Jun 212010

This is the first day of summer! I can’t believe how quickly June has flown by. I also can’t believe how extra hot it has been this spring. We’ve had weeks of 90+ temperatures already. That usually doesn’t happen until July.

It has been a very busy spring for me. I accepted the job as HSB Senior Editor on March 17, just before spring started. During that time I helped prepare for the upgrade here at HSB and then helped educate users on how to use their blogs. I say this all in preparation for saying that my reading goals were not all accomplished.

Here is my Spring Reading Thing goals post. I had 3 specific goals. The first was to read the next classic book in the list from The Well Educated Mind. That was Anna Karenina. I am happy to report that I did complete it. My second goal was to read another Jane Austen book. I chose Mansfield Park. I never went so far as to locate a copy of the book, so obviously that didn’t get done. My third big goal was to finish reading through the Bible. I had started the 90 day reading plan and had stalled several times. I had time to finish it this spring. But nope, didn’t do that either.

I did read the novels I had received to review, as well as one of the non-fiction books on my list. I actually didn’t quite keep up with my 1 book a week goal. Here are the books I completed this spring, linked to my reviews if I wrote one.

  1. Here Burns My Candle by Liz Curtis Higgs
  2. The Crown of Kuros by Ed Dunbar
  3. Sleep It Does A Family Good by Archibald Hart
  4. Hunter?s Moon by Don Hoesel
  5. Not a Sparrow Falls by Linda Nichols
  6. The Money Answer Book by Dave Ramsey
  7. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
  8. Overcoming Dyslexia by Sally Shaywitz
  9. A River in the Sky by Elizabeth Peters
  10. The Core  by Leigh A. Bortins (review coming soon)

Visit Callapidder Days to read more Spring Reading Thing conclusions.

Jun 082010

I began to suspect that my younger son (8 years old) is dyslexic last fall. I don’t remember exactly how and why I began to be suspicious. Certainly the fact that he was still struggling to blend simple words together at 7-1/2 was disconcerting. I think it was when I was reviewing materials from AVKO and All About Spelling that I read the common symptoms of dyslexia and realized that he had many of them.

I started doing research, especially looking for homeschoolers who were teaching dyslexic children. Molly at Counter-cultural School has put together a fantastic article on Resources for the Dyslexic Child. Two of the books she recommends for parents are The Gift of Dyslexia by Ronald Davis and Overcoming Dyslexia by Sally Shaywitz. I read The Gift of Dyslexia first, and though interesting, I didn’t find much that was a practical help with me and my son at this point, because most of the book focused on retraining an older child.

Overcoming Dyslexia contains helpful information for me to use now. The book begins with The Nature of Reading and Dyslexia. It continues with Diagnosing Dyslexia and Helping Your Child Become a Reader and concludes with a section on Overcoming Dyslexia: Turning Struggling Readers into Proficient Readers. There was a thorough explanation of the differences in the brain function of a dyslexic person versus a “normal” reader. To summarize those differences, a dyslexic uses less efficient neural pathways for decoding words. I learned that systematic phonics instruction is the only effective way to teach dyslexic children to read (no surprise there), and that additional training in fluent reading is imperative.

One large oversight on the part of the author was her failure to mention homeschooling as a viable schooling option. I do not know whether she failed to mention the possibility because she is opposed to homeschooling, or if it is something that she has not even considered. I did find it an obvious option that was omitted in her chapter about choosing a school for your dyslexic child. In that chapter she mentioned the many shortcomings of both public and private schools and pushed her preferred option of special schools for children with reading disabilities. Since those schools are somewhat rare and tend to be located only in large metropolitan areas, I think that homeschooling is a much better option than enrolling your child in a substandard public or private school. Where can a child get more individual attention than at home? Where better to tailor the child’s curriculum to allow for different ways of learning?

Shaywitz also stated that “reading instruction should be left to the experts.” But what is a person to do who has no access to those “experts”? It was almost amusing to read how she said that children needed someone to be their champion and then detailed all of the extra practice a parent can be doing with her child, and yet she didn’t see the obvious possibility of a parent actually teaching their own child to read.

Obviously most homeschooling parents do not have advanced degrees in reading instruction, but when faced with a problem teaching our child, we look for solutions. We search for the cause of the problem and seek how to teach that child. We do research on what curriculum works, we continually evaluate our child’s progress, and we care more than anyone else about our child’s difficulties. That is the reason that I read Overcoming Dyslexia. After reading it, I am definitely more equipped to teach my son. And even if he doesn’t actually have dyslexia, the teaching methods described are applicable for teaching anyone to read.

