Book Review: “Street God” by Dimas Salabberios

[Note: I received a free review copy of this book from the Tyndale Blog Network. However, all reviews & opinions are my own!]

StreetGod

His street name was Daylight. But he was a nightmare. On the streets of New York, darkness and violence reigned. Dimas “Daylight” Salaberrios popped his first pill when he was eleven years old, and just days later, he was selling drugs to his schoolmates. By fifteen, he was facing time at the notorious Rikers Island Prison. It was never safe to turn your back, and Dimas saw only one chance to survive: to become a street god. He would be the richest, most powerful ruler in the hood . . . or die trying.

But in one terrifying moment, with a gun pointed at his head, Dimas had to decide: How far would he go? Was he finished taking reckless chances to rule as a god of the streets? Would he dare to entrust his life to the real God—an even riskier path? Because that God would send Dimas back down the darkest streets he’d ever known on a rescue mission after those still in danger. [Summary from Tyndale.]

I wanted to love Street God. But I just didn’t.

It sounded like such a powerful, intriguing story, but in the end, I had to drag myself through it to finish reading. I don’t doubt Dimas Salaberrios and the sincerity of his testimony — obviously, God has done a mighty work in his life, and it’s always an encouragement to read about such a powerful redemption story. However, even as a Christian myself, some of the “miraculous” parts of his story made me skeptical, to say nothing of his actual conversion, which he describes as three women casting a demon out of him. Don’t get me wrong, I believe God can and does do miraculous things even today, but this suspended even my disbelief.

From a strictly literary perspective, the book rambled on in confusion, dropping dozens of names of characters who you never really “knew” in any detail, and crossing over timelines so many times it got exhausting and nearly impossible to follow. I have no doubt that Dimas might be a powerful preacher, but his writing is almost painful.

I’m so easily pleased when it comes to books that I rarely find myself giving a negative review, but in this case, I don’t have a lot of accolades to give.

What do you do when you’re disappointed by a book? Do you plug away and finish it? Or do you set it aside? 

Tyndale Blog Network

Attention: Blog Under Construction!

Attention, readers!

I wanted to let you know that, after several months of strategic planning, I will be taking a bit of a blog hiatus for the rest of November and possibly into December. During this time, I will be working hard to give my little corner of the web a total facelift, which I cannot wait to share with you all!

You’ll have to check back to see what I have up my sleeve for this new design, but I can give you a bit of a preview…

PDCD_logo

That’s right! I’m so excited to be using Pretty Darn Cute Design for my new look – I love Lindsey’s design work, and I can’t wait to implement my new design using her themes.

I hate to step away completely from blogging, but this redesign is going to take a lot of dedicated hours, and I know it will pay off when I can re-launch and share a whole new look with you all.

Stay tuned for more! In the meantime,
you can continue to follow me on Instagram & Twitter. :)

October 2015 Favorites

As I mentioned earlier this week, October did not go according to plan in my blogging world! Nevertheless, even though I’m slightly late in doing so, I wanted to go ahead and share a few of my favorite things from the month of October.

Things I Love:

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  • Goodreads! I signed up for Goodreads quite awhile ago, but I stopped using it because I didn’t like the clunky interface. Thankfully, that interface has since greatly improved, and I loooooove the mobile app. I’m obsessed with entering ALL THE BOOKS and tracking my reading progress. So much fun. Add me as a friend if you use Goodreads!
  • Bullet journaling. In a season of high stress and what feels like an endless checklist running through my brain, bullet journaling has seriously been saving my life lately. It’s not a specific journal or anything – rather, it’s a type or method of journaling, and it’s brilliant. I’ve modified some of the logging style details and customized it for my own use, and I know I will continue to tweak it as I keep using it. I’ve learned that I have a much healthier brain when I write things down instead of trying to keep track of everything inside my head. Otherwise, I end up like this with everything vying for brain space:

Dean

  • Coloring for grownups. What can I say, I’m still a kid at heart! I found this beautiful pattern coloring book at Barnes & Noble, and I love it. So relaxing to sit down and color.
  • Story is a State of Mind. I’ve been a fan of Sarah Selecky for a long time, and in particular have enjoyed her daily writing prompts. I stumbled onto her Story is a State of Mind course probably a year or so ago, and at the time thought, “Oh, that would be wonderful to do someday.” As I worked my way through The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron this summer, I realized that I have never truly studied creative writing before, and as I researched SSM more thoroughly, I told myself that if I successfully completed The Artist’s Way, then I would go ahead and purchase SSM to specifically focus on my creative writing. I’ve completed the first lesson so far, and I can tell already that it will stretch & grow me in the best ways possible. I can’t wait to dive into more lessons.

