Book Review: Listen to Your Heart


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Kasie West’s Listen to Your Heart makes a fun Valentine weekend read. Kate doesn’t excel at talking to people but ends up hosting her school’s new advice podcast. Finding herself better than she expected, she gains confidence in her voice. Her development in her craft as well as her crush bring the elements of a teen romantic comedy. Wondering if she or her crush would speak up during their playful banter and if the anonymous caller would get revealed on the show keeps me smiling as I turn the pages.


Other Kasie West Recommendations:

PS I Like You

The Fill-In Boyfriend (my review)

Love, Life, and the List (my review)

Countdown to Valentine’s Day: Bookish Shipping


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As the Twilight phenomenon blew up across the globe, the prevalence of shipping, fans seriously rooting for a fictional couple, increased. People discussing Twilight wanted to know if the other joined Team Edward or Team Jacob. I started my Twilight reread and started contemplating what bookish couples had me pulling for them.


Bella and Edward in Twilight by Stephenie Meyer: Say what you want, but this story obviously appeals to a lot of people, including my own dad. The beautiful vampire falls in love with a human, and all the danger of forbidden love breaks loose. Their interest in each other gets intense before they even have a relationship. Teenage angst and immortality meet to give a love story for the ages. Plus, invitations to high school dances abound.

Beatrice and Benedick in Much Ado about Nothing by Shakespeare: My favorite Shakespeare line comes from this play. It begins with Benedick’s greeting to Beatrice: “My lady disdain, are you yet living?” Their witty banter lives on in romantic comedies throughout the ages, including my favorite When Harry Met Sally. Benedick and Beatrice make suffering love so comedically fun and sweet.

Laura Jean and Peter in To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han: Laura Jean makes such a relatable role model worthy heroine. Her love story with Peter captures all the awkwardness of learning how to talk and relate to boys. Not to mention, the story starts with love letters. Han beautifully blends traditional aspects of romance with modern culture.

Ruby and Nate in Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen: In her usual fashion, Dessen writes another realistic teen story. Ruby and Nate end up as neighbor friends, finding they understand each other’s family situations. They learn how to trust a friend and how to face parents who don’t fulfill their roles. This falls a little outside the Valentine theme, but it has depth and hope.

Jamie and Landon in A Walk to Remember by Nicholas Sparks: It wouldn’t be Valentine’s season without some Nicholas Sparks in the mix. Jamie and Landon get the intensity of the eternal teenage love. Plus, they show the transformation of a perceived bad boy once someone gives him positive feedback and a chance to improve. Love really opens doorways for growth, and Jamie’s adherence to her faith allows that.


What book couples would you add to this list? Share your favorites in the comments.

Great American Reader: Twilight – Twihard for Life


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This Great American Read project gives me the perfect excuse to reread the Twilight series. Reading the first installment over Valentine’s Day week as a buddy read with my best friend makes it even better. We have developed our friendship since junior year of high school, starting with book talk. Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight is one of the first books we read almost together. We have discussed the rest of the series as we’ve read them together and see almost all, if not all, the movies together in theaters. The Edward Cullen Funko Pop now reigns as the mascot of our Book Club Duo. Needless to say, the Twilight series has a special place in my heart.

Pop culture, whether a book, movie or TV show, can bring people together. The Twilight series has done that for me and Katrina, and I continue to bond with people over other entertainment pieces. Having a common story to discuss gives a starting point for numerous discussion topics. People grow over the shared laughs and the experiences the conversations allow them to have. Fictional, and nonfictional too, characters can give us a way to lead into sharing a detail about ourselves. We can learn about others through the reading and discussing as well. Stories give voice to perspectives.

Edward Pop



Countdown to Valentine’s Day: Monday Motivation – Bye Bye Bye Strings


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While “Bye Bye Bye” may capture the heartbreak side of Valentine’s Day, it sure has a peppy side. It keeps me moving on my runs when I listen to it, doing the hand motions and sometimes even singing along. A fun song, accompanied by singing and dancing, can boost mood. These activities can happen alone or with friends. Consider starting the week with a Valentine inspired jam to boost your mood for the start of a week of love. Say goodbye to the winter blues and the doubt holding you back and say hello to a confident step forward during a fun holiday season.

The Great American Reader: Harry Potter – Ask Questions


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Harry Potter lives with his aunt, uncle and cousin after witnessing his parents’ deaths as an infant. The Dursleys provide the worst home environment imagination. Mostly ignored, Harry sleeps in the cupboard under the stairs with spiders, the other unwanted species in the house. He learns early that his adoptive family does not welcome questions. Early on, the book notes, “Don’t ask questions – that was the first rule for a quiet life with the Dursleys.” Harry first realizes this when he asks Aunt Petunia about the scar on his forehead and only finds out the truth later from a stranger. Though they may bring up uncomfortable conversations, questions play a crucial role in developing relationships as well as forming an identity and values.

Harry’s aunt and uncle deny him a lot more than his physical needs. They neglect him as a person, and provide him not only no familial bonds but no sense of himself either. Wondering what happened to his parents leaves a gap in Harry’s heart. The brush offs regarding his questions do not give him a route to learn about his own history, let alone forge his own identity. They also do not ask him questions, making it easy to gloss over the fact that they do not give Harry what he needs as a child. When they don’t ask if he got enough food after losing half his meal, they don’t have to acknowledge he may go hungry.

