Inner Beauty Forever

just my thoughts on books and stuff :)

‘Past Darkness’ Book Review May 3, 2013

pdTitle: Past Darkness

Author: Laurel Woiwode

Date I Finished Reading: May 5,2013

My Rating: 2/5

The following is a description from Amazon.com

An uplifting story about the importance of family, the power of music, and the ever-present mercy of God.

“I could hear my heart­beat in spite of the commotion and noise. I’d never seen anything so horrible…What’s wrong with me? I thought. I knew everything had gone black and silent, but I couldn’t remember why. I could hear now, but was still surrounded by darkness.”

Gabrielle Larson is a fifteen-year-old living in Chicago with reasonable plans for her life: to follow in her parents’ footsteps as a Christian musician. But when tragedy strikes, Gabrielle finds herself forced to relocate to North Dakota, where she must learn to live with the difficult reality of her past in a strange and unfamiliar place.

Years pass as Gabrielle not only fights to accept the aftermath of what’s happened, but also to survive on a farm full of horses, cows, Uncle Will, and Aunt Bea. Enduring nature’s windstorms and the loneliness of grief, she struggles to heal, and even finds herself face-to-face with the possibility of love in the most unexpected place. But the darkness is real and her heartache profound—will she ever emerge from the noisy past to catch the redemptive tune of the present?

Have you ever been extremely excited about something, only for it to not reach your expectations? That is how this book was for me. I was anxious to read it, expecting to find a touching story about a teenage girl and a horse. However, that is not what I found. Although the description hints at this type of plot, it is somewhat misleading. The story mostly takes place when Gabrielle is an adult, and the involvement of horses in the plot is minimal.

There were some aspects of the book that I did not like. For example, the writing style that is used is choppy, even childish. Woiwode uses few descriptions, the characters are not very well drawn-out and the scenes are short and vague. These characteristics combined together to create a plot that was unengaging and hard to be drawn into. Also, it seems like all of the character’s problems were solved in a flash, which is very unrealistic.

Overall I would say that this story had potential, but was poorly executed. The plot could have been touching and sweet, but due to the author’s style was instead boring and difficult to enjoy. I would most likely not recommend this book as an enjoyable read for you.

I received this book free from Christian Fiction Blog Alliance, however my opinions are my own.

To Read Chapter One of This book go here: http://static.crossway.org/excerpt/past-darkness/past-darkness-download.pdf

You can find a copy of this book here: http://www.amazon.com/Past-Darkness-Laurel-Woiwode/dp/1433535181/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top

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A Lesson From 10-year-old Boys March 26, 2013

Are you ever blown away by the gospel? Do you ever cringe when you think on or imagine the brutality of what Christ endured both before and during his time on the cross? Or does the intensity of it all escape your thoughts, leaving you dulled to the horror and extent of Jesus’ sacrifice for you? These are some questions that I have been asking myself today.

Each Tuesday morning some of the fourth grade students from local elementary schools come to our church for one hour during the school day. During this hour they are taught from the scriptures, learn memory verses, play games, sing songs, etc. It is a truly amazing opportunity and an immense blessing. I have the privilege of teaching one of these classes. My class is made up of three boys, whom I have become rather fond of. Throughout this school year we have been working through the Bible. We began at creation, and now, as we near Easter, are exploring Jesus’ crucifixion.

Having grown up in a Christian home, being active in my church, and being homeschooled, I have grown up hearing the gospel, which is a true privilege. My WRE (weekly religious education) kids have not had that. So this morning when told them the story of Jesus’ beating, the cat o’ nine tails, and the crucifixion process, I watched their reactions. The boys, all about ten-years old were wincing, cringing, and shocked by the details that I was describing. They were blown away by what Jesus endured. This got me thinking.

Do I take what Jesus endured too lightly? Do I sometimes take for granted the fact that he was beaten with leather, glass and bone to the point where he was not even recognizable? Do I? Do you? Do we sometimes hear that Jesus died for us, and fail to grasp just how intense and excruciating this death really was? I am sad to say that sometimes this is the case with me. Sometimes I breeze over the gruesome details of his death and instead focus on the happy ending. Why? Maybe because it is painful to come to the realization that I deserve that death. It hurts to think of and picture myself in Christ’s place, which is where I deserve to be. I deserve to be the one beaten with the cat o’ nine tails. I am the one who deserves to be spat at. I am the one that deserves to drag a massive cross — an emblem of shame– up a mountain in humiliation. I am the one who deserves to die on a cross. And so are you, as harsh as that may sound. But no, Christ took our place. How awesome is that?!

