Monday, January 30, 2012

Blog Tour: Jerk Magnet (Review)

Chelsea Martin lives life as a wallflower.

That is, until her future stepmother turns into a "fairy godmother" and helps her transform from geek and gawky into a "hot" blond "popular" gal.

Suddenly, Chelsea is no longer living life from the sidelines.

But she finds that life as a popular, "hot" girl, has its disadvantages - especially when she discovers that she is a "jerk magnet." Attracting all of the wrong types of guys, Chelsea only has eyes for one guy - who decides based upon her looks, that she's not the gal for him.

Through a series of events - including a surprise "make under" at camp, Chelsea and her friends learn that true beauty isn't just what you see on the surface.

What I Thought About The Book
This is a fun read. It really highlights stereotypes of today's teens - especially what revolves around the "popular" or "beautiful' people, and those, who well, find themselves on the outside of the popular crowd.

I loved the lessons Melody Carson highlights in this book - in subtle, yet humorous ways.

I really liked some of the twists she included - including the "make under" at camp, and the lessons that Chelsea learned as she grew in her faith.

Ultimately, this is a good read. I'd be glad to pass it along to a tween reader - in fact, it might even be a good book to use for a middle school girls book club.

On the scale of one to five, I give this book a solid three. I It has a solid plot line, lots of humor and a great moral message.

More About The Book
What if beauty is more than just skin deep?

When Chelsea Martin's future stepmother helps her transform from gawky and geeky into the hottest girl at her new school, Chelsea is pretty sure it's the best thing that ever happened to her. But her hot new look has a downside. She's attracting lots of guys who all have one thing in common: they're jerks. Oh, and stealing the attention of all the guys in school doesn't exactly make her BFF material for the girls.

Finally a great guy catches her eye. But he's the only one around who doesn't give her a second glance. Can Chelsea come up with a plan to get his attention? Or will her new image ruin everything?

About The Author
Melody Carlson is the award-winning author of over two hundred books with sales of more than five million. She is the author of several Christmas books from Revell, including the bestselling The Christmas Bus, The Christmas Dog, and Christmas at Harrington's, which is being considered for a TV movie.

She is also the author of many teen books, including Just Another Girl, Anything but Normal, Double Take, The Jerk Magnet, and the Diary of a Teenage Girl series. Carson was nominated for a Romantic Times Career Achievement Award in the inspirational market for her books in 2010 and 2011.

She and her husband live in central Oregon. For more information about Carson visit her website at

Online Resources
Buy at Amazon
Find it at Barnes & Noble

Note: As a freelance journalist, I was provided a copy of this book by Revell Publishing, a division of Baker Books. This review was not influenced by a free book - just in case you (or the FTC) were worried about this detail.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

OLW: Rest: Sunday Sabbath Wisdom

Words of wisdom from one of my favorite writers - I really need to dig out some of my Merton books and become reacquainted with him. Maybe this will be a good way to rest on a day off.... Merton and Starbucks....hum....maybe a plan for next Friday.

A Prayer for the Simplicity of Life and Love
By Thomas Merton

Justify my soul, O God, but also from Your fountains fill my will with your fire. Shrine in my mind, although perhaps this means “be darkness to my experience,” but occupy my heart with Your tremendous Life. Let my eyes see nothing in the world but Your glory, and let my hands touch nothing that is not for Your service.

Let my tongue taste no bread that does not strengthen me to praise Your great mercy. I will hear Your voice and I will hear all harmonies You have created, singing Your hymns. Sheep’s wool and cotton from the field shall warm me enough that I may live in Your service; I will give the rest to Your poor. Let me use all things for one sole reason: to find my joy in giving You glory.

Therefore keep me, above all things, from sin. Keep me from the death of deadly sin which puts hell in my soul. Keep me from the murder of lust that blinds and poisons my heart. Keep me from the sins that eat a man’s flesh with irresistible fire until he is devoured. Keep me from loving money in which is hatred, from avarice and ambition that suffocate my life.

Keep me from the dead works of vanity and the thankless labor in which artists destroy themselves for pride and money and reputation, and saints are smothered under the avalanche of their own importunate zeal. Stanch in me the rank wound of covetousness and the hungers that exhaust my nature with their bleeding. Stamp out the serpent envy that stings love with poison and kills all joy.

Untie my hands and deliver my heart from sloth. Set me free from the laziness that goes about disguised as activity when activity is not required of me, and from the cowardice that does what is not demanded, in order to escape sacrifice.

But give me the strength that waits upon You in silence and peace. Give me humility in which alone is rest, and deliver me from pride which is the heaviest of burdens. And possess my whole heart and soul with the simplicity of love.

Occupy my whole life with the one thought and the one desire of love, that I may love not for the sake of merit, not for the sake of perfection, not for the sake of virtue, not for the sake of sanctity, but for you alone.

For there is only one thing that can satisfy love and reward it, and that is You alone.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

OLW: Rest Reminder

A few reminders I've found on Pinterest in the last month, to help me remember my word for 2012 - Rest.
I'm still working on being better at resting....

How do you rest?


Friday, January 27, 2012

The quest for 50 states

My friend Stacey's daughter "M" is collecting postcards from all 50 states for a class project. This afternoon, I (along with a friend) went on a quest - thanks to her Garmin - to find the perfect Arkansas postcard for her. (We found two...because we couldn't decide which one was best!)

It's been fun to talk to friends - via email and Facebook - all over the country, asking them to pitch in to help M "rock" her assignment. So far if they all come in, we have at least 75 percent of the states represented - hopefully even Alaska and Hawaii.

It was fun and random to help M with this project. Sometimes living so far away from friends, I can't be part of their everyday life. This was one chance to do something - despite the miles that separate us.

