Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Guess Who: Noah's Boat by Matt Mitter and Ela Jarzabek

Guess Who Noah's Boat  -     By: Matt Mitter
Guess Who: Noah's Boat is a sturdy, bright lift-the-flap board book about Noah.  Each two page spread tells a portion of Noah's story and ends with the question, "Guess who, Noah?"  When the flap is lifted a different pair of animals is revealed.  The facial expressions on Noah's family and the animals clearly show that they feel safe and secure as the ark is being built and the skies are darkening.  The last page shows the animals leaving the ark after the flood recedes and when the final flap is lifted, Noah is shown as the last one on board, ready to walk off.

This is one of the most successful Christian board books I've seen.  Ela Jarzabek has created a delightful menagerie to fill the ark. Matt Mitter uses rhyme to not only tell Noah's story but to also give clues about who is under each flap.  This book would be a great addition to the preschool library at church or a sweet baby shower gift,  Often it seems that the subject of Christian board books is beyond the understanding of the children who like the chunky, lift a page format.  I don't think there is that disconnect here.  The pages are a little thinner than many board books, making it attractive to toddlers.  Yet the flaps are sturdy enough to be lifted over and over without ripping hazards.  The story is simple enough for littlest ears. but also detailed enough for the slightly older child and is sure to be a favorite for many readings.    I received a copy of Guess Who: Noah's Boat from Kregel Publication for review purposes.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Thief of Glory by Sigmund Brouwer

Thief of GloryThief of Glory is by far my most favorite book of the year.  Sigmund Brouwer begins with a dedication page detailing how his own parents, bolstered by their love for each other, left behind the Netherlands and immigrated to Canada. They also left behind the shadows of how the World War II years had affected their childhoods, one in Europe and the other in the Dutch East Indies.  From that introduction, he takes us back to Dutch East Indies to imagine the story of another childhood love that will survive decades after the battles cease.

On the surface, this is the story of ten year old Jeremiah and how he survives the years that his family is interned in the Jappenkamp, a make shift concentration camp set up to imprison the Dutch colonials of the Dutch East Indies.  At that level, readers will see Jeremiah as a smart alecky boy who thrives on beating the other boys at marbles.  Behind what seems like innocent games, we see that Jeremiah is clever, quick to assess other people's weaknesses, and equally quick to protect those he loves.  When he meets newcomer Laura, Jeremiah knows that he has met his true love.  He reacts with a protective loyalty that places him on a dangerous collision course with his nemesis Georgie.  Soon Jeremiah's older half brothers and his father are sent off to labor on the infamous Burma Railway and the young boy is left to be the caretaker of his family, which includes his mother, *(pregnant and often mentally unstable), twin sisters, and a younger brother, Pietje.  As food and medical provisions dwindle, Jeremiah's life
becomes a dangerous game of survival -- one he plays as craftily as he once played the marble games of childhood. Soon the boy who has lost almost everything and everyone becomes the lifeline to the women and children of the prison camp.

Many aspects of this book propel it beyond the ordinary.  First of all, is the unexpected ending to the book.  I am still reeling from it, even hours after finishing the book.  I SO wish I had someone to discuss that ending with, but I will not share a bit of it. No spoilers here!  I can share that Brouwer does an excellent job of making the unique natural world of the island part of the story. A banyan tree, a python, poisonous processionary caterpillars, and a rabid dog all play pivotal roles.  When you think about ten year old boys, no matter where they are or what the circumstances, somehow they will have encounters with "wildlife" and and Brouwer's inclusion adds layers of realism to the story. More realism comes from the inclusion of Adi, a young native boy, whose deformity makes him isolated and tormented by his own people.  One of the lowest of society and among the weakest, his ability to help Jeremiah will have you discussing the difference between the world's view of importance and God's.

I know I mention this often when reviewing historical fiction, but I appreciate authors who add to my historical knowledge base. I don't just want a story with a backdrop of another time.  When I close the book for the last time, I want an accurate perspective of that time period, hopefully with details I've never know before. Reading Thief of Glory gave me an understanding of the anti-Dutch sentiment among the island natives who had been under European control for over 350 years, making them easy targets for the Japanese promises that they would be allowed self-rule after the war if they supported the Japanese.   

