Saturday, October 31, 2015

Miracle Drug by Dr. Richard Mabry *Review

About the book:
Miracle Drug
(Abingdon, September 2015)

Overcoming these odds will take more than a miracle drug---it will take a miracle.

The infection wasn't supposed to happen, but it did. The treatment was supposed to take care of it, but it didn't. Then Dr. Josh Pearson discovers why---his patients, including the former President of the United States, have been dosed with a different strain of the original virus, one that is universally fatal. The only chance for survival is treatment with an experimental drug, but the manufacturer might already have discarded its supply.

As if treating the President of the United States isn't stressful enough, the situation goes from bad to worse when Rachel Moore, a nurse Josh is falling in love with, falls ill. With the nation's eyes on him, Josh must pull off a miracle to save a man who holds a good deal of power and the woman who holds his heart.

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My Thoughts:
I just love being the reader, and realizing from chapter 1 that things aren't as they appear. The previous president of the US and his team think that Dr. Ben Lambert, personal physician to the previous president,  simply had a heart attack. We get to see in the first few pages, that he was indeed killed. We find as his body comes missing, and then accidentally cremated, that the team becomes suspicious as well. Is it even his body, as his wife notices his class ring is missing.
A new physician is appointed to Mr. Madison, previously chosen by the late doctor. Dr Josh Pearson now is left with what appears to be a threat on the previous presidents life as well as Josh's girlfriend. He must work with  maximum security and secrecy to secure a remedy for this virus that appears to have been targeted to kill Mr. Madison.

There are a lot of people involved in the story. The secret service, the team who works with Mr. Madison and his foundation, the doctors and staff at the hospital, as well as international doctors and informants. You have to keep your people straight in your mind! I did have to turn back on occasion to make sure who I was reading about.. lol. Perhaps because I was trying to read the book too fast!
I have long enjoyed Dr. Mabry's books. He keeps the medical aspect of the mystery easy for the layman to understand, yet I think intelligent enough for those in the medical field to still enjoy. I love how he uses his expertise to create great characters and story lines pertaining to the medical field. I enjoy the mystery and the suspense that he builds in his characters!

About the author:

Dr. Richard Mabry is a retired physician who writes "medical suspense with heart." His novels have won multiple awards: a semifinalist for International Thriller Writers' debut novel; finalists for the Carol Award, Inspirational Reader's Choice Award, and Romantic Times' Reader's Choice Award; and both finalist and winner of the Selah Award. "Miracle Drug" is his ninth published novel. He and his wife live in Frisco, Texas.

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website, Facebook, Twitter

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I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are purely my own.

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Friday, October 30, 2015

Maestro Classics ~The Nutcracker *Review

Maestro Classics Review

Maestro Classics  brings classical music to a child's level. We have been studying the country of Russia, and The Nutcracker was a perfect compliment for us.

Maestro Classics Review

I have found that my kids tend to think Classical music is 'boring'. My 16 year old will turn on the classical music station in the car (which he actually enjoys) just to hear the roar of 'booing' in the back seat from the little ones. What?? How can this be. I just have not given them a indepth experience into the beautiful realm of classical music. Maestro Classics is a great way to introduce them, and to turn the experience around.

The Nutcracker gives an abbreviated version with narration just for the kids. To be able to visualize this beautiful ballet through music. I was blessed to see this on stage when I was in college and it truly brought the music to life.

There are 21 tracks for a total of 58 minutes. We listened to this on our travel to a homeschool co-op group. Great for day trips to help break up the trip and expose our kids to great music!

The Nutcracker went great with our Russia study as it is a Russian ballet. This version is adapted by Stephen Simon and is performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Nothing but the best!  Jim Weiss is the narrator. If you have listened to other narrations before you may have heard Jim Weiss. He is outstanding! A very gifted narrator for kids and adults a like.

The ballet takes place as Christmas with an indulgence of toys and candy and all things bright and beautiful! Tchaikovsky's music is phenomenal! He can tell the story simply with the music. Jim Weiss just adds a flare to it to help the children visualize the story of Clara and Fritz and their Christmas gala.

The CD comes with a color insert that gives the scene names from the ballet. It also has information on the history of ballet, the harp, Tchaikovsky, as well as a small intro to Stephen Simon and Jim Weiss. In the Nutcracker insert there is also a small word scramble and word find.

