Homeschooling Solutions Found in Hands-On Learning

My friends at Oak Meadow have released the Fall 2020 edition of their journal, Living Education. Oak Meadow is a school and curriculum provider for homeschooling families.

This issue is chock-full of fun. There’s some money-saving tips that can help you, especially if you’ve lost money during the pandemic. Are you feeling burnt out from homeschooling? (I see you, new to home-learning crowd.) You’ll get some help from Oak Meadow co-founder Lawrence Williams.

Plus, I’m thrilled to offer up my tips for Solutions Found in Hands On Learning. (Yes, you can do this! No, you don’t have to be a teacher. Hint: there are games and fun involved!)


Need Some Help Homeschooling?

Need some help figuring out back-to-school this year? My friends at Medi-Share are always offering advice on Christian living, financial advice, how to be healthy, and more. If you’re like many families across the country, you could use a little help figuring out how to homeschool this year. You can check out my tips for Homeschooling Help During COVID-19 on the Medi-Share blog here.


The Money Challenge for Teens

Are you comfortable talking with your teen about personal finance? If you’re looking for a starting point for how to teach your teen about money, or if your teen is already curious about how to manage their money, The Money Challenge for Teens by Art Rainer could be just what you’re looking for. Art Rainer previously wrote a book for adults called Find More Money, but I actually enjoyed this book more. Adults who are struggling with personal finance could actually learn something from this book, even though this one is targeted for teens.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Similar to the format of Find More Money, it uses a parable style to give its advice. The Money Challenge for Teens takes two teens working at a fast food joint and a mentor who gives them practical money lessons. These lessons are realistic for teens and adults alike. If a teen can absorb and understand only a tiny slice of what’s in this book, he or she will be ahead of their peers in so many ways. This book is a great resource for anyone interested in the topic of how to teach personal finance, or even for young people starting college to teach themselves what they wish their parents would have taught them about money.


5 More Questions Answered With Jerald LeVon Hoover

Ever wanted to pick an author’s brain? Ever been curious about an author’s life, creative path, or struggle to get published? Author Jerald LeVon Hoover has been published multiple times and is no stranger to the path of struggle that goes with the dream of being published. He is the author of A Hopeful Hero, My Friend, My Hero, and He Was My Hero, Too. If you missed out on the first set of questions and answers with Jerald LeVon Hoover, you can check them out here.

Today, Jerald LeVon Hoover answers five more questions for readers, fans, and aspiring authors.

You were raised in Mount Vernon, New York. At one point in He Was My Hero, Too, you make it clear that the book is set in Mount Vernon. Was it emotional for you to place the story in your childhood town, given everything that happens in the book?

Actually no it was a lot of fun do that because I was connecting the dots from book 1 to book 2 and the title He Was My Hero Too has a certain meaning to it which I don’t want to give away right now I want you to read the book to see why I named as such but the emotional part is more of a carryover from book one but it wasn’t emotional in a negative or sorrowful way it will sort of joyful because it was a continuation of what I want to think is a great story.

You’ve written several books. How was writing your second or third book different from writing your first book?

Well for this one it was more of an accomplishment because I did not want to be deemed a one hit wonder. I wanted to be viewed as a serious writer and so when I wrote the second book I felt good emotionally, mentally, and even spiritually because I was able to take something from scratch and stretch it out to where it was a series. I guess that is why I got greedy with it and wanted to add a fourth book, “Hoop Hero.”

You’ve mentioned that you were turned down many times [42 over an 8-year period] before finally getting published. During that time of rejection, what kept you going?

What kept me going was the belief that I had a particularly good story and a story that needed to be told. I felt back then when the first book was even in manuscript stage that it was very much in need. But currently, I feel that it is more a necessity.

Did you ever think about giving up?

Of course, I did but something within me wouldn’t let me. Not only that but there were external forces so to speak, that made it hard for me to quit. It seems like the times when I fe like throwing in the towel, someone that knew of me being in the writing phase would ask me how was coming along with it. It would come from people of my church, neighborhood, job, you name it, I was asked. Those were the signs I used that led me to believe, ‘Jerald, this is your calling.’

What types of books do you enjoy reading? Who are your favorite authors? 

My favorite all-time book is the Bible. I’ve read it from cover to cover about three times. The first time it took me a little over a year to do it, but it was an amazing experience as well as accomplishment. I particularly love how-to books and non-fiction about leaders of our society. I draw inspiration on their triumphs on how they got to where they arrived.

Are you working on any projects that you’d like to tell us about?

I’m working to make the books that I have in the series into a curriculum series where each book will have its own workbook to go along with it. This way the readers, particularly teenagers, can draw upon the lessons and messages that permeate throughout the book. I want to really do that so that not only do I entertain them, but I educate and empower my readers. Literacy is especially important to me.


Last Day of Camp Read Aloud

Welcome to our last day of Camp Read Aloud. We’ve had fun in these three weeks of summer reading camp. If you missed it, you can catch up and see the links to Camp Read Aloud in the archives.

Here’s what’s planned for our final day of camp.

Today’s Craft: Paper Bag Monster Puppets

Today’s Book: Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

Today’s Activity: Pin the Eye on the Monster


Day 14 at Camp Read Aloud

Today’s Craft: Make a Dream Catcher With Fabric Beads

Today’s Book: Dream Away by Julia Durango and Katie Belle Trupiano

Today’s Activity: Stargazing – A fun activity for night- Learn all about it here


Day 12 Camp Read Aloud

Welcome back to Camp Read Aloud!

