Monday, January 30, 2012

Monday Morning Musings: The Tennis is Over, Time to Get to Work!

January is traditionally a month of downtime in Australia.  Well, it certainly is in our family anyway - and always has been.  I think the heart of this goes back to school days since January is our summer holidays.  After getting through the Christmas/New Year mayhem, January was always the time for relaxing and having fun.  Family holidays by the beach, swimming almost every day at the local pool, spending lots of lazy hours reading.

I think that since we grow up spending our January's like this, it basically becomes part of our culture.  So that despite I'm not at school now (and haven't been for some time!) and I don't even have kids in school yet, I'm still in that holiday mode for most of January.

There are two factors that help cement that holiday mode: the cricket, and the tennis.  It isn't summer until you hear Richie Benaud introducing the cricket on Channel 9, and Bruce McAvaney's tennis commentary on Channel 7.  I have fond memories of camping in the lounge room with Jess and our mum and dad, staying up for those Australian Open midnight finishing matches. And I find nothing more relaxing than flaking out on the couch in the heat of the day watching the cricket - which I just LOVE.  That's actually how I started learning to nap as a teenager (prior to this, I never slept in the day).  The soothing sounds of the cricket, the energy sapping heat and the lulling rythm of the fan became the winning combination for getting my hyper-alert mind to slow down enough for me to relax. 


To me, January means hot weather, swimming, lazy days watching the cricket, and late nights watching the tennis.  This particular January hasn't been all that hot, and I don't get to swim a lot these days since that's a hurculean effort to do with two young kids.  But I have definitely been indulging with the sport watching this year. Consequently I haven't been reading a lot and in general it's been hard to get movitated to do much.


Well, as of last night, the tennis is over.  I have enjoyed some great matches, the least of not being last night's ripper final between Djokovic and Nadal.  Yes, I stayed up until 2am to watch the nearly 6 hours match.  I have to confess I almost went to bed in tears to see Nadal lose after fighting so hard to come back. (And I'm sorry, but did Djokovic really have to carry on, ripping his shirt like that? Seriously, what does he think this is?)



The Aussie cricketers have done us proud again this test series having completely and utterly obliterated the Indians.  What great knocks by Michael Clarke and Ricky Ponting.  God willing one day I will get to watch the tennis at the Aussie Open (I have already seen a semi-final at the Sydney International) and it's been a few years since I've gotten to the cricket, so would love to go again soon.  But it's all over for this year, so it's time to get off the couch :)

It seems only appropriate then that Australian Day is celebrated on the 26th of Jan, just near the end of tennis season and right before school starts up again.  It's like the culmination of the summer holiday season and signals the end to the summer fun and resumption of school and work.
  

You may have noticed that we haven't had a feature author for January, and this holiday mode is the reason for that! Rest assured, we have been doing some work, and we have already lined up several authors who are all keen to be featured here at the Book Review Sisters in the coming months.  The first of these authors will be featured in February.

I hope all our Aussie readers have enjoyed January as much as I have, and are rested and ready to charge ahead into the year!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Book Review: The Rose of Winslow Street by Elizabeth Camden

Available @
Fishpond AU 
& Amazon | Kindle
The Rose of Winslow Street by Elizabeth Camden
Bethany House, 01 January 2012

Book Summary taken from: http://elizabethcamden.com/books

The last thing Libby Sawyer and her father expected upon their return from their summer home was to find strangers inhabiting a house that had been in their family for twenty years. Widower Michael Dobrescu brought his family from Romania to the town of Colden, Massachusetts, with a singular purpose: to claim the house willed to his father. Since neither party has any intention of giving up their claim, a fierce legal battle ensues between the two families.


When Libby’s father’s most important and sensitive documents go missing, Michael and his family are the likely culprits. Determined to discover the truth behind the stolen papers, Libby investigates, only to find herself unconvinced that Michael’s to blame and at risk of developing feelings for this man with the mysterious past.
 
When it seems the papers have indeed made it into the wrong hands and a decision about the house is pending in the courts, Libby must weigh the risks of choosing a side and giving her heart to a man whose intentions and affections are less than certain.
 

