What is your reading goal this year?

Monday, July 18, 2016

A Night Divided

A Night Divided by Jennifer Nielsen


"With the sudden rise of the Berlin Wall, twelve-year-old Gerta finds her family divided overnight. She, her mother, and her brother Fritz live on the eastern side, controlled by the Soviets. Her father and middle brother, who had gone west in search of work, are unable to return home. Gerta knows it is dangerous to watch the wall, to think forbidden thoughts of freedom, yet she can't help herself. She sees the East German soldiers with their guns trained on their own citizens, watching for any sign of escape. Gerta, her family, her neighbors and friends are prisoners in their own city. But one day, Gerta spots her father on a viewing platform on the western side of the wall, pantomiming a peculiar dance. She concludes that her father wants Gerta and Fritz to tunnel beneath the wall, out of East Berlin. However, if they are caught, the consequences will be deadly. No one can be trusted. Will Gerta and her family find their way to freedom?"

My Review:

Wow! Because I enjoyed The False Prince series by Jennifer Nielsen, I was excited to read this historical fiction novel. I hoped that the writing would be just as engaging and addicting as The False Prince series was. I was not disappointed. This book is so great! It is written very well; I love her writing style. It's engaging, it flows well, it's so real, and even though it's a fictional story about a real event that happened long ago, it's very personal. The characters are well developed and they feel like the next door neighbors you've known your whole life. I especially liked Gerta. Her courage is amazing. Fritz too. I loved the father's personality. I liked Anna for most of the book. What's is so great about this book is that it is just like real life; there are times when you like the characters and times when you get a little bugged by them. There are times when you are afraid for them, and times when you cheer them on despite the danger. There would be times when I'd be reading and suddenly realize that I'd been holding my breath, for who knows how long, because of the events taking place. I'd be so worried or I guess I felt like I was there with them. This book is fiction, but I swear it must have really happened because it seemed so lifelike. I'm a rule follower. Everyone knows that about me. I often wonder what I would have done if I'd been alive during the American Revolution. Would I have stood up for freedom or would I have followed the rules under English rule no matter the cost? As I read, I found myself thinking about what I would have done in Gerta's place. I don't know. I follow rules and I'm not good at taking risks. But I love freedom. I hope I would stand up for freedom. I loved that this book allowed me to see a different side of some characters. I think we often times get caught up in stereotypes and the blame game. We forget that we are each actually real people with real families and struggles, and with real hopes and dreams. A guard may not believe in the cause he guards every day, but he may do it because it keeps his family safe. A mother may not want her family to stay inside the wall, but she stays because at least her children are alive and safe. Do you choose safe and a good job behind a wall guarded by men with guns or do you choose to take a risk for something better, even though it may cost you? I love that this book gets you thinking. It's written for a middle-grader/YA reader, but it is relevant to adults as well. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and highly recommend it. I think it is a book every child who learns about WWII should read. It is a great way to get these kids away from themselves and thinking about the world around them.

There isn't any profanity or "intimacy." There is some minor violence with the way the Soviets treat the people and there are a couple of characters that die. 

Rating:PG+ (There isn't any profanity or "intimacy," but there is some minor violence with harsh treatment of the people and some fighting. It is post WWII Germany, so it is not the happiest of environments.)

Recommendation: 5th and 6th grades and up (A knowledge of WWII and the Berlin Wall would be very helpful. This book will not make a lot of sense if the child does not have that basic knowledge. My daughter is going into fifth grade this year, and I would be comfortable with her reading it after we discuss the prerequisite knowledge. I'm definitely going to have my ninth and eighth grade sons read it.)

Friday, July 15, 2016

The Christ-Centered Home

The Christ-Centered Home by Emily Belle Freeman


"Imagine Jesus came to your doorstep. How could you prepare to welcome Him in? In the hectic scramble of a world that asks us to do everything, be everyone, and make it all look easy, we often lose track of the experiences that really matter most--quiet moments in our homes with our families when we feel the peace of Jesus Christ. The lessons Jesus taught in the homes of His followers were simple. They were basic. And the were--and are--essential. In The Christ-Centered Home, you will discover how to fill your family's hearts with the principles Jesus taught in the most sacred of classrooms: the home. There is a humility that comes when we invite the Lord into our most private spaces. Within the hush we hear the gentle whisper of His voice, we experience the touch of His hand, and we feel the prompting to rise. Invite Him in, and experience the added measure of peace, strength, courage, and hope that comes when Jesus Christ becomes the central focus of your home."

