Tuesday, November 30, 2010

My Review of Courting Morrow Little

Here's a description of the book from Revell Publishing:

"Caught between the wilderness and civilization, Morrow Little must find her way to true love.

Morrow Little is haunted by the memory of the day her family was torn apart by raiding Shawnee warriors. Now that she is nearly a grown woman and her father is ailing, she must make difficult choices about the future. Several men--ranging from the undesired to the unthinkable--vie for her attentions, but she finds herself inexplicably drawn to a forbidden love that both terrifies and intrigues her. Can she betray the memory of her lost loved ones--and garner suspicion from her friends--by pursuing a life with him? Or should she seal her own misery by marrying a man she doesn't love?

This sweeping tale of romance and forgiveness will envelop you as it takes you from a Kentucky fort through the vast wilderness of the West."

My Rating: Summer

My Review:

This book is stunning—the word pictures, the emotion, and the romance all are beautiful! Frantz drew me into the story with her superb and engaging writing style, and I became enthralled with the masterpiece she painted for the reader. The setting is absolutely gorgeous, and it was wonderful to visit Kentucke again after having read The Frontiersman’s Daughter. There are even references back to her first book, and I enjoyed having a different perspective on some of Frantz’ previous characters.

Besides the exquisite descriptions of the landscape, what really kept me reading into the early hours of the morning multiple nights was the romance. Oh my! Where do I begin? The romance is introduced slowly, like small drops of rain offering relief to the parched soil. But soon the passion builds into a cascading waterfall (just like the ones present in both of Frantz’ books). I couldn’t help but be moved by the love between Morrow and the man she chooses to wed! It’s a hard journey to those blissful marriage vows, one full of heartache and uncertainty, but one that ultimately finds forgiveness and joy.

This is an exceptional story about tender, exciting, and amazing love! With great lessons about the need to let go of prejudice and the importance of learning to trust the Lord and loved ones, this book has it all, flawlessly woven together and far from being “preachy.” It is with great satisfaction and pleasure that I write this review and ponder this book. I very highly recommend it!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Winner and Upcoming Party!

The winner of last week's "Monday for the Military" giveaway is...

KC!

Congratulations! I'll be e-mailing you soon!

And as I'm sure most of you are aware of by now, there is a huge "Love Finds You" Blog Party headed your way in less than a week!!! Yes, it is almost time to party!!! Be sure and stop by Sunday through Friday (December 5-10) to find lots of great giveaways and fun surprises!

As for the rest of this week, I'm hoping to have a few book reviews for you and maybe even a review of Disney's latest release Tangled (in theaters now!). Have a wonderful Monday!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Sunday by the Sea

"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof."
~ Psalm 46:1-3

When I was glancing through the Psalms for a possible verse for today's post, I came across the ones above, and I just knew they would fit well with what I saw and learned yesterday. I spent my last full day in Texas visiting the island of Galveston with my cousin Virginia and my uncle Wes. I had such a delightful time with them! (The picture above is one I took of the Gulf of Mexico.)

Virginia knows so much about the history of the area, and she was telling me about the hurricanes that have hit Galveston. Hurricane Ike caused a lot of damage to the island when it came through, and the sea wall doesn't offer much of a barrier anymore should another hurricane hit directly.

While the island sees a lot of tourism, and I found it to be quite lovely, some buildings show obvious signs of hurricane damage. I couldn't imagine living in Galveston, knowing how close that beautiful, dangerous water would be to wiping everything away.

But no matter where I am, waters will "roar and be troubled," whether those waters are actual waters or the "waters" of different life issues. But God will always be a shelter, a refuge that will not be wiped away by those waters. The waters will not hurt Him--in fact, He is in control of them. So when they hit, may we cling to Him, trust in His steadfastness, and know that He can use those waters for our ultimate good.

To end this post, I'd like to share a video/photo slide-show I put together from my last full day in Texas. This video doesn't show all of the family that I spent time with this Thanksgiving break, but it gives you a small glimpse of my adventures. Enjoy!

video

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Holiday Season

In the past I've waited to change blog backgrounds until the official change of seasons (or thereabouts). However, I wanted to change the blog design early this time, before the official start of winter in late December, because the "holiday season" is upon us! I think this "season" should have its own blog design for now. I just love this time of year!

As a college student, my heart is singing "I'll Be Home for Christmas." I'm so excited for Christmas and New Year's Eve, and being home with my family in California! So I hope you don't mind that I've kicked off the festivities early and started celebrating Christmas-time here on my blog. It would be hard to keep that autumn background all the way up until a few days before Christmas, when winter officially begins! Maybe I'll have to keep this blog design up for the month of December, and change to an official "winter" background at the start of the new year. We'll see how it goes...

By the way, the picture above is of my sister's cat (Muffin Man) at our home last Christmas sitting on the window seat looking intently at a present. Isn't he cute? (Don't be fooled, though--he's still a feisty kitty!) I would love to hear your thoughts on the new color scheme, background, picture, etc. I think the picture above is fitting: a picture of the comfort of home, with the gifts a reminder of how blessed we are and what a gift blogging and meeting all of you has been for me! May the Lord use me to be a blessing to all of you, and may the picture above remind me to be generous and share love with others.

Anyway, sorry for the rambling! I am having a marvelous time with a group of my relatives here in Texas! They have welcomed me with open arms, and I have been making such sweet memories with my dad's side of the family. I love them so!

Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving, and now may the countdown to Christmas begin!

My Review of A Tailor-Made Bride

Here's a description of the book from Bethany House Publishers:

"When a dressmaker who values beauty tangles with a liveryman who condemns vanity, the sparks begin to fly!

Jericho 'J.T.' Tucker wants nothing to do with Coventry, Texas's new dressmaker. He's all too familiar with her kind--shallow women more devoted to fashion than true beauty. Yet, except for her well-tailored clothing, this seamstress is not at all what he expected.

