Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Public Library vs. Amazon Prime

I was all pumped when I found out that my library now lends out Kindle books for free. The problem is that apparently everyone else is pumped too. I've yet to actually borrow a book as every book I've attempted to borrow has a good number of holds before me (or it's not available at all on the Kindle format yet).

I'd be happy just reading the classics which can be downloaded free but I'm in the midst of my research for 100 Books for Kids Who Love to Read. I've got to weed through the modern fare and find some gems for teens. I finally found (and paid for!) a solution last night.

Amazon has a service called Amazon Prime (click to read about it). For $79 a year you get a number of perks including:
  • Online movie viewing (their selection isn't any worse than Netflix online streaming and about the same price).
  • Free 2-day shipping on any purchase with no $$ minimum.
  • Kindle book rental
They have a 30-day free trial so I signed up last night try it out. I borrowed The Hunger Games. I'm already a quarter done with it and can't wait to see if all the hype is true. I'll let you know.

Meanwhile, I'm writing a review of My Antonia (free on Kindle) in between Christmas preparations. I hope to have it posted for you soon.

PS I'm sure as time goes on, my library will obtain more e-books and I'll be able to go back to borrowing on the taxpayers's dime again. For now, this is a good solution.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Regina Doman Kindle Books On Sale

I LOVE Regina Doman and her Fairy Tale novels for teens. Click on the Kindle for an awesome deal ...

Sunday, December 04, 2011

What Are Your Favorite Teen Reads?

We've talked numerous times on this blog about fav books for boys, for littles, for tweens, and so on. However, we really have not touched too deeply on reads for older teens.

Sixteen-, seventeen-, and eighteen-year olds are in a whole different ballpark. They've entered that rhetoric phase. They're thinking more deeply, asking thoughtful questions, and looking at how their own lives integrate with the world at large. They're also able to handle more mature subjects. We, as parents, have given them the tools to discern the good from the bad and so leave more room for their discretion.

I think that most of us (mothers of older teens) have given up on pre-reading ALL of their book choices. There are only so many hours in the day after all. Yet, we have not given up on guiding their choices and helping find the good stuff when we can.

My request to you Dear Reader is to tell me in the comments some of your favorite books for older teens. I'd love to hear from teens and young adults as well as moms. What do you love and why?

My goal here is twofold. One this is a great forum to help one another. I love that we can learn from each other. Two, I'm in the depths of reading high school level books for my upcoming nonfiction book, 100 Books for Kids Who Love to Read (working title).

Did I tell you that I'm actually doing three different books? Well, my publisher asked for one book for grade school children, one for middle school, and one for high school. I think it's a great idea. I'm starting with the high school book. The really fun part is that my 18-year-old daughter has agreed to be my co-author.

So, please give me some ideas on books to include. And give all the other readers here some ideas for their trips to the library and bookstore.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Review: The Great and Terrible Quest

The Great and Terrible Quest by Margaret Lovett [Avyx]

Grade Level: 6th grade and up
Genre: Medieval Fantasy (I just made that up. Not sure if there really is such a genre or subgenre. But, hey, it sounds good to me.)

This was an absolute joy to read. Oh, I had a few quibbles but then I always do. I found myself confused at some points about who was talking. This is something that could have easily been fixed by an editor changing "he said" to "Trad said". Considering that's my biggest quibble, we're good to go here.

I did read a review at Amazon that complained the book was anti-Church. I disagree. I would have preferred a more Catholic Christian ethos to the story but I don't think it was "anti-Church". Yes, there are bad priests in the book but there is also the good and kind archbishop. We all know this is reality. There are good and bad people in all walks of life. And, in this particular story, it is a very dark time in the kingdom. The land is in the hands of evil lords. Times like that bring out the worst in people.

Yet, the worst of times can also bring out the best in people. Hence our heroes of the story. The protagonist, a ten-year-old orphaned boy left in the care of his cruel and despicable grandfather, has a heart of gold. In spite of his personal difficulties, the boy is generous and kind to anyone in need, even though it means serious hardship for him.

We also meet a mysterious man who has been terribly wounded and near death. He appears to be a knight on a quest, but his memory has been robbed by a physical trauma. Yet, as he heals, he works to overcome this trial so that he may complete his knightly quest (though he does not quite know what it is). He is obviously a man of valor as well as tenacity.

There is one more hero to mention, the juggler. I think if I had to pick a favorite, it would be the juggler. He's a wimp ... at first. He is scared out of his wits. Again, these are dark and fearful times. The boy and the knight need the juggler's help but it could easily mean death for the man. Without giving too much of the plot away, I'll just say that the juggler turns his back on the two ... at first. But in the end, he does the right thing and he does it well.

