Patricia MacLachlan – Sarah, Plain and Tall

Patricia MacLachlan – Sarah, Plain and Tall

Sarah, Plain and Tall is a simply beautiful story told from a child’s point of view about her widowed father, her brother, and Sarah Wheaton, who comes to share their life.

Review By Berean Daughter

Continue reading the review here.

Amazon source Sarah, Plain and Tall


Jean Craighead George – Julie of the Wolves series

This book is an absolute NO here. I don’t know why some authors write good books like “My Side of the Mountain” and yet then turn around and write a horrible book with unnecessary evil. The extra bad thing is this book got a Newberry Award. That means an award such as Newberry is discredited in my mind.

No itemized list as to issues with the book just this from Wikipedia:

The inclusion of Julie of the Wolves in elementary school reading lists has been challenged several times due to parental concerns regarding the attempted rape of the main character.

Nuff said.


Jane Austen – Pride and Prejudice

Jane Austen – Pride and Prejudice – Berean Daughter’s review

I must admit that this review tickled me.  Ya think she didn’t like the book?

I’m also impressed because while I read these books several times as a teen myself, I don’t think I had as much discernment.  I had no guidelines as to what I read.  Hey, I was reading books I was better than all the teens sitting at home watching TV, right?

When my oldest children were growing up we spent alot of time reviewing and critiquing books.   I was very critical of what my children read.  Essentially, better no reading than bad reading.  As I’ve matured in the faith some books no longer get a free pass (Chronicles of Narnia) like they did when the children were younger.  Fiction is also considered to be junk food.  Ok in small amounts, but not the steady diet and hopefully something that children can learn isn’t good for you.  Very few fiction books are worth the time, Pilgrim’s Progress being one of the exceptions.  Adults who only read fiction are wasting their time and decreasing their potential for spiritual growth.

When my oldest became teens they were in charge of reviewing books for the younger children.  I could trust them to do a good job and they had more time than I did.  My oldest daughter would often set aside a new book after a couple of pages because of bad words or bad attitudes.  Bad words did not mean curse words like some suppose but any words that my children were not allowed to use themselves.  So darn, OMG, and stupid would all fall in that category.

As a seventeen year old senior my daughter is pretty much allowed to read what she desires especially considering most of our books come free from Gutenberg Press.  Now she does have guidelines and we discuss books, plus she also has her 20 year old brother to ask about books. I would not have recommended her even bothering reading this book but since she is working on some book reviews of the average books a homeschool family may read she decided to.

I’m also relieved to know that she isn’t planing on pining away waiting on her “Mr. Darcy” to show up and always looking at every young man as a potential “Mr. Darcy”.  As we all know “Mr. Darcy” is just fiction, real young men and older men are sinners like us, hopefully saved by grace.

Jane Austen – Pride and Prejudice

Foolishness (Prov 15:2; Prov 15:14; Eccl 10:13)
Foolish women spinning their heads at every “eligible” young man that comes into view.


Kathleen Norris – Mother

Kathleen Norris – Mother 

“There’s something magnificent in a woman like your mother, who begins eight destinies instead of one … Responsibility, – that’s what other women say they are afraid of! But it seems to me there’s no responsibility like that of decreeing that young lives simply shall not be.  Why, what good is learning, or elegance of manner, or painfully acquired fineness of speech, and taste and point of view, if you are not going to distil it into growing plants, the only real hope we have in the world!”


Mother is an amazing book about a young lady who rejects the idea that a woman’s calling is in her home.  She leaves home to find fulfillment in a career and social life, but in the end, God brings her back and shows her what it really is to be a mother.

The review also includes a link to a free copy of the small book.

Review by Berean Daughter

Continue reading the review here.


Jean Craighead George – My Side of the Mountain

Book Review George’s My Side of the Mountain

“I am on my mountain in a tree home that people have passed without ever knowing that I am here. The house is a hemlock tree six feet in diameter, and must be as old as the mountain itself.  I came upon it last summer and dug and burned it out until I made a snug cave in the tree that I now call home.”


Sam Gribley is tired of living in a crowded New York City apartment, so he runs away to the Catskill Mountain wilderness to forge a life of his own.  No one takes his plans seriously – except Sam himself.  With only a penknife, a ball of cord, forty dollars, and some flint and steel, he must rely on his own ingenuity and on the resources of the land to survive. And survive he does.  Alone in the mountains, Sam learns about courage, danger, and the true meaning of companionship, and captures it all in his journal. My Side of the Mountain is the vivid and engrossing account of the year that changes Sam’s life.[1]

[1] Taken from the back cover of Puffin Book’s My Side of the Mountain

Review By Berean Daughter

Continue reading the review here.

