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The Darkness in my Vision

9 Jul

On the edges of my vision there’s a shimmer.

A flash of color.

A vagueness.

A hint of the darkness to come.

I’ve learned that if I keep my eyes forward, it is somehow light enough to ignore. But if I look around, it roars out at me as a lion upon its prey. The strength of its presence causes my whole body to react. My head starts a low pounding, my stomach clenches and my knees feel weak. If left at it’s height, it will take over every part of me, leaving me writhing in pain and fear.

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Photo by Sebastian Muller on Unsplash

So I take the easy path. I fix my eyes straight ahead and breathe deeply. I push it back down. And try not to imagine the colors – the rainbow of them arching out from the center that is a blinding white. I try not to think of the blurriness that makes everything around that color, ‘other’. Something other than what it is. Something that no longer makes sense, as if it’s from another time or place. Something that leaves it’s edges behind with every blink of my eyes.

As my breathing deepens and the shimmer lessens, I forget about the urgency of doing more to avoid it returning and blithely go about my day.  The lion has been tamed and the prey has been rescued.

For the moment, at least.

Once again, another head turn, a glance too fast for my eyes to adjust and there it is again. But this time, the shimmer is brighter. Bigger. And somehow, darker. The colors have turned deeper shades of themselves, the blinding white has taken on a ferocious tint. As my head pounds again and my joints turn to mush, I remember with clarity that this has happened already today.  My hands will shake if I let them, from the fear that is dogging me now, but I harden my will and do what I have to do to avoid the nightmare that just might come anyway.

The darkness is like the lion in the show – the audience blissfully believes it to be tamed and so will draw nearer it than they should. But the trainer knows that it’s only biding its time until it can strike when the trainer has turned his back and let down his guard.

The darkness is coming.

~This is a description of the visual auras that I’ve been getting off and on the past 14 years. The nightmare that comes after this, is a complete loss of vision in my left eye for about half an hour and then such a vicious migriane (I’ve taken to calling them nuclear migraines) that I’m left crying, laying with an ice pack on my face and if I do have to move, I end up crying even more. These are the ones that make me wonder if I will live through it; they make me wonder if there will ever even be an end to the pain. So there’s good reason to avoid these as much as possible. Of course, sometimes, no matter what you do, they come anyway. 

~Laura

June 2019 Book Reviews

3 Jul

I read such different styles of book this past month that I hope you find something to add to your To-Read list!

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Photo by Claudia on Unsplash

~While covering different genres, I do not read anything that has blatant sexual content. I will tell you if there is any sort of such (typically very mild and delicately put) in them and if I don’t think they’d be appropriate for young/teenage readers.~

 

Lord of Chaos (book 6 of the Wheel of Time series) by Robert Jordan – Two different Aes Sedai embassies prepare to travel to meet with Rand Al’Thor, the Dragon Reborn. Morgase finds herself an ally but it’s not one that she expected, or wanted. Mat continues to follow Rand’s outlandish plan. Perrin Aybara, Lord of the Two Rivers, feels the pull of ta’averen and prepares to march.

~Jordan was a genius at weaving together so many different story lines. When I start one of these books, I’m a bit overwhelmed but they suck me in every single time. I admit I still count Perrin as one of my favorites. I have enjoyed seeing Morgase’s story take a different turn than I was expecting -and that of her sons’. All in all, this took me about a month to finish (I kept picking up lighter novels) but as soon as I picked it up I was instantly transported back to their world and would have a hard time putting it down. 

The Binnies and the Dogs and Cats from Everywhere by Jo Ann Stover – The Binnie family tries several things to deal with so many dogs and cats. One of those ways is by moving all of their furniture outside so the cats and dogs can enjoy living in the house.

~I picked this book up at the library’s book sale because I just could not resist the title, nor the drawings throughout. It was a fun, silly story with a good deal of heart. I enjoyed it and am looking forward to passing it on to some of my nephews (and niece).

The Painter’s Daughter by Julie Klassen – Sophie Dupont has been assisting in her father’s studio for years, a shop that is popular with artists as it is near the north Devon coast. When a handsome artist, Wesley Overtree arrives and compliments her not only on her beauty but on her painting as well, Sophie falls hard for him. When he disappears, leaving her in a difficult position, she’s not sure what she’ll do. But then his brother, Captain Stephen Overtree arrives, looking for Wesley to take him home. Finding instead, a young woman suffering from his brother’s recklessness, Stephen offers to marry her in name only. Sophie must decide if she’ll wait for the uncertain chance that Wesley will return or if she’ll trust her future to his brooding brother.

~Finding this at a used bookstore was one of the best things. Seriously. If you’ve been following SGL the past few months, you’ll know that I’ve fallen in love with Klassen’s stories. This one did not disappoint in the least. Because of the subject matter, it was a little more…personal than others of hers. But she wrote it well, touching on the topic without being vulgar. I loved both Sophie’s and Stephen’s struggles throughout. And the other twists and turns throughout meant that I was pleasantly surprised at the end. I highly recommend this novel, although not for a younger audience. Also, this one has gone onto my ‘favorites of the year’ list. 

