Posts filed under ‘Reviews’

DVD Review: Geronimo Stilton – Going Down to Chinatown

We recently had the chance to watch the new Geronimo Stilton DVD called Going Down to Chinatown & Other Adventures. My 7-year-old is a HUGE fan of the Geronimo Stilton and Thea Stilton books, so I’m allowing her to write her first DVD review! First, here’s what the DVD is about, from the official description:

GERONIMO STILTON: GOING DOWN TO CHINATOWN, an all-new DVD from Entertainment One, features over 90 minutes of madcap entertainment across four action-packed, laugh-filled episodes from the animated series.  Episodes starring Geronimo and pals — including his younger sister Thea, cousin Trap, favorite nephew Benjamin and sometimes Aunt Sweetfur — also include “Tea Story,” which finds Geronimo’s latest manuscript, ‘The History of Tea’, in the paws of the wrong mouse; “Hypno Tick Tock” in which the intrepid, hard-working author and editor of “The Daily Rodent” suddenly finds himself allergic to the word “work”; and, “Clean Sweep”, in which New Mouse City is beset by a curious series of robberies in the most popular shopping district in town. Exciting capers, hilarious hijinks and far-flung antics abound in this Dove approved DVD perfect for the entire family!”

And here’s my 7-year-old daughter’s verdict:

I liked this movie because it was adventurous. I thought it had good characters. My favorite character was Thea Stilton. I also liked the music. I liked how the story went because it was a good lesson about how to write a travel journal. It gave me the idea to write a travel  journal. I would tell other kids they should watch this movie.”

So, highly recommended!

Here’s the DVD’s trailer:

Thanks to Entertainment One for providing us with a copy of Geronimo Stilton – Going Down to Chinatown to review. All opinions in this review are solely my own and my daughter’s.

 

 

Add comment September 25, 2014

Summer music round-up: fun albums your kids (and you!) will enjoy

My daughters and I have been listening to some fantastic music this summer. Here’s a summer music round-up of our favorite releases for kids (and adults!) to enjoy:

Through the Woods from The Okee Dokee Brothers
This fun CD/DVD combo is filled with Appalachian-style music that the Okee Dokee Brothers created while on a month-long trek on the Appalachian Trail. It’s categorized under bluegrass, but there’s some folk-style music too. There is also a “field journal” with notes on their travels that’s fun to read. This is a follow-up album to the Grammy-award winning Can You Canoe (which you can listen to for free here if you have Amazon Prime) and is just as much fun! Highly recommended, even if you don’t have kids!

Just Say Hi! from Brady Rymer and the Little Band That Could

I was recently introduced to the genre of music known as “Kindie,” which is indie rock for kids. One great kindie album that we currently love is Just Say Hi, from Brady Rymer and the Little Band that Could. We listened to this one at my daughters’ birthday party and it definitely added to the fun! It sounds like one of the bands I would have gone to see in college, until you realize that all the lyrics are kid-friendly! I was trying to think of who to compare Brady Rymer to, and the best I could do was this: he’s a mix of Bruce Springsteen, Elton John, and Jerry Lee Lewis. This is another CD I listen to in the car when the kids aren’t there! Go here for a preview.

Simply Fantastic, from The Secret Mountain
The Secret Mountain releases their second picture book-with-CD introducing children to classical music, by pianist and educator Ana Gerhardt. I previously reviewed The Secret Mountain’s first classical music book/CD combo, Listen to the Birds, and I love this one just as much! The theme of this book is fantastical creatures, and the musical selections involve stories of ghosts and goblins, fairies and elves, witches and wizards. Although Simply Fantastic was released in the summer, it seems like a selection that would really be appropriate around Halloween. My daughters, who scare easily, were a little afraid of some of the drawings, so we’ve mainly been listening to the CD, and will be saving the book portion until they’re older. This book and CD are a really great way to get kids interested in classical music!

Listen to these fantastical musical pieces here, and go here for a video preview.

