Waving Through a Window (my story)

flowers alannie
“I’ve learned to slam on the breaks/ before I even turn the key/ before I make the mistake/ before I lead with the worst of me…”

Hearing those words for the first time, I burst into tears. I’ve never, at any point, had someone so succinctly express how I’ve felt for the majority of my life. As far back as I can remember, I’ve struggled with feelings of inadequacy and loneliness. I’ve always struggled with making (and keeping) friends, and expressing myself openly in the presence of others has felt like an insurmountable task over the years. I can remember thinking to myself after yet another friend abandoned me without explanation, “What’s wrong with me? Am I really that difficult to love?” As I grew up and got older, I realized that the easiest way to avoid the pain of failed relationships was just to avoid getting too close to others. I comforted myself with the fact that I had my family, and that in reality, Jesus and my faith in God was really all I ever needed. And while to an extent that is true, I didn’t realize that my own fears were holding me back. Due to my introverted tendencies, any efforts that I did make to build relationships were very draining, in part because I felt that all my efforts to build relationships were one-sided. As a result, I would pass up opportunities to spend time with others, and instead, I retreated into my own little world. There were even times that I would purposely bring a book to things such as youth group at church because, in my mind, nobody really cared to hear anything I had to say, nor did anyone have any desire to be my friend. And because I closed myself off and no one really reached out, I continued in this pattern for a long time.

I guess you could say I hit my version of rock-bottom in a way when I was 14. I had my first anxiety attack over something that, in retrospect, was very inconsequential, but to sum it up, made me feel rejected after a great deal of hard work and pushing myself to step out. This made me feel that I was justified in avoiding depth in my relationships, and so I pushed that part of myself down until I couldn’t take it anymore. I eventually got to the point where my anxiety was so bad and I was having such bad anxiety attacks that I finally asked for help. My family and my faith were really the catalyst that helped me and enabled me to seek professional help and tools through which to overcome my anxiety. And for the most part, I did. Years later, I was able to, with my doctor’s help, wean myself off the anxiety medicine that I’d been taking ever since that time. I considered that a success, but my underlying insecurities were still there.

I wish I could tell you that I’m cured of my anxieties and insecurities, but that would be a lie. I still have moments of inadequacy. Even this past summer, I remember driving home at night, crying because I felt so alone and unwanted. Did anybody really care about me, or was I merely another face in the crowd? “If you’re falling in a forest/ and there’s nobody around/ do you ever really crash or even make a sound…?” Those are words that could definitely sum up my experiences in this struggle. Are you really struggling if no one can see or hear your struggle?

The answer is yes, but I didn’t know it. Or I did, but I preferred to buy into the lie. Looking back on my life, there were always people there trying to reach out. For the frightened girl in middle school who thought no one saw her, there was a pastor asking her how she was doing. For the anxious girl in high school who felt that no one really wanted to be her friend, there were several inviting her to hang out with them. For the young woman I am now, there are those who have never failed to show up with kindness, an encouraging word, and a listening ear. There’s you, who’s taking the time to read my story. There have always been people trying to remind me that I’m not alone. But sometimes, in my selfishness, I would rather retreat into myself that listen to the Truth. That Truth was always there, patiently pursuing me and reminding me that I did not have to live this way. All I had to do was reach out and accept it.

God has been teaching me a lot this season about listening to Him and not to my own insecurities. In those moments, I’m especially reminded of 2 Corinthians 1: 3-4, which states, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” And honestly, that’s my entire reason for writing this long post (which is not something I’m apt to do normally). If you, like me, struggle with feelings of self-doubt and loneliness, I want you to know that I hear you. But most importantly, God hears your cries and He longs to dry your tears. Someone once told me that they appreciated my reaching out to them, and I told them, it’s because I get it. I know what it’s like to be that person, a wallflower if you will, who feels like no one sees them and that no one cares. But they do. I do, and most importantly, God does, and He’s the only one who can heal the hurt. Because in order to effectively drive out the fear, you can’t leave it a place at the table of your heart. You need to fill that seat with the love of God and His truth that says you are worthy of love and that there is no longer any room for that self-doubt to remain or come back. It will try, trust me. But you can’t let it win.

