April 4, 2018

Review: No One Ever Asked by Katie Ganshert

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Oh, friends. I don't even know where to begin. This is hard stuff. This is powerful stuff! This is an incredible journey from first page to last, but it is not for the faint of heart. This is for the hurting ones. This is for the uncertain ones. This is for all those who want to help and to make a difference, to bless and encourage, but have no idea where to begin. And ultimately? This is for all of us. A story of hard, yet a story of hope! It will make you cringe in places and wish you could hide, yet realize that the only way hard can be conquered, the only way hate can be conquered, is with one single, first step. Love. The truest, deepest love that searches out your own darkness, acknowledges its presence, seeks redemption, and then compels you out of passivity and into spreading that love far out beyond yourself.

There is no way to read this story and feel wishy-washy by the final page. Ms. Ganshert asks the hard questions and then she asks even harder ones! (Appropriate with that title, yes? :) She takes three very different characters and melds their stories, their questions, their fears, their doubts, and their hope together. I was wondering how it was going to work, knowing there would be multiple points of view, but I should have trusted. Especially knowing she has her own personal journey which likely brings these issues extra close home for her. Actually, it's that very knowing which intrigued me to pick this one up. There's just something about reading an author's work when you understand bits of the journey which brought it to life, isn't there? (Which is one reason why I love to read the Author's Notes at the end of the book. To discover those extra little details! :)

The quietly building tension kept me on the edge of my seat as the characters began entangling their journeys with one another, struggle by struggle. Nothing about any of the choices confronting each of them is easy and their constantly weaving pathways that circle around again and again seem like they would only drive them further apart, not together. And they did. At least at first. These ladies could not be any more different from one another. And yet? It takes each hard, rough interaction and uneasy conversation to bring them all to the place where they can finally confront their own darkness and shame and see out beyond it to the light. Once that happens? Oh friends, it's a powerful journey! And a necessary one. As Ms. Ganshert noted, a story such as this should prompt more conversation and a hard look at oneself and our own choices.

For all the dark that must be conquered here, it's the beautiful redemption and HOPE that weaves through every single paragraph which caught my heart. The harshness of the reality these characters (and we ourselves) must face every day is made gentler with Ms. Ganshert's wonderful writing. I can only imagine that such a story as this was not easy to create, but everything flows so well that it took a bit for me to leave Missouri behind once I had finished reading! These characters, their journeys, and the lessons to be learned are necessary and real. So be sure to read this one, friends! It's utterly unforgettable.

**I received a complimentary copy via Waterbrook & Multnoma. All opinions expressed are my own.

Enough was enough.
She pushed open her front door, let in the cacophony of sound, placed her hands on her hips, and glared with the full force of her disapproval, as if doing so could make all of them stop. But nobody did. Nobody noticed her at all. The tutu-wearing runners kept running. The volunteers continued tossing clouds of pink into the sky. The marching band kept marching farther away.
But then the minute hand changed from 4:22 to 4:23, and something happened nobody could possibly ignore. Something happened that had never happened in the town of Crystal Ridge before, at least not that Juanita Fine could remember. Something that had been brewing ever since that horrible town meeting last July.
A startling crack burst through the noise like a car backfiring. For a split second, in the infinitesimal span between the sound and the processing of it, Nita thought one had.
Until it happened again.
The crowd scattered. Onlookers trampled her cones. Tables upended. Bottles of pink cornstarch flattened underfoot like sandcastles at high tide. And through all the chaos, a blood-curdling, terrifying scream rose above the others.
One that went on and on.
Even after everyone was gone, and all that remained was yellow police tape and a bright crimson stain on her green grass, Juanita Fine could still hear it.



March 31, 2018

Anne of Green Gables :: Discussion Post #3


Aw, do we have to be finished with this story already? I knew I loved it, I remembered that I loved it when I first read it years ago, and now I am absolutely certain that Anne Shirley is one of the best characters ever written! At least in my humble opinion.

