The Art of My Life

Rated 4.50/5 based on 14 reviews
Cal walked out of jail and into a second chance at winning Aly with his grandma’s beater sailboat and a reclaimed dream of sailing charters.

Aly has business smarts, strings to a startup loan, and heart he never should have broken. He’s got squat. Unless you count enough original art to stock a garage sale and an affection for weed.

But he’d only ever loved Aly. That had to count for something. More

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Words: 92,530
Language: English
ISBN: 9781301389117
About Ann Lee Miller

Ann Lee Miller earned a BA in creative writing from Ashland (OH) University and writes full-time in Phoenix, but left her heart in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, where she grew up. She loves speaking to young adults and guest lectures on writing at several Arizona colleges. When she isn’t writing or muddling through some crisis-real or imagined-you’ll find her hiking in the Superstition Mountains with her husband or meddling in her kids’ lives. Over 100,000 copies of Miller’s debut novel, Kicking Eternity, have been downloaded from online retailers.

Also in Series: New Smyrna Beach

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Review by: Cadee Brystal on June 21, 2014 :
After reading -- and loving -- Ann Lee Miller's Christian novel "Kicking Eternity", I was eager to read The Art of My Life. Miller's writing style is easy to read and her characters are true to life. Her stories unfold in a comfortable way, but have enough drama to keep the reader involved. I look forward to reading more from Ann Lee Miller!
(reviewed 59 days after purchase)

Review by: Amber Stokes on March 18, 2014 :
Despite the difficult issues the characters face in The Art of My Life, there's a breezy, sweet relief to the story. The setting with its small businesses and its sailboats at dock...the honest, head-on presentation of struggles both universal and typical for new adults...the final baring of souls and revealing of secrets... All in all, it's an engaging, character-driven read.

I really liked the fact that there were two main romances, and might I add that the characters have some great names? Cal, Aly, Fish (nickname), Missy, Evie, Starr, Henna, Leaf, Van Gogh (the dog)... All very distinctive, fitting, and fun! The plot itself is a little too angst-ridden to be called "fun," but the moments of suspense toward the middle of the novel, as well as the coastal setting and some sweet romantic scenes, make it an overall enjoyable reading experience.

For those readers who are sensitive about content, there is some language throughout the story, and there's an emphasis on the physical in the romantic relationships. (Nothing overly explicit - mostly just a general focus on how the other looks and wanting the other person in a physical way, although there is kissing and general talk of sex.) That was one thing that kind of frustrated me about one of the romantic relationships, especially - so much emphasis was placed on wanting to be able to be together physically. But the overall message of the main romance transcends that.

As I previously noted, the story is very character-driven. In some ways, I definitely loved that, because the characters are very endearing and intriguing with their quirks and flaws and authentic grappling with love and life. But there were times when it caused the story to stretch out a little long. The climactic moment suspense-wise happened about 3/4 of the way through, I believe, and so the resolution of all the issues - while inspiring and important - went on a little longer than I would have preferred. And it seemed to take the characters so long to realize that all they had to do to resolve their differences was simply open up about what was really bothering them. (But that's not so much a complaint about the book as it is about human nature, I guess!)

For a heartfelt and hopeful NA (new adult) romance with well-drawn characters, The Art of My Life delivers. And for all my fellow bloggers out there, the blog quotes/entries at the beginning of each chapter are an added creative treat, going along with the thought-provoking title and theme.

*With thanks to the author for providing me an e-copy of the book in exchange for my honest opinion.*
(reviewed 20 days after purchase)

Review by: Dii on March 13, 2013 :
The Art of My Life has become my favorite book yet, from Ann Lee Miller! Cal has had a lifetime to become as damaged and lost as he is. Never measuring up to what his mother wanted, he turned to his grandparents who accepted him as he was. Unfortunately, their lifestyle involved illegal drug use and Cal fell into that abyss. Mistake after mistake found Cal in jail, still lost. He has been in love with Aly forever, but doesn't feel he will ever be good enough for her. Aly also has her demons. After a wild and promiscuous teenage period, she has settled down and gotten her life straightened out. Aly has a career that will hold her over until she is ready to follow her dreams of owning her own business. Aly loves Cal, but he once turned down her advances and she figures he will never be interested in her.

Meanwhile, Fish and Missy are playing that same cat & mouse game. Fish has always been attracted to Missy, but she is Cal's much younger sister, who now wants marriage and a family-last thing Fish thinks he wants. Missy has had it bad for Fish since she was about fourteen, he knows it, but seems to avoid her.