I received a copy of this book from Blogging for Books for review purposes.  If I had to give it a starred rating, this would be a 5 plus!

Friday, October 24, 2014

A Light in the Wilderness by Jane Kirkpatrick

A Light in the Wilderness  -     By: Jane Kirkpatrick
A Light in the Wilderness shows again that there are wonderful stories of courage, determination, and strength to be found in the files of our country's many museums and archives.  And Jane Kirkpatrick has made a successful writing career discovering and retelling the mostly unknown stories of some of those women.  In an interview that follows the book, Kirkpatrick talks about the process of writing historical fiction, Research gives her the who, what, where, and when facts.Then she "explore(s) the why and how of their lives."  She also says she likes to choose women who would mostly be seen as "ordinary" so that we, the readers, can put ourselves into their lives, considering, as we read, what we would do in similar circumstances.  Choosing just how many facts to include in her historical fiction is a balancing act; she says readers can be overwhelmed and bored with too many facts, but need enough to capture an authenticity of the time period.  I wholeheartedly concur with her philosophy on historical fiction.  I've read some that is entirely too fluffy and captures nothing of the true time period or the people; I've also read some recently so laden with facts that the essence of the main character is never given a chance to breathe. When I see that Kirkpatrick has written another book, I know I will not be disappointed and that I will learn about another fascinating woman from the past.

In A Light in the Wilderness that woman is Letitia Carson, a free black woman who travels to Oregon with her common law husband in the 1840's.  Knowing that their interracial marriage would not be legally recognized and always fearing that her "free' papers would not be honored in the new territory, Letitia convinced her husband to enter into a contract saying she was paid for her "work" with money, property, and livestock.  That way she felt she would be protected if he would die.  When he does die almost a decade after arriving in Oregon all his belongings and properties are legally seized as they determine who should inherit.  Letitia brings suit against the estate, the first black woman to do so, and the first black woman to have a contract recognized.  Kirkpatrick has done a superb job of filling in those "how" and "why" questions about Letitia and her Irish immigrant husband Davey, basing her narrative on a myriad of documents and sources.  Key to the story are the friendships she made with Nancy, one of the white settlers whose babies she helped deliver and Betsy, a Kalapuya Indian who lived on what would be Davey Carson's homestead, all well documented.  What emerges is a story of a unique marriage and a strong woman who knew the world was against her, but never lost sight of her desire to provide for herself and her children.  I don't if Jane's inclusion of  Charity the cow is historical or not, but it was one of those special details that makes her writing alive with warmth and believability  Jane Kirkpatrick has included historical background about Letitia on her website and she writes more about why she was called to write this book.  I will continue to read Kirkpatrick's books. I have never been disappointed.  I only wish I could hear her speak about all her works.  She has given us a treasure trove of stories from the past..

 I received an ecopy of this title from Netgalley for review purposes.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Nesting Place: It Doesn't Have to be Perfect to be Beautiful by Myquillyn Smith

Myquillyn Smith identifies herself as a nester, someone who has always wanted to provide " a beautiful nest" for her family.  Her popular blog THE NESTING PLACE and now her book share
the secrets of doing just that even when you are in a rental property AND on a very limited budget.
While Myquillyn does share the story of some of her decorating redoes, this is NOT a how to do it book.  It is more a book of encouragement and a sharing of Myquillyn's philosophy.  In 18 years, she and her family (hubby and three sons) have moved 13 times.  Most of the time have been into rentals, and once they were cramped into a small two bedroom condo.  But by finding things of beauty that spoke to her, the author was able to make each place a nest of comfort and love for her family.

When I ordered this book through inter-library loan, I expected a typical coffee table decorating book full of large colored spreads of immaculate rooms.  Right off I was surprised by the smaller book format and the large amount of text, but I was quickly pulled in by Myquillyn's easy flowing narration.  It was like listening to a good friend (despite our age differences) tell about what she loves in her home.  I especially liked the list Top Eleven Reasons Renting is Awesome. My daughter and her little girl recently moved into a two bedroom apartment, even smaller than the small ranch house that had been home.  After reading this book, I so much more appreciate the little things my daughter has done to make that rental place their own.   Each thrift store find is a statement-making treasure.

