Review: Where Hope Begins by Catherine West

When people say a book hooks them from the beginning, Where Hope Begins really snatches you and doesn’t let you go until you turn that last page. Not only that and the review ratings can back this up is this an amazing book. I don’t even think there are words that could capture the experience of this book. It’ll get you riled up on an emotional journey taking sides and feeling all sorts of emotions that for those of you who have been in her shoes, it’s really hit home.

The book really opens with a bang. I’m talking about you know who side your going to take instantly. When Savannah is introduced in the book, you are immediately put in her shoes. When she finds out her husband, after everything they have gone through, decides to leave her with the request of a divorce, she retreats to her parents’ lake house to figure out how to put her life back together. Side note - there was many times here that if there was a character that you wanted to reach out and yell at, it was towards him. Even though she doesn’t know if she is coming or going, people are put in her life at the right moment and she finds a glimpse of hope and sense of purpose that begins a journey of healing for her. 

I really loved her time in the book at the Lake House. The transformation of being broken yet opening up yourself really showed us something really special. Savannah has been through so much and has carried the burden for many years of a tragedy that has plagued her and then the loss of her child, we really get to the core of her. It was so impactful how she handled, dealt with and worked through this testing period of her life. You talk about the power of strength and forgiveness. The wisdom she gained from Clarice, the friendship that developed with Brock (I wish they had ended up together) and the joy she gained from being around his daughter healed her pain from her own loss but gave her a sense of purpose that she was worthy of love.

Overall, there is absolutely nothing that I didn’t like about this book. Actually, I know that I like many books but this is my favorite this year. If a book makes you that interested that you can’t put it down, than it serves it purpose. So many women out there who have been in this situation will relate and for those who have been in the shoes of Savannah, the author gives the reader a strong novel of the power of the through the good and bad, forgiveness and a true definition of second chances. This is one of the books that will leave such an impression that it will not be forgettable. Beautiful written story, memorable characters and a plot that will have you not wanting to put the book down. This is a definite add to the TBR pile!

Review: Whiskey Sharp: Torn by Lauren Dane

Cora has gained a reputation being a success business woman running the family business. Their art gallery, a gift from her father to her mother, had become very successful and well sought out from many people looking for art. Always doing everything under and for her mother, giving her full attention, Cora got to a place where she couldn't do it anymore and keep up with the demands of the business. She decided it was time to find a personal assistant to take care of everything her mother needed so she could focus on what she needed to do for herself. Unexpected, then walks back into her life, Beau.

Already knowing who he was, while out with her friends at the Whiskey Sharp, tv cook/model Beau caught her attention. As the two make an instant connection, some secrets from Beau's past came out regarding his life before the fame. At a young age, he and his family were members of a cult led by his father who was pretty much controlled his life. When he realized that the life he was leading was wrong and he wanted to turn his father in, his wife told his father and then something that happened that changed his life forever. Being able to escape, he met two people who helped me make a respectable life. 

After a short time together, Cora and Beau realize that they are meant to be together. Besides this new chapter in his life, he is plagued by secrets of his past that he hired a detective to find out about. what happened. Despite his past, it doesn't matter to her but he wants to spare her his problems and as an effect holds back a part of him. Their journey together opens a new chapter for both themselves and the quest for unanswered questions.

Alright, so I should begin this with I didn't read the first two books so I can say whether or not there was previous info to the story that would've helped along. I'm going to be honest and say this book was not up my alley. It has nothing to do with the plot of the book because I ventured out of my norm and was fine with that. The explicit scenes, not my thing. I could've did without the here there and everywhere but that isn't a reflection of the book just a personal preference in my comfort level of reading. Something great was the close knit aspect of the relationships within the characters. That is always a great experience reading. Those traits of sticking together always puts you close to the characters. It would've been great for resolution in the end. It leaves you feeling like a puzzle piece is missing. That would've redeemed things majorly for me. Overall, the plot of the book was interesting minus the other stuff. Just wish there was more details about certain aspects of the story. I'm on the fence if there is another book to continue but are very curious to see what happens.
 

