Monday, October 22, 2018

Books With Bean ~ Book Scavenger

book reviews by teens, book reviews, children' book reviews

Title: Book Scavenger 

Author: Jennifer Chambliss Bertman 

Published: June 2015

Genre: Middle Grade, adventure, 

Summary: Emily’s family has just moved again and this time they relocated to San Francisco home of the legendary Garrison Griswold the man who created the amazing online program known as Book Scavenger a place where people can share books with others by hiding them and leaving clues for others to follow to find them. Emily wants to meet her idol but she soon learns that Mr. Griswold has been attacked and is now in a coma just days before he was set to announce an amazing new game as part of Book Scavenger. With her new friend James, Emily finds a book she believes is part of the new game but it turns out they aren’t the only ones looking for it. 

What I liked about it: I love books so the idea of hiding and sharing them with puzzles to solve to find them definitely drew me in! I liked the idea of the story and it was a lot of fun to read. Emily and James are fun to read about and their friends they make along the way are all interesting in their own ways. 

Language: None 

Romance: None

Violence: Garrison Griswold is attacked a beat up at the beginning but it’s the only big violence in the book. 

Magic: None 

Recommended Age: This book is fun even for older kids but not so complicated that ones as young as 9-10 wouldn’t understand it. 

book reviews by teens, book reviews, children' book reviews

Sunday, October 21, 2018


Write 31 days, 31 days of 5 minute free writes, writing

"Ladies and Gentlemen, start your engines..."

That might be the most famous line from my home state of Indiana. It begins the Indianapolis 500 every year.

Or maybe it is "Elnora Comstock, have you lost your senses?" from Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton Porter


Little Orphant Annie's come to our house to stay,
from the poem by James Whitcomb Riley.

What is your state known for? Does that thing in some way define or shape your story?

I grew up in the middle of no-where on a mostly-dirt road in middle Indiana. There is nothing particularly striking about my childhood home, except that it was HOME. All of my life has in one way or another been built upon this beginning of being safe and loved. So many of my friends did not have that same feeling of home from which to grow. I have come to realize that the depth of love within our immediate and extended family gave me confidence to be and do things.

Home life was not perfect, but it was pretty close for the time. Yes, there were days when my older brother and I probably drove our mom crazy, and a few times where Dad came home to find one or both of us in trouble...but there was a deep sense of peace that surrounded the land and the house of my home.

I hope and pray that somehow I have given my own children a safe place to call home. A refuge from the craziness of the world, and a place, that while not perfect, can start them well into adult life.

Before the house on the dirt road, we lived in another house, but I was so little, and have so few memories, that it is not what my heart thinks of when I think of my childhood home.

Today, this house where we live is not where our girls began their childhoods, but it is attached to most of their memories of home. For all of us, home should be where the heart is, where peace and love cover a multitude of sins, and where everyone is cherished. If your house is not a home, start again, dig deep, and work to tie those heart-strings with your own children that will give then a peaceful sense of home.

Saturday, October 20, 2018


Write 31 days, 31 days of 5 minute free writes, writing

Who is in the audience where you live your life? Do you perform on a big stage, or is it a smaller group of people watching you? Do you head up a big company, where hundreds of people are waiting to follow your lead, or are you a mom or dad that stays home and raises the children...then your audience might only be a person or two.

While we always have at least an audience of one, because God sees everything, we do need to be cognizant of the fact that our actions, and our reactions to life, are seen by others. While sometimes this thought can be daunting, because we are afraid of messing up while others are watching us, what it should do is encourage us. You can live a life that matters, and your life can influence others, even when you are not good at public speaking, even when you are shy, because our actions tell a story.

Are you the first one in line at every event, or the last one? How does your punctuality show others that you value them?

Do you put others first? Carry their physical burdens, or carry their Spiritual ones to God in prayer? These actions and the way they allow us to extend grace and mercy to others show the fingerprints of God upon our own lives. 

When we live in a way that is different than the norm, people notice. And when they notice, a remarkable thing happens, they become curious. They want to know what makes you different from everyone else? And that, my friends, opens doors for you to share the Gospel message of love and redemption.

Whether your audience is big or small, show them love!

Friday, October 19, 2018

Five Minute Friday ~ Who

Write 31 days, 31 days of 5 minute free writes, writing, five minute friday

Kate's word for today is: Who

I'm going to go a little off theme from my 31 days of encouragement/ Christian Living posts and tell you a little story...


Who is in this Five Minute Friday group and where do they come from? I can only tell you a part of our story, because I only know a few of the many, many people in this awesome bunch, but let me start you off with what I do know, and then you can read some of the other posts from today to learn more...

