The Rules of Magic

The Rules of Magic: A Novel (The Practical Magic Series)
By Alice Hoffman
Published: 2017, Simon & Schuster
Genre: Historical, Literary

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Once upon a time, before the whole world changed, it was possible to run away from home, disguise who you were, and fit into polite society. The children’s mother had done exactly that.

This book was a little bit different then I was expecting. Perhaps I’ve read Harry Potter one too many times, but I was expecting a more whimsical, light-hearted book with a lot more magic within its pages. The book was good, it just was not what I had thought I would be reading.

As we weave in and out of the Owens siblings lives, we get to see how the choices of our parents can shape the way of our own future; how the decisions we make for our own children can change what may become of their own lives. The book spans quite a few years of their lives so we get to see how all those choices molded and shaped their future, all the way into the latter part of their lives.

There are a few things in the book that I found that did not line up with my beliefs and I chose to skip some of those sections; skipping those sections did not, however, take away from the essence of the story line.

Overall, it was a decent book; the writing was well done. It just was not one that I really enjoyed because of some of the content.

The Rules of Magic: A Novel (The Practical Magic Series)

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Tuesday Thoughts

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season!

Merry Christmas from my family.

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It has been quite some time since I have written a blog review. I have continued reading and reading and reading, of course. However, the holidays really snuck up on me and I ran out of time to do any reviews on those books.

Here is a list of the books I read and did not have time to review with a small commentary~~~~

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine: A Novel~~ This was a wonderful insight into anxiety and depression and the affect it can have on a life. As we watch Eleanor’s past unfold, we learn how a person’s past can shape their future. I definitely recommend this book, especially to anyone who is looking for more insight into anxiety and depression.
The Lying Game: A Novel~~ The twists and turns of the lives of 4 women, who share the secret of one mistake made on a fateful night makes for an intense, page-turning novel. I read this book quickly because it pulled you in and you had to know the answer. I recommend it to anyone who likes a “lighter” suspense and thriller novel.
Finding Father Christmas (Father Christmas Series 1)~~ This was the book for my book club in December. It was a very light and fun read for the holiday season that takes us through Miranda’s search for the truth about her father and her spiritual journey along the way.
Christmas Jars~~ One evening, the apartment of Hope Jensen is burglarized and in the wake of it, a jar full of coins and bills is left on her doorstep. In the quest to find out where the jar came from so she can give proper thanks, Hope finds more than just a Good Samaritan. This was a fantastic, light read to finish up the holiday season and I definitely recommend it.

Let me know if you read one of them and what you think. 🙂

I am working on these 2 books currently and I will post my reviews of them when they are completed.

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I thought a great way to start out the new year would be to do a book giveaway!
I recently read the new book by John Green, Turtles All the Way Down.

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You can read my book review here; I thought it was a wonderful and real look into the mind of someone who struggles with anxiety. I highly recommend it for anyone who either struggles with anxiety or knows someone who struggles with anxiety. And for that reason, I am offering it as a giveaway.

In order to enter, you will need to go to my Instagram account and find the most recent posting about Turtles All the Way Down and follow the instructions on the post about how to enter the giveaway.

Happy New Year! 

Turtles All The Way Down

Turtles All the Way Down
By John Green
Published: 2017, Dutton Books
Genre: YA Fiction, Social & Family Issues, Mental Health

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Man can do what he wills, but he cannot will what he wills
~Arthur Schopenhauer~

There has been a lot of chatter about this latest book from John Green all over the book world. Seeing that the subject matter was mental health, a subject that is surrounded by shame and stigma, I knew that I needed to get my hands on it and read it.

Throughout the book, we get to experience Aza’s life as she learns to live with anxiety. The author gives us a bird’s eye view on how it affects everything in her life; family relationships, friendships, romantic interests, school, physical health and even her grief.

The fear had mostly sweated out of me, but as I walked from the cafeteria to history class, I couldn’t stop myself from taking out my phone and rereading the horror story that is the “Human Microbiota” Wikipedia article.

