Monday, December 23, 2013

Book Review: The Gift

Review by Marianne
Title: The Gift
Author: Richard Paul Evans
Rating: 5/5
Age Recommendation: 12+
Plot: Ever heard of a man who hates Christmas? Or a man whose Christmas, Thanksgiving and pretty much every holiday out there is just another day on the calendar? How about a man whose birthday is just a mental acknowledgement that he's a year older? Well, that's Nathan Hurst. Troubled by Tourette's syndrome, chronic tic disorder, and a horrific past, Nate has created a life filled with nothing but himself, work, and unpredictable "tics". That all changes when he meets Addison Park and her two children, Collin and Lizzy. Collin has leukemia and tricuspid atresia, which means one of his heart valves never developed. He also has an incredible gift. It isn't until Collin touches Nate's shoulder and his Tourette's and Tics heal -and never return- that Nate realizes the unthinkable power this nine-year-old boy possesses. 
I loved this book even more than "The Christmas Box" which is also written by Richard Paul Evans. Although it was longer than "The Christmas Box" I finished it in only two days. It was so good and I would definitely recommend it to many!
Characters: My favorite character was hands-down Collin. He was so sweet and truly wise for his age. Nate was pretty cool too, and the character development was very good. Lizzy was the funniest thing! I got a kick out of her quite often.
Emotion: Ok. I'm not gonna sugar-coat anything... this book made me sob. And I don't mean just a little sniff here and there. Nope. I mean full blown, crying all over the place, every little tear you've been holding in is let loose! Just ask Elinor. So, yes, the main emotion was sadness, but there was also a great amount of humor, victory, and just pure joy.
My Thoughts: Overall, amazing book! However there were a few things that kept me from recommending it to everyone. There was a mention of drugs, "sexual harassment," and one of the characters begins to say a sentence with a cuss word. He never finishes the sentence so, it never actually says it, but it makes it clear what he was about to say. Though these parts were very brief, they were there so, I would recommend this to an older audience. There was also a bit of violence. Otherwise, I absolutely adored this book! It was awesome!!! If you would like to read my review for "The Christmas Box" you can do so HERE!
Favorite Quotes:
"The most important story we will ever write in our life is our own - not with ink, but with our daily choices."
"It seems like the most significant events in our lives happen while we're worried about something else happening."
"Sunsets, like childhood, are viewed with wonder not just because they are beautiful, but because they are fleeting."
"Small kindnesses often, unintentionally, produce the biggest payoffs."
"Love, like forgiveness, is found in the confession of it." 

Are you ready for Christmas?

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Almost Christmas!

Hey everyone! I was just in the mood tonight to share a Christmas song... hope you don't mind! ;)

Britt Nicole - Jingle Bell Rock

Book Review: Kingdom's Dawn

Title: Kingdom's Dawn: Book 1 in the Kingdom series
Author: Chuck Black
Elinor's Rating: 4/5
Marianne's Rating: 5/5
Age Recommendation: 10+
Plot: Leinad believes that he is destined to be nothing more than a farmer, so he wonders why his father is teaching him advanced swordsmanship. All too quickly, he learns that he is destined for much more than he thinks. He has been called to serve the King in a very special way, that even he feels is nearly impossible. With new responsibilities to serve the King and to protect his young friend, Tess, Leinad struggles to begin what will be a very long and exhausting journey.
This book was the intro to The Kingdom Series, and we really enjoyed it! There were many chapters that represented stories in the Bible such as Adam and Eve, Noah, Joseph, and Moses. We loved how the writer portrayed each of these people in a very captivating way, and staying true to their story in the Bible. The whole series is set in a medieval-like setting with castles, knights, swordfights, and villages. We will definitely be reading the rest of this series!
Characters: The characters in this book were very easy to get attached to; and there was quite a bit of character development in this book, it being the intro to the series. Our favorite character was Leinad, which can probably be expected.
Emotion: There was quite a bit of emotion that we could relate to, and the excitement of the battles was really something to keep you reading. The writer did very well in describing battles and feelings without dragging them on forever.
Elinor's Thoughts: I loved this book! The only reason that I would not have given it 5/5 is because I felt like the beginning was a little bit slow-going. Whenever I first picked up the book, I was expecting the battles that came later in the story. And while it was definitely worth reading through the first few chapters, there were a couple times that I thought that somebody who wasn't particularly interested would quit reading it because there was nothing really exciting happening until about chapter 4.
Favorite Quote:
 'Though His eyes seemed to burn like fire, compassion accompanied his gaze ... There was nothing Leinad could hide from the King, and he knew it.'
Marianne's Thoughts: This book was amazing! As expressed above, I loved the Bible references in it! I agree with my sister that the beginning was a bit slower than expected, but that's not really a problem for me since I tend to enjoy slower books anyway. I have nothing negative to say about this book, and would recommend it to anyone! I can't wait to read the rest of the series!
Favorite Quote:
'Was anything he believed in still anchored and unchanged? He asked himself and searched. He found one unmovable truth... the King was!'