My Review:

I'm always looking for ways to improve my family. As a mom, I want my children to be healthy and happy. I also want them to be good citizens, do well in school, and be kind and caring. Something else that is very important to me is that they have a strong foundation of faith built on Christian morals and principles. I want them to know and understand the scriptures, and live their lives knowing the Savior. When I was contacted by the publicist of this book I couldn't refuse. I had to see if there was anything in this book that would help me achieve these goals; anything that would help me to do better. I am so thankful I agreed to review this book. I don't often review spiritual books, but this one is definitely worth reviewing. This book is not written for any specific religion, it is based on principles found in the New Testament and in the teachings of Jesus Christ. It is written for Christian homes. I love the format of the book. I know that sounds strange, but I enjoyed looking at the different doors that accompany each chapter. They are beautiful. And very symbolic. The book is set up so that families can take one chapter a month and study the lesson. They're not long, but they are packed full of insight and great ideas. There are questions you may ask yourself, and places to write your reflections. There's a recipe with each chapter so that while your family studies they may have a yummy treat, which always helps with kids! The verses the stories are taken from are listed so that you may read the story straight from the Bible. On her website Ms. Freeman also has some beautiful printables that coincide with each chapter so that throughout the month you may hang the printable and remind your family what it is you're working on. 
I loved this quote: "Perhaps our gratitude to God is best expressed through action rather than words. When our actions become the expression of our gratitude, then our time, our sacrifice, and our obedience become gifts rather than duties." (pg. 145) And, "Maybe this month, we could focus on performing our assigned household duties as a gift rather than a chore." (pg. 147) Wouldn't that be great? Wouldn't it be great if our children learned to help around the house by giving it as a gift of thankfulness rather than an unpleasant chore to whine and complain about? Hahaha.....we are far from that ideal, but it's definitely something to work towards! I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I didn't stop and share with my family because I needed to finish it to review. However, we're going to start this week! One lesson a month I can do, right? I'm excited to see what happens. Maybe I'll report back in a few months to let you know. If my children start saying, "Mom, please give me more chores because I'm so thankful you're my mom" or "Dad, you work so hard to provide us with a nice home! We're so thankful! Please give us more weeding to do so we can show our gratitude" then I'll let you know! :) This book is easy to read and implement. It's well written with stories that are easy to relate to, and with lots of examples. She has given it a lot of thought and has some wonderful ideas. I highly recommend this for any Christian family that would like to improve their faith, gratitude, and unity. 

Rating: G (Clean!)

Recommendation: Everyone

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.


Monday, July 11, 2016

I Am David

I Am David by Anne Holm


"David's entire twelve-year life has been spent in a grisly concentration camp in Eastern Europe. He knows nothing of the outside world. But when he is given the chance to escape, he seizes it. Sensing his enemies hot on his heels, David struggles to cope in this strange new world, where his only resources are a compass, a few crumbs of bread, his two aching feet, and some vague advice to seek refuge in Denmark. Is that enough to survive?"

My Review:

I cannot even imagine being David in this scenario. Wow. What a brave kid. What a great example of determination, courage, and heart. At first I thought he was in an actual WWII concentration camp, which didn't make sense in the context of the story (Why were the people of Italy so happy and unconcerned?). At my book group I learned that it was a post war camp. I was told it was a Stalin work camp, but I searched all over today and could never find that actual detail. Just know that it is post WWII, and it will make a lot more sense. Although the writing is simplistic, and it would be all-but impossible for his journey to take place, this book portrays so much emotion and teaches many lessons. I loved watching David as he experienced new things. Imagine not knowing what an orange is! Seeing common, everyday objects through his eyes was so fun.On his journey David comes across the worst and best of people, and the contrast is huge. The lesson of being kind and compassionate to others is one that permeates the story. This book is not a religious book, but David prays to "God of the green pastures and still waters." I found that very interesting; even in his darkest times he had faith in a power greater than himself. As I said previously, the writing was simplistic, but it was full of emotion. David's emotion is real and jumps off the page. You could feel his fear, his curiosity, his courage, his hunger, and his pride in his accomplishments.  I love how he always tried to do the right thing, even if he didn't really know what that was sometimes. It wasn't only a physical journey, but also a journey to find himself and to learn about the world outside the camp. I think this is a great upper elementary/YA read. There are many lessons to be learned, and it is always good for kids and YA to get out of their little bubbles and see the world through someone else's eyes. I enjoyed this book a lot and would definitely recommend it.

