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May 18th, 2011

Book Review: Great Expectations (Classic Starts) Retold from the Charles Dickens Original by Deanna McFadden

greatexpectationsThere are two widely divergent schools of thought amongst home educators regarding the classics.  You should only ever read them to (or have your children read) the unabridged, original versions.  Another school of thought states that if you wish to have a great books education for your children, it is helpful to read them (or have them read) high quality abridgements and retellings of the original works during the grammar years.

Though I have in the past steadfastly held to the first position, after reading Great Expectations (Classic Starts) – a child-friendly retelling of Dickens’ classic story for readers from 9 – 12, I have to say that I can see how children’s versions can be a useful tool.  Children can read and easily understand the simplified style while picking up on the major characters, themes, setting, and plot, while not becoming bogged down in the original work.  Then when they revisit it, they will gain all the more from the original. The creamy pages, larger font size, and generous line spacing also combine to make this handsome hardcover edition a great choice for young readers.

Actually (and this might sound sacrilegious to Dickens’ fans), I think I enjoyed the abridgement more than the original.  I have always found Great Expectations to be a strange, disturbing sort of story, but when I read this to my daughter she was SO interested – even though she was only seven at the time.  She was so excited to find out what would happen to Pip during his adventures through life.  I still think the story is a bit odd (sorry Dickens’ – maybe I’m just not enough of a “Great Books” gal) but this rendition is a great starter book to pick up the main points before digging into the real deal.

So, what is Great Expectations about anyway?  Doesn’t a book review normally include some verbiage about the story itself?  Let me take a crack at it for you.  Young Pip is an orphan living with relatives in Victorian England when he encounters an escaped criminal who he aids (somewhat reluctantly) to flee from justice.  Soon after this nightmarish experience, he is drawn into a strange friendship with an old woman and her proud young relation – Estella.  As he matures, a mysterious benefactor funds his education so that he can become a proper gentleman.  This is an incredibly simplified synopsis, but that gives you a tiny taste of what this well-known story is about.

This is also a very affordable book – only $5.95 for a hardcover.  Pretty nice if you ask me!

CLICK HERE TO BUY NOW AT AMAZON.COM!

May 18th, 2011

First Tour: The Redeemer by Linda Rios Brook

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today’s Wild Card author is:
Linda Rios Brook

and the book:

The Redeemer

Realms (May 3, 2011)

***Special thanks to Anna Coelho Silva | Publicity Coordinator, Charisma House | Charisma Media for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Linda Rios Brook has worked as a media executive in broadcasting for over thirty years. A highly acclaimed teacher and member of the International Coalition of Apostles, she teaches at the Covenant Centre International in Palm Beach Gardens and at the Wagner Leadership Institute in Colorado Springs. Linda serves on the board of directors for Global Harvest and is vice president of the International Christian Chamber of Commerce USA. She has taught classes on the Dominion Sky Angel satellite network and is the author of several books: Lucifer’s Flood, The Deliverer, The King, Frontline Christians in a Bottom Line World, Wake Me When It’s Over: From the Boardroom to the Twilight Zone and the Faithfulness of God, and Jesus for Adults.

Visit the author’s website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

As the final installment in the series that began with Lucifer’s Flood, Linda Rios Brook’s The Redeemer finds ancient language expert Samantha Yale translating a final batch of ancient scrolls written by a fallen angel. This volume of writings covers the demon’s eyewitness accounts of biblical events that cover the life of Jesus. In the process we also discover the mysterious Mr. Wonk’s true identity and learn an amazing secret that Samantha has been keeping. This is a story about rebellion and consequences. It is about demonic strategy to disrupt and destroy the people of God. But ultimately it is a story about the unrelenting love, grace, mercy, and determination of a sovereign God in pursuit of His errant children.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Realms (May 3, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1616382066
ISBN-13: 978-1616382063

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

I never knew how Satan was going to react to bad news, so I waited as long as possible before mentioning the new star-like object. At the slightest chance an irregularity might resolve itself, I usually saved myself the grief and didn’t tell him.
This time I may have waited too long.

Satan stared at the glowing ball hanging in the vacuous space between the heavens. “How long has it been there?”

“I’m not sure, sir. It appeared suddenly. I watched it for a few days, and when it didn’t disappear, I called for you; that is, as soon as I realized it might be important. But then on the other hand, perhaps it means nothing.”
He leaned over the ledge, looked down, and then back up at the strange new light.
“You should have notified me immediately.”

“My fault entirely, All-Knowing One.”

“I knew you were dumb—always have been. How could you think something like this appearing in my territory without my permission could mean nothing?”

Trick question.
“I meant to say maybe it doesn’t mean anything to you— personally. Perhaps I shouldn’t have bothered you until I was sure.”

“It’s your fault for not telling me sooner if this turns out to be trouble for me.”
He was becoming agitated. I needed to diffuse the situation.

“Oh, you know what it probably is? I should have remembered. Before we were thrown out of heaven, Adonai was always making new stars, but some of them didn’t turn out, and He threw them away. This one is probably a reject. He tossed it here to get it out of

His way.”
I paused to gauge his reaction. When he didn’t have one, I kept talking.

