Thursday, March 20, 2014

Book Review: The A-Z of C.S. Lewis by Colin Duriez

About the Book: A Complete Guide to His Life, Thoughts and Writings

Published to coincide with the 50th anniversary of C. S. Lewis's death, this complete guide covers all of Lewis' works, from his literary criticism to Narnia.

C. S. Lewis's work is widely known and regarded, but enthusiasts are often only aware of one part of his work-his children's stories and his popular theology; and yet he wrote so much more, including science fiction and literary criticism. This volume brings together all aspects of C S Lewis's life and thought. Arranged in alphabetical order, it begins with The Abolition of Man-written in 1943 and described as "almost my favorite"-to Wormwood, a character in The Screwtape Letters. This book will delight anyone who is interested in C. S. Lewis and wants to learn more about him, his thought, his works, and his life.

My Thoughts: Lewis is famous for his children's series The Chronicles of Narnia, but only a brief glance through this encyclopedic book will confirm that there is so much more to learn about this man, his family, his career, and his other writings.  Anyone with a penchant for facts and love for Lewis would devour this book.

I'm not sure why, but I had a different idea in my mind about what this book would be.  For some reason I thought it would be a collection of excerpts from each of his works, giving you a taste of each one and enticing you to read them all!  However, that was not the case (though I would love to read such a book!).  Instead, this book is a veritable encyclopedia.  Literally arranged from A-Z this book covers facts and information about every aspect of Lewis' life - everything from his family, to his career, to his books, to the specific characters from his books, to his views on different topics, to people who were an influence on his life and theology - everything you could possibly wish to know, fact wise, about CS Lewis is included in this book.

This is not a leisurely read, but an excellent resource for Narnia and Lewis fans.  

Thank you to Litfuse Publicity for organizing this tour and providing me with my complimentary review copy.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Book Review: The Bargain by Stephanie Reed

About the book: Book one in the Plain City Peace series.

It's 1971, and Betsie Troyer's peaceful and predictable life is about to become anything but.

When their parents flee the Amish, nineteen-year-old Betsie and her seventeen-year-old sister Sadie are distraught. Under the dubious guidance of a doting aunt, the girls struggle to keep the secret, praying their parents will return before anyone learns the truth-a truth that may end all hopes of Betsie's marriage to Charley Yoder.

My Thoughts: I admit that I had grown tired of the standard Amish novels, but this one was different than the rest.

I really enjoyed watching Betsie's thought process as she struggled with the differences between the Amish and English lifestyles and what she personally thought, not just what she had been taught to think.  I liked that it stressed the differences in theology as well, not just lifestyle.  There certainly are Amish believers, but in general, the Amish do not believe that you can have assurance of salvation, which is contrary to biblical teaching.

Interesting read!

Thank you to Litfuse Publicity for organizing this tour and providing me with my complimentary review copy.

Book Review: Distortion by Terri Blackstock

About the book: Juliet Cole's life has been dismantled by the murder of her husband. She doesn't know who---or what---to trust when everything she has believed to be true about her marriage has been a lie.

When Juliet Cole's husband of fifteen years is murdered before her eyes, she thinks it was a random shooting. Devastated and traumatized, she answers hours of questioning, then returns home to break the tragic news to her boys. But a threatening voicemail takes this from a random shooting to a planned, deliberate attack.

Juliet realizes that she and her children are in danger too, unless she meets the killers' demands. But as she and her sisters untangle the clues, her husband's dark secrets come to light. The more she learns, the more of her life is dismantled. Was her husband an innocent victim or a hardened criminal?

My Thoughts:  It took me about a chapter or two to get into this one, but it took off from there and I thoroughly enjoyed it the rest of the way through.  I have not read other books in this series but it wasn't much of a hindrance.

I enjoyed the private eye and investigative aspect of this one.  I love it when you can't tell for sure who the good guys and bad guys are, with lots of twists and turns - but not too much that it's overdone.  Blackstock strikes the right balance with this one to keep your interest high all the way through.  Might have to look up some of the other books in this series!

Thank you to Litfuse Publicity for organizing this tour and providing me with my complimentary review copy.

Book Review: It Had to be You by Susan May Warren

About the book: A Christensen Family Novel.

Eden Christiansen never imagined her role as her younger brother Owen's cheerleader would keep her on the sidelines of her own life. Sure, it feels good to be needed, but looking after the reckless NHL rookie leaves little time for Eden to focus on her own career. She dreamed of making a name for herself as a reporter, but is stuck writing obits---and starting to fear she doesn't have the chops to land a major story. If only someone would step up to mentor Owen . . . but she knows better than to expect help from team veteran and bad-boy enforcer Jace Jacobsen.

Jace has built his career on the infamous reputation of his aggressive behavior---on and off the ice. Now at a crossroads about his future in hockey, that reputation has him trapped. And the guilt-trip he's getting from Eden Christiansen isn't making things any easier. But when Owen's carelessness leads to a career-threatening injury and Eden stumbles upon a story that could be her big break, she and Jace are thrown together . . . and begin to wonder if they belong on the same team after all.

