Book Break: Thunder: A Novel by Bonnie S. Calhoun

Thunder

Thunder: A Novel (Stone Braide Chronicles)

As an avid reader of fantasy, science, fiction, and young adult novels, when I heard about the book Thunder, I knew it would be right up my alley. Set in a post-apocalyptic, dystopian* society, the descendants of those who survived The Time of Sorrows either live off the land in a somewhat primitive way, while trying to determine what is still “safe” to eat, or they are part of the self-contained Mountain people (aka The Company) who carry out mysterious scientific experiments with the benefit of technologically advanced equipment.

Thunder

I would describe the overall story as a combination of action, adventure, young romance, and science fiction. It is also a bit of a coming of age book where the teens within (Selah and Bodhi as well as others) are learning about themselves and the world around them, as they strive to not only make the right decisions but to survive. As you meet the various characters and follow along on the journey/quest with them, you will enjoy a tale (told from various points of view) full of secrets, lies, danger, corruption, friendship, betrayal, hope, and love, while all along a battle between good and evil simmers below the surface.

From reading other reviews, I understand that some readers felt that this book did not have a deep enough spiritual tone (coming from a Christian publisher) or that it lacked any mention of faith or spiritual content, I felt like the spiritual references were subtle and intriguing (e.g., references to the Kingdom, the Presence, and one of the experiments being called an “abomination” to name a few). However, I admit that there were a lot of things that were not explained in this book that I would hope are either covered in the FREE e-book prequel—Tremors (which is now available online) or that things will become clearer in book two: Lightning. Perhaps the Landers, who are referred to as Immortals, are angels or some other type of spiritual being; I don’t really know at this point. The good thing about this subtleness, in my opinion, is that those who are not familiar with Revell as a publisher of Christian books will enjoy the adventure, action, and mysteries contained within the story without realizing that there is an underlying message of hope and redemption. A message that will, hopefully, become clearer later on in this series.

Overall, I enjoyed the book and am looking forward to more to come.

Thank you to the publisher, Revell, for providing me with an advance copy for my personal review and my honest opinion.

  *A dystopia is a community or society that is in some important way undesirable or frightening. It is the opposite of a utopia. Such societies appear in many artistic works, particularly in stories set in a future. Dystopias are often characterized by dehumanization, totalitarian governments, environmental disaster, or other characteristics associated with a cataclysmic decline in society. (wikipedia.org)

Back Cover copy:

The Time of Sorrows is long past.
The future of Selah and her people is shrouded in mystery.
And the clock is ticking.

Hidden in the tall grasses along a shore littered with the rusted metal remnants of a once-great city, a hunter crouches. It is the eve of her eighteenth Birth Remembrance and high time she proves to herself and her brothers that she can stand on her own two feet. Selah Rishon Chavez waits not for game but for one of the small boats that occasionally crash against the desolate shoreline. Because inside one of these boats she will find her quarry—a Lander. These people from an unknown land across the ocean are highly prized by the Company and bring a good price—especially if they keep the markings they arrive with. Everything falls to pieces when the Lander whom Selah catches is stolen by her brothers, and Selah wakes the next morning to find the Lander’s distinctive mark has appeared on her own flesh. Once the hunter, Selah is now one of the hunted, and she knows only one person who can help her—Bodhi Locke, the Lander her brothers hope to sell in the Mountain.
Inside Cover copy:

With evocative descriptions of a strange new world that combines elements of disturbing scientific advances, devious political conspiracy, and survival in a hostile wilderness, Bonnie S. Calhoun weaves a captivating tale of a society more like our own than we may want to admit. From the tension-laced first scene to the captivating last page, Thunder is an epic journey into the heart of humankind that explores how far we are willing to go when we’re pushed to the limit.

Reblog: Let Go of Guilt and Find Contentment

The following post is not my writing, but I absolutely LOVE the content and wanted to share these thoughts with my own readers. Some of you may have seen this on my Facebook page, but for those who I am not connected to (or who are not on Facebook), I hope you enjoy this article by Rachel (originally posted September 26, 2014). Hop on over to her webpage NourishingMinimalism.com to read more of her content.

