Saturday, February 22, 2014

Book Review : The Sinners’ Garden

This is my first time to read a novel by William Sirls.  The Sinners’ Garden is William’s most recent novel.


William writes a very detail oriented book, about a number of characters.  Andy is the main character of the book, a boys whose abusive father is out of the home, but still manipulating him.  Andy is fighting with his mom, depending on the support of his Uncle and trying to find his way through life.  Suddenly, his broken ipod starts speaking to Andy, in a way that makes him repeat what he hears.

Meanwhile, we are introduced to the “summer Santa” who is doing good deeds anonymously throughout town.  So we see God moving in Andy, but also in motivating this man to give to the most needy people.  Finally, there is the garden that just pops up – and gets better and better.  Andy and his family wonder who is doing this and why.

This is a heavier novel, it is a deeper read than most fiction books you will pick up.  I enjoyed reading about Andy and guessing who the Santa was.  There is a bit of suspense throughout, and some anxious parts too, where there is a clear evil, but at the same time not very clear.

I connected with Rip the most I think, he was Andy’s uncle and trying to be a solid male figure in Andy’s life.  I enjoyed the redemption seen through Rip’s life, from his salvation in prison to his turning his life around once he got out.

This book will make you think about not only serving others and giving, but also about forgiveness.  An underlying theme seems to be along the lines of coming to terms with your story, the one you are a part of, and trusting God in that.

William wrote a strong novel that will pull you in from the beginning.

NOTE : I received a copy of The Sinners’ Garden in exchange for an honest review by Litfuse


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Book Review : The Calling

Suzanne Woods Fisher has done it again!  I recently finished up Book #2 in the Inn at Eagle Hill series : The Calling.


I have loved getting to know the Lapp family in The Stoney Ridge series and now seeing them pop up in the Inn at Eagle Hill series has been fun!!  Bethany is the main character in The Calling, she is the daughter of Rose, and sister of Miriam, and they all live in the Inn.

In this story we get to know more about Bethany, and watch her relationship bloom with Jimmy Fisher.   

I have loved all the books by Suzanne Woods Fisher, I think it is because of the heart of these stories is all about family.  You see time and again as different members of the family deal with some situation, the others surround them.  Over and over the relationships are stretched and no matter what they grow.

A sub-story in this book was of the current occupant of the Inn, Geena is a former Youth Pastor getting away before figuring out he future.  Geena has a way with youth, but not a gift of preaching.  I loved seeing her figure out who she was and what her calling really was.

Another favorite part of this series is an on-going line of Bethany’s brother.  We were introduced to him in the first book, and he appears again in this book.  However, we learn more about what sent him into hiding after the death of his father and what lands him behind bars this time.  I suspect we may get to know more about him and his story in the next installment, but we shall see.

Of course, I recommend this book.  I always enjoy my visit to the Amish homes in Ms. Fisher’s books.  I feel encouraged to keep investing in my own family! 

{To read what others are saying check out the Litfuse Page}

NOTE : I was offered a copy of The Calling, in exchange for an honest review, by Litfuse.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Book Review - The Secrets of Happy Families

{Click over to the blog to watch the embedded videos.}

After reading the first few pages of this book, and learning that Bruce Feiler was a NY Times columnist, I was sad.  I thought I signed up for a book that would not be of much value to me.  As a Christian, attempting to raise my children in an environment that keeps God in the center, I feared that this book would do the opposite.  I was worried as a NY Times writer he would hold a different World view that I do.



You heard me.  I was wrong.  I kept reading.  And reading.  And reading.  I love this book.  Now, it does not talk about God (much) or the Bible.  Instead, Mr. Feiler approaches a number of individuals who are “experts” in many different fields.  He looks inside normal homes and sees how the nuts and bolts hold it together.

This book is based on a quote by Leo Tolstoy in Anna Karenina – “All happy families are alike, each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”  Mr. Feiler realized that there may be a truth to this, that happy families have things in common.  He affirms that the building blocks of happy families are quite similar, how they face challenges and the skills they have to deal with day to day life may hold secrets for the rest of us.

I enjoyed it so much I have been telling my friends much about what I have learned!  My favorite parts were the dinner table suggestions and the morning routine ideas.  I also gained a tremendous amount of help with the chapters on conflict, between siblings and couples.

I did mention there is not much about God in here, however if the Bible is central to your family (like we are trying to make it to ours) it is easy to incorporate these ideas with a Biblical approach.  If God is a main player in your home, by applying these ideas you are not kicking him out – you are just changing the way you operate in your home with Him.

