Posted in Arts/Crafts/Hobbies, Book Reviews, Homeschool Lessons, Homeschooling

#Sponsored Book Spotlight: Picturing America: Thomas Cole and the Birth of American Art: Hudson Talbott

SYNOPSIS: The story of an immigrant from England who arrived in America 200 years ago and – through his passion for art, landscape, and the Hudson River Valley and the Catskills – came to define America’s visual identity and set in motion an artistic legacy that continues to impact art and culture to this day. A major international exhibition of Cole’s work, organized by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, is now on view at the National Gallery, London.

Thomas Cole pictured for the world an America that would become known as “America the Beautiful.” Until then, there was not a clear succinct image of our country. In the process, he became a pioneering advocate for environmentalism, raising the alarm over industrial destruction of our landscape long before there was an environmental movement.

Hudson Talbott has written and/or illustrated more than 25 books, including Newbury Honor Book Show Way by Jacqueline Woodson, ALA Notable Book Leonardo’s Horse by Jean Fritz, and We’re Back! A Dinosaur’s Story, adapted into an animated film by Steven Spielberg, starring the voices of John Goodman, Jay Leno, and Martin Short, among others.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Hudson Talbott is a resident of the Hudson Valley and a member of the Board of Trustees of the Thomas Cole National Historic Site in Catskill, NY. In many ways, Picturing America is a companion book to Talbott’s River of Dreams: The Story of the Hudson River, which was named the New York State Children’s Book of the Year in 2009.

MY THOUGHTS: There is so much to love about this book! For homeschoolers, this book touches on multiple classes. Art (of Course), geography, & history are all part of Thomas Cole’s story. Students will also experience a biography about an immigrant who worked hard for his success. Those who are looking to get into a career in art or excel in the subject will find Mr. Cole’s story inspiring and worth their time.

Younger students will marvel at the stunning pictures. Mr. Cole was beyond talented. His vision of American is one worth imitating. He found it beautiful and desired for the landscape to remain rural. This is the perfect resource to discuss the Industrial Revolution, immigration, and art history.

Brick-and-mortar students will definitely benefit from having a seldom discussed artist’s biography. It would be a unique book report and/or history project. Even parents/guardians will love this book. From the pictures to the story itself, this book is phenomenal and gets 5 stars from me.

*I received the aforementioned title in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are mine.

**Pic & synopsis belong solely to the author/publisher.

Posted in Book Reviews, Homeschooling

#Sponsored Book Spotlight:Build Your Own Chain Reaction Machines: Paul Long

SYNOPSIS: Be inspired by the amazing artwork of renowned cartoonist, engineer, and inventor Rube Goldberg, whose wacky, imagined machines accomplished tasks by taking the most complicated route possible. In this entertaining and instructive book, mechanical engineer and educator Paul Long gives instructions for making devices using ordinary objects in ingenious ways. Create machines that flip a switch, squeeze toothpaste, dispense candy, and more.
On sale October 16. Watch an example here.

MY THOUGHTS: As our school year begins, homeschoolers are challenged to find engaging, educational and fun ways to teach STEM. Thankfully, books like this provide ample opportunities to incorporate it. Among the many ‘pros’ that this book brings are its 12 projects. That’s 12 days of STEM teaching. Our author, Paul Long, knows his machines as he is an engineer & educator. Having a background such as this provides a unique insight homeschoolers may not have had before.

A huge plus, in my opinion, is that these machines use everyday objects in their construction. Students can begin to see STEM/STEAM in the world around them. Along with the project itself, additional, topical information is provided making it easy to combine classes like Science & Art. We also have the fact that the book itself is unique. It is the only how-to book currently available on the topic.

Brick-and-mortar students will also identify with and be able to accomplish building these machines. With Science fairs and projects soon to come, it will add an additional learning component to their coursework. Books such as these are timeless and a sound investment to your home library. It is marketed to ages 10 & up, but younger students can benefit from their older counterparts’ involvement. I highly recommend it!

*Pic & Synopsis belong solely to the author/publisher.

