To The Farthest Shores Book Review

I received a copy of To the Farthest Shores from Bethany Publishing House in exchange for an honest review.

This is the first Elizabeth Camden book I’ve read, and I’ve really enjoyed it. She blended history and romance into a neat story. While the idea of romance is timeless, this had the unique perspective of happening during a time of war. That allowed the love story to have a different angle on angst. It even gave some new rawness on dealing with loss and love when Jenny had to deal with Ryan’s return and learn that he moved on with his life with another woman after he left her.
In these experiences Jenny had, I also enjoyed seeing a strong female character. She had a rough childhood, but she came out stronger as a young adult. With the help of her adoptive dad, she became a nurse who takes care of herself. She exuded independence and morally upstanding character. Her patients appreciated her empathy, and she could also stand her ground in an upsetting situation.
I enjoyed watching Jenny’s life and love unfold and look forward to checking out another Elizabeth Camden novel.

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One Season

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spring is coming

but summer never left

heat makes constant presence

a blanket of too heavy heft

 

magnolias bloom white

blossoms big and wide

no new color, no new life

no lush green on this side

 

April waves roll on the beach

I let the water wash me

praying my season to change

salt of the earth to be

 

Something Real, An Authentic Book

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Yesterday I finished read Heather Demetrios’s Something Real, a real gem of a book. Despite my cousin and me making jokes about me going on The Bachelor to find myself a husband (and shock our extended family), reality TV probably would not find its way into my life whether the camera followed me or I followed the show. However, I could relate to Chloe’s angst over coming to grips with a childhood that caused her angst and anxiety beyond her control.

As a reality star since birthday, Chloe/Bonnie Baker grew up in the public’s eye on Baker’s Dozen with her parents and twelve siblings. The show ended up getting cancelled in her early teen years after her parents got divorced and Bonnie, who later changes her name to Chloe to get distance from her trademarked self, overdoses on medication. She started public school with her brother as a senior, when she chose to start fresh with her identity. However, her mother decided to restart the show in an effort to financially provide for Chloe and her twelve other siblings.

Again, I couldn’t imagine what it would feel like to have cameras watching my every move, broadcasting not only my positive moments but all my mistakes. I also couldn’t imagine having that many siblings around, though the thought terrified me. Yet I could relate to a constant angst in my own childhood, the feeling that my parents couldn’t see the pain caused by choices not my own even if made with the best intentions. My parents divorced as well, and by the time I reached Chloe’s age I had experienced that more than once. I also experienced (and still do) anxiety and depression. Those and some of my other health issues heightened some disconnect since they did not always make themselves evident. Unfortunately that disengagement only increased the severity of the problem. Chloe repeatedly expressed her concerns before she made the drastic decision to raid the medicine cabinet. When the show restarted, she again repeatedly voiced her concern, especially as her panic attacks returned. Ultimately, she sought legal counsel to separate herself from a main root of her anxiety.

That break in root was tough. Again, I could relate. She didn’t want to hurt her family, and I never wanted to break mine. As deep as family was, the root of pain went just as far. I admired her bravery and strength to make that cut. The book showed how the pain lingered and how she still wanted her family’s support and connection. They didn’t attend her high school graduation, and that stung Chloe. Yet she knew she had to move forward away from the cameras and therefore the Baker’s Dozen.

This story provided an authentic look into anxiety and other issues related to dysfunctional families. I appreciated how it showed the depth of the roots and how events or specific issues can ripple into other areas of life. It reminded me how important it was to invest in healthy relationships, like the close sibling bond Chloe has with her brother Benny and her group of friends, and in the counsel of experts like Chloe’s counselor and lawyer.

2016 Reads

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As we finish the first week of the new year, I would like to reflect on my last year’s reading. I read more than I have in years, and I noticed it helped me feel better than I have. Some highly regarded intellectuals like John Maxwell, as well as other sources, note the importance of regular reading and how a routine of even fifteen minutes a day can lead to finishing numerous books in a year. Last year I learned a lot as I kept my mind cycling through books rather than my ruminative thoughts. Here is a list the list of 61 works I read last year:

A * denotes a book read for a book club or list.

*Noah’s Compass – Anne Tyler

The Longest Ride – Nicholas Sparks

The Girls of Mischief Bay – Susan Mallery

*The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society – Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

