Monday, June 27, 2016

Secrets of Ancient Man {a Master Books review}

If you've read my blog over the last couple of years, it is no secret that we really, truly love the gorgeous books put out by Master Books.

Some we love far more than others.  Secrets of Ancient Man definitely falls into that 'more' category.  Even though I no longer have children who tell me that they want to be archaeologists when they grow up, this is an area that fascinates us all.

This book is a stunning hardcover with lots of great information, much like The Genius of Ancient Man, which we also loved.

From the publisher:
  • More details about the most advanced ancient technology we've ever seen, including Roman nanotechnology
  • Identify the counterfeit religion of Babel mirrored in every pagan religion through time
  • Why the Tower of Babel incident was about a rebellion that has continued throughout history into the present day!
Knowledge. Wisdom. Understanding. Mankind yearns for these. We find ourselves enthralled with secrets, mysteries, and riddles. Man is seduced by the unknown and enticed by the offer of revelation. Perhaps this is why we pursue science so passionately and we seek desperately to unearth the remnants of our ancestors. We have this innate impression that there is something we don’t know, something important that we must discover.
The Ancient Man research team of Jackson Hole Bible College has been hard at work over the past two years since publishing their first book, The Genius of Ancient Man. Dedicated to bringing you more of the fascinating details, commentary, and the Bible affirming truths you loved about ancient man, the team now invites you to think critically about both history and the forces at work in our world today.
I cannot say enough great things about this book.  We've been sitting down -- and by "we" I am referring to my non-adult children, who are 10, 12, 15 and 17 -- and reading a chapter most weeks.  We pass the book around to get a good look at the photos (which are beautiful, or have I mentioned that?) and then we discuss the concepts being presented. 

This trailer video of The Genius of Ancient Man does a great job of hinting at some of what to expect in this book:

I'm not sure my 10-year-old would enjoy this book on her own, but doing it alongside her big brothers most certainly works well.  She is easily able to be an active participant in our conversations.

Personally, I really loved the section on the Tower of Babel.  I've read a lot of material on this time, and wasn't really looking forward to covering it again, but Landis and his team do a great job of putting this in terms I really hadn't heard.

Disclaimer:   I received this book for free from Master Books.  No other compensation was received.  The fact that I received complimentary products does not guarantee a favorable review.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Core Christianity {a Booklook Blogger review}

Over the past couple of months, I've been reading through Core Christianity: Finding Yourself in God's Story by Michael Horton.

The description of the book talks about how terms like theology cause most people to just glaze over, not being able to follow the discussion and not having any idea as to why they ought to put for the mental energy to do so.

Core Christianity covers theology with a minimum of specialized vocabulary, and it really is a work that those of us who aren't Bible majors can understand.

From the publisher:
What do all Christians believe?

For many people, words like “doctrine” and “theology” cause their eyes to glaze over, or they find them difficult to understand and struggle to see how they are relevant to their daily lives. Author, pastor, and theologian Michael Horton proves that the study of theology is far from boring.

Core Christianity tackles the essential and basic beliefs that all Christians share. In addition to unpacking these beliefs in a way that is easy to understand, Horton shows readers why they matter to their lives today.

This introduction to the basic doctrines of Christianity is a helpful guide by a respected theologian and a popular author, and it includes discussion questions for individual or group use. Core Christianity is perfect for those who are new to the faith, as well as those who have an interest in deepening in their understanding of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ.
I'm not sure that I consider this to be my favorite book on theology, but it is easy to read, and easy to understand. This is a book I am comfortable handing to my 17-year-old, who this evening, out of the blue, told me that he would like to read something that helps him understand theology.

I think this book will be perfect for him.  It is especially nice that it isn't a thick book. Non-intimidating. 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Medical Judgment {a Litfuse Blog Tour review}

I have read a few books by Richard L. Mabry, M.D., so I jumped at the chance to review Medical Judgment.   That was definitely the right decision.

Like everything Dr. Mabry writes, there is a pretty strong medical connection -- this has been called a medical drama after all.  In this case, the main character is an emergency room doctor.  A fair amount of the story takes place in the ER, but certainly not everything.

One of the things I love the most in this book is that while there is a bit of romantic tension, this is absolutely not a "medical romance" book.  It involves people who feel real.  People who go to work, which sometimes is drudgery.  People who go to church.  People who have made some big mistakes in life.  People who you can imagine going grocery shopping, or standing in line at the post office. 