Friendship isn't a big thing - it's a million little things.
 ~Author Unknown

What little things have you done for a friend this week? How has it made a difference in your friendship?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Blog Tour: Alienation (Review)

For Colt McAlister, life changed dramatically when his parents were killed in a car accident - which wasn't quite the accident people initially thought.

Through a series of events, Colt learns of a world that he never imagined - filled with jet packs, flying motorcycles and a grandfather who was the "Flying Phantom" during World War II.

Colt wants to be normal, but normal is no longer an option.

Instead he finds himself in the midst of a epic battle to save his life - and attend school at a top secret training center for C.H.A.O.S. - the Central Headquarters Against the Occult and Supernatural.

Ultimately, Colt has to decide who he can trust - and what friendship truly means.

What I Thought
I thought this book was well written and filled with intrigue and suspense. You can tell how writing for D.C. Comics has played a role in the development of Jon Lewis' writing style, because his words seem to come alive due to his vivid descriptions and wording.

This novel - and ultimately the series - plays on Lewis' writing strengths as he creates an alternative universe, where aliens and humans can come into contact, and people can ride around on flying motorcycles and use jet packs to fly.

It was interesting and fun to watch Lewis unfold Colt's character, as he not only learns to be with- and understand - his grandfather. He is also left maintaining his new and sometimes fledgling friendship with Oz and Danielle.

Because it's the second book in the series, readers may find it easier to "track" what is happening if they read the first book - Invasion. I know I found myself understanding Alienation more, once I went back and explored the first novel.

In Alienation, Lewis uses an allegory to structure his manuscript - drawing inspiration from the story of David, Jonathan and Saul. The parallels between Jonathan and David, and Oz and Colt are striking. This allegory added an interesting rhythm and strength to the story line - and truly served as the backbone of the novel.

Ultimately, this novel is written for young readers - but like most well written young adult fiction, this novel (and series) will appeal to readers of all ages.

However, unlike many young adult novels in today's marketplace, this book (and series) is not dark and depressing. It does deal with some strong themes, but somehow Lewis keeps it from being too harsh.

On the scale of one to five, with five being the highest, I give it a four. From reading the ending, I'm guessing there's at least one more book - because Lewis closed with a cliffhanger. I'm really hoping my 11-year-old nephew will dig into this series - so I have an excuse to check out the next book in the series.

About The Book:
From The Publisher
After his parents were killed in a car accident, Colt McAlister was drawn into a world he thought only existed in comic books-one where mind control, jet packs, and flying motorcycles don't even scratch the surface.

Along with his best friends Oz and Danielle, Colt is now training at the secret Central Headquarters Against the Occult and Supernatural academy. But strange accidents seem to follow him. . . even with the security of the school grounds. What first seems random soon turns deadly. But who is targeting Colt?

As the alien invasions increase in frequency and force, C.H.A.O.S resources are taxed to the limit and they're forced to utilize the new recruits. In the midst of battle, Colt will discover some startling revelations . . . about himself, his friendship with Oz, and why he has been chosen to defeat this alien attack against earth.

About The Author
Jon S. Lewis is the coauthor of the Grey Griffins trilogy (over 500,000 books in print) and the upcoming Grey Griffins Clockwork Chronicles. He also writes for the DC COMICS family of publishers. He resides with his family in Arizona.

For more about Jon and the series, visit

Read my review of book one: Invasion here.

Online Resources

Link to buy the book & see an excerpt online:
Buy it at Amazon: here.

It's A Contest
Win an iPad from @JonSLewis and @NelsonFiction in the Alienation iPad2 Giveaway!

The invasion was only the beginning! Jon Lewis is celebrating the next adventure in his fast-paced C.H.A.O.S. series with an explosive giveaway!

One thrill-seeker will receive:
  • iPad2 with Wi-Fi
  • Copies of the C.H.A.O.S. novels, Invasion and Alienation
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends at noon on February 7th. Winner will be announced at the Alienation Facebook Party on 2/7. Jon will be hosting an Author Chat, giving away copies of the books and gift certificates to iTunes and! Don't miss a second of the intrigue!

Grab your copy of Alienation and join Jon on the evening of February 7th for an author chat, spy training (How much do you know about alien invaders?) and lots of giveaways. 

Enter via E-mail Enter via FacebookEnter via Twitter
Don't miss a moment of the fun. RSVP today and tell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 31st!

Note: As a freelance journalist, I was provided a copy of this book by Litfuse Publicity Group.. This review was not influenced by a free book - just in case you (or the FTC) were worried about this detail.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Quote of the Day: Life is...

Something to think about.....

Life is an opportunity, benefit from it.
Life is beauty, admire it.
Life is bliss, taste it.
Life is a dream, realize it.
Life is a challenge, meet it.
Life is a duty, complete it.
Life is a game, play it.
Life is a promise, fulfill it.
Life is sorrow, overcome it.
Life is a song, sing it.
Life is a struggle, accept it.
Life is a tragedy, confront it.
Life is an adventure, dare it.
Life is luck, make it.
Life is too precious, do not destroy it.
Life is life, fight for it.
~ Mother Teresa

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A Family Moment

A few days ago, I ordered this picture. It's one of my favorite pictures of Collin - literally spraying me with silly string - with the present I had just given him.

It's also one of my favorites, because of the pure joy on his face and on my dad's face (left corner). I just happened to snap it - I think I was walking away and Collin yelled for me to turn around  - and zap, he got me! (Teach me to buy a messy present.)

It has new meaning this week, because it also contains my "Uncle" Steve - (really my dad's cousin if someone can explain family tree stuff, but I grew up calling him Uncle Steve) - top right corner, with the puppy. 

Steve was killed over the weekend in a farming accident. The funeral is tomorrow in Western Kansas.

The package from Shutterfly was a bit bittersweet, because when I opened it today, this was the first picture to great me in the package. 