Everyone experiences moments of fear and feelings of being anxious. Not everyone can turn off those moments and feelings. John Green describes the experiences of those that cannot turn off those moments and how it affects every single minute of your life.

Everyone in the entire world needs to read this eye-opening book.
John Green does a phenomenal job of giving an inside look into the mind of someone who struggles daily with mental health. He does it beautifully with compassion, understanding, and grace. As someone who struggles with mental health issues (anxiety and depression), it was refreshing to see a book written from MY perspective. Many people often do not understand the struggles and what truly goes on within the mind of someone who fights mental health illness every single day. John Green finally gives us that viewpoint; and he does it in a way that anyone can understand, from teenagers to 90 year old grandparents.

As I washed and rebandaged it in the bathroom, I started at myself. I would always be like this, always have this within me. There was no beating it. I would never slay the dragon, because the dragon was also me. My self and the disease were knotted together for life.

I will be doing a giveaway for my copy of the book on my Instagram account. Be sure to follow me HERE, for your chance to win my “signed copy” of Turtles All The Way Down by John Green.

Turtles All the Way Down

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The Alice Network

 The Alice Network: A Novel
By Kate Quinn
Published: 2017, William Morrow – Harper Collins
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery, Thriller & Suspense

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1947. In the chaotic aftermath of World War II, American college girl Charlie St. Claire is pregnant, unmarried, and on the verge of being thrown out of her very proper family.

1915. A year into the Great War, Eve Gardiner burns to join the fight against the Germans and unexpectedly gets her chance when she’s recruited to work as a spy.

Thirty years, haunted by the betrayal that ultimately tore apart the Alice Network, Eve spends her days drunk and secluded in her crumbling London house. That is until a young American barges in uttering a name Eve hasn’t heard in decades, and launches them both on a mission to find the truth….no matter where it leads.

This novel is phenomenal. I cannot say enough good things about this book.
Kate Quinn does a wonderful job weaving the stories of 2 strong women in and out of the past and the present. The author has created a book hugely based upon real characters and events while creating fictional characters and events to expand the story and still staying true to the actual history on record.
I loved how Kate Quinn interlaced the French and German languages within the novel; it gives the reader a rich, authenticity to the history and era of the story-line.

Lili already was extraordinary, Eve thought. Not like me. The thought held no envy–it was what made them both good at what they did now. Lili’s job was to be anyone, to shift with a few tricks of posture or grammar from one persona to another, whether seamstress or laundress or cheese seller. And if Lili’s job was to be anyone, Eve’s was to be no one, to be unobserved and unnoticed at all times.

I knew of spies, women spies, within the Great War, but I had no previous knowledge of The Alice Network. It was interesting to read about the courage and bravery that these women had. They wanted to be able to make a difference in the war and fight for their own country, but were not allowed to because they were not men. Instead, they helped create a network of women spies in an effort to do their part to fight against the Germans. It is an incredible peek into a sliver of historical events and heroes that often went unnoticed and unappreciated.

I would love to give you more details of the book, but I don’t want to ruin this unique work of historical fiction. You just need to purchase it and read it for yourself. Trust me.

NOTE* There is some language in the book but it leads to the authenticity of the characters and the time era of the story. There is also some adult content as well as a couple of scenes that can be a bit gruesome if you are sensitive to those things. 

The Alice Network is a work of art with words. I highly recommend this extraordinary piece of literature to everyone, especially to those that love historical fiction.

The Alice Network is up for voting as Best Historical Fiction Book of 2017. You can vote for it here.

The Alice Network: A Novel

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The Last Magician

The Last Magician
By Lisa Maxwell
Published: 2017, Simon Pulse
Genre: Fantasy Fiction, Science Fiction

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I have seen a lot of chatter about this particular book on Instagram in the Bookstagram community, so I wanted to see if it lived up to its expectations. I also wanted to give it a pre-read to see if it would be appropriate for my 13 year old son to read since this is a genre he greatly enjoys.

In modern-day New York, magic is all but extinct. The remaining few who have an affinity for magic–the Mageus–live in the shadows, hiding who they are. Any Mageus who enters Manhattan becomes trapped by the Brink, a dark, energy barrier that confines them to the island. Crossing it means losing their power–and often their lives. 