Of course, there are some pretty major things going on.  I don't know about you, but I can't think of anyone in my circle of friends and acquaintances who has someone trying to kill them.  That's not exactly normal.

I can think of quite a few people who have faced some big losses though, and that is a pretty big topic in this book.  Sarah's husband and baby daughter were killed a year or so ago.  Another character lost his wife to cancer not too long ago.  Yet another lost his fiancée, though I can't recall how.  All three grieve differently, and there is some great discussion about how grief is going to be different for everyone.  That was something I really appreciated in this story. 

That sounds pretty depressing, but this book is definitely not that.  I loved it, and it kept me turning the pages.  I felt a lot like Sarah, unsure of just who I could trust.

Just what the doctor ordered: heart-thumping suspense and intrigue, courtesy of Richard Mabry’s new medical drama, Medical Judgment. Someone is after Dr. Sarah Gordon. They’ve stalked her and set a fire at her home. Trying to recover from the traumatic deaths of her husband and infant daughter is tough enough, but she has no idea what will come next. As the threats on her life continue to escalate, so do the questions: Who is doing this? Why are they after her? And with her only help being unreliable suitors in competition with each other, whom can she really trust?

Join Richard in celebrating the release of Medical Judgment by entering to win an e-reader!

medical judgment - 400 

One grand prize winner will receive:
  • A copy of Medical Judgment
  • A Kindle Fire HD 6
Enter today by clicking the icon below, but hurry! The giveaway ends on June 21st. The winner will be announced June 22nd on the Litfuse blog.

medical judgment - enterbanner

You can see what others had to say about the book at the Litfuse Blog Tour page!

Disclaimer:  I received this book through LitFuse Blog Tour.  No other compensation was received.  All opinions expressed in this review are my own.  

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Progeny Press: The Minstrel in the Tower E-Guide

I've reviewed a couple of literature guides from Progeny Press in the past, and used many more. Every time I have the opportunity to work through a book study, such as the Minstrel in the Tower E-Guide, I am reminded again how much I love this faith-based product.

I think some literature study is important at pretty much all ages.  Even the youngest schoolchild is capable of doing some lit-related work, and all of that will pave the way to more easily grasping literary analysis when they hit high school and college. Learning about some basic concepts, such as similes and personification, and learning to think more critically about some of the material you are reading -- that is something that they can do in elementary school.  Not for every book a child reads, but I think it is great to do it for some of them.

Literature Study Guides from a Christian Perspective {Progeny Press  Review}
Minstrel in the Tower is a book that was suggested to read alongside our current history program, so when I had the opportunity to work with the Progeny Press E-Guide, I certainly went for it.

This study is intended for 1st-3rd grade, and my two are older than that (4th and 6th), but it was still worthwhile, especially for a summer study.

Like all Progeny Press Guides, this starts off with some background information and some pre-reading suggestions. We waited for our book to arrive, and then dug in. For this study, we ended up getting caught up in the Before-you-read Activities. She has suggestions that didn’t take a lot of time (learn about the difference between a minstrel and a jester, and find some locations on a map). Then there were some more complex suggestions. We ended up spending a few days looking into medieval legends, such as the story of Robin Hood. We watched the 1952 Disney movie and read a couple fairly easy versions of that legend. We also read a book about St. Francis. Bottom line was that the Before-you-read ended up taking us over a week!

At that point, we were anxious to get started with the story. The book contains eight chapters, and the E-Guide has a section for each of those chapters. Because my children are older, we could easily read a chapter and do all of the study guide exercises in a single day. Some days we did more than one chapter. For children closer to 1st grade, I would definitely take it a bit slower.

For each chapter, the study guide would start with vocabulary. There were a variety of methods used for studying vocabulary. In some cases, the student is to tell what he thinks the word means and then look it up to see what the dictionary says. Sometimes there are matching exercises, or fill in the blanks. There are sixty vocabulary words in total. In many cases, my kids did already know the words, but there were quite a few that they did not know, such as stead, wimple, tatterdemalions, palfrey, etc.

