Monday, February 27, 2012

Pieces of Light by Julie Cave: Book Review

"Pieces of Light" by Julie Cave is the first book I have read  by this author, but I plan to be sure to read more of her works.  She has written an intense, multilayer  story from a completely Christian worldview.  Not just "Christian" in name only.  She lays the truth out there for all.  Without being too heavy weight or over bearing, Ms. Cave lets her readers experience the love of God through her main character, Dinah.

Dinah is a new Christian but she has no fear when she shares her faith with her co-workers or with her arch-enemy.    

This is a mystery novel replete with suspenseful moments and scenes.  There are several story lines running through the book but they culminate nicely in an amazing conclusion.

Society's ills are exposed in their ugly "here and now" as well as the ramification on lives and future events.  Spousal and child abuse.  Hypocrisy.   

Life is full of evil, good, mystery, solution, and yes, romance.  When Dinah encounters a potential new romantic interest in her life, she must face her past life and how it will impact a new relationship.  She must also fact the fact that she must share her faith with her new romantic interest even if it means they can not continue to pursue the relationship. 

"Pieces of Light" is a very well written and interesting mystery.  I can highly recommend it to the Christian reader as well as the non-Christian reader.  You will come to grips with the work of those who keep us save in our society as well as the difficult topic of abuse.

Author: Julie Cave credits her parents for introducing her to books at a young age, which fostered an enduring passion for reading and writing. As a child, her favourite authors were Enid Blyton and C.S. Lewis and it wasn’t long before she began copying them, writing short stories for anyone who would read them.

At fifteen, two things happened which would shape her future: she heard a creation science speaker at her church which cemented her faith in God; and she finished her second novel-length story and realised she had fallen in love with writing novels.

The following is an excerpt written by Ken Ham in his blog, in February 2010:
“Through the genre of a thrilling, “nail-biting” mystery book (that I think you won’t be able to put down), talented fiction writer Julie Cave has written a great novel. It will help fiction fans everywhere engage with the foundational importance of the biblical authority message we give—and its impact on the culture.”

I was provided a complimentary copy of "Pieces of Light" by New Leaf Publishing Group and Master Books in order to review the book.  I was not required to render a positive review.  All opinions expressed are my own.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

"The World of Animals" by Martin Walters & Jinny Johnson: Book Review

  • Up-to date information on endangered species and environments
  •  Obscure facts and animal record
  • Amazing comparisons

The World of Animals investigates and describes the anatomy, behavior, and habitats of over 1,000 animals. From microscopic worms and insects to reptiles, birds, and mammals, this book will provide children with an insight into the incredible range of life in God’s wonderful world. This comprehensive but easy-to-use book boasts a wide range of features to help bring its readers face-to-face with the science and beauty of the living world.

I consider this book suitable to be used for grades 1-6 in the homeschool,  as a supplemental science book in a standard or Christian school, or as a book that is generally used to enhance the learning of all ages of children in the home.

While it begins with acknowledging that "In the beginning God created.....," continues with the impact of the world wide flood that took place during the days of Noah, and states that God made or created the various features of each creature.  Obviously, this is a Christian, Bible based book.  However, it is also a good, standard text with excellent illustrations.

The sections begin with the simplest of living "animals and builds each section on the complexity and diversity of the creatures.  It concludes with the section on mammals with the Chimpanzee being the final animal shown. 

There is a good glossary and index at the back of the book to enable study or research of particulars.

At $24.99 this is a good addition to compliment the science library of homes and schools.  I highly recommend ""The World of Animals" (Fascinating facts about the world of animals).  Publisher  Master Books http://masterbooks.netISBN:  978-0-89051-617-1  Category  Science/Reference and Science/General

I was provided a complimentary copy of "The World of Animals" by publisher Master Books in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions expressed are my own.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

"An Amish Family Reunion" by Mary Ellis: Book Review

Author, Mary Ellis, has written another in the Amish Miller family series.  In "An Amish Family Reunion," the matriarch of the Miller Family, Julia, misses her family that has scattered and which she rarely sees.  So she decides to call for a month long family reunion.

In the family is shy Phoebe, Julia's niece, who doesn't like to cook, clean, laundry or be a typically Amish female.  She is an artist and loves to use her God-given talent to draw.  Phoebe meets Eli Riehl, who lives on a nearby farm and is also Amish.  Eli is also shy and also not typically Amish because he is very talented with words and has an incredible talent to spin tales.  So the author and the artist meet, and the outcome is a dream of writing and illustrating a children's book.

