Monday, December 2, 2013

Book Review: Kiss

Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Genre: Fiction; Current-day; Suspense; Christian Fiction
Number of Pages: 322

     Let me tell you all I know for sure. "My name. Shauna."

I woke up in a hospital bed missing six months of my memory. In the room was my loving boyfriend--how could I have forgotten him?--my uncle and my abusive stepmother. Everyone blames me for the tragic car accident that left me near death and my dear brother brain damaged. But what they say can't be true--can it?

I believe the medicine is doing strange things to my memory. I'm unsure who I can trust and who I should run from. And I'm starting to remember things I've never known. Things not about me. I think I'm going crazy.

"And even worse, I think they want to kill me."

But who? And for what? Is dying for the truth really better than living with a lie?

(Taken from Goodreads, and it's what's on the back of the book.)

Star Rating:
      4 stars (I liked it a lot.)

Content Rating:
     PG-13 (recommend to 15&up)

My Opinions:
     What I liked/loved - It was a good move to include Erin Healy as a coauthor for this story because it gave a slightly different feel to this book from Dekker's other novels.

I liked Shauna and the uniqueness of her story as well as the other characters. Our main girl was fleshed out pretty well, though it was sometimes a bit difficult for me to connect with her. Maybe it's because I've never been in a coma?

This book does have some suspense and is a pretty quick read when you actually sit down... and... ya know... read it. The story may be a bit confusing at first, but hang in there if it's that way for you. Once I finished the book, I didn't feel confused or befuddled at all.

This is one of Dekker's less scary/intense novels, if you're look for something that will keep you up at night on the edge of your seat then go for one of his thrillers. When it comes to suspense novels though, this one had enough angst to get ya going.

Now the romance... was pretty good, though mild. At the end, I was very happy with Kiss's conclusion. It was worth my time, and definitely entertaining. I think I would read it again, and would recommend it to someone looking for a good (suspense) novel or something new to read.

     What I didn't like/hated - Shauna's relationship with her father was done very well, and I applaud the authors here, but to accompany that, her stepmother could have used a little extra oomph. She just seemed a bit disconnected form the story.

The Quality:
     Kiss is definitely a book for pleasure reading. It wrapped itself up well- though I might say I have read books that have done a better job. Like a lot of stories, the ending or mainly the epilogue was a bit short for my taste. It did not feel rushed, but it would have been nice to savor the ending for a bit longer because it was good.

The style of writing easily pulls you across the page, one of the perks of reading in the suspense genre, but quality wise it did lack a little something. I am just not exactly sure what that something was; I highly doubt Kiss would win any awards and that could be it. Or it actually could be that it had some of Healy's style thrown in, making it feel different from Dekker's other books, but I think she was a good addition for this story- I'm sort of back and forth about it.

     I  think this book will go over well with guys and girls alike. Give it a try!

Content (For Those Who Wonder):
     Language - There may have been a bad word or two, but mainly just mention of people "cursing".

     Sensuality - Yes, there is some kissing going on. But most of it is hardly sensual, when you start reading, you'll understand. It was pretty clean in this area. There is talk of human trafficking/sex trafficking, but no details; one of the women in the book is a part of stopping it and saving those who have been sold into slavery.

     Violence - Some violence in here. People get shot, someone is stabbed, there is a scene or two where someone is being drowned as well as a scene/talk of waterboarding (controlled drowning as a means of interrogation, training, or torture). There's also a young man who was in a wreck and now suffers from a lot of brain damage.

     Other - Drugs are talked about and used, mainly for medical purposes. There isn't any actual alleyway-drug-dealing type stuff going on, nor are there any situations or skirmishes with people on drugs. It is not condoned. Again, this is a Christian book so there is some talk of God and faith, Shauna had given up on God, but the book ends well.

Check out this book on:  Amazon or Barnes&Noble!!

Have you read this books? Any related books? What were you thoughts?
I'd like to know! I am always open for new reading suggestions as well.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Book Review: Into the Whirlwind

Genre: Fiction; Historical Romance; Christian Fiction; Chicago Fire
Number of Pages: 374

     As owner of the 57th Illinois Watch Company, Mollie Knox's future looks bright until the night the legendary Great Chicago Fire destroys her beloved city. With her world crumbling around her, Mollie will do whatever it takes to rebuild in the aftermath of the devastating fire.

     Zack Kazmarek, an influential attorney for one of Chicago's finest department stores, is a force to be reckoned with among the city's most powerful citizens. Bold and shrewd, he's accustomed to getting exactly what he wants-- until he meet Mollie Knox, the beguiling businesswoman just beyond his reach.

     As the people of Chicago race to rebuild, Mollie comes face-to-face with the full force of Zack's influence. Zack believes this may be his chance to win her, but can Mollie ever accept this man and his whirlwind effect on her life, especially with her treasured company on the line?
(It's what's on the back of the book.)

Star Rating:
      4.25 stars (I liked it a lot.)

Content Rating:
     PG (recommend to 15&up)

My Opinions:
     What I liked/loved - This book kept me reading. It was interesting, exciting, and romantic though clean. I loved seeing the interaction between our two main characters, even if I sometimes wished I could strangle them. The ending was sweet too. And the Chicago fire? What a nightmare! Camden's scenes, I felt, were very believable and seem realistic to what it would have been like to experience such a catastrophe.

Camden did a wonderful job with Zack Kazmarek, I definitely loved his character and how enduring he was. Mollie made things interesting, and it was fun to be inside her head. Getting to understand their relationship from both perspectives made this book stand out for me because it wasn't too cheesy. I knew what she didn't know, and what he didn't know, and despite their rough patches, I enjoyed this book a lot. I liked how their relationship panned out; it wasn't full of only sweet, tender moments or fake over-the-top angst. It was a bit more realistic, though still fictional. Try reading this book and not falling for Zack... it's almost impossible.

     I would recommend this novel! And will definitely look forward to reading another novel by Elizabeth Camden.

