Thursday, December 20, 2012

Not just Christmas in Apple Ridge

As Christmas is just around the corner, I've been indulging a bit more than usual with Christmas stories. So I jumped at the opportunity to read Christmas in Apple Ridge by Cindy Woodsmall. I had not previously read any of Woodsmall's books so I wasn't quite certain what to expect although I knew they were Amish romances.

Christmas in Apple Ridge is a three in one collection containing The Sound of Sleigh Bells, The Christmas Singing, and The Dawn of Christmas. While each story stands on its own, as the location for each story is Apple Ridge the characters continue to appear in the subsequent tales. Thus, unlike some stories which leave you hanging as to what happens to the couple, you are provided clues and insights into their married lives as well. Unlike many Amish romances I have ride previously, the characters in these stories were all hesitant to marry, thought they would never marry, and had careers beyond what is typical among the Amish. The career focus of even the ladies, while well-respected in their communities, provided them opportunities atypical of most Apple Ridge residents. These opportunities, the older age of the couples, and the expectations of their community combine to create an enjoyable story.

Although this collection is titled Christmas in Apple Ridge and the climax of each story occurs around Christmas, these stories could be read at any time of the year. Several of the stories take place over several months and mention other holidays such as the Fourth of July. They would be an enjoyable read at any time of the year. Anyone who enjoys Amish fiction or pioneer stories would appreciate this book.

My copy of Christmas in Apple Ridge was provided by WaterBrook Multnomah Press in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Warm Christmas Story

If you are looking for a short, heart-warming Christmas story to read while you enjoy the lights of the Christmas tree or for someone on your gift list, do we have a book for you. Author Liz Curtis Higgs has written yet another winner set in Scotland in her Christmas novella A Wreath of Snow. However, this time the time period has changed to the Victorian era a la Dickens' A Christmas Carol.

In this brief novel, Higgs includes all of the trimmings of Christmas tied up with the customs of Scotland. However, in her usual style, Higgs also has several surprises up her sleeves which include romance, some mystery, and a good helping of a dysfunctional family. The overall theme of A Wreath of Snow is the importance of forgiveness and honesty. Although a large number of falsehoods and half-truths are utilized to carry the plot of the story along, Higgs definitely emphasizes that honesty is the best policy and shows how lies can effect families for years and generations. Fortunately, once the truth is allowed to emerge, the two main characters, Meg and Gordon, are finally able to act on their feelings toward each other. I'm quite hopeful that the story of Meg and Gordon will be continued in future stories as the reader is definitely left hanging at the end.

A complimentary copy of this e-book was provided by WaterBrook Press in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

American Patriots

Recently, I finished reading American Patriots: Answering the Call to Freedom by Rick Santorum. While a slim book, American Patriots packs a lot of content and introduces readers to a larger scope of patriots beyond Washington, Henry, and LaFayette. After a brief introduction, Santorum organizes the book into the sections Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. Each section contains an overview of that subject and describes what those terms meant to the founding fathers and people of that time period. Santorum then proceeds to share biographies of various patriots who are less well-known yet were instrumental in the War for Independence.

Santorum includes a variety of individuals and does not limit the selection to "dead, white males." Included are individuals of varying racial and ethnic groups as well as many women. Perusing the table of contents prior to reading the book, I found that all of the individuals listed except for three were unfamiliar to me. While reading the brief biographies of each individual, I found that several are considered regional heroes and would be quite familiar to individuals who live in those regions. Santorum also includes multiple references for individuals who may wish to further research any of these individuals.

American Patriots is recommended for multiple audiences. As Christmas is coming, American Patriots would be a great gift for a history buff. Teachers and home school families would appreciate the behind the scenes information beyond dates and battles American Patriots would add to a unit on the American Revolution. Families who enjoy read-alouds will find this a great resource as each chapter is brief yet meaty enough to elicit great conversation and character building. Our family plans to add this to our read-aloud pile. Individuals who may not agree with Santorum politically will still enjoy the stories of these unsung heroes.

