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1. 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #412: Featuring John Alcorn

John Alcorn, Christmas card, 1958


Before 2015 gets here, I want to take some time today to tell you all about a book I really enjoyed this year, John Alcorn: Evolution by Design, edited by Stephen Alcorn and Marta Sironi, and published in 2013 by Moleskine. (I believe it was published here in the U.S. this past summer.) And, fortunately, I’ve got some art from it to share here at 7-Imp.

This is a beautifully-designed (book-lovers, take note) and quite comprehensive tribute to artist, designer, and children’s book illustrator John Alcorn, who died in 1992. (Back in 2012, I featured a bit of his children’s book illustrations.) Sironi, a researcher at the Centro APICE at Milan University, writes the book’s foreword, and the book’s opening piece, “Reflections on the Life and Art of My Father John Alcorn (1935-1992)” is from his son, Stephen Alcorn, also an artist and children’s book illustrator (whom I interviewed here in early 2010). In this opening piece, Stephen writes in detail about his father’s career and, with great reverence and a personal touch (the book also includes family photos), lays out the evolution of his father’s work. “At the time of writing,” he notes, “nearly a quarter of a century has gone by since my father’s passing, yet despite the passage of time, his work remains as culturally relevant today as the day it was created.”

The book is divided into four sections — the early years (“The Rise of the Merry Craftsman”), including Alcorn’s studies of abstract expressionism and representational art at Cooper Union, to his experiences at Push Pin Studios, to his apprenticeship with Lou Dorfsman; the “Sixties Heyday,” his experimentation with a more psychedelic style and his graphic design and book jacket work, a time during which most of his work was commissioned (and this section includes a piece on his children’s book work); his time in Italy during the 1970s, which includes discussions of his political satire and work for Federico Fellini (Alcorn designed the opening titles for several of his films); and, finally, Alcorn’s return to the States after he “was beginning to feel as if he had exhausted the creative challenges and professional opportunities Italy had to offer.”

Editorial illustration, “Florida’s Gulf Coast”;
Redbook, January 1966


The book, so elegantly designed, reproduces in color around 500 of Alcorn’s graphic compositions and illustrations, including children’s book illustrations, book jackets and slipcase designs, logos, magazine covers and editorial illustrations, drawings, paintings (some previously unpublished and some printed alongside preparatory drawings), portraits, advertisements (including early newspaper advertisements), poster designs (including political posters from the ’70s), and even billboards — this from an artist who worked in many mediums and styles. It is a treasure trove of information for fans of his design, typography, and illustration work, as well as anyone interested in illustration and visual communication.

Book jacket for Sam Ross’ The Tight Corner, New York, Farrar Straus & Cudahy, 1956


It’s a fascinating and thorough look at an artist who has played an important role in graphic design and advertising both here in the United States and in Europe.

Below are some more images from the book. …

Book jackets from 1969-1971


Editorial illustration, Redbook, ink and dyes on paper, c. 1969


Packaging design, Love Cosmetics, agency;
Menley & James, art director; Murray Jacobs, 1969


Alcorn’s illustration for Alan Aldridge’s The Beatles Illustrated Lyrics, 1969.
This, Alcorn’s first interpretation of “Eight Days a Week,” was considered
“too licentious” and was rejected. To see the second image, the one the publishers included in the book, click this image to enlarge it.


Advertisement, Master Charge, c. 1970


Book jackets, 1973-1977
(Click second image to enlarge and see spread in its entirety)


Book jacket, Richard Adams, La collina dei conigli;
pen, sepia ink and watercolor on paper, 1975


Click to enlarge spread, which includes an unpublished book jacket


Preparatory drawing for a Chekhov book jacket, 1974
(Click to enlarge and see final book jacket)


Illustration for the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, watercolor on paper, 1986


Rizzoli advertisement, pen and Indian ink on paper, 1975


JOHN ALCORN: EVOLUTION BY DESIGN. © 2013 Moleskine SpA. © 2013 Stephen Alcorn. © 2013 Università degli Studi di Milano, Centro Apice. Images reproduced by permission of the publisher, Moleskine SpA.

Note for any new readers: 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks is a weekly meeting ground for taking some time to reflect on Seven(ish) Exceptionally Fabulous, Beautiful, Interesting, Hilarious, or Otherwise Positive Noteworthy Things from the past week, whether book-related or not, that happened to you. New kickers are always welcome.

* * * Jules’ Kicks * * *

1) Two whole days with no work whatsoever! (The up side to freelance work you can do from home is your very flexible schedule, year-long; the down side is you don’t really get time off like other people during the holidays, but it’s hardly as if I’m complaining either, ’cause that year-long flexible schedule? I love it. A lot.)

2) Good novels.

3) Good novels that are good read-alouds.

4) Calendars. (Well, I can’t help it. Once a nerd, always a nerd.)

5) Toy purges with a nine- and ten-year old.

6) Ernest and Celestine!

7) That I have a family and a roof over our heads and food on our plates and warm blankets and good music to hear and good books to read and good art to see and warm cocoa. That about covers it. I’m grateful.

BONUS: My favorite gift? This album-sized limited edition print about one of my favorite songs ever:


What are YOUR kicks this week?

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2. Comprehensive conservation book for High school students and adults

Paradise Saved by Dave Butler, Tony Lindsay & Janet Hunt (Random House)

Janet Hunt is well known for her award winning books 'A Bird in the Hand', 'E2 Call Home' 'From Weta to Kauri' and 'Wetlands of New Zealand'. For this book she has collaborated with two other conservationists - Tony Lindsay and Dave Butler - to bring us the remarkable story of New Zealand's wildlife sanctuaries. 

