The Forest for the Trees

The Forest for the TreesThe Forest for the Trees: An Editor’s Advice to WritersThe Forest for the Trees: An Editor's Advice to Writers by Betsy Lerner by Betsy Lerner

Enjoyable and insightful look at the publishing industry. Lerner’s tone is sympathetic and supportive, but still quite realistic about publication. The stories she shares illustrate her points well, although there were a few times when I wished she’d been willing to share the names of the individuals in question. That was just me being nosy though! There are some named examples however, so it’s not just all anonymous examples.

Recommended for anyone seeking publication. If you’re not, I’m not sure how valuable it would be, but I found it interesting enough that I was glad I read it, even if I’m not looking to be published in the foreseeable future. I do generally like behind-the-scenes type looks at things though, so I was a bit predisposed to enjoy this. [Read more...]

Homeschooling Update: Teaching Reading with All About Reading

All About ReadingI wrote before about three books on teaching reading, and my favorite of the bunch.

So why did I switch from that approach and begin using All About Reading? Originally I had intentionally avoided this program, but ultimately ended up giving it a try when G stalled out with the reading book I was using.

The results? It’s been fantastic. G loves it, it’s working well, it’s easy to use – it’s absolutely great. Great, but not perfect…

What do I not like about AAR?

It’s expensive. Level 1 is $100, plus you have to buy an interactive kit for another $22. Level 2 is another $100, and Levels 3 and 4 are each $120 (at least you only have to buy one interactive kit). The Pre-Reading Level is “only” $80, or $120 if you want the deluxe version. That’s … a lot of money for one subject, albeit a very important one.

It’s only partially reusable. I mean, I buy Sonlight for my son, and that’s not the cheapest homeschooling option out there, but it’s almost completely reusable. With two other children following, suddenly that Sonlight price tag seems a lot better when I think about using it three times. With AAR, some parts are reusable, but I have to buy each child their own activity book: that’s $17 each for the Pre-Reading Level and Level 1, $20 for Level 2, and $30 for Levels 3 & 4. Adding it all, it’ll be $542 for G, and another $114 for each of the girls. For all three kids, that will be $542 + $114 + $114. That’s almost $800 just for reading instruction. Ayi yi yi.

I hate having to pay for shipping. I am so used to places offering free shipping if you order over a certain amount, but AAR doesn’t do that. So when I ordered one level, it was another $10 for standard shipping.

They don’t include the stickers with the student packet – you have to remember to buy that separately. The activity book includes a chart set up to use the stickers to track the student’s progress, but the stickers aren’t automatically included. They’re only $1, so really, could they not have included them already? That’s super annoying – just include them in the student packet already!!

What do I like about AAR?

Everything else. No, seriously, it’s a fantastic program. It’s fun for G – he went from not wanting to do reading from that book to LOVING reading lessons. We flew through level one because he’s enjoyed it so much.

It’s also super easy for me to use. I began it in earnest when I was in my final weeks of pregnancy, feeling brain dead and exhausted. I did not have the energy to come up with ways to make learning more fun and engaging, and wanted an open-and-go program. This is that. The most challenging part was keeping the kids out of it until I got it all set up – magnets on the letter tiles and phonogram and word cards separated out and put into their box.

G loves the word cards, and the stories in the reading books – they’re just hard enough to push him a bit, but still all very readable as it’s so incremental.

He loves the stickers. I am continually amazed at just how motivating it is for him to be able to put a sticker on his chart when he finished another lesson.

He loves the variety of activities in the book – there’s lots of cutting which he adores (and any coloring is optional, which is perfect since he hates coloring), and then every option has been fun for him. Making word flippers, feeding the monster, even flipping the eggs have all thrilled him. No joke.

(The only thing he doesn’t love? The fluency sheets. We do them all, but that’s the only time I’ve had to start thinking of ways to make it more interesting for him / break them up a bit. And apparently we’re not alone in that, since AAR’s blog recently posted some ideas for fluency sheets.)

