Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Love's First Bloom, by Delia Parr

Ruth Livingstone is sent away from her home and her father after he is falsely accused of murder. Taking the name of Widow Malloy and the young child belonging to the murdered woman, Ruth moved to live with Elias and Phanaby Garner. Her time in the village is far from peaceful due to its division among three difficulties: taking care of a young child, avoiding reporters, and anxiously awaiting news of her father's trial. Losing her father and finding a new relation turns Miss Livingstone's life upside down. Depite the difficulties and tragedies, Ruth finds love in the unexpected person of an undercover newspaper spy.

Love's First Bloom is an intriguing story of the courage that honest love requires. Ruth Livingstone and Jake Spencer discover that true love is always honest, and that truthfulness breaks down the barriers between people. The unfortunate relationship between Reverend Livingstone and fallen angel Rosalie Peale adds an elemest of suspense to the romance of Parr's book, while the mysterious Captain Grant takes an unaccounted for interest in everything surrounding their case. I would recommend Love's First Bloom, by Delia Parr, to anyone who is looking for a clean and entertaining Christian novel that validates moral truths.

I received this book free from Bethany House Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

You Were Made to Make a Difference, by Max Lucado and Jenna Lucado Bishop

You Were Made to Make a Difference, by Max Lucado and Jenna Lucado Bishop, is an inspiring book for preteens or teens. It urges teens to use their God-given talents in the world around them. Each chapter includes the story of a young person who has made a difference and gives tips on how the reader can become the next one to make a difference. I would recommend the teen version especially to Christians who are striving to make a difference in their public schools because they might have the opportunity to share this book with one of their friends after reading it themselves.

You Were Made to Made a Difference is not recommended for adults because it uses only the vocabulary of today's teen culture. In fact, teens who are striving to have high expectations for themselves may also want to read the adult version, Outlive Your Life.

Monday, August 30, 2010

One Hand, Two Hands by Max Lucado, Illustrated by Gaby Hansen

Join a fun-loving little girl and her animated stuffed animals as they learn about the hands God gave them and the ways He wants them to use their hands.  This lively group explores the many things our hands have been designed to do, finally realizing that we make the best use of our hands when we serve others.

This is a cute, little story told in fun rhyme and illustrated by cheerful watercolors.  It does not have much of a plot, and its main character is not even named; but children ages 2-6 are sure to detect the valuable lesson this story teaches.  As I read this book, I imagined hand motions going along with it.  Creative parents could easily come up with their own hand motions to get their child really involved in the story.  In addition, activities involving the use of “helping hands,” “kind hands,” and “loving hands” are listed in the back of the book along with a suggestion to “Think of ways your hands can be helping hands!”

I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program.  I was not required to write a positive review.  The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Somewhere to Belong by Judith Miller

Berta Schumacher is a flighty, young girl who loves to wear hot pink.  How will she ever manage to survive in the Plain village of Amana?!  But survive she must.  Her parents have made their decision, and they are not backing down; but Berta refuses to conform herself to this radically different culture.  In the meantime, Johanna Ilg, who has always lived in Amana, is struggling with her desire to get away and see the world.  Will these girls become friends in spite of their extreme differences?  And will they ever resolve their inner conflict?

This book was slow to catch my interest and failed to capture it completely.  I was looking forward to a story about a Christian community resembling those of the Amish or the Mennonites, but I was disappointed to find that Amana more closely resembles a full-fledged commune.  This point outweighed the good points for me, but I realize many others will love this book in spite of this possible drawback.

I received this book free from Bethany House Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program.  I was not required to write a positive review.  The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Sixteen Brides by Stephanie Grace Whitson

The lives of sixteen widows and one young boy looking for adventure are forever changed as they are brought together by their search for a new life out West.  However, all is not what it seems, and the widows soon find out that they have been tricked into becoming mail-order brides.  Have they failed in their quest or will they succeed in establishing a new life, maybe even a better one, on the Nebraskan prairie.

I was a little worried about this book at first, fearing that sixteen simultaneous romances would get tangled up in my mind.  My fears were soon put to rest, however, when several of the women agreed to arranged marriages, allowing me to become fully involved in the lives of the others.  I really enjoyed the plot of this book and even found myself learning a few interesting facts about life in the 1800s.

I received this book free from Bethany House Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program.  I was not required to write a positive review.  The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Lies the Government Told You, by Andrew Napolitano

Lies the Government Told You: Myth, Power, and Deception in American History, by Judge Andrew P. Napolitano, most likely disappointed many conservatives. Even though Napolitano does share a few valuable insights, they are mostly overshadowed by his liberal ideas. The most disconcerting concept is how he views truth. "Truth," Judge Napolitano says, "is identity between intellect and reality." This nondescript view, which implies that truth is not absolute, casts doubt on the truthfulness of his remaining arguments. He also attempts to smear several respected Americans in history and at times neglects pertinent details, causing nearly imperceptible historical inaccuracies. I was also surprised to find several cases of offensive language. In conclusion, even though it does contain some truth, I would not recommend this book.