“Of course, that’s just what it is, nothing but a botched star. I should have figured it out before I interrupted you. A thousand pardons…”
“It’s not a star.”
“You’re right; it’s not.”
“Don’t patronize me.”
“That would be impossible, sir.”

I knew it wasn’t a star, but it shone like one, and I had to call it something. I was about to explain my choice of descriptors when Molech arrived.
“You sent for me, my lord.” Molech bowed his head, as all lesser beings were required to do when addressing Satan.

“Do you see it?” Satan pointed toward the light.

“Yes, it’s been there for weeks. We’ve all been watching it.”

“Weeks?” Satan snarled and looked at me.

“Uh, well, it’s like this, master—” I had to think of something fast, or I would be so found out. It was my job to watch and report anything unusual immediately. For sure a new light source fixed in the sky as if tethered by an invisible wire over a small town on

the earth would, by anyone’s interpretation, fall into the unusual category. The truth was, of late I’d grown lax about monitoring the earth.

Ever since the prophets died off, God seemed to have lost interest and hadn’t said a word to the Jews in four hundred and thirty years. Humanity was not that interesting without God, and I got bored. I hadn’t been watching Earth every day like I should have been. I still checked on it on a somewhat regular basis, but the truth was, I didn’t know where the light came from or how long it had been there. One look at Satan’s scowl and I knew I’d better find something to say in my defense.
“As you know, master,” I continued, “I’m always at my post watching, but my vision isn’t what it used to be. Recently I’ve seen a number of things that weren’t there, and knowing how busy you are, I didn’t want to trouble you with a figment of my poor eyesight and vivid imagination. But as soon as I knew it was real, I notified you right away, O Sovereign One ever to be praised.”

“God is behind this,” Satan said to Molech, ignoring me entirely. “Send scouts; find out what He’s planning. Miss nothing.”

“As you say, my liege.”
Molech spread his leathery wings and was off. Satan watched the light a little longer and then went back to his lair without saying another word to me. I hopped up on my perch to study the light more closely.

What can it be? Have I ever seen anything like this? No. So why does it seem familiar?
As I strained to recollect, a long-dormant memory woke up in the back of my mind and wiggled its way to the front. Goosebumps formed on my tail as it all came back to me.

How could I have forgotten? I was right here on this very perch when I saw it the first time.
It was after we were thrown out of heaven, thousands of years ago when Lucifer ordered me to watch the earth languish in devastation after he and his rebellious angels ravaged it until there was nothing left of the beautiful blue-and-green planet except for the black, swirling waters. I was with them, but it wasn’t my fault, and I wasn’t a rebel. I was a victim of circumstance.
I was standing in the wrong place when the war in heaven broke out, weighing the odds between Lucifer and Michael, trying to make up my mind what to do, as any reasonable person would, given the situation. When I figured out that there was no possibility Lucifer could win, I was just about to walk over to Michael’s side; then suddenly the

war was over, and Lucifer and one-third of the angels were cast to the earth. I got caught in the downdraft and fell with them. Five minutes more and none of this would have happened to me.

The day things changed for the earth I was right here at my post in the second heaven watching the dank waters that covered it. I confess that from time to time the boredom became unbearable, and I would close my eyes and let my mind wander to a happier time when I was still in the third heaven with God. Fortunately for me, I wasn’t wandering that day. I scanned the sea like always, and like always I saw nothing happening—except for one tiny glimmer that appeared in the black water.

“It can’t be light,” I said to myself. “There is no light left anywhere on the earth.” I looked again. “That is definitely a glimmer of light.”
I got a little closer and watched as the luminous ripples grew bigger and spread further until the murkiness of the water began to clear. When I finally figured out what was happening, I wanted to run and hide.

Ruah Ha Kadosh was hovering over the deep. I was a witness when God began the re-creation of the fallen earth.

“There’s something about this star, or whatever it is, that feels like the light I saw in the seas so long ago.” I scratched my head. “But how could it be?”
I continued to watch the glow for several more hours until I heard the beating of wings. Molech was back with a cadre of platoon leaders. They set themselves down on the steps leading into Satan’s throne room. I hurried to catch up and followed them inside.

“What have you learned?” Satan demanded. “Something is happening on the earth, isn’t it?”
“That may be, my lord.” Molech paused and exchanged looks with Tammuz, the demon to his right. “But whatever might be happening on the earth cannot be nearly as important as what has happened in the third heaven.”
“How could you know anything about the third heaven?” I blurted out before I could catch myself. “We have no access there anymore.”

Molech glared at me. “You have no access, but my associate here”—he nodded toward Tammuz—“has, shall we say, sources.”

Tammuz stepped forward and bowed to Satan. “My lord, legions of angels are leaving the third heaven—right now—and are heading to the earth.”
Any news involving the heavenly host always made Satan’s eyes twitch, especially if the word legions was in the same sentence.

“But there’s more.” Molech prodded Tammuz along by poking him on the arm. “Tell him the rest—the part about Adonai.”

Satan’s twitching eyes widened.
“I was coming to that,” Tammuz said. “Adonai is missing.”

