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Disclosure: This site contains sponsored posts, affiliate links (which means I earn a percentage of the sale) and is part of the Amazon affiliate program, but all opinions are strictly my own.

Days Like These {Book Review}

Disclosure: This could be a sponsored post or contain affiliate links (which means I earn a percentage of the sale), but all opinions are strictly my own.

I’m pretty sure that I’ve mentioned before that I love to read blogs — I follow probably 40 blogs through Google Reader, and I’m searching endlessly for a good substitute once Google Reader is gone this summer!  I love that I can read a “magazine” of sorts all about the things that are interesting to me, and I love that “normal” people can share their knowledge, skills, and/or everyday life through writing.

The book Days Like These became available for review, and I knew immediately that I wanted to read it.  The book description explains, “When Kristian wanted to show his wife Rachel how much he loved her after learning he was terminally ill, he ended up winning millions of hearts around the world, thanks to the now famous YouTube video he made for her 35th birthday.  Social media is often seen as trivial and self-absorbed, but this heartfelt and moving tribute by a young Australian father of two in the midst of a battle with cancer, drew attention to a much larger story we all wanted to know more about and an ordeal so many families face alone.”

days like these

This book is basically a compilation of the entries Kristian made to his blog during his two-year fight with cancer, which makes it unique because it captures emotions and feelings that were present during the events while they happened, rather than those remembered after one looks back.  While the YouTube video was watched by millions who flocked to his blog to learn about his experiences, Kristian’s writing remains very down-to-earth and honest from the first entry to the very sad last entry.

I also loved that this book and the blog was written from a man’s point of view, and more specifically from a husband and father of two boys.  While I certainly recognize that men have feelings and emotions, it’s not always common to see those publicly displayed.  This medium for writing allows readers to feel Kristian’s pain and sadness while also rejoicing in reaching another milestone and spending another day alive with family.  He is also very religious and comments on the strength that he draws from knowing that God knows and is in control of all things.

If you’re looking for a good read for yourself or for a special father in your life, I would highly recommend taking a look at this book!

**I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review, and the opinions I have expressed are my own.

A Change of Fortune by Jen Turano {Book Review}

Disclosure: This could be a sponsored post or contain affiliate links (which means I earn a percentage of the sale), but all opinions are strictly my own.

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9780764210181

I seriously cannot remember the last time I read a fiction novel.  I’m more into “how-to”s and self-improvement books, but an online summary and the beautiful cover of this book caught my attention and for some reason I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it!

A Change of Fortune, by Jen Turano, is a cute romance with sweet humor.  It is the story of Miss Lady Eliza Sumner, on an adventure in America, trying to rescue her stolen fortune and keep her profile low was she investigates on her own, until the dashing Beckett brothers decide to become involved.  This is quite an easy read, enjoyable to cuddle up with, and it seemed like far less then 320 pages for how quickly I was able to read it, seeing as I sometimes have a hard time finishing fiction.

I was immediately drawn in by the quick dialogue and the snappy quaint humor, and I so appreciated knowing that there would be nothing immoral that I would have to skip over.  The book is completely void of foul language or other profanities, and the characters are charming!  From the get-go, Eliza is loveable and our hero, Hamilton, is just dashing.

Throughout the majority of the novel, I hoped for a deeper plot, a bit of irony or something more thrilling than just the question of whether the two of them will end up together (because the plot-line never made me doubt), or that Eliza would retrieve her stolen fortune.  This being said, it was nice to not have to sort through a laundry list of characters or get a headache trying to sort to discrepancies or holes.

Finally, with 100 pages left, the pace really picked up and it got quite exciting when some key characters finally show up at a grand event.  I found the first half fairly predictable as it steadily provided small bits of background, but it set fire on Chapter 16, and I was completely engrossed.

Some religious aspects seemed a little forced and oddly placed, but I don’t mind and rather welcome any Christian themes.  I certainly enjoyed knowing I could enjoy the book from cover to cover without having to skip over pages or try to forget something I wish I hadn’t read.

