Friday, November 30, 2012

Bookshelf Friday - Beauty to Die For by Mindy Starns Clark & Kim Alexis

A few years ago I read Mindy Starn Clark's Million Dollar Mysteries series and loved it. Even though Mindy typically writes first person, I've been a fan of hers ever since. So when Beauty to Die For came out, it definitely caught my eye. Only this time Mindy wrote her book in third person (for me that was like sprinkles on frosting).

Here's a blurb about the book:

Juliette Taylor walked away from her career as a supermodel twenty-five years ago. Now approaching fifty – an emotionally complex milestone -- she co-owns a beauty supply company that makes skincare products for salons and spas. Her niche is pampering Christian women who usually spend more time caring for others than for themselves under the slogan:Isn’t it time someone took care of YOU for a change?When Juliette arrives at the Palm Grotto Spa to host a spiritual retreat, she runs into an old modeling colleague, Raven, who had always been disliked in the industry for many reasons. She isn’t there for the retreat; in fact, her presence at the spa is somewhat mysterious.Not long after Raven makes a cryptic threat to Juliette, the unsympathetic back-then beauty is found dead, poisoned by something in the green clay of a chai soy wrap. The following morning, a banner for the retreat has been unceremoniously altered:It’s your turn to be nurtured, to be restored . . . to be murdered.Suspicion is directed at Juliette who has history with Raven and certainly knows how to use beauty products. But for murder?! Now she must find the real killer before the police really take care of her.

I loved the premise of this book. Not only the idea that you need to take care of yourself, but also that beauty is more than what we see on the surface. The idea of a model walking away at the height of her career intrigued me. Plus, as you all know, I love romantic suspense and being familiar with how Mindy writes, I knew there had to be romance in this book someplace! So I picked it up and started reading and wasn't disappointed. Juliette is reintroduced to TOTGA (The One That Got Away). His name is Marcus and the angle of their story was incredibly sweet.

While I enjoyed both the romantic and suspenseful moments of this book, at times the plot moved a tad too slowly for me. It took a bit to get into the book, and there were a lot of "remembering" moments, or deep reflections that seemed to kill the forward movement of the story. Still, Mindy is a strong writer, and I loved getting the glimpses into a model's life that I'm sure Kim Alexis added. A great pairing between the two that produced one fun book.

Overall, I give this book 3.5 out of 5 stars.

If you'd like to see a break-down of what my stars equal, check out my page My Ratings System to the right there. And a big thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for a free ecopy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Blessing Wednesday

How can it be Wednesday already? Time seems to fly this time of year, doesn't it? Well if you've been around this year, you know Wednesdays here are all about counting our blessings, so here we go!

Today I'm thankful for:

~the time I got to spend with family and friends over the Holiday weekend.

~pecan pie - oh my yumminess!

~that Hubby helped me decorate the house for Christmas. I love Christmas decorations, just not hauling them out or putting them away. Doug sweetly brought out all the boxes and helped me stick colorful decorations all over, and now we all get to enjoy them.

~that my kids are 

~programmable thermostat, because it's getting downright cold in the mornings! I love that the heat pops on and makes things toasty warm before I need to come out from the covers.

So what are you thankful for today??

Monday, November 26, 2012

Christmas is Coming!

Hey everyone! I hope you all had a great, restful, sugar-filled, turkey-rocking, blessed Thanksgiving with family and friends. We've gone through all the leftovers, and I'm getting ready to turn on my Jillian Micheal's Ripped in 30 DVD--no, not because I'm under the delusion of losing weight amidst this cookie-filled season, but I'm going to try and offset all the yumminess I'm encountering. Hey, it's my Christmas dream, let me live it.

Oh, and I finished my puzzle! All 1000 crazy shaped, each-one-looks-alike, took me way too many hours to do, puzzle. Here's a hint, don't start a big puzzle on the table you plan to set for Thanksgiving dinner only days before Thanksgiving.

But, truly, can you even believe it's Christmas time? I LOVE this time of year! And as we close out the year, I'm going to really be working on my 2012 Word of the year which was Time...spending time with my family, with my kids (who are growing much too fast), with friends who live in the area...and spending time getting to know all of you even better. Because while I'd love to have you all over for a big ol' cookie swap and party, I think the logistics wouldn't work too well. So rather than my devotions on Mondays, each Monday between now and Christmas I'm going to be posing a Christmas question.  I can't wait to see your answers! 

Today I want to know:

What's your favorite Christmas song and movie?

