Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Paper Bag Christmas by Kevin Alan Milne

The Paper Bag Christmas: a Novel by Kevin Alan Milne

I haven't read a lot of holiday themed adult books in my time, but this was truly one of the best books I've ever read- holiday inspired or otherwise. I laughed, I cried, and I will never be the same again. Truly, this is a book that is small in size, but what it lacks in page quantity it makes up in quality. Oh my goodness was this ever beautifully written!

The Paper Bag Christmas is all about learning to be grateful for what you have, and about enjoying the opportunities that God (or life, if you will) gives you. Written to be an inspirational Christmas book, the idea the author was looking to get across is that you can both give and receive joy not just at Christmas but throughout the entire year through all the simple things life has to offer. Every little thing comes back to you in some form or another, and we shouldn't just look to Christmas as the time to be kind and generous to those around us. Likewise, we shouldn't expect everything we c0uld possibly hope for and more just because it's Christmas. Christmas isn't a time to be greedy, it's a time to share and to love. It's a time to care and to believe. It's a time to hope and be filled with joy- no matter your age, health, nationality, or religion.

Mo and Aaron are brothers who have outgrown the idea of Santa. At their father's prompting, however, they go to the mall the day after Thanksgiving to see Santa and share their holiday wish list with him. Only, what they don't know is that their father has something more in store for them than just a quick one on one with Santa. What he has in mind is something that will change the entire way Mo and Aaron look at Santa, Christmas, and the world around them as a whole.

When they agree to fill the one time roll of Santa's helpers, they don't know that they're going to be playing elves in a children's cancer hospital ward. They have no idea that they'll be used to draw out some of the hospital's most reclusive patients or that they'll single handly have a part in helping to make some of those patients most genuine Christmas wishes come true.

A mesmerizing, endearing story that will make you consider your own place in life and be grateful for all that you've been given, The Paper Bag Christmas is a magical book that should and can be read over and over again. And it needn't be only brought out at Christmas time, though it will undoubtedly get you in the holiday spirit. The Paper Bag Christmas is an honest to goodness great read no matter the time of year, and I dare anyone to read it and not find their own heart, no matter how soft it already is, soften just a bit. If this book doesn't make you think and pull at your heart strings then I don't know what to say.

This is a book that will remain in my prized collection for all time. I can see myself reading this each year as the holidays roll around, and next year I intend to take some friends and family members along with me on this incredible joyous ride.

Milne has done an incredible job on this, his first novel, and I am all too eager to see what else he might have to share in the near future. Seriously, my one and only complaint about The Paper Bag Christmas is that the soft creme color cover easily smudges with dirty finger prints you didn't even know you had. hehe Yep, that's the worst thing I have to say about this book.

If this sounds like something you'd enjoy reading, you simply must check out the first chapter excerpt here.

Curious to learn what inspired the author to write this touching novel? Click here to see what he had to say.

If you and your reading group are looking to select this book as your post holiday read, or even to read for next year, you can find a reading guide here.

Thanks so much to Miriam at Hachette for this incredible review opportunity. The book was amazing, and I am thrilled to have been given this chance to share my thoughts with the world on this truly remarkable read.

~Bookish Mom, aka RebekahC

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

See You in the Funny Papers by Pam Kumpe

See You in the Funny Papers by Pam Kumpe

With Fall and Winter comes overcast and often gloomy weather. And with it often comes dreary, dismal attitudes. It can be quite hard to be lively, excited, or just plain cheerful when the weather outside seems bleak and depressing. But rest assured, I have a perfect solution for you to use to turn your dull and grouchy day in to a fun, joyous one. Simply get yourself a copy of Pam Kumpe's See You in the Funny Papers.

