Monday, January 20, 2020

Book Club: Book Review of The Art of Friendship

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Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of The Art of Friendship from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. This post contains affiliate links. For more information, please see my Terms of Use and Disclosure Policy page. Thank you.

When I look at the available books to read and review from Bethany House Publishers, I like to pick ones that will either be interesting or helpful to me. I hope that in choosing books in this manner I will also find books that my readers will find a joy to read or that will help them on their journey in life. Kim Wier wrote a very helpful book for women who are seeking to gain, grow, and develop friendships. The Art of Friendship: Creating and Keeping Relationships That Matter is grounded in the Bible to help readers follow the example of our best friends – God and Jesus.

The Art of Friendship

book cover of The Art of Friendship; Book Club: Book Review of The Art of Friendship; See how God is the original friendIn about 180 pages, Kim Wier shares with us a step-by-step path we can take in order to find more friends, develop friendships we already have, and evaluate all of our friendships to make them more meaningful. The information is divided into 16 easy-to-read chapters that I found to be both well-written and thought-provoking. Wier discusses why we don't need only one BFF, how digital connections and friendships don't necessarily mean we have tons and tons of friends, and how we can evaluate ourselves using the Fruit of the Spirit.

A Look into the Book

Throughout the sixteen chapters, readers are reminded that we have the perfect place to go to, in order to find examples for friendship. There are many examples in Scripture that shows how a friend:

  • "is loyal in every circumstance."
  • "fills the gaps of your weaknesses." 
  • "takes action when you need it most." 

"The entire Bible, from Adam to Jesus, spells out the ingredients, the techniques, and even the spiritual health benefits involved in creating meaningful, lasting, God-modeled relationships." (82) 

Wier takes a closer look at the friendship of David and Jonathan and the friends of Job and provides readers with a chart to provide examples of the stories of friends in the Bible and where to look them up in the Bible. For example, the friendship of Jesus and Peter being an example of "a friend who always settles differences with reconciliation" (107). There are also several chapters that discuss the different forms of agape love and relates it all to the fruit of the Spirit (patience, kindness, etc.).

"We are not called to make our friends over in our own image, but to love them for being image-bearers of God as He has created them to be." The Art of Friendship by Kim Wier quote; background image of two women

What Did I Think?

I must admit to spending some of the book crying as I was reading it. Making friends was always difficult for me. As a child, I could not really have friends over as my father was an alcoholic. So, home life was sometimes rocky and unpredictable. I got caught in the trap of needing to find a BFF. In fact, one of my favorite books by Judy Blume was about best friends. I wish that someone had told me that there are many different types of friendships.

There are points in The Art of Friendship where Wier asks the reader to list friends, pray over the list, and evaluate it based upon Biblical principles and examples. I like that while we are given a specific task, there is no place to write it down in the book. I often feel where authors leave space for reflections leaves me to think I have to answer the questions then and there with no time for actual reflection. I like that Wier brings us back to the list at the end of book – bringing readers full circle.

I would recommend The Art of Friendship by Kim Wier to Christian women seeking to form more meaningful relationships. With personal examples of friendships both inside and outside of her church provided, Wier gives readers hope that meaningful relationships are there for them to make with a little introspection. I think The Art of Friendship would also be a valuable tool for church leaders to help them provide advice and encouragement for the women of their church.

Friday, January 17, 2020

O is for Olmsted (Blogging Through the Alphabet)

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Frederick Law Olmsted is recognized for "designing American landscape" according to the National Park Service but this was not his only contribution to America. During the American Civil War he was unable to serve due to a carriage accident but he was able to help his nation in another way. He became the General Secretary of the United States Sanitary Commission which helped provide relief for as many as 8,000 soldiers by the end of the Civil War.

Blogging Through the Alphabet: O is for Olmsted; Frederick Law Olmsted helped organize the United States Sanitary Commission during the American Civil War. image of Civil War ambulance from

Start of the United States Sanitary Commission 

During the Crimean War, there was seen a need to help provide better sanitation to help prevent disease and infections. (Florence Nightingale played a large part in the changes in regards to medicine.) During the American Civil War, there were many local aid relief societies throughout the North that attempted to help the soldiers but they weren't really working together. The Unitarian Minister, Reverend Henry Bellows, visualized an organization that would bring all these relief societies together. The Women's Central Association of Relief and Bellows' idea led to the establishment of the United States Sanitary Commission (USSC) by President Lincoln on June 13, 1861. Now they just needed someone to oversee the USSC. Who could that be? Frederick Law Olmsted was the man.

