Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Review and Giveaway: Father of Lights

My family is always up for a movie, especially one with Christian themes.  And they are generally up for a good documentary too.  So Father of Lights definitely interested me.

We had a tough time finding a point where we were all available to watch, but finally did the other night. 

About Father of Lights
FATHER OF LIGHTS chronicles the journey of filmmaker Darren Wilson and his team as they fearlessly travel the globe, far from the daily existence of the typical evangelical believer in the West. By thoughtfully documenting the stories of extraordinary believers and candidly filming miracles, visions and other supernatural occurrences, Wilson engages viewers in modern day examples of the true nature and character of God. 

Wilson gives honest access to his own spiritual questions as he tackles the religious misconceptions he has struggled with throughout his life.  “I went into making this film by asking the simple question: who is God? I wanted to know His character, His personality, and who He truly is. To answer this question, we had to peel back the many layers of religious garbage that has been passed onto him through generations. That He is angry. Vengeful. Wrathful. And in general, that He doesn’t like you very much. The truth, as you will see vibrantly in this film, is that He is the most loving, compassionate, and wonderful Father you can imagine.”

About Wanderlust Productions
Wanderlust Productions is a video production company focusing on creating content for various media that highlights, informs, and is designed to spiritually stretch our audience.  Created by Darren Wilson, Professor at Judson University, Wanderlust’s focus is on telling stories that inspire and agitate, that are unwavering in their honesty yet are emotionally compelling.  While our content will always be Christian in nature, we are not afraid to explore themes, concepts, or areas that may be considered “risky” by the Christian establishment.  Wanderlust prides itself on its willingness to put the story above the message.  That being said, the message will never waver. 
Our take:

We all enjoyed watching this documentary.  The style of it reminded me of the one Michael Moore documentary I've ever seen, but far less abrasive.  It had the same feel -- filming while going about, following people in what appears to be real time.  You know, it's a little jerky at times like they are walking along with the camera and not like they are professional cameramen trying to wow you with special effects.

For that reason, I found myself listening more than watching.  As I get older, I seem to find that kind of thing making me feel slightly carsick or something.  The rest of my family was totally fine with it though, and I watched when they were more-or-less standing still and filming something.

The documentary deals with quite a few different people in totally different places.  Some of the stories really grabbed me.  Some, well, not quite so much.

One I particularly enjoyed though involved some folks doing street evangelism.  They were frustrated because their "God is Love" message wasn't being received at all, and they finally realized there was another group out in the area preaching a hellfire and damnation type of message.  I was listening to the dialogue about how the 'repent or else' message was keeping them from reaching people, and I was thinking it seemed a bit hypocritical.

And then they totally shocked me by realizing that they were judging/condemning these other Christians without at all trying to understand them, nor were they willing to acknowledge that God loves THEM too.

How often do I do that?  I'm so focused on what I think God is telling me, that I see other Christians giving out completely different vibes, and instead of recognizing that it is possible likely that they are just as sincere about what they feel led to do, instead I focus on how they are making everything harder for me.

Are you interested in seeing this for yourself?  I have a copy to give away...  The giveaway ends Tuesday, Nov. 6 at 10:00 p.m. Mountain Time.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. 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.

Read Aloud Challenge: the Merit Badge Book Edition

Week Two of my Reading Aloud link-up!  It wasn't a good week here.  Between certain kids just not feeling great, and just life in general, well... not a lot of reading aloud happened.

So what have we been reading aloud this past week? Certainly not what I planned last Tuesday!

Lantern Bearers by Rosemary Sutcliff.  I am listening to this along with my "middle group" (William -8th grade, and Thomas -6th grade).  This takes place in England right after Rome completely leaves, so we are reading about the Saxons and Vortigern, and oh, just all kinds of great stuff.  This we did work on some.  Didn't finish it, but we are getting close. 

King Arthur by Don Nardo.  This is also with my middle group.  This is a bit textbook-y, but lots of fascinating information.  We didn't read everything, but we did get through what we plan to for history.

New this week -- well, let's just call this the Merit Badge Book edition.  Kids went to a merit badge clinic on Saturday, and while William and Thomas are finally capable of reading the merit badge books on their own, it's a slow process.

Citizenship in the World
-- I read the entire huge merit badge book to William.  Fascinating in light of things like the Libyan ambassador controversy in the news.  But wow, this is one of the thickest merit badge books and it is CRAMMED with information.  William had it down though, and he was answering questions and sounding pretty informed in the merit badge session, from what I hear.

Geocaching -- this I read parts of to both William and Thomas.  I'll confess, we did not go through the entire book.

Cycling -- William is working on this badge this coming Saturday, so we started reading through it.  Not nearly as academic, so it is much easier reading. 

That is pretty much it.  Nothing to Connor.  Nor Richard.  Nor Trina.

Goals for next week:  Finishing up all of the above books.  Get back to actually reading aloud to my youngest two.  I'll worry about something else with Connor later.  (Yeah, that is a copy/paste from last week.)

Rules for this linkup - if you are blogging about things you are reading aloud to your children, or just blogging about reading aloud in general, feel free to link up.  Audiobooks count too.  I would very much appreciate if you link back to this post.  I'll leave the linky open through Monday at midnight.

How about you?

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Bountiful Baskets: October 27

Today was also known as -- My First Time as a Volunteer Site Coordinator.


We didn't have many people at all today, and it all went well.  But wow, I just didn't sleep.  I was so worried I'd sleep late or something.

Here is the photo of one of my two baskets:

Included in BOTH baskets, combined, I got:
  • 1 Spaghetti Squash
  • 5 Yellow Squash
  • 3 boxes of Living Lettuce
  • 2 bunches Broccoli
  • 12 Cucumbers
  • 14 Bananas
  • 3 boxes Blackberries
  • 12 Bosc Pears
  • 5 Pomegranates
Dale is suggesting we do a stir-fry with the broccoli and the yellow squash.

I've never had spaghetti squash, so I'll be googling to find out how to use that.

Pomegranates are going to end up being mixed up for Pomegranate-Apple Crisp, and the filling will go in the freezer.

Cucumbers are probably going to turn into pickles.

Everything else we'll just eat.

Anyone have other ideas for me?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Read Aloud Challenge: October 23

I used to do a weekly read-aloud post, where a few other people linked up too.  I loved doing that, and it made me more committed to actually doing my reading aloud.

So I'm starting again.  Only I'm going to post on Tuesdays instead.  And I need help with some type of a name for this.  And I'll even come up with a button.

I think reading aloud is critically important.  Andrew Pudewa, of Institute for Excellence in Writing, does a talk called Nurturing Competent Communicators that I think every adult who loves a child ought to hear at least once.  He makes a strong case for reading aloud being the most effective way to get 'reliably correct and sophisticated language patterns' into our kids' brains. 

Anyway, I'll expand on that in later weeks, I'm sure.

Rules for this linkup - if you are blogging about things you are reading aloud to your children, or just blogging about reading aloud in general, feel free to link up.  Audiobooks count too.  I would very much appreciate if you link back to this post.  I'll leave the linky open through Monday at midnight. 

