Reviews

Never Ever Give Up by Erik Reese Book Review

51wOOEewimL._AA160_It started with a simple question: How can we help them? It became an international movement called NEGU: Never Ever Give Up. When Jessica Joy Rees was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor at age 11, she chose to focus not on herself but on bringing joy and hope to other children suffering from cancer.

During the ten months she battled cancer, she and her family worked in the “Joy Factory” (originally their garage) making JoyJars®—packages filled with toys, games, and love for other kids with cancer. Jessie first handed them out personally at the hospital where she was being treated, but the effort blossomed quickly and there were soon thousands of JoyJars® being distributed across the United States and to over fifteen countries. Today, more than 100,000 kids have received JoyJars®, and they continue shipping each week to kids in over 200 children’s hospitals and 175 Ronald McDonald Houses.

Jessie lost her battle with cancer in January 2012, but her message lives on in the Jessie Rees Foundation, which has become a beacon of hope for families fighting pediatric cancer.

Join the movement at www.negu.org.

 

 

 

Picture of Jessie (middle), JT, and Shaya, shortly after Jessie was diagnosed.

Picture of Jessie (middle), JT, and Shaya, shortly after Jessie was diagnosed.

Oh my goodness.  What an incredible, heartbreaking, and inspiring story.  I was crying in the very first chapter.  My daughter is 11 years old, and I couldn’t help but put myself in the writer’s shoes as I read his story of being told that his sweet 11-year old girl had an inoperable brain tumor.  Very well written, this true story tells of Jessie and her battle with cancer.  She had an extremely rare form of cancer, and the odds were desperately stacked against her.  Instead of wallowing in self-pity because she was sick, she chose to help others, and in doing so, she brought joy to herself, and to thousands of others.  She invented the “Joy Jars”, jars filled with gifts and fun stuff.  She became well known in her community after a news story was aired about her Joy Jars, and still her story spread.  Erik Reese, the author, is Jessie’s father, and he tells the story only the way a parent can.  It is heartfelt and heartbreaking.  It is inspiring and devastating.  He chronicled the last 9 months of his sweet daughter’s life, and it’s just so raw, so tender.  The chapter in which he tells of her death haunts me, and yet it reminds me to hug my own children, and to share with them what Jessie taught so many:  NEGU, or in other words, Never Ever Give Up.  What a message!

I’m giving this book 5 stars.  I loved it, and I became inspired to join the movement.  If you want to know more of Jessie’s story, or what the foundation in her name does, you can follow the foundation’s page on facebook. The beginning of the timeline on that page is full of notes from Jessie herself.  You can GO HERE to like their page.

Many thanks to Handlebar Publishing for providing me with a copy of the book.  All opinions are mine and mine alone.  No monetary compensation was received, nor was I required to leave a positive review.  I received a free copy of the book, Never Ever Give Up in exchange for my honest opinion.

Jonah and the Great Big Fish Children’s Book Review

_225_350_Book.1286.cover“God told Jonah to obey, said, ‘Go to Nineveh this day.’ But, stubborn Jonah fled instead. Didn’t do just what God said.” Jonah’s disobedience landed him inside a big fish! And there he had time to think and pray. Children will feel the waves and hear the splash as Jonah sinks “down and down and down” into the belly of the fish. This story serves as an excellent reminder of how important it is to listen to God.

 

If you are the parent of a young child or children, and you want fun and simple ways to share the stories from the Bible with your little ones, I’m betting you’ll like this book.  The entire story is told in rhyme, with bright, colorful pictures to accompany it.  My son, who didn’t want it read to him, because he already had HIS books picked out to read, ended up asking for this again and again – the first night we read it!  He’s enjoyed it many times since.  I think it’s a great bedtime story, a simple and gentle reminder to all of us that when we feel that God is pointing us in a direction, it’s where we need to go.  It’s also simple enough for the kids to read to themselves.

I’m giving the book Jonah and the Great Big Fish by Rhonda Gowler Greene 4 stars:  I really liked it!

 

Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a copy of the book in exchange for my honest opinion.  Many thanks to BookLookBloggers for providing me a copy to review!.