The best heroes are not necessarily the ones with little to no fear, nor are they the ones filled with bravado. Sometimes the best heroes are the ones who are scared to death and yet still step up to the plate and go beyond what is ever expected of them. They're the ones I personally gravitate toward.

Overall, I found this story to be fun and enjoyable. I was barely able to put it down until I could get to the last page. First, because there is an intriguing mystery to solve (who is the knight and what is his quest) and who doesn't love a good mystery. Second, it is always fulfilling to read a story with strong characters who are good examples for our own lives. I believe that such fantasy stories help give us strength to do the right thing, right here in the real world.

Questions to Ask Yourself as You Read:
What makes a hero?
Is the Church treated fairly?
Do I have what it takes to do the right thing even in the darkest of times?
Is it good for future leaders to have experienced hard times? To have lived amongst the poor?
What is it that drives the knight?
How is the juggler living out Scripture?

Other Books by This Author (both are long out of print):

If You Like This Book You May Also Like:
Otto of the Silver Hand by Howard Pyle (available FREE on Kindle)
Beorn the Proud by Madeleine Polland
Adam of the Road by Elizabeth Janet Gray

*Note: When you click on the hyperlinked book titles, you will be taken to the book on Amazon to learn more about it. If you choose to purchase books through Amazon after clicking on the link, I do receive a percentage which is applied to my future book purchases. This helps me purchase more books to review. However, I encourage you to use your public library as much as you can.

Picture Book Review: Chickens to the Rescue

Chickens to the Rescue, by John Himmelman [Henry Holt and Company]

Grade Level: Preschool
Pages: 32

This is just a plain fun book. I mean, come on, when aren't crazy chickens fun?

Chickens to the Rescue is for the very young and the very young at heart. The illustrations are colorful and will most certainly make you smile.

I won't give away the intricate plot (that's a little picture book sarcasm) other than to say that the chickens save the farm day after day from the crazy mayhem of the family. Well, except for Sunday. Sunday is a day for rest even for super hero chickens.

Make sure to put Chickens to the Rescue on your list for the next trip to the public library. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Awesome Deal Picture Perfect Childhood

In celebration of Picture Book Month Cay Gibson's A Picture Perfect Childhood is offered on e-book for only $1.99 until the end of November. This is an awesome deal. The e-book format is PDF so you can read it on the computer or your e-reader.

I already own the print version but for $1.99 I can't resist putting it on my Kindle. How nice to be able to have it easily available in my purse for library visits.

Buy it today and celebrate childhood with your favorite snuggle-bug by clicking here: A Picture Perfect Childhood.

Thank you Cay for this wonderful gift to us book lovers!

Monday, November 14, 2011

100 Books for Kids Who Love to Read

I put my last book project up on the shelf when I got involved in Homeschool Connections. I'm still deeply involved in the daily running of HSConnections and working like crazy on it, but I have been feeling a strong tug to get back to work on 100 Books for Kids Who Love to Read. I've set aside time each week to work solely on the book.

I've also neglected this blog since taking on HSConnections. This book project should pump a little bit of life back into the blog. I'll use this forum to work out ideas, post book reviews, and get your opinion now and then.

In the meantime, please pray for me and this project.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Review: Belisarius: The First Shall Be Last

I truly enjoy discovering new authors and new books. I just finished reading Belisarius: The First Shall Be Last by Paolo A. Belzoni (Kindle version). Belisarius is published by the small, yet wonderful, Catholic press Arx Publishing.

In a nutshell, I loved it. This is a great one to read yourself, especially if you like historical fiction. You can also give it to just about any high school student. You could give it to a middle school student as well but please know ahead of time that there are graphic war scenes and it does touch on the fact that some characters, well, lack character. That is to say some of the males are womanizers and some of the females have a past.

However, a book written with only perfect characters is worthless. How do we learn from their mistakes if they don't make them? How do we learn that we too can be heroes if the book's hero is too far beyond our grasp?

Belisarius does possess great humility and piety with just a few stumbles. However, he is not without trials. He rises up from a simple farm boy to a great general in the Roman army. He meets failure on the battle field but perseveres and learns from his mistakes. He is met with temptation, yet stands strong. He is a model for us and for our children that with tenacity, hard work and dedication combined with strong Catholic principles you can achieve greatness for the Kingdom.

