Thursday, September 25, 2014

Book Review: Finding God in the Bible

Finding God in the Bible
by Darren Wilson

Nonfiction: Christian Living
Date Read: Dec. 23, 2013
Page Count: 234

5 stars

Let's Talk About It:

Darren Wilson writes in a way that is entertaining, and down to earth. I wasn't sure what to expect from his book, or what he would have to say. More advice on how to read the Bible? How to study the Bible?

Things changed when Darren Wilson started saying, "Yes," to God. He started to get to know who God really is. Wilson goes through some interesting stories in the Bible-- most of them are weird, unusual, violent, or confusing. He shares what he has discovered through them-- God's character, His personality, and His desire for relationship. Darren Wilson got to know the God who had wanted a relationship with him even when he barely knew and trusted God. The God he now calls: his friend.

This book was amazing! It definitely has helped me learn more about the personality of God, how He reveals Himself in Scripture (even through the strangest of stories), and what it means when God desires a relationship with me. Highly recommend!

DISCLAIMER: I received this book for free from Chosen Books in exchange for an honest review. The opinions expressed above are my own.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Book Review: Sacred Sex

Sacred Sex Embracing Your Sexuality as God Designed it
Author: Dr. Tony Evans
Publisher: Moody Publishers
Number of Pages: 74
Nonfiction: Sexuality, Christianity
Date Read: 04/22/2014

     Morality. Relativity. Right and Wrong. The issues we face are complicated and everyone has an opinion. But who has the answer when it comes to sexual issues?

Sex dominates our popular culture to a degree we've never seen before and unrestricted sex is being touted as a shortcut to personal fulfillment and satisfaction - but it's a counterfeited and cheapened imitation of the real thing. Respected pastor Tony Evans refuses to let the voice of God be drowned out amidst the clamor of the crowd. Discover what God says in His word regarding why your sexuality is important and why sexual immorality is devastating. Discover how to maintain purity and enjoy true intimacy in marriage - the real fulfillment and satisfaction that God intended.
This summary was taken from Goodreads.

Star Rating:
     3.5 Stars
Content Rating:
     PG (recommended to 16 & up)


There were some good points made in this book about sexual purity, here are four things I liked about it:

  1. I did enjoy the focus on the spiritual aspects of sex, and it did outline the emotional affects pretty well (though it would have benefited from more definition, and scientific facts to back it up-- citation, citation, citation, people...). The spiritual aspects have never been very well explained or talked about in depth with me, so it was enlightening to actually read how so.
  2. Fun fact that I learned (but possibly knew in the past), was in biblical times if a husband found his new wife not to be a virgin on their wedding night and charged her for it, the family would have to provide the cloth that they slept and she bled on to prove she was and save her from the charges. Don't ask me how they got it, because I don't know.
  3. I really enjoyed learning more about how the marriage covenant reflects God's covenant with us. Yeah yeah, we know sex is good within marriage, blah blah, but this book did make the connection and showed how it reflects God's covenant with us, and how when I husband and wife are together intimately, they renew-- recommit-- to that covenant with each other.
  4. I liked the section that touched on when a husband says he wants to meet his wife's sexual needs, but does not meet her emotional needs throughout the day so he can later then meet her sexual needs, then he does not mean he really wants to meet those needs. He wants to meet his needs.   For women, it's different; if you aren't there for her when she needs you at 10am, until you want her at 10pm, then you're fooling yourself and it's just about you. (This does not justify or give a wife reason to deprive her husband and not meet his sexual needs though.)

Unfortunately, I expected a book that was going to enlightenment me on why I needed to make sex something sacred in my life, something that explained to me how it was more than just physical pleasure or even emotional connection while backing it up with facts, and an eye-opening attempt at convincing and proving to me that this was better for my life.

Instead I was disappointed and found a book that told me what to believe, though it did use a lot of Scripture well, rather than sharing more supportive evidence.

If I am completely honest: this book feels like it is an "advanced reading copy" and still in need of work. I do not regret reading it, because in truth there are some good qualities to it, but I will be looking to read other books on the subject of "sacred sex" because I am sure there is another book out there that shares this principle better.


Truly, what bothered me most about this book were the few times that Tony made statements and did not further back them up with research, facts, personal experiences... something other than his own word.