Amazon source My Side of the Mountain


This is a book I remembered from my childhood and was eager to share it with the kids.  Lots of interesting animal and plant trivia woven throughout.


The linked review was written by my oldest daughter.  Haven’t quite figured out how to post her reviews without linking to them.


WARNING – This by no means gives the author a blanket pass. Do not let your children read Julie of The Wolves.


One Thousand Gifts – Challies Review

Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts came out quite a bit ago and many, many women where thrilled with it.  When I read about the book I found she was influenced by mystical writers and there were a few questionable areas.  Since no one I knew closely was talking about the book I didn’t bother with a review.

Tim Challies did a review which encompasses the concerns I had without me having to read it. 🙂

One Thousand Gifts

Having now read this book, I want to point to a couple of some significant concerns.

The first pertains to the people who have influenced Voskamp in her journey to eucharisteo. Her theology is an eclectic combination of Protestantism and Catholic or Catholic-influenced mysticism. She either quotes or is influenced by authors like Henri Nouwen, Brennan Manning, Teresa of Avila, Brother Lawrence, Annie Dillard, and Dallas Willard. This brings to the book a deep-rooted mysticism that at times seems even to border on the view that the divine exists within and extends to all parts of nature (a teaching known as panentheism). At heart, mysticism promotes the view that God can be experienced, and perhaps even best experienced, outside of Scripture. This comes in direct contrast to what Scripture itself says, that Scripture is God’s final and sufficient revelation of himself.

… continue here


Challies’ second concern is even more disconcerting when you realize how many women love the book.


The Hunger Games – Playing the Suicide Card

Suicide, especially teen suicide, is a very touchy subject. Very few people have not been affected by suicide, either by knowing someone who committed suicide or else knowing someone who has attempted suicide. Opinions are all across the board concerning suicide, suicide prevention and the reasons people commit suicide. But I’m not going to look at any of that, just suicide and The Hunger Games series.

Since I did not read The Hunger Games series I can’t tell you how much of a focus the books gave to the suicide concepts. It could have been one or two sentences or whole chapters. But that really is beside the point. There are several instances in the series where suicide is broached.

~ Katniss and Peeta threaten to commit suicide and pretend to eat poisonous berries at the end of the competition when the rule is changed back to only one survivor.

“Without a victor, the whole thing would blow up in the Gamemakers’ faces. They’d have failed the Capitol. Might possibly even be executed, slowly and painfully while the cameras broadcast it to every screen in the country.

If Peeta and I were both to die, or they thought we were …”

~ Foxface eats the poisonous berries and dies. Whether suicide or not is debatable.

~ Seneca is set in a room with poison berries on the table and is pushed to end it all. (This appears to be in the movie and not necessarily the book.)

~ Katniss and Peeta carry poisonous berries in hopes of an opportunity to use them on Cato.

What do stories and books like The Hunger Games teach our children when they include such tidbits of suicide?

1) It teaches our children that they can play around the edges of suicide. They can have a means available, easily available even. They can contemplate suicide. Many might be surprised at how often a teen may play around the edges of suicide and find they get to a point of no return. There is a high that can be achieved just before the point of suicide but crossing that line can mean death. Things like inhaling fumes, choking or even bleeding can produce a euphoric high but many, many times teens find they have gone too far leading to serious illness or death.

2) It propagates the idea that man is in control of his destiny. In the mind of a suicidal person they are in control, God is not Sovereign. While what a man thinks about God’s Sovereignty doesn’t negate God’s Sovereignty by any means, sometimes the Lord does turn man over to his own vain lusts and allow them to reap what they desire.

3) Suicidal manipulation is encouraged. Unless you’ve ever experienced this it might not mean much to you. However, I did growing up and believe me it isn’t pleasant. Suicidal manipulators are those who use the ultimate threat (in their mind’s eye) of suicide to get their way. Out of control teens can easily learn to use threats of suicide in order to manipulate weak parents into giving into their every demand. Adults can manipulate others by threatening to ‘end it all’. What then happens is everyone walks around on eggshells fearing to upset another person’s ‘delicate balance’ in life.

4) Suicide is often used as a means to hurt others. I remember my mom telling of a teen when she was a teen who committed suicide. Why? Because the teen did not get her way in some minor disagreement with her parents. So the teen stormed out and said “I’ll show you!” and killed herself. She hurt her parents by her suicide in order to punish them.

5) Suicide belies the fact that God says He will never give us more than we can bear.