I have lots of thoughts about this final third of the novel (chapters 27-38), but how about we get to the questions and I can gush there? :)

{Be sure to click over to Jenni's post for more discussion and fun!}
{There will be a twitter chat tonight at 6:30pm MDT/8:30pm EDT, so come join in!}
{Don't forget about the watch-along that will happen over on twitter either. That will be this coming Friday night (4/6/18) starting at 6:00pm MDT/8:00pm EDT.}
Lots to look forward to!


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1. Is this your first time reading Anne of Green Gables or a reread? Either way, what did you think about it?

This is a reread, although it's been so long since the last time I read it that I can't even tell you exactly when that was. I can tell you, however, that I loved it then and I love it now!

* I love that we get to grow right alongside Anne and see all her (mis)adventures and general love of life.

* I love that Marilla was completely blindsided by how much she would come to love and count on Anne (and I especially loved that moment when she comes to comfort Anne after Matthew's death and realizes that, since life can be so fleeting, she needs to tell Anne right then exactly how dear she is. *cue the warm fuzzies and my tears*)

* I love that Matthew and Diana just immediately loved Anne with no question or hesitation, forever and always.

* I love that even the characters, like Mrs. Rachel Lynde, who start off thinking that Anne is a bit too strange for their liking ultimately fall in love with her too! (I also love that she's always referred to by Mrs. Rachel or Mrs. Lynde or Mrs. Rachel Lynde. That formality totally suits her character! :)

* I think I just love the entire story and it's focus on loving life and seeing the bright side to hard things. It's not just Anne that is hope-filled, the story as a whole is so infused with HOPE. It shines in every chapter, through the happy and the sad and everything in between.

* And I also love the idea that was reiterated over and over through Anne, about how beauty is all around us if we're willing to actually see.


2. If this is your first time reading Anne of Green Gables, do you plan to read the rest of the series? If you’ve read Anne of Green Gables before, have you read the rest of the series? What do you think about it?

I'm pretty sure I read at least another book or two in the series when I was younger, but I'm not 100% certain if I read the entire series or not. (I think some of my memories might stem more from the movies than actually reading the books.) Yet I know that I at least read Anne's House of Dreams because that's where she and Gilbert get married and you can bet I wanted to read about that! :D And I can tell you that I really want to read more of the series now. So I'm thinking I might read on from here...

3. Who is your favorite character and why?

Anne, of course! I mentioned this a little bit above, but I'll expand it further. I love the way she looks at life. Her ability to always focus back on the positive, especially when enduring something hard, is quite incredible. All it takes for her is to look out a window and notice the flowers, or the sky, or the trees, or even one single ray of sunlight and she is quietly reminded of the beauty in small things. And it's those very small things that help her stay the course! They remind her that no matter how disappointing or hard a thing might be in the moment, that particular disappointment or hard is not the end. That we're given this one single life to live and we should appreciate it! And make the most of it. (Oh, that I might remember that and do the same!)

I love that she is not a perfect character. She gets into scrapes and makes several bad choices, and while life might seem fairly idyllic in Avonlea, consequences still happen. Yet it's her ability to learn from those things and see beyond them that is admirable. She might seem a bit too perfect, she is fictional after all, but I ended the story not feeling like that at all. She has a lot of growing and maturing to do, and looking back at her first days at Green Gables and then forward to where the book ends proves that she does that. By the final pages, her choices are no longer those of a frightened little twelve year old, but of an almost adult woman.

I guess all I can really say is that she's one of my most favorite characters ever! In my whole history of meeting memorable characters. :)

4. Who is your least favorite character and why?

Honestly? That's a hard call because I pretty much love them all! But if I have to choose, I'll go with Josie Pye because she never says anything nice. Or Mrs. Barry, at least during that time when she was convinced that Anne was out to ruin her daughter. I admit that I wasn't happy with her at all during that time period. (I mean, Anne was only twelve! What twelve-year-old isn't going to make a mistake or two? Even one so serious as getting Diana drunk. And Diana is partially responsible for drinking that much anyway.)