In addition to being a good, uplifting story, Belisarius can be tied into your history studies. The story begins in 504 AD as the Roman Empire is struggling with the Barbarians on one front and the Persians attacking on another. We follow Belisarius from childhood to manhood and we see how he changes history through his skill and dedication. He is considered by historians to be one of "The Last of the Romans".

We're studying the Middle Ages this upcoming school year. We'll begin in September with the 6th Century. We plan to read a large variety of historical fiction to accompany our studies and Belisarius: The First Shall Be Last is, fittingly enough by it's title, first on the reading list.

I did have one quibble and it wasn't even about the story. The cover of the book is quite lovely but to me it says, "This is a book for younger children." In my opinion, this is a book for high school to adult. Other than that, and a few minor editing errors, I truly loved this book. It's a story worth reading. Now, if it was available on audio that would be really sweet!

Note that this is the first in a series of two books so you don't get a nice clean ending. I hope to get to Belisarius--Book II: Glory of the Romans soon. Very soon.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

A Catholic Homeschool Treasury

I am very happy to announce that my original book with Rachel Mackson, A Catholic Homeschool Treasury: Nurturing Children's Love for Learning is back in print. This time as an e-book. I kept the original body of the book intact but the appendices have been brought up to date.

This is a nice little book, especially for the new homeschooler or homeschoolers of younger children. It's a gem for only $2.99. I hope you'll check it out and tell others about it too.

Currently, it's available from Amazon for their Kindle. I hope to add other formats in the future.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Catholic Homeschooling Books on Kindle

Two of my books are now available on Kindle. I'm also happy to see Laura Berquist's book Designing Your Own Classical Curriculum is available as well.

Here are the links:
Additionally, I'm currently working on bringing back my out of print book A Catholic Homeschool Treasury for Kindle.

If you're thinking about buying an e-reader, here is a blog post to read:

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Day 16: The Preciousness of Life

This week a tragedy struck some of our very dear friends. A car accident. Not fatal. Not even critical. But very serious. Mom, Dad, and 5 of the 8 children were in the family minivan on their way to Scouts when an ice storm hit. Details are not completely clear yet but it appears that another minivan heading in the opposite direction lost control and hit our friends head on.

Before I go on, let me remind you all of the importance of wearing seat belts. This would be a completely different post if our friends were not buckled in. The 3-year old suffered facial injuries/factures when his car seat flew into the seat in front of him but he is alive. Two other children suffered broken collar bones, but they are alive. One child's femur was shattered but she is alive. Another child was feared to have internal injuries but is fine now and is alive. Dad's hand is broken, but he is alive. Finally, both of Mom's ankles are broken and her lung collapsed but she is wonderfully, gloriously alive.

This is a reminder to all of us that life can change in a mere second. Sometimes because of our own doing but other times through no fault of our own, like when another car hits a patch of ice. Are you prepared for such a drastic change in your life? Will you be blindsided or prepared?

Lent is all about sacrifice. Giving of ourselves to God and to others. Our 40-Days project has not, should not, be about us. It is about giving glory to God. It is about giving to our families.

It is through such sacrificial love that our friends will survive this accident. Oh, I don't mean physically. But mentally and spiritually. All week there has been talk of God's mercy and grace. Of His undying love. That is what will help them heal.

God has also put into place already the material instruments to help them financially and with the everyday things. How is a mother to care for her husband and 5 injured children when she herself is seriously injured? Because of this mother's commitment to selflessly serving others in her homeschool and faith communities, people are lining up to lend a helping hand. Her example of servitude has been an inspiration to the rest of us long before this accident.

God is good.

Will you please join me in offering up today's work for this family? For their physical and mental healing, for financial recovery, and that they continue to see God's hand and goodness in everything.

Today's Plan:
Morning: Surface clean the living room
Afternoon: Boys' closets
Evening: Spiritual reading

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Day Twelve: 40 Dirty Jobs for Lent

My friend Jeanette wrote on her Facebook page last week, "Thank you to my friend, Maureen Wittmann, for inspiring me to make a list of 40 Dirty Jobs to do as a sacrifice for lent. Today is Day 5 and is freezer defrosting day."

40 Dirty Jobs List! I love it. Getting down and dirty for Lent! What a great visual. Then we'll all emerge on Easter beautiful and clean. Yeah!

Today's Plan:
Morning: Clean all door knobs, phones, remote controls, switch plates,banisters, and are things that are repeatedly touched. A good job after your house has been hit with sickness!
Afternoon: Attack the boys' closets (come looking for me if I don't make it out by dinner).