So, do I recommend AAR? Yes, absolutely, with some caveats.
  • Yes, I recommend it in that it has been fantastic for us, and is working well to develop in G a love of reading.
  • Yes, it’s been so easy to use for me (a huge priority right now).
  • Yes, it’s piqued H’s interest and she’s excited to try it herself.
  • Yes, because solid reading skills are one of the most important things I want to develop in my kids – not just skills, but a love for it too – I think it’ll help with everything else school-related through the years if they’re excellent readers who also read for fun.
  • Yes, because even if you have no phonics background (ahem, that would be me) you can still use the program and teach your child using that method.
So why the hesitation to give a wholehearted recommendation?

I wouldn’t say it’s a “MUST HAVE” because of those drawbacks to it. It is expensive, and you don’t NEED it to teach your child(ren) to read. If you’re creative you can come up with lots of ideas for ways to make reading lessons more engaging and appealing. Scan Pinterest and you’ll see tons of suggestions you can adapt to your own situation.

If you’re not a crafty mom, and your mental energy goes other places than towards coming up with literacy-type games and all of that? This program is wonderful. I hope it continues to work this well, and if it does, I imagine I’ll be getting all the levels.

Disclosure: Unlike virtually every other review post I’ve seen online regarding All About Reading, I did not get mine for free. I bought it and we’ve finished Level 1, and have just started Level 2. I plan to buy Levels 3 & 4 if 2 continues working so well and they seem necessary. That said, I did sign up for their affiliate program and this post contains affiliate links. If you decide you’d like to try the program and click on my link, I’ll get a commission at no extra charge to you. And then I’ll use it to buy more books or homeschool supplies. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

The Harlot’s Tale

The Harlot's TaleThe Harlot’s Tale: A Midwife MysteryThe Harlot's Tale: A Midwife Mystery (The Midwife's Tale) by Sam Thomas by Sam Thomas

A sequel to Thomas’ The Midwife’s Tale, and it’s not quite as strong as the first book, although I think I liked the plot of this one more, as contradictory as that might sound.

While I enjoy the characters of Bridget and Martha, and their interactions, the historical elements and especially the setting are my favorite parts of the book, and it made me especially glad to live in a time and place when air conditioning is available. :)

The mystery seemed a little too easy to solve, but there were still some plot surprises that kept things interesting until the end. And keep me wondering what will happen with any later books if the series continues.

I do think this one is better read after finishing The Midwife’s Tale, although it’s not absolutely essential.
[Read more...]

Twitterature – Recent Christian Reads

recent reads, twitterature-style

The Message of the New TestamentThe Message of the New Testament: Promises KeptThe Message of the New Testament: Promises Kept by Mark Dever by Mark Dever
Didn’t like this one quite as much as the companion book on the Old Testament, but that may just be because of my comparative unfamiliarity with some of the Old Testament books, which made me absolutely LOVE that one. This one is still a fantastic look at each book in the New Testament, in addition to one overview of the entire New Testament. Definitely recommended.

Prayer the Great Adventure
Prayer, the Great AdventurePrayer, the Great Adventure by David Jeremiah by David Jeremiah
Enjoyed the structure to this one, as the second and third sections of the book focus on prayer lessons gleaned from Matthew 6 and John 17. Matthew 6 as an organizational framework for a book on prayer is familiar to me, but John 17 isn’t one I’ve seen before, and I really appreciated it.

The Heart of the BibleThe Heart of the Bible: Explore the Power of Key Bible PassagesThe Heart of the Bible: Explore the Power of Key Bible Passages by John MacArthur by John MacArthur
A great collection of verses, arranged thematically, with commentary by MacArthur following each verse. It would work well as a yearly devotional, as there are 52 verses featured.

