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review 2018-08-06 23:05
Bittersweet (True North, #1) by Sarina Bowen 5 Star Review!!
Bittersweet (True North Book 1) - Sarina Bowen

The last person Griffin Shipley expects to find stuck in a ditch on his Vermont country road is his ex-hookup. Five years ago they’d shared a couple of steamy nights together. But that was a lifetime ago. 

At twenty-seven, Griff is now the accidental patriarch of his family farm. Even his enormous shoulders feel the strain of supporting his mother, three siblings and a dotty grandfather. He doesn’t have time for the sorority girl who’s shown up expecting to buy his harvest at half price.

Vermont was never in Audrey Kidder’s travel plans. Neither was Griff Shipley. But she needs a second chance with the restaurant conglomerate employing her. Okay—a fifth chance. And no self-righteous lumbersexual farmer will stand in her way.

They’re adversaries. They want entirely different things from life. Too bad their sexual chemistry is as hot as Audrey’s top secret enchilada sauce, and then some.

Warning: Contains sexual situations, gourmet yumminess, a steamy outdoor shower and proof that farmers don't mind getting dirty.

 

 

Review

Sarina Bowen writing at the top of her game. 

We get a lush second chance romance between Griffin and Aubrey. Farm and Orchard fun without the dirt and sweat. A really great family dynamic. Banter. A well paced plot.

This one just shimmers on the page. Really on point. The rest of the series is great too!

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text 2018-08-01 04:39
Extending my mini-vacation, and then it's over
  • The four-day week-end I spent in the Seattle area was not much of a vacation, other than being a break from cooking and washing dishes.

    I think I walked three or four miles just through the airports and had the burden of hauling a suitcase and overloaded laptop case.  Being old and out of shape doesn't help.  Even on wheels, the combination of luggage was heavy.  There was no way I could have carried it up and down stairs, so I appreciated the escalators, but in many places there were just ramps.  They're fine on the downward slant, but uphill ramps have always done a number on my ankle and calf muscles.

    During my stay, we went to baseball games three days out of the four, and invariably there was uphill and downhill walking, with the same effect on my muscles as airport ramps.  Nights were often late and most mornings were early, so I didn't get nearly as much sleep as I would have liked.  And sleep in an unfamiliar bed never provides the best rest.  Each day I fell further and further behind.

    Sunday, we went to beaches.  Several of them.  We went in search of stones and seaglass.  I found enough little stones at one beach to maybe make a small tumbler load and maybe produce some casual jewelry, but the seaglass beach was inaccessible.  That was a bit of a disappointment.

    We also went to the beaches to take pictures.  No one has any pictures of me because I'm always the one taking the photos, and I don't like any of the photos of me anyway.  But everyone wanted some family pictures, so we found a big driftwood log at one beach and some pictures were taken.  I haven't seen them yet.  I'm not sure when I will.

    I returned to Arizona Monday – the airport walks were longer and even more horrendous because I was already exhausted – and wasted no time.  Dirty laundry was the first thing unpacked, and while the washer was running I finished the unpacking.  As soon as the clothes were in the dryer, I set the timer for an hour and crawled into bed for a 60 minute nap.  There being insufficient groceries in the house to fix supper – and there being absolutely no enthusiasm on my part for cooking it anyway – we went out to eat.  I came home completely exhausted in spite of my nap, and was sound asleep shortly after 9:00.

    This morning I woke up earlier than I really wanted to and had no desire to get out of bed, so I spent about an hour just being lazy and doing some thinking.  It's not the first morning I've done that, but for a variety of reasons this morning was a bit different.

    A good portion of the past weekend was also devoted to motivational conversations, for reasons I won't go into here.  Although I was not the object of these discussions, much of what was said hit home: I've not been adequately motivated to stick to my writing and I've also been far too willing to come up with convenient excuses.  The weather is too hot or too cold, there are too many worries about finances, too many appliances have broken, blah, blah, blah, blah.  The end result is that I have two novels sitting at well more than 50,000 words each, and I have done virtually nothing on either of them for months.

    A few weeks ago, I figured out why one of the books was stalled.  The problems were fixable, with some work, and the fix would make the story much stronger.  And even at 50,000 words, the book was going to require a whole lot more writing anyway.  The words don't write themselves; I'd have to stop making excuses and get to work.

    The other book presents a much more complicated problem.  I began writing it without a clear idea where it was going.  The plot was vague and strongly character-driven, so I had the character arc well formed, but not much else.  The more I worked on it, the more the writing veered to the character part of the plot and away from the story, because the story wasn't strong enough to pull it back.

    The story also had a huge hole.  No, that's not quite right.  The story as I had written it up to those 50,000 words had an obvious weakness.  At least it was obvious to me.

