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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!

Baker Book House: https://buff.ly/2NNV3gP

Amazon: https://buff.ly/3d2yihF

Barnes & Noble: https://buff.ly/3fbz7qX

Christianbook: https://buff.ly/3rfYri3

Kobo: https://buff.ly/3lNhLC0

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!

christian fiction, family, Fear, hope, theater, writing

Charity Chooses Hope and So Do I

Charity opened her diary for what she expected to be one last time in 2020.
She looked at the blank pages. One after another for the last month the pages were blank.
She closed the diary.
Standing up, she crossed to her dresser and picked up the newspaper.

“Another “166 people Dead as the Pandemic Continues to Reign.”

One solitary tear escaped the corner of her eye and made it’s way down her cheek.

So much loss. So much pain. So much devastation.

“Yep 2020. You didn’t bring any of the things we had looked forward to. New Year’s Day can’t come soon enough.”

Even with that thought came the next negative one right on top of it.

“How is the change of a date going to make any difference on our future?”

Then, for the first time in a long time she heard a voice of hope deep inside her.

“Because with the change of a date comes hope of something new.”

“Where did the tradition of writing New Year’s Resolutions come from anyway?” she continued to think, “Resolve…a commitment to continue a good practice or change a behavior or do something to improve my life.”

Charity crossed back to her diary. She flipped pass the last month of blank pages and stared at the last page. She picked up her pen and wrote largely……HOPE.

Maybe the problem wasn’t so much the disease, although it was a tragedy. Perhaps the problem was in her own attitude.

“Today I am responsible for one thing…how I look at the events of my life. I can choose to find the positive. I can choose to look at the events in the world realizing that none of this is a surprise to God and humbly give Him this day of my life…. or I can wallow in what I have lost and blame Him.”

RESOLVE

She paused for a moment and almost laughed out loud. “Why did it take me so long to remember, Lord? Every breath I have is only because it comes from You. If the sun shines or rain and snow comes it is only because of You. You, Creator, Healer, Sustainer, Maker, Artist, Savior.”

Charity closed the diary and stood up straighter. “I don’t have to wait until Midnight to start. I’m going to cling to Hope right now and through each day of the new year. Hope that we will gain control of the virus. Hope that our nation can be healed from the unrest and ugliness that has held us captive. Hope that I can make a difference.”

How are you going to look at 2021?

Thank you, God, for another year that you have given us. May we all sing Your praises with anticipation of another year to serve You.

Happy New Year.

I’d love to hear what words you have chosen to represent your 2021!

Until next time!

P.S.  Charity is a character from a book I started years ago….Should I ever finish it?? What should happen to Charity….

book review, christian, christian fiction, family, non fiction, reading, theater

Gateway into Other’s Lives

One of my friends posted on Facebook a few days ago. She asked her friends to list all the positive ways Covid had changed their lives. I was stumped. I typed out:

“Covid has done nothing positive for me. It has changed me, but not for the good.”

As I was typing I saw all the positive responses that others were writing. I decided I really didn’t want to be THAT person. You know the one I mean? The one that always has to think the worse or take a good situation and make it negative.

So, I stopped typing. I tried so hard to think of something positive to say. Sadly, I couldn’t think of any. I expressed that thought to my husband when he came home and he looked at me and said, “What about your hummingbirds?” Oh! Yes, I thought….and then I thought about the hours I spent on my deck watching them and reading. Oh! Yes, reading! That is something very good that has happened to me this year. I have regained a lost love.

Try it. It’s good for you.

Last month I tackled 4 books! Here is my review for each of them.

Book #1 Untamed by Glennon Doyle

https://www.amazon.com/Untamed-Glennon-Doyle-Melton/dp/1984801252

As I have mentioned, I would rather read historical fiction than anything else. However, I have decided that it is good for me to read other genres and thus improve my awareness and knowledge. I have made it a rule to read one non-fiction book a month. So far, I’m still not a fan. Maybe I just don’t pick the right books for me.

That being said, I do think it’s good for me. There is a lot going on in the world that I didn’t know about. Knowledge about who Glennon Doyle is one of those. I guess she is a incredibly popular writer, partly made popular by Oprah.

To fill you in, Glennon Doyle is the author of Love Warrior and Carry On, Warrior. She became popular as a Christian mommy blogger who focused on self-discovery, parenting and faith.

From the cover:

Soulful and uproarious, forceful and tender, Untamed is both a memoir and a galvanizing wake-up call. It offers a piercing, electrifying examination of the restrictive expectations women are issued from birth; shows how hustling to meet those expectations leaves women feeling dissatisfied and lost; and reveals that when we quit abandoning ourselves and instead abandon the world’s expectations of us, we become women who can finally look at ourselves and recognize: There She Is.

What I liked about the book.