“Missing?” Satan squeaked, then cleared his throat. “Do you mean to say they’ve misplaced Him?”
Neither Molech nor Tammuz laughed at the ridiculous nature of Satan’s question, and I certainly didn’t, but only because I clamped my teeth over my tongue.
“He’s gone, master,” Tammuz said.

“Vanished,” Molech added. “He’s left the third heaven.”

“Impossible,” Satan declared. “He never leaves home. Besides, where would He go? You’re mistaken and wasting my time.”

Satan drew back his arm as if he might strike the messengers. Molech and Tammuz cowered and stepped back.

“He’s not there, my lord,” Tammuz said. “My sources looked everywhere. He’s gone. The rank-and-file angels are as perplexed as we are.”

Satan lifted an eyebrow.
“There was one witness to something strange.” Tammuz chose his words carefully. “Someone saw the host lined up in front of the throne room, facing each other with their swords drawn and crossed.”

“And?” Satan waved his claw hand in circles, urging Tammuz to say whatever he was trying not to say.

“And the witness saw Adonai come out of the throne room, walk under the crossed swords, and leave. No one has seen Him since.”

“It’s a trick.” Satan walked across the floor and kicked over a footstool, then turned back to Molech. “Where could He have gone?”

“The angels don’t know, sire, not even the elite guard. They are as mystified as you—I mean us; of course you are never mystified.”

Suddenly the door flew open as Baal, Satan’s highest-ranking demon god, barged into the room without being announced. He was breathing so hard we could barely understand him.

“You’ve got to come now, master—to the rim. We’re about to be overrun by them. Hurry!”
“Overrun by what? Whom?” I asked.

“Angels!”
“Are we being invaded?” Satan demanded.

“You must come and see for yourself.”

Wasting no more time, Satan raced with Baal to the edge of the second heaven with the rest of us right behind them. We lined up along the perimeter, where we had a clear view of the earth and all that lay in between it and us. Baal hadn’t exaggerated. Tens of thousands of high-ranking angels were gathering above the earth’s blue sky.

“What are they doing?” Satan asked.

I didn’t realize he was talking to me until he slapped me and demanded an answer.
“I, uh, well, I’m not sure, sir, but it doesn’t look like they’re coming here. It looks like they may be about to penetrate the veil between heaven and the earth and reveal themselves to that group of shepherds down there in the fields.”

“Nonsense. The heavenly host wouldn’t waste their time on gypsies. Besides, I’m sure it would be an illegal military maneuver.”

He was about to huff off when Baal tugged on his sleeve.

“Moron may be right.” He was referring to me. “Look at how the shepherds are scattering. They definitely see the angels.”

We watched as some of the shepherds ran away in fear, while others trembled and fell to their knees. But let me tell you, the trembling ones weren’t by themselves. There were no heroes in the demon horde that day either. We didn’t know why the angels had gathered,

but if it had anything to do with us, we knew we were outmanned by two to one. The chatter among the demons began.

“Why are the angels out there?”
“Is there going to be a fight?”
“Look, they’re closing ranks!”

“Ask Satan what we should do.”

Satan grabbed me by my wing.
“Find out what this means,” he ordered as he pushed me nearer the rim. “Get closer.” Then he pushed me off the edge.

I flapped as hard as I could to keep from falling. I was afraid of what the angels might do if they noticed me, but I knew what Satan would do if I didn’t obey, so I carefully fluttered a little farther out over the abyss where I could see them better. As I got closer, I realized the angels weren’t wearing their combat gear; there was not a sword in sight. They were lining up in choir formation.

“Are they going to attack?” Satan yelled out at me.

“No, sir, I believe they’re going to sing.”

“What?” Satan asked in disbelief as he flew to my side to see for himself.
And sing they did. The angelic royalty of heaven went near the earth and sang a song to fewer than a dozen cowering shepherds.

“Fear not, for behold we bring you glad tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For born unto you tonight in the city of David is the Messiah, the Lord who will bring salvation to all mankind. Go, and you will find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.”
The angels’ voices were so loud we covered our ears to muffle the sounds as they continued.
“Glory to God in the highest and on the earth, peace and goodwill toward men.”
I was terrified like all the rest but so excited by what the angels sang I could barely contain myself. I followed Satan back to the rim and tried to appear as disturbed as the rest of the demons, but inside I was bursting with hope. How long I had waited for Him—the one promised to David so many generations ago. Oh, yes, He was the hope of the Jews, but He was my hope as well, my only hope.

The veil between heaven and the earth closed, and the angels were no longer visible to the shepherds or to us; still, no one moved from his place. It was almost as if an invisible force held us there. We seemed hypnotized by the light that still hung over the blackness of the great abyss.
“What was that all about?” asked one of the demons.

“Maybe Satan knows.”
“Yes, Satan must know.”
But Satan didn’t know. When he heard the chattering among the demons, he whispered to me out of the side of his mouth.

“Do you think it’s over? Should we move on?”

“Can you move, sir?”
He grimaced as he tried to lift a hoof. I pretended not to be looking.

“Maybe we should wait a bit longer,” I said.

I didn’t know what was coming, but the tingling scales on the back of my neck told me something else was about to happen. At once another blinding light appeared and hovered over the abyss right in front of Satan. I knew him immediately. It was Gabriel, the essenger angel of the most high God. All the demons took one step back. Except for me.

