Tuesday, January 12, 2021

All That We Carried By Erin Bartels

All That We Carried
by Erin Bartels
Publisher: Revell
ISBN: 9780800738365

Having read The Words Between Us last fall, I was looking forward to reading All That We Carried when I saw it available for review from Revell. They sent me the book for my review.


The most treacherous terrain is found within

Ten years ago, sisters Olivia and Melanie Greene were on a hiking trip when their parents were in a fatal car accident. They haven't seen each other since the funeral. Olivia coped with the loss by plunging herself into law school, work, and a materialist view of the world--what you see is what you get, and that's all you get. Melanie dropped out of college and developed an online life coaching business around her DIY spirituality--a little of this, a little of that, whatever makes you happy.

Now, at Melanie's insistence (and against Olivia's better judgment), they are embarking on a hike in the Porcupine Mountains of Michigan's Upper Peninsula. In this remote wilderness they'll face their deepest fears, question their most dearly held beliefs, and begin to see that perhaps the best way to move forward is the one way they had never considered.

My Review:

In All That We Carried I can't believe the wide range of emotions I experienced. Who knew that two sisters on a hiking trip could invoke that in me? And I don't even have sisters!

I'll be honest. When I first started the story I was a bit "freaked" out. "Freaked" is probably way too strong of a word, but I was concerned about where the storyline was going to go. And yes, this was in the beginning! *cringe* Melanie, the free spirit sister, is talking about Tarot cards and reincarnation. Full Stop. A fellow book reviewer had LITERALLY just posted a photo of this book and mentioned how much she enjoyed it so I reached out to her about where I was at in the story. She reassured me that it all fleshes out. That was totally a God moment because I was nervous.

Whew... Listen, sometimes a gal has to be reassured. lol

So, I continued on with the story and it all began to make sense. With the accident that claimed their parents lives, Melanie and Olivia coped in their own ways. Melanie began grasping at anything that she thought would be a comfort or positive. Olivia closed ranks on herself and what she was able to control.

Can I just say I related quite a lot to Olivia. In fact, so much so that I cringed when she talked because I could hear myself saying similar things. The need to be right, to be in control. When you go through tragedy you do what you can to make yourself feel safe and that's what these girls did.

One of my favorite aspects of this story is during certain scenes the author then brings you back to a previous time in the girls lives - either when they were little or teens. It would give you a glimpse as to how some things never change. I also appreciated the design of those pages. It was easy to differentiate those past moments with the rest of the story.

You can see God's hand in the story even though the characters are clueless, but in so many ways He's evident. While I started out nervous about the trajectory of the spiritual aspect of this story, I can see how all of that mumbo jumbo fits in. Melanie (and for sure Olivia) is searching. She wants peace. She wants encouragement. She wants to know there's someone greater than her out there. Olivia, unbeknownst to herself, is searching even though she's outright rejected any "god". I just love how He reveals Himself to them as they hike. And THIS quote is why it's so important for parents to do as the Bible says and to train our children up in the way they should go as well as speaking about God all the time.

These sisters have a LOT to work out in their lives needless to say. In their own lives and together. With a decade of separation there is a lot to make up for... if only they can get past their huge chasm between them. And an even bigger chasm possibly in their future if things aren't ironed out on this hiking trip.

If anything can go wrong, it certainly does. But, God! The author's writing makes this hiking trip seem extremely real and you can imagine yourself a fly on their shoulder as they make their way through the Porkies.

And as much as I related to Olivia, how she expected Melanie to react to a bear is how she probably would've expected me to react as well. HA!

About the Author:

Erin Bartels is the award-winning author of We Hope for Better Things (2020 Michigan Notable Book, 2020 WFWA Star Award-winner, 2019 Christy Award finalist) and The Words between Us (2020 Christy Award finalist, 2015 WFWA Rising Star Award finalist). Her short story, "This Elegant Ruin," was a finalist in the Saturday Evening Post Great American Fiction Contest in 2014, and her poetry has been published by The Lyric. A publishing professional for 18 years, she is the director of WFWA's annual writers retreat in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She lives in Lansing, Michigan, with her husband, Zachary, and their son. Find her online at www.erinbartels.com.

