Sunday, March 30, 2014

One Realm Beyond

imageOne Realm Beyond
Written by Donita K. Paul
Published at Zondervan

About the book

Cantor D’Ahma waited his whole life for this day. Born with a gift to jump between worlds, the young realm walker is finally ready to leave his elderly mentor and accept his role as protector and defender of the realms. But mere hours after he steps through his first portal, Cantor discovers that his job will be more dangerous and difficult than he ever imagined. The realms are plagued with crime and cruelty, and even members of the once-noble Realm Walkers Guild can no longer be trusted. To make matters worse, his first assignment---finding a dragon to assist him on his quest---has led him to Bridger, who is clearly inept and won’t leave him alone. With the help of his new friends Bixby and Dukmee, Cantor must uncover the secrets of the corrupt guild before they become too powerful to be stopped. But his skills aren’t progressing as fast as he would like, and as he finds himself deeper and deeper in the guild’s layers of deceit, Cantor struggles to determine where his true allegiance lies.

My Thoughts

I hesitated when I requested this book to review because I had not clicked with another title from the author.   But I figure if one book was not a good fit for me it didn’t mean that another title from the same author would have the same effect on me.   Besides the idea of “walking” from one realm to another was interesting.   After all, when do you come to contact with other dimensions/realms?  In science-fiction.   And I really enjoy that kind of theme in science fiction.   So I figure I would enjoy it in fantasy as well.

Well, let’s be honest with each other from the bat.   I didn’t enjoy the book.   For some reasons I can’t connect with the characters in any shape or form.   I tried a few times to pursue the reading of the story but every time I get disconnected.  Not sure if it is the fact that I have trouble reading the names of the characters, the way the author writes or simply the storyline but this book is not a good read for me.   Some of you might think that it is because the book is geared for teens but I have read other teen books in the past and really enjoy them.   And it isn’t because it is a fantasy story because I have read other fantasy books as well and loved them.   Through the years, I have found that if I quickly click with an author then I wouldn’t have any problems reading other titles from him/her.    Clearly, I should have stayed away from other titles of Donita Paul since I didn’t enjoyed reading a previous novel from her.  

Now, please keep in mind that because I didn’t enjoy the story and couldn’t click with it, it doesn’t mean it isn’t good.  For example, I know an homeschooler whose son really enjoy the Donita Paul books.    And my own kids might even enjoy reading her novels.   

One Realm Beyond is available at your favourite bookstore, even and

Paperback Edition

Kindle Edition

Disclaimer: Thanks to Zondervan for sending me the above mentioned product for review purposes. I was not monetarily compensated for this review. Please note that the review was not influenced by the Sponsor in any way. All opinions expressed here are only my own.

Monday, March 24, 2014

All About Canada

Alll_Things_Canada_Coil_Bound_1_VerticalAll About Canada
From Excellent Resources – the Canadian distributor of IEW

About the product

Suitable for Grades 2-4, All Things Canada will teach progressively through all nine units of the Blended Structure and Style (Excellence in Writing) program using fun facts and quirks about Canada.    The lessons are done via online videos which guide your child for each lessons.   This product will begin with the key-word outlining and writing from notes and slowly incorporate other notions from the program as the child progress with the lessons. The product contains 21 lessons with video chapter teaching done online. 

Our Thoughts

My second son, Dominic, was seeing his oldest brother using the Excellence in Writing product in his homeschool and asked me if he could do it as well.   Knowing that he was working on his spelling and not wanting to overwhelm it with the IEW curriculum, I decided to approach Excellent Resources to see if we could review a product more at his level.  They graciously offered the product All About Canada for us to use and review as part of our homeschool.

Keep in mind that I was already familiar with the IEW writing curriculum when Dominic started using the All Things Canada.   So far, he has worked on six of the lessons and he perseveres in writing.    As we advanced in the lessons, I had taken notes on the pros and cons I could see;


  • This Vid-E product allows the younger kids to be expose to the IEW structure and way of doing things which will give them advantages when they arrive at the time to use the main product of IEW.
  • The kids will learn interesting facts about our country, Canada, while using this product.
  • Each video lessons have a fun video to watch before hand on the subject covered in the lesson.
  • The lessons are shorts and flexible.   For example: we usually split the lesson and the writing portion on two separate days.
  • The program is easy to use and depending of the age of your child, he/she could easily watch the lesson without your help and follow the guidelines of the online teacher.
  • The end of the book is introducing the research reports and creative writing which will come in handy in upper levels.


