The Martian by Andy Weir
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I was hooked on this book from the very beginning. Weir's writing style, a mix of serious drama and suspense along with humor, is captivating. I loved how easily I connected with Watney and his predicament. His position is truly unimaginable, yet Weir manages to make it imaginable. The science and accuracy behind this book is astounding.
At times, I was lost because of all of the "space speak." It was a heavy read as far as the intellectual capacity required to comprehend what was happening. Still, Weird managed to show the human, emotional side of the science through Watney's struggles and humorous outlook. I enjoyed the overall format of the book. Although at the end I felt inundated with science and wanted it to move faster, I felt like Weird did a good job at capturing the tale with an attention to detail rarely found in fiction.
This book reminds us to have faith in humanity's capabilities and to never give up hope. This is truly an amazing first novel by an author with an amazing career ahead of him.
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Author: Lindsay Detwiler
Title: To Say Goodbye
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: September 24, 2016
Publisher: Hot Tree Publishing
Cover Designer: Claire Smith
Feisty Sophia never shies away from life. Playful, romantic, connected—her marriage was the thing of fairy tales. But when tragedy strikes, Sophia is left to pick up the pieces of her life.
After leaving the army, Jackson is ready to start afresh. But when he returns home, his life spirals out of control.
As Sophia and Jackson find themselves in each other, they start to see redemption is possible. Trying to piece together a new life, they must answer the question: Should they forge a life together and say goodbye to their pasts completely, or should they loyally go their separate ways to avoid heartache?
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A high school English teacher, an author, and a fan of anything pink and/or glittery, Lindsay's the English teacher cliché; she love cats, reading, Shakespeare, and Poe.
She currently lives in her hometown with her husband, Chad (her junior high sweetheart); their cats, Arya, Amelia, Alice, and Bob; and their Mastiff, Henry.
Lindsay's goal with her writing is to show the power of love and the beauty of life while also instilling a true sense of realism in her work. Some reviewers have noted that her books are not the “typical romance.” With her novels coming from a place of honesty, Lindsay examines the difficult questions, looks at the tough emotions, and paints the pictures that are sometimes difficult to look at. She wants her fiction to resonate with readers as realistic, poetic, and powerful. Lindsay wants women readers to be able to say, “I see myself in that novel.” She wants to speak to the modern woman’s experience while also bringing a twist of something new and exciting. Her aim is for readers to say, “That could happen,” or “I feel like the characters are real.” That’s how she knows she's done her job.
Lindsay's hope is that by becoming a published author, she can inspire some of her students and other aspiring writers to pursue their own passions. She wants them to see that any dream can be attained and publishing a novel isn’t out of the realm of possibility.
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As a high school English teacher and a published author, I was ecstatic when given the opportunity to teach a creative writing class… but also terrified. Although writing is my passion, teaching creative writing seemed intimidating. How do you walk the fine line between giving helpful constructive criticism and squashing a child’s confidence? How do teach students to be truly creative, to free the restraints we tightly put in place in the traditional Language Arts classroom?
I’m going into my third year of teaching creative writing, and I can say I haven’t completely mastered it. The beautiful yet daunting element of creative writing is you can never truly reach perfection. However, here are some tips and tricks I’ve picked up along the way to help your creative writing class be successful.
If we want to teach our students to be fearless in their writing, we have to be fearless in our own writing. Try to participate in the activities you set before your students—then be willing to share your work. Students need to see you struggle, get excited, and open up about your own writing in order to understand the process.
2.Create an atmosphere of honesty.
From day one, we talk about the value of honesty. Telling every student “great job” only cheapens their effort, their work, and the class. I teach proper critiquing etiquette in the first week so students understand the difference between constructive criticism and cruelty. They learn to be open with each other about what works and what doesn’t so we can all grow.
3.Push students out of their writing styles.
We cover all genres in my classroom, including humor. Many students will be nervous about switching what they perceive as their genre, but encourage them to go outside of their comfort zones. Remind them it’s okay to fail at a genre. Also remind them that writing other genres can help them improve elements in their preferred genre.
4.Let students create prompts sometimes.
Coming up with prompts can be exhausting. Once in a while, I throw the task to the students. I’ve found that when I’m out of creative ideas, they often can come through, creating challenging and engaging prompts. It also gives them a sense of ownership of the class.
