Friday, March 29, 2013

Book Review: Immanuel's Veins

Publisher: Thomas Nelson, Inc.
Genre: Fiction; Christian; Love; Romance; Suspense; Good vs. Evil
Number of Pages: 367


     He is known for his reputation of being a skilled and fearless warrior, a fighter for the empress of Russia herself, but Toma could never imagine what his next charge will bring him to. What he would do for her. . . for them.

     He is bound by an unbreakable duty. A duty he will not, can not, fail to serve.

     This is a story of love, lust, and what lies in between. It is a story of sacrifice. It is a battle between powerful beings. And it most definitely is an emotionally-stirring book.

Star Rating:

      4.75 stars

Content Rating:

     PG-13 (For mature audiences.)


     I understand why some people found this book controversial. It is definitely different from books I typically read, and did have some sensual pulls and moments that left me begging the characters not to give in. I think this is what happens when you deal with a topic about the world's view of love, human desires and cravings, and what true love is. Most of the book kept me wondering what on earth was going on! I knew what was happening, I could feel that something evil was lurking, but you couldn't place your finger on exactly what it was! Until finally we are given some answers as the main character, Toma, learns them.

    Though this is not the best book I have ever read in terms of quality/writing, it is definitely a good one. The ending redeems any negatives I might have held against its somewhat slow, but necessary, beginning and the fact that Dekker wouldn't tell me right away what was wrong with this picture! He did a pretty good job tying things up in a way that said what he was trying to say about true love versus the misconceptions we have about it, without spelling it out like we went from a fiction novel to a sermon session. (Nothing meant rudely against sermons, I am just saying he didn't have to rely on preaching to us to make his point, which is a good thing when you are writing fiction.)

     The ending was just about perfect. I dislike using that word just because no one and nothing we do can be truly perfect, but it ended the book very well. It suited the story. (If one of the things hadn't happened, it would have felt too cheesy. Or if something else had happened, it would have been a bit too typical.)

     But it was unique, satisfactory, insightful, and compelling.

     Overall, I would recommend this book, but note that the topics and content may not be for everyone. I would not recommend it for younger teens, since most of Ted Dekker's books are for a more mature audience. So I would say make your own judgement on it, because it really comes down to you and your choices. 

     In the end, I say it is worth reading- even if it does make you squirm a little. 

Iffy Content:

     Some. It really is up to the reader because I would definitely recommend this book. I am a sucker for romances, but even more so for stories that deal with the true meanings of love and sacrifice. I do also enjoy stories that have a good "happy" ending, but are still realistic. . . Books that allow for a lot of emotional tension and have feeling to them, like any girl I guess. Yet I am drawn to books that deal with topics that run deep, through all of us, and thus allow for a stronger connection between them.

     As far as what Ted Dekker wrote about in this book, I will say there is no apparent sex-scenes. There is some sensuality and some of the characters do not come home at night for various reasons, but I do not feel that it is really there for enticement. It serves a purpose in the story. Also I will note that there are a few "bad" words when referring to some of the women who are. . . well, bad girls. But no misuses of God's name or anything like that I don't think.

     The sensuality is used in displaying some misconceptions about love and how the devil tries to woo us away from God, and without it I fear the story would have been seriously lacking something. However, there is a lot of desire as some of the characters are being encouraged to embrace this so called "love." Some of them do come to believe that this is true love in its most raw, powerful, and fulfilling form, but we see that there is something missing. Something is not right about it all. 

Is not the best lie one that has a bit of truth in it?

     There is some nudity, though it is not the stuff of Hollywood movies; it is used in a somewhat different context I guess. There are several "kiss scenes", some for fulfilling the characters' desires and a few others that are for good.

     I do not find this book "ban-worthy", if you are worried about that. It is sort of a taboo thing to talk about (love, lust, evil, human desires), so I see how some people would just avoid it all together. You have to decide for yourself and listen for how God leads you on whether or not to read this story. The worse part about it is that you really have to read the whole thing in order to see where Dekker is going with all this stuff. The "evil" may be controversial, but it's not something I can explain without giving the story away. I would recommend that if you are going to give the book a shot, read it all the way through. If you do not, you won't be left with a very good picture of what the book is about nor its quality.

     Again, in the end, I say Immanuel's Veins is worth reading- even if it may make you a bit uncomfortable at times. For there is a powerful message behind it.

