Book Love: From Sand and Ash by Amy Harmon

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“My father told me once that we are on earth to learn. God wants us to receive everything that life was meant to teach. Then we take what we’ve learned, and it becomes our offering to God and to mankind. But we have to live in order to learn. And sometimes we have to fight in order to live.”

On Christmas Eve my mother handed me my gift and inside the christmas wrapping lay From Sand and Ash by Amy Harmon. I immediately hugged my mom, she’s the one I inherited my love for reading from, and thanked her. I had been wanting to read this novel by Amy Harmon for a long time and finally From Sand and Ash found its way to me.

Now, I do want to say that this post is going to get a little personal. If you don’t want to read this long post then let me give this short review: I loved this. I absolutely loved this and there are two words I want to say to Amy Harmon that I don’t think capture the gratitude and depth of emotion I feel after finishing this story: thank you. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for writing this. From Sand and Ash is beautiful, its tragic, its bitter, brutal and yet it is filled with incredible hope. I whole-heartedly recommend this story to everyone. I feel like saying “this is a 5 star read” is so trivial compared to what this book represents but for the sake of a short mini review, this is a 5 star read. The writing is amazing, the story breathtaking, and the characters are so vividly real that it will break your heart.

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I’m a deeply faithful person. It’s just who I am. I have never, not once in my life, doubted that God exists. I know He is real. He has shown me His love through the people He has blessed me with. He gave me a beautiful mother, a strong father, a wonderful family, and loving friends. Even when the world is angry, broken, and sad I have always felt His presence. I know He is there. Watching. Loving. Healing.

My faith is who I am. I can’t imagine what it would be like if someone tried to take that away from me. If I was tortured for it. Killed for it. Ridiculed for it. Persecuted for it. Unfortunately, even though I can’t imagine what that would be like, there are many who lived it. Many who still live it today. Amy Harmon wrote a story about a few of those who lived through such intimate persecution.

“I never really thought about being Jewish until I started to be persecuted for it.”

From Sand and Ash is the story of Angelo and Eva, a Catholic priest and Jewish girl trying to survive the horror of WWII while remaining steadfast in their belief of God. The story starts out with showing us a beautiful blended family. Their beautiful life in Italy and the slow, insidious way that life was hatefully ripped from them.

Eva was like me. She could not imagine a world where someone would try to take her faith from her. She heard rumors, heard the news being passed from mouth to nervous ears of what was happening in Germany but she never thought it could happen to her. In her country. In her home. Yet, laws were passed. Little by little Jews had their dignity stripped from them. And then it came. The rumors became real life monsters dressed in Nazi clothing.

“The longer he remained on this earth, the more sure he was that mankind had no clue about God or heaven. Not when they used him as an excuse to kill, to punish, to discriminate.”

This above quote really hit me straight in the heart. My faith teaches me to be kind, tender, loving, and vulnerable. I will never understand how someone can make God into a weapon. His love into a killing machine. Yet, that’s what happened during WWII. Hitler turned faith into a target. Into a sniper. Into gas chambers. Faith was manipulated to achieve evil.

What makes this book even more devastating is hindsight. We all know what happened in WWII. We know the work camps were death camps. However, for Eva and her family, they didn’t know. They just knew rumors. Therefore when someone was taken, we as the reader know what that means. Yet, Eva and her people didn’t know. They wanted to believe that the camps were just temporary. That they would be worked until exhaustion until the war was over. But we know that those camps were not temporary, nor were they meant to be.

“Three years and no word whether he lived or died. The only word they’d learned was Auschwitz. It sounded like a sneeze. Harmless. But when it was whispered among the fearful it became something else, the Grim Reaper come to call, the Black Plague. There were only rumors, but the rumors were enough to make some Jews flee with nothing but the clothes on their backs, looking for a hiding place.”

Amy Harmon didn’t hold back while writing this. I’ll be honest, sometimes this book was extremely difficult to read. There were moments that absolutely gutted me and disturbed me. Yet, there’s this single thread of hope, of light, that runs through the story that was utterly beautiful. I believe it takes great talent for a writer to be able to illustrate many emotions but especially hope during such tragic events.

