Friday, October 26, 2018

To the Moon and Back

To the Moon and Back, by Lisa Kohn, © 2018, Heliotrope Books

If you were to write your memoir, what would it contain? Stories of family, friends, and experiences lived along the way? That would be typical. Lisa Kohn was certainly influenced by all those things, but there is a darker edge to her childhood. From a young age, she bounced between living in a cult with her mother, and surviving her father's lifestyle of sex, drugs, and excess in New York City's seedy East Village in the seventies. Both of these extreme influences made for a challenging adolescence, but are also fodder for this starkly honest memoir from a new and talented author.

In the seventies, cults were a feared part of the landscape for many people. Families worried that their vulnerable youth would be recruited by fanatical cult members. For Kohn though, when the Unification Church entered her world, she finally found what she thought was love and stability, after years of living with her hippie, free-loving parents. The love anointed by Reverend Moon was a conditional thing though. And despite her willingness to initially embrace her Mother's new found Moonie lifestyle, Kohn quickly stumbled within their highly judgmental fold. Nowhere was she good enough. Ultimately, that lack of self-confidence and the constant disapproval led to her spiralling out of control.

This story isn't about giving up though. Kohn may have battled anorexia, poor self-esteem, drug use, poor relationship choices, and more, but she also found the strength within herself to question the many influences which led her there. Today, she is an accomplished leadership consultant, executive coach, keynote speaker, and author. She also overcame her demons to find self-worth and a healthy relationship, where she could finally be at peace with her unorthodox childhood and let go of the plaguing beliefs that it was "all her fault".

If you have ever felt not good enough, know that that is far from the truth. We are a product of our experiences, but we also have the power to control the direction our lives go in. Kohn is a beautiful example of that. Her story is at once fascinating, but also hits close to home for anyone who has ever struggled with self doubt. You just might find it worth a read!

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

The Peithosian Gift

The Peithosian Gift by Cristina Archer, © 2018, Rowanvale Books

Do you know how the mind works? Are you so sure? How much control do you think you have over other people's wills? Or nature? You might question all you know after reading Cristina Archer's newest book.

In The Peithosian Gift, Archer introduces two warring families, both with the power to manipulate the world around them with the gift of mind control. Is the Peithosian gift truly a gift though? For the Kane and Morgan families, ancient bloodlines who have feuded for centuries, the answer is not so clear cut. The Morgans believe that using their gift is their responsibility, while the Kanes believe it goes against the natural order of what nature intends. When a forgotten clan materializes, with a child more powerful than anyone has ever seen, the world and all who inhabit it are threatened. The question becomes, can anyone control the child or the ripples her presence might cause?

Archer creates several compelling characters who struggle with their mental manipulation gifts. While I enjoyed her speculative fiction and found the story a good read, the plot line jumped around quite a bit. The story starts in 55 BC, then fast forwards to 21 years ago. From there time lines bounce around further, leaving the reader to wonder which characters we might encounter next. While I was able to follow it, I suspect this device might be confusing for some. The many protagonists also offer a challenge to the reader, as we jump between Adele, Sam, Connor, Radha, Quinn, and many others. While this makes sense due to the wide time period of the novel and the many critical characters throughout, I wonder if the story might have been simpler to write from fewer view points. Ultimately, it was Archer's story to tell though.

So as the story builds in urgency, all the characters introduced eventually meet up in present day. It becomes a battle of the wills that no one is willing to lose, but everyone must be willing to bend on. Hopefully your brain doesn't turn into mush along the way, as you follow the many leads to the final conclusion. I won't spoil the tidy ending, but it seems the clans' biggest fears could be their undoing, or their salvation. Will Radha destroy them all with her barely controlled gift? Can sworn enemies let go of ancient feuds for the benefit of all? Does all of humanity, and nature herself, hang in the balance? You have to read Archer's book to find out.

Monday, October 1, 2018

The Pink Steering Wheel Chronicles

The Pink Steering Wheel Chronicles by Laura Fahrenthold, ©2018, Hatherleigh Press

Earlier this summer I received a request to review a memoir by debut author Laura Fahrenthold. The premise of the story rang close to my heart—grief. A young mother loses her husband and goes on a journey to rediscover life and begin to forge a path to her new normal. I have walked in those same shoes, so it should be no surprise that I said yes for this review.

Instead of writing a review though—I feared I would take over with tales from my own grief journey—I asked if Laura would answer a few questions for me. In addition to learning more about the book, I thought my readers could discover more about the process behind Laura's journey. And I happily have a little more to share about Laura's journey with you! I hope you enjoy a few more insights from Laura's journey in life.

If you haven't had a chance to read The Pink Steering Wheel Chronicles, I highly recommend it!

 A Closer Look at The Pink Steering Wheel Chronicles...