1 Corinthians 10:13 (ESV) No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

6) The Werther Effect means there may be some teens who seek to copy the suicide ideas in The Hunger Games. What is the Werther Effect?

One of the earliest known associations between the media and suicide arose from Goethe’s novel Die Leiden des jungen Werthers (The Sorrows of Young Werther). Goethe’s novel was published in 1774 and not long after young men began to mimic the character Werther by dressing in yellow pants and blue jackets. The new fashion trend seemed to be entertaining to the public. A new trend also emerged from the book causing it to be banned in numerous areas. In the novel, Werther commits suicide with a pistol after he fails to get the girl he desires. Many men replicated this trend in an act of hopelessness. In that work the hero shoots himself after an ill-fated love, and shortly after its publication there were many reports of young men using the same method to commit suicide. This resulted in a ban of the book in several places. Hence the term “Werther effect”, used in the technical literature to designate copycat suicides. The term was coined by researcher David Phillips in 1974. Two centuries after Goethe’s novel was published David Phillips confirmed imitative suicides as the “Werther effect.” Reports in 1985 and 1989 by Phillips and his colleagues found that suicides and other accidents seem to incline after a well publicized suicide. Copycat suicide is mostly blamed on the media. “Hearing about a suicide seems to make those who are vulnerable feel they have permission to do it,” Dr. Phillips said. He cited studies that showed that people were more likely to engage in dangerous deviant behavior, such as drug taking, if someone else had set the example first.

The Werther Effect reveals that the popular idea of writing and exposing children and teens to tough and serious concepts like suicide in their books in order to aid them in handling the issues doesn’t not always work and may actually cause the issue they are trying to avoid.

Why would we want to expose our children to such?


Hungry for What?

Continuing with my “The Hunger Games a Non-Readers Review” here are possible discussion points that may occur when others are recommending the book.

Reading what others have written explaining why The Hunger Games is acceptable really sounds quite strange when you read them with a different Biblical perspective.  Often a person’s first encounter with a book or other media source will be hearing someone else talk about it or seeing a comment on Facebook.  So from there you can get an idea of what the book is about and begin to discuss it with a Biblical perspective.

Here are some quotes from other Christians on other sites who reviewed the book or movie and who saw no problem with the book.  I would like my children to be able to discuss a Biblical response when they hear things like this whether they know anything about the book or not.


1)      “Katniss only killed in self-defense or in a mercy killing.”

Only?  So that makes it OK?  I laughed when I read this response as to why the book was OK from a Christian.  Really now?  Mercy killing?  Sounds like the government will have no trouble passing laws for assisted suicide or infant euthanasia.  What is mercy killing but taking life and death decisions into your own hands and playing God?  So much for Pro-Life, special needs adoption and elder care because those all fall under “mercy” killing in the eyes of some.


2)      “The book is clearly portraying evil verses good – “… the participants in the games [are] either all-good or all-evil.”

No one is all evil or all good.  That is false according to the Bible.

Matthew 19:17 (ESV) … There is only one who is good….

What the book is displaying is actually evil verses evil. Utter hopelessness as a result of no good options being expressed because the book does not offer anything but “kill or be killed”.


3)      “It was kill or be killed, that was the only choice.”

“Kill or be killed” is evil.  The “good” decision would be to refuse to participate even if death was the result.  Early Christian Martyrs died over refusing to say one false word.  They didn’t rationalize that they or their family could survive if they just said what was required.  No they stood firm despite the pressure, the pain and the hunger.  For Christians death is not the ultimate enemy.  Jesus defeated death with His resurrection.  We don’t have to live a life of hopelessness seeking to avoid death at all costs.


4)      “The book was clear about the evil of watching as spectators the children killing children; you leave the book or movie knowing how evil it is.”

Really?  What is the difference between what the spectators in the book did and what the reader does?  The spectators watch the children killing children rooting for the one they want to win.  The readers get so swept up in the reading that they find themselves rooting for Katniss to win, even if that means she must “kill or be killed” according to the plot.  What makes the reader of the book or the movie goer any different from the spectators?  The Hunger Games book costs around $10.00 right now and a movie ticket is around $12.50.  So people are paying money to read about or see children killing children.  Does it matter if you are repulsed by the concept?  You have supported it and your emotions get involved and you find yourself rooting against contestants.   You then are no different from the spectators of the Roman Gladiator Games despite how you try to convince yourself otherwise.  The movie garnered $155 million dollars for the opening weekend, who are we kidding?