So what have we been reading aloud this past week?

Anne of Windy Poplars by L. M. Montgomery.  We've been working through the Anne of Green Gables series since sometime over the summer.  My boys (and my daughter) are all loving it.  We're now in "year three" of this book, which means we are nearing the end.  We already have the next book waiting for us at the library.

Lantern Bearers by Rosemary Sutcliff.  I am listening to this along with my "middle group" (William -8th grade, and Thomas -6th grade).  This takes place in England right after Rome completely leaves, so we are reading about the Saxons and Vortigern, and oh, just all kinds of great stuff.

King Arthur by Don Nardo.  This is also with my middle group.  This is a bit textbook-y, but lots of fascinating information.

Unfortunately, that is pretty much it.  Well, no, I've been reading various other short books about the middle ages for the middle guys.  Nothing to Connor.  Richard & Trina have been fairly neglected this past week.

So I confess here -- I've been wanting to start this back up, but I've been waiting until I had a good reading week so I'd start off not looking bad.  <sigh>  Determined that I just need to do it. 

Goals for next week:  Finishing up all of the above books.  Get back to actually reading aloud to my youngest two.  I'll worry about something else with Connor later. 

So, what are you reading aloud?  Why do you read aloud? 

Monday, October 22, 2012

App Review: The Beginner's Bible

The first Bible my kids read themselves was The Beginner's Bible, which was a book that I did really like.  Other than names, the words were basic enough for them, and the stories covered more than just the usual story-bible "greatest hits" type.

So learning that there is a The Beginner's Bible App?  That got my attention.  And the price for the first set of six stories, coloring pages, and a game?  Free. That definitely got my attention. Additional sets will be $1.99.

I downloaded the free app, and let Trina, my 6 year old, know there was something new on the iPad for her.  She was easily able to work with it without any assistance from anyone.

The "Read" section lets you choose a story, and the app reads the story from The Beginner Bible.  The words are highlighted as they are read (a feature I really appreciate), and there is a bit of dramatization to it.  In the first story, for instance, the title is read by a woman.  Then the narrator (male) reads the story, with a few sound effects such as birds chirping as the narrator tells of God making the birds.  Another male reads the portions where God speaks.

Each page includes the text on one side, and a picture on the other side.  The pictures have various "things" the child can do, such as making the butterfly fly across the page, or turning the picture from day to night.  Many times, touching animals in the picture will cause them to make noises.

The stories are very well done.

The other section is "Play."  This section includes coloring pages, puzzles, and a game.
  • Coloring pages: three of the stories have coloring pages.  You have the ability to choose your own colors (so you can have green sheep and a purple ark), OR you can click on one icon where it will color the picture "right" (to match the picture from the story) as you "color" with your finger on the screen.  You can email your completed coloring page to someone as well.
  • Puzzles: two of the stories have basic 9-piece jigsaw puzzle using one of the pictures from the story.  The pieces can be dragged into place, and the app is not terribly picky about how exact you are in placing the piece.  If you get it into roughly the right 1/9th of the board, it will slide into place.  Love that feature for the little ones too.
  • Game: one story includes a game. The game involves "popping" fruit as it rises up, and you need to get it before it falls back to the ground.  If a piece of fruit falls back to the ground, you get an x.  Three x's and the game ends.
My 15 year old checked it out too, at my request.  He's more familiar with iPad apps in general, and has even done some basic programming.  His reaction was that this gets high marks for ease of use, and also noted that it works smoothly.  He said it isn't something he wants to use himself, but that it is great for the preK-early elementary ages.  He likes apps that his 1st and 3rd grade siblings can use without asking him for help.

I like this app.  A lot.   I will seriously look at purchasing more sets of stories.

You can download the free version of The Beginner's Bible App and see for yourself!

Disclosure:  Handlebar promised me a complimentary copy of The Beginner's Bible in exchange for a review of the app.  No other compensation was received, and all opinions are my own.  I chose to review this because I am impressed with the product.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Book Review: Understanding World Religions in 15 Minutes a Day

For the past couple months, I've been reading a fabulous book.  Understanding World Religions in 15 Minutes a Day by Garry R. Morgan teaches the basics of all the world's major religions in nice little bite-sized pieces.

Clearly, since it is in "15 minutes a day" we are not talking hugely comprehensive here.  This isn't a seminary-level comparative religions course or anything.  But Morgan packs a lot of information into a few pages.

From the publisher:
What religions are represented in your neighborhood, your workplace, and your children's school? Things seem to be changing every day, and it can be hard to keep up.  You may know a little about some of these religions. Others are new to you. You'd like to learn about them and how they differ from your beliefs, but who has time to do all the research? 

In Understanding World Religions in 15 Minutes a Day, cross-cultural expert and professor Garry Morgan explains the key beliefs, histories, and practices of more than twenty religions, including the familiar--Christianity, Judaism, Mormonism--and some of the lesser known--Baha'i, Sikhism, and New Age religions. Broken into forty short readings, each chapter is engaging and easy to understand. In just minutes a day you'll soon have a better understanding of the world's beliefs.
Forty readings, fifteen-ish minutes a day (none took me that long) and you can have a basic background in world religion.  Many religions have a single chapter, including Zoroastrianism, Jainism, Taoism, and Shinto.

Other religions include multiple chapters. Judaism, for instance, has two:  Historical Development, and Today.  Buddhism has three chapters for three different types: Theravada, Mahayana and Tibetan.  Islam is by far the largest with six chapters.

A few years ago, we studied a lot of these religions as part of our Eastern Hemisphere studies.  I was working primarily with my 6th and 4th grade students on the religion part of that.  I really do wish I had this book in my hands at that point.  It is concise, and the tone is respectful.  I think this is something I could have used with my kids at that point.

You can read the first two chapters (What Is Religion? and Why Learn About Other Religions) below:
Understanding World Religions in 15 Minutes a Day

Disclosure:  Bethany House provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes.  No other compensation was received, and all opinions are my own.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Book Review: Hot Buttons Issues

Kregel Live Webcast eventFor the past couple of weeks, I've had the chance to review Hot Button Issues by Nicole O'Dell.  This is a series of four books dealing with "hot" issues teens face today, and help for parents in knowing how to talk to their teens, hopefully before they face these issues.

I had no idea what to expect.  These are cute little books, about 5" square and in the 160-170 page range.  So that part is totally non-intimidating.

The subjects addressed sure can be though.

From the publisher:
Nicole O'Dell helps address the Hot Buttons in teens' lives before the issues become problems

From dating to drugs, modesty to purity, morals to popularity, teens face all sorts of tough issues. How teens respond to these hot-button issues can have lasting effects on who they want to be and who they actually become. What if parents can help their teens prepare for these hot buttons-before the issues become a problem?

The uniquely packaged Hot Buttons Series is an accessible, quick-reference resource that parents can use to equip their children to make the right decisions, even in the face of peer pressure and outside influences. More than just another how-to manual, Hot Button Dating Edition offers practical real-life situations that parents can read and discuss with their preteens. Topics include: physical activity, missionary dating, and violence/abuse in dating relationships.