Aqui, Alla, from Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band
I love introducing my kids to music in different languages, and we’ve really been enjoying the new Spanish-language album Aqui, Alla, from Latin Grammy award-winner Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band! Although we don’t speak much Spanish in my house, the fun energy of these songs needs no translation. This CD blends Chicano rock, indie pop and Tejano styles (I had to look that up; I’m not a musical scholar :)). Go here to listen, and stay tuned for the debut of a new English language single, “Shimmy!”

Love Bug, from Raffi
Raffi’s first children’s album in 12 years was released on July 15th. I’m 33 years old, and I was raised on Raffi, so he has been entertaining preschoolers for a very long time! One of my earliest memories is listening to Baby Beluga with my mother, and I was excited to introduce my girls to Raffi! With the first note of the title track, the child advocate’s warm and loving voice draws you in. (For you musical-types, NPR’s Tamara Keith notes the Tom Waits influences in this CD.) Raffi writes good, classic music for preschoolers, and this CD is no exception. View this adorable video if you want to know what a “Love Bug” says, and get ready to shake your sillies out.

Raise Your Hand, from the Not-Its

The Not-Its are another example of a Kindie rock band, and this album sounded, to me, like Chrissy Hynde was singing songs about cats and haircuts to my kids. (Which is a good thing!) The songs on this album sum up the experience of being a child: waiting for your mom to pick you up from school, raising your hand and hoping desperately to be called on, falling and skinning your knee, or the attempt to make a funny video of your cat. My girls loved the lyrics of these songs! (And I especially loved the song for parents, Hey 80s!).

I hope you’ve enjoyed this summer music round-up and have found some new CDs to play for your kids (or when you’re alone in the car…I won’t tell!)

Thanks to the above artists for providing me with a copy of their CDs for review. All opinions in this review are solely my own. Links in posts may be referral links that help support this site. Read my disclosure policy here.

Add comment July 18, 2014

Review and giveaway: The Well Planned Day homeschool organizer

UPDATE: The winner is comment #108, Danalee. Thanks to all who entered!

Before I begin this review, I need to admit my bias: I LOVE planners. Love them. A good planner makes me feel like my life is about to become organized and streamlined. I’m a Type A person, and I love having written schedules, budget spreadsheets, etc. So when I saw the Well Planned Day homeschool organizer I knew I would love it…and I do! This fall will start our first year homeschooling my oldest daughter, while my youngest will be in public school for Kindergarten, so we have a lot of scheduling to do, and this planner will really be a lifesaver. (If you’re interested in why we’re homeschooling, this post echos my reasons pretty well.)

The Well Planned Day has an overview for each month, as shown above, and then each day is broken down into a list format so you can list the subjects you’re planning to cover that day and record attendance. I like how each month has a cut-out tab for easy flipping, and there are really interesting articles on family management and education for those moments when you find yourself stuck somewhere with nothing to read! There are tear-out shopping lists for each month, and there are report cards printed on cardstock for your children to keep. There are quotes from famous theologians, and there are weekly catechism notes. I cannot think of anything this planner doesn’t provide! Plus, it’s absolutely gorgeous!

 

Here are the features:

  • Spiral Bound with Three Hole Drilled to Fit into Binders
  • Over 264 Full Color Pages
  • Full Year Planner: July 2014 – June 2015
  • Home Management with weekly cleaning schedule, monthly projects, greeting card registry, and monthly budgeting.
  • Holiday Organization Section: Greeting card registry, activities and event schedules, gift giving, around town shopping, and internet shopping.
  • Organize and plan for up to 4 children in one convenient book.
  • Four Student Class Plans: Schedule each student’s class assignments.
  • Four Student Time Schedules: Track each day by the hour.
  • Weekly Schedule: Organize your week with class assignments, weekly priorities, prayer requests, dinner menu, and notes.
  • Month at a Glance: Plan field trips, enrichment activities and books to read
  • Semester Attendance & Progress Reports
  • Perforated Report Cards
  • Menu Planning: Plan weekly meals and conveniently shop with perforated shopping lists.
  • Family Worship: Read through the Bible in a year.
  • Insightful homeschool articles and tips to inspire you throughout the year.
  • and much more….