“So I’ve got nothing to share/ no, I’ve got nothing to say…” That’s what I used to feel, and in moments, still sometimes do. But now, I’m trying my best to be a more transparent person. Thank you for making it this far, and for caring about me. Next time you see someone sitting alone or by themselves, I would ask that you keep reaching out to them, even if they turn you down. The Lord might just use your persistence to help shine the light of His truth in their lives. Even if you don’t see the rewards right away, maybe one day, when they are healthier emotionally and mentally, they’ll be able to look back and remember that they really weren’t ever alone. Thanks. 😊

*** The song I referenced is “Waving Through a Window” from Dear Evan Hansen. ***

Book Review: A Song Unheard

A Song Unheard (Shadows Over England, #2)

I recently finished reading A Song Unheard by Roseanna M. White.

I really enjoyed this book. Willa is a fun, no-nonsense character, and I loved her dynamic with Lukas. She always made sure to call him out on his absurdly flirtatious nature in a way that never failed to make me smile. He was very much the epitome of tall, dark and handsome and could have easily become a romantic cliche, but I enjoyed his teasing nature. One of my favorite lines was when Willa remarked that being that handsome and charming should be criminal. Willa was a great voice of reason, and a refreshing change of pace for the genre. Needless to say, these two were the shining stars of the story.

The plot moved along quite nicely, and (thankfully) did not leave me with moments of skim reading. I loved Margot’s character, and I really enjoyed getting to know some of the side characters from the previous book in the series–especially Barclay. I felt that the story twisted and turned in ways I wasn’t expecting. It was a pleasant surprise to read a story and not make correct guesses on where the narrative would turn.

With all that being said, there were some moments that seemed very similar to the previous book in the series. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it did take me out of the story a bit, but only for a moment. Like having deja vu, in a way. Despite this, the story was still well-executed and enjoyable. I would definitely recommend it for anyone fond of intriguing mystery and fun characters. The characters, for sure, were what stood out to me in this story.

I received this book from the author and publisher, but I was in no way required to leave a positive review. All opinions are my own.

Book Review: Out of the Ordinary

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I recently had the opportunity to read Out of the Ordinary by Jen Turano. Unfortunately, for me, this book was ordinary to the extent that I could not finish it. If you recall my review of the first book in this series, Behind the Scenes, I had quite a few objections to the style of the narrative (a.k.a. stream of consciousness and endless rambling). Such was the case with this next installment in the series. Perhaps, the me from ten years ago would have stuck through it to see how things turned out, but I seem to have lost my patience for such things. As a result, I would recommend any potential readers pass this novel (and if I’m completely honest, this series) by. Maybe in her next series, Jen Turano will have found her voice once more.

I received this novel from the publisher, but was in no way required to leave a positive review. All opinions are my own.

Book Review: The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck

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I recently finished reading The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck by Bethany Turner.

You guys. I think Christian fiction has turned on its head. I seriously have never read a book like this in my entire life. How many books–especially Christian/inspirational romance books–have I read? Hold on, let me check my Goodreads…

459, people! 459 books! I have never, in 459 books, read one like this. I am not exaggerating when I say that this book will change how I view the inspirational romance genre for the rest of time.

Where do I even begin? It was so relatable. You know all those moments in Hallmark movies that make you roll your eyes and cringe? There was none of that. In fact, I think Bethany Turner even gave those cheesy romances a clapback or two! It addresses all the complexities of relationships that most books ignore or simply gloss over. Not here! The romance, although very much love-at-first-sight (hey, despite my cynicism, I somehow still believe it exists), was perfectly executed. There was not a single campy moment. Every issue the characters experienced was genuinely beneficial to the story and made them and their relationship stronger. It wasn’t useless drama-for-your-mama just for the sake of drama. I loved the format of the book, almost like Sarah was telling us her own story from a more mature and wise point of view. Which reminds me, all of these characters were fantastic. Every single one added depth and richness to the story and served it incredibly well. I wish I could go over every bit of the plot with you, but for the sake of time and spoilers, suffice it to say that I loved every second. As soon as I finished it (which was in one sitting), I turned around and read it a second time. It was that good!