Author, mom, and broadcaster, Nicole O'Dell provides short scenarios followed by three or four responses that a teen might choose in that particular situation. Parents are then encouraged to help their children explore the issue, ask questions, and discuss the options, so when a similar situation comes up in real life, the teens are already prepared to respond.

Hot Buttons Dating Edition offers practical real-life situations that parents can read and discuss with their preteens. Topics include: physical activity, missionary dating, and violence/abuse in dating relationships.

Hot Buttons Internet Edition helps parents prepare their teens for online challenges they may face. Topics discussed include: internet activity, file sharing, social networking, and internet predators.

Hot Buttons Drug Edition
braves the scary world of substance abuse, equipping parents with facts, warning signs, and real-world scenarios on: alcohol; Marijuana and other drugs; inhalants; and prescription drugs.

Hot Buttons Sexuality Edition
offers the facts about teen sexuality, backed by statistics; specifics for how to talk frankly about sex with your kids, discussion about the growth of homosexuality and bisexuality among teens; and compassionate advice for guiding your teen to reclaim purity.
Since Thomas (nearly 12) is supposed to be doing some type of a drug education program for his next Boy Scout rank, that was the book I chose to tackle first.  Besides, it is the one that is the least intimidating to me!  Wimpy of me, I know.

I was expecting a book I'd read through with my kids, mostly my teens.  That isn't quite what this is.  Instead, the first section of the book is to educate the parent about the issues at hand.  Some of that is a bit on the thought-provoking side, particularly in regards to things like my use of alcohol.  How do my kids view the glass or two of wine I have with dinner when we visit my parents, or the incredibly occasional glass of wine I have at home?  It really never occurred to me to talk about that.

After a lot of 'easy to read but not necessarily easy to process' pages, there are the "scenarios."  These are situations you work through with your child.  A little situation, followed by multiple choice answers.  After your kid chooses an answer, there are a number of questions you can throw out there for discussion.  These are things that definitely can get you and your child talking about the whys behind the rules.  Why (besides the law) is it different for kids to drink?

There are scenarios covering sniffing markers, over the counter diet pills, and even getting into a car driven by a friend's parent who has been drinking.

The other editions (Dating, Internet, Sexuality) appear to be equally thorough and helpful.  I certainly can't call them fun reading, but definitely important.

You can see what other bloggers had to say about these books at the LitFuse Blog Tour page.

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

Bountiful Baskets - October 20

Bountiful Baskets time again! I'm loving this every week bit.

So, today the truck was QUITE delayed.  As in, it showed up about the time our distribution was supposed to be over (so about 1:20 late)

That meant a lot of hanging around.  Richard went with me today to volunteer, and he was getting a bit tired of doing nothing.

Here is one of my two baskets:

Yummy, huh?  Between my TWO baskets, I had the following:
  • Three butternut squash
  • Two heads of romaine lettuce
  • Three bunches kale
  • Eight onions
  • Two bags of grapes
  • Two pineapples
  • Six Asian pears
  • Four pomegranates
  • Ten bananas
For volunteering, I chose an extra squash, and Richard chose two bananas.

  • Bananas, Asian pears, and grapes will just be eaten during the week
  • Pomegranates will be paired with some of my Granny Smith apples from last week to make Pomegranate-Apple Crisp.  I'll freeze some of the filling for that too.  Actually, my teens will.  They do a great job with this recipe.
  • Pineapple, well, we've still got most of the pineapple from two weeks ago (and last basket) and that is just getting ripe.  I'm going to be freezing a LOT of pineapple
  • Onions just get used.  Don't really need to make plans.
  • Lettuce -- oy.  We keep trying to get ahead of all the lettuce coming into the house.  Salads.  Lots of them.
  • The kale will be dried.  I crumble it up and add it to all kinds of things -- scrambled eggs, soups, casserole, spaghetti sauce, etc.  I love getting kale now.
  • Squash -- we've got four meals worth of that now.  We'll probably spread that over the next 4-5 weeks.
Unless anyone has other ideas for me!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Book Review: The Sons of Jude

If you enjoy a good who-done-it novel, you simply have to look for The Sons of Jude by Brandt Dodson.

Wow, just wow.

This book is gritty.  And while I'm not a cop, nor am I married to a cop, I have had some friends (and extended family members) in law enforcement, so I'm not completely basing my opinions of police officers on television and movies.  The whole book just felt so real.

But then I read more about Brandt Dodson and realize why:
Brandt Dodson comes from a long line of police officers dating back more than seventy years on both sides of his family. In addition, he was employed with the Indianapolis office of the FBI. He has lived in Chicago and travels to the city annually. 
His "cop" background comes through loud and clear.  And while I've never spent an enormous amount of time in Chicago, he sure made me feel like I was there.

So what is the story about?  Let's read the publisher's blurb:
The body of a young woman is found in a dumpster in Chicago and detectives Andy Polanski and Frank Campello are charged with finding the killer. The two are polar opposites. Polanski is the son of a disgraced Chicago police officer and is fastidious about his reputation. He has also recently been transferred from another district having blown the whistle on some corrupt cops. Campello, however, takes a live-and-let-live approach to his life and job.

It soon becomes clear, as another young woman--a potential witness--is murdered, that a sex-trafficking operation in Chicago is preying on illegal aliens. As the ill-matched pair dig deeper, an influential alderman and his son are implicated. Then Polanski is framed for a narcotics offense, a payback for bringing cases against the corrupt officers and the alderman? Only when Campello is challenged by a local minister, whom he meets when visiting Polanski, does he find the motivation to seek justice.
Sounds gritty, right?  I wasn't kidding about that part.

There were a couple of things about the story that were fairly predictable.  You can probably predict one just from the two paragraphs above... at some point, Campello and Polanski are going to overcome their extreme differences and inherent distrust of each other and they will have to work together.

It is also reasonably easy to unravel the "who" part of the who-done-it, though not completely.  It is the how, why, and who helped him part that keeps you guessing.

This novel had all the elements of a great crime-drama.  Interesting, complex characters.  An assortment of bad guys, including corrupt politicians, corrupt cops, gangsters, and thugs.  Moral dilemmas.  Difficult choices.  And a crime trail that definitely keeps you guessing.

This is Christian fiction, but Dodson does a perfect job of not overwhelming the plot with unnecessary preaching.  This is a book I could easily hand to my essentially agnostic friends, and I know they would enjoy it at least as much as I did.  For my quite conservative Christian friends, well... Campello smokes, drinks a bit, and of course the crimes being investigated involve prostitution and human trafficking. 

I absolutely recommend this to anyone who likes crime thrillers.  I will be reading more in this series, especially after reading an email that Dodson sent to those of us on this blog tour:
The Sons of Jude was written as the first in a series featuring a fictional Chicago police district and a rotating a cast of characters. Major characters in one novel may return in minor supporting roles in other novels, if at all. Characters will marry, die, or get transferred to and from the district. In that sense, this series will be similar to the late Ed McBain's 87th precinct novels, set in the fictional Isola, New York. But it will also be very different in that The Sons of Jude is set in a real police department in a real city. I've lived in the Chicago area and know it well.
Oh, yeah.  I will be reading the next book.

