Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Rhythm of Secrets - a review

A few months ago, author Patti Lacy had a blogtour by Litfuse. A Facebook party was hosted, and Patti gave away some free books just for being there chatting at the party. The result of that was that I won a free book and a $10 gift card for Barnes & Noble! She sent me The Rhythm of Secrets, and I made her a promise that I'd review her book once I got the time. Sadly, I've had a ton of books to read and review, so I'm just now getting her review put up. Sorry, Patti!

At any rate, The Rhythm of Secrets was a fabulous read! It kept me on my toes, and I'll say first and this story continually drew me to keep picking it up. (I've got kids--trust me, I have to put books down often. lol)

The main character in the story Sheila Franklin has a lot of secrets that she's kept from her husband. As the wife of a minister of a large congregation, Sheila was worried that opening that closet full of skeletons would not only ruin his job but also ruin her marriage.

Memories of her past rise up and haunt her quite frequently, like the jazz music that seeps in her blood. Her past in New Orleans had long been buried but never forgotten, but one day when she received a phone call, all of her secrets slowly came crashing down.

If you read this book, you'll walk the Quarter with "Sheba," be forced to stay with nuns as "Sylvia," and finally land in Chicago and have her life transformed by Jesus Christ as Sheila. This is one book you'll want to buy and hold on to. You won't regret reading it!!

Click here to watch the trailer for the book!

This is definitely

Friday, June 24, 2011

Wanting to Branch Out

I love reading books, but I also love learning about the people who write them! If you're an author (new or seasoned!) and would be interested in being interviewed, please contact me at xjacielbx @

Do you have a story behind the story? What are your motivations, your muses? When did you meet God in a personal way? When did you first begin writing?

These are some of the questions that I would like to ask you. Obviously, I will ask questions that are more tailored to you and the types of books that you write.

If you are interested, please contact me via email. I would love to know more about you, and I want to share the story behind YOU!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Already Compromised - a Creation Conversations review

Already Compromised is a book by Ken Ham, founder and president of Answers in Genesis a website in defense of Creationism. This book that I was given for review (in Kindle format) is about the compromise that has taken place in Christian colleges and universities. This is a big topic of debate in a lot of Christian homes as parents prepare to send their children off to an institute where they feel their children will get a good, Godly experience in learning.

I do not have experience from having learned in a Christian college, unfortunately. The college I went to was a small, private work-study college that was a nice alternative to a Christian education. So while I cannot speak from experience, I can speak as a Christian mom and former secular student.

This book focuses on some research that Ken Ham, Greg Hall, Britt Beemer and America's Research Group undertook. Three hundred twelve people were surveyed for this research: presidents, vice presidents, religious department heads, and science department heads of Christian universities and colleges. The results that they found were sometimes disappointing, but not too shocking. The results revealed that many of our Christian institutions of learning do not teach Biblical foundations. Many teach that creationism is a theory, and that evolution is true. Other questions that were asked included topics (but not limited to) on whether the Bible is literally true; whether the flood of Noah was worldwide, regional or local; and if God created the world in six, literal 24 hour days. It was astounding to see how large the range of yes/no answers were among presidents, vice presidents, religious dept. heads, and science department heads. You would think they'd all agree, but no! But what I found was astounding was that the greatest area of trouble (especially where ideas such as evolution and the Bible being literally true were discussed) was not among those in the science department (where one would suspect that they'd tend to believe in evolution as opposed to creation), but instead the problem was prevalent among those in the department of religion! How disappointing.

I discussed the statistics with my husband and sons. My eleven year old was disgusted by some of the findings. When I read to them about the percentage of those who did not believe in a literal six-day, 24 hour creation, my son sighed. His response was: "I've got the answer to this problem. 'Put down your textbooks, and open your Bible.'"

How profound, coming from a child. You don't expect to hear such wisdom coming from a child, but they reveal how they understand more than we think they do. But he is right; too many times nowadays we're relying on man's words and man's ideas that we find in a textbook, and we don't spend enough time learning from God's own Word. If more of these colleges and universities would make the Bible their main textbook, maybe we wouldn't be wading through the Great Compromise.

I suggest that all Christian parents read this book. If you're considering sending your child to a Christian institute, you will find a link in Ken's book which will give you a list of the colleges and universities that he found to be founded on the Truth.

I received Already Compromised as a complimentary gift in exchange for review from New Leaf Publishing Group.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

My Foolish Heart - a LitFuse Review

My Foolish Heart, written by Susan May Warren, was incredible. I literally did not want to get up from my chair while reading this book! It tugged at my heart, it made me laugh, and I could feel the character's issues. One of the main characters of the story--Issy--suffered from post traumatic stress disorder as a result of a car crash that left her mother to die in her arms and her father--previously Deep Haven's football coach--to become bed-ridden in a nursing home. Issy's PTSD left her afraid to leave her home for fear of losing control.

