book reviews

2 Personal Stories

Here are two great memoir-type books from authors I recently met. I’m excited to share their work:

  1. Flash of Life — night terrors about your brother can’t be good
  2. Ties That Bind — the joys of growing up

Flash of LifeFlash of Life

by Lani Kauten

5/5

In Lani Kauten’s twenty-five page Flash of Life (2018), for no known reason, Lani starts having terrorizing dreams that involve her brother. He has always been her soulmate, confidante, dependably there to comfort her whenever she is worried. She has no idea why dreams filled with violence, peopled with threatening faces she can’t decipher as they wiz by in a blur, would involve him. Every night, after who knows how long, they reach a climax that awakens her, sweating and shaking, and she refuses to go back to sleep for fear they return.

“When I try to reach out to find you, lights from passing windows much like those of an airplane appear.”

She tries calling him, visiting his house, leaving messages, but he seems to have disappeared. When the dreams take a dramatic turn to night terrors like she’s never before had, and always, in the 3 a.m. hour, she becomes desperate to find her brother. Partly, this is because she’s frightened something has happened to him, and another part because she hopes finding him will end the night terrors.

“I’ve gone by your house a dozen times hoping that if I saw you, somehow it would put an end to these night terrors. But instead I’m met with endless loops of unanswered doorbell rings, and my calls forwarded to your answering machine.”

But that is only part of the story. As Lani shares her desperate search, she explores with us the close relationship the two siblings had, one she always thought would last forever:

“…The house where we forged that bond between brother and sister that I thought we’d have into our old age. … Where I waited for you every day to come home from school. “Look what I learned today, Johnny.” I would say. “I learned how to do a cartwheel. See.” You were always so attentive.”

Where did it go so wrong that these precious memories are now fodder for her deadly treacherous dreams?

This story called to me because I feel this same way about a brother I thought was my soulmate. His ‘disappearance’ is not physical but no less upsetting. I have no doubt Lani’s emotional words and gripping story will resonate with lots of people like me.


Ties That Bind: Tales of Love, Family and FriendshipTies That Bind

by Suzanne Winfrey Chun

5/5

Suzanne Winfrey Chun’s memoir, Ties That Bind (Bookpatch LLC 2018) recounts the adventures of a completely normal girl growing up in a middle-class American family filled with love, warmth, values, and the kind of support that makes all of us want to take notes on how to parent. Chun’s world preceded cell phones, hackers, drugs, and a world that wouldn’t allow kids to explore their neighborhood without a helicopter mom. Young Suzanne is a pistol by every measure with the kind of energy and enthusiasm for life that makes everyone forgive her transgressions (like sliding down banisters and naming her male cat Lucy). She rightfully refers to her memories as ‘treasures’, to be cherished. This cozy feel-good life, one we strive to offer our children, reminds us that everything doesn’t have to go right, mistakes can serve as learning tools, and consequences often end in love.

It starts with a great opening line.

“I’ve lived two lives….”

And then, buried in the middle of this story, somewhere that you could miss if you weren’t paying attention, Chun shares the event that made her want to be a writer. You’ll have to read the book–carefully–to find out. No spoilers here!

Chun also includes three fictional stories that will entertain and inspire. This is highly recommended for those who love down-to-earth Everyman stories to remind us that among life’s warts are pearls.

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Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers, and Born in a Treacherous Timefirst in the Man vs. Nature saga. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, blog webmaster, an Amazon Vine Voice,  a columnist for TeachHUB and NEA Today, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, Survival of the Fittest, Spring 2019, first in the Crossroads Trilogy. You can find her tech ed books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning

95 thoughts on “2 Personal Stories

  1. Jacqui, I also read Suzanne’s book and am impressed. The book is an enjoyable memoir about relationships and life circumstances that are seemingly mundane yet significant at the same time, as are many daily events if we would just take the time to examine them. Reading the stories evokes my own lifespan of events that are the building materials of life itself. They all make me ponder the “Ties that Bind” in relationships—what binds us as tightly as a macramé knot and makes us a family, to paraphrase the author.
    I especially value the observation of author Suzanne Chun about stories of life that can be for us as they are for her: stories “stored in my head, like gold in a vault.” [A similar review has been posted on her book’s Amazon page as well.]

    The comments on this blog–live blog, must have been fun while it was ongoing.
    When might you do another?

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Hello Jacqui. it’s been a while since this particular blog was live, but I read Lani’s story and made a comment on Amazon. I thought I might add it here for your readers.

    “A Flash of Light
    ‘Dreams are just dreams they say, but my nightmares weren’t just dreams.’

    Lani Kauten relates this wrenching story filled with love and concern and hope for the loving big brother who meant so much to her as they grew to adulthood. A Flash of Life is also about a shadowy, true and disturbing life event. Ominously, the beginning line about dreams introduces a frightening aspect of one of life’s worst fears coming true. This includes loss of relationship with a special someone; tantalizing, repeating odd dreams about vague circumstances without substance; a flash of light finally revealing something tangible for action; fear for another person; and powerlessness to warn of impending doom. The mind knows something important is there, but the leap to clarity is halted before comprehension. Lani’s words tell the story succinctly: “a roller coaster ride to the fringe of insanity.” Despite the barriers, she attempted to intervene based on the disturbing dream scene and her deep concern.
    Lani’s attempt to warn of danger under these circumstances is a bolder act than most of us might ever accomplish.
    And Lani was brave in pursuing the broken relationship, hoping against hope that her brother, too, would remember and wish to recover the times of real relationship, uncluttered by all the stuff in between then and now…. Lani was brave in pursuing the meaning of the dream despite the horror; in describing the wonder of the beautiful, fun sibling relationship; and in choosing, despite the ache, to share treasured feelings with those of us who find their way to her story.
    Who among us wouldn’t want such a cherished relationship? Such memories?
    ‘Remember.’ ”

    I think the live blog idea which included other writer’s is a fantastic method to encourage networking and building relationships with others.
    Keep up the great ideas and your own writing, Jacqui.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Cindy C
      What a wonderful review. Also, I really appreciate the extra time you took in leaving your review out on Amason. You’ve made my day.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve read Lani Kauten’s other book Breaking Summer and really enjoyed it. This I’m looking very much forward to reading and any future writings!