The Identical – In Theaters September 5, And A Soundtrack Giveaway

MV5BMTUxMzMzMTUzNV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTUyMTMxMjE@._V1_SX214_AL_We’ve got a winner!  See below:

The IDENTICAL tells the compelling story of twin brothers unknowingly separated at birth during the Great Depression. DREXEL HEMSLEY becomes an iconic 50’s rock ’n’ roll star, while RYAN WADE (Blake Rayne) struggles to balance his love for music and pleasing his father. The Reverend Wade (Ray Liotta) and his wife (Ashley Judd) are sure their adopted son has been gifted and called by God to be a preacher. But Ryan challenges his parent’s vision for his life, and unflinchingly chooses to launch his own music career with his best friend (Seth Green). Encouraged by his wife (Erin Cottrell) and employer (Joe Pantoliano), Ryan embarks on an unpredictable, provocative path – performing the legendary music of Drecel Hemsley in sold out venues all across the country. As the brothers destinies tragically collide, Ryan discovers that Drexel is his identical twin which leads him to question everything he’s ever believed about God, family, and his own identity.

 

About the Soundtrack Sampler:
 THE IDENTICAL ORIGINAL MOTION PICTURE SOUNDTRACK SAMPLER features 12 of the 20 original songs by Jerry Marcellino and Yochanan Marcellino from the film. Including “Your Love’s Keepin’ Me Tonight,” “City Lights,” “Angel of Mine,” “Everybody Knows It” and “Nashville Tonight.”

Check out the official movie website here: http://theidenticalmovie.com

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/IdenticalMovie

*If you’re interested in getting some friends together to see THE IDENTICAL, we have a group ticket opportunity HERE!

 

If you’re looking for a family-friendly, music-filled film, this is it.  I absolutely LOVE that there has been a new surge of appropriate, family-friendly movies come out recently.  I think it’s so awesome to be able to watch quality entertainment without fear of being bombarded by sex, drugs, and/or violence.  I’m definitely excited to see The Identical when it comes out!

I was given a CD sampler of the soundtrack for this film, and I can tell just from the music that this is gonna be a fun, engaging movie to watch!  My personal favorite is Angel of Mine.  (I love me a good bit of R&B.)  The music has that 50’s “Elvis” feel to it, and takes me back to what I imagine the 50’s must have been like.  The sampler of the original score is beautiful, and I can imagine that it adds a great richness to the story.  I kinda want the full soundtrack now, just so I can get that score! :D

 

Propeller Consulting, LLC has been generous enough to provide an extra copy of the soundtrack sampler for one of our lucky readers!  You can have the chance to fall in love with the music from this sweet movie!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

CONGRATULATIONS to the winner!!  Thank you everyone who entered!  Stay tuned for more. :)

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

Answering Your Kids’ Toughest Questions Book Review

Answering Your Kids Toughest Questions by Elyse Fitzpatrick & Jessica Thompson

About:

The Honest, Loving Answers Children Need to Hear

9780764211874What should you say when your five-year-old asks about his dying grandma? Or when your seven-year-old wonders if the devil is real? Or when the sixth graders in your Sunday school class are talking about a tragedy they heard about on the news? When it comes to the dark and tragic aspects of our world, it can be hard to know what to say and how much.

Mother/daughter team Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson will carefully walk you through difficult conversations, one topic at a time. Speaking from personal experience, informed by child development research, these two moms offer practical insights and age-appropriate guidance.

Talking about tough topics may not be as hard as you think, and, more important, you’ll see how these conversations can lead to meaningful discussions of God’s unchanging goodness.

 

My Thoughts:

This is a really well-written, well thought out book.  The authors focus on Christ in giving advice for how we should talk to our kids.  There are some tough subjects covered:  divorce, sexual sins, and natural disasters, to name a few.  Each topic gets it’s own chapter, and is broken down into age-groups, which is nice.

I can’t claim to agree 100% with all of their suggestions, but I do feel that this book provides a great baseline, and that it is a great tool to get conversations rolling…particularly those that are hard to face.  Sometimes our kids ask questions that are just plain hard to answer – and this book really helps to give ideas.  It’s a book you’ll want to keep on hand to refer back to time and again.