  • Contrary to what the title is assuming, not all the texts on which the kids will work on are about Canada.   One text guide the child through the Golden Goose story and a few are based on Winnie the Pooh stories.   However, though the story of Winnie the Pooh has Canadian origins, none of the exercises included in this book mention it.
  • Sometimes during the video portion of the lesson, the teacher is hiding part of the presentation behind. 
  • All the lessons are made on PowerPoint with the teacher speaking.
  • The videos are a bit pixelated when we watch them on our big screen television (which is hooked on a computer and has internet access).
  • One specific extra video from Heritage Canada was having issues.  More specifically the video and the speech were out of sync.
  • One specific lesson had echo in it and the video skipped at the 2nd point in the Key-Word Outline.   As well, elsewhere in the video, the teacher missing covering an aspect of the fifth KWO.

This curriculum is a good introduction to the IEW program if you want to see what it will teach as a general idea without spending a fortune right away.   I am very pleased with the efforts of my son while working on his assignments with All Things Canada and I know that he will only continue to ameliorate his writing techniques as we complete the lessons.  I particularly love the flexibility in taking the lessons.  I usually do at least one lesson per week and some weeks I was able to put it aside because of our busy schedule.    When at first, the thought of writing would discourage my son, he is not complaining anymore and even asks me if he could do an extra lesson during a specific week sometimes.   The video quality could be better but in the end, I realize that my son is also learning through it. 

We also have a white board in our dining room and when comes the time to write his sentences, I offered him to write them on the board so he can have the proper spelling for his words.   Knowing that he is advancing in his spelling curriculum but he is not quite ready to be independent, he agreed and I dutifully write his own sentences while he recompose the writing assignment.   We also have tools to help him embellish the text by using –ly adverbs and strong verbs.   He is slowly learning to use the tools we have while doing his writing assignment.   Seeing that he is only at the 6th lesson and that I see how well he is improving in his writing skills, I know that this product would help many homeschoolers in incorporating more writing in their lessons.    I have realized through the years that my 2nd born is not learning the same way as his older brother.  As a matter of fact, each of my kids are learning differently.  My learning to read was a struggle for him and I realized that he had issues with his spelling – which is why we are working diligently on it.   Consequently, writing was not a subject that he liked very much when we started grade 4 back in the Fall.   But since we got the All Things Canada (which I received in the late Fall 2013), he is more interested and even used what he learned during his writing lessons when he converse with people.    Finally, I appreciate that this product is using the same Blended Structure and Style program from IEW as it give a springboard for my kids when they will be in age of using the IEW products.

The price of this product is much more reasonable than the IEW’s one and will give you a better idea of what you can expect in the IEW program.   The coil-bound book is priced at 69.95$ while the downloadable version is available for 49.95$.  Both versions are available directly from the Excellent Resources website.  

Excellent Resources also have two other products with online lessons.   History of Canada is suitable for grades 4-6 and the student will write based on texts with Canadian Historical content.  Canada; Neighbours with a Difference is geared for students in grades 5-8 (and higher) and will provide writing lessons more Canadian content exercises.  I have not used these two products yet but would love to explore History of Canada in the future.

Disclaimer: Thanks to Excellent Resources for sending me the above mentioned title for review purposes. I was not monetarily compensated for this review. Please note that the review was not influenced by the Sponsor in any way. All opinions expressed here are only my own.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Children’s Book of Art

9780756655112HChildren’s Book of Art – An introduction to the world’s most amazing paintings and sculptures
Published at DK Canada

About the book

This engaging guide takes children on an international tour of the world's greatest art, from the first daubs of paint in prehistoric caves to today's performance art. It includes all of the important art movements, from Renaissance to Rococo, as well as the great painters from all these eras. However, the approach is to look at art as an international exchange of ideas, not a straight history of western art. The book includes art from all countries, from aboriginal art to totem poles.

