The Good Luck Charm

good luck charmLilah is having a bad day. She gets soaked by the rain. She accidentally leaves her coffee on the hood of her car. She gets served divorce papers. As she works her shift, she wondered how much worse the day can get.

The answer?

Much worse. Near the end of her shift, she finds out that her surrogate father, Martin, has been admitted to the hospital with a stroke.

Another bad thing. Martin’s son, Ethan, is sitting in martin’s room when she gets there. Ethan was her high school sweetheart who suddenly broke up with her and left her eight years ago after he was drafted into the NHL.

Ethan is apologetic. He’s been traded to Minnesota, and will be living locally this year. He wants a second chance, but can Lilah forgive him? Can she open her heart to him again?

I noticed . . .

I noticed that this is a second chance romance, which is my least favorite romance trope. I didn’t actually pick this one out though. I received it through my Book of the Draw subscription, a subscription that often seems to surprises me with the books the curator sends me.  I get the two book box, and received Every Note Played in the same box as this book. This subscription is always a great way for me to get books that I missed when they were new releases.

I noticed that Ethan really wants to pick up as if there was no gap in their relationship. He struggles to respect Lilah’s boundaries in his desire for constant closeness with Lilah.

I noticed that this book is far sexier than I had anticipated from the cover. If you’re not a fan of open door romance, this is one you’re going to want to pass on.

I noticed that Lilah has a lot of drama going on in her life. She has family issues, a missing father who comes back into her life, a distant mother, an ongoing divorce, and a struggle to get into graduate school. That’s in addition to the relationship issues with Ethan, both in the past and present. This book does some heavy lifting for a romance, and in a lot of ways tries to do too much.

I noticed that I really loved some of the secondary characters. I liked some of Ethan’s teammates. I really liked Lilah’s sister, Carmen, and her therapy patient, Emery. Ethan also has a brother that seems ripe for romance.

I wondered . . .

I wondered whether Lilah will be able to establish a relationship with her biological father.

I wondered about Carmen and Noah. Could there be another book with these characters?

I also wanted to hear more about the young, college student, Emery. She was so much fun.

I wondered if Lilah will be able to make space for herself in her own life and whether or not she will set up appropriate boundaries in her relationships. I really wanted to see Lilah get to a therapist because I don’t think she was truly ready for a new relationship, even if it was a second chance relationship.

I noticed that the author has several more hockey romances, and I wondered whether any of them were related to this book.

It reminded me of . . .

I was reminded of All I Ask, which was another second chance romance. The main character in this book feels like she has to choose between romance and career too.

I was also reminded of Intercepted. This is another sports romance, only involves my favorite sport to watch–football.

Three excellent quotes . . .

One of the things that has most amazed me as a mom to teenagers is how they remember their childhoods so much differently from how I remember them. So, I found this quote really meaningful:

It’s amazing how memories shift and change with time, or how one person’s recollection of events varies so greatly from another.

When I saw this quote, I thought of how we forget the faults of those who have passed away. When the relationship does not exist anymore, this quote becomes real:

Remembering all the best things is easy when you can pretend the rest never happened.

I also like this quote about decision making. I’ve really been thinking a lot about regret and it’s uselessness over the past few months. This quote illuminates that:

We make decisions based on what we think is right at the time, and those consequences can follow us, but they don’t cover the path we’re on forever. It’s what we take from that experience and how we allow it to impact the choices we make as we move forward that means the most.

Ultimately, I found this romance a little unsatisfying. I just think that Lilah had so many personal issues that she wasn’t ready for a romance. This made some of her decisions and the way that Ethan treated her in the book just a little untenable for me.

Shifting Sand

It seems that every time, over the past few years, that I think I have found a place of stability, something has happened to take that stability and to make it feel like shifting sand. It’s been damaging to my faith, and in damaging my faith, I think that my children’s faith has been damaged as well.

Most recently, things were starting to look like we had reached a stable new place in our lives, and then the pandemic happened. Along with that, there were the Black Lives Matter protests this summer, and the election and all of its fallout this fall. The church’s response has been pathetic. I find myself discouraged, and I wonder if I will ever truly use the Master of Divinity degree that I have spent so much time working to obtain.

