Friday, December 9, 2011

The Christmas Singing: an excerpt

Click here for an excerpt from Cindy Woodsmall's latest book, The Christmas Singing.

Click here for a book trailer for the book as well.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Christian Zombie Killers Handbook: a book review

The Christian Zombie Killers Handbook by Jeff Kinley is a book like none I've ever read. It is half a zombie novel and half a Christian living discussion. Every other chapter follows a storyline about a world with a zombie outbreak and the other chapters are Kinley talking to you (the reader) about living a Christian life by "Slaying the Living Dead Within". Lets start with the storyline aspect of the novel.
Ben Foreman is a man living in a world where zombies are a constant threat. Each person has a dormant zombie gene that could break out at any time. Ben and others are forced to live their lives with their eyes constantly in the back of their heads. This story was compelling and interesting. As a horror fan, I appreciated the zombie element. There was enough creepy imagery to keep my attention, while at the same time I could imagine living in this world so different from my own. Or is it different? The other chapters explain how we are living with zombies in a figurative sense. By following God's commandments and expectations we can live lives unblemished by evil (zombies).
There was a lot of information in these chapters and Kinley's style of writing was very difficult for me to follow. I admit to only being able to absorb a small amount of what he was telling me because of his readability level of writing. The points he was making are relevant and very thought provoking. He used many examples and cultural references that are interesting for today's young people to think about. However, I believe that his language and cadence were too difficult to keep my attention. To reclaim Kinley's points (which I want to do) I will have to reread these chapters.
I recommend this book to young adults who struggle with understanding God. Kinley does an excellent job of breaking God's demands down into levels that are easier to understand and follow.
I received this book free from BookSneeze® for my review.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Hardest Thing to Do: a book review

This fall I had the pleasure of reading Penelope Wilcock's trilogy The Hawk and the Dove. This trilogy is about the stories a little girl's mother tells her about a group of monks. These tales, which are passed down through generations, include stories about monks learning life lessons. The reader grows to love the monks and care about their problems. When a monk has a personal breakthrough, the reader feels the breakthrough as his or her own. These charming and touching stories are held together by the single storyline of the little girl and her mother.

In 2011, Penelope Wilcock came out with a fourth book in the Hawk and the Dove series, entitled The Hardest Thing To Do. This book contains more small vignettes about monks in the St. Alcuin Abbey. There are a few differences in this book. There is one main storyline in this book, instead of many small ones. This book follows the monks and their reaction to a less than honorable man seeking refuge in their Monastery. I missed the different monks and the variety of life lessons they learned in the first three books in this series. I still quite enjoyed this book, but I liked the setup of the trilogy better. Another difference in this book is the missing thread of the girl as a narrator and her mother as the storyteller. I felt that this common thread held the mini stories together quite nicely. Because this book had the same storyline throughout it, it didn't need the common thread.

As a Christian, I gained a sense of peace reading this book. I was so emotionally invested in this book, I felt empathy and sympathy for the monks in St. Alcuin Abbey. I loved learning about the culture of a monastery, something I previously knew nothing about. Anyone with a love of God would do well to absorb this series, and enjoy every minute of it. Even people with no religious investment would enjoy learning about a different culture and a different way of life. I highly recommend this entire series and eagerly await the next book. I received this book and the preceding trilogy for free from Crossway, a Christian publishing company.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

October is Bullying Prevention Month

We all have heard about the latest controversy surrounding bullying. No? Read this. As a student teacher, I have encountered bullying of my students in both 2nd grade and 5th grade. Last week one of my students and a student in the other 5th grade class came to us about being bullied by another student's MOTHER. This mother came to school at the end of the day and said appalling things to my girls in Spanish regarding the friendship of these girls and the woman's daughter. Even though the other 5th grade teacher didn't speak enough Spanish to understand what the woman was saying to the girls, she knew it wasn't appropriate. Seeing the girls upset and scared, the teacher found me and the other 5th grade teacher (my mentor), and we talked to our girls. After a heartbreaking report that moved me to tears, we had the girls write down the incident in as much detail as possible. Today I was emptying my pockets from yesterday and found a note from my student detailing the incident for me. I felt like crying all over again. Bullying from a fellow student is bad enough, but from an adult? What kind of person would come to school and threaten innocent 11 year old girls? Here is a link to visit:

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Qwilleran's Last Stand

I was looking forward to a restful Saturday for my roommate and I to hang out, be lazy, and play video games. We did just that until around 4 or so. Then my beloved hedgehog, Qwill started having a seizure. After a minute, it was over and he was back to normal. About 40 minutes later he had another one. That's when we took him to an animal hospital. He had an episode when we were there and the vet said Qwill was having fainting spells and they had to put him on oxygen to wake him back up. The bills for keeping him overnight and running more tests were more than we could spend. On top of the bills for the tests we would later have treatment bills. So I made the decision to have the poor little guy put down. I couldn't bear to let him suffer through another episode where he thrashes and squeals, which by the way, is the worst and saddest sound I've ever heard. He is now buried in a place that has a lot of meaning for me in Allendale. He was about a year and a half years old and my little baby. RIP little guy.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?

