Thursday, December 15, 2011

Christmas Books for Kids

A Christmas season tradition at the Archer home is reading Christmas children’s books. Each year I go through my row of books from my teaching days and pull out all the Christmas books. The stack sits on the couch all season and we read at least one each day. We also like to check some out from the local library, even though we have a large pile.

Here are several books that are our favorites for this year. Some are my son’s favorites and some are my books of choice.

My son 's favorite part of this book is the last page which is the music to the song. He places the book at the piano and proceeds to grace us with a unique rendition of Jingle Bells.

This is a cute pop-up book full of bugs. The singsong story is to the tune of The Twelve Days of Christmas. Day 12 is a stunning 3-D display of Angel bugs.

This story is about a family who decorates a tree in the forest each year with edible ornaments for the animals. Every year when we read this story I remember that I think it's a really neat idea and I remind myself that I would like to do this someday.

Jan Brett is an extremely gifted illustrator. If you've never read one of her books, you simply must. The detail will astound you. Her style of illustrating gives this classic poem new life.

This is one of my favorites. I've met the author and she has written in our book a message for my son. Michelle Medlock Adams tells the story of Christ's birth from the perspective of the dove and other animals. The rhyming lilt makes the book endearing.

I like to read this book on Christmas Eve before bed. The words are the lyrics to Silent Night and the accompanying pictures are Thomas Kinkade paintings.

And finally, our reading would not be complete without a trip to the North Pole. This book was awarded the prestigious Caldecott Award and once you've read it you'll see it is deserving. My son likes the version of this book that has pictures from the motion picture by the same name. To me, nothing beats the original.

What do you and your children read together this time of year? Do you have a favorite Christmas story from your childhood?

Merry Christmas reading--

J Renee

Monday, December 5, 2011

Christmas Reading

Reading Christmas stories is a December tradition for me. The last few years I’ve breezed through many and nothing is better than a heartwarming story during the Christmas season. Unfortunately, not all Christmas stories are equally created. It sounds impossible but, I have encountered some stories that do not capture the dreamy, cozy, romantic, feel-good emotion I desire from a Christmas-themed book. And let me say now that all of the books I mention in this post are quick reads—they are novella-size.

First, Donna VanLiere has written many Christmas books, all of which are outstanding.  I have read several and can say that each one makes you sigh, cry and leaves you with a fairy tale feeling. Isn’t that the best kind of story to read this time of year? The Christmas Blessing is her title that I’ve most recently read. This book is the sequel to The Christmas Shoes and it addresses the purpose each of us is on earth to fulfill. It’s a story of hope and love and miracles. If you’d like to see what else VanLiere has to offer, click here.

Christmas in Harmony by Philip Gulley is another recent read. I thought the book was mediocre. I have certain criteria, as I’ve stated, that I expect to have in every Christmas story and this novella did not match my criteria. It is fairly well-written but the storyline doesn’t really go anywhere. Gulley has written a series of books revolving around the small town of Harmony and the quirky people who reside there. Philip Gulley isn’t the romantic that Donna VanLiere is but your yuletide reading pleasures may be different than mine.

I’ve also read, The Perfect Love Song by Pattie Callahan Henry. This one had plenty of everything I desire in a seasonal read. It was a good plot but, there was one element that tips the scale for me. There were occasions when the characters would speak the name of God in vain. Really? In a Christmas story? That’s a huge turn off—in any book I read, but especially in a Christmas book!

I have a few more Christmas tales to read before the season passes by. Check out my lists of books I’ve read in past years for other great Christmas books. What books do you enjoy reading this time of year?

Back to my Christmas book—

 J Renee

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Quest for the Nail Prints by Don Furr

Furr’s debut novel, Quest for the Nail Prints, is a gripping tale of three people from modern era who find themselves following Jesus around for the few days before his crucifixion. These three individuals do not know each other prior to traveling on the same flight to Israel and they have no inkling how much this trip will change their lives.

When I read the summary of Furr’s book I thought it would prove to be hokie and shallow. Time travel and such tom foolery is not what I typically choose to read. Then I started reading the book and discovered I couldn’t put it down.

