Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Autumn Fun {Bookstagram Challenge and *Free* Wallpapers}

Hello, friends! Let's talk autumn fun today. What do you think of when it comes to autumn?

I like to think we'll get cooler temperatures, but that's often hit and miss here in north Texas. This year, we've actually experienced some cooler temps in the last couple of weeks.

The changing of the leaves from bright green to various shades of red, orange, yellow, and brown always makes me smile. My family has about a dozen trees on our property, nearly all of them different types from one another, so we get quite a wide variety of autumn colors. In hotter months, those colors can change in a single day, and the leaves can fall off pretty quickly too, if we get strong enough winds or some wild autumn thunderstorms.

Autumn also makes me think of family. Hanging out with my family makes my heart soar, and I've recently enjoyed a new walking routine with my parents. Most evenings during the last couple of months, we've walked at least one block (and worked up to four) after we all get off work. It's been great to be able to share our days with one another while getting a bit of exercise and letting the cares of the day roll off our shoulders.

Faith is a year-round thing for me, as it's an integral part of who I am, but there's something about autumn that makes it mean so much more. I don't know if it's because I'm starting to get contemplative about celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ (celebrated in late December here) or if it's because snuggling up with a throw blanket, my Bible, and a hot cup of cocoa is one of my favorite evening pastimes in the autumn and winter when the temperatures are chilly. There may even be other reasons I haven't thought of yet, but autumn means a new chance to examine my heart and make sure I'm on the path God has created specifically for me.

Of course autumn makes me think of books. What season doesn't? That whole blanket/cocoa thing works well with novels or nonfiction books as well as the Holy Word. My throw blankets and mugs get great workouts during these hopefully-cooler months of the year. What books are on your reading list this autumn? I've got a few review books coming up, but there are some other stories from my ever-growing TBR stashes that I'm really excited to get to. These are just a few of the books I'm eager to read this autumn.

Part of the fun this autumn is that I'm hosting my first bookstagram challenge over on Instagram. Anyone with a non-giveaway IG account is welcome to join in, starting tomorrow, October 1. All the rules are in the caption of this post. There is a giveaway with this challenge, and one winner will get to choose one paperback book from the ones shown in the second graphic below this paragraph. What are some stories you've enjoyed that feature family, faith, books, or autumn?

I have more fun for you right here, courtesy of a new friend I met on Instagram this summer. Christina is a sweetheart who has been married about a year and is busy homemaking and living an adventurous life with her husband. What's really drawn me to her in friendship is that she speaks very truthfully in love about heartache, loss, faith, and encouragement when she posts to her IG account. I have already lost count of how many times her pictures and captions have made me smile, cry, and think deeper. You may find her Instagram account here and all her social media links are in this location.

The reason I bring up my friend Christina is that she has graciously shared some fun autumn phone wallpapers with us. She shared them first on her IG account, but she has generously granted me permission to share them with you here on Writing to Inspire. So sweet! Snag one, snag all. Consider these beautiful pictures your trick-or-treat prize this year.

Just in case I haven't properly figured out how to make these images downloadable, check out Christina's "wallpaper" highlight reel on Instagram (her IG page is linked above). Just pop over there, find the one(s) you want, press and hold your thumb on the screen, and then simultaneously press "home" and "power" on your smart phone to screenshot the clean wallpaper(s). {Note: Those are the instructions for how it works on an iPhone. I don't know how other phones work on something like this.} I'm using an instructional how-to I found online to (hopefully) teach myself how to make these wallpapers downloadable, but this is a new skill for me (and self-taught at that!), so I might not have it down right the first time. Don't worry. I'm sure I'll be trying again soon.

Hint: I'm becoming more comfortable with Canva's editing tools, so I might just have some wallpaper plans of my own in the near future. Stay tuned!

Note: The click-to-download thing I tried did not work. If anyone has tips or a website with clear instructions, please let me know in the comments.

Friday, September 25, 2020

Until I Met You by Tari Faris {book review}

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Revell Reads. These are my honest thoughts.

“You get to choose if [your past] defines you now.”

This book was like a warm hug on a wintry night, and I think the biggest reason is that it encapsulated the theme from 1 Corinthians 13:5, which states (in part) that love “keeps no record of wrongs.” This has been one of my favorite verses for going on five years now, and I love how a fictional book could so beautifully bring out the gritty truth of what this verse looks like when applied to a person’s life.

Until I Met You by Tari Faris is a messy (in a good way), beautiful story about relatable characters that go through everyday problems. They hold grudges and make mistakes. They’re able to discuss things in real ways instead of skirting around the issues, yet they sometimes let their anger, bitterness, frustrations, and definitely their assumptions get in the way of following through on other conversations. These things reflected real life to me, and I could so easily relate to so many things about this story. Not just the negative things either. There was a ton of good stuff too, all easy to understand and “get.”

While we’re on the topic of assumptions, though, I want to say something. I sometimes make assumptions about people. I think it’s a thing we humans do. Based on our own personal experiences and knowledge, we assume we know what’s best for people or what someone meant by something they said just because of their tone. But I wonder, how many times do we misread the situation? How many times do we not see the hurt behind the tone, that the person had a bad day prior to that moment that gave out that wonky tone that pushed our own buttons to make an assumption? I know a lot of times I can have other things on my mind when I respond to people and don’t realize that the words and tone and intention didn’t all match up to indicate what I really meant. How many times could it be the same for other people too?

