Friday, February 19, 2016

The Sorcery Code - Review

I recently finished reading The Sorcery Code, by Dima Zales. This doesn’t really fit into my reading challenge list, but I was given the opportunity to review it so I thought I’d give it a shot.

This is a fantasy book about the land of Koldun where those who can practice magic are the upper crust of society and (almost) everyone else is basically a serf beneath them. The protagonist, Blaise, is a sorcerer who would like to change the status quo and see everyone with the ability to do magic. He tries to create an object that will do just that, however, his creation doesn’t turn out as planned, it’s a woman. Gala is born in the Spell Realm and finds everything in the Physical Realm fascinating. She manages to get herself into a lot of trouble as she wanders around, discovering her new world and her seemingly infinite new powers. In the meantime, Blaise works hard to try to keep Gala a secret from the Sorcerer Council, his ex-fiancĂ©e Augusta and her new love-interest Barson, a member of the Sorcerer Guard.

This book had many aspects of a typical fantasy novel with the presence of magic, but the way the magic is wielded is new. It’s only available to the mathematically minded and is sorcerers use spell cards and an Interpreter Stone to connect to the Spell Realm. While I thought the plot was pretty good, I unfortunately didn’t enjoy the characters very much. They weren’t given much depth and Gala was downright annoying. I get that she is literally a few days old but jeez, use that supposedly big brain and make some smart decisions. The overall story was interesting, but it was a little slow paced. I found myself skipping over some parts, mostly because I just didn’t care about the characters enough.

This is a clean read, although much is implied. If the price is right (which the eBook is free right now) it would be worth it. And perhaps the second book digs into these characters more. I’m not sure I’m going to try to find out.

I received this product for free in exchange for my review, but all opinions are my own.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Cold Shot Review (Dani Pettrey)

I’ve finished another book as a part of my 2016 reading challenge. It’s another fiction book titled Cold Shot and is by Dani Pettrey. I really enjoyed Dani’s Alaskan Courage series so I was interested to check this one out. This is my “book published in 2016” from the challenge.

The book follows Chief Ranger Griffin McCray of the Gettysburg National Military Park after recent remains are discovered in the park. As a former cop and sniper, Griffin reluctantly uses his skills as well as those of two old friends and forensic anthropologist Finley Scott to try to find the killer. Both Griffin and Finley have to work through debilitating issues from their pasts to work together before a member of the team makes it to the killer’s hit list.

This book is fast paced and enjoyable, but I didn’t like it at much as the Alaskan Courage series. I needed better descriptions of the characters, and I felt like I was missing parts of the story. Griffin and his two former friends have a lot of history and a couple of big reasons as to why they aren’t close anymore. This history is slowly revealed, but I wish these relationships had been fleshed out more. I liked Finley as a character. She was smart, and strong and slowly overcoming past trauma, but I wish she’d had more opportunity to shine. The story was interesting and full of the twists and turns that I had hoped for. I could have just used a bit more detail.

I would recommend this book if you like Christian suspense books. I will most definitely read the next book when it comes out. This one ends with some lingering questions (although the main story ties up neatly). And hey, there's a chance to win a signed copy of the book and other prizes here.

Coming up this month is another fiction book and a book by Beth Moore. Also, I’ll probably be doing some audio books since I bought this 3 month Audible subscription for my long drives to and from work. What are you reading now?

Thank you to Bethany House Publishers for providing me with a copy of this book to review. All opinions, however, are my own.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Life in the Ministry

As part of the reading challenge I’m doing this year I just recently finished 10 Things Every Minister’s Wife Needs to Know (which I’m counting as my “book about Christian living”). But to be honest, I sometimes have a hard time seeing myself as a “minister’s wife.” I technically am one since Lee is the campus minister at the BCM here in Fort Smith. Maybe it’s because he’s not at a church (although strangely enough that doesn’t make me see him as not a minister, just me as not a minister’s wife). Maybe it’s because I don’t fit the stereotypical minister’s wife mold (but that’s silly because is there really such a thing). Whatever the reason, I thought that since I’d had this book on my Amazon wishlist for almost 6 years, regardless of if I felt like one or not, it was time to find out exactly what it is I should know.

This book was written by Jeana Floyd, which as many of you know, is the wife of Ronnie Floyd, a pastor in Northwest Arkansas and the current president of the Southern Baptist Convention. I figured she knew a thing or two about being a minister’s wife. Overall I liked the book and thought it gave some good advice. I also felt very convicted a time or two and Lee will hopefully see the fruits of that over the coming months. However, there were a few times that I didn’t really connect with what she said for two reasons. They’re the ones mentioned above.