My Thoughts

A child of mine wanted to do a lapbook and selected the one that is all about art.  So to surprise him I decided to ask to review the Children’s Book of Art.  I figure that he could use the book while doing his lapbook.  

The book will give you an historical view of art through the ages and also present some of the main artists that blessed the world with marvelous paintings and sculptures.  The pages are packed with detailed information and images in order to give you a better understanding on how art has impacted our lives since the beginnings of the world.    In it, not only will you learn the main techniques used in art but you will also discover how papyrus paper was made, how a Roman fresco was created, discover the beauty of mosaic, and also get a close-up of the work of specific artists.

The table of content is easy to follow as you can see.

  • Early Art: Rocky beginnings, Egyptian scribes, faces in art, how to make fresco, how to make mosaics, Gods and Heroes in art, Chinese art, how to create colors, Renaissance, landscapes in art, Leonardo da Vinci, Jan van Eyck, how to use oil paint, Baroque, Jan Vermeer, still life, Rococo, Frnacisco de Goya, how to use watercolor, and Katsushika Hokusai.
  • Modern Art: Impressionism, Claude Monet, how to paint with pastels, Vincent van Gogh, after impressionism, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Paul Klee, surrealism, Joan Miro, Grant Wood, animals in art, postwar abstract art, Jackson Pollock, Sir Sidney Nolan, war in art, Andy Warhol, street art, work in art, Friedensreich Hundertwasser, and Modern art.
  • Sculpture: carved in stone, the Terra-cotta Army sculptors, how to carve wood, African sculpture, how to sculpt marble,Michelangelo Buonarroti, Frédérix-Auguste Bartholdi, Gustav Vigeland, Abstract sculpture, Henry Moore, Alberto Giacometti, how to create land art, sculpture NOW, and Damien Hirst.

The book is a great way to learn more about art and get exposed to a variety of styles and era.  I particularly like to learn how to paint with pastels.   In some of the pages you might also find a “Now You Try It” challenge which will allow you to experiment a bit with the technique presented.  The book is also packed with example of various artists on a specific technique giving you a nice ideas on how it varies from one person to another.

In conclusion, I think this book is a great one if you are interested in exploring how art has evolved through the ages.   It could be a great book for a child or adult interested in art.  It is definitively a great book to have in your personal homeschool library.

Children’s Book of Art is available at your favourite bookstore.

Disclaimer: Thanks to DK Canada for sending me the above mentioned title for review purposes. I was not monetarily compensated for this review. Please note that the review was not influenced by the Sponsor in any way. All opinions expressed here are only my own.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014


_225_350_Book.1118.coverThrive – Digging Deep, Reaching Out
Written by Mark Hall
Published at Zondervan

About the book

In Thrive, the newest book by Mark Hall, the lead singer for the popular group Casting Crowns reminds us what it really looks like to walk with Jesus. With powerful and relatable stories, grounded teaching, and great application, Hall helps everyone who wants to take the next step of faith. You can do more than just survive your life, you can thrive! Mark Hall explores the two sides of our faith– the roots that help us grow deep and the trunk and branches that are the fruit and working out of all that God does inside us – and gives us steps and inspiration for growth in every area.

My Thoughts

I requested this book at the same time as my son was trying to win a “Thrive” package on our Christian radio.  The day after I requested it, he was able to be the first caller in order to win the book, a journal, a poster and the CD.   Maybe I should have waited a bit…  but to be honest, the more I read the book, the more I think it is good that my twelve years old son as won it.   That way I can incorporate this book as his spring/summer readings and discuss it with him.  

The book will allow you to take the next step in your faith life in order to grow deeper in the Word and stronger too.   Discover what it means to walk with Jesus with the stories, teaching and the application found through the pages of this book.   In the first part of the book, the author will show you how to be engage in the Word, in the community, in your worship and in your pursuit of God.  The second par of the book will highlight the fruits of your engagement with the Word and the community as well as serving and loving profoundly.

Bottom line, Hall is trying to motivate the reader to realized that in order to thrive in the Christian faith you need to dig deep in the God’s sovereignty and to reach out with truth and love to the people around us.  His illustration of the concept found in page 17 is self-explanatory in itself and will give you a good idea on how you can grow strongly as you mature in Christ.  At the end of each chapter, the author highlights the point to remember for the reader which quickly resumes what was read.  

