Winter Light

by hollycombs

I know that as a Northern girl living in southern Virginia, I feel out of place at times. Winter doesn’t really feel like winter here.

It’s gray and brown and dull. It rains and mud proliferates everywhere. It’s rather depressing. I was reminded just how much I miss my northern winters this morning.

I awoke with the sun shining in my windows, and as I opened my eyes to it I knew without a doubt that there was snow on the ground. I didn’t need to look out the window. I didn’t need to slip on my glasses.

I could tell simply by the quality of light this morning that the sun’s rays were bouncing off the white crystals in the yard and producing an almost magical bright light for the world.

So when I tell my southern friends that I miss the snow, it isn’t just the skiing or the crunch under my feet. It isn’t just the beauty of a wood covered with a fresh blanket of white — unsoiled by human touch. It is the very sun itself and the way it shines through my windows on a chilly winter’s morn.

sunshine

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Book Review: Burning Proof

by hollycombs

Burning Proof by Janice CantoreHaving enjoyed previous books by Janice Cantore, I jumped at the chance to read and review her latest novel, Burning Proof.

Burning Proof, a sequel to Drawing Fire, follows Abby Hart’s career as a detective and her lifelong goal to finally solve her parents’ murders. After a life-changing incident in the line of duty, Abby takes time off of official work to recover. But new clues regarding her parents’ deaths lead her down new avenues of investigation. Meanwhile, private investigator Luke Murphy can’t stop thinking about his own suppositions regarding the old murders — but he is focused on solving a cold case abduction. Little does he know the old case might bring him and Abby closer together.

In this second installment of Cantore’s Cold Case Justice series is worth the read. The plot, while technically a stand-alone, does a great job of picking up the plot where Drawing Fire left off — both the mystery and the personal lives of Abby and Luke.

The reader is quickly drawn into Abby’s quest to learn the truth about her parents’ deaths and pursue justice for herself and all those who lost loved ones in the fire. You will find yourself caring very much about Abby’s quest and the struggles of her life. Meanwhile, Luke’s own mysteries will keep the reader guessing from cover to cover.

While the plot keeps the novel moving from cover to cover, the characters are what really shine in Cantore’s second Cold Case Justice series. While introduced in Drawing Fire, Abby and Luke are both further developed in this installment. I feel as though I’m getting to know a friend – piece by piece, little by little – as I read more about Abby.

Meanwhile, Cantore’s 22 years’ experience in the police force ads an element of reality and grit to her writing. She not only understands how to write, but even the procedural and behind-the-scenes police moments ring true to life.

Cantore’s 22 years’ experience in the police force ads an element of reality and grit to her writing. She not only understands how to write, but even the procedural and behind-the-scenes police moments ring true to life.

I received a complimentary copy of Burning Proof from Tyndale House Publishers, but I was not otherwise compensated for this review. All writing, thoughts, and opinions are solely mine.

Other books I’ve reviewed by Janice Cantore:
Abducted
Drawing Fire

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Savor

by hollycombs

My word for the year: savor

I’ve been reflecting a little on 2015 and considering what this year has to bring. It’s interesting how years don’t go exactly like you plan…

My word for 2015 was “settle.” Life had been crazy, hectic, with lots of growth and change and newness. So much of that was good, but hard, and it was wearing me down. I wanted to breathe. To be.

It didn’t go exactly as I planned. It was still kind of crazy (pregnancy), intense (new wood floors installed in the ENTIRE house), stressful (employee turnover), but I did settle. I worked on making Suffolk our home, on cultivating relationships here, on learning my new position with determination to perform well.

Now we start a brand new year, with a brand new baby due in just two short weeks. This year will be unlike any other (of course, I could say that every year). It will be the only year that we have our first little one. It will be the only year that we become parents.

So this year, in spite of the exhaustion and busyness that comes with have a new babe (folded laundry may be a thing of the past), I want to savor each and every minute. Because we will never be able to go backward and retrieve this time with our first little one.

So there it is, savor.

The good (baby snuggles), the bad (complete lack of sleep), the new (so many firsts in that first year!), the mundane (yet another diaper change?) — I want to soak it all in, each and every day.

More thoughts on just what that looks like to come. For now, I’m savoring the last few weeks of my only first pregnancy.