“Gabriel! Hello.” I stepped forward and waved.

Satan stepped on my tail and jerked my wing. “Stay still and shut up!”

“Sorry, sir.” I slunk back.
“Lucifer, fallen son of the light.” Gabriel’s voice was like thunder.

“What do you want?” Satan tried to appear annoyed, but his swishing tail said he was nervous. “You’re in my territory.”

“I bring you a message from I AM, one that will be good news to all mankind.”
“Then why are you telling me?”

“Guess what it means for you.”

Every demon took another step back.

“Wha–what is it?” Satan stammered.

The angel’s eyes narrowed as he answered.

“Game on.”

CLICK HERE TO BUY NOW AT CHRISTIANBOOK.COM OR AMAZON.COM!

May 16th, 2011

Learning Mandarin?

Mandarin is gaining in popularity as a language that homeschoolers are working to teach their children. I’m a frequent reader of the WTM forums, and I’ve noticed quite a few moms who are trying to teach their children Mandarin. I can only imagine how tricky it would be for parents without any knowledge of the language themselves to dig in – it is quite different from English!

There is a cute new resource I’ve spotted – Chinese for Kids with Mandy and Pandy, that makes things fairly simple with child-friendly picture books and audios. We’re working on Latin here, and so far so good! Having 50% of the English vocabulary drawn from Latin certainly makes it relatively easy to learn in comparison to Mandarin.

May 16th, 2011

Book Review: Wounded by Words: Healing the Invisible Scars of Emotional Abuse by Susan Titus Osborn, Karen L. Kosman, and Jeenie Gordon

woundedbywords“Emotional abuse” is a phrase that triggers a variety of knee jerk reactions depending upon the background of the reader.  To some, emotional abuse sounds like a concern that just isn’t valid – a victim-based mentality.  To others, they know they’ve been battered by words but are shy of the term because of its connections to secular psychology.  Three women who have survived and overcome emotional abuse have teamed together to write Wounded by Words – a Christian approach to healing the emotional and spiritual damage that this abuse can create.

I was pleased to find that the authors integrated biblical accounts of people who struggled with verbal abuse from those around them.  Though we don’t normally think in terms of biblical personages suffering from emotional abuse, it’s fairly easy to see that the examples given were mistreated unfairly by many of those around them who should have loved and cared for them.  Scripture verses are also included along with space for personal reflection at the end of each topical chapter.

I did have a difficult time distinguishing from the various author’s contributions, but that is often the case when there are several contributors to a work.  Each of the women does share her personal stories, experiences, and triumphs – there are even some personal poems included. I just wish I had been able to more concretely cement them with each woman in my mind.  There are also personal accounts shared from others in addition to the authors, which makes it doubly difficult to keep track of everyone.  (I did like the wealth of stories, examples, and experiences though!)

Thankfully, this book is full of hope.  It encourages readers to press onwards and upwards in forgiveness and seeking to love like Christ while maintaining healthy boundaries.  I love the authors’ emphases on turning to God’s Word and His love for the foundation of one’s identity in Christ.  Rather than letting the lies and accusations of the enemy and those who unwittingly spew those falsehoods to determine one’s self-perspective, readers are encouraged to turn to God and His ways to determine the truth about themselves.

CLICK HERE TO BUY NOW AT CHRISTIANBOOK.COM OR AMAZON.COM!

May 16th, 2011

FSU Ticket Office, Ho!

Some families are into organized sports. Some just aren’t. I think it might be genetic? Or a learned behavior? Honestly, in my family of origin we just were never into organized sports in the way some families are. Sure, we watched some hockey on the television (it is Canada’s national sport, right?) Especially when we lived in Edmonton and the Oilers franchise was actually winning some games…’nough said there right?

We did go to some of the local, small-time, farm-league baseball games when I was in my teens, and I actually thought that was a blast. I also remember going to a college-level basketball game – once. And in all honesty, that is about as far as our family’s participation in organized sports viewing has gone. My Dad would watch football every once in a while, and I managed to learn some of the basics of the game, but it was never really a driving force in our home. There is a fairly vigorous athletic following of the University of Alberta’s sports teams, but again – I’ve never taken part!

So, all of that is fairly underwhelming, and in my family today (now that I am married with children), the only organized sports my children ever see are when we are in the city at a relative’s home! Some would think we are depriving our children because sports seems to be such a passionate topic for so many, but I just don’t have the fervor to invest the time and energy to follow them, pay for lessons, etc. etc.

But there are many who do enjoy sports, and Florida State University seems to have a very vigorous sports franchise (and an impressive website at Seminoles.com). Their website also hosts the FSU Ticket Office. Have at it, Florida sports-fans ;).

May 16th, 2011

FIRST Tour: How Huge the Night by Heather and Lydia Munn

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today’s Wild Card authors are:

Heather Munn
and
Lydia Munn

and the book:

How Huge the Night: A Novel

Kregel Publications (March 9, 2011)

***Special thanks to Cat Hoort of Kregel Publications for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHORS:

Heather Munn was born in Northern Ireland of American parents and grew up in the south of France. She decided to be a writer at the age of five when her mother read Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books aloud, but worried that she couldn’t write about her childhood since she didn’t remember it. When she was young, her favorite time of day was after supper when the family would gather and her father would read a chapter from a novel. Heather went to French school until her teens, and grew up hearing the story of Le Chambonsur-Lignon, only an hour’s drive away. She now lives in rural Illinois with her husband, Paul, where they offer free spiritual retreats to people coming out of homelessness and addiction. She enjoys wandering in the woods, gardening, writing, and splitting wood.

