Friday, December 7, 2018

Book Club: Book Review of A Cobbler's Tale: A Novel

cover of A Cobbler's Tale: A Novel book

Disclaimer: I received access to the e-book for free on NetGalley in return for my honest opinion. All thoughts and opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. For more information please see my Terms of Use and Disclosure Policy page. Thank you.

A Cobbler’s Tale: A Novel by Neil Perry Gordon is an intriguing look into the lives of three individuals – Pincus, Jakob, and Clara – as they navigate New York City and Poland in the early 1900s. The story introduces the reader to life in a Jewish village in Krzywcza and New York City. I really found the tale to be an interesting one as I learned more about each individual and their lives and families.

Cover of A Cobbler's Tale: A Novel and a photo of New York City

The story starts in July 1910 aboard the SS Amerika where we meet Pincus Potasznik who is seasick and his new friend, Jakob Adler. Both are Jewish and escaping persecution and trying to make a new life in America. A Cobbler’s Tale provides many details about the life of Pincus in the United States and that of his wife, Clara, in Poland. One of the groups to which we are introduced – in addition to the gangs of New York – is that of the Landsman Society of Krzywcza, which helps the newly immigrated from Pincus’ village find a job, a place to live, and provide religious assistance as well.

One of the features I liked about A Cobbler’s Tale was that everything seemed to hold a significance. Things that might only seem to have a passing importance to the story – like the meeting of the palmist Dora Meltzer – are actually more important to the plotline than they first appear. This assisted to create a tale that was woven together from the first page to the last page of the book. I most definitely wanted to see what was going to happen in each successive chapter of the book.

Clara was a strong character of A Cobbler’s Tale. She was key for keeping her family together while Pincus emigrated to America. There were many things that Clara needed to accomplish without her husband. From the birth of their last child, Anna, to keeping the cobbler’s shop running in Krzywcza with the help of Shmuel, while raising the children, Clara was kept very busy. She also handled difficulties with grace and strength.

My recommendation requires you to read a few potential spoilers. A Cobbler’s Tale: A Novel by Neil Perry Gordon is not the typical work of Christian fiction I usually review for my blog. So while I may have enjoyed it – as I really enjoy works of historical fiction and non-fiction – there may be some parts that some might find disturbing.

Warning and Potential Spoilers

There are a great number of raw details included in the story that are not normally found in books that I review for my blog. For example, there is persecution, gang warfare and violence, murder, rape, and details about war in general. Personally, the way in which Clara must ‘handle’ the police chief in Krzywcza was upsetting to me as well as that of the problems that Moshe (the son of Pincus and Clara) got into with the palmist towards the end of the book.

Even with the raw details of the story of the three characters, I do not feel disappointed in having read A Cobbler’s Tale: A Novel. I loved the little details included about life during the 1900s and felt the individuals came to life. I enjoyed the book.

Looking for more books to read? 
Why not check out these other book reviews? 

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Spending Time with the Bible: A Review of Beloved: 365 Devotions for Young Women from Zondervan

Over the past several years, I have been introduced to the idea of devotionals – I have read and reviewed more than a handful during this year alone. When given the opportunity to review the new devotional from Zondervan, I was excited because Beloved: 365 Devotions for Young Women looked like a truly lovely book. And it is! Such a beautifully designed and well-produced book from a company that I have come to trust.

How do we know as young or old women who we are supposed to be? How can we guide our daughters to be the best women they can be? As Lindsay A. Franklin states in Beloved: 365 Devotions for Young Women: "we're bombarded by lots of different messages" (Introduction). In this new devotion I am reviewing, young women can find out what the Bible has to stay about women and look for encouragement, wisdom, and inspiration. 

If you are unfamiliar with Zondervan, you can read more about this great publishing house that has been providing quality Christian content since 1931. Our family has several of their books in our home so I knew that adding Beloved: 365 Devotions for Young Women to our shelves would be a great thing. 

From the story of Eve in Genesis to the mother and grandmother of Timothy, we read about so many different women (and a few men) from whom we can learn and gather inspiration for our daily lives. And of course, there are several days examining the definition of an ideal woman as provided in Proverbs 31. 