I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Love on a Dime by Cara Lynn James

In a time when working women are considered scandalous, Lilly Westbrook spends all of her time writing dime novels under the name of Fanny Cole.  As fans grow eager to meet the famous Miss Cole and as the 19th century tabloids threaten to reveal her cover, Lilly becomes anxious about being found out and scorned by her family and friends.  While deciding whether to tell her family about her secret, she must also decide between her wealthy beau Harlan and her first love Jackson Grail.
From beginning to end, this book held my interest as I read about Lilly’s unique adventures.  Ms. James designed an excellent plot, keeping me in suspense until the very end and weaving her faith seamlessly into the story.  This book is not at all preachy, and the references to Christianity seem completely natural, making Love on a Dime one of the best Christian fiction books I have read so far.  I was thoroughly entertained by this novel, and I definitely recommend it.  In fact, I am eagerly awaiting the sequel Love on Assignment available in January 2011.

I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program.  I was not required to write a positive review.  The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Millionaire Next Door, by Stanley and Danko

The Millionaire Next Door, by Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko, is an informative and useful book. There are several interesting points mentioned that should pique one's interest in reading this book.

• The wealthy are not necessarily the elite. They are ordinary people who live well below their means because they do not need to put their wealth on display. You would never know if you lived by "the millionaire next door."
• This book uses a simple formula to determine if you are a PAW (prodigious accumulator of wealth) or a UAW (under accumulator of wealth). Your age times your realized pretax annual income (except inheritance) divided by 10, minus any inheritance, is your target net worth.
• Budgeting is an integral part of building net worth. If one is aiming to become wealthy, he must minimize his taxable income as he gains untaxed capital.
• Buying too expensive of a home could easily hinder you from reaching your goal. In America, it is easier to make a lot than to become wealthy; but that does not mean that the ladder is impossible to climb.
• Economic outpatient care (gifts to adult children) often invites the children to be irresponsible with money. It is better to set up investments for them that will pay out gradually.
• The occupation most likely to make money is one that targets the low-consumption lifestyle of America's millionaires.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Everyone Communicates, Few Connect by John Maxwell

Everyone Communicates, Few Connect by John Maxwell is an excellent resource for those attempting to improve their “connection” skills. Using his extensive research on successful communicators, John Maxwell examines what makes them able to connect with audiences, small groups, or individuals.

This book was fascinating! Although everyone may communicate as the title says, few people communicate effectively, and even fewer people connect with those to whom they are speaking. This book addresses these issues in an easy-to-read format. From the importance to connecting to a type sketch of connectors, the topics contained in this book held my interest. Whether he is a prominent public speaker or merely an individual attempting to reconnect with his spouse, no doubt everyone could benefit from this book. Pick it up and see if there is an area in your life in which your “connection” skills could be improved. You will be happy that you did.

I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Plain Paradise by Beth Wiseman

In Plain Paradise, by Beth Wiseman, Josephine Dronberger is attempting to reconnect with her daughter, Linda. Seventeen years ago, Josie had been forced to put her baby up for adoption; and, ever since, Linda had been raised by a loving Amish couple. Plain Paradise focuses on the struggles encountered by Linda and Josie. Shortly after being reunited with her birth mother, Linda faces fears of being separated from her newfound friend. As the story progresses, the characters’ doubts slowly turn to faith in an omnipotent God.

Although Beth Wiseman seems familiar with the ways of the Amish and portrays the Plain lifestyle accurately, the characters’ dialect is not extremely natural or convincing. In addition, the book portrays the rumschpringe as a harmless tradition and fails to openly condemn the rebellious “running-around period.” Everything considered, Plain Paradise is an endearing tale full of realistic characters and encouraging messages.

I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Gigi's Hugest Announcement by Sheila Walsh

In Sheila Walsh’s animated video Gigi’s Hugest Announcement, Gigi is an adventurous little girl somewhat reminiscent of the beloved childhood character Pippi Longstocking. However, instead of having a monkey for a sidekick, she is attended by her beautiful, well-fed cat, “Lord Fluffy.” In this lively story, Gigi is a princess, a child of the heavenly King. Being a princess, however, does not guarantee that her life will be free of problems or that she will have everything she wants.

Young girls will surely be able to identify with the less-than-perfect Gigi, whose value is not based on how well she performs or on how perfect she is in appearance but on the fact that she is a child of God. These stories teach fundamental values that are nearly nonexistent in our culture as Gigi models an attitude worthy of a princess in her kindness and loyalty to her best friend, Frances. The animations in this dual collection are absolutely charming. Stories like these are long overdue and will surely be instrumental in helping girls and women alike to value themselves as God values them.

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Flowering Cross by Beth Ryan, illustrated by Renée Graef

The Flowering Cross, written by Beth Ryan and illustrated by Renée Graef, tells of a grumpy old man who is transformed by the love of God and the kindness of a little girl. “Mean Old Jack” is feared by all of the neighborhood children except for Katie and her brother, who shower kindness on the old man and come to know him as “Papa Jack.” After rejecting their many invitations to attend church, Papa Jack surprises Katie one Easter morning by announcing his intention to join her for the worship service.