Lydia Munn was homeschooled for five years because there was no school where her family served as missionaries in the savannahs of northern Brazil. There was no public library either, but Lydia read every book she could get her hands on. This led naturally to her choice of an English major at Wheaton College. Her original plan to teach high school English gradually transitioned into a lifelong love of teaching the Bible to both adults and young people as a missionary in France. She and her husband, Jim, have two children: their son, Robin, and their daughter, Heather.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

When had God ever stopped a war because a teenager asked him to?

For fifteen-year-old Julien Losier, life will never be the same. His family has relocated to southern France to outrun Hitler’s menace. But Julien doesn’t want to run. He doesn’t want to huddle around the radio at night, waiting to hear news through buzzing static. Julien doesn’t want to wait.
Angry, frustrated, and itching to do something, Julien finds a battle everywhere he turns.
Soon after his family opens their house to a Jewish boy needing refuge, Julien meets Nina, a young Austrian who has fled her home by her father’s dying command. Nina’s situation is grave and Julien suddenly realizes the enormity of having someone’s life or death depend on… him.

Thrown together by a conflict that’s too big for them to understand, these young lives struggle to know what to do, even if it is not enough. Is there a greater purpose in the shadows of this terrible war? Or will their choices put them in greater danger?

Endorsements:

“The Munns have written an engrossing historical novel that is faithful to the actual events of World War II in western Europe during the tumultuous year 1940. But How Huge the Night is more than good history; it is particularly refreshing because the reader sees the conflict through the lives of teenagers who are forced to grapple with their honest questions about the existence and goodness of God in the midst of community, family, and ethnic tensions in war-ravaged France.”—Lyle W. Dorsett, Billy Graham Professor of Evangelism, Beeson Divinity School, Samford University

“Seldom have the horrors of war upon adolescents—or the heroism of which they are capable—been so clearly portrayed. I loved this coming-of-age story.”—Patricia Sprinkle, author of Hold Up the Sky

“The book expertly weaves together the lives of its characters at a frightening moment in conflicted times. As we read of their moral dilemmas and of their choices, we too wonder, Would I do has these in the story have done?”—Karen Mains, Director, Hungry Souls

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Kregel Publications (March 9, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 082543310X
ISBN-13: 978-0825433108

AND NOW…AN EXCERPT:

From Chapter 23

Thursday the power came back on. They sat in the living room, around the radio that crackled with static; they looked at each other, and then away. The room grew quiet as the announcer began to speak.

“Since Mussolini’s declaration of war on France two days ago, Italian troops are pushing west—”

Mama was on her feet. “The thief!” she hissed. “The backstabber, the coward!” Her face was red. Everyone was staring. She sat down.

Papa looked at her. “Saw his chance, I guess.”

“He’s a shame to his nation,” Mama snapped. Julien stared. Then they heard the shift in the announcer’s voice and turned sharply to the radio.

“German troops are approaching Paris at a rapid pace. As we speak, the vanguard is reported to be fifteen kilometers from Versailles. This will be our last broadcast for a while.”

They did not look at each other. The silence was total.

“Today Paris has been declared an ‘open city.’ Our military will not defend it. This decision was made to avoid bombardment and the great destruction and loss of life that it entails. . . .”

Julien realized he had not been breathing. It was an amazing thing, breathing. Tears shone in Mama’s eyes.

“They won’t bomb Paris,” said Papa quietly.

“They won’t bomb Paris,” Mama whispered.

Benjamin stood, his face very still. He walked slowly to the door and took the stairs.

Julien waited, breathing, seeing Paris; seeing Vincent and his mother look up out of their second-floor window at a clear blue sky. He waited until the news ended, until they had read a psalm that said The Lord has delivered.

Then he followed Benjamin.

Benjamin’s door was closed. Julien hesitated, biting his lip, and went into his own room.

He looked out the window in the fading light. They wouldn’t defend it. This was it, then. What Pastor Alex said was true. German tanks would roll down the Champs-Elysées for real in just a couple days. Then the boches would come here. And they would stay.

He pulled Vincent’s last letter out from under his nightstand. I can’t believe you almost died, it said. That’s crazy. He got up, and went and knocked on Benjamin’s door.

No answer.

“Benjamin? You all right?”

“Fine.”

Julien opened the door. Benjamin turned quickly, scowling.

“Did I say you could come in?”

“Well sorry,” Julien growled. How am I supposed to help when he’s like this? “Just wanted to say good night.”

“Good night then.”

“Look, it’s not as bad as it could have been, okay? They could have bombed the place to shreds like Ro—” He bit his tongue.

“You’re right,” said Benjamin, looking away. “That’s good for your relatives. I’m glad.”

“And your parents!”

