Friday, July 22, 2016

For Better Or For Kids

I picked up For Better or for Kids: A Vow to Love Your Spouse with Kids in the House by Patrick and Ruth Schwenk partly because of the cute and creative title, partly because of the appealing cover, and partly because I'm married and my husband and I have four kids. Juggling a marriage of 14 years along with four kids who range in age from 6 to 14 (almost the exact same age range as the kids of the authors, so I felt particularly like this book would be great for me), is not always simple and easy. I figured there would be a lot to learn from this book. I particularly liked the fact that it was co-written by a husband and wife team. I love marriage and family books that are written by a man and wife team because you get the perspective of both parties and I feel like the advice is usually more balanced and realistic. Subjects included in this book are expectations, our mission as parents, love, sex, unity, grace, time management, busyness, difficult seasons, communication, money, trials, and encouragement: so basically, all the big topics that include marriage and parenting. The back cover reads:

"The transition from “married” to “married with children” can be tough. Before they know it, a once youthful and energetic married couple finds themselves in a minivan loaded with noisy kids and littered with Cheerios, crusty Sippy cups, banana peels, and missing library books. As much as you love your children and work hard to nurture and train them for the future, the challenges that come with parenthood can make the “for better or for worse” promise a hard one to honor.

For Better or For Kids will enable couples to:

Build a God-centered marriage instead of a Child-centered or Me-centered marriage
Avoid the dangers of spouse-neglect and self-neglect
Effectively communicate in the chaos
Explore ways to parent together as one team
Find balance in the busyness
For Better or For Kids is about remembering that even when you feel worn out, over-extended, and neglected, you promised to be a team. Marriage with kids may not always be what we expected, but it is good. We need to make a vow to love our spouse with kids in the house."

I figured I'd pick this book up and read a chapter a day, but I found that once I picked it up I didn't want to put it back down again! I loved the stories and illustrations Patrick and Ruth used, drawn from their own lives. I could really relate to them and found myself laughing along, nodding, and thinking how glad I am that my family isn't the only crazy one! Reading this book feels like sitting in a couples therapy session with Patrick and Ruth - they admit the issues they've been through while doling out practical advice. I'm all about being practical, and I love books that give you actual tips and ideas that you can put into place right away. This book definitely fit the bill. I highly recommend For Better or For Kids to any couple who has children - or wants to have children!

I received a copy of this book from BookLook Bloggers in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Taste And See

John Piper's Taste And See is a followup book to his A Godward Life devotional, which I've read and enjoyed. Taste And See contains 150 in-depth but brief devotions. They cover a myriad of subjects, including current controversial topics. The book description says:

"A Devotional Powerhouse!

This revision of the follow-up to the popular A Godward Life adds twenty fresh entries to the original 120 daily meditations that are solid meat and sweet milk from God’s Word. The new entries broach current and controversial subject matter, such as partial-birth abortion and gay marriage. Piper asks the hardest questions and finds wonderfully poignant but practical and applicable truths from the Bible. These 350 pages of substantive spiritual nourishment will brace readers’ minds with truth and nourish their hearts with God’s sovereign grace. Pastors and lay leaders particularly will appreciate the three indexes included. They don’t need to look any further to find a pertinent illustration or tidbit of inspiration!

Expanded Edition of the Popular Godward Life II Devotional

Taste and see…The Lord is good.
Psalm 34:8

The soul tastes truth like the lips taste food. Spiritual hunger cries out for rich, substantial nourishment. It is remarkable how much meat these daily portions contain.

Skillfully presented by pastor John Piper, this devotional of contemporary meditations on biblical reality will whet your appetite for more of God Himself and refresh you in your daily communion with Christ."

I own a lot of devotional books, but sometimes they can just be a little too light and fluffy for me. One verse, an illustration, and a quick little lesson or application. However, I don't think anyone could ever accuse John Piper of writing a light and fluffy devotional. His writing style is direct and to the point, and his insights are always deep. Each of these 150 devotions are 1-3 pages apiece, so not very long and easily digestible, but they are completely steeped in and drawn from God's Word. Piper shares stories from his own life and stories from Christians of the past, as well as relevant illustrations and stories. Each brief devotion truly feels like it hits home a great point and leaves me with something to think about and chew on throughout the day (no pun intended). I'm not a Calvinist, so I don't agree with every word he says, but there is still a lot to glean from this book for any Christian. I highly recommend this book.

I received a copy of this book from Blogging For Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

What Matters Most

What Matters Most is book four in Kellie Coates Gilbert's Texas Gold Collection. This collection of novels centers around strong women who live in Texas. They are standalone novels, but all based upon that common theme of women overcoming difficult circumstances in Texas. I was initially attracted to this book because of the pretty cover and the tension between Leta's job and her budding relationship with Nate. I also liked the element of Leta caring for her mother with Alzheimer's. The book description reads:

"Deeply Emotional Writing Highlights the Complexities of Human Relationships

Leta Breckenridge is forced to drop out of college to care for her dementia-ridden mother. After learning a severely delinquent account may force her mother into a less desirable facility, Leta steps out of her comfort zone and lands a high-paying job at an Austin public relations firm. But her dream job turns into a nightmare when she learns the firm is a front for a political opposition machine--and that the research she's been collecting will be used against her new love interest, Nathan Emerson.