Today is Day 12 of Camp Read Aloud. If you’re just joining us, Camp Read Aloud is an all-online, free, virtual, summer camp for kids.

Here’s what’s on our schedule for today.

Today’s Craft: Wind Chimes

Today’s Book: Cloudette by Tom Litchtenheld

Today’s Activity: Cloud Watching


Day 10 at Camp Read Aloud

Today is Friday, and our second week of Camp Read Aloud is almost done! We have another fun day of activities planned. Here is our schedule for today.

Today’s Craft Is: Craft Stick Farm Animals– We’re going to take wooden Popsicle sticks and turn them into animals

Today’s Book Is: Click Clack Moo Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin

Today’s Activity Is: Animal Charades


He Was My Hero, Too by Jerald LeVon Hoover

He Was My Hero, Too is part of The Hero Book Series. In this book, by author Jerald LeVon Hoover, we revisit Kirby, a young man whose life has changed after a heartbreaking loss of a friend. We get glimpses into the life of Simon, another young man, whose life has also changed. We can observe how a tragic event can make a person feel out of control when there are no answers for a senseless loss, or determined to do their best to make the most out of a terrible situation.

Just as the books A Hopeful Hero and My Friend, My Hero are designed to impart a moral message, so is He Was My Hero, Too. For such a serious book, this one did make me chuckle a few times when it mentioned celebrity legends from the past, because I wondered if the youth of today would even know who these celebrities are. This provided some comic relief for me in a book that was otherwise very serious, very heavy, and centered on difficult circumstances.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.


Day 9 at Camp Read Aloud

Welcome back to Camp Read Aloud! We have another fun day ahead of us. If you haven’t been able to join us before, every day at Camp Read Aloud, we have a craft, a book, and an activity. Here’s what’s going on today.

Today’s Craft Is: We’re going to make a Paper Hot Air Balloon. No balloons needed – it’s going to turn out great!

Today’s Book Is: Curious George and the Hot Air Balloon by Margaret and H.A. Rey

Today’s Activity Is: Water Balloon Toss


Day 8: Camp Read Aloud

Welcome back to Camp Read Aloud! Today we have another fun day in store. Here is today’s schedule.

Today’s Craft Is: Rock Spiders

Today’s Book Is: The Very Busy Spider by Eric Carle

Today’s Activity Is: Spider Web Obstacle Course


Day 7 at Camp Read Aloud

Today’s Craft: Bee Habitat

Today’s Book: Please Please the Bees by Gerald Kelley

Please Please the Bees by Gerald Kelley

Today’s Activity: Look for bee-friendly plants on a walk


One Night Two Souls Went Walking

Working the night shift, a chaplain walks the line between what is human and what is holy. What is sacred and what is ordinary? What is of this world and what is supernatural? One Night Two Souls Went Walking explores the world of a hospital chaplain and how she has connected with those she shepherds and this is more than a job to her; it is her vocation.

Cooney’s writing is smooth and almost melodic, if a book can have a melody. The narrator has her own moments of longing. The tone is full of melancholy for her own loneliness; perhaps what she has seen has added a weight onto her voice. The writing is smoothly executed as each chapter transitions. There is no struggle to understand what is taking place. Cooney is skilled at crafting her story.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher, Coffee House Press, in exchange for my honest review.


Day 6: Camp Read Aloud

Today is Day 6 of Camp Read Aloud!

In case you missed our first week, Camp Read Aloud is an all-online, totally free, virtual summer reading camp. Every day, we have a fun schedule planned, and today is no exception.

Today’s Craft: Sponge Boats, a DIY Craft for Kids

Today’s Book: Lightship by Brian Floca

Lightship by Brian Floca

Today’s Activity: Row Your Boat


The Book of Awesome Women Writers

Does it seem like a defiant, rebellious act for a woman to write? It might seem crazy to think that there was a time when women couldn’t express themselves with a pen and paper without getting in trouble. For the young girls growing up today, thinking freely and expressing their thoughts shouldn’t be outside the norm, but some of the ladies featured in The Book of Awesome Women Writers by Becca Anderson had much different circumstances to contend with.

This book is for anyone who loves reading, loves books, loves writing. It’s divided into chapters like a fiction book would be, and it has a fun cover, like you would expect for a fiction book. The material makes it more like a reference book, because there’s so much information, except it isn’t dry like a reference source can be. It’s the closest thing to an encyclopedia that I’ve touched in a long time. This book was fun, interesting, and one that has earned a place on my bookshelf.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.


Day 5 at Camp Read Aloud

It’s Friday, and we have lots of fun planned at Camp Read Aloud.

We’ve had a lot of fun this week. What was your favorite thing so far? Maybe it was making friendship bracelets, or maybe it was enjoying the story of Clark the Shark. Today will be just as fun!

Here’s our schedule for today.

Today’s Craft Is: Jellyfish Cupcake Liner Crafts. Ask an adult if you can have one or two cupcake liners used for baking. There’s some more stuff needed, but that will be the most important for this craft.

Today’s Book Is: The Joyful Jellyfish by Jamie Bryant

The Joyful Jellyfish by Jamie Bryant

Today’s Activity Is: Water Balloon Towel Catch (You’ll need a beach towel for this!)