Bittersweet (California Historical #2) by Cathy Marie Hake – After years of being in love with Galen O’Sullivan, Laney McCain is sure that now is finally the time that he’ll notice the woman she’s become. But squatters on his land divert him. Young Ishmael and Ivy Grubb are uneducated but Galen allows them to stay on, paying them for help around the farm. But he’ll soon have cause to regret his generosity, as will Laney.

~My review on Letter Perfect, the first book of this short series is here.  Sadly, these are the only two! Anyway, I loved getting to read more about the McCain family. And reading more of the O’Sullivan family as well. I just really enjoy reading about families that are close knit through faith and intentionality. Hake crafts a well-written tale with unexpected twists that keep you gasping and guessing. I enjoy these as they are full of faith, but also because they are just plain fun to read (like the Klassen books!). I definitely recommend this one to lovers of historical fiction. There are mentions of intimacy and a young girl being in a compromising situation against her will (if you get my drift) but it’s carefully worded and not gone into. Which, if such a thing must be in a story, that’s how I like/need it to be. 

Raven Flight (book #2 of Shadowfell series) by Juliet Marillier – Having reached Shadowfell, Neryn can finally rest. But too soon she learns that she must leave her new rebel friends and seek out each of the four Guardians to learn how to be a Caller. In order to learn how to use her canny gift to call the Good Folk to help them in their battle against Keldec.

~Click here to read the series review (this is one of my FAVORITE series you guys.)

Hunted by Meagan Spooner – click for a separate review, you don’t want to miss it!!!

I also started Wolfskin by Juliet Marillier but there were some things in it that I’m not a fan of. I’ve put it down and am honestly not sure if I’ll even pick it up again.

 

Currently Reading:

The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers by Maxwell King

The Secrets of Pembrooke Park by Julie Klassen

The Mountain Valley War by Louis L’amour (audiobook)

 

To-Read:

The Human Superorganism by Rodney Dietert, PhD

Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson

Diamond of the Rockies series by Kristen Heitzmann

The Librarian of Auschwitz by Antonio Iturbe

 

Health Update June 2019

28 Jun

When I go to write these health updates, the very first thing I do is pull out my phone and go to my notes. Where I’ve faithfully – or not- kept a log of how I’ve been feeling. Then I’ll email that log to myself and copy and paste it below my Overall Health section… (the wonders of technology that makes that so simple). Well. When I just searched for it, apparently I didn’t put down one day in my log for this month. Not even one day! So, I’m having to rely completely on my memory for this post. Which should be interesting…

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Overall Health: I hesitantly say that I’m doing better than I was at last month’s update. Overwhelming fatigue and visual auras still command much of my attention though.

Migraine:  Thankfully, I haven’t had  more than one turn into a nuclear migraine but there have been several that have wanted to. Mostly, the pain level gets to an 8. And hovers. There have been several days that I didn’t need a clonidine until later in the afternoon, and others where I was taking one right after getting up (and all through the day) and yet nothing would touch the pain.

Sleep:  I’m hitting 6 to 7 hours a night, with at least 3 wakings. Majority of them I need the ice pack on the pillow.  But there was about a week where I barely needed the ice pack.

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Memory/Brain Fog:  This has improved a little I think.

Vision: The auras just don’t want to go away this month. Most days I have a vague sense that my vision is off somehow and others, I get the more intense colors/blur/black spots. Thankfully so far this month, I haven’t lost sight in my left eye at all.

TMJ:  This is about the same as last month although since I’ve been randomly falling asleep during the day (this means without my night guard), my jaw is tenser and my teeth ache a little more. Other than carrying my night guard around with me, I’m not sure how to help this.

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Fatigue: I can’t even tell you how much this has decreased you guys. Partly because it would be hard to describe that change and yet get across how much it is still affecting me -and like I’ve mentioned above, I’m taking almost daily naps. Most of them are right after dinner (picture me dragging myself from table to couch without cleaning up from the meal type of tired).

Fibromyalgia:  Even with cheating last week, this hasn’t been near too terrible. I still have my left side (especially my calf) aching/cramping/burning pain fairly regularly but the intensity has eased.

Weight Loss: Minimal

Mood: I’m very pleased to report that this has mellowed out again and I’m certain it’s because I started back up on Xiao Chai Hu Tang. Remind me to stay on these chinese herbs. It’s worth it.

Digestion:  We’re staying at my normal! Which, is clearly not what it should be but I’m okay with it for now.

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SO. I’d like to state the reason for my improvements for this month.

We took me off the doxycycline. The day before I went in to my doctor, it hit me that I’d been feeling awful for 6 weeks. And I’d been on the doxy for….6 weeks. My body just couldn’t handle it. You know what else has disappeared? The rash all over my face.

I am still taking the NP Thyroid and believe that it’s helping my fatigue.

It’s been a slow battle coming back from being on that antibiotic and I’m thankful that I’m getting back to how I felt before. Of course, it’s frustrating that I fell that far downhill but I’m glad I tried it because now we know. 