Here is the book trailer:

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

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Review: IndoctriNation

I'm doing something a bit new.  I'm part of Moms of Master Books.  Mostly, because I already review a whole lot of stuff for Master Books, and I love their materials.

And maybe I just like having a cool new badge.

For October, the Moms of Master Books are reviewing IndoctriNation -- both the movie and the book.  As a reviewer, I received access to an online version of the movie, and a copy of the Kindle version of the book. I have not had time to read the book this week, but I did view the movie.

The documentary involves Colin Gunn, a homeschooling dad who hails from Scotland, loading his family up on a schoolbus and going around the country to talk to all kinds of people.  Some are well-known in homeschooling circles, like John Taylor Gatto, Ken Ham, and Voddie Baucham.  As a homeschooler for the past dozen years, they really didn't say anything I haven't heard before.

For me, it was the stories told by regular people that hit me.  A very popular elementary school teacher.  A recent graduate of a highly rated public school.  Another teacher.  A regular working-man type of dad.  A school principal.  People who DO know what is going on in the schools. 

Let's throw in what the publisher says about this movie:
Nearly 90 percent of Christian children attend a public school. Join filmmaker Colin Gunn, a homeschool father of seven, on the field trip of a lifetime. Driving an old school bus, Colin and family travel across America exploring the origins and social impact of public school education to discover:
  • Are children morally and physically safe?
  • Are public schools religiously neutral?
  • Should Christians try to be “salt and light” in secular schools?
Winner of the 2012 Best Documentary Award at the San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival, this extraordinary film features interviews from whistleblower teachers, administrators, students, parents, and others in a shocking documentary revealing the reality behind the classroom doors.

The main message of the documentary is basically that as Christians, we have to get our kids out of the public school system.  That's a message that makes me squirm.  I mean, we have made the decision to homeschool, but I struggle enough with my family, you know?  I'm not sure that I'm capable of making any kind of recommendation about schooling choices to anyone else.

But one thing I do feel comfortable saying is: "You have to be aware."  I think this documentary can really, really make you think.  To think long and hard about what the real situation is for our kids in the schools.

I know, the tendency is to believe that these things are not happening here.  People just northwest of me, up in Denver, believed that.  It's been over a decade since Columbine, but the last few months have been challenging.  The movie theater shooting in Aurora this summer.  The abduction of a sweet 10 year old girl just this past week.

For me, these drive home the point that horrible things are happening in my community.

The DVD runs just 102 minutes, and honestly I think every Christian parent should see it.

Watch this book trailer:

The book includes a whole lot of research that just couldn't be fit into the documentary.  At 348 pages, it is not a light or easy read. The Kindle edition is available for under $5 though, and with that, you could go through a chapter here, and a chapter there... take it slow, and try to digest what you are reading.

This isn't an easy book to read, but it is important.  Denying what is going on around us is not going to make it go away, and it won't make it so it doesn't impact our communities.  We cannot bury our heads in the sand, nor can we cover our ears singing "La la la, I'm not listening..." Our kids are more important than that.

You can see what other Moms of Master Books thought about both the book and the DVD. And on Thursday, there will be A Book and a Bite Facebook Party!  There are always fun things being given away (copies of this book and DVD, and more!), and recipes shared.   It should be fun.

Disclaimer:   I received this materials for free from New Leaf Publishing Group as part of the Moms of Master Books program.  No other compensation was received.  The fact that I received a complimentary product does not guarantee a favorable review.   

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Bountiful Baskets: October 13

It is so much fun to go volunteer with Bountiful Baskets each week!  This week was no exception.  And a very yummy basket to boot.

Doesn't that look good?  It included:
  • a head of leaf lettuce
  • four big baking potatoes
  • three acorn squash
  • a pineapple
  • eight bananas
  • a bag of grapes (plus I got an extra bag for volunteering, which isn't in the photo)
  • six lemons
  • five apple pears
  • ten itty bitty adorably cute pears of some sort
Because our site didn't sell that many baskets, we did not get celery or grape tomatoes.  Hopefully we can get our numbers up just a bit.  But with adding a B week, too many people like me are cutting back.  Instead of ordering three baskets every A week, I'm ordering one or two each week.

Nothing in here that really requires me to do any planning.  Most of the fruit we will just eat.  I'll make lemonade from the lemons.  Potatoes and lettuce just get used as part of normal everyday life.  And we'll turn the squash into a veggie dish at dinner probably twice (because a friend gave me hers, knowing she won't use them).

I also got an enormous box of granny smith apples.  That might take a bit of planning, but for the moment, we are just going to eat them too.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Who me? Intimidated by a group of little girls?

Trina is starting American Heritage Girls tonight.

I'm completely intimidated. 

First off, it is the unknown, I suppose. I know almost nothing about AHG.  Just that they do programs for girls from kindergarten through 12th grades, and that they have the chance to earn merit badges.  And some of the sisters of my boys' friends attend this troop.  At least I think they are called troops.

I know the location.  We used to vote there.  But it isn't like I know exactly where I'm going.  Someone will undoubtedly help us find the room.  So that can't be the anxiety.

No, the anxiety is the whole idea of intentionally interacting with a group of just girls.  And Trina being in a room of just 1st to 3rd grade girls. 

I'm being stretched.  I know it.  I avoided situations like this when I was a 1st through 3rd grade girl, you know? I lived in neighborhoods with only boys.  I had friends who were girls, but aside from birthday parties, we usually only got together one-on-one.  If I was around a group of kids, they were likely to be almost all boys, or at most a 50-50 type of group.

I confessed this to my boy scouts on the way home last night.  Connor reassured me.  Or something.  "Mom," said he, "that is one more thing we have in common. We don't understand girls."

Thanks, hon.  I feel so much better.

I'm going to survive this, right?  Trina is going to thrive, right?

I have to think that I'm doing the right thing.  What I want to do is chuck the whole concept.  This is so far outside my comfort zone I can't even begin to describe it.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Monday Stuff

You know, it is definitely a Monday.

Trina couldn't find her math book.  Anywhere.  Turned up in Richard's drawer.  Of course, Richard hadn't put his away, his was under the couch.  That means he didn't even look in his drawer so he didn't know his sister's book was there.

Then Thomas needs to work on some Scout stuff.  He needs his book.  He looked in his school drawer (it doesn't belong there), in the van, in the dining room, in and under the chair in the corner of the living room, and about a hundred other places.  He did NOT look where he keeps his scout stuff.  Yep.  Turns out he actually put it away last week.  A full hour he looked.  It never even occurred to him to look where it belonged.

Connor has some reading to do for history.  He comes out to me and informs me that I have his textbooks.  Ummm, no.  He had searched his bed and under his dirty clothes and all over his room.  I asked if he had looked in his school drawer.  Nope.  Sure enough, there they were.

How totally pathetic is it that all three of these searching for stuff scenarios would have been avoided if things that actually have a place were put there and looked for there?