Here is one of the few examples from the book that bothered me deeply:
"So Paul says that to avoid immorality, what men and women must do is save themselves for marriage. The fact is that some people were so sexually active before they got married that they were running on low octane after they got married. Their passions burned too early, and now they had burned low because they did not keep what was special and sacred for the marriage bed. This helps explain the high sales of Viagra and other performance-enhancing drugs. (page 49)"
This one in particular gets me fired up. Where is your proof? He makes a pretty sound statement, but I see nothing that truly holds up, "This helps explain the high sales of Viagra and other performance-enhancing drugs." I cringe at that sentence. Tony opens up an entirely new topic, slapping it onto a somewhat decent paragraph to make it sound dependable, and then drops it. He never touches on the subject again throughout the book.

Did he really only want to get his two-cents in there and that's it? Back it up, please. 

Secondly, this is not a very approachable book for those who are not a Christian. I understand Christians may be the target audience, but this is a huge downfall and I am very disappointed because I expected a book that was approachable. Sacred Sex is filled with Christian words that lack definition and explanation. Rather, I would prefer if Dr. Evans had taken the time to avoid those cliche, church words all together, even that would have made this book more reader friendly.

Aside from those two things, my last quarrel are a couple sections in Dr Evans book where he could have expanded upon the thought he was expressing. It's a bit harder to share an example of this, but there were times when I was reading, it was getting interesting, and then the section was over. That's it? Ran through my head a couple times.

Ultimately, I am not embarrassed to have read about sex, it's a topic that interests me. What this book lacks, however, is content. It really needed to be longer. Of course I enjoyed that it was short and easy to read, but it was too short.

Reading this review make you squirm?
Did you find it too harsh or unforgiving?

DISCLAIMER: I received this book for free from Moody Publishers in exchange for posting an honest review. Thank you, Moody! If you are interested in having a book reviewed by me, you can check out my about page and contact me here.

Monday, April 28, 2014

New Glasses & Nudists

My style is something I have been building over the last couple of years. And I have been putting it off for months, but I finally started trudging through store after store in search of a new pair of glasses. It was an experience that stretched me, and got me thinking about style.

No, in case you’re worried, this is not just a girl’s post about fashion, but I do want my clothes to reflect me as a person and not one particular style. Ultimately I want a wardrobe that is unique to me and my lifestyle, and is not defined by trends or what’s popular.

I want the flexibility to be more than one kind of person
 when it comes to clothes.

I probably tried on a hundred pair of glasses before I settled on these, but I was worried-- they were different and new-- even though I had been ogling over this cat eye meets hipster librarian style for months. Most people liked the frames I had before, and by getting new ones I knew I would risk positive and negative feedback. I had a fiance, family, and really close friends who I would much rather like my glasses than tolerate them. My relationships are not grounded in my looks, but I was still worried.

It’s hard, especially when we all can find things we don’t like about ourselves. Clothes are something we have control over when it comes to our image and who we want to be stylistically. I have had a lot of ups and downs since I made the decision to dress how I really wanted to dress a few years ago, including the style of glasses I wore, and have had to battle the embarrassment and insecurities of not fitting in or not looking good to others...

Even when I wear something that could be deemed “stylish” or trendy.

Actually, I wanted to fall in love with the way I looked. Not in a self-absorbed, vein desire for beauty in myself, but an appreciation and delight in the beautiful, wonderful, and mysterious way God created me.

Let’s face it, God created man and woman to be naked. That’s something I fully believe. Our original adornment was our bodies. The uniqueness of shape, size, color, hair, smell, and whatever else you can think of was God’s spoken masterpiece. Until we sought to open our eyes, and ate the fruit God had forbidden us to eat. We fell and spoiled the experience, beauty, and unashamedness of being able to see and even enjoy each other’s bodies without it being something deemed wrong, dirty, lustful, and sinful outside of marriage. I’m not talking about having sex with any and everyone here, or lust, I’m talking about enjoying aesthetic beauty: things that are pleasing to the eye. 

God was not hiding from us something we rightfully deserved to know, I think He was saving us from ourselves and was planning to give us a better life we could enjoy

I am no pervert when I say I would love to be in a world where it is okay to be completely naked, and we could go through life in a way where that was not such a shameful, wrong thing to do.

