Book Reviews, Lists, Discussions, and Displays

Tag: Guilt (Page 1 of 2)

Book Review: ‘Til I Want No More

‘Til I Want No More – Robin W. Pearson – Tyndale House Publishers – Published 2 February 2021

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Synopsis

If Maxine could put her finger on the moment when her life went into a tailspin, she would point back twenty years to the day her daddy died. She tells herself he’s the only person who ever really knew and loved her, and if he hadn’t left her behind, her future would’ve taken a different path. No absentee mother, no stepfather, no rebellious ripping and running during her teenage years. And no JD, who gave her wandering young heart a home, at least for a time.

But that’s over and done with. All grown-up now, Maxine’s heart and ring finger belong to Theodore Charles, the man she’ll pledge to love, honor, and obey in front of God and everybody. At least that’s what she’s telling anybody who will listen. The only folks buying it are the dog and the readers of her column, however. Her best friend and family aren’t having it–not even Celeste, the double bass-playing thirteen-year-old the community of Mount Laurel, North Carolina, believes is Maxine’s adopted sister. And apparently, neither is the newly returned JD, who seems intent on toppling Maxine’s reconstructed life. As her wedding day marches ever closer, Maxine confronts what it means to be really known and loved by examining what’s buried in her own heart and exposing truth that has never seen the light of day.

My thoughts

’Til I Want No More is a story to settle in with and enjoy. This is perfect for readers who like a slow read, a story that develops with care and love over time. As we learn more about these characters, especially our main character, Maxine, we learn that the secrets she is keeping run far deeper than first expected. As these secrets are slowly and agonisingly revealed, I was glued to the pages to learn how she would handle the unveiling of the things she had worked so hard to keep hidden. 

Maxine is getting married and the countdown to her big day is ever present in this book. Maxine is also a writer and her columns are included in the book, giving the reader a deeper insight into her turmoil. She carries hurt from her childhood, the death of her father and her mother leaving her in her grandparents’ care while she left to deal with her own grief. She carries hurt from her older childhood, being reunited with her mother and her new stepfather. She carries hurt from her teen years, a failed romance and a baby that she handed over to her mother and stepfather to raise. All this pain simmers below the surface, recently brought to light thanks to her engagement and dreams that are preventing her from sleeping. 

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Book Review: Autumn Skies

Autumn Skies – Denise Hunter – Bluebell Inn Romance #3 – Thomas Nelson – Published 20 October 2020

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Synopsis

When a mysterious man turns up at Grace’s family-run inn, it’s instant attraction. But she’s already got a lot on her plate: running the Bluebell Inn, getting Blue Ridge Outfitters off the ground, and coping with a childhood event she’d thought was long past.

A gunshot wound has resurrected the past for secret service agent Wyatt Jennings, and a mandatory leave of absence lands him in Bluebell, North Carolina. There he must try and come to grips with the crisis that altered his life forever.

Grace needs experience for her new outfitters business, so when Wyatt needs a mountain guide, she’s more than happy to step up to the plate. As their journey progresses, Grace soon has an elusive Wyatt opening up, and Wyatt is unwittingly drawn to Grace’s fresh outlook and sense of humor.

There’s no doubt the two have formed a special bond, but will Wyatt’s secrets bring Grace’s world crashing down? Or will those secrets end up healing them both?

My thoughts

What an absolutely wonderful book. Autumn Skies is just so good. Denise Hunter’s novels just get better and better and better; this series just got better and better. In this conclusion to a three book series, it was so lovely to see the final part of the three siblings’ stories and work in getting their inn up and running.

Autumn Skies follows Grace, the youngest of the three Bennett siblings. We have watched her grow up a little over the previous two novels. Now she is a young woman. She has started her own business, helped her siblings finish and run the inn, but she still grapples with grief and guilt from her parents’ deaths and a traumatic event in her childhood. Wyatt Jennings is a secret service agent. Suffering trauma and flashbacks, he is suspended. He decides to return to the place of his childhood memories, Bluebird Inn. Wyatt enlists the help of Grace to help him find a particular spot in the surrounding mountains. Their chemistry is intense, but neither is looking for a relationship.

I read this book in one sitting. I just didn’t want to put it down, didn’t want to leave the wonderful world Denise Hunter brings to life. Now I just want to reread it again. I loved everything about this book. The characters, the heartbreaking story, the now familiar setting, the usual banter between the Bennett siblings, but I really, really loved the romance in this one.

