Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Speaking of Book Reviews....

This is technically my 4th blog.  I abandoned my others for various reasons.  But I saved the book reviews, and thought I'd post them as I'm looking back to where I've come from in order to see where I'm going.  At the time, I was writing a book review blog only, so this is a different format than usual on Thyme For Courage.  Please remember that these links go to Amazon.com, and if you purchase them, I'll get a commission on it.

In the spirit of Christmas, I will give you a gift idea for any reader:  The Vampire Academy books are, in my honest opinion, surpassed only by the Harry Potter series.  I have yet to meet anyone, online or in real life, that has a bad thing to say about this series.

It's considered to be a sub-group of children's books known as Young Adult, which I've learned means the story is about teens, as opposed to "adult" books that do not revolve around "school life."  Even the last book in the Harry Potter series is classified as a children's book and recommended for ages 9 and up--but is not something I'd feel comfortable letting my son read on his own.

I think it's funny that I was sooo excited to finish the third book of the Vampire Academy books, not knowing that it ends on a HUGE cliffhanger and it was PURE TORTURE to wait for Blood Promise to come out.  Seriously, Richelle Mead is an amazing author, she had three and even FOUR different series she is writing at the same time to very different audiences.  However, she is also an absolute SADIST considering the ending of Shadow Kiss!!

This review compares Twilight to Vampire Academy, which is as fair a comparison as Twilight can ever get.  However, when I wrote this review, I had yet to see the Twilight movie, nor was I aware of the pure hatefulness that is directed at Twilight these days.  I loved the Twilight books then, and I still do now--but they cannot stand up the awesomeness of Vamp Academy.

Also please excuse my writing style--I've learned to write much better reviews in the last 2 and a half years!  It's hard for me to publish this without correcting it, but that would defeat its purpose.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

I've read 2 books in the last 2 days, and now I'm on the 3rd of the series. I am totally in love with this series! They are Vampire Academy (Vampire Academy, Book 1), Frostbite (Vampire Academy, Book 2) now I'm on Shadow Kiss (Vampire Academy, Book 3)by Richelle Mead. 

I'm going to just come out and say it: they're better than the Twilight books! Twilight was very...well, the characters were a little naive and immature. Twilight's author Stephenie Meyer, I'm sure, felt this was fine since the characters in Twilight ARE naive and immature, since they're only 17. But the Vampire Academy characters are not that way, even though they're about characters in the same age group. Both Twilight and Vampire Academy are Young Adult books too, so I'm comparing apples to apples here all the way down the line. 

I highly recommend both series, and both are keepers for sure, but of the two series, it's Mead's Vampire Academy books that I'm really looking forward to continuing. It's been a long time since I've been this excited about a new series, and I'm savoring each moment of this 3rd book :) Blood Promise (Vampire Academy, Book 4) is coming out in September. Yet another reason for me to look forward to the fall!
To be thorough, here's the books in order:

1. Vampire Academy
2. Frostbite
3. Shadow Kiss
4. Blood Promise
5. Spirit Bound
6. Last Sacrifice

And the spinoff series that begins only a month or so after Last Sacrifice is Bloodlines.  The 2nd book in this series is out in June 2012: The Golden Lily: A Bloodlines Novel.
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Books Read in 2011 #1-25

The list of books I've read this year had gotten a little too long for my sidebar, so here's books 1-25.  These links go to Amazon.com, and if you purchase them, I'll get a commission on it.

1. Where She Went by Gayle Forman (ARC from LibraryThing Early Reviewers program) 5 stars

2. Last Sacrifice (Vampire Academy, Book 6) by Richelle Mead 5 stars--so ridiculously amazing and perfect, and if you read just one YA paranormal series, it should be Vampire Academy!

3. Secret Society by Tom Dolby 3 stars

4. Matched by Ally Condie 3 stars

5. Devil's Kiss by Sarwat Chadda 5 stars--unlike anything else on the YA market, very "girl-power," and if you don't want your daughter to read the Twilight books, let her read this.

6. Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood by Eileen Cook 3 stars

7. Virals by Kathy Reichs 3 stars

8. Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon 4.5 stars

9. Department 19 by Will Hill (ARC from LibraryThing Early Reviewers program) 5 stars

10. Extraordinary by Nancy Werlin (ARC from LibraryThing Early Reviewers program) 1 star

11. Hunger (Riders of the Apocalypse) by Jackie Morse Kessler 4.5 stars

12. On the Edge (The Edge, Book 1) by Ilona Andrews 4.5 stars

13. Just Between You and Me: A Novel of Losing Fear and Finding God by Jenny B. Jones 4 stars

14. Night Myst (Indigo Court, Book 1) by Yasmine Galenorn 4 stars

15. Kiss Me Deadly: 13 Tales of Paranormal Love 4 stars overall

16. Blood Heat (Blood Lines, Book 4) by Maria Lima 5 stars, I love this series and it deserves a lot more attention than it has.

17. I Am Number Four (Lorien Legacies) 4 stars, and I'm not listing "Pitticus Lore" as the author because he isn't, he's a character in the series.

18. The Sight by Judy Blundell 4 stars

19.The Left Hand of God by Paul Hoffman 2 stars--I really had to struggle to stick with this one. Also, I received it as an ARC from the LibraryThing's Early Reviewers program.

20. I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn't): Telling the Truth About Perfectionism, Inadequacy, and Power 5 stars--If you've ever struggled with Perfectionism, READ THIS!

21. Paranormalcy by Kiersten White 5 stars, and one of the best I've read in a long time!

22. Rise of the Wolf: Book 1 (Wereworld) by Curtis Jobling 2 stars--I just couldn't get into the setting/world at all. Younger male readers may really enjoy this one though. I'm having to compare it to 5 star books like Nightshade and Linger, so it's not fair. (ARC from LibraryThing Early Reviewers program)

23. Dead Beautiful by Yvonne Woon 3.5 stars

24. Blood Sacrifice by Maria Lima 5 stars! Superb ending, though I hope to see more of Keira and Adam one day.

25. Bloodlines by Richelle Mead 3.5 stars, and a slow start to a new series set in the same world as Vampire Academy. I'm enough of a fan to be sure the storyline will pick-up in future books.
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Psalm 37:4

This was written several months ago and I never got around to publishing it.  But with the holidays come all kinds of memories, and not all of them are good.  I'm nervous about my upcoming extended-family get-together.  My heart has been broken many ways this year, by many people in many ways.  A small part of me wants to skip all the hoopla, that part that likes to hide and pretend that there's nothing "out there" worth it.  I know better, I have no intention in hiding from anything.  But for now...this is me.

Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires.  Psalm 37:4   

My entire 36 years of existence has been both based on and haunted by this Scripture. 

"Based on" because in 1974 my strictly devout Baptist parents sat their 9 and 6 year old boys down and said that they felt a little girl was needed to complete the family.  And so they prayed, and because this was before ultrasound, they did not know until I was born that God had answered their prayers.  I was dedicated to the Lord a few weeks later, and this Scripture was my blessing.

"Haunted by" because by the time I was 8, my oldest brother who I fought with constantly was away at college, my middle brother was 15 and while he loved me greatly, he was a teenager, so...well, you understand.  And my parents got divorced.  Not a friendly divorce either--it was a full-out battle from 1984 until right before Christmas 1993 when I had to go to court testify against my father for not paying child support--during my Christmas break from college.

"Delight thyself?"  There was no delight.  My brothers went off and lived their own lives, and I was raised pretty much as an only child.  My father knew that my mother's biggest fears centered around me, so he did everything he could to torture her--not paying child support, late drop-offs from forced visitation weekends, threats galore, all breaking my heart every single time.

