Friday, November 24, 2017

Teaching with Story: Classroom Connections to Storytelling, A Review

Teaching with Story by Margaret Read MacDonald
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Book Description

This invaluable resource book includes everything teachers or librarians need to know for using storytelling in their classrooms. It covers a range of topics known as the 7Cs including recommendations for using storytelling to enliven the curriculum, ways to develop literacy and language skills, models for building character, techniques for learning to tell stories, tips for teaching creativity and ways to build community. It even includes ready to tell tales with useful tips for "tellers" along with valuable references for teachers. It also correlates these learning activities with the Common Core Standards.

Review

I received an eARC copy of this book from the publisher. Here is my honest review.

As a teacher, anytime you can read a book and end it feeling like you can immediately incorporate action in your classroom - that's a winner.
This book makes it very clear on how to easily and effectively use folktales and stories in the preschool to high school classroom, across the curriculum. Much of this is due to the abundance of included stories along with the practical activities to include alongside them. One of the strengths of this book is the authors commitment to using a select few stories frequently throughout the book to demonstrate the various applications. 
Finally, after instilling the desire to captivate students with stories, they go on to highlight the research that proves that this is an effective teaching strategy and then even pulls out common core standards that are met by using stories in the classroom.

I gave this book: ★ (3.5 actually)

★ = I did not like it     ★ = It was okay     ★ = I liked it    
★ = I really liked it     ★ = I loved it

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

True Identity: Finding Significance and Freedom Through Who You Are in Christ by John C. Majors, A Review

True Identity: Finding Significance and Freedom Through Who You Are in Christ

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Book Description

All teens wrestle with the question "Who am I?" and wonder, What makes me special?Though these questions linger for life, they are most intense in the teen years, where confusion, awkwardness, and a desperate grab for identity reign. So how does a young person answer these critical questions? Where do young men and women find their significance, worth, and value?

True Identity is perfect for parents and youth workers to give to the teenagers (14-16) in their lives to help them in their journey. Drawing on experiences and wisdom from a wide array of experts, the book provides compassionate answers to help teens discover who they really are, emphasizing their identity in Christ above all other ways our culture defines them. As the book walks teens through the steps to make their faith their own, it highlights healthy independence and God-honoring relationships.

The Passport2Identity curriculum launched in April 2016, and True Identity is its trade book companion.

Review

I received a copy of this book from the publisher. Thank you Bethany House for sharing with me.
Here is my honest review.

First and foremost, this is a book written for teens; I am well into adulthood yet found this book to a relevant and thoughtful examination of major issues that young people face as they race toward adulthood.  As I was reading, I kept thinking "Where were books like this thirty years ago?" If they existed, they certainly weren't on the radar for those in my youth group or the adults guiding us.

With teenagers, broaching honest, thought-provoking topics can sometimes be difficult. Majors addresses one of the critical questions we all ask ourselves: "Who Am I?" and breaks our identity down into four broad compartments before dividing them further in sub-categories. He then addresses each of these elements not from the perspective that is culturally popular at the moment, but rather from the viewpoint of our relationship with Christ.

If you parent a teenager or have a child that will soon be facing these years fraught with angst and confusion, this is a great book to read. Then share it with your son or daughter, inviting them to read it with you and share their thoughts and reactions. It can open conversations in a non-threatening way which is really crucial to having heart-to-heart (two-sided) talks with a young adult.

The four identities explored in this book are: Gender Identity, Spiritual Identity, Relational Identity and Missional Identity. I first thought Majors was too general, skimming the surface even, as he addressed the components of identity. As I continued to read, I realized that it wasn't an in-depth exploration - and that was a good thing. It would be very easy the message to come across as preachy, a sure-fire way to close the door to frank discussion. Additionally, the author is laying groundwork on a topic while allowing room for the reader to continue the thought process and arrive at conclusions that are their own. This is exactly where teenagers are at during this point in their life; they have to determine if they believe what they've been taught and why - or if they disagree and why. This book is a great guide to exploring basic principles of Christianity and how that shapes us and the decisions we make about how we live our lives.

This is not to imply that the book lacks honest, well-laid out truth. It does.For example, True Identity takes a very clear and concise stance on purity outside of marriage with Biblical references as well as psychological reasoning for radical abstinence. With adult perspective and experience, I know that Majors is correct in all the reasons he gives for refraining from premarital sex. Unwanted pregnancy is mentioned but it isn't the strongest case he makes for purity: sex is more than just physical pleasure. His arguments are well-thought out, easily presented and far more compelling argument for teenagers to actually consider than just don't do it.