The Quality:
     Once again, this is a book for pleasure reading. I have not read any of Camden's previous novels, so this was my first read of hers. I was impressed with her writing, though I think it still has room here and there for improvement. Her crafting of sentences gives the writing variety, but it is easy to follow along and read. What I have found is that the reading level of some romances, even historical romances, can easily become too young and feels dumbed down, or are full of long, complicated sentences. Camden created a novel that was easy to read and understand, without feeling like it was a 6th grade reading level.

     Her descriptions were blended in well, without overpowering the story. She is also consistent throughout her novel. I did not find any mishaps or inconsistent facts. Well done! I look forward to reading the next novel she publishes in hopes of her writing improving even more, because I see a great potential for beautiful, enjoyable storytelling from her.

Content (For Those Who Wonder):
     Language - None that I know of.

     Sensuality - Some, a little kissing, or an embrace here or there. This novel is very clean, making it appropriate for most ages, though it will obviously be more enjoyable to older teenagers and adults.

     Violence - The Chicago fire adds an intense element to this novel, and while realistic, it is not too graphic or gruesome by any means.

     Other - This is a Christian, historical romance and faith is incorporated into this book. Thankfully it seemed to fit in fairly well, and was not something merely added on top or worse seemed phony and overpowering.

Check out this book on:  Amazon or Barnes&Noble!!

Have you read this books? Any related books? What were you thoughts?
I'd like to know!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Book Review: 31 Days of Praise

31 Days of Praise: Enjoying God Anew
By: Ruth Myers with Warren Myers
Publisher: Multnomah Books
Genre: Nonfiction, Christian, Shifting My Focus
Number of Pages: 158


    "I know I should praise God, but I don't know how . . . I don't have time . . . I just don't feel like it." Christians who long to experience God in a fresh, deep way will treasure this powerful, personal praise guide. Every day for just one month, a Scripture-based devotional cultivates the "heart habit" of praise and worship. Readers will be gently inspired to appreciate and adore the Lord in all things - yes, even in the midst of pain, disappointment, and heartache. A deeper intimacy with God - and a greater love for Him - is the sure result.
(Summary taken from Goodreads and is also what's on the back of the book.)

Star Rating:

     5 stars (I really liked it.)

Content Rating:


My Opinions:
     What I liked/lovedI started reading this at a time in my life where I felt like I needed my focus to be more on praising God. I was struggling in my life, and now dealing with tiredness, anxiety, and discouragement. It was the perfect time to start reading this book. It has been a wonderful tool in helping me realize first hand and experience the benefits of praising Him, and how my praise in turn further enriches my life. I would highly recommend it! I will most likely be reading and using it again.

Check out this book on:  Amazon or Barnes&Noble!!

Have you read this books? Any related books? What were your thoughts?
I'd like to know! I am always open for new reading suggestions as well.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Book Review: Art and the Bible

Art and the Bible
By: Francis A. Schaeffer (Foreword by Michael Card)
Publisher:  IVP Books
Genre:  Nonfiction; Christian; Art; Bible
Number of Pages:  94


    "The lordship of Christ should include an interest in the arts," writes Francis Schaeffer. "A Christian should use these arts to the glory of God, not just as tracts, mind you, but as things of beauty to the praise of God."

Many Christians, wary of creating graven images, have steered clear of artistic creativity. But the Bible offers a robust affirmation of the arts. The human impulse to create reflects our being created in the image of a creator God.

Art and the Bible has been a foundational work for generations of Christians in the arts. In this book's classic essays, Francis Schaeffer first examines the scriptural record of the use of various art forms, and then establishes a Christian perspective on art. With clarity and vigor, Schaeffer explains why: "the Christian is the one whose imagination should fly beyond the stars."
(Summary taken from Goodreads, italicization is mine.)

Star Rating:

     5 stars (I loved it.)

Content Rating:

     PG (recommend to 13&up)

My Opinions:
     The title says it all. Schaeffer talks about different forms of art and what the Bible has to say about art in general. He argues how important it is, even just for enjoyment and backs up his argument with Scripture. He also goes into how we should view and create art.

This book was amazing! I've learned so much and it has made me think differently about art, I'll have to read it again. I love how Schaeffer truly expresses the freedom we're supposed to have as Christians, but also touches on our responsibilities. This book was so enlightening and encouraging!

The Quality:
     I loved his easy, understandable way/style of writing. Yes, there may have been a word or two (or three) I had to look up, but it was much, much easier to read than I expected. Highly recommend it!

Content (For Those Who Wonder):
     Language - None.

     Sensuality - None.

     Violence - None.

     Other - None.

Check out this book on:  Amazon or Barnes&Noble!!

Have you read this books? Any related books? What were your thoughts?
I'd like to know!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

I've Decided to Become a Photographer... Sorta

Okay, no, I am not really going to become a photographer. I like taking pictures and editing, and learning about that stuff, but it's not a.... I don't know, passion of mine? Being around so many friends (not just you, Jackson) who were in to photography, I tended to shy away from it. I either felt like I was being a copy-cat or I'm bad to compare my work with others. It was/is just too intimidating.

But of course... with a boyfriend who is totally into photography, I can only avoid it and stay within my nice comfort zone for so long. Because he knows I have an interest there... and that I really enjoy helping him... so it would make sense I knew what I was helping with...

Thus began my first real photoshoot! Real enough for me anyways. He bought my lunch, does that count as payment?

I had taken pictures and he's given me a few lessons before, but this time he really made me be the one behind the camera. These are a few of the pictures I took.
I know this shot may not follow typical "photography" rules, but Jackson and I both liked how it turned out. It wasn't fully planned, I was just snapping a few pictures before I walked closer. I liked how it was sorta different!

So, here was my little picture adventure. I took a lot more photos, but I could only edit a handful before he had to go back to school (*insert sad face here*). Next time he comes up, he'll probably "make" me edit more. It's not that I'm really doing much to the photos, mainly making them look more like they did in real life, I am just new to that.