Monday, March 21, 2011

Days 10 & 11: Sickness

I have been down with a virus and so I am very late in blogging. I'm on the road to good health but I'm sure not to be back on track with the 40-day plan again until tomorrow. Fortunately (really) I've had plenty to offer up over the past few days.

If you've been relying on my daily posts to keep to your own plan, please accept my apology. You can check this document for each day's plan: 40 Days to a Cleaner and More Organized Home.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Day Nine: Our Physical Selves

Over the past ten days we've worked on making our homes and our souls more beautiful. Today let's think about working on our bodies. As busy moms, many of us do not get the physical exercise we need. Who has time to workout!

Yet, as homeschooling mothers aren't we all masters of multi-tasking? Today I'm committed to taking a walk while praying my rosary.

How can you combine exercise with your other daily activities so that you don't have to skimp elsewhere?

Today's Plan:
Morning: Sweep and mop a floor or two
Afternoon: Clean out the fridge and take a walk
Evening: Read a good book

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Day Eight: Adding Devotions

Lent is a good time to either add new family devotions or refocus on old ones. What can you add? Perhaps you can add something as simple as wearing a scapular or praying a morning offering? It would be wonderful to add the Divine Mercy Chaplet at 3:00 pm each day. Or the Rosary before you start school each morning or before sleep at night.

One thing we do every Lent is add the Stations of the Cross on Fridays at church. This week we put up the Stations on the wall in the basement. It would be lovely if we can keep it up after Lent is over.

What devotions do you practice as a family?

Today's Plan:
Morning: Deep clean the living room
Afternoon: Organize the food pantry
Evening: Spiritual reading

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Day Seven: Planning Ahead for Back Sliding

Someone mentioned on Facebook that she is prepared for those crazy days when the day's plan just doesn't get done. If she's feeling energetic, she goes ahead and completes a job from a future day. That way she doesn't feel like a failure if something gets skipped later on. Good idea!

Today's Plan:
Morning: Surface clean the living room
Afternoon: Organize utensils/silverware in kitchen
Evening: Spiritual reading

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Day Six: 40 Days for Kids

My children, upon discovering my Lenten plan, asked, "You're not going to make us do it to are you???"

Mmm, not a bad idea. Imagine if Junior spent 20 minutes a day on his bedroom. It would be the most glorious space at the end of 40 days. I'm going to have to think about this!

Today's Plan:
Morning: Dust the shelves
Afternoon: Organize kitchen shelves with pots/pans
Evening: Read a good book

Monday, March 14, 2011

Day Five: Spiritual Reading

Just as we need to feed our bodies so we need to feed our minds and souls. If all we read or watch on TV is junk then we'll become junk. If we are mindful to focus on the True and the Beautiful then we will grow in Truth and Beauty.

Lent is a great time to clean out the junk. Not just in our basements and our closets. What are you reading these days? Last week I talked a wee bit about reading good fiction. How about nonfiction?

Do you know of some great Lenten reflections online? How about great spiritual books? Please share in the comments your favorite spiritual reading. Personally, I don't think you can go wrong with just about anything by Mike Aquilina or Scott Hahn. Who are your favorite Catholic nonfiction authors?

Today's Plan:
Morning: Deep clean 1 bathroom
Afternoon: Organize the Tupperware drawer
Evening: Curl up with a good book

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Day Four: No Time to Blog

Good Morning Everyone!

Saturday is the regular cleaning day at the Wittmann house. So, I'm going to get that 27-whatever done today along with regular chores and my list.

Praying all is good at your house and you're starting to see some extra sparkle.

Today's Plan:
Morning: Surface clean 1 bathroom
Afternoon: Take items to thrift store and recycling center
Evening: Cuddle up with a good book

Friday, March 11, 2011

Day Three: FAIL Blog

Yesterday was one of those days. Plans were made. Plans were dashed. The 27 Fling Boogie did not get done. Does this mean that my 40-day plan is a fail? Does that mean I'm a failure? No! I'm only a failure if I let this setback set the tone for the next 37 days. I'm only a failure if I say, "I obviously can't do this so I'm giving up on the plan."

Instead, I'm going to shake myself off and start anew today. I'll go with my plan for today. If I find time, and I may as there is far less on my plate today, then I'll do the 27 Fling Boogie. But if I don't get to it then I'm not going to let it worry me.

If you get off track, just get back on and keep going. Don't worry about catching up. Do what you can do today.

Today's plan:
Morning: Clean interior windows & tidy school room
Afternoon: 5-minute tidy in 4 different rooms with timer.
Bedtime: Spiritual reading.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Day Two: What Are You Reading?