The stories Pam has to share are downright hilarious, and I dare anyone to try and read even one chapter in her book without cracking a smile. I bet you can't do it. Filled with humor, inspiration, and plenty of reminders about how wonderous our God really is, this is a book that will soothe and satisfy both your mind and soul. I can't imagine any reader not being able to relate to Pam on one level or another. I personally found myself struck immediately by how honest and real her messages are. Each chapter is short and sweet, and each carries with it such a hearty helping of real life. Life isn't always perfect, but it's what we make of it that counts. We can choose to look on the negative side of things or we can choose to revel in the amazing wonder of it all. God is so big, so strong, and so mighty. There's nothing that God can not do. (Hey, that's from a song I used to sing in Sunday School, isn't it? hehe)

Pam shows through her shared columns that God is in all the details. He is there whether we realize it or not. Living life from day to day we might not always choose to look at the bigger picture but might choose to focus our sights on one or two things in particular. Usually this means we miss out on all the amazing things that God has placed before us because we're too busy to notice them. In short, God has a plan for each and every one of us. We need but focus on Him, and we too will see grandeur of it all. Life doesn't have to go perfectly. For as long we look for God in the details, He'll always be there to carry us through. Even the roughest days can be filled with laughter and peace when we've got God on our side.

So, if you're looking for a last minute Christmas gift for someone on your list go grab them a copy of See You in the Funny Papers. Then while you're at the store, grab yourself a copy, head home, kick back, and prepare yourself for a refreshing look at life's lessons through the eyes of Pam Kumpe. I promise, you won't be disappointed.

***WARNING: Reading this book in bed while your spouse is trying to sleep might get you slapped. Apparently, one's laughing out loud isn't conducive to another's sleeping.***

-Bookish Mom, aka RebekahC

Monday, December 15, 2008

Thou Shalt Not Whine by January Jones

THOU SHALT NOT WHINE: The Eleventh Commandment- What We Whine About, Why We Do It and How to Stop! by January Jones

As a whiner myself, I knew immediately, when I saw this book available for review, that I needed to read it. I know an excuse is an excuse- no matter how genuine or real. However, in my defense, I do come by the whining honestly. Seriously, I think it's genetic! hehe I'm a whiner, my mum's a whiner, and my grandmother (my mum's mom) is a whiner. Oh, yah, and my girls, they're 3 and 5, have been taking up mommy's whining themselves lately. Oi! What have I done?!? Obviously, you can see why I'd be an ideal candidate to read this book.

Thou Shalt Not Whine by January Jones was both laugh out loud hiliarious and brutally honest. Broken down in to the following eleven chapters, each is perfectly geared towards an individual group of people:

  1. Children
  2. Teenagers
  3. Parents
  4. Couples
  5. Singles
  6. Baby Boomers
  7. Seniors
  8. Women
  9. Men
  10. Best Friends
  11. Grandparent
Each chapter is then broken down in to the Top Ten Whines for each group. (Example: The number one whine for Children is apparently Bedtime [Luckily not a whine I personally have to deal with from my girls- woot!], closely followed by Sharing, and then Taking Turns.) January then goes on to discuss the cause behind each individual whine and the necessary action to cure and stop it in its tracks. Some of the cures come from a rather common sense approach, while through others January gives ideas or concepts that readers might not otherwise have thought of on their own.

Now not all chapters may completely apply to each reader as not all readers will be in the same life stages as other. For instance, I'm not single nor am I a man or a grandparent. However, even if each group isn't an exact match for the reader, he or she will undoubtedly have someone in their life that is in one of those stages. Therein he or she will be able to see how/why those people whine, and also be able to later offer this book to them for their own reading pleasure.

I hope having read this book I'll be now able to more effectively curb my own whiny nature and be better adept at helping my girls break the cycle of their own learned whininess. It's very easy to accept the label of whiner when it's just me, but thinking about it on a grander scale and how my whininess is likely to affect those around me makes me disgusted with myself. Whiners are annoying, obnoxious, and rude. And I'd like to say that from now on I'm going to not be one of the people this book was written about. Granted, it did take me 27 years to perfect the art, so I don't exactly expect to stop cold turkey over night. I will most definitely be taking the principals in January's book to heart though, and doing my best to apply them to my own life.