NPR from David Edelstein:

“Out of 24 participants, only one child will live. And we hope it will be Katniss Everdeen, from the impoverished mining District 12—a teen who, when her little sister is picked in the lottery, volunteers to take her place. Why is it problematic? Kids killing kids is the most wrenching thing we can imagine, and rooting for the deaths of Katniss’ opponents can’t help but implicate us.  But the novel is written by a humanist: When a child dies, we breathe a sigh of relief that Katniss has one less adversary, but we never go, “Yes!” —we feel only revulsion for this evil ritual.

If the film’s director, Gary Ross, has any qualms about kids killing kids, he keeps them to himself. The murders on screen are fast and largely pain-free—you can hardly see who’s killing who. So, despite the high body count, the rating is PG-13. Think about it: You make killing vivid and upsetting and get an R. You take the sting out of it, and kids are allowed into the theater. The ratings board has it backward.”   [bold added]

What would the early Christian Martyrs think about Christians today paying money to read and watch children killing children?

“If nobody watches the Games, then there’s no reason to have them.”

In reading the book or watching the movie you are giving approval to those who practice such things.

Romans 1:28-32 (ESV)

28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.

29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips,

30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents,

31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.

32 Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.


5)      “Well the Bible is just as dark”

Yes, the Bible does cover violent and evil things.  However, throughout the Bible it is clear about God’s Sovereignty and that the evil is the result of man’s fallen and depraved choices.  The Bible provides hope thorough Christ whereas the book series offers no hope.


6)      “The murders aren’t the story”

Remove the murders, the animals and creatures killing children, the plotting to kill, the striving to not be murdered and the whole reason for the Hunger Games and what will you have?  A couple of pages of dialogue.  The murders are the story.


7)      “Not for young children, not for sensitive children, …”

Why is it that some children are sensitive to violence and death and others not?  Have you ever considered why some children are more affected by things than other children?  Is that the negative that society says it is?  Why do we think violence is acceptable for adults and not for children?  Does that just mean we as adults have become hardened to violence?  Now granted there are some subject matters that are better left to adults (marital intimacy, details of childbirth) but do adults really need to expose themselves to violence that is too much for children?  Just maybe the “sensitive” children are the ones who have it right.


8)      The book is anti-authority

The book is very much anti-government.  Government is looked at as the source of the evil that is occurring.  However, our government is under the Sovereignty of God and if we are under a bad or horrible government is because that is deemed for our good by God.

Romans 13:1-4 (ESV)

1 Let every person  be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.

2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.

3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval,

4 for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.

Not only is the book anti-government but it is also anti-adult.  The teens are seen as the wise ones while all the adults are either evil or incompetent.  Remember the Toy Story movies where the single mom is the best parent but the family with a father and mother are incompetent parents of the evil Sid?  There is a message behind portrayals like that.  Why should Christians support propagation of such stereotypes?

Do I have to watch the movie or read the book in order to engage the culture with the gospel as a result of the book? By no means.  Just as I don’t need to have divorced to engage unbelievers in a biblical discussion of divorce.  I can engage in a discussion just from reading reviews and listening to others.  No need to crawl around in the mud first to warn others of a mud hole.


The Hunger Games – a Non-Reader’s Review

I generally try to avoid as much of the popular culture as possible. Most is just trash and a waste of time so unless I have a reason to look at what is popular in the forms of entertainment, books, movies or music, I skip it. I usually only look into it when it crosses my line of sight if a Christian begins discussing something that sends up red flags or recommends it to me. A few weeks ago a friend pointed out that one of her teens had asked about reading “The Hunger Games” because another Christian teen had recommended it, but they, the parents, decided not to allow it due to the premise of the book. Now I recognized the title because I had heard hype about the movie coming out but I was clueless. When I had seen the title “The Hunger Games”, honestly, I thought it was a reality show like “Biggest Loser” which I have heard of before. But since other Christians were allowing their teens to read the book I thought I should at least check it out. At least confirm it wasn’t the latest dieting fad. Ha, boy was I wrong!

My oldest two (20 and 17) children said that several of their friends were reading the book and it had been discussed quite frequently. I asked them what they thought and they both said the book and its theme were rather stupid and they weren’t interested. Well good, but not exactly a Biblical reasoning. Was the rejection just a matter of taste or is there a Biblical reason to reject the book?

Now, of course, my natural inclination is to reject anything the world goes crazy over, usually that suffices. But when other Christians are thrilled over something then maybe it is of value or worthwhile. But then again, maybe not. Years ago when my oldest was just starting school I trusted a good Christian friend on her evaluation of C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia. I had never read it and when you have children who read voraciously it is very hard to keep up if you didn’t grow up reading sound Christian books yourself. In retrospect I may not have let my children read the Narnia series or at least not as first and second graders. Why? Read here. Not only that but I have actually matured in my faith since my first were young. Imagine that! My view of books and media through the lens of Scripture is quite different now.