This group is a family made up of writers from across the North American continent, and across the globe. Some live in the midwest, near Kate - our mostly fearless moderator, some live in Canada or other northern places, but most live far away. The American coasts, Texas, Iceland, South Africa, and so many places I would love to visit and learn more about.

How did I end up here in this family? My friend Annette invited me. I've met people online through this group - writers of poetry, writers of fiction and non-fiction, those who specialize in devotionals and those who write essays. We are definitely a diverse group. I think we are a small part of the body of Christ, all cultures and places, gathered together for the purpose of encouraging one another. Is everyone here a Christian? I have no idea. What I do know is that the other writers in this family encourage and challenge me to be a better writer. They lift one another up through prayer and encouraging words. Every once in a while, we get to see some other members of our Five Minute Friday family in real life at events, like last week's Breathe Christian Writers Conference. These people have become my friends.

So like my friend Annette did for me, I now invite you to join us. Come to our table and join the family. Write, learn, listen, grow. You will be so welcomed here, and you'll want to encourage others to join the feast!

Thursday, October 18, 2018


Write 31 days, 31 days of 5 minute free writes, writing

What are you searching for? A new job, a new car, your lost keys? Maybe you're searching for that funny YouTube video your friend showed you yesterday. 

We spend a lot of time searching for things. Does it make you wonder if we have too many things? Sometimes I think we do, and other times I am sure that I do!

What kind of searching should we be doing? Searching for lost socks, rogue mittens or last night's leftovers in the back of the fridge?

What if we spent time searching for God? He is not far off. David turned the tables and asked God to search him, specifically his heart. David wanted God to search out the hidden places and show him if there was something that needed changing. 

When we search for God, we find Him, and then He searches our heart and gently, but firmly, shows us where we need to be changed. I am so thankful that God does not expect me to be able to change myself, but rather, that He assures me He will change me. Sometimes that pruning He does hurts for a minute, but the fruit in my life that bears His image is always worth it!

Start searching, or keep searching, for God. 
He is the one thing we cannot life without!

Wednesday, October 17, 2018


Write 31 days, 31 days of 5 minute free writes, writing

Have you ever felt the need to push a pause button on your life? Yeah, me too! I know that often the rush of life can be my own fault for planning too many things in a row without some downtime, but sometimes, life just comes at us full force and we cannot get away.

Some days it seems like this full life hits us in the face like a firehose. How can we be expected to handle all the things that want our attention? Where do we find the strength to keep to going when times are really, REALLY hard?

The answer I have found is to pause, right where you are, and pray. Whether that is while going up the elevator at the hospital to visit a sick friend or waiting in line at the store, do it. 

Pause, it need not be long, and breathe deeply, then exhale a prayer. God hears, He sees, He knows. He is waiting for us to come to Him. He already knows your needs, and He knows when you need comforted. Breathe in being thankful for God's gift of life, and breathe out your prayer.

Here are some short prayers to consider if you're feeling stuck:

Jesus, help me!

God, I need your wisdom.

Please grant me peace in this chaotic situation.

Show me the best thing to focus on right now.

Daddy, I need some comfort.

Holy Spirit, walk before me into this room.

Father God, I want to be your vessel, show me how to help.

Find just a few seconds to pause, reconnect with God through prayer, and then move forward knowing that He will be the one whispering in your ear... 

"This is the way; walk in it." 
    (Isaiah 30:21)

1 Corinthians 13:7

Scripture Writing, hand lettering, Bible verses

Tuesday, October 16, 2018


How often do you pray?

For me, it is several times a day, but it did not used to be that way. I used to be a distress pray-er. You know, when something goes wrong, then you go to God and ask Him to fix it. I finally realized that was not a good way to have a relationship with anyone, and especially with God.

So now I pray a lot more regularly. Every morning before I get out of bed, during the day, and usually again before bedtime. What have I seen as a result of this prayer life? A lot more peace and a lot less of me getting stressed out. 

When you stay in a relationship, and the other person knows you are always there, it makes the talking much easier. I am finally coming to understand what it means to call God 'Abba' - that Father who loves us and wants what is best for us all the time. I am learning that it does not matter what tomorrow holds, it matters Who holds my tomorrow. I am trusting Him to hold me as well - through whatever comes!

God wants to spend time with you. 
Start it off with a prayer.

