Tuesday, March 15, 2011

‘A Billion Reasons Why’ by Kristin Billerbeck- Book Review

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One of the things I’ve loved about reviewing books on my blog is becoming acquainted with new authors – new to me, anyway! The latest book and author that fit those categories is ‘A Billion Reasons Why’ by Kristin Billerbeck.

Here is the synopsis of this entertaining novel:

There are a billion reasons Kate should marry her current boyfriend. Will she trade them all to be madly in love?
Katie McKenna leads a perfect life. She has a fulfilling job, a cute apartment, and a wedding to plan with her soon-to-be fiancé, Dexter. She can think of a billion reasons why she should marry Dexter. He’s everything she wants in a husband.
And then in walks Luc DeForges, her bold, breathtaking ex-boyfriend. Only now he’s a millionaire. And he wants her to go home to New Orleans to sing for a friend’s wedding. As his date.
But Katie made up her mind about Luc eight years ago, when she fled her hometown after a very public breakup. Yet there’s still a magnetism between them she can’t deny.
Katie thought her predictable relationship with Dexter would be the bedrock of a lasting, Christian marriage. But what if there’s more? What if God’s desire for her is a heart full of life? And what if that’s what Luc has offered all along?

Here is the biography of the author:

Christy Award finalist and two-time winner of the ACFW Book of the Year award, Kristin Billerbeck has appeared on The Today Show and has been featured in the New York Times. She lives with her family in northern California.

Here is Katie’s description of Luc as he walks into her classroom in California:

Luc’s chiseled features didn’t wear humility well. The cross-shaped scar beneath his cheekbone added to his severity. If he weren’t so dreaded handsome, he’d make a good spy in a Bond movie. His looks belied his soft Uptown New Orleans upbringing, the kind filled with celebrations and warm family events with backyard tennis and long days in the swimming pool. (p. 8)

Eileen is Katie’s best friend since age eight. Her passion is fitness and health, and she is very direct in her dealings with people. Here is her side of the conversation with Luc as he comes to visit Katie. This is a great example of the humor strewn throughout this fun read:

“So, Luc,” Eileen said as the men shook hands. “You don’t think Katie has had enough humiliation for one lifetime at a DeForges family function? You really want to dress her like a pink flamingo for this event? Maybe you can buy her a pair of stilettos and stick her in as a yard decoration when you’re finished.” (p. 47)

As Katie reflects on her past, she realized she had given up on some of her passions:

“I miss it. I miss the Barrelhouse Club, I miss singing an old song with passion. Not that I don’t like singing in church, I do, but this is what I did out in the world. This is how I connected with barflies and street people and told them about Jesus. They thought I was a star, like the fairy godmother. It’s not the same here.”

Katie reminds me of myself in that way. Like her, I thought God wanted to ‘cleanse’ me of the all the things I loved before I came to Him. The thought of going into a bar was verboten to me, as was listening to music I used to live (U2 comes to mind). Like her, I realized he created us uniquely – even our likes and dislikes. I am so grateful, as she was in the book, to learn how to become the true person He created us to be!

Katie’s relationship with her boyfriend, Dexter, was strained. Here is the description of a display of affection:

She tried to kiss him back, more romantically, but his lips were hard and pursed. The movement came off as cold and wooden, with an much passion as a woodpecker had for the tree it’s headbutting. She glanced over at Eileen, who had the decency to look so as not to remind she was no Scarlett O’Hara. Katie wasn’t the sort to incite that kind of passion in men, and one of the finest things should could do with life was to embrace what she was – not pine after things that would never be. It was why she and Dexter were getting married, she reminded herself. He loved her for who she was now; not for some false image she used to inhabit. (p. 59)

Luc made an assessment of Katie’s heart when he flew her in his private jet to New Orleans to attend his brother’s wedding:

