his true love’s heart.

For the Right Reasons is about the journeys we all have to take in the real world, where being “good” is the right thing to do but sometimes doesn’t seem to be enough; where betrayal is commonplace; and where that thing called perfection is actually just a cruel myth. Sean learned a few things from his two seasons on the hottest romance shows on television, and he wants others to benefit from those lessons: good does eventually win, lies will be discovered, and “nice guys” do ultimately finish first.

My review:

I didn’t really know what to expect from this book when I started reading it, but was interested in getting a “behind the scenes” look at the show.  I don’t watch the show every season, but did watch Lowe’s season.

I have mixed feelings about the book.  On one hand, the information about how the show works and the production staff was really interesting.  I had always wondered how the bachelor or bachelorette was able to keep all the names of the 25 people straight that they meet on the first night and now I know.  Lowe’s book also cleared up some other questions I had occasionally wondered about and even gave me additional information.  He even confirmed things that my husband and I had speculated about with the way the rose ceremonies are conducted.

However, there was a lot of information in the book that didn’t interest me all that much.  I didn’t need to know so much about Lowe’s growing up years and I thought the inclusion of the number of his school pictures growing up was a little self-indulgent.  It would have made the book so much more interesting for me to read about his life now with Catherine.

Overall, it was a decent book that I think fans of the show will really enjoy.  However, if you have never watched The Bachelor, or didn’t watch Lowe’s seasons on the show, there probably isn’t a lot of substance to hold your interest.

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 First Principle by Marissa Shrock

Book description:

In the not-too-distant future, the United Regions of America has formed. Governors hold territories instead of states, and while Washington, DC, is gone, the government has more control than ever before. For fifteen-year-old Vivica Wilkins, the daughter of a governor, this is life as usual. High school seems pretty much the same–until one day, that controlling power steps right through the door during study hall. When Vivica speaks out to defend her pregnant friend against the harsh treatment of Population Management Officer Marina Ward, she has no idea she’s sowing the seeds of a revolution in her own life. But it isn’t long before she discovers her own illegal pregnancy. Now she has to decide whether to get the mandatory abortion–or follow her heart, try to keep the baby, and possibly ruin her mother’s chances at becoming president. A rebel group called the Emancipation Warriors, who are fighting to restore freedoms once held unalienable, offer her asylum. Can Vivica trust these rebels to help her or will they bring everything crashing down around her? Accepting their help may come with consequences she isn’t ready to face. Marissa Shrock’s debut novel crafts a chilling story of what may be to come if we allow the economic and moral crises currently facing our country to change the foundations on which we built our independence–and of the difference one person can make when they choose to trust God’s lead.

My review:

When I started reading this book, I couldn’t believe it was Shrock’s first novel.  It is a really, really good book for a debut novel.  Usually when a book arrives in the mail to review, I thumb through it and then put it at the bottom of the stack so that I read them in order.  When this one arrived, once I thumbed through it, I read it straightaway!  I couldn’t put it down.

This book has it all – the characters are interesting, the plot is intriguing and fast-paced, and the message is meaningful.  Obviously Shrock knows her target audience very well and captures the essence of teen angst.  The best part of this book is the character development.  Each character develops and changes throughout the book, but in a way that is realistic and true to the integrity of the character.  Even some surprises that are revealed about a character are believable.

There really isn’t anything I didn’t like about this book.  I think it has an enormous amount of appeal to the target audience (young adults) and anyone else who enjoys this genre.  I hope Shrock publishes another book soon.  I can’t wait.

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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Clean Slate from the Editors of Martha Stewart Living

Book description:

It’s time to hit the reset button. This book emphasizes eating clean, whole, unprocessed foods as part of a primarily plant-based diet, with delicious and healthy recipes that make it easy to do just that. Refreshing juices and smoothies, savory snacks, protein-packed main dishes, and even delectable desserts will keep you satisfied all day long; among them are plenty of vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, and allergen-free options, each identified by helpful icons. Comprehensive, informative, and utterly satisfying, Clean Slate is the complete go-to guide for boosting your energy and feeling your best.

