Adding Flair to Writing Assignments

It has been a joy to have the ability to review‘s  Lifetime Membership. It is quickly becoming a tremendous new writing resource for our homeschool and for Bookworm Beauty in particular. Since I had no previous notebooking experience prior to receiving our membership for review, I had absolutely no idea of what to expect and I was a little bit overwhelmed as I scrolled through the topic lists. There were so many products to choose from!

Writing has become a large part of our homeschooling so we tend to put a great effort into encouraging the kids to do as much of it as possible. Some of the things we have done to help them take greater pride in their writing is to give them the resources and the means for making things such as folders and books to display their pieces. After discovering the amount of notebooking resources on NotebookingPages.comI knew that we would never have to experience boring in our writing presentation again. 

If you have followed my blog at all over the last year, you would already be well aware that Bookworm Beauty has been slightly obsessed with Laura Ingalls Wilder. She has devoured virtually every book written by her or about her and has spent countless hours watching the Little House on the Prairie DVDs. She was recently assigned a couple of assignments to commemorate her early pioneer and Ingalls’ studies, one of which was to write an expository piece. She needed to share her own thoughts about her studies.

We were pleased to find that offered a Laura Ingalls Wilder  resource. It was similar to each of the resources we had perused and contained 11 pages. There was a cover page with a picture of Laura Ingalls Wilder and 5 pages with single-spaced lines that included either a picture of her or a picture and an empty box for the student to add or draw a picture, a chart or something else of their choosing. There were 5 additional pages laid out the same but had lines for primary writers. Bookworm Beauty used the single-spaced notebooking pages for her writing piece and she chose the sheets that included both the pictures and the empty boxes so that she could show off her artistic side.

With so many options at I have found myself looking for additional writing resources to use with almost every upcoming topic we will be studying over the next school year. Being that we are still in the midst of our solar system and outer space unit, we have decided to have all of the children utilize the Planet notebooking pages for their writing.‘s  Lifetime Membership is $97 and payable as either a single installment or 4 monthly installments of $10 for the first month and $29 for the following three months. This allows members access to all downloadable products including all lifetime updates and new products as well as a 12-month subscription to their Notebooking Publisher web-app. This is an incredible deal as not only are there literally 1000’s of pages of notebooking materials, they are continually adding new pages. If you are unsure about the membership then their FREE Member Resource Center with over 600 resources would be a great place to start.

I imagine that we will be utilizing‘s resources a lot over the coming years and changing every day writing to masterpieces with a bit of flair!

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Through the Bible with Veritas Press: A Review

We wholeheartedly welcomed the opportunity to review the one-year family subscription to by Veritas Press as studying the bible is important in our family. As homeschoolers it is easy to make it a priority as part of our schooling. However, it is not limited to schooling but rather a way of life for us.

We seem to apply multiple means of bible study at any given time. Often times any one of us could be going through a particular bible study guide or we may be studying a particular topic together such as our current study of Esther during our early morning family breakfast time. We appreciate having multiple means of studying God’s Word and was no exception. I especially appreciated how well it fit into our daily routine, outside of school time (we are in full-swing summer-mode around here).

Setting up the account was a simple process that took only a few minutes. After the initial set up we were able to create individual accounts for both Bookworm Beauty (6th) and Sweetness (2nd). The girls were delighted to be able to select their own avatar to represent them. This is something I still chuckle at but am finding that it is highly effective in encouraging students to personalize their experience and ultimately engage. We initially planned to allow both girls to use the program individually. However, as we sat and looked at the first lesson alongside Bookworm Beauty, we found that we all were engaged. This pretty much set the stage for the rest of our learning. We hooked up the lap top to the television and utilized as our family bible study.

To put it simply, it is entertaining, engaging, and fun. currently offers three different studies: Genesis to Joshua; The Gospels;  and Judges to Kings. They also have two additional studies that will be available soon: Chronicles to Malachi and Job; and Acts to Revelation. Once a particular study is selected the students are introduced to their sibling hosts Abigail and Asher. Abigail and Asher are in costume in front of a set as they act out their narration of events in a dialogue fashion. Each dialogue acts as a segway to the next activity, worksheet, song, etc where the student is able to solidify and test what they have learned.