As I started the book, I quickly looked at the photos, and not seeing the big photo spreads I had expected, I figured I would read a little of the text and then return the book.  But I soon found, that although the author's quirky style of white statuary is not my cup of tea, I loved her writing and her views on making a home both beautiful and comfortable.  I greatly appreciated her focus that we already have what we need, now we just need to acknowledge that and then settle into appreciating our great blessings.  If you're always looking at home decor magazines and wishing your home looked like the model homes on the latest tour of homes, then you need to get this book or check out her blog.  Make sure you read The Imperfectionist Manifesto and also the chapter about her visit to Tanzania.  Soon you'll be looking at your home with new eyes, and while you may not see perfection, you will certainly see beauty.


Sunday, October 19, 2014

Keepers of the Covenant by Lynn Austin

About the book: 

The Old Testament Comes to Thrilling Life in the Latest from Lynn Austin
In one life-changing moment, the lives of the Jewish exiles in Babylon are thrown into confusion and despair when a decree arrives from the king's palace in Susa. It calls for the annihilation of every Jewish man, woman, and child throughout the empire on the thirteenth day of Adar, in less than one year. Ezra, a quiet Jewish scholar and teacher, is suddenly called upon to lead the community as they seek God for a reason for this catastrophe. When a second decree arrives, authorizing them to fight back, Ezra is thrust into the role of military leader as they defend themselves against their enemies.
When the battles come to an end, Ezra's brother Jude is dead and Ezra is required by the Law he so diligently studies to marry Jude's widow, Devorah, and provide an heir. Fatherhood changes Ezra, and he asks God to make a way for him and the other exiles to leave Babylon for good and return to Jerusalem. His prayers are answered and the exiles move to Judea to revitalize worship at the temple---but the fight to keep God's Law is never easy. As more and more of his community are tempted, a new battle emerges . . . this one for the survival of God's covenant and the souls of His chosen faithful.

Purchase a copy:

About the Author: 

Bestselling author Lynn Austin has sold more than one million copies of her books worldwide. She is an eight-time Christy Award winner for her historical novels, as well as a popular speaker at retreats and conventions. Lynn and her husband have raised three children and live near Chicago.

Here are all the bloggers reviewing Keepers of the Covenant by Lynn Austin
Crystal | Welcome to my world(of reviews)
Tiffany | The Crafty Home
Sydney | Saved By Grace
Debra | 3 Partners in Shopping, Nana, Mommy, & Sissy, Too!
Jennifer | Royal Little Lambs
Bethany | Giveaways of Blessing

Sarah | Growing for Christ
Kristina | Book Club Sisters

Faith | Found a Christian by His Grace
Cassandra | Cassandra M's Place
Jalynn | A Simple Life, really?!
Susan | let's eat 2 day

Amanda | Christian Shelf-Esteem
Jennifer | Mother of Three

Victoria | deal sharing aunt
Katie | The Cutting Back Kitchen

Dianna | Savings in Seconds
Carole | The Power of Words
Jake |

Lena | A Christian Writer's World
Joy | Splashes of Joy
Hallie | Book by Book

Mary | Mary's Cup of Tea
Shecki | Greatly Blessed
Bethany | Perfect Beginnings
Kim | Window To My World
Jill | Book Review Travels
Kristie | Moments
Becky | Christian Chick's Thoughts
Erin | For Him and My Family

Karen | LyonsLady

Melinda | Living laughing loving
Beth | For The Love of Books

JoJo | JoJo's Corner
Katie | Too Read or Not Too Read

Rachel | Crafts-n-Fitness
Rayleigh | Accelerate The Jesus Movement
Krista | Welcome to Married Life
Nancy | sunny island breezes
Laura | Harvest Lane Cottage
Charity | Giveaway Lady

