Archive for the ‘Book Reviews’ Category

For Christmas in 2013, Karen gave me a copy of Brene Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection. She had already read most of it and was sure I’d love it, and she was right! I’ve been reading it and incorporating it into my life ever since.


Brene Brown is a research professor and storyteller who studies vulnerability, courage, authenticity, worthiness, and shame. She’s written three #1 New York Times Bestsellers, her 2010 TEDx talk “The Power of Vulnerability” is one of the five most viewed Ted talks in the world. She inspires millions of readers like me through her websites, interviews, and public appearances. I post her quotes on Facebook a lot.

From The Gifts of Imperfection:

“People may call what happens at mid-life “a crisis,” but it’s not. It’s an unraveling – a time when you feel a desperate pull to live the life you want to live, not the one you’re supposed to live.”

As I’ve been working my way through the book for the second time, reading all of my underlined passages again, I am painfully aware of the places I’ve been digging deep, being brave, and making difficult choices that are making me a more wholehearted person. The word “No” isn’t as scary as it used to be, and I’ve increased the frequency of its use. Friends, it is SO much better than saying “yes” and being pissed off later because I knew I should have said no in the first place. I’m doing hard heart work, and the results are beautiful!

Some other lessons I’ve learned:

  • Our stories aren’t meant for everyone. Hearing them is a privilege and we should ask ourselves who has earned the right to hear them. (p. 47)
  • Incongruent living is exhausting. (p. 28)
  • Cultivating self-love and self-acceptance is not optional. (p. 28)
  • Practicing courage, compassion, and connection in our daily lives is how we cultivate worthiness. (p.7)
  • Courage is contagious. (p.54)
  • Here’s what is truly at the heart of wholeheartedness: Worthy now. Not if. Not when. We are worthy of love and belonging now. Right this minute. As is. (p.24)

I own the other two books and will read them soon. Check out Brene Brown. She’s one of my courage-boosters and currently on my list of Top Ten Most Inspiring People.

These people inspire me too:

Don at https://donhillson.wordpress.com/

Beckie at http://free2b2much.blogspot.com/

Tracy at https://countyroadchronicles.wordpress.com/


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I was excited to be given this book to review because of the valuable lesson of recycle-reuse-renew, something I’m already teaching my children who are 7, 9, and 12 years old. We read the book together, marveling at the soft, bright colors the artist chose. We especially liked that the brother and sister were working together to care for their environment. We all appreciated the tips for conservation, and agreed that it is our job to care for the world around us, but all of us struggled with some of the inconsistencies throughout the story.

While talking about chemicals polluting our water supply, there was a picture of the kids swimming in a pool which requires chemicals to keep it clean, and the scripture on that page references a stream in the mountains. It shows the children unplugging their Wii to conserve electricity, and then depicts them watching a TV as old as I am, with dials to change the channel – not Wii compatible or as energy-efficient as newer models. We live in a big city with lots of bright lights, yet the book looks at that as a bad thing (listed along with poisonous smog) because we can’t see the moon and stars, and where we live in Colorado, it is illegal to collect rainwater for your garden, so we talked about other ways we could conserve that are relevant to us.

My oldest son questioned why the author used scriptures that have nothing to do with caring for the planet. Good question. This book is clearly written for Christians and I’m all for using scripture when teaching, but I was as puzzled as my son.

I give this book 2 out of 5 stars.

I feel as if I’m starting off on the wrong foot with this as my first book review for Book Divas. I rarely give negative reviews, but as a reviewer and a believer, you’ll always get my honest opinion.

Over all, my children liked the book and it was a good discussion starter. While I appreciated the author’s heart for teaching children valuable lessons about caring for creation, I would not intentionally choose this book as that tool. I will say that this is the first book I’ve read by Christy Baldwin, and I would give her other books a chance.

About Christy Baldwin:
Writing has been a passion of Christy’s since she was very young. As a child, she loved to write stories for her grandfather and poems just for fun. She lives in Mason, Ohio with her family and is active in church, Boy Scouts, Girls Scouts and volunteering with various organizations. Christy has a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from Cedarville University and a master’s degree in Special Education from the University of Scranton. She is a stay at home mom who enjoys spending time with her kids and being involved in their schools. Her previous children’s titles include Nine Things Nathan Noticed at Night and Remembering Wilma.

Book web site:

Christy Baldwin Facebook:

Tribute Books website:

Tribute Books Facebook:

Tribute Books Twitter:

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I’ve been on a dystopian fiction kick for a few months now and I’ve decided to track down the books that will be made into movies in the next few years. I like to be ahead of the game, which is a great segue into writing about The Hunger Games Trilogy, my current favorite in the genre, but that will have to wait a few more days. This past week I read 2 novels by Lauren Oliver, both have been picked up by studios already.

