Book Review: Beauty From Ashes by Lisa R. Howeler

Summary:

After becoming pregnant by her abusive ex-boyfriend, 27-year-old Liz Cranmer feels trapped in a prison of shame. Now a single mother she feels like the whole town, especially her church-going parents, view her as a trashy woman with no morals. That’s not how she used to think of herself but — could they all be right? And if they think that, then what does God think of her?

Ginny Jefferies, 53, has hit a few snags of her own in life. Her husband, Stan, barely acknowledges her, her job as the town’s library director has become mundane and stagnant, and her youngest daughter is having some kind of identity crisis. Pile on the return of a former boyfriend and you have the makings of a near-midlife crisis.

Can two women figure out their chaotic, confusing lives together? And how will the men in their lives fit in their journey?

Shorter description: Two women from two different generations form an unlikely friendship to work through their life challenges together.

My Thoughts:

Beauty From Ashes is the third book in the Spencer Valley Chronicles, and I was very much anticipating it as I loved The Farmer’s Daughter and Harvesting Hope, the first two. And I loved it!

First, let me say I completely loved the relationship between Liz and Ginny. I have friends of all different generations, some older, some a decade younger than me (ugh that hurts to say though lol) and I don’t think friendship needs to be defined by whether someone is of your generation or not. I loved that they so easily became friends, helped each other through some tough moments, and had a genuine, real relationship.

That is one of my favorite things about Lisa’s writing – she has a talent for writing stories that just feel so real, conversations that could be a conversation you have with a friend or neighbor. These relationships, characters, situations, conversations don’t sound fake or weird, like they do in some books I have read. These are people who could be your neighbors, in your community, the policeman that is always friendly, the librarian who doesn’t skip a beat when asked by a child for a book about boogers, and having worked in an elementary school library, I can attest that these sort of questions do come up! And while these characters and situations are very real feeling, there is humor and levity (like the booger scene) as well.

Liz and Ginny are at two very different points in their lives – Liz is just starting her parenting journey, while Ginny’s children are all grown. But both are unsettled, at odds with where they are. Liz feels like she is no good, not a good daughter, mom, or even person. Ginny is wondering what is going on with her marriage, is lonely, and sort of in a rut. The two know each other, as they have relatives married to each other (Liz’s sister and Ginny’s son) so they were not complete strangers but they had never really hung out or talked much beyond that. Their friendship begins one afternoon in the library, when Liz as an exhausted new mother, nods off while reading. Ginny offers to help watch Liz’s new baby, Bella, and from there the two just are off and running. Helping each other, but also having fun as well – like taking an art class together.

Now, the men in their lives…

Matt McGee is the town Golden Boy, the helpful policeman, the considerate gentleman, the good neighbor and friend. Someone who always makes the right choices and does the right thing, who can be counted on in any emergency – like delivering babies on the side of the road type of emergencies. And on top of all that, charming and well..hot. Like maybe you wouldn’t mind being pulled over by him for speeding hot. But Liz is feeling like the town screw-up, and less than, and certainly not feeling good enough for the likes of Matt McGee.

Ginny’s husband Stan is the love of her life, but lately he has been wrapped up in anything but their marriage. She feels lonely and ignored, and there was one particular scene that broke my heart for poor Ginny. Things get a bit more complicated when her old boyfriend arrives back in town, looking quite fit and attractive and most of all, attentive.

Once I started reading this book, I could not put it down. There is so much more than I have mentioned, bad guys and bad situations, impulsive decisions, and of course, romance. I loved this trip back to Spencer Valley and I am looking forward to the next book in the series!

The Spencer Valley Chronicles are all available on Kindle until June 30th, and I highly recommend them all!

Morning Coffee Catch Up!

I hope that all of you had a wonderful weekend, and if you celebrate Mother’s Day, I hope it was a good one.

We’ve just been caught up in the everyday over here – work, school, family, etc. My mom hasn’t been well, she was laid low by a UTI, and then her antibiotics really took the wind out of her sails, so it has been a few days of balancing letting her rest but making sure she is eating and drinking water. And in case you didn’t know it, for our ladies 65 and older, confusion is a big symptom even before anything else of an issue. (Also, ten days of antibiotics are a must! We learned that the hard way as well)

I did manage to join my friends at our favorite nursery on Saturday morning! I didn’t buy too much for outside, but I did buy a cool bonsai for my mother in law for Mother’s Day, and lots of terrarium plants to jeuje up Freddy, Harry, and Luna’s tanks. I did get a laugh out of the names of those flowers – and I have to say the Wee Bit Grumpy side seems to be flourishing.

When I got home I learned my guys had enjoyed their time together as well, stumbling on an old-timey baseball game at the park.

