The Lilac Notebook by Carol Balawyder
The Lilac Notebook touches on three intense subjects: Alzheimer’s, Incest, and Murder. But the mystery aspect is different because the main protagonist, Holly, is 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 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 Childhood 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
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 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.” Since both of my parents have passed, and my father-in-law just turned 100 years old, “25 Things I Wish I had Asked My Parents” was another relatable tale. We still ask my father-in-law questions, 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 have a few tiny regrets.
My copy of Cheryl’s book has many dog-eared pages, so 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! And as much as I loved the many quotes that began each essay, I felt they were more of a distraction because her writing style in telling her stories was so, so good! Highly recommended for entertainment, reflection, and for being reminded that life is meant to live fully!
Grief Songs by Elizabeth Gauffreau
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. 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
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
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.
Poet’s Touch by Kamal Roohani
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 to read more books from her in the future. Highly recommended for anyone who welcomes inspiration and a reminder that life truly is a gift.
Lion Scream by Robbie Cheadle
While I was turning the pages of Robbie Cheadle’s new book, I was enlightened. I absorbed theinformation 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 of the South African wildlife.
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
Another heartbreaking poem is “Rhino Dilemma” and below is one verse:
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
Robbie’s poems will evoke a smile, but rarely, since most of the poetry touches on 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.
Ghosted by Paula Light
Ghosted by Paula Light had me captivated from the very first chapter. Lily is the delightful protagonist who suddenly deals with the loss of her brother, Jack. A gap of time has passed since they have spoken, so she lugs around this guilt daily. But she also doesn’t take his death lightly as niggles of suspicion occupy her mind. The story touches on three genres I enjoy: suspense, mystery, and romance. And it was fun to read about familiar cities in Southern California that were major pieces from the puzzle of my past – Anaheim (my childhood backyard with great memories of Disneyland), Fullerton (my high school stomping ground), Buena Park (where my husband and I said “I do”), and I-5 (the highway we have traveled a million times).
Lily’s heart becomes confused from the attention of two men, one solid and reliable, and the other who begins to feel like her soulmate, wooing her with “flowery flirtatiousness.” She deals with sorrow that many of us can relate to. Even the popular act of flipping houses finds its way into the story. Paula’s storytelling transports us back to earlier years and then into the future with many twists and turns along the way. I found myself laughing, a bit tearful, and sighing throughout. The language is real as though I stepped into the scenes, living the events with Lily and her authentic supporting characters.
One sample of Paula’s writing that I’d like to highlight is “Sweet girls didn’t want to harbor ugly feelings. We wanted to be emotionally generous and forgiving. Loving and nurturing. We didn’t seek revenge. We boxed up those nasty feelings, wrapped up the box nice and snug in glittery paper, plopped a pretty bow on top, and stuffed that sucker far back in the mental storage room.”
How many sweet girls out there can share Lily’s contemplations? Can you feel her struggle with emotions she believes should be ignored?
And during a somber time in Lily’s life, Paula’s description is poignant and beautiful…
“…It was freezing in here. But suddenly the cold lifted, and I felt a swirl of warmth wrap around me like a hug. I closed my eyes and let the feeling envelop me. It was a soft blanket of comfort, and smelled like lemons, reminding me of Mom’s citrus scent. It was the closest I’d felt to her in a long time, and I sensed she was simply trying to reach out to me and provide a bit of calmness.” These lines brought forth loving memories of my mom who passed away over a decade ago.
And a sample of the passion: “But the feelings, oh God, the feelings – those were sharper than ever. How I’d drowned in a sea of bliss when he kissed my breath away with waves crashing at the edge of the world…”
The emotions grab you right off the page, and if it were feasible, I would have nestled into my comfy sofa with a cup of coffee or glass of wine, depending on the time of day, and read until the turn of the last page. But life has its way, so instead of resisting, I took my time and looked forward to each quiet moment when I would either laugh, cry, or cheer for Lily. When I reached the end, I felt good about Paula’s conclusion. Yet, as with any great book, melancholy sank in because I had finished! So, I encourage you to grab your cup of tea or coffee, or to pour your glass of wine, settle into your favorite chair, and immerse yourself into the world of Lily. Highly recommended for those who enjoy a compelling mystery and suspense, a good laugh, and just enough passion to entice.
5 glowing stars!
