The day her doctor says the one word that no one wants to hear, Amy Bergstrom discovers a secret that her husband of 25 years has been keeping from her. Now that the months of treatment and surgeries are behind her, she escapes her claustrophobic life seeking healing, peace and clarity in an ancient forest in Washington State, a forest that holds memories of her childhood summers.
After dropping off his daughter at Amy’s Aunt Rae’s horse ranch in the mountains of New Mexico, Officer Paul Bergstrom visits the fixer-upper he had bought years ago as a place to retire with his family. Although it appears fine on the outside, the inside is a disaster–just like his marriage. When he finds himself with more off-duty time than he expected, he lovingly repairs his dream home, building the future he so desperately wants.
Witnessing her mother’s health crisis had been terrifying enough, but learning the cause was genetic leaves Carly with the sense that all of her dreams are pointless. With the help of her eccentric great aunt and a Clydesdale named T. Rex, Carly just may find her faith in her future again.
Kayla McLaren has been blessed with gorgeous book covers for her novels, and this is no exception. Her writing brings the beauty and magic of her settings to vibrant life and etches them in the reader’s mind—whether or not they’ve ever visited these places themselves. Each of these three characters are distinct and struggling with their own demons, but their stories twine together in this tale of a family facing their battles alone—and together. A lovely read!
Kayla McLaren is from Washington State. What’s Worth keeping is her newest novel.
(Galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.)
Savannah’s sister is her best friend, but she’s going away to college and leaving Savannah alone with their mom, who’s become overbearing and food-and-exercise-obsessed since her stint on an extreme weight-loss reality show. She’s especially obsessed with Savannah’s food choices and weight, but Savannah just wants to get through her senior year and join her sister at college.
Savvy isn’t worried about her weight. She’s worried about her classes, the journalistic expose she’s working on about some questionable athletic recruiting practices at school, and George.
George is the cute new guy who has some problems of his own. As Savvy tries to help him, they grow closer, and George stands by her even when her mom’s helicoptering gets out of control. But more than their families stand in the way of George and Savvy, and they’ll have to figure things out on their own if they stand a chance together.
I enjoyed the body positivity message of To Be Honest. It’s great that Savvy is happy in her own skin and sees the dangers in her mom’s “health” obsession. George’s cute-but-dorky persona is charming and lovable, but the misunderstandings these two go through! Really enjoyed reading this.
Maggie Ann Martin is from Iowa but lives in New York. To Be Honest is her new book.
(Galley provided by Macmillan/Swoon Reads in exchange for an honest review.)
When you’re on the playground with your kids, you expect to have fun and be silly. You don’t expect your entire life to change in an instant, when a small boy jumps off the jungle gym and lands on your head, breaking your neck, but that is what happened to Katherine Clark in May 2009.
Katherine was paralyzed from the neck down, and doctors diagnosed her with quadriplegia and said she’d never walk again. She had emergency spinal surgery that night, but the doctors told her husband she was no longer the same person. They expected her to be a burden for the rest of her life. They expected her to feel sorry for herself and accept her new, horrifying reality. They were wrong.
Instead, God worked a tremendous miracle in Katherine’s life. Her time in a rehab hospital was marked with frustration and tears, but her trust in God was accompanied by progress every day. By the middle of July, Katherine had learned to walk again and returned home. She experienced the deep, abiding love of God, even in the midst of overwhelming pain and trouble, and she clung to Him and His truths to see her through.
I wanted to read Where I Endbecause of the similarities to my own medical history (a stroke 4 ½ years ago because of an unsuspected birth defect, given a 98% fatality rate, told by a doctor “You’ll never be normal again.”) It is terrifying when your life changes in a single instant, but the experience can be a profound blessing. Katherine Clark tells her story with openness and honesty, and the reader feels her pain and her fear, as well as her hope and her joy. If you need something uplifting in your life, this is the book for you!
Cherie Kephart left her home in California to travel the world. In Zambia, as a member of the Peace Corps, she became very ill and almost died. Having cut her stint in the Peace Corps short, she returned home, eager to find out what was wrong with her. Instead, she only grew sicker.
For years, Cherie suffered from various symptoms, with unrelieved exhaustion, nausea, and unrelenting pain. She saw countless doctors and healers, but all of them were baffled. Despite her suffering Cherie remained determined to find answers and beat her illness to reclaim her life.
This is a powerful story of one woman’s determination to not just survive her illness, but to thrive. The first step is figuring out what her illness is. Cherie suffers for years, seeking help wherever she can, as she struggles to keep herself alive. She writes with strength and brutal honesty, taking the reader through the depths of her suffering until she emerges on the other side.
Cherie Kephart was raised in Venice, California, but served in the Peace Corps in Zambia, where she fell ill. After returning home, she struggled for years to find out what was wrong with her.A Few Minor Adjustmentsis her story.
(Galley provided by Bazi Publishing in exchange for an honest review.)
Elise A. Miller is a fitness instructor and a writer of both fiction and essays. Her first novel, Star Craving Mad, was first published in 2004. Tracing the Bonesis her second novel.
Eve Myers is a housewife haunted by her husband’s long-ago affair. She has two kids, chronic back pain, and scribbles story ideas on scraps of paper as she drifts numbly through her monotonous life. Until a new family moves into the house next door.
Now Eve is obsessed with beautiful life coach Anna and sexy alternative healer Billy. Anna has abilities Eve never imagined, and Billy is haunted by a dark, troubled past. While Eve starts healing sessions with Billy, tragedy strikes, drawing Eve into a tangled web of suspicion and sending her marriage careening towards a precipice of mistrust and betrayal.
Tracing the Bones is a compelling, intriguing story about flawed characters and their struggles. I understood—and sympathized—with Eve’s pain as well as her curiosity. The aftermath of tragedy, and Eve’s ever-deepening involvement in the darkness offered her a chance at resolution and redemption. I enjoyed this book very much.