As each story moves along simultaneously, they tell of the insecurities and issues each person has. No one is perfect, everyone has baggage, some heavier than others, but everyone needs the approval of those closest to them. Cal has the toughest road to travel, he has fallen down so many times, but failed to see that in trying again, he was gaining strength. Aly tries to be there for him, helping him with his business, encouraging his art. They just never seem to get on the same page at the same time. Will either of these couples finally open up and be honest with each other? Do they have what it takes to trust their heart to someone else, no holding back?

Ann Miller has done her job creating a world with flawed characters, flawed satellite characters, and worst case scenarios, just like real life. I was so connected to Cal and his issues that I wanted an hour alone with his over-critical, always disapproving mother! I guess that is a sign of a great author who knows how to put everything together!
(reviewed 15 days after purchase)

Review by: Karen Lyons on Feb. 26, 2013 : (no rating)
The Art of My Life
By Ann Lee Miller

Below is a description of this book
Cal walked out of jail and into a second chance at winning Aly with his grandma’s beater sailboat and a reclaimed dream of sailing charters. Aly has business smarts, strings to a startup loan, and heart he never should have broken. He’s got squat. Unless you count enough original art to stock a garage sale and an affection for weed. But he’d only ever loved Aly. That had to count for something.

I read the e-book format….
I read the “Kicking Eternity” book written by Ann and really enjoyed it, this one continues the story of Aly and Cal. It is an enjoyable read as, the other book Ann has written. It is easy to follow and very relatable. The story is believable and interesting to read what happens next.

This is a book for teenagers and up. As long as they learn from it and do not copy the errors that were made in it.

All in all I liked this book just think, for some odd reason I would enjoy it more if it was in print!

Please Lord, continue to bless Ann and her writing. In Jesus Name Amen.

Please visit Ann @

Ever have a painting you’ve stared at for years—and loved? Then, one day, you see
something which alters the way you view the piece forever. And you have to decide whether the art has been irreparably marred or merely deepened.
Aly at
(reviewed 60 days after purchase)

Review by: C.R. Mcbride on Feb. 12, 2013 : (no rating)
I really enjoyed the first part Kicking Eternity where we first meet Cal and I loved him immediately. He is passionate and wears his heart on his sleeve; his heart definitely rules his head.
The Art of My Life see`s Cal in a downward spiral trying desperately to grasp onto anything he can to try and turn his life around.
Aly has turned it around; she has a successful job and is living a clean honest life at last. When Cal returns she doesn`t want him in her life, he humiliated her and broke her heart, so what if she always loved him, worshipped him even he was NOT in her future. If only she could convince her heart of that fact.
This is a totally different paced story to Kicking Eternity, the relationship between Cal and Aly is very heated and I felt at home with the characters as I felt like I already knew them. The nearly but not quite scenes are very passionate as Cal struggles to remain in control of his emotions.
Their story is heart wrenching as both have a dark past that cannot be ignored. I loved it the minute I started to read, it is a real and painful story that many can relate to but at the same time it is exciting and heart-warming. I had a real sense of loss when I finished reading.
(reviewed 5 days after purchase)

Review by: Carol Rivers on Feb. 03, 2013 :
Ann Lee Miller is a gifted writer. The book has wonderful flow. You will fall in love with her characters and feel their pain and their joy.
(reviewed 5 months after purchase)

Review by: Katie Thompson on Jan. 01, 2013 :
“The Art of My Life” is the second book I have read by Ann Lee Miller. I give this book four stars (the same as I gave “Avra’s God”) although, personally I preferred “Avra’s God,” I don’t think this book deserves anything less than four stars.

“The Art of My Life” tells the tale of Cal and Ali who to begin with are clearly very different people. The book begins with Cal leaving jail. He’s given a chance to ‘restart’ life but will it be different the second time around?

The story line of this book is like that of pretty much every other chick-lit/romance book. Guy likes girl but can he win her heart? Although the story line is good I just couldn’t connect to it. From what I can see both Cal and Ali liked each other from the start and I found the story line a bit ‘flat,’ but that’s just me.

Ann Lee Miller has a good writing style that flows well and makes you want to know what’s going to happen next without dragging it out too much. There are minimal typing/proof-reading errors which makes this an easy read. A good book for any teenager/young adult who enjoys romance.
(reviewed 27 days after purchase)

Review by: gwenjoy on Nov. 08, 2012 : (no rating)
This second book by Ann Lee Miller continues the story from Kicking Eternity. As in the first, the characters seem real; the reader cares about their lives and watches them face real temptations and make choices that sometimes result in good in their lives and sometimes bad, just as in real life.