There are many topics discussed in Beloved: 365 Devotions for Young Women such as:
  • Relationships (by examining the lives of Hagar, Sarai, and Abram we see how we are all entwined with others' lives) 
  • Favoritism 
  • Repeating mistakes of our parents
  • Blessings in today's world
  • Taking care in our speech and words 
  • Victim-blaming 
  • Physical attraction 
  • Female leadership
  • Pride 
  • Standing up for one's self 
  • Expectations of God 
  • Compassion
  • Hospitality 

There are also a great number of women who are discussed in Beloved: 365 Devotions for Young Women including the following: 
  • Sarah
  • Rachael 
  • Potiphar's wife 
  • Dinah
  • Miriam 
  • Rahab
  • Hannah and Peninnah 
  • Tamar 
  • Widow of Zarephath 
  • The Shunamite woman 
  • Esther 
  • Mary, the mother of Jesus 
  • Salome
  • Martha and Mary 
  • Lydia
  • Eunice and Lois 
  • Others throughout the Old and New Testaments 
The days and the devotions are interconnected so I would not recommend just picking it up and starting on whatever day or page you wish. It is important to read from day one through to the end, as the book is chronological. 

Through the devotions, young women can learn that – even though they are not in the spotlight at all times – they are just as important by reading about Miriam. Readers are also reminded that God cares about us – "our spiritual, physical, and emotional needs" (115) and God will help us overcome stronger problems. Through the examination of women in the New Testament, we are clearly reminded that Jesus showed compassion and we can as well. We can show compassion to those with chronic illnesses, loved ones who are hurting emotionally, those who take care of ill loved ones, and others. 

What I Like 

There are so many aspects to Beloved: 365 Devotions for Young Women that I enjoyed – from the fact that is a hardcover book to the inclusion of women who are not always discussed in the Bible – it is a great book for women (and men) of all ages. 

  • I like that it does not start with a date (i.e. January 1) so one could pick it up at any time of the year and read through the devotions 
  • Conversational in tone – I felt like the author was speaking directly to me 
  • Each page has four lines for reflections or notes 
  • Ribbon bookmark to keep one's place 
  • Chronological in its examination of the Bible 
  • Inclusion of women from the entire Bible – and not just the famous women 

Notes to Readers 

I do want to share a few topics that you may want to consider before you give this as a gift or purchase it for your own daughter. When discussing the story of Dinah, Beloved: 365 Devotions for Young Women examines the idea of victim-blaming and whether the relations with Shechem were consensual or rape. Some may find this problematic or difficult to read or consider. There is also discussion of Tamar, consent, and abuse. Personally, I did not feel any of it was discussed in an inappropriate manner but there were several pages devoted to suffering and healing from sexual trauma. 

We are presented with more than 50 ways young women can walk in the footsteps of the ladies (and men) of the Bible in Beloved: 365 Devotions for Young Women from Zondervan. While I may not have read the devotion cover to cover, I did skim through each entry and found myself reading many of them as I was writing this review. Beloved has a way of drawing the reader in and wanting to learn more so I highly recommend it as a gift for young women. 

To learn more please visit: 

Other members of the Homeschool Review Crew were also blessed with reviewing Beloved: 365 Devotions for Young Women from Zondervan – I recommend you check out their opinions of this wonderful new book as well! 

Monday, December 3, 2018

Dice, Decks, and Boards: Cauldron Quest

This post contains affiliate links. For more information please see my Terms of Use and Disclosure Policy page. Thank you.

We love cooperative games for kids. Therefore, the games we have from Peaceable Kingdom have not disappointed us. They "believe that children (and adults!) thrive when they work and play together in respectful ways. Cooperation encourages bonding, teamwork, shared decision making, trust, and emotional health."

Cauldron Quest is a game for two to four players aged 6+ that takes about 20 minutes to play. The object of the game is to get the three correct ingredients into the cauldron before all six paths on the board game are blocked. The story of the game is that there is an evil wizard who has cast a spell that will destroy the kingdom. The players have the power to break the spell – but only if we work together! We must find the three correct ingredients and move them down the paths to the cauldron.