Today I was reminded of the extent of Christ’s sacrifice, and the depths of his grace.  I was once again brought to the startling realization of the pain, ugliness, and disgrace brought about by sin. I was once again shown the love, glory, and magnificence of my savior. And what did it take? Three ten-year-old boys. What will it take for you?

 

‘Do Hard Things’ Book Review February 22, 2013

thTitle: Do Hard Things: A teenage rebellion against low expectations

Author: Alex and Brett Harris

Date I Finished Reading: February 21,2013

My Rating: 5/5

WARNING: If you do not want to be challenged or inspired to step out of your comfort zone and do something, then keep on walking, ’cause that is what this book is gonna do! Do Hard Things is the perfect book for our generation on rebelling against low expectations, and doing something hard, whether it is big or small.

I absolutely loved this book… and needed it too! Alex and Brett discuss very practical, very true points. They speak on things that keep us from striving towards and achieving big things, whether that is lies within the culture and media, or our own pride or fear. They explain to us where our mindsets are wrong, and how WE, teenagers can truly accomplish something amazing, whether it is ourselves individually, or us as a team. One point that I really needed was the reminder and encouragement to keep on doing the small hard things, cheerfully. They say that small things, such as chores, homework, and repetitive, even mundane duties help to strengthen us and to prepare us for the bigger hard things to come.

Alex and Brett did an amazing job on this book. They use humor, personal examples, and also the examples of others to encourage teenagers to stand up and step out. The book was actually fun to read.

I would say that I DEFINITELY recommend this book. Every teenager out there needs to read this and be motivated and encouraged to Do Hard Things.

Check out these links!:

Note: I received this book free from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. However, my opinions are my own.

And you can find a copy of this book here: http://www.amazon.com/Do-Hard-Things-Rebellion-Expectations/dp/1601421125/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1361544289&sr=8-1&keywords=do+hard+things

 

Why Should Young Adults Spend Time With Elders? January 17, 2013

I am homeschooled, and this is my junior year of high school. I have had the privilege of participating in a public speaking class, and have my first competition this weekend. I have researched, edited and practiced my speech for several months now, and am very excited for my upcoming opportunities to share it with others. As I thought through what my topic should be, I was instructed to choose a topic that I was passionate about. What you are about to read is views and beliefs on the importance of young adults seeking to spend time with the elders in their lives and how we can benefit from doing so.

