Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Book Review: The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd

Pages:  432
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: April 21, 2020
Publisher: Viking
Source: Publisher for review
Other Books By Author: The Invention of Wings
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "In her fourth work of fiction, Sue Monk Kidd brings her acclaimed narrative gifts to imagine the story of a young woman named Ana. Raised in a wealthy family in Sepphoris with ties to the ruler of Galilee, she is rebellious and ambitious, a relentless seeker with a brilliant, curious mind and a daring spirit. She yearns for a pursuit worthy of her life, but finds no outlet for her considerable talents. Defying the expectations placed on women, she engages in furtive scholarly pursuits and writes secret narratives about neglected and silenced women. When she meets the eighteen-year-old Jesus, each is drawn to and enriched by the other’s spiritual and philosophical ideas. He becomes a floodgate for her intellect, but also the awakener of her heart.  Their marriage unfolds with love and conflict, humor and pathos in Nazareth, where Ana makes a home with Jesus, his brothers, James and Simon, and their mother, Mary. Here, Ana’s pent-up longings intensify amid the turbulent resistance to the Roman occupation of Israel, partially led by her charismatic adopted brother, Judas. She is sustained by her indomitable aunt Yaltha, who is searching for her long-lost daughter, as well as by other women, including her friend Tabitha, who is sold into slavery after she was raped, and Phasaelis, the shrewd wife of Herod Antipas. Ana’s impetuous streak occasionally invites danger. When one such foray forces her to flee Nazareth for her safety shortly before Jesus’s public ministry begins, she makes her way with Yaltha to Alexandria, where she eventually finds refuge and purpose in unexpected surroundings.  Grounded in meticulous historical research and written with a reverential approach to Jesus’s life that focuses on his humanity, The Book of Longings is an inspiring account of one woman’s bold struggle to realize the passion and potential inside her, while living in a time, place, and culture devised to silence her."
Ana isn't like other girls in Galilee. She was raised by a wealthy family, but she doesn't want the life that is expected of her.  She not only knows how to read and write, but she is also a curious person by nature and challenges authority.  This, obviously, is a problem for the time period as well as not the norm.  When she finds out her parents have arranged a marriage for her to a man who is horrid, she knows she must not let this happen.  Then she meets Jesus in a market and she can't stop thinking about him. Thankfully, he helps her escape her dreadful fate.  Once they marry, she leaves her life and family behind to live with Jesus, his brothers, and his mother in Nazareth.  So much happens while at Nazareth.  Jesus realizes his calling, then there's the resistance against the Romans, the troubles of Ana's brother Judas, and her Ana's aunt's personal quest.  There's dangers, betrayal, love, spirituality and so much more, but what makes The Book of Longings so very special is the feminine take on Christianity and the question that has lurked in many minds: what if Jesus had a wife?  The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd is a phenomenally smart and thought provoking historical read that will make a lasting impression.

Ana is the type of character I love in The Book of Longings. She is smart, determined, rebellious, and challenges authority. She wants more for her life and has a strong desire to share her story through writing.  This obviously leads her to some unfortunate situations.  I also love that she is determined to read and write despite the limitations on women during the time period.  Her goal of recording women's stories is another aspect of the novel that I loved and I enjoyed how Kidd weaved that piece throughout Ana's story.  Her journey throughout the novel is so fantastic; by the end of the story, I felt like I was saying goodbye to a longtime friend.

I must say I was worried about how Kidd would portray Jesus in The Book of Longings as well as some other famous people from the Bible. I mean can you blame me? This is quite the task. However, Kidd handled it so well.  She humanized Jesus, Mary, and his disciples.  She brought to life the stories from the Bible and brought a perspective to it that I really appreciated.  Instead of making Jesus some sort of superhero, he was portrayed as a person who had family, friends, a wife, a job, etc.  I think she handled it brilliantly. Even though we know how things end for Jesus, it was still interesting to relive it all through Ana's eyes.

I appreciated the feminist aspect to The Book of Longings the most.  It made me wonder.... what if? I have always questioned whether Jesus had a wife or not despite her being excluded from the Bible.  What would his wife be like? The Book of Longings explores this topic and those that have longed for a feminist take on the Bible will throughly enjoy Kidd's portrayal. But take Jesus's wife out of the equation, readers can also appreciate a woman's story that highlights the many struggles during the time period and her determination for her, as well as others around her, to not be silenced. It brought up so many questions and it was a very thought provoking read. This novel would make for an excellent book club choice as there's so much to discuss.

