Friday, April 3, 2020

A Walk Around the Neighbourhood #2

I wasn't an actual walk; I went to the post office with my heart beating a tad faster because the measures due to CoVid-19 are in full force. I had received a notice from the post office to go collect a book from Book Depository. It was the last book I had ordered a while ago - Little Women & Good Wives by Louisa May Alcott. I plan to read Good Wives this year, but I'm not putting a time stamp on it. It's the new me. For example, this very morning as I was doing a hard (for me) yoga video, a thought came to me: how about starting The Moon Sister by Lucinda Riley. I enjoy this series a lot! I have the next one, The Sun Sister, from Net Galley, but although they can mostly be read as standalone, I want to read them in order. Nevermind that I'm barely past the half point with Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb. It's a nonfiction, and although I reads like a novel, I need that fiction fix. 
But I digress! Here's a bit of nature as photographed to and from the postoffice + a few photos taken in our yard. I'm grateful for nature, trees and flowers in bloom, sunny days, and much longer days! 

 That sunset past 8PM? Glorious! I am glad days are longer now!
Some might look like weeds to some, but they're flowers! And there's a bee!

 Trees in bloom against a blue sky will never get old, so I'll be photographing this for a long time.
 The plan to go see the magnolia in bloom on the University campus is not hapeening this year :( but this one spotted in a neighbour's garden caught my eye.
 The cherries are in bloom, too! I think they're cherries?
 The dog and a pretty, white hyacinth.

Spring is the best, but I feel like I'm missing out due to the quarantine and mostly staying inside. I am grateful for the flowers in our yard and garden, for pieces of green to see the nature change.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

The Complicated Heart - by Sarah Mae: Book Review

Title: The Complicated Heart. Loving Even When It Hurts
Author: Sarah Mae
Pages: 240
Publisher: B&H Publishing Group
Release Date: 17th September 2019
Genre: Nonfiction, Christian, Memoir
Format: Kindle

It's someone story, and how can you rate the accuracy of someone's life?  

I have known Sarah Mar thanks to the (in) site for a number of years, but I haven't been actively following her. When I saw this book available on the Net Galley site I was curious to learn more about her. Also, I heard her on Annie F. Down's podcast before I read the book, which is actually what prompted me to want to read it. I can't comment on the topic of the book: it's raw and hard and I am glad she was brave to share it and open the conversation for people with a familiar or similar background.

All that to say, if you want to read about someone's resilience and victories in Jesus despite all that's thrown their way - this is for you. If you want to read more tips on how to persevere, more how to’s - this is merely a starting point. Towards the end of the book she offers some guidelines, more of a point where to begin. 

The topics she deals with: alcoholism, sexual relationships, abortion, and child negligence - all these are potential triggers, and are hard topics, so proceed with caution.

As far as the way the book was constructed, I liked that not only do we get to learn of her life starting from the adolescence years, but she also shares bits of her mother's journals. I love that the story is told from both "protagonists'" point of view, thus giving the reader a more rounded perspective. At times it reads like a I-cannot-believe-this-is-real novel, and yet! 

I recommend this one especially for the Christian that's been moving in the Christian culture/ spheres his/her whole life. It's eye-opening to what people may come to God with. I have finished this book quite a while ago, but I needed some time to process it. I am ashamed to say and admit that at some points I was... well... judging both the author and her mother. How can someone who claims to love Jesus and be a Christian *do* something like that?! was my white Christian lady reaction. I knew I was looking down on fellow sisters in Christ, hence my reluctance to write a review. Then I was reminded of the prodigal son's brother, and his brother I was, shame on me! Who am I to judge and regard with contempt or superiority someone for whom Jesus died and forgave? That's why I think this is a needed read for the one who's been a Christian for many a year.

Thank you, Sarah Mae, for being willing and open about your story. I hope many more people will get to read it and find comfort, and above else, find Jesus.

