This Month's Featured Resources...

Father's DayTravel - CookingLatin WW2

Monday, September 17

History & Geography....Our Favorite Resources

This week, we’ll introduce you to our favorite history and geography resources.  

You guys know us...we are all about some history here at Gypsy Road, so paring it down is going to be difficult to do!  

In addition to our regular curricula (the A World of Adventure series), we supplement all over the place.  Audiobooks, read alouds, subscription boxes, costumes and's all about having fun!

  • Heirloom Audio Productions produces wonderful, professional audio dramas that bring history to life for the entire family. As a travelling family, we enjoy listening to audiobooks regularly, and the first time we heard one of their audiobooks, we were just BLOWN AWAY!  If you've never heard one, you should definitely learn more here.
  • When the kids were a bit younger, we listened to many Jim Weiss audiobooks while cruising the interstate!  Great Hall Productions has an entire line based on classic books.  Many are available at your local library.
Books & Read-Alouds
  • The Magic Tree House series has a book for almost any topic you dream up, and Mary Pope Osborne is still writing!  Each of the books has an accompanying research guide, and there are free teacher guides and art activities are online.
  • "We Were There books are easy to read and provide exciting, entertaining stories, based upon true historic events. Though written simply enough for young readers, they make interesting reading for boys and girls well into their teens." (description from Wikipedia)  I read these aloud to the kids, and they adore them!  There is a WWT book for almost every facet of American history up to the 1960's.
Subscription Boxes & Games
  • Both Carmen Sandiego and Little Passports help to reinforce world geography lessons.  Carmen Sandiego is the detective who fights crime around the world in thirty-minute segments.  
  • Little Passports covers either US or World geography (depending on your package), and includes activities, stickers, a toy / art project, and a letter each month from a different state / country.  The program is designed for children as young as three (up to about ten), and gets them excited about world geography.  You can read our review for it here
  • Adventurous Mailbox is most closely related to Little Passports, but is more like an extension of that program.  Once the boys had outgrown Little Passports, I floundered through several programs, trying to re-create the excitement that they had with that program.  FINALLY, I found it with Adventurous Mailbox.  We loved it so much that we're already on their waiting list for the next session!  See more info here.

Costumes & Dramatizations
Our children regularly come up with costumes to reenact the time periods we are studying.  This helps to bring history to life, and draws the arts into our curriculum.  A few times each year, they will get together with their friends and have a 'movie day,' where they put these costumes to use and make films.  They are learning how to write a script, use technology, and digitally manipulate that technology to create a final product.  AND they're having fun the whole time!

Another way that we reinforce history lessons is through field trips.  No matter where our truck lands, we can find something history, science, or geography-related in the area!  Here are some of our favorite stops, and the history lessons we've learned there.  We've created unit studies for you to use when you visit them, too!  (Bottom of each post.)
A short note.....if you've read all the way through, then you've seen the phrase 'see the full review' more than once.  We don't recommend products that we don't believe in.  I've written reviews for several different products - some in exchange for the product (and that's noted on the review), and some just because I really believe in it.  In this roundup of history resources, there isn't a single resource that we don't use daily and completely believe in.  Just wanted to get that out there...  😎

Tuesday, September 11

Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning (Alan Jackson)

It's September 11th, and I would be remiss if I didn't address that.  Heaven knows, the media will probably beat it to death.  But we SHOULD remember. 

So.............where were you?  What were you doing?    

I was on my first day of internship as a school counselor.  It was trial by fire, literally, that day.  I had just arrived for my first day, and planned to be the bubbly little lady that bounced from room to room teaching elementary school kids why we should share and be nice.  No dice.
My supervisor spent a few minutes mapping out the day, and she turned on the radio to listen to while we printed out some materials.  We were the first in the school to hear.  While I went online to check the verity of the story (bear in mind, we had dial-up), she ran down to the library to turn on one of the TVs.  Then the librarians knew.

We informed the main office, who told us we needed to go from room to room and let the teachers know what was going on "without alerting the children."  Oh puh-lease.  Children are ALWAYS going to know that something's up.  Especially when you don't want them to.  And even more so if the teacher starts crying in the doorway.  Not an easy morning.
The school then went on lock-down.  Within an hour, they had had so many parents trying to pick up kids early that they literally locked-down the school and wouldn't let anyone leave or come in.  Parents began to panic, and we had people trying to sneak in the back doors.

