Blog, Blogging, book review, reading, theater

What’s In My Book Bag?

How did it get to be March…well, not just March but the end of March?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m LOVING the warmer weather and the sounds of birds and the anticipation of a fantastic summer, but TIME IS FLYING! I need a few more hours in every day and just cannot seem to catch up. I’m not sure if things are just crazy busy because the world has come out of hibernation or if I got used to a slower pace for the two years I had nothing to do….maybe it is a combination of both. Whatever the reason, I am once again behind on my reading goal.

In the month of February I read three books. Here are my thoughts.

Book #1 All The Lonely People by Mike Gayle

From the Cover:

In weekly phone calls to his daughter in Australia, widower Hubert Bird paints a picture of the perfect retirement, packed with fun, friendship and fulfilment.

But Hubert Bird is lying.

The truth is day after day drags by without him seeing a single soul.

Until, that is, he receives some good news – good news that in one way turns out to be the worst news ever, news that will force him out again, into a world he has long since turned his back on.

Now Hubert faces a seemingly impossible task: to make his real life resemble his fake life before the truth comes out.
Along the way Hubert stumbles across a second chance at love, renews a cherished friendship and finds himself roped into an audacious community scheme that seeks to end loneliness once and for all . . .

Life is certainly beginning to happen to Hubert Bird. But with the origin of his earlier isolation always lurking in the shadows will he ever get to live the life he’s pretended to have for so long?

What I liked about this book:

In truth, it took me a little bit of time to “get into” this book. The dialect and way that Hubert kept referring to himself as, “Me just couldn’t do it today.” The constant “me” was distracting. But then, I fell in love with the heart of Hubert. I saw that his life had not been easy. He had loved and lost and still managed to turn the other cheek and show kindess and forgiveness to those who caused him great pain. As Hubert begins to escape his lonliness, I couldn’t help but think of my mom and how many years of loneliness she felt living without my dad. I began to relate to Hubert and cheer for him from the sidelines. I’m not sure how a book can be heart-breaking and uplifting all at the same time, but this one is. Mike Gayle has written a touching, beautiful book and I can’t wait to read another of his books.

Gayle crafted such believable characters. He formed them so that you could picture them and almost hear them speak, thus thrusting the reader into the heart of the story. You can’t help but love Hubert. He is a true gentleman, but not without flaws. You recognize him and cry out for the injustices that befall him, and cheer for his victories. I seriously miss that the story is over. I miss him.

I also love that the story–even though it isn’t recent–made me think of the plight of so many others that are treated badly because their skin is a different color.

I also loved the sense of community that Hubert was able to establish. It was inspiring to watch a community of people who needed someone come together and create friendships and family and were no longer alone. I wish we would all be more aware of those around us that might need someone. Pardon me while I go cry some more.

Who should read this book? Fans of family stories. If you are interested in multicultural or diverse characters. Read if you like thoughtful books with a touch of humor.

Favorite Quotes:

“After all, it was always easier to meet new people if there were two of you. It gave you confidence and made you feel at ease.”

“And that’s the funny thing about life. Extraordinary things can happen to ordinary people like you and me, but only if we open ourselves up enough to let them.”

Rating: 4.5/5

Book #2 In The President’s Secret Service by Ronald Kessler

From the Cover: Never before has a journalist penetrated the wall of secrecy that surrounds the U.S. Secret Service, that elite corps of agents who pledge to take a bullet to protect the president and his family. After conducting exclusive interviews with more than one hundred current and former Secret Service agents, bestselling author and award-winning reporter Ronald Kessler reveals their secrets for the first time.

What I liked about this book:

Hmmm. Difficult question. I did find some of the stories quite interesting. I found that I would find one chapter interesting and then the next would be technical and super boring to me. Unfortunately, towards the end I didn’t even enjoy the personal stories. I found myself wondering how much of the story was true and if some of these tales just came from people who didn’t like the Presidents they were called to serve. On the other hand, I started to wonder if there is anything good about any of the familes we have put into the White House. It was interesting to think about what each agent has to go through and how much we take them for granted. For me though, the book doesn’t put them in a good light. Instead, it makes me think less of them for the sour attitudes they seem to have developed.

Who should read this book? Lovers of history. Read this book if you are interested in government and politics and learning more about the people who have served our country.

Favorite Quotes:

Boys will be boys,” he said.
When the door of the elevator shut, Reagan said to Hresko, “But boys will not be president.

Rating: 2/3

Book #3 The Reading List by Sara Nisha Adams

From the Cover:

An unforgettable and heartwarming debut about how a chance encounter with a list of library books helps forge an unlikely friendship between two very different people in a London suburb.

Widower Mukesh lives a quiet life in Wembley, in West London after losing his beloved wife. He shops every Wednesday, goes to Temple, and worries about his granddaughter, Priya, who hides in her room reading while he spends his evenings watching nature documentaries.

Aleisha is a bright but anxious teenager working at the local library for the summer when she discovers a crumpled-up piece of paper in the back of To Kill a Mockingbird. It’s a list of novels that she’s never heard of before. Intrigued, and a little bored with her slow job at the checkout desk, she impulsively decides to read every book on the list, one after the other. As each story gives up its magic, the books transport Aleisha from the painful realities she’s facing at home.

When Mukesh arrives at the library, desperate to forge a connection with his bookworm granddaughter, Aleisha passes along the reading list…hoping that it will be a lifeline for him too. Slowly, the shared books create a connection between two lonely souls, as fiction helps them escape their grief and everyday troubles and find joy again. 

What I loved about this book:

Everything? Sigh. How could a book lover not love a book that is about reading books? This book centered around a library and a list of books that everyone that finds the list begins to read. This list seems to be magical as each person reads the book at exactly the right time in their life to teach them or help them through life’s newest journey.

This book reminded me of so many wonderful hours I spent in the library with my mom. It made me wish that I had spent more time there with my own children. I loved the way Adams brilliantly connected the characters and stories. Seriously, how does someone plan and craft such heart-felt, real, flawed, needy, loving characters? I love that the book also pulled me in so deep that when tragedy unexpectedly happens it broke me.

I can’t say enough about this book. If you love reading and you haven’t read this book yet, you simply must find it and put it on your TBR list.

Pardon me while I go spend time in my library–please, God, don’t ever let the world close them down.

Who should read this book? Lovers of reading. Everyone.

Trigger warnings:

  • Anxiety, Cancer, Death, Depression Grief, Suicide

Favorite Quotes:

“Please try to remember that books aren’t always an escape; sometimes books teach us things. They show us the world; they don’t hide it.”

“…sometimes when you really like a book, you need to read it again! To relive what you loved and find out what you missed before. Books always change as the person who reads them changes too.

“…books, they had the power to heal.”

“There was something magical in that—in sharing a world you have loved; allowing someone to see it through the same pair of spectacles you saw it through yourself.

Rating: 5/5

That is all for this time! Have you read any of these? I would love to know what you thought! Also, If you choose to read one of these because you read my review, please let me know! That brings me a great amount of joy!

Until next time-this is just me-talking to you-from the wings!

Reba

bible, Blog, Blogging, book review, christian, christian blog, christian fiction, entertainment, family, reading, theater, writing

“Redeeming Love” and the Controversy

In 1991, Francine Rivers published a book called Redeeming Love. Since then it has sold over three million copies. That’s amazing for a Christian author....maybe any author.

It had mixed results as a novel, Rivers has a way of writing than can be a little steamy to an innocent mind. The controversy even then was that the book was a “gateway to soft porn.”

For me, my daughter and many of my friends, Redeeming Love was a powerful book. For many of us, the thought that our Lord pursues us the way that Michael Hosea pursued Angel or the picture of Isreal in Hosea was so moving that it brought us to tears. I understand why Rivers is so protective of it. It is a masterpiece.

The popularity of the book made many of us desire a film and Rivers herself longed for a contract. The film was many years on the drafting block for various reasons. When Rivers began tweeting about the film the Christian community went crazy.

And then the film was released.

I heard many people talk about the nudity and (excuse the next graphic language) the sexual movements of couples, considering if those elements had a place in a “Christian film.” I began to wonder if it was “right” for me to watch it.

