Sunday, December 21, 2014

In the Heart of the Dark Wood

Billy Coffey's In the Heart of the Dark Wood is his third book set in the town of Mattingly, Virginia, and like When Mockingbird's Sing, it is a beautifully moving, compelling, and surprising story. Allie is back in this book, which takes place a year and a half after Mockingbird. After losing her mother, Allie is clinging to memories in this coming-of-age novel, as she struggles to survive her grief and loss.

In the Heart of the Dark Wood isn't your typical Christian fiction, and it really surpasses genres. Billy Coffey's writing style is rich; as you follow Zach and Allie through the woods, you feel as if you've entered the world of a literary master.

This novel is a skillfully told journey tale. And, what a heart-pounding, emotional journey it is. In the Heart of the Dark Wood is a journey of despair, mystery, sadness, growth, faith, love, and hope:
"Hope. One that said the moorings of her life may have come loose, but what was loosed could be tied back again" (p. 321).
In the Heart of the Dark Wood is a gripping book that is nearly impossible to put down until you reach the end, and then you'll want to read it again.

The publisher provided a review copy for my honest opinions.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Gift Idea: Novel Interiors

For literature lovers who enjoy inhabiting a good book, the inspiration in Novel Interiors provides a look inside some favorite literary rooms. This unique decorating and style book imagines the interiors of rooms from more than sixty works from authors like F. Scott Fitzgerald, Jane Austin, Katherine Mansfield, and Emily Bronte.

The stunning photography in Novel Interiors gives readers a fantasy escape into the worlds of the imagination, featuring whimsical decor from Anthropologie, West Elm, Pottery Barn, John Derian, Restoration Hardware, Dwell Studio, and more familiar sources.

An especially wonderful gift idea for a book lover, Novel Interiors is not only a visual feast, but it is also a well-written guide to color and design. The author explains how each palette is achieved so that readers can bring some literary influence into their home design. Even little touches can provide joy, such as a vintage suitcase or a cushy pillow. Need a gift for your English teacher? You can't go wrong with this one.

I was provided a review copy of this book for my honest opinions.

Evening Prayers: For Every Day of the Year

Pastor Christoph Rriedrich Blumbardt's Evening Prayers: For Every Day of the Year is a compendium of his prayers that were collected after his death in 1919. These prayers were originally intended for his close friends and not for publication, but they provide a deeply spiritual and moving collection of devotions for anyone. Blumbardt influenced great theologians like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and now Evening Prayers demonstrates Blumbardt's insights to everyone.

As for the details of the book, Evening Prayers features illustrated monthly dividers and one page for each day of the year with a Scripture verse followed by a brief prayer. Each one begins with gratitude to God for his many provisions, and ends with praise. 

Beginning with The Lord's Prayer on January 1st, the prayers that follow are beautiful, yet simple. And, though they were written a century ago, they are still very relevant today:

"Lord God, we thank you for your voice even when it is stern and we must go through hardship and suffering. Your voice speaks to us, and in our voice we can be glad and victorious in our life on earth. Come into our lives. May each of us realize that all we have gone through has been for the good. Be God and Lord over the nations. Be a refuge for all men. Grant that the sin and distress of this terrible time may soon pass and that we may hear your words, 'Be comforted. I will come soon. All these terrors must pass by. My will is being done. My name must be honored. My kingdom and my rule are coming. So take heart and at all times look to your God and Father in heaven.' Amen" (October 27). 

Whether you read them for reflection and meditation or as "scripts" for prayer, this collection of Evening Prayers has something special to offer all of us.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Mary Engelbreit: Peace on Earth

Mary Engelbreit's Peace on Earth: A Christmas Collection is a beautiful, full-color picture book. Mary's timeless illustrations capture the true meaning of Christmas, and the poems, stories, quotes, carols, and verses combine to create a true keepsake.

Peace on Earth is the kind of book you can pick up and read again and again. It is not a start-to-finish story but rather a compendium of short readings. I love books like this to read during the holidays with my children. If you only have a minute or two of time, you can read a complete section and fill yourself up with Christmas cheer.

Some of the things included in Peace on Earth are:
  • quotes by Christina Rossetti, Robert Herrick, and others
  • carols such as "The First Noel" and "Silent Night"
  • the Gospel of Luke
  • poems by authors such as William Blake
  • short stories, just right for read-aloud time
  • Mary Engelbreit's familiar vintage-style illustrations depicting Bible scenes and modern-day children.
I would recommend Peace on Earth for all ages. As a Mary Engelbreit fan, I had to restrain myself from pulling pages out to frame. But my son has already claimed this book for his own!

{The publisher provided me with a review copy for my honest opinions.}

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Nature Girl

One of the things I have always tried to do as an educator is to teach kids an appreciation for God's creation. When kids are taught to revere the wonders of nature, that respect carries over to other aspects of their lives. 
Nature Girl: A Guide to Going Green is designed especially for girls and encourages readers to be "green girls" for God, even while having a spa day. 
Each chapter includes activities, quizzes, crafts, recipes, science experiments, and more. Topics covered show girls the varied aspects of nature, like water, air, energy, recycling, and renewing the earth. Scripture verses are also featured throughout the book.
A great gift idea, Nature Girl along with  a few craft supplies and a nature journal would delight any tween or teen girl. 
"Part of the bestselling Faithgirlz brand, Nature Girl: A Guide to Going Green is a fun read for any girl who enjoys science or the outdoors and a great resource for parents, homeschoolers, and educators."
{The publisher provided me with a review copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinions.}