Maestro Classics can be used alone for a look at the classics. They also can easily be incorporated into unit studies based on what country the composer may be from, or the season of the year that the classic falls (Christmas time for this particular one), or even a in-depth study of a various group of composers. There are many ways to include classical music into your homeschool.

The Nutcracker is such a popular one that you may even be able to find a performance to go to after you listen to the Maestro Classic version. I know many local community theaters and even colleges have performances of it during the holidays. What a great way to celebrate the season and to share the love of the orchestra with your children!

The kids did not 'boo' this CD like they have the radio station. Thankfully! I love the combination of the sound effects, the orchestra and Jim Weiss narration. The three together really give an engaging experience for the entire family!

Be sure to check out the other great Classics offered by Maestro Classics!

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Maestro Classics Review

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Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Ultimate Homeschool Planner *Review

Apologia Ultimate Homeschool Planner

Apologia Educational Ministries is a trusted homeschool company with excellent products. We have used their various curriculum for years and are always blessed by their determination to explore God in all things educational. What better than to try the The Ultimate Homeschool Planner - Orange Cover planning system.

Apologia Ultimate Homeschool Planner

The creator of outstanding homeschooling materials seems to be a great fit for planning an ultimate planner! This planner gives you several pages of 'user guide' for ease in planning and even includes suggested days and amounts of time for planning. It is also very encouraging about your call to homeschool. Pre planning is something I typically lack in. I get gung ho in the summer to plan for the first month or so of school, but after that I tend to get too busy to keep the pre planning going.

"Order brings peace", is a traditional saying from St. Augustine. Planning helps ease some of the chaos in homeschooling and allows students to become more independent learners. Debra Bell and Zan Tyler have designed this planner with the homeschool mom in mind.  "We want you to do more than just survive your call to homeschool; we want you to thrive in the pleasure of God's calling on your life".

We are in the 2nd quarter of school now. I haven't had a yearly planning retreat, EVER. Which this planner suggests. Maybe that would be a good idea at least at the semester end, to evaluate where we are and where we need to go for the rest of the year. I have heard of many who do a yearly retreat for planning and they are really refreshed.

There are pages for setting student goals, a one year planning grid for days off, holidays, and special events. There are monthly and weekly planners. One thing I love is that they are not labeled!!! You can start this planner at any time, rather than feeling like half of the year is gone, and you wasted the first half of the book. Not with this planner! You start on page 26 with the monthly planner and jump in right where we are.. November (if you were to get yours soon!).

The grid is very flexible without having dates or topics. You can choose to put the day of the week, or the subject. You can utilize what ever works better for you and the amount of children you are working with. I preferred to put the name of the child on the left column and the subject on the top. We can then see what all they have for the entire week of assignments. There are 6 tabs on each on the vertical and the horizontal. I just started the top with Monday and was able to include Saturday as well.

The monthly pages are all together, then start the weekly. I would personally have liked to see one monthly page, and then 4 weeks of weekly so that I can easily flip back and forth between the monthly layout and the week we are on. I simply put a paper clip to mark my monthly page to make it a bit easier to locate quickly.

With so many helps and guides, this is much more than just a planner. The back of the planner even has teaching tips, learning styles, reluctant learners, and raising an independent learner.

Along with the weekly planner there is also 2 pages to record prayer requests, Bible plan, memorable moments, evidence of grace that God has shown you. This planner becomes much more a part of history in the making, and recording your family as it makes that history. You will keep these forever, storing up the memories for your children to share down the road. I like that is it much more personable, than a mere planner.

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Tuesday, October 27, 2015

IEW Phonetic Zoo Level A *Review

IEW Phonetic Zoo

Institute for Excellence in Writing may be a familiar company to many homeschoolers. They are top notch in many of their writing programs including spelling. My children are less than stellar spellers. We reviewed Phonetic Zoo Spelling Level A [Starter Set]
after taking an assessment to see where we should start. My 16 year old started at square one so we went with that for him, my 13 and 11 year old. I decided to start them all together with the Phonetic Zoo to better equip them for spelling.

This is an audio product on CD. It comes with study cards that include each of the words in the lesson as well as the teaching tool to help them remember the spelling rule. There are also smaller cards which you can utilize to make a 'zoo' on your school room wall after they get through each lesson. Because I was working with older kids, we chose not to create the zoo component.