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Book Review: That Night

That Night – Amy Giles – HarperTeen – Published 23 October 2018

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Synopsis

One night in March, a terrible tragedy shakes the Queens neighborhood where Jessica Nolan and Lucas Rossi live.

The year since the shooting has played out differently for Jess and Lucas, both of whom were affected by that night in eerily similar, and deeply personal, ways. Lucas has taken up boxing and lives under the ever-watchful eye of his overprotective parents, while trying to put good into the world through random acts of kindness — to pay back a debt he feels he owes the universe for taking the wrong brother.

Jess struggles to take care of her depressed mother, with the help of her elderly next-door neighbor, and tries to make ends meet. Without her best friend, who’s across the country at a special post-trauma boarding school, and her brother, who died that night, Jess feels totally alone in the world.

When Jess and Lucas’s paths cross at their shared after-school job, they start to become friends… and then more.

Their community — and their families — were irrevocably changed by a senseless act of violence. But as Jess and Lucas fall in love, they’ll learn to help each other heal and move forward — together.

My thoughts

What happens when you survived but your brother didn’t? What do you do when your family is falling apart or panic grips you by the throat, when you are not sure why you were the one who survived? That Night by Amy Giles presents a unique perspective on gun violence, focusing entirely on the survivors and the emotional fallout from the loss. That Night is romantic and a powerful, emotional story of surviving and learning to live again.

Everything changed that night. Families. The way people looked at and treated you. You. A year ago Jess lost her brother in a shooting that shattered her world. Now her mother hardly gets out of bed and Jess needs to find a job to pay the bills. Lucas took up boxing after his brother sacrificed himself to save Lucas. But the boxing sometimes can’t control his panic attacks that seem to be increasing in frequency or the consuming guilt. Lucas and Jess are now tied together by tragedy, but when they start working together they find that shared memories might make for a wonderful friendship and even romance.

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Book Review: Wild Blue Wonder

Wild Blue Wonder – Carlie Sorosiak – HarperTeen – Published 26 June 2018

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Synopsis

Ask anyone in Winship, Maine, and they’ll tell you the summer camp Quinn’s family owns is a magical place. Paper wishes hang from the ceiling. Blueberries grow in the dead of winter. According to local legend, a sea monster even lurks off the coast. Mostly, there’s just a feeling that something extraordinary could happen there.

Like Quinn falling in love with her best friend, Dylan.

After the accident, the magic drained from Quinn’s life. Now Dylan is gone, the camp is a lonely place, and Quinn knows it’s her fault.

But the new boy in town, Alexander, doesn’t see her as the monster she believes herself to be. As Quinn lets herself open up again, she begins to understand the truth about love, loss, and monsters—real and imagined.

My thoughts

Stunning and heart wrenching, Wild Blue Wonder is a beautifully written book. Right from the first chapter it is clear that Wild Blue Wonder is magical. Whether it springs from the legends that surround Quinn’s family campground complete with ancient forests and a lake monster or perhaps from the captivating writing style, everything about Wild Blue Wonder seems to glow.

Quinn Sawyer has always known her family’s campground, The Hundreds, was special. But recent events have shown her that even things that seem magical can be dangerous – deadly. Before, the camp was filled with laughter and sunshine. Now her siblings no longer speak to her. Before, water was Quinn’s haven. Now it holds the darkest secrets and the deepest hurts.

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Book Review: Where Hope Begins

Where Hope Begins – Catherine West Thomas Nelson – Published 22 May 2018

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Synopsis

In the aftermath of her husband’s act of adultery and abandonment, Savannah must finally face the ghosts that haunt her and discover for herself whether authentic faith, grace, and ultimate healing really do exist.

When her husband of twenty-one years leaves her, Savannah Barrington believes she’s lost almost everything she’s ever loved. With her daughter in college and her son in boarding school, Savannah retreats to her parents’ lake house in the Berkshires, where hope and healing come in the form of an old woman’s wisdom, a little girl’s laughter, a touch of magic, and a handsome man who’s willing to risk his own heart to prove she’s still worth loving.

But when her husband asks to reconcile, Savannah is faced with the hardest challenge of all: Forgiving the unforgivable. Somehow she must find freedom from the chains of their past and move forward, or face an unknown future without him.

My thoughts

How do you cope with something that tears apart your marriage and destroys your dreams for the future, leaving your self-esteem in tatters? How do you hold on to hope through all that? Catherine West delivers a powerful novel that is at once both utterly heartbreaking and ultimately hopeful. As the title suggests, Where Hope Begins is about starting over and finding that glimmer of hope in the harshness of broken dreams.