**I'd like to thank Lisa from Online Publicist for allowing me this review opportunity. So, THANK YOU, Lisa.**

-Bookish Mom, aka RebekahC

Thursday, December 11, 2008

BLOG TOUR: See You in the Funny Papers by Pam Kumpe

See You in the Funny Papers by Pam Kumpe

OPEN THIS BOOK and let Pam Kumpe splash your day with fun. As an encourager she invites you into her world, a place filled with chaos, blonde moments and always, always filled with a trust in God.

SHE KNOWS FIRSTHAND how the smallest chuckle can soothe a troubled heart or lift a spirit. Her heartwarming and humorous stories along with tender truths will remind you of God's love.

SHARE A MOMENT with this "Funny Newspaper Woman," as her mishaps inspire women to accept themselves and enjoy their lives. This book can be a great gift for anyone who needs a laugh.

-from the back book cover

Without further ado...
I bring you, an Interview with Pam:

Tell me a little bit about your background and your family.
I’m an identical twin, the older by five minutes. My mother planned for one baby, only two were birthed. Melody and Pamela. Identical blonde haired, blue-eyed chubby girls. Chubby still hangs on a little for me. I grew up shy, allowing my twin sister to speak for the both of us. She did so proudly, and I followed — always stepping one step behind her and I loved having her for my leader.

Then she went off to New York and I found myself in college in California; I had to talk, to speak. But how could I? I had never needed to say a word in the past. God pushed, nudged and opened my mouth. He guided me with His still small voice, and little by little my gift of gab (I think it’s a gift) took over, as my love for storytelling grew by leaps and bounds.

My parents met in gangster city, otherwise known as Hot Springs, AR. Dad was a chef, my mother a waitress. We lived there until daddy discovered his throat cancer. In 4th grade, we moved to Arizona for his treatments and we grew up in Phoenix. We twirled, took part in Girl Scouts and played fast pitch softball. We said y’all in a “you guys” world, and we called East Phoenix High School home.

What do you like to do in your spare time? Hobbies?
My spare time is wrapped around words, as I host a podcast “Daybreak Devotionals”, read and review books for Thomas Nelson Books, and recently I’ve taken a freelance post as a radio host, interviewing people with a passion for Christ. I also have taught Kids Super Church for nearly 20 years. They won’t let me graduate. I’m not so sure I want to.

When I’m sitting at home, my miniature schnauzer is on my lap. Her name is Macy; she loves barking, dog biscuits and my stories. And like any sensible woman, I love to shop and my sister and I make it a priority at least once a month.

How did you get involved in writing?
I journaled for years during my shy phrase, and currently have about 17 journals recapping the past 25 years of my life, and that of those I’ve met. I freelanced with newsletters and magazines, trying to overcome the shy and introverted part of me that did its best to live on. I wrote some columns for a community newspaper and found my ‘brave’ badge. Now I write for a daily paper, write the column and have written more than a 1000 features for them during the past 10 years. I also write for several magazines.

Where did you get the idea for the book?
From my 10 year stint of writing inspirational newspaper columns. The columns that show up in the paper range from serious, to surprise with most of them centering on humor. I gathered up some humor ideas, wrote some new stories and since I write for the paper — “See You in the Funny Papers,” seemed like a fit.

How did you think of the title of the book and where do you find the inspiration for your columns?
Funny stories. Being a Newspaper gal. People often told me — be careful what you do around Pam, she’ll write about you in her column. I didn’t use anyone for the book per se, but opted to focus on my own journey of laughing, loving and finding my brave badge to speak up for God. I see stories in just about every chapter of my day; it’s about looking and being nosey. Yes, I’m nosey.

What do you hope readers will walk away with after reading this book?
I pray the reader walks away with a chuckle, and with an uplifting sense of knowing God is most likely very entertained with us. He’s the ultimate voice of encouragement, and I want others to know that’s my source of joy, my source of hope –He’s the place I go when life gets hard, or heavy. He gave me an identical twin, the mirror of myself; but I truly want my life to mirror His. And since He knows I’ll stumble along the way, my blonde moments and chaos are stepping stones to God’s grace. If He loves me, He’ll love anybody!