As I’m sure you can tell, this is definitely a new favorite for me, and it’s definitely one of the best books of 2017, without a doubt. I would recommend this book to anyone who has ever watched a Hallmark movie and died a little inside at the absurdity of it or for the person who has read countless (459) romance novels and yet still believes (hopes) in love-at-first-sight. You will not be disappointed.

I received this book from the publisher, but I was in no way required to leave a positive review. All opinions are my own.

Book Review: The Austen Escape

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Hello everyone! Today I’m going to be reviewing The Austen Escape by Katherine Reay. Now, I’ve been a fan of Katherine’s for some time now, so when I heard about her new release for this year, I jumped at the chance to read it and share my thoughts with all of you! Needless to say, my enthusiasm was well founded!

To be completely honest with you, it took me some time to fully get into this novel. The premise of the story and Katherine’s history as a writer are what drew me to this book, but it was not something that I connected with right away. Of course, many Austen fans have read books like Austenland, and this story is similar in some respects to that one. However, the tone of this book is definitely more serious and soul searching. In a way, it mirrors Austen’s writing, especially in Persuasion (which is my personal favorite). The best way to describe The Austen Escape would be to compare it to a fast food restaurant versus a chef’s table dining experience.  In most novels (especially in this inspirational romance genre with which I have a love/hate relationship), the plot is somewhat rushed and the quality of the characters and story arcs suffers as a result. While the experience you have is pretty lackluster, you get a fast and somewhat filling “meal”. Unfortunately, these types of experiences don’t stick with you for long. On the other hand, with a chef’s table dining experience, you are a guest of the chef, and you take your time slowly sampling superior quality dishes (often specialties) that take much longer to prepare and enjoy. This type of experience stays with you, and most all future meals are compared to this one. It becomes, in essence, the new standard. For me, The Austen Escape has become my new standard.

In a way, reading this book reminded me of the popular “childhood friends to lovers” trope that exists in the romance genre. You walk with it, grow with it, and then one day you realize that what you’ve been looking for has always been there. It doesn’t smack you in the face with false charm or pretense; it’s honest, dependable, and way more fulfilling. My journey with Mary led me to examine myself carefully, and sometimes, what I saw was painful. Holding up a mirror like this one to your insecurities is usually like that. I think that my initial difficulty in getting into this story was partly my own fault. The truth hurts, and sometimes, you just don’t want to hear it. But, opening myself up and being willing to listen, grow, and change (that’s what this book has done for me) made this book come alive. I’m glad I read it. To me, this is what all literature should do. You should not be the same person when you finish it as when you started out.

With all that drivel being said, I will close by sharing my favorite quote from this story. I feel it sums up my feelings on the book (and my own life) pretty succinctly.

“Sometimes you can’t see something clearly until you step away from it.” 



I received this book from the author, but I was in no way required to leave a positive review. All opinions are my own. Pre-order it today or pick it up wherever books are sold on November 7th!

Book Review: An Inconvenient Beauty

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I recently finished reading An Inconvenient Beauty by Kristi Ann Hunter. Compared to the last book in the series, this novel is quite the step up. With that said, I’m not entirely sure it was meant for me. Perhaps I’ve just become slightly jaded or particular with this genre, but little things that might not bother or stick out to a new reader of the genre irk me to my core. Now, this is not to say that the story wasn’t interesting or that it didn’t hold my attention (it did, barely), but after the prologue, I seriously considered whether it was worth my time to finish this novel. I did anyway, but the writing and the overall story arc could use some work. If I were to sum up my feelings, it would be that this book reminded me of a Hallmark movie–great concept, lackluster execution. All in all, for me, this book was just okay. I received this book from the publisher, but I was in no way required to leave a positive review. All opinions are my own.

Book Review: A Name Unknown

I recently finished reading A Name Unknown by Roseanna M. White.

