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The Empty Nesters
by Carolyn Brown
Having just finished a nonfiction book about the empty nest season of life, I enjoyed reading a fictional take on it. Carolyn Brown’s The Empty Nesters is a smiling, wipe a few tears kind of book. Four neighboring military families provide support for each other with retired and childless Tootsie and Smokey taking on a grandparenting role. The three other men are part of a team that frequently leaves for extended secret missions so the wives are left behind to raise their daughters.
Life is not always easy. We join their story with each of the four women at a different stage of the empty nest. A road trip in a mobile home to Tootsie’s old family home helps the women sort through various problems. The younger women have all just sent their daughters away to basic training. One mother is divorced and still has trust issues. Tootsie is recently widowed and still grieving, and the other two fear for their own family dynamics. Luke, Tootsie’s nephew, drives on the trip. He is handsome, single, rich but down to earth, and kind. These characters are people you would like to get to know from Diana who has decided love is not in the cards for her to Carmen who takes out her fury over a cheating, scumbag husband by splitting logs for hours.
You’ll enjoy the meetings of the Empty Nesters as they share with each other and support each other. Watching them work through calamities and successes makes you feel like you are a part of the group. We don’t get to know the daughters very well, but they reflect well on their mothers who worked hard to raise them right under difficult circumstances.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Montlake Romance for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: General Fiction (A), Romance
Notes: Includes some mild swearing
Publication: August 20, 2019—Montlake Romance
It might have seemed strange to someone else, but with all the recent events, his comment was a life preserver in the midst of an ocean—a simple compliment to hang on to when the stormy waters of life were sweeping over her.
“When we get old, the biggest blessing in the world is simply to be needed”
Tootsie brought out a bottle of wine from her secret stash on the top shelf of her closet and piled sugar cookies high on a platter. Meetings weren’t held in the South, especially Texas, without food and something to drink, so it was only right that the first official meeting of the empty nesters should at least have something.
It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way: Finding Unexpected Strength When Disappointments Leave You Shattered
It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way: Finding Unexpected Strength When Disappointments Leave You Shattered
by Lysa Terkeurst
We all have had or will have painful, disconcerting times in our lives—times when we feel that life is not supposed to be the way it is. Lysa Terkeurst, in It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way, shares three major struggles she has been through over the course of a three year period. This book was written in the midst of these extremely hard times when the pain, both physical and emotional were still raw. She talks of her profound agony and grief in hopes that others will benefit from what she has learned and from having a friend walk alongside them through dark times. The despair we feel comes from disappointment which Lysa defines as the difference between our expectations of what life should be like and our reality.
Lisa had to face life-shattering, life-altering and potentially life-ending events with all of the usual questions. Why me? Why now? Regardless of the reader’s circumstances, they will be able to identify with the depth of Lysa’s pain even if the source is different.
This book is not a Hollywood style “tell all.” Lisa only shares enough of the details of her trials for the reader to understand that any one of these events could be more than a person could bear, and Lysa experiences three of them in a short timespan. She tells how she struggled against attacks from within and without and how leaning into God’s word and truth and love sustained her.
Lysa’s writing style is honest and accessible. She is a Bible teacher who has applied the truths of the Bible to her unique circumstances but is also able to show how they apply to anyone who feels that life is not supposed to be the way they are experiencing it. With chapter titles like “But How Do I Get Through the Next 86,400 Seconds,” you know that Lysa “gets it.” She understands just how making it through the tiny portions of one day can constitute a huge struggle.
Each chapter concludes with a “Going to the Well” section that summarizes the major points, provides related Scripture references, and offers questions to reflect on. She ends it with a heartfelt, from-the-soul prayer as she continues reaching out to and trusting in God, the source of her strength for the ache in her soul.
Category: Christian, Nonfiction
Notes: Also available, a video teaching series for this book
Publication: November 13, 2018—Thomas Nelson
Humans are very attached to outcomes. We say we trust God but behind the scenes we work our fingers to the bone and our emotions into a tangled fray trying to control our outcomes.
No, I believe it took every bit of holy restraint within Him to not step in and remove my pain. He loved me too much to do the very thing I was begging Him to do. He knew things I didn’t know. He saw a bigger picture I couldn’t see. His mercy was too great. His love too deep.
The thrashing winds of the storm are gone, but the consequences make it impossible to return to something that feels normal. We make brief visits to normal, but there’s a lot of emotional debris to which we must tend. Little by little, we make progress in the two-steps-forward-one-step-back kind of way.
