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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Choosing by Rachelle Dekker Review


I'm excited to be part of a book tour for this wonderful book!  The Choosing is the debut novel of Rachelle Dekker, daughter of Ted Dekker.  Before I go to much further with my own thoughts, let me give you the "official" blurb for The Choosing:

Like all citizens since the Ruining, Carrington Hale knows the importance of this day. But she never expected the moment she’d spent a lifetime preparing for—her Choosing ceremony—to end in disaster. Ripped from her family, she’ll spend her days serving as a Lint, the lowest level of society. She knows it’s her duty to follow the true way of the Authority.

But as Carrington begins this nightmare, rumors of rebellion rattle her beliefs. Though the whispers contradict everything she’s been told, they resonate deep within.

Then Carrington is offered an unprecedented chance at the life she’s always dreamed of, yet she can’t shake the feeling that it may be an illusion. With a killer targeting Lints and corruption threatening the highest levels of the Authority, Carrington must uncover the truth before it destroys her. 


About the author:

 The oldest daughter of New York Times bestselling author Ted Dekker, Rachelle Dekker was inspired early on to discover truth through storytelling. She graduated with a degree in communications and spent several years in marketing and corporate recruiting before making the transition to write full time. She lives in Nashville with her husband, Daniel, and their diva cat Blair. Visit her online at www.rachelledekker.com

OBM says:  Initially, I was a little concerned that this might just be a "Christianization" of the very popular current dystopian secular story concepts that have been so successful lately.  But I have to say I was pleasantly surprised.  The dystopian world Carrington live in is one of a faith made up of rules and not relationship.  Those rule keep the populace in line to a fault.  Anyone who disagrees is carted off to prison or worse, publicly executed.  Carrington's dreams are shattered when she finds herself not chosen as a wife and therefore cast aside as "lint" to forever serve the drudgery-type needs of the city with no prospect of ever marrying or escaping her lot in life.  She finds kindness in several encounters with one city guard, a position normal characterized by coolness toward the general population and unflinching loyalty to those in authority.  He, like Carrington, has had his fate chosen for him due to a stutter that makes him not prime marriage material.  The plot thickens as both realize this "utopia" is really far less enchanting than they ever imagined and that that disenchantment has nothing to do with their lack of position and everything to do with the beginning seeds of real faith being sown through an underground movement that recognizes the real Truth is out there waiting for everyone to make their own.
I loved The Choosing.  I read it in two days, and then quickly passed it on to my teen son.  I'm glad it's part of a series and that Carrington's story continues.  My only disappointment is how long I will have to wait for the next book in the series, as I believe it won't be out until 2016!

Thanks to Tyndale House Publishers for giving me a copy of this book and allowing me to review it!

If you want to keep up to date on Rachelle Dekker, here are all her social media links:
-          Twitter: @RachelleDekker
-          Facebook: facebook.com/RachelleDekkerAuthor
       -       Instagram: @rachelle_dekker



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Friday, May 8, 2015

Plumb's Exhale CD Review and Giveaway



About PLUMB:
Tiffany Arbuckle Lee, better-known by her stage name Plumb, is a songwriter, recording artist, performer and author. Plumb has sold more than 500,000 albums and over two million singles worldwide, co-penned songs for numerous other artists, including Michelle Branch, Mandisa, Mandy Moore, Jaci Velasquez, and Natalie Grant, and had music placed in many films and television shows.Originally signed as a Christian Contemporary Music (CCM) recording artist in 1997, Plumb is now known as well as or better in alternative rock, electronic dance music, and for the use of her music in film and television than she is in the CCM market.


About the album:
EXHALE, the seventh studio album from acclaimed multi-genre singer, songwriter and author PLUMB, expresses a new focus and vision. After the runaway success of NEED YOU NOW (the album, title track and book), which coincided with her own moving story of brokenness and ultimately healing, Exhale brims with worshipful songs of gratitude and hope.

The defining concept of EXHALE was born from a sermon at Plumb’s home church, wherein her pastor Pete Wilson expressed the notion that the Church doesn’t exist for itself. Rather, believers come to church to breathe in grace and truth, be changed, and then go out and “exhale” that hope into their surrounding community.

“That idea of exhaling hope hit me right away and I couldn’t get to the Notes section on my phone fast enough. I started writing the chorus of Exhale right then and there,” explains Plumb. “I have been made new by the ultimate hope, and I want to share and exhale that hope in every way I can.” 
OBM says:  I don't know that I've ever reviewed a CD on my blog!  I LOVE Christian music, and we have certainly listened to Plumb's music on Christian radio, but this was my first time in forever actually listening through a whole album by just one artist.  I enjoyed the different "feeling" the different songs had.  "Sleep Will Be Sweet" especially spoke to me.  That and the song "Restored."  But they were all wonderful.  I'm thrilled to be able to offer a copy to one of YOU, my readers, to win.
If you don't win the copy below, you can buy Exhale on iTunes.   And you can follow Plumb on Twitter or follow Plumb on Facebook or follow Plumb on Instagram.