Untamed is divided into short, meditative chapters. I loved that I could pick up the book and read two or three pages and be left with profound thoughts to meditate. Each chapter charts her experiences. Some of them are about finding herself, getting sober, motherhood, and feminism. She talks about the good, the bad and the ugly and her life and is honest about how she deals with it all. She proclaims that it is okay to fail. She teaches that it is okay to speak the truth you know. She is a very powerful writer.

I think most woman strive hard to be good at everything. We compare ourselves to other mothers, teachers, friends. Glennon points out that this competition doesn’t make us better–it makes us weary, unhappy and overwhelmed. We compare our lives and loves to romantic movies and books and wonder why we don’t have the happy ending like in fairy tales. We push away the discontent and tell ourselves to settle…until it’s too late. She tells the story of rebuilding herself with a great deal of honesty and humor.

Warnings:

There is a great deal of language as well as details about love life with her ex-husband and new love life with her new partner, Abby.

Who should read this: if you are a fan of Glennon Doyle, if you struggle with finding your own voice, if you have pain in your past that you are struggling to deal with. I also find it interesting to read about her faith that so much a part of her life both past and present.

Favorite Quotes:

The thing that gets me thinking and questioning most deeply is a leader who warns me not to think or question.

The beauty industry convinces us that our thighs, frizz, skin, fingernails, lips, eyelashes, leg hair, and wrinkles are repulsive and must be covered and manipulated, so we learn to not trust the bodies we live in.

People will like me or not, but being liked is not my One Thing; integrity is…I’m willing to lose anything that requires me to hide any part of myself.

Rating: 3/4

Book #2

https://www.amazon.com/Homegoing-Yaa-Gyasi/dp/1101971061

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

“The tale begins in the late 18th century in an Asante village, part of the Gold Coast which eventually became Ghana. A young girl, Effia Otcher, is sold by her father to a British slavetrader named James – as a bride, not as a slave – and taken to live with him in Cape Coast Castle, a fort overlooking the sea. The slaves are in dungeons underneath the castle, awaiting transit to the Americas and the Caribbean via the Middle Passage. Among them are ex-house servants, overflow prisoners of tribal and regional wars and unlucky captives sold to the Europeans for money and goods, such as 15-year-old Esi Asare, Effia’s half-sister. Esi was seized during a raid on her own village and brought to the castle by “bomboys”, local boys who worked for the British transporting cargo. In a series of subsequent interconnected stories, the bloodlines of these two women are followed through seven generations covering the associated histories of the US and Ghana up to the turn of the 21st century.”

Yaa Gyasi has truly crafted an extraordinary picture illuminating slavery’s troubled legacy and reminds us how slavery will continue to cause pain to our nation.

I will admit it took me awhile to get into the book. I was confused with the constant addition of new characters and the jump in the timeline. I had to constantly refer to the genealogy chart in the beginning of the book. Once I got the hang of it I couldn’t wait to see where Yaa Gyasi was going to take us next. I loved watching the stories unfold and seeing how the pain of the past caused pain in the present. I felt the horrors of slavery and the injustice that still plaques generations of families.

This book was enlightening, eye-opening and disturbing. I was drawn into a wonderful family history that introduced me to African culture and the horrors of the slave trade. It is a reminder to tell a story that should not be forgotten.

Favorite Quotes:

“We believe the one who has power. He is the one who gets to write the story. So when you study history, you must ask yourself, Whose story am I missing? Whose voice was suppressed so that this voice could come forth? Once you have figured that out, you must find that story too. From there you get a clearer, yet still imperfect, picture.”

“They would just trade one type of shackles for another, trade physical ones that wrapped around wrists and ankles for the invisible ones that wrapped around the mind.”

“The older Jo got, the more he understood about the woman called Ma. The more he understood that sometimes staying free required unimaginable sacrifice.”

Who should read this book? Anyone who is interested in generational stories or if you are interested in historical perspectives or learning more about african culture.

Warnings: drug use, spousal abuse, slavery (and all associated horrors), racism

Rating: 3/5

Book #3 Just Look Up by Courtney Walsh

https://www.amazon.com/Just-Look-Up-Courtney-Walsh/dp/1496421485

From the book cover:

After tirelessly climbing the ranks of her Chicago-based interior design firm, Lane Kelley is about to land her dream promotion when devastating news about her brother draws her back home–a quaint tourist town full of memories she’d just as soon forget. With her cell phone and laptop always within reach, Lane aims to check on her brother while staying focused on work–something her eclectic family doesn’t understand.

Ryan Brooks never expected to settle down in Harbor Pointe, Michigan, but after his final tour of duty, it was the only place that felt like home. Now knee-deep in a renovation project that could boost tourism for the struggling town, he is thrilled to see Lane, the girl he secretly once loved, even if the circumstances of her homecoming aren’t ideal.

