Monday, November 10, 2014

Review of If You Follow Me by Pam Rhodes

This post may contain affiliate links. If you purchase through these links, you may be helping to support a voracious curriculum buying habit. Be warned. And thank you for clicking through to purchase.

Last year I reviewed Casting the Net by Pam Rhodes, a novel featuring a young curate at a parish church is a small English countryside village. Despite some doctrinal disagreements, I quite enjoyed the read. So I was excited to read the next in the series- If You Follow Me.


In this installment, Neil- the curate- has just announced his engagement to Claire (who is a professed atheist but has slowly become closer to Neil's faith.) At their engagement party, Claire's first love and father of her child walks in after six years of living far away in Australia. Neil and Claire handle this challenge to their relationship even as Neil deals with a jealous former girlfriend, and all of the challenges of being curate of a village church.

I love the setting of the quaint, country village. The characters are charming, and the author did a good job helping me get to know them as I read. The events of the story are sometimes touching and sometimes humorous. And, buried beneath, there's quite a lot to be learned about relationships and human behavior.

As with the first book (which was actually the 2nd in the series), there were quite a few doctrinal issues that I had. However, I was able to enjoy it as a fun and sweet read.

I give this one five stars and a PG for content. You can find it on the Kregel website here. Or you can find it on Amazon here.



Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are entirely my own, and I was not compensated in any other way.

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Sunday, November 2, 2014

Review of Their Name Is Today by Johann Arnold

This post may contain affiliate links. If you purchase through these links, you may be helping to support a voracious curriculum buying habit. Be warned. And thank you for clicking through to purchase.

Recently I received the book Their Name is Today by Johann Arnold for review. When I was introduced to the book and read the synopsis, I was quite interested. As I read, I formed a different opinion. Here are my thoughts.

From the book's description:

Despite a perfect storm of hostile forces that threaten to deny children a healthy, happy childhood, courageous parents and teachers can turn the tide. Yes, we can reclaim childhood, says Johann Christoph Arnold, whose books have helped more than a million readers through the challenges of education and family life. In Their Name Is Today, he highlights drastic changes in the way our society treats children. But he also brings together the voices of dedicated parents and educators who are finding creative ways to give children the time and space they need to grow. Cutting through the noise of conflicting opinions, Arnold takes us to the heart of education and parenting by defending every child’s right to the joy and wonder of childhood.

And information about the book's author:

A noted speaker and writer on marriage, parenting, and end-of-life issues, Arnold is a senior pastor of the Bruderhof, a movement of Christian communities. With his wife, Verena, he has counseled thousands of individuals and families over the last forty years, as well as serving as an advisor at several innovative private schools. Arnold’s message has been shaped by encounters with great peacemakers such as Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Teresa, Dorothy Day, Cėsar Chavez, and John Paul II. Born in Great Britain in 1940 to German refugees, Arnold spent his boyhood years in South America, where his parents found asylum during the war; he immigrated to the US in 1955. He and his wife have eight children, forty-four grandchildren, and one great-grandchild. They live in upstate New York.

I was quite interested after reading this because I have been an educator in private and public schools, and I'm currently home educating my own children. As a teacher, children's volunteer at church, and a mom, I can definitely see the problem described in the book's synopsis. I see that childhood is often lost in the shuffle of busyness and in the things that some young children are exposed to. But as I read the book, I found myself disagreeing with some of the opinions of the author.

The title of the book comes from a quote by Gabriela Mistral, a Nobel Laureate:
“We are guilty of many errors and many faults, but our worst crime is abandoning the children, neglecting the fountain of life. Many of the things we need can wait. The child cannot. Right now is the time his bones are being formed, his blood is being made, and his senses are being developed. To him we cannot answer ‘Tomorrow,’ his name is today.” 

The book is based on a previous book by this author- published in 2000. The information has been revised to reflect current trends and information. Throughout the book, Johann Arnold looks at why childhood is important and what things in our culture reflect the devaluation of childhood. Using stories of real families and his own personal experience, he cites problems that prevent children from enjoying and thriving in childhood- unreasonable expectations, ever present screens and media, materialism. And then he gives some suggestions for parents and for educators to bring back childhood.