“Nothing’s good for my parents.” His voice was toneless. “Look, Julien, we can talk about this in the morning. I need to go to bed.”

Julien knew when to quit. He turned away. “Sleep well.”

“You too.”

But he couldn’t. He turned and turned in his bed, twisting the sheets.

He got up and looked out at the crescent moon and the stars high over Tanieux, so white, so far, always the same; they would still be there when the Germans were here; they would still be there all his life. They were still there over Rotterdam, too. It didn’t make any difference.

When he finally slept, he dreamed: Paris on the fourteenth of July, the fireworks, bursts of blue, of gold, of red above the city. A whirling rocket going up with a hiss and a bang. Then a louder bang. Then a bang that threw up a great shower of dirt and stones, and people screaming, people running as the shells began to fall—

He woke, and lay shivering. He got up to close the window. The stars shone down like cold eyes.

He heard a faint scratching. Mice maybe. A floorboard creaked. He listened.

And he heard it. Very slow, stealthy footsteps going down the stairs.

He sat up slowly. Magali or Benjamin. Tiptoeing down the stairs to the kitchen, wishing there was something to eat. . . . He got out of bed and leaned out the window, watching for the faint light that would come through from the kitchen. No light came.

But on the ground floor, the heavy front door opened, and a dark shape slipped out into the street. A shadow with a suitcase in its hand.

He ran across the hall and threw open Benjamin’s door. A neatly made bed, a letter on the pillow. He grabbed it, ran back to his room, jerked his pants on over his pajamas, and ran downstairs in his socks. He’d catch him. Benjamin was on foot. He had to catch him. He scrawled on the flip side of the note, I’ve gone after him, pulled on his shoes and jacket, and flew down the stairs and into the dark.

He raced down the shadowed street and stopped at the corner, heart pounding, looking both ways. North, over the hill: the road to St. Etienne. A train to Paris, like he’d said? There were no trains now. Or south—south to where? Oh Lord if I choose wrong I’ll never find him.

Think. What would he do if it were him? He’d go south—north was suicide, but—he didn’t know, he didn’t know Benjamin. Who did? Nothing is good for my parents, he’d said—he didn’t seem to even care that Paris wouldn’t be bombed—

Because his parents weren’t in Paris.

Julien turned, suddenly sure, and ran.

The Kellers had left Germany because of Hitler and his people. Would they stay in Paris and wait for them? “Let’s walk south,” Benjamin had said—and that stupid map—he should have guessed.

He ran, breathing hard, his eyes on the dark road ahead. Oh God. Oh Jesus. Don’t let me miss him please—please—

He broke free of the houses; the Tanne gleamed in front of him under the splintered moon, cut by the dark curve of the bridge. He froze. He ducked into the shadows and breathed.

There on the bridge was a slender figure leaning on the parapet, looking down at the dark water.

Oh God. Oh Jesus. Now what?

Benjamin turned and took a long, last look at Tanieux. Then he adjusted his backpack, picked up his suitcase, and walked away.

Julien slipped out of the shadows and up to the bridge, his heart beating help me Jesus help me, his mind searching for words. Come home. And if he said no? Drag him? Help me Jesus. He was across the bridge, ten paces behind Benjamin; he broke into a silent run on the grassy verge of the road. He caught up to him. Laid a hand on his arm.

“Benjamin.”

Benjamin whirled, eyes wild in the moonlight. They stared at each other. “Why.” said Julien. “Tell me why.” His voice was harder than he meant it to be.

“Let me go.”

“No.” He tightened his grip on Benjamin’s arm.

Benjamin tried to pull away. “Julien, let me go. You have no idea. You have no idea what they’re like.”

“The boches?” This time his voice came out small.

“The Nazis, Julien. Ever heard of them? Yeah, you heard they don’t like Jews—I don’t think any of you people understand.” The sweep of his arm took in the school and the sleeping town. “Your parents are great, Julien—offering shelter and all—they really are. But they don’t know. Yet.”

But they do. They know. “Know what? What’ll they—do?”

“I’m not waiting around to find out.” His face was white and deadly serious. “Trust me on this, Julien. They are coming here and when they do, it’s better for you if I’m long gone.” I believe it is very dangerous to be a Jew in Germany. And soon—

Julien stood silent. The night wind touched his face; the hills were shadows on the horizon where they blotted out the stars. Suddenly he felt how large the world was, how huge the night, how small they stood on the road in the light of the waning moon. Ahead, the road bent into the pine woods, and in his mind, Julien saw Benjamin walking away, a small form carrying a suitcase into the darkness under the trees. His fingers bit into Benjamin’s arm.

“I don’t care,” he said savagely. “Where would you go?”

Benjamin said nothing; the moonlight quivered in his eyes as they filled with tears. He turned his head away. “I don’t know.” His voice shook.

Julien caught him by the shoulders, gripped him hard. “Well I do,” he said fiercely. “You’re coming home.”

My Thoughts: I’m looking forward to reading this one when my copy arrives! This is a mother-daughter writing team! Very fun!

CLICK HERE TO BUY NOW AT CHRISTIANBOOK.COM OR AMAZON.COM!