There’s this quote that circulates the internet when tragedy strikes on earth. A quote about looking for the helpers. When there’s tragedy, when there are people dying and hurting, always look for the helpers because they’re always there.

From Sand and Ash shines a light on the helpers. On the countless Jewish people who held strong and resilient in the face of evil. On the Catholic nuns and priests who stepped up and sheltered those who faced detainment and deportation to concentration camps.  On those that did what they could to ensure that lives would be saved…even if it was just one life.

“Our immortality comes through our children and their children. Through our roots and our branches. The family is immortality. And Hitler has destroyed not just branches and roots, but entire family trees, forests! All of them, gone…”

“You have saved and preserved so many branches, Angelo,” he said in a choked whisper.

Angelo Bianco was one of the helpers. He was a priest who hid as many Jewish people as he could. We meet Angelo when he’s young and first moves to Italy. He finds a home with Eva and her family and later he becomes the man who Eva loves.

“I danced around him for years, trying to get his attention, wanting only to see him smile.”

Angelo had to grow up without his parents. Not having a solid foundation can build a shaky man, but that did not happen to Angelo. He allowed himself to be loved and cared for by Eva and her family, and especially by God.

Angelo has to be one of my favorite characters ever written. There was so much about him that I resonated deeply with. Reading about him, the way he found his path to God, it reminded me of myself. See, I love to read because I believe the books that speak the most to us are the ones that have pieces of ourselves reflected in them. The same with music, we find artists who speak to us through their lyrics. Who sing about things we can relate too. Angelo understood that about art and one day he happened to stumble upon a piece of art that resonated so deeply within him it altered the course of his life.

He’d been thirteen when Saint George had spoken to him. Not audibly. Angelo wasn’t a fool or a seer. But Saint George had spoken to him, all the same.

…gazing up at the statue as Saint George stared off into an ancient distance with an innocence that belied his armor and a fearlessness that contradicted the concerned slant of his brows. His eyes were wide and clear, his back was straight, and he faced the approaching threat with steadiness, though he barely looked old enough to wield a sword.

“Help me, San Giorgio,” he said aloud, hoping the heavens were listening. “Help me to face what is to come.”

Art inspires us. It can motivate us. It can heal us. And it can remind us. Which is why I’m so thankful that Amy Harmon wrote this story. Angelo and Eva may be fictional, but the trauma they faced was not.

It is important to remember the events that led to the Holocaust, it is important to remember the Holocaust itself, and it is important to listen to the stories that are still being told today about the Holocaust. History is there so we can learn from it.

“Camillo always said we are on earth to learn. I think I want to teach. I want to teach history so that the world doesn’t have to repeat her mistakes.”

There are so many things that I want to talk about. So many aspects of life that Amy Harmon wrote about: the loss of innocence, the impact of art, faith, losing faith and gaining it back even stronger, family, fear, loss, death, birth. Love.

The love story between Angelo and Eva was beautiful. Tender. Gentle. Heartbreaking.

She knew every verse , but it was one line that made Angelo’s throat close and his eyes smart. Ah, how much it costs you, your loving me. Ah, how much it costs you, your loving me.”

How could something so gentle cause him to crumble?

With the same knowledge that God exists, quietly as that may be, both Angelo and Eva knew without a doubt the love they had for each other. My heart was slowly breaking with every interaction knowing that the moments of light they created were always threatened to be eclipsed by the hate surrounding them. However, their love was the spark of light that kept them going. Kept them breathing. Kept them fighting. They never thought about dying for each other, but they always thought about living for each other and that is the truest form of love.

If you’ve read this entire essay, thank you. This was basically just me purging the emotions I feel after reading this novel. It’s heavy and I will probably be feeling this story for days to come.

“We can cause pain, but we can so seldom cure it.”