Being a Woman – Overcoming by Michele Lee Sefton and illustrated by her daughter, Sammi Lee
Being a Woman – Overcoming is a short, meaningful collection of poems written by Michele Lee Sefton and illustrated by her daughter, Sammi Lee, and the first in a series of three books. The visual of swirls linking each page and poem are beautiful and whimsical to the eye. There is a verse and topic for every woman in this lovely book. I found myself nodding, smiling, and chuckling, evoking memories of my own experiences. The messages that Michele conveys are powerful, spanning from the stereotypical roles meant for women only, dealing with pressures of being pretty, struggling with body insecurities, the frustrations of raging hormones, to the miracle of experiencing childbirth. This little book is a gem, magically created by a mother/daughter duo. I feel as though I’ve been nudged to try something similar with my daughter. Being a Woman is a special keepsake and one that can be referred to again and again for the reminder that we, as women, are not alone, that we have had to overcome so much in our lifetime, but the bottom line is that we are strong!
Highly recommended for all women, and even for men. For them, it will either be enlightening or an eye-opener. I look forward to reading Michele’s next book in this valuable series.
The Christmas Bird by Robbie and Michael Cheadle
The Christmas Bird by Robbie and Michael Cheadle is a heartwarming story about a family in financial distress at Christmas time. No money for gifts, and meager meals provide the template of their season. But an unexpected event brings the four daughters the best gift of all in the form of a Hoopoe baby chick. Stella, the eldest of her siblings, leads the task of caring for the baby. The girls want nothing more than to save its little life. As the seasons change, so does the chick, growing and becoming accustomed to its new family and environment. However, this isn’t where the story ends. Subtle life lessons appear throughout the pages: teaching about letting go, a choice never easy on the heart, how unselfishly giving of our time can be a greater gift than material possessions, and lastly, showing respect for nature. A delightful story for children. Highly recommended.
Variety is the Spice of Life by Sally Cronin
Variety is the Spice of Life by Sally Cronin is a poignant collection of poetry and short stories. Reading Sally’s entrancing writing is as calming and illuminating as sitting on a slab of granite in the wilderness, witnessing the sun slowly rise to begin another glorious day. The clever cover alone caught my eye – perfect for this blend of poems and prose. Then I turned the pages, and Sally had me at “Key words” which is a short piece packed with power of how words can make our hearts sing or how they can cause our hearts to shatter. Sally writes about life and all it embodies: nature, loss, relationships, and our furry animal friends. The scenes portrayed through her beautiful writing had me drying a tear, reminiscing, and smiling.
A few favorite poems that come to mind are “Expeditions” which inspires us to step out of our comfort zones. “Above the World” speaks of memories from Sally’s youth but evokes wonderful recollections for me of recent backpacking trips with my husband. “Face in the mirror” is accompanied by a lovely, delicate picture of Sally and her mother, which brought forth priceless memories of my mom who passed away over a decade ago. “Seasons” is thought-provoking and speaks not only of nature’s changing seasons, but how life transforms over the years – how hope can be discouraged by “chill winds, the evil that is done by humans.” “Drought” undeniably hit home but ends on a much-needed high note.
Sally’s stories with their realistic and charming characters are beyond engaging as well. I love them all, but the stories that shine are “The Neighborhood Watch,” highlighting the marmalade cat with an impressive left hook. “Miss Lloyd’s Robin” is about a delightful robin, the benefits of forgiveness, and newfound friendship. “The Home Help” touches on loss of hope, unexpected surprises, learning to trust, and renewed excitement for what lies on the horizon.
Variety is the Spice of Life prompts a precious memory or chuckle or a nugget of understanding, whether it’s a poem or story that resonates, brings enjoyment, or simply touches the heart. I love Sally’s writing and highly recommend this collection for lovers of engaging stories and sentimental verse.
Nature Speaks of Love and Sorrow by Jeff Flesh
Reading Jeff Flesch’s poems in Nature Speaks of Love and Sorrow is like strolling along a beach, allowing the waves’ lullaby to soothe your mind from any burdens. He weaves human experiences with the wonder of nature – how we are all connected. The love and sorrow he conveys through his beautiful poetic verses are almost tangible. Jeff’s use of poetic language touches on a myriad of emotions, affecting all senses. And even in sorrow, I recognized that he views life through smiling eyes.
In “Oak Trees” Jeff shares a memory from his youth, “that their branches resemble the veins of my heart or lines of the part you played.” “Slow-Motion Moments” reminds me of my many walks through a forest and how the trees, the birds, and the flowers allow time to think “like an avalanche of thoughts pervade me.” When I am among nature, I revel in the solitude that allows me to breathe in the silence of that moment with deep appreciation. “Cosmic Arts” will take you on a magical ride to contemplate love, surrounding beauty, and the mystery of Heaven “as the sun comes up inside your heart.” “Needle and Thread” tells of a love so deep and relatable; I felt myself tumbling into the beauty of Jeff’s lines. “Did you know it was you lost in my prose? Alas, as the moments tick by, it is you I look for in the wind.”
