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review 2018-09-13 02:24
Forever With Jesus (Sea Kids #7) by Lee Ann Mancini
Forever With Jesus - Lee Ann Mancini

In Forever With Jesus, the sea kids learn that Jesus died for their sins, and that by believing in Him they will live in heaven forever. The cousins visit their grandparents for Grandma Pinky's 80th birthday. During their visit, their grandparents' neighbor, Mr. Higgins, passes away. Grandma reads the Bible and tells her grandchildren how wonderful heaven is and how there will be no more tears, pain, or suffering. The children understand that they do not have to fear death because their belief in Jesus guarantees they will live forever with Him in heaven.

Goodreads.com

 

 

 

The Sea Kids gang returns with another important life lesson to share with all young readers following their underwater adventures! Fish siblings Guy and Lena meet up with their cousins Luke, Zachary, Christopher and Isabella at their grandparents' house to celebrate Grandma Pinky's 80th birthday.

 

 

 

The day of the party is naturally a celebratory one, full of reunions, cake, playtime and sleepover fun. The next morning however, the kids wake to the sad news that their grandparents' neighbor, Mr. Higgins, has passed away.

 

Grandma Pinky uses the news as an opportunity to sit with her little blessings and discuss the topic of death and heavenly afterlife. She wants to assure the young ones that death is not something to fear, because Heaven is a place free of any kind of pain, suffering, or sadness. It's a place full of only love and light. 

 

 

The story here is a good one, approaching a tough topic in an age-appropriate way that will be easy for little ones to digest. As far as general excitement though... I mean, it's a story about death, so clearly it won't be quite as light in tone as the previous books... but just in general, the writing and engagement factor here fell a tad flatter than earlier installments of this series. Though it's always great to have books like this available to help open conversation for the sadder subjects of life, the execution here was just slightly repetitive. 

 

This series continues to be enhanced with the wonderfully colorful, movement-filled illustrations of Dan Sharp. There's not quite as much little detail worked into the scenes here as in some of the previous books, but Sharp is a master at delightful facial expressions for these characters (I love how the grandfather here has an almost Buddy Hackett look!).

 

 

As in all the other books, the spot-the-cross game is incorporated throughout all the illustrations and characters from previous Sea Kids books can be spotted in background artwork in the grandparents' home. Some also make an appearance as attendees of Mr. Higgins' funeral.

 

 

FTC Disclaimer: BookCrash.com and GLM Publishing kindly provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The opinions above are entirely my own. 

 

 

------------------------------

 

My reviews for the previous books in this series:

 

#1 Fast Freddy

 

#2 What A Bragger

 

#3 I'm Not Afraid! 

 

#4 A Servant Like Jesus

 

#5 God's Gift

 

#6 God's Easter Miracles

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review 2018-07-27 08:05
Gathering Courage (memoir) by T.A. McMullin
Gathering Courage: A Life Changing Journey Through Adoption, Adversity, and a Reading Disability - Ross McMullin

Award-winning Gathering Courage author, T. A. "Terry" McMullin, knows as well as anyone that hard times are a part of the journey of life.  Gathering Courage is about Terry's journey, who was born in an orphanage, then adopted, and made a foster child by her parents. Because Terry struggled with reading, comprehension, and spelling, she was placed in a foster home at the age of nine.  Terry was failing in school and no one knew how to help her. From deep within, Terry developed an internal desire to excel, no matter the obstacle, no matter the situation. Pushing adversity, rejection, and a reading disability aside, Terry gathered the courage to enroll in college. While attending college, Terry taught herself how to read and study while working nights and weekends to pay her tuition and living expenses.  Because of dyslexia, Terry worked much harder than most students. For ten years, she remained diligent and focused on the goal of achieving a college education and a teaching certificate. Step by step and class by class, Terry succeeded, and walked across the stage to receive a Bachelor's and Master's degree from Texas A&M University. Terry's life transformed from a broken-hearted child who could barely make out words in elementary school to a successful teacher who encourages young people to work hard and achieve their greatest aspirations.

Gathering Courage is an inspiring life-changing journey not only to be read but also to be passed on as an encouragement to others. What started as a thought, then words on a napkin, set the dream in motion to form sentences on paper. The dream grew and the formation of a book developed into a purpose, a mission - "To Make Life Better."
Amazon.com
 
 
 
As a child, author Terry "T.A." McMullin discovered she had dyslexia. A school administrator suggested to McMullin's parents that she be taken out of the home and placed in a foster home as part of the therapy for her reading disability. There wasn't much argument given to this plan, as Terry had a pretty rocky home life as is.
 