At the very beginning Furr states, “A fictitious account of an actual event….” I thoroughly enjoy reading books based on biblical events where the author adds interpretation and details not provided in the Bible. In that regard, Quest for the Nail Prints seemed at home on my bookshelf. Fictitious accounts of actual events enhance the factual, add drama and force the reader to think about something well-known in an all new way. Quest for the Nail Prints is exactly what I expect with this type of book.

As for the time travel and other potentially hokie scenarios, it turns out the story flows smoothly with no awkwardness. Furr handles the switch from modern-day to ancient-day and back with ease. Most of the book is set in Jesus’ time so it was easy to forget how we even got there. There are plenty of twists and unforeseen details that keep the reader intrigued. The characters are well developed and dialogue flows nicely. Quest for the Nail Prints brings to life in a totally new way the story of Christ. Furr wrote an excellent adventure.

I received a complimentary copy of Quest for the Nail Prints in exchange for a review.

Friday, September 30, 2011

It Couldn't Just Happen by Lawrence O. Richards

I can’t wait to use It Couldn’t Just Happen to teach my children the truth about creation and evolution. Richards has written a comprehensive text for kids in the 9-13 age range that regards God’s creation and God’s word as the ultimate truth. Questions about dinosaurs, the Big Bang Theory, humans evolving from apes, and any other question your child will ever ask is addressed in Richards’ book.  
Richards wrote the book in classic textbook form but left out the boring and blah. This book captures your attention from your first glance at the cover. Pages are not filled with words alone; pictures abound with captions that add intrigue. This book will hold the attention of kids with ease, not to mention the very readable language. Plus the “Just for Fun” section at the end of each chapter supplies additional questions for kids to ponder, research suggestions to further explore the topic and some sort of biblical or God-centered question.

What I particularly enjoyed about It Couldn’t Just Happen was the direct approach to disproving evolution. Richards is quite frank and unapologetic about proving Evolutionists’ theories incorrect without being disrespectful or demeaning. I appreciate his boldness and confidence. It Couldn’t Just Happen makes it very clear that this world and everything in it did not just happen.

I envision this book being a useful resource in several settings including homeschooling, Sunday School and even a study parents do along with their child. Grab a copy and your kids and start learning just how awesome creation is!

I received a complimentary copy of It Couldn't Just Happen from Thomas Nelson Publishers as a participant in their book review blogger program.

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Answer by Allison Wynn

Wynn’s The Answer is a self-help short story; it is non-fiction subject matter presented in a fiction writing style. I was left with the impression that the story is the author’s personal experience but since it is written as fiction I can’t say that for sure.

The two main characters, Eric and Allison, meet at Starbucks. Eric thought the table he selected was vacant only to discover a journal left on the seat. In an effort to identify the owner he reads the journal and that’s when Allison returns to her table to discover this stranger who is weeping. I will summarize the rest of the story by saying this man and women (strangers) spent the entire day together talking, their lives were forever changed and they began the battle of letting go of anger.

I must be careful with my criticism because I don’t want to minimize a powerful, life-changing experience if this really is Wynn’s story. Having said that, there were a few red flags waving as I read The Answer. First, my mind cannot picture a man and a woman, who are strangers, spending the day together (skipping work) talking. That’s just not reality. Second, Eric is a married man having an intimate, life-altering experience with another woman and then he goes home to tell his wife all about it. My thought is, wouldn’t you want your wife to be there when you have this “a–ha” moment? As much as I would want to be happy for my husband for this break-through I would feel cheated that I didn’t get to be part of that, but some stranger was.

As for the self-help, non-fiction material Wynn claims that feeling insignificant leads to anger and the need to make others feel insignificant. It’s a cycle that takes discipline to recognize and break free from. That’s all fine and I can agree with that but, I would go one step farther and say the cycle can only be broken when we surrender the behavior to Christ and allow His grace to lead us into a new way of life. I was waiting for “we can overcome anything if we ask God for help” and it wasn’t there. I guess The Answer truly is a self-help book and I was hoping for more.

I received a complimentary copy of The Answer in exchange for a review.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

June Bug by Chris Fabry

Let me begin by telling you how I heard about this book…. I was reading a review and the writer said that particular book was as good as Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers and June Bug. My attention was zeroed in at that point because Redeeming Love is on my “Best Ever Book List.” Of course, I was skeptical. The probability of me agreeing that another book is of the same caliber as Redeeming Love, is slim. June Bug was placed at the top of my to-read list and this is what I think of Fabry’s novel…outstanding!