It was in a funk on a Friday night that I found myself looking through my journals, and I found this quote that resonated with my soul.

Your lifestyle, your freedom, your approach to faith and meaning are shaped by large-scale factors. Factors out of our control, which we assume to be stable and secure, but which in reality can change suddenly.

–Mark Sayers, Disappearing Church

I never realize how quickly life will change until life does change. I never realize how deeply my feelings will be affected be life changes. I never realize how long it will take me to heal or how much I will need to lament before healing can come.

I’ve had this realization before. In 2010, near the end of the great recession, the company that I worked for went out of business. The week that I realized we were going out of business, I walked into church, and they were singing the old hymn “On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand.” I found myself tearing up as I sang,

On Christ the solid rock I stand,

All other ground is sinking sand,

All other ground is sinking sand

The sand may not be sinking in my life, but it definitely is shifting, and I am shifting along with it. Christ is a solid rock for me, but because he is a solid rock, I find that everything is shifting, including my feelings about other people, about church and about politics. It is a disconcerting and sometimes distressing place to be.

Claiming His Virgin

claiming his virginHelen has never seen the hunter who enters her dreams. He will only meet with her if she wears a blindfold. All Helen knows about this man is that his dominant ways are a perfect match for her and that his kisses make her burn with desire. Still, she wondered why her mate will not let her see him or give her his name.

Zee has been in the Hive wars, and he carries the scars to prove it. In fact, his scarring is so bad that he’s been known to frighten the women he is sworn to protect in his guard job at the Touchstone. He does not want to repulse his matched mate, so he felt he must hide his face from her–at least until she falls in love with him.

I noticed . . .

I noticed that this is a more tightly woven story than the story in many of the books.

I also noticed that this book was way more BDSM in feeling than some of the other novels. I found it super hot!

I noticed that this has the same group of friends as in His Virgin Mate. That was fun to see!

I wondered . . .

I wondered where Dani’s mate was.

I wondered what was going on with Bryn and Katie.

I wondered if Quinn will get his own book. I really liked him, and thought that he was a great friend for Zee!

It reminded me of . . .

I couldn’t help but think that this novella had strains of Beauty and the Beast in it.

I also, of course, thought of His Virgin Mate. I enjoyed Lexi and the other girls and their appearance in it. I’m not crazy about the whole “sacred order” of the three virginities, but the fun girl friendship more than makes up for that.

Yellow Wife

yellow wifePheby is a mulatto–the daughter of a slave and a rich plantation owner. She’s a slave on the same plantation, but her father has promised her freedom on her eighteenth birthday.

Unfortunately, things happen and Pheby never receives the freedom that was promised to her.

Instead, she ends up a slave at a slave jail in Richmond, Virginia. This place, called the Devil’s Half-Acre, is a place where Pheby will have to struggle with both her master’s kindness and his cruelty.

I noticed . . .

I noticed that there are no good choices for Pheby. Everything is a choice of the lesser of two evils where she has to decide what is going to bother her conscience the least.

I noticed that every time we think Pheby’s getting ahead, she’s jerked down again.

I also noticed that this story, although not true, is based on a strong, solid dose of historical research.

I wondered . . .

I wondered about the actual historical events. I wondered what accounts the author had read as well. She does list a few books in the author’s note, but the list is a little intense, so I haven’t spent much time with it.

I also wondered about Pheby’s life, and what it was like after the events in the book.

It reminded me of . . .

I was reminded of the book Uncle Tom’s Cabin. It’s been over twenty years since I read it though, so the details are a little fuzzy.

I was also reminded of the movie Harriet and a book about Harriet Tubman that I read the my kids. Pheby never escapes, but there are a lot of escapes and escape plans in the book, and so I thought of that movie.

Classic Myths to Read Aloud

This book of Greek and Roman myths is split into two sections. The first half of the book goes through classic myths to read aloudvarious popular myths like Jason and Golden Fleece and Orpheus and Eurydice. The second half of the book takes children through the longer stories of The Iliad, The Odyssey, and The Aeneid.

The stories are meant to be read-aloud. Storytellers are given notes about each story and a pronunciation guide. At the end of each 10-20 minute reading section, the author has an “a few words more” segment that explains how words from the story are related to words in modern English.

