Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Book: Firewall


After a whirlwind romance, Taryn Young is preparing to board a plane at Houston International Airport, bound for a dream honeymoon, when a bomb decimates the terminal. Injured but still alive, she awakens to discover her husband is missing and they’re both considered prime suspects in the attack. Further, the FBI is convinced her husband isn’t who he appears to be.

Agent Grayson Hall’s number-one priority is to catch those responsible for the day’s act of terror. All evidence is pointing to Taryn and her new husband. But his instinct tells him her pleas of innocence are genuine. Is her naiveté just for show, or could she truly be another victim of a master scheme, possibly linked to the software she recently developed for her company?

With both their lives and reputations on the line, and the media outcry for justice increasing with each passing minute, Taryn and Grayson have no choice but to trust one another . . . and pray they can uncover the truth before they become two more casualties.

***

I haven't had time to read this one yet, our summer has been a bit wild!  But I have read a couple of DiAnn Mills books before and they are totally enthralling.  Like suck-you-in-can't-put-it-down good!  This one is a different genre than some of the other ones I've read, but I'm hoping to get to it this week!

***

If you would like to read the first chapter of Firewall, go HERE.


DiAnn Mills believes her readers should “Expect an Adventure.” She is a fiction writer who combines an adventuresome spirit with unforgettable characters to create action-packed novels. Her books have won many awards through American Christian Fiction Writers, and she is the recipient of the Inspirational Reader’s Choice award for 2005, 2007, and 2010. She was a Christy Award finalist in 2008 and a Christy winner in 2010.

DiAnn is a founding board member for American Christian Fiction Writers, a member of Inspirational Writers Alive, Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, and is the Craftsman Mentor for the Christian Writer’s Guild. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops.

DiAnn and her husband live in Houston, Texas. Visit her website or find her on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/diannmills

Monday, July 21, 2014

Book: Penny Wise

Penny Wise introduces us to yet another family in "the neighborhood"---the Jaspers, busy with demanding jobs, busy with church, busy volunteering, parents of three active teenagers, juggling sometimes crazy schedules. All good things. Until all those "good things" feed into a series of crises that affects the whole family. Something's gotta change!

The third in the Windy City Neighbors series, Penny Wise is a contemporary peek at an urban family wrestling with the spiritual and practical challenges of real life. The series employs the innovating storytelling technique of "parallel novels," each with its own drama and story arc, but whose characters' lives become intertwined with their neighbors and affect one another. Welcome to Beecham Street---a typical, isolated American neighborhood that is beginning to come out of its shell . . . for better or worse.

***

As mentioned above this is the third in a series and I really don't think it would work as a stand alone very well.  It's supposed to be about the neighborhood and how each new family gets drawn in together (I'm already guessing which neighbor the next book will be about!) so there is a lot of back story that you'd need to read this book well.

For review: I kind of felt like this one took forever to build up to the climax, which I also partly saw coming, and then resolved too quickly.  Neat little packages don't always happen in real life.  That being said, I did appreciate how Michelle Jasper started to learn that being a Christian doesn't mean you too busy doing all the right stuff to actually have real time with God and your family.  As part of the series, I really enjoyed it.

***

Purchase your own copy or read reviews by other bloggers.


Dave and Neta Jackson are award-winning authors living in the Chicago area where their parallel novels from the Yada Yada House of Hope and Harry Bentley series are set. As a husband/wife writing team, Dave and Neta Jackson are enthusiastic about books, kids, walking with God, gospel music, and each other! Together they are the authors or coauthors of over 100 books.

I received this book from LitFuse Publicity in exchange for my fair and honest review.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Bloom...

Bloom... even when it's dark?

This was the view out my front window at 8am this morning.  The light shining in on my wall was eerily red.

We here in North Central Washington are in the midst of what I think is the worst fire season I've ever seen in the 22 years my family has lived here.  The sky has gone dark and many homes have been lost this evening.