And then, “Moments Grasped” is sadly the last poem to read, but the lines are enticing, “wafting in the breeze/it’s all I can do to breathe/into this moment and the next/realizing it’s all been/and will be for the best.” Nature Speaks is exactly what the title expresses and is easily enjoyed nestled into your favorite chair, sipping a cup of coffee, tea, or even a glass of wine. Jeff’s writing is sublime, so when you reach the last page, you’ll feel a sense of melancholy. I highly recommend this lovely book for anyone who loves poetry that calms both the mind and soul.
Asunder, Baby by Steven Baird
Asunder, Baby by Steven Baird is a profound collection of prose and poetry. In his introduction, Baird conveys that short stories have never been easy for him to write. Yet, his words flow seamlessly, creating such vivid settings that I can’t fathom him having any difficulty at all. His stories and poems reveal loss, beauty, love, and despair with an intensity that digs deeply into the hearts of his readers. Baird’s originality and authenticity in portraying his characters and backdrops are the brilliance of this intellectual compilation.
I found myself dog-earing page after page. Many of the stories and poems turned into favorites, but a few I’d like to highlight are “Where we go dancing,” “Your father’s Delta 88,” “Cinnamon Suites,” “The last angel of the Lord,” and “Rhapsody.”
An example from “Where we go dancing”
“…I can dance the ears off a row of corn when I have a mind to. Why, that corn becomes ashamed of itself and wishes it could be half as worthy as old dry cabbage or a leaf of backfield tobacco than have to endure another minute of the spectaculation of my feet.”
And from “Your father’s Delta 88”
“…and watch the eddies pull quilt-shaped flowers along their creases, folding them, unfolding them, pressing their petals into wine.”
Asunder, Baby is the first book I’ve read from this author, but I look forward to reading more of his incredible storytelling and poetic verse. Highly recommended for those who love prose and poetry that have you pondering and deeply feeling at the same time.
Avian Friends: Encouraging Poems Inspired by Backyard Birds by Yvette Prior
Avian Friends was inspired by the author’s family planting several trees in their backyard for the purpose of creating shade and privacy. What they didn’t expect was the arrival of a whole host of feathered friends that would entertain. The author began observing the birds, their behavior, sounds, and daily activities, jotting down her thoughts along the way.
This collection is divided into five sections, and following each poem, the author includes her inspiration behind her poetic words…delivering personal reflections of relating her aviary findings to the lives of humans, their emotions and well-being. She inserts tidbits of wisdom for living a balanced life.
Some of my favorite poems are “What Matters” which speaks about materialism and how some people use possessions as their barometer for measuring success. “Summer Sun” is a cute poem that tells us it is quite okay to simply be. In these days of living busy lives, carving out quiet time for relaxation is a healthy choice for finding that balance. “Fall Crunch” paints a beautiful image of this new autumnal season we have entered, as well as showing the simple beauty of a cardinal. I recommend this lovely book to not only bird lovers, but to those who would enjoy grasping the deeper meaning behind Yvette’s poems.
Haunted Halloween Holiday by Robbie and Michael Cheadle
The concept of Robbie Cheadle and her son, Michael, teaming up to create delightful and educational children’s books does not rest in its infant stages. Not only do they write entertaining stories that showcase Robbie’s incredible fondant, they also incorporate significant messages for the readers to assimilate. I’ve read several of their fabulous collaborations, so I had no doubt that Haunted Halloween Holiday would be just as adorable and clever.
This Halloween tale stars Count Sugular and his wife, Witch Honey. They are thrilled to be invited to a Halloween Party by the Sugarpop Bats, which they plan to attend, so they decide to hire a caravan for an enjoyable weekend with their family. I love how each character is introduced with its own cute and clever limerick, and the color photos of cake fondant to correspond with the story add great depth and are simply fabulous.
The characters’ appearance and their personalities are all expertly created by this mother-son duo. Not only is this book a perfect treat for children to read during Halloween, but as I mentioned before, the authors include underlying messages and lessons within the story that can be applied to real life. I enjoyed this book very much and highly recommend for anyone, any age, who enjoys a Halloween treat of a great story and vital lessons to take away.