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Book Review: The Christmas Box

Six days until Christmas! If you're like me and have been counting down the days since November then you don't need a little reminder like the one that I just gave, but still, I had to say something about it. Today I have a book review for everyone, and how appropriate, it's about Christmas! ;)
Review by Marianne
Title: The Christmas Box
Author: Richard Paul Evans
Rating: 5/5
Age Recommendation: 12+
Plot: Richard Evans, his wife Keri and their daughter, Jenna move out of their cramped one-bedroom apartment to an amazing mansion where they help an elderly woman named Mary cook, clean and maintain the yard in exchange for a place to live. Soon after moving there, Richard finds a small box with a nativity scene painted on the lid. After that his dreams are haunted with a stone angel that he doesn't recognize, and he hears music coming from the box. He soon realizes that there is much more to Mary than it seems.
I loved this book! It wasn't very long, there were only about 125 pages, and I finished it within a day. Mr. Evans has an interesting way of writing. His books are written in first person, and he uses the names of real people in his life, it is just a fictional story. Nevertheless this book was great and I was extremely pleased with it!
Characters: There weren't many characters in this book but the development was awesome. They were all perfectly developed and very easy to attach to.
Emotions: This book made me cry like a baby in the end! It was a great story that I will read again, it was just so sad that I'll probably read it only once a year (every Christmas).
My Thoughts: Overall, this book was absolutely marvelous and I would recommend it to anyone. I loved every part of it and it was so touching! We own two other books my Richard Paul Evans and I will definitely want to read them... after I read something a little more light-hearted of course! ;)
Favorite Quote:
"Which of the senses do you think are most affected by Christmas?" "I would say the sense of smell. The smells of Christmas.... The Smells of Christmas are the smells of childhood."

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Book Friends #1

Hello! Each month we are going to write a post about a book character that we wish we had as a friend in real life. We will each choose one to share about, and explain why we would like them as a friend.

Marianne's Choice:
Beckett Rush from There You'll Find Me
By Jenny B. Jones
   I would want Beckett Rush as a friend because he was so hilarious! I loved not only his personality in general, but also his experience with learning about Jesus, and choosing to follow him. Being from a family who didn't particularly embrace that faith, he had a hard time understanding. His father was very pressuring towards him, and since Beckett was a big-name actor, was always trying to get his son on magazine covers - even if it meant lying. I wish I could have been there to encourage him through that difficult time in his life. He wanted to step out of the spotlight, and let God take control of his life, but his father was only concerned about the fame and the money.
   I loved Beckett from the very beginning of the book, and even though he came across as slightly haughty and careless, I soon realized it was all an act, and saw the true character beneath it all. Which was AWESOME! His real personality was sweet, funny, and kind, and I know he would've been a great friend!
You can read mine and Elinor's book review for There You'll Find Me HERE!
Elinor's Choice:
Rose from The Healer's Apprentice
by Melanie Dickerson

  I would love to have Rose as my friend! I think that she would be the friend that you could always count on to be there for you no matter what. She is gentle, kind, elegant, thoughtful, and caring. I think she would be an encouraging friend, and definitely one that you would know would accomplish great things. She is beautiful, inside and out, in a quiet way that doesn't demand attention, but deserves it. I became very attached to her when reading The Healer's Apprentice, and she will always be remembered. I loved reading 2 other of Melanie Dickerson's book about Rose's sons, and being able to see the life that she was blessed with.

