Thursday, April 30, 2009

Jane Kirkpatrick Book Review

I recently had the opportunity to review two of Jane Kirkpatrick's books, A Flickering Light and Aurora. I hadn't read any of her previous works, but I was intriguied by her use of word play and riveting detail that draws you into the lives of the characters and the story she is presenting.

A Flickering Light is the story of fifteen year old Jessie Gaebele, a German girl who is struggling, with the rest of her family, to earn what their sick father is unable to. When the opportunity arises for her to work in a photography studio, learning more about her "dream career" she jumps at the chance, even though it means making sacrifices until she has completed the apprenticeship. She proves to be quick at learning the tricks of the trade, but not at mastering her own heart.

Aurora is set in the mid 1800's, and is the story of an Oregon utopian community by the same name. The photographs in Aurora are spectacular, showcasing many of their crafts and quilting, showing the people and stories of the community.

Overall, both books were wonderful and a great addition to the summer reading list of anyone interested in the culture of the mid-1800's.

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Noticer: Book Review

Have you ever read a book--a fictional book--that really made you stop and think about your life and what you are accomplishing with it? I couldn't name one that had done that for me until I read The Noticer by New York Times best-selling author Andy Andrews.

The story is set in the small beach town of Orange Beach, Alabama and introduces an interesting character named Jones that graces the town with his presence and leaves it a much better place. Jones becomes "best friends" with many people in the town, showing them a different perspective on their lives and how they are living. People have a chance to take a fresh breath and see things in a new light thanks to Jones's insight. During the story, six of these stories are shared in a candid, casual way that makes you stop and think of the applications in your own life.

So, what are you doing to make a difference in the lives of others? As Andrews says, everyone makes a difference, the choice you have is what kind of difference you will make--positive or negative. Do you truly make your family a priority? Are you investing in others? Are you kind and compassionate? Are you living your life with purpose? If others could change something about you, what would it be? Definitely a book worth reading! You might also want to check out the Noticer Project and make a noticeable difference in someone's life today.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Book Review: Gardening Eden

Over the last year, I've toyed with making our household more green and trying to cut out waste while making things healthier for our family. I've taken baby steps and changed quite a bit about the way that we live. Most of what I cook is from scratch, which eliminates excess packaging (and extra preservatives and other unwanted chemicals). I've switched to homemade cleaners, which are much safer considering I have a little one running behind me. I started a compost bin, which helps reduce trash, but also creates an organic fertilizer for the garden I've started. I'm hoping to reduce our grocery bill by growing some vegetables at home.

Honestly, my primary motivation for this whole movement has been money, or lack thereof. By making these small changes, I have already saved us a TON of money. We've slashed our grocery bill in half. I know that according to proponents of global warming, the world will come to an end if I don't start making changes, but that was not the reason I decided to make changes. Granted, there are other benefits for making lifestyle changes, and that's where Gardening Eden enters for me.

Gardening Eden by Michael Abbaté is written from a Christian perspective detailing why we should make our homes and lifestyles greener according to God's word, which is what our compass should be anyway. Included within its recycled pages are biblical reasons to motivate us to care for the amazing creation that God has entrusted to us, along with realistic baby steps on all levels that you can take to make changes that really matter. My favorite quote from the book says, "If we recognize the true goodness endowed in Creation by the Creator, how can we not be impelled to appreciate, respect, and protect it as His wonderful gift to us?" (pg. 32). I was honestly convicted as I read through the pages thinking, "Why have I not done more, sooner?"

I have established several of the practices he recommends in the book, such as cooking at home, eating less, turning the thermostat down, changing out standard light bulbs for CFLs, and avoiding disposables. Some of the suggestions he makes are in process. Environmentally-friendly landscaping is something we are looking into, and shortening the length of our showers is happening on most days. I'm getting ready to start a larger compost pile that will hold everything that could be composted.

Some of his suggestions just didn't pan out for me, even after research. I looked into joining a Community Supported Agriculture group, but the cost for CSAs from local farms is prohibitive for us right now, considering the vegetables we eat are a bit limited. Buying a more efficient car isn't on the docket right now, either. Although we would eventually like to trade our X-Terra for something that doesn't use as much gas, replacing it isn't an option right now. But following every tip wasn't Abbaté's point. He wanted to make you think about the lifestyle changes that you could take, emphasizing that every step toward a greener lifestyle was another way to worship the One who created everything for us.

Overall, this was a GREAT book, giving me lots of ideas to help this become a permanent change in our home and not just a fad. We are called to work and take care of the garden He has given us. I know after reading it, I'll be scrutinizing my decisions more carefully. Happy Earth Day!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Word of Promise: Next Generation New Testament

Everyone loves free books, right? I know when there's no extra money lying around for "entertainment," one either has to get creative or head to the library. I found a program that went the former route, and I first told you about it here. Through the misfortune (or rather, someone's great fortune) of UPS, I ended up with two copies of the MP3 set I chose to review, and Thomas Nelson Publishers is graciously allowing me to give away the extra copy to one of my readers (more on that later).

We've been listening to The Word of Promise: Next Generation New Testament. It is a 3-disc set that contains the New Testament dramatized by an all-star cast, including Annasophia Robb, Jordan Sparks, Emily Osment, and Corbin Bleu. The set includes over 23 hours of listening, including introductions of the books by Max Lucado and his daughter, Jenna. I chose this MP3 set because it was geared toward a younger audience, and I thought Kaelan might enjoy listening to it now and even more when she gets older. So far, I've been right. When she sees my computer, she'll point to it and say, "Sing, sing!" which is her term for reading and singing. She loves to hear it and wants it to start again even between chapters.

Although I have enjoyed it, I haven't been quite as taken with it as she has been. I really like the sound effects and listening to the Bible brought to life. The background information given on the chapters is enlightening and brings new perspective to your listening. Most of the vocal actors are good, but some aren't really believable. It is hard to listen to a disciple that sounds like he's about 10. Jesus, played by Cody Linley, sounds pretty mellow throughout. It is a little disconcerting in the temple with the gamblers when He's actually supposed to be upset, but instead sounds like he's talking to his sick puppy.

Overall, it is good listening, and both Kaelan and I have had fun listening. It is great for riding in the car or playing through my iPod. I would definitely recommend it for parents with preteens or teens. Turning it into a family activity (complete with pauses and discussions) would be a great idea, too!

OK, now for the freebie. If you are interested, I have an extra copy of the set to give away. Please spread the word to all your friends and fellow bloggers. Here's how it is going to work. Please leave a comment telling me what you and your family do for fun in tight times. For an additional entry, tweet about the giveaway and leave me a comment (with the link) that you tweeted. By posting on your blog and linking back you'll earn another entry (leave another comment and the link to your blog). The giveaway ends Monday night, April 13th, and I'll randomly choose a winner then. I can't wait to see where this takes us. :-)

**Giveaway has ended**