Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Adventures in Bible art & journaling :: Week 4

Here are the pages from week 4 of my Bible art & journaling adventure:

For this page - I started out just wanting to doodle something, and ended up doodling a nest. I liked what I did, so I found a place in my Note-taker's Bible to do it again:
Many of the Psalms have to do with singing (they are psalms, after all) and I was inspired after reading Psalm 96 to embellish my page with this:
Psalm 29 shows the incredible power just in the voice of the Lord, and this was the mental picture I got from reading it:
Many Psalms talk about praising the name of the Lord, but I especially liked the mental picture that came with the phrase "from the rising of the sun to its setting" from Psalm 113:
Thanks for stopping by today!
Bible: Zondervan (NASB Note-taker's Bible);
Colored Pencils: Prang (various colors);
Pens: Sakura (Pigma Micron);

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Book Review :: Esther: Royal Beauty by Angela Hunt

Esther: Royal Beauty is a new novel in the Dangerous Beauty Novel series by Angela Hunt. I have read books by Angela Hunt in the past, so I was interested in reviewing this novel. 

Esther: Royal Beauty is based on the biblical story from the book of Esther. The chapters in Esther: Royal Beauty are either told from the perspective of Hadassah (Esther) or Harbonah (a fictional character - the king's eunuch servant). It wasn't clearly stated, but Harbonah's character refers to writing a couple times which made it sound like maybe these were supposed to be written chronicles from himself and Esther.
I struggled with a few things in reading Esther: Royal Beauty:
First of all, it gives hopes and dreams to Esther that we aren't told about in the Bible. Yes, I understand that in re-telling the story as a story the author is going to form opinions and perspectives from each character, but Esther's character wasn't what I was expecting. She seemed to despise her Jewish upbringing and dreamed of getting away from it all, in whatever manner necessary (despite her conservative upbringing). 

Second, I felt like this book focused too much on castration (eunuchs) and sex (concubines/harem/king). Although it was not graphic and was delicately handled compared to so many other books out there, it was just referenced more than necessary in my opinion. 

I had more concerns until I read the author's note at the end of the novel. One thing Angela Hunt does well is research her novels thoroughly. There is a substantial reference list at the end of Esther: Royal Beauty (which you normally wouldn't find in a novel at all) and the author's note directly acknowledges some of the concerns I had about the story. After reading the author's note I felt like I had a better understanding of the author's perspective, so it might be good to read this before reading the novel (but it may have a couple small spoilers if read before the novel). 

As is mentioned in the author's note, there are many events mentioned in the novel which were either historically accurate (according to the author's research) or historically based (meaning they were likely to happen, but not necessarily fact). The events in Esther: Royal Beauty are both based on the biblical account and extra-biblical historical information.

Although I did enjoy reading Esther: Royal Beauty, it isn't among my top favorite Angela Hunt novels. Still, it was interesting to read. 
FTC Declaration: The publisher has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book or advanced reading copy through the Bethany House Blogger Review Program. This does not change the fact that I will give my honest opinion in my reviews.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Book Review :: Bunny's First Spring by Sally Lloyd Jones, illustrated by David McPhail

Bunny's First Spring is a new hardcover book (with dust jacket - same images on each) from Sally Lloyd-Jones, illustrated by David McPhail. You may know Sally Lloyd-Jones as the author of The Jesus Storybook Bible and Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing

I must admit, with Sally Lloyd-Jones as the author, I was expecting more of a moral-based or praise-based book. Really, this is just the story of a little bunny who is born one spring, sees the change that fall and winter bring, and then gets to see the re-birth of the next spring. The change and growth of the world are often compared to the bunny throughout the story. It is sweet to experience the seasons for the "first time" with the little bunny, and the illustrations are a beautiful complement to the text. There is a (paraphrased) quote from Martin Luther at the end of the story, but I wish the idea of God bringing new life had been emphasized in the text of the story, rather than just tacked on in a quote at the end. 

