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Friday, July 25, 2014

NIV God's Word for Gardeners Bible

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NIV God's Word for Gardeners Bible is a beautiful Bible for anyone who loves spending time outdoors. With daily and weekly readings geared around themes and special sections on garden themes in the Bible, God's Word for Gardeners is a lovely companion to Bible study. 

Edited by Shirley Cramm, God's Word for Gardeners begins with the plan for "reading God's word like a gardener." The supplemental devotions are themed by Garden Tour, Garden Work, and  Garden Stories.

This Bible is themed in garden colors of green with touches of lavender. The font is clear and not too small, making the text easily readable, except for the directions from one devotional reading to the next, which is quite small and printed in light green. I have to pull out the magnifier for those! Otherwise, the devotions are presented in a delightful and unique way.

The 52 weekly readings are divided into 260 daily readings to encourage readers to spend time in God's Word every day. Each week has a theme, such as "Preparing the Soil." The daily readings explore the theme through a broad sweep of the Bible. For example, in Week 3, you spend one day in Psalm, and then the next day in Isaiah. 

Each devotion is accompanied by a key verse, other verse references for a "Panoramic View," and a prayer. These provide wonderful study and meditations, while detailing the biblical passages. In Week 5, "Sinai Desert," the message for the weekend includes: 
"...God called for the Israelites make a sanctuary in the desert, a tabernacle or tent, giving specific instructions for his 'house' among them, emphasizing the truth that he was with his people in the desert. As he had been with Adam and Eve in the idyllic garden setting, so he was with his people Israel in the inhospitable terrain (Exodus 25:8). He manifested his glory to them there and made his presence visible, described as a cloud filling the tent..." (p. 126)

NIV God's Word for Gardeners Bible is sure to capture the hearts of nature lovers and get them motivated to delve into Scripture.




{The publisher provided me with a review copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinions.}

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Get to Know Mary

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Get to Know Mary by Nancy I. Sanders is a unique Bible study tool for kids. It is a biography of the mother of Jesus presented in a small-scale paperback book, filled with photographs, maps, charts, and graphics. The kid-friendly format of this book is apparent immediately, with a clear writing style and lots of visual interest from page one:

"Mary probably didn't go to a school. In Bible times, only boys went to school. Mary got most of her education at home but it probably did not include lessons in reading, writing, or math. Mothers taught their daughters how to cook and clean and care for their home and family" (p. 15).

Kids can use Get to Know Mary in so many ways: 
  • as a research tool for a report
  • as a Bible study companion
  • as a course textbook for Bible or History
  • as a book to read for pleasure
  • as a reference tool anytime 
Vocabulary words are highlighted, with a handy reference at the back of the book. Also featured are Scripture references, eyewitness accounts, "Did You Know?" facts, and information on other Bible heroes. The author explains concepts before delving further, such as explaining what archaeological evidence actually is before throwing the term out there assuming kids know. Each new concept is introduced systematically, as the information builds through the book. I love this! 

The author obviously understands how to teach, and the chapters are laid out almost like "lessons." I am using this book as part of our homeschool curriculum with my elementary-age son. The only addition I would suggest to the publisher is an index, which would make it easier to go back to this book as a reference. Otherwise, I highly recommend it for elementary ages as a wonderful biography/history resource. Get to Know Mary is a great way to incorporate history and  Bible study in our homeschool.


{The publisher provided me with a review copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinions.}

The Chopped Cookbook

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If you're a fan of the Chopped show on Food Network and have ever wondered if you could master the basket, then this cookbook might just be for you. 

The Chopped Cookbook features recipes to help you "use what you've got to cook something great." Beginning with the Chopped pantry, this book shows you what to stock and what to do with it. Featuring recipes for pasta, vegetables, eats, eggs, salads, and desserts, The Chopped Cookbook also includes beautiful color photographs of most of the featured dishes. The Chopped judges also appear in little sidebars that give readers a peek behind the scenes of the Chopped show.

The step-by-step directions begin with "Set Up" or other prep instructions before going through the how-to's for quick and easy meals such as Linguine with Bell Pepper Marinara, Singapore Chicken Fried Rice, and Nutty Tropical Kale and Rice Salad. My favorite feature is the section of "Completely fun ways to cook vegetables," which takes these basics to a whole new level. For anyone who needs some inspiration, The Chopped Cookbook is a wonderful resource for simplifying meal time when you need to use what you have on hand, or for expanding your mealtime repertoire. 

{The publisher provided me with a review copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinions.}

Saturday, July 12, 2014

C. S. Lewis & Mere Christianity: The Crisis That Created a Classic

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C. S. Lewis & Mere Christianity is a look at the history behind C. S. Lewis' classic book. With extensive notes, bibliography, and even photographs, author Paul McCusker's look into the world that inspired Lewis to write Mere Christianity is a valuable resource.