I was eagerly awaiting Elizabeth’s latest book after having read The Lady of Bolton Hill. So when it came out I downloaded it on my phone. I got through the first chapter and had to put the book down. I didn’t like Michael Dobrescu, the male lead, at all. To put it a better way, I got a very bad first impression of him. I wasn’t able to pick up the book again until two weeks later. I couldn't give up on the book because what I had read in the first chapter was so well written and engaging – I just didn’t like Michael. This book deserved to be read and Michael deserved another chance.

So two weeks later, I picked up where I left off and the next day I was finished and I had been completely won over by Michael! There is so much to love about this book. From Michael’s sheer size and his “gentle giant” nature to his innate desire and ability to protect those he loves through sheer force and determination. Libby herself is a strong woman who faces her own insecurities and doubts about herself. Circumstances lead Michael and Libby to move past stereotypes and to forge a deeper bond and understanding of each other. Through Michael’s love and affirmation, Libby begins to accept herself as a child loved by God for exactly who is she, and nothing else.

Besides these two, Elizabeth has given us a whole host of intriguing characters who add so much to this already beautiful story. Lady Mirela’s story weaves so beautifully through the book and my heart broke for her and all that she has suffered. Libby’s tenuous relationship with her father, Professor Sawyer, is pushed to the limits when a secret is revealed from another section of Libby’s family. 

I really enjoyed this book and was very gratified to know that my first impression of Michael was just that – a first impression! A quote from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice says it all: “…but that from knowing him better, his disposition was better understood.”

Monday, January 23, 2012

Monday Morning Musings: What’s a girl to do when she’s sick?

Morning everyone. My whole family has been sick since Wednesday last week. It started with me and then spread. So my time has been consumed with lying on the lounge watching the Australian Open Tennis (tennis, cricket and Christmas all remind me of summer funny because it all occurs in summer down here!) and trying to amuse my daughter with as little input from me as possible. Apparently giving her a few simple plastic tools from the kitchen (bowl, spoon, whisk, cup) and her play food keeps her occupied for ages. She proceeded to feed all her toys with “tea” and give everyone a bib, including me!

So, whilst I was lying on the lounge watching the tennis and being fed by my daughter, I managed to finish 2 books and start another one. Plus I thought a lot. About what you might ask? About Gilmore Girls! Yes, that’s right. All I have wanted to do is sit down and watch Lorelai and Rory crack funnies. If you haven’t watched Gilmore Girls before you are missing out on some seriously witty stuff. I own all 7 seasons on DVD (as does Helen) and we both aim to watch the whole series over the course of a year (not at the same time or rate by the way). Since we are moving soon just about all of my DVD collection in packed up and that includes most of Gilmore Girls. So whilst I’m sick, I guess I just want to vege in front of the TV and “hang out” with the Gilmore Girls. Since I can’t really watch the show right now, I thought I’d dig up some classic quotes. Enjoy!

gilmore_girls

Lorelai: It's from my mother.
Rory: What is it?
Lorelai: It's heavy. It must be her hopes and dreams for me.
Rory: I thought she discarded those years ago.
3683

Lorelai: My mother - she was here. I can feel it.
Rory: Grandma hasn't been here.
Lorelai: Smell that?
Rory: Smell what?
Lorelai: The room - it smells like guilt and Chanel No. 5
Gilmore_girls_cast

Richard: Lorelai, this is just beautiful. It's like something out of Architectural Digest. You should be very proud.
Lorelai: Thanks Dad.
Emily: Your dress needs pressing.
Lorelai: Thanks Mom.
ef4fb113f140b4cab39b88585b5077db

Rory: Before I knew it, Grandma was telling me how important it is for a person to be properly presented to society.
Lorelai: Ugh.
Rory: And how every young girl dreams of this day.
Lorelai: Agh.
Rory: And how there are flowers.
Lorelai: Oh Lord.
Rory: And music.
Lorelai: Please.
Rory: And cake.
Lorelai: Oh yeah, the cake's actually good.