I love this picture, and I love the memories surrounding it. I remember how much fun we had at Aunt Pauline's farm (Steve's mom) and everything we did that visit. It's still one of my favorite pictures, but now it has new significance.

I thought I'd share this today, because it reminds me that regardless of "label," family plays an important and vital part of our lives. 

Maybe today, you should hug someone in your family (either by blood or by choice) and tell them how important they are to you. 

Because, as we learned this weekend, things can change in an instant. 

Monday, January 23, 2012

Blog Tour: Invasion (Review)

Life seems pretty normal for Colt McAlister, until that faithful day when his parents are killed in a freak car accident.

Everything changes when he moves to Arizona to live with his grandfather and starts attending classes at a new school.

Suddenly, he finds out his grandfather and his family has connections to a secret organization - and his mother's investigative journalism piece on one of the nation's largest companies is probably why she - and his father - were killed.

Life as a 16-year-old isn't so simple after all.

I picked up Invasion to read after I was given the second book in this series, Alienation. I found as I started reading the second book, I really wanted to know what happened in the first.

I was not disappointed. Invasion is an interesting book. Three friends work together to solve several mysteries - and along the way discover some sinister plots to end the world as we know it.

I wanted to find out more about this series, because I have an 11 year-old  nephew, who is reading books like this with a voracious appetite. I thought this book would interest him for several reasons: the main character is a boy (that has become a new request), the main character is a "surfer/skater" dude; and it does involve a multi-dimensional world. (To say more might spoil the book.)

This book (and series) showcases Jon S. Lewis' experience of writing for DC Comics. I think the plot lines and the writing style will attract young readers - like my nephew.

Written for a Christian publisher, Invasion is not "heavy" on preaching, but rather showcases a "real-life" faith. The first book sets up a Biblical allegory that structures much of book two.

While I'm not the target market for this novel (the target, I suspect is my nephew), I found this book to be an intriguing, suspense-filled and well, simply a great read.

In all, on a scale of one to five, with five as the highest, I give this book a solid four. Reading book one left me wanting to know more (and I'll be honest, I finished book two over the weekend and I really don't want to wait a year for the third installment!)

More About The Book
(From The Publisher)
He didn't ask to be a hero, but now all that stands between us and chaos . . . is Colt.

Colt McAlister was having the summer of his life. He spent his days surfing and his nights playing guitar on the beach with friends. He even met a girl and got his first car. But everything changes when his parents are killed in a freak accident.

He's forced to leave his old life behind and move to Arizona with his grandfather. The only person he knows at the new high school is a childhood friend named Dani. And Oz, a guy he's sure he's never met but who is strangely familiar.

But what if his parents' death wasn't an accident? His mother, an investigative reporter, was going to expose a secret mind-control program run by one of the world's largest companies. Before she could release the story, what if agents from Trident Biotech made sure she couldn't go public?

Vowing to uncover truth, Colt is drawn into a secret world of aliens, shapeshifters, flying motorcycles, and invisible getaways.

The invasion has begun.

About The Author
Jon S. Lewis is the coauthor of the Grey Griffins trilogy and the Grey Griffins Clockwork Chronicles. He also writes for the DC COMICS family of publishers. He resides with his family in Arizona.

Online Resources
Read more about Invasion here.
Buy it at Amazon
Buy it at Barnes & Noble

Note: As a freelance journalist, I was provided a copy of this book by Net Galley's blogger program. This review was not influenced by a free book - just in case you (or the FTC) were worried about this detail.

Stay tuned for the review of book two, coming later this week!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Blog Tour: Chasing Mona Lisa (Review & Interview)

A hidden masterpiece. Protected during the war, becomes the target of a massive chase through Europe.
Who will win? The good guys - spies for the OSS or the Nazis'.

In their second book - Chasing Mona Lisa - Mike Yorkey and Tricia Goyer dive back into the political intrigue surrounding OSS spies at the end of World War II, as they show how Gabi and Eric (who appeared in their first book - The Swiss Courier) take part in their mission to protect the Mona Lisa - the French prized jewel - from German thieves.

"It [Chasing Mona Lisa], is history rich and full of plot twists," explained Goyer. "For me, I was most interested in the stolen art. I read a book Rescuing Da Vinci that fascinated me. And the spy part is just plain fun.

"One of my all time favorite books is The Spy Wore Red. I also wrote about spies in my Chronicles of the Spanish Civil War Series. (A Valley of Betrayal, A Shadow of Treason, A Whisper of Freedom.) It's the cleverness of spies that I like best I suppose."

Goyer said she became acquainted with the stories surrounding stolen art when she was in Europe, after touring salt mines iin Austria which were used by the Germans to hide art during the war.

"I was fascinated by those who did what they could to protect art, hiding it away in unexpected places. The Mona Lisa hung in a young girl's bedroom for part of the war--that amazes me," Goyer continued.

While the story surrounding Chasing Mona Lisa  is fiction, the novel is inspired by true events.

"The Germans did load up trains filled with art at the end of the war," Goyer said, "and many of the events that happen in the book, like the parade down the Champs-Elysees after "liberation" was true. The attempted theft of the Mona Lisa is far as we know!"

Throughout the book, Goyer and Yorkey provide some twists and turns that often have "good guys" who turn out to be "bad" in the end, as well as some characters who seem compromised by life choices, who turn out to be "good."

"What we tried to portray is that everyone has their own motivations and goals and the truth always will come out," she said. "We tried to make the characters true-to-life and live with the desires and motivations of real people during that time. It's amazing what someone will do for a cause they believe in."

Goyer said the book was fun to write, because it incorporated characters from her previous work.

"Gabi and Eric were too good of people just to forget," Goyer said. "I was thankful to be able to spend more time with them! And in this novel I really love Colette. It was great to be able to step into the shoes of a curator for the Louvre. The mix of protector and servant was the essence of who Colette is."

