Mini-Reviews: The Summer 2020 Edition // Part 2

Hello again.

I can’t believe that summer has already passed and fall is on its way. School has started back up and time is in ever shorter supply. ( It remains to be seen how I will blog this school year, I am still thinking about it.) With the thought that summer has recently ended, I wanted to share these books that I read with you. I did a small amount of reading by my standards this summer. Although I must admit to being rather disappointed in myself for the fact that I had to cut my reading goal for the year in half, I have learned some valuable lessons about the art of marking a book with the dreaded DNF and valuing quality over quantity. (Perhaps one day you will be treated to more of my thoughts on these topics.)

And now..without further procrastinating, let’s get started.

*Note to my younger readers, all books marked with ❤ are books I would not recommend for you, due to a variety of content. If you have questions, ask away in the comments.


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Title: The Magnolia Sword

Author: Sherry Thomas

Publication Year: 2019

Personal Rating: ★★★

My Thoughts:

I read The Magnolia Sword directly after reading another Mulan re-telling that shall remain un-named, but was beautifully written in a way that very few YA novels are. In many ways this choice was an unfair one to The Magnolia Sword, but ultimately this story won me over.

The Magnolia Sword is rather slow in its opening pages, but gradually picks up. At some point in the story you will find yourself eagerly anticipating the next words, pages and chapters. It is an interesting take on the classic story of Mulan. We are presented with a character who has been forced to publicly take the identity of her late brother, but who does not lose sight of the fact she is a woman. Mulan is in every way her “princeling’s” equal. The Magnolia Sword is a story of old family rivalries, beautiful swords and strong characters.


Title: The Land Beneath Us

Author: Sarah Sundin

Publication Year: 2020

Personal Rating: ★★★★

My Thoughts:

Sarah Sundin once again delivered a solid, enjoyable WWII romance in The Land Beneath Us. She expertly used the marriage-of-convenience and falling-in-love-through-letters tropes, while injecting new life into them.

The character growth in many of the characters, particularly Leah, was remarkable. We first meet Leah as a (strangely) naive girl and when we finish her story she has become a woman, passionate in her love of stories, a loving and devoted mother and wife to the man she loves. Although it may initially seem that Clay is the one who does the saving in their relationship, you come to see that Leah played just as large of a part in rescuing Clay as he did in rescuing her. Clay, with the help of God and Leah, is able to stop the bitterness that was slowly killing him from the inside out.

I am sad that this trilogy is complete, but satisfied with its ending. So much redemption and healing happens, making it a hopeful ending.


Title: SuperNova

Author: Marissa Meyer

Publication Year: 2019

Personal Rating: ★★★

My Thoughts:

SuperNova is an engaging final installment of the Renegades trilogy. I found it to be far more enjoyable than book 2 and can profess myself to be a fan of this trilogy after reading SuperNova. It was full of action and twists and turns, the revealing of secret identities and discoveries of the truth of past events. Although I cannot say I was shocked by the revelations I never the less found then enjoyable.


Title: Strands of Truth

Author: Colleen Coble

Publication Year: 2019

Personal Rating: ★★★

My Thoughts:

I had high hopes for this book after hearing good things about Colleen Coble’s romantic suspense, unfortunately I was disappointed. Although Strands of Truth did not live up to my expectations the story line was intriguing and enjoyable.


Title: Flight Risk

Author: Cara Putman

Publication Year: 2020

Personal Rating: ★★★★

My Thoughts:

This book was a pleasant surprise. After reading Strands of Truth I expected to be disappointed in Flight Risk. Instead I was quickly absorbed in a fast-paced and interesting story. It was rather refreshing to read the entire book and upon reflection realize that I had noticed no cringeworthy internal or external dialogue. The writing felt direct, clean and easily understandable.

Savannah and Jett were both interesting characters to get to know. I enjoyed the fact that although their romance was a thread of Flight Risk‘s overall story, it remained just that.