My mother loves me to this day, and reminds me that it's HER delight she was praying for.  But I was still bitter--WHY would they spend all that time praying for me, only to leave me to fend for myself?  My total anger at my father and my brothers has become a real problem at several times in my life, and since I believe in counseling, I always ended up being able to move on...until the next time.

At Easter this year, there was what can only be described as an explosion between all of us--and my husband and I withdrew from my side of the family completely.  Once again, I was all alone.

Let me backtrack a little, and say that my mother was an amazing single mother.  No longer strictly devout, she was still a child of Christ, and taught me both by example and education about God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit.  She would also rant and rave at God, shaking her fists towards the sky in complete anger at God--something I considered to be a sign of strength, such bravery she showed me!  (She is embarrassed by that, and would hate me writing it, but I'm doing it anyway.)

She also showed me by example that there are times in Life when you are so hopeless, so scared, feeling so worthless, that not even kneeling before God is enough--lying prostrate on the floor is the only way to ask God for His intervention to guide your way.

So, back to this year--I had a day come where I was like that--so heartbroken, so hopeless and helpless that I literally l found myself down on the floor, begging for answers and guidance and light--and I was given comfort through Grace:

For the first time in my 36 years, I realized that it was not just my 2 brothers and parents at that table praying for me, but that JESUS was there too, praying right along beside them for my existence.  That even though my human father had done such damage to my soul, that even though my brothers lived their own lives and left me to face it alone, and that even though the explosion had happened that shattered what relationships we all had--none of it mattered.

JESUS had been beside me all along.  He'd never abandoned me.  He'd never gotten mad at me and not called for months on end.  JESUS wanted me, had prayed for me and continued to do so--and that blew my mind.

I sincerely pray that Jesus does join my family for the celebration of His birth.  And also yours.  He is also called "Wonderful Counselor," you know :)

This is still my favorite time of the year, and I've made the conscious decision to make sure our home has a merry state-of-mind. 
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Sunday, November 20, 2011

Handmade Ornaments

I love Christmas, and I love putting up our tree and hanging the ornaments.  I don't like "theme" trees--all my ornaments have significance to us. 
  • a glass frog that my mom gave me a few years ago--to teasingly remind me of the hideous things that used to gather over the door to my apartment; I was TERRIFIED one was going to jump onto my head!!
  • a pewter Headless Horseman from when I was traveling and got to visit Sleepy Hollow in New York.
  • a pumpkin egg from when I used all my SkyMiles and flew with my mother 1st class for a mother-daughter vacation in Bostonit was around Halloween, and no place celebrates Halloween like Salem, Mass--it was an amazing trip, probably the best of my life  :)
  • an engraved one from my husband's father, one for the first Christmas as husband and wife, and another for my son the year of his birth.

So that's the story of a few of my favorite ornaments.  For 2 years I joined an ornament swap, and I really enjoyed it.  You make 12 ornaments, send them to 12 different people, and 12 other people each send one to you.  I don't think I ever got all 12, but it was always so fun to do--they were presents, really, a few were real works of art.
Here's what I made:
In 2007, I made fuzzy yarn balls with Styrofoam balls and red, white, green and blue "fuzzy" yarn and white wire ribbons :

Of course, the cat is the biggest fan of these :)

In 2008, I made little rag wreaths using embroidery hoops and these fabrics:

 to make:

Very poor quality, sorry!
I've got tons of ornaments planned for this year, mostly to occupy my son during the school breaks.  I'm excited to see what we come up with!
Here's a link to my Pinterest Board for Christmas and Winter, and another to my School Break Boredom Busters, which is mostly "re-pins" so I can delete the entire board in January.

Enjoy your holiday preparations! 
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Saturday, November 19, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: Split by Swati Avasthi

 I read Split by Swati Avasthi in less than 24 hours--meaning I purposefully stayed up to finish the story.  Yes, the Insomniac who supposedly knows better began this fantastic book and just had to see what happened to these characters.