It ties up rather nicely, with a feel good message and (spoiler!) a wedding on the last page, as every good romance should!

Squeaky clean, quite charming, simple and funny–A Change of Fortune really is a darling book!

Read more about the book and author HERE.

*I received this book from Bethany House in order the write this review, but all opinions are strictly my own.

My Very First Easter Story Sticker Book by Lois Rock, Illustrations by Alex Ayliffe {Book Review}

Disclosure: This could be a sponsored post or contain affiliate links (which means I earn a percentage of the sale), but all opinions are strictly my own.

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9780745962825I love teaching my son the importance behind certain traditions and holidays, and now that he’s actually talking and I’m getting a little feedback about what he’s learning, I’m in teaching-mode.  This year, I have the help of this sticker book to teach him the importance of Easter.  This sticker book is really a treat for kids.  There are 12 pages of colorful story and two large pages of stickers.  Its about the size of a sheet of paper–just a quarter inch taller and skinnier.  The story is simplified, but still contains quite a bit of text to keep a young child interested.

The places where the stickers should be placed are outlined in a solid color and are labeled on the sticker page as to which activity or story they belong to.  The stickers are colorful, well-illustrated, and easy to peel off.

The neat thing about this sticker book is that there is more to do than just find the right sticker and put it where it goes.  The upper part of the book contains the story of Jesus coming into Jerusalem on a donkey, upsetting the selling tables set up in the temple, the first sacrament, Judas’ betrayal, Jesus’ death on the cross, the empty tomb, and the resurrection from the tomb. The lower part of the book contains “activities”, or things to do and think about, and questions to answer, such as “What can you do to show you love someone?”.  What a great way to keep children engaged and really make this book even more interactive, as well as provide a way to encourage communication between parents and children while trying to get the meaning of Easter across.

On the last few pages are The Story of Jesus in a summary of eight pictures, and the last page contains An Easter Prayer.  I think the recommended age of 3-5 is just right.

I’m excited to share this with my son in a few weeks!  I’m sure it will be a great activity book for church, and a wonderful Easter basket present!

Click HERE for more information and where to buy the book.

*I received this book from Kregel Publications in order the write this review, but all opinions are strictly my own.

David Sticker Book by Karen Williamson, Illustrated by Amanda Enright {Book Review}

Disclosure: This could be a sponsored post or contain affiliate links (which means I earn a percentage of the sale), but all opinions are strictly my own.

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9781859859315My toddler is crazy for stickers lately!  What toddler isn’t, right?  They’re one of the best sit-still tools I have in the diaper bag.  This delightful storybook of David & Goliath is spot on perfect for any little kid who loves books and stickers.

So you see the white cut out shapes on the front cover?  The entire book is set up in this fashion, with full-color illustrated pictures depicting the well-known story, and white shapes where the stickers are intended to go, so it becomes a sort of shape-matching activity at the same time.  The pictures are rather cute and have a hand-drawn appeal.

I like the way the story was summarized and simplified.  The storyline and dialogue is easy for children to follow along.  I also like the last sentence of the book, encouraging readers to go read the full story themselves in their bible.

Great vivid colors, pleasant character depictions, and high quality stickers!  A key feature is the glossiness of the pages, which allows the stickers to be peeled off and reapplied.  This also adds to the appeal of being more than a one-time-use activity.

There are 12 pages in all, and 4 pages of stickers, and recommended for ages 3 and up.  The size is just right to sit in the lap of a toddler, and the pages can stay open on their own when pressed.

The author, Karen Williamson, is a mother of three, and worked as a London primary school teacher before launching her career as a full-time writer.

I think this is a great activity for church!  I love that my kids can read bible stories while they are trying to be still and quiet.

You can purchase the book online HERE for $5.99, which is a totally acceptable price for the value and entertainment it will provide.

*I received this book from Kregel Publications in order the write this review, but all opinions are strictly my own.

One Month to Love by Kerry & Chris Shook {Book Review}

Disclosure: This could be a sponsored post or contain affiliate links (which means I earn a percentage of the sale), but all opinions are strictly my own.