*The Language of Flowers – Vanessa Diffenbaugh

*The Dressmaker – Kate Alcott

*Defending Jacob – William Landy

Captivating – John and Stasi Eldredge

Princess – Jean Sasson

*Lock and Key – Sarah Dessen

*Unbroken – Laura Hillenbrand

Supergirl – Michael Green

*The Little Paris Bookshop – Nina George

Supergirl Vol. 1: The Girl of Steel – Jeph Loeb

The Wasted Vigil – Nadeem Aslam

I Kissed Dating Goodbye – Joshua Harris

What the Dog Saw – Malcolm Gladwell

The Depression Cure – Stephen S. Ilardi

This Is Where I Leave You – Jonathan Tropper

*American Born Chinese – Gene Luen Yang

*Everything Everything – Nicola Yoon

*Mockingjay – Suzanne Collins

*I Am Princess X – Cherrie Priest

Tuck Everlasting – Natalie Babbit

*Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – J.K. Rowling

The Rosie Project – Graeme Simsion

A Mad, Wicked Folly – Sharon Biggs Waller

The Leaving of Things – Jay Antani

Batman: The Killing Joke – Alan Moore

Waiting for You – Susane Colasanti

The Summer of Chasing Mermaids – Sarah Ockler

Gifts Differing – Isbel Briggs Myers

*Dead Until Dark – Charlaine Harris

*Carry On – Rainbow Rowell

Emmy & Oliver – Robin Benway

Eleanor & Park – Rainbow Rowell

*The Fault in Our Stars – John Green

*Dept. of Speculation – Jenny Offill

Outlander – Diana Gabaldon

*Club Dead – Charlaine Harris

A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens

See Me – Nicholas Sparks

The Mistletoe Promise – Richard Paul Evans

Starry Night – Debbie Macomber

*Scoop – Evelyn Waugh

The Christmas Box – Richard Paul Evans

Timepiece – Richard Paul Evans

The Death of Superman – Dan Jurgens

 

Books I reread:

If I Stay – Gayle Forman

Much Ado About Nothing – William Shakespeare

The Choice – Nicholas Sparks

The Picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde

Peter Pan – J.M. Barrie

The Perks of Being a Wallflower – Stephen Chbosky

Winnie the Pooh – A.A. Milne

The House at Pooh Corner – A.A. Milne

 

I choose Eleanor & Park as my top read last year. It completely pulled me into the story and relationship between the characters as I found myself thinking about them between readings. I found myself exclaiming I wanted to cry when I finished; the reality and emotion in that book felt so tragically authentic. This book may become a routine read for Valentine’s Day or some occasion so I can enjoy it on some regular basis. I highly recommend it. Sadly, I saw it several times before deciding to give it a try. I picked it off the bookshelf at stores so many times thinking it caught my interest but not feeling completely compelled. Now I’m gifting it to friends who feel the same way because I want them to experience its greatness as well.

Last year I also read my first few comic books. I still hold no expertise when it comes to the comic world, but I have learned that not all comics hold equal appeal. The same character has stories by numerous authors. While the storyline may follow similarly in all of them, some simply aren’t as good. I suggest using some sort of research, whether Goodreads or other readers, to avoid reading the ho-hum comics.

Since Christmas and my birthday have just passed, I’ve got a nice stack of books ready to get me through the first part of the year. I’m excited to keep up the heavy reading (to keep my heavy spirits up)!

 

See Me Sparks a Last Place Spot

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I recently finished reading Nicholas Sparks’ second newest novel See Me. Though I consider myself a big Sparks fan, I did not enjoy this story nearly as much as his other books. Seeing him write a story with a greater thriller aspect showed a range in his talents, but the story didn’t get as deep as usual.

The characters were in their mid twenties like me, and I wouldn’t have guessed that. Colin attending college classes gives him a younger aspect, but Maria didn’t seem to hold many similarities to me or any of my friends my age. Unlike most of us, she got right into a good career track and in law, a tough field. To top off the two dimensional characters, the suspense had hit and miss elements. The mystery itself for the stalker had its strength and would have fit into the thriller genre as far as I can tell since I don’t read many books in that genre. However, it took multiple paragraphs to get to an assailant sneaking up to Maria. Even I knew the forthcoming action and didn’t feel added suspense waiting those extra descriptive paragraphs just for the actual event.

I still enjoyed the book and still love Sparks. This book just might rank last in all the ones I’ve read. I suppose one has to land there. It shows Sparks can flex his writing muscles in genres outside love stories, and it demonstrated the power of a close knit family (Maria’s) and how people and look out for and comfort each other.

Homecoming: Coming Home to a New City

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Most high schools and universities celebrate Homecoming during October, while wearing formal attire at some places (and my dream recreations of it). I’ve never attended a homecoming event as an alumni, but I’ve never been far from my old schools in Missouri either. This year I’ve moved far away and miss the cities of my youth. My high school friends have even invited me to join them for our group’s latest game night get together. Unfortunately I won’t attend this round, but I know I’ll make my way back there soon. For now I’m building a new home.

Feeling like I’ve got a foundation for my new home has taken a while. I temporarily live with my dad after having an apartment to myself for six years, and I live 13 hours away by car from my closest friends (with the exception of my close cousin who has continuously welcomed me here). Mostly, I’ve learned I have to get out there myself to get plugged into places and communities where I can find activities and friends. Unfortunately it takes a while at a time when I could really use a friend, but the efforts start to pay off.