The other component of each chapter’s guide is comprehension questions, which include some basic questions and a couple of “Dig Deeper” questions. Most of the questions are fairly straight-forward. “What changed his mind?” is something that is fairly obvious in the story, if you are paying attention. Others do make the child speculate a bit, like one regarding an illustration in the book, “How do you think Alice felt in this picture?”

The Dig Deeper questions tend to be related to Bible verses. The child reads a verse or two, and then relates that back to the story. In chapter 5, for instance, there are three verses (Psalm 118:14, Isaiah 41:10, and Psalm 23:4). The student is asked to summarize the verses, and to address where we get the strength to do what is right.

Once you are through the book, there are some After-you-read Activities. We did not choose to do any of these, but there are art suggestions, writing assignments, oral reports, and more. In addition, there is a list of additional resources, mostly books, that you could use to follow up on this study.
As far as actual lit study, as would be expected, that is pretty light at this level. Most of the traditional lit study aspects in this study include understanding the background and context for the story, and a few questions that address things like predicting what might happen next. Looking at titles for the 4th-6th grade level, such as The Sword in the Tree and Mr. Popper’s Penguins (both of which are being reviewed by other Crew Members right now!), these are definitely at a level that is completely appropriate for my upper elementary kids.

I’m glad we used Minstrel in the Tower, since the timing was so perfect, and my children did learn from it. However, I need to accept that they are definitely too old for the lower elementary materials now.

A sad day indeed.

However, there are guides for a number of Little House books, and that sounds perfect.

Go check out some of the other reviews, as they are talking about different levels and more titles!

Literature Study Guides from a Christian Perspective {Progeny Press  Review}

Crew Disclaimer

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Anchor in the Storm {a Litfuse Blog Tour review}

When I had the chance to read Anchor in the Storm, the second book in the Waves of Freedom series, I didn't have to think about it at all.  I reviewed Through Waters Deep, the first book in the series, which I loved.  And I have loved every book by Sarah Sundin.  I knew I'd love this one too.

One of the things I enjoy about Sundin's work is how well-researched everything is.  Related to that, there always seems to be some little thing that isn't widely known, such as the deep divide in the United States about joining in World War II prior to Pearl Harbour, that she highlights in her books.

In Anchor in the Storm, that issue is battle fatigue.  Today, we know it at PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder.

We've been studying WWII in school here lately, and just today watched a re-enactment of Patton chewing out a soldier for being a coward.  That was the usual diagnosis at the time.  Buck up, do your job, are you a man or aren't you?

The Patton incident isn't addressed in this book, but the attitude is certainly present. 

Sundin does such a terrific job of making these men who are suffering "with their nerves" into real people you care about.  Well, some of them anyway.  Some of the men dealing with PTSD are not very sympathetic characters.  Probably a lot like real life.

Book #3 is not due out until Spring, 2017.  I will be waiting.

In a time of sacrifice, what price can one put on true love? Pharmacist Lillian Avery and Ensign Archer Vandenberg are about to find out in Sarah Sundin's new book, Anchor in the Storm. During the darkest days of the war, Arch's destroyer hunts German U-boats in vain as the submarines sink dozens of merchant ships along the East Coast. Still shaken by battles at sea, Arch notices his men also struggle with their nerves—and with drowsiness. Could there be a link to the large prescriptions Lillian has been filling? As the danger rises on both land and sea, the two must work together to answer that question. But can Arch ever earn Lillian's trust and affection?

Celebrate the release of Sarah's Anchor in the Storm by entering to win her All Hands on Deck Prize Pack!

anchor in the storm - 400 

One grand prize winner will receive:
  • A signed copy of Anchor in the Storm
  • Nautical tote bag lined with anchor fabric
  • Anchor necklace made from copper reclaimed from the USS Constitution in Boston during restoration
  • 365 Devotions for Hope by Karen Whiting
  • Shine: Nautical Inspirational Adult Coloring Book
  • "Hope Anchors the Soul" journal
  • Set of two nautical tea towels
LF AIS full group 2 

Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry! The giveaway ends on June 8th. The winner will be announced June 9th on Sarah's blog.

anchor in the storm - banner

You can see what others had to say about the book at the Litfuse Blog Tour page!

Disclaimer:  I received this book through LitFuse Blog Tour.  No other compensation was received.  All opinions expressed in this review are my own.  