We would greatly covet your prayers for safety first and foremost, for the many fire personnel fighting in the midst of high winds and heat.  Then for the winds to be calmed and the heat to fall.

We've been through this before and we will come out on the other side.  Is that what it means to bloom?  To continue to go on, even in the midst of whatever comes your way?


My sunflower was taking a beating from the high winds tonight, but it was still there, blooming, the first one I've ever successfully grown.


And this was the darkened red sky it was blooming under.

Somehow somewhere Christians have gotten the idea that our life should be easy with Jesus in charge.  And then when it's not we get disillusioned.

Where did we get that idea?  Life is not easy. Not on this broken planet.

But there is still beauty to be found amid the ashes.  And we can be the ones bringing that beauty.

Bloom.  No matter the circumstances.  (that's me talking to myself again. ;)  It's a choice!

(and by the way?  this is not at all where I thought this post was going, it often happens that way...)



This is a post prompt from Lisa-Jo. Join in? If you don't have a blog or don't want to write there I'd love to have you write with me, even in the comments!

Road Trip: My Favorite Place on Earth


After one night of being cold camping we got up to nice weather and touring my favorite place! The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone!

I'm sure I've mentioned here and there, but I spend 2 summers working here in 2000 and 2002.  It was hard, but good and I have such great memories as well as some life long friends!


Family photo taken by Cory!


This is the Lower Falls and yes, right in front of the kids is a giant drop off into the canyon...


Boys being silly while Mama takes pictures...


What brothers do, sisters must copy.  This is Joy.


Seeing this by moonlight is also an amazing experience, just remember your flashlight for the trail as there aren't any street lights in Yellowstone!


Me and my crew!  Photo by Daddy.


This is the brink of the Upper Falls. (and yes, I have a hold of his belt loop with my other hand)  It was lunch time and starting to rain so we didn't take the short hike to the brink of Lower Falls.  Another time!


A little cave in the rock that all the kids found.


I think Noah was pretending to be a bear in the cave.


When we got back to camp it started hailing like crazy.  Since it's bear country we had all our food with us in the car anyway so we just ate lunch there.  Then a couple hours later it was lovely out again.  The campground amphitheater above is where we held many a Sunday Service...


This is the main Canyon Village area.  I worked in the first building on the left.  They've updated a few things, including the new signs pictured below, but for the most part it all looks the same.


Then we had a dinner, a former coworker and friend came to join us (he still works there after 14 seasons!) and at the end when the boys decided to go in the tent and get ready for bed it started hailing again.  Brian was off with Hope doing dishes so Joy, Dan, and I jumped in the van since our piddly tarp over the table was NOT cutting it.  After it was all said and done this is the pile of hail that we dumped off the end of the tarp.  It was still there the next morning.  Crazy schizophrenic weather.


So, after all that hail and rain our tent had a puddle under it which was soaking through and getting our bags wet.  We decided the next morning to pack it up and leave a day early.  Probably a good idea!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Family, Community, and a Free Episode of Adventures in Odyssey

*This is a sponsored post, I have been compensated for my time, but all opinions are my own. 

We really enjoyed listening to Adventures in Odyssey on our recent road trip.  I think we got through almost the first two albums - about 10 episodes each.  We have lots more hours in the car next month too.  Something great to listen to that the whole family can enjoy!

Would you like to check it out? For a limited time, you can listen to a new episode of Adventures in Odyssey for FREE!