Just more proof that we have entirely too much stuff.  I think I'm going to focus the rest of the month on getting rid of books/curriculum we've outgrown or we won't use.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Book Review: Wild Grace

Max Lucado has done it again.  This time, the book is Wild Grace, subtitled What Happens When Grace Happens.

I enjoy almost everything that Max Lucado creates, so I was excited to check this book out... and to have my teen read it as well.

From the publisher:
Bestselling author Max Lucado explains that if teens let God’s grace change them, shape them, and strengthen them, their lives will never be the same.
Today’s teens are being shaped by the pressures and disappointments of the world. But Max Lucado encourages them to take a close look at what can shape their hearts and their futures from the inside out—God’s grace.
As Max explains, "God’s grace has a drenching about it. A wildness about it. A whitewater, riptide, turn-you-upside-downness about it. Grace comes after you." Wild Grace gives teens an understanding of how grace can change their lives in powerful ways, even when those lives are messed up, off track, or in trouble. Each chapter describes another miracle that happens when we allow God’s grace to work on us and through us:
“Grace is God’s decision to change everything. Good-bye, earthly labels. Stupid. Unpopular. Ugly. Failure. No longer. You aren’t who they say you are. You are who He says you are. Spiritually alive. Connected to God. Amazing.”
Teens will be convinced that God knew what He was doing when He made them and His grace is always there, ready to work wonders that are bigger than anything this world has to offer.
A fairly short book at 176 pages, this is a really easy read.  Chapters are short and filled with great stories (my favorite part!), most involving teens or young adults.  That makes it pretty easy for teen to relate, and I found they illustrated the points well for me as an adult as well.

The publisher's description does a really good job of giving you the basic idea of the book.  Each chapter explores an aspect of grace, gives biblical and modern examples to demonstrate it, and includes some discussion question types of prompts called "Your Story." There are Bible verses included as well.

Disclaimer: As a Booksneeze Blogger, I did receive this ebook for free from Thomas Nelson. All opinions are my own.  No other compensation was received. For more about my take on reviews, visit my blog post here.

Bountiful Baskets: October 6

We now have Bountiful Baskets every week!  Yay, yay, yay!

I only got one basket this week, plus a box of pineapple.

I need to get Dale to take the photos more often, huh?  He does a much better job.

Today's basket contained:
  • 1 head of leaf lettuce
  • 1 bunch spinach
  • 2 English cucumbers
  • 5 'things' of broccoli
  • 6 big russet potatoes
  • 4 beautiful red bell peppers
  • 1 huge bag globe grapes
  • 2 boxes of strawberries
  • 6 Fuji apples
Not much to say about using this.  Fruit -- we'll eat it.  Cucumbers will turn into refrigerator pickles.  Lettuce and potatoes and peppers are just basics that will get used without.   Broccoli and spinach would normally just get used, but we've had a lot of both lately.  I'll probably end up freezing them both for later.

The downside of a brand new location is that there weren't many baskets sold.  Hopefully that will pick up.  We didn't get grape tomatoes and I think bananas were the other item we did not get.

Friday, October 5, 2012

FIRST Wild Card Tour: Manners That Matter for Moms

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Harvest House Publishers (October 1, 2012)

***Special thanks to Ginger Chen for sending me a review copy.***


Maralee McKee is a sought-after expert in social interactions at work, at home, and in the community. She has taught thousands of children in her Manners Mentor classes, and her corporate clients include Hyatt, Chick-fil-A, State Farm, Campus Crusade, and AT&T. Maralee and her husband live in Florida with their two sons.

Visit the author's website.


Corporate trainer and mentor Maralee McKee turns her attention to the home and shares the simple, savvy, and sincere skills kids need in order to flourish in today’s culture. Tools for each stage of life make this the go-to book for moms with children of any age.

Product Details:

List Price: $12.99

Paperback: 224 pages

Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (October 1, 2012)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0736944893

ISBN-13: 978-0736944892

My Take:

Very readable, very practical.  My fear with this book was that I'd feel like I was being lectured by Ms. Perfect.  Not the case.  McKee is real and never makes me feel like she has everything figured out while I'm just floundering around and ruining my kids.  This is a book I will continue to reference.


Moms Like You and Me

Today our children are our shadow.

Tomorrow they will be our reflection.

Maralee McKee

I was nervous. I wanted this evening to be perfect for my husband, who was hosting a client-appreciation dinner for his company. He had worked hard planning every detail—especially choosing the guest speaker. After some negotiating, the man he hoped would accept his invitation agreed to present the keynote address.

This gentleman is a financial genius. He holds three degrees—one each from Harvard, Yale, and Oxford. He consults privately with kings and presidents about global economic issues. All of this at the ripe old age of 34. He and I are about the same age, but I feared that was all we were going to have in common. A genius I’m not.

Common Ground

My husband planned to go from table to table, chatting with guests through dinner. That meant our special guest and I would share a cozy table for two throughout the 90-minute dinner before he took the stage. Driving to dinner, I was still trying to think of conversation topics he might enjoy and I would have an inkling about.

My list was short.

My concerns about us not having much common ground to talk were quickly realized—he was intense.

Moments after sitting down, he asked, “Maralee, I like to know my audience a little before I speak. What would you say are some of the economic and libertarian concessions you believe your guests are willing to make in light of our current financial and political surrounding?”

Okeydokey! Believe it or not, that particular question had not made my short list of conversation topics. Hiding my panic, I quickly decided that in order to survive this meal, I was going to have to be the one asking the questions.

I answered brightly, “I’m sure my husband will have more accurate insight than I do. I’ll call him over in a minute.” Then I asked our guest where he was from. He shared that he was born in Chicago and still lived there. I had recently visited for the first time and been smitten with the city. We began to find common ground talking about Chicago’s famed Miracle Mile. A few minutes later I asked about his family. He beamed as he told me that he and his wife were expecting their first child the next month—a girl.

We talked about how children change everything. But then he added, “But only for a little while.”

His genius was obvious in what he said next. It has been one of the most impacting maxims on the way I parent.

Twenty-One Percent of My Life

He explained, “We spend a statistically small percentage of our lives in direct contact with our children. Let’s say I live to be eighty-five, and my daughter lives with my wife and me until she leaves for college at eighteen. In that case, we’re only under the same roof for twenty-one percent of my life. Seventy-nine percent of it will be without daily contact.”

My mind raced to make sense of it all. How can that be? Only 21 percent of my life will be spent sleeping under the same roof as each of my children?

The cold reality of the number made my heart shiver—it still does.

Twenty-one percent is all the time we have with our children, and that’s if you start counting when they are newborns. If they’re five or fifteen already, a measure of that time is gone.

Is it enough time to teach them everything they need to know to thrive on their own when they’re grown? Yes it is, but they won’t learn it by accident. If we want our children to grow into adults who interact with kindness, respect, self-control, graciousness, and friendliness, we must teach them a lost art in today’s culture. It’s the art of being intentionally kind and patient in the words they say and the things they do every day, everywhere, with everybody. Quite simply, we much teach manners.