Have you read Immanuel's Veins?
Any related books about taboo subjects? What were your thoughts?
I'd really like to know! Please comment and share!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Disaster-ly Made Delicious Pancakes

I did something yesterday that I do not typically do. I made buttermilk pancakes (for the first time, I might add) all by myself!

Okay, it was a bit more like 97.837999999% by myself. . .
. . .my Mom did help a little bit.

It's not like this is a new recipe either, it is one my Mom has used for a long time to make the pancakes that we like. But as usual, something had to go wrong whenever I was chosen to make them. Seriously, it seems like something always has to happen whenever I try to make something. Live and learn. . . That's all I can say about my cooking experience.

At first it looked like yesterday would be an exception, but No no no! I couldn't get off the hook that easily!

First, I got out all of the ingredients. I made an especially huge effort to be specially careful about the amount I used of everything since I was doubling the recipe. 

2 cups of flour!
1/2 tsp of salt!
2 tbsp of sugar!

I even double-checked several-checked the amount of everything before I put it into the bowl! Though, of course, the first time I was making these pancakes, we had to be almost out of all-purpose flour. I know, it's not the healthiest. . . However, that forced me to use a cup of unbleached wheat flour, which is healthier, but it does slightly change the taste of the pancakes. . . Turns out, that was really nothing.

Next, I was again trying to be smarter than usual and I got out a 3 cup measuring glass so I could pour in the buttermilk, add the olive oil (I even looked it up to make sure Olive Oil qualified as "Cooking Oil" instead of asking, you know, so I was doing it by myself), and then the eggs. It seemed like the best way to measure and mix everything up without dirtying a measuring cup and another bowl. Buttermilk in. . . so far so good. . . Now the oil. . . still going strong! And now the eggs. . .

Okay, okay! I admit it, I am not the best at cracking eggs, I know that!
It's just not one of my skills, but I'm not too terrible at it.
So I made sure to be super careful.

The first egg went in great! No shells, no mess. The next one I cracked open was a little big more of a pain. A small piece of shell was sitting atop the yolk and before I could plan on how I was going to get it off. . . it slipped past me. 

And into the batter the little piece of eggshell went!

I've got this. No big deal, I will just keep an eye out for it and scoop it out when I can! No worries. . . So with half an eggshell in each hand, I went over to the trash can to throw them away. Somehow when I reached the garbage, I only had one half.

I have nooo idea what happened. I looked back on the counter. It wasn't there, so  I must not have set it down. I looked in the trashcan and there were like two other egg shells in there. Someone else had thus already had an egg or two this morning. Surely, I had already dropped it in the trashcan. This was ridiculous. I dropped the other egg shell in and went back to mixing all the wet ingredients together.

Things were looking up, they were mixing together just fine and everything looked right. I made a little well in my dry ingredients as my Mom had earlier instructed me to do. Then I gave it one last stir and pulled out the whisk. . .

What was that white stuff on it?

Oh no! No, no, no! It couldn't be! I touched it. . . it was hard. Maneuvering it out of the whisk, I was completely certain now of what it was. My missing half of the eggshell.

Still, it is completely beyond me how it got in there. Did I put it in there without thinking? Or managed to somehow drop it when I wasn't paying attention? Because there it was, and now my beautiful mixture of wet ingredients was filled with little bits of broken, white eggshell. . .

The pancakes were ruined. This was a disaster. Something always has to go wrong.

Wait, I could still save my pancakes without having to start from scratch! With a burst of inspiration, I fished out a strainer from one of our cabinets. Not one of those things with the big holes for pasta, but with the wire-y stuff where surely the liquid ingredients would slip through and my eggshell mishap would get left behind!

And. . . *drum roll* It worked! Sure, some of the thicker clear part of the egg just wouldn't go through the strainer and I wasn't about to pour it in this newly-dirtied bowl and risk having to strain them all out again. . . So I called in the Mom-squad! Just kidding, I called Mom in to get her advice on whether or not the batter was salvageable.

After this was the worry that they were too thick, even after Mom had added in some  more buttermilk. But to my surprise (and I will say, delight!) they turned out pretty good. Even with having to kind of squish them down a bit while cooking them to make sure they were cooked thoroughly. However, I survived.

Despite all the little mishaps and disasters I created along the way (and the mess), my pancakes were a delicious success.

How are you in the kitchen?
Are you a pro? (don't be afraid to admit it)
What's your favorite breakfast recipe or mishap story?
Tell me below!

DISCLAIMER: I would not recommend following my recipe or using my kitchen skills. . . as it is not a guarantee that you will end up with egg-celent pancakes.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Book Haul: February 2013

Books here, books there, books everywhere. . .

