English professor Joy and her husband Richard are grieving in the wake of a miscarriage and take a trip to Granada, Spain. While there, Joy meets a handsome stranger who awakens feelings she thought were long dead. When they return home, she’s still grieving and Richard, hurting himself, becomes involved with a free-spirited teacher.
When Joy finds out about the affair, their marriage ends. Joy moves to Virginia and tries to deal with her bitterness. Inspired by the story of Sultan Suleyman and his Russian concubine, Roxelana, Joy decides to take a trip to Turkey and Richard joins her. While there, Richard tells her a startling truth, and their relationship changes forever.
I’m not sure what to say about this novel. I felt sorry for Joy and Richard both, but I also found them unlikable at times. They hurt each other selfishly over-and-over again, and never really seem to learn from their mistakes. The exotic locales were vivid and well-drawn, adding excitement to an otherwise slow-paced narrative.
Kathryn K. Abdul-Baki was born in Washington D.C. and grew up in Iran, Kuwait, Beirut, and Jerusalem. A Marriage in Four Seasons is her new novel.
(Galley provided by She Writes Press in exchange for an honest review.)
Megan Jacobs spent her life being careful, being in the hospital, and watching her sister, Crystal, live life to the fullest, while Megan dreamed about the future, what she would do when she was no longer sick. Three years ago, Megan got a heart transplant, but she’s still playing it safe, living with her parents and working at the library while she yearns for more.
Then, Megan’s heart donor’s parents give her their daughter’s journal, and Megan finds someone she identifies with in the pages. She also finds an unfinished bucket list and decides to fulfill all the items on the list, pushing past her comfort zone as she fights her tendency to play it safe.
When Crystal decides to come with her, Megan hopes they can repair their fragile relationship. With Crystal at her side and her old friend Caleb—a fellow heart transplant recipient—encouraging her, Megan thinks she has all the support she needs to complete her audacious journey. But will she be able to overcome her fears and embrace her new heart?
I related to Megan so much. Her fear of change and of new things is so familiar, as is her desire to travel and to write. So familiar. She’s been through so much, and it’s easier to coast along with the status quo, than to risk failure. Even when Megan has stepped out in faith, she still falters, but the love of those around her propels her forward. This is Crystal’s story, too, the “perfect” sister who is driven by her ambitions even while her marriage is failing. Stepping out in faith and changing is just as hard for Crystal as it is for her sister, but the two don’t even realize they have this in common. I loved this book and highly recommend it!
Griff and Dylan—Thomas, like the poet—are almost back from vacation with their parents when the unthinkable happens: a horrible car wreck kills their parents and injures Griff. Now the two boys are alone in the world and struggling with grief and tragedy. Dylan is just worried about Griff, who’s not dealing well with their reality, and Dylan must make sure his brother gets through this in one piece.
When an aunt and uncle they’ve never met offer them a home in Wales, the boys end up in a world they’re not used to, still reeling from the loss of their parents. Griff bravely starts to adjust to their new reality, but he’s not the only who needs to be brave: Dylan has to face up to something if he’s ever going to embrace his own reality.
So. This book. This book. It’s sad, I’m not going to lie. I expected that, but I did not expect the wrenching sadness of both boys, and Griff’s horrible grief. The brothers are so different, and yet the same, and the memories threaded throughout the book—the nearest faraway places—are poignant and make the reader aware how great the boys’ parents were. The writing is strong and evocative, pulling the reader right into every single emotional moment. This is well-worth reading.
In May 2012, Kim Dinan and her husband sold all their stuff, quit their jobs, and headed out to travel the world. The Yellow Envelope is their story.
On the surface, Kim Dinan had it all: a good marriage to a husband she loved, a good job that paid well, the home she’d dreamed about filled with friends and activities that she enjoyed. But inside, she wondered: is this all there is? Kim concluded that no matter how great her life looked, she would never be truly happy if she didn’t reach for her dreams.
So, she and her husband, Brian, sold their house, quit their jobs, and set off to travel the world. Before they left, they were given a gift: a yellow envelope containing a check and instructions to give the money away as they saw fit. Through Central America, Nepal, India, and beyond, Kim and Brian encountered the world in all its splendor and squalor, overcoming obstacles to their dreams, their travels, and their marriage, as they learned the truth behind their quest for happiness—and how to give.
The Yellow Envelope is about a woman reaching for her dreams, and finding happiness along the way. The travel stories are inspiring, but not as inspiring as the way Kim goes after what she knows will make her truly happy, even in the face of overwhelming opposition. The message behind the actual yellow envelope is also life-changing and worth embracing. I recommend reading this if you’re looking for a bit of inspiration, want to travel, or simply need a change.
After he graduated from college, Andrew Forsthoefel decided to walk across America, really listening to what the people he met had to say. Walking to Listen is the tale of that journey.
Andrew Forsthoefel went out the door of his home in Pennsylvania with a backpack and a sign that read “Walking to Listen.” He’d just graduated college and was ready to start his adult life…but he didn’t know how. So, he decided to walk across America, wrestling with the hard questions he asked himself every day. Everyone he met would be his guide.
From winter in Appalachia to Death Valley in August, Andrew experienced the true breadth of American geography, but it was the people he met that truly inspired him. He met kindness and fear, diversity and prejudice as people told him their stories. He faced loneliness and fear, but love and hope carried him through his amazing journey.
Walking to Listen is the story of one man on an incredible journey, but it is more than that. The people he meets, the encounters he has are truly inspiring and bring hope for the future amidst the darkness permeating our culture. This book…sure, it’s narrative nonfiction about a journey, but it is so much more than that. The people Andrew met gave me so much hope, and made me want to reach for more. Not only does this book showcase the true diversity of this nation, but it gives a face to the human experience. I highly recommend reading this.
(Galley provided by Bloomsbury USA via NetGalley.)
Shannon Leone Fowler, marine biologist, loved backpacking all over the world almost as much as she loved her fiancé, Sean, an Australian who shared her love of travel. In summer of 2002, they were in Thailand, when a box jellyfish, the most venous animal in the world, stung Sean, killing him in minutes as Shannon watched. While the authorities tried to label Sean’s death a “drunk drowning,” two Israeli women helped Shannon wade through the red tape to bring Sean’s body home to Australia, to the family he’d left behind and that she was no longer a part of.
Reeling from Sean’s death, Shannon returned home to America, but could no longer make sense of her world. So, she decided to travel as she searched for healing. Poland, Israel, Bosnia, Romania…all places she’d never been with Sean, but she could not escape his memory. Finally, she ended up in Barcelona, where she first met Sean, and confronted the ocean, which took her love away.
Traveling with Ghosts is an immensely personal memoir, about a harrowing loss and a woman’s struggles to heal. The narrative switches between Shannon’s travels after Sean’s death, the fateful trip to Thailand, and their travels when they first met. Her grief coats every page with a patina of sorrow, as she struggles to find a way to deal with her loss.
(Galley provided by Simon & Schuster via NetGalley.)