Heaven Shining Through

I am super excited to present to you Joe Siccardi’s debut novella:  Heaven Shining Through. This novella was sent to me by the author for a read and review. To learn more about Mr. Siccardi and his upcoming work, visit his website.

Heaven Shining Through is a 64 page novella that centers around Samantha’s reflections on her life. Visiting her ailing mother, whom she never really got along with, Samantha is sent into a reverie of her past. She walks the reader through her teenage years and into her current life situation. Through her reflections, Samantha comes to realize that life really is unpredictable and perhaps her mother loved her more than she had ever realized.

Awesomeness: 

*As my hubby says, I’m a sucker for vocabulary. This book has excellent vocabulary. I circled 59 words that I would turn into a vocabulary lesson(s).

*The ending is a happy one in which broken relationships are healed.

*It is a short read and could easily be finished in an  hour depending on the strength of the reader.

Cautions:

*The word whore is used at one point.

*The S word is also used.

*Fondling is discussed and the main couple do experience a moment of intimacy out of wedlock.

*Several characters die. One from cancer- that could be a trigger for anyone having had that personally affect them.

*At one point, Samantha compares the Bible Church she is attending to her Catholic experience. There are not derogatory remarks against the Catholic faith, she is just merely reflecting on the differences.

Lesson Plan Ideas:

*Use context clues to define unknown words.

*Write an alternative ending to the story.

*Create a character map of Samantha. What is she feeling? Thinking? Doing?

The Mission of Motherhood

I think I have made it my mission to read all of Sally Clarkson’s books. Many people might assume that when one woman rights over 20 books, mostly centered on home and family, they’d become repetitive, but this isn’t so for her.

I began reading The Mission of Motherhood: Touching Your Child’s Heart for Eternity because Sally was doing a summer series on her podcast over it. I am so glad I decided to read the book and not just listen to her podcasts. It was so insightful. I underlined and stared so much stuff! 

As someone who is, quite literally, preparing to take on the role of mom any day now, I found this book to be very encouraging and inspiring. I particularly enjoyed the chapters on being a servant mother and a teaching mother.

One of the many things I like about Sally is that she never assumes to have all the answers. She also doesn’t pretend that her life has been perfect and her family without fault. She is writing and speaking from a place of experience and I think we’d all do well to listen to what she has to say and apply what we can to our current stages of life.

If you are unfamiliar with Sally Clarkson, I suggest you check out her website sallyclarkson.com and her podcast At Home with Sally. You WON’T be sorry!

 

PS. I  just really love what this woman’s ministry is all about! Check out my post on her book The Life Giving Home as well.

6 Ways I am saving money on books

While reading isn’t necessarily the most expensive hobby one can have, it can add up. Below are 6 ways that I have started saving money on books. And who doesn’t like saving money??

The Overdrive App

I know I have mentioned this before, but the Overdrive App is attached to my local library. All I had to do was select my library, put in my card number and create an account. Et voila! I can check out ebooks and audio books FOR FREE!

My Reader Rewards

I was introduced to My Reader Rewards Club by Crystal Payne at moneysavingmom.com. It is a loyalty program for Tyndale Publishing and NavPress- Christian publishers. When you sign up, you’re given several tasks you can complete in order to earn points. You can then redeem those points for books. I currently have 170 points and I was able to get them all the same day I signed up. I am hoping to get enough points to add another Sally Clarkson book to my library. I have only seen a limited number of books I can redeem; I am hoping that they are only showing me books I am qualified to purchase with my points at this time. If you’d like to check it out, click my affiliate link. I will get 10 points for you signing up and you receive 25 points! Technically, these books are FREE too!

Bookbub

I was introduced to Bookbub by my dad. I am really not a huge fan of reading books on my devices, but considering I am able to get so many for FREE, it is worth it. You just need to download the app on your device and create an account. You can choose from the genres you enjoy and every day you’ll get your daily deals. On average, I receive 1 free book a week. Sometimes nearly every day. I don’t always download it, but it’s cool that I have the option. Out of the 31 books I have downloaded from bookbub over the past 2 years, I have only paid for 2! The other books are generally .99 cents to 3.99.

Audibles

Audible Membership is a monthly subscription through Amazon. It’s a little under $15/ month, which is a little less than the price of an average book. With your membership you receive 1 credit/ month. With this credit you can “purchase” and audio book. Once you have the book, it’s yours forever. If you just did this, it’d be worth it seeing as many times the audio version is more expensive than the book itself. The Audible Membership also allows you to purchase audio books at a cheaper rate. I did the FREE TRIAL and received 2 credits. When I went to cancel my subscription, I was given 3 different offers to stay on. I decided that I would do the 3 month subscription for half the price. Once my 3 months were up, I cancelled. (Note: the options given to you when canceling may be different now.) If you’ve never done audibles, the free trial is worth it!