Here's mine!

Song: (especially this version)

Movie: (because I laugh, each and every time I see this movie...this is one of my favorite clips)

So, what's your favorites?

Monday, November 19, 2012

Thanksgiving Break

Hey all! I'm going to be taking a break this week to celebrate Thanksgiving.

Gonna clean up the house. Mash some potatoes. Cook a turkey and maybe a pie. Hang out with family. Watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade--I still love the Rockettes! Do some Christmas decorating. And avoid the craziness of all retail shops on Friday.

Oh yes, I also aim to finish this 1000 piece puzzle! I began it on Friday and after pecking away at it all weekend, Hubby and I spent two hours on it last night. My goal is to have it finished and packed away before needing to set the table on Thursday. A pretty lofty goal as all the pieces left are tiny and look exactly alike...

So what are you up to this week? Traveling or having everyone over to your house? And who out there will be shopping on Friday?

I hope you all have a blessed Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 16, 2012

God's Faithfulness!

Normally my Fridays are reserved for books or music, but I HAD to share this. In May I asked for prayer for a young, pregnant mom who'd had a stroke. Her family attends my church, and I wrote a post praising God in advance for what He was going to do. That post was written May 23rd, here.

Well, not only has Amanda continued to improve, but yesterday she had her little boy! God is so, so good!! And as many of you prayed for Amanda - many who'd never even met her or her family - I wanted to share this praise and the adorable pictures with you.

Amanda and her gorgeous family, still healing and waiting
for Baby Boy to make his way here.

And finally, he's HERE!

That's Amanda with her newest child - Ezekial Ippel!


God is faithful!! And if you want to keep tabs on Amanda, follow her at her blog: Spilled Milk and Wet Kisses.

Have an amazing weekend, friends!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Blessing Wednesday

In all affairs it's a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted - Bertrand Russell.

Something about that quote stopped me...and helped me start naming my blessings for today:)

Today I am so thankful for:

~hands to type with and hold my children with.

~a mouth to speak and eat chocolate with.

~eyes to see God's glorious creation with. And my Hubby. He's kinda cute;)

~ears to hear my children, the wind, music...

~a nose to smell my morning coffee with. It's one of my favorite morning things.

Nothing we have is guaranteed, and so much is easy to take for granted. So where are your question marks hanging today?

And come check it out. I'm visiting today at my friend Jessica Patch's blog - if you've never been over to her blog before, you've gotta go. Visit with me today, but then hang around because she's a pretty amazing lady! Just click HERE. :) Have an amazing Wednesday everybody!

Monday, November 12, 2012

He's Still working...

I was reading Lazarus' story this week. He got sick, so his sisters called on Jesus to come and heal him. And Jesus, who was not in their town but near-by, sent back word that Lazarus' sickness would not end in death.

And then he died.

And I thought, ya know, that happens sometimes, doesn't it? We pray for something, we hear an answer, and then something else happens entirely. And we're left a little shell-shocked, wondering what just happened, and where in the world is God?

When in reality, He's still working, and He's only a town away.

See, God doesn't do things the way we picture them or with our preconceived notions. He may give an answer, but that doesn't mean we'll know how we'll arrive there. I mean, raising a man from the dead? No way anyone could have seen that. It blew their minds. It blows MY mind. But that's God. When He gives you an answer He's speaking the truth, because that's all He can speak. So hold onto it, even when it seems your dream is dying. You have no idea what He may be up to. And the reality is that sometimes things need to die in our lives before He can bring new life. But that doesn't mean he's not working, not moving, or not listening.

He's doing all those things.

Working in your darkness. Getting ready to move in His time. And hearing your every cry. 

Don't think for a moment that the tears you shed in the waiting go unnoticed. When He finally showed up and sees Martha, Mary, and their friends weeping, look at how it affects Him:

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled...Jesus wept. John 11:33,35)

He cries with us. When all seems dead around us, not only is He still working, but He's crying in our pain with us.

