Category Archives: Nonfiction

My Emily by Matt Patterson

“Our lives, as short as they may be, are a test. And one of the biggest tests we can endure is how we respond to those moments when we don’t feel the presence of God in our lives. I believe deeply that one of God’s greatest gifts is to teach us there is a purpose behind every single one of our trials or problems.

Treat them as a gift, an opportunity to move forward and draw closer to God. Problems often times compel us to look to God and count on him, rather than ourselves.”

~ Matt Patterson, My Emily

Synopsis: 

This book tells the story of a hurting family, an amazing little girl and a mysteriously faithful God.

Emily wasn’t born perfect – so one might think.

She was born with Down Syndrome and many would jump to the conclusion that she would have very little hope for a life with any significance. Two years later came the diagnosis of leukemia. What little hope remaining turned to no hope whatsoever – or so one might think.

The life of this little girl, with all its perceived imperfections, had great meaning. Her loving nature and courage touched the hearts of everyone she met. She also taught them how to value their own lives – even with their many “imperfections.”

Honorable Award Winner – 2012 Reader’s Favorite Book Awards
Finalist – 2012 National Indie Excellence Book Awards
Finalist – 2012 Next Generation Indie Book Awards

 (Synopsis and image via Goodreads)

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My Thoughts:

Matt and Bonnie Patterson anticipated nothing more than a healthy baby. He wants a boy. She wants a girl. And what they received was an extraordinary gift!

Many consider a special needs child to be damaged goods, imperfect. But not so if you have the love to look beyond. Beyond the special needs, the extra cost, the disappointment, the hurt when others turn the other way.

Emily Patterson came into this world a Downs Syndrome baby, and two years later she was diagnosed with leukemia. A hard blow to a family who had come to love her, Emily’s gift is not yet complete.

Matt Patterson is a gifted writer, and in this tribute to this tiny child of his, Emily’s father both celebrates and grieves her death. The story, however, is not found in Emily’s special needs, her leukemia or her death. It is found after all that has become history. Emily has a gift that keeps on giving.

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My Recommendation: 

My Emily requires three things of its readers: time to read it in one sitting (which is easy), a beautifully brewed cup of tea, and a box of Kleenex. Poignant, painful and loving, Matt’s recounting of Emily and her family’s story is one that will stay with you long after you’ve closed the back cover. Parents and families with special needs children will find this book an extraordinary look into another family’s struggles and pain. However, everyone who reads My Emily will come away changed forever.

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Meet the Author:

Matt Patterson, author of My EmilyMatt Patterson is a highly sought-after inspirational speaker, as well as an award-winning and international best-selling author.

His first published work – My Emily – has been an Amazon top-rated best-seller. This debut book has also received recognition as an award winner and finalist in the Readers Favorite Book Reviews & Awards Contest, the Next Generation Indie Book Awards, as well as the National Indie Excellence Book Awards.

Matt’s background includes 20-plus years in marketing communications, public and media relations, as well as print and broadcast journalism. In addition, he is an Air Force veteran, having earned the Air Force Commendation Medal and Air Force Achievement Award.

In addition to speaking and writing, he volunteers his time to helping organizations and charities dedicated to assisting families with children who have special needs or those battling pediatric cancers.

To learn more about Matt and how you can bring him to speak at your next conference or event, please visit www.my-emily.com or www.mattpatterson.me.

(Bio and image via Amazon)

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DETAILS ABOUT THE BOOK | DISCLAIMER:

Kindle Publication Date: November 8, 2011
Publisher: Matt Patterson
Genre: Memoir, Nonfiction
File Size: 446 KB
ASIN: B0064WD744
Source: Personal Library

Searching for Home Between Two Countries | My Father’s Gardens, a Memoir by Karen Levy

My Father's Gardens by Karen Levy“But at home, despite the classical music father likes to hear on the radio each morning, and the semblance of familial bliss we try to feign, there is a heaviness of words unsaid, thoughts collected and stored in places hidden from prying eyes. … Father’s unspoken regret for his choice of wife. Mother’s disappointment at his lack of ambition for the glory she believes he can achieve and she deserves. … Four tongues among us, four ways to yell, tell a joke, break a heart; whisper sweet nothings; keep appearances. Four ways to break this silence molasses thick, wet air too heavy to breathe before the storm. And yet four tongues remain silent, keeping secrets, keeping score, keeping the beat of disappointed hearts, sticking it out no matter how miserable.