I decided (giving warning to my friends) that we should see it and then give our thoughts. We didn’t talk about it before we filmed-we wanted the conversation to be raw and real. After watching the video below, I must admit, I wish I had waited a few days. I think the peace maker in me wanted to be pleasant and entertaining, but as I ponder the film I think I would have changed my rating. I give it a thumbs up at the end, but that was too generous. This film needs to come with more warnings than it does. Yes, the subject matter is difficult. Yes, I think Christians should show a realistic picture that sin is ugly and life is not always handed to a Christian all wrapped up in a bow that gives us a happily ever after. Yet…as a director and a Christian, I think some of the elements in this film could have given us that realistic picture without “crossing the line.”

Is it possible that people will know about God’s love from this movie?
Yes.
God doesn’t need any of this to call people to him.

Is it possible this movie could cause people to sin by watching it?
I believe the answer to that is also yes.
Doesn’t the Bible warn us to not be a stumbling block to others? 

What is considered “nudity”? (The aurgument is that at one point Michael’s hand covers her beast so that you cannot see…well, you know.) So that makes it not nudity? I disagree. You see too much. It is nudity to me. In fact, I think one of the problems with the movie is that it tries to have a little steaminess with the sex scenes.

I wonder if we have become desensitized to “things of the world?” Arguing that “you don’t really see anything”, or that the people that are acting out the sexual scenes are portraying married couples doesn’t sit well for me.  I think we should require more from a film that labels itself “Christian” or one that is supposed to show us God’s holy, pure, and unconditional love.

Before you use this argument on me….I KNOW the BIble is filled with stories of sex, sin and murder, but it isn’t written in graphic detail. Song of Solomon is the exception, but it isn’t written to be steamy and doesn’t include full color video.

Please watch the video below and let us know if you’ve seen the movie or if perhaps the video will help you make a decision. I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Join us next week as our discussion goes a different direction. I seriously cannot wait for you to see part two!

Rebecca Leland, Naomi Rogers, thank you for your frank discussion. Thank you Rebecca for filming and your efforts in editing this mammoth job!

I would love it if you would like, share and follow!

Until next time this is just me talking to you from the wings-

Reba

Blog, Blogging, book review, critics, Grief, hope, reading, theater, writing

More Than a Review

My reading goal is 52 books again this year. I’m off to a good start and I’m hoping the changes I’ve made in planning and organizing will help me keep on track because I really really do love reading.

Most of you know that my mom passed away last year. She is going to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery where my dad is. After COVID, things backed up there so the funeral is going to be Monday. That being said, I’ve been doing so much thinking about my mom and what we had in common. At the top of the list is that she loved to read and instilled in me a love of reading as well. Recently, I was looking at her facebook wall where a former student said, “I sure would love to hear her read Charlotte’s Web aloud just one more time.” Me too. Me too.

In that spirit, I would love to tell you about the books I read this month.

Book # 1 One Day in December by Josie Silver

From the Cover:

Two people. Ten chances. One unforgettable love story.

Laurie is pretty sure love at first sight doesn’t exist anywhere but the movies. But then, through a misted-up bus window one snowy December day, she sees a man who she knows instantly is the one. Their eyes meet, there’s a moment of pure magic…and then her bus drives away.

Certain they’re fated to find each other again, Laurie spends a year scanning every bus stop and cafe in London for him. But she doesn’t find him, not when it matters anyway. Instead they “reunite” at a Christmas party, when her best friend Sarah giddily introduces her new boyfriend to Laurie. It’s Jack, the man from the bus. It would be.

What follows for Laurie, Sarah and Jack is ten years of friendship, heartbreak, missed opportunities, roads not taken, and destinies reconsidered. One Day in December is a joyous, heartwarming and immensely moving love story to escape into and a reminder that fate takes inexplicable turns along the route to happiness.

On a purely surface level, this book was enjoyable. It was a light read full of romance and stars-in-your-eyes love. It was a book you could curl up and escape with. So, that sounds like I liked it, right? Hmmmm. Keep reading.

What I liked about this book: The premise. I am a romantic. I love the idea of love at first sight. I love-love. I love the humor and the realism that sometimes we make decisions based on our friends rather than on what our own heart is saying. The characters were believable and even though there are criticisms I have of those–I still found that they were crafted well. However, I didn’t like the way Laurie’s “best friend” reacted when confronted with the truth. Is it true that women really treat each other like that? (Sorry, I’m being so cryptic; I don’t want to spoil anything.) Also, I got really tired of Laurie always accepting second best and settling. I don’t like the fact that I’m not sure she ever realized that that she was doing that either which seems implausible to me. Someone who had looked day and night for the boy who made her heart beat faster just by looking at her would recognize that something was missing. Once we get to know Jack I didn’t like him anymore. Laurie can do better.

It would make a great Hallmark movie. Some of us will think that means it is a winner of a book. Some of us will think that means it has huge red flags.

Who should read this book? Fans of romance. Read this book is you are looking for a quick, warm story.

Favorite Quotes:

“You tread lightly through life, but you leave deep footprints that are hard for other people to fill.”

“There comes a point where you have to make the choice to be happy, because being sad for too long is exhausting.” 


“New Year in particular is so full of portent and promise, weighted with expectation and hopes and idealism, but then on the flip side it can also be the time when people look for change, or say enough is enough and call time on a relationship that’s run its course.”

Warnings: There is a fair amount of sexual content and descriptive words.

Rating: 3.5/5

Book #2 The Wedding RInger by Kerry Rea

From the Cover:

A woman who wants nothing to do with love or friendship finds both in the unlikeliest ways in this hilarious and heartwarming debut by Kerry Rea.

Once upon a time, Willa Callister was a successful blogger with a good credit score, actual hobbies, and legs that she shaved more than once a month. But after finding her fiancé in bed with her best friend, she now spends her days performing at children’s birthday parties in a ball gown that makes her look like a walking bottle of Pepto Bismol. Willa dreams of starting fresh, where no one knows who she used to be, but first she needs to save up enough money to make it happen. 

Maisie Mitchell needs something too: another bridesmaid for her wedding. After a chance encounter at a coffee shop, Maisie offers to pay Willa to be in her bridal party. Willa wants nothing to do with weddings—or Maisie—but the money will give her the freedom to start the new life she so badly desires. 

Willa’s bridesmaid duties thrust her into Maisie’s high-energy world and into the path of hotshot doctor Liam Rafferty. But as Willa and Maisie form a real friendship, and Liam’s annoyingly irresistible smile makes her reconsider her mantra that all men are trash, Willa’s exit strategy becomes way more complicated. And when a secret from Maisie’s past threatens to derail the wedding, Willa must consider whether friendship—and romance—are worth sticking around for.

What I loved about this book:

The main character! Willa is adorable. I am a sucker for an underdog story and that is Willa from top to bottom. She is unlucky in love, a now disaster in business. she has nothing except her family. Rea captures you right away by her descriptive writing style. I truly felt like I was at the birthday party and witnessing every detail of that disastrous event. From the moment I picked up the book I couldn’t wait to see Willa restored! Rea also did a wonderful job of creating the characters around Willa–you see the ones that love her and you want Willa to be able to step out of her own hurt and learn to really see the ones who are with her now.

I also love Rea’s dialogue–she writes so that you can “hear” what the characters are thinking and it is so enjoyable!

Friendship doesn’t always come the way we predict it, but the new friends Rea gives Willa are delightful. I’m hard pressed to tell you if I like Willa or Maisie better. I just wish Rea would write a “what happens next” next story about these two.

Who should read this book? Fans of love stories. Read this if you like books about friends! If you like characters that aren’t quite put together-this may be the book for you!

Warnings: Language. Slight sexual conversations and words.

Rating: 4/5

Book #3 Float Plan by Trish Doller

From the Cover:

* A MUST-READ FOR GOOD MORNING AMERICA, OPRAHMAG.COM, BUZZFEED, POP SUGAR, AND MORE! *

Heartbroken by the loss of her fiancé, adventurous Anna finds a second chance at love with an Irish sailor in this riveting, emotional romance.

After a reminder goes off for the Caribbean sailing trip Anna was supposed to take with her fiancé, she impulsively goes to sea in the sailboat he left her, intending to complete the voyage alone.

But after a treacherous night’s sail, she realizes she can’t do it by herself and hires Keane, a professional sailor, to help. Much like Anna, Keane is struggling with a very different future than the one he had planned. As romance rises with the tide, they discover that it’s never too late to chart a new course.

