Monday, November 30, 2015

The Midwife's Apprentice

The Midwife's Apprentice  ***
by Karen Cushman

Overview: An orphaned and abandoned girl begins working for a midwife in exchange for shelter and some food. She begins to develop from a wandering "animal" into a girl.
Themes: friendship, home, perseverance, midwifery
Negative elements: Parts of this book were a bit much for my girls so I "edited" it as I read it out loud. Since it is about a midwife, there are some tense scenes of childbirth. Also, the midwifes during the middle ages used a lot of "magic." There is also reference to an affair and some other implied inappropriate boy/girl relations.
Positive elements: I love the change the girl goes through as she works through her fears and pursues her dreams in the midst of great adversity. She works hard and treats people kindly even when she isn't well treated. The different characters in the town are well portrayed.
Conclusion: This short book is a bit dark and sad for me even though the ending has a glimmer of hope. I did enjoy how well it was written and the development of all the different characters. I would recommend this book for middle schoolers and older because of the mature content.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

More than Conquerors

More than Conquerors  *****
by William Hendriksen
This is a step-by-step walk through the book of Revelation. It begins by addressing the overall set-up of the book of Revelation, the audience, the author of the book, etc. Then it moves into taking a deeper look at each of the chapters.
I've been reading through a chapter or two a day. This is a book that you have to read slowly to absorb all the depth and details. The book is easy to read in that it is very well-written. There are some big "Christian" words that might stump a newer believer such as "dispensations." (It took me awhile at Bible college to figure that one out.) But I do think that anyone could pick this up and read through it and really come to a deeper understanding of the book of Revelation. And hopefully a deeper love for God. 
This book was first published in 1940, so it has truly stood the test of time!

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Bronze Bow

The Bronze Bow  *****
by Elizabeth George Speare
Overview: Daniel is living in a tense time. The Romans are in control of Israel and have killed his parents. The Jewish people are bent under the oppression of the Romans and are crying out to be delivered. Daniel dreams only of the day that he can help raise up an army to defeat the Romans and free his people. 
He leaves home to join a band of outlaws whom he hopes will gain momentum and some day fight against Rome. However, in the midst of his training, he is forced to return to town and care for his disabled sister. As the story unfolds, he discovers there is more to life than pursuing revenge. He makes his first real friend. He meets Jesus. And everything begins to change.
Themes: love vs. hate, friendship, family, loyalty, freedom, sacrifice
Negative elements: demon possession, theft, murder, anger (However, the book is so well-written that these tough things are treated in a way that isn't offensive to even young children.)
Positive elements: One of my favorite parts of this book was the author's portrayal of Jesus. I felt like I was there in Israel meeting this strange rabbi named Jesus for the first time. And the effect of seeing Jesus face-to-face leaves one changed.
Conclusion: I read this book out loud to my whole family, and we all loved it. I thought it was going to be too much of a "boy" book for my girls to get into. However, my husband and all the girls were so engaged. What a powerful story! Like I mentioned earlier, the story was so well-written that it dealt with some hard issues but in a way that was appropriate for the whole family. Those, I believe, are the best books. You can read them, discuss them with the family, and be challenged by them. Thus the book goes beyond just entertainment to truly be enriching!

Monday, November 16, 2015

Luther and Katharina

Luther and Katharina  *****
by Jody Hedlund

Overview: This is a historical romance about Martin Luther and his wife Katharina Von Bora. Katharina is a nun who escapes a convent and is sheltered by Martin Luther. The two opposites fall in love.
Negative elements: torture, murder, rape
Positive elements: brings to life an important time in history
Conclusion: I could only stand to read half of this book. I had to put it down for a couple reasons. First, the story wasn't engaging. I felt the author was "trying" to hard to build a tension of love and hate between the main characters. (After you have read some of the great romances including Jane Eyre, these modern romances are ridiculous.) Second, the first half of the book was too sexual for me. The characters are desiring each other, a man tries to persuade Katharina to lie with him (and she is ready to), nuns are almost raped a few times by peasants, then actually raped in a raid, other nuns are raped in the convent by the abbot...and that was just the first half of the book!
I don't normally read Christian romance, but I had read some of history about Martin Luther and Katharina Von Bora, and they were quite a match! The book also had great reviews. However, I guess I don't agree with the general opinion this time; I wouldn't recommend the book.

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Invincible Lousia

Invincible Lousia  *****
by Cornelia Meigs

Overview: This is a biography of the life of Lousia May Alcott. I was curious about how much of Little Women was based on her life. I also learned a lot about life at the time of the Civil War, the effects of transcendentalism on society, new ideas about education, and the powerful love of family.
Themes: overcoming obstacles, family
Positive elements: The book is full of positive messages of working hard and not giving up even when things are hard. At one point, the father decides to stick with his family instead of leaving to pursue his own desires. The book talks the whole time of the importance of sacrificing for your family and how much delight and fulfillment comes from a devoted family.
Negative elements: young death of a sister, death and sickness due to war
Conclusion: I enjoyed learning more about the life of Lousia May Alcott and her family. I wouldn't recommend it to my daughters or young readers just because it is a little slow. There is also a lot of discussion on difficult subjects like transcendentalism. Her father was a philosopher and that greatly shaped her family for good and bad. I think it would be hard for an elementary aged child to follow all of those ideas.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Bear Feels Scared

Bear Feels Scared  *****
By Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman

Bear Feels Scared is an adorable book of a bear and his animal friends. Bear gets lost in a dark howling storm on his way home. His friends get worried, and so they all bravely go looking for him. It has a happy ending and descriptive words. Another thing that makes bear books great is that they have awesome pictures! Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman have other bear books in their series. My Grandma and I own some of them, including: Bear Snores On, Bear Wants More, Bear Stays Up, and Bear Says Thanks. I have not read, but I want to read: Bear's Loose Tooth, Bear Feels Sick, and Bear's New Friend. They are amazing books.
By: Summer Staples
Age: 9


Treat  *****
by Stephanie Banyas

This is a small, cute, hard backed recipe book. The book has fifty recipes for homemade marshmellows and rice crispy treats. The photos of the treats are beautiful. Some of the recipes look tasty and creative! I think my girls will enjoy trying new variations on the classic rice crispy treat. I must confess that the recipes without pictures are much less tempting to try. It's too bad that there aren't more photos. 

The book also has some helpful cooking hints in the beginning such as how to melt chocolate. 

Treat is a bit too simple for adults but would make a nice gift for a young cook. I think it might also spur cooks on to create their own variations on rice crispy treats.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.