What if you only had one day to live? What would you do? Who would you kiss? And how far would you go to save your own life?

Samantha Kingston has it all: the world’s most crush-worthy boyfriend, three amazing best friends, and first pick of everything at Thomas Jefferson High—from the best table in the cafeteria to the choicest parking spot. Friday, February 12, should be just another day in her charmed life. Instead, it turns out to be her last. Then she gets a second chance. Seven chances, in fact. Reliving her last day during one miraculous week, she will untangle the mystery surrounding her death—and discover the true value of everything she is in danger of losing.

Before scientists found the cure, people thought love was a good thing. They didn’t understand that once love–the deliria–blooms in your blood, there is no escaping its hold. Things are different now. Scientists are able to eradicate love, and the government demands that all citizens receive the cure upon turning eighteen. Lena Haloway has always looked forward to the day when she’ll be cured. A life without love is a life without pain: safe, measured, predictable, and happy. But with ninety-five days left until her treatment, Lena does the unthinkable: she falls in love.

Delirium was much better than Before I Fall. I think it was because I get tired of bitchy high school girls. One can only take so many “mean girls” scenarios. I kind of like Lauren’s style, I’m just hoping she doesn’t become the Nicholas Sparks of dystopian fiction. I hate that someone always has to die, especially someone you’re rooting for.

I like the questions that dystopian books ask, and pondering how things might be in the future. I like “the system” being challenged and abuses being exposed. Some of my favorites in the genre are: Farenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, The Children of Men by P.D. James, and Jeanne DuPrau’s The City of Ember series, which is geared for middle readers. LOVED IT!

Next up for me is Divergent by Veronica Roth, and Uglies (a series) by Scott Westerfield. Also due out in November is Ally Condie’s Crossed, a sequel to her book Matched, which I also enjoyed.

Other than reminding me I’m not 13 anymore, care to share your opinions on this genre? 🙂

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small headshotJoy. It’s all about J-O-Y with her. I’m talking about my friend Kim Woodhouse. I’ve blogged about meeting her at a writer’s group, asked for prayers on her family’s behalf, celebrated with them when they were chosen by the Extreme Makeover: Home Edition show, and shared pictures from the “reveal day.” For months, I talked about this amazing family to anyone who would listen, and now I have the honor of telling the world (along with several other bloggers) about her new book!

My anticipation of this book release was great, and I was not disappointed. I was thrilled to read Welcome Home! and learn more than I ever knew about Kim, Jeremy, Josh and Kayla. I cried, laughed, and cried some more. I continue to be impressed with Jeremy’s patience and strength, Kim’s perseverance and joy, Josh’s tender and loyal heart, and Kayla’s sweet spirit and hope. 🙂 I am thankful for the thousands of people who have touched their lives, walked through many trials with them, and encouraged them to never give up.

Kim's Book cover

From the back cover:

Overwhelming trials . . . met with overcoming joy.

Kayla Woodhouse is not your typical twelve-year-old. Due to a rare medical disorder, she feels no pain, doesn’t sweat, and needs protective cooling gear just to go outside. With her restrictive lifestyle; countless hospitalizations, including brain surgery; and the resulting mountain of hospital bills, what’s a family to do?

How the Woodhouse family has faced seemingly impossible challenges is a story that has captured the hearts of America. Millions of people have experienced glimpses of their lives on Discovery’s Mystery ER, The Montel Williams Show, and Extreme Makeover: Home Edition (recently voted one of the show’s all-time best episodes!).

Now Kayla’s mom, Kimberley, takes readers behind the cameras to reveal their family’s journey as never before told. From medical sleuthing to cross-country moves, from freak fires to battles with insurance companies, Welcome Home proves that truth really is stranger than fiction. This candid life story reveals both success and failure and demonstrates how, even during tough circumstances, to shift your life from heartbreak to extreme joy.

Peek inside the Woodhouse family’s life (and their famous house) with a 16-page photo insert.

I’m going to give you the opportunity to do just that! For a chance to win a signed copy of Welcome Home!, leave a comment at the end of this post. On Monday morning, September 21st, I’ll draw a name using random.org.

This book was the reminder I needed to “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish it’s work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-4). Kim lives by this verse, clings to it, and rejoices in it, and her story is a wonderful example of faith for the rest of us!

kimberleywoodhouse.com has it all! Learn more about the Woodhouse family, check out Kim’s other projects, sign up for her monthly newsletter, invite her to speak, shop her store, leave a note of encouragement, and more!

