Thursday, December 29, 2016

Intended for Evil

Intended for Evil: A Survivor's story of love, faith and courage in the Cambodian killing fields *****
by Les Sillars

This is a powerful story of God's mercy played out in the midst of horrific circumstances. Radha Manickam was a Christian in communist Cambodia in the 1970's. He is eventually forced to marry a woman he doesn't know. The communists want him married so that he'll have children that will become new communists. It turns out that this woman is a Christian, too! They end up loving each other and having a great marriage. Radha's undaunting spirit is so amazing in the middle of the unbelievable violence that surrounds him.

This is a very hard book to read. First, it is very violent. The atrocities of Cambodia during this time are beyond belief. Second, the book is very detailed and full of names of different people and regimes. Since the names are all foreign, they are easily confused. You have to keep looking back in the book trying to remember who is good and who is bad. And then why are they good or bad. 

I can't read these kinds of books, but my husband enjoys these stories of amazing courage and survival. I am summerizing his opinions of the book.

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

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Where Does Love Hide?

Where Does Love Hide? *****
by Mary Manz Simon 

This lift-the-flap board book is full of bright colors and cute illustrations. My two-year-old loves looking at this book. However, the words don't make much sense to me. Each page starts with "Where does love hide?" The first page goes on to say, "At my house until...I invite a friend to play." I think it must mean that we don't see love at work until we do something kind like invite a friend over. But it just isn't very clear to me. Seems like I should be able to understand the message of a book written for two-year-olds. 

Each page also has a Bible verse, but the verses are so simplified, that I'm not sure they are all really accurate. 

I don't recommend this book, unless you buy it to just let your toddler play with. Toddlers won't care if the message is confusing. They will love the flaps and colors.

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

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Present Over Perfect

Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, more Soulful Way of Living *****
by Shauna Niequist

Overview: Tired of the busyness of your life? Shauna found herself stressed and busy doing too much ministry and not having energy for her family and friends. Shauna writes about making hard choices to control the pace of your life so that you can live a healthy life.

Positive elements: This is an easy to read, straight forward book about not letting your life become too busy. The book is both practical about how to simplify your life and also dives into why we are busy. Shauna has a wonderful writing style.

Negative elements: The book reads a bit like a blog, and some chapters felt disconnected.

Conclusion: There seem to be a lot of books like this one out on the market these days. I just read Jeanie Allen's Nothing to Prove.  These two books are very similar in that they are written by Christian women in their 30's in ministry who struggle to find balance in work and family. They both do a great job of zeroing in on why we are often over busy...we are trying to earn love. Maybe we seek success and appreciation from others or maybe we are overworking to please God. I think I enjoyed this book more than Nothing to Prove because it seemed more to the point.

I love this quote near the end of Shauna's book, "The love you are looking for is never something you can calculate. It isn't something you can buy or earn or hustle for."

This quote also does a great job of summing up her conclusions: "This awareness of love, though, this sense of the soul's worth, not because of my own doing but because of God's great love--this changes everything...Instead of one more thing to do or try or fail at, my relationship with God is the force of love that heals up all the other bruised and broken parts." 

I would recommend this book to any women, in any stage of life. It's very encouraging.


Squanto *****
By Eric Metaxas 

I thought this was a great book telling the hardships of Squanto the Indian, who helped the pilgrims. Overall, there are some sad parts like when Squanto finally returns home from his hard struggles and finds out his tribe got sick and died. He is one of the famous Indians in Americas history, and the Pilgrims might not have survived without his and some other Indians help. I would recommend reading this story. I really liked it. It shows many things that really tell the life of an Indian. I hope you read and enjoy it!

By Sadie Staples, 9

Thursday, December 1, 2016

All the Pretty Things

All the Pretty Things *****
by Edie Wadsworth

Overview: This is a stirring memoir about a woman who overcame a rough childhood and found hope and healing in Jesus.

Positive elements: well-written and honest

Negative elements: a really pervasively sad story

Conclusion: Even though this is a well-written book, I just couldn't read it all the way through. It was page after page of heartbreak. I read about half-way through and then read the end. Edie Wadsworth sure has an amazing story to tell, and she tells in beautifully. I think you just have to be in the right place to make this painful journey with her.

Monday, November 14, 2016


Storm *****
by Bonnie S. Calhoun

Overview: A super volcano has mostly destroyed the United States. There are still a handful of cities with survivors. Eighteen-year-old Selah is the one who can some how save this last remnant. She must follow a trail of clues and head west with her friends and family.

Themes: saving the world, the importance of family

Positive elements: Storm is a well-written, interesting story with lots of action. The heroine learns how to sacrifice for others.

Negative elements: People die during battles. Non of the deaths are graphically described, but two of the characters die having their heads chopped off, which is still pretty gross. The ending of the book was a bit confusing and far fetched.

Conclusion: This book is part of a rather long series. Most series I've read start each book by quickly explaining who everyone is and what has been happening. This book just dives right into the story. Since the book has a fantasy feel, there are a lot of "made-up" words. I had no clue what was going on for awhile. However, the book intrigued me, and I kept reading. There was something rather fun and mysterious about not knowing what was fully going on.

I don't usually read books in the fantasy realm, but I did enjoy this one...but not enough to want to read the rest of the series. 