Amanda in France: Fire in the Cathedral by Darlene Foster
Amanda in France: Fire in the Cathedral by Darlene Foster is my first book to read in Darlene’s Amanda series, and I was pleasantly surprised. Amanda is a twelve-year-old girl who loves to travel to different countries, and in this story, she is fortunate to visit Paris with her best friend, Leah, and Leah’s Aunt Jenny. I gather that Amanda has the innate ability to either invite trouble or trouble seeks her out! Sure enough, when peculiar things begin to happen, Amanda can’t let them go. The sleuth in her stays on the trail to the very end until the mystery is solved.
The characters are engaging and authentic and so is the flowing dialogue. As Amanda and Leah observe the many historical landmarks, so does the reader. And when they learn the backstory, the reader becomes enlightened as well. Darlene integrates into this tale the fire that broke out in the Notre Dame cathedral in April 2019. The reader ascertains this devastating news through the eyes and heart of Amanda, only to feel the same disappointing discovery and empathy. Yet, there’s more to the story…
Amanda in France may be intended for youth, but I found it to be entertaining and delightful. Amanda is a likable young girl that everyone will love to read about. That this series includes an educational element is a benefit for all ages. I look forward to reading more of her adventures, and I highly recommend this book for anyone who enjoys a good mystery and loves to travel to faraway lands!
The Necromancer’s Daughter by D. Wallace Peach
D. Wallace Peach owns that special talent to create believable, sensational kingdoms in stories so captivating that I can’t put her books down. Her latest novel, The Necromancer’s Daughter, is no exception. While fantasy was never my preferred genre, Diana’s books have converted me. Her compelling storytelling sets her apart from other fantasy authors. In this new tale, Diana’s authentic world-building and characterization that either warmed my heart or made my blood boil kept me engaged once again. The expressive language in every paragraph portrayed a vivid scene where I felt as though I was watching the movie instead of reading the novel. And while I never gave dragons much thought, I will now……with a gentle regard. The main characters: Aster, Barus, Joreh, and Teko, had a special way of flowing into my heart generating empathy. I was immediately drawn to Aster’s charm and compassion, hoping she would find fulfillment once she reached the finish line of her journey.
Where battle and bloodshed are not devoid in this story, love, friendship, camaraderie, and a heartwarming father-daughter relationship, prove to deepen the tale as Aster stands by her convictions even when she knows the enemy deems them sinful. Of course, the grace of good struggles against the persistence of evil, and the characters are faced with life-changing decisions where the consequences don’t always present clarity. I tend to get emotional, so I found myself fighting back tears in some parts which surprised me. I didn’t expect to grow so attached to the female protagonist and her circle of support. But their feelings of love, anger, confusion, and realization were palpable on each page.
I absolutely loved this book – my favorite so far of Diana’s. The Necromancer’s Daughter was not only action-packed, but Diana wove magic into the tale, along with sweet and subtle romance. Highly recommended for all fantasy genre enthusiasts, and even those who aren’t but who are willing to be converted!
Skipping Stones by Betty Hayes Albright
Betty’s poetic narration in Skipping Stones is mythical and dreamlike, moving and heart-wrenching, delightful and thought-provoking. This collection delves into nuances of life, such as her strong affinity to nature and its significant teachings, which are gracefully expressed. All facets of Mother Earth play an integral part in Betty’s life, and after reading her poetry, including the poignant personification of a tree, the reader feels more compassion. The language of grief is strongly persuasive, as if pulling the reader to the ground, weeping. The poems of love and romance seamlessly interlace joy, sorrow, and passion. Each word, each line, each verse in the Maeberrie series portrays vivid imagery and a mastery of captivating storytelling. Betty’s writing illustrates the seasons of life, peeling through many layers, touching countless levels of emotions, while adding clever wordplay. This book of poetry impeccably represents the devoted, empathetic, and beautiful spirit of the author. I read a few poems each day so I could savor each one slowly, wanting to truly stretch out the wonderful experience of reading this lovely collection.
Highly recommended for all poetry lovers!
Conflicted Hearts by D.G. Kaye
Conflicted Hearts is a compilation of personal essays from D.G. Kaye’s emotional experiences of growing up with her unloving and narcissistic mother. The author struggles with her obligation as a daughter, but also her responsibility to care for herself regarding her own healthy well-being. In each chapter as she opens yet another window giving us a glimpse into her extremely trying times, the emotions become palpable. Because I am a mother of two adult children whom I love to the moon and back, I often felt tears forming and my heart being tugged at in different directions. How a mother can abandon her own children is something I find difficult to understand. D.G. Kaye writes with emotion, vulnerability, and humor. She is not afraid to admit mistakes, but she will also gladly glow in triumph – moments when I felt like clapping, thrilled with the outcome and thrilled for her!
