Friday, July 29, 2016

Next Door as it is in Heaven

Next Door as it is in Heaven *****
by Lance Ford and Brad Brisco

Overview: How can you encourage your neighborhood to unite and operate as one big, extended family? This book begins by showing how communities have changed over the years and how we have become an independent culture. We aren't as attached to our families and even less to our neighbors. This book is challenging people to slow down their busy lives so that they have time to get to know their neighbors. We are missing out when we let our busy lives isolate us. 

I loved this quote on page 98.
"Fear is a thief. It will steal our peace of mind...But is also hijacks relationships, keeping us sealed up in our plastic world with a fragile sense of security. Being a people who fear the stranger, we have drained the life juices out of hospitality. The hospitality we explore not about sipping tea and making bland talk with people who live next door or work with you. Hospitality is a lively, courageous, and convivial way of living that challenges our compulsion to either turn away or to turn inward and disconnect ourselves from others." 

Themes: community, service, outreach

Positive elements: Well-written and inspiring

Negative elements: Maybe a bit long.  

Conclusion: We've held one neighborhood breakfast so far with great results. This book encouraged me to keep on being bold and invite people over. I want to get to know these interesting folks, learn from them, and serve them somehow.
I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. 

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Feast for Thieves

Feast for Thieves  *****
by Marcus Brotherton

Overview: Rowdy Slater has had a rough life and fallen in with some bad company, but everything starts to change when he robs a small town bank. The Sheriff sees some promise in him so instead of sending him back to jail, he recruits him to pastor the local church.

Themes: redemption, faith, community

Negative elements: robbing banks, drinking, bar fights, glimpse of prison life, child abuse and a brothel mentioned

Positive elements: Well-written, clean and enjoyable

Conclusion: The story was a little predictable and far fetched at times, but overall I enjoyed this as an easy-going summer read. I would recommend it.

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


Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ *****
by Carol Wallace

Overview: Carol Wallace, the great-great granddaughter of Lew Wallace (the original author), has updated this classic adventure.  She said in the introduction that she made the language easier to understand, added more depth to the female characters, and re-arranged parts of the book to help the book move at a quicker pace. She also took out the extensive descriptions of the middle east since we now have the ability to see pictures of that area of the world and have more of an idea what it looks like. I haven't read the original Ben-Hur so I can't comment on how this new version compares with the old.

In the back of the book there is a biography of Lew Wallace. On day an agnostic debater challenged him on why he believed in Jesus. Wallace realized that he hadn't really given much thought to it. So, he wrote this book in his spare time, over a period of four years, as he researched and thought through what the Bible said about Jesus.

Now on to the story...Judah Ben-Hur is a wealthy Jewish man living in Rome at the time of Christ. His long-time Roman friend falsely accuses him of murdering a Roman official. Without trial, Ben-Hur is sent to his death in the galley of a Roman warship, his possessions seized, and his family imprisoned. Stumbling along in chains to the warship and overcome with weariness, a young man offers him a drink of water. This is the first time Judah meets Jesus, but it will not be the last. Before they meet again, Judah will fight in a sea battle, live in Rome, race chariots, train soldiers in the desert, travel, fall in love...etc.

Themes: friendship, betrayal, love, family, heroism, faith

Negative elements: murder, brutality, seduction, revenge (but nothing is graphic)

Positive elements: Ben-Hur is a hero worth admiring throughout.

Conclusion: This is a well-written, action-packed story! I started reading it aloud to my husband, but soon all the kids were into the story as well. Even though there are some heavy elements, such as the brutality of the Romans, the story isn't graphic. I felt comfortable reading the story to the whole family. I haven't read a book I enjoyed so much for some time and highly recommend it for all ages!

There is also a movie coming out in August that we look forward to seeing now that we've read the book.

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

Saturday, July 23, 2016

The Ninth Nugget *****
By Ron Roy
Overview: The Ninth Nugget is about three kids who visit to the Wheat family's ranch in Montana. One of their friends paid for them to fly from their home in Connecticut to the ranch. Dink and his friends Josh and Ruth Rose have to find out a very sneaky mystery. Josh found the biggest piece of gold when they went gold panning. And a whole bunch of other people where there panning, too. The other people who were visiting at the ranch must have stolen his gold nugget. Who might have done it? There are lots of clues that will help you find out. Maybe Thumbs, Ed, Lulu... But we do know it wasn't the kids, or Pa, Ma, or Jud who own the farm.

Negative Elements: Stealing

Positive Elements: Super clean talk, fun mystery, and adventure!

In conclusion, I think this was a great story, and you should read it!

By Summer Staples, 10


Saturday, July 16, 2016

Mommy Needs a Raise

Mommy Needs a Raise  *****
by Sarah Parshall Perry

Sarah Perry left the corporate world to be a mom. In this book, she is telling the story about her life from a child to eventually a mom. Then she dives into some different things she's learned as a mom and tells lots of stories.
I wanted to like this book, but I just couldn't get into it. There are so many books out there on how hard it is to be a mom, etc.  This one just didn't grab my attention. I kept reading pieces here and there hoping to be drawn into the story, but I just wasn't. 

My one favorite part of the book was in the very back. She writes a letter to her younger self about what she wished she had known about parenting from the start. I really enjoyed thinking through those things since I'm still a youngish mom. 
I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. 

