The Ones We Choose (by Julie Clark)…life-changing decisions and how many can be affected

I loved this book. From the story itself to the genetic tidbits at the beginning of each chapter, you are drawn into the lives of the characters. Paige and her son, Miles; the family relationships; their friends, Jackie, her husband, Aaron, and her son, Nick…they weave a story that has you waiting anxiously to find out what secrets will be revealed. Lots of love, loss, anxiety, secrets, hurt, and scars are the threads that make up the lives of the characters.

The author does a fabulous job of developing the characters and making you care about what happens to each of them. You’ll cheer, you’ll cry, you’ll be angry. You don’t understand why people make the choices they do. But you want to hang in there until the last page is turned and discover if there is healing in the mess of their lives.

The concept of sperm donors is not new, but this story does a wonderful job of making you take a different look at the positive and negative aspects of choosing to bring a child into the world via artificial insemination. It was a good view and really made me think outside the box.

Thank you to NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for my honest opinion. Julie Clark does a great job in this debut novel. I look forward to more adventures with her on the written page.

Hurricane Season (by Laura Denton)…a storm is brewing in their lives as well as off the coast of Alabama

This story touched me a little more than most books. As someone who suffered with infertility, Betsy’s struggles were very real to me. And then to have a sister who had two children without trying to was another nail in the coffin of my emotions. My sister had three children…getting pregnant with two of them while I was trying to get pregnant the first time.

The author does a wonderful job of exploring the emotions both sisters experience, factoring in life growing up with parents who weren’t really involved in their lives (very self centered), as well as their present day lives.

This story was a storm of epic proportions…having you ache for Betsy and Ty, wondering where Jenna would end up, falling in love with the two precious children Jenna leaves with her sister for what turns into longer than a two-week retreat. There are so many analogies from the intensity of the storm related to raging emotions, growth of the garden Betsy plants related to how she and Ty grow in their relationship, etc. This book is a wonderful example of relationships and enduring the storms of life.

Thank you to NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review. I love Laura Denton’s books and this one was another moving tale I have enjoyed.

Blood Sisters (by Melody Carlson)…how racism and bigotry can corrupt society (but hope does abound!)

This was a painful book to read. The focus on racial prejudices and intense bigotry was hard to digest. The story, though, was well written. The characters were well developed and dug themselves deeply into your heart. You suffer along with the “blood sisters” and find yourself feeling extreme sadness for all they endure.

The atrocities of racism and prejudices is astounding. But I am aware that these ideals still exist today and it is hard to know that there are people who believe this way. It breaks my heart to think a person is judged based on the color of his/her skin or their religious beliefs or their sexual preferences.

While the subject matter was difficult to endure, the fact that there are individuals who believe that we are all God’s children and are willing to take a stand against such horrible beliefs is uplifting. It was difficult to suffer through the viewpoints espoused by some of the characters. But knowing that others were working behind the scenes to change the climate in Cedar Crest kept you hoping and praying! And prayers were a big theme throughout this book. Small and simple…or childlike…the prayers lifted were an important part of traveling through this difficult environment.

I am so pleased that this book was chosen as our book club book this month.

The Hotel on Shadow Lake (by Daniela Tully)…the shadow is more than just a reflection on the lake but a reflection of the horrors of the Nazi regime and murder

I really enjoyed this book. While the story goes back and forth from the past to the present, it is clear which time period in which you are currently involved. The story has some great twists and turns. The characters are well developed and you will find that you love some while despise others. Lots of personalities involved which makes for a great contrast!

I realize this was an ARC, but the fact that you simply jumped from one thought to another within a chapter without breaks (an extra space between the end of the paragraph in a previous moment to the beginning paragraph of another) made it somewhat confusing. Hopefully with the final copy you can tell that a new moment is beginning…even though it is within the same chapter.

I liked that the chapters were headed with the person’s name who would be the main focus. This helped you know whether you were in the present or the past.

I have developed an insatiable appetite for all things WWII…learning all that I can about what happened during the Holocaust and the Nazi regime. I think it’s important that we learn what we can so that these horrible events do not occur again during our lifetime. This book focused on just a portion of that time period. It wasn’t necessarily the main focus, but became part of the story line that kept you interested and wanting to know what happened to Martha and Hans.

Thank you to NetGalley for an ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.

The Forgotten Road (by Richard Paul Evans)…a story you won’t forget

This second book in the series was just a wonderful as the first! I loved the quotes at the beginning of each chapter. And the story just pulled you in an kept you turning page after page. The author does a great job of making you feel sympathy for someone who was not such a nice person before his life changed in a dramatic way.

As you continue on the road with Charles James, you find yourself wanting to jump in the car and drive along Route 66, stopping in at the various locations along this stretch of historic highway, eat at the various eateries, meet some of the amazing people.

While life is not perfect and Charles has a lot to learn as he walks along this road, the lessons are everlasting and definitely ones we could learn from ourselves. Can’t wait for the 3rd book in this series. I’m waiting anxiously for the next installment!

Where Hope Begins (by Catherine West) … a journey through heartache and sorrow

Oh my goodness! This one really touched a lot of sensitive issues in my life. As the victim of a husband who committed adultery, this one really resonated with me. I could identify with so many of the feelings the wife and children were experiencing. And the loss this family endured was also something I have seen close up with my best friend being killed by a drunk driver.

I had no idea when I opened this book and started on the journey with Savannah, Maysie, Brock, Kevin…that it would be an emotional investment. But it was worth every tear I shed and tissue I used! Catherine West does a wonderful job of addressing the many serious issues that are dealt with in the pages of this novel. She handles them with grace and caring and does not minimize the tragedies they each cause in the characters’ lives.

While my marriage didn’t resolve in the same way as Savannah’s, I know that God’s love and grace are wrapped around me just as those in this book experienced. Catherine West manages to touch your heart and soul with the redemptive love God shares with each of us. She takes life experiences and brings them to light in a moving and touching manner. I appreciate her ability to give these situations the depth of seriousness they deserve while allowing the reader to see how God can work through the good, the bad, and the ugly. His love is where hope begins.

I appreciate NetGalley for the opportunity to read an ARC copy in exchange for an honest review.

 

Where Hope Begins


	

Before and Again…Barbara Delinsky does it again!

What an emotionally challenging book! This one will be grip you and have you anxious to see how things work out in the end. From one traumatic event to another, you will experience anxiety and loss, pain and suffering, love and fear.

Barbara Delinsky does a wonderful job of taking us on a journey into the lives of MacKenzie/Maggie, Edward, and Grace. Their stories are heartbreaking and take you on an emotional roller coaster. The setting of the town of Devon is soothing and the people that make up this town are wonderful! They care about each other and the sense of belonging that MacKenzie needs is delivered through the friendships and relationships she develops. Forgiveness is one of the main themes in this book…how we forgive others, how others forgive us, and how we forgive ourselves. Such deep emotions are brought to the surface and the characters are stronger because of their experiences.

I love this author’s books and Before and Again does not disappoint. I am grateful to the publisher for providing an ARC in exchange for my honest review.