Monday, March 31, 2014

Chin Up, Charlie Be Brave by Sarah Eason

ISBN: 9780766043053
Enslow Publishers $16.95

Like all children, Charlie sometimes is just a bit scared. He has lots of choices to make—but which are the brave ones?

Here at Alamance Christian School, the librarian chose to read this book to several groups of children of varying ages. Here are some of their comments:
"K4 and K5 really enjoyed this book. It encourages them to stay brave." (Mrs. Wells, Librarian)
"I like this book because it talked about how Charlie can be brave even though he is scared. If Charlie can do that, that means you can, too! I also like it because it gives you choices to help Charlie decide whether he should do the right thing or not. It then gives Charlie and you the courage to do the right thing." (J. Lyles, 5th grade)

"I like this book because it lets you make the choices. I also like it because it talks about how you don't have to be shy." (undisclosed student)

The illustrations done in full color with simple line drawings capture the emotions of Charlie as he seeks to make his choices.

DISCLOSURE: A complimentary  hardcover copy of Chin Up, Charlie Be Brave was provided by Enslow Publisher in exchange for our honest review. No compensation was received for the review. Opinions expressed are solely our own.

Storming the Black Ice: Pacific Rim Series by Don Brown (Author of the Navy Justice Series)

ISBN:  9780310330165
About the book:  When a Venezuelan surprise-attack against a secret British research station in Antarctica triggers a shooting war between the great nations, Chile and Britain ask America for help. For two couples separated by the raging battle, the outcome will be either love reunited or devastating heartbreak. When British geologists secretly discover the world’s largest oil reserves under the desolate, icy tundra of Antarctica, Britain and Chile form a top-secret alliance against Venezuela, Argentina, and Russia for control of resources that will rival the economic power of OPEC. But the secret of the discovery is soon uncovered by an Argentinean intelligence officer using highly sophisticated monitoring equipment. When a Venezuelan surprise-attack against a secret British research station in Antarctica triggers a shooting war between the great nations, Chile and Britain ask America for help.

For two couples separated by the raging battle, the outcome will be either love reunited or devastating heartbreak. There is no in-between and no turning back.

For a young boy living with his mother in London, the life of the boy’s father and mother’s long-lost love is on the line. And for an American sub commander detailed on a special military assignment to his father’s homeland of Chile, any hope of a future is in danger. But will his fate be a crushing death under the icy-cold waters of the Antarctic Ocean, or a fate of life, light, and a second chance for love?

Review:  This is a very well written story whose greatest appeal will most assuredly be men. While women can enjoy it, the plot which is intricately woven throughout with scenes of naval action on submarines. Conflict militarily. Abuse of prisoners. Descriptions replete with strategic maneuvers and the complexities of South America and Antarctica geography and political atmosphere. References to the Falkland Island war of 30 years past are important to this story. International intrigue that span oceans and continents.

The romantic by play is a very minor subplot though it does exist and is part of the story.

The supposition and potential of a real "Black Ice" scenario is not a far cry from what could happen. Men and the nations they inhabit are greedy and often it takes the conflict of warfare to control that greed. The book will surely be enjoyable by those who delight in a submarine thriller. I found the following scene moving. The setting: An opposing submarine has just been sunk....
     Pete took the shipwide microphone. "Now hear this.This is the captain speaking. Both active and passive sonar have verified that the enemy sub has been destroyed."
     Cheering erupted throughout the sub.
     "Silence!" Pete demanded.
     The cheering stopped.
     "There will be no cheering, no reveling, no applause for what we have done. For what we have done is our duty. We have defeated a worthy opponent and taken the life of a great warrior who, if he had an extra second or two on his side, would have killed us first. He battled gallantly, commanding a boat that is inferior to ours.
     "There is no rejoicing at the death of a warrior. Only by the grace of God are we still alive, and only by his grace did we have weapons of war that were superior to the weapons of the enemy.
     "Join me in a moment of silence and remembrance."
     More sounds of grinding, whining metal over passive sonar--the death sounds of a sub falling to its watery grave.
     "That is all. This is the captain."
A very intense book sure to capture the attention of someone who desires a griping and intense read.

DISCLOSURE: A complimentary review copy was provided by BookLook Blog Review Program in exchange for our honest review. Opinions expressed were solely those of the reviewer. No compensation was received for this review. (Rev. VG)

Beyond These Hills by Sandra Robinson

ISBN: 9780736948883
Harvest House Publishers
About the book:  It's 1935, and Laurel Jackson fears the life she's always known is about to become a memory. The government is purchasing property to establish the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and nearly all the families in Cades Cove have decided to sell. Laurel is determined to save the land her family has lived on for a hundred years.