Honestly, I thought about putting this novel down and thought about reading something happier to start my new year with but I knew that was impossible. Once you start reading this, you won’t be able to stop. And I’m glad this was the book that called to me for the start of the new year. 2017 was hard for many people for various reasons. But going into 2018 I want to show more kindness. Be more steadfast in my faith for God. Read more books like this one.

I want to end this post with a quote from Amy Harmon from her Author’s note that spoke a truth I believe in:

Like Angelo, I believe that God is quiet. But he is not blind or impartial in the affairs of man. I don’t know his mysteries, and like Eva, I’m not convinced anyone does. But I am grateful to know him to the extent that I do, to feel his love and influence in my life, and to walk quietly with him as best I can.

Amazon link: From Sand and Ash by Amy Harmon

 

 

 

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Jonghyun: Rest in Peace Beautiful Soul

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I debated writing a post about this and ultimately decided to just write. With the news breaking of the passing of Jonghyun this morning I’ve been in a sort of fog. And when things are confusing I process by writing. And this blog was created as an outlet to discuss things I love and sadly, today, one of the things I loved broke. And personally, I think its important to write about why the passing of one of my favorite artists hurt so much. Tv shows, films, books, authors, musicians, painters – they all have a way of affecting us and I started this blog to analyze why that is. Why do certain books speak to us? Why is art so heavy? Why, when our favorite artists break, do we sometimes break too?

I first started listening to Kpop when I was a freshman in high school. One of the first groups I listened to was SHINee. Their dances were the first thing I noticed. This group created amazing music but their dances were incredible, I had seen nothing like it before. It was creativity at its finest. SHINee excelled in their ability to make art out of every aspect of their music from the beats, the lyrics, the dance choreography, their fashion, and their music videos. These were some hardworking talented artists at their best. I had no idea what they were singing but the music was good so I always jammed to them and thus the Kpop fan in me was born.

I remember plugging in my Ipod to the car radio and making my mom listen to SHINee in the car. And the best thing happened, my mom ended up liking their music as well. For the first time, my mom and I bonded over music. I had always been private about my love for Kpop and it was through SHINee that I allowed my mom into a piece of my world.

Music bonds us. It heals us. It allows us to escape, which is why it is utterly heartbreaking knowing that one of my favorite artist growing up could not escape from his own demons. The past year we have lost amazing artists and some, like Jonghyun, we have lost to mental health. At 27 years old the artist who brought me great joy during some hard times, lost his battle with depression.

I saw the news this morning and started to tear up. Why is that? I never met him. Don’t know him. And yet the same thing happened when Chester Bennington lost his battle with depression earlier in the year. Utter sadness and heartbreak for people I never personally knew.

Maybe it’s because art always affects us. Artists share their vulnerability with us. They create a safe place for us to connect with others who are experiencing hardship and despair. And through their vulnerability, through the art they create, we heal. Which is why when our favorite artists lose, we lose as well. It hurts when someone loses their battle with mental health because many of us have been there. We know that pain. Even if you don’t struggle with mental health, we all know what pain feels like. With the passing of Jonghyun, and Chester Bennington, it was like witnessing a hero completely shatter. It was like watching a star lose its light.

Even though it may feel that way, that is absolutely not true. Jonghyun was outspoken about his battle with depression. He spoke out against the stigma behind mental health and he fought with every ounce of his being against the dark shadow of depression. He created music for those suffering from mental health, through the lyrics he wrote he comforted them, reassured them, and restored them. He was a shining star on stage and he is now a shining star in the sky.

Artists are incredibly brave. They share parts of themselves with strangers across the world. They share their fears, their battles, and their weaknesses and by doing so, they allow us to find comfort in knowing that we all go through hardships. We all have our own fears, battles, and weaknesses. There is a certain strength that comes with knowing we aren’t alone.

Art provides us with a space to come to terms with where we are in life. Especially music. Music allows us to dance with happiness when we are at our best but it also gives us a moment to process when times are difficult. Happy songs, dance songs, sad songs, all the music in the world has the power to heal us.

I urge each and every one of you who may be suffering from mental health to seek assistance. You are not alone. You will never be alone. There are days when you feel like there is no peace but I promise you, if you keep breathing, if you keep going, peace will find you. And for each day you fight, I am proud of you. You’re doing good. Keep going.