I consider this book to be a great read for youth and adults alike.   I have learned quite a bit about who Mark Hall is and loved the simplicity of his teaching.   The words will touch your soul and will encourage you to grow more in your own faith in God.   My only disappointment is that there wasn’t a “Going Deeper” section where I could reflect on the teaching and explore my life.   I think this would have been a great addition for the book.

Thrive is available at your favourite bookstore, even

Kindle Edition

Disclaimer: Thanks to Zondervan for sending me the above mentioned product for review purposes. I was not monetarily compensated for this review. Please note that the review was not influenced by the Sponsor in any way. All opinions expressed here are only my own.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

KRE-O Dungeons & Dragons Fortress Defense

258D1C5650569047F56E99A0B9B03E54KRE-O Dungeons & Dragons Fortress Defense
From Hasbro Canada

About the product

Collect the world and Master the Battle with the KRE-O Dungeons & Dragons sets! You can use the 297 pieces in this Fortress Defense set to build a castle in 3 ways and defend it from the hordes of the Orcs. Set your knight Kreon figures on the wall, armed with their bows and spears. Will the castle stand against the powerful assaults of the catapult you'll build? If not, send your knight Pikesman and Archer Kreon figures crashing into battle against your Orc Kreon figures as they storm over the drawbridge! You'll build one magical adventure after another with the Fortress Defense set!

Set includes 297 pieces and instructions.

My Thoughts

March Break is here and we are already at day two of the week off school.    As homeschoolers we have slowed down a bit during February and again this week but even though there are some school done in the morning we don’t miss an opportunity to have fun either.    But I know that some parents might be wondering how they could entertain their kids this week so Hasbro has sent me the new Dungeons and Dragons KRE-O set in order to blog about it.

Dungeons & Dragons has been existing for as long as I can remember.   I recall seeing people playing this when I was going in high school and throughout cegep and university.   Even today, I know people are still playing the famous game.   So it wasn’t a huge surprised when I realized that Hasbro has tapped into the possibilities of Dungeons & Dragons and decided to create a KRE-O series based on it.   To be honest what surprises me is that no other company has thought about it until now….   DCA53BAA50569047F5D8860F4432DBB8

This set is very functional and will allow diversity in the building of the fortress as you can create at least three variations of the fortress.   The catapult will thrown boulders in order to destroy the fortress and the two soldiers will try very hard to stop the attack of their four enemies (personally I think I would have put a bit more soldiers in the set in order to make it more fair…)  A treasure chest containing gold is also included in the set as well as a spider.  I find this set very detailed with great colors for the banners, flags for both parties, jewel on top of a spear, and so much more.  This set will bring some fun time for the kids who play with it.

Other sets are available in this series:  Army Builder Pack, Battle Outpost Set, Fortress Tower Set, Catapult Set, Warriors Drizzt Set, Warriors Eye of Gruumsh Set, Warriors Lord Neveremember Set, Warriors Vansi Set, Warriors Walfgar Set, Orc’s Crossbow Set and Wallbreaker Javelin Set.  

The Kre-O Dungeons & Dragons Fortress Defense is available at your favourite toystore.


Disclaimer: Thanks to Hasbro Canada for sending me the above mentioned products for review purposes . I was not monetarily compensated for this review. Please note that the review was not influenced by the Sponsor in any way. All opinions expressed here are only my own.

Monday, March 10, 2014

100 inventions that made history

9781465416704H100 inventions that made history – Brilliant breakthroughs that shaped our world.
Published at DK Canada

About the Book

Applying engaging, innovative design and fun, informative text, 100 Inventions That Made History looks at the trailblazing inventions that have advanced technology and transformed the way we live, as well as the gadgets and gizmos that we couldn't live without!

Divided into five chapters — On the Move, Getting Connected, Ordinary Things, For Better or Worse, and Culture Shock — all areas of inventions are covered as well as showcasing the inspirational people who brought them to life. From antibiotics to the atomic bomb, microscopes to the microwave, and wind turbines to the World Wide Web, 100 Inventions That Made History is a discovery not to be missed.

