Thursday, January 11, 2018

Never Unfriended by Lisa-Jo Baker



Never Unfriended
by Lisa-Jo Baker

About the Book
In a world where women can unfriend each other with the swipe of a finger, how do we find friendships that we can trust to last? Maybe by first becoming those kinds of lasting friends ourselves.

As the community manager at the website incourage.me since 2010, Lisa-Jo Baker has had the chance to engage hundreds of conversations with women about friendship. She’s learned that no one can make us quite as unsure about ourselves as another woman. And nothing can wound as deeply as unkind words from a friend. While we are all hungry for friendship, it’s the fear of feeling awkward and being rejected, left out, or hurt (again) that often keep us from connecting.

But what if we knew we could never be unfriended? Would we risk friendship then? 


Starting with that guarantee from the most faithful friend who ever lived—Jesus—this book is a step-by-step guide to friendships you can trust. It answers the questions that lurk under the surface of every friendship—What are we afraid of? What can’t we change? What can we change? And where do we start?—with personal stories and practical tips to help you make the friends, and be the friend, that lasts.
My Thoughts
Friendship is something every woman craves, yet doesn't come naturally to most of us. Despite "making friends" being a skill we learned in kindergarten, it's something that we must work out throughout our entire lives.

I appreciated Lisa-Jo Baker's honest approach to friendship in her book Never Unfriended. She shared personal experiences of times when she wasn't a good friend as well as times when she was. I feel I learned as much (or more) from her "bad friend" experiences as I did from the "lessons" she was sharing. This book was practical and I feel it will help me as I continue to develop friendships that I've had for years, along with steps I can take to ensure I start new friendships on the right foot. I recommend this book to anyone hoping to be a better friend (which I hope is all of us!).

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my fair and honest review. All thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.

About the Author

Lisa-Jo Baker has been the community manager for www.incourage.me, an online home for women all over the world, for nearly a decade. She is the author of Never Unfriended and Surprised by Motherhood, and her writings have been syndicated from New Zealand to New York. She lives just outside Washington, DC, with her husband and their three very loud kids, where she connects, encourages, and champions women in person and through her website, lisajobaker.com. She is convinced that the shortest distance between strangers is a shared awkward story, and she'd love to connect with you on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram @lisajobaker.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

The Character Builder's Bible


The Character Builder's Bible
Children's Story Bible
Available October 2017
Tyndale House Publishers

About the Book
The Bible is so much more than a collection of stories.

It is the overarching message of God’s love for us and a practical guide to daily living. So often our littlest children hear these stories but miss out on how to apply the principles to their lives. The Character Builder’s Biblehighlights core character traits that the Bible teaches and suggests fun, practical ways to live out these truths so that little minds can understand. Each Bible narrative is told simply, is tied to a positive attribute like obedience or humility, and is followed with a real-life example of how kids can apply the lesson in their own lives.

Featuring 60 Bible stories with colorful illustrations, definitions, and memory verses, The Character Builder’s Bible will show your little ones that God’s Word is relevant to their lives and will help you instill biblical character in their hearts.


My Thoughts
Unfortunately, I cannot recommend this book. The idea was a good one, but it missed the mark for me.

There are 60 Bible stories in this book. Each story includes a Bible verse, a few paragraphs telling the story in simple terms, a short poem about the character trait, and a "cartoon" with real life examples of the character trait in action.

I liked the idea of using Bible stories to help children learn about character. However, it was unclear to me how the character traits were selected to go along with the stories. Many didn't seem to match. For instance, diligence was the trait to be learned from the story of creation. Are we teaching that God was diligent so we also must be diligent? Or just that diligence is a good trait to learn? The cartoon illustrations didn't line up well with the trait either. Based on the cartoon illustrations, I probably would have chosen "creativity" as the trait.

Another example of a major miss is the story "Jesus calms the storm" paired with gentleness. Honestly, this is one of the times Jesus is most powerful (exhibiting power over nature). Additionally, the poem and the cartoon didn't explain gentleness accurately.

