How One Woman Went from Doubting Her Path to Embracing Her Inner Journey
Genre: Memoir / Inspirational / Christian Life Publication Date: November 15, 2019
Number of Pages: 240 pages
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Have you ever felt stuck? If so, you are not alone. As a 36-year-old wife, mother, and corporate executive, Dena Jansen’s life looked successful by society’s standards. But she found herself at an intersection—stranded at a real-life crossroads in her life.
Over a matter of years, darkness and doubt slowly crept in, leaving her unsure and unsettled in her life, marriage, and career. And after stalling out multiple times and nearly wrecking everything, she finally grabbed hold of a life-saving truth:She had a choice to make. She could stay stuck, or she could try and find new roads that would lead to the peace and joy she was looking for.With a glimmer of hope, Dena embraced the gifts of curiosity and grace and began a journey of self-discovery. And she chose to believe in a new truth:
She was meant for more and could no longer settle.
In Road to Hope, Dena invites you to join her as she wanders the roads she traveled and take anything you need from her story to help you in yours. She shares how she grew from a woman who doubted her path to one who is confident and ready for the next adventure. And she wants you to experience a similar shift. And more than that, she believes you can.
I will kick off this review of Road to Hope by Dena Jansen by gushing over the cover. Gorgeous! The color palette is soothing and the image of the open sky and road is the epitome of an inspirational journey. Even the font used has that distinct inspirational look to it. Don’t know what I’m talking about? Take a stroll through the inspirational or spiritual aisle next time you’re at Barnes and Noble and you will see variations of this style of font.
Truthfully speaking, I was a little wary of this book when I was only a few chapters in. I felt like Jansen was pitching her new business model right at me and I was worried that the rest of the book would continue with overused mantras mixed with subtle hints to check out her website. I can assure you that this is not what happens and this book really dives deep. As Jansen shares her journey of introspection and sometimes brutal revelations, you might find yourself standing before a mirror and asking questions like, “Who am I really?” and “What do I want?” as well. I found it refreshing that, for most of the book, Jansen didn’t have any answers for those questions. She truly walks us through her journey, every twist, every pitfall, and the intimate details of each pit stop. I admire her ability to recall how she felt at different moments along the way and her honesty about how her answer would change as she realized that she had changed.
I often feel like inspirational books written by Christian authors gloss over their own un-Christianly behavior. I was surprised and very much appreciative of Jansen’s candor when writing about her mistakes and a very close call. She is fortunate to have people in her life who keep her accountable for her actions. We should all be so lucky to have someone who cares enough about us to tell us when we are wrong and how to make things right with the people we love. And if we do have someone like that, we need to make sure to check in and make sure we stay on course.
Jansen uses some really great metaphors and I was tickled to find that I’m not the only person who reads meaning into a particular song that plays at just the right moment or a written passage that floats right to you when you need it most. And to be quite honest, this book came at the right time in my life. I have been itching to find what I really love to do. A happenstance discovery of old emails made me realize that my husband has been in the same limbo for over 10 years now. He doesn’t devour books the way that I do, but he enjoys my recaps immensely. I plan on sharing this one with him so that it might help him embark on his own journey. In the name of stability, I might need to be the check-in point should he decide to set off and find a new path. Once he’s found his way though, it will be my turn to explore.
Definitely read this book if you feel like you need to make a change in your life. Read this book if you’re scared of the unknown and need encouragement. Give this book to someone that might need reminding that life is all about the journey not the destination. Bon voyage.
Dena Jansen’s calling to lift others up is profoundly personal. She understands the fears and doubts that hold people back because she has them too. Her own path to fulfillment is a real-life journey that’s still very much in progress. As a CPA and retired partner from Austin-based CPA firm Maxwell Locke & Ritter, she launched Dena Speaks to inspire potential seeking individuals and businesses. Dena shares life and love with her husband, JP, and their two children, Trace, and Elizabeth in Buda, Texas. She loves romantic comedy movies, listening to podcasts, and spending time with her family and friends.
Genre: Mystery / Suspense / Light Romance Publisher: Ewephoric Publishing Date of Publication: December 11, 2019
Number of Pages: 378
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A body, a disappearance, just another hot summer in upstate New York. It’s July when antiquities appraiser Annalisse Drury reaches her family’s small-town farm to consult with the trusted aunt who raised her. She learns that her beloved homestead—the one she expects to inherit—is for sale. While Annalisse reels at the betrayal and her shattered dreams, the Walker Farm ranch manager discovers a corpse in the barn. Officials close the suspected murder scene, and Annalisse seeks refuge with her aunt at Alec Zavos’s rural estate in New York’s Catskill Mountains. Then Aunt Kate vanishes. Annalisse solicits the help of Greek tycoon, Alec Zavos, even though their rocky romance has dissolved into routine separation. What began as hope on Crete nine months ago has eaten away at Annalisse’s hope for a future with him. In Spent Identity, Annalisse and Alec come together for the second time and find themselves in the center of not one mystery, but several. Where is Kate, and why sell her farm now? Is the dead man a coincidence or a clue to the aunt’s disappearance? John Doe’s identity may hold needed answers to solve the puzzle before Kate’s unstable health issues make her rescue impossible. The clock ticks, and a vengeful murderer is in charge…
My first thoughts on the cover of Spent Identity by Marlene M. Bell were how beautiful and eerie it was at the same time. There’s something classy about the red roses in the vase and the envelope with the calligraphy ‘A’ on it, but the wilt to the roses and the shattered and crooked title stamped on top of them clues the reader to the sinister story within.
