Monday, April 2, 2018

Review: The Pirate Bride

The Pirate Bride The Pirate Bride by Kathleen Y'Barbo
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Pirate Bride (Daughters of the Mayflower #2)
by Kathleen Y’Barbo

Release Date: April 1, 2018

My rating: 5 stars

SUMMARY: Adventure on the high seas, privateers, a feisty heiress, and lost treasure, oh my! What is not to love!? This second book in the Daughters of the Mayflower series can be read without reading the first. (But, if you’re into family trees, you’ll want to!) It is now one hundred years later, and 11-year-old Mayflower descendant Maribel Cordova loves reading, particularly books about pirates and adventures. Little does she know, she’s about to become a pirate—um, privateer—and have a great adventure! This book covers about ten years. I can’t say a whole lot about the story because I don’t want to give anything away.

MY THOUGHTS: Maribel is a spitfire you’ll fall in love with. I enjoyed this book even more than the first one, and I wasn’t expecting that. I laughed and I sighed...I might have even shed a tear or two. It kept me turning the pages to see how it all would end. It’s a story of redemption and second chances. This book is recommended to anyone who likes ocean adventures, pirates, or genealogy. I’m looking forward to book 3!


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At my request, I received a free electronic copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. I was not required to give a positive review. This review reflects my honest thoughts and opinions on the book, and I received no compensation for this review.

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Saturday, March 31, 2018

Review: The Sound of Freedom

The Sound of Freedom The Sound of Freedom by Kathy Kacer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars


The Sound of Freedom
by Kathy Kacer

Release Date: 3/16/2018

My rating: 4.5 stars

SUMMARY: The Sound of Freedom is a middle-grade novel about a Jewish family in Krakow, Poland in 1936. Life has become increasingly more dangerous, as the violence and persecution of Jews ramp up. Anna is afraid if they don’t escape soon, something really bad will happen. Her father is a talented clarinetist in the Krakow Philharmonic Orchestra. Then they hear that Bronislaw Huberman is auditioning Jewish musicians from all over Europe for a new orchestra in Palestine. If her father auditions and is accepted, she and her grandmother can leave with him. Can father make the cut?

MY THOUGHTS: Stories of Jews in the Holocaust have fascinated me since I was kid and first read A Diary of Anne Frank and The Hiding Place. As an adult, I worked at a Jewish Center and met Holocaust survivors and got to hear their stories. My interest in the Holocaust is why I requested a copy of this book from NetGalley.

The Sound of Freedom is a gentle introduction to the beginning of the Holocaust for middle-grade students. The story is told through the eyes of young Anna, focusing on the growing anti-Semitism she sees going on around her and that eventually happens to her. It is set in 1936, before Germany’s invasion of Poland and as Hitler is rising in power, so the real horrors of the Holocaust have not yet started.

While the story of Anna’s family is fiction, Bronislaw Huberman really was a world-renown violinist and really did create the Palestine Philharmonic Orchestra and save over a thousand Jews by recruiting them for the newly formed orchestra. Anna’s story is representative of the lives saved by Bronislaw Huberman.

While the story is gentle, it does not make things all nice and tidy and happy. Some of the families leave the orchestra to go back to their homeland, and Anna is concerned for their safety and the reader is left to wonder what happened to them. The story also mentions the tensions between the Arabs and the Jewish peoples in Palestine, so Anna's family may have escaped Poland, but you wonder what will happen to them in Palestine.

I give the story 4.5 stars. I recommend it to anyone with an interest in the time-period. I knocked off a half star because there were several times that Anna felt like the adult in the story. She is more concerned about the things she sees and hears about than her father and grandmother are. There are also times when Anna is disobedient to her father.

For home educators and teachers, The Sound of Freedom would make an excellent addition to a Holocaust study.

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At my request, I received a free electronic copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. I was not required to give a positive review. This review reflects my honest thoughts and opinions on the book, and I received no compensation for this review.



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Friday, March 30, 2018

Review: Aru Shah and the End of Time

Aru Shah and the End of Time Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi
My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Aru Shah and the End of Time (Pandava Quartet #1)
by Roshani Chokshi

Release Date: March 27, 2018

My rating: 4 stars

SUMMARY: Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi is a middle school fantasy based on Hindu mythology. It is the first book of the proposed Pandava Quartet and the first book for the “Rick Riordan Presents” collection.

