Book Review for TCQ – The Culture of Connectivity: A Critical History of Social Media by José Van Dijck

TCQ.coverThis article was originally published in Technical Communication Quarterly, Volume 24, Issue 2 (Spring 2015). Please view the abstract for the article here.

Review of Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms

This review was originally posted on, August 20, 2014.

After a leisurely summer, back to school plans seem solidly underway. Status updates on Facebook have moved from summer vacation pictures to great school supply finds and free shipping deals. In my own household, my Kindergartner is set with all her supplies and a new backpack, thermos, and lunchbox; my middle schooler has a new backpack but is waiting until after orientation before ordering specific supplies on Amazon, and my highschooler is waiting until possibly the night before school starts to admit that the day is rapidly approaching and he may need some supplies.

There is no better time to get in some last minute summer reading and get ready for the school year than now, and Mary Jo Tate’s Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms helps moms do both of those. While the tagline mentions homeschool moms, her advice and suggestions apply to all moms who would like to maintain some balance, organization, and peace during this upcoming school year.

Tate offers a number of strategies in this encouraging book and begins by introducing her FREEDOM toolbox, which stands for Focus, Reflect, Educate, Eliminate, Discipline, Organize, and Multitask. One of the main ideas I appreciated was “educate,” because it offers a reminder that with all our to-do lists, checklists, and calendar synchronization, sometimes moms need to just sit and read a book or listen to an interesting podcast guilt-free.

Tate also leads moms through goal setting and making sure the goals are specific and measurable. She offers “seven essential planning tools” to help in achieving those goals, many of which are included in the back of the book. Tate is very clear that the planning tools shouldn’t overwhelm us – we can use what works or adjust them as necessary. She offers examples of how she’s used and filled out some of the sample forms. For instance, she provides a daily task list where she’s allocated everything by specific day, and also shows a more flexible version where tasks are listed by week. Seeing how she handles all her responsibilities for work, homeschooling, and getting her kids to their activities was helpful.

For homeschooling moms, there is a dedicated chapter that includes sound advice on setting realistic expectations, teaching children of different ages together, encouraging independent learning, and more. I enjoyed her honest reflections in “A Day in our Life,” where she offered a real-world glimpse into one day of her family’s life. I’ve done this exercise myself in the past in order to include it in our yearly scrapbook, and I recommend it! It’s interesting to see the twists and turns one day can take, and refreshing here to read about another family’s typical (or atypical) day.

Tate works from home as a freelance editor, author, and book coach, so I was drawn into her chapter regarding how she set up and grew her home-based business. This included sections on pricing, marketing, working with clients, finances, and more. Her advice would be helpful for anyone who is self-employed or who would like to learn more about starting a business on the side. She provides a number of examples and stories from freelancers in many fields.

It’s somewhat difficult to synthesize everything she covers in this helpful guidebook, but I would sum it up as “Life Management.” In addition to the chapters I’ve detailed, there is information on making memories with the kids, scheduling chores, nourishing your spiritual life, adjusting your attitude, and an additional chapter for encouraging the single mom. If you’re getting ready for the start of school, “Flourish” will give you the encouragement and tools you need to transition with hope and inspiration into this next year so you and your kids can learn, grow, and … flourish.

Singer and Stars – The Heart is a Lonely Hunter

Originally posted on

EMME Books

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter was another gripping tale from our list; this one told the story of a time in one man’s life, although it differed from An American Tragedy in that it focused less on the decisions this man made and more on the acquaintances who encircle his space in small town Georgia.


The novel opens by describing the close friendship between deaf-mute roommates John Singer and Spiros Antonopoulous. When Antonopoulous is moved to an asylum by one of his relative, Singer rents a room in a boarding house and soon meets the cast of characters that we’ll get to know throughout the book:

  • Mick Kelly – A pre-teen girl and clever musician, whose family owns the boarding house
  • Biff Brannon – The owner of a diner that the whole ensemble frequents
  • Jack Blount – An alcoholic drifter who stumbles into town
  • Benedict Copeland – An African…

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You Can’t Handle the Truth – An American Tragedy

Originally posted on

EMME Books

An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser is a gripping novel that tells the story of Clyde Griffiths, who is being raised by his devoutly religious missionary parents. They are poor and he is poorly educated due to their vagabond lifestyle. The narrative continues to focus on Clyde as he gets his first job outside the family mission as a bellhop in a swanky Kansas City hotel. There we meet the cast of characters who will drive the first part of the book and who will influence Clyde greatly in his formative years.


After an incident that is fully detailed in the course of his Kansas City escapades, Clyde moves to Chicago and meets his father’s brother, the wealthy Samuel Griffiths, who invites Clyde to work in his shirt collar factory, but does not invite him into the wealthier social circles to which Samuel belongs. Here Clyde enters into a forbidden…

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