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Book Review | The Book of Amazing Stories

The Book of Amazing Stories
90 Devotions on Seeing God's Hand in Unlikely Places
Robert Petterson

Tyndale | October 3rd, 2017
Devotionals, Historical People, Mini Biographies

You may have thought you knew the lives of famous people--such as Martin Luther King Jr., Howard Hughes, Mother Teresa, Muhammad Ali, Ronald Reagan, Susana Wesley, and many more. But, in The Book of Amazing Stories, you'll know so much more about Ronnie's faithful church-going single mom and William's early days as a humble shoemaker's apprentice. You'll marvel at how God used the lives of these ordinary people to change the course of human history.

Life makes the strangest sharp turns and, sometimes, U-turns. Robert Petterson--popular speaker, storyteller, and author--has been a student for his entire life of what God is teaching us through those real-life U-turns. In this book, he compiles 90 amazing stories that teach lessons you won't easily forget.

Each devotional ends with a compelling and hopeful take-away--a thought about what the story reveals about life and God.

Be amazed. Be encouraged. Learn the lessons God is teaching through people's lives.

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            This book is amazing.  I learned so much about people who founded the United States of America, others who made a huge impact on cultures, and others whose mistakes we can learn from.  

            Each day features a story about some person in our world history, with facts you may or may not have known about them or their families.  It ends with an inspirational quote or moral to each story, as well as a Bible verse which relates perfectly to each tale and circumstances.  

          Did you know that President Ronald Reagan's mother was a diminutive washerwoman who worked herself to the bone every day to nurture her two sons, and still found time and energy to serve hot food to prisoners in the jailhouse?  Or that a little mousy girl named Agnes, who felt called by God to be a missionary after her mother exhausted herself in finding a husband for her, would eventually become one of the most admired women in the world: Mother Teresa?  Or what about a selfish, embittered general whose name would go down in America's history as synonymous with the word traitor -- Benedict Arnold, George Washington's favorite general?

          And so much more!  If you enjoy history and the people who have made or destroyed it, then you will love this devotional.  Read a chapter a day for 90 days, or as a normal book!  Not all of the stories here are filled with happy endings.  But that is the point of history, right?  To learn from the mistakes and to find hope and faith amidst the losses and the victories as well.

I was provided a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.  :]

Deep in NaNoWriMo | Beautiful Books

Soooo. . . I've unintentionally been under blogger silence for the past -- er, two weeks?  Yeah.  Basically, Life kinda barged in.  My old home church hosted a drama presentation that my family and I have been involved in from the start maybe ten seasons ago.  It went on over the course of two consecutive weekends, and lemme tell ya: we were exhausted by the time it was past.  And even afterwards, my sisters and I did not find any time to rest due to a catering job the following Monday & Tuesday.  But both the drama and the catering gig went extremely well.  Lives were changed, God is good, and the food awesome as usual.  :]

And here I am today!  Enjoying my one out of two days off from work at the office, cleaning house, catching up on laundry, and OH YEAH 

We are basically HALFWAY THROUGH NANO, guys.  Halfway through November!! Thanksgiving Day is just over a week away, and Christmas is practically around the corner.  O_O  Did you sign up for the chaotic insanity marvelous challenge of NaNo?  I did!  And, while I'm not quite up to par on my word count, I've had a blast writing every day.  (Why don't I actually do the writing thing without the accountability of story challenges?  Oh yeah, I 'spose it's because I'm a kind of procrastinator. . . heheh)

Well, today, I'm jumping into the link-up hosted by Skye and Cait:  Beautiful Books!

Read on if you are interested in my faerietale retelling titled Noya.  Hopefully, you'll regret nothing.  :]

Overall, how is your mental state, and how is your novel going?
          I would say I'm doing quite well all considering.  In signing up for NaNo, I was completely unprepared & last minute.  But this is so the challenge I needed in order to get somewhere with my story.  As to the story itself, it's progressing.  And surprising me along the way.  I keep having these ideas of throwing in random stuff/things that I would NEVER think of doing ever.  Maybe I'll go along with it, or maybe not.  Still not sure at the moment.  My goal right now is to write as much as possible.