5. What was your favorite scene and why?

Oh boy. That's like asking me to pick a favorite author! Pretty much impossible! I loved so many scenes in this story. :) But maybe I'll go with those last few chapters (I told you it was hard to narrow it down) when we finally see Anne coming into her own. She's older and a bit wiser and more prone to making better choices. She goes to Queen's and flourishes in her studies, she loses Matthew and she and Marilla grow even closer, and she finally makes things right with Gilbert. I just love seeing her maturity! Also, I totally admit that I really just love the fact that she and Gilbert agree to be friends now. ;)

6. What did you think about the last third of the book and why?

I loved it! (I know I keep repeating myself, but I can't help it. :) As my answer to question 5 proves, I especially love the final several chapters.

* I love that Anne doesn't lose her inherent "Anne-ness" (or her imagination!), yet is finally growing into a beautiful young woman, both inside and out.

* Funnily enough, I love that Anne gets a taste of her own medicine when Gilbert begins to snub her. (She kind of deserves it and she knows it.)

* I love that she and Gilbert finally become official friends instead of "good enemies". (It's about time!)

* I really love that beautiful final moment of conversation between Anne and Matthew, where he got the chance to truly express, once again, exactly how much he loved her. (My heart bumped during that scene because I knew what was getting ready to happen next! *sadface*)

* I love the ensuing closeness between Anne and Marilla. They had always been growing closer, but Matthew's passing brought them the closest yet. And that moment when Marilla finally opens up to Anne and tells her specifically just how special she is to her....ah, my heart!

* I love how the friendship between Anne and Diana never changes. Their love for one another stands strong despite distance, circumstance, or any other friendship in their lives.

* I love that moment when Mrs. Rachel Lynde admits out loud that keeping Anne was the best choice Marilla could've ever made.

* Finally, I love that the quote I fell in love with, which inspired the name of this blog of mine, is in the final chapter! :)


A Few Favorite Quotes:
Marilla was not given to subjective analysis of her thoughts and feelings. She probably imagined that she was thinking about the Aids and their missionary box and the new carpet for the vestry room, but under their reflections was a harmonious consciousness of red fields smoking into pale-purply mists in the declining sun, of long, sharp-pointed fir shadows falling over the meadow beyond the brook, of still, crimson-budded maples around a mirrorlike wood pool, of a wakening in the world and a stir of hidden pulses under the gray sod. The spring was abroad in the land and Marilla's sober, middle-aged step was lighter and swifter because of its deep, primal gladness. {I do believe our dear Anne has rubbed off on Marilla without her being aware!}

"As for your chatter, I don't know that I mind it--I've got so used to it."
Which was Marilla's way of saying that she liked to hear it.

"That's the worst of growing up, and I'm beginning to realize it. The things you wanted so much when you were a child don't seem half so wonderful to you when you get them."

Anne and Diana found the drive home as pleasant as the drive in--pleasanter, indeed, since there was the delightful consciousness of home waiting at the end of it.

"It's nicer to think dear, pretty thoughts and keep them in one's heart, like treasures."

"Well now, I'd rather have you than a dozen boys, Anne," said Matthew patting her hand. "Just mind you that--rather than a dozen boys. Well now, I guess it wasn't a boy that took the Avery scholarship, was it? It was a girl--my girl--my girl that I'm proud of."
He smiled his shy smile at her as he went into the yard. Anne took the memory of it with her when she went to her room that night and sat for a long while at her open window, thinking of the past and dreaming of the future.

"When I left Queen's my future seemed to stretch out before me like a straight road. I thought I could see along it for many a milestone. Now there is a bend in it. I don't know what lies around the bend, but I'm going to believe that the best does. It has a fascination of its own, that bend, Marilla. I wonder how the road beyond it goes--what there is of green glory and soft, checkered light and shadows--what new landscapes--what new beauties--what curves and hills and valleys further on."

The beauty of it thrilled Anne's heart, and she gratefully opened the gates of her soul to it. "Dear old world," she murmured, "you are very lovely, and I am glad to be alive in you."

Anne's horizons had closed in since the night she had sat there after coming home from Queen's; but if the path set before her feet was to be narrow she knew that flowers of quiet happiness would bloom along it.

"God's in his heaven, all's right with the world," whispered Anne softly.

