The Writing Desk

The Writing DeskAuthor: Rachel Hauck

Publisher: Zondervan

Release Date: July 11, 2017

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A romance that spans the ages, and continents, to bring people together even in the hardest of times.

After her first book became a runaway success, Tenley Roth feels the pressure to bring another hit. However, due to the pressure, she is unable to get any words on the page.  During this time, her estranged mother calls asking for Tenley to help her through chemotherapy in Florida.  Shortly after arriving, she ends up meeting a furniture designer that shows her what real romance is about.  Tenley finds an old desk at her mother’s house that she uses to try and kick-start her new book.  The desk has history to it that ties everything together between the families and past writing.

Birdie Shehorn is the daughter of old money who wants to be her own person and not have her parents make her every decision, especially about who she will marry. Birdie wants to write novels and get her stories out in the world, a difficult feat for an unknown woman in this time.  Her mother is working behind her to get her future set the way she believes it should be, which is not want Birdie wants.  Tied together through time and circumstances, Birdie and Tenley find that even though their circumstances are not what they want, they can make the best of it if they follow their hearts.

This is one of those books that at first I thought I was going to give up on, the back and forth between the timelines and characters was a little confusing and took me out of the story. However, by the end of the book, it worked together so well.  The decisions made by each character and how it brought about the actions and reactions of those around them was done incredibly well.  Rachel Hauck did a fantastic job bringing about the sympathy for Tenley and the hard times she went through with the decisions she made and the consequences she had to face.  The relationship between Jonas and Tenley was a nice slow build up instead of an instant attraction that exploded into a full-blown romance that took over the whole story.  Even though this is an inspirational novel, it never gets preachy in any way that would be a turn off to some.  One of the nicest aspects is this is a story of forgiveness and redemption and how it can soothe the soul.  This book will be great for those that love romance and a story of hope and moving on to make the best of a situation.

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

Loveable

LoveableAuthor: Kelly Flanagan

Publisher: Zondervan

Release Date: March 21, 2017

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

The kind of book we all need to read to remember that we are worthy of love and can do all the things we want if we don’t give into fear, shame, and self-doubt.

In a world where our self-worth is based on how many likes we get or how many friends we have, it is nice to take a step back and remember that life is about more than that. Dr. Flanagan is a clinical psychologist and father that became famous for the letters he writes to his children.  He posted these letters on his blog which went viral and brought about an appearance on The Today Show.  Flanagan shares that we are all here for a reason and if we will learn to trust our self-worth and let others love us, we can find that purpose.

Loveable is the kind of book that will awaken something deep within us all that has easily been forgotten. With social media so popular and the basis for how we judge our self-worth, it is easy to forget that life is about so much more than that.  The human interaction we crave is so important.  Being with people and letting them actually be with us, on a deeper level, is so important.  We need to be more like an onion, peel back our layers of protection and expose our vulnerable selves.  It may hurt, but in the end, we will all be better for it.  I enjoyed what he had to say towards the end, take a breath and just go for it.  Whatever it is that might be holding you back, just go for it and be better because of it.  You don’t want to wake up on your last day and regret the things that were so deep inside of you that you were afraid to even try.  You might fail, in fact most of us will fail more than once, but that’s ok.  Take the good with the bad and make it all better.  Offer the love and respect that you so crave to everyone else and watch it eventually make its way back around.  Be the change you want to see and show the love you want to receive. That’s what life is all about.

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

The Way of Letting Go

Letting goAuthor: Wilma Derksen

Publisher: Zondervan

Release Date: February 21, 2017

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

After a life changing event, how do you learn to move on and forgive? This is one of the hardest things there is to do.

No matter the topic, being hurt by a friend or family member or losing a loved one, learning to let go of that pain is a very difficult thing to do. Wilma Derksen gives us 15 misconceptions to look at about grief and how it led her back to hope. Wilma’s world falls apart when her teenage daughter doesn’t come home from school one day.  Seven weeks later her body is found.  It isn’t until decades later that an arrest is made in the murder.  Wilma shares how she let her choice to forgive and let go of the heartbreak to be able to move on with her life.  She encourages trying to find a happy ending through the heartbreak and listening to her advice will hopefully help some break free of the pain they are holding on to.

Reading through this book and sharing the heartbreak Wilma had to go through was very difficult. Being a mother, it is very hard to hear or even think of having to experience this kind of heartache.  My kids are my world and I can’t imagine anything like this happening to them.  I would like to say I would be able to forgive, but it would be incredible difficult.  I loved everything she said about having to forgive and let go of the pain.  If we hold on to that pain, we are never going to be able to move on with our lives and live them the way God intends us to.  There were so many helpful scriptures and bible passages to look at for references to help through the dark times.  It doesn’t have to be someone who has experienced the murder of a child that will benefit from the words here. Every day we all face something that we should let go of to be our happiest; it might be something as simple as a hurt feeling from a friend or loved one, or it could go much deeper and be much harder.  No matter the circumstance we face, we all need to be able to try and be the best person we can be, and that won’t happen if we can’t let go of the negative things we are holding on to.

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

Between Heaven and the Real World: My Story

HeavenAuthor: Steven Curtis Chapman

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: March 7, 2017

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

An in-depth look at one of Christian music’s most popular artist that will pull at the heart-strings of every reader.

Steven Curtis Chapman has been one of the most popular artist in the Christian music world for decades. His life has been shaped by tragedy, heartache, and blessings.  In Between Heaven and the Real World, Chapman shares these events with readers in an exclusive look at his childhood through his upbringing to meeting his wife and the family they have built together.  His story is one that some of his fans may be aware of, but many aspects of his life that he shares in the book will be new to even his most devoted fans making this book worth reading.

I have been a fan of Christian music for about fifteen years and Steven Curtis Chapman is a name I have heard frequently over the years. Most of his story is new to me and it is a very important story for fans to read.  His openness to share even the hardest parts of his life is refreshing.  He didn’t try to sugar coat even the toughest parts of his life, and there were some very difficult tragedies he has experienced.  Reading about the death of his daughter, especially the way it happened, brought me to tears.  I had a hard time getting through that part, but I’m glad I did.  The way the family overcame that tragedy showed their faith and the way worked through things was nice to see, even more so when it is said that 95% of families that experience a death of a child don’t stay together.  The whole family dealt with the tragedy in different ways, but were still able to find comfort in each other.  One of the nicest things was how real and refreshing the story was.  I didn’t want to pick this up and not feel it was authentic, (especially since it was written with someone).  Fans of Steven Curtis Chapman have nothing to worry about, he shines through on every page from learning about the behind the scenes aspects of some of his greatest songs to the struggles his marriage has faced.  It was a joy to read this and it makes me look forward to hearing songs by him on the radio even more.  I recommend this book to fans of Chapman’s music and also those that might be struggling in their faith that could gain something from the stories in this book.

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

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.