Review: The Probability of Miracles by Wendy Wunder

The Probability of Miracles is a hard book for me to describe my feelings for. It was an experience, however, I am not sure if it was a positive or neutral experience.  

The book revolves around a 17-year-old named Cam Looper. For several years, she has spent a considerable amount of time in the hospital due to her cancer. Unfortunately, she is not getting any better.  In search of a miracle, her and her family move to Promise, Maine, a town that is believed to have mystical powers.

In hindsight, I was very intrigued by the plot. It is pretty straightforward and does not include very many surprises. There were moments that were incredibly sad and also incredibly funny. It was nice balance that never felt overwhelming or out of place. However, it is worth mentioning, that I did not feel attached to the story as I wanted to be. There was sort of a disconnect for me and I think that could be contributed to the story being told in third person.

I wanted more of an insight to who Cam was as a person, and also more of her internal personality. From what was given, she was very sassy and at the end had this great character development. But I think I wanted to feel a great connection to her.

I expected the book to be a little more whimsical. There were times were it felt a little dry and nothing really was taking place within the plot. I wanted to know more about why people believed Promise was this mystical place.

Final Analysis

The Probability of Miracles is a YA that has a strong central plot and features an interesting main character. However, it is not a book that feels memorable.

Review: Stay Sweet by Siobhan Vivian

Stay Sweet was book that is perfect for summer. In hindsight, it is about Amelia and her dedication to her town’s ice cream stand. It is not too heavy on the angst, but the angst is still present. There were a few moments that I did not necessarily love. Overall, it was cute read and I felt deeply immersed in the book.

Like mentioned earlier, Stay Sweet is a story of Amelia and a local ice cream stand- Meade Creamery. Every summer, Amelia and her best friend Cate work at the famous ice cream stand that was founded by Molly Meade. However, the summer is going to a little bittersweet, considering both Amelia and Cate are leaving for college in the fall and aren’t returning to the stand next summer. On Amelia’s first day as the honorary “Head Girl”, Molly Meade passes away and the future of the stand hangs in the balance.

Characters

I liked Amelia has a main character. For lack of a better word, she felt extremely sweet, and the type of person who would always give. Although that it is a good thing, it does subject her to being manipulated.

One thing that was very prominent within the book was Amelia’s dedication to Meade Creamery. It was very obvious that the stand meant so much to her, and it was interesting watching her doing the best she could to save the stand. In the way, I admired her passion. In addition to being passionate about the stand, Amelia was also very passionate about her friendship with Cate.

In beginning, I really enjoyed their friendship. It felt real and raw. However, as the book progresses, it became a little corrupt. Cate started to be portrayed in a way that felt off turning, and I did not quite understand her actions. And I was a little afraid that they would be glossed over by Amelia, but fortunately they were addressed.

There is a little romance within the book between Amelia and Molly Meade’s great nephew, Grady. I was not entirely sold on the romance. I always had some lingering fear that Grady was going to disappoint Amelia.

I wish Molly Meade’s story would have been a little more front and center. She created the ice cream stand in 1944 by herself and that is interesting within itself. But in addition, she also had this mysterious life.

Final Analysis

Stay Sweet is a book about a teen who is desperately trying to save something that means so much to her. It is a nice and quick read that does not entirely disappoint.

Review: Rolling Through Teens by Mary Settle

Rolling Through Teens is a special book. For this young woman, her words were so beautiful and heartfelt through her experiences that allowed her to pour through the pages. What fascinates me is that she was born with cerebral palsy and her was told to give up on her. All the odds stacked against her with the worst case scenario of having a meaningful functional life. Reading this book makes me appreciate life and I'm very proud and admire this young woman and her accomplishment in creating this book. By the way, defying those obstacles has come a long way overcoming. 

The book is from the perspective of a young girl in a wheelchair. We see her struggles through life, her family, future and the influences and relationship of her faith. The book falls under the general poetry genre and was such a refreshing, touching read. I'd recommend taking a look at her book.