Let go of guilt and find contentment

What do you think of, when you think of “minimalism”?

Do you think of stark white walls, no pictures and very little furniture?

Well, you may be right to an extent. But minimalism is much more than a design style or appearance of one’s home.

Minimalism is as much about pitching unnecessary possessions out of your home as it is about pitching unnecessary hurts, obligations and expectations out of your heart. It’s an all encompassing philosophy that works it’s magic in every fiber of life, for those who embrace it.

Minimalism is letting go of overcommitted schedules and being able to enjoy life, not just surviving it.

It means saying “no” to working overtime, “no” to a multitude of obligations, that you would be really good at, but obligations that would rob you of what really matters. It means putting the phone down, walking away from the computer and being present in the moment.

Minimalism is letting go of the guilt and anxiety that these things kept in our lives.

When we reduce the amount of possessions that we have, we reduce the amount of guilt that is attached to them. Be it books you were requiring yourself to read, kitchen gadgets that are supposed to make fancy dishes a breeze or craft projects that have been sitting only partially completed for months or years. It means that when you get clothes from your closet, you know they will fit and you’ll feel attractive in them.

When we have less stuff to care for, it means housecleaning goes faster and success is achievable, not a far-off dream. It means less dishes to wash, less clothes to fold, less toys to pick up off the floor.

It means your home isn’t full of guilt-ridden items (we should keep this because Grandma owned it/gave it/told us to), but rather items the have purpose and give you joy.

Minimalism is relief. Relief to your senses, relief to your mental and emotional health.

When we have removed everything that we hide behind, we come face to face with ourselves. Just us. No more hiding, no more pretending to be something we’re not. Remove the mask of stuff and learn who you really are.

It means letting go of the items that we collected so people would view us in a certain light. Understanding that no amount of fancy dinnerware or party decor is going to magically turn us into Martha Stewart prodigy.

It means being real, accepting who we are [and] what our talents are, and [letting] go of the excess.

Rachel, the original author, says her goal in writing her blog is to help people clear the clutter, invite calmness into their homes, and enjoy the time they spend together. She also has a Facebook page; if you’d like to check it out and keep up with her posts, click here. I hope you enjoyed her words as much as I did.

Book Break: Check out Deceived by Irene Hannon

Rest

In the last few months, I have found myself with a little more free time than usual, so I have been taking my own advice about enjoying some rest and relaxation. For me, this includes one of my favorite activities: reading. And, I’m excited to share that I have signed up with Revell, a division of the Baker Publishing Group to read and review some of their books. Now, I’m not getting paid for this, but I do get the books for free, and I get to choose what I want to read and what I have time for; that’s good enough for me. So, on to my first review (I will have more books to share with you in the days ahead).

An Enjoyable Read That Will Have You
Thinking About the Characters and Pondering
the Plot Throughout the Day

Deceived

If you enjoy suspense stories with well-developed characters that are easy to relate to, and an intriguing plot line peppered with a bit of romance and just the right amount of danger and deception, you will want to pick up Irene Hannon’s book Deceived and read it for yourself.

Unfortunately, I must admit that I have never read any of this author’s works before, but after devouring this book in only a few days, I have a feeling I will be adding more of her works to my list. Deceived is the third book in the Private Justice series. However, not having read the prior two books—Vanished and Trapped—was not an issue for me. Although there were stories behind some of the characters from the private investigator’s office that were alluded to in this book, the story within these pages stood on its own from start to finish.

This is the description you will find on the back cover: For three years, Kate Marshall has been grieving the loss of her husband and their four-year-old son in a boating accident. But when she spots a familiar-looking child on an escalator in the mall, she is convinced it is the son she thought was dead. With police skeptical of her story, she turns to private investigator Connor Sullivan. The former Secret Service agent is dubious but agrees to investigate. Digging into the case he discovers that the incident may have been no accident at all. But if Kate’s son is alive, someone is intent on keeping him hidden—and may be willing to go to lethal lengths to protect a sinister secret.