Do I think it’s possible to change our thinking? Should we all become nudists?

No, unfortunately, I think that is a mistake we will have to bear for the rest of our lives. It’s a touchy subject that I do not know much about, but I do know that God covered Adam and Eve. Whether He did it for their own well-being because they were embarrassed by what He created, or because they had cheated themselves of a wonderful existence that could have been theirs… I am not sure.

Maybe that is something that can be restored, I do not want to doubt the power of the Holy Spirit to change our way of thinking and living. However, that has not been a particular subject that God talks about restoring in this world from what I have read in Scripture.

What on earth does this all boil down to?

My desire is to enjoy and flatter the body that God has given me, rather than try to change my appearance. I am not saying that clothes are bad, or make-up is bad, or getting a new hair cut is bad, or that shaving is bad, or anything like that. I am saying that for a long time I have been stumbling along in a discovery of finding my beauty and worth in something more grounded than anything I could try to manage and control (like my looks).

I still brush my hair, enjoy styling it, wear makeup sometimes, and prefer clothes that make me look and feel “better”. There’s a different mindset I have to constantly choose to live by though in order to enjoy my appearance and still honor God. I have to be in sync with Him, and understand His way of perceiving beauty.

I have to know that God doesn’t want me to despise and shamefully hide the way I was made. He also is guiding me in how I dress so that I point others to Him and not fall easily into the pit of being admired and complemented by others (both of which I think are acceptable things, but they’re a problem when they get to our head).

I think He wants you to live that way too: free to express your true beauty and style preferences. Not so you can seek to offend or harm anyone, but in a way that frees you from conformity and allows you to enjoy being you (even if… *looks around nervously* you’re a Christian!).

God sure thinks you look good: Genesis 1:31.

Friday, April 25, 2014

God Told Me to Build an Ark

Except this ark is made out of Google documents, red pens and highlighters, pages of paper, lots of ink, and a hardback cover. Still clueless? I'm talking about a book.

This was my year to write a book.

Several times this year I have wanted to give up on that plan altogether, but I had a strange albeit real conviction that God was telling me, "No, I want you to write a book. Just not yet."

I've been eaten up inside because I do not have an idea I can stick with. Today I was pretty annoyed that I did not know what to write about. I have tons of ideas, but I can't seem to make any of them pan out or focus on them long enough to pull a book out of it.

That's when it hit me... "Not yet, Marissa." I am not supposed to write a book yet. God is going to give me that idea, that certainty of knowing what to write, it's just I am not ready for it. At first I did not know why He was telling me this, but now I understand that it must be in part because I am not ready. I fully believe He’s right.

It was my light bulb moment.

For once, I am not supposed to think or try to write a book. Do you know how hard that is for me? I've spent so much of my life slipping in and out of the "thinking about writing a book" mode.

I am going to keep writing. That's exactly what I feel like He's telling me to do. However, it won't be for a book or in that mindset. My blog has been on my mind a lot lately, and I've been considering just stopping and getting rid of the whole thing.

It's not time to throw in the towel unfortunately. Instead I have some wimpy creative and writing muscles that need exercised, and I am afraid my readers will be put through the ringer as I pursue that.

There are a lot of people who are actually writing good stuff about life, dating, marriage, sex, creativity, being real Christ followers, healthy living, authenticity, fashion, pain, fitness, joy, cooking, and whatever else you can think of.

My challenge is this:
to be intentional about blogging
to just write what needs to be said.

One statement I am going to avoid with a passion is saying, "This is something we need to be talking about," and I am just going to do it.

I may not be completely original, or come up with a new formula or way to approach things, but I can add my voice to the ones who are making a difference in their writing. And I can say things in my own unique way. 

Saying all of this is to prepare you... I am going to start talking about some weird, awkward, taboo stuff for me, things that I do not usually write about and post on the internet.

I'm ready to start putting days into original, heart-pouring-out blog posts instead of a couple hours. I am ready to recommit, to be raw again, authentic, and unafraid to write about what I am really pondering over. I have been prepared and commissioned to do so by my Lord.