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Through the Shadows {a Litfuse Blog Tour review}

I've recently been reading the third book in The Golden Gate Chronicles by Karen Barnett.  Through the Shadows has been as much fun to read as the previous books in the series.  I reviewed the second one, Beyond the Ashes, about a year ago.

This book really felt like it could stand alone, despite it being the third in a series.  There are a few things that add some depth to the story, but this one didn't ever feel like you were missing something huge by starting later in the series.

About the book:

As San Francisco rises from the ashes, an age-old battle looms between corruption and the promise of new beginnings.

The devastating earthquake is just two years past, but the city of San Francisco is still trying to recover. Destruction of this magnitude is not so easy to overcome---and neither are the past regrets shadowing Elizabeth King's hopeful future.

Hoping to right her wrongs, Elizabeth dedicates herself to helping girls rescued from slavery in Chinatown brothels, even if it means putting her own life at risk to sneak through the gloomy alleys and rooftops where dangers lurk.

Putting her life on the line for a worthy cause is admirable. But opening her heart is even more terrifying. So when Elizabeth meets attorney, Charles McKinley---a man who dreams of reforming San Francisco's crooked politics---Elizabeth begins to doubt: Can she maintain her pretense and hide her past? Or will her secret jeopardize both their futures?

My thoughts:

I really like Elizabeth.  She has made mistakes in her young life, and she's trying to atone for those.  A friend drags her to a meeting, where a lady is talking about rescuing Chinese girls from slavery in Chinatown, and rescuing them from the brothels as well.  Elizabeth feels drawn to this work, especially after hearing Miss Cameron say, "We are all God's children.  None have fallen so far as to be unredeemable by his love and sacrifice on the cross."

That quote hits home, and soon Elizabeth is packing up and moving to San Francisco to work as a teacher in the mission.  Elizabeth has siblings in San Francisco, and if you have read the previous two books, you are familiar with them already.  They flit in and out of the story, but primarily, this book is about Elizabeth and the rescued Chinese girls, and also about Charles as he starts off in his career as an attorney.

Barnett does a great job of incorporating faith lessons in the story without being preachy. 

One thing I find interesting is how two of the biggest issues in this story, set in 1908, are still such big issues today.  Sex trafficking and corruption in politics are headlines today, and it sure doesn't seem like things have improved at all.

What is wonderful about this story, though, is that it is clear that an individual can make such a huge difference, even in a such a big issue.  What are you doing to make a difference in people's lives? 

You can see what others had to say about the book at the Litfuse Blog Tour page!

Disclaimer:  I received this book through LitFuse Blog Tour.  No other compensation was received.  All opinions expressed in this review are my own.  
You can see what others had to say about the book at the Litfuse Blog Tour page!

Disclaimer:  I received this book through LitFuse Blog Tour.  No other compensation was received.  All opinions expressed in this review are my own.  
- See more at:
You can see what others had to say about the book at the Litfuse Blog Tour page!

Disclaimer:  I received this book through LitFuse Blog Tour.  No other compensation was received.  All opinions expressed in this review are my own.  
- See more at:

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Introductory Science from Science Shepherd

I was first introduced to Science Shepherd when I had the chance to review their high school Biology program.  We absolutely loved this excellent biology course, and I later had the chance to check out their middle school Life Science program.  That was great also.

Then they came out with Introductory Science and I kept thinking that I needed to try that, based on how good their upper level homeschool science was.  Introductory Science is intended for ages 6-11.  There are two levels of workbooks, Level A for ages 6-8 and Level B for ages 9-11.  This program is very creation-based.

Since my daughter is 10, we went with Level B.  Her big brother, age 12, is watching the videos and doing the activities with her, but since he is older than they recommend, I don't really consider him to be "doing" the course.

What you get is a one-year subscription to online videos.  There are 35 weeks of lessons, with 5 video lessons (almost) every week.  There are also videos to demonstrate some of the activities.  The videos are pretty short, most of them in the two to three minute range.  There is a BIG workbook available.  All ages watch the same video, but the expectations are different in the workbooks.  Level A (younger kids) usually has fewer questions.  Level B gets a bit more detailed, and there is a review activity each week that hits some of the vocabulary.

Either way, however, there is just a bit of workbook activity per lesson.  On days where there isn't an additional assignment of some sort, Trina can be done in ten minutes.  I love that.