I’m giving Answering Your Kids’ Toughest Questions by Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson 4 stars.  I really like it.

Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Bethany House Publishing.  All opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a copy of the book in exchange for this review and post.

$10 Great Dates Book Review


$10 Great Dates by Peter & Heather Larson and David & Claudia Arp

About:

9780764211355Tired of the usual dinner-and-a-movie dates? Looking for new ways to connect with your spouse?

Energize your marriage by getting out of your normal routine with the help of these 52 creative date ideas. From outdoor dates to out-on-the-town dates, you and your spouse will have no trouble finding the perfect date that fits your mood–all on a $10 budget!

See for yourself how new experiences can help you bond together and nurture your relationship. Which of these will be the first of your Great Dates?

· Time Travel Great Date
· Moonlight/Sunrise Great Date
· Bucket List Great Date
· Surprise Me! Great Date

Each date includes easy preparation suggestions, tips for the date, talking points to enhance your conversations, and a Great Date takeaway. What are you waiting for?

My Thoughts:

This is a fun book, one I’ll refer to many times in the future.  There are a lot of different affordable date night ideas, ideas that look enjoyable and fun.  I’ll definitely be using as a reference!  You can use these tips for family night activities as well, if you are so inclined.

One idea I love is the $5 gift idea:  You each get $5 and 30 minutes to find a gift for your loved one in that price range (including tax).  You could make this silly by trying to find the funniest gift, or you could turn it more sentimental by searching for a meaningful gift.  Other ideas include volunteering and serving, incorporating holidays into your dates, and doing family history.

I really like the layout of the book as well.  Each date idea is numbered, and includes 2-3 pages or so of details.  Date ideas are categorized as well, and so it really makes for easy reference.

I’d recommend this book to anyone that is married.  I really, truly would.  Heck, anyone with kids can find a lot of fantastic ideas as well.  Like I said, I’m planning to do some family activities with what is shared here.  I’m giving $10 Great Dates 5 stars.  I love it!

Many thanks to Bethany House for providing this book to me.  The opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a copy of the book in exchange for this review and post.

 

 

The Boxcar Children DVD: Review and Giveaway

BoxcarChildren_400x400v2And we have a winner!  See below:

 

About the Film

Four orphaned and homeless siblings happen upon an abandoned boxcar, which with a little creativity and hard work, they gradually furnish with all the comforts of home. Fearful that they will be sent to live with the reputedly cruel grandfather they have never met, the children keep their new home a secret – until a serious illness forces them to reveal themselves in order to save young Violet.

About the Cast

Featuring an all-star cast of voice actors, including Academy Award Nominee Martin Sheen (Apocalypse Now), J.K. Simmons (Spiderman), Zach Gordon (Diary of a Wimpy Kid), Joey King (Fargo), Mackenzie Foy (Twilight series), and Jadon Sand (LEGO: The Movie), this is the very first full-length, animated feature adaptation of Gertrude Chandler Warner’s best-selling classic!

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~
My kids weren’t as excited to watch this film as I had hoped they would be, so it sat on our entertainment center for a week.  Last night, I decided I was gonna just watch it myself!  As I’d assumed, my kids heard the television on and came in to see what I was watching.

We all LOVED it!  It’s an adorable, sweet film.  Throughout the entire movie, Munchkin (11) kept saying, “Wow, they are so nice!”, or “they are so creative!”, or “what a great idea!”  as she watched.  She started out thinking the movie would be too young for her, but she really liked it.  Buddy Boy (7) kept calling the characters the Box Elder children, lol, and he’s already asked me twice today if he can watch it again.

Buddy Boy has a REALLY hard time with movies.  I’ve played church-made, gentle films (like this one) and he’s had nightmares over them.  I was definitely hesitant about playing this before bed, but I needn’t have worried.  Although there is conflict in the story, it’s not “scary” or high intensity, and so he did great with it.  In fact, I woke up to him telling me his version of the “Box Elder” Children story. :)

At times I personally was moved as well.  It’s definitely a children’s story, but I enjoyed watching these kids’ ingenuity come out, and I came away thinking that I can do a better job at being self-reliant.  Who would have thought I’d come away motivated to do better myself?  It was a pleasant surprise.