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Album 58, The Ties that Bind, will be available this fall for digital download and CD purchase, but if you join the Odyssey Adventures Club, you can listen to the full album now! Guess what? The $5 special held last month was extended through the end of July, too, so you can join in the fun for only $5! Here's what part one is about (which you can listen to for free HERE):
It’s a time of surprises as Wooton becomes the celebrity guest at Comic-Connellsville and Whit finds himself in conflict over the upcoming “Let’s Get Together Festival” in Odyssey. Plus, hear an interview with writer-director Paul McCusker about the entire 14-part series.
Album 58 was inspired by Focus on the Family’s The Family Project, a 12-session small group experience that explores the theological, philosophical, and cultural underpinnings of the traditional family, and combines that information with inspiring stories and practical tools to help 21st-century families thrive. One way families can carry out God's design for families is by serving their community—right where God has planted them, being His hands and feet together. Want to serve your community with your family, maybe make a day of out it? Here are some fantastic ideas from some Adventures in Odyssey bloggers and club members:
  • Make scarves through the year and deliver them to your local homeless shelter at the start of winter, or regularly donate food to your local food bank. —Shirley 
  • Our family likes to help with Meals on Wheels. We also do reenactments of the Civil War and WWII to help educate people on history. I like to show my kids that we should be servers and givers by taking meals to people who need them (i.e. baby just born, someone died, someone had surgery, etc.). —Erin 
  • We have been visiting a nursing home with friends once a month. The kids just sing and then we fellowship, but the ladies love it! —Lisa 
  • We make lap blankets for nursing home residents and take the time to visit with them. We also collect food for the local food pantry. —Donna 
  • We make blessing bags to give to the homeless when we encounter them. We also donate clothes and food to a local shelter. —Amy 
  • Our MOPs (Mothers of Prechoolers) group supports our local Pregnancy Support Services with donations, gifts, and notes. We also supports the Durham Rescue Mission, which helps people break free from addictions and restore families. —Melissa 
  • We live in a very rural area. Our church serves two of the poorest zip codes in the state, and about a decade ago, they started operating a food pantry out of a closet. It has expanded since then, so we now use the closet for storage, but the pantry is basically a classroom. The kids and I serve over there a lot. My 17-year-old and I go to Care & Share (50 miles away) to get food to bring back to the pantry. All of us help unload and stock shelves. On pantry days, everyone can get involved with helping people go through the line, playing with the kids, carrying boxes out to cars, etc. There are so many hungry folks, especially in the summer when school breakfasts and lunches aren't available, and helping a bit to put food on some tables is such a blessing for us all. —Debra 
  • We pack food bags each month for the homeless and needy through a thrift store that offers an outreach to the community. We also help clean our church and our Sunday school. —Michele 
  • We work through our AHG troop to do several service activities a year. My girls just recently made bracelets they are selling, which 100% of the profits goes to Hope House in Africa to help young girls. —Sarah 
  • Our church works with a homeless shelter in downtown Atlanta. We cook food ahead of time, and when our schedules allow we ride down with the group to serve the food. My son always reminds me when we haven't been for awhile, so it's something he looks forward to. —Maria 
  • We do lots of random acts of kindnesses within our community: pay for others' meals, leave change at a vending machine, hand out Gatorade/granola bars to people on the side of the road asking for food. We also love to support Mobile Loaves and Fishes. —Kathryn
Did that provide some ideas to give your family service activity the kick-start it needs? What other ideas do you have for serving your community? Share in the comments!
 
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Monday, July 14, 2014

Road Trip: Yellowstone!

When we found out that one of Brian's cousins was getting married in Billings, Montana this summer I was giddy to go back and visit Yellowstone along the way!


So we set out on our epic road trip with 4 small children.  First day's stop was in Bozeman with a friend from my days of working in the Park.  In case you've never been there... Montana is stinking huge!  It took us 9 hours of driving that, with stops and the time difference, added up to over 13 I believe.  Of course it didn't help that poor Hope had croup so I had to take her in to the walk in before we could leave.  But we made it and the next morning headed out to one of my favorite places on earth!


Yep, this arch is massive!  And I love it!


Boys will be boys... climbing everything in site!  The peak in the back right is called Electric Peak and yes, I've stood on top of it!


First wildlife spotting in the park, a mama elk with two babies!