I live near three wildlife sanctuaries: Tawharanui, Motuora Island and Little Barrier Island, of which two I've visited several times and I am involved with kiwi releases on Motuora Island every September - March over the last eight years so I was keen to see what the authors would write about these islands and other sanctuaries. I showed the local DOC (Warkworth) office the book and they oohed and aahed over it. They were pleased to see their work being recognised in a beautiful book.

The book starts when Aotearoa separated from Gondwana super-continent and became a natural lifeboat thereby creating a unique range of fauna and flora.

"If you wanted to establish the particular ecological features of New Zealand, you might start by casting adrift a piece of land carrying a small crew of plants and animals - with not a mammal to be seen. You would float it over hot-spots, generating volcanoes. More plants and animals would come aboard by flying, swimming or drifting alongside on ocean debris. Eventually you would anchor it at between 35 and 47 degrees south ..."

The three writers use this storytelling style to show why we needed sanctuaries, how they were first set up,  and then take us to each (130) sanctuary one-by-one from the island sanctuaries, mainland sanctuaries, fenced sanctuaries, open sanctuaries, to the community sanctuaries, kiwi sanctuaries, and sanctuaries with a species focus. We also read about the organisations who are involved with the sanctuaries movement such as DOC, Forest & Bird, regional and local councils, Landcare Research, Native Forests Restoration Trust, etc. The book covers issues the sanctuaries face and how they are being solved or faced, and looking to the future of how they are going to control and perhaps get rid of the predators that are causing so much trouble for our natives in New Zealand.

Janet Hunt is a trained graphic designer and I'm sure she would have had a bit of say in the design (designer is Kate Barraclough); to the placing of the gorgeous photographs and maps, attractive headings and subtitles, and page number tab identification (a Janet Hunt feature). At the back of the book is an extensive index and list of sanctuaries.

It is an ambitious book and probably took a few years to research, write and gather photographs. I believe the book is long overdue and will be of interest to not only conservationists and people who work in the above organisations but also to people who visit these sanctuaries regularly to see our unique fauna and flora that New Zealand is so lucky to have.

The book targets adults but High School students and schools will also find it a useful resource for studying endangered species for natural history/science assignments.

ISBN: 9781869796860
RRP $55

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3. 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #379: Featuring David Roberts

Hi, all. I usually feature the work of others here at the ol’ blawg, but today I’m doing something a bit different.

As many of you know, I’ve finished up work on a book that I wrote with Betsy Bird and the late Peter D. Sieruta. It’s called Wild Things: Acts of Mischief in Children’s Literature. It will be published in August. Candlewick has made a press release for the book, which includes a Q&A with me and Betsy.

I shared this press release on Facebook and Twitter and other such wild and wacky social media-type places, and I don’t want to annoy the everlovin’ life out of everyone by going on and on about this book. But it occurred to me this week that I hadn’t shared the press release here at 7-Imp. So, that’s what I’m doing today.

It’s here in all its red and white glory.

All throughout the book, we will have cute, fluffy bunnies (you’ll understand why when you read the book), as seen above, and those were created by British illustrator David Roberts, who also did the cover art. (Do check out his website, if you’re so inclined, ’cause you’ll have fun.)

Our book’s “home” at bookselling websites (Indiebound, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and the like) already includes the nice author blurbs we have for the book. Here’s one example. (So surreal.)

Anyway. Just sharing. … Now, let’s get to kicks!

Cover art and Cute Fluffy Bunny Up-Top created by David Roberts, © 2014.

* * * * * * *

Note for any new readers: 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks is a weekly meeting ground for taking some time to reflect on Seven(ish) Exceptionally Fabulous, Beautiful, Interesting, Hilarious, or Otherwise Positive Noteworthy Things from the past week, whether book-related or not, that happened to you. New kickers are always welcome.

* * * Jules’ Kicks * * *

1) I spoke about the book in Huntsville this week for the Alabama American Library Association, and I really enjoyed the presentation and the people I met.

2) To-die-for Spring weather.

3) Season one of Orphan Black is a total kick.

4) I got caught up on blog-related email yesterday, though I’m still not fully done. This will probably last only a couple of days, but it feels good for now. (Most of these emails began with, “I’m so sorry it took forever to get back to you….”)

5) Neil deGrasse Tyson.

6) I’m in Knoxville today, having fun, which is another reason I kept today’s post short. I’m probably on a roller coaster as you’re reading this.


What are YOUR kicks this week?

12 Comments on 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #379: Featuring David Roberts, last added: 4/29/2014
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4. Turning Guilt Trips Into Joy Rides

I needed this book!  Because I will admit - it is easy to load on the guilt - I am THE MASTER of that!!  Don't get me wrong - I'm not about loading it onto others but I load that guilt right onto myself.  So when I saw this blog tour I felt it was perfect for me.  Turning Guilt Trips Into Joy Rides by Shirley Brosius, Janine Boyer and Kim Messinger is a book that highly encouraged me!  This book is set up into 183 very short devotions - less than a page in length - but packed with thoughts that hit right to home.  And each is followed by scripture or prayers to encourage you to get your focus on God - where it should be.  I would recommend this book - it was easy to swallow and digest and PACKED with wisdom!  We need that, as women, to be reminded that guilt is not necessary - let's live in grace!

Guilt! She pokes you as you write about your quaint, eccentric aunt. She grabs you as you wander from e-mail to Facebook to laundry instead of focusing on your work. She kicks you as you complain about your husband to a friend. Have you noticed? Women seem riddled with guilt. And it’s hard to know if guilt is legitimate or simply a product of our imaginations. After all, should we really feel guilty about things over which we have no control? We are not perfect. We have no control over some things, so it's no use feeling guilty. We can't do it all. To celebrate the release of Turning Guilt Trips into Joy Rides, Shirley, Janine and Kim are giving away some great prizes during the blog tour. Share your own "guilt trip" or "joy tip" and be entered to win a free life coaching consultation and a $50 Amazon.com gift certificate. JUST CLICK THIS LINK and share what trips you up, holds you back or any tips you may have for overcoming guilt and keeping your joy. Fill out the quick form at the link and you'll be entered to win a free life coaching consultation from one of us AND a gift certificate to Amazon.com to use to purchase whatever strikes your fancy! Contest runs 4/23 - 5/12. Winner announced there on 5/14.

