Category Archives: Book Review

Before We Were Yours

Before We Were Yours: A NovelTitle: Before We Were Yours
Author: Lisa Wingate
Publisher: Ballantine Books
ISBN: 978-0-425-28468-1

“Secrets ain’t a healthy thang, no matter how old they is. Sometimes the oldest secrets is the worst of all,” Avery is told in Lisa Wingate’s novel, Before We Were Yours.

~ What ~
At three-hundred-and-fifty-eight pages, this paperback targets those who enjoy historical fiction involving adoption, hidden pasts, and complicated family dynamics. Topics of child endangerment, abuse, and death may not be appropriate for immature readers.

In this story told in first person by two different people over seventy years apart, twelve-year-old Rill Foss and her younger siblings are violently uprooted in 1939 when their mother is rushed to the hospital to deliver a baby. Forced to live at the Tennessee Children’s Home, the sisters and brothers do all they can to stick together, but they each face one hardship and disappointment after another. Added in inserted current-day chapters, the engaged thirty-year-old Avery Stafford is drawn to a woman in a South Carolina nursing home who somehow has an old photograph of her aging grandmother. As Avery divulges into the past, she finds more than family secrets that change her and those around her.

~ Why ~
Learning about Georgia Tann and her adoption empire that included conning parents out of their children or taking them without permission for a profit, the book covers the heartbreak, loneliness, and fear from a child’s perspective and the siblings she deeply loves. I like how the chapters jumped from the past to present through two related women searching for hope.

~ Why Not ~
Those who do not like tragic tales related to orphans being physically, emotionally, and sexually abused may not want to read this one. Others may not relate to the existing political or societal norms of the South.

~ Who ~
A former journalist and speaker, Wingate is a national bestselling author who has won many writing awards.

~ Wish ~
With the ending being a little confusing, I wish there were more explanation that connected the siblings.

~ Want ~
If you are looking for a historical fiction about life as a child in the infamous Tennessee Children’s Home that was run by Georgia Tann, this story shows how family love conquers all.

Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Thanks to the author for this complimentary ARC book that I am freely reviewing.

GRAMMARLY was used to check for errors in this review.

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Psalm Hymns: Worship Leader Books 1, 2, & 3

Psalm-Hymns Worship Leader: Books 1, 2 & 3 (Volume 1)Title: Psalm Hymns: Worship Leader Books 1, 2, & 3
Author: L.L. Larkins
Publisher: Capture Books
ISBN: 978-1517796884

“By reciting or singing these psalms, God makes Himself, His records of testimonies of His deeds more accessible,” L.L. Larkins writes in the introduction of her book, Psalm Hymns: Worship Leader Books 1, 2, & 3 (Volume 1) – Dramatic, Contemplative, Singable, Recitable Psalms!

~ What ~
This two-hundred-and-ninety-page oversized paperback targets those who are seeking a compilation of rewritten psalms from the Bible that are set to the music of famous songs and hymns. By using a plethora of different versions of the Holy Bible, three books in one are included in this series that covers Psalms 1 through 89.

After an introduction and historical uses, the eighty-nine rewritten psalms cover two to eight pages each, ending with the Ten Commandments, author’s biography, and a proposed fifteen-week performance syllabus.

Each psalm is written out in poem format with the psalm title at the top of the page, followed by the type it is, tune it is set in, author of the original song, and year published. After several stanzas are written, notes are included, explaining the history of the original psalm and more information.

~ Why
This book would be helpful for a church or Sunday school group that is studying Psalms by singing corresponding rewritten wording to a famous song’s melody. With the added notes regarding the history or background information, it can become an in-depth study of the Word of God that is set to music. I like that old hymns are used such as What a Friend We Have in Jesus, Leaning on the Everlasting Arms, and Rock of Ages.

One example I enjoyed was the short Psalm 23 that is arranged in four stanzas to the tune of Away in a Manger by James R. Murray in 1887. The notes explain the name of God is Jehovah Roi as well as three other names for Him. Also mentioned are sheep and their characteristics, habits, and utter dependency on their caretaker, just like we need to be personally taken care of by Jesus.