As of the 24th, I started LDN’s (low dose naltrexone)- we’re targeting my migraines with this. I’ve been told that they are tolerated very well. We’ve started me out at 0.5mg and are going to slowly increase the dose til I reach 4.5mg (which is the standard dosage). I had to really force myself to do this – after such a strong reaction to the antibiotics, I really just wanted to curl up and lick my wounds. But I knew that that wasn’t the right decision. I can’t waste any more time that I could potentially be getting well, just to get over fear. Sometimes, that’s the right choice. But this time, I knew I had to push myself and just try it.

Because I can’t even imagine life without migraines. I’ve been having them since I was…18 or 19. To go through a day, two days, a week! without one… Ahhh, what a thought. And if we can get these to go away/ or just minimize them, we believe that some of my other pains will ease as well.

So here’s to being bold and trying new things in the slow journey to health.

~Laura

 

 

War Torn Heart Book Review

18 Jun

I have another book review for you today! There’s something fun about just reviewing one book in a post. I’m able to expand on what I thought of it, which obviously, talking about books is one of my favorite things.

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War Torn Heart by Allison Wells is set in South Carolina as the rumors of war are starting. Abigail Walker is sixteen and set to enjoy her last summer as more a girl than young woman but then she meets Harvey Nicholas. As a cadet at Celmson College, he’s as far from her world as he could be. But sparks fly and Abigail happily spends her free time with Harvey. As summer progresses, they fall in love.

When the rumors, and then the reality of war, reaches their quiet small town, Abigail is worried that Harvey and her brother are going to go running off into it. And when Pearl Harbor is bombed, that’s exactly what happens. Both young men are eager to protect their loved ones.

Neither of them are prepared for the tragedy and cost of what the war will bring. It will test their love, loyalty and faith. If they let it, they will grow to be men and women of faith and endurance.

But will Abigail be able to hold onto what she knows is right and true in the midst of it all?

~I was so excited about this book. Plus, I mean, look at that cover. Go ahead. Scroll back up and look at it. I’ll wait. Isn’t it just perfection? I love when a cover just hits the nail on the head. I’d never read anything by Wells before, so like I said, I was excited to dive into this war-time coming of age story. 

I did end up enjoying this book, I want to start with that, okay? There were some places in the story that just dragged too much or I felt that the story line was rushed where I would have loved to have more details. I greatly enjoyed seeing Abigail grow up through the trials. She went from a young woman of girl-ish beliefs to a woman that had been through struggles and come out knowing who she was in her faith. The heartbreak in the book was – so- heartbreaking – it – hurt. There were twists and turns that I was impressed with. While the ending did seem a bit abrupt, it was sweet. 

There were some things I didn’t like about it, but mostly they are more of a personal problem that I have when they are in ANY book. The statements that most any young girl will make/think but that, as they grow, they realize just aren’t true. Statements about God, mostly. I would have loved to see Wells work in the fact that Abigail learned how incorrect her assumptions in those areas were.  

Like I started out with, I did end up enjoying this book. Will I read it again? It’s a mix of maybe and probably. It was a sweet story overall and the setting of the war is one that I don’t read a lot of. I wouldn’t recommend it for younger readers unless an adult has pre-read it for them because there is some mild content that was a bit more than I can recommend for young readers. As well as some aspects of their relationship that while it is real-life accurate, can come across as completely acceptable. (which clearly, I don’t think is.)

While covering different genres, I do not read anything that has blatant sexual content. I will tell you if there is any sort of such (typically very mild and delicately put) in them and if I don’t think they’d be appropriate for young/teenage readers.

~Laura

*I did receive this free for my personal opinion and review from Ambassador International*

I Tried FlyLady for a Month. Here’s What I Think

11 Jun

 

In the beginning of May I started reading up on a cleaning system. It’s called the FlyLady Cleaning System.

FlyLady is a support and self-help group that offers advice to help people with housekeeping, founded by “The FlyLady”, Marla Cilley. … FlyLady’s messages cover topics include clutter, the value of routines, weekly and monthly cleaning, increased self-esteem, and letting go of perfectionism.” – wikipedia

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Photo by Good Soul Shop on Unsplash

Now, I have to tell you that I’m not a naturally messy person – I can’t stand piles of anything laying around. The messier the space around me is, the more stressed out I get. I’m a self-professed clean freak. But.

I’m also chronically ill. And have been for the last 14 years. (*thankfully it’s only been the last @7 years that I haven’t been able to work.)  This means that I am just not able to keep the house at the level of clean that I want to. I wear out so easily and get frustrated that I can’t get to the deep cleaning because I’m struggling to just keep up with the daily.

Day 1 : I’d already prepped the lists to be ready for today. I did the Swish and Swipe, emptied the dishwasher and later in the afternoon, set my timer for 15 minutes. I wiped the counter and sink in the guest bath and then did a quick vacuum of the guest room. Since I still had (almost half) of my time left, I decided to do a quick vacuum of the whole house. I’ve also started a load of towels. I’m pleased with what I got done as I’m still battling fatigue today and a fluctuating migraine. Thankfully, I’ve been working on doing the dishes in the morning anyway so that habit was already started.

Day 2: a day of fatigue and migraine. I did the Swish and Swipe and emptied the dishwasher. Nothing else.