Alrighty, who else is in to photography?
Do you like following blogs that use pictures in their posts?

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

I Don't Memorize Scripture

Now that I have your attention, let me rephrase that... I haven't been memorizing Scripture. Every Christian at some point in their life has probably heard or known about the importance of memorizing Scripture. My life has changed a lot lately, with college and relationships and just the way time works in general. But with that said, it has not changed enough. After several weeks that I had been considering extremely hard for me at the time, I have been learning how to turn my struggle into thanksgiving and praise. Yes, it was hard, but it was exactly what I had been asking so long for God to do in my life. Make me into the person He wants me to be.

Like most people I have good days. Great, wonderful days when I am so happy and confident and feeling blessed and like I am on my way to conquering a world of dreams... And then I have those bad days. Realllly bad days where I am just tired of how hard it is. I can't shake the discouragement, the defeat, or my own stubborn attitude, and it is days like these that I have to wake up and pray pray pray that God would change my perspective or change my circumstances.

A lot of times, I'll write in a prayer journal because it helps me focus and it's encouraging to see how my prayer will start to shift the focus off of me and on to what I should be thinking. I walk away going: Okay, God, we can do this. You can do this. Through You, I can do this. Or sometimes I walk away and since I have just cleared the air venting and talking to God, He can make His way into my head better and show me that things are headed in the right direction. I don't need to try and take control of any of it.

One thing these challenges have really helped me with is staying focused on God, it's a lot harder to forgot about Him when I am at the end of my rope everyday and I just can't get myself to change. I know it takes time; I know it takes every single time those thoughts come back into my mind, I have to work through surrendering them to God. After probably a week or so of seriously having to work on that, I woke up today much stronger than I have been before. It was gradually happened from the moments when I use to wake up and my day was already rotten, to it taking an hour after I got up before things caught up with me and I was overwhelmed again, to struggling with it during my quiet time and it occasionally coming at me throughout my day, until yesterday when I woke up, and had a rough time with it during the morning... But after walking away from my quiet time, morning after morning praying for God to help me change, I had a wonderful (though not totally easy) afternoon and evening.

Today, like the past few days, I woke up feeling okay. I was not completely hopeless, but I felt like I was waiting... Waiting for my thoughts and feelings to catch up with me. However, I got a text this morning from someone asking me how I was. It's not like that is unusual, yet I think it was all I needed to stop my pity-party right in its tracks. This was a new day, my day, and I have a lot of control on what kind of day I am going to have. Now I can't usually control the circumstances.... I can choose what attitude I am going to try to have though. (Not that I didn't do that the other days, it was just harder then to change how I felt when I was already neck deep from the moment I woke up.)

So I stopped holding my breath, and started thinking confidence.

Easier said than done, I know, but after treading water the past week or so all that new muscle started to do something for me. I knew God was working on me, I saw Him every morning and was reminded of His love through every challenge. Love hurt sometimes, but only because true love cares and it has to be totally real and authentic. Especially when it's coming from God, He can't do otherwise. I had one of those, Oh great, I should be happy and joyful because God is actually allowing me to go through this because I have been asking Him to do so for so long and trying to mean it. And now He's loving me enough once again to not allow me to just live comfortably any longer, but to face my issues. Yay.

Seriously though, it's so easy to look at the people who are praising God during their challenges and have this positive attitude, and then feel like dirt because I just can't pull it together. All I can do is try and keep asking God to do the work for me. But I think that's how it works, depending on God doesn't require me to be able to do anything on my own. It means coming to God for everything, begging Him just to change my heart already because I can't seem to let stuff go! He works on me, slowly giving me the strength to open my hand, my thoughts, my heart each day. And it's not something I've been able to do once and everything is all jolly again. I have to do it day after day. Sometimes I have to battle with it over and over in just one 24 hours period.

Then I wait, knowing that it takes time to get anywhere, and sure enough it came a lot sooner than I thought it would. A good day. An easier day. A day when I can wake up and finally have the strength to go, No, Marissa, you're not having another one of those days. Go have some God-time right now.

I knew it would take "prayer and Bible study" like my youth pastor says all the time. That's what I kept doing because I knew it would work. It didn't always feel like it was working, and a lot of times I had to come to grips with being willing to keep trusting God even if I did not get the days where I felt happy. Because happiness is not everything. And I knew I could learn how to live with God's joy, it would just takes more time getting there too. Because He did give me happy moments, they were not the majority though.

God has been working on me the more and more I put time into learning about Him. It's sometimes awkward because I don't really know what to look for. God has become a lot more personally in my life, so sometimes I just have to say, Okay, Lord, uhhh show me something today? Teach me something... new about you? You know, like, something that makes you more real and not just this untouchable God? I mean, I know I can never know everything about You and I am not saying You're that simple... But I mean, You do make Yourself easier for us to understand sometimes, right? I mean... You know what I mean...

That's when I was reminded again how I needed to work on memorizing Scripture.  I have not done that in so long it feels like. I have times where I am good at it, but then I get lazy or burnt out or tired of whatever I'm working on... I start choosing something, but then I never start working on it. Today is the day. This morning I thought, Okay I am going to pick out something to memorize. 

I figured I would find some verse about being a child of God or how fearfully and wonderfully I'm made. Something that I could say to myself and remind myself of when I feel less than, or when I struggling with being the person I know I should be. Why? Sometimes I feel like a very confident person, I am okay in my own skin, and I like myself the way God made me. On a good day. Then I have a lot of not so good days where I can't seem to truly realize my worth in Christ. It's something I have to work on to keep up with; I stop focusing on it, I start finding my worth in other places and eventually am let down again.  Funny though, as soon as I started to look... Something was up, those suddenly didn't feel like the verses I should be looking for.

Why? What's wrong with those verses?