Terry's very existence was the result of a relationship her then 25 year old biological mother was having with a 24 year old already-married man. She was not wanted by either of them. She was adopted pretty early on in life, but over time began to feel rejected by her adoptive parents. Preferential treatment was given to her younger brother Oliver, the only biological child in a home of adopted ones. Time and again, Terry's adoptive parents proved themselves verbally cruel, untrustworthy and self-centered. As part of her so-called dyslexia therapy, Terry was temporarily placed with a family on a farm. The family themselves were not so bad, but Terry suffered a sexual assault from a next door neighbor before being returned to her adoptive parents.
 
 
Though she may have had little encouragement at home, Terry found happiness within her involvement in her school's 4H program. The 4H club provided opportunity to attend events hosted by Texas A & M University. While at one of these events, Terry meets a professor from the university's Animal Sciences department, who is taken with her and encourages her to apply to A & M's science program. Though initially nervous to entertain such dreams (because of her dyslexia), Terry decides to take the leap. Prior to applying to A & M, Terry takes remedial math courses at a local junior college. Once accepted to A & M, over the course of a number of years, Terry goes on to obtain two degrees from the university: a Bachelor's in Agricultural Science and a Master's in Education. Out of school, Terry went on to have jobs teaching science and special education classes as well as courses for the visually impaired. She also developed curriculum used by both civilian and military schools across the country.
 
There's a straightforwardness to the writing style that moves along at a lovely cozy pace. There's also the relatability factor. Though readers may not always entirely connect with Terry's specific combination of struggles, there IS something here that I imagine most any reader can nod to or think on at least on some level. Her story is a testament to the power of having positive influences / people in one's life, how a simple kind word... just the display of someone having faith in you... can sometimes be enough to move mountains.
 
 
"Words of affirmation have the power to break chains and heal many wounds. Gentle words spoken so tenderly are hidden deep inside of my being and are some of the best gifts I have received." ~T.A. McMullin
 
above: inscription McMullin added to the copy I was sent
 
 
 
Additionally, McMullin uses her story to urge readers to move through life with "an attitude of gratitude" as some like to call it... Remind yourself of all the little successes that add up within each day rather than beating yourself up over the occassion setbacks or perceived failures. 
 
McMullin's way of telling her story, as well as certain details of her life she relates, reminded me a bit of the life and books of Temple Grandin. Similarly inspiring, that's for sure!
 
McMullin supplements the text with illustrations of her own feather sketches as well as full color, relevant photos pulled from either her own collection or those of friends. 
 
 
FTC Disclaimer: BookCrash kindly provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The opinions above are entirely my own. 
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review 2018-07-25 10:39
Unbridled Faith: 100 Devotions from the Horse Farm by Cara Whitney
Unbridled Faith: 100 Devotions From The Horse Farm - Cara Whitney

Horses nuzzle their way into our hearts and have a way of teaching us a lot about ourselves, about life, and even about God. Just ask horse enthusiast Cara Whitney, wife of comedian and actor Dan Whitney (aka Larry the Cable Guy).

Through years spent working with these majestic animals—Cara Whitney has learned countless spiritual lessons that have brought her closer to God.

In 100 heartfelt devotions with stunning photography, you'll

  • *Learn about being flexible in your faith from a gangly legged colt.
  • *Discover the secret to overcoming temptation through a horse's "sneak and eat" game.
  • *From a pony with a sweet tooth, find out why we should be glad God doesn’t answer yes   to all of our prayers.
  • *Be reminded that you are priceless to God from a one-eyed quarter horse named Roanie.  

Unbridled Faith is the perfect daily devotional for horse lovers.

Amazon.com

 

 

 

Cara Whitney, wife of comedian Dan Whitney (aka "Larry The Cable Guy") puts together a very beautifully designed, gift-worthy book to which Dan Whitney provides the foreword. "Larry The Cable Guy wrote the forward to a devotional?!" you might be asking with just a dash of skepticism, I imagine. Well, Dan Whitney is here to explain.

 

Though he might not be immediately known for his faith professionally, he is actually the son of a preacher and went on to have his own education provided primarily through Christian based primary schools and colleges. He also explains that wife Cara came to her faith via a straightforward, rather pragmatic, maybe even slightly agnostic approach. This devotional she has now crafted is the culmination of years of dedicated theological study and regular introspection while working on the Whitney horse farm. 

 

p163 image Unbridled Faith

 

Whitney writes very much in the vein of the Chicken Soup for the Soul books, each devotion a quick 2 page read with a prayer prompt at the end of each one. One of my favorite prayer prompts in this book: "Lord, help me to amplify the good in my life and control my emotions." Certainly something that spoke to me!