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Thursday, April 30, 2015

Critical Thinking Co.'s Understanding Algebra I Review

So I have a daughter who is struggling to understand algebra.  We are on our second Algebra curriculum.  One of the blessings of homeschooling is that we can change our curriculum midstream if we need to.  But in doing so she hasn't made much progress IN algebra.  And most standardized tests assume that you, at the end of 9th grade, have a pretty decent working knowledge of algebra.  So when the opportunity to review Understanding Algebra I, I jumped at it.


The author of Understanding Algebra I, Terri Husted, is an award winning classroom teacher with 30 years of classroom experience.  The book is 12 chapters long and covers topics like Evaluating Expressions and Solving Equations, Polynomials, and Linear Functions.  Each chapter then has several lessons which end in a page of practice problems.  After the practice problems, there are "More Practice" pages available if your student needs more work on the lesson topic.  Chapters end with a chapter review, and some have bonus activities like puzzles.

The pros:  No teacher's manual is needed for this Algebra.  The lessons are easy to follow, and all the answers are in the back of the book.  The book is full color and over 300 pages long.  There is a glossary in the back.  But the biggest pro is that my daughter actually asked if we could keep using this book and not go back to her other Algebra book.  That's pretty high praise right there!  On my part, I appreciated that the text is easy to follow and that all the answers are in the back.

The cons:  I'm not sure that all the concepts have enough explanation for this to be a standalone curriculum for a student weak in math.  I let my daughter read the lessons and then do the problems on her own, but consistently had to go back over the lessons with her and explain them more and walk her through the process for solving the problems.

The bottom line:  She likes this curriculum, so I think we will probably continue using it.  I like that the answers are all there in the back of the book so that I don't need to have a separate teacher's manual.  I'm okay with having to teach the lessons to her since I was having to do that before anyway.  She's also super excited that I am allowing her to write in this book so it can be her own instead of her having to write on separate sheets of paper.  Sure, it would be more practical to reuse the book, but if she's excited about doing it because she can write in the book, I'll go with that.

You can buy Understanding Algebra I directly from The Critical Thinking Co.'s website.  It normally retails for $39.99 but I have a bonus for you, my readers:

15% Off Any Size Order!


Details: Offer expires 5/31/2015 at Midnight PST. Use Coupon Code BLOGR315. Online prepaid orders only. Valid one per customer. Offer does not apply to iOS or Android apps, or manipulatives such as Attribute Blocks, Interlocking Cubes or Pattern Blocks. Offer may not be combined with other discounts or offers, and is not retroactive. Not valid on wholesale orders.
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Sunday, April 26, 2015

Nothing to See Here But Chirping Crickets

I don't mean to neglect my blog...really I don't.  I've been teaching a photography class for the co-op we are in, and it just takes all my extra time.  I love the kids in my class, and they've made such great progress so far.  We only have 2 weeks left, but there's so much to do in those last two weeks with ordering pictures for their end-of-semester gifts and putting together a slide show for the family night presentation.  It's keeping me hopping for sure.

I have a ton of thoughts about many things, but I often wonder at sharing them.  Maybe once co-op ends and I can breath again...

I just wanted to say thanks to all of you who keep visiting, and hopefully soon there will be more interesting things to read ;).
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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Grace of God Movie Review and Giveaway