Why Choose a Designer of Parks? 

Olmsted earned a national reputation with his design of New York City's Central Park. This was an enormous public works project that not only required his skills as a landscape architect but also as an administrator. Can you imagine the amount of organization necessary to oversee this huge project? He learned through his work on Central Park how to encourage workers (even when they were refusing to work), continue even at the objection of superiors, and set in place procedures and protocols to make the organization run smoothly.

What did Olmsted do with the USSC? 

From the first Battle at Bull Run, the USSC questioned the soldiers about conditions before, during, and after the battle – and Olmsted presented these findings. While no one liked hearing about the poor distribution of rations and bad officers, the commission did spark the long journey to improve conditions for troops in the North. This was just the start of Olmsted's impact through the USSC.

I think one of the biggest impacts of Olmsted and the USSC was ensuring that goods and services were collected, stored, and distributed to the front lines where the troops needed them. Olmsted encouraged the public to send their donations of clothing and other necessities to the USSC so they could distribute them.

Olmsted, in addition to overseeing the organization of the distribution of goods, also personally treated soldiers who had been wounded. In the spring of 1862, Olmsted and about 30 medical staff (including surgeons, medical students, and nurses) set up a floating hospital where they treated soldiers wounded in the nearby Peninsula Campaign. During this tenure as the General of the USSC, there were also pamphlets and reports compiled regarding diseases, wound treatment, medicine, and more sent to the front to assist the doctors and staff in treating the soldiers.

The Sanitary Commission sent medicine, food, volunteer nurses, and bandages to the front. They supplied meals and clothing to soldiers at the front and on furlough. They also provided instruction on the placement of latrines to help with sanitation in the camps. 

drawing of men digging Civil War latrines from
Digging latrines (image from

Olmsted's Own Battles 

As I wrote from the very beginning Olmsted and the USSC were not necessarily making friends when they presented the findings from their questionnaire after the First Battle of Bull Run. The goal of the USSC was to help the soldiers at the front during the American Civil War and while this is a worthy cause there were problems. The Secretary of War, Edwin Stanton, was not pleased with the USSC inferring in what he thought was not their concern or business. But even with the potential for obstruction, things slowly improved for the soldiers.

photograph of Secretary of War Edwin Stanton from
Secretary of War Edwin Stanton (image from

The USSC Continues without Olmsted 

On September 1, 1863, Olmsted resigned as the General of the USSC. It was said he was physically and mentally exhausted but he shortly moved west to become the manager of the Rancho Las Mariposas-Mariposa gold mining estate in the Sierra Nevada mountains. The mine was unsuccessful and Olmsted returned to New York. Olmsted would go on to form Olmsted, Vaux, & Co. with Calvert Vaux.

By the end of the war, the United States Sanitary Commission would conduct almost 1,500 camp inspections, treat 1,000 soldiers, bring over 280 local aid societies together, and advise medical staff. All these things greatly improved the lives of the American Civil War soldier in the North. Olmsted, even though he was only general from 1861-1863, was largely responsible for this success.

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Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Book Club: Review of Graceling

Book cover of Graceling

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Sometimes I go to the library and wander along the Young Adult aisles to find a new series to read. Partly because they are easier books to read quickly and partly because I like to know what is readily available for teens to read. I picked up Graceling, a debut novel from Kristen Cashore, that was published in 2008.

"In a world where some people are born with extreme and often-feared skills called Graces, Katsa struggles for redemption from her own horrifying Grace, the Grace of killing, and teams up with another young fighter to save their land from a corrupt king."

Fantasy Novel Set in the Seven Kingdoms

The majority of the novel takes place in the Middluns, Monsea, and Lienid Kingdoms as we are introduced to numerous characters and learn all about Graces. We meet Katsa as she is taking out guards to help Giddon and Oll rescue the grandfather of the King of Lienid. This elderly, ill man is at the center of a mystery that Katsa and her new friend and comrade, Po (the youngest price of Lienid), must unravel.