June Bug is a modern day retelling of the musical Les Misérables. The only life this nine year old girl named June Bug knows is one of traveling around the country in an RV with her father. Stuck in a Wal-Mart parking lot for several days, June Bug entertains herself inside the store until the day she glimpses at the missing children poster inside the front door only to see a picture of herself. This turns her world upside down and the story takes off from there.

Fabry does a remarkable job of writing from the perspective of a nine year old girl. That is no easy task, but it flows effortlessly throughout the book. The way June Bug thinks and talks is spot on when compared to girls I know that age. It’s almost uncanny how accurate Fabry’s character is to reality. He must have a daughter that age.

The other trait that had me enamored throughout the book was the unusual yet perfect word pictures. He describes in a whole new way and yet it makes perfect sense and you wonder why you never thought to describe it that way. Here a couple examples I particularly enjoyed: “Her face was kindly, with more lines than the map we kept in the RV.” and “there were a bunch of trailers packed in like haulers at a NASCAR race.”

 June Bug is a great story and it is written exceptionally well. June Bug gets ahold of your heart and barely lets go at the end of the book. Staying up late and thinking about the book days after completion is to be expected when you decide to read Fabry’s June Bug.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Don’t Give Up: Unexpected Answers to Marital Challenges by Gary Hoffman

Don’t Give Up is born out of the Men on the Edge Ministry that began at Saddleback Church, of which Hoffman is the leader. This book contains the material used in the support group for men with marital struggles. Hoffman’s book makes a good tool for support groups as well as being a complete resource for men to use on their own. A study guide style suits this book well and it also offers graphs, charts and a few questions to ponder.
Hoffman has a very specific target audience for his book, men in a marriage that is/did fall apart. It’s easy to determine whether or not Don’t Give Up is for you. I also feel the book is geared more towards men who either don’t have a personal relationship with Christ or are on the fringe. I say that because, as a Christian, some of the points Hoffman makes seems elementary. Having said that, there are some tidbits that are useful for women and couples who have a solid marriage. I was pleased when I read Hoffman’s reasoning for not using lawyers and I was glad to read his instruction on behavior during a separation.

A few nitpicks: redundancy, long sermon passages and overall not the caliber of writing I expected. First, I did not like the restating. There were many times the exact same sentence was written twice in the span of half a page. Verbatim. And many chapters could’ve been shorter if the repetition was eliminated. Several scripture passages were used over and over throughout the book, as well. Second, Hoffman prints long sections of sermons giving by Rick Warren. Whose book is it, anyway? And finally, Don’t Give Up fell short of my expectations. Saddleback Church is well-known and well-known for putting out excellent materials. I felt like Hoffman tried too hard to sell the ministry and relied on the reputation of Saddleback to carry the book along.
Don’t Give Up is a good resource and study guide for men who are trying to hold together their marriage. Everyone has to start somewhere and this book is a good beginning place. The format lends itself nicely to a group setting which is also a good place for struggling men to be. Hoffman has a great ministry going and is meeting the need of many men—I can’t criticize that!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

So You're Thinking About Homeschooling by Lisa Whelchel

As a matter of fact, I am. And, after reading this book, I'm thinking more seriously about homeschooling. This book transforms homeschooling from the daunting, unknown into feasible and attainable.

Lisa Whelchel (a.k.a Blair for those of us who grew up in the 80s) has put together conversational encounters with 15 homeschool families, including her own homeschool story. Each chapter is devoted to one family. The family describes their homeschool situation and the method they use. The family circumstances vary from Dad as teacher, to grandparents as teacher, to traveling the country in an RV. Each family uses a different method, such as, the principle approach, traditional textbooks, classic approach, unschooling, and others.

What I like best about So You’re Thinking About Homeschooling is how real it is. That sounds strange but I felt like I was meeting these families face-to-face and given an opportunity to see what homeschooling really looks like. Whelchel doesn’t gloss things over or paint a rosy picture attempting to win you over. This book introduces you to people who approach homeschooling very differently and who teach very differently. Everyone decides to homeschool for their own reason and everyone settles into a way of “doing school” that fits their family.