By the way, I should mention that I was at an elementary school on the east coast.  It is my understanding, from folks I've spoken with in our new home of Oklahoma, that 9/11 affected east coasters considerably more than the rest of the least, on the actual day of events.  Maybe that's not the case at all, but that's how it's been portrayed to me.

Also, my parents lived just outside Boston and often travelled those early flights.  A few of the passengers, including one of the pilots, lived in our neighborhood.  I had several friends that lived and worked in NYC, including a couple in the World Trade Centers. 
The stories that came out of that day represent the best and worst of human nature.  They are the epitome of tragedy and, occasionally, tragic comedy.  The absolute worst are those of the phone calls made to loved ones from people who knew they wouldn't make it out alive.  I have a friend that received one from his's a story that you can't fathom, but can't forget.

Just a month later, I had a wonderful experience in Boston, witnessing the unification of a city.  For a time, America emerged from 9/11 as a stronger nation.  We became a caring nation.  We put people above business.  We looked into one another's eyes and saw a shared pain, and a shared strength.  I think that time has passed, and we have already forgotten, too soon. 
Our memories of 9/11 are similar to our grandparents' snapshots of Pearl Harbor.  You remember what you were wearing, what you heard and saw, and how you felt.  The horror, fear, and pain.  The unknowing.  I asked my grandparents, all four of them, separately, about their experience on Pearl Harbor day.  Three of them were unwilling to talk about it, saying that it was best left in the past.  I know that they fought in the war and served their country.  Only one was willing to talk, and she was quite young that day...only ten or eleven.  Also, she did not live in America at the time. 

I say all of that to say this - the "greatest generation" had their own problems, to be sure.  But they were a generation of do-ers.  They acted on problems.  Our generation seems to think that we can talk a problem to death...but no one wants to act on it.  Perhaps we should take this lesson from the past - actions DO speak louder than wordsWe, as a nation, need to remember what happened, and continue to act on it. 

Monday, September 10

American Man (Trace Adkins)

What happened on 9/11?
On September 11, 2001 .... Terrorists attacked the US.  They hijacked 4 airplanes in mid-flight, and flew two of the planes into two skyscrapers at the World Trade Center in New York City.  The impact caused the buildings to catch fire and collapse.  Another plane destroyed part of the Pentagon (the U.S military headquarters) in Arlington, Virginia.  The 4th plane crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
Officials believe that the terrorists intended to destroy either the White House or the U.S Capitol building.  Passengers on the plane fought the terrorists and prevented them from reaching their goal.  In all nearly 3,000 people were killed in the 9/11 attacks.
When people think of 9/11, they commonly think of NYC, but let's not forget the other two planes that carried victims that day.

Who attacked the United States?
A total of 19 terrorists hijacked the 4 planes on 9/11.  All of the men were from nations in the Middle East.  They belonged to a Terrorist group called Al Qaeda, and were led by Osama Bin Laden.  Al Qaeda practices an extreme version of the religion of Islam.  The group is intensely opposed to the US and other western, democratic nations.  They are especially against the military presence of these countries in Arab nations.  Since the group's creation by Bin Laden in the late 1980's, Al Qaeda has helped coordinate and fund numerous bombings worldwide.

How did America respond to September 11th?
In October 2001, the U.S and it allies invaded Afghanistan, where Al Qaeda was based.  The extreme Islamic group that ran Afghanistan's government, known as the Taliban, was protecting Bin Laden and allowing Al Qaeda to run training camps in the country.  U.S-led forces soon brought down the Taliban.  They are still working to help rebuild and stabilize the nation.  Since 2001, many Al Qaeda members have been captured or killed.  On May 1, 2011, U.S troops killed Bin Laden when he was hiding in Pakistan.
The U.S invaded Iraq in 2003.  Then-President Bush and other U.S leaders believed that the country's dictator, Saddam Hussein, was hiding terrible weapons that could be given to terrorists.  Hussein was captured and later put to death by an Iraqi Court.  No weapons of mass destruction were found.

How did America change after September 11th?

Following 9/11, the U.S government  took many steps to try to make the country safer.  It tightened security at airports and in public buildings.  For example, no longer could you drop off or meet loved ones at the airport gate.  A new cabinet-level department, the Department of Homeland Security, was created.  It works to protect the U.S from terrorism.

September 11th Unit Study Resources

**If you only choose one resource, we recommend the Memorial Museum, as it has excellent resources.**

Video should be screened by parents before showing to young children

Come back tomorrow for more September 11th...

Wednesday, September 5

Christmas Must Be Tonight (The Band)

Yes, it IS a bit early for Christmas......but if you'll read to the bottom, you'll see why we're posting this now.