If you are looking for a smart beach read this summer and one that will transport you to a different time and place as well as inspire you, look no further. The Book of Longings is one of my favorite historical reads of the year.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Book Review: Feels Like Falling by Kristy Woodson Harvey

Pages: 400
Genre: Adult Fiction
Pub. Date: April 28, 2020
Publisher: Gallery
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "It's summertime on the North Carolina coast and the livin' is easy. Unless, that is, you've just lost your mother to cancer, your sister to her extremist husband, and your husband to his executive assistant. Meet Gray Howard. Right when Gray could use a serious infusion of good karma in her life, she inadvertently gets a stranger, Diana Harrington, fired from her job at the local pharmacy. Diana Harrington's summer isn't off to the greatest start either: Hours before losing her job, she broke up with her boyfriend and moved out of their shared house with only a worn-out Impala for a bed. Lucky for her, Gray has an empty guest house and a very guilty conscience. With Gray's kindness, Diana's tide begins to turn. But when her first love returns, every secret from her past seems to resurface all at once. And, as Gray begins to blaze a new trail, she discovers, with Diana's help, that what she envisioned as her perfect life may not be what she wants at all."

At first glance, Gray has it all.  She has an adorable son, a gorgeous home on the Carolina coast, a successful marketing company, and loads of loyal friends.  However, if you dig deeper, you would find someone who is grieving the loss of her mother to cancer, getting over a difficult divorce, and the loss of her sister to her controlling husband.  Whens Gray messes things up for Diana at her work at the local pharmacy, she feels compelled to offer her boarding in her guest house.  In fact, Gray even offers Diana a job as her housekeeper, and after some time, the two hit it off like no other.  Their friendship fills the gaps and holes in each their lives and they are there for each other like sisters.  Diana encourages Gray to branch out and live a little this summer while she supports Diana when her world turns upside down.  Feels Like Falling by Kristy Woodson Harvey is a satisfying beach read depicting two strong Southern women and an unlikely friendship that ends up being transformative.

At first, Gray seems a little too good to be true in Feels Like Falling. She is a very successful businesswoman with blonde hair and the perfect body; however, not everything is ideal. Once readers find out that her husband left her for his assistant, the tides begin to change for Gray. Perhaps she doesn't have it all together like we thought? To complicate matters, she shares a child with her ex-husband, so there's no escaping him or his young girlfriend.  Also, her ex-husband is the CFO of her company and isn't making this divorce easy.  So, obviously, things get sticky.  

A beach read isn't a beach read unless it has a little bit of romance, right? Well, in Feels Like Falling, Gray attracts the attention of her son's tennis coach, Andrew, but she couldn't actually go out on a date with him, could she? He is way younger than her, has the perfect body, women flock to him, so why would he want to date Gray with all of her baggage? Well, there's no rules against a summer romance though, right? Gray enters a summer fling with Andrew, but it ends up being so much more.  Harvey created a really swoon-worthy boyfriend in Andrew and I loved their relationship even if it was difficult for Gray to really let herself fall for him.

Then there's Diana in Feels Like Falling. She has a complicated past and when she moves into Gray's house she isn't just escaping her former life, but instead, she is almost starting over.  Her friendship with Gray becomes so much more than the usual friendship and I love watching it blossom. They ended up being there for each other through it all, especially when Diana's ex-boyfriend reenters her life and makes her question things. Diana, like Gray, is going through some things as well and they help each other get through life's ups and downs.

I loved the summertime setting of the Carolina Coast in Feels Like Falling. It was the perfect setting for a beach read.  Harvey definitely didn't disappoint and had me dreaming of happy hours on the bay and gorgeous sunsets.  

My only issue was some of the slow parts in Feels Like Falling, especially because I found myself interested in Gray's story a bit more than Diana's.  Nonetheless, Harvey provided her fans with a solid  Southern beach read that will be sure to transport readers. 

Are you a fan of Kristy Woodson Harvey's novels?  Is this beach read on your TBR list? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. 