Other characters in the story also had their own skeletons in the closet. Caleb, a newbie to the town Deep Haven, was burned while serving in Iraq. He decided to move to Deep Haven and take on a teaching job and snag the football coach's position. He just hoped that he could keep his prosthesis a secret, because he felt like it would be a liability in getting the coach's position.

Seb, another character in the story, was a resident of Deep Haven all during his childhood. A former football player, Seb saw a future in coaching at Deep Haven. However, his return to his childhood home was painful, because his dad was an alcoholic. Seb didn't count on having to fight for the position of coach, either. And dealing with his ex-girlfriend wasn't an easy matter either.

Lucy, the town's donut shop owner, wanted to find herself another job. Having been left the shop by her parents, she just had lost her desire for making donuts, if she ever had the desire in the first place. But when she found out that the local coffee shop was suddenly selling donuts, it sparked a fire in her and made her want to salvage her shop. When Seb arrived back in town, though, and agreed to help her come up with a business plan, she knew she was in trouble.

This story was delightful, and I look forward to reading more by Susan!!

This is definitely...

If you're interested in reading more reviews like mine, go {here}!
I received My Foolish Heart as a complimentary gift in exchange for review from Litfuse Publicity Group.

To celebrate this charming novel about a dating expert who's never had a date, Susan has put together a romantic night on the town for one lucky couple. One grand prize winner will receive a Miss Foolish Heart prize package worth over $200!

The winner of the Romantic Night on the Town Prize Pack will receive:

* A $100 Visa Gift Card (For Dinner)
* A $100 Gift Certificate to a Hyatt/Marriott Hotel
* The entire Deep Haven series

To enter just click one of the icons below. But, hurry, the giveaway ends at noon on June 16th. The winner will be announced that evening during Susan’s Miss Foolish Heart Party on Facebook! Susan will be chatting with guests, hosting a book club chat about My Foolish Heart, testing your Deep Haven trivia skills, and giving away tons of great stuff! (Gift certificates, books, donuts, and more!) Don't miss the fun and BRING YOUR FRIENDS!

Enter via E-mail Enter via FacebookEnter via Twitter

Susan May Warren is an award-winning, best-selling author of over twenty-five novels, many of which have won the Inspirational Readers Choice Award, the ACFW Book of the Year award, the Rita Award, and have been Christy finalists. After serving as a missionary for eight years in Russia, Susan returned home to a small town on Minnesota’s beautiful Lake Superior shore where she, her four children, and her husband are active in their local church.

Susan's larger than life characters and layered plots have won her acclaim with readers and reviewers alike. A seasoned women’s events and retreats speaker, she’s a popular writing teacher at conferences around the nation and the author of the beginning writer’s workbook: From the Inside-Out: discover, create and publish the novel in you!. She is also the founder of, a story-crafting service that helps authors discover their voice.

Susan makes her home in northern Minnesota, where she is busy cheering on her two sons in football, and her daughter in local theater productions (and desperately missing her college-age son!)

A full listing of her titles, reviews and awards can be found

Switched on Schoolhouse Review

Last year, I was able to get a great deal on the Switched on Schoolhouse curriculum for my 5th grade son. Daniel was getting a bit overwhelmed with all of the textbooks, and I was overwhelmed with all of the paperwork involved with using the textbooks. Going to a computer-based curriculum was tempting, and the reviews I'd read praising SOS really encouraged me to give it a try. It was going to be a huge leap for us, because I'd never used any computer-based curriculum for my son. However, the ability to nix the books, paper tests and quizzes, averaging grades, etc. was quite tempting, so I gave up my traditionalist ways and forked out the dough.

There were good results and there were bad results.

Let me go through the disciplines one by one, and I'll tell you what I liked/disliked about each one.

Let me say that I absolutely loved the Bible curriculum. I was a little worried, because we're a KJV family, and I was a little concerned that the curriculum wouldn't allow that option. I was relieved to find that I could select for all verses to show KJV. The lessons were really good for my son. There were video clips, links to online maps, and games. He thoroughly loved the Bible lessons, and his grades in Bible were always good. I attribute that to how well my son enjoyed the lessons. He looked forward to his daily Bible lesson.

History/GeographyThis curriculum was satisfactory. Once again, there were video clips in some lessons, links to maps and resources. History is one of Daniel's favorite subjects, and the curriculum was challenging for him.