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9780307730978_p0_v1_s260x420I consider my marriage to be just as strong and happy as the day we were married, but I also believe that a good thing needs to be continuously nourished in order the thrive.  The title of this book intrigued me, as well as the challenge it presented to focus on a relationship for the next 30 days, so coincidentally ending just before Valentine’s Day.

I started reading this book the day it arrived, and it has been a joy and a pleasure every night, and food for my soul.  The short and inspirational read was the treasured moment I longed for at the end of every day.

With the book being broken down into 30 segments, the portion to read every night was only a few pages, which I thought was perfect.  It ended with several challenges—something to think about, write about, or do.  A great “So What” moment at the end of the chapter to wrap it all up, and really apply to your key relationship(s).

The first few chapters help you diagnose the relationships you want to improve, offering encouragement to those who feel a relationship is beyond repair, and pinpointing what things to think about with some proactive suggestions.  I love that most of the readings and daily challenges revolve around changing the way we look at our relationship, looking inward at our role with much self-assessment.  I am always drawn towards self-help and DIY books, so the approach is one I agree with and gravitate towards.  I don’t know if it was intentionally written this way, but the focus of the book so geniusly and subtly shifts from the problem that lies between you and another person, to an inspirational motivating quest about how you would treat the last days of your life if you only had 30 days to love.  I started reading thinking about the things I wanted to change or fix in my marriage, to feeling so empowered about the things I can change about myself to be happier, stronger, and better!

Perhaps my favorite part of the book is the sweet religious insight about relationships and character traits of our Savior, Jesus Christ, throughout the book.  These are so seamlessly presented in a way that feels completely applicable and personally touching, and not at all in a preachy manner.  Usually I am somewhat disappointed in the way Christian books cram scripture anywhere they can, but these short and sweet thoughts were so pleasant to come across.

This book is written so well!  The authors give caring advice, relevant personal short stories, and genuine concern for the readers.  I felt it was 100% applicable, and I am considering making this book a yearly read for myself, pulling it out on every January 14th until February 14th.

Well done, authors Kerry & Chris Shook.  A truly excellent and inspirational read.  Thank you for enriching my marriage!

You can read more about the book HERE.  Read an author bio of Kerry Shook HERE.

*I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

The 5 Money Personalities {Book Review}

Disclosure: This could be a sponsored post or contain affiliate links (which means I earn a percentage of the sale), but all opinions are strictly my own.

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At the beginning of each year, my husband and I like to sit down and reevaluate where we’re spending our money and our financial goals for the year.  We recently decided to max out his TSP for the year (quite a chunk of change each month!), so we’ve had to do a little juggling to make that happen.  It’s been a good month for us to determine our priorities for our use of money and also how we can work together to achieve this goal.

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That being said, The 5 Money Personalities is not a savings plan, get-rich-quick plan, or investment plan.  It doesn’t show examples of budgets or give suggestions for using coupons and finding the best deals.  Instead, this book focuses on your money personality and how it relates to your spouse’s money personality; these money personalities (Saver, Spender, Risk-Taker, Security Seeker, and Flyer) are key in determining how one relates to and uses money.  This book is clear in its assertion that there is no wrong money personality but that there can be conflicting money personalities, which is usually the reason for conflict in financial conversations between spouses.   Scott and Bethany Palmer give suggestions for spouses to sit down for 45 minutes each month with a very specific plan on how that time is used, and they also explain how spouses can come together and happily talk about money more effectively when they recognize their money personalities.

I was happy to have the chance to review The 5 Money Personalities by Scott and Bethany Palmer, though I’m not sure I was the best person to do it.  In our 8 1/2 years of marriage, we (amazingly) haven’t argued much about money; however, the times that we have argued about money have never really been about money itself but about something else related to the situation.  I agree with Scott and Bethany Palmer that we have a money relationship that should be considered just as much as any other part of our relationship in marriage.  I would recommend this book for anyone who feels like the talking about money with your spouse is a negative experience and doesn’t accomplish anything good — hopefully these suggestions can help you feel more successful in that conversation and in your financial planning.