**I received a copy in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are mine.

Posted in Book Reviews

#Sponsored Book Spotlight: A Champion Game Plan for Life”: Preston Brown


Preston Brown was drafted by the New England Patriots, after playing four years of football at Vanderbilt University. He went on to play for the New York Jets, as well as the Cleveland Browns. To many, it might have seemed that Brown was destined for a charmed life.

However, Brown has seen his fair share of hardships. He has endured the death of a spouse, after 30 years of marriage, as well as fought and survived cancer, at 40-years-old.

In “A Champion Game Plan for Life,” Brown shares a daily devotional and plan for success, while navigating the vicissitudes of life.

“When I played football, we had a game plan,” Brown said. “Having a plan would give our team the best chance to win the game. When you plan for success, you are better equipped to handle whatever situations arise.”

Brown has also been a praise and worship leader for more than 30 years and has preached over 170 sermons. His book contains a lot of scripture and each daily devotional has a focus subject, like overcoming fear, seizing opportunities or prioritizing goals.

“So many of our youth today are on the cusp of greatness or failure,” Brown said. “It’s almost as if they are one circumstance away from having the abundant life that God wants us to have. Giving them a plan helps act as a path to greatness, as well as a bridge over troubled waters.”
MY THOUGHTS: I love that Mr. Brown has taken all the life lessons learned in football and used them to create a realistic, Godly plan for the believer’s life. Any devotional needs to be brief, relatable, and powerful. Mr. Brown has given readers exactly that. Each devotional in his book is thought-provoking and Biblically sound.

As the parent of a teen, I know it can be difficult to find a devotional that isn’t same-old same-old. I can only speak for having raised sons, so, that said, it seems that there are a plethora of titles for girls in devotionals but few for boys. After reading Mr. Brown’s, I can honestly say that this is a great devotional for sons or sons & their fathers. Girls who enjoy sports or are looking for a new kind of book to further their walk will also benefit.

As a believer, I can say that I definitely felt uplifted going through the readings. He chose some amazing Scriptures as the basis for his thoughts. It’s a fabulous book and I highly recommend it with 5 stars.
“A Champion Game Plan for Life”
By Preston Brown
ISBN: 978-1-5462-3091-5
Available at authorHOUSE and Amazon

About the author
Preston Brown graduated from George Peabody College at Vanderbilt University with a bachelor’s in Social Studies with emphasis in History. He has had further studies in Finance and Education from Alabama A and M University and Pat Ryan School of Finance in Chicago, Ill. Brown played football at Vanderbilt University for four years and was drafted by the New England Patriots of the National Football League. Brown played for the Patriots for three years and then played with the New York Jets for two years. He finished his NFL career with the Cleveland Browns in 1984. He is now the finance manager for Jerry Damson Honda in Huntsville Alabama where he has been employed for 25 years. He is married to Terry, his wife of four years. He has two adult daughters and five grandchildren. To learn more about the author and his book, visit:

Posted in Book Reviews, Homeschooling

Book Spotlight: Warriors in Mr. Lincoln’s Army: Quita V. Shier

I received a copy of the aforementioned title in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are mine.
“Warriors in Mr. Lincoln’s Army”
By Quita V. Shier
ISBN: 978-1-5320-2716-1
Available at iUniverse and Amazon
SYNOPSIS: Anyone who has taken a grade-school history class may be able to recall dates and battles from the American Civil War that ended 152 years ago. What those history books probably did not include, was a group of sharpshooters called “Company K.”

Company K was the only company in the First Michigan Sharpshooter Regiment with only indigenous men on its roster.

In “Warriors in Mr. Lincoln’s Army: Native American Soldiers Who Fought in the Civil War,” author Quita V. Shier presents comprehensive profiles of these little-known soldiers, and why they wanted to enlist to fight a war in a country where they were not even recognized as citizens.

“Most stories we read about the Civil War are centered on generals and their experiences,” Shier said. “I’m concerned with the enlisted men, the ‘grunts’, who did the fighting and dying for this country. These are their stories.”

Shier’s book contains the profiles of 140 Native American men of Company K and the company officers, based on military, pension and census records, as well as information and pictures from some of the men’s descendants, including military experience, medical treatments of wounds and diseases, and biographies.