There were other "traits" that weren't traits at all: communion, Holy Spirit, Easter, heaven, etc.

(There were *some* stories that matched up well with the highlighted character trait and that explained the trait well through the poem and the cartoon.)

Some of the stories highlighted traits that God exhibited and that we should emulate. Others seemed to highlight traits that other people in the story exhibited. This alone caused confusion as I read through the book. It's dangerous to come to the Bible and look for what the Bible "means for me" rather than what the Bible "teaches me about God."

Great idea, but the execution was poor. I dislike giving negative reviews but felt I couldn't recommend this book for the reasons stated.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher. All opinions expressed are my own and are freely given. [2 stars]

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my fair and honest review.


Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Flash the Donkey Makes New Friends by Rachel Anne Ridge



Flash the Donkey Makes New Friends
by Rachel Anne Ridge

About the Book
Children will fall in love with Flash the Donkey as they learn the value of true friendship and what it means to be a good friend to others.

Hee-haw! A stray donkey with a penchant for inventions is taken in by a mismatched collection of barnyard friends. Flash the Donkey Makes New Friends is the heartwarming story of a not-so-ordinary donkey who needs a special place to belong. Flash is the inquisitive type who loves to invent things and solve problems, but his curiosity sometimes gets him into trouble! With the help of his new-found friends—Jed the Goat, Carson the Pig, and Ruby the Chicken—Flash manages to turn problems into adventures and learns valuable lessons along the way. Inspired by Rachel Anne Ridge’s memoir Flash, named one of Publishers Weekly’s Best Summer Books of 2015, kids will fall in love with this endearing donkey as they learn to appreciate the value of true friendship.
My Thoughts
What a cute book! I haven't read the original "Flash" memoir for adults, but I thought this children's book was too cute to ignore. The illustrations are simple yet beautiful. And the story of friendship and learning to make friends is one that all readers can benefit from. I enjoyed meeting the other animals along Flash's journey and appreciated the author's ability to tell a story and teach valuable lessons without being "preachy" or "cheesy." I'm adding this one to my daughter's bookshelf so we can enjoy it for years to come. [5 stars]

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my fair and honest review.

About the Author
While tole-painting Christmas gifts one year, Rachel Anne Ridge discovered a love for art, and inadvertently launched a new career. In 1999, she took her paint brushes and began creating murals and faux finishes in the booming Dallas Fort Worth area. When the small business started growing, her husband, Tom, joined her. Together, they have expanded it into a large-scale corporate art, graphic design, way-finding, and custom artwork company. Along the way, they raised three children, journeyed through loss, failures, and successes, and adopted astray donkey who showed up on their doorstep and never left.

Rachel began blogging as a means of sharing daily encouragement with other women. As a self-professed uni-tasker who struggles in a multi-tasking world, her desire to create a "soft place to land" for her family led to finding an online community of readers who love her gentle wisdom and self-deprecating humor. Since 2006, HomeSanctuary.com has been her blog home, and you can now find her writing at RachelAnneRidge.com.

Rachel wrote for and managed Priscilla Shirer's blog, GoingBeyond.com for two years, and contributes to other blogs on the topics of parenting, organization, faith, and creativity. She is an engaging speaker who loves to share funny, often poignant stories that touch the heart and reveal God's love in unexpected ways. 

Flash, The Homeless Donkey Who Taught Me About Life, Faith, and Second Chances, is published by Tyndale Momentum. Rachel lives in Texas with her husband, Tom, and now, two donkeys.


Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Earth Psalms by Francine Rivers shows God's Character



Earth Psalms
by Francine Rivers

About the Book
Millions of readers have been transformed and inspired by Francine Rivers’ bestselling novels Redeeming Love and A Voice in the Wind. Now, in this weekly devotional, the beloved author invites you to join her in seeking the Creator through the marvelous natural world we live in. Francine shares observations she’s gathered over a lifetime of exploring—abroad and in her own backyard—and reflects on how they might apply to your daily life. What do the majestic redwoods, the persistent woodpecker, or a glorious sunrise reveal about our artistic and generous God? How could that change your outlook or the way you handle adversity?