Stepping off my soapbox now… This is the 20th book I’ve completed in the 52 books in 52 weeks challenge. That puts me 3 books behind for the year. Fiction, here I come! Oh, and for the record, my links to Christian Book Distributors are affiliate links.

May 192010

It took me months, but I finally finished Anna Karenina. All 807 pages of it. Believe it or not, I actually liked it. (Well, not all of it. I got a little bored with some of the discussion of Russian agricultural techniques.) It was definitely a thought provoking book. It very clearly demonstrates the effect of getting “what you want”, when “what you want” is wrong. I don’t want to give away the plot, because I know you are all going to rush out to get a copy.

In case you’re wondering why I even chose to read Anna Karenina at all, I’m very slowly reading through the recommendations in The Well Educated Mind. My efforts to finally finish the book did cause me to miss a week in the 52 books in 52 weeks challenge. (or maybe 2. This is the 18th book I’ve completed this year, and this is week 20 of the challenge.) I’ll be doing some lighter reading to catch up 🙂

May 072010

Dave Ramsey’s latest book, The Money Answer Book, is a short, easily readable book written in a question and answer format. Topics include Debt, Credit, & Bankruptcy, Relationships & Money, Budgeting, Stewardship, Insurance, and more. Dave provides his simple, no-nonsense advice in much the same way as he does on the radio.

This book is a great summary of what I have learned from listening to Dave’s radio show. I don’t think that there was any information presented that I hadn’t heard before, but it is a helpful reference, especially for topics like College Savings and Retirement plans that you don’t have to think about often. The arrangement of the book makes it easy to read about a specific topic, but I found that reading straight through the book helped give me a fresh perspective on our budget and reminded me of some areas that we can work on. I recommend this book both to those who want to get out of debt, and those who are already familiar with Dave Ramsey’s plan, but could use a written reference.

For more information, or to purchase this book, visit Thomas Nelson.
I review for BookSneezeThis book was provided for free to review from Thomas Nelson as a member of the Book Sneeze Blogger program.

Visit 52 books in 52 weeks to see how others are doing in this challenge.

Apr 292010

207470: Not a Sparrow Falls, repackaged edition Not a Sparrow Falls is the story of Mary Bridget Washburn, a young woman from the mountains of Virginia, who has fled her Christian upbringing and has been living and assisting at a meth lab. Seizing an opportunity to escape, she eventually meets a widowed minister with three children. She is determined to keep her past a secret, yet knows deep down that it will be exposed in the end. She knew the Lord as a girl, but doubts that He could forgive her for her many sins.

I’ve been complaining about some of the "Christian" fiction that I’ve been reviewing, because much of it is "Christian" only in its lack of certain elements (bad language, sexual themes, etc.). But these so-called "Christian" books contain nothing of the gospel in the story. That is not true of Not a Sparrow Falls. This book was not only exciting and suspenseful, but it also dealt with forgiveness and restoration in a Biblical way. It did that without being "preachy" or forced. The gospel was a natural element of the story, as well as the power of prayer and the extent of Christ’s forgiveness. I absolutely loved this book and recommend it without hesitation.

This is my 17th book completed in 2010. Visit 52 Books in 52 Weeks to see how others are doing in the challenge.

Disclosure: I received this book from Bethany House for free to review. I was not compensated for this review. This post contains affiliate links.

Apr 222010

Hunter’s Moon by Don Hoesel is the story of best-selling author C.J. Baxter. With his personal life falling apart,  C.J. returns to his hometown in Upstate NY for the first time in 17 years to attend his grandfather’s funeral. His return is met with mixed reactions from his family and old friends. He soon realizes that the old wounds that kept him away for so many years have never healed. He discovers the family secrets are still buried and that his brother and father will stop at nothing to keep them buried.

I enjoyed reading this book and found it both entertaining and suspenseful. I didn’t find it to be particularly Christian however. Apparently C.J. was saved about a month before the beginning of the book. That is not mentioned until well into the plot, and then quite vaguely. In addition, there is a renewed love interest in his former girlfriend who is now married to his cousin. There were things that occurred between the two of them that were definitely inappropriate since they were married to other people. It’s not really the behavior that I found as disturbing as much as the lack of repentance or conviction of sin that was expressed by either C.J. or Julie. I do recognize that many believers do struggle with inappropriate feelings towards members of the opposite sex, and I think the author missed an excellent opportunity to demonstrate how a Christian should respond to those feelings.

