Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Force by Alexandra and Joyce Swann- A Review

I have enjoyed being a part of the Launch Team for the new book by Alexandra and Joyce Swann called The Force. The Force is the second book in The Kingdom Chronicles Series. 

Like The Fourth KingdomThe Force did not disappoint me. There is again suspense, good vs. evil,  end times forces at play, and more cloning. However, in this story it is Josef Helmick creating the clones for profit and self-gratification. There is more murder, lots of intrigue and more twists and turns. The Sinclair twins, Jarrod and Joshua, play a smaller role than I assumed they would play. After they are called in to consult with the FBI on some murders they suspect Josef Helmick. Instead of the story focusing on them, however, they hire retired detective Fred Kowalski and send him off to find out what is going on. He has to travel to Dubai to investigate these murders of famous women who have been discovered murdered again and again. 

There is so much more going on than just the murders of these women. Not only is Josef trying to gain control of the world, there is an evil Force that is in danger of being resurrected in the process. The murdering of the women actually plays a small role in the story as we see many other characters being introduced. As Josef gains power we again see how ruthless and evil he is, yet he is no match for the Force that is about to be resurrected. 

I enjoyed The Force almost as much as I enjoyed The Fourth Kingdom. While The Force wasn't as predictable, there were so many different characters introduced it was hard to keep them straight. It seemed we were jumping story lines a bit, though at the end I could see how everything was fitting together. As I mentioned, I really did think that the Sinclair twins were going to play a bigger role as they were adversaries to Josef in The Fourth Kingdom and I was seeing them as the characters behind the power of good while Josef was being influenced by the force of evil. I also didn't expect the story to take such a sharp turn away from the Nazi storyline of the first book. 

I still highly recommend The Force, but I would warn that it is not for the younger audience as there is quite a bit of murder, some of it graphic, plus talk of torture and some mention of sexual encounters. I am under the understanding that there will be another book in this series from the way the story left off and I am definitely curious as to where this is going, because I am seeing some end time story lines being possible.

The Fourth Kingdom by Alexandra and Joyce Swann- A Review

Earlier this month I had the opportunity to bring you the Book Lover's Group Giveaway featuring The Fourth Kingdom and The Force by mother/daughter team Alexandra and Joyce Swann. These are the first two books in The Kingdom Chronicles Series.  I stated that if you were a fan of Suspenseful Christian fiction you should give these books a try. When I was contemplating joining the launch team for The Force we were told that if we were fans of The Left Behind series or Frank Peretti we would enjoy these books. When I think of The Left Behind series I am focusing on the end times and with the Frank Peretti books I think about how battles in the spiritual realm impact our mortal lives. But more than that, I am thinking of good verses evil. 

Not only were we given the opportunity to read The Force, we received paperback copies of both books. The Fourth Kingdom and The Force did not disappoint me. There is suspense, good vs. evil, a hint of some end times forces at play, cloning and so much more. Cloning is not something I ever really thought I would be interested in, but it was very intriguing to read, not ultra-scientific, but with enough information to pique my interest and keep me informed. 

In The Fourth Kingdom we are introduced to Dr. Alexander Sinclair and Dr. Karl Helmick, both involved in cloning, but living in completely different worlds with completely different belief systems, yet they become close acquaintances who need each other. Dr. Sinclair is a Christian who desires to help others, while Dr. Helmick is focused on himself, monetary gain and a desire to live forever. The Sinclairs have twin sons who are born at the beginning of the book in the year 2000 and Dr. Helmick is guardian to Josef, who is "born" around the same time. 

As the book progresses the authors alternate between The Sinclairs and Dr. Helmick over at Doppelganger Genetic Cloning Facility. Their children are introduced to each other, but there is no friendship involved. From the start Jarrod and Joshua Sinclair can sense the evil surrounding Josef, who is also seen as a spoiled brat who gets everything he wants. Josef on the other hand sees the twins as weak because they care about others. As Josef gets older he is taken under the wing of Dr. Helmick unlike any of the other boys at Doppelganger who have been "adopted" by Helmick. 

