Thursday, September 27, 2012

Review - "Beloved Enemy" by Al Lacy

I have to say, I wanted to like this book. I REALLY wanted to like this book.

I like the Al Lacy books I've read in the past. In addition, I am a fan of historical fiction, I am intrigued by the events involved with the costliest war in American history and I like a good "cloak and dagger" spy story.

However, this is not what I found in Beloved Enemy, written by acclaimed writer Al Lacy, cover art by the accomplished artist Phil Boatwright, a fellow Texan from Dallas. 

The first thing that struck me was the cover art. I hate to speak ill of a fellow Texan, especially one from my neck of the woods, but the cover art appears far below the abilities of an artist such as Mr. Boatwright. I have seen examples of Mr. Boatwright's work, and he has the skill and ability to make a painted portrait come alive and look real. In contrast, the cover to this book seems as though it was hastily done, as if it were concept art rather than a polished final product. Additionally (and this is mostly my desire for detail, continuity and accuracy in fiction here), the portrait of Jenny Jordan on the cover does not match the description of her in the story.

Then we get into the story. I did not do exhaustive research as I'm sure Mr. Lacy did, so I must trust his facts, dates and historical accuracy. It is also reasonable to assume that there were Confederate spies in the government of the time, perhaps even as far up as President Lincoln's war cabinet.

However, despite the framework for a good story, the characters appear forced into the historical framework. The story reads as though Mr. Lacy were pressed for time and was fighting a deadline.

Have you ever pulled an all-nighter on a report, turned it in and then re-read it later only to realize that it was not your best work? That is the impression that this book gave me.

I enjoy Mr. Lacy's stories, but this one will not make my list of favorites.

- Displaced Texan

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Protecting Our Children

God gave us children for a reason. With this gift comes tremendous responsibility and unending watchfulness. No one wants to find that their child is being harmed in any way, but how do you move forward once you do?

The Bible instructs believers in the proper submission to authority. This type of submission speaks first and foremost of respectful and honoring behavior toward those in authority, even those who are evil. Romans 13:1 states that "there is no authority except by God's appointment." (NET) The next verse cautions that to resist such authority is tantamount to "resisting the ordinance of God." (NET Rom 13:2)

This in no way means that you do nothing. Scripture does contend that a believer may act contrary to authority if the authority is commanding evil. And if the authority is allowing the perpetration of evil?

Children are a gift entrusted to us by God.

What would you do if you found out your child was being bullied by a trusted adult?

What if someone in authority instructed you to do nothing?

Monday, August 13, 2012

Book Review: God Gave Us Love

God Gave Us Love by Lisa Tawn Bergren

This is a sweet little story about God's love.  My kids, although older than the recommended 0-3, still enjoy Little Bear. This particular story shares, in easy to understand terms, the different ways we love. Most importantly, the Truth of God's gift of love is at the center.

I like the fact that the story ends with a prayer that little ones could emulate.

However, the text on each page seems overwhelming for the recommended age group. The story is disjointed with more emphasis on the theology of God's love than following a storyline.

The pictures are fun and add to the story. But I wonder how often a toddler would choose this book.

The only issue we had with the story was that you don't know Little Bear is a girl until the end. My son was a tad upset by this.

Lisa Tawn Bergren is the 2012 Christy award winning author of Waterfall. She is the author of more than thirty books, including children's literature, YA, historical and Contemporary Women's fiction. She is married, with three children and makes her home in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

This book was provided by Multnomah publishing for review.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Review: Cleaning House

This month's book review is of the Non-Fiction title by Kay Wills Wyma:
Cleaning House: A Mom's 12-Month Experiment to Rid Her Home of Youth Entitlement

I picked this book because I know Youth Entitlement is a HUGE issue in today's society. I also wanted to find out if I was doing enough to prevent my own kids from acting entitled.

The book is written from the first person perspective, in which Mrs. Wyma walks us through a year in her home after she realizes her children take her and the household procedures for granted. The reader feels like she is listening to a friend share her challenges and successes in figuring out how to train up her children. The narrative flows with charming anecdotes and humor that keeps the reader interested.

The structure of the book is easy to follow, with a new challenge for the home each month. I found the chapters on Beds and Clutter, The Entertainers, Team Players and Roll Tide the most useful.  However, I would caution any reader that the methods found effective by the author/Mom may not work in your household. Also, remember that reading the book my only take a few hours, the trials set forth within lasted a whole year...and that is really only the beginning.

As a teacher, I see Youth Entitlement first-hand every day. I know seniors who have never made their own lunch. I know of parents who call the teacher, or more likely the administration, every time their child fails a test (this is also known as the teacher's fault, and not the fault of the child who spent their study time facebooking). For other students it is electronic overkill, it is not unusual to have students with web enabled phones, tables, and laptops on their person at any one time.