Their reunion gets off to a rocky start, however, when Ryan can’t find a trace of the girl he once knew in the woman she is today. As he slowly chips away at the walls Lane has built, secrets from his past collide with a terrible truth even he is reluctant to believe. Facing a crossroads that could define his future with Lane and jeopardize his relationship with the surrogate family he’s found in the Kelleys, Ryan hopes Lane can see that maybe what really matters has been right in front of her all along–if only she’d just look up.

I hate to sound like a broken record, but I really love the way Courtney Walsh writes.

JUST LOOK UP is everything I love in a book. It is a beautiful love story that has a little drama that teaches all of the main characters a lesson. This might be my favorite Courtney book yet.

The story pulled me in right away. I didn’t want to put it down. I loved that the story was complex enough that it wasn’t predictable.

Courtney has a beautiful ability to develop characters that you believe and root for.

I loved Lane from the beginning. I devoured each page of her story as she fought the demons in her life and let others into the shell she had put around her heart and life. I love how smart, talented and witty she is. I felt her pain and couldn’t wait for her to realize that the pain of her past didn’t have to ruin her whole life.

And oh, Ryan. He was the perfect and I mean perfect boyfriend prospect. He is kind, loving and the perfect example of “a love that wouldn’t let go.”

One of the things that I admire most about Courtney Walsh’s writing is that her characters are well layered. They each have hurts, but they each have triumphs as well.

I loved the history of Ryan and Lane and how he was able to let her be herself and brought out a banter and personality that she didn’t let others see.

This is more than a love story though, Courtney gives a picture of the whole town and the community. (Warning, you may want to move there.) Courtney also weaves a religious aspect through her stories in a way that is natural. It never sounded preachy. It just feels like this is how life should be.

In case you can’t tell, I love everything I read from this author and I can’t wait to read the next one that I pick!

I did review If For Any Reason also by Courtney Walsh and you can read about it here https://fromthewings.org/2020/09/09/who-is-in-the-mood-for-a-good-story/

Who should read this book? Well, everyone, but especially lovers of contemporary Christian fiction.

Favorite quotes:

“She glanced at Betsy, who smiled as if they’d always been friends, the kind who could communicate without words, the kind who knew what the other one needed whether anyone said so or not.”

“seeing him there served as a well-placed reminder that life was short and people were what mattered most.”

Rating: 5/5

Book #4 The Promise of Rayne by Nicole Deese

https://www.amazon.com/Promise-Rayne-Nicole-Deese/dp/1503937704/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

From the cover:

Rayne Shelby has spent her entire life trying to earn the approval of her high-powered family, with the hope of one day managing her late grandfather’s prestigious Idaho lodge. But when she makes a mistake that puts her future in jeopardy, she faces an impossible choice: defy her family or deny her dream. The only way to fix the mess she’s created is to enlist the help of her neighbor, Levi, the apprentice of her family’s greatest enemy. And if Rayne gets caught crossing the divided property lines, the consequences will be irreparable.

Levi Harding has never forgotten the August night he shared with Rayne when they were teens—or the way she later rejected him. Despite his warring instincts, he can’t ignore her plea for help or the spark that’s ignited between them. But now, as wildfires bear down on their town and family secrets are revealed, their newfound alliance might just go up in smoke.

I have so loved discovering new authors and this one does not disappoint! This book captivated me from the very first paragraph. This book is a perfect blend of mystery, love, family, faith and forgiveness.

Rayne Shelby is a beautiful character who has lived to please her family her whole life. She is talented, smart, and giving. She has worked to be appreciated and seen, but has failed. She is loving and loyal and naive. I love the way she loves not only her family, but history and her town. Nicole did an excellent job of creating someone I just wanted to see be happy.

Nicole has written Levi in a way that was entirely intriguing. From one chapter to the next you are left wondering if Levi is a bad boy or if he is really the hero we long for. Our hearts go out to him as we learn about his past. We root for him to become that knight in shinning armor for Rayne. He is electrifying and interesting.

The reminder of the characters are also well developed. The story is so well written that those characters provide a great foundation to propel the actions of the story. You will find yourself loving some of them and hissing at the villians!

I was charmed and entranced by this book and I cannot wait to read another one by Nicole Deese!

Who should read this book? Lovers of Contemporary Christian Fiction as well as all of you who just want to read a good love story with a twist of intrigue.

Favorite quotes:

“Good character isn’t produced overnight; it’s grown over many seasons. In the same way you sort the good apples from the bad, the marks of poor characters are just as easy to detect.”

“You told me not to worry. You told me that God takes care of his creation…that his timing is always perfect – Rayne”

“Bitterness can compromise a heart the way fireblight disease can consume an apple orchard.”

Rating: 5/5

Reading is a wonderful way to learn more about other cultures, lifestyles, history. In short, it is a gateway into the lives of others. I hope you read. There is nothing like it.

I’d love to know if you have read any of these books and what you thought! What are you reading?

Until next time–this is me-talking to you-From the Wings!