Luna Tree: The Baby Project by Maya Berger ~ review

luna treeThis true story chronicles first time author Maya Berger’s deteriorating health, struggle for diagnosis, and quest for healing.

Chronic insomnia followed by wide spread sudden on-set pain left many doctors without a solid diagnosis. Many made guesses and offered ineffective treatments, but her pain continued. A chance encounter offered a possible diagnosis, which was finally confirmed by a physician. Unfortunately, effective treatment was still unavailable. After spending much time and money seeking treatment across Europe, Maya finally receives some relief at a Relaxation Clinic using Energy techniques led by a Chinese healer.

Over the course of several years, Maya continues to learn and grow in the ways of Energy, realizing she needed healing for more than the medical condition.  Because she never gave up, always believed she could once again live a normal, fulfilling life, Maya has now learned what real happiness is, and is eager to share her story to encourage others who may be living less than fulfilling lives, and especially those who are ill and have been told by their doctors that there is nothing more they can do.  Maya urges everyone to keep an open mind, learn to relax, and accept the healing energy that is available to us all.

This story is written with honesty, sharing much about her personal and family relationships, although it is not clear until the ending chapters why much of the information is given.  I also question the addition of “The Baby Project” in the title since the issue of having a baby does not appear until the last chapters. I struggled a bit at first to find a rhythm in the writing, finding some of the phrasing awkward and sometimes repetitive. Once I realized English is not the authors primary language, this made sense and as I became engrossed in the story, less of a concern.

I recommend this book to anyone looking for hope, or feeling like they have run out of options.

**I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

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The Lake House by Marci Nault – review

the lake house

When Heather Bregman purchased the little house on the lake, she imagined afternoons in the sun, evenings by a bonfire, and growing friendships with the neighbors in the close knit New England neighborhood.

She quickly realized this was not to be. The neighbors – all over 70, living in the homes they grew up in and having known each other since birth – were not happy to have a newcomer invade their space. Determined to drive her away, the men of the little community pranked her house with cigar smoke, ants, and stink bombs while the women greeted her icily or ignored her completely.

Victoria Rose moved back to her home on the lake hoping to make amends with the only family she had left. Still hurting from her decision to move to California to pursue an acting career over 50 years ago, her childhood friends met Victoria with much the same cold welcome they gave Heather. Two lonely souls with more in common than the vast age difference would suggest, Victoria and Heather quickly became close friends.

Together they navigated the fallout from their personal and profession decisions, both finally learning – to have a friend you must be a friend.

I have to admit I almost put this book down after the first several pages. Jumping from character to character and moving back and forth through time, it was a bit much to follow – and very slow to engage. I am glad I stuck it out. As the chapters passed a lovely story developed, showing that even our most personal decisions can deeply effect those around us, and reminding us that when we think of others instead of ourselves, happiness follows.

Surprising and comical, I laughed out and smiled through the entire book. Definitely a keeper.

Longbourn by Jo Baker – review

LongbournLongbourn Manor, rural England, early 1800’s, also the setting of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. I’m a little ashamed to admit I have never read this classic, but may now need to.

This story centers around Sarah, the young house maid of Longbourn Manor and the other below floor servants who have been her family since she was orphaned as a young child. Sarah often dreamed of the world beyond the little town outside her neighborhood, but had comfortably reconciled herself to a life of repetition – each day the same as the last, for all the many years ahead.

The militia’s unexpected arrival in town, an eligible bachelor’s purchase of the vacant home next door, and the interesting stranger’s addition to the staff shake things up at Longbourn Manor, sending some of them down paths they’d never expected, bringing others full circle.

When Sarah is presented with every opportunity she thought she wanted, she has to choose between the life she’d dreamed of and a life of continued difficulty and hard times, with the chance of true love and happiness.

Some story twists and turns were a bit predictable, some completely unexpected, and some I thought improbable but still hoped for. I was not disappointed.

I loved this book. Should I now read Pride and Prejudice, or just leave well enough alone and stick to the story from the servants’ point of view?