I think middle schoolers and teenagers would enjoy this book more.

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

Sign Of The Beaver

Sign Of The Beaver *****
by Elizabeth George Speare

Overview: Sign Of The Beaver is a really good book. It is about a boy named Matt who gets left in the wilderness to stay and claim the land that his father bought. He wanted to try some honey. So he went to a tree that had a hive. He climbed the tree and tried to stick his hand in the opening. That was a bad idea. He ran into the water, and he was covered in stings. He could barely breathe when someone took him back to his cabin. Guess who rescued him? The Indians!

Positive: The Indians and Matt become good friends.

Negative: Nothing

Conclusion: I loved the book. Ages 8 and up would like this book.            

By Sabrina Staples,8

Island of the Blue Dolphins

Island of the Blue Dolphins ***** by Scott O' Dell 

Overview: This was a book about a girl who has to survive on an island because her tribe leaves her. She has to hunt, make weapons, and hide from her enemies. She makes a lot of friends with the animals after awhile. This is a great survival story. Eventually people come to rescue her. (The dog on the front is a wild dog that becomes her pet.)

Negative Elements: People die, animals die, and she has to leave all her animal friends that live on the island when she leaves.

Positive Elements: care, friendship. 

Conclusion: I loved this book, except for the sad parts. I think you should read it if you handle sad parts well.

by Summer Staples, 10


Wanderer ***** 
by Sharon Creech

Overview: This was a great book about three kids, Sophie, Cody, Brian, and three uncles, who sail to England. Sophie has foster parents because her other parents died when she was little. Her uncle owns a ship, and he's always wanted to sail it. So they sail the ship to England to visit Sophie's friend  Bompie. The six relatives have to figure out how to get along together on the boat.

Negative elements: fighting, disagreements

Positive elements: friendship, working together

Conclusion: I thought this was a great story. I think you should read it!

By Summer Staples, 10 

Monday, November 7, 2016

The Broken Way

The Broken Way *****
by Ann Voskamp

Ann writes about brokenness and weaves a parallel of her wheat fields beautifully through the whole book. She tells of her own brokenness and struggling with the pain and hardship of her life. She calls out to each of us to embrace our stop fleeing stop pretending we have it all together. God wants to set us free from sin, to use our brokenness to display his glory. He also wants us to stop shutting out the world's pain and be willing to reach out and engage in the lives of the hurting. Pain and suffering can lead us to community, and we were meant to share these burdens together. She calls us to give our lives for the service of others just like Jesus came to give His life for us.

She explores this brokenness of Christ that we celebrate during communion. He came to be broken so we could be forgiven. We now break the bread to remember His broken body. I love this quote from the book: "Standing there with the Farmer under the canopy of maples, I remembered Lewis's words echoing Christ: "I don't want to cut off a branch here and a branch there, I want to have the whole tree down...Hand over the whole natural self, all the desires which you think innocent as well as the ones you think wicked--the whole outfit. I will give you a new self instead. In fact, I will give you Myself: my own will shall become yours." It's like an echo of communion, of that intimate exchange of the givenness in my brokenness and the givenness of His acceptance."

Wow! Take a minute to think about that.

The insights in Ann's first book 1,000 Gifts were amazing; however, the strongly poetic style of the book made it hard to read at times. This book is so powerful and so well-written...very straight-forward but still with Ann's unique voice.

This book is a wealth of truth. I will probably re-read it every so often to remind myself of these truths and to ponder them. 

I would highly recommend this book for any one.


Remember and Return: Rekindling Your Love for the Savior

Remember and Return *****
by John MacArthur

Overview: This is a 31-day devotional book to help us know and love Jesus more. Each day has about five or six pages of reading, which isn't too much since the hard covered book is a smaller gift size. The chapters end with a "Daily Challenge,"  which is basically just summing up the principles taught for that day.

Positive elements: The book is full of scripture and theological teaching about Jesus. But, each day's reading is short and easy to read through.

Negative elements: If you are used to quick, upbeat devotional reading, this isn't the book for you. The book reads more like smaller portions of theological essays. 

Conclusion: It is important to be reading the Bible daily and to be reminding ourselves about what is true about Jesus. I have been reading a chapter of this each day along with my daily Bible reading. Like I said before, it is a very "dry" read, but I think many people, probably especially men, will appreciate its straight forward teaching.

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


Hatchet *****
By Gary Paulsen

Overview: This was a great story about a boy who crashed in a plane with the pilot on his way to his mom's house. His dad gives him a hatchet before he leaves, luckily. The pilot has a heart attack so he dies. The plane falls in a small lake, and the boy Brian luckily survives. He has to survive in the wilderness for a few months. A pilot rescues him after a few months. The pilot takes him back to his mom. Brian has to survive with his hatchet. He knows there is food and sleeping bags in the plane. But he doesn't want to go inside the plane with a dead pilot. Finally, he does go in there and get the food. 

Negative Elements: It talks about how the pilot dies and how the fish eat him.

Positive Elements: I loved how much action there was in it. 

Conclusion: This was a great action story! I really loved it! Find out what happens to Brian. 

By Summer Staples, 10

Thursday, November 3, 2016

French Country Cooking

French Country Cooking: Meals and Moments from a Village in the Vineyards *****
by Mimi Thorisson

As heavy as an encyclopedia, this French cookbook is full of beautiful, glossy pages with photos of amazing looking food. Most of the food looks so unusual and complicated to make that I probably won't cook it. But I love looking at all the photos. 