As Irene Hannon’s many fans have come to expect, Deceived is filled with complex characters, unexpected twists, and a riveting plot line that accelerates to an explosive finish

*****

I loved the banter between the members of Phoenix, Inc., the private investigators who took on Kate’s case. And even though the interaction and attraction between Kate and Connor, the ex-Secret Service man who agreed to help her, was somewhat predictable, it was still fun to follow along as they found themselves drawn together while the story unraveled.

The “villain” or antagonist in Deceived is quite complex. In fact, he has some very likeable traits, which make it very disturbing to discover the role he played in the event that happened three years earlier in Kate’s life. However, I think it’s a good thing; it shows that even people who have good qualities can snap and do crazy things under extreme circumstances.  I liked that the mystery or suspense was more about the why and how rather than the who.

I was pleased that the book contained a spiritual aspect with mentions of God, prayer, and faith that did not seem to be forced or in-your-face but was naturally woven into the story and through the characters. In fact, I found some of the references to be somewhat inspirational and applicable to my own life; for example: One character says, “That’s God for you. He likes to throw us a few curves now and then, turn things upside down. At least he’s giving us a sign of what’s coming today…” and from Connor we get, “I learned … to take every story seriously until it was proven otherwise. As for coincidences—I like that old saying about them being small miracles in which God chooses to remain anonymous.”

Coincidences

I would describe this book to others as a Christian romantic suspense novel with no graphic violence or language … a very enjoyable read that will have you thinking about the characters and pondering the plot throughout the day until you can once again pick the book back up and immerse yourself in following this intriguing story to its conclusion.

*****

Thank you to the publisher, Revell, for providing me with an advanced reader’s copy for my personal review and my honest opinion of the book.

 

Days 20 and 21: Finding Spiritual Whitespace—What Your Heart Seeks

Evening Sky

Roy Lessin reminds us: “Everyone is a seeker. We seek because there is something we need, something that is missing, something that tells us there must be more.”

We seek contentment, happiness, fulfillment, security, acceptance, hope, love, joy, peace, friendship, balance, and, often, to find meaning, as well as our place in this world.

For those who have been regularly following my blog posts, you’ll remember that a while back I read the book Finding Spiritual Whitespace: Awakening Your Soul to Rest by Bonnie Gray. Since then, I have shared many of my favorite quotes, and decided to take an active part in her 21 Days of Rest Blog Tour. Little did I know, at the time, what a commitment that would be. Of course, Bonnie did not ask me or her other followers to do this but I had discovered a lot of really good thoughts from her book that I wanted to share. However, I wasn’t always able to “keep up,” and I began to feel like I took on more than I should have.

The Best YesBecause of this, as well as several other poor choices, Lysa TerKeurst’s latest book, The Best Yes: Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Endless Demands,  is now on my “to be read” list. Lysa points out that “there is a big difference between saying yes to everyone and saying yes to God.” Those of us who are people pleasers or stressed by an “overwhelmed schedule and underwhelmed soul” will likely get a great deal out of this book and the tools provided in it for better processing our thoughts and actions. If you haven’t heard of this book yet, click on the link above and read more about it.

In Finding Spiritual Whitespace, Bonnie shares that “The world calls us to hide our stressed-out selves. But Jesus calls us to a radical new rest. … Jesus invites us into a new relationship to set our hearts free. Jesus wants us to bring him what’s real and worrisome as well as what’s simple and beautiful.”

Simple Beauty

“Taking time for whitespace to rest, create, and play—
to laugh, enjoy friends, see new places,
and explore new adventures—
is heart-freeing faith.”
Bonnie Gray

On Bonnie’s post for Day 20: Find Me in the Quiet Places: A Little Big Change, she shares some of the ways that she seeks rest from stress and/or the daily grind by choosing to meet Jesus in the quiet spaces. These moments don’t have to be long or regularly scheduled; the “moments will come, if you listen to your soul…”

As you come to a fork in the road in your day today and this week — between choosing the quiet or filling it up with doing, performing, pleasing, or disappearing — stop.

Choose what’s harder, but more soul-filling.

Choose to spend that time doing something no one would be able to point at it and say, “She is someone. She did something.”

And choose to be loved instead.