Day 4: Camp Read Aloud

Welcome to Camp Read Aloud! If this is your first day, you can check out links to the previous days of camp below:

Camp Read Aloud Day One

Camp Read Aloud Day Two

Camp Read Aloud Day Three

Here’s our camp schedule for today!

Today’s Craft: Snail Paper Plate

Today’s Book: The Snail and the Whale by Julia Donaldson


The Snail and the Whale by Julia Donaldson

Today’s Activity: Snail Races



Camp Read Aloud: Day 3

Today’s is day three of Camp Read Aloud!

If today is your first day, Camp Read Aloud is a virtual, all-online, free summer reading camp with fun activities every day.

Here’s what’s on the schedule for today at Camp Read Aloud

Today’s activity is: Friendship Bracelets

Today’s book is: A Sick Day for Amos McGee, by Philip C. Stead and Erin C. Stead

Today’s activity is: Balloon Rocket Races


Welcome to Summer Camp!

Welcome to day two of Camp Read Aloud!

If you missed yesterday, this is an online, all-at-home virtual camp where you can have fun! Each day includes a craft, book, and activity, all for free.

Today’s Activity is: Make a Paper Shark

Today’s Book is: Clark the Shark by Bruce Hale

Today’s Activity is: Feed the Shark Alphabet Game for Kids


Day 1: Camp Read Aloud

Looking for a fun summer activity for the kids? Camp Read Aloud virtual summer camp starts today! Get ready for lots of fun activities, all that can be done from the comfort of your own home. Each day of this online summer camp contains a craft, a book, and an activity. Here’s day one of Camp Read Aloud.

Today’s craft is the DIY Button Dish

Today’s book is Where Do Balloons Go? An Uplifting Mystery by Jamie Lee Curtis

Today’s activity is Balloon Hockey


Praying for America

Praying for America by Dr. Robert Jeffress

Does America need prayer? Many Christians would agree. Dr. Robert Jeffress, pastor of a megachurch in Dallas, Texas, has turned his answer to this question into Praying for America 40 Inspiring Stories and Prayers for Our Nation. Each story concludes with a prayer of how to ask God to intervene in America’s problems. Jeffress advocates that so many people need prayer. Some of those on his prayer list are not a surprise including our troops, our president and leaders, and first responders.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

However, Jeffress includes some people you might not have thought of. He wants us to pray for the fatherless, those in prison, for fellow Christians who are “completely wrong”, and for Christians to do their jobs as unto the Lord. He makes a case that creating quality art is a godly endeavor, and that it pleases God. Using a legendary celebrity’s story of redemption, he explains that God invented art and that Christians should be committed to creating only the highest quality of art.

I loved all of the examples I read in this book. Jeffress does a good job of acknowledging that people have different views, but that as Christians, we should show love. This book has a great historical perspective; any history buff would probably love this book. I also loved the spirit of unity behind this book; Jeffress really encourages people to think as brothers and sisters of one family and that so many people need prayer.


My Friend, My Hero

My Friend, My Hero by Jerald LeVon Hoover

Young basketball player Bennett Wilson has talent, a college scholarship waiting for him, the love of his family, and the respect of his friends. What could possibly be wrong with his life? My Friend, My Hero by Jerald LeVon Hoover celebrates its 25th anniversary in this edition. Readers get a look inside the world of high school student Bennett Wilson. Adults who are unfamiliar with the struggles of today’s youth may be surprised at the situations Bennett faces. Bennett shows strength of character when tempted with a life-changing situation and the determination to be an overcomer when things are not going in his favor.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

My Friend, My Hero is highly recommended as a realistic, fun read for young adults. This book wouldn’t exist if Bennett wasn’t a basketball player, so kids who love basketball will probably love this book. My Friend, My Hero is also a great book to teach about the power of choices. It shows that while Bennett Wilson was facing a lot of negative things that were out of his control, he still had the power to make good choices. My Friend, My Hero can teach kids about the power of making good choices; an adult does not even have to say a word.


Leadership by the Good Book

Leadership by the Good Book by David L. Steward with Brandon K. Mann

Can Christianity relate to the business world? If you’re a Christian, how can you work your faith into the workplace? Can a business leader be successful in their role while also living out their faith? David L. Steward is the founder and chairman of World Wide Technology (WWT), a company that generates more than $12 billion in annual revenue. His business partner and friend, Brandon K. Mann, is the CEO of Kingdom Capital. They believe that yes, it is possible for a Christian to live out their faith authentically and to be successful in business, and that being a committed Christian does not have to be in conflict with being a successful business leader.

FTC Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Leadership by the Good Book is written from the perspective of David L. Steward, who, by his own accounting, came from humble beginnings. As a child, he went door-to-door selling Christmas cards to pay for summer camp. After college graduation, his grades weren’t stellar. Years later, Steward says, when he was job searching, he sent hundreds of resumes, and only landed a few interviews. Steward wasn’t born with a silver spoon in his mouth; his struggles are real, relatable, and relevant. His company WWT is a multi-million dollar company today, but throughout the book, Steward’s voice seems to be that of a humble servant leader that anyone would be lucky to work for.

Leadership by the Good Book provides numerous examples of how a Christian can integrate their faith into their work life. This book is geared toward leaders, and would be good for anyone who wants to start their own business. Steward cites a lot of Scripture, but he is also good at connecting it in a practical way. For example, he cites a Bible verse stating that Christians are to love others. To apply this to the business world, he says that some ways to “show love” are by showing appropriate boundaries in the workplace and by giving employees opportunities to advance in their jobs. He cites a verse in Proverbs that states without vision, people perish. To connect this to work, he advises leaders to have a vision and to share it with their teams. These are just a few of the very practical, realistic suggestions he gives for how Christian leaders can excel in their work, increase in their leadership abilities, gain the respect and confidence of their followers, and, hopefully, gain a “well done” from the One whose opinion matters most.


