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 Childhood – A 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
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. 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 Scott, Baydreamerwrites.com – All rights reserved.