A Love Like Ours by Becky Wade and Other Reads…

Ohio has been a wonderful place for reading.  The Upper Arlington Library System has every book I could possibly want to read.  Do you remember that old Arthur episode where the kids chant “having fun isn’t hard when you’ve got a library card?”  There is so much fun to be had in Ohio.

I’ve delved deep into Young Adult reads the last month or two.  Each one of them deserves its own post and review… but then I wouldn’t have time to read the stack of books on my nightstand.  The Geography of You and Me, The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, On the Fence, The Distance Between Us, and My Life Next Door are super cute romance reads.  Isla and the Happily Ever After, Along for the Ride, and the fantastic fantasy of Splintered are worth checking out.

I have to admit that I was a Fault-in-our-stars hater until I actually read the book.  I’ve repented of my ways and now believe that everyone in the galaxy should read Fault in our Stars at least once.  I worship the words John Green walks on.  The metaphors and writing will blow your socks off…

The kids and I have been enjoying the Life of Fred Series, Story of the World, Jeremy Thatcher Dragon Hatcher, Maniac Magee, The Overlander Series, The Magic Finger, Fantastic Mr. Fox, and on a serious note – Good Pictures Bad Pictures.  Every family should own a copy of this book and talk about it on a regular basis.

Adult reads: The Shadow of Your Smile was fun. You can never go wrong with a Susan May Warren book. The Dress Shop of Dreams was well written, but kind of depressing.  I loved the characters and the magic, but the idea of living your entire life without the true love of your life made me sad.  Mermaid Collector – I loved the back story of mermaids and the way they influenced the town and people in it.  I don’t particularly enjoy stories with infidelity, but this one has a happy ending.  The minimalist in me loved the theme of “letting go of things that hold you back.”   And of course, I’ve read Edenbrooke again and again – because can you ever get sick of an book like Edenbrooke?

The ultimate icing on the book cake was Becky Wade’s newest book A Love Like Ours.  Bethany House sent a copy straight to my mailbox and I couldn’t wait to dive right in.

lovelikeoursThe book is as cute as the cover.  And seriously, the cover is cute.  It makes me want to grow my hair out and buy light blue pants.  A Love Like Ours is the third book in the Porter Family Novels, Undeniably Yours and Meant to Be Mine lead the way.  You don’t have to read these two books prior to reading A Love Like Ours, but you will definitely be missing out if you don’t read them sometime in your life.

A Love Like Ours takes place in Texas with Former Marine Jake Porter and Lyndie James.  Once childhood friends, the two of them struggle to find their way together again after years of being apart.  PTSD from years of military service keep Jake distant, aloof, and rude while years of nurturing and loving animals motivates Lyndie to breach the barriers of Jake.  I love the overall theme of “letting go of fear to embrace love.”

The majority of people don’t struggle with PTSD like Jake does, but throughout every romance novel I have read this year there is a common thread of vulnerability when it comes to love.  When you really sit down and think about the fear we carry around with us, it is amazing that so many people take the leap for love each and every day.  Opening your heart to someone with the knowledge that they could hurt us – is a scary thing.  That fear can bring the best and the worst in us out.

I think this is why I love romance novels so much.  They remind me what a gift love is.  They remind me of the importance of keeping my heart open and available to my husband because “Happily Ever Afters” aren’t always easy.  They require that we continue to keep our hearts and minds open to our lovers with faith that they will do the same for us. There are times when relationships can be scary – married or not.  But the most important thing is that we don’t give up on the healthy, supportive love when it comes our way.

Like Jake, we can each overcome our fears and find the courage to let the right person into our hearts to stay.  And that is a beautiful thing.

What books have you been reading?

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books and dreams and packing it light.

i-mfCtQNn-X2A lot of life happens outside of books.  Since my last post, my husband graduated with his PhD in neuroscience.  We moved out of our house and into my parent’s house for a couple short weeks.  Ohio is calling our name and we are listening.  Among all the hustle and bustle of packing our house and moving, I have enjoyed reading the Rush Revere series and The Life of Fred with my kids.  Sixty Acres and a Bride (again), The Four Agreements, Here to Stay, The Rose Garden, Sandwich with a Side of Romance, Somebody Like You, A Tangle of Knots, and Once Upon a Prince have kept me company.  Sweet, lovely company.

Although I desperately miss my quiet read time, I am enjoying our crazy-move-across-the-United-States adventure.  Leaving our home and neighbors has been hard, but  it has forced me to evaluate my priorities.  So much of my time revolves around wanting to appear more “this or that” instead of embracing the life I have and the silly little quirks that make me, me.  I think it is natural to reach for perfection instead of embracing the perfection that already surrounds us.