I received a free e-book copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts expressed here are my own.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Fierce, Free, and Full of Fire - by Jen Hatmaker: Book Review

Title: Fierce, Free, and Full of Fire: The Guide to Being Glorious You
Author: Jen Hatmaker
Pages: 224
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Release Date: 21st April 2020
Genre: Nonfiction, Christian Self Help
Format: Kindle

Let's keep this short: this book bored me. I couldn't wait to finish reading it. Anyone who's been following Jen Hatmaker for at least 6-12 months knows what the core of her ministry is. This book is the expanded version of all her Instagram posts (which she admits at the end of the book). 

A lot of information structured into twelve chapters was thrown at me, the reader, and many reseachers' words and studies that supported Hatmaker's ideas

I think this might be useful for some women, but I was not the audience for it. Expect a lot of self confidence and self reliance pep talks, family&friends reliance, LGBTQ+ supporting, women's rights, and much social justice advocacy. Despite what she says, I don't believe that everythings she endorses is Bible based, so I guess I'm the one in the conservative camp she talks about. 

She does mention Jesus and her love for Him, but this is not a Bible verses filled book, so temper your expectations if that is what you're after. This is her manifesto, what she believes in. Kuddos to her for being open and willing to share it in book form. 

The ideas seemed repetitive, despite the clearly distinct chapters. There is the clear funny Hatmaker the world is used to, but also the serious Hatmaker. I was curious to see what she can say that I didn't already know related to her beliefs, but not much was new. A lot of the ideas presented in her previous books can be found here, but from the perspective of a woman more mature now.

As a whole, it was OK-ish, but as I said, I wasn't the target audience for it.

I received a free e-book copy of the book from the publisher via Net Galley. All thoughts expressed here are mine.

Friday, March 20, 2020

One Perfect Summer - by Brenda Novak: Book Review

Title: One Perfect Summer
Author: Brenda Novak
Pages: 400
Publisher: Harlequin - Mira
Release Date: 7th May 2020
Genre: Women's Fiction
Format: Kindle

Good Reads Synopsis

Some families we’re born into
Some we find for ourselves

When Serenity Alston swabbed her cheek for 23andMe, she joked about uncovering some dark ancestral scandal. The last thing she expected was to discover two half sisters she didn’t know existed. Suddenly, everything about her loving family is drawn into question. And meeting these newfound sisters might be the only way to get answers.

The women decide to dig into the mystery together at Serenity’s family cabin in Lake Tahoe. With Reagan navigating romantic politics at work and Lorelei staring down the collapse of her marriage, all three women are converging at a crossroads in their lives. Before the summer is over, they’ll have to confront the past and determine how to move forward when everything they previously thought to be true was a lie. But any future is easier to face with family by your side.

My Review of One Perfect Summer
It has an interesting premise, and the story leaned heavily on the sisters' mysterious beginning. I loved how we learned about each of the sisters gradually, but towards the end extra pieces of information were added almost as a second thought, as if the author forgot to mention them earlier. As for the resolution to the mystery of the sisters' connection, only in the literally last 5% of the novel do we find out how they are related, and even that as a rushed, almost thrown in solution.

The ending, yes, is unexpected and I wouldn't have guessed it, but maybe less build-up, and more telling how they coped with what they found out. There was a lot, and I mean, a lot of information thrown in my face in the last few pages, coming from an unexpected source, and I needed time to process it all, but alas! I had no time because the novel ended. Funny enough, one of the characters is an author and she says at some point that the ending always goes faster than the beginning. This applies to this novel as well, because by the 90% mark it seemed the author was ready to wrap up this novel. That must have been a bit tricky because it touched up on a lot of heavy topics, some put there as if to cover all mandatory points in a novel. Hence the unbelievable ending.

I knew I was reading a women's story when all the men were described as good looking, the perfect height so their female love interst could rest their pretty head on their broad chest (I'm paraphrasing here). Speaking of love interests, I am glad not all three sisters ended up in a perfectly tied romantic relationship; this keeps things more reality-grounded. There are the expected cliches in a novel in this genre, but in times of global pandemics, I knew this was what I wanted, so no judging here.