30 Days to Understanding the Christian Life30 Days to Understanding the Christian Life in 15 Minutes a Day!30 Days to Understanding the Christian Life in 15 Minutes a Day!: Expanded Edition by Max Anders by Max Anders
A bit uneven, but still worth reading, especially as some of the sections were very good. Overall I preferred his book 30 Days to Understanding the Bible30 Days to Understanding the Bible by Max Anders, but either could make a good group study.

AngelsAngels: Who They Are and How They Help–What the Bible RevealsAngels: Who They Are and How They Help--What the Bible Reveals by David Jeremiah by David Jeremiah
An informative look at what the Bible says about angels, vs. what we are exposed to through popular culture, folklore, and other stories. I appreciated the section about what angels do, and why it matters.

For more peeks at what people are reading, head over to Modern Mrs. Darcy’s link-up!

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

Magic in the Mix

Magic in the MixMagic in the MixMagic in the Mix by Annie Barrows by Annie Barrows

Last year I read Annie Barrow’s book The Magic Half and was charmed by the fun tale that mixed time-travel and fantasy elements into a fun story. It was disappointing to discover that it was a stand-alone title, as I would have happily read more about Molly and Miri.

Turns out I wasn’t alone, and Molly and Miri are back in a second book, and despite how much I liked the first book, I think I liked this one even more. The historical elements are more prominent this time, and I loved how Barrows’ wove together historical events into the twins’ adventures.

While it’s not absolutely essential to have read The Magic Half before reading this one, reading them out of order will spoil events from book #1 so if that’s a concern for you, read accordingly. :)

Happily, the book ends with there still being lots of potential for future stories featuring the girls, and I hope there are additional ones eventually published. It’s a fun premise and Barrows is a good story-teller.

Magic in the Mix releases on the 16th, so while it’s not available today, it will be next week.

Publisher’s Description:
Molly and Miri Gill are twins. They look the same, act the same, sometimes even think the same. But they weren’t always twins. . . . Molly used to live in 1935, until Miri traveled back in time to save her from the clutches of Molly’s evil adoptive family. Only they know about the magic, and its power to set things right. So when home repairs unleash more unexpected magic from their very special . . . very magical old house, the girls set off on another time-traveling adventure to the Civil War where they race against the clock to save two unusual soldiers and come to terms with the truth about Molly’s real past.

Brimming with lovable characters and spine-tingling magic, this long-awaited sequel will bring a whole new batch of readers to Annie Barrows’ highly acclaimed, wonderfully popular world of twin-inspired magic.

Book Details

Title: Magic in the MixMagic in the Mix by Annie Barrows
Author: Annie Barrows
Category: Juvenile Fiction / Fantasy
My Rating: 4 Stars

Disclosure: I received a copy of the book from NetGalley for review, but was not required to write a positive review – all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

A Tree Grows in BrooklynA Tree Grows in BrooklynA Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith by Betty Smith

Book club’s pick for August, and I am so glad it was – I’d have never been motivated to read it otherwise, and I certainly wouldn’t have stuck with it long enough to fall in love with the story.

Because fall in love with it I did. I hate to gush over it too much, because often I think if my expectations are too high it’s all but impossible for a book to live up to them. If I’d started this thinking “POTENTIAL FAVORITE BOOK AHEAD!” would I have been as able to fall in love with the story and characters? And if I gush, am I setting someone else up to be disappointed?

Some aspects of it remind me a bit of Anne of Green GablesAnne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery, as a coming-of-age story about a girl who finds the beauty in the ugliness that often surrounds her. However, this one is not as fitting for younger readers as Anne can be, so I wouldn’t hand it over to younger readers without being aware of the content and their capacity to emotionally handle it.

Smith is able to bring to life Brooklyn in the early 1900s, and the poverty and grim realities of life there in a way that still kept alive hope in a better future. There are some awful events related, but it never feels grim or depressing. You feel the sorrows of the Nolan family (and there are plenty of sorrows), but also the joy they experience.

My only real complaint with it is that when it ends, I’m not ready to say goodbye to Francie. [Read more...]

