When I started reading Never Been To Vegas, I was so excited to get to read the book before it hit store shelves but I didn't know what to expect. Mandy's first book, Life, Love, and a Dash of Sass, really keeps me going. I read it most nights right before going to sleep in order to meditate on a new perspective from Mandy. Mandy to me isn't some 34 year old blogger who now writes book on the single life, but because I've followed her journey since 2012, I've come to think of her as a long lost older sister who's lessons I can learn from, and to me that's exciting because it takes a little pressure off me being the oldest and the role model for my two younger sisters and focuses the attention on what I can do to better myself for no one else but me and God.
Yet, I started reading it while watching The Bachelor which wasn't the smartest idea because well, I wasn't immediately hooked. (I mean, have you seen Juan Pablo?). Yet, once I finished watching The Bachelor, and stopped daydreaming about Juan Pablo, I gave the first chapter a second read and finally realized that it was a genius way to start the book because it pretty thoroughly summed up the book's overall theme: It's not about the destination; it's about the journey. Appreciate your journey for what it is, the good, the bad, the ugly, the awkward, the really awkward, the passion, the fire, the rain, the mud, and even take a few minutes to sit and soak up a little sun.
Mandy starts the book by talking about why she's never been to Vegas but her luggage has, and what a funny story that is. It actually sounded a lot like something that would have happened to me so immediately Mandy and I started her journey on common ground. As a writer myself, I find that it's important to start a book in a way that both hooks your reader and leaves them relating to you or in the case of fiction, the main character.
Moving on to Chapter 2, I found it quite funny that Mandy and I had another similarity. We both had our first love at the age of 18. In Mandy's case, she dated hers and what a sweet couple her and Matt were. My favorite quote from this chapter came from the beginning where she talks about high school: " I can remember feeling like I never quite fit in with anyone. Now I can look back on it and see that I never quite fit in because I was never meant to. I never knew how to be a follower, and I never succumbed to the temptations of cigarettes or alcohol or drugs in high school like so many teenagers do. I was far from perfect, but I think I felt God tugging on my heart, even then, to live my life by a different standard than most. Hindsight is twenty-twenty, and I can look back at those days now and see that I was being prepared for a different sort of journey than the majority of my counterparts. At the time, more often than not, it just felt lonely."
The first chapter that really knocked my socks off and I really related to was Chapter 4 because it talked about the beginning of Mandy's walk with God, and how she learned to lean on God instead of focusing on her relationship status. Plus, Pastor Dan's prophecy gave me goosebumps. "Mandy, there is something about you that is very precious to the Lord. I feel like He is saying, "Even in your mother's womb, I knew you." There have been seasons that you drifted away from God, but He always pulls you back. He's never been very far from you. I see you one day speaking into the lives of many young women. I see you on airplanes. I see you going...the sky is the limit!" When he said the part about speaking into the lives of young women, every hair on my arms and legs stood up. Crazy. I'm now one of those young women and it's amazing how God thought of me even while he was giving Mandy hope for her future. What a loving God we serve.
Chapter five was very amusing because it talked about Mandy's journey after college. How she basically did a lot of "character work" before she went on to work for CMT. God even restored her hope by allowing her the chance to be an extra on Dawson's Creek. So, so cool!
Chapter six and seven really spoke to me. Chapter seven made me a little bug eyed when I found out that Mandy's academic advisor was also a Dr. B. Her's was Dr. Berg; Mine is Dr. Baglione. Sorry, if I sound a little bit like a fan girl right there. Please allow me to continue.
Chapter seven talked about Mandy's battle with depression upon losing her job at CMT. As someone who has suffered much of her life from depression and recently have overcome my battle with it, I can emulate with Mandy in understanding how much it's not easy living with it. Everyone you know doesn't understand why you stop talking to them and shut the world out but it's only because you don't know how to communicate how low you feel into words.
Mandy's story really gets interesting after this because she overcomes her depression and anxiety issues by taking dance classes. Then, Mr. E gets introduced to us, and Mandy. Soon after, Mandy gets a job in PR for a technology company, and ends up in a relationship where she completely gets battered, bruised, and broken, but due to God's grace, not damaged. She finds the strength to walk away and Mr. E and her reunite, only for him to disappear again.