Overall it's an engaging story, albeit a tad too many characters. I think we could have done without all three brothers next door, and maybe the novel as a whole could have been about 50 pages shorter. It's a light novel, with some depth; in a word, a feel-good novel.

I received a free e-book copy of this novel from the publisher via Net Galley. All thoughts expressed here are my own.

List of characters for One Perfect Summer (contains spoilers!) 
Serenity {S.} Alston - 35 years old, true crime writer
Sean Alston - ex-husband, in prison because of child pornography
Sawyer - Sean's step-brother, was in the military. Becomes romantically involved with Serenity
Beau - S's 25 y/o brother. gay, will marry Trevor
Tara and Tia - S's twin sisters, 28 y/o, live in San Antonio
Chuck and Charlotte Currington - S's parents
Uncle Vance - Chuck's brother. Has worked at an adoption agency many years before
Chuck is the one to give S a newspaper clipping that'll uncover the mystery
S. spends the summer with R. and L. at her parents' cabin near Lake Tahoe
Lorelei {L.} Cipriano - knows nothing about her biological parents, was in foster care all her life
Osha and Mercedes - in foster care with L, they keep in touch
Mark - Lorelei's husband. Has an affair with Francine
Francine - Lorelei's best sister. pregnant with Mark's child
Allen - Francine's ex-husband, have been separated for 6 months
Lucy - Mark and Lorelei's 4 y/o daughter
Reagan {R.} Sands - creative director in New York at Edison & Curry
Rosalind - R's mother, a fashion designer
Stuart Sands - R's father, died when she was 2 y/o
Rally McKnight - architect, becomes romantically involved with R.. He has a teenaged son. Rally has owned an architecture company for 20 years. He's divorced, in his 40s.
Drew - work colleague of R's. Have a one time affair, she becomes pregnant. She keeps the child, a girl, he gives up his paternal rights
Sally - Drew's wife. They have 3 kids together
Finley {Finn} Hatch - neighbour at the cabin. becomes romantically involved with Lorelei
Nolan - Finn's brother
Davis - Finn's brother, has lost an arm in a motorcycle accident
Michelle - Finn's on and off girlfriend
The girls are connected though their father who was a priest and had relations with underage girls. All three girls were adopted.
L's parents divorced after she was adopted, but her mother was killed soon after, that's how L was never claimed by anyone and ended up in foster care.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

What I've Been Reading Lately #17

I almost thought I wasn't going to publish this because I was sure I didn't read anything since last month's post, but lo and behold! there are some books I did read! Commence!
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
This was a re-read, and I happily crossed off another category from the #MMDChallenge. It's true that you discover new things every time you read an old favourite again and again. I was pleasantly surprised by the Christian and moralistic aspect of the novel, and it was comforting these days.
The story of the March family, namely the four sisters is darling and it's no wonder it's still a favourite, many years after its publication. This time I was curious to know what's next, so I ordered the sequel. 
The story is set in US during the Civil War years and follows the story of Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy over a year as they grow and become more mature. It could easily be read as a chapter book, but at the same time it can be read in bigger chunks. 
I am sure I will re-read this one at some point, despite having read it at least two time already.

 The Complicated Heart - Sarah Mae Hoover
This was a Net Galley read. I liked this one a lot, but I'm still trying to process some things and thoughts, so a review is brewing. It's a memoir, but it deals with a topic unfamiliar to me. Although I didn't "see" myself in it, I keep thinking of the prodigal's son's brother and how he reacted to his brother's coming home. This made me ask myself how I see my fellow Christians and it makes me reevaluate my "standards".
But the book is worth reading. It's an honest telling of the author's life story during the teenage years and her relationship with her mother.