Speaking of books! Monday, the day after my birthday, I was enjoying the feeling of being eighteen for the first actual day of my life. (Sunday didn't count, I was seventeen for most of it.) My Mom and I were out running errands that morning, and after a late breakfast we headed into a Christian bookstore. It is one that always has tons of discounted books. (Nearly every book is discounted!)

I am in love with that store. . . And yes, if you are wondering, I do want to marry it. Just kidding ;) It's an inside joke. This post is a bit late coming, but it is my first "Book Haul" for my blog. Even though it's March now, I purchased these books back in February (the 25th), so I figured the book haul should be titled as thus.

Monday was a long, but great day out. And, of course, I couldn't leave the bookstore empty handed! After trying out some new genres for my 2013 reading challenge, I had to get a dose of the old-faithful and went on a Ted Dekker kick. He is one of my favorite authors and I really like his writing style, or his writing voice I guess. Each book has its own story, so I can't speak for all of them, but I like most of what I have read by him.

Showdown is the first in a trilogy/series I want to read, and I could not resist snatching this copy up for $3.95! Jackson has already read them, but I am holding myself back and making sure I read The Circle Trilogy before diving into this series (all the stories are connected in some way, with the Circle books being the main ones).

Forbidden I read a while back. Jackson and I both went through it around the same time. He then purchased the next book in the series called Mortal, which we are slowly working through reading when we are together, so we share the same copy. Typically I go solo and read books on my own, but I have enjoyed sharing a similar reading list with him as well as share a copy of this book. Sooo, since the price was reasonable, especially for a hardcover (Dekker's books tend to be a bit pricey and hard covers are almost always more $dollars$), I picked up a physical copy of Forbidden. (We both read it via an eBook version before.) Now all we have to do is finish the second book and then work on the third one!

Immanuel's Veins? Despite the cover having my favorite colors on it while still being intriguing and instantly eye-drawing, I have two reasons for wanting to pick it up. The first being that I have read the plot summary and wanted to check it out; secondly, I have heard there was some. . . differing opinions over this book.

"The story is for everyone, but not everyone is for this story. . ."

Or so the back cover says. How is a book-lover like me supposed to pass up a dare like that? It is just begging me to check it out and see what has gotten some feathers ruffled. I remember when the book first came out and, being a fan of Ted Dekker at the time, I heard it was a subject of interest for a while. Apparently, Holland banned the book. I didn't pick it up though, until now. I started it the very same day, after I finished the book I was currently reading (yes, I was a good girl, you can be proud of me). It was probably a week or more, and my teeth had only just begun to sink into its pages because of other things going on in my life, other things pulling at my attention, and other things I have been reading. I was interested in seeing exactly what it was about though and what Dekker wanted to say through this novel, or more so. . . how he went about saying it. We'll see. If I don't like it, I don't keep it. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?

I have finished it now, but I will save my thoughts on the book for when I post my review. So if you wish to know what Immanuel's Veins was about or if it is worth reading or what it holds in its pages, you will have to come back and find out.

Anyways, that ended my book excursion for the day, but it was nice to go all out for once and get whatever I wanted (well, within reason). Thank you to everyone who gave me birthday money, I was very thankful for the chance to splurge on more books! ^_^ The other three books in the green bag above were for my sister, sort of an early birthday present.

What is the last book you bought?
Planning on enlarging your library selections anytime soon?
And don't you love the smell of books?
Photos by Me
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Sunday, March 3, 2013

365 x 18 = Me

Some of you very well know what went on the weekend before last. . . it was my birthday! What a busy, but blessing filled week it has been. There have been plenty of times where I was out and about or just at home relaxing and being much more lazy than I needed to be, but I am thankful for the time to chill and catch my breath. Quite a bit has happened over the past week or so, I am not sure quite where to begin. 

Saturday is when it really all started. . . Saturday, February 23rd, actually. I had a few friends over for food and games for the afternoon. It was a great time and I am very grateful for all who were able to be a part of the early celebration. That night I went out with my Mom, both of my grandmas, and my aunt. It was time for a girls' night out, not only to celebrate my birthday, but also my mother's! Her birthday is only four days after mine.