Nothing! But they were not what I needed. I realized I needed to find verses that got the focus off of me. Because my life is not about how wonderful I can be, it's about how worthy God is and how I can bring glory and pleasure to Him. When I understand how amazing He is, I tend to see how blessed and loved I am. So I looked up the verse for today in the book I'm reading called 31 Days of Praise by Ruth Myers and Warren Myers, and that sent me to 2 Corinthians 3:18. It was a good verse. I thought, Maybe I should memorize this one.

And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (NIV; 2 Corinthians 3:18.)

See? Isn't that a great verse? I think I'll probably try and memorize this one too, but I kept reading around and back over stuff I have highlighted in the past. I ended up reading 2 Corinthians 4. That's when I think I found the verses I wanted to memorize. Verses that motivated me to keep going, and how even though I was facing challenges there were a lot more harder ones to come if I wanted to be real, authentic, and God's. It also motivated me to want to share what He has been doing in my life, because this is my favorite way to learn and grow. Spiritually and emotionally. Though yes, it's the hardest sometimes.

2 Corinthians 4: 4-12
     (4)The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (5)For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as servants for Jesus' sake. (6)For God, who said, "Let light shine out of the darkness," made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. 
     (7)But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. (8)We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; (9)persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. (10)We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. (11)For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. (12)So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.

How awesome is that? These verses apply so much to my life right now and in so many ways. I was able to connect with them through writing, through the difficult time I have been having, to how it is all about God, and how there are a lot harder things I could be going through and if I'm lucky, I'll get to go through.

When the verses talked about "The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ... (beginning of verse 4)." I was immediately reminded of one reason why I like to write, especially fiction. I want to portray the world through the truth I know in Jesus Christ. There is big, though subtle, difference in Christian fiction that talks about the world and relationship, versus non-Christian fiction. It has a different focus, and pushes stronger morals. Even in a romance, it shouldn't be about finding the guy who makes you feel like you're walking on clouds, it's about finding the person you can respect, admire, and sacrifice your dreams for. God calls us to love everyone with that kind of sacrifice and abandon He loves us with, so it's excruciatingly important for me to portray the raw truths God has instilled in His word and in me into what I write. And I can't write stuff like that without Him.

As I read on through these verses that talked about the glory of God, it was like... The reason behind all the madness. The proof that yes, changing who I am and letting go of all that I want is worth it, because becoming a reflection of God means becoming more and more real. I knew that, but it this was another moment where I really experienced what it meant to know and believe that. I like the last few verses too.

Have you ever felt like you were just dying on the inside?

You're done. You just can't do it anymore and everyday it just keeps getting harder, and God keeps asking one more thing of you. You just can't do it anymore! That's what I saw in those verses. Death isn't this light fluffy bunny that you just want to squeeze so hard!!! Death is death. I gave my life to Christ so I could die now and live later. Yes, when I first gave my life to Christ it was more about giving my life over to Him so I could know Him and spend eternity with Him after I die. I know I died to my old self when I became a Christian, and now I am a new creation. And That work will be complete on that day when I can walk into heaven and say, "I found the golden ticket! Hey, God, do you remember me? I knew You! It may have taken a while, but we became really good friends and now You've finally brought me home, so I'm here now ready to be with You forever. You're the best friend I ever had. You saved me!" And I bet it will be amazing to go into heaven and have God recognize me. Little ol' me.

Going through these challenges builds character, and is making me into the person I want to be- the person God has planned for me to be. I want to go places in my life. Not just physically though, yeah, I would love to travel. But I want to take advantage of the wealth of knowledge and experience that surrounds me, and open myself up to grow and become God's best for me now. Not twenty years from now when my way isn't working out. It's not easy, but I know it's worth it.

So... Blah, blah, blah... Another long blog post. I hope if anyone gets anything out of this, they'll know God is real. And he is very involved in our lives, especially when you let Him in and allow Him to work on you. It's been really hard, but I think my batteries have been recharged. (Finally, thank you for getting me through all of this, Lord!) I am improving in a lot of areas in my relationship with Christ, and today was another big pointer to work on memorizing Scripture. In order to be a strong, well-rounded person, I need to know all the good things God is saying to me and keep learning them. And learning stuff involves committing it to memory. I know it's going to be worth it, but maybe I can come back later and let you know personally to remind you... it works. God works.

What are we going to work on next, Lord?
What can I give up now so You give me something better instead?

Thursday, October 3, 2013

College, Why You So Hard?

When did my college classes start? I am not sure, my brain doesn't work very well right now. I began this semester a little unsure of where I was heading, but I am going to pursue getting my Associate of Arts (general education) out of the way at least. It would be good to have and then that gives me a chance to decide what I want to pursue after that. Obviously, it will be something focused around writing, I just don't know what exactly and if I want to go to college for it. Confusing? Tell me about it.

Most of my family and friends that read this will know my boyfriend left for college this semester as well. He's about two years older than me, so he is finishing up his last two years of schooling. I am just getting started. He's about an hour away, like I have probably said before. But we're both busy with school, and I only just got a vehicle. So this has been very different, when he used to only be ten minutes away. The "challenges" have been worth it though, and I have learned a lot already. I can thankfully count my blessings because I do see him on the weekends, or most weekends. And an hour is not that much compared to how far he could have gone to go to college.

The first "mistake" I made was scheduling too many courses for my first semester. Previously, I took dual-enrollment classes while in highschool, so I had a decent feel for college work. I also like to take minimesters, which is a whole semester's work done in half the time. Before that sounds really prideful, let me explain that these classes are meant to only be taken about two at a time. When I was in highschool, I only took one class at a time, just some were minimesters.

Well, I signed myself up for four minimesters over the course of the fall semester. Which means I would be taking two for the first half of the semester, and another two for the second half. I came into this with the mindset of getting as much of the general ed stuff out of the way as fast as possible, and then I could enjoy the electives I would take for my last year. So on top of those minimesters, I added one more class. A regular, normal semester of biology. It all seemed simple enough. I knew I would be swamped with work, but I was prepared for it, since I was going to be a full-time college student. Weren't most college students swamped with school anyways?

