Friday, May 27, 2016

Surrender - share for a copy!

Lord willing, "Surrender" (Late Intermediate Piano Solos) will release next week! I'm looking for people who are interested in doing a social blast about it! Sign up and I'll send you shareable information PLUS a free digital copy of the music book.

Find out more about the book here.
Sign up for the tour here.



Anchor in the Storm | Book Review

MY REVIEW
Lillian's prosthetic leg immediately drew me into this book. I just haven't read about many heroines that had an appalling "disability" and yet, you love the character, don't pity her. I could identify with Lillian in many ways--her "cold-heartedness" (or "wooden heart"), her bluntness, her blunders. She felt very real.

Arch was also to be admired. And yes, what I admired most was that he was real. He had a very real, very strong struggle to grow through in his naval career, and he didn't tackle this struggle on his own--he continually prayed for God's help.

I've read more non-fiction than fictional WWII books, so this was a new type of book for me. I didn't think that the war was glorified in it--being that Arch was in the middle of a ship with men struggling with their nerves and Lillian worked at a store that saw the social war affects first-hand. It was very interesting and brought the era to life.

Being the second book in the Waves of Freedom series, I wasn't sure how Anchor in the Storm would read as a stand-alone. No worries. It read amazingly. I assume that the first book was about Jim and Mary; this second book is about Jim's sister, Lillian. There were some references to Jim and Mary's back-story, but it only embellished this story, it didn't make it feel like a gap was missing somewhere.

The spiritual theme of this book was that Christ is the anchor for our soul. Both Lillian and Arch clung to that. I really, really appreciated that, at times when one would be wishing for physical comfort from their love, they brought it back to, "No, Christ is my sure anchor." In some ways, it could be that this message was the only spiritual message in the book, but it was definitely very present--not rushed over.

The mystery in this book kind of surprised me (this is Sundin's first book that I've read, so she may usually have mysteries, I don't know). It was complex, interesting, and true-to-life. Another plus, in my opinion.


There were a couple things I didn't care for. One, being that when Lillian was taken advantage of by a former boyfriend (back-story), she didn't tell her family or parents. Younger readers probably wouldn't want to read this because of that situation, plus there was considerable romance throughout the book and some violence (murders mentioned, ships bombarded, things like that).

*I received this book in exchange of my honest review, from LitFuse Publicity* 

ABOUT THE BOOK
One Plucky Female Pharmacist + One High-Society Naval Officer = Romance--and Danger
For plucky Lillian Avery, America's entry into World War II means a chance to prove herself as a pharmacist in Boston. The challenges of her new job energize her. But society boy Ensign Archer Vandenberg's attentions only annoy--even if he "is" her brother's best friend.
During the darkest days of the war, Arch's destroyer hunts German U-boats in vain as the submarines sink dozens of merchant ships along the East Coast. Still shaken by battles at sea, Arch notices his men also struggle with their nerves--and with drowsiness. Could there be a link to the large prescriptions for sedatives Lillian has filled? The two work together to answer that question, but can Arch ever earn Lillian's trust and affection?
Sarah Sundin brings World War II to life, offering readers an intense experience they won't soon forget.
 

BUY THE BOOK on Amazon
or ENTER THE GIVEAWAY

Anchor in the Storm Sarah Sundin

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Affliction

As I recently read through Psalm 119, I noticed a lot about afflictions and God's Word, so I decided to hone in on those verses. In doing so, I discovered that there are two definitions for the words of "affliction" used.


The first is from the Hebrew word, 'oniy, meaning, "depression, misery."

This is my comfort in my affliction: for thy word hath quickened me. (Ps 119:50)
Unless thy law had been my delights, I should then have perished in mine affliction. (Ps 119:92)
Consider mine affliction, and deliver me: for I do not forget thy law. (Ps 119:153)

This affliction is not brought on by our sin, necessarily, but is when we get low in spirits in daily living. The beauty is that, in these situations, we can turn to Christ and His Word for comfort and deliverance, knowing that focusing on Him will keep us from perishing in these afflictions.