Even though I know little about French cooking, I am determined to try out at least some of the recipes.The first recipe I'm going to try has a cheese sauce with endives in it. I looked up what endives were...they look like baby heads of lettuce, but they aren't lettuce. Now I just have to find a store that carries them! Looking forward to the experiment.

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

Monday, October 31, 2016

Nothing to Prove

Nothing to Prove *****
by Jennie Allen

Overview: Jennie shares her personal struggle with feeling inadequate, burdened down with life, and always striving to please God. Someone reminded her one day that "God doesn't need you. He loves you." This is her story of coming out from under her self-inflicted perfectionism for God and journeying into freedom.

The first three chapters she calls "Our Desert of Striving." Then the rest of the book she calls "God's Streams of Enoughness." At the end of each chapter, in that second section of the book, she has questions for reflection. She also has re-told a Bible story in her own words and from a different perspective. 

Positive elemen
ts: I like her personal, honest style. I also liked the bold sentences through out the book. You could skim and read the bold statements and get an idea of her main points.

Negative elements: Some of the content seemed repeated from things I've heard Jennie speak or write about in the past. I think it's just because blogs many times get worked into books, which is fine.

Conclusion: I have participated in all of Jennie's IF:Gatherings over the past three years. I really respect Jennie Allen and her approach to ministry. I really enjoyed her first book Anything. It was her profound story of God's working in her life. This book didn't have any profound insights for me, but it was full of good reminders. I liked this quote: "We do not change the world with might and power and creative strategies. We watch God change the world when we pray and abide and believe." So true!

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

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

On the Banks of Plum Creek

On the Banks of Plum Creek *****
by Laura Ingalls Wilder

On the Banks of Plum Creek is a very funny book. It's all about Laura's life when she was living by Plum Creek. This book has a lot of adventure and funny chapters. Laura knows a bully named Nellie Oleson. Laura does everything she can that will make the day one of the worst for mean Nellie. Find out what happens when Laura plays with a crab, gets covered with leaches, and has a herd of grasshoppers so big that they eat Pa's crops. How do they survive? Read the book to find out.

by Sadie Staples, 9

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The Mystery Finding True Love in a World of Broken Lovers

The Mystery: Finding True Love in a World of Broken Lovers *****
by Lacey Sturm

Overview: This is Lacey Sturm's story of her fatherless childhood and then growing up chasing the wrong kind of men. She offers a story of hope focused on two areas: God will be a better father than any earthly father, and Christ is our true love in a world of broken lovers.

Sprinkled throughout the story were letters of advice by different people who Lacey knows. The book also has some artwork, but I'm not sure who the artist is.

Positive elements: I appreciated her honest telling of her story, her willingness to be vulnerable about the mistakes she has made, and her desire to point people to Jesus.

Negative elements: The story was a bit disjointed since she talked about different periods of her life at different times. I felt the story dragged on a bit at times.

Conclusion: I usually love reading autobiographies and biographies about people who have been changed and redeemed through Jesus. However, for some reason this story didn't resonate with me. Maybe it is because I haven't listened to her music. Maybe I got tired about reading about all the details of her adulterous relationship. (I realize that all those details would probably be helpful for someone in her same situation.) Maybe I feel a bit old reading this book at as 35 yrs. old.

I do rejoice in all God has done and pray that God continues to grow and work in her and her marriage.

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

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Humble Roots

Humble Roots *****
by Hannah Anderson

Overview: Hannah Anderson finds herself worn down and unable to sleep well because she is worrying about her kids, the laundry, her job, etc. She begins a journey of discovering what it means to daily surrender her life to Jesus in humility. She can find rest in the fact that He is God, and she is not.

Each chapter has a sketch of a different native plant of her hometown in Virginia, and those plants are a part of the story of each chapter.

Positive elements: Well-written, short and to the point, insightful, full of scripture and great quotes

Negative elements: None

Conclusion: This is not a self-help book on how to have peace and rest in the midst of our busy lives. This is a book about humility. I was reminded of the truth that my pride can sneak in so quickly and leave me consumed with myself and my narrow view of the world...the opposite of having trust and peace in a loving God who created this whole world and is in control.

Anderson sums up the book at the end saying, "But this rest comes only by humility. This rest only comes by acknowledging our weakness. This rest only comes by submitting ourselves to Him. For when you do, when you finally come to Him--you who labor and are heavy laden--you can be confident that He will welcome you."

I love gardening so I also loved all the stories about plants and how she used those stories to teach spiritual truths.

I read this book in one evening, but I will continue, day by day, to pray and ask Jesus to give me humility and His peace.

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

Monday, October 17, 2016

Flash the Donkey Makes New Friends

Flash the Donkey Makes New Friends *****
by Rachel Anne Ridge

This is a cute, hard covered book about a donkey who is helped by some animals after an accident. He then is able to help them in return. And as a result of the animals helping each other, they all become friends. 

I read Ridge's non-fiction book about her adopted donkey, Flash, and I just loved her hillarious stories about the donkey. I was hoping this book was going to be stories for kids about her "real" donkey. I was disappointed about that, but overall I did enjoy the book. The pictures are cute, and I love the message of the book. There are even a couple pages in the back for kids to think about people they can reach out to.
I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. 