Christmas is one of our favorite times of the year!  We love almost everything about - from the smells and tastes of holiday cookies to the joyful sounds of Christmas carolers...the delight of children on Christmas morning and seeing the children's pageant at church.  (Pretty much the only two things we don't like are the crazy over-commercialism and airport traffic on the 23rd.)  There's a new kid in town on the Christmas scene, though, and we got to meet it early and want to introduce it to you!!
We have always used our family keepsake advent calendar, but plan to add this new (and oh-so-beautiful!) One Night advent calendar to the tradition this year, too.  While our family calendar has little square for candies, treats, RACK projects, or Lego minifigures, the One Night calendar tells a story, so it will be very easy to use them both without any overlap.  

Check out 'One Night' -   

The calendar tells the Christmas story, broken into twenty-four parts (each of the days). You can read one part each day or (as our family did) read the entire thing in one beautifully-illustrated story. (Part of the fun of reading it this way is trying to find the next part on the board!) Like all advent calendars, reading it in small parts is how children will count down the days until Christmas.

This is a sturdy board that works well in both coffee-table format (lay down flat) or in display format (stand up as a trifold). It could easily be considered a Christmas decoration, and used as both a storybook and advent calendar. It would make a beautiful, and unique, gift!

Honestly, I was only familiar with the surface of the story in Luke 2:8-20. This is where the angels appear before the shepherds and tell them to visit the newborn savior. This calendar takes those few verses and develops them into a full-blown story -- the story of those shepherds on that winter's night. It's a story of ancient history, Judea and the Roman rulers; a story of regular people who were just doing their jobs, and their journey deep into the countryside to search for a baby. The pictures have a common-man / draftsman feel, and the black and white coloring lends it a timeless quality.
One of the things I was surprised to learn was that creating this advent calendar was a three-year process. Four people worked very hard to create this, from the ground up, ALL by hand. An art direction adapted the story and a designer arranged everything so that it worked together perfectly (all those tiny doors). But two folks that just blew me out of the water were the lady who hand-rendered all of the lettering and calligraphy, and a painter who hand-illustrated every single image in One Night using pen, ink, and charcoal!! The beautiful artwork here - and knowing that it's hand-drawn rather than computer-generated - make this an even more special keepsake.

Currently, there is a Kickstarter program for One Night, which will help get the initial printing completed in time for folks to have their own copy by Christmas.

Oh, and while we have your attention............don't forget to look out for the Twelve Days of Christmas, which will be kicking off in early December with giveaways and goodies for everyone!

Scarborough Fair (Simon & Garfunkel)

Snag Using Everyday Herbs and Teaching Kids about Herbs for easy ways to use herbal living into your home!

When you're out on the road, getting sick just isn't an option.  That's not to say that it doesn't happen, but it's considerably easier to take steps toward maintaining good health.  Let's face it - getting an appointment at your regular doctor's office can be tricky these days, and trying to get one in some random town with people that have no records or interest in maintaining you as a patient can be downright impossible.  Urgent care centers are an option, but not always available. 

Your best defense is a good offense!

I would say that the one thing you should always be doing is finding ways to support your immune system. Immune system support is something that you can do even when you are not sick, and can help you avoid imbalances in your body. There are so many wonderful ways that you can do this.

Nourishing Infusions

One of the very first things I learned in regards to herbal healing and wellness was making nourishing herbal infusions. An infusion is a very strong tea that is brewed with a large amount of herbs (at least an ounce of herbs to 1 quart of water) and steeped anywhere from 2 hours to overnight.  These drinks are very high in minerals and water soluble vitamins. It’s like making your own liquid vitamin.

 Avoiding Sugar
It should come as no surprise that you should avoid sugar. Consuming too much sugar has been shown to suppress the immune response by lowering the amount of white blood cells and increasing the amount of inflammation in the body. If you can’t resist the cravings for sugar opt for healthier sources of it, such as berries that also as good viral fighting properties.


Our society is chronically over stressed and over worked. We spend more money on medical care and yet we are still the sickest nation in the industrialized world. The US has really missed the importance of getting an adequate amount of rest both while we are physically healthy and during an illness.  If you are constantly in a state of stress, there is very little time for our bodies to devote to repairing itself.

Sadly, Western society spends most of their time in their “fight or flight” system. This is only adding to our chronic ill health problems and may be causing you to remain sick for longer or more frequently. I know we are all busy, but it is so important to get some sort of rest in, especially when we are sick. Try going to bed earlier or taking more breaks throughout the day. Even small changes will make a big difference in your health, in the long run.  (See "Life is a Dream" post.)