You can actually flip through images of the entire 2014-2015 planner here so you can see just how fantastic it is!

While this planner is technically for homeschooling families, it would adapt very easily to public school families as well.

You can purchase the Well Planned Day homeschool organizer for $26.95 here. I am sure you’ll love it as much as I do!

You can also save 30% on planner bundles, including the Large Family bundle, the College Prep bundle, the Busy Mom bundle and more!

Would you like to win a copy of The Well Planned Day family homeschool organizer? Here’s how to enter:

Required Entry:

To enter to win, just leave a comment below letting me know if you’re a Type A planner, like me, or a go-with-the-flow Type B personality!

That’s it!

Additional Optional Entries:

You can do each of the following things for an additional entry in the giveaway. You can only do each of these once, for a possible total of 7 entries.

Please leave a separate comment for each method of entry. If you only leave one comment then you only have one entry, as each comment is numbered and I randomly choose a number. Make sense?

This giveaway ends at midnight EST on Monday, May 19. I will choose a winner on Tuesday, May 20 using random.org and will contact him or her via email.

Thanks to Home Educating Family for providing me with a copy of The Well Planned Day family homeschool organizer for review. All opinions in this review are solely my own. Giveaway open to US readers only. Delivery of your prize will be coordinated by Home Educating Family. Links in posts may be referral links that help support this site. Read my disclosure policy here.

 

137 comments May 14, 2014

Review and giveaway: Australian Playground, from Putumayo Kids, available May 27

UPDATE: The winner is comment #3, Tika B.! Thanks to all who entered!

I am a huge fan of Putumayo Kids‘ world music CDs, both for my own kids and for the preschool music classes I teach. They are a fantastic, fun way to introduce kids to music from other countries. It’s so important to expose your kids to different styles of music at an early age in order to broaden their horizons and expand their tastes, and Putumayo Kids does such a great job selecting songs that do just that!

I am planning a preschool graduation in less than two weeks, and one of the songs we’re going to perform is a song from Trinidad that I first heard from Putumayo Kids. I love that my children know that music doesn’t sound exactly the same everywhere you go.

So, I was very excited to receive information about the latest CD from Putumayo Kids, Australian Playground. What kid doesn’t like Australia? Early childhood is filled with Australian animals, in stories and in music – my kids are fans not only of koalas and kangaroos, but also wombats, thanks to one of our favorite books, Wombat Stew. I knew they would love this CD, and I was right. Here are the songs featured on Australian Playground:

The NEO and Garrangali: Marrtjina (Let’s Go)
Seaman Dan: Mango Rain
Joe Hall and the Treehouse Band: Loose Change
Garrangali: Mirri
Bob Brown: Give Me a  Home among the Gumtrees
Don Spencer: Kangaroo (the Super Marsupial)
Rosie Burgess: Random Acts
The Band of the South Australian Police: The Road to Gundagai
Kamerunga: Seisia
Lazy Harry: Waltzing Mathilda

My kids especially liked listening to “Kangaroo (the Super Marsupial),” which is a really cute song! We also enjoyed the song “Mango Rain,” after learning about the term from the CD’s liner notes (A mango rain is a type of rain shower that happens in March and April, before the monsoon season that begins in June. They are called mango rains because they help the mangoes ripen early.) This song uses a ukulele, which just gives it a really happy, tropical feel (which makes sense, as it’s sung by Seaman Dan, a native of Thursday Island, between Australia and Papua New Guinea). Joe Hall and the Treehouse Band’s “Loose Change” is also a great song that strongly reminded me of Jack Johnson’s songs, which I love.

Here’s the official description:

Featuring music from some of Australia’s most compelling children’s musicians, Aboriginal groups and singer-songwriters, Australian Playground exemplifies the diversity of Australia’s peoples, cultures, animals and environments. Australian Playground features a regional recipe for Damper Bread, a food staple for Australian stockmen and drovers (Australian cowboys) in their long treks through the remote Outback. Australian Playground will be available at select book, gift, health food, children’s and other specialty shops. 1% of Putumayo’s sales will be contributed to the Australian Children’s Music Foundation in support of their initiatives to provide music programs and instruments to disadvantaged children in schools and juvenile detention centers in Australia.

