Saturday, December 22, 2012

An Amish Wedding Review

An Amish wedding is actually about three weddings; each has it’s own novella although they share the same settings and the characters overlap.

In “A Perfect Secret” the Amish heroine worries that her upcoming marriage to her stolid fiance will be without passion. In “A Perfect Match” Naomi worries that she’s too old to find love and trys to direct Zeke, a guy she’s interested in, to her friend instead. In “A Perfect Wedding” an Amish couple questions if their decision to marry is against God’s will after it seems like everything that can go wrong does.

What’s funny is the first two stories are the sort of mixed message she-thought-he-said-but-misunderstood driven stories that usually drive me crazy. There were a couple of times I wanted to smack the characters and say “Oh just go talk to him already!” That being said, it was a good sign that I cared for them, which is always necessary in a good read. J  I really loved Naomi and Zeke in the second story but the other stories not so much.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Review: Clean Water for Elirose

I just read Clean Water for Elirose by Ariah Fine and I have to say how impressed I am. This is a simple yet engaging children's book that addresses how there are some children who don't have clean water to drink. It is a great introduction to a very real issue without being too weighty for littles.

Some things I loved:

  • How the voice of the story is told from a kid's perspective, so it's one kid talking to another.
  • The cultural diversity! As well as learning about children all the way on the other side of the world, the narrators neighborhood friends come in a lot of different shades. :)
  • How the story opens kids eyes to a sad issue without being sad, and lets them know their is something very real they can do to help. 
This I didn't love:
  • Nothing
What a great Christmas gift idea to set a young child on the path to being aware of the plight of others and lend a helping hand.

For how much you ask? Well the pricing is a Pay-What-You-Can model to bring maximum awareness to this important issue. It starts at just $3 including shipping!! (Yes ladies and gentlemen, two exclamation points, it's that exciting). Book sales are all donated so maybe you could do better than that but what a great way to educate, right?

Here is some info from the author:

From Ariah Fine: "I'm going to give away one book a day from Dec. 1st to Dec. 15th. There are a few ways to enter each day:
  • Like the Clean Water for Elirose Facebook Page:
  • Refer someone to "Like" The facebook page (proven by them posting your name on our wall as the person who referred them)
  • Follow @WaterForElirose on Twitter
  • Tweet or post on Facebook about Clean Water for Elirose linking back to the website, facebook or twitter page
  • Blog about Clean Water for Elirose on your blog (counts as two entries) - And you might want to post it on our Facebook or email just so we don't miss it."

Stay tuned for an update on how my kids like the story when I share it with them!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Book Review: The House of Hope

Robin and Joyce Hill lived in a gated community in Beijing. Their family's life was marked by luxury and the security of Robin's job as an engineer. Then one day, as members of their church, they had a chance to tour a state-run orphanage. Haunted by the needs of the children they saw there, for the next four years they tried to help the institute in meaningful ways.

I volunteered to read The House of Hope because of my interest in China and adoption. I was surprised to find an emotional and uplifting story worthy of a movie screenplay.

I can honestly say this book was gripping. Everything from the bits of personal information they share, to the individual stories of the children, to how God leads and grows the ministry is really amazing. I think I ended up reading it in just two or three days because I wanted to see what was going to happen. It sounds funny to write that about a true story but it's true!

I strongly recommend you purchase a copy of this terrific book, especially since all proceeds are going to help the Hills work.

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Beautiful Words: Seabiscuit

Loved this passage regarding thoroughbred horses from Laura Hillenbrand's Seabiscuit today:
...he swoops over as much as twenty-eight feet of earth in a single stride, and corners on a dime. His body is a paradox of mass and lightness, crafted to slip through air with the ease of an arrow. His mind is impressed with a single command: run. He pursues speed with superlative courage, pushing beyond defeat, beyond exhaustion, sometimes beyond the structural limits of bone and sinew. In flight, he is nature's ultimate wedding of form and purpose.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Review: Outlive Your Life by Max Lucado

I’m embarassed to admit it, but I have a bad habit of writing off authors like Max Lucado that have massive appeal and seem to have a new book out every other month. For some reason that makes some part of me say, “Anything that has such a massive audience must pander to the lowest common denominator and can’t be that good”. All this judging before I’ve even picked up one of their books. Silly I know. 

Especially when the subject is as important as in Outlive Your Life. Because, let’s face it, you are going to die. I am going to die. And chances are it’s going to happen sooner than we think. In this book Mr. Lucado sets out to win your emotions and logic with stories and statistics that show that 1) You were created to make a difference 2) It is possible for you to make a difference and even 3) God is waiting and wanting to use you in all this difference making. His writing is easy to read –but that isn’t a bad thing. It’s obvious he’s hoping that you will see yourself differently and respond accordingly, not use his book as a basis for grand theological discussions and keep living as though you were immortal.