See what others have to say about the book on the blog tour - go HERE to see all the stops on the tour.

*I was sent a copy of the book for review purposes.

1 Comments on Turning Guilt Trips Into Joy Rides, last added: 5/11/2012
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5. Drop Dead Healthy review

A.J. Jacobs likes to take on difficult tasks. He's read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica for his book The Know-It-All, he took the Bible literally for a whole year, inspiring A Year of Living Biblically, and now, in Drop Dead Healthy, we get to see what he does to become the healthiest person possible. A challenge for sure!

Everything from food and sleep patterns, to exercise and skin care regimens, and all sorts of stuff in-between is covered on Jacobs' journey to health. He consultants a huge panel of experts to help make the best decisions for his overall mental, physical, emotional, and sexual health. As all of his books are, this one is incredibly informative, while being laugh-out-loud funny. I read so many passages to my husband, he may as well have just read the whole book himself!

Over the course of this experiment, the author does become a much healthier than he was prior to beginning the structure of exercise/eating/etc. He loses weight, gains muscle, and learns other methods for total healthy living. Definitely a good thing. He is also able to learn that sometimes we're just bombarded with information regarding what is bad for us, what is great for us, and all that jazz. And then, just when you get used to something, it's flipped upside and all of a sudden the same things that were bad are now good. One of my favorite pages illustrates this well:

"Overall health: I'm finding the project exhausting--but oddly, mentally as much as physically. Dozens of times a day, I try to figure out what's the healthiest course of action. But often, I feel lost in the fog of conflicting advice. 

Take the treadmill. After about three hours, my treadmill starts to stink like burned rubber. My son Jasper holds his nose when he's nearby. So are the positive benefits outweighed by these noxious fumes?

If I have an extra hour in my day, should I go to the gym or visit my family? All the health books emphasize the importance of family and friends. 

Should I get a carpet because it blocks noise, or will that send allergens into the air?

When I have water at a restaurant, should I ask for a twist of lemon, because lemon juice lowers the glycemic index? Or demand that no lemon get within a yard of the glass, because microbe experts say restaurant lemon wedges teem with germs?

I bought a steamer, because you can't get much healthier than steamed vegetables. But my steamer is made of plastic. Am I making myself some hormone-disrupting broccoli?

1 Comments on Drop Dead Healthy review, last added: 6/6/2012
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6. Passages

Are you feeling bored in your spiritual life?  Feel like you've hit a wall and are sliding down?  Brian Hardin tackles this in his book, Passages.  If you feel like your daily Bible readings are not very meaningful - you will love how Hardin tries to challenge you that your daily reading might just change you AND become the highlight of your day.  First he helps you to see that there is a big God that loves you and wants to be part of your life and he shows you how you can find time to spend with God and make a plan to see it happen.  He sets up a reading plan for the next year to get you through the entire Bible chronologically.  I thoroughly enjoyed this book - Hardin makes you think AND laugh - and I value that in a writer!  He is grounded and practical - just what we NEED!  Check out his great book AND his website.

To read what others have to say about Hardin's book - visit this tour schedule.

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7. What I’m Up to at Kirkus This Week

Today at the Kirkus Book Blog Network, I offer up two holiday gift ideas for Children’s Literature Lovers and the Children to Whom They Read. Or two Neat Gift Ideas for People You Actually Like.

To be even more specific, these are gift ideas for the fairy tale lovers in your life.

I write about Philip Pullman’s Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm: A New English Version, released by Viking in November.

I also take a quick look at a new version of Carlo Collodi’s Pinocchio, illustrated by Fulvio Testa, one of Italy’s most renowned artists and illustrators, with an introduction by Italian novelist, philosopher, and essayist Umberto Eco (released by the New York Review Children’s Collection in October).

The link is here.

1 Comments on What I’m Up to at Kirkus This Week, last added: 12/10/2012
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8. Until I Say Goodbye: My Year of Living with Joy

Holy emotional roller coaster! I love a good memoir and this new one definitely falls into the category of: hand to everyone I know. Susan Spencer-Wendel writes about the time she has left with her family after being diagnosed with ALS, a fatal disease that takes over her body. It shook me up, people... you need to read this one. 

Susan was a successful journalist, working her way up as so many of us do, and truly loving her job. When she began exhibiting strange symptoms, she initially ignored it and hid the symptoms from her coworkers and family. When she finally goes to the doctor and ends up with the diagnosis she does, Susan is determined to live whatever time she has left to the fullest. 

She makes special plans with each of her children and her friends, going on trips to other countries or even just to an amusement park, making sure that each of them is going to be left with the memory of that particular experience. Though she has her expected dark moments, she is filled with the joy of life and it's incredibly inspiring. 

The author is funny, witty, and filled with the need to truly live out her quest on Earth. She celebrates life and lives each day to the fullest, teaching all of us readers a thing or two about not taking our days for granted. 

Thank you to Harper for the review copy. I think Susan's story is one we all need to experience. 

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9. Carry On, Warrior review

I've been reading Glennon Melton's blog, Momastery, for the last couple of years. Her blunt musings on life, parenting, and her rocky past made for incredibly interesting blog reading and I slowly began to love this woman who put her entire soul out there. She's easily the most honest blogger I've ever come across. Her Love Flash Mobs may have had something to do with my love for her writing too. Such an amazing thing!