"Work your Magic! Break the Spell!" 

Game Pieces include:
  • 6 plastic potion bottles with ingredient stickers 
  • 6 cardboard cauldron ingredient disks
  • 6 cardboard path blocker disks
  • 1 cardboard wizard hat & plastic stand 
  • 1 cardboard spell breaker token
  • 3 action dice
  • 3 "magic dice" (normal D6) 
  • 1 circular game board
  • 1 set of instructions 
The set up and instructions for play are clearly written with appropriate illustrations to further explain the game. On our first play through, I read the instructions prior to playing and referred to them during game play. 

Our entire family – 3-year-old, 5-year-old, teen, and parents – played the game. Except for our daughter wanting to use her own pink dice, we all were able to play the game successfully. We even won!

I would recommend Cauldron Quest to families of young children, day-care centers, preschools, and others. It is fun and will have a good replay value as things change each game play with different ingredients needed and the rolling of dice.


Looking for more posts about games and gaming? Please check out the following: 

Friday, November 30, 2018

Sugar Plums Dancing...Snowflakes Falling...Let's Write about December with Free Writing Prompts

As the winter officially approaches, many parts of the world are already under the grips of cold weather – from freezing blizzards to lovely snowfalls – winter weather can bring lots of changes to our lives. Many families are taking a break from traditional homeschooling studies to celebrate Christmas so this is the perfect time to work on writing skills in a more relaxed setting. Don't know what to write? Why not try these free writing prompts

Photo Prompts 

Ice skating

Person wearing winter parka

snowed in

Writing Prompts 

Download Here

What is your favorite thing to write about in the winter? 

Missed our other writing prompts? 

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Book Club: Book Review of Mark of the Raven

Disclaimer: I received this book for free from the publisher in return for my honest opinion. All thoughts and opinions are my own. For more information please see my Terms of Use and Disclosure Policy. Thank you.

Secrets and special powers abound in Mark of the Raven, Book One of The Ravenwood Saga, by Morgan L. Busse. While reading and reviewing this excellent work of fantasy from Bethany House, I was drawn into the world of Lady Selene, her family, and the other houses introduced by Busse. I have read quite a bit of fantasy and I will be adding Busse to the list of authors I regularly read.

The story starts with a special ceremony in which the heir to the House of Ravenwood, Lady Selene, receives a special mark and eventually awakens with her new power – that of a dreamwalker. Sadly Selene is informed by her mother that the Ravenwood women do not use their gifts of entering another person's dreams for good. They actually are hired by others to gather information and sometimes as assassins. This realization – of the dark job that the dreamwalkers perform – does not sit well with Selene.

In the background of Selene's tale is that of the ever-encroaching Dominia Empire which had attacked the Seven Houses hundreds of years ago. While Selene is learning more of the past, representatives from the other Houses meet at the Ravenwood Home, Rook Castle, to discuss an alliance against the Dominia Empire. Not all the Lords and Ladies are in agreement as to how to handle the Empire. The disagreement causes more strife.

From the opening pages to the exciting conclusion of Book One, I could not put Mark of the Raven down. I was unsure what the tale would hold for me after reading the description and was very pleased at how much I enjoyed this work of fiction. The characters are very well-developed and by the end of the book, I felt like I knew Selene and Damien (Grand Lord of the House of Maris) well and wanted to learn more about the others in a future book.

The inclusion of magical-like gifts or abilities may cause concern for some but I found the inclusion of the dreamwalking and ability to control water or fire intriguing and fascinating. I have read a lot of fantasy novels and Busse's use of these gifts or talents was presented in a new way.

I recommend Mark of the Raven to those who enjoy fantasy. It is a well-written novel that poses some thought-provoking questions (which were explored on Instagram in late October and early November 2018). I know I will be keeping an eye out for Book Two of the Ravenwood Saga!

Instagram Discussion Questions from #FantasyReadAlong

Two of the answers I shared on Instagram

Selene's new power brings many challenges...which would be the hardest for you? 

Damien raises the sea would you respond in his place?