I like the blogs by Aly at the beginning of each chapter; they add insight to her character and engaged me in thought about her topics.

Miller writes some amazing kisses and presents the reality of throbbing hormones in a way that many Christian authors avoid, but are probably true to her readers' experiences.

As a mom, I could really relate to the struggle between Cal and his mom who loved him yet didn't know how to show that love in light of his drug abuse. I felt his mom's despair and conflict.

Missy was probably my least favorite character with her ultimatums of "Marry me now" or "Don't even be in my life." I was hoping Fish would teach her to love him and wait as she demanded of him.

The Art of My Life kept me engaged throughout. I want to read more of this author's work.
(reviewed 53 days after purchase)

Review by: Ginger Solomon on Oct. 27, 2012 :
This is a sequel to Kicking Eternity, which you will need to read to understand all the backstory/issues.

I enjoyed reading this contemporary romance, but be forewarned tough subjects are covered--seeking sex to compensate for a lack of love, and using drugs to "escape reality"--and a fair amount of foul words. Ann uses the first two effectively to show us the pitfalls of these vices, and how much God loves all of us, despite our sins.

All in all, I thought The Art of My Life was a thought-provoking book that helped me see things from a different perspective.
(reviewed 44 days after purchase)

Review by: brimag on Oct. 15, 2012 :
Cal is pretty much at rock bottom when the story begins. He is not perfect has made a lot of mistakes. Now he is ready to get his life back together and attempt to win back the woman he loves. This book is full of flawed characters making bad choices and trying to find their way, just like real life. Overall the story is about hope and forgiveness and, of course, love. I loved it and highly recommend.
This is the second book in the New Smyrna Beach series. I haven't read the first. Events from that book are referred to, but it is not necessary to have read it.
(reviewed 31 days after purchase)

Review by: Jeremy McClung on Oct. 12, 2012 :
Excellent character development and portrayal of the inner tension between dark and light, faith and doubt, courage and fear. The coming-of-age story kept moving and kept me reading as I came to care about each character and their choices. Not your typical trite Christian novel, this honest portrayal is realistic in its portrayal of Christianity and spirituality in real life situations.
(reviewed 19 days after purchase)

Review by: Traci Bonney on Oct. 12, 2012 :
As with Kicking Eternity, Ann has crafted a compelling novel with complex characters who deal with difficult issues concerning trust, faith, abandonment, rejection and a number of other traumas from their pasts. Ann’s author tagline is “Flawed People. Flawless God.” This book is full of very flawed people searching for answers to life’s struggles.

I can’t tell you how many times I wanted to grab Cal by the ear, drag him over to a chair and give him what-for about his bad choices and stupid decisions. That’s how real these people will become to you.

And as in real life, the language some of the characters use is less than pure. If you don’t want to read cuss words, be forewarned. But if you can get past the language, you’ll see the pain behind the words. You may even recognize it from your own life or that of someone you know and love.

Ultimately, The Art of My Life reminds the reader that no matter how low a person sinks, they’re not out of reach of a loving God, if they’ll just take the nail-scarred Hand extended their way.
(reviewed 34 days after purchase)

Review by: Roberta Hegland on Oct. 01, 2012 : (no rating)
Honest, earthy, visceral - Ann uses all the senses to describe twenty something relationships. Glimpses of the need for protection, boundaries and forgiveness abound.

Kicking Eternity leaves us with Cal and Aly's rift, Art of My Life explores the long road to healing. Frank feelings, tender and heartbreaking give life to the characters who are beautifully drawn (as are the descriptions of Cal's art - reminiscent of the novel, Girl With a Pearl Earring). blog entries at the beginning of each chapter are a delightful bonus. The blog is real and full of wonderful paintings.

Ann Lee Miller lives up to her tagline in this novel; Flawed people. Flawless God.
(reviewed 21 days after purchase)

Review by: Nikole Hahn on Sep. 25, 2012 :
The Art of My Life by Ann Lee Miller challenges the Christian reader with its sometimes explicit content. The novel thoroughly explores the relationship between Cal and Aly and Cal’s addiction to pot.

In her last novel, Kicking Eternity, Cal submitted to his addiction to pot after being rejected by Raine for someone else. Aly is angry because Cal slept with Evie, a drama queen and pot addict. Cal has spent several months in jail and in The Art of My Life he is determined to lead a straight life to earn Aly’s love. Aly is now a bank loan officer and living as a Christian. Her past reputation continues to haunt her mind and others reminders of her mistakes hurt.