*Don’t forget to leave a comment here for a chance to win Welcome Home!*

It’s available for purchase from Focus on the Family, Barnes and Noble, Borders, Parable Books, and Amazon.

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I’ve been a long time fan and supporter of XXXChurch.com and it’s co-founders, Mike Foster and Craig Gross. Two years ago I read what has become one of my favorite books, The Gutter written by Craig. I was so deeply moved by the amazing job he did communicating the heart of what it looks like to love people right where they are, I made the book suggested reading for everyone participating in our summer program this year. I told all my friends about it, and bought extra books to give away. So when I heard Craig had a new project coming out this year, I was ecstatic and signed up to promote it. I am SO glad I did.

Jesus Loves You…This I Know

Craig and his friend and co-author Jason Harper, outdid themselves with Jesus Loves You…This I Know. The message they offer is one of the most misunderstood and often rejected phrases of our time. To believers, “Jesus loves you” has become a cliche. To those who don’t yet know Jesus, it’s offensive and unbelievable, after all, some of the people who claim to represent Jesus are sending a different message- a message that does not communicate love, but judgment and condemnation. Through their book, Craig and Jason share their desire to live a life compelled by love and share their passion to tell everyone that they are loved no matter who they are, what they’ve done, or what they do.

It is essential to show people that they can belong in your world even if they don’t act, think, behave, or believe like you do.

I was glad they wrote about the process of belonging before believing or behaving differently. The idea didn’t start with them, but with Jesus when he loved those whom people hated. He dined with tax collectors, accepted water from adulterous women, and met privately with a Pharisee who had questions. His encounter with people changed them and they behaved differently after they knew the belonging He offered them. What a beautiful picture of God’s grace and mercy.

The world divides. Jesus Unites.

Jason’s story “Water for the Thirsty,” had me simultaneously weeping and cheering “YES!” while Craig’s story about Jesus loving the religious – those who judge (and who happen to be those I tend to judge) hit me where it hurts. I wept some more, this time with a repentant heart.  Craig and Jason aren’t your typical Pastors, and their book is filled with stories of how their calling has brought them into community with unlikely friends and earned them hate mail from others.

Why should you read this book? Because it will challenge, inspire, and change you. Visit jesuslovesyou.net to download a pdf sample or audio sample, read what others think of the book, watch films, share your story, purchase the book, and more. Buy a copy for your brother or your best friend, then tell others about it and do your best to live the message. Find Craig and Jason on Facebook and Twitter. You can never have too many friends. 🙂

Other Books by Craig:

The Gutter: Where Life is Meant to be Lived

Questions You Can’t Ask Your Mama About Sex…

The Dirty Little Secret: Uncovering the Truth…

Starving Jesus: Off the Pew, into the World

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Just this morning I hid in the bathroom so I could finish reading Tricia Goyer’s new book, Blue Like Play Dough. I had forgotten about my commitment to be a part of her blog tour, and though I was excited to receive her book in the mail, I thought it would have to wait until August after our summer groups ended. Then I got the email telling me my review was scheduled for July 30th. What? I’m in the middle of our busy summer schedule and barely have time to breathe let alone read and review a book!


My desire to be a woman of my word won out and I began reading. By the end of the first page, Tricia’s conversational style had drawn me in. After the 50 or so parenting books I’ve read, I wasn’t expecting any new information, or to have the condition of my heart challenged.  I thought I would have to rush through the book looking for highlights I could share to encourage you to read it as well. I was unprepared for all that God would speak to me through Tricia’s words – busy or not.

In Chapter One, Tricia writes:

“He loves me just as I am. He knows my to-do list and that I’ll never get to the end of it. Ever. God sees my heart… My flaws neither surprise Him nor dissuade him from entering my life. It’s not as if God says, `I was going to visit you today, but I think I’ll wait until you balance that checkbook, clean out your fridge, and start the Bible study you’ve been meaning to get around to.’ God’s not like that…”

She wrote these words months ago, but God knew I’d need to read them now. That’s where I’m living this summer, in a place of thankfulness that God comes to me IN my mess. I’m an organized mess which puts me in the category of being a walking, breathing oxymoron.

Throughout her book, Tricia speaks of the ways God has molded and shaped her through the trials of being a teen mom, having 3 generations living under one roof, and the realization that THIS is life, it’s not something that happens after…(you fill in the blank.) I felt the check in my spirit as she spoke of that inner nudging moms get when they know something is wrong or when they feel convicted of God’s leading in certain situations. But the real zinger came when I read these words:

“Lord, what’s up? Why do I feel so heavy hearted?  I paused as my whispered prayers caught in my throat. Deep down I knew what was wrong. ..I’d been lazy about my spiritual health. I’d made time for ME. I’d even found time to write about God, but I hadn’t made time for God.“

Ouch. She nailed me, and the explanation for my weariness crystallized in my heart. I knew she was right. I updated my Facebook to say Tricia was kicking my butt, and my friend Margie responded with “Tricia? Or God?” Ouch. Nailed again.