~I was going to keep track of the days but I didn’t… coughcough, but I feel like these two days give a good example of just how it goes. One or two days I’ll do well with hitting the 15 odd minutes of zone cleaning and the next, I’d do nothing. But that’s fine! Those few days I still made progress.

~It’s been over a week since I started the Flylady, but with fatigue hitting me last week as it did, I wasn’t able to keep up with even the Swish and Swipe (a quick scrub of the toilet and wipe of the sink). But, I have been more intentional (when I could be) about emptying the sink of dishes at night and having the kitchen counters clear and wiped off.  The relief in the morning of coming into a decently clean kitchen is definitely worth the extra effort in the evening.

~I’m noticing that I’m more intentional about doing quick wipe downs of things that before I would probably have waited until I was doing a full clean of the area/room.

So, while maybe I wasn’t quite as successful my first week as an unofficial FlyBaby, I’m already benefiting from this cleaning system.

My feelings, three weeks later, are the same. I am finding that I have started thinking about cleaning differently. Instead of seeing a whole room or situation that needs tackled, I am able to focus on one area (like cleaning out and wiping down a side table in the living room) and being proud of myself that I accomplished something. Now, I do want to point out that I did not follow her baby steps. As someone who wasn’t starting from a cluttered house, or from a lack of any sort of cleaning habits, I skipped the baby steps and settled into a wee bit of a morning routine and cleaning in zones. The point of Flylady, that I’ve gathered, is to make it WORK FOR YOU. Go as slow as you need to on her baby steps. Don’t go for perfection. Just jump in wherever they are in the daily emails and join them.

I’ll also add that I’ve not been good about setting the timer for 15 minutes. Maybe it’s because I move at a slow pace and know that if I try to hurry and get as much as possible done in that amount of time, I’ll end up causing my fibromyalgia to flare later, or I’ll just use all of my energy up and be stuck on the couch the rest of the day. So. I move at my own pace, get however much done in a bit of time and stop when I need to.

Now, the website is daunting. Don’t worry about it though. Just sign up for the emails and follow along. Since I didn’t start from the very beginning of Flybaby steps, I click through the email link to the current Zone Detailed Cleaning List and hand write those out. The emails are a bit overwhelming in their amount. But to deal with this, I’m thinking that once I’ve written all the detailed cleaning lists out, I’m going to unsubscribe from them. Once again though, if you really want to try this, don’t worry about it. Just delete the ones you don’t absolutely need in order to do this at your own pace.

As you can see in the first photo, I am not even attempting the evening routines. (you’re encouraged to take each task on one at a time, slowly building up to having these full routines morning and evening). Evenings are when my pain flares, so like I said before, the only thing I try for is to get the kitchen cleaned up. But, I wrote this list out at the very beginning, so I just ignore it now.

The second photo is of zone 3 and for me that means it’s the guest bath, guest bedroom and closet. This is my second time in this zone but apparently I already wiped away the check marks from last month! So sad.

And the third photo is zone 4 and for me that is main bed, bath and closet. It is encouraged that you go from the top of the list down, so that, when you come back to the zone the next month, you can pick up where you left off. And by doing that, you rotate nicely through the room over the months. But, as you can tell, I did what I felt like in the room and left it at that.

I am trying to follow that idea better in the other rooms now, because it does make sense. I even wrote out the list for the dining room from top to bottom cleaning (starting with dusting cobwebs, down to windows and ending with cleaning baseboards and mopping the floor).

What prompted me, as a person struggling with multiple chronic illnesses, to start this? I’ll tell you, The Secret Slob. She’s so fun to watch and breaks this system down into something a bit more understandable and manageable than the website does. Go check out her videos – she’s just finished up a video series of going through the zones with us. This one just might inspire me to fancy up my lists as well.

If you’re struggling to keep up on house cleaning, or are feeling like you’re drowning in clutter, I recommend you giving this cleaning system a shot! And if you do, come back and let me know, I would love to hear about it.

~Laura

May 2019 Book Review

4 Jun

Now, if you’re wondering by my picture — if I really only read three books in May, no, I read more than that. Double that – plus a few I’m still reading – actually. But, some are part of a series, and one you have to wait a little longer for! You’ll be able to tell that I started and am actually still in, a genre read. It’s been fun pairing light, historical fiction novels with the meatier, slower read of Robert Jordan.

~While covering different genres, I do not read anything that has blatant sexual content. I will tell you if there is any sort of such (typically very mild and delicately put) in them and if I don’t think they’d be appropriate for young/teenage readers.~

Let’s get to it, shall we?

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The Inheritance by Tamera Alexander – Accepting her cousin’s invitation to join them in Colorado was an easy decision, but McKenna Ashford’s real reason lay in the haughty attitude of her younger brother. She is determined to get them a fresh start and hopefully, tame his ever growing wild streak. But life in Copper Creek isn’t what she thought it would be. The responsibilities of an unexpected inheritance threaten her resolve to be independent while offering an second chance, if only she can keep it.  U.S. Marshall Wyatt Caradon never expected to be drawn into such a heartbreaking situation – but something about McKenna pulls him back to Copper Creeek and makes him think of leaving behind his years of living on the trail. Can they both trust again though?