5. Look for writing books to help you.
Many creative writing books, in my opinion, are too stiff, formulaic, and the antithesis of creativity. However, there are some great books out there. Two of my favorites are Karen Benke’s Rip the Page!: Adventures in Creative Writing and Jennifer Traig’s Don’t Forget to Write for the Secondary Grades.
6.Read On Writing by Steven King.
As a teacher, this book gives you great perspective from one of the most successful writers of our time. This book does have a lot of profanity, so it probably isn’t something you’d want to have your students read as part of the class. However, it gave me new perspectives on what I was teaching and has helped me help the students.
7.Incorporate non-writing, creativity building activities.
You don’t have to write every single day to teach creative writing. Focus on the “creativity” part. Sometimes, we do challenging art projects or group games that enhance creativity. Think outside of the box with your lesson plans in order to help students think outside of the box with their writing.
8.Have free write Fridays.
This year, Fridays will be days students can choose what project they work on, anything from a book, a story, a poem, or even improving the writing in an essay. Giving students ownership of their tasks helps them understand the value of what you are teaching.
9.Encourage students to keep journals.
Sometimes great story ideas can come from journal writing. Encourage students to keep journals outside of the classroom for idea generation.
10.Create an outside audience once students are comfortable with sharing.
Giving students an audience can make their writing feel more real. Invite in another class for a flash fiction reading. My students also wrote children’s books last year. We invited in students from the classroom for students with multi-disabilities to be our guests.
11.Always encourage students to look for the positives in writing before criticizing.
Teach students that every piece of writing has a positive. This will help build confidence.
12.Examine writing of the greats.
Pull in pieces from a variety of writers, and encourage students to bring in pieces of writing that move them.
13.Talk about blogging.
Even students who aren’t interested in publishing novels may be able to benefit from a discussion of creative non-fiction, especially with blogging. Open students’ eyes to the world of blogging and do mini-lessons on things like SEO, advertising, and guest blogging to show them new possibilities.
14.Teach students how to write for social media.
Social media is the modern platform for writers. Teach students how social media can be a tool, no matter what your profession. Talk about best practices for different social platforms and discuss internet safety. Creative writing has so many different mediums; teach as many as you can.
15.Encourage knowledge of self.
I encourage students to explore who they are through various activities. We talk frequently about how knowledge of self helps with knowledge of writing. Activities such as writing six-word memoirs help students evaluate who they are and how it impacts their writing.
16.Teach students to write on command.
Many students complain that they cannot write at school; they only write at home. I make students write in class anyway. We talk about how expanding your writing atmosphere helps you grow as a writer. We also discuss how even if you scrap what you write in school, there may be some gems you can use.
17.Promote editing and rewriting.
Real writers rewrite…and rewrite…and rewrite. I try to promote this ideal in my class. We use peer feedback to help fix issues in first drafts and to reveal weaknesses.
18.Connect with professionals in the field.
Bring in writers of all genres and fields. Seeing professionals helps make the content of the class real. I recently signed up for some Skype classroom visits with authors. There are so many authors who will Skype with your students and answer questions.
19.Promote reading as a means of developing writing.
Encourage students to read in addition to writing. All of the greats talk about how important it is to read if you want to be a great writer. Promote this ideal in your writing classroom.
20.Create group writing activities.
We don’t always write as individuals. I encourage collaboration for certain activities. Students benefit from seeing other students’ great ideas and also their struggles. It promotes confidence and builds an atmosphere of comfort in the classroom.
Above all, creating a space where students feel comfortable enough to write, share, explore, and even make mistakes is crucial for a successful writing class. I wish you all the best with your creative writing class and encourage you to share any tips you have found to be successful in the comments below!
Lindsay Detwiler is a high school English Teacher and a published contemporary romance author. To learn more about her, check out her Facebook, her blog, and her Twitter page
My husband and I are childless 28-year-olds.
We don’t get to claim any dependents on our tax returns. The only pitter-patter of feet echoing in our hallways comes from four-legged creatures. We don’t have car seats in our vehicles, and we’ve never heard someone call us “mom” or “dad.”
Perhaps it is because we don’t have any human children that we are overly obsessed with our 3-year-old mastiff Henry. The older he gets and the stronger our bond grows, the more and more he seems to seamlessly fill the void of our childlessness.