This book was provided to me for review purposes for free.

Friday, September 16, 2011

A Lancaster County Christmas Review & Giveaway

I received a free copy of this book for review purposes.

I've always been interested in what motivates people to do what they do. I've often wished I could peek inside others thoughts, for no other reason than good old fashioned curiosity, much the same way I wish I could peek into interesting looking homes.

I think that's why I enjoyed Suzanne Woods Fisher's A Lancaster County Christmas so much. Whether Amish or "English", man or woman, by Mrs. Fisher's pen you get to look inside the thoughts and hearts of characters that you care about.

At the center of the story are two couples; one is comprised of a teacher and photographer who are holding on to their marriage by a thread, the other is an amish couple struggling after their hopes for a baby are let down again. A driving snow storm puts them all together on Christmas Eve (rather begrudgingly at first).

I found the story to be super enjoyable and engaging. I felt really peaceful while I was reading it thanks to the likable characters and the warm tone of the book. When I wasn't reading it, I was excited to guess  what might happen next.

I also enjoyed reading about the Amish way of life. The author incorporates the day to day rituals of the Amish as well as the beliefs and traditions they've practiced and passed on for generations.

It was also nice to read about married couples, so many of the books I review are "first love" stories, which is all fine and good, but I found it refreshing to read a book that acknowledges the hardships don't end once you ride off into the sunset on your wedding day.

On to the giveaway!

To celebrate the release of her first Christmas book, Suzanne Woods Fisher has teamed up with her publisher, Revell, to bring you the "Christmas in September" iPad Giveaway! The winner will be announced on 9/27 at the A Lancaster County Christmas Facebook Party! Details below. Tell your friends and join in the fun (9/7-9/27).

Oh and be sure to follow the blog tour here - many of the bloggers have copies of the book to giveaway! 

Suzanne and Revell will be presenting one merry winner with a Christmas Prize Pack (valued at over $600):

  • A Brand New iPad 2 with Wi-Fi
  • $25 gift certificate to iTunes
  • A copy of A Lancaster County Christmas

To enter, click one of the icons below. But, hurry the giveaway ends on 9/26.

But, wait! There's more! The winner will be announced at the A Lancaster County Christmas Facebook Party on 9/27 at Suzanne's author page. During the party she'll be revealing something *BIG* - you won't want to miss it. She'll also be hosting a book chat, trivia contest and giving away a few early Christmas presents! Hope to see you there.

Enter via E-mail Enter via FacebookEnter via Twitter

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Spring for Susannah Review and Giveaway!

Spring for Susannah is a great read from first time author Catherine Richmond. She succeeds in making you wholeheartedly care for her painfully shy heroine, care for the husband she marries 'sight unseen' and the marriage that needs to survive their incompatibility and the rigors of pioneer life in the Dakota Territory.

I thought it was interesting that despite the huge conflicts of marrying someone you've never met and moving to a place you've never been, Susannah's main conflict is internal: she has to overcome a critical and nearly loveless childhood to accept love when it's offered to her, from Jesse and God.

The couple go through a lot of trials before it all ends and I almost wonder if it wouldn't have been better as two books with everything that happens. Also, if you're thinking of passing this to a younger/unmarried daughter or friend you may want to hold off as the book does cover some "marriage stuff" that, while still PG (which I really appreciated) may be distracting to someone who isn't already married. :)

All in all, it was a really fun read, I'd be interested to pick up whatever Mrs. Richmond publishes next. Oh yes, before I forget, this book was provided to me for free for review purposes. Now, on to the giveaway info!

To celebrate her debut novel, Catherine and her publisher, Thomas Nelson, have teamed up to give away a Spring For Susannah Prize Package worth over $150!

One grand prize winner will receive:

* A brand new Latest Generation KINDLE with Wi-Fi and Pearl Screen

* Spring for Susannah by Catherine Richmond (for KINDLE)

To enter just click one of the icons below and then tell your friends! But hurry, giveaway ends on June 27th. Winner will be announced on Tuesday, June 28th at 5 PM (6PM MST, 7PM CST, & 8PM EST) during Catherine's Spring for Susannah Book Club Party on Facebook! Catherine is rustling up some fun for the party - she'll be chatting about the story behind her novel, hosting a book club chat, testing your mail-order bride trivia skills, and giving away some GREAT prizes! Don't miss the fun and tell your friends!

Enter via E-mail Enter via FacebookEnter via Twitter

Monday, June 13, 2011

"Branded" Review and Contest

I'm fascinated with how people think, why they do what they do and what motivates them to change. Like why one commercial makes you want to buy, another one doesn't and a third one you don't even remember actual gets you to make a purchase. Great marketing always impresses me.