***Currently (As of July 10, 2018), NEW PRIME MEMBERS can get a 3 month subscription for $4.95/ month. I am actually a new prime member and I am considering this offer. PRIME DAY is JULY 16, 2018!! So… you could sign up for a FREE 30 DAY TRIAL for Prime and then snag this deal. Although, I’m not sure what would happen if you cancel your prime membership after 30 days.

Prime Reading

Since I am on the subject, If you’re a prime member you can read many ebooks for FREE!! Several books come with narration too. (Read: free audio!) I haven’t yet checked any out, but I know when I am ready I plan to check out Born Survivors: Three Young Mothers and Their Extraordinary Story of Courage, Defiance, and Hope by Wendy Holden.

The Public Library

I can’t forget  the cheapest and best option of all: The Public Library! Take the kids and make a day out of it!

I hope you find these suggestions helpful!

Happy Book Buying!!!

PS- One final thought: Make sure your local Half Price Books has your address because they do send out coupons! In fact, I just received a weeks worth last week. I’m holding out until my 50% off coupon is good to go grab a book I’ve had my eye on!

*This post contains affiliate links.*

The Chronicles of Narnia

If you’re like me, then you have heard of the famous series written by C.S. Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia Complete 7 Volume Set, but perhaps have only ever read The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. This past spring, my best friend and I decided to read the series together; this was her second or third time and my first. I didn’t really have any expectations about the series, but knew it would be a fun, imaginary story.  I was not disappointed.

There are 7 total books in the series. I think they each follow a similar pattern: within the first chapter, the kids are swept away to Narnia where they spend most of the novel preparing for the big, epic event that will ultimately arrive in the last few chapters. Some of the books have a slower build up to the big event than others.

I have NO IDEA if I was pronouncing the Narnian names correctly, but really, who cares? I enjoyed getting lost in the adventures of a group of young, English kids. Be advised, these are not merely feel-good novels; There is evil and death present. The children must fight against it in a different way in every novel. The novels are all held together by one reoccurring theme: Aslan is a Christ-like figure who assists the children in fighting the evil that comes upon Narnia.

Overall, if you have a reader in your family, I think they would love to read this series. I know I can’t wait to read them aloud with Jonathan when he is old enough. (Let’s be real… I may even read them prior to that!)

Creating a Life Giving Atmosphere

Over the past few months, I have been mulling over the idea of a life giving home. It started when I read Sally Clarkson’s The Lifegiving Home: Creating a Place of Belonging and Becoming. In this book, she and her eldest daughter, Sarah, talk about what it means to create an atmosphere that gives life. Life to your family. Life to those who visit. Life to yourself. They encourage the creation of a home that tells the world who you are. A home that builds your family unit. I want a home like this! To be honest, it’s been a few months since I have really dug deep into this book. But I think the following quote does a great deal to summarize just what the focus of this book is: “Homemaking must be understood as a potent Kingdom endeavor, not merely a domestic task. Homemaking requires a willed creativity, a conscious diligence, because we are called to create new life and challenged to do it in the midsts of a world that actively resists us in this endeavor (pg 39).” 

Sally & Sarah set out to give us examples and ideas to help us craft such a home. I love that they want to help people see that homemaking IS Kingdom work. When I have children, they will be MY responsibility. Given to me to care for BY God. He will expect that I see it as purposeful work for His glory! But at the same time, the world will attempt to pull me away from what should be my life’s greatest work. I must resist. How? By creating a safe space in which I can give life to all those who enter. By creating a life giving home.

I truly cannot do these books much justice. If you are at all interested in learning how to create a space that breathes life into your family and friends, then I’d encourage you to grab a copy of Sally & Sarah Clarkson’s book The Life Giving Home as well as Sally’s follow up book: The Lifegiving Table: Nurturing Faith through Feasting, One Meal at a Time.

          

My last 5 Audio Reads

In January of this year, I signed up for an Audible Membership. Over the past 8 months, I have listened to several books this way. I wanted to share my thoughts on the last 5.

