Sunday, March 31, 2013

"A Bride's Dilemma in Friendship, Tennessee" by Diana Lesire Brandmeyer

About the book: Journey to Tennessee at the end of the Civil War. Heaven Wharton has been left in charge of her father’s farm, but weeks of facing marauders has finally taken its toll. Meaning to fire into the air, she accidently shoots a man charging the house. Shocked, she and her sister Angel drag the semi-conscious man into the house and nurse him back to health. As Travis recovers he finds his heart turning to the possibilities of love. But can he and Heaven learn to accept God’s plan, however it unfolds? (

Review: A delightful read.  I found this book very engaging, entertaining, and easy to read.  The author has given us characters that we can relate to and cheer on in their quest to find the right answers for their situation and then follow through with doing the right thing while seeking God's ultimate direction.  The author's descriptions easily allowed me to visualize the story and I found myself smiling quite often.  "A Bride's Dilemma" is well suited for middle school and older readers. 

DISCLOSURE: A copy of this book was given to the library by a friend. Opinions expressed are solely those of the reviewer.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Awesome Science video series: Explore Yosemite and Zion National Parks, Explore Mount St. Helens, and Explore John Day Fossil Beds (Critique)

Critique of the Awesome Science video:
Explore Yosemite and Zion National Parks

This DVD is full of information about the amazing beauty of both Yosemite National Park and Zion National Park.  Geologic phenomena are discussed and the evolutionary and creationist viewpoints are clearly contrasted.  The accompanying study guide says it best:  “Secular scientists have over 60 different explanations for how the many ice ages may have formed, but astute researchers recognize that the conditions right after the global Flood are the best model to explain the one, major Ice Age.”

Although the information is great, and probably best suited to high school students, the young home-schooled narrator, Noah Justice, tends to put off his audience.  He talks constantly at such a high level of energy, emphasizing every word with no real break, that the audience feels it is being “shouted” at.  He also seems a bit young and his manner tends to alienate the older students.  I showed this video to my 9th graders and they said that the video seemed longer than 30 minutes. 
Critique of the Awesome Science video:
Explore Mount St. Helens

The study guide to this video tells its readers:  “It doesn’t take millions of years to form canyons, stratified layers, and petrified forests.  It can happen in only days, weeks and months, as we saw with the massive eruption of Mount St. Helens.”  This video very capably illustrates what a wonderful opportunity the eruption of Mount St. Helens was to scientists who wanted to observe first hand the forming of fossil fuels and the carving of canyons.   Again, the evolutionary and creationist models were clearly contrasted. 

Although the information is helpful, and probably best suited to high school students, the young home-schooled narrator, Noah Justice, tends to put off his audience.  He talks constantly at such a high level of energy, emphasizing every word with no real break, that the audience feels it is being “shouted” at.  He also seems a bit young and his manner tends to alienate the older students. But if you can get past the narrator, the video is well worth watching.

Critique of the Awesome Science video:
Explore John Day Fossil Beds

The study guide to this video tells its readers:  “Secular scientists say that thousands of feet of basalt and ash layers, along with the erosion which carved them out, took many millions of years to form.  As we look at the evidence, another explanation is possible – they were laid down and carved quickly as a result of the global Flood.”  What the audience will see are stunning rock layers in eastern Oregon and what they will hear is a clear explanation of the evolutionary vs. creationist viewpoints of how these beautiful monuments were formed.

Although the information is excellent, and probably best suited to high school students, the young home-schooled narrator, Noah Justice, tends to put off his audience.  He talks constantly at such a high level of energy, emphasizing every word with no real break, that the audience feels it is being “shouted” at.  He also seems a bit young and his manner tends to alienate the older students. But if you can get past the narrator, the video is well work watching.
Marty Andersen
Science Teacher, Alamance Christian School
DISCLOSURE: A complimentary copy of each video was provided by New Leaf Publishing Group in exchange for our honest review. Opinions expressed are solely those of the reviewer.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

"A Sound Among the Trees" by Susan Meissner

About the book: As a young bride, Susannah Page was rumored to be a Civil War spy for the North, a traitor to her Virginian roots. Her great-granddaughter Adelaide, the current matriarch of Holly Oak, doesn’t believe that Susannah’s ghost haunts the antebellum mansion looking for a pardon, but rather the house itself bears a grudge toward its tragic past.

