The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

Image“…All I can say is we’ll figure it out, I swear.  When I read a book, I want you to be reading it at the same time.  I want to know what would [you] think about it.  I want you to be mine.  I can promise you books and conversation and all my heart.”

A.J Fikry is a bookstore owner, widow, and alcoholic.  When a baby is mysteriously left in his bookstore one evening, A.J. Fikry’s drunken and wounded heart is challenged.  The mother is found dead with her last known wish that her child be raised in a bookstore.

“It is the secret fear that we are unlovable that isolates us… but it is only because we are isolated when, you will be driving down a road.  And someday, you do not know when, he, or indeed she, will be there.  You will be loved because for the first time in your life, you will truly not be alone.  You will have chosen to not be alone.”

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin is story of “unexpected love [rescuing] you and [bringing] you back to real life, in a world that you won’t want to leave, with characters that you will come to love.”

“There is only one word that matters… we aren’t the things we collect, acquire, read.  We are, for as long as we are here, only love.  The things we loved.  The people we loved…. and these,  think these really do live on.”

Advertisements

The Art of Falling by Kathryn Craft

At the risk of sounding cheesy, there are books that leave footprints across my soul – books that touch the broken pieces and heal the inner wounds that haunt.  The Art of Falling by Kathryn Craft is one of those books.  Eloquent.  Beautiful.  Exquisite.  I am a better person for having read this book.

35c66a9f85e973a06b685ced6e3cf8fb_clj7

Penelope Sparrow only wanted to dance.  After a traumatic fall from the balcony of her high rise apartment,  she wakes partially paralyzed in a hospital bed and everything she ever wanted begins to fade away.  Amnesia, friend or foe, prevents Penelope from remembering what caused her fall in the first place.  With intense physical therapy, Penelope is able to walk and move once again… but the movement of dance isn’t welcome.  Memories of rejection begin to replace the amnesia-void and Penelope isn’t eager to walk back into the dancing community.  She rejects her hunger for movement, her creative thirst, and her dance cravings.

“It also hurts me, you know.  To watch you suffer… you’re starving… you’ve got to find a way to feed yourself.”‘

When everything in Penelope’s life comes crashing down again, she learns to once again embrace the movement of true love, forgiveness, and hope.  She learns the importance of feeding her body and soul and finds the courage to embrace the “divinity” of her creative talent… and she learns to value her expression whether the impact be, big or small.

Dancers and human beings alike all have their own metaphorical balconies.  The plunge into the dark emotional void paralyzes desires to create and love and express the art of the soul.  We strap ourselves to our “I-give-up-hospital-beds” and refuse to accept the rejection we feel in our lives.  Fear of rejection, anxiety that we are not good enough, and the constant stress that we don’t have enough time, prevents us from embracing the expression of our souls.   And at times, we jump while screaming into the wild void that “I will never create again.”  We paralyze the soul, bruise the heart, and destroy dreams.

Kathryn Craft and Penelope Sparrow helped me realize that jumping into the “emotional void” isn’t healthy. It blocks my expression and cuts me off from God.  The Art of Falling gave me the courage to embrace the vulnerability a little more and to avoid my metaphorical balcony.  To live is to create and love and express the language of our souls.

“… and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique.  And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and be lost.”

Saving Amelie by Cathy Gohlke

As a general rule, I don’t read a lot of books about the WWII/Holocaust.  The words of Anne Frank, Escape from Warsaw, The Book Thief, and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society paint a picture of a time that haunts my soul.  What happened to society – to people as a whole – to inspire such hatred and violence?  How did people find the courage to continue living despite such hard times?  The courage embedded within the hearts of many people inspires and amazes me while the hatred and violence of others frighten me beyond belief.

download Centered around the time of WWII/Holocaust, Saving Amelie  by Cathy Gohlke is the story of a four-year-old deaf German girl, daughter to a prominent German officer.  Having an “imperfect” child is a stain upon the father’s “record” that he is unwilling to have.  Arrangements are made for Amelie to attend a facility specialized in caring for disabled children without the mother’s consent.  Rumors have it that children like Amelie, once admitted, are never seen alive again.  Desperate to save the life of her daughter, the mother reaches out to her childhood friend Rachel for assistance.

Rachel, a daughter to a prominent American researcher, is hesitant to accept her friend’s request.  Her father’s research has shown the power of eugenics and she isn’t quite sure where she stands.  Her friend must be over-reacting.  After a spin of events, Rachel is forced to flee and enter hiding herself along with the deaf Amelie.   Saving Amelie knits together a beautiful story of individuals learning to love and sacrifice despite the risks.  It is the story of people learning to look beyond their needs to help a stranger, sister, and friend.  The words of this book, while they were powerful, made me see the importance of looking beyond my own needs in all circumstances.

History enthusiasts and non-history-enthusiasts will unite within the pages of Saving Amelie because every soul – regardless of age, gender, and race – has value.  It doesn’t matter when, where, or how – this value exists.  I walked away from this book with a renewed desire to teach my children the importance of respecting the people that surround us.  The only “true crime” against humanity is committed when we fail to honor the light, the life, and the love of the souls that surround us on a daily basis.  We are created equal in the eyes of God, and we must strive to remember that in all times, in all things, and in all places.

 

–Book was provided by Tyndale House for my honest review.