I remember when I was little how excited I would become when Mom told my big brother and I that we could go and visit with Mr. Bob and Ms. Mona. We were all smiles as we hopped on our bikes and pedaled as fast as we could down the cracked sidewalk in anticipation of what was to come. It was only a minute or two before we were seated around the dining room table in the cozy white home on Casey Street, visiting and laughing with the Coats. Even at that young age I loved spending time with elders; and as I have grown older, nothing has changed… I still do. The elders that I have grown to love in my life have helped to shape me into the person that I am today, and their relationships have benefitted me in innumerable ways. Today I would like to present to you three reasons why I believe we, as young adults benefit from intergenerational relationships. I will explain to you how this teaches us selflessness, how these people have valuable wisdom that benefits our present and future lives, and, last but not least, how these people provide us with mentors and role models. The goal is to help you realize the benefits of multi-generational connections, and to encourage you to seek out such relationships for yourselves.
The first reason that I would like to present in encouraging you to spend time with elders is that it teaches us selflessness. Think with me for a moment, on how you spend your extra time. Now ask yourself this question: what motivates this use of my time? If I am honest with myself, the majority of free time I have is spent in selfish ways. I enjoy sitting alone quietly in my room curled up with a good book, or I’ll be on the computer wasting time. It’s not that these pass-times are wrong… it is simply that my motivations are. I am doing what I am doing because it makes me happy. I decide to spend my time doing whatever I feel in the mood to do. I believe this is probably true for many young adults in our generations. However, if we were to take some time from our lives, and spend it with our elders we can learn selflessness. How so? We are not only learning to sacrifice something we want, but we are also learning to invest, TRULY invest, that time in the life of someone else. We are getting to know these people. We are learning what they like, what they disdain, how they enjoy spending their time, where they come from, what their stories are… We simply learn who they are and what their lives are like. We take a break from constantly thinking of ourselves, and focus on someone else. This is investing in someone’s life, and this teaches us selflessness. One thing that I have come to realize is that elders love it when we take time for them. They love the company, and they love to tell their stories to young people. This brings them joy, and we learn to delight in bringing them joy. This teaches us selflessness and humility, which can be two very difficult, yet essential lessons to learn.
Another reason that I would urge you to spend time with your elders is that they have lived their lives and have valuable wisdom to share with us. An example of such wisdom would be this: our elders have lived through difficult economic times such as wars and depressions. They have learned to be resourceful and good stewards with the goods that they have, and they teach us to do the same. Bessie’s Hope is a foundation dedicated to uniting elders and young adults in their community. According to a 2010 article from their studies have proven that strong intergenerational relationships result in multiple benefits, including economic benefits. I have personally experienced this through my grandparents.
My grandma and grandpa have raised 11 children on their own without ever relying on anyone else for help. As you can imagine, money did become tight. However, Dad and his siblings were always well provided for. How did my grandparents accomplish this? They wisely used what they had been blessed with. Grandpa had a very substantial-sized garden put out every year that he used to grow much of the food that they ate. Grandma used her skills and resources effectively to make the clothes and other necessities that her family needed. They didn’t have everything they wanted, but they had everything they needed. I am extremely grateful that my grandparents have taken the time to pass these lessons on to me. Every year for as far back as my memory goes Grandpa has taken my brothers and I into his back yard and planted a garden with us. He taught us year after year to grow plants and to tend to them so that they would yield as much as possible. Grandma has also taken time to teach me her wisdom. When I was 6 years old she began to teach me how to sew. She wanted, and still does want me to be able to make my own clothes with little resources so that I will be capable of clothing myself and my family on a budget. I appreciate these lessons that my Grandparents have taught me because they have already benefitted me in my life and I know that they will continue to.
Another wise lesson that our elders can teach us is that of remaining joyful, content, and faithful despite what trials or struggles we come across in life. One person in particular has beautifully illustrated this to me. Her name is Cathy Coats. Cathy is one of the most amazing people that I know. She has a beautiful heart that is joyful, loving, caring, content and compassionate. She spends her time on the computer buying gifts for others and writing stories from her vast imagination. However, Cathy has experienced her share of trials. At age twelve, she was diagnosed with Friedreich’s Ataxia. This is a genetically inherited disease which causes loss of muscle coordination and speech impairments. At age 16, this disease resulted in Cathy being confined to a wheelchair. On top of that, David, her younger brother, who also had Friedreich’s Ataxia, was driving a wheelchair-accessible car when he died in a fatal crash. Cathy is now one of the most loving, joyful, content, God-loving ladies I know… but if you were to ask her, she would admit that she struggled to get there, due to various things that had happened in her life. Her story has had a huge impact on me, it has taught me that it truly is possible to remain joyful despite what comes. It is one thing to have head knowledge of this fact, but it becomes so much more real when you see it in the life of someone that you know and love. This is the perfect example of the importance of spending time with elders.
The final reason that it is imperative for young adults to develop meaningful relationships with elders is that they can, and do provide the strong role models and mentors we definitely need in our lives. In their 2004 Intergenerational Service project profile, the Partnership for After School Education says : “ By providing comforting guidance, seniors can be mentors, friends, confidants, and better neighbors”. This is something that both we and our elders benefit from. We all need a role model. We all need that person that we can look to and say “That is who I want to be like. That is whose footsteps I want to follow in. Some of us may have a tendency to look towards the wrong places for these examples, such as Hollywood, Broadway, the music industry and so on. However, when we look towards the elders in our lives we see real, down-to-earth, godly men and women whom we can not only model, but also go to for guidance and mentorship. Titus 2 speaks of this mentorship, instructing older woman to mentor the younger woman in godliness and their husbands and children, and older men to instruct the younger men in godly conduct and character. One such person whom God has placed in my life is Ms. Mona.
Ms. Mona is one of the godliest ladies I know. If you were to ask me who I looked up to for an example, this is it. She loves the Lord with all of her heart and loves everyone more than herself. When I look at her I see someone who remains strong throughout difficulty. She has lost her youngest son to a car wreck, has lost her husband to cancer, and now spends her time caring for her daughter Cathy, the lady I just spoke about. But through everything she is content, she is joyful, she is loving. She will take time from what she is doing to fellowship with you, and when she asks “ How are you?” you know that the question is backed with genuine care and concern. This is who I want to be. This is my Titus 2 lady.
Although in our culture, the current generation tends to be looked down upon and disregard our elders throughout God’s word he admonishes us to have reverence for them and listen to their counsel. This is exactly the path I am urging you to embark on. I have spoken on how this teaches us selflessness. I have given some examples on the wisdom that they have to teach us. Lastly, I have spoken on how our elders are amazing mentors and role models for our lives. I hope that this has encouraged and inspired you to seek the blessings that I have found in these beautiful relationships that are waiting to be made.