I can just hear it.  "Ten minutes of science?  That's not enough!"

I'd argue that it is.  We're talking elementary ages here, roughly 1st-5th grade.  I like spending a few minutes on good science, where the materials include science presented by an actual scientist.   And ten minutes?  It's a rare day that I can't fit in a ten-minute science lesson.  One problem I have had with other science programs is simply having a big enough chunk of time to work on it every day.

The ten-minute thing also means that (especially for older students) it is pretty easy to go combining lessons and having a big science lesson one day a week. 

If you've read my blog for long, you probably realize I have some pretty strong opinions about science education.  I think science is very important, but most of the materials and methods out there for teaching it (homeschool or public school) aren't worth the effort.

What I look for in an ideal elementary science program for homeschool is:

  1. Is it scientifically accurate?  Do they know what an experiment is?  Do they define terms correctly?  Do they even use scientific terminology?
  2. Is there hands-on stuff that I can actually do with my kids without shopping a bunch of specialty stores and without breaking the bank?
  3. Is it easy to implement from a mom point-of-view?  Do I have to do a lot of prep work?  Do I have to spend time figuring out how to schedule it? Do I have to know a lot of science myself to be effective?
There isn't much out there that meets the above criteria.

Science Shepherd, however, does a pretty good job.  It is incredibly easy to use - watch the video, do a worksheet, sometimes do an activity.  In my family, we tend to then reinforce the scientific vocabulary throughout the day.

In watching the first lesson from week 8 (Geology) yesterday, one thing that struck me was how much vocabulary is built into the video lessons.  The topic for the week is how the earth is shaped, via volcanoes, glaciers, earthquakes and erosion.  In the first day, on volcanoes, you review science terms like crust and magma, and then start using terms like dormant, vent, erupts, lava, and lava fountains.  This is one of the best aspects of this program, in my opinion.  He uses the vocabulary, and doesn't dumb it down.  (Coincidentally, this is the sample video that is available on the website, so you can see how it works for yourself.)

Then you go to the workbook.  One thing I like about the workbook is that if you were paying attention, you will be able to get the questions right.  This is elementary science, and it shouldn't have trick questions, nor should it make you memorize every word of the teaching section.

That being said, I think that the workbook could capitalize a bit more on the vocabulary that is introduced, at least for the Level B kids.  This particular lesson does include the concepts of dormant and active, and of magma and lava.  And in the review at the end of the week, you cover the terms lava and volcano (plus words from the rest of the lessons in week 8).  But I wish this part was a bit stronger.

On the other hand, if I make a point of watching the videos with my kids, it is very easy for me to reinforce the scientific vocabulary as it is so clearly presented in the video.

Because my daughter has had a lot of science in the past, and she is on the older end of the age range, a lot of the material in this course is review for her.  Regardless, she is getting a systematic overview of a lot of science areas.

Topics covered:
  • Introduction (Creation)
  • Science Skills and Tools
  • Earth Science: Meteorology, Geology, Oceanography, Astronomy
  • Life Science: Plants, Underwater Creatures, Flying Creatures, Land Creatures, Human Beings, Be Healthy, Ecology and Natural Resources
  • Physical Science: Matter, Energy, Motion, Magnets
There is a materials list available on the website, and the most challenging item there for my household was a leaf.  Almost everything else was something we already had in the house, or something (like an avocado) that we could easily pick up.  Here is a time-lapse video of one activity we did a couple weeks ago, in the meteorology section.  The idea was to show how storms form, with a cold mass (blue ice cubes) meeting a warm mass (red lukewarm water).

My bottom line:

I would probably recommend a bit younger than the age ranges they give for this, suggesting it for ages 5-10, probably.  If you add a bit more work with the vocabulary, I think it is great for 5th-6th graders as well.  One thing I love about the videos is that he doesn't talk down to the kids at all.  No animated characters or puppets or anything "little kid-ish" in nature.  Even my teens are willing to watch him.  That also means he isn't quite as engaging for the younger ages, but the videos are short and there is a lot of information.

Short, informative lessons that use scientific terms correctly, and the program introduces the basic concepts throughout most of science?  This program definitely fits my criteria for a good science program.

You can go see what others on the Crew thought too.

Science Shepherd Review

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