Stunning photography, Scripture excerpts, applications, and prayers accompany Francine’s reflections, inspiring you to be encouraged. Be challenged. Be comforted. God’s power is immense; His attention to detail in precise; His love for you is vast and unfailing. The proof is all around you.

My Thoughts
I've been a fan of Francine Rivers' novels for years, so I was curious what a devotion book by her would be like. And I was not disappointed!

Earth Psalms is a weekly devotion that will take you through the entire year. I loved how Rivers looks to nature to show different aspects of God's character. For example, we can see God's faithfulness in the sunrise and sunset occurring every day. As I read the devotional, I noticed myself paying attention to everyday things, seeing them with new eyes, and reflecting on who God is. Inevitably, I also found myself sharing that week's devotion with a friend. The concepts were just so easy to remember and share!

I enjoyed the weekly format of this devotional because it was easy to add to my other Bible studies since many of them are only 5 days per week. I've already given this as a gift and highly recommend this to anyone looking for a place to start studying God's Word. [5 stars]

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my fair and honest review.

About the Author
New York Times bestselling author Francine Rivers had a successful writing career in the general market for several years before becoming a born-again Christian. As her statement of faith, she wrote Redeeming Love, a retelling of the biblical story of Gomer and Hosea set during the time of the California Gold Rush. Redeeming Love is now considered by many to be a classic work of Christian fiction and it continues to be one of the industry's top-selling titles year after year.

Since Redeeming Love, Francine has published numerous novels with Christian themes—all bestsellers—and she has continued to win both industry acclaim and reader loyalty around the world. Her Christian novels have been awarded or nominated for many honors, and in 1997, after winning her third RITA Award for Inspirational Fiction, Francine was inducted into the Romance Writers of America's Hall of Fame. In 2015, she received the Lifetime Achievement Award from American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW).

Francine's novels have been translated into over thirty different languages, and she enjoys bestseller status in many foreign countries.

Francine and her husband live in northern California and enjoy time spent with their grown children and grandchildren. She uses her writing to draw closer to the Lord, and she desires that through her work she might worship and praise Jesus for all He has done and is doing in her life.


Visit her website at www.francinerivers.com and connect with her on Facebook (www.facebook.com/FrancineRivers) and Twitter (@FrancineRivers).

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Redeemed - A New Bible Study by Angela Thomas-Pharr


Redeemed Bible Study Book
by Angela Thomas-Pharr

About the Book
The moment you accept Jesus as the Lord over your life, you are redeemed. As the redeemed, we experience a lifelong journey of being transformed into HIs image. As redeemed women, we grow in the grace of Christ, and He calls us to extend grace to others.


In this 7-session Bible study, Angela Thomas-Pharr explores the practical side of redemption, inviting us to lean upon Jesus for our real help and hope.

My Thoughts
What a wonderful Bible study! I initially chose this Bible study because of the emphasis on the lifelong journey. I often get discouraged when I don't feel I'm growing "fast enough" in my relationship with Jesus, so I thought this would be helpful. The study was a great length—7 sessions, with 6 weeks of "homework" in between. The length of time required each day varied some, which was helpful in making sure I finished each week. Sometimes there just isn't time for a really in-depth day, so it was nice to have variety. My favorite aspect of the study though was reading and praying through Psalms. I thought it was overly ambitious—the entire book of Psalms in 40 days!—but it was really meaningful. I typically chose one of the Psalms for the day to journal about and pray through. This is definitely something I will do again. The entire study is great, so I'd encourage you to pick it up this summer and go through it with a group or even just one other woman. [5 stars]

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my fair and honest review.

