Thursday, June 30, 2016

War Brides

War Brides
by Helen Bryan

This is her first novel.  However, she knows how to do research and does it well.  (Her first book is an award wining biography of Martha Washington--"Martha Washington: First Lady of Liberty").  Those of us lucky enough to be born after World War II will never truly know how hard a life it was for people, particularly in Europe and Great Britain.  This book focuses on the day to day lives of five very different women living in England who are coping every day with adversity.  You read about the continuous bombing of London night after night, about the short lives of the airmen protecting England, and children removed from their families and sent into the countryside in the hopes that rural areas would be safer.  This book takes it all to a personal level.  Families are torn apart by war and death.  People lived in constant uncertainty, knowing that 25 miles across the channel were armies that could arrive at any time.  In many ways the book is uplifting.  People are helping each other to get through each day, but grim reality can touch anyone at any time.

Positives--The writing is vivid, the characters are well drawn, and it feels real.   These things could have happened.  I had no idea about many of the organizations that were part of England's coping with the constant threat of invasion.

Negatives--I am not a fan of pre-quels.  I find it irritating to start in present day and then go back 50 years. This is a book for adults with some gritty scenes such as in a concentration camp and digging dying people out of wreckage after an air raid in London.  However, there is day to day life and humor that kids might enjoy.

I liked the book.  I hope you do, too.

Reviewed by Dr. Doris Altherr

8 Great Smarts

8 Great Smarts *****
by Kathy Koch, PhD

Every kid is smart...just in different ways. This book explores eights different intelligences and how to spot them in your children. When we know how our kids think and learn, we can better help them, teach them, and support them. We all have bits of these different intelligences, but we each have different areas of strength. Dr. Koch says that as parents we can encourage growth in our children, and we can also stifle growth. She also says that too much technology can prevent our kids from becoming good thinkers or being "smart."

I already knew about different learning styles, but this book goes beyond learning styles. It talks about how these different intelligences affect our learning styles and how we relate to others.  For example, she talked about body smart people need to physically move to process ideas. So, if a kid is doodling while you are talking, it doesn't mean they aren't listening. The doodling actually helps them to listen better and process ideas.

The book also has a code to do an online survey to help discover how your child thinks best. After reading the book, it's pretty easy to figure out your child's intelligences. I still took the test for my older daughter just to see what it was like. The test told me what I already oldest daughter is people smart.

I think this book would be helpful for parents to understand their children better...and even understand themselves better.

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

Monday, June 27, 2016

The Last Battle

The Last Battle  *****
by C.S. Lewis

The Last Battle is an exciting ending to the Chronicles of Narnia. The donkey Puzzle has a greedy ape friend who tricks poor Puzzle into doing as he pleases. Meanwhile, they find some sort of animal skin in which Shift, the ape, gets a plan that will forever change Narnia. King Tirian and his brave unicorn, Jewel, have faced a dangerous quest to save Narnia from being taken captive and ruled by the unlawful ape and his followers, the Calormenes and their troops. While all this is happening, Tirian and Jewel are captured and going to be killed. Then some children from the times of King Rilian come and helped rescue King Tirian and Jewel. Their names are Jill Pole and Eustace Scrubb. This is a story you won’t want to miss!

Our whole family liked this story. It has a happy ending. I would say that this book is for families that like adventures and good endings. This is one of the best books in the Chronicles of Narnia.

By Sadie Staples, age 9

Friday, June 24, 2016

Mae the Panda Fairy

Mae the Panda Fairy  *****         By Daisy Meadows 

This was a very fun story of two girls who help save and find a baby panda. Jack Frost's goblins want to take the panda for their zoo. So Kristy and Rachel have to help Mia, the fairy, save the baby panda.

This was a great story I think girls who like fairies would like this book! This author has written lots of Rainbow Magic books! 

By Summer Staples, 10



Raising the Perfectly Imperfect Child

Raising the Perfectly Imperfect Child: Facing the Challenges with Strength, Courage and Hope  *****
by Boris Vujicic

Nick Vujicic, the man without arms or legs, has become pretty well-known as a motivational speaker. This is a book written by his dad about parenting a special needs child. The books begins with their shock of delivering a baby without limbs and trying to decide if they should keep him or give him up to someone more qualified and able to raise him. Boris Vujicic speaks candidly of the joys and challenges of raising a child with so many physical needs. He talks about the importance of being your child's advocate for good health care and the challenges that come with schooling. Siblings are discussed and how to make sure one child doesn't take too much time away from the family as a whole. He writes about the challenges in his marriage and in coming to terms with the fact that God hasn't healed his son. In the end, he shares how his son Nick has gone way beyond what he could have ever dreamed he could achieve. 