Yes, Chef

Yes, ChefYes, Chef: A MemoirYes, Chef: A Memoir by Marcus Samuelsson with Veronica Chambers by Marcus Samuelsson with Veronica Chambers

I don’t generally like celebrity biographies or memoirs, but Yes, Chef is why I can be persuaded to keep trying them: it was definitely worth reading!

A heads-up though, if you only like reading memoirs by people if you can admire everything about them, this probably isn’t the one for you. Samuelsson is highly ambitious, and writes bluntly about the sacrifices he made and continues to make in pursuit of his professional goals.

What becomes harder to read about is when the sacrifices aren’t just his: his parents pay for his ambitions, but so does a girlfriend who didn’t fit in with his goals, and most especially his daughter, product of a one-night stand, whom he doesn’t meet until she’s a teenager. He wasn’t even going to pay child support until his mother insisted that yes, he was. I appreciate his honesty in admitting these less-admirable moments, but I found myself feeling so sorry for his daughter.

That said, I still found his story fascinating – born in Ethiopia, adopted by a Swedish family, now an American citizen and celebrity chef. His story is very unique, and I loved hearing about how he developed as a chef and restaurateur. It also made me wish I could taste some of the dishes and meals he described – many of the flavors he discusses aren’t ones I’m familiar with, and I had no frame of reference for imagining what they’d be like.

Recommended, with some cautions if you’re super sensitive to language. If you’re at all familiar with the language used in professional kitchens you’ll know what I mean. And if you don’t like reading a lot about food, this isn’t the book for you – it plays a significant role in his story and is featured prominently. [Read more...]

Bookworm Problems: Impatiently Waiting for the Next Book in a Series

Winter(Let’s just subtitle this post: Are You KIDDING Me Winter Won’t Be Published Until November 2015???)

I am a series reader. Mysteries, fantasy – they’re all fun, and in many ways I prefer them as series. I can get attached to characters that way, and follow them through multiple books. And, especially for fantasy series, it allows for bigger story lines.

There’s one big drawback to series reads: the wait for the next installment. It’s one reason I often like to come into a series when it’s been out for awhile – I can binge read and not have to wait for the next one to be published.

Where I went wrong recently was with the Lunar Chronicles series. Book 1, Cinder, was fantastic! I loved it! And then I had to wait, but not too long for book 2, Scarlet.

Then I had to wait almost a year for book 3, Cress, and then I was dreading the year wait for the final book, Winter.

Recently I went looking for it, thinking perhaps it’d be in my library catalog soon for me to add myself to the holds list before it gets into triple digits. Only to discover that the publication date has been changed to NOVEMBER of next year. Not January/February like I was sure it was originally. NOVEMBER. As in, still more than a year away. Now I’m only WISHING it’d just been a year like I first thought it would be.


Anyone else impatiently waiting for the next book in a series?

#BookwormProblems Bookworm Problems -

Visit Quirky Bookworm for more #bookworm problems!

Heaven’s Queen (Book 3, Paradox Series)

Heaven's QueenHeaven’s QueenHeaven's Queen (Paradox series book #3) by Rachel Bach by Rachel Bach

I was a little bit nervous to begin this final entry into the Paradox trilogy. I had so enjoyed books 1 (Fortune’s Pawn) and 2 (Honor’s Knight) that I wondered if Bach could continue that through the end of the series.

Because it does serve as a wrap-up to the entire series, it becomes so much harder to write anything about it without risking spoilers for the earlier books at the very least, if not the entire series. So, I’ll just say that if you read and liked books 1 & 2, book 3 shouldn’t disappoint you. It continues the trend of Devi getting herself into seemingly impossible predicaments, and you’re just sure somehow she’ll extricate herself. But does she?

