Book Review: “Your Best Destiny” by Wintley Phipps with James Lund

978-1-4143-9030-7

Your Best Destiny is an inspiring book that encourages the reader to be the person that God intended them to be. Throughout the book are stories of unexpected circumstances behind famous people, stories from the author’s personal experiences, and stories from people who could be the neighbor next door that allow the reader to relate to what the author identifies as the eight essential pillars of our ethos. These pillars include belief, virtue, wisdom, self-control, perseverance, sacredness, kindness, and love. A separate chapter is dedicated to each of these pillars and is nicely organized. I really enjoyed the stories in that some were easily relatable to my life and others were glimpses into other’s lives that helped to illuminate how that particular pillar could help me live a life more like the one God would have me to live. More than the entertaining stories, I loved that the entire book was focused on God and Christian principles. The end of each chapter details the prerequisites and by-products of each pillar by defining and describing each piece in detail. The end of the chapter also includes thought-provoking questions. The book also provides an exclusive access code to the online personal assessment tool that accompanies the text.

I really enjoyed this book and its’ interesting and thought-provoking stories. It forced me to consider how I was doing in each area that the author discussed. The book is a good tool for anyone interested in improving themselves by trying to be the best person they can be, that is to be the person God wants them to be.

I received this book for free from Tyndale Momentum in exchange for an honest review. I was not obligated to write a positive review.

Book Review: “Doodletopia Cartoons” by Christopher Hart

9781607746911-2

I have to admit that I am a horrible artist. I sometimes even have hard time drawing stick figures! Thankfully, my children show more of their grandmother’s artistic abilities. So I got this book for them. You can imagine my surprise when I picked it up to try to draw one of the pictures. While it was far from perfect, it was really easy and fun to try to duplicate the artwork. The book is peppered with funny descriptions and helpful tips to keep you on course. The author uses several different ways to help the reader improve on their drawing skills, divided into the following chapters:

1. Warm Up – In this section, you replicate some basic figures by following duplicative pictures that progressively add more details.
2. Fill in the Silhouette – Mr. Hart draws the outline for you and you add the details.
3. Draw the Other Half – This uses half-drawn pictures to help you work on symmetry.
4. Select Different Expressions – Examples of different expressions are provided for you to duplicate changing the emotional feel of the character.
5. Choose and Design the Animals – This is interesting in that a basic form is drawn, and the finishing details show how that form can be made into different animals.
6. Dress Up Your Cartoons – This is similar to chapter five in that the basic figure can be completely transformed by drawing different clothes for them.
7. Finish the Funny Couples – This is useful because one of the couple is drawn for you, and you have to complete the other person to tell your story.
8. Write in Cartoon Calligraphy – This chapter teaches several styles of lettering that can be used not only in cartoons, but also in other areas such as scrapbooking.
9. Draw Ridiculous Inventions – This is probably the most creative chapter where you can create unusual contraptions.
10. Complete the Cartoons – As the ending of the book, you are encouraged to finish up a half-done cartoon scene your way.

I like that you can draw directly in the book. I also appreciate that the pages aren’t visually crowded. I think Mr. Hart did a wonderful job with this book. It would be a good resource for budding artists, young and old.

I received this book for free from BloggingforBooks.org’s Blogger Program in exchange for an honest review. I was not obligated to write a positive review. 

Book Review: “More for Girls Only! Devotions” by Carolyn Larsen and illustrated by Colonel Moutarde

978-1-4964-0196-0-2

I got this devotion book for my daughter. Since she is a new Christian, I was searching for an age-appropriate devotional that would be interesting, fun, and insightful. This definitely fits the bill. She loved it! It is girly in every way, even the text and pictures are pink! Each devotion contains the following: story based on Bible concepts, quiz with scoring interpretation, ideas on how to apply the story and related Bible verse to the girl’s life, and listing of related Bible verses and quotes from both religious and secular authors. My daughter’s favorites were the story and quiz. Oh, how girls seem to love quizzes! In this case, they are used as a tool to make the reader think a little deeper. Also, the quiz seems like a less threatening way to ask those questions. The devotions aren’t dated, which also offers flexibility. I think this would be a great addition to any girl’s library!

I received this book for free from Tyndale Publishers in exchange for an honest review. I was not obligated to write a positive review.

Running Update

So, it’s been a while since I gave you all an update on my running adventures. Our Run for God class is in it’s sixth week, and I’m beginning to love running. It’s amazing how quickly my body has adapted to it. I can remember gasping for air and my muscles crying out in pain that first night. I’d be remiss not to tell you that we were only running for 60 seconds at a time that night. As the weeks have ticked by, we have increased the running times in the run/walk ratios. Although I haven’t really lost any significant amount of weight (primarily due to poor food choices), I have noticed that I am becoming more fit.

For the most part, I have begrudgingly strapped on my running shoes and gotten it done because that’s what the app told me to do that day. To be honest, I only joined the Bible study at church for the actual study of the Bible and for the fellowship. The idea that we would be running was just a bonus since I needed to make a step towards better fitness.