When Marielle Bishop marries into the family and is transplanted from the arid west to her husband’s home, it isn’t long before she is led to believe that the house she just settled into brings misfortune to the women who live there.

With Adelaide’s richly peppered superstitions and deep family roots at stake, Marielle must sort out the truth about Susannah Page and Holly Oak— and make peace with the sacrifices she has made for love.
Review: This is the second book I have read by this author and I enjoyed this particular book much better than the first one I read ("The Girl in the Glass").  Set in modern day, "A Sound Among the Trees" is a story about one family's history and how many believe the house, "Holly Oak," is haunted by its ancestor, Susannah Page who was rumored to be a Civil War spy for the North and a traitor.  Her great-granddaughter Adelaide, the current matriarch of Holly Oak, doesn't believe that Susannah's ghost haunts the mansion. 

When Marielle Bishop marries into the family and moves into Holly Oak with her new husband Carson and his two children (Hudson & Brette), she soon begins to believe that there may just be some truth to the story that the house is haunted.  Carson's former wife Sara was Adelaide's granddaughter and she passed away while living at Holly Oak.  It seems that misfortune has fallen to several of the women who have lived at Holly Oak and Marielle begins to wonder if she might be in for the same fate.

"A Sound Among the Trees" is well written and easily draws you into the characters.  I particularly enjoyed the section of the book that dealt primarily with Susannah Page and her life during the Civil War.  The author painted a very real picture of how a young woman may have felt during this period of history and the suffering many endured.
I'm most glad that I gave this author a second chance and read "A Sound Among the Trees." (rev. P.Howard) 
DISCLOSURE: A complimentary copy of A Sound Among the Trees was provided by the publisher Waterbrook Multnomah through its blogger review program Blogging For Books in exchange for our honest review. Opinions expressed are solely those of the reviewer.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

"About Insects: A Guide for Children" by Cathryn Sill and Illustrated by John Sill

ISBN-13: 9781561452071
Publisher: Peachtree Publishers, Ltd.
“About Insects: A Guide for Children” by Cathryn Sill.  This book is one of a series of books that Cathryn Sill has done.  I love them because of the simple informative text and the captivating illustrations by John Sill.  These books are loved by primary children for the life like depiction in the illustrations. The illustrator clearly pictures the insects in life like situations that are captivating for all to look at.

I also believe these books can be helpful to middle grade students for the information contained.  I especially like the section in the back of the book that gives more detailed information and which could be used by parents when discussing the book or by older readers doing research on this topic.  These books are a great addition to any library. (reviewed by Claudette Delorge, Librarian)

(Another review) This is a captivating book about insects for primary children. The illustrations are very colorful and enjoyable. The content is very accurate and interesting. I do feel it would captivate the interest of primary children. The afterward section adds a lot of additional information for the adult reader to share. I would recommend this book for primary children studying insects. (reviewed by S.Racke, elementary teacher)

DISCLOSURE: A complimentary copy of About Insects: A Guide for Children was provided by Peachtree Publishers in exchange for our honest review. Opinions expressed are solely those of the reviewer.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

"The 5 Love Languages of Teenagers: the Secret to Loving Teens Effectively" by Gary Chapman

