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March 19th, 2014

CSFF Tour: A Draw of Kings (The Staff & The Sword #3) by Patrick W. Carr

drawofkingsI’m fussy when it comes to fantasy.  My first genre-love when it comes to reading, but after becoming a Christian I totally stopped reading for a time.  After a few years I was able to start reading again, but selectively.  I had to use discernment and hedges for myself to keep my heart stayed on Christ.  Thankfully, Patrick W. Carr’s is one fantasy series that I can recommend without reservation (and without making disclaimers and warning notes!)  When the third and final installment in the series – A Draw of Kings - came in the mail, I cried.  Really, I did.  The story got off to a bit of a bumpy start with A Cast of Stones, the first novel (my review here).  Our main hero was entirely unlikeable and it took a while for him to journey through an incredibly authentic process of change and maturation.  After reading The Hero’s Lot (book two, no review yet) it was bookish love, all together and entirely.  So, book three, I couldn’t wait to get started!

Now, it’s always tricky to review second and subsequent novels in a series for fear of giving away plot points in the earlier books for new readers.  What can I say?  We see a lot of the princess Adora in this book, making her a much more real character.  We also see more Liam than we normally do, which is nice – he still seems like a distant figure in many ways.  Sadly though, we don’t really feel Errol as much in this book as we have in others.  That being said, it could simply be that there is a lot going on.  What with all the diplomatic missions, church reformation, exotic voyages, political machinations, war, and demonic beings – times are busy in Illustra!

After finishing the series, I can say that the story isn’t as much of a pure parable as I thought it might be.  It does deal with the themes of sacrificial love, redemption, the struggle between the forces of darkness and of good played out on a human scale, but it isn’t a straight across parallel like you find in some Christian fantasy.  I’m good with that.  While it is definitely an adult-level fantasy, and includes some war and violence, the romances are tender, sweet, and for the most part, chaste.  There are a few kisses (three-four?), but that’s througout the entire series.  I’m thankful for that, it means my fantasy loving children will be able to read it at earlier ages once they can handle the political alliances and battle scenes.

Now, I have to admit, series finales are tough to write, and A Draw of Kings wasn’t my favorite of the series, that would be book two, The Hero’s Lot.  Still when all is said and done, the series closed well, and I recommend it highly as a favorite Christian fantasy series of mine.  I’m keeping my books on the shelf!


A Draw of Kings is on tour this week with CSFF, so don’t forget to read what other bloggers have to say!

Gillian Adams
Jennifer Bogart
Keanan Brand
Beckie Burnham
Mike Coville
Pauline Creeden
Vicky DealSharingAunt
Carol Gehringer
Victor Gentile
Rebekah Gyger
Nikole Hahn
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Krystine Kercher
Jennette Mbewe
Amber McCallister
Shannon McDermott
Shannon McNear
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Joan Nienhuis
Writer Rani
Nathan Reimer
Audrey Sauble
James Somers
Jojo Sutis
Steve Trower
Shane Werlinger
Phyllis Wheeler
Nicole White
Jill Williamson

March 3rd, 2014

Book Review: God Gave Us Love Boardbook Edition by Lisa Tawn Bergren

godgaveusloveboardGod Gave Us Love was first reviewed here in its hardcover format, you can read the full review here.  It is also available as a chubby, glossy board book for younger audiences.

This edition of God Gave Us Love is slightly more concise, having had some of the text and illustrations removed.  Upon first reading it, I had a difficult time finding the deletions and condensations, but I pulled out my hardcover and compared.  I actually think that the removal of some of the more complex sentences and the shortening of the story makes this book more accessible for shorter attention spans, the hardcover is a bit draggy at times.  Most importantly, the heart of the original message is clearly retained: loving others when they behaving in ways that make them hard to love (with a special application for younger siblings and family relationships).  God’s love toward us through the gift of His Son is also included in a general way (no sacrificial death and resurrection are present here).

As I stated in my original review, the lengthy and detail of the text may still be over the heads of the board book audience it is intended for, but Laura J. Bryant’s tender watercolors of bears hugging is hard for my 3-year-old to resist.  If you’d like to explore this title, I think I’d actually choose the board book over the hardcover, even for older children (say 3-5 year-olds).  It moves through the main points more quickly while maintaining all the warm fuzzies Bergen’s God Gave Us series is so well known for.