 

Another line that struck me, "God will bring the right scriptures, worship songs, and people into our lives when He knows we need them most. When we are lonely or in deep grief, He will send us his love in creative, diverse ways --- through nature, an email, or a movie scene." This was the case for me last year, months after losing my mother unexpectedly to a heart attack. That, combined with additional hits before and after that day, (making late 2016-2017 one of the worst periods of my life) ... I was spiritually exhausted after trying to keep myself emotionally strong, pushing back my emotions, putting all my energy into blocking out anything but daily obligations and work. Over time I found myself feeling more and more separated from the core of my soul. I didn't know if I myself was going to make it to the end of the year. On one of the hardest days of all, the song "Just Be Held" by Casting Crows mysteriously found its way into my noggin. That and Hilary Scott's "Thy Will"... I didn't even know she had solo work out there (apart from her band Lady Antebellum, of whom I'm a big fan).. but again, this song somehow found me. With the help of these songs, I allowed myself to finally cry out all that was pent up and then began to rebuild from the inside out. 

 

end panel of Unbridled Faith

 

While the photography in Unbridled Faith is undeniably GOREGOUS,  and the sentiments are comforting, the devotional pieces themselves, as far as topics covered, are pretty standard fare (for the devotional genre as a whole, that is). Whitney offers her own horse-themed spin on things of course, but doesn't really touch upon any new territory.

 

 

Some of the transitions felt a little clunky, such as the salt one, talking about how horses crave salt and then the next line talking about salt being currency in Christ's time. It just flowed oddly to me. But I did have a giggle (though I don't think it was intended humorously) at the line, "It's your salty side God loves most." LOL Well, I don't know about THAT, but I'll take it, I guess! 

 

p173 image Unbridled Faith

 

Much of what was offered here, while as sweet and feel-good as one would expect, struck me as rehashings of topics you've likely read in a number of other books of this style. Furthermore, at times her thoughts struck me as a tinge judgmental of "non-believers", though she claims to feel called to evangelism.

 

In Devotion 61, she writes, "It's sad to believe, but there are Christians out there who think that it is their job to evaluate the holiness of other people." In Devotion 63: "Horses aren't the only ones who suffer from unfair perceptions. Sometimes people's perceptions of us are hard to overcome."

 

You don't say. 

 

But I have to admit, I did enjoy her sense of humor at times:

 

"The next time your horse creates manure, remind yourself your animal is keeping you humble."

 

"Although my patient neighbors may disagree with my musical tastes, in my opinion all donkeys have perfect pitch."

 

Note to readers:  this book contains spoilers for the children's classic Black Beauty by Anna Sewell.

 

p37 image from Unbridled Faith

 

 

FTC Disclaimer:  BookLookBloggers.com kindly provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The opinions above are entirely my own.

 

 

 

 

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review 2018-04-08 07:12
Alpha & Omega -- Cry Wolf: Volume One by Patricia Briggs
Alpha and Omega: Cry Wolf - David Lawrence, Todd Herman, Jenny Frison,Patricia Briggs

Anna never knew werewolves existed, until the night she survived a violent attack…and became one herself. After three years at the bottom of the pack, she’s learned to keep her head down and never, ever trust dominant males. Then Charles Cornick, the enforcer—and son—of the leader of the North American werewolves, came into her life. Charles insists that not only is Anna his mate, but she is also a rare and valued Omega wolf. And it is Anna’s inner strength and calming presence that will prove invaluable as she and Charles go on the hunt in search of a rogue werewolf—a creature bound in magic so dark that it could threaten all the pack…

Amazon.com

 

 

Text Adaptation of the novels: David Lawrence

Art: Todd Herman

Coloring: Mohan

Cover Art: Jenny Frison

 

This graphic novel collection is based on Patricia Briggs' novel Cry Wolf, this book rounding up the first four issues of the graphic novel adaptation. The cover also proclaims that this special edition offers a previously unpublished version of Issue 1. 

 

In a nutshell, here's the rundown of the story: Anna Latham goes on what amounts to a pity date with this guy (she's not really feelin' him but agrees to go out anyway). Turns out the guy is a werewolf who essentially kidnaps her, takes her to his pack in Chicago (or the area anyway), transforms her into a werewolf and then him and his crew proceed to torture her in various ways until she is somehow rescued by the Cornick werewolves of Montana (this book doesn't really offer too much in details on that portion of the story, guess you'll have to rely on the novel to fill you in).

