Design Your Day By Clair Diaz-Ortiz: Book Review

Design Your Day
By Clair Diaz-Ortiz 
Find it on: 
First-Person 
Non-Fiction
126 Pages

Why I Choose this Book: 
The tag line is Be more productive, set better goals, and live life on purpose. Who doesn’t want that? Of course I wanted to read it. 
What I Thought About this Book:
It’s hard to know what I thought of this book. The information was really good, but I knew most of it. I was hoping for a creative spin that would tickle my brain because I can read the same information over and over again and get new ideas from it each time if it’s presented in a new way. Unfortunately Miss Claire’s style was just there and I neither enjoyed it or disliked it, so the book and I had a pretty passive relationship. 
I’m 100% certain though that this^ is just a “me thing” and that there are many people who will benefit greatly from her book. In fact, several things she said echoed what I’ve been learning but haven’t begun implementing into my life yet, so this was the push I need to get into gear.

Reading this book was somewhat of a strange experience because I felt like I could have written the first half. It sounded very much like me, which actually might be the reason I didn’t feel more inspired… It felt so normal. 

Miss Claire quotes Bob Goff and refers to him as a friend, so the rating almost jumped to four stars because of that. All in all I think the book was good, concise, and helpful, but just not my style for some odd, odd reason. (I’ll probably come back in two years and it will have become a well-worn five-star book that I recommend to everyone. I’ve had that type of thing happen before.) 
Conclusion: 
Good information. I need to implement some of the things from the second half into my life and I’m glad for this push. 
Rating: 
I’m giving Design Your Day Three Stars (five out of Ten).


*I received this book for free from Moody Publishers in exchange for an honest review*

Screens and Teens By Kathy Koch: Book Review

Screens and Teens
By Kathy Koch 
Find it on: 
First-Person 
Non-Fiction
256 Pages

Why I Choose this Book: 
I use technology (and, in this review when I say technology I mean things like smart phones and computers) a lot and think it’s a wonderful tool, yet it freaks me out how prevalent it is in society today and how so many people are seemingly controlled by their electronics. I want to make sure I’m a good steward of the techie stuff in my life and stay balanced. Books like “Screens and Teens” help me gain perspective and insight and show me places where I’m being excessive with my use of screens. 
What I Thought About this Book:
I highly recommend it. The author gives a very balanced and insightful look into the benefits and trouble that can go along with technology. She explains the lies that most kids/teens in first-world countries believe and then explains how technology has helped reinforce these lies and how parents can guard against that and instead use technology to help their teens grow. (Some examples of lies are “I deserve to be happy all the time” and “I must have choices.”) 
The author also explains how proper usage and perspective regarding technology needs to start with the parents which I totally agree with. (Although, that’s not an excuse for any teen who happens to read the book.) Even though I’m not a parent, and so therefore not who the book was written for, I find myself being so focused on getting as much work done as possible on my phone and computer that I miss out on the rest of life. This book helped remind me to cut back where needed to be balanced. 

Yesterday I was reading this book while sitting in the waiting room at the dentist. A guy came in with his son who was probably six years old. The boy was chattering excitedly and the man answered and made absent-minded noises as he scrolled through Facebook. (I could see because he was sitting right by me. Don’t worry, I wasn’t being creepy.) It made me really sad to see the boy neglected like that, and even more sad to realize that this is becoming the new norm. I know I’ve been guilty of focusing on my screen when I should be focusing on people, and that’s something I work on constantly.
Another issue they talked about was how a lot of kids are being raised today by technology. I’ve seen this to be so true and it scares me. A lot of times when a parent wants peace and quiet or wants to focus on their own thing or get some work done, they simply plop their kid down in front of a screen or hand them a phone and let the screens entertain them. This creates a whole host of issues that the child will have to work through the rest of their lives. The book brought to light some very insightful things that I hadn’t known before. 
Conclusion: 
This book is so well-rounded and very, very important. It also reminds me of another book I reviewed (which this book referenced quite a few times): “Growing Up Social” by Gary D Chapman and Arlene Pellicane http://aidylewoh.blogspot.com/2015/02… 
Rating: 
I’m giving “Screens and Teens” Four Stars (Nine out of Ten) and recommend to to adults and older teens (parents and non-parents alike). 