Unfortunately, the way Christians market themselves, their ideas and their savior tends to be on the other end of the spectrum.

That is what is addressed in Branded. I saw a lot of Seth Godin in this book, (famous marketing author for you normal people who don't read marketing books for fun). That's great. He's all about spreading idea's in a natural, authentic way through excellence--which could be the subject of a whole 'nother book (maybe we just don't realize how excellent God is *cough* Crazy Love! *cough*).

The book is geared to be a wake up call to people and churches who are still trying to 'sell' Jesus the same old way we always have and why it's not going to work anymore (and sadly, already doesn't work).

My favorite part of the book is Sinclair's assertion that we need to be real. Not just "I got Jesus and now my life is perfect" but really real and I'm not so great at that. But I'll be working on it.

I was hoping for more ideas on how to implement better 'branding' (and author Tim Sinclair does have a thought provoking spring board session in one of the chapters which I appreciated).

This book was provided free of charge to me by the publisher so I could give you my opinion on it.

Giveaway Info:
Kregel Publications is sponsoring a $50 giveaway!
Want in? Send a tweet (using #litfuse) about Branded or share about it on Facebook!

If you tweet we'll capture your entry when you use @litfuse. If you share it on Facebook or your blog, email them at and let 'em know. Easy.

Not sure what to tweet/post? Here's an idea.

TWEET THIS: Branded by @timjsinclair - Jesus is a life-changing product with lousy sales-people! @litfuse

FACEBOOK THIS: Branded by Tim Sinclair is a compelling look at what Christians can learn from companies like Apple & Starbucks about sharing their faith! Jesus is a life-changing product with lousy sales-people!

Monday, June 6, 2011

A Reluctant Queen Review & Contest

A Reluctant Queen Review & Contest

I’ve got two words for you: page 30. Up until page 30 I was a little worried. Things seemed a little… dry (Watch as beautiful Esther prepares dinner for her Uncle! Esther giggling with her friends at the marketplace! Watering plants!).

But then Esther’s Uncle asks her to be the voice of the Jews—by marrying a man who is from a strange land, a different religion, a divorcee and, oh yeah, the great king. From this point on I was so sucked in it wasn’t even funny. I enjoyed the way the author fearlessly took over the story to make it engaging. She “what if’s” new and interesting characters and scenarios all while sprinkling historical elements in that make the time period come alive.

Two soaked, massaged and scented thumbs up (You'll get that reference after you read the book ;) ).

**Contest Info Yo!**
To celebrate Joan Wolf’s debut Christian Fiction title, A Reluctant Queen, Joan and her publisher, Thomas Nelson, have teamed up to give away A Reluctant Queen prize package worth over $150!

One grand prize winner will receive:

* A brand new Latest Generation KINDLE with Wi-Fi and Pearl Screen

* A Reluctant Queen by Joan Wolf (for KINDLE)

To enter, just click one of the icons below. But, hurry, the contest ends on June 20th. Winner will be announced on June 21st during Joan’s A Reluctant Queen Book Club Party on Facebook (details below)! Hope to see you there!

Enter via E-mail Enter via FacebookEnter via Twitter
Join the fun on June 21st! 

Joan will be wrapping up the blog tour and Kindle giveaway promotion during her A Reluctant Queen FACEBOOK party on her FB author page. During the party she'll announce the winner of the Kindle, host a book chat discussion, test your trivia skills (Is Esther's story in A Reluctant Queen fact or fiction?), and more. Don't miss this chance to meet the author and make some new friends!

Friday, April 29, 2011

The Girl in the Gatehouse by Julie Klassen

The Girl in the Gatehouse by Jane Klassen
The Blurb: Banished from the only home she's ever known, Mariah Aubrey hides herself away in an abandoned gatehouse on a distant relative's estate. There she supports herself and her loyal servant the only way she knows how—by writing novels in secret.

The author is a Jane Austen fan and it shows. Like many of the other reviewers I read it in one day. The mix of the period, mystery of Mariah's past and her romantic interest was enough to keep me turning pages well into the night. Though, as with Jane Austen novels, there were times when I wanted to smack the characters about a little.

I also enjoyed the ancillary characters and the niblets in the story about the times, like the scene where she makes herself a pen. And while I thought parts of the very ending were a little hard to believe. I honestly didn't care. It was an enjoyable read and that's what I wanted. :)

My copy of the book was provided for review purposes by Bethany House publishers.

The Boy Who Changed the World

I received a download review copy of The Boy Who Changed the World by Andy Andrews and illustrated by Philip Hurst. I really liked the premise of the story. The title names one boy who changes the world but it's actually about 4 people, who, in the end, save 2 billion people from starvation.