Title: Isaiah’s Legacy

Author: Mesu Andrews

Publication Year: 2020

Personal Rating: ★★★★★

My Thoughts:

Mesu Andrews did not disappoint in any way in Isaiah’s Legacy. It was captivating, heartbreaking and beautiful. As always Andrews’ depiction of darkness and evil as well as light and the goodness of God were incredibly moving. Isaiah’s Legacy demonstrates how biblical fiction can actually be enjoyable and educational. Once again in a genre that I generally consider a lost cause Andrews’ has proven me wrong.

In Isaiah’s Legacy we get to revisit characters we already know and meet characters who have very real and relatable struggles. The theme of redemption runs thickly through this story. Characters who have done seemingly unforgivable things are forgiven and God’s power and love shines bright.


Title: Collateral Damage

Author: Lynette Eason

Publication Year: 2020

Personal Rating: ★★★

My Thoughts:

Although I would not count Collateral Damage amount my favorites of Lynette Eason’s books, it was an engaging and interesting read. The topics dealt with were heavy, as is typical of Eason’s writing, but handled well. Collateral Damage was wonderfully suspenseful. Definitely a must read for all fans of Eason’s writing.


Beyond Justice

Title: Beyond Justice

Author: Cara Putman

Publication Year: 2017

Personal Rating: ★★★

My Thoughts:

After reading Flight Risk I eagerly anticipated reading Beyond Justice. Sadly I felt rather let down as I read it. Although it contains many of the elements I found compelling in Flight Risk, such as the focus on the law and absence of ridiculous inner dialogue, it lacked the engaging and suspenseful feelings of Flight Risk. That said, in the end I enjoyed this story and I am excited to read more of Cara Putman’s writing.


Have you read any of these books? Are there any books you are excited about reading that were (or are being) published this month? (Hint: A Portrait of Loyalty!!!!!) What are you reading right now?

A Summer Playlist // feat. Tomato Photography

Hey Everyone.

I’ve been wanting to share my summer playlist for a while now and of course it is the last week of summer that I am getting around to putting it together. Honestly I’ve been in a bit of a dry spot with music. There have been some bright spots though, discovering Alec Benjamin, Hillsong Young & Free’s new singles and finding Jasmine Cephas-Jones’s music.

I’m excited to share this with you so let’s jump right in!


Indescribable – Hillsong Young & Free

“You’re indescribable in every way! You searched me out and now I’m caught up in your grace.”

Speak To Me – Koryn Hawthorne

” I promise to be honest when I speak to you.”

Out Of Love – Alessia Cara

“I can’t float in an ocean that has already been drained.”

Quiet – Elevation Rhythm

“Your voice breaks through my noise and I know I am not alone.”

If We Have Each Other – Alec Benjamin

“When the world’s not perfect, when the world’s not kind, if we have each other than we’ll both be fine.”

Little Bird – Jasmine Cephas-Jones

“It won’t be long. Just a minute until you fly.”

Recover – Caitie Hurst

“There is nothing that You can’t recover.”

Stand Up – Cynthia Erivo

“I’ve got eyes in the back of my head, just in case I have to run.”

Must’ve Been The Wind – Alec Benjamin

“Promise I’m not playing tricks on you, you’re always welcome to come in. You can stay here for an hour or two if you ever need a friend.”


What have you been listening to on repeat lately? Do you like any of these artists or songs? What was your favorite memory from this summer?

Gladiolus // feat. As I Am – Hillsong Young And Free

I’m living in a grace where everything is more than I imagined

Where what is undeserved is freely given

All my regrets and my failures

All of my wrongs have been left at the cross

Now all that remains is the Father’s love

Oh Lord, You take me as I am

Over and over, You call me Yours again

You see it all, still You want me

Your kindness and mercy remind me how You love me

As I am

So let us be together seated at Your table in communion

Oh, everyone is equal in Your presence

‘Cause where I am from or where I’ve been

The way that I’ve lived or the colour of skin

Nothing will change how the Father loves me

As I Am – Hillsong Young & Free


What have you been listening to recently? What is your favorite song or album that has dropped this summer? What are you hoping to do before school starts? (Or has school already started for you?)

Disney+ Favorites // Summer 2020 // Part 2

Hey Everyone.