Thursday, May 21, 2020

9th Annual Summer Kickoff

Well, can you believe it? Another summer season is upon us, but this year it's completely different. I am not sure what the summer holds; in fact, where I live we are still under a stay-at-home order.  However, we can make the best of it, right? Even though some of us won't be making it to the beach this summer and most of us definitely won't be enjoying a tropical vacation, we can still bring the beach to us by reading this summer's best beach reads.

We need books now more than ever to help us escape, de-stress, and armchair travel to a warm place with a cold drink in our hands.  With that in mind, I am so excited to share with you guys all the best beach reads this summer and host some fun giveaways.

And it all starts tomorrow with my 9th Annual Summer Kickoff!

Here are just some of the books I hope to feature during my 9th Annual Summer Kickoff.  Can you believe it's been nine years?  You can check out the posts from previous years here. I have showcased so many great books; there's definitely something for everyone.

Lastly, keep your eye out for an International Beach Read giveaway coming up next week to celebrate another fun Summer Kickoff.  

So, let me know which book are you most looking forward to reading this summer.  Did you read any of my most anticipated summer reads yet? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Happy Summer Reading,

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Blog Break

Guys, I am taking another blog break, but this time to prepare for my Summer Kickoff Feature where I share all of my favorite (and some just ok!), beach reads for 2020.  Can you believe this is my 9th year? This year it's a little weird, because we might not make it to the beach with a book in tow, but that doesn't mean we can't do a little armchair traveling, right?

I can't wait to come back in a few weeks and share my thoughts on books that will hopefully help us chill out, escape, dream of warm days, and help us get our minds off the news.  Meanwhile, you can follow me on Instagram or Goodreads to keep up with me.  Before I go, let me know your most anticipated novel of the summer and I'll be sure to include it in my Summer Kickoff Feature.

Which book are you most looking forward to reading this summer?

28 Summers by Elin Hilderbrand
Summer Longing by Jamie Brenner
Her Last Flight by Beatriz Williams
Big Summer by Jennifer Weiner
The Girls of Summer by Nancy Thayer
Hello, Summer by Mary Kay Andrews
The Last Train to Key West by Chanel Cleeton
The Heir Affair by Jessica Cocks and Heather Morgan
The Lies That Bind by Emily Giffin
Beach Read by Emily Henry
Make your own Survey

Be back soon and thanks for visiting,

Monday, May 4, 2020

What I'm Reading Next (33)

My May TBR list is like the Super Bowl for me. Even though we can't be at the beach right now, we can still be transported through some fantastic beach reads that are coming out this month.  There are so, so many good books that I want to read. It's going to be tough to narrow down the list.  Here are my top eight picks for the month of May.  Who is ready for all the summertime reads? 

1.  Island Affair by Priscilla Oliveras - The story takes place on a vacation in Florida. Need I say more? This is the kind of escape I currently need.

2.  The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner - I am part of the blog tour for this historical read that takes place in Chawton (Jane's final home), which I had the pleasure of visiting a few years ago. I love all things Jane, so I am excited for this one. 

3.  Two Truths and a Lie by Meg Mitchell Moore - I really enjoyed Moore's The Islanders, so I am looking forward to checking out her next beach read. This one sounds a bit more like a thriller!

4  Summer Darlings by Brooke Lea Foster - I love a good "historical beach read" and this one sounds fantastic as it takes place in 1960s Martha's Vineyard.

5. Summer Longing by Jamie Brenner - I have come to enjoy Brenner's beach reads every summer and I have high hopes for this one, which takes place at Cape Cod and focuses on motherhood and friendship.

6.  Beach Read by Emily Henry - I mean the title says it all, right?  Plus, it's about two writers, so this sound right up my alley.

7.  The Betrothed by Kiera Cass - This doesn't seem like your typical beach read; however, I am still very excited for this one. I thought Cass's The Selection series was a lot of fun, so I am hoping for a lot of court intrigue and some major Royal vibes.

8.  Hello, Summer by Mary Kay Andrews - Summer isn't summer without a Mary Kay Andrews novel, am I right?  Her latest sounds like it has a bit of a mystery intertwined within her usual beach read, so I am sure it will keep me glued to the pages.

So, what books do you plan to read this month? Are any of these books on your TBR list? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

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