The story line develops with varying emotional and physical twists and turns for the entire extended Miller family. Conflicts and resolution, frustrations and dreams shared, disappointments and anger.

Ms.  Ellis has again written an engaging story of life amongst the Amish and their gentle yet hard-working lives.  She brings us descriptions of their very human traits such as desire, anger, frustration, and fear showing us that though different from what they call the Englisher world by choice they are very much alike their counter parts in the Englisher world.

ISBN 978-0-7369-4487-8

I was given a copy of "An Amish Family Reunion" by author, Mary Ellis.  I have provided a non-solicited honest review of this book.

Monday, February 20, 2012

A Darkly Hidden Truth by Donna Fletcher Crow: Book Review

Donna Fletcher Crow has written a book filled with liturgy, iconography, and medieval history while pursing a modern day mystery dealing with theft, murder, and romance.

The story line follows Fleicity and Anthony who are in the contemplation  process of pursing a life in "the church" while finding themselves chasing thieves of church icons.  They also are finding that in spite of their possible calling to "the church" they are drawn romantically to one another.  This poses very conflicting emotions in the two.

I was not prepared for a book so steeped with high-church Anglican or either Catholic church processes, Church of England history, saints, religious icons, monasteries, and nunneries.  Of these the book overflows.  The author's immersion of the story with this information and dialogue so overshadowed the modern day story that I did not enjoy the book, even though I am a history buff, as I would normally enjoy a historical novel.  However, as Christians we do need to realize and accept the role the early Church in Wales and Britain played in the spread of Christianity to those areas and that from those seeds came protestant, reformed, and other denominations.

It is quite obvious that Donna Crow is very knowledgeable of British and early Church history in Britain as the story is filled with details only an author who is personally knowledgeable of or who has thoroughly researched the material would be able to provide.  The story also takes place during Holy Week and is replete with details surrounding the activities in High Anglican Church practices as well as Roman Catholic services.

Ms. Crow delves into the venerated life of Julian of Norwich, an Anchoress, who was an early female mystic in England and a strong proponent of "Our Savior ... is our mother." (page 82) So contrary is this idea of Christ being our mother to my Christian beliefs that it was an instant put off.*

I really did like Felicity and Anthony as characters and felt that they were developed extremely well by Ms. Crow and that they were truly "faithful" in their beliefs and life.  Except for my personal exception to the strong Anglican and/or Catholic nature of the book, I think the author has a very well-written and interesting story plot that will appeal to some whereas not to others.

Research:  Ms. Crow fully researches each of her books.  Here is a link to her website with pictures and information regarding her research for "A Darkly Hidden Truth." 

Donna Fletcher Crow:  Short Biography: Donna Fletcher Crow is author of more than thirty-five novels. She has twice won first place in the Historical Fiction category from the National Association of Press Women, and has also been a finalist for "Best Inspirational Novel" from the Romance Writers of America. She is a member of The Arts Centre Group, and Sisters in Crime. 

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Kregel Publishers for the purpose of a review and was under no obligation to render a positive review.

Publisher:  MonarchBooks  ISBN:  978-0-85721-050-0

*For further reading on the controversial, in my opinion, Julian of Norwich see:

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Not This Time by Vicki Hinze: Book Review

Terrorist!  Suspense!  Intrigue! 
All packed into this book. 
The following is from the author's website for "Not This time."
Sara and Beth built a multi-million dollar business and act as anti-terrorism consultants.  Now their business and friendship are strained because Beth is leery of Sara’s husband.  When he goes missing and is verified kidnapped, authorities consider Beth their prime suspect.

Then their hometown, Seagrove Village, Florida, is rocked by an act of terrorism, and Beth doesn’t know who to trust. Someone close to her is connected to the attack, but who?
As I began reading the book, I thought, "Boy, they are jumping in with both feet right at the start."  Then characters were introduced one after another until it got a bit confusing and tangled.  Finally, I got the characters straight in my head and the story began to unfold with more sense to me. This is a complicated tale of suspense.

Unidentifiable secret agencies at work clandestinely while local law enforcement works with homeland security to get to the bottom of the mysteries that revolve around this community and especially around Sara and Beth.  Read Chapter One

Meet Vicki Hinze here:  Author Bio   and visit her website here:  Author's Site
  • Buy Now!   Note: If you purchase by utilizing the "Buy Now" link above, no proceeds from the sale go to Chat With Vera.

 FTC disclaimer: "I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review." Opinions expressed are my own and a positive review was not required.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Help! I'm broke and need to feed my family & I don't know how to cook!

