March 26, 2014

visitor from the windy city

A few weeks ago, I was Facebook messaging Janet, one of my former students. (I've mentioned her on the blog a few times.) She graduated from Nebraska Christian two years ago and now attends the University of Illinois at Chicago. Anyway, she was telling me about how stressful things were, and I mentioned that, if she ever needed to get away, she could always stay with me.

The next day, she sent me a possible flight itinerary. Last Saturday, she arrived! It was so great to reconnect with her again and hear about how God is orchestrating things in her life. Her visit was short—she flew in Saturday morning and left Tuesday morning (super, super early!)—but we enjoyed every minute that she was here!

Besides talking a lot (and it was so cool to hear her talk openly about her relationship with God!), we spent time doing one of our favorite things: watching movies! We first watched part of The List, which is based on a Robert Whitlow novel (I named his novel The Choice #6 on my Top 10 Books of 2012 list), and I think that I will like the movie ... but we were both falling asleep within the first 30 minutes, so we went to bed! After church on Sunday, we went to Divergent, and we both loved it. I have had the book on my Kindle for well over a year and haven't gotten around to reading it yet (no wonder, with all my book reviews!). So I went into the film knowing very little about it but enjoying it immensely. And Theo James? No longer will I think of him as Mr. Pamuk, that's for sure! I did think the romance came a bit out of the blue, but one of my students assured me it's much more clearly set up in the book. Then we rented Ender's Game, another movie based on a YA novel that I hadn't read. Honestly, I was kind of bored. The story was fine, but it wasn't gripping.

We didn't only watch movies, though. Here's a look at our weekend through pictures:
She's here!!!
We tried to have lunch at Honest Abe's, but it was full, so we ended up at Five Guys, instead.
It was Janet's first time!
Janet quickly made friends with my cats. Here she is with Skaara...
...and Hammond, who was her favorite. (Take that, Blendy!)
Later on, all three cats curled up on her legs.
Between church & Divergent, we had lunch with my friends
Tricia and Kari at Napoli's, a local Italian restaurant. So good!
We had supper with another NC grad, Mia, on Monday night. I look like a goober,
but the girls look good, so I guess I'll post the pic. Also, fun fact: Facebook keeps
asking me if I want to tag Blendy in this pic. Our faces must look very similar
to Facebook's facial recognition software when I'm wearing my glasses!
What a fun weekend! Come again anytime, Janet—the cats would love another opportunity to keep you warm!

March 1, 2014

giving an author a second (or third) chance

About four years ago, I read a novel by Rachel Hauck. I can't even remember the title anymore, but I clearly remember not liking the book. I felt no connection to the heroine, the story didn't grab me, and I put down the book unfinished. Then, because I had already bought the second book in the series, I halfheartedly read it, too. Same thing—I had no interest in or emotional connection to the story. After that experience, I figured Hauck's novels just weren't for me.

Along came Dining with Joy.

Amazon began recommending Dining with Joy to me nearly relentlessly. At first I ignored it, but every time I saw the cover, I wanted to read it more. So I gave in and purchased it. And I loved it.

Since then, I've read three more of Hauck's novels—The Wedding Dress, Once Upon a Prince, and Princess Ever After. I've loved each one more than the last, and her new releases are now some of my most anticipated books each year.

This has happened to me with other authors, as well, but Hauck is fresh on my mind because I just read and reviewed Princess Ever After. If I hadn't taken a chance on Dining with Joy, I would have missed out on some fantastic books. This is a lesson that I, as a reviewer, need to remember. It's one thing if an author is just a really terrible writer (self-published authors, I'm looking at many—but not all—of you!). It's another if a novel is written well, but I don't connect with it. In that case, I'm willing to give the author another shot to win me over.

Most of the time, it's worth it.

Have you grown to love any authors after disliking their earlier work?

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