Hannah Richards is confounded by the man who runs the livery. The unsmiling fellow riles her with his arrogant assumptions and gruff manner while at the same time stirring her heart with unexpected acts of kindness. Which side of Jericho Tucker reflects the real man?

When Hannah decides to help Jericho's sister catch a beau--leading to uproarious consequences for the whole town--will Jericho and Hannah find a way to bridge the gap between them?"

My Rating: Summer

My Review:

Reading this book was like going shopping and finding just the right dress—thrilling, delightful, and satisfying! I absolutely loved this book! It was filled with memorable characters, biblical principles, and a swoon-worthy romance. How could I not fall in love?

The author has an engaging writing style, and I devoured this book faster than Ike devoured Cordelia’s cooking in the story! I was touched by the characters’ growth, and I felt that Hannah set a wonderful example for me as a God-fearing, kind character. And I really enjoyed all the details—from the dress shop to the Founder’s Day picnic, I was enthralled.

For those who love Christian historical romance, this is a must-read! I highly recommend it!

*With thanks to author Laura Frantz, who generously sent me a copy of the book because she knew how much I wanted to read it. Thank you, Laura! I was not disappointed in the least. ;) *

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thanksgiving in Texas!

By the time you read this post, I'll be winging my way (hopefully!) to Texas to spend Thanksgiving with my dad's side of the family! I was blessed with the opportunity to see some of them in Washington D.C. this past summer, and I'm looking forward to seeing them again! I just know we're going to have a wonderful time together!

As a side note, I was surprised (and thrilled!) to have a visit from one of my friends from California and her parents this past Sunday!!! They were traveling through Salem on their way home from Washington, so I was able to give them a tour of Corban's campus. It was so good to see her again! (That's us in the picture above outside of my dorm!)

Anyway, I hope you all have a fantastic Thanksgiving, filled with family, friends, and food! I'll be back Sunday night to stick my nose in the books for 3 more weeks until Christmas break. ;)

May the Lord bless you all, and may we give Him thanks for all that He has done for us!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Thankful for the Military: The Christmas Card

Here's a description of the movie from Amazon.com:

Once in a while, a movie comes along that reminds us how powerful love can be. In the midst of war in Afghanistan, Captain Cody Cullen (John Newton, "Desperate Housewives") is touched by lovely card sent by Faith Spelman (Alice Evans, "The Chris Isaak Show") from the small picturesque town of Nevada City, California. As months pass, the card never leaves his side, giving him the strength to survive and setting him on a mission to find her. The Christmas Card has received massive critical acclaim and audiences are raving. Now for the first time on DVD, Emmy-nominated (TBD) The Christmas Card is available with great bonus features and is the perfect gift for this holiday season!

My Review:

What a sweet, inspiring movie! I can't imagine how hard it must be for those military men and women who have been deployed and are far from loved ones, especially those who have no one to write to them and support them. This movie shows how powerful words of kindness and encouragement can be.

This is a great Christmas story with a lovely setting (small town and lumber mill) and a touching romance. I just love Faith's family, and they made me laugh frequently! Their family dynamics remind me a little of the family in the movie Return to Me (which I also highly recommend). Very, very cute, and a great reminder of the preciousness of family and reaching out to others.

While some parts were perhaps a bit corny and overdone, overall I really enjoyed the movie, and after watching the ending, I was more than happy! The plot contains some of the traditional Christmas-movie elements, but it was also unique enough to hold my interest. For those who love Christmas movies and gentle romance, you'll love The Christmas Card!

Note: I know it's not even Thanksgiving yet, but I was eager to share this review with you! As soon as Thanksgiving is over, it will be time to pull out all of these Christmas movies again anyway, right? I just love the holiday season!

Since this is Thanksgiving week, though, I also wanted to add how very thankful I am for the U.S. military. Thank you to all those who serve our country and defend our freedom!

Monday for the Military: Meet Jocelyn Green

Today it is my great pleasure to introduce you to Jocelyn Green, author of Faith Deployed: Daily Encouragement for Military Wives! And as a special treat, read on to see how you can have a chance to win this inspiring book!

Amber: Thank you so much for joining us today, Jocelyn! To start, could you share with us a little bit about yourself and how you met your husband?

Jocelyn: Sure! I live in Cedar Falls, Iowa, with my husband Rob (a former Coast Guard officer) and our two children, who are ages two and four years old. I have always loved writing, but it wasn’t until I became a military wife in 2003 that I felt like I actually had something valuable enough to put in a book.

But backing up a little- I met my husband in 2002 at the Memorial Day church service at Immanuel Bible Church in Springfield, Va. (I worked as an editor at a nonprofit in Washington, D.C. at the time.) On this particular Sunday, all the military members of the congregation (which were many, since we were so near the Pentagon) were asked to dress in uniform. When the church band played the military anthems, the members of each branch were to stand and sing along with their song. I had never noticed Rob before but he was sitting directly behind me and when it was his turn to stand up and sing with the Coast Guard anthem, wow, did he ever belt it out! I just had to turn around and see who in the world this guy was. When I saw him, I was suddenly very sorry I was sitting next to a guy, who was just my ride to church since I didn’t own a car. I didn’t want Rob to think I was “taken.” But obviously, we sorted that out pretty quickly. :)

Amber: What inspired you to write Faith Deployed? How has the book (writing it and getting it published) impacted your own life?

Jocelyn: I was inspired to write Faith Deployed because I was spiritually starved for something that taught me how relevant the Bible was to me, as a military wife. Rob and I married in Arlington, Va., and moved to Alaska two days later. It was rough. One week after we arrived in the small town of Homer, Alaska, he left for the first of many separations.

That year was isolating geographically, socially, emotionally, and vocationally. But it was during that time of isolation that God really drew me to himself and showed me all kinds of truth and comfort from His Word. I felt like I was reading the Bible through new lenses (those of a military wife), and God clearly showed me how much he cares for me and still has my best interests in mind.