While the basic premise of the book is obvious, there is cloning going on at Doppleganger though not just of cattle, there is so much more that we find out as the story unfolds. Why is Helmick cloning and who is he cloning and how is Josef really related to Helmick? Nazi Germany plays a big roll in the story and Dr. Sinclairs wife is very educated in the history of the Nazi's and World War II. 

It is easy to tell where the book is going from the beginning, though there is still enough suspense plus twists and turns to keep it interesting. There were times I wanted to yell at the characters to have them open their eyes as to what was going on in Helmick's cloning facility. As much as I thought I knew what was going to happen in the book, the ending still caught me by surprise. The Fourth Kingdom was quite a wonderful read, one I had a hard time putting down. The only concern I had was how fast it jumped forward in time. In just 360 pages we travel 21 years. 

I would highly recommend The Fourth Kingdom to anyone who enjoys Christian Suspense. 

Disclosure: I received a copy of The Fourth Kingdom as a member of the Launch Team for The Force. I did not receive any other compensation. Receiving these books did not influence my review and I was not required to write a positive review. 

The War on Christmas-a Review

The holidays are upon us, that festive time of year that some love and some actually seem to hate. Christmas is such a joyful time of year to celebrate our Saviors birth, God's gift to mankind. These days, however, there is such a war on this beloved holiday. It wasn't until just recently that I realized that there are two extremes. There are those (such as atheists) who want nothing to do with the holiday because it is focused on Jesus, but there are Christians who think it is wrong to celebrate because they feel it is from a pagan background. I have even seen someone post that if you celebrate Christmas you are breaking 8 of the 10 commandments (or more). To tell you the truth, I knew there was a war on Christmas, I just didn't realize Christmas was getting battered from both sides so much.

I had the opportunity of being on the launch team for the book The War on Christmas edited by Bodie Hodge and I have been reminded of the importance of keeping our focus on Jesus at Christmas time.

This paperback book is full of wonderful, informative articles presented with eye-catching images including maps, charts and photographs.  In this book you will "Find the truth about Christmas and the Christian's response to a culture that seems to be declaring war on traditions and the Bible!" 

The book is divided into 5 sections in addition to the introduction and conclusion, they are:
  • What About Christmas? (Which covers such topics as what Christmas is about, whether it is a pagan holiday, when Jesus was born and a helpful timeline of events surrounding Christ's birth.)
  • Confusion and Misconceptions (Which covers such topics as the X is Xmas, the three kings and whether the angels would have sang.)
  • It's All Baby Jesus (Which covers such topics as the creator in a manger, why we need the babe and the significance of his name.)
  • How Christmas Came to Be (Which covers such topics as the what that Christmas star was, the importance of the virgin birth and whether Mary remained a virgin, plus some very informative information on what the real nativity would have looked like.)
  • The War on Christmas (Which covers why creation is important to Christmas, the problems with bringing Santa into our celebrations, the significance of why Jesus came to our world starting at Genesis and understanding the reason why Christ is being taken out of Christmas.)

There are those who want to be able to celebrate the holiday without reference to Christ. They are fine with Santa Claus and trees and for a reason to party and exchange gifts, but they don't want to hear about Christ, the reason for the season. They don't want to be reminded of him through Christmas carols or Nativity scenes or even the name Christmas. I love that the book brings up the fact that even by using the term "Happy Holidays" we can turn this back to God as the word "holiday" means "holy day."  

This book does a wonderful job explaining the importance of keeping Jesus in Christmas.  Additionally, the case is made for sharing the truth of the Bible from the very first verse. Jesus coming was foretold in the very first book of the Bible and the entire Old Testament points to Him. Not only has the culture turned hostile to Jesus, but the church itself has fallen away from taking the truth of the Bible literally. 

 When I first started reading the book I didn't realize it was comprised of articles written by different authors. I couldn't understand why there seemed to be an overlapping of information, but when I realized it was a compilation I was able to enjoy it more.

The book confronts the question as to whether Christmas is a pagan holiday. I definitely learned some things I didn't know in chapter 4 "The Origin of Christmas: Isn't Christmas a Pagan Holiday?" The main point they bring up is that "There is nothing inherently wrong with celebrating a Christian holiday at the same time the pagans celebrate." We need to make sure our focus is on Jesus and the reason why he came. It is so important not to leave Jesus as a babe in a manger, but to remember that he came as Savior of the world.