IEW Phonetic Zoo
This set also includes a link to the video Spelling and the Brain, downloadable teacher notes, and personal spelling cards to keep track of the words your student needs more work with.
Auditory input with spelling is very important to young learners, but often not utilized in spelling. For the student to see the word, hear the word, and write the word, they are able better to retain it.
There are 47 lessons, and it really will vary on how long you can utilize the program. We worked daily, but we weren't able to master the lists each day. It is recommended to get 100 % on the lesson twice in a row before moving on to the next lesson. There are 15 words per lesson.
We all began on lesson 1. The student does get the opportunity to study the words on the first time through the lesson. It is encouraged to use a pen which I thought was interesting. During IEW classes, there is a "no erasing' rule! The time spent erasing and rewriting can get extremely long, and takes focus on concentrating on the English composition. Also the contrast between the ink and the white paper is better for the eyes than the carbon pencil. (Interesting facts to throw at you!)
So PEN in hand we start the CD, and the nice older gentlemen states the rule, gives plenty of time for the student to write the word. He goes through about 3 words and then repeats the spelling rule.
The next track on the CD will be the correction of the lesson's words. We had our students correct their own words so that they are seeing their errors and writing it correctly next to it.
It was easy at first keeping them all together but we slowly started having the oldest pull ahead, which was excellent! He would master the level much quicker than his 11 year old sister and I was pleased with that. We are now each on different levels of Phonetic Zoo, but we just stagger when each student does it.
It is suggested to use headphones to really emphasize the audio portion of the program. It can block out other sounds and help them focus. When we did it all together, we really couldn't use the headphones. I do like for the other kids to hear each others lessons for reinforcement too. We may look into using headphones now that they are all in separate lessons.
The nice thing about the resource cards is that you can use them with level B and level C as well. You will only need to purchase the next level of CD's or MP3 downloads.
This is an excellent series. It is not 'degrading' for the older kids, nor is it too 'articulate' for the younger ones. Perfect combination for all the levels we were using.

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Monday, October 26, 2015

Come Bien! Eat Right ~Jose-Luis Orozco *Review



A CD with songs about healthy eating. Songs include The Food on my Plate, Tasty Colors, Juanito's Chicken, Oatmeal, Milk, Snack and more!
This was an interesting CD. Very unique that it is all about foods, and that you can hear each song in Spanish and English!
I enjoyed the milk song. It included rice milk, coconut milk, goat milk and others. Not what you expect from a song titled Milk. I figured it would just be about the good ole' cow and it surprised me.
The first song Thanksgiving, does pay homage to Mother Nature, which I know for some is something they like to know. I didn't find that in any other song that I recognized.

Get a sneak peek of some of the songs HERE

62 minute CD with the first 19 songs being in Spanish, and the 20-38 song being the same songs in English. If you can memorize the song in English, then you would be able to hear the song in Spanish and gain some Spanish language!

Orozco moved from Mexico to the United States at age nineteen, eventually studied sociology at UC Berkeley, receiving a Master’s degree in Multicultural Education at the University of San Francisco. He then committed himself to a new project: playing music for children. He employed his education and experience in cross-cultural communication, to begin a colorful catalog of adolescent-centered learning materials. For these, he won multiple awards such as the 2011 Latino Spirit Award, a Notable Award from the American Library Association, as well as the 1990 Leadership Award from the California Association for Bilingual Education. He was featured performer at the National Association for Education of Young Children conference last fall.

On ¡Come Bien! Eat Right! Orozco has teamed up with a friend and Mexican-American music icon, the GRAMMY-winning Quetzal Flores. Flores, who produced the record, rose to prominence in the early 1990s as the guitar player and namesake of Quetzal, the East Los Angeles-based “Chicano rock” pioneers. In 2013, the group won the Best Latin Rock Album GRAMMY for Imaginaries, released through Smithsonian Folkways Recordings.

Through records such as ¡Come Bien! Eat Right!, José-Luis has continued the journey he began as an eight-year-old singer for the Mexico City Boy’s Choir: “I’ve been able to combine music and education, and that’s what I do all over the country.” Orozco commented, “Every single year, I travel about 125,000 miles; it’s like going around the world five times every year, reaching hundreds of thousands of kids, and families, and teachers.”

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Friday, October 23, 2015

NKJV Study Bible for Kids *Review & Giveaway

NKJV Study Bible for Kids is geared for students 8-12, but personally I loved this Bible as an adult! In full color, it is a gorgeous study Bible!