My motto has always been, "How can I do housework when there are so many good books to read!" But hey, even though I'm focusing more on housework during these 40 days of Lent, I can still catch a few minutes before bedtime to read.

The best Lenten reading I've ever experienced was when I was assigned Louis De Wohl's Spear for a magazine article. It just happened to be Holy Week and I have to say it was one of the best Holy Weeks in my life. That novel really brought the Passion alive for me.

I'll talk about nonfiction books in future posts, but today let's talk about favorite novels that also raise your heart up to the True and Beautiful. Share in the comments your favorite fiction books that are also morally uplifting.

For me, I was happy to discover this morning that all of the Louis De Wohl novels are available on Kindle. I've already read most of them so I downloaded one I haven't seen yet, The Last Crusader. It's a novel based on Don Juan of Austria (NOT the fictional womanizer Don Juan). I know it doesn't sound very lentish, but that's not really the point here. The point is being uplifted in everyday things.

Remember we talked about baby steps. I don't want to overwhelm myself so that I end up a failure. The Last Crusader looks to be a lovely, uplifting novel. It's okay to enjoy myself as I also work on my spiritual self.

Today's Plan:
Morning: Deep clean the kitchen
Afternoon: The FlyLady's 27 Fling Boogie (Yesterday I threw out 27 things. Today I'll give away 27 things)
Bedtime: Cuddle up with a good book

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Day One: Remember to Pray!

Happy Ash Wednesday!

Is it okay to say "Happy Ash Wednesday"? It is a day of ashes and sacrifice, yet it is also a day to rejoice. What a gift to be able to offer up our small suffering to Jesus whose great suffering brought us redemption.

Today is the first day of our 40-day challenge. The goal is not only a cleaner and more organized home. It is also spiritual. This is a Lenten journey after all.

Remember to pray as you clean and declutter. Thank God for His many gifts. Ask Him to help you persevere and complete the job.

Also remember to smile. God would love His gift wrapped in your joy not in your grumblings.

Today's plan after attending Ash Wednesday Mass:
Morning: Surface clean the kitchen
Afternoon: The Fly Lady's 27 Fling Boogie (that just sounds soooo fun!)

Let me know how your first day went.

Monday, March 07, 2011

The List for 40 Days to a Clean and Organized Home

The checkoff list is all typed up and available at my Scribd account: 40 Days to a Clean and Organized Home.

Keep in mind that I made this list to fit my life, my family, my home. It is a Word Doc. so you can edit to fit your life.

I set my Lenten journey to a clean and organized home into two parts. You can choose to follow Part One (cleaning) or Part Two (organizing/decluttering) or both.

[Click on the label below to see other posts on this topic]

Prep Work for 40 Days to a Clean and Organized Home

Your assignment for today or tomorrow is to:
  1. Grab a pencil and paper
  2. Write in the columns the numbers 1 to 40
  3. Block off each week. Remember 6 days to a week because Sunday is a day off.
  4. Go through your house and write down what you want to tackle
  5. Remember baby steps. Do a little each day and it will add up. If you write down 40 HUGE jobs, you'll get overwhelmed and nothing will get done.
Here is what I did:

I'm going to clean this up and type it out to post later. This is only one part of my total plan. What I'd like to do is a 2-part plan. This is the organizing part of the plan. I'm also putting together a cleaning part. I promise to have it all posted by tomorrow morning.

40 Days to a Clean and Organized Home

I've been looking for just the right thing to sacrifice for Lent, wanting to do something completely new and different. Inspired by a post over at Oro Et Laboro, I've decided to come up with a plan to clean and organize my house throughout Lent.

With the exception of cooking, I am not gifted in the domestic arts. I envy women who are able to create beauty throughout the family home. It is truly a gift to be able to keep a family home tidy, organized and welcoming.

Of course, my lack of domestic skill is probably directly related to the fact that I simply don't like cleaning. My motto has always been, "How can I do housework when there are so many good books to read!" So, dedicating Lent to a cleaner and more organized home is a serious sacrifice for me.

Ash Wednesday is only 2 days away so I'm pulling together my 40 Days to a Clean and Organized Home a little late in the game. However, I'm committed to doing it. I'll get started within the hour.

Part of my Lenten commitment will be to blog on my progress. Would you like to join me? If so, let me know in the comments. Feel free to leave tips and ideas for the rest of us. We're in this together.

Addendum: Click on the label below to see all of the posts on this topic. Or "Like" my Facebook page to keep tabs on posts.