Friday, February 28, 2014

Asia: Its People and History {a Review}

homeschool geography
My teen boys, back a few years ago, spent a lovely schoolyear learning about Asia, Africa, and a whole lot about the 10/40 Window.

My little ones (Trina is 8, Richard is 9) really haven't had a chance to learn anything about these areas, and it is something I really want to do again.  Just not so intense.

So Asia: Its People and History by Bonnie Rose sounded like it really could fit the bill and be just what I need.  Sixteen weeks, six countries, sounds perfect, right?

What I found is that this isn't something that I can use for sixteen weeks, but we do really like this resource.

I sat down and immediately flipped to the Suggested Reading pages at the end of the book.  Because I'm all about extra reading, and any unit study type of thing I've ever done has demanded that I add extra reading.  I was thrilled to find that some of the suggestions were available online, and most were available at my library.

I let my kids vote on a country -- Laos, Bangladesh, Nepal, China, Iran, or Vietnam.  That is one beautiful thing about this study -- each country is an independent little unit, and you don't have to go in order.  Good thing, too.  My kids both begged for Vietnam.

Vietnam is one of the countries that is scheduled for two weeks (Laos and Bangladesh are intended for four weeks, everything else is two), and I thought that would be perfect.

Now here is where I was a little surprised.  Week 15 has you reading and discussing "Through the Graveyard," a short story included in this book.  We spent 15-20 minutes doing that, and had some fabulous discussion.  Then I looked to see what we were supposed to do next, and I realized that was the extent of the entire week.  We went ahead and grabbed a map, found Vietnam on a map, discussed where it was in relation to some other places we knew (Sochi and the Olympics, Japan, Korea) and called it a day.

The next day, we started Week 16, which has history about Vietnam, and a section called "What Life Is Like for Christians in Vietnam."  We read through both of those -- and loved them -- and then we turned to the activity page, where we were to unscramble facts about Vietnam.

That was frustrating, as the majority of the questions were things that were not covered in any of the reading we had done within the unit.  We still worked together to figure it all out.

The following day, I pulled up the Suggested Reading selection online.  We started working through that, and that definitely added to the experience and helped us to feel like we were really learning about Vietnam.

persecution of Christians
After that one week on Vietnam, honestly, I was a bit frustrated.  I wasn't really sure what to do with the rest of this study, or what to write in this review.  So we took a week off.  And I thought about it.  And my kids started asking me questions about life in Vietnam, and they started asking questions about the Vietnam War.  And when something came up in another setting about India, and it was mentioned that India is in Asia, the kids wanted to know if Christians in India are persecuted too.

What I realized was that I was focusing on the wrong things with this particular book.  I was focused on quantity, on them getting information.  And while I thought the story was fantastic, really drawing my kids in and helping them to identify with Hao (the 16-year-old in the Graveyard story), and while I learned quite a bit from the history section, and while the portion about life for Christians was fascinating for all of us, it just didn't feel like enough.

I still think it isn't enough -- but really, adding some time with a globe, or some additional reading isn't that hard.  I wish maps were included for all of the countries.  I wish there were some suggestions for other things that could be done, maybe some links to photos from the country or something.


Now I also am appreciating the simplicity.  The information and stories in this book are top-notch.  The extra resources suggested are also pretty incredible.

My attitude changed as we started Nepal.  And my expectations were different as well.

So my bottom line:  this inexpensive resource is a great launching point for a truly neat study of a handful of countries in Asia, providing a great introduction and most particularly giving some of the things you aren't likely to find in the multitude of little picture books your library has with original names like Iran or Learning About Iran.  Each country (except China) in this study has a section called "What Life is Like for Christians in..."  Each country has stories about life for Christian men, women, teens or children.  Each country has a history section that I ended up requiring my teens to listen to as well.

That is probably the most surprising part for me.  I ended up drawing my teens in to listen to this, and did the "extra stuff" with the younger two.  I did not anticipate that.

Bonnie Rose is also talking about a second volume, and that may be the other thing that surprises me as I'm at the point of writing this review.  I'm likely to purchase that. 

