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YA Book Review and Giveaway: Cogling


Jordan Elizabeth is not only a great YA author, she is one cool lady.  In Cogling, Edna’s little brother, Harrison is stolen by Hags-replaced with a construct made of his breath, magic, and a pocketwatch: a cogling.  Edna will stop at nothing to get her real brother back.  Teaming up with an unlikely accomplice, Edna leaves the only place she has ever known and heads for the swamp where the Hags live, intent on rescuing her brother.  Along the way, she discovers conspiracies and secrets all around her.  Monsters help and hinder her.   Her greatest ally reveals that he is not what he first seemed.  Amidst all this intrigue, can Edna save her brother and, perhaps, the kingdom?

Cogling is filled with Elizabeth’s trademark kindness to animals and tolerance of others themes.  Though the creatures in this steampunk glory are fantastical (think scurrying soot demons instead of mice and foxkins who are hunted like foxes even though they wear clothes and can speak), Elizabeth leaves no doubt that cruelty and intolerance are not her cup of tea.  Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t heavy-handed stuff.  You pick it up from Edna’s thoughts and reactions, and you can’t help but feel the same way.  Which is a really good way to sneak in a lesson against prejudice on your littles.  Yeah yeah.

One of the things I love about Elizabeth’s books is that she never quite ends them where you expect them to end.  She always has something else to say.  The poetically cryptic chapter headings intrigued me just as much as the story did.  The lavishly built world through which Edna and Ike fight their way to truth and tolerance is never boring, and the perils our heroes face are many and varied.  Listen, this book is one harrowing adventure after another.  Edna grows from a meek, uncertain thing into a heroine with real backbone.  Ike forgives himself for a past over which he had no control anyway.  And the kingdom… Well, I’ll let you read it and find out for yourself.

I would caution that while there is no sex in the book, there are some allusions to it that you might feel are too much for your tween or early teen.  I’ll leave that up to you–every parent has her own threshold.  Regardless, Cogling is a wonderful fantasy adventure with believable characters set in a rich world that rivals any invented.  It’s an excellent read.

Because I loved it so much, and because Jordan is just cool like that, I’m offering a free e-copy to a winning reader.  Jordan has said she can provide a mobi, epub, or pdf copy directly to the winner.  So make sure you enter, and you can read this excellent novel for yourself.  You have until midnight on  Monday, February 15, to enter , and I will announce the winner during next Tuesday’s YA Book Review.  Good luck!

If you want to learn more about Jordan and her other books, you can visit her website.

Cogling Giveaway


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14 Fabulous Sites for Free Homeschooling

14 fabulous sites for free homeschooling

Sometimes, life hands you a blog post.  I had intended to write about something very different today, but last night a woman I like very much pm’d me on Facebook.  Her daughter is about to start homeschooling her own littles, and she wondered if I could advise them where to go to get free curriculum.  I started getting the list together for her, and I realized this list might benefit a whole lot of people, even veterans looking to spruce up their schooling plans.  So rather than pm her back and keep all this yummy goodness between us, I thought it might be a good idea to share it with you, too.  I’m cool like that.

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YA Book Review: Lastland


Lastland by A.R. Ivanovich
This final installment of The War of Princes cracked straight open full of action and kept you pretty much on the edge of your seat from that point on.  The tightly-woven tale of Katelyn Kestrel draws to a close with quite a bang.  Prince Raserion and Prince Varion have reached Haven despite all of Katelyn’s previous attempts to keep them out.  With her sidekicks, Rune and Dylan, Katelyn hurries back to Haven to try to stop it from being destroyed.

But Rune is still struggling with the shadows.  And Dylan is still struggling to be good.

It’s a perfect recipe for all hell to break loose, and it does–with vigor.  Ivanovich’s writing transports once again.  Lastland delivers just as well as its predecessors, if not better.  I wasn’t really surprised by the ending, but it was so beautifully wrought I freely admit to tearing up as I read the last page.  And the epilogue?  The story was so action-packed and fast-paced that I had completely forgotten the loose end addressed in it, but that made me smile all the more as I read the final words.