I have a lot of butt-kicking, stinky sweating, muscle cramping, fitful screaming, fear stomping, doubt smashing, adrenaline pumping work to do. Wanna come?

It’s time to build an ark. 

Good bye, book-to-be. I do not know when I will see you again, hopefully soon, but right now I have some other writing to accomplish. I will get back to you when it's your turn.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Worth Reading: That Passion

There's something extremely important to me when it comes to living my life... Living with passion. My passion is writing and literature. For someone else it may be drawing or music or photography...

I think we all strive to have some sort of craft to call our own-- something we enjoy doing and feel good at and is worth putting our effort into. We want a craft that we can thrive on, and that starts with being passionate about what you do. Here are three posts on finding, using, and living that passion:

1. Three Signs You've Found Your True Passion by Nick Thacker

2. Success Starts with Passion by Jeff Goins

3. Five Steps to Living Out Your Passion by David Valentine

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Daniel Fast: I'm Terrified of Veggies

Today marks an interesting challenge for me. For lent I have decided to join my mother and a couple other people to do The Daniel Fast, for 40 days. This means I will be on a vegan diet, with no sugar or processed foods.

First thing is that I am a picky eater, and though I like some fruits and vegetables, it is going to be extremely hard for me to eat those things as my main source of nutrition: meaning lots of them and in variety. The thought of "failing" is definitely frightening, but I have to remember it's not about "succeeding" in this challenge.

Extended fasting through healthy eating has so much more to do with my spiritual and physical health than it does completing a 40 day "challenge". I think this is coming at a good time in my life, when I feel distant from God because of things I'm struggling through, and yet He's the one I want to cling to. It's hard to do that when I am exhausted on my own, and burnt out on "trying harder".

I may feel great after having a productive day, but as soon as the work is over, I know I'm still just as down until I distract myself with a new task. Then there are the days where I am tired and unmotivated, and just down. It's not that I feel food has become my source of comfort through my struggles, but rather because of struggling so much, I know the importance of a healthy diet. I want to pump as many nutrients and healthy foods into my body to boost my system. However, just eating right isn't enough for me. I get worn out, burnt out, and exhausted and I default to going right back to where I was.

I need so much more than fruits and vegetables to make me feel better. They're a start, but this Daniel Fast is going to be a time for me to grow closer to Christ as my strength. It won't be easy, but I feel incredibly led to do The Daniel Fast for lent. I may not succeed in the way I hope, but if I can strengthen my foundation in Christ, it will be worth it.

Of course, eating right and giving up the junk my body doesn't need will probably be a good thing too.

Are you doing anything for lent? Want to share?

Friday, February 28, 2014

Writing, Reading, & Directions

My goal was to write a book this year, and I was hoping to get something cranked out this spring semester. So far all I have is an idea and a few characters in my head.... I know that I really need to get back to writing, I've started to doubt that it's my true passion. My outlet. But that's because I haven't been writing much lately, especially as I've gotten older.

Writing has changed for me, I am not as dedicated as I use to be. I can't get up in the mornings, blaze through schoolwork, spend the rest of my afternoon typing away at a story I think is brilliant and then save it to my little floppy disc... I haven't always felt the emotions coursing through me and been in love with the words that flow onto the page.

I haven't gone through and critiqued every sentence, changing it up until it reached perfection only to read it the next day and go, "Eck..." I also haven't stayed up till midnight typing away until my brain turned to mush. Which may be a good thing.

The importance of this though is that I know I need to write. No matter how distracted, discouraged, or unsure I get... I still need to write.

I love to draw, for example, but lately whenever I haven't been feeling the greatest it is almost impossible to draw. However, when I'm "too" tired or discouraged, writing is that outlet that helps me refocus or say what I'm feeling. It's therapeutic. When I don't feel like I can do anything else, I fall back to writing. It's my voice.

Sooo though it would be a lot easier to give up on this book idea, or just say that I'm not cut out to be a writer, I was reminded recently that it doesn't matter. I still have to write. Which reminds me of when I first fell in love with writing, how passionate I was about it. I wrote for myself.

No matter what, I have to write. Stories run through my veins. I just need to get back to committing them to paper. (Or a computer screen.)

Speaking of writing... That brings me back around to what I've been reading. I've managed four to five books so far this year and right now I am reading one in particular that I have to tell you about.