Lisa Maxwell does a phenomenal job of weaving together the stories a modern-day New York with the past history of the city.
I was concerned as the story began jumping back and forth from the perspective of many characters that I would have a difficult time keeping track of all the characters and where each one fit into the story.
However, as you travel through the pages, you will see how all of those characters intertwine and relate to each other and they each become well-known in your memory.
The author created rich characters that add depth to the story as well as giving them background and relevance to the current situation in New York.

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The book is quite long (498 pages), yet I got so wrapped up in the story that I could not put the book down nor did I notice the length of the book. The pages are packed with mystery, adventure, fantasy, futuristic science fiction and characters that you will grow to love and/or hate.

The Magician had pulled a vanishing act, because the boy before her could have been any factory worker, any laborer in the city…….He looked more unbuttoned and human than she’d ever seen him. 

Along with the mystery and science fiction within the book, the author weaves through some points of social injustice in a way that is relevant to the story but prompts you to think about the current situations in our own country.

 He wasn’t sorry for using their fears and their hopes, their prejudices and their sense of righteousness against them. For distracting them from the truth. He was simply surviving in a world that hated what he was.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys the fantasy fiction or science fiction genre. I greatly enjoyed it.

The author left an undetermined conclusion to the end of the story so I hope that there are going to be future books and continue it as a series.

**Note** There is some innuendos to adult content. There is a kiss and some other small innuendos within the book. I personally think my 13 year old is too young to read it, but it would certainly be fine for an older teenager to read.

The Last Magician

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Child of the River

Child of the River
By Irma Joubert


Child of the River was the book club read chosen for this month. It is described as “A compelling coming of age story with an unlikely and utterly memorable heroine, Child of the River is a timeless tale of heartbreak and triumph set in South Africa at the dawn of apartheid.”

If, like me, you do not know what apartheid means, here is the definition for you.

apartheid
racial segregation; specifically :a former policy of segregation and political and economic discrimination against non-European groups in the Republic of South Africa

I have to admit, I had a hard time with this book. There is quite a bit of political pieces throughout the book that did not interest me. I usually enjoy historical fiction a great deal, but a lot of the political parts of the story line were difficult for me to follow; perhaps because it is of a time and culture that I do not know a lot about?
I am not sure if it was the language from the translation or if it was just not a topic that I found particularly interesting.

I enjoyed the story of Persomi and following her throughout her life. Child of the River is a story of how an individual can overcome the life they have been born into and choose to follow a different path in order to find something better for themselves. Persomi shows us that your path in life can be a choice you make rather then just letting life happen to you.

I did struggle with understanding how this book fit into the Christian fiction category. The author touched on tiny bits and pieces of the Word and God, but there was certainly not an overall Christian theme within the book.
I continually expected to read how God was going to work in Persomi’s life (a theme that is typically found within Christian Fiction) and unfortunately I felt that was never portrayed well within the story.

Overall, it was a good book, but it is not one that I would have chosen to read on my own.

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This next section was added after my book club met and includes some thoughts and opinions of others on the book and how the discussion may have changed my perspective of the book. 

The discussion during book club was quite good. Many ladies brought up a lot of points that I had not thought about on my own. There were also quite a few questions that we had as a group for the author that seem to go unanswered that may have helped me connect to the story just a little bit more than I did. I wish I could share those thoughts and questions with you, but I feel it would take away from your own personal reading of the story.

After the discussion, I did like the book a little more and I think seeing it in a different perspective gave the book new merit for me. It is definitely a book worth reading.

Child of the River

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The Lightkeeper’s Daughters

The Lightkeeper’s Daughters: A Novel
By Jean E. Pendziwol

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I had seen many people on Instagram saying they were reading this and that it was fabulous, so I was intrigued and willing to give it a read.

“In her mesmerizing adult debut set on the shores of the Great Lakes, critically acclaimed children’s author Jean E. Pendziwol delivers an affecting story of family, identity, and art involving a decades-old mystery.”

