Book Reviews: Praiseworthy Poetry, Compelling Crime, and Mesmerizing Memoir!!!

In the midst of working on my upcoming poetry collection, I carved out time to read some wonderful books. They piled up, waiting for reviews to be written, and I finally finished. All are well worth the five stars I give them, and the order in which they’re presented is irrelevant, as well as the length of my reviews. I enjoyed all of these books equally. There is something here for everyone: for poetry lovers, crime novel enthusiasts, and those who enjoy an entertaining and authentic memoir. I hope you dive in!

Lion Scream by Robbie Cheadle – An effective poetry collection conveying a vital message.

While I turned the pages of Robbie Cheadle’s new book, I became enlightened. I absorbed the information she includes about South African wildlife and the vital message that flows seamlessly from beginning to end. Lion Scream is a unique and touching collection of poetry that takes the reader on a journey to learn about the wildlife in South Africa from Robbie’s personal experiences in the bush, but not to omit “their plight in the face of the Sixth Mass Extinction.” Her passion for wildlife is surely felt throughout the pages.

A wide variety of animals are highlighted in this collection with stunning, color photos. Animals range from lions, tigers, cheetahs, hippos, and elephants to the Hadeda bird that I had never heard of before. Robbie profoundly expresses how the habitats of these incredible animals have been lost due to global warming, and how the animals’ safety has been compromised due to the evil actions of humans, all because of greed. Robbie’s emotions are palpable through her powerful and sometimes distressing poems. The book takes a detour in the end with a short story that touches on mental health, but the story ties into the initial issue of global warming and the lost habitats.

Robbie’s poem entitled, “Lion Scream” may be short, but its message is concise and effective:

There is no jungle/Only acres of smooth stumps/There is no jungle/No habitat, no food source/Hopeless lion screams tonight

And below is a verse from the heartbreaking poem “Rhino Dilemma” –

Savage men move quickly/Hack out valued horn/Animal left bleeding; awakes to sure death/Tears of pain and anguish/Slide from fading eyes

Years ago, I read two non-fiction books about elephants, and I instantly fell in love with them. So, reading Robbie’s poems about these amazing animals and the poaching horrors they endure is beyond heart wrenching. But a few poems are playful, painting a delightful picture:

Now it’s time for some fun/Trunk draws in water/Up it comes, spraying a fountain overhead/Cool drops sprinkle downward/She trumpets with joy

A few of Robbie’s poems made me smile, but most tugged at my heart because of the serious issues of extinction, human actions that result in the animals’ suffering, and climate change. Anyone who wishes to become educated on these issues or who wishes to foster a solution where humans and animals can contentedly coexist should read Lion Scream. Highly recommended.

Poet’s Touch by Kamal Roohani – Beautiful expressions of loving life!

Poet’s Touch by Kamal Roohani is a delightful collection of freestyle poetry that I savored over several days. Each poem evokes an emotion, most are uplifting, but a tinge of sadness lies in a few. I kept Kamal’s lovely book on our coffee table, so each morning I read a few poems while enjoying my cup. I’ve followed Kamal’s blog for a while now, and I find her passion for living is just as apparent in this collection as it is in each of her blog posts. She writes about life, her love of nature, adding a touch of romance. After reading Kamal’s beautiful poetry that often exudes wisdom to live by, I had no doubt that she views life as beautiful, which is reiterated in one of her poems:

Life is a beautiful journey/Do what makes you happy/Let go of things you do not want/And she will take you by her hand/Upon the spiritual doorways of bliss

Kamal inspires her readers effortlessly to feel elation and gratitude as she does when receiving the gift of a new day. Her poem entitled “Key to Happiness” is a leading example:

Unlocking the key to happiness
Is purely in your gentle hands.
Break open the chains
Of tarnished rust
Smeared with greasy stains
Worn out beyond repairs.
Let go of fears that befall you,
Oil the locks with golden waves.
They will fall as thunderous roars
And shatter to imaginative pieces.
Once the doors are wide open
Happiness enters with a wide grin
Radiating the entire room
With bundles of infectious delights
Snugly tiptoeing in Hearts
Made of song and dance
And with a pinch of humor
Opening gateways to love.