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

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Gentle Frontier Read

An advertisement mentioned Janette Oke fans would enjoy this book. Since Janette Oke was the first Christian author I read and I devoured all of her books, I knew I had to see if Be Still My Soul by Joanne Bischof would live up to this claim.

At the beginning of the story which was originally published as Cry of My Heart, still is not an adjective that describes anything about the characters. Instead,both characters have a horrible home life. Unfortunately, a mostly innocent walk home and a kiss results in a shot gun marriage which neither Gideon or Lonnie desired. This rocky start becomes even rockier as the young couple heads out on their own.

Heading out Gideon and Lonnie experience more than their share of downs as they getto know each other and begin a journey to where they can hopefully find jobs. Completely down on their luck, they are taken in by an elderly couple who love and mentor them particularly when they find Lonnie is expecting. Love grows gradually between the couple as they realize they are the only family they have. The example of a godly marriage is critical in forming a new Christ-honoring family. Heart break is necessary before a strong marital bond can be formed.

The Janette Oke comparison is apt as "love comes softly" between the two young people and they are mentored in marriage by an older couple. Be Still My Soul is a good heart warming story for a chilly fall afternoon or a cold winter's night. The story was enjoyable but not a gripping tale that you can't put down. However, the story was engaging enough that I will watch for the sequel Though My Heart Is Torn slated to published in April, 2013.

As usual, a free copy of this book was provided by Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Girl in the Glass

I recently read Susan Meissner's newest novel The Girl in the Glass. I was previously unfamiliar with Meissner as an author, although I plan to become further acquainted with her work. The initial description of The Girl in the Glass caught my attention due to the juxtaposition of art history and a travel story. Although I haven't traveled much yet, I yearn to do so and thought this story looked interesting. However, as I began to read The Girl in the Glass, the story was not simply interesting, but held me completely captivated unlike many other books I have read recently.

Meissner combines several great stories into one mesmerizing tale. The larger story focuses on Meg, an editor whose lifelong dream is to visit Florence, Italy where her grandmother lived as a child. As part of Meg's story, we become introduced to Sofia whose story ends up holding multiple twists and turns with a very suprising ending. Throughout the story, in between each chapter and through the story of Sofia, we are also introduced to Nora who lived in renaissance Florence. Many other characters appear and help to tie these various stories together in a most surprising way.

Part of what makes The Girl in the Glass so captivating is the mixture of various genres of writing. The Girl in the Glass definitely contains some mysterious qualities although it is not strictly speaking a mystery. There is a definite romantic overtone although it is definitely not a stereotypical romance. It is also part travelogue and part memoir as well, with just enough history thrown in so that the reader understands the Medici family and renaissance Florence.

The Girl in the Glass is published by Waterbrook Press which is a Christian publishing house. As such, I initially read the book expecting church or Christianity references and as is typical in much Christian fiction, a clear presentation of the Gospel. However, all of those elements were missing. One of the characters mentions attending church and there were a few passing references to prayer. Otherwise, I had no idea I was reading a "Christan" novel. Not having read any of Meissner's other works, I am not able to indicate if this is typical of her books or not. The only thing that kept me from thinking this was any other contemporary novel was the absence of foul language and sexual encounters, although there were several lingering kisses to give the story some sexual tension.

All in all, I give Susan Meissner's novel The Girl in the Glass an enthusiastic recommendation for anyone who is looking for something new to read. It is a great novel for a relaxing afternoon. Some reviewers indicated the story was a bit far-fetched. I did find that to be true but instead found Meissner to be an imaginative author. I look forward to locating and reading some of her previous works.

Monday, October 1, 2012

The Girl's Still Got It

Anyone who's grown up in church or been a believer for any length of time probably feels they understand the book of Ruth. It's only four chapters and a quick story. However, Liz Curtis Higgs' newest Bible study The Girl's Still Got It shows that there is much more to the book of Ruth than meets the eye.