What I liked about this book:

I looked for books in January that were books about December or holidays or escaping. It is pretty cold in Illinois during this time and since books let you escape, I figured why not pick a warm place? I was intrigued about a book who would have such a strong female character who would be brave enough to set sail entirely by herself. I LOVED that she couldn’t. I love that she realistically wasn’t ready to sail alone and yet emotionally wasn’t ready to sail with someone else either. I love the journey physically and emotionally that Anna went on. She became stronger as a sailor, a woman, and a person. I loved that this book had love in it, but that isn’t at all what the book is about. Recognizing that is key. Honestly, even though I was looking for a light-hearted read–I’m so glad this one wasn’t. It was serious when it needed to be and sensitive when it needed to be.

Who should read this book?

Fans of love stories that take a little longer to develop. Read if you are a lover of finding love again stories. If you are looking for a women’s story about grief and survival this one is for you.

Favorite Quotes:

The cure for anything is salt water—sweat, tears, or the sea. —ISAK DINESEN

“But I’m starting to understand how sadness and happiness can live side by side within a heart. And how that heart can keep on beating.” 


“Why did you go somewhere I can’t follow?” 

The stages of grief are not linear. They are random and unpredictable, folding back on themselves until you begin mourning all over again.

Warnings: suicide, self-harm, depression, grief, language, some sexual content

Rating 4/5

What are you reading lately? I’d really love to connect with you! Please leave a comment, share or follow me!

Until next time-this is just me talking to you from the wings–

Blog, Blogging, book review, christian fiction, entertainment, non fiction, reading, theater

The Book List 2021

It is that time again when all readers post the list of books they have read over the past year. Last year at this time I shared my very first book list. I set a goal in 2020 of reading only twelve books. I read 20. I was super excited about that and decided I could do more this year. I thought one a week should be a cake walk…..

A few of the books I read this year! 2021

I read 21.

Yes. You read that correctly. I set a goal for over twice as many books and only read one single book more than the year before. Did I fail?

No. It isn’t a competition. I couldn’t have known in December what distractions would keep me from reading.

I read 21 in spite of all the things that happened in 2021. That’s pretty amazing. Here is the list.

  1. Blackout by Candace Owens N/F 4/5
  2. Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker by Jennifer Chiaverini F 4/5
  3. The Flight Girls by Noelle Salazar F 4/5
  4. One to Watch by Kate Stayman London F 4.5/5
  5. All That Really Matters by Nicole Deese F 5/5
  6. Becoming Elisabeth Edwards by Ellen Vaughn N/F 4/5
  7. Shipped by Angie Hockman F 3/5
  8. The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer F 5/5
  9. I Heard That Song Before by Mary Higgins Clark (Audio) F 4/5
  10. We Hope For Better Things by Erin Bartels (Audio) F 5/5
  11. A New York Secret by Ella Carey F 4/5
  12. Breaking Silence by Linda Castillo (Audio) F 4/5
  13. Look Again by Lisa Scottoline (audio) F 5/5
  14. Is it Any Wonder by Courtney Walsh F 5/5
  15. Finlay Donovan is Killing It by Elle Cosimano F 5/5
  16. Random Road by Thomas Kies F 5/5
  17. High Achiever by Tiffany Jenkins N/F 4/5
  18. Full Disclosure by Dee Henderson F 4/5
  19. At Your Request by Jen Turano (Audio) F 2/5
  20. Beach Rental by Grace Greene (Audio) F 5/5
  21. Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty F 3/5

And that is it for this year! My top read was Look Again. I have reccommended it several times. I truely couldn’t put it down!

What about you-did you meet your reading goals? Did you read any of these? What did you think?

Until Next time–

book review, christian, christian blog, christian fiction, reading, theater

The Spotlight is on Books!

Before we start I just want to thank you all for the outpouring of love, support and prayers you showered upon me after my last blog post.  (https://wp.me/p9JkzU-Ny) It was so encouraging and it helped me regain my footing for this week.
 
 
My Goodreads account taunts me as it tells me I’m 32 books behind my reading goal for this year! Yikes! 32?? I don’t think I have the ability to catch up and actually I’m rather disappointed in myself. Although, I did have a super rough year. My reading stopped when my husband and I were able to purchase a rental property in Florida. I was so excited, but as my husband explained it, “I just bought you a job.” He was right. I love it and it is super exciting to have that next step in our lives, but it took quite a bit of attention in the beginning.
 
A little before that we got the news that my mom was going into hospice and the other part of my free time was spent going back and forth to spend time with her. There were a few other things that distracted me (as you faithful readers of this blog know.)
 
Now, here I am with only a month and a half left to read….hmmm one book every two days….maybe I could do it….(insert ridiculous laugh.)
 
What keeps me sharing these books with you? This week alone I had one person call me and ask what book she should buy and several others tell me they had just bought books I recommended. Okay. That’s fun.
 
Maybe one of you will enjoy one of these that I read last month. Please let me know if you do!
 
Book #1 A New York Secret by Ella Carey
From the cover:
 
1942, New York. As war rages in Europe, Lily Rose is grateful for her perfect life: a wealthy family who love her and a dream job working uptown as a restaurant chef. Times are changing for women and Lily is determined to run her own kitchen one day. She hopes handsome Tom Morelli, son of Sicilian immigrants, will be at her side. Together they work late, dreaming up delicious meals for New Yorkers struggling with wartime rationing and the threat of sons and sweethearts being called up…

Then Tom receives a devastating telegram that changes everything: he is drafted to fight in Italy.

Suddenly alone, Lily turns to her parents for support. But when her mother finds out about Tom, she is furious. When the war ends, Lily’s duty is to marry the man picked for her, keep house and raise children. They give her a heartbreaking ultimatum: end her relationship with Tom or lose her family and inheritance forever.

In the middle of the war, Lily is left in an impossible position. Will she choose to stay with her family and live the safe life she has always known, or will she follow her heart and her dreams?

 
I have done quite a lot of reading about WWII in my life time. It is difficult to find an angle to tell a new story in a creative way, but this one by Carey does just that.  It didn’t engage me in a way that might make me think about it day and night, but it did teach a powerful lesson about friendships and the tragedy of a society that still places certain rules of society higher than happiness.
 
Sad to say that the idea that Lily Rose might not be able to follow her dream of being a chef because it wasn’t the plan her parents had for her is a reality that many people still face today. My parent’s approval was always very important to me. I didn’t date guys they didn’t like. I went to the school they wanted me to go to and it broke my heart if they ever said, “Reba, be ashamed.” I felt for Lily. I sensed her torment as she longed to not cause her parent’s pain, but yet knew she could not give up the dreams of her heart.
 
What I liked about this book:
 
Lily. She is written creatively as a smart woman that has the courage to make bold choices. In spite of being brought up by a mother who is a snob, she is still loving towards people who don’t have the same luxuries  that she does.
 
Josie. I would love to be a grandmother like she is. One who is proud of their grandchildren and supportive, loving, and leads and teaches with a kind heart.
 
I like the fresh approach Carey used to tell this story. I never even considered what happened to the male chefs during the war or how restaurants got their food. I guess realistically I never thought that the wealthy would indulge themselves in that way when a country was all sacrificing for the common good.
 
I thought it was going to be a love story and although it is–I like that the story teaches and focuses on so many other attitudes and lessons. I do believe that I would have enjoyed a little more of the love story between Tom and Lily. I will not give details because I don’t want to give a spoiler, but I find a part of their relationship to be very confusing and perhaps a little unrealistic. If you choose to read this–please drop me a note and let’s talk about this!
 
Other reviews I read said this book was emotional. To be honest, I didn’t connect with the characters in a way that made it an emotional read for me.
 
Who should read this book?
 
Read this book if you are interested in history, World War II, or cooking!
 
Favorite quote:
 
“in order to cope with old age, she needed a purpose, because if she didn’t have one, then she may as well be dead.”
 
Rating:
 
4/5
 
Book #2 Breaking Silence by Linda Castillo
 
 
From the Cover:
 
The Slabaugh family are model Amish farmers, prosperous and hardworking, with four children and a happy extended family. When the parents and an uncle are found dead in their barn, it appears to be a gruesome accident: methane gas asphyxiation caused by a poorly ventilated cesspit. But in the course of a routine autopsy, the coroner discovers that one of the victims suffered a head wound before death―clearly, foul play was involved. But who would want to make orphans of the Slabaughs’ children? And is this murder somehow related to a recent string of shocking hate crimes against the Amish?

Having grown up Amish, Kate is determined to bring the killer to justice. Because the other series of attacks are designated hate crimes, the state sends in agent John Tomasetti, with whom Kate has a long and complex relationship. Together, they search for the link between the crimes―and uncover a dark secret at work beneath the placid surface of this idyllic Amish community.