Whelchel chose the perfect writing style for this book, conversational, not confrontational. The format of meeting a new family with each chapter worked well with the subject matter. As I read I could easily determine aspects that would fit our circumstances, methods that would suit or kids and other details. When I completed the book I felt like I had a better sense of what homeschooling would look like at my house. Homeschooling doesn’t seem like such a scary thing anymore.

I highly recommend So You're Thinking About Homeschooling to anyone who has even had one minute thought about homeschooling. This book would also be good for those who tend to be critical of homeschooling or who don’t understand homeschooling because it presents many approaches and lifestyles.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A Bug Collection DVD Box Set

By Max Lucado
Published by Tommy Nelson
Includes: Buzby and the Grumble Bees, Hailey & Bailey's Silly Fight, Milo The Mantis Who wouldn't Pray

Tommy Nelson has put together a fine collection of fully animated DVDs for children. "A Bug Collection" is approved for all ages by The Dove Foundation and kid tested to prove enjoyable. Each film has a separate DVD with additional features, including songs and games.

Buzby and the Grumble Bees addresses behaving, Hailey & Bailey's Silly Fight teaches getting along and Milo the Mantis Who Wouldn't Pray speaks about prayer. Hermie is the main character in Lucado's children's videos but one (or more) of his friends also takes center stage in each story.

These DVDs are of the same caliber as Veggie Tales, not the old school videos I grew up with. Other than the characters being talking bugs, they move and act as bugs do and are fun to watch. I enjoyed the music in these videos—very peppy and energetic. The voices are well chosen, as well as, well known (Tim Conway, Richard Kind and Victoria Jackson, to name a few).

“A Bug Collection” does not push Biblical language or even mention the Bible, per say. The focus of the story is a worthy trait or moral and supports what the Bible teaches without coming across preachy. The lesson of each story is obvious enough for kids to recognize but flows naturally. For example, in Buzby and the Grumble Bees, the viewer sees how unpleasant it is to be around someone who is always misbehaving. Children then see the positive side of choosing to behave as the story resolves.

This collection is a great addition to a child’s DVD library. I can feel good about my children watching these films, knowing they may learn a thing or two about being a Godly person. From a parent’s perspective, you can’t go wrong with Hermie and friends.

I received a complimentary copy of "A Bug Colelection" from Thomas Nelson Publishers as a participant in their book review blogger program.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Wild at Heart: Discovering the Secret of a Man’s Soul by John Eldredge

The secret is out: men are wild. Eldredge presents a solid case for men being warriors who yearn for a battle and beauty to win. Men were created to desire risk, courage and adventure. Wild at Heart explains how our culture has minimized and even stripped masculinity from the male population. Somewhere along the journey from childhood to adulthood boys stop being rough, rugged and adventurous. Being a man and masculinity is God’s design. Eldredge describes how most men find themselves far from feeling like a man and how to reconnect with the true identity God gave them.
As a woman, the subtitle, Discovering the Secret of a Man’s Soul, piqued my curiosity. Men think women are hard to figure out but, men are equally mystifying. The ways of men and boys leaves me shaking my head in wonder. I was hoping to have my husband (and son) all figured out upon concluding the book. Saying I have them completely figured out would be an overstatement but, my understanding made great gains. The best way I can describe it is like this: any mom of boys has said countless times with an apologetic tone, “Boys will be boys.” Eldredge taught me not to apologize for my son being “all boy.” He’s supposed to be! and it’s my role to encourage and foster that as he grows.

Wild at Heart may seem like a book only for male readers but, the opposite is true. Eldredge intended for women to read this book just as much as men. As much as this book is for men, it is also for wives and mothers. All who read Wild at Heart will encounter many “aha” moments before the last page is turned.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

And The Book Goes To....

Congratulations to the Brokaws! They are the winners of the Love & War Devotional For Couples giveaway.

Thank you to everyone who participated in the give away. And as always, thank you for following Cover to Cover.

Back to my book--
J Renee Archer

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Love & War Giveaway

It just so happens that I have two copies of Love & War Devotions for Couples. I would be happy to give another couple the opportunity to experience a good devotion time with each other.

Click here to read what I thought of this book. Then you can decide if you would like this devotional for yourself or to give away (it is wedding season you know).