 Seven Women: And the Secret of Their Greatness

Regardless of your thoughts on various sects of Christianity, each woman presented in Eric Metaxes’ book has some wonderful character traits we could stand to emulate. All of them were incredibly brave and all stepped out in faith. In the introduction, Metaxes does a superb job explaining why he chose these seven women. His goal was not to choose women who had been the first woman to do something, but who were able to do what they did because they were a woman. My favorite section and the woman I would most like to emulate would be Corrie Ten Boom. Which brings me to my next audio book:

Tramp for the Lord

I have listened to this book twice already and definitely want to purchase a hardcopy for my personal library. Corrie Ten Boom was an amazing woman. She and her family risked their lives to help save Jews from the Nazi regime. Several of her family members gave their lives for this cause. I have several chunks of this book “clipped” so I can go back and remember important ideas she shares. Follow Corrie on her path around the world and join her in her fearlessness in sharing God’s love with everyone she meets.

Disciplines of a Godly Woman (Redesign)

This book is a practical book to help Christian woman live a Godly life. Barbara Hughes gives specific ways to help you put God at the center of your life. A few things that were convicting and motivating for me were:

  • her discussion on meditating and studying scripture. As well as her encouragement to memorize scripture.
  • thinking continually on Christ.
  • thinking about what I am watching on tv and doing with my time. On my phone, I wrote some notes to myself about this specifically. Am I having conversation with people? Or looking at my phone?

This book will certainly help you put somethings into perspective.

None Like Him: 10 Ways God Is Different from Us (and Why That’s a Good Thing)

This book is a pretty quick read. Jen Wilkin focuses on the attributes we can only attribute to God. I do wish I had known there were scriptures and reflection questions presented at the end of each chapter. I plan to get a hard copy of this book too. I have so much I want to highlight and mark up! I love how she encourages us to be cautious of the Instagram Bible. Today it is too easy for us to feel like we are filling up on God’s Word without actually reading the Bible. As a bonus, this book is read by Jen herself!

Side note: if you are unfamiliar with Jen Wilkin you are in for a treat! She has several Bible studies and podcast teachings available FOR FREE at http://jenwilkin.podbean.com

Living Well Spending Less: 12 Secrets of the Good Life

This book is a guide to do just what it says. Author Ruth Soukup shares her personal story about debt and learning to budget in this practical guide to money. She writes, “We must learn to control our love of money or it will control us.” If you are struggling to control your money or just want a few more practical ways to save, you should check this book out. She also has a lot of resources on her website http://www.livingwellspendingless.com

Random note on Audio books:

  1. You can sign up for Audibles via amazon for free for 30 days. This gives you TWO FREE credits which translates into TWO FREE BOOKS! If you cancel, you will be presented with a few other options like paying every other month or maybe even a reduced price if you sign up for 3 months. (The options appear to change, so it may be completely different when you are reading this.)
  2. Overdrive is a public library app you can access free. My relatively small town public library uses it, so I imagine most public libraries have it now. You can check out ebooks and audio books FREE!

The Daring Ladies of Lowell

Interest Level: Mature/Adult

“But it is changing,” Benjamin Stanhope said. “None of us can hold things where we want them to be. It is all slipping and changing, Alice.”  Change is the theme in The Daring Ladies of Lowell. These daring ladies stepped off their family farms in hopes of changing their futures. Once in Lowell, they began to take steps to change their working conditions. As much as many of us despise change, we can’t deny that sometimes, it’s the only way  things can ever be different.

Alice Barrow left her father and their farm to find new opportunities and independence as a mill girl in Lowell, Massachusetts. There, she finds more than she bargained for. She is instantly drawn toward Lovey Cornell, a girl full of jokes and laughter. They spend their evening hours on the porch discussing life in general and life in the mill. It is on the porch steps that Alice learns of Lovey’s burning passion to fight for better working conditions.

In the weeks after her arrival, Alice is thrust into the hard life of a mill girl. With Lowell on the cusp of revolution, the Fiske family decides they must make a show of caring if they are going to squelch the fire of revolt. From all the girls, they extend an invitation to Alice to join them in their Boston home to discuss the issues at the mill. It is there she learns that Hiram Fiske really has no desire to hear her complaints but was merely making a show of it all. She does, however, find an ally in Samuel Fiske, the attractive and caring heir to the Fiske family fortune.

As the days drag on, Alice will soon find herself caught up in love and loss. She must fight for the life of the mill workers as well as fighting for her heart.

Cautions:

*Lovey is a bit of a flirt and will disappear for hours at a time. She will be found one morning hanging from a tree by the neck. It is this loss that Alice must face and find a way to gain justice for her dear friend. At the trial for the suspected murderer, we will learn that she was pregnant. The prosecution will paint her as a prostitute who hung herself out of shame.