St. Bartholomew's Eve from Heirloom Audio ~ a Crew review

heirloom audio, audio adventure, history, G A Henty

If you lived in a country where you and those who worshipped God like you did were a small minority, and religious persecution broke out, what would you do? This is the tough topic that Heirloom Audio has chosen to tackle in their tenth audio adventure: St. Bartholomew's Eve, a story that spans the thirty years of the Huguenot wars in France from the 1560's to the 1590's. Heirloom Audio deserves another A for this excellent production that treads firmly but gently through the struggles of the Protestant Huguenots during a time when the Catholic church ruled in France almost as strongly as the Monarchy itself.

We appreciated the tact with which Heirloom Audio handled this difficult subject matter, while still producing an entertaining audio drama. Since we already owned and regularly listen to the first nine Heirloom Audio dramas, Arlene and I were more than ready to listen to St. Bartholomew's Eve and learn more about this part of history. I will confess that before we began listening I knew very little about the French Huguenots. After listening to this adaptation of G. A. Henty's historical fiction book, also titled St. Bartholomew's Eve, I was feeling challenged to do some more research into the history of the Huguenots.

In St. Bartholomew's Eve, listeners are transported back to France in the late 1560's. There is turmoil in the air for the Huguenots, who desire to worship God as their hearts dictate, but who make up a scant 10% of the population of France. They are constantly on guard because of attacks from the Catholic church and its ruling family in France, the Guise. Our main character, Philip Fletcher, has crossed the English channel to live with and fight alongside his French cousin Francois. As with other Henty tales, there is friendship, fighting to protect the weak or injured, and a damsel that needs rescued from distress. 

St. Bartholomew's Eve handles the stickiness of the Protestant/ Catholic debate well. When Philip first lands in France he is spoiling for a fight with the Catholics. His wise aunt explains that there are good Catholic men and women left in France, not all of them have been persecuting Protestants, and that fighting is reserved for those treacherous situations where there is no other way. As Arlene and I listened to the story unfold, it made me think about those areas around the world today where Christians are under great persecution. I wondered how I would react if my way of life, and my ability to openly worship God, were under attack.

During the story of St. Bartholomew's Eve, Philip and Francois join with other Huguenots to fight for the freedom to openly worship God as He directs their hearts. There are multiple battles, with advances and loses for the Huguenots, and then what appears to be a time of peace approaches as Protestant ruler Henri of Navarre plans to marry the sister of Catholic King Charles IX, Margaret of Valois. The Huguenot leaders flock to Paris to witness the marriage of their leader, but end up being sheep led to slaughter as the Queen Mother, Catherine de Medici, and the Duke of Guise hatch their nefarious plot that turns into the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre.

While this period of French history has a lot of bloodshed and great loss, it can be used as a teaching tool to remind us of how others have lived and died for their faith. The tactful way this tough topic is handled gives parents many opportunities to talk with their children about love, tolerance, intolerance, and freedom of worship. It also allows us to chose to model for our children a better way of interacting with those whose religious views differ from our own than the French Guise family and their followers did in the 1570's. While these audio adventures are designed for ages 6-16, for this one, I'm going to recommend it for ages 12 and up. That is also the age I recommend for Heirloom Audio's In the Reign of Terror.

To read our reviews of previous Heirloom Audio titles, click here for our review of Wulf the Saxon. The links to the other titles we have reviewed are at the bottom of that post. Or, you can click on the little orange Heirloom Audio Productions tag at the end of this post.

Connect with Heirloom Audio 

St. Bartholomew's Eve {Heirloom Audio Reviews}

Crew Disclaimer


Monday, October 15, 2018

When ?

31 days of 5 minute free writes, encouragement, Christian living, write 31 days, writing


When will we be at Grandma's house?

When will you be home?

When will we get the test results?

When will Jesus come back for His people?

We are not patient people. 
We want to know the answers to our questions, and we want to know them now. As we mature in our walk with Christ, hopefully we will come to understand that God's ways and His timing are not like ours.

Yes, I know it can be trying to wait for big answers. God knows that too. He also knows that in the waiting, we can learn a deeper level of trust. We can learn that when we walk the path with Him that there is a deeper level of peace. We can also learn how to be others-focused during the waiting.

So whatever you are waiting for, stop asking when? and start asking God what He wants you to be doing while you wait. There is an amazing journey to be had with Jesus, but we will only realize the depth and breadth of that journey when we learn that the When? is not the important question. The important question is with whom? 

The Who to journey with is always Jesus!

Sunday, October 14, 2018


31 days of 5 minute free writes, encouragement, Christian living, write 31 days, writing

Ask me a question,
make me think...

will I tell you the truth?