Each lesson takes approximately 30 minutes to complete. After completing the lesson the student is taken back to their timeline map where a flag is placed upon the completed section and they move to the next lesson.

We found a couple of things that we would desire to be different. One thing is that the lessons must be completed in order to progress and each section of the lesson must be viewed in its entirety. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, however if the computer happens to shutdown at the end of a lengthy video, with only seconds left, you must repeat the entire video upon rebooting the system to progress to the next part of the lesson. Of course, this may be a rare situation, but it did happen and it was frustrating. Another thing that was a bit frustrating is that there are no options for moving to a different lesson without viewing them chronologically. Again, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing but when your students have studied creation several times, it would be nice to be able to progress to the area you would like to start in.

Despite the small complaints that I have had, we have thoroughly enjoyed our family bible study time. is an excellent addition to anyone’s homeschooling repertoire, family study options or as a resource. All of use have enjoyed the program: The Boy (6) all the way through Handsome (much older than 6) and we look forward to utilizing it throughout the remainder of our 1-year subscription. I’m hoping the new studies will be available soon enough for us to enjoy them as well, and if not… well… I guess I will have to renew my subscription!

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The Homeschoolers Must Have for Record Keeping: A Review

Having the opportunity to review‘s My School Year (Homeschool Record Keeping) has made a tremendous difference in our lives, literally. This review may provide hope for others in a similar situation, so please take the time to read it and forward this to any homeschooler you know that may benefit.

Ten years ago I found myself facing a grueling divorce that ended a high-stress marriage. I am not going to go into any details about the demise because not only is it unimportant to this review, it is also not my desire to disparage the father of four of my six children.

One of Bookworm Beauty’s many activities…

What is important to this review is that I have found myself facing court again for allegations that are false. One of the allegations are that I have been homeschooling Bookworm Beauty without his consent and have alienated her from all social networks and have disregarded the importance of her education.

Bookworm Beauty has been homeschooled for two full years now. Her home education had not been challenged until recently, within weeks of being able to begin our review of My School Year (Homeschool Record Keeping). I have tried multiple things over the last two years to maintain records as I have always been in fear that we would have to face the court at some point and would need to provide evidence of meeting the educational requirements set forth by the state of Colorado.

Another of Bookworm Beauty's activities...
Another of Bookworm Beauty’s activities…

My School Year (Homeschool Record Keeping) has saved the day! I have been able to generate lesson plans and schedules, track attendance and generate professional looking transcripts and report cards. There is also a place where I can add her standardized test results, which we do annually (to prove her progress) even though the state only requires bi-annually. I can track all of her activities (she has a lot of them). I am able to account for all of the required instructional hours. To top it off, she has a homeroom dashboard where I can access everything going on in her school year from one location!

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To this!
From this…









I knew I needed this program when I first heard of it. I was hesitant though because I was worried that it was going to take up too much time to set it up. I did not want to spend as much time planning and maintaining records as I spend teaching or supporting the kids’ education. I am not one to spend time planning to plan. I want to jump in and move towards the end goal (in this case – educating the kids). I do take time to plan but I also despise spending days or weeks to plan out something that ends up needing to be altered at a later time.

I admit that I felt a little bit like my arm was twisted into taking on a “project” like this one and I was pleasantly surprised. I spent one evening – yes, only one evening – setting up the entire upcoming year for Bookworm Beauty. Setting up her daily lessons was a breeze. Than, half way through the project I realized that I had used the wrong start date. After a deep breath, thinking that I had to make a lot of adjustments in the program, I discovered that I only had to make one adjustment to the start date and all of the subsequent lessons were adjusted accordingly. Repeat after me… “WOW!”

I am now wondering how I managed the school planning before this. It is literally as night and day as writing checks to pay bills vs using a debit card to pay them online. It has streamlined every aspect of my homeschool planning.

One of the most useful elements of My School Year (Homeschool Record Keeping) is that I receive a weekly email providing me with an outline of the lessons for that week. Since Bookworm Beauty does a lot of her work independently, this provides an outline for her as to what is being covered for the week. If she decides to work ahead in any area, she can do so. If she works ahead farther than anticipated, I can the go into the lesson planning for that class and make the necessary changes to them so that all future lessons will be automatically adjusted as well. simply can not convey how refreshing My School Year (Homeschool Record Keeping) is. I am eagerly looking ahead to a full school year that is well planned out, where little to nothing falls through the cracks. I am also looking forward to being able to be accountable to her father and to the courts as to her educational progress.

