Monday, June 29, 2015

Banishing the Negativity

Tonight I took a really long walk around town (I was gone for over an hour, walking here, there and everywhere). Then, when I came home, I filled a page and a half in my journal with all of the good things about today...which included ending that journal entry by drawing the flowers you see here with my set of crayons! Tonight was especially stressful for me, so taking that walk, writing, coloring, and ultimately acknowledging and appreciating the simple joys in life really helped me come out of that negative space. Praise God!

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Book Review - "Devotions from the Garden: Finding Peace and Rest from Your Hurried Life" by Miriam Drennan

From the back cover:

Come to the garden alone and fill your soul with his presence.

There's nothing on earth like the peace and loveliness of a beautiful garden. It's the place where Adam and Eve first fellowshipped with God, and where you, too, can escape from this chaotic world and enter into a place of serenity and peace.

Devotions from the Garden takes you to a place where miracles of nature abound and where your soul can be restored. These ninety devotions connect the parallels of life with the wondrous, sometimes inexplicable realms of the garden to usher you into His presence, to soothe your soul, and to rest in knowing He is with you throughout each day.

For anyone who loves gardening, this is the perfect gift.

This beautiful hardcover book contains 90 devotions that cover myriad topics related to gardening, including perennials, almanacs, sowing, crop rotation, seed cleaning, grafting, root rot, rainy days, honeybees, zinnias, composting, netting, rain, first fruits, and soil. Each devotional features a gardening related title, followed by a key Scripture verse and a brief passage (about three paragraphs) that draws a connection between gardening and our Christian walk, with a short prayer wrapping everything up at the end. Gorgeous, full-color photographs of flowers are also included randomly throughout this book, making it a true work of art.

I loved this book because, for me, the teaching was twofold: knowing nothing about the pastime of gardening, reading Devotions from the Garden has not only taught me more about God's love and grace, but it taught me about the many aspects of gardening, giving me a deeper appreciation for God's creation and the incredible care He put into it.  

In this fast paced world where everyone always seems to be in a hurry, these short but powerful devotions are the perfect way to spend time with the Lord each day - and to be reminded that He is with us always and forever.

You can buy Devotions from the Garden: Finding Peace and Rest from Your Hurried Life on Amazon.

I was provided a complimentary copy of this book by the BookLook blogger review program in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Book Review - "Doctor Who: The Blood Cell" by James Goss

I am a book nerd. I am also a Whovian. So imagine my excitement when I discovered a brand-new novel called Doctor Who: The Blood Cell by James Goss. I obtained a free copy of this book from Blogging For Books in conjunction with Broadway Books (a division of Random House) n exchange for my honest review.

The back cover of the book gives us this synopsis of the story:

"Release the Doctor - or the killing will start."

An asteroid in the furthest reaches of space - the most secure prison for the most dangerous of criminals. The Governor is responsible for the worst fraudsters and the cruelest murderers. So he's certainly not impressed by the arrival of the man they're calling the most dangerous criminal in the quadrant. Or, as he prefers to be known, the Doctor.

What does impress the Governor is the way the new prisoner immediately sets about trying to escape. And keeps trying. Finally, he sends for the Doctor and asks him why? But the answer surprises even the Governor. And then there's the threat - unless the Governor listens to the Doctor, a lot of people will die.

Who is the Doctor and what's he really doing here? Why does he want to help the Governor? And who is the young woman who comes every day to visit him, only to be turned away by the guards?

When the killing finally starts, the Governor begins to get his answers...

Unfortunately, I have to admit that for the most part, this book disappointed me. The book was a quick read, at only 252 pages. But overall, the story itself rambled way too much for my liking, and the ending was definitely way too anti-climactic given the detailed build-up James Goss put into it. And as much as I am not a fan of Clara Oswald as a character, I felt she got shortchanged in this story - she doesn't even show up until about three quarters of the way in, which was also right around the time that the story finally started to get interesting for me.

Not that this book didn't have any redeeming qualities; they're just very few and far between in my opinion. I thought the bickering session between the Doctor and Clara, which occurs when the two are finally reunited since the Doctor was taken to The Prison, was funny, and could completely see this exchange occurring in my mind. The Doctor has suffered a broken toe, and when Clara offers him "a suggestion," the two start discussing the finer details of regeneration:

Clara's eyes narrowed. "Did you just say you stubbed your toe?" 

 The Doctor nodded and whispered something else. "I think I've broken it.""Your toe?"

"Is broken, yes."

"That's a bit rubbish, isn't it?"

"No." A pause. "It's the big toe."

"Can't you, you the thing?"

The Doctor glared at her, an angry owl zeroing in on a shrew. "You're suggesting I regenerate simply because I've stubbed my toe?"

"Can't you?"

"Well, I could, but it seems a bit of a waste of a life."

"Can't you just do the toe?"

"Regeneration is a prized miracle of Time Lord physiognomy and you're saying I use it to renew my toe?"

"It was just a suggestion."

I will also give author James Goss props in chapter 6, when the Governor and the Doctor are stuck in a cell on Level 6 and the Doctor whips out a self-made sonic spoon; it is here that the 12th Doctor utters a very well known phrase originally coined by the third Doctor:

"The fiddly bit was jamming the lock just now. I had to reverse the polarity of...of my spoon."

Of course when all is said and done, despite my general dislike of this book, I would still recommend Doctor Who: The Blood Cell to any Whovian looking for an original story based on the series.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Why I Love Being in a Book Club.

Despite my life-long love [translate: obsession] of reading, it never crossed my mind to join a book club. After I'd begun working at the Riverdale Public Library I said I'd like to join theirs, especially once I'd gotten to know the patrons who made up the group, who were really fun people - but I never actually decided to partake. And then my boss asked me to cover the desk during their meeting nights, so I lost my chance of joining in (although why I never thought of simply reading the book along with the book club even though I was unable to join the discussion, I don't know).