Will you want to hear the truth?
That remains to be seen.

Too often in our world people are asking rhetorical questions that they do not want you to answer. They just want an avenue to talk about their own opinions. 

May we, as Christians, choose to listen more than we talk. May we choose to ask the right questions in response, and may we value how others feel and respond.

You do not have to be like me to ask me a question. You don't even need to be like me to be my friend. You just need to be a human being, and treat others with respect. We can agree to disagree on things. We can choose the right definition of inclusiveness - where each person and each life is valued.

I want you to feel valued, because I know that God views each and every one of us with great worth, that is why He sent His Son Jesus to be our Savior!

You are enough, because you are loved.

1 Corinthians 13:6

Scripture Writing, hand lettering, Bible verses

Saturday, October 13, 2018


31 days of 5 minute free writes, encouragement, Christian living, write 31 days, writing

Talk, talk, talk...

While I like to talk, I also like to listen. I always found it weird that people said talking about the weather was just idle chit-chat. Maybe those people did not grow up in an agricultural community, so they did not have the seasons ingrained in them from and early age like I did.

What do you like to talk about? Your kids, your pets, last night's football game, your job?

Do you talk about Jesus? Not just talk to Jesus, but about Jesus? If your faith is genuine, it should overflow into every aspect of your life. That does not mean that you talk about Jesus everywhere you go, but it means you have ears to listen to others and to the nudging of the Holy Spirit so that when the time is right you will talk about Jesus. How has Jesus helped you? Comforted you? Protected you? These are all areas where you can share the stories of how He is working or has worked in your life with others.

One of our friends used to be an air traffic controller, he could not openly share his faith at work ... he was not allowed to start any conversations about God or Jesus - however, he could respond to questions that other people asked him with answers about God. Maybe you have one of those jobs where you have to tread carefully. If so, ask God to show you where there IS an opportunity, and ask Him for the right words to say at the time.

Talk is not cheap, or idle, words mean something! Use your wisely.

1 Corinthians 13:5

Scripture Writing, hand lettering, Bible verses

Friday, October 12, 2018


31 days of 5 minute free writes, encouragement, Christian living, write 31 days, writing

Today and tomorrow I will be spending time at the Breathe Christian Writers Conference in Grand Rapids, MI. Why am I coming back for another visit? Because last year I was encouraged, challenged, and refreshed in my life and my writing at this conference.

We all need to take times to breathe in our lives. For moms especially, it can be hard to set parameters of when those down times can occur. I have always tried to take a few minutes each day and spend time with God, reading my Bible, and praying, but there have been many days where my communication time with God was limited to Jesus- help me! That is a valid prayer, and one I have prayed many times, but I also know that I need to spend time digging deeper into my relationship with God.

This Breathe conference challenges me to make more time for God, and then share what He does in my life. Some of us share stories, some share poetry, some create works of art... but we were all made by The Creator and have been given a job to do - to share the love and comfort of Christ with the world around us. Taking a weekend and focusing on the craft of writing words that matter keeps me moving forward on this journey. If you're there this weekend - come find me!

Later I'll tell you about the specifics of this year's conference, but for now, would you pray that I would listen well this weekend? Thanks!

Thursday, October 11, 2018


Write 31 days, 31 days of 5 minute free writes, writing

What doors can we open when we share the story of what God has done for us? Where do you see a closed heart, a shuttered mind, a person afraid of the world? All of those might be opportunities that God has given you to shine His light by simply sharing a story about what Jesus has done for you.

Here is my story: I was so very lost. I was like a Pharisee, I thought I was good, but inside my heart was so very awful. I was self-righteous and proud of all the wrong things. Jesus saved me from myself. He showed me what true love is: sacrifice. He forgave me, washed me clean, and set me free.

Jesus offers each person the chance to open the door of their heart and accept Him. He turns no one away. God desires that all would repent and come to saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.  (1 Timothy 2:3-6)

Tell your story. 
Tell it softly to those who have been hurt, tell it boldly to those who are lost, tell it often to those who doubt that God could love them - but tell it!

Jesus stands at the door waiting for us to open our hearts to His love and mercy.

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.  -Revelation 3:20

Wednesday, October 10, 2018


Write 31 days, 31 days of 5 minute free writes, writing

How do we make a difference in this world?

As I sit down to type I am reminded of what our pastor said on Sunday morning: when the Gospel makes a difference in you, then it will make a difference around you.

That is the crux of the matter. 
Do we let the Gospel of Jesus Christ make a difference in us?