Book cover of GracelingI found the idea of individuals born with special Graces that could aid them (or not) in their lives to be interesting. Some are born with more mundane Graces like being a good swimmer while others had Graces that would or could help their kingdoms like fighting, archery, and swordsmanship. Some of the kingdoms seem to make anyone born with a Grace become an automatic servant of the king. Those Graced are unable to hide themselves as their eyes would change once their Grace finalized. Each eye would be a different color. For example, Po had one silver eye and one golden eye.

My Thoughts 

While I found the novel to be fast paced through most of the story, I do not agree with all the choices of the author. This book is shelved in our library's Young Adult section but yet contains several graphic sections describing the sexual relationships between the characters. In fact, the characters make the decision to not marry but continue to carry on a physical relationship. Personally, I would rather my teen not be presented with a topic this weighty in a fantasy novel but that is the world of today, unfortunately.

In addition to the physical relationship between the characters, there is a lot of violence due to the nature of the story. Katsa works for a very harsh and cruel king who requires her to sometimes punish and torture people who disobey him. And even though Katsa has formed a council to combat the evils of the kingdoms, there was still much intrigue and destruction.

Would I recommend Graceling? With reservations, I would say that some might enjoy the novel. There are moments of death, pain, and torture that may upset many. I will continue to read the series to see where else Kristin Cashore takes the reader but I will not be sharing it with our teen.


Joining up with The AtoZ Reading Challenge for 2020 with this book review! 

Friday, January 10, 2020

N is for the Navy During the American Civil War (Blogging Through the Alphabet)

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One of the often-overlooked aspects of fighting and influences during the American Civil War is the use of the Navy by both the Union and the Confederacy. In fact, the US Navy had a rather large part in defeating the Confederacy.

graph showing increase from 10000 to 60000 sailors at start and end of Civil War

graph showing increase from about 70 to 700 ships before and after Civil War in the North

If you take a look at the two charts above, you can see that there was an incredible increase in the number of men serving in the United States Navy by 1865 as well as quite a significant increase in the number of vessels outfitted by the US Navy. These vessels included the new ironclad ships. The North was able to build the vessels and arm them due to their industrial ability. By the end of 1865, the US Navy would have more vessels than even the British Royal Navy. However, in both the North and the South, the Civil War "spurred technological change and experimentation on a wide scale in ordinance, naval architecture, and propulsion," according to Professor Gary W. Gallagher, who has written several books on the American Civil War.

Changes in the US Navy 

The Secretary of the Navy, Gideon Welles (who was nicknamed "Father Neptune"), would set forth a plan to not only expand the US Navy (as I have shared) but also to make organizational changes to the bureaucracy and introducing innovations like the ironclad. Part of the changes to the naval bureaucracy included the retiring of many older officers as well as setting up nine ranks for the line officers.

drawing of the Cumberland rammed by the Merrimack from
The Cumberland rammed by Merrimack

The Part of the US Navy 

The navy played a part in the Anaconda Plan of General Winfield Scott as well as in the attempt to gain control of the Mississippi River. There were also a number of joint Army-Navy operations, the safeguarding of the Northern communication lines, and providing fire power when possible for Union landing forces.

A Mom's Quest to Teach: N is for Navy During the American Civil War (Blogging Through the Alphabet); image of Merricmack & Monitor from; logo of A Mom's Quest to Teach; "One of the often overlooked aspects of the American Civil War was that of the Navies." On April 19, 1861, President Lincoln proclaimed a blockade of all Confederate ports. With 3,500 miles of coastline to patrol, the blockade of the Confederacy was a very daunting task. But they were quite successful at limiting the munitions, arms, clothing, medicine, and food going in and out of the Confederacy. The Union captured or destroyed 1,500 blockade runners during the American Civil War.  It may sound exciting but in fact the real enemy of those on blockade duty was boredom. The crews might have gone weeks without seeing any ships as they patrolled. So why did they do it? What kept the men going? Fortune! "Only the chance to strike it rich kept blockade sailors sane and alert," James McPherson shares in the Battle Cry of Freedom. The crew would get to split half of what was seized while the United States government would get the other half. Even though the Union was not able to completely block all the ports, they did have 500 Union vessels blockading the Confederate ports by 1864.

drawing of the Monitor and the Merrimack from
The Monitor and the Merrimack

Confederate Navy 

At the start of the American Civil War, the Confederacy had no navy. There were very few men who resigned their position in the US Navy (only 237 resigned and left the Union). And joining the Navy was never a tradition in the south. The South also lacked shipyards but they did inherit the United States Naval facilities at New Orleans, Pensacola, and Norfolk as well as captured the U.S.S. Merrimack which they renamed the C.S.S. Virginia and turned it into an ironclad. And even though they had access to the Naval facilities, they soon were recaptured by the North by 1862.

