Monday, November 22, 2010

Good Book for Tweens

Can ordinary kids change the world?  Max Lucado and his daughter say they can.  Whether we affect one person or millions, it is what God has asked us to do.   The authors of You Were Made to Make a Difference explain that when you live in relationship with God, your actions, words, dreams and decisions all change in a good way.  You begin living to make a difference, as God intended.
The book uses a variety of means to get the point across.  From real-life examples of today’s kids and writing exercises to biblical references and suggested prayers, the authors provide a variety of avenues for kids to follow.  The why’s and how’s of living intentionally are covered in non-threatening yet encouraging ways and backed up with biblical proof and encouragement.
As an adult, I found the book to be somewhat of a disorganized mish-mash of ideas.  The content and focus were inspiring, but hard to follow.  However, I am apparently showing my age, as the resident eleven year old loved the book and has asked to keep my copy.  It stirred up ideas in her about how to help people, no matter where they are.  It encouraged her that she is not alone and showed her ways to deepen her relationship with God.  Based on the impact the book had on her, I recommend it to parents looking for a way to encourage their kids to walk closely with God and use their lives to make a difference.
FTC Required Note: I have received a complimentary or advance reading copy of this book from Thomas Nelson Publishers in exchange for an unbiased review.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Dare to Drop the Pose - Book Review

Dare to Drop the Pose (Ten Things Christians Think but Are Afraid to Say) by Craig Groeschel is a republished version of Confessions of a Pastor.  I think the earlier title is the more accurate one as far as describing the book.  Pulling out the main points he is TRYING to make leaves the reader with the following:

Some Christians are hypocritical;
It is difficult to remain sexually pure as defined by the Bible;
It can be hard to be a Christian in today's world; 
It is normal to sometimes doubt God; 
Most people are afraid of failure.

These are not difficult concepts, but Groeschel spends the whole book trying to tell us what a rotten Christian he has been simply because he is human like the rest of us.  He talks himself down in an effort to talk us up.  I understand what he was trying to do, but was left more with a mild dislike of him as a person instead of being encouraged that "if he can do it, so can I".  There are much better books out there - I wouldn't waste your time.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Lord's Prayer - book review

The Lord’s Prayer
Insight and Inspiration to Draw You Closer to Him
By R.T. Kendall

Dr. R.T. Kendall, minister and author, begins this book with a discussion of why we pray.  He then takes us line by line through perhaps Christianity’s best-known prayer, the Lord’s Prayer, dissecting the meaning and intent behind each carefully chosen word.  Instead of allowing us to recite the prayer from memory, often not even hearing ourselves as we speak, Dr. Kendall challenges us to understand and study what we are praying with these words.  As he states, “The purpose of this book is not only to examine each line of the Lord’s Prayer, but to learn how to interpret the will of God”.

As a Christian, I found this book to be very helpful.  It brought new insight into what God wants from us in this prayer He sent us.  Based on this point, I highly recommend this book.  However, there is one area with which I absolutely cannot and do not agree with the author, and I imagine this is one that will cause division among readers.  Dr. Kendall asserts on page 46 that ONLY Christians have the right to pray the Lord’s Prayer.  Jews and other believers in our God are excluded in his opinion because “Only those who receive Him (Jesus) and believe in His name have the right to be children of God and, therefore, to pray the Lord’s Prayer”.   I believe that God wants to hear from all of His children, lost and found.

This is a major barrier for me in recommending this book; however, the rest of the book is an excellent guide.  I leave it to the individual reader to determine whether this message of exclusion cancels out the other important and valid points in the book.

FTC Required Note: I have received a complimentary or advance reading copy of this book from the publishers in exchange for an unbiased review.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Outlive Your Life book review

Outlive Your Life by Max Lucado
Can ordinary people change the world?  Max Lucado says we can.  In Outlive Your Life, Lucado presents us with the challenge of living our lives so that we have made a difference that is tangible after we are long gone.  Whether we affect one person or millions, it is what God has asked us to do.  As Denver Moore, co-author of Same Kind of Different as Me (another must read!), says: “Pastor Max tells all folks how to move from Bible studies to Bible doins’ “.
I don’t often say this in reviews, but I thought this book was amazing.  Lucado asks difficult questions of us, questions that require inner discernment, a not always comfortable task.  He draws his questions from the book of Acts and the miraculous events that took place during that time.  He then challenges each of us to make a difference beyond ourselves.  He does not leave us without help though.  Each chapter ends with scripture and a prayer focused on the lesson just taught, both of which I found key as I reflected upon Lucado’s challenges to me as a Christian.
I cannot say enough good things about this book.  I plan to go back and work my way through the discussion and action guide at the end as additional discipline for answering the call to action.  I highly recommend this book as a guide and thought-provoking study to all those who wonder if it is possible to make a difference as only one person.
FTC Required Note: I have received a complimentary or advance reading copy of this book from Thomas Nelson Publishers in exchange for an unbiased review.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Summer's Gone Part 2 - Review of Flight to Heaven