Our Thoughts

A few years ago I had the opportunity to review 100 People Who Made History and when 100 Inventions That Made History was available to review, I knew this would be a great book for our family.   This book presents in less that 130 pages the most incredible inventions and the stories behind them.   Whether it is an essential item or something that is just nice to have, I think it is always fun to learn more on how things were made.   I used to watch a television show titled How Things Are Made and really enjoyed it.   Every once in a while, the kids and I watch some of their episodes on the net.  

The table of content is pretty detailed and you can discover with a simple glance what kind of things the book covers.  I took the liberty to list it here so you can determine if the book would be interesting for your own kids.

  • On the Move – Discover how the wheel, caravel, submarine, navigational novelties, steam engine, steam locomotive, electric motor, bicycle, elevator, car, airplane, helicopter, rocket, and nuclear energy were invented.
  • Getting Connected – How to we keep connected through life?   By using one of the inventions created for this like the paper, the printing press, the telegraph, braille, the phonograph, the telephone, the radio, anything that takes pictures, the television, the transistor, the microprocessor, the computer, the satellite, the telescope, the internet and the World Wide Web.
  • At Your Convenience – What are the things that are part of our everyday life that you couldn’t live without them?  Not a clue?  How about the flush toilet, the pendulum clock, the light bulb, the washing machine, the vacuum cleaner, the can opener, the dishwasher, the microwave oven, the refrigerator, the plastic, the battery, the hook and eye, the safety pin, the snaps, the zipper or the velcro?
  • Work and Play – In this section, you will learn more about things that were created to help our work and play like money, bar code, plow. crane, dynamite, cement, steel, glass, Kevlar, titanium, robot, lead pencil, ballpoint pen, post-it note, pocket calculator, sticky tape, blue jeans, sports shoes, musical instruments, video games, personal stereo, movies, fireworks, and chocolate.
  • Medical Marvels – This specific section is very interesting if you like medical information.  My oldest son really like anything and everything medical.   In here, he can read how anesthetics, antiseptics, antibiotics, the microscope, the laser, the diagnostic devices, the aspirin, the defibrillator, the vaccination, the bionic body parts (makes me think of the Bionic Woman or the 6,000,000 Dollar Man) as well as micro machines were invented and use when treating patients.

The book is great for science and/or history lessons.   You can incorporate some of the inventions mentioned in the book when you study a specific era or an inventor as well.   Or you could simply encourage your kids to read one invention per day in order to expand their knowledge.   I also think this is a great book to have if you travel long distance with the kids in the car as it is fun and different than other kind of books.  The book is packed with photos, drawings and sketches to help you better understand how the various items included in it have been created.    Sometimes, the item presented also introduce you to other products which were created because of the one you are learning from.  For example, in the page presenting the printing press, you will discover how Johannes Gutenberg created it, which book was the first one to be printed on it, discover that the invention changed the world but that Gutenberg never made money with it, how printing is made today and how it paved the way for newspapers, magazines, paperback books and even the e-readers. 

I really enjoy reading that kind of book because you have a feeling that you are learning something when you are done with it.  This book is definitively a great addition for your personal homeschool library.

100 inventions that made history is available at your favourite bookstore like and

Disclaimer: Thanks to DK Canada for sending me the above mentioned title for review purposes. I was not monetarily compensated for this review. Please note that the review was not influenced by the Sponsor in any way. All opinions expressed here are only my own.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Vatican

 VaticanThe Vatican – Secrets and Treasures of the Holy City
Written by Father Michael Collins
Published at DK Canada

About the Book

A visually stunning and uniquely informative insider's view to the great treasures and daily life in the Holy City, The Vatican is a unique behind-the-scenes look at the world's smallest nation and the spiritual center of the Catholic Church.

Written by an accomplished church historian and produced with the full cooperation of the Vatican, this beautifully illustrated guide delves into the 2,000-year-long history of the Vatican. It discusses papal influence, daily life and governance of the world's largest religious body, and the art collections and other priceless treasures rarely seen by the public.

Updated to include Pope Francis, the 266th pope of the Catholic Church.

My Thoughts

I was raised in the Catholic Church – well let’s just say that I was baptised, did my communion and confirmation.  I would go to church when visiting my maternal grand-mother, at Easter and Christmas.    But I was also involved in the girl guides which had more links with Catholicism back in the days than nowadays.   In 1984, the Pope John Paul II came to visit Canada.  I was part of the group of young people who danced on September 11th, 1984 at the Montreal Olympic Stadium.  