Review: The Healing: One Woman's Journey from Poverty to Inner Riches by Saeeda Hafiz

Saeeda Hafiz takes us on a journey of mind, body, and soul as she brings to light the truth of a dark childhood, one rattled with domestic violence, absence, and addiction, and the relationships that grew out of it. Determined to push herself above the backdrop of her youth, she soon finds herself established among the middle class in the corporate world of banking only to realize that she still feels out of place. Interspersed with emotional flashbacks to what she fears is “the typical black American family”, this is one woman’s struggle to leave behind a stereotype that can feel like a legacy. Her story is not one without shame, which makes it all the more courageous.

Leaving her corporate status behind, she literally follows her gut and decides to adopt a macrobiotic diet which eventually leads to living out her dream of being a holistic health practitioner, live-in chef, yoga instructor, and teacher, continually redefining her life’s path. However, the dreams are short lived and she often finds herself falling back down the rabbit hole of shame and eventually on the brink of depression. The troubles of her past seem to always find a way to haunt her until she is able to face -and accept- them. Along the way, she gains perspective through traveling, new relationships, and therapy, but holistic health is at the heart of it all, guiding her forward. Hafiz’s story is both wretched and relatable; the story of finding oneself born among the rubble and the tedious fight to rise above it, scarred, but intact. In the end, she learns that the constant ups and downs are simply a part of finding one’s balance.

I had high hopes for the newest release from Parallax Press, the publishing company founded by renowned Zen master Thích Nhất Hanh. On one hand it had everything I expected and hoped for; it depicted a holistic lifestyle, told of the author’s journey both through travels and her yoga practice, and had some Oprah-worthy insights along the way. However, it was also the one thing a memoir should never be: a story of the author’s life from beginning to present day. The lack of framing made an otherwise good story a tedious read. The reader is shown the author’s thoughts and habits on a loop, beginning in her early twenties and continuing through three jobs, two yoga retreats, three failed relationships and two decades before finally bringing forth any real resolution. This may mimic the ups and downs of life and stay true to Hafiz’s experiences, but it was the same message being dolled up in different clothing over and over. Hafiz is gifted in metaphor, but certain passages toe the line of being vague and unnecessary.  Even the afterword, which is peppered with macrobiotic whole-food recipes, was a bit lackluster when compared to even the most banal of food blogs. No doubt there is a message worth hearing here, but perhaps like the practice of yoga, patience is key with this novel.

Review: The Apprentice by Rick Pullen

Going into the book, I didn't know it was going to be a serial until I got to the end. Without giving too much away, it's obvious the plot of the book for what it parallels. It's a little too close for me, perhaps opening up much to the conspiracy theorists out there regarding our current political events. Despite this being fiction, and that book just came out about Donald Trump, it really gives the mind a place to wander sort of out there about the possibilities.  

Despite my initial reservation, that partly being how I didn't like the beginning part of the plot with what happened to Holly, the book sort of took a life on of it's own. It was a quick read and within the given plot, there was enough to keep you interested to see where this goes. I'm not sure how many parts will make up this work, whether it is ongoing or was it established before it's release. I had my suspicions about where the plot was going to go but was surprised in the end how it came about. This was definitely a surprise read for myself and will continue the story to see what happens. You can definitely see the effects of the background in investigative journalism by the author because it made the characters and profession of the plot cohesive and more genuine considering the political climate. If you're into suspense/thrillers, especially political ones, give this a shot. 

Review: Muse by Susan Daugherty

Where do I start? First of all, the ending of book 1 drove me crazy because we are literally left hanging on the cliff but it is so worth it because is it possible for the second book to be better? I’m going to walk the line for this review because it’s so hard to get specific without giving any of the goods away but Muse was fantastic.

I was cringing my way through the all the ups & downs because that book for a certain direction was driving me crazy. Let’s just say Jack & Lexi tested their ups & downs like any couple to see if they were meant to be. There were some curveballs thrown in there that kept the story interesting.

