Friday, August 15, 2014

Get to Know Mary {a BookLook Blogger review}

This is the third title in the Get to Know series that I have reviewed.  I started with Get to Know Apostle Paul, and I was so impressed I immediately put in for Get to Know King David.  That was every bit as wonderful as the first one, so I had to go for a third one.

Get to Know Mary, by Nancy I Sanders, is my newest review item.  Like the others in this series, the book contains a dozen chapters, mostly in the range of 8 pages each.  I love that they are easily read in one sitting, without stressing out young readers.

Like the other books in the series, this contains wonderful photos of things like mangers, figs and present-day views of some ancient places.  It contains fabulous maps of things like The Roman Empire.  There is great art included as well.

In the reviews I linked above, I went into a fair amount of detail about how these books are set up, with vocabulary and extra explanations about the culture.  I'm not going to repeat that info here.

With this book, I started reading it aloud to myself.  Yeah, that felt a bit silly, but I was trying to get a better feel for the complexity of the sentences, and my kids just haven't been game to read any of these aloud to me.  "It's faster to read it myself, Mom!" is what I get from them.  (I did, by the way, make them both read a paragraph or two to me.  Then I let them go.)

What I found was that there definitely are some big words, but at least for my kids, the context makes it fairly straight-forward.  Maybe if they were less familiar with the overall story, they would struggle a bit more.  Mostly it is the names that trip them up.

These biographies are amazing.  That's my bottom line.

I definitely recommend them.


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.”

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Boxcar Children {a FlyBy review and giveaway}

http://www.walmart.com/ip/38107477
I love The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner.  Great book, about independent kids who look out for each other, without being obnoxiously anti-adult.  I read it as a kid, and I read it aloud to my kids more than once.

The opportunity to review a new DVD version of The Boxcar Children was met with interest, but a bit of trepidation.  Would they ruin the story?

While this doesn't stay perfectly true to the book, it does stay fairly close and it definitely has the same spirit.  The kids look out for each other, are polite and respectful, and they work hard. 

Okay, so let me give you the publicity blurbs here:
About the Film

Four orphaned and homeless siblings happen upon an abandoned boxcar, which with a little creativity and hard work, they gradually furnish with all the comforts of home. Fearful that they will be sent to live with the reputedly cruel grandfather they have never met, the children keep their new home a secret - until a serious illness forces them to reveal themselves in order to save young Violet.

About the Cast

Featuring an all-star cast of voice actors, including Academy Award Nominee Martin Sheen (Apocalypse Now), J.K. Simmons (Spiderman), Zach Gordon (Diary of a Wimpy Kid), Joey King (Fargo), Mackenzie Foy (Twilight series), and Jadon Sand (LEGO: The Movie), this is the very first full-length, animated feature adaptation of Gertrude Chandler Warner's best-selling classic!
My family enjoyed the movie.  Richard, age 10, told me, "I liked that it mostly followed the book, except it explained how the boxcar got there which was really nice.  It left some stuff out, or just hinted at it, but that is understandable because movies cannot cover everything that books do."

One special feature on the DVD was a bit more about the author, Gertrude Chandler Warner, and The Boxcar Children Museum.  That looked like a fun place to visit.

Two thumbs up from everyone in my household!

You can win your own copy!  This is open to those in the US and Canada only.  Only one entrant per mailing address please.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.
 

Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Pre-Buy Savings at Family Christian Stores

I recently became an affiliate blogger with Family Christian Stores, and that does really excite me.  I love going into their stores to browse and just see what comes to my attention!  That does mean that any time I'm sharing about titles from Family Christian Stores, I will be using affiliate links.  That is something new and different for me.

One thing I love about Family Christian Stores that I didn't know before is that they are a non-profit.  Their earnings are donated to "Christian causes around the world."  This process started in 2012, and it makes me want to purchase materials from them.