Reading:

After a very scattered and distracted September of reading, I worked hard to make sure I actually finished some books in October — and it worked! Here are the books I finished in October:

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
The Shell Collector by Anthony Doerr
A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg
The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert [not recommended]
Astonish Me by Maggie Shipstead [if you can get past the casual sex and the cocaine – so. much. cocaine! – the story itself was fascinating]
Making a Literary Life by Carolyn See [strong language – highly recommended for a writer]

Listening:

I’ve had Andrew Peterson‘s new album The Burning Edge of Dawn on repeat for about 2 weeks now, and I absolutely love it. I’ve gained so much respect for Andrew as an artist and a storyteller, and this new album perfectly reflects that. I love the whole album, but this track in particular is a favorite. [As an aside, I adore The Rabbit Room, the online community that Andrew Peterson founded for writers and artists. Check it out!]

Watching:

Austin & I finally finished Chuck — and we loved it. The last season did get a bit out of control, but it came together with a very sweet ending, and I totally admit to a few tears when we came full circle with that final scene on the beach. We were sad to reach the end!

I have also blown through Parks & Recreation, and now I’m anxiously awaiting the final season’s arrival on Netflix. What a fantastic show. It took me a little while to really “get into” it, but I absolutely fell in love with the characters, and I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen a show that makes me laugh. so. hard. I just love it. Also, Leslie Knope & Ben Wyatt are the best TV couple since Jim Halpert & Pam Beesly. The end.

DeathComesToPemberley

I’ve had Masterpiece Mystery’s adaptation of Death Comes to Pemberley on my list for awhile, and I finally watched it. I have to admit that I wasn’t a huge fan of Anna Maxwell Martin as Elizabeth Darcy (although I have adored Anna in other roles), but overall, I thought it was a beautiful production and an intriguing take on the original “cast” of Pride & Prejudice, which I thought was mostly faithful to Jane Austen’s classic characters.

Austin and I are, of course, thoroughly enjoying the fact that our favorite shows are back on the air, and we are eagerly following the current seasons of Flash, Arrow, Supernatural, and Castle. Yay for fall television!

And that, friends, is my summary of October favorites! What have you been into lately? Come tell me in the comments!

Book Review: “Longing for Paris” by Sarah Mae

LongingForParis

This book hit me at exactly the right time – I love it when God does that! Not only do Sarah Mae’s words in Longing for Paris inspire me to search for the beauty in the everyday (bring Paris to my life right where I am!), but she also exhorts me to seek God’s presence more than I seek any other dream.

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I felt such joy & freedom reading Sarah’s thoughts on how God is the ultimate source of our heart’s deepest longings. I struggle so often with the fear that perhaps my dreams and desires are selfish and should be shoved aside, but what a blessing to be reminded that God cares about ME in every facet, and that includes the dreams & desires HE has placed in my heart.

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“He put the very ability to long in my soul; He gave me the gift of dreaming so I could have vision in this life. … I have learned that where we go wrong is when we hold so tightly to our dreams that we neglect to fully trust God with them.” – from Longing for Paris

Longing for Paris was an easy read, but I know I will be pondering its message for weeks to come.

For more information, visit the beautiful Longing for Paris website!

Find Sarah Mae online:
Facebook // Twitter // Instagram // Pinterest

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Enjoy this lovely video where Sarah talks briefly about what led her to write Longing for Paris.

 

What do I do with the longings in my soul? from Sarah Mae on Vimeo.

~*~

[Note: I received a free review copy of this book from the Tyndale Blog Network. However, all reviews & opinions are my own!]

 Tyndale Blog Network

When Goals Sometimes… Fizzle

Sometimes when I fail to achieve a goal, I can get discouraged and let it rankle. Generally speaking, I have learned to let it go and move on, but every now and then, a failed goal can make me pretty miserable.

My failure to meet my 31 Days challenge this year has been one of those situations. Obviously, I have not published my full 31 posts, and definitely didn’t make it within the month of October — a number of circumstances compiled and conspired against me, and by the end of October, I felt run down and had completely lost my enthusiasm. Don’t get me wrong: I have thoroughly enjoyed going back through my notes from Europe and telling these stories, but to be honest, it turned out to be a lot harder than I thought it would be.

As I have tried to decide how to handle the remaining topics that I had sketched out for this series, I concluded that I didn’t want to abandon the series altogether, but I couldn’t handle the pressure of trying to force myself to finish before October 31st either, so I took a break (obviously, for anyone who has still been reading — bless you!). Now that we have turned the corner into November, and I’ve had a bit of refreshment, I think I’m ready to continue filling out the final installments, although I will probably do so at a slower pace.

For those of you who told me how much you were enjoying the series — you’re a doll! Thank you so much. My #write31days experience this year did not feel quite as “successful” as I wanted it to be, but I’m excited to still close out the series at a more leisurely pace.