Unfortunately, she lost her childhood because of her mother’s constant absence in the household. Her mother would rather be out partying, seeking the attention of men by using her luminescent beauty, and by doting on her passion for gambling. With the author being the oldest of her siblings, she naturally slid into the role of “mother” which in turn, shaped her decision of possibly not wanting to have children in the future. Her parent’s relationship ran extremely hot and cold, but mostly hot when her mother kicked her father out repeatedly. She adored her father, so each time he left, fear crept into her very soul that she would never see him again.
The author writes with honesty and when she finds herself acknowledging enlightening realizations, she revels in her own personal growth. I read Conflicted Hearts not only as a memoir, but also as a compelling self-help book. And a difficult decision lies in waiting with each turn of the page exemplifying the author’s courage and strength. I am sure her struggles are felt by others so that her personal growth benefits those who live each day in similar circumstances.
This is the first book of D.G. Kaye’s that I have read and because her writing is natural, conversational, and engaging, I am excited to read more from her. This book falls into the can’t put down category. If you enjoy reading memoirs and self-help books, I highly recommend Conflicted Hearts. You will find yourself on an emotional and inspirational wild ride that will both touch and tug at your heart. An excellent read! 5-star review
Twenty Years After “I Do” by D.G. Kaye
D.G. Kaye’s memoir, Twenty Years After “I Do” piqued my interest for a couple of reasons. First, I’ve been married for thirty-one years to a man who is not only my loving husband but who is my very best friend. I wanted to read what the author had to say on the subject, and she certainly inserted many pearls of wisdom of which I agreed with. Before I met my husband, I had dated a man twenty years older than me, so reading her perspective on the age difference grabbed my attention, as well. This was the second book that I have read from Debby, so I was already familiar with her beautiful, conversational writing.
Debby offers snippets of insight from her own experiences on how to keep a marriage happy and unbreakable. She adds how humor can lighten any heavy situation and intimately writes of how sex ultimately changes from dating to married life. Most importantly though, she conveys that love has no timeline. Couples should enjoy each moment together and unconditional love will carry them through the difficult times. I was moved by this lovely collection of stories from Debby’s marriage to Gordon, and how she met true love when she least expected. An enjoyable read and one I highly recommend!
Amazing Matilda by Bette Stevens
This is a beautifully illustrated children’s book about a sweet little caterpillar named Matilda. She embarks on her transformation to a lovely Monarch butterfly but focuses on one big wish hoping it will come true. During her journey, she finds encouragement from three new adorable animal friends. And they gladly share their wisdom which conveys a deeper message: to persevere, be patient, and never give up – fundamental lessons for all ages. Stevens also illustrated this delightful book, which adds an impressive layer to her talent and skill as an author. But reading about Matilda’s metamorphosis isn’t only for the youth; this wonderful and educational story will also be enjoyed by those who have been reading for decades and decades. I highly recommend Amazing Matilda, A Monarch’s Tale for all ages!
The Sorcerer’s Garden by D Wallace Peach
A Fabulous Fantasy with a Twist
The premise of The Sorcerer’s Garden by D. Wallace Peach ranks high in the unique and clever category. Madlyn, Cody, and Dustin become likable and genuine characters, keeping you entertained from beginning to end. Grandmother Lillian adds spice to the conflict. You’ll run into some bloody circumstances where you may be inclined to cover your eyes, but don’t! You’ll miss the show! The action is compelling; the description superb; even the subtle hints of humor add a bit of lightheartedness. In this fantasy world, real-life scenarios and qualities such as integrity, greed, and feeling defeated by life itself play a big part. Peach intersperses delicate pieces of wisdom throughout this adventure.
I began reading this book with the niggling awareness that fantasy isn’t my favorite genre. Candidly, I wasn’t sure if I’d like the story for this reason. But let me tell you, I was hooked from page one! Peach has an exceptional skill of painting vivid pictures with her extraordinary words, along with her effortless knack for excellent world-building. The thread of her novel weaves back and forth between reality and fantasy, but that only entices you (the reader) to press on – eager and excited to see what is revealed as you turn the page.
Not only is The Sorcerer’s Garden the first fantasy book I’ve read in years, but it also won’t be my last. Since I was thoroughly impressed with Peach’s writing and story-telling ability, I’ll peruse her fantasy collection for more compelling tales to transport me into exciting imaginary worlds. So, if you’re a fantasy genre enthusiast, then I highly recommend reading The Sorcerer’s Garden. Five stars for a fantastic adventure!