        “Look me in the eyes, Katie.”
She did, and he visibly saw her hard shell dissipate. The pale green of her eyes seemed endless in their depth, as though he could look for a lifetime and never know all of her. He wanted to keep her there, beside him, away from anyone who might harm her, or worse yet, dim her light within. He couldn’t help but see Poindexter, a man void of real emotion, as a total threat to Katie’s spirit. He would suck the life out of her, like a N’awliner sucked the head from a crawdad. (pp. 66-67)  

One of the other reasons I liked this book is its setting in New Orleans. I have been to New Orleans twice, as part of relief teams right after Hurricane Katrina. I was amazed by the spirit and resilience of the people there! I would love to visit again; in the meantime, authors like Ms. Billerbeck send me back them through their novels:

As the car drew them farther into the city, she turned and faced the window again. Remnants of Hurricane Katrina loomed everywhere. Mostly in vast improvements, not the devastation.  Granted, they weren’t in the Ninth Ward, but the city appeared cleaner. N’awliners had taken pride in their city, and when she was threatened, showed what they were made of. The changes reminded her of what her heart once looked like after Hurricane Luc DeForges. (p. 86)

As Katie rehearsed to sing in Luc’s brother’s wedding, Luc made some observations about her:

Katie glanced back at him from the stage, and he spoke to her heart. “What you don’t realize,” he murmured under his breath, “is that kind of life will ultimately kill who you are.” A life without music, without her soul touched by the natural rhythm within her – was that a life at all? She was born for deeper things, the way music touched her. God had created the music within her. (p. 145)

I loved this advice that Katie’s mother (known  as ‘Mam’) gave to her as she contemplated both men in her life:

        “He [Dexter] brought me his extra suitcase to borrow,” she said.
“Aha!” Mam said. “You saw the suitcase he had with him. Did he give you the good suitcase? Or take it for himself?”
Katie slid her hand down the long bedpost.
“That’s what I thought. You know, Katie, you can plan so that nothing goes wrong in your life. But something will, and it won’t be what you expected to go wrong. So make sure you’re with someone who will help you bail the water out of the boat, not someone who will blame you for the hole.” (p. 188)

I also loved Katie’s interpretation of love and life, and the decision she made about how to approach both:

Maybe she had put too many constraints on love. Jesus loved unconditionally. Wasn’t that the example? She prayed for the strength to dance like no one was watching, sing like no one was listening, and love like she’d never felt pain. (p. 285)

Here are the last two paragraphs from this terrific book:

Love. The kind of love worth having required surrender. Would she vow before God that which cost her nothing? Love endured forever and no fortress built around her heart was strong enough to withstand its mighty power.
She looked up to the starry night and whispered, “I surrender.”

The book ends with Ten Random Questions with Kristin Billerbeck. I loved her answer to this question; I need to hear it!:

        Q. What is your favorite Scripture verse?
A. Proverbs 16:2 [All a person’s ways seem pure to them, but motives are weighed by the LORD] – it reminds me that even though someone did something I view as ugly, God may have a different view based on that person’s motive, which may have been from their heart. It reminds me not to judge other peoples’ actions with a broad stroke. (p. 306)

I found the second half of the book to be better than the first; its beginning kind of dragged for me. But once I began to enjoy and empathize with the characters, I wanted to continue reading to see which gentleman Katie would choose!

This observation is a little off the beaten path, but I thought the book cover was a little off. The book mentions numerous times that Katie is a redhead; however, the woman on the book cover is a brunette. I also noticed a paragraph in the book that mentions Luc and his brother Ryan’s last name as McKenna, when that is actually Katie’s last name; their last name is actually LaForges (see page 127). I am surprised that error made it past the many proofreaders and editors, etc…

Despite those nitpicks, I found this book to be full of fun! Kristin is known for her ‘Chick Lit’ books, and this one perfectly fits that category. I recommend it if you are looking for a fun and quick read!

You can order this book here.

This book was published by Thomas Nelson Publishers and provided by the B&B 
Media Group, Inc. for review purposes. 

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