~I don’t know why it took me so long to pull this off of my TBR shelf but it quickly shot up to my historical-fiction-favorites list. It is no secret I enjoy this genre, especially when it’s western-based. But Alexander delivered such a refreshing story – filled with obstacles, tender moments, sweet friendships all with a realism that I appreciated. The morals/life lessons within add depth to the story, helping lend weight to the full plot and well-rounded characters. There really can’t be enough good said about this book! I’m already ready to read it again, honestly. (I can’t though, I’ve far too large of a TBR pile) I highly recommend this heart-wrenching-and-warming novel. 

Libby’s Cuppa Joe by Rebecca Waters – When Sonja Parker receives an inheritance from her grandmother, she buys a popular coffee shop in a small town in Wisconsin’s Door County. She eagerly leaves behind her disappointing city life and settles into the new one of business owner and coffee maker. But she quickly learns that there’s more to owning a business than serving up a good cup of coffee – repairs must be made to the building, and to her heart.  Can she make a go of this new business? And can she find her way back to the God that she’s left behind?

~I received this free in exchange for my honest review and I have to tell you, right now, it’s not a great review. I didn’t connect with Libby at all (her actions/thoughts felt more in line with someone much younger). I made it halfway through the book before giving up on it. And that took at least two weeks to get that far on it. BUT! I’m passing it on to my mom to read and then I intend on giving it another shot. 

Letter Perfect  (California Historical #1) by Cathy Marie Hake – Ruth Caldwell has tried hard to live up to the expectations of her mother. But no matter how hard she tries, she always ends up doing or saying just what she shouldn’t. And she unknowingly steps into another scrape when she travels out to the Broken P Ranch. Josh McCain is stunned to learn that Ruth has a legitimate claim to the ranch, the one he was all set to inherit. His future at the ranch suddenly precarious and as ‘accidents’ around this green-eyed beauty turn sinister, Josh has to decide just who he trusts- and loves.

~Hake is now officially one of my favorite authors in her genre. Of course, I’ve read books by her before but this (and the Gooding series below) have cemented her place in the Favorites category. This is a great first book in the series, although it’s a great stand alone novel. I liked Ruth’s inclination to pitch in and help (even if things don’t necessarily go as planned) and how she gets creative to meet her goals. Even though she doesn’t fit in the mold that society has cast her in, she still is herself. The twists this story took were so unexpected that I kept gasping in surprise and shock! I enjoyed getting to know Gavin O’Sullivan and his family as well (he’s a main character in the second book -review next month!). You definitely should read this one if you are in the mood for a make you laugh and cry faith based novel. 

Serendipity (Only in Gooding #5) and That Certain Spark (#4) by Cathy Marie Hake – Apparently I’m reading this series back to front. But I’m okay with that as I’ve read all of them before. You’ll get a series review when I’m done with them. Trust me though, This series is just as much fun as you hope for.

Shadowfell by Juliet Marillier – click here for a full review of one of my favorite series! I have to add that I showed considerable restraint by only grabbing the first book from the library but when I went back with the intent to get the second one, it wasn’t there! It was probably for the best though, as I am still making my way through Lord of Chaos…

War Torn Heart by Allison Wells- Click here for a separate review!

 

Currently Reading:

Lord of Chaos (book 6 of the Wheel of Time series) by Robert Jordan

Write by Karen E. Peterson, Phd

The Binnies and the Dogs and Cats from Everywhere by Jo Ann Stover

 

To Read:

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Browne and King

The Painter’s Daughter by Julie Klassen

and 3 Cathy Marie Hake books I just got from the library =)

As you can see, this has definitely been a month of reading for me! What have you been reading lately?

~Laura

Book Reviews -April 2019

15 May

I can’t believe I’m finally getting this review up. There were just too many good books to share with you from last month to forgo doing this monthly review. I’ve been making it a point – once again – to read more instead of scrolling on my phone or watching Netflix. These 7 books are the result!

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(I know, I know, there are only 5 pictured here, but my dad is borrowing Sons and Soldiers and Fires of Heaven had to go back to the library… what’s a girl to do?)

The Blue Sword by Robin Mckinley- When Harry Crewe struggles to settle into the sedate world of the Homelanders, she has no idea that a chance meeting with Corlath, the king of the Hillfolk, will change her life forever.  Check out my full review here 

A Gown of Spanish Lace by Janette Oke- Ariana’s life is turned upside down when two rough-looking men take her hostage from the one-room schoolhouse she teaches at. With no explanation, they bundle her through the snowy mountain passes to their hideout. Her fear increases when the boss’s son is set to guard her. Will she ever see her adopted parents again? Will she have the chance to wear her mother’s wedding dress?

~I’m sure I squealed in delight when I found this recently at a used bookstore. I’m not sure what happened to my original copy, so I snatched this up quick. I am a big Oke fan and this is one of my favorites of hers. She didn’t write many westerns (in fact, this might be her only one). I enjoyed the twists and turns in this story, some that even though I’ve read it many times over the years (it’s been several years since I’ve read it last though), I was still surprised by them. Ariana’s faith is well-written through her captivity, which is so important to me. I highly recommend this novel for younger readers on up.