ISBN: 978-0-8024-7313-4
Gary Chapman’s The 5 Love Languages of Teenagers: the Secret to Loving Teens Effectively discusses how parents can help their teenagers make a smooth transition from childhood to adulthood by speaking the correct love language to their teens. Chapman explains that teenagers need to feel connected, accepted, and nurtured. Knowing a teenager’s love language helps to keep his “love tank” filled.
The five love languages are the same as Chapman’s previous books on love languages, but this time he focuses on how teenagers are changing and how they speak a different dialect of their language during this period of seeking independence and self identity. Each love language is explained and illustrated with examples, but the best part is that at the end of each chapter on a particular love language Chapman gives you a list of ideas on how you can implement that love language with your teen. Chapters on anger, dealing with teens when they fail, responsibility, and freedom are also helpful in providing ideas in showing your teenagers that you love them.  Chapman devotes a couple of chapters to single parents and blended families and how parents in these situations can best show love to their teens.
This book is also helpful to teachers in the classroom. Teachers are most effective when students are able to connect with them and when students feel loved. Each of the love languages discussed in Chapman’s book is easily adapted to the classroom. For example, the love language of quality time can be when a teacher takes time to listen and talk to students outside of class or takes extra time helping them with a concept. Another application for teachers is the section on rules which they can use to review what happens in their own classroom. Chapman recommends rules to be few, clear, and fair and that they should have clear and consistent consequences that are administered with love. Because teachers spend so much time with their students, The 5 Love Languages of Teenagers is a beneficial read.(reviewed by E.Myers, Upper School English & Literature Instructor)
DISCLOSURE: Complimentary copies of Gary Chapman's "The 5 Love Languages of Teenagers: the Secret to Loving Teens Effectively" were provided by Moody Publishers for the purpose of review by faculty of ACS.  Opinions expressed are solely those of the reviewer.  The faculty of Alamance Christian School will be studying various "5 Love Languages" books by Gary Chapman in in-service training.

Friday, March 8, 2013

"British Literature: Cultural Influences of Early to Contemporary Voices " by James P. Strobaugh

James P. Strobaugh’s British Literature: Cultural Influences of Early to Contemporary Voices presents the study of British literature in an approachable manner. The textbook is divided into 34 chapters which consist of five lessons each. Each chapter begins with a First Thoughts section to interest the student and then states the objectives of that chapter.  Assignments relate to the lessons and require active reading by completing sections called Concept Builders. Each chapter provides essay options and a test. Each of these activities promotes strong vocabulary and higher thinking skills.

Strobaugh has selected a good cross section of classical British authors and their works, including a number of female authors in each category.   The book begins with “The Seafarer” and ends with T.S. Eliot. Unfortunately the longer works are not in the textbook. He does direct you to several websites where downloads are free. The reading list is extensive and it is suggested to begin reading these works the summer before beginning the course. The assignment reminders are helpful to keep the student on track and prepared for the upcoming lessons.  Although Strobaugh suggests the lessons will take 45-60 minutes daily, the reading load alone may well surpass that. Students will definitely need to be independent and motivated to keep abreast of the work.

The teacher edition is a binder-ready book that includes the teacher/parent with the answers to the concept builders and essay and test questions. The answers to the test questions do not take it to account for grading essay organization, style, or grammar.  It would be nice if the teacher/parent were provided a rubric in which to grade the essays and/or tests.  (Students should already be well versed in essay writing before starting this book because there is not a lot of time spent on the "how to.")The tests integrate higher thinking skills which include critical analysis of a particular poem, comparing poetry from different eras, and character analysis of a work.   Some of the tests, however, sound more like projects:  “In prose or poetry describe a place in nature that is very important to you.”

There is a strong emphasis on integrating Scripture and emphasizing a Biblical worldview in this textbook. If students persevere through this rigorous course of British Literature they will be able to defend their beliefs and will be able to discern the message of authors. If they follow through on the essays and receive adequate feedback, they will become better writers

DISCLOSURE: A complimentary evaluation copy was provided to us by New Leaf Publishing Group in exchange for our honest review. Opinions expressed are solely those of the reviewer.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

"The Yellow Star, The Legend of King Christian X of Denmark" Written by Carmen Agra Deedy Illustrated by Henri Sorensen