So if everything around you seems dead right now, just know He can call it back to life. Believe and hold to what He's told you. And wait on Him, because He's the God who can blow your mind with what He's going to do.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Bookshelf Friday - Till Grits Do Us Part by Jennifer Rogers Spinola

'Till Grits Do Us Part is the third in Jennifer's Southern Fried Sushi series, and I believe, my favorite. I read book two--Sweet Potato Pie--this fall and really enjoyed watching the main character Shiloh Jacobs fall for Adam, even though he wasn't anything she'd ever looked for. It was great to see their love story continue in this book and find them finally receiving their happily ever after--even if the road was incredibly bumpy! Here's a short blurb:

Shiloh Jacobs is planning her wedding without family, without money, and without a clue—and trying to make a go of small-town Southern life. Until she stumbles on an unsolved case about a missing woman that makes her run in the opposite direction—right into the would-be killer’s web of plans. In the midst of sorting through her tragic past and strained relationships, Shiloh finds herself on the run from a madman—and hoping she can make it to her wedding alive.

I think I've mentioned before that while I read all genres, my absolute favorite is Contemporary Romantic Suspense. I think the heavy dose of suspense in this book is what made it my favorite out of all three. Jennifer does a fantastic job of throwing out red herrings and keeping you guessing until the very end. My only issues with the story were I'd have liked to see more of Adam. He seemed to disappear at times, and since this book was finishing up their story and working toward their wedding, I'd have liked more of Adam in the story. Also, the dialect at times was a bit much. My mother is from the South, and while I could hear her clearly at times, at others I felt it was laid on a bit thick. That said, I truly enjoyed this book. Shiloh's sense of humor had me cracking up while her honest struggles as a new Christian made me want to hug her. It was that journey I most loved, her growth in God even when things were nearly impossible all around her. Her choices to do the hard things; forgive, let go of pride, be humble, those were what kept me rooting for her.

Overall, I give it 4 out of 5 stars. And I'll happily pick up another book by Jennifer anytime.

If you'd liked to see a break-down of what my stars equal, check out my page My Ratings System to the right there. And a big thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for a free ecopy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Blessing Wednesday

Hey all! Praying it's a great week for you wherever you are. Let's count some blessings!

~Blessed by those who have fought for my right to vote yesterday. I truly cannot say thank-you enough.

~Blessed by those who spent the day working the polls. Over here it went smoothly and everyone had a smile. Loved that.

~Blessed by my Pandora streaming Christmas music!!  I have to say, I have loved the invention of Pandora and the ease with which I can listen to whatever genre of music I feel like in the moment. And right now, that's Christmas music. (No hating here, people, because YES I know Thanksgiving is next, and if someone records a Thanksgiving record, I'll happily listen to it. Otherwise, Christmas is what's playing to ring in this Holiday season!)

~Blessed and oh-so-thankful for the safe travel of Hubby and Son as they drove to Florida and back last week.

~Blessed by my youngest girl who will turn seven this coming week. She makes me laugh every day. I wish I had half her energy and bravery. The girl will try anything. No fear. No giving up. Love it.

So what about you? What are your blessings this week?

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

If My People...

I'm interrupting my normally scheduled blogging for this post...

We’re ready for election day tomorrow. And typically I’m not one to say anything. I’m as sick of all the political who-ha as the rest of you. But this verse stopped me yesterday.  See, I’ve heard it my entire life growing up, especially as we near and election day, yet I’ve always ‘heard’ it wrong.

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14

That first part: if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face…that part I understood. It’s a call for the church to pray for their nation. To earnestly seek God—especially now. As Christians, we should vote based on His Word, not on anyone else’s, which means we need to seek Him to know His voice.

It’s the next six words that stopped me yesterday: and turn from their wicked ways. Now, I always applied that to the sins of our nation. Pointed the finger at all the people who are living apart from God. All the ways our nation has fallen from God. But yesterday I heard it for the first time and swung my pointing finger around to me.

Because God’s not talking about them, He’s talking about us. He clearly says: my people, called by my name, turning from their ways.


Humbling ourselves not only in prayer but in admitting where we sin and turning from it. None of us are perfect, but we all know right from wrong based on the measuring stick of God's Word. We know when we are living outside His will. And sometimes in our effort to reach this world, or merely by living here and being worn down by it, we blur the line between right and wrong in God’s eyes. We become like Church of Laodicea, neither hot or cold. (Revelation 3:14-22) And before He will move, He’s asking us to move—back to Him.

Yes, we’ll look different—but we are supposed to. It’s the only way we can draw them to Jesus. And THEN He can heal our land and their hearts. 

So today, vote and pray. Pray for God to show us where we can change. Pray for Him to place His healing hand on those around us. Pray for wisdom for our leaders. Pray for God's will to be done. And VOTE. Too many have sacrificed life and limb for us to have that right--so honor them and exercise it. You might think your voice doesn't count, but when someone died for you to have that voice, you need to use it.