First of all, Lee isn’t a minister at a church. I don’t have to deal with expectations and judgment (real or perceived) from church ministers or other minister’s wives. All-in-all, college students are a relatively judgment free bunch. As my fellow BCM wife friend Caroline has said before, they don’t really care if there’s toys all over the house and you’re in sweatpants and a ponytail. You can be very real with college students, and in fact, you have to be in order to be effective. And BCM ministry is somewhat isolated, especially at a smaller school like ours. There’s no other staff wives, for better or worse. Some of what Jeana said, however, is very applicable to me as a minister’s wife, and a lot of it is applicable to any wife. Some of the things I learned are:

  • If you’re being criticized, always pray to discern if it might actually be justified
  •   In order for ministry marriages (or all marriages) to work, wives need to love their husband, both as a deliberate choice and as a “I can’t help myself” kind of love
  • Pray that I “never get over the ‘awe’ of God’s call on [Lee’s] life, His work in my life, and His work in our church” or BCM

Another reason I didn’t really connect with everything the book said is because at the moment, I’m not a stay-at-home mom. While I do desire our home to be a place for Lee to come to after work and relax, three days a week I get home later than he does. We are blessed with the fact that sometimes Lee can be flexible in his schedule. This is wonderful because it allows us times to spend together and for him to spend with the kids. We’ve always worked to find a shared responsibility of household duties which we just have to continue to readjust as our situation changes. I don’t know that I’ll always work outside the home, but I trust God to lead Lee and our family as we continually re-evaluate our plan. Even though I’m not a stay-at-home mom, the book has some useful insights for me:

  • “God does not intend for us to sacrifice our families on the altar of ministry. But each ministry family must make decisions that will enable quality time to be experienced and enjoyed. And most of the time, it just takes effort – real effort – to balance time.” All ministers can deal with crazy hours, but college ministers are expected to sometimes keep college hours. I rarely kept college hours as a college student, so Lee and I have to continually work on finding quality time.
  • “When your husband comes home, stop what you’re doing, look at him, and listen to what he has to say – 58 percent of communication is facial expression, 42 percent is body language and voice inflection.”
  • And although it may be unpopular with some, Lee’s job/ministry supersedes mine. I’m adding my own insight here, but this is similar to submission in marriage. It doesn’t often come up, and it doesn’t mean my job isn’t important (or God won’t use it as a ministry). It means that when a situation arises and a compromise can’t be made, I sometimes will have to make sacrifices for the sake of Lee’s ministry. Honestly, we’re still figuring this out, so as hard as it was to read, it was something I needed to hear.

Overall I think this book is wonderful for minister’s wives. I even think wives outside of the ministry can benefit from a lot of her insights. And other than her insistence that men handle challenging situations better than women (I’m not convinced better is the right word, different for sure) it was very useful to me, especially where we are right now as a family. I couldn’t even get close to describing all that she covers in this book so you’d have to read it for yourself. A practical way to implement some of what I learned is this 28 Days of Blessing Your Spouse Challenge for February (I think it was created last year so I guess make the 29th a choose your own blessing day). Being transparent, I kind of forgot the first day (unless homemade chicken strips and fries is Lee’s favorite meal and he didn’t tell me), but I’m hoping to jump in today. Will you join me? [Oh and Lee, don’t look at the website because it will ruin the surprise J].

Hopefully all of you are finding great books to read this year too. If so, let me know what you’re reading. I could use some suggestions.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them : Review

One of the things I hope to do this year is work through this 2016 Reading Challenge. I already read a lot, but I’m hoping this will get me to be more focused and to read a larger variety of books. I wanted to read more non-fiction last year, but that just didn’t happen. I hope this will help me with that. And I plan on blogging about the books I read as sort of an accountability. I hope to read at least one book every two weeks, which means 26 books total (I haven’t lost my math skills have I). My goal is for half of the books to be non-fiction. At first that sounded extremely easy, but with two kids in the house now it’s a bit more daunting. With the help of my trusty Kindle app during lunch breaks and night feedings I think I can make it through. I’m sure I’ll read more than 26 books, but from past experience the free ones I get on my Kindle app aren’t worth mentioning. As Tim Challies mentions on the website, I’m going with the “discard all the rules and choose books from any plan in any order” option. I know, strange for a rule-follower like me. So here we go.

The first book I read is “a book for children” in the light reader plan. I doubt it’s what he had in mind, but I went with Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by Newt Scamandar (aka J.K. Rowling). I got it as a part of The Hogwarts Library boxed set which I received for Christmas. I know it makes me a terrible Baptist, but I LOVE Harry Potter so I thought it would be fun to add these to my collection. They’re also making a movie (trilogy I believe) based on this book. The first movie comes out this November. I thought the book would follow along in story format like a movie would, but I was wrong. I guess that’s what I get for not doing my research.