Being familiar with the fiction books by Liz Curtis HIggs, I jumped at the opportunity to read one of her Bible studies and I am so glad I did. Her study on Ruth is enjoyable and easy to read. Higgs has a very engaging writing style using the first person voice which makes the study very accessible. You feel like you are sitting down around a table with a good friend. However, the engaging writing does not mean the study is weak on content. In fact, just the opposite is true as Higgs has included a plethora of footnotes and a bibliography of resources. The footnotes do not get in the way of reading but are there in abundance.

The Girl's Still Got It digs into the details of Ruth and Naomi's story. The details about how Naomi ended up in Moab, Ruth's heritage as a Moabite woman, and both being widows are uncovered. Later we learn details concerning why Ruth would need to glean in the fields of Boaz and stay with his servant women. And if you have wondered why Ruth needed to lay at Boaz's feet, that's all here too but I don't want to give away the details. As you read along, Higgs shows how God was there at every instance and was guiding Naomi and Ruth. She also shows what we as 21st century women can learn from this book of the Bible.

The Girl's Still Got It includes discussion questions for book clubs who wish to discuss the entire book at one time. There are also a study guide for groups who wish to engage in a slower chapter by chapter study. If your Bible study is looking for a new resource or wants to explore an Old Testament book, you won't be disappointed by choosing The Girl's Still Got It.

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

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The August Crazies

When I first started writing this post, I had been absent from the blogosphere for almost a month while experiencing the back-to-school hub-bub. Since my husband and I both work in academia, August is a bit of a crazy month at our house. That combined with several other activities and family events creates a storm of activity which resulted in something going on nearly every day and very few evenings at home. Although I have posted since initially writing this, I wanted to share my month of crazies anyway.

This month the library I work at hosted our annual library mystery which is part of our freshman orientation. This was our 3rd year to host the mystery and each year we tweak it a bit in our continual effort to improve. This year I took our mystery content and we transformed it into a computerized game. I used LiveCode to create a game in which students used library resources to answer clues, entered their answers in the game, and then found the resources to receive the next clue. Having the game come together and work satisfactorily as very exciting. We ended up having a few hardware issues the evening of the game such as laptops which wouldn't connect to the internet but overall the mystery ran smoothly. The students seemed to have a good time and our objective of introducing students to the library and our library staff in a fun, non-threatening atmosphere succeeded. The winning teams are always very excited to receive certificates for homemade cookies.

Family birthday's highlight August and this year was particularly eventful. This year we celebrated my dad's 80th birthday with a surprise family gathering after church on Sunday. A week later we celebrated a milestone birthday in my life as well. We had a smaller family celebrating at Olive Garden, but my special day received its due as well. My husband in particular outdid himself this year for a present. He put together an envelope of certificates for various goods and services around the home such as cooking a fancy dinner, doing any chore I request, and offering a day or evening sans kids for whatever reason I need, in addition to several others. He also sent a beautiful bouquet of flowers which graced the library for two weeks.

Bringing Up Kids

Since I have children of both genders, I recently decided to read the books Bringing Up Boys and Bringing Up Girls by Dr. James Dobson. I will readily admit that my reading of these titles was more of a skim than a thorough read, but I was thoroughly disappointed in both. Bringing Up Boys read like a critique of the feminist movement and all of modern parenting philosophy. While not agreeing with either entity completely, I did not feel the dismissal of everything about them warranted. I would have appreciated more parenting advice and less philosophical pandering. On the other hand, Bringing Up Girls seemed to focus entirely on protecting a girls sexual innocence. While a very important topic, I felt additional topics needed attention as well. All in all, I was very disappointed with both of these titles and will not be recommending them to others.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Perfect Lies by Jennifer Crow addresses nine lies Satan and the world would have us believe. The lies Crow presents are fairly common such as "I am unlovable, worthless, or bad." Crow emphasizes not only how these are completely untrue by referencing scripture and psychology references but also how to overcome these lies through meditation. The meditation described is completely Christian and focuses on using scripture passages. Crow also emphasizes creating mind pictures to help internalize the scriptural truths. Throughout the book, the author's tone is refreshingly honest and personal as she shares her own personal struggles with these issues. Given her position as the minister's wife and worship minister at a large congregation, Crow deserves commendations for her transparency.