There were some points in the book that I agreed with.
  • Children do suffer from growing up too soon due to unreasonable expectations, exposure to media, materialism and other factors.
  • Our society, as a whole,  does not value childhood and children.
  • As parents we can value our children by the way that we act towards them and by the behaviors that we model.
I was disappointed in some things also.
  • After reading that the author was a pastor, I expected a different focus in the book. I don't believe that issues with our children can be addressed in a purely behavioral manner. It isn't enough to tell parents and teachers to change what they do. If our hearts and the hearts of our culture aren't changed, behavioral changes won't mean much. There was nothing here about the need of ourselves and our culture for a Christian worldview and Christlike thinking.
  • The author clearly was of a pacifist mindset and in several places indicated that the violence of soldiers in battle was equivalent to senseless violence. I understand that this can be the view of some, but because I don't hold the same view, it was difficult for me to relate to those parts of the book.
  • The author is also clearly against corporal punishment, closely associating with cruelty. Again, I understand this is the opinion of some; but it isn't my opinion; and it makes it difficult for me to agree.
Overall, I think there were some good points made by the author, but there were also quite a few things that I didn't agree with. If you are interested in checking it out, you can enter the giveaway below.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are entirely my own, and I was not compensated in any other way.

**Giveaway: One copy of Their Name is Today by Johann Arnold; ends on Friday, Nov.7, 2014

"Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.
 Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”



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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Review of The Daughter of Highland Hall by Carrie Turansky

This post may contain affiliate links. If you purchase through these links, you may be helping to support a voracious curriculum buying habit. Be warned. And thank you for clicking through to purchase.

Last year I was able to review The Governess of Highland Hall, a Christian fiction novel by Carrie Turansky. I really enjoyed it, and I was very excited to have the opportunity to review the second book in the series- The Daughter of Highland Hall.


The Daughter of Highland Hall is the second in the Edwardian Brides series. In this installment, Kate is entering London society. She is going through the traditional "coming out" where she'll meet only the best of society in the hopes of finding a husband who is worthy of her. As she faces a scandal that limits her opportunities in society, she also begins to be more open to the leading of God in her life. And she realizes the joy of serving London't poor along with medical student Jon Foster.

The setting of these novels is very interesting. Living in modern times, it's hard to imagine the pressure that Kate is under to wear the right thing, wear her hair the right way, meet the right people. But at the time, this "coming out" was so important to families of importance.

The character development was good. I felt as if I got to know Kate better. (She featured in the first book in the series but not prominently.) The setting and time period are interesting.

There isn't anything particularly deep here, and occasionally the action didn't flow, and it seemed a little stilted. But it was a light, enjoyable read. And I did enjoy following some of the characters I had met in the first book.

Although the books are a series, they can be read independently. They are stand alone stories.

I give this one 4 stars and a G rating for content.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are entirely my own, and I didn't received any further compensation.

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Review of Hello From the Gillespies by Monica McInerney

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Hello From the Gillespies from Monica McInerney is a fiction novel set in Australia. Angela is the mother of four children, three grown but coming back home after romantic and financial failures and one a ten year old boy with a large imagination. When Angela prepares the annual family Christmas letter, she takes a deep breath and writes the truth for a change. She never intends to send the letter that details the failures of her adult children, the oddity of her young son, and the growing distance in her relationship with her husband. But when disaster strikes, the letter is emailed inadvertently. The family struggles with the reactions of their family and friends. And they are forced to take an honest look at their family and personal lives.


I really enjoyed this read. As someone who often thinks that Christmas letters sound too good to be true, I found humor in Angela's honesty about her family- even though she didn't intend to share it. There was drama. There was humor. There were relationship issues. Hello From the Gillespies had it all.

I really loved the setting, also. An Outback station in Australia- somewhere I'd love to visit- is the home of the Gillespie family. There is description about this sometimes beautiful, sometimes harsh setting, adding depth to the story.

The characters are well developed. Although Angela is, perhaps, the main character, we really get to know the whole family well as their story unfolds. I felt as if I got to know all of them to some extent.

