Thursday, February 26, 2015

Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman

This was my first introduction to Neil Gaiman’s stories.  The book is a collection of short stories that are a mixture of strange, edgy, frightening, absurd, and confusing.  My favorites were The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains, February Tale, and Black Dog.


I wondered as I was reading if some of the stories were the beginning of a novel that was then abandoned. The stories were all so different that I really would not know what to expect next and left me confused about the author.  While some of the stories were interesting, some just left me shaking my head.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Great Grammar Book by Marsha Sramek



The Great Grammar Book is an essential tool for students and writers.  The book begins with a one-hundred question diagnostic test to allow the reader to assess their strengths and weaknesses.  It is written in traditional text book style with brief explanations of the rules, followed by an exercise to put what is learned into practice. I thought the chapter on Successful Writing Strategies to be especially helpful.  My only criticism is with the way it is advertised as entertaining.   Some of the sentences given for editing were statements of trivial facts, but I did not read anything that added interest or entertainment value to the book.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Knitting Block by Block by Ncky Epstein

Afghans, scarves, sweaters, vests and more all made one block at a time. There are instructions for a variety of basic blocks using different stitch patterns, but then it goes one step beyond the basics. There are also instructions for a variety of embellishments, such as frames, bobbles, designs using i-cord, and even embroidery. Also included are fair-isle, embossed and other special stitches to offer a variety of ideas. The projects in the book are beautifully classic. They are neither old fashioned nor too modern. The instructions are clear and concise with both charts and written instructions. There very simple blocks for beginners, challenging blocks for advanced knitters, and more patterns for every skill level in-between. I was a little disappointed with the single page on “joinings”. Since this was a book to make things out of blocks, I expected more information on how to put the blocks together.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Die Again (Rizzoli & Isles) by Tess Gerritsen

This was my first book in the Rizzoli and Isle series. Although there were some back stories, this was very much a stand alone book. It was quite gory with detailed descriptions of blood and guts – literally – at the crime scenes.  I genuinely liked the characters. I have seen the TV show, but did not expect them to be the same in the book. Maura was the closest and I could picture her similar to the TV version. Either way the book stood on its own.

It was an interesting mystery with crimes in the US and in Africa. The author did a wonderful job creating the mental images of the safari and the conditions in the jungle.  The jumping back and forth in time and place was done very well and I did not find it confusing at all. Perhaps the change to first person narrative helped make the transition clear.


It was a little confusing at the end but it certainly kept me guessing. This is a well-written story with a good mystery and culminates to a satisfying conclusion.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Rich in Years by Johann Christoph Arnold

Rich in Years, Finding Peace and Purpose in a Long Life is another wonderful book from Plough Publishing. Getting older is not an easy process, and we often confront fear, disappointment, and physical and mental changes. The author uses life experiences and the experiences of others to offer advice and encouragement as we face some of these life changes. 

I would say this book is primarily for Christians, and although I didn’t agree with every doctrinal statement in this book, I appreciated the author’s outlook on later years and the ability to use our talents or even find new ones.  There was not doubt that his focus was on our spiritual service.

You may think this book is just for old people, but I would also encourage younger people to read it too.  You will gain great insight into the thoughts of your parents or grandparents, and just may learn something to do now to prepare for the day when you walk where they are.  For those of us having reached these years, it can be a source of great encouragement and provide lessons for pressing on to make the time we have left a life of service and devotion.


Friday, January 23, 2015

The Awakening by Friedrich Zuendel

The Awakening is a story from 1841 with an important message for 2015.  This is the true story of Johann Christoph Blumhardt’s encounter with Gottliebin Dittis, a young woman overcome by demonic activity.  I usually avoid books about this subject, but this book is different. It is a respectful retelling of Blumhardt’s own writings not to sensationalize, but to show the real struggle with spiritual warfare.

Blumhardt approached each situation by putting on the full armor of God. The book states that when things took a serious turn, he would pray with a friend.  “Together we searched through the Bible, determined not to go any further than Scripture led us.”  His approach, his faith, his humbleness, and his honesty about his feelings made such an impression on me.  