Throughout the book, while enjoying the story of Crow's personal journey and triumph over these issues, I was concerned over her lack of citations and references when discussion psychological and neurological science issues. While the occasional mention of a book title or chapter was present, too often information was presented as common knowledge without adequate citations. I freely admit, however, that by profession this issue would catch my attention more than the average reader. Readers who are not comfortable or familiar with a more charismatic practice of Christianity may be less accepting of some of Crow's ideas. However, the ideas presented are not unscriptural.

Perfect Lies is a book deserving a slow read accompanied by practicing the meditation described. Simply reading the book, while profitable, will not produce the heart and life change desired. A women's book club or Bible study may enjoy working through this book together. While the lies presented are not unique to women, the examples used resonate more deeply with women. In addition counselors may find this resource useful as they work with clients dealing with these issues although Crow is not trained n psychology or counseling.

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

Monday, July 30, 2012

I recently finished reading The Orphan King by Sigmund Brouwer. The Orphan King,a quick, fun read, is the the first book in a proposed three book series titled "Merlin's Immortals." This book and series is classified as fantasy due to the Merlin references, but will be enjoyed by fans of historical medieval fiction as well.

This story focuses on a young orphan man who was raised in a monastery. After escaping from the monastery, he rescues several individuals from death by hanging, and heads toward the Kingdom of Magnus. Along the way, there are numerous hair-raising scrapes and adventures. There is some element of mystery in the story as the reader is not sure who is on which side.

Other information about this book indicated it was suggested for ages 12+. I would feel more comfortable recommending this book for 14+. There is nothing inappropriate about it yet there are some veiled references to sexual attraction between two of the main characters. This book would be enjoyed by both teens of both genders, but also has enough meat to be enjoyed by adults as well. I highly recommend this book and look forward to reading the second book in this series which is slated to be released in February 2013. Disclaimer: I received this book free through the Blogging for Books program from Waterbrook Press in exchange for a honest review.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Cleaning House

Wyma, Kay Wills. Cleaning House: A Mom’s 12-Month Experiment to Rid Her Home of Youth Entitlement. Colorado Springs: WaterBrook Press, 2012.

If there is a mom that hasn’t fought the battle of clutter and bedrooms that constantly look like they have been hit by a tornado, I want to meet that woman. As I do struggle with clutter, bedrooms that regularly do not pass inspection, and what those familiar with the FlyLady would call C.H.A.O.S. (can’t have anyone over syndrome) when the opportunity to read the book Cleaning House came along, I jumped. With the title Cleaning House, I expected, or maybe hoped for, another book that would help me be better organized and tackle the problem of my less than Better Homes & Gardens home once and for all. What I found when I opened this gem of a resource was even better.

Kay Wills Wyma’s Cleaning House does not focus on a 12-step, or 12-month, program on how to clean your house or tackle your clutter program. Instead, just as the sub-title indicates, Wyma focuses on the issue of youth entitlement she saw exhibited in her own children and rampant in society. From the first page, she opens the doors to her mini-van and home allowing us to peek in to her family. I’m so glad she did because now I know I’m not the only “mean mom” and that kids come pre-programmed to say certain things. As Wyma becomes keenly aware of the entitlement culture we live in and how we as parents have created, or at least contributed to, this culture, she decides to tackle these issues in her family head-on.