Eating a healthy diet is honestly our best defense against illness. Lowering the amount of processed foods and increasing the amount and expanding the variety of whole foods in your diet is the key. I am not one to tell you which whole foods diet is better (vegetarian vs. omnivorous) but I am a firm believer in whatever whole foods diet you choose, it should contain a very large variety so you are making sure to get everything that you need.  (See "I'm Into Something Good" post.)

Outdoor time and exercise

Being outside is another often overlooked benefit to our health. Being able to move and play outside, will increase our blood circulation and help bring oxygen around to repair our bodies. Roll the windows down on travel days; take a family hike around the hotel; explore the area on a walking tour.  If there is an outdoor pool, have some family playtime!  (See "Lust for Life" post.)

Washing your Hands      
This is a super easy one!  Germs can get into our bodies through our eyes and even our nose! I make sure to wash my hands every time I use the restroom, or even after I help a kid in the restroom.  I also encourage the kids to wash their hands all the time.  When you're in five different states in five days, there's no telling what you're being exposed to!  Wash those hands!!!!


The elderberry has quickly become one of my favorite herbal allies. This is an excellent herb for both prevention and treatment of viruses. It is high in Vitamins A and C and although it is not clearly understood how, has anti-viral fighting properties.

          My favorite way to take elderberry is to make syrup. You can use the syrup just like any other syrup, put it on pancakes, top ice cream with it, sweeten your tea with it, or just take it straight.  I generally take a tablespoon a day as a preventative; or if there is someone sick in my house, I will go ahead and bump it up to 2 Tablespoons a day. When I feel a sickness coming on, or am in the middle of some virus, I will take 1 Tablespoon every 2 hours, until the symptoms subside. 
         Here is the recipe for you to make your own elderberry syrup.  Make this at home and take it with you.

Elderberry Syrup


  • ½ cup of dried elderberries
  • 5 cloves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 1 Tablespoon grated fresh ginger
  • 2 cups of water

Put all of the ingredients into a pot and bring the water to a boil. Reduce heat to a very low simmer, and reduce liquid by about ½ (usually takes about 20-30 minutes). Strain out the herbs and add 1 cup of raw honey.

Store your syrup in a closed jar in the refrigerator. Syrups have a relatively short shelf life and will stay fresh for a couple of weeks. I generally make this in small batches.

Tuesday, September 4

Oh the Places You'll Go! - Giveaway Blog Hop

Ten Days of Roadschooling : Your Guide to Getting Started Homeschooling while Travelling - 1
Ever wanted to go out and homeschool on the road, but weren't sure how to get started?  Or were afraid it would be beyond your family's budget?

Your Guide to Getting Started Homeschooling while Travelling Includes topics such as getting started, staying healthy, incorporating core subjects and electives, money-saving tips, fast passes, and more!

The guide is broken down into ten days, including :

  • Introduction to Road-Schooling
  • Travel Safety
  • Regional Activities
  • American History
  • The Arts
  • NASA
  • ASTC
  • National Parks
  • Seaside
  • Staying Healthy

Pick up your copy today, and see how easy it is to plan your family's roadschooling adventure!  (This product will be 30% off until September 20th.)


The Mommy Island and The Kids Did It are excited to bring you the  2018 3rd Annual Oh, The Places You’ll Go! giveaway hop.  TEN WINNERS will receive an all-access pass to our book "Ten Days of Roadschooling," which lays out some of the tips and tricks to getting started with homeschooling while travelling.  

Saturday, September 1

Never Alone (Tori Kelly) {Giveaway}

While working on the follow-up to her debut album Unbreakable Smile Tori Kelly felt compelled to include a track that honored her lifelong passion for gospel music. With the help of her manager, Scooter Braun, the L.A. based singer/songwriter soon connected with Kirk Franklin, a 12 time Grammy Award winning gospel artist and one of Kelly’s musical idols. “I flew to Dallas and Kirk showed me a few songs he’d written, and I fell in love with all of them,” says Kelly, a 2016 Grammy Award nominee for Best New Artist. “Next thing you know, one song turned into us doing a whole album together. It just took on a life of its own.”

With its R&B-infused, deeply melodic take on classic gospel, Hiding Place offers up what Franklin refers to as “hope-pop” -- a classification that fully resonates with Kelly. “One of the things I want for this album is for people to feel uplifted and encouraged when they listen,” says Kelly. “I want them to know that, no matter what they’re going through, there’s a God who loves them so much and so unconditionally, and there’s always a reason to feel hope. That’s what I really believe in, and I want everyone out there to hear my heart.”