The second definition for "affliction" is slightly different. It is from the Hebrew word, 'anah, and gives the impression of browbeating, depression.
    
Before I was afflicted I went astray: but now have I kept thy word. (Ps 119:67)
It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes. (Ps 119:71)
I know, O Lord, that thy judgments are right, and that thou in faithfulness hast afflicted me. (Ps 119:75)
I am afflicted very much: quicken me, O Lord, according unto thy word. (Ps 119:107)

This type of affliction lends the idea of affliction as punishment (directly linked to our wandering from God). Affliction like this, from God, is used to get our attention so that we can better keep God's Word. The answer is not found in soothing ourselves with promises from God's Word, but in checking our obedience to the Scripture (because God's promises are usually contingent on our obedience).

When I feel myself in affliction, I need to do a quick evaluation: is this affliction because of my disobedience to God? or is this affliction just part of life? God's Word has the answer to both afflictions, but I need to search my heart and be sure I'm applying His Word correctly to my life.


What is something that you have noticed from God's Word recently?

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Surrender

Surrender. 
It seems that every time I work on projects with a theme, the Lord has lessons concerning that theme to teach me. As I have been working on editing and putting “Surrender” into book form, the Lord has been working in my heart regarding surrender—whether it was hopes and dreams for this project, daily choices, or my ideas and will.

We tend to think of surrender regarding life-changing issues, big things. But most often, surrender is an ongoing process involving small sacrifices. It is in daily life that we must learn to present our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, as this is our reasonable service (see Romans 12:1).

The songs in the upcoming piano solo book are commonly known as “invitation songs,” and the messages ring true. Have we laid all on the altar for God to control? Have we acknowledge our need for Christ and turned fully to Him? Have we truly surrendered all to Him? Are we daily seeking to be near Him so that we can say in assurance, “It is well with my soul?” Are we eagerly awaiting His eternal plans for us or do we still cling to that which will one day fade away?

God’s call to surrender is not limited to just one season to life. Wherever it is that the Lord has you, may you learn to surrender fully to Him.

More information here

Friday, May 20, 2016

The Reluctant Duchess | Book Review

About the Book
The Reluctant Duchess by Roseanna M. White
Lady Rowena Kinnaird may be the heiress to a Highland earldom, but she has never felt good enough—not for her father, not for the man she thought she’d marry, not for God. But after a shocking attack, she’s willing to be forever an outcast if it means escaping Loch Morar and the men who have jeopardized her life.

Brice Myerston, the Duke of Nottingham, has suddenly found himself in possession of a rare treasure his enemies are prepared to kill for. While Brice has never been one to shy away from manor-born ladies, the last thing he needs is the distraction of his neighbor, Lady Rowena, who finds herself in a desperate situation. But when the moody Earl of Lochabar tries to trap Brice into marrying Rowena, Brice finds he’s not as opposed to the idea as he expected to be.

Rowena wanted to escape the Highlands, but she’s reluctant to resort to marrying a notorious flirt just to gain his English home. And when she learns that Brice is mixed up in some kind of questionable business with a stolen treasure, she ’fears she’s about to end up directly in the path of everything she was trying to avoid.

My Review
I have mixed feelings about this book. On one hand, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I'm not a huge romance fan, but if there's one type of romance I like, it's between a husband and wife who are learning to love each other (as opposed to unmarried people falling in love...I don't know, it's just me). Brice, being my favorite character from The Lost Heiress, was still my favorite character. I enjoyed reading how he learned to listen and his wife learned to love. It was really a sweet story.

Throughout the whole book, it seemed like the characters regularly sought God and prayed, which I appreciated. Some of the characters were evidently stronger in faith than others, which I thought gave a realistic aspect.

However. When I think back on the book, the main thread that stands out to me is the marriage bed. Whether it was Rowena being physically abused by her supposed lover or her learning to trust again, this theme just wasn't in my comfort zone, even though it was done fairly discreetly. For this reason, I would not recommend this book to girls under twenty.