May 15th, 2011

Book Review: Every Single Woman’s Battle: Guarding Your Heart and Mind Against Sexual and Emotional Compromise by Shannon Ethridge

First things first.  Obviously, I am not a single woman.  I’ll have been married for ten years this fall, so why am I reading a workbook companion guide designed to help single women win the battle for physical and emotional purity?  Well, I have four daughters (so far), and because they are young, they are all single.  Some day they will enter into the fight for emotional and physical integrity (puberty is still thankfully a ways off).

So, on to Every Single Woman’s Battle.  After reading it from cover to cover, there were things within its pages that helped even me (an old married lady as far as these things go) focus in on some heart issues and past actions that I have struggled with in the course of my marriage.  I imagine that it will be even more helpful for my children as they enter into adulthood.

There are eight chapters, designed to be completed on a weekly basis.  Ideally, this guide is written to be used in a group discussion setting, but can also be used independently.  Each chapter is divided into an introductory section, “Planting Good Seeds” (Personally Seeking God’s Truth), “Weeding Out Deception (Recognizing the Truth), “Harvesting Fulfillment (Applying the Truth), “Growing Together (Sharing the Truth in Small-Group Discussion), and a closing, focusing prayer.

There is a lot of good content in this guide, and it draws it’s ‘text’ from two different books from the same series – Every Woman’s Battle and Every Man’s Battle – those two titles now include their own companion guides, but because single women have different marital circumstances than married women and men, this stand alone guide is available for them.

Unfortunately with short quotations taken out of the context of these two books to drive home certain points, it reads a bit choppily, and to be honest, seems a bit disjointed from time to time.  Quotes refer to other portions of the books they are originally drawn from that readers of this stand alone guide won’t have read unless they own both of those titles.  There aren’t any page references available for the quotations either if one did want to look them up to read them in their larger context.

As long as you keep in mind the difficulties of working from excerpts only, this is still a valuable resource for single women seeking to glorify the Lord in the realm of their sexuality.  It will help readers learn to guard their words, actions, and thoughts while they draw nearer to their Creator and Savior, seeking Him as their ultimate fulfillment and delight.

CLICK HERE TO BUY NOW AT CHRISTIANBOOK.COM OR AMAZON.COM!

May 13th, 2011

Book Review: ESV Seek and Find Bible

esvseekandfindThis Bible is nothing short of revolutionary.  I don’t say that lightly, and I rarely come out so strongly in support of anything I review, but the ESV Seek and Find Bible is absolutely incredible.

This is my first personal encounter with the ESV translation, so I don’t have many thoughts to share on that front, save that the ESV is a fairly literal, trustworthy version popular especially amongst those with reformed inclinations.  What truly sets this Bible apart though, is the wealth of additional resources included within the pages of the Bible text.

Designed for children in the 5 – 9 bracket, this is an incredibly visual Bible.  Along with the full text of the ESV, readers will also find many full color features.  I’ve never seen full color illustrations on onion skin – this is really a first, and I’m thankful for advances in printing technology that have made Bibles like this available!

We’ve all owned children’s Bibles that had a few full-color paintings on special pages throughout the Bible – normally FAR away from the Bible text they were meant to illustrate.  We’ve also had Bibles with rather dreary 2-dimensional maps of Jerusalem in the time of Jesus (which I could never make sense of), and a map of Paul’s journeys.  That is about as far as visual helps went for children ‘back in the day’.

I’m thankful that a new day has dawned for children’s Bibles!  There are 130 full page, full color illustrations of important Bible stories found right within the sections of scripture that they are meant to illustrate.  Not only that, but there are also Bible stories to go along with those pictures (from 1 -3 pages in length).  Those Bible stories are tied to symbols found within the text of the Bible itself to help readers find the actual account in the Bible.  These stories also have related Bible verses listed and discussion questions included.  How neat is that?  This is seriously a fabulous, all-in-one resource Bible for family devotions, you can read the Bible story to your little ones AND the actual Bible text as well for additional depth and meaning.

Even better though is the inclusion of visual helps.  There are full color illustrations of tabernacle items, the tabernacle itself, the garb of the high priest, the temple in Solomon’s day, the temple in Jesus’ day, common ship designs, it goes on and on, and is absolutely amazing!  I so wish I had a Bible like this as a child; it would have helped me understand the layout of Jerusalem much more if I had a painting of it rendered in a three-dimensional style from overhead.  Parents won’t need to have several additional reference titles on hand to provide visuals for their children of the places and items being described, it will be RIGHT THERE in the Bible for them.  There are even personal profiles included of the major people of the Bible – full color illustrations of them along with a short biographical blurb.

There are other neat features as well – each book of the Bible comes with a fairly standard summary page – an overview, the author, period the book was written in, theme, major people, purpose of the book, suggested memory verses etc.  The neatest feature on this page is a mini-timeline snapshot that places the book historically amongst major points of Bible history.  This is another great visual help that pegs main people and events into place in the framework of history.  Colorful maps, and a short dictionary are also included, along with incredibly helpful indexes of the illustrations and Bible stories that are included.  The text is also footnoted with helpful notes about the meaning of Hebrew names, alternate words, etc. for added meaning.