My thoughts of running before this class were that running is only for fitness. I remember being confused on what God had to do with running anyway when I joined the class. However, those thoughts have changed over time. I’ve learned that running can not only be good for my physical body, but it can also be a time of spiritual strengthening. After running the first couple of times during the first week of the class, my knees were absolutely killing me. I felt so discouraged because I need to get healthy, but the thing I was doing to reach that goal was causing new pain. I then began to pray that God would help me with my knees. I’m thankful to report that I don’t have knee pain anymore. The absence of knee pain is only the beginning of positive effects I’m noticing such as better moods, self-image, and increased time with God.

On Saturday night, I was thinking of skipping the scheduled run because I was busy feeling sorry for myself because my child had become sick (forcing us to cancel a special date night with my husband). I guess that disappointment fueled my run. I ran the longest distance in the shortest time I’d had by far without feeling bad. A bonus was that it was literally as if my mood had been completely changed.

A question posed from a recent class was why I run. My answer used to be just to get in shape. That’s still part of it, but I’ve also learned that my runs can be a great time to talk with God. I’ve changed my secular playlist to some great Gospel music and find myself worshiping God while I run. I’ve been able to talk about the Run for God program with friends that don’t attend church. Also, our class leader said something a couple of weeks ago when asked that question. She said something to the effect that one of her reasons was because God had given her legs to run with. Oh, how I’m so guilty of taking things like that for granted and aren’t careful to be grateful for that privilege. I pray I can be more intentional on being more thankful. I’m excited to see the changes that are still to come through this Bible study!

Book Review: “Instant Happy Journal” by Karen Salmansohn

9781607748243

What a fun book! It is so colorful, and each page is unique. The pages are not dated which I love in case I don’t get a chance to write on a certain day. I don’t feel like I have to play catch-up. The book also has a lovely yellow ribbon to mark your place. I also just love the premise of the book: a journal to remind me each day to be grateful and happy in a very intentional way. The prompts cover everything from how I feel at a moment in time, to memories that make me smile, to dreams about my future. I also love that the prompt is something that can be done quickly, if necessary. Just even having a prompt each day helps me to be more faithful in writing my thoughts and feelings. Sometimes, the vastness of a blank page overwhelms me when I have just a few minutes to spare. The result is that I usually don’t bother with writing down my feelings. This really helps with that and keeps my thoughts centered on good things. The book encourages and inspires me to think positively. Sometimes I tend to focus on the negative and the things I think are going wrong. I believe if you can push through those negative feelings and concentrate on the good that surrounds you, it lifts your mood. Just as Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” I think it will be fun to review the journal when I’m done and maybe it’ll be an inspirational window into my thoughts for my kids years from now. I love this journal and plan to add several copies to my buying list for Christmas and birthday gifts!

I received this book for free from BloggingforBooks.org’s Blogger Program in exchange for an honest review. I was not obligated to write a positive review. 

Book Review: “She’s Almost a Teenager” by Peter and Heather Larson and David and Claudia Arp

9780764211362

She’s Almost A Teenager is an intriguing book that implores parents to be intentional and proactive in discussing the upcoming minefield of issues in their daughter’s teen years when they are tweens. The book is divided into chapters that covers many different areas: academics, faith, boys, money, tech, and friends. The book also includes some bonus material for projects that focuses on goal-setting and organization around adding responsibilities and rights as your child gets older. Peppered throughout the book are boxes called “Arp Adage” which help to focus the reader on tips and ideas on applying the book. Finally, each chapter ends with a list of questions to be used as conversation starters with your tween which summarize the chapter. I like that the questions are in one place for quick reference.

I enjoyed this book. I’ll point out that while it is written for the parents of a tween girl, some of the discussions and advice would do well for tween boys with some adaption. The authors used an excellent analogy for the teen years in which they compared it to be like belaying a rock climb. The parent needs to slowly let out more “rope” to allow the child to have new experiences, more responsibility, and rights. However, the parent should always be there to catch them if they start to fall. Even if a fall isn’t imminent, the parent can be there to give advice on what the next move should be. The book also does a good job of showing that the change from tween to teen isn’t something that simply occurs on the child’s thirteen birthday. Instead, this transition should be looked at as a period of ever-increasing incremental responsibility and maturity. I also like that the authors focus on making plans for all facets of the child’s life: spiritually, academically, relationally, physically, and financially. I highly recommend this book to the any parent of a tween girl.

I received this book for free from Bethany House in exchange for an honest review. I was not obligated to write a positive review.