About the Author

Angela Thomas-Pharr is a Bible teacher, national speaker, and best-selling author of books and Bible studies that include Stronger and Brave. As a mother of four, her determination to know God on an intimate level and her dedication to studying the Bible have taught her many truths—some discovered through tears and some in times of joy. Angela has the uncanny ability to be transparent, make readers laugh, and whisper to them about their most personal fears and heartfelt dreams. Visit her at angelathomas.com.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

A Convenient Christmas Wedding by Regina Scott (Review + Giveaway)

On Tour with Prism Book Tours.

A Convenient Christmas Wedding
by Regina Scott
Frontier Bachelors series, Book 5
Christian Fiction / Historical Romance
November 2016 // Harlequin Love Inspired Historical // 288 pages

About the Book
Proposing a marriage of convenience to a rugged logger is the boldest move of Nora Underhill's sheltered life. In return for Simon Wallin's protection from her overbearing family, the unassuming seamstress offers prime frontier farmland. But their paper marriage changes when Nora's greedy brother tries to draw her back into a life of drudgery. Her only option: move to Simon's farm, and into the center of his loving, unruly family.

Years of shouldering responsibility have left Simon cynical and reserved. But little by little, Nora's warmth opens his shuttered heart to joy. With their marriage claim under threat, can this practical arrangement blossom over the holidays…and become a love for all seasons?

Fifth book in the Frontier Bachelors series, following The Bride Ship, Would-Be Wilderness Wife, Frontier Engagement, and Instant Frontier Family. Frontier Bachelors: Bold, rugged, and bound to be grooms.


My Thoughts
I'm a fan of both Regina Scott and marriage of convenience stories, so A Convenient Christmas Wedding is a double win for me. The author dives into the story, and I was intrigued from the very first chapter. 

I particularly enjoyed the growth of the female heroine, Nora. This is most definitely a romance, but Nora does a lot of growing up too. She learns to stand on her own two feet and even has her new husband questioning where the wallflower, scared woman went, mere hours after their wedding takes place. 

This is a perfect book for readers who enjoy frontier settings, marriage of convenience stories, feisty women, and sweet romance. Highly recommend! [5 stars]

I received a copy of this book from the author. However, all opinions expressed are my own. I was not required to write a positive review and have not been compensated for it in any way.

About the Author
Regina Scott started writing novels in the third grade. Thankfully for literature as we know it, she didn't actually sell her first novel until she had learned a bit more about writing such as vocabulary, sentence structure, and plot. After numerous short stories and articles in magazines and trade journals, she got serious about her novel writing. The Unflappable Miss Fairchild was her first novel to be published (March 1998).

Besides her novels, Regina Scott has had published three Regency novellas ("The June Bride Conspiracy" in His Blushing Bride, "Sweeter Than Candy" in A Match for Mother, and "A Place by the Fire" in Mistletoe Kittens). Two of her novels, A Dangerous Dalliance and The Twelve Days of Christmas, have been translated into German. A Dangerous Dalliance and The Incomparable Miss Compton have been translated into Italian. Starstruck and Perfection have been translated into Dutch.

Regina Scott and her husband are the parents of two sons. They reside in the Tri-Cities of southeast Washington State and are members of the Church of the Nazarene. Born in 1959 and raised in the Seattle area, Regina Scott is a graduate of the University of Washington. She comes by her writing talent naturally--both her parents are excellent writers in their vocations as teacher and electrical technician. Her mother envisioned the plot for "Sweeter Than Candy," the novella which was written as a tribute to her.

Regina Scott is a devout Christian and a decent fencer; owns a historical, fantasy, and science fiction costume collection that currently takes up over a third of her large closet; and has been known to impersonate an independent consultant specializing in risk communication.