It may sound crazy, especially to those who (*gasp*) don’t like dogs, but in many ways, Henry is basically our child.
1. He has a social schedule complete with playdates.
We joke that Henry has a better social life than some children, but I’m pretty sure it’s true. There are weeks he has activities almost every night. From the dog park to pet friendly stores, he’s always out and about. He also has a playdate with his favorite Bull Terrier Holly every Friday. We worry about his socialization more than some parents worry about their children.
2. We brag about him like he's a kid.
Moms and dads of human children are often zealous to talk about their children, pulling out stacks of photos and sharing accomplishments. Our phones are brimming with photos of Henry, and we’re quick to talk about his achievements. This week, our big news was that he was working closer to mastering his glove carrying at obedience school.
3. Our house is overrun by toys.
Don’t worry... this picture was taken during our bi-monthly purge of his toys. But yes, our house is littered with Henry’s beloved toys, including his favorite comfort toy―a stuffed zebra he got his first Christmas.
4. We get his Christmas gifts before we buy for each other.
Henry is usually the first on our list for Christmas gifts, and we make sure he has plenty of gifts to open―wrapped, of course.
5. We specifically pick activities he can do.
We search far and wide for activities that are dog-friendly, even moving our schedules around so we can attend events where Henry is welcome. From outdoor festivals to the Dip n’ Dive at our local pool this weekend, we are always up for a Henry-friendly venue.
6. Henry goes with us on date night.
Saturday is our date night. In the fall especially, we’ve been known to take Henry on date night so he didn’t have to be home alone, choosing to walk to our local Subway and eating outside on the patio with Henry.
7. He gets mail so he doesn't feel left out.
He is a member of Bark Box, even though he already gets way too many toys. Anything to make him feel special...
8. We've turned down plans to spend time with him.
We hate leaving him in the evenings, often turning down plans so we can spend more time with Henry.
9. We dress him up for Halloween.
It’s not easy finding mastiff-size costumes... but we still make sure he’s got the perfect outfit for Trick-or-Treat.
10. He gets a good-bye kiss.
I’m more worried about saying good-bye to Henry when I leave than my husband.
11. We get insulted if someone makes fun of him.
A few years ago, a lady asked me: “You actually let that thing in your house?”
I still fume about that woman and her rude comments. When people shun Henry on our walks, turning their nose up at him because he’s “too big,” they get a death glare. No one talks about our Henry like that.
12. We have more photos of him on the walls than most people do their children.
13. He gets to see Santa Clause and the Easter Bunny.
And yes, we pay for the expensive photo packages so our parents can have pictures of their “granddog.”
14. He goes to the park.
Henry is a member at our local dog park, so he gets to go play. During the fall, we try to take him at least one night a week.
15. We enroll him in school.
He’s been through several rounds of dog school, and we always make sure he does his homework.
So yes, we are completely obsessed with our mastiff Henry, and we basically treat him like our child. Henry is living the life with his hectic social schedule, plenty of toys, and activities galore.
Some people think we’re crazy, and some scoff at us for calling him family.
But we don’t care.
The love we have for Henry, the unconditional bond we have with him, is irreplaceable. We do everything in our power to give him the best life we can, but it’s nothing compared to what he gives us―loyalty, companionship, and memories we’ll cling to for a lifetime.
To see more of Lindsay's writing and her time with Henry, visit her Facebook.
8 NORTH AMERICAN AUTHORS
8 FRIENDS-TO-LOVERS TALES
Amy K. McClung -Vanessa Morse - Gabbi Grey - S. Hartley
Dahlia Donovan - Lindsay Detwiler - Randi Perrin - Gen Ryan
Unintentional: North American Edition
Their eyes had met a thousand times, their smiles always easy and honest. All it takes is that one moment for everything to change. When their eyes are opened, no longer does "just friends" seem good enough.
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THE TUES-DATE - Vanessa Morse
Through the years, Adam and Tara have grown to depend on each other and share a love deeper than either is willing to admit. Roommates, best friends, unmistakable soulmates... until one day, one date everything changes.
WHERE SHE BELONGS- Lindsay Detwiler
When Emeline Jackson's life plans crumble, her best friend Brent helps her rediscover herself in their hometown. She didn't come home to find love, but a lot can change in a summer.