I often forget that no amount of skill or talent will increase my personal worth because my personal worth is already there.  It is in you and it is in me and it has been since the beginning of creation.  C.S. Lewis talks about finding the God in everyone that surrounds us and Ann at Holy Experience talks about people’s tendency to “see the world in measuring sticks instead of burning bushes.”  Whether you choose to write or read or sew or bake or take fancy pictures – your worth remains the same.

As a stay-at-home mom, I struggle with this concept.  I believe that I should bake cookies more often, fit in smaller jeans, always talk kindly, and never take a minute for myself… yet, I berate myself for not being more “in the world.”  Other moms volunteer in soup kitchens, crochet hats for the hospital, and run their own private businesses.  The act of looking around at the world with my own ruler drains my energy and decreases my appreciation for the gifts I have to offer.  Oprah relates this habit of looking and comparing the accomplishments of others to the runner that spends more time looking behind then ahead.  Panic will boil in the veins when someone behind starts to get close and desperation will saturate our courage when others pass us up.  Somehow in this life of social media connections, I have to learn to start looking ahead at the things I want to accomplish in my life.  I have to find the courage to give validation to my dreams.

I’ve learned that it is hard to “pack it light” when it comes to expectations we have for ourselves and for those that surround us.  We define what we want and we expect results.  Like my over-stuffed storage unit, we hang on to harsh personal standards that really hold us back and weigh us down.  In the book Walden, Henry David Thoreau talks about the weight and responsibility of our possessions.  We buy a little knick-knack and we have to dedicate our time and resources to keep it looking dust-free and nice.  Like our knick-knacks, our harmful thoughts and definitions of what it means to be a good person weigh us down and prevent us from enjoying the amazing blessings of today.  They force us to always see our glass as half-empty instead of overflowing, bubbly, and fizzy with gratitude for the amazing life we have to live today.

Thanks to a highly-stressful move, I am beginning to see the overflowing exciting bubbles of joy in my cup of life.  I am happy, loved, and dreaming big dreams.  I have everything I need and so much more.  And for that – I am truly grateful.

A Match of Wits by Jen Turano

matchA Match of Wits, written by Jen Turano, is a cute story with adorable characters, witty dialogue, and unsuspected romance.

 

When Agatha Watson stumbles upon her long lost friend, Zayne Beckett, “quite pathetic and bedraggled” in the middle of the Colorado frontier, she decides it is time to get him back home to New York and his family.

Zayne has no desire to leave Colorado until Agatha shows up. Their friendship slips back into their familiar banter and he is tempted to return to the life he had abandoned. Once they arrive in New York, Zayne realizes that Agatha is in trouble. Will Agatha allow him to be her “knight in shining armor?”

Will the match – that seems so obvious to others – blossom into something more??

 

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

Summer Reads

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Austenland by Shannon Hale.  When Jane Hayes is given the opportunity to play out her  Austen-obsessed-I-want-Mr.-Darcy fantasy by a distant recently deceased relative, she is hesitant to accept.  Decked out in empire-waist gowns, etiquette, and flirtations with the gardener – Jane finds something more valuable than love.  She finds the courage to embrace herself.  When a modern day Mr.Darcy comes waltzing into the scene, will he be the “real deal?”

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And To Only Deceive by Tasha Alexandar.  When Emily accepts Phillip’s proposal, it isn’t for love.  When Phillip mysterious dies, Emily feels little grief.  Two years later, she discovers that her husband was a far different man from the person she had believed she had married.  A dark secret uncovered in one of his journals sends Emily on a dangerous spin of events with two mysterious suitors not so far behind.

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Somebody Like You by Beth Vogt is my new favorite book this summer.  Can a young widow find love again with her husband’s reflection? This book is beautiful, inspiring, and very well written.  It reminded me that we can’t control the way in which God heals, blesses, and loves our souls.  The only control we have is in opening our hearts to the gifts as they come our way.

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You Don’t Know Me by Susan May Warren.  Annalise Decker – potential-mayor’s-wife , mother of three, and PTA member – is not Annalise Decker.  After testifying against a dangerous criminal twenty years ago, Deidre O’Reilly is forced into witness relocation program and instructed to build a new life.  But when her old life comes chasing after her, will she be able to cling to the life and love she has found?

 

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Budha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka.  A collection of voices shared by the early Japanese woman in America.  Their voices are inspiring, haunting, and thought provoking.  Otsuka knits together a history that has been forgotten.

 

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The Alchemist, Manuscript Found in Accra, and The Fifth Mountain by Paulo Coelho.  Coehlo writes words that inspire, heal, and calm my soul.  These books are dog-eared, highlighted, and loved.  Read these books.

 

What have you been reading this summer?

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.”

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.

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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.”

Caught in the Middle by Regina Jennings

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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.