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…..
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.
Blackout by Candace Owens N/F 4/5
Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker by Jennifer Chiaverini F 4/5
The Flight Girls by Noelle Salazar F 4/5
One to Watch by Kate Stayman London F 4.5/5
All That Really Matters by Nicole Deese F 5/5
Becoming Elisabeth Edwards by Ellen Vaughn N/F 4/5
Shipped by Angie Hockman F 3/5
The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer F 5/5
I Heard That Song Before by Mary Higgins Clark (Audio) F 4/5
We Hope For Better Things by Erin Bartels (Audio) F 5/5
A New York Secret by Ella Carey F 4/5
Breaking Silence by Linda Castillo (Audio) F 4/5
Look Again by Lisa Scottoline (audio) F 5/5
Is it Any Wonder by Courtney Walsh F 5/5
Finlay Donovan is Killing It by Elle Cosimano F 5/5
Random Road by Thomas Kies F 5/5
High Achiever by Tiffany Jenkins N/F 4/5
Full Disclosure by Dee Henderson F 4/5
At Your Request by Jen Turano (Audio) F 2/5
Beach Rental by Grace Greene (Audio) F 5/5
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?
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.
Death, murder, violence
Favorite quotes :
“you can love a person without loving everything about that person.”
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.
“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. ”
Heavy Themes: Racial prejudice, marital infidelity, slavery.
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??
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.
“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 # 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.
“People are the problem. But they can also be the solution.”
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
“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!
*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.
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.
“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.”
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.
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 #1Mrs. 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.
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.
Book #2The Flight Girls by Noelle Salazar
From the cover:
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.
“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.”
Book #3One 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 TheBachelor, 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.
“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.”
Trigger warnings: fat shaming, fat phobia, sexual exploits (which were quite unnecessary without them it would have been even better.)
Who should read this book: Lovers of The Bachelor, Rom-com, light romance,
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!
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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
Book #3Just Look Up by Courtney Walsh
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!
Who should read this book? Well, everyone, but especially lovers of contemporary Christian fiction.
“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.”
Book #4The Promise of Rayne by Nicole Deese
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.
“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.”
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!