I noticed . . .

I noticed that this book is ideal for reading aloud.

I noticed that “A Few Words More” is a great vocabulary builder, especially for children who are studying Greek or Latin.

I also noticed that these stories are not for small children. It’s definitely more of a middle-elementary school age thing (or older). I read this with my nine-year-old, and I wouldn’t have used it with a younger child than that.

I wondered . . .

I wondered how the author decided which myths to cover. I also wondered why there wasn’t another book in this series. I wished we could have continued with some of the other myths. He has a couple of classic story read-alouds, and I might try one of those with my daughter soon.

It reminded me of . . .

I was reminded of another mythology collection that I read recently, Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology. I listened to the audio read by the author, and it was just perfection. I also think it would be fine to listen to with children.

I was also reminded of two novels of Greek mythology that I have read in the past couple of years, Song of Achilles and Circe. Both are good, even though Circe is the better book. These are both very adult retellings, so don’t listen to them with the children around!

The Removed

the removedIt has been fifteen years since Ray-Ray Echota was killed in a police shooting. The Echotas are not doing okay. Grief over Ray-Ray has colored each remaining family member’s existence.

Maria is still journaling through her emotions while taking care of her husband, Ernest, as he slips into Alzheimers.

Sonja spends her time in solitude, establishing relationships with younger, unsavory men.

Edgar is a meth addict, spiraling downhill as he has troubles with his live-in girlfriend, Desiree.

I noticed . . .

I noticed that Hobson has strongly wove in Cherokee mythology in the story.

I also noticed that this book has a loose, ambiguous ending.

I noticed how much sunshine Maria and Ernest’s foster child brought into their life.

I wondered . . .

I wondered if Ernest would continue to improve or immediately reverse back into his Alzheimers.

I wondered about the mysterious Tsala. I never really successfully integrated that into my understanding of the story.

I wondered about the ongoing symbolism in the book.

It reminded me of . . .

For some reason, the dreamlike quality of this book reminded me Mexican Gothic.

Two excellent quotes . . .

This quote on death is the perfect attitude in my mind:

An elder had once taught not to be afraid of death because there is no death–there is only a change of worlds.

I also thought of the Native American religions and how connected to the Earth these religions are. I loved the optimism in this quote about connection to the Earth:

Beloved, the Earth will always speak to us when we need to hear her the most.

Both these beautiful quotes are enriching and helpful in teaching us how to live.

His Virgin Mate

Alexis Lopez is twenty-one and single. She’s a virgin and has never done anything more than kissing. Even his virgin matethe kissing has never actually turned her on.

Lexi is worried that she is a freak or something is wrong with her. She decides to sign up for the Interstellar Brides Program to be matched to a mate. The dreams that she has while undergoing the matching protocol are the first time that she has felt desire, and when Lexi actually meets her mate, she feels set on fire . . .

I noticed . . . 

I noticed that this is a planet we haven’t actually been to before. However, we were introduced to Everis in The Alien’s Mate, a book that I read at the beginning of January.

I noticed that women are definitely very highly regarded on this planet. 

I also noticed there is so much emphasis on the “sacred order” of the three virginities in this book. I thought, seriously?

I wondered . . .

I wondered what was going on with Lexi’s friend, Katie. I look forward to reading Katie and Dani’s books.

I also noticed how there were so many unattached men and so few women on this planet. What happened to all the women? I would think there’s be way more women than men because I would think some of the men would have died in the Hive wars.

It reminded me of . . .

I was reminded of The Bachelorette because there were so many men competing for the same dozen or so women.

I was also reminded of Ties that Tether because the main character in this book has a very persistent and unwanted suitor. Lexi has a super persistent suitor that she’s trying to extricate herself from.

The Women of Brewster Place

the women of brewster placeI’ve been doing some buddy reads lately. They seem to be a good way to break out of a reading rut and read new authors. We’ve been reading mostly short story collections, and those are fun to read and then talk about together in way that I never expected because I’ve never been a short story reader.

This book is an interconnected set of short stories, following the lives of seven women living in the Brewster Place tenement during the 1970s.