I received this book for free from Thomas Nelson Publishing for this review, which goes along perfectly with my money personalities of Saver and Security Seeker.  🙂

Rudy by Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger {Book Review}

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One time when we were at Universal Studios in Hollywood, my husband, dad, and brothers decided that they wanted to try the iFly indoor skydiving.  They went to get all suited up, and my mom and I went to eat cinnamon soft pretzels.  We sat across from iFly and saw a group come out that we assumed would include our family, so we headed over to watch.  When we got there, we didn’t see our family, but we did see Sean Astin!  Even though he’s since starred on the Lord of the Rings and other top-earning films, I was always think of him as the title character from the inspiring movie “Rudy”.

Rudy

I had the opportunity to review the book Rudy: My Story, and I hoped that it would be as good as the movie I remembered watching when I was young.  I generally enjoy books more than their movies, but that’s not always the case for movies based on true stories — sometimes, I see a glimpse into their real lives and am disappointed.  Not the case for this book at all!  If anything, I would suggest this book OVER the movie simply because it showcases Rudy’s determination to reach his aspirations despite obstacles at every corner.

Following that same line of reading about ordinary people doing extraordinary things (see Still Lolo), Rudy: My Story shows how someone who has a lot of heart and willpower can accomplish goals that seem unreachable.  Born in to a family as 1 of 14 children in a small working-class town , Rudy decided at a young age that he would play football for Notre Dame.  His grades were less than stellar and he admits that he really didn’t have much talent, but through the support from key players in his life and a series of amazing opportunities, Rudy was accepted into Notre Dame, was a member of the football team, and played in one of the last home games of his senior year.  After graduating, he wanted his life story to be made into a movie — another lofty goal that seemed unreachable!  Again, though, the book details key players and opportunities that allowed for the movie to be made and to inspire people all over the country.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading about his successes and (as a military spouse myself) especially loved how the time he served in the military opened doors to him and provided the financing he needed for Notre Dame through the GI Bill.  I felt like the last 1/3 of the book seemed to slow down a little and might have been condensed into just a chapter or two, but that might have also been the authors’ purpose to show how Rudy felt after he had accomplished so much.  I loved the voice of this book — the writing feels like you’re sitting down with Rudy and talking with an ordinary person.  This was a great book to read at the beginning of a new year to motivate and inspire me to continue to make/keep my resolutions while also considering some goals that I might have before thought were out-of-reach.

I received a free copy of the book through Booksneeze in exchange for an honest review.  The opinion expressed in this review is my own and has not been influenced by either Booksneeze or the author.

More than a Bucket List by Toni Birdsong {Book Review}

Disclosure: This could be a sponsored post or contain affiliate links (which means I earn a percentage of the sale), but all opinions are strictly my own.

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More than_240_360_Book.731.cover a Bucket List by Toni Birdsong

 

This cute little book is a collection of ideas, recommendations, and words of advice about things to put on your “bucket list”, or things to do before you “kick the bucket”.  As soon as kids come along, I think its easy to feel like adventures are a thing of the past.  I think specifically mothers are prone to feeling tethered to the routine of the daily grind, and they forget that there are still millions of things to do as we each cross things off our bucket lists.

 

 I found this book to be perfectly inspirational and motivating to go and do!  Just as the title suggests, this book is more than a list of things to cross off, or merely bullet points of places to go and food to eat.  On nearly every page, there is a new goal to aim for, introduced with encouragement about why this idea is something you will want to achieve before you die

 

This book was full of ideas both broad and specific.  One page would be titled “Reframe failure” or “Be a true contender”, and then the next, to “Bicycle through Provence” and “Plant something to celebrate”.  It was almost hard to focus because I got so excited with ideas!  My mind would go off on tangents of how and when and where…

I appreciate that almost every other page had a religious or Christ-centered idea or call to action, which really helped keep a heavenly perspective on many of my dreams, passions and goals that are and should be regarding my faith

 

Some of my favorite items on my new bucket list:

Try every flavor on the Ben & Jerry’s menu

Write out your testimony.  Have a long and a short version.

