The Writing Desk, by Rachel Hauck 

*I’m starting with what I didn’t care for, so please don’t write off this story due to these first couple paragraphs. 

I had very mixed feelings throughout reading this book. Having read several others by Rachel Hauck that I loved, I was surprised to have a hard time with this one. I wanted to love it… and in some ways I did.. but in other ways it felt to me like there was a little something missing.

Before I go any further, I should say that after much contemplation on this book and how I felt about it, I think my disappointments largely stem from listening rather than reading it myself. While there were some things in the story itself that got to me, for the most part I would have been able to overlook them… I think I might be able to listen to Windy Lanzl read another book (maybe one set in the semi-south… with no British or New York-ish characters…) and enjoy it more. One thing that bothered me was her attempt at voices/accents.. because her voices weren’t consistent. 

So.. what did I love about Rachel Hauck’s The Writing Desk? I loved the creativity found in this story. I loved that this writer knows how to create unique characters with layers and grow them throughout the story, letting the reader get to know them more deeply as the pages turn. I loved the intricacies of the dual timelines and how Rachel Hauck wove them together to create one story. 

The modern part of this book follows Tenley, a best-selling writer struggling to come up with her second book.. she’s pretty caught up in the excitement of her fame but in her heart she is seeking more depth, even though she doesn’t quite know what she’s looking for. Tenley finds herself passing up a trip to Paris with her “sort of fiance” to care for her estranged mother as she goes through chemo. She’s not very empathetic toward her mother (disappointing but realistic, considering everything) but the fact that she’s there at all says a lot.. especially after Tenley and her dad were abandoned by Blanche (as Tenley calls her) when Tenley was only 9. I enjoyed seeing their relationship grow in hesitant ways as they got to know each other. I also enjoyed how Tenley’s friendship with Jonas, a neighbor/longtime friend of Blanche’s sprouted as he accepted Tenley where she was. It’s super sweet.

The other half of this dual timeline book begins during the gilded age, and it’s about Birdie, a rich heiress who has more heart than care for wealth and fame. She dreams of being a published author, and of marrying for love… hopefully to Eli, who’s captured her heart but doesn’t have her parents’ approval. Her parents have other ideas though and have made business-type arrangements with a different suitor. 

Birdie and Tenley’s lives end up intersecting, although they never knew each other. There’s much bittersweet in this book. I’m still not quite at rest with the culmination but I think I’d like to try actually reading it in book form. I think that would help me. 

This book is comparable to… a can of soup. I have a certain line of canned soup that I love but can’t eat much anymore. There’s just something that I can’t quite put my finger on that’s missing, and I’ve had a hard time eating it since chemo. 


Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Lizzy & Jane, by Katherine Reay

**If you’re a skimmer, please be sure to read to the end… this will probably be long. 

Lizzy & Jane by Katherine Reay struck my heart very uniquely. This book is about two sisters who live on opposite sides of the country. Lizzy in New York, and Jane in Seattle. Lizzy living the epitome of city life, busy with her restaurant and panicking that she’s about to lose it because she’s lost the spark in her heart for it; Jane determined not to let chemo get the best of her, yet at a loss for how to keep it from derailing her family. Both sisters unwilling to admit how closed off they have become and how guilty they both feel for being absent when loved ones needed them.

These characters became friends of mine.. they had depth, quirks, and flaws. 

To be completely honest, I started out very angry with Lizzy. She was full of herself and thought she had the answers to everything. I didn’t like her, and I certainly didn’t appreciate her attitude. After being reluctant to even call Jane, Lizzy decides she’s going to go cook for Jane, as a way of getting inspired to go back to her restaurant… She assures Jane that she won’t be able to turn down her food, and when Jane can’t eat what she makes (or, more accurately, when she gets sick on it and can’t eat any more), Lizzy takes offense. Oh my goodness.. get over yourself, Lizzy, and think about someone other than yourself. 

Jane has adjustments to make too though. She’s shut out her husband and her kids as a way of dealing with her cancer. Their life has become routine and monotonous, and I think she thinks she doesn’t really deserve any different. She has lost her joy but would never tell you that. 

After much trial and error, Lizzy finally begins to realize that she needs to ask Jane about her life, her cancer, her treatments, what tastes good vs what doesn’t… and not only ask, but actually listen and get to know her sisterIf there’s one thing Jane needs as much as food she can eat, it’s a good listener. A true friend in her sister. Loving her where she is. It was a process, but I began to like the character I was seeing in Lizzy. I loved the morphing I saw in both of them. 