It's simple to enter:
  • subscribe to Cover to Cover via email and leave a comment on this post saying you are a subscriber
  • become a follower of Cover to Cover and leave a seperate comment on this post saying you are a follower 
  • leave a comment telling me if you will keep the book for you and your husband or if you'll pass Love & War on to another desrving couple

 If you already subscribe and/or follow:
  • leave seperate comments on this post for two chances to win
Each person has up to three chances to win. All comments must be posted by 11:59 p.m., Sunday, June 26. The winner will be randomly selected and announced June 27.

Back to my book---

J Renee

Monday, June 20, 2011

Love & War Devotional For Couples by John & Stasi Eldredge

A devotion time with my husband has been, well, a struggle. You see, I’m married to a truck driver who is gone a few nights a week. And reading a devotion over the phone is less than fulfilling. So, Love & War was up against a few obstacles from the get go and I’m happy to say the book has conquered them all.

John and Stasi have written this 8-week devotional book as a sidekick to their book, Love & War. I have not read that book and can verify that it is not a prerequisite to the devotional. Each devotion begins with a scripture verse that is followed by John and Stasi’s words. A prayer and concluding verse complete the day’s reading. Once a week there is a brief exercise; something for you and your spouse to discuss. Along with the reading being brief each day, we also appreciate the short-term commitment this book requires.

The format of this book is different from other devotionals for couples my husband and I have (unsuccessfully) tried. Each week is dedicated to one theme and each week consists of five devotions. This may not seem like much of a difference but, having five devotions per week rather than the typical seven has been a key to our success in sticking with the book. As I mentioned, my husband is gone two nights a week so a five-day week works well for us. For other people it may work well to skip devotions on the weekends. We don’t feel like we’re behind; it’s ok to not do devotions a couple nights. It’s nice not having the psychological pressure and guilt of always being behind.

Another positive element of Love & War is the low key approach. The devotions are not preachy or condemning. We don’t feel like John & Stasi are telling us our marriage is a mess. If anything, they help the readers feel good about their marriage being a mess and reassure them others have the same trials and shortcomings.

If my husband and I can successfully complete this devotion book, anyone can!

I received a copy of Love & War Devotional for Couples from WaterBrook Press as a participant in their blogging for books program.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Utopia Texas by Betty Byrd

I must say that Utopia Texas is difficult to review. This novel was very hard for me to read, so much so that I couldn’t complete the book. Writing a review without reading the entire book is not something I make a habit of doing. In fact, leaving a book unfinished is rare for me (I can’t think of any other book I started but didn’t finish).

I read the first eight chapters of Utopia Texas and a few random passages beyond that. At the end of chapter eight I still did not understand where the story was going. The story through page 50 does not match the description on the back of the book.

There are major gaps in the plot (I use that term loosely) and there is no sense of time. The best example of this is reads like this: “He studied his watch. 11:55 a.m.…. she would meet him at noon….. Within minutes, a cab stopped.” The couple takes a cab ride that presumably will be a short trip to another part of town. There are a couple short paragraphs about the cab ride and when they arrive, “The sun had almost set….” Really? I even read the passage several times thinking I missed something, but there is no explanation for where the afternoon went.

Utopia Texas isn’t my type of book. First, I don’t want to struggle to follow a plot that jumps here, there and everywhere with no lead or preparation. If the scene for the next chapter is a Christmas party, I prefer some indication that it is approaching December 25 or at least that it is winter.

Second, I have no appreciation for lewd language or storylines. We’ve all been around people that cuss just to cuss or because they think it makes them sound tough or macho. In reality those people lack respect and they aren’t pleasant to be around. The same is true in writing. Just as I don’t want to be around people who are vulgar and crude, I don’t want to read about characters like that either.

If you think I’ve judged the book unfairly since I didn’t read all 300 hundred pages, I would be happy to send you the book so you can read it for yourself. I truly dislike writing a negative review, as I’ve stated previously on my blog. Reading is supposed to be enjoyable and I am frustrated and disappointed when it’s not.

I received a complimentary copy of Utopia Texas in exchange for a review.

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Year of Living Like Jesus by Ed Dobson

Ed Dobson committed to living as Jesus did for an entire year. His goal was to do what Jesus the person would have done, not necessarily what Jesus the Messiah would have done. Dobson’s plan was to live in accordance with the Jewish way of life as opposed to healing the sick and blind. A journal tracked his days, progress and struggles.