Andrew Brady, the son of a wealthy Virginia congressman, arrives in the Cove to convince the remaining landowners to sell. Sparks fly when he meets Laurel, the outspoken young woman who is determined to thwart his every effort. Will they ever be able to put aside their differences and accept what their hearts already know?

In the third and final book in the Smoky Mountain Dreams series, acclaimed author Sandra Robbins brings a dramatic conclusion to the story of the families of Cades Cove.

Review:  This was one of those books that you pick up and then cannot put down until you have read the last page.  In it you will find a beautiful love story, conflict, a glimpse into history, and the overarching theme that God is in control of all things and uses those "all things" for our good and His Glory.

Laurel Jackson and her family live in the community of Cades Cove in the Great Smokey Mountains of Tennessee. The year is 1934 and the US government is moving ahead with the developmental of the National Park system - no matter who is affected.  Laurel's family has lived on this land for over a hundred years and the thoughts of loosing her beloved home is more than Laurel can bear.  Then arrives Andrew Brady, son of a Virginia congressman, who has been hired by the government to persuade the remaining landowners to sell.  Upon initially meeting Laurel there is an immediate attraction, but of course, neither knows about the conflict about to ensue over the land that Laurel loves so dearly.

Through various circumstances including great tragedy,  the families come to realize that they must leave.  Laurel and Andrew cannot escape the attraction they feel, but how can they pursue any relationship in the midst of such differences?  Yet, God who is full of grace and wisdom, directs in every circumstance to use all the details of life for His glory.

Read and enjoy this dramatic historic fiction by Sandra Robinson. (rev.  J. La Tour)

DISCLOSURE:  A complimentary copy of Beyond These Hills was provided by Harvest House Publishers in exchange for our honest review. Opinions expressed are solely those of the reviewer. No compensation was received for this review.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn By Lori Benton

ISBN13: 9780307731494

About the book:  Western North Carolina, 1787 ~ To escape a threatening stepfather and an unwanted marriage, Tamsen Littlejohn enlists the aid of Jesse Bird, a frontiersman she barely knows, to spirit her away from Morganton, North Carolina, west beyond the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Review:  After only one meeting with her expected suitor, Tamsen Littlejohn is confident that Ambrose Kincaid will turn out much like her harsh and demanding stepfather, Hezekiah Parrish.  Ambrose is handsome, socially polished, and the heir of his wealthy grandfather, Alexander Kincaid.  But soon after their first meeting, Tamsen sees in Ambrose, a cruelness of character not unlike her hateful stepfather.  Taking matters into her own hands, Tamsen decides to escape a potentially disastrous arranged marriage to a man she does not love.  She escapes her would-be suitor and her stepfather by enlisting the help of a frontiersman from the western part of North Carolina, Jesse Bird.  Together they travel west through the wilderness, avoiding the dangers of Indians and wild beasts, all the while evading the trackers hired by Ambrose Kincaid and her stepfather.

Life on the frontier has many challenges for Tamsen.  She has only known a cushioned life in the past, one with servants and fine luxuries, but now Tamsen has to learn to cook, clean, and make do with the roughness of wilderness living.  Slowly over time, Tamsen learns to appreciate her new life on the frontier; she even begins to fall in love with Jesse, the man who has risked so much for her.  But just as her life is becoming more stable, Ambrose Kincaid and her father’s trackers find her whereabouts.  Will Jesse and Tamsen be able to continue evading them, or will Tamsen be forced to return home with her stepfather to an arranged marriage?

DISCLOSURE: A complimentary copy of The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn was provided by  Blogging for Books in exchange for our honest review. Opinions expressed are solely those of the reviewer. No compensation was received for this review.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Kali's Story: An Orphaned Polar Bear Rescue by Jennifer Keats Curtis with photography by John Gomes

Hardcover ISBN: 9781628552089, $17.95
Paperback ISBN: 9781628552171, $9.95
Kali's Story is an absolutely delightful, sweet story of the rescue of a three-month-old polar bear cub whose mother had died. From the very onset of the kind man rescuing Kali to his adoption by the Buffalo Zoo, the pictures and text take the young reader through rescue, care, play, and needs that his rescuers and "foster home" provide. 

The reader learns that the cub can't drink from a bowl, but needs a bottle. That he needs play time and his care givers provide romps in the snow. That he needs to learn the survival skill of swimming. The photography captures moments endearing and informative.