Recommendation: if you know a child that has never made their own lunch, washed their own laundry, made their bed, nor washed a toilet...this book is for you! For the rest of us, and we may be few and far between, there may be a few helpful hints to keep your kids moving (new incentives? a varied method) but all in all, this is a book about getting started, not moving to the next level.

This book was provided by Water Brook publishing, free of charge, in exchange for my honest review.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

School Bully: Your Child's Teacher?

Students are all too familiar with the school yard bully: the stories of the big guy stealing lunch money, or the catty group of girls that work to destroy another girl's self-esteem. But bullies come in all shapes and sizes. What if one of those bullies happens to be your child's teacher?

According to an article on WebMD, psychiatrist Stuart Twemlow, MD completed an anonymous survey of teachers in which 45% admitted to having bullied a student.* If that statistic is applied across the board, it means that nearly one half of all students are being bullied by a teacher! Perhaps it is more common than people think.

Prevention may not be possible, but identifying the problem could be the first step to a solution.

Listen to what he says, and listen to what he doesn't say.

What he says:
  • A bullied student may make excuses to stay home from school or leave school.
  •  A child may complain that his teacher has called the class names; names such as "geeks" and "nerds." 
  • The comments may became more personal. Things like: "Maybe the doctor can fix what's wrong with your head." or "Maybe he'll (the doctor) take a look at your face." or "You should be able to take that like a man."
  •  Repeated phrases may begin to show up that imply more than they say: things like "toughen up" and "man up." The words may be "toughen up" but what the child may hear is that he is not strong enough, and the young man who is told to "man up" hears that he is being a wimp.

What isn't said:
  • Tears. Tiredness. Depression. Anger. Drop in grades. 
  • Subtle, yet dangerous control over a student. This may be exhibited in proximity--a tool often used by a teacher--but if done incorrectly becomes threatening. In some schools, where it is still allowed, a "hug" that is designed to control the student more than reassure or encourage, may be a form of bullying. Especially if the "hug" is painful! No adult should ever leave finger imprints on your child!

Listening involves more than just hearing words.

Pay Attention. How does the teacher interact with your child--at conferences, in the classroom, after school? Get involved in your child's school. How does the teacher interact with you? Does his words and actions match.

Ask Questions! Make sure your child knows you are willing to listen. Do not dismiss concerns out of hand. Look for patterns, and ask more questions.

Have you heard of a teacher who bullies? Or a student who has been bullied by a teacher?

*Read the entire WebMD article here: "The problem of teachers bullying students is more common than you think. Learn how to prevent your child from becoming a victim." by Katherine Kam

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Review: Sir Quinlan

The fifth book in the Knights of Arrethtrae Sir Quinlan and the Swords of Valor continues the adventure for fans of the series.The story explores the meaning of living out your faith through an allegorical story of knights serving the Prince, son of the one true King.

In this installment, Sir Quinlan wrestles with what it means to be a knight and serve the Prince as he has been called to do. He finds there are many distractions from what he is supposed to be doing.

One of my son's favorite creatures was the paytha; an excellent representation of potentially harmless pursuits or interests that become too big. If you feed them a little, they stay little. Also, the cost of a paytha seemed high, as you can not buy a paytha, but you trade a piece of your "armor." In essence giving away a part of your preparedness for battle with the enemy.

My son truly enjoys these stories. He said he liked "this book because it shows that God sees good in everybody and can use them for all things."

Themes: Christianity, valor, courage, humor

Plot: Sir Quinlan finds purpose fighting in a unit known as the Swords of Valor, but tragedy follows and Quinlan is blamed. Lost and uncertain, he begins to wander the kingdom, avoiding his past. During these dark times Quinlan meets Taras, a Silent Warrior who may be able to teach him about redemption and  the ways of the secret warriors.

When it is time, the Prince challenges Quinlan to meet his true purpose. Will he be able to reunite the Swords of Valor? Will he allow the Prince to use him as He sees fit?

Style: A character driven novel, with enough adventure thrown in to keep readers reading. Narrative interspersed with dialogue; although some sections seem slow or wordy rather than enticing adventure.

Setting: Indeterminate time of knights and kingdoms ruled by Kings. Unusual creatures and uncommon places will entice younger readers.

Age Recommendation: 12 and Up seems appropriate. Some themes (young romance and violence) are addressed in a way that may not be appropriate for the youngest readers. Examples: The young boys Tav and Twitch go on what amounts to a date/blind date. Violence: the Dark Knight deals harshly with his subjects as described in one instance when the Knight cuts one of his servants under the eye and down the face.

This review is made possible through a
Free review copy acquired from Multnomah Publishing.