March 2nd, 2014

Book Review: Passport to the World: Your A to Z Guided Language Tour by Craig Froman

passportworldPassport to the World is a unique journey around the world based on languages. Opening with an account of the tower of Babel where the world’s one and only language was split into a wide variety of language families, the book then goes on to cover one language and a focus country for each letter of the alphabet.

There is a map-based table of contents in the front identifying all of the included languages and focus country names with page numbers. English is assigned to Australia, Cherokee to the United States, Welsh to the United Kingdom, Xhosa to South Africa, and so on. Clearly, the assigned country isn’t the only place these languages are spoken, nor is it the only language spoken in that country, but again, the focus is on language groups and not as much on geographic divisions.

If you’d like a list (and can’t guess from the flags on the front cover – don’t worry, I don’t know them all either!) we have:

Armenian in Armenia, Bengali in Bangladesh, Cherokee in the United States of America, Dutch in the Netherlands, English in Australia, French in France, German in Germany, Hebrew in Israel, Icelandic in Iceland, Japanese in Japan, Korean in South Korea, Lithuanian in Lithuania, Mandarin in China, Norwegian in Norway, Oriya in India, Pashto in Afghanistan, Quechua in Bolivia, Russian in Russia, Spanish in Mexico, Turkish in Turkey, Ukrainian in Ukraine, Vietnamese in Vietnam, Welsh in the United Kingdom, Xhosa in South Africa, Yoruba in Nigeria, and Zulu in Swaziland.

The inside cover of the book includes a ‘real’ passport book that your child places a sticker of a passport stamp in once she has made a visit to each country (stickers at the back of the book). She can date the stamp with the date she read each country’s entry.

Each language is given a two-page spread featuring the demographic facts of the country it is being associated with in the book. A colourful picture a child (or children) from today who speak the language is included beside a map of the country, an image of its flag and other photographs of interest (a special favorite here is the picture of someone in traditional or historical costume). Facts on currency, special foods, interesting facts about the language, other languages in the country, geography tidbits, etc. Are also given on each spread. My children’s favorite parts were always the ‘Speaking’ section where the same four words were given along with a pronunciation guide: hello, goodbye, thank you, and peace and the part of the page where a proverb originating from the culture was given.

The back of the book comes with “Country Facts at a Glance” section, giving demographics for population, life expectancy, literacy, square miles, internet users, and monetary unit for each country for each comparison. It also includes two quiz pages for practicing the names of the flags of all the countries and identifying them based on their shapes. A page of resources for learning about and caring for children in other countries around the world is also included at the end of the book.

We’ve used this book as a free exploration resource in our homeschool, just having it available for the children to enjoy (and oh, they have enjoyed it!) The pictures of other children their ages, the exotic languages and foods, the different types of money, it’s all been so engaging and intriguing. The glossy, visual appeal of each country’s two page section has really drawn them in.

My oldest daughter has loved this book! I think the key that has really kept my oldest coming back for more as she moved through the book is the passport and stickers. I only wish I could buy additional stickers and passports for it for her younger siblings. While she was reading through it, she would approach me on a daily basis to try out her new vocabulary words, show me pictures of the children, and tell me about what she was learning.

Passport to the Word has been a lovely, language-centred jaunt around the world that focuses not as much on a unifying theme as it does on a unifying format.


February 4th, 2014

Book Review: Scholastic Children’s Atlas of Canada


The Scholastic Children’s Atlas of Canada is a fantastic early-elementary atlas.  The clear, large-font type paired with full color illustrations and interesting topics make the work accessible and engaging.  It’s a good thing this title is a hardcover, because my children love looking through thet wide range of maps and fact charts available.

Please be aware that this work IS deliberately simplified for new atlas users.  Special features include a section on maps and atlases (how to use them, how they are developed etc.)  The atlas places Canada on the earth in reference to major geographical features and other continents, gives an overview of the country, a chart of First Nations regions and a pictorial timeline of European settlement to the present before devoting a four page section to each Canadian province.

Each four page spread includes overviews of the province, facts, flora, fauna, special geographic features, and other interesting tidbits, including each province’s emblems and important industries.  The most interesting aspect of the atlas is that the first map given for each province is adorned with illustrations for the type of landscape as well as plants and animals that live in the province.
The second map is a more typical flat map but it still includes illustrations for types of industry and shows varying development levels based on the size of buildings (small houses represent smaller towns, skyscrapers for large cities, parliament buildings for capitals etc.)   These illustrated maps really make the provinces come alive for young readers.  Being simplified it only includes only the major cities in each provincial spread and has no index.  The book closes with some basic facts and demographics about Canada in a two page spread.  It does have a very simple one page terminology listing at the end of the book.