My Thoughts:
Susan May Warren is one of my favourite authors and this book did not disappoint. One thing I like about her writing (as opposed to Karen Kingsbury) is that her characters can't read each other's thoughts just by looking in their eyes.  In fact, they often read each other's body language completely wrong.  You know, like normal people.  In this case, they possibly misunderstand each other too much to be totally believable, but it's still more believable than the other way around.

We are a hockey loving family around here, so I really enjoyed that aspect of this storyline.  I also really enjoyed the theological look at why God allows things to happen, and the definition of hope.  

Pick this one up - you won't be disappointed!

Thank you to Litfuse Publicity for organizing this tour and providing me with my complimentary review copy.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Book Review: Princess Ever After by Rachel Hauck

About the Book: 
Regina Beswick was born to be a princess.
But she's content to be a small-town girl, running a classic auto restoration shop, unaware a secret destiny awaits her. One that will leap from the pages of her grandmother's hand-painted book of fairytales.
Tanner Burkhardt is the stoic Minister of Culture for the Grand Duchy of Hessenberg. When he is tasked to retrieve the long-lost princess, he must overcome his fear of failure in order to secure his nation's future---and his own.

Yet lurking in the political shadows is a fierce opponent with sinister plans to abolish the throne forever. Overwhelmed with opposition, Regina must decide if she's destined to restore old cars or an ancient nation. Together---with a little divine intervention---Regina and Tanner discover the truth of her heritage and the healing power of true love.

My Thoughts:  I loved this book!  What little girl doesn't love the idea of being a long lost princess?  The reality, of course, would be quite different than the fairy tale. It's not so easy to give up life as you know it, including family and friends.  

I love how Hauck makes the characters real - their flaws, weaknesses & strengths, personalities all ring true to life.  I enjoyed watching the characters discover God's purpose for their life, and coming to the realization that our best laid plans are not comparable to God's plan for our lives.  Taking that step of faith is hard, but so worth it.  

Thank you to Litfuse Publicity for organizing this tour and providing me with my complimentary review copy.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Goals for 2013 and 2014

Time for a check on how I did with my goals from last year.  I'd like to say in advance, I did very poorly.  One of the biggest reasons why I did so poorly was because I forgot it was even a goal!  If I don't check back, or write down this list, how in the world will I accomplish it?  Yeah, too late to come to that epiphany.

Anyway, here's the rundown of the goals I set last year and whether or not I accomplished them....

1) Read my Bible in a year (for the 4th time in 5 years) and participate in my Bible in a Year Blog.
This is "an easy one" because of the continued accountability factor of my blog. Last year I did not read through the Bible in a year because I was doing the majority of the postings - generally 9 days every 2 weeks. But this year we have more participants again, so I'm down to only one post per week, so I'm reading through the Bible in a year again as well as our in depth book study.
Partial success.  Participated on the blog yes.  But I got behind on the Bible in a Year plan in September and never got back on track.

2) Develop a consistent and organized prayer time.
Yup, another repeat. This was an absolute fail and I need to set aside prayer time as priority time.

3) Being a more deliberate wife, mother and friend.
As I mentioned above, this is never something you have arrived at and is always a worthy goal, so it stays on the list too!
Hard to measure quantitatively, but I'd say progress was made, and more progress yet to go.

4) Begin each day praying that God would guide me to do what He has planned for my day - pursuing His agenda instead of my own.
Again, another one that could be on the list every year.
See #2.

5) Continue to exercise regularly and eat healthier.
Broken record here, I know. 
Exercised regularly - check!
Eat healthier - not bad, but still room for improvement.

6) Write weekly on my prayer blogs for my kids.
Similar to #2 but specific to my children. This was one of those great ideas that I just haven't managed to keep up. I created prayer blogs for all our kids that would contain both letters to them, and prayers for them as individuals. My plan is to make it into a book to give to them at some point during their teenagerhood, either at a certain age or whenever I think they might need it. Like may of my plans, good intentions have not given way to reality - so far I've only written 3 posts on Emma's blog. At this point I need to write more often in the older kids blogs in order to "catch up" to at least an approximately even number of entries. I've decided I need to dedicate one day per week to writing in these blogs so that it actually happens. (They are private so you won't be able to read them, sorry!).
Fail.  This is something I really want to do, so I think I'm going to have to pick a day that I want to do this and literally put it in my calendar/to do list or it's simply not going to happen.

7) Work on scripture memory.
Last January I began a scripture memory blog to help keep me accountable to memorize scripture as it was something I had felt convicted about for some time and really wanted to do. It worked, up until September when I fell off the bandwagon. So, this is a good time to get back on! Last year I memorized Psalms 1, 23, 46, 121, 134, 1 Corinthians 13 and the Book of Titus (which is 3 chapters). I will be starting off by reviewing each chapter for one day, and then I will start working on memorizing new chapters. If you're interested in joining me, I'm following Janet Pope's method and it was much, much easier than I had anticipated and literally took no extra time out of my day. Check it out!
Fail.  Only memorized about 15 verses of James 1.  Back on the bandwagon again this year - starting out with review and then continuing on in James.