Finally before you go, just a quick clip from what is arguably the funniest scene from Gilmore Girls:  

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Book Review: The Maid of Fairbourne Hall by Julie Klassen

Available @
Fishpond AU 
& Amazon | Kindle
The Maid of Fairbourne Hall by Julie Klassen
Bethany House, 01 January 2012

Pampered Margaret Macy flees London in disguise to escape pressure to marry a dishonourable man. With no money and nowhere else to go, she takes a position as a housemaid in the home of Nathaniel Upchurch, a suitor she once rejected in hopes of winning his dashing brother. Praying no one will recognize her, Margaret fumbles through the first real work of her life. If she can last until her next birthday, she will gain an inheritance from a spinster aunt--and sweet independence. But can she remain hidden as a servant even when prying eyes visit Fairbourne Hall?


Observing both brothers as an "invisible" servant, Margaret learns she may have misjudged Nathaniel. Is it too late to rekindle his admiration? And when one of the family is nearly killed, Margaret alone discovers who was responsible. Should she come forward, even at the risk of her reputation and perhaps her life? And can she avoid an obvious trap meant to force her from hiding?


On her journey from wellborn lady to servant to uncertain future, Margaret must learn to look past appearances and find the true meaning of "serve one another in love."

Julie Klassen’s latest book had me enthralled! I loved it! From the romance to the mystery  to the fascinating lives and duties of the servants of a great house. Klassen has given her readers so much to take it. I really enjoyed learning about the work the maids do. I can't imagine emptying a chamber pot, lighting a fire all whilst the person in the room is still asleep in their bed. A maid was not allowed to wake them up. They had to be invisible. Like a fairy – you know, wave a wand and it’s all done without the recipients' knowledge. The book showed that some wealthy people were actually very messy. I thought, why not, when someone is there to clean up after you? 

Margaret Macy is a great heroine. She learns from her mistakes and most importantly she learns that she has misjudged not just Nathaniel, but the people who are in service. Their lives are indeed much harder than she ever knew until she became one of them. Klassen brings to light in this story that we cannot know someone’s life unless we have walked in their shoes and how true it is!

A great and absorbing read!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Monday Morning Musings: Don't Judge A Book By Its Cover

It's an age old saying, and everyone understands the premise behind it.  But, it's a proverb that's rarely put into practice.  Particularly for those of us of the newer generations - Gen Y and onwards.

I’m a Gen Y – at the upper end of the age group, but Gen Y nevertheless.  And I’m going to talk today about how being a Gen Y influences the way I buy books, and why this is important to authors and publishers today.  Particularly those who write for the adult age group. 
 
This year, Gen Y’s will be aged between 18 and 34 years of age.  This means Gen Y’s are all now adults, and thus are taking up a significant share of the adult book purchasing population.  Which means attracting our attention is becoming increasingly important, or you’re going to miss out on a piece of the market.

Gen Y’s are the first of the NOW generation.  We have short attention spans.  If something doesn’t hold our interest or grab our attention fast, we move on very quickly.  Without remorse, I might add - and rarely inclined to look back.

This means, the most important thing to us about a book is its cover – it’s usually the first thing anyone sees of a book.  Without an eye catching cover, we’re going to glide right on by.  We’re not even going to pause to take a sniff.  The book might be the most amazing story on the face of the earth, but we’re not going to even read the blurb to discover that if we don’t find the cover appealing.

Superficial? Hmmmm … yes, maybe.  But you need to understand Gen Y's have grown up with information overload.  We have so many choices available to us we can be that selective. 

Don’t get me wrong, Gen Y’s also expect substance.  We don’t want just a nice book cover - we expect a fabulous book too.   But we won’t discover that wonderful book unless the cover draws us in first.  Now, suppose a book draws our attention and we are enticed to buy it.  But within a few pages or chapters, we discover we don’t like it, chances are high that we won’t even finish the book.  And there’s an almost zero chance we’ll pick up a book by that author again.
 
I will tell you straight out that if I don’t like the cover, I’m not going to read the book.  And it’s not just me.  Jess is the same (sorry to dob you in, Jess!)  and my other friends are the same.  We’re all Gen Y-ers.  There are only a couple of specific conditions in which I might be persuaded to read a book with a less than appealing cover:
  • A highly trusted friend highly recommends the book. I’ll need an explanation though – I need to know what it is about this book that’s so unmissable that it’s worth me getting past the bad cover. And if I proceed on the recommendation, I will do so dubiously because, to me the book just don’t look that great.
  • I already know and love the author’s work. After that point, their cover pretty much becomes irrelevant to me.