Personally, there was one area that I found lacking in the book. Majors spends quite a bit of time exploring relationships, which is vitally important to the development of anyone. He is correct in that teenagers are spending more time with peers and other adults in their world than they are with their parents and family. I know that this is part of the process of growing up and is essential to real maturity taking place. But after that explanation, the focus is spent on relationships with peers, finding quality mentors and finally dating. I wish there had been more emphasis placed on maintaining and growing relationship with your parents. While Majors does address specific concerns and advises the reader to discuss it with their parents, there is no significant page space given to the shift that begins to occur in how to relate to your parents at this age and as responsibility and independence grows.

This book will remain on our shelves for a few years until my son is a teenager; it's certainly a book I will encourage him to read and discuss.

I gave this book: 

★ = I did not like it     ★ = It was okay     ★ = I liked it    
★ = I really liked it     ★ = I loved it

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Weave a Circle Round by Kari Maaren, A Review


Weave a Circle Round

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Book Description

Freddy wants desperately to not be noticed. She doesn't want to be seen as different or unusual, but her step-brother Roland gets attention because he's deaf, and her little sister Mel thinks she's a private detective. All Freddy wants to do is navigate high school with as little trouble as possible.

Then someone moves into the house on Grosvenor Street. Two extremely odd someones.

Cuerva Lachance and Josiah aren't . . . normal. When they move in next door, the house begins to exhibit some decidedly strange tendencies, like not obeying the laws of physics or reality. Just as Freddy thinks she's had enough of Josiah following her around, she's plunged into an adventure millennia in the making and discovers the truth about the new neighbors.

Review

I received an eARC copy of this book from the publisher. Here is my honest review.

I super enjoyed this book! I loved the cover and then was pleasantly surprised to find that it has time travel, which is about the only type of science fiction I truly enjoy. The opening hooked me right away and I loved seeing how Freddy's chance encounter with a stranger who gave her a key turned out. 

All the characters in the book are quirky which was a lot of fun - unrealistic maybe, but still fun. What was interesting is that none of the characters have strong friendships but that didn't take away from the story. It was just unique for a middle-grade book - maybe young adult* actually as Freddy is a teenager - I thought. *It didn't have any typical YA tropes, which is why I thought it was middle-grade. (This makes me love it even more!)
The one thing that really bugged me about this book was Freddy's parents. I can't really believe that the parents are so disconnected that they don't make an appearance until the absolute very end. And by appearance I mean interaction with their children. That was unbelievable and maybe it was necessary for the plot but I would kindly disagree.
This is a time travel book and the way Maaren chooses to explore it was pretty refreshing - I don't recall an explanation at all as to how the time travel actually worked. And there were a lot of different times and places that were visited, with varying amounts of development of the time period and characters. Some gave you a good sense of that time and others were a brief glimpse. It was different but for me, it worked. I didn't have to worry about figuring out the science behind everything I could just take it at face value and move on. 
Finally, I really enjoyed Maaren's writing style: it was rich and descriptive and full of great vocabulary. I hope she writes more books!

I gave this book: 

★ = I did not like it     ★ = It was okay     ★ = I liked it    

★ = I really liked it     ★ = I loved it

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Blind Spot by Dani Pettrey, A Review

Blind Spot (Chesapeake Valor, #3)

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Book Description

FBI agent Declan Grey is in the chase of his life--but isn't sure exactly what he's chasing after. Threatened by a terrorist that "the wrath is coming," Grey fears something horrible is about to be unleashed on American soil. When his investigation leads him to a closed immigrant community, he turns to Tanner Shaw to help him. She's sought justice for refugees and the hurting around the world, and if there's anyone who can help him, it's Tanner.

Tanner Shaw has joined the FBI as a crisis counselor . . . meaning she now has more opportunity to butt heads with Declan. But that tension also includes a spark she can't deny, and she's pretty sure Declan feels the same. But before anything can develop between them, they discover evidence of a terror cell--and soon are in a race against the clock to stop the coming "wrath" that could cost thousands their lives.
 

Review

I received a copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers. Here is my honest review.

This is the third book in the Chesapeake Valor series which follows four childhood friends who reconnect and contribute their skills to solving crime. While each book has it's own mystery and romantic couple, I do recommend that you read this series in order in order to fully appreciate the mystery that weaves through the background across the first three books and will be tied up in the fourth book that is forthcoming.

As with any typical romance in this genre, you have the dashing and devastatingly handsome hero, the strong, yet soft heroine and some sort of suspense that throws them together. But that's all the cliche you are going to get from Pettrey in this book. Declan Grey is a confident FBI agent without the arrogance; his humility and faith in God to provide answers and protection give him more depth than you generally find in a hero. Tanner is a fairly strong heroine but I do feel like she was overshadowed by Declan a bit. One of the things Pettrey has done well in this series is get the couples together early on in the book; the focus seems more on the mystery than on the romance which is a winner for me.