Oh, Rosemary, Rosemary, Rosemary, you sweet summer child. You had no idea what you were getting yourself into. Bless her heart. 😉

I really enjoyed this novel. It has been a *while* since I enjoyed an inspirational romance this much. I know, I know. I am a tad bit critical, true, but still. Most novels in the genre these days have been, frankly, boring. I was starting to wonder if maybe it was time to move on to other things. (Grass is always greener, am I right?)

When I saw that the author was organizing a blogger/influencer team (thank you Roseanna!), I thought to myself, “What the hay? Who will it hurt? Maybe me, but whatever. Looks interesting.” Man, was I in for a ride!

They say that the best things in life are worth the wait. Who “they” are, I have no idea, but it’s true nonetheless. I waited a hot minute to get this book, but when it came, I devoured it like a starving child. I never knew I needed something this light and carefree yet also dark and deep and thought provoking. (You’re probably thinking, “Dark and deep and thought provoking in a romance novel? Really, Alannie?” Sweetie, you must be new here.) This book was everything I wanted and more. It completely exceeded my expectations.

Roseanna definitely has a skill for writing quality characters. Every single character (even background characters so deeply shrouded in obscurity) was excellently crafted. The heroine and hero were a perfect match, and I found their interactions to be the highlight of the novel. Rosemary was completely adorable, but Peter was a freaking gem. He’s so completely oblivious yet endearing that it made me grin and blush like Sailor Moon. Needless to say, I was smitten.

Besides the actual characters themselves, I also found the character arcs to be flawless. Rosemary’s journey in particular was especially well done, and I felt like her journey to faith was a genuine and heartfelt experience. Some of you long-time readers may know how important this aspect is to me. In fact, it can often make or break a novel in this inspirational genre that I have a love/hate relationship with. Needless to say, I was very pleased with how things turned out in this story. For the first time in a while, I’m excited to see what the other novels in this series turn out to be. Hopefully as fun and spellbinding as this first one!

I received this book from the author, but I was in no way required to give a positive review. All opinions are my own.


Book Review: Egypt’s Sister

I recently finished reading Egypt’s Sister by Angela Hunt. This was an interesting story that definitely captured my attention. The characters, especially Chava, were the strongest part of the story. I found myself wondering exactly how everything would turn out. The main plot line of the story was definitely Chava’s relationship with God, which is very unique in most inspirational fiction (although based on the name of the genre, you might assume otherwise). I appreciated that aspect of the story, and I felt that it was accomplished very well. That being said, I did not feel a particular connection to the characters, despite the fact that they were well written. I was interested in what happened to them, true, but I could have easily set this book down and never picked it up again without losing sleep over the ending. In a way, the ending contributed to this feeling, as it came out a tad anti-climactic. That being said, it might just be a matter of taste, as I do not often read biblical fiction. Overall, a well written story that just didn’t do it for me. I received this book from the publisher, but I was in no way required to leave a positive review. All opinions are my own.

Book Review: Heart on the Line

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I recently finished reading Heart on the Line by Karen Witemeyer. This was such a fun read! I’ve always been a fan of Karen Witemeyer, and her work has never failed to bring a smile to my face and a few hours of escape to another time. Heart on the Line is no exception! I adored all of the characters, and though I would say the plot is pretty predictable for veteran inspirational romance fans, it was still an enjoyable ride! The strongest point of the book is definitely the two main characters. Their chemistry was great, and they were both endearing, charming, and relatable. I was rooting for them until the final page! I would definitely recommend if you are looking for a light and entertaining western! I received this book from the publisher and was in no way required to leave a positive review. All opinions are my own.

Book Review: Under a Summer Sky

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I recently finished reading Under a Summer Sky by Melody Carlson. This was a very enjoyable read, and I felt like I was on vacation while I was reading it! It was a great story, and all the characters were lovable. I especially found myself rooting for Nicole throughout the novel. However, with that being said, I did feel like the ending was jilted and short. It was almost as if a few more chapters were missing from the story. It gave a final impression of the book being rushed. However, I do still feel like it was a good novel, and I would recommend it if you’re looking for a light, summer read. I received this book from the publisher, but I was in no way required to leave a positive review. All opinions are my own.