Monthly Archives: January 2015

Once Bitten, Twice Shy

OK. I totally admit it. I’m a sucker (bloodsucker?) for vampire novels. I admit that I’m a Twilight fan. Not the crazy stay-up-all-night for the premier fangirl, but I liked the books a lot, especially when I first read them. I read them more for Edward and the Cullen family than for Bella. But my issue with heroines is for a different post.

But it’s not just the sparkly undead. I’m a fan of the original too. No, not “The Originals” although I have been known to watch “The Vampire Diaries”. I’m referring to Bram Stoker’s dark tale.

Last year I was introduced to the Amish variety and more recently a redeemed one. One of my favorite books of 2014 is a title that’s been getting both good and dubious press including a nod from Jimmy Fallon. Kerry Nietz’s very good take on a genre mashup never seen before Amish Vampires in Space. Or AViS if you sit at the cool table. The cool table being the one where we wear ironic t-shirts and Converse All-Stars (see last week’s post for that reference). In AViS, the vampires are the evil creatures of myth where the only good vampire is a dead vampire.

I just finished another fantastic vampire novel. It too is a Christian title, and another excellent read. But it takes a different tack. Vampires are evil but are they any more sinful than your garden variety mortal human? That’s the premise of Ben Wolf’s Blood for Blood. What I loved about it was the double layer Raven’s story told. On the surface, it’s part-horror, part-western suspense with bandits, marshals, and a vampire. Why would a revival preacher put his family at risk by taking in someone who has to kill to survive?

But it goes so much deeper. Substitute the word “vampire” for anything from “homosexual” or “prostitute” to “murderer” or “thief”, and you see why this man is so generous to Raven who he sees as redeemable even if Raven believes he’s souless and damned for all eternity. Ben spells out the difference between the “immortal” life of a vampire with that of the “eternal” life of the saved. He makes a case that will forever cement the idea that there can be such a thing as a Christian vampire. And I’m quite thankful for that.

But I’m even more thankful with how Ben handles Raven’s struggles between his redeemed self and his vampire nature. He still fights bloodlust. Garlic, daylight, flowing water, and holy objects are still off limits. Raven retains his strength and resistance to death, but is he still “immortal” as well as “eternal”? The transformation of Raven after his conversion is a beautiful reminder that we may have been baptized into a new life but that is only the beginning. Like Bunyan’s Christian and our own lives, belief is only passing through the wicket gate. We still have a long road of following Christ. And it’s not easy.

The Stranger

Do you sometimes wonder who you are? Do you sometimes feel like the world’s biggest poseur?
My love of boots if no secret and this year I added two new pairs. Shearling boots and cowboy boots. I love them both but in some ways neither are me.

My tunic sweater, leggings, & shearling boots. I love the outfit but wondered if I only looked like a caricature of a “stereotypical white girl”. And no I don’t like pumpkin spice lattes.

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Over Christmas we went to Texas and I got to meet two my writing friends. I showed up wearing an outfit that’s totally me and not. I wore my cowboy boots (feeling a bit poseurish wearing them in the Lone Star State), my Purdue hoodie that is rather steampunk in design (me all over again), and skinny jeans (me, me, me). I wore a Purdue t-shirt, but my original choice was a t-shirt in the shape of Indiana that says “Home”. I laughed that this shirt says to a Texan, “Hello, I’m from a state the size of your panhandle.”

Hoosier by birth. Boilermaker by the grace of God.

Hoosier by birth. Boilermaker by the grace of God.

I also added two pairs of Converse All-Stars to my shoe collection and a green “Geek Girl” t-shirt. These are more articles of clothing that are me and yet not me. I may have the funky green and black glasses, but I’m not quite a hipster either. Maybe because I’d rather wear contacts and look like a newly turned vampire than allow a picture of me in said glasses. Also, since I didn’t own Converse in the eighties that somehow I’m not allowed to wear them in the twenty-first century.

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Then there’s my faux-leather motorcycle jacket($29.99 at TJ MAXX) and grey engineer boots. That’s not me either. I haven’t ridden a motorcycle, ever. There are my fitness clothes, but I’m not one to run around in athletic wear. It goes on, gets really sweaty, and is peeled off as soon as I finish my cool down stretches.

So if I’m not a cowgirl, hipster, or stereotypical white girl (with a preference for non-fat lattes, extra foam), what am I? Obviously not a biker chick or athlete. Maybe I’m not just one thing. But several. My favorite outfit is the one I wore to church today. Black turtleneck, houndstooth skirt, tights, and ballet flats. Sixties mod is definitely one of my favorite looks.

My day in and day out “uniform” is a turtleneck, long-sleeved t-shirt, or sweater, skinny jeans or corduroys, and boots. I’m also someone who likes to dress for the occasion. I wear dresses and skirts to church. I wear dress pants and tailored shirts when I have to work in the office or go on business trips. In the field, it’s Carhartts and work boots. And I find running is a whole lot more fun when I’m wearing a bright top and cute running skirt. Did I mention that I love brightly colored running shoes too?