Pam Kumpe is an inspirational newspaper columnist, host of the podcast "Daybreak Devotionals" and speaker whose work has helped many people find their smile. For more about Pam visit her website. Keep up with her on her blog. Or, Wanna buy her book? Order it now from Amazon.

Due to some chaos in my own life over the past week I haven't finished reading this book yet, so I won't have a review to share with you for another couple of days. When I had the opportunity to review this and join in on the blog tour I knew I had to get in on the action. The book sounded great and I'm all about having myself a good laugh. Who knew how inspirational and truly uplifting this book would be? I knew it'd be a fun read, but I didn't know how much I'd enjoy it until now. Again, I haven't finished quite yet so I can't really share my thoughts until I've gotten them all together. Check back in a few days, and I promise I'll have the review posted. In the meantime, I will say though that if you haven't had the chance to pick up Pam's book, there's never a better time than the present. You won't regret it!

-Bookish Mom, aka RebekahC

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

FIRST Wild Card Tour: Your Best Life Begins Each Morning by Joel Osteen **Plus Review**

It is time to play a Wild Card! Every now and then, a book that I have chosen to read is going to pop up as a FIRST Wild Card Tour. Get dealt into the game! (Just click the button!) Wild Card Tours feature an author and his/her book's FIRST chapter!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

Joel Osteen

and the book:

Your Best Life Begins Each Morning

FaithWords (December 10, 2008)


Joel Osteen is the pastor of the largest church in America with one of the most diverse congregations and over 30,000 members attending every week. He has quickly become a leading voice in a new generation of inspirational leaders and pastors. Under his leadership, Lakewood Church has grown in every area of ministry, more than quadrupling in size in the past five years. In the summer of 2005, the church moved into Houston’s 17,000-seat Compaq Arena and become the new Lakewood International Center. Joel and his wife Victoria live in Houston with their two children.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $ 13.99
Hardcover: 384 pages
Publisher: FaithWords (December 10, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0446545090
ISBN-13: 978-0446545099



Devotions to Start Every New Day of the Year



The key to living your best life starts with how you approach every new morning, because today is the only day you have. You can’t do anything about the past, and you don’t know what the future holds. But when you wake up in the morning, you can make up your mind to do your best to enjoy your day. You’re not going to allow what does or doesn’t happen to steal your joy and keep you from God’s abundant life.

Don’t start your day off by feeling guilty about yesterday or recalling all the mistakes you made. Rather, when you make mistakes, simply ask God for forgiveness and then move on, confident that the moment you ask, God forgives you. You are ready for a great present and a bright future. Get up every morning and receive God’s love and mercy and the power of His Word for your life.

Start your day with God by saying, “Father, I thank You that this is going to be a great day. I thank You that I have discipline, self-control; that I make good decisions. I may not have done all that I could have yesterday, but that day’s gone. I’m going to get up and do better today.” These devotions are written to inspire ardent love and worship to God. While they are not meant to replace your personal time with God, it is my desire that the readings will be keys you can use to unlock doors leading a fuller life. I hope they will be a springboard to help you draw nearer to God and to help you overcome the obstacles that might keep you from living your best life now.

Your life can be transformed and renewed as you allow God’s Word to refresh and to reshape your thinking, speaking, and daily activities. Allow the Scriptures to speak to you. Be still and listen to what God is saying to you. No matter where you are or what challenges you face, you can start to enjoy your life right now!


For I am about to do something new.

See, I have already begun! Do you

not see it? I will make a pathway

through the wilderness. I will create

rivers in the dry wasteland.

ISAIAH 43:19

Unpack Your Dreams

W HAT DO YOU WANT TO DO with your life?