Friday, July 15, 2016

Wreck My Life

Wreck My Life: A Journey from Broken to Bold  *****

Mo Isom tells her story of how God changed her life through her suffering. She grew up in a stable and loving home. She had great success as a soccer player in high school and college. But in the midst of this outward success, her dad was battling with pornography, and their family was crumbling. She talks of seeking to control her life through controlling what she ate. She soon received the positive affirmation she was seeking as people noticed how thin and beautiful she was becoming. Boys were interested, and she realized what great power she held over these young men. This eating disorder quickly imprisoned her. Then her father took his own life during her first year of college. And shortly after her father's suicide, she was in a near fatal car crash. The book begins with her in this desperate state.

She says that she felt like God had forgotten her and abandoned her. Why else would he allow such hard things? But now she looks back and realizes that God used these hard things to finally help her surrender to Him and stop trying to control her life and live for herself.

Mo says in her conclusion: "But what I love about a living, breathing relationship with God is that it centers around our brokenness and it makes a home amid our vulnerability. There is inherent humility in the gospel of Jesus Christ. To say that we've been set free is the confess we were bound up. To say that we've been washed clean is to confess we were impure. To say that we've been made new is to confess we were full of broken things. The beauty in all of those confessions is that they echo with glory."   

I enjoyed this book because I looked at some of these issues such as suicide and eating disorders in a new light. And I felt like she didn't write this book to air her dirty laundry but to really bring glory to God for what He did in her life. It's such a book of hope from the perspective of a young person. 

It's a little scary to read as a mom of five girls. I was reminded of the pressure on girls to be beautiful and thin and sucessful. I was reminded of how much my girls need my love and affirmation. And mostly that going to church alone isn't going to help them weather life's storms. My girls need to come to their own, personal surrender to Jesus and their own realization of the depth of His love for them. Only in His love for them can they be truly secure.

I would recommend this book to high school girls and older. The book is full of sports, but I still enjoyed it even though I don't know anything about soccer or football!

Negative elements: This book deals with some mature themes including suicide, eating disorders, pornography, and per-marital sex.
I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. 

The Secret of Shadow Ranch

The Secret of Shadow Ranch *****
by Carolyn Keene

Nancy Drew and The Secret Shadow Ranch is a very fun and scary book. I loved it. Nancy Drew is going to her friends' uncle's ranch.  He does not want them to come to the ranch because there is a dangerous mystery on Shadow Ranch. To find out what happens, you'll have to read it yourself.

Sabrina Staples, 8

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Pure Delicious

Pure Delicious
by Heather Christo

In the beginning of the book, Heather Christo shares her story about discovering the food allergies in her family. She speaks candidly of the difficulties in altering the way you eat. But she is so encouraging that the health benefits make it worth it. She isn't writing as a doctor but simply as a mom and a chef. 

All of the recipes in this book are free from the eight top allergens: gluten, dairy, eggs, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish, or cane sugar. 

This glossy-paged cookbook has a huge variety of recipes, and almost every recipe has a full color picture. 

I am so excited to try recipes out of this cookbook! I have a limited diet, so it is hard to find new and interesting foods to try. These recipes look doable and delicious!
I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Chaperoned by Dora Heldt

by Dora Heldt

This is a charming book with a hilarious cast of characters and a little detective work and romance thrown in.  Every family has someone who means well but drives everyone nuts.  Christine is 45 years old, but her father treats her like she is 14.  When her mother has to have surgery and go to the hospital for 2 weeks (and yes, this is not in the U.S. where the average length of stay is a couple of days), everyone else is busy.   So Christine becomes the sacrificial lamb taking care of her father since he cannot do even simple household tasks such as making coffee, cooking, and laundry.  When her friend Dorothea expresses the concern that the vacation could be too tiring and too much for him, Christine tells her otherwise.  "Dorothea, you don't understand.  I'm more worried that he'll be too much for me. He can be quite demanding.  He really can't do anything by himself, he has to be kept busy, he's always sticking his nose in, he always knows better, he doesn't like change, he..."  Her mother writes her a list of instructions including "Don't get impatient if he makes a mistake now and then.  He means well, and you know how sensitive he is."   Now this is a working vacation.  Christine and Dorothea are to be helping their friend Marleen renovate her guest house and restaurant on a tourist island.  Her mother has told him that they could really use his help supervising the contractors and lending a hand.  The mishaps start before they even get to the island, and it bodes no good that he is color blind and fires the painters while the others are serving breakfast.  

Positives:  It is light-hearted, and there are surprises along the way.

Negatives:  At times Christine seems awfully naive for someone who is 45 years old, e.g. lending a lot of money to a stranger.  There is sex before marriage, but not at all steamy and more of an aside.
Reviewed by Dr. Doris Altherr

Carrie the Snow Cap Fairy

Carrie the Snow Cap Fairy *****
By Daisy Meadows

Overview: This was a another great Rainbow Magic book! Carrie is a Earth fairy. Carrie needs the help of her two great friends to help get her wand back from the goblins! The goblins took her wand because they want to give it to Jack Frost, the goblin's master. Jack Frost wants to use the wand so he can have Carrie's power. Find out how Kristy, Rachel, and Carrie get back the magic wand and get it to Fairyland where the wand is safe.

Positive Elements:  friendship, working together

Negative Elements: There is magic. Carrie uses magic to turn the girls into fairies while they're on their adventure.

Overview: This was a great book for ages 8-7+, I think. Because my sister, Sabrina, who is 8, really enjoys them! You can check out many other Rainbow Magic fairy books! 

By Summer Staples, 10