Where the Heart Is by Billie Letts tells the story of a young woman who gives a baby girl birth alone in a Wal-Mart. Gaining the attention of the nation and then new friends in the small town of her temporary “home,” Novalee develops an unconventional family. The support she garners as she connects to the community help her raise her daughter, learn new skills for education and a career (appropriately rooted in the library), and grow personal strength. While the premise sounds odd, the characters welcome you right into their hearts. Their hospitality and support for each other makes you wish you could move into their town too. Novalee demonstrates we all have potential and that it may best come to realization with a support system.
A Curious Beginning, the first Veronica Speedwell mystery by Deanna Raybourn, makes for a fun and adventurous escape. Slightly outside my normal reading avenues, the strong willed Veronica Speedwell carries her weight in a plot driven novel. She steps outside of the expected or even accepted female role of her time to choose her own path. After she meets Stoker, witty banter and the mystery heat up. The dynamic between the two leads keep me smiling and turning the pages. This beginning has me curious to continue the series.
In her book The Beauty of Broken: My Story, and Likely Yours Too former MOPS International CEO Elisa Morgan shares her openly broken story. Morgan shatters the illusion that Christian leaders have perfect lives. Through vulnerable anecdotes and reflection, she encourages readers to go deeper in their lives. A reminder that we all face unexpected obstacles flows through the pages not as a doomsday warning but as a message of hope that we have strength, guidance, and community in God. I appreciate most her willingness to share where she can see she missed the depth of her or someone else’s experience but has now recognized and learned from it. She reflects how she didn’t understand the complexity of her son’s struggle and now can see his efforts to overcome it; she also acknowledges how we must be honest regarding forgiveness. That means not ignoring or brushing it off with an, “it’s okay,” but really looking at it for the pain and dirt it is yet still maintaining connection with that person. Morgan has experienced a lot and has learned a lot from those obstacles because she had a willingness to look into those times, recognize God’s guidance, and apply what she learned.
Colm Toibin’s quiet and introspective novel Brooklyn delivers a beautiful character driven story about an Irish immigrant who lands in New York. Young and ready to work the job her sister and pastor helped her secure, Eilis adjusts to life in a new country. Sometimes she stands out due to her nationality, and others she sticks out because she upholds a higher level of ethic than her housemates. Her experiences feel so real, I believed I really could see through her eyes. The uncertainty she faces, the joy and love she discovers, and the hope she holds all keep me rooting for her. Realistic and raw, this story shares a universal optimism.
In case you were wondering about the movie, this is one of those few times where the film is as good as, or maybe even better, than the book. Somehow it made a quiet entrance at the box office and appearance at the Oscars, but it deserves to be noticed as much as Eilis does.
As usual, Katherine Center delivers an uplifting and sweet story in her latest release What You Wish For. Set in Galveston, Texas, the story follows school librarian Sam as she faces significant changes in her workplace, the most significant involving the reappearance of an old, massive crush. However, love worthy Duncan seems different than Sam last saw him. Together, they learn how to open their hearts to trust and love. The school changes seem not to be the only change in this story. Center alters her balance in character growth in this story, and it makes the development a little off kilter. The focus seems to rest on Duncan, and Sam takes a backseat even though she experiences growth too. That said, it still makes a sweet story and I still recommend it. Katherine Center books always get bumped to the front of my TBR pile when I get them.
This hits shelves in July, so add it to your summer reading list!
I received a copy of Dreaming with God: A Bold Call to Step Out and Follow God’s Lead by Sarah Beth Marr from BakerBooks in exchange for a review.
Sarah Beth Marr shares her story of becoming a successful dancer and learning to follow God’s lead no matter the obstacles encountered. Her experience yields examples of how to trust God when it seems like the path to which you’re called may be impractical or even impossible. Faith comes into play as we trust God’s lead with our dreams and callings. This particularly reminds me that I need to believe God has a plan for me and following His lead ranks higher than what society expects. Even if it contradicts the cultural norm, God has a path marked. Marr experienced numerous setbacks and odds seemed against her, yet she honored God’s calling on her life and glorified Him through her discipline and stage presence. May we all learn to develop greater trust and discipline to follow where God leads.
Chanel Cleeton’s historical fiction novel When We Left Cuba delves into a world of intrigue with its look at the United States during Kennedy’s presidency, Cuba during its tumultuous time under Castro, and young woman spy. Beatriz finds herself in Florida with her family after they left during the Cuban Revolution. Upset about the politics behind her transition, she consents to help the CIA. Secrets and dreams grow as Beatriz matures. The story holds interest with its historical and cultural aspects, and it has its engaging plot with espionage. The spy angle veered from my usual fare, but I enjoyed the thrill and especially appreciated Beatriz’s personal evolution.
I look forward to reading Cleeton’s backlist title Next Year in Havana and her upcoming new release.
Morgan Matson’s young adult book Save the Date makes a quiet yet humorous and heartfelt story surrounding a family gathering for an upcoming wedding. Charlie faces numerous common adjustments many readers may find familiar, and she faces them with an expected trepidation yet also with strength. It gets off to a slow start but becomes better as the events unfold and more of Charlie’s character gets revealed through her reconsidering how she views and engages in her relationships. The themes of family bonds, personal growth and reflection, making adjustments, accepting change, and moving forward all made positive messages.
I received a copy of The Most Important Women of the Bible: Remarkable Stories of God’s Love and Redemption by Aaron & Elaina Sharp from Bethany House in exchange for a review.
Through simple yet insightful vignettes about numerous women in the bible, each chapter portrays a realistic picture of the character. They include historical and cultural context to give a good understanding of what the woman experienced. This makes the biblical narrative more accessible and the characters easier to see as models. Just like you, me, and everyone else, they do not possess perfection. Some stand pretty far from it. Yet they find redemption and love through connection with God. The message that we too can have that remains clear. It makes a good reminder that all the various struggles we see today have plagued women throughout history. Just as they did, we too can overcome.
I received Silencing Insecurity: Believing God’s Truth about You by Donna Gibbs from Revell in exchange for a review.
The insecurity topic had me at first glance when this appeared as a review option. As someone who started fighting an inner negative and untrue voice years ago, I knew I needed as much guidance in my battle as I could get. This book made great armor in its knowledge, application, and truth. Accessible, it finds a great balance between enough information to gain a greater understanding an insight for reflection and application. I found myself yearning to sit down with my journal at the end of each chapter so I could write out my reflections on the questions. The content included a lot that I already knew, but I found it pertinent and appreciated that it added to my understanding. Gibbs gently reminded her readers that adjusting a mind involves a lot more than a simple flip of a switch. Renewing the mind requires daily work.