Carry On, Warrior: Thoughts on Life Unarmed, is a collection of Glennon's blog posts, along with several new essays, all on the idea that perfection is unattainable and we should give ourselves permission to make mistakes. We all need to just let go of the idea of appearing perfect to our friends and family and allow our honest vulnerability to show -- we'll be happier and everyone else will be too. 

This book had me both laughing out loud, sharing different chapters with my husband (his favorite was "A Mountain I'm Willing to Die On"), and sniffling a little. It's powerful stuff presented in a fabulous package. 

I was also lucky enough to be able to go to Glennon's very first stop on her book tour and had a blast, along with over 500 others who came to witness her joy. Such fun! She was as charming and sweet in person as any reader of her blog would imagine her to be. 

 Thanks to TLC Book Tours for sending a review copy.

1 Comments on Carry On, Warrior review, last added: 4/23/2013
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10. 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #238: Featuring Sophie Blackalland a Handful of Illustrators and Designers(I’ll Explain, Promise)

Happy Fall, one and all.

This morning, I’m featuring illustrations from two books meant for grown-ups, Sophie Blackall’s Missed Connections: Love, Lost & Found (from which the second illustration above comes) and Graphic USA: An Alternative Guide to 25 U.S. Cities (from which Austin designer Bryan Keplesky’s wonderful don’t-shave image above comes), edited by Ziggy Hanaor and with art from various illustrators and designers — but two books with exciting art, nonetheless. And exciting art, which talented illustrators and designers create, is what 7-Imp is all about, yes? I’d like to think so.

And can I just say that these two books are super-rad-neato-skeeto, to be erudite about it? They really are. I love them.

First up …


18 Comments on 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #238: Featuring Sophie Blackalland a Handful of Illustrators and Designers(I’ll Explain, Promise), last added: 9/27/2011
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11. If My Body Is a Temple, Then I Was a Megachurch

I thoroughly enjoyed Scott Davis' If My Body is a Temple, Then I Was a Megachurch!! This is a hilarious read that not only gives you great advice for losing weight safely, but also adds scripture behind it to give us, as Believers, Biblical reasons for losing weight as well. I enjoy Davis' sense of humor and down-to-earth reasoning. There is no magic formula - he admits that - but you can take principles and apply them to help yourself view weight loss in a new light - one that makes sense and is do-able. You will be encouraged and challenged - and we can all use that!!

If you want to read what others are saying about this book - read more review on the tour page.

* I was sent a copy for review purposes by the publisher.

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12. Dewey's Nine Lives

There is a new Dewey on the loose!! The new paperback version of Dewey's Nine Lives: The legacy of the Small-Town Cat who Inspired Millions by Vicki Myron and Bret Witter has been re-issued. Just like the first one, this is a heart-warming read - one that makes you laugh and cry as you share the life of Dewey the library cat and see all of the lives he touches.

I enjoyed this book from the very first time I read it - it is "local news" here in northwest Iowa so that is a fun tie, but it's also just a very endearing story of a cat AND libraries and those are two of my favorite things!!

This new version includes "two new stories about Dewey himself as well as seven new real-life tales of friendship including the story of a Vietnam veteran whose heart was opened by his relationship with a rescued cat and the story of Barbara Lajiness, the daughter of a “crazy cat lady” who vows she will never love another cat until a special one unexpectedly comes into her life. The book also shares the amazing love story of author Vicki Myron and Glen Alberton, and their unexpected connection through Dewey himself!"

And here's the BIG news - I have a copy for a giveaway!!! For you to enter just leave a comment on this post. For extra entries - Tweet or Facebook this contest or leave it as a post on your blog and let me know, in separate comments, which of these you did! I will post a winner Tuesday, November 8.

*I was sent a copy for review purposes.

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13. The House of Hope

Elisabeth Gifford's The House of Hope is quite a story - one that I won't soon forget. It is the story of Robin and Joyce Hill, how they give up a wealthy lifestyle to instead, live frugally and minister to "the least of these." They choose to open a home for orphans needing urgent care and terminally ill orphans in China rather than live for themselves. This is one of those books that I just could not stop reading - it tore at my heart - but it made me smile too. The Hills are making a difference - they are pouring into lives that are sometimes looked at as "minor" or "unimportant" - they are LIVING Matthew 25:40, "Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me."

I highly recommend this book that will challenge you - and at the very least - encourage you to remember the Hills when you pray.

100% of the proceeds from this book go to fund the work at Hope Foster Home - another wonderful reason to purchase and read this inspiring book! To see others that are blogging about this book - visit the blog tour schedule.

Help spread the word! TWEET THIS or Share about the book on Twitter or Facebook and be entered to win a $50 Amazon gift card and a $50 donation to Hope Foster Name in your name!

TWEET THIS: Couple gives all to rescue babies in China! 100% proceeds go to #HopeFosterHome http://ow.ly/7qR3e RT 4 $50 to @amazon & $50 to #HFH

(must use hashtage #HFH to be entered)

FACEBOOK THIS: The House of Hope: One couple abandons a comfortable life to rescue abandoned children. Robin and Joyce Hill have helped over 1300 Chinese orphans with severe medical problems. Purchase a copy for everyone you know - the book is a gift that gives a gift. 100% proceeds to help support the work at Hope Foster Home! Learn more here: http://litfusegroup.com/blogtours/text/13438821 Share this for a chance to get a $50 Amazon.com GC and $50 in your name to Hope Foster Home! Click For Details.

*I was sent a copy for review purposes.

