Thursday, January 15, 2015

Reviewer's Bookshelf: Remember the Lilies by Liz Tolsma

Book Summary (from Goodreads):
 Irene and Rand come from very different walks of life. Will they find common ground in their fight to survive? 

Irene has grown up in the jungle as a missionary with her Aunt Anita, but now she and countless others are imprisoned by Japanese soldiers at the Santo Tomas Internment Camp in the Philippines. Irene and her aunt are safe there, and she keeps busy with her duty of delivering censored messages to the camp’s prisoners, but like everyone else, she prays for the war to end and for her freedom. Rand is a wealthy, womanizing American, whose attempted escape from the internment camp has put himself and others in danger. When Rand and Irene’s Aunt Anita meet one another in the hospital, Irene learns more of his story and her heart is determined to save his family. But the danger outside the walls of the hospital worsens every day, and life in this exotic place is anything but luxurious. Can Irene find Rand’s family before they disappear forever? And can a humble missionary woman and an arrogant man find common ground in the face of their biggest fears?

My thoughts: The timing of when I read Remember the Lilies could not have been more perfect.  Over the holidays my husband and I went to see Unbroken, the inspiring story of Louis Zamperini and his survival through a plane crash in the Pacific and POW camp in Japan.  I was so moved by his story that I began searching and watching various YouTube videos that gave more information about Louie, and even videos with the man himself.  It was fascinating.  Then I bought the biography that the movie was based on and read it.  I have been amazed to read about the lives of these men and how they survived.  Right after I finished the book Unbroken, I started on Remember the Lilies.  Even though it is a work of fiction, the story fell right in line with true events that happened in World War II Philippines.

In reading this story, the inspirational aspect was about the perseverance, faith, and forgiveness of those who were held captive by the Japanese on the Philippine Islands.  Irene was a young woman who had lost her mother and father and had basically grown up with her missionary aunt in the Philippines.  She had a heart for the country and its people.  Rand's heart began with a simple desire to make money, be successful, and live the life of a wealthy playboy.  When the Philippines were taken over by the Japanese, it didn't matter where you came were now a prisoner.  While it wasn't quite as bad at first, food eventually began to run out, disease began to spread, and those kept closed in were beginning to starve.  In these moments, Rand and Irene were stripped of all they knew, and both began a journey of faith that drew them to each other and closer to God.  They had to depend on Him for physical survival, but emotional survival as well as they were both victims of attempted blackmail and scheming.  Reading their journey in this aspect of their lives was what caused me to really enjoy the novel.

Looking at the aspect of connection between the characters, that was something I hoped for more of.  Irene was definitely close with her aunt, but the budding romance between her and Rand seemed a little slow and not as convincing.  I could see that they cared about each other in trying to survive.  I also don't believe that a novel needs to have a lot of physical contact to be romantic.  It can happen in a look, discreet displays of affection, or in conversation.  This happened some between Irene and Rand, but not enough to cause my heart to flutter. 

Overall, I enjoyed this novel for the positive themes I mentioned before and the historical aspect was very interesting.  I've learned so much more about the aspect of World War II that was not taking place in Germany and Europe these past couple of months.  But I would've enjoyed a little more connection between the two main characters.

**I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley to give an honest review.**

Happy reading!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Classical Conversations Weeks 14 AND 15!

So...just like that I decided the kids and I would take a day off Monday and have an all day play date...which was MUCH needed.  And to be honest, I had it somewhere in my mind that Monday was MLK day this week instead of next week.  Oh, well...we may do some school on Saturday or do school Monday or something.  It'll get made up somewhere : ).  The kids and I are also going to take school on the road next week, so I wanted to go ahead and prepare next week's material also!  I'll start with this week and then do next week.  I may not put quite as many resources as I usually do...since I'm planning more and the little guy will only nap so long ;-).

Week 14:
*Here's a video that covers this week's info, but some of it is not current.  But the history, science, geography, Latin, and English is.

History: Tycoons
*After a little searching, I'm finding that this is not an easy topic to get general, kid friendly information about.  If you want to know more about these tycoons, you'll probably just have to look up each one individually.  Honestly, we probably won't do that. So we'll just learn the song and go from there.  I do have Story of the World books 3 and 4, so we made read from that.  If you need a GREAT resource that tells Netflix movies, Story of the World pages, and more that correlate with each week of Cycle 3. Click here to see it.

Again, probably just stick to the memory work and video above.

Suzanne Shares has some cute, free printables that you can use for the next couple of weeks!

Fine Arts: Rockwell
Biography from Wikipedia

Week 15
History: Theodore Roosevelt

Songs for weeks 11-24:

Fine Arts: Georgia O'Keefe

Alrighty, friends...I know it's a little sparse, but I've been battling my computer all day!  : ) God bless!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Reviewer's Bookshelf: Beyond All Dreams by Elizabeth Camden

Book Summary (from Goodreads): Sweeping and Romantic Historical Drama from Award-Winning Author Elizabeth Camden.

Anna O'Brien leads a predictable and quiet life as a map librarian at the illustrious Library of Congress until she stumbles across a baffling mystery of a ship disappeared at sea. She is thwarted in her attempts to uncover information, but her determination outweighs her shyness and she turns to a dashing congressman for help.
Luke Callahan was one of the nation's most powerful congressmen until his promising career became shadowed in scandal. Eager to share in a new cause and intrigued by the winsome librarian, he joins forces with Anna to solve the mystery of the lost ship.
Opposites in every way, Anna and Luke are unexpectedly drawn to each other despite the strict rules forbidding Anna from any romantic entanglement with a member of Congress.
From the gilded halls of the Capitol, where powerful men shape the future of the nation, to the scholarly archives of the nation's finest library, Anna and Luke are soon embroiled in secrets much bigger and more perilous than they ever imagined. Is bringing the truth to light worth risking all they've ever dreamed for themselves?