And now back to our regularly scheduled programming...;)

Monday, November 5, 2012

Running Blind

So yesterday as part of the sermon illustration I heard about runners who are blind, following nothing more than their guide's voice. It completely intrigued me, and I went home and looked them up. I mean, how on earth do you run if you're blind, right? I trip when my eyes are wide open.

Sure enough, watch this clip:

And as I looked farther, I found sprinters at the Paralympics who actually tether themselves to their guides. By just their fingers! These men and women run faster than I ever have in my life!

And all because they're tied to and listening for the one who CAN see.

That's the key, right? Unfortunately, all too often when we can't see where we're headed, we think God's not working in our lives. But faith is the confidence in what we hope for and the assurance about what we do not see. (Hebrews 11:1)

We're not always going to see the finish line, but it's there. And we've got to believe our God can get us to it. Even in our darkest moments, He is still at work. Quiet the other voices around you--telling you you're not enough, telling you your sins are too big, telling you God's deserted you--and hone in solely on His. Beckoning you. Calling you. Leading you.  Tether yourself to Him. Lean into Him. Rely on Him.

He is there.

Even if you can't see Him.

He is speaking,

Even if you cannot hear Him.

Because He's God and the Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you (just like those guides); he will never leave you or forsake you. Do not be afraid. Do not be discouraged. (Deuteronomy  31:8)

So tell the other voices around you to hush-up. Grab onto your faith and press onward. Trust He'll make sure you cross the finish line--because He will. And run with abandon toward Him.

Let us run with perseverance the race marked out before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him (that's YOU!) endured the cross. Hebrews 12:1b-2a (words in parenthesis are mine)

So I've got to know. Are you a runner? Or like me, do you trip over your own two feet?

Friday, November 2, 2012

Bookshelf Friday - Full Disclosure by Dee Henderson

I am a HUGE Dee Henderson fan. Her O'Malley series still sits on my shelf today and I've reread them all at least three times--and I'm not typically one to rewatch or reread anything. So, you can imagine my excitement when I heard she FINALLY had a new book releasing this October. I'd waited years for this and marked my calendar.

Let me first give you a little blurb about Full Disclosure:

Ann Silver is a cop's cop. As the Midwest Homicide Investigator, she is called in to help local law enforcement on the worst of cases, looking for answers to murder. Hers is one of the region's most trusted investigative positions.

Paul Falcon is the FBI's top murder cop in the Midwest. If the victim carried a federal badge or had a security clearance, odds are good Paul and his team see the case file or work the murder.

Their lives intersect when Ann arrives to pass a case off her desk and onto his. A car wreck and a suspicious death offer a lead on a hired shooter he is tracking. Paul isn't expecting to meet someone, the kind that goes on the personal side of the ledger, but Ann Silver has his attention.

The better he gets to know her, the more Paul realizes her job barely scratches the surface of who she is. She knows spies and soldiers and U.S. Marshals, and has written books about them. She is friends with the former Vice President. People with good reason to be cautious about who they let into their lives deeply trust her. Paul wonders just what secrets Ann is keeping, until she shows him the John Doe Killer case file, and he starts to realize just who this lady he is falling in love with really is...

I finally got the chance to read (or more accurately, listen to) Full Disclosure this past week. And I'm still not fully sure what I thought of it. It's a very long book, and it's quite different than what I'm used to from Dee. And, honestly, that didn't bug me. The book is broken into different sections, though the story flows along nicely. Most of the time we are in Paul's point of view, yet that didn't bother me, either. Dee still writes a strong story full of depth and twists and turns that I truly love. So that wasn't the issue either. What I struggled with was the romantic portion of this book. It read like Paul and Ann were interviewing each other for the position of their spouse. I never really felt a connection between the two of them--and that was something I always thought Dee nailed.

The other small issues I had I cannot say here without spoiling portions of the book for you. One had to do with Ann's "hidden" profession, the other had to do with where Paul and Ann's love story ended up. Don't worry, there's a Happily Ever After for them involved.

All together, I'd give this book three stars because while I enjoyed it, I cannot say I loved it. Like I mentioned, Dee does a masterful job with deep story lines and suspense, and she definitely still delivers those things in Full Disclosure. I only hope to hear more of the romance woven back into her suspense in future books. That said, Dee remains one of my favorite authors, and I'll be watching for her next book to come out.

Have you ever read a Dee Henderson book? If so, what's been your favorite? The first three of the O'Malley series top the list for me.