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Do you have a go-to look? What about an outfit that isn’t quite “you” but you love anyway?

Candle in the Wind

Candles are an ever popular gift. While Christmas is over, we have an entire year of birthdays, Valentine’s Day, Mothers’ Day plus all of those random hostess, thank you, and shower gifts.
I received a Diamond Candle as a Christmas gift from my sister. I’m not one to spend money on candles or jewelry. Diamond Candles are a fun concept. You get a soy-based, scented candle. Mine is apple cinnamon.

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When you burn it down about one quarter, you get a foil pouch with a random ring valued from $10-$5,000. Here is mine. They’re various sizes. Mine fits my index finger perfectly, which is what I hoped. I have a wedding ring and a couple of other rings that fit my ring finger.

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Mom received one too.

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If you’re into more traditional candles with unique natural scents, Ellie Brook Designs makes elegant soy-based candles. We gave out several as Christmas gifts.

Tale as Old as Time

I had to choose a song from Beauty and the Beast in honor of book-loving Belle for this post. Another goal accomplished – 100 books read or listened to in 2014. I actually read 111 plus or minus a couple I either read at the end of 2013 or forgot to log because I couldn’t find it in my search histories. You can see my Books Read in 2014 board on Pinterest.

I’m not doing a traditional Top Ten (or whatever number) favorite book but rather highlighting ones that particularly captured my attention. For one, I had three friends publish their debut novels and picking a favorite from these diverse novels would be second to choosing which of my kids I love best.

My favorite book was The Night Circus. It’s sort of a double win because not only is it a fantastic read but also because it’s narrated by (swoon) Jim Dale. That man could read the ingredients list to Pop Tarts and I’d be enthralled. Of course, he’s better at speculative fiction novels as he is the voice of the Harry Potter audio books. It was my favorite because it was an absolutely unpredictable flight of fancy. The only negative was an f-bomb planted in the first chapter. Language isn’t a huge deal with me but I despise gratuitous profanity.

Fellow Scriblerians Cynthia Toney and Vanessa Morton published their debut novels as did one of my oldest writing friends, Nancy Kimball.

Cynthia’s Bird Face is a hilarious book about junior high aged Wendy. It touches serious topics with the best humor. I absolutely died laughing during parts of it. A hilarious reminder of those awkward years. When I began writing, I prayed for critique partners. Tim and Cynthia formed the group that would become known as The Scriblerians. I was so happy because Bird Face had me from the first chapter.

Vanessa has been with us from the beginning and her book Moonfall captured my attention in a totally different way. It’s part Biblical fiction part fantasy as she tells a fascinating story of the woman we know as Rahab. But her Rahab who is named Rachav, is an identical twin prone to visions. Intrigued? How can you not be? Vanessa has a passion for archaeology and it’s obvious in the rich details of ancient Jericho.

Nancy and I bonded over our love of heroes and we have mutual crushes on our own creations. Then again what is there to not love of Jonathan Tarquinius from Chasing the Lion. From the “man of twelve” running through the streets of Rome to the hardened on the outside, tender in the middle gladiator of the end. Chasing the Lion is an at times gritty story that honors the redemptive power of Christ. I actually “read” it twice once in print and once in audio. Joseph Narducci is another swoon-worthy narrator.

I didn’t read as many classics as I normally read with two of the three Divine Comedies being the only non-twentieth/twenty-first century books I read this year. I did tackle a few modern classics: Lord of the Flies, A Separate Peace, Fahrenheit 451, and Something Wicked This Way Comes.

I don’t include Bible studies that I do but there were two Christian non-fiction titles that I read. Both are excellent and quite different. My mentor and I discussed Grace-Based Parenting and I read the short but weighty The End of Christendom.

I “reread” the Harry Potter Books in audio form. More Jim Dale. I also started the audio series A Song of Fire and Ice, more popularly known by it’s television show title “A Game of Thrones”. This is another well narrated story.

Of course, I had to read some dystopian because I love that genre. I knew this year would be bittersweet. One of my favorite series by Jill Williamson who is one of my favorite authors published her third and final book in the Safe Lands series. Rebels ended the series in a most satisfying way.

Alas I didn’t have to mourn the end of a good series because Nadine Brandes put out the first book in her Out of Time series. A Time to Die has a cool concept that pulled me right in and makes me impatient for the next installment. Everyone wears a clock with their death timed to the last second. Katie Clark debuted with Vanquished the first in her dystopian Enslaved series. Another one that pulled me in and made me crave more.

It’s the fifth day of the new year and I’ve already finished two audio books and started my third. I’m also deep into my first e-book and I’m almost finished with Unbroken which I’m reading in print. Here’s to a new year of good books.

What was your favorite book of 2014?

Happy reading.

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