The continued thread of the Fire Eyes was alluring. There is something about them that are enticing and exciting. In this, though, there is a lot of discussion about curses and the spiritual realm. I don't think I particularly disagreed with the author on this, because the conclusion I found was that there are spiritual battles being fought (which I believe is Biblical) and that the curse was not a curse of superstition, but a curse of greed. The way the author brought this about, though, was slightly confusing so I might not have fully grasped her intentions.

So, those two things pull my rating down to three stars--which I realize is just my personal preference and convictions.


*I received this book in exchange of my honest review from Bethany House*

Buy the Book on Amazon

About the Author
Roseanna M. WhiteRoseanna M. White pens her novels beneath her Betsy Ross flag, with her Jane Austen action figure watching over her. When not writing fiction, she's homeschooling her two children, editing and designing, and pretending her house will clean itself. Roseanna has a slew of historical novels available, ranging from biblical fiction to American-set romances to her new British series. She lives with her family in West Virginia. Learn more at www.RoseannaMWhite.com

Saturday, May 14, 2016

A Scripture Design in 21 Steps

It is always interesting to take screenshots of the process of my graphics design, because I never know exactly what will come out of it--and if it will even be something I like. The design I shared Tuesday, was one I had time to throw together, and here's how I did it.

Step 1: Started with a blank 5x5 file


Step 2: Pasted the verse on it


Step 3: Separated the words into different layers
And changed the font to Trajanus.


Step 4: Aligned the layers centered
Because, at this point, I was thinking about doing a simpler graphics design.


Step 5: Distributed the text layers evenly


Step 6: Changed the key words to Windsong font


Step 7: Decided that my simple style wasn't working...


Step 8: So I played around with the positioning of the words


Step 9: With the words done, I took a picture from my iPhone and copied it onto my square


Step 10: Selected a brush


Step 11: Started "painting"


Step 12: Tested the Gaussian Blur look


Step 13: Decided it wasn't quite the look I wanted...
So I canceled the Gaussian Blur.


Step 14: Changed brush size and added more yellow
I intentionally made the yellow heavier on the bottom than the top.


Step 15: Gaussian Blur again


Step 16: Lowered the opacity of the background layer


Step 17: Made the text visible again


Step 18: Added a drop shadow to the text


Step 19: Decided to test some "Fibers"
In this picture, I have yellow and blue on my color pallet. However, I changed that in the next screenshot to be yellow and orange.


Step 20: Played with the fibers until it looked good.



Step 21: Lowered the opacity of the fibers


There you have it...another graphics design step-by-step.


Friday, May 13, 2016

Counting Blessings | Book Review

About the Book
by Eileen Spinelli
Illustrated by Lee Holland

Children count along from 1 to 10, following the sweet rhyming text by beloved author Eileen Spinelli and the cute and cuddly illustrations by Lee Holland. Along with counting, this padded cover board book teaches children to see the blessings in life. With whimsy and joy, Counting Blessings captures the attention of young children, filling their minds with numbers and their hearts with happiness.

My Review

I absolutely adore the illustrations in this little book! They just make me smile. I read this book with my six-year-old sister (I read a page, she read a page), and she enjoyed it and thought it was cute too.

The rhyming has a nice flow and I like the thought of counting blessings. The only negative I can see is that it's not particularly a Christian book, in that there are no mentions of where these blessings come from--just that there are more than we can count. However, it would be simple for a parent to take the book and expound on it with their child about why we should count our blessings and that all blessings come from God.


*I received this book in exchange of my honest review from Book Look Bloggers*

Buy the book on Amazon


Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Be Still, My Soul | Music Video


In light of the hymn ("Be Still, My Soul"), I looked up Psalm 46:10, "Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth."
Sometimes, we just need to be still--be still and know the truths about Who God is. 
He is still on the throne--no circumstances here on earth will change that.
He is still in control--no changes in government down here will change that.
He is still God.
He is still King.
He is still unchanging.
Are we allowing the worries and cares of today to steal our joy? Maybe we need to take a moment and "Be still and know that {He} is God."
---
Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side.
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change, He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heavenly Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.
Be still, my soul: the hour is hastening on
When we shall be forever with the Lord.
When disappointment, grief and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul: when change and tears are past
All safe and bless├Ęd we shall meet at last.
Lyrics by Katharina A. von Schlegel

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

All My Need


A promise I've been reflecting upon this past week.
What promise are you clinging to?