Real Life Update: I started my new job last week. This week, I was in Dallas for training. Wednesday morning, I had a brief visual disturbance (double vision) that scared the crap out of me. My doc wanted me to get checked out, so I had a brief eval from paramedics, then spent several hours in the E.R. at Baylor Dallas. CT and everything was clear, so they released me. My new boss came to check on me. I was horrified, but that was awesome of him. I’m off until Monday to rest (so I missed almost all of Wednesday, and all of Thursday, but that’s it). I feel fine. No issues since, and they’re pretty sure it was stress-related, but I see my neuro next Friday to get his take on it. (In case anyone is wondering, I had a stroke two years ago without warning. Haven’t had any of these issues in about 15 months.) I took it easy yesterday–pedicure and a nap–and I’m taking it easy today as well. I feel fine, but I think a nap is next on the agenda.
Writing Update: Got my words in on Siren Song last week. I’ll get a few more today/this weekend, as well as some editing. My Personal and Professional Editing class should be interesting. This week, we learned about Style Sheets (which I’d never heard of), so I’ll be grabbing that idea and running with it. If you’re interested in how editing has changed, our textbook is Editors on Editing (ed. by Gerald Gross), and the essays are pretty fascinating to me.
So, I just wrote four pages—my page goals for the past two weeks—in one sitting! Not that four pages is astonishing or anything, but it’s writing, and my characters and their world are starting to come to life for me. Which is a good thing, obviously, since what’s the point of writing about dead characters? (Unless they’re zombies or vampires. Then, maybe.)
The story is starting to burn in the back of my mind now, and I love it. I wish I had more time to spend writing, but…I don’t. it’s not that I waste a lot of time on TV or anything like that, I just don’t have time to get everything done I need and want to do. There are several non-negotiables in my life:
1) God. I give my time to Him in various forms, and that won’t stop.
2) School. Do I even need to say that this is a huge priority?
3) Work. Obviously, not working isn’t an option for me.
4) Training. Have I mentioned that I’m doing a half-marathon in December, and hiking the Grand Canyon next May? This will require some time.
5) Writing. Beyond school stuff, and the fiction, I have three blogs. (Well, four, but the fourth has lapsed for now.)
So you see my problem here? If my days had like 28 hours in them, I would be golden. Sadly, I don’t have Hermione’s Time-Turner, so that option is out for me. I’m sure I could better use my time, but I’m at a loss as to how. If anyone has any suggestions, tips, tricks, apps, ideas…I would love to hear them. I need help with this! My Muse wants to write, and I want her to be able to.
I haven’t talked about writing in a while. I haven’t written in something like 15 months. To be honest, I’ve barely managed to do anything besides work the day job, do school stuff, and try to rest and recuperate from both those things. Writing…has more than fallen by the wayside. It’s dropped completely off the radar.
I had started to wonder if the Muse inhabited that part of my brain that was damaged by my stroke. I’m happy to report that it doesn’t! Yesterday, I was at work, and walked by my boss’s office. He had Enya playing, and I felt the Muse sit up, take a deep breath, and stretch. It was like she’d been resting for a long time. (Apparently, she moonlights as Rip Van Winkle.) Now she’s awake, and ready to play. And all it took was some Enya to shake her up and get her moving again (I’ve written to Enya a lot in the past.)
Now I can feel her in there, tinkering with the edges of The Fall, teasing it with her tiny, ever-moving hands as she searches out the bits that no longer fit, so she can rip them to shreds and build something new and shiny. She likes shiny, and at this point, The Fall is pretty much new and pristine, so it counts. Plus, she knows we have a lot of work to do to get it into shape for our new vision of it. It’s no longer going to be the same old dystopian zombie tale. It will still have zombies and be dystopian. But now it will be more.
As I’m sure you’ve noticed, there hasn’t been much going on around here except for the occasional book review. That is mostly true of my life of late, too. It’s been 9 1/2 months since my stroke, and I’m still not 100% yet. To be fair, I may never be 100% of what I was, so I just need to adjust to my new normal. That has been…harder…than I thought it would be.
Yes, I still work three days a week (3 days that are 11-16 hours each), on my feet in a fast-paced environment. I love my patients, but it’s overwhelming at times. Plus, I go to school full-time (online at Regent University now). I’m taking some great classes, but it is a teensy bit exhausting at times. I’m trying to start working out again (right now, “working out” means some light walking and strength training). Writing hasn’t sorted itself completely yet.
I’m trying to blog on something like a consistent schedule (which, let’s face it, right now, that’s once a week, if I’m lucky). I’m also trying to work my way through Holly Lisle’s Create a World Clinic to get the writing juices flowing again. But it’s hard. So hard, sometimes. Some days, dragging myself out of bed is a monumental task. On my days off, I should be able to sleep in a bit (where “sleep in” means staying asleep until after 6 a.m.). But no. This morning, I was awake before 4 .m. Seriously?
But yes, that’s my goal: one blog here a week, and I intend to have some sort of writing progress to report weekly. And, if anyone has any sort of suggestions at all….I’m all ears.
I want to start writing again. I haven’t written anything–apart from a handful of blog posts–in six months. I want to. I’m just…scared. My world is not what it was six months ago. I’ve changed a lot. I almost died. Rediscovered my purpose. Decided to link my dreams with that purpose. I’m actively taking steps to make both dream and purpose a reality. I’m changing schools and majors (two of those steps). And my writing is another one of those steps.
But starting to write again is scary. Coming up with an idea worthy of all my changes is intimidating. And the thought of failing is terrifying. Which leaves me mentally–and creatively–paralyzed.
Any ideas to get back on the horse again, so to speak?