So for the benefit of my children I decided to review “The Hunger Games”. But I’m not going to read the book nor watch the movie. Horrors! Review a book without reading it. Yeap! Just as I can write about the horrors of drug abuse with ever having taken illegal drugs, I can review a book without reading it, especially in this internet age. Since the book and the movie are very close I will focus mostly on the book. Generally the movie is said to be milder in the violence described and to have left out portions of the book.

For those who are clueless like I was here is the Amazon description of the book:

Katniss is a 16-year-old girl living with her mother and younger sister in the poorest district of Panem, the remains of what used be the United States. Long ago the districts waged war on the Capitol and were defeated. As part of the surrender terms, each district agreed to send one boy and one girl to appear in an annual televised event called, “The Hunger Games.” The terrain, rules, and level of audience participation may change but one thing is constant: kill or be killed. When Kat’s sister is chosen by lottery, Kat steps up to go in her place.

That would be enough for me to avoid the book right there – “kill or be killed.” If it was turned into a video game, which I’m sure it will be, would you let your children play it? Generally as Christians, I think not. But we seem to think reading about killing isn’t as dangerous as watching it.

So how do you evaluate a book without reading it and with just a general idea of what it entails? First you start with your plumb line – the Bible. Then I would take ideas and concepts from the book and compare the ideology and doctrine back to Scripture. The hard part is recognizing the ideology behind certain concepts. Logic and deductive reasoning was sorely lacking in my public school education and I’ve yet to come across a curriculum that teaches that well. Any suggestions?

We are given some general guidelines in Scripture:

Philippians 4:8 (ESV) Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

1 Thessalonians 5:22 (ESV) Abstain from every form of evil.

1 Corinthians 10:23 (ESV) “All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up.

That’s nothing new, we all know those. But often the argument is that the Bible is very clear about evil and describes it in detail – gory detail at times. However, the Bible is not literature, not even excellent literature, nor should it ever be lumped into a literature class, but it is the direct words of God to Man, its violence and gore is revealing human nature and how God has worked throughout time.

So I will break this review into several parts due to the length.



The Case for Christmas: A Journalist Investigates the Identity of the Child in the Manger by Lee Strobel

The Case for Christmas: A Journalist Investigates the Identity of the Child in the Manger [Kindle Edition] still free so far.

by Lee Strobel

This book was better than I expected.  Although I wouldn’t have used the term Christmas throughout.  Essentially the book is about who the baby in the manger was.  Below are some quotes from the book that I highlighted.

Spring is most likely, because shepherds were watching their flocks at night and this is when ewes bore their young. In fact, around AD 200, theologians concluded Jesus was born on May 20.

In AD 385, Pope Julius I declared December 25 as the day for celebrating Christ’s birth. “He chose that date,” Christian researcher Gretchen Passantino told me, “partly to challenge the pagan celebration of the Roman god Saturnalia, which was characterized by social disorder and immorality.”

Note: the date given above and the date for Pope Julius I do not match up, although other sources still say Pope Julius I with a date of around AD 350. This is just a quote from the book.

“It flows out of the point I just made. Christians believe that as wonderful as Jesus’ life and teachings and miracles were, they were meaningless if it were not historically factual that Christ died and was raised from the dead and that this provided atonement, or forgiveness, of the sins of humanity.

“So Mark in particular, as the writer of probably the earliest gospel, devotes roughly half his narrative to the events leading up to and including one week’s period of time and culminating in Christ’s death and resurrection.

“My parents got divorced when I was seventeen,” he said—and surprisingly, even after all these years I could still detect hurt in his voice. “That really put a stake in any religious heart I may have had. I wondered, Where does God come in? Why didn’t they go to a rabbi for counseling? What good is religion if it can’t help people in a practical way? It sure couldn’t keep my parents together. When they split up, part of me split as well.

That’s because Christians believe that Jesus wasn’t born into this world merely to identify with us, console us, or even lead us. His assignment from the outset, they claim, was to die for us—to actually lay down his life as a spiritual payment for the wrongdoing we’ve done, so that we can be released from the penalty we owe. It’s his-life-for-ours, with the result being, as the old Christmas carol “Hark! The Herald Angels” says, “God and sinners, reconciled.”

Notice the extra tidbit about divorce in that next to last quote? The pain does not go away even when a grown adult.