I will end this post with a song Jonghyun wrote. Breathe by Lee Hi written by Jonghyun.

 

It’s alright if you run out of breath
No one will blame you
It’s okay to make mistakes sometimes
Because anyone can do so
Although comforting by saying it’s alright
Are just words

Someone’s breath. That heavy breath
How can I see through that?
Though I can’t understand your breath
It’s alright I’ll hold you

Even if others think your sigh
Takes out energy and strength
I already know
That you had a day that’s hard enough
To let out even a small sigh
Now don’t think of anything else
Let out a deep sigh
Just let it out like that

Someone’s breath. That heavy breath
How can I see through that?
Though I can’t understand your breath
It’s alright I’ll hold you
You really did a good job

Rest in peace Jonghyun. I’m a believer and I truly pray you’re now in God’s arms free of hurt. Free of pain. You live on through your music and the joy your music brings.

Book Love: Kulti by Mariana Zapata

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“What was the turning point when I decided to follow this dream of turf, two goals, and a single, checkered white and black ball? That moment. The goal changed everything. It was the moment I decided I wanted to be like that guy – the hero.”

This was an extremely good weekend. Yesterday I went to go see Coco at the theaters and on Friday I read Kulti by Mariana Zapata. Both of these mediums offered me a chance to see myself represented in the things I love: film and books.

I’ve been frusterated with the lack of diversity, especially in publishing. I have never read a book where the heroine shares the same culture as I do…until I read Kulti. It was emotional seeing my language and culture represented in a novel that I ABSOLUTELY loved. I could finally 100% relate to the heroine on every level. When her parents, or the neighborhood kids, spoke spanish I had this huge beaming smile on my face. When Sal talked about her close-knit family, their problems and issues, I was reminded of my own family.

Dad kept laughing. “Yeah, I want to hear about it,” he said before pausing. “Pero Salomé, acuérdate de lo que te he dicho. Kill them with kindness, si?”

Or in the case of having your name mispronounced all the time and worse, when people continue to mispronounce your name.

I was used to having someone butcher it. It happened all the time. Suh-lome. Saah-lome. Sah-lowmee. Salami. Salamander. Salmon. Sal-men. Saul. Sally. Samantha. Regardless, when someone continuously messes up your name even after you correct them…it’s a sign.

Of course, I can always relate to a character besides culture. It’s mainly about who that character is, is she smart? Kind? Funny? But I’ll be honest, it’s just a completely new level when I can share my culture with the character too. For the time I was reading this, I was Sal. Her family was almost a replica of my own. The langauge switch from spanish to english were like the conversations I have with my family and friends. I could picture those nights when I was younger, playing soccer with the local neighborhood kids, speaking spanish while having the time of our lives. This story was like home for me, it was so real.

“Amiga! Es Kulti?”

“Si es,” I admitted. “Pero no le digen a nadie.” The group erupted.

The next thing I knew they were on their feet, hands on their heads, losing their minds. The guys went up to the German, speaking quick Spanish and watching him like they had never seen anything like him before.

It wasn’t until I heard the first one who had spoken, say, “No me digas!” that I heard Kulti reply in perfect Spanish, explaining that he was real and not a ghost, “No soy fantasma.”

The guys lost it again. “You speak spanish!” one of them exclaimed in the same language.

And the soccer? It was all so incredibly authentic. I’ve been playing soccer since I could walk. Soccer is huge in my family, it’s a right of passage for us to wear a soccer jersey at least once in our lives. I played select with three different clubs and also had dreams of going professional (until two acl tears in the same knee took me out). So Sal’s love for soccer and her family’s love of soccer was all so real. (I’m going to be using the word ‘real’ a lot because this book was so true to life that I am in awe of the author and her incredible writing). Every aspect of soccer she got perfectly, the hard work, dedication, competitiveness with your own team, the aggression. That’s what I loved about soccer when I played. Nothing was guaranteed, you had to compete for a spot on the field against your teammates. Which is why I sympathized with Sal when she was torn between being a sole player versus trying to be the best teammate she could be. Soccer is hard, it *is* a team sport but you also have people vying for your spot on the field. Zapata captures all of this so perfectly, it was like I was transported back to my time as a soccer player.

