Friday, October 28, 2022

Book Review: Dangerous Beauty, by Melissa Koslin

Several reviewers said, "Don't pick up this book unless you have time to read it one sitting" and they weren't kidding!

Dangerous Beauty, by Melissa Koslin,
grips you from the first page. 

Liliana Vela is running for her life in the dark of night. She's in America, not her native Mexico, as a victim of human trafficking. She finds herself sneaking into a gas station, desperately in need of help, and not knowing how to ask for it. 

Meric Toledan is just stopping by the gas station for a drink, when he sees Liliana and quickly assesses the situation. The authorities arrive, but Liliana has no options for safety. They'll have to send her back to Mexico.

Until Meric makes an offer - 
he will marry Liliana to keep her in safely in America.

Okay, here's where I had to raise an eyebrow. I knew this was the premise of the book, but it all happened so quickly and all I could think was "This isn't realistic."

But it was in the moment, my friends, that I learned of a whole new literary genre: 
Marriage by Convenience.

Little did I know that this was an entire, hugely popular sub-genre of romance novels and movies! I guess that shows how few romance books I read...

Well, once I learned that this is an accepted genre (with apologies to all those who already know and love the genre!),  I was able to enjoy the story much more.

Dangerous Beauty is a fast-paced, thriller-romance that is set in the world of human trafficking. Melissa's writing is sharp, with a strong narrative pulse. She found a wonderful way to express the heaviness of the subject matter without ever slowing down the plot or exploiting the topic.

I'll definitely be looking out for more of Melissa's writing in the future!

Melissa offers a free novella to all email subscribers! You can find out more here:

Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

Book Review: The Clutter Fix, by Shannon Acheson

In 2020, I reviewed Home Made Lovely by Shannon Acheson, and became an instant fan! 

Shannon weaves creativity, practicality, and spirituality 
to create beautiful, comfortable living spaces. 

As an avid follower of her blog, I was super-excited when I learned she was releasing a new book in 2022!

The Clutter Fix is exactly what it sounds like - 
a practical journey for removing clutter from your home.

Anyone who has ever tried to remove or reduce clutter knows it's a challenging and often overwhelming project. 

Shannon starts with giving some some quick, focused projects. These allow you to practice decluttering, while also gaining some easy wins.

She takes time to look at the psychological and spiritual side of clutter. How does it affect our emotions? How often do we carry guilt about throwing things away? And how can we work through those feelings to achieve a calmer home?

Finally, Shannon gives us a whole-house decluttering project, complete with lists, detailed work plans, and worksheets. To top things off, she ends with a section on maintaining your clutter-free home.

I read this book in one sitting, but my plan is to return to it in January for the continuation of my own decluttering journey. Wish me luck!

You can follow Shannon's blog and learn more helpful home-tips at her beautiful site: 

Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

Saturday, October 01, 2022

The Sermon I Wrote But Never Spoke - GUEST POST!

Please welcome my dad, Rev. Hollis Hiscock, as today's guest blogger!

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 I prepared my sermon on September 27, 2022  for the following Sunday, October 2nd.
I called it my pre-harvest Thanksgiving sermon because I was not going to be preaching on Canada’s National Thanksgiving Sunday (October 9th).
However, COVID intervened, and my plan was thwarted: 
I tested positive on Thursday – two days after writing my message.
So, from my quarantined cloister, I offer you this written version as you and I prepare for Thanksgiving 2022.  

I call it, “The Sermon I Wrote But Never Spoke”.

As I walked from St. John’s Church in Burlington, Ontario, towards the Parish Hall, somebody said, “They are waiting for you to say grace so people can eat at the BBQ”.

Not wanting to keep people waiting too long, I rushed upstairs and wondered what grace I should say.

In my wallet I carry three graces, two humorous in nature and the third called the World Hunger Grace.

I decided to use the third.

It is attributed to the Girl Guides, initially used in Huron Diocese in Ontario, and repeated often in multiple venues around the world by Archbishop Ted Scott, former Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada.

Here are the words for the World Hunger Grace …

For food in a world where many walk in hunger;
For faith in a world where many walk in fear; 
For friends in a world where many walk alone; 
We give you humble thanks, O Lord.

This grace is very fitting for us as we pause and reflect on what we have and who we are as we prepare for our Thanksgiving.

This grace is very fitting in light of the Act passed in Canada’s Parliament on Jan. 31, 1957 – declaring the 2nd Monday in October as: 


This grace is very fitting as it reminds us of what Charles Dickens wrote, “We complain and gripe for 364 days every year and give thanks on one --- it should be the other way around”.

Traditionally HARVEST meant sowing the seeds in the spring and harvesting the crops in the fall, but there are many kinds of harvests in our lives.

Harvest can mean the gathering of crops, as well as the product or results of an action. It can come in the form of financial growth, creative output, or even renewed relationships. 

Think of which harvest applies in your own situation ...

The World Hunger Grace helps us to focus both on what we possess ourselves
and what we can do unto others.

Firstly, FOOD - all we need to live – physical, mental, emotional, spiritual food.

Secondly, FAITH – our value system, our belief in a loving God, our trust in one another’s righteousness.

Thirdly, FRIENDS – who walk with us faithfully, who give us assurance, guidance, compassion, confidence, and encouragement. 

The challenge of the prayer is that while giving thanks for what we have,
we are acknowledging what others do not have and then pledging ourselves to help them.

For those who WALK IN HUNGER - 
We can donate to the food drive, volunteer our services, or send a cheque to help those devasted by floods, hurricanes, fires, droughts, and other dehumanizing conditions.

While stopped at a red light, a man approached my car. As I reached out to give him money, he handed me cards for free coffee from a nearby take out. He said, “I really wasn’t asking for money.” I replied, “I really don’t want the free coffee cards, but I will take them and give them to someone who does.” I think each of us was fulfilling what the prayer is asking us to do.

For those who WALK IN FEAR –
People being bullied, discriminated against for many reasons, forced to choose between heating their homes during winter or proving food for their family, fearful of their job security or the pandemic or wars or the many other situations where people can lose hope and vision - we can be their model and inspiration, showing that that even though we are “walking through the valley of the shadow of death” (our worst possible scenario) we are not afraid because we believe in a loving God who is with us at all times, in all places and in every conceivable situation. 

For people who WALK ALONE –
Those living in our city or neighbourhood, those waiting in hospitals, those residing in their own residence or long term care facilities, those coming to church - we can be their friends by welcoming them in person, making a telephone call, sending a card or email, etc. to assure them they are not alone.

Keith decided he would walk with people who were in palliative care facilities. During his visit he would read to them their choice of books, magazines, or papers. Over many years he walked with nearly one hundred people as they walked towards eternity.

This Thanksgiving, as we give thanks for our food, faith, and friends …
let us renew our commitment to help those walking in hunger,
those walking in fear
and those walking alone.

Maybe in your personal prayers, as a grace before your meal or in some other venue,
you can pray silently or aloud or together with others …

For food in a world where many walk in hunger;
For faith in a world where many walk in fear; 
For friends in a world where many walk alone; 
We give you humble thanks, O Lord.

(The Reverend Hollis Hiscock is Interim Priest-In-Charge
at St. John’s Church, Burlington, Ontario, Canada.)