~ Why Not ~
Those who have no interest in singing, worshiping, or learning more about Psalms in the Bible will not be interested in this book. Others may not like the translation or rewritten versions of the poems and songs of the Old Testament.

~ Wh0~
A transcriber of psalms for singing and reflections and mentor /counselor in performance and theory of worship, Larkins used to be a leader of praise and worship in church, youth, and various African groups.

~ Wish ~
It would be helpful to include an index that listed the musical arrangement that went with each psalm.

~ Want ~
If you are looking for a praise/worship book for a church, choir, or singing event, this may be a helpful source that focuses on the more than half of the Biblical Psalms.

Thanks to Capture Books for this complimentary book that I am reviewing freely.

GRAMMARLY was used to check for errors in this review.

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The Whispering of the Willows

The Whispering of the WillowsTitle: The Whispering of the Willows
Author: Tonya Jewel Blessing
Publisher: Capture Books
ISBN: 978-0-997162547

“Life in the Ashby family seemed especially hard. Where was God love? Auntie Ada told her once to look at the willows – cuz they even praised God,” Tonya Jewel Blessing writes in her novel, The Whispering of the Willows.

~ What ~
This three-hundred-and-ninety-six-page paperback targets those who enjoy historical Christian fiction involving family dynamics and romance. Using one noun that may be considered profanity and slang words, topics of physical and sexual abuse and death may not be appropriate for immature readers. While each chapter begins with an Appalachian folk belief, the ending has a list of the hymns and folksongs of the story’s era as well as eleven discussion questions.

In this tale set in the 1920s in the rural hills of West Virginia, the large Ashby family struggles often running a hog farm where parents are to be obeyed at all costs, marriages are arranged at young ages for monetary sake, and loyalty runs deep. When an act of violence happens to fourteen-year-old Emie, she has to deal with the life-changing circumstances by standing up, even if it means going against her parents’ wishes. With the help of her loving brother, a wise aunt, a dear friend, and others in the holler, many in her family learn about love versus hate, forgiveness over bitterness, and trusting in Jesus instead of oneself.

~ Why ~
This book forces the reader to consider that God is always with us, no matter the trials and tribulations we go through in life. As Emie deals with one heartbreak after another involving those she loves and herself, she yearns to trust Jesus although she cannot fathom why things keep happening that change her and those around her.

~ Why Not ~
Those who do not like books that have the eternal plan of salvation, learning to trust in Christ only, and old fashioned church hymns may not be interested in this book. Others may not want to read about the struggles of poverty, racism, hatred, and abuse.

~ Who ~
Having written a number of women’s devotionals, Blessing has traveled around the globe as a conference speaker, focusing on helping women. She and her husband currently live in South Africa. This is her first novel.

~ Wish ~
The ending was a little rushed and abrupt. I hope the author has a sequel to the book, explaining what happens next to all the interesting characters she has created.

~ Want ~
If you enjoy a novel that reiterates God is always by our side, you will not want to put down this tear-jerker that shows how one family picked up the pieces and found love after repeated disasters and tragedies.

Thanks to the Book Club Network for this complimentary book that I am reviewing freely.

GRAMMARLY was used to check for errors in this review.

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The Gatekeepers

The Gatekeepers: How the White House Chiefs of Staff Define Every PresidencyTitle: The Gatekeepers
Author: Chris Whipple
Publisher: Crown
ISBN: 978-0-8041-3824-6

“Each chief can make or break an administration, and each president reveals himself by the chief he picks,” the front jacket flap states in Chris Whipple’s book, The Gatekeepers: How the White House Chiefs of Staff Define Every Presidency.

~ What ~
At three-hundred-and-eighty-four pages, this hardbound targets those interested in the behind the scenes of the highest office in the United States, the presidency. After an introduction, nine chapters cover the different presidential chiefs of staff from 1968 to 2013, followed by an epilog, notes, bibliography, author’s note, acknowledgments, and index.