Big girl jobs suck. I have a love/hate relationship with my grown-up-ness.

Things I love about my job:

My students have stopped calling my "Yo Miss" and now call me Miss Trump (or Stromp). I can tell I am starting to become an authority figure for them. They respect me and can be quite polite to me sometimes! For example, I lost my voice two weeks ago and while I was reading aloud from Because of Winn-Dixie , I had a coughing fit. A student hollered from the back of the room, "Its okay Miss Trump! You take your time!" How cute! I also have SO MANY funny stories about them! Not to mention the great time we all had at 5th grade camp (highjacking a yacht may or may not have been involved...). I have a lot of fun with my kids and the other 5th grade teachers I work with. And of course I am basically BFFs with the secretary (who has a love of pretzels, which I use to my advantage... Bribes? Who, me?).

Things I do not love about my job:

I go to bed before 10pm (if I know whats good for me) and I get up at 6am. I am not used to these old woman hours! My nocturnal hedgehog hasn't gone to bed by the time I wake up in the morning! Luckily my roommate keeps the same hours as me. Which means we both have learned the hard way that it is NEVER a good idea to stay up past midnight playing Super Mario World because you need to beat one last castle before you can save your game. I also cannot do 5th grade math. My lovely roommate bought me the Wii game "Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?" for my birthday this weekend. As it turns out, no. No, I am not smarter than a 5th grader. And finally we come to the motivation behind this blog entry. There was an incident with one of my students today. Without going into details, I will just say that I did not feel safe in my school today because of something that student did. That student is not coming back to my elementary school, but all the same, I'm still upset and freaked out. What kind of homelife does a child have when an 11 year old resorts to violence? I'm taking the day off from teaching tomorrow and going to a training session about strategies to use when teaching students who do not have English as their first language. The training will be good for my resume and the break from my classroom will be good for my mental stability. Whoever says that teachers don't earn their benefits and summer vacations obviously don't know any teachers...

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Hypnotist, Baby!

Saturday night I attended a hypnotist show put on by Grand Valley's Panhellenic organization. The hypnotist is Dan Lornitis and he was fabulous! One of my good friends and sorority sisters, Kristen was chosen along with around 10 other students. Lornitis made them do things that were amazing and hilarious but not embarrassing or dangerous. My favorite part had to be when Lornitis told them that they were 5 year olds watching Bambi. When he told them that Bambi's mom just died, everyone cried. Except Kristen. No, my friend was up on stage laughing and clapping her hands in glee. When Lornitis told them they were now watching a remake of Bambi where Bambi's mom doesn't die, Kristen threw a slight fit. I'm thinking this girl needs therapy. Here is a video of Dan Lornitis. The examples shown in the video are essentially what he did at Grand Valley. I would recommend paying money to see this man, so a free concert was extra amazing!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Harvest of Grace: a review

The Harvest of Grace by Cindy Woodsmall is a fictional novel about young Amish community members and their relationships. It is part of a series of novels by Woodsmall called Ada's House and all the books follow many of the same characters. The Harvest of Grace introduces a few new characters to the community and tells their stories, as well as the continuing stories of the men and women from the other books. This particular book is mainly about a woman named Sylvia who is struggling with her past and hoping to make her future mean something to her, and Aaron, a man fresh from an Amish alcohol rehab center. The lives of these two people intertwine with each other and various other members of the community.
I really enjoyed this book! This is the second Amish fiction novel I have read and I am very interested in learning all I can about a lifestyle so different from mine. This book reads like an Amish soap opera with twists and scandal, as well as love and learning. I recommend this to any woman interested in learning about a different culture, any woman who has a strong faith, and any woman who loves a good romance. This is truly a feel-good novel without all the fripperies of modern society. This book is a breath of fresh air and makes one really appreciate everything life and God has to offer. I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Treasuring Emma: A Book Review

