Wednesday, July 18, 2012

3 for 1 {Fiction Book Reviews}

I have have spent the past couple of months playing catch up with some books I have on deck to review for various blogger review programs. I am an avid reader, but had taken a hiatus for awhile so when I started reading again, suddenly I had a few books ready to be reviewed all at once. So why not do a little triple play here?!?!  I LOVE fiction, getting lost in a story and learning life lessons along with the characters. Please enjoy my reviews of 3 very diverse stories, timelines, settings, and characters.

Julie Klassen knocks is out of the park on this one. Hidden motives, riches to rags storyline, unrequited love, and character development that will leave you cheering and hand-wringing throughout the duration of your read.

Margaret Macy's life was one born into wealth and a happy family, but when untimely death and her mother's remarriage find her in a position to be forced into a marriage to a dishonorable man, Margaret flees her house in the dead of night. With little money and months to hide before her inheritance will grant her freedom to marry as she chooses, Margaret makes a difficult decision -- to become a housemaid! To top it all, she finds herself in the Upchurch manor, the home of two brothers, with whom she has previous scandalous history.

The Maid of Fairbourne Hall pulls you into a story crammed with romance, intrigue, danger, and suspense. Margaret Macy's journey will remind you of your own flaws and prejudices as well as challenge you to invest in a personal pilgrimage of growth no matter what life brings.

Book #2 - Switched! 
{Book 5 of TJ and the Time Stumblers

Even though Switched is considered youth/juvenile fiction, I really wanted to read it. I was ALWAYS an avid reader as a child and teen, so I thought not only would I enjoy a walk down memory lane but also would have a lot of experience under my belt from where I could offer perspective in my review.

Like I mentioned, Switched is Book 5 in an ongoing series of TJ and the Time Stumblers. I did not realize that when I offered to review as I hate coming into a book mid-story, however the book does an excellent job of recapping while propelling the current storyline forward as well.

Tuna and Herby have come from the future, more specifically the 23rd century, to learn more about TJ Finkelstein BEFORE she becomes famous. But right now she is just an awkward teen, trying not to stand out and struggling to fit in. However, her future pals are NOT making that very easy -- between their invisibility cloak, making it appear like TJ is talking to herself and scrape after scrape they keep falling into, TJ gets more than she bargains for with these time stumblers.

Switched was a quick, fun read. Having been a children's and youth pastor for a number of years, I found the interactions between friends and peer sets to be accurate in many ways. The ongoing story line is sure to entertain young people as they delve into these characters. The continuous sarcastic narration between scenes and dialogue turned me off somewhat. However overall, the part I really enjoyed is the fact that since Tuna and Herby have come from the future to meet TJ because she made an impact in the world, this book inspires kids and teens to dream big and reach for the stars, even when braces and awkward hair make the world seem more like a monster trying to eat you than an oyster to be possessed.

Having family ancestry in the English/Scottish/Irish region of the world, yet never having had the opportunity {as of yet} to travel there, I relished in the idea of taking a journey with Marie Buchan to rediscover a dream as well as her own Scottish heritage. After the death of her husband, seven years before, forty-year-old Marie discovers that while she is not living in daily sorrow any longer, she is stuck in a rut, a rut that is causing depression and discouragement to weigh heavy on her soul. So she wraps up her responsibilities and spontaneously journeys to Scotland for a summer with her harp.

Angel Harp reads not only as a journey of one woman to rediscover life after the death of a spouse, but also as an expedition into the heart of the Heavenly Father and the way He loves us in our greatest hurts and deepest rejections, even of Him.

I began reading Angel Harp a number of months ago, but the story line progressed so slowly that I grew weary of it and eventually moved on to other interests. However, the richness of the story itself said with me. I would find myself at random moments replaying scenes the author had described or mulling over dialogue where the characters had revealed pieces of themselves.  So finally, since this narrative would not seem to leave me alone, I delved back in.

The pace of the book WAS quite long and possibly even arduous at times, however, a love of Scotland and these now "real-to-me" characters propelled me forward in spite of myself, even causing me to sign up to review the sequel Heather Song.

There are questions in the last few chapters of the book that beg resolution, and I have faith that as Marie's life expedition continues into Heather Song, the answers will reveal themselves.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received The Maid of Fairbourne Hall from Bethany House Publishers, Switched from Tyndale House Publishers, and Angel Harp from Faith Words Hatchette Book Group as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commision's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Friday, July 13, 2012

I Am.....