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Greek for Everyone

Greek for Everyone *****
by A. Chadwick Thornhill

This thorough book begins with an introduction to the Greek language, explanations on how to pronounce the alphabet, and from there it dives in deeper than I could understand into the Greek language. I was quickly lost in the nominative, accusative, vocative, genitive and dative cases.

I think I will slowly try to bite off little pieces of this book. I realized it isn't a book you can just read through and understand. My first step needs to be to revisit the first chapter and stay there until I can memorize the Greek alphabet.

The book is very well-written and clear, or as clear as possible when trying to explain Greek! The book has some helpful charts. There were also helpful chapters on Greek reference tools, on comparing different English Bible translations, on doing word studies, etc.

I would recommend this book to someone who already had some knowledge of Greek as a refresher or a dedicated scholar.

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

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Love, Henri: Letters on the Spiritual Life

Love, Henri: Letters on the Spiritual Life *****
by Henri M. Nouwen

Overview: Henri Nouwen, a Catholic priest, corresponded extensively throughout his life with a broad range of people. This book is a collection of letters on all different topics to all different people from 1973-1996. Before each letter is a brief explanation of the context of the letter and when and where he wrote it.

Positive elements: You feel like you can go back in time, sitting in an attic and reading through a box of random old letters. The letters have that unpolished, raw, personal touch unlike a biography or a book.

Negative elements: I didn't know much about Henri Nouwen's life. There is an introduction that tells some about his life, but the letters are so varied and random, that you don't get a cohesive picture of his life.

Conclusion: I am conflicted about this book. I did enjoy reading some of the letters, especially those about his time working with the mental and physically disabled. I loved this quote from page 149: "It is such a joy for me to know that you too have sensed the special gift that the handicapped people can offer to the Christian community. By revealing to us that being is more important than doing, the heart is more important than the mind and community is more important than individual stardom, they are truly messengers of the Gospel and witnesses to the Lord who became poor for us."

However, I felt overall that I didn't get to really know Henri due to how unorganized all the letters were. And you only read his responses to the letters so you don't get a full picture of things. There was also this confusing thread throughout of his conflicting homosexual desires. Some of the letters I just couldn't fully understand what was going on. I think I would have rather read one of his books.

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

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The School Skeleton

The School Skeleton *****
by Ron Roy

The School Skeleton was a very good mystery. It was funny, too, and there was a lot of action. And I really liked it.

by Sophie Staples, 6

Miracles on Maple Hill

Miracles on Maple Hill  *****
by Virginia Sorensen

Overview: I loved the story Miracles on Maple Hill. It was a story about a girl named Marly and her family. They came to Maple Hill because of her dad. Her mom said her dad needed fresh air when they come to Maple Hill. On Maple Hill, they met Mr. Chris and Chrisse. They came just in time for harvesting the maple syrup. It was hard work but they did it.

Positive elements:  They tried to shoot a bunch of baby foxes, but Marly and her brother scared the foxes away before they got to shoot them.

Negative elements: The sad thing about the story is that they kill a bunch of baby mice.

Conclusion:  I think kids and grown -ups will like this book.      

By Sabrina Staples, 8

Monday, October 10, 2016

He Knows Your Name

He Knows Your Name: How One Abandoned Baby Inspired Me to Say Yes to God *****
by Linda Znachko

Overview: Linda saw a news report one night of a dead baby found in a dumpster. Instead of feeling sad and then putting it out of her mind, she took action. She called the coroner to find out if someone was going to bury the baby. That first step led to many others. And now she has helped fund countless burials for infants through adults. And through this journey of helping people in their grief, she has found healing in her own personal grief.

Negative elements: Some sad and brutal stories of children's deaths but nothing is graphic.

Positive elements: Well-written, wonderful story of what a difference one, normal woman can make.

Conclusion: This was a short, quick read, and I would recommend it to anyone. I'll admit that at first I wondered, is it worth such a huge fuss and expense to bury an unknown baby? But I quickly realized what healing comes through the truth that God does know our names. There are no unknown and forgotten babies to God. And I was amazed to read about how many lives one baby's funeral can touch.

Linda concludes the book by asking each of us to walk with courage the path God has for simply obey one day at a time and see what God will do. Very encouraging and inspiring!

Friday, October 7, 2016

Dirty Glory

Dirty Glory *****
by Pete Greig

Overview: Fifteen years ago, Pete Greig started up the 24-7 prayer movement around the world. More than 12,000 prayer houses have been set up all around the globe and people are seeing God work in amazing ways as they actually start gathering and praying. 

The book isn't just about Pete Greig but tells the stories of so many people. He also delves into issues like poverty and human trafficking and what difference prayer can make individually and in a whole culture.

Pete Greig wrote Red Moon Chronicles about the start of this prayer movement. This is kind of a sequel to that book.

Positive elements: This book is easy to read and so encouraging to hear of what God is doing "behind the scenes" around the world.

Negative elements: The book struggles through some tough topics including drug abuse, human trafficking, terrorism, etc. However, the book isn't graphic, and he shares testimonies that God is at work even in the darkest places.