“My grandfather loved to read about American history,” Shier said. “He felt strongly about the Native Americans’ marginal existence in U.S. society and the failure of the treaties that the government did not honor. He asked me to do something for the American Indians and this book is the fulfillment of that promise.”
MY THOUGHTS: As a person with some Native American ancestry, I’m thrilled that an entire book was dedicated to those who are often overlooked. The magnitude of our author’s research and commitment is staggering. This is also one of those cases where a book shouldn’t be judged by the cover. Its exterior may be humble, but, the pages between contain a wealth of information.
While anyone who serves in any type of Armed Forces deserves the utmost respect, students are often taught only about the ‘big name players’ in our nation’s history. Thankfully, author’s such as Ms. Shier, are changing that. As a homeschool mom, I feel good about letting my son read through ‘Warriors’. Here we have credible, little-known history without embellishments or fabrication. There’s no bias here, either. Facts and the author’s fantastic grasp of her subject matter make this a must-have for your home classroom. While most history textbooks are good, I can almost guarantee that they don’t have these 140 proud service members in them.
As an avid reader, I can say that this book, although non-fiction, combines quite a few genres. There’s history, military, Native American heritage- the list goes on. Even if you don’t have a high school age student at home, this book will be just as captivating and enjoyable for adult readers. It isn’t specifically a textbook companion.
I can’t sing its praises enough. I highly recommend it for all readers! 5 stars!
About the author
Quita V. Shier is a graduate of Illinois Wesleyan University and a resident of Michigan, who has a lifelong interest in American Indian cultures and life ways. She taught a course about Michigan Indian history and culture at Delta College, University Center, and is a frequent guest speaker. She is experienced in archival and family genealogical research, and is a member of the National Society Daughters of the Union 1861-1865. Some of the pictures and stories in her book were supplied by the descendants of the Company K men. For more about Shier or her book, visit:

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Spotlight: Audrey Hepburn (Little People, Big Dreams):Amaia Arrazola, Isabel Sanchez Vegara

SYNOPSIS: “New in the Little People, Big Dreams series, this inspiring and informative little biography follows the colourful life of iconic actress Audrey Hepburn, from her early life during World War Two, to ballet school, her acting career and UNICEF work. With stylish and quirky illustrations and extra facts at the back, this empowering series celebrates the important life stories of wonderful women of the world. From designers and artists to scientists, all of them went on to achieve incredible things, yet all of them began life as a little child with a dream. These books make the lives of these role models accessible for children, providing a powerful message to inspire the next generation of outstanding people who will change the world!”

MY THOUGHTS:I absolutely ADORE this series. It is such a refreshing take on biographies! Introducing younger readers to iconic, historical people gives them a tremendous advantage as they move through school. This installment of the series was every bit as delightful as the Rosa Parks biography that I reviewed prior.
Audrey Hepburn is a name that is quite familiar to those of us age 40 and over, but, unfortunately, probably not known to the younger set. Now, they can gain insight into why she was so popular and why so many women did (& still do) aspire to be just like her. She truly was more than just a pretty face.
I love that this book will spark teachable moments via children asking their parents & grandparents more about her. It hand delivers a cross-generational conversation starter. Another huge plus are the illustrations. They are just so darn cute! An adorable ‘Audrey’ graces the cover and her caricature throughout the book is simply perfect.
I continue to recommend the series and have seen that they will all be 5 star books. They’re a must for home & school libraries.

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Spotlight: Little People, Big Dreams Rosa Parks: Lisbeth Kaiser

SYNOPSIS: “In the Little People, Big Dreams series, discover the lives of outstanding people, from designers and artists, to scientists. All of them achieved incredible things, yet each began life as a child with a dream.

Rosa Parks grew up during segregation in Alabama, but she was taught to respect herself and stand up for her rights. In 1955, Rosa refused to give up her seat to a white man on a segregated bus, sparking the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

Her decision had a huge impact on civil rights, eventually leading to the end of segregation on public transport. Rosa was described as “the mother of the freedom movement”. This inspiring story of Rosa’s life is moving, and approachable for young readers.”
MY THOUGHTS: I cannot say enough wonderful things about this book! The story of American History’s Iconic Civil Rights heroine is fascinating. Students will now have the opportunity to read about her at an earlier level and in a way they can comprehend. Our author doesn’t sugarcoat the struggles that Rosa endures. Instead, she adopts a writing style that gently explains the injustices of the world at that time.