After visiting several churches, I’ve found one I’ve enjoyed enough to give a long term  try. I have found one more that I want to visit as well, and I sense that I’m close to deciding my new church home. That makes me feel like I can find a niche to use my gifts. That may mean trying a group or two again, yet I’m closer already. A lot of the churches here have good ESL programs since Houston has such a diverse population when it comes to first languages. Most places have devotions or handouts as well that give me potential venues for writing.

To make myself reach out a little more and have a bit of a long term goal and involvement, I’ve started a book club. So far it’s a small group since I don’t know many people, but they’re a part of my new home. I can share my love for books outside the shelves within my own walls. I’m getting out there, I’m getting involved, I’m building a home.

Then I can go back to my other for a homecoming event and have a new experience for coming home.

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As of today, it’s been 90 years since Winnie the Pooh first hit the shelves. It’s already been 18 years since I saw the bear that inspired it all in New York City and 8 since I walked Pooh Sticks Bridge in England. I can’t determine how many years those stories have inspired me to write. Most of my first stories revolved around Pooh Bear, including one where he met the orca Willy. The stories and drawings still make me smile and still remind me of my writing passion.

I haven’t written as much as I’d like lately (aside from my nearly daily journaling), and I want to push back my reservations. Yet a lot of stories and ideas continue to stir in my mind. Some have made it to written form in notes, yet I continue to fear rejection of them. I need to remember the personalities and stories I see in the bears and people in my own life have value and can inspire someone else the way Pooh and A.A. Milne have inspired me. Milne looked at a stuffed animal and saw a personality and a story. While that may sound silly, he created a beloved character that has stood the test of time. Other people may not understand the process, but they just may enjoy the final product. Here’s to pushing forward to a final product!

 

…NaNoWriMo starts in just over two weeks and provides some encouragement to write regularly. And a lot. I’d like to push myself harder toward cranking out a whole story this time even if just to practice and let some ideas flow.

False Identity

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Through Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), I have learned the importance of not identifying myself with an emotion. Just because I am sad doesn’t mean I’m a sad person. It may sound strange, but I can take on extra weight by taking on these emotions and their associations. Tonight I have realized the same concept applies to not identifying with sin in my life.

It becomes easy to turn my sin into a noun that describes myself. I’ve told a lie in the past; liar must suit me as a title. The same can go for numerous other negative descriptions. Yet only the enemy wants me to believe that; taking on the lie leads me to avoid God. It makes me carry the weight of the sin and take on the burden of negative titles. God doesn’t want that for me, and it is not how He sees me. If I confess to Him rather than avoid Him and insist upon carrying my own burden, He will take it all away. As He reminds me in Isaiah 1:18, He will wash my sins white as snow. That means they’re gone. He won’t remind me of them, and I have nothing left to remind me of them either.

Now I will sin again of  course, just like I will inevitably feel sad or angry again. I just need to remember that I am a blessed child that is always accepted and always has her Father to whom she can turn. His son has already died to take the burden of my sins, so I do not need to carry them. My identity does not come from my sin or emotion but from my relationship with God. That will never change.

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“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

1 John 1:9

Garden Gnome

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Glimpsing your flowers

I need not guess

to discern sunshine

the reason to your air

 

strolling your garden

I need not dig

to measure the depths

the root of your despair

 

dancing in rainfall

I need no gauge

to know it’s fertile

this soil we may share

 

growing together

we need not feast

to fulfill our souls

this one endless prayer

Provision in Transition

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I recently moved south. My dad and I packed up his truck and a trailer and hauled all my precious belongings on the twelve hour drive to my new location. One of the biggest struggles involved getting my head around the fact that I would have to do it all again once or twice more within a year or so; I never liked change, especially big ones. Yet there I was facing multiple changes in jobs and homes.

This transition period included radical changes in my living arrangements. I now live with my dad, with whom I haven’t lived full time in nearly twenty years, and I have 75 percent of my belongings still in the garage. Separating from my book and movie collections, among other staples of my routine, proved difficult. The first week when I stayed at his old house had me living from my suitcase and unpacking my anxiety over the upheaval. Then I moved to the townhouse and got my clothes in the closet how I would at home. My sense of stability improved immediately.

At least a couple times a week, I found myself thinking about an item not in the current arrangement. I racked my brain about which box held the coveted item and even occasionally asked my friend who helped me pack about them. Each time I was able to remind myself that my belongings rested safe in the garage and I would have them out in due time when I got a place of my own again. I had what I needed at the moment.

That truth kept me grounded. I missed having my books and movies surrounding me, and I longed to have my place set up exactly as I wanted; yet I had what I needed. God provided me a spacious home, a comfortable bed (in a cool bedroom) and plenty of healthy food. Earlier today I finally noticed the move had made me realize and accept these truths. I caught myself contemplating the security of my phone (with stuff I still need to back up) and my preferred Ink Joy pens. Yet I stopped any anxious thoughts about them and rested in the assurance that God provided what I needed in the moment and that He would also provide provision for my belongings and my future home and routine. I learned it would continue to be a day to day provision and a day to day trust.

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