The Art of Arranging Flowers by Lynne Branard ~ Review

the art of arranging flowers

Flowers have the power to heal heart and body, mend broken relationships, bring together new love, and accomplish almost any other miracle or wish of the heart. That seems to be true when Ruby Jewell is arranging the flowers. After an early life filled with tragedy, Ruby uses her bouquets to bring hope, love, and happiness to the residents of small town Creekside, Washington. When all those she has helped through the years decide it’s time for Ruby to find love, amazing things happen.

I love the idea that flowers have power. If the color of the walls of a room can induce a particular feeling and essential oils can alleviate various ailments, then the look, feel, and smell of flowers must have similar qualities.

Although many of the twists and turns were predictable, I still really enjoyed the story.  Likely to be one I read again.

 

 

 

 

Bound South by Susan Rebecca White – Review

south boundWhat is the definition of a Southern Lady?

The story consists of snippets of time through the decade of 1998 to 2008, as told by Louise – a forty-ish wife and mother living in a wealthy suburb of Atlanta; Caroline – her rebellious teenage daughter; and Missy – the young daughter of her housekeeper.

I have to admit I started and stopped this book several times over a couple weeks, unable to really engage in the story. The first several chapters, although filled with some comical moments, seemed random and disconnected. I am glad I suck it out. About a third the way in I became vested in the characters, curious to see where life took them. And I was a little surprised and pleased in the last few chapters when all the dots where finally connected and revealed nothing was as random at all.

Lots of truths in this story: Nothing in life is random, rather a long chain of purposeful events leading us to our ultimate destination; we are all connected, our actions have a ripple effect, touching others near and far; and almost any situation can be improved with a glass of wine and a good laugh.

Circling The Sun by Paula McLain….Review

circlingthesunI received an advanced copy of this book from Ballantine Books (an imprint of Random House) through a Goodreads First Reads contest. It will begin sale on July 28, 2015.

Circling The Sun is a historical fiction novel based on the life of Beryl Markham, known in the same circles as Karen Blixen, author of Out of Africa. Beryl was conveniently left out of Karen’s (pen name Isak Dinesen) autobiographical Out of Africa, even though she was very much a part of Karen’s story. After reading Circling The Sun, I understand why Karen may have chosen to not include her.

Regardless, Circling The Sun stands completely on its own. I was quickly lost in the story, the pictures Paula’s words painted of 1920s Africa, Kenya, and the land Beryl considered home. Not fitting the role polite society of the time expected of her, Beryl remained true to herself at all costs, despite many losses and many scandals. Following her heart led her to become the first female licensed racehorse trainer, the first female to hold a professional pilot’s license, and the first female to fly solo across the Atlantic east to west. Unfortunately many of the same choices led her to loneliness and heartbreak, although she did have the pleasure of knowing one true love – if only for a little while.

The story is told from Beryl’s point of view and gives some insight to the loneliness, fear, and sometimes desperation she often felt when making decisions others saw as bravery and fearlessness.As I read this novel it bothered me a little that I did not become as emotionally vested in Beryl as I often do when I read something I enjoy as much as I did this book. But as I was finally brought to tears in the last few chapters, I realized it was not the writing, but Beryl herself who held everyone at a distance – including me as the reader.

This book took me on a beautiful, if heart wrenching, journey and I am pleased to have read it. It is added to my ‘keeper’ shelf and I am sure I will re-read in the future. (I will also be adding Paula McLain’s The Paris Wife, and Isak Dinesen’s Out of Africa to my ‘to read’ list.)

The Siege Winter – Review

I wothe seige wintern this book through a Goodreads First Reads contest. Although a bit different from my normal taste these days, I was eager to sink into this historical fiction, a genre I don’t read as often as I’d like. I was not disappointed. The book begins with a seemingly important, though not clearly identified, man on his deathbed, eager to relay a story to a scribe before he passes, taking all his secrets with him. I immediately was reminded of The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant – not for the story line, but the way it is presented. This is a well written tale of secret identities, murder, greed, and the levels one would go to in quest for the throne in twelfth century England. I was drawn in by the relationships between characters, loyalty, love, the bond that comes from fighting for a common goal – and against a common enemy. Definitely enjoyed this book and recommend to anyone who enjoys historical fiction novels, as well as to anyone who is new to the genre.

**The author Ariana Franklin passed away before completing this novel. Her daughter, Samantha Norman, finished the writing and brought it to press. I am sure her mom would be proud of the finished product.