Another favorite is “I Thought to Myself” where Kamal pens “Happily upon the silvery greens/and in this profound silence/a captivating moment of peace/I realized that I am the sphere/and all life in rhythmic fragments/moves within Me.

Poet’s Touch is Kamal’s debut poetry book with a lovely cover created by her son, but I hope she releases more books in the future. Highly recommended for poetry lovers and for anyone who welcomes inspiration and a reminder that life truly is a gift.

The Lilac Notebook by Carol Balawyder – A compelling crime novel unlike any I’ve read before!

The Lilac Notebook touches on three intense subjects: Alzheimer’s, Incest, and Murder. The mystery component is accompanied with the main protagonist, Holly, being diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s. Sadly, she follows in her mother’s footsteps. She’s also been married for two decades to a controlling man who can’t be burdened with her disease. So, Holly finds herself on her own, dealing with the slow declining of her mind. But she meets and befriends two women along the way; both have been abused in their childhood, but both view the abuse from opposite spectrums. And of all things to happen, Holly discovers a dead body! She loses her ability to speak and write, but she can formulate thoughts, and perseveres to the end to find the killer!

Carol Balawyder does a superb job in keeping the reader engaged until the last page. Along with telling a story that kept me on the edge of my seat, she incorporates facts about Alzheimer’s. My brother-in-law passed away years ago from this horrible disease, and even though my sister is a nurse, the effects drained her. It was heartbreaking for her to see the love of her life transform through the various phases, and it was heartbreaking for me to witness her caring for him.

Throughout this compelling murder mystery, I felt compassion for Holly, fearful for her safety, and questioned the trustworthiness of her two new friends. Other supporting characters had me wondering if they were the murderer. This book is a real nail-biter for those who enjoy crime novels, but also for anyone whose life has been intruded by Alzheimer’s. Carol inserts a plethora of information, so reading this story is a way to gain more knowledge on this disease. Highly recommended!

Hidden in ChildhoodA moving poetry anthology edited by Gabriela Marie Milton.

Hidden in Childhood is a poetry anthology consisting of the works from 150 poets and edited by Gabriela Marie Milton. The poems are written about the good and the bad as indicated on the cover. Some reflect upon wonderful memories in childhood, the fairytales, while others return to the horrors, the memories wished to be erased. The writing is beautiful, raw, emotional, delightful, and heartfelt in varying styles. It was difficult to read about the horrors, but I respect the authors for telling their story to the world through this poignant collection. My heart broke when reading about the unthinkable scenarios that were so very real. But throughout the book, I also felt joy.

There are too many poems to list that stood out. Several either made my heart sing or cracked it in two. And with the length of this anthology, I prefer not to name any favorites. Every poem is well written, and I congratulate Gabriela in compiling this large collection of emotional writing. I applaud all the contributors, and my heart goes out to the authors whose horrific memories continue to haunt them. I highly recommend this book for all poetry lovers but warn your heart of the hidden truths. We were all children at one time but reading the ‘stories’ in this book will inform that everyone’s experience simply is not the same. Highly recommended.

Grow Damn It! By Cheryl Oreglia – An honest, entertaining, and relatable telling of life!

Grow Damn It! is a collection of essays that interlace into a memoir of moments that made me double over in laughter and turn inward, reflecting on my own life. For anyone living their second half of life, this book is for you! Cheryl tells it like it is. She doesn’t hold back, speaks the truth, and adds humor that is the perfect ingredient to make this book an enjoyable read. But along with laughter, some stories tugged at my heart, and many were relatable being around the same age as her. I also found subtle messages of wisdom to grasp and live by sprinkled throughout the turning of the pages. Her writing is so relaxed that I felt like the two of us were sitting on the patio one summer evening enjoying a glass of wine, catching up about marriage, children, grandchildren, and even dealing with loss of loved ones.