Many, many, many thanks to the awesome Jenni, Kami, and Suey for hosting this wonderful read-along! I am so glad y'all gave me a reason to read this book again. I have loved the discussion questions and all the analyzing they have happily prompted in my brain! :D Here's to another read-along or three in the future. I'll be happy to read any book with y'all, anytime! ;)




March 22, 2018

Anne of Green Gables :: Discussion Post #2



And we're back for discussion #2! By the by, have I mentioned how very much I love our Anne-girl? Her delight in all and sundry (well...except for Gilbert, of course) never ceases to make me smile. (And I smile at her intensity of dislike for Gilbert as well! ;)

So! I think three of my very favorite things from these chapters are as follows:
  1. Matthew and the puffed sleeve incident! I adore Matthew and Anne's relationship
  2. Marilla's slow awakening to how much she loves Anne, which springs upon her very sudden-like. (Marilla and Matthew have such different relationships with Anne, but yet both connections are beautiful in their own way. And both need the other, I think, too.)
  3. GILBERT (enough said ;)
Also, I particularly enjoy the way Ms. Montgomery tells about Anne's escapades from Anne's perspective. Either the moment happens off page and we then hear Anne describe it, or we experience it firsthand alongside her. I just love the way Anne looks at the world, so I'm especially fond of the moments when she's describing the happening to Marilla or Matthew. (But goodness, I wonder when the girl ever takes a breath! Her speech-making is quite lengthy! ;)

Now then! Onward to the discussion.

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1. Anne has a gift for loving nature in all its forms, she even gives them delightful names. Do you find yourself appreciating nature more as you read this?

I hadn't thought about it, but yet I think I do! And I can certainly say that reading her effusions makes me want to sit outside and just enjoy "being".

2. We have finally met Gilbert! What do you think of him? Do you think Anne is justified in hating him so much?

I LOVE Gilbert! I love that he's a boy who likes a girl, which causes him to make a crucially horrible decision (which, in his defense, he had no idea how much Anne hates her hair, so...not 100% his fault?), and immediately regrets it thereafter and does all he can to make it up to her. While I can understand Anne's reaction (at least to a point) that day, I don't think it was worth months of grudge-holding. And yet I kind of think it's good for Gilbert to have to work for Anne's favor? In her first descriptions of him, Ms. Montgomery states how most of the girls thought him handsome and so he'd never had to put forth any effort to make them like him. Anne's refusal to fall at his feet causes him to realize how much power his words can hold and also that making an effort toward building a friendship with someone is completely worth it. I don't know that I'm describing it right, but maybe you understand what I'm trying to say...??

Suffice it all to say, that I LOVE Gilbert angd his genuinely friendly, all-around-nice-guy persona, as well as his steadfast loyalty to Anne, no matter what she's done so far, just endears him to me. :)

3. Anne's imagination finally got the better of her in the Haunted Wood. Do you think she learned anything from that experience? Do you think she'll tone down the imagination a bit?

She definitely learned something. She even references it later herself and acknowledges that she shouldn't have allowed herself to do that...to herself! I think it does cause her to tone down her imagination maybe a teeny, tiny bit. Just enough to realize when she's almost to go too far. And since I know how the story goes forward, I'm confident she'll continue to tone her imagination in an acceptable, adult-like manner, but we know she'll never let go of it completely. It's too much an inherent part of her! And WE certainly don't want her to lose it either!

4. What do you think of Diana and the other school girls? Do you think Anne chose wisely for her bosom friend?

I do think Anne chose wisely! For all Diana tries to match a little of Anne's imaginativeness, once she's decided on something she can be fairly stubborn herself. So they really chose each other. The incident where they were forced to not speak to one another enforces that thought for me. Diana was just as heartbroken as Anne. Her loyalty and genuine love for Anne is wonderfully sweet. And that moment when Anne hears Diana express out loud that she loves her? Ah, my heart! Diana may be a bit more pragmatic than Anne, but she completely understands Anne's heart. And knew just what Anne needed in that moment.

I suppose I just love the way they love and care for each other. Their friendship is one of my favorite things about this series.



5. I've always dreamed of visiting Prince Edward Island some day. Do you want to visit there also? What other real life literature places do you want to visit?