Hardcover: $16.95
ISBN: 978-1-56145-208-8
Total Pages: 32
The Danes had a highly - esteemed king ruling over them during the 1940's.  They had no idea how much they might need his wisdom during this era of wickedness.
In the land of Denmark, different religions were respected, as well as different people groups.  Everyone living in Denmark was simply...Danish!  Tall Danes, stout Danes, cranky Danes, even Great Danes!   They were all loyal subjects of their beloved King Christian.  He rode daily along the streets, mingling with his people.  He would do anything for them and they would do anything for him!
When Nazi soldiers gathered at the border of their country, a feeling of foreboding spread like a storm cloud upon their land.  One morning their flag was replaced by a Nazi flag flying at the palace.  The king ordered a soldier to take it down.  The next day, a Nazi captain came to ask who had done that and threatened to hang a flag the next morning.  He claimed he would have anyone shot who removed it.  King Christian bravely stated that he himself would be the next soldier who removed the Nazi flag.   "Then be prepared to shoot the king - for I will be that soldier."  The Nazi flag never appeared there again!
The next threat was more specific.  All Jewish Danes were ordered to wear a yellow star representing the Star of David, the symbol of their faith.  This star would identify them to the Nazi soldiers and probably lead to terrible treatment, maybe even death.  The King of Denmark was greatly disturbed and spent sleepless nights considering what he might do to protect the Jewish Danes.  Early one morning, the King called for his tailor and asked him to make him a yellow star that he might wear to show his support for his people.  He had gotten the idea while studying the starry sky, wondering how he could hide his Jewish friends among the rest of the Danes.  When he rode through the streets the next morning wearing a yellow star, other citizens followed suit, had stars made and wore them.  Soon almost everyone was wearing a yellow star, hiding the true Jews among the non-Jews.  This is a story of bravery and compassion, unity and hope.
The book was written for elementary students as an introduction to the Nazi occupation of Denmark during World War II.  The book is based on a legend, but more interesting are the true facts about Denmark during the war.  Be sure to read the Author's Note at the end of the book.  The beloved king of Denmark did indeed ride unescorted through the streets.  No Jews within Denmark were forced to wear the yellow star.  Also, among the Nazi-occupied countries, only Denmark rescued the overwhelming majority of its Jews.  (rev. C. Karns)
DISCLOSURE: A complimentary copy of The Yellow Star  was provided by PeachTree Publishers in exchange for our honest review. Opinions expressed are solely those of the reviewer.

"We've Got a Job - The 1963 Birmingham Children's March" by Cynthia Levinson

Hardcover: $19.95
ISBN: 978-1-56145-627-7
Total Pages: 180
This book We’ve got a job follows the experiences of four young people in the May 1963 Alabama Children’s March. It is an informative and amazing account of the struggle the blacks had in their quest for freedom. It is incredible to see the attitudes and actions of some members of society. The tenacity of many in the black community is highly commendable, they were trying to fight a huge system by peaceful means.

This work addresses a dark and regretful time in our nation’s history. We’ve got a job gives us an inside picture of one group and their oppression of others. That one group in a society would so oppress another is hard to understand these many years later.

There are many pictures and personal interviews throughout the book. Through these the reader gains an inside look at this turning point in our nation. This valuable document gives us a look at a segment of history which should not be forgotten. This shows us how the young people had the desire to stand for a cause and make a difference. (rev. A.Freeman)

DISCLOSURE: A complimentary review copy was provided to us by Peachtree Publishers in exchange for our honest review. Opinions expressed are solely those of the reviewer.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

"The Secret Underground" by Natalie Bahm

Review: Secrets, danger, fear, and courage are all part of what Ally experiences during her twelfth year.  At the beginning of the story, Ally witnesses a bank robbery and is left with nightmares and memories that she just cannot forget.  She tries to divert her thoughts and fears by checking out the new backyard diggings that her brother and several neighborhood boys have begun.  To her surprise she finds that these aren’t simply forts as the boys have led everyone to believe, but are actually part of an elaborate tunneling system the boys have created.  They have their sights set on tunneling all the way to the abandoned steel mill that the boys know to be off limits, and Ally is determined to become a part of the digging gang.  Parents are unaware of the dangerous activity their kids are up to and the kids want to keep it that way.  The only problem is, the boys and girl are not the only ones who have discovered the tunnel.  Dangers beyond their imagination await them.

While I found this story very interesting and know that upper elementary aged readers would find the story fascinating, I am having a difficult time giving it a completely favorable review.  Throughout the story the children lie or are deceptive to their parents, teachers and friends.  They are involved in some very dangerous activities that could have led to devastating consequences.  The parents in the book are unengaged with their children and in the end the consequences for the kids’ behavior does not match the seriousness of what they have done.  I wish I could have given a more positive review. (rev. J.LaTour)

DISCLOSURE: A complimentary copy was provided by the author in exchange for our honest review. Opinions are solely those of the reviewer.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Review: This is a large picture book using the beloved  lyrics to “America the Beautiful” as the storyline. Quotes from American presidents grace the pages.