Another surprising benefit I’ve seen since watching the movie:  My kids are making extra effort to be nice to each other, like the siblings in the film.  Munchkin told me, “this makes me want to be a better big sister!”  How awesome is that??  This movie gets the FULL 5 stars from me.  We all love it!

 

Okay, so now you need to know how to get your own copy, right?  Here’s your first option.  You can Preorder at Walmarthttp://www.walmart.com/ip/38107477  .  Option 2:  You can win it here!  Pretty sweet, right? 

Good luck!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

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

 

Cattle King for a Day by L. Ron Hubbard – Review

I love listening to the audio books by L. Ron Hubbard, produced by Galaxy Press.  Let me share with you the latest:

STORY SYNOPSIS: Forged in the hot sun and sand of the Arizona desert, Chinook Shannon is as tough as they come—as steely-eyed and tall in the saddle as Randolph Scott.  But Chinook is far from home—in the north country of Montana—and facing a challenge as big as the territory itself.

 

Following his grandfather’s suspicious death, he’s come to Montana to claim his inheritance—the family’s cattle ranch.  But the territory’s crawling with bandits and bankers, and they all want a piece of Chinook’s land.

 With foreclosure hanging over the ranch, Chinook’s got exactly twenty-four hours to find out who killed his grandfather and become the Cattle King.

 He’ll follow a trail of forgery, cattle rustling and murder to find the truth, knowing he has only one ally—his Colt Peacemaker.

 Also includes the Western adventure Come and Get It, the story of an Easterner who comes to Wyoming to find out who killed his father—but discovers that the only way to get justice is to cook up a new identity for himself.

My Thoughts:

1As always, I really preferred the audio version to the book, as the audio is something I can listen to while I’m doing other things, and in that the effects added in are great.  The audio books are put together with multiple cast members, as well as sound effects and music – it’s like watching a movie, except that I get to imagine what the characters look like.

Chinook isn’t an innocent man, but he’s an honest one and his character is likeable.  He wants justice, and isn’t afraid to fight for it, even if shrewdly.  L. Ron Hubbard weaves action into the tale quickly, leaving no time for the reader to “get bored” or wait for story development.  That’s one thing I love about his style of writing.  A quick and entertaining read.  4 stars.

 

Many thanks to Galaxy Press for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for my HONEST opinion.  The thoughts expressed are mine, and mine alone.

Woman of Courage by Wanda E. Brunstetter

From New York Times Bestselling Author Wanda E. Brunstetter comes a new novel, Woman of Courage.

About the book:

WomanofCourageAmanda Pearson, a Quaker woman suffering from a broken engagement, leaves her home in New York and travels West to minister to the Nez Perce Indians. Along the way, she encounters many problems, yet she never gives up. Like a true woman of courage, Amanda trusts God to see her through, even when she fights illness, abandonment, misunderstandings, and an unexpected event. Set in 1837, this historical novel has many twists and turns that will take readers from the rugged Rocky Mountains to Oregon Territory and the home of the Spalding Mission, where the Nez Perce Indians were first introduced to Christianity.

 

My Thoughts:

Prior to reading this novel, I was not familiar with the Amish-themed fictional books.  I have to confess, I don’t really think this genre is my “style”.  I felt like the main character, Amanda, did more praying about her situation than DOING anything, and it bugged me. I much preferred her “co-star”, Yellow Bird, who seemed to have much more depth as a character. That being said, if you like the Amish fiction, you’ll probably really love this book. There is never a dull moment, as Amanda and her new-found friends face challenges of every sort, keeping the reader engaged!  Wanda Brunstetter is a good writer, and she keeps the story moving along at a very good pace.  The book is well written and I can definitely see why the author is a New York Times bestselling author.

You can view a trailer for the book as well – cool, right?

I’m going to give the book 3 stars. The only reason it’s not 4 or more is simply personal taste.  Again, if you enjoy Amish fiction, you’ll like this!

Many thanks to Handlebar Publishing for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for my HONEST opinion.  The thoughts expressed are mine, and mine alone.