Goyer said she hopes readers will walk away from this novel asking themselves several questions.

"I hope readers (examine) their own hearts and ask, 'What am I willing to fight for? Sacrifice for?' It's easy to live our lives without fighting for something we believe in," she said. "But maybe walking through this "fight" with the characters will make readers consider their own path and call."

Through writing this book, Goyer said God has taught her several lessons on trust.

"I needed to trust my co-writer. I needed to trust the process. And I learned trust through the character's lives," she said. "Do we trust we can make a difference? Do we trust God has a plan for individual lives in the midst of a big world? ... Yes."

What I Thought
Chasing Mona Lisa is a suspense-filled novel with a romantic twist. I enjoyed reading it. While it's a "second book," for the most part, you can pick up this book and read it as a "stand alone" work.

The plot, crafted around a Resistance fighter and a curator at the Louvre, truly has a lot of twists and turns. Good guys turn out to be not so good, while others pegged as "bad" turn out to be ok in the end.

The novel's descriptions let you feel like you are driving all over France and Austria trying to save the Mona Lisa along with Gabi and Eric. An unexpected kidnapping - and subsequent chase - provided an unexpected turn in the novel.

Overall, this novel is intense - but not terrifying. It's a great read that will keep you guessing what happens. It's would truly make a great movie because of the intrigue and suspense.

On the scale of one to five, with five being the highest, this book is a solid four. Once again Yorkey and Goyer have created a great novel steeped in history and intrigue. While they are not planning a third novel at this time, I would definitely be ready to read another book by this pair.

More About The Book
It is August 1944 and Paris is on the cusp of liberation. As the soldiers of the Third Reich flee the Allied advance, they ravage the country, stealing countless pieces of art. Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring will stop at nothing to claim the most valuable one of all, the Mona Lisa, as a post-war bargaining chip to get him to South America. Can Swiss OSS agents Gabi Mueller and Eric Hofstadler rescue DaVinci's masterpiece before it falls into German hands?

With nonstop action, Chasing Mona Lisa is sure to get readers' adrenaline pumping as they join the chase to save the most famous painting in the world. From war-ravaged Paris to a posh country chateau, the race is on--and the runners are playing for keeps.

About the authors:
Tricia Goyer is the coauthor of The Swiss Courier as well as the author of many other books, including Night Song and Dawn of a Thousand Nights, both past winners of the ACFW's Book of the Year Award for Long Historical Romance. Goyer lives with her family in Arkansas. For more about Tricia and her other books visit

Mike Yorkey is the author or coauthor of dozens of books, including The Swiss Courier and the bestselling Every Man's Battle series. Married to a Swiss native, Yorkey lived in Switzerland for 18 months. He and his family currently reside in California. For more about Mike  and his other books visit

Online Resources
Link to buy the book: 

Read an excerpt, watch a video and find out more here.  

Follow the blog tour here:

It's A Contest!
Chasing Mona Lisa is the continuing tale of Gabi Mueller and Eric Hofstadler (first introduced in The
Swiss Courier). This time the due are on a relentless quest to save the most famous painting in the world  - the Mona Lisa. You can help Gabi and Eric with your very own spy pack when you enter The Chasing Mona Lisa Giveaway!

One passionate protector will receive:
  • iTouch (The must-have device for any spy. Camera, Maps & Music.)
  • Starbucks Gift Card (For all those late nights.)
  • Moleskin Notebook (For those important notes.)
  • Invisible Ink Pen (Don’t want anyone reading those important notes.)
  • Chasing Mona Lisa by Tricia Goyer & Mike Yorkey (Great
    handbook and intriguing tale for any spy-in-training!)
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends at noon on January 31st. The winner will be announced at the Chasing Mona Lisa Facebook Party on 1/31. Tricia and Mike will be hosting an author chat (on Facebook and Live from Tricia's website) and giving away their books and a Book Club prize pack! (Ten copies of the book for your small group or book club AND a LIVE Author Chat for your group with Tricia and Mike.)

So grab your copy of Chasing Mona Lisa and join Tricia and Mike on the evening of the 31st for an author chat, spy training (do you know how to pick a lock? ) and lots of giveaways. 

Enter via E-mail Enter via FacebookEnter via Twitter
Don't miss a moment of the fun. RSVP today and tell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 31st!

Note: As a freelance journalist, I was provided a copy of this book by Litfuse Publicity Group.. This review was not influenced by a free book - just in case you (or the FTC) were worried about this detail.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Quote of the Day: Eleanor Roosevelt

I gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which I must stop and look fear in the face. I say to myself, I've lived through this and can take the next thing that comes along. We must do the things we think we cannot do.
-- Eleanor Roosevelt

Friday, January 20, 2012

An Attitude of Gratitude

In the last week, I've started keeping a gratitude journal.

The idea came from Ali Edward's 52 Creative Prompts newsletter. In the first issue she wrote: Write a personal daily gratitude. I've started doing this using a great little One Line A Day 5-year Memory Book. Before I go to sleep I'm thinking back on the day and documenting one gratitude with just a couple lines of text. This is a practice I've thought about doing for years and I'm finally taking action on it.  You can read more about it Ali's creative prompts here: 

I decided to make this a goal for 2012 - to write a line or two of gratitude as a way to document a thought or an idea from each day. (The fact that I had a blank journal lying around was an added bonus!)

I guess this is my attempt to live life "half full." I end each day writing in the journal. If I miss a day or two, it's OK - but I'm going to strive to make this a daily discipline.

Yes, I've only done it for a week - but I can already tell it's helping me "focus" on the positive aspects of each day.

Tonight, I'm grateful for the giggles of little kids who attended the family movie night at church. A couple decided the "game" of the night involved sneaking up on me while I watched the movie. The way they enjoy life is awesome.

So what are you grateful for?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Where Do You See God?
Where do you see God?