To interrupt the story is the budding romance between Fish and Missy. That story was distracting. I really didn’t like Missy or Fish. Fish was truly an unpleasant character and while necessary to the storyline, I wish he didn’t have his own point of view. Other people will probably disagree. Ann did a great job in presenting each character with individual personalities and voices. That’s not an easy talent to achieve as sometimes every character no matter the inflection of voice in dialogue can sound like the author.

Ann’s novel is unique, getting into the uglier side of the life of an addict and the temptations involved in once having been sexually active. For those under sixteen years old, the novel is too explicit.

While Ann doesn’t write in the traditions of secular romance scenes, the scenes depicted do take a step past the edge where it’s too visual. I’m not sure how I feel about it since I do appreciate the struggle being illustrated there. Too often Christian novels don’t touch upon sexual temptation. To successfully, show rather than tell of the struggles a young girl might endure means getting into the dirty side of life. Ann does this, but I’m not sure I like how far she goes with it.

In the Christian world, her novel would probably be criticized because of this content and the heavy drug use illustrated, but in the secular world this would be considered tame.

I liked the flow of her last novel, but I felt the flow in The Art of My Life kept getting interrupted by Fish and Missy’s issues. I would have rather seen no point of view from Fish or Missy, and focused on Cal, Aly, and Cal’s mom and grandparents. Ann is probably going to use Missy and Fish in her next novel, if I were to hazard a guess by how much time these characters received in The Art of My Life.

The danger Aly and Cal faced towards the end of the novel escalated the conflict and the necessity of Cal getting rid of his pot addiction. Ann shows us the side of weed that most people who promote the so-called benefits of try to hide. Her writing of this story almost reflects a personal experience possibly with people who had this addiction. There’s a passion behind her words as she wrote Aly and Cal’s story. The nice thing about each chapter were the snippets of Aly’s “blog,” that give us a little more of Aly’s thoughts.

Overall, I struggled to come up with a rating for her novel and hovered between a three and four. A couple of grammar and/or typos were not distracting, but because of how well she showed pot’s addictive nature and the damaging effects it can have on families, I gave The Art of My Life four stars. The story of the weed’s dangerous effects on people and family upstaged Cal and Aly’s love story.

*Book given by author to review.
(reviewed 17 days after purchase)

Review by: Anne Baxter Campbell on Sep. 25, 2012 :
Ann is an amazingly talented writer. If you have read Kicking Eternity (which by the way, you can download for free), you know what I'm talking about. She grips you on the first page of both the first one and this one (The Art of My Life) and won't let you go EVEN AT THE END. I can't wait for the next book!
Do you remember Cal, the beach bum who makes all sorts of stupid decisions in Kicking Eternity? And yet you glimpse his caring heart?
And how about Aly, whose choices and actions were not exactly aboveboard either? Remember how at the end of Kicking Eternity she knew she loved Cal and thought maybe, just maybe, he thought of her more than just as a sister? And then she catches him with another girl?
This book is about Cal and Aly. Cal had gone to jail for drug possession. Aly had straightened out her life, at least somewhat. At least now she acknowledges that God exists. Cal does, too. But neither of them realize just how much God loves them--He's just the life jacket in case of emergency.
Cal's best friend Fish dumped him because Cal stuffed some weed into Fish's locker--and the authorities found it and he lost his job and his career aim of becoming a US senator all in one fell swoop. And any chance of making time with Cal's sister.
Aly is stiff-arming Cal for obvious reasons. But she's willing to fund a chance for him to make good at a charter sailing business and becomes his partner in the venture.
Cal's mother wants a new and better relationship with her son, but Cal stiff-arms her. He doesn't want to face any more criticism from her.
And then, along comes this shady-looking guy, Vic, who wants a ride to Grand Bahama, now! and hands Cal a check. Aly doesn't like it--she wants cash. Vic promises cash upon reaching his destination. And stiffs them. And then shows up demanding another ride, this time with a sawed-off shotgun.
Sorry folks, that's all I'm telling. Buy the book if you want the rest of the story. Trust me, you won't be disappointed.
(reviewed 15 days after purchase)

Review by: Lynn Worton on Sep. 23, 2012 :
Review 6******

I was given a copy of this book by the author in return for an honest review.

This is a fantastic romance! But it is also a story of one man's chance to turn his life around.

Cal is a fantastic character. He is a wonderful artist, but he has a problem; he is a marijuana addict. He has always loved Aly, but feels she deserves someone better.

Aly is also a wonderful character. She also loves Cal, but doesn't believe that she has a chance with Cal. By going into business with him, she hopes that she can show Cal what he is missing.

