This week was a MUCH better writing week than last week! I got in all five planned writing sessions. I’m hoping I finally have my schedule tweaked just right to make sure I have time for writing and everything else in the mornings before work. Because after work, it’s just not happening!
A Neurosurgeon’s Look at Faith, Doubt, and the Things We Think We Know
Dr. Lee Warren, a practicing neurosurgeon, had seen enough cases of glioblastoma to know when he diagnosed the patient, that he’d seen the end of them. With a 100% fatality rate, he knew how it was going to end. But that never stopped him from praying for his patients, even as he knew there was no hope. Even as he experienced doubts about just what God was doing. Even as he asked Why, God? It wasn’t until Lee faced a personal tragedy that he finally came to the end of himself—and rekindled the hope that had been hiding in the darkness for so long.
I’ve Seen the End of You was an incredible read! I don’t normally get enthralled in nonfiction, but I could not put this book down! Dr. Warren’s raw honesty about his fears, his questions, his grief resonated with me, and the strength it must take to face such seemingly hopeless cases every day with a prayer and an offered bit of hope is inspirational and uplifting. For anyone going through any kind of tragedy, this is a wonderful read!
Lee Warren is a brain surgeon, inventor, Iraq War veteran, and writer. I’ve Seen the End of You is his newest book.
(Galley courtesy of WaterBrook in exchange for an honest review.)
Six years after a global pandemic, it turns out that the End of the World was more like a big pause. Coming out of quarantine, 2 billion unsure survivors split between self-governing big cities, hippie communes, and wasteland gangs. When the father of a presumed-dead pop star announces a global search for his daughter, four lives collide: Krista, a cynical event planner; Moira, the ex-pop star in hiding; Rob, a widowed single father; and Sunny, his seven-year-old daughter.
As their lives begin to intertwine, reports of a new outbreak send the fragile society into a panic. And when the government enacts new rules in response to the threat, long-buried secrets surface, causing Sunny to run away seeking the truth behind her mother’s death. Now, Krista, Rob, and Moira must finally confront the demons of their past in order to hit the road and reunite with Sunny — before a coastal lockdown puts the world on pause again.
A Beginning at the End wasn’t your typical end-of-the-world dystopian novel. Apart from a few brief flashbacks, the story doesn’t spend a lot of time with the actual end of the world. Instead, it’s firmly grounded in the rebuilding phase of life after a global pandemic.
My heart went out to Rob. He’s been keeping a huge secret from hid daughter Sunny for years—and now it has caught up with him and he doesn’t know what to do, so he’s floundering. Moira has been running for so long she doesn’t know how to not run. And Krista…well, I didn’t like her for most of the book, as she’s selfish and a bit ugly to people around her, but she fortunately has an epiphany about herself that changes her. I loved that this novel left the large-scale view alone, and focused on a handful of individuals, their lives, and their emotions, as this made everything much more vivid and realistic.
Mike Chen is a lifelong writer, from crafting fan fiction as a child to somehow getting paid for words as an adult. A Beginning at the End is his newest novel.
(Galley courtesy of Harlequin/MIRA in exchange for an honest review.)
This was not a great writing week. I planned five sessions…and only did one. I’m making some changes to my schedule to see how that improves things, though. I also wrote two book reviews, which is also fewer than normal for me.
There’s obviously room for improvement!
In 1852, Maggie has a young daughter who’s been abused and an abusive husband who will kill her if he can find her, so she signs up to join a wagon train to California with 43 other women eager to find husbands. Maggie doesn’t care about the husband part; she just wants to keep her daughter safe. She’s not even sure her own husband is alive—if he’s not, she’s sure to be accused of his murder.
She soon learns she’s not the only woman in the group with secrets: Mary, whose family treated her like a slave, just wants freedom, and on the trail her large size is good thing. One of the women used to be a prostitute. One is also running from an abusive man. One is hiding a secret in plain sight. Throughout the journey the women—and the two minsters accompanying them—must learn how to fend for themselves and become more than who they were.
I loved the premise of Westering Women. I was a bit disappointed in the execution, though. The women’s stories are amazing, but their presence on the page was scattered and fuzzy at best. Even Maggie, supposedly the main character, seemed more like a bit player most of the time. Some of the transitions were very abrupt and came out of nowhere, too (when the men one of the girls was running from showed up randomly). A great historical jaunt, but the writing didn’t do it justice. Judging from other reviews I’ve seen, this is clearly a case of the book just not being a good fit for me.
Sandra Dallas is a New York Times-bestselling author. Westering Women is her newest novel.
(Galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.)