YES. I would LOVE to visit PEI! I had some friends that visited a few years back and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing their pictures and hearing about their trip. Everyone that's ever posted anything about visiting PEI always says what a delight it is, so hopefully someday! :)

Another place on my bucket list would be Jane Austen's England. Of course! ;) I know there are tours centered around Jane's life and writing and if I ever, ever, ever got the actual chance to go I would jump on it immediately! *happily daydreams*


A Few Favorite Quotes:
{I find myself highlighting so many of the quotes that everyone already knows. But they're quite wise! And Anne is just so eminently quotable.}
"Boiled pork and greens are so unromantic when one is in affliction."

"What a splendid day!" said Anne, drawing a long breath. "Isn't it good just to be alive on a day like this? I pity the people who aren't born yet for missing it. They may have good days, of course, but they can never have this one. And it's splendider still to have such a lovely way to go to school by, isn't it?"

"I like that lane because you can think out loud there without people calling you crazy."

"I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers. It would be terrible if we just skipped from September to November, wouldn't it?"

"But really, Marilla, one can't stay sad very long in such an interesting world, can one?"

Matthew nodded over a Farmers' Advocate on the sofa and Anne at the table studied her lessons with grim determination, despite sundry wistful glances at the clock shelf, where a new book that Jane Andrews had lent her that day. Jane had assured her that it was warranted to produce any number of thrills, or words to that effect, and Anne's fingers tingled to reach out for it. But that would mean Gilbert Blythe's triumph on the morrow. Anne turned her back on the clock shelf and tried to imagine it wasn't there. {Oh how I have been there myself, miss Anne! But no amount of imagination can make the anticipation of a good book go away.}

"Oh, Matthew, isn't it a wonderful morning? The world looks like something God had just imagined for His own pleasure, doesn't it?"

"Miss Barry was a kindred spirit, after all," Anne confided to Marilla. "You wouldn't think so to look at her, but she is. You don't find it right out at first, as in Matthew's case, but after a while you come to see it. Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It's splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world."

And now....onward to the last third of the book! For more wonderful fun with Miss Anne with an e.




March 20, 2018

Review: Until I Knew Myself by Tammy L. Gray

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I'd been looking forward reading another book by Ms. Gray and was so happy to immerse myself inside this story! While it started out slightly dizzying jumping from POV to POV due to several characters, I soon figured out who was who and what was going on. The emotions are raw and intense. So many of the characters struggle with understanding their own selves and how to handle their reactions to the hard things happening around them.

I do have to admit that there were several times I just wanted to shake a few of the characters. Especially Ty. He has SO much love and care right around him and he can't see it. At all. Thank goodness his friends had more patience with him than I had! Then there's his relationship with Journey. Up and down and all around they had to go before both of them were in the right place at the right time. It was hard to read a few paragraphs, particularly the moments when Ty was letting his pain overtake every other part of his life. Yet Journey never truly gave up hope. Her resilience and strength are pretty amazing.

I think my favorite part of the story was the five friendships at the heart of it all. They know each other so well, yet find themselves totally missing crucial things about one another. Which is so typical of long-held friendships, isn't it? They take work and effort and sometimes we simply don't have it in us to see beyond our own pain and into someone else's. Especially if that someone is a best friend. So it is for these five. They all have to stumble a lot before they can begin to truly become the best versions of themselves, the version that the other friends need. And of course, just when all that seemed primed to come to a climax and I was excited to see where they would all go from here, the book ended! On a cliffhanger!! So not nice, Ms. Gray. Because now I'm all anxious for book two!! And I have to wait. *wails* ;)

I also have to mention that there were occasions when the emotions ran rampant enough that I began to feel it was a bit much. I needed to take a few breathers from it. But now that Ty and Journey are both in a better place, I hope they'll provide some stability for the others in book two. I shall look forward to seeing them all begin to feel more peace within themselves!

**I received a complimentary copy via the author. All opinions expressed are my own.

"I never cared about your last name, Ty. Only the character of the man who wore it."

If we are sons and daughters of a mighty God, why do we live our life as orphans?

I felt completely alone when I had everyone I needed just waiting for me to call for help.

There was a time when art was untarnished, when it brought joy, safety, and peace to her heart.



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