I think Bunny's First Spring is a cute book to share with little ones about the changes that the seasons bring. (The book states ages 4-8, but I think this may be more suited for ages 2 or 3 through 6.)
FTC Declaration: The publisher has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book or advanced reading copy. This does not change the fact that I will give my honest opinion in my reviews.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Adventures in Bible art & journaling :: Week 3

Here are the pages from week 3 of my Bible art & journaling adventure:

Reading about Nebuchadnezzar in the book of Daniel made me have a new respect for him. Many times we focus on the part of the story where he is requiring everyone to bow down to his statue, but after an extremely humbling time, he immediately raises his head and praises God. 
This is inspired by a quote that I love from The Jesus Storybook Bible ("And they were lovely because he loved them."):
Psalm 148 is full of praise to God (and who...or what...should be praising God) and I just loved the mental picture it gave:
I love the picture Psalm 8 gives of God "hanging" the moon and stars in place: 
For this page, I combined the images that were talked about in two different translations (NASB & NIV):
I love this blessing: 
I don't remember what exactly brought me to this passage (quite a few of the passages I have come across lately are from our family reading time using the Daily Office Lectionary in The Book of Common Prayer, so it may have been something from there), but I immediately had a picture in my head when I read it, so I just had to get it down:
I love wearing scarves, and when I read about binding love and faithfulness around your neck, this is the picture I got:
Life is like a mist:

Thanks for stopping by today!
Bible: Zondervan (NASB Note-taker's Bible);
Colored Pencils: Prang (various colors);
Pens: ZIG (Millennium); Sakura (Pigma Micron); 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Book Review :: One Thousand Gifts Devotional by Ann Voskamp

One Thousand Gifts Devotional is a devotional by blogger and author of the popular book One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp.

One Thousand Gifts Devotional is a hardcover book with an attached ribbon bookmark. (The hardcover is just as you see it in the preview image, there is no dust jacket.)

Ann Voskamp has a very particular style of writing (very flowery and somewhat disjointed, in my opinion), and it takes me awhile to get in the mode. If you have read her blog or her book (One Thousand Gifts), you will be familiar with her writing style. I felt this was even more difficult to manage in a devotional than I did in her book, simply because devotionals are intended to be "digested" in small portions. At first, it took me reading about 5 devotionals in a row (in one sitting) for it to really start sinking in.

Each of the 60 devotions in One Thousand Gifts Devotional is followed by a short prayer and then the remainder of the last page is lined (for notes, prayers, etc.). In a few cases the prayer ends at the very end of a page, and, in these cases, there is no lined space.

The devotions have recurring themes such as: grace, joy, thankfulness, and trust. Some devotionals will flow into the next (more like a story), and some do not. (I did not feel like the devotionals in One Thousand Gifts Devotional were just snippets or portions from the One Thousand Gifts book, but it has been awhile since I read the book, so I may be forgetting. The reason I mention that is that I do not feel like it would be a waste to own both books.)

Yes, there are also 1000 lines (numbered) at the very back of One Thousand Gifts Devotional to record your own list of one thousand gifts. 

I have had quite a few "lightbulb" moments from reading both One Thousand Gifts and One Thousand Gifts Devotional, but I also know that Ann Voskamp's writing style can be difficult to tackle. I feel like these are both great choices for reading and will benefit you if you have the time to get into Ann Voskamp-mode. :o)
FTC Declaration: The publisher has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book or advanced reading copy. This does not change the fact that I will give my honest opinion in my reviews.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Book Review :: A Plague of Unicorns by Jane Yolen

A Plague of Unicorns is a new book from New York Times bestselling author Jane Yolen. Jane Yolen has authored more than 350 books and has been the winner of several literary awards. A Plague of Unicorns is based on the author's short story "An Infestation of Unicorns" (published in her book Here There Be Unicorns).

A Plague of Unicorns is a hardcover book with a dust jacket (the dust jacket is printed with the cover image you see in the preview - the hardcover is solid olive green with a tan spine and green foiled lettering). The text is large and there are some illustrations throughout the book. (There seem to be more illustrations in the earlier chapters than there are in the later chapters.)