And I loved her description of the games. The thrill of playing in a game, fighting your opponent for the ball. I loved it.

The ball was right by my feet after I’d taken it away from one of the defenders I was playing against. Said defender was now on the ground. I held my hand out to the girl and helped pull her to her feet. She knew there were no hard feelings. She’d gone for the ball at the same time I had, and obviously only one of us was going to get it. Needless to say, we both really wanted it.

At one point, I had been the one knocked to the ground, I mouthed to Jenny ‘There can be only one.’

I really got to become Sal while reading this. Zapata’s writing just captures you and doesn’t let you go until the last word on the last page. Every obstacle Sal conquered I was legitimately happy for her and every upset she faced I was genuinely heartbroken for her because Zapata wrote this story in a way that everything that happens, every detail, we as the reader get to witness it. We know how hard Sal has worked for what she has, we know she is innately a good person so when others knocked her down it was genuinely frustrating. Which is why, when shit really hit the fan, I’m so happy that it was Kulti who had her back.

Reiner freaking Kulti. The badass soccer player from Germany who seemingly has no feelings. I absolutely positively loved Kulti. Why? Because he doesn’t care about things that don’t matter. He doesn’t give you the time of day if you’re not someone he cares about. It may seem mean, but it’s real. You can’t say he’s not authentic. But here’s the thing, if he does care about you, he’s all in. Winning? He gives it his all. Sal? He gives her everything. I’m one of the believers who believe that love can help you grow, and that’s what Kulti did with Sal. He taught her to stop putting the weight of what others think on her shoulders. He showed her how to take control of her talent, ignore the people who were out to hurt her, and make her dreams come true. Sal stumbled sometimes but he made sure she never fell. He was always there for her. At first from a distance, and then as a friend, and then…well you get the gist.

“Fight me for this. Fight anyone that tries to take this away from you,” he urged.

And that is what really made this love story so beautiful. Kulti never wavered, despite whatever was thrown their way, he never wavered from Sal. He was secure in himself, in Sal, and in his feelings for her. Sal was incredibly strong but even the strongest need someone to lean on, to hurt and be vulnerable with, and Kulti was her strength when she needed it. And it was equal. Kulti was infamous for not being bothered by things yet with Sal, he could trust her. He could confide in her and lean on her when he needed to. I loved that they had seen each other at their most vulnerable yet they still thought the other was the strongest person they had ever met. Kulti’s faith in Sal was beautiful and Sal’s support of Kulti incredible.

“You’re you, and I will go to my grave before I let anyone change any part of you. I know that without a doubt in my mind.”

Every detail in this story mattered. Every nickname, every glance, every conversation. As the reader, we know that something is happening. When Kulti would say things that Sal would miss, the glances she couldn’t see…it was all there. The man was gone for her and part of the fun was waiting for Sal to realize it. And I would laugh at the parts when Kulti was being so obvious and Sal still missed it, I could feel Kulti’s exasperation. She was stubborn in her attempt to shield herself from him.

“I missed the horrified look on Kulti’s face before he came inside and shut the door behind him. I didn’t see him drop to his knees or put his hands on my own, lowering his head so that his forehead pressed to mine.

“Schneke,” he said in the softest, most affectionate tone I’d ever heard. “What is it?”

Kulti will always have a special place in my heart for so many reasons, but especially for the incredible love story. Mariana Zapata is now an auto-buy author for me. Her writing is incredibly beautiful. The pace is perfect. I never once wanted to put this book down, so much was happening and I didn’t want to miss one single moment. I stayed up two nights in a row until 4am to keep reading. Being a zombie the next day was worth it.

Now onto my next read: Wait for It. I’m going to *try* to savor it and read slow but I’m probably going to read through Zapata’s books in record time.

If you read this long ramble thanks! I’m off to read!