I have never read Rick Riordan (gasp!), but my younger daughter loves mythology and has devoured them all. I think she will enjoy Aru Shah as well, although we have never studied Hindu mythology.

Aru is a modern day student who has a tendency to lie (later she decides she has the gift of imagination and not a gift of lying). She is trying to survive middle school, where she often lies in order to try to fit in with the crowd. She is a bit resentful of the fact that it’s just her and her mom, they live in a museum, and her mom never has time for her because she is always flying off to do work for the museum.

One day, three classmates—wanting to catch her in a lie—dare her to light a lamp in the museum that Aru says is cursed. She figured it won’t hurt to just do a quick lighting of it., then she’d blow it out and “never ever ever lie again.” Of course, you know how these things go….something bad always happens. In this case, the “quick light” of the lamp releases a demon whose job is to wake up the Hindu god of destruction who will destroy the world. Nothing major, right?!

Aru, who learns that she is the reincarnation of one of the legendary Pandova brothers of ancient Hindu mythology, must locate the other reincarnated brothers and stop the demon from waking up the god. And, man, she’s still in her Spider-Man jammies….

MY THOUGHTS: As a Christian, I obviously do not believe in mythology or reincarnation, but this story was still a very fun read for me, even though at times it was very middle-schoolish in attitudes and actions. I learned a lot about Hindu mythology. There were several funny places, a talking pigeon, and mythological creatures galore.

I do wish I had seen that there was a glossary in the back of the book before I finished it, but that was my fault for not seeing it in the table of contents.

I would recommend it to middle-grade students who enjoy mythology.

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At my request, I received a free electronic copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. I was not required to give a positive review. This review reflects my honest thoughts and opinions on the book, and I received no compensation for this review.

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Review: Long Way Gone

Long Way Gone Long Way Gone by Charles Martin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Long Way Gone
(c) 2017
by Charles Martin


My rating: >5 stars

SUMMARY: Long Way Gone covers about a twenty-year period of the life of Cooper O’Connor, son of a tent-revival preacher, a gifted musician, and a talented songwriter. It’s about a rebellious young man and the sacrificial, never-ending love of a father. Long Way Gone is a story of the prodigal son like you’ve never read before.

MY THOUGHTS: This is my first book by author Charles Martin, and it was recommended to me by a local librarian. After I brought it home from the library, I renewed it over a period of two months before I decided I better read it because the librarian kept asking me what I thought of it. Sounded interesting, but I just didn’t think I’d really enjoy it. Wow, was I ever wrong!

I love music—all kinds of music, but I’m not a musician and I can’t sing a lick. But music—particularly hymns and Christian worship songs—speaks to me and moves me to a greater worship of my Heavenly Father. This story grabbed me from the beginning with its in-depth knowledge of instruments, particularly guitars, music, and the great love of a father. Charles Martin’s words were sheer poetry in some places!

It’s real, it’s honest, it’s heart-wrenching, it’s funny. There is just so much to this book.

If you are a prodigal child, you need to read this book. Even if you don’t have an earthly father that would do all he could to bring you back home, you do have a Heavenly Father Who does. “No gone is too far gone.”

Don’t miss this one!

Long Way Gone is one of the most powerful retellings of the prodigal son that I have ever read, and I am sure the story will stick with me for a long time. Long Way Gone makes me want to read more by the author! I will be recommending this one to friends, and I’ve already purchased a copy for our church library. Matter of fact, I think I’m going to buy another copy as our June (Father’s Day) giveaway!


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This review reflects my honest thoughts and opinions on the book, and I received no compensation for this review.

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Review: Navigating Early

Navigating Early Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool
My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Navigating Early
(c) 2013
by Clare Vanderpool

My rating: 4.5 stars

SUMMARY: Jack and Early, two middle-school boys at a boarding school in Maine, struggle with the realities of life during World War II. Jack recently lost his mother and his father is in the military. Early is autistic savant who sees stories in numbers—particularly a never-ending story in the never-ending number, pi. During a school holiday, they leave school and set out on a quest on the Appalachian Trail. But this quest will become personal in more ways than they could imagine. They’ll meet a lot of people—some friendly, some not—and learn that all are lost in some way, that each struggle with their own personal issues, and that all are part of the story of pi. And, along the way, they just might find themselves and their place in this world.