If you could write your best life story this morning, what would it say? Is your first reaction to see and describe yourself in terms of past experiences or present limitations, more in terms of losing or just surviving rather than fulfilling your dreams?

If you’ve packed away your dreams, dare to unpack them today and ask God to rekindle them in your heart and mind. It’s time to enlarge your vision.

He wants to pour out His far and beyond favor on you (see Ephesians 2:7). He wants to do big things and new things in your life.


“For I know the plans I have for you,”

declares the Lord, “plans to prosper

you and not to harm you, plans to

give you hope and a future.”


We Serve a Great God

Y OU MAY HAVE EXPERIENCED adversity or trials in your past. Perhaps you’ve had more than your share of setbacks and heartaches. But today is a brand-new day. It is time to stretch your faith and pursue the excellence that God has placed in your heart. It is time to break out of the “barely get by” mentality, to become the best you can be, not merely average or ordinary, for the rest of your life.

We serve the Most High God, and His dream for your life is so much bigger and better than you can even imagine. Never settle for a small view of God. Start thinking as God thinks. Think big. Think increase. Think abundance. Think more than enough!


What, then, shall we say in response

to this? If God is for us, who can be

against us? He who did not spare his

own Son, but gave him up for us all—

how will he not also, along with him,

graciously give us all things?

ROMANS 8:31–32

With God on Your Side

GOD IS CONSTANTLY trying to plant new seeds in your heart. He’s trying to fill you with so much hope and expectancy that the seed will grow and bring forth a tremendous harvest. Never allow negative thinking to keep you from God’s best. If you will get in agreement with God, this can be the greatest time of your life.

With God on your side, you cannot possibly lose. He can make a way when it looks as though there is none. He can open doors that no one can shut. He can cause you to be at the right place, at the right time. He can supernaturally turn your dreams into reality.


For therein is the righteousness of God

revealed from faith to faith: as it is

written, The just shall live by faith.


Stretch Your Faith

PERHAPS WE HAVE A GOAL to break a bad habit, to lose some weight, or to pay off our credit cards. At first, we’re so excited and we go after it! But over time, we get lazy; we get complacent. Maybe we see a little improvement, but then we get comfortable right where we are. Where we are may not be a bad place, but we know it’s not where we’re supposed to be. We’re not stretching our faith. We’re not pursuing the excellence that God has placed in our hearts.

Maybe you’ve been coasting lately, thinking that perhaps you’ve reached your limits. You’re not stretching your faith. You aren’t believing for an increase.

No, don’t stop halfway; go on up to the top of your mountain. Believe God for more.


By faith Abraham, when called

to go to a place he would later

receive as his inheritance, obeyed

and went, even though he did not

know where he was going.


Step Out of Your Comfort Zone

PEOPLE WHO SEE THEIR DREAMS come to pass are people who have some resolve, some backbone; people who refuse to settle for somewhere along the way. Abraham, one of the Old Testament heroes of faith, obeyed God and followed Him all the way to the Promised Land of abundance in Canaan. Abraham’s father, however, stopped along the way and settled in Haran (see Genesis 11:31), feeling it was good enough but missing out on God’s best.

Don’t fall into a complacency trap. It doesn’t take any more effort to stay filled with faith than it takes to develop a negative attitude. Dare to step out of your comfort zone today. God has so much more in store. Keep pursuing and keep believing.

Copyright © 2008 by Joel Osteen Publishing

I'd heard mixed reviews about Joel Osteen, so I didn't know what to expect with this one. And so far, while I'm not that far in to it, due to the fact that it's a year long daily devotional, I think it's pretty good. The very first day's message could have been perfectly tailored for me that day, so I thought that was pretty cool. I enjoy the simple layout- a quick scripture followed by a brief paragraph or two message. The scriptures tie in to the message, and so far the messages are very life applicable. Generally when I think of a devotional I think of one that's going to include more on a spiritual level, like a tie in prayer or something. This book doesn't. The messages appear sound and worthwhile though, so I'll definitely still follow along with it through the year.