In addition to the colorful, gift-ready CD edition with a booklet with cultural and artist information, Australian Playground will be available digitally; Putumayo Kids is pleased to announce a digital launch on iTunes May 27th featuring eight children’s releases: four Playground and Sing Along titles along with four Dreamland lullaby collections ($9.99).

Australian Playground would make a fun soundtrack for a kids’ party, as its songs are very happy and fun. In fact, I will probably have it on repeat at my girls’ birthday party in June!

Australian Playground is available on May 27th. You can preorder it from Amazon here.

Also on May 27th, Putumayo World Music will also release Australia, a curated collection of music by a variety of artists (including Men at Work’s Colin Hay), reflecting the cultural songlines connecting the people of Australia with the rest of the world. I am sure we’ll enjoy this CD also!

Would you like to win a copy of Australian Playground? Here’s how to enter:

Required Entry:

To enter to win, just leave a comment below letting me who would enjoy listening to this CD: you? your kids? your classroom?

That’s it!

Additional Optional Entries:

You can do each of the following things for an additional entry in the giveaway. You can only do each of these once, for a possible total of 7 entries.

Please leave a separate comment for each method of entry. If you only leave one comment then you only have one entry, as each comment is numbered and I randomly choose a number. Make sense?

This giveaway ends at midnight EST on Monday, May 19. I will choose a winner on Tuesday, May 20 using random.org and will contact him or her via email.

Thanks to Putumayo Kids for providing me with a copy of Australian Playground for review. All opinions in this review are solely my own. Giveaway open to US readers only. Delivery of your prize will be coordinated by Putumayo Kids. Links in posts may be referral links that help support this site. Read my disclosure policy here.

48 comments May 13, 2014

Review and Kindle sale: Hope Rising, by Scott C. Todd of Compassion International

I recently had the chance to read Hope Rising: How Christians Can End Extreme Poverty in This Generation, by Scott C. Todd, Ph. D. This nonfiction book was released on April 29, 2014 by Thomas Nelson.

About this book (from the back cover):

Extreme poverty does not have to exist. When Christians accept that fact and start living accordingly, we will find the solution is already within our reach.

Worldwide, 18,000 children die from preventable causes every day. If that statistic leaves you feeling powerless, you are not alone—but you are wrong. If a false sense of powerlessness has lulled you into apathy, it’s time to shake off the grogginess of low expectations and get to work. We can make this world a place where kids do not die from easily preventable diseases.

In Hope Rising, Scott Todd of Compassion International pens a galvanizing, comprehensive vision of the movement that will eradicate extreme global poverty through transformative Christian generosity—and do it within our lifetime. Todd provides riveting evidence to show that we are much closer to that goal than you might think.

According to Todd, we live in an historic moment, and chances are you are already part of it. The gospel is already reshaping lives from thoughtless consumption to informed concern. Twenty-first-century Christians are generating multi-continent grassroots movements through communications and travel. Public and private sectors are working together.  It’s a whole new era of philanthropy, compassion, and justice aimed at eradicating the pandemic of extreme global poverty.

This is a future we have the God-given power to create. This is the history we hope to write.

As Todd envisions, “The twenty-first-century Christians embraced the entirety of their gospel—the truths it proclaims and the muscles it demands—with a new integrity. They did not deteriorate into humanist liberalism, as some had feared. Nor did they pile works on top of Grace…They simply determined that their world did not need to have children dying of preventable causes such as dirty water.”