During the chaos and devastation of World War II, people were seeking answers to questions about their faith and their pain and confusion resulting from the war. Many were looking for hope, and leaders such as C. S. Lewis rose to the challenge of conveying the message of God's providence. Lewis personally saw the devastation of war as a soldier in World War I who was injured and nearly lost his life in France. Now as World War II began, Lewis sought a way to serve Britain. He achieved this through his radio broadcasts and his writings.

C. S. Lewis & Mere Christianity is both a biography and a history, with detailed information about the people and events that inspired Lewis' writing. I especially like how well-researched and documented this book is, and the use of numerous subtitles dividing the chapters. In addition, there are sidebars which provide further details about the people, events, philosophies, and other issues mentioned throughout the book. These features combine to make this book a wonderful resource for students and teachers, and we are finding it to be very useful in our homeschool as we study World War II and read many of Lewis' books.

{The publisher provided me with a review copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinions.}

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Big-Flavor Grill

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In the midst of cookout season, The Big-Flavor Grill: No-Marinade, No-Hassle Recipes is just the ticket to backyard deliciousness. This straightforward cookbook includes a section of grilling basics, covering how to grill, what tools, fuels, and fie to use, and other processes you need to know. Recipes are divided into Steak, Lamb, Pork, Chicken, Shrimp & Fish, Vegetables, and even Drinks. 

The recipes in The Big-Flavor Grill are intended for traditional fire grills, but the authors provide modifications for gas grillers, too. I find that the seasonings are adaptable to indoor cooking as well, with delicious combinations such as Cilantro-Lime Vinaigrette, Old Bay Tartar Sauce, and Sweet and Sour Chile-Garlic Glaze.

A nice feature is the Ingredients section at the end that clarifies and explains unfamiliar ingredients like Chile Sambal, Mavas Pepper, and Sriracha. Plus, there are a few recipes for staples like homemade mayonnaise and sun-dried tomatoes.

The gist of this cookbook is that seasonings can replace marinades, simplifying the grilling process. The easy-to-follow recipes feature three steps each: Prep, Grill, and Toss, Top, or Toss & Top. Most of the recipes are also accompanied by full color photographs so you can see how the dish is supposed to turn out, a big help for novice grillers. 

While some of the recipes include several ingredients, many only require a few items, such as the "Grilled Chicken Thighs with Chunky Peach-Bourbon Barbecue Sauce and Hot and Sour Lime Slaw" that sounds complex, but only has eight ingredients in the sauce and six in the slaw. 

The layout of the recipes, in a flowchart style, makes them especially easy to follow. I like the down to earth writing style of The Big-Flavor Grill, such as instructions to "toss with some enthusiasm" or "toss like crazy." Now, those are cooking methods I can relate to! 


{The publisher provided me with a review copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinions.}

NIV Essentials Study Bible

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The NIV Essentials Study Bible is a complete resource for Bible study, including "Lenses" from six different NIV resources:
  • NIV Study Bible
  • NIV Quest Study Bible
  • NIV Archaeological Study Bible
  • NIV Student Bible
  • The Great Rescue Bible
  • The Essential Bible Companion
This hefty slipcovered hardback Bible is full of extras, such as photographs, maps, timelines, Q & A sections, and more.

Each "Lens" of the NIV Essentials Study Bible gives readers a different way to study the Bible:
  • The Flyover Lens: gives you "the right perspective from easy-to-read introductions. These include key concepts, verses, teachings, and terms.
  • The Unpack Lens: a more traditional approach, with study notes at the bottom of the pages that include explanations of the text, verse by verse.
  • Dig Deep, Look Close Lens: the historical context, including articles and photos covering reliability, artifacts, archaeology, history, and people.
  • Q & A Lens: Concise answers with verses to back them up covering common questions, such as, "How could a man as wicked as Samson lead Israel," and "How and when will God devastate the earth?"
  • People in Focus Lens: an examination of Scripture through the stories of the people involved.
  • Insight Lens: magazine-style articles offering insights and background information.
  • Guided Tour Lens: a "bird's eye view" of the Bible. One example is a discussion of ecology withing the context of the Psalms.
  • Highlights: short notes that clarify confusing verses or highlight interesting facts.
  • Reflect & Respond Lens: quick, inspirational focus sections, such as "God is with you right now, but he might not be the only spiritual being who is with you. Scripture teaches that angels are real and that they help true believers," followed by sections to read, think, live, and move to the next level.
This comprehensive resource offers a unique way to delve into Scripture. I find this Bible especially appealing for older teens, as it addresses many areas that are relevant to their lives, plus it offers multiple study tools for getting them into the Bible. 
{The publisher provided me with a review copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinions.}

Get to Know King David: A Biography for Kids

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Get to Know King David by Nancy I. Sanders is a look into the life and character of this Biblical hero, using color photographs, maps, and other visual resources to tell the whole story. This unique Bible study tool about King David covers his adventurous life and the role he plays in history. Featuring a bibliography and scriptural references throughout, this is a great resource for young readers and for first book reports.

