Saturday, July 13, 2013

Book Review: The Big, Not-So-Small, Curvy Girls, BBW Romance, Dating Agency by Ava Catori

I was drawn to this book because I am a  curvy girl. I liked being inside Becky's head and being able to relate to the feelings of "not being good enough" because I am neither model skinny nor am I model genes pointed me in the opposite direction She is bubbly and has a good sense of humor, which did make for an easier read. There were a few moments when the point of view shifted and caused some confusion, but overall it was a quick read. What I didn't like was the fact that the underlying theme was tired cliche that "she has such a beautiful face"...yes personality did win at the end of the day and yes, she did get the gorgeous, perfect guy (double standard the other way?) so happy ending all around. But the ending was a little to abrupt for tying up loose ends.

Book Review: Breaking the Rules by Jennifer Lewis

Jennifer Lewis’ Breaking the Rules read more like the framework to a great romance than a fully developed story. The storyline in this book was quite a typical contemporary romance, with the added factors of Susana’s prediction, Susana’s Romany heritage, and her ‘sight’. There was the added complication of Susana’s family, but the romance followed the typical pattern of boy meets girl, boy and girl fall in love, boy and girl go through a rough patch/some hardship, boy and girl admit their feelings and live happily ever after. There was sex in the story but it was dealt with in sweet, more romantic way. However, I didn’t find there to be enough character development for my tastes and Susana’s wishy-washy back and forth about Joe became to repetitive.

Book Review: Thunderstruck by Kendall Grace

Kendall Grace’s Thunderstruck is a beautiful romance. The storyline and the characters were well developed. The sparks flew quickly between Hawk and Jo and pulled me into the story right away. 

The hero was everything you could ask for out of a male main character – sexy, tempting, a bit mysterious, but also confident, thoughtful, and determined. He kept me wanting to keep turning the pages. Jo’s character was also very easy to relate to. She is scared of the powerful feelings she has for Hawk and she is vulnerable yet amazingly strong. The secondary characters add wonderful depth and Hawk’s father is so charming and funny. Now this was a beautiful story. 

The characters drew me in at the start, but the storyline captivates as well. It is a wonderfully well written story. I will certainly read more titles by Ms. Grace in the future.

Book Review: Secrets and Sins: Gabriel by Naima Simone

Naima Simone’s Secrets and Sins: Gabriel left me breathless. The guilt ridden, brooding, sexy hero and the strong heroine make this well-written book addicting. The unique mystery isn’t predictable and will keep you on the edge of your seat all the way to the last page. The characters are realistic and have good depth. The love story is compelling. Definitely worth the read! I can’t wait to read the next book from Ms. Simone.     

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Dance - Memoir Project #2

And now, I'm glad I didn't know
the way it all would end, the way it all would go.
Our lives are better left to chance;
I could have missed the pain,
but I'd have had to miss the dance
.- The Dance by Garth Brooks
The florescent lights of the high school hallway give her a halo-like glow as I adjust the ruffles of her recital tutu. My five-year-old only daughter looks like a beautiful angel surrounded by the light and the hushed baby blue, pink, and lilac of her costume. She is an angel. She is a miracle. It’s a miracle to be here with her enjoying the excitement before she goes on stage to dance. 
The combination of the lights and the cold concrete walls of the hallway where we wait don’t return me to my high school years. This isn’t my high school, and I have no memories lingering in these rooms waiting to seep back into my soul. Instead, they bring me back to the longest wait of my life four years earlier. 
The quiet stillness of rushing her to a nearby town echoes in the spaces of my mind. We travel in the first hours of the morning on the coldest day of the year where the only warmth comes from a restaurant fire we can see as we drive hurriedly on the unwelcoming, cold and cracked asphalt. The air is cold, chilling, sucking the very breath out of our bodies as we rush through the automatic doors. The icy intake of air into my lungs makes my chest ache. My body seems to be freezing, dying from the inside out. Yet, I ignore it. I am not actually dying. Our daughter is dying. Her face is ashen, and her eyes glazed, she clings to me bundled in her soft blue, lilac, and pink blanket with what energy she seems to have left. She is in pain, yet too weak to cry. 
My thoughts interrupted as my beautiful miracle calls to me, “Mommy, watch me twirl, Mommy watch me dance.”  I swallow my tears and smile as I watch her lift her graceful arms and twirl happily about the hallway with her friends. The school floor is as slick as ice making her feet fly faster. The incandescence catches the sequins on her costume and her blue eyes sparkle with delight.
The glow pulls me back in again, back to the now noisy hospital room. The lights are blinding. It’s filled with all sorts of medical technicians and nurses, and I can’t get near her. I see her beautiful graceful arms, but the medical staff has them held down, stretched out to her sides. She is screaming, terrified of what they are doing. They have to restrain her. She looks as though she is being held in place waiting to be crucified. Sharp needles pierce her everywhere; her arms, her hands, her feet to draw blood, but they cannot find a decent vein. They finally place some rubber tubing tightly around her head and try to draw blood from her tiny scalp. I fight my way to her, and the nurses part so I can get closer. I feel myself crying out to God, but no words escape my lips. I hold her hand and beg silently for God’s mercy to end her pain. 
      She was leaving this earth as though she was never meant to be here; as though she was always meant to be an angel, gracefully dancing in the heavens. But God changed His mind; He brought her into our lives and decided she would be a miracle instead. Four years later, my beautiful miraculous daughter continues to step out on the stage of life and dance.   

