In our frantic, overwhelming, too busy world, what does a heart-centered life look like? For each of us it’s different, of course, because it’s dependIn our frantic, overwhelming, too busy world, what does a heart-centered life look like? For each of us it’s different, of course, because it’s dependent upon what’s in our hearts, whomever and whatever truly reside there. But it’s very likely – perhaps a guaranteed certainty – that the things we give importance to in our lives are not the same things living in the softest part of our heart. This is the journey inward that Shauna Niequist chronicles in her book, Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living. A collection of thought-provoking essays, Present Over Perfect explores the discoveries we make when we slow down, simplify, and choose to live with more grace and intention.
In that most tender area of the heart, Niequst discovers, there are not numbers – the ones we exert ourselves hoping to see on a bank slip or a scale – and there is no obsession with status, with organized homes or perfect, social-media-ready lives, enviable careers and grandiose square-footage. In that space these things cannot survive because what’s there wasn’t meant to sustain them: love was not made to give power to consumption, financial gain, social success, and external pleasures. What brings us most fully to life is the love evoked by grace, by family and friends, love born of soul-work and stillness. To go into the quiet simplicity of that love in many ways goes against what modern society would have us do: it’s choosing minimalism over excess, frugality over frivolity; and yet, as Niequist discovers on the challenging journey toward intention, this is the truest, most compelling road to freedom and wholeheartedness.
In her luminous, lyrical voice, Niequist sheds the layers of life that our culture piles on, uncovering something raw and wonderful underneath. She engages the reader in her own insightful ponderings as she reacquaints herself with her unique understanding of God, of work, marriage, motherhood, and self, all seen without the trappings of the many shoulds and oughts in which we so frequently indulge. What she reveals, as much to herself as to the reader, is the greater depth of living, the powerful connectedness and emotionality to be found down the road so infrequently taken. And the result is a gift of insight and inspiration to the reader, an invitation for us – at whichever point in our life we might find ourselves – to follow our hearts down the lesser worn path and into the quiet vulnerability of true fulfillment and authenticity....more
Romance, family, and the art of being true to oneself are at the heart of Christine Nolfi’s latest novel, Sweet Lake. Moving from the fictional town oRomance, family, and the art of being true to oneself are at the heart of Christine Nolfi’s latest novel, Sweet Lake. Moving from the fictional town of her treasured Liberty series, Nolfi gives her readers a new piece of quaint Ohio country charm in the little hamlet of Sweet Lake, where devoted daughter Linnie Wayfair is struggling to manage the family inn after her wayward brother caused a financial calamity in the town years earlier. Now, with Linnie finally feeling like her luck with restoring the inn is changing, a new wind finds her scandalous brother blown back into town from his lucrative Hollywood career. As if it's not enough to be protecting her inn from her brother’s heartbreaking reputation, Linnie also finds herself handling heated conversations with her parents, Florida retirees with old fashioned views of women and work. Add to the mix an untimely relationship with a handsome lawyer, and Linnie's life is at full overload. Enter the Sirens, Sweet Lake’s own unforgettable hippy-dippy Golden Girls who delight in midnight beach romps and especially helping the good people of Sweet Lake find their way in life, and in love. As Linnie’s story unfolds, Nolfi once again proves her unique skill for creating worlds that readers will quickly and comfortable slip into.
One of my favorite things about Christine Nolfi’s stories is the colorful way she paints her characters and how vividly they come to life for the reader. This, combined with a knack for sentiment and chemistry between her characters, makes Sweet Lake an escapist pleasure while also reaching a tender place of heartwarming honesty. From Linnie’s budding romance with the impossibly charming attorney Daniel Kettering to her friction-laden relationship with her brother, there’s no shortage of opportunities for Nolfi to explore the bonds of love and family, and the vulnerabilities we risk in order to see them truly thrive.
Perhaps most unforgettable are Sweet Lake’s sassy, spirited Sirens who practice “kindness given in secret,” a particularly warm and wonderful hallmark of the novel's greater message. Whether by voodoo antics or intentional heart-to-hearts (over mojitos, no less), the Sirens are a wealth of wisdom that guide Linnie in the most delightful way.
True to her credit as a teller of inspiring stories, Nolfi vividly unravels a portrait of a small town with soul which readers will cherish the opportunity to revisit....more
Tyler Knott Gregson is beloved for his typewriter series of poems scattered meaningfully upon found scraps of paper, makeshift canvases for simple, prTyler Knott Gregson is beloved for his typewriter series of poems scattered meaningfully upon found scraps of paper, makeshift canvases for simple, profound pieces of introspection. He writes of courage and love and wanderlust, and the picture he paints with his words becomes a representation of a life lived wholly, fearless of the dark places and brilliant in the light. Wildly into the Dark is his third outing in the publishing world – Gregson regularly shares his work on social media – and within the latest collection he goes on a journey into territory deeper still, sharing poetry and poetic wonderings as well as what the book’s subtitle charmingly calls, “rattlings of a curious mind.”