That's 17 credit hours of work for the semester.

I could only last for so long. My second mistake was taking a minimester of College Algebra. Algebra is not my strong point, and things were starting to go downhill when I got a D on my first test (but apparently everyone didn't do well on the first one), but I was determined and through many hours of working on stupid algebra homework, I pulled my grade back up. Which all sounds nice and lovely, but the work got more and more overwhelming, and I couldn't push aside my other two classes anymore or my grade there would really start to suffer.

Would I go back and change the courses I chose to take? No. I don't think so. I had come off my graduation/freedom high and pushed myself to work harder than I think I ever have when it came to school. And the responsibility was all on me. What made it more difficult was the doubts I was having about getting an education to begin with. It seemed the more I pursued the A.A., the further I pushed my passion for writing away. I had no time to write. No time to read. And no time to review books I had "promised" publishers to review. I was done. Seriously done with getting my A.A. I was ready to walk away and face the challenges of just pursuing writing for a while, even though I knew full well just getting my A.A. would be good to have.

Of course, I couldn't just drop everything. I had to pray about it, talk it out, and think. Because of financial aid and scholarships, I couldn't just quit (though really I didn't feel like it was 100% quitting because I was ready to change directions). So I withdrew from college algebra and biology. Which was hard because I had been doing so well, but it had gotten to the point where I literally could not keep up with it all and make a good grade. Considering I had gotten "A's" in all my other college classes, these low grades were challenging and discouraging to begin with. All I could do was focus on working harder and just passing the classes...

...Until, you know, when I finally reached the end of my rope and was done with college. I have always wanted to take a semester, a year, a season, something off and focus solely on writing. It's something that nags at me from the back of my mind all the time, and when my creative passions were completely shut down because of school... It just wasn't going to work.

So yes, in some ways, I did quit. I am only taking one minimester right now since I withdrew from two classes and am now "part time" with only 9 credit hours. And then when this class is done, I have two more minimesters starting the second half of the semester. But I've cried it all out now, gotten more of a grip on this minimester, and have actually had some free time at the end of the day. Like today. Well, tonight... because I can write a blog post.

I know I will most likely continue taking classes into the spring because of financial aid and scholarships. Slowly I have been able to accept again that I should get my A.A., and that it is okay if it takes me a bit longer or if I can't get it done as fast as other people would. The past couple of months have been exhausting, especially emotionally. I feel like I have been pushed and pulled and tested from nearly every direction, and not just with school. I am experiencing a taste of the "long distance relationship" too, and that's... different.

Still, this has all been something that turns me to God because I just can't do it without Him. I literally need Him so much and want to do what He has planned for me to do. Even if that means getting a stinkin' Associate of Arts. I still have no idea whether or not I am going to pursue college after that. And do I really want to get my A.A. right now? How am I going to pursue writing? These are questions that get churned around in my head every single day lately. But God's got this. Seriously, He just pulled me through a crazy beginning of the semester, allowed me to grow and see my own weaknesses like never before, and has given me peace about the decisions I have made. I don't know about you, but it seems I'm getting the better end of this deal.

Anyways... I hope to get back to blogging as well. And hopefully I will be able to fit in some reading time again so I can get back to finishing novels and reviewing them! Plus, I want to write some fiction. I am about ready for a good sit down with my laptop and a blank word document so I can let my creative juices flow for a little while. They've been cooped up in my head long enough, I might as well write before they start squirting out my nose or something.

Okay, that was nasty. Nevermind. Until next time! Happy fall, everyone! I love this season.

Are you in college? What for?
I know there are some other fall lovers out there. Where are ya??  

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

If I Had the Time....

...I would finish reading:
     Those books I was given in exchange for an honest review. I'm so close to finishing one of them and halfway through the other! Which are Into the Whirlwind by Elizabeth Camden and Finding God in the Bible by Darren Wilson. Both are so good so far!

...I would read:
     That stack of books on bookshelf that I haven't been able to get to yet. (The Baker's Wife by Erin Healy, The In-Between by Jeff Goins, Captives by Jill Williamson, Matched by Ally Condie, Swipe by Evan Angler, Chasing Hope by Kathryn Cushman, Rebellious Heart by Jody Hedlund, Vigilante by Robin Parrish, and Under the Tuscan Sun by Francis Mayes. I know, I know, it's getting to be a terribly long list. And that doesn't include all the eBooks I own either...)

...I would re-read:
     The River of Time Series by Lisa T. Bergren (a.k.a. Waterfall, Cascade, & Torrent), The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkein (which I'll probably be doing next month!), and The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis (because I love Narnia & C.S. Lewis).

You know the feeling. Sooooo many books you want to read and not enough time...

Feel free to use this on your blog. (Send me a link and I may add it to the post!)
Or please comment what you want to finish, read, and reread down below!!!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Book Review: Amanda Bell

Amanda Bell
By: Jeff Minick
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Fiction; Adult Fiction; Modern-day Fairytale; Catholic Faith
Number of Pages: 349


    "I get the job done." This is Amanda Bell's credo, the bedrock principle she ruthlessly embraces as a supervisor at Saxon & Henle, an Atlanta Law and accounting firm. Ambitious, tough, and disciplined, Amanda demands the impossible from herself and her subordinates. Despite their hostility--their kindest nickname for her is "The Immaculate Perfection"--her success in the corporate world seems assured.

But is it?

What happens when carefully-laid plans unexpectedly explode? What happens when a storm demolishes cherished dreams, when dreams themselves are blown to dust? What becomes of the heart when it hides behind the walls of an interior castle, locking out friendship, affection, and love?

Twenty-seven-year-old Amanda Bell is about to find out.

In this modern fairy tale, a woman devastated by crushed hopes and a vicious assault finds herself on a strange new path, searching for release from her self-imprisonment. On her journey Amanda encounters characters usually associated with the Brothers Grimm: a wicked witch of a homemaker, a best friend witty and sharp as an elf, a wise old priest with a bag of wizard's tricks, an architect in the dented armor of a knight-errant, a ghost offering solace and light, and four motherless children. Amanda's life will never again be the same.