Night of Miracles
by Elizabeth Berg
One of the most interesting things in the world is people. Elizabeth Berg created a gentle, touching world in The Story of Arthur Truluv. Then she expanded on the core characters, adding more characters that tie into one another in Night of Miracles. The chapters are short; the novel is a character driven set of tales of common people living out their interesting lives looking for meaning in the everyday circumstances and the extraordinary ones.
Arthur Truluv’s legacy of calmness and kindness lives on in the family he adopted. His neighbor Lucille’s legacy is the culinary wisdom she imparts during an age of “fast” everything. Neighbors Jason and Abby learn the importance of living in the present. Tiny and Monica learn to share the love that has been in front of them all along. The chapters bounce back and forth from one storyline to the next. This is one of those stories I had to keep reading. I read the last of the book with tissue in hand, not because it is tragic, but because there is sweet sadness in knowing that life keeps progressing toward an inevitable conclusion and we can find happiness by reaching out to share life with others.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Random House for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Women’s Fiction
Notes: For those who enjoyed The Story of Arthur Truluv, this is not a sequel in the traditional sense. It takes a few of the characters from that book and builds a story around them. Although it could happen, I wouldn’t expect any more stories in this line. From my perspective the story has been told.
Publication: November 13, 2018—Random House
It was true what they told her on the first day of teachers’ college: you never forget some of your students. For Lucille, it was the cut-ups she could never keep from laughing at, the dreamers she had to keep reeling back into the classroom, and little Danny Matthews, with his ragged heart of gold.
At least Link loves to read. There’s always hope when a kid—or an adult, for that matter—likes to read.
All those years, and not one person that she had truly opened up to, or kept up with. Probably she expected her husband to be everything to her when it wasn’t his place to do that, even if he wanted to or could. Another thing she regrets: having made him feel that he was failing her when she was the one failing herself.
Murder by Suggestion
by Veronica Heley
A group of neglected wives at the country club joke around about ways to kill off their husbands. They find it amusing until deaths start occurring. Who really wants these men dead and why? And why do the men respond to the jokes so passionately? Author Veronica Heley weaves a fascinating story in Murder by Suggestion as Ellie Quicke again finds herself in the middle of a mystery that brings uninvited houseguests and more than a little danger into her quiet and comfortable home. Her daughter Diana is at the center of the chaos, and she is responding to her problems with no grace and even less charm. It is all Ellie can do to not attack her own daughter in response to her insulting and outrageous behavior. Diana, never an easy person, seems outside the realm of reason until she discloses the cause of her extreme behavior.
Heley writes in such a way that as you finish one chapter you really must start the next. I love it when a book is that engaging. Another interesting aspect of this book is that the setting is almost entirely in Ellie’s home. The action comes to her: she talks to people and sorts out the who’s, how’s and why’s. Although there are a lot of major characters, it was easy for me to keep them straight along with their marital partners. All in all, another successful mystery in this excellent series.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Severn House for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Notes: #19 in the Ellie Quicke Mystery Series, but works well as a standalone
Publication: October 1, 2018—Severn House
Dear Lord above. What a mess. I know you are here as well as in church. I haven’t time to tell you all that’s been happening. Oh, how stupid I am. You know, anyway, don’t you? Any words of wisdom for me?
“It may be raining outside. You’ve had a bad time today and the future is uncertain, but you are all here, safe and sound. Take the time to rest and recover. Be thankful for the meal. Let tomorrow bring what it will. Tonight you are among friends.”
Somehow or other she had to get to the bottom of this tangled skein of motives, or someone else would die.
Murder with Cinnamon Scones
by Karen Rose Smith
Murder with Cinnamon Scones is the tale of an art dealer’s death, suspicions placed on those he loved, and the struggles we all go through in trying to make sense of our lives. As with most cozy mysteries, this one is set in a small town trying to survive. In Willow Creek, Pennsylvania, as January surrounds the town with cold and some intermittent snow, small business owners are cooperating to draw in more tourists through Quilt Lovers Weekend. Daisy, who owns Daisy’s Tea Garden, is one of the leaders of this group. She finds her time divided between running the tea shop, investigating a murder to clear her friend Tessa, and developing friendships with two handsome men. She also devotes time to her two teenage daughters, the quilting weekends, her extended family, and her cats. Oh, and she also has to stay alive!