The end of each chapter has a summary of things to remember from the chapter. Also, there are a few pages of full color photos of Nick growing up.

This is Boris Vujicic's first book. The writing is a bit choppy, but the message is a powerful one. God has made each child individually and for a purpose. Having a child with special needs can be very challenging, but the rewards can be beyond what you could imagine. I would recommend this book to any parents as an encouraging look at one family's story.
I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.  

Monday, June 20, 2016

The Promise of Jesse Woods

The Promise of Jesse Woods  *****
by Chris Fabry

Overview: A preacher's boy moves with his family to a small town in Florida in the '70s. He is a misfit and is befriended by two other misfits...a poor girl from a bad family and a colored boy. The first summer in this new town is a life-changing one for Matt or "PB" for "Preacher Boy."

The story is written in flashbacks. Matt is now grown and is returning to his hometown to finally deal with some unresolved things from his childhood with those two, dear friends.

Positive elements: very well-written and fast paced, great picture of friendship against all odds, forgiveness and reconciliation, importance of family

Negative elements: attempted rape, bullying, death, murder, deception, drunkenness...however, nothing is graphic

Conclusion: I have read some of Chris Fabry's other novels. This one is best by far. I truly enjoyed reading this sweet story of friendship and first love. I wished the book ended differently, but overall, it was a very enjoyable read. There was such a great mixture of suspense and mystery as the story unfolded. Usually I can guess where a story is going from the get go. This one had me surprised over and over again. I truly didn't know how it would end until the very last page. A joy to read. I would recommend it to anyone as a delightful summer read.

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

More Than Rivals

More Than Rivals  *****
by Ken Abraham

Overview: Two Christian boys grow up in the same town, just on opposite sides of the railroad tracks. One is black, and the other is white. They both love basketball and are very talented. This is their story of growing up in small town Tennessee during the Civil Rights Movement and how basketball brought them together and their town. 

Positive elements: very well-written and fast paced, characters make good decisions in the face of adversity, the power of love is displayed

Negative elements: some harsh racist dialog, a high school make-out session in a parked car, teens fighting and drinking, KKK burns a cross, references to violence

Conclusion: I originally got this book for my husband who played basketball in high school. However, I got pulled into the story as well. The story gave me a timeline of some of the major events that took place during the Civil Rights Movement. You could really see what a volatile time it was. I read parts of this book aloud to my girls. The only part I didn't read aloud was the teenagers kissing and groping in the car. (The girlfriend is pushing for intimacy and the guy refuses saying it isn't right before marriage. Both the basketball players are really noble throughout the book.) The book also did a really good job of showing the hatred and violence of the time without being too graphic.

I would recommend this book to high schoolers and adults. A wonderful and gripping story of the power of kindness in the midst of so much fear and prejudice.  
 I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.

The Power of Together

The Power of Together  *****
by Jim Putman

In this book, Jim Putman says that it is God's design is for us to live life in relationship. He isn't talking about superficial friendships such as seeing people at church, having buddies at work or having neighbors to casually chat with. He's talking about spending quality time each week with other Christians to develop deep relationships, like having a spiritual family. He shows how the Bible points toward this way of life. However, in our busy lives, it is easy to downplay the importance of building quality relationships within our own families, within our church family, and within our community. He goes on to say that Christians who don't have the support of others around them just won't be able to grow up spiritually and enjoy all that God has for them. Why can't we mature spiritually alone? Usually that "I can do it myself" or "I'm just too busy" or "Relationships are hard" are just excuses and signs of sneaky sins like pride in our lives...we aren't truly surrendered to Jesus' plan for our lives.  Jesus says that His plan for us is to "love God and love your neighbor."

So why do so many Christians and so many churches lack spiritual growth and vibrancy? Putman says it is because they lack totally submission to Jesus and with that they've lost deep, loving relationships. Superficial reigns.

I was excited to read this book because I attend Jim Putman's church. This book was a little long and drawn out for me, but I think it's just because I've heard Pastor Jim speak about these things many times before. The book takes time to really show biblical support for his emphasis on small groups and discipleship. I think this is a must read book for Christians in our society today. It challenged me to continue to pursue relationships with others even when it is hard. And I know that I need people to pray for me and to keep pointing me toward Jesus.