This was quite a difficult read for me. I don’t know if you picture what you’re reading or not, but I do. And I saw Jane’s Infusion Center as my own, the waiting area at her oncologist’s office as mine. The parking lot? Same. One of our chemo drugs was the same, and not just in my mind. Maybe one of the steroid & anti-sick drug combinations too… (I remember mine but not hers.) 

When I was partway through this book, I mentioned some initial thoughts on it to the friend who had asked if I’d read it. I told her that the writer of this book had either been there herself or had really done some thorough research and listened to people close to her who had been there. Because wow. She captured so much, so accurately. Three years ago the day before yesterday was my second chemo. I may forget many things now, but certain dates and experiences are forever etched into my memory. This book brought emotions and physical things to the forefront of my mind that felt like they were yesterday. 

A thread of romance runs through this beautiful story too. It just sort of happens. It’s sweet and doesn’t try to take the spotlight. 

Lizzy & Jane gripped my heart in a way that rarely happens. Most of the books on my all-time favorites list aren’t stories I’ve connected with like this one. That doesn’t mean I love this one more, but it means I love it unlike most others. I so needed this book. I’m not sure I knew I did for quite a while, but I did.  

This book is a hotdog for me, no question. While I’m generally not big on hotdogs and am very picky about them, they were one of the few foods that I could eat consistently throughout chemo. That being said, I’m glad I read it now rather than during chemo when I originally picked it up and discovered I couldn’t read a book. 

I’d never read anything by Katherine Reay prior to this, but I will be reading more. (For those wondering, yes, there are connections to Jane Austen and Pride and Prejudice, but aside from the pride and preconceived notions involved in this story that I’ve already mentioned, I’m not going to expand on the connections.)


Tags: , , , , ,

Then There Was You, by Kara Isaac

Every time I start reading a Kara Isaac book, I think I can’t love this writer’s books any more than I already do… I’ve been dragging my feet to finish reading this one for several reasons. For one thing, I didn’t want the story to end. I wanted to relish it. For another, finishing this book meant that I’m all out of Kara Isaac books to read until she publishes another! I could read her books nonstop because they have it all– they have real life struggles but still make me laugh, and even when there are difficulties present these stories still have an overall lightness to them that is just… right. These will be rereads for me many times over.

Then There Was You by Kara Isaac is unlike any book I’ve read before, and I’m struggling with how to describe it. It tells Paige’s story, of how she lives her life feeling stuck – in a job she hates, with a boyfriend who doesn’t even care, etc – because of her need for perceived safety. Suddenly she’s thrown all of that away to stay with her cousin, Kat (who you’ll recognize if you’ve read Close to You and Can’t Help Falling… if you haven’t, don’t worry, you can always read them after this one!) on the other side of the world. She takes a job at a mega church (one of her worst nightmares) and finds herself looking for reasons to detest it. When she crosses paths with Josh, the leader of a world-touring worship band, they are determined to avoid contact as much as possible. They could both use some grace for their past regrets and peace in their lives. 

This book is truly real life subject matter. Everyone has regrets, everyone could use some grace.. some hope and peace.  

This book, for me, is a spritz cookie. Addictive and engaging, drawing me in, begging for more. Kara Isaac has this trademark trait in her novels — her characters allude to something in the past, they keep giving just little clues about it, and as the reader you are compelled to read another page.. and another, and another, as the pieces fall into place and reveal the bigger picture. 

Thank you, Kara Isaac, for another beautiful book! I can’t wait to see where you take us next! 


Tags: , , , , , , ,

A Viscount’s Proposal, by Melanie Dickerson 

Reminiscent of Pride and Prejudice, A Vicount’s Proposal has relatable characters who change and grow over the course of the story. 

Melanie Dickerson never disappoints. Her stories are both imaginative and engaging. With every book I read by her, I find myself wanting to be friends with the characters… and Leorah in A Viscount’s Proposal is no exception. Her headstrong ways, her compassionate heart, and her refusal to conform to aristocratic society’s expectations make her stand out. They make me admire her. 

Following Leorah’s story as she stands up for others and seeks to make a difference in the world around her made me smile. I was on the edge of my seat with the suspense and mysterious happenings.. including attempted murder by an unknown person. 

I enjoyed both the story of this regency era romance and the reading performance of it, as I listened via Audible. Anna Parker-Naples is always entertaining to listen to; her voices make the characters truly come to life in her narrations. 