As Kelly explains, the title to Hiding Place draws inspiration from a line in one of her favorite psalms (“You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with songs of deliverance”). “That always stuck with me: this idea of God being a place of safety, a place where you can hide from all the crazy things that this world can throw at us,” she notes.

While half of the songs on Hiding Place were penned solely by Franklin, the remaining tracks came from a collaboration between him and Kelly -- the first time that Franklin’s ever co-written in a decades-long career that’s seen his songs performed by legends like Stevie Wonder and Whitney Houston. (“It blew me away that she wanted us to co-write, because she’s a phenomenal songwriter and could’ve easily done it herself,” Franklin says.) And at Franklin’s urging, Hiding Place was mostly recorded at his studio just outside Dallas. “The most important thing to me was that if Tori wanted to do a gospel album -- a real, authentic, heart-throbbing gospel album -- she’d have to come to the South,” he says. “Then she showed up at my studio with no entourage, no handlers -- just Tori and her guitar, standing at my front door.”

Proving her versatility as an artist and musician, Hiding Place then shifts seamlessly from the silky groove and playful scat singing of “Sunday” to the sweetly ethereal soul of “Just As Sure” (a duet with chart-topping gospel star Jonathan McReynolds) to the quiet intensity of “Psalm 42.” “So many of the songs on this album are so intricate, I wanted a song that I could play completely stripped-down, just me and my guitar,” says Kelly of the tender piano ballad. One of the most profound moments on Hiding Place, the hushed yet urgent ballad, “Questions,” finds Kelly tearfully examining the current state of the world (sample lyric: “What happens when the healing never comes?”). “It’s about trying to make sense of all the dark and heavy things that keep happening, sort of crying out to God and asking, ‘What’s going on? I don’t like what I see down here,’” says Kelly. Then, on the subtly determined “Never Alone,” Kelly recollects her own struggles (“I’ve cried many rivers/I’ve walked through some pain/Seen my world crumble”) and ultimately re-discovers comfort and peace through her faith.

On “Soul’s Anthem,” Kelly closes out Hiding Place with an a cappella, full-choir-driven rendition of the beloved hymn “It Is Well.”  Perhaps the most powerfully captivating track on the album, “Soul’s Anthem” also gave way to what Kelly considers a landmark moment in her musical career.  “Before we started, Kirk said to me, ‘Don’t look at me or the choir, just look down and get into your own world,’” says Kelly, who recorded “Soul’s Anthem” at the iconic Capitol Studios. “So I sang it all the way through, and at one point there’s a part where the choir takes over. I looked up and saw all these incredible singers, and it finally hit me that this was really happening. You can’t hear it on the recording, but I’m crying at the end of the song.”
As she gets ready to share Hiding Place with the world, Kelly hopes that it might give others the same sense of solace and joy she’s found in gospel in her entire life. And as the album’s creator, one of the most rewarding aspects of Hiding Place was embracing gospel’s boundless intensity, and pushing her vocal performance like never before. “With gospel music, you can’t sing without all your heart being in it,” says Kelly. “This album was an opportunity to not only express my faith and my love for God, but to do what I felt and never hold back. I could just be free and let the song take me over.”  


One reader will win a copy of Tori's new CD.  Giveaway ends September 11, 2018.  Winner will have 24 hours to respond with shipping information.

Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway.  Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation.  I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post. Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway.  If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller/FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days on the same blog, you are not eligible to win.  Or if you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.

Friday, August 31

Time to Hit the Books!

Children's Books
Time School : We Will Remember Them (Nikki Young)
In the first book of Nikki Young's Time School series, a run of mini disasters means that school friends, Jess, Nadia, Tomma and Ash barely make it to the station in time to catch their train to school. Upon arrival they find a surprising change to the usual packed commuter train, one that seems to take forever to reach Hickley town. When the children arrive, something doesn't feel right. Some of the buildings are missing and their school looks far newer than usual. And to top it all off, the children don't recognise any of the other pupils who are all dressed in a different uniform. The only person who seems to take any notice of the friends is Martha, a young girl who is very worried about her family being hungry and her brother who is away fighting on the front line. The children soon realise that this is no ordinary day. When the friends get home, the realisation of what happened begins to sink in. But will they get to see Martha and the other pupils again? Jess hopes so. She has something she needs to tell Martha. Not knowing why or how, she feels a connection to this girl that she can't explain.