What’s your first sentence (or paragraph)?
          Wellllll. . . Technically, the following paragraph is the first I've written beginning with NaNo.  But this story was in my head, and already underway, when NaNo began, so it's not the FIRST sentence/paragraph.

          Noya stole away to the shoreline. Part of her was excited at the thought of a new adventure. But the more logical, practical side of herself felt rather frightened and sad. Meyrn was the only home she had ever known.

Who’s your current favourite character in your novel?
          Oh my.  I love Noya, of course, as she's the MC.  But I've attempted to flesh out some minor characters as well.  With the exception of Noya, we read from the point of view of two other characters: the Beast, and one of her brothers -- Brom.  I LOVES Brom.  He's like the older brother I never had. But the Beast's character is growing on me as well!  He's gonna be one of those sarcastic, temperamental guys. . .

          With a growl he had not intended, he gestured for her to follow, “Come.”
          Spinning on his heels, he walked ten paces before he turned to find her standing stock still. Excellent. He'd frightened her. Again.
          “Come,” he tried again, this time hoping his voice sounded a great deal softer than it felt. She followed, much like when she had first arrived. Like an obedient little pup.
          What was wrong with him?
          Oh, that's right. He was no generous host with a gift for hospitality.
          There was only a Beast.

Oh-ho-ho!  Such horrible self-pity this Beastie has.  *cackles*  Can't wait for the redemption! 

What do you love about your novel so far?

          It's my own personal retelling of my all-time favorite faerietale, Beauty & the Beast.  'Nuff said.

Aaaaaaaaannnnnnnddddd. . . it's pure Fantasy!  With ELVES.  And Griffins.  And maybeeee a dragon. . .

Have you made any hilarious typos or other mistakes?
          Oh yes!  But I'm usually pretty good at catching them before continuing too much further down the written road.

What is your favourite to write: beginning, middle, or end — and why?
          Wow.  I've never really thought about this. . . (Probably because I've never actually completed a story. . .)  I'd have to say the Middle, because it's usually chock-full of juicyness.  Right smack in the middle of the action and what characters are made of.  Am I right?  But I also enjoy writing the Endings.  Simply because they have the triumphs, redemption, and peace that the characters lived, died, sweated, and bled for -- making it all worth it in the end.

What are your writing habits? Is there a specific snack you eat? Do you listen to music? What time of day do you write best? Feel free to show us a picture of your writing space!
          I try to keep my water on hand.  And my browser ready, just in case I need a Pinterest visual of a character, place, building, etc. And then I try to exit said Pinterest as quickly as possible to continue my story and pursue the goal of upping my word count for the day.  Not really any specific snacks, although Reeses peanut butter cups have been my one weakness as of late. . . 

          The only time I've found best for me, on the days I work especially, has been in the evenings.  I take from 8:00-10:00pm (and sometimes till 11:00) to write as much as possible.  If I don't get my sleep, I'm basically a sloth come the morn. . . (Plus, I have a hubby now who also needs his sleep.  Though there have been nights where he'll stay up reading while I write, and I'll finish up, snuggle under the blankets, and he's STILL reading.  It's nice to have a man who enjoys his books as much as I!)  :]

          No photo. . . Sorry.  But I usually crash on the couch.  Hmmm. . . no music either, really.  I get distracted way too easily.  But when I am in the mood, I'll pull up YouTube movie soundtracks.  How to Train Your Dragon is a fave for writing anything

How private are you about your novel while you’re writing? Do you need a cheer squad or do you work alone (like, ahem, Batman)?
          I definitely need encouragement.  And my hubby has been just that.  As well as my blogger/writing buddies!  Couldn't do it without y'all.  Seriously.  One of my love languages is Words of Affirmation.  If I didn't have your encouragement, I'd be a wailing mess.

          Regarding privacy. . . Well, I used to be very secretive with my stories.  It was hard to share with my family what I was working on, because I was afraid of what they might think.  But over the years, that has changed and I crave the feedback!

