What can keep a dream alive?
Before the car accident that changed everything, Samantha Becker was a happy and loved little girl. Ten years later, Sam, now 18, lives under a dark cloud—largely ignored by an alcoholic mother who never recovered from her loss and ruled by an overbearing father who blames Samantha for the family tragedy. And yet, the troubled teenager has a dream that keeps her going, and an extraordinary musical talent that could take her all the way to Julliard…and far beyond.
Following her heart, however, means defying her father, who has his own plans for his daughter’s future. Then, in the wake of another devastating personal catastrophe, her dream is irreparably shattered, and in her pain and anger, Samantha acts out recklessly. But her salvation could come from a most unlikely trio: a handsome college student, a hopeful little boy…and an older neighbor woman whose caring and secrets will change Sam’s world forever.
My Review of Better Than This
Tia Souders gives us a new YA novel that is full of raw emotion and grit in Better Than This.
Samantha Becker lives day to day in a dysfunctional household with a demanding authoritative father and a distant alcoholic mother. The only thing that keeps Samantha sane is her guitar and her music. Sam is a talented rising star with dreams of attending the Juilliard School of Music. Even the members of her band, her closest friends, have no idea that this is the future she longs for and secretly plans. But in one swift moment her dreams are shattered when her father accidently severs her ring finger on her left hand. With her finger goes all of her hopes and dreams of Julliard and ever playing music again.
Unable to cope with the loss of her music and disillusioned with lack of empathy from her friends, Sam in one brief moment makes a bad decision and takes her frustration out on an elderly neighbor’s yard. In lieu of pressing charges for the destruction, June decides to take it out in trade. She is aging and sick and needs help organizing her house and ridding it of unnecessary junk. Sam aggress to the arrangement, if only to get her father off her back, but is angry she has to spend time with the elderly neighbor. June and Samantha were once close and her house a port in the storm when her mother began her drinking. Add to this little arrangement June’s grandson Tad who unbeknownst to Sam is a fan of her music. It’s this relationship between Sam and Tad and his belief in her abilities that gets Sam back to her guitar and music. Determined to play again and prepare for her audition for the biggest day of her life, Sam retrains her fingers and brain to compensate for her loss.
As Samantha gets stronger and begins to visit The Clover again, her band’s hotspot, it would appear that Sam has another fan in Laird Brian, a handsome college student who happens to love her music and believe in her natural talent. As the two become close and develop a relationship, Sam wrestles with her ability to accept unconditional love. As the weeks go by and her audition at Julliard closes in, Laird together with Tad assist Samantha in preparing for the biggest moment in her life. It’s at this juncture that Sam uncovers a secret that will forever change the rest of her life.
I really liked this book. It was packed with raw emotion and at times I felt so flustered for Samantha because she couldn't get a break. At the same time I was also frustrated with Sam because she was often her own worst enemy. She had such musical talent but tended to reject anything or anyone good that came her way. Her friends used her for her abilities, her dad totally ignored her, and her mother was an absentee parent spending most days in a drunken stupor. The only bright spot in her life were her relationships with Tad and Laird, but often kept them at a distance because she felt undeserving of their love. I was so happy when she finally decided that she was worthy of love and made the decision to trust with her heart that good things could happen for her.
I also loved Tad and Laird’s characters. Tad was so sweet and dorky and the way he looked up to Sam tugged at my heart. Laird was my hero as he was honorable, handsome and determined to win Sam’s love and trust. All of the characters in Better Than this were well written and I either liked them or loathed them. My only frustration was I wanted more. This book demands a sequel. I want to know about Sam’s future with Laird and Tad and if her parents ever make amends and show Sam the love she deserves. I also want to know what she does with her music. Is her future all about her career or does she make room for the two people that love her most. I hope to hear more about these characters in the future.
Better Than This by Tia Souders is a great read for those who love YA novels, but it’s also a great book for anyone who loves fiction with heart. It’s the perfect book to help you get through the rest of winter or take you into summer. You will love the characters as much as I did and find yourself cheering for Sam to follow her dreams as well as her heart.
Compassion was the center of Jesus’ ministry and his mission for his disciples—and for us. Bestselling and award-winning author and retreat leader Joyce Rupp gives you the words to develop compassion in yourself as never before and to reenergize your ability to offer loving kindness to those around you.
Compassion can change a heart, change a life, change a world. But we have to learn how to be compassionate and Joyce Rupp—codirector of the Servite Center of Compassionate Presence—can guide us.