OK folks, here is part two for today.  We'll go for a book review.  As a teaser, I have a review coming up on Sept. 10 of an absolutely wonderful book!  The publisher has asked me not to post it until then, but I will say I love, love, loved the book and you will too, so come back to check it out.

And without further ado, here is today's book:

Flight to Heaven
A Pilot’s True Story
By Capt. Dale Black

Capt. Dale Black is the lone survivor of a horrific plane crash.  Through a long a difficult recovery, he finds an unexpected gift of faith that sustains him.  Months after the crash, his fractured memory releases the source of that faith – a visit to heaven and return to earth.

There is no question in my mind that Capt. Black is a man of faith.  His journey since his near-death experience has been amazing and Christ-filled.  However, I have to admit that the book did not move me the way that I expected it would.  I am not convinced that he actually visited and returned from heaven, though I don’t doubt that he at least had a miraculous vision.  To me the question remains: what is more important to his message – his experience in heaven or what he did with it here on earth?  I would argue it is his legacy of experiences here on earth.  The “flight to heaven” part has a sensationalist attraction to it that seems designed more to sell the book than to encourage others’ faith journeys.

I do not regret having read this book, but it is not one that I can recommend to others as a must read.  For some it may provide comfort, but I think for many the focus will be less inspiring than they had hoped.

FTC Required Note: I have received a complimentary or advance reading copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for an unbiased review.

Summer's Gone

Wow, summer just flew by!  I had no idea it had been so long since my last post.  To make up for it, we'll go for a double today!

First, still lovin' my smoothies.  Yesterday's creation, which received two thumbs up from the local 11 year old, was blueberry/pear.

1 cup fresh blueberries
2 sliced pears (left the skin on since I now have a vita-mix - yay me!)
1 cup vanilla yogurt
agave nectar to taste

Blend away and drink up!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Pear Kale Smoothie

I am on a huge smoothie kick and have been inventing new flavors.  Today's was especially yummy:

3 pears, peeled and sliced
4 leaves of kale, de-stemmed
4 oz. yoplus vanilla yogurt (gluten free + extra fiber - what more could I ask?)
However much orange juice was left in the container (maybe a cup?)

Blend until a beautiful pear green color that you would want to paint your kitchen walls with, then enjoy!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A User’s Guide to the Universe: Surviving the Perils of Black Holes, Time Paradoxes, and Quantam Uncertainty By Dave Goldberg and Jeff Blomquist

A User’s Guide to the Universe is the authors’ attempt to educate liberal arts people like me about science and physics.  They get brownie points for trying, but it may be that I am a lost cause.  The book jacket calls the book a “plain-English, plain-hilarious handbook (that) ushers you through all of the major discoveries of modern physics”.  The authors take basic questions (can I build a time machine; what happened before the Big Bang) and bring the answers down to the level of mere mortals.

I enjoyed the book for the first chapter or so.  The authors are amusing and I was able to hang in there with them for a while.  But not for long.   On the one hand, I hesitate to blame them, as I have to say I lost interest when I couldn’t follow them anymore.  On the other, their jokes got old, the analogies stopped working, and I stopped caring.

So, do you read the book or not?  If you really want to learn more about physics in a non-threatening way, go for it.  But be warned, the authors’ style can wear you down, and in the end, perhaps some things don’t need to be understood.  Isn’t that why we have physicists?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Amazing Art

This art is amazing!  You have to see it - there is no way I can do it justice with words.  So just go now.  I said NOW! 

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Gluten Free Discoveries

Some of you may know that I have to follow a gluten free diet.  Not fun if you are a bread kind of gal like me.  However, I am working on finding yummy yet gluten free things.  Here are the latest favorites:

Enjoy Life Cinnamon Crunch Granola and Cranapple Crunch Granola.  Wonderful mixed in with Yoplait YoPlus yogurt (also gluten free).  A nice, filling breakfast.