JUST WHAT I NEED - Randi Perrin
It started out innocent enough, one friend lending a shoulder for the other to cry on. But when Brad wakes up next to Jules the following morning, it stirs an awakening in him, and he’ll go to great lengths to prove she’s everything he needs.
CARESSA'S HOMECOMING - Gabbi Grey
When Caressa comes home from volunteering as a nurse in Africa, she knows she will reunite with her friend Michael. What she doesn't expect is just how much he missed her and how glad he is that she's finally home.
PATIENCE - S. Hartley
Patience is more than just a song to Madison—it's what her rocker best friend has given her for years. Finally ready to be more than friends, will Cale have any left give?
BENEFITS WITH FRIENDS - Amy K McClung
Zoey makes the ultimate request of her best friend Rex. Though she never imagined the impact it would have on their relationship.
ALWAYS AND FOREVER - Gen Ryan
Hadley and Todd have always been there for each other, especially through their countless dead-end relationships. Will they both finally accept they are destined to be each other's always and forever?
ALL LATHERED UP - Dahlia Donovan
Vi has known her best friend, Geoff, since childhood, though growing up meant being separated by distance and decisions. Neither realizes the impact exchanging postcards will have on their growing feelings. Could it be love?
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I remember hearing the word "terrorism" for the first time in reference to our country.
I remember the fear of being an 8th grader and not really feeling safe.
I remember worrying there would be more attacks.
I remember wondering how the sky could be so beautifully blue, the sun so brilliant, on a day that was such a tragedy.
I remember eating lunch in the cafeteria and wondering if the missing plane was going to crash into our school.
I remember wondering if my parents knew about what was happening and how I would explain it to them if they hadn't.
I remember watching those three people on the top floor holding hands, two women and a man, waving a white piece of cloth before leaping hand in hand.
I remember how even though I didn't know anyone personally in those towers, I was heartbroken for them.
Fifteen years later, I look at the sky today and it reminds of me of that September sky my 8th grade year. It's hard to believe it's been so long, but watching those ceremonies, all of the memories, the terror, the sadness comes right back.
September 11, 2001, reminded us all that life could change forever on an ordinary Tuesday. It reminded us to never take a good-bye for granted, to hold our loved ones a little closer, and that life is a precious gift that is never guaranteed.
So on this blue-sky day, we remember the lives lost. We remember the sorrow. And we remember to breathe a little deeper today, hug our family a little bit closer, and soak in every beautiful moment. We remember the day the world changed, and we remember to live the gift we've been given but not promised.
There are so many different versions of you, none superior to the rest.
You are the elementary teacher trying to juggle grad school, a family, and work.
You are the stay-at-home mom trying to get the semi-healthy meal on the table while helping with homework, tackling the growing pile of laundry, and finding time to just be you.
You are the single 20something trying to climb to corporate ladder, pay off student loans, and balance your version of happiness.
You are the traveler, trying to make the most out of every moment of life while staying in touch with those who matter most.
Married or single, looking for love or looking to stay away from it.
Twenty, Thirty, Fifty, or Eighty.
Huge family or no kids in your future.
Entrepreneur or jobless, climbing the career ladder or trying to just cling to the rung you’re on.
Whoever you are, whatever life you’re leaving, there’s one thing you all have in common
You’re struggling to do it all, to balance it all, and to keep your head above water.
You’re exhausted, you’re feeling overwhelmed, and you’re feeling like you don’t know how you can keep going. You feel like you’re failing because no matter what you’re juggling in your life, it feels impossible to keep up with it all.
I’ve seen so many female acquaintances, close friends, and even strangers battling the incessant cycle of trying to be perfect while trying to do too much. As women in 2016, we face so much pressure, no matter what our circumstances are. We are told we are strong and capable. We are told we can have it all―we can have any combination of relationships, careers, families, hobbies, and values we want to pursue.
But few people stop to recognize that having it all sometimes equates to a seemingly impossible race toward a constantly moving finish line.
Doing it all, having it all―it’s hard work, no matter what your life looks like.
We are all trying to balance an ever-changing equation of families, jobs, friendships, love, happiness, and health. There are always to-do lists that seem to grow exponentially every single day.
On top of that, there’s the fear of failure.