This book intrigued me from the moment I read the title. I expected a life changing story not only on the author’s part but for myself, as well. It seems to me that a commitment such as this would alter a person’s life in a major way. A highly spiritual experience is what I anticipated. As it turns out, the book was very different then my pre-reading notion. My life was not permanently changed and, as far as I can tell, Dobson’s life wasn’t either.

The Year of Living Like Jesus was interesting reading, especially the first half of the book. In this section the writing is in journal form and more detailed daily living. The second half was more traditional non-fiction writing. I enjoyed the first half more due to the style.

A major theme of the book is Jewish living and tradition. The word Jesus in the title of the book could easily be replaced with Jews and accurately represent the book. Since I knew nothing about the Jewish culture I found the book educational in that regard. Dobson ate Kosher, observed Shabbat (Sabbath) and other Jewish services. The author also adopted prayer customs of several other religions which didn’t make sense to me because it seemed counter to his commitment. (I’m certain Jesus did not pray the rosary.) There were times when he focused too much on living as a Jew. It almost trivialized Jesus’ life. Dobson was so caught up in making sure he followed the Jewish Law that it kept him from drawing closer to God. At the end of the year I didn’t get the impression that he was a stronger Christian or had a deeper relationship with Christ. That was a disappointment.

Dobson set a lofty goal and made a major commitment that took much perseverance to follow through with. I give him credit for sticking with the project for a whole year. I hope it was more of a spiritual experience then I perceived from his writing. And I thank him for teaching me about a culture I have not personally experienced.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Max On Life by Max Lucado

Max on Life is like sitting down with your pastor and getting in-a-nutshell answers to the long list of questions you’ve accumulated throughout life. Lucado, being a minister, has been asked a lot of questions over the years and so he turned these frequently asked questions, along with his answers, into a book.

The questions are divided into seven categories. Most answers are less than a page with a few of the tougher questions filling 1-2 pages. These short and succinct answers give this newest release a slightly devotional feel. Each question/answer gives the reader a thought or two to ponder. Reading only one or two pages at a time is an appropriate way to read this book. Max on Life is a book you don’t have to read cover to cover, although it is interesting and enjoyable enough to do so. What keeps you reading is that you’ve asked the same questions and you want to know the answers too. Out of 172 questions, there were very few I had not wondered myself.

Lucado does an outstanding job of giving Biblical answers. His answers do not include phrases like, “this is my opinion” or “my personal belief is….” There isn’t a need for that because he bases his responses on what Scripture says. The reader does get a feel for where Lucado stands on some issues because it is clear that he regards the Bible as truth.

Max on Life is a good resource for pastors, church leaders, parents and others who get asked the tough questions. And in true Lucado style, this book is easy reading; just like chatting over a cup of coffee in the pastor’s office. Maybe you’ll finally get an answer to that question burning inside you.

I received a complimentary copy of Max On Life from Thomas Nelson as a participant in their blogging for books program, Booksneeze.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Care For A Kindle

I got a Kindle for my birthday in January. I didn’t really know what I was doing because I had never seen one, used one and I didn’t even know anyone that had one. Why I wanted a Kindle, I’m not sure.
When my Kindle arrived I realized that it is fairly easy to use, although, I wouldn’t recommend buying a Kindle two days before you’re leaving on a trip when you want to take the Kindle with you. That’s what I did and I was easily frustrated. I didn’t have time to learn all the ins and outs and I wanted the Kindle to set itself up—it doesn’t quite work that way. So I suggest giving yourself some time to acquaint yourself with the Kindle before you need it to perform on a trip.

What I like about my reading on a Kindle:

My eyes don’t burn or ache. Reading on a Kindle is like reading a paperback without the smell. The screen looks the same color as the paper in a paperback book. Without the back light you don’t have the discomfort you experience reading for a long time at the computer.

Kindle reading make treadmill walking a pleasure. I always enjoy reading while I use the treadmill but the book never stays open and the print is too small to read while I’m bobbing up and down. With my Kindle I eliminate both these problems. There is no page to hold open and I can increase the font to make reading easier. As an incentive to use my treadmill more I’ve tried to limit my Kindle reading to while I’m on the treadmill. That didn’t last very long because I’ve read some real page-turners on my Kindle. The up side to this, I tend to stay on the treadmill longer because I’m caught up in the story.