As ever with these books, if I tell you too much, I’m giving too much away.  Just believe that this is one of the finest fantasy series I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading.  It has settled into place beside The Hunger Games, Veronica Rossi’s Under the Never Sky, and Scott Westerfield’s Uglies on my heart shelf of YA Books I’ll Never Forget.  There is nothing like an invented world that makes you Believe.  And this one did.

Putting down the final book in The War of Princes was like saying goodbye to an old friend.  Or, well, more like ‘so long.’  I’ll be reading them again soon.

I hope you will, too.

Love wins,


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4 (Great) Ways to Add Lit to Your Homeschool

Sometimes it seems impossible to achieve all the many things we want to accomplish in our children’s educations.  It’s a daunting process–ensuring you are teaching them the best way, the best topics, the best preparation for the real world.  One way you can’t go wrong is by making literature an important part of your homeschool.  As far as I’m concerned, any kind of literature, from the classics to the modern, the literary to the comedy.  Classics and literary books teach language and grammar, history and creativity.  Modern books can help your littles learn to navigate the complex world we live in (even funny books can do that).  Whatever they’re reading, just be sure they’re reading.  It may seem like one more task to heap on your already full plate, but here are 4 easy ways to fit it in every single day.



If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times, reading aloud together benefits your kids at all ages.  You can read aloud to them, which lets them relax and really put their imaginations to work.  You can have them read to you, which helps them learn to pronounce words correctly, sound out unfamiliar words, and get comfortable with some aspects of pubic speaking.  You can do both.  It’s completely up to you.  We read a chapter a day aloud together here at Lit Mama, and we kind of mix it up.  Some days the boys take turns reading alternating pages, some days I read to them, and some days all three of us alternate.  I don’t intend to take reading aloud out of our curriculum until they’ve graduated.  It is a time during our school day that is almost outside everything else.  We are transported to another world, have discussions that don’t feel like learning, and get to focus on being together.  Some days we read aloud in our classroom, some days we cuddle up on the couch for reading.  It’s probably our favorite time of the homeschool day.


Another way I make sure they get plenty of reading in is to assign them extracurricular books each year.  They have a specified time in which to read them, then they have to give me a book report.  Then it’s on to the next book.  This has worked so well that they have both begun to read novels well beyond their ‘grade level’ (whatever that is) on their own.  On top of their assigned books and the book we are reading aloud in class.  Makes me one proud mama!


You can end your school day with half an hour of required reading.  Or 15 minutes.  Or an hour.  You know your kids best, you know how long they’ll be able to sit still.  Always add five minutes to that number.  It teaches patience.  This will not only keep them reading, it might give you the time to finish the dishes.  Or check your email.  Or close your eyes and breathe.  The Littles are allowed to read their assigned books whenever they want, so long as they finish them within the allotted time.  You can bet your boots I had this idea on standby, though, in case they blew it off.


Living books are simply books that teach in a more conversational way than texts.  They often come across more like stories than factual material, but they are, indeed, full of facts about the subject.  You can go over to Simply Charlotte Mason for a list of hundreds of living books separated by topic, or you can troll your own library for books that are both fictional and factual.  I hate to harp on Charles Dickens again (okay, no I don’t), but A Tale of Two Cities is a great resource for the French Revolution.  You might be surprised at how many novels are also teachers.  Watership Down is full of real information about rabbits.  The Wind in the Willows teaches about river wildlife.  Catching on?  Yeah, that’s the stuff.  That is definitely the good stuff.


There are several ways you can do this.  Have them keep a simple reading log.  Have them write book reports, like I do.  The Littles have to write them in essay form now, but I made up a book report form that they had to fill out in past years.  It’s available as a free download on my Freebies page (scroll to the bottom; I swear, it’s there!).  You could also use a blank notebooking template and have them notebook their books as they read.  Any of these suggestions will not only show you that they’re reading, but help them more fully comprehend what they’re reading about.

Here’s the thing.  You know I crush on literature more than anything else in the world.  That is because I fully believe that no matter how educated I am through schools, nothing I learned in college or anywhere else compares to what I’ve learned from being a lifelong reader.  Engender that in your littles, and you will have given them the greatest gift imaginable–the ability to think intelligently and speak with knowledge.

Now That is the stuff.

Love wins,


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