(Taken from Goodreads, and it is what's on the back of the book.)

Star Rating:

     4.75 stars (I really liked this!)

Content Rating:

     PG-13 (recommended to 18&up for adult content)

My Opinions:
     (Before I even go into the "I loved this" and "I liked that" let me note that this novel does contain some adult content, and thus I would not recommend it to teens. Keep that in mind as you read this review.)

     What I liked/loved - I wasn't sure what to expect when I began reading this book. Mr. Minick is an old school teacher of mine and I was glad to support his first self-published work.

When I finished this, I must say I was so happily surprised.

This is a bit different from what I typically read, and I don't usually pick up adult novels regularly, except for Ted Dekker's stuff. Also, Mr. Minick is Catholic and incorporates this faith into the book, but it was not offensive at all and we actually see this religion from Amanda's point of view-- who doesn't practice a particular belief. We read her questions, doubts, and disbelief; we see the things she doesn't agree with, and that helped me to accept the differing religious views of this book.

The characters in this story were wonderful, realistic, and so very well written! I fell in love with them; Mr. Minick has done an impeccable job of fleshing out his characters. I don't know how he did it. *applause*

Why read this book? Because it's one of the best modern-day fairytales I've heard of/read/watched, without all the cheesy-ness. Seriously, I was a bit surprised how this book tied in the word fairytale since it is obviously a modern-day book. This book also takes the risk of exploring real love, not the stuff of Hollywood.

     What I didn't like/hated - There was a fair amount of language in this book, something I wish had not been there, but it doesn't stop me from having enjoyed it so much. Otherwise, nothing that I just didn't like.

There was one or two characters who really got on my nerves, I wanted to slap them. Hard. But they were supposed to be characters who weren't very nice, so this isn't a downfall to the book. Mr. Minick just did a good job at making them rub me the wrong way. A really good job.

The Quality (of Writing):
     By the second half of this book I was falling in love. Though this story is not perfect, its strong points redeem any and all of its low points. For his first published work, Mr. Minick has reserved a spot on my bookshelf and I will be on the lookout for more by him.

This book began a little rough, there were so many descriptions that I felt like it was way too much, but after about 50-100 pages in, the flow slowly started to change pace and improved greatly. I realize the book started out viewing things the way our main girl, Amanda, did. Thus, there was a reason it was written that way. So I would let it slide because the book did start out well-- there was just a thing or two I didn't care for.

The first third to half of the book was a bit intense, but after that things settled down, though stayed interesting. Somehow Mr. Minick has written about everyday life in a way that was entertaining and thought-provoking, kept me wanting to read more, and made me feel happy.

What a unique blend of intensity, romance, suspense, and reality.

Now the last thing I will mention is how well this was edited, I would shake hands with Mr. Minick if I could and tell him: Well done! Thank you, thank you, thank you for taking the time to catch those little mistakes... For not being one of those self-published authors!

But something that did get me was that a dozen or more times I found apostrophes or closing quotation marks that were backwards/the incorrect ones. I know this is silly to complain about, and I can probably explain how it happened (though I won't bore you). However, I still caught it. Every. Single. Time. There may have been a word missing in one of the sentences too, but I can't remember exactly and sometimes I read stuff wrong. Overall, this book definitely shines some positive light on unprofessionally edited novels.

     My final words, read this book! Even if you aren't Catholic, I would highly recommend this to adults (because of the content). Seriously, give it a try. There are some really refreshing thoughts, discussions, and chapters in this book that can get you thinking while giving you an escape. It's a magnificent blend of modern-day and fairytale, it connected these two words together beautifully... Just try it and support a new author.

Content (For Those Who Wonder):
     Language - There was quite a bit of language. Half a dozen "b" words, a couple "d" words, and a few other degrading names for females. The Lord's name was mis-used twice, which really seemed unnecessary to me and bothered me. An offensive slang term, and mention twice of someone "cursing". "Go to h*ll" once, and someone is called a "witch" a few times.

     Sensuality - Yes, there is quite a list of things that could go here, though nothing descriptive really. There is some kissing, maybe a little passionate but it's not too titillating. One character is r*ped, this scene was not too descriptive, but we were there with the character right up until the act nearly (r*pe itself is something that deeply touches and offends me, so that did affect my opinion of the book for a little while and was hard to get over). I feel this was a necessary part of the book though. The character the suffers from a couple nightmares after that, where at least one is of her boss atop her n*ked-- nothing else said besides that.

A character meets someone who had a one-night-stand, but nothing is said past that, though that character advises them not to tell his wife about it. Mention of a town having homos*xuals, and a woman who "seemed angry about having a v*gina." The word "breast" though not used sensually, appeared in the book a handful of times-- I just wished he would use a different word and not have mentioned her bathing or putting lotion on (again, it's not sensual).

Now, after all that I must bring up one more thing. The word s*x is not absent from this book. A character is r*ped, she asks/talks about the church's perspective on s*x, and we also have characters who are spreading around gossip that two characters might be sleeping together (simply because they're under the same roof). Two characters are tempted to be together, but they don't, despite what they want.

     Violence - A character is beaten up pretty badly by two other men before she is r*ped. A woman was supposedly murdered accidentally, but no description, the murderer jumped off a bridge and was killed by an oncoming vehicle.

    Other -  Though there are no dealings with drugs, it is mentioned that a neighborhood's alleys are "home to drug dealers and prostitutes." There is mention of people getting drunk, but no situations with them. There is quite a bit of alcoholic beverages consumed throughout this book, mainly a glass of wine or occasionally a beer-- again it was not offensive and did not involve bars or pubs.

     So, as always, I let you know what was in the book and you decide what to do with it. I hope this helps! Despite some of this "iffy", though realistic, content-- I recommend this book for adults!