I thought, “Surely, there is a devotional book full of all this stuff I am learning, and even more, written just for military wives.” But I didn’t find one, so I decided to write it myself. However, I knew that I wanted to get other military wives from all branches of service to contribute to it so it would represent a broad array of experiences. The book would not have been possible without the 14 contributors.

Writing the book impacted my life greatly, because I had to look back at every hard situation I faced and evaluate what God was trying to show me so I could use it as material in my book. Doing that really helped me see how God doesn’t waste what we consider as trials or wastes of time. Also, connecting with the contributors and reading their submissions as they came in just further underscored God’s faithfulness, even in times of war, uncertainty, and pain. God is still God, no matter what. That’s the one thing we can cling to, and that’s the theme that underlies the entire book.

Amber: What was it like writing a devotional book as a collaborative effort? How did you meet the other women who contributed to the book, and do you still keep in touch with them?

Jocelyn: I loved doing the book collaboratively. I can’t even tell you how I met each woman. I had only met one of them in person by the time the book was published: Lori Mumford was another godly Coast Guard wife I befriended in Homer while I was there. Some of the contributors were already published authors and speakers for military wives, so I asked them to join me and they graciously agreed. Others learned about it from an ad I placed in a chaplain’s wife’s newsletter. A couple of them had published articles in magazines that I read, so I followed up with them and they agreed.

Since the book published, I have had the great pleasure of meeting four other contributors at conferences we have attended for military wives: Marshele Carter Waddell, Sara Horn, Rebekah Benimoff and Ronda Sturgill. Meeting these women is always the highlight of the event.

I do keep in touch with most of them regularly. I send them updates on the good news I hear about the book (awards, positive feedback from readers, etc.) because the book simply would not exist without them. And several of them are regular bloggers for the Web site that was born out of the book: www.faithdeployed.com. They, in turn, let me know when they make their PCS (Permanent Change of Station) moves, so they keep me busy updating my address book.

Amber: As a published, award-winning author, have you learned anything about remaining humble that you could share with us?

Jocelyn: Honestly, it’s very easy to stay humble about this book because I know that any credit has to be split 15 ways among all of the women who helped me write it. I consider myself an “unlikely vessel” to be used by God to speak into the lives of other military wives because I was only a military wife myself for one year. Still, it was enough time to recognize the need for spiritual support, and enough motivation to do something about it.

Amber: How can we pray for you and your family, as well as all military families in general?

Jocelyn: Thank you for asking! You can pray for me as I am working on a very tight deadline for a sequel to Faith Deployed right now- Faith Deployed Again! I’m so excited about this project, and just learned last week that Moody Publishers wants to do this. I’m working with even more contributors for this book, so please pray that we will all carve out time in our holiday schedules to write the devotions that God wants us to write. We have less than two months to complete it.

For military families in general, pray for God to strengthen their marriages, to heal the broken-hearted and to restore hope where it has faded away. Pray that even when they are hurting and face challenges, that they will recognize God’s presence in their lives.

More specifically, I just so happen to have a prayer request list for deployed military HERE, and another list for the spouses at home HERE.

Amber: Jocelyn, thank you so much for sharing with us today, and thank you for the sacrifices you have made for our country. It is an honor to host you here!

Readers, would you like a chance to win a copy of Jocelyn's great devotional book? If so, leave a comment on today's post saying you would like to be entered in the drawing, and please include your e-mail address. This giveaway is for those with a U.S. mailing address only. A winner will be announced next Monday (November 29).

Be looking for my partial review of this book soon! I can say right now, though, that whether or not you are a military wife, this book is an encouragement and a comfort. So whether you know of someone you can give this book to, or whether you yourself would like a copy, this book is a blessing!

Don't forget to leave an encouraging comment for Jocelyn, as well!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Thankful for a Sunday by the Sea

"When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; what is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?"
~ Psalm 8:3-4

Oh, we have so much to be thankful for!

I am thankful that the Lord who created the beautiful, mysterious, and vast sea also created me and loves me!

I am thankful that the Lord, through Jesus Christ, took away my sins and offered me a hope far wider and deeper than any ocean!

I am thankful that the Lord gave me family and friends (including all of you!) with whom I can play in the waves, walk on the shore, or simply talk about the loveliness of God's creation.

I am thankful that the Lord blessed me with opportunities to write (including devotional posts like "Sundays by the Sea") and I pray He might use them to bless others and bring Him glory.

And there's so much more I am thankful for! What are you thankful for as we enter this week of Thanksgiving?

"Sing unto the Lord, O ye saints of him, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness."
~ Psalm 30:4

(The beach picture is from PDPhoto.org.)

Friday, November 19, 2010

My Review of Hatteras Girl

Here's a description of the book from Bethany House:

"Fall in love with Alice J. Wisler's charming characters in this delightful story set in the beach communities of North Carolina's Outer Banks.

Jackie Donovan prays for two things: an honest, wonderful man to marry and to own a bed-and-breakfast on the beautiful Outer Banks of North Carolina. In the meantime, she works for Lighthouse Views, writing articles about local business owners, and intrepidly goes on the blind dates set up by her well-meaning but oh-so-clueless relatives.

There's one specific property Jackie dreams of purchasing: The Bailey House, a fabulous old home located right next to the ocean, a place where Jackie spent many happy childhood afternoons. But the Bailey House has strange stories and secrets surrounding it—not to mention its outrageous price tag.

When Jackie meets handsome Davis Erickson, who holds the key to the Bailey property, she believes God has answered both her prayers. But as Jackie learns some disturbing details about Davis's past, she begins to wonder if her heart has lead her astray. Will she risk her long-held dreams to find out the truth?"

My Rating: Spring/Summer

My Review:

Wisler has a unique style of writing that is both engaging and insightful, and overall a pleasure to read! Her characters are so authentic and easy to relate to, and Jackie's (the main character's) thoughts and attitudes reminded me often of myself as I read, which made it all the better for taking the book's lessons about contentment and trusting in God to heart.