~ Karen Levy, My Father’s Gardens

Synopsis: My Father’s Gardens is the story of a young girl who comes of age in two languages, and on two shores, between warring parents and rules that change depending on the landscape and the proximity of her mother. Struggling to find her voice and her place in the world as a result of her frequent travels between her native Israel and the United States, she feels that she must choose a place to call home. As her scenery alternates between warm Mediterranean and snow capped mountains, loud-mouthed Israelis and polite Americans, so do her loyalties: Is she more Israeli or American? How will she know when she has arrived? And while she chooses she is slowly transplanting bits of her father’s gardens on foreign soil.

 (Synopsis and image via Goodreads)

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My Thoughts:

Stunning and lyrical narrative transported me into Karen Levy’s world. Israeli born, Karen Levy invites her reader into a world of mental questions of who am I and where do I fit in. Not only is she moved back and forth between Israel and America by a restless and unhappy mother, but her parents are also waging silent battles with each other.

Unhappiness and restlessness become the norm for Levy in her home. Out of time and place because of her Israeli-American heritage, she seeks friendships among neighboring families and school friends. But each time she moves again, the cycle repeats itself.

Levy’s writing style is transparent allowing you to see everything, every truth, every difficulty, every painful moment in her world. And also every happiness that she experiences. At times, I felt as though I were reading poetry instead of prose, her use of words and language is so exquisite:

When our neighborhood has had its rest teapots whistle and dishes clatter, welcoming friends for afternoon sweets. Children chase and shriek in the gardens, car engines tick their cooling down song, housewives bang pots and set tables, their heads craning out windows to call children in for supper. Shutters are lowered against the gathering dusk as crickets croon their lullabies. This is the music I learn to love, the music of my heart.” 

This is only one example of Levy’s exceptional descriptive talents, and with poetic word choices, she kept me painting mental images of the places in her book.

Despite all the beauty and love expressed in her writing for both Israel and America, I sensed a deep heartache pulling Levy in two directions. A pulling which in the end would require a decision on the writer’s part.

Levy has now found her home, and I believe she is at peace no matter where she puts down her roots.

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My Recommendation: 

My Father’s Gardens is one of the best memoirs I have read. Levy has written a series of vignettes of her constantly changing world and culture with multiple moves, and then she threads them together showing the reader where one world ends and the other begins for her. If you love reading life stories and stories from different cultures and backgrounds, Levy’s memoir is one I highly recommend. It is one I will read again, I assure you.

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Meet the Author:

Author Karen LevyKaren Levy is an Israeli-American writer. Born in Israel, Levy spent most of her childhood traveling between her native land and the United States. Commuting between these two countries and having a keen eye for detail have afforded Levy the knowledge necessary to recount the immigrant experience in a very candid style. Following her military service, Levy pursued her studies in the United States where she earned a B.A. in Comparative Literature from the University of California at Davis, and an M.A. in English/Creative Writing from Sacramento State University where she teaches composition and interpretation of literature.  Her work has appeared in Welter Magazine, So to Speak, the Blue Moon and The Meadow. She lives in Davis, California with her husband and two children.

(Bio and image via Homebound Publications)

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DETAILS ABOUT THE BOOK | DISCLAIMER:

Paperback Publication Date: April 26, 2013
Publisher: Homebound Publications
Genre: Memoir, Nonfiction
Paperback: 248 pp
ISBN: 978-1938846038

I received a copy of My Father’s Gardens from the author in exchange for a fair and honest review. The opinions and recommendations expressed are my own.

WOW! Women on Writing Blog Tour | Review of Times They Were A-Changing: Women Remember the ’60s & ’70s, An Anthology (edited by Kate Farrell, Linda Joy Myers & Amber Lea Starfire)

Cover Image from Goodreads

Image via Goodreads

Advance Praise

“We lived in the Haight-Ashbury and on Bourbon Street and the high plains of Oklahoma. We wore hip-huggers, tie-dyes, military uniforms,  and fringed ponchos embroidered with peace signs. We danced and marched and organized and loved and broke all the rules. We were changing, and we changed the world. I love this book because it is written by women who were on the scene–and such a scene it was! If you were there, it will remind you of those remarkable years. If you weren’t, you’ll be amazed and delighted and proud of the brave women who have written these stories and poems. Thank you, lovely women, for telling us about it!”