Tortoise and the Wave

hawaii

The popular children’s story, Tortoise and the Hare, tells of a race held between an overly-confident hare and a consistent tortoise.  The hare, upon recognizing that he is winning the race, lies down to nap before the finish line.  When the hare awakens, he discovers that the slow, but steady tortoise is inches away from winning the race.  The hare jumps up, and runs towards the finish line in an attempt to reclaim his title as the “fastest.”  In the end, the steady tortoise wins the race – reminding all of us that “slow and steady wins the race.”

I find that I have more in common with the hare than the tortoise.  I want to loose my belly-post-baby-weight today, I want the dishes done, and I want to finish writing that book in the next hour.  I push myself hard and then crash while the slow and steady pull ahead.    I don’t know slow-and-steady, instead I know dash-and-crash.

While sitting on the beach in Hawaii, the waves of the ocean pushed their way slowly up the beach.  With each and every swoop, they inched their way up closer to my sun-burned legs and sandy towel.  Up and back, push and pull, crash and crack. Like the tortoise, the water progressed slowly without a ruler, scale, or calculator.  Even when it didn’t appear to be so, the water succeed because it continued to splash and move.

With four young kids, I often feel that one step towards my goal is five big steps in the opposite direction.  Success hinges upon a completed book, an empty sink, and a happy number on the scale.  I stay up late, wake up early, and try to “squeeze in” as much as I can without depriving my children of my attention.  Dish by dish and word by word, I can put the calculators and rulers away.  It doesn’t matter how much I accomplish in one day, it only matters that I try.   The efforts may not feel big today, but eventually I will reach the finish line – slow and steady.  

Meant to be Mine by Becky Wade

The more I delve into Christian Fiction, the more I fall in love.  I appreciate the clean romance, the tension between the characters, and the lessons I learn.  Becky Wade quickly became a new favorite with My Stubborn Heart and Undeniably Yours.

What I love about Becky Wade’s work is that her characters are real with tangible struggles.  I find myself in their reflection.  I learn and grow from their mistakes and overcome some of my struggles within the words of her stories.  Becky has concocted the perfect combination of faith and hope within her fun stories.

And let’s be honest… I love the romance.  The romance in Wade’s books are clean and exciting and wonderful.  She pushes beyond the tight-lipped-grandma-kisses, keeps it real, and respectfully describes the excitement of the scenes.

I am excited to tell you about Wade’s newest book, Meant to Be Mine.  But before I do that, check out the adorable photo shoot for the cute cover.

MeanttoBeMine_compCeila Park has always had a thing for Ty Porter.  When the two of them meet up in Vegas, their relationship climaxes to a cheap wedding chapel and midnight vows.  After an exciting wedding night, Celia wakes to find Ty upset.  Her happily-ever-after comes crushing down when Ty admits that he is in love with someone else.

Five and a half years later, Celia wants to stay as far away from Ty Porter as possible.  Their one-night-wedding-stand changed her life forever – and not in the way she had once dreamed.  Instead of following her own personal goals, Celia had to “give them up” to raise the honey-moon-baby from the man that didn’t love her in return.

When Ty mysteriously shows up, will the two of them be able to forge a relationship for the sake of their daughter?  Is forgiveness possible? And is it too late for Celia to get her happily-ever-after?

 

— Book was provided by Bethany House in exchange for my honest review.

Death by the Book by Julianna Deering

9780764210969I am on the beach IN HAWAII with flip flops, a massive sun burn on the back of my neck, and Death by the Book written by Julianna Deering.  Paradise has arrived.

Death by the Book takes place in the summer of 1932 when Drew Farthing wants nothing more than to announce his engagement. When his solicitor shows up dead at their scheduled appointment, Drew is called on the scene to help investigate – again. When the physician turns up dead too, Drew is baffled.  Murders continue to happen with each one of them growing closer to Drew’s own home and the people he cares most about.  When the police make an arrest in connection with the murder(s) that Drew isn’t certain about, will he be able to find the one responsible for the crime(s)?

The suspense, characters, and story line is incredible.  Death by the Book is my first introduction to Julianna Deering and I am confident to say that it will not be my last.  Adorable characters with likable motives and a growing tension between them make this book a home run.

 

— Bethany House provided the book in exchange for my honest review.

 

Caught in the Middle by Regina Jennings

index

In Regina Jennings first book,Sixty Acres and a Bride, we learn of the “crazy” Anne.  People avoid her.  She isn’t like everyone else.  When Anne is forced to kill her violent-abusive-husband, the town begins to avoid her more than ever. In Jenning’s second book, Love in the Balance, Anne is all alone.

Throughout the first two books, Anne’s tough (and different) exterior keep people at arms length.  When an abandoned child falls into Anne’s lap, everything begins to change and Anne becomes Caught in the Middle.  Does she have the courage to open up and love the world for the sake of the child?  Can she learn to trust again?  What about her broken and bruised heart?

Anne’s bravery and willingness to overcome her fears inspires me.  How many people surrounding me are internally hurting like Anne?  The people that surround Anne, patiently helping her learn to love again, inspire me.  And what of the romance?  Super cute.

I walked away from Caught in the Middle with a deeper understanding of what it means to love unconditionally.  People, fictional and real, are starving for love.   Everyone is lonely. Together, we can learn to put aside the judgement in honor of love… just like Anne.