Moms like You and Me

Because you’re reading this page, I know you and I have some things in common. Moms like us deeply love our children and want to give them every skill they need to soar through life. We have high hopes for them—and not merely that they attend Ivy League schools, gain impressive-sounding job titles, win beauty pageants, or accumulate worldly wealth and fame.

Those are all fine things. But what matters more to you and me is that our children grow up to be kind, compassionate, friendly, warmhearted, caring, self-disciplined, self-controlled, self-reliant, fair, generous, empathetic, and even-tempered adults.

We wish them joy, so we want them to laugh daily and easily.

We want them to go with the flow but not to be easily swayed.

We want them to be optimistic but not to wear rose-colored glasses.

We want them to understand that personal conflict is inevitable but making enemies is optional.

We pray that they realize that apologizing for mistakes doesn’t mean you’re messed up. It means you have the strength of character to do the hard work of untangling messes.

We want our children to have a strong sense of right and wrong and the moral strength to live up to their convictions.

We want them to have goals and ambitions but not to let their goals become their gods.

We pray that they will always be secure in who they are so they don’t become bullies or easy targets for bullies.

We want them to please people but not to be people pleasers.

And because mamas enjoy hearing good things about their children, if we notice ours displaying these traits, we won’t mind a bit if people compliment them and tell us that our children are sweet and engaging and impressive. Christ within them makes all these things possible. Etiquette is the vehicle they’ll use to express their character in word and deed.

Etiquette Is Kindness and Love in Action

The apostle Paul’s famous passage about love in 1 Corinthians 13:4-5 lists nine attributes of love, and seven of them describe what love is not. That leaves only two positive descriptions of love: patience and kindness.

Etiquette is the language that expresses patience and kindness in our interactions with one another. It teaches us to make modest sacrifices of our time, our agenda, and our momentary wants so we can live out patience and kindness. Etiquette is not pretense or fussiness. It’s not an attempt make children perfect. Manners are the language of love, and we teach them to our children for their benefit and for God’s glory.

Scripture often calls us to kindness. As Paul says in Ephesians 4:32 (niv), “Be kind and compassionate to one another.” Etiquette shows you how to live this way.

Etiquette Doesn’t Replace Authenticity

I sincerely do not want to add stress to any mother’s or child’s life. When etiquette is forced or stressed, it’s only on the outside. Love, on the other hand, is not forced.

We don’t teach etiquette in order to mold children into something they are not. Some children are spontaneous, spirited, and quick to share their opinion. That’s fantastic! They will grow up to be quick-witted, fun, welcoming leaders. Some children are reserved, slow to join in, and quiet. That’s fantastic too! They will grow up to be thoughtful and always there for you—servant leaders of their generation. God gave our children their personalities. Etiquette gives them the skills to bring the best of their personalities to the forefront.

Etiquette Has Evolved

Gone are the days when manners were about debutante balls, seated dinners for 12 with the butler serving, hats and gloves, and making sure the children were seen but not heard.

The etiquette I share with you has evolved. It’s in tune with the realities and sensibilities of our modern, casual, techno-savvy, fast-paced culture. Grandma’s etiquette was perfect for her day. But if we use her etiquette exclusively, we’re going to appear stiff and stuffy and out of sync for the time and place Christ has placed us in.

I’ve kept grandma’s timeless principles of courtesy, respect, hospitality, and consideration and used those principles to chart the course of our contemporary everyday encounters.

Etiquette Isn’t Artificial

Some people say we shouldn’t teach etiquette lest we train people to be artificial. Not so. Rather than forcing people to be artificial, etiquette frees them to become the best version of themselves.

On the other hand, some people try to use etiquette to mold their children into perfect people. Perfection is Satan’s trap. God didn’t give us our children for our own glory but so that we could empower them to freely and gladly live for Christ and reflect His glory. Etiquette polishes us so that Christ’s reflection can be seen more easily in us.

The skills you’ll learn about in these pages aren’t to be lived out legalistically. They are written in sand, not stone. You can use these principles to build and honor relationships inside and outside your family. This is an important concept. After all, the reason we were put here in the first place was to be in relationship with God and other people.

Etiquette Isn’t Window Dressing

Motherhood gives us an opportunity to be the people we want our children to become. That’s why I wrote this book—to help you teach your children and be a role model for them so their good manners spring from their hearts and are not just for show.

For manners to be more than window dressing in our lives, they must be expressed in the words we say and the things we do—and not just when we find it convenient or are in an especially good mood. Our good manners become true when they are ingrained into us, just as we can learn a new language and use it until it is as natural as our native tongue.

In the pages of this book you’ll find the modern, essential skills you need to know and model to help your children soar through life free from social uneasiness so they can become well liked, well mannered, and well respected. None of it is hard to learn. All of it pays a lifetime of dividends.

Our Journey Together

I’m so glad we’re going on this journey together! I’ve prayed and worked hard on this book for the benefit of you and your family. My prayer has been that it will encourage, inspire, and mentor you.

People often ask me how I became the Manners Mentor. It’s a pretty amazing story. I can still barely believe I am where I am today.

When I was nine years old, I was in a situation no little girl should experience. At that time, I started praying for three specific things. Over the next 20 years, God answered my three prayers, slowly unfurling His plans and purposes for me in ways that even the most imaginative novelist could never conceive. I’ll briefly share my story with you (friends should know about friends!) so you’ll understand my passion for these skills and why I’m honored to bring you the message God has entrusted to me—that manners matter to Him.

In the teaching part of the book, I’ll start by showing you how to teach etiquette without stressing or ever having to nag. We moms already have a lot on our plates. We don’t need to pile more “must do’s” on them. My way of teaching is gentle, subtle, and lifestyle-oriented. You won’t find your children pushing back. But you will see children who are more patient, kinder, and more likely to consider how their words and feelings impact the people around them.

You’ll also find relevant, modern, indispensable tips on everything from table manners to texting. You’ll learn how to make positive first impressions, interact with ease, and give and receive gifts graciously. You’ll also learn about using Wonder Words, beginning and ending conversations on a high note, dining skills, table manners, and so much more. All of it is in sync with today’s sensibilities and from the heart.

Chapters 4 through 17 start with just-for-fun etiquette IQ tests. “Mom to Mom” tips start in chapter 5. These are special things that are on my heart to share with you. They’re adult-level skills that will help you shine or special tips for teaching a particular skill set and touching the heart of your child.

Chapters 4 through 17 also include has multiple sections titled “Growing in Graciousness (Next-Level Skills).” These next-level skills allow you to pick and choose what you want to add into the mix. You can introduce a particular skill whenever your children will benefit the most given their age and stage, natural bent (introvert or extrovert), personality, level of maturity, confidence, and degree of manual dexterity.

You might look at all these skills and say, “Wow, Maralee! That looks like a whole bunch. How can I teach all of that?” Let me assure you, you can! It’s my joy to show you how. The skills you’ll find here are the ones I’ve taught successfully in hundreds of my Manners Mentor classes. And of course, I use them at home with my own two sons, Marc and Corbett. These skills are classroom tested, and they work in the real world.