Enough: 10 Things You Should Be Telling Teenage Girls (Review and GIVEAWAY)

**Giveaway Closed.  Congratulations to Nichole for winning!

I’m just finishing up a great new book – one I’m thrilled to be sharing with you:

Enough:  10 Things You Should Be Telling Teenage Girls by Kate Conner

Chapter7About:

You are beautiful. You are valuable. You are enough.

In a book based on her run-away blog post “Ten Things I Want to Tell Teenage Girls,” which garnered more than 2 million views in two weeks, Kate Conner calls us to action in Enough. We all have teenage girls in our lives who we love, whether it’s a sister, friend, or daughter. Kate has identified 10 things these girls need to hear today from someone who loves her.

Peppered with wit and laced with grace, Kate’s list tackles relevant issues like Facebook, emotions, drama, tanning beds, modesty, and flirtation. Woven into each chapter is a powerful message of worth that transcends age, and will touch the souls of women, young and old alike: You are beautiful. You are valuable. You are enough.

My Thoughts:

Holy cow, I love it.  Having an 11-year old daughter at home scares me to death, I’ll admit it.  I work at the school she attends and I am quite frequently horrified at the things I see and hear from the kids her age.  The idea of navigating the teenage years is not one I relish.

I had high hopes for this book, and it did NOT disappoint!  The author, Kate, is hilarious.  She writes the book in a way that is very blunt and to-the-point, but she keeps it fun and comfortable for the reader.  She shares advice that I find MYSELF needing to follow.  (For example, what kind of story am I telling on facebook?  It’s an eye-opener.)  She provides realistic, sage advice to the reader.

Among my favorite moments in the book is the beauty history, when Kate shares with the reader the history of what has been considered beautiful.  It’s a reminder of how fickle we are as a society in what we see as beauty, and that we ALL are beautiful the way we are.

I also love that she approaches the dreaded teenage girl emotions.  We tend to think of teenage girls as overly dramatic (and they certainly can be), and as overly emotional, but Kate reminds us that emotions are GOOD.  We should NEVER belittle a young woman, or anyone, for feeling emotions.

There are a lot of other fantastic points in the book, and my copy is sure to have plenty of highlights and will be referenced often.  I’m giving Enough by Kate Conner 5 stars.  I LOVED it!

Now for the most exciting part.  Propeller Consulting, LLC, is providing an ADDITIONAL copy of this book for one lucky reader of this blog!  (yay!)  The instructions to enter are below.  Open to the US and Canada.  Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.

 Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.

Murder at the Mikado by Julianna Deering Book Review

Published just this month is a new murder mystery by Julianna Deering, Murder at the Mikado.

About the book:

9780764210976When a celebrated ACTOR IS FOUND MURDERED IN HIS DRESSING ROOM, all signs point to Drew’s old flame. But behind the curtains nothing is what it seems and this quickly becomes his MOST puzzling case YET.

Just as Drew Farthering thinks his life has calmed down some, Fleur Landis, a former girlfriend, reappears, in dire need of his help. She’s married now, no longer an actress–but the lead actor in her former troupe’s production of The Mikado has been murdered, and Fleur is the police’s number one suspect.

Drew would rather focus on his fiancée, Madeline Parker, and their upcoming wedding, but he can’t leave Fleur and her family in the lurch–even if she did break his heart once. As Drew, Nick, and Madeline begin investigating, they discover more going on behind the scenes of the theater troupe than could ever have been imagined. It seems nearly everyone had a motive, and alibis are few and far between.

I enjoyed this book.  It has a Nancy-Drew-meets-Sherlock-Holmes feel to it.  Witty and clever, it’ll keep you guessing, which is exactly what I like in a mystery.  It is set in an English country estate in the 1930s, and I love the British feel.  Drew’s fiancee, Madeline, shows a somewhat jealous side that is real, but at times can be overkill, but other than that, it’s a great story.  The characters are sweet and endearing.  I’m giving this book 4 stars.  I really liked it!

Many thanks to Bethany House Publishing for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for my HONEST opinion.  The thoughts expressed are mine, and mine alone.