If you’re looking for a suspenseful book without bad language and graphic descriptions of violence, then I would recommend this book. If you’re looking for a book that is inspiring and causes you to think about your Christian faith, this is not it.

This is the 16th book I’ve completed in 2010 as part of the 52 Books in 52 Weeks challenge.

On the nightstand:

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Overcoming Dyslexia by Sally Shaywitz, M.D.
Not a Sparrow Falls by Linda Nichols
Instructing a Child’s Heart by Tedd and Margy Tripp
Andrea Carter and the Trouble with Treasure by Susan K. Marlow

I received this book for free from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for my honest review. I was not compensated for this review.
Apr 152010

People today are sleep-deprived, and nowhere are the negative effects felt more acutely than in families. Most parents realize that their families aren’t getting enough sleep, though they likely don’t understand how serious the problem is and need help finding a solution. In this book, renowned psychologist and best-selling author Arch Hart explores why sleep is so important, what happens when family members are chronically sleep deprived, and how families can start developing healthy sleep habits.

Busy, busy, busy. It seems like everyone is getting busier. I know I am. Not only are we busier, but with multiple computers in our home, we’ve started spending even more time on-line. And with wireless internet, I’ve been known to take my laptop to bed. (Who am I kidding? Most of the time my laptop is on my bed!)

I knew that sleep was important. Don’t we all know that? But there are lots of people who claim not to need 8 hours of sleep. There’s also the whole morning person/night person idea. Dr. Hart makes some compelling arguments against both of those ideas. Included in the book is general information about sleep – why we need it, the phases of sleep, what happens while we sleep, etc. In addition, he includes numerous assessments to determine if you and your family are getting enough sleep. There are helpful tips for fighting insomnia as well as a chapter on Christian meditation. The meditation described is not related to Eastern religion, but is a focused time of thinking on things like God’s attributes or positive things that happened in our day. The basic idea was consistent with Philippians 4:8.

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things [are] honest, whatsoever things [are] just, whatsoever things [are] pure, whatsoever things [are] lovely, whatsoever things [are] of good report; if [there be] any virtue, and if [there be] any praise, think on these things.

After reading this book I am convinced and determined that I will get more sleep. I will also institute earlier bedtimes for my kids. I will encourage my husband to get more sleep as well. That reminds me, I’d better get my kids ready for bed!

This is the 15th book I’ve finished this year. Visit 52 Books in 52 Weeks to see what others are reading this week.

On the nightstand:

Hunter’s Moon
Not a Sparrow Falls
Instructing a Child’s Heart
Anna Karenina.

Disclaimer: This book was provided to me free of charge by Tyndale House as a member of the Tyndale Blog Network. I was not compensated for this review.

Mar 252010

A mother who cannot face her future.
A daughter who cannot escape her past.

Lady Elisabeth Kerr is a keeper of secrets. A Highlander by birth and a Lowlander by marriage, she honors the auld ways, even as doubts and fears stir deep within her.

Her husband, Lord Donald, has secrets of his own, well hidden from the household, yet whispered among the town gossips.

His mother, the dowager Lady Marjory, hides gold beneath her floor and guilt inside her heart. Though her two abiding passions are maintaining her place in society and coddling her grown sons, Marjory’s many regrets, buried in Greyfriars Churchyard, continue to plague her.

One by one the Kerr family secrets begin to surface, even as bonny Prince Charlie and his rebel army ride into Edinburgh in September 1745, intent on capturing the crown.

A timeless story of love and betrayal, loss and redemption, flickering against the vivid backdrop of eighteenth-century Scotland, Here Burns My Candle illumines the dark side of human nature, even as hope, the brightest of tapers, lights the way home.

Author Bio:

LIZ CURTIS HIGGS is the author of twenty-seven books with three million copies in print, including: her best-selling historical novels, Thorn in My Heart, Fair Is the Rose, Christy Award-winner Whence Came a Prince, and Grace in Thine Eyes, a Christy Award finalist; My Heart’s in the Lowlands: Ten Days in Bonny Scotland, an armchair travel guide to Galloway; and her contemporary novels, Mixed Signals, a Rita Award finalist, and Bookends, a Christy Award finalist.

My thoughts:

I love to read historical fiction, but somehow I had not heard of Liz Curtis Higgs until I received Here Burns My Candle to review. She really knows how to tell a story. While reading this book, I was totally enthralled. The characters are very real and the description of the setting makes you see it. I could hear the Scottish accents too, as much of the dialogue was written in the native dialect. (There is a glossary in the back to help with unfamiliar words.) I am now interested in learning more about Bonny Prince Charles and his quest to regain the throne of England for the Stuarts and that is a good test for historical fiction. A good work of historical fiction grabs my interest in the time period and leaves me wanting to research it on my own.