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14. The Grace Effect

When I first started reading the prologue for this book, The Grace Effect, I thought, "I am going to give this one to my husband - I think it's too deep for me!" But as I got into Chapter 1, I knew I was going to LOVE this book and I didn't put it down (well almost anyway) until I was DONE! It is an exceptional book - it is, at it's core, a wonderful adoption story - the author, Larry Alex Taunton's, story of travelling to the Ukraine and their roller coaster ride to get their 10 year old daughter, Sasha. But interwoven throughout that story, is the story of Taunton's challenge in life - to get people to see that the world IS a better place with Christianity and Christ - How Grace makes life palatable. Taunton travels the world sharing and debating this truth - how we all need Grace. But woven in Sasha's adoption story, this truth is all the more seen and recognized through the life of this little girl.

Visit the Author's Website - Fixed Point

I think you all will WANT to read this book as well - SO - I have a giveaway for you!!! You can leave a comment here and you are entered to receive your own copy! Just leave a comment by Tuesday, Nov. 22 and you are entered!! IF you want additional entries, Tweet, Blog, or Facebook this giveaway and then come back and, in separate comments, tell me you did so!!

Here is what the publisher had to say about this book:
Simply defined, the ‘grace effect’ is an observable phenomenon—that life is demonstrably better where authentic Christianity flourishes.”

What does Christianity give us beyond televangelists, potlucks, and bad basketball leagues? Not much, according to the secular Left. The world, they say, would be a better place without it.

Historian and Christian apologist Larry Taunton has spent much of his career refuting just this sort of thinking, but when he encounters Sasha, a golden-haired orphan girl whose life has been shaped by atheistic theorists, he discovers an unlikely champion for the transforming power of grace.

Through the narrative of Sasha’s redemption, we see the false promises of socialism; the soul-destroying influence of unbelief; and how a society cultivates its own demise when it rejects the ultimate source of grace. We see, in short, the kind of world the atheists would give us: a world without Christianity—cold, pitiless, and graceless.

And yet, as Sasha shows us, it is a world that is not beyond the healing power of “the grace effect.” Occasionally infuriating, often amusing, but always inspiring, The Grace Effect will have you cheering for the courageous little girl who shamed the academic elitists of our day.

“Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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15. Real

Do you ever wonder what your hands say about you?? I was very intrigued after I read Shelley Malcolm's book, Real. It made me think, "What do my hands say about me? What story do they tell?" This book is such a great idea that it captured me - I poured over each picture and then read about each person's life that was represented by the picture of his/her hands. Terilee Dawn Ouimette's photos brought the stories to life. It is a book that keeps you turning pages and makes you think.....

Real - The Book from David Malcolm on Vimeo.

100% of the proceeds of this book goes to fund several charities - if you'd like to learn more, go to the website - MarthaMartha. Make sure and check out their notecards while you visit their site!

Here is what the publisher says about the book:

“REAL” is a collection of 60 inspirational stories by Shelley Malcolm, with photos by Terilee Dawn Ouimette. The stories are deeply revealing, while the photos are anonymous, focusing only on each subject’s hands. Subjects range from adolescent to elderly, from former gangster to humble homeless, international refugee to hero-housewife, from pro athlete to Hollywood celebrity. While “Real” is her first published book, Malcolm is no stranger to creative projects, as co-owner and restorer of an historic chapel, La Perla del Mar in Shell Beach, CA, and a set designer for theater and film. Shelley Malcolm was named Pismo Beach’s Citizen of the Year in 2011 for her extensive contributions and involvement in the community. Proceeds from the book will benefit the Alzheimer’s Foundation and other charities. Shelley Malcolm graduated from University of Southern California with a degree in dental hygiene. For more information, please visit http://marthamartha.net or http://shelleymalcolmblog.wordpress.com/ Shelley Malcolm resides in Shell Beach, California with her husband, Doug.

Shelley has four adult children. Her interests include painting , drawing, sculpting, building, playing piano and other musical instruments, outdoor activities including hiking, ocean kayaking, running, water and snow-skiing, international travel, sewing, reading, writing and others. Visit www.marthamartha.net for more information.

See the whole blog tour HERE.

*I was sent a copy of this book by the publisher for review purposes.

1 Comments on Real, last added: 1/8/2012
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16. Four Letter Words

A "needed" book?? Yep, this is it!  I have three teenage boys that I am trying to prepare for the big world - and what do we discuss with them the most?? How to stand firm in what we believe and how to share that with others.  So I feel that Bill Giovannetti has hit the nail on the head with his book, Four Letter Words.  We need to know WHAT we believe, WHY we believe it and WHAT to say when it seems there are no ways to put it into words - Giovannetti does just that.  As a pastor and professor - he's been through the trenches and knows how to put our faith into words that others will relate to.  This is relevant for everyone, but especially so with our teens and those heading into college - as this is when we get challenged and asked so many of these tough questions. 
Don't just take my word for it though - here is what others on the book blog tour are saying.  AND if you want even more information - go to Four Letter Words.  I love what the publisher says:

Thou shalt tolerate every opinion... except the Christian's. Today's postmodern "prime directive" leaves many followers of Jesus tongue-tied. In the global village, isn't it unreasonable, and even dangerous, to suggest that the Bible has a monopoly on truth? The church needs a new breed of Christ-follower. We need Christ-followers who are alert to today's touchy ideas, the truths that fire up more heat than light. We need Christ-followers who can make a clear case for the Bible's worldview; who are ready to help our friends think through their beliefs; who can recognize inconsistencies and challenge them; and who can do all of this with humility, confidence, humor, and love.
*I was sent an ecopy for review purposes.

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17. The Kitchen Counter Cooking School review

I love a good memoir, especially when it teaches me something, and I definitely loved this one. I learned more about simple recipes, cooking techniques, and kitchen etiquette in this book, than I ever would have expected and the only thing that could have made it better was videos illustrating some processes. 