In American culture we love the lone hero who sets out alone and gets a job done, or captures the bad guy, or changes history, etc. The message of The Boy Who Changed the World, is that God uses all kinds of people to do awesome things, by both the small and big decisions they make that reflect him. That is a great lesson for kids and adults alike to read and reflect on.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Life Ready Woman Giveaway!

So things got a little discombobulated on this book tour. The shipping date of the book from got pushed back, past my leave-for-Hawaii date (eek!). I arranged to have it mailed from Vegas to here but alas, it still hasn’t arrived. So my review is on hold. As soon as I read it I’ll let you know my thoughts. What’s it about? Here’s the blurb:

Thankfully, God has given us exactly that timeless, unchanging guidance for how to find peace, clarity, and God's best for our lives once we know where to look! The Life Ready Woman: Thriving in a Do-It-All World, reveals a profound biblical roadmap for how each of us can find the abundant life we are longing for, rather than the stressful, torn, how-do-I-balance-it-all life we often feel like we are trying to keep up with today. Actually being a LifeReady Woman means that you are clear about your life, bold in your faith, and able to find God’s best for you, and the end result will be that you not only survive but thrive in our do-it-all world.

I’m actually very excited to get it because the topic of  “doing it all” vs “doing just what God wants you to do” has been weighing on my mind lately. Also because I thought the other books I’ve read by Shaunti Fieldhaun, For Women Only and yes, I admit it, For Men Only (I wanted to see what she was going to say about me :) ) had some valuable stuff for my marriage.

Of course, all this postal delay doesn’t mean you can’t particiapte in the contest Shaunti is having!

In celebration of Shaunti Feldhahn’s Life Ready Woman, MomLife Today is giving away 2 Weekend To Remember Gift Packs and much more!

Weekend To Remember Get-Aways offer marriage-changing principles that you can take home and apply to your daily lives to strengthen your marriage. Whether you are newly engaged or have been married for 50 years, you will find value in the tools provided at the getaway.

Don’t miss this opportunity to receive a conference registration for you and your spouse
… and more! MomLife Today will be randomly selecting NINE lucky recipients to
receive one of these great gifts:
  1. 2 Weekend To Remember Get Away conference registrations for two. $259 value
    each pair (Two couples will receive this.)
  2. 2 Life Ready Woman DVD packs. $149 value each (Two different
    people will receive this gift.)
  3. 5 The Life Ready Woman books. (Book will go to 5 people.)
To enter click one of the icons below then tell your friends. Winner will be announced
on March 2nd on the MomLife Today website.

Also, along with a reading copy I have also been supplied with a copy to give away (yay!). So if you're interested stay tuned for my review for details on how to win a copy. :)

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

I'm Back!

I came back from the conference and hit the ground running: work, an Atlas Takes Aim show, more work, blah, blah, blah.

It's been like life doesn't want me to have a minute to reflect. But reflect I will gosh darn it. I've got to get ready for work in a few minutes so here's an abbreviated version of some of the takeaways from the conference:
  • Mom was right when she said "It never hurts to ask". It also never hurts to start a conversation with the conference attendees sitting next to you (I have a really cool story I'm going to tell you later about this). Especially when you approach your conversations thinking how you can help the person.
    Did you know deer live in the desert?
    I saw deer at the conference. This is
    not one of them but I can't find my
    camera so this is what you get.
  • In the same vein, go up and talk to that author across the room whom you admire. If they are anything like the fabulous Kersten Hamilton or Jan Johnson they will make your conference experience awesome by taking an interest in you as a person and giving you some advice to think about.
  • You can't go to every single class, lecture and event the conference is holding and if you try you will burn yourself out on the first day. Pace yourself and if you need to take a break, take a break.
  • God is still more interested in you as his child than you as a writer. Even if your writing is the sauce. 
  • If you have to wake up in the middle of the night to pump and will have to walk outside in 25 degree weather (however briefly) to get to the bathroom, you will be happy you spent the extra money four years ago to buy real Uggs, rather than those knockoffs you were eyeing at Target.

:) billie

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Last Week Grand Totals!

How I Feel in Music

The video quality is bad, but you get the idea.

If Rock and or Roll offends you watch this one instead:

(This video is so awesome. I mean come on, disco + violins always equals awesome. If you doubt it check out the bongo player at 2:16 - 2:34. He is sold on the awesome. BTW, this is the very same song I used to clean my room to back in the day.)

And now the source of my merriment:

Weeks Left: 0 (!!)
Funds left to raise: $0 

(Thank you Uncle Ira! Much gratitude Elisha!)

More posting to come soon but right now I'm sleepy.

~billie :)