This post is a chance to show some of the titles they have coming soon.  I have not seen any of these myself, but I may just need to look into some of them!


http://www.dpbolvw.net/click-7616064-11904534

The first is Jesus Daily: 365 Interactive Devotions, by Aaron Tabor.  Aaron is the founder of the Jesus Daily Fan Page, which is not something I had ever heard of.  I'm intrigued though.  Interactive daily devotions?  I may just check this one out.  This is available in October, but you can pre-buy now for $9.97.


http://www.dpbolvw.net/click-7616064-11904518

The next one is also coming out in October.  Ted Dekker's A.D. 30: A Novel is bound to be exciting and action-packed.  Obviously, you know when this is set.  The main character, Maviah, is the daughter of a powerful Bedouin sheik, and she finds herself needing to help forge an alliance with King Herod.  On her way to attempt that, she encounters a teacher in the desert, Yeshua. 

I'm interested.  The publisher description at the website is better than mine though.  This one you can pre-buy for $14.97.


http://www.dpbolvw.net/click-7616064-11904522

Joyce Meyer has a new book coming out September 16.  Living Courageously: You Can Face Anything, Just Do It Afraid most certainly has a title that makes me want to read it!  This book obviously addresses fear and how that holds you back.  "Fear not" appears over and over in the Bible, and this book is about relying on God even when you are afraid.  You can pre-buy this for $14.97.



http://www.anrdoezrs.net/click-7616064-11904527

Finally, You Can You Will: 8 Undeniable Qualities of a Winner by Joel Osteen is set to release September 30.  I'm not a fan of Osteen personally, but the attributes being discussed in this book sound right on. 
Create bold visions - Dare to dream big dreams. Run your own race - Focus on your unique course and goals. Think positively - Control your thoughts and attitudes. Expect Good things to happen-Anticipate great opportunities. Stay Passionate - Light the fire within and approach life with enthusiasm. Commit to excellence - Do your best and maintain high standards. Keep growing - Deal withyour weaknesses and continually improve. Serve Others - Invest yourself in others.
You can pre-buy this title for $14.97.


These are just some of the fun, new titles coming out.  Also, this week, you can get a deal on one regularly priced item too.


Disclaimer: As a Family Christian blogger, I had the opportunity to post about these specific titles in exchange for a gift certificate.  Purchases made through the links above could make me eligible for an additional gift certificate, in addition to the affiliate income.  This post is an endorsement of Family Christian, but not necessarily of the specific book titles.



Tuesday, August 12, 2014

In Perfect Time {a LitFuse Book Tour review}

I have fallen in love with Sarah Sundin's World War II novels.  That just had to be stated up front.

In Perfect Time is the third (and final, apparently) novel in the Wings of the Nightingale series, and I do think it was the best of them all.

This series has followed a group of flight nurses who are stationed in Europe.  Each novel focuses on one of the nurses, and her romantic interest.  The first two novels were fantastic and I dearly loved the two nurses and the men they fell in love with.

There was one nurse, though, who I just didn't like.

Yeah.

She's the main character in this final book.

Part of me didn't even want to read this because of that.  I have to confess that.  But Sundin weaves in so much "what happens next" from the other two nurses' stories, that I wanted to read that part.

I am so glad I did.

I knew that this story would be like the others -- very solid on real, historical facts with a focus on some of the lesser-known events and roles.  I knew I'd be pulled into the storyline, really feeling like I was there.  And seeing as it is Christian fiction, I figured that I could rejoice when that obnoxious flirt, Kay Jobson finally found God.

I didn't expect to find myself identifying with Kay.  I especially liked the emphasis on "earning" favor from God.  That came up over and over.  God doesn't give us blessings because we are good.  He gives them because He is good.


One "complaint" of sorts with this series is that you just know the romance thing is going to work out.  That is never really in doubt.  What is not so clear is just how that will happen.