Not only did he encounter the spiritual fight, but also resistance from the local authorities.  In spite of all of the obstacles, he saw a true spiritual awakening in his parish.  While the book is about demonic activity, it is even more about the importance of repentance, confession, and reconciliation and peace that comes from Christ.

I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in spiritual warfare.

One Step Too Far by Tina Seskis

One Step Too Far is a story of a young woman who walks away from her family and begins a new life.  There are hints and clues along the way that point to the reason, but the whole story isn't revealed until the end.  We know she has faced a traumatic event, but before we find out what had happened, the story is interrupted by endless back-stories for each of the characters, including those who have little to do with the plot.

The story was just too scattered. I felt like I was reading a book where the chapters were placed randomly in the book.  The beginning was slow moving and really didn't pique my interest until about 2/3 through  The author tries to trick the reader several times by writing situations that appear to give you a clue as to what is happening only to find out that it was totally different. Instead of being clever, I found it confusing and a little irritating.

The big reveal near the end of the book, although dramatic, just left me cold.  I can’t really explain much without giving a spoiler, so I will just say in my opinion the “event” and Emily’s adventure did not go together.  In spite of all of the drama, I didn't
find anything compelling or likable about the man characters.


This is an English book, but very friendly to the American reader. A few words were different, but nothing confusing. 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Berenstain Bears and the Biggest Brag By Mike Berenstain

What a wonderful book, but then it IS The Berenstain Bears!  The soft cover book is beautifully
illustrated, and has a wonderful message to go with it.  Grandpa imparts some wise help for his bragging grandcubs when the bragging gets out of control.  He makes them realize how silly all of their bragging seems when they stop to think about it.

On the inside of the back page of the book is an Activities and Questions from Brother and Sister Bear page with some questions children would ask about bragging, the actions of the cubs, and the lesson Gramps was trying to teach.  Also, there are two Get Out and Do It activities that will reinforce the lesson learned with action.


My four year old granddaughter loves the story and the illustrations of each of their activities. I recommend it for non-readers and early readers.

I received a copy of this book as part of the BookLook program in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Blue Ribbon Baking from a Redneck Kitchen by Francine Bryson

You just can’t go wrong with a cookbook written by someone who has won 200 local and national baking competitions. Sweets definitely take center stage in this cookbook, and it is loaded with pies, cakes, cheesecakes cobblers, sweet breads, cookies, and candy. 

The cookbook starts with eight different pie crusts, not counting the three extra cookie crusts.  The one that really caught my eye was the Cinnamon Roll Crust may be the most interesting pie crust recipe I have ever seen, and easy too.  I can’t wait to try it with pumpkin pie.  I also want to try her Classic Easy Banana Pudding, but since it serves 12- 15, I am hoping I can cut it in half.

The cookbook itself is very well made with glossy paper that is easy to wipe clean.  It could use more photos, and it seemed a little disorganized to me.  There are the regular sections, pies, cookies, cheesecakes, candy & Truffles, and Biscuits & Breads. But then there was the chapter “Sunday Go-To-Meeting” containing cobblers and cakes, and “Baked Goods to Show Off” with more pies and cakes.  All in all, it is a keeper and a welcome addition to my cookbook shelf.


I received a copy if this book as part of the Blogging for Books program in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

If You Were Me and Lived in.. Peru by Carole P. Roman

If you would like to take your child on a cultural trip around the world, Carol Roman’s If You Were Me and Lived in….series is the perfect place to start.  This educational series describes the life, activities and people around the world.  If You Were Me and Lived in…Peru again introduces children to the local area, activities, and local culture.  The book answers questions that children would ask about names, foods, games, toys, school and holidays.   The print is large and easy to read and the illustrations are fun with bold colors and designs. There is a pronunciation guide in the back for unfamiliar words.

The books are ideal for pre-school and elementary school aged children. I also think they are ideal for Sunday Schools to cultivate an interest in missions around the world. 