Butterfly

On Day 21, Bonnie posted Me & the Military: It Changed Me to share with her readers the results of her first multi-day Spiritual Whitespace Retreat, which she was invited to lead for the Wounded Transition Battalion headquartered in Fort Campbell, KY. (The retreat was held earlier in September in Nashville, TN.) While she originally intended to speak to soldiers, the focus changed and she ended up working with a group of officers and their wives. She asked herself: “What does a Chinese-American 5 foot woman born in San Francisco, Chinatown — who suffered PTSD for the past two years with broken memories, uncontrollable anxiety and insomnia — have to say to officers caring for injured soldiers, wounded from the battlefield?”

Leaders who have been in combat themselves are reliving [their experiences] through the soldiers they care for 24 hours-a-day, on-call 7 days a week. Phone calls wake them up at crazy hours during the night. By day, they look into eyes of soldiers who are confused, angry or depressed to guide them on the disorienting journey of healing and recovery. They are responsible for each soldier’s disorienting transition back to active duty, or for some with irreversible injuries, prepare them for the unexpected re-entrance into civilian life.

It’s soul-wearying work.

It’s a heavy burden to carry because it’s often the strong ones — the encouragers – the doers –

who carry the heaviest burdens,

and incur the greatest emotional and physical cost,

who find it hard to express want or need,

while finding it easier to just get things done,

even if they truly long to receive comfort,

yet can’t seem to give themselves permission to rest.

Like many of us who doubt ourselves, Bonnie’s biggest fear was whether she was good enough, qualified enough, to lead this group on a soul journey toward discovery and rest. Then it struck her: The weekend was about experiencing Spiritual Whitespace, not teaching it. The event included storytelling, journaling, connecting to God through silence and solitude on a solo nature walk or through prayer and meditation, even painting. It was about facing fears and becoming real in community. And it was successful!

We all have stories…

On the outside, we might look different. But, inside, we’re all on the same journey.

We’re all on the same mission.

To be loved.

To be known.

To be close to God.

To each other.

We all long for rest…

We can all live lives that include rest and refreshment by taking the time to develop an intimacy, a deep relationship, with Jesus. He knows what moves us and encourages us; he knows what spiritual whitespace looks like for each of us. And once we discover the ways our own needs for renewal can be met—through nature, music, God’s Word, song lyrics, art (our own creativity or that of others), etc.—we can reach out and help others discover the beauty, the transformational nature, the freeing power, of walking in faith with Jesus in the quiet of our hearts.

 

 21 Days of Rest: Finding Spiritual Whitespace

 

Discouraged? There’s Help for Your Heart.

Flowers for Your Heart

What Your Heart NeedsI am currently working my way through a wonderful new book by Holley Gerth: What Your Heart Needs for the Hard Days: 52 Encouraging Truths to Hold On To. And I am finding so many words of encouragement that I can personally relate to. In fact, I have already flagged a number of pages that I know I will want to go back to so I can reread and savor the messages on days when I might be feeling a bit discouraged.

Holley is a best-selling writer, licensed counselor, certified life coach, and speaker. I have followed her blog: Heart to Heart with Holley (www.holleygerth.com) for quite some time now and often share her posts or some of her words or graphics with friends and family on my Facebook page.

Holley also works in partnership with DaySpring, one of the largest publishers and distributors of Christian greeting cards (and other inspirational products) in the world. Plus, she is the cofounder of (in)courage, an online “home for the hearts of women,” which I love; I have found so many great articles and bloggers through this site.

In fact, there was a recent post on (in)courage from Renee Swope titled “Words for the Weary” that made me think of Holley and the importance of her newest book. To me, Holley Gerth is the encourager of encouragers.  

Words of Encouragement

If you haven’t heard of (in)courage before, you should check them out.

So, back to the book: What Your Heart Needs for the Hard Days contains 52 similarly formatted devotions based on the book of Psalms, written in a way that helps us remember that “God is good and we’re all in this together.”