  I think the reason I bonded with Rose so much was that Melanie Dickerson so clearly and easily expressed her struggles and feelings. Her love story was beautiful and you can read my review on it here.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Quick Encouragement #3

Hello! Quick encouragement number THREE! These are really fun to write, I hope their as much fun to read! I have a music video to share today!
Phil Wickham - This Is Amazing Grace


Thanks for reading!!!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Book Review: The Captive Maiden

Title: The Captive Maiden
Author: Melanie Dickerson
Rating: 5/5
Age Recommendation: 12+
Plot: Gisela Mueller has dreamed of the duke's son, Valten, since she first met him 9 years ago. But things have changed since then. She now works as a servant to her stepmother, with her father dead. Valten is struggling to find God's purpose for his life. All he's ever known is tournaments, and they hold nothing for him anymore. When they meet again, they both immediately have feelings for each other. But Valten's long-time nemesis, Ruexner, will do everything it takes to ensure Valten's misery; which currently means keeping them apart.
This book was a re-telling of Cinderella, and we LOVED everything about it! It was wonderfully written, the romance wasn't over-the-top, and the excitement kept us reading! This book will always be a favorite!
Characters: The characters were perfectly written to reflect the Cinderella story-line, yet they were each unique in their own way. We fell in love with Valten, and felt like he was the perfect Knight in Shining Armor. We also loved getting to hear about characters from previous books that we had come to love as well.
Emotion: This book was very sweet as far as romance goes, touching when it came to finding God's plan for each person's life, and thrilling with excitement!
Elinor's Thoughts: I adored this book (just like all of Melanie Dickerson's books!), and it fulfilled all of my expectations (which had to be hard, because I've been stalking it online most of the year). Thank you so much Mrs. Dickerson for another beautifully crafted adventure!
Favorite Quote:
'What had his life meant? All his success, all the tournaments he'd won... they were like dust and ashes. Meaningless. Without Gisela, his life was meaningless.'
Marianne's Thoughts: My sister and I have read all of Melanie Dickerson's books and loved them all! She is one of my all time favorite authors and "The Captive Maiden" was my favorite of her novels! I loved that I got to "meet" many characters from previous novels and seeing how their stories turned out was awesome. I LOVED Valten and enjoyed watching his and Gisela's relationship take place. I greatly hope that Melanie Dickerson continues to write novels, for my sister and I will read every single one! 
Favorite Quote:
"I don't need prestige or wealth," he said softly. "I need you, and I want you with me forever."

Monday, December 9, 2013

Quick Encouragement #2

Hello Again! It just me, Marianne posting today. I have another "Quick Encouragement" post for you. This one is about forgiveness. I found a music video and a quote.

Matthew West - Forgiveness

Image made by Marianne at PicMonkey

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Favorite Music #2 (Christmas)

Hello everyone! Ok, we don't know about you, but we can't wait for Christmas. So we decided to do another "Favorite Music" post, except this time it will be all Christmas music! We hope you enjoy it!
Owl City & tobyMac - Light of Christmas

Faith Hill - A Baby Changes Everything

Josh Groban - Believe

Newsong - Christmas Shoes

Judy Garland - Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Painting by Marianne

Hello again! Today I would like to tell you about a painting that I recently completed. I have a large interest in watercolors and I wanted to show everyone step by step pictures of my painting.
Step 1: After many uses of my eraser, I sketched the main parts of my painting. If you look closely, you can see the used-to-be pencil marks on the paper.
Step 2: I stroked the first layer of paint onto the paper, really only painting the wall, lace and shadows. Shadowing is my weak spot so please forgive me if they look more like little gray lines on the table cloth than actual shadows. :)
Step 3: I painted more washes and graded washes on the pitcher, tulips, leaves and saucer.
Step 4: I added another layer onto the wall and some small details like the rim of the teacup.
Step 5: I added yet another layer to the wall (getting darker with each layer), and shadows to the lace.
Step 6: I added the last layer to the wall and tulips,  added a very, very light blue wash to the pitcher, and painted all of the details on the teacup and saucer. Then the painting was DONE!
One of the details that I was proudest of: My teacup.
So, I was really pleased with how this painting turned out. In the end, it was worth the almost three hours I spent working on it. Besides I enjoy painting so spending almost three hours on it was fun.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Christmas 2013

Christmastime!!!  It's here! YES! Today we put up all of our Christmas decorations and I am so exited! Each year we have more and more ornaments to put on our tree. The poor thing's branches are sagging with the weight, but it still looks awesome!

