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Mama Mirage's book and product reviews from a Christian perspective. And of course Giveaways! ;) Scroll down to read the newest ones or select a specific category in the sidebar. Check out my main blog for posts on homeschooling, recipes, crochet patterns, craft projects, and Christian life. :)

{Please read my Liability Disclosures and Policy statement before entering giveaways hosted here. Updated 11/22/2012}

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

And the winner is...

Bet you thought I forgot, didn't you? ;) Ahem well okay maybe I did... *blush* but I have a very good reason for it! *grin* My baby brother got married for one thing and we were out of town at his wedding! It was so beautiful and the bride and groom just radiated joy! Then while we were still away from home I began to get very sick- morning sick. All day except the mornings. Of course. The bun in the oven has been making life pretty icky feeling lately. It was getting really bad. I got help in the form of a prescription last night so hopefully I will be able to function for the rest of the queasy period now. Said bun in the oven is doing great btw. :)
Alrighty now on to the giveaway. Wow three whole entries. Guess I've been out of the giveaway loop for too long! ;)

Congratulations to Stephanie!

Hope everyone has a great Father's Day!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

*CLOSED* A Mother's Day Giveaway and an Announcement!

Hello to all those who are moms, those who have a mom, want to be a mom, are married to a mom, adoptive moms, pregnant moms, and anyone else possibly not covered who is in some way connected to a mom! ;) I know I promised a giveaway in time for Mother's Day and I did not get that put up before now. I found out that I'M EXPECTING (!! *happy dance* !!) another little blessing and the morning sickness combined with a flu and seasonal allergies has had me pretty much sidelined lately. Also my own mama is fighting cancer and it seems like she may not have many more days or weeks with us so this Mother's Day with her still here is something to celebrate indeed.
As for the giveaway, I had planned a very mom sort of book for the prize but things did not work out; everything not "I'm pregnant!" related totally flew the coop for a while there! Nevertheless I promised a giveaway and a giveaway you shall have!

A while back, I was blessed to be chosen to receive one of Best For Babes' fundraiser packages (thank you Earth Mama Angel Baby!!!!) and in it there were gobs of awesome goodies! You should seriously check these supersized breastfeeding goodie boxes out. Valued at hundreds of dollars more than they are being sold for, these fundraiser packages include products from Stokke, GroVia, My Brest Friend, Moby, Earth Mama Angel Baby, Halo, Melinda G, Milkies, Motherlove, and more! In this amazing package that Earth Mama Angel Baby most generously gave me was a gift certificate for $15 to A Mother's Boutique which I am going to put up as the giveaway prize here starting today.

Before entering, please read my Discloseure post! If you would like to win the $15 gift certificate, here's what how to enter:
 1. FIRST before any other entries you must be a follower of either this blog or my personal blog. I will check. Leave a comment on this post telling me which blog you follow and include your email addy so I can contact you if you should win.
After that you may do any of the following in any order for extra entries, as specified:
 2. Tweet with a link to this giveaway up to once a day. Please put the link to your tweet in a comment on this post so I can check! One entry per daily tweet.
 3. Blog about this giveaway up to once a day, again please leave a link in the comments as proof. One entry per daily blog post.
 4. Post about this giveaway on Facebook once a day. Again, link please! And again, one entry per daily post.
 5. Tell a friend about this giveaway! Limit one unproveable verbal spreading of the word per entrant. ;) One entry per entrant.

Giveaway will run today, Mother's Day, 5/8/11, until 2 weeks from today on Sunday, May 22nd.
This giveaway is open to residents of the US and Canada.
Prize is a $15 gift cert to A Mother's Boutique which I currently own. (I own the GC not the boutique... hehe...)
I have not been paid or compensated to mention Best For Babes, Earth Mama Angel Baby, A Mother's Boutique, or any other entity mentioned herein. I am doing this giveaway on my own, not in association with any other person or company.
By entering this giveaway you affirm that you have read and agree to my Giveaway Guidelines in my Discloseure post!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Online Curriculum REVIEW: The Factor Tree (math K-6)

The Factor Tree is an online state testing inspired math curriculum for K-6th grade. I tried out this curriculum with my 4 year old daughter and am writing this review as part of a word of mouth campaign for BzzAgent.com. My opinions are 100% uncoached and honest. I got a free trial and I'm telling you about this product to either warn you about how much I hated it or rave about how much I loved it! ;)

My 4 year old really enjoyed this curriculum. She wanted to do more than the daily work every time. I will admit that I wound up being without a computer for the last 3 weeks of my 1 month review trial so I only got to use it with her for about a week. During the week I was able to use it though, she was totally crazy about it and I could really see her counting skills improving every day. Her 2 year old brother was getting excited about it and wanted to do it too! Please note that the 4 year old is my oldest child and I cannot say if the program is as fun or effective for the higher grades as it was for the Kindergarten level, or moreso.