Another thing to know going into the book is that the books in this series overlap some.  That threw me off in Book 2, as some of the events from Book 1 hadn't happened yet as Book 2 started.  Same for this one, Book 3.  Some of the things that occurred in Book 2 happened again near the beginning of In Perfect Time. This time, they happen from Kay's (or Roger's) point of view.  I like that, as it helps to bring me back up to speed on who everyone is, since it has been a few months since I read the last book in the series.

All in all, I simply love this book.



Don't miss Sarah Sundin's hot-off-the-press novel, In Perfect Time. Publishers Weekly gives it an enthusiastic thumbs up: “Sundin excels at well-researched historical detail . . . with such accurate depictions of culture and setting that we are fully immersed in the times as well as in the story. The strength of relationships forged in war and the apprehension of God in times of trouble infuse this well-crafted novel with substance and light.”


perfecttime-400-click
Sarah is celebrating the release of her book with a fun giveaway!

One grand prize winner will receive:
  • A Kindle HDX
  • The Wings of the Nightingale Series (With Every Letter, On Distant Shores, and In Perfect Time)
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on August 24th. Winner will be announced August 25th at Sarah's blog.


Don't miss a moment of the fun; enter today and be sure to visit Sarah's blog on the 25th to see if you won! (Or better yet, subscribe to her blog and have the winner announcement delivered to your inbox!)

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

Saturday, August 9, 2014

When I Fall in Love {a LitFuse review}

The third novel in the Christiansen Family Collection, When I Fall in Love by Susan May Warren, is one I purchased and then asked to review.  I didn't mean to double up!

But I like Susan May Warren's work, especially her Deep Haven books.

This one was certainly worth paying for. 

The series is about the Christiansen family -- a group of six grown children -- with each novel focusing primarily on one of the siblings.  Grace, the middle daughter, is at the center of this one.

I found myself really liking Grace.

I think this may be my favorite Susan May Warren novel yet.  Part of it, I am sure, has to do with having read most of her works now, and this novel had so many of her previous characters included in various scenes.  The older Christiansen siblings, of course, who both get married in this novel.  But there are also appearances by characters of other Deep Haven books.  

A main theme in this novel has to do with dealing with fear.  Grace is clearly afraid of stepping out of her comfortable life, but her siblings practically force her to at least do a little.  Max is afraid to love anyone, knowing he has a genetic disease that will almost certainly cut his life short.

How do you trust God outside of what seems comfortable and safe?

This novel has believable characters, who tend to be in fairly extreme situations.  Locations "feel" real, as do the interactions between characters.  It is so easy to end up completely immersed in the Deep Haven world.



Susan May Warren's newest book in the Christiansen Family Collection, When I Fall In Love,  has won over readers' and critics' hearts alike. With critical reviews like, ". . . an exquisite romance. Profoundly touching on the topic of facing fears, this book is a true gem," and more than 60 five-star reviews at Amazon, When I Fall in Love is sure to please.

Susan has teamed up with some amazing food bloggers for a fun food challenge and a KitchenAid Mixer giveaway!

whenifall-400-click

One grand prize winner will receive:
Grab your aprons and wire whisks and buzz on over to the When I Fall in Love website to learn more and enter the Hawaiian Chef Showdown! Susan is challenging you to make a Hawaiian-inspired dish using coconut, mango, or one of the other ingredients mentioned in the book. You’ll get extra points for creating your own recipe—plus she might share it on the When I Fall in Love site! Or if you're not up for an adventure in the kitchen just click one of the icons below for easy entry.

Hurry, the giveaway ends on August 10th. All winners will be announced August 13th at Susan's blog.


Don't miss a moment of the fun; enter today and be sure to visit Susan's blog on the 13th to see if you won!

 

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


Thursday, August 7, 2014

Old Western Culture: The Greeks {a Schoolhouse Review Crew review}

Roman Roads Media Review
I have been wanting to check out the Old Western Culture program by Wes Callihan ever since the very first moment I saw anything about it.

