Posted in Book Reviews

GIVEAWAY and CD Review: Glory Song by Matt Redman

60About the album:

Matt Redman teamed up with several of his worship-artist friends for this album, first releasing the track “Gracefully Broken (feat. Tasha Cobbs Leonard).” Tasha Cobbs Leonard also released her own version of this song on the same day! The album also features Kierra Sheard, Guvna B, Madison Cunningham, and Kim Walker-Smith.

What I Loved: My first impression of the sound or mood of the album was that it was upbeat and smooth. It doesn’t have a rockish sound or a soft lullaby sound. It’s just right smack in the middle. I find it to be consistent with the Matt Redman sound we’ve heard up till now. I think it’s a great addition to praise and worship music. The lyrics are God-focused and God-honoring. Gracefully Broken was a quick hit with me. Another favorite is One Day (When We All Get to Heaven) because I love the blend of something new with a classic hymn and they had done an excellent job with this track. Place of Praise is another favorite of mine. It’s simply beautiful and helps me to focus on the basics of my relationship with Christ.

Rating and Recommendation: I’m giving it 5 stars and recommending it to those who enjoy Christian Contemporary or Praise and Worship music.

~I was given a sample from FlyBy Promotions. I was not compensated for this review. All thoughts are my own.

Enjoy this sample song from the album titled, Gracefully Broken: 

Pick up your copy right here!

You can also try your hand at winning a copy! Follow the link right here to enter to win!

 “Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255:  “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”):  Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway.  Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation.  I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post. Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway.  If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller /FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days on the same blog, you are not eligible to win.  Or if you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again.  Winner is subject to eligibility verification.

Discussion Questions:
What is your favorite Matt Redman song?
What is your favorite line from Gracefully Broken?

And for your pleasure, we have two more videos for you. One is the full song with the lyrics and the other is the story behind the song. Enjoy!

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Posted in Book Reviews

Baby Book Review: God Made the World

168Charming illustrations help infants and toddlers discover God’s natural world, from dolphins to foxes to kittens! This squishy fabric book features crinkle cloth for sensory development and hours of baby fun. God Made the World also includes a child-safety mirror so baby can see herself and know she’s a part of God’s design. 

For parents, a Velcro closure keeps the book shut, and a hanging tab can attach the book to a stroller, purse, or toy so it can go wherever they do. It comes packaged in a bag to keep it clean and includes a header card for easy hanging display. 

 

What I Loved: It is cute, colorful, and just right for little ones. It’s soft and would make a great first book. There is a crinkly page to help entertain and a mirror on the last page so baby can see himself. I really appreciate the loop on the top which allows you to attach it to a stroller or car seat. The message inside is short, sweet, and timeless.

Rating and Recommendation: I’m giving God Made the World 5 stars and recommend it for the littlest ones in your life!

~ I was given a copy from Kregel. I was not compensated for my review. All thoughts are my own. 

Posted in Book Reviews

Audio Book Review: Within the Veil by Brandy Vallance

170They never should have met. But they might be made for each other.

Feya Broon, a Scottish half Gypsy, knows what it is to go hungry. Trapped in the Edinburgh tenements with a father lost to his past and only the faded memory of her mother’s faith, Feya is desperate to provide for her siblings. When an ill-conceived plan leads to thievery, she finds herself in the last place she’d ever want to be–captured by a palace guard. But there’s something about this man that tears at every preconceived notion she’s even had about the haughty English.

Alasdair Cairncross never dreamed he’d be forced to transport a Gypsy woman halfway across the wilds of Scotland. The timing is disastrous, considering his fiancée’s imminent arrival and his father’s political goals. Not only that, but the fiery young woman threatens to lay bare secrets Alasdair would rather keep hidden. And yet the farther they travel together, the less concerned he finds himself with duty–both to the crown and to the plans his family has for him.