Conclusion: When I first opened up this book, I thought, Oh, no! This is a prayer book for men. The book is definitely geared toward men, but as I continued reading, it turned into an amazing story of God's working around the world. This is a story of men and women trusting God to lead them to where He's working, no matter where in the world. It's a book to encourage any Christian to continue to pray, even if it doesn't seem like God is at work. He is.
I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. 

The 5 Love Languages for Children

The 5 Love Languages for Children  *****
by Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell

Overview: The five love languages is a system to help you realize that different people feel loved in different ways. The five kinds of love languages are physical touch, quality time, words of affirmation, gifts, and acts of service. The book explores each of these "languages" in children. The book also addresses discipline techniques in light of different love languages. There is a chapter on anger that I really enjoyed. The book also offers extra insight for teachers and single parents. The end of the book has a "test" that older kids can take to help parents figure out their love language.

Positive elements: The five love languages are so helpful in realizing that different kids feel loved in different ways. The book is short and quick to read through. It has lots of examples of different kids and how important it is for a kid to feel loved by their parents.

Negative elements: If you have read the original book Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman, you really don't need to read this book.  I feel like all of his versions of the Five Love Languages are pretty much the same thing rehashed with a new cover. (I must say that the book does have some new material, but I'm just not sure that it is enough to warrant buying this book if you already have the original book.)

Conclusion: I would recommend this book for someone who hasn't already read the Five Love Languages. I was encouraged to take time to really think about the ways my kids really feel loved and not try to treat them all the same way. I want to work through the test with each of my children and try to figure out their primary love languages.
I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

More Stories from Grandma's Attic

More Stories from Grandma's Attic  *****
By Arleta Richardson

In Grandma's Attic was a great book! This book is about the grandma telling her granddaughter about when she was a little girl growing up. These are hilarious little short stories. Good thing is that if the reader is a beginner, then its chapters are short. I really enjoyed this book.

By Sadie Staples, 9

Children Just Like Me

Children Just Like Me

By Anabel and Barnabas Kindersley

This is a very fun book. It tells about kids all around the world. This book tells what the kids like to eat in their country and what the buildings look like there. I really enjoy reading this book. I think any age would like it. Enjoy reading through this fun book!

By Summer Staples, 10 

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Lizzy and Jane

Lizzy and Jane *****
by Katherine Reay

Overview: Sisters Lizzy and Jane have been estranged for years after the death of their mother. Now Jane has breast cancer and Lizzy, a chef, has returned home from the big city to help care for her and cook for her.
Will they be able to forgive each other? Will they find wholeness in their family and lives again?

Themes: forgiveness, new beginnings, family, loss, love, cancer, food, Jane Austen

Positive elements: The book is so well-written and clean. The characters are very believable and you care about them. So much delicious food is cooked!

Negative elements: The book deals with some heavy themes around cancer. However, nothing is graphic and the loss and pain aren't the driving emotions of the book. 

Conclusion: I haven't read a fiction book I so enjoyed for awhile. The book has such a strong message of family and forgiveness. There is a love story woven throughout and the healing power of food and fellowship is clearly portrayed.  

The author talks about Jane Austen in all of her books. However, it isn't so prevailing that you'll miss what's happening if you aren't an Austen fan. The book has a few references to prayer but doesn't have a strong spiritual focus.

The Martian

The Martian *****
by Andy Weir

Overview: During a storm on Mars, an astronaut is lost and presumed dead. The rest of the crew is forced to evacuate due to the storm. Turns out the astronaut isn't dead...this is his first-hand account of how he survives alone on Mars. 
They recently made this book into a movie starring Matt Damon.

Themes: overcoming obstacles, perserverance

Positive elements: The story is so realistic. You can imagine him stuck on Mars and recording his daily diary. The story also switches back to what's happening on Earth as well. The author does a good job of keeping it clear when you switch from Earth to Mars.

Negative elements: There is a lot of bad language. 

Conclusion: The story kept my husband and I interested throughout the book. However, the book isn't a thrilling story like the movie was. Rather it seemed to plod along with him solving one problem at a time. It was definitely a book written by a man and about a man. But like I said before, it really was well done and realistic. I just wish there has been less language...that kind of ruined it for me.


The BFG  *****            
by Roald Dahl 

Overview: The BFG is a very good book. It is about a giant and a girl named Sophie. The giants is named the BFG. But I am going to let you find out why he is called the BFG.You should read it. Sophie and the BFG make up a plan to get rid of the bad giants in giant country.The Queen of England helps them. And to find out more you will have to read it yourself. 

Positive elements: The good thing is that it has a good ending. 

Negitive Elements: The only bad things in this book are that it has a lot of made up words so it is a little hard to read and that in the story the bad giants eat people. 

Conclusion: I think kids 8 and up should read this book.

by Sabrina Staples, 8 

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Rise and Shine

Rise and Shine: A Contemporary Fairy Tale  *****
by Sandra Bricker

Overview: Shannon wakes up from a coma to discover she's been asleep for ten years. In that time, her husband has died and technology has gone crazy. She begins a friendship with her doctor, who has nursed her for the past ten years. Shannon has to decide what to do with her second chance at life and come to terms with the fact that she isn't who she was ten years ago.

Positive elements: easy to read, clean

Negative elements: predictable

Conclusion: I love retold fairy tales when I'm in the mood for a sweet story, even if it's a bit predictable. So far, the best retold fairy tales I've ever read are the Cinder series by Marissa Meyer. They aren't at all predictable and yet they follow the original fairy tales in a way.