I Am 

I am whimsy and prose 
I wonder why people don't SEE into each other more 
I hear animals talk
 I see fairies in my forest 
I want babies to call my own 
I am whimsy and prose 

I pretend I am a prima ballerina 
I feel the smell of the Caribbean sun 
I touch the mountains of Hispaniola 
I worry about what the future holds 
I cry for heart breaks and sorrows deeply felt 
I am whimsy and prose 

I understand people are my most valuable possession 
I say Dream Big and Be the Best Version of YOU 
I dream about living an artful life 
I try to give of my whole heart in all that I do 
I hope to show Jesus every day 
I am whimsy and prose

A fun little template filling in the blanks of who I am.....

Want to try it too? It only takes minutes....and the website generates the poem for you that you can post anywhere. I would love to hear your I Am words..... Please come share it with me if you decide to do can even post it in the comments below!

Mama’s Losin’ It

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Getting Back To the Most Natural Thing

"The dance of the abandoned soul..."

I penned those words a few weeks ago in response to a Five Minute Friday prompt. And though I may write brave words {you too?}, sometimes {usually} I find myself only SMACK DAB in the middle of the journey still trying hard to hold on to faith and to believe that Love is bigger than my circumstances.

Life has been full and good and dynamic and scary and overwhelming and anxiety-filled. The moments blend together in a roller coaster of exhilarating fun and scream-silencing terror. In this season, I find my heart and mind filled to the brim with a jumble of words that long to be written, topics that beg for a voice, and heart songs that burst to be sung.

I sit to purge my soul onto screen and feel stifled by my own self, the chaos that is me. So at the urging of my dear friend, Annie, art must find at outlet SOMEWHERE, and in a moment of sheer spontaneity, I dust off my old ballet shoes when the delightful realization that I now have HARDWOOD FLOORS fills my mind.

I jog the recesses of my mind to find all 5 positions, reminding my out-of-shape body the correct placement of hips and shoulders, struggling to find the proper dancer-center-of-gravity. Within moments {and a little Google reminder!}, my soul and mind and heart and body join as one to express the un-uttered longings that have desperately vied for attention.

My heart continues to burst with unspoken lyrics and prose-y melodies, but for today, I dance to the rhythm of the One who placed the songs in my soul and the pulse in my feet

Amy Dane of Amy in Wanderland wrote this reply to one of her readers on her own post about dance:

"Exactly! I thought of David, too! And then I wondered why it’s not the most natural thing in the world to us. :)" 

And I wondered we lose that freedom to " like no one watching." As children, it is there, vibrant and strong, and then life gets in the way and we stop dancing.

So while I dance today, I catch snatches of lyrics flowing from the music my feet step too...

"seize the day...."
"hold on to every moment..."
"life slips away just like hourglass sand..."

So I choose to press into the confusion and chaos, into the middle where whimsy and abandon lie, slipping my feet back into the shoes He has kept for me, just waiting for me to remember the dance of a soul abandoned to her Daddy.

And....they feel just right.
The most natural thing in the world.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Project 365 :: Day 170-190

Life has been busy lately from a trip home to Haiti, family festivities, best friend's baby shower, and lots of life in between. Capturing my life in pictures has truly become one of my favorite past times and a fun part of every day so here's a little sneak peak into the past 3 weeks!

Day 170 :: Summer Beauties at my mom's house 

Day 171 :: Sunset in Eldorado 

Day 172 :: My boy, Morris, hanging out in his favorite
backyard space 

Day 173 :: Handsome Jake Ray at "his" desk
{He LOVES having his picture taken!!} 

Day 174 :: Friend, Kelleigh, made a new friend
at the airport in Miami, awaiting our flight to Haiti 

Day 175 (1) :: Team Follow from New Life in Jacksonville, FL
arrived in Haiti and began painting Evangelistic World Outreach's
{my parents' organization} newly built preschool building 
just hours later.

Day 175 (2) :: Several of the girls were also able to finish
700 Bible school booklets in an hour!

Day 176 :: Follow and EWO youth enjoying a service together 

Day 177 :: And then after a whirlwind weekend, they are off
to the next ministry location! We really missed them once they left! 