Language ArtsThe language arts curriculum encompasses reading, language, writing and spelling. I found this discipline to be fairly satisfactory, but somewhat limited. Some of the lessons were a bit choppy, and confusion reared its ugly head from time to time. There were some lessons that required my interception because my son didn't understand after reading the lesson. But all in all, I felt Language was satisfactory.

MathThe math curriculum is what I really just didn't like. With almost each new lesson, I'd have to step in and demonstrate for my son. In fact, it was so bad at one point during the school year that I told my husband that I'd just rather teach math myself! Some of the math lessons were severely limited. Detail wasn't always there. And the example problems were so easy that the problems he had to work in the lesson were confusing and frustrating for him. The problems he had to do were a lot harder than the example problem.

ScienceScience has always had a love/hate relationship with Daniel, so I didn't know exactly how this year would turn out with SOS. Right off the bat though there were projects that required a microscope. This was a problem for us, because we didn't have a microscope and the local university didn't have any for us to borrow. I ended up spending almost $200 for a microscope for the science projects. There were other projects that would've required us to fork out some more money, but we chose to skip those and pursue lessons from outside sources that weren't as costly. The lessons themselves were pretty good. I don't have any beef with the lessons.

Other AreasLet me cover some other areas that don't involve the disciplines.

Many of the links in the lessons themselves arrive at a dead end--i.e. a 404 error. This was a disappointment to my son sometimes when he was looking forward to learning more about a topic.

Programmed GradingThe curriculum automatically grades the lessons for you. However, if a child doesn't spell something quite right or maybe a word isn't capitalized, a response may be marked incorrect. I had to make sure I went over each problem for each lesson/quiz/test and read each response to make sure his answers weren't incorrectly marked wrong.

BugsAt one point during the school year, I received a database error, and I was not able to access the curriculum at all. It had worked just fine the day before, there were no new updates that I had missed, and it just made no sense to have that problem. I had to scour the internet for several hours to figure out what the problem was. I downloaded a "fix" from the AOP website that fixed the problem, but I was worried that maybe I'd have the problem again. This was a big worry for me, because the curriculum is NOT cheap. If I had some kind of error that kept the curriculum from being used at all, this was not a good selling point for me to purchase their curriculum in the future!

Other necessities requiredI've found that requiring my son to keep a notebook of vocabulary words and basic notes was a must. Reading the lessons wasn't enough to ingrain in him what he needed to know. There is an option in the curriculum that you can print off the lessons, but when you consider how much money would be spent in ink and paper, it becomes a little frustrating. He had a notebook for each subject so that he could take notes and write vocab. words. When he didn't take notes, his grades showed it.

What I loved about SOSIn spite of all of the cons that I've listed, there were things that I truly enjoyed about SOS. I had purchased a laptop specifically for the use of SOS, and it was a wonderful thing! Having SOS on the laptop meant that I had more freedom with schooling my children. I was able to make visits to family and bring the schoolwork with us, and we didn't have a ten-pound backpack full of textbooks to lug around. I will miss that next year once I have to lug all of those books when we visit family.

I loved the administrative tools. I didn't have to do any averaging; I could just input some dates, and his grades popped right up on the screen. Simple!

My son loved the games that accompanied the lessons. My youngest son would often watch him play the spelling bee game.

I think I would give SOS a 3/5 stars. I can see how other families would really like it, but it was a no-go for us. I wouldn't mind using the Bible curriculum in the future; that was a big hit. But as far as Language, Math, and Science go, I prefer to teach that because with SOS I was having to intercede anyway.

My son sent me a little message in the program saying that he was glad to go back to textbooks next year, that SOS was just too confusing. That pretty much made up my mind completely that SOS is not for us.

For sixth grade, we'll be going back to ABEKA and Bob Jones. And that's ok with me. :)

I was not paid to give a review for SoS. My opinion is my own.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Spring for Susannah - a LitFuse Review

Spring For Susannah, written by Catherine Richmond, was a precious story. Susannah Underhill, the heroine in the story, finds herself alone after the death of her parents. Susannah had always felt like she wasn't good enough, felt she was plain-looking and undesirable, and she was shy. She finally decides that the only option for her is to become a mail-order bride. So she agrees to marry her pastor's brother Jesse Mason, who happens to live in the Dakota Territory. She boards a train and when she arrives at her destination, she finds that there is nothing there but a train platform. She believes she's there alone, only to find out Jesse has arrived to take her "home".

Throughout Jesse's and Susannah's journey, there's heartbreak and insecurity on Susannah's part, but through it all, she discovers that Jesse is her rock.

This story was so sweet. This is a really great novel, and it happens to be the author's first novel published! What a great first novel. :)

Catherine Richmond was focused on her career as an occupational therapist till a special song planted a story idea in her mind. That idea would ultimately become Spring for Susannah, her first novel. She is also a founder and moderator of Nebraska Novelist critique group and lives in Nebraska with her husband.
To celebrate her debut novel, Catherine and her publisher, Thomas Nelson, have teamed up to give away a Spring For Susannah Prize Package worth over $150!