Nathan is a rising political star being pressured to run a bid to unseat the current governor of Texas. He's already in a relationship with a woman much better suited to be a politician's wife, but he's never met anyone like Leta. Could this feisty, challenging woman hold the key to his heart?"

I absolutely, positively loved this book. From page one, I just couldn't put it down. I could totally relate to Leta's financial struggles, having to take dead end jobs due to not having a college degree, and having to give up dreams in exchange for a higher purpose. I liked that Kellie gave us a character who was real and not snobby, rich, and privileged. I loved reading how Leta figured out how to hold strong to her convictions while still trying to take care of her mom. The suspense woven in was exciting and interesting. I'm not into politics, but this book was so interesting - don't let it put you off if you don't really like politics. I'm planning on buying the first three books in this series as soon as possible. I can't wait to read them! I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good novel with a bit of suspense mixed in.

I received a copy of this book from Revell in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Mommy Needs A Raise

I'll be honest - I selected Mommy Needs A Raise (Because Quitting's Not An Option) by Sarah Parshall Perry because of the super cool cover. In fact, the cover is so cute and clever that all four of my kids loved it and couldn't stop looking at it, and my six year old son asked if he could cut it off my book and hang it up on his bedroom wall (lol). I'd never heard of Sarah before, but the description sounded funny so I thought I'd give it a shot. The book description reads:

"Goodbye, Board Room and Legal Briefs--Hello, Dimples, Diapers, and Destruction

Women know that raising children will be different from climbing the corporate ladder. But nothing can truly prepare them for the mind-muddling world of motherhood. It doesn't take long for a new mom to question whether her tyrannical, diapered boss really understands her value to the organization. Because honestly? She's not always sure herself.

With her signature wit, lawyer-turned-full-time-mommy Sarah Parshall Perry says what all new moms are thinking when they trade annual reports for homework help and yoga pants. Perry invites moms to laugh alongside her amidst the "Are you kidding me?!" moments that come with the job of raising humans. This book is story of every mother who gives up one thing to get something better--and ends up finding out what she's worth along the way."

I couldn't completely relate to Mommy Needs A Raise because I never had a "career" outside of the home. I married young and my husband and I had our first child within a year of our wedding. I've been a stay at home mom, more or less, since my wedding day. However, I do currently work from home so I could definitely relate to that portion of the book! Also, being a mom is such a universal experience that I found myself laughing along or commiserating on nearly every page. Sarah's writing style is fresh, honest, realistic, and unpretentious. I highly enjoyed both her funny, down-to-earth stories as well as her applications and insights drawn from Scripture. I recommend Mommy Needs A Raise to every mom out there who needs a little break and a little laugh.

I received a copy of this book from Revell in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Monday, July 11, 2016

No Way Up

No Way Up is book one in Mary Connealy's new series, The Cimarron Legacy. This is the first book I've read by Mary Connealy so I wasn't sure what to expect. I was drawn in by the well-designed cover and the description, which reads:

"New Western Romance Series from Bestselling Author Mary Connealy

When Cimarron ranch patriarch Chance Boden is caught in an avalanche, the quick actions of hired hand Heath Kincaid save him. Badly injured, Chance demands that his will be read and its conditions be enforced immediately.

Without anyone else to serve as a witness, Heath is pressed into reading the will. If Justin, Sadie, and Cole Boden don't live and work at home for the entire year, the ranch will go to their low-down cousin Mike.

Then Heath discovers the avalanche was a murder attempt, and more danger might follow. Deeply involved with the family, Heath's desire to protect Sadie goes far beyond friendship. The danger keeps them close together, and their feelings grow until being apart is the last thing on their minds."

I really don't like writing negative reviews, so I'll start with the positives about this book first. Like I mentioned, the cover is very well designed and engaging. It's super cute and really makes you want to pick up the book and read it. I also like the Cimmaron Legacy premise. It sounded intriguing. Unfortunately, that's about where it ended for me. The story was extremely slow - it took me a week to slog through this book when I can normally read a book like this in a day. The characters were one-dimensional cardboard cutouts, and my main problem was that I felt like I couldn't connect with any of them. They all behaved ridiculously - the brothers were literally throwing punches at each other and brawling in every chapter. Sadie had no feelings, no emotions, nothing, other than to ogle Heath and kiss him whenever possible. The most interesting part of the book for me was the story line about Angie. I kept turning the pages wanting to get back to her story because those were the only parts that I found interesting. However, we are left with the thread of that story unfinished. I hope that she will pick up those threads in the next book, because that plot had some potential. Also, Sadie and her brothers are Protestant but she works in a Catholic orphanage with nuns. I found that a bit unrealistic and strange. Another thing that bothered me is that characters were referred to multiple times as "speaking Mexican". Mexican is not a language; Spanish is a language. It seemed a bit bigoted and rubbed me the wrong way. However, since this was my first exposure to Mary Connealy, and it seems her books generally get high reviews, I will give her another chance and read book two of The Cimarron Legacy when it comes out. I hope the story picks up more now that the foundation's been laid in No Way Up.

