Thursday, February 23, 2017


Matilda *****
by Roald Dahl

Overview: I thought this was a great book about a super smart girl who is only five years old. She reads grown up books in the library and is super smart. Her dad runs a car business and is a cheater at it. He is super mean to his daughter Matilda and nice to his older son Mike. Matilda goes to a really bad school, and the boss is awful to the children. Matilda struggles through life and also helps her teacher get her home back. Since the boss, Mrs. Trunchbull won't let her skip grades and move up, her brain power has no where to go, so while she's in her class she can make things move with her eyes. In the end, they get rid of Mrs. Trunchbull and get the teacher her house back. And Matilda's parents and brother are running away from the police, so they go to Spain, and let Matilda stay with her teacher.

Negative Elements: Bad name calling.  

Positive Elements: Matilda is smart and kind. The story has some sweet and funny parts, too.

Conclusion: I thought this was a great book, except I thought the ending was a little sad. I gave it five stars. I think you should read this book; I really enjoyed it.

By Summer Staples 

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

With Love, Wherever You Are

With Love, Wherever You Are *****
by Dandi Daley MacKall

Overview: It's the beginning of WW2. Frank has just finished medical school and joined the Army as a doctor. Helen has just begun nursing as well as an Army nurse. They meet up at a hospital, and it's love at first sight. They marry and ship off to different stations. They continue to write back and forth throughout the war about their experiences.

Positive elements: perfectly clean, not gruesome

Negative elements: The climax of the story was too forced. Maybe Frank and Helen really did repair their marriage that quickly and easily, but it felt unrealistic. The book was long...too long. By the end, I was skimming the pages. 

Conclusion: This book entriqued me because it is based on Dandi Mackall's parents' relationship. Her father gave her a trunk of all the letters he and his wife passed back and forth while they worked apart during the war. Dandi explains in the back of the book the parts of the story that are true and the parts that are fiction. The story is well put together and there are letters that they sent back and forth in the midst of the story. I appreciated how she just told their story and didn't try to make it overly dramatic. And it isn't written like a sappy romance at all.

I'm always a bit skeptical of fiction books based on true stories because you never truly know where fact and fiction meet.

Overall, I enjoyed the story and would recommend it as an easy-going read.

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

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Dead End in Norvelt

Dead End in Norvelt *****
by Jack Gantos

Overview: Jack ends up grounded for the summer after messing with his Dad's Vietnam rifle. Life is already pretty boring in the small, dying town of Norvelt. Now, his only escape from the house and boredom is helping an old woman in town write obituaries. He gets mixed up in a lot of adventures that summer with this old lady and his friend who dad is the undertaker.

Positive elements: easy to read, full of history, interesting characters but not as fully developed as I would have liked

Negative elements: The book is not as profound or thought provoking as many Newberry winners I've read. Jack also does "pretend cursing" as the book calls it. He doesn't use real swear words, but he words sound close enough so that you know what swear words he's using.

Conclusion: Reading this book kept reminding me of A Long Way from Chicago. It was another Newberry winner about a brother and sister's many summers in a small town with a crazy grandmother. That story was so funny and engaging that I had a hard time getting into Dead End in Norvelt. I just kept comparing the two books. But maybe if I was a middle school aged boy, I would have enjoyed it more. (Especially the parts about the dead bodies in the morge.)

A side note...the author writes himself as the main character, but I didn't see anything to explain that. Is this a bit autobiographical? I was a bit confused about that.

Kingdom Marriage

Kingdom Marriage *****
by Tony Evans

Overview: Kingdom Marriage is a book about God's plan for marriage. The first part of the book talks about the importance of marriage and God's ideal plan for it. The second half of the book is more practical. Tony Evans talks about our roles as husband and wife, prayer in marriage, romance, how to restore a broken marriage, etc.

Positive: a very hope filled book about marriage

Negatives: Tony Evans has a strange view on angles that I've never heard before. He only talks about it briefly in one chapter, but it was still strange. Other than that, I thought the book was full of wise advice.

Conclusion: My husband and I really enjoyed reading this book together a little at a time. The first part of the book is a bit dry and is written like a sermon. However, don't give up. The second half becomes very practical. My favorite chapter was on "Roles." We could see how we need to be better encouraging and building one another up. We were both very encouraged by the book.

His Last Words

His Last Words *****
by Kim Erickson

This is a verse-by-verse study through John 13-17. The study is for seven weeks with homework for five days a week. Each day you read a short passage from John. The book has each verse you read for the day printed out with space next to it for notes. The idea is you ask the question about each verse, "What does this tell me about God?" Then you have space to write next to each verse your response to that question. Then the author writes some more commentary and has some other questions to think through. There are also questions you can use in a group study.