If you are interested in buying this book, there are several options to do so:
Or you could win my giveaway!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer:  As a member of the Bonnie Rose Hudson Promo Team, I received this book in exchange for my honest review and promotion.  No other compensation was received.  I am disclosing this information in compliance with FTC Regulations.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

It Had to be You {a Tyndale House review}

Every time I write a review of a book by Susan May Warren, I end up gushing about how she is my favorite author.

This time is no exception.

It Had to be You is the second book in the Christiansen Family series, another series that takes place in the fictional northern Minnesota town of Deep Haven.  I love, love, love when Susan writes stories based in Minnesota.  This one is even better, for me, because while Eden Christiansen is from Deep Haven, and portions of the novel do take place there, most of the story happens in the Twin Cities.

The book opens with Eden on a date at "Stub & Herbs, a restaurant located a couple blocks from the offices of her old haunt, The Minnesota Daily newspaper."  Susan had me hooked, as I would describe the same place as "Sturbs, a bar (well, it was more of a bar back in my day) located a couple of blocks from my old office at The Minnesota Daily."

Eden's occasional references to her time at the Daily had me guessing that Susan May Warren probably worked there when she was a student too, but that was probably a year or two (not much more than that) before my stint there.  It also got me wondering just where I stashed my bright red Minnesota Daily sweatshirt.  But I digress.

The point of all of the above rambling is that Susan writes Minnesota fabulously well.  Her descriptions of places most certainly ring true -- even the places that are "fictional" like Sammy's Bar and Grill in St. Paul.  I know it is a pretend place, owned by a character in this story, but nestled in among real sights on real streets, it just fits in.

The publisher has this to say about the story:
Eden Christiansen never imagined her role as her younger brother Owen’s cheerleader would keep her on the sidelines of her own life. Sure, it feels good to be needed, but looking after the reckless NHL rookie leaves little time for Eden to focus on her own career. She dreamed of making a name for herself as a reporter, but is stuck writing obits—and starting to fear she doesn’t have the chops to land a major story. If only someone would step up to mentor Owen . . . but she knows better than to expect help from team veteran and bad-boy enforcer Jace Jacobsen.

Jace has built his career on the infamous reputation of his aggressive behavior—on and off the ice. Now at a crossroads about his future in hockey, that reputation has him trapped. And the guilt-trip he’s getting from Eden Christiansen isn’t making things any easier. But when Owen’s carelessness leads to a career-threatening injury and Eden stumbles upon a story that could be her big break, she and Jace are thrown together . . . and begin to wonder if they belong on the same team after all.
What did I think?  Well, besides loving that this was set in places I know reasonably well, I really enjoyed learning more about another member of the Christiansen family.  Eden was likeable, alternating between being really confident and floundering, unsure of herself at all.

The greatest part, of course, is all the other issues that come up in the story.  Organ donors, following your dreams, snap judgments, violence in sports (this is, after all, a hockey story!) and much more.  Susan May Warren always gets me to think.

The only downsides, which I probably notice just because of some of the other things I've been reading lately, are that everyone is always drop-dead gorgeous and a bit "unreal" in that aspect, and sometimes I feel like the kid in The Princess Bride, asking "Is this a kissing book?"

Oh, and before I forget, a bonus in this book is a few-chapter novella at the end that tells the story of the Christiansen family parents -- John and Ingrid.  It made me feel old though!  Reading about their summers in Deep Haven in the 70s with 8-tracks playing The Bee Gees.  Happy Birthday to me (yes, I read the novella on my birthday) with a reminder that I'm old enough to be the mom of all these Christiansen kids.

I loved the book.  And the novella too.  Check it out.  Of course, you can read about the first Christiansen Family novel, Take a Chance on Me, from when I reviewed it before.  I'd start with that one, but these books do stand alone.

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

Water & Weather {a Moms of Master Books review}

As part of the Moms of Master Books, every month, I have the chance to explore one of the new resources put out by New Leaf Publishing Group, specifically the homeschooling arm of Master Books.