I continued my new habit of listening to books this month. It does take a bit of getting used to, but when the book is good I find that I love it almost as much as holding the book in my hand.

It took me a chapter or two to figure out the main character. There was a great deal of bad language in it and it caught me off guard right from the start. I was so distracted by it that I had to go back and really listen to hear that the main detective was indeed a female. There was something about the way the book was read that I felt right away that she was a guy. Oops. That leads to other problems when her character started talking about dating one of the other men. Yep. I needed to go back and figure out what was what.

I must admit that I didn’t really enjoy the first half of the book. Remember, my last Chirp book was a book I LOVED (you can read about that book here:https://wp.me/p9JkzU-Mm ) So, I was constantly comparing this book to that one. I also wasn’t gripped by the Amish story. It seemed too simple to me.

Man, was I wrong. Just when I thought I had this book all figured out Castillo threw me for a loop. This book is anything but predictable. She sets the stage with perfect descriptions of the Amish and their lifestyles–makes you love the characters in a way that you actually feel sorry for the pain they are all feeling–then-wow. I will not tell you anymore because you need to read or listen to this one for yourself. It is deep and well paced.

Embarrassment number two….I had NO IDEA this was part of a series. It is actually book number 3 in a 14 part series. Maybe that is why I was a little lost in the beginning. Don’t let that stop you though because honestly, I never knew I was missing anything. It could totally stand alone.
 

What I loved about this book:

I loved the mystery and that it was totally unpredictable. I love Castillo’s vocabulary. Seriously, I have never read a book that used so many words I was unfamiliar with. She’s amazing. Castillo is  also a master at describing a scene not just the way it looks, but the way it smells and even feels. The book has a well-layered plot that is certainly a page-turner.

Who should read this book?

Lovers of mysteries. People interested in the Amish way of life.  Lovers of thrillers and detective stories.

Warnings:

Lots of language. Violence. Sexual situations. 

Rating:

4/5

Book #3 Look Again by Lisa Scottoline
Look Again
 

From the Cover:

When reporter Ellen Gleeson gets a “Have You Seen This Child?” flyer in the mail, she almost throws it away. But something about it makes her look again, and her heart stops―the child in the photo is identical to her adopted son, Will. Her every instinct tells her to deny the similarity between the boys, because she knows her adoption was lawful. But she’s a journalist and won’t be able to stop thinking about the photo until she figures out the truth

And she can’t shake the question: if Will rightfully belongs to someone else, should she keep him or give him up? She investigates, uncovering clues no one was meant to discover, and when she digs too deep, she risks losing her own life―and that of the son she loves.

I am not sure why I look at other people’s reviews of books before I start writing mine. It’s kinda crazy. I don’t read them before I read the book..I read them after I read the book. Maybe because I feel like I’m discussing it with them somewhat. Anyway, I could not disagree more with the majority of reviews I read. I’m not quite sure how people could have hated the book so much….when I say I couldn’t stop listening and that I listened EVERY spare moment I could, it wouldn’t be a stretch. I would even listen to it as I was falling asleep–trying to enjoy every single second of this book. It was my first Scottoline book, but it will not be my last.

There were a few things I DID NOT like. I thought Ellen needed to get a grip. Once she started worrying about her adopted son, and if he could indeed be the one on the postcard of missing children, she started making mistake after mistake and indeed her reporter nose was lacking in tying the pieces of the mystery together. In honesty, I am a worrier so I rationalized that I would be exactly the same way. How in the world do you deal with the fact that you might have an abducted child? What if you have to give him back? The moral questions that this book raises are numerous and fascinating to think about.

What I loved about this book?

I could not figure out how Scottoline would end the story. I was terrified it would be heartbreaking and she kept me engaged the entire time. I loved Ellen and her son. Honestly, I also loved Mary Stuart Masterson, who narrated the book. She was amazing and probably half the reason I loved book. I will look for more books that she has narrated as I have discovered the narrator makes a huge difference in how quickly I become engaged in the story.

Who should read this book?

Everyone if I had my way. Seriously, Lovers of mysteries, stories about families, crime stories.

Favorite Quotes:

“Even people who counted their blessings never counted them in the morning. For one thing, there wasn’t time.”

Writing had always helped her, before. It always clarified her feelings and her thoughts, and she never felt like she could understand something fully until the very minute that she’d written about it, as if each story was one she told herself and her readers, at the same time.

Warnings: I would not want to read this if I had a child I had adopted. It would make me dwell on all those fears.

Rating: 5/5

That’s it for this month! What are you reading? Now it’s your turn to talk and perhaps share this blog!

Until next time–

Reba

book review, christian blog, critics, non fiction, theater

No Time to Read? Why Not Take a Listen!

Reading calms the mind and soothes the soul don’t you think? I love that it makes my imagination soar and when I finally get “into” a book I just want to devour it and use every spare moment I can to finish it. Afterwards, if it is a good one….I just can’t stop thinking about it.

Many of my friends have begun listening to audio books. Something I really rebelled against. I have several reasons for that rebellion. The first is that I LOVE holding the book in my hand, turning the pages, being able to mark the book if I want to remember something and many other the reasons. I am also a visual learner so just LISTENING frightened me. I wasn’t sure it would keep my attention and/or I would daydream in the middle and not pay attention (maybe that is the same thing.) However, so many of my friends are doing it, I decided it wouldn’t hurt anything to try.

I downloaded an app called Chirp and proceeded to watch their daily offerings to see if one of their specials would interest me. Believe me, there is a big difference in paying $3 or $4 or the regular $15 (or up) price! Growing up I was a huge fan of mysteries and often read books by Mary. Somewhere along the way I grew tired of figuring out “Who done it” long before it was revealed in the book. So I stopped reading them. When I saw a book by Mary Higgins Clark on the special list of Chirp, I thought, “Why not? It’s a good place to start.”

I Heard That Song Before by Mary Higgins Clark

From the cover:

In a riveting psychological thriller, Mary Higgins Clark takes the reader deep into the mysteries of the human mind, where memories may be the most dangerous things of all.

At the center of her novel is Kay Lansing, who has grown up in Englewood, New Jersey, daughter of the landscaper to the wealthy and powerful Carrington family. Their mansion — a historic seventeenth-century manor house transported stone by stone from Wales in 1848 — has a hidden chapel. One day, accompanying her father to work, six-year-old Kay succumbs to curiosity and sneaks into the chapel. There, she overhears a quarrel between a man and a woman who is demanding money from him. When she says that this will be the last time, his caustic response is: “I heard that song before.”

That same evening, the Carringtons hold a formal dinner dance after which Peter Carrington, a student at Princeton, drives home Susan Althorp, the eighteen-year-old daughter of neighbors. While her parents hear her come in, she is not in her room the next morning and is never seen or heard from again.

Throughout the years, a cloud of suspicion hangs over Peter Carrington. At age forty-two, head of the family business empire, he is still “a person of interest” in the eyes of the police, not only for Susan Althorp’s disappearance but also for the subsequent drowning death of his own pregnant wife in their swimming pool.

Kay Lansing, now living in New York and working as a librarian in Englewood, goes to see Peter Carrington to ask for permission to hold a cocktail party on his estate to benefit a literacy program, which he later grants. Kay comes to see Peter as maligned and misunderstood, and when he begins to court her after the cocktail party, she falls in love with him. Over the objections of her beloved grandmother Margaret O’Neil, who raised her after her parents’ early deaths, she marries him. To her dismay, she soon finds that he is a sleepwalker whose nocturnal wanderings draw him to the spot at the pool where his wife met her end.

Susan Althorp’s mother, Gladys, has always been convinced that Peter Carrington is responsible for her daughter’s disappearance, a belief shared by many in the community. Disregarding her husband’s protests about reopening the case, Gladys, now terminally ill, has hired a retired New York City detective to try to find out what happened to her daughter. Gladys wants to know before she dies.

Kay, too, has developed gnawing doubts about her husband. She believes that the key to the truth about his guilt or innocence lies in the scene she witnessed as a child in the chapel and knows she must learn the identity of the man and woman who quarreled there that day. Yet, she plunges into this pursuit realizing that “that knowledge may not be enough to save my husband’s life, if indeed it deserves to be saved.” What Kay does not even remotely suspect is that uncovering what lies behind these memories may cost her her own life.”

Whew! Long Synopsis!