- 1 winner will receive: Signed copies of Would-Be Wilderness Wife (which introduced Simon Wallin, the hero of A Convenient Christmas Wedding) and Instant Frontier Family (which introduced Nora Underhill, the heroine of A Convenient Christmas Wedding), and a set of pioneer Christmas ornaments that say "Joy, Peace, Love."
- US only
- Ends November 18th
Grab Our Button!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

For Every Girl Around the World



The first thing I saw on Facebook this morning was an invitation to add this frame to my profile picture today for International Day of the Girl. You know, “to show [my] support for girls everywhere.” Oh the irony. It’s just days after tapes were released of Donald Trump, a presidential candidate, talking about women in the most foul ways possible, and now we’re being encouraged to show our support for girls having their “basic needs” met (like not being sexually assaulted?).

So rather than simply adding a frame to my Facebook profile picture, I feel compelled to share my thoughts on an issue that plagues women around the world but is often dismissed as women being hysterical or overly sensitive, or swept under the rug so that a president can stay in office, or compared to the equally-disgusting behavior of others in an effort to get your candidate elected.

I’m pouring my heart and soul out here, so I encourage you to read the entire (long) post before commenting.

. . .

I have been sexually assaulted.

And it’s happened more times than I can count or even remember.

In elementary school, boys pulled my hair and pushed me on the playground. Teachers said that meant they “liked me,” that they were “flirting.” No, ma’am. These little boys were learning that it’s acceptable to assault little girls.

In middle school, boys popped my bra in PE. I remember clearly the sting of embarrassment. But “boys will be boys.” No, coach. These teenage boys sexually assaulted me.

In 9th grade, a guy I had a crush on told the entire varsity basketball team that we slept together, that he took my virginity, that he “nailed me.” Rumors spread. My dad stepped in. I was embarrassed. The coach stepped in. I was even more embarrassed. The guy was reprimanded for “spreading rumors.” Nope. My crush sexually assaulted me.

In college, I asked a guy to go to a sorority party with me. A bunch of people went back to his apartment to watch a movie after the party was over. We kissed. He groped me. I pushed his hands away. He asked if I wanted to go back to his room. I asked a friend to take me home instead. He called the next day and said, “We can take things slow.” I said, “I don’t think so.” I didn’t want to go slow. I didn’t want to have sex with him at all. My date sexually assaulted me.

When I was 21, I was in a subway car in New York City with 20+ other people. A guy pinned me to my seat, touched himself, and graphically told me all the things he wanted to do to me. I made eye contact with the mother sitting across from me. She did nothing. I screamed for help. Everyone looked away. When we came to the next stop, I kneed the guy in the crotch and ran for the door. This stranger sexually assaulted me.

Guys have slapped my butt, popped the front of my jeans, stared at my breasts, spoken suggestively to me. It’s happened more times than I can count. It’s happened in school hallways, on college campuses, at stadiums filled with people, in shopping malls, on busy city sidewalks, in elevators, at amusement parks. Every one of those guys sexually assaulted me.

And for the most part, I’ve remained silent. I haven’t told anyone.

Perhaps it’s because when I was young, these behaviors were excused by people I trusted. “That’s how boys flirt.” No. Hitting and pushing and pulling hair is not flirting. “Boys will be boys.” If you mean, “boys will be boys” so we have to put up with their wrestling, rough housing, burping, farting, poor table manners, general smelliness, dirty fingernails, forgetting your birthday, and lack of fashion sense, okay. If you mean “boys will be boys” so we have to put up with rude jokes, sexual remarks, grabbing, groping, unwanted touches and sexual advances, absolutely not.

Perhaps it’s because when people I trusted did get involved (my dad is my hero, by the way), the boy involved got a slap on the wrist.

I have amazing parents. They love me, and I have always known that. But somewhere along the way, I believed the lie that what happened to me wasn’t that bad. And that there wasn’t anything anyone could do about it anyway.

So I stopped speaking out. I remained silent. I didn’t tell anyone. And, as a result, I contributed to the notion that “rape culture” is acceptable, that “boys will be boys,” that good girls stay silent, look the other way, and don’t make a fuss.

Not today. Not ever again.