This month, I've been looking at the newest book in a series of Elementary Science titles -- Water & Weather.  Written by Tom DeRosa and Carolyn Reeves, this title lives up to its Investigate the Possibilities predecessors!

The publisher has this to say about the book:
  • Learn about zones in the ocean, from warm, clear water to the deepest, coldest places
  • Find out the facts about the weather cycle, earth's purification system, weather instruments, and more!
  • Discover the important connection between water and fossils—how this helped to form, alter, and reveal them
Science unfolds as activities bring alive the natural curiosity of children. This new title covers not only the weather and varying climates around the world, but explores the results of weather events in the past. The great Flood was a cataclysmic event that left behind fossils, and these impressions reveal much about what happened during and after this historical event. Form a connection between this biblical history and the world experienced outside your door as natural processes like rain and wind are shown to be forces at work in the environment!
Because I'm not really in a position of making a decision about the resource before I receive it, I hadn't truly read the description of the book prior to receiving it.  I saw the cover, read the title, and assumed that we'd be learning about water cycles, weather patterns, climate, ocean zones, etc.

I'll confess that I was a little taken aback when I grabbed to book to do the first lesson with my 2nd and 4th graders (the ideal range for this entire series is 3rd-6th grade) and it started off with all kinds of activities involving measuring dinosaurs. 

Going back and more thoroughly reading the subtitle (From the Flood to Forecasts) and the description of the book, I shouldn't have been surprised.  My kids, to be quite honest, felt a little cheated.  "Mom, we already know this flood stuff.  I thought we were going to learn about weather NOW."

The book breaks down to:
  • six lessons about geology/paleontology/etc
  • four lessons on the ocean 
  • three lessons on rivers and the water cycle
  • six lessons (and a biography) on weather
  • one lesson on climate change
My kids really did not want to do those first six lessons.

For kids who are not surrounded by young-earth creation resources most of the time, those first lessons are interesting, with all the signature marks of this series -- getting the kids in there doing something, and then investigating the science involved.

Maybe the Water & Weather Teacher Guide gives a bit more of a heads-up to the parent as to how the first portion of the book relates to the whole theme of the book?  I don't know, as I haven't seen that portion of this program.  I can tell you that this book is completely usable without the Teacher Guide though.

When we skipped ahead and started looking at the ocean lessons, my kids were fascinated.  Using materials like a half-gallon milk carton and water, the kids had the chance to truly see how water pressure works, for instance.  And the photos provided in the book are beautiful.

In looking ahead, I really love the weather lessons and cannot wait to get to those.  That section has the kids building a lot of their own weather equipment, such as a wind vane, barometer, and rain gauge.  That's just one lesson.  Other lessons focus on clouds, forecasts, winds, and more.

This really is a great book.  I just wish I had been a bit more prepared for the "how big is a dinosaur?" lesson that starts the book off.

You can go see what other Moms of Master Books have to say about Galapagos Islands

There is a Book and a Treat Facebook party coming up tonight, February 25 at 7 pm Central Time, where you could win cool prizes as shown above -- and discuss the book too. 

Disclaimer:   I received this book 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 complimentary products does not guarantee a favorable review.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Where Courage Calls {a LitFuse review}

It's no secret that I enjoy Christian fiction set a hundred or so years ago, particularly when it is taking place on the Plains or Rocky Mountains.  So Where Courage Calls by Janette Oke and Laurel Oke Logan was right up my alley.

This story takes place in the Rocky Mountains -- in Canada.  The story starts in Toronto, as Beth is having a farewell party hosted by her mother, before she heads out west to teach school.

The publisher has this to say:
Her courage and her heart will be tested in ways she never expected . . .
Beth Thatcher has spent her entire life in the safe, comfortable world of her family, her friends, and the social outings her father's wealth provides. But Beth is about to leave it all behind to accept a teaching position in the rugged foothills of western Canada. Inspired by her aunt Elizabeth, who went west to teach school several years ago, and gently encouraged by her father, Beth resolves to put her trust in God and bravely face any challenge that comes her way.
But the conditions in Coal Valley are even worse than she'd feared. A recent mining accident has left the town grieving and at the mercy of the mining company. The children have had very little prior education, and many of the locals don't even speak English. There isn't even a proper schoolhouse. In addition, Beth's heart is torn between two young men---both Mounties, one a lifelong friend and the other a kind, quiet man who comes to her aid more than once.
Despite the many challenges, Beth is determined to make a difference in the rustic frontier town. But when her sister visits from the East, reminding her of all the luxuries she's had to give up, will Beth decide to return to her privileged life as soon as the school year is over?

