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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

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Behind the Gem

Behind The Gem3 StarsWhen entire buildings begin disappearing around earth, former Army Ranger Raymond knows that the end cannot be too far away for him and his fellow humans. A normal day at the office takes an unexpected turn, causing Raymond to make use of his training as everything around him begins to suddenly change. However, no amount of training could’ve prepared him for the Drassens—a species of aliens with a matriarchal society. After being saved from certain destruction, Raymond forms a bond with the High One, unleashing a series of events that will challenge everything he knows about the universe and himself.

Ken Hart’s Behind the Gem delves deep into a future where earth’s existence begins to unravel as entire buildings begin to disappear on by one. At the center of this story is Raymond, a former Army Ranger who lives with his wife, rides a motorcycle, and works a regular office job. Normalcy for him, as well as the reader, is forever changed with the introduction of the species of aliens called the Drassens.

Hart’s creation of an alien, matriarchal society comes naturally throughout the book. Where some writers rely on heavy descriptions to convey that the new world is vastly different from earth, Hart allows his characters, mannerisms, and short descriptive phrases to usher the reader into a world that is vastly different from earth. Though some parts of the book could use more exposition as to why certain things are happening or to help separate the travel from one location from a different one (such as the Most High One’s palace and the landing), there remains little to complain about when it comes to world building.

The electronic devices and healing mechanisms are very unique to this story and to this world that Hart created. It has a familiarity, but comes with variances that make it new and exciting without being overwhelming. Additionally, the alien species seems to round out the total uniqueness of the story. Hart’s description of the new aliens leaves nothing to be questioned, allowing the familiarity of the mammal-like species to ease Raymond’s trust in the creature while also showing the difference of the alien from humans.

Behind the Gem is well conceived but I felt that there were elements that could of been handled with greater care. The relationship between Raymond and Amber—though well-written and thought out—could be viewed as Stockholm Syndrome. Every element of their unconventional relationship, I felt, should have been handled with greater detail to give readers a better understanding of their connection.

As Raymond’s trust with the aliens develops, so does the writing style of the book. What begins as a journal written almost completely in stream of consciousness with strange introduction of characters develops into a more matured and skilled version of his story as he begins to become more and more educated like the Drassens who surround him. It is a nice touch that assists in capturing Raymond’s transformation. If you enjoy a good alien invasion story, then this book should be next on your list.

Pages: 286 | ISBN: 1629894206

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