I’m not sure if I liked the book MORE because I LISTENED to it versus READING it, but I actually liked it. I was surprised how many people on Goodreads gave it negative reviews. Did I figure it out before it was revealed? Yes. But it did keep me going for awhile.

I actually enjoyed listening to it quite a lot. In fact, I have now devoted a certain time every day to listening. I look forward to it. If you haven’t tried it-I would encourage you to check it out and perhaps even try the Chirp App.

It kept my attention most of the time. I did find the story a little hard to follow at the beginning as I tried to remember who was who, but I thought that was due to my listening skills. I love the way Clark gives little hints from the start that really matter as you start to think about the clues. For me, the story was tied up very neatly in a satisfying way. Another thing that I really enjoyed about this book was Clark’s use of adages and witty sayings that may not be familiar to today’s generation, but were things I remember both of my parents saying time after time. I enjoyed being able to finish Clark’s sentences!

Was it the most suspenseful, heart-pounding novel ever? No, but that isn’t what I was looking for. If you want a story that is part mystery-part romance and engaging– then this is the story for you.

When you read a book you are able to create the character based on the author’s words only. When you listen, the voice artist helps create the character by how she uses her voice. That being said, I loved Kay and her grandmother. I thought that Gladys and many of the other supporting characters were interesting and well-thought out. I didn’t particularly care for Peter (Kay’s husband) I found him to be spineless and blah. I don’t know why Kay would fall in love with him. I didn’t root for their love story. In fact, I rooted for Kay, but not for him.

What I loved about this book:

It almost goes without saying that a work by Mary Higgins Clark is beautifully written. Her works are believable as she is very thorough in her research. The plot is interesting and holds the attention of the reader. I love a good mystery and this one is interesting enough to make my brain search to figure out the “real murderer.” I love that.

Who should read this book?

Lovers of mysteries and suspense.

Warnings:

Death, murder, violence

Favorite quotes :

“you can love a person without loving everything about that person.”

Rating: 4/5

We Hope For Better Things

From the cover:

“When Detroit Free Press reporter Elizabeth Balsam meets James Rich, his strange request–that she look up a relative she didn’t know she had in order to deliver an old camera and a box of photos–seems like it isn’t worth her time. But when she loses her job after a botched investigation, she suddenly finds herself with nothing but time.

At her great-aunt’s 150-year-old farmhouse north of Detroit, Elizabeth uncovers a series of mysterious items, locked doors, and hidden graves. As she searches for answers to the riddles around her, the remarkable stories of two women who lived in this very house emerge as testaments to love, resilience, and courage in the face of war, racism, and misunderstanding. And as Elizabeth soon discovers, the past is never as past as we might like to think.

Debut novelist Erin Bartels takes readers on an emotional journey through time–from the volatile streets of 1960s Detroit to the Michigan’s Underground Railroad during the Civil War–to uncover the past, confront the seeds of hatred, and discover where love goes to hide.

We Hope for Better Things was a fabulous listen. I loved everything thing about it. It is basically three love stories in one and Bartels carries the reader from one page to another in a way that leaves you breathless with anticipation. There really isn’t anything I didn’t love about this book. The story grabbed me from the beginning. It is emotional, powerful and moving. Both stories have a historical significance that will be difficult to forget long after you finish this beautifully written book. It will help you look at race in America in a different light with both the modern love story as well as the story from the past.

What I loved about this book:

Everything! I loved that this book made me think. It was a deeply layered plot that was fast-paced and intriguing. The plot contained themes that many of us wrestle with today, but also others that took place because it was set in a historical time slot. Bartels was a master creator in shaping each of the three women, who were strong and weak in their own individual ways. Each had issues to tackle because of the time they were living in. The story isn’t a pretty one, but it was a beautiful representation of humanity. I hope I am a better person and more aware after reading this book.

Who should read this book?

Lovers of history. Fans of historical fiction, and fans of family stories and for those who like to read diversity and explore themes of racism.

Favorite Quotes:

“Change happens when the cost of keeping things the way they are is too high.” 

“And at that moment, on a nondescript tan couch in an impeccably clean living room at Twelfth and Seward, Nora fell in love with the wrong man.” 

“All it took to lose one’s history was a single generation that didn’t take the time to learn it and pass it on. I would do my part to keep it alive. ” 

Warnings:

Heavy Themes: Racial prejudice, marital infidelity, slavery.

Rating: 5/5

My journey into audio books has begun and it was a success. I can’t wait to tell you about the next one! What have you been doing??









book review, christian, christian blog, christian fiction, family, Fear, history, non fiction, reading, theater, WWII

Reba Reads

Reading has been missing in my life for the last couple of months. Things are getting more busy with the theater. Life is getting back to normal and to add to the excitement we invested in a rental property which has kept me crazy busy.

But, I really don’t  want to lose what I gained during this past year of misery…a reconnection with books.

Here are the ones I read lately:

Book #1 Becoming Elisabeth Elliot by Ellen Vaughn

This book was on my Christmas list this year and I’m so thankful I received it.

From the cover:

Elisabeth Elliot was a young missionary in Ecuador when members of a violent Amazonian tribe savagely speared her husband Jim and his four colleagues. Incredibly, prayerfully, Elisabeth took her toddler daughter, snakebite kit, Bible, and journal . . . and lived in the jungle with the Stone-Age people who killed her husband. Compelled by her friendship and forgiveness, many came to faith in Jesus.  
This courageous, no-nonsense Christian went on to write dozens of books, host a long-running radio show, and speak at conferences all over the world. She was a pillar of coherent, committed faith; a beloved and sometimes controversial icon. In this authorized biography, Becoming Elisabeth Elliot, bestselling author Ellen Vaughn uses Elisabeth’s private, unpublished journals, and candid interviews with her family and friends, to paint the adventures and misadventures God used to shape one of the most influential women in modern church history. It’s the story of a hilarious, sensual, brilliant, witty, self-deprecating, sensitive, radical, and surprisingly relatable person utterly submitted to doing God’s will, no matter how high the cost. For Elisabeth, the central question was not, “How does this make me feel?” but, simply, “is this true?” If so, then the next question was, “what do I need to do about it to obey God?”  “My life is on Thy Altar, Lord—for Thee to consume. Set the fire, Father! Bind me with cords of love to the Altar. Hold me there. Let me remember the Cross.” –Elisabeth Elliot, age 21

I am very familiar with Elisabeth Elliot and her husband Jim Elliot. I have long admired her ability to write and speak and I’m so thankful for the testimony she gave the world by her writing and documentation of a story of 5 heros and their wives who died trying to reach the Aucas in Ecuador. (Through Gates of Splendor) I watched the film End of the Spear and even wrote a play, Flame of Fire, about these five families. (For permission to perform that play please contact us at Overshadowed.org)

I was really looking forward to learning more about this amazing Godly woman who went BACK to the very jungles and people who killed her husband. That’s an amazing woman.

This story was created from the journals, letters, and other writings of Elisabeth herself. (Maybe we should all keep journals!)The book talks about Elliot’s childhood, her years at boarding school and Wheaton College, and her courtship and marriage to Jim.

Ellen brilliantly weaves the story of the five missionaries with the true story of the Waodani’s who speared the men to death in 1956. The story became a propellant in the missions movement in the years that followed the event.

Elisabeth was brilliant. She excelled in Greek, even reading Plato and Socrates in original text. She was a no nonsense person. She believed that she was to die to self and do what Christ wanted her to do. In that, was the only freedom she knew.

We also get to know the Elisabeth who is lonely and grieves and at times judgmental. Her relationship with her mother is troublesome, but at the heart of it is an Elisabeth who doesn’t act the way others think that she should. She acts the way she thinks God wants her to be. Period.

We learn about her life when she returned to the jungle. I wasn’t aware of the relationship that she had with Nate Saint’s sister and that alone was fascinating to me. She didn’t have an easy life, but I wonder how much of the tension in relationships were brought on by her own intolerance.

What I loved about this book:

I loved learning more about Elisabeth. I was fascinated to see how strict her upbringing was and how hard she was on herself. It is rare to find a person who is so totally committed to seeking and following God’s will. I loved seeing that she was human with failures, passions, and struggles with faith. I loved that the book wasn’t preachy. Ellen told the story fabulously.

The love story of Jim and Elisabeth isn’t a love story between them. It is a love story of Jim’s love for God and Elisabeth’s love for God and how God allowed them to love each other. Sometimes frustrating, but beautiful in the end.

Who should read this book? Lovers of God. Women and young women who struggle with fears of being single. People who love historical biographies.