The book is basically like a textbook that Harry would use at Hogwarts. One of the selling points is that it has his and Ron’s notes. Well, the book ended up being more like I textbook than I had anticipated, and it had less “notes” than I had hoped. It goes through a history of classification of magical beasts and then a description of beasts in A-Z order. Occasionally there would be a few words “hand-written” by Ron or Harry about beasts they’ve encountered. I think instead of reading this like a regular book it would be fun to use it almost like a reference when reading the other books or watching the movies. The descriptions were enjoyable, but not something you’d sit down and get immersed in. It took me longer to read than a basic 128 page book normally would. If you have kids it might be fun to use it as a tool for make-believe play. Get them to draw, act out or write a story on the creatures. Not really a bedtime story type of book though.

All in all, even though it’s not what I expected I am glad that I have it in my collection. It’s fun to be able to take a quick visit to the world of Harry Potter (much quicker and cheaper than the trip to Universal Studios I’ve been bugging Lee about for years). I’m also looking forward to the first movie. Another selling point for this book is that its proceeds go to Comic Relief, a charity that strives to end poverty for children. They also do Red Nose Day (remember that celebrity telethon from last year). So if you’re a Harry Potter fanatic then consider adding this book to your collection. Or get the three book set like I did. I plan on reading the other two books, and then maybe I’ll update here.

I plan on reviewing 10 Things Every Minister’s Wife Needs to Know by Jeana Floyd next time. I’m about 40% of the way through (according to my app) and I hope to have it finished and reviewed by the end of the end of the week. Wish me luck. Are you doing the reading challenge? What have you done so far? Also, is there a book that changed your life? This is one of the book ideas from the challenge and I’m needing some suggestions. Happy reading everyone!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

12 Things I've Learned In The Last Month

The last time I updated we were preparing to open our home for foster care. Well, 2 months later we are in the thick of things.
Our home opened on December 14, and we took in two sisters on the 15th. The two year old and 6 week old had been in care for about a month, but they were in separate homes. They were finally going to be together in our home. I know their previous foster families were sad to see them go, but we know it’s the right thing for them to be together. Here’s some things I’ve learned over the past month.

  1.  Toddler crying memes are a lot funnier when you don’t have a toddler. Although laughing about it is sometimes the only way to survive.
  2. Having a sick baby is the saddest and scariest thing in the world (and I’m a stereotypical paranoid first time mom).
  3.  Kids do indeed want to read the same book over and over and over again (but them wanting to read books is AWESOME).
  4. You can in fact drink 100 cups of fake tea in a day.
  5. Good intentions on perfect parenting go out the window when kids are sick and cranky.
  6. Stay-at-home moms are angels (and possibly a tad bit insane).
  7. God bless daycare workers!
  8.  Leaving the house with the possibility of another human’s bodily fluids on my clothing is infinitely more likely now (I wouldn’t even leave the house in sweatpants before unless it was to go for a walk…hahahaha).
  9. Seeing kids grow and learn is one of the most beautiful blessings in the world.
  10. My husband is super fantastic (I already knew this, but when he takes midnight feedings, learns how to do ponytails, takes kids to the doctor, and lets me escape for a few hours by myself it is reiterated over again).
  11. We have the most amazing family and friends in our support system. Really, you guys have gone above and beyond in helping us with this transition and we are forever grateful.
  12. God has blessed us beyond belief over this past month. We love these little girls. We love them through poopy diapers, tantrums, and very little sleep. That love only comes from the Lord. There have been several times I’ve been frustrated and/or angry. I’ve made mistakes already, but God has given me the strength and love I need for these two beauties and for Lee. I thank God every day for Christ’s loving sacrifice and we pray daily for the salvation of these girls and their parents. Thanks to everyone who has prayed with us.
Many of you have said that you don’t understand how we can do it (sometimes we don’t either). There have been two posts that friends have shared this past week that have really resonated with me. We do it because God has called us to. We have to let go of our fears and trust that God knows what he’s doing. Read this and this to get some insight into the world of fostering. They say things better than I can.

As I mentioned earlier, so many of you have helped us incredibly over the last month. We continue to ask for your prayers (and wouldn’t turn away an offer to babysit) as we continue this journey. As believers we’ve all been called to help the helpless. Not everyone is called to foster/adopt, but if you’d like to help those in the foster system check in with local organizations that help foster families. If you’re in Arkansas look into The Call (an organization that has helped us tremendously). They have all kinds of opportunities for you to be a part of the fostering community including buying a rack of ribs, donating clothes and diapers, and attending a conference on how the church can support the foster system. And if you need some more suggestions, just ask!