 

Bran Cornick is the "marrok" -- or basically the Godfather -- of ALL North American werewolves. His son, Charles, insists that newcomer Anna is an Omega wolf and claims her as his mate. But Anna is still struggling with some PTSD from her hellish experience in Chicago... and it seems there's also some more protocol ceremonial stuff to be done before these two are officially mated... so, in the meantime, they team up to try to track down and capture an elusive rogue werewolf who is on a murderous rampage lately, threatening the safety of the Cornick pack. 

 

I have many friends who rave about Briggs' books and even though I'm a lover of the paranormal genre, I've never tried her books myself. Maybe because my personal interest gravitates to ghost stories over werewolves. Still, I found a bargain priced copy of this one and figured I'd finally give the woman's work a go. That said, I did notice that the title page notes "text adaptation by David Lawrence"... so maybe Briggs' name is just stamped on the cover because they're her characters but is Lawrence doing the actual story writing here? Not sure. 

 

Plotwise, this fell short for me. I was left with so many questions. Granted, those questions might've been answered if I was an avid follower of this series in its novel form but as a Briggs newbie, I definitely felt out of the loop here. I also found it mildly irritating how everyone kept talking about what a superpower Omega Anna was, how strong and all that.. but her actions SCREAMED delicate, trembling snowflake most of the time. I realize there's only four issues in this collection but I didn't feel like I got a strong enough grasp on her character or what was supposed to be so amazing about her and I'm sorry, if you can't at least somewhat snag my curiosity by four issues, this series is probably not for me. To be honest, I was left not really giving a flip about ANY character in this story. Not. A. One. 

 

Artwork: The issue covers for each section, done by Jenny Frison, were very nice. Clean, fluid lines, attractive color work.

 

 

The artwork within the issues themselves? Not so much. Todd Herman's art had an overall muddled look to me. What was going on with the faces? In nearly every shot, the characters look either angry, murderous, or even sometimes a little lecherous...even when it was a very average, uneventful conversation.. almost as if the act of conversing were the most painful thing ever. Everyone just walking around rockin' Joker faces at all times. Weird. Thankfully, this was toned down some by Issues 3-4. 

 

The end of the book features a "Gallery" section where you can see samples of the artwork uncolored, initial sketches, etc. which I found interesting, especially when looking at the uncolored version of Issue 1 cover. It was nice with color, but I was surprised to see how much prettier I found the black and white sketch version. 

 

 

 

Following the Gallery section is an excerpt from Patricia Briggs' novel FAIR GAME, so you can sample her writing style if you're a newbie to her work like me. 

 

 

 

 

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review 2017-10-19 07:19
Animals Talking In All Caps by Justin Valmassoi
Animals Talking in All Caps: It's Just What It Sounds Like - Justin Valmassoi

A goat who wants to sell you some meth. 
A giraffe who might be violating his restraining order. 
An alpaca with a very dirty secret. 
A cat who’s really mad at you for cancelling Netflix instant. 
 
These are just a few of the hilariously human animals you’ll meet in Animals Talking in All Caps. Inspired by the wildly popular blog of the same name and including some of the site’s best-loved entries as well as gobs of never-before-seen material, these pages provide a brilliantly unhinged glimpse into the animal mind.

Amazon.com

 

 

This book is an extension of the humor originally found on author Justin Valmassoi's tumblr page (also called Animals Talking In All Caps). The subtitle on the cover is "It's Just What It Sounds Like" and that's the truth! It's just straight up humorous captions / conversations put to pictures of animals! The conversations touch upon not only pop culture references and relationship craziness but also some more crude or risque material.. but in such a dang cute way! 

 

The book also features a pretty adorable introductory essay :-) In it, Valmassoi writes: 

 

"My friend Stacey asked me to collect all the random caps-lock-captioned animal photos strewn across my many abandoned tumblrs into one convenient spot so she could giggle at them without having to search through years of bad jokes and turgid prose. Having nothing better to do, I obliged. After collecting them all under the highly creative title Animals Talking In Caps, I went on to write a few more. I wrote one or two a day, mostly to keep Stacey entertained. I didn't tell anyone about it because I'm in my thirties and "I made a dog talk about the perils of Western capitalism" is a really embarrassing way to answer the question "What did you do today?" (not that anyone was asking, but just in case). Nonetheless, because it was a website featuring animals, people found it. If it has an animal on it and it's on the internet, everyone will eventually see it because humans are biologically wired to seek out animal photos whenever they get near a computer."

 

I don't have a ton to say about the book other than to say I was endlessly entertained, it gave me a smile on a bad day, and I'm sure I'll be returning to it for a giggle numerous times for years to come. 

 

Some of my favorites from the collection:

 

 

 

 

 

 

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