Wyma tackles one specific type of job or activity a month. For example, the first month of her experiment focuses on having her children clean their bedrooms. Later months focus on yard work, cleaning the bathrooms, and doing laundry. However, Wyma does not solely focus on cleaning tasks. Some months her emphasis is on “soft skills” such as hospitality, being a team player, serving others, and manners. Another month focuses on working outside the home in a paid or volunteer capacity. Frequently monthly activities, such as keeping your room clean, continue throughout the 12 months although not in the same focused matter.

Throughout the book, Wyma shares stories of real life events that occurred with her children to depict the events that happened during each month of the experiment. In addition to these real-life examples, Wyma includes research to demonstrate the problem of youth entitlement and stories of what has worked by other parents or individuals who work with youth. In this way, readers benefit not only from Wyma’s experiences but also the experiences of others. I particularly appreciated her list of what her children learned at the conclusion of each month as well as what she learned during the course of the month.

While reading Cleaning House, my new motto quickly became “Whatever the kids can do themselves, they are going to do (or at least attempt).” I’m looking forward the conducting my own 12-month experiment in our home which will most likely be the subject of future blog posts. My list of what kids should know before flying the coop may look a bit differently than Wyma’s, but there is quite a bit of overlap. In addition, I will certainly be borrowing numerous ideas such as the dollar a day in a jar (for more information see chapter 1). I have also started following Wyma’s blog, the MOATblog and encourage you to do so too.

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

Thursday, July 5, 2012

More Than Enchanting

Saxton, Jo. More Than Enchanting: Breaking Through Barriers to Influence Your World. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2012.

Before winning this book, I had not heard of Jo Saxton, but since I'm usually very pleased with books by InterVarsity Press (Go IVCF!), I thought it would be good. Now that I'm finished with More Than Enchanting, I am so glad I have been introduced to this amazing author and speaker and her work.

More Than Enchanting kept me enthralled from page one. As a woman working outside the home and having leadership roles in our church and community, the emphasis on being a leader, even when women leaders are not encouraged, was a breath of fresh air. My notebook quickly filled with quotes and thoughts as I engaged with this work. Saxton does an excellent job of including Bible study concerning the role of women as leaders and includes a variety of word study resources as the basic of this content. She then proceeds to cover a variety of issues related to leadership and how to increase your effectiveness as a leader. My one regret while reading this work was that I was reading in it alone. I hope to read it again soon with a group of other women leaders in the huddle format Saxton describes.

Beyond the content, which was excellent and thought-provoking, I loved the way this book was set up. Many book have discussion questions at the end of chapters or the end of the book. However, More Than Enchanting has discussion questions incorporated right into the text of the book. The end of each chapter also contains reflections written by many leaders, both male and female. The end of the book also contains discussion questions which encompass the content of the entire book and help to complete a study on this book. Author, Jo Saxton, also includes a nice, but not comprehensive, listing of sources for further reading and study.

I would highly recommend More Than Enchanting to any woman who is a leader or who wants to be a leader. I would particularly encourage this book to be used in a Bible study or book discussion group among college students or young professionals who are struggling with the issue of how to be a godly woman leader. However, I would not limit the readership to just that demographic. I'm well past that age group now (I'm about to hit one of those milestone birthdays)and found this quite useful and encouraging as I enter new leadership roles in my mid-life years.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free through a giveaway from Margaret Feinberg's blog. I was not required to write a positive review or even to review this book at all. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

4-H Adventures in Sewing

One of my daughter's 4-H projects is Sewing I. It's her second year in this project and she is making a top for her 4-H Home and Family show which is next week. So our big project over the weekend was to make the top. About a month ago when we went fabric shopping we bought two different fabrics because she couldn't choose which she liked best and we decided that having two fabrics would be a good idea so that one could be a "practice" shirt "just in case."

She worked on her shirt with supervision Saturday afternoon, took a break Sunday for an unexpected trip to grandma's house, and then worked on it some more Monday and Tuesday evening. Our goal was to have it finished for the Fourth of July as the fabric she chose was patriotic. She was zipping along quite well until she hit a snag Monday evening.