As their walls begin to crumble, Feya and Alasdair must fight to survive a decades-old feud, a Highland kidnapping, and the awakening of their own hearts.

My Thoughts on the Story: I was hooked from the moment it started. This one felt so outside of the box in terms of standard Christian Fiction. And I mean that as a great compliment! I loved it!! The characters were properly developed, even down to the villain. The setting was rich and easy to envision. Vallance stepped out and gave her hero a unique ability or disability, depending on your viewpoint. This helped to set him, and the entire novel, further apart from the norm.
The one thing I would caution is that while Vallance didn’t go too far in terms of passion for a Christian Fiction novel, she went plenty far enough. Within the Veil would be more appropriate for a mature audience.

My Thoughts on the Audio Version: Everyone’s idea of an enjoyable reading voice will be different but this narrator was among my favorites. I liked her overall speaking voice and appreciated how she was able to slip into thicker Scottish accents when needed.
However, it takes a little time to adjust to her speech and be able to follow the story. I had to find some quiet time when I could focus on the story more than anything else.
One thing I would have liked to have seen differently is a longer pause when switching between view points.

Rating and Recommendation: I’m giving Within the Veil 5 stars and recommend it to those who enjoy Christian Historical Fiction, a clean Gypsy story, or a Scottish setting.

~ I received a copy from the author. All thoughts are my own. I was not compensated for this review.

And if you don’t listen to audio books, fear not! Within the Veil is available in paperback and e-book form! Enjoy!

*Note for those following the blog: I accidentally released this review before it was finished. My apologies!!

Posted in Book Reviews

Bible Review: NKJV Cultural Background Study Bible

163CONTEXT CHANGES EVERYTHING

You’ve heard many Bible stories hundreds of times, but how many behind-the-scenes details are you missing? Sometimes a little context is all you need to discover the rich meaning behind the stories of Scripture.

That’s what the NKJV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible provides. Every page is packed with expert insight into the customs, culture, and literature of Bible times. These fascinating explanations will serve to clarify your study of the Scriptures, reinforcing your confidence and bringing difficult passages of Scripture into sharp focus.

Discover new dimensions of insight to even the most familiar Bible passages as you take a behind-the-scenes tour into the ancient world.

The Bible was originally written to an ancient people removed from us by thousands of years and thousands of miles. The Scriptures include subtle culturally based nuances, undertones, and references to ancient events, literature and customs that were intuitively understood by those who first heard the Scriptures read. For us to hear the Scriptures as they did, we need a window into their world.

The NKJV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible, with notes from Dr. John H. Walton (Wheaton College) in the Old Testament and Dr. Craig S. Keener (Asbury Theological Seminary) in the New Testament, brings to life the ancient world of Scripture for modern readers. 

Features:

  • The full text of the NKJV
  • Targeted book introductions explain the context in which each book of the Bible was written
  • Insightful and informative verse-by-verse study notes reveal new dimensions of insight to even the most familiar passages
  • Key Old Testament (Hebrew) and New Testament terms are explained and expanded upon in two helpful reference features
  • Over 300 in-depth articles on key contextual topics
  • 375 full-color photos, illustrations, and images from around the world
  • Dozens of charts, maps, and diagrams in vivid color
  • Words of Jesus in red

Additional study Bible tools: cross references, a concordance, indexes and other helps

Basics: As mentioned in their description, this is a fully loaded study Bible. The colored pages and illustrations were a treat. However I found the pages grainy, and as odd as it sounds, that really bugged me.