I can recommend this delightful book to home, public, and school libraries. It is a delightful companion book to Polar Bears and Penguins previously reviewed here on ACS Reader's Haven Reviews. 

DISCLOSURE: A complimentary review copy of Kali's Story was provided by Abordale Publishing (formerly Sylvan Dell Publishing) in exchange for our honest review. Opinions expressed are solely our own. No compensation was received for this review.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Polar Bears and Penguins: A Compare and Contrast Book by Katharine Hall

Hardcover ISBN: 9781628552096, $17.95
Paperback ISBN: 9781628552188, $9.95
Polar Bears and Penguins by Katharine Hall is a nicely designed informative picture book that examines the differences in Polar Bears and Penguins – themselves, their habitat, their locale. I found the pictures and text very nice and straight forward. I especially liked the explanation of the difference between the Artic and Antarctica.

The young reader will enjoy reading the book
repeatedly and the facts they will gain from doing so. In the back of the book there is wordier section of learning activities that will need to have the help and guidance of an adult. I found it disturbing, though, that there is a true/false set of questions that have no connection with the information covered in the book.  The “facts” in the true/false answers are good to learn, but no one wants a quiz about information that has not been covered. The “Creative Minds” material is straight forward and informative without too much detail. Seemingly just right the young learner.

All-in-all, I find this a book I can easily recommend for the home library, public and school library, and gifting by doting grandparents or aunties.

DISCLOSURE: A complimentary copy was provided by Abordale Publishing (formerly Sylvan Dell Publishing) in exchange for our honest review. Opinions expressed are solely those of the reviewer. No compensation was received for this review.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

The Field of Wacky Inventions – A Floors Novel by Patrick Carman

  • ISBN-13: 978-0545255219
    Grade Level 3-7
    Hardcover $16.99
About the book:  It's not every day that a hotel loses its top floor. Then again, the Whippet Hotel is no stranger to wackiness. So when the entire floor is hoisted into the night sky by a nearly invisible airship, Leo and Remi know they're in for the ride of their lives.

But little do the boys know just how amazing their voyage will become. They are headed to the field of wacky inventions, where they will have to compete against a number of foes for an incredible prize.

It will take all of Leo and Remi's bravery, skill, and burping power to decode the outrageous puzzles hidden among the floors of Merganzer D. Whippet's newest and most peculiar construction. But they must -- because if they don't, they'll lose their beloved Whippet Hotel forever.

Review:  What fun! What fun! What fun!  The Field of Wacky Inventions by Patrick Carman is an amazingly fun book to read and filled with great imagination.  This is the final book in “The Floors triology” by Mr. Carman and it is as exciting as the first two.  I have thoroughly enjoyed this series and am a little sad to see it end.  While targeted for upper middle school and higher, anyone who just wants a fun book to read would enjoy this series and in particular this last book.

To say I enjoyed it is an understatement.  Highly recommend!!

DISCLOSURE: A complimentary copy was provided to us by Scholastic in exchange for our honest review. Opinions expressed are solely those of the reviewer. No compensation was received for this review.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Superworm by Julia Donaldson and Illustrated by Alex Scheffler

Review: Excitement and danger lurks under leaves, down the well, under the rubbish heap, and on the road. But with "Superworm" to the rescue, all is well. Presented as a lively story of the qualities of Superworm as he saves the day and in quite good rhyme that takes one back to the rhythm and rhyme of Mother Goose, Superworm will squirm his way into the giggles and tickles of the reader and the listener.

Illustrated with cute, "bug-eyed," and vividly colored pictures, the humor and adventure is portrayed delightfully for the entertainment of the young child.

The book was read to students at Alamance Christian School and here are some of their comments.....
  • This book is very good. Especially for kids that are just learning how to read. Even if you are older, I would still recommend it. You'll enjoy it. (Kailyn, 5th)
  • It's a cute book, and it has some rhyming words.It's also a good book for first and second grade readers. It has a lot of animals in it and a little adventure. The book is called Superworm and he is a hero.  It's a great book. (Kailey, 5th)
  • I think it was more for smaller children. First and second graders. There were good descriptive words. (Caleb, 5th)
  • I like the book. If you like rhymes, then I think you will like this book, too. But I think that it is for grades 1-3. I think it is a good book. Go Superworm! Go! (Isabella, 5th)
  • This book is very good. It is probably a good book for kids under second grade age. The book is about a worm named Superworm! Superworm saves the day many times. But one day Superworm is captured! Find out what happens in the book. (Olivia, 5th)
It is obvious from the students' comments, Superworm is intended for younger children but that it is enjoyable no matter your age. Actually it is intended for ages 4-8. So when you're ready for a little wiggly-squiggly reading, grab Superworm....
The wizard waves his magic flower.
"Now, Superworm, you're in my power
And you must tunnel, writhe, and coil,
To find me treasure in the soil."