Check out this book on:  Amazon or Barnes&Noble!!
You can also get the Kindle Version from Amazon!

Are you considering reading this book? Any related books?
I'd love to hear from you!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Book Review: The Girl in the Gatehouse

Publisher: Bethany House
Genre: Fiction; Historical Romance; 1800s Era; Christian Fiction
Number of Pages: 391

     Mariah Aubrey has left the only home she ever knew, now takes her haunting secret with her, and Miss Dixon as her only companion. When Captain Bryant comes to lease the estate where the gatehouse she lives in resides, fear begins to eat away at her once more. Fear of being found out as a female author, writing being her only means of making a living. Fear of her past being discovered. Fear of losing the only home she now has. Fear that she will never be allowed a chance at love again.

Star Rating:

      3.5 stars (I liked it pretty well.)

Content Rating:

     PG (recommended to 13&up)

My Opinions:
     What I liked/loved - Don't get me wrong, this book was great. There was a good bit of mystery and questions that needed answered to pull you along through its pages. Julie Klassen also happens to be one of my favorite authors, having read four of her books that are this sort of fiction.

The regency era (historical fiction, really) with some romance mixed in is one of my favorite genres. Her two books The Apothecary's Daughter and The Silent Governess are on my favorite books' list.

The relationship between Mariah and Captian Bryant is not anything to worry about. Thankfully there are some sweet, charismatic moments for those romantics at heart. What historical romance would be complete without them?

There is just something about when a relationship unfolds slowly, and I get to have  those times when I hold my breath or sigh happily.

     What I didn't like/hated - However, this book did fall a bit short of my hopeful expectations. I knew some other reviewers had found it to be a bit slow and not one of her best works, but I tried to maintain a bright outlook as I read it. This book took me forever to finish though, and it was not until about halfway through that it finally started to really grab my attention.

I found it too easy to set it aside, and took a break or two to finish/read other books in between finishing this one (something I usually try to avoid). The conclusion was satisfying, and I did not regret spending my time on it, but I have to agree that this was not her best work- though still a good one. Maybe because it was confined to such a small area (no traveling really), it did not give my mind enough places to wander.

     This book is still worth reading, especially if you love historical romances with a bit more story to them... or if you would like to see what life for a female writer in the 1800s might be like... or if you love Jane Austen's book Persuasion. Sadly, it won't be going on my "favorite books' list" though. 

Content (For Those Who Wonder):
     Language - None.

     Sensuality - Some. There are some kissing scenes, and talk about a shady past (a girl was taken advantage of when she was younger as well as Mariah's fall, is made clear, but there aren't any disturbing or inappropriate details). There are a few "sensual" moments in referencing to Mariah's past, her feelings towards a man, and when a man embarrasses her in front of a small party. Though nothing is really inappropriate, and is suitable for most ages.

     Violence - Hardly any, Captain Bryant suffers from nightmares and guilt from his time at war, and we also hear the story of another captain's experiences. Nothing very gruesome or gory though.

     Other - No other content to note or worry about. But I will mention this is a Christian book, so mention of God, faith, etc. do make some appearances for any of those wondering. 

Check out this book on:  Amazon or Barnes&Noble!!

Have you read this book? Any related books? What were your thoughts?
I'd like to know! I am always open for new reading suggestions as well.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

WINNER for the 2013 Summer Reading Challenge

Sooo, I'll be quick and tell you who won! Right after this brief commercial break. . .

(I had everyone who completed the challenge listed on a document, in no particular order just how I happened to record them down, and then counted the total books read. I used to generate a random number. Whatever number book the random number correlated with was the winner! Just so everyone knows I tried to make sure it was random, but fair. I had no say over who the winner was.)


Yay, go Savannah!!! With 8 books read during this five week challenge, I guess it's no wonder she won! I am so glad that I had multiple people reading alongside me, it was a lot of fun and I hope to do it again. Would you like to know what some of you read for this challenge? Then keep on reading!

Savannah read:
Chosen by Ted Dekker
How do I love thee? by Nancy Moser
The Tutor's Daughter by Julie Klassen
20 Duggars and Counting by Michelle & Jim Bob Duggar
The Silent Gift by Michael Landon Jr. & Cindy Kelley
Renegade by Ted Dekker
Black by Ted Dekker
The Girl in the Gatehouse by Julie Klassen

"My favorite book from this challenge was Black (first of the circle series) by Ted Dekker. Sometimes Ted's books can be a bit too dark and scary for my taste, but this one was not that way at all. I really enjoyed the suspense and uncertainty of the story, it kept me wanting to always read more. I hope to read the second book in this series as soon as possible." - Savannah W.

Jackson read:
Life After Art by Matt Appling
The Heir by Paul Robertson
Afloat by Erin Healy

"The 5 in 5 book challenge encouraged and motivated me to devote more time to reading. It came during a time where I was already quite busy with various projects I had going on, but I was still able to read over 3 books. Even though I didn't make it to the goal of 5 books, I'm still glad I joined in, because I read a lot more than I would have without the challenge. Just goes to show that most people have enough time to read, they just have to sit down and do it." - Jackson D.

He also started Amanda Bell by Jeff Minick, but didn't finish it before the challenge ended... Now Sarah didn't complete the challenge either, but she got some stuff read and listened to!