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Tips for Small Cameras

Usually, I post tips for cameras like the one I use (a Canon Digital Rebel T3i -- a DSLR). However, as Ashley commented a few photography posts back, not everyone has these "fancy cameras." What then?


The closest thing I have to a simple "point-and-shoot" (or "cheap") camera is my iPhone 4s (8 megapixels--compared to my T3i's 17.9 megapixels). While I'm not about to go do a professional photoshoot with my iPhone, I do use it on the go, and here are a few things that I have learned.

Understand Your Camera's Limitations
Don't expect a small camera to take the images that a larger, more expensive camera will take. There will be some areas where you'll need to compensate for your camera's lack of technology. For example, cheap cameras need good lighting to make clear images. You cannot take pictures "on the move" as easily (move "travel pictures" will be blurry). Also consider your camera's focal length -- some cameras can get within two inches of a flower, other cameras need about six inches to focus. Be willing to work with your camera. Make sure there's good lighting. Make sure your camera is focusing at the distance you have it.

Work on Your Eye
A camera should not limit your creativity. I have seen some pretty amazing pictures by people who have small cameras. Work on your angles. The tips that I mentioned in this post and this post can be applied to any camera. Get out, take pictures.

Some Tips
1. Keep your camera steady
Most small cameras don't like shaky hands. Give yourself a sturdy grip on the camera--use something external to anchor your arms/hands (for example, prop your elbows on the ground).

2. Have good lighting
Your camera will probably give you bad grain if you don't have good enough lighting. So, if you're going out to get some prize pictures, make sure you have good lighting.

3. Work on your angles
Don't let a small camera thwart your creativity! Work on your eye as you use your small camera.

From my Camera Bag (or card ;))
To be fair, here are some completely unedited pictures from my iPhone 4s. If you notice, with all of these, there is good lighting. And I'll also acknowledge that I was picky with what pictures I chose. Some pictures from my iPhone are grainy, "just for the memory's sake" pictures.










If you're still not convinced about a "small camera," here are some pictures that I took for my sister's business--using my iPhone. These, I did edit a little. However, two important elements in these pictures are: 1) Good lighting (it was midday), 2) Cute props.





What kind of camera do you use? 
If you have a small camera, what are some tips you'd add here?

Friday, May 6, 2016

Live Fearless | Book Review

My colored page
I finally got in to review a coloring book! The whimsical drawings are fun and cute, the lines fairly clear and easy to follow. The format of it is interesting too--one side a picture, the other side a prayer journal section.

As I colored a picture, I noticed that some of the lines overlaid others. For example, you would see a stem then on top of it you would see a flower--with both lines crossing. 

I also didn't care that the Scripture quotations were in various versions.

*I received this book in exchange of my honest review from Bethany House Publishing*









ABOUT THE BOOK
Embrace God's Comforting Presence While You De-stress, Meditate, and Create! 
Life can be overwhelming as we go from one urgent demand on our time to another; it's important to slow down and remind ourselves who we are and who God is. Coloring is a wonderful way to relax and focus our minds, giving us the refreshment and freedom to be all we were meant to be. But this book gives you more than a chance to color--it also focuses your attention on the peace that God brings through his presence in your life. 
This beautiful, intricately designed coloring book highlights verses from the Bible that focus on the courage that comes with knowing God is by your side. He wants us to live bold lives, free of fear, and his Word gives us the peace and reassurance to do so. Presenting this uplifting message in a fun and creative format, "Live Fearless" encourages you to drink deeply from Scripture as you color and create. Space is included for reflections, prayers, or even doodles. 
You can even share your art--and God's comforting presence--with others by posting photos on social media or by cutting out the pages to keep for yourself. Gather your favorite coloring supplies and start creating!

