Tag: book review

missionsProduct ReviewWhat I'm Reading

What I’m Reading- Venturing With God In Congo

Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way.

To spend much time with me at all will likely result in a conversation involving foreign missions. I have warned many friends not to get too close… There is a pattern in my life that involves sending close friends off to the mission field. This pattern has been in place for almost twenty years. You have been warned. My ears perk and my heart sings with the mention of missions. So, of course, when given an opportunity to review a book filled with the adventures of missions in deepest, darkest Africa, I jumped at the chance. And thus I read, Venturing With God in Congo by Darrell Champlin and punlished by Conjurske Publications.

I received a hard copy of the book. The binding is sturdy (a plus for our rough living… seriously… we break stuff all the time). The book includes some great extras including a pronouciation guide and map of the Congo. Venturing with God In Congo is a collection of stories from the 1950s and 1960s, written by Darrell Champlin. He has since passed away, but his writing lives on in this compilation. The stories share life lived over ten years in the Congo. Stories cover adventures in preaching, individual conversations, adventures in everyday life, hunting, surviving… living life on the mission field.

Story telling is God’s gift to us. When we open ourselves up to story, we see the Gospel played out in front of our very eyes. It is in the stories of our lives that we see the power of the resurrection. We see death, resurrection, beauty over and over. We could hand someone a Bible and say, “Here… the answers you are looking for are here.”… and that could be sufficient. God doesn’t need us, but he chooses to bring us into his work. He gives us a story that he is writing. When we share those stories, we share the Lord.

These are the thoughts I had as I was reading Venturing with God in Congo. The book is filled with story after story of adventure, heartbreak, fear, entering the unknown, leaving beding comfort, hunting rogue elephants, waking to leopard foot prints, and more. The book is a “riveting memoire of Darrell Champlin’s missionary exploits in the Congo jungles during the 1950s and 60s.”

I really like how the book chapters are different stories. Each chapter is like a complete journal entry. This would make a great read aloud around the breakfast table or maybe in the evening when everyone is home and things are settling down for the night. You could read one story a day or a week.

I read this book on my own for the purposes of this review, but intend to read as a read aloud with my kids (ages 8, 10, 13, and 15).

Other possibilities for using this book in your homeschool could be as the basis for a unit study. You could do a study on the congo, or the Belgian Colonial perion, or the animals of the Congo (there are tons of amazing stories of animal encounters throughout the book), or the history of Christian Missions. There are many directions you could go.

In a time when fear is so prevelant, it is refreshing and needed to be reminded of God’s faithfulness and provision. We see over and over through Venturing with God in Congo where God shows up in impossible situations. He provides financially. He provides friendship. He provides protection… protection even from angry hippos who disrupt a canoe trip down the river.

Books are an amazing way to give your child a cross-cultural experience without leaving the comfort of your home. I highly, highly recommend exposing your child first hand to missions… we are hoping to take our kids on a family mission trip this summer if the Corona virus doesn’t shut down the world. If, though, if you cannot physically go right now… at least give them the gift of stories from those who have gone.

I also love how missions and Venturing with God in Congo blows our view of God out of the water. We are often so self centered with our view of God, thinking we have the corner market on his character and image. The missionaries in this book went into the uncivilized world, armed with the gospel, not knowing what to expect from the people they met who were steeped in witchcraft and other practices. They began with the question, “Do you know God?” and were amazed to find that, many time, the people did! They knew of a creator God and the missionaries were able to bring the piece of the story starring Jesus Christ, the son of God. God had already laid the groundwork. He invited the missionaries into what he was already doing.

Want to be challenged? Want to know what God is up to around the world? Want to take a trip with your children to another country? Grab Venturing with God in Congo from Conjurske Publications and start reading.

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What I'm Reading

What I am Reading- Death on the Nile

We took a long car trip back in July. It was our bi-annual trip to St. Jude for my daughter’s scans and appointments. She underwent treatment for a malignant brain tumor almost four years ago. We are on a schedule of going to St. Jude every six months to make sure she is still cancer free and see how she is dealing with the side effects of treatment.

Sometimes she and I fly out for the appointments, but usually in the summer, we opt to drive so other family members can go with us. This time, we decided to bring the whole family and make a trip out of it. We started with a visit to my brother’s farm in North Georgia where we got to celebrate my mom’s birthday and spend time with cousins. This was a four hour drive from our house. When we left the farm, we had a six hour trip to St. Jude in Memphis.