From Nixon to Obama’s terms in office, the chiefs of staff are dissected in how they got the position, their goals, frustrations, and perspectives, what they did or did not accomplish, and why they were fired or left the position.

~Why ~
I found this read extremely detailed and informative when it came to explaining how the presidential office runs and who helps or hinders history. By reading its contents, I remembered the blaming of Halderman for a causing Watergate, Rumsfield being effective keeping Ford on track, the press core loving Cheney, Baker and Duberstein rescuing Reagan from the Iran-Contra scandal, Panetta bringing discipline into Clinton’s administration, Card not empowered to control Bush’s advisers, and Obama’s Emanuel to name a few. Having written-out audio tapes, memos, and documents show the strengths and weaknesses as well as successes and disasters of both presidents and their top aides. By having to do grunt work and telling it like it is, all chiefs had few moments of peace performing the daunting task of advising their presidents.

~ Why Not ~
Those who do not like recalling the political turmoil of several of our past presidents may show no interest in reading this book. Others may find its contents sometimes gossipy and name-dropping with the who’s who of politics and Washington D.C. socialites.

~ Who ~
An acclaimed documentary filmmaker, Whipple is also a writer, speaker, and journalist who has won several awards.

~ Wish ~
I wish more photographs were included.

~ Want ~
If you are curious about who has been the United States presidents’ chiefs of staff the past fifty years, this well-written book offers a plethora of differences and similarities of the men holding the second most powerful job in government.

Thanks to Blogging for Books for this complimentary book that I am freely reviewing.

GRAMMARLY was used to check for errors in this review.

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Devotions from the Kitchen Table

Devotions from the Kitchen TableTitle: Devotions for the Kitchen Table
Author: Stacey Edwards
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
ISBN: 978-0-7180-9187-3

“God is still present no matter what a day may bring. God does not hide Himself from us. He can be found by anyone whose heart seeks Him,” Stacey Edwards writes in one of her inserts in her book, Devotions .for the Kitchen Table.

~ What ~
At two-hundred-twenty-four hundred pages, this book is meant to be read at one’s kitchen table as a devotion that targets women. Using mainly the New International Version of the Holy Bible, also referenced are the ESV, HCSB, NASB, NLT, and Message. A ribbon marker is attached.

Containing ninety devotions, each one is one to one-and-a-half pages with beautiful full-color photographs on their opened pages of homey, comfy scenes. Having short titles such as First One Awake, Meal Train, Pinwheels, Slow Cooking, Power Lines, Dad’s Voice, The Garage Door, Bird Feeder, and Grampa’s Toolbox, each begin with a written out Bible verse followed by several paragraphs correlating the topic to God and a closer relationship with Him. The endings have one to three sentence prayers regarding the devotions’ content.

~Why ~
I appreciate devotionals that have little information about the author but focus on God in day-to-day living, and this book does that. The stories are brief and to the point, often beginning with a question but rarely using the words “I” or “me.” Sometimes Old and New Testament characters or Scripture are noted as the writer shows the struggles, goals, and achievements of daily life with Christ.

A favorite was Raindrops on a Window that offers the Bible verse I Corinthians 1:9 regarding fellowship with Jesus. The author asks if you have ever noticed the raindrops on a window pane and how the view is skewed. She reminds us that when we are lonely, we must not fall into the trap that God is far away; but we need to have an accurate view of Him always being nearby, no matter what our circumstances. A short prayer is at the end asking for a proper perspective.

~ Why Not ~
Those who do not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ may not want to get a book that focuses on getting closer to the Almighty. Others may wish there were more than ninety devotions included.

~ Who ~
No information is provided about the author.

~ Wish ~
With the stunning photographs throughout the book, it draws away from the writing, so I may be one of the few that wish there were less artwork and more than ninety devotions that could be read throughout the year.