I fell in love with the setting, with Jackie's quirky and lovable relatives and friends, and the general atmosphere of the book. Her dreams and hopes were so sweet, and the ending left me utterly happy! I think one of the aspects of the story that was a little difficult to connect with, though, was Jackie's sudden devotion to a certain man. While he was depicted as good-looking and charming, it didn't seem like there were enough admirable qualities shown to the reader to cause the reader to share in Jackie's feelings for him. And while I did truly enjoy the ending, it was a bit too fairy-tale like to fit completely with the rest of the story, in my opinion. (However, I wouldn't really want too much of it to be changed, because it was a lovely ending!)

Hatteras Girl is a story that will please the romantic at heart, offer hope for the rough and difficult times, and leave the reader with gentle yet applicable advice and words of wisdom (embedded in wonderful images), such as is found in the following quote:

"There is something so freeing about watching a kite soar high above me, something invigorating about a piece of plastic or nylon that has no power of its own but is held aloft by the force of the wind. It reminds me of God's behind-the-scenes work in our lives."

For a thought-provoking and feel-good read, I highly recommend Hatteras Girl!

*With thanks to Jim Hart and Bethany House Publishers for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.*

Thursday, November 18, 2010

CSN Stores: Review of "Dyeables Bonnie in Black" Heels

Several weeks ago I was contacted by Kate from CSN Stores and given the opportunity to review one of the CSN Stores' many products on my blog! I chose to review a pair of black heels from Shoes Got Sole (a division of the CSN Stores company) called "Dyeables Bonnie in Black." Here are my thoughts (with pictures):

It was with great excitement that I brought the package up to my dorm room, eager to see in person those lovely-looking shoes from the website. The picture at left shows the package sitting on my bed, waiting patiently for me to tear it open! ;)

The following pictures show each step of my process in opening the package:

Inside the package was this shoe box, just like one I'd find at an actual shoe store. The name of the brand "Dyeables" is on the top of the lid.

Nicely wrapped. Very professional!

Nothing was going to happen to these shoes on their way to me. Look how well-packaged they are!

And now for the grand-unveiling...

Ta-da! Aren't they beautiful? It was very fun taking the heels out of the box and admiring them. Then, of course, I had to model them!

Please don't mind the jeans--I simply modeled them right on the spot, jeans and all! ;)

Needless to say, I fell in love. These shoes are very cute, and very stylish! The online store had them in 1/2 sizes, so I was able to get size 7.5, which fit me just right. These particular shoes came with free shipping, which was great, and it didn't take too long for them to arrive at my school. I was pleased with the overall quality--of the packaging, the service, and the shoes themselves.

And I was very happy to get these shoes in time to wear them to a "Mocktail" party in honor of my RA's birthday! I wore a black dress to go along with these black heels, and I had a wonderful time dressing up, drinking non-alcoholic mixed beverages, eating chocolate-dipped pretzels and cake balls, and dancing to fancy music. Here's a picture of my roommate and me at the party in our dorm's second-floor lobby (I'm on the right):

I love these shoes, and I look forward to wearing them again soon!

(With thanks to CSN Stores for providing me with a $35 gift code in order to purchase and review a product for their company. This review is my honest opinion.)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Brief Blogging Hiatus

Some of my academics have been put on the back burner recently, and now I'm really suffering for it. I think tonight will be the worst of it (with a paper due tomorrow), but I do have three exams this week, as well as a project on Friday. And I'm really worried.

My priorities have been off-kilter lately, and I'm only sorry that I've let myself procrastinate so much on homework and spend so little time alone with the Lord. You know I'm so thankful for all of you! Unfortunately, though, blogging is such a passion of mine that I think I get carried away off and on. My blog is very important to me, but I haven't balanced my time well, and hence the reason for this post.

I think I'm going to take the week off from blogging. (I'll plan on being back by the weekend.) I would greatly appreciate any prayers--that I would put God first, as well as focus and work hard to make the most of this opportunity I have to get a college education.

Thank you for your understanding! May the Lord bless you all this week, and I'll hopefully talk to you again soon!

Sunday by the Sea

"And straightway Jesus constrained his disciples to get into a ship, and to go before him unto the other side, while he sent the multitudes away. And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone. But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary. And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea." ~ Matthew 14:22-25

"Jesus went unto them." This account in the gospel of Matthew is so beautiful and so humbling. Jesus walked across the water to the disciples, upon the choppy sea with the winds raging, and told them, "Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid."

To which Peter replied, "Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water."

And Jesus answered, "Come."

He beckoned Peter to come and walk on the water. To see that it was indeed Jesus, Peter's Lord and Friend. To trust that Jesus wouldn't ask Peter to come if He wasn't able to empower Peter to do such a thing.

"And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus." He knew Jesus wouldn't let him fall. He was initially bold and confident. Then "he saw the wind boisterous," and "he was afraid." And he started to sink.

He declared, "Lord, save me."

What did Jesus do? "And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?"

Jesus was right there, able to "immediately" save Peter and keep him from sinking deep within the waves and drowning.

I have been on the Sea of Galilee. I have been in a boat on that sea (much like a large lake), on a gray day with light rain and slight wind. I have heard about how the storms can sweep down the hillsides around the lake and rage upon the waters. I have been around "the midst of the sea," where land is far enough away to make you feel distant, like you're on a grand adventure.

Or, when the sea is less peaceful (such as in Peter's case), like you're far away from safety.

And yet, Jesus was right there. Able to help Peter walk on water. Able to save him the very moment he began to sink.

No place is far away from Jesus. The Lord is always near, and I was reminded of that truth while traveling around Israel. In the vast desert, God was there. In the crowded streets of Jerusalem, no matter how scared I felt, God didn't leave me. On the Sea of Galilee, He was with me.

Hebrews 11:1 says, "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." Faith doesn't make "things not seen" exist. But it does make our hopes real, and it does give us proof of what has always been there, and what will always be there. It is trusting that when God asks us to "Come," He will give us the power to do so. It is believing that He will always be there, no matter where we are or what He asks us to do, to be our goal and the strength we need to reach that goal. It is knowing that He isn't bound by anything, but that He is just as real in Israel as He is in California.