This book is clean! There isn't any profanity or "intimacy." There is some minor violence when a character is burned in a fire, and there is some brief fighting. There are also some people in the book that do not treat David kindly.

Rating: PG (No profanity or "intimacy," but some minor violence-a girl is burned in a fire, brief bullying, and people who treat David unkindly.)

Recommendation: 5th or 6th grade and up (A knowledge of post WWII and a map of Europe would be very helpful.)

Friday, July 8, 2016

Dragon Slippers (Book One)

Dragon Slippers by Jessica Day George


"Do you collect, um, windows?" I said. It would be an odd thing indeed, if this cave-dwelling creature hoarded chapel windows. But no more odd, I thought, than the dragon Theoradus hoarding shoes he could never wear. "Yes, I do collect windows," this dragon said testily. "And that one was particularly fine." Then his gaze sharpened on me. I took a step back, feeling the rough stone wall behind me and wondering wildly where the entrance was. "Do you not assume that I hoard gold?" I lifted my chin. "You are not the first dragon I have conversed with," I said in lofty tones, hoping to impress this one with my experience. "I am well aware that dragons napping on piles of gold are the stuff of old grannies' tales. Why, just the other day I was admiring the shoe collection of Theoradus of Carlieff, and he gave me this pair as a gift." I raised my skirts to show off my blue slippers. A gout of flame issued from the gold dragon's snout as it gave a loud roar. I only just managed to leap out the way as my bed of ferns and moss was torched by the blue-white dragonfire. "By the Seven Volcanoes!" the gold dragon swore. "Where did you come by those slippers?"

My Review:

I loved this book! It is unique, fun, and so creative. You know me, I like unique books. I get sick of the same-o, same-o, and this book does not disappoint. Creel is such a great character! She is quirky, feisty, and a strong female character. She is easy to like and relate to. She is aware of her skills, but is also down-to-earth. She has a great voice in the story. Ms. George did a great job writing her. Ms. George also did an excellent job writing this book. I enjoyed her writing style a lot. It is somewhat simplistic, yet I just got sucked right into the story line. I loved the dragons and their individual hoards. What a fun detail! Luka, Marta, and Ulfrid were my other favorite characters. Ms. George definitely wrote Derda, Larkin, and Amalia well because I disliked them from the start. Amalia is a brat (and that is putting it nicely)! I thought each of the characters were developed well and were realistic. I loved all the little embroidery and sewing details and thought they were a good touch. There is a slight friendship/budding romance that is sweet and very innocent, and I thought it was perfect for the age group the book is geared toward. There is action in this book too! Sword fighting, dragons, a war, and maybe a cat-fight or two. I thoroughly enjoyed this book! I just learned that it is book one in a trilogy, so I'm super excited to start book two!

Do you know what I really loved? This book is clean!! Yay! I love it when great books are clean! There isn't any profanity and there isn't any "intimacy" except a small and sweet kiss. There is some violence, but it is not overly graphic. There is a war going on, and so there is some fighting and a few characters die. I am handing this book over to my soon-to-be fifth grade daughter, and I think it is perfect for her age group. It is definitely more of a girlie book. My 14 year-old son asked if he'd like it because he likes dragons (think Eragon), and I laughed. Nope, it's definitely more for girls. :)

Rating: PG (There isn't any profanity or "intimacy," except a small kiss. There is some war violence and a few characters die.)

Recommendation: 5th grade and up, definitely more for girls.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Back In The Wagon

To all my amazing followers and readers, I have obviously been absent for awhile. I was in charge of a camp for all the girls in my church ages 12-18. It was a four day camp for 24 girls and 13 adults. So, it was kind of a big deal. For the last couple of months, if it didn't say camp on it, it got ignored. For example, my husband, my kids, my yard, my house, and my blog. Yep, one month of summer break is over, and we haven't done anything; my kids have been completely ignored. However, the camp was last week, and it turned out great. The girls did well, the weather cooperated perfectly, and we had a lot of fun. So, it's back to life now. Yay! My kids and I are going on a hike this morning, and I'm posting a review later today. I'm sorry I haven't posted, but I have been reading, so I have a few reviews coming in the next little while. I'm back in the wagon, and can hopefully get back into the swing of things! Thank you for your patience!!