Sarah read:
Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
French Women Don't Get Fat by Mireille Guiliano

"So, my battle plan to conquer the challenge was this genius scheme involving specific books with the difficulty level according to how busy my schedule was. Genius, yeah? Here’s more how it went:

  1. As an avid fan of both the movies and the BBC show, I’d threaten turning in my geek card if I didn’t read the original Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Great kickoff, right?
  2. Criminy. Barely halfway a week later. Why did I choose the 200 year old crime novel that requires more attention than a chemistry textbook? Cue frantic reaching for something a little lighter. Maybe involving kittens or rainbows or food.
  3. When in doubt, just blaze through that book you’ve already polished off 27 ½ times before! French Women Don’t Get Fat to the rescue. Phew. 2 weeks, 2 books.
  4. Forgot about that 10 day mission trip. Time to break out the killer thriller (The Bride Collector). Maybe something intense will keep me up at night and practically read itself! Maybe not greatest idea in a foreign country.
  5. At least my excuse is good. I was too busy serving God! Got some great looks/comments on the plane ride, e.g. “The Bride Collector? Is that about Mormons?” and “Wow Sarah, are those meat hooks on the cover?”
  6. And my cousin flies in for the week! Went to B&N and successfully blew enough time reading sections of roughly 43.2 dozen books to have read just one. (Flower Arrangement Recipes! Wait: Artemis Fowl graphic novel?! I’ve always wondered what Divergent was about… Hold the phone! The Making of Downton Abbey! Crafting With Cat Hair—yep, gotta check it out…)
  7. Maybe the Great Gatsby movie might count….?
  8. Aha! Little Critter’s Big Book of Kid’s Stories is over 200 pages!
  9. Last day? I give up—and give in to the audiobook (The Tipping Point)! Not only did I make half a scarf listening to it, I got a fascinating discussion prompt about the steep decline in New York’s crime in 1996! Just ask my friends, though—they did not find it as interesting as I did.

This was how it went for me, but I know this has got to be close to what happens to you readers! That book that’s a bite more than you can chew…that one you’re slightly embarrassed to admit you read since it might be thought of as a few reading levels below you…that over-read go-to…that quarter-read one that practically owns a bookmark…
Readers unite!
There’s always next summer.
And we can borrow the book the winner gets with the gift card, right? :) " - Sarah M.

Haha, at least all of you who didn't finish the challenge can feel better knowing I didn't either! Be on the lookout for some book reviews headed your way. . .

Stop by again some time soon!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

the conclusion... To Our Summer Reading Challenge

Today is the final day of the summer reading challenge I started five weeks ago. So far I know of three people who completed the challenge, I am so proud of them! I managed 3 books, and I am okay with that. The only problem is I mayyy have to re-think my "50 books in a year" resolution and postpone it to next year. Who knows what I'll do?

Now you still have until midnight today to finish whatever book you are working on... but as soon as you can get it to me, I need your list of read books!

I have my debit card ready, who will be the summer reading challenge winner???

(Reminder: the winner will be chosen at random from the people who completed the challenge. If you exceeded the five books required to be entered, those just count as extra entries in the hat and more opportunity to win.)

I am hoping to just send out another e-mail to gather book lists and also to see if anyone would be interested in contributing to a blog post about what we read and how we did it! If you have any ideas for what the blog post should be about (reviews for the books we read, tips on how you made time for reading, why you like books, etc...) comment down below!

Would you like to be a part of the reading challenge wrap up post?
I want you to be!
What should we talk about?

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Busy. Busy. Busy. Change.

About three weeks ago started what would be a pretty busy time for me. Not that life tells you these things in advance, usually it just happens and we're left wondering when we will finally be able to relax and catch our breath. My week has sort of been like that, but not in a bad way. It's usually a rare occasion for me to go to bed exhausted so many nights in a row only to wake up early again.

On a side note, I've liked getting up earlier... to some degree. I have been more productive. Or well, active is a better word because though I've written a couple thousand words of fiction: I haven't blogged, journaled, or read much for my challenge.

I read a ton of blog posts and articles a couple days ago, so at least I'm still reading to some degree? Right? Besides, I am working on getting caught back up with that stuff.

Part of all the busyness comes from the fact that I decided not to go to cosmetology school. But each day I become even more grateful that I changed my mind.

It was a hard decision to make, I was very unsure, but through a lot of prayer and conversations I was able to decide that wasn't the path for me. I had an interest in cosmetology, but it was not a growing interest and it did not compare to my passion for writing and literature.

So what am I doing now? I am still going to the same community college, but I am getting my 2 years of general education (Associate of Arts, or so they tell me) and I plan to really start writing. I know I am a writer. I believe I am a writer. 100%. Because I write.

But I want to be an author.
With completed works. And published ones.

Not only that, I want to share my passion for literature, books, stories. Help other aspiring authors if I can. I want to at least see where I can go with this and put my full effort into it.

This decision was a big deal, I was completely changing the course I had set up for myself. Everything had been ready for me to go to cosmetology, that's what I had told everyone I was going to do, and yet there was something in me that wasn't quite at ease. When I allowed myself to think about, I discovered where those echoes of uncertainty were coming from. I'm a writer, and when it all came down to it, I just couldn't bare to put that on the back burner.

Some people may not understand my decision, some are probably thinking, "Well, it took you long enough to figure that out." But either way, I know this is what I am supposed to be doing, and within a week nearly, everything seemed to just fall into place.

On the 13th, my boyfriend and I celebrated being together for 2 years. It was a lot of fun because we packed in a full day together going biking, eating out, seeing a movie, and just riding around and hanging out. With him leaving for school in a month, which will take him about an hour away, we'd like to squeeze out as much time together as we can get before then.

I am still in the process of figuring out what I am going to do for a source of income (a.k.a. a JOB ), and waiting to find out if I'll be able to purchase a vehicle (I have a possible option, but it is in the process of getting fixed, etc.).

And though it may seem like a bunch of excuses. . .

This is why I am still finishing my third book for the reading challenge!!!

I am going to try and at least get four books read by the end of this week, and surprisingly... I am okay with it. Sure, I definitely wanted to read five books (or more really), but I've been busy actually living my life. The books will still be there when I'm not so busy. And I wouldn't change how I've spent my time lately.

My summer reading challenge is ending this Saturday, and I am exciting to see how everyone else has done. Will there be a challenge winner?? I'll be back on Saturday with some final notes and I plan to be sending out an e-mail to everyone who joined so I can get a list of what they read.

Thank you to everyone who joined the challenge! It's been fun knowing other people are doing it with me.

Has your summer been busy?
How have you done on the reading challenge?