Books in this series:

If you were me and lived in…Mexico
If you were me and lived in…South Korea
If you were me and lived in…France
If You Were Me and Lived in…Norway
If You Were Me and Lived in…Kenya
If You Were Me and Lived in…Turkey
If You Were Me and Lived in…India
If you were me and lived in…Australia
If you were me and lived in…Russia
If You Were Me and Lived in…Portugal
If You Were Me and Lived in…Greece
If You Were Me And Lived In…Peru

A copy of this book was provided free of charge in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

It Will Be Okay by Lysa TerKeurst

Things are changing, and Little Seed and Little Fox are having new experiences that frighten them.  It Will Be Okay is a beautiful story to teach children to trust God through trying times.  The book begins with 10 scripture verses to memorize.  The verses chosen are easily taken in shorter sections for younger children.

Little Seed is snug in his little packet in the farmer’s shed and when Little Fox seeks shelter there from a storm, he asks Little Seed to be his friend. The story makes the Farmer the kind and loving person looking after them even when they don’t know it.  This is repeated several times through the book.  That personalizes the trust relationship we have with God and makes that relationship so much easier for children to understand.  

It is a lighthearted story and I especially liked Little Fox’s adventure trying to find Little Seed and all the places searched. The illustrations by Natalia Moore are beautiful and playful. I highly recommend this book for young children, including non-readers who will delight in the characters.  I also recommend it as a gift, for Sunday School classes or for pre-school classes.  

 I received a copy of this book through the BookLook Blogger program in exchange for an honest review.


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The After House by Michael Phillip Cash

Remy and her daughter Olivia are starting over in a new home, but this home already has a resident – a ghostly one.  This is another great paranormal story by Michael Phillip Cash, A light romance is added to the paranormal aspect of the story. The story travels back in time so that we get the story of Eli the captain of a whaling ship, and forward to the present to meet Remy, a young mom making a new way in life for herself and her daughter. Remy’s matchmaking mother leads her to Hugh, the mayor the town. 

This one won’t scare your socks off, but it is a good read that held my interest.  As is customary in Mr. Cash’s books, you have characters that you can care about – including the ghosts. 



Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Evening Prayers for Every Day of the Year by Christoph Friedrich Blumhardt

This is a beautiful book of the evening prayers taken from the devotions of Christopher Friedrick Blumhardt (1842-1919).  These are dated daily passages for a full year. Each page has a bible verse, most often New International Version, followed by an evening prayer. 

I come from the teachings of a church that didn't like reading prayers, but just praying from the heart, so I did not really know what to expect from this book. I am so happy to have it for the coming year because reading these thoughtful and powerful prayers spark a burden in my heart to pray more often and more thoughtfully.  Although written many years ago, these are easy to read and understand, and not written with outdated terms or phrases. I very highly recommend this as a gift or for your own personal devotions.


I received a copy of Evening Prayers For Every day of the Year from Plough Publishing House in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Doggie Delicious by Mary Jo Wisneski Johnston


Doggie Delicious is a charming little book that would be a nice bedtime chapter book. It is a story about an adopted dog that grows wings, flies around the farm, and wants to help care for the animals.  Each animal plays an important role on the farm and each has its own talent.  The illustrations by Malinda Raines are bright and colorful. They add the perfect touch to the story.


With the title containing the word Doggie, I expected the book to be geared for a much younger child. The vocabulary is for much older children, and it includes words not usually used in general conversation, even by adults. It includes one word that I had never even seen before and had to look up.  Because of the subjects and vocabulary, I think it would be appropriate for children ages 8-13 years old.  

The author, however, missed a golden opportunity to encourage adopting a shelter pet.  Instead, Bibi was adopted from a breeder.

This book was provided to me in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, December 5, 2014

If You Were Me and Lived in Greece by Carole P. Roman

With her If You Were Me series, Carol P. Roman has provided children with a trip around the world, and the next stop is Greece.  The series introduces unique cultures around the world by answering the questions that children would ask. 

The tour of Greece begins with a sense of place and history. Next you are introduced to the common given names of Greece and what young children call their parents and grandparents.  Also explained are local foods, toys and games, holidays, and what you would visit if you were a tourist. 

 The story is accompanied by interesting and colorful illustrations. There is also a pronunciation guide at the back of the book. As an example, Koukla (kouk-la)-doll. This is another in a series of great reference books for children.
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