Writing Tools (50 Essential Strategies
for Every Writer) by Roy Peter Clark

This Writing Tools book, you need to go buy it. Right now. I'm only 35 pages into it and I tell ya, that thing is magic. I love it so far, love the way he writes, love the way the chapters are laid out, I love each stinkin' page and think it's the perfect little book that ties up a TON of essential writing strategies. Just read it and make sure you have a copy around so you can go back to it whenever you need to.

{Thank you, Jackson, for letting me borrow your copy. You may not get it back until we're married... I'll have to think about it.}

Seriously though, when I read this book it makes me want to teach English just because I have a book that would be awesome for people to use.

As far as the direction this year for my blog goes... I dunno. I hope to share how progress on my novel is going without giving too much away, I'd like to keep this story on the down low and actually get it written. Book reviews will still be my thing because I'd like to get better at writing them, and they're a reason for why I like to read. Other than reading just to read in and of itself. I may blog later on this year once I start wedding planning and how all that stuff is going. We'll see.

What are you doing this year?
Come on, just tell me one thing you hope or plan to do!

Friday, February 14, 2014

I Got Engaged... No, I'm Serious.

Most people know already, but... I got engaged! On Christmas Eve to be precise. Jackson posted about it on his blog already, but I've really been slacking lately when it comes to anything word related... writing... blogging... reading... You get the picture. We've already told family, close friends, and made it Facebook Official. Not to mention tweeting about it... It's been fun.

Jackson and I have known each other for several years even before we were "together". We've been in a relationship for 2 and a half years, and now I am really excited to take this next step of being engaged. Shhhh, don't tell, but I think we've both known we found "the one" for a while. 

So... He had to work Christmas Eve day, and I had been at home when I received a text from him when he got off his shift. I was told to get ready to go because he was going to kidnap me for the evening. I got ready excitedly, trying to have some sort of composure and not really succeeding...

About an hour or so later he was coming up my driveway. Fast forward one car ride with me promising to keep my eyes closed, which I did, and badgering him for where we were going.... and we finally came to a stop. "You can open your eyes now," Jackson said, the smile in his voice.

It took me a few seconds to finally open my eyes, where were we?? I had guessed that we went up on the parkway, and when I opened my eyes, we were pulled off at one of the mountain look outs.

The sun was setting. Bright pink and blue hues were coloring the sky, and he suggested that we get out and take a picture. Now Jackson and I take pictures together all the time, and this would not have been unusual at all if it hadn't been for the fact my eyes were closed the whole way there.

He sets up the camera as usual. I stand in front of the camera at a distance so he can get everything configured... as usual. We both are shivering and remarking on how freezing it turned out to be outside... not as usual.

I'm standing in my spot when Jackson quickly walks over and stands beside me, I know something is up, but smile for the picture regardless. Waiting for the the light to start blinking, waiting for the camera to click... Nothing.

Jackson turns and hugs me, I wrap my arms around him, feeling his warmth that takes off some of the bite from the chilly air. When he pulls away, he lowers down to one knee. I can't remember if it was his right or left... But he's looking up at me when he finally says, "Marissa, will you marry me?"

"Yes! ...Yes. Yes. Yes!" I managed half a dozen times. I said something how this didn't even feel real, and he said, "I know." I think Jackson was collecting himself for a moment (or time froze, or my brain left me, I have no idea), then he stood back up and slipped the ring on my finger. We wrapped our arms around each other again, and he told me he loved me. For the first time. "I love you."

"I love you too."

After a moment we both looked at each other again, he leaned his head down to mine and kissed me.

It was one of the most amazing moments in my life. Simple... personal... and perfect for us.

My best friend proposed... to me.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

I Have To Stop Living For Myself.

I have to stop living for myself. It's been really confusing figuring that out. I am still a bit clueless as to how to go about each day and head in the direction I want to go, without living for myself. How I can feel God's calling on my life and know things He wants me to do, but determine when I'm too focused on me.

The past few weeks have been really rough. Technically the last six month there have been numerous things testing, stretching, and challenging me. (If I were completely honest I'd say on and off through my life there have been times when it was this hard, but the frequency of those times have increased lately. A LOT.)