My Verdict:

Scott C. Todd, Ph.D. is the Senior Vice President for Global Advocacy at Compassion International. My husband and I already sponsor a child through Compassion, and were very moved by our visit to the Compassion Experience when it came to town last year, and so I was very interested to read Todd’s new book. Many times, when Christians give to organizations like Compassion, we think we are making a small dent in the problem of Global poverty, and although we can’t change the world, we can make a difference to at least one person (as mentioned in the Starfish story Todd references.) However, Todd argues that poverty is actually a problem that can be cured, and to think otherwise is to embrace defeat. He outlines different ways Christians can make a contribution to the effort to end poverty completely, and shows that we are actually making a difference: for example, the percentage of people living in extreme poverty has been has been cut in half since 1981, and the number of children dying of preventable diseases is steadily dropping.

I found this book to be motivating and inspiring, especially some of the statistics he presents. For example, the money spent last year on Black Friday alone would provide clean water for the entire world, twice over. What would happen if we made just a little more room in our budgets for helping our brothers and sisters who are living in poverty? This book is a really great read. Hopefully it motivates many more people to sponsor children through organizations like Compassion along with giving additional time and resources to help change the lives of “the least of these.”

If you’d like to check out Hope Rising it is currently on sale for $9.99 for the Kindle version right now (Regularly $15.99.) If you prefer a physical copy the paperback version is currently on sale for $11.82. Remember, Amazon’s prices can change at any time.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you). 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.”

 

Add comment May 9, 2014

Giveaway and review: win a Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return doll

dorothyposter

UPDATE: The winner is comment #38, Laura J. Thanks to all who entered!

Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return is a 3D-animated musical based on the adventure books by Roger Stanton Baum, the great-grandson of L. Frank Baum. The main role of Dorothy is voiced by Lea Michele, from Glee, and the rest of the cast is really amazing too! It opens in theaters tomorrow, May 9. Here’s what it’s about, from the official website:

A continuation of one of the world’s most popular and beloved fairy tales, Legends of Oz finds Dorothy (Lea Michele) waking to post-tornado Kansas, only to be whisked back to Oz to try to save her old friends the Scarecrow (Dan Aykroyd), the Lion (Jim Belushi), the Tin Man (Kelsey Grammer) and Glinda (Bernadette Peters) from a devious new villain, the Jester (Martin Short). Wiser the owl (Oliver Platt), Marshal Mallow (Hugh Dancy), China Princess (Megan Hilty) and Tugg the tugboat (Patrick Stewart) join Dorothy on her latest magical journey through the colorful landscape of Oz to restore order and happiness to Emerald City. Set to the tunes of Academy Award-nominated singer/songwriter Bryan Adams, Legends of Oz marks a charming, family-friendly return to the Oz franchise.

Lea Dorothy 

There’s a new line of toys to go along with the movie, including three new Dorothy dolls. Available at Toys R’ Us, Target and Wal-Mart stores nationwide, this line of dolls includes a Dorothy Fashion Doll, a Dorothy Doll with Toto, and the Singing Fashion Dorothy Fashion doll featuring two song clips from the movie “One Day” and “Work With Me” sung by Lea Michele.

Bandai America, the company that makes the new Legends of Oz toys, sent my daughters a Dorothy Fashion Doll for review. They loved it, and specifically commented on how fantastic the doll’s boots are, and how “bendy” she was. (The doll is made from a soft rubber material that really is very “bendy”!)

Here they are with Dorothy:

Dorothy2   Dorothy1

And in the interest of transparency, here’s what happens when Big Sister gets to play with the Dorothy doll first 🙂

Dorothy3

I’m pleased to be able to give a 12″ Dorothy of Oz Fashion Doll (ARV $14.99) to one of you! Here’s how to win.

Required Entry:

Leave a comment on this post and let me know which Legends of Oz toy you like best. (You can see them all here.) That’s it!

Additional Optional Entries:

You can do each of the following things for an additional entry in the giveaway. You can only do each of these once, for a possible total of 5 entries. Please leave a separate comment for each method of entry. If you only leave one comment then you only have one entry, as each comment is numbered and I randomly choose a number. Make sense?

This giveaway ends at midnight EST on Monday, May 12. I will choose a winner on Tuesday, May 13 using random.org and will contact them via email.

Giveaway open to US readers only. Delivery of your prize will be coordinated by Bandai America. I received the product mentioned above for review purposes. I was not otherwise compensated for this post, and all opinions remain my own.