The Abundance Mind-Set

The Abundance Mind-Set by Joel Osteen

How do your thoughts impact your life? For Joel Osteen, the mind is where success begins and where the idea of abundance should be. This is a short book, taken from material from two of his previously published books. It’s a perfect size to take with you to fill some time if you are waiting during an appointment or if you’re flying and you like to read. To me, it’s a “travel size” book that can be read very quickly.

Osteen does not dig deep into the Bible, and he might not even name a specific Bible verse even once. Instead, he often states “the Scripture” when referring to a Biblical concept. The main concept he seems to want to drive home in this book is that it is not unChristian to want to have nice things or to want more in your life.

FTC Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Osteen tries to be a cheerleader and tells his readers that you don’t have to be stuck where you are, but that you can have a bigger vision for your life. Comparing his life with his father’s life, he states that his father was a pastor and his father’s church paid him very poorly. Osteen emphasizes that poverty is not a measure of how holy a person is, but that God can bless us in creative ways we would not think of. Overall, this was a very motivational book, and if you are not used to this type of thinking, you can try to keep an open mind and give these kinds of ideas a chance.


Five Questions Answered With Author Jerald L. Hoover

Ever curious about how published authors got their start in writing? Interested in what their creative process looks like? Jerald L. Hoover is the author of The Hero Book series. The 25th anniversary edition of his book My Friend, My Hero, was published in 2017. In this Q&A, he explains his creative process, what he does about writer’s block, and what it was like seeing his first book published.

Jerald L Hoover, author of The Hero Book Series

How did you get started writing?

I actually started writing when I was in the 3rd grade. I wrote (unbeknown at the time) as a means of escape. My mother and father had split and he wasn’t around much and I missed having a father figure in my home like I saw my other friends. I had written a book on a note pad that I titled, “I Was A Said Boy.”

What inspires you?

I am inspired to write now to invoke positive change and positive thinking habits. My books that make up, The Hero Book Series: My Friend, My Hero, He Was My Hero, Too, A Hopeful Hero, and Hoop Hero all have within them a measure of thought provoking elements. 

Tell us about your creative process.

I normally number on at least 4 pages in a notebook the numbers 1 through 250. Then I take or allow myself between 2 to 3 weeks and just brainstorm ideas of what I may want to have within the story. The beauty of that is I make sure that I’m not trying to come up with the ideas in sequential order. Meaning, if I decided to write how I want the story to end, then I write down the elements of how I want my story to end. What I do is trust that as long as I do not lose the notebook then the ideas are safe within the line items between 1 through 250. Do I have to have 250 ideas? No. I can stop anywhere where I feel that I’ve exhausted my creative flow for that time being. From there I come up with how many chapters I’d like to have. Then I start to build the story around what I may want to happen and where. I’m safe with the ideas and thoughts as the more I write down, the less my 250 ideas become. It’s a fun process with me because it allows me to feel accomplished within the entire scope of writing each book. It’s a mind game for me but I’ve been doing it for so many years that I’ve mastered the way of doing it. Besides, to me there’s nothing more authentic than to write down ideas and thoughts by hand as opposed to always using a computer or recording device. 

When you get writer’s block, or when you have an idea but you can’t seem to execute it, how do you solve those problems?

Writer’s block isn’t something that I normally have or get. Why? Because as I go through the creative 1 through 250 ideas process, I have more than enough in the way of ideas. Now, there are times when I will get bumrushed with ideas and I have to get up from my chair or if I’m laying in bed where I have to get up and pace around and talk aloud to me myself. I love that flow, it’s an incredible feeling. 

What was it like seeing your first book published?

It was somewhat scary I would say. My first book, My Friend, My Hero was first published in 1992 after being at it since 1984, yes I was rejected over 40 times during a nine year period from when I first started the novel in 1983. I love telling that story to young people, especially those that think and operate in a microwave world where everything has to be done and completed within 3 minutes. So when the books arrived on a Tuesday in November, I didn’t open my complimentary set of 25 copies of my book until that Thursday. I wasn’t sure if it was really real. Once I summoned the courage to finally open the box of books, I was over joyed. Now heading towards 30 years later, I’m still going strong with it, by the Grace of God.


A Hopeful Hero

What happens to a young man still struggling for answers after his friend dies? When the perpetrator is still at large, how can any resolution be found? This is the story of A Hopeful Hero by Jerald LeVon Hoover. Kirby, the main character, is still struggling, years later after the death of his friend Bennett. Sadly, Bennett’s killer is still at large, due to the crime being unsolved. A Hopeful Hero shows how Kirby is dealing with this loss, many years later.

A Hopeful Hero by Jerald LeVon Hoover

There are a lot of flashback stories in this fiction book. Lots of these scenes are set in Kirby’s high school days, which makes this book appealing to a young adult audience. For kids who don’t want to read, if they love sports, the basketball references might catch their attention. Teachers can use that to their advantage if they need to get their students motivated to read.

FTC Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

The writing in A Hopeful Hero gets boldest at the end. Everything in the book leads up to this point, which is the most powerful part of the story. No spoilers here, but the strongest, bravest writing in the book is at the end. A Hopeful Hero is part of a series, so I’m interested to see what will happen next.


