the abbot's agreement by mel starr

A new and disturbing puzzle for the medieval surgeon-turned-sleuth

Master Hugh de Singleton is making his way toward Oxford when he discovers the corpse of a young Benedictine not half a mile from the nearby abbey.

The abbey’s novice master confirms the boy’s identity; it is John, one of three novices. He had gone missing four days previous, and yet his corpse is fresh. There has been plague in the area, but this was not the cause of death—the lad has been stabbed in the back. To Hugh’s sinking heart, the abbot has a commission for him.

With realistic medical procedures of the period, droll medieval wit, and a consistent underlying sense of Christian compassion, the seventh in the chronicles of Hugh de Singleton will delight medieval history and crime fiction fans alike.

My Review

I always get excited to see that another Hugh de Singleton book is on its way. I have read the entire series and do not get bored with the characters or storylines for even a minute. This book was a little different because our resident doctor did not have a corpse to look at for long. All of his fact finding was done through much questioning of different townspeople and residents of the abbey.

I was sad to see that Hugh’s wife Kate was not prominent in the story, (She was getting ready to give birth.) however the faithful groom Arthur, had a much more involved role and I was happy to see him stand in as assistant crime solver.

I have seen others dislike this book series because it is too slow in the action department. I think in this current CSI, fast-paced world we need to be driven from one high-speed chase to the next. These books do not do this. They are true to life for the medieval times they are set in. The stories unfold, one small clue at a time with no high-tech gadgetry to aid them. I enjoy taking my time and watching the story develop naturally as it would have in the year 1368 when the story takes place. You will not find a more true to life version of how things really were then, than in Mr. Starr’s books. I applaud him for this.

I am happy to report that Ashes to Ashes will be the eighth installment of this series and I, as usual, can not wait.

Buy it Here

Kregel Publications sent me the above book for review purposes. It will allow me to keep the book. I have no other connection to and have received no other compensation from Kregel.

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Friday, December 05, 2014

The Secret of Pembrooke Park by Julie Klassen

by Diane Estrella

the secret of pembrooke park by julie klassen

About the Book

Abigail Foster is the practical daughter. She fears she will end up a spinster, especially as she has little dowry, and the one man she thought might marry her seems to have fallen for her younger, prettier sister.

Facing financial ruin, Abigail and her father search for more affordable lodgings, until a strange solicitor arrives with an astounding offer: the use of a distant manor house abandoned for eighteen years. The Fosters journey to imposing Pembrooke Park and are startled to find it entombed as it was abruptly left: tea cups encrusted with dry tea, moth-eaten clothes in wardrobes, a doll’s house left mid-play…

The handsome local curate welcomes them, but though he and his family seem acquainted with the manor’s past, the only information they offer is a stern warning: Beware trespassers drawn by rumors that Pembrooke Park contains a secret room filled with treasure.

This catches Abigail’s attention. Hoping to restore her family’s finances–and her dowry–Abigail looks for this supposed treasure. But eerie sounds at night and footprints in the dust reveal she isn’t the only one secretly searching the house.

Then Abigail begins receiving anonymous letters, containing clues about the hidden room and startling discoveries about the past.

As old friends and new foes come calling at Pembrooke Park, secrets come to light. Will Abigail find the treasure and love she seeks…or very real danger?

My Review

Getting your hands on a new Julie Klassen book can be a dangerous thing!

I was overjoyed to receive The Secret of Pembrooke Park in the mail. It has a beautiful cover and intriguing book blurb that immediately pulled me into the story. I knew I only had a short amount of time to read, so I told myself, “I’ll just read the Prologue to whet my interest and come back to it later.” Big mistake.

Eight chapters and a neglected family and home later, I had to stop. Finally work called and my fun reading time had to temporarily come to an end. After that, every 15 or 30 minute break I had, found me back into the book.

I can truly say it was wonderful. There were so many layers of characters and back story and building suspense. Warning…. there are many red herrings included to divert your attention away from figuring out the mystery involved. I love the inclusion of finding and accepting one’s self worth. How many of us belittle ourselves and who we can become? Truly a wonderful story from start to finish.

The only caution I would include is that there are a LOT of characters involved and the names of them all can be confusing to keep straight at times. Otherwise, I have only one word to share….. brilliant.