Just don’t rush the process. You will teach and model for months or even years before some skills become parts of your child’s life. That’s normal. We’re in it for the long haul, aren’t we?

Our Shadow and Reflection

I often think of the evening several years ago when I dined with the financial genius. Now that my two sons are nine and fifteen, his words resonate deeper than they did when he first showed me that children change everything “but only for a little while.” We have 21 percent of our lives or less to daily impact theirs—just 21 percent to pass along to them everything they need to know to soar through life on their own.

The number one predictor of our children’s future success and happiness is their ability to get along well with others, to be well-liked, and to be confident and at ease in their interactions. You’re holding in your hands the how-to’s of instilling these character traits in your children.

Today our children are our shadow. Tomorrow they’ll be our reflection. Let’s embark on this journey together.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Review: American History

A while back, I posted a review of World History by James Stobaugh.  That set of books was the second year in a three-year high school history curriculum.

American History is the first year of that set.  It comes as a student book ($29.99, 384 page paperback) and a teacher book ($14.99, 160 page paperback).  The book is nonconsumable so you can use it with each of your children, a feature I really love.

From the publisher:
Respected Christian educator, Dr. James Stobaugh, offers an entire year of high school American history curriculum in an easy to teach and comprehensive volume. American History: Observations & Assessments from Early Settlement to Today employs clear objectives and challenging assignments for the tenth grade student. From before the birth of our republic to the principles of liberty, American history trends, philosophies, and events are thoroughly explored. The following components are covered for the student:
  • Critical thinking
  • Examinations of historical theories, terms, and concepts
  • History makers who changed the course of America
  • Overviews and insights into world views.
Students will complete this course knowing the Christian influences that created a beacon of hope and opportunity that still draws millions to the United States of America.
The book, like others in the series, consists of 34 chapters, with daily lessons for days one to four, and a test/assessment for the fifth day.  For an idea as to the scope of this study:
  • Chapter 1, Natives of the New World, covers worldviews, Indigenous People Groups of North America, Indigenous People Groups of South/Central America, and Columbus, Conquistadors and Colonization.
  • Chapter 34, Contemporary Issues Part Two, covers Euthanasia, Global Warming, Health Care, and Population Explosion.
With a total of 136 lessons (34 weeks times 4 lessons per week) this study obviously cannot cover everything that has happened in American history.  It seems to do a pretty good job, however, of hitting most of the important topics.

So what does a "typical week" look like?  Well, I'll pick one to talk about here, though I'm not entirely certain there is such a thing as a "typical week."  Let's look at Chapter 20, "The Wild West."
  1. The first lesson is also titled "The Wild West" and it is a page of text by Stobaugh talking about the California Gold Rush, the role of the railroads, etc.  The assignment involves reading a lengthy quote by Frederick Jackson Turner regarding westward expansion and discussing whether you agree with him, and what role other historical trends (military, economic, religious, etc.) had in developing the American character.  The second half of the assignment is to write a brief history of your own town. 
  2. The second lesson is "Native Americans" and it includes two pages of text about the various tribes in the West, Southwest and Northwest, also including a page-long excerpt from the autobiography of Geronimo.  The assignment is first to summarize Geronimo's point of view regarding why whites and Native Americans did not get along.  The second part of the assignment relates to what should have happened when Native Americans were located on valuable or vital land.  Definitely thought-provoking.
  3. The next lesson on "Lawmen and Outlaws" is a single page, all text by Stobaugh.  It talks about people such as Billy the Kid and Jesse James.  The assignment relates to analyzing why Americans love to root for the underdog, even when that underdog is a convicted murderer.
  4. The final lesson is on Frances Willard, president of the Women's Christian Temperance Union.   This lesson is two pages, including a short bio by Stobaugh. The bulk of the reading is of the last formal speech that Willard made.  The assignment relates to a quote about being followers of Christ disguised as lawyers, doctors, housewives, etc., and how that idea summarizes the life of Frances Willard.
  5. The assessment primarily reviews lessons 1-3, with slightly different discussion questions.
The student book contains the text and daily assignments.  The teacher's book contains the daily questions and answers (or possible answers).  It also contains the weekly assessments and the answers to those. 

So, what did we think?

First off, the expected time to complete the lessons was a bit off.  Usually the reading aspect of the assignment could easily be accomplished in the 20 minute timeframe, but the assignments frequently require far more than a few minutes. Especially as sometimes you need to do additional research to truly answer the questions in the assignment.

That's a good thing though, because if you were to spend 30 minutes a day for 34 weeks, you are only talking 85 hours of work, which is simply not enough "quality time" in my opinion for a full high school credit.

I also really question the choices of where to focus time.  On the one hand, I think understanding the Civil War is critical in understanding a lot of American history, it seems a bit much to focus five weeks (nearly 15%) of the course to that topic, with a week on Antebellum Slavery, a week on causes of the war, a week on the war, and two weeks on reconstruction.  I think these chapters are fabulous, don't get me wrong.  But it is in stark contrast to the amount of time spent on other wars:
  • American Revolution (including the French and Indian War) - 2 weeks
  • The War of 1812 - a paragraph in one lesson, and brief mentions in a couple other lessons
  • Spanish American War - most of a chapter/week
  • World War I - 2 days
  • World War II - 2 days
  • Cold War - 3 days
  • Korean War - 1 day
  • Vietnam War - 1 day
  • War on Terror - 1 week
It isn't like I know what could change to make this better, but two days on World War II?  It just seems a tad bit rushed.

Since the study does not necessarily take enough time, though, it isn't like I can't throw in an additional biography here or there if I plan this as a full course. 

One thing we love is the focus on some of the more "Christian" history of the US.  Things I wasn't taught in school.  So there is information on the First Great Awakening, and on the Second Great Awakening.  There are lessons that focus on people like Billy Sunday or Charles Fuller. 

We also appreciate all the photos and charts.  A note though, everything is black and white.  I appreciate that this helps keep the costs down, and when there is something we think we need in color, it is a quick search to find an appropriate image online.

Overall, we are happy with this book.

You can watch this promo clip about the history series:

Disclaimer:   I received this book for free from New Leaf Publishing Group.  No other compensation was received.  The fact that I received a complimentary product does not guarantee a favorable review.   

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Book Review: You Don't Know Me

Any time I have a chance to review a book by Susan May Warren, I take it.  Especially when it involves her Deep Haven novels.  I have not been taking on a lot of fiction lately, but I will always absolutely make an exception for her.

The latest Deep Haven novel is You Don't Know Me.  It did not take place in Minneapolis at all, so no mention of Big Ten.  (I reviewed The Shadow of Your Smile at the beginning of this year, and I'm still desperately wanting a Big Ten sub!)

This book had me hooked from the very first chapter. Warren's books always do.

From the publisher:
Sometimes the secrets we keep to protect ourselves can be our undoing.

To all who know her, Annalise Decker is a model wife and mother. She’s a permanent member of the PTA, never misses a sporting event, and is constantly campaigning for her husband’s mayoral race.