Forty original prayers, blessings, and meditations by Rupp will help us practice themes of compassion: as a way of life, welcoming ourselves, the river of suffering, from hostility to hospitality, a thousand unbreakable links, and compassionate presence.
To be used alone or as a helpful companion to Rupp’s Boundless Compassion book and program, this collection of prayers will inspire anyone to change the world.
My Review of Prayers of Boundless Compassion
Prayers of Boundless Compassion by Joyce Rupp is a beautiful companion to her book Boundless Compassion. It can be used in conjunction with her book, as the prayers correspond to the subject material in her book, or they can be used alone to pray for the gift of compassion for ourselves and others. This book of prayers can be used everyday to lift our hearts and minds to God in regards to those who are suffering. There is no greater gift we can give each other than to offer intercessory prayers.
In addition to the beautiful prayers with insight to the suffering of others and sometimes ourselves, Prayers of Boundless Compassion is a wonderful way of praying, especially for those who have a difficult time putting their intentions into words. When you don’t know what to say, or are having a difficult time praying, this book can help you meditate individually or as a group. A wonderful aid for those on their journey of compassion for it offers insight to the suffering of others as well as those who are their caregivers or suffering themselves. There are so many prayers in this little book, it can offer something for everyone.
I want to thank Ave Maria Press via NetGalley for an advanced reader copy of Boundless Prayers of Compassion for a fair and honest review.
Living compassionately is rarely convenient and often downright challenging,” writes Joyce Rupp, bestselling and award-winning author and retreat leader. The definitive Christian guide to compassion, Boundless Compassion is the culmination of Rupp’s research and work as codirector of the Servite Center of Compassionate Presence. Through this six-week personal transformation process for developing and deepening compassion, Rupp nudges, encourages, and inspires you to grow in the kind of love that motivated Jesus’ life and mission for his disciples.
With master teacher Joyce Rupp, you will learn to develop compassion as never before. You will discover compassion from science, medicine, theology, spirituality, sociology, and psychology. You will be encouraged to explore personal and professional expressions of compassion, and to re-energize your ability to offer loving kindness to those around you.
Rupp has felt the call to walk with others in their suffering since she was a young member of the Servants of Mary, whose charism is compassion. She eventually cofounded the Boundless Compassion program with Sr. Margaret Stratman, O.S.M.
Based on the format and theme of Rupp’s bestselling books like Open the Door and her popular workshops conducted by the Center of Compassionate Presence, Boundless Compassion has the power to transform your life, giving you wisdom, confidence, understanding, and inspiration to be a more caring presence. It will help you build on relational skills, learn self-care, gain wisdom for incorporating loss and suffering into your active life, and find ways to show compassion at work.
By the book’s end, you will feel prepared to live with a renewed commitment to a compassionate presence for yourself and those who are in the midst of pain, struggle, and transition.
My Review of Boundless Compassion (Creating a Way of Life)
Boundless Compassion by Joyce Rupp is nothing short of phenomenal. It is a book that speaks to our heart about the human condition. If you think you are short on compassion for your fellow man you need to read this book. It you think you are a compassionate person, you need to read this book. Joyce Rupp not only speaks to us about the necessity for compassion for our fellow man, ourselves and the world at large, but explains in detail those things that may keep us from having a compassionate heart. Every session shares some significant insight that speaks to the core of what makes us human and the impact we can make in one another's life, if only empathy, understanding and tenderness can replace judgement, indifference and apathy.
The beauty of this book is its simplicity. It is a six week journey in which the author takes 20 minutes or so of your day to talk with you about the benefit of compassion for ourselves and our fellow human beings. Boundless Compassion can be used for group study or individual study. The words of this book enter your heart and allows you to contemplate where your heart stands in relationship to others. It helps you become aware of your attitude to those who are suffering physically, spiritually or emotionally and what we can do to alleviate or soften the suffering or burdens of others. Each week addresses a new topic in regards to compassion, what we can do to change our lives and the lives of others and how to be the softness in a world that can be hard and dark. Joyce Rupp provides a daily reading and finishes with a reflection and a short prayer that helps you digest what you have read and encourages you to put into practise what you have learned and contemplated. You cannot read this book without examining your own heart and where it stands on helping those who are suffering.
I loved the honestly of this book when it came to dealing with others and even ourselves. There was not one reading in this book that didn’t speak to me in some way. It caused me to examine my attitudes and action in regards to others in my life both past and present. If I am being honest and you are being honest we have to admit we all know someone who has suffered or is suffering in some way right now. It begs the question “Is there anything we can do?” It doesn't necessarily mean we are to control the situation or become an enabler to the suffering party, we just have to empathize with their situation and be a listening ear or the caring hands that help. Taking time our of our day to listen, to pray, provide a meal or be the strength for someone who has nothing left to give can be ways that help alleviate emotional or physical burdens for another. As St. Therese the Little Flower once explained it can be doing the littlest thing with the greatest of love.
