Book Chat

Here are book reviews of what I’ve been reading this month:

sophie, pay attention (rhoda, you too)! susan barnett braunI am so excited to share with my online reading friends that my first book is out on Kindle. “Sophie, Pay Attention (Rhoda, You Too)!” is an early chapter book for kids 6-10. Think of it as a Christian version of a Junie B. Jones book.

Sophie loves Jesus, her family, animals, and school … when she isn’t looking out the window and seeing something even more interesting. Oops – time to get back to that homework!

Then one day at Sunday School, the teacher talks about Rhoda, a Bible girl who also sometimes struggled to remember what was most important — and who wasn’t always taken seriously by those around her. She did the right thing, though, and that’s what Sophie hopes to do as well.

I was encouraged in this venture by a course at Write To Publish conference this summer. The instructor told us that e-books were the coming thing for kids. They could read them during a sermon, or on car trips as an alternative to yet another movie. And when my girls were first learning to read, I remember wishing there were more easy chapter books around. I thought Junie B. Jones was hilarious, although I wasn’t so into her “poopyhead” comments. I wish I’d had a book like this a few years ago.


sarah palin america by heartI was anxious to read “America By Heart,” Sarah Palin’s second book. I like Sarah Palin, although I don’t think she’ll ever be President, since the media has “Dan Quayled” her. I liked her first book, “Going Rogue,” which told her story. I didn’t enjoy this one as much. It reads more like a series of editorials or campaign speeches. There are personal glimpses into Palin’s life, but those are pretty fleeting. And a few caused me to roll my eyes a little: “(Daughter Bristol) engaged in an uplifting, family-oriented show called Dancing with the Stars to challenge herself in a new, fun way.” I’m sure it wasn’t to become famous or rake in some cash. And, yes, when I think of “family-oriented” shows, DWTS is the first one that pops into my mind! 🙂

Mostly, this book is a series of (admittedly inspiring, at least to me) chapters on why America is great, why Christianity is still important in America, why conservatives shouldn’t despair, etc. But there are also many, many long (1 page+) excerpts from speeches/writings of the founders, Martin Luther King, past Presidents, etc. I don’t know about you, but when I reach a long excerpt like that in a book, I tend to think blah blah blah and skip it. In this book, that habit would cause you to blah blah through a third of the book.

Eh, I’ll give it a C+ just because I still like Sarah.


battle hymn of the tiger mother chuaI’ve been wanting to read “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” for ages. You remember, it’s the book by the crazy-intense Chinese lady who had an article in the Wall Street Journal awhile back, explaining why Chinese parents are superior to Western parents. I enjoyed this book … I see it as the book version of People magazine — it’s like eating candy; you can’t stop.

At the same time, I was alternately appalled by Amy Chua’s methods with her kids and felt like a slacker too. The book mainly focused on her efforts with her girls’ piano and violin lessons. They practice every day (even on their birthdays, even on lesson day, even on vacation, and she goes on at length about her efforts to locate practice spots in countries they have visited all over the world). She pushes the girls until they do end up successful: performing at Carnegie Hall, earning plum spots with world-famous teachers, etc.

I can appreciate her efforts to ensure that her girls do their best (she makes the point that an activity such as piano just isn’t fun until one is successful at it, and I agree with this pretty much). But I have to jump off the wagon when she insists on hours of practice daily, 9-hour drives to take an 11-year-old to an audition for early admission to Julliard, bussing her daughter’s entire class to another state to cheer her on during a performance, renting an insanely expensive hotel venue for a reception where she had lobster catered, etc.

In the end, I felt much like Chua’s girls probably feel: heartily tired of her, and wishing she would relax and go away for awhile.

Recommended, if you can handle the stress of reading it …


turn right at machu picchu adams“Turn Right at Machu Picchu,” reviewed here.


a break with charity salem witchOne of my daughters read “A Break with Charity” last year for school, and her copy was still lying around. It looked interesting … a YA historical fiction book about the Salem Witch Trials. Seems like there are several witch trial books around – “The Witch of Blackbird Pond,” “The Crucible” — and no wonder; it’s one of those historical periods when truth seems stranger than fiction.

I really enjoyed the book. It takes you into the period, helping you imagine how a bunch of young girls got caught up into the power they had when they accused various people in the village of being witches. You also will feel the fear that villagers must have felt when those near and dear to them were accused of witchcraft, for basically any reason (or none at all).

I like this take on the whole situation, courtesy of one of the “witches:”

“There are no witches, child. They exist only in the Puritan heart. The ancestors of these people hereabouts came to this land with a vision of a godly society. They came to escape the past. What they quickly discovered is that the nature of man and woman is such that sin can flourish here as well as from whence they came. What they do not yet understand is that the spirit it took to tame this wilderness is so strong it would not bow to the authority of the Puritan covenant and its ministers. So strong that it will always question authority. They see this not as something to celebrate, but as a failure of their vision. So they seek to lay blame.”

Recommended, for kids or adults alike.


13 thoughts on “Book Chat

  1. Sophie, Pay Attention sounds like a good one for my kids! I will probably enjoy it as well. The Salem Witch trials really doesn’t sound too appealing to me. I watched too many scary movies as a kid and don’t want to dredge up any memories. I LOVE Sarah too!

  2. I enjoyed your review of Tiger Mother. I wasn’t exhausted by it–but probably because I’m *not* a mother, and don’t have any personal experience by which to internalize Chua’s obsession with her daughters’ success.

    Congratulations on your first book!

  3. Congratulations on your book! I haven’t had a desire to read Tiger Mother, but your comments sound like what I’ve thought just from what I’ve heard and read about it.

    I just read a Christian fiction book about the Salem Witch trials called The Shape of Mercy. It was pretty good. I had never really delved into that strange time in history before.

  4. LOL. DWTS is not exactly what I would call a family friendly show.

    Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother sounds like an interesting read. I’ve come across that title before and I’m surprised I haven’t added it to my to-read list yet.

    Thanks for the review of Turn Right At Machu Picchu! That one is definitely getting added to my to-read list.

    Congratulations on your ebook!!

  5. You have a book out??? Wonderful!

    I tend to look at long excerpts as “blah blah blah” too. I think my attention span is getting shorter.

    I love hearing your opinions on these books. It really helps me decide what to read or not!

  6. What an interesting list of books! I must admit to wanting to read “Tiger Mom” myself, but I know it would both infuriate and depress me. And I loved “Turn Right at Maccu Pichu” too.

    elizabeth from 5 Minutes for Books

  7. Congrats on your book! I have a son who probably wouldn’t want to read about a girl, or I’d offer him up. 😉

    The Salem witch trials book sounds interesting as well.

  8. I think my daughter would love your new e-book and would be thrilled to write a review. I hope this book is wildly successful and you continue to write more.

  9. How exciting about your book! My daughter is in first grade, and I plan to steer her far away from Junie B. Thanks for working to make better options!

    I don’t have a post up this month, but thanks for including your list!

  10. Your book sounds perfect for my 10 year old niece, who loves Junie B. Jones books. Congratulations! And you are right, we need more wholesome chapter books. (I would be happy to review it on my blog).

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