I had many favorites, but to name a few, I could relate to “After You Say I Do” when she writes about her long-time marriage. Having been happily married to my husband for thirty-four years, her words truly touched home. “Life Turns On Small Choices” made me pause when I read about her finding out that her son had been in an accident – the phone call no parent wants to answer. In “Can I Tell You About My Day?” Cheryl talks about sheltering in place during the early days of the pandemic. An example of her humor begins the story, “Good, because if I don’t let it out, it’s going to escape in some other form and, at my age, excessive flatulence is unbecoming!” But setting humor aside, this story ends on a serious note with a valuable life lesson from three precious little girls.

Another favorite is “Honey, I’m Home Forever” in which she inserts these lines that I agree with, “The thing is, home is not the house, or the town in which you live. It’s the people you love and the ones who love you, and it’s not just when you get together. It’s not a place but the experience of each other that creates a shelter as if bricks, one that you carry with you for your entire life, that’s home.” And yet another story that resonates since both of my parents have passed, and my father-in-law just turned 100 years old is “25 Things I Wish I had Asked My Parents.” My father-in-law still gets peppered with questions from his family, and his mind is as sharp as ever. But new questions pop up now and then that I wish I had asked my parents. I can’t help but hold a few tiny regrets.

I could go on and on telling you about the stories that were special to me. All the essays form a wonderful memoir full of life, love, laughter, and tears, and yes, Growth! Highly recommended for entertainment, reflection, and for being reminded that life is meant to live fully!

Grief Songs by Elizabeth Gauffreau – a beautiful, poetic tribute to loved ones who have passed.

Grief Songs is a beautiful memoir written as a collection of poetry about the author’s loved ones who have passed. Most of the poems are written in tanka style which is a syllabic form of Japanese poetry consisting of five lines: 5/7/5/7/7. But even though the words are few, they portray memorable images and pack in emotions that are easily felt. Elizabeth’s words are emotionally personal and complemented by lovely family photos. I found this collection to be a wonderful tribute to her family members who have passed but whose love for them remains in her heart. It is also a book that keeps the special memories alive.

A couple poems that warm my heart are:

On the Porch

brother and sister
brave howling winds, snow’s cruel bite
safely on the porch
snowsuit swish, smile for Daddy
no memory of that day


nightly ritual
strategic choice of story
Daddy called it Time
wait till your father gets home
not a threat but a promise

“Boy Scout Badge” reminds me of our son’s great experiences in Boy Scouts and all the badges he earned with my husband’s guidance:

walk a dusty road
distance meritorious
no badge without proof
Daddy matched him step for step
hot August sun beating down

“For a Crooked Smile” made my heart pause:

oh, that crooked smile
he was my little brother
teller of tall tales
he smiled for me one last time
around the tube in his throat

As well as “Grief Song III” –

I held her hand/as she lay dying/death rattle/in my throat

I highly recommend this lovely poetry collection for a chance to remember, to smile, and to even let a tear slide once again. After reading Elizabeth’s poems, I appreciate her opening the door into her life through her heartfelt writing. We all have lost loved ones, so this book is a comforting reminder to keep those precious memories in the forefront of our minds.

Thank you for reading, and I do hope you find one or a few of these amazing books to snuggle up with in those much-needed quiet moments.

Stay well, and Happy Reading!

Lauren ❤️

© Lauren Scott, – All rights reserved.

95 thoughts on “Book Reviews: Praiseworthy Poetry, Compelling Crime, and Mesmerizing Memoir!!!

  1. Hi Lauren, I am so delighted to find Lion Scream featured here among all these other wonderful books. I am thrilled you appreciated the message included in Lion Scream, but also the lovely pictures and happy and joyous poems. I have read Kamal and Liz’s beautiful poetry books and loved both of them. I have Cheryl’s book and another book by Carol on my TBR. The poetry anthology about childhood memories sounds right up my street. A great recommendation.

    1. You’re very welcome, Robbie. I was slow to read, but I finally made it. And reading your book is one way to become educated because I’m not sure if I’ll ever make it to South Africa. Your poems speak volumes in so few words. I’m also happy you read some of the other books and have some lined up to read. There is so much talent in this community, and I enjoy sharing the books I love. ❤️

    2. Hi Robbie, I’m excited you have Grow Damn It in your to be read pile! Love to hear what you think when finished! Congrats on Lion Scream, that’s going to be my first summer read! I can’t wait. Hugs, C

  2. Oh, my, Lauren, you’ve been very busy!
    Wonderful reviews ALL of them!
    I am very familiar with Liz’s moving “Grief Songs”.
    Thank you, my friend.
    Have a beautiful week ahead.

