Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Book Review: Faithful to Laura

I'm a big fan of Kathleen Fuller and her newest book Faithful to Laura is no exception. The work tells the story of a young woman silenced by hurt but seething with revenge. It's not uncommon in our society but a bit of an oxymoron in the Amish community. At the same time, elsewhere in the community is a young man who's overcome monstrous adversity to lead a productive life.

Fuller does an amazing job of crafting the story together. Every one of her characters is flawed and makes a critical mistake. Family loyalty is tested, but in complicated, real-life scenarios. Should one be faithful to one's own parents, one's adoptive parents, one's grandmother who rejected one's parents, one's girlfriend, or someone else altogether?

Fuller's book doesn't have long scenes of characters praying desperately for guidance. Neither does it paint detailed romantic pictures of young couples dating. Even the wedding scenes are short. Her book delves beyond the superficial stereotypes that often plague Christian fiction to explore deeper questions that many young adults face: relationships, infidelity, faith, loyalty. The ultimate question every character faces: To what degree can they change the behavior and beliefs of others? and should they?

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Amazing Book: My Stubborn Heart

Oftentimes, Christian fiction can fall into a rut where beautiful, pious Christian woman meets handsome but backsliding single man, is attracted to him but repulsed by his profane ways, prays that God will restore his Christian heart, and winds up marrying the man of her dreams. Becky Wade's My Stubborn Heart defies this pattern.

A first book for Becky, My Stubborn Heart counts the tale of a young career woman who has everything in her life figured out: a perfect career, a consuming hobby, a condo, a faith, and a style. When she moves to Pennsylvania for a six month project to restore her ancestor's home, she expects to spend time bonding with her grandmother and poring over antiques. So why does her grandmother insist that she'd be the perfect match the reticent, bitter handyman who comes over every day?

I love Wade's storytelling style as she captures the nuances of each character's personality and thoughts. There's a wonderful passage where Kate joins a Sunday School class and laments that being 30 and single is akin to being labeled a loser. Why is it that singles 30 and older are always separated from younger singles? Is it because their labeled as hopelessly stymied in love? She muses that any group is better than the hopeless singles group. The grieving group, the divorcee group, even the janitor's group would be better than the group God's placed her in.

Throughout the story, Wade paints vivids pictures of characters struggling in everyday life. Unlike much of Christian fiction, My Stubborn Heart contains some very compelling minor characters as well. A young mother of two who can never maintain order, a widower desperate to gain the good graces of a divorced woman, a group of grandmothers intent on marrying off all the single men and women around them, and even young people struggling with abusive pasts.

I've already lent my copy of My Stubborn Heart to a dear friend to read. And I'm eagerly anticipating Becky Wade's next book. I'm sure you'll want to add her to your list of new favorite authors as well.

I received a free review copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers and was not required to write a positive review.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Review: A Heart of Gold

Robin Lee Hatcher's A Heart of God captures the story of a young woman torn by wartime loyalties on the gold rush frontier. It combines the thrill of the Civil War with the trials of frontier life and unpredictability. As each character is forced to make choices to maintain their own livelihood, how can they remain true to God, to their own person, and to their calling? What happens when all these people interact and their chemistry gets entangled?

Hatcher does a fantastic job of portraying the complexity of frontier life particularly as a bloodly civil war rages in the distance. While she does use stereotypes of the freespirited Western man and the domesticated lady, she weaves them together in a way that is compelling and fresh.

I received a free review copy from the publisher; the opinions expressed in this review are strictly my own.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

My Creations for the Swaps :)

Some of you have inquired about the items I sent people in these swaps. The thrill of receiving gifts is amazing, but I love the adventure of picking out just the perfect gift for someone else. Ravelry is an amazing social media platform.

Here's the people I got to make things for: a woman in upstate New York who knits sweaters for herself and baby clothes for other people; she likes neutral colors, local items, herbal and green tea, and dark chocolate.

Second assignment: a woman from Massachusetts who is gluten-free and knits and participates in swaps frequently. This swaps was Valentine's Day themed.