It includes book introductions for each of the books, giving some background information to help reading the Word easier. It also includes timelines and on location maps to give you a sense of when and where the events took place.
The Spotlight section helps the kids learn about God and His people and how the Bible connects to our lives.

Starring Roles is a section that brings out and highlights specific people in the Bible.
In Focus gives a little more insight into specific words in the Bible.
Action section gives a article on day to day topics that show how people in Bible times may have experienced similar things to what we experience now.
The Epic Ideas section gives key articles on important themes to live the Christian life.
There is also a dictionary and concordance.

This is a beautiful Bible for kids! Be sure to check this and other great Bibles out from Tommy Nelson.

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Koru Naturals *Review

Koru Naturals Review
Koru Naturals brings the beauty of New Zealand to it's natural body products. With over 15 brands of products, Koru Naturals provides a healthy alternative for your skin and hair. I was able to review 3 products; Skin Clear Cream , Manuka Honey Propolis Soap and Emu Oil and Blue Tansy Oil Cream.

 Koru Naturals Review

Skin Clear Cream ingredients include Manuka Honey and Manuka Oil. The 4oz skin care cream gives you clear and healthy skin. So what is manuka honey? It is a honey in New Zealand that is created by bees that visit the native manuka bush. The honey is thought to have medicinal properties of healing wound infections, decrease inflammation, helping rashes, and restoring healthy skin.
Wow! There is a rating for manuka honey, the Unique Manuka Factor. And if that factor is above 10, it is considered active. The rating on the NZ fusion is rated a 20+.
Manuka oil is a natural anti fungal, antiseptic oil. With ten times the power of tea tree oil, the manuka oil is usually non irritant.

A little goes a long way with this cream. I used it on my dry arms and it really helped to moisturize and to keep my skin from itching. I did use it on my face some. There is an ingredient or two that makes my face 'tingle' a bit when I use it, so I was careful to keep it from my eyes. It is recommended that this product not be used on children under age 12, or pregnant women. So keep that in mind.
It smells wonderful, with a great hint of almond.

 Koru Naturals Review

Manuka Honey Propolis Soap from the hive of the bee in New Zealand, this soap has the honey and the propolis. Propolis is like bee glue that is used in the small places in the hive, where the bees wax can not fill in. There are a lot of medical studies going on for the medicinal properties of propolis. I have even seen this in toothpaste before to help with dental problems. So here you have the great products of the manuka honey, and the propolis together. This bar is very long lasting. Make sure you put it on a soap saver when done so that it lasts longer. Intense moisturizing and skin protective properties give this soap an A+ for the whole family.

 Koru Naturals Review
Emu Oil and Blue Tansy Oil Cream is a bit different than the previous two products. This is a high strength, deep penetration, and soothing. This is a topical cream for sore muscles, for aches and pains. The scent helps with nervous tension as well, so get it on those shoulder muscles and melt away stress! It is also helpful in reducing skin irritation.
Blue Tansy oil is not recommended for pregnant women.
The Emu Oil helps with reducing pain and swelling. It promotes healing and helps with skin conditions such as psoriasis, acne, and eczema.
This again is a 'little goes a long way' cream. Great for sore, tired, mama feet!

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Thursday, October 22, 2015

Drawing Around the World: Europe *Review

 Brookdale House Review

Brookdale House publishes a variety of child centered learning products. We chose to review from the Geography Drawing Series, Drawing Around the World: Europe.

 Brookdale House Review

We are currently studying various countries around the world and the Missionaries to those places. I wanted to utilize Drawing Around the World Europe to be incorporated into our studies. Just looking at the country on the map doesn't cement into their mind where it is located. I desired more for our studies. Drawing it over the course of a week really helped them to memorize not only where it was, but the shape of it and it's relation to other countries we had studied. Plus my kids love to draw and that really helped them.

The program build upon itself, taking countries from past weeks and adding to them. So you are in a constant state of review, and building upon knowledge. This really helps for the student to retain it.

The geography program is set up for 4 days a week. Day one you study the country, including filling out a fact sheet (there are suggested links in the beginning of the book where you can safely find your information on the country). You outline your country on the map. You also include other countries you have learned up till this date. They you would draw the outline of the country you are learning on the second page, and include the other countries you have learned thus far.