“ There are no wrong answers here, no rules beyond this: be kind to everyone and everything, and give yourself away. — Tyler Knott Gregson, Wildly into the Dark Gregson is a master of romantic language in the traditional sense; he writes beautifully of nature, experience, truth, and vulnerability. While his subject ranges from love to philosophy with dips too into the political realm, all of his poems maintain a lyricism and whimsy that makes the reader feel as though a journey through the book is an open-hearted conversation with the author himself. He writes regularly on the insightful depths of our relationships, from the vulnerability and peace of intimacy to the burden of our imperfect struggles, but there are in particular many moments in this collection where the narrative of his poems becomes more subjective; a piece addressing missed opportunities could become an apology to oneself; uplifting words to a lover can become a love letter to spirit, a shift to a conversation with one’s own courageous nature. In this and many other ways, Wildly into the Dark harbors secret compartments for readers to discover hidden messages left by their own curious, wandering hearts.
“Poetry is taking an ache and making it sing,” Gregson writes in one piece, and the lines are true for every poem within the book. A gift of compassion and comfort to his readers, the poems in Wildly into the Dark encourage the reader to persevere and to thrive. One gets the sense that through his poems Gregson is wishing for his listener the courage to trust love, choose love, and know love in the same way that the beauty of the world has inspired him to live....more
When writer Belinda Pollard acquired her spunky Australian Terrier in May of 1998, she had no idea in what ways the furry little hurricane would changWhen writer Belinda Pollard acquired her spunky Australian Terrier in May of 1998, she had no idea in what ways the furry little hurricane would change her life - and herself. In Dogged Optimism: Lessons in Joy from a Disaster Prone Dog, Pollard compiles the story of her adventure with bright-eyed, ever-inquisitive Killarney, and in her quietly humorous, heartfelt way she fills the pages of the memoir with the meaningful essence of dog ownership. Through sixteen "lessons" Killarney teaches Belinda how to live fiercely and freely, while she, a natural-born worrier, warily follows Killarney's lead into the sometimes frightening joys of life. The result is a heartwarming tribute to woman's best friend and an engaging examination of how growth can find its way to us in the most unexpected ways.
Over the course of life with the spirited Killarney, her dearly beloved "Puddly", Belinda faces challenges in work and in life as she wrestles with her career in publishing and her dreams of writing a novel. Along the way, with one eye ever watchful on Killarney should anything treacherous arise in her Brisbane yard to disturb or harm her dog, Belinda suffers personal loss, survives heartbreak, overcomes fears, travels for work and pleasure, and finally brings her novel, Poison Bay, into the world. The journey is frequently punctuated by emergency trips to the vet, late-night toad-hunting excursions, and the painstaking devotion of caring for an aging dog. From puppyhood to her golden years, Killarney's colorful spirit inspires the author to live her fullest life - to "grab life by the scruff of the neck and shake it" in true Killarney fashion.
Pollard's love of dogs is immediately evident in her writing as she spins numerous stories with the wide-eyed wonderment and frazzled nerves of a new dog owner alongside the perpetual adoration with which we view our pets. Not just a heartwarming biography of a special dog's happy life, Dogged Optimism also finds itself effective as a memoir on personal growth, the kind which dog ownership thrusts upon us unsuspecting, harried, utterly gratified humans. While thoroughly poignant and constantly empathetic, Dogged Optimism also avoids becoming an full-on tearjerker, which is rather refreshing in the realm of four-legged nonfiction. Instead, Pollard devotes her every ounce of love and enthusiasm into this charming account of unexpected joy. Through her compassionate narrative Pollard successfully introduces her readers to a most delightful little dog and instills in them the sense of loyalty, fulfillment, and purity of happiness as only our dogs can teach us. Dogged Optimism is a treasure for anyone who has ever loved a dog....more
The second book in John Heldt’s American Journey series finds three generations of twenty-first century women on an adventure to pre-WWII New Jersey iThe second book in John Heldt’s American Journey series finds three generations of twenty-first century women on an adventure to pre-WWII New Jersey in a search for closure, clarity, and childhood innocence. Novelist Susan Peterson is still trying to find calm amid the chaos following her husband’s unexpected death, grappling with the reality of his infidelity while trying to hold the world together for her daughter, Amanda. When Susan’s mother, Elizabeth, accompanies the Peterson women on a California adventure, none of them expect that Elizabeth’s curiosity over time-travel lecturer Professor Geoffrey Bell will grant them all the chance of a lifetime. With nothing to lose, the trio embark from 2016 California to 1939 California, and from there across the country to Princeton, New Jersey and a rented house on Mercer Street where Elizabeth comes face-to-face with her immigrant parents and their infant daughter Lizzie. With the world’s best hindsight to her advantage, an elderly Elizabeth relishes the chance to spend more time with her parents and the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create a meaningful connection with her younger self. Meanwhile, Susan finds love and fulfillment in working with a handsome naval admiral as Amanda finds herself crossed in love – and maybe danger – with a dashing German whose family is keeping a secret.