Monday evening she had put the facing in her bodice and was carefully trimming the seam allowance. I warned her to be very careful in cutting. All of a sudden, she cried out "Oh no!" Her scissors had slipped and she cut a hole in the back of her shirt near the nape of her neck. I encouraged her that it would be OK and she went back to trimming her seam. This time she turned the shirt around and was coming from the opposite direction. Then I heard "Oh no!" again! She managed to cut another hole at almost the same location.

She was sure her sewing career was over for good. However, since she also rides horses, I asked "What do you do if you fall off a horse?" As I expected, she responded "You get back on." So I steered her back to the sewing machine and sat her down to sew a seam on another section of her pattern.

Fortunately, the hole was easily mended by some zigzagging and is only visible if you know where to look. She finished the shirt and proudly wore it in the community parade.

We sure are glad we purchased extra fabric and that she has another week to make a new shirt.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Sleeth, Nancy. Almost Amish: One Woman’s Quest for a Slower, Simpler, More Sustainable Life. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale, 2012.

Anyone who has visited an Amish community or read one of the plethora of Amish novels that are quite popular these days has wondered what it might be like to live like the Amish away from the hustle and bustle, fast paced world we live in. For most of us that wish will always remain just that. However, in her recent book, Nancy Sleeth shares how her family has chosen to become, in her words Almost Amish and live a simpler, slower-paced life. Nancy serves as co-director along with her husband of the organization Blessed Earth an educational nonprofit that inspires and equips people of faith to become better stewards of the earth.

Books on simplicity, sustainable living, buying local, reducing your footprint, clearing the clutter, reducing dependence on technology, enjoying nature more, and getting out of debt are everywhere you look these days. In Almost Amish, Nancy Sleeth takes a smidgen of all of these resources and adds a large dollop of why these topics are important to God and should be important to believers. As the title indicates, Sleeth draws frequently on examples from the Amish community. Yet, she does not suggest we all need to become Amish. Instead, she provides lessons we all may learn from the Amish including a theological statement which grounds the Amish practice and then suggests how average Americans can incorporate these practices into their own lives. While encouraging readers to take steps towards simpler, sustainable living, Sleeth does not disparage those who are not yet ready to take drastic steps and instead encourages readers to take small steps, working their way toward the goal of being Almost Amish.

Many of the suggestions given in this book are not completely new. Suggestions include the typical get rid of excess clutter and possessions, not going into debt, paring your calendar of activities, and enjoying nature. Shopping local and supporting local businesses are encouraged both as part of being simple and building community among friends and neighbors. The importance of school is encouraged alongside the caveat of not letting school run your family’s life. A strong dose of service to God and others is encouraged which fits with the emphasis on being involved in your community and a fellowship of believers, as well as having strong family ties. A newer idea includes being conscious of technology use and setting health boundaries with technology. Sleeth indicates she has chosen not to use FaceBook or Twitter although she uses the internet quite frequently for their organization. Obviously, I have chosen to use FaceBook and Twitter as a means to review this book.

Almost Amish is recommended for libraries where Amish romances are popular. Study groups who are interested in simpler living may find this a useful resource to study and implement together. In fact, much of what Sleeth suggests would be easier to implement in a community of like-minded individuals. Additional resources and tip sheets are available on their website for further study.

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

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

A Traveler's Guide to the Kingdom

White, James Emery. A Traveler’s Guide to the Kingdom: Journeying Through the Christian Life. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2012.

Reading A Traveler’s Guide to the Kingdom felt like sitting down with a friend to look through travel photos and hear the adventures and experiences which accompany the pictures. The travelogue includes places ranging from North Carolina to abbeys, cathedrals, museums, and a pub in Europe, and finally a monastery and museum in Africa. Each stop on this tour is specially selected for its significance to the Christian life.