Having lost his faith many years ago, Detective Bill Broadly is called to investigate the disappearance of the local church’s collection plate. As he questions its various church members, rumors swirl as more congregants learn about the theft. When one unexpected church-goer confesses to stealing the funds, the confession resurrects Broadly’s views on God, and helps him see that through faith and belief there really is rebirth and redemption. 
OBM says:  I was attracted to this movie initially by its story line and its stellar cast (Erin Bethea from Fireproof, John Ratzenberger from Cheers and a ton of movies, and Lorenzo Lamas from Falcon Crest and The Bold and the Beautiful).  Neither of those things disappoints.  Grace of God tells the story of a church that finds $30,000 missing from the collections.  In their attempts to find out where the money went, to be good stewards of that which was entrusted to them, they end up hiring a PI who is hostile toward the idea of God.  It makes for lots of tension, but also allows for the movie to be about more than just recovering the funds-it becomes about recovering a soul.  Detective Bill Broadly gets drawn in by some key people in the church and begins to see them not as a lump of "Christians" but as real people with real flaws and real hearts changed by God.  The movie also highlights that wrong is wrong no matter how noble the purpose, and that God's grace is real.  When the culprit comes forward, the people have the chance to show God's mercy, but there is also a potential, real consequence in how the culprit's confession might affect the delicately growing faith of the detective.  You'll have to watch the movie to see what happens.
     The one criticism I would offer is that John Ratzenberger's part is almost unnecessary.  He introduces the story, but by the end I had completely forgotten about him...until the final scene where they close with his sermon.  The sermon seems incongruous to me.  The pastor of the church in question (not Ratzenberger) delivers a fabulous sermon where he confesses to being a thief, and it prompts lots of confessions from his congregation.  Without giving too much away, I'll just say that impacts his decision to be merciful.  But then Ratzenberger's sermon (he's a friend of the other pastor, and is relating this story to his congregation) addresses the commandment not to steal, and that stealing can be big or little or of tangible things or intangible things, and it's still stealing...and then it ends with him saying that that commandment also gives us the right to own property. And then he prays...the end.  I didn't get it.  I think the movie would have been stronger without the cut back to Ratzenberger, as his message, while good, almost seems to undermine the idea of grace to me. And I'm just puzzled as to what the comment about the right to own property has to do with anything the movie is about.
     Anyway, even with that being said, that takes about 2 minutes of the 99 minutes of the film.  I enjoyed the rest.  While this movie isn't rated, it did receive a Dove rating:

There isn't anything too bad in it.  In one scene two guys come to blows for a second, and in a few others there is talk of domestic violence with a quick showing of a bruise, but I'd say the rating is justified because the bulk of the movie is just dialogue, and it won't hold the attention of younger kids.  My 13 year old son wandered in, and ended up staying for the whole thing.  He pronounced that it was, "a pretty good movie" when it was over.  That's high praise from a 13 year old for a movie that doesn't involve fast car chases, anything blowing up, or any superheros.

Walmart is the official distributor for Grace of God.  So you can find the #GraceofGodMovie @Walmart.

To win a copy of Grace of God for yourself, just enter the drawing below:
(Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway.  If you win the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win again.  Winners will be verified.)

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Monday, March 23, 2015

Easter Stories: Classic Tales for the Holy Season Review and Giveaway



God is good all the time, and He was especially good to my family with the timing of this review.  We were so close to finishing our family Bible devotional, and then along came this book, Easter Stories, just in time for Easter.  It was perfect.

Here's the official back-of-the-book blurb:
Everyone who believes Easter is about more than Easter egg hunts will be grateful for this new anthology of short stories that illumine the true meaning of the season. Selected for their spiritual value and literary quality, these classic tales capture the spirit of Holy Week and Easter in a way that will captivate readers of all ages. Parents and grandparents will find that children love to hear these stories read aloud, year after year.
Easter Stories is 383 pages and features short stories by multiple authors, many of whom you may recognize- C.S. Lewis, Leo Tolstoy, Oscar Wilde, Anton Chekhov, and others. Each story also has a black and white woodcut illustration to go along with it.  

OBM says:  I just love this book.  I have to admit as I read the stories aloud to my kids they often brought tears to my eyes.  I didn't love every single story, much the way those of us old enough to remember buying records usually didn't love every single song on them, but each one did make me think and reflect about Jesus, His sacrifice, and what Easter really is about.  I loved that this book came at a perfect time for us to use as a daily devotional to prepare our hearts for Easter, and I am sure your family will enjoy it too.  If you'd like to check it out, you can visit the publisher's website, Plough Publishing House, and they even the full table of contents and a few of the stories there for you to read.
To learn more about what Plough has to offer, visit Plough's facebook page or twitter or Pinterest or Google +.

To win your own copy of Easter Stories, and you live in the U.S. or Canada, please enter below.




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Saturday, March 21, 2015

Please, Help a Friend Out!

Very seldom do I throw myself at you, my readers, and beg for your help. And I understand after the chirping crickets and gathering cobwebs around here that you might have wondered if I was even still around. Well ,I am, and I've just been very, very busy. Life, it seems, does not ever slow down. I have TONS to catch you up on, and two giveaways coming up, if you hang in there, but right now, I need your help for a friend of mine.
 My neighbor is an architect. A really good one. She's worked in architecture for years, but just got her license or degree or whatever as an architect herself, not under someone else. And she's in a contest for up-and-coming architects. So I'm begging you to help a friend out because the contest is as much about popularity as it is talent, and only the architects with the most "adds" to other people's "ideabooks" will make it to the final round.

 So would you please go to this site:
All you have to do is create an account (takes about a minute), add the pictures to your ideabook(s), and be done. Dawn would appreciate it. I'd appreciate it too, because I was her photographer for the first house (kitchen/sunroom) pictured below, so the more positive recognition she gets, the more publicity I get.

 Thanks y'all, you are the BEST. Oh, and look for the first giveaway coming Monday.
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