With the centennial, we'll be studying WWI this year, and this is a perfect book to accompany that. It has the time travel element that so many of my students love, which makes it more likely that they'll pick it up. The characters are clean, the story has some great twists (I figured out about 60% through how it would end, but it will take the kids longer), and good historical context. The one thing I'd like to see more of is fleshing out interactions....or maybe just a longer stay. In the interest of it being an upper elementary book, it's a good length; but it could be upper grades if it were fleshed out more.

Christmas By the Sea (Melody Carlson)

When Wendy Harper inherits her family's beachside cottage in Seaside, Maine, she sees it as a way to finally pay off the debts that have mounted since her husband died. But before it can be sold, the neglected property must be renovated. She and her 12-year-old son Jackson move in--temporarily, she reminds him--in order to do the work themselves, even though Christmas is coming. The charming town, along with local craftsman Caleb Colton, pulls on both Wendy and Jackson, who even registers himself for school in a bid to get his mom to move them there permanently. Wendy knows that the most responsible thing to do is to sell the cottage and return to Ohio, but the lure of the sea is hard to resist.

Melody Carlson never fails with her short Christmas stories! This year's takes us to the Maine coast, where a lady (who has experienced more than her fair share of hard luck lately) is trying to sell her recent inheritance and move forward with her life. God has other plans though... Enter a local resident, a jealous co-worker, a dog named Oliver, and well-meaning family, and you've got the recipe for a happy (and bee-lined) ending. The only thing I would have changed about this book is making it on a more realistic timeline, but maybe there are folks who move that quickly in real life, too. The setting is beautifully-described, the characters are realistic and lovable, and I would really love to see a DIY on those cute little seashell ornaments!

My Heart Belongs in Gettysburg, PA (Murray Pura)
Journey into Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, of 1863 where Clarissa Avery Ross lives a full life. By day she is the daughter of a respectable shoemaker being courted by seminary student Kyle Forrester. But by night she is a conductor on the Underground Railroad, working with a mysterious man called Liberty. She would like to share her work with Kyle, but he refuses to enlist when the war breaks out. How can she remain true to a man being labeled a coward? When the war comes to her back door in an epic battle, the greatest challenges to her faith and love are yet to come.

This is part of the My Heart Belongs In.... series of books (which are all stand-alone novels).

I enjoyed watching Miss Clarissa Avery Ross figure out the differences among her three suitors. Even though, as the reader, you're fairly certain about them, it's still fun to watch it all play out. In the same vein as the rest of the books in this series, we tackle serious moral and ethical issues pertaining to the place and historical era, plus there is some romance thrown in. Having recently traveled to Gettysburg with our boys, and gotten an in-depth look at the history through their amazing National Parks / Museums, I found this book to be very historically accurate, too. The author definitely did some research into the minutae of the battle and battlefield life!
Freedom's Light (Colleen Coble)

Hannah Thomas believes she’s escaped Galen Wright’s evil intentions by marrying an older lighthouse keeper. Seemingly safe in faraway Massachusetts, her world is upended when John is killed in one of the first battles of the Revolutionary War. Hannah is allowed to continue the difficult task of tending the twin lighthouses in John’s place, though she faces daily disapproval from John’s family. She thinks her loneliness will subside when her younger sister arrives, but she finds Lydia’s obsession with Galen only escalates the dangerous tides swirling around her.  A stormy night brings a shipwrecked sea captain to Hannah’s door, and though he is a Tory, her heart is as traitorous as the dark-eyed captain. Even though she discovers Birch Meredith isn’t the enemy he seemed at first, Hannah isn’t sure their love will ever see the light of freedom.

We live in a fallen world...and they did during the Revolutionary War, too.  (There is some mature content in the book.)  This book looks like it will be a standalone, rather than part of a series.  Until the end, I thought that maybe it'd be a first in a new series, but it becomes clear that it isn't.  There are twists and turns, lots of spies and double agents, wartime changes to gender roles, and the strictest post-Puritanical church I've ever seen.  Without giving too much away, one of the main characters is just naive and silly, and I couldn't connect with her...I didn't like her.  Another takes on much more than she should bear, and does it with grace.  Another must come to an understanding about his faith and his beliefs, while grappling with a need for vengeance.  Finally, there is the character whom you can't help but despise, and you truly hope that he will have a change of heart by the story's end.  The combination of these four personalities, along with their supporting cast, brings a sense of realness to the book that makes you root both for and against everyone!