All in all, we’re delighted by this first foray into Canadian geography.  This accessible and visually engaging volume will provide a splendid starting point for exploring our large, diverse contry.


September 15th, 2013

CSFF Tour and Book Review: A Cast of Stones (The Staff & The Sword) by Patrick W. Carr

Errol Stone is something of a misfit in the village of Callowford.  His fondness for drink the driving force of his life, the only kindness he’s shown comes from a reclusive (and somwhat irregular) priest.  When a church messenger offers him a rich sum to deliver a message to the afore-mentioned priest, he gladly accepts, only to find himself fleeing for his life and swept into a web of political intrigues as the tme to choose a new King draws near.

I’ll admit that I wasn’t certain about A Cast of Stones (I often reserve judgement on new series) – I had my discernment antennae up about the reader’s art where stones are carved and drawn to determine the truth.  However, never fear fellow readers who avoid occultic practices by the good guys!  These stones are akin to lots in the Bible, because the king has no successor, the next king must be chosen by casting stones that can only be created and read by those with the ability to do so.  The importance of the lack of an heir becomes more pronounced as the book progresses.  Not only is this king a political figure, he’s also the descendant in a sacrificial line, and vitally important to spiritual shields that stand around the kingdom, providing it with protection from evil forces.

Carr draws a fine line with Errol, he truly is almost completely unlikeable for a good third of this first title in the series.  His character development is then truly authentic, slow-paced, and believable.  His fellow companions in his hero’s journey are portrayed vibrantly as well, making for interesting travelling partners.  When their paths diverge and the point of view passes back and forth, both of the plot streams are equally enjoyable.

Now, I have to admit (and this is to your advantage) – I’ve already read the second in the series, The Hero’s Lot,  and I can confidently say that Carr is quickly becoming a favorite author of mine!  This excellent epic fantasy series from Bethany House (God bless them for continuing to publish Christian fantasy novels) includes a classic hero’s plot arc, political intrigues, exotic locales, and of course, a certain amount of romantic tension as well.  We are also treated to hints of a burgeoning reformation in a spiritual system that closely mirrors the bureaucracy and power-mongering of the Middle Ages Catholic church and force of darkness at work to manipulate politics for their own ends.

Essentially – I cannot wait for the third book to come out!  Draw of Kings, I long for you!  (Slated for release in January 2014!)

Best yet – the Kindle version of A Cast of Stones is free right now and the ePub version is as well – go get it!

It’s also available in print at AMAZON.COM and at CHRISTIANBOOK.COM!

Don’t forget to visit my fellow CSFF bloggers and read their thoughts as well:

Julie Bihn
Jennifer Bogart
Keanan Brand
Beckie Burnham
Jeff Chapman
Laure Covert
Pauline Creeden
Emma or Audrey Engel
April Erwin
Nikole Hahn
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Krystine Kercher
Shannon McDermott
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Writer Rani
Nathan Reimer
Chawna Schroeder
Jojo Sutis
Steve Trower
Phyllis Wheeler
Rachel Wyant

September 5th, 2013

Book Review: Three Decades of Fertility

Moms who have surrendered their fertility to the Lord often walk a lonely path.  With decades of anti-child culture behind us, it’s a rare and precious thing to find older women who can truly encourage and mentor us through trying times as we deal with the real-life issues of bearing and raising many children for the King.  When I first heard about the release of Three Decades of Fertility, I was so excited and headed right over to Visionary Womanhood to check it out.  When I saw there was a blog tour being organzed, well – I couldn’t resist joining in!  (Complimentary e-copy received for the purposes of this review.)

A bit about me – I’m the mother to five children (so far) from ages 10 on down.  Like many moms I have moments where I struggle, where I look ahead into the future with some trepidation, times when I desperately wish I could ask a real mom I can trust, who could understand me, some pressing questions.  Three Decades of Fertility provides a resource for moms like me.  While I am incredibly blessed to know some moms with many children, they are in similar places in their fertility journey as I am, they are still very much in the trenches and haven’t yet come to (or close to) the end of their active child-bearing years.

Editor and contributor Natalie Klejwa has brought together ten women’s stories (including her own) along with some of the most common question women might have for these experienced mothers, answered personally by each contributor.  Contributors range from the well-known to the less-known including the stories of: Carmon Friedrich, Stacy McDonald, Natalie Klejwa, Jeannette Paulson, Molly Evert, Ruth Einfeld, Terry Covey, Heather Olsson, Sue Liesmaki, Yvonne Harink, Dr. Regina Brott, and Donielle Baker.  My level of interest and connection with the stories varied from contributor to contributor, as did writing skills and abilities.  However, all the stories included were well edited (always important!) regardless of the differences in writing styles.