My thoughts:  This was an enjoyable book to read.  The characters were complex, and everyone seemed to grow in the course of the school year that the novel covers.  There were so many folks in this story that I really cared about -- Beth, of course.  But also the widowed mothers of her students who are struggling so much to provide something better for their children.

This sounds wrong, but with my work at the food pantry out here in a rural (but not nearly as poverty-stricken) Southern Rocky Mountain region, I couldn't help but picture some of the women I've met through the pantry as I read this novel.  The town where Beth is teaching is in need of so much more than just some readin' 'ritin' and 'rithmetic -- there are hungry children, impossible-to-pay medical bills, distrust, prejudice -- in short, a society not all that different from ours today.

I was told in food pantry today that some families are scared to come in to get food, even though they need it and even though they have a green card, because they are afraid that asking for help will get them into trouble.  I found myself thinking of them as I read about the Italian miners in the story.

In short, even though this takes place sometime in the 1920's, so very much of it rings true to life today.  I want to be more like Beth, reaching out and bringing people hope, bringing people together.  Reading this book has already changed me.


Janette Oke's newest book, Where Courage Calls (co-written with her daughter, Laurel Oke Logan), is receiving rave reviews. It is the companion story to Hallmark Channel's TV series When Calls the Heart, set in the Canadian west.

Janette and Laurel are celebrating with an iPad Mini giveaway and a Facebook author chat party on March 4th.


One winner will receive:
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on March 4th. Winner will be announced at the Where Courage Calls Facebook Party on March 4th. Connect with Janette and Laurel for an evening of book chat, trivia, laughter, and more!

So grab your copy of Where Courage Calls and join Janette and Laurel on the evening of March 4th for a chance to connect and make some new friends. (If you haven't read the book, don't let that stop you from coming!)

Don't miss a moment of the fun; RSVP today by clicking JOIN on the event page. Tell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 4th!

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

Thursday, February 20, 2014

The A-Z of C. S. Lewis {a LitFuse review}

One thing you need to know about my family is that my oldest son, Connor, is a huge fan of almost anything C. S. Lewis.  Always has been.  Probably always will be.  He reads not just the fiction, but the non-fiction, and is always on the lookout for a title he doesn't yet own.

So, when the opportunity to review The A-Z of C. S. Lewis by Colin Duriez presented itself, it took me no time at all to decide if I wanted to review this.  Of course I did.   I didn't even have to read the book description to know Connor would be interested.

I was right too.  It came in the mail, I opened it and saw the front cover.  So did Connor.  He practically snatched it out of my hands, and I didn't see the book again until I threatened him today with, "I will NEVER EVER review something with you in mind if you don't give me back that book NOW."

He brought it to me, and spent a good hour to an hour and a half telling me all the reasons he loves this title.  Well, okay, we also discussed topics like what time he needs to be up tomorrow, and whether or not there is a book like this for J. R. R. Tolkien.  What can I say, we're a bit distracted in our conversations.

But first, this from the Publisher:
Published to coincide with the 50th anniversary of C. S. Lewis's death, this complete guide covers all of Lewis' works, from his literary criticism to Narnia.

C. S. Lewis's work is widely known and regarded, but enthusiasts are often only aware of one part of his work-his children's stories and his popular theology; and yet he wrote so much more, including science fiction and literary criticism. This volume brings together all aspects of C S Lewis's life and thought. Arranged in alphabetical order, it begins with The Abolition of Man-written in 1943 and described as "almost my favorite"-to Wormwood, a character in The Screwtape Letters. This book will delight anyone who is interested in C. S. Lewis and wants to learn more about him, his thought, his works, and his life.
So, a basic synopsis of what Connor had to say, mingled with my impressions after spend a bit of time leafing through and reading entries here and there.