The illustrations are adorable. Rosa’s depiction is so sweet. The author/illustrator duo were definitely a perfect pairing. I also love the size of the book. Quality, hardback construction makes it durable so the book will last through multiple readings.

This books, as well as the others in the series, are the perfect way to introduce early readers to the Autobiography genre. I give it a full 5 stars and have recommended it to local libraries. I encourage homeschoolers to add it to their reading corner, too.


More info is available at the following medias:  



*Pic & synopsis belong solely to the author/publisher. I received a copy in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are mine.

Posted in Book Reviews, Homeschooling

The World Almanac® and Book of Facts 2018: A Resource Every Homeschool Needs

SYNOPSIS:How does the Trump administration’s first year compare to those of past presidents? How do Harvey and Irma stack up against other historic hurricanes? While 2017 was a momentous year, its significant events will live on and gain context in The World Almanac and Book of Facts 2018, available in print and as an eBook for all platforms on December 5. The 150th anniversary edition of America’s best-selling reference book celebrates its illustrious history while keeping an eye on the future in order to be your go-to source for questions on any topic in the upcoming year.

New features include “150 Years of The World Almanac,” with highlights from its distinguished past and some old-fashioned “facts” illustrating how its defining mission has changed with the times; “World Almanac Editors’ Picks: Greatest Single-Season Performances,” featuring athletes’ best single-season runs; “Statistical Spotlight,” featuring infographics relevant to the biggest stories of the year; and “The Obama Presidency,” a recap of the policy achievements and challenges of the 44th U.S. president.

Favorite sections making their return include “Year in Sports,” “Top 10 News Topics,” “The World at a Glance,” “Time Capsule,” “Offbeat News Stories,” and “Historical Anniversaries.”

“For 150 years, The World Almanac and Book of Facts has remained a constant, authoritative source for people all around the globe,” said Sarah Janssen, senior editor of The World Almanac. “In this anniversary edition, we’ve included special features that look back on our proud history and key milestones from the past—along with additions that spotlight the past year’s developments. And with The World Almanac, you’ll take on 2018 with all of the information you’ll need in the year to come.”

Highlights from The World Almanac and Book of Facts 2018 include:

150 Years of The World Almanac: This special feature celebrating The World Almanac’s historic run includes highlights from its distinguished past and some old-fashioned “facts” illustrating how its defining mission has changed with the times.

Historical Anniversaries: The World Almanac’s recurring feature expands to incorporate milestone events and cultural touchstones dating to the book’s founding year, from the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson to the publication of Little Women.

The World at a Glance: This annual feature of The World Almanac provides a quick look at the surprising stats and curious facts that define the changing world.

The Obama Presidency: A year after Barack Obama’s second term came to a close, The World Almanac reviews the accomplishments, missteps, and legacy of the 44th president.

Other New Highlights: A brand-new biography of the 45th president and profile of the Trump administration; official 2016 election results; and statistics on criminal incarceration and sentence lengths, health care, overdose deaths, shootings, terrorism, and much more.

The Year in Review: The World Almanac takes a look back at 2017 while providing all the information you’ll need in 2018.

2017—Top 10 News Topics: The editors of The World Almanac list the top stories that held the world’s attention in 2017.

2017—Year in Sports: Hundreds of pages of trivia and statistics that are essential for any sports fan, featuring a preview of the upcoming 2018 Winter Olympic Games; complete coverage of the 2017 World Series; new tables of NBA, NHL, and NCAA statistics; and much more.

2017—Year in Pictures: Striking full-color images from around the world in 2017, covering news, entertainment, science, and sports.

2017—Offbeat News Stories: The World Almanac editors found some of the quirkiest news stories of the year, from the king who secretly worked as an airline pilot for decades to the state that’s auctioning off its governor’s mansion.