This book, Rise and Shine, wasn't as creative, but you do really feel for the characters. The author does a good job of developing the love story in a believable way. One character I didn't understand was her late husband's sister...Millicent. I felt like she was just added so that the story would seem more like Sleeping Beauty. She didn't seem to belong to the rest of the story.

Also, in a few of the contemporary fiction books I've read lately, the heroine is white, and her best friend is black. Why is this? I want to enjoy getting to know each of these characters no matter their race.

I would recommend this book as an easy read for people who like retold fairy tales with happy endings. In the wintertime, with a fire in the fire place, this is a story you will enjoy.

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

Friday, September 23, 2016

Justin Morgan Had a Horse

Justin Morgan Had a Horse *****
by Marguerite Henry

Overview: There is a boy named Joel, and he trains a horse named Little Bub to pull a cart. When the little horse grows up, he becomes strong and fast. He gets famous, and they call him after his owner Justin Morgan. (This is a true story about where the Morgan horses came from.)

Positive elements: You learn that even someone who is little can do amazing things.  

Negative elements: Joel got sold!

Conclusion: People who like horses would like this book.

By Sabrina Staples, 8 

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

When Love Arrives

When Love Arrives *****
by Johnnie Alexander

Overview: Plain, normal Dani is stalking the rich and handsome Brett Somers. He sees her taking pictures and goes to talk with her, not knowing she was taking pictures of  him. He lays on the charm and convinces her to go on a date that very evening. The unusual pair begin to fall in love. Dani battles overcoming her past misconceptions of Brett, and Brett battles overcoming the sins and hurts of his past. They both have secrets they are hiding which keep pushing them apart.

Themes: redemption and a new chance for love

Positive elements: easy to read

Negative elements: characters' past pre-marital sex mentioned, broken families mentioned, deaths from the past mentioned

Conclusion:  I have pretty much given up reading Christian fiction romances because they are so boring and predictable. I decided to try this one because the author's other books had such great reviews on Amazon. However, I am still rather disappointed. The story was so confusing with all the different charcters being somehow related or having dated each other in the past. By the end of the book, I was still trying to put it all together. Also, I felt like the main struggle Dani had against Brett was unbelievable. I just couldn't feel her pain. I thought the author did a better job with the character of Brett. However, the author spends too much time "telling" us how Brett is falling in love with Dani against his wishes rather than showing that development of his feelings through the story.

I know there is a large market for clean, feel good romances, despite if they lack depth. I would recommend this book for people who enjoy those kind of stories.

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


Monday, September 19, 2016

Esperanza Rising

Esperanza Rising  *****
by Pam Munoz Ryan

Overview: This is a great story about a Mexican girl named Esperanza. She has to go to America to escape from her terrible uncle. Her mother finds work and then after a terrible dust storm, she becomes ill. Esperanza's father had died before she left for America. In America, she has to live with some of her relatives. Esperanza has a huge adventure in America, so find out what happens!

Negative Elements: People die and her mother becomes sick

Positive Elements: Friendship and Love

In conclusion, I loved this book; it had a lot of action. I just didn't like how sad it was. I think ages ten and up would enjoy it. Find out what happens to Esperanza! 

By Summer Staples, 10 

Friday, September 16, 2016

Kit Kat and Lucy

Kit Kat and Lucy *****
by Lonnie Hull DuPont

Overview: The author shares her personal story of when two cats stumbled into her life. The cats bring with them an unexpected soothing presence and hours of fun and playing. 

Themes: cats, anxiety, moving, grieving

 Positive elements: The book was well-written, very detailed descriptions of the cats and their activities. I learned some new things about my cats, too. She has a chapter about a banty hen that adopts them for a summer. I have chickens so I loved reading about the activities of that little hen.

Negative elements: The pace was slow, a bit too much description for me...maybe because I'm not a cat person?

Conclusion: I read this book because I have a friend who adores cats. I think she will love reading about all the daily adventures of these cats, how they interact with one another, why they act the way they do, etc. I was hoping to hear more about the transformation of the author through having the cats. She does talk some about how they help with her anxiety, but it is really a story mostly about the cats. I also thought there would be more of a spiritual aspect to the book, but there are only a couple brief references to prayer.

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

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

From Heaven: A 28-Day Advent Devotional

From Heaven: A 28-Day Advent Devotional *****
by A.W. Tozer

This is a collection of short essays by Tozer on various Christmas themes. I love Tozer and his writings. This would be a wonderful addition your devotions in the month before Christmas. The book is small and hard covered and would make a nice gift as well.

I only gave From Heaven three stars because I felt like the book lacked a general progression toward Christmas. I have read advent books before that seem to prepare you day-by-day for Christmas with a growing anticipation. This book is simple a collection of seemingly random essays that all can be linked somehow to Christmas. Also, some of the essays seem to stop midpoint to be continued the next day. I know they wanted to keep the readings short each day, but that was a bit confusing to me. So, while the essays are great, I didn't enjoy it as much as other advent devotionals.