Unchanging. Unwavering. And so close He will save us "immediately," if we ask for Him to save us.

"If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost part of the sea; even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me." ~ Psalm 139: 9-10

(Pictures of the Sea of Galilee are from the Free Israel Photos website.)

Thank you!

This is just a quick note to say "thank you" to everyone who stopped by to leave comments this weekend, offering advice and kind words about my new Book Reviews and Movie Reviews pages! I really appreciate your input and your encouragement, and I hope you find these new pages to be helpful to you!

I'm sure this is sooner than ya'll were expecting, but I picked a winner out of those who gave me feedback (and said they wanted to be entered), and the winner is . . . Katie M!

Her choice out of the two books was Love's First Bloom!

Also, thank you to all of you who voted on the poll! I'm so glad you enjoy the movie reviews, and I'll try to keep them coming. ;) It's really fun to write them!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Oh, the Possibilities of Pages!

I know I've been posting a lot recently (mostly due to my recent infatuation with the PBS Masterpiece Mystery version of Sherlock Holmes!), but I just had a few questions to run by you, my readers, while I'm on this blogging spree. ;)

As you may already know, not long ago I discovered that I can add "Pages" to my blog, where I can add separate information on a page that is still part of my blog but in a different location from the main page where all my posts are. I love seeing how other people organize their pages and what information they believe deserves its own page.

For example, Ruth over at Booktalk & More has a separate page for all her different kinds of reviews. She has a page for book reviews from A through M; book reviews from N through Z; reviews for Masterpiece Classic, Contemporary, and Mystery shows; etc. I love organization, and I think that is a fabulous idea to make it easier for the readers to navigate through her reviews! Rel over at Relz Reviewz has a somewhat similar layout, with pages for book reviews, author interviews, etc. (Both of these ladies have great blogs, so be sure to go and visit them!)

My browsing has led me to wonder...what would you all like to see for my different pages? I think it's important to have pages with information about me, my rating system, the poem that inspired this blog title, and my blog awards. However, do you like having pages about my different features, as well (such as "Mondays for the Military" and "Sightseeing by the Seasons")? Would it be helpful to you if I included pages with organized links to my book reviews and movie reviews? Or do I have too many pages as it is?

I would love to hear your thoughts! As an added incentive and as a way for me to say thank you for your feedback, I'll give away my gently used copy of The Waiting by Suzanne Woods Fisher OR Love's First Bloom by Delia Parr (winner's choice)! Simply leave your e-mail address in your comment along with your choice of the book you'd like to have if you win. (Note: You must have a U.S. or Canadian mailing address.) I'll pick a winner sometime next week. (Since I've been watching a mystery show lately, let's just leave the specific date of the drawing as a mystery to go along with that theme.) Thank you in advance for your time!

Also, I'd appreciate it if you would vote on the new poll! It will help me with some more blog organization ideas.

More Masterpiece Mystery: Sherlock Holmes (Episode 3)

Noooooooooooo!!! I should have known they would end the season with something like this, but I still can't help feeling frustrated. One thing is for sure, though--this PBS Masterpiece Mystery show has me hooked! How long until Season Two again?!

The third and final episode of the season is entitled "The Great Game," and with good reason! The whole plot was one great, big "game" to Sherlock, and he certainly was challenged and forced to hone his skill. The series of "moves" he had to counter were complex and quite crazy, and while it was almost a pleasure to see Sherlock's mind in action, it was most definitely not a pleasure to see innocent people forced to be pawns in this game.

I think that is what made this episode the least enjoyable of the three, in my opinion--the horror of lives being terrorized and lost. It was dreadful to see the poor people involved in this plot, and to see how callous Sherlock had allowed himself to become. Towards the end I once again got a glimpse of Sherlock's heart, but it was very well hidden seemingly due to the fact that he couldn't let himself become attached. He declares that caring about people doesn't help him save them. And while (in his line of work) he obviously has to keep focused in order to be of any help, I think what makes it hard to watch is the fact that he really does see it all as a game. When speaking of his real arch-enemy, he notes, "I can't be the only person in the world who gets bored." It is very sad that Sherlock has this perspective in regards to crimes (and solving them), not really considering (for the most part) how they truly affect others.

I'm glad I didn't try to watch this episode before the others, because I think the attachment I had already formed to the characters helped me want to keep watching the conclusion of the series. I cared about Sherlock and Watson (guess I wouldn't make a good consulting detective like Sherlock, then!), and I wanted to see them succeed and triumph over evil.

Without giving too much away (hopefully), the reason for my first cry of despair in this post is that the ending is not really conclusive. In fact, it's a terrible, terrible cliff-hanger ending, which I hope will be explained in Season Two coming next year! I have no idea how the final confrontation can safely be resolved, but I guess that's why they call it a mystery...

To end on a happier note, there were a few funny and entertaining references to blogging in this episode that I'd like to share! In this episode, Watson has a blog where he posts about his life (which, if I recall correctly, was introduced or at least foreshadowed in the first episode), now including information about Sherlock. Hope you get a good laugh out of these:
  • Sherlock to Watson: "Put that on your blog. Or better yet, stop inflicting your opinions on the world."
  • Sherlock to Watson (with humor): "I'd be lost without my blogger."
Yay for blogs! No wonder I like Watson so much. ;) Here's one last quote about Watson:
  • Sherlock: "How quaint." Watson: "What is?" Sherlock: "You are."
Overall, after watching one episode ("The Blind Banker"), I was very eager to watch more. I was not disappointed with the first episode ("A Study in Pink"), but perhaps a bit disappointed with this last one ("The Great Game"). Again, there is some language (including the "b" word in this episode), as well as some references to homosexuality, but overall this series is not gory and not too scary for a suspense/mystery program (although this last one is borderline, along with being rather depressing).