Author Flinn takes nine at-home cooks (or non-cooks as often is the case) and just teaches them the basics of food and cooking. No more processed junk, we can make those same dishes ourselves. No more poor knife skills, we can do it properly, FASTER. Everyone learns a few basic recipes and how to spin off of those into a more complex dish or meal. Everything from salad dressing to bread baking is covered, including making the perfect scrambled eggs, something I definitely needed help with. 

My husband and I have been into eating "healthier" for the past few years and I've tried to eliminate a lot of the processed foods from our house. We haven't bought salad dressing in probably a year and have completely done away with "boxed" dinners that ruled our house in the early years of our relationship. We definitely have a few processed staples hanging around, like bread, parmesan cheese, and bbq sauce, but Flinn has definitely inspired me to learn to make my own. Or at least buy fresh parm instead of the shelf stable grated stuff. 

Another huge push I've been giving after reading about these women and their lives is to buy quality knives. We have a moderately priced knife set in a block that sits on the counter. 5 dinner knives and 6 assorted others. Flinn really impresses upon her students and the reader that a cook really only needs 2 or 3 good knives, but they need to be a nice quality. Ours are most definitely not. We won't even talk about the fact that the biggest knife in the set can't easily slice through a tomato. Sigh.

Finally, the most important point I think Flinn makes, is the idea of less waste. We all waste SO MUCH FOOD, whether it be forgetting about the lettuce in the crisper drawer and having to throw that away, or buying too much at the grocery store and not being able to eat it in time. I've been incredibly conscious about using all of our produce before it goes bad, after reading this. That alone is saving us money and reducing the perfectly good food that gets thrown in the garbage.

If you're a reader of fun memoirs or at all a foodie, I would highly recommend checking this one out. It was inspiring, enjoyable to read, and completely easy to relate to. Loved it! I'm going to be purchasing my own copy just to reference from time to time!

The Kitchen Counter Cooking School
Kathleen Flinn
304 pages
Adult Non-Fiction
September 2011

3 Comments on The Kitchen Counter Cooking School review, last added: 1/31/2012
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18. Embraced By God

This is a powerful book - it is one I will refer to often.  Because I ask myself often, "How could God love me?  Why would He love me?  Do I really matter to Him?"  And I know what the answers are supposed to be - but I need reminders.  Babbie Mason seeks to give us answers - reminders of why God does love us - why we matter to Him.  Her words are fresh, vulnerable, and penetrating.  Split up into 21 Day readings, this book, Embraced by God, feeds you daily bite-sized reminders of just how much you mean to God.  I felt like it was one great big hug - From God - through Babbie - to Me!

The publisher says:
Have you ever wondered, "Does God really love me? Do I really matter to him?" HE LOVES YOU. As a matter of fact, God loves you just as much as he loves His own Son. In the pages of this heartwarming, thoughtful and life-affirming 21-day journey, award-winning gospel singer, songwriter, and teacher Babbie Mason reminds you, when you know you are loved by God and that you are in His eternal plan, you’ll never again wonder if your life matters. Click for more information: HERE.
Babbie Mason is a Dove Award-winning and Grammy nominated gospel singer, songwriter, author, creator of the Embrace: A Worship Event for Women ministry, professor of songwriting at Atlanta Christian College and Lee University, and a television talk-show host. She was inducted into the Christian Music Hall of Fame in 2010 and has appeared on numerous national television and radio programs. Babbie has been honored perform for Presidents Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, George H. W. Bush, George W. Bush, Lady Margaret Thatcher, Colin Powell, Steve Forbes among many others. Babbie performs a holiday special at Carnegie Hall every year. Babbie lives near Atlanta on a farm with her husband Charles.
Read what others have to say about this book:  The Blog Tour

Embraced by God is a 21-day encounter that shares the unconditional love of God. "If you watch what the media says as to where we should find our identity--" says Babbie, "--money, beauty, power and technology--you'll just be confused about who you are and what your purpose is. As a culture we are trying to buy or sell what can only be administered to the soul by Jesus."

Celebrate with Babbie by entering her Nook Tablet Giveaway and coming to her "Embraced Facebook Party {3/6}!

One beloved winner will receive:
  • A Brand new Nook Tablet with Wi-Fi
  • Embraced by God by Babbie Mason
  • Babbie's Embraced by God Music CD
  • Babbie's Embraced by God Note cards
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends 3/5/12. Winner will be announced at Babbie's "Embraced" Facebook Party on 3/6. Babbie will be hosting an evening of chat, music, laughter, and encouragement - bring your friends! She'll also be giving away some GREAT prizes: gift certificates, books, Embraced by God music CDs and Note cards, and a book club prize pack! (Ten copies of the book for your small group or book club.)

So grab your copy of Embraced by God and join Babbie and friends on the evening of March 6th for an evening of fun.
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19. The Sacred Thread

Here is one for non-fiction lovers - or maybe even if you don't LOVE non-fiction!  Adrienne Arieff's The Sacred Thread is an account of Arieff's experience with surrogacy - even more interesting, surrogacy in India.  You follow her miscarriages, infertility, and then her journey through surrogate birth.  I found the book fascinating - I may live under a rock, I'll admit that, but I had no idea this surrogate birth was as popular as it was - especially traveling to India to have it done.  It was a wonderful autobiography that lends a whole new way to look at another birth experience. 
I found Arieff's writing to be easy to read - and although some parts felt a bit long to me, I did feel it kept my attention and I wanted to know how it would all end for them.  I would encourage you to pick this one up!!

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20. Beyond the Sling review

For the past few years, the only time Mayim Bialik's name popped into the news was because people were criticizing some of her parenting choices. I never paid much attention, but when she was added to the cast on The Big Bang Theory and more and more people started noticing her and choosing to judge her choices, I started listening a bit closer, especially now being a mom myself. 

