Tag: teen friendly

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 am Reading: Starting a Micro Business for Teens

I am blessed to be part of a large homeschool support group in Western North Carolina. Our group has been vital in our homeschool life across the board… socially, academically, emotionally. I can say with confidence that our homeschool story would be much different had we not found this group.

Every year we take part in our group’s enrichment classes. They are parent taught which is really cool because we have so many gifted people in our group with a variety of interests. Our classes serve babies through high school. Although my degree is in Early Childhood Education, I have discovered over the last few years how much I love middle and high schoolers. They stretch me out of my comfort zone. It takes much brain power to keep up with them academically.

As long as I can remember, I have loved looking for ways to creatively make money. As a young child, I sold lemonade on the corner by my house. There was a bus stop for the MARTA bus (Atlanta’s public transportation) right by our house. I would hold my sign high when they would come down the street. The driver would often stop and the passengers would buy lemonade from me. I babysat all through middle and high school. I had a card I carried in my pocket with my rates. I took pride in my babysitting business and gained quite a reputation through the community.

Since being married, I have been a church secretary, a cake decorating teacher, a seamstress, a graphic designer for a magazine, and many other odd jobs. I love to learn new skills and put them to work. When I was trying to decide what class I wanted to teach this past Spring, I remembered one of my son’s goals for school a couple of years ago. He wanted to “make dem monies”… that is for real what he wrote when I asked him to write down his goals… “make dem monies.”

Most teens I know would like to have disposable income so I decided to teach a class that would equip and empower them to do so. I used many resources to pull this class together including the book, Starting a Micro Business for Teens by Carol Topp.

Starting a micro business will help teenagers earn money while learning a lot. A micro business is simple to start, usually home-based, low risk, educational and easy for a busy student to run. This book offers ideas, a business plan, pitfalls to avoid and resources to get a teenager started making money running their own micro business.

Book Description

The book is very well written, concise, and easy to follow. It is practical and covers many areas of business that teens (or any one for that matter) should consider when first starting.

The book is geared for teens. The expecations are realistic. Teens will not go into this book thinking they will open a restaurant and become the next Gordon Ramsey. The author provides many examples of real teens who have had real and successful business ventures.

I was not familiar with the term “micro business” before reading this book. I assumed it was the same as a small business. I was wrong. The difference has to do with the number of employees and the amount of money required to start. A business that requires $50,000 or less to start and has fewer than 10 employees is considered a micro business. Go figure.

The book is filled with practical information including how to start a business with little to no money, usings the skills you already possess, working with purpose to learn and earn, creating a business plan, avoiding scams, and so much more. There is a list with TONS of ideas to help get the creative juices flowing with micro business possibilities.

This book is not for children who are just playing at running a business and it is not for young adults who are wanting to be entrepreneurs. This book takes into consideration the specific needs of teen who still need to do homework and chores and balance a social life.

I was able to use this book (as well as the course by the same author offered through Schoolhouse Teachers) to design my class for 6th- 12th graders. We spent the first couple of weeks learning the basics about starting a micro business. I used Carol Topp’s book as a guide to teach them the difference between offering a good and a service. We talked through logistical things as they began brainstorming. Things like transportation, money needed to begin, advertising, client base, etc.

I showed them a clip from YouTube of the top ten weirdest sales pitches from the show Shark Tank. That got some laughs! My favorite is the guy who wants to “draw a cat for you.” He came up as an example over and over.

We practiced something called “elevator pitches.” Once they had their ideas written and had started their business plan, we pretended they only had the amount of time it takes for an elevator to get from the ground floor to the top of a high rise to convice an investor to buy into the idea (about 1-2 minutes). We also played the game “Snake Oil” to help learn to creatively pitch business ideas. If you haven’t played it, you really should.

Once the students came up with ideas and created basic business plans, they began to design flyers to advertise their businesses. We used the free version of Canva for this assignment.

I had a good friend who is a brilliant entrepreneur come as a guest speaker to the class. She echoed (without even intending to) many of the concepts from the Starting a Micro Business for Teens book.

The class was a hit. Not all the ideas were sustainable. However, we had a dog walker, a babysitter, a make up artist, and a chicken whisperer who really thought through what it would be like to offer their services to the community at large and I wish them the best.

Starting a Micro Business for Teens by Carol Topp is a fantastic resource. It is only 116 pages and easy to read. The book was published by Ambassador Publishing in 2012. There are two other books in the series including Running a Micro Business for Teens and Money and Taxes in a Micro Business. The books are only $4.95 each 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: 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.

What I'm Reading

What I am Reading: A Hobbit, A Wardrobe, and A Great War

I love all things Narnia. C.S. Lewis is one of my favorite authors. I don’t cry often… hardly ever really… it’s a problem. But the Chronicles of Narnia get me. I hate when The Pevensie Kids are grown up and stumble back through the wardrobe and into childhood away from Narnia. It makes me sad every time. I well up with happy, excited tears in “The Last Battle” when they are going further up and further in. I am not as big of a Tolkien fan, but definitely call my children hobbits on a regular basis… due to 2nd breakfasts and their stature.

All that to say, I was intrigued at the title of this book when I saw it come across my Facebook feed. The kids and I read a C.S. Lewis biography a couple of years ago and I was fascinated with the relationship between Lewis and Tolkien.

“A Hobbit, A Wardrobe, And a Great War: How J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis Rediscovered Faith, Friendship, and Heroism in the Cataclysm of 1914-18” by Joseph Loconte has 256 pages and was first published June 30, 2015. The book is filled with observations of the political and religious landscape of the West during the time of World War 1. Both Tolkien and Lewis served as soldiers on the Western Front. This book sheds light on how these wartime experiences influenced the writings of these two great authors.

I am not really sure what I was expecting when I started reading this book. I think I was expecting a devotional type reading, not a history lesson. But, then again, I did not read the book description… just the title. I learned quite a bit about the political and religious climate in Europe during the time of World War 1. It was not much different from today. There was very much an advancement in science and technology during that time. The books dives into the rise of communism, Nazism, fascism, and eugenics, highlighting how those who survived the Great War were disillusioned with government, religion, politics, and spiritual morality.

The book was more of a history book than I expected. There were some graphic depictions of life during the war. Tolkien was not a fan of the focus on technology. He felt it would be man’s downfall. Learning about the time period surrounding the writing of Lord of the Rings and Narnia were helpful in imagining what the author’s may have been thinking about as they created these magical lands. The two men lived in an age where people felt hopeless yet were able to inspire hope through their writings.

If you like history, which I do… and you like learning the behind the scenes of things… which I also do, I recommend you give this book a chance. It is a fairly quick read. I think it would be appropriate for upper middle school and high school as well.

A Hobbit, A Wardrobe, and A Great War by Joseph Laconte was published by Thomas Nelson

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.