Savannah’s husband is leaving her. After twenty-one years of marriage, three children, and facing devastating challenges, he is leaving her for another woman. Unsure what her next move should be, Savannah heads to the safety of her parents’ holiday home. There she connects with her charming neighbours, writer and single dad, Brock and his sweet daughter Maysie, and Brock’s charming and quaint aunt, Clarice. They open their hearts, home, and greenhouse to Savannah and show her that she is worthy of love and grace. But when her husband asks to reconcile, Savannah’s world is sent into a spin once again as she must decide what she wants.

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Book Review: Things I Never Told You

Things I Never Told You – Beth K. Vogt – Tyndale House Publishers – Published 8 May 2018

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Synopsis

It’s been ten years since Payton Thatcher’s twin sister died in an accident, leaving the entire family to cope in whatever ways they could. No longer half of a pair, Payton reinvents herself as a partner in a successful party-planning business and is doing just fine–as long as she manages to hold her memories and her family at arm’s length.

But with her middle sister Jillian’s engagement, Payton’s party-planning skills are called into action. Which means working alongside her opinionated oldest sister, Johanna, who always seems ready for a fight. They can only hope that a wedding might be just the occasion to heal the resentment and jealousy that divides them . . . until a frightening diagnosis threatens Jillian’s plans and her future. As old wounds are reopened and the family faces the possibility of another tragedy, the Thatchers must decide if they will pull together or be driven further apart.

My thoughts

Things I Never Told You is both heartbreaking and uplifting, a story of sisters, grief, long-held secrets, the things that pull a family apart and the steps needed to bring healing to broken relationships.

Ten years ago, Payton Thatcher’s twin sister died. The Thatcher family coped in different ways, with Payton pulling away from her two older sisters. Now, Payton helps run an event planning business and is forced into working with her eldest sister, Johanna, to plan their middle sister, Jillian’s wedding. But a shocking diagnosis leaves Jillian reeling, while the ten-year anniversary of Pepper’s death has Payton caught in a web of grief and guilt. As the Thatcher sisters face life’s challenges, present and past, they have the opportunity to reassess – both their individual life choices and aspirations, and their relationship as sisters.

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Book Review: Hometown Girl

Hometown Girl – Courtney Walsh – Waterfall Press – Published 19 September 2017

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Synopsis

Beth Whitaker isn’t supposed to be a small-town girl. She’s always dreamed of leaving Willow Grove, Illinois, for the big city, but she feels trapped, struggling to make up for a mistake that’s haunted her for years. Just when Beth is finally ready to break free, her sister impulsively buys a beloved but run-down farm on the outskirts of town, and she begs Beth to help with the restoration. Reluctantly, Beth agrees to help—and puts her own dreams on hold once again.

Drew Barlow hasn’t been back to Fairwind Farm since he was a boy, and he’s spent all these years trying to outrun the pain of a past he thought he buried long ago. When he learns that the owner has passed away, his heart knows it’s finally time to do the right thing. Returning to Willow Grove, Drew revisits the old farm, where he attempts to piece together his memories and the puzzle of the crime he witnessed so long ago.

Both on a journey to find peace, Beth and Drew are surprised when they begin to experience a restoration of their own. But when long-buried secrets break through the soil and the truth unfurls, will it threaten their budding relationship—and the very future of the farm?

My thoughts

What’s not to love about a book that celebrates life’s challenges, love, the support of a small-town community, and finding your purpose. Hometown Girl takes all these themes and wraps them in a charming novel that combines romance with self-discovery, and even adds a dash of mystery.

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Book Review: Optimists Die First

Optimists Die First

Optimists Die First – Susin Nielsen – Penguin Random House – Published 2 March 2017

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Synopsis

Petula has avoided friendship and happiness ever since tragedy struck her family and took her beloved younger sister Maxine. Worse, Petula blames herself. If only she’d kept an eye on her sister, if only she’d sewn the button Maxine choked on better, if only… 

Now her anxiety is getting out of control, she is forced to attend the world’s most hopeless art therapy class. But one day, in walks the Bionic Man: a charming, amazingly tall newcomer called Jacob, who is also an amputee. Petula’s ready to freeze him out, just like she did with her former best friend, but when she’s paired with Jacob for a class project, there’s no denying they have brilliant ideas together – ideas like remaking Wuthering Heights with cats.
But Petula and Jacob each have desperately painful secrets in their pasts – and when the truth comes out, there’s no way Petula is ready for it.