I just went through the Bible study An Unexplainable Life published by Moody. I enjoyed that verse-by-verse study a lot more. It was a different format, but I found the author's commentary much more helpful in that study. I do like that this study encourages you to slowly think through each verse though. However, I think you'd be just as well off to get a note pad and make your own list of what you learn about God as you read each verse.

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

Katharina and Martin Luther

Katharina and Martin Luther *****
by Michelle DeRusha

Overview: The marriage of Martin Luther and Katharina Von Bora was a bit scandalous at the time since Luther was a monk and Von Bora a nun. So how did they end up married? DeRusha uses letters from Martin Luther to piece together the story of their marriage and their life together.

Positive elements: well-written, interesting, easy to read

Negative elements: DeRusha admits that much of the story, especially from Katharina's point of view, is a mystery since we don't have many of her letters. So, some of the book includes speculation about their relationship. DeRusha does do a good job of pointing out some of the different theories that people have about some of the disputed points.

Conclusion: I tried to read another book about Luther and Katharina and put it down. It was basically a romance novel created about their story. This book is not written like a novel. It's written like a history book. Not only did I learn about the importance of their marriage, but the far reaching effects of Martin Luther and his reformation on marriage in general. She starts from Katharina's and Martin's childhoods and takes you all through their lives. It's truly a fascinating read.

This is an interesting book I'd recommend for men or women.

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


Harvest *****
by Stefani Bittner and Alethea Harampolis

This is a beautiful, hard covered, full-color book. The book is divided into three sections by harvest time: early, mid, and late. Each plant has a picture and description on one page and the next page has a project or recipe. 

I never knew that lilacs were edible. There is a recipe for making lilac perfume that you can wear or cook with. And I didn't know bachelor buttons were edible. There is a recipe for making a beautiful butter with petals mixed in. I think those will be my first two recipes to try out.

The garden behind this book is in California so some of the plants won't grow well up here in Idaho. But, I'm looking forward to trying some new plants that will do well up here.

This book would also make a great gift for a gardener or cook.

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

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Chasing Slow

Chasing Slow *****
by Erin Loechner

Overview: This was such an usual book in a delightful way. Erin writes her story of seeking to balance her successful work life with a sane schedule at home. The first half of the book is called "Chasing More" and tells of her growing up, marrying a man with a "short life span" due to a tumor, moving, having her first baby, great success with her blog, her father-in-law's death, etc.
The second half of the book is called "Chasing Slow."  She talks about simplifying her life, learning how to not be a hyprocrite with an "online" life and her real life, mothering, surrender, etc.

I think the essence of the book is found in this quote from the last chapter:
"I have chased more and I have chased less. I have lived large and I have lived small. I have sped up, slowed down, traded up, pared down, built myself up, fallen down. But have I looked up? Laid it down? Perhaps we were never meant to change the pace. We were meant to surrender it."  
Positive: This book is beautiful to read. The paper is very smooth, the pictures colorful, the hard back and square size lovely. I also enjoyed all the sidebars such as: "Five Reactions to a Home Birth" or "Life Lessons from a Frugal Mother." Some funny, some serious, some seriously funny! I have read quite a few books from people who have become famous blogging. Usually they are better at blogging than writing books. But this book was wonderful.

Negative: Erin comes to the conclusion that the answer to a balanced life is surrender. She mentions God a few times, but she doesn't really explain what it means to surrender to God's working in your life. And if you don't really trust and believe in a God who loves you, how can you surrender your life to Him?

Conclusion: I really enjoyed this book! We live in this strange, fast, online world. I was encouraged not to get sucked into having a Pinterest life and lots of Facebook friends, but to realize my real life's treasures are the normal people all around me each day. Purse face-to-face friendships. Don't let your possessions bog you down. And ultimately, the slow or peaceful life is one surrendered to God and not lived in constant worry.

I borrowed this book for free from the library!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Charlie and the Choclate Factory

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory *****
by Roald Dahl 

Overview: This was a great book about a boy Charlie who finds a golden ticket. With this golden ticket, he gets to go on a tour of the chocolate factory with Willy Wonka. Four other kids go, too. Willy Wonka was trying to see who will own the chocolate factory when he gets too old. All the other kids are too greedy and all sorts of things happen to them.

Negative Elements: There are some scary and weird parts.

Positive Elements: The naughty kids learn a lesson, and it has a happy ending.  

Conclusion: This was a great book! I loved the movie, but the book is way better. I think you should read it! 

By Summer Staples, 10