Beyond the Sling is Bialik's explanation of what attachment parenting is and why she and her husband choose to practice it. The book is informative, covering everything from the science of their choices to their own deductive reasoning (as one would assume would be included from a neuroscientist). It's written in a down-to-earth, yet matter-of-fact tone. Though she knows her choices are not necessarily conventional and may even be controversial (no vaccines, no antibiotics, no medications), she doesn't apologize at all and I totally appreciated that. 

Though our family doesn't/won't practice a lot of what is talked about, I respect the decisions this family has made and they've been explained in a manner that convinces me of their choices. I understand why they're doing certain things, even if they aren't right for our my own family. 

For example:

Family beds: It was discussed long before a child actually came into our home that our bed would not have a child sleeping in it. My husband was adamant, I was fine with his reasons. The times that Elliott needed comfort or his mama close by, we moved to a chair in the living room and I'm sure that's what we'll continue to do. Works for us. 

Elimination communication: It's not happening. My kid is wearing diapers, end of story. 

Medication: Their children have never had a single antibiotic or any form of medication, even over-the-counter. They don't vaccinate and they don't go to the doctor unless absolutely necessary. They all had H1N1 and didn't go to the doctor! I'm a worrier and we'll probably be at the doctor a lot over the next few years, but I'm also rational. I don't want unnecessary medication and I won't run to the doctor for every cold or bruise (we already successfully battled E's first cold ourselves). We have chosen to vaccinate and again, that works for us. 

Breastfeeding: I wanted this to work SO BADLY, but it just didn't. After having 2 babies and struggling to pump any amount of milk at all for months with my first, I was finally diagnosed with a duct disorder after having Elliott and working with a lactation consultant 3 hours a day for 3 weeks. I can make milk, but it doesn't come out. Frustrating, but not my fault.

My biggest disagreement with Bialik...and one that actually produced multiple eye rolls...had to do with play. She doesn't believe we should "teach" our children anything before age 5. Meaning, no ABC song, no counting, no colors. Most books they read do not have pictures. She wants them to enjoy being kids, figuring things out on their own.  I think it's taking away a whole lot of fun and imagination time from them, especial

1 Comments on Beyond the Sling review, last added: 5/6/2012
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21. Talking with My Mouth Full review

Gail Simmons is an accomplished chef, television show host, food critic, food judge, and magazine editor. She's gets to do everything she loves: eat, travel, write, and cook. It wasn't an easy road to where she is now and in her memoir, she shows us readers that you really do have to work from the bottom up. Even those famous people you see on tv now, had to start as dishwashers, line cooks, or interns. 

I've been a huge fan of Top Chef since the very first season, so I knew I had to grab this book when I saw it at the library. Simmons' writes in a very down-to-earth manner and includes a bunch of the recipes she raves about in the chapters. I probably won't actually make any of the recipes, but I was glad they were there in case I was feeling adventurous! 

I really enjoy getting a glimpse into a celebrity's life, if it's done in a tasteful and informative way. I'm not one to just pick up an autobiography or a biography of any celeb around, but memoirs, I really like. Gail Simmons has convinced me to continue watching her on Top Chef and Top Chef: Just Desserts. I may never be able to cook any of those things the contestants create, but it sure is fun to watch!

Talking with My Mouth Full: My Life as a Professional Eater
Gail Simmons
288 pages
Adult Fiction
February 2012
Library copy

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22. Amish Values for Your Family

I have read some of Suzanne Woods Fisher's books - fiction stories of the Amish - but I was not familiar with her non-fiction titles on the Amish. I was pleasantly surprised - I thoroughly enjoyed Amish Values for Your Family. It is simple, down to earth advice - everyday issues and encounters that we face and then thoughts of how we might handle them differently with an example from the Amish way of life. I was challenged to think about how I handle relationships, family issues, my focus on material things - all different areas of life that are worth thinking over and knowing where you stand. I loved the humor in the book - the gentle voice it is told in isn't harsh, but gives you MUCH to think over. There is no push to "go Amish" but it is about adopting some simple principles and ideas from the Amish that may help change who we are - for the better. It is a fast read, but it is guaranteed to get you thinking!

Here are some words from Suzanne herself:

Five Things I’ve Learned from the Amish that Have Nothing to Do with being Amish and Have Everything to Do with being a Christian:

Being Amish is not a lifestyle. Life among the Amish has to do with faith. Faith can’t be squeezed to an hour or two on Sunday morning; it infuses their entire life like a teabag in hot water. What they do and how they do it is rooted in the spiritual question: What is pleasing to God?

Amish proverb: “Letting go of earthly possessions enables us to take hold of heavenly treasures.”

The Lesson: To pray about my day’s activities and offer them to God, first, for His purposes. And then trusting interruptions (seeing a friend in the grocery store, for example) or de-railings (those days when everything goes wrong!) to be God-managed.

Cherish your family. A family that works together, grows together. Amish families spend a lot of time together and try to keep their work close to home. Children are valued as gifts from God, wanted and enjoyed. They’re included in all of Amish life—from barn raisings to three-hour church services. An Amish bishop once said, "We don't prepare our children for the future, we prepare our children for eternity."

Amish proverb: “Tomorrow’s world will be shaped by what we teach our children today.”

The Lesson: Involving children in chores and activities may not be the most convenient or efficient way to accomplish a task, but the benefits are long lasting. Look for ways to get everybody involved—cook together, sweep out the garage together, set the table together. And have fun while you’re doing it!

Draw a land in the sand. The Amish want to be good stewards of God’s resources—time, money, material goods. They know that convenience comes with a cost. They don’t want to be dependent on outside sources (such as electricity or gas!). Convenience means loss of something valuable. For example, fast food means less nutrition. More stuff means more maintenance. They’re willing to say no.