*I received this book for free from Moody Publishers in exchange for an honest review*

Vision Map by Joël Malm: Book Review

Vision Map
By Joël Malm 
Find it on: 
First-Person 
Non-Fiction
96 Pages

About the Book 
Backcover Blurb 

A few years back, Joël Malm had the idea to lead people on outdoor expeditions with a spiritual, God-centered focus. Following God’s lead, he created a vision map, started his organization, and made it happen.
This book is a response to the question he often gets: How do you do something like that?
Whether you want to start a business, raise a family, run a marathon, plant a church, restore a relationship, or climb a mountain, you can take practical steps to see your vision come to be.
Vision Map is not a formula for overnight success, but it is a template to start anyone on the path to envisioning a God-given dream. God often gives us a difficult problem to solve, and we just need a push in the right direction to find the answer.
Why I Choose this Book: 
Goals and vision are a very important part of my life. I believe everyone on earth is here for a reason and God wants to use us in unique ways. This book looked like it would be helpful in helping me serve God better. It wasn’t until just now that I saw Bob Goff, author of Love Does, endorsed the book. That alone would be enough to make me read it. 

What I Thought about the Book:

Yay! This book is quite easy to gulp down, 96 pages of good information, told in a easy-going, easy-to-read way. I’ve read and listened to a lot of information about setting goals and working on the dream God has given you and living a purposeful life, so not much of the information was new. The information was presented in such a way though that made it feel new. 
The book makes us feel like we’re learning along with the author as he takes us through the process of what his vision mapping looked like, and explains what he did and didn’t do and what he learned from it. 
Conclusion: 
There were a few sentences I didn’t agree with 100% of the way, but they were all minor. A cool connection: I didn’t realize it to the end of the book, but I’m pretty sure Joël and Jonathan are brothers. 
Rating: 
I’m happy to give Vision Map 4 stars (8 out of 10 stars) and recommend it to pretty much anyone who wants to fulfill the dreams God has given them. 
*I received this book for free from Moody Publishers in exchange for an honest review*

Your Money Map by Howard Dayton: Book Review

Sarah from Homeschooled Authors interviewed me and the post went live yesterday. 
Y’all should check it out. ^


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Your Money Map
by Howard Dayton 
Find it on:
First Person
Non-Fiction 
256 Pages
About the Book
Back cover blurb
This book will transform your finances . . . and your life.
When you learn what the God of the universe says about handling money—and apply it—everything changes. Your Money Map shows you how.
This biblical and practical guide is for everyone—single or married, young or old, whether you earn a little or a lot. It helps you:
Frame your finances within God’s big picture
Determine and change the trajectory of your financial situation
Establish and follow 7 steps for wise stewardship.
Follow the principles in Your Money Map toward financial freedom and you will know a joy, peace, and confidence about your finances that few ever do.
Includes discussion questions, tools, and resources to help you put the book into practice.

Why I Choose this Book  

I’ve not read or studied very much about money and saving and staying out of debt and those are some really important subjects. When I saw Your Money Map I jumped at the chance to review it. 
What I Thought about this Book 
This book is pretty much what I expected it to be. It was helpful and engaging and really got me thinking. I’ve never been a big spender, but I’ve never been good at keeping track of the money I spend either. This year I’ve been working on tracking every penny I spend and this book helped reinforce that goal. 
Since I’m not really in debt, this book served as a very good warning to me that I really don’t want to get into debt. Reading the statistics and hearing about how hard it is to work your way out of debt made me very happy to have learned these principles now so I can apply them to the rest of my life. 
Your Money Map is written from a Christian worldview and is founded on some really great biblical truths. Howard Dayton, the author, pointed out several times that most Christians think that God tells us what to do with ten percent of our money, our tithe, and that the rest is up to us. In reality, all of our money is God’s and we are just the stewards. That means that what we do in every aspect of our finances should be pleasing to Him. Then Mr. Dayton goes on to explain how we can get out of debt and bring God glory with our finances. 
Conclusion 