~ Want ~
If you like devotionals with beautiful photographs and short reading, this is an excellent choice for a Mother’s Day or birthday present or gift for a friend who are seeking a closer walk with Christ, but it should not take the place of daily Bible reading.

Thanks to Book Look Bloggers for this complimentary book that I am freely evaluating.

GRAMMARY was used to check for errors in this review.

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Love Letters from God: Bible Stories for a Girl’s Heart

Love Letters from God; Bible Stories for a Girl's HeartTitle: Love Letters from God: Bible Stories for a Girl’s Heart
Author: Glenys Nellist
Illustrator: Rachel Clowes
Publisher: Zonderkidz
ISBN: 978-0-310-75328-5

“Full of warmth and love, this picture book will fill girls’ hearts with the wonder of the Lord,” the inside jacket flap states in Glenys Nellist’s children’s book, Love Letters from God: Bible Stories for a Girl’s Heart.

~ What ~
This letter-size hardbound of thirty-two pages with fifteen lift-the-flap note cards targets young girls four to eight years old. Having no scary scenes, it is a compilation of fourteen rewritten Bible stories about women taken from the New International Reader’s Version. Illustrator Clowes’s expressive and detailed designs fill both sides of the opened pages, leaving lightly colored backgrounds for black wording in an easy-to-read font.

Focusing on females of the Bible, the stories include Eve, Miriam, Rahab, Deborah, Hannah, Naaman’s servant girl, Esther, Mary, the Samaritan woman, the lady to be stoned, Martha, a widow, Mary of Bethany, and Mary Magdalene. Each story has a Bible verse and fold-out love letter from God. The ending has a large heart-shaped letter to write a note to God.

~ Why ~
I like how each story is titled about different types of girls and that the fold-out love letters from God apply to the reader. Inside there is a place for the reader’s name to be written followed by encouraging words that God supposedly writes, reminding what is to be learned from the story. Adding the final page with a large blank heart-shaped note card offers an invitation to write to God

~ Why Not ~
While the concept of having letters from God inserted in the book is clever and cute, the stories written with ample creative liberties in only a positive light may misdirect young ones to incorrectly learn about the Bible. The author’s intention is a charming idea; yet one should be cautioned there are major theological flaws in many of her stories.

~ Who ~
Author Nellist has had stories and poems published in children magazines and produced other books in this series. She lives in Michigan with her husband. Illustrator Clowes illustrates children’s books and lives with her husband and family in Yorkshire, England.

~ Wish ~
I wish the stories were more accurate according to Scripture. I prefer all pronouns of God and Jesus capitalized for reverence.

~ Want ~
If you know of a young girl who wants an interactive book of fourteen Biblical stories for girls with letters written to them from God and a place to respond, this is a good choice if you can make sure the reader knows the Bible stories correctly.

Thanks to Z-Blog Squad for furnishing this complimentary book that I am freely reviewing.

GRAMMARLY was used to check for errors in this review.

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Grandpa Hugs

Grandpa HugsTitle: Grandpa Hugs
Author: Laura Neutzling
Illustrator: Cee Biscoe
Publisher: Tommy Nelson
ISBN: 978-0-7180-8940-5

“Grandpa’s chair is comfy-cozy
With room enough to share.
Before it’s time to go to bed,
We say a nighttime prayer,”
Laura Neutzling writes in her children’s book, Grandpa Hugs.

~ What ~
At twenty pages, this board book with a padded front cover and rounded corners targets children ages two to five years old. With no scary scenes, it is a nice story about grandpas. With full-color scenes on both sides of the open pages, young animals are shown with their grandfathers in different activities.

Written in rhyme with some complicated wording, this short tale shows many of the different things that grandfathers do with their grandchildren. Bunnies, foxes, monkeys, elephants, sheep, giraffes, tigers, owls, dogs, and bears depict the unique love between the generations.

~Why ~
Our three-year-old granddaughter loves being read books before she goes to sleep, and I enjoy how this one focuses on a grandpa and what he does that is special. The pictures are engaging and fun to look at for the age group.