Billy and I putzed about with the tanks while Wyatt played outside (we were outdoors as well) and I am pleased with how they are turning out!

Sunday I wanted a slow day, after so many days of being busy. We visited our moms briefly – my mom wasn’t feeling well and Billy’s dad just had surgery – and went to the park for ice cream. I loved just laying on the blanket in the warm sun, listening to the birds, surrounded by the little spring flowers that made it seem like fairyland. Billy and Wyatt bought me an Elephant Ear plant “Mojito”, and I apparently have two more gifts coming in the mail, although I am perfectly happy with my new plant. Then Billy made dinner, salmon and brussel sprouts, rice pilaf, and brown bread. It was fantastic!

It was a lovely weekend and then we hit the ground running Monday, back to the daily again.

Today is also book launch day for my friend Lisa at Boondock Ramblings! Beauty from Ashes is her third book in the Spencer Valley Chronicles and I can’t wait to read it, as I loved the first two! It is downloaded and waiting for quiet time this afternoon.

After becoming pregnant by her abusive ex-boyfriend, 27-year-old Liz Cranmer feels trapped in a prison of shame. Now a single mother she feels like the whole town, especially her church-going parents, view her as a trashy woman with no morals. That’s not how she used to think of herself but — could they all be right? And if they think that, then what does God think of her?
 
Ginny Jefferies, 53, has hit a few snags of her own in life. Her husband, Stan, barely acknowledges her, her job as the town’s library director has become mundane and stagnant, and her youngest daughter is having some kind of identity crisis. Pile on the return of a former boyfriend and you have the makings of a near-midlife crisis.

You can find it here for just .99 cents!

Or, you can read the whole series for under $5 right now!

What have you all been up to lately?

Book Review: The Farmer’s Daughter by Lisa Howeler

Goodreads Summary:

Facedown in manure.
The metaphor of where Molly Tanner was laying in relation to the path her life had taken in the last six years was not lost on her.
She had been sure that by now, eight years after graduating high school, she’d be out on her own. Instead, she was still living on her parents’ farm in rural Pennsylvania, still sleeping in her old room, her mother still cooking her meals and washing her clothes, and still, obviously, slogging through manure.
There is a lot about Molly’s life that is out of balance to her these days. While she’d always imagined herself involved with her family’s farm and country store, she now wonders what else life might have to offer. Maybe it’s time to leave the farm and see what else is out there. But can she leave her family’s four-generation farm when hard times threaten to shut it down?
And what about farmhand Alex Stone, her brother’s best friend. The tone of their banter in the barn during the morning and afternoon milk sessions was changing; exactly how Molly couldn’t explain, other than to say it was less juvenile and more — dare she say it? Flirtatious.

My Thoughts:

I was thoroughly captivated by this story. The main character Molly is so sweet and endearing and funny and tough all at the same time, and I really enjoyed reading her journey!

Howeler has a definite gift for writing, particularly dialogue and humor, but her imagery is also not to be overlooked. She self-describes herself as a writer of fluff on Instagram, and while this book did have it’s fluffy fun flirty moments, it dealt with some serious, real life moments as well, without taking things too far to the dark side. Farming is hard work, and in today’s world, even harder as farmers have to compete with factory farms and changing ideas on food and health. Dairy farmers in particular have been hit hard, and the suicide rate is alarmingly high for this demographic. How can small family farms compete or make money when the chips are stacked against them? It take a real love of the land and for what you do to keep at it, day after day, laboring intensely in longer than 8 hour days, that is for sure. Howeler touches on this struggle in a way that has you fired up to get out there and patronize all those small farmers to help them! (and in fact I did – I placed a meat order with a small farmer and also with our local dairy farm too)

That aside, the love story between Molly and Alex – phew! I may have needed to fan myself a few times while reading their interactions. As Christian fiction, this is a “clean” romance, but that doesn’t make the heat any less intense. I loved their moments together, their ease and familiarity, their friendship, their mutual respect for one another – all such important building blocks in a relationship. The fact that they liked the way each other looked was just icing on the cake.

The other characters in this book were just as compelling. I found myself wrapped up in Molly’s parent’s story, the story of Robert and Annie, wanting to know more! Am I hoping there is a book called The Farmer’s Wife in the works? Uh, yeah you bet I am! And Molly’s brother and his girl Ellie, they deserve a book – good thing there is one being written as I type this. I am willing to bet as well, that maybe just maybe, we will get a book about Molly’s bestie Liz too.

This book made me laugh out loud, worry, cheer – I ran through all the emotions while reading it. I fell in love with this little corner of the world and family and can’t wait to read more!

You can find Lisa Howeler’s blog here: https://lisahoweler.com/

Her instagram here: https://www.instagram.com/lisarhowelerwriter/