For those of you like me who might get discouraged when you don’t meet a goal, how do you recover and move forward? How do you seek new inspiration? Come join me in the comments!

Weekend Links

We interrupt your regularly-scheduled 31 Stories From Europe post to bring back the Weekend Links post! I’ve become sporadic with these (as indeed with my blog in general recently, before October), but I want to try to get back into the groove, as I love creating these weekly compilations. Enjoy this weekend’s collection!

Netflix is reportedly reviving Gilmore Girls for a special 4-episode series! My favorite part: “…a chance for [Amy] Sherman-Palladino, who exited the show after its sixth and penultimate season because of a contract dispute, to right the wrongs done in her absence.” Can anyone say series finale?!?!?! Oh please, new Netflix series, PLEASE write those unspeakable wrongs!

Tsh’s podcast with Caroline Starr Rose. Oh, what encouragement for any writer.

What Taylor Swift Taught Me About Writing” by Emily Freeman.

How to Help Launch ‘Out of Sorts’ (in Doctor Who GIFS, because, well, of course)” by Sarah Bessey. Because Sarah is truly the master of the Doctor Who GIF. And because I adore her and am so excited to see her new book come out.

The new Lindsay Letters Holiday 2015 collection. Absolutely gorgeous.

And finally, this. On repeat. Because she’s back, and she’s more gorgeous than ever. <3

Gardens & Parks & Fountains, oh my!

In the midst of big cities, full of traffic and noise and vehicle exhaust, our brief visits to parks and gardens provided a welcome relief and respite. In this post, I want to share some photos from some of our favorite “green” spots — and I do mean literally! I’ve never seen so much beautiful green in my life.

St. Stephen’s Green in Dublin:

Jenna Hermle 2015

Jenna Hermle 2015

Phoenix Park in Dublin:

Jenna Hermle 2015

Jenna Hermle 2015

Jenna Hermle 2015

Jenna Hermle 2015

Hyde Park in London:

Jenna Hermle 2015

Jenna Hermle 2015

Jenna Hermle 2015

Jenna Hermle 2015

Christ Church Meadow in Oxford, which I also wrote about previously:

Jenna Hermle 2015

Jenna Hermle 2015

Luxembourg Gardens in Paris:

Jenna Hermle 2015

Jenna Hermle 2015

Jenna Hermle 2015

Jenna Hermle 2015

Resting tired feet at the Jardin de Tuileries in Paris:

Jenna Hermle 2015

Jenna Hermle 2015

What are your favorite parks in Europe? Come tell me in the comments! 

THIS IS DAY 20 IN MY 31 STORIES FROM EUROPE SERIES. TO READ THE REST OF THE SERIES, PLEASE VISIT THE INTRODUCTORY PAGE — AND SUBSCRIBE TO MY BLOG IF YOU DON’T WANT TO MISS ANYTHING!

Photo Credit: Megan Weakley

Photo Credit: Megan Weakley

History Overload: Museums

I will freely admit that we did not tackle very many museums on our Europe trip. Personally, for the most part, I would much rather take in a park or a cathedral or some other specific site with historical significance — I think I just go on overload in museums. I adore history now (sadly, that appreciation has come much later in life, as I did not enjoy history in school), but I love “binge” learning on a particular subject or event, rather than the overwhelming crush of a museum that attempts to cover ALL OF HUMAN HISTORY.

The sheer size of the British Museum is incredible - just look at how tiny we are! | Jenna Hermle 2015

The sheer size of the British Museum is incredible – just look at how tiny we are! | Jenna Hermle 2015

However, I will also admit that I thoroughly enjoyed aspects of the handful of museums that we did visit: the British Museum, the National Gallery, and the National Portrait Gallery in London, and the Musée d’Orsay in Paris. Sadly, I had come down with a cold on our first full day in London, so the British Museum was even more overwhelming to me that day than it usually would have been — plus, I was heartbroken to discover that the famous Reading Room was closed! We did get to see the Rosetta Stone, sculptures from the Parthenon, the Easter Island stone figures, and a fascinating display on the history of clocks, among what felt like hundreds of other displays.

We rushed through the National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery so quickly that I hardly feel qualified to comment, but we did enjoy them both!

Jenna Hermle 2015

Jenna Hermle 2015

Megan & I took a walk from our flat to the beautiful Musée d’Orsay one morning in Paris, and what a treat that was! We especially geeked out over the Vincent van Gogh room (which I have to admit reveals another level of nerd in both of us, because of the Doctor Who references we were looking for!), but the whole museum is just gorgeous. The smaller size made it feel much more manageable!

A former railway station houses the museum | Jenna Hermle 2015

A former railway station houses the museum | Jenna Hermle 2015

For anyone who is wondering by this point, no, we did not visit The Louvre — I know, so shameful! We did actually intend to, but we decided we were “museum-ed out” that evening, and then… we just ran out of time to go back. In order to truly appreciate The Louvre, though, I have a feeling that one would need a full day to dedicate to it, and we simply didn’t have that much time. Another visit, right?!