184 comments May 8, 2014

Review: Things a Little Bird Told Me, by Biz Stone, Co-founder of Twitter

I recently had the chance to read Things a Little Bird Told Me, by Biz Stone. This nonfiction book was released April 1, 2014 by Grand Central Publishing.

About this book (from the back cover):

Biz Stone, the co-founder of Twitter, discusses the power of creativity and how to harness it, through stories from his remarkable life and career.THINGS A LITTLE BIRD TOLD MEFrom GQ‘s “Nerd of the Year” to one of Time‘s most influential people in the world, Biz Stone represents different things to different people. But he is known to all as the creative, effervescent, funny, charmingly positive and remarkably savvy co-founder of Twitter-the social media platform that singlehandedly changed the way the world works. Now, Biz tells fascinating, pivotal, and personal stories from his early life and his careers at Google and Twitter, sharing his knowledge about the nature and importance of ingenuity today. In Biz’s world:

-Opportunity can be manufactured
-Great work comes from abandoning a linear way of thinking
-Creativity never runs out
-Asking questions is free
-Empathy is core to personal and global success

In this book, Biz also addresses failure, the value of vulnerability, ambition, and corporate culture. Whether seeking behind-the-scenes stories, advice, or wisdom and principles from one of the most successful businessmen of the new century, THINGS A LITTLE BIRD TOLD ME will satisfy every reader.

My Verdict:

This was a really interesting book, told from the point of view of one of the founders of Twitter, detailing his path though the graphic design world, to Google, to Twitter. Stone encourages people to take chances in their careers, and while it definitely worked out for him, I didn’t agree with the generalization of his advice. Sometimes it’s good to quit a lucrative job to work for an experimental company where you might not get paid….but it’s not something everyone could do, or else we’d all be unemployed dreamers and no one would pave our roads. This is an encouraging book, and if it inspires you to be more creative and risky, I think that’s a good thing – in moderation.

If you’d like to check out Things a Little Bird Told Me it is currently on sale for $12.99 for the Kindle version right now, which is 50% off. (Regularly $26.99.) If you prefer a physical copy the hardback version is currently on sale for $16.45. Remember, Amazon’s prices can change at any time.

The featured product for this review was provided to me at no cost by the publisher through NetGalley. I was not required to write a positive review, and all opinions expressed are my own.

 

Add comment May 1, 2014

Review: Mark of Distinction, by Jessica Dotta

I recently had the chance to read Mark of Distinction, by Jessica Dotta. This fiction book was published on April 18, by Tyndale House.

About this book (from the back cover):

London is said to be the glittering jewel of society, a world unto itself—but to Julia Elliston it is a city of shadows. Her life is swiftly dissolving into scandal. And in Victorian society, even a whisper of scandal—substantiated or not—can be the death of a young woman’s reputation.

Now under the watchful eye of Lord Roy Pierson, one of most influential men in England, Julia begrudgingly accepts his protection. But Chance Macy’s power is far-reaching as well, and he is eager to assert his claim over her.

Thrust into society as the Emerald Heiress, Julia is the toast of London, a celebrated curiosity. But in reality she’s trapped between the clutches of two powerful men. Aided only by a gentleman whose intentions she prays she can trust, Julia must finally take control of her own fate—but outwitting one’s foe rarely goes according to plan.

Final Verdict:

Jessica Dotta’s author’s bio says she desires to write “to write in a style that blends the humor of Jane Austen and the dark drama of a Bronte sister,” and it’s something she does very well. Throughout my reading of this book I found myself comparing it with both Jane Eyre (a book I love) and Wuthering Heights (a book I love less now than I did in high school). As for Jane Austen, I saw more of Northanger Abbey in this book than any of Austen’s other novels – but that’s not a bad thing. My main problem with this book is that it’s second in a series, and Dotta makes it very hard for those of us who haven’t read book one to get immersed in the story. I still am not sure about major plot points, like the main character’s marriage status. I also found it hard to side with the main character’s love interest who was apparently featured heavily in the first novel but hardly appears in this one. So, if you’re interested in this novel, make sure you’ve read book one – Born of Persuasion – first, or you’re in for a world of confusion.