We grabbed a bite to eat at Neo Burrito, then headed over to a Barnes&Noble. Book stores are one of my favorite locations, especially when there is a Starbucks in them! I simply love wandering around, certainly for long periods of time. It's such a feeling being in a place where most of the people around you share a common love of words and books and literature. We're all shuffling around in our own little worlds, scanning titles, admiring covers, sometimes socializing, most times thinking to ourselves, and quite often secretly noticing and thinking about the people around us. I do not typically get so sappy as to call something "magical", but there is a certain feeling, an air about the whole building and every aisle, when you go into a bookstore.

It was not long before we (us girls) gathered back up again at a table and, Starbucks' treats in hand, played a few games of Mexican Trains. If you haven't heard of that game before, don't worry, you are not the first. You can look into it by going here though; it's pretty close to just playing dominoes.

That night I was tired and ready for some sleep, yet wishing the day did not have to be over. However, Sunday came right on time and I got up much easier than most mornings. My excitement was getting to me, so there was no going back to sleep once I was awake. This morning I was helping out with childcare at my church which is always a little crazy when you have a bunch of kids in one room. But that was not what I was getting excited about, no, it was the fact that today was my birthday! :D It was a good addition to my day though- knowing I did something other than be "lazy" and "celebrate". It was something that wasn't "all about me". If that makes sense. . .

After church my family and I came home. The day was not over yet; things were actually just getting started and some more exciting things were heading my way. It had been planned for me and my Mom to leave around 2-2:30 so we could ride over with my boyfriend and some of his family to our destination. Originally me and Jackson, he's the young man I have been in a relationship with over the past year and a half, were going to walk around and hike a bit. Also, we couldn't forget his camera because we like to take pictures of each other and us together every once in a while. (Okay, most times when we go out we have to have a camera with us. . . but I am not complaining, I like having lots of photo memories.) I'll just say there was a happy change of plans and we ended up doing something else, and then afterwards we had a little photo-taking session. I had a very happy afternoon, and still smile when I think about it.

Thankfully, once again, the day wasn't over yet. Back at my house we did the only reasonable thing we could possibly do. . . Edit the pictures we had taken! No, I am not talking Photoshop. I mean enhancing the image and colors, don't ask me to explain. I am not the intelligent one on this subject, Jackson does all the enhancing and adjustments, I just sit there and happily give him my opinion. And that works just fine for us! :) We did that for a little while until the next installment of the day was about to begin.

Part of the reason he had come back to the house is that evening all of my family and his were gathering down at my grandparent's house for the real and final birthday party. Something I really enjoy is spending time with all my family down at the grandparents' house. It is sort of a tradition or habit for us all to meet down there for different occasions such as birthdays, holidays, or just regular eat-a-meal-get-togethers. Maybe as I get older I appreciate the family I have even more, knowing that I am truly blessed and few people have the privilege of living so close to their loved ones like I do. Plus, as we kids all get older and our schedules grow busier, with correlating free-time stretching further and farther in between, I do not know how many more years it will be this way. Who knows when it won't be so easy as to walk out my door and down the hill for a family hangout? I'll be graduating soon and if I follow through with my potential college plans, I will have a fuller schedule.

We all like to play board games, card games, and well games. The night started off kind of slow as everyone gradually showed up, but then time slipped by as we played  several rounds of Apples to Apples, had cake, opened presents, and continued to socialize. If I had not wanted my Saturday to end, I most definitely did not want Sunday to move along. No doubt, it passed on its merry way just like the night before and soon I was back home for the fourth time today (there was quite a bit of going about). Yet it was another day that while I situated myself comfortably in my bed and prepared to fall asleep, my thoughts were still chattering and I couldn't help feeling more blessed than ever. I was pretty happy. ;)

Above is a picture of one of my birthday gifts! My aunt creatively made this decorative light with a picture Jackson illustrated of me and him on the front. Inside are different colored glass pebbles and a small strand of Christmas' lights weaved all around inside the glass square. It was definitely a unique gift, and I like those. Now it decorates my nightstand along side a stack of books underneath my lamp (yes, underneath my lamp) and another set of books standing up between those. I am trying to create some book-ish accents to my room. I mean, why just leave all that literature on the shelf to collect dust? Now I think they are starting to take over the theme of my room.

Books here, books there, books everywhere. . .

And that concludes a small chapter in my life as a book character (of His story that is). Alright, I will let you go on with your day! I hope it is a good one, check back soon? I am hoping my next post will be about my mini book haul last Monday (on the 25th). Thanks for stopping by and seeing how my birthday weekend went! My apologies for the very late post about it.

What have you been up to? Is the new year going well for you?
When is your birthday?
Photos by Me & Jackson