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A Falcon For a Queen by Catherine Gaskin – Suddenly an orphan, Kirsty Howard leaves her home in China and travels to Scotland to visit her grandfather. His home of Cluian is a strange one, utterly different from what she’s used to. Secrets abound in the old house, kept in place by the arrogance of the lonely old man and the two women who run his house. But being the site of one of the world’s finest whiskey distilleries, gives Kirsty an opportunity to carve her own place in the Highlands.

~I was given this book (published 1972) last year and finally decided I just had to read it. I’d never read anything by Gaskin before but now I intend to read a few more. It was intriguing, unexpected and enjoyable. Yes, there was far too much information about distilling whiskey. But in the context of their livelihood, it made sense, you know? It was a rather dry topic though, one that I tended to skip through, to get to the actual story. The STORY though. Sigh of happiness. I had the ending figured all wrong, but readily admit that it was far better, and more satisfying than I had come up with. I wouldn’t recommend this for younger readers as it is a darker, aka ‘gothic’ novel. There are only innuendos of a scandalous nature, but Gaskin kept it clean even in that. I fully intend to read it again. If you want a book that will surprise you (and you’re willing to sift through the whiskey aspect), find a copy of this book.

Heart of Wilderness by Janette Oke –  After days of anguished travel, George McMannus arrives to decide what to do with his only grandchild who is suddenly an orphan. He’s not sure just what to do with three year old Kendra Marty, after all, the life of a trapper up in the wilderness isn’t the best place to raise a child. But their hearts connect quickly and George knows that he has to try. He and his granddaughter belong together.

~I hadn’t read this book in years but I fondly remembered it. The fun thing about coming back to books you read as a young teen – early twenties is the different perspective you now have when you read them. Reading of the tragedy that brought young Kendra and ‘Papa Mac’ (as she calls him) together, and better realizing the struggle that he had in caring for her, etc etc through the years. As usual, the faith aspect was well done and both their development was good. I love Oke’s work as it’s a light read but still pulls you into the world and shares nuggets of truth. Highly recommend for teen readers on up.

Sons and Soldiers : The Untold Story of the Jews who Escaped the Nazis and Returned with the U.S. Army to Fight Hitler by Bruce Henderson – This is the story of the German Jews who escaped Germany in the 1930s, grew up in the U.S., joined the Army and became an elite group called the Ritchie Boys.  They were specially trained in interrogation techniques and used their boyhood knowledge of Germany’s language and customs. In small groups, the Ritchie Boys were sent with each major combat unit in Europe, gathering crucial intelligence and interrogating prisoners.

~I couldn’t get a book more different than the previous ones, could I? This one took me a while to get through, but it was written in a way that you wanted and needed to know how the boys made it through the war – and if they connected with their families again. Because of the content, I’d only recommend this for older readers.

At the Back of the North Wind by George Macdonald, Retold by Dan Larsen – It’s a dreary life in Victorian England but young Diamond is a ray of sunshine for those around him. When he meets the North Wind one night, he goes on an incredible adventure. She takes him over oceans, soaring over cities and even above the clouds. But his life is changed forever when she takes him to the back of the North Wind.

~This was a childhood read that I pulled out of storage after thinking about it for a few months. It was just about as delightful as I remembered, honestly. I enjoyed the lessons that young Diamond learned and the twist at the end! Sigh. I had completely forgotten about it. This is a great book for young readers, actually my edition is from the “Young Readers Christian Library”. 

The Fires of Heaven (book 5 of the Wheel of Time series) by Robert Jordan – With the seals holding the Great Lord of the Dark in his prison weakening, Rand al’Thor knows he needs to strike a heavy blow at the enemy. But his plans are weakened when his allies are divided and fighting each other. Even the Aes Sedai are caught in a civil war. How can he defeat the Enemy while dealing with all of this, and struggling to maintain his sanity, his identity against the madness that’s coming?

Once again, I got completely sucked into Jordan’s elaborate world. 900 pages starts to go fast when you just can’t put it down. Watching Rand battle for his own sanity while still trying to strategize and scheme with the best of them; seeing Mat fight the pull of ta’averen, and accidentally display his own struggles to not get pulled into the past; all of the girls’ individual struggles to attain their goals —- ahhhhh. The level of plotting that just one of these novels takes has got to be unbelievable. There was a little more… sensual …context in this book that I could have done without. As usual, this is me we’re talking about. 

 

Currently Reading:

Shadowfell by Juliet Marillier (yes, I’m reading it again!)

Libby’s Cuppa Joe by Rebecca Waters

War Torn Heart by Allison Wells

Write by Karen E. Peterson, Phd

 

To Read: 

Lord of Chaos (book 6 of the Wheel of Time series) by Robert Jordan

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Browne and King

The Painter’s Daughter by Julie Klassen

 

~Laura

Love Comes Softly Series Review

9 May

This is one of those series that is very dear to my heart. I grew up reading this set of books and am currently trying to find/buy the last two books in the matching 2-in-1. Wish me luck. I’ve tried once and they sent me just a copy of book 7… Eesh. Anyway, that’s not why you’re here!

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If you’ve been around SGL for a while, you know that I enjoy Janette Oke’s books for their themes of faith, realistic trials and warm fuzzies that you end up with. I’ll share those posts with you at the end of this review.