Couple all of that with pressure from society to “keep smiling” because modern women should be nothing but strong and capable, and many of us are just waiting to crack.
I’ve seen friends in tears over perceived failures at balancing family and work. I’ve seen so many women panicking because their house isn’t perfectly clean or because they put a frozen pizza on the table for dinner. I’ve seen women struggling with feeling like inadequate employees, wives, mothers, or friends. So many of us are holding ourselves to these impossible standards. We worry so much about being everything for everyone else that we lose sight of our own needs.
We not only want to do it all―we want to do it all to a level of perfection. This level of perfection, though, often leads to feelings of inadequacy when we realize we can’t achieve it simultaneously in every aspect of life.
I am happy to be living in 2016 where women can do it all, where we have the choice to pursue families and careers if we want to.
Still, I sometimes worry that we’re holding ourselves to impossible standards and setting ourselves up to feel like failures.
So to the women trying to do it all, I say: Cut yourself some slack.
It doesn’t matter if there’s a coffee stain on your shirt or if the dishes are piled to the ceiling. It’s fine if your husband’s khakis aren’t perfectly pressed or if your eyeliner isn’t just quite right. It’s okay if family game night ended up in tears and a tossed Monopoly board or if sometimes dinner comes in a paper sack from a fast food restaurant. It’s fine if the sweeper hasn’t been run since last week or if it took a few days for you to get to that paper on your desk at work.
You’re not perfect, but you don’t have to be... because none of us are.
Don’t let the pressure of doing it all, of being everything for everyone, cut off your chance at being happy. Don’t let doing it all suck the joy out of every aspect of your life. Instead, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Don’t be afraid to step back and re-evaluate what really matters most, even if society doesn’t agree with your opinion.
Most of all, don’t be afraid to say “screw perfection.” Take comfort in the fact that everyone who is trying to do it all struggles sometimes. Just keep doing your best and focusing on the things that matter most to you, no matter what that looks like.
Lindsay Detwiler is a high school English teacher and a contemporary romance author. Visit her on Facebook to learn more.
Flying. Invisibility. X-Ray vision. These are the superpowers most people wish for.
Mine are a little bit less conventional, though. If I could have a superpower, it would be one of the following things:
Growing up, I think the third bullet has been the “superpower” I’ve always felt was within reach… minus the “without ever styling it” part. It feels like that perfect Taylor Swift or Reese Witherspoon or Jennifer Anniston hair is always just within my grasp… but not quite close enough to touch.
Since junior high, I’ve gone through so many fads and phases trying to find that perfect hair.
I’ve failed quite a few times.
Even to this day, getting closer to 30 by the minute, I haven’t found that signature style I love, that perfect, envy-worthy hair. And I still keep trying to find the elusive product or style or hair color to give me a Princess Diaries type of transformation.
Through the years, I’ve had more than my share of hair disasters. I’ve had my best intentions and optimism be shattered by horrific experiences. I have quite a few pictures to prove my hair has taken a beating through my hairbrained (haha) scheme to master it.
I’m sure I’m not alone. I’m sure we’ve all made some of these horrific mistakes….right?
1. The “Oh, how hard can a bang trim be” Disaster
I don’t mind dropping time and money to get a complete overhaul done on my hair. But a simple bang trim? Who wants to make an appointment and drop $20 just for a few snips? Isn’t that what Youtube is for?
I’ve had quite a few mishaps over my bangs. A few snips suddenly turns into a few too many snip-snip-snips. Before you know it, you’re sporting the superdork bang look… and they’re crooked, to boot.
Tip One: Make sure you use real hair cutting scissors, not your kid-safety shears from your junk drawer.
Tip Two: Upward snips make it easier to mask screw ups. Hold your scissors vertically.
Tip Three: If you're hesitant, just don’t do it. Seriously.
2. The “At-Home Dye is Fine” Disaster
I blame the soap operas for this one. Every time I see those perfect golden locks on those actresses, I have serious hair envy. They seamlessly change from a chocolate brown hair color to a honey color in the span of a day. And suddenly, I find myself critiquing my own chocolate brown locks, feeling like honey-colored would be just perfect.
Then there comes the moment of no return—the decision to just do it yourself. After all, those commercials make the at-home kits look so easy. The model on the box is, of course, gorgeous. Surely they wouldn’t put her on the box if it wouldn’t turn out like that, right?