My Thoughts: I have mixed feelings about this study Bible. While there are certainly lots of helpful information here, I also found areas that I felt were needless or unbalanced. I understand the purpose in studying the cultural backdrop is to understand more about the setting in which the Bible was written. Some of the areas I read over seemed to focus more, and needlessly so, on pagan gods to the point where I began to feel like this study Bible loses sight of the fact that God is doing something different.
In my honest opinion, I feel like this study Bible can be a helpful tool for those who are coming for a specific reason, for pastors, and even Biblical fiction authors. There really is a LOT of information here that will help you fill in the cultural setting. But I also feel that there is too much information into things that we don’t need to know. I think for most Bible students, there are better commentaries out there that will teach you enough of the cultural backdrop to understand what God meant when He said something that this particular Bible could be either harmful or just unnecessary.
Here’s an example: (Commentary note associated with Exodus 13:21 “The Lord went…in a pillar of cloud.”) And I quote, “There are similarities between the poetic language and specific imagery given here and a vanguard motif in various ancient Near Eastern texts. In the Assyrian Tukulti-Ninurta Epic, Assur leads the vanguard with devouring flame. The gods Enlil and Adad . . .” And they continue in this manner for 3 whole paragraphs, listing a total of 9 pagan gods and how they were associated with light or how they led their people before finally closing with, “This powerful imagery assured the Israelites of God’s guidance and presence, as it also served to exalt Yahweh.” My complaint here, as with several other passages that I had read, was that they spent more time discussing what the pagans believed about their gods (recap, gods that are not even real and couldn’t have possibly done these things) than they discussed what the ONE TRUE GOD was ACTUALLY doing here in this text.
And again, I read their commentary on Joseph’s dreams. But the authors went further than simply explaining the significance of dreams in that day by giving a full explanation of a story about a pagan king and the dream his false god gave him. Again, and again, I keep coming to the conclusion that while cultral study is a commendable thing, I think the authors of this particular study have the wrong focus.

Rating and Recommendation: I’m giving it 2 stars and advising you to proceed with caution. I don’t believe this is all bad, but I don’t believe it’s all good, either. I don’t recommend it for all Christians equally.

~I received a copy from Book Look Bloggers. I was not compensated for this review. All thoughts are my own.

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: Christy by Catherine Marshall

164In the year 1912, nineteen-year-old Christy Huddleston leaves home to teach school in the Smoky Mountains — and comes to know and love the resilient people of the region, with their fierce pride, their dark superstitions, their terrible poverty, and their yearning for beauty and truth. But her faith will be severely challenged by trial and tragedy, by the needs and unique strengths of two remarkable young men, and by a heart torn between true love and unwavering devotion.

Having been written in the 1960s and inspired by the author’s mother, Christy is thought to be classic. Leastwise, it feels that way. I want to share a beloved favorite with you. I feel like it’s a forgotten gem. I fell in love with Christy when I was a young girl and Kellie Martin was on tv. I held a copy of the novel on my shelf for YEARS and have just now read it. I also had the pleasure of listening to the bulk of the story in audio. So today, I’m bringing to you my honest opinion of the book, the tv series, and the audio version.

What I Loved: I remember watching the show and falling in love with the story. Reading the book was just as enchanting! The setting is so rich. The accents, the visuals. The harsh realities of the setting. Marshall had done an excellent job pulling the reader in and planting them in the Appalachian mountains.
I enjoyed watching Christy grow and rise up to the challenges around her. More than once, she sat down to seriously question God and her immature faith. I found it refreshing and was pleasantly surprised by how deep she went. These were factors that the show didn’t cover to such a degree.

What I Didn’t Like: There were times when the characters’ theology would feel so far south that I wondered if Marshall would ever bring them back to truth again. I was relieved when she did come through and balance out the false religion with Biblical truth.
However, there was a scene where the character seems to be in between life and death. I know a lot of Christian media focus on such things these days. I’m not going to argue in a review. My aim is only to point out something that I didn’t agree with for those who might be turned off by it. I wasn’t quite on board with this section of the story, but in light of the greater truths she brought to pass, I feel that I can overlook the small factor we disagreed on in the end. At the end of the day, this wasn’t the focal point of the story, so I felt it was easier to brush aside. But each reader will have to judge for themselves.