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Nine Months

by hollycombs

Has it really been nine months already?

Your first pregnancy only happens once, and mine has truly flown by (at least since the 24/7 nausea finally subsided at 22 weeks).

I haven’t had much time to savor it, but I am trying to make the most of my last few weeks with this little one on the inside while I look forward to holding him or her in my arms soon. And so I can savor this pregnancy for the rest of my life, a few photos to remember it by:

maternity5

maternity4

maternity3

maternity2

maternity1

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Book Review: A Chameleon, a Boy, and a Quest

by hollycombs

A Chameleon, a Boy, and a QuestWhen I first read about A Chameleon, a Boy, and a Quest by J.A. Myhre, I was interested in reading it. I am soon to be a first-time mom, and I work for an international humanitarian organization, which means that I am very interested in raising my children to understand the many places and cultures of our world — and to value the differences and similarities.

In A Chameleon, a Boy, and a Quest, young Mu — an orphan — sets out on a special quest across the varied geography of a nation in Africa with little but his own ingenuity and the help of a very special chameleon companion and a dog he’s not sure whether or not he can fully trust. Along the way, Mu is testing — both physically and spiritually. His decisions could cost him his life, or the lives of others.

While this youth book takes some time to get started, I appreciated the attention to detail as the author sets the scene in Africa. I think that the explanation of the culture is easy enough for a child to understand without glossing over the struggle of poverty in rural Africa. Mu is a character that any child could relate to.

I did find some discrepancy in Mu’s understanding of the world and some of the narrative and vocabulary used as the tale is told from his point of view.

One of the best parts about the book, though, was the allegory for the Christian walk. The chameleon clearly represents the Holy Spirit that is with us, in us, guiding us throughout our journeys — but only if we let Him. Botu, the dog, may not be “safe”, but he is good and willing to take great risks for Mu, whether the boy deserved it or not.

I would recommend this book to any Christian family hoping to teach their child about world cultures, and also about Jesus Christ.

I received a complimentary copy of A Chameleon, a Boy, and a Quest from New Growth Press, but I was not otherwise compensated for this review. All writing, thoughts, and opinions are solely mine.

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Book Review: Owls

by hollycombs

Owls: Our Most Charming BirdI was so excited to receive Owls: Our Most Charming Bird by Matt Sewell at this moment in my life because I am in the process of decorating the nursery for our little one in a woodland animal theme with owls and foxes. I thought this book would be a perfect addition — beautiful hand painted illustrations, an educational component with all the different types of owls, and an earthy look and feel to the volume.

In a lot of ways, I was right. I LOVE the drawings, they are beautiful. And I did learn about the different types of owls in our world. However, I will caution parents that this book is not intended for children (it’s not marketed that way, but it was my first thought). I may end up having to remove this book from my child’s room when he or she learns how to read.

For instance, the Short-Eared Owl is described as a woman who has been up all night, saying “flying over open ground looking for her purse, mascara smeared, with a beast of a hangover.”

In every other way, though, this book is absolutely superb and I can’t wait to show the lovely images to my child!

I received a complimentary copy of Owls from Blogging for Books, but I was not otherwise compensated for this review. All writing, thoughts, and opinions are solely mine.

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Book Review: Whatever is Lovely

by hollycombs

Whatever is LovelyI’ve always loved to color — so much so that I have a habit of purchasing children’s coloring books from the dollar store and pulling out the crayons at least once a year. But the childish scribblings eventually bore me.

When I saw the trend of adult coloring books pop up on social media and even my local bookstore, I was immediately intrigued. Coloring intended for adults? Count me in!

In a completely different way, I have also been looking for a new study guide for my personal devotion time. I’m involved in other Bible studies, but I was in search of something that would bring me peace as I meditate on the Word of God, especially as we prepare to welcome our first little one into our home.

So when the opportunity arose to try Whatever is Lovely: A Coloring Book for Reflection and Worship, I realized that it was exactly what I was looking for. In fact, the very day it came in the mail, I ripped open the package and pulled out my colored pencils and immediately set to work.

And was it everything I thought it would be? Oh, yes. And so much more.

I love the beautiful designs paired with inspiring Scripture. I am able to draw into my own little world of quiet time with God as I meditate on the message on each page. Peace follows as I shut out the stresses and struggles of the world to simply color for a few moments.