My thoughts...
I get practically giddy when an Elizabeth Camden book is coming out.  Her last book, "With Every Breath," was one of my favorite books of 2014.  "Beyond All Dreams" definitely had some of my favorite elements: an interesting setting (I've never read a book in which the heroine worked at the Library of Congress), fascinating historical detail, plot twists, a bold, dashing hero, and a vulnerable heroine.  These aspects are why I gave the novel 4 stars.  There were, however, a few elements that didn't make the novel shine as much as some of my previous favorites of Camden's.

I want to begin with the things I loved about the book.  The setting of this novel immediately drew me in.  Camden is especially skilled in choosing a location and point in time that isn't typically written about, so in most of her books I am immediately curious.  This novel is set in Washington, DC, not long after the Civil War but before the Spanish American war.  I know next to nothing about the conflict that started the Spanish American war and this novel basically gives a mini history lesson wrapped up in the fictional lives of the main characters.  This is very similar to Camden's novel, "Into the Whirlwind," which takes place during the Chicago Fire. As a history nerd, I loved this : ).  I also loved that the hero was not a "too good to be true" kind of guy. He was loud, he lost his temper, and he made mistakes.  But underneath he was a man who wanted to grow and soften.  Anna was a very vulnerable character, but very smart and capable.  She supported herself through her job and was able to offer forgiveness to those who had wronged her.  I really wanted her to feel loved and cared for as a character.  The plot definitely had its mysteries, which led to some interesting twists and turns.  Some of it was predictable, but a few elements were not.  Again, I like the way that Camden weaves her fictional characters into true events, which happened in this novel as we discover the events leading up to the Spanish American war.

For me personally, however, there was at times a little too much going on in the plot and not all of it seemed to be dealt with appropriately.  Luke and Anna both were abused as children...both physically and emotionally.  I was a little overwhelmed by that and the fact that even though they were still affected as adults, it didn't seem like this was as huge in the novel as it was in my mind.  Anna and Luke also had romantic feelings, but it was also not front and center in this novel.  They would be on and off again, with the historical aspect of the novel playing the main role.  While I liked the historical aspect, I really wanted to see more connection with Anna and Luke.  The main mystery in the novel, I felt, could've been played out a little more.  I don't want to give anything away, but the mystery fell a little flat for me.

Overall, I would recommend this book.  If you like a good historical Christian fiction, Elizabeth Camden is a fantastic writer in this genre.  Happy reading!

*I was given a free copy of this novel from the publisher, Bethany House, in order to give an unbiased review.*

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Planning and back to school! Classical Conversations week 13: 14th Amendment, atomic number and free printables it really 2015?!  I've been trying to step out of my comfort zone and do some planning. I love the end result of planning...putting things on the calendar, order in my life, looking at the big picture...but the process is so hard for me!  I'm not a natural planner.  My tendency is to be spontaneous and just do most of life as it comes, glancing at our lives a week at a time.  While this works fine for some people, I'm seeing that for our family, this has caused some limitations and missed opportunities that I don't want to pass up for 2015.  My personal theme word for this year is "thrive."  I want my family to come out of our "survival mode" and really thrive this year.  In order for that to happen...I've got to make changes in pretty much every area of my life.  Change is not easy, friends.  It will definitely take some support and some big God interventions.  But I'm not scared or discouraged...He is a God of miracles and it CAN happen : ).  I'd appreciate your prayers!

To start off, I wanted to share this post on Ann Voskamp's blog.  Good truth and some great, free printables to start your year off.  I've got the "Sanity Manifesto" taped to my wall right above my computer right now : ).  I printed it a year ago and just let it sit somewhere, ignored.  Now I've got it front and center!  Her blog has a wealth of free tools and framables that you don't want to pass up.  I especially love her scripture memory cards for the book of John.

Now on to week 13!
History: 14th Amendment
*Here is a great explanation of the 14th amendment and shows a picture of it at the national archives. I will probably read over it and just briefly summarize/simplify what it meant for my kiddos since they are young.
*Because this is the only week that we'll be doing the Constitution, I thought I'd add in a few activities to go along with that:
*I found a simple, and free, We The People class Constitution booklet that the kids can illustrate that goes along with the Preamble.
*This page has a nice graphic that breaks down the Constitution in an understandable way
* has free worksheets and I printed one off about the Constitution.  Here's a link to one about the Bill of Rights.
*I have more activities pinned on my Classical Conversations Cycle 3 board on Pinterest.

Geography: Western Mountains

Fine Arts: Grandma Moses
*Nice video of Grandma Moses' art and a little biographical info, too.

*Folk Art Lesson inspired by Grandma Moses' art.  Looks like a great lesson!

Math: Liquid Equivalents
*FREE liquid equivalents printable that you can use as flashcards

Science: atomic numbers
*We'll probably just look at our periodic table and discuss the definition.
*Here's a video, too

*I found this great blog page with some awesome FREE printables of the periodic table and some elements flash cards that I'm definitely going to print for my kiddos!

Hope all of you have a great week back into the school groove!  Blessings to all of you from the Daniel family and Happy New Year!