A Mother’s Love

How many moms do you know? How many ladies come to mind when you think of mothering? These ladies have their hands full. You may know the old saying about a woman’s work never being done.

A Mother’s Love doesn’t just celebrate those that have birthed kids. This book celebrates, encourages, and praises those that raise, nurture, care for, love on, cook for, and pray for kids that aren’t their own. This book includes all kinds of moms including bonus moms, step moms, aunts, grandmas, and even “spiritual moms” – meaning those who have no kids of their own but are mentors to younger women in their lives.

A Mother’s Love

I love how encouraging this book is. Each section includes excerpts from the Bible and a story from a mom from today. There’s also space for the reader to write down her own thoughts and feelings. The illustrations are beautiful and they pair well with the writing. The stories from today’s women are honest, real, and supportive. (It’s a judgment free zone, no pretenses!) A Mother’s Love is a great gift idea for the mom (or mom figure) in your life….that is, if she actually has time to read!

FTC Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.


Where is Wisdom?

Where Is Wisdom?
By Scott James
Illustrated by Hein Zaayman

How do you explain the concept of wisdom to a child? Where can wisdom be found on the earth? On a journey throughout the world, author Scott James and illustrator Hein Zaayman give us the mind of a child on a quest to find wisdom. In Where Is Wisdom?, we search high and low throughout God’s earth to find wisdom. While written for kids, Where Is Wisdom? offers timeless Biblical truth for everyone. This is a beautiful picture book that will be greatly enjoyed by kids and adults.

DISCLOSURE: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.



Are you looking for a new start in life? Beth Jones has some advice for you in her new book, Reinvent.

Reinvent by Beth Jones

The beautiful cover of Reinvent could easily make you think that this is just a self-help book, or just a book about creativity. The topic of how to reinvent your life can be looked at as a topic of self-improvement, and it is an idea that could take a lot of creativity! Keep in mind, though, that Beth Jones doesn’t work as a painter, a chef, or a builder- she’s a pastor – so the approach she takes to making things new is a mainly spiritual one. She doesn’t recommend that you just sit pray and not take any action though- and I like that – but there’s a spiritual approach behind the entire book.

FTC Disclosure: I received a free copy of Reinvent from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Reinvent could easily earn a permanent spot on my bookshelf. This is probably the highest compliment I could give any book because I read so much and I have so little room. Reinvent is not going to tell you that you can get rich quick, or that God wants you to be a millionaire. Reinvent is an inspiring book that provides a Biblical basis to dream, to be inspired, to wonder what God might have in store for you next. Go ahead, dream a little, and use the help of God to refresh your life!


Daughter of the Regiment

When you think of the Civil War, what role do women play in the picture?

Are they at home waiting for their beloved husbands, sons, and fathers to return from battle, or is their something else they might be doing?

History lover and novelist Stephanie Grace Whitson has taken research from her studies into the Civil War, along with some creative liberties, to create an interesting plot. Rather than focusing on the perspective of a man in the conflict between North versus South, she creates a strong character named Maggie Malone, a woman who does yearn for those she loves to return safely from battle, yet, also manages to do something fiercely independent in the meantime.

For those who love historical fiction, this book strikes the right note. It has details from a time gone by that readers can learn from, yet it also entertains. For Civil War enthusiasts, this will also be a unique chance to pick out what actually happened in America’s history and what exists in Whitson’s book as effective, entertaining, storytelling.

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher, the Hachette Book Group, in exchange for my honest review.


90 Days with the God Who Speaks

Are you looking for a devotional for some quiet time with God? 90 Days with the God Who Speaks is a new book by the B&H Editorial Staff. (This book is not to be confused with another with almost the exact same title, from the same publisher.)

FTC Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

A devotional that helps one person may not help another. Some of the daily devotionals in this book had Scripture; others did not. I wondered why this wasn’t consistent. Sometimes the Scripture example was placed at the beginning of the day’s reading and other times it was placed at the end of the day; I wondered about that also. Some of the devotionals seemed fit for a Christian well-versed in fancy theological words while others zoom in on how wrong an atheist point of view is. The book could have shined more with better direction and perhaps a little more editing.

90 Days with the God Who Speaks has a beautiful green, nature-inspired front cover. This book contains short devotionals, which are ideal for people who are feeling pressed for time. The busy person in your life may enjoy this book as a gift. I liked the idea behind some of the devotions in the beginning of the book. Ideas like: how does God speak to the world? How does he communicate? It’s an interesting thought. God’s communication methods is a great idea for a book, and that sticks to the premise of the title, 90 Days with the God Who Speaks.


A Holy Pursuit Book Review

Should Christians follow their dreams? Is it ok to follow your heart? When it comes to following their dreams, Dianne Jago believes that Christians are often given poor advice. Her new book A Holy Pursuit aims to give Christians an alternative. Jago says that Christians are all too often told to follow their hearts for the sake of their dreams – which can result in going too far to get what they want – but the alternative they’re given is to just give up on dreaming, being told that having dreams is ungodly. Jago says both of these views have problems and that it’s ok to dream! If you’ve been told by Christians around you that you need to just give up on all your dreams, Jago would probably tell you that’s not quite right… but if you’ve been doing “whatever it takes” to achieve your dream, she’d probably ask you if you’ve been checking with God to see if you have your priorities straight.