Some of the information contained in this book was already known to me, such as the fact that Jesus was probably not born on December 25th. The book gives some different scenarios of when he may have been conceived and born, but admits that we can't know for sure. Some feel if we don't know the date we shouldn't be celebrating on a date that was chosen to pacify pagans in the early church. I have to admit, this is something I still struggle with, and I am not sure this book has sufficiently answered this question for me. It is definitely something I want to continue researching.

Whether or not it is right to celebrate Christmas on December 25th is still up in the air for me, however, I did love that the book delved into explaining how traditions we think we know as Biblical may not even be accurate. Here are a few little tidbits that you may think you know the answer to; however, when you actually delve into the Bible and know the culture from Biblical times you will discover that the traditions have been based on inaccuracies.

  • True or False: The Bible says that Mary and Joseph spent the night in a stable.
  • True or False: The innkeeper told Mary and Joseph there was no room for them in the inn.
  • True or False: The Bible says there were three wise men.
and one last one
  • True or False: Mary was in labor when she got into town, so Joseph had to take whatever lodging he could get.
The answer to all of these questions, as explained in the book, is "false."
These are not the only "facts" that are addressed, but it opened my mind to the fact that we focus too much on tradition around Christmas and not enough on Biblical truth. There are so many of the trapping of modern Christmas that are based on pagan traditions. In our family we try to stay away from these blatantly pagan symbols, such as the Christmas tree and Santa. I was a little disturbed that the book stated, "Why not take the distorted pagan elements of Christmas and change them to biblical elements to honor Christ?"  I would rather make sure we are honoring Christ without adding pagan elements. Maybe others will feel comfortable adding in such things, but I feel if we are truly going to celebrate Christ in Christmas we should focus on Him and the fact that he came as God's gift to the world. 

As you read this book this holiday season you can discover important truths about Christmas that will help to enhance your celebration of our Savior's birth if you so choose to celebrate. 

You can purchase the book from the New Leaf Publishing Group for $17.99 by going here.

Disclosure: I received a copy of The War on Christmas in exchange for my honest review. I received no further compensation. This did not in any way influence my review. I only recommend products I use personally and feel will be a good products for my readers.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Lovin' the Weekend Blog Hops: November 29-December 1, 2013

Welcome to Lovin' The Weekend Blog Hops with your co-hosts:
Karen from Tots and Me, Rena from An Ordinary Housewife and Angie from Snack Cups and Smiles.

Thank you to every one who has stopped by, whether this is your first visit or you have been a faithful ongoing participant! 

We would love for you to stop by each of the co-hosts and follow us, then feel free to add your links to any or all of the following linkies.

 We also randomly choose a Featured host each week from the Lovin' The Readers linky. This week we are featuring Heidi from Heidi's Wanderings.

Here's what she has to say:

"My name is Heidi, and I've been blogging for a little over a year. I blog about everyday life, and the things that are part of everyday life. You might see a post about music, books, movies, a letter to a famous dead person, or a review of a great product or a recipe, or just simply things I am thankful for in my life. Variety is the spice of life, and that's what you will find on my blog. " You can also find Heidi over at Here's The Best.

Don't forget to link up to the Lovin' the Readers Hop if you would like a chance to be a Featured host next week. Please comment with a way to contact you, especially if there is not an obvious way mentioned on your blog. We would love to include a little write up about you and your blog in the next week's Lovin' The Weekend Blog Hop post, including a link to your blog. And you will get to include the linky codes on your blog. Sound fun? We're looking forward to getting to know our readers better.

Here's how this blog hop works. We would appreciate it if you would follow Tots and Me, An Ordinary Housewife and Snack Cups and Smiles. And please don't forget to visit our Featured Host.  If you no longer have GFC please follow in some other way. After that there are three different linkies you can link to. Whichever one you choose to link to, please grab that button and share it on your blog (the codes are on Tot's and Me's sidebar). We'd love it if you could tweet or in some other way share about this blog hop, the more people who know about it, the more potential visitors and new followers of your blog. We'd love to meet some new friends this weekend.  