So when I say the last few weeks have been rough, it's because over the last six months or so I've had a lot of good days and moments, but right now I'm back in the phase where I can't pull things together. It's really discouraging. I get tired of being so overwhelmed, down, angry, frustrated, and disappointed. At the same time I'm so tired, it's hard to make the effort to feel better.

I guess the past few weeks I've been defeated by the stress, the discouragement, and the pressure. There are days when I'm happy again and energized, or at least being positive. There are so many days when I wish I could slip into comatose because I know I don't want to die, but I don't have it in me to feel better either. I don't want that either though because I wouldn't even know I was getting a break.

There's so much I am working through lately, and one of the hardest is getting past myself. It's so hard to change the way you think, but that seems the only true explanation for how I have been feeling. That truly it is my own doing in some way. Maybe it's because I am going through a period in my life when I am weak, and unlike before I am getting challenged even more rather than able to breathe and get back on my feet.

If you're someone who feels stuck... Battling day after day of being down and depressed and discouraged... Being a Christian and knowing you have hope, but feeling hopeless... I could tell you I understand. I could tell you it sucks, really bad. It hurts and it feels like it's all your fault, but also everyone else's fault at the same time. I still don't know if it is or not because I wish I could blame it on some mental illness or depression, but all I can tell you is that you need God. Because He's what I need too.

I can't tell you much more because then that would mean I had figured it out. I haven't. I'm still stumbling along and blaming myself and struggling to do something to get past it. But I know God can get me through it. He can get any of us through it. He hasn't let go of me yet and never will.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Book Review: Rebellious Heart

Publisher: Bethany House Publishers
Genre: Fiction; Historical Romance
Number of Pages: 376

    Because she's a woman, higher learning was always closed to Susanna Smith. But her quick mind and quicker tongue never back down from a challenge. And she's determined to marry well, so she'll be able to continue her work with the less fortunate.

Growing up with little to his name, poor country lawyer Benjamin Ross dreams of impacting the world for the better. When introduced to the Smiths he's taken by Susanna's intelligence and independent spirit, but her parents refuse to see him as a suitor for their daughter.

When the life of a runaway indentured servant is threatened, Susanna is forced to choose between justice and mercy, and Ben becomes her unlikely advisor. But drawing closer to this man of principle and intellect lands her in a dangerous, secret world of rebellion and revolution against everything she once held dear.

(Taken from Goodreads and also is what is on the back of the book.)

Star Rating:
      5 stars (I really liked this book.)

Content Rating:
     PG (recommended to 13&up though)

My Opinions:
     What I liked/loved - Okay, plain and simple, I loved the interaction between Susanna and Benjamin from the very beginning. It was nice to read a romance for once that had the two main characters bumping heads, bantering, and flirting from the start, considering they already had a bit of a history with each other.

Benjamin, Benjamin, Benjamin... What to say about him... I liked how he and Susanna both grew throughout the story, and also how he learned who he was trying to please in his life. This was a well done perspective on a "rags to riches" kind of guy, and who he thought he wanted to be. I loved how he cared about justice, but not in a too over zealous way and his beliefs that pushed against the comfortable world around him. Rebellion... Revolution...

Susanna's character was a little weak at times, but it was wonderfully done how her own thoughts and beliefs changed throughout the book. I loved reading about the challenges she faced in staying true to what was right, but how she also learned that what was right might not have been what she always believed in.

Last, but not least, I loved the ending of Rebellious Heart. The mystery, fear, emotion, and drama finally comes to a smashing finale. I loved it. It left me finishing the book happy and glad for every moment I spent reading its pages.

     What I didn't like/hated - Nothing to hate in this book, except maybe that it had an end. I enjoyed reading Rebellious Heart, and found it easy to blaze through its pages.

The Quality:
     This book starts out well with a sentence that grabs you and a story that soon begins to unfold. The first 50 pages are used to build up speed, but they are still entertaining, important to the story, and things definitely start picking up as this book goes on.

Hedlund writes in a way that pulled me into the story, without feeling like each sentence was dumbed down. I soon was reading through pages without even realizing how much I had read.