For me, A Plague of Unicorns was difficult to get into...and although it did pick up a bit around chapter 4, it remained a book that was just not particularly appealing to me. The chapters are relatively short, and seem to be broken up into snippets of a story rather than a continuous flow. (For example: chapter 7 has 8 marked sections in approximately 12 pages of text.) I wish A Plague of Unicorns had a glossary of terms, as there were a variety of uncommon words used without good contextual clues. (A few examples: abbot/abbey, bestiaries, pleurisy, oblate, etc.) As far as I was concerned, there was no real "action" in the story until around the last quarter of the book. That is not to say that I feel like all books should be action-packed, but the first 3/4 of A Plague of Unicorns felt rather dull and unappealing.

I was excited to have a chance to review A Plague of Unicorns and was hopeful that my kids would enjoy it as well, but my daughter (who often reads hundreds of pages in books per week) picked this book up and returned it shortly thereafter, unfinished. My son still intends to try it...time will tell what he thinks of it.

Obviously, with over 350 books and a variety of awards under her belt, Jane Yolen has a good fan base. Although A Plague of Unicorns is not a book I plan to read again, there are others out there who might enjoy it. 
FTC Declaration: The publisher has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book or advanced reading copy. This does not change the fact that I will give my honest opinion in my reviews.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Adventures in Bible art & journaling :: Week 2

Here are the pages from week 2 of my Bible art & journaling adventure:

This page was inspired by a drawing my 8 year old son drew (that hangs on our wall):
Here is his drawing:
The following pages were inspired by the Christmas/Advent season:

This page was inspired by something I read in a book (and also, obviously, the words to a popular Christian song):
I can't remember what lead me to this page (I think it may have been a book I was reading), but Psalm 145 is a beautiful praise to God and I loved how it listed so many of His traits: 
This was another page inspired by the Christmas/Advent season:
Thanks for stopping by today!

Bible: Zondervan (NASB Note-taker's Bible);
Colored Pencils: Prang (various colors);
Pens: ZIG (Millennium); Sakura (Pigma Micron); Sharpie (Pen.);

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Book Review :: I Can Learn the Bible (The Joshua Code for Kids) by Holly Hawkins Shivers, illustrated by Becka Moor

I Can Learn the Bible is a book written by Holly Hawkins Shivers and illustrated by Becka Moor. It is an adapted version of The Joshua Code (which is based on Joshua 1:8). (The author of I Can Learn the Bible is the daughter of the author of The Joshua Code, O. S. Hawkins.) As the cover states, I Can Learn the Bible is The Joshua Code for Kids. (We do not own The Joshua Code, so I cannot compare/contrast these resources in this review.)

I Can Learn the Bible will take your kids (& you) through 52 scriptures from the Bible. It is intended to be used as a year-long devotional (taking one week to study, learn about, and memorize each scripture). (There is a schedule suggestion listed in the "Letter to Parents".) The pages in I Can Learn the Bible are full-color.

Each devotion in I Can Learn the Bible is marked with "Week 1, Week 2, ...Week 52" and is a total of 4 pages long. Each devotion starts out with a full page illustration of the scripture for the week followed by 3 pages discussing the topic/verse, including a prayer (with a fill-in-the-blank portion to personalize the prayer). The illustrations are cute and done in fun (but muted) colors. (I wish the full page illustrations of the scriptures were available as printables or even coloring pages - these would be a fantastic resource to hang on the wall.) The devotionals have practical stories and/or examples that are great to help kids understand the concept being shared. Each devotional ends with the same phrase: "God's Word is for me and to me, it is in me, and working through me, and just like His love, it goes on and on forever!"

The majority of the verses (including all of the llustrated verses) that are referenced in I Can Learn the Bible are taken from the ICB (International Children's Bible) version. (I noticed only one verse referenced from the NIV and one from the NKJV.) 