Warning:  Catherine Marshall doesn’t write in an overly graphic way. However, she does remark on some tough realities. This book would be best for a more mature and less sensitive audience. As a sensitive reader, I was able to stomach it. I think what made this easier to handle was that the squeamish areas weren’t focal points of the entire story, so they weren’t dwelt on for very long. But reader be warned, there were some shocking and disheartening moments. If you need more details, feel free to email me!

Rating and Recommendation: I’m giving Christy 4.5 stars are recommending it to mature readers who enjoy Christian Historical Fiction or for those looking for a newer classic.

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Audio Review: Having loved the tv show and Kellie Martin since I was a child, I enjoyed listening to the audio book read by Kellie Martin. There was something special about being able to hear the accents of the characters as well as hearing the story told from the actress herself. It’s one that I plan to add to my collection.
*Note there are more than one audio version available, so be sure to double check on the narrator before buying if you’re looking for this particular version.

 

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Tv Series Review: For those who have watched this when it was on tv, I don’t have to convince you. But for the rest of you: If you’re a fan of When Calls the Heart, then you’ll enjoy this series. Featuring a young teacher way out of her element, Christy is a  must watch! The setting is drastically different so it’s not a “copycat” series to When Calls the Heart. And if we were to talk copycats, Christy is older. 😉
Sadly, the show was only on for one season. This is a major upset for all fans. If you’re considering giving this series a try, at least you can walk in with your eyes open. They did come back to bring an ending to things with a Return to Cutter Gap mini series…or maybe it was a movie. I’m not too sure. Kellie Martin and at least one of the other main actors didn’t return for it. I’m sure it’s still a satisfying ending, but I’ll be honest and say that I haven’t watched it yet. Even with the hiccup of not finishing with some of the same actors, I would still highly recommend this to anyone looking for period drama, family drama, or Christian drama.
I’ve found reasonably priced copies of Christy on all the Chrisitan media sites in the past.
And if you’re concerned about the warning I left on the novel, rest assured that the tv show doesn’t take things quite so far but keeps it family safe for as much as I can remember. I don’t recall any foul language or intimate scenes or inappropriately dressed actresses. Because of the reality of the setting, you will see things such as moonshine, but it’s always held in a proper light and the consequences of it are clear.

 

 

 

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: The Super Heroes Devotional by Ed Strauss

113“Can you actually find spiritual truths in comicbooks and superhero movies?”  
Yes, you can!

For more than 75 years of comic book history and dozens of gigantic cinematic releases, Superheros have captivated our imagination–filling our senses with heart-pounding adventures, riveting plots, and spectacular special effects—and sometimes they have profound messages woven into them. Often the underlying themes reveal a Judeo-Christian influence, and even when it isn’t intentional, you can still draw deep lessons from them.  Whether it’s the self-sacrifice and humility of Captain America and the Hulk’s struggles with anger or the parallels between Superman and Jesus or between Black Widow and a ruthless Bible heroine, your favorite heroes and heroines (and even villains) have much to teach.

If you’re a fan of this good vs. evil world, you will love The Superheroes Devotional—featuring 60 interesting, challenging, and encouraging readings. With devotions drawn from dozens of favorite superheroes from both the Marvel and DC Comics universes—well-known names like Captain America and Batman and lesser-known heroes like Shazam and Gambit—each reading includes spiritual lessons relating superheroes to the heroes of the Bible in themes like faith, hope, courage, pride, and power. You’ll also enjoy reading about the history and background of each superhero, shared by author and lifelong fan Ed Strauss.

Read on, True Believer, and may you draw inspiration and encouragement from the characters and stories that you know and love from comicbook pages and big screen movies alike.