First off, this book is exactly what the subtitle says it is "An encyclopedia of his life, thought and writings."  Don't let that word "encyclopedia" scare you though.  Although I'm sure a huge, heavy encyclopedia volume (or two) could be written about Lewis, this isn't it.  This is a nice, novel-sized hardcover book that you can read without exhausting your wrist and arm muscles.

A great part of this volume is that after you get to Z -- the final entry is Zardeenah, a Calormene moon goddess in The Horse and His Boy -- there are lists of Writings of C. S. Lewis, Posthumous writings and collections, and a Select list of book about C. S. Lewis. 

As for the encyclopedia part, there are entries for all sorts of things, and the entries range from brief and matter-of-fact, to fairly lengthy descriptions that are actually fairly concise summaries of that particular topic.

Connor loves that it doesn't mention every character in every book, or every milestone, so you don't get bogged down in excruciating detail.  However, there is enough there that you can find many characters, events, people and themes.

If you are looking for information about his writings (Narnia, Til We Have Faces, ...) there is a lot there.  If you want to learn more about his friends (such as Tolkien), there is a lot there.  Or if you want to see his thoughts about a subject (Romantic Theology) in a concise manner, that is there too.

This is a fun book to just pick up and thumb through, reading whatever catches your fancy.

I highly recommend this one.

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

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Sinners' Garden {a LitFuse Review}

Something about the publisher's description of The Sinners' Garden by William Sirls really intrigued me.  I'll let you read the description yourself:
In the small Lake Erie township of Benning, someone is at work cultivating a supernatural garden . . .

Andy Kemp's young life has been as ravaged as his scarred face. Disfigured by an abusive father, the teenager hides behind his books and an impenetrable wall of cynicism and anger.

As Andy's mother struggles to reconnect with him, his Uncle Rip returns transformed from a stint in prison and wants to be a mentor to the reclusive boy, doing everything he can to help end Andy's pain. When Andy begins hearing strange music through his iPod and making near-prophetic announcements, Rip is convinced that what Andy is hearing is the voice of God.

Elsewhere, police officer Heather Gerisch responds to a late-night breaking and entering in one of the poorest homes in town. She soon realizes that the masked prowler has left thousands of dollars in gift cards from a local grocery store. As the bizarre break-ins continue and Heather pursues the elusive "Summer Santa," Andy and Rip discover an enormous and well-kept garden of wildflowers that seems to have grown overnight at an abandoned steel mill.

Soon, they realize who the gardener is, and a spree of miracles transfigures this small town from a place of hopelessness into a place of healing and beauty.
My thoughts:  I loved it.  Some things were a little predictable, but I had a hard time figuring out exactly HOW those things would occur, or how the characters would figure it out.  Other plot twists threw me for a loop.  And some had me thinking one thing in one chapter, another thing a couple chapters later, yet another another chapter further on, and then back to a combination of "idea 1" and "idea 2" -- only to find out that I was off track most of the book.

I like that in a mystery type of book, not that this is exactly a mystery.  I like being spot-on sometimes, completely off track on others, and continually guessing with parts of it too.

The characters -- especially the men -- are well-written, and well-rounded.  Unlike many of the books I end up reading, very few are described in a bunch of detail physically, though you know Rip is pretty muscular, Andy's face is scarred, and Chloe is beautiful, inside and out.  Mostly, though, everyone just seems like normal, flawed, imperfect people.  I love books that have characters who aren't perfect.

There is a supernatural aspect to this, with things like the flowers and the messages through the broken iPod, which I thought was fun.

Loved the book, and I'll look for more by William Sirls.

Meet William Sirls: Once a senior vice president in a large investment firm, he was incarcerated in 2007 for wire fraud and money laundering. Life lessons involving faith, grace, and forgiveness are evident in his writing. The Sinners’ Garden is his second novel.

William is celebrating the book's release with an iPad giveaway.