~ Why Not ~
Those who do not believe in praying to God may want to avoid this book, but it is only mentioned in one line, and no Bible verses are included. Due to some of three syllable words, it would be best to read it out loud to beginner readers.

~ Who ~
Having a career in entertainment, Neutzling has been focusing on writing scripts, discussion guides, and books for children. She and her husband live in Florida.

~ Wish ~
Being a grandma, I hope a book for grandmothers will be coming soon.

~ Want ~
If you are looking for a bonding book about a granddad with pictures of animals, this is a nice choice. It would be an adorable book to have in the grandparents’ home when the young ones come for a visit and sit in grandpa’s lap to be read it.

Thanks to Book Look Bloggers for furnishing this complimentary book that I am reviewing freely.

GRAMMARLY was used to check for errors in this review.

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The Berenstain Bears Friendship Blessings Collection

The Berenstain Bears Friendship Blessings Collection (Berenstain Bears/Living Lights)Title: The Berenstain Bears Friendship Blessings Collection
Authors and Illustrators: Jan & Mike Berenstain
Publisher: Zonderkidz
ISBN: 978-0-310-75338-4

“God made all of us special,” Mama reminds the bears in one of the stories of Jan and Mike Berenstain’s book, The Berenstain Bears Friendship Blessings Collection.

~ What ~
Part of the Berenstain Bears / Living Lights series, this numbered one-hundred-sixty-page hardbound targets child four to eight years old, especially those that like short stories of the well-known family of bears. With no profanity or scary scenes, the story has colorful, expressive illustrations on every page. Due to some complicated wording, it would best be read out loud to beginner readers.

While most of the series are individual paperback books, this one contains five stories focusing on teaching children how God wants them to treat others. The tales included are Perfect Fishing Spot, Reap the Harvest, Faithful Friends, Kindness Counts, and God Made Your Special.

~ Why ~
This is a caring collection of stories of Papa finding a place to fish, learning to work and receive the benefits, having best friends, being kind and helpful to others, and loving those who are different than us. I like that the last three stories each end with three discussion questions and two to three activities related to its theme. While mentioning God, the stories are not preachy or pushy and most start with a written out Bible verse.

~ Why Not ~
Some may not like the references to God, but all of these books honor the Almighty. With the book not having a table of contents, it is hard to go to a particular story (a blank colored page separates each one). Because of this, some may not realize there are additional pages at the back of the some of the books to simulate conversation further.

~ Who ~
Since Stan and Jan passed away years ago, their son Mike continues to follow in his parents’ footsteps with the Berenstain Bear series and products. He lives in Pennsylvania.

~ Wish ~
I wish the book had a table of contents to make it easier on the parent reading, knowing how many pages each story is in advance.

~ Want ~
If you like the Berenstain Bears series, this one will make a thoughtful collector’s series of five books in a hardbound format.

Thanks to Z-Blog Squad for the complimentary book that I am freely evaluating.

Grammarly was used to check for errors in this review.

 

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Princess Prayers

Princess Prayers (The Princess Parables)Title: Princess Prayers
Author: Crystal Bowman
Inspired by: Jeanna Young & Jacqueline Johnson
Illustrator: Omar Aranda
Publisher: Zondervan
ISBN: 978-0-310-75869

“Dear Lord, I love you very much. It makes me glad to know your love is always with me no matter where I go,” Crystal Bowman writes in her children’s book, Princess Prayers, which is inspired by Jeanna Young and Jaqueline Johnson.

~ What ~
Part of the Princess Parables series, this thirty-page small hardbound with a glittery embossed padded front cover targets young girls ages four to eight years old. With no scary scenes except two scenes of lightning striking, the book contains prayers to God.

With brightly colored drawings that are easy to understand on the right side of the pages, there are fifteen rhyming prayers on the opposite pages that are two stanzas each. Some of the titles that involve the princess sisters include My Morning Prayer, God’s Beauty, Happy Times, When I’m Afraid, I’m Sorry, and Near to God. Small ovals on the left sides have written out Bible verses under the rhymes.