*One of the mill worker’s husbands will barge in and attempt to take her child. There is a clear picture here of the lack of rights married women had.

*The Fiske family is portrayed as being selfish and out only for themselves at the expense of their workers.

*Toward the end there is a little unrest and people will begin tossing rocks at each other.

*This is a time of the revivalist community. The man accused of murder is a revivalist Methodist preacher. There is some attack on the Methodist church because of this.

Awesomeness:

*This is a wonderful book about the fight for independence for women and the changes in the American society up north.

*It paints a really good picture of class in America and the growing desire for equality among the genders.

*Alice and Lovey are strong leading ladies. (Neither have a strong desire to know the Lord, but they are good people who attempt to do the right thing.)

*The dialogue during the trial was taken from transcripts of a similar trial during this time in Lowell.

Lesson Ideas:

*Research the life of a mill girl. What did she do? Where did she live? Why would she move away from her family?

*Research the Industrial Revolution and the advancements of the textile machines.

*Look into Andrew Jackson’s policies on Industrialization.

The Dressmaker

Interest Level: Mature/ Adult

France, 1912. A young woman is working as a maid for an older lady. She is suppose to be making dresses. She is a seamstress afterall, not just a cleaning lady. She dreams of a life where she can design and create her own dresses, far away from the prowling hands of the mistress’s son.

Tess Collins is a poor girl who has spent a great deal of time waiting on others. One day, she finally decides that she has had enough. After requesting her wages she storms out of the house in Cherbourg once and for all and heads towards to docks. There, awaiting departure, is the Titanic. Through quick thinking and even quicker talking she is able to find passage aboard the ship as a personal maid to known other than Lady Duff Gordon. This pivotal moment will change Tess’s life forever.

As we all know, 1912 was the year the Titanic sank. Luckily for Tess she makes it to New York. There she will discover that the sinking ship was just the tip of her personal iceberg! She will be stuck between two worlds: that of the rich and that of the poor. She is treated one minute as a servant and the other as a middle class professional. She will find she must not only choose one world for her financial security, but for the security of her heart as well.

 

 

Cautions:

*Tess mentions twice that the son of her mistress in Cherbourg assaulted her.

*Lady Duff Gordon is incredibly manipulative and self-centered. She does only what is best for her.

*There is a lot of lying, bribery, deception, and blame during the trials.

*Tess is kissed by two different gentlemen, both with her permission.

*A character commits suicide from being called a coward.

Awesomeness:

*This book is historical for three reasons: The Titanic’s unfortunate voyage, the change in the fashion industry, and the suffragist movement. All three events are mentioned and woven throughout the story.

*Tess is able to work her way out of a difficult life situation and learn to make it on her own merits.

*Several characters intentionally search for the truth and support one another as they heal from the tragedy.

Pick up this book and travel across the Atlantic with Tess. You won’t be sorry.

 

Lesson Plan Ideas:

*Research the sinking of the Titanic.

*Research the fashion trends in the early 1900s.

*Research Lady Duff Gordon and Coco Chanel.

*Discuss the importance of respecting those who are different than us.

*Discuss Lady Duff Gordon’s attitude toward others.

*Look at dress patterns from the 1900s. Try your hand at designing and sewing something. 

A Chain of Thunder

Interest Level: Middle School, High School, Adult

“When the sun went down, the shelling began again, the civilians moving inside quickly, but she remained outside the cave, watched the red streaks, heard the thumps and distant thunder, and noticed now for the first time that something was missing. What had been done to James’s best friend was an act of raw desperation repeated in the town, and all throughout the cave-spotted hills. Until now, every time the shells came, it had been the same, the whistle and shriek of the mortars and the cannon fire answered by a scattered chorus of howling dogs. But tonight there were no howls…” (510)

If the above quote doesn’t make you want to pick up A Chain of Thunder: A Novel of the Siege of Vicksburg (the Civil War in the West) by Jeff Shaara, then perhaps you should just stop reading here! I thoroughly enjoyed reading this novel. (Yes, Mr. Shaara himself calls it a novel in his letter to the reader.)

A friendly note: I read this book right before my trip to Vicksburg. I made sure to take pictures of everything I could find that was mention in this novel, therefore, you will see A LOT OF PICTURES in this post. Quite possibly more than I have ever included!

 

A Chain of Thunder follows the Vicksburg campaign. Grant, Sherman and several other Union Generals and their men are headed to Mississippi from Tennessee. There to meet them is General Pemberton. Unfortunately for the Confederates, the President desires Pemberton to protect Vicksburg, but General Johnston desires Pemberton to march out and meet Grant.