Because there are 52 entries, you could easily use this book as a weekly devotional to be processed over a year, taking your time to read the opening Scripture quote and Holley’s words. Then adding your own words to complete the prayer, which has already been started for you under “What My Heart Is Saying to You.” During the week, you can go back and write in your thoughts under “What My Heart Is Hearing from You,” and at any time, you can open your Bible and read and reflect on the three Psalms referenced at the end of that week’s entry.

Of course, the devotions are short enough that you could also choose to read them as daily devotions. Either way, in this comforting book, Holley invites us “to be filled with the strength, peace, and joy that come from God’s promises.”

She provides real-life stories for us to connect with, as well as encouraging thoughts and passages from God’s Word to help us focus on what’s really important—the internal and the eternal.

All we have to do is be willing to open our hearts and receive.

Open Your Heart

Already a fan of Holley Gerth, her latest book does not disappoint. Not only will you find this book to be soothing for your own soul, but it would make a great gift for a hurting friend or perhaps even a wonderful donation at a women’s shelter. It is also the perfect companion to one of Holley’s other books: You’re Going to Be Okay.

I hope you get an opportunity to read What Your Heart Needs for the Hard Days. I will likely be posting excerpts from it in the days ahead.

God Exerts His Strength

“God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.”

Psalm 46:5

“The Lord is my strength and my shield:
my heart trusts in him,
and I am helped.”

Psalm 28:7

 

Disclosure: This book was sent to me free of charge
from Revell for my honest review.

 

Days 18 and 19: Finding Spiritual Whitespace—You Are Not Forgotten

Tranquility

Even if they don’t know what it means, everyone needs spiritual whitespace. If only we all clearly recognized this need in ourselves or in our loved ones, especially those who struggle with depression or some form of PTSD. Maybe we would be able to save them … save ourselves … from reaching that anguished breaking point where the only source of peace and solace available seems to be death.

On August 12th, Bonnie Gray, author of Finding Spiritual Whitespace: Awakening Your Soul to Rest wrote a tribute to Robin Williams and shared a letter she had written to her younger self. This is some of what she shared:

I wish I had a chance to talk with Robin in that dark moment he decided to take his life. I wish I could say something to bring him some hope, some comfort — the same way he brought a measure of it into my life through his art.

I’m telling you. I shed some tears. For my yesterday. For Robin.

For we are all soul-starved and hungry.

Soul-loneliness is our sad modern epidemic.

I wish I could tell you, Robin.

There is rest apart from death. There is hope in your hurt.

You can find home. God can meet you in your sorrow.

There Is Hope

From her letter to her younger self, these are the words I believe we can all benefit from:

Be broken. Don’t run from it. Feel your need and dare to follow your dreams.

And when you feel you’ve been too broken and cannot stand the pain of being alone one breath longer — break your silence.

Tell someone. Anyone. Everyone. …

When you give yourself permission to need — to touch the place of empty, the place of wanting – that ache of unrequited desire will lead you to fulfill God-sized dreams imprinted in you before you were even named. …

Your need entwines you to Christ.

Brokenness is beauty to Him.

You are not forgotten.

You're Not Alone

In today’s post, Bonnie shares how the journey of telling her story prompted her recent invitation to lead a Spiritual Whitespace Retreat for Wounded Warriors from Fort Campbell, Kentucky in Nashville this weekend. Bonnie asks for prayer for herself and those who attend the event:

Pray for me, as I’ll be sharing my personal journey through non-combat PTSD, anxiety and panic attacks to active duty military leaders along with their spouses.

This will be a three-day retreat to guide soldiers on a journey of Spiritual Whitespace and experience spiritual refreshment through storytelling, journaling, prayer and meditation.

Pray that the brave men and women who serve our country will experience unexpected soul rest — and get a taste of what feeds their soul. That they will be known and rejuvenated from the experience.

Sacred Idleness

Speaking of events for those who have served our country, we are having a local event here in Shelbyville, KY to honor our veterans and remind them that we appreciate them and are here for them.

Veterans Supper

One of the young ladies who used to work (maybe still does part-time) at Shelburne Pet Center (where Bella goes for doggy day care and boarding) came up with the concept for this First Annual Veteran’s Supper and she has been spearheading/organizing the entire event. “This event will honor veterans of the Shelby County, Kentucky area with an afternoon of delicious potluck food, fun local music entertainment, community business basket raffles, and commemoration to the sacrifices they have made for our community.”