Yeah, we had a massively fun time putting it all up. It was so great to unwrap all of the ornaments and put them on the tree. That tree holds many, many great Christmas memories. I can't wait for Christmas eve, we have a family tradition where we all sit in the family room and watch "The Polar Express" together while we drink hot cocoa. And I adore the anticipation and excitement of wondering what good ole St. Nick is going to bring everyone. ;)   I also found a fun Christmas song to share with you!
Mandisa - It's Christmas

So that's what my day has been like: great. We also have some family coming over soon to celebrate Thanksgiving/Christmas and I can't wait for that either! Oh, by the way, I'm currently reading a Christmas novella called "The Christmas Box" so you can expect a book review very soon!;)

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Book Review: Matched

Review by Elinor
Title: Matched
Author: Ally Condie
Rating: 5/5
Plot: In the Society, your whole life is planned out for you by the officials. Cassia Reyes has always gone along with whatever they told her to do, because she believes that the Society is perfect; until they make a mistake that sends her life out of control. The Officials tell her that she is Matched with Xander, her best friend that she's known her whole life; but then why did his face disappear from the screen, to be replaced with Ky's, a mysterious boy who is more than everyone thinks? Now torn between two very different young men, Cassia must decide for herself if she is going to follow the life that has always been predicted for her.
This book was great! At first I was a little bit unsure if the romance would be too much for my taste, but it was just the right amount to keep the story sweet. I was much more impressed than I thought I would be, and I can't wait to read the next book in this series!
Characters: It was almost too easy to get attached to these characters! I fell in love with each and every one of them in their own ways, and I loved how their relationships with each other were so clearly represented. I think my favorite character was Ky, I loved how complexly the author wrote him, always more than he seemed.
Emotion: This book had about every emotion out there mixed together! It was very exciting and kept me coming back for more. Never once did I feel like it was boring or lacking any sort of emotion.
My thoughts: There were only a couple minor things I would change about this book, but over-all I really enjoyed it! Like I said before, I can't wait to read the next book in this series!
Favorite Quote:
"The two desires struggle within me: The desire to be safe, and the desire to know. I cannot tell which one will win."

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Quick Encouragement #1

Hey everyone! I wanted to share something with you guys real quick. It's a music video that I found this month that has really encouraged me. Hopefully it will do the same for you!
Sidewalk Prophets - You Love Me Anyway
Listen to the lyrics for a moment. My favorite part:
I am the thorn in Your crown
But You love me anyway
I am the sweat from Your brow
But You love me anyway
I am the nail in Your wrist
But You love me anyway
I am Judas' kiss
But You love me anyway
Wow. It's so true. No matter what we do, how we act, what we say He'll never stop loving us. That doesn't give us a license to act however we want to, but it does give us encouragement. It lets us know that whatever mistakes we've made in the past, and whatever mistakes we will make in the future, He'll always be there for us.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Book Review: The Lady of Bolton Hill

Review by Marianne 
Title: The Lady of Bolton Hill
Author: Elizabeth Camden
Rating: 4.5/5
Age Recommendation: 12+

Plot: The last time Clara Endicott and Daniel Tremain were together Daniel was a young man with no fortune whatsoever, his father had just died and he had to be the one to provide for his mother and three sisters. Clara was a wealthy young woman who had high ambitions to become a great writer. Because of her father's wishes, she moved from Baltimore to London to live with her aunt. Twelve years later Clara returns to Baltimore and finds Daniel a powerful and wealthy industrialist. Their old friendship comes to life and quickly develops into a romance, but when Daniel's workers believe they aren't receiving proper wages, arguments and riots threaten to separate them forever.
I ADORED this book. It was amazing! The storyline was so interesting and I couldn't but it down! There was never a dull moment in this book and I enjoyed every moment!
Characters: Is it possible to fall in love with every character in a book? I think it is. That was how I felt about this book. Every character was absolutely perfect in personality and development.
Emotion: This book was a little more on the suspense side than what I normally read (especially in the end) but I loved the excitement! I will definitely read this again and recommend it to many. 
My Thoughts: I have read one other book by Elizabeth Camden called "Into the Whirlwind" and really enjoyed it. (You can read my review for "Into the Whirlwind" HERE!) This book was great and I wouldn't change a thing about it! I can't wait to read Elizabeth Camden's book "Against the Tide" which follows the story of one of the characters that I got to read a bit about in this one. The reason I recommended ages 12+ is because there are several mentions of Opium, and a brief mentioning of a prostitute (no descriptions, I promise!) As I said before, I couldn't put it down and I will recommend it to many, many readers.
Favorite Quote:
"It is doing the hard things that make a man great."

