Monday, November 28, 2011

Stuck by Jennie Allen - A Women & God Bible Study

“The vision is that we would see broken spots in our soul.”  I received the leaders’ kit for this group Bible study program that contains a leader’s guide, a workbook, a DVD with eight video lessons, and a deck of conversation and scripture cards.

The Bible Study Meeting:
The leader is reminded to listen, not lecture, and not to counsel.  The lessons, except lesson one, are to be completed at home before the meeting.  To do the lessons properly I would say they would probably take 30-45 minutes at home to study and complete. The homework discussion at the meeting should last 20-30 minutes.

The DVD lessons are very nicely produced.  The speaker is engaging and the backgrounds in the video are very nice.  The video and teaching should last 10-40 minutes.

There is a deck of cards that contain questions used as conversation starters. The cards for that week are set out and each lady chooses her favorite one. The scripture card for the week is also placed out.  The ground rules for the card session are:
  1. Be concise
  2. Keep sharing confidential
  3. Rely on scripture for truth
  4. No counseling

Meeting attendees are reminded of these rules at each meeting.  The women are then asked to “share” their answers to the question they chose.  This session should last 30-75 minutes.  I chose three questions randomly as examples:
  1. What do you love more than God?
  2. What things in your life right now get you down?
  3. How has your past contributed to your stuck places?

The material as a whole is very good and we all want to be able to say “It is well with my soul.”  I would say that this Bible study would appeal to young women, immature Christians, and not-yet believers seeking God for their lives. Jennie talks quite a bit about her life and her children in the DVD lessons, and I think this age group would find it most engaging.   It is very much a feelings based study, and some of the sharing the women are asked to participate in is very personal.  The fact that the leader is to remind them at each meeting that the conversation is confidential means that it could be very damaging if that confidentiality isn’t held.

The print in both the leader’s book and the study guide is gray instead of black and is very difficult to read.  While lovely to look at, it is very hard on the eyes.  My hope is that in later printings the print will be darkened. 

With only eight lessons, I think this is a good way for women who feel they are stuck in their spiritual lives and to receive a needed push to move forward.

No Cure for Murder by Lawrence W. Gold, M.D.

Sometimes I just can 't figure out authors!  There are a few ways that authors or publicists can contact me and ask for a book review.  One is directly by going to my website and reading the side-bar paragraph about what types of books I like to read. Another is a listing in a an e-book that was distributed to independent authors with the same information.  They can see the other books I review (some are Christian, some not), and it states that I will read Christian books. I also get emails with requests for reviews with an introduction to their book, and that is how I found this book.  So why wouldn't the author mention that an important part of the story is that Christians are reviled in this book?

There was nothing on the back cover or in what I was sent that would warn me that I would be insulted on every other page of this book.  I am still a little stunned at the hatred on those printed pages. This isn't the first time this has happened, but I just can't figure out why an author would want to insult so many people.  Do they think Christians don't read general fiction?

Here is my review, and I tried to be fair:
Although I did not enjoy this book, it is a pretty good medical mystery. The plot follows a doctor as he introduces each patient, his connection to them, and their treatment. Several become victims of a serial killer. Although I was able to figure out the killer early on, there were plenty of suspects and interesting characters throughout Brier Hospital.

I have tried to review this book fairly and not let my personal views get in the way. Unfortunately, the author did not give the reader the same courtesy. I would not recommend this book for Christians, or anyone who is pro-life unless you don't mind being insulted on every other page. 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Spotlight On Neutrals by Pat Wys

Since I prefer browns and beiges to bright colors, this is definitely the right book for me.           
The book begins with an explanation of neutrals, values, planning, general cutting and piecing instructions, appliqué, and binding. There are very good instructions from start to finish that would help even a beginning quilter.

Skill levels are not listed, but I would say seven are beginner to easy, three intermediate, and two experienced.  My favorite easy projects are Summer Stitch In which is a pattern with squares and triangles, and the matching pillow Woven Pillow Sham.  My favorite experienced project is Going my Way?, a French braid type quilt.

The cutting and piecing instructions are clear, and the templates are full-sized. The snowflake templates have to be placed on the fold of fabrics, but are easy to use.

I like this book very much and it has earned a place on my permanent shelf.

Thank you to Martingale & Company for the review copy of this book, accepted with the understanding that I will give my honest opinion.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Stigma by Philip Hawley Jr.

Setting the scene for a medical story is often difficult and unrealistic, but Philip Hawley was able to make the opening hospital scenes believable and intense when a young boy arrives with an unknown deadly illness. The web of secrets and lies creates an interesting and unforgettable story.

Stigma is a first-rate medical thriller/action/adventure and I would never have guessed this was an author’s first book.  Philip Hawley’s book can stand right along side books by the more “famous” authors. Each character is developed carefully so that the reader becomes involved with each of them and the story.

The story doesn’t just stay in the hospital though, it travels out of the country and off on an adventure I didn’t expect. It is a good story with interesting characters, and is the type of story that will appeal to both men and women.

Treasured Amish & Mennonite Recipes Published in cooperation with Mennonite Central Committee.

With 627 recipes, you really can’t go wrong with this cookbook. The Introduction is written by Carol Roth Giagnocava and the Forward is by Alan Giagnocavo in which they introduce the Amish and Mennonite cookbooks and the impact the funds have for the Mennonite Central Committee Relief efforts. There is also a brief history of the Amish and Mennonites.

All of the categories that most cookbooks have such as Appetizers, Soups, Main Dishes, etc. are here, but there are also additional recipes for European Dishes, Traditional Classics, Cheese-making, Jams, Grandma’s Remedies, and Soap Making.

The recipes included are good, hearty, home-cooking comfort food. There are also lovely rural countryside photographs to enjoy.