Treasuring Emma by Kathleen Fuller is a fantastic fictional account of an Amish woman's struggle with life, death, and love. Emma is a young Amish woman who is shattered by the death of a family member. While trying to cope with her loss and financial problems, Emma also finds herself dealing with unexpected male attention. Will Emma keep her heart open to God and the man she loves, or will she give up on her own life and simply do what others tell her to? This charming novel is one of several Amish romances that Fuller has written. Her detailed writings and knack for creating beloved characters make this book a must read for women of any age or religion. I certainly enjoyed not only the romantic aspects of the novel, but also the glimpse into Amish life. I received this book free from Book Sneeze publishing company for my review.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Life, In Spite of Me: A Book Reveiw

Life, in Spite of Me is a tragic, yet inspirational account of one woman's fall into deep depression and suicide and her recovery into a life full of God's grace and happiness. With the help of Tricia Goyer, Kristen Jane Anderson has produced a book that gives the reader a glimpse into both Hell and Heaven. Kristen recounts her tragic drop into attempted suicide and her rehabilitation, both physical and emotional. Kristen shows the reader how a person can come back from a dark and painful place to a place filled with hope, love, and forgiveness; all with God's help.
As a reader and a Christian, I was touched by Kristen's story. I believe Kristen has the power to lift people's spirits and save them from a life full of pain, like her life once was. I was intrigued in Kristen's story, from the details of what brought her to the point of attempting suicide to her amazing recovery. However, towards the end of the book (and Kristen's current life) I found myself almost battered by Kristen's praising of God. I completely understand her praise, but as a reader, I had to take a break from the overwhelming mention of God's Grace. I don't mean to say that God doesn't deserve Kristen's praise, however I got a little tired of reading how EVERYTHING Kristen does now, she does by first consulting with Him. Do you mean to tell me that you don't buy a new shirt unless God tells you it is His Will? That is the kind of feeling I was overcome with during the last few chapters of this book. I will highly recommend this book to all my Christian friends, but I will not recommend it to someone who is not completely devoted to God. I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

The Kiwi Kingdom: A Book Review

The Kiwi Kingdom by New Zealander Rosemary Thomas is a children's novel about interactions between various animal species, including humans. Using anthropomorphic traits, native New Zealand animals take the reader on a journey through the untamed and unpredictable environment of the New Zealand landscape. Friendships are explored, adventures are had, and lessons are learned.
This small novel has the perfect storyline and interesting animal species that will intrigue elementary school students, yet much of the vocabulary is a bit challenging for some young readers. Thomas uses language and sentence structure that feels juvenile while adding in some words that even adults may have to look up. As an elementary teacher, I can easily imagine my students interested in the story that this book tells. However, I can also easily imagine having to stop at every page or so to explain some vocabulary that my students will have no way of knowing. Older readers will tire of the unsophisticated writing and simple storyline, yet they are the only readers who can easily read this book. Despite its technical faults, the story this book tells contains great life lessons that children should learn. With a lot of pre-planning, this book can be taught in several lessons to young students. You can obtain a copy of this book at this link. I received a complimentary copy of The Kiwi Kingdom as a member of the Dorrance Publishing Book Review Team. Visit to learn how you can become a member of the Book Review Team.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Seraph Seal: a book review

Leonard Sweet and Lori Wagner have created an intriguing novel about what may lie in our future. Using an unsuspected combination of ancient biblical references and futuristic technological advancements, Sweet and Wagner propel the reader into a world of mystery and intrigue, not unlike Dan Brown's breakthrough novel, The DaVinci Code. While I was expecting a somewhat long-winded version of Brown's work, I was pleasantly surprised by the quick and smart read The Seraph Seal turned out to be. The blend of religion and technology is a refreshing take on the classic mystery tale. I recommend this book for anyone wanting to read about a mysterious adventure, and fans of Dan Brown's writings will be very pleased with this book as well. I received this book free from Book Sneeze publishing company for my review.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Lilies in Moonlight: my first book review

Lilies in Moonlight by Allison Pittman

I devoured this enchanting book in two days! It has something for everybody: romance, baseball, war, religion, family, etc. This sweet story follows a flapper named Lilly in her quest to find happiness. She finds happiness and love in an old widow named Betty Ruth and finds something much more in Betty Ruth's war-torn son, Cullen. This family teaches Lilly about forgiveness and family while Lilly teaches them about friendship. The thing that really stands out to me about this book is the lyrical way it is written. Allison Pittman uses beautiful language and wit to create a heartwarming story that enchants the reader and leaves them as satisfied as Thanksgiving dinner! I highly recommend this book for anyone and Ilook forward to reading more from Allison Pittman. I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.