I received a copy of this book from Bethany House in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Friday, July 8, 2016

When Mountains Move

After reading The Feathered Bone by Julie Cantrell and being absolutely blown away by it, I knew I wanted to read her upcoming two-book series as soon as possible. When Mountains Move is the continuation of the story that began in Into The Free. We continue following Millie's story as she marries Bump Anderson. The book description reads:

"In a few hours, Millie will say “I do” to Bump Anderson, a man who loves her through and through. But would he love her if he knew the secret she keeps?

Millie’s mind is racing and there seems to be no clear line between right and wrong. Either path leads to pain, and she’ll do anything to protect the ones she loves. So she decides to bury the truth and begin again, helping Bump launch a ranch in the wilds of Colorado. But just when she thinks she’s left her old Mississippi life behind, the facts surface in the most challenging way.

That’s when Millie’s grandmother, Oka, arrives to help. Relying on her age-old Choctaw traditions, Oka teaches Millie the power of second chances. Millie resists, believing redemption is about as likely as moving mountains. But Oka stands strong, modeling forgiveness as the only true path to freedom.

Together, Bump, Millie, and Oka fight against all odds to create a sustainable ranch, all while learning that the important lessons of their pasts can be used to build a beautiful future."

I was definitely not disappointed by When Mountains Move. I was excited to catch up with Millie and find out what happens to her next. I couldn't put the book down and it kept me turning the pages long into the night. This series is a bit of a unique and almost odd story, set in during the Depression. I love books set in this era, but this book was very different than most Depression-era tales. This powerful novel has a lot to say and will linger in your mind after you finish reading it. I highly recommend this novel to anyone looking for a deeper type of novel. Definitely read Into The Free first, though, as it tells the beginning of Millie's tale.

I received a copy of this book from BookLook Bloggers in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Find Your Brave

Find Your Brave: Courage to Stand Strong When the Waves Crash In by Holly Wagner is an uplifting study of the Apostle Paul's shipwreck as related in Acts 27. It's a small hardcover, the bulk of the book being 160 pages. There are twelve inspirational chapters, including Rising in the Darkness, Brace Yourself, Let It Go, Keep the Main Thing the Main Thing, Get Your Hopes Up, Courage Is a Decision, Anchored, Don't Quit!, Stronger, The Other Side, When You Make Your Own Storm, and The Shore. Each short chapter begins with inspirational quotes. Included are also Scriptures to Speak over Your Situation and Questions for Personal Reflection and Group Discussion. The book description reads:

"Navigate Life’s Storms and Discover a Courage Like No Other

Have you ever found yourself in over your head, wondering how you would possibly get through with your faith and sanity intact?

It can happen any time. Life seems good and then—BOOM!—out of nowhere comes a storm that threatens to drown your hopes. Your storm might be a job loss, loneliness, a crumbling relationship, financial ruin, a serious illness, or the death of a loved one. Whatever it is, as the winds howl and the waves rage, you have a choice: will you cower in fear or will you rise to the challenge?

Cancer survivor Holly Wagner has endured her share of storms. In Find Your Brave she examines the dramatic shipwreck faced by the apostle Paul in Acts 27. There she uncovers profound truths that will guide you safely through life’s most difficult moments.

Through solid biblical teaching and relatable personal stories, Holly offers an uplifting, friendly voice in the midst of the gale-force winds and overpowering critical voices. She shows you how to anchor your trust in the God who remains faithful in every storm and in whose strength you can Find Your Brave.


“So take courage! For I believe God. It will be just as He said.”
–Acts 27:25 (NLT)

The apostle Paul, held as a prisoner on a ship bound for Rome, encounters a fierce tempest on the Adriatic Sea. Chaos and calamity surround him as the crew frantically attempts to lighten the ship, undergird the vessel, and keep her afloat. Paul stands in their midst and makes a simple, yet course-altering statement: “Be of good cheer!”

In the middle of your storms,
are you able to declare the same?

In Find Your Brave GodChicks founder Holly Wagner combines insight found in Acts 27 with lessons learned from her very personal battles with cancer, betrayal, and turmoil to create the essential storm survival guide. Her words will encourage and empower you with practical tools to navigate life’s greatest storms, steady your heart against fear, and inspire you to rescue others as you make your way safely ashore.

I was interested in reading Find Your Brave because I've been going through a lot of trials recently. I also happen to love the Apostle Paul, and I'm one of the most decidedly un-brave people on earth. So I was really excited about this book! This is a small book that I picked up and read in an afternoon. Holly's writing style is open, honest, funny, and extremely readable. I love how she weaves together the Apostle Paul's shipwreck with stories from her own life and testimony. It's a super easy read, but packs a punch. I was inspired and encouraged to carry on throughout my own trials. I highly recommend this book to any Christian going through a trial of any kind.

I received a copy of this book from Blogging For Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.