Inspirational Applique by Cheryl Almgren Taylor

Inspirational Applique by Cheryl Almgren Taylor is a unique book of beautiful quilts that allow you to express your faith in the symbolism of design.  Her book begins with the section of “Symbolism in Design” in which she explains the symbolism behind the colors, numbers, and specific designs.

There are three designs representing the Old Testament Scripture and eight for the New Testament.  The skill levels are not marked, but I would characterize them as three for a knowledgeable beginner, four for intermediate, and four for the advanced appliqué quilter. 

Your inspiration can be as obvious or as subtle as you like, and adjusting some of the more advanced designs can make them easier for a quilter with less experience.  For example, the quilt “As for me and my House” wall hanging would be much easier without the lettering. Of course, you are not making the statement of the scripture, but you would still have a lovely wall hanging and the practice so that you may advance in your skills.

My favorite is the “Daily Bread” wall hanging with its bundle of wheat tied with a ribbon, but it is definitely for a more advanced (or more patient) appliqué quilter.

My thanks to Martingale & Company for a review copy of this book, accepted only with the understanding that I will post my honest opinion of the book.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Seamless (or nearly seamless) Knits by Andra Knight-Bowman

Sewing seams in knit garments isn’t difficult, but it is a very time-consuming process to make it look nice.  So I was happy to find a book with almost seam-free patterns, Seamless (or nearly seamless) Knits by Andra Knight-Bowman.

The book starts with a short (3 pages) section of Special Techniques and Tips that contains instructions for cast ons, three-needle bind off, and knitting in the round.

The patterns are divided into three sections:
Building from the Bottom Up – A shell, a sweater with ½ sleeves, a long sleeveless dress, sweater with ¾ sleeves, 2 vests, 2 long sleeve sweaters, a jacket, and a hoodie

Taking it from the Top Down – A v-neck sweater with ¾ sleeves, and three long-sleeve sweaters

Somewhat Side to Side – Long vest (my favorite), Short sleeve sweater (my second favorite), 2 long sleeve sweaters, and a jacket.

Skill levels are marked and there are 8 labeled as easy, 10 as intermediate and 1 for experienced knitters.  There are 5 size ranges in each pattern.

I liked the styles in this book because they are current without being wild.  The patterns are easy to follow and have easy to read double spacing between row instructions.  The only problem I had is that on a couple of the more difficult patterns there were abbreviations that I was not familiar with.  There is a section in the back of the book for abbreviations, but I found at least three that were not explained.

Thank you to Martingale & Company for a review copy of this book, accepted only with the condition that I write my honest opinion of the book.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Injustice for All by Robin Caroll

Injustice for All: A Justice Seeker's Novel is Robin Caroll's newest Christian  fiction book.  When a young woman witnesses her godfather's murder, she goes on the run and begins a new life.  FBI agent, Rafe Baxter is also making difficult changes in his life when his career takes an unexpected turn, and he is assigned a cold case to solve.

The character of Rafe is outstanding.  He is likeable, sincere, and a man of faith.  Remington's character was a little too frenetic at the beginning, but a contrast developed later and balanced it out. The story wasn't realistic, but most good action/adventure/ mysteries aren't!  Rafe's story is so good that I hope to see his character in a sequel.

My only real criticism of the story is that the term "Oh my stars" was used so many times in the first part of the book, that it almost made me quit reading.  I am glad I didn't because the book turned out to be an enjoyable read.

As for the matters of faith in the book, Rafe was the example of a thoughtful Christian man. I enjoyed the story as he thought his actions through, and was always trying to do the right thing.  Secret and lies also have a role in this story, and the characters involved have to learn the lesson of forgiveness.

Another great Christian fiction story set in Louisiana by Robin Caroll.

About Robin Caroll:  Born and raised in Louisiana, Robin Caroll is a southerner through and through. Her passion has always been to tell stories to entertain others. Robin’s mother, bless her heart, is a genealogist who instilled in Robin the deep love of family and pride of heritage—two aspects Robin weaves into each of her books. When she isn’t writing, Robin spends time with her husband of twenty years, her three beautiful daughters, one precious grandson, and their four character-filled pets at home—in the South, where else? She gives back to the writing community by serving as Conference Director for ACFW. Her books have finaled/placed in such contests as RT Reviewer's Choice, Bookseller's Best, and Book of the Year. An avid reader herself, Robin loves hearing from and chatting with other readers. Although her favorite genre to read is mystery/suspense, of course, she’ll read just about any good story. Except historicals!

 Here is the book trailer:

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Homecoming of Samuel Lake by Jenny Wingfield

Just a quick review this time.  The Homecoming of Samuel Lake is a slow, depressing little tale of a back-woods family. I really didn't enjoy it, but then the topics of suicide, abuse, child rape, adultery, and alcoholics all in one book is a bit much for me. It started well enough with all of the family coming home for a family reunion. Unfortunately, the story was scattered and never really came to a point. Although Samuel is a preacher, this is not a book that delves into issues of faith. It seems that Samuel and his wife simply wait around for God to give them a church. If you like stories of hardscrabble life you may like this, but it just wasn't for me. 

Monday, November 14, 2011

Hemmingway Point by Nora Carroll

I received this as an e-book for review.  It didn’t seem to be a book that would appeal to me, so I didn’t read it right away.  When I finally sat down and started to read, I couldn’t put it down. 

Hemingway Point is an interesting story of three generations living in an upper class resort area.  Although the story was at times confusing as it changed generations, it grabbed me and held my interest throughout.  The characters are well-developed and have a real life feel.

The story details the consequences of the lies that families keep.  There were several twists in the story that bring the story to a satisfying conclusion.  I highly recommend this well written book.
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