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The Stars That Govern Us

The Stars That Govern Us by JR Alcyone is a heart wrenching but beautiful read set in 1956 Western Australia. Alec Serafeim is a congenital heart surgeon who suffers from manic depression. His pediatric patients mean the world to him but are often the reason why he’s distressed. Despite being one of the best heart surgeons of his time, Alec struggles with the fact that he can’t save all his patients. We follow Alec and his surgical partner Pete as they cope with the heartbreaking world around them.

Now, let me tell you why JR Alcyone is a future bestseller! There are so many things I can say about Alcyone’s writing, but let’s first discuss her scene-setting abilities! Alcyone can set a scene flawlessly. Her attention to small details, including surroundings and mannerisms, is what sets this novel apart. Most modern novelists skip over these details, considering them to be fluff. But Alcyone was able to apply just the right amount of detail to help immerse her reader into the scenes. There only two gripes I have with Alcyone’s writing, and one of them is monotony. The beginning of the story felt slow-paced. I felt that it could have been remedied with some editing. Her ability to pack in detail is fantastic, but it can often drone on about one topic. My second gripe is with distinguishing voices. It took me almost a third of the way through to distinguish Alec’s and Pete’s voices. It was not until I learned certain character traits about each of them that I was able to tell the difference. Once Alcyone started adding the character traits, her writing began to soar!

I praise Alcyone for how gracefully she handled the subject of mental illness. She showed how even the most productive and praise-worthy individuals can suffer from mental health problems. The discussion of manic depression and anxiety is partly what made this novel for me!

Author J.R. Alcyone has the foundations to become something extraordinary. The Stars That Govern Us is a must-read for all historical fiction lovers. Fans of medical fiction and dramatic story telling will find plenty to love in J.R. Alcyone’s riveting novel.

Pages: 279 | ASIN:  B08P5KJ9TZ

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With Angel’s Wings

With Angel's Wings by [Collins, Stephanie A.]

With Angel’s Wings, by Stephanie Collins, is one mother’s raw and heart-wrenching account of her life with two daughters with special needs. Written as a third-person account with name changes, the author describes each and every obstacle encountered as she struggled to come to terms with her daughters’ challenges while simultaneously dealing with a long string of physicians, specialists, and therapists. Laura, as the author calls the young mother, fights an uphill battle from the moment she is told her days-old infant has a heart defect–the first of many. While facing a seemingly unending barrage of personal hurdles, Laura somehow learns to cope with the endless physical and emotional demands placed upon her family by tiny Hannah’s diagnosis of Wolf-Hirschhorn syndrome.

This author’s life story as a work of fiction is almost indescribable. I do not believe I have ever read a book that kept me as breathless and as anxious as this one. Laura’s laundry list of traumatic events ranging from her newborn’s purple feet and hands to her seizures lasting for hours on end is mentally exhausting to read. Her life is so full of twists and turns and drama surrounding Hannah’s diagnosis and subsequent health scares, the author has no need to embellish with flowery language and lengthy stretches of narrative. There is, literally, no room or time left to dress up her text. This book reads as a journal of heartache peppered with true love.

Collins is honest and open with her feelings about her daughters’ diagnoses. As Laura, she sugarcoats nothing. As strong as she is, Laura reveals her vulnerability as an overwhelmed young mother. The reader aches to watch her contemplate, time and again, a way out. Her frustration as a parent fighting her way through the healthcare system is one with which many readers will be able to relate. In addition to her day-to-day battle with fevers, seizures, hospital visits, and mounting financial woes, Laura faces the virtually indescribable audacity of an ex-husband who lacks not only both sympathy and empathy but a soul, as well.

As a parent and a teacher, I have never read a more authentic and touching account of life as a mother or a more revealing account of what caring for a child with special needs truly entails. Emily’s early signs of autism hit home with me as a teacher. No one knows the struggle of helping a child on the autism spectrum like a parent. Laura begins accommodating for Emily’s needs long before her diagnosis. She modifies, plans, and tries to remain several steps ahead of meltdowns from early on in Emily’s life. Parents of children with autism will appreciate reading about the way Laura intricately weaves a web of plans on a daily basis to compensate for Emily’s developmental delays.

Though the book is primarily focused on the battle to save Hannah and come to grips with her many needs, the author does a beautiful job of illustrating the relationship Laura develops with Daniel. Daniel, the one shining light in her darkest days, is a rather unlikely saviour. Their love, apparent from early in their friendship, is one that only intensifies through the rigors of identifying and finding ways of successfully coping with all Emily and Hannah’s needs.

There aren’t any options for stars beyond 5, so I am restricted to giving With Angel’s Wings 5 out of 5 stars. The author’s life story, now Laura and Daniel’s as well, is an absolute must-read for any parent, teacher, or caregiver of a child with special needs. There is a love like no other born out of a relationship with these children, and Stephanie Collins has handed readers everywhere the key to unlock hearts and minds and build a better understanding of the struggles faced by many of our family members and friends who have children with special needs living lives like Laura’s.

Pages: 304 | ASIN: B01DL9AXAI

Buy Now From Amazon.com

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