My thoughts

Optimists Die First is a mildly depressing book. It has an honest and gritty tone, so realistic of the circumstances in which the characters find themselves. This in-your-face honesty is perfect for the theme of this book – trust, family, and somehow coping with the guilt of mistakes that shake your world. This book also involves an abundance of cats, cat videos, and crafting addictions – you have been warned.

Petula knows death is lurking around every corner. She is a pessimist and she knows her vigilance will keep her alive longer. She wasn’t always like this. She wishes she had been, because then her baby sister might still be alive. She carries the weight of this tragedy, trying to keep her family from fracturing further. She has been assigned to the school’s art therapy, where a miss-matched group of teens are meant to express their fears and troubles through juvenile art projects. But Jacob, a new addition to the group, shakes them up, gives them a boost of creativity, and might even bring them together.

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Book Review: When Love Arrives

When Love Arrives

When Love Arrives – Johnnie Alexander – Misty Willows #3 – Revell- Published 20 September 2016

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Synopsis

Dani Prescott came to the children’s hospital to spy on Brett Somers–so how did she end up on a date with him? Weeks earlier she’d seen an interview in which he blamed her mother for the plane crash that had killed his parents. But the crash had killed her mother as well, so Dani can’t believe the story Brett’s trying to sell to the media.
Vowing to find a way to discredit the privileged–and maddeningly handsome–Brett, Dani has been following him and taking photos, hoping to find something she can use against him. But when she catches his eye instead, she quickly finds herself offering up a fake name and agreeing to a date. Brett knows this mystery girl is hiding something–but he’s got his own secrets to keep. What will happen when he discovers who she really is? Will Dani and Brett look beyond their own heartaches to discover a love that could heal their deepest pain?

My thoughts

When Love Arrives is a fantastic story of the moving and sometimes tumultuous journey through anger and guilt to friendship and then love. I really enjoyed this book. I wasn’t sure at the start, grew addicted in the middle and by the end I was gingerly turning the pages hoping, begging for one more chapter and that, please, don’t let it be over.

This is the second book in the Misty Willows series. It would be best to read these in series order. I enjoyed When Love Arrives more than I did the first book, Where She Belongs, but it is worth reading the first book first, not only because it is a great story in its own right but because it perfectly sets up this story to follow on.

Dani Prescott is stalking the man that ruined her mother’s reputation. She is determined to have her revenge, but she certainly doesn’t expect to get caught by the man in the focus of her camera lens – nor to be asked on a date by him. Brett Somers has a past he is starting to wrestle with and a future that seems undetermined. The brunette taking photos outside the hospital catches his eye. She is unlike the many girls he has wined and dined before, so he’s not sure why he asked her out. Both Brett and Dani are hiding things from the other. They agree that their relationship will never be anything more than a casual friendship.

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Book Review: For This Life Only

For This Life Only

For This Life Only – Stacey Kade – Simon and Schuster – Published 30 August 2016

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Synopsis

A young man struggles to move forward after the death of his twin brother in this gripping, coming-of-age tale about loss, redemption, love, and the moment you begin to see the world differently.

Three minutes.

Jacob Palmer died for three life-changing minutes.

And when he woke up, nothing was the same. Elijah, his twin brother, is dead, and his family is broken. Jace’s planned future is crushed, along with his pitching arm. Everyone keeps telling him that Eli’s in a better place, but Jace isn’t so sure. Because in those three minutes, there was nothing.

Overwhelmed by guilt and doubt, Jace struggles to adjust to this new version of the world, one without his brother, one without the certainties he once relied on. And then Thera comes into his life.

She’s the last girl he should be turning to for help.

But she’s also the first person to truly see him. 

My thoughts

I really enjoy Stacey Kade’s writing, so For This Life Only was a must read for me. It is just as heartbreaking as the summary makes it sound, as well as uplifting and purposeful. I loved the themes of this story – grief, soul searching, faith, families of the church, expectations and choosing to do the ‘right’ thing even when you’re not sure what that is.

In Jace’s family he is the destructive twin, while his brother Eli manages to effortlessly maintain the levels of perfection their dad craves. Jace wants to play baseball, while Eli will probably follow in their father’s footsteps and become a pastor, Jace is happy to go out partying and drinking with his teammates while Eli will be with his equally perfect girlfriend or at bible camp or writing his next debating speech. They are two halves of a whole. So Jace’s life is shattered when, in a car accident, Eli is killed and Jace is saved. It challenges his view of the afterlife, faith and his family as they too start to crumble around him. But the town’s outsider, the one girl he has been told his whole life not to go near, offers Jace some hope, a person to talk to about his darkest fears and reveals that even Eli was keeping secrets…  Continue reading

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