Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Walking through the Valley

Yesterday, I walked through a valley.  It wasn't fun.  Valleys never are, really.  As I had entered this valley, I had just finished reading a fiction book by a new author I found on Hoopla that I enjoy, Cynthia Ruchti.  The book was titled As Waters Gone By.  It sounds like a bit of an odd title, but it's taken from a single verse of Job.

Job 11:16
You will forget your misery; you will remember it as waters that have passed away.
 (gone away in the NIV)

Yesterday morning, I read the larger portion of verses surrounding verse 16 and they were filled with hope.

starting with verse 13...
If you prepare your heart, you will stretch out your hands toward him.  If iniquity is in your hand, put it far away, and let not injustice dwell in your tents.  surely then you will lift up your face without blemish; you will be secure and will not fear.  You will forget your misery; you will remember it as waters that have passed away.  And your life will be brighter than the noonday; its darkness will be like the morning.  And you will feel secure, because there is hope; you will look around and take your rest in security.  You will lie down, and none will make you afraid; many will court your favor.  But the eyes of the wicket will fail; all way of escape will be lost to them, and their hope is to breathe their last.  ... ending with verse 20.  ESV

Those verses were very encouraging to me yesterday.  Valleys come and go.  But, there is hope because we will get through them.  Some are short journeys, some are long.  Perhaps, some are even life-long.  But, I was reminded that there is hope.  Hope in Christ.  I am loved by Jesus because of who He made me to be.  Nothing can change that.  I need to find my identity and peace in Him.  Always.  When my eyes get distracted and I value other things more, then my heart fills will resentment and struggle.

I am grateful this morning to be through the valley.  I do know there will be another one.  In fact, there will be many more.  But, there is hope.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

TinTin and Red Rackham's Treasure

Yesterday, my girls had a book group meeting (for 4th-6th grade girls).  They talked about a book titled They were Strong and Good by Robert Lawson.  It's a book full of potential material for discussion.

Here are the questions that my girls came up with:
1.  Did you enjoy this book?  Why or why not?
2.  How would this story change if the author was not proud of his heritage?
3.  How does the author's story make you feel about your own family?  Why?
4.  What was the purpose or message of the book?  What was the author trying to say?
5.  How does the story connect to you?
6.  Why does it matter where you come from?
7.  Do you think that the title fits the book?  Why, if so?  If not, what would you call the book?
8.  Robert Lawson described his family as strong and good.  How would you describe your family in 2 words?
9.  Why do you think Lawson described his family as strong and good to begin with?

We also had a discussion at the end about language and the words we use and how they can offend people so we need to be sensitive to not using culturally offensive words.

After their book discussion, they wrote on some slips of paper something they had inherited from someone in their family and put the slips of paper in a bag.  The papers did not have their names on them.  They pulled one paper out at a time and guessed who it belonged to.

My daughters and I chose foods for snack that mattered to our relatives and our own family.

Then, I also set out a Family Tree worksheet from Scholastic to fill out on the table.

But, I also have a son who I needed to keep busy during the book group, so this summer I've had another book group for him going at the same time.  In July, the boys had a theme of Encyclopedia Brown.  This month TinTin was the theme.

Yesterday, my son and three other boys watched TinTin and Red Rackham's Treasure.  Season 1 is free to watch on Amazon Prime.  Afterwards, I discussed a few questions with them.  I found the answers on the TinTin website.

1.  What are TinTin's first and last name?  (see website for answer)
2.  Professor Calculus is funny.  Did he seem like he knew what he was doing?  Do you think he did?
What was your favorite part of this adventure?  What is something TinTin did that you would like to do?
3.  Why doesn't Professor Calculus understand everyone else?
4.  What was your favorite part of this adventure?  What is something TinTin did that you would like to do?
5.  Why is TinTin a hero?  What is a hero?
6.  Captain Haddock--How old do you think he is?  How old is Tintin?  (answers on the website)
7.  What kind of dog is Snowy?  (answer on website)
8.  How did they figure out where the treasure was?  Who gave up?  Who didn't?
9.  Have you ever given up on something and then tried again?

After the discussion, they had a snack, and then drew on blank comic strips from Picklebums that you can find HERE.

Then, the boys went outside and drove R/C cars and a drone helicopter that one of the boys had brought.

It was a fun afternoon for all!

Unrealistic Realistic Fiction

When I sat down a moment ago to write a review of the book I just read, the phrase "unrealistic realistic fiction" came to mind.  My husband perused the book I'm about review and declared that is wholly unrealistic.

It is.  It is a Christian Romantic Suspense novel.  Lynette Eason just published the second book in her Elite Guardians series, Without Warning.  But, I don't think readers really expect all realistic fiction to be realistic.  It is set in the present with people they can picture in a world they live in every day.

Without Warning is about a personal bodyguard, Katie, who gets involved in a case of arson and life.  Katie cares about one of her self defense class students, Riley.  The man who's life is in danger happens to be Riley's uncle, Daniel. Katie quickly gets involved protecting Daniel Matthews and Riley.  The book begins with the arson of one of his six restaurants and escalates in danger from there.  Katie's fellow bodyguards work together with the police to try and solve the mystery.