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

Friday, June 10, 2016

Shadows on Society Hill

Shadows on Society Hill

By Evelyn Coleman

Overview: This is an American Girl Addy story. In this story, Addy's family is finally back together in Philadelphia. When Addy is going to work with her dad, she hears the noise of a carriage going super fast. Then she noticed a man on a ladder fixing windows. Addy yells, "Poppa, Help!" Her Poppa is up on the a ladder working, so she runs over and knocks the man off the ladder so the carriage doesn't kill him. After he gets up, he decides to hire Addy's father because Addy saved his life. And he gave Addy's family a place to stay. The next day Addy got the news that they where moving to Mr. Raddison's house. (Mr. Raddison is the man Addy saved.) He was clearing out his house because he was getting married. That night as Addy's family is walking to Mr. Raddison's house, the police stops them. He asks them if they stole the only belongings they had. They finally made it to the house and settled in. Then after a couple nights, things start to go missing. And Mr. Raddison starts accusing them of stealing. And finally she catches the women with a lemon, jar, stick, and a piece of paper. The next morning she sees her shawl in the snow. She opens the shawl, and as she expected everything was there. But there was one word in black ink she never thought to see. The word ADDY. Addy was very scared. Then Addy gets a riddle from her, and she finds her hiding spot. Then she starts visiting her. She even finds out that the old woman is a good spy.Then one day Mrs. Elisabeth invites Addy over to give her, her favorite dress. When Mrs. Elisabeth asks her where she got the necklace. Addy tells her she got it from her brother. Then Mrs. Elisabeth makes her leave. Then a big problem starts which you'll find out when you read it. And it turns out that Addy solves the mystery with the old women, Mrs. Tucker. And she finds out Mrs. Elisabeth accused Addy of stealing so she wouldn't find out who she was. Because Mrs. Elisabeth was black, and she was Addy's Uncle's niece. While all this is happening Addy's sister almost dies, but Mrs. Tucker saves her. At the end Addy's family gets to keep the house. And her Poppa gets to keep his job.

Negative Elements: Her sister almost dies. And it's a little intense like when Addy's trying to see if Mrs. Tucker is good or bad. 

Positive Elements: Friendship, Family, and Love.

Conclusion: This was a great mystery book. One of the best books I've read in a while. I really enjoyed it. The only tip I have is to never read it at night! Enjoy the story of Shadows on Society Hill!

By Summer Staples, 10 

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Calico Captive

Calico Captive  *****
by Elizabeth George

Overview: Miriam, her sister's family, and some other colonists are captured by Indians in New Hampshire during the French and Indian war. They struggle North, for miles through the wilderness, to where they are sold as slaves to the French.

Themes: courage, family, friendship, prejudice

Positive elements: very well-written, wonderful characters, well-paced story

Negative elements: kidnapping, separation of the family, some rough treatment, hunger, imprisonment, war, overall and pervasive suffering

Conclusion: I read this book aloud to my girls, but I had to "edit" the beginning when they were captured. It was very intense and scary. They weren't abused as captives or slaves, but they were in an almost constant state of hunger and depression. The story did have some light moments, but overall it was too sad for young readers. Thankfully, the story has a happy ending. It is based on a true story, and I would recommend it for an older reader. The characters are truly amazing, and you feel as if you know them and hurt with them by the end.

Speare has also written The Witch of Blackbird Pond, Sign of the Beaver and the Bronze Bow. All of those are excellent books and among my favorites for young adult fiction.

Rescuing the Gospel: The Story and Significance of the Reformation

Rescuing the Gospel  *****
by Erwin Lutzer

Lutzer begins the story of the Reformation by introducing two of the forerunners, John Wycliff and John Hus. Then he moves on to Martin Luther, and most of the book is focused on his life and work. At the end of the book, Lutzer talks about some other key reformers including Zwingli and Calvin.

Luther saw the pervasive corruption of the Catholic church and knew things had to change. He called for a return to the scriptures and an abandonment of rituals that can not save. Luther translated the Bible so the German people could actually read it. And when they read the Bible, they could see that we are saved by God's gracious gift, Jesus. Politically, the Reformation challenged the ideas of how the church and state should relate to one another. (And of course there were many other issues that you'll read about in the book...)

I found this book very interesting and easy to read. I feel like I know have an understanding of what the reformation was all about and who the key players were. I also can see how the Catholic and Protestant church are related and how they are also so different. I also enjoyed at the end of the book seeing how the Lutheran, Anabaptist and other denominations developed out of the reformation.

Mostly, I was reminded that we need to keep the Bible center to all of our continually read it and be changed by its message.

I would recommend this book to anyone!

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

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Rare Leadership

Rare Leadership: 4 Uncommon Habits for Increasing Trust, Joy and Engagement in the People You Lead  *****

My husband and I heard an interview on Moody Radio by one of the authors of the book. The interview was engaging and the topic relevant since we are in the process of beginning a business. So, my husband had high hopes for this book after hearing the interview. However, he found it really boring and hard to engage with. He finally skimmed through some of the book but still wasn't really grabbed to dive in.

This may be a book for the more serious reader who wants to take his or her time thinking through the ideas.

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