Thank you, B&H Publishers/Lifeway! I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

The opening pages of A Holy Pursuit start strong and gave me high expectations. This book was less about dreaming, discernment, making decisions, or figuring our your life’s path than I hoped or thought it would be. Pieces from Jago’s life path lead up to explain that she landed in a spot as founder and chief of a ministry magazine. (Not a spoiler, this is on the back cover.) But it gets confusing when she tries to explain how God was shaping her dreams. She had an interest in photography (a desire, which is a good sign), and an opportunity with a contact in the industry (an open door, which is a good sign), but then she says that she knew God didn’t want her in photography anymore. No explanation, she just knew. This anecdote was confusing, and most of this book didn’t add to my understanding on the topic of dreaming in a God-inspired way. The strength of A Holy Pursuit is in the sections on how to live a Godly life, which could have been written under a completely separate title. These sections had solid Scripture that benefit any Christian, and are not specific to the concept of dreaming.


A Very BIG Problem

A Very BIG Problem
Amy-Jill Levine & Sandy Eisenberg Sasso
Illustrated by Annie Bowler

What part of God’s creation is best? The land, the rain, the plants, the sun? God’s beautiful creation is on display, but in A Very BIG Problem, there’s an argument. What does God love most? The theme repeats as each element of creation argues “God should love us most”.

Thank you, Flyaway Books! FTC Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

The illustrations and the text paired well together in this book. I loved how this story conveys a moral message for both adults and kids alike. I could also see this book possibly being used in the Orff method of music education, because there’s a lot of potential in the story for acting out movement or making sound.


Gladys Aylward The Adventure of a Lifetime

Christian Heroes: Then & Now Gladys Aylward The Adventure of a Lifetime by Janet & Geoff Benge

Gladys Aylward aspired to be a missionary to the people of China. As a young woman, she enrolled in missionary training school, but was devastated when she was told by the school director that she was not good enough to be a missionary. Perhaps, he told her, she should be a maid in China instead. Glady was determined to make a way, and through her through her faith, she became a missionary, reaching many for Christ.

Thank you, YWAM Publishing! FTC Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

This book is very inspirational and shows a very strong role model for young women in particular. I liked that it showed how strong Gladys Aylward was in striving for her God-given vision. She believed in her heart that she had to go to China, and she didn’t give up, even after being told by someone in authority that she wasn’t good enough. Gladys believed that she had a mission to go tell people about God, and the obstacles didn’t stop her. Her faith pushed her to keep going, and that can inspire any Christian. This book is highly recommended!


George Muller: The Guardian of Bristol’s Orphans

Christian Heroes: Then & Now George Muller The Guardian of Bristol’s Orphans

A young man spends in his time partying in the pub and stealing from his father. When he’s told he has to become a minister, he can’t wait to see he can deceive and scam his congregation out of their money. Somehow, this guy with shady morals grows up to becomes an honest, sincere, and devout Christian. He develops a heart to help all the orphans he can, and he preaches to people in many countries. This is the life story of George Muller.

FTC Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

This book is one in a series of many written by Janet and Geoff Benge. The writing style reminded me of many books I enjoyed in junior high, but I did enjoy this book very much. There are lots of historical details that taught me something new including the plight of the poor in England and the struggle that orphans faced. The story of George Muller’s life is exciting! There were many unexpected changes of circumstance and this story is very inspirational. I would recommend this book to all ages for a look at how much faith can motivate a person to do great things for others.


For Beautiful Black Boys Who Believe in a Better World

How does a young boy respond when he sees senseless shootings happening in the world around him? How can a father respond to his son’s questions? For Beautiful Black Boys Who Believe in a Better World takes us inside the world of a young boy, Jeremiah, and how he reacts to the events happening around him. For Beautiful Black Boys mentions many shootings that have been featured on the national news.

For Beautiful Black Boys shows the strong role model of a great father guiding his child. The illustrations by Keisha Morris are a perfect compliment to the writing of Michael W. Waters. This book will make a great addition to any classroom where justice, kindness, and equality are desired outcomes. This will also make a great resource for a children’s library that wants to send the message that everyone is welcomed and everyone matters.

FTC Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.


Throwback Thursday

Book Review

Faith by Lyn Cote

It’s Throwback Thursday! Here’s a book review pulled from the archives. This one is Faith by Lyn Cote, from the Quaker Brides series.

Cover: Faith

Faith Cathwell, a Quaker nurse working on the Civil War battlefield, is the title character and narrator of Lyn Cote’s latest novel, FaithFaith is a historical read, so it takes the reader back to a much different time. As a nurse, Faith is disparaged for being female, and as a Quaker, her religion goes against the practice of slavery.

There’s an element of romance to this novel as well, and it doesn’t take long to see it. Shortly after Colonel Devlin Knight shows up, it doesn’t take long to recognize the chemistry between Faith and Devlin. In a very predictable fashion, she fights her feelings, he fights his, and they are both at an impasse when you just want to say “Get together already!”

Cover: Faith

There’s an element of romance to this novel as well, and it doesn’t take long to see it. Shortly after Colonel Devlin Knight shows up, it doesn’t take long to recognize the chemistry between Faith and Devlin. In a very predictable fashion, she fights her feelings, he fights his, and they are both at an impasse when you just want to say “Get together already!”

Faith is 364 pages and it could have been pruned down… some of the writing didn’t add much in terms of scenery, detail, or plot. However, Faith may be an enjoyable read for female readers who want a romantic novel that doesn’t bear all, and especially for those who enjoy reading books written set in a different era.