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Book Review: Glittering Promises

Title: Glittering Promises : Book 3 in the Grand Tour Series
Author: Lisa T. Bergren
Elinor's Rating: 4/5
Marianne's Rating: 2/5
Age Recommendation 12+

Plot: Cora Diehl Kensington is torn. Between two men. Between responsibilities her father expects of her, and what she feels God is calling her to. And as their Grand Tour of Europe comes to an end, things only get more complicated. Will God ever make a way for her to be with the man she loves? And will they ever escape the men who seem to always be chasing them?

This book is the third and final book of the Grand Tour Series. Personally, it wasn't our favorite of the series, but still definitely worth reading.
Characters: Since this is the third book in the series, there wasn't much character development. But we loved all of the characters and think that we could understand each ones personal feelings.
Emotion: We love how Miss Bergren expresses the character's emotions in her books. We thought that this book was well-written as well as very exciting.
Elinor's Thoughts: I totally loved this book! It was so exciting to finally see how Cora's story ended! While I do think that it was romantic and exciting, I felt that the first two were a little more so. The first book in this series (Glamorous Illusions) will be a favorite forever! There are a few things that I didn't really like (such as an argument that Cora and Will have, when I read it, I felt it was unnecessary. My first thought was "Seriously?" ) but nothing that really made me dislike the book.
Favorite Quote:
"Never doubt that you are the only woman for me. You were given to me by God Himself. I have eyes for no other. I promise you."

Marianne's Thoughts: This was an entertaining book. I enjoyed it but there were several things that disappointed me. In the previous books there was a character that I absolutely loved. In this book though, the author changed him. She made him turn to the 'Dark Side of the Force', so to speak. And that was... very upsetting to say least. Even my family was able to see how upset it made me. I just felt that the author had the talent and the potential to keep it exiting without completely changing the characters. Also, Cora and Will had an argument that I didn't feel had to take place. To me it seemed like what they were arguing over wasn't a very big deal, certainly not one to get so angry about. While this book was pretty enjoyable, and worth reading, unfortunately, I know I won't read it again. That is why I rated it 2/5.

Favorite Quote:
"My whole future is suddenly so different than I imagined."

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Recipe: Double Layer Chocolate Cake @ Bramblewood Fashion

Hello Everyone! I am here today to share about an awesome chocolate cake recipe that I found on a great blog called Bramblewood Fashion I absolutely LOVED baking this cake. It was an easy recipe that included ingredients that I almost always have on hand, and Miss Ashley's directions were so easy to follow! Below is a photo of the cake that I made.
If you are interested in making this cake yourself, please read the tutorial on Miss Ashley's blog.
A big thanks to Ashley P from Bramblewood Fashion, this cake was GREAT!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Book Review: Found in Translation