Spoilers ahead! Highlight the below text only if you don’t mind being possibly spoiled:

n the first two books, I was always confident that Devi would be ok. Maybe battered and bruised, but there was a third book – she’d be in it. Book three removes that confidence, but the overall feel of the story line still had me convinced that she’d end up ok, no matter how impossible that seemed. Anyone and everyone else however? Seemed like fair game.

Not telling exactly how it ends, but I liked the job Bach did at wrapping up all the story lines, and how she kept Devi consistent throughout the book, and yet she showed some growth too. That seems like a contradiction, but I don’t think it really is.

Recommended for science fiction fans. And for fantasy fans like me who didn’t think they liked sci-fi. :)

Publisher’s Description:
From the moment she took a job on Captain Caldswell’s doomed ship, Devi Morris’ life has been one disaster after another: government conspiracies, two alien races out for her blood, an incurable virus that’s eating her alive.

Now, with the captain missing and everyone — even her own government — determined to hunt her down, things are going from bad to impossible. The sensible plan would be to hide and wait for things to blow over, but Devi’s never been one to shy from a fight, and she’s getting mighty sick of running.

It’s time to put this crisis on her terms and do what she knows is right. But with all human life hanging on her actions, the price of taking a stand might be more than she can pay.

Book Details

Title: Heaven’s QueenHeaven's Queen (Paradox series book #3) by Rachel Bach
Author: Rachel Bach
Category: Science Fiction
My Rating: 4 Stars

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

August 2014 Recap

August RecapI said in my last post that I planned on posting resuming September 1. Well, I do have a post, but there may not be another one until next week, and I think I’m only going to be posting three times a week for the rest of the month – Monday, Wednesday and Friday. I haven’t yet figured out any sort of routine, and blogging time has been almost nonexistent.

The baby is great, and is generally fantastic at sleeping at night (hooray!), but daytime napping is a challenge. While her night sleeping is better than I’d hoped for, it still is broken up enough that I’m not able to get up early enough to have any computer time then either.

August 2014 in Stats

Books Read Last Month: 23
Books Read For The Year: 152

Books I Read

Asterisks mark ones I especially enjoyed. Links go to my review if I’ve posted one, Amazon if I haven’t yet.