But we already had a literature program, and I couldn't imagine William (my severely dyslexic high schooler) getting through material like The Iliad and The Odyssey.

When I found out that Roman Roads Media was going to be a Crew vendor, I was ecstatic.  Especially when I found out that I could get the full year program, Old Western Culture: The Greeks.

Connor, my 17-year-old, was equally ecstatic.

This course is intended for students in 8th grade and up, which is one of the reasons I hadn't purchased it already.  I wanted Thomas to be old enough to really use it, and as he's now an 8th grader, he is.


So what is Old Western Culture?  Basically, it is going to be a four-year program that covers the Great Books, from The Greeks, to The Romans (available now for pre-order), to Christendom (coming in 2015), and finally Early Moderns (coming in 2016).  Each year is worth two high school credits -- one in literature, and one in humanities.

Roman Roads Media Review
Each course is split into four quarters.  For The Greeks, those include:
  • The Epics -- Homer, basically.  This is the quarter my boys are finishing up right now.
  • Drama and Lyric -- all sorts of folks with long names.  I watched the lectures on Sophocles, Oedipus the King and Oedipus at Colonus.  These lectures were fascinating.
  • The Histories -- covers a lot of Herodotus (half the course), but also Thudydides and Xenophon.  This is the one I'm personally most excited about, I think.  
  • The Philosophers -- half Aristotle and half Plato.
Each quarter includes a dozen lectures, a whole lot of reading, and a student workbook.  There are other parts too -- like the ebook versions of the various readings, and an art guide.  In the workbook, there is a suggested schedule to use in order to cover that quarter in 45 school days.  This includes detail on which lecture to watch (roughly once every four days), what to read, and which questions in the workbook to be answering.

Each quarter has the student writing a paper, with the topic being fairly open-ended.  The student can choose one of the discussion questions, or go for something of his own.  We have just gotten to the "paper" part of the course here, and I have to tell you that even that hasn't dimmed my kids' enthusiasm for Old Western Culture. 

Each quarter ends with a final exam.

How we are using this:


I mentioned before that I am using this with three students.  My oldest (Connor) reads anything and everything, and reads quickly.  William is dyslexic, but he loves reading.  It just isn't easy for him.  Those two are both in high school and are both taking this course for credit.  Thomas is an 8th grader, and I am not giving him high school credit for this course.

We have adapted things slightly.  Basically, we have slowed down the reading just a little bit, to give William a bit more time to get through the material.  I also have found Kindle ebooks and Audible audiobooks so that he can use his Kindle Fire and do the immersion reading (he listens to the professional narration with the ebook open and the words being highlighted as they are read).  Thomas isn't reading the books at all, though he does end up hearing his brothers discussing them often enough, so he has a pretty good idea as to the content.

We are treating most of the workbook questions as 'discussion' questions, with everyone chiming in about them (sometimes including the 10 year old!)  We watch the lectures together, with frequent pauses to discuss what we are hearing.

Everyone loves Mr. Callihan.  He is seated in an armchair, in a personal library, and he just talks at us, with no real notes and only the occasional reference to the books involved.  It feels like a conversation to some extent.  The video isn't only of him in his chair, though, as there are also points where art or maps or definitions or whatever are put up on the screen.

As for the paper, I am expecting Connor (11th grade) to follow the assignment there as written.  I'm working with William (9th grade) a bit more, and I'm helping him to choose a topic that will be fairly easy to work with.  Thomas (8th grade) is going to be putting together a couple of good paragraphs, mostly because I want to be able to focus my time on William right now.

Our thoughts:

I've already pre-ordered year two, The Romans.  That sentence probably sums up my feelings about this course as concisely as is possible.

The boys love it.  They are struggling a bit with the reading load, but after reading a chunk of The Odyssey, they get to listen to the lecture and they really love how understandable things are after that.  All three boys are telling me that they want to continue to use this for as long as they are in high school.

Connor, in fact, asked if he could do The Romans with his brothers next year, and also do Christendom on his own.