Ultimately, the new PBS Masterpiece Sherlock Holmes series drew me in and engaged my mind and even my heart. The characters had depth, the plots had a lot of intrigue, and the music was just so fitting for such a mystery series. ;) The series is well-done (particularly the first two episodes), and I think PBS Masterpiece has created another winner!

And don't forget--you can watch all three episodes online through December 7, 2010!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

More Masterpiece Mystery: Sherlock Holmes (Episode 1)

Yay! The Internet was back up and running at full speed today (Thursday), so I am delighted to say that I just finished watching the first, wonderful episode of the new PBS Masterpiece version of Sherlock Holmes, titled "A Study in Pink!"

While this one was not quite as "edge-of-my-chair," moment-by-moment suspenseful as the second episode (yes--unfortunately, I did watch them out of order), "A Study in Pink" had me laughing so much, and then once again shouting at my laptop screen for the last part. What an adventure this episode was!

I loved getting to see how Sherlock Holmes and John Watson met, and I was surprised and moved by the background to Watson's story. Watson served in the military and toured in Afghanistan, and he had returned to London having been shot in the shoulder and having acquired a limp. It was a pleasure to see his growth in this episode, both in his self-awareness and in his friendship with Sherlock, and I was happy to see him finding purpose in his life and a desire to truly live it.

As for Sherlock--boy, does he leave an intriguing first impression! And his comments to others--wow! He can be rather cruel, but there is a depth to him that goes beyond his mind. I think he reaches a point at the end of the episode where he has been humbled and perhaps realizes that he isn't completely perfect, which is a good lesson for us all!

As I said before, the last part forced me to become vocal, as if I somehow thought the characters could hear me and follow my orders! ;) I was completely captivated, wondering what on earth was going to happen, how all the "murders" had been committed, and how it was all going to be resolved. There were a lot of great twists throughout the episode, for sure, but that ending was just one tangled, thrilling knot!

And don't even get me started on the dialogue of the movie! Yes, there was a little bit of language (not too bad), but besides that there were just so many funny lines! I wrote down some of the many memorable quotes from the episode, and I'll only share a few with you now (just so you can get a taste before watching it online for yourself!):
  • Sherlock's "enemy" to Watson: "You're not haunted by the war, Dr. Watson. You miss it. (pause) Welcome back."
  • Watson to Sherlock: "I just met a friend of yours." Sherlock: "A friend?" (incredulous) Watson: "An enemy." Sherlock: "Oh." (complete understanding) "Which one...?"
  • Text Message from Sherlock to Watson: "If convenient, come to Baker Street." Several minutes later, another text message from Sherlock: "If inconvenient, come anyway."
  • Watson: "Did I just text a murderer?" [How's that for a teaser?!]
This was a fantastic episode, and now I'm off to watch the third one!!!

Veterans Day

Before I left for college, I usually went to a Veterans Day service in my home county with my family. While I'm sad that I can't attend the service this year, I am thankful for the opportunity to honor veterans in even just a small way here at "Seasons of Humility":

Thank you, Grandpa, for serving our country in the Merchant Marines during the Korean War. Thank you for always reminding me of the phrase "freedom is not free," and thank you for your sacrifices that helped make that phrase so much more than mere words.


Thank you, Daddy, for serving our country in so many ways, including serving in the Navy during the Vietnam War. You are a hero to so many people, but especially to me.


Thank you to all those who are serving or have served in the United States military. I can't even begin to comprehend all of the sacrifices you have made, but I thank you from the bottom of my heart for protecting our freedom. And please remember: you are never forgotten.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

My Review of Northanger Abbey

Here's a description of the movie from the PBS Masterpiece Classic website:

"Catherine Morland (Felicity Jones, Meadowlands) has an ordinary life and a feverish imagination. When she gets invited to Bath, Catherine is immersed in a world of elaborate balls and handsome men. When one suitor takes her to his family estate, Northanger Abbey, Catherine becomes mired in a world of fact and fantasy. Is there a dark mystery behind the locked doors of Northanger Abbey? Why has her budding romance suddenly been cut short? Also starring JJ Feild (The Secret Life of Mrs. Beeton), Andrew Davies adapts Austen's gentle parody of gothic fiction."

My Review:

The first time I watched this movie (last spring on T.V.), I fell in love. Part of it, I'm sure, had to do with how much I related to the main character. Her overactive imagination, her desire for adventure and romance, her obvious good taste in men (*smile*)...all added up to a fun and authentic heroine.

But another rather big, big part of the reason I love this movie is the hero himself. He is amazing! With a wonderful and engaging sense of humor, an adorable smile, and a dashing tenderness, Henry Tilney captured my heart. From his very first entrance into the story, his teasing and his kind ways won me over. Can you tell I really like him?

The plot is interesting and clever, the scenes depicting Catherine's day-dreaming are too funny (and some of the early ones are sadly familiar...), and the romance is very sweet. The only problems I had with it were due to unnecessary cleavage and unnecessary swearing (very little on the part of the "villain," but still annoying). Otherwise, this is a great Jane Austen movie adaptation with some helpful lessons regarding jumping to conclusions and money vs. love.

Additional Thoughts:

If I first watched this over half a year ago, why am I reviewing Northanger Abbey now? Good question! Well, last night I had been eagerly looking forward to watching another Masterpiece Mystery episode of Sherlock Holmes (the first one, "A Study in Pink"), which I was planning on reviewing here. It was going to be the perfect ending to my day. Unfortunately, the movie was not loading properly. Since my roommate was going to watch it with me, she tried to load it on her computer, as well--to no avail. I think the Internet is not working as well as we'd like it to here on campus at this moment!