Superworm is very cross
To have a lizard as his boss,
But when he tries to slink away
The wizard's magic makes him stay.

DISCLOSURE: A complimentary copy was provided by Scholastic Inc. in exchange for our honest review. Opinions expressed are solely ours. No compensation was received for this review.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

The A-Z of C.S. Lewis, An Encyclopedia of His Life, Thought and Writings by Colin Duriez (Review & Giveaway)

About the book:  A Complete Guide to His Life, Thoughts and Writings

Published to coincide with the 50th anniversary of C. S. Lewis's death, this complete guide covers all of Lewis' works, from his literary criticism to Narnia.

C. S. Lewis's work is widely known and regarded, but enthusiasts are often only aware of one part of his work-his children's stories and his popular theology; and yet he wrote so much more, including science fiction and literary criticism. This volume brings together all aspects of C S Lewis's life and thought. Arranged in alphabetical order, it begins with The Abolition of Man-written in 1943 and described as "almost my favorite"-to Wormwood, a character in The Screwtape Letters. This book will delight anyone who is interested in C. S. Lewis and wants to learn more about him, his thought, his works, and his life.
Review: Outside of reading The Chronicles of Narnia to my children, my interest in C.S. Lewis was limited to the movie "Shadowlands" and reading several portions from Essays on Theology and Ethics.  This volume has once again piqued my interest to read more of Lewis's works.  From the very preface of the book, the quote on how to enjoy a book by Lewis (p. 9) caught my attention. 

Having grown up in a home filled with old books, and blessed with  an attic which was a childhood hideaway for he and his brother, Warren, to play in for hours, explore writing and drawing, it seems like a happy childhood.  Unfortunately, sorrow engulfed the family's life when Lewis's mother died of cancer when he was nine.  His father was unable to cope with his grief and sent Clive Staples or "Jack" as he wished to be called, to a boarding school in England from their home in Belfast.  He was later moved back to college in Belfast, then to several other schools.  However, he was never happier than when sent in 1914 to a private tutor.  He briefly served in the First World War, until he was injured and subsequently discharged.   During all this time he had been writing poetry intended for publication. 

In this volume, you can read of his close relationships with other authors of his time.  Many of them met weekly at a favorite pub to fellowship and intellectually challenge each other as they read portions of their current writings aloud. They were known as "The Inklings".  Lewis was especially close to J.R.R. Tolkien, Charles Williams and Hugo Dyson.  He credits Tolkien and Dyson with drawing him to Christianity.  Through my overview of this volume, I have been challenged to read The Pilgrim's Regress, written after Lewis's conversion to Christianity and in response to The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan.  Reviews of all his works by Duriez, a lifetime student of Lewis,  are very helpful when read prior to the actual writing.
Whether you are looking for specific information on the writings of Lewis, information on his closest earthly relationships, or merely browsing through this alphabetic text, you will find many entries of interest with cross references to lead you, as Aslan said, "higher up and deeper in" to the world of C.S. Lewis.   I recommend this book to lovers of C.S. Lewis and those who desire to get to known and understand his varied and treasured contributions to 20th century literature.  (reviewed by Carly Karns, Teacher at Alamance Christian School)

About the Author: Colin Duriez was for many years a commissioning editor at Inter-Varsity Press UK. He has subsequently appeared as a commentator on DVDs of Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings, and BBC television's The Worlds of Fantasy. He is also the author of The Inklings Handbook (with the late David Porter), J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis: The Story of Their Friendship, and Tolkien and The Lord of the Rings, and has contributed to definitive reference works relating to Tolkien such as The Tolkien Encyclopedia (Routledge). 

GIVEAWAY: One copy of The A-Z of C.S. Lewis is available as a giveaway prize. Entries may be made via the Rafflecopter form below. Begins March 1 & ENDS March 24 @ 12:01 a.m. ET. Open to USA residents only.
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DISCLOSURE: A complimentary copy of The A-Z of C.S. Lewis, An Encyclopedia of His Life, Thought and Writings by Colin Duriez  and Published in 2013 by Lion Hudson in Oxford. was provided byin exchange for this review. Opinions expressed are solely those of the reviewer. No compensation was provided for this review.