Review of The Hidden Side by Heidi Chiavaroli


Genre: Contemporary/Historical Fiction

Natalie Abbott hides behind her radio persona, confidently ministering on-air to her listeners, while struggling to connect with her own family. After a tragic school shooting involves her children, Natalie’s world is rocked. She finds comfort in the 1776 journal of Mercy Howard–fiancé to Nathan Hale–who becomes a Revolutionary War spy after her beloved is hanged. The perspectives of Natalie, Natalie’s teenage daughter Maelynn, and Mercy are interchanged as each deals with their own secrets, shame, and journey to freedom.

This is a thoughtful book, but a difficult one to read due to the subject matter. It has a similar feel (not plot) to the controversial drama 13 Reasons Why, with the added aspect of working out one’s faith, and finding grace in the middle of a mess. The characters grapple through dark human issues, repentance and forgiveness, vulnerability, deep secrets, and new beginnings. The parallel historical narrative, while similarly heart-wrenching, provides an interesting depth and perspective, while also breaking up the intensity of the contemporary story.

I appreciate this narrative, but did not enjoy reading it as much as it gave me a lot to think about, and has influenced my perspective on some issues. This is a story that cannot be unread–it will stick with you.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Tyndale.


Review of The Memorization Study Bible (KJV New Testament) by Thomas Meyer


Genre: Study Bible/Bible Resources


Lately it’s been on my heart to begin memorizing full chapters of Scripture, so I jumped at the opportunity to review this new Memorization Study Bible. My translation preference is not the KJV, so I debated about whether to consider this Bible. If you love the KJV I highly recommend this! If, like me, you have another favorite translation, this may not be much help. Although, I have to say, I’m so impressed with this Bible, I may decide to memorize from the KJV for the New Testament.

Memorization is still a lot of work, even with a special Bible! The author (who has memorized 20+ full books of the Bible without having a photographic memory!) suggests repetition in speaking and writing one verse at a time, while isolating it on the page. What makes this Bible unique is its special format. Words are specifically aligned on the page in a way that aids the memory process, and numbers are used to specify how many words per each line. This arrangement would be difficult to self-replicate with another version of the Bible unless you understood the pattern and had extra energy toward custom formatting.

I also appreciate that popular Scriptures are highlighted throughout, and enjoyed reading the appendices, which includes lists of short memory verses, sin to salvation verses, significant verses, popular NT chapters, memorizing techniques in Judaism and Christianity, and (my favorite) a fascinating summary of the historical development of Bible memorization, depicting the practices of many believers and scholars throughout history who memorized large portions of Scriptures.

Explore Master Books’ website here.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Master Books.




Review of Language Lessons for a Living Education 2 by Kristen Pratt


Language Arts Curriculum

Early Elementary

Highly Recommended!

I have been anticipating the release of this curriculum, and it is exactly what I hoped it would be! It has a perfect balance of comprehensive language arts instruction at a gentle pace; plus, it’s a beautiful book, with a strong Christian focus.

Each lesson begins with a story, poem, picture, or piece of Scripture, followed by questions for reading comprehension or observation skills, and narration practice as the student verbalizes what he/she heard, saw, or learned through the piece. Many of the stories follow two very likable Sunday school friends, Claire and Micah; and I love how the narration skills draw out empathy and thoughtfulness in many of the discussion questions. Many lessons end with a chance for the student to draw and/or write his/her own story.

The grammatical component starts with a review of basic skills: the alphabet, vowels and consonants, phonics, nouns/proper nouns and verbs, capitalization, punctuation, days of the weeks, and names of months. Then it moves into syllables, writing a full sentence, plurals, abbreviations, subject-predicate, subject-verb agreement, compound words, contractions, homophones, homonyms, a/an, tense, more advanced phonics and consonant blends, synonyms, antonyms, prefixes, suffixes, and root words, adjectives, demonstrative pronouns, writing and addressing a letter, and writing a psalm.

The final 100 or so pages of the book includes quizzes corresponding with each lesson, and a suggested grading rubric.

I love that this curriculum includes the full spread of language arts while utilizing a variety of learning styles and activities: hearing a story, copywork, writing (starting with simple words and progressing to sentences), sight word practice and reading, learning activities, puzzles, spelling (using boxes to show the shape of words), memorization (of short poems, Scriptures, and eventually all of 1 Cor. 13), and storytelling through writing and drawing. In the past we have done multiple L.A. curricula at once to cover all the bases. This is going to simplify our homeschool. The strong biblical foundation is also a huge blessing, as the Scripture and godly character is woven throughout.

Level Placement: 

This language arts series is not grade based, but level based. This second book follows Master Books’ Foundations Phonics curriculum, and Basic Language Skills (early reading, early writing, and spelling) curriculum. I would put this at about a 1st grade level, but it really depends on the child; and I love the publisher’s emphasis on personal skill level rather than comparison.

I will be using this with my kindergartener, who has completed a phonics program, is an early reader, and enjoys copy-work and writing. It looks like the curriculum starts slow enough that he will be ready for it, along with the other reading and vocabulary work we will do in addition.

On Methodology:

We homeschool using a combination of Charlotte Mason and Classical methodologies (and will be starting Classical Conversations in the fall), with a strong focus on faith and discipleship. This curriculum is inspired by Charlotte Mason (narration, observation), and shares the memorization emphasis of the grammar stage of the Classical Trivium. It also has a slightly Traditional feeling with the workbook, tests, and open-and-go lesson plans in the front (but is much more interesting in its range of activities). This curriculum could easy complement any methodology as it is flexible and relaxed, yet comprehensive.

Explore Master Books’ website here.

I received a complimentary copy of this curriculum from Master Books.


Review of The Kremlin Conspiracy by Joel Rosenberg


Genre: Fiction/Suspense

Series: Book One

Highly Recommended.

If you’re looking for a suspenseful political thriller, this is an excellent choice. It is similar in style to Rosenberg’s other novels, including its fast pace, realistic political feel, and cliffhanger ending. I’m already anticipating the next installment of these characters!

The plot depicts desperate political unrest, as the Russian president deceptively plans an invasion, while displaying a peaceful front. The story is written primarily through the eyes of two men: US patriot Marcus Ryker, and Russian son-in-law and senior aide to the president, Oleg Kraskin. Each are sympathetic characters, who want to prevent unnecessary war. Their backstories and the historical-political atmosphere are set up before the main conflict of the narrative fully comes into action; but while the story is written in several parts, it moves quickly, with high suspense from beginning to end.

One of my favorite aspects of Rosenberg’s books is his understanding of history and politics, which often parallel real events, motivating me to research the actual situations–in this case the history and political atmosphere of Russia. The depth and insight hidden within the story heightens the stakes, making the already exciting suspense even better!

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Tyndale.