Sadie : An Amish Retelling of Snow White (Sarah Price)
Sadie Whitaker is determined to be a good daughter, but her stepmother, Rachel, has made no secret of her overwhelming jealousy—or her desire to get Sadie out of her life. Rachel’s latest plot involves marrying Sadie off to a widower in need of a mother for his unruly children—and she has convinced Sadie’s beloved father to agree. Left with no choice, Sadie flees her small Amish hometown of Echo Creek. Planning to hide in a nearby forest, she stumbles across a house that belongs to the seven Glick brothers. All outcasts from the Old Order community of Echo Creek, they generously agree to let her stay—and for the first time in ages, Sadie feels safe and needed, keeping house for them as any good Amish woman would do. Until, that is, the Glicks’ handsome cousin comes to visit. For though he awakens her heart’s desire, she can’t risk revealing her true identity, until love and faith give her the courage to take a chance on happiness . . .

This is part of the Amish Retelling.... series of books (which are all stand-alone novels).

I am loving these Amish retellings of classic fairy tales! I had to read 80% of the way through this one before putting it down due to sheer exhaustion at the end of the day. The author does a great job of taking these stories and reinventing them in the Amish background. I was curious to see how the seven dwarfs were going to fit into the story, but it worked wonderfully! The wicked stepmother, the woodcutter, the hunter...all of the classic roles are present, as well as the Disney-esque aspects of the songbird princess and conversing with animals. You'll feel anger, betrayal, and hopelessness as you read through the story, but all will be redeemed. It is, after all, a fairy tale!

An Amish Homecoming (Novella Collection)
No Place Like Home by Amy Clipston
Estranged daughter Eva Dienner has been staying with her in-laws, the Riehls, since her husband was killed in a fire, but now she wants her son to meet his maternal grandparents. Upon her return, Eva finds that the man her parents always intended for her is living in their daadihaus and running the dairy farm for them for free, despite her suspicions of him taking advantage of her family. Eva knows she should put the past behind her, but is she ready to move into the future?

When Love Returns by Beth Wiseman
Hurricane Harvey forces Sarah Zook to return to the home she fled six years ago when she couldn’t face her stern parents’ reaction to her unplanned pregnancy. Upon her return, Abram King can think of nothing but the pain she caused him—until he meets Sarah’s daughter and realizes that he never really stopped loving Sarah. Sarah and Abram must find a way to face the truth of their past so they can rekindle their first love.

The Courage to Love by Shelley Shepard Gray
After the death of her Englisch husband, Irene Keim seeks a fresh start by staying with her new friends Mary Ruth and Henry Wengerd in exchange for helping them around the house. But when Mary Ruth and Henry’s son Marcus comes around, he isn’t pleased with the woman they’ve taken in and is determined to push her out. Misunderstandings abound, but both Irene and Marcus learn that people aren’t always what they seem.

What Love Built by Kathleen Fuller
Independent and headstrong, Carolyn is determined to forge ahead with the opening of her bakery, a lifelong dream, in the Birch Creek home she left ten years ago. But she’s in over her head and needs help with the cleaning, shopping, and deliveries. Carpenter Atlee Shetler is visiting Birch Creek to escape the memories of his late wife. He takes a job renovating the new bakery and finds the project—and its owner—to be much more than he bargained for. Both Carolyn and Atlee must face pains of the past if they want to have the bright future God has planned for them.

This is a collection of four "Prodigal Son" type stories, each from a different author, but with the common thread of the struggles to move back home after being absent for a time. My favorites were the first two, most likely due to the age of the characters (and thus relatability), but each story brought something different to the table. Those returning home are met with mixed emotions, including joy at their return, distrust of intentions, and hesitation at becoming too attached (because they may leave again). I enjoy reading these four-novella collections because they are short, bite-sized stories, but have a common thread that pulls the whole book together.