Review by Elinor
Title: Found in Translation
Author: Roger Bruner with Kristi Rae Bruner
Rating: 4/5
Plot: Kim Hartlinger has it all pretty easy. She comes from a privileged family that spoils her, and she's pretty self centered. That all changes when she volunteers for a mission trip to Santa Maria, Mexico. She quickly learns just how hard life can be for lots of people in the world, but also what she can do to help them. Could this trip be God showing her what He is calling her to do with her life?
This book was so sweet!!! I loved the plot, it was everything I wanted it to be! I felt it was something totally new and unlike anything I'd ever read before. If I had to describe it in one word it would be this: Touching
Characters: The characters in this book were so easy to fall in love with! I think my favorite character was Anjelta, a little girl in the village that Kim goes to. Even though she and Kim can't truly communicate, they become inseparable. One character that I really want to learn more about in the next book is Geoff, a troubled young man that Kim tries to reach. The funniest character was totally Aleesha, who becomes Kim's best friend. She made me laugh out loud sometimes!
Emotion: The emotion wasn't particularly strong until the end (which had me in tears!), most likely because the first half of the book is just Kim getting frustrated over nearly everything. But the first half of the book was rather funny, so it made up for the lack of real emotion.
My Thoughts: Like I said before, this book was very sweet and touching. I just loved the ending and can't wait to read the next book in this series! The only reason I would give it 4/5 instead of 5/5 is that it was kind of boring to begin with. I felt like it was slow to really get into something interesting, and for a while I wondered if the whole book was going to be about her making mistakes and getting frustrated. I'm really glad I stuck with it though, and I would recommend it to almost anyone!
Favorite Quote:
"Senorita Kim, te amo!" She repeated it many times.


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Book Review: Serenity Series

Review by Marianne
Title: Serenity Series (all 10)
Author: Real Buzz Studios
Rating: 4/5
Age Recommendation: 12+
Plot: Serenity Harper has quite an attitude. She is a teen girl who doesn't really have anyone but her Mom. Her Mom isn't a good influence so Serenity is a big troublemaker. When she moves away from her home in California and starts going to a new high school, a youth group that also attends the school notices her. They realize that she needs help. God's help. So they begin the long journey of bringing her to faith. It isn't easy, and it's a learning experience for all of them, but they accept the challenge with open hearts.
I enjoyed this series very much! The plot was very good and I liked how much God was referenced. I also liked that it was written in a comic book form. Since I don't read many comic books this was a real treat!
Characters: The characters in these books were really good! My favorite character was probably Lori (A girl in the youth group.) She was really mature for her age, and she was just a really good friend to everyone. I also liked seeing Serenity and her Mom trying to work through their struggles and disagreements.
Emotion: These books were very inspirational! I was entertained while reading them and I loved the entire series.  They were also super funny. I have read the whole series from beginning to end 2 or 3 times.
My Thoughts: Overall this is a great series to read! However there are a few things that I was uncomfortable with. There were several times throughout the series that some of the characters mentioned drugs, alcohol and things like that. Serenity did cuss quite a bit in the first book but it was always covered with a little green bar so you didn't have to read it. I would recommend this series, just to an older audience (like 12-18 or something). I would also recommend doing what I did, buying the first 2-5 books to see if you like them and then buy the rest. This just seems like a better decision to me because there are 10 books in the series.

List of books in this series:
#1 Bad Girl in Town
#2 Stepping Out
#3 Basket Case
#4 RAVE-n-rant
#5 Snow Biz
#6 You Shall Love
#7 Space Cadet vs. Drama Queen
#8 Sunday Best
#9 Choosing Change
#10 Girl Overboard

Friday, November 1, 2013

Movie Review: Grace Unplugged

Title: Grace Unplugged
Rating: 5/5

Plot: Grace Trey performs with her Dad at church every week, but she feels that he's trying to hold her back. He feels he's only trying to protect her from what he's experienced in the music industry. Therefore, they can never agree. So, when her Dad's previous agent seems to have interest in making her the next big pop-singer, she jumps at the opportunity. Once fully immersed in the music world, she realizes how hard it is, and wonders if it is all she thought it would be.

We really enjoyed this movie! We thought that the story was very encouraging, and we will definitely want to own it!
 Movie Trailer:
Elinor's  Thoughts: I thought that this movie was adorable! It really got the message across that sometimes what we think we want isn't what we truly need, and that God can use our gifts in a way that can glorify Him. Can't wait for this one to come out on DVD!
Favorite Quote:
"Lord, all I've ever needed was Your love."
Marianne's Thoughts: I loved this movie! I am so thrilled to see movies with such good meanings so wonderfully done! I thoroughly enjoyed it and can't wait to watch it again! It was a very inspirational movie to watch as well, and like my sister I can't wait to own it!!!
Favorite Quote:
"I'm glad you're here. We need some light in the media." (So true!)
 (Words in parentheses are mine.)