I agreed with most of this book and found it easy to read. There were a few pages about investing that I didn’t completely understand, but other than that I found the book quite comprehensible. 
Rating
I’m giving Your Money Map four stars (seven out of ten) and recommend it to people fourteen and older.
*I received this book from Moody Publishers in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review Thoughts & Giveaway

Book reviews. They’re amazing little things. I’ve read thousands and thousands of them and will probably read thousands more. I can literally read them for hours on end and lose all track of time. I’ve also written a few reviews, although my total reaches to dozens, not thousands. I hope that changes one day…

Have you ever realized that our brains work differently from each other? Take for instance when I read, I’m focusing on certain elements such as character development, word pictures, and the way the author draws my emotions in. The plot needs to be realistic, but generally that isn’t my main focus.

Through reviews I’ve discovered there’s a wide range of what other people like and don’t like. Some reviewers discount books as being unrealistic if they don’t mention food, because, Hey! You have to eat. Others shake their heads sadly and declare the book a loss because the main character was unlikeable to them. Others squeal about a book being trite. Or cliché. Or boring. Or aggravating. Or having gigantic plot holes.

Even if I’ve never read the book, I can generally get a good grasp on what causes those reactions if I need enough reviews. Then I file it away in my memory bank and when one of those “issues” pop up in my book I’m able to whack it over the head and deal with it right away so my readers don’t have to.

Book reviews also help inspire me. When I see how many reviews are out there being read, I’m reminded that one day, I too, should have a passel of reviews for readers to dig into. Plus, the diversity in people’s imaginations makes me feel as if I have wings to fly on, because I have an imagination, too and that’s a glorious thought.

There are some elements about reviewing books that bother me: The main one being that the system we have only uses five stars. I’m fairly certain the world of reviews would feel like a more fair place if we had ten stars to choose from.

Most of the books I read are three-star reads. It takes a good amount of liking for me to push a book up to the four star range, and it’s almost impossible for a fiction book to reach five-stars. By the same token, though, it’s quite difficult for me to regulate a book to two-stars. It just feels wrong. I don’t think I’ve ever written a one-star review, most likely because I don’t finish books that would garner just one-star.

But this leaves me with all those three-star books, which in reality have hit many different places in my like-the-book-meter. On a scale of one to ten I might inwardly rate Book A at 4 and book Book B at a 7, yet in the star-charting reviewing world, they come out looking the same. It makes my reviewing, and writing, heart sad.

Still, five stars are better than three stars, so I’ll remain a happy little book reviewer.

Today I’m celebrating my book being released in Spanish by hosting a giveaway. You can win either a copy of the book or an Amazon gift card. Enjoy!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
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Do you think we should have a better book reviewing system? What star-count do the majority of the books you read receive? 

The Counselor By A.W. Tozer: Book Review

The Counselor 
By A.W. Tozer 
Find it on: 

First-Person Narration 
Non-Fiction
181 Pages



Why I Choose this Book: 

These last few months I’ve been interested in finding out more about the Holy Spirit. Until recently I hadn’t thought much about Him, and so it’s almost like a whole new dimension was added to my world when I became consciously aware of Him in my life and in the world around me.

What I Thought About this Book:

I enjoyed reading this book, more so the second half than the first. It’s always enlightening to read books by great Christian authors and I’m so thankful I can learn from them instead of having to learn everything in life by trial and error.
The book was, as you can see from the title, about the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is such an important part of being a Christian, but far too often we don’t even recognize the fact that He is one of the Trinity. He is alive and active, not an it or a thing. This book helped me to have a clearer understanding of who the Holy Spirit is and what He does in the world.

Sadly though, all in all this book wasn’t really my favorite. Somehow the author’s style bugged me a bit. He was emphatic about things that I wasn’t comfortable with him being emphatic about, and one of my quirks is being really bothered by that type of thing. I’m pretty sure this is just a “me” thing though, and that other people will enjoy it and glean a lot of good information while reading it.

Conclusion: 

There were some things I didn’t agree with, but overall it was good. I found myself challenged to live a holy and acceptable life before God. I especially liked chapter seven where he talks about different great men and woman of the faith. I want to look up some of the people he mentioned and read books about them. (I was familiar with most of the people, although it’s been a while since I’ve read anything by or about any of them.)