Oh yeah, 10 million stars for Kulti! This broke the 1-5 scale. Can’t wait to dig into her other works!

Amazon link: Kulti by Mariana Zapata

 

Book Love: In The Country We Love – My Family Divided by Diane Guerrero

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“I’d been left on my own. Literally. When the authorities made the choice to detain my parents, no one bothered to check that a young girl, a minor, a citizen of this country, would be left without a family. Without a home. Without a way to move forward.”

In The Country We Love – My Family Divided, Diane Guerrero shares the story of the pain and suffering she endured before, during, and after the deportation of her undocumentated parents.

She starts off her biography by sharing the tragic backstory of her parents and why they left Columbia for the United States. They came to the U.S. seeking a better life for their family, a safer life, a more fullfilling life where dreams could be made into reality. Once they arrived in the United States her parents had to endure what most undocumented immigrants endure, which is to take whatever jobs gets thrown their way. They took jobs that most people would turn their noses up at. Under the table, low wage jobs. Her parents, like most undocumented immigrants, were subjected to harsh treatment by their employers, worked in terrible working conditions, sometimes were never paid for their endless hard work, and if they were paid it was well below the minimum wage. Undocumented immigrants are vulnerable and often get taken advantage of due to there legal status.

Diane talks about how having her voice silenced at such a young age had a surmount negative affect on the life she started to carve for herself. When she was little, her parents constantly told her to never draw attention to herself, be average, do not do anything that would cause ICE to come looking for her family.

“Go ahead and call the cops,” she whispered, her voice raspy from the yelling. She paused. “Then they can come and send us all back to Colombia.”

However, the day finally came when her parents were arrested, detained, and deported. Diane was fourteen when she suddenly became an orphan overnight. ICE agents nor child protective services checked on the little girl that was left behind. Diane had to rely on family friends for shelter, food, and safety. Until her college years, Diane had to go from house to house and not having a solid foundation devestated Diane. She began to drink heavily, self-harm, and soon depression took root.

“…it was a quiet moment between God and me. When I had to decide whether I would go on.”

Despite the tragic circumstances that Diane has been faced with, she has overcome each one. She has accomplished her dream of having a career in the arts. She is an actress currently starring in hit tv shows Orange Is The New Black and Jane the Virgin. She has walked the red carpet, won awards, met President Obama, and has created a solid foundation for herself.

“Dreams are what keep us alive.”

Diane says that by living in America’s shadow, she had to hide her dreams. She stuffed her dreams under a sofa cushion where they did not recieve the light necessary to grow. She never dared to dream of being under the spotlight, even though she craved a spot center stage, because to do so would bring the attention her parents always warned her about. Attention was the boogeyman.

To take away someone’s dream, is to take away their life source.

To the 800,000 Dreamers, I will always stand with you. Thank you for loving this country as much as I do. Si, se puede.

“For the thousands of nameless children who feel as forgotten as I did—this memoir is my gift to you. It’s as much for your healing as it is for my own.”

Amazon link: In the Country We Love by Diane Guerrero

 

The Books I am Most Thankful For

In honor of Thanksgiving I’ve decided to list the books in which I am most thankful for. Books that have impacted my life in beautiful and incredible ways.

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“It’s hard to come to terms with the fact that you aren’t going to be loved the way you want to be loved.”

Making Faces by Amy Harmon is a story that will forever stay with me. We all have insecurities and those insecurites have us questioning everything. For fern, one of the main characters in Making Faces, she asks God why he made her to be ugly. Slowly she realizes what beauty means to her. It doesn’t matter what other people think is beautiful, what matters is what you think is beautiful. What is beautiful for you? Is it kindness, love, or joy? Find your beauty, hang on to it, love it, live it, and you’ll find peace.

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“I hate to say it, but shit really does happen. You just have to get over it. Beat the hell out of it by doing things that make you happy.”