    1. Thanks for reading my reviews, Marina, and for your lovely comment. They are all really good! And yes, Liz’s poetry is a moving collection. I enjoyed it very much. Wishing you the same! Monday was smooth. 🙂 Hugs and love to you! ❤️🤗❤️🤗❤️

  3. Well done reviews, Lauren. The authors all seem to capture a different aspect of life. But given my love of nature and my decades of associating closely with the environmental movement, “Lion Screams” is the book that captures my attention. When I was serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Africa in the mid-60s, I rented a VW Bug and spent a month driving through all of the the national park areas of Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda. Seeing and being out among all of those magnificent creatures was one of the greatest adventures of my life.

    1. Thanks so much, Curt, and based on your experience in your VW bug, which sounds amazing, I think you’d enjoy Lion Scream and would also appreciate the information Robbie includes about the animals, their habitats, and their plight. The photos alone are stunning! I appreciate your time in reading my reviews. 🙂

      1. Peggy and I will be traveling back to the African wildlife refuges in October, Lauren. I should read Robbie’s book before then. We’ll be on a tour, which will be fun, but in no way like my VW adventure.

  4. These are some awesome reviews Lauren. You have been a mean reading machine girlfriend. Thanks for sharing some books I was unaware of. 😍👏🏼😊 Have a FANtabulous week my dear. Cheers! 🥂

    1. Thanks for taking the time to read my reviews, Kym! LOL I feel I’ve been slow in reading, but I finally made it to the finish line. However, there is a new line-up. 🙂 I’m glad you enjoyed these, and I wish you the same, my friend. 🥰❤️📚

      1. Girl, last year I only read about 35 books and this year I am at a much slower pace. I know that it is due to the other priorities that have worked their way into my schedule, but in my quiet hours I can get a few pages of reading in. Enjoy the rest of your week my dear! 🥰💖🤗🥂😍

  5. Thank you, Lauren, for taking the time to write such a beautiful and creative post and for including my book among such gifted and inspiring writers. There is much grief in these works but also joy. Reading your reviews of these other writers tenderly touched me. ❤ Good luck with your poetry collection.

    1. You’re so welcome, Carol, and I’m glad you were touched by my reviews of the other books. I appreciate your kind words about this post too, and I really enjoyed your book. I felt so much compassion for Holly and gained a better understanding of Alzheimer’s. Thanks also for your wishes regarding my upcoming book, and I look forward to reading more of yours! ❤️

  6. Great reviews Lauren.. I’ve read most of those as well and they are all terrific. Grow Damn it is in my TBR pile.
    I’m hoping I can write reviews when time frees but now I’m on a role with little time getting ready for the launch. Good job Lauren! ❣️

    1. Thanks for reading, Cindy! I enjoy writing reviews for books I love. And I loved your poems in Hidden in Childhood. Congrats on being a part of that moving anthology. I’m sure you’re busy with your book, and I wish you all the best. Looking forward to its release. ❤️

      1. You’re so very welcome Lauren. It’s so great that you do and a nice way to give back. Oh thank you so much.. I’m delighted you enjoyed my poems. It was great to be a part of it and thanks soooo much for the wishes! ❣️

    2. Hi Cindy! I’m so excited that you’re planning to read Grow Damn It! I hope you enjoy the essays and that they harbor a message meant just for you. Let me know what you think when finished! Hugs, C

  7. Amazing reviews,Lauren. Lovely, that you were able to read so many books. I’m struggling with my TBR pile. Each time I read one, three more get added to the pile. I’ve read Robbie’s and Kamal’s book. I’m not into reading crime thrillers but your review of The Lilac Notebook made me add it to my TBR list. Grief songs is already on my list. Now, I also want to read the third book you suggested, Grow, Damn it. The title itself is tempting.