As for the suspense portion of this book: it was jam-packed with action. There was a great balance of physical action (car chases, dodging bullets, etc) and the analytical intrigue (clues in old mail, chasing down leads, etc). And that's just the main mystery that Declan and Tanner are focused on. As with the previous two books, there is a secondary mystery that the rest of the team is investigating and had me totally guessing and counter-guessing the entire time.

This is my favorite book of the series, by far. Whether it's because the action and intrigue were so much greater or because I know the cast of characters more intimately...I can't say. I am really looking forward to the fourth book in which the big mystery (where has Luke been) will finally be answered.

I gave this book: 

★ = I did not like it     ★ = It was okay     ★ = I liked it    
★ = I really liked it     ★ = I loved it


Want to Know More?

You can see my reviews for the first two books by clicking on their covers.

Cold Shot (Chesapeake Valor, #1)          Still Life (Chesapeake Valor, #2)

Monday, November 13, 2017

His Third Victim by Helen H Durrant, A Review


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Book Description

A man is shot dead and his body is dumped on the moors. His arm is stamped with the Chinese symbol for sorry.

There have been five unsolved murders with the same hallmark. The police can’t find any motive or connection between the victims.

Bella Richards was close to the murdered man. She lives with her five-year son and has begun a new life in the local area. But although clearly grief-stricken, she is not telling the police everything she knows.

Detective Talbot Dyson wants his most trusted inspector on the case. But DI Matt Brindle is out of action. He was badly injured and his sergeant was killed in a criminal ambush. He is drawn into the investigation and must decide whether he wants to go to back to his old life.

What is the real connection between the victims and who will be next

Review

I received an eARC copy of this book from the publisher. Here is my honest review.

This is the first in a series of the first of Durrant's work that I've read. I liked that this police procedural is set in Britain and it was a fairly good contribution to the genre. The serial killer in this book was definitely an interesting case. I also like the character of Brindle and can see that there is room for a lot of growth and depth as this series develops. I did find the plot a little predictable at times. And the ending was so incredibly rushed, I felt very cheated. It's strength is that it is a good book if you like police procedurals or thrillers without all the gore and disturbing psychological elements. I would read more in the series although I'm not sure I would deliberately seek it out.

I gave this book: 

★ = I did not like it     ★ = It was okay     ★ = I liked it    
★ = I really liked it     ★ = I loved it

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Covent Garden in the Snow by Jules Wake, A Review


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Book Description

Tilly Hunter has fabulous friends, her dream job as a make-up artist with a prestigious opera company and Felix, her kind and caring husband to be. It looks set to be the most perfect Christmas yet!
But when a monumental blunder forces her to work closely with new IT director Marcus Walker, it's not only the roast chestnut stalls on the cobbles of her beloved Covent Garden that cause sparks to fly…
Super serious and brooding, Marcus hasn’t got a creative bone in his sharp-suited body. For technophobe Tilly, it's a match made in hell.
And yet, when Tilly discovers her fiancĂ© isn’t at all what he seems, it's Marcus who's there for her with a hot chocolate and a surprisingly strong shoulder to cry on … He might just be the best Christmas present she’s ever had.

Review

I received an eARC copy of this book from the publisher. Here is my honest review.

This is a light-hearted contemporary romance that is perfect to read during the Christmas season. Tilly is a heroine that has just enough quirks and faults to be relatable and lovable. I enjoyed the daily operations and behind the scenes look we were given to a opera company; it added so much interest to the story and the cast of supporting characters really added so much to the book. Marcus was a genuine good guy that didn't have any faults or hangups as a hero. While the insta-hate from Tilly to Marcus is pretty standard for this genre, it was believable. Seeing their friendship grow was natural and fluid. It was predictable but in a really good way - it left me feeling warm and fuzzy and gooey inside, which is just what a romance should do in my opinion.

I gave this book: ★ - 3.5 really

★ = I did not like it     ★ = It was okay     ★ = I liked it    
★ = I really liked it     ★ = I loved it

Thursday, November 9, 2017

The Welcome Home Diner by Peggy Lampman, A Review


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Book Description

Betting on the city of Detroit’s eventual comeback, cousins Addie and Samantha decide to risk it all on an affordable new house and a culinary career that starts with renovating a vintage diner in a depressed area of town. There’s just one little snag in their vision.

Angus, a weary, beloved local, is strongly opposed to his neighborhood’s gentrification—and his concerns reflect the suspicion of the community. Shocked by their reception, Addie and Samantha begin to have second thoughts.

As the long hours, problematic love interests, and underhanded pressures mount, the two women find themselves increasingly at odds, and soon their problems threaten everything they’ve worked for. If they are going to realize their dreams, Addie and Samantha must focus on rebuilding their relationship. But will the neighborhood open their hearts to welcome them home?

Review

I received an eARC copy of this book from the publisher. Here is my honest review.