Rating: 

I am very picky with the number of stars I give books, hence the three stars. This book had several four-star chapters in it, so over all I’d give the book 3 & 1/2 stars.

*I received this book for free from Moody Publishers in exchange for an honest review*

Created for More by Jonathan Malm: Book Review

Created for More
by Jonathan Malm
Find it on:
First Person
Non-Fiction 
118 Pages

About the Book
Back cover blurb

Are you compartmentalizing God?
If you ever feel like your times spent praying or trying to read the Bible are disconnected from the rest of your day, you need this book. 
Devotions aren’t supposed to be isolated from your life; the God who created you also calls you to create—whether that is a business, a family, a book, a photograph, a website, a sermon, or a meal.
Created for More ties together our drive to create and our desire for God. Spend 30 days learning to be more than you thought you could be. Be humble. Be intentional. Be limited. Be parallel. Be invested. Be brave.
Be a creator as you draw near to the God who created you.
Why I Choose this Book  

I’m a writer. This is a book about being a creative Christian and so of course I wanted to read it. 

What I Thought about this Book 

I liked it a lot. It’s supposed to be read over a thirty day period and each “chapter” is about three pages long with a lot of white space. There’s a title, then a quote, then a passage from the Bible (sometimes just a verse), then prayer starter, then there’s a “Change the Way You Think” section, and it ends with a challenge. The layout is pretty cool and I’m not sure what it is, but it doesn’t feel overwhelming in the least bit. Instead if feels… Comfortable. Don’t ask me why, but it kinda reminds me of sitting in a comfy living room with my feet tucked up under me and a great creative discussion going on. 
Created for More was a very easy read. I breezed right through it. (Yes, I know it’s supposed to be read over 30 days, but because of a deadline with this review and being out of the state I didn’t have 30 days to spend on it. I do plan on re-reading it sometime soon and doing it right the next time.) There was so much about thinking out side of the norm and coming up with new ideas. (Total win, there!)
My favorite part was the challenge at the end of each day. I love thinking in creative ways, and each challenge was about stretching ourselves and thinking in new ways. The “prayer starter” isn’t something I generally enjoy in books, (it was just ideas about how to pray that went along with the subject of each chapter), so I skim-read most of them. 
Conclusion
 
I want to look up more books by Jonathan Malm. He seems like a pretty interesting author. I enjoyed his perspective and creativity and agreed with almost everything he said. Another win was the cover and the format inside the book being so pretty and peaceful. It’s just all-around nice. 
Rating 

I’m giving Created for More four stars and I recommend it to anyone 12 and up who want to become more creative (especially people who consider themselves to be artists of some nature). 

*I received this book from Moody Publishers in exchange for an honest review.

Susanna Don’t You Cry Book Review and Giveaway

Susanna Don’t You Cry
by Zachary McIntire 
Find it on: 

Third person; Omnipresent
Fiction
180 Pages


About the Book 
Back cover Blurb
“I’ll never forgive him – never!”
Chuck Kincaid made a vow of hate the day his father walked out, and he still keeps it ten years later. His sister’s bad choices, his mother’s drug addiction – he knows who to blame for all of it.
But when Susanna and Kelly get their lives turned around by Jesus, Chuck doesn’t know what to think. And why is the rich stranger with the scarred face so interested in being his benefactor?
Failure and restoration. Hate and forgiveness. What is broken can be put back together, one small piece at a time.
Why I Choose this Book
A year and a half ago I had the privilege of hosting an Elisha Press author on Noveltea to celebrate the release of his first book, and I’ve also reviewed a couple of their books in the past six months. So when Elisha Press contacted me in December to see if I wanted to be part of the fun and festivities of the release of their newest book I jumped sat the chance. (Book releases are so special, and I always feel honored to be a part of one.) 
What I Thought about this Book 
What I Liked: 
1. How the brother and sister interact when they are younger. I grew up being really close to my next-older brother, so books with that element in it make me happy. 
2. The book contains good foreshadowing. One of my big pet peeves in books is when something happens very conveniently, yet not very realistically. This book was delightfully void of those occurrences to the best of my memory. 
3. Not only is there good foreshadowing, but there is also good set-up for why the choices that were made, were chosen.
4. There were a couple of times that I was like, “Oh, such and such a thing is about to happen” and then it did. It was nice getting to “know” the characters enough to predict their actions a little.
5. The author doesn’t go into needless details about the “issues” the book deals with (divorce, drugs, etc…), yet they weren’t glossed over either, I thought he hit a good balance.
6. There was good character development. All of the main characters ended the book very different from how they were in the beginning, and that is something that can be hard for an author to succeed with.
What I Didn’t Particularly Like:
1. There was a relationship that did not feel “right” to me; not that there was anything morally wrong with it, because there wasn’t, but it lacked depth and therefore believability.
2. Throughout the book I felt like the subject of money, success, and drive were not handled well (or, I at least didn’t agree with the conclusions). I ended up emailing with the author about the book as a whole and when we talked about the problems I had with these parts, I realized we saw more eye-to eye on this matter than I had thought. So that means I probably just misinterpreted what he was trying to say, but it still raised a red flag for me.   