 

‘Christy Miller Collection Volume 1’ Book Review December 13, 2012

thTitle: The Christy Miller Collection Volume One (books 1-3)

Author: Robin Jones Gunn

Date I Finished Reading: December 13,2012

My Rating: 4/5

Never having even HEARD of these books before, I was not entirely sure what to expect. I was delightfully surprised! I found that the story was very intriguing, quickly drawing me in for good!

This volume contains three separate books, Summer Promise, A Whisper and A Wish, and Yours Forever. Each one adds to the story of Christy Miller, a young teenage girl who desperately desires to just fit in. After giving her life to the Lord over summer vacation with her aunt and uncle, she also desires to please the Lord. But both may turn out to be MUCH harder for her than she had imagined.

I definitely liked these books! I was hooked as soon as I began book 1, and they never left me go. When I was done, I found myself thinking I have got to find volume two! Gunn’s writing style was very interesting, with characters whom you quickly became attached to. I love how each book does so well of adding onto those before it (unlike some series, where the books just do not go well together), and enhancing Christy’s story.

The only issue that I had would be how obsessed Christy was with guys. It almost seemed that her thoughts were constantly on the boy that she liked…which became somewhat irritating at times.

Outside of that one fact, I loved this book! I would most definitely recommend this to others! (I would be cautious, though, of younger readers. Drugs alcohol were mentioned more than once).

Note: I received this book free from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. However, my opinions are my own.

Check out these fun links!:

You can find a copy of this book here: http://www.amazon.com/Promise-Whisper-Forever-Christy-Collection/dp/1590525841/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top

 

‘the Orphan King’ Book Review October 3, 2012

Title: the Orphan King (Merlin’s Immortals Book One)

Author: Sigmund Brouwer

Date I Finished Reading: October 2,2012

My Rating:4/5

Imagine, you have been enslaved in a monastery to abusive monks for eight years. You carry a secret and a glorious destiny. However, you know fulfilling your destiny will require risking everything… including your life. This is the predicament that eighteen year-old Thomas finds himself in. When he sums up the courage to flee the monastery, there is no turning back. With his mismatched team that includes a knight, pickpocket, and beautiful Isabele, he sets out to retrieve what is his.

This book was an engaging read. The author did an excellent job at keeping your attention and making you anxious to read more. The plot was well thought-out and the characters were very well-developed. My only complaint would be that at times the story became a bit confusing, and hard to follow. Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would happily recommend it to you. I am very excited about book two, which will be released in February, 2013.

I recieved this book free from the Blogging For Books program from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group, but my opinions are my own.

You can find a copy of this book here:http://www.amazon.com/The-Orphan-King-Merlins-Immortals/dp/1400071542/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1349287344&sr=8-1&keywords=the+orphan+king

 

‘Chosen’ Book Review September 29, 2012

Title: Chosen ( The Lost Books #1)
Author: Ted Dekker
Date I Finished Reading: September 28, 2012
My Rating: 5/5

This book greatly surpassed my expectations. I was a bit sceptical at first, believing it was going to be a crummy attempt at a young adult series. Needless to say, I was incorrect. The plot of the story goes like this: Thomas Hunter has selected four teenagers to assist in leading his army in battle against their enemy, the Horde. He then dismisses them on a short mission to test their skills and wisdom. His words of advice? “Think with your heart.” However, when the mismatched lot sets out, the story that unfolds is unpredictable. Is Johnis really the chosen one? Are the legends true? And are they willing to sacrifice their lives for the destiny that Elyon has called them to?
Dekker did a superb job at combining excitement, dread, suspense, and adventure. It truly left you hungry for more and eager for the remainder of the series! I definitely enjoyed this read and recommend it to you!

You can find a copy of this book by using the following link: http://www.amazon.com/Chosen-The-Lost-Books-Dekker/dp/B004IEA2X4/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1348942661&sr=8-1&keywords=chosen+ted+dekker