It wasn't until about a year after I'd begun working at the Boonton Public Library, after all of the building renovations had been completed and things were settling down, that I finally got my wish: our director decided to start up a brand-new adult book discussion group, and, because it met on Tuesday nights, I could join!

And join I did! Once a month since our inaugural meeting in February, I have put in my shift at the Riverdale Library and then headed straight over to Boonton for book club. We've quickly evolved into a small, fun group, and I love it.

I love it because the five of us enjoy each other's company and because our book discussions can easily segue into other topics that cause much laughter. But I also love it because (so far) the books we've chosen to read have really challenged me; they were stories that I would not have picked to read by myself. But that's what I wanted - to be pushed outside my comfort zone and expand my "literary horizons." And while I didn't finish reading the first two books (I ran out of time with The Boy Who Drew Monsters and The Martian probably would have been easier to digest if I'd listened to it on audio), I did finish - and thoroughly enjoyed - the next two (thanks again to my buddy Michelle Greco for recommending Little Mercies)!

Our book club title for June is The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker; I know that this was a former book club title at the Riverdale group, and from what I recall, they enjoyed it, so I'm hoping that I will feel the same.

But no matter whether I finish reading the book or not, and whether or not I enjoy it, I will still be happy just to have had the experience of dipping my toes into a book that I never would have chosen for myself.

Are you part of a book club? Have you ever thought about joining one but never did? Leave me a comment!

Friday, May 1, 2015

Book Review - "Keep It Shut" by Karen Ehman

Everyone knows the old childhood adage “Sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me.” But guess what? Words can hurt – unless, of course, we make a conscious effort to guard our hearts and minds, the places in which our words actually begin…

My latest review as a BookLook blogger is for the book Keep It Shut: What to Say, How to Say It, and When to Say Nothing at All by Karen Ehman. An author and speaker with Proverbs 31 Ministries, Karen Ehman walks us through what we need to know when it comes to learning to tame our most dangerous body part – the tongue. While it’s true that our words can lift people up, they can also cause their share of trouble too! 

I really enjoyed reading Keep It Shut because Ehman’s writing style doesn’t talk down to the reader, and because she uses personal examples from her own life to show us that we’re definitely not alone when it comes to having issues with our words. For me personally, I’ve been told that I’m a good listener – but I often feel that there are still plenty of times where I catch myself talking too much (and not listening) or saying the wrong thing (and sticking my foot in my mouth)! It’s nice to know that I’m not alone in feeling this way, and that there is hope in learning how to be more careful with my words. Ehman penned Keep It Shut in a friendly and engaging style – almost conversation-like – and backing all of her information up with both key verses in Scripture and examples of her own personal experiences. The book is also nicely separated into 11 easy-to-digest chapters that discuss topics ranging from learning how to communicate with family and friends and learning how to really listen to stopping gossip and controlling your tongue in the digital world.

Sure, taming your tongue isn’t easy but as Karen Ehman shows you in Keep It Shut, learning to reign in your words at their source is something you can learn to do!

You can purchase a copy of Keep It Shut by Karen Ehman on Amazon.

Thanks to BookLook Bloggers for a copy of Keep It Shut in exchange for my honest review.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Next in the Queue

With only 2 1/2 pages left of Journal #25, I've got Journal #26 all prepped and ready to go! :)

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Memories are All I Have

photo credit

I'm a huge nostalgic. I love looking at old photos from my childhood (and earlier). I love flipping through the pages of my old journals. I love rifling through my collection of old toys that I've saved since I was little.

But there's also a part of me that wishes that time could be stopped, so that the people, places, and things I remember from my childhood could stay exactly the way they were then, when they happened. Those are the times when I wish the Doctor to be real, so that he could whisk me away in his TARDIS to go back in time to revisit different moments from my growing up years, to help me really remember and re-live those moments - and to really, truly appreciate them.

Of course the Doctor isn't real, and there is no way to revisit my past except through the writings and possessions that help me remember. The memories are all I have.
Today, after enjoying some time at a flea market & collectible show in Wayne, I decided to stop over at the Wayne Hills Mall, which I frequented quite a bit during my childhood and teenage years - just to see if there was anything left of it. I have so many good memories of this mall, but unfortunately it has been steadily declining for more than a decade; every time I visited there as an adult I'd find more and more of my favorite shops gone. I don't think it really, truly hit me, of course, until the video arcade packed it in. Then I knew that the Wayne Hills Mall would never be the same.

Sam Goody was one of the first stores to close its doors; it was there that I, as a tween / teen, bought all of my Stevie Nicks, Wilson Phillips, Fleetwood Mac and B-52s cassettes. I think it was there that I also bought my first and only piece of sheet music - Release Me by Wilson Phillips.

 Unfortunately the store's moniker still hangs on the outside of the mall.

Now all the stores are gone, save for its anchor store, the Burlington Coat Factory - which took over the space from Meyer Brothers, the department store that moved in when the mall began in the early '70s until it rang up its last sale in 1995. Even the two enormous, beautiful fountains, once situated at either end of the mall that patrons could thrown coins into, are gone. All that remains are my memories of shopping excursions at this once beautiful mall, and the happiness it brought me, once upon a time.

Wayne Hills Mall is now, officially, closed to the public.

And despite this optimistic sign taped up on every single door at every single now locked entrance, I can't see it re-opening ever again. There is too much politics involved. Unfortunately, the only future I see for this building is what it's already been for the last several years: an eyesore.

If only I could have stopped time during the years I frequented the Wayne Hills Mall, so that the stores and the experiences could still be exactly as I remember when they first happened. I still have the cloudy memories...and that's all I have.But at least it's something.