Pam | Southern Gal Loves to Read
Mark | Thoughts of a Sojourner
Michele | My Blessings From Above
Michelle | Our Little Corner of the World
Lisa | Seeking with all Yur Heart
Lois | The Minister's Wife Stamps and Saves
Renee | Little Homeschool on the Prairie
Linda | Linda's Lunacy
Veronica | Veronica's 'Views

Jennifer | A Peace of Mind
Sally | Proverbial Reads
Marissa | The Review Stew
Kathleen | Reviews From The Heart

Alena | The Homemade Creative
Beckie | By The Book
Victor |Vic's Media Room
Suzanne | Clicking Her Heels
Amanda | The Talbert Report

Maria | Middle Places
Jamie | Books and Beverages
Amanda | Amanda's Pile of Books

Leticia | My Daily Trek

Amy | A Nest in the Rocks
Mindy | A Room Without Books is Empty
Amanda | inklings and notions
Wendy | Life at Rossmont
Marjorie | The Writer's Tool
Ramona | Create With Joy
Sue | Thoughts from Mill Street

Erika | Serenity Reviews
Madilyn | The Literary Maidens
Vera | Luxury Reading
Taylor | Taylor Reid Reads and Breathes
Andi | Radiant Light


Keepers of the Covenant is the second in THE RESTORATION CHRONICLES SERIES and within a few pages readers will understand why Lynn Austin is considered one of Christian fiction's best authors.  Austin has brought the Old Testament scriptures of the Jewish exiles in Babylonia to life.  When the people receive King Xerxes's decree(crafted by Haman's hand) that on a certain day all Jews are to be wiped out, they feel abandoned by God and hopeless.  When a second decree comes months later saying that the Jewish people may defend themselves, they see that Haman has been replaced by Mordecai, a name they recognize as being Jewish.  Plus they hear rumors that the king has married a Jewish woman. Perhaps God is keeping his promises.  We will recognize this as the story of Esther and her uncle, but what Austin writes is an imagining of how the people are affected by the two decrees.  I especially liked the inclusion of Amina and Sayfah, two Gentile girls whose family has been killed in the bloodshed that occurs on the thirteenth day of Adar.  Both girls, but especially Amina who had a physical deformity, had been mistreated by their father.  Left homeless and vulnerable,   kind grandmotherly Hodaya, herself a Gentile who married into the Jewish faith, takes the girls in and lavishes them with acceptance and love.  Their stories, along with those of Ezra, Devorah, and Reuben bring ancient times to life.  I received a copy of this title from Litfuse for review purposes.  All opinions are mine.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Deceived by Irene Hannon

DeceivedThe death of her husband and young son in a boating accident three years earlier had plummeted Kate Marshall into a depression, Unable to understand why her son's body is never found but his little life jacket is found near the overturned boat, she numbs her pain with too many pills.  Finally, able to pull herself up and rebuild her life as a career counselor to abused women, Kate moves from New York to St. Louis.New friends and a new church help her begin again, until the day she hears a young boy's voice on the escalator and sees  straw blond hair so like her own..  In an instant she calls Kevin's name and the boy turns toward her voice, and then disappears into a crowded store hustled along with by the man at his side. While mall security and local police assume Kate is just seeing what she'd like to believe is her son, the still grieving mother cannot let the sighting go.

Connor Sullivan, former Secret Service agent turned PI, doesn't seem much merit in Kate's case, but her earnest plea and her beauty cause him to start a preliminary investigation.  Soon it appears Kate might be right, her son might be alive.  But how would a boating accident in upper New York state end with the little boy being in St. Louis three years later?  Could the boy be in danger?  And what about Kate herself?

From  the first words of the riveting prologue to the ending scenes,Irene Hannon keeps the suspense high in this novel, mixing it with just enough romance to satisfy those readers expecting both in their novels.  I liked that this tale did not bounce back and forth across settings and wild chases. Instead, little bits of new information build, never enough to give us a complete picture, but enough to stir apprehension and unease.  Despite its length at just under 400 pages, I rushed through this puzzling tale, wanting to make my way to the conclusion.  I received a copy of DECEIVED from Revell Publishing for review purposes.