My Thoughts: When I think of a devotional, I’m looking for something that will help me center my day on Christ and possibly even teach or rebuke me. As a mature Christian, this wasn’t the type of devotional that taught me anything new, but I did find it highly entertaining and even enlightening. I enjoyed taking a new look at characters that I’ve grown up with and some that I haven’t met before. I’ll certainly never look at them the same! I was blown away by the connections Strauss had made.
While I don’t believe any devotional should take the place of your time in the Bible and very few are great Bible studies, I do believe this will be a great read for Christians who are also superhero fans. I can also see this being a great conversational tool for older kids/teens and their parents.

Rating and Recommendation: I’m giving it 5 stars and recommending it to Christian Superhero fans. I think you’re really going to love this one!

“I received a complimentary copy of this book from Barbour Publishing and was under no obligation to post a review.”

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: The Kindness Challenge by Shaunti Feldhahn

47.jpgOne month to a great relationship…with anyone!

Think of your toughest relationship. Think of a relationship that is good but could be great. Think of a group of people that drives you nuts. You want to show more kindness and generosity, but sometimes you’re just tired, stretched, and frustrated. Besides, would small actions make that big a difference?Yes!

After years of extensive research, Shaunti Feldhahn has concluded that kindness is a superpower. It can change any relationship, make your life easier and better, and transform our culture. But how does it work? And how can you show kindness when you don’t feel like it?

In The Kindness Challenge, Shaunti explores….
* Three simple acts that make all the difference in any relationship (with a spouse, child, co-worker, brother-in-law…)
* Whether kindness is ever the wrong approach 
* The seven ways you may be unkind and never realize it 
* Eight types of kindness—and which might be the best fit for you
* Ten sneaky obstacles that get in the way of giving praise
* Practical ways to persevere when kindness is tough
* How kindness in marriage leads to benefits in the bedroom (yes, really!)
* Why your acts of kindness today can help transform the world

With self-assessments, day-to-day tips, a 30-day challenge, and specific kindness ideas, The Kindness Challenge can make your toughest relationships better and your good relationships great—starting today.

Try the 30 Day Kindness Challenge and be a part of a kindness revolution in your home, your world, and yourself.

What I Loved: First of all this is such a simple concept. It’s nothing really new and yet it’s life-altering all at the same time. Shaunti brings to bear on the reader the truth behind the importance of kindness, the impact kindness has on both parties, as well as our failures at being kind.
I really appreciate how this wasn’t just a collection of personal thoughts and observations but was a book grown out of years of study and interviews. All throughout the book, we’re reminded of the extensive work that went into this single book. And she doesn’t just leave you with her observations but quotes a wide variety of people she had met along the way who can give testimony to the Kindness Challenge during various stages.
For me, I think the most challenging section was the chapter describing how we’re not kind. OUCH! I used to think I was kind but now I’m thinking otherwise. I found this chapter to be a painful but needed eye opener for me and would gladly recommend this book to someone else.

Rating and Recommendation: I’m giving it 5 stars and highly recommend it to everyone. It’s the sort of book, like the Five Love Languages, that has the power to open your eyes about yourself and as well as change the way you treat those around you.

~ I received a copy from Blogging For Books but was not compensated for this review or required to give a favorable one. All thoughts are my own. 

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: Devotions for Easter

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Prepare your heart and mind to celebrate the risen Savior.

It’s time for fresh spring blossoms, colored eggs, special recipes, and family gatherings. This year, with each tradition, small celebration, and new story, take the time to stop and discover the ways Jesus is showing His love for you. In remembering His Easter story—the greatest story ever told—your own will become that much sweeter.

The perfect companion for Lent, Devotions for Easter invites you to find the messages of hope and mercy God places in even the smallest moments of the season. Forty days of warm, inviting readings, prayers, scriptures, and beautiful images will take you through Christ’s journey toward the cross and the miracle of His resurrection. As new life emerges all around you, let your heart be filled with joyful worship of Christ and the renewal He brings.

