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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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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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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firefly lane

Firefly Lane
By Kristin Hannah

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I was recently gifted a delightful afternoon to peruse our local Half-Price Books to my heart’s content so I decided to try and find some new authors to read.
I was drawn to this book because of the cover art. Who can resist the idea of a summer night filled with fireflies, friendship and serenity?
After reading the synopsis on the back, I decided to definitely give it a try. I love reading books about friendships between women and I was also delighted to see that the setting was in my own area of the Pacific Northwest.

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Love. Family. Friendship. Acceptance.

What everyone wants from life.

We first get to meet Kate and Tully as young teenagers who become fast friends during a time in each of their lives when they felt that they had no one.
Being a teenager is hard. Being a lonely teenager is even harder.

When I was a teenager, I had good friends. None of them ever turned into that deep connection, bosom buddies, through thick and thin type of friendship that lasts over 30 years. I always craved it, but now it is too late for that kind of relationship; the kind where you grow up together.
I now have some fantastic friendships; definitely the kind that I could see lasting the next 30 years and sitting in our rocking chairs on the front porch with our gray hair. It was bittersweet for me to read about the youthful friendship of Kate and Tully.

As I have said before, I like to be transparent with my reviews. There is a minute amount of language and a tiny amount of adult content but the majority of it is tasteful and can be skipped. 

These two women certainly had their ups and downs in their friendship. They each have a different type of personality, come from a different home life, and have different life plans and goals. Through it all, they stuck to their promise to each other to “always be best friends, no matter what”.

That’s the funny thing about writing your life story. You start out trying to remember dates and times and names. You think it’s about facts, your life, that what you’ll look back on and remember are the successes and failures, the time line of your youth and middles age, but that isn’t it at all. 
Love. Family. Laughter. That’s what I remember when it’s all said and done. For so much of my life I thought I didn’t do enough or want enough. I guess I can be forgiven for my stupidity. I was young. I want my children to know how proud I am of them, and how proud I am of me. We were everything we needed—you and Daddy and I. I had everything I ever wanted. 
Love. 
That’s what I remember. 

I pray that everyone is able to find a friendship in their life like TullyandKate; a friendship of love, anger, pain, family, growth, sweetness, bitterness, hatred, unconditional love and acceptance.

I highly recommend this book, especially as a wonderful summer-time read. Grab a floppy hat, a glass of iced tea, slather on some sunscreen and sit at the pool or on the beach and enjoy Firefly Lane.

There are additional novels that take place on Firefly Lane. From what I have read, only 2 of the stories are related.
The Kristin Hannah Collection: Volume 1: Firefly Lane, True Colors, Fly Away

Firefly Lane

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Rooms

 Rooms: A Novel
By James L. Rubart

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Rooms was the pick for my monthly book club. I will give my own review and then after my book club meets, I will expand on the discussion and others’ thoughts on this novel.

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It took a little while for me to be able to get into this one as it delves into the supernatural world in a way that has never been explored. As I continued to read through it, I began to realize how much meaning and depth was buried within its pages.

James Rubart does a fantastic job of creating a tangible, understandable way into how God and the Holy Spirit work within our hearts and lives. As we follow Micah through his journey to a closer relationship with God, it helps you to think about your own relationship with Him and to evaluate what you can do differently.

I have always thought of a life as a believer is similar to a choose your own adventure book. God has all of these different plans laid out for you, different paths but each is still His will for your life. God gives us as humans free will; He wants us to have the the ability to make our own choices because He did not intend for us to be mindless robots. He wants us to choose Him, not just be a blind follower.
Because of that free will and the freedom to make our own decisions, I think (just my own opinion here) that God has various paths laid out for us based upon which decisions and life path that we make. Just like the choose your own adventure books we read as children.

Rooms, Micah’s story, follows along with my theory, which you will see as you read through the book.

“Walk with God. Listen to the Holy Spirit. You know His voice. You’ll come to know it better as you practice listening. And listen to your heart. It knows the truth, for as you know, that is where the temple is and where the King dwells.”

Sometimes, when you have had your own dry season, it is refreshing to read about someone else’s journey and watch their path to God unfold. It changes your perspective in the desert when you watch another human just beginning their walk with God or finding their way back to Him. I loved reading Micah’s story and seeing how God worked in his life and his heart. It reminded me that the most important thing is my relationship with Him; not all of the other clutter that sometimes can get in the way.

Freedom, Micah, the Lord is always about freedom. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. If what you do brings freedom and life, it is most likely Christianity. If it doesn’t, it is possibly religion, and there is already too much of that in the world.

Do not get stuck in the clutter and the “religion” but make sure you are finding your relationship and your freedom with the Lord.

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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. 

I think that this is one of the few books we have read in our 10 months of book club that everyone liked and had good things to say.
We all agreed that Rooms has a tremendous amount of depth and a lot to offer. Rubart was able to give us a concrete example of how we all wrestle with our subconscious and Satan and how we can rely on the Bible and our tribe to find and remind us where the truth really lies. Eventually, we all need to face our past and the people who have hurt us, so we can find healing and move forward with freedom in Christ.

The following is from the Author’s Note:

I long to step into the freedom that Micah discovers, to live more completely in the divine design and destiny God has created for me, to be victorious over the voices that hold me back from living the full life God intended me to live.
I loved writing Rooms because it’s my story. It’s your story. It’s the story of anyone who wants to step into greater freedom, step into the glory of how God uniquely mad him or her, step into the destiny planned for them from before time began.
He is the Great Healer of wounds. He is the Great Restorer of freedom.

Everyone needs to read this book. I highly recommend it.

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In fact, because I think everyone should read it, I am going to give away my copy to one of my lucky readers.

Click here to enter!

Follow the instructions at Rafflecopter to be entered into the giveaway. Giveaway ends 7/29/17 at 12:00AM. Winner will be announced on 7/30/17.
Good luck to everyone!

GIVEAWAY CLOSED! 
WINNER CHOSEN!

 Rooms: A Novel

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