Favorite Quotes:

Waiting on God requires the willingness to bear uncertainty, to carry within oneself the unanswered question, lifting the heart to God about it whenever it intrudes upon one’s thoughts. It is easier to talk oneself into a decision that has no permanence, than to wait patiently.

Nothing was lost. The things she missed were stored in heavenly storehouses. Someday she would see God’s glory in eternity, rather than the apparant losses she felt so keenly on this earth.”

Teach me never to let the joy of what has been pale the joy of what is.”

“She was not willing to deny that sometimes even religious leaders, like the fictitious emperor in the children’s story, wore no clothes.”

“God has chosen to leave certain questions unanswered and certain problems without any solution in this life, in order that in our very struggle to answer and solve we may be shoved back and back, and eternally back to the contemplation of Himself and to complete trust in WHO HE IS. I’m glad He’s my Father.”

Rating: 4/5 I found it a little dry in some places.

Book Review: Shipped by Angie Hockman

Book # 2 Shipped by Angie Hockman

From the Cover:

Between taking night classes for her MBA and her demanding day job at a cruise line, marketing manager Henley Evans barely has time for herself, let alone family, friends, or dating. But when she’s shortlisted for the promotion of her dreams, all her sacrifices finally seem worth it.

The only problem? Graeme Crawford-Collins, the remote social media manager and the bane of her existence, is also up for the position. Although they’ve never met in person, their epic email battles are the stuff of office legend.

Their boss tasks each of them with drafting a proposal on how to boost bookings in the Galápagos—best proposal wins the promotion. There’s just one catch: they have to go on a company cruise to the Galápagos Islands…together. But when the two meet on the ship, Henley is shocked to discover that the real Graeme is nothing like she imagined. As they explore the Islands together, she soon finds the line between loathing and liking thinner than a postcard.

With her career dreams in her sights and a growing attraction to the competition, Henley begins questioning her life choices. Because what’s the point of working all the time if you never actually live?

What I loved about this book:

To be honest, I love romances, but I don’t usually like to read them. Modern ones have a little too much sexual content for me and many times they are poorly written.

I did however, really enjoy this one. It was a light read that once I started I couldn’t wait to finish. I loved the attraction between Henley and Graeme. I loved that he appeared to be both a snake and an hero and we had to wait to figure out the truth. Sometimes we all jump to conclusions or is the evidence exactly what it seems to be?

Angie created vivid characters for us to both love and hate and distrust!

I also loved the travel aspects. I loved learning more about the Galapagos Islands and loved the beautiful picture Angie painted for us.

Who should read this book: Lovers of Contemporary romance. Cruise Lovers or if you like a little comedy with your romance.

Warning: Contains sexual content. Also Contains Strong language.

Favorite Quotes:

“People are the problem. But they can also be the solution.” 

Rating:

3/5 Stars

Book #3 The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer

From the Cover:

In 1942, Europe remains in the relentless grip of war. Just beyond the tents of the Russian refugee camp she calls home, a young woman speaks her wedding vows. It’s a decision that will alter her destiny…and it’s a lie that will remain buried until the next century.

Since she was nine years old, Alina Dziak knew she would marry her best friend, Tomasz. Now fifteen and engaged, Alina is unconcerned by reports of Nazi soldiers at the Polish border, believing her neighbors that they pose no real threat, and dreams instead of the day Tomasz returns from college in Warsaw so they can be married. But little by little, injustice by brutal injustice, the Nazi occupation takes hold, and Alina’s tiny rural village, its families, are divided by fear and hate.

Then, as the fabric of their lives is slowly picked apart, Tomasz disappears. Where Alina used to measure time between visits from her beloved, now she measures the spaces between hope and despair, waiting for word from Tomasz and avoiding the attentions of the soldiers who patrol her parents’ farm. But for now, even deafening silence is preferable to grief.

Slipping between Nazi-occupied Poland and the frenetic pace of modern life, Kelly Rimmer creates an emotional and finely wrought narrative. The Things We Cannot Say is an unshakable reminder of the devastation when truth is silenced…and how it can take a lifetime to find our voice before we learn to trust it. – Graydon House

What I loved about this book:

Well, dual story lines are definately in right now and I must admit I don’t love them, but in this story I at least liked it. There is a love story between a grandmother and granddaughter as well as the love story of Alina and Tomasz. I love that Babcia–Eddie’s Great grandmother– can love on him and ground him when he is upset. Grandmother’s should be special like that don’t you think?

I loved the way Kelly described the scene when Alini’s brothers had to leave. She covers all emotions in the way she paints the scene causing us to think in ways that had never occured to me.

I loved that I didn’t figure out the “sacrifice” until the end and it brought me to tears when I did. I loved that the author didn’t manipulate my emotions. I loved learning more about autism and how it affects every member of the family. I loved the journey Kelly took me on as she told the story of desperation, love and loss and ultimately reconciliation.

In the season we are in–where political agendas result in hatred towards anyone who has an opinion other than ours–I loved the message Kelly promotes. In one scene Tomasz tells the story of a friend of his–someone who by all rights should have hated him, but didn’t. Instead, as Kelly writes: “He refused to debase himself with hatred.” The friend had lost everything because of people like Tomasz and yet he forgave him. Challenging thoughts.

I love the undying love Tomasz has for Alina and how Kelly uses such vivid words to make us understand that love.

Lastly, I love the connection Kelly has to the story due to her own heritage. I love that Kelly took a story that could bring out the worst in hummanity and instead finds love, grace and hope. She writes, “I marveled at the way that not even the worst of humanity is powerful enough to stamp out grace or hope or love.”

Can we do the same?

Who should read this book?

Read this book if you are interested in history, World War II, Polish heritage. If you like emotional reads or family stories it is also great.

Warnings: oblique references to the Holocaust, gun violence

Favorite Quotes:

To destabilize a group of people is not at all difficult, not if you are willing to be cruel enough. You simply knock out the foundations, and a natural consequence is that the rest begins to tumble.”

I had no power to change my lot. All I had was the breath in my lungs and a tiny fragment of hope that if I kept moving forward, I could survive until someone else changed my world.”

“Home is not the country we stand in–it’s us.”

“You must believe that if God allowed you to survive this far–there is a purpose to it. You must believe that there is work left for you to do on this Earth before you are released to peace. Hold tight to what you have left, Saul Weiss. And if all you have left is your faith, then your cling to it with every shred of strength you have left–do you hear me?”

Rating: 5/5 Stars

What are you reading now? Have you read any of these? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Until next time!

Reba

book review, characterizations, christian, christian blog, christian fiction, communication, family, non fiction, theater, writing

All That Really Matters

*I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from the author and publisher as part of the author’s launch team. All thoughts below are my own and I was not required to post a positive review. Also, this blog post includes affiliate links which I do not receive compensation for.

All That Really Matters by Nicole Deese

 

They tell you not to judge a book by its cover, but in this case, you totally can! From the moment you hold this beautiful book in your hands you know it is going to give you so much more than the typical Christian fiction. It is beautiful inside and out!

From the cover:

Molly McKenzie’s bright personality and on-trend fashion and beauty advice have made her a major social media influencer. When her manager-turned-boyfriend tells her of an upcoming audition to host a makeover show for America’s underprivileged youth, all her dreams finally seem to be coming true. There’s just one catch: she has little experience interacting with people in need.

To gain an edge on her competitors, she plans to volunteer for the summer at a transitional program for aged-out foster kids, but the program’s director, Silas Whittaker, doesn’t find her as charming as her followers do. Despite his ridiculous rules and terms, Molly dives into mentoring, surprising herself with the genuine connections and concern she quickly develops for the girls–and Silas. But just as everything seems perfectly aligned for her professional future, it starts to crumble under the pressure. And as her once-narrow focus opens to the deep needs of those she’s come to know, she must face the ones she’s neglected inside herself for so long.

https://www.amazon.com/That-Really-Matters-Nicole-Deese/dp/076423496X/ref=sr_1_1?crid=3G6D3CES39HG1&dchild=1&keywords=all+that+really+matters+nicole+deese&qid=1617729103&sprefix=all+that+really+ma%2Caps%2C164&sr=8-1


So many times when I begin a book review I say that the book was not what I expected. It is rare that I say it was MORE than I expected.