The Inheritance | Book Review


ABOUT THE BOOK:

The death of the clan patriarch has thrown the tiny Shetland Islands community of Whale's Reef into turmoil.

Everyone assumed MacGregor Tulloch's heir to be his grand-nephew David, a local favorite, but when it is discovered that MacGregor left no will, David's grasping cousin Hardy submits his own claim to the inheritance, an estate that controls most of the island's land. And while Hardy doesn't enjoy much popular support, he has the backing of a shadowy group of North Sea oil investors. The courts have frozen the estate's assets while the competing claims are investigated, leaving many of the residents in financial limbo. The future of the island-and its traditional way of life-hangs in the balance.

Loni Ford is enjoying her rising career in a large investment firm in Washington, DC. Yet in spite of her outward success, she is privately plagued by questions of identity. Orphaned as a young child, she was raised by her paternal grandparents, and while she loves them dearly, she feels completely detached from her roots. That is until a mysterious letter arrives from a Scottish solicitor. . . .

Past and present collide in master storyteller Phillips's dramatic new saga of loss and discovery, of grasping and grace, and of the dreams of men and women everywhere.

Purchase a copy: http://bit.ly/1QpMpIN

MY REVIEW:
What is the connection between an old man, boy, and young lady in the early 1900's and the modernistic present of 2005? How does a D.C. gal connect with auld Shetlanders? 

This was definitely an interesting book. I didn't particularly care for the execution of all of the interesting details, though. Half of the time the story felt like it moved backwards with so much reminiscing and historical retelling. While it was all quite interesting, so many details could have been left out and the actual story would have still stood strong. I suppose it would be my choice to read slowly throughout several weeks...but as I was on a deadline, I found myself wanting to skim all of those tedious details.

The spiritual substance of this book was also interesting. From David's youth having a sorceress which led him the opposite direction: to seek God for himself--to Loni's Quaker upbringing. There seemed to be a lot of mentions of religion but not really a lot of substance. It was more vaguely passed over as spiritualistic. It didn't come out as a strong Christian book...but almost a confusing one, that left me wondering just where these characters stood and what they believed. They said they read God's Word yet seemed content to live the Christian life apart from the church. Someone said Loni was God's Child, even though she had basically rejected Him since her childhood. There was a part about David hearing God's verbal voice. So...kind of a confusing spiritual plot.

Now...for those of you considering this book, if you like to read a complete story, wait until at least another book is out. So many loose threads are left hanging. I can't dispose WHICH threads lest I leave spoilers. It's enough to make me want to read the second book, if I have time when it comes out.

One character is vulgar: Jimmy Joe used mild language--words that I just personally don't care to use--and insinuated things like sodomy (he wasn't one, but in his vulgarity basically asked others if they were). I mean yeah, his ploy to buy the island was intriguing and his character being defined as despicable was vivid...but...yeah, not for me.

Several (calm) scenes in a pub. Language used about women who were assumed of ill repute. No romance to speak of, but an allusion that a man made to a woman about having fun.

I did and did not like the book. I loved the Shetland dialect! Ah! That was authentic. I liked the whole Laird and Chief laws and inheritances. David was definitely a favorite character. But, there was just a style about this book that I can't say I embraced. I guess there were enough insinuations and hints (above mentioned) about things I just didn't care for.

*I received this book in exchange for my honest review from LitFuse Publicity*

Enter HERE
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Michael Phillips is a bestselling author with more than 70 of his own titles. In addition, he has served as editor/redactor of nearly 30 more books. He is known as the man responsible for the reawakened interest in George MacDonald of the last 30 years. In addition to the MacDonald titles adapted/edited for today's reader, his publishing efforts in bringing back full-length quality facsimile editions also spawned renewed interest in MacDonald's original work. Michael and his wife, Judy, spend time each year in Scotland but make their home near Sacramento, California.
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