Everyone prepares for car trips in our family by loading up their tablets with games, books, videos, etc. I am typically the designated driver because it is the only way I can avoid car sickness. I generally do not like audio books because I have ADD and cannot always focus long enough to keep up with the story. However, listening to audio books while I am driving is a whole different story… get it… story ??? *crickets*

I loaded my phone with a couple of books I downloaded via Hoopla. Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie was one of them.

The tranquility of a cruise along the Nile is shattered by the discovery that Linnet Ridgeway has been shot through the head. She was young, stylish, and beautiful; a girl who had everything- until she lost her life. Hercule Poirot recalls an earlier outburst by a fellow passenger: “I’d like to put my dear little pistol against her head and just press the trigger.” Yet in this exotic setting, nothing is ever quite what it seems…

Book Description

This is my second Agatha Christie book and certainly will not be my last. Christie’s books are timeless. Set in 1937 when Cairo is still considered a jewel of a city. This mystery features a young heiress, multiple motives for murder, and criminals traveling under assumed names.

The famous detective, Hercule Poirot happens to be enjoying a holiday on a cruise on the Nile. His companion, Colonel Race, is also on the cruise because of a tip that a seriel killer is also vacationing there under an assumed name. All is going smoothly until one night when Linnet Ridgeway is murdered in her cruise cabin. Colonel Race entrusts Poirot in bringing the murderers to justice.

As with Murder on the Orient Express, it seems everyone we meet in the story has a motive. We have a ridiculously rich young American girl with her newly aquired husband, her friends, and her business advisors as well as a British mother and son, an aging spinster with her nurse and neice, and many more characters including the famous Hercule Poirot. Filled with plot twists and plenty of red herrings, this story proves to be a puzzle until the end. Once the end comes and the killer is revealed, you realized that the clues were there all along and feel a little upset that you didn’t figure it out first!

I enjoyed listening to this book and trying to solve the crime alongside Poirot. Death on the Nile is a quicker read (or listen) than Murder on the Orient Express. It has all the ingredients to make a fantastic story. I would definitely recommend this to anyone, upper middle school and older.

There are a few outdated terms that, by today’s standards, would be considered racist or offensive. But you have to remember that this book was written in the 1930s. These terms are not distracting in any way to the plot. The descriptions of murder are also not the focus. There is no gore or over the top depictions. Murder is not idealized. The focus is on solving the puzzle.

First published in November 1937.

And! The language is clean, which is a huge win in my book!

What I'm Reading

What I’m Reading- Where the Crawdads Sing

I follow several bloggers on Facebook and Instagram that are homeschool friendly and conservative in their views on life at large. When I see them post about a book, I typically take note. I will head over to the Overdrive app on my iPad and see if the book is available to check out. When I looked up Where the Crawdads Sing, it was unavailable and I put it on hold. I was something like number 700 and there were only 2 copies available. I promptly forgot about the book and moved on. A few months later, I got an email that a book I had put on hold had been automatically checked out for me.

This happens often. I place a book on hold, forget, and am surprised when it is checked out for me. It becomes like a race to see if I will 1. remember the email saying I have a book checked out and 2. find time to read it.

I totally forgot about Where the Crawdads Sing until I got another notification saying my loan was going to expire in three days. Challenge accepted. I started reading on a Friday and finished Sunday afternoon. I love a good murder mystery. This book did not disappoint.

For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life–until the unthinkable happens.

Book Description

The book follows the life of Kya who has been abandoned by her mother and siblings. They all left one by one until it was just Kya and her abusive, alcoholic father. I don’t understand why they didn’t just take her with them, but I suppose that speaks to our own self preservation and inability to think clearly when the victim of trauma and abuse. It is like you are taking actions that are outside of yourself and seem rational at the time.

Kya is left, for all intents and purposes, alone. Her father comes and goes until he just doesn’t come back at all. Kya is resilient. She has learned to drive the boat her father left behind. She learns to forage. She learns to trade with a local merchant who shows pity on her. He and his wife take Kya under their wing as much as they can. You see, they are black and she is white. However, their socioeconomic level unites them more than their races divide them.

The book flip flops back and forth between the present day and following Kya grow from a child to an adult. As Kya grows, she becomes known as “the marsh girl.” She learns about life through her interactions with the creatures of the marsh. A friend of her older brother befriends her and teaches her to read. He is one of few to show her acceptance and happiness.