The New Yorker was a puzzle. I had just purchased an amazing book of early modern English designs with a beautiful scarf that I thought might keep my partner warm. Problem: it's advertised as a man's scarf!! Solution: make it a woman's scarf. True to nature, I like creative solutions to complex problems. I picked a very soft off-white yarn and matched it with a plum yarn. I was a bit worried that the plum yarn might not be considered neutral enough, but I decided that it was dark and the three stores that I went back to all had different selections of other colors that were either ugly or decidedly not neutral. It seems that one of the characteristics that make this scarf masculine were the original color -- chocolate -- and the width of the scarf. The change in colors plus a narrower scarf made it sufficiently feminine.
I love the texture on the this design. I'm always looking for ways to learn new skills and this was definitely a fun project!!

As far as local items, I wanted to get things that were related to the school that I'm at, but it was hard to find anything sophisticated. I ended up buying Jasmine Green Tea and Dark Chocolate Crisps at Trader Joe's (which they don't have in upstate New York.) Then, I also purchased a postcard & a pin from my school.

The Valentine's Day project had lower budget, so I wanted to share some gluten-free goodness along with a textured scarf that looked festive. Here's what I came up with:
Shortbread cookie mix and hard shaped cookie cutters: delicious!!

Valentine's Day Crochet/Knit Swap

I also participated in a crochet & knit swap themed around Valentine's Day. I've never actually celebrated Valentine's Day, but I've started celebrating some holidays in my own and discovered that I can have a lot of fun.

This Valentine's Day was extra special because I had a huge box with lots of hearts on it that said, "Happy Valentine's Day! Do NOT open until February 14, 2012!" all over it. Of course, I was dying to open it, so since I happened to stay up past midnight on Monday, I opened it before I went to bed!!

This is what I found inside: a whole collection of Valentine's goodies -- chocolate, a mug, and cookie cutters, some cute stationary, tissues, bath salts, some new yarn, and hand-knit handwarmers & a cowl. The handwarmers are very, very soft (even if a bit big) so I'm very excited to have them.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Knitting/Crochet Swap!!

I've had a long time fascination with crafts, and in sixth grade, I started to teach myself how to crochet. I spent lots of downtime in college crocheting. And, I'm very, very, very excited to live in a place where it's actually cold enough to make crocheted accessories a must-have!! In fact, I've met a number of knitters at work, so we can talk about cool yarn stuff when the topic of work gets old.

Over winter break, I concluded that I'm very good at making certain items, but there are definitely entire types of crochet/knitted items that I've never tried. While I did resolve to try some new things, I also realized that there are things that are much, much, much easier if you know how to knit (and vice versa). While learning to knit is always a possibility, I decided that participating in swaps with people who knit was a faster way to get home-knit stuff!!

I've participated in a few craft swaps before. But this is the first time that I've participated in a group and done a blind swap. Ravelry is truly a wonderful thing!!!! My first swap was themed "secret winter wonderland." And, I just received my package in the mail.

I'm thrilled because my partner happened to solve a problem I didn't even know I had!! I didn't realize I had cold feet until I started wearing these. Plus, I love felted wool, but I haven't been bold enough to try it yet.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Book Review: The Accidental Bride

Would you read a book titled The Accidental Bride: A Big Sky Romance? This new book by Denise Hunter profiles a young woman who has been shunned in love and who has yet to forgive the man who left her at the altar. Many years later as the widowed mother of a young girl, she crosses paths again with her former lover. If that isn't bad enough, some well-meaning neighbors interfere with some town plans and accidentally serve as witnesses in an actual wedding ceremony!!

In the annals of Christian fiction, this book isn't particularly Christian. It doesn't deal with deep religious issues or long spiritual quests. The pastor is not a key figure and neither is some moral or biblical passage. Yet, it is a clean, well-written book about a hilarious subject matter. It's true that this would never happen in real life, but The Accidental Bride is sure to keep you captivating by its turning and twisting plot and the end cannot be but satisfying.

Disclaimer: I received a free review copy of this book from the publisher and was not required to give a positive review.