This book was such a surprise! I loved the cover and the title made me think I was going to get a heart-warming story (set in the South or Midwest) that would be easy to read and a delight.
In the end, this is a heart-warming story and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. What surprised me was that this wasn't just a bit of fluff story about cousins and food and relationships. It was that but had such depth and emotion that really drew me in. 
The story follows two cousins: Sam and Addie and is told in alternating points of view. They are the best of friends who face a crisis; Lampman wrote them both so well that you love them both and can't possibly take sides. They both must look at who they are, what in their past has shaped them into who they are and what they will retain to take into the future and become.
I also loved the setting: broken down Detroit that these girls and those in their sphere see as a beloved town on the brink of greatness. They are committed to rebuilding the city and building solid foundations of relationships that tear down barriers such as race, ethnicity and economics. To top it all off, food is woven throughout this book in delectable, mouth-watering ways. Recipes included at the end. If only The Welcome Home Diner were real.....

I gave this book: 

★ = I did not like it     ★ = It was okay     ★ = I liked it    
★ = I really liked it     ★ = I loved it

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

All Those Things We Never Said by Marc Levy, A Review

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Book Description


Days before her wedding, Julia Walsh is blindsided twice: once by the sudden death of her estranged father…and again when he appears on her doorstep after his funeral, ready to make amends, right his past mistakes, and prevent her from making new ones.

Surprised, to say the least, Julia reluctantly agrees to turn what should have been her honeymoon into a spontaneous road trip with her father to make up for lost time. But when an astonishing secret is revealed about a past relationship, their trip becomes a whirlwind journey of rediscovery that takes them from Montreal to Paris to Berlin and back home again, where Julia learns that even the smallest gestures she might have taken for granted have the power to change her life forever.

Review

I'd like to thank AmazonCrossing and NetGalley for the eARC they provided. This is my honest review.

This is the second book I've read by Marc Levy and it's easy to see why he is such a renowned French author. I really enjoyed this book and will look forward to reading more of his work in the future.

The characters are what makes this book come alive. The friendship between Julia and Stanley is so solid although it's a good three-quarters of the book before you find out why their friendship is so deep and strong. Even though some of the people in the story have a very small part to play, Levy does an amazing job of finding the humanness in each of them. They are simple and yet complex, certainly believable and easy to relate to. 

I think the book is a little hard to classify: it's certainly literary fiction...but then there's a bit of a science fiction twist thrown in with Julia's father reappearing as an android just after his death to mend the rift between them. The relationship between them is so beautifully done - as a reader you can't take sides with either of them, you just keep turning the pages, cheering them on to reconciliation. And then there is the second chance at love for soul mates element to the story that Levy draws out in agonizing detail. And then, when it gets to be a little too much, Levy throws in just the right amount of humor. 
I gave this book: 

★ = I did not like it     ★ = It was okay     ★ = I liked it    
★ = I really liked it     ★ = I loved it

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

The House on Foster Hill, A Review

The House on Foster Hill
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Book Description


Outstanding Debut Novel from an Author to Watch

Kaine Prescott is no stranger to death. When her husband died two years ago, her pleas for further investigation into his suspicious death fell on deaf ears. In desperate need of a fresh start, Kaine purchases an old house sight unseen in her grandfather's Wisconsin hometown. But one look at the eerie, abandoned house immediately leaves her questioning her rash decision. And when the house's dark history comes back with a vengeance, Kaine is forced to face the terrifying realization she has nowhere left to hide. 
A century earlier, the house on Foster Hill holds nothing but painful memories for Ivy Thorpe. When an unidentified woman is found dead on the property, Ivy is compelled to discover her identity. Ivy's search leads her into dangerous waters and, even as she works together with a man from her past, can she unravel the mystery before any other lives--
including her own--are lost?

Review

I received an eARC copy of this book from the publisher. Here is my honest review.

I really enjoyed this book It was a little more thriller than mystery and while Wright alluded to deep, dark evil, it wasn't with graphic or explicit details. The sense of evil was there yet it wasn't scary enough that I couldn't go to sleep. Now I did wake up in the middle of the night and pick it back up to see what was going to happen next so there was definitely suspense that drew me into the story. 

The story shifts between Kaine, a California widow who is running from a stalker that nobody else believes actually exists, and Ivy, her great-great-grandmother who is caught up in the middle of the murder of a mysterious woman back in the 1800's. The book unfolds by shifting between the time lines and Kaine's and Ivy's points-of-view. I thought this structure lended itself very well to the story and the way the separate mysteries intertwined and even built on each other was really interesting. The villain was a complete surprise and masterfully handled

One thing I really enjoyed was the way Wright shed light on the very serious issue of human trafficking. This is not a new plight that women and children have faced in recent decades; it continues to exist and as a society we tend to turn our eyes away from it, as if ignoring it will make it go away. 

I gave this book: 

★ = I did not like it     ★ = It was okay     ★ = I liked it    
★ = I really liked it     ★ = I loved it