I am excited to be back with part 2 of my Disney+ favorites! I have really enjoyed having access to so many of my favorite classic movies (and Hamilton!) through Disney+, I had no idea how many of my favorite movies were either Disney movies or made by companies owned by Disney. 😀


Hamilton in Los Angeles | Broadway Direct

Rating: PG-13

Genres: Musical, Historical

Well, of course I could not leave my beloved Hamilton off this list. With the exception of that one specific scene, you probably know which one I am thinking of, it is an incredibly enjoyable work of art. Every time I watch Hamilton I am blown away by the beauty of the voices, Phillipa Soo in particular, her voice is out of this world and how she somehow makes it seem completely effortless, it is just amazing. In some ways Hamilton was not what I expected, for one thing I didn’t realize, until right before watching it, that there was no dialogue but after watching parts of it multiple times I came to apprect how much the visual adds to the music. All that to say, I am definitely a Hamilton fan.


Rating: PG

Genres: Musical

When I first watched Mary Poppins Returns I wasn’t sure how to feel about it. In a way it felt disloyal to Julie Andrews’ Mary Poppins to love Emily Blunt’s Mary Poppins. After listening to the soundtrack a handful of times and re-watching it, I realized that I could love both movies. To be perfectly honest, other than the sad lack of Julie Andrews, I prefer Mary Poppins Returns to Mary Poppins. It is wonderful movie to watch and enjoy as a family.


Rating: PG

Genres: Musical

What’s not to love about the fun songs and colorful dance numbers of High School Musical 2? It is the perfect movie to watch in the dead of winter when all you want is some warm sunshine and fun. I personally think that in this case the sequel far surpasses the original.


Disney Is Remaking Its 1973 Animated Classic 'Robin Hood' For Disney+

Rating: G

Genres: Animated Classic

Out of all of the animated Disney classics this movie is quite possibly my favorite. I love it all! The dashing fox Robin courting his beloved Marian, the wonderfully hilarious cast of characters, terrible Prince John and of course you can’t forget the gold coins.


Rating: PG

Genres: Historical, Horse Racing

Secretariat is probably my favorite horse movie. Unlike all most other horse movies the horse doesn’t die! I love Penny and the fact that she doesn’t let the people who criticize her and her actions as a race horse owner overwhelm the fact that she knows she can do it, survive and thrive in a male dominated industry. This is a movie I would recommend to anyone who enjoys horse movies and movies based on true stories.


Sister Act 2 (1993) » Wisconsin Union

Rating: PG

Genres: Musical, Comedy

Sister Act and Sister Act 2 both have places on my unwritten all-time-favorite-movies list. I love Whoopi Goldberg and all the kids, the nuns and the music. By the end of the movie the choir sounds absolutely amazing and their version of Joyful, Joyful is incredible. Sister Act 2 is also, in my opinion, more kid friendly than Sister Act, another point in its favor.


Rating: PG

Genres: Fantasy, Action-Adventure

This movie is another one on my all-time-favorite-movies list. It may surprise you to learn that the White Witch is my favorite character, with Aslan coming in a very close second. what can I say, I love well-played and written female villians. Although I know of people who love the books and strongly dislike the movies, I think that loving both is possible. The books and movies are both wonderful and enjoyable in completely different ways.


Rating: PG

Genres: Musical, Classic, Historical

Considering the fact that by now I am sure you have caught on to the fact that I am a major Julie Andrews fan, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I love The Sound Of Music. Although as I have gotten older I have come to recognize some issues with the movie (Sixteen Going On Seventeen anyone?) it remains a beloved part of my younger childhood memories and Julie Andrews’ voice continues to amaze me.


Rating: PG

Genre: Remake, Family, Comedy

I think I have parts of this movie memorized, my younger siblings went through this phase where they watched it like three times in five days. Somehow I still enjoy it. It is funny and sweet, Meredith is terrible and I love the parents for some reason. Parent Trap (1998) is another fun family movie that everyone will enjoy, at varying levels.


Rating: PG

Genre: Family, Fairy Tale, Adventure, Comedy

I love Tangled. I mean, think about Rapunzel’s frying pan and Maximus! How could I not love it. Also Eugene is easily the best guy any princess could fall in love with. 😂


Which of these movies have you seen? Any thoughts or favorites? (Who else is excited about Mulan coming to Disney+!?)