Some people are more interested in just increasing their numbers, while others really want people who appreciate their blog and want to keep up with their posts. So, there are two separate blog hop linkies. 

The third linky is for you to link up your giveaways.

If you are interested in increasing the number of followers to your blog via GFC, Linky Followers, email, Twitter, Facebook or Google+ link up here. We will follow you back if you follow us (just note which one you are linking to):

Tots and Me

If you are interested in gaining followers to your blog who will read and comment and truly find an interest in your blog, link up here:

Tots and Me

If you have family friendly giveaways to link up, here's your spot. Please make sure to include an end date for your giveaway.

Tots and Me

We are so glad you stopped by. Please leave a comment if you link up and we will be sure to stop by and follow back.

Don't forget to check out my "Blog Hops" page for other great blog hops!!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Kids and a Mom in the Kitchen #63: Peanut Butter Fudge with Chocolate Topping

Time for Kids and a Mom in the Kitchen
(A weekly linky where you can share your special time in the kitchen, such a great place for learning. You can also link up Kid-Friendly Recipes)

The linky is at the bottom.

(Yes, I know this is early this week, but with the holiday I thought it made sense to post early. Looking forward to seeing your recipes, maybe even some Thanksgiving favorites, I am not adverse to trying something new tomorrow.)

We love to be able to make treats in our house and one of our favorites is Peanut Butter Fudge. Even though hubby makes a delicious PB Fudge, we always used to buy this one lady's fudge from the library's bake sales. She had this delicious chocolate glaze/frosting on top that made it just heavenly. We have been meaning to try our own version for a while, and when we realized it was National Peanut Butter Fudge day last Wednesday it seemed like the perfect excuse opportunity to make some. And, of course, it is wheat-free (though not sugar-free or healthy by a long shot).


2 cups sugar
1 cup milk
1 tbs butter
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup (plus) peanut butter
1/2 bag semi-sweet chocolate chips

Tabitha and Amelia helped by pouring the sugar into the pan.

And Hannah helped daddy measure out and pour the milk into the pan.

While daddy started the milk and sugar mixture heating the girls helped to get the other ingredients ready.

Amelia cut the butter.

Tabitha measured the peanut butter.

Hannah helped daddy measure out the vanilla.

The girls also helped daddy stir the milk and sugar. It needs to be stirred constantly over medium heat until it reaches the soft ball stage.

Daddy tests for the correct stage by placing a small amount in a bowl of cold water.

When it is ready we quickly pour the remainder of the ingredients into the pan and stir.

The mixture is then poured into the greased 8 x 8 inch pan.

All we did for the topping was melt the chocolate chips in the microwave. I cook them on medium power for a minute at a time, stirring after each minute. It took about 3 1/2 minutes to make a nice smooth chocolate topping.

  • Pour the sugar and milk into a large saucepan and heat on medium heat, stirring constantly, until it reaches the soft ball stage.
  • Place butter, peanut butter and vanilla in a bowl so they can be added to the milk/sugar mixture as soon as it is ready. (When hubby is making the fudge without any help he gets this ready first)
  • Check for soft ball stage and when ready add butter/peanut butter/vanilla into the saucepan.
  • Stir until smooth and then pour into greased 8 x 8 inch pan.
  • Melt chocolate chips in microwave on medium or 50% power, checking and stirring after each minute. Approximately 3 1/2 minutes.
  • Pour melted chips onto fudge and refrigerate until chocolate is set.

Do you have your children help you in the kitchen?  What lessons do they learn? Do you have any kid friendly recipes to share?

I'd love to see your posts, whether you have done something this week or some time in the past. Just link up below. This is a weekly linky.

I am linking up to:

 Full Time Mama
More the Merrier Monday

Melt in Your Mouth Monday
Try a New Recipe Tuesday at Home to Four Kiddos
The Gathering Spot at Mamal Diane
Friday Food Frenzy at Close to Home
Fantastic Thursday at Five Little Chefs
Foodie Friends Friday at Robyn'sView
Family Fun Friday at Happy and Blessed Home

And here is my Kids and a Mom in the Kitchen linky

Schoolhouse Review Crew Favorites 2013

I can not believe it has been a year since I was accepted onto the Schoolhouse Review Crew. I was thrilled that I was given such a great opportunity. Our family was introduced to companies I have never even heard of before and we got to try out some great products. I loved being able to share them with you and am so pleased to be able to say that I have been accepted back for the 2014 Crew Year.