One winner will receive:
  • A brand new iPad Mini
  • The Sinners' Garden by William Sirls
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on March 1st. Winner will be announced March 3rd on William Sirls' blog.


Don’t miss a moment of the fun; enter today and be sure to stop by William’s blog on the 3rd to see if you won.


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


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Ultimate Young Learners Giveaway!

As part of the launch of Hal and Melanie Young's new book, My Beloved and My Friend, they are doing a number of big giveaways.  I reviewed this book a while back, and it is even better now.

There are a few different giveaways going on this week, so go poke around and see if you can find some of the others.  This one focuses on Elementary ages, with some pretty neat products like Wonder Maps from Bright Ideas Press.

Our second HUGE giveaway is a collection of products we believe are just perfect for Homeschooling elementary aged students! This is another FABULOUS collection of products you are sure to love!

We Early Spring NaturExplorers Bundle from Shining Dawn Books
Homeschooling With Proverbs from Media Angels
Seasons At Home Magazine Subscription from The Joyous Home
$30 Gift Certificate from A Journey Through Learning
Excelerate SPANISH DVD for Lessons 1-6 From Caryn at Excelerate SPANISH
31 Days in Psalm 37 from Doorposts
Learning To Treasure God's Word: A Study of Psalm 119 from Character Corner
Training and Correcting the Heart with Scripture from Character Corner
WonderMaps From Bright Ideas Press
Illuminations Year One from Bright Ideas Press
A Young Scholar's Guide to Composers from Bright Ideas Press
Young Readers Collection from Heritage History
Schoolhouse Teacher's Membership from The Old Schoolhouse
$30 Gift Certificate from Sallie Borrink Learning

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Bountiful Baskets: February 8

It has been a very long day, starting off with Bountiful Baskets bright and early.  I am going to like doing Friday evenings.  Hopefully that starts this coming week.

Here is a photo of my basket today.  Taken by Richard, who didn't quite grasp that there was a difference between cucumbers and zucchini, so you can't really tell there are two different products there.

Included is:
  • 4 leeks
  • 1 bunch lettuce
  • a lot of broccoli
  • 4 cucumbers
  • 5 cute little zucchini
  • 2 6-oz packages blackberries
  • 1 pound strawberries
  • 2 2-pound bags Granny Smith apples
  • 5 oranges
  • 11 bananas
Other than the fact that I'm making blackberry jam (I also contributed for a case of blackberries!), and that kids will eat the other fruit, I haven't even begun to consider what I'm doing with it all.

Oh, and I'll probably need to do a stir-fry with the broccoli, because Dale will be home and that's about the only way he'll eat that.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Secrets of Happy Families {a LitFuse Review}

Today I get to talk to you about a book I've been reading, The Secrets of Happy Families by Bruce Feiler.

Before I even try to tell you about it, I have to say that I was skeptical about this.  So many self-help parenting types of books out there just aren't worth the time it takes to read them, much less the time involved in reading and reviewing.

Something about this description from the publisher grabbed me though:
The book that revolutionized our view of what makes families happy . . .

Determined to find the smartest solutions and the most cutting-edge research about families, bestselling author and New York Times family columnist Bruce Feiler gathered team-building exercises and problem-solving techniques from the most creative minds---from Silicon Valley to the Green Berets---and tested these ideas with his wife and kids. The result is a lively, original look at how we can create stronger parent/child relationships, manage the chaos of our lives, teach our kids values and grit, and have more fun together.

The Secrets of Happy Families includes more than two hundred unique practices that will help your family draw closer and make everyone in your home happier. It has already changed the lives of millions of families, and it can do the same for yours.
My thoughts:  I am really enjoying this.  Feiler keeps the tone light and fun, and the amusing and oh-so-very-real stories keep me turning the pages.

I can tell you straight away that I won't be implementing all of the ideas given in the book, but almost all of them at least make me think about how we are doing things and why.

Feiler talked to experts in all sorts of areas where group dynamics are important, but avoided all the traditional "family experts" in his research.  He then adapted what he was finding, and tried things with his family.  This means that you are not going to read the 'same old, same old' advice, but you will hear fresh and unique ideas. 