Personal impact?  Amazing.  Rarely have I cried during the introduction of a non-fiction book, but I did.  I really did.  And during many of the personal stories as well.   These are all very real women, with very real struggles, who believe in a very real, and a very sovereign God.  Rather than being an apologetics title (which many of the books written on larger families are), the focus of this work is encouragement.  The kind of deep, authentic encouragement that can only come from lives poured out in service of the Master through whatever troubles come.  I enthusiastically give it my highest recommendation for all women who find themselves in the midst of the often tumultous – yet joy-filled – years of fertility that God blesses us with.

Available in a wide variety of formats, Three Decades of Fertility is available as a PDF download, for Kindle, and as a Paperback!

August 21st, 2013

Book Review: The Candle Classic Bible by Alan Parry

We adore storybook Bibles here – I’m reluctant to admit how many of them I own!  So I was excited to take a peek at The Candle Classic Bible which I received to review.  The Bible includes 365 stories from the scriptures, both Old and New Testament, and the readings are divided into 365 short selections, designed for daily reading.  The book is beautifully bound – a sturdy hardcover with a ribbon bookmark, great presentation.

However, I’ve struggled to actually read it to my five children (they range from 10 months to 10, so I have a few to read to).  The illustrations – while detailed and elaborate, almost like a graphic novel – aren’t eye-catching for young children.  My husband loves them, but the colors are all muted and dull and have a dark feel to them.  The stories themselves are very short, we’re used to reading more than a few paragraphs for a single event.

I asked my oldest if she’d like to read it on her own, and she declined, saying, “I’ve already had so many Bible stories read to me.”  Well, I suppose that’s true, but she is in the intended age range of 8-10.  She’s moving on to more meaty explorations of God’s Word already.

So – who would I recommend this work to?  Older children who can read independently – possibly boys because of the darker illustrations, possibly older children of newly converted parents, or as a gift for children who don’t have much discipleship at home – those who don’t yet have a solid foundation in basic Bible story retellings and need a primer.  It’s a lovely choice for those situations even if it isn’t the best fit for us.


June 3rd, 2013

Trim Healthy Mama Before and After: 32 lb. Weight Loss

I have a secret.  I haven’t blogged about it yet, but I’ve lost 32 lbs. over the past 14 weeks by following the way of eating laid out in Trim Healthy Mama.  This isn’t a formal book review, I just want to share my story with you.

I’m the mother of five children so far, and like many moms, I have never found it particularly easy to lose weight after having children – even while exclusively breastfeeding. While I was able to get fairly trim after my first child, and my second to some degree, some bad bouts of postpartum depression and hormonal imbalances led me to settle in at a weight of 180-190 after my subsequent pregnancies. You can see me in the before picture at this weight when my 4th child was 7 months old.  I weighed 225 lbs. at 9 months pregnant with my most recent baby, just 8 months ago.

Having been 140 in high school and 150 when I married, I knew I was ‘plump’ but justified it due to my status as a mom. In reality I was just into the obese zone for my height (5’6”).

After my fifth baby was born and I felt like I was gaining weight while breastfeeding (not again!) and my blood sugar was incredibly swingy, I was ready to give up on food. Not mainly because of my weight, but just because my blood sugar made me feel so terrible. There is a lot of diabetes in my family, and I was worried. I felt better if I didn’t eat because then I didn’t have blood sugar lows afterwards. I just wanted someone to tell me how to eat.

Enter Trim Healthy Mama.

I first heard about Trim Healthy Mama through Above Rubies, but I didn’t pay it much attention until some of my local homeschooling moms had been talking about Trim Healthy Mama. I decided to check it out for real after they talked about it at a group meeting. After finding the Facebook group and joining it, I was so inspired by the stories of women who’d improved their health and lost 20-30 lbs. in around 3 months or so. I thought to myself, “Hey, I could certainly stand to lose that much weight!” I started to believe that just because I was a mom of many (just like Serene and Pearl) didn’t mean I had to carry that extra weight burden around with me. I had hope that it was possible, that other real moms were doing it, and maybe… just maybe, so could I. I downloaded the pdf ebook directly from the author’s website, then I started my journey, slowly implementing the principles as I learned and read.