It’s all about first impressions.  If you can get noticed and look attractive, then we’re more likely to read the book.  After that, if we have the added bonus of falling in love with the book, we’re doubly impressed.

Ok, so hopefully that deals with the why of Gen Y’s judgement by book cover.  And hopefully you don’t judge us too harshly on what at first looks like a shallow motive.  Then again, if you do – we aren’t really going to care.

What does a Gen Y look for? I can’t answer for all, as even Gen Y’s have individual tastes.  And what is appealing will of course vary depending on the genre.  For a start, I’ll show you some examples in my favourite genre – historical fiction.

It’s no secret I saw the cover of Laura Frantz’s “The Colonel’s Lady” and decided it was a book I had to read.  I’d never read anything by Laura before – in fact I’d never heard of her.  But the cover was enough for me to take a chance. I was so pleased my gamble paid off as in it I found one of my favourite books of all time.  And as a result of that, I will forever sing its praises!


 


I know that Tamera Alexander is a popular author, but I'd never considered reading her books before simply because I didn't find the cover appealing.  That's changed for me since the release of her latest book, "A Lasting Impression".  Compare this cover with that of an older release, "Within My Heart". Now I realise the setting for these books must be quite different, but "A Lasting Impression" is fresh and has a distint romantic feel to it.  I think the contrast between the white background and the blue dress is the main drawcard.



 Here are some other book covers we love:

"She Walks in Beauty" by Siri Mitchell  is Jess' fav.  I agree, it's a gorgeous cover.  But not only that - the title is to die for!

I love "The Director's Cut" because it's so striking. It looks sophisticated, and I just love that dash of hot pink on the dark background.


We live in a world of high definition - on our TVs, computers, phones etc ... so we expect vibrancy, vividity and colour from our book covers as well.  For credibility, we expect covers to look professional with colour, glossy images and up-to-date design principles.  We can spot an outdated font a mile away and to us it just screams "has-been".  Which means it's probably important to freshen up book covers on new editions.

What are some book covers that you like?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Book Review: Bittersweet Surrender by Diann Hunt



Carly Westlake is living the dream. She spends her days at a spa (okay, so she owns the place), she's dating a hunk, and she's surrounded by chocolate—milk chocolate, her favourite—that she uses for the chocolate facials that made her spa famous.

But when long buried secrets threaten Carley's business and her friendship with business-partner Tom, she fights like crazy to keep the dream—and the illusions—afloat.
 
It takes a miracle of grace to get Carley to finally make that bittersweet surrender to love and real life.

From what I understand, Bittersweet Surrender was set for release in 2008 but was shelved. It has been released on December 20, 2011 in e-format to coincide with Smitten (Hunt’s book with Girls Write Out authors, Colleen Coble, Denise Hunter and Kristin Billerbeck). Now I haven’t read Smitten yet (I will be soon) so I can’t say how this book relates to the other except that Carly visits the town of Smitten in Bittersweet Surrender.

One of the things I would like to point out is that the above blurb does not give accurate information about the novel. Carly’s friend Tom is actually Scott and he is her accountant, not business partner. Nowhere in the book is Scott called Tom or is he referenced as anything more than her trusted accountant. Finally throughout the book Carly’s name is spelt CARLY not CARLEY.

So now that that is out of the way, onto the book itself. I’ve only read one Diann Hunt book before and I liked it, so I thought this looked like a good pick. I did enjoy the book, found parts of it amusing but ultimately my heart broke for Carly as her life has been impacted greatly upon by the bad decisions people in her life have made.

These revelations force Carly to begin learning to focus on what God has in store for her. When she thinks that you can never really know people, God shows her the amazing good in people she never expected to find it in.This a truly is a bittersweet, gently comical book.