Although I often review Christian fiction, this is a general fiction novel. There is occasional language- although not much- and reference to some intimate scenes- although not much description.

This one is a good read, and I give it a 5 star rating and an R for content.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are entirely my own, and I was not compensated in any other way.

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Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Review of Big Book Of Quizzes From Faithgirlz

This post may contain affiliate links. If you purchase through these links, you may be helping to support a voracious curriculum buying habit. Be warned. And thank you for clicking through to purchase.

From the time my oldest daughter was a "tween" she's enjoyed the little quizzes that are geared for tween and teen girls and often found in books or popular magazines or on social media. Many of them are cute, and I understand why it's fun for the girls to do it and to ask the questions of their friends. But some of these little quizzes have content that isn't appropriate. Using inappropriate language or crude humor or encouraging sarcastic, unkind comments, some of them are not just good clean fun.

Enter the Big Book of Quizzes: Fun, Quirky Questions for You and Your Friends from Faithgirlz. Published by Zonderkidz (the children's branch of the Christian publisher Zondervan), this is a quiz book that I feel good about letting the girls use. From the book's description:

Welcome to the world of, well, you! The Faithgirlz! Big Book of Quizzes offers more than twenty quizzes delve into school, friends, faith, family, guys, and questions “All-About-You.” Take the quizzes on your own or with friends. Some funny, some thought-provoking, every quiz ends with wide range of answers to help girls think about themselves, get advice on tons of topics, and learn little “who knew?” facts about how they really think and feel—done in a fun format every girl loves.
Girls will love circling questions, asking BFFs for best answers, and LOLing at those “that’s SO me” moments. And, yet, each has a takeaway message that makes the Big Book of Quizzes a super entertaining, relevant, and interactive read for girls ages eight to twelve.

These quizzes are fun and clean. Some are designed to quiz yourself, some to be asked with your friends, and there's a whole chapter of quizzes girls can use to get to know their families well.

One thing that I particularly like is that all of the quizzes and answer sections are written from a distinctly Christian worldview, encouraging girls to live in a Christlike manner in their life and relationships. And the answer sections for each quiz give some tips for how to have a more full life by following God's will. There are Scripture references and examples from Scripture included.

This is a totally fun book and won't feel "preachy" to girls at all. But it will encourage them to live as Faithgirlz!

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are entirely my own, and I was not compensated in any way.

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Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Review of Beside Bethesda: a 31 Day Devotional by Joni Eareckson Tada

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In the New Testament Jesus came upon a man who was lying by the pool of Bethesda. At occasional times, angels stirred the pool and any who went into it were healed. This man was paralyzed, however, so he never made it into the water. When Jesus came by he asked the man if he wanted healing. And Jesus answered the man's cry and healed him.



Beside Bethesda: 31 Days Toward Deeper Healing is a thirty-one day devotional from Joni Eareckson Tada. As a woman paralyzed in an accident, she is familiar with a cry to God for healing. From the book's description:

Each day has a devotional reading, a few passages of Scripture, and a challenge/application for the day. Joni relates personal stories as she comforts and encourages in each day's reading.

I'm always blessed when I read Joni Eareckson Tada. When I realize what she's been through but see the joy and peace she has in Christ, I am encouraged and inspired. This devotional is another inspiring read.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are entirely my own, and I was not compensated in any other way.

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Review of Strange Glory by Charles Marsh

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I've always been intrigued by the story of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He was a German pastor who opposed the cruelty of the Nazis during World War 2. He spoke out against the churches that just went along with them. Because of his stance he was constantly ostracized and he was eventually imprisoned and executed for conspiracy against Hitler.


This story of Bonhoeffer's life- Strange Glory: A Life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer - written by Charles Marsh, is a very detailed, very complete recounting. With excellent documentation and careful research, Marsh has written a very complete accounting of Bonhoeffer's life.

Although I've read other books about Bonhoeffer, this was one of the most detailed and descriptive. Marsh doesn't romanticize Bonhoeffer but portrays him carefully and gives us as readers insight into his determination to stand against the prevailing thought of the German church during the war.

For more information, I found an interesting interview with Charles Marsh about the book here.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are entirely my own, and I was not compensated in any other way.


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