Betty Crocker GF brownie mix.  Not low cal or anything, but my kids love them.  A little denser than regular box brownies.

You may now continue to eat.

If I Could Ask God Anything: Awesome Bible Answers for Curious Kids!

If I Could Ask God Anything:  Awesome Bible Answers for Curious Kids!
By Kathryn Slattery
If I Could Ask God Anything is described as a “unique kid-friendly book jam-packed with clear, fresh answers to important questions about God, faith, prayer, and Christianity in language that children can understand.”   Both my eleven year old daughter and I read this book and agree – the author gives clear, non-condescending answers to questions ALL of us have had, not just kids.  Questions on topics ranging from God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit to the Bible, Christianity and Prayer and continuing on to what it means to believe and act as a Christian are all addressed.
Recognizing that even as Christians we can have varying beliefs (among denominations, churches and even families), I was a little worried at first whether the book would answer questions according to my church beliefs.  With the exception of one or two answers, I thought the author handled questions beautifully.  I am not going to discuss my disagreements with the author, as everyone will likely have a different opinion, and those few disagreements for me did not negate how much I enjoyed the book.  I recommend this book for families looking for information to back up answers to their children’s or their own questions.  I also recommend that the adults read it first or with their children, so they can be prepared to further discuss the issues.  That is simply part of responsible parenting in the church! 

Friday, May 7, 2010

Better Blogging

Hi everyone!  I'm discovering it's hard to keep up with a blog - life gets in the way, but then again, it's supposed to!  Since book reviews only go so far, especially when the blog is titled "Books, Blogs and Assorted Musings", I thought it was time to add the other two parts.  Get ready for Discoveries and Blogs to Check Out.  I'd love feedback, recommendations, or just general comments.

 Today's Discovery:  TAZO white cranberry (white tea with white cranberry juice),  found in the refrigerated section of Whole Foods.  Can I just say YUM?!  I am usually only a hot tea drinker (which almost got me expelled from the Southern Chicks' Association - they believe sweet tea is the only appropriate non-alcoholic drink) but this ROCKS!
Today's Blog/Site:  Check out - started by Duke grads, so you know it's good!  For example, did you know the following about Sesame Street:
Oscar the Grouch used to be orange! Jim Henson decided to make him green before the second season of Sesame Street. How did Oscar explain the color change? He said he'd gone on vacation to the very damp Swamp Mushy Muddy and he turned green overnight.
 I get the magazine and the emails, both of which are incredible sources of information that will amaze and confound your friends as they wonder where you get the time to learn such trivia.  Your secret is safe with me! 

Monday, April 12, 2010

Eye of the Red Tsar

Pekkala is a confidante of Tsar Nicholas Romanov until the brutal murders of the Romanov family in 1917. After years in a Soviet camp, Pekkala is called back to solve a mystery, with the promise of his freedom as the reward for success. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and read it straight through in one sitting. It kept a fast pace and had enough twists and turns to keep me interested. Was it great literature? No. Was it supposed to be? No. If you are looking for a fun read with some history thrown in, this book is for you.

Note: I received a copy of this book through LibraryThing Early Reviewers program in exchange for this unbiased review.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Voice of Psalms - A reivew

A Dubious Translation - The Voice of Psalms

This book contains the entire book of Psalms in The Voice translation and includes reading plans and  reflections for selected psalms.   The distinguishing feature of this book is its use of The Voice translation, described by its authors as “a literary project…created for and by a church in great transition…(this) uniquely represents collaboration among scholars, pastors, writers, musicians, poets, and other artists.”  The goal seems to be to make the Bible “more beautiful” in the eyes and ears of the authors, and while the text is lovely, they are less successful in maintaining the accuracy of God’s word.

I adore the book of Psalms and was anxious to read this book.  However, the more I read, the more uncomfortable I became with The Voice.  I feel that it takes great yet unnecessary and perhaps incorrect liberties with the Bible.  I have read from many types of Bibles, from King James to NIV to The Message, yet they all fundamentally stay true to God’s word.  This translation adds or changes words that change the overall meaning of the text.  The authors claim that this is necessary to reach the post-modern church, but I feel that doesn’t give people enough credit.  Making the stories more accessible and understandable is one thing, changing the meaning to make people feel better is another.  While I think anyone will benefit from spending time reading and meditating on the Psalms, this book goes down a slippery slope with its translation.  Those truly interested in the Psalms will be better served by reading a more traditional translation.