I haven’t paid for any book I have on my Kindle. Currently, I have 73 books on my Kindle and I have gotten all of them for free. And these books aren’t the ones the Kindle store offers for free because they were written before the copyright laws. Most of the books on my Kindle were written in the past 5 years with many in the past year. How did I get so many books free? I subscribe to a couponing blog that offers a free Kindle book almost every day. The offer is only valid for a short time (1-2 days) so I am sure to pursue it right away so I don’t miss out. There have been very few days I have turned down the free Kindle book.
A couple nitpicks about Kindle:

I miss the actual book. That sounds silly and I didn’t think it would bother me but, I enjoy holding a book, flipping the pages and seeing myself progress through the book. The Kindle does show how far you’ve read in a book but it’s not the same. Not all Kindle books come with an image of the cover and I haven’t gotten used to that. When you have lots of books on your Kindle and all you have is the title to go by, it can be difficult to remember what genre the book is and what the book is about.

Downloading books isn’t as easy as I hoped. This nitpick is probably more of a user issue than a product issue. I’m not a tech person and I become frustrated when I can’t figure it out quickly. I do not have a wireless connection at my home so that makes adding to my Kindle library more difficult, but not impossible. Again, this would not be an issue for someone more computer savvy than myself.

This last aspect of Kindle is really neat but, doesn’t pertain to me: you don’t have to own a Kindle to read Kindle books! Doesn’t get any better than that, right? You can use a Kindle App to download books to your computer, iPad, iPhone or other device that is all techy (which I am not). So if you have one of these devices you can enjoy free Kindle books and not even need a Kindle. Personally, the idea of sitting at my computer to read a book for fun, doesn’t interest me. Reading a book off a laptop on my comfortable couch, you bet! So what are you waiting for? Visit the Kindle Store and start building your Kindle library.

Back to my book--

J Renee

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Snow Day by Pamela Greenhalgh Hamilton

I want to begin by stating two things: I love children's books (I was an Elementary Education major in college and a school teacher for a few years) and I love snow days. So, Snow Day, by Hamilton should be a pleaser, right?

Unfortunately, I was disappointed. I hate being disappointed with a book because I very much want to like and enjoy every book I read. Not all books are created equally, therefore critical reviews exist. (I just wish they didn't have to exist on my blog.)

Snow Day is Hamilton's first picture book and I say, "Congratulations!" She has more courage than I by making her dream a reality. I applaud the hard work and perseverance she needed to publish her first book.

The story tells of the activities three kids engage in with their grandparents on a snow day. A perfect day is created, complete with snow angels, sledding, hot cocoa and cookies. All the events that make a dream snow day are included in the book. This makes the story easy to relate to but lacks pizazz. Every child has experienced a day similar to the one depicted. The plot lacks uniqueness. As I read about sledding and building a snowman, I guessed the story would end with hot cocoa and cookies. I was hoping for something different to prove me wrong but, kids and grandparents snuggling on the couch with a plate of cookies nearby concludes the book.

In literature for children the words and illustrations go hand in hand. You can't have one without the other. Words enhance the pictures, the pictures enhance the words. The greatest words can be diminished by poor illustrations and vice versa. In Snow Day, on two occasions the illustrations do not match the text. This is a huge blunder! I fault the illustrator for this, although, these mistakes should not have slipped past the author, or the publisher, for that matter. The first error, the text describes a "bright red scoop" while the picture shows a yellow scoop. Secondly, the text states "sugar cookies" twice while the picture shows, what are clearly, chocolate chip cookies. Children's literature cannot send mixed messages like this.

For a first picture book, Snow Day is not a book to be ashamed of. Even though it isn't on my top 10 favorite children's book list Snow Day is not a waste of time either. Kids love snow and a book about snow is sure to please young ones. I am looking forward to reading Hamilton's next picture book to see how she has grown as an author.

I received a complimentary copy of Snow Day in exchange for a review.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Couples Who Pray: The Most Intimate Act Between A Man And A Woman by SQuire Rushnell & Louis DuArt

We have all heard that couples who pray together stay together, yet, most couples do not pray together. For me it is one of those things that roll around in my brain as something I will eventually get around to doing. Like the infamous I’ll-start-tomorrow-diet. So, I thought Couples Who Pray might be just the ticket for getting prayers with my husband rolling.