What keeps you writing even when it’s hard?
          My ultimate goal:  PUBLISHING.  I don't know when it will happen.  I don't really know IF it will happen.  But that will always be my goal.  My life has taken on many new and exciting chapters, and who knows exactly what's to come?  I've found that when the words are tough in coming, and I would rather just lay down and read or surf the web, I remind myself of my current goal of reaching 50k and then the ultimate prize of publication.  Others have accomplished this.  Why can't I?? 

What are your top 3 pieces of writing advice?
  1. Have fun.  No matter what!  I've had to remind myself to do this.  Even if, by the end of November, my word count is quite a bit under 50k, I want to be able to say I've had a blast and my story has progressed considerably.
  2. Aim high & aim for the goal.  There's no shame in reaching for the high expectations.  But there is in how you react regarding whether or not you've made it.  I don't want to consider myself a complete failure if there's not 50k words written by November's end.  But if I aim straight for it, and give my best, then I can say with all my heart, "Well done.  That was great fun!"
  3. Go for the unpredictable.  Try it!  That's what makes a great story.  No need to explain further. :]

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So.  How's your NaNo progressing??  What are your personal writing goals?  Are you participating this year?  And if so, what is your story about?  I welcome comments!

Oh & by the way, what do you think of this new design??
I know I've changed designs rather recently already, but the other one just had too many glitches I couldn't think straight.  Extremely pleased with this one.  Thank you, Etsy!

What's in a Name?

NaNo is BASICALLY upon us.  Are you ready??  I'm getting there. . . I honestly don't think I'll ever feel ready.  But here's to having fun and enjoying the process.  :]

Need any last minute names for your NaNoWriMo novel??  If so, maybe these will help!

M | French

French form of Hercules, which is the Latin form of Herakles, meaning "glory of Hera" -- referring to the Greek goddess, wife of Zeus. 

NOTE:  This name is possibly most recognizable as the given name of Agatha Christie's protagonist and private detective, Hercule Poirot, who stars in many of her novels.  Having just finished reading Murder on the Orient Express myself, and for the upcoming film, I decided to share its meaning. 

F | English

Possibly originally a diminutive of Elizabeth, meaning "God is my oath," or "my God is abundance."  However, it is considered an elaborated form of Lily, derived from the Latin lilium, symbolizing purity.  This name has been in use in England since the 16th century.

M | English

From the Old English name Dederik, which originates from the Low German form of Theodoric, meaning "ruler of the people."

F | English, German
AV-ǝ-leen-ah, ave-ǝ-LEEN-ah

Possibly a diminutive of Avila, from elements ultimately meaning "desired."

Names & meanings via behindthename.com.
Photos via Pinterest.

Have a lovely week, y'all!  And luck to all who are taking part in NaNo!!

Fairfarren. :]

Book Review | To Wager Her Heart

To Wager Her Heart
Belle Mead Plantation #3
Tamera Alexander

Zondervan | August 8th, 2017
Christian, Historical Fiction, Romance

With fates bound by a shared tragedy, a reformed gambler from the Colorado Territory and a Southern Belle bent on breaking free from society's expectations must work together to achieve their dreams—provided that the truth doesn't tear them apart first. 

Sylas Rutledge, the new owner of the Northeast Line Railroad, invests everything he has into this venture, partly for the sake of the challenge. But mostly to clear his father's name. One man holds the key to Sy's success—General William Giles Harding of Nashville's Belle Meade Plantation. But Harding is champagne and thoroughbreds, and Sy Rutledge is beer and bullocks. 

Sy needs someone to help him maneuver his way through Nashville's society, and when he meets Alexandra Jamison, he quickly decides he's found his tutor. But he soon discovers that the very train accident his father is blamed for causing is what killed Alexandra's fiancé and shattered her world. 

Spurning an arranged marriage by her father, Alexandra instead pursues her passion for teaching at Fisk University, the first freedmen's university in the United States. But family—and Nashville society—do not approve, and she soon finds herself cast out from both. 

Through connections with the Harding family, Alexandra and Sy become unlikely allies. And despite her first impressions, Alexandra gradually finds herself coming to respect, and even care for this man. But how can she, when her heart is still spoken for?