That's the question posed by a friend, who is collecting answers for a project (and potentially a future book).

Do you see God in nature? In your family? In a sacred practice of faith?

The answers are endless.

So where do you see God?

More info, from my friend: I'm working on finding as many answers/responses to the question: Where Do You See God? Will you help me by responding to the question at this very simple website I've set up..... 

Ideally, I'd love for you to then share it with folks you know. I literally need hundreds of answers, and all are welcome, especially from other parts of the world.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Blog Tour: The Sacred Meal (Review)

Making The Ordinary Holy
What is communion? Why is it important, let alone sacred?

Those are just two of the questions examined in Nora Gallagher's contribution to the Ancient Practice Series - The Sacred Meal.

Mixing memoir and prose, Gallagher examines the practice of communion and how it relates to the Christian faith.

I found Gallagher's writing to be authentic, warm and engaging.  Her writing style pulled me into the book, while her stories helped me look at communion in a new way.

"The sacred meal that is part of our faith does more than connect us to the holy. It connects us to each other."

I think what I enjoyed most about this book is that Gallagher really dives into why communion is truly an invitation to a deeper relationship with God.

Reading this piece of the Ancient Practice series has made me want to explore further titles - if they are all as inviting as this offering, it is a series that breathes new life into " old" practices of faith - thus truly making them new again.

An additional bonus: The study guide at the back of the book, would allow a small group to use this book to dive into the "holy mystery" known as communion.

More About The Book
(From The Publisher)
Unlike every other Christian practice, communion is meant to be done together—as the Gospel of Matthew tells us, where two or three “gathered in my name.” You simply can’t do it by yourself. You can pray alone and fast alone. You can even go on pilgrimage alone. Communion, on the other hand, forces us to be with others.

But like these other practices, communion has the same intention: to gradually move us out of one place and into another. Author Nora Gallagher says it’s like taking a journey to a foreign land, and she divides the trip into three parts: waiting, receiving, and afterward. While we wait, we sort through our baggage, filled with worry, guilt, anxiety, and pain. Communion teaches us how to receive—that God’s gift of grace comes to us by doing nothing. Finally, we surrender our invisible baggage and, now lightened, are free to reflect upon and understand the journey we have shared.

Gallagher writes,“Every time it is the same, and every time it is different.” This is your family, your table, and act of community—the gathering of the body of Christ.

About The Series
The Ancient Practices
There is a hunger in every human heart for connection, primitive and raw, to God. To satisfy it, many are beginning to explore traditional spiritual disciplines used for centuries . . . everything from fixed-hour prayer to fasting to sincere observance of the Sabbath. Compelling and readable, the Ancient Practices series is for every spiritual sojourner, for every Christian seeker who wants more.

More About The Author
Nora Gallagher was born in New Mexico, the daughter of Julie Walcott Gallagher, who taught herself architecture, and David Gallagher, who learned the law at Yale Law School and in practice. (He favored bow ties.) She grew up catching crawfish on the irrigation ditch that ran past her house, riding horseback in the desert, and smoking illegal substances in high school which she subsequently quit to attend St. John’s College, a place one studied the Great Books of the Western World. At St. John’s, she read the Iliad in Greek, Plato in English and made lifelong friends.

She learned writing on the ground, first in San Francisco, where she was hired as a stringer for TIME Magazine. (Later, she asked her boss at the time why he allowed her in the door and he replied, “You were a good writer. I figured I could teach you reporting.”) Later, she free-lanced with the idea of travel: she went anywhere on someone’s dime. Prague, Nicaragua, Texas. Her essays, book reviews and journalism have appeared in many publications including The New York Times Magazine, DoubleTake, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times Magazine, Utne Reader, The Village Voice, Mother Jones, and The Los Angeles Times.

Recently, Phyllis Tickle, founding editor of the religion department at Publisher’s Weekly, asked Gallagher to write a book about communion for a series on Christian practices. Not knowing that taking communion was a practice, and not having been successful at any other religious practice, the idea intrigued her. The result is a book rather like a memoir about taking communion: The Sacred Meal, 2009.

A few more items: She is the editor of the award-winning Notes from the Field, published by Chronicle Books, 1999. A sermon is collected in Sermons that Work and a poem in the anthology, September 11, 2001: American Writers Respond. She was lucky enough to be a fellow at both the MacDowell Colony and Blue Mountain Center.

She is preacher-in-residence at Trinity Episcopal Church, Santa Barbara, and sits on the advisory board of the Yale Divinity School. She is represented by Philippa Brophy, president of Sterling Lord Literistic, New York.

She lives with her husband, novelist and poet Vincent Stanley, in Santa Barbara and New York.

Online Resources
Buy it at Amazon

Note: As a freelance journalist, I was provided a copy of this book by BookSneeze's blogger program. This review was not influenced by a free book - just in case you (or the FTC) were worried about this detail.

Blog Tour: Decision Points (Review)

Working as a journalist in southwest Missouri in the early 2000's, I had the opportunity to cover President George W. Bush, as he traveled to the area for a variety of reasons.

It was interesting to watch him interact with the crowds on the ag tour, and to see how he responded to  survivors after a tornado swept Pierce City, Mo.

So when I had the chance to read his memoir, I agreed. It might surprise people who know me, but I wanted to see what he said - and see his take on history.

I found a memoir that was both surprising and interesting. I thought his approach and writing style was intriguing.  I'll admit, it's a bit unusual - since it's not chronological, but I enjoyed reading about a certain issue or decision from start to finish.

This was especially true regarding the section which focuses on the decisions made surrounding Sept. 11. President Bush's recollection seems authentic and real.

Will this book make me change my political beliefs one way or another? Probably not. Has it given me a new perspective on President Bush? Yes. Am I glad I read it? Yes.

Time is the true test of a President and a memoir. I think that's true both for President Bush's tenure in office and for what he has written.