This book made me think about that. Among other things, of course, but that was a big one, probably because it was such a huge theme in this story.

Okay, so we’re moving on to the fun stuff about this book.

Danielle was amazing for what few pages she was there. I really hope this gal gets her own book, because I totally want to know more. Like, right now. *cheesy grin*

The Carnegie thing… Y’all, if the only reason you read this book is to find out why this Carnegie thing completely melted my heart, do it. It melted me, I’m telling you.

This line made me laugh so hard: “This library didn’t need to be reopened. It needed to be resuscitated.”

This line spoke to me in a profound way: “I do the only thing I can when faced with a lie. I hold on to the truth.”

The recurring thread involving a bag of coins was priceless. (See what I did there? Wink, wink.)

I adored the way that phobias were represented. I’ve had a phobia or two in my past, and this book showed them in a realistic way. It was made clear how debilitating they are yet how freeing it can be when one finds that “twenty seconds of insane courage,” as We Bought a Zoo says. (Yes, I was absolutely thrilled that this line was quoted in this story. It fit so well and was a great nod to one of my favorite movies, of which there are many, naturally.)

The Edge of Belonging by Amanda Cox {book review}

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary electronic copy of this book from Revell Reads. These are my honest thoughts.

Despite a single expletive, this book has soared onto my favorites list this year. This debut was fresh and different and deep. When I first saw the cover, I was blown away, but I wasn’t certain what to expect beneath it. Let me tell you, it wasn’t anything like I would have guessed.

The story began with a homeless man, and this was something I had never seen done before. This approach tugged my heart in right away. This was a time-split novel, and sometimes the new scenes took me away from what I wanted to keep reading about, but overall, this was very well done (even in those tense moments).

The theme of seeing the unseen people in our lives (those society deems less than worthy of our attention) was superbly on display. This is one reason this book is now a favorite. It takes the “look after orphans and widows” (James 1:27) and “will assemble the outcasts” (Isaiah 11:12) themes and creates a haven for those who are looked down upon by the vast majority of society.

This story is powerful and needed today. I think it’s a must-read for anyone who wants to grow in compassion and who wants to know how to see with new eyes what you’ve missed so many times before.

Saturday, September 12, 2020

The Librarian of Boone's Hollow by Kim Vogel Sawyer {book review}

Here's the book review I promised last week.

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary electronic copy of this book from WaterBrook Multnomah and NetGalley. These are my honest thoughts.

"These feuds an' fear gotta end."

That line resonated so loudly as I was reading this timely book.

This beautiful story touched my heart on multiple levels. Its exquisite depth and rich atmosphere immersed me into the quaint mountain town of Boone's Hollow, where I met a quirky cast of amazing characters that each wriggled their way into my heart.

Mrs. Sawyer once again created characters worth caring about. The depth to which she develops her cast is something to not only admire but also to study, if you're a writer like me. The way she captures a local way of speaking amazes me every time, and this talent of hers is one of the many reasons why her characters pop off the pages.

The glimpse at coal mining reminded me of Homer Hickam's true-life story in the movie October Sky. Another similarity between that film and this book was the difficult and sometimes heartrending father-son relationship.

What really made this book stand out among the 150+ books I've read this year is how a library was used to bring hope to families struggling through the Great Depression years. I had never before heard of packhorse librarians, but this story made me want to learn more. The way this novel was written -- filled with hope, love, and lots of grace -- kept me intrigued throughout, and I can hardly wait to read it again. It has moved itself into a tie with My Heart Remembers for my favorite KVS book -- and I wasn't sure that would happen after years and years of MHR reigning alone in that spot.

"What I want is for you to fully use the abilities God has given you."

The above quote really spoke truth into my soul. I'm not fully sure in how many ways God wants to fulfill this in my life, but I am eager to find out.

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Surprise, Surprise

Hello, friends.

Some surprises are good, such as finding a new top-three favorite book of the year this past weekend: The Librarian of Boone's Hollow by Kim Vogel Sawyer. (Be on the lookout next week for my review of this book.)

Other surprises are not so good, such as having to ship my laptop in to get fixed because a hinge broke only ten months after I bought the thing (and I'm always gentle and respectful of my electronic devices).

One good thing about the negative surprise was that I was not on an editing or writing deadline at the time. Whew! That would have definitely have been a problem.

Another good thing about this is that I can take some time, while without a computer, to relook at my schedule and figure out what windows of time will work best for set-aside writing times for me during this season of life. I'm always experimenting with my schedule, because life shifts things around so often in one way or another.

While I'm awaiting the return of my laptop, I'll be pulling out a story to edit on paper. I had started editing it early this year, but I set it aside when two or three other stories leaped to the forefront of my mind to be first-drafted. It will be fun getting back to the young adult story that features skateboarders with funky nicknames, familial miscommunication, and a weighty bout of grief.

What has surprised you lately (good or bad)?

What silver linings are you finding in the midst of it?