Thursday, January 7, 2021

The Dress Shop On King Street By Ashley Clark

The Dress Shop on King Street
by Ashley Clark
Publisher: Bethany House
Series: Heirloom Secrets
ISBN: 9780764237607

I judged a book by it's cover which is why I ended up wanting to review this book from Bethany House! What wasn't there not to love or be drawn in by it? Hence, they sent me a copy and now I'm reviewing it!


Harper Dupree has pinned all her hopes on a future in fashion design. But when it comes crashing down around her, she returns home to Fairhope, Alabama, and to Millie, the woman who first taught her how to sew. As Harper rethinks her own future, long-hidden secrets about Millie's past are brought to light.

In 1946, Millie Middleton--the daughter of an Italian man and a Black woman--boarded a train and left Charleston to keep half of her heritage hidden. She carried with her two heirloom buttons and the dream of owning a dress store. She never expected to meet a charming train jumper who changed her life forever . . . and led her yet again to a heartbreaking choice about which heritage would define her future.

Now, together, Harper and Millie return to Charleston to find the man who may hold the answers they seek . . . and a chance at the dress shop they've both dreamed of. But it's not until all appears lost that they see the unexpected ways to mend what frayed between the seams.

My Review:

I don't know if you're like me, but I'm often hesitant when it comes to debut authors. You just never know what to expect. Well, I can tell you one thing, expect a lot from The Dress Shop on King Street! This story was incredible.

In the time that we're living in, this book is so... timely. My thought throughout the book was, "how do we live like we're still not in the 1940s and 50s?" Millie's world was such a scary place to live in simply for the fact that she was half Black. The fact that parents still worry about their children playing outside because of their skin color just does me in. How have we not changed in the ensuing years?

Sorry, I digress...

Honestly, this book really forces the reader to look back and where our country has come from to where we are now. There's no way around it and while that's good, it's also a sad testament to where we still are.

First there's Millie. Honestly, first there's Rose and Ashley, and a choice that no mother should've ever had to make. Millie is part of their heritage. She's forced to start a new life away from her mama. So many your girls separated from their mama's at an early age in this family. Utterly heartbreaking! Millie pushes into the world of living the Italian side of her family while pushing the Black aside. Her battle with this throughout the story is palpable. You can feel the struggle she has from beginning to end.

And there's Harper. She's a young lady whose dream of owning a dress shop seems to always be just out of reach. When times are hard though, she would just rather run than fight for what she wants. Thankfully, life brings her back to Millie. Millie who has secrets and knows what it's like to run.

We also meet two fellas in this story. Franklin... ah, what a guy. He's the kind of guy who was created to have a zest for life, to take chances, and to fall for one woman for his entire life. Franklin worked his way into my heart from the moment we meet him. Trust me, you'll know why when he jumps onto the scene.

Peter, to me, is the guy you hope your daughter ends up with one day. There were so many great moments with him in this story. He's a historian because of circumstances that happen in his life, and it suits him to a "T". He and Harper have a love for restoring old things: he with buildings and her with clothing and accessories.

Millie is the tie that connects them and as we see the pieces all falling together, it's an amazing tale. One for the ages. I have to tell you, towards the end of the story, I was so emotional. I definitely teared up at one point because it was so beautiful and pulls on the heartstrings.

This story was so wonderfully written and it snuggled its way into my heart. I can't wait to read more from this author!

About the Author:

Ashley Clark (www.ashleyclarkbooks.com) writes romantic women's fiction set in the South. With a master's degree in creative writing, Ashley teaches literature and writing courses at the University of West Florida. Ashley has been an active member of American Christian Fiction Writers for almost a decade. She lives with her husband, son, and two rescued Cocker Spaniels off Florida's Gulf Coast. When she's not writing, she's rescuing stray animals, dreaming of Charleston, and drinking all the English breakfast tea she can get her hands on.

Creative Commons License
Woven by Words by Mimi B is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.