  1. * Delancey: A Man, a Woman, a Restaurant, a MarriageDelancey: A Man, a Woman, a Restaurant, a Marriage by Molly Wizenberg by Molly Wizenberg
    Loved this – maybe not quite as much as her first book, but it was a really enjoyable follow-up.
  2. Fresh from the Farm: A Year of Recipes and StoriesFresh from the Farm: A Year of Recipes and Stories by Susie Middleton by Susie Middleton
    Beautiful photographs and some tempting-sounding recipes but the format for it was horrendously bad.
  3. 30 Days to Understanding the Christian Life in 15 Minutes a Day!30 Days to Understanding the Christian Life in 15 Minutes a Day!: Expanded Edition by Max Anders by Max Anders
    A bit uneven, but still worth reading.
  4. Captured By LoveCaptured By Love (Michigan Brides Collection Book #3) by Jody Hedlund by Jody Hedlund
    Loved the setting for this one, but didn’t like the book itself as much as some of her previous novels.
  5. A Scholar of MagicsA Scholar of Magics (A College of Magics) by Caroline Stevermer by Caroline Stevermer
    Sequel to A Scholar of Magics, and I liked the prominent role Jane played in this story, as well as the new character Lambert.
  6. The Good News About Marriage: Debunking Discouraging Myths about Marriage and DivorceThe Good News About Marriage: Debunking Discouraging Myths about Marriage and Divorce by Shaunti Feldhahn with Tally Whitehead by Shaunti Feldhahn with Tally Whitehead
    Not as beneficial to me as her previous books, but it was still interesting.
  7. * Magic in the MixMagic in the Mix by Annie Barrows by Annie Barrows
    Fun middle-grade book that blends fantasy and history.
  8. The Forest for the Trees: An Editor’s Advice to WritersThe Forest for the Trees: An Editor's Advice to Writers by Betsy Lerner by Betsy Lerner
    Not the typical writing book, but I really enjoyed it.
  9. * A Tree Grows in BrooklynA Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith by Betty Smith
    Loved loved loved this one.
  10. Worship: The Ultimate PriorityWorship: The Ultimate Priority by John MacArthur by John MacArthur
    I always feel a bit guilty when I’m not crazy about a book like this, but I wasn’t.
  11. * Our Only May AmeliaOur Only May Amelia by Jennifer L. Holm by Jennifer L. Holm
    A re-read (although this time I listened to it). Love this book, and the audio version is excellent.
  12. The Blood of Lorraine: A NovelThe Blood of Lorraine: A Novel by Barbara Corrado Pope - book two in the Bernard Martin series by Barbara Corrado Pope
    Reading this one just to get to the third in the series. Wasn’t crazy about it, mostly because of some plot elements that weren’t a good fit for my pregnant self.
  13. * Eiffel’s Tower: The Thrilling Story Behind Paris’s Beloved Monument and the Extraordinary World’s Fair That Introduced ItEiffel's Tower: The Thrilling Story Behind Paris's Beloved Monument and the Extraordinary World's Fair That Introduced It by Jill Jonnes by Jill Jonnes
    So interesting, and worth reading even if it is a bit dry at times.
  14. * The Everything Homeschooling Book: All you need to create the best curriculum and learning environment for your childThe Everything Homeschooling Book: All you need to create the best curriculum and learning environment for your child by Sherri Linsenbach by Sherri Linsenbach
  15. General Winston’s DaughterGeneral Winston's Daughter by Sharon Shinn by Sharon Shinn
    Predictable, but enjoyable, although I kept waiting for the fantasy elements to arrive (because all the previous books by Shinn I’ve read were fantasy novels. This one, not so much.)
  16. Shelf Life: Romance, Mystery, Drama. and Other Page-Turning Adventures from a Year in a BookstoreShelf Life: Romance, Mystery, Drama. and Other Page-Turning Adventures from a Year in a Bookstore by Suzanne Strempek Shea by Suzanne Strempek Shea
    Not the book I was hoping to read.
  17. The Missing Italian Girl: A Mystery in ParisThe Missing Italian Girl: A Mystery in Paris by Barbara Corrado Pope by Barbara Corrado Pope
    Read for book club’s retreat, and it was somewhat disappointing. The requirement was a fiction book set in Paris, and it was, but the setting was fairly inconsequential to the story.
  18. Ghost Ship: The Mysterious True Story of the Mary Celeste and Her Missing CrewGhost Ship: The Mysterious True Story of the Mary Celeste and Her Missing Crew by Brian Hicks by Brian Hicks
    Fascinating account.
  19. Finding Spiritual Whitespace: Awakening Your Soul to RestFinding Spiritual Whitespace: Awakening Your Soul to Rest by Bonnie Gray by Bonnie Gray
    It’s gotten some rave reviews online, but it was a miss for me.
  20. * Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl
    A re-read for book club’s September meeting.
  21. Naked and Marooned: One Man. One Island.Naked and Marooned: One Man. One Island. by Ed Stafford by Ed Stafford
    Review book, and I’ve got mixed feelings on it.
  22. Murder in the Marais: An Aimee Leduc Investigation, Vol. 1Murder in the Marais: An Aimee Leduc Investigation, Vol. 1 by Cara Black by Cara Black
    Trying again for a novel set in Paris. Not a fan.
  23. Michael Symon’s Live to Cook: Recipes and Techniques to Rock Your KitchenMichael Symon's Live to Cook: Recipes and Techniques to Rock Your Kitchen by Michael Symon and Michael Ruhlman by Michael Symon and Michael Ruhlman
    I so wish I’d known of Symon’s place before our trip to Cleveland pre-kids so we could have gone there for dinner. Not sure if we’ll make it back there for another shot at it.

[Read more...]