As much as I liked the irony of the farmhand reading a crime novel while stumbling across a crime scene, I thought that the tone of the prologue didn’t quite match the rest of the book. I’m having trouble explaining this – I have typed and deleted my thoughts three times now – but here goes. Ethan is from New Zealand and he is the first character we meet. Although the narration is from a third person perspective, the tone has an across the pond feel, probably because Ethan’s thoughts are on the page as well. I probably didn’t explain that very well but it obviously stuck with me and I wanted to address it.
In the first chapter, the tone changes with the introduction of our protagonist, the lovely Annalisse. It isn’t until she interacts with the opposite sex that you realize how her beauty outshines her pretty name. I liked the contrast of her being this take charge, independent woman who still needs reassurances and shared confidences with her closest relative, Aunt Kate. Kate is also the picture of strength, even at her advanced age and ailment. She amused me most when she moons over Annalisse’s boyfriend, Alec, one minute and then pragmatically dismisses the thought of him the next.
From the moment that Ethan, Annalisse, and Kate try to identify a dead man in the barn, confusion set in on me and I couldn’t shake it for most of the book. There were so many male characters mentioned or in motion (two dead and at least six others interacting with Annalisse), that I felt like I couldn’t keep everyone straight. The name found on the dead man was significant to Kate, but the deceased was not that person. Alec was easy enough to keep straight, but between his security detail/friends that show up to try to solve the mystery, I got a little lost. And it made me a little squirmy that even Alec’s friends seemed to kinda have the hots for Annalisse too.
But character confusion aside, I was truly riveted with the twists and turns. I had two or three theories in my brain and not one of them were even close to the ending. But even more fantastic than the big reveal at the end, I appreciated Bell’s use of exposition throughout to prepare us for what a bad ass Annalisse is. I had not read Stolen Obsession, so I would have been confused with Annalisse’s cool head in the midst of crisis and experience with weapons had there not been snippets of details from book one of the series. I also really enjoyed the thought process that the “team” let the reader in on so that we could try to solve the mystery alongside them. And don’t get me started on the messages from the unknown person/killer. The creativity and the danger behind each “gift” sent a tingle down my spine.
Since I plan on going back to read the first book, I recommend you do the same if you have not already read it. I think that seeing how Annalisse and Alec first meet and the trials that they go through together will make you more invested in seeing them through a difficult time in their relationship. I’m looking forward to book three.
Marlene M. Bell is an acclaimed artist and photographer as well as a writer. Her sheep landscapes grace the covers of publications such as, Sheep!, The Shepherd, Ranch & Rural Living, and Sheep Industry News. Ewephoric, her mail order venture, began in 1985 out of a desire for realistic sheep stationery. A color catalog of non-fiction books and sheep-related gifts may be requested on her website or www.texassheep.com.Marlene and her husband, Gregg reside on a wooded ranch in beautiful East Texas with their dreadfully spoiled horned Dorset sheep, a large and lovable Maremma guard dog named Tia, and Hollywood, Leo, and Squeaks, the cats who believe they rule the household — and do.
Autographed copy of Spent Identity & companion notebook, Mary Poppins-style bag (18×13” tapestry carpet bag with leather trim, handmade in Israel), $100 Amazon gift card, and 18” freshwater pearl necklace.
Genre: Murder Mystery / Southern Noir / Dark Humor
Publisher: Polis Books
Date of Publication: September 24, 2019
Number of Pages: 336
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Named a Best Debut of Fall/Winter 2019 by Library Journal, Ain’t Nobody Nobody is the story of a disgraced East Texas sheriff, his dead best friend’s surly teenage daughter, and a naive ranch hand who find unlikely redemption in a murdered hog hunter on a fence.
Part Breaking Bad and part Faulkner, this tragi-comic mystery is perfect for readers who enjoy dark humor (think Fargo) and like their crime fiction with a literary flare.
A Best Mystery of 2019 by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
I didn’t know what to make of the cover: a wild hog prancing across a sparsely starred night sky, but the title, Ain’t Nobody Nobody, sounded distinctly Southern. As a girl born and raised in Texas, I know that the South + wild hogs = guns, so I prepared myself for some violence.
Well, the book starts out with plenty of guns and no shortage of hog blood. If there is one thing I learned from reading this book, it’s that hogs love strawberry Kool-Aid. Don’t we all? Randy Mayhill struck me as a no-nonsense type of man who loves his dogs, so I took to him pretty quickly. However, you can like someone and not find the person very interesting at the same time. For reasons that I can’t place, I had a hard time caring about anyone for the first three or four chapters. When I went back and flipped through chapter five, I realized that we finally get some backstory on Randy and from that point on, everyone else is getting fleshed out and braided together into this really cool mystery.
Author Heather Harper Ellett has a great way with words and knows how to spin a story out nice and slow. I blame my initial reaction to this book to living in a world of instant gratification. But if you slow things down, take yourself back to 1996 (I still am not sure why the book was set in this time period), then you can enjoy a nice rumble along a back dirt road in a rickety old truck. I don’t know if you need to be a Southerner to appreciate Ellett’s turn of phrase, but I particularly loved descriptions such as a man considerate enough to stick to back roads when driving drunk, old men congregating at a feed store twice daily for decades, and an old granny with boobs down to her knees getting cuffed for marijuana.
The show Justified came to mind with that last description. As the story digs deeper and brings darkness to light, the pace quickens as the stakes are raised. By now Mayhill is trustworthy enough – he rescues dogs, so you have to trust him! – that you care about everyone that he cares about as well. When everything clicks into place, just when you think everything has been resolved, Ellett reveals her hand. And it is beautiful. Pull out of the fast lane for a weekend and hunker down with this book and a nice cold beverage.
Born and raised in East Texas, Heather Harper Ellett is a graduate of SMU and a therapist in private practice. She lives in Dallas with her husband and son.