Wonderfully capturing the calm before the storm of World War II, Mercer Street is another beautiful novel from author John Heldt, whose remarkable talent allows him to transform time-travel from a plot device into the foundation of a substantial and unforgettable story. With terrific pacing and comfortable narratives, Heldt takes his novels outside the bounds of genre fiction and into uncharted territory as he combines romance, suspense, and observations on human nature. Mercer Street is not unlike previous novels from Heldt in its ability to carry profound insight in even its more lighthearted passages, making for an experience that will please both escapist fiction lovers and more contemplative readers alike. The era and the characters in Mercer Street suit this scheme well. Through Amanda’s love interest, Kurt, Heldt explores the vulnerability of a young German as he clings to his powerful sense of morality in the shadow of Nazi Germany’s uprising; through Elizabeth, the grace of an elderly woman’s reconnection to her younger self as she literally relives moments of her life too old to be remembered; and through Susan, a woman’s search for her own strength as one love life takes shape even as another is still to be mourned. While each character and their personal experiences manage to take root for the reader, perhaps the most arresting is that of Elizabeth as she seems to get to the very heart of the human experience. It’s hard not to be affected by the imagery Heldt creates through Elizabeth’s first meeting her younger self, and then the fostering of an undeniable connection that grows so strongly between one’s present and past selves.
One of the other great strengths of Mercer Street, as with so many of Heldt’s novels, is the intrepid research that goes into the groundwork of its story. The energy of the time, when so much was unforeseeable, is captured in detail while unexpected figures from history take their turns gracing the pages in a series of cameos that will delight enthusiasts of the era. For his first novel set on the east coast Heldt has chosen a place as unforgettable as the time, with Princeton coming to life in both the simplest narrative illustrations and in Elizabeth’s poetic recollections of the world she once knew. It all comes together as the story whirls through its many manageable layers, at once comfortable to read and quite steeped in meaning, as it works up to its unexpected ending. With all the charisma, humor, and wisdom of the author’s previous novels – and with perhaps an even richer cinematic quality – Mercer Street is another winning and unmissable read from a truly well-skilled writer.
Over the course of her past five novels, DeMaio has explored the deep emotional caverns of many relation// full review available at Literary Inklings.
Over the course of her past five novels, DeMaio has explored the deep emotional caverns of many relationships as they are put to the ultimate test, but here she gives her readers a sweet novel that’s light on drama, devoting itself entirely to the simply joys that the holiday season and small-town life can bring, and the special way love looks all the more magical under the gleam of twinkling Christmas lights.
As enchanting as a season’s first snowfall and with all the warmth of an open fire, Snow Deer and Cocoa Cheer is a worthy gift from a writer who loves to give her readers stories to fall in love with. ...more
Born of Lewis’s inspiration, the Oxford C.S. Lewis Society has for decades been an important institution// full review available at Literary Inklings
Born of Lewis’s inspiration, the Oxford C.S. Lewis Society has for decades been an important institution in the continued study of Lewis and his ideas, as well as a tribute to the lives and works of those who shared his intellectual circle. By sustaining the ideas of the Inklings, the society stands as a guide for generations of thinkers whose visions would blossom under such influence.
This year the society released C.S. Lewis and His Circle, a new book which adds to the extensive library of publications exploring Lewis’s ideas and insights. C.S. Lewis and His Circle contains many previously unpublished talks from influential speakers, giving Lewis enthusiasts a new chance to witness what the study of Lewis is like in the writer’s own home, so to speak....more
Cold War Berlin is the backdrop of Paula Closson Buck’s debut novel, one that adds to the author’s career// full review available at Literary Inklings
Cold War Berlin is the backdrop of Paula Closson Buck’s debut novel, one that adds to the author’s career as a writer of short stories and poetry. In Summer on the Cold War Planet Buck draws from her experiences of the other literary forms as a means of approaching the novel format with a certain sense of being free from traditional constraints. The result is an artistically-driven and uniquely visionary novel that marries lyrical prose with a daring exploration of human nature....more
A moving collection of Sue Monk Kidd's deeply open-hearted spiritual writings. (I scribbled quotes into my notebook like mad.) I'll be discussing FirsA moving collection of Sue Monk Kidd's deeply open-hearted spiritual writings. (I scribbled quotes into my notebook like mad.) I'll be discussing Firstlight on Literary Inklings this fall....more