Needless to say, I was rather disappointed. I had been so excited to watch another episode of Sherlock Holmes, and I had been thinking about it off and on throughout my day. However, since we were both up anyway, my roommate and I decided to still watch a movie. And--you guessed it--we watched Northanger Abbey, which was really fun! So it was still a really good evening. I loved this movie so much when I first saw it on T.V. that I ended up buying it not long after. I think it was a good investment. ;)

Maybe I'll get to watch more Sherlock Holmes soon, in which case I'll plan on posting my review(s) here. For now, I hope you enjoyed this review of another great PBS Masterpiece show!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Masterpiece Mystery Monday

Saturday night I indulged and let myself watch an episode of the the new PBS Masterpiece Mystery version of Sherlock Holmes. I ended up alternately laughing at some funny lines, hiding my eyes (while still peeking through my fingers at times), and expressing my frustration to my laptop screen. I was really drawn into the story, if you couldn't tell!

I've only read a very little bit of the original Sherlock Homes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and I've only seen a few episodes of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (I think it was the 1980s version), so I'm certainly no expert on all things Sherlock. However, this new series seems to have only taken the same two main character-types (with the same names), Sherlock Holmes and Watson, while creating entirely different plots in modern times. And I found it a rather enjoyable twist on the famous characters!

Now, I'm the kind of person who can be really bothered by movies. I have a hard time watching anything "disturbing," so I was really glad this episode was pretty "clean" (it certainly could have been a lot worse!). It was kind of intense, so I would caution everyone to be aware of that before watching any of the episodes.

The episode I watched was called The Blind Banker, which is available to watch online (as I did) through December 7, 2010. (As a side note, I love that PBS Masterpiece does that with a lot of their new episodes, so that you don't necessarily have to watch the show at a set time!)

The story started in such a unique way, and it was easy to get drawn into the plot. I found that while Sherlock was rather young (along with Watson), I liked the change. The relationship between Sherlock and Watson is pretty entertaining, and who could blame poor Watson for being upset at always being told what to do by Sherlock? Sherlock's "self-confidence" (putting it nicely) is pretty consistent with the original Sherlock, in my opinion, and I did feel sorry for Watson, especially when he was trying to go on a date with a girl he really liked, and Sherlock tagged along! But I ended up being drawn to Sherlock's character in spite of his pride (he is pretty smart, I have to say!), because he is such a persevering, occasionally clueless, and ultimately intriguing character! He did let his care for others show at times, revealing that he did indeed have a heart, which was nice to see. ;)

As I said before, I ended up covering my eyes off and on, and there was certainly a lot of action to keep me on the edge of my seat! There was one point where something happened to a secondary character that made me really mad (I told them what to do, but they just wouldn't listen to me!). And I didn't know if I completely liked the end, which was a little freaky. (Part of that might have been due to the fact that I didn't realize that my screen had gone blank--for a while I just thought the screen was supposed to be black. My roommate was a little concerned that I was staring intently at a blank screen!) Overall, though, I found it to be a really thrilling and interesting episode with some great music to add to the mystery, and it was certainly a fun way to spend part of my Saturday night. I recommend it for all you mystery-lovers (and yes, there's even a little bit of romance)!

I'll have to see if I have time to watch the next episode. I'm curious about what mystery Sherlock and Watson are going to solve next!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Sunday by the Sea

"Thus saith the Lord, which giveth the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night, which divideth the sea when the waves thereof roar; The Lord of hosts is his name." ~ Jeremiah 31:35

I urge you to read Jeremiah 31:31-37 (which is a bit long of a passage to put here in this post). God is so good and merciful, and He is also sovereign!

This week is going to be a very busy one, and I have a feeling that there's going to be a lot of emotional stress/turmoil for me in the coming days before Thanksgiving break. But in all that is to come (much of which is self-induced, to be honest, as I usually don't attempt to work ahead as I ought to), I can rest in the fact that God is in control. No matter what we do, God still fulfills His purposes in the world.

I've been reminded recently in my reading for my Christian Theology class that God, while completely loving and forgiving, is also completely just. In fact, His justice goes hand-in-hand with His wrath. He expresses wrath and righteous anger against sin, because as perfect God He must hate sin. That's why Jesus was the propitiation for us--God's wrath had to be fulfilled, through God Himself as Jesus (the perfect sacrifice), in order for us to be close to Him. In that way, His wrath was satisfied and His grace could be given.

Now, what does that have to do with God being in control? Well, as I was also reminded in my reading, we tend to downplay the wrath of God. But God's wrath is not "bad" at all, and should not be dismissed. It is good to have a holy fear of the power of God. We are supposed to be humble before Him. And in the truth of His strength and His justice, we can rest in the fact that He is above us all and worthy of our praise and trust. Whatever we go through in this life, He is powerful to work through us and through the hard times we face.

"For I am with thee, saith the Lord, to save thee: though I make a full end of all nations whither I have scattered thee, yet will I not make a full end of thee: but I will correct thee in measure, and will not leave thee altogether unpunished."
~ Jeremiah 30:11

(The ocean picture is from this site.)

Friday, November 5, 2010

A Beautiful Gift

I was blessed today by the generous gift of one of my blogging friends, Renee Ann from Doorkeeper. I had left a response to one of her comments on my blog saying that I would appreciate her help in spreading the word about the upcoming "Love Finds You" blog party, since I had failed in my attempt at making a cool blog button to advertise it.

Renee saw my comment (and perhaps read between the lines to see my desperate plea for help!) and made me a beautiful blog button! It would have been so thoughtful of her just to mention the party on her blog or e-mail a few friends, but instead she took the time to create a button that would match my blog and e-mailed me all the codes I would need to put it in the sidebar and let others share it!

I was so touched by her thoughtfulness and so pleased with how wonderful the button looks! (Way, way better than my attempt--believe me!) I'll show it here in the post just so you can see how lovely it is:



Not only did she put it together in such a fun way, but the cover she chose as the background is one that I absolutely love! I bought Love Finds You in Sugarcreek, Ohio (the one in the button; see full cover below) a while ago and I plan to read it over Thanksgiving break (which I don't think she knew when she created the button!). It's such a beautiful cover, and the button is just so great!

The link in the button takes readers to the "Love Finds You" Blog Party page, where they can find the details of the party and the schedule. If you have a blog, feel free to take the button (code in the sidebar) and put it in the sidebar. I would really appreciate the help in spreading the word!

