25 August 2016

Review: The Long Journey to Jake Palmer by James L Rubart


Jake Palmer is a management trainer who makes a living encouraging others to read what’s on their label rather than believing lies about themselves. But following a horrific incident, he finds himself on a journey to read his own label—to believe the truth about himself instead of the lies he’s been fed by the people he loved most, to the point he’s forgotten who he was.

The Long Journey to Jake Palmer is excellent. Excellent writing, excellent characters, excellent plot, and an excellent message about learning and believing the truth about ourselves, not the lie. It’s a novel of spiritual and emotional healing, subtly making the excellent point that the physical healing so many people search for is secondary to spiritual healing.

The metaphor (and I truly can’t believe I’m writing that in a book review!) of forgetting who we are is apt: I read an article yesterday which said most five-year-olds have creativity at near-genius levels. But we lose that as we get older until we become merely average. It’s the same message as Rubart shares with Jake Palmer’s story: we forget who we are, and we need to rediscover ourselves.

This is easily one of the best books I’ve read this year. Recommended—although at over $10 for the ebook, you might want to treat yourself to the paperback.

Thanks to NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about James L Rubart at his website, and you can read the introduction to The Long Journey to Jake Palmer below:

23 August 2016

Review: The Struggle: Mom and the Summertime Blues by the Smith family

The Struggle is Real.

Or so my teenage daughter informs me. And as I inform her, she has first-world problems. Patrice Smith has four teen and pre-teen daughters who also suffer from first-world problems, and any modern parent will recognise the “issues”. They will also know how difficult it can be to keep children entertained during the long summer holidays without taking out a second mortgage to pay for entertainment.

The Struggle is one of Patrice Smith’s solutions to that problem. She got her four daughters to co-write a book as a summer project. While the four daughters in the story are supposedly fictional, I suspect a good part of each daughter comes out (especially in their comments about their sisters!) That’s one of the best parts of the book—the authentic and original voices of each daughter.

The other best part is the content, which I found hilarious (from my point of view as the mother of teens. I suspect teens might have quite a different view). The sisters share their frustration at being forced to participate in horrific summer activities as math homework, weeding the garden, and running! In the morning! Basically, not having a vacation as it is defined by Google.

Mom makes things even worse by requiring that they eat healthy food, not eat junk food, and use natural remedies (which I mostly agreed with, but I do have to side with the girls when it comes to homemade sunscreen). As if things couldn’t get worse, Mrs Smith insists on punctuating these horrors with teachable moments (I’d insert a winky emoticon here if I could. But I’m not a teen, so I can’t).

Okay, so the plot wasn’t as cohesive as most fiction I read and the English often had that high school flavour … but that’s appropriate and to be expected in a book written by students aged 10 to 14 and published by their parents.

Mrs Smith, keep up the good work.

Girls, listen to your mother. One day you will wake up and realise you sound just like her … and that’s something to be proud of.

Homeschooling parents—this could make a great project for the year.

Other parents—kids refusing to help out? I’m sure they’d rather clean their rooms/the bathroom/the entire house than be forced to write a book.

Thanks to Patrice Smith for providing a free ebook for review, and for providing me with some amusing inspiration through the words of your daughters.

22 August 2016

Writing Helps to Heal Author Justine Johnston Hemmestad


by Justine Johnston Hemmestad

In 1990 my car was broadsided by a speeding city bus as I turned out of a parking lot - I was in a coma and had sustained a severe brain injury. I was paralyzed when I woke up from my coma, though I worked hard to walk again within a few months, and to relearn how to perform the basic functions of life.

I began to write when I was carrying my first child Megan, less than two years after my accident, as tool or a way to cope with feeling so alone in my disability and misunderstood. Writing, throughout the darkest part of my recovery—when everyone looked down on me and I had no one to talk to or relate with me—helped me to get my thoughts in focus, to learn new things, and to remember what was important to me. I felt bullied, my thoughts and perception were skewed, and I felt emotionally alone, isolated by my personal lacking (my speech was slurred; my reactions were slow, etc.).

http://faithbygracepublishing.com/products/truth-be-toldBut writing was my Savior. When I was so afraid and so filled with guilt for being disabled, writing offered me a safe and comforting place to go, where I could cry and feel loved. Writing was my confidante and gave me hope when the world was crushing me. Writing even helped me find out who I was, since everything about "me" seemed to have melted away with my TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury). Writing helped me find my words to speak again. Writing was my purpose, and writing was my healing.