~ Susan Wittig Albert, author of A Wilder Rose
and founder of Story Circle Network

Synopsis:

These forty-eight powerful stories and poems etch in vivid detail the breakthrough moments experienced by women during the life-changing era that was the ’60s and ’70s. And finally, here, they tell it like it was. Their stories range from Vietnam to France, from Chile to England, from the Haight-Ashbury to Greenwich Village, and from the Deep South to the Midwest. They write of cultural reverberations that reached into farm kitchens and city “pads,” from coffeehouse jazz clubs to psychedelic rock concerts. This inspiring collection celebrates the women of the ’60s and ’70s, reminds them of the importance of their legacy, and seeks to motivate young women today.

(Synopsis from back cover)

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My Thoughts:

The ’60s and ’70s in America were fraught with change — changes in society, among the sexes, within the military, between the establishment and the anti-establishment, in mode of dress, in what we smoked, in what we read and how we interpreted it, between parents and children, between students and institutions of higher learning. We were a society attempting to learn where we each, as an individual, fit into the whole without it being too painful.

The editors of Times They Were A-Changing: Women Remember the ’60s & ’70s have compiled 48 stories and poems vividly describing the palpable changes experienced by women during this tumultuous time. Finally, these women have their voice to share life like it really was.

Each woman with her individual voice tells her story and in telling becomes a part of the larger whole. These women as a collective in this anthology celebrate the women of their generation with remembrances of the importance of actions and beliefs and the legacy left for the young women of today.

If you were around in this period, you may have been one of these women in another town and state, another country, another college. Likely, you too had a story to tell, and perhaps your story is told by another in this anthology.

If you weren’t around during the ’60s and ’70s, perhaps you have wondered what those 20 years were all about. You are fortunate for within these pages the details are vividly recounted for you by this group of women so that you can learn from them. Learn that all women have a voice. We must be courageous enough to exercise it and stand tall after doing so.

A long overdue and telling collection of prose and poetry emblematic of the times that were changing in the ’60s and ’70s.

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My Recommendation: 

Times They Were A-Changing is a powerful read for anyone who reads it. The stories shared lay out in honesty and detail the way things really were. Nothing is held back and from these women we are reminded what life was then and where we’ve traveled to in 2013. For young women today, these stories will give you the courage and self-confidence to move forward with the continuation of the equalities and justice fought so hard to win and still needing to be fought for in some arenas.

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Meet the Editors:

Editors of Times They Were A-Changing

Editors Kate Farrell, Amber Lea Starfire and Linda Joy Myers

I could bore you with the traditional bios that authors and editors place on Goodreads, Amazon or the dust covers of their books. However, these three editors wrote special bios for the launch and events surrounding the anthology, and I found them quite interesting. If you’d like to read more, just click here and you’ll be taken to the page with the scoop!

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DETAILS ABOUT THE BOOK | DISCLAIMER:

Publisher: She Writes Press
Published: September 8, 2013
Genre: Memoir, Prose & Poetry Anthology
ISBN-10: 978193831409
Paperback: 336 pages

Times They Were A-Changing is available as a print and e-book at Amazon, Kindle Store and Barnes & Noble.

I received a copy of Times They Were A-Changing from the publisher via WOW! Women on Writing in exchange for a fair and honest review. The opinions expressed here are my own.

I am not an affiliate of any of the retailers mentioned above.

 

Poignant Story of Surrogacy | Bringing in Finn by Sara Connell

Please note that as a follow-on to this review and as part of a WOW! Women on Writing Book tour, Sara Connell will visit with me for an interview tomorrow, Tuesday, November 19th. Additionally, a copy of Bringing in Finn, will go to one lucky reader who participates in the giveaway. Look forward to having you visit again tomorrow!

BringinginFinnPaperback!!

“Maybe the whole purpose of her vision was for us to get to this place, a place of love and appreciation for each other, of unimagined intimacy and closeness. If that was the purpose, it should be enough, I told myself. Bill and I would survive. Even though we wanted deeply to be parents, we didn’t need a baby to live a complete life. I told this to myself, but I didn’t fully believe it.

“Just like my mother at the labyrinth, I could not totally surrender my desire. I shrugged and smiled at her, and we went downstairs to see if Bill wanted help with dinner.”