Eternal Road by John Howell
What a thrilling ride Eternal Road turned out to be! We first meet James who embarks on a road trip in his classic 1956 Oldsmobile. Surprisingly in the beginning, he ends up dying in a tragic car accident. And yet, we still find him driving his Oldsmobile…and he decides to give a hitchhiker a ride who happens to be his childhood sweetheart, Sam. She is now an adult – seventeen years have passed since they’ve seen each other, but she breaks the surreal news to James that they are both dead. So, the two begin a compelling journey together in the afterlife and the challenges and twists and turns they encounter are spellbinding. John inserts time-travel which takes the reader to interesting historical time periods where Sam and James have critical decisions to make. Interlaced in the protagonists’ story is just about every genre and topic you can imagine: adventure, old west, suspense, romance, artificial intelligence, including visits from the devil, which I’ll admit, were a bit unsettling but had me on the edge of my seat.
Throughout their story, Sam and James learn more about each other that makes for a surprising ending. Their unfolding relationship tugs at the heart and settling family matters tugs even harder which brought me to tears more than once. Eternal Road keeps the reader engaged to the very last sentence. This is a novel that simply can’t be put down! I was captivated from the very beginning to the point of wanting to skip work just so I could cozy up at home and read more about James and Sam! If you’re up for a road trip in a 1956 classic Oldsmobile, I highly suggest you hop in and begin turning the pages!
Second Chance Romance by Jill Weatherholt
I am no novice to reading romances; in fact, they’re my favorite. And although I’ve read my share of compelling novels where endings aren’t always joyful, reading a last page that brings a smile is a wonderful change. This delightful book explores not only romance, but also an unfathomable tragedy, loss and renewal of faith, love, and of course, second chances.
The main characters are Jackson and Melanie, and the author portrays them in a realistic way, both strong in their own right. The dialogue is smooth and authentic – one aspect of novels I analyze – and the reader is drawn in immediately, thirsty for what happens next. Second Chance Romance is a quick read, but only because of its page-turner quality. Once the reader begins, the book won’t be put down until the very end. A few meals may even be missed!
I encourage anyone who is a lover of romance, happy endings, rediscovery of faith, and second chances, to pick this book up and dive into Melanie and Jackson’s story, which offers detail true to life. I thoroughly enjoyed this lovely debut book and look forward to reading more from this author.
Memoirs of a Star by Diana Menezes
This book is a collection of extraordinary word weaving in poetic form. Life and love provide inspiration in all their glory and despair. Both can be joyful and messy. There are times when hope feels lost for eternity. But Diana reiterates that the stars continue to shine as though covering us in a blanket of magic. Even if the dark shadows grow, light will glow again.
Diana’s writing is lovely and enchanting, prompting the reader to feel heartbreak, elation, inspiration, or to sigh for a love felt deeply. I have dog-eared several favorites in my paperback, but these are a few that resonated: “The Wrong Road Home” tugged at my heart as I thought of the elderly who find themselves alone in their last chapter of life. I felt grateful that my dad still had his three daughters to care for him after my mom passed away. “Tangled Moonlight” speaks to a heart that will never let go – the epitome of unquestionable true love. “I Will Stand” inspires us to let go of past mistakes so that we can inch our way out of the darkness. “To Have is To Hope” conveys that we are visitors on this planet, that we have always been together though on different journeys, and to remember the promise of a new day which creates a new hope. Highly recommended for those who enjoy reading beautiful poetry about the joys and challenges life and love offer us.
Flashes of Life by Pamela S Wight
Flashes of Life by Pamela S. Wight is a delightful collection of memories spanning from childhood to motherhood to becoming a grandmother. I read this beautiful book in two days, sitting on my patio, the warm breeze embracing me like a friendly hug. Pam writes with authenticity, easily drawing the reader into her world. In every story I felt love. From her humor, I laughed for my neighbors to hear. In the touching stories, tears found freedom. Several of her narratives take place in Marin County, California where I reside, providing beautiful and familiar visuals.
I felt a connection with many of her tales. “Good Morning, Moonshine” describes my stage in life perfectly, making me laugh, especially from these lines, “…we women have gotten a bum rap. Finally, when we’re over that certain age – too old to have babies screaming for a bottle or teenagers breaking a midnight curfew – so we can finally sleep undisturbed, our bodies won’t let us.” “Nap Time” evokes precious memories of when my children were little (now in their late twenties). The chapter, “For the Dogs” touched me as I have received the love of many canines over the years. I’ve also felt the tremendous loss and void in my life when they passed on. “Buttercups, Bollywood, and World Peace” had me dancing in the living room too. If anyone asked which story was my favorite, I couldn’t choose just one. I loved them all!