The main reason why I asked to review this book is because I wanted to surprised my in-laws with it on their birthday – both are born in March.   They are devout Catholics and I knew that they would enjoy reading this book on their spare times.  

So the book is beautifully illustrated with hundreds of photos throughout the years and inform the reader in details about the history behind the papacy and the Vatican.   Here’s the table of content of the book:

  • Calendar: This section gives you a glimpse of what the Vatican looks like during the Christmas season, the Easter season, Summer and Fall.   In this section my favourite photo is the one of Christmas with the life-sized nativity and the tree behind it.   Apparently the tree is donate every year by a different country.
  • History: In this section, you will learn more about how the papacy started and grew through the years.   You will travel in time through the Roman Era, the Early Middle Ages, the Late Middle Ages, the Renaissance, the Enlightement, the 19th Century and the Modern Era.
  • Architecture: The architecture of St. Peter’s, Casina of Pius IV, Santo Stefano, the Vatican gardens, the Lionine Wall, the Vatican Museums, the Apostolic Palace, the Raphael Rooms, the Chapel of Nicholas V and the Sala Ducale is presented in this section of the book.
  • Daily Life: What is the life within the walls of the Vatican?  Discover it here within the City Walls, the Papacy and the Holy See.
  • People: Learn more about Pope Francis, the Vatican Diplomat, The Treasury Curator, the Ceremonies Assistant, The Choir Boy, The Sister of Charity, the Seminarian, the Head of the Floreria, the Mosaic Restorer, the Painting Restorer, the Papal Photographer, and the Swiss Guard.
  • Treasures: In this section you will get the privilege to observe the Papal Tiaras, the mitres, the Papal accessories, the Mass Vestments, the Pectoral Crosses, the Papal Jewelry, the croziers and staffs, the processional crosses, the incense holders, the table crosses, the candleholders, the paxes, the monstrances, the ciboria, the chalices, the cruets, the bells, the water vessels, the missals and the ceremonial tools.
  • Chronology of Popes: Learn the whole chronology of Popes through the years.  Just for fun I decided to check how many Popes were in post since I was born.   Since 1969, five Popes were the leaders of the Catholic church – Paul IV, John Paul I, John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis.
  • Glossary and Index

Each photo and image included in this book will highlight a specific part of the Vatican.  Even if you have never had the opportunity to visit the Vatican, you have the feeling that you are right there exploring the surroundings.   I know that my maternal grand-mother would have liked this book as she was a devout Catholic.   She prayed often for the Pope when she was alive and was very active in her church.   Looking at the photos included in this book, I know she would have love traveling to the Vatican even if it was just through the pages of a book.

Needless to say, some of these pictures are breathtaking and gives a different perspective than if you would visit the Vatican.   I particularly like the fact that there is much explanations about the architecture found within the walls of the Vatican.  You can also visualize and admire the numerous statues and art found on the walls of the Vatican.  I am amazed of the extent of work found within the Vatican from the mosaics to the textured surface made out of small pebbles,shells and glass which were novel materials back in the 16th century.   Seeing all the photos included in this book, I am pretty sure that it will allow you to enter private places not accessible otherwise. 

I even learned a few things while looking through the book.  For example, there is a Gallery of Maps which takes its name from the 40 maps frescoed on the walls.   These maps represent the Italian regions and the papal properties at the time of Pope Gregory XIII (1572-1585).  They are an important record of the 16th century history and cartography.  In the People section, you will have a glimpse in the lives of the some of the people surrounding the Pope on a daily basis.   Through the pages you can get familiar with the kind of days these people have when working at the Vatican.

If you have a devout Catholic in your life, this book will definitively be a marvelous gift to this person.   Knowing how my in-laws are quite involved in their church, I think this book will be a blessing to them.  

The Vatican is available at your favourite bookstore, even and

Disclaimer: Thanks to DK Canada for sending me the above mentioned title for review purposes. I was not monetarily compensated for this review. Please note that the review was not influenced by the Sponsor in any way. All opinions expressed here are only my own.