Pemberton is an interesting person in that he is originally a Pennsylvanian but married a Virginian woman. Therefore, he sides with the Confederacy in the war. His men, however, do not fully trust him seeing as he is a Yankee by birth. This makes his command even more challenging.

The chapters are each presented by a different character in the novel, which I love! It allows you to get multiple perspectives about the same situation.

It also gives you a glimpse into the relationships between different leaders. Not until I read this book did I realize that Sherman and Grant were so close. Sherman was fiercely loyal and protective of Grant. Even when he didn’t fully agree with Grant’s decisions he bow to military rule and followed Grant’s orders.

We meet both Confederate civilians like Lucy Spence and file-in-rank soldiers from both sides. We learn of wounds, starvation, death, and fear from each character.  

I jotted down lots of notes in the margins and kept wishing my students could read this novel! (My pre-ap kids just might read it next year!)

There are too many details to get into in this post, but I will say Shaara does a magnificent job putting you in the minds of those involved in this conflict. His attention to detail and research is phenomenal. As a teacher, I always stress to my students the importance of studying an event such as the Civil War from both sides. Shaara definitely does this.

 

Cautions:

*This is a war book therefore battle scenes are discussed. There is no description that is unnecessarily gory. Do to the nature of the event, the dead on the Union side were left out in the field for some time. There is one chapter in particular where Bauer sees several Union dead out in front of him and will describe the bloated bodies.

*Civilians who chose to stay in Vicksburg will eventually have to move to the hills and create caves. There they will eventually subsist on donkeys, squirrels, dogs, and even rats.

*There is some good natured ribbing among the soldiers and some harsh commands from the younger officers. (I don’t rightly remember off hand there being any foul cuss words used.)

Awesomeness:

*You get a glimpse into the lives of the leaders. Until I read this book and William Tecumseh Sherman by James Lee McDonough, I did not know that Sherman lacked confidence in his abilities and vehemently hated the press! (For good reason!)

*The reader gains a better understanding of the strategy and reasoning behind the siege. We are privy to the true intelligence of all those in charge.

*The book is incredibly well-written and will have the reader eager to finish. (Even if you already know the outcome.)

*This book would be a wonderful springboard to use in studying the Civil War leaders like Sherman, Grant, Pemberton, and Johnston.

Lesson Plan Ideas:

*Research each leader: Grant, Sherman, McPherson, Pemberton, Bowen, Johnston

*Go to the Vicksburg National Military Park youtube channel and watch several awesome videos!

*Research Vicksburg civilian stories

The Underground Railroad

Interest Level: Adult

 

Intense. Sad. Overwhelming. Cruel. These are the words that come to mind when describing   The Underground Railroad (Pulitzer Prize Winner) (National Book Award Winner) (Oprah’s Book Club): A Novel by Colson Whitehead.

The story follows Cora, a slave in the deep south. Woven throughout her story are the stories of her mother, grandmother, and other characters in the novel. Colson Whitehead does a marvelous job of weaving these stories together into a seamless tale.

The novel’s central focus is on Cora and her journey north on the underground railroad. She is first approached about this journey by Caesar, another slave on the plantation. It wasn’t until her master died and his brother took over the farm that she even considered running away.

Cora and Caesar take off together and make it to Charleston, S.C. There they become comfortable with life as freed blacks. That is, until they are discovered. Cora is being hunted by Ridgeway, a slave catcher out for revenge & vindication. He had attempted to hunt down Cora’s mother when she run away but never found her. He is driven by hate and a need to clear his name.

When writing these posts, I always struggle with exactly how much of the story to share. I don’t want to give away too many details and spoil the emotion that will inevitably come along with the first time you read this. But I do feel that I must share some serious concerns with you. Please forgive me if you feel as though I have ruined the storyline for you.

Cautions:

*This book is written in vivid detail. There are scenes of rape, torture, and murder that are described. Corpses hang along roads with genitals cut off. A slave is tortured & burned on the front lawn of his master’s house while he hosts a luncheon!

*As a history teacher, I was annoyed that Whitehead chose to make the underground a real railroad underground. As a literary lover, I can appreciate the attempt to change it up a bit and be more creative.

Overall, this book was hard to read and the ending was disappointing. I actually listened to it as an audiobook and that may have made getting through it even more difficult. It’s one thing to read something so intense to yourself; it’s another to have it read to you!

I would not suggest letting younger readers read this book. It is definitely for mature audiences only!