Traveling Light

traveling-lightAuthor: Lynne Branard

Publisher: Berkley

Release Date: January 10, 2017

Reviewer: Jennifer S. Roman

North Carolinian Alissa Wells is responsible, punctual, and dependable.  She even lives in the same house she grew up in, so she has lived in her same home for over 30 years.  In all that time, it hasn’t bothered her that her life has gone on at an even keel, but when she goes through items she bought at a storage locker auction, she starts to question everything.  While going through her “winnings,” Al, as she is known to her friends and family, finds the ashes of a man she learns was named Roger Hart of New Mexico. Feeling some compulsion to return Roger to his home, she takes time a month off work from her editor job at her father’s small-town newspaper and sets out in her ancient VW with her three-legged dog, Casserole.

Almost immediately, Al finds another passenger in a teenaged waitress named Blossom.  She meets Blossom at one of the restaurants she visits one of the first days on the road, and Blossom asks Al if she can join her.  After learning that Blossom is going to see her father following a personal hardship, Al agrees, and the next thing she knows, Al has a chatty companion and a facebook account.  Somehow Blossom has set up an account without Al knowing it and has “friended” Al’s high school crush, Phillip.  Before she knows it, her travels are being documented on facebook, and she is receiving texts from Phillip, who divorced a few years ago.  Eventually, Blossom and Al are joined by Blossom’s ex boyfriend Dillon, and they make their way westward.

What starts out as a journey for someone else becomes a personal one as Al learns a lot from her trip and realizes that her life is just existing; she decides to start living her life instead.  Through her new friendship with Blossom and all that it entails, as well as her changed relationship with her father, Al is able to let go of a lot of baggage and do what makes herself happy.  She learns more about herself and that not everything has a happy ending; rather, it’s up to the individual to make the most of what is out there.  Most importantly, she learns that it is vital to look to the future instead of worrying about the past.

I enjoyed this book immensely and enjoyed how the story unfolded.  It read as a memoir of someone who has taken a similar journey, but it is strictly a work of fiction.  The book reads easily and is very easy to understand; the characters are likeable even with their flaws (well, most of them).  Rather than make everything sunshine and rainbows, Branard creates characters that are human, and therefore not always good people.  She shows that not everyone changes or realizes how they treat others, and that those other people act accordingly.  I enjoyed getting to know all of the characters, even though I may not have liked them all.

There is some profanity that may be offensive to some readers, but other than that and one couple conceiving a baby out of wedlock, there is no mention of violence, assault, or other objectionable behaviors.  I found the book to be heartwearming, fun, and “light.”  It definitely does not take on the dark side of something like Thelma and Louise, but instead proves to be a fun and inspirational read.  Older teens and adults alike should enjoy this book.

Courage to Soar


courage-to-soarAuthor: Simone Biles

Publisher: Zondervan

Release Date: November 15, 2016

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

An Olympic Gold medalist shows how she came to be one of the top athletes in the world.

Many Olympic athletes know from a very early age that they want to go for the gold. Simone Biles start in the world of gymnastics came about in a rather unconventional way.

She was born in Ohio but had a rocky start. Her mom wasn’t able to take care of her and her siblings.  She and her younger sister were eventually adopted by her grandparents, who she considers mom and dad.  One day, her daycare took a field trip to a local gym.  It was quickly obvious to all those at the gym that she had God-given talent and passion for the sport of gymnastics.  Through years of hard work, her family was her rock keeping her focused and positive and also helping her to enjoy the thing she loved most.  Along the way there were some highs and lows and through it all Simone continued to look to God for guidance and rely on her family as she learned some of the hardest lessons in life.

It is nice to read a story of someone so accomplished and see how they have stayed grounded as well as understand the difficulties they have faced. When you look at many of these Olympic athletes that are still so young, it can make any ordinary person feel that their accomplishments might not amount to much.  We all have to remember that just because we don’t have gold medals, the things we do in life are important nonetheless.  Simone Biles shows that she is normal in many ways.  Throughout her years of training she had her bad mood moments and even went through a bratty phase.  There were times she didn’t perform as well as she would have liked, but she never let it keep her down.  During those moments, she found the courage to get up and try again.  She attributes a lot of her success to her family and coaches that continued to push her to always reach her full potential.

I enjoyed the way the book was written giving a real glimpse inside her life and the bad moments.  She didn’t just gloss over the negative aspects of life and focus on the good.  This book goes under the category of inspiration and it lives up to that.  There is a lot of inspiration that can be taken away from the stories here.  I love that she talks about only being four foot eight inches tall and that’s ok.  I’m short and sometimes it can make you feel invisible, not something that can be said about Simone Biles.  She is a good role model for young girls to look up to.

Overall this was a very enjoyable read and I would recommend to fans of Biles along with those that enjoy a good inspirational read. There were a few typos that I feel could have been taken care of with an extra read through but still a great book.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. The views and opinions expressed within are my own.