Flashes of Life parallels to the sweet and spicy of a slice of gingerbread – a perfect read for anyone needing a laugh and not afraid to shed a tear or two.
The Ferryman and the Sea Witch by D. Wallace Peach
The Ferryman and the Sea Witch is a fast-moving, gripping nautical fantasy where the merrow rule the sea. Panmar, the Sea Witch, swims into the spotlight, luring the readers onto a choppy ride to the dark side with her hungry appetite for human sacrifices. Callum, the second main character, becomes the ferryman, finding himself trapped in a disturbing bargain with the Sea Witch. In addition to Panmar and Callum, Diana adds realistic nuances to other characters as well, where I felt genuine empathy for some and loathed others without question.
With each turn of the page, the reader becomes curious to learn what transpires between two warring nations: Brid Clarion luxuriating in wealth, and Haf Killick, a floating city of dilapidated ships. Diana’s descriptive writing and world-building is so vivid and real that I felt as though I stood on the Windwraith, balancing to the sea’s rhythm, with Callum an arm’s length away. I was swept into this fantasy with turbulent twists and turns but was surprised with the touch of romance. Another fantasy tale of beauty and excellent writing that I could not put down. Readers who revel in Diana’s creative storytelling, fantasy genre devotees, and those seeking something different from their usual choices will love this fantastic nautical adventure. Highly recommended!
Slivers: Chiseled Poetry by Balroop Singh
This book is an enchanting collection of micro-poetry inspired by haiku, tanka, and senryu, also including acrostic poems. Nature, love, and life itself have inspired the growth of these poetic blossoms. Balroop reveals her graceful way of stringing words together, forming vivid images for the reader, inciting a myriad of emotions.
What I find noteworthy is her admission of thinking these forms would be too simple to write, therefore, her interest had waned. But when she met the challenge, she realized the task was anything but uncomplicated. And she met the challenge flawlessly. As I turned each page, more favorites appeared, too many to list, but here are a couple that resonated:
clasping trees beam/in the misty morning breeze/a glorious sight – these lines evoke backpacking memories of waking up in the morning in our wilderness home, greeting the majestic trees.
I heard melodies/of crescent moon that hung above/Darkness melted with the lilting sound/
that merged in the symphony of sun/I chose life.
In this poem, I am reminded that our lives are not without strife but hope always prevails. Life is so much bigger and glorious than we realize.
Through Balroop’s magical word-weaving, she expresses the gift of surrounding beauty not to be taken for granted. She reiterates that we should persevere through the darkness because the light will shine again, and a heart that finds the deepest of love is a heart of gratitude. An exquisite poetry collection to be treasured and read over and over again. Highly recommended!
Dead of Winter Journey 1-4 by Teagan Riordain Geneviene
Dead of Winter by Teagan Riordain Geneviene begins with Journey 1 in the first of a series that continues in monthly novellas. I have only recently begun reading the fantasy genre. But many wonderful authors have enticed me into their fantastical worlds of writing, and Teagan Riordain Geneviene is one of them. I was easily pulled into Emlyn’s world, the main character who is only twelve years old. A world with its cultures and restrictions appearing seemingly true to life for many.
Emlyn’s story begins in the Flowing Lands at Forlorn Peak, but her life is not all giggles of a twelve-year-old for she lives with a secret only her teacher, Osabide, is privy to. Emlyn can see spirits, but the controlling radical society called The Brethren view her as a disgrace. Because of this, her tale is one of mystery and suspense, of her trying to find her way, discerning who she can trust and who she must run from. Additionally, she keeps hearing the words, “Winter is Coming” which places the reader in a nail-biting position of mystery, wondering what those three words indicate.
Teagan’s writing invites the readers into feeling emotions of love, acceptance, fear, and oppression, to name a few. This series is captivating with wonderful fantasy world-building and characters that get under your skin. I have enjoyed the unfolding story through Journey 4, and I look forward to continuing the journeys to follow. If you appreciate great fantasy novels, or even if fantasy is not your go-to genre, give Teagan’s series a try. I highly recommend Dead of Winter for all readers!
Vanished by Mark Bierman
Mark Bierman’s Vanished takes us back in time to the violent 2010 earthquake in Haiti. John, and his son-in-law, Tyler, volunteer to assist with an orphanage months later following the devastation. Their relationship is strong and convincing as they cope with the passing of Tyler’s wife, Joy (John’s daughter). Perhaps channeling their grief by aiding others will help them cope as they experience the various stages.