Cross the states by train.

Build a birdhouse and enjoy its visitors.

Stop being afraid.

Kiss your sweetheart under a waterfall in Hawaii.

Pan for gold.

Live with compassion.

 

Every page was like a mini devotional and a match ready to set fire.  278 pages made it a thick little book, one that you might want to pull out every night over the course of a few weeks.  All in one sitting might be too overwhelming!  Of course, I recommend this as a super “go and do” kind of book!  If you’re like me, you might close it and want to get straight to work on your own bucket list.  I think More Than a Bucket List would be great for a high school or college graduate gift, or anyone looking for a little inspiration on what to do next

You can find more information about this book, or purchase it online HERE.

 

I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Still Lolo {Book Review}

Disclosure: This could be a sponsored post or contain affiliate links (which means I earn a percentage of the sale), but all opinions are strictly my own.

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Several years ago, I remember hearing about a reporter who would go into various towns and cities across America to find normal, ordinary people to highlight in a documentary.  He would literally open the phone book from that area and would randomly select a name whose life story would become the focus of that documentary, and then he’d move to another town or city and do it all over again.  The part of this endeavor that was most touching to me was that every person had something interesting to share — each life was inspiring and held captivating stories.

Along those same lines, I am a self-proclaimed blog junkie and love reading about friends (near and far) and their lives, and also I just finished reading a whole bunch of biographies of famous Americans (P.T. Barnum, Benjamin Franklin, Amelia Earhart, Eleanor Roosevelt, the Kennedy family, etc.) over this past month.  The thing that I’ve come to learn is that seemingly ordinary people are amazing and that famous and influential people are ordinary.  I love this idea.

These two thoughts ran through my head the entire time I read Still Lolo by Lauren Scruggs and the Scruggs Family.  A young fashion journalist who was well-traveled and had just launched an online magazine, Lauren Scruggs suddenly found her life heading in a new direction after a horrible accident with a spinning airplane propeller left her with many injuries to her brain, face, eye, shoulder, and left hand.  Her strength to endure this trial came from her faith in God and devotion to sustaining hope through her trials.

However, the part of the story that was more captivating to me was that of her parents divorce and remarriage seven years later, the bond between her and her twin sister, Lauren’s experiences in New York City as an intern at Michael Kors and on the set of Gossip Girl, and her struggle to decide on a major leading to a fulfilling career.  In short, the seemingly ordinary (yet extraordinary) parts.

I enjoyed reading this book and was able to finish it in one day.  I found that the references to her family’s faith and to God were not overwhelming but were prevalent throughout their experiences, and I thoroughly enjoyed that different members of the family told the story from their perspectives.  This would make an excellent gift or stocking stuffer for this holiday season!

You can read the first chapter here: http://mediacenter.tyndale.com/downloads/press_kits/StillLoloCh1.pdf

**Tyndale House Publishers provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for review.

God Gave Us Christmas {Book Review}

Disclosure: This could be a sponsored post or contain affiliate links (which means I earn a percentage of the sale), but all opinions are strictly my own.

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God Gave Us Christmas by Lisa Tawn Bergen and illustrated by David Hohn.

I believe in Christmas time being filled with traditions and reading this children’s book would be a cozy tradition to add this year and for years to come.  It is the story of a polar bear trying to figure out Christmas–if it came from Santa Clause or from someone else.  Mama Bear takes Little Cub on a Christmas Eve adventure to show him God and how God is the one who gave us Christmas.  The way Mama Bear kindly teaches with examples in nature is heartwarming and encourages me to teach my children in a calm, loving manner to true meaning of Christmas.

The illustrator has created beautiful artwork and has used some medium that looks like watercolors and colored pencils to create a lovely visual on every page.

A sweet book with a sweet message, and one that can and should be pulled out every year!

 

 

You can find more information about the book HERE.

Click HERE to see more books by this author and take a look inside God Gave Us Christmas.

Read more about Lisa T. Bergren HERE.

You can also enjoy a printable coloring page HERE!

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

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