So lovely was the loneliness
Of a wild lake, with black rock bound,
And the tall pines that towered around

The Lake
Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849)

I really enjoyed this book. It was not exciting and adventurous, but it had a wonderful story line that evolved and intertwined with all of the well developed characters. The story was set in a part of the world that I have never been to and it was nice getting to experience it through the author’s words and the characters’ stories. Jean Pendziwol did a wonderful job with the descriptions of the setting that you could picture it clearly and feel like you were right there with Elizabeth.

I loved how the book explores the ideas of knowing your past, where you come from and learning how that can shape who you become. There are also some undertones of the argument nature versus nurture. I think the author does a fantastic job of getting you to think about which one is the underlying reason of who you turn out to be.

The novel is full of family secrets and choices that change the course of things, lost loves, bullying, acceptance, unconditional love despite your circumstances and the journey of a young girl desperate to find her roots and a sense of belonging.

As I said above, the book is not chalk full of adventure, but it contains its own kind of mystery that keeps you intrigued all the way up until the end of the story. It was a great read that was not too in depth or made me think too much but had just enough to keep me hooked. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who is looking for a quick, “lighter” book to read.

 

*Note* There is a little bit of adult language in the book. However, I think it lends to some authenticity of the character and the story.

The Lightkeeper’s Daughters: A Novel

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Stuart Little

Stuart Little
By E.B. White

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I knew of this classic piece of work, but I have never read it myself. One of the exciting things about being a bibliophile and a mother is that I get to read and share these classics with my own children. This particular one I shared with my youngest son.

Originally written in 1945, this books holds exemplary, poetic language strung together to create a whimsical, light-hearted tale about a mouse born to a human family.

My sport-loving, never-sits-still 8 year old was intrigued and enthralled with this book. He thought it was hilarious that a mouse had human parents an a human brother. He loved the mishaps and adventures that Stuart experienced throughout the story. He was just a little bit disappointed at the ending and felt like the story was not complete; there were unanswered questions in his mind. This is often the mark of a wonderful work of art because it leaves it in the hands of the reader to interpret; but he is a little young for that concept.

He was excited to learn that there was a movie based upon the book so of course we watched it. There were a couple of pieces from the book that were left out of the movie that he commented on. Welcome to the world of books made into movies, son. 🙂

I think that Stuart Little is an incredible piece of classic literature that all children should either read or have read to them. It is a story that has persevered through time that generations have enjoyed and should be exposed to in the future.

Stuart Little

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the strange and beautiful sorrows of ava lavender

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender
By Leslye Walton

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This book was so fantastic and so phenomenal that I had to read it twice.
Ava Lavender was the book club pick for this month. The first time I read it, I had it done in just 2 days.
I thought I should read it a second time before our monthly meeting to make sure I did not miss anything since I devoured it the first time. I took a little bit longer to read it the second round so I could grasp more of the details; 4 days.

To many, I was a myth incarnate, the embodiment of a most superb legend, a fairy tale. Some considered me a monster, a mutation. To my great misfortune, I was once mistaken for an angel. To my mother, I was everything. To my father, nothing at all. To my grandmother, I was a daily reminder of loves long lost. But I knew the truth–deep down, I always did.
I was just a girl.

Myth incarnate……but just a girl.

The book follows 3 generations of women through life; we walk with each of them through their journey with love, loss, tragedy, understanding and redemption. It is unique, however, in the fact that the story is told from the narrative of Ava Lavender, the 3rd generation in this line of women.

I loved the background story the author gives us so we can understand what makes Ava who she is and how the women before her fit into her story. Emmilienne seeks to forgive, Viviane seeks love and Ava seeks normalcy and acceptance.

Lesyle Walton, in her debut novel, weaves just enough realism within the story that there are moments that you have to check in with your mind to remember that it is magical realism and pure fantasy. She makes it easy to get so wrapped up inside the pages and the characters that you tune out the world around you and forget that it is just the result of a brilliant imagination and extraordinary writing.