Perhaps you think the things that happened to me aren’t “that big a deal.” Ask your sisters, your daughters, your mothers, your friends. Ask them if this kind of stuff—or worse—has happened to them. Ask them how it made them feel. And then listen.

Do you hear the tremor in their voice? Hear the anger in their words? See the tears in their eyes? See a blush of embarrassment creep up their face? Perhaps they shrug casually as if to say it doesn’t happen *that* often. Or it doesn’t make them feel *too* embarrassed. But dig deeper. Lean in closer. And listen to how sexual assault affects them.

“No means no” isn’t enough. Because that implies that at some point I said “yes.” When do you think that was? At what point when I was getting ready this morning do you think I said, “Yes, men I’m going to encounter today, it’s okay for you to sexually assault me?” Was it when I put on my bra? Was it when I picked out my clothes for the day? Was it when I fixed my hair and applied my makeup? Was it when I sprayed perfume on my wrists so I would smell nice? Which of these things makes it okay for you to assault me? To slap my butt, to stare at my breasts, to ogle me, to make sexual comments to me?

This is not about Donald Trump. Or Bill Clinton. Or any president or candidate past, present, or future. I’m just tired of hearing people—Christian people—say that sexual assault doesn’t matter. I’m tired of listening to people justify behavior and rationalize someone’s actions “in the past.” I’m tired of perpetrators—criminals!!!—excusing their behavior as “locker room talk.”

NO!

Sexual assault is not okay.

Sexual assault is never okay.

It doesn’t matter who you are. It’s not okay for you to assault a woman in the backseat of your car, in a hotel room you’ve rented for just this purpose, in the bed you share every night, under the bleachers of the high school stadium, or in the Oval Office.

It doesn’t matter who you are. It’s not okay for you to assault a woman if you’re a little boy in kindergarten testing the boundaries of a first crush or a grown man on a date with a beautiful woman. It’s not okay to assault a woman if you’re a teenager, a dad, a pastor, a brother, a cousin, an uncle, an 80-year old man, a college student, a police office, an actor, a musician, a celebrity, an author, a journalist, a presidential candidate, or the President of the United States of America.

It doesn’t matter who you are. It’s not okay to assault a woman if you’re rich or famous or think you’re above the law. It’s not okay to assault a woman simply because you have a penis and she has a vagina, and as we all know by now, “boys will be boys” and girls will stay silent.

Sexual assault is not okay.

Sexual assault is never okay.

Moms, Dads, Brothers, Sisters, Aunts, Uncles, Grandmothers, Grandfathers, Cousins, Friends, Teachers, Pastors, All People Everywhere: WE MUST DO BETTER. We must teach our sons what it means to truly respect women—starting when they are young. We must teach our daughters what it looks like and feels like to truly be respected. We must teach them to stand up for themselves when they are assaulted and then take their embarrassed confessions seriously. We must teach our children to speak out and step in for others who are being assaulted and mistreated. And, most importantly, we must lead by example.

I’m fortunate enough to have amazing men (and women, for that matter) in my life who lead by example, day in and day out. My husband, dad, mom, brother, grandparents, other relatives, bosses, co-workers, pastors, and friends from every stage of life ARE teaching their sons to respect women. They ARE teaching their daughters what being respected looks like. They ARE teaching them to stand up for themselves when they’re not being respected. They ARE teaching their children to speak out and step in for others. And, most importantly, they ARE leading by example.

But all little girls and grown women aren’t as fortunate as me. They don’t have good men in their lives to show them what respect looks like and to step in when they’re being mistreated. Many of them don’t even have other women in their lives who will support them and believe them and stand up for them.

Will YOU stand up for them? Will YOU join the men in my life and lead by example? Will YOU join me in speaking out for those who have no voice? Will YOU step in for those who are being mistreated? And will YOU start calling it what it is—sexual assault—instead of hiding behind politically correct phrases like “boys will be boys” and “locker room talk”?

Because sexual assault is not okay.

It never will be.

And I will not remain silent any longer.
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