This delightful children’s book is sure to appeal to 4-8 year olds. It contains fourteen charming illustrations and nine Faith ImprintsTM, which capitalize on events in the story to teach children about topics such as obedience and the love of God. The message of the story is clear: children are often able to share the love of God in a way adults cannot. Unfortunately, Bible verses are not quoted from the King James Version, a translation I love for its beauty, accuracy, and simplicity; however, parents may appreciate its uncomplicated quotations from the International Children’s Bible. In addition, I was disappointed that some of the illustrations show Katie in pants and her mother with very short hair, giving the book a modern feel. Despite these objections, I heartily recommend this book.

I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Critical Review of Don Quixote of the Mancha (Books I-III), by Miguel de Cervantes

Don Quixote of the Mancha, by Miguel de Cervantes, is a fictional book relating the unfortunate adventures of the mad knight-errant for which it is named. Although the characters in this book are not proper role models, it served the author's of ridiculing the popular romances about knighthood and certain passages of the book still provide quite wholesome entertainment.

The protagonist, Don Quixote, left his business and sold much of his estate in order to acquire a library of some three hundred books pertaining to knights and knighthood. He pored over these books night and day; and (as the author makes mention) "in the end, through his little sleep and much reading, he dried up his brains in such sort as he wholly lost his judgment." After this misfortune, he began believing himself to be a knight. So Don Quixote persuaded the ignorant and fearful Sancho Panza to serve as his squire on adventures in which he entered some righteous and some unrighteous causes, always touting his most illustrious Lady Dulcinea of Toboso.

Both Don Quixote and his squire have obvious weaknesses that make them unfit role models. The book mentions that Quixote was in the habit of cursing and swearing, although the author was decent enough to omit the actual words. Sancho Panza was no better: in fact, he had two great faults. He left his family to fend for themselves while he went traipsing around the countryside; and his reason was also faulty, being that he was eager to acquire an island to rule. However, these imperfections were not entirely useless. They helped many people to see the ridiculousness of fantasizing knights and castles when they were not even still in existence. Thus, Miguel de Cervantes aptly performed his task of satirizing the popular reading of his day. Soon after the publication of Don Quixote of the Mancha, the popularity of its many silly predecessors began to decline; yet Don Quixote remains popular today due to the hilarity of several escapades, the most notable of these being his fight with the windmills.

Overall, the primary purpose of this book expired soon after it was written. I would not recommend that others read the entire book since it does not have beneficial morals incorporated into each adventure. That is not to say, however, that none of it should be read. There are several passages that should continue in popularity due to the moral lessons hidden within their chaos.

Critical Review of Mansfield Park, by Jane Austen

Mansfield Park is a fictional book published by Jane Austen in 1814. It tells the story of Fanny Price and her observations of the true colors of the characters, including her friends, Henry and Mary Crawford, and her cousin, Edmund Bertram. Mane Austen accomplished her purpose for the book in subtly conveying to the reader that not all character flaws are readily recognized.

One of the people subject to observations was Henry Crawford. He was most often regarded as a polished gentleman because he dressed correctly and drove the correct rig. However, in her innocent way, Fanny Price sensed flaws in his character that few would notice. Mr. Crawford showed rebellion in his eagerness for playacting when Mr. Bertram was known to be opposed to it. He also was later proven immoral when he ran off with Fanny's recently married cousin, Maria.

Next to be mentioned is Henry's sister, Mary. At first glance, she seemed to be a lively, young girl whose primary influences had not always been to her betterment. She even, at times, seemed to be particularly kind, friendly, and helpful. However, her true nature was not all so beautiful. She was just as rebellious as Henry, not only in the matter of acting, but also in her attitude toward Christianity. In addition, her willingness to overlook her brother's immorality (not to mention her flirtation with Edmund) cast grave doubts on her own moral character.
Edmund Bertram is the last and most important of Fanny's three friends. He was more of a man than Mr. Crawford was even though he did not drive the fanciest carriage or have the knack for turning every female head in the area. Edmund also treated Fanny better than any of her other relatives did, since he did not always feel it necessary that she remember her place as a poor relation. Another of his many attributes is that he was conscientious in all that he did. He also was a sincere Christian who wanted to do God's will by becoming a clergyman. However, Edmund did have one large fault. He was terribly naive, especially concerning Mary Crawford. He did not see her conniving ways or that her pleasantness to Fanny was only a way to blind him to her true character. His blindness was not permanent, but it might well have been had he not had such high moral character.

The quality I admire most in this book is not the ability Austen had to accomplish what she intended, even though that is quite admirable. I think that Mansfield Park gains the majority
of its value from the fact that it is a realistic portrayal of life. Each of us must be careful in the choice of our friends because villainy can hide behind the brightest smile of them all.