This edition in the Get to Know series is a biography of King David presented in a small-scale paperback book, filled with photographs, maps, charts, and graphics. The kid-friendly format of this book is apparent immediately, with a clear writing style and lots of visual interest from page one. The short chapters and paragraph breaks make this a good choice for young readers. 

My son enjoys the chapter called "The Turning Point," which deals with the ark of the covenant and how David learned from his mistakes. He will be using this book as a resource for writing a report for his homeschool history studies. 

A few of my favorite features in Get to Know King David include the numerous maps and graphics, the full-color timeline of David's life, and the complete glossary at the end of the book. Also featured are Scripture references, eyewitness accounts, "Did You Know?" facts, and information on other Bible heroes. I also like how primary sources are presented as evidence wherever possible, such as references to Scripture and the eyewitness accounts. Unfamiliar vocabulary words are highlighted and explained in the sidebars, and I even learned some new things from this book along with my son. 


I am using Get to Know King David as part of our homeschool curriculum with my elementary-age son. The only addition I would suggest to the publisher is an index, which would make it easier to go back to this book as a reference. Otherwise, I highly recommend it for elementary ages as a wonderful biography/history resource.

{The publisher provided me with a review copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinions.}

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

I Quit Sugar

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Sarah Wilson's I Quit Sugar is a handbook for eliminating sugar from your diet. As Sarah points out, sugar isn't just found in obvious things like soda and sweet treats. Sugar is an ingredient in most of what we eat. It is really eye-opening when you start to read labels and realize that even "health" foods are usually full of sugar (or fructose). We are inundated with ads and pretty packaging, easy "convenience" foods, and numerous choices that contribute to our addictions.

I Quit Sugar is a process of eliminating sugar and re-calibrating your body for better health, mental clarity, and weight loss. Sarah's method is an 8-week detox program and then a lifestyle change. In the process of changing your eating habits, Sarah emphasizes substitutions, not deprivation. She even states that she does not limit the amount she eats. However, in eliminating sugar from your body, you start to become aware of cues that tell you when you are really hungry and when you are full. Sometimes, a non-food distraction is all you need.

In addition to the 8-week step-by-step detox plan, I Quit Sugar contains recipes and tips for this lifestyle change. The recipes are mostly breakfasts, snacks, and desserts. I would like to see more dinner meals included, but Sarah states that common dinner foods are easier to modify for this eating plan, and that breakfast and snacks are often the most difficult to find. Therefore, she has focused on these recipes to help make a sugar-free lifestyle easier to attain.

I Quit Sugar is graphically beautiful, with lots of color photographs and clear, honest writing. Sarah makes this plan seem attainable through her frank and concise "lessons" and her examples from life experience. With contributions from several well known healthy cooks, including Gwyneth Paltrow and Curtis Stone, I Quit Sugar includes recipes for dishes such as:

-Zucchini "Cheesecake"
-Chocolate Peanut Butter Hot Cocoa
-Kale Pesto
-Sweet Potato Soup
-Zest-and-Poppy Cookes

There is an entire chapter devoted to sugar-free kids, with recipes and tips for getting kids on board, which honestly, seems very doable if your kids are little, before bad habits have set in. I cannot see teens jumping on this with any sort of enthusiasm, but maybe they'd be open to small changes. Sarah's point is that parents modeling healthy behaviors will go a long way in getting children to re-frame their eating and thinking.

{The publisher provided me with a review copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinions.}

Monday, June 30, 2014

Get to Know Apostle Paul

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Get to Know Apostle Paul by Nancy I. Sanders is a look into the life and character of this Biblical hero, using color photographs, maps, and other visual resources to tell the whole story. This unique Bible study tool about Paul covers his writings, his impact on the early church, and the role he plays in history. Featuring a bibliography and scriptural references throughout, this is a great resource for young readers and for first book reports.

This edition in the Get to Know series is a biography of Paul presented in a small-scale paperback book, filled with photographs, maps, charts, and graphics. The kid-friendly format of this book is apparent immediately, with a clear writing style and lots of visual interest from page one. The short chapters and paragraph breaks make this a good choice for young readers. 

A few of my favorite features in Get to Know Apostle Paul include the full-color timeline of Paul's life and the complete glossary at the end of the book. Also featured are Scripture references, eyewitness accounts, "Did You Know?" facts, and information on other Bible heroes. I also like how primary sources are presented as evidence wherever possible, such as references to Scripture and the eyewitness accounts. Unfamiliar vocabulary words are highlighted and explained in the sidebars, and I even learned some new things from this book along with my son. 

I am using Get to Know Apostle Paul as part of our homeschool curriculum with my elementary-age son. The only addition I would suggest to the publisher is an index, which would make it easier to go back to this book as a reference. Otherwise, I highly recommend it for elementary ages as a wonderful biography/history resource.

{The publisher provided me with a review copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinions.}