Buy it Here

Bethany House sent me the above book for review purposes. It will allow me to keep the book. I have no other connection to and have received no other compensation from Bethany House Publishers.
The diva diaries by angie spadyThe Diva Diaries

Meet, Catie Conrad – a typical, tween, Christian girl with, oh, the weight of the world on her shoulders. And if it isn’t bad enough that no one seems to understand the social pressures of being the greatest at everything, donning the latest fashions, and carrying the trendiest technology, Catie’s dad is about to uproot her and her family to an Indian reservation during spring break for his job. Throw in a school dance, a major art contest, and an arch nemesis known only as Miranda Maroni and there’s bound to be an epic meltdown of biblical proportions. Or, maybe not…

Finally a voice in the tween genre that is relatable and no less humorous for girls aged 9 to 12 by author Angie Spady. The first book in a new series titled Desperate Diva Diaries, Catie Conrad: Faith, Friendship, and Fashion Disasters chronicles both the small triumphs and general mishaps of sixth-grade Christian want-to-be diva, Catie Conrad. While her Christian journalist father is often a co-conspirator to making Catie’s life interesting with mission trips and church projects, Catie never ceases to realize God’s hand in all situations.

My Daughter’s Review

This was a nice, cute book, perfect for tweenagers, or anyone going through middle school drama. I will admit, by the middle of the book I was a little bored. I’m pleased to say that by the end my displeasure ceased and I enjoyed the rest of the book. The protagonist in our story, Catie, is eleven or twelve, and already has dealt with more drama in her school life than I have. I’m impressed by how she managed to handle everything. I’m pretty sure I would’ve just laid down and cried for a few days.

The illustrations were cute, the characters were relatable and unique (especially the skunk), and the “first world problems” were first world. Most of said first world problems were pretty normal and popular in other book similar to this. E.g.: ‘I like this guy but I embarrassed myself in front of him.’ ‘He probably hates me now.’ ‘He asked my arch nemesis out to a school dance.’ ‘Something bad happens to my arch nemesis so I try to be nice to them.’ ‘Arch nemesis is still a jerk.’

There was a quirky best friend who likes science and cooking and the color orange, whom by far was my favorite character. I also liked Eleni and Kai, two Indian girls Catie befriends on a missions trip. They were pretty rad. I thought the friendship bracelets were a cute idea. I should make some with my friends sometimes.

Overall, this was a pretty okay book. A bit predictable, there were some ups and downs, but I enjoyed it.

Buy it Here

B&H sent me the above book for review purposes. It will allow me to keep the book. I have no other connection to and have received no other compensation from the Icon Media Group.

the life changing magic of tidying up

This best-selling guide to decluttering your home from Japanese cleaning consultant Marie Kondo takes readers step-by-step through her revolutionary KonMari Method for simplifying, organizing, and storing.

Despite constant efforts to declutter your home, do papers still accumulate like snowdrifts and clothes pile up like a tangled mess of noodles?

Japanese cleaning consultant Marie Kondo takes tidying to a whole new level, promising that if you properly simplify and organize your home once, you’ll never have to do it again. Most methods advocate a room-by-room or little-by-little approach, which doom you to pick away at your piles of stuff forever. The KonMari Method, with its revolutionary category-by-category system, leads to lasting results. In fact, none of Kondo’s clients have lapsed (and she still has a three-month waiting list).

With detailed guidance for determining which items in your house “spark joy” (and which don’t), this international bestseller featuring Tokyo’s newest lifestyle phenomenon will help you clear your clutter and enjoy the unique magic of a tidy home—and the calm, motivated mindset it can inspire.

My Review

Very interesting and well laid out.

I, myself, have slight tendencies to over-save. My grandparents taught my parents a “Depression Era” mentality (“use it up, wear it out, make it do, do without”) in that, you should not throw anything out since you might at some future point need it. Living with this thought process all my life definitely has its pro’s and con’s. I do think that I am more appreciative of things and do not take the value of anything lightly. I hate to be purposefully wasteful but I do have the ability to recognize junk and toss it out. So, it is a balancing act to keep it or not to keep it….

One of this book’s main ideas is that you should go through an entire room, or rooms, or better yet, your entire house at one time and do a major purging. Doing it all at once, instead of cleaning out a corner here, or a closet there, will give you a large visual to see the major process and thus the desire to never fall back into the cluttering trap again. I do think this is valid. Only cleaning a small area, does not give you a larger sense of accomplishment and thus little motivation to continue on towards complete cleanliness. I do, however, think that if your problem is larger than, “I don’t like to throw anything away,” and there are hoarding tendencies, then the issue goes much deeper. I think whatever is causing the hoarding tendencies needs to be addressed first before lasting change can be made and kept.