I think the author did a great thing dividing their story into two because the buildup into Muse added another layer to them that made their story better and we earned that ending. I really loved the way Susan told their story. This series is definitely one that will pull you in and the investment Jack & Lexi will have you on a ride that you won’t want to come off from. Awesome storytelling in a way that brings them to life. Fantastic wrap up to the series and so selfish of me not to want this to end. Maybe a third book will be considered, we’ll see. So, needless to say, I’m telling you to check it out!

Review: The College Girl's Survival Guide: 52 Honest, Faith-Filled Answers to Your Biggest Concerns by Hanna Seymour

#Sponsored by FaithWords

Where was this book when I was going to college? I didn’t have the experiences that many other women had because I worked but for those absorbed in the college life, this is a resource book to keep handy. The College Girl’s Survival Guide is filled with tips, advice, faith driven inspirations and definitely guided by the feeling of having that big sister give you wisdom to avoid making mistakes.

This book is everything and anything you could think of that might come up before, during and after. Compiled together from women asking advice from everything from classes, roomates, dating, friendships, how to deal with transitioning from your family and so much more. Such an insightful book that will not only inspire but give you the tools you need to survive to tackle everything potential obstacles that  might come your way.

Let me first say this from the start, the author wrote this book from a Christian perspective. Not preachy but throws in scriptures of inspiration. Don’t let this deter you from the book if you aren’t spiritual. She has many years of experience working with young women and gives a balanced perspective in the book that I feel is applicable to all areas of their college experience. She is positive, encouraging and really hits the nail on major situations that are relevant to young women entering college. The tagline really captures the essence of the experience of the book, “52 honest, faith-filled answers to your biggest concerns.” 

Overall, I thought this was a wonderful resourceful book. I completely agree with the author that this book doesn’t have to be read in order. You can skip around to what’s relevant to you or what topics you want to connect with. I loved the girlfriend, bestie vibe that felt like your older sister talking to you during the book. I think this would be a great read for young women to read before going to college. I’d recommend checking this out.

Review: What Blooms From Dust by James Markert

“I learned early on that the coin was never wrong with me”

When a twister rolls through the dusty plains of 1930s Oklahoma and clips the corner of a state prison, Jeremiah Goodbye, infamously known as “The Coin-Flip Killer”, gets a second chance. After being strapped into the electric chair and bound for death, he gets only a quick jolt that seems to reseal his fate before the walls are torn from the building. Armed with a rifle and the coin that landed him in prison in the first place, he heads for his hometown of Nowhere to settle the score with the one who turned him in and married the woman he loved; his twin brother, Josiah.

On the way, he’s followed by an eight-year old boy named Peter, an abandoned victim of the Dust Bowl, and the two make their way to Nowhere together. What awaits them are the tangled mysteries of Jeremiah’s past and the secrets he buried with those bodies three years earlier. Between the waves of dust which tear regularly through the landscape, we’re able to glimpse fragments of Jeremiah’s complicated life before they’re covered just as rapidly as they appeared. Before he has time to face his own demons, things get strange a dust storm of historical proportions hits, a dust storm that would go down in history as “Black Sunday”. It pummels Nowhere with a grim black dust the likes of which the town has never seen, leaving nothing unchanged in its wake, including the citizens of Nowhere. In an unexpected redemption, Jeremiah and Peter set out to change the town’s fate and uncover the origin story which led Jeremiah to the coin all those years ago.

James Markert’s ‘What Blooms from Dust’ is an elaborate modern-day fable that tore all of my expectations to shreds. At times, it was a bit heavy handed in allegory, but that did little to hinder such an impressive narrative. With deep emotional scenes which are felt rather than just read, it’s bound to captivate anyone. A hanging suspense carried throughout the story makes this one a page-turner and before each loose thread is woven with the rest, you’ll be swept into things you never saw coming. It’s more than just a feel-good story. ‘What Blooms from Dust’ is genre fiction at its best, masterfully blending mystery, magical realism, and romance while doubling as a historical portrayal of the 1930s Midwest. This is something for every reader. Full of intrigue and hope, What Blooms from Dust will stir things in you long settled.