Book reviews I have written

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 novelThe 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 – Realistic poetry that goes straight to the heart

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!