The first book in the series was fun to read and quick moving--light on the romance, but engaging.  This book is just the same.  I understand my husband's response, but he also doesn't like any of the crime shows on tv.  For the person who likes crime/suspense novels, but is looking for something less gory and bloody--this book is an option.  Lynette Eason has written several series like this one.

If you start reading this book, knowing that it's fiction, you'll be fine.  Just don't expect it to be realistic.

Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from the publisher Revell books.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Good Stand Alone Christian Fiction

This past weekend I read a book by Sarah Loudin Thomas.  When I started reading it, I had no idea that it was actually the third book in a series.  There was no indication of this on the front or spine of the book.  Surprisingly, I didn't realize that it was the third in a series until I got to the end of the book and read the descriptions of other books recommended at the back by the publisher.  This book stood on its own without depending on the two that had come before it.

The book is A Tapestry of Secrets.  The story centers on Ella and her grandmother Perla.  Ella got out of an abusive relationship with her boyfriend a year before the story begins.  Her occupation is creating art quilts.  Ella is the kind of young woman who loves tradition and is closely knitted into the fabric of her family so when Perla has a stroke, she moves home to help take care of her.  The book is the story of Perla's recovery and the secret that she wants to share.  But, it is also the story of Ella coming to understand that God has the best plan for her and those she loves--that it is better than her own plan.

Ella is not a perfectly likeable character.  She's very human, as are the other people in the story.  Sometimes I wanted them to be cookie cutter like, but most of the time I was very grateful that they weren't.  Seeing their imperfections also allows the reader to see them grow and to see a portrait of God's grace working in their lives.

I did find it interesting that art quilting was a part of this story.  Art quilts are a new form of modern art that are gaining notice among modern art circles.  I have two books that are about to be reviewed on my Making Things Stretch blog about art quilts that I love.  So, it made me smile to hear about how quilting was a part of Ella's life.

As for the writing... I have read several fiction books recently that jump around a lot, leave big holes, have minimal description, weak word choice, and left me feeling like I'd eaten a rice cake instead of a peanut butter sandwich.  As a result, it was refreshing to read Ms. Thomas' book.  I appreciated her characters' imperfections.  There were spots towards the end, where I felt her passages were a little too short and needed more, but overall it was fine.  Not exceptional, but fine, good.  The writing was enjoyable enough that I want to go find the first two books in the series and read them.

One last quick note... there was a scene in the book in which one character apologizes to another and the person receiving the apology says "That's okay."  Well, no, really it wasn't.  Yes, she forgives the person, but it isn't just "okay".  There are some responses that we give as a culture that aren't truthful and that's one of them.  The truth is that--Yes, God's grace covers over that offense and she will forgive that person, but what they did (abusive actions) wasn't "okay".   I don't expect to agree with everything in a story, but my mind stopped for a moment when I read this.

I'm glad I gave this book a try.  It was good, realistic, Christian fiction and I look forward to reading other books by this author.

Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from Bethany House Publishers.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016


Never was I

Are you

Went She

Hid slyly He


They all Saw

Monday, July 18, 2016

A Book I'm Going to Assign My Kids

This past weekend I read a book I found on someone's reading list on her blog.  The book was Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt.

I loved it.  I'm glad I read it and I want my kids to read it.

The book is about a girl named Ally who struggles in school.  She's been in eight schools or so in seven years because her dad serves in the military.  Ally has an older brother, Travis, who has her back.  Their family is a healthy family, but Ally's dad is deployed during the story.

This book is a story about not judging a book by its cover.  Ally's MO is to distract whenever a teacher or school administrator asks her to read or write.  Because... Ally has dyslexia.  Over the years, her teachers missed it.  Her brother struggles with dyslexia as well.  Their parents know school is hard for them, but her dad likely had it as well and encouraged his son to compensate for it in auto class.

Dyslexia often runs in families.  A few years ago, I began learning a lot more about it and asked one of my friends a few questions.  I asked her if she'd ever been tested for dyslexia.  She asked her parents and they said no.  So, a few days later, she went online and took a test.  Turns out, two separate sites confirmed that she has dyslexia.  This story about Ally could have been my friend's story.  She had teachers who treated her like Ally had been treated.  We began talking about it--I asked her the question Mr. Daniels asks Ally in this story, "Do letters move for you?"  And my friend, like Ally told Mr. Daniels, told me that they always move.  My friend is now teaching her own children and I encouraged her to consider helping her children learn how to read using what she learned about how to compensate.

This story made me aware of several things.  First, teachers should read this story.  But, parents should too.  And I want my kids to read this story.  None of them struggle with reading, but reading this story will give them an idea of what it's like for someone who does.  There are other issues, too that are brought up.  One of Ally's friends doesn't have any food in the refrigerator at home.  Bullying comes into play as well.  There are some adults who are wrong in this story in how they treat the kids.  But, there are adults who try to love kids well, too.  The principal even apologizes to Ally after she learns she has dyslexia.  This is the world we live in.  It's the world the kids my life in.  I feel like so many books make the issues of this world too heavy for kids to handle.  But, this one brings up some of the tough parts of life in an age appropriate way.  The book is rated for grades 4-6, but I think this is a great book for students in grades 5-7.  I think it could stretch either way up to grade 8 or down to grade 4.  The reading level is 5th grade.