Sylas Rutledge will risk everything to win over the woman he loves. What he doesn't count on is having to wager her heart to do it.

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WARNING: Possible Spoilers!

{The Basics}
This was such a sweet novel, and definitely chock-full of history!  Set in Nashville, TN (my home state!) in 1871, we get a small taste of what life was like in the growing city.  As the daughter of a wealthy family--one of the founding families of Nashville, Alexandra has never lacked for luxury, food, or education.  She has had a gorgeous home, society's finest in gossip and clothing (of which she cares little), a decent education, and a loving, servant-hearted fiance.  But one fateful day on Dutchman's Curve, her beloved David is taken from her when two trains collide at full speed, and Alexandra is left to pick up the pieces of her broken heart and her empty life.  Without David, she feels lost.  His vision to help the freedmen and teach at a university seems to vanish like the smoke from the crash, where she too had been a passenger.  And in one year's time, she has yet to set foot on a train.

Sylas Rutledge is a self-made man.  He has built his life from the ground up, literally.  From the cracks of a broken family, he emerges a good man and, thanks to the stepfather who called him Son, he was raised to appreciate a good work ethic and the equality and value of another's life, no matter the darkness of his skin.  He, too, lost a loved one in that tragic wreck, and it's to Tennessee from the mountains of Colorado to which he sets his sights, aiming to build his business and clear his father's name.

I loved Alexandra's character.  She is sweet and kindhearted.  When she

Due to the era, there is quite a bit of racism.  Especially when the Fisk University singers set out on their traveling tour to raise funds for their school.  Many "whites" jeer and shout insults at them because of their skin.  Many hotels turn down their business, not willing to accept them.

{Spiritual Content}
Alexandra's faith in God is what sees her through the grief of David's death.  She prays often, eventually serving as a light (along with another fellow believer) to Sy through their growing friendship.

The Fisk Jubilee Singers were an a cappella ensemble who sang and toured for the benefit of their college.  They performed theater and sang many hymns, as well as old "slave songs" (for many were either slaves themselves, or they had family members who were and their freedom had been bought).

Mr Philip Paul Bliss, an American composer and writer of many hymns (you may recognize the hymn Hallelujah, What a Saviour!, as well as the tune to Horatio Spafford's It Is Well With My Soul), was even a character!  He and Sy (fictional liberty taken by the author) became good friends, and it was him who helped Sy see that God is good, even when we don't have all the answers.

At the aftermath of the collision, an old man describes seeing angels, "fearsome beings," standing over the bodies.

This story takes place exactly one year after the terrible accident of Dutchman's Curve.  Many are still affected by the aftermath, Alexandra included.  There are rather vivid descriptions of her memories as well as others who experienced the wreck: bodies and blood everywhere, those of children lying motionless on the ground, wailing, screams, body parts, etc.  The injuries of those who survived the accident are brutal: loss of limb, visible burns, health issues, etc.

News of a female school teach is attacked by nightriders: "badly beaten--and worse."

{Language, Alcohol, Drugs}
A sign mentions the word "nigger." (Forgive me!  I felt it needed mentioning.)  A man uses the slang, "lawd."  No other offensive words that I recall.

{Lovey Content}
A woman approaches a man with specific intent, but he simply brushes her off.

Sy notices just how attractive Alexandra is.  They build a tentative friendship (it's so sweet!).

To conclude this lengthy review. . . I totally enjoyed this novel.  The little bit of history was so very interesting, and I loved that it was set in my home state!  A definite plus, in my opinion.  :]  The characters were beautifully flawed, but they learn to push past the mistakes, take up their courage, and step out in faith.  For some, it is giving up everything for eternal reward of furthering our Lord's kingdom.  And for others, it is finding the peace they've searched their whole life for.

This story doesn't end with a cliff-hanger of any kind, but it does leave some questions unresolved, simply to say that not everything in this earthly life can be answered.  Only God knows, and we can take comfort in knowing that is sufficient enough.

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Recommended ages:  16+
I was provided a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

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If you made it this far, well done, my friends!  
Didja add this book to your TBR (to-be-read) list??

Have a lovely weekend, y'all.  :]