For me, the solid, consistent, quality record-keeping is worth far more than the $40 per year cost. It may very well end up being the difference between the freedom to continue homeschooling and having to watch Bookworm Beauty board a bus daily.



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Goodbye Presley

Presley January 2013-June 2016
A present just for YOU!
A present just for YOU!
Elvis and Presley A special friendship!

Our sweet Presley has been gone now for 11 days. We are pretty sure that she has provided nourishment for the coyotes – a dreaded thought.

Presley was a great member in our family. She was beautiful. She was sweet and sassy all at the same time. She was a great mouser and for that we were very proud. She begged to be outside for two years when we lived in the city. Finally, after moving to the prairie, we relented and allowed her access both in and out. She loved being outside where we would watch her hunt her prey. I didn’t necessarily love the gifts that she brought inside but I appreciated knowing that she earned her keep around here.

We can never replace our dear Presley. Elvis will miss her greatly, as will the rest of us.

We have been blessed with two young male kittens. Although we are sure that they will grow to fill new areas of our hearts, they will never fill Presley’s spot.

Goodbye Presley. You were loved.

LearnBop Review: Curing the Summertime Lulls

As I look back over this year, I notice that I have had the luxury of reviewing incredible homeschooling products at just the right time and the LearnBop for Families subscription by LearnBop has been another example of perfect timing for us!

LearnBop for Families is an online subscription based math program for individuals from 3rd grade through adulthood. Yes, adulthood… even adults can benefit from their personalized math program that determines where an individual needs improvement and then builds a roadmap for that achievement.

LearnBop for Families subscription are affordably priced as well at $14.95 per month for a single student or $19.95 per month for a family with up to four students. 12-month subscriptions offer the best savings as $149.95 for a single student and $199.95 for up to four. All subscriptions offer a 30-day money back guarantee. The best part is knowing that LearnBop is so committed to providing math support that they have a Buy One, Give One program that provides an in-kind subscription to under-privileged children for each subscription purchased.

Setting up the profiles was both quick and easy. Bookworm Beauty enjoyed the ability to set up an avatar-type profile picture to represent her during her math journey. It may be a small thing but it made her day to think of herself as a fashion designer when logging in. I bring this up because it was something that I overlooked as unimportant until I heard her sharing her desktop with The Boy. I realized that it personalized her LearnBop experience and got her buy-in, which means she is more engaged in the program (definite plus).

Part of the set up includes selecting a roadmap either by grade, by subject or High School level. After selecting the roadmap, the student takes a placement test which then lays out their road map to meet the students particular needs. The student then begins to master concepts by working through building blocks, watching videos and completing math problems called Bops.

Bookworm Beauty and I set up her account one evening. Being that it was nearing summertime, I let her take complete control in determining which direction she wanted to go (grade level support or specific concepts). At first she wanted to work on percentages and she completed the placement test. After it determined her learning roadmap, she changed her mind and decided to go ahead and complete the 6th grade level roadmap. The 6th grade level covers rates and percents; operations with decimals, division and distributive property; variables and the relationships between them; positive and negative rational numbers; four quadrant coordinate graphing; equations and inequalities; area of 2-dimensional shapes; volume and surface area; analyze and display data; expressions with variables; and collecting data and studying the distribution of data. As she progresses from one unit to another, she has to complete another warm-up to determine the best place to start for that unit.

My favorite aspect of LearnBop for Families is the continual evaluation of the best place for the student to be. This program is not a one-size-fits-all approach to math, it is highly intuitive and keeps students focused on their specific needs.

Although we used LearnBop for Families for our summer math program, it may be suitable as a full math curriculum.

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Summer Refreshment

Image result for refreshingHot summer days… I live for them… all year long. I have learned to enjoy and appreciate every season but I would rather bask in the warm (or hot) sun any time over being bundled up in the snow.

I love snow birds and I can really appreciate their enjoyment of the snow but I can not stand being bundled up with frozen fingers and a Rudolph-red nose!

Despite my love for the sun and the warmth, I still get hot. Sometimes it is almost unbearable and I pray for a refreshing breeze, a quick dip in a cool pool or simply something cold to drink.