However, I think this book will definitely give you something to think about - and isn't that what a good memoir is meant to do?

More About This Book
(From The Publisher)
Decision Points is the extraordinary account of America's 43rd president. Shattering the conventions of political autobiography, George W. Bush offers a strikingly candid journey through the defining decisions of his life.

In gripping, never-before-heard detail, President Bush brings readers inside the Texas Governor's Mansion on the night of the hotly contested 2000 election; aboard Air Force One on 9/11, in the hours after America's most devastating attack since Pearl Harbor; at the head of the table in the Situation Room in the moments before launching the war in Iraq; and behind the Oval Office desk for his historic and controversial decisions on the financial crisis, Hurricane Katrina, Afghanistan, Iran, and other issues that have shaped the first decade of the twenty-first century.

President Bush writes honestly and directly about his flaws and mistakes, as well as his accomplishments reforming education, treating HIV/AIDS in Africa, and safeguarding the country amid chilling warnings of additional terrorist attacks. He also offers intimate new details on his decision to quit drinking, discovery of 
faith, and relationship with his family.

Decision Points will captivate supporters, surprise critics, and change perspectives on one of the most consequential eras in American history—and the man at the center of events.

Online Resources

Buy it at Amazon
Pick it up at Barnes & Noble
Read and excerpt online
Read more about the book here

Note: As a freelance journalist, I was provided a copy of this book by WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group. This review was not influenced by a free book - just in case you (or the FTC) were worried about this detail.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Deep Thought: Genius

Found on Pinterest - a place I find myself when I need a dose of creativity. I love this sign because it's a message I need to hear - and I want the kids I work with to hear LOUD and CLEAR.

Isn't it true, we judge ourselves not by our own abilities, but by what the world convinces us is right.

I need to remember that just because I'm not living up to the world's standards OR even the "little voice" in my head, doesn't make me stupid.

In fact, I only need to live up to God's plan for my life. Period. That's much better than living life like a fish who wants to climb a tree.

So here's to living life like a goldfish.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Blog Tour: The Keeper (Review & Interview)

With the release of her new series, Susanne Woods Fisher dives back into the Amish faith community, examining the lives of three sisters, Julia, Sadie and M.K., and how they interact in Stoney Ridge.

The drama deepens as Julia's plans for her life go haywire, when her plans for marriage dissolve and her father's health drastically deteriorates.

In all, Julia has to learn how to rely, not on her own plans, but instead on what God has in store for her life.

Once again, Suzanne has created a story that is warm, inviting and fun to read. While the book is set in am Amish community, it doesn't focus on "buggies, bonnets and beards" (as she puts it), but rather focuses on a family, living in a faith community.

On a scale of one to five, with five being the highest, I give this s solid four. I'm looking forward to where this series goes - Sadie's and M.K.'s stories are future releases. If book one is any indication, this series is off to a great start!

A Q&A With Suzanne!
“The Keeper” is part of a new series, how do you describe this series? What made you delve into a new community of Amish?
“The Keeper” kicks off a new series, Stoney Ridge Seasons, about three sisters. Each sister will take a turn as the main character (Julia in “The Keeper,” Sadie in “The Haven,” M.K. in “The Lesson). The series is set in the same town of Stoney Ridge, with a few crossover characters.

Years ago, on my very first visit to Lancaster County, I came across an Amish farm with a red windmill. I stopped in, visited with the family, and a friendship developed. 

In the back of my mind, I wanted to create a story about an Amish family that doesn’t quite meet your image of the Amish—because that’s how I have felt about the Amish. They are always surprising me! Endlessly fascinating. This series introduces the Lapps--a quirky family that doesn’t quite fit, though they have huge hearts.

Interested? Meet them in “The Keeper!”

How do you describe “The Keeper” to potential readers? What is it about? 
The basic storyline is about Julia, the eldest sister, as she tries to convince her former fiancé to “man up” and marry her. Along comes Roman Troyer, known as the Bee Man for his migratory beekeeping, to complicate matters for Julia. You’ll meet Julia’s family and discover added layers of the story through their lives.    

What drew you to write this story? Why a story about an Amish beekeeper?
I had read in “The Budget” (an Amish-Mennonite newspaper) about a fellow who traveled from place to place with a horse pulling a white wagon. That’s what gave me the idea and then I morphed it into a beekeeper—someone who needed to take his bees from community to community to pollinate the orchards/fields. 

I interviewed a commercial beekeeper over in the valley in California—he had lots of information about how a hobby beekeeper would manage (traveling at night, for example, when the bees are calm and quiet).  

Would someone who is Amish choose to live a nomad life like this? 
I've met a lot of young Amish people who are crazy about traveling. They head off on mission trips (rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina) or join disaster relief (fire fighting) using the Mennonite relief organizations. Or take bus trips out to the national parks. 

So in some ways, I could see an Amish person living such a life. Maybe not as detached from community as Roman Troyer…but then again (as you will read)…he had “issues.”

How did you decide to weave in the storyline of a heart transplant? Is this something that might have truly happened in the Amish community?
Organ transplants are acceptable for most Amish. Menno and Amos’ story might be stretching things a little, but I do know of organ transplant recipients among the Amish.

I chose the heart transplant because of a wonderful man in my church who shared his transplant with me. Some of Amos’ lines are directly taken directly from this faith-filled gentleman. 

 Here’s a brief example, as Amos is wheeled off for the transplant.
“Joy will come in the morning.” Either way, he meant.

Which character in the book was your favorite? Why?
Mary Kate (M.K.), the youngest sister, was so much fun to write—her character jumps off the page. I just turned in the manuscript for her story (book 3) and there were no revisions! Woohoo!