The White Gypsy - Annette Lyster
 A student lent me this. It's been a while since I last read a children's Christian fiction, so it was a nice palate cleanser. It follows the story of a family separated by a train accident and the aftermath of that incident.
 Nooks and crannies - Jessica Lawson
I loved this one! A student recommended this to me, and I promptly borrowed it from the library because that cover made me do it.
It follows Tabitha Crum, aspiring inspector/ detective, in 1907 England. Six children are summoned at the imposing estate of Countess Camilla DeMoss. What follows is a weekend filled with adventure, hidden passages, weird noises, intriguing letters, and people who aren't what they seemed to be. It also deals with themes of friendship, family, bravery, and being true to who you are and what is right.
It's a middle grade novel, a well done mystery and detective one.
And that's it! Four books over the last month. This year seems to be the year of reading multiple books at the same time, despite always claiming this is not my reading style. The things we learn about ourselves... I am also going strong with Les Miserable, and I'm a few days ahead. I started volume II, or part II, and for now it's all about the Waterloo Battle. It's tough, both the battle and the reading of it, but knowing I can limit myself to one chapter a day helps. I want to finish the year with the accomplishment of having read this book in 2020!

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Is it spring yet?

I went on a walk this afternoon. It felt good to stretch my legs and I saw pretty things I couldn't help but take a photo of.

New recipe today: brownie cheesecake with raspberry. The amount of sugar I ate today is way over the daily limit. Way over! No regrets, though, because it's good!

 This happy looking car was the first pop of colour on my walk today! I like to look at it + photograph it every time I see it.



 I am not normally one to notice cars, but for some reason today these made me stop and snap a photo. I think it's the color and the I-can't-wait-for-spring mood.

 This dog with its too long bangs was on a leash waiting. 

And now, pretty buildings:

Look at the cute dog!

 The last five are taken on the street where the University is. There are some old buildings that have all sorts of knick-knacks in the windows or on the balconies. I've always liked these houses, they seem houses with strong personalities.

 It's interesting to see that I took photos of a lot of yellow things. That's my least favourite color! But I think I was in need of colour and warmth because of the longing for spring and I unconsciously snapped the photos of these.

And now, nature:

 Look at that bulrush!

It was a beautiful day, around 10 degrees C, and I am so glad I got out of the house.

As I walked around, I listened to two episodes, this and this, of the What Should I Read Next hosted by Anne Bogel, and one episode of 10 things to tell you hosted by Laura Tremaine. Walking is one of my favourite ways to catch up on podcasts. The other one is doing the cleaning around the house. Oh, and on my way to & from work.

These are from this week at the bus stop while waiting for the bus. Thursday was a very very meh day and I was eager to get home. I am a look down kind of person, and on that day I was glad of that because otherwise I wouldn't have seen these cuties. Snowdrops are a sure sign we're in the last stretch of winter. Hallelujah!

Monday, February 17, 2020

For All Who Wander - by Robin Dance: Book Review

Title: For All Who Wander. Why Knowing God Is Better Than Knowing It All
Author: Robin Dance
Pages: 352
Publisher: B&H Publishing Group
Release Date: 14th January 2020
Genre: Nonfiction, Christian
Format: Kindle

I enjoyed this book a lot. I always approach Christian nonfiction books with low expectations. However, because I knew of Robin Dance from the early days of (in)courage, I was curious to learn more about her. I was happy to see that this book is mostly a memoir dripping with Bible verses. Having grown up in a Christian family and environment myself, I saw a lot of myself in it. This truly is for every Christian.

I liked how she followed her life from the early years to the her (almost) present day life. It's refreshing to see an author, especially a Christian author, admit fault and flaws. This is what Robin Dance does - she sees her shortcomings, but is ready to put them on display because that's how she got to know God better and learn more about Him, as well as about herself. 

It reads quickly, especially the first half. I highlighted A LOT because there are a lot of good passages. If you read it in one seating, or in large portions, you might notice the change of tone as the book progresses. There might be that "preachy" tone towards the end, but by that point I was invested and I was nodding my head and highlighting away that I didn't mind it. As I mentioned, there are a lot of Bible verses used. This book is not watered down theology or feel good Christian book. It may sound a bit too dramatic from the title, but what I discovered is that the author lived what many people of faith over the years and centuries experienced: a need to have their faith tested and proven the right choice. It can appeal to every Christian who wants to have a deeper relationship with God that goes beyond the shallow surface.


I received a free e-book copy from the publisher via Net Galley. All thoughts expressed here are my own.