The benefits we found from using Factor Tree are
-my daughter loves it and constantly begged to do more,
-the graphics the kids are supposed to count are cute and brightly colored; interesting and easy to see,
-the tests would be easy for a child older than my daughter to do alone and correct themselves,
-I could see daily improvement in her math skills.

The things we did not like about the program are
-The site is a bit confusing to navigate,
-The detailed parent reports were not helpful to me; I wanted graphs, charts, and lists of what numbers she was having the most trouble with counting up to and past. I didn't want to have to search through each page and make notes of her score on each one and then compile my own statistics based on the data. I wanted that done for me. I don't want the ability to check each page manually taken away because it could be helpful in some cases, but I DO want the reports to be broken down for me into charts and graphs ALSO.
-My daughter would push Enter to get to the next page and her unsteady toddler hand would shake or hold a fraction of a second too long and accidentally wind up skipping multiple pages. A blank score on these pages was counted as a wrong answer and neither her nor I even knew these pages had been skipped or how to tell for a long time. When I finally DID figure out how to tell if the previous page was "wrong" [in our case it was 95% of the time that my daughter's hand had shaken on the Enter and accidentally skipped (a) page(s) rather than that she had actually counted wrong], I realized that even when we did go back and fix the accidentally skipped pages, the accidental skipping had already "ruined" her howevermany-in-a-row-correct streak.

Overall this site was very enjoyable and helpful for my 4 year old. I did not find the parent dashboard to be helpful for me, possibly because my child requires my supervision to use the program so I was there with her seeing everything I could have seen on the parent interface anyway. I am considering subscribing to The Factor Tree for my daughter's math curriculum this year (we homeschool). I have confidence the developers will work out the kinks and this site will become more user-friendly, which was my only issue with it.

If you would like a 2 week free trial to see for yourself if The Factor Tree is right for your kids, please go to http://www.thefactortree.com/ and sign up with the code "BZF" - no credit card is required for your free trial. If you choose to subscribe after your trial, it's $20 per month per student.
If you have any questions about my experience with this product, feel free to ask in the comments and I will respond as quickly as I can! :)

A big thanks to BzzAgent and The Factor Tree for giving me the chance to try this out! :)

Sunday, April 3, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: "Journey To Riverbend" by Henry McLaughlin (Tyndale)

TITLE: Journey To Riverbend
AUTHOR: Henry McLaughlin
GENRE: Christian Fiction
ISBN: 978-1-4143-3942-9
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: "Michael Archer is nothing if not a man of his word. Though he was unable to save Ben Carstairs, Michael is determined to carry out Ben’s dying wish: to be reconciled with his father. Unfortunately, Sam Carstairs, one of the most ruthless businessmen on the frontier, has no use for his own son, much less a man of God seeking reconciliation.
Soon after arriving in Riverbend, Michael meets and falls for the stunning Rachel Stone while waiting for Sam to return from a business trip. Beautiful yet guarded, Rachel seems to be running from a past as dark as Michael’s.
When word reaches town that Sam has been kidnapped on the stagecoach home, Michael offers to join the search party formed by the local sheriff. With a budding romance behind him and a dangerous rescue ahead of him, he sets out on the trail, determined to complete his journey no matter the cost."

Well, it has been a very long time since I've been impressed by a work of Christian fiction and I was thus quite surprised to find myself enjoying this book very much!
There are three main characters in this book. Sam Carstairs is all set to be the villain of the tale and winds up a victim of the consequences of his own evil choices. I flip-flopped between detesting him, and pitying him, and even occasionally admiring him. Rachel Stone struggles to continue being a new creation in Christ after being rescued from a life of prostitution. Caught in the middle between the townsfolk's unforgiveness of her past and the Redeemer's forgiveness, she strives to keep a right perspective. Michael Archer has a difficult past of his own but now he's on a mission to make amends with stranger Sam Carstairs on behalf of his estranged and now-deceased son Ben Carstairs. Michael arrives in Riverbend to find that Sam is out of town, and while he's passing the time until Sam returns he falls in love with Rachel. Rachel isn't sure if she has it in her to ever love and trust a man again. Sam doesn't arrive home on the stage- he's been kidnapped! Michael joins the search for Sam and the book takes a turn for the sinister and suspenseful...
As I said I was quite impressed with this book. It keeps it's Christian focus. I find alot of Christian fiction novels throw God in there as an afterthought but this book does not. The main characters were a little less defined than I like and the who's who was a tad hard to follow at times. The story was gripping and I was up until 3am trying to finish this book because I couldn't put it down. There were a few parts that were a bit too descriptive and/or unnecessarily gruesome for me so I would not recommend this book for immature readers. Overall I liked it very much and give it 5 stars out of 5.