Book description: Sixteen-Year-Old Jace Witherspoon arrives at the doorstep of his estranged brother Christian with a re-landscaped face (courtesy of his father's fist), $3.84, and a secret. — He tries to move on, going for new friends, a new school, and a new job, but all his changes can't make him forget what he left behind his mother, who is still trapped with his dad, and his ex-girlfriend, who is keeping his secret.

At least so far.

Worst of all, Jace realizes that if he really wants to move forward, he may first have to do what scares him most: He may have to go back.

Heart-breaking, "un-put-down-able" and completely unique--a story of extreme physical abuse from the point of view of the sons who got away, but also some insight of the women who love their abuser, a caseworker who cares too much, and more. Sad but not sentimental and did not make me cry (and I'm a crier.)

5 stars, and I highly recommend this to anyone with teenaged kids--abuse has to stop, even if you've already succumbed to it yourself. This book models a character who learned to funnel his anger into a much better release: sports, but specifically running.  Stopping abuse AND promoting healthy lifestyles?  Two more reasons to pass this story on.
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Book Review: Tempest by Julie Cross

I loved the movie Jumper, but unlike the movie, Tempest (Tempest Trilogy) by Julie Cross gives a detailed story that I stayed up all night to read. This is not a movie review, so I'll only add this: I wanted to know so much more about the main character, know why, where, how he got this power, etc, and the movie answered none of these. (BUT Twilight movie fans--Kristen Stewart is the daughter who answers the door when he goes to meet his mother!)

from Goodreads: The year is 2009.  Nineteen-year-old Jackson Meyer is a normal guy… he’s in college, has a girlfriend… and he can travel back through time. But it’s not like the movies – nothing changes in the present after his jumps, there’s no space-time continuum issues or broken flux capacitors – it’s just harmless fun.

That is… until the day strangers burst in on Jackson and his girlfriend, Holly, and during a struggle with Jackson, Holly is fatally shot. In his panic, Jackson jumps back two years to 2007, but this is not like his previous time jumps. Now he’s stuck in 2007 and can’t get back to the future.

Desperate to somehow return to 2009 to save Holly but unable to return to his rightful year, Jackson settles into 2007 and learns what he can about his abilities.

But it’s not long before the people who shot Holly in 2009 come looking for Jackson in the past, and these “Enemies of Time” will stop at nothing to recruit this powerful young time-traveler.  Recruit… or kill him.

Piecing together the clues about his father, the Enemies of Time, and himself, Jackson must decide how far he’s willing to go to save Holly… and possibly the entire world.

So this is a story concerning time travel--specifically, being able to go back in time (but not forward.) The book is wonderfully written, with an engaging storyline and a complete story by itself, but is also the first book in a trilogy. (That's my favorite kind of the first in a trilogy books--I hate the ones that seem like the editors just took a large book and cut it in half.)

The characters are unforgettable, and have great personalities that defy generic titles such as "loving father" and "good guys vs. bad guys." The story also made me think about my own life and wonder if there are things I'd like to go back in time to experience again or to make right what I did wrong. But all choices have consequences, and that's another of the major themes of Tempest.

I received this book from the Early Reviewers group, and I'll be keeping my copy, as well as buying the next book when it's released.
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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Colors of Autumn

I've never wanted to frame my palette before, I never would have thought of it, but I was hastily called in from a painting session at mom's farm, and for the first time I didn't take the time to clean up.  Wonder what else I've been missing out on?
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Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Chronic Depression

I just now realized that I've never come out and actually written this anywhere on my blog....
I suffer from chronic depression.  I think the technical term is Major Depressive Disorder.  I take 4 medications currently just for this one disease.  I have okay days, better days, bad days and then some really bad days.

Overall, I'm better now than I was this time in 2009 and 2010, but not who I'd like to be a year from now.
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