Boundless Compassion is a book everyone should read. What a wonderful world we would live in if we could live by the principles in this book. Caring for another and wanting to ease their suffering is not just a physical act, it’s an emotional act, one that starts in the heart and moves outward towards the one who is suffering. It lets them know they are not alone in their pain. So often we start the year with self improvement books, well I say let’s start here with Boundless Compassion. Let's read something that will make a difference not only in our lives, but in the lives of others. It all starts with the man or woman in the mirror.
I want to thank Ava Maria Press via NetGalley for an advanced reader copy of Boundless Compassion by Joyce Rupp for a fair and honest review.
From the acclaimed author of Secrets of a Charmed Life and A Bridge Across the Ocean comes a new novel set in Philadelphia during the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918, which tells the story of a family reborn through loss and love.
In 1918, Philadelphia was a city teeming with promise. Even as its young men went off to fight in the Great War, there were opportunities for a fresh start on its cobblestone streets. Into this bustling town, came Pauline Bright and her husband, filled with hope that they could now give their three daughters--Evelyn, Maggie, and Willa--a chance at a better life.
But just months after they arrive, the Spanish Flu reaches the shores of America. As the pandemic claims more than twelve thousand victims in their adopted city, they find their lives left with a world that looks nothing like the one they knew. But even as they lose loved ones, they take in a baby orphaned by the disease who becomes their single source of hope. Amidst the tragedy and challenges, they learn what they cannot live without--and what they are willing to do about it.
As Bright as Heaven is the compelling story of a mother and her daughters who find themselves in a harsh world not of their making, which will either crush their resolve to survive or purify it.
My Review of As Bright as Heaven
As Bright as Heaven by Susan Meissner is the poignant story of the Bright Family during turbulent times in America amid the Great War and the Spanish Flu.
Wanting to give his wife and daughters a better life, Thomas Bright accepts an offer from his Uncle Fred to come to Philadelphia and become an apprentice in his mortician practise. Having recently recovered from the loss of their baby Henry, Thomas’s wife Pauline is more than ready to say goodbye to their home in Quakertown and start afresh in a new city. At first Thomas, Pauline and the girls have to become accustomed to their new home and life with Uncle Fred, but soon Pauline and the girls are settling in and enjoying their new surroundings, routine and making Philadelphia their home. Willa, the youngest is making friends, Maggie is infatuated with their new neighbor Jamie Sutcliff and Evie is submerged in her studies. Thomas is busy learning everything he can about the business from Uncle Fred and Pauline is now running the household, as well as assisting Thomas and Uncle Fred.
Life, however, is unpredictable as the Bright family well knows and rumors of war become the reality of the day. Jamie Sutcliff much to Maggie’s dismay is now leaving for the Army and Thomas has been called into service too leaving just Uncle Fred and Pauline to run the business. And if the war is not bad enough, a darker menace has come to the shores of America in the form of a plague called the Spanish Flu. There is no rhyme or reason as to whom the flu strikes and thousands become ill, many dying. The Bright family is not immune to this menace and soon members of the household are fighting for their very lives. It is at this time that Maggie makes a discovery and a decision that will forever alter the course of all their lives. The Great War and the Spanish Flu forever changes the lives and landscape of all that it touches. Only the love and courage of those left behind can help one another survive, carry on and begin again.
I really liked this book. I liked the way the story evolved and all the characters Susan Meissner created. It was a joy reading a novel with strong female leads. My favorite characters were Pauline and Evie. Pauline would do anything for her family, friends and those in need. She was not afraid to challenge death and her strength and resilience was a thing of beauty. Evie was so like her mother, strong, smart and willing to face fear head on. She was not afraid to do what was right, even when it drastically changed the lives of those she dearly loved. As Bright as Heaven also made me research the Spanish Flu. I am so glad that I live in an age where medical science knows a little more how to combat these viruses, as well as the medicines to fight them. It was a real eye opener for me.
As Bright as Heaven is a story about the bonds of family and friends and the courage to keep moving in the worst of times. It is the story about love, loss and what makes us family. It is a book that is a must read if you love historical fiction with strong female characters and a compelling story-line. A great book to help you get through the last of winter.
I want to thank Berkley Publishing Group via NetGalley for an advanced reader copy of As Bright as Heaven by Susan Meissner for a fair and honest review.
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