The Edge of Never by J.A. Redmerski absolutely slayed me. I read it in one sitting and when I flipped to the last page I had tears streaming down my face. Life is incredibly short so why do we spend most of it trying to convince other people that we’re worthy of their appreciation? Why do we spend most of it thinking of things we don’t have and things that make us sad? If you want to be happy you have to put yourself first. Do what makes you happy, live your truth and everything will fall into place.

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 “Are you all right, Major? Why are you crying?”

The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons, the story that has shattered hearts everywhere. Set in WWII, a young girl falls in love with a soldier and everytime you flip the page there’s a sense of dread. The moments they steal together are the only light encased in the darkness of a brutal and violent war. How can something so beautiful survive the hate of war? This book will leave you with a broken heart but you will come out of it appreciating every single thing you have. Hug your loved ones close, say a prayer of thank you, and love them with your whole heart.

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“It’s real, Six. You can’t get mad at a real ending. Some of them are ugly. It’s the fake happily ever afters that should piss you off.”

Hopeless by Colleen Hoover had the biggest plot twist I have ever read and it ripped me to shreds. This book tackles some extremely heavy topics that are difficult to cope with. Sometimes we feel so hopless, like the world is against us, and guess what? Sometimes it might be. But that’s life, the hurt and pain is what makes it real, makes us real. Which is why when life is knocking you down you have to get up. Even though you may be hopeless right now, you won’t always be. That’s the thing about hope, sometimes she’s hard to find but you have to fight, you have to look for her and when you find her, hold on to her.

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“I wasn’t able to be around forever, but I hope that my words can be. Thank you both for giving me the best years of my life.”

Death is such a weird thing. It signifies the ending of life but death itself symbolizes life. When a loved one passes, we think of the memories they left behind, the life they left behind. Slammed by Colleen Hoover is a beautiful story about a girl who falls in love with a boy she shouldn’t. Slammed is about a girl who’s life gets struck by tragedy and how she copes with the aftermath. When a loved one is about to die we need to hold them closer, not hide from the fear of losing them. Family, love, and preserverence are the most important things in life. When life gets hard lean on your family, believe in love, and preservere.

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“You can’t turn love on and off like a light switch, no matter how hard you try. All you can do is wall it off, one brick at a time, until you’ve created an impenetrable fortress around your emotions. And once that fortress is built, you camouflage it so well that even you can’t see it anymore.”

The Sweet Gum Tree by Katherine Allred is about how love hurts. It’s not all rainbows and butterflies. Someone can love you with their whole heart but we are all human and humans have a tendancy to hurt. We make mistakes and sometimes those mistakes costs us the things we cherish the most. We close ourselves off when we’re scared, when we don’t want to be hurt but by closing off ourselves we block everything: even happiness. The Sweet Gum Tree perfectly shows a love that was stifled by mistakes but ultimately, love is about forgivness and truth.

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“I’m just saying maybe we’re all a little fucked up, and the only difference is the world knows Owen’s story, because it happened out in the open. The rest of us…we all just keep our shit private.”

Wild Reckless by Ginger Scott is the story of Owen and Kens. Kens witnesses her parent’s marriage disolve into a pile of hate while Owen is slowly learning how to deal with the aftermath of his father’s suicide. We all have issues we are dealing with and we all have our ways of dealing with those issues. Some of us defeat our pain by smiling through it and others defeat their pain by dwelling in it just for a moment. Life is difficult, so we shouldn’t judge others when they are experiencing difficult times.

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“Ugly doesn’t have a color. It lives among selfishness and hate.”

The Hard Count by Ginger Scott is the hopeful read that we all need in todays world. Racism is evil manifested and social class elitism is just as evil. It doesn’t matter how much money you have or what the color of your skin is, we were all created by the same God with the same level of love and affection. The blood he gave us runs through all of our veins. Love is the gift he gave us and we should cherish it with every ounce of our being and when confronted with hate, we need to lean into love harder.

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And these are some of the books that I am most thankful for! They’ve all taught me valuable lessons and I truly hope whoever reads this blog post will pick one of these books up.

I’m about to start reading again and I can’t wait to start delving into new books and discover new worlds and characters that will impact me just as these listed above did.