Rebellious Heart does indeed blend mystery and romance beautifully in this story. Not only will I be holding on to my copy of Rebellious Heart, but I hope to take the time to read it again. I would recommend it!

Iffy Content:
Language - None.

Sensuality - It is made known that a slave owner has mistreated some of his servants, and there are a couple other servants in the story that were sexually abused, but it does not go into detail. There are a few kisses exchanged between some of our main characters, as well as reference to kissing in a closet, it does not go beyond that and there are no sensual, make-out scenes. One man is newly married and excited about his wedding night, but the book does not go past that.

Violence - A couple girls have been murdered, but there is only one crime scene. It is briefly described, but not in great detail. One girl on the run had bloodied and cut feet because of no shoes.

Other - None that I can think of to mention.

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, January 31, 2014

Grandma Mary

There were so many other things I could have set out to write today, or particularly this evening. But for some reason the only inspiration I have is to write about my grandmother, Mary. Yesterday around 4 o'clock she came home after having knee surgery on her right leg, and since my mom hasn't been feeling well, I have been staying with my Grandma Mary to help her out while she's recovering.

I don't mind. It's nice to help out too. Except something touched me today.

After being in a sort daze lately, with feelings that I can't quite put my finger on... something melted me inside. When I made my Grandma Mary her coffee this morning, I asked her which mug she wanted me to use for her coffee. She was making sure once again if I was going to have some, then thinking, "Oh wait, you don't like coffee, do you?" I reminded her that I did, but I was fine and wasn't going to have any. I asked her which of two mugs I had in my hand that she preferred. She finally told me which one, and added, "Yeah, that one's my favorite."

Her voice is kind of loud, it didn't have any memorial sigh behind it... She does not talk in the quiet sing-songy voice. Nothing as romantic as you may be picturing. If you know her, you could hear her voice saying that. It's not like in the movies, it's just a moment crammed into a day as if it were a regular, unimportant memory.

There was no special story behind why the mug is her favorite as far as I know, just a simple preference for one mug over the other. Maybe because it's slightly bigger. Maybe because she's had it longer. But as I walked back into the kitchen and looked down at that mug, something inside me thawed for a moment. I didn't feel so distant, instead the words "that one's my favorite," echoed in my mind again.

Strangely, it almost made me want to cry. To know that one simple thing about my grandmother touched me. Why of all moments would that little scenario strike me? I have no idea. The odd mood returned after a while, revisiting me throughout the day. But I'm okay. I just couldn't not write about this. Grandma Mary's favorite mug.

I think it answered that silent question inside of me, that has been taking root in the back of my mind for a little while. Who is my Grandmother? There are so many things I know about her. So many questions I could ask, and I'm sure she would answer. But today she just answered one question...

"Which mug do you prefer?"

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Book Review: The Captive Maiden

Publisher: Zondervan
Genre: Fiction; Historical Romance; Medieval/Renaissance Fiction 
Number of Pages: 284

     Gisela's childhood was filled with laughter and visits from nobles such as the duke and his young son. But since her father's death, each day has been filled with nothing but servitude to her stepmother. So when Gisela meets the duke's son, Valten--the boy she has daydreamed about for years--and learns he is throwing a ball, she vows to attend, even if it's only for a taste of a life she'll never have. To her surprise, she catches Valten's eye. Though he is rough around the edges, Gisela finds Valten has completely captured her heart. But other forces are bent on keeping the two from falling further in love, putting Gisela in more danger than she ever imagined.
(This was taken from Goodreads and it is what's on the back of the book.)

Star Rating:
      3.5 stars (I liked it.)

Content Rating:
     PG (recommend to 14&up)

My Opinions:
     What I liked/loved - I can't complain. This book was free, it sounded good, and I had been wanting to check out Melanie Dickerson since her name had been popping into field of view lately. It seemed her popularity is rising, so why wouldn't I give her novel a try?

     The book was satisfactory. There was a good bit of action and suspense, wondering what was going to happen next... Though this story only encompassing a pretty short period of time, Dickerson wrote the relationship between Gisela and Valten well so it was not too rushed or completely unrealistic.

     I liked this book, and already recommended it to my younger sister who will be fourteen in a few months. The main thing for me is I liked it-- I don't regret reading it-- it's just I didn't love it. I was not stunned by beautiful writing or sentences that seemed to flow across the page... It was just decent writing. Fairly good writing. I was still enjoyable and beautiful at times, but as a whole this book may have been to young for me.