The reason I love the dinner time sections – like Mr. Feiler’s family, most meals involve my trying to talk to Robert while asking the kids to stop quoting movies.  Instead we do not have intelligent conversation around the table.  We value our time at the table, but honestly it wears me out.  So we are going to incorporate some of the ideas that Mr. Feiler has applied in his home, that he learned from a former Marine, turned chef/owner of 9 restaurants in Louisiana and Texas.  Both men spoke of how without some structure the table conversation can be about bodily functions, movies and other babble. 

Overall, I enjoyed the book.  I will say that the chapter on the sex talk was great, but was quite open about offering birth control.  While this does not line up with my plans in my home, I really valued the emphasis on having the talk : early and constantly – that it is, it is not a talk so much as a conversation.  So even this chapter that did not line up perfectly with our values had a great deal to offer me!

I recommend this book – it is a fascinating read.  Mr. Feiler did tons of research talking to many many experts in all areas of the family – and he quotes tons of statistics across the board.

PS – Lesson Learned Re-learned, you cannot judge a book author by it’s cover employer!!  Check this book out!!

NOTE : I was offered a copy of The Secrets of Happy Families by LitFuse.

Monday, February 3, 2014

4H Food & Nutrition Fun

We had the District competition this last weekend for Food & Nutrition with our 4H club/county.  This means we competed at County level and were able to advance to District – where multiple counties then compete against each other.

Henderson food challenge

My younger boys were on both a food challenge team and quiz bowl.  My oldest son was on an intermediate team for both competitions too.

  Food Challenge is where they are given a bag of food and they have to use each ingredient and create a dish.  Then, they must present that dish to judges and explain the health benefits, the safety steps, the steps of preparation, and the My Plate information. 

Quiz Bowl is where they are on teams and compete against other teams with facts about Food & Nutrition. 

Quiz bowl teams jr

So our Junior teams won first place in both competitions.

jr food challengejr food challenge ribbonsjr food challenge with foodQuix bowl

Our intermediate teams that J was on both placed second for their competitions.

quiz bowl intermediate


intermediate food challenge with food

intermdieate food challenge award

It was lots of fun, and we are so excited to have done well and have it behind us!!

county food challenge awards

Book Review : Cloak of Light

You never really know what you will get when you open a Young Adult Fiction book.  Chuck Black’s Cloak of Light is categorized as Young Adult and I wanted to read this one hoping it would be good enough to pass along to my (almost) 13 year old.


I can say that I recommend this book without reservation!! I loved it.

Now, let me admit I enjoy spiritual warfare themes and stories with a bit of imagination or science fiction in them.  I loved that there are so many points in this book, subtle ones to very overt – and yet I did not think it was preachy at all!

Drew is the main character, with Sydney and Ben supporting.  There is some attraction in this story, but it is very innocent and clean and pure – and I loved it!

The gist of the story is that Ben believes in aliens of some sort at invaders to Earth and after a botched science experiment Drew is able to see them.  Both boys believe these invaders exist but that they are aliens of some sort.  In reality they are discovering spiritual warfare. 

Ben and Drew are self proclaimed atheists, so linking this discovery to spiritual warfare is a stretch, but as Sydney becomes more involved in what is happening she comes to realize the truth.  As a believer Sydney prays for both Ben and Drew, and has an impact on the spirits fighting.

Did I mention that the demonic spirits are following Drew, looking for Ben and wary of Sydney?  There is a great deal of suspense, and this book could be a thriller with all the excitement it goes through!

I enjoyed this book and highly recommend it.  My son read it in about a day and a half and he loved it.  There were many parts that we could talk about the consequences of what happens to Drew and the choices he makes.  Like I said, many noteworthy messages in this story!!

About the Author:

Chuck Black first wrote Kingdom’s Edge to inspire his children to read the Bible with renewed zeal. This captivating expanded parable led him to write the Old Testament allegories, Kingdom’s Dawn and Kingdom’s Hope. Chuck added three more titles to the series, Kingdom’s Call, Kingdom’s Quest, and Kingdom’s Reign which were released in May of 2007. chuck black

Chuck’s current works include The Knights of Arrethtrae series, Call to Arms, and his series in progress, Wars of the Realm. Chuck is a former F-16 fighter pilot and currently works as an engineer for a firm designing plastic consumer products. He has a degree in electrical and electronic engineering and served eight years in the United States Air Force. Chuck and his wife have six children.

It is Chuck’s desire to serve the Lord through his work and to inspire people of all ages to study the scriptures in order to discover the hope and love of a truly majestic King and His Son.


NOTE : I received a copy of Cloak of Light in exchange for an honest review by Multnomah Books.


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