8) Write regularly to our sponsored children.
More details on this will come in a post shortly, but for now, suffice it to say that I need to make it a priority to write to our sponsored children. Or rather, to get our children to write to them. We have one sponsored child for each of our children - all their ages. They love writing the letters but it's up to me to make sure it happens!
Mostly fail.  I did organize almost all of our previous correspondence in binders for each child, and I did get the kids to write and draw pictures a couple times this year (which is more than we've done some previous years, but not nearly what I had envisioned when I wrote this goal).  This has to become a priority and I'll have to set it into my calendar or it just won't happen.  

9) Get caught up on bookwork and then continue to stay caught up.
I do the bookwork for my husband's home building company and I am always behind. Don't get me wrong - I do always pay all the bills, but I don't always enter everything in. I have to get caught up at least every 3 months to submit GST (good thing for that checkpoint!), but then inevitably I get behind once again. So, this year, I want to get caught up and then purposefully set aside one day per week to work on bookwork so that I stay caught up.
Fail.  Wow, sounding like a broken record.  This one has to change this year!

10) I want to do a "Twelve Days of Christmas gift extravaganza" for Nathan this coming Christmas. My sister Andrea did this for her husband Les this past Christmas and I thought it was a fantastic idea and want to do it myself next year. You can check out what she did here. Needless to say, Les loved it, and I'm sure Nathan will too. After all, who wouldn't?! My friend Pamela is doing this one too. Anyone else in for this challenge? 
Finally - success!!  Did it - loved it!

11) Take and post 365 iPhone photos - one for each day of the year for 2013. I got this idea from my friend Pamelaonce again. She has created a new blog specifically for this project and I decided to follow suit. You can check out my iPhone Photo Project 365 blog here - I've even already done today's post. Pamela mentioned that blogger has an app for posting. I know it doesn't do everything you can do on the regular blogging platform, but it does what I need it to do for this project, so I think this will be relatively easy to do. And a great memory tool for years to come! Here's 10 great reasons why you should do it too. Anyone else game for this challenge?
Success!!  There were a couple days I fudged a bit (took the picture later but made sure it was applicable to the day) and one day where I literally had nothing, but I'd say I was 100% successful 358ish days of the year, so I call that a success.  I used Blurb's "blog to book" feature in order to make a photobook of the past year - I can't wait to get it!  And I'm totally doing this again this year - check it out here.

12) Sew big bags for the kids sleeping bags and bedding for camp. Another idea stolen from Pamela (hey, she had some good ones!). They should be relatively easy to make, I'll let the kids choose their fabric, they will be sturdier than garbage bags and easier to identify - and just fun!
5/6 successful.  I had wanted to do 3 bags (for each of the girls) and 2 of them have been completed, and I have material bought for Emma's, but it still needs to be sewn.

And this year?

Well, I'm going to have fewer specific goals.  Many of the above things are things I will continue to do (like exercise, participate in the Bible blog, photo/day).  I do plan to continue to work on scripture memory and of course I want to continue to be a more purposeful wife/mother/friend.  But I am limiting my list and having more quantitative goals so I can have something to actually measure against, to see if progress has been made.

1) Post once a month on each child's prayer blog.  I am going to put this into my calendar right now, so that it happens.
2) Catch up on office bookwork and stay caught up.
3) Write monthly to our sponsored children.  This is going in my calendar right now as well!

That's it.  Surely I can do 3 goals!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

On the 12th Day of Christmas

On the 12th Day of Christmas Nathan's true love gave to him....
a $12 Amazon gift card - to be used to purchase books for his Kindle to read on our upcoming cruise!

I accidentally ordered the French version - oops!

And that concludes the 12 Days of Christmas - just in time for the real deal tomorrow!
I had a great time, the kids had a great time, and Nathan secretly enjoyed it too :)

Monday, December 23, 2013

On the 11th day of Christmas

On the 11th Day of Christmas I gave my true love 11 dark chocolate covered almonds.
Of course, he asked if it was the 77th day of Christmas.  Hardy har har.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

On the 10th Day of Christmas

On the 10th Day of Christmas Nathan's true love gave to him....
a $10 iTunes gift card.
This took a little more creativity in order to actually have something for him to open.  For some reason, iTunes doesn't sell $10 gift cards in stores, unless you get a 3 pack.  Well, I didn't want a 3 pack. So, I "re-used" one of Olivia's old gift cards so he had something to open, and then ordered the $10 gift card online for actual use.  Tada!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

On the 9th Day of Christmas.....

On the 9th Day of Christmas I gave my true love 9 chocolate kisses.
Due to my first born personality, there are precisely 3 red, 3 white, and 3 silver wrapped kisses in this package.


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