Overall, I think this book is very useful and would be a wonderful tool in helping many bring their lives into order.

Buy it Here

Waterbrook Press sent me the above book for review purposes. It will allow me to keep the book. I have no other connection to and have received no other compensation from Waterbrook Press.

i can learn the bible

Memory verses and devotions that will write God’s word on your children’s hearts.

In this 52-week devotional for children, author Holly Hawkins Shivers adapts the gift book The Joshua Code (written by her father, O.S. Hawkins) into a devotional that will help kids learn and live the scriptures. Using kid-friendly language, I Can Learn the Bible teaches scriptures in a way children can understand. Each week, kids will commit a new scripture to memory by reading a fun, engaging devotional that’s doable for a child. Matthew 7:7 will remind kids to always ask God for help. Philippians 1:6 will teach them that God is always working in their lives. And 50 more scriptures will continue to write the truth on their hearts so that they will remember it forever.

Parents using the gift book will love using the kids’ book as a discussion tool for the entire family. A great gift for baptisms, confirmations, and any special occasion, I Can Learn the Bible includes clever tips for memorizing scripture. Each new day and each new verse will reinforce to young readers that:

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!

You can see the flipbook here.

My Review

Enjoyable.

Although this book is recommended for ages 4-8, any form of Scripture is beneficial for all ages. This book does have simple terms of defining truths, but for my 12 year old son, sometimes simpler is better. Because of my son’s age, instead of spending  a week on one devotion we do it in one day. Every day we review all of the Bible Scriptures and will do so until we get to 52. I am hoping by then, he and I both, will have many to most of them memorized. We are making it work well for our family.

The illustrations included are beautiful also. Each one is precious and lovely.

My only critique with this book, is that I wish all of the Bible verses that are included were NKJV or other, and not the International Children’s Bible©.  Instead of the more commonly known, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth,” sky is substituted for heavens. I think for down the road when he is older, the more common versions would be more beneficial, but that is just my opinion. Otherwise, a beautifully made and wonderfully sound book.

Buy it Here

Tommy Nelson sent me the above book for review purposes. It will allow me to keep the book. I have no other connection to and have received no other compensation from Tommy Nelson.

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Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Monstrously Funny Cartoons by Christopher Hart

by Diane Estrella

Monstrously Funny Cartoons by christopher hart

Learn to draw the silliest and scariest monsters, zombies, vampires, witches, mummies, and other creepy cartoon favorites.

Cartooning master Christopher Hart teaches aspiring artists all the drawing tips and tricks they need to create laugh-out-loud renditions of their favorite monsters and scary creatures. This jam-packed cartooning guide shows readers how to capture the lighter side of these creepy creatures by combining them with Hart’s incredibly popular cartoon drawing style! Taking readers step-by-step through each monster type, Hart demonstrates how to draw everything from terrifyingly silly heads to wacky comic strip-like scenes of monstrous menace. Chockfull of hints, humor, and horror, Monstrously Funny Cartoons is guaranteed to be a real scream for aspiring and professional artists, as well as all fans of things that go bump in the night.

My Review

There are books you throw on the bookshelf and they just sit and sit and collect dust….

Thankfully, this is not one of them!

My son is definitely NOT an artist. He gets very frustrated trying to imitate someone else’s artwork and not getting a similar result. VERY frustrated! Because of this, I have a hard time encouraging him to even TRY to draw something. I got Monstrously Funny Cartoons in the mail and just set it out haphazardly on the coffee table. His curiosity got the better of him and he took it to his room and started reading it and drawing the pictures. He loves it! The combination of silly and quirky monsters along with easy step-by-step illustrations on how to draw them, made it too easy for him to pass up. Here are my son’s own thoughts:

As soon as I saw this book, I had an idea that this book would be great. I knew it could help me with my drawing skills, and it definitely did. I didn’t know there were so many different ways to draw monsters zombies, vampires and mummies, and even bigfoot.

This book definitely keeps me from getting bored with drawing. The step by step directions give me the ability to copy the pictures. I also got a good laugh out of this book with all the funny quips included. All of the characters are well drawn out and I really think you should get this book too.

There you have it. A winner for sure!

Buy it Here

Waterbrook Press sent me the above book for review purposes. It will allow me to keep the book. I have no other connection to and have received no other compensation from Waterbrook Press.