FTC Disclosure: Tyndale House Publishers has provided me with a free copy of this book.


It’s Throwback Thursday

A Flashback Book Review

Your Money Map

by Howard Dayton

Have you ever felt lost when it comes to your money?

It can be easy to feel clueless on what to do, where to turn to, and who to listen to for advice. When it comes to bills, savings, and investing, it can feel overwhelming. Lots of people say they want to be rich, but many just don’t know where to start when it comes to the goal of getting out of debt. Howard Dayton’s book, Your Money Map, doesn’t claim to make you rich, but it does provide a strategy for financial freedom.

FTC Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

If you’re familiar with Dave Ramsey’s “baby steps” method of getting out of debt, it’s easy to compare the two. But I have to say I recommend Dayton’s Your Money Map more. This book, this teacher, and this method are more approachable, accessible, and compassionate. Your Money Map uses the tale (fictional or real, who knows) of the married couple Matt and Jennifer who meet author Howard Dayton and his wife. The Daytons share with Matt and Jennifer their progress towards financial freedom, and in each “destination” towards financial freedom, they share their struggles, goals, and how they conquered problems that popped up. In the book, the Daytons act as mentors and friends for this young couple. They give honest advice but they refrain from judging the young couple from any mistakes they may have made or any lack of knowledge they didn’t act on.

I’ve read several books on personal finance, and books in general have to be very special to earn a permanent spot on my bookshelf. I just don’t have the room to keep all the books I read. Your Money Map by Howard Dayton gets kudos for several reasons. Unlike other books on personal finance, it is general enough to apply to people in many different life circumstances: whether you’re married or single, whether you have kids or don’t have kids, whether you have lots of debt or a little, you’ll probably get something out of this book. You would have to be very advanced in your journey towards financial freedom to get nothing out of this book, in which case, you probably wouldn’t be reading it anyway. I would highly recommend Your Money Map to anyone interested in empowering themselves towards their best financial destiny.


The Active Word of God

Hebrews 4:12 (NIV) 

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

New Book- The Nations Rage

How do world governments react to Christianity? How do world leaders react when their systems are threatened by Christians? How would businesses react to a massive amount of people deciding they suddenly want to become Christians, changing how they spend their money? Would these governments have a reaction? Would these world leaders react? Would these businesses react?

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

The clear, obvious answer for David Sliker is a resounding yes. In his new book The Nations Rage, Sliker makes a case for how disruptive Christianity can be, and how much anger it can provoke. He points to the Bible to show how angry leaders have reacted in the past when people in their regions suddenly converted to Christianity. These conversions caused changes, which disrupted the status quo.

Sliker takes the idea of rage towards Christianity and connects it to current events. He also predicts that there will be a revival in the future which will stoke anger on the part of world leaders.

The Nations Rage does not go into detail on the Book of Revelation, but if you’re interested in Bible prophecy, you might like this book. It’s also a good pick for those interested in getting some more context to go with their Bible verses.

Deliver Us

What do moments of desperation in life look like? Does the Bible offer any words of comfort or encouragement when we’re trapped in these moments of desperation? In Michelle Howe’s new book Deliver Us, she explores the idea that when we’re trapped in a hopeless situation, there is hope.

This book is written in a similar format to her other book published by Hendrickson publishers, Giving Thanks for a Perfectly Imperfect Life. Just like in Giving Thanks…, every chapter contains quotes, Scripture, conclusion thoughts, and a sample prayer that you can pray yourself (or use as inspiration to create your own prayer.

This time in Deliver Us, instead of a focus on gratitude, it’s a focus on desperation, but not in a bad way. Perhaps you can see yourself, a friend, or a loved one, in the following desperate situations:

  • Dealing with depression
  • Loving a family member that disrespects you
  • Caregiving for a difficult parent
  • Living as an orphan
  • Loving a needy grandchild
  • Enduring after an accident has changed your life
  • Surviving a financial crisis
  • Sticking with a marriage in spite of difficulties that make you feel disappointed and let down
  • Living life as a widow after the death of your spouse
  • Caught in the middle in a dispute between two family members or two friends
  • Feeling hopeless due to joblessness
  • Living with addiction

There are many, many more real-life scenarios that Howe uses as examples of the desperation people feel. All of the examples are realistic, and it’s easy to see why someone in each situation would be frustrated.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Howe shows how difficult and how frustrating each situation can make a person feel. The take-home point she wants people to carry with them after reading this book is that God is the ultimate source of refuge throughout all of life’s troubles.

She doesn’t dive too deep into Scripture, which might actually be welcomed to people who are in tough times and need to feel like they have a “listening ear” so to speak. A Psalms is used as an introduction before each story, and this unifies the stories. Overall, I would recommend this book to those going through difficult times or to those who want to better understand the struggles faced by those around them.

What’s in Your Mind Today?

How are you feeling today? An adult may be able to explain what’s going on in his or her mind, but for a child that’s feeling troubled, it might be a little more difficult to pinpoint the problem. Louise Bladen’s new book What’s in Your Mind Today? attempts to explain that negative thoughts are not permanent, and they will go away.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

This picture book shows children with varying situations. One child doesn’t have a lot of thoughts happening, while another child has lots of scary thoughts. The continuous theme throughout the book is that we are all different, and that thoughts are temporary. This book would probably be a very helpful resource for professionals working with young children (teachers, counselors, therapists, and so on).