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Smitha, and for your lovely comment. And believe me, my TBR is leaning too. It took me a while to read all these while working on my new book. And then making the time to write the reviews took a while. So I understand. I know you’ll enjoy Grief Songs and Grow, Damn It! And even though Carol’s book is labeled a crime novel, Holly’s story (the main character) is interesting. You might give it a try too. By the way, I have new books already lined up to read and yours is one of them. If only there were more hours in a day, right? 🙂 Thanks again for stopping by, and Congrats on your success with your book too.

    2. Hi Smitha, your words put a huge smile on my face, “the title itself is tempting.” I hope it finds its way into your hands and that the stories entertain and delight you. Love to hear your thoughts when done. Hugs, C

  8. Impressive, Lauren! Your reviews and your finding the time to read and write them while working on your own upcoming collection. You’re a generous and beautiful person. 💗

    1. Thanks for your lovely words, Michele. In my mind, I read slowly for the reason you mentioned. Then writing the reviews didn’t happen overnight. You’re very sweet though. I just enjoy supporting other authors. Thanks again for reading my reviews. ❤️🙏🏻

      1. You are welcome. 😊 It just occurred to me… weren’t you taking a break? 🤔😆 Reading can be relaxing but your break involved some generous writing work. You are a solid supporter and writing community member. Admirable. 💖 Have a wonderful week!

      2. I was on a break, but I’m back and posted about it a few ‘posts’ ago. 🙂 I had read the books before I left and had started some reviews, but I finished yesterday. Thanks again, Michele. You are the same, and I look forward to reading more of your books too. Wishing you a great week as well. 💖

      1. My pleasure! I’ll check out these books. My only problem is that I already have a load of unread books on my kindle 😅

      2. I understand! I already have 5 lined up to read and a few more I want to buy. 🙂 We can only do what is possible. It’s no race. I’m going to take my time reading the next batch and will probably post another review in a few months. Thanks for checking them out, Sadje. 💞

  9. Thank you, Thank you and Thank you my lovely friend, Lauren. You have given such wonderful reviews of my poetry book. I am feeling so happy and grateful to you. I am in the process of coming out with my short story book Over a Warm Cup of Tea. My son will again help me with everything. Lauren thank you for motivating and encouraging me. Lots of love and blessings. Lovely review of your other books. Excellent post.

    1. Hi Kamal, I’m so grateful that you’re happy with my review. I really enjoyed your beautiful book. That’s great news about your upcoming book too, and how special for your son to help you out. My son has done the same for me in the past and is helping me with the tech portion of my upcoming poetry collection as well. I’m glad you enjoyed the other reviews also. This was indeed a wonderful group of authors and books! ❤️🥰

      1. Yes Lauren all the authors were fantastic and not to miss our Robbie, she is awesome. I am reading your book and it is so interesting, Lauren. I am loving it and feels as if I am home reading your book. Thank you once again, Lauren. Have a wonderful week ahead.

      2. They’re all great authors, and it makes me happy to know you’re loving my book too, Kamal. I’d love to hear your thoughts when you’re finished. 🙂 You’re so welcome, my friend, and wishing you a great week too. ❤️

  10. Thank you so much for sharing these reviews Lauren.. And some are blogging friends… Poems can express some really heartfelt things about life… I am not surprised Robbie’s touched on the plight of these animals.

    Kamal always inspires with her positive outlook on Life and creating Peace and tranquillity….

    The other Authors are new to me… So I will enjoy Exploring their works … Thank you for sharing… ❤ 🙂

    1. Thanks for reading, Sue. This was a great group of books, all different in their own ways. Robbie’s poetry and information she included was definitely an eye-opener. And Kamal has a way of inspiring, doesn’t she? If you check out the other books, I’m sure you’ll enjoy. Hugs 💖🌻

    2. Hi Sue, I hope you consider reading Grow Damn It, I’d love to know your thoughts. Lauren was so kind and generous with her review, I’m sort of over the moon right now. Hugs, C

      1. And quite rightly… It was a beautiful review of your book…. 🙂 And I wish you every success with your book Cheryl…. I can’t promise to read just yet…. any books…. I have three pending a neighbour lent me… LOL… 🙂 I am busy this time of year in our allotments. But I have written it down for the future… 🙂 And I limit myself to reading and the computer lately as I am having problems with my eyesight at the moment… So I am careful not to over strain… Thank you Cheryl… and Hugs right back 🙂