Rating 
I’m giving Susanna Don’t You Cry Three Stars.
Conclusion 
Susanna Don’t You Cry wasn’t exactly my cup of tea, although I did find it interesting and an easy and enjoyable read. Elisha Press recommends the book for ages 12 and up due to themes such as divorce and drug addiction. 
Giveaway! Giveaway! Giveaway!

I’m happy to announce that as part of the celebration of a new book coming out Elisha Press is hosting a giveaway that will run for the whole month of February. Enter it for your chance to win one of the three copies of Susanna Don’t You Cry that they are giving away.
About the Author 
Zachary McIntire is a homeschool graduate, entrepreneur, and history lover. He lives in the Missouri Ozarks, where, in between business and ministry activities, he occasionally finds time to write.

                               * * * 
Congratulations,  Zachary! I’m excited for you and your new book today. *cue happy smile*
Noveltea readers, good news for us! Zachary has kindly agreed to take part in the first Author Interview of 2016 (yay!), so keep an eye out for that. 
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This book was given to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions were my own.

The Sparrow Found a House by Jason McIntire: Book Review

The Sparrow Found a House 
by Jason McIntire 
Find it on: 

Third person; Omnipresent
Fiction
205 Pages

About the Book 
Back cover Blurb
What if your new stepdad was a Bible-toting Army Sergeant? 
Fifteen-year-old Jessie Rivera is living every teenager’s nightmare. Her widowed mom has married a man who wears his heavy Christian values like his sergeant’s stripes – on both sleeves. 
Glenn Sparrow is persistent, immovable, and not afraid to be firm. Worse than that, he’s loving, kind – even fun – and he has Chris, Moe, and Katie completely won over. 
But Jessie is determined that she won’t be won over, or give up her “freedom” without a fight. She knows what she wants, and it isn’t what they’ve got. 
Or is it?

Why I Choose this Book

Jason McIntire, the author of The Sparrow Found a House, contacted me back in June of 2014 asking me if I wanted to be a part of the book launch. At that time it didn’t work for me to do a book review, but I did host him on Noveltea. Then, earlier this year I read and reviewed Flight School, the second book in the Sparrow Stories series. Ever since then I’ve wanted to go back and read The Sparrow Found a House (referred to from now on as TSFAH)

What I Thought about this Book 

I’m not sure if it’s because I already “knew” these characters, but I enjoyed TSFAH a lot more than Flight School. The main character in this book is fifteen-year-old Jessie, although she shares stage time with her three siblings, Mom and new step-dad. It was easy to see that Jessie is conflicted by the changes going on in her family. She loves her mom and of course has a bond with her siblings, therefore she wants life to run smoothly for them but she can’t stand her new step-dad. I could feel her struggle and although I didn’t personally connect with her very much, I thought she was well-written and that a lot of people would be able to connect with her. 

A little list of things I especially enjoyed in TSFAH
1. The Creation Museum gets about a ten second appearance in the book which was cool
2. The parents are willing to apologize when they’ve done something wrong 
3. Ben. He was a cool friend for them to have
4. Each one of the characters were their own person and had their own personalities 
5. The fact that Jessie didn’t change all of a sudden
6. Camping. Of course camping. How could I not like camping?