The pictures are a collection from various artists with a broad spectrum of art styles.  The pictures are as diverse as our nation is. 

On the inside of the jacket of this hardcover book are pictures of all 44 of the presidents – George Washington to Barack Obama.  Of value, too, is the list of National Landmarks and Symbols pictured with descriptions. 
“America the Beautiful” Together We Stand can be used in the school or home setting to instill love of country and patriotism in students.  While it is a picture book, the reading level is mid to upper elementary.  (rev. V.Godley)

DISCLOSURE: A complimentary copy of “America the Beautiful Together We Stand” was provided by Scholastic Press in exchange for our honest review. Opinions expressed are solely those of the reviewer.

"The Widow of Saunders Creek" by Tracy Bateman

Review: Corrie Saunders is an army wife who is deeply in love with her husband Jarrod.  She gave up a life of luxury and her art for Jarrod and was perfectly content to spend the rest of her life with Jarrod and raising a family.  It seemed to be the perfect dream -- until Jarrod became a hero and sacrificed his life when he stopped an Iraqi suicide bomber.  Now Corrie's dreams are shattered.

She retreats to the family home her husband inherited situated deep in the Missouri Ozarks.  She longs for Jarrod's presence and feels that by moving back to the home place, she can hold onto Jarrod.

Corrie has hired Jarrod's cousin Eli to help with the renovations of the homeplace.  Eli is a pastor of a small local church and senses Corrie's deep desire to hold onto Jarrod.  Eli also has certain family members who believe in spirits and communicating with the dearly departed.  He warns Corrie to be careful about getting involved with these family members, but Corrie senses that Jarrod is near and her longing to have Jarrod back is a strong pull to this spirit world.  Can Eli help Corrie see the dangers and that she has to let Jarrod go?  Can Eli help Corrie renew her faith and look to the One who will ultimately never leave her?

This is a enjoyable book and shows how grief can take over our lives and lead us down paths that can be harmful.  Tracy Bateman has written a good story using characters and situations that we can certainly relate to and clearly shows that God is truly the only one who can ease our grief.  She has also done a good job at dealing with the "spirit world" and how nothing but trouble can come from associating/communicating with demons.  I'm not one who usually enjoys reading anything about the spirit or demon world.  I'm not necessarily a scaredy cat about these things, but I know that they are real.  The Bible is clear about our not giving room for Satan's influence, which can be very powerful and easily control a weak or young Christian. That being said, I did like this book and will probably read some of her other books when given the opportunity. (rev. P.Howard)

About the book. . . . . . .
A grief that knows no boundary.
A love without any limit.
A need that doesn’t end at death.
About the author: Tracey Bateman lives in the Missouri Ozarks with her husband and family. With more than thirty novels in print, including Thirsty and Tandem, Tracey spends all her time telling tales, creating characters, and dreaming of other worlds. 
DISCLOSURE: A complimentary copy was provided to us in exchange for our honest review. Opinions expressed are solely those of the reviewer.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

"Moonlight Masquerade" (a Regency Romancd) by Ruth Axtell

ISBN: 978-0-8007-2089-6
Review:  Rees Phillips of the British Foreign Office is sent to pose as Lady Celine's Wexham's butler.  Lady Wexham is French by birth, and rumors have spread that she is a spy for Napoleon Bonaparte.  Rees has several narrow escapes from detection as he endeavors to uncover the truth about Celine. Then while working together to give several parties and a masquerade ball, Rees begins to fall for the beautiful Celine.  Will his loyalties lie with his country or with the spying Lady Wexham?

The intrigue and mysterious characters in the book keep the reader's attention.  In my opinion, however, the two main characters'  relationship does not seem to have enough interaction to truly know one another and warrant a decision to marry each other. The characters were not realistic to me.  It was strange to have the hero in a subordinate position to the heroine, and then suddenly for him to be promoted to the British Legation to the Congress of Vienna.