In the present day (which is 1969), a local football legend, Chase Andrews, is found dead. An investigation is launched to sort out all the rumors surrounding the circumstances of his death. Was it an accident? Was it murder? Is the Marsh Girl involved?

Where the Crawdads Sing has a likeable main character with a story that pulls at your heartstrings. The book is a murder mystery, but also a coming of age story with a touch of romance. The book is beautifully written as it contains a great story as well as vivid pictures of marsh life in the Outer Banks of North Carolina as well as poetry woven throughout.

While I enjoyed reading this book, I do not believe I would recommend it for students. There are triggers involving rape and abuse in the book. The subjects would be too intense, in my opinion, for young teens. The book is not terribly descriptive, but it is enough to make an impact.

The book is 379 pages, was published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons in August 2018, and has been a #1 on the NY Times Bestseller List.

I checked out a copy via Overdrive (our library’s digital service). You can buy it on Amazon as well. It is available as hardcover, paperback, kindle, and audio book.

Disclaimer: I am an affiliate with Amazon. Purchases made through links on this post provide our family with a small commission. Thank you!

What I'm Reading

What I am Reading: Murder on the Orient Express


Recently, my big kids and I were given the chance to do a “Sleep in the Deep” at the Tennessee Aquarium in Chatanooga. This is about a four hour drive from where we live. My kids were hunkered down with their devices, freshly loaded with downloads on Netflix. The fourteen year old was watching A Series of Unfortunate Events and the twelve year old was watching Despicable Me 3. I was all alone with my thoughts until I remembered that I have a phone! And a Hoopla account through our library.

When we pulled over at a rest stop, I downloaded Murder on the Orient Express. Crime shows are my favorite thing to watch on TV so I thought I might enjoy a good murder mystery novel. I have to be careful when entering into this genre. Some things are too gory, too descriptive for my mind. I read a novel last year that gave me nightmares for weeks. But with this being written in the 1930s, I felt I was safe.

I actually intended to listen to some podcasts on the road. Some friends directed me to one called “Up and Vanished” about a cold case from south of Atlanta. One of the episodes I listened to actually highlighted a kidnapping and murder of Charles Lindburg’s baby back in the early 1900s. This podcast must have been recorded a couple of years ago because it was promoting the movie, Murder on the Orient Express. Apparently Agatha Christie had written the book based on details from the Lindburg baby’s case.

Decription of Murder on the Orient Express as found on Goodreads:

What more can a mystery addict desire than a much loathed murder victim found aboard the luxurious Orient Express with multiple stab wounds, thirteen likely suspects, an incomparably brilliant detective in Hercule Poirot, and the most ingenious crime ever conceived?”

This was my first Agatha Christie novel and it did not disappoint. It reminded me a little of the show Monk. Not that Poirot has obsessive compulsive disorder… but the attentiveness to detail, the way that crime seems to follow him. It was also a little Columbo-ish in the way he snared his suspects with this unagressive manner. Throw in a little Ocean’s Thirteen hesit-y plot and it has all the things I like about crime shows. Of course, this was written well before any of those shows and movies came out, and of course… it is a novel which makes it all the more better.

I am always nervous to listen to audio books. I have ADD and get lost in my imagination. In this audio book, however, the reader (Dan Stevens) did voices and accents and kept my attention. I was also a captive audience as I was driving. I think if I had read the book, I would have gotten lost in some of the French words.

I’m not going to lie. I was thinking that this book is close to one hundred years old. I was thinking it would be dry and boring and that I would give up quickly. I am pleased at how wrong I was.

I love how the characters were developed. I love that I had no preconceived notions on how the book would develop so I was able to create my own theories along the way. I will not share the ending or the who done it. I wonder if I am the last person on earth to read this book or to realize what a treasure it is.

I would actually be more than ok with my middle schoolers reading this as well. The murder is not described in detail… meaning there are no gory descriptions. The details lie in the suspects, alibis, motives, etc. There is one exclamation of “damn!” in the entire book. Otherwise, the language is clean.

Murder on the Orient Express has 274 pages and was first published in 1934. You can purchase the book HERE. It is only 99 cents on Kindle!!!!

Disclaimer: I am an affiliate with Amazon. Purchases made through links on this post provide our family with a small commission. Thank you!