I’ll also state very quickly that, While covering different genres, I do not read anything that has blatant sexual content. I will tell you if there is any sort of such (typically very mild and delicately put) in them and if I don’t think they’d be appropriate for young/teenage readers. Thankfully, as these are Oke novels, there isn’t anything to be worried about in that instance. I started reading this series when I was, oh, about 12? Is that about right, Mom? =)

The series starts out with Marty losing her husband in a terrible accident and having to make the tough decision to marry widower Clark Davis so she has a way to survive the winter. The deal he offered her was, if she’d be a mama to his young daughter, he’d pay her passage back east come spring. But, wonderfully, these two hurting people fall in love and the series follows their growing family and the celebrations and trials they go through. Times weren’t easy for these pioneers, stuck out in the middle of the prairie, far from civilization. Their sincere faith finds them with a secure foundation through all they go through – and trust me, there’s many trials that hit me in the gut as I read them!

You might recognize this from the tv series of the same name (I especially love the first one. I think they portrayed Clark perfectly.), but as with most shows, they changed the story quite a bit! So if that’s put you off of reading them, don’t worry – you don’t truly know the whole series.

As I’m sure you’ve guessed by now, I highly recommend this series for younger reader on up. It’s a touching read that will stay with you.

Other books by Janette Oke:

Seasons of the Heart

Roses for Mama

~I have to admit that I’m surprised I haven’t reviewed more of her books! I have such a stack of them that… well, this will just have to be remedied!

If you like Oke’s books, you’ll love:

Series Review – Tucker Mills Trilogy

California Pioneer Series by Elaine Schulte

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The Collection

Do you enjoy novels of the pioneers? I’m thinking more and more that I’d like to write at least one, myself. There’s something about novels set in that time, isn’t there? If you like Janette Oke, be on the lookout for more of her books being reviewed here! Also, if you follow me on Instagram, you might have seen on my stories that I’m currently reading two novels that will be reviewed as soon as I finish them! I think you’ll like them, I’m enjoying them so far.

~Laura

~As a side note, I just took back book 8 to the library yesterday. YESTERDAY. I’ve had it for two weeks and never thought to take a series shot until the book was gone. Sigh.~

Writing Prompt- Road’s End

30 Apr

 

I’m sharing a quick writing prompt with you today. I hope you like it.

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Photo by William Felker on Unsplash

It seemed so long ago now. The sounds of gravel under the tires. The music filling the cab of the truck. The sun streaming in, blinding her from the left. She fixed her neon pink sunglasses that covered half her face. She loved those sunglasses. The field to her right stood empty, the house in front of her was one she knew well. This was her favorite retreat from the confines of the city. She reveled in knowing that she’d managed to squirrel enough time off to be there for two whole weeks. No more smog and blaring noises. No more crowds and odors that made her want to gag. Here, in this place, she was free. She adjusted her sunglasses again and sung along with the radio.

She came up to the final bend in the road and turned on her blinker. Just a quick left and then a right into the driveway and she’d be there. Anticipation riding high, she looked both ways. Nothing but emptiness that she could see. Just as she pulled out onto the tar-paved road, a horn blared. The sound of brakes squealing and tires skidding. The sudden jolt of being hit and the subsequent rolling. Over and over the truck spun. She screamed, one long, endless scream until finally the truck stopped.

In that moment, her plans changed. There would be no treks to the creek a few miles away. No evening drives down the back roads. No meandering through the country fair. No dreaming of leaving the city.

There would be no more dreaming at all.

Her sunglasses lay in the middle of the road, bent and broken.

~Laura

Book Reviews for March 2019

12 Apr

This has been sitting in my drafts folder for at least two weeks. Yikes! So much for getting it written early and scheduling it for spring break, eh? But, all well, ce la vie.

I hope you find something to add to your To-Read pile! And as always, I want to remind you that: while covering different genres, I do not read anything that has blatant sexual content. I will tell you if there is any sort of such (typically very mild and delicately put) in them and if I don’t think they’d be appropriate for young/teenage readers.

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Levi’s Will by W. Dale Cramer- When Will runs away from his Amish community at nineteen, he leaves behind his faith, family, and a pregnant girlfriend. Years later, he returns – with a wife and two sons, and with a very different world view. What he won’t realize for many years is that his new family and life are tainted by sins of the past. And if he ever wants to reconcile with his father, or himself, he must face those head-on.

~I have had this on my shelf for quite a few months (sorry mom) and despite having picked it up several times, I never read it. I’m pleased that I finally did though- it was a different Amish story than I normally read. Part of that was that the main character was a man, and well, just the story itself. I don’t want to spoil anything for you here, but looking back on Levi’s life with him, and seeing the present consequences of it, was heartbreaking and encouraging and just…tinged with sorrow. Cramer really pulls you in with his descriptions of the locations – the Amish countryside, the mobile home the young family lives in, the war, etc. Along with that the characters were well formed – and useful. (I have this thing about useless characters in a novel). All in all, I really enjoyed this story. I don’t know how young of an audience I would recommend for it though as it does deal with some pretty heavy stuff. As always, I suggest you read it yourself before passing it on to someone younger. A book I definitely recommend!