I reviewed this book for Tyndale publishers in exchange for a free review copy of the book. No other compensation was received and I was not told what to say. My opinions, good and bad, are my own and have not been coached or influenced in any way.

You can read the first chapter HERE.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: "Tithing - test me in this" by Douglas LeBlanc

TITLE: Tithing; test me in this
AUTHOR: Douglas LeBlanc
GENRE: Spiritual Growth & Christian Thought
ISBN: 978-0-8499-4608-0

PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: "Stories of people who live a generous and happy life (and why you'll want to live that way too.) Journalist Douglas LeBlanc travels the nation to talk with believers whose lives have been enriched by the ancient spiritual discipline of tithing. He discovers people along the way who do not understand the practice as an onerous law but as God’s call to a life of generosity and compassion. The effect on their lives is dramatic. LeBlanc talks with a variety of believers—from a pastor in the south side of Chicago to progressive Episcopalians, from an Orthodox rabbi to an Eastern Orthodox priest and his wife. By holding their gifts with open hands, they are drawn deeper into a life of joy and sharing that begins in the very heart of God. A volume in the eight book classic series, The Ancient Practices, with a foreword by Phyllis Tickle, General Editor."

I hate doing negative reviews but I believe a review isn't worth anything if it's not honest so: I was hoping that somewhere in this book it would talk about the history of tithing in depth. How and why it started. How it became such a taboo in our culture. I was hoping for all this in addition to real life examples of people who have been blessed by tithing. But all I found were the stories. And they were disorganized, difficult to read. Sometimes hearing the story in the person's own words loses something when it's put into print. Especially if the author interrupts the story with back story and other relevant and irrelevant factoids at certain points during the telling. I found myself having to read that last sentence or paragraph that I just read over and over again until I finally got it. Add to that the increased confusion of an ordinary Christian with Baptist and Mennonite background trying to comprehend Episcopal terminology, and it was a very difficult read. Some chapters I re-read as many as 4 times trying to follow them but my mind kept wandering and just wouldn't seem to track the story.
Not all the stories were difficult to track though. Some were just plain creepy. Like the doctrine of the interviewee is scewed and contrary to scripture and they are preaching it like it's gospel and reading that just gave me the shivers. One or 2 of the stories toward the end were actually interesting enough for me to stay focused and get something out of. All in all it was not an impressive read. I kept waiting for a final chapter to touch on those pesky historical and cultural questions I opened with, but none was forthcoming. I think the answers to some may have been scattered throughout the book but the lack of fluidity and understandability confounded any ability I may have had to mentally tie them together into a complete thought.
Cons: This book was very hard to focus on, difficult to understand, hopping around, breaking up, and scattered. Difficult to get anything out of except an irritation over the time I spent trying to get into it and failing miserably.
Pros: A couple of the people interviewed had some good things to say about tithing and our current culture.
Bottom line? I'd give it 1 out of 5. I wouldn't read it again, I wouldn't recommend it to others, but I may flip through it and read the few good quotes again. Reading it felt like hiking up a mountain to see the view, it turns out to be a difficult climb rather than a hike, and when you finally get to the top, there is no view at all.

*This book was reviewed for Thomas Nelson's BookSneeze blogger review program. I received a free copy of this book for review purposes. No other compensation was received. My opinions are my own and have not been edited or influenced by the publisher in any way.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Upcoming Reviews and a Giveaway...

Hi all! I have a couple book reviews coming up, in the Christian Living and Fiction categories. I will be reviewing "Tithing" for Thomas Nelson's Booksneeze in about a week here or as soon as I can get it typed up between mom-ing, and "Journey to the Riverbend" for Tyndale in about a month.
Also coming in about a month is a product review and a 1 month free trial for my readers for The Factor Tree that I'm doing for BzzAgent.com.

I'm plotting a giveaway for Mother's Day too so stay tuned for that! I have a few ideas in mind for the "prize." One idea I have is a wonderful book for mothers that I use every day. I'm mentioning the giveaway before I've decided on what it will be because I will be offering extra entries if you have commented on any of my reviews BEFORE THE START of the giveaway (limited to 2011 comments). I am not sure yet if I will allow multiple comments to count or just one - most likely just one, and it will have to be a polite well-thought comment and not a rude or 2-word one in order for it to count. Still working out the particulars. So keep checking back! I hope to hear from you in the comment section of a recent or upcoming post. :)

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