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

Unlocking the Bible

Unlocking the Bible  *****
by Jeff Lasseigne

This book uses simple and easy to understand language to explain the Bible. It covers topics such as how we got the Bible, how we can trust it, the overview of the Old and New Testaments, and explains the historical context of the 400 year break between the two testaments. It also covers methods of studying and teaching the Bible. Then, the second half of the book has an overview of every book of the Bible. 

I have read a lot of books about the Bible at Bible college and as a part of my own study after that. This book is unusual in that it is so easy to understand. The author explains that it is helpful to have a road map to help you understand the greater picture of the whole Bible. This book lays out a wonderful map. That way as you are reading through the Bible, you can see how it all fits together. It also helps having some of the historical events of the Bible times explained clearly, too. The author is also humorous and truly enjoyable to read. 

I would recommend this book to anyone who is just beginning to read the Bible or has been reading it for awhile but wants to understand it better.

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

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Everything is Possible

Everything is Possible  *****
by Jen Bricker

Overview: Jen Bricker never says "can't". She was born without legs but that hasn't stopped this amazing athlete from performing acrobatic routines all around the world.

Themes: You can do anything!

Positive elements: I loved reading about her adoption and how she later makes peace with her birth family. I also loved reading about how her parents really fought for her and supported her. And of course, it is inspiring to see the amazing athlete she has become. The book also has a section of photos, which were fun to look at.

Negative elements: The story is written like a pep rally, which gets annoying after awhile. She seemed to talk way too much about herself and how great she is. (I think this is just because she's young.) She does talk a lot about God as well, but it seems an afterthought to her achievements.

Conclusion: I am glad Jen Bricker wrote her story. I may not have enjoyed everything about it, but I think it's important for young people to know that people with disabilities are people, too. And you can accomplish a lot with hard work. Jen is still young, and I look forward to watching what God does in her life.

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

Monday, September 5, 2016

Gay-Neck: The Story of a Pigeon

Gay-Neck: The Story of a Pigeon  *****
by Dhan Gopal Mukerji

Overview: A boy tells his story of raising a prize carrier pigeon in India.

Themes: friendship, courage, life in India, eastern religion

Positive elements: The story was full of wonderful descriptions of life in India. We learned a lot about Indian animals, life in the jungle, and pigeons of course.

Negative elements: The story won the Newberry Medal in 1928. So, it's an old book and moves along at a slow pace. Our family enjoyed it, but I think for some kids, it would be too slow to really get into the story. There is also quite a bit of eastern religious ideas and beliefs in the book.

Conclusion: Although the book is a bit slow, it paints such a vivid picture of India that I'd recommend it as a book for the whole family to read and enjoy.

Friday, September 2, 2016

The Christmas Angel Project

The Christmas Angel Project *****
by Melody Carlson

Overview: Five women meet regularly for a book club. The leader of their group suddenly dies right after Thanksgiving. The remaining four women are reeling in their grief and feel like just disbanding the group. However, they discover that just before she died, their friend made them each a Christmas present and left a letter for them to read. Inspired by her legacy, the women decide to reach out this holiday season and serve like their friend always did. They never imagine where God will take each of them as they reach out to others.

Themes: friendship, family, love

Positive elements: This is a sweet and clean love story...perfect for the fireside at Christmas.

Negative elements: none

Conclusion: It looks like Melody Carlson has found her niche writing these short Christmas stories. This is the first one I've read, but it looks like she's written a few and sold a lot of books. This story isn't a great piece of literature, but it was a quick, fun read.

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

Natural Color

Natural Color: Vibrant Plant Dye Projects for your Home and Wardrobe  *****
by Sasha Duerr

This is a beautiful, hardcover book on how to dye fabric using plants. I was pleased to see that these methods are pretty simple and use mostly things I have on hand. The book is divided by the seasons and shows you how you can use seasonal plants for various dyes. There is also instruction on how to do some more specialty dyeing such as block printing, dip dyeing, and fancy tie dyeing. She also talks about the art of dyeing and its history.

I want to first try dyeing with avacado pits. The pits can produce a beautiful pink or blue dye depending on some different factors. 

She shows you how to dye all kinds of fabrics as well. I'll probably start with a cheaper fabric, but you can dye silks and beautiful wools...all kinds of things.

I would recommend this book to anyone who loves to try a new project. The book itself is fun to look through because of the beautiful pictures and the smooth feel to the paper.
I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. 

Thursday, September 1, 2016

An Unexplainable Life: Recovering the Wonder and Devotion of the Early Church (Acts 1-12)

An Unexplainable Life: Recovering the Wonder and Devotion of the Early Church (Acts 1-12)  *****
by Erica Wiggenhorn

This is a verse by verse study about the first twelve chapters of Acts. The study has daily scripture reading, studying and questions to answer. It's set up to go through five days a week for ten weeks. 

So far I have really enjoyed this study. It takes less than half an hour a day to work through. I am working through it alone, but it would make a good small group study as well.

Right now our church is studying the early church and how God designed the church to work. So, this study fits right in with what we're already thinking about. I do want to have "an unexplainable life." And I know that comes only through letting God work His plan in my life.

By the way, this is a beautiful book. The front feels and looks like a watercolor painting. And the inside pages are smooth and well designed. I know the content is what is really important, but this truly is a pretty book.