The plot was intriguing. It had several spiritual lessons interspersed, and those who enjoy the regency romances will have difficulty putting down the Moonlight Masquerade. (rev. S. Fuqua)

About the book: In this new Regency Romance, Ruth Axtell deftly creates a world where black and white burst into a confusion of colors and no one is who they seem.  Axtell’s expert storytelling and attention to historical detail bring the Regency era alive with  intrigue and romance.

Lady Celine Wexham seems the model British subject. French by birth but enjoying life in 1813 as a widowed English countess, she is in the unique position of being able to help those in need--or to spy for the notorious Napoleon Bonaparte. When Rees Phillips of the British Foreign Office is sent to pose as the countess's butler and discover where her true loyalties lie, he is confident he will uncover the truth. But the longer he is in her fashionable townhouse in London's West End, the more his staunch loyalty to the Crown begins to waver as he falls under Lady Wexham's spell.

 About the author:  Moonlight Masquerade by Ruth AxtellRuth Axtell  is the author of 13 novels, including Wild Rose, one of Booklist's Top Ten in Christian Fiction.

DISCLOSURE:  A complimentary copy of Moonlight Masquerade was provided to us by Revell a division of Baker Publishing Group in exchange for our honest review. Opinions expressed are solely those of the reviewer.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

"Shattered" by Dani Pettrey

Review:  Shattered by Dani Pettrey is the second book in a series called Alaskan Courage.

Piper McKenna's brother is arrested for the murder of a ski competitor in Yancey, Alaska.  Witnesses saw the girl's lifeless body in his arms.  Piper always protective of her younger brother believes him when he claims that Karli was already dead when he walked into the room.  Piper along with her childhood friend the deputy sheriff Landon Grainger embarks on a journey that takes them to several places in Alaska and Canada to discover the true identity of Karli's killer.

Shattered is a romantic suspense novel that keeps the reader guessing throughout the pages of this intriguing mystery.  In addition, the main characters, the close-knit McKenna family, and the quick, lively dialogue captivate the reader's attention.

If I were to search for any unbelievable aspect of this book, it would be that a whole middle-class family could leave their jobs and homes in order to make expensive journeys around two countries in search of clues to solve the mystery of a murder.  On the other hand, I'm sure most families would use whatever resources were available to help their brother, who was unjustly accused of murder. Despite this minor observation, Shattered is well-written, surprising the reader with the unusual conclusion to the novel.  It is well-worth reading. (Book review by Sharon Fuqua)

About the author: Dani Pettrey is a wife, homeschooling mom, and author. She feels blessed to write inspirational romantic suspense because it incorporates so many things she loves--the thrill of adventure, nail biting suspense, the deepening of her characters' faith, and plenty of romance. She and her husband reside in Maryland with their two teenage daughters. Visit her website at
DISCLOSURE:  A complimentary copy of Shattered was provided by Litfuse Publicity Group on behalf of  Bethany House Publishers and the author, Dani Pettrey, in exchange for our honest review. Opinions expressed are solely those of the reviewer.

Friday, March 1, 2013

"Three Hens and a Peacock" by Lester L.Laminac and Illustrated by Henry Cole

Review:  The children's book Three Hens and a Peacock will be sure to entertain pre-school through lower elementary classes.  I would recommend this book to ages 4-10.  It is a very colorful, fun to read book.

My K4 students especially liked the bright colored peacock and the page that the peacock got stuck in a doorway. The girls in my class liked the page where the hens dressed up in pretty jewelry as they tried to get attention instead of doing their job in the hen house.

My K4 class thought the story had a good ending because the hens and the peacocks went back to doing their jobs. The hens went back to laying eggs and the peacock helped bring customers to the farm by showing off its pretty feathers. (rev. M.Hicks, K4 Lead Teacher)

Illustrator Henry Cole has given such personality to these birds.  It is hilariously entertaining.  The story told in short, easy to understand yet fully descriptive prose is delightful.

DISCLOSURE: A complimentary copy was given to us by Peachtree Publishers in exchange for our honest review. Opinions expressed are solely those of the reviewer.