My novella, Truth be Told, is essentially the story of my recovery wrapped up in fictional characters in a different time and place. Everything is symbolic in my novella because symbolism itself taught me how to travel deep inside my thoughts and search until I found the answers. Symbolism aided my memory by the weight of its meaning.

The old man in my novella is symbolic of God, prayer, love of my children, and the inner truth I found when I dug deep, the challenges that stretched my mind and that I knew I had to face when I wanted to give up on life completely.

The Lady is the aspect of my recovery in which I felt lost, even to myself—I didn’t know who I was—but in prayer and meditation I learned to focus my mind, calm my thoughts (which were drowning in the guilt I felt for being disabled) and listen to God’s answer…what defines me?

The knight is the aspect of my recovery that was assaulted by PTSD. Not only was I recovering, but I was recovering amidst a torrent of fear, pain, and false persecution. He represents the survivor’s guilt I had for living as brain-injured, and the part of myself that felt I deserved the lies that people told about me simply because it was easy to lie about me. I illuminated my purpose— the purpose that any recovering person needs to be able to climb out of the darkness—symbolically as Jesus. When people lied about me, writing defended me and made the truth immortal. My purpose, as writing, was the well within me; writing saved me and gave me direction in life (even when I no longer had any sense of direction due to my TBI). There were people who tried to point me in the wrong direction, but my prayer, and written prayer, was always brimming with truth.

My purpose in writing raised me out of the darkness and set me on a new path. As my characters in Truth be Told founded one of the first Universities in Europe, my purpose led me to enter into college, to study tirelessly, and to set goals and reach them. For a person with a TBI, these things stretched my mind to the breaking point. And yet my savior, writing, was always there, so much that my purpose and my goals became intertwined. Every class I’ve had brought me new challenges; every professor’s pushing has helped me more than they were ever aware.

My husband and I now have seven children and I'm still writing, for both have truly been essential to my recovery. I've also earned a BLS through The University of Iowa and am now working toward a Master's Degree in Literature through Northern Arizona University. I’m grateful to have written a book that I felt so strongly, all along, could be of help to survivors, for them to recognize themselves in the characters and to know that they're not alone. I would have recognized myself in this story and it would have given me hope. My mission now is to give other survivors hope.

18 August 2016

I'm Reviewing at Reality Calling

Today I'm reviewing A Lady in Defiance. I was especially impressed by the spiritual content of this novel, so I'm reviewing it at Reality Calling in recognition of the redemptive nature.

Click here to read my review.

16 August 2016

Review: Fetching Sweetness by Dana Mentink

Not as Good as Sit Stay Love

I really enjoyed Dana Mentink’s first dog-themed book, Sit Stay Love (you can read my review here), and was thrilled to get a copy of Fetching Sweetness to review.

Unfortunately, I didn’t think it measured up to the high standard set by Sit Stay Love.

First, I found the beginning somewhat disjointed and hard to get in to. The heroine came across as scatty, and that’s never a good sign. Well, not for me. I also thought the early scenes felt contrived, as though their sole purpose was to get Stephanie and Rusty together. Yes, I know that’s exactly the purpose of opening scenes in any novel, especially a romance novel, but I should feel as though the events occurred naturally (at least, that’s how I usually feel). With Fetching Sweetness, it felt too much like the author had pulled a bunch of strings to get the characters where she needed them to be.

Once the story got going, it was excellent. It was a road trip with a difference as Stephanie and Rusty join forces to return the enormous and ungainly Sweetness to his owner, and battle some of their own personal issues along the way.

But then the end came, and that didn’t work for me either. I could explain why, but, well, spoilers. Suffice to say the ending was like the beginning, and neither were like the excellent middle. Yes, the end made sense—well, mostly—but it didn’t leave me with that ‘ahhh’ feeling I get from a great romance.

The characters were good, the writing was solid, and it was clearly a Christian novel with the spiritual growth from both main characters. But even the most brilliant writing and strongest Christian message isn’t enough to compensate for a shaky start and a meh end. Here’s hoping Paws for Love, the next in the series, will be back to the standard set by Sit Stay Love.

(As one final aside: the stories are standalones with no characters in common between the first and second book in the series. So you don’t miss anything by not reading one of them. Like this one).

Thanks to Harvest House and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Dana Mentink at her website.