Sansei And Sensibility

What would it look like if the beloved Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice were to enter a new era and somehow become the captain of a football team? This is one of many ideas that became Sansei and Sensibility, a book of stories by Karen Tei Yamashita.

This book doesn’t seem like a book that is read for pleasure. It seems more like the kind of literature that is read in college for educational purposes. Yamashita was a National Book Award Finalist, so I don’t doubt her talent for crafting a piece of written artwork that shows precision or skill.

Liking a book is similar to ordering food at a restaurant: shall you order a burger? What about a steak? Red wine or white wine? The skill level of the chef if the same, but if it’s not what you ordered, you won’t be satisfied.

So it is with this book. If you expect a light, fluffy, read, you will not be satisfied. If you expect a heavy, academic read, you will probably be satisfied. I was expecting something more like a mass-produced fiction book that can easily be read in the weekend, and I couldn’t finish this book, despite trying several times. I think I can still say that the author has talent. It’s just not my cup of tea.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Where the Best Stories Hide

Nicholas can’t help it; class is boring! He decided he would find another way to keep himself occupied. He takes us on a journey Where the Best Stories Hide.

Roman Yasiejko gives us a fun, sing-songy cadence with enjoyable rhymes. Ben Whitehouse gives us fun, colorful illustrations that are full of imagination. A stern teacher, a knight, and a castle are featured in this fun picture book. Where the Best Stories Hide is an adventure that your child will certainly enjoy!

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Little Mole Finds Hope

What do you do when you feel like you’re in despair? What do you do when you feel like there’s no hope? Kids and adults alike suffer from these same feelings. It’s a dark place.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Little Mole Finds Hope tells the story of a little mole stuck in that dark place. The mama mole encourages the little mole every chance she can. For every time the little mole thinks that there is no hope, the mama tells her child to try to see it in a different way. Illustrator Sally Garland uses gray to tell the story of the sadness the little mole feels; this is very effective.

Little Mole Finds Hope is a sweet story that shows the loving bond between a mother and her child. It shows how a mother’s natural response would be to help her child when he or she is stuck in a sad place. This book also includes a guide at the back for families to help children who may be feeling sad.

This Is The Church

What is the church? Where is the church? Who is the church? Sometimes children’s books tackle the big questions in life better than books written for adults. Theologians may try to explain what the church is, but this kids book does it just fine. This Is The Church sums it all up. I loved the beautiful illustrations in this book, but what I loved more was that it didn’t shy away from important things, like the fact that some people in other countries have to hide to go to church. This, of course, is explained in a kid-friendly way that won’t scare your child (there will be no hiding under the bed from monsters after reading this book!). This Is The Church is a perfect book for kids (and adults) to remember what the church truly is.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Broken Roads by Ira Wagler

How comfortable would you be with opening your heart up to strangers about painful events in your life? Ira Wagler grew up in the Amish community, departed it, and tells his story of how he basically started from scratch, and dealt with his family’s reaction, afterward.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

In Broken Roads, Wagler’s voice is welcoming, open, and honest. It is obvious in the that he loves his family; they simply have their differences. Wagler shows how working and going to school as a college student was such a liberating, refreshing experience, one that he would not have had, had he stayed in the Amish community. Broken Roads is a recommended book for anyone interested in learning more about the Amish lifestyle as well as how it contrasts with “the English”.

Giving Thanks for a Perfectly Imperfect Life

Are you a perfectionist? Perhaps you aren’t, but maybe you know someone who is. Michelle Howe will admit, she is a perfectionist, and if you are a perfectionist, you too strive for perfection. How can the words “perfectly imperfect” make sense? This is the theme of Howe’s new book, Giving Thanks for a Perfectly Imperfect Life. Perfectly Imperfect – what is it? What does it look like? Can that ever even make sense?

DISCLOSURE: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher, Hendrickson Publishers, in exchange for my honest review.

Every chapter contains very interesting stories to illustrate the concept in question. A lot of these examples will be realistic and relevant to women. Whether it’s friendships, dealing with relationships, or dealing with the trap of comparison, these stories are ones that you or your friends can probably relate to.

Even if you’re not a perfectionist, you walk the same life journey as someone who is. You have a past, a present, and a future. Past, present, and future are three life themes that Michelle Howe discusses early on in the book. Hopes, dreams, and desires – those can be tricky to reconcile and there can be struggles on the way. Hopes, dreams, and desires are dealt with briefly in this book. Our relationships, our vocations, our living environment – these aren’t trivial things, they can make a big difference in our lives, and whether you are a perfectionist or not, you can see how choices or circumstances can cause happiness or unhappiness in these areas. Howe touches on these points with a chapter dedicated to each. The Lord’s timing, our expectations, and our joy are certainly factors in our lives whether we are perfectionists or not, and these are also explored in later chapters.

Each chapter of Giving Thanks for a Perfectly Imperfect Life opens with a verse; some chapters also include a quote from a famous Christian figure, such as Elisabeth Elliott. The end of each chapter provides a sample prayer that you can pray (if you can’t find the words). There’s also a “Take-Away Action Thought” that coincides with the real-life story told; you could even write it down if it resonates with you.

There are also recommended action steps for further growth provided at the end of each chapter. For example, to further “give thanks”, Michelle Howe encourages readers to keep a gratitude journal. She encourages that this list be of everything that a person is grateful for, whether large or small.

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