What I'm Reading

What I am Reading: The War That Saved My Life

As many of you can relate, homeschooling just isn’t where the big bucks are. For most of us, it is a financial sacrifice to school our children at home. It is a worthy calling and a worthy sacrifice. One thing I wish I could provide for my children are opportunities for travel. I would love to take them along the route the Ingalls family traveled in the Little House Books. To let them see the secret room where Corrie Ten Book hid with her family. To visit the Grand Canyon or Mount Rushmore, The Eifle Tower or Buckingham Palace would be a grand adventure.

Now, please hear me. I am happy with my life. I love the life my husband and I have built together with our children. The sacrifices have been worth it. We have been blessed beyond what I can comprehend. We have had experiences gifted to us over the years that we would not otherwise have been able to afford. I am not, by any means, complaining.

Enter books. Books can take my children where I cannot… to another time and another place. Books can expose them to things in a way that I am just not able to do. What I am able to do is curate books, take my children to the library, max out our cards, and allow for blocks of time in the day to settle in and read. I read to them, we listen to audio books, they read on their own. It is my hope to promote a culture of literacy and a love of reading in our home. I once heard a friend say about her homeschool that if she taught her children to read, she opened the world to them.

I checked out The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley a few weeks ago to read for myself. I love historical fiction, especially for young adults (I’m young at heart, right?). Last year, I read her book, Jefferson’s Sons and was impressed. I also am fascinated at the time period of World War 2 and the children of the war who were evacuated from London to the countryside.

This is a Newberry Honor book as well as the winner of the Schneider Family Book Award. The book focuses on a young girl named Ada who has never left her one room apartment. Her mother is too humliated by Ada’s twisted foot to let her outside. Her little brother Jamie is allowed to attend the local school. When the war begins to come close to home and children are sent by train to the countryside, Ada sneaks out to join Jamie and the other children in the evacuation.

This begins a new adventure for Ada and Jamie as a woman named Susan Smith is forced to take them in. Ada is exposed to an entirely new world filled with nature, a pony, German spies, enough food to eat, and books to read. Susan begins to love Jamie and Ada, but the bond is tested through the trials of wartime.

The author does a great job of contrasting life in London, in the one room apartment with life in the countryside. I found myself cringing and holding my breath with Ada is shoved into a cabinet by her mother as a form of discipline. The descriptions of the smells and roaches that lurked in the cabinet were vivid. The book is also filled with history concerning World War 2. Names and dates and events are found throughout the book in a way that is engaging and thoughtful… much different than in a text book or a classroom lecture.

Ada is a relateable character for young readers. I imagined my daughter reading this book. Ada hears words that she doesn’t understand. The people around her assume she knows what words like “surgery” or “making arrangements” mean. They assume she knows much more than she does. At times, she asks for clarification and at times she does not, thus causing confusion and anger in her heart.

Ada is a survivor, courageous, and persistent. We see her protect and care for her little brother. We see her time and time again willing to put her needs aside and care for him. We also see her struggle when someone else who is older and wiser and has more resources steps into the care taker role. Ada struggles to trust Susan Smith to take care of them. For so long, Ada has had to be a grown up in so many ways, she struggles greatly when she is allowed to be a little girl. This again reminds me of my own girl who took on so many adult roles while her sister battled cancer. We have had to remind her that she is a little girl and does not have to be the care taker or make sure everyone is ok. She can relax and let us take care of her.

The second book, The War I Finally Won, continues the story of Ada and Jamie. The war is still raging. Their mother has given up her rights as a parent and Susan Smith has been named their legal guardian. We watch as Ada grows to love and let people love her. We watch as she finally gets the surgery she has needed all her life to correct her club foot. She struggles with anger and bitterness that her mother could have had her foot fixed as a baby, but chose to let her live with the painful condition. Ada clearly struggles is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I love the way Susan cares for Ada in her darkest moments. It is a beautiful book series of loss and pain and redemption.

I am having my twelve year old (girl) and thirteen year old (boy) read it now. I think younger children could read it, but much would go over their heads.

The War That Saved my Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley has 322 pages and can be found in the Young Adult section of the library as it is geared for ages 9-12. The second book in the series, The War I Finally Won is 389 pages.

Just in case it needs to be said, I am by no means a professional book reviewer or book critic. I just like to read and share what I have learned. I am also an affiliate with Amazon. If you click through and purchase through links on this blog, our family will receive a small percentage from the purchase. Thank you.