Here Burns My Candle was based very loosely on the book of Ruth. (Actually, just the first 18 verses. The rest of the story will be told in the sequel.) I must give a word of warning about the content. Adultery is very prevalent, though in no is it glorified. In general some of the “romantic” portions of the book were a little more descriptive than I would expect from a Christian book. (It would not be anything I would think twice about in a secular book though.) And the depiction of the depth of the sin did strengthen the bond I felt with Lady Elisabeth.

Overall, I really enjoyed the book and am looking forward to reading the sequel. I also will be looking for Liz Curtis Higgs previous works. To purchase Here Burns My Candle visit the WaterBrook Multnomah website. I received this book from WaterBrook Multnomah for free to review. Here is the official site for Blogging for Books if you’re interested in joining the program.

This book is the 13th book of the year. Visit 52 Books in 52 Weeks to see what others are reading this week.

Mar 192010

Thomas Nelson has introduced a new series of biographies called Christian Encounters. The purpose of the series is to "highlight important lives from all ages and areas of the church." The compact books are designed to provide an overall picture of the person’s life, rather than an exhaustive compilation.

In recent years, I have discovered that I thoroughly enjoy Jane Austen’s work. I have read 3 of her 6 novels, but plan to read the others. In addition, I have seen several screen adaptations of her works. I have also enjoyed reading a series of fictional mysteries that have Jane Austen as the sleuth.  As I was reading this biography, I realized that I had actually learned quite a bit about Jane Austen’s personal life by reading those books.

However, since it is difficult to separate the facts from the fiction in that type of novel, I was happy for the chance to read an entirely factual account of her life. I found this book enjoyable to read. Leithart’s account was filled with interesting quotes from Austen’s letters and other writings. It also contained quotes from members of her family. These brought Jane to life, emphasizing her wit and insight into life. Leithart also included excerpts that demonstrate Jane’s Christian beliefs. I really enjoyed the book and would recommend it to anyone interested in learning more about Jane Austen.

Visit Thomas Nelson for more information and to purchase this book. Visit 52 Books in 52 Weeks to see what others are reading this week.

I review for BookSneeze

This book was provided to me for review from the BookSneeze Blogger program. I was not compensated for this review.

Mar 092010

Thicker than Blood by C.J. Darlington

Homeschool Graduate Pens Award-winning Christian Novel!

[Lititz, PA]—“If it weren’t for homeschooling, I wouldn’t be where I am today,” says C.J. Darlington, a homeschool graduate who started writing her first novel when she was fifteen-years-old. That novel, Thicker than Blood, recently won the Christian Writers Guild Operation First Novel contest.

The grand prize included $20,000 and publication by renowned publisher Tyndale House. Thicker than Blood has now hit bookstores across the country and is even being featured in select Walmart stores.

With endorsements from the likes of Jerry B. Jenkins, Rebecca St.
James, Susan Meissner, and James Scott Bell, Thicker than Blood tells the story of estranged sisters May and Christy Williams. Booklist has called it a “modern twist on the prodigal son story” and ultimately the novel delivers a message of the forgiving and redemptive power of God available to all those hurting among us.

“I hope my journey encourages homeschool parents to keep the faith and never give up,” C.J. says. “You’re giving your kids an awesome gift by homeschooling them. I’m living proof that
homeschooling works!”

My thoughts: This book grabbed me from the very first page. I could hardly put it down and managed to read all 372 pages in 2 days! It was full of turmoil and suspense. I kept wondering how some of the issues would be resolved. I was able to predict part of the ending, but much of the plot took me be surprise as it unfolded.

I also loved the characters and the story of how Christy discovers that God loves her as she is and doesn’t have to do anything to gain his favor. We all are in the same position as Christy, even if our lives have not been as tragic. We all are helpless to earn God’s favor and need Christ’s blood to cover our sins.

This is an excellent first novel by C.J. Darlington. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys reading Christian fiction.

Visit 52 books in 52 weeks to see what others are reading this week. Also, check out Callapidder Days a for the Spring Reading Thing. Get your reading list ready and post it on March 20. I actually won one of the Amazon gift cards in the Fall into Reading Challenge.

Next on my reading list:

Jane Austen
by Peter Leithart.

Disclosure: I received this book from the author to review. I was not compensated in any way other than receiving a free book. This post contains affiliate links.