Book Review: “5 in 5” by Michael Symon and Douglas Trattner

9780804186568

Michael Symon’s 5 in 5 For Every Season promises a lot. Given a well-stocked pantry, Symon provides recipes that only require five ingredients and can cooked very quickly, usually in around five minutes. In his book, gone are the complicated, tedious recipes that have ingredient lists a mile long that I have found to be the norm of celebrity chef cookbooks. Instead, he’s featured recipes for good food that is tasty, simple, and quick. The book is divided into seasonal recipes which will also be helpful in lowering the cost of the dish since a lot of grocery store specials can be found on items in abundance. I found it quite interesting how I was drawn to different seasons more than others since the recipes were grouped in this interesting way. The book has vibrant, uncomplicated pictures of most of the recipes. He gives an extensive example, in list form, of what a well-stocked pantry looks like. I was pleased to see that I had most of what he listed. You see, I love fresh, healthy food that doesn’t require tons of ingredients that I don’t already have on hand or will use more than once. The recipes have a good mix of foods for both simple and sophisticate palates. My only criticism of the book is that it does not provide nutritional facts for the recipes. Overall, I really liked this cookbook. I’m looking forward to trying more of these recipes.

I received this book for free from BloggingforBooks.org’s Blogger Program in exchange for an honest review. I was not obligated to write a positive review. 

Step Out of Your Comfort Zone

My personality is as such that I don’t gravitate to things that are new or uncertain. In such situations, I tend to be shy and wary. I’m proud to say that I’ve put myself into just such a situation over the past week and a half and have loved it!

Several weeks ago, I noticed in the church bulletin that they would be holding a women’s Bible study using the book Run for God by Mitchell Hollis. Joining the group intrigued me on several levels: it would be a great way to try to meet some of the ladies at the church we have been visiting, it would be a way to push me back into running/working out, and I was simply curious about what running and God had to do with each other. However, I tried to find a million excuses as to why I shouldn’t do it. First of all, I was scared to face a room full of unfamiliar faces. I worried that an old knee problem would make it impossible to participate. I thought of my son’s music lessons that were at the same time and how could I be in two places at once. There were so many excuses I could use.

At the gentle prodding of my supportive husband, who graciously agreed to go in early to work so he’d be home to take our son to music lessons, I agreed to try it. I emailed the study coordinator who gladly answered my questions. As I drove to the first meeting, I was nervous. I was relieved to have several ladies introduce themselves to meet and start chatting with me. I so excited to see the start of some great friendships blossoming.

I’m also enjoying the running days outside of the group meeting times. I’ve added a new playlist to my phone that has Christian music and really inspires me on those tough running sections. I also am enjoying spending time with my kids on my last two runs. They enjoy being outside and are continuing to develop a love of running. I haven’t put fitness as a priority in quite some time. That has affected not only my health, but also my ability to keep up with the kids. I’ve also been concerned that I’m not modeling the of attitudes towards exercise that may get passed along to them. I’m happy to say that although it will take a lot to change the family’s mindset, we’re on our way.

Of course, there are days when it’s hard and moments when my knees hurt, and I just don’t want to run. However, that is something that was discussed on our first night. Running can be paralleled with a journey of faith. Sometimes it’s hard to get started, sometimes we’re not as strong as we should be, and sometimes we lack to discipline to do what is needed. I thankful that I making a conscious effort to work on this, both in a physical and spiritual way. I pray that you too reach out to the unknown and make yourself better for the glory of God. Sometimes stepping out of your comfort zone is exactly what you need.

“But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.” – Acts 20:24

Book Review: “Drawing Fire” by Janice Cantore

978-1-4143-9668-2
I just finished reading Drawing Fire by Janice Cantore. It was a intriguing book full of suspenseful twists and turns. It follows the lives of homicide detective Abby Hart and private investigator Luke Murphy. Abby is haunted by the unsolved death of her parents and is consumed with bringing their killer to justice. Luke is also tortured by the death of a family member, his wife. The characters are well developed, and I often found myself feeling sorry for their circumstances while also being in awe of their determination to make a difference in the lives of others. The book also has a romantic angle where Abby feels torn between her missionary fiance and feelings for Luke. I’d recommend it to anyone looking for a clean suspense novel. The book left me wanting more, and thankfully I’ll get it. The second book in the Cold Case Justice series is scheduled to be available in the spring of 2016. I’ll be on the lookout for it.

I received this book for free from Tyndale Publishers in exchange for an honest review. I was not obligated to write a positive review.

Book Review: “Grill It, Braise It, Broil It” by the American Heart Association

9780307888099
I was drawn to this book in search of healthy recipes since I’m trying to learn to cook for my family in a more healthy way. There are over 175 recipes contained in the book, along with some basic information regarding healthy eating. The book is divided into twelve different techniques (slow cooking, microwaving, blending, grilling, stir-frying, braising, stewing, steaming, poaching, broiling, roasting, and baking). Each section lists the recipes, tips, and tricks associated with that specific cooking method. Being more familiar with some of these techniques than others, I’m looking forward to changing up my cooking methods more often with the help of this book. Each recipe contains a complete nutritional profile and some have really useful cook’s tips (such as how to freeze extra pesto). Another interesting section lists serving recommendations by calorie levels and even includes some sample sizes for specific foods. My only complaint is that there are almost no pictures. I’d love to see what the end result should look like. However, the book seems to be full of scrumptious ideas for healthy foods that are also appetizing.

I received this book for free from BloggingforBooks.org’s Blogger Program in exchange for an honest review. I was not obligated to write a positive review.