What I Loved: This is a compact devotional. It’s broken up into 40 days and meant to be used in the days leading up to Easter to assist you in focusing your mind and heart on Christ during this special time of the year. I felt that it did everything it promised to do. I’m still currently working through it and have so far found it to be edifying, rebuking, and uplifting. Each lesson is a short read but I found that the author could dig deep even with small amounts of time. Aside from the heart-focusing lessons are the stunning pictures used throughout the book. It’s a beauty inside and out and would make a wonderful tool for personal use as well as a gift for someone else.

Rating and Recommendation: I’m giving Devotions for Easter 5 stars and recommending it to any Christian looking for a simple devotion with deep impact or a beautiful gift.

~ I received a copy from Book Look Bloggers. I was not compensated for this review or required to give a favorable one. All thoughts are my own. 

Posted in Uncategorized

Book Review: NIV Bible for Teen Guys

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The NIV Bible for Teen Guys, designed specifically for guys ages 13 to 18, is for real teenage guys with real lives. Packed with daily readings, highlighted promises of God, challenging insights, smart advice, and open discussion about the realities of life, this Bible is designed to help teen guys grow in their faith. The NIV Bible for Teen Guys is as serious about your walk with God as you are, helping you discover his will for all areas of your life, including relating to your family, dealing with friends, work, sports, girls, and so much more.

Features include:

Daily readings for teen guys by popular Christian male authors (Mark Batterson, Kyle Idleman, Mark Hall, Max Lucado, and more) Character profiles of men in the Bible Book introductions for each book of the Bible Highlighted promises of God: verses worth remembering A concordance for help in finding verses The complete text of the bestselling New International Version (NIV) of the Bible

I have a Life Application Study Bible that I love. When I picked up this study Bible, I was slightly disappointed not to see the commentary on every page. But that is my own fault for not understanding the differences in study Bibles. So what merits does the NIV Bible for Teen Guys have to offer? 

There is a book introduction at the start of each of the Bible books. It’s short and not exhaustive but still helpful for young men learning the ropes and setting.
They also offer up character profiles of various men found in the Bible. These pages are sprinkled throughout the book where the men appear in Scripture.
Then there are devotionals sprinkled throughout the book that were written by men and encourage teens to dig further into the passages as well as how to apply the teaching to their lives. I really liked these pages. There aren’t enough of them to read every day for a year. But they will enlighten the young men as they study. There are approximately 175 devotionals.
They boast of the highlighted promises of God but the highlighting isn’t easy to spot at a glance.
But they do offer some of the standards we come to expect to find at the back of the Bible such as a Table of weights and measures, Topical Index, and Concordance.

The hardback version I had reviewed is sturdy, but I understand that there are other options available including kindle and audio versions. The pages aren’t so see through that you can’t read it. I found the font and the black, grays, and yellow throughout the Bible easy to read and charmingly masculine.

Rating and Recommendation: I’m giving the NIV Bible for Teen Guys 5 stars and recommending it to anyone who enjoys the NIV version for the young men in their life.

~ I received a free copy from Book Look Bloggers. I was not compensated for my review or required to give a favorable one. All thoughts are my own.

Posted in Book Reviews

Review: Colorable Scripture Stickers

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Attention scrapbookers, Bible journalers, and sticker lovers!! The new spin on adult coloring is the colorable stickers.

My thoughts: The graphics are attractive and the scriptures used are ideal for applying to various crafts. My only complaint is that so many of the areas are super small and difficult to color if you plan to stay in the lines. I would recommend pulling out the gel pens for some of these.
Faith that Sticks sticker packages would make great gifts to add to a gift basket, stocking, reward bin, or for your personal use.

Basics: There are 4 sheets of stickers in each package. 2 of each style.
You can see both on the package. One sheet looks like a full paged scene while the other is made up of smaller stickers that go along with the overall theme.

~I received a complimentary assortment of stickers from Tyndale House. I was not required to post a review. All thoughts are my own.

To view more coloring products from Tyndal House, visit the Living Expressions page. 

Images: 

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