As busy as Daisy is, she still has the time and skills to maintain her tearoom as a successful business. With an emphasis on customer service, the tearoom draws visitors and locals for its delicious formal teas as well as soups, breads, and more casual tea service. Daisy and others at the tearoom are constantly experimenting with recipes, and the various types of teas mentioned in the book are so appealing. If this weren’t fiction, I’d be eager to visit this delightful tearoom housed in an updated Victorian house.
I highly recommend Murder with Cinnamon Scones for a good mystery, a surprising resolution, and interesting characters and settings. In it lies a poignant reminder that in relationships, things are not always what they appear to be. I’m glad it is part of a series because I was sad to reach the end of the book.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Kensington Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Notes: 1. #2 in the Daisy’s Tea Garden Mystery Series, but works well as a stand alone.
2. Look for recipes in the back of the book.
Publication: May 29, 2018—Kensington Books
“Quilting shouldn’t be about finishing. It’s about putting your heart into each stitch and just relaxing and doing your best in that moment.”
“You should know by now,” Rachel said, “that should and shouldn’t after the fact do no good when you’re a mom. You just start from where you left off, and you try to do better.”
Oh, to be nineteen again, and to know exactly what to do or what was right, Daisy thought.
A Fierce Love
by Shauna Shanks
A Fierce Love is Shauna Shanks’ true story of how she tried to keep her marriage together after her husband’s affair. She turned to God for help and was led to apply what she calls “The Love Filter” to her relationship with her husband. It was a difficult journey as she tried to live out I Corinthians 13, often known as the “love chapter of the Bible,” in the face of her husband’s attitude toward her on a daily basis, ranging from indifference to emotional cruelty.
Shauna found that she had to focus on her own relationship with God first and rely on God to work on her husband’s heart. She lays out in detail the struggle she went through and the pleasure she now takes in her new relationship with her husband.
The author makes it clear that God told her to stay with her husband, but she does not think that is a blanket response for every marriage. She does not criticize those who feel God is leading them in a different direction or that they have no other choice given their circumstances.
A Fierce Love is a frank discussion of one Christian’s response to infidelity. I found it difficult to read because of the emotional pain the author endured, but at the same time the style of writing makes you feel like you are sitting down with a friend over coffee. Her struggles become your struggles as you go through the journey with her. Also I should add that the Biblical principles she discovers about drawing near to God and trusting Him apply to all Christians who seek a closer walk with God.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Zondervon for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Christian, Nonfiction
Publication: June 27, 2017—Zondervon
Craving love, I found it in God. Losing all trust in my husband, I found a better trust in God.
“By the grace of God, he has allowed me to experience this “hunger”—this need to depend on him, so that he could feed me with his supernatural food! So that I would know in my heart his goodness and his capability to provide for me.”
I came to understand that God had not wasted a single hardship I had gone through, nor a single tear I had cried. He was using each one for his good and was wringing them out, getting the most out of every drop. He wasn’t just “getting me through this.” He was truly making everything beautiful. He was working all things out for my own good.
Ashes to Ashes
by Adair Sanders
In Ashes to Ashes, the third book of the Allison Parker Mystery Series, author Adair Sanders has honed her skills to produce an outstanding mystery. Each of the three main characters is pursuing a case independently, but there is collaboration and interweaving as they consult with each other. PI Frank Martin suffers gunshot wounds and memory loss in a mysterious attack. Lawyer Allison Parker defends a corporation being sued for wrongful termination. Her husband, Jim Kaufman, sits as a judge in a messy divorce case. These threads are held together by a foray into the world of thoroughbred racing, the surfacing of a distant Scottish cousin, and the lives of two South American immigrants. The action starts out strong and moves rapidly to an unexpected ending. You will not want to put Ashes to Ashes down until there is resolution.
Notes: includes one detailed scene of a sexual liaison and occasional offensive language
Publication: November 18, 2016—Createspace Independent Publishing Platform
“Nine-one-one. What is your emergency?” The operator’s voice barely permeated the fog that encased his mind like a shroud.
Miles and Evelyn Goodpasture’s so-called friends had packed the courtroom, eager to hear the dirt on their neighbors, ready to render their own judgment against people who had once been welcome guests in their homes.
The waste overflowing from the trash basket by the side of Frank Martin’s desk this Saturday morning resembled an avant-garde depiction of an erupting volcano.