World Almanac Editors’ Picks: Time Capsule: The World Almanac lists the items that most came to symbolize the year 2017, from news and sports to pop culture.

MY THOUGHTS: I know you may be thinking, ‘There’s an App for that.’ True, Google will probably give you all the info, too. However, in my opinion, there is no substitute for holding an actual book. While all the technological bells and whistles can be handy, today’s students aren’t reliant enough on good, old-fashioned research.

This is why I highly recommend keeping reference books such as this in your home/classroom. While it may not be a cover-to-cover read, it will get them engrossed in learning. Looking up on topic may lead to reading about another. That is something a search engine cannot do.

When my generation had research to do, we went to the library and blew a Saturday pouring over books to find info. ‘The World Almanac’ comes with countless topics, information, and education. It will start a ‘Hey, mom, did you know….’ conversation. Start some teachable, family moments.

You can find more info plus ordering information at the following:
Or at most book retailers
*Pic & Synopsis belong solely to the publisher.

Posted in Book Reviews

Ripper: The Secret Life of Walter Sickert: Patricia Cornwell

London in the 1800s was terrorized by an unknown assailant who stalked & killed his prey. ‘Jack the Ripper’ was what he’d called himself in his numerous letters to the police. Without DNA, computers, or even fingerprinting abilities, the authorities were stumped. Most of their investigations led them to think a low-income, laborer was to blame.

Over the many years since the first Ripper murder, conspiracies and opinions have abounded. Author Patricia Cornwell was lead to and became obsessed with finding the truth. Taking the route of processing the Ripper case with modern technologies, she virtually time traveled to the Ripper’s era. It’s no secret that she has decided she knows his identity.

Walter Sickert is mostly remembered as an angst artist who depended on his wives’ generosity to live. Because he is held in high regard by the art community, her investigation was less than well received. Accusations against her and conflicting theories were tossed about when the first edition of this book was written. Now, with additional pictures, evidence, and information, Cornwell has re-written her case. Within the 570 page, non-fiction work, Patricia Cornwell provides her entire theory on why Walter Sickert was Jack the Ripper.

Whether or not readers agree, and based on the reviews of this book the opinions are mixed, one has to say that her research is impressive and her case is sound. Without a confession or some other such proof, we can never bang the gavel on these murders. Circumstantial evidence, in my opinion, does side with our author. No doubt, this is the most complete, modernized account of the entire case and all the murders involved.

Patricia Cornwell has invested an immense amount of time, energy, and her own money to complete this investigation. No one can argue that she wasn’t all in. That said, it is a one-sided book. Even the title is adamant that Sickert was the Ripper. Although other avenues were briefly mentioned, they all led her directly back to Sickert. Readers won’t find any other plausible Ripper theories in this book.

This specific edition does contain maps & photos to aid in the case. The autopsy photos should make readers grateful that our medical field has advanced! However, there is a lot of repetition in the pages. Many times, Cornwell hammers the point home by reasserting opinion and by providing way too many details about Sickert’s routines. It definitely could have filled less than 570 pages.

I cannot argue her theories and if asked, I’d probably side with her based on the info she’s provided. It’s a compelling case that could be prosecuted in today’s courts. But, there was too much opinion, too many mundane passages and it just lacked a ‘Wow’ factor. If someone chooses to read ‘Ripper’, they must be either very into non-fiction, specifically true  crime, or very into the Ripper in general. It is a time-consuming read that took me much long than usual to finish. I give it 3 stars.

On a separate note, the Kindle edition of this book contained ‘Kindle in Motion’. Basically, this is an interactive feature where pictures and maps move and can be moved. I enjoyed this feature and more Kindle books should utilize it.

Posted in Book Reviews

Foreign Faction: Who Really Kidnapped JonBenet?: A. James Kolar

I remember the first time I became acquainted with this case. Geraldo Rivera, who had his own talk show at that time, devoted an entire show to the coverage. At that time, a number of things struck me as odd involving the entire scenario. But, I didn’t have an extensive amount of knowledge regarding the case. I just knew something was just not right.