~ Sara Connell in Bringing in Finn


Synopsis:

Bringing in Finn is an incredibly moving story of surrogacy and how it created a bond like no other between a mother and daughter.

In February 2011, 61-year-old Kristine Casey delivered the greatest gift of all to her daughter, Sara Connell: Sara’s son, Finnean. At that moment, Kristine—the gestational carrier of Sara and her husband Bill’s child—became the oldest woman ever to give birth in Chicago.  Bringing in Finn: An Extraordinary Surrogacy Story tells this modern family’s remarkable surrogacy story.

After trying to conceive naturally without success, Sara and her husband Bill dedicated years to a variety of fertility treatments—but after Sara lost a third pregnancy (including the loss of twins at twenty-two weeks), they started to give up their hope. When Kristine offered to be their surrogate, they were shocked; but Kristine was clear that helping Sara become a mother felt like a calling, something she felt inspired to do.

In this achingly honest memoir, Connell recounts the tragedy and heartbreak of losing pregnancies; the process of opening her heart and mind to the idea of her sixty-one-year-old mother carrying her child for her; and the profound bond that blossomed between mother and daughter as a result of their unique experience together.

Bringing in Finn is the true story of a couple who wanted nothing more than to have a family and a mother who would do anything for her daughter. After unsuccessfully trying to conceive naturally, years of fertility treatments, miscarriage and a late term loss of twins, Sara and Bill Connell were emotionally and financially depleted and at a loss as to how they could have a family. When Sara’s mother Kristine offered to be their surrogate, the three embark on the journey that would culminate in Finnean’s miraculous birth and complete a transformation of their at-one-time strained mother-daughter relationship.

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My Thoughts:

Bringing in Finn is not just a story about a couple who desperately want a child. Nor is it a story intended to only detail their struggles, disappointments and attempts to conceive. It is about so much more than that.

Sara Connell brings to the page a story of extraordinary love that encompasses and bridges a conflicted relationship between a mother and her daughter.

Connell’s desire for a child is reinforced by her husband’s mutual wish to grow their family. What seem like insurmountable odds work against them as they attempt conception via in vitro fertilization. At times, the despair and heartache described by Connell is wrenching for the reader. At times, I wanted to reach through the pages to help this couple.

And yet help is present on the fringe of this anxious and desperate situation. An unlikely surrogate comes forward in Connell’s 61-year old mother. From this gift to her daughter and son-in-law, Kristine unknowingly sets into place another miraculous event.

The cover of Bringing in Finn gives a visual of the happiness that grew out of this couple’s struggle to bring Finn into the world.

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My Recommendation: 

If you are considering surrogacy, this book may be for you. However, I would caution that there are raw moments of grief, despair and depression within its pages. Be ready to walk a journey with the Connells that you may not yet have experienced yourself. On the other hand, this is a story of hope and miracles that anyone would find worthy of taking the time to read if only because of its simply beautiful message.

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Meet the Author:

SaraConnellSara Connell is an author, speaker, and life coach with a private practice in Chicago. She has appeared on Oprah, Good Morning America, NPR, The View, FOX News and Katie Couric. Sara’s writing has been featured in: The New York Times, Good Housekeeping, Parenting, Psychobabble, Evolving Your Spirit, and Mindful Metropolismagazines. Her first book, Bringing in Finn; an Extraordinary Surrogacy Story (Sept 4, 2012 Seal Press)was nominated for Book of the Year 2012 by Elle magazine.

Sara’s Website: http://www.saraconnell.com
Sara’s Blog: http://www.saraconnell.com/blog
Sara on Twitter: https://twitter.com/saracconnell
Sara on Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/SaraConnellAuthorSpeakerCoach

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DETAILS ABOUT THE BOOK | DISCLAIMER:

Publisher: Seal Press
Published: October 8, 2013
Genre: Memoir
ISBN-10: 1580055419
Paperback: 336 pages

Bringing in Finn is available as a print and e-book at Amazon.

I received a copy of Bringing in Finn from the publisher via WOW! Women on Writing in exchange for a fair and honest review. The opinions expressed here are my own.

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UP NEXT:  Tomorrow come back to meet Sara Connell in an interview about the story behind the book, Bringing in Finn AND one lucky reader will win a copy of the book in a Rafflecopter giveaway. See you tomorrow!

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