I’ve lost 32 lbs. in 14 weeks, my blood sugar is much more stable and I’ve never eaten such satisfying, nutrient-rich food. Now I get to pick what I eat instead of being driven by low blood sugar and cravings. My journey isn’t over yet, but today I am almost in my healthy weight zone – 156.5 lbs. (the top of my healthy range is 155, I’m aiming for the middle – 140).  My 5th child is now 8 months old as seen in the after picture. Things are so different this time, and I’m incredibly, incredibly thankful for that!

If you’d like to try out the program for yourself, you can buy the print book at, or at the main Trim Healthy Mama website here.  (Amazon links are affiliate links.)

You can buy ebook versions at the Trim Healthy Mama website as well (PDF or mobi formats).

January 21st, 2013

Book Review: Candle BIBLE for Kids: Toddler Edition by Juliet David, Illustrated by Jo Parry

With such a wide age range of children (a few months old up to nine-years), I’m always reading a variety of different story book Bibles to try to cover everyone’s needs developmentally.  Our current Bible time in the morning currently includes a story Bible for my 2-year-old, a story Bible for my 4-year-old, and a Bible study that includes catechism and readings from the Bible (using the NIrV).  My 9-year-old is studying independently this year.

That might seem like overkill, but suffice it to say, my children are very familiar with the major stories of the Bible.  They’re able to start small and build up, adding details as they grow and mature.  Lately we’ve been reading the Candle BIBLE for Kids: Toddler Edition for my 2-year-old (though of course, it seems that ALL of my smaller children listen in no matter which story Bible we’re reading).

This cute, cheerful story Bible has a padded cover and fairly sturdy, small pages.  While it isn’t a board book, the smaller format pages are easier for little hands to turn without the risk of ripping.  So far, so good – my 2-year-old looks at this book on her own, turns pages, packs it around, and it’s hanging in there.  No rips so far.

The book is 160 pages in length and includes 14 Old Testament stories and 22 New Testament stories.  Most of the stories are around 4 pages long.  Some in the New Testament section are as short as 1 page or 2 pages.  Some in the Old Testament section are as long as 7 pages, but most seem to be 4 pages in length.  Each page has only two to three short, easily understood sentences on it.  The Bible stories themselves are fairly bare bones, but they cover all of the major points and bases.  Juliet David’s renditions are concise and readable.

Jo Parry’s illustrations are modern, bold and cheerful.  They are high interest, and my little girls like to look through this title on their own just for the sake of the illustrations.  They do portray Adam and Eve as children – something I’m never too keen on.

Overall, this is a good solid starter story Bible for toddlers.  It is holding up to our active toddler despite its many trips under the couch and around the house between Bible times and the stories are basic and readable – a good starting point for familiarizing wee ones with the major plot points in the His-story of God’s people.



December 14th, 2012

Book Review: Starflower (Tales of Goldstone Wood) by Anne Elisabeth Stengl

You might have heard me say this before (ahem), but I am absolutely in love with Anne Elisabeth Stengl’s Tales of Goldstone Wood Christian fantasy series.  Having read fantasy since the time I was a wee girl saying that Stengl’s work is a must-have series is saying a lot.

Rich writing, heartbreakingly beautiful redemptive themes, vivid characterization, and what a world-builder!  Each progressive novel reveals more of this world she’s created for us.  Starflower surprisingly takes us hundreds of years into the past to reveal more back story and to fully examine characters who previously played only supporting roles in previous novels.

Uncovering Eanrn and Imraldera’s journeys made me ache to read back through the entire series to read their parts in a new light.  In all honest – each and every one of Stengl’s novels makes me want to do the same thing!  New parts of the world, its history, and workings are continually unfolded, creating an ever deepening understanding and unity between the novels.  Too bad the rest of my books are still in boxes after our move!

That being said, newcomers could jump in here, but I certainly wouldn’t want anyone to miss the rest of this beautiful series.  Since the first book – Heartless (my favorite) – is generally available as a free download, that is also a wonderful place to start!

I did find the story a bit more slow-moving than previous novels in the series and it took me a few more sittings to finish it than one of Stengl’s works normally does, but that could be the newborn in the house too.

I unreservedly recommend reading Starflower and the rest of the series, and – as alwas – I am eagerly anticipating the next release.  In fact, I think I could keep reading character-based explorations like this one for as long as Stengl will keep writing them!


Also available in all your favorite electronic formats :).


Jennifer. Follower of Yeshua. Wife of one man. Homeschooling mother of 5.