One idea/chapter that I love talks about not worrying about "family dinner" at all.  The ideas in that chapter are fabulous.  How about a family breakfast?  Or family dessert?  Or a huge Sunday afternoon meal?

Fresh, funny, and actually filled with ideas that seem worth trying out.  Exactly what I want in a "family advice" book.

In The Secrets of Happy Families, New York Times bestselling author Bruce Feiler has drawn up a blueprint for modern families — a new approach to family dynamics, inspired by cutting-edge techniques gathered from experts in the disciplines of science, business, sports, and the military. Written in a charming, accessible style, The Secrets of Happy Families is smart, funny, and fresh, and will forever change how your family lives every day.

Bruce is celebrating the release of his book with a family fun "Happy Family" Kindle HDX giveaway.


One winner will receive:
  • A brand new Kindle Fire HDX
  • The Secrets of Happy Families by Bruce Feiler
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on February 15th. Winner will be announced February 17th on the Litfuse blog.

Don't miss a moment of the fun; enter today and be sure to stop by the Litfuse blog on the 17th to see if you won.


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


Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Unstoppable: Review and Giveaway

Recently, I've had the chance to view a film put out by Provident Films.  They are the folks behind Courageous, October Baby, Fireproof, and Facing the Giants -- all movies my family loved.

Unstoppable features Kirk Cameron, but unlike the movies mentioned above, this one is more of a documentary, exploring the age-old "Why do bad things happen to good people?" question.

This wasn't quite what I expected when I signed on to do this review, but I am used to going with the flow.  I ended up watching this on my own, and I will be sharing it with my kids at some point.

First, here's what the publisher says about the film:
Inspired by the death of Cameron’s close friend who succumbed to cancer at the age of 15, Kirk Cameron takes viewers on an inspiring and hope-filled visual journey to better understand the biggest doubt-raising question in faith: “Where is God in the midst of tragedy and suffering?”
Going back to the beginning—literally—Kirk investigates the origins of good and evil and how they impact our lives … and our eternities. UNSTOPPABLE will prompt audiences to consider the role that pain and suffering has in our lives, as they affirm their personal views on faith, and encourage conversation starters about God, suffering, and hope. 
In theaters for only two weeknights (Sept 24th and Oct 3th, 2013), UNSTOPPABLE: A Live Event with Kirk Cameron sold a staggering 260,000 tickets and reached a theatrical gross of over $3.2 million dollars. In just two nights this independent project sent a loud message – audiences want thought-provoking and meaningful entertainment.   
Kirk Cameron is best known for his memorable role as “Mike Seaver,” a cultural icon of the 80's, with his mullet hairstyle, cool glasses, and wisecracking comebacks. More recently he enjoyed much success with the No. 1 grossing inspirational film of 2008, Fireproof, and his recent documentary, Monumental. Kirk and his wife, Chelsea, were on-screen sweethearts during their Growing Pains years and are the founders of Camp Firefly, where terminally and seriously ill children and their families are provided an all-expense paid retreat ( Together, Kirk and Chelsea live in California with their six children.
My thoughts:

I wasn't really sure I wanted to be watching this.  I mean, I've enjoyed Cameron's roles in other things I've watched recently, but the topic just sounded so depressing.  Why does a 15-year-old fight cancer for ten years, and then die and leave behind a family who is forever missing a member? 

Then I started thinking about the Grief Class happening at my church right now, and some of the video I've seen from that.  Or I think about life when I was in 9th grade, with a huge house fire and then my mother battling cancer.  I spent a couple of years reading everything I could find -- and I mean everything -- about bad things and good people, about positive thinking, about making sense of all the yuck in the world.

I tried to find answers in my church.  I tried to find answers from my friends.  I tried to find answers from my teachers.  I never really found anything.  At least not back then.  It was nearly a decade before I managed to overcome the nonsense messages I did hear at the time.

Watching Unstoppable and trying to see it through those 15-year-old eyes, I really do think this would have really hit a home run for me.  Cameron lays it out -- bad things happen.  We can't fix them.  

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