These scenarios play out in everyday life too. Rather than ask for more details, we assume someone can manage just fine. Not knowing someone could use help makes it easier to tell ourselves we don’t need to offer any. Guessing the answer to someone’s question or brushing it off as unimportant invites shame or distances trust because that person hears they struggle with a task simple to everyone else. Instead of pushing off the discomfort, let’s welcome the potential to grow from questions. Sorting through the answers can launch numerous positive aspects like a stronger sense of self, a deeper bond between the people discussing and a higher level of understanding.

Countdown to Valentine’s Day: No Escape from Love


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Now we’ve reached the last week until the big day, it seems like we can’t get away from the red and pink hearts displayed in stores and homes. As Enrique Iglesias sings in “Escape,” “You can run/ You can hide/ but you can’t escape my love,” we too find ourselves surrounded. I even find myself (coincidentally) following the mail truck during my actual runs and smile at the thought of the notes my best friends have sent and that others may soon find in their own mailboxes. Some people convince themselves this holiday only works for couples but, as I’ve mentioned previously, it celebrates all love. Consider an opportunity to celebrate with a friend who may feel more like hiding due to loneliness. Really, Galentine celebrations have always ranked as my favorite get togethers, so I’ve invited a girl friend to join me this year.

Countdown to Valentine’s Day: Everyday Fairytales


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Mega hit pop star Taylor Swift notoriously writes songs about love, and they’ve held universal appeal since her debut as a teenager. Her song on the Valentine’s Day movie soundtrack “Today Was a Fairytale” makes no exception. The sweet ballad holds a simplicity in its love story. Life gets heavy, and so does love. However, the sweet small details surround us. Take a moment today to remember the people who love you, who “told me I was pretty when I looked like a mess.” Feel that magic in the air as love notes travel miles, love songs hit the airwaves and loved ones call just to say, “I love you.” We need not live in a fairytale to experience the loving details of one.

Countdown to Valentine’s Day: A Winsom Woman’s Wisdom – Galentines Is Where the Heart Is


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The hit book Where the Heart Is by Billie Letts captures the spirit of community, and thus Galentines, in the story about young Novalee moving into a Wal-Mart and having her baby there. Abandoned by her boyfriend and the father of her child, Novalee finds herself in an unfamiliar small Oklahoma town. Yet upon leaving the hospital with her new baby Americus, she finds a new home and mother figure who opened her home after one brief meeting. She develops a close knit group of girl friends who show up for each other in times of need and times of celebration.

This story unexpectedly had me turning pages, imagining the bonds shared in the Oklahoma town. Though seemingly simple, Novalee shows a lot of growth as well as inherent wisdom as she devours books at the library and learns from her experiences. She possesses an admirable strength as she pushes forward despite knowing she may not have the ideal life situation. Her friends remain at her side to support her efforts to care for Americus, hones her skills to develop a photography career and opens up to an opportunity for love with a top pick of the litter.

Our Galentines can do the same for us. Just yesterday my friend showed up during a time of disappointment for me. We’ve been meeting regularly to support some mutual goals and provide support, but yesterday showed extra care. Not long after, we both felt better and witnessed improvement in our projects. Another friend has showered me with cheesy Valentine notes to join me celebrating my favorite holiday. My conversations with her already brighten my days regularly, but these cards add extra sunshine. With quality friends by our sides, we can stand stronger and move forward together.

Sand Castle


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So good raising me

all bad was beyond

you had no effect

on the young mold


Now I wonder

where the base is

did it exist

or was it sold


the leaking cracks

must be my fault

for not speaking

left alone in the cold


Today this distance

lacks a bridge

no apologies owed

is what I’m told


Nothing new here

I see light

where you see sand

standing with you, I fold


So I take a step

no matter how small

I grow hope in truth

my real base takes hold

Countdown to Valentine’s Day: Young Love Stories


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What says young love better than a young adult novel? The angst we associate with teenage years seems to continue to adulthood, so I enjoy the familiarity and nostalgia of high school. In honor of young love, I’ve compiled a short list of young adult stories I’ve read recently that fit a Valentine’s Day theme.


Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell: This book ranks high on my all time favorite list, and I recently reread it for a book club. Eleanor and Park each fall into the misfit category, and they stand on their own so strongly and uniquely. Reading how they fall in love as they share comic books on the bus and start to spend time together makes me feel like I’m falling in love for the first time with all the thrill, agony and uncertainty that comes with it.

Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han: My Galentine and I have wrapped up our reading of the To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before trilogy, and I recommend all three. The third installment moves from the original sweetness to the mix of fun and seriousness that befalls a high school senior. Lara Jean faces choices about college her relationship with the almost too good to be true Peter, and of course she goes to prom. I always say yes to reliving prom, and I can still relate to the weight of decisions about direction in life.

The Fill-In Boyfriend by Kasie West: Prom gets another mention here. In this story, a breakup just before the dance leads Gia’s to find a temporary fill-in. The relationship becomes more real as Gia gets to know her fake date. I love Kasie West for upbeat cute stories with a little relatability. This story gets that and reminds me I don’t stand alone in wondering how much to let people in and how to let go of a desire for approval.