More than just a cookbook, Clean Slate, from the editors of Martha Stewart Living, provides you with the nutritionally sound information you need to shop for and prepare food that nourishes body and mind. You’ll find guidelines for restocking your pantry with whole grains, beans and legumes, lean proteins, and healthy fats; glossaries of the best sources of detoxifiers, antioxidants, and other health-boosting nutrients; and menus for a simple 3-day cleanse and a 21-day whole-body detox, with easy-to-follow tips and strategies for staying on track.

My review:

There are many things to like about this cookbook.  The pictures are beautiful and most recipes are paired with a picture, which doesn’t always happen in a cookbook.  I liked the way the book was organized into different sections, so it was easy to find the kind of recipe you were looking for, whether it is an energizing, rebooting, or relaxing one.

The best part for me was the beginning where there is information about a whole foods diet.  I thought the pages with lists of foods to incorporate into your diet were great and the swap this for that pages were really good, too.

Another huge plus was that each recipe had the nutritional information per serving, which is great if you are counting carbs or calories or tracking fiber intake.  Each recipe was also clearly marked as vegan, gluten-free, or nut-free as appropriate.  I think it would be easy for readers to use that are following those specific dietary restrictions.

However, I was disappointed with the recipes overall.  The green smoothie recipes were not anything new or different from others I have seen in similar cookbooks or online.  Other recipes that were new to me featured ingredients that I don’t have on-hand or that were not appealing to me at all.  I usually can find at least a few recipes that I either have all the ingredients to make or can easily substitute for.

I think this cookbook might be good for someone who really loves to cook and shop for specialty ingredients or has a really adventurous palate.  It just wasn’t for me.

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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Paper Hearts by Courtney Walsh

Book description:

Abigail Pressman would never have guessed that love notes penned on paper hearts by an anonymous couple could restore her belief in love. As a business owner in a quaint town at the base of the Rockies, she’s poured everything into dreams of expansion . . . and resisting the matchmaking efforts of the Valentine Volunteers, who gather in her store to continue Loves Park’s tradition of stamping mail with the city’s romantic postmark.

When Abigail is unwillingly drafted into the Volunteers, she encounters the paper hearts, a distraction that couldn’t come at a worse time. A hard-to-read doctor has become Abigail’s new landlord, and he’s threatening to end her lease to expand his practice.

As she fights a growing attraction to this handsome man crushing her dreams, Abigail is inspired to string the hearts in her store, sparking a citywide infatuation with the artsy trend. But when a new batch of hearts reaches the Volunteers, it appears something tragic has happened to the couple. Will uncovering their story confirm Abigail’s doubts about love, or could it rescue her dreams . . . and her heart?

My review:

I thought I would like this book a lot more than I actually did.  I had a really hard time connecting with the characters and the plot was fairly predictable.  It would have been nice to have a little bit more “meat” in the story.

One of the things I was most curious about in the story was Abigail’s father and why he left the family.  It was never revealed, which was disappointing.  It also seemed to me that Walsh included elements of conflict, trying to create tension in the book, without fully developing it.  Kate, Kelly, and Gwen’s mother all had interesting facets to their characters, but it was almost like they were introduced too quickly and resolved too quickly.

It isn’t often that I put a book down while in the midst of it and then have to force myself to pick it back up, but this one I never felt that compulsion to finish it to find out what was going to happen.  I just didn’t have that connection to the characters.

However, I do have to say that on a positive note, the idea of the paper hearts is awesome!  What a great idea to keep your focus on the good qualities of your partner in the midst of trials and disagreements that pop up throughout the year.  I had never heard of the idea of writing positive things down on paper and then presenting it to your spouse on Valentine’s Day.  It is a great idea on keeping the love and commitment alive year after year.

If you love light romances that you can read without thinking about too much, this might be a good choice.  Other readers might connect with the characters in ways that I did not and really love the book.  If you would like to check out a trailer for the book, please click on the link from the publisher below:

http://goo.gl/DsXlMq

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

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