Even though there was little Naval tradition in the South, they set about to build ironclads and worked on other innovations. They built naval "torpedoes" or mines to protect the Confederate harbors and rivers. They also built the first successful submarine – the Hunley. On February 17, 1864, the third crew of the Hunley targeted the U.S.S. Housatonic and sank the steam sloop. Unfortunately, the Hunley sunk on this voyage.

photography of a replica of the Hunley outside the Charleston Museum

Many Roles in the American Civil War 

In addition to these details about both the Union and the Confederacy Navies, one could read about Union successes at Ship Island and Port Royal, the fight between the Merrimack (C.S.S. Virginia) and the Monitor, the taking of New Orleans, and Admiral David Farragut at Mobile Bay. The Union Navy played an integral part in the Union war effort.

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Thursday, January 9, 2020

Book Club: The AtoZ Reading Challenge for 2020

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As someone who enjoys reading, I was very excited to see a challenge for 2020 from Ginger Mom & Company. They are hosting their 3rd Annual AtoZ Reading Challenge where participants are encouraged to read one book whose title starts with each letter of the alphabet over the course of the year. They are sharing a number of fun ways to participate from mini-challenges each month to a monopoly-style game to help you choose book titles.

In 2018, I shared my to-be-read list but I must admit that I never finished all the books on that list. I found that when I actually write a list of books down I have trouble sticking to it. I go to the library and find books that interest me so I put down the ones that I own to read the new book. Or an author I really enjoy publishes a new book and I choose that over one that has been sitting on my shelf for years. So while I do have a large to-read list on Goodreads, I don't have a set time frame for when I would like to finish them by.

I would love to write a post in which I say that all books that I read in the AtoZ Challenge will be from the historical fiction genre or from science fiction or fantasy. But I don't want to make any promises because I will probably veer off that path to read whatever I found interesting.

However, I do have a few goals and ideas of books that I would like to read this year, including the following:


Some of these sequels might also fall under the series category. It seems like most authors—if they write a sequel—often write at least three books.

Flight of the Raven by Morgan L. Busse

I read and reviewed Mark of the Raven, the first in The Ravenwood Saga, and I am looking forward to reading the sequel. I had purchased the book shortly after it was released in April but misplaced the book after it arrived. I finally found Flight of the Raven in late December and I am very excited to read it this year.


King's Blood by Jill Williamson 

A Mom's Quest to Teach: Book Club: The AtoZ Reading Challenge for 2020; Reading books all year long from A to Z!; logo for A Mom's Quest to Teach; logo for A to Zopoloy; clipart of books I found Jill Williamson on Instagram when she and another author hosted several photo challenges when Mark of the Raven by Morgan L. Busse was being released. I received the first book in her Safe Lands series for Christmas 2018 and then borrowed the first book in The Kinsman Chronicles series, King's Folly, through inter-library loan. I hope to purchase the series to own but for now I might have to borrow it through our library digitally.


The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls by M. J. Thomas

Our son received the first three in the series by M. J. Thomas and I am looking forward to reading the books with him and his sister. They should prove to be good fun as we read about siblings Peter and Mary, their dog Hank, and their adventures in Bible history.

The House of Winslow Series by Gilbert Morris 

I first heard of this book through another blogger. I was very intrigued as the books are historical fiction—one of my favorite genres.

Other Books 

I have a wide selection of historical books both fiction and nonfiction that I would love to read this year. Very often I end up just using some of my nonfiction books to help prepare for teaching, homeschooling, and blogging but it would be nice to read them from cover to cover to see all they have to offer their readers.

Over the course of the year I will come back and link up my reviews for letters of the alphabet. I look forward to sharing 26 reviews with you in the coming months!

A –
B –
C –
D –
E –
F –
G – Book Review of Graceling 

I linking up this introductory post with the Timberdoodle Blog Hop!