Day 178 :: Photo Op with Mom and Dad on their new balcony

Day 179 :: Our "sitting spots" on Night 2 of a 5 night marathon
of Downton Abbey. My second time watching it all the way through
and I fell in love ALL over again!

Day 180 :: Sister Shoot 

Day 181 :: My dad has a builder's heart just like his dad.
Here he is reflecting after a long hard day's work. 

Day 182 :: Family Shopping Day
{Getting supplies for our 2nd Annual Fundraising Gala in August} 

Day 183 :: A belated Father's Day dinner
at the View in Petion-ville, Haiti 

Day 184 :: Me on my last day in Haiti
Goodbye Ayiti Cheri! 

Day 185 :: Mom and Granny chilling in my kitchen 

Day 186 :: Independence Day with my bokkie 

Day 187 :: Chicken, dumplings, and veggies 

Day 188 :: A day with my granny 
{party planning and porkchops} 

Day 189 :: Celebrating and praying over my bff 
as she prepares to welcome baby Levi in just a few short weeks

Day 190 :: My handsome love

I'm on a journey, chronicling my life with a picture a day for a year. I hope to discover the world around me in my day-to-day life in a uniquely different way as well as learn more about my DSLR to better capture those precious moments. 

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Coming Home {Color Your World and Five Minute Friday}

I just got back from Haiti on Monday. 

I realized this time, more than ever before, how much like "home" it always feels for me there. People know me, I mean really know me, and love me JUST because they watched me grow up. 

Coming home to them is like coming back to family. 
But a "different" kind of family. 
This family does not all speak the same language, live in the same house, or even look alike. This family hails from places like Jellico, TN or Jacmel, Ayiti and more town and cities whose soil has never met my feet.  This family loves me, not because we share blood or ancestry; their love comes from living this common, simple life together. It blooms from growing up together. 

My heart calls them grandma, aunt, uncle, or cousin, while natural heritage tells a different story. And this story bleeds deep and true, almost beyond words, to the the place where the heart knows and comprehends....we were made to love each other in spite of it all. We were created to join together through links that defy human understanding.

With my love of photography as well as the written word deepening more and more with each passing day, I wanted to join with my friend Jen at I Believe in Love in sharing the colors of my world with the monthly color prompt. When I saw that this month's color(s) was(were) red, white, and blue, I wondered how I would SEE that BEFORE the 4th. 

And then my lens captured this photograph......

At my home.
On Haitian soil.

.....and I knew....

This represents freedom and home and love to me.
In a way I did not expect as a child
Or even remember as an adult,
But just the way that He planned it.

So I breath in the flamboyant.
I soak in the Caribbean rays.
And my heart sings,
"Let freedom ring!"

The freedom to be me.
The freedom in coming home.

Five Minute Friday

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Five Miles South of Peculiar {Review}

When Glass Roads Public Relations contacted me about being a part of a blog tour for Angela Hunt's new book, Five Miles South of Peculiar, I jumped at the opportunity. However, I forgot that I would be in Haiti on that date, and just couldn't post on that date. #EpicFail

But, they so graciously understood and gave me time to fully soak into the world of the Caldwell sisters in Peculiar, Florida.

On first impression, before even reading the book, the cover invites you in to the Sycamores, the Caldwell estate, housing the third generation of Caldwells, sisters, in fact, five miles south of a town called Peculiar.

Carlene and Darlene are twins who have lived apart from the time they were eighteen years old. Life, love, fame, and dreams intervened to separate a once inseparable pair. Magnolia, better known as Nolie, by those in Peculiar, lives in the shadows of her older sisters, haunted by her own heartbroken past. As life shifts and changes for these post-middle-aged women, the heart and history of Sycamores is revealed through their own personal journeys, filled with aching mistakes and surprising revelations.

I appreciate how the story weaves seamlessly through present events and past memories with both being seen from each sister's vantage point. Drawn into the story by Southern plantations, small town charm, rich family history, and mysteriously veiled past, I quickly stepped into the world of Peculiar, sensing the emotions of every character as if they were friends.

If you enjoy a story that does not center only on romantic love and relationship, but also on the hurts and joys of family, friendships, and dreams won and lost, this is the book for you!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Howard Books as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commision's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

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