Day 2 is much the same, where you locate your country on the dashed line map and label. Then you draw and label the countries up to this point. The papers look identical, just have a different day on them. My example above was actually day 2.

Day 3 is identical to day 1 and 2.

Day 4 is a blank paper where you need to draw your country and label it. As you progress you will have several countries to add to your map.

There is an order for the countries but we didn't follow that. If we were utilizing this primarily for geography as our main source we would follow the weeks to make it easier on us. It helps group countries near each other for ease of learning and drawing them. You can easily use this as a spine for your country studies. Starting with Iceland the first week and Norway for the second. You could add to this program more information on each country and create a unit study even with the Drawing Around the World being your spine of which order you study.
We started with Russia because that was what country we were in for our missionary studies. I love that I could use this in addition to what we were doing, not just having to use it as the main curriculum. This particular book is just Europe and I would have loved to have Asia included simply because not all of our mission studies are in Europe. I would love to see one for each of the continents. They do have the USA which is great for learning your states!

Brookdale House also has products on Writing Through History, Writing from Rhetoric, Bible Memorization tools, Spanish, Grammar and more. Check out their website for a variety of products to use in your homeschool.

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Saturday, October 17, 2015

Win or Lose, I Love You! by Lysa TerKeurst *Review & Giveaway

Win or Lose, I Love You! by Lysa TerKeurst


It's field day in the forest and Lulu and Max are the judges of the animals, to see who will be the leader of the forest. Bear, chipmunk, rabbit, raccoon, goose and coyote are all in for a series of games to see who wins. We have some bad attitudes though. Some poor sports who lose and some that brag too much if they win. Lulu reminds them "You may not win, but you must try. Sometimes you'll lose, but there's no need to cry. Win or lose, one thing that's true... No matter what, I love you!"
They play fun games like a costume contest, throwing sticks, pie eating contest, and races. There is one animal who stands out among the rest, for his leadership in being kind, encouraging and friendly.
The book has 10 Biblical words of wisdom to share for memorization. These will help you whether you win or lose. Great ways to share the Bible with your kids and take the story to a step beyond just reading it.

I love watching my 11 year old read to her little sister. The baby might not get a lot of wisdom out of it yet, but we are instilling the love of books in her.


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Thursday, October 15, 2015

The Central Park Tales by Marcus Meesters *Review

Reminiscent of the classic books of another era and with beautiful illustrations depicting real places throughout the park, Meesters expertly narrates the adventurous tales of the animals who live in Central Park. Containing ten short stories, young readers (and adults, alike!) are introduced to Squirrel, Duck, Frog, Mousekin, and lovable dog brothers, Doctor Beggar and Mister Pup, among others, and follow along as they navigate their marvelous world – a lush, green oasis in the midst of one of the most bustling, famous cities in the world.

10 short stories with 60 illustrations. Central Park Tales is a gorgeous hard back chapter book. Each character has their own charms and quirks. It is so fun to imagine a entirely unique band of animals set up in Central Park where people walk and roam each day. I loved the imagination in each of the stories and how they kept me reading.

Striped Tail Raccoon was one of the first in his neighborhood before the Mouse family moved in. They were so noisy he moved to the basement and they thought he was not longer living there! Quirky and fun, these collaboration of characters was even fun for me to read as an adult.

This book reminds me of others I have read, longer chapter books for older readers where the main character is a mouse, or some other forest creature. This style has always been a draw for my children. Imagining animals having their own little lives is the height of creativity!

This would make an excellent gift, or just an addition to your home library. The illustrations are simple and precious.

Marcus Meesters is the author and illustrator of The Central Park Tales. He was born in the Netherlands and, at the age of 25, he moved to Amsterdam, where he got to know Vondelpark, Amsterdam’s most famous city park. Meesters is a lover of classic children's books, and it was during one of his walks in Vondelpark that he got the idea to write his own children's book about the animals that live there. His first book, The Vondelpark Tales, was born and extremely well received.

Meesters recently released the second book in the trilogy, The Central Park Tales, which beautifully depicts the famous Central Park in New York City. The third book in the trilogy, The Hyde Park Tales, is expected to release in 2016.

Learn more about Meesters and his books at and connect on Facebook.

The Central Park Tales can be purchased from iBooks, BookBaby, Amazon,,, and Powell’s as well as through all major booksellers.

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