My opinion:  I've tried a lot of "great books" materials in the past.  All have left me feeling inadequate and incapable.  All of them.  Old Western Culture though?  This one is different.  I (mostly) understand what is being discussed, and with the hours and hours of "lecture" on these DVDs, I know my kids are going to be able to learn it as well as their mother.

I love it.  Wes Callihan is approaching these intimidating books in a way that I find fascinating and engaging.  He is coming at things from a Christian point of view, but also in a way that is respectful to the cultures being discussed.

My sons (this is a group quote, with no attempt by me to split up who said what) talked about him in this way, "Mr. Callihan obviously knows his stuff.  He just talks to you, without having to flip through all kinds of papers in his lap, and you just know that he cares about these things, and he thinks you will too.  He isn't ever patronizing to us, no talking down to us at all.  He just talks, and I -- we -- know it sounds boring.  This old guy sitting in a chair talking about ancient poetry, right?  But it is really interesting, because he loves it.  And he even included a scene from the movie Troy."

They wanted me to be sure to put in a sample, and I chose this overview one:



Connor cannot wait to get to the history portion of The Romans, as he really wants to hear what Mr. Callihan has to say in that part of the course.

Another comment I need to make here is that I found Roman Roads to be very responsive, even before they were a Crew vendor and I was just another potential customer asking random questions.  But the high point for me, customer service-wise, was when I had problems with one of the disks.  It said it was Drama and Lyric, but what popped up on the TV screen was a workout video.  I emailed about it on a Saturday, and within an hour, I had the promise that they'd replace it and links so I could watch those three lectures online.


I could go on and on about how valuable I find this course to be, but I do need to wrap this up.  Go, visit the Roman Roads website and watch some of the video clips.  There are lots of them there.

Then think about it.  At $56 per quarter, or $224 for a full year, this is two high school credits for all of your students, as this is non-consumable.  Really, bringing an expert into your home, to enthusiastically lecture your kids?  So worth it.  And if your background is as lacking as mine, this is worth the money just for you to take the course.  You can skip writing the paper, of course.

You can go see what other Crew Members had to say about this course, or about some of the other wonderful offerings such as Grammar of Poetry, Visual Latin, Dave Raymond's American History, and Economics for Everybody.


Click to read Crew Reviews

A note on the banner below:  technically, I received this product so that I can do my job as a Crew Leader.  I am not obligated to write a review, but because I love this product so much I just wanted to.  However, just to be sure I'm covering legal bases here, I am including the disclaimer. 

Crew Disclaimer


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Evergreen {a Tyndale House review}

I am always willing to drop everything to read a Susan May Warren novel.  Or a Susan May Warren novella, in this case.  At least if it is one that takes place in Deep Haven.

This story is part of the Christiansen family series (I'll be reviewing the newest novel in that series on Saturday) which involves the Christiansen siblings.

The novella, however, is about Mom and Dad.

The second novel, It Had to Be You, had a bonus at the end.  A few chapters about how John and Ingrid got together back in the 70s.

Evergreen takes their story back to the present.  Taking place after the third novel (the one I'm reviewing on Saturday), John and Ingrid are empty nesters having some issues with adjusting to life after the kids have grown up and left.

Throw in some complications with a surprise trip to Europe, a commitment to heading up the Living Nativity performance, and taking on the temporary care of a sixteen-year-old nephew, and it gets messier and messier. 

Can they learn to communicate again?

This was a quick read, and I certainly enjoyed it.  Warren writes Minnesota so well, and I'm always homesick after reading her tales.

I'm glad to learn a little more about "Mom and Dad" in this Christiansen saga.  It was also really nice to see a few characters from other Deep Haven novels popping into this one.  It is nice to get a glimpse of their lives again.

Disclaimer:   I received this book for free from Tyndale House Publishers.  No other compensation was received.  The fact that I received a complimentary product does not guarantee a favorable review.