In His Father's Footsteps (Danielle Steele)
When U.S. troops occupy Germany, friends Jakob and Emmanuelle are saved from the terrible fate of so many in the camps. With the help of sponsors, they make their way to New York. In order not to be separated, they allow their friendship to blossom into love and marriage, and start a new life on the Lower East Side, working at grueling, poorly paid jobs. Decades later, through talent, faith, fortune, and relentless hard work, Jakob has achieved success in the diamond business, invested in real estate in New York, and shown his son, Max, that America is truly the land of opportunity. Max is a rising star, a graduate of Harvard with friends among the wealthiest, most ambitious families in the world. And while his parents were thrown together by chance, Max chooses a perfect bride to start the perfect American family. An opulent society wedding. A honeymoon in Tahiti. A palatial home in Greenwich. Max’s lavish lifestyle is unimaginable to his cautious old-world father and mother. Max wants to follow his father’s example and make his own fortune. But after the birth of children, and with a failing marriage, he can no longer deny that his wife is not the woman he thought she was. Angry and afraid, Max must do what he has never done before: struggle, persevere, and learn what it means to truly walk in his father’s footsteps, while pursuing his own ideals and setting an example for his children. Moving from the ashes of postwar Europe to the Lower East Side of New York to wealth, success, and unlimited luxury, In His Father’s Footsteps is a stirring tale of three generations of strong, courageous, and loving people who pay their dues to achieve their goals.

I really enjoyed this book! While I most related to the oldest granddaughter in the story, it was fascinating to follow the family from World War II up through modern day, and to see the dynamics of how events lead to actions which lead to relationships....and the interactions thereof. Some of the characters really got what they deserved, while I would have like to see a little more comeuppance for others. My favorite characters were the ones from the 40s, who worked hard and rose above the challenges. My least favorite was the wife...who was completely despicable in her actions. Danielle Steele never fails to deliver an epic story...

The Struggle is Real (Nicole Unice)
Raise your hand if you’ve ever had a day where everything that could go wrong does go wrong―you lock your keys in the car while it’s running, lose control with your kids, make a mistake at the office that results in hours more work. And just when you think not one more thing could possibly happen . . . well, fill in the blank. The struggle is real, friends. It may not be major stuff. Lives are not on the line here. But it makes us feel awful . . . and then we feel guilty for stressing when other people have “real” problems that are so much more serious. Yet the fact remains: We live in a world that often feels harder than we think it should be. And so it can be easy to believe the stories we tell ourselves―that we’re doing it wrong, that we’ll be stuck in this place forever, that God doesn’t love us. We struggle to practice gratitude, to make godly choices, and to live our daily lives with confidence and contentment. So what can we do? Join popular Bible teacher and counselor Nicole Unice to discover why the struggle is real . . . and what to do about it. Nicole offers practical tools to help you navigate the daily ups and downs, and ways to rewrite your struggle into a new, God-centered life story. The Struggle Is Real is an invitation to take the hard, hurtful, and confusing moments and turn them into opportunities to grow in wisdom, strength, and joy.

Don't have time to read the book? There is a DVD version as well!

Through a combined use of Biblical wisdom and her own life experiences, the author talks about real-life struggles and how to overcome them.  She addresses how these are often rooted in past issues, discusses ways we can face them head-on (either alone or as part of a group), and offers a future of hope and freedom from struggle.  Written with both pop psychology and scripture, each chapter features prayers, introductory questions, and commentary to help you get real about your own life and its challenges.  
Also available for purchase is a supplemental six-week workbook program to accompany the book for use in a book group or Bible study class.  P!nk said, "Change the voices in your head, make them like you instead," and that's a summary of what this book is saying, too.  Re-write your past history, move forward from it, and stare your future in the face.

Pumpkin Spice and Everything Nice Coloring Book (Thomas Nelson)
If you rush to Starbucks at the first hint of cool weather . . . If Pumpkin Spice Latte is your fall drink of choice . . . If you need a way to recover from a busy summer and take a breath before a busy holiday season, this book is for you. Pumpkin Spice and Everything Nice Coloring Bookincludes gorgeous illustrations featuring your favorite images of autumn. This one-of-a-kind adult coloring book has classic fall quotes, fun sayings, and Bible verses featured alongside detailed coloring pages. Pumpkin Spice and Everything Nice Coloring Book offers hours of enjoyment and reflection and makes the perfect gift for anyone who loves fall. So settle in by a crackling fire for an evening of relaxation, rest, and pumpkin spice!

I can't believe I'm reviewing an autumn book in August, but honestly, it's just got my excited for the upcoming season.  In spite of ragweed's best attempts to kill it, my love for autumn reigns above all other seasons!  If you have a friend who feels the same way, this is a great gift book.  And if you're not in the everything-pumpkin-spice camp, this relaxing color station will help get you in the mood.  Use your imagination to show your feelings for autumn.  Filled with inspirational quotes, autumn-themed mandalas, and lots of pumpkins and leaves, this is a fun, new coloring book that would be appropriate for adults or older children.  After coloring this book, I'm going to need some new markers....especially red, orange, and brown! (These are my favorites.)

I received some of these books in exchange for an honest review.