Amish Peace : Simple Wisdom for a Complicated World by Suzanne Woods Fisher – Peace is something that we all strive for – each in our own way. Fisher shares the way that the Amish have found it – by focusing on five different themes of their faith, she shares stories, proverbs and interesting facts about their life. She’s also included questions and thoughts to help you find peace in your own life.

~Thanks to Beverly Lewis (and some other historical fiction authors), I have a mini love for the Amish. While I don’t agree with all of the tenets of their faith, I was still drawn in by this book. Their focus on community, forgiveness and faith is incredible. Fisher shares some great stories to move her point along. I recommend this book for anyone wanting to slow down for a few minutes and think about how they are living their lives.

The Love Comes Softly Series by Janette Oke  – A separate review of this series will be coming – once I finish the last two books! Suffice it to say, right now, that I adore this series.

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Praying Through Lyme Disease by Rebecca Vandemark – A compilation of prayers and verses that focus on topics that Lyme disease patients deal with daily. A daily reminder that you are not alone.

~First off, I received this book free for my honest review. I wasn’t compensated in any way. I have been following Vandemark for years now. (I’ve also reviewed December Caravan) I greatly appreciated these heartfelt prayers and corresponding scriptures touching on so many of the struggles/emotions that I, as someone who struggles with chronic Lyme, deal with on a daily basis. If you know someone, or are yourself, struggling with Lyme, don’t hesitate, get this book! I anticipate going through it again and again. Did I mention that there are pages to take notes for each prayer? Love it. 

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Enemy Brothers by Constance Savery – When his younger brother is stolen from them, Dym Ingleford promises his dying mother that he’ll never stop looking for him. That promise hasn’t been forgotten when, years later, he rather stumbles upon young Max Eckermann, a German prisoner.  Dym is convinced he’s Anthony. But the years of Nazi ideology have not been lost on the young boy, and convincing him that he’s now home, and safe, is quite the task. (first published 1944)

~Another book that I haven’t read in a few years, although now it will probably get moved to the ‘read-yearly’ list. Savery delivers a delightful, heart rending tale set WWII, which she wrote during the war. DURING THE WAR. That, for me, really made this tale come alive.  But the story itself is so good that I had a hard time putting it down. Max’s flight(s) from the White Priory (the family home), the patience of Dym and the danger of the war all join in a wonderful story. A five star book for me! 

Princess Aline by Richard Harding Davis – Falling for a picture of a Princess, a young American artist sets out across Europe to meet her. When they are finally close enough to speak, to touch, he stands, propriety-bound and too scared to offend such a creature. He does all he can to meet her properly, but will it be enough? (first published 1895)

~ I hadn’t pulled this off of my classic shelves in so many years, I only vaguely remembered it. It was delightful. It’s a light-hearted story that you just don’t want to end. It was fun to follow Carlton as he traveled across Europe, always one step behind Aline. I highly recommend this classic!

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Dear Theo by Vincent Van Gogh, edited by Irving Stone – Vincent and his brother Theo, kept up regular correspondence for years. This collection of Vincent’s letters shows how close they were; his feelings on everyday life, his family and art. (first published 1914)

~I cannot believe it took me eight months to read this book. While on the other hand, I do. It is a hard one to read in a way because he did lead such a difficult life and you already know how it ends… and in such a tragic way. (spoiler: he commits suicide). But reading in his own letters the descriptions of the places he saw – the way he saw his own art – the way he saw colors – it keeps you reaching for it again. Will I ever read it again? I don’t know. But I’m glad that I read it at least once. 

Joyful: the Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness by Ingrid Fetell Lee — as I didn’t finish this book before it had to go back to the library, I’m just going to quickly say that what I did read was interesting and I have plans to one day request it again. What I didn’t like was the talk of evolution (how that has any real bearing on the talk of color and how it affects us, is beyond me – I thought the author could have handled that differently. Overall, what I read (the first 1/4 of it?) was interesting.

 

Currently Reading:

Sons And Soldiers by Bruce Henderson

At the Back of the North Wind by George Macdonald

Eliza by Patricia Campbell

 

To Read:

The Fires of Heaven (book 5 of the Wheel of Time series) by Robert Jordan

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Browne and King

Love Finds a Home (#8 of Love Comes Softly series) by Janette Oke

The Painter’s Daughter by Julie Klassen

 

Coming up in April’s book review: 

Love Takes Wing (book 7 of Love Comes Softly series) by Janette Oke

The Blue Sword by Robin Mckinley

A Gown of Spanish Lace by Janette Oke

A Falcon For a Queen by Catherine Gaskin

~I am going to say that I’ve got a few trilogy’s to read but I’m waiting until I finish at least one of the series that I’m currently in. Anyone else have this problem?! The nice side effect of that is, that I’m reaching for books that I haven’t read in quite a while (that are mainly quick-reads).

~Laura

What have you been reading?

If you missed it, go check out the Michelli Family Series Review. Also, the City of Tranquil Light Book Review  is a must read as well!

 

A Musing Maverick

"What good amid these, O me, O life? - Answer: That you are here—that life exists and identity, That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse." - Walt Whitman

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