I like the play dough analogy. It fits. God squeezes me in unexpected ways as he forms me into the woman I’m meant to be. I have my own shape, and like the mood ring I treasured in junior high, my colors change with the amount of heat I’m feeling. I’ve been blue a lot over the past year. Today I’m green – peaceful, knowing I’m right where I’m supposed to be, and addressing the things in my life that the Holy Spirit has shown me.  This book played a part in my shaping as God used Tricia’s life to remind me that I need Him just as much as she does – as we all do – and that He wants me too.

Why should you read this book? Because it’s one part “we’re all in this together”, one part kick in the big girl pants, one part encouragement, and one part words of life. It was worth every minute spent reading during this busy season I’m in. Thank you Tricia!

Check out her website at http://www.triciagoyer.com

Be a part of the Get One-Give One Campaign! For details click here:


To read other reviews on Tricia’s blog tour, click here:


To read an excerpt from Blue Like Play Dough, click here:


To purchase the book, click here: http://triciagoyer.com/store.html

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“Something both terrible and wonderful has happened. I can’t explain now…” -Becca

After receiving news of her sister Becca’s abrupt disappearance, Claire Trowling must piece together the shadowy remnants of a past she’s long forgotten in order to find her. A cryptic note scrawled in Becca’s handwriting leaves more questions than it answers. When a stack of mysterious letters bound by a rare necklace is found, Claire races to discover the secrets that hold her family captive. Suspenseful and full of intrigue, Skizzer takes you on a transcontinental hunt for answers, weaving seamlessly between the distant past of childhood and the urgency of the present.

This was the first of my “summer of fiction” reads. While most of my blog tour books have focused on Chick-lit and Mom-lit, this one took me down the path of mystery and intrigue. A. J. Kiesling’s debut novel kept me turning pages as the story of two sisters and the secrets of their family’s past unfolded with heart breaking questions and discoveries mixed with hope in new beginnings, and the stirrings of reawakened love.

I was swept up into the adventures of the young Claire and Becca, imagining myself sitting on the lush grass of the beautiful English garden where they had visited as girls. I could see myself kicking up dust as I walked the dirt road to the old church on the grounds of the rectory. My heart beat faster while exploring the thick woods behind the house and meeting the old woman there. I smiled with appreciation at the awkward moments of young love and laughed at Becca’s dramatic and bold approach to life. I ached for Rainey (Becca’s husband) and his desperation to find her when she disappeared, and loved the friendship bond that Claire and Rainey shared as they worked together to track down the most beloved person in their lives. I cried at the revealing of Becca’s reason for disappearing and I thanked God for…wait…I’m not going to tell you. You’re going to have to read it for yourself. 🙂

I love a book that draws me into the story as if I’m a silent, invisible observer going through the events and emotions as they unfold right in front of me. A.J.’s characters are endearing while her descriptions of the landscape and settings of her tale made my heart long to remember my own childhood stomping grounds as well as the wish to visit someplace new and foreign to me – England’s tranquil countryside.

Skizzer was an adventurous, sweet, sometimes sad, and redeeming story and I’d love to give you the opportunity to win a copy of the book. Leave me a comment at the end of this post and I’ll put your name in the hat. This contest will be a bit shorter than usual because I leave for Camp Zenith on Saturday. I will announce the winner on Friday, June 13th along with the winner of Megan’s CD (It’s not too late to enter that contest – click here)

There is an additional contest being held at the tour host’s blog to win a $40.00 gift certificate to the restaurant of your choice. Just visit Amy’s blog and leave her a comment answering this question:

What’s the most important thing you’ve ever lost and then found?

A.J. Kiesling will select the winning response based on originality and sizzle! Good Luck to you all! Amy also listed the schedule for the blog tour if you’re interested in reading what some of the other bloggers have to say about this book, which is available for purchase HERE.

A.J. (Angie) has worked in the Christian publishing industry since 1985 as an author and editor. She is the author of numerous books, including Skizzer (a novel, Revell), Where Have All the Good Men Gone? (Harvest House), Jaded: Hope for Believers Who Have Given Up on Church but Not on God (Revell), and Soul Deep: Prayers and Promises for Cultivating Inner Beauty (Barbour). She also ghostwrote Live Like a Jesus Freak (Albury), the popular follow-up to D.C. Talk’s bestseller Jesus Freaks.

Learn more about A.J. Kiesling and her other books on her website.

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