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

Monday, August 22, 2016

Gratitude: A Prayer and Praise Coloring Journal

Gratitude: A Prayer and Praise Coloring Journal  *****
by Tyndale Publishers

I know these adult coloring books are quite the fad right now. However, this book is truly beautiful, and I'm excited to work through it! The pages have beautiful color and each devotional page has scripture, a prayer, a small space to journal, and some have a simple, creative activity. One page has you draw things you're thankful for and another has you list things you appreciate about your family. Then you can color in the designs on the pages as well.

This book isn't a devotional in the sense that it should replace your daily Bible reading. It is simply a fun, creative aspect to add onto your time with the Lord. 

This hard-covered book would  make a great gift for middle-school girls and older or to work through yourself.

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


Saturday, August 20, 2016

Listening for Lions

Listening for Lions  *****
by Gloria Whelan

Overview: Rachel Sheridan is a missionary kid in Africa. Her parents die of disease, and she is forced to stay with an English family nearby. This family has just lost their only daughter to disease, and they devise a plan to use Rachel to impersonate their daughter and get them a fortune.

Themes: honesty, family, African life, working hard to achieve your goals

Positive elements: The story is well-written and full of wonderful descriptions of life in Africa. Rachel learns that living a lie will burden you, and you must tell the truth no matter what may happen. 

Negative elements: Lots of people die due to disease. Rachel is pretty much kidnapped and made to live a lie. The family that takes her is very manipulative and treats her poorly.

Conclusion: I found this book because it was on a reading list of good books about Africa. I truly felt like I was in Kenya, at a remote missionary hospital, following Rachel around. And after she is kidnapped, I struggled with her on when it is right to lie and when the truth must be told. I would recommend this book to older elementary kids just because of all the death at the beginning of the book and her mistreatment of her "kidnappers."

Friday, August 19, 2016

Christ in the Sabbath

Christ in the Sabbath  *****
by Rich Robinson

Overview: This book traces the Jewish practice of honoring the Sabbath from the Old Testament through the New Testament. It covers how and why they celebrated each week and how things changed with Jesus. The book ends with a discussion on whether or not Christians should still keep a day set apart for rest and spiritual reflection. The book has some really interesting appendixes about Jewish Sabbath celebrations and rules, Sabbath songs, and a list of books for more in depth study on the Sabbath.

Positive elements: The book is well-organized and easy to read. The language is very simple. Each chapter is broken down into smaller sections and pull-out notes. It's easy to read ahead if you just want to read about a particular subject.

Negative elements: none

Conclusion: I've been thinking of how to incorporate routines of rest into our lives. I don't want to turn into a too busy family. The idea behind the Sabbath day of rest is to take time each week to rest and refocus spiritually. I enjoyed reading this book and thinking more deeply about the message of the Sabbath from a Jewish believer's perspective.

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

Thursday, August 18, 2016


Legend  *****
by Eric Blehm 

Overview: Green Beret Sargeant Roy Benavidez flies into Vietnam to rescue a special forces team.
Positive elements: an amazing true story

Negative elements: The book is really slow in the middle. The first third of the book is fast-paced, but then it takes some slogging through.

Conclusion: As great of a story this is, the middle got so slow that my husband said he just couldn't get back into the story. This may be a book for the more serious reader who is willing to push through all the military details to get to the end.
I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Carry On, Mr. Bowditch

Carry On, Mr. Bowditch  *****
By Jean Lee Latham

Overview: Carry on, Mr. Bowditch is about Mr. Bowditch and his life. It is based on a real man who lived. He was a captain.

Positive elements: It has a good ending. 

Negative elements: A lot of people die. 

Conclusion: I think ages 8 and up will like this book.

by Sabrina Staples      

Tuck Everlasting

Tuck Everlasting  *****
By Natalie Babbitt

Overview: Tuck Everlasting is a book about
a family who always stays the same age, and they never die. It's because the Tucks have drunk the water from the stream. This one man who has been following the Tuck family starts to figure out that he could sell this water and make a lot of money. The Tucks find out and realize they have to stop him because it would be bad if bad people lived a long time. So find what the Tucks do and more of the story!

Positive Elements: This story explains why people shouldn't live forever.

Negative Elements: None

Conclusion: I loved this story; I think you should read it!

By: Summer Staples, 10


Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Temple and the Tabernacle

The Temple and the Tabernacle  *****
by J. Daniel Hays

Overview: This is the story of God's dwelling with mankind first in the garden, then through the tabernacle and later the temple. The author is making the case that the whole story of the Old and New Testaments is centered around God being with us. He was with us in perfect fellowship in the garden at creation. Then after sin, mankind was seperated from God's presence. When Moses built the Tabernacle (the tent where God met with the people), he again could meet with God but not directly. There was always a barrier of some sort such as smoke, and the Israeties couldn't go into the most Holy Place inside the Tabernacle. When Solomon built the temple (a more permanent dwelling place for God), people again were seperated from being in God's direct presence like in the Tabernacle. However, after Jesus dies for our sins and raises again, we become the new Tabernacle. We house the presence of God...the Holy Spirit. No longer does sin cause any seperation between us and God.

Positive elements: Beautiful, full-color pictures, glossy pages, great diagrams, well-organized

Negative elements: The book is a bit repetitive. Parts of it also had more details than I cared to know.

Conclusion: This is a great resource book to introduce people to the two temples and the Tabernacle of the Bible and how important they were to the Christian faith.

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