The writing, the words, the language, the flow of the story of Ava Lavender is quite captivating. It is poetic, it is whimsical and it is exceptionally enchanting to read.

Just a girl……normal…..accepted…….is that not what we all want, wings or not?

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There is some adult content. While it is a YA book, I recommend this for older teens and for you to pre-read it to gauge what fits into your family’s level of acceptable literature.

This next section is where I usually add to my review after my book club meets and include some thoughts and opinions of the other ladies, but I do not want to ruin the magic of this book for you by giving away spoilers. 

The majority of the ladies enjoyed the book, although magical realism is quite different from what we typically read.

I highly recommend this book and it is definitely one I could see myself reading multiple more times.

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The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender

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Present over Perfect

Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living
By Shauna Niequist

Webster’s Dictionary defines Perfectionism as~~~ a disposition to regard anything short of perfection as unacceptable.
Whether because of my dysfunctional childhood or if it is just my nature, I have struggled with perfectionism nearly my entire life.
It has just been within the last couple of years that I have truly understood it and the implications it has had on my life. I have really been trying to overcome it and recover from it. So as soon as I saw the title of this book, I knew that I absolutely needed to read it.

This is a love story, like all my favorite stories. It’s a story about letting yourself be loved, in all your imperfect, scarred, non-spectacular glory. And it’s about the single most profound life change I’ve yet encountered.

After reading the first paragraph, I knew that it was no accident that I had discovered this book. I felt an immediate ah-ha moment, as if I were about to read from my own journal.

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I don’t usually like highlighting in my books; books are sacred, historical and should not be damaged in that way. I made it to page 128 before I realized there was too much good stuff that I would want to remember or revisit. So I started putting sticky notes next to a line or paragraph that grabbed me. As you can see, there are many of those moments within the book and I only started adding sticky notes on page 128. This book made an impact on me with a gigantic amount of light bulb moments.

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There were many years of my life that I felt like I didn’t even have time to eat, sleep or barely breathe because I ran myself from one activity to the next to the next to the next. In my quest for perfection, I thought I had to do all, be all, and be an infallible wife and mother for my family. I felt the drive to do this in order to fill the gaping hole in my heart and finally *maybe* to feel complete.
In the process of trying to be perfect, I lost my own sense of self and who I am; who God intended for me to be. I forgot to be me because I was too busy running around trying to be whomever everyone else in my life needed me to be.

I’m learning to silence the noise, around me and within me, and let myself be seen and loved, not for what I produce, but for the fact that I have been created by the hands of a holy God, like every other thing on this earth, equally loved, equally seen. 

This.
This above is what I am trying to learn to do.
I have been created to be equally seen and equally loved.

It is not easy. I have spent 3$ years of my life striving for perfectionism; something I will never be able to truly achieve. As I talked about in my review of Gospel-Centered Mom, I will never be fully enough or seamlessly perfect; If I were, then why would I ever need Jesus? I will eternally be imperfect.  I can never be perfect and that is okay, because I absolutely DO need Jesus.

After a lifetime of believing that the voices that mattered were Out There, approving or disapproving of me, I’m learning to trust the voice within, the voice of God’s Spirit, the whisper of my own soul. And when you learn to listen to their voice, the screaming crowd matters less. In some blessed moments, it matters not at all.

And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good. ~ John Steinbeck

It really is a feeling of relief, of freedom, knowing that I do not have to be perfect. Once I rid my mind of the idea that I have to be perfect for everyone else, I can just be good at who and what God created me to be.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”~ Ephesians 2:10

You were only meant, created, commanded to be who you are, weird and wonderful, imperfect and messy and lovely.

I am weird.
I am wonderful.
I am imperfect.
I am messy.
I am lovely.
I am good.
I am me.

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Anyone and everyone who has ever struggled with perfectionism, with not feeling like you will ever be good enough, should read Shauna Niequist’s book, Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living. I hope it has an impact on your heart, your spirit and you life as it did upon mine.

There is a Study Guide that goes along with the book if you are interested in digging in a bit further. I did not use the study guide, but it will probably be something I do in the future.

Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living

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