    As I read other books and saw similar or even worse weaknesses, I wondered if readers noticed, and if they noticed, did they care.  These flimsy plots and characters who acted without proper motivation or consistency bothered me.  Did they bother other readers?  Whether or not they did, I knew I was having more and more problems with this book because it bothered me.  I had put my character, the one who was driving the whole book, into a situation I couldn't imagine her actually getting herself into.  It made no sense to me the author; how could I even begin to make it make sense to a reader?

    Over the weekend I found an answer, or at least a possible answer.  As with the other stalled novel, this one would require more work.  I'm not sure how much work, or where the changes will need to be made.  Will I have to go back into those existing 50,000 words and make major modifications?  It's been months since I've read it all the way through and I know there are details I've forgotten.  Will they fit in this new "fix" I've sort of come up with?

    The truth is, I've allowed myself to be distracted far too much.  I've forgotten how difficult writing is.  I wanted it to be easy.

    In fact, writing has always been easy for me.  That's not to say the easy writing is always good writing, but I've always been able to do it.  

    What's hard is turning off the distractions.  What's hard is sitting down and facing the next blank line, the next sentence, the next paragraph, without worrying whether some reader is going to like it or not.  What's hard is turning of my internal editor who has the rejection slip already in her hand and just needs my own SASE to send it back to me.

    Today is Tuesday.  I'm catching up on some other work while I mentally play with these two plot improvement projects.  Tomorrow I have another grocery shopping expedition on the schedule, with the follow-up of putting the groceries away.  Overall, it will take up my entire morning.  Another list of chores faces me related to the upcoming art show season.  My first scheduled show is less than ten weeks away.

    The arts and crafts stuff is part of this.  It's a distraction in and of itself, but it's also a source of income, which I need.  There's a necessary balance to be achieved, and frankly, I haven't found it yet.  That's another task for the next couple of days as I think this all through.

    I've been in this position before.  There's always a desire to write, and plenty of workable ideas to which to apply that desire, but the distractions and emotional obstacles stand in the way.  Self doubt is a big one, and maybe having these two plots worked out – at least for now – will help erase some of that doubt.  I've never had an abundance of self-confidence, and it gets pummeled pretty regularly.  Even a light-hearted Twitter query about "Did you ever have someone who had more confidence in yourself than you did, and how did it affect you?" can feel like a dagger to the heart.  No, I never had anyone who had more confidence in me than I did.  Never.  And I never really had much confidence in myself to begin with.

    It's hard to push past that, and yet I've done it in the past.  I know it can be done.  I know I can do it.  I just have to do it.            

    Therefore, I've given myself the rest of this week to put all these other issues in order and out of the way.  There will still be work to be done for the art shows, but that's an ongoing effort.  The other stuff needs to be set aside, so I can focus on the writing.

    There were elements of my four-day weekend that were enough of a vacation to give me the opportunity to think out the problems of these two books and clarify potential fixes.  As I continue to think these through, my job is also to make -- make, not find -- the time to do the writing.  That means to stop making excuses, stop finding excuses.
     
    I think we get a warm feeling inside at the thought of everyone having a mentor, a supporter, someone who makes each of us somehow rise above whatever is holding us back so we can achieve our dreams.  The sad truth is that most of us don't have that someone.  Most of us don't achieve our dreams.  Many of us don't achieve those dreams because we're waiting for that bit of support or encouragement.  But I wonder just how many successes out there are attributable to raw, ugly, solo determination.  I'm taking that for my model.
     

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2018-07-25 20:51
Animal Farm by George Orwell
Animal Farm - George Orwell

This might be one of the most popular stories, mostly read in school. And yes, I read it at school as well, but back then I couldn't appreciate this parable to its fullest. But given the developments in the last 25 years, nations risen and fallen, political systems overthrown in the hope for something better - only to end up worse than before -, this text had much more of an impact on me now. Because, as sad as it may sound: the imagery and the message ring true, almost painfully true - despite, or maybe because of the not so very hidden hints of communism and the date it's been written. And what does that say about humankind nowadays that it's still relevant in this day and age?

 

All animals are equal. But some animals are more equal than others.

 

The animals of Manor Farm stage a rebellion against their human owner which succeeds. What begins as a common effort to establish equality among the animals, so that no one rules over them... soon ends up producing the ruling class of the pigs with its leader ever more removed from the "common" working animals and surrounded by vicious dogs. History's rewritten, enemies are created, demagoguery rules - all just to pull wool over the eyes of the rest of the animals.

 

Now I ask you: Is reality so much different?

 

Definitely a must-read.