Garden Photography // Summer 2020

Hey Everyone.

This year, for the first time, my family has an actual vegetable garden. My siblings and Bella (my dad’s mom) put in a lot of hard work in April and May to establish the garden. I then took over caring for the garden in late May. At first it was rather tedious, watering and weeding every day, and not exactly enjoyable, but as the summer has progressed I am loving watching everything grow (and harvesting is so much fun!). It is honestly unbelievable how quickly everything grows and ripens! God’s creation is truly incredible.

All that to say, I took some pictures in the garden a week or so ago and wanted to share them with you. So let’s get started. 🙂


Green Beans


Parsley


Thyme


Sage


Basil


Kale


Winter Squash (of an unknown variety)


Zucchini


Cucumbers


Cilantro


Tomatos


Do you have a garden? What are your favorite summer foods? What has been the best moment of your summer so far?

Disney+ Favorites // Summer 2020 // Part 1

Hey Everyone.

I’ve been wanting to share some of my Disney+ favorites for a while now. I always enjoy posts about what other bloggers are into watching at that point in time and I’m always on the lookout for something new, so I thought that it might be fun to share my own list with you all. I know that most of us have probably spent more time then we are proud of watching things this summer (I certainly am not proud of it), but finding things that do not make you feel like you just lost about a hundred brain cells after watching is always a treat.

So let’s get started. I’ve included a variety of movies and shows that I would recommend to different age groups, so not all of these recommendations are appropriate for all of my readers. 🙂


Watch Marvel's Agent Carter | Disney+

Rating: PG-13

Genres: Strong Female Characters, Action, Post-WW2

Agent Carter has a completely different feel than all of the Marvel movies. It is funny at times, almost cringe-worthy at others and impressive as well. Peggy Carter is amazing, easily one of my favorite female MCU characters. She is strong, constantly underestimated and inspiring. I must say that every time she fights in a skirt and heels I’m amazed, she is incredibly skilled.


Shakespeare Theatre Company | Moana - Shakespeare Theatre Company

Rating: PG

Genres: Strong Female Characters, Adventure, Friendship

Moana, what can I say? It is definitely my all-time favorite animated Disney movie. The focus on the ocean, a young female heroine who doesn’t need a prince, a hilarious demigod and incredible music (that happens to be written by Lin-Manuel Miranda). Really what’s not to like? When the day comes that a Moana 2 movie is announced I will literally squeal. 😀


Three Random Thoughts On Cheaper By The Dozen | scoopsmentalpropaganda

Rating: PG

Genres: Family, Comedy

My family loves this movie and we have watched it many times. It is a funny and largely positive story about a large family, something that is rare. Although it is rather unrealistic at times, it is surprisingly accurate at others. Constant cleaning and everything is still a mess, yelling and crazy kids, good sibling relationships, beating up the oldest sister’s boyfriend, it’s fun to watch over and over again. (And don’t forget the adorable twin boys, I love them. 😀)


Maleficent | Official Website | Disney Movies

Rating: PG

Genres: Strong Female Characters, Fantasy

This movie is just so unique feeling, so different seeming then most Disney movies. The The characters are interesting and I absolutely love Maleficent, for all her issues. I love fairytale retellings that are told from a different point of view than typical, and Maleficent does just that. Something about Maleficent just pulls you into her story, she is elegant, majestic and darkly powerful. Maleficent and Maleficent: Mistress of Evil are two of my favorite live-action Disney movies.


Black Panther (2018) - IMDb

Rating: PG-13

Genres: Action, Strong Female Characters, Fantasy

What’s not to love about Black Panther? An amazing hero, incredible women warriors and a beautiful hidden country. I love it all.


www.gstatic.com/tv/thumb/v22vodart/170620/p1706...

Rating: Pg-13

Genres: Action

Tony Stark, he is either my favorite or second favorite male MCU character. His character growth, his arrogance (lol) and his suits. Sure he has more than his share of issues, but he is mostly reformed. And I can’t forget Pepper, she is tough and doesn’t let Tony walk over her despite her attraction to him. She is really the only one who can actually tell him off and partly get away with it. (I really need to rewatch this movie.)


www.gstatic.com/tv/thumb/v22vodart/14596224/p14...