Now, I am not a food blogger so be gracious with me as I share my discovery. have been enjoying lavender lately. One of my wonderful friends makes an amazing lavender lemonade. Last night, I was filling my water bottle up with ice-cold water and thought about her lemonade that I was blessed with earlier in the day. I saw my bottle of lavender essential oil (yes, I made sure it was suitable for consumption) and I thought that a slight lavender flavor might taste refreshing in my water. I put one drop in. Yes, one. It was perfect for my 32 oz of water. It might have been slightly stronger than I wanted but it was still good. It was also the refreshing taste that I hoped for.

This morning I poured a glass of water and thought about the lavender sitting on the kitchen island and gave it a shot… one drop. That one drop was way too much for a 12 oz glass of water, but I still drank it. Later in the day, as the temps were nearing 100 I thought about how refreshing the lavender is and I remembered the unsweetened sun tea in the refrigerator. Then I thought about the box of oranges still awaiting creative usage. Hmmmm.

After pulling out the Ninja Bullet I threw a whole peeled orange in and pulverized it with some of the sun tea, a drop of lavender and ice.

Mmmmm. The flavor explosion of the sweet orange coupled with the subtle bitterness of the tea was well complimented with the hint of lavender. All of the flavors worked well together to bring refreshment.

The smell of the orange cake in the oven tops it off all perfectly. Now I just need to figure out what to do with the rest of the case of oranges awaiting creative expression.

Sum-Sum-Summer Time

Every year I long for summer time to begin. I envision days of basking in the sun, playing outdoors with the kids and BBQ. Reality comes and it never seems to align itself with my visions.

The kids are hot and cranky. I am feeling rushed with a never-ending task list. We are over-scheduled, trying to fit everything possible into a short six-week window.

We needed a summer-tude adjustment!

What did we do?

  • No more sleeping in… everyone is up before 7 (I’m up before 6 so that I can enjoy my coffee before the pitter-pat of little feet and big yawns reach me).
  • The house is in order… this isn’t the time to re-do anything major in the house if you don’t want to spend your days in doors… It’s clean, it’s tidy and the kids know what their morning chores are – which starts the day with a clean house.
  • Review the week before the week begins… make sure everyone is on the same page… this goes for the month as a whole as well.
  • Schedule alone time and date time… we made an overnight trade with friends… all of my kids there one night and all of theirs here another night.
  • Master task list… don’t get distracted and overwhelmed with too many projects and tasks. Keep a list and prioritize them. Work on one at a time (or divide and conquer).
  • Face the facts… not everything is going to get done, but the things that matter will… making memories.
  • Purpose to play. This is what summer is all about!

Basically, we are keeping it simple. We will not hit the end of summer and wonder where the time went and why we didn’t spend more time with the kids in play… not this year…


Mr Popper’s Penguins: A Review

I recently shared with the world my woes about Bookworm Beauty turning her nose up at any book I suggest she read. In light of that, one could understand my overzealous excitement when we were notified of our ability to review Mr. Popper’s Penguins E-Guide by Progeny Press, because it meant that she would finally read something on my suggested list!

When the review period began, I downloaded the 56-page Mr. Popper’s Penguins E-Guide ($17.99) for Bookworm Beauty. It took me less than 30 minutes to glance over the E-Guide. I determined that this was going to be a perfect summer time workbook for her to complete during our scaled-down summer days. Each section spanned four chapters and included vocabulary, questions, and an opportunity to dig deeper. Optional projects are also included in each section, encouraging exploration of the story through geography, history and science. After completing the section reviews, there were several enrichment activities including money matters, character studies, some fantastic post-reading activities and a whole host of additional resources.

Near the beginning of the E-Guide, is a section with background information on the race to the exploration of the North and South Poles during the early 1900’s. This sparked lively conversation and a bit of time ended up being spent with our friend Google for further information. If we had completed this program during the winter months, we most likely would have taken our research further.