      I will note that I appreciate her pretty authentic characters. Even the bad guy who seemed rotten was not inhumanly rotten. Valten was admirable, strong, and heroic. Gisela was sweet, tough in her own way, but still in need of love. I am pleased with the amount of growth that happens for these two characters throughout the book. Not just their relationship with each other, no, I mean personal growth! They are not the same two characters at the end of this novel. They are of course themselves, but they have grown, learned, and matured. I do admire Dickerson for writing that into her novel.

     And you can't go wrong with mentioning along with the action, there is a sweet romance going on. There is a bit of tension between our two main characters as they wonder about each other, and we see how they both approach and view one another. Besides, you know we all hope they kiss. Once you have a good foundation between two main characters, isn't a kiss to seal it all like the best part? Yes, this book was quite cute and satisfying in those regards.

The Quality:
     There isn't necessarily anything wrong with this book. I received an Advanced Reading Copy, which was the Uncorrected Proof, so of course I caught a few minor grammatical or punctuation errors. There are apparently 20 more pages in the final copy of the book that was published, but I do not know whether or not she added to the story.

     I really don't know what to say because I hate to be negative about such a clean, sweet book, but there were few times that her writing really wowed me. The problem may be that I have been exposed to different forms of literature, have had a taste of wonderful writing, and it's just that Melanie Dickerson's style still has room for improvement.

     Her book was very easy to read, but the plot was predictable at times which is hard to avoid when retelling a story like Cinderella, though she did do a good job really added to and enhancing this retelling so it was not as cliche as it could have been.

     The main thing that got me was the reading level of this book seemed fairly young... I hate to say that, but the quality of writing is something I would expect to find in between that of a tween and teen novel--not an outright teen novel. The plot development was well placed and her pacing suited her story line perfectly, but I guess there was a bit too much explaining of things. It is one thing to describe a situation, Dickerson did have some good descriptions, but then to explain why something might be that way, that is what makes the writing feel younger.
(Example: She described one of the character's hair looking darker in shade, which must be because it was wet, because the blonde hair was brown. No, she did not word it exactly like this, but this does dumb down the reading. She could have easily commented instead on his damp hair and how it was darker; making it more of a statement than an explanation.) 

     So what do I do at this point? I would recommend this book, because even though the writing style is very easy to read and young feeling: the plot, action, faith, and romance are what make this a good, Christian teen novel. It is easy to recommend to any teen without worry of inappropriate content. There is still enough angst, bad guys, faith, and romance to make it entertaining and also a little thought-provoking.

     My final note is more of extreme personal opinion, and since I have not read any of Dickerson's other books I can only comment on this one, but I feel she could have incorporated faith into her book more smoothly. There are some elements she did well, those that were more realistic and carried a good message with them. However, when Christianity first came into the book, that is when it seemed to stick out like a sore thumb. Do not get me wrong, I love the Lord and believe strongly in making His recognition the striving point of our books, but I have read better.

     What mainly stuck out once I had gotten use to the "Christian" aspects of this book, is when Scripture was mentioned. It was inconsistent with the times, though I know that the way she incorporated the Good News will better serve readers of today, I feel it could have been adjusted a little, along with their speech, to reflect the time period in which the book was set. This is just my personal opinion, and I would not discourage anyone from reading the book because of this.

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

     Sensuality - Some. There is some kissing, though nothing passionate or very descriptive. The characters do think to themselves about wanting to kiss. The word "molested" is mentioned once in the book, but there is no scene or anything to worry about, just a character's fear of what might happen. There is an embrace here or there, and characters wrapping their arms around each other-- some pleasurable, some not so much. This novel is very clean, making it appropriate for most ages.

     Violence - There is a jousting tournament, fights, wounds, etc. Nothing is too graphic or gruesome; though blood, cuts, and bruising are mentioned.

     Other - This is a Christian, historical romance and faith is incorporated into this book. I did not find anything offensive though I am a Christian myself, but it is made obvious at times that this is a Christian book as the characters question and think about God, faith, and His involvement in their lives.

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!