Rating: PG

Genres: Remake, Musical, Family

Aladdin is full of fun and catchy music and exciting and colorful dance numbers. As someone who enjoys Disney’s live-action remakes, I loved how this movie was done, with the exception of Jasmine’s song Speechless. I found it disappointingly weak, sure the words were great, the actress’ delivery just left much to be desired in my mind. That said this is a great family movie with great music.


Star Wars Rebels TV Show: News, Videos, Full Episodes and More ...

Rating: PG

Genres: Action, Science-Fiction, Kids

I am not a Star Wars person and I actually dislike most of the movies and the majority of the characters. For some reason though, I enjoyed watching bits and pieces of Star Wars Rebels. Not exactly a glowing recommendation, but my siblings really liked it and I didn’t mind it.


Thor Ragnarok Movie Poster Poster Print - Walmart.com - Walmart.com

Rating: PG-13

Genres: Action, Science-Fiction, Female Villains

I equal parts love and hate this movie. Hela is amazing and probably my favorite MCU villain. I love the parts with her in it. The Grandmaster is terrible and I could not like him in any way. He actually kinda ruined the movie for me, but Hela partly saved it, so……


Saving Mr. Banks | Official Website | Disney Movies

Rating: PG-13

Genres: Historical, Drama

Emma Thompson is perfect as P. L. Travers and Tom Hanks is a wonderful Walt Disney. The parts of the movie with the two of them are amazing, I’m less of a fan of the flashbacks, though.


Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke - Mary Poppins - Amazon.com Music

Rating: G

Genres: Fantasy, Family, Musical

Julie Andrews is one of my all time favorite actresses, so that puts Mary Poppins on my favorites list. The music is wonderful and so classic, personally I’m partial to A Spoonful of Sugar and Sister Suffragette. The bank scene is slightly creepy, but otherwise this is a great movie to watch with your younger siblings (or on your own).


Amazon.com: Watch The Parent Trap (1961) | Prime Video

Rating: PG

Genre: Comedy, Classic, Family

When I first saw this movie, I loved it. I still love it, I just prefer the “newer” version, with one exception, the drama surrounding the long-awaited meeting of the twins parents. Their meeting is perfectly hilarious, rather painful and delightfully dramatic. Haley Mills, who plays the twins, is probably my least favorite part of the movie, but I still find it enjoyable. 😀


Well, that’s all I’ve got for today. I really enjoyed putting this together and I hope that you enjoyed reading it.

Do you have a favorite of these movies? Thoughts about any of them? Any you haven’t seen? Do you have any Disney+ recommendations for me?

Mini-Reviews: The Summer 2020 Edition

Hey Everyone.

I’m back and ready to share yet another list of mini-reviews, admittedly it is shorter than normal and mostly made up of books that have been sitting on my shelf for weeks if not months, but there are a couple good ones. It feels really good to be sharing these with all of you, I have missed putting bookish content together. 😀

Without a further intro (I am quite terrible at writing them, as I am sure you are all aware), let’s get started.

*Note: Reviews marked with ❤️ are books I would recommend to older readers and contain some form of slightly more mature content.


The Weaver's Daughter

Title: The Weaver’s Daughter

Author: Sarah E. Ladd

Published: 2018

Rating: ★★★★

My Thoughts:

The Weaver’s Daughter is a slow-paced, historically interesting story with a wintery and cozy feel. Not exactly the type of book anyone is looking for right now, but definitely worth adding to your winter tbr list.

Family and loyalty are the main themes of The Weaver’s Daughter. The story follows two people as they try to determine how to keep their parents’ and grandparents’ legacies alive while being true to themselves.


A Touch of Gold (A Touch of Gold, #1)

Title: A Touch of Gold

Author: Annie Sullivan

Published: 2018

Rating: ★★★

My Thoughts:

I have mixed feelings about A Touch of Gold. On one hand it is an interesting and unique retelling of the story of King Midas, on the other it just felt like it was lacking something. Maybe depth, maybe the author wasn’t particularly passionate about it or maybe it was just me.