For those who might be curious, I thought I would show a breakdown of where the 52 scriptures in I Can Learn the Bible are taken from:
Genesis: 1
Exodus: 1
Joshua: 1
1 Samuel: 1
2 Chronicles: 1
Psalms: 5
Proverbs: 2
Ecclesiastes: 1
Isaiah: 2
Jeremiah: 1
Zephaniah: 1
Matthew: 6
Mark: 1
Luke: 2
John: 6
Acts: 1
Romans: 3
1 Corinthians: 2
Galatians: 2
Ephesians: 4
Philippians: 4
1 Timothy: 1
James: 1
1 John: 1
Revelation: 1

The Appendix of I Can Learn the Bible has 12 tips for helping children memorize scripture. 

I think that I Can Learn the Bible is a great resource for families and is simple enough that it can easily be used by anyone. 
FTC Declaration: The publisher has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book or advanced reading copy through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. This does not change the fact that I will give my honest opinion in my reviews.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Book Review :: Give Thanks to The LORD by Karma Wilson, illustrated by Amy June Bates

Give Thanks to the LORD is a new children's picture book celebrating thankfulness (& the Thanksgiving holiday), inspired by Psalm 92.

Although the cover says "celebrating Psalm 92", Give Thanks to the LORD does not cover the full Psalm (more like the first 4 verses, only vaguely covering verses 2-4). It does not have the full text of the Psalm in print, only verse 1.

With that being said, however, the book has a great theme throughout of thanking God for friends, family, weather, nature, food, drinks, fun, and more food.

The illustrations in Give Thanks to the LORD by Amy June Bates are big, warm, and interesting. They have a "sketch" quality to them, as you can see from the cover image.

Give Thanks to the LORD has charming words, large illustrated pages, and a fantastic theme. I think it is a great book to read with young ones.
FTC Declaration: The publisher has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book or advanced reading copy. This does not change the fact that I will give my honest opinion in my reviews.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Hoppin' with Unity! {Unity Stamp Company}

I am thrilled to be able to sneak into this week's Unity blog hop!
Although I am not technically a part of the Unity Design Team, I am one of Unity's I was able to squeeze my way in. :o)

I am so excited to share my project with you today. To create it, I used a new mini stamp kit that I created (Mason Jar LOVE) from Unity Stamp Company.
This kit was specially designed to decorate regular mouth mason jars, but it works well for all kinds of Valentine's cards, a variety of tags, and all sorts of general gift giving!
Here are a few tips and tricks for this mini kit:
  • To cut out the round heart background stamp for your mason jar lid, simply follow the outer circle with your scissors. (You can also hold the metal lid on top of the round background and trim around it, or you can even use a round die to cut it out with a perfectly smooth edge.)
  • The round heart background stamp is sized perfectly to fit a regular mouth canning jar, but don't stop there. I used a smaller (2") round punch to create a round tag for the side of one of my jars. 
  • The "made with love" stamp is sized to be able to fit perfectly inside the rim of the jar lid, but I've also used a tag punch to create a gift tag with it. 
  • You can also use the "made with love" stamp on the backs of your handmade cards, or even stamp it with a fabric safe ink on clothes or quilts that you create. 
  • The "love" flags were designed so that they can either be used as-is as an embellishment, or punched and tied on as a gift tag. 
  • The "date" circle is a cinch to cut out with any 1 1/2" circle punch. 

And with this kit priced at only $7, it is a total steal!

Don't forget: for today's blog hop, Unity is giving away two great prize packages! Be sure to leave a comment on each blog in the hop (including the Unity blog) to be entered to win. (The winners will be announced Monday night on the Unity blog.)

Continue hopping on through to the Unity blog, and then go shopping!

Thanks for stopping by today!

Cardstock: Discount Cardstock (Brilliant White 110#);
Stamps: Unity Stamp Company (Mason Jar LOVE);
Twine: The Twinery (Solid Caribbean, Solid Blossom, Solid Pink Sorbet);
Tools: Fiskars (Scissors, XXL Lever Punch -Tag, XL Squeeze Punch - Round N Round, 
L Squeeze Punch - Round N Round, Hand Punch - 1/8" Circle);