Disclosure: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Book Review: Armageddon (Left Behind Series, Book 11) by Tim Lahaye & Jerry B. Jenkins


Available @
Fishpond AU 
& Amazon
Armageddon by Tim Lahaye & Jerry B. Jenkins

The scattered Tribulation Force is drawn toward the Middle East, as are all the armies of the world, when human history culminates in the battle of the ages. During the last year of the Great Tribulation, safe houses are no longer safe and the world has become a powder keg of danger. Except for those already in Petra, everyone has been forced to relocate as the Antichrist ratchets up the pressure in the world's most treacherous game. As the Trib Force waits for the coming of Christ, Chloe Williams is drawn out of the safe house to investigate something suspicious. Buck and Tsion travel to Jerusalem while Nicolae Carpathia orders an attack on the city, and Rayford becomes seriously injured outside Petra. Who will survive Armageddon?

I think the title of this book is a tad misleading, as it only covers the beginning of the battle of Armageddon.  The book spends most of it's time getting ready for it.  I guess the authors are trying to create suspense, but I feel like things are a little dragged out.

That said, I did enjoy this book better than the previous installment, "The Remnant", but I was still skipping large blocks of "sermon" text.  This is where the spiritual leaders are again explaining the biblical prophesies and urging the undecided to trust in Christ. I know it's important but ... we've heard it before in the previous books.  And let's face it - this is the nitty gritty end of the series, and we just want the action to happen.

The most significant event in the book is the capture of one of the Tribulation Force founding members.  The heat picks up at the end with everyone's lives in peril during the battle of Armageddon.  Who will survive to see the Glorious Appearing?? Not sure yet ... but, the end is near.  Bring it on!

Left Behind Series Website

Other books in the series we've reviewed:

  1. Left Behind
  2. Tribulation Force 
  3. Nicolae
  4. Soul Harvest
  5. Apollyon
  6. Assassins
  7. The Indwelling
  8. The Mark 
  9. Desecration 

Book Review: The Remnant (Left Behind Series, Book 10) by Tim Lahaye & Jerry B. Jenkins

Available @
Fishpond AU 
& Amazon
The Remnant by Tim Lahaye & Jerry B. Jenkins

Nicolae Carpathia has his enemies right where he wants them: massed at Petra, a million strong. The Trib Force's aliases and even their safe houses have been compromised, forcing Rayford, Buck, and all the members to flee for their lives while trying to maintain their overt opposition to the Antichrist. All pretense is gone, even on the part of the Antichrist, as the planet hurtles toward the ultimate showdown between good and evil.

I wanted to skip alot of this book, and indeed I was trying.  I didn't expect a situation of intrigue that stopped me dead in my speed-reading tracks and force me to pay attention to what was happening.  And thank goodness it did, because otherwise I might have skipped the entire book.  Ultimately I am just itching for the end of the series!

Left Behind Series Website

Other books in the series we've reviewed:

  1. Left Behind
  2. Tribulation Force 
  3. Nicolae
  4. Soul Harvest
  5. Apollyon
  6. Assassins
  7. The Indwelling
  8. The Mark 
  9. Desecration 

Monday, January 9, 2012

Monday Morning Musings: My 2012 Resolutions

My Mum has a saying and it goes: “Write your plans in pencil and give God the eraser”. It is really hard for me to surrender that eraser to God let me tell you! 

As 2012 opens I again plan to write my plans (resolutions) in pencil and then hand that eraser over to God. Praying that I can do that completely. So what are my resolutions you ask?

Greg-Qualls---Prayer--6-Tips-for-Talking-to-God To talk to God more – I often find that I struggle doing a set aside quiet time with God, so for a few months last year I have been just talking to God when something pops into my brain (someone to pray for, a praise point, stuff happening in my day etc)I decided to keep up the practice and just try and train my thoughts to “letting God know” what’s on my mind.

Family_time_active_time
To be more “present” in  my time with my husband and my daughter. Often I find myself talking to my husband or playing with my daughter while using my IPhone or reading a book. I’m only half there, half listening to what he’s saying, or nodding encouragingly at my daughter then returning straight away to the phone or the book. 

I decided that this needed to change, so my goal is to put the phone or book down intentionally and NOT pick it up until Eleyna has moved onto playtime by herself (which is usually about 20mins at a time of “Mum and me” time). Just so you know that this 20mins mum and me time occurs several times during the day.