But I loved Sadie, too, and Rome—wow. What a guy. One reader wrote that she is praying for a fellow like Rome Troyer to head her way! I’m praying for her, too.
What do you hope readers take away from the book? 
God has a plan. His plans don’t always suit us, they don’t always make us happy, but His ways are always best. 

What has God taught you through writing this book?
This last year, there have been some extra pressures on my extended family that could have easily de-railed meeting deadlines…but God is so faithful. Word by word, book by book, He guided me toward completion. 

I’m not saying my books are the world’s best—but I know God is working with me to write a book that is better than the one before it. That’s my goal—to continually improve my craft. He is answering that prayer. 

Why write Amish fiction? What do you like about this genre?
For me, it’s not about the buggies and bonnets and beards. It’s really about faith-based communities. Next year, I’ll be starting an historical Quaker series for Revell, set in Nantucket during the whaling period. What draws me to faith-based communities is their desire to live a life pleasing to God. 

Anything else you’d like to share?
In the summer of 2012, I have a new project releasing: A children’s chapter book series called “The Adventures of Lily Lapp.” I’m co-writing the stories with Mary Ann Kinsinger, a popular blogger ( who was raised Old Order Amish. 

Mary Ann’s childhood is the inspiration for the series. I am so excited about it! The books are similar to “Little House on the Prairie”—a peek into the windows of a happy, healthy family, living a different kind of life. And even though it’s aimed at children, there is something enjoyable for all ages. Fans of Amish fiction will love this series.  

I enjoy interacting with readers. You can find me at and on Facebook: and on Twitter:

Thanks for hosting me today, Kaylea!

More About The Book
Julia Lapp has planned on marrying Paul Fisher since she was a girl. Now twenty-one, she looks forward to their wedding with giddy anticipation. When Paul tells her he wants to postpone the wedding--again--she knows who is to blame. Perpetual bachelor and spreader of cold feet, Roman Troyer, the Bee Man.

Roamin' Roman travels through the Amish communities of Ohio and Pennsylvania with his hives full of bees, renting them out to farmers in need of pollinators. He relishes his nomadic life, which keeps him from thinking about all he has lost. He especially enjoys bringing his bees to Stoney Ridge each year. But with Julia on a mission to punish him for inspiring Paul's cold feet, the Lapp farm is looking decidedly less pleasant.

Can Julia secure the future she's always dreamed of? Or does God have something else in mind?

More About The Author
Suzanne's interest in the Amish began with her grandfather, W.D. Benedict, who was raised Plain. She has many, many Plain relatives living in Franklin County, Pennsylvania, and travels back to Pennsylvania, as well as to Ohio, a couple of times each year for research.

Suzanne has a great admiration for the Plain people and believes they provide wonderful examples to the world.  In both her fiction and non-fiction books, she has an underlying theme: You don't have to "go Amish" to incorporate many of their principles--simplicity, living with less, appreciating nature, forgiving others more readily-- into your life.

When Suzanne isn't writing or bragging to her friends about her first new grandbaby (!), she is raising puppies for Guide Dogs for the Blind. To Suzanne's way of thinking, you just can't take life too seriously when a puppy is tearing through your house with someone's underwear in its mouth.

Online Resources
Suzanne can be found on-line at:
Buy The Keeper online
Follow the blog tour here!
Follow her on Facebook
Follow her tweets on Twitter

It's A Contest
It’s a “Honey of a Giveaway” from Suzanne Woods Fisher!

Suzanne is hosting a "honey of a giveaway"during the blog tour for The Keeper! During 1/3-1/17 you can enter to win an iPad2 from Suzanne and connect with her on January 17th at The Keeper Facebook Party!

During the giveaway one Grand Prize winner will receive a Prize Pack valued at $600:
  • A brand new 16 KB iPad 2 with Wi-Fi
  • A $25 gift certificate to iTunes
  • A copy of The Keeper
But wait there's more! Just click one of the icons below to enter, then on 1/17 join Suzanne for The Keeper Facebook Party! During the party Suzanne will announce the winner of the "Honey" of an iPad Giveaway and host a fun book chat and give away some fun "honey" inspired prizes - It'll be 'sweet"!

RSVP early and tell your friends!

Enter via E-mail Enter via FacebookEnter via Twitter
Don't miss a moment of the fun. RSVP today and tell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 17th!

Note: As a freelance journalist, I was provided a copy of this book by Litfuse Publicity Group.. This review was not influenced by a free book - just in case you (or the FTC) were worried about this detail.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Finding Rest In Random Ways

You made what? While I'm not going "granola" I did spend time Saturday making my own laundry soap.

I've been wanting to do this for quite a while - my cousin and others have been telling me about making your own soap for two distinct reasons: 1) You can control the scent and 2) it's budget friendly.

So when I found myself staring at the laundry soap today at the store - and being frustrated at a) the price and b) the scents (it seems I've become a bit extra sensitive to some of the smells), I thought, "I have extra time, why not try Rebecca's recipe."

So I found myself purchasing the ingredients and making soap - a batch of liquid AND a batch of powder soap (I found that recipe thru Google)..

Ingredients For Both Recipes
Borax Laundry Booster - $3.38 (box)
Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda - $3.24 (box)
Three pack Ivory Soap - $1.24

For Both: A Cheese Grater (I started with the one pictured and ended up with a hand-held small grater.)
For The Liquid - a sauce pan, measuring cup and wisk.
For The Powder - a bowl, spoon and measuring cup.

Grate the soap, like cheese. I found the smaller grater worked easier (along with a small bowl, rather than a plate).  

Rebecca's Liquid Soap
1 Cup of Borax
1 Cup of Washing Soda
1 Bar of Soap
(I used Ivory, my cousin has used Dove.)
3 gallons of water

Grate the bar of soap, and mix it into the borax, soda and water.
Heat over a medium/low heat until it is clear.

Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. When it cools, it will get this "gel like" texture. Mix it up (she said you can whip it with a mixer if you like). Pour it into a gallon bucket (or re-use bottles like I did). Make sure to leave enough room in the bottles so you can "shake" or mix it up before each use.

Note: I made a third of the recipe, because I don't have a huge pot, like my cousin. This made two "regular size" bottles of soap (about what I would have paid at least $8 for each, at Walmart). 

Use a bit more than you would of "commercial" soap, because it's not as concentrated. 

Powdered Laundry Soap

1 Cup Borax
1 Cup Washing Soda
1 Bar of Soap (again, I used Ivory, since I had a three pack), grated.

Mix the grated soap, the borax and soda in a bowl until it becomes a very fine powder. This recipe makes approx. 32 ounces of powder. Store in a sealed container.

Use 1 to 2 tablespoons per load of wash. I had a small scoop that I decided would work great for this.

It was easier - in that you don't have to "cook" it, 
You do the same steps, but you don't add water, obviously. The Ivory soap grated well.

  So Why Did I Do This.....
It's been a long week. I've felt like I've been wound up, tighter than a 10-day-alarm clock trying to get everything done. As I drove away from Upward's practice, I realized for the first time since the New Year, that I really didn't have anything to do this afternoon.

I knew I wanted to work on my One Little Word project, and read a bit, but for the most part, I didn't need to go anywhere or do anything.

That's how I ended up at the store, purchasing laundry soap (or the ingredients) because well, I could do laundry while watching a movie this afternoon.

It took more than an hour for me to "unwind." Having to grate bars of soap proved a "great" way to make me rest, because well, you can't "hurry" that process.

I also had to "wait" and "rest" while the soap "cooked" on medium heat. While it didn't take a lot of effort, I just couldn't leave my apartment because well, the stove was on.

So I watched Netflix (yes a crime show...and even started watching a movie).

And I sat. quiet. resting.

Finding peace.

I guess that's a good trade off for making laundry soap today.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Quote of the Day: Creativity

"Creativity isn’t just the things we chose to put in, it’s also the things we chose to leave out."

~ Austin Kleon from "How to Steal Like an Artist (And 9 Other things Nobody Told Me)"

All too true..... thanks Ali Edwards for the quote that makes me think today.....

Friday, January 13, 2012

Twelve on the Twelfth: January 2012

Several scapbooking sites are promoting a new idea this year: Capture twelve photos on the twelfth of each month, during 2012. (You can read more about this idea here).

I decided to try this - at least for one month - to see what photos I could take. It sounds easy, but actually, I had to consciously think about what photos would be in my "twelve."

Here's the shots from 01.12.12. Some are pretty boring, but they actually capture a compete snapshot of my life today.

Not So Early Morning Wake Up Call: I didn't really want to get up this morning - I spent time after my alarm went off, laying in bed listening to NPR give results for the recent presidential primaries. It reminded me that I really need to register to vote with my new Arkansas address. (I always wake up listening to NPR).

Taking Note Of The Weather: Canadian winds I guess - brought snow to NWA and cold weather to Little Rock. Made it hard to get out of bed and the warm covers today.

Self Portrait Of The Day: I decided to try wearing my contacts today, the first time since "eyegate" 3-1/2 months ago. I made it most of the day before coming home to swap out for my glasses.

First Stop Of The Morning: I decide to use my free "sweet 15" coupon to get a vanilla, caramel latte. I bought a Venti because, well, it was free. I've realized that I'm satisfied with a "Tall," - because I never finish the venti size when it's in my hands.

I forgot that they were having taste tests this week at the "bux" for their new coffee. I found out I'm "mellow" because I like the new "blond" roast.

So it was a double "free" day at Starbucks - a free latte and a free "pot" of blond coffee. 

It was also interesting, because during my stop I ran into three parents from St. James (one kidz ministry, two Upward dads). It was one of the first "small town" feeling things I've had happen since moving to Little Rock.

One Of Today's Tasks: Making sure the children's bulletins for both worship services were printed on time. I don't always remember on Thursday...but this week, I did!

Still Aunt Kaylea:  I may be in Little Rock, but I can still send the scrapbooking stuff (thanks to Carl's meeting in Little Rock today) so Kiki can have a scrapbook "theme" birthday party on Saturday. Fortunately, this was part of what got unpacked and sorted over the Christmas holiday.

Shoveling Away: I'm trying to weave through the pile of stuff in my planner - I just seem to be on "catch up" all the time. Would like to be ahead at some point.

The Week's Big Event: The First Soupier Games. Trying to organize a HUGE district event - with lots of help, thanks to Laura and the crew. We have at least eight churches and more than 75 kids and adults coming to tomorrow night's event. Exciting times!

What I'm Reading Today: The Jerk Magnet by Melody Carson. One of the newest young adult books I'm reading, to review for Revell Books. It's a decent read for probably younger high school gals. (Maybe even middle school.) It focuses on the idea that you can't judge a book by it's cover (or in this case, a girl by her beauty.)

Upward, My Upward. Two weeks into the 2012 season. Still working out the bugs, but things are going OK. (And we haven't needed the first aid kit yet!) Seeing the kids have fun makes all of the stress worth it.

Feeling Special: Today I wore a pair of my Christmas shoes - that John bought me. It was an unexpected Christmas present - but he wanted to take me shoe shopping because he knows shoes are one of the last things I'll buy for myself. Wearing these today made me think of our friendship and how it's grown over the years - since we first met my sophomore year in college. It takes a really good friend to go shoe shopping with ya. I'm glad John's in that category

Finding My Writing Niche: I'm trying to write more - for myself on my blog. It's a dose of creativity. I'm not sure I can keep it up, but so far, I've posted on my blog each day in 2012. If I miss a day, it will be ok... but I'd like to see how many days I can post in 2012. (This picture also reminds me that I need to re-design the blog - maybe that's a task for a snow day.)
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