If you’d like to check out Mark of Distinction it is currently on sale for $9.99 for the Kindle version. (Regularly $14.99.) If you prefer a paperback copy, it’s currently on sale for $10.79. Remember, Amazon’s prices can change at any time.

The featured product for this review was provided to me at no cost by Tyndale House. All opinions expressed are my own. If you’d like to sign up to receive review copies from Tyndale House, visit the Tyndale Blog Network site.

Add comment April 28, 2014

Get $5 off a Living Social purchase; includes great class deal for Loopville

Get $5 off a $15+ purchase on Living Social, today only, with code TAXDAY5!

One deal you might consider is the voucher for Loopville in Knoxville. With this code, you can get one knitting or crochet class plus $20 in supplies for $11! I’ve actually bought and used this deal in thepast, and I really enjoyed my class! They only take 5 people at a time, so you get a lot of one-on-one instruction – which I needed! – plus the $20 gift certificate more than covered my pair of knitting needles and a pretty magenta yarn I’m using to make a scarf for my girls. Highly recommended!

You will want to reserve a class spot ahead of time. Loopville is located on Kingston Pike near Salon Azure, and a few doors down from Serendippity.

Add comment April 15, 2014

Book review: The Queen’s Handmaid, by Tracy L. Higley

I recently had the chance to read The Queen’s Handmaid, by Tracy L. Higley. This fiction book  will be released on March 18, 2014 by Thomas Nelson.

About this book (from the back cover):

From the servant halls of Cleopatra’s Egyptian palace to the courts of Herod the Great, Lydia will serve two queens to see prophecy fulfilled.Alexandria, Egypt 39 BCOrphaned at birth, Lydia was raised as a servant in Cleopatra’s palace, working hard to please while keeping everyone at arm’s length. She’s been rejected and left with a broken heart too many times in her short life.

But then her dying mentor entrusts her with secret writings of the prophet Daniel and charges her to deliver this vital information to those watching for the promised King of Israel. Lydia must leave the nearest thing she’s had to family and flee to Jerusalem. Once in the Holy City, she attaches herself to the newly appointed king, Herod the Great, as handmaid to Queen Mariamme.

Trapped among the scheming women of Herod’s political family—his sister, his wife, and their mothers—and forced to serve in the palace to protect her treasure, Lydia must deliver the scrolls before dark forces warring against the truth destroy all hope of the coming Messiah.

My Verdict:

I love historical fiction, and Tracy L. Higley’s Christian fiction novels have not disappointed me yet. (I previously reviewed City on Fire: A Novel of Pompeii and Isle of Shadows, and have read a number of her books.) Her novels always feel accurate and well-researched, which isn’t a surprise since her author’s bio says that “Tracy is currently pursuing a graduate degree in Ancient History and has traveled through Greece, Turkey, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, and Italy, researching her novels.” The author’s notes at the end of the book (yes, I read those) say that this book is the author’s “most ambitious to date, both in scope and the amount of historical fact.” She has a way of clearly explaining the relationships between historical figures – including the many Caesars, Herods, and Ptolemys that show up in this book and the time periods before and after. I also enjoyed the main character in this book, Lydia, who ties all of these cities and rulers together with her story.

The test for me is always whether I have to finish the book in one reading, or am able to put it down to read later. This was a finish-in-one-night book! The Queen’s Handmaid would be a great read if you’re heading on vacation for Spring Break next week, as you’ll be entertained, and will feel as if you have learned a little more about life in Egypt, Rome, and Jerusalem in 39-29 BC. Highly recommended.

If you’d like to check out The Queen’s Handmaid it is currently on sale for $9.99 for the Kindle version right now. (Regularly $15.99.) If you prefer a physical copy the paperback version is currently on sale for $11.95. Remember, Amazon’s prices can change at any time.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. 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.”

Add comment March 10, 2014

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