Wednesday, August 29, 2012


I received a copy of CRUEL HARVEST: A MEMOIR by Fran Elizabeth Grubb with Bryan Reardon, from Thomas Nelson via BookSneeze. This is one of the most gripping memoirs I have ever read.  Once again, this was a book that captured me from page one and left me breathless by the time I finished reading in one sitting.  It reads like a novel, very smooth, with realistic dialogue.  Many times, I had to remind myself that these horrific events had really happened to an innocent young girl.  I imagined the students I have taught in the past and I cringed to picture them, or anyone, in such situations. 

The memoir involves Fran Grubb’s childhood, a twisted nightmare she had to endure without help.  So many parts left my mouth gaping; other sections made me shudder.  Her family members fled her father, but for a long while, Fran was stuck with him.  She watched him kill her sister and sexually assault them.  I wept with Fran during many of the heart-wrenching events depicted in the chapters, and at the end, I cheered for her hopes.  To have become such a wonderful Christian woman proves what a strong person she really is.  I highly recommend this book to anyone seeking a though-provoking read. 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

When Hope Blossoms

I received a copy of WHEN HOPE BLOSSOMS by Kim Vogel Sawyer, from Bethany House. I had never read a book with a Mennonite protagonist before, so I was excited to learn about the religion and culture.  From chapter two onward, I was hook.  Sadly, chapter one was a little slow, so I beg you to at least read a few chapters in before making an opinion about the book.  By the time I was halfway through, I couldn’t stop, and read late into the night.   

Amy, a young Mennonite widow, moves to a new town with her three children.  Her son, Parker, suffered a head trauma that left him with a disability.  The neighbor, Tim, left the Mennonite faith because of his strict upbringing.  At first, he resents the Mennonites, but slowly becomes attached to Amy’s children (which I found a little odd.  Throughout the book, I got a sense of their strong relationship, but now how he was with Amy until the very end.  Their romance seemed sudden and unprepared, but didn’t make me like the book any less).  Little by little, he reopens his heart to the Mennonite faith. 

The story was very touching as it showed his progress.  I would have liked to see more growth from Amy and the children, but the story really focused on Tim.  His character is three-dimensional and realistic.  I learned a lot about the Mennonites and hope to find more books about them.  

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


I received a copy of MY POP-UP BIBLE STORIES by Juliet David, illustrated by Daniel Haworth from Candle Books through Kregel Publications. In case you can’t tell from the title, it’s a pop-up book – of Bible stories! I’d never seen one like it before, and I by the time I finished reading it, I had mixed feelings. Originally, I was thrilled. Children and adults love pop-up books. They bring the stories to life in a 3-D sense that a mere picture book can’t do. When I was subbing and doing my student teaching in local elementary schools, children loved the pop-up books best. The school library even had a few that were always out. Since they delight children so much, it’s a great idea to make one about the Bible.

Sadly, I wasn’t as thrilled when I finished reading it. Each page was a different Bible story, such as Daniel in the Lion’s Den. While I loved all of the stories, integral to understanding the Christian faith, the single page that included only a few paragraphs didn’t do the story justice. It felt rushed and incomplete, leaving me with more questions than answers. A parent or teacher reading this to a child could then go to the Bible and continue the lesson, but since the stories are so sparse, they don’t capture the imagination or hold interest.

On a more positive note, the pictures are eye-catching and child-friendly. As a supplement to a lesson, this would be a great resource. Despite my misgivings, I did enjoy the book, and recommend it to teachers and parents.

Thursday, August 2, 2012


I received a copy of GRANT: SAVIOR OF THE UNION by Mitchell Yockelson, from Thomas Nelson via BookSneeze.  It is part of The Generals, a series about powerful Christian leaders.  As soon as I got it, my dad and uncle both requested to borrow it when I finished.  My mom also asked to read it, so it isn’t just a “boy” book. 

Prior to reading, I had known only a little about Ulysses S. Grant: a Civil War General who fought for the Union with great success and later became a United States President.  This biography makes him out to be so much more.  Yes, he did fight for President Abraham Lincoln, but he was also an ordinary man, who loved fishing and his family.  Spread out over sixteen chapters, the reader gets to experience Grant’s struggles with him.  I would have liked to learn more about his home life and childhood, though – these topics were rushed.  The biography focuses more on his part in the Civil War.  It is written in a simple way for anyone to enjoy, making it a fast read.  It will especially appeal to Civil War buffs and past war enthusiasts. 

I recommend this to history fans, as well as Christian readers who are looking for a role model.  Despite his faults, Ulysses S. Grant is someone to look up to; this biography proves why.