Thank you, Renee Ann, for your sweet gift, and thank you to all of you for making blogging so much fun for me! I can't wait to celebrate the "Love Finds You" series with ya'll!

Fall Friday

Well, it is Friday and it is still fall, so it makes sense to have another "Fall Friday" post today. As far as having something brilliant to say on the subject, though, I might be found a bit lacking. ;)

Reading is a great past time. And reading and fall somehow go hand-in-hand, right? I mean, it's delightful to think about colorful fall leaves, the last remnants of warmth before winter, and enjoying it all while reading an engaging book, right?

Right.

So, today I'm going to talk about books. Due to my interest in the "Love Finds You" book series recently (click HERE to see the main reason why), I found myself browsing Christianbook.com to see if the upcoming "Love Finds You" books were listed with their covers. And guess what I found? Beautiful, fabulous covers! Want to see?


These are just a couple of examples of the "Love Finds You" books coming out next year (April 2011 for these two). Aren't they lovely? I absolutely adore the Prince Edward Island cover--it reminds me of Anne of Green Gables and is so beautifully done!

Just thought I would get you all to share in my excitement. ;) What are you reading right now? I'm reading Within My Heart by Tamera Alexander, and soon I hope to be reading Hatteras Girl by Alice Wisler and maybe Nightingale by Susan May Warren (if it comes in the mail soon!).

*blissful sigh*

I love books!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

"Love Finds You" Blog Party Announcement

Now, before you get too excited, this party is still about a month away. However, I wanted to draw your attention to the new page I put up (at the bottom of the "Pages" list in the sidebar), which will give you all the fun details of this week-long celebration!

I do hope you all will be able to attend, because there are going to be some great guests and some fabulous giveaways!!!

And to see what inspired this party, be sure to check out my interview during Casey's blogoversary for her blog Writing for Christ (see the button in the sidebar). Lots of fun going on in the blogging world!

My Review of Petra: City in Stone

Here's a description of the book from the author's website:

"She believed the city hidden in rockwould protect her from the past—until it threatened to destroy her future.

Cassia, a destitute young woman in need of hope, seeks refuge for her little boy in Petra, home of his dead father’s estranged family and capital of the flourishing Arabian empire. Surely this rock-carved city, hidden away between towering sandstone cliffs, can protect them from their past and provide for their future. But the boy’s father was not the man she believed, and when a murderous queen plots to take Cassia’s son, her hopes of security are ripped away.

As the plot against the young Alexander unfolds, Cassia finds unexpected allies in the mysterious followers of The Way, who sacrifice everything to help Cassia rescue her son from the queen and her pagan gods. But it will take more than these new friends to save her son.

It will take a power beyond any Cassia has known—and a faith that can save a city."

My Rating: Spring/Summer

My Review:

T. L. Higley knows how to make history real for the reader! Although Petra: City in Stone has a different flavor than the first three books in Higley's "Seven Wonders" series, it is by no means less intriguing! In fact, because the story takes place about 100 years after Jesus' death, after the start of the church, the spiritual aspects of this particular book are even more prominent than in the "Seven Wonders" series.

Once again Higley drew me into a different time and place that became almost tangible. Her descriptions of Petra--of all the details from the weather to the stone carvings--are incredible, and the tension of the situations in the book is powerful. It was inspiring to read about the faith (and the courage that came from their faith in the Lord) of the members of the early church, and it was certainly a moving lesson of trusting in the Lord and not in one's own strength.

The romance is not quite as prominent in this book as in some of Higley's other books, but it is still there and still touching. Although the very last part of the book seemed to be resolved a bit too quickly to match the authenticity of the rest of the book, it was still satisfying. The brief mention of Pompeii in this book certainly leaves the reader with a desire to read the next book in this series, Pompeii: City on Fire (coming June 2011)!

*With thanks to the author for providing me with an Advanced Reader Edition of the book in exchange for my honest opinion.*

Note: Since this was an Advanced Reader Edition, some changes might have been made to the final edition which would not be taken into consideration in this review.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Cupcakes!

My dear roommate hosted a cupcake decorating party in the third floor lobby of our dorm this past evening, and I thought I would share some pictures of the fruits of our labors!

We had lots of fun trying to be creative with the frosting, marshmallows, and candy!

Aren't they so colorful? The three in the front are mine. =) I wasn't as creative as some of the others, but it was a lot of fun trying to come up with ideas!

This is me with one of my creations. Almost time for building a snowman, right?

And here's one last close-up. The pumpkins are just store-bought candy corn pumpkins that I had. I thought it would be fitting to have a pumpkin patch cupcake this time of year!

It is so nice to have a time just to talk and have fun with close friends. And if that time just happens to include cupcakes, well, I won't complain. ;)

Here's to a sweet day for all of you!

Monday, November 1, 2010

November

Welcome, November! I am so thankful for a new month, a new opportunity to begin again. And yet, I so often set aside the fact that I don't need a new month or a new year to begin again--each day, each moment is precious, and through God's grace and help we can be refreshed and find new beginnings all the time.

If I mess up or use my time poorly sometime during a day, I tend to just continue the rest of the day in a similar fashion. I figure that if I've already wasted part of my day, I might as well just continue to goof off. I don't know if any of you have a similar problem, but I am sad to see how often I think like this. For example, I tend to think that if I already procrastinated on homework so far, I might as well make the whole day a procrastinating day, instead of trying harder to change the day around.

It's not that we don't need times of relaxation. In fact, it can be so easy to get too busy for periods of rest and times of renewal, which I think are really important. But I think that I need to spend the time I have for true relaxation praying to the Lord and reading my Bible, and even writing and reading, rather than getting distracted online (etc.). I never feel refreshed when I've spent my time foolishly. There is a difference between finding rest and dwelling in a mess.

May we spend the time we are given wisely, living for God. And may we remember all the mercies we are shown by God each and every day:

"This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope. It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not, they are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness."
~Lamentations 3:21-23