These women are:

  • Mattie Michael–A broken-hearted middle-aged woman, finding herself reading middle age with nothing left and all her dreams dead.
  • Etta Mae–A women who came to live on Brewster Place after a string of relationships gone wrong.
  • Kiswana Browne–A college-aged woman wedding to the fight for racial justice.
  • Luciella–A woman suffering through the death of a child . . .and really so much more
  • Cora Lee–A woman who loves babies but struggles to actually be a mother.
  • Theresa & Lorainne–A lesbian couple hoping that Brewster place will be a more tolerant place than the other places that they have lived

I noticed . . .

I noticed that these women are all connected through living at the same place.

I noticed that, even when it seemed the “cycle”was broken, it never really was.

I noticed how nice it was to see a series of short stories connect. It was really pleasant. In fact, I have the companion book on The Men of Brewster Place sitting in my Amazon cart right now.

I wondered . . .

I wondered is those who leave really will escape their cycle of hopelessness

I also wondered about several characters and plot points that were left open that I wanted to know, including Basil, Lorraine, and the hopeless young men who hang on the street corner.

It reminded me of . . .

I thought of several books as I read this book, and the most prominent one in my head was An American Marriage. I think Jones does a great job of capturing the hopelessness of a couple in a bad position. This book captures a lot of hopelessness and people in bad positions.

I also thought about Such a Fun Age, where a lot of white people had savior complexes. We need a solution for places of hopelessness such as Brewster Place, but a white savior is not the solution.

How to Fight Racism

Many of us are frustrated and disgusted by the racism we see all around us. However, we don’t know how tohow to fight racism turn our sorrow over racism into solidarity in the advancement of Black and other people of color.

Here is where Tisby’s book comes in. He takes a simple model for racial justice–the arc of racial justice–and uses it to explore awareness of, relationships in, and commitments to social justice. As he explores each area, he gives practical solutions that people can commit to for orienting their lives toward social justice.

I noticed . . .

I noticed how practical many of these solutions were. For example, in the chapter on making friends, he suggests that, rather than doing a church softball league, those looking to further racial justice should join a county rec league. He suggests that people attend public events, such as those at the library to interact with more people in your community. Small life changes can reap great rewards.

I wondered . . .

I wondered how many people were really going to read this book and take it to heart. I find the current reactions of the church to be discouraging.

I was reminded of . . .

I was reminded of Rediscipling the White Church, which is possibly the most helpful book I’ve read for Christians who are attempting to change their racial biases.

I was also reminded of Leading Cross-Culturally, a book written to help Christians who are considering mission work in environments that are not their own.

Surrender to the Cyborgs

surrender to the cyborgsRachel Pierce is a microbiologist for a pharmaceutical company and a whistleblower. Somehow, her whistleblowing has ended up with her convicted of the very crime that she was trying to inform on. She’s just waiting on her appeal to come up, hoping to find herself vindicated.

Rachel’s lawyer convinces her to sign up for bride matching through the Interstellar Brides Program. She finds that she is matched to two Prillon warriors and veterans of the Hive wars. These soldiers are considered damaged by the implants that the Hive implanted within them and are exiled to live on the Colony, a planet far from their home planet.

Rachel decides to refuse her match and place her faith in the US judicial system. Warden Egara gets involved and encourages Rachel’s mate Maxim and his second, Ryston, to break Rachel out of prison.

I noticed . . .

 I noticed that this was another story where more of the story takes place on Earth, and we get to see more of Warden Egara. She’s delightful. I hope that I get to read more about her in some of the other books.

I also noticed that wrongful accusations seem to abound in this series. I really hope that real life police and courts are doing better than the courts in this fictional Earth. Also, I’d like to see a real criminal on earth matched and reformed.

I noticed that Rachel’s scientific abilities make her the perfect person to figure out the Colony’s medical mystery. I enjoyed that she got to use a real talent. That hasn’t really happened in a few books.

I wondered . . .

I wondered if the series will ever feature a second chance for an actual criminal.

I also wondered if mates on the Colony will become more mainstream.

It reminded me of . . .

This book had a lot of similarities with Taken By Her Mates. It even features Jessica and Nial as minor characters, and I love seeing characters who had already been matched.

I was also reminded  of Reliquary because drugs are altering peoples’ physiology in both books. This book is much happier than Reliquary though, and I like that.