A cry for help was raised by a friend on an online forum. Here is my simple reply for frugal eating that this wife and mother could use even though she doesn't know much about cooking.

Hi Friend- Here are some things to keep in mind.
  • Whenever you use Ramen noodles or any type of super saturated "sodium" loaded food, you risk your blood pressure. So once in awhile is o.k. Constant is not. Unless of course there is no money and it is the only food available (short term, hopefully).
  • Anytime you cook in water, you save that water. There are nutrients in it that flavor, enrich, and help thicken your next dish. Example: cooking pasta? Drain it but save the liquid. It is good in soup. If cooking veggies, you eat the veggies, but have some of the seasoned liquid left, save it (freeze in a container that you add to). This is great in soups, too. Before you know it, you'll have a rich soup base and you can add a trifle of veggies or meat and have a bang up good soup for dinner.
  • When you roast any meat, save all the drippings. These make wonderful gravies. You don't need to buy the kind in a jar, make your own and use it in Shepherd's pie.  Or you can make a nice gravy (remember you saved water you cooked veggies or pasta in- use it, too) and add a bit of hamburger to it.  Serve it over rice, pasta, or toasted bread.
  • You can brown hamburger or ground turkey and use it in lots of ways. Cook up a big package and freeze it in portions for dishes and save your time browning it.
  • When you make sauces for your browned, ground meat, you can use some of the water in which you cooked pasta, veggies, etc. as the liquid. This enriches it so that you have more nutrients.
  • When you make your Shepherd's pie, don't worry if you don't have the exact ingredients. Make do! You can use whatever veggies you have. Instead of green bean, use pinto beans, or white beans, or whatever. Instead of mashed potatoes on top, make a "drop biscuit" and spoon it over the top.
  • You can have the sauce in the Shepherd's pie a red (tomato) sauce that you make out of spaghetti sauce or tomato soup or any combination of "red" sauce stuff you happen to have on hand. The name of the game is make do and use it all up.
  • Don't throw anything out unless you have allowed it to spoil. Remember that wrinkly carrots, potatoes, apples, peaches, etc. are still usable. Just don't use them if they have grown stinky or brown inside.
  • I hope some of this helps. Just keep in mind, it doesn't have to be perfect. Food is edible if not too salty, and not spoiled. So go for it and enjoy learning to serve nutritious meals to your family on a tight budget.
Oh yes, I don't know if you eat grits or not. Us'ens in the South does. So what you do is cook up a pot of grits, and stir in as much good sharp cheddar cheese as possible with a bit of butter. Cook up a few apples (leave peel on, get seed portion out, and cut apple in bite size pieces) in a little (very little) water and a little sugar (and cinnamon if you like). This makes a decent supper on a winter night. Cheese grits and stewed apples. I cook my apples in a skillet with the lid on it and cook 'em down kind of low to where there isn't much liquid in the skillet. In this supper you have a grain (grits is corn), a protein - cheese, and a fruit/vegetable in the apples.

So get cooking folks. You don't need special recipes and ingredients. You just need to take what you have on hand or what you can afford to buy and put it together in a creative and simple way.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Bombus: Created Just Like You and Me! by Elsie Larson: Book Review

"Created Just Like You and Me!" is the first book about Bombus the Bumblebee.  Beautifully illustrated by David Haidle and Elizabeth Haidle, the little book brings you into the "mind" of a humble bumblebee and you get to learn a lot while you're there.

It begins with God's creation and there is "Bombus."  Created by God.  But Bombus has a problem with himself and his "peers."  He is made fun of because of his bumbling way of flying.  He is "told" by the honeybees that he really isn't flying and that he can't fly.  Well, at that point Bombus flat-out stops flying.

Now how Bombus actually gets his wings going again and gets back into the air is a delight for the reader.  Along the way as you're reading about Bombus, you'll learn more about bumblebees. 
Did you realize that Bombus is the scientific name for the bumblebee?
I recommend the book for young readers of all ages and their leaders.  This is a good "peer" influence lesson, Bible lesson, and scientific lesson all in one beautiful book.

I was provided a complimentary copy of Bombus: Created Just Like You and Me! by Master Books-New Leaf Publishers in exchange for an honest review.

ISBN: 0-89051-177-2

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

"Playtime Manners for Little Monkeys" by Susie Lee Jin: Children's Book Review

It is always a pleasure to have in my hands a book that a little child will hold and love.  When the impressionable mind and heart of a child latches onto a colorful, fist sized treasure that he can carry around with him as he toddles throughout his unfolding life, and when that treasure can engage him with simple yet cute pictures, then we are ready to see a mind and heart embark on a learning adventure.