No one knows that Annalise was once Deidre O’Reilly, a troubled young woman whose testimony put a dangerous criminal behind bars. Relocated through the Witness Security Program to the quaint harbor town of Deep Haven, Deidre received a new identity and a fresh start, which began when she fell in love with local real estate agent Nathan Decker.

Twenty years later, Annalise couldn’t be more unprepared for her past to catch up with her. When Agent Frank Harrison arrives with news that the man she testified against is out on parole and out for revenge, Annalise is forced to face the consequences of her secrets. Will she run again, or will she finally find the courage to trust those she loves most with both her past and her future?
The book opens and closes with Deidre's mother. Yeah, that got me.  Can you even imagine what that is like?  Your adult child being "killed" as she enters the witness protection program, and you know she is out there somewhere.  Or you hope she is, anyway.  You and your husband are basically the only people who know she didn't actually die, but that she is living as someone else now.

The bulk of the book is about Annalise, her husband, her kids, her mother-in-law, and all the people Annalise has built into her new life over the last twenty years.

As always, the characters are flawed and intriguing.  It's easy to sit there and think how you'd like to slap some sense into them at one point, and how amazing it would be to have someone like them in the next scene.

As always, there isn't a picture-perfect happily-ever-after ending.  It is a real ending, and you know the characters are going to continue to have struggles and issues and a real life even after the book is closed.  That's probably one of my favorite things about these books. 

You can see what other people had to say about You Don't Know Me at the LitFuse Blog page!

Welcome to the campaign launch for Susan May Warren’s latest offering in her beloved Deep Haven series, You Don’t Know Me. Susan is celebrating with a $200 Weekend Getaway Giveaway and hosting a fun video Author Chat Party!

One fortunate winner will receive:

  • A $200 Visa Gift Card (Use that to catch up with a loved one and “Get to Know” your spouse, friend, sister, mom…whomever!)
  • The entire set of Deep Haven Books
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on October 22nd. Winner will be announced at the ”You Don’t Know Me” Author Chat Facebook Party on 10/23. Connect with Susan for an evening of book chat, Deep Haven trivia, and a live video chat! There will also be info about Susan’s BookShout read-along and a chance to win gift certificates, books, and other fun prizes!

So grab your copy of You Don’t Know Me and join Susan on the evening of the October 23rd for a chance to connect and make some new friends. (If you haven’t read the books – don’t let that stop you from coming!)

Don't miss a moment of the fun, RSVP todayTell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 23rd!

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

Women Redeemed 2.0 Webcast and iPad Giveaway

I posted a review of Hope for Today, Promises for Tomorrow a few weeks ago.  There was a live webcast event that was supposed to happen involving the author which had to be postponed.

Therefore, I am posting this so that people will know about the rescheduling of that event.  The book by Teske Drake was simply fabulous.

Join authors Kim Ketola, Teske Drake and Dawn Scott Jones for an evening of encouraging chat about healing and hope for women on the evening of October 10th. The authors will join together for a Live Webcast Event to share their stories.

BUT … wait there’s more! Between 10/1 and 10/10 enter to win a brand-new iPad from Women Redeemed!

One fortunate winner will receive:
  • iPad with Wi-Fi
  • Cradle My Heart by Kim Ketola, Hope for Today, Promises for Tomorrow by Teske Drake and When a Woman You Loved Was Abused by Dawn Scott Jones
Hurry, the giveaway ends on 10/10/12. Just click one of the icons below. The winner will be announced that evening at the Women Redeemed Webcast
In coordination with the launch of their fall releases, Kregel will be hosting a live webcast event on October 10th at 8 PM EDT featuring authors Kim Ketola (Cradle My Heart)Teske Drake (Hope for Today, Promises for Tomorrow), and Dawn Scott Jones (When a Woman You Love Was Abused). The webcast will allow women to come together to share their struggles and fears in order to move toward healing and hope. Women will able to support one another and discuss shared experiences in a non-threatening, open and loving environment.

Don't miss a moment of the fun, RSVP todayTell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 10th!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Book Review: Life with Lily

When I first heard about Life with Lily, I was told it was appropriate for 8-12 year olds.  I was pretty sure my boys wouldn't be terribly interested, but the cover and the fact that Lily is six kept me thinking that I wanted to try this out with Trina, also six, even though she is younger than the suggested range.

From the publisher:
Book 1 in the ‘Adventures of Lily Lapp’ series.

Lily is six in this story, just starting first grade in a one-room schoolhouse in upstate New York. Her parents are busy building a farm, and soon animals join the family—Jenny the cow and Chubby the miniature horse. A baby brother arrives, too, which Lily has mixed feelings about. (She wanted a sister!) Aside from a mischievous friend like Mandy Mast, Lily is happy at school and even happier at home.

Trouble is brewing at the schoolhouse and change is on the horizon for Lily and her family.

About the author:
Suzanne Woods Fisher lives with her family in the San Francisco Bay Area. She has one husband, four children, one son-in-law, a brand new grand-baby, and a couple of dogs. She graduated from Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California.

Suzanne has contracts with Revell for six more books about the Amish, both fiction and non-fiction. She is also the host of “Amish Wisdom·” on toginet.com, a weekly radio program featuring guests who are connected to Simple Living. 
Visit her website to find out more about Suzanne.
My thoughts:

Well, this hasn't worked out quite as well as I hoped as a read-aloud for Trina.  Trina thought Lily looked really cute and nice, but it is taking a bit of effort for her to get into hearing the story.  So I've been reading it on my own, and I plan to try it as a read-aloud in another few months.  I think she will love it, but maybe that 8-12 age recommendation was a bit more accurate than I assumed.

I think the book is fabulous.  Lily is curious and intelligent and simply a lot of fun.  I am reminded of reading other book series' about bright, inquisitive little girls from times past -- books like Little House in the Big Woods, where Laura is around the age of Lily in this book.  Only Lily is present-day.

This is a series I will continue.  And as we get past the first few chapters, I suspect Trina is going to change her tune.  Or once the weather cools a bit and cuddling up for a story has more appeal. 

You can visit the LitFuse Blog Tour page to see what other people thought of this adorable book!

“Based upon Kinsinger’s own childhood, it’s reminiscent of the Little House on the Prairie books.” —Romantic Times

Celebrate with Suzanne and Mary Ann by entering their contest and RSVPing to the “Life with Lily” Facebook Author Chat Party on 10/16!

Two fortunate winners will receive:
  • Either the new Kindle Fire or new Nook HD
  • Signed copy of Life with Lily for you and a young reader in your life.  by Melanie Dobson
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on October 15th. Winner will be announced at the Life with Lily Author Chat Facebook Party on 10/18. Connect with authors Suzanne Woods Fisher and Mary Ann Kinsinger for an evening of book chat, Q&A about Mary Ann’s Amish childhood, trivia, and fun! There will also be gift certificates, books, and other fun prizes!

So grab your copy of Life with Lily and join Suzanne and Mary Ann on the evening of the October 16th for a chance to connect with the authors and make some new friends. (If you haven’t read the books – don’t let that stop you from coming!)

Don't miss a moment of the fun, RSVP todayTell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 16th!

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