I have heard some fellow Crew members say they consider themselves "Review Homeschoolers" when asked what kind of homeschoolers they are. I have to say, that description fits us very nicely. Though we still use My Father's World as our core, I have been able to supplement with some wonderful resources.

One thing I didn't realize we were going to get to do at the end of the year is vote for our favorites. The results were shared on the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog earlier last week and I was pleased to see some of our favorites made it on the list. There were 86 different companies that the Crew worked with this past year, of which we reviewed 22. In the end, 38 Blue Ribbon Awards were given to 28 companies. You can see the results here.

Out of the 22 products we were able to review these are our favorites that made the list, in no particular order. (The links below will take you to my review for the product):

Brainfood Learning received the Blue Ribbon Award for Favorite Science Resource. We reviewed The Fascinating World of Insects DVD.

We had finished up our Insect unit and our Butterfly unit prior to receiving the DVD and it was a great way for the girls to extend their learning.

Gryphon House received the Blue Ribbon Award for Favorite Fine Arts Resource. We reviewed the book, Global Art: Activities, Projects and Inventions From Around the World.

The girls and I enjoyed doing projects to learn about different cultures over the summer. We learned about China, Japan and Africa. While we were working on our penguin unit I pulled the book out for some ideas for crafts for Antarctica. 

VocabularySpellingCity received the Blue Ribbon Award for Best App. Though we didn't use the App, VocabularySpellingCity was one of our favorite products we reviewed this year and one we are definitely planning on continuing to use. 

I love the way the girls can explore their spelling words and the girls really enjoy the different games, like Hang Mouse and Test-N-Teach.

Barbour Publishing received the Blue Ribbon Award for Best Children's Book. This was one of Tabitha's favorite review items.

We really enjoyed the adventures of E.J. Payne in the book Diary of a Real Payne Book 1: True Story by Annie Tipton. E.J. sure could get herself into some interesting predicaments with her daydreaming, but she also learned some important lessons. We can't wait for Book 2 to come out in March of 2014!

Chess House received the Blue Ribbon Award for Best Game or Toy and the Blue Ribbon Award for Kid's Choice. The chess kit we received contained a chess board, pieces, instruction/activity booklet and DVD all neatly packed in a storage bag.

This was by far the children's favorite product we reviewed this year, along with being my husband's favorite as well. I love the way it taught the basics of chess for beginners and helped me to remember how to play and work on my strategy.

There was one company that did not receive an award that I wanted to mention as it was Amelia's favorite. She loves getting on the computer and working on Time4Learning

Once we figured out what level she should be placed in she was just a zinging along in the Language Arts section. She hasn't been spending as much time in the math section though. Though I really do enjoy Time4Learning and she will continue to work on it while we have our membership, this is one we won't be able to continue as it is a bit on the pricey side for our family, especially if she is only using it for reading. 

My favorite product we received this year was the Logic of English's Rhythm of Handwriting: Cursive. The Logic of English did receive a Blue Ribbon Award, but it was for their Reading Curriculum which we did not review. 

I have really enjoyed working on my own handwriting while helping Tabitha to learn cursive. I love the way they group the letters together by the different beginning strokes and the terms they use for each stroke are very descriptive and easy to remember. Now when I write the children's words of the week on the easel I write them both in print and cursive, which is giving me the opportunity to expose Hannah to cursive as well.

If you would like to see what other companies/products received Blue Ribbon Awards just stop on by the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog. You can also follow the link at the bottom of the post to see what my fellow Crew members' favorite products were.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Wordless Wednesday: November 27, 2013 (w/linky)- Torturous Toddler Toy

This poor boy really, really, really wanted the little ball to come out of this rattle.

He was very persistent, but to no avail. You'll be happy to hear he did get over though. No scarring for life.

Looking forward to seeing your Wordless (or not so wordless) Wednesday posts this week.


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