As we began this review, we just so happened to be ready for a new read-aloud book, as I typically have something that we are working through together. Bookworm Beauty, showed little interest in reading the book herself, because it was a book on my suggested reading list for her and consequently her body language infiltrated our home like a nasty virus. I waited until bedtime when I have a more captive audience and began to read. After completing the pueblo zoofirst chapter, they begged me to read the next. I was not sure if they just wanted to stay up longer or if they were interested in the story. But when they begged for the third chapter to find out what happens next I knew that they were all hooked. Every night there was a battle around when I was going to stop reading. We got through the book in less than a week, as they typically got me to read several chapters at each reading.

The kids loved this book! I loved this book! It has been a joy to overhear them tell others about it – a definite sign of actually engaging in the story. Coincidentally, the day after completing the book, we had plans to visit the Pueblo Zoo and  they were anxious to see the penguins. I noticed that they watched them differently than during previous visits, as if they were seeing the behaviors of Captain Cook and Greta.

staciBookworm Beauty seemed to complete Mr. Popper’s Penguins E-Guide rather quickly. Since it is geared towards 4-6th graders, I wondered if it may have been too easy for her. I decided to sit alongside her as she completed a section. I found that she had a lot to say about the story and as a result of enjoying it, she answered the questions effortlessly. She also admitted that she really likes the dictionary, so the vocabulary section was fun for her (it is always a bonus when the kids see their schoolwork as fun).

I did not require Sweetness and The Boy to complete the writing portion of the study-guide. I did, however ask the comprehension questions for each section and allowed all of the children to respond. Of course, Bookworm Beauty answered those questions in writing in her E-Guide. We also reviewed the vocabulary together as we came across those words during our reading. If anyone was not familiar with the word (which at times was all three of them) Bookworm Beauty looked up the word in the dictionary and gave the definition.

Overall, I found Mr. Popper’s Penguins E-Guide to be a perfect book study guide. We are impressed with the simplicity, yet thoroughness of the E-Guide. After visiting Progeny Press we decided that Hobbit, The – E-Guide will be our next book study!

Tonight, however is our next family movie-night because the library has notified me that a copy of Mr. Popper’s Penguins is available for pick up. I will be popping the popcorn soon!

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Summer Time is Reading Time

Every year I begin homeschooling thinking that we will homeschool year round. I know it seems like a lot and we all need breaks. However, I really like the idea of having time off disbursed throughout the year instead of having a large block of time off during the summer months.

I also really like the idea of schooling during the heat of the summer too. You know… that time of the year that you do not really want to be playing outside because it is just too hot?

This year we have decided to make the new schedule happen, but with some modification. As part of of the Review Crew I am still getting the opportunity to review curriculum so we will need to actually be doing some school. However, there is nothing that says that we have to be doing full school days. I’m thinking back to my own school experiences and the summer school that was available. Although I never went to summer school, I know that focused classes completed over a few weeks of half-days gave full credit for those classes.

We have been in full summer-mode and enjoying the beautiful sunshine, the days are getting warmer and warmer and I feel the heat waves on the horizon. I am having to shift gears from the time-off mentality to summer school programs. The kids are working on our Review Crew products as well as reading a few hours a day, yes-per day. Summer is a great time to catch up on new book lists, revisit old books, relax or simply increase reading skills.

One of the ways that we encourage the amount of reading we are doing is through the library reading programs. Several libraries across the country offer prizes to kids of all ages (some even have adult reading programs) for time spent reading.

When we lived in the Denver Metro area, the libraries had amazing incentives like tickets to amusement parks or water parks that are simply cost prohibitive for a family our size. After moving to the prairie we completed the reading program here last year. Unfortunately, the prizes were not quite as motivating but were still enjoyable. So what are we doing this year? Both. Actually three different programs!

Now before you think we are cheating the system, please note that we are not giving reading credit to more than one program at a time. In other words, the three programs have different reading requirements and the kids can only get credit for one program at a time. In the end, Bookworm Beauty will have read 69 hours total if she completes all of the middle school level programs (which she is well on her way to doing). Sweetness and The Boy are in the elementary level programs and need to read 35 hours to complete them.

The kids have been reading their hearts out. They read at least 30 minutes in the morning and 15-30 minutes at bedtime. They read on car rides. They read anytime they say the dreaded I’m bored (I think Bookworm Beauty says that just so I will send her somewhere to read more).  I’m also reading out-loud to them approximately 30 minutes a day – we are currently going through Mr. Popper’s Penguins – a review product.