Note: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for this review.  My content was in no way dictated by Thomas Nelson Publishers.

The Rewards of Simplicity - A review

The Rewards of Simplicity
A Practical and Spiritual Approach
By Pam and Chuck D. Pierce

This book is described as a guide to simplifying life from a Christian perspective.  The authors discuss how to clear mental, physical and spiritual clutter from our lives and reclaim our peace.  Their key premise is that “Every aspect of simplicity can be viewed from these three perspectives: faith, focus and function.”

As a veteran reader of many organizing/simplifying books, I can honestly say this book doesn’t break much new ground.  While it does remind us to make faith-based decisions as we de-clutter, there are no real “aha” moments.  For those seeking a biblical basis for decisions on slowing down and eliminating the unnecessary, this is good book.  For those looking for a to-do list for simplifying, not so much.

(This book was provided to me for review by Bethany House Publishers.)

Monday, February 1, 2010

Living Life in the Zone - Book Review

Living Life in the Zone by Kyle Rote, Jr. and Dr. Joe Pettigrew

Living Life in the Zone is described as a 40-day spiritual game plan for men.  It follows the same template throughout the entire 40 days, beginning each day with a “thought of the day” and moving through discussions of the day’s topic, a real life example from the sports world, questions and actions to ponder, ending with prayer.  Topics include Living Life in the Zone, Your Relationships with your Wife, Children, Friends, Work, and Looking to the Future.

Even though I am a female, I chose to review this book to see how a “male-oriented” approach would be presented.  I found the thought of the day and the scripture references to be relevant to anyone, male or female.  For the first several days, the book was interesting and did provide food for thought.  However, after about a week, the repetitive format started to grate on me.  I asked my husband to read and offer his opinion – he agreed that the format got stale quickly and offered that the sports metaphors that are an emphasis of the book often seemed to be a stretch.  The authors also used figures as examples of strong Christians who have since been involved in less than Christian activities (Carrie Prejean and her erotic video, for one).

The book has many worthwhile points and is appropriate for those perhaps beginning their walk with Christ.  However, those who are interested in searching deeper, this is not the book for you.  It is too simple and tries too hard to bring sports into the picture, even when the relevance is questionable.

(I received a copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review on my site.)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Same Kind of Different As Me

What can I say?  Loved, Loved, Loved this book!  Go read it NOW.

You Did It For Me - Book Review

This children's book by Robert Hug was a cute illustration of how and why we help others. I must admit I had to turn back the pages and check that it was the same character helping each time, as at first I assumed each help vignette was different in a "pay it forward" type illustration. Children may or may not pick up on this before the last two pages. As a Sunday School teacher, I would have found specific biblical verse references helpful for each situation. I know they exist, and the young children I teach take great pride in learning verses and their meanings. All that aside, the book is a good starting point for teaching children about helping others and the joy we can find in it.

Note: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a review through LibraryThing Member Giveaways.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Software Reviews

Well, I'm all for getting things at little or no cost, so when the chance to review some software came up, I jumped at it. Let's just say my first experience with free software was that you pretty much get what you pay for. Here are the reviews I turned in.

Berlitz Spanish Premier
Full disclosure: I received a free copy of this software in order to review it. I found that this software was most effective for basic learning, such as individual word recognition and pronunciation. The flashcard feature is a great way to self-test. I can see my children using it to practice their school Spanish. However, this is not the software to use if you plan on becoming fluent. The more “advanced” features advertised by the company – conversation practice and feedback – were not as useful. The audio was somewhat difficult to understand, the print often appeared fuzzy on my screen, the actors lacked any emotion in the video stories, and it was not particularly interesting. I speak English and French, and do not feel that this software would be useful beyond getting a basic knowledge of vocabulary and perhaps review for those wishing to refresh their Spanish.

HGTV Home and Landscape
Full disclosure: I received a free copy of this software in order to review it. I can’t even begin to give a comprehensive review of this product, as it is so complicated that it is not worth the time to learn. I am fairly computer savvy, but it took forever just to get my basic room design down. Once that was done, rearranging was a bear. My husband and I reverted to a graph paper template and moved things around by hand and got more out of that method. I can’t recommend this software. ©2010