Chapter 17 had a quote that really spoke to me because of something that happened to me this week. This week, I faced my fears and basicallyasked the guy I've liked for five months within another question if he saw things between us going anywhere and he gave me a straight very nose-dive worthy no. Well, that night, he seemed that way. I started crying because well, sometimes it really hurts to see yourself one way and have someone reject you (or think they reject you) only to watch them go for a girl who is completely everything you aren't (and yes, I mean that in the immoral way). I talked to my fellow women in the Single Women Crew and a lot of them were shocked that I've never had a boyfriend, and just by telling me that, my hope was restored. I realized that there are people in this world who will see my worth and wonder why I'm still single. And eventually, there will be a guy who comes along and wants to change that but not because he wants to complete me but because he knows we can equally benefit on this journey of life together. Plus, I had a moment of bittersweet tears because I realized that all these women in the crew all around the world are so beautiful and have so much greatness inside them and they face the same dilemma I do: they too have never had a boyfriend. The next day and the sequential days thereafter, I seen this guy and it's obvious that something good is happening here. Maybe a crush but ultimately I can tell that God's ultimate plan at this time was to get me to see how far I've come. A year ago, I was in a broken, battered, bruised place just like Mandy had been, and I thought I would never feel genuine feelings for another boy as long as I lived but thanks be to my Heavenly Father, I found the strength and allowed his grace to envelop me and I am here, a year later with genuine feelings for another member of the male species all the while, I've been attending all my classes and doing really well this semester. I've even started overcoming my fear of talking in front of people. (Yes, you read that right.) I guess the other night, I just did what I always do. I tried to rush God's perfect plan but with God's grace, I am able to realize that maybe something will come of these mutual feelings eventually but right now, because we are both graduating and relocating to different areas, it is not the proper time for us. If something is meant to happen, it will eventually, in God's perfect, beautiful timing. Plus, right now, I'm grateful that I can be friends with this boy and be myself around him. That for me is enough right now.
Also, I've recently said goodbye or stopped talking to a few people I deemed close friends because I found that they no longer benefited my life and my ultimate destiny. I am so very grateful for the part they played in my story but they are only a small piece of the bigger picture. I've started doing this because it's all a part of growing up. You start realizing who truly values YOU, and who only values you for WHAT YOU CAN DO so you walk away. Then, this quote from Chapter 17 spoke to me regarding all that I've been dealing with lately regarding relationships and love: "Maybe at the end of the day, all we can do is cling to what completes us (like our best friends) and release what depletes us ( like a guy who can't see the crown jewel standing right in front of him)." There is also more to this quote but that part I'm going to use in my upcoming novel One Last Breath.
By the time, I finished Never Been To Vegas, I was so into Mandy's story that I was legit invested. So much so that the ending she wrote basically made me cry. Why? Well, they may have been Mandy's words but I heard them in Jesus's voice: "You lose the job because it wasn't your destination, but merely a step along the way. God knows that you were never meant for a cubicle even though you don't yet realize it. You lose the love because to cling to it would hold you back from everything else you're meant to experience. Your arms are now free to grab on to life. You get sidetracked because God knows the only way to get you off the stubborn path you're on is to allow you to run smack dab into a detour. You get discouraged because you're human, and fallible. and sometimes you need those down moments to rest, regroup, and prepare for the up moments. You get blindsided by bad news and beat up by life because this is life and bad things happen, but the beautiful flip side of your present struggle is that it prepares you for your future success. You lose everything you think is so vital to your very existence because God longs for you not just to see but to truly grasp that all you really need in this life is Him. You wander the planet alone for a longer time than you would have liked because you have a destiny that's so special, and so important, and so far beyond anything you could have ever imagined for yourself, a relationship before it's time would only distract you from fulfilling it." I'm sure you're wondering why I gave you the most beautifully written ending to any book ever when I'm trying to convince you to buy it. Well, if that quote doesn't make you want to buy and prove why Mandy Hale is officially one of my heroes, I don't know what will.
If you've been moved by this synopsis review of Never Been To Vegas and would like to pre-order it, please visit the following link: Buy This Book; you won't regret it. Matter of fact, I'm going to order a copy despite having already read it because a book is more fun to have and read, once it's bound and you can literally turn the pages correctly.
For a book trailer that may also persuade you that you need to order this book, please click becoming your own happily ever after.
Thank you Mandy, The Single Women Crew, and everyone at Thomas Nelson, who allowed me this opportunity to help Mandy's message reach more people. I've enjoyed every minute of it.
Until next time, remember,
Love Times Infinity,
~Just Keep Swimming~