As time went on and most of us were at the mercy of media coverage, perhaps, like me, you only heard little bits about the case here & there. Seeing that beautiful little girl’s picture was hard to forget. Many people believed the theory of an intruder. Otherwise, perhaps you had a feeling it was an immediate family member. All most of us really knew was that it was a gruesome crime and quite unsettling.

Throughout the news cycles, I was aware that the Boulder Police Department took a pounding from armchair detectives and media alike. Folks dissected their every move and believed the investigation was ‘botched’. But, was it really? Or were we mislead but not having all the facts?

Personally, I had my own opinion on who I believed had killed JonBenet. I had felt it from day 1. Never before had I had actual basis for this opinion, but having read ‘Foreign Faction’, I felt validated that A. James Kolar agreed with me (so to speak). In his book, he gives readers a comprehensive, in-depth view of the case. Having been a hands-on investigator in the D.A.’s office, he is well equipped to inform us of all the ins & outs.

What I truly appreciated was that while he knew most of the facts, when he took over the case, he started from square one. Re-reading all the materials, he was completely unbiased and open to any possibility. For the purpose of not spoiling anything for future readers, I will refrain from including too many details about his conclusion. However, I will say that he left no stone unturned, proving himself to be a thorough & dedicated investigator.

If you are at all curious about the Ramsey case, or if you truly enjoy a true life crime drama, ‘Foreign Faction’ is perfect for you. It contains all the elements of a terrific fictional thriller, except it’s all true. Details are not pretty, but the case was traumatic. The book is well-organized, well thought out and most of all, honest. Draw your own theory as the author suggests. But, give ‘Foreign Faction’ a read first. I give it a full 5 stars.

Posted in Book Reviews

One August Morning: The True Story of Lizzie Borden: Troy Traylor

Throughout the years, many readers will have heard the rhyme:
‘Lizzie Borden with an axe,
Gave her mother forty whacks.
When she saw what she had done,
She gave her father forty-one.’

(Or some variation thereof)
Perhaps, like myself, you never knew of the actual verdict or trial. I had always assumed she’d done it. In truth, the gruesome double murder of Abby & Andrew Borden is a deep-rooted, unsolved mystery.
Troy Taylor details the entire debacle in ‘One August Morning’, a part of his ‘Dead Men Do Tell Tales’ Series. Jump in your mental time machine, journeying back to the 1890’s. Shake your head at the prejudiced judicial system. Prepare you brain for a bit of a workout as you try to determine what many like you have failed to do- decide what really happened to the Bordens of Fall River, Massachusetts.

Spinster, Lizzie Borden, her older sister, Emma, maid, Bridget, and parents lived together on Second Street. Wealthy businessman, Andrew, took Abby as he’s second wife after being widowed. Despite the fame of his business dealings, not much is known of the family. Living well beneath their means, Irish immigrant, Bridget, was their only staff.

Infamy arrived to the family in the form of the homicide of both Abby & Andrew. Emma was away. However, Lizzie & Bridget were at home, resulting in Lizzie ‘discovering’ Andrew’s mangled body. At this point in her life, civility ends & an all out circus begins. Watching through the mind’s eye, we see a media swarm second to none converge upon the house within hours of the murders being reported. A revolving door of patrolmen & marshalls move in & out of the house. Successful busybodies tramped all over the home, yard , & barn. NO DNA testing, remember, it’s the 1890s.

With little evidence other than hunches & personal opinions, Lizzie is hauled in & paraded to trial. Doing little to quench the thirst of the public hysteria, law enforcement insists this is the end. However, as Troy Taylor presents valid & unbiased evidence, readers may very well change their opinions. In addition, Taylor offers a convincing theory on who he believes really killed the Bordens & why.

Anyone who enjoys a good mystery, especially an open-ended one, will enjoy this book. While at times there is an incredible amount of repetitive testimony, for the most part, it was riveting. Despite the lack of technology, the inept investigation is mind-boggling. If you’ve every wondered what the whole story was really about, you’ll not find a better prepared & thorough account of the case. For anyone curious, I highly recommend you give it a try. It is am investment in time, but I felt, worth it so I give it 4 stars.