I would highly recommend Whatever is Lovely for anyone looking for a moment of peace and creativity — it has been the path to both for me.

In fact, I think I might have to invest in some higher quality pencils for my new endeavor…

I received a complimentary copy of Whatever is Lovely from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group, but I was not otherwise compensated for this review. All writing, thoughts, and opinions are solely mine.

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Book Review: Rising Darkness

by hollycombs

Rising Darkness by Nancy MehlRising Darkness by Nancy Mehl is an intriguing tale about a formerly Mennonite woman who finds herself right back in a largely Mennonite town as she pursues the biggest break of her reporting career.

Haunted by her past, Sophie is doing her best to create an entirely new life for herself. Part of that life is becoming the investigative reporter she’s always dreamed of being. With a tip from an old neighbor, Sophie takes a vacation from her day-job as an obituary writer to strike out on her own and solve a cold case involving theft of more than $1 million and the murder of at least two men.

But as she hunts down the killer, and the missing money, Sophie is also confronted by her own shadowy past — specifically a young charismatic pastor name Jonathan, a face from Sophie’s past and the one man her heart has always longed for. Can she solve the mystery without losing her heart again?

While well written, I found the book rather difficult to believe. Perhaps it is my own degree in journalism or my experience as a reporter, but I found the entire premise somewhat fantastic.

Setting aside my own disbelief, I rather enjoyed reading about Sophie’s journey to solve the mystery and face her past. She learned many lessons along the way — about truth, justice, and forgiveness. And you’ll be left guessing the “whodunnit” until the very end. The cast of characters are certainly the strongest element of Rising Darkness.

I received a complimentary copy of Rising Darkness from Bethany House Publishers, but I was not otherwise compensated for this review. All writing, thoughts, and opinions are solely mine.

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Book Review: Apartment Therapy Complete and Happy Home

by hollycombs

Apartment Therapy Complete and Happy HomeI thoroughly enjoyed Apartment Therapy Complete and Happy Home by Maxwell Ryan & Janel Laban. I was actually surprised at how quickly I devoured such a thick book!

The photographs by Melanie Acevedo are stunning and the topics really applied to me, engaging me and pushing me to read just one more page before setting the book down. Once I could tear myself away, it was an easy book to come back to again and again. As I read through the ideas and tips and browsed the photographs, I was able to think about what I liked and what drew me in, what might work in my own home and how I could apply the suggestions with my own twist.

I loved pages sprinkled throughout that offered very practical advice on things like organizing as well as the more whimsical treasure trove of decorating ideas. I would recommend this book to anyone with a space to make a home — whether it’s an apartment, a small home like mine or a grand house. There’s something for everyone and it’s really all about making your house your home.

Read more about Apartment Therapy Complete and Happy Home here. Or take a sneak peak at the inside of this beautiful book!

I received a complimentary copy of Apartment Therapy Complete and Happy Home from Blogging for Books, but I was not otherwise compensated for this review. All writing, thoughts, and opinions are solely mine.

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Adventure: New England

by hollycombs

Our trip to New England involved a lot of driving (Southern Virginia to Northern Vermont = 11 hours). But it was SO worth it. We hadn’t had a vacation in years, and our last one was incredibly busy. This time, we just enjoyed ourselves and the beautiful weather.

We drove from Virginia Beach to Vermont where we were able to stay with friends, then headed over to the southern coast of Maine for a few days where we saw five different lighthouses. Then it was back to Vermont for a few days before heading home to Virginia.

The trip was full of Vermont cheese, local maple syrup, cliff walks, mountain hikes, and time spent together — no demands, no expectations, no stress.

I recommend it!

A few photos from our favorite places in Vermont:

Quechee Gorge:
Vermont

Deer Leap Trail:
Vermont

Vermont

Vermont

Vermont

Photos from the southern coast of Maine. We stayed in Wells and visited South Portland, Kennebunkport, Ogunquit and more:

Maine

Maine

Maine

Maine

Maine

Maine

Maine

Maine

Maine

Maine

On our way home, we drove Skyline Drive and hiked White Oak Falls trail. The entire area was encased in fog, which made the drive difficult, but hiking in fog is wonderful.

Virginia

Virginia

Virginia

Virginia

Virginia

Virginia

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