From the first time Kora met a certain character, his words rang extremely hollow to me. Finding out that he was actually a villian, not the hero, did not come as a shock. What was frustrating was that as soon as he is out of the picture, Kora begins falling for a man who previously drove her crazy. Another issue for me was the logic behind Kora’s powers, in fact there was none.

All that said, A Touch of Gold is overall an enjoyable story, if you can ignore it’s issues.


Between Shades of Gray

Title: Between Shades of Gray ❤️

Author: Ruta Sepetys

Published: 2011

Rating: ★★★★

My Thoughts:

As you all know, I adore Ruta Sepetys’ writing. Despite the fact that Between Shades of Gray is not my favorite of her beautiful stories (I’m looking at you FOTS), it did not disappoint. Although the writing format and style is slightly more simple than FOTS and Salt To The Sea, it in no way lacks depth.

Between Shades of Gray is about a piece of WWII that is not covered by many (or any) historical fiction writers. We meet Lina as a fifteen year old and follow the next years of her life as she is exiled to Siberia with her family. Between Shades of Gray is filled with sadness and a strong thread of hope.


Spin the Dawn (The Blood of Stars, #1)

Title: Spin the Dawn ❤️

Author: Elizabeth Lim

Published: 2019

Rating: ★★★

My Thoughts:

Spin the Dawn is an interesting and entertaining story with a definite Mulan feel. It is unique and the ending came as a complete surprise. I am definitely looking forward to getting my hands on a copy of the next book in the series.

Spin the Dawn has it’s fair share of issues though. Starting with the fact that it could have used some more editing and that at times things just didn’t quite make sense. I could ignore those issues if it weren’t for the fact that the author couldn’t seem to decide whether Spin the Dawn was a middle-grade or YA book. The writing level felt absolutely middle-grade for much of the book and then at chapter 27, all of the sudden, you have YA content thrown at you. Sure it is subtle, but it is very much there. That said, overall I enjoyed this story.


In Too Deep (Dive Team Investigations, #2)

Title: In Too Deep ❤️

Author: Lynn H. Blackburn

Published: 2018

Rating: ★★★★

My Thoughts:

Lynn Blackburn’s books have found a place on my close-to-favorites mental list. They have a very similar feel to Lynette Eason’s books, which is a positive thing in my opinion. In Too Deep was enjoyable and interesting, with wonderful characters. It also is giving me small amount of hope for the future of the “Christian fiction” genre, but that’s a post for another time.


Have you read any of these books? Who else has seen the cover for Shannon Messenger’s Unlocked!? What are you currently reading?

June // Protector – Kim Walker-Smith

I come out of agreement with the lie that You have left me on my own

I come out of agreement with the worry

And the fear I’ve come to know

They won’t have a hold on me 

Protector, You never let me go

You said You wouldn’t leave me, and You won’t

You’re right by my side, Protector 

I come into agreement with the truth

That You are who You say You are

I can trust Your heart

I come into agreement with what Heaven has declared over my life

You’re right by my side, Protector

You hide me in the shadow of Your wings

Your presence is my peace, my covering, my song in the night, Protector

No weapon, no worry will prosper against me

No darkness, no evil will tease or torment me

All power, dominion to one Name is given

My fortress, my freedom, my refuge, my Jesus

Protector

Protector – Kim Walker Smith


Hey Everyone.

And I’m back with more pictures from the past couple months. This year we have had more flowers than ever and I am, unsurprisingly, enjoying taking pictures of them all. The roses have been particularly beautiful along with the irises. Every year I am amazed by how much beauty flowers can bring to spaces that are not exactly beautiful in themselves.

I wanted to share Protector with you all because it has been serving as an important reminder to me to put my complete trust in Jesus, because despite my frustrations and struggles He will never leave me. For as long as I can remember, I have enjoyed Kim Walker-Smith’s music and the fact that she is putting out an entire new album is really exciting to me. 😀

On a completely unrelated note, I have actually been reading again! It has been wonderful to be able to read without feeling guilty or at least as guilty. I’m currently in the middle of Kara Isaac’s newest book (!!!) Start With Me, so far I love it, and Kellyn Roth’s The Dressmaker’s Secret, I have mixed feelings about this one. Full reviews to come soon. 😀

Have you heard Protector yet? What have you been reading?