Although this is book two in The Regency Spies of London series, and reading the first book would give more insight, context, and backstory, each story focuses in on a different character, and they would each be still very much enjoyable on their own. (Just a warning, reading out of order would give you some spoilers though.)

I would compare this mystery to a delightful chocolate cake… one with a surprise filling to go along with the mystery and spy aspect. 


Tags: , , , ,

The Viola Girl, by Sherri Schoenborn Murray 

I may have even loved this story more than the first one. May. It’s hard to say. I honestly really really love them both.

Sherri Schoenborn Murray has so captivated me with her unique storylines and her writing style. There is depth, there is feeling, there is so much I want to say but don’t even have words for.

The Viola Girl is all about Wren, the younger sister of Alia (The Piano Girl: Counterfeit Princess). I love that this book gave me the opportunity to get to know Wren, but I also really appreciate that it goes back in time and retells the beginning of Alia’s story – from Wren’s perspective. This gives an added dimension and provides a lot of insight into Wren’s emotion, choices, and her character as a whole.

Without giving away the story, Wren’s decision to run away to see her sister goes completely awry, leading to unexpected adventure and romance. I always find that I’m surprised by this talented writer… not necessarily in everything that happens (because there are things here and there that I suspect might happen) but I’m typically surprised by how things happen. By the twists, both large and small.

Danielle Winter is fabulous at giving Wren her own voice, as well as differentiating between characters.

I’d like to compare this story to a fruit-filled pastry. Sweet, yet not overly so. Just right. It’s a beautiful story, and one that I will revisit many times.

I received a free copy of this audio book in exchange for my honest review.. but I also have a purchased paperback setting on my bookshelf.


Tags: , , , , ,

Can’t Help Falling, by Kara Isaac

This book was truly a delight, and honestly, I dragged my feet at the end because I didn’t want the story to be over. 

Can’t Help Falling… what a perfectly chosen title for this darling story that opens with the heroine quite literally falling out of a wardrobe.. and into the arms of the hero. While I say this book is darling, I have to add a disclaimer… it *is* a very sweet story.. but there are some very difficult subjects that come up within these pages. It’s all about hope vs hopelessness, second chances, and forgiveness in every form. It’s about redemption. 

The difficulties encountered and fought through make this book that much sweeter. 

Why? Because it’s real. Not as in a true story, but real as in real life. We all make bad choices, and yet God cares about each of us so personally that He goes to great lengths to draw us to Himself… sometimes we just don’t want to see it. 

A quick synopsis.. Emelia and Peter could quote Narnia together for weeks on end. Neither has ever met anyone remotely like the other, and they are so drawn to each other. But each of them has guilt that they just cannot forgive themselves for, and neither do they really know how to let God forgive them either. They each blame themselves for someone’s too-soon death, and their regrets could very easily come between them when the whole truth comes out. 

Kara Isaac is an incredibly talented, creative writer, and her books are refreshing to me. 

I was thinking about likening this book to Turkish delight, since it is all about two people who might as well be Pevensies. But I’ve never actually had Turkish delight. So I am opting for chocolate. Chocolate with toffee bits in it, because it needs some crunch. 

Leave a comment

Posted by on September 9, 2017 in Fiction, Forgiveness, Friendship, Kara Isaac, Romance


Tags: , , , , ,

The Reunion, by Dan Walsh 

Emotional and heartbreaking at times, The Reunion is the story of a Vietnam veteran and how he feels like he’s nothing special. Due to some choices made in his earlier years, Aaron has not seen his kids in decades. As the maintenance man at a Florida trailer park, he pretty much keeps to himself but helps others and reaches out to them without ever realizing how much difference he truly makes. 

Dave is a journalist on a mission to write a book on Vietnam war heroes when he finds himself commissioned by a veteran to find a recipient of the Medal of Honor. As he begins his search, he meets Karen, whose dad fought in Vietnam. 

The way this story plays out is beautiful, and I hope you’ll give it a try. 

Dan Walsh did a fabulous job of weaving this somewhat complex story so beautifully. His characters feel like real people, with real emotions and real problems. 

As I listened on Audible, Dick Hill was a great choice for this audio book. I’m always a little hesitant when a male reader records a book that has female characters, but he did an excellent job and I really enjoyed it. 

I would classify this book as a southern meal. Maybe mashed potatoes, fried chicken, biscuits, and green beans. Something that reaches your soul. 


Tags: , , , , ,