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!