I pray that this rejuvenates the spirits of our veterans and their families. Thank you to Molly Carter for not only caring about your hometown, but for being an integral part of making it a better place to live for all of us. I wish you much success, and I’ll see you up there on Saturday. :)

In closing, here are just a few of my favorite veterans and VFW members, which I recently shared on my Facebook page:

My Aunt Mary and My Grandma Jo

My Aunt Mary and My Grandma Jo

My Grandfather - Dan Lee

My Grandfather – Dan Lee (with my grandmother)

My Uncle - KC Lee

My Uncle – KC Lee

I have other family members and many friends who have also served or are still serving – thank you all for what you have done and what you continue to do. I hope you never feel alone or forgotten. If you do, call me!

“God has said,
‘Never will I leave you;
never will I forsake you.’

So we say with confidence,
‘The Lord is my helper;
I will not be afraid.
What can man do to me?'”
(Hebrews 13:5-6)

 

Her Spirit Soars

Beaches

After the discovery of cancer in her brain in June of this year, my friend Denise Enos passed away on August 11th. I’m writing today’s post more for myself than anyone else. Just a way to say goodbye and to honor her memory. It’s scary when someone close to your own age dies, especially when it is so quick and unexpected. A good reminder that the choices we make, the focus we take, the lives we touch … every moment matters.

These are some of my memories of Denise:

New Life

Denise Enos adored her family and was strengthened by her faith.

She was bold, determined, and passionate about her beliefs.

She built strong relationships and treasured her friendships.

She appreciated beauty in nature as well as in man-made designs.

She savored good food and enjoyed great wine.

She believed in the power of possibility.

She was consistent and detail-oriented,
yet creative, adventurous, and fun.

In her work, she was a perfectionist,
so she could be hard on herself,
yet she offered others such grace.

Full of ideas, and always thinking,
Denise constantly sought improvement
in herself and in the workplace.

Because she cared so much about so many things,
she would sometimes get a little overwhelmed.
But venting with trusted friends and laughing
together over the craziness of our industry
helped keep us sane and fortified us to
go back another day and do it all over again.

We shared a love of family, faith, friends, imagery, words, language,
writing, consistency (especially the series comma), organization,
a positive attitude, and many other things.

Today, my heart is heavy,
acknowledging the fact that my friend is really gone.
She left quite a legacy and some very strong memories behind.
These memories allow the rest of us to taste small sips of comfort.

Although we pray that she rests in peace,
knowing Denise, her faith, and her living testimony,
I don’t think she’s resting at all …
I believe, today, she soars!

She soars!

I think Denise would want us to remember and focus on the good times we enjoyed with her. I found some “Getting to Know You” questions and answers on her Facebook page. Reading through her answers made me smile. So, I thought I would share them here:

DO YOU LIKE YOUR HANDWRITING?

It is completely, embarrassingly illegible.

 DO YOU HAVE KIDS?

My wonderful and amazing Marshall and Charlotte–I am so blessed.

 IF YOU WERE ANOTHER PERSON, WOULD YOU BE FRIENDS WITH YOU?

Oh, sure; I’m big fun.

 DO YOU USE SARCASM?

See above.

BEST DAY OF THE YEAR?

Any holiday when I have my whole family together.

 HOW DID YOU MEET YOUR SPOUSE/SIGNIFICANT OTHER?

Through mutual friends–I am in their debt forever.

 WHAT IS YOUR MOTTO IN LIFE?

“Love one another.” and “Don’t sweat the small stuff.”

WHAT IS YOUR MOST TREASURED POSSESSION?

They’re not really a possession, but I’d say my family.

 WHAT CARTOON CHARACTER BEST DESCRIBES YOU?

The pig in Pearls Before Swine. I am ridiculously naive and optimistic–
thank God for my friends who “reality check” me on a regular basis!

“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art.
… It has no survival value;

rather, it is one of those things that
give value to survival.” —C.S. Lewis

My Soul Has Been Freed