As is often true when hearing of someone’s travels, the reader’s first response is to want to pack their bags and visit these places in person. However, short of going on an extended leave of absence from work and inheriting a tidy sum of money, most readers will not be able to do so immediately. While saving money for future travels, readers would be encouraged to delve deeper into the concepts presented. Many chapters note spiritual disciplines to practice or other actions to take to help individuals further their journey on the Christian life. The astute reader will turn from this book to the many sources mentioned throughout the narrative or listed in the notes.

The most pleasurable aspect of reading A Traveler’s Guide to the Kingdom is White’s warm, friendly, pastoral tone. Reading felt like chatting with a friend over a cup of coffee. Throughout the book, White is very personable and transparent. In the course of relating several adventures, White openly shares his experiences as well as less than holy thoughts and actions. Doing so portrays him as a fellow traveler who has gone before rather than a tour guide.

A Traveler’s Guide to the Kingdom is recommended for book clubs, study groups, or individuals. With a brief nine chapters, a group or individual could choose to use each chapter as a spring board to further study and exploration into the person or ideas presented. Future editions could be enhanced by the addition of study or discussion questions and a recommended reading list for those interested in pursuing the ideas further.

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

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Why I Love Being a Librarian

I serve on the school board for the K-8 elementary school my children go to. The individual who is currently serving as the part-time librarian recently asked for assistance in locating a system to automate the library's small collection. I researched several products and found some nice reviews. I also sent a query to several library related listservs I'm on to get some feedback from various users. The response was absolutely amazing in that I received multiple suggestions from a variety of librarians who currently serve in school libraries or are familiar with the needs of schools and other very small libraries. Today, I was completely blown away in that the librarian whom I've never met and lives in another state and who authored a review of a particular automation system emailed to give her input. After a few emails back and forth, she offered to provide consulting services via email as well. It happens that the product she reviewed is at the top of the short list I presented to our school system as suggested products and is reasonably priced as well so it is quite likely I will have questions for her. This is yet another example of the ways in which fellow librarians have responded to random questions posed to assist with purchasing decisions, technology help, and other needs. I hope I have been able to assist other librarians in similar ways.

Friday, May 25, 2012

104 Days of Summer Vacation

Actually, at our house summer vacation is only 89 days, but that doesn’t quite sound as cool. As of yesterday, my children are officially 2nd and 5th graders and our summer has started! Our summer kicked off with a quick trip to Chicago along with my daughter’s friend on Wednesday. All the kids had a great time although mom and dad were definitely worn out but the end. A variety of activities are on the summer agenda for the kids. I like to keep them busy enough that they keep learning and have fun, yet allow enough down time that they are ready to go back to school in August. My son's first question after getting his report card was if we can do "mommy school." We use that opportunity to review the last year's concepts and get a bit ahead on the next year. Both children will be attending a variety of camps including 4-H camp, church camp, and Cub Scout camp. We plan to do some camping as a family as well. Of course, if you are going camping that also means a lot of swimming and swimming lessons. Other mainstays of our summer are Vacation Bible School and participating in the summer library reading program. Both kids will also spend a week at grandma's house on the farm. Our oldest will spend a lot of time working on her 4-H projects. We signed up for quite a few, but fortunately, there is some overlap between projects. I’m really excited to supervise a vast amount of cookie baking (and eating) for her foods project. She also has a sewing project, several animal projects, child development, citizenship, leadership, photography, and several nature related projects. We will begin working on my son’s Wolf Cub Scout requirements for next year as well. Fortunately, a number of the requirements are activities that are easily incorporated into summer fun such as planting a vegetable garden and flower and planning an outdoor meal. Both kids have been troopers in helping to plant and weed our vegetable garden which has moved from our front yard to a community garden plot. Our front yard is going back to a more respectable flower garden. The highlight of our summer is our planned summer vacation in July, but we’ll keep that destination under wraps for another post. Of course, countless other activities will be experienced “before school starts this fall!”