Grief is a much longer journey than many people realize. When did you decide it was time and you were ready to write your chronicles highlighting your grief journey? How long did it take to write the book?

Actually, life is a much longer journey than most people realize! There are so many stages to it. That’s really what the book is about—it’s a book about going through the stages of life and how I coped with a huge tragedy by driving 31,000 miles across Canada and the U.S. searching for answers to life’s biggest questions. Sometimes, I got answers in the arms of Costco and Walmart shoppers; other times I found my own truths when staring into the sky. And I definitely learned so much from being with my daughters. It’s crazy how everything can change in a matter of six devastating minutes.

While that sounds so deep, and perhaps dark and depressing, the book is anything but that, as suggested by the title itself: The Pink Steering Wheel Chronicles! It’s truly an often hilarious look at my efforts to gain emotional and physical strength through the open road in a beat-up old RV we named HaRVey with my two eyeball rolling teenagers and a stray dog, driving through our grief while gaining new experiences to work into our backbones.

So really, I didn’t decide to write this book. It decided to write me.

What do you mean the book decided to write you?

I never set out to write The Pink Steering Wheel Chronicles. That isn’t what our ashes-sprinkling RV trips were about. They were about spending time with my daughters, having amazing experiences that would hopefully replace our sadness. We needed to climb mountains like Les Palissades de Charlevoix (which helped me overcome a fear of heights…well, sort of), ride the tidal waves in the Bay of Fundy and go mud sliding down the banks of the Shubenacadie River. We also ended up invited to a wedding in Cape Breton where we got to milk goats on their farm! We were always up to something during those 31,000 miles of adventures.

Friends kept saying I should share my story, that I should write a book, given that I am a journalist. And I thought, you know what? They are right! My story is so relatable on so many levels that it could really help motivate people to get out there and live before they die, too.

I started and stopped several times, but then when I found my husband’s journals, I knew I had to do this. Those journals were the puzzle pieces which put the whole thing into perspective. It was astounding, really.

It took about three years from start to finish while working my full-time job as an editor at Woman’s World Magazine. This meant I spent every second of my off-hours, including nights, weekends and holidays, writing, rewriting, examining every single word, rewriting more, editing more, putting it down, picking it up, crying, writing, doubting, declaring it done and then picking it back up again before finally pitching agents, and finding the best publisher— Hatherleigh Press, distributed by Penguin Random House. And now here we are with a book that was published this summer.

It takes immense strength to rebuild a life after the loss of a spouse. I know firsthand the process is not always pretty but is amazing in how transformative it can be. What are you most proud of accomplishing? What are some of your continuing struggles?

I’m most proud of accomplishing what I set out to do—which is rebuild our lives in the most wonderful way that I could, to give my daughters crazy, fun, positive experiences to draw upon so that their father’s death did not become bigger than our lives. None of us had the tools to deal with what we saw and experienced that night, but now we do. You can drop us in the middle of nowhere with a dollar in our pockets and we will find our way out. Mission accomplished. We are three strong, smart independent women who can now change RV tires, rock climb mountains, swim across rivers, ward off alligators—you name it! And find our ways back home.

I continuously struggle with having to do it all myself (I call myself Mr. Laura). I especially hate taking the garbage out; that’s when I miss my husband the most, on Monday mornings! But seriously, we all have struggles. My struggle is that I continuously struggle with my struggling to stop struggling.

Do you have any words of advice on how best to support someone going through their own grieving process?

Grief comes in all forms. Loss of a job. Unrequited love. Broken promises. Health issues. Divorce. Death. Disappointments. We all go through something at some point. My best advice is not to expect too much of a person in grief. Don’t take their responses or lack of responses personally. They need time. And when you are with them, just listen. Just be there for them.

You never know what a road trip might bring. Adventure, misadventure, laughter, tears, epiphanies, arguments, and hopefully a little growth along the way. Do you have any other road trips planned for you and the girls?

My daughters used to say they’d rather die than go on another RV trip! But then my older begged me to take “HaRVey the RV” on another trip with her and her best friend this past summer. And she drove most of the way! I joked that there’s a new sheriff in town!

HaRVey is and will remain a big part of our lives. It’s like having a giant dog in the driveway that always want to run free and play. Sometimes I like to go sleep out there. It’s fun and feels like a mini-vacation. I know the girls can’t wait for more trips. We’ve talked about Vancouver next! But no more sprinkling Mark. He’s RIPing at his boyhood home in Kansas in a giant field of bright yellow sunflowers.


Thank you so much to Laura Fahrenthold and Hatherleigh Press for sharing this poignant story and the strength it takes to grab life when you think it has escaped you. As Laura reminded me, Everybody needs love. The journey of finding it is within all our grasps, even if that means finding it within ourselves. 


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