It’s been a nice change of pace to not have as many stringent school day plans at this time. Reading is a huge part of learning and is completed primarily independently. I’m loving the fact that we are not losing our school momentum overall and the kids are not having a typical summer educational lull. And hey… with the library program incentives, we get to play too!

What do you do through the summer months?


Finding New Friends in Great Books: A Review of The Glass Castle

Summer is in full swing around here, which typically means gardening, playing outdoors and lots and lots of reading. I was thrilled to have the opportunity for Bookworm Beauty and I to review a book from Shiloh Run Press; Book 1 of The 13 Series: The Glass Castle by Trisha White Priebe and Jerry B. Jenkins (read chapter 1 here). 

As most could probably figure out by her blog name, Bookworm Beauty loves to read. She has had her nose stuck in the middle of a book since long before she knew how to read. It has been a delight to watch her love of reading grow over the years. It has been especially satisfying to watch her develop her own reading personality as she has become more selective in what she wants to devote her reading time to.

When The Glass Castle first arrived, she seemed to turn her nose up just a bit. I have noticed that she seems more disinterested in any books that I happen to suggest. Since she has not yet figured out that I have figured that out and therefore I have been having someone else suggest a book that I would like to introduce her to. It is amazing how many books she thoroughly enjoys that she otherwise would not have read simply because I, her mother, suggested it. The Glass Castle fell into the category of suggested by Mom, simply because I am the one that the book was sent to.

For more than two weeks, The Glass Castle began to collect dust awaiting its discovery. Finally, as the review deadline was fast approaching I handed her the book as I informed her that she did not have a choice in the matter… this was a school assignment and although she had two weeks to read it, she needed to start it right then.

Reluctantly, she took the book from my hand and went to her favorite reading spot, the corner of the couch that she believes belongs to her.

A few hours later, as we were getting ready to drive into town, I noticed her trying to slip her shoes onto her feet while her nose was glued to the middle of the book. The drive into town was very quiet. Hours later, I found her already snuggled into bed for the night, with her nose still implanted into the binding of the book.

Not wanting to distract her in any way, I did not draw any attention to her body language that seemed to scream I can’t put this book down!

The following day, after lunch, Bookworm Beauty bounded into the kitchen and handed me The Glass Castle, declaring, “BEST BOOK EVER! And major cliff hanger Mom… and I have to wait until this fall to find out what happens! UGH!”

Hmmmm, do I mention anything about how I told her so…? Or how she neglected the book for a couple of weeks before I had to force her to read it…? Or how just maybe I may have some good tastes in reading material too…? Better not… “So it was a good book after all, huh? What kind of book would you compare it to?”

“Uhmmm, NOTHING! There are no other books like it to compare it to… it’s really one of a kind.”

“Really? One of a kind? What’s it about?”

I could not possibly retain all of the details that she threw out at me at 60 words per minute…

“It’s about a 13 year old girl named Avery that is walking with her brother and she hears a noise so they hid. When she thought the threat was gone they began heading home then suddenly she wakes up and she’s in a cart. She doesn’t know where her brother is or where she even is. She only sees an old lady pushing the cart. She takes her to a glass castle where she will need to work behind the scenes to keep things running smoothly. There are only 13 year old kids at this castle. She ends up being there close to a year and works as an organist for the King. She is also a storekeeper and becomes known as the Queen of the other 13 year old kids.

Avery is surrounded by many unanswered questions. Kate (the only one that was not 13) was the old lady’s granddaughter. She teaches Avery everything she needed to know to live in the castle but when Avery asks about the purpose of living in the castle and other questions, Kate simply states that Avery will find the answers to her questions later because she isn’t ready to know those things yet.

As Avery settles into the castle, she discovers secret tunnels to the underground world and decides to venture out into them and she steps into the darkness…”

Then what happens?” I ask.

“That’s it Mom! I have to wait until FALL to find out! See what I mean!? CLIFFHANGER!”

It looks like we have some books to buy in the upcoming months as Bookworm Beauty will have the privilege of experiencing what it is like to have to wait for each additional book in a series to be released! Seems to bring back many memories of waiting months and months for the next book in the Left Behind Series.

This book fits my idea of a good book for a middle schooler.

***Book 2: The Ruby Moon available Fall 2016***

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