Rushnell and DuArt present readers with the challenge of praying with your spouse for 40 days and readers will experience wonderful changes in their marriage. They claim praying together not only improves communication but, also intimacy, among other things. Throughout the book, stories are told of the effects of prayer in the lives of celebrities and other high-profile individuals. Big names like Denzel & Pauletta Washington, Frank & Kathy Lee Gifford and Scott & Tracie Hamilton tell their experience with praying as a couple and the positive results.

I appreciate the message of Couples Who Pray but struggle with the marketing tactic for the concept. I wholeheartedly agree that if my husband and I spend a few minutes each day praying together our marriage will benefit beyond our expectations. However, I do not like the author’s use of celebrities (who do not always live what I would consider a Christian lifestyle) to sell the idea and, in turn, books.

Couples Who Pray has a lot of fluff. The number of pages needed to present the idea, back it up, explain the logistics and give a few testimonies is about half the number of pages in the book. There are too many stories from the high-profile people to suit me and many of these stories are not related to the concept of praying as a couple. The 40 Day Prayer Challenge resources included in the book play a vital role in the appeal of this book. Without these tools Couples Who Pray would be even more unbalanced with irrelevant anecdotes.

All in all, Rushnell and DuArt’s book is good. As I stated, I fully support the notion of praying with your spouse and reaping the benefits of this intimate time together. As for jump starting this new habit with my own husband, Couples Who Pray has not inspired as I hoped. Yes, I would like to commit to the 40 day challenge but not because Denzel, Kathy Lee or Scott did.

I received a complimentary copy of Couples Who Pray from Thomas Nelson as a participant in their blogging for books program,

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Who Wants a Free Book?

It’s time for a giveaway! Who doesn’t like free stuff? This is my first giveaway and, you guessed it, I’m giving away a book. You could be chosen to receive a copy of Chosen: The Lost Diaries of Queen Esther by Ginger Garrett. I posted a review of this book yesterday so be sure to visit my blog for details on this novel.

Here’s how you can claim this giveaway:

1. Become a follower of Cover to Cover
2. Leave a comment on the Chosen post saying you are a follower and you want this book.

If you want to better your chances, invite others to follow Cover to Cover. For every person that becomes a follower because you referred them, you receive one entry in the giveaway.

All comments (entries) must be left on the Chosen post by 10 p.m. central time on Friday, January 21.

Back to my book—

J Renee

Monday, January 17, 2011

Chosen: The Lost Diaries of Queen Esther by Ginger Garrett

Chosen is one possible life story of Queen Esther. Ginger Garrett tells a story about a real person, though the real story is not known. This novel takes the biblical account and fills in the details to make Queen Esther’s story come to life. Written in a diary format gives this tale a personal feel that lends itself nicely to this type of book.

The story begins with Esther, an orphan, making a living selling goods in the market and tending sheep with her only relative, Mordecai. A relationship is starting to blossom between Esther and Cyrus when King Xerxes’ latest declaration lands Esther in the king’s harem preparing for her one night with the king. The last section of the novel concludes the story of Esther with the conclusion of her life.

Garrett devotes many chapters to telling of Esther’s experience in the harem—all the counsel, instruction and physical preparation. This section provides much more insight than the Bible regarding this phase of Esther’s life. The Bible says very little about this portion of her life so the freedom to fill in the gaps is great. Garrett did well to create a modest telling of life in a harem. The book provides enough detail to give the reader a clear sense of the lifestyle without overstepping the bounds of decency.

One element of this book that did not resonate with me is the current-time excerpts included in the back of the book and referenced throughout the story. The excerpts are relevant yet they do not improve, develop or give the storyline a boost. Chosen would be just as complete without that section.

I enjoy books of this nature. When I read Bible stories such as Esther’s, I have a hard time using my imagination to create more of the story than what is written on the page. Garrett excels at enhancing the story without altering the known facts. Chosen is biblically sound, making it even more appealing. I found myself favorably comparing this novel to the novella’s written by Francine Rivers about the women in the lineage of Jesus. The next book in the Lost Loves of the Bible trilogy is, most certainly, on my “to read” list.

Chosen is a good read for those who love the story of Esther and those who do not know the story of Esther, alike. Whether you are Bible savvy or not, Chosen is a compelling story of love, loyalty and faith in God.