Even if you aren’t familiar with the ESV Bible, it is VERY worth giving it a try with all of the wonderful features this Bible includes.  To be honest, as an adult I really like the diagrams and representations of highly visual items that are described in the text of the Bible.  As a fairly new Christian these are so helpful to me because I haven’t been exposed to Christian visuals throughout my entire life.  I’m so excited to share these images with my children so that they can better create a mental landscape of biblical events and locations to place biblical events in.

Though designed to be a starter Bible for children that they can grow into – starting with parents reading them the Bible stories, then moving into them reading the ESV text for themselves, I think it really shines as a Bible for family devotional reading.  It is very appealing for children as well though, as soon as I shoed my oldest daughter (8) all of the features it included, she was hopping on Amazon to see how much one would cost (she’d like to buy her own copy to add to her personal library).

For families with emerging readers, I still think that the Young Explorer’s NIrV is the best choice because of the simple language and large font.  Once a child is reading fluently though, they could certainly tackle this ESV Bible; the language is at a higher level, and the font is smaller, so your child will need a bit more confidence to read this translation of the Bible.

They didn’t make Bibles like this when I was a kid, but I certainly wish they would have!  Don’t miss this one folks; it’s a groundbreaking new concept for Bibles!

CLICK HERE TO BUY NOW AT CHRISTIANBOOK.COM OR AMAZON.COM!

May 12th, 2011

Book Review: Kiss Me! (I’m a Prince!) by Heather McLeod, Illustrated by Brooke Kerrigan

kissmeWhen Ella finds a frog outside that asks her to kiss him (he’ll transform into a prince of course), she decides to keep him as a pet instead.  Unimpressed by his offer of what sounds like a dreadfully boring future life as royalty, she instead introduces him to the joys of childhood – playing games and splashing in water mainly.  When a member of his court appears to take him home, he remains unconvinced if he even WANTS to be turned back into a prince.  Getting to play is so much more fun than endless lessons in etiquette and foreign languages.

Delicately illustrated in watercolor and pencil by Brooke Kerrigan, Heather McLeod’s untraditional interpretation of The Frog Prince is charming and rings true to children who spend their days exploring and delighting in the world around them.  Who wants to be forced to wear fancy dresses that you can never get dirty every day?

Kiss Me! (I’m a Prince!) is a delightful tale with just enough repetition in the beginning to draw children deeply into the story.  The soft illustrations are so delectable, the main character even looks a lot like my own oldest daughter, which really pulled on my heartstrings as I was reading this book to my children.  They were completely won over by this story and have asked for several repeat readings.

Now, I’m likely going to sound like a fuddy duddy here, but I need to add in a disclaimer for parents who stringently screen their picture book selections.  Ella, the main character is a very young girl – around grade 3 or 4.  While she ends up kissing the frog prince out of friendship, because he asked her, and to turn him back into a prince, I wanted to note that she is a very young girl who kisses a prince to turn him into a boy.  Personally, we don’t want to encourage our girls to kiss boys they don’t intend to marry – whether he asked them on a ‘friends-only’ basis or not.

CLICK HERE TO BUY NOW AT AMAZON.COM!

May 11th, 2011

CFBA Tour: An Unlikely Suitor by Nancy Moser

This week, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance is introducing An Unlikely Suitor Bethany House (May 1, 2011) by Nancy Moser

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Nancy Moser is the award-winning author of over twenty inspirational novels. Her genres include contemporary stories including John 3:16 and Time Lottery a Christy Award winner, and historical novels of real women-of-history including Just Jane (Jane Austen) and Washington’s Lady (Martha Washington). Her newest historical novels are Masquerade and An Unlikely Suitor. Nancy and her husband Mark live in the

Midwest. She’s earned a degree in architecture, traveled extensively in Europe, and has performed in numerous theaters, symphonies, and choirs. She gives Sister Circle Seminars around the country, helping women identify their gifts as they celebrate their sisterhood. She is a fan of anything antique—humans included. Find out more at www.nancymoser.com and www.sistercircles.com and her historical blog: http://footnotesfromhistory.blogspot.com/
ABOUT THE BOOK

New York dressmaker Lucy Scarpelli befriends socialite Rowena Langdon as she’s designing her 1895 summer wardrobe. Grateful for Lucy’s skill in creating fashions that hide her physical injury, Rowena invites Lucy to the family mansion in Newport, Rhode Island, encouraging the unusual friendship.

One day Lucy encounters an intriguing man on the Cliff Walk, and love begins to blossom. Yet Lucy resists, for what Newport man would want to marry an Italian dressmaker working to support her family?

Rowena faces an arranged marriage to a wealthy heir she doesn’t love, but dare a crippled girl hope for anything better?

And Lucy’s teenage sister, Sofia, falls for a man well above her social class–but is he willing to give up everything to marry a woman below his station?

As the lives of three young woman–and their unlikely suitors–become entangled in a web of secrets and sacrifice, will the season end with any of them finding true happiness?

If you would like to read the first chapter of An Unlikely Suitor, go HERE.

My Thoughts: Nancy Moser is on my ‘do-not-miss’ list of authors! She is a fantastic author – and look at the beautiful cover :).

Welcome!

Jennifer. Follower of Yeshua. Wife of one man. Homeschooling mother of 5.