There are actually two romance stories in this book, but the main focus is on Cal and Aly as they start a charter business. This is a fantastic book filled with some danger and a lot of weed! It is also Cal's journey to find himself and what he really needs and wants.
I really felt for him. His journey is not an easy one, but I applaud him for trying. It takes guts to admit that he has a drug problem and do something about it. He is a fantastic artist, but like everyone, has insecurities and doubts.
There are a lot of nautical terms used in this book, but there is an index if you are not used to them. Luckily I didn't need to use it, as I have been sailing before and knew what the terms meant.
The story flowed well, and at the beginning of every chapter there was either an observation or comment by Aly from her blog. It made the characters come alive. Ann Lee Miller's descriptions were such that I would love to see Cal's art for real.

I do not recommend this book for younger readers due to the mention of drugs (marijuana) and sex (which was neither explicit nor erotic). However, if you are looking for a fantastic romance then I highly recommend this book that had me hooked from the first page. - Lynn Worton (WaAR)
(reviewed 15 days after purchase)

Review by: Jutzie on Sep. 17, 2012 :
The Art Of My Life by Ann Lee Miller
Smyrna Beach Series Book 2
John Calvin Koomer, who goes by the name Cal as in Calvin and Hobbs, because he was always more restless and into things like the mischievous cartoon character. Rather than follow the guidance of his father, Pastor Jackson Koomer, he related more to his hippie type grandparents Henna and Leaf, who provided him with all the pot he wanted. Cal has cared for Aly for some time but really messed up a few years ago by hanging out with Evie. Now he wants Aly….is it too late?

Aly Logan hasn't lived a very good life these first twenty some years. Her abandonment issues from her father leaving when she was only seven has stuck with her. The pain of seeing Cal on the beach with Evie two years ago hurt even worse. She has lived a different life since then and plans on owning her own business one day. When Cal enters her life again she struggles with her feelings for him, which are still strong, but the trust is weak.

Sean Fisher 'Fish' has a few chips on his shoulder. When his parents left to open an orphanage in Peru his senior year he chose to stay behind and live with the Koomers. He always had a special place in his heart for Cal's younger sister, Missy. Now that she is twenty he sees her as more than the little girl she was….but she wants marriage and family. He don’t. He also has anger issues with Cal, who cost him a job and possibly the political career he always dreamed up.

We met Cal and Aly in the first book, Kicking Eternity. We get to know them much better in this book and also meet some new and unique characters. This book is much more sensual than the first. You have young adults who have been promiscuous and are now fighting against those feelings to build more of a relationship than one built on sex alone. I really enjoyed this book. I found the struggles to be so realistic. The battles these young people fight against are real as are the some of the mistakes made by parents.
**Sensual situations and language.
(reviewed 9 days after purchase)

Review by: Nona Mae King on Sep. 16, 2012 :
It's a common malady, that sequels pale in comparison with their primary counterparts. Not so with The Art of My Life, by Ann Lee Miller. Kicking Eternity, book 1, introduced the characters of Cal and Aly, a somewhat star-crossed couple who had been friends for years and never been lucky enough to move past that point. Add into that Cal's tendency toward addiction to marijuana, Aly's addiction to sex, and they were delightfully flawed individuals whom tugged at your heartstrings.
In The Art of My Life, the story circles around Cal and Aly, Cal's sister Missy and his best friend Fish, and a few other delinquent relationships (Cal's mother, her relationship with her parents, an ex, an absent family....). I grant you, there were a lot of things going on, hearts to be mended and relationships to be prepared, but TAoML didn't lose me; that is, the story and conflicts were written and spun in such a way that it kept me not only engrossed, but intrigued and interested. I felt the characters' desire, their passion, their pain and frustration. I couldn't help but fall in love with all of them and wish them the best, learning from their pain and seeing how similar it rang with challenges from my own past.
Dealing with such addictions as marijuana and sex is something you don't read often in Christian romances, and I was pleasantly surprised by not only the subject matter and material, but with the class Ann Lee Miller displayed in her weaving of these tales. Yes, there were places where it seemed the characters were being a little ridiculously blind, but haven't we all looked back on our lives in hindsight and wondered "What the heck was I thinking?"

If I could request one thing be changed, it would be that more time dedicated (or a separate book) to the relationship of Missy and Fish. But, at the same time I believe the amount presented was best. Inject anything more and you risk subtracting from the succinct and sweet storyline TAoML presented.
Overall, the book was a tremendous success, the only other Christian romance with just enough spice being The Covering by Dana Pratola.
Overall Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Would I read it again: yes

Would I recommend it to others: a definite yes!
(reviewed 8 days after purchase)

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