Little did they know what lies ahead on their journey. A little girl disappears out of the blue, leaving her mother to spiral into a frenzy of fear, imagining her daughter’s possible impending plight. We are transported into the ugly world of human trafficking and child slavery – crimes so common that no effort is enforced to finding this little girl. Morally, John and Tyler can’t just look the other way, so they embark on a quest riddled with danger lurking around each corner.
In addition to John and Tyler, other supporting characters seize the spotlight, and their stories and struggles are just as intense and page-turning. Mark’s writing is clever as he intertwines all roles. Sympathizing with the abused while loathing the abusers comes effortlessly. Most importantly, holding onto hope with a strong grip is significant as the race continues to rescue the little girl. At first, I was reluctant to read this book because of the topic of human trafficking. Mark’s story may be a work of fiction, but the subject matter is not only horrifying and heartbreaking, but it’s very real. There were moments in the book where I held my breath, and one scene especially had me feeling a little claustrophobic. Because of Mark’s excellent writing and delivery in this fast-paced, gripping story, I give this book 5 shining stars. Highly recommended.
Behind Closed Doors by Robbie Cheadle
Behind Closed Doors by Robbie Cheadle is a collection of various style poems such as freeform, tanka, haiku, and limerick. Robbie touches on many aspects of life evoking a myriad of emotions. She writes beautifully with strong convictions about marriage, motherhood, dreams, her struggles of working in the corporate world, living in lockdown during the pandemic, and about social issues she finds distressing. Whether her words speak of joy or anguish, they are fiercely passionate.
I personally connected to “Contrasting Colors” because of my strong marriage and relationship with my husband. Robbie creates a lovely metaphorical comparison between her and her husband, showing just how much they complement each other. I really liked the format of this poem. In “He Walks Away” her words paint the picture of her son who is no longer the little boy whose mom’s kisses cured all pain, but a young man who she will need to let go for him to find his way in the world. As an empty nester, my heart felt her bittersweet emotions.
Environmentally, I was drawn to “I saw a fish a-swimming” and “If the polar icecaps doth melt.” Robbie emphasizes the tragic effects of global warming not only on the planet, but on living creatures. She writes with concern and compassion, and some poems are written as twisted limericks bearing nothing but the truth. My stomach felt just as twisted after reading these powerful reminders. But even in trying times, Robbie includes, “Can you see the butterflies?” This poem offers delightful imagery, imploring the reader to dash outside in that very moment to embrace nature’s beauty.
I highly recommend this poetry collection for readers who revel in finding themselves relating to the messages or scenarios, therefore sinking into the deeper meanings.
Songs of Heartstrings by Miriam Hurdle – Songs of life with the melody of Faith
Songs of Heartstrings by Miriam Hurdle is truly a beautiful collection of poems and prose conveying both the delight and sorrow she has experienced. This compilation is her life’s song, but the melody remains the same…her undying Faith. Miriam’s love of life and all the beauty it offers shines and inspires. She shares her joy of marriage, nature, and parenthood, along with loving tributes. When I read about her challenges, I felt the ache in my heart, and her reflections on special moments and places swept me away into the magic.
Miriam also includes several of her own photographs and paintings that adds a lovely visual touch. I like how the book is divided into several different “songs” which provide fluidity. A few favorites that resonated with me are “Gift of Books”, “A Tribute to My Dad”, “Walking Around Laguna Lake”, and “Simple Life”. Recommended for all poetry lovers.
Tidal Falls by Jacquie Biggar – A compelling blend of suspense, romance, and drama!
Tidal Falls by Jacquie Biggar is the first book in her Wounded Hearts series and the first novel I have read by her. This story is fast paced with a plot that keeps the reader captivated right to the end.
The main character, Sara, manages to escape with her young daughter, Jessica, from the control and cruelty of her abusive husband, Tom. She finds solace and trustworthy friends in the charming town of Tidal Falls. Then her new tall, dark, handsome, and sexy neighbor, Nick, has his sights on her even before they meet. But Nick is a wounded vet, carrying around secrets of his own, although he doesn’t arrive in town alone; his friendly dog, Jake, stays by his side, wrapping his canine love around everyone who greets him. Sara’s heart begins to open for Nick, but then a snag in their relationship makes her question whether he can be trusted or not. Jessica also steals the show in several scenes with her adorable and outgoing personality. And despite what she experienced at home with her father who didn’t want a child in the first place, she never lets go of the joy in her heart.
Other supporting characters add depth to the story, along with strong friendships and relationships. Jacquie writes about each person with authenticity and distinguishable personalities. It’s as if the reader could walk down the street and recognize them in real life. Another positive to the author’s method of writing is the empowerment of her female characters. I couldn’t put this book down, and I look forward to reading the rest of the series! Highly recommended!