~ Why ~
Little girls who are into being or reading about princesses may like this book that concentrates on praying from morning to bedtime and for any reason needed. I like how colorful and expressive the designs are that will keep a young reader’s attention as they read the prayers.

~ Why Not ~
Those who do not believe in God or praying to Him will avoid this book. Some may not like that it is geared toward girls with the princess connotations as there is only one male depicted in one illustration. Beginner readers may find the two- and three-syllable words hard to comprehend or understand so would be best if someone read it to them.

~ Who ~
Author Bowman has written over eighty children’s books. She lives in Florida with her husband.  Young is a cancer survivor who has written over a dozen children’s books. She lives in California with her husband and four children. Also residing in the sunshine state, author Johnson and her husband have seven grandchildren, and she is devoted to teaching young ones about God. Illustrator Aranda was born in Argentina and has produced artworks worldwide, focusing mainly on children’s products.

~ Wish ~
I wish all pronouns of God were capitalized for reverence.

~ Want ~
If your young princess has enjoyed other books in this series, this prayer book would be a thoughtful addition.

Thanks to the Z Blog Squad for this complimentary book that I am freely evaluating.

GRAMMARLY was used to check for errors in this review.

 

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Preventing Credit Card Fraud

Preventing Credit Card Fraud: A Complete Guide for Everyone from Merchants to ConsumersTitle: Preventing Credit Card Fraud
Authors: Jen Grondahl Lee and Gini Graham Scott
Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield
ISBN: 978-0-979174100

“While it may not be possible to protect yourself against all fraudsters, the tips and techniques in this book will help to prevent many fraudsters from taking advantage of you as both a consumer and merchant/provider,” Jen Grondahl Lee and Gini Graham Scott write in the introduction of their book, Preventing Credit Card Fraud: A Complete Guide for Everyone from Merchants to Consumers.

~ What ~
At two-hundred-and-fifty pages, this hardbound targets those who want to protect their finances when it involves credit cards or identity. After the authors’ biographies, foreword, and introduction, the book is divided into two parts that total fourteen chapters, ending with notes and an index.

The first section discusses in nine chapters how a consumer or client can protect themselves when it comes to credit cards. Topics cover using the new chip credit cards, guarding financial information, inspecting card offers, phishing, and what the victim should do if scammed. The second part contains five chapters from the merchant or service provider’s point of view related to encouraging cash payments, potentials of fraud, avoiding chargeback frauds, and establishing security with barriers.

~ Why ~
Having had our credit cards hacked, we want to be fastidious in protecting our finances and identification. I like how the authors push using cash whenever possible and if you use a credit card, leave a trail of documentation, especially online. Explaining free trial scams, naming phony products, getting your money back, alternatives to using cards, and supplying sample written letters are included. With skimmers, cameras, and flagrant online abuse, we all need to be more careful in how we purchase items, products, or services.

~ Why Not ~
Those who do not use credit cards may not be interested in this book; however, they may find some information on how to protect one’s identity. With the book mainly about consumers, the merchants/vendors may wish their section included more.

~ Who ~
Lee is a successful Californian bankruptcy attorney who is dedicated to helping individuals and small business owners deal with debt issues and long-term plans for financial stability. An author of over ninety books, Scott is also a consultant, speaker, and seminar leader.

~ Wish ~
Since the book covers both sides of credit card issues, a consumer may not want to read about the merchant suggestions while the provider may not want to know about fraud from an individual basis. With the amount of book’s content, it could be divided into two separate entities. Since I am aware of credit card protection, I did not glean any new concepts from a consumer’s aspect.

~ Want ~
For those who are interested in protecting their credit card information, both as a consumer or vendor, this is a helpful go-to advice book.

Thanks to Bookpleasures and the authors for this book that I freely evaluated.

GRAMMARLY was used to check for errors in this review.

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