I knew I would like this book, in fact, I have only recently discovered Nicole Deese. I read her book, The Promise of Rayne (you can read my review of that book here: https://fromthewingsorg.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=2431&action=edit) and instantly declared her as one of my new favorite authors! I just didn’t know how much I would love her book. But, I did. I laughed, cried, cheered, and more than that, cared for the characters– not just Silas and Molly, but ALL of them.

What I loved about this book:

Nicole Deese is a deep, thoughtful writer. The plot is never simple. Instead, she captivates you with the main plot of the story and then begins to build such deep dynamic characters that the backstory becomes a huge part of the plot. Her characters are memorable because Nicole crafts them masterfully to reveal charm, wit, humanity, weaknesses, goals, and inner conflicts.

I LOVED Molly and Silas. In fact, everyone needs friends in their lives like these two. Friends aren’t always perfect, but sometimes we judge instead of forgiving. They were both so real in their shortcomings and failures, but forgiving even when they had the right to judge. I loved watching their personal development both individually and in their relationships with others.

I especially loved Molly’s transparency as she wondered aloud how many people around the world were praying for her as she made a living “profiting from one of the world’s deadly sins: vanity.” I am reminded that it is easy to prejudge when we don’t know the whole story.

I laughed so much at the debate on the numbers of followers between Silas and Molly. Molly knew exactly how far away she was from a million…Silas was like the rest of us…if you have 600,000 it might as well be a million!

I also loved that Nicole took a topic (foster care and aging out of the system) and made us more aware of a deep need in our society. I love that she also mixed the story with the hot topic of social media. The story was current, relevant and fascinating. If I can read a book for entertainment and at the same time learn and feel, it is a definate win for me!

All That Really Matters. The inside cover quotes this verse: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. Phippippians 2:3-4.

In today’s world I find that the struggle to be heard, to have a voice that matters, to be “someone” pulls at most of us. How many “friends” or “followers” do you have? Some of us fight with an inside voice that tells us that how many “likes” you get matters. This book strips what we see of an influencer and lets us see the struggle that someone with Molly’s conscience might feel. It was convicting to me and a challenge to start my day remembering, “what really matters.”

One last thing–I loved that Nicole reached into a world of non-profits and exposed a need. There are so many wonderful causes to give or volunteer at. Thank you, Nicole, for pointing out a need.

I cannot say enough good things about this book or this author! I hope you will purchase a copy today and let me know what you think of it!

Who should read this book? Lovers of Christian fiction, Christian romance, Influencers, Adoptive parents or parents of foster children.

Favorite Quotes:

Molly, when you feel good in your own skin, it’s easy to help someone else feel good in theirs.”

Share your spark with the world, Molly, Stop trying to hide what God created to be seen.

I want to be more than a pretty face with an addictive personality. I want to be seen as the real deal. Someone who uses their influence to pay it forward. For good.

“…it has very little to do with that and everything to do with having the courage to speak up for herself. To speak her mind when she feels belittled and overshadowed. And don’t even think about telling me that’s not a critical life skill. Because that might just be the most critical life skill she could possess as a female living in our world today.”

“How you frame your words is often more important than the words themselves.”

A million dollars may as well be a hundred million to a nonprofit that barely managed to scrape by as it was.”

“Because that’s where hope actually lives–in the hustle. And if they can hustle a little harder, a little longer, a littler faster…mayber all those pretty things can be theirs. Maybe life will finally make sense. Maybe something they do will actually matter. Reality isn’t enough. It’s never been enough.”

“God has uniquely shaped gifts for every one of His uniquely shaped people.”

Because if you gave everything up, He might, what? Love you more? Forgive you more? Accept you more?” I didn’t miss the way Silas tried to catch my eye. But I didn’t want to be caught. All of that was true. “If that’s your goal, you’ll never meet it. There’s nothing you can sacrifice that’s worthy of what God gives us freely.

You don’t honor God with your life by changing your personality and tossing out everything that is unique about who you are. You honor Him by offering those very gifts back to Him.

When I’m focused inward, I miss out on divine opportunities to bless others–to serve, to help, to protect, to befriend. To love beyond my own capacity and capability. This heart makeover is still a work in progress.

Rating: 5/5

PURCHASE ALL THAT REALLY MATTERS TODAY!

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About the Author:

Photo Credit: © Rayla Kay Photography | Image Courtesy of Baker Publishing Group
Photo Credit: © Rayla Kay Photography | Image Courtesy of Baker Publishing Group

Nicole Deese’s (www.nicoledeese.com) eight humorous, heartfelt, and hope-filled novels include the 2017 Carol Award-winning A Season to Love. Her 2018 release, A New Shade of Summer, was a finalist in the RITA Awards, Carol Awards, and INSPY Awards. Both of these books are from her bestselling Love in Lenoxseries. When she’s not working on her next contemporary romance, she can usually be found reading one by a window overlooking the inspiring beauty of the Pacific Northwest. She lives in small-town Idaho with her happily-ever-after hubby, two rambunctious sons, and princess daughter with the heart of a warrior.


Thank you, Bethany House Publishers and Nicole Deese for allowing me to read such a beautifully written, touching story.

Until next time,

Reba

book review, christian, christian blog, christian fiction, non fiction, reading, theater, writing

Cover to Cover

I set a goal of 52 books to read this year and I’m sad to say that it is March and I have finished only 4 books. I’m not off to a rousing start! I began the book Blackout in December. If you are interested in reading more about my thoughts on that book, please look me up on instagram at Reba.Hervas.

This month I tackled 3 books.

Book #1  Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker by Jennifer Chiaverini

I received this book for Christmas (thank you Kendra Jones). It has been on my want- to- read list for years. I think it hit the stands in 2013!
A book is a book and if I ever write one I would want people to still buy and read it years after it is first published!

From the cover:

“In a life that spanned nearly a century and witnessed some of the most momentous events in American history, Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley was born a slave. A gifted seamstress, she earned her freedom by the skill of her needle, and won the friendship of First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln by her devotion. A sweeping historical novel, Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker illuminates the extraordinary relationship the two women shared, beginning in the hallowed halls of the White House during the trials of the Civil War and enduring almost, but not quite, to the end of Mrs. Lincoln’s days.”

This book was not quite what I expected. After only a few chapters in I found myself searching historical reports to learn more about Mary Todd Lincoln. Perhaps because I grew up in another part of the country and perhaps because I wasn’t always a good student in the beginning, I never knew that Mary Todd wasn’t as admired as her husband.

What I loved about this book:

I love when a book inspires me to go back and study and see how the history holds up against the fiction part of the book. In this case, the book is so remarkably well done. I became more educated and inspired all at the same time.

It was quite shocking to me to learn of Elizabeth Keckley, an extraordinary woman, that most of us have never heard of, a former slave, who managed to cross the culture of the time to be a witness to a time in history that well….changed the United States. How fortunate we are to have Elizabeth Keckley’s real words to testify of the times. If you are interested check out her book, Behind the Scenes.

I love history that tells the story “out of the normal box.” In this case we see the struggle of our nation during an ugly part of history not from the side of the north or south, but from the eyes of a former slave who is now experiencing the background struggles–the things most of us can only imagine. It was fascinating as well as informative. Seeing the victory of the Civil War through her eyes was so much more meaningful than any other account I read.  To be honest, I found myself believing the book was really Elizabeth’s own thoughts instead of Jennifer’s.

Some of the best lessons we have as humans come from history. This book paints a beautiful picture of historical events, Lincoln, everyday life, and the struggles of slavery.

One of the highlights for me was the detail Jennifer gave to Lincoln, including the very foundation of his philosophy of life and politics.

I did not feel like I was reading a historical fiction novel, but instead a real documented account of life with the Lincolns.

The book doesn’t just paint a rosy picture. To say that Mrs. Lincoln lived a pain-filled life would be quite the understatement,  but along with the personal pain  we also learn of the pain caused by  gossip, slander, rivalry, and the dishonesty that can take place in politics and life.

I grew to love Elizabeth so much that I truly felt pain for her at the end. She loved Mary Todd so much. She was a true friend, but Mary Todd didn’t have the mental capacity to be able to recognize that fact. It would have been easy for Mrs. Chiaverini to present a picture of Mrs. Lincoln very distasteful, but she did allow us to also see qualities that were admirable.

It wasn’t an easy read for me. I tend to have to trudge through long passages of details. I would much rather read dialogue and shorter accounts that pass from subject to subject. That said, it was truly a wonderful novel.

Who should read this book? Lovers of history, Civil War, Historical fiction, Lincoln.