One grand prize winner will receive:

* A brand new Latest Generation KINDLE with Wi-Fi and Pearl Screen

* Spring for Susannah by Catherine Richmond (for KINDLE)

To enter just click one of the icons below and then tell your friends! But hurry, giveaway ends on June 27th. Winner will be announced on Tuesday, June 28th at 5 PM (6PM MST, 7PM CST, & 8PM EST) during Catherine's Spring for Susannah Book Club Party on Facebook! Catherine is rustling up some fun for the party - she'll be chatting about the story behind her novel, hosting a book club chat, testing your mail-order bride trivia skills, and giving away some GREAT prizes! Don't miss the fun and tell your friends!

Enter via E-mail Enter via FacebookEnter via Twitter
If you'd like to read more reviews like mine, you can find the blog tour {here}!

I received Spring for Susannah as a complimentary gift in exchange for review from Litfuse Publicity Group.

Monday, June 6, 2011

A Reluctant Queen - a LitFuse Review

Let me first say that this book was an out-of-the-park Home Run!! A Reluctant Queen: The Love Story of Esther, written by Joan Wolf, totally blew my mind. This story completely captivated me, and I have to say that this is a must-read for any of you ladies out there who love Bible-based fiction. I do have to say, though, that much of this story is fictionalized, and the author says in the book that she's taken liberties with the story. It is based on the Biblical story obviously, so keep that in mind.

A Reluctant Queen is the story of Esther of the Bible, who eventually was made Queen of Persia to save her Jewish people from what her uncle Mordecai felt was certain devastation headed for the Jewish people.

Joan brings the story to life, describing Esther's feelings, Ahasuerus' personality, and giving vivid character to the role of Haman.

I highly recommend this book for those who like a fictionalized story. It's sensational! However, if you've never read Esther's story, please go read it in the Bible first.

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Joan Wolf was born in New York City but has lived most of her adult life with her husband in Connecticut , where she raised two children and countless numbers of assorted animals. Joan is the author of numerous historical novels including The Road to Avalon which Publishers Weekly lauded as “historical fiction at its finest.”
For more about Joan and her other books, please visit
To celebrate Joan Wolf’s debut Christian Fiction title, A Reluctant Queen, Joan and her publisher, Thomas Nelson, have teamed up to give away A Reluctant Queen prize package worth over $150!

One grand prize winner will receive: * A brand new Latest Generation KINDLE with Wi-Fi and Pearl Screen * A Reluctant Queen by Joan Wolf (for KINDLE) To enter, just click one of the icons below. But, hurry, the contest ends on June 20th. Winner will be announced on June 21st during Joan’s A Reluctant Queen Book Club Party on Facebook (details below)! Hope to see you there – bring your friends!

Enter via E-mail Enter via FacebookEnter via Twitter
Join the fun on June 21st! Joan will be wrapping up the blog tour and Kindle giveaway promotion during her A Reluctant Queen FACEBOOK party on her FB author page. During the party she'll announce the winner of the Kindle, host a book chat discussion, test your trivia skills (Is Esther's story in A Reluctant Queen fact or fiction?), and more. Don't miss this chance to meet the author and make some new friends!

If you're interested in reading more reviews like mine, click {here} to go to the blogtour!
I received an advanced copy of A Reluctant Queen as a complimentary gift in exchange for review from Litfuse Publicity Group.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Springtime of the Spirit - a Tyndale Review

Springtime of the Spirit, by Maureen Lang is a story that takes place in Germany just after the first world war. A fight between the existing party and the socialists ensues, and when Communism threatens, things rapidly get worse. Christophe Brecht, a German soldier who has gone to Munich to search for family friend Annaliese Duray, quickly finds himself thrust into a situation he doesn't really care for. Annaliese is involved with the socialist party, who is insistent upon creating a socialist Germany. Christophe finds himself thrown into the mix as he attempts to convince Annaliese to come home to her capitalist family.

When voting time comes and the socialist party loses, it's been decided that a joining up with the Communist party would be of benefit. This becomes explosive, and Annaliese and Christophe find themselves in danger, and desperately look for an avenue to get out of Munich. But when they're "stuck" with a wounded party leader, their way out looks impossible.

I LOVED this book, and I'm anxious to read more by Maureen Lang!

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I am a member of Tyndale Blog Network, a fabulous website that sends free books to read and keep if you write a review for your blog and for a major retailer (such as Amazon or Barnes & Noble). Tyndale Blog Network is through Tyndale House Publishers.