Amish proverb: “Things that steal our time are usually the easiest to do.”

The Lesson: Technology has its limits. And technology isn’t all good. Evaluate purchases more thoughtfully. Think of where a purchase or an added expense will lead your family. More time together or less? More stress or less? Reframe your view of time and money and goods as G

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23. Playing Hurt

This was a blog tour that I just hoped I'd be chosen for! I enjoy non-fiction reads that encourage and uplift my soul. Brian Goins' Playing Hurt: A Guy's Strategy for a Winning Marriage wasn't written for women, but I knew I could get my husband to read this one! Well, he has said he WILL read it - that's the good news although his schedule hasn't allowed it yet. So when he does I will post his thoughts! He did say it doesn't look like your normal "marriage book" and he does want to read it before I share it with others. So I think that's a high compliment coming from a husband that has already read MANY marriage books!

It was a great read - even from a woman's perspective! Goins knows how to encourage men in ways that they will hear and understand. He comes alongside men and shares from his own stories and lessons in ways that men will truly relate to. Whether this is a newly married man or a man growing old with his bride - the advice in this book is relevant. I want to encourage you to take the time for this book - whether you've read a million books on marriage or none at all - make it a million and one and enjoy this "playbook for marriage."

Here is what the publisher says about the book:

A marriage book that husbands will actually want to read!

Everyone admires people who play hurt, from the superstar athlete to the journeyman player who finishes the game even when hurt, sick, or falling apart. Everyone looks up to these athletes and wants to mimic their “never give up” attitude. Except when it comes to marriage. Most husbands are willing to take a bullet for their wives in a life-and-death situation; but when his bride fires the bullet--hurls an insult, disrespects him in public, ignores his foreplay in private--he’d rather throw in the towel than play through the pain.

Playing Hurt is a biblical playbook for marriage that speaks in the language most men understand—the language of sports. Using a sports analogy to explain the motivation, means, and methods of playing hurt, author Brian Goins shows men how to overcome the temptation to stay on the bench. Playing Hurt is more about inspiration than instruction. It’s about finding the motivation to stay in the game, despite the pain. It’s about becoming like the One who knew more about nails and thorns than any superstar athlete. Using Ephesians 5 as a biblical basis, this book will call husbands to be the heroes they long to be--men who play hurt in order to win at marriage.

To read what other bloggers are saying about the book - go HERE.

There is a giveaway too!!!
About the Giveaway!
To enter all you have to do is send a tweet (using @litfuse) about Playing Hurt or share about it on Facebook!

If you tweet we'll capture your entry when you use @litfuse. If you share it on Facebook or your blog, just email

1 Comments on Playing Hurt, last added: 8/26/2011
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24. Route 66

The Bible is just a BIG BOOK - that is a true statement. And sometimes to learn to grasp what is all in there for us, we need to take it in chunks. And that is exactly what this book, Route 66 by Krish Kandiah, has done. Kandiah has taken the Bible and broken it up so that you could feasibly take 8 weeks and get a group together and conquer the outline of the Bible. No, you wouldn't be reading the entire Bible in 8 weeks, but you are getting an overall feel for how it all fits together and what each book would have as its premise - how it all fits together. The book is extremely "read-able" - I would recommend it to the questioning, new Believer or to the person who has been a Believer for years - all will find new insights and ideas.

To learn more, visit the Route 66 website - it is FULL of many other helps.

About the Author:
Krish Kandiah is the Executive Director: Churches in Mission for the UK Evangelical Alliance. He is also an external examiner for Oak Hill College, an Associate Research Fellow at London School of Theology, and is part of the theme development group for Spring Harvest.Dr. Kandiah previously held the position of Director of the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics, in addition to being Tutor for the Mission and Evangelism at Wycliffe Hall. He was also an Oxford University Theology faculty member.
Before becoming the pastor of a multi-cultural church in Harrow, Kandiah worked with students in the UK with Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship, and in Albania with the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students. He has wide experience in evangelism and cross cultural mission, and he is in demand around the world as a speaker and lecturer—though he is still a regular speaker at university missions and at Spring Harvest.
Dr. Kandiah and his wife, Miriam, have four elementary aged children and regularly take in foster babies. Kandiah has a keen interest in movies, photography, rock music, and Liverpool FC.

Here is what others have said about Route 66:

"One cannot travel a new way without a map. The map tells us the road to take. Route 66 is a wonderful map into experiencing the God of Scripture." Darrell Bock, Dallas Theological Seminary

"With easy humour and constant insight, Krish Kandiah tells us what we need to do to get excited about the Bible again, and to allow it to change us."
Stephen R. Holmes, University of St Andrews

"Route 66 doesn't make the Bible come alive. It shows that the Bible is alive--with the voice of God. In an age when even believers are bewildered by the Bible, Krish Kandiah shows us how all the parts of this most extraordinary book fit together and how each part makes its own contribution. He does this without either dumbing it down or ignoring some of the hard questions."
Michael Jensen, Moore College, Australia

*I was sent a copy by the publisher for review purposes.

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25. Unbroken

Per a friend's suggestion - I got a copy of Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand and started reading. Now I'm telling you all - Biography, Non-Fiction, World War Two, Running, Redemption - this book has it all and you NEED to read it. It isn't an easy read - the life of Louie Zamperini is certainly not an pleasant one - an Olympic-hopeful runner, Louie is ready to break records with his incredibly fast mile, but is called to go to war. World War Two breaks into his plans for his running but he goes to war and plays his role as an airman. His plane is shot down over the Pacific Ocean and he and two other airmen are stranded for over a month in the middle of the ocean. Their story is amazing - compelling - and heart-breaking. Make it through the whole book and you will only be inspired by the ending - Zamperini's life is a story of redemption. I am pleased that Random House took this book and published it - worth every page!

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