"Playtime Manners for Little Monkeys," text and illustrations by Susie Lee Jin, is a small board book that takes the monkeys through a playdate when they learn to play together nicely and to share.  Though published by a Christian publishing house, there is no Scripture or Bible lesson involved in the book.  Just a good, simple lesson in manners.

At roughly $5, you can afford to let you little one be a bit messy with this one and not worry if it gets tattered in the effort of learning.

I was provided a complimentary copy of Playtime Manners for Little Monkeys by Harvest House Publishers in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, February 6, 2012

"Beyond Molasses Creek" by Nicole Seitz: Book Review

There are three key characters in the book representing three cultures: 
  1. Ally has lived a world-wide roving, unsettled, hard life without finding a "perch" or a love, 
  2. Vesey an old neighbor who lived across Molasses Creek from Ally who was a true friend, and
  3. Sunila in Nepal.  
Ally and Vesey grew up in the deep South around 1960 - the time of desegregation.  Theirs was a friendship much frowned upon because Ally was from a privileged white family and Vesey was from a poor black family.

The novel addresses hard subjects and is not one I would recommend for youth simply because of the issues involved.  It is for mature readers.  The book is actually three stories, two generations, three cultures intertwined. 

The book is written by an excellent story teller and her wordsmithing is delightful - a real pleasure to read.  The character development is good.  The story jumps from time line to time line - 1960's to current.  The  characters speak in first person about themselves and their lives.  To some this is confusing, I find it readable and a writing ploy used successfully by many writers. 

The book is published by Christian publishing house, Thomas Nelson.  However, I see very little of Christianity woven into the story.  There is mention, however,  of "gods" and beliefs.  And Vesey "believes" in heaven, Jesus, etc.  There is a glimmer of hope for the reader that Amy is drawing toward belief in God, heaven, and possibility of believing with faith as Vesey did.

This story of a woman whose life was without anchor or established roots is sad.  She is a bit younger in the book than I am, and I grieve that she lived such an unsettled life.

Character #3:  Sunila - now who in the world is this woman from Nepal and how is she connected?  This part of the story is interesting, but somewhat farfetched in the connection with Ally and Molasses Creek.  Sunila is a character both sweet, sad, and seeking.  Watch her develop!

Nicole Seitz is the author of several critically acclaimed novels - The Inheritance of Beauty, Saving Cicadas, A Hundred Years of Happiness, Trouble the Water, and The Spirit of Sweetgrass. She is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's School of Journalism, and also has a degree in Illustration from Savannah College of Art & Design.
Her paintings are featured on the covers of her books.

Publisher:  Thomas Nelson  ISBN:  9781595545053
I was provided a complimentary copy of Beyond Molasses Creek by Litfuse Publicity Group in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

"Bombus Finds a Friend" by Elsie Larson: Children's Book Review

Bombus, a bumble bee, teaches children the importance of being honest and to help and respect friends.

Sometimes just finding a friend can be a very painful experience for a child.  Bombus Finds a Friend helps children to understand that seeking friends and the way to have a friend is not so hard after all.

This engaging and beautifully illustrated tale for children will be enjoyed by the child and also by those who read to the children because we all need friends and we need to learn the lessons taught in this beautiful book.

Bombus is a chubby bumble bee (as we know, bumble bees are round and chubby) and his flight to find a friend teaches him, as well as those reading the book, how important it is to be honest, to respect one's friends, and to also be truthful in one's relationships.

Parents or teacher will find the activity guide and science facts wonderful tools to assist in instructing (in a gentle and fun way) the child.  I found it great that the author inserted the entomological name for each of the insect/characters as Bombus meets them.  For example: 
"Can't you see this is a Philaenus Spumarius*(phil-a'-nus spu-mar'-e-us) village?"  Out of a nest of foamy bubbles popped the worried face of a small green bug." 
(Below the paragraph was more information what stated: *from scientific name for spittle bugs - Order Homoptera.  Family Cercopidae, Genus Philaenus, species spumarius.)
The creator of Bombus also has book 1 (this is book 2) and there is also a Bombus Creativity Book with 40 pages of creative activities to enhance the storybooks.

I recommend these books to the home school parent, for schools, or simply for any parent that wants to find a really good book to read to their child.  Recommended for ages 6-10.
ISBN-13: 9780890512319  Publisher: New Leaf Publishing Group, Master Books

I was provided a complimentary copy of this book from New Leaf Publishing Group, Master Books,  in order to provide a review.  I was not required to submit a positive review.