Favorite Quotes:

With malice toward none, with Charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

The sublimity of witnessing the ruler of a mighty nation turning to Holy Scripture for comfort and courage, and finding both in his darkest hour, brought tears to her eyes.

He was young, not to understand how foolhardy it was to take pride in something so fickle, so fleeting, as fame.

” I often heard Mr. Lincoln say to his wife: ‘Don’t worry, Mother, because all things will come out right. God rules our destinies.”

Her greatest legacy could not be measured in garments or in words, but in the wisdom she had imparted, in the lives made better because she had touched them.

Rating 4/5

Book #2  The Flight Girls by Noelle Salazar

From the cover:

Synopsis: 

A stunning story about the Women Airforce Service Pilots whose courage during World War II turned ordinary women into extraordinary heroes

1941. Audrey Coltrane has always wanted to fly. It’s why she implored her father to teach her at the little airfield back home in Texas. It’s why she signed up to train military pilots in Hawaii when the war in Europe began. And it’s why she insists she is not interested in any dream-derailing romantic involvements, even with the disarming Lieutenant James Hart, who fast becomes a friend as treasured as the women she flies with. Then one fateful day, she gets caught in the air over Pearl Harbor just as the bombs begin to fall, and suddenly, nowhere feels safe.

To make everything she’s lost count for something, Audrey joins the Women Airforce Service Pilots program. The bonds she forms with her fellow pilots reignite a spark of hope in the face war, and—when James goes missing in action—give Audrey the strength to cross the front lines and fight not only for her country, but for the love she holds so dear.

Shining a light on a little-known piece of history, The Flight Girls is a sweeping portrayal of women’s fearlessness, love, and the power of friendship to make us soar.

What I loved about this book:

It was an easy read. It was light, fluffy and a wonderful love story that had me  rooting for the two main characters the moment they were introduced.  I have read other reviews that disliked the book because it was more of a romance than historical fiction. I guess I was in the mood for exactly that, because that is the reason I loved it.

I loved the way the book began. I love WWII and thinking about the hours/days/moments right before Pearl Harbor was attacked helped me to see life on the island in a different light. Then, to see the devastation through the eyes of Audrey brought me to tears. Salazar masterfully described the scenes without the graphic detail that would have been uncomfortable to read. I found the emptiness and pain that Audrey and her friends felt to be realistic. How does anyone heal completely from seeing the horrors that they did?

I loved Audrey’s view of love. I found her entire journey to be one that might be unrealistic in today’s world. She knew who she was interested in and although they had no promises of a future commitment she felt as if she were cheating on him with any involvement with another guy.

I loved Audrey’s love of friends and the backstories that added to the drama of the book.

It was a little simplistic, and the details were not always true to historic form, but I enjoyed it!

Who should read this book? Lovers of historical romance, light romance, World War II.

Favorite Quotes:

“How some of us stay the path, others remain tormented, letting the pain devour them, and still others find a new route—different from the original—but somehow just as satisfying.”

Rating 4/5

Book #3 One to Watch by Kate Stayman-London

From the cover: Bea Schumacher is a devastatingly stylish plus-size fashion blogger who has amazing friends, a devoted family, legions of Insta followers–and a massively broken heart. Like the rest of America, Bea indulges in her weekly obsession: the hit reality show Main Squeeze. The fantasy dates! The kiss-off rejections! The surprising amount of guys named Chad! But Bea is sick and tired of the lack of body diversity on the show. Since when is being a size zero a prerequisite for getting engaged on television?

Just when Bea has sworn off dating altogether, she gets an intriguing call: Main Squeeze wants her to be its next star, surrounded by men vying for her affections. Bea agrees, on one condition–under no circumstances will she actually fall in love. She’s in this to supercharge her career, subvert harmful beauty standards, inspire women across America, and get a free hot air balloon ride. That’s it.

But when the cameras start rolling, Bea realizes things are more complicated than she anticipated. She’s in a whirlwind of sumptuous couture, Internet culture wars, sexy suitors, and an opportunity (or two, or five) to find messy, real-life love in the midst of a made-for-TV fairy tale. In this joyful, wickedly observant debut, Bea has to decide whether it might just be worth trusting these men–and herself–for a chance to live happily ever after. – Dial Press

I am not a huge fan of shows like The Bachelor, but I’ll be honest- I did watch it at the beginning. I was heartbroken for Trista Sutter after she was runner-up for the man she thought she loved and couldn’t wait for her to find happiness in her own season of The Bachelorette. And she did, the whole country watch Ryan fall deeply and madly in love with her and she returned it. They married in 2003 and have been married ever since. After that however I was disappointed when the couples seem to break up within weeks of the finale. So I stopped watching.

Enter One To Watch. Oh! what a magnificently fun book. I opened it and literally did not want to stop reading it.  The plot was fun and unique and I loved the idea of finding love for Bea on a reality show!  The scandals and manipulations that follow are heartbreaking and intriguing. I didn’t trust any of the men, but secretly rooted for one to be her prince charming. Seriously, I couldn’t stop talking about it!

How does this” unlucky in love” end up on this reality TV show? Let’s just say there are many dangers in drinking too much…

I love the quirky way Kate Stayman-London has written this book. I love her details, including things that we take for granted but yet are so important to help us “see” the story.  I love Bea, as insecure as she is. I loved going on “the dates” with her. (I might have wanted to scream at her a few times) We get to watch her make stupid mistakes, but we also get to see her turn into a better version of herself.  LOVED the way it ended. 

I also loved the insertion of the chapters including social media: the twitter conversations, the interviews etc. It was such a realistic picture of how life is and how we, the public, cast our uneducated opinions out into the world without knowing the full story.

I’m not sure I love the horrible way Bea was abused by the show to gain ratings. Some of the men were so mean and said such horrible things to Bea that it made it difficult to read. Unfortunately, I think people can totally be that mean.

I also longed to have one boy/romance that made my heart speed up as I anticipated Bea finding her true love. Sadly, although it’s a romance, none of the relationships gave me all the feels.

Favorite Quotes:

“I’m afraid that you’re looking for your next chapter, and I’m looking for the whole rest of the book.”

“Some part of me that still feels like I should be grateful for any attention you show me, even if it’s nothing close to the way I want to be loved.”

 

Have you read any of these books yet?  What did you think of them? Which of these sounds most interesting? Let me know in the comments below! I’d love to talk about it!

 

anne frank, book review, christian, christian fiction, entertainment, non fiction, reading, theater

The Book List–2020

Last year at this time I was inspired by all of my friends who one after another listed the books they had read over the past year.

I must admit, I was a little ashamed that I realized my love of reading had gone by the wayside. Almost completely forgotten like an old toy. I decided that I could make time easily to read one book a month. I set an easy target and continued to read, “The Diary of Anne Frank” (A book that I was rereading and had been plugging away at it for almost a year by this time.)

Three months later, I finished it.

Not a good start to this lofty goal of 12.

Then….yeah..you got it….COVID.

And reading became the thing to do. I started blogging about the books. I made new friends with authors I was discovering. I convinced people to read. I learned. I was inspired. I became reacquainted with my lost love.

Thank you to Rebecca Kaser and Bob Bixby for several of the book suggestions!

I don’t recommend everything I read, but I do recommend that you read even if you start small.

2020 goal -12
Read-20
2021 goal–52

1. The Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank N/F 5/5
2. Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull N/F 5/5
3. When I lay My Isaac Down by Carol Kent N/F 5/5
4. Where the Lost Wander by Amy Harmon 4/5
5. The Sea Before Us by Sara Sundin 4/5
6. News of Our Loved Ones by Abigail DeWitt 2/5
7. As Bright As Heaven by Susan Meissner 4/5
8. Educated by Tata Westover  N/F 5/5
9. The Boyfriend Project by Farrah Rochon
10. If For Any Reason by Courtney Walsh 5/5
11. The Sky Above Us by Sarah Sundin 4/5
12. What the Wind Knows by Amy Harmon 4.5/5
13. All That You Leave Behind by Erin Lee Carr  N/F 2/5
14. The Last Flight by Julie Clark 5/5
15. Untamed by Glennon Doyle  N/F 3/4
16. Homegoing by Yaa Yasi 3/5
17. Just Look Up by Courtney Walsh 5/5
18. Just One Kiss by Courtney Walsh 5/5
19. The Promise of Rayne by Nicole Deese 5/5
20. The Land Beneath Us by Sarah Sundin 5/5

Did you read any of these? I’d love to know what you thought! Did you have a favorite book this year?

Until next time!