Conclusion 
TSFAH reminded me quite a bit to A Song for Your Honorwhich is a true, modern-day story involving a homeschooling window and her struggles with the grandparents not agreeing with the conservative way she was raising her family. (I don’t agree with everything in A Song for Your Honor and there are times the story drags, but over all it is very encouraging – especially in the arena of forgiveness. I highly recommend it.) I actually really enjoyed the parallels between the two books and wondered at times if they were done on purpose or not. 

I didn’t find a huge a mount of stuff that I disagreed with in TSFAH and I thought almost all of the “teachable” moments were done tastefully and were not overbearing which is a hard trick to master. 
This book made me want to re-read Flight School and pick up on what elements of the story I might have missed my first time reading it. 
Rating 

I’m giving The Sparrow Found a House Four Stars and recommend it to kids and teenagers who want an interesting, God-focused read that will encourage them in their Christian faith. 

About the Author 

A 2005 homeschool graduate and partner in family business ventures, Jason McIntire writes as a hobby. His Christian stories are built around solidly biblical ideas, but packaged in his own light-hearted, often humorous style. (See their website here.) 

Glory Days by Max Lucado: Book Review

Glory Days
by Max Lucado
Find it on:

First Person
Non-Fiction 
272 Pages
About the Book
Back cover blurb
Keep walking. This may be the day your Jericho walls come down.
We all face them. Strongholds with a strong hold on our lives. Roadblocks to our joy. Obstacles in our marriages. Fortresses of fear blocking us from peace. How can we bring down these walls that keep us from the future God promises? 
Remember the story of Joshua and the battle of Jericho? Those were some formidable foes and big barriers.
Max Lucado says the book of Joshua is in the bible to remind us of one thing: God Fights For Us! We can overcome, because He has already overcome. 
We were not made to stand in the shadow of our walls and quake. We were made to stand on top of Jericho’s rubble and conquer. We win, because God’s already won.
Need a new battle plan for life? Keep walking, keep believing. These may be your Glory Days.
Why I Choose this Book  

It’s written by Max Lucado, what more reason do I need? I haven’t read a ton of Max Lucado’s books, but every one that I have read, I have throughly enjoyed and learned from. Plus, I had just finished reading the book of Joshua and seeing deeper into the book was desirable. 

What I Thought about this Book 

I went into Glory Days not really knowing what to expect; when possible I like going into a book cold, without even reading the back cover. It did not take me long to get sucked into the narrative. Mr. Lucado writes with a picture-painting style, drawing the reader in and giving them context, modern-day examples, and solid foundations.
I finished the book feeling as if I had been privileged to peek into Joshua’s world and experience the feeling of leading the Israelites into their glory days. The world they were part of came alive before me, full of ugly wilderness and then glorious victories. 
Glory Days gives example after example, pointer after pointer, of how we, too, as God’s children can leave our wildness and enter into our own glory days. There is no reason why we need to wander around for forty years in the dust and the heat, in the condemnation and fear that plague so many of us. We have the Answer, the ability, right in front of us. If God is for us, who can be against us? It’s time for God’s children to stop despairing and begin living the life He intended for us. 

Conclusion 

I enjoyed this book and it opened my eyes to new thoughts and concepts. As always, I don’t agree with 100% of what the author had to say, but there weren’t any major issues I remember. The book flowed at a good pace and I don’t remember it ever dragging on. 
There was also a rather longish Discussion Guide at the end of the book that looked interesting, but I didn’t go through all of it. 
Rating 

I’m giving Glory Days four stars and recommend it to anyone twelve and older, but especially to those who want to live a full, God-driven and blessed life. 
About the Author 

More than 120 million readers have been inspired by the words of Max Lucado. He lives with his wife, Denalyn, and their mischievous mutt, Andy, in San Antonio, Texas, where he serves the people of Oak Hills Church.


Fun Facts

Glory Days was published September 15th, 2015 and it already has 83 reviews (soon to be 84!) with 86% of those reviews being 5-star and 13% being 4-star. As an author I find that pretty impressive and say Way to go, Mr. Lucado! 

*I received this book from Book Look in exchange for an honest review.