    Quick question. How did you feel between writing this memoir and your Breaking Summer short? Was one easier to write than the other, being a different style of storytelling?

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s an interesting question, Mike. While “Breaking Summer” was easier in a sense to write. “A Flash of Life,” surfaced long-buried raw emotions, but they both presented achievements. Thank you for reading “Breaking Summer,” and I hope you enjoy “A Flash of Life.”

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Jacqui, two terrific reviews and I’m intrigued by them both. Do you feel you got extra insight having met the authors? It’s always a little bit special, I think or that might just be me. I feel you have a story about your own life and your relationship with your brother …
    xx

    Liked by 2 people

      • Jacqui and Annika, I know what you mean. I love to read memoirs and it is so interesting for me when I get to meet the person who is sharing so much of their life with me through their writing. I’m always amazed at the experiences others have had. If they’re really different from my experiences, then I learn so much, and if they’ve gone through things that I can relate to, I feel a connection. Can you tell how much I enjoy memoirs? 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Flash of Life brought back many family memories for me. Lani, your letter was very
    heart warming as well as heart wrenching to read. In reading Flash of Life, I was able to relive the love, laughter and sadness that close siblings have. You’ve captured those memories so vividly that I was able to see it play out frame-by-frame. Thank you for that!

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Readers seem to love memoirs, Jacqui, and these two seem so dissimilar, and yet equally enjoyed by readers. The first one, more short story memoir at 25 pages, sounds intense. I’ve experienced night terrors, and they are difficult to write about, much less to wake up from them.
    I love hearing about a memoir that is built on GOOD memories of a “normal” happy warm childhood. Most memoirs seem to come from a place of pain and dysfunction; I’ve always believed that writing about the “ordinary” can be extraordinarily beautiful. I like your phrase of “warts and pearls” in your Amazon review.
    Thanks much. So important for us to support Indie writers. And to review each other’s books on Amazon if we’ve been moved by them. I was certainly moved by BORN IN A TREACHEROUS TIME, Jacqui. The book (and Lucy) seem to follow my insight of the world now everywhere I go.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. “Ties That Bind” is composed of memories you wish were your own. From school day mischief to cherished times with family, Suzanne Chun knows how to present small pieces of daily life that may have seemed ho-hum when living them, but become dear and wonderful when looking back. Reading the stories helped me recall parts of my own life similar to the things she described so well — a dog, a brother, a family trip, a move to another house — and I wanted to hug her for sharing her memories and bringing back many of my own. It’s a book full of warmth with several lessons learned along the way.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you Sandy Sandy! Your reaction is what I hoped for. I wanted people to relate to my stories and recall their own memories when reading my book, It’s coming true. So many people have told me that when they read the part where I wet my pants in kindergarten, it reminded them of a similar experience they had 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I have read “Flash of Life.” Kauten’s love for her brother lies beneath every page, and at the end I cried with her for him. There’s a rushing train/bus/airplane image that haunts her dreams, and her narrative does the same — haunting us, taking us through rushes of fear, joy, confusion, sadness, and wonder — till we come to the final resolution (which I will not reveal here so you can discover it for yourself). Nice work, Lani.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I read Lani’s book. I found it to be a page turner and I couldn’t put the book down. I wanted to know what would happen next and I wasn’t let down. The authors ability to explain feelings and relationships as well as describe a picture and a scene was so well done.
    I look forward to reading more from this author!

    Liked by 3 people

  10. Jacqui, you give us two very different works that both sound like intriguing reads — one sounds intense and surprising; the other sounds charming and heartwarming. I’ll try both! Thanks.

    Liked by 3 people

  11. Lani Kauten – I have a question. This story is a very difficult time in anyone’s life. What inspired you to tell this story? Or better yet, gave you the courage to go back to that place and relive it, in order to tell it?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hello Saird22,

      It was an incredible journey reading my thoughts I had written down so long ago, but while reading them. I realized I had not only stuffed away the letter in a box but also my devastation of loss that I never quite dealt with. Reliving it, was an extraordinary release of closure.
      Thank you,
      Lani Kauten

      Liked by 3 people

  12. Hi Jacqui – like you I can relate to ‘loss’ of brothers – different worlds we now come from – but it’s the way it goes sometimes. I’d like to read these – they sound really and I’m sure match up – also I want to know why Chun wanted to become a writer … thanks – for more TBRs!! Cheers Hilary

    Liked by 3 people

    • Hello Hilary,
      Thank you for giving “A Flash of Life” your time. It was an incredible journey as you can imagine, and one I thought I’d never share. My father always encouraged me to write whether it be (non-fiction, a memoir in this case or fiction alike,) since I was the storyteller in the family.
      Cordially,
      Lani Kauten

      Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Hilary, Thanks so much for your interest in “Ties That Bind.” A series of unusual events led to a near-death experience, and I got to thank those who rescued me by writing an article about it. That’s when I knew I wanted to become a writer!

      Liked by 3 people

    • Janet – Flash of Life isn’t a terror story. The story isn’t meant to be scary. The dreams are just intense. Which really help to build up the story. I would just hate for you to miss out on such a wonderful, loving story about siblings. Her recounts of the dreams are haunting, but are worth those images you are left with for the gripping story. Just my two cents.

      Liked by 1 person

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