Sarah Smith loves her little bookstore in tiny Ashford, Connecticut. She swears her books talk to her, and she’s happy with her life, her tight-knit group of friends—and their pastries—and her boyfriend, globe-trotting journalist Ridge. Except he’s gone so much, and Sarah is a little bit bored. So, when her Parisian friend Sophie offers a six-month bookshop exchange, Sarah finds herself flying to Paris to take care of Once Upon a Time, a famous, and popular, bookstore on the Seine.
But Sarah’s dreams of quiet time spent reading, forays to explore Paris, and getting to see Ridge as he travels the world fade quickly once she arrives in Paris. The staff at the bookshop are suspicious and uncooperative. The customers are rude. There’s barely time to breathe, much less read. And instead of spending time with Ridge, their relationship is reduced to occasional quick phone calls. But Sarah has had enough. Christmas is coming and she is determined to get things sorted out, no matter what.
I loved this book! I didn’t realize until I finished it that Rebecca Raisin also wrote Rosie’s Traveling Tea Shop, which was also a lovely read…but it all makes sense now. The Little Bookshop on the Seine made me want to visit Paris, which has never been on my Places to Go list, but I’d pack right up for a chance to work in Once Upon a Time, and Sarah, with her love of books and reading contrasting with her desire to experience life is so me that I related to every page. I highly recommend this!
Rebecca Raisin loves books. The Little Bookshop on the Seine is her newest novel.
(Galley courtesy of Harlequin/HQN in exchange for an honest review.)
Title: The Night Country
Author: Melissa Albert
Genre: YA, fantasy
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Alice Proserpine escaped the Hinterland with her friend Finch’s help and returned to the “real world” and her life there, without Finch. But being back among the normal isn’t everything Alice remembers. Her mother misses the magic, too, but her longing for a closeness with her daughter is more than Alice can give right now.
Especially when others from the Hinterland keep ending up dead—and missing body parts. And everyone thinks Alice is to blame—except her friend Sophia and her mom. But Alice is determined to find out who is killing Stories, no matter where she must go and who she is up against.
I think I liked The Night Country even more than The Hazel Wood. These are dark stories about dark fairy tales and the prose is mesmerizing—and dark—enchanting the reader with every turn. Alice is an awkward character at best, but you love her all the same, and the mystery and magic from the Hinterland is dark, terrifying, and fascinating.
Melissa Albert is an editor and an author. The Night Country is her newest novel.
(Galley courtesy of Flatiron Books in exchange for an honest review.)
Jane is a normal seventeen-year-old girl, busy with her manicures, her best friend, and that cute boy she’s kinda-sorta dating. Until the day she is kidnapped by a stranger and taken to live in a room with a bed, a refrigerator, and a bathroom. She’s given a set of rules to live by—and to earn rewards—given her meals through a cat door, and never sees her abductor. Only the boy trapped in the room next to hers gives her any hope.
Until the day Jane manages to escape. But when she returns home, her family and friends expect her to just return to her old life. But she can’t. So, she hides in her room—and hides from people—as she struggles to process. She writes about her experiences as her therapy, and slowly realizes that not everything in that house was it seems.
Jane Anonymous was a tough read. The horrific experience Jane goes through is terrifying, but the most difficult part of the book is after she escapes. The author does an excellent job capturing the chaos that is Jane’s mind, her struggles, and her growing realization of the truth.
Laurie Stolarz has sold over a million books worldwide. Jane Anonymous is her newest novel.
(Galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.)
So…this week did not go as planned, writing-wise. And I’m actually okay with that. I have a very good friend—whom I consider family—going through something pretty horrible right now, and supporting her is way more important than my “normal” routine. (Ha. Like anything about my life is ever normal.)
One fiction-writing session, two book reviews, and that’s it. Better luck next week!
I only read 15 books in December, and most were just okay—good.
Here are the three I enjoyed the most:
Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell. Come on, you knew this was going to make the list! It’s my all-time favorite book. I get immersed in the culture—even the parts I don’t like—and the characters are so vivid. Scarlett, although almost entirely unlikable, is larger-than-life, and so is Rhett. Melanie is wonderful. Ashley is…meh. But the book itself is a wonderful, compelling read. (And, in case you’re wondering, it’s absolutely where the name of this blog came from.)
Take the Day Off, by Robert Morris. Yes, Pastor Robert is my pastor. But he writes such important spiritual truths, and my life, health, and well-being have all improved so much since I started implementing a Sabbath day of rest every week.
Higher Power Has a name, by Cavanaugh James. This was an interesting read. I haven’t read too many (if any) faith-based books talking about the problems in our current culture…written by someone who was born in this current culture (he’s a Millennial), so that was an interesting perspective on the present problems.