Photo: Creative Commons

Photo: Creative Commons

What are your favorite European museums?! Come tell me in the comments! 

THIS IS DAY 19 IN MY 31 STORIES FROM EUROPE SERIES. TO READ THE REST OF THE SERIES, PLEASE VISIT THE INTRODUCTORY PAGE — AND SUBSCRIBE TO MY BLOG IF YOU DON’T WANT TO MISS ANYTHING!

Photo Credit: Megan Weakley

Photo Credit: Megan Weakley

Upon the Water: Cruising up the Thames and Seine

Tower Bridge from the River Thames | Jenna Hermle 2015

Tower Bridge from the River Thames | Jenna Hermle 2015

After our frightful first afternoon & evening in London, we ended up missing our one pre-planned activity for that day: a cruise on the River Thames. We had booked tickets in advance, in conjunction with our passes for the London Eye, but by the time we finally reached our hotel that night, we had completely missed our departure time.

{As an aside, we had initially discussed staying in London until the cruise time, and then heading out to our hotel afterward — thank goodness we decided against that option. I can’t even imagine experiencing all of that horrifying wandering looking for our hotel after dark. It would have been 10 times worse!}

Several days later, when we went to take the London Eye, I explained the situation and asked, almost on a whim, if there was any chance we could re-book our cruise. Miraculously, within 10 minutes, we had a new cruise time for that evening, and without even incurring a re-booking fee! What an unexpected bonus.

Ready to cruise on the River Seine! | Jenna Hermle 2015

Ready to cruise on the River Seine! | Jenna Hermle 2015

We opted to do a river cruise in both London and Paris, and it was totally worth it in both cities. Because both Paris and London grew up organically along the river, a number of the most famous and recognizable sites are clearly visible from the river, which makes a cruise highly enjoyable.

One of my favorite pictures I took of the Eiffel Tower | Jenna Hermle 2015

One of my favorite pictures I took of the Eiffel Tower | Jenna Hermle 2015

We had excellent commentary on both cruises: a snarky and awkwardly hilarious fast-talking Brit on the Thames, and on the Seine cruise, two young female students delivered the commentary in both French and English, which was fun to hear.

Beautiful Pont Alexandre III | Jenna Hermle 2015

Beautiful Pont Alexandre III | Jenna Hermle 2015

Have you ever taken a river cruise in Europe? What did you enjoy about it? 

THIS IS DAY 18 IN MY 31 STORIES FROM EUROPE SERIES. TO READ THE REST OF THE SERIES, PLEASE VISIT THE INTRODUCTORY PAGE — AND SUBSCRIBE TO MY BLOG IF YOU DON’T WANT TO MISS ANYTHING!

Photo Credit: Megan Weakley

Photo Credit: Megan Weakley

Buckingham Palace Will Turn Anyone Into a Royalist!

After a picnic lunch in Hyde Park on a Sunday afternoon, we walked down Constitution Hill to Buckingham Palace.

Photo: Creative Commons

Photo: Creative Commons

Originating as a townhouse built in 1703 for the Duke of Buckingham, Buckingham Palace has been the official seat of the monarch since Queen Victoria’s accession in 1837. It still serves as a focal point for any momentous national occasions, and the royal family will make an appearance on the front facade’s balcony to acknowledge crowds of people on festive occasions.

I was pretty excited by this point! | Jenna Hermle 2015

I was pretty excited by this point! | Jenna Hermle 2015

We paused for a few minutes to sit on the steps below the beautiful Victoria Memorial, and once again, as happened so many times in London, I felt overwhelmed by all the history that has played out here. The Union Jack was flying atop the palace, signifying the lack of the Queen’s presence within, but even so, it still felt dreadfully exciting to stand there and take our picture in front of Buckingham Palace! 

I am by no means a “Royalist”, but I couldn’t help thinking what a thrill it would be to see the Queen come out on the balcony — or Prince William and his beautiful “commoner” wife and family. I imagined the square on something like a royal wedding day, packed with surging crowds of people, all straining toward the gates and hoping for a glimpse of royalty. I have to admit that I would love to witness something like that someday!

Have you ever visited Buckingham Palace, or had a royalty sighting? Come tell me about it in the comments!

THIS IS DAY 17 IN MY 31 STORIES FROM EUROPE SERIES. TO READ THE REST OF THE SERIES, PLEASE VISIT THE INTRODUCTORY PAGE — AND SUBSCRIBE TO MY BLOG IF YOU DON’T WANT TO MISS ANYTHING!

Photo Credit: Megan Weakley

Photo Credit: Megan Weakley