MY THOUGHTS: Navigating Early is a story (Jack & Early) within a story (pi). Or is it the other way ‘round? I enjoyed the mysteries within mysteries and the almost fantasy-feeling of some parts of the story. Was it coincidence or was more going on here than meets the eye? We may never know. And, along the way, I learned about gifted autistic children and some history on the number pi. Definitely not your average middle-grade novel!

I enjoyed Navigating Early more than I expected. It’s one of those novels that can speak to older as well as young adults. I do think it would be better understood by high school students than middle grade students. The novel contains some deep thoughts.

Navigating contains some great quotes that will give older students and adults food for thought. Here’s an example of one. Jack recalls an incident earlier in his childhood. Before the day of a big soapbox derby, Jack left his car out in the rain and it is ruined. His father told him, “...you made your bed, now you’ll have to lie in it.” His mother, however, tells him, “Yes, you made your bed, but for heaven's sake, don't just lie in it! Jackie, if you don't like the bed you're in, take it apart and make it right.” Younger students might just fly by that statement, but adults and older students might sit and think what great advice his mother gave.

I definitely recommend this award-winning novel! Homeschooling families and teachers desiring to use it in an educational setting should note that the author has a free guide for educators on her website, http://clarevanderpool.com/navigating...

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This review reflects my honest thoughts and opinions on the book, and I received no compensation for this review.

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Thursday, March 15, 2018

Review: Wishtree

Wishtree Wishtree by Katherine Applegate
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wishtree
by Katherine Applegate


SUMMARY: Red is an oak tree more than 200 years old. But he is more than just an oak tree, he is also a wishtree. For many years, it has become a tradition to tie wishes onto his branches each May. However, this year someone carves a word into his trunk, and Red decides to do something about it.

MY REVIEW: Have you ever heard of a “raggy tree” or a “wish tree?” It’s an old tradition from Ireland. I had never heard of it before.

This is a beautiful story, relevant in today’s world. It is a middle-school story but without the usual attitudes and actions of middle-schoolers. Except for one incident of intolerance, which is what drives the story. There are funny moments, and there are poignant moments. There are many “make you think” moments.

The story is told from Red’s view from where he has grown for the past 200+ years. He has many friends who nest in his branches or nearby. He is ever the optimist, ever hopeful, and “everyone needs to hope.” One day he decides that two people *need* to be friends and wonders how to make it happen, and so he hatches a plan, saying “Trees are the strong silent type. Unless we’re not.”

I absolutely adored the illustrations, as I love pencil drawings.

This is definitely a book for all classrooms, about 4th grade to 8th. Younger if you’re reading aloud. And even older students can appreciate it’s message. For homeschooling families, it would make a great unit study.

MY RATING: 5 stars for its message of hope. Highly recommend this one! We need more books like it.


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Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Review: The Room on Rue Amélie

The Room on Rue Amélie The Room on Rue Amélie by Kristin Harmel
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Room on Rue Amélie
by Kristin Harmel

SUMMARY: This is the story of an American woman, a young Jewish girl, and a British RAF pilot during the occupation of Paris in WWII.

MY REVIEW: I enjoy historical fiction, though I normally read Christian fiction. While there is some language, including taking the Lord’s name in vain, and some sex, it was not overwhelming. I did not agree with character’s visions of heaven. However, it was a great story and one not soon forgotten.

I got hooked by the story immediately, and the story kept me turning pages long after I said: “I really should stop here and finish tomorrow…..well, just one more chapter.” :) I ended up staying up until 2:30 a.m. to finish it. I pretty much read it in one sitting.

A few things in the story felt just a little unrealistic and it was a bit predictable.

This was the first book I’ve read by the author, but I’d definitely be willing to read more.

MY RATING: 4.5 stars for keeping me turning the pages until the wee hours.
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At my request, I received a free electronic copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. I was not required to give a positive review. This review reflects my honest thoughts and opinions on the book, and I received no compensation for this review.

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