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review 2018-07-25 10:39
Unbridled Faith: 100 Devotions from the Horse Farm by Cara Whitney
Unbridled Faith: 100 Devotions From The Horse Farm - Cara Whitney

Horses nuzzle their way into our hearts and have a way of teaching us a lot about ourselves, about life, and even about God. Just ask horse enthusiast Cara Whitney, wife of comedian and actor Dan Whitney (aka Larry the Cable Guy).

Through years spent working with these majestic animals—Cara Whitney has learned countless spiritual lessons that have brought her closer to God.

In 100 heartfelt devotions with stunning photography, you'll

  • *Learn about being flexible in your faith from a gangly legged colt.
  • *Discover the secret to overcoming temptation through a horse's "sneak and eat" game.
  • *From a pony with a sweet tooth, find out why we should be glad God doesn’t answer yes   to all of our prayers.
  • *Be reminded that you are priceless to God from a one-eyed quarter horse named Roanie.  

Unbridled Faith is the perfect daily devotional for horse lovers.

Amazon.com

 

 

 

Cara Whitney, wife of comedian Dan Whitney (aka "Larry The Cable Guy") puts together a very beautifully designed, gift-worthy book to which Dan Whitney provides the foreword. "Larry The Cable Guy wrote the forward to a devotional?!" you might be asking with just a dash of skepticism, I imagine. Well, Dan Whitney is here to explain.

 

Though he might not be immediately known for his faith professionally, he is actually the son of a preacher and went on to have his own education provided primarily through Christian based primary schools and colleges. He also explains that wife Cara came to her faith via a straightforward, rather pragmatic, maybe even slightly agnostic approach. This devotional she has now crafted is the culmination of years of dedicated theological study and regular introspection while working on the Whitney horse farm. 

 

p163 image Unbridled Faith

 

Whitney writes very much in the vein of the Chicken Soup for the Soul books, each devotion a quick 2 page read with a prayer prompt at the end of each one. One of my favorite prayer prompts in this book: "Lord, help me to amplify the good in my life and control my emotions." Certainly something that spoke to me!

 

Another line that struck me, "God will bring the right scriptures, worship songs, and people into our lives when He knows we need them most. When we are lonely or in deep grief, He will send us his love in creative, diverse ways --- through nature, an email, or a movie scene." This was the case for me last year, months after losing my mother unexpectedly to a heart attack. That, combined with additional hits before and after that day, (making late 2016-2017 one of the worst periods of my life) ... I was spiritually exhausted after trying to keep myself emotionally strong, pushing back my emotions, putting all my energy into blocking out anything but daily obligations and work. Over time I found myself feeling more and more separated from the core of my soul. I didn't know if I myself was going to make it to the end of the year. On one of the hardest days of all, the song "Just Be Held" by Casting Crows mysteriously found its way into my noggin. That and Hilary Scott's "Thy Will"... I didn't even know she had solo work out there (apart from her band Lady Antebellum, of whom I'm a big fan).. but again, this song somehow found me. With the help of these songs, I allowed myself to finally cry out all that was pent up and then began to rebuild from the inside out. 

 

end panel of Unbridled Faith

 

While the photography in Unbridled Faith is undeniably GOREGOUS,  and the sentiments are comforting, the devotional pieces themselves, as far as topics covered, are pretty standard fare (for the devotional genre as a whole, that is). Whitney offers her own horse-themed spin on things of course, but doesn't really touch upon any new territory.

 

 

Some of the transitions felt a little clunky, such as the salt one, talking about how horses crave salt and then the next line talking about salt being currency in Christ's time. It just flowed oddly to me. But I did have a giggle (though I don't think it was intended humorously) at the line, "It's your salty side God loves most." LOL Well, I don't know about THAT, but I'll take it, I guess! 

 

p173 image Unbridled Faith

 

Much of what was offered here, while as sweet and feel-good as one would expect, struck me as rehashings of topics you've likely read in a number of other books of this style. Furthermore, at times her thoughts struck me as a tinge judgmental of "non-believers", though she claims to feel called to evangelism.

 

In Devotion 61, she writes, "It's sad to believe, but there are Christians out there who think that it is their job to evaluate the holiness of other people." In Devotion 63: "Horses aren't the only ones who suffer from unfair perceptions. Sometimes people's perceptions of us are hard to overcome."

 

You don't say. 

 

But I have to admit, I did enjoy her sense of humor at times:

 

"The next time your horse creates manure, remind yourself your animal is keeping you humble."

 

"Although my patient neighbors may disagree with my musical tastes, in my opinion all donkeys have perfect pitch."

 

Note to readers:  this book contains spoilers for the children's classic Black Beauty by Anna Sewell.

 

p37 image from Unbridled Faith

 

 

FTC Disclaimer:  BookLookBloggers.com kindly provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The opinions above are entirely my own.

 

 

 

 

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text 2018-07-19 16:52
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