Do we embrace the truth that we were lost and now we are found? That we were dead and now we are alive? That we were separated from God, but because of Jesus we can be children of God? Those truths define what it means to become a Christian and follow Jesus Christ!

Without these truths from the good news about Jesus, we can affect no lasting change in our world. With these truths, and keeping our focus on loving the world around us, we can be the change. Because once God changes our hearts, they can love others and influence them with Christ's love.

How do we change the world? Jesus!

1 Corinthians 13:4

Scripture Writing, hand lettering, Bible verses

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

CashCrunch Careers ~ a Crew review

Many families include a student who would like to have a solid answer for the question “What do you want to do after high school?” Adults looking for a career change often face the same dilemma. Deciding what area to pursue in college can be a daunting task. CashCrunch Careers from CashCrunch Games hopes to help those searching for these answers find them. Arlene and I both took their career assessment as a part of this review for the Homeschool Review Crew.

CashCrunch Careers combines US Department of Labor research with corporate recruitment tools in one platform. The goal of CashCrunch Careers (from the YouTube video on their home page) assessment : "Matches your personality attributes to specific jobs."

How does this all work, and does it work? To begin, each person will need to take the assessment. This usually takes about 10-15 minutes. It is a personality survey that asks you to truthfully choose from two words at a time. Choose the one that most reflects who you are, not who you wish to be. If you need synonyms for the words to help you distinguish, you can hover your mouse over the word. Choose from 75 pairs of words: likable or adaptable, understanding or honest, etc. 

At the end of your career/ personality survey you will receive a two page CashCrunch Career report that you can view online, or download and print. Arlene and I both viewed ours online, and then printed a copy to keep. The report includes four sections:

- Career Work Styles
- Motivators & De-motivators
- Career Attributes
- Career Match

The first three sections are information that describes your personality and the fourth one is designed to point you to the best careers for your personality/ career attributes. This fourth section has clickable links to lead you to more information about the various careers recommended.

For both Arlene and myself the first three sections were spot-on. Arlene is a high school senior who was looking to see if there was a career other than what she is currently planning to pursue that might be an even better fit. For myself, I wanted to see what the report would recommend since I am considering a career change once Arlene graduates.

Both of us were disappointed by the information provided in the fourth section (Career Match). The report reads: The purpose of this section is to match your Work Styles and Attributes to careers based on 10 years of research conducted by the US Department of Labor. By this stated purpose you would think that since Arlene and I had vastly different reports in the Work Styles and Career Attributes sections that we would have different jobs recommended. We did not. All 20 of the Matching jobs on both of our reports were exactly the same.

When I contacted the creator and asked him about this he replied:
The career categories for most people will be the same, even though the reports should suggest huge differences. 

In each of the careers, the jobs can vary quite considerably. For example, in the publishing world you will need editors, writers and graphic designers. In the police force there are a number of different personalities required depending on their roles. Some will rise to the ranks in leadership, be detectives, others will follow a more scientific route into CSI and so on. The purpose is to show that within career categories, there are a number of different roles for different personalities.

The ranking is based purely on your inherent traits. As mentioned before, you could work in the same career field but just do different jobs. 

I hope this addresses your concerns.

So I went looking through the reports and links again to see if I had missed something. We were hoping to find a breakdown of individual jobs under each category, that variation we were told about. In the top career listed for both of us: General and Operations Managers, there were no sub-categories. How is a high school student supposed to know where to start their college courses if they are told they will make a great CEO or COO someday but the reality is they need to find an entry-level or mid-level job to prepare for? We did not find the variety of different roles within each field we were hoping to find.

Of our 20 career recommendations, all of them said: manager, administrator, or director except one: Farmers and Ranchers. Something just did not ring quite true for either of us with this, so we dug deeper. We compared our Career Attributes with those listed for each of these 20 recommendations. For some of them there were a solid three of five that matched, but for the top recommendation for me there was only ONE of the attributes listed that was in my report, and for Arlene’s second place recommendation she had NONE of the attributes listed for the position. Two of Arlene's recommendation had no matching attributes and for four of them she only had one.

While we feel that the beginning part of this CashCrunch Careers assessment could be a valuable tool, overall it falls short of the mark it claims to aim for. As it is right now we give it a B- grade. More time needs to be spent on improving the career match section. It should provide stepping-stone positions to consider that could lead to high-level managerial or other top-level jobs in the various industries for those whose career attributes do truly fit the position. We are hoping the creators will consider expanding the Career Match section to better serve these areas of concern.

CashCrunch Careers {CashCrunch Games Reviews}

Crew Disclaimer