Summer School History Lessons - Memoir Project #1

We never went in the front entrance to the school. In all the years we had been going there we always went up a grouping of five or six crumbling cement steps and through the service door entrance. We passed through the janitors’ area and into the hallway. The hallway floors were always shiny, almost like glass. Alternate squares of muted maroon and white created a checker board pattern throughout the school. My brother and I would play a game trying to make it to the classroom by just stepping on the maroon colored squares with their flecks of pink and darker red. We wandered the mostly deserted halls maneuvering like checker pieces and day dreamed about the history the building held.

Once we made it to the classroom, it was heaven. It smelled of new books. The kind with heavy bright white pages. When we unpacked them from their cellophane prisons they released the most pleasant fragrance of glued paper and ink. When we fanned open the pages, it felt like spring. New and full of potential. We would stack these in the cupboard in Mom’s classroom and surreptitiously place some of the foil stars she kept to put on student’s papers into our pockets. Those little treasures in gold, silver, red, blue, and green metallic thrilled us.

Our next task would be the bulletin board.  The large rectangular announcement area to the right of the shorter chalkboard would call to our imaginations all summer tempting us with any number of ideas. Armed with open staplers we would stab its cork skin and adorn it with thick green construction paper. Green is one of my mother’s favorites. Then we cut out beautiful purple orbs and carefully tattooed them in black ink with students’ names. We would attach them to the paper arranged in a bunch like grapes and put up letters that read “Welcome to the Bunch”.

My brother would draw complex cities of chalk on the large black board, while I helped Mom organize more things. One thing she wouldn't let us touch was her desk. It was a massive, carefully organized bunch of disorganization. The large desk calendar that anchored everything was covered in doodles, mainly of bunnies. I liked to sit in her chair and pretend I was a teacher like she was.  The drawers were miniature time capsules, full of things she confiscated off her mischievous students from year to year like jacks, a set of old maid cards, several Hot Wheels cars, and some lip gloss. When we were older we would 'graduate' to helping set up Dad's classroom for the school year.

We spent our last week of summer vacation each year not at the pool, the playground, or the trail on the mountains behind our home, but soaking up the history of those school halls and building our own family stories. History seeped from every pore in that school building. History of students past.Trophies in cases from long ago victories. Fading pictures of sports teams and drama clubs. Indelible marks of nation’s past on the arm of the school superintendent who served in World War II and spent time in a German prison camp. Our parents met and fell in love in those halls. Our parents’ working lives were there. Our lives were there.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Book Review: The Point - The Redemption of Oban Ironbout by William E. Jefferson

If you are in a hurry or have a short-attention span, you will be frustrated by the pace of this book. This is a slow-moving contemplation of deeply eternal things. One that makes you stop and think and reflect on what you just read. 

 The setting for the book is the Isle of Estillyen--a monastic community known for their "readings." Basically, the monk staff performs dialogues reenacted from Scripture along with some imaginative renderings of dialogues between Lucifer and his demon lackeys. The monks actually take on names that tie into the "story" theme: Epic, Narrative, Writer, Plot, Saga, Story, Drama. They are called Message Makers and you can read their real life biographies here. They bring their audience into the readings by including a "Voice" that usually involves a trio of people expressing questions or observations someone might have when reading the Bible.

The author doesn't skip ahead and gloss over or summarize the events, but carefully describes and allows the reader to partake of the transformation. Jefferson was a master of details--describing people and places like a cinematic experience so the reader can truly visualize the scenes.

This was a truly remarkable, beautiful tale that I look forward to rereading. Many things to contemplate and digest. A completely satisfying read. If you want to be challenged in your faith and your understanding of Christ and his redemptive power I recommend this book.

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