A short stop at Mammoth Hot Springs.  It's always crazy to see how much it's changed in the years since I've been there.  That overhang above Cory's head was NOT there the last time we were here!


And the first time I was there in 2000 and 2002 much more of the terraces that you can see from the road had water/color.  Now they are almost all dead and gray other than this one section.  It's a living thing!


And then we headed off to set up camp at Canyon Campground... where they gave us a campsite, per my request, near the entrance to the campground.  Except they failed to notice I had 4 children under 12 on my reservation and gave us one right on the main road... of a 600 site campground, rather than on the back end of one of the tent loops.  After Joy about got tagged by an RV in the road we pretty much either had the girls on our backs or strapped into their high chairs.  Not exactly relaxing for camping.

More adventures to come!

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Where's The Zoo?

My mom wanted to take the kids to the zoo so in the midst of all the crazy busy that is this summer we made a one night trip to Seattle to go to the Woodland Park Zoo.

After a few minor mishaps in the morning we finally made it to the zoo about noon, the sun was shining, but it wasn't too hot, a perfect day for seeing all the animals!


First stop, penguins.  They were totally interacting with the people standing by the window, super fun!  You can see the double bumps of the red stroller, that's the girls watching too.


Poison arrow dart frogs in the tropical building


Toucans making this crazy loud noise by rubbing their beaks on the branches.


Lots of different kinds of monkeys and monkey related creatures.


Even a human one!


We somehow managed to hit quite a few of the exhibits right as they were feeding the animals.  I guess the afternoon wasn't such a bad time to go.  This guy went crazy running and swinging around his pen.  His tail is seriously bigger than he is.


To the temperate forest zone with flamingos (I'd sure love to be able to sleep balanced on one leg!) the most adorable red panda and then the Cheetah!


Noah was super excited because he was wearing his cheetah shirt.  The cheetah was resting in the grass and actually had his head up for awhile, but I was holding up a girl to see and when I finally went back to take a picture he'd laid down.  Oh well.



My double turtle boys.  Cory was wearing his Ninja Turtles shirt and wanted to show that he was a turtle too.


The last time we went to the zoo Cory was not quite three, it was raining, and NONE of the animals were out.  This time, we saw them all and I'm actually not sure if I've ever seen a hippo before in real life.  We heard that the keeper was going to put food out, then he did, and then they let the hippo out to eat.  He was huge.



All my kiddos at the zoo!


And then randomly Joy decided she was going to eat the hippo so here she's going "nom nom nom" I guess maybe because we'd just been watching the hippo eat?  Too funny.  These girls have a LOT of personality!


My favorite part of the day was watching the giraffes.  They were trying to separate out two of them to move across to a feeding area, which I didn't realize and perhaps could have gotten better photos, but as we stood here and watched, the mom and baby pair started playing or fighting and running/cantering around in their pen.  It was the coolest thing to watch!  (But also a little sad since they were basically running in circles.  I hope at times they get to go free out in the big pasture area where the hippo and zebras were.)


On to see the elephants who were also lined up at the gate waiting to be fed.  The keepers came out and "planted" bamboo shoots and such in the ground, towards the area where we were standing so the elephant would come closer to where you could see him.


The girls have an "elephant song" that they sing and at the end you call the elephants.  They were having fun doing that here!


Face to face with one of the monkeys in an exhibit!


Wait, who are the monkeys here???


Our last stop was the komodo dragon, who wasn't very interesting being half asleep.  But next door were the meerkats.  They were all piled in a heap when we walked up to the window with one in the corner standing watch.  Suddenly they all started to wake up and crawl all over each other and then were looking up.  Cory looked up as far as he could from his angle and said there was a bird walking around on the top of their enclosure that had gotten their attention.


What you lookin' at?!!!

All in all I think it was the best trip I've ever had to a zoo!  We all survived and now we have some down time at home with friends coming to visit and swimming lessons for the next few weeks!