      2. I hear you Sue! I have 12 books in my current TBR stack. It’s daunting. I’m retired but it feels as if I have less time now then when working. I’m always more interested in the people than the pages! If a grandkid comes over I put everything down. Time and focus are my currency! Hope your eyesight improves, that’s so important. No overstraining. Take care of you. Thanks for the good wishes and hugs. 💕

  11. Wow, fantastic reading Lauren. Those are some beautiful books which I’m going to check out. I also loved Liz’s, Cheryl’s and Carol’s books too. I’ll be reviewing Carol’s this Sunday ❤

    1. Thanks for popping in, Debby. These are all great, and I know you’ve read some of them. I bought Cheryl’s after reading your review. 🙂 And I loved Carol’s! I was slow in reading and reviewing, but it eventually gets done and the journey is wonderful. I have a new line-up and yours is in it. 🙂 Happy reading! ❤️🤗

      1. Oh, thank you Lauren, that is very kind. And I’m glad my review inspired you to read Cheryl’s amazing book. If it weren’t for great reviews, our Kindles would weigh a lot less. Lol ❤ 🙂

      2. You’re welcome, Debby. Funny about kindles. I actually buy the paperbacks because I have become a collector of books. So my bookcase is bursting at the seams. 😀 But it’s great to have so many! 💖💖

      3. I buy paperbacks for writing books and instructional as I hate going back digitally to look for something. I love dogears and highlighters 🙂 On the other hand, I have 3 bookshelve full of paperbacks. There are many novels on my shelves as well because when Kindle price is $16 for $20 I take a paperback. I have your book in paperback ❤

      4. I get it! And there’s nothing like dogears and highlighters! 🙂 That’s pricey for kindle, for sure. Oh, thanks for buying the paperback of my book too. I just love the feel of the pages, and my eyes get tired of screens. But I can see the benefits also. 💗😀

      5. I didn’t know it was Debby’s review that caught your eye Lauren. I too always buy the paperbacks because I like to highlight and write my thoughts in the margins. I have your book on order but I see now you’re about to publish another one! How exciting. I’ll have to get that one too! Hugs, C

      6. Yes, after reading Debby’s review, I paid a visit to Amazon. 🙂 And I’m glad I did! And it’s good to know we feel the same about paperbacks too. Oh, I hope you enjoy More than Coffee, and I’d love to hear your thoughts also. 🙂 I’m excited for my next book and will be happy when the finishing touches are finished. 😁❤️🥂📚

      7. Oh, that’s great! Enjoy while sipping whatever you like, whether it’s wine, coffee, or apple cider! 🙂 I think the message we convey in our books is similar about life. It’s more than coffee, but coffee is the bonus. ❤️

  12. Oh my goodness, Lauren! I just saw this post today after Debby Gies reposted it on Facebook! This is such a lovely and unexpected surprise. I am deeply humbled by your words and ever so grateful the stories resonated with you. It’s interesting that your favorite essays are also mine, After You Say I Do, being the first one I read out loud to an audience. And you summarised my intention for putting this book together perfectly, “for entertainment, reflection, and for being reminded that life is meant to live fully!” If we ever get the chance to sit on the patio, sipping a glass of wine, I imagine we would have much to share with each other. Thank you Lauren, much love and hugs to you, C

    1. I didn’t see this on Facebook, Cheryl, and I’m friends with Debby. But I’m glad you saw it and are happy with my review! You’re very welcome and it’s my pleasure. I really enjoyed your essays and humor. 🙂 It’s great that our favorites are the same too. Cheers and hugs! ❤️🥂😀

  13. How lovely to read this review roundup! There are so many gorgeous books here and I am delighted to see books and authors I recognize alongside some new faces I must check out. ❤

  14. Pingback: Smorgasbord Blogger Spotlight – May 19th 2023 – #Reviews Lauren Scott, #Alligators Marcia Meara, #Familytrees Story Reading Ape and Traci Kenworth, #Potato Rolls Dorothy Grover Read, #OnlyChildren Gwen Plano #StoryEmpire | Smorgasbord Blog Mag

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