Before you know it, the caramel highlights you wanted turn mildew green or the chocolate brown is actually a purpley black. The honey color looks more like vomit-color mixed with streaks of Bozo the Clown Red.
Six bucks at CVS might seem like a bargain… until you have to spend $106 to get it fixed. Been there, done that one.
3. The “I’ll Just Spin the Hairstylist Wheel at Random” Disaster
I’m antsy, if you can’t tell from the last two. I hate waiting. When I decide I want a change—I want to change it yesterday.
So frequently, I find myself not wanting to tediously make the call and schedule an appointment for the next week. Walk-ins Welcome becomes my new favorite phrase. Tried and true? Nope. I pass straight to the random world of walk-in hairstyling.
And I tend to walk-out with severe buyer’s remorse.
I’ve rocked a 1980’s style poof instead of the smooth, Kelly Clarkson look I was hoping for. I’ve rocked puffy, frizzy curls instead of the Taylor Swift spirals. I’ve cried, wanting to put a bag over my head for the drive home because I don’t want anyone even getting a glimpse of me.
Trust what you know…or at least what you’ve heard good feedback from.
4. The “Thinning Shears” Disaster
Okay, I feel like I’m probably not going to get too many “I’ve done that” stories on this one. I am embarrassed to say I might be alone here.
I got the idea once that my hair was super thick…which it is. But I got the idea it needed thinned out and no hairstylist knew just how to do it right. They never took out enough bulk. So I made a very, very bad decision.
I put a pair of thinning shears at Sally Beauty. And then I used them.
A few days before student teaching began.
Thinning was fun. I kept going. Chop, chop, thin, thin. Wispy pieces flew everywhere.
And then I stopped, glancing in the mirror. Tears came.
I looked like I was very, very sick. I had thinned my hair so much that I barely had any left.
So away went my now long locks. I had to go for an above chin-length cut just to make my hair look even.
I cried. I cried some more. But did I throw out the shears?
Nope. They’re actually still in my vanity, waiting for another moment of weakness and for time to dull the lesson.
5. The “What Was I Thinking Picture” Disaster
It’s so hard to see your hair objectively.
Until you look at a picture.
We’ve all been there. We think we’re rocking the hair-do. We think we’ve mastered it. Until we see that photograph. Suddenly, the sophisticated wave we’ve been rocking actually looks like a George Washington style wig. The messy bun we think looks Kardashian sexy actually looks greasy and frightening.
The sheak black hair we’ve been wearing for years suddenly reminds us of Morticia. The slicked back pony looks more like a greasy oil slick.
Sometimes it takes a picture for us to do the facepalm and ask “What the hell was I thinking?” Unfortunately for many of us, the picture reveals the truth… a truth we haven’t faced for years or even decades.
Pictures are worth a thousand words…and sometimes a thousand new hair products.
We’ve all had our hair disasters, right? We’ve all been chasing the elusive hairstyle that will transform us, that will give us the ah-ha moment we’ve been waiting for. For some of us, it’s a long road of don’ts to get to the one do.
To celebrate the release of my fifth novel, To Say Goodbye, I’m giving you the chance to win some hair goodies to help you master your perfect do. Sophia, the protagonist in this contemporary romance, is a hair stylist. To enter, you just have to comment below! Tell me your worst hair disaster and be entered to win an e-copy of To Say Goodbye (now available for pre-order) as well as the hair goodie box from Ulta! *US residents only. Ulta not affiliated with this contest.
****CONGRATULATIONS TO KRISTIN, YOU ARE THE WINNER! EMAIL ME TO CLAIM YOUR PRIZE
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Preorder To Say Goodbye for only 99 cents! This contemporary romance, my fifth novel, releases September 24th. Get your hands on a copy today, though, at 75% off!
Feisty Sophia never shies away from life. Playful, romantic, connected—her marriage was the thing of fairy tales. But when tragedy strikes, Sophia is left to pick up the pieces of her life.
After leaving the army, Jackson is ready to start afresh. But when he returns home, his life spirals out of control.As Sophia and Jackson find themselves in each other, they start to see redemption is possible.
Trying to piece together a new life, they must answer the question: Should they forge a life together and say goodbye to their pasts completely, or should they loyally go their separate ways to avoid heartache?
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