Maxine
Some days this is all it is for me! So my writing goal for 2012 is to  work diligently on my story! I need to set out the plans and scaffold it and then start writing it. I love the story that is in my head, but I’m not too good at being diligent! So I just have to keep plugging away at it and keep looking towards that finished novel. Got any tips on how to push past the “starting an assignment” mode? (You know, when you can’t start an assignment, but once you do, you get right into it?) I can’t seem to get past that initial wall! Any tips would be most welcome. :)

Heath-_-fitness-products Finally for 2012 I want to get back into health and fitness. When  I say that, I’m not starting from scratch. I’ve been very grateful, for the past 2.5 years to have a good friend who is a personal trainer. She started affordable small group training sessions and I’ve been attending as regularly as possible 1 –2 sessions a week. It’s hard when babysitters have to cancel, or my daughter gets sick or I’m just too tired to attend sometimes. However being part of this group has taught me about exercise and I can do a 45min session on my own in the park and know I’ve worked out. Trouble is I don’t always do that session on my own. I rely too heavily on a single training session. Don’t get me wrong, it does me good, but I need to work out a bit more frequently.

In the 6 week lead up to Christmas I simply stopped caring about what I ate and didn’t attend training as we were trying to save money with buying a new house! So with no training and lots of Christmas functions to attend, I ate my little heart out. Boy did I pay the price! So 2012 sees me eating smaller portions, cutting down on the junk food and working out a bit more.

That’s me for 2012. What about you guys out there?

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

My Left Behind Series Progess + Free Ebook

Yes, it's Wednesday today, so it's book review day. However, we have decided to take one more Wednesday as a breather before returning to our usual posting schedule.  We're still recovering from our Christmas together which included entertaining and keeping under control 3 children under 3, one of whom was quite sick with an ear infection for a good 5 days.  So we hope you'll forgive us as we catch up some more sleep and get our brains into gear first.  Oh yeah, and make time for some more reading!

I am very near completing the 12 books in the Left Behind Series which I started reading mid last year.  I have got books 10 and 11 read, and will get the reviews to you next week.  If all is well, I may also have book 12 finished and reviewed by then, but I'm not promising anything!

If you have been following along with my reviews on this series, or are a little bit interested in it, then I have some good news.  At present, the ebook version of the first book in the series, Left Behind, is available on Amazon to download for free for a limited time.


An airborne Boeing 747 is headed to London when, without any warning, passengers mysteriously disappear from their seats. Terror and chaos slowly spread not only through the plane but also worldwide as unusual events continue to unfold. For those who have been left behind, the apocalypse has just begun.

Left Behind by Tim Lahaye & Jerry B. Jenkins
Free Download from Amazon for a Limited Time
 
 
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Please note that free ebooks are only free for a limited time, so please make sure BEFORE downloading that the Kindle price still reads $0.00, otherwise you will end up paying for it.
Don't have a kindle? You can download the Kindle software onto pretty much any device - your PC, Mac, iPhone, iPad, Android device etc.
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Monday, January 2, 2012

Monday Morning Musings: Musings for a New Year!

Wow, it's 2012! Another year gone, another fresh start.  Yes I know, it's so utterly original, but I am dedicating the first MMM of the year to New Year's Resolutions.

I'm a goal driven kind of person, so New Years is the perfect time for me to take stock of what I'm doing and plan what I'd like to do.  Surprisingly though, I usually don't make new years resolutions.  I haven't for a good number of years now.  That is about to change :)

Right now, being a stay at home mum with very young kids, I feel like I am not able to move forward much in my writing pursuits.   But I have realised I can set a couple of small, manageable goals which are actually quite important steps that need to be taken in my quest to completing that first novel.  Here's what I'm aiming to do:
  • Take a creative writing workshop
  • Read 3 books regarding the writing craft
  • Rewrite my beginning and have a polished 1st five chapters
  • Write a synopsis
That's it.  Hopefully that is entirely reasonable and achievable. If I complete anything further to this I will consider it a bonus!



Otherwise, I have decided on three other resolutions that relate to the common themes for new years regarding health, money and spirit:
  • Lose 5kgs and reconstruct some tummy muscles! (who knew two pregnancies would obliterate those obliques so thoroughly?!)
  • Financial lockdown ... no extraneous purchases.  This means a crack down on book purchases too, I'm afraid :(
  • Memorise a new bible verse every month.











What sort of goals & resolutions do you have for 2012?