Welcome to my Sunday Book Review. Today I’m sharing my review for a beautiful book with a very apt title – Death and its Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Beautiful Lessons, written by Becky Aud-Jennison. She is a therapist and clinician and also runs a podcast – Field Notes from The Death Dialogues Project.
It’s Time to Invite Death Out of the Closet!
The impending or actual death of someone close to you can be devastating. It doesn’t matter if you knew it was coming, or if it was a total shock-you’ll never be the same. There is no right way to grieve, and no appropriate time frame. It’s different for everyone.
Author and therapist gone rogue, Becky Aud-Jennison, the creator of The Death Dialogues Project and podcast, has sewn together threads from people’s shared personal stories and her own experiences, using them to offer insight and comfort to those who are experiencing the loss of a loved one or want to become more death-literate.
She beautifully discusses individual factors of grief including:
Who Am I Now Grief
Break-Ups: Death can be the great divide
Love Never Dies: Do not ignore signs
Transformation: Death becomes you
Calling on her years as a clinician, you will also find soothing, research-based techniques to help ease the ache of trauma and loss.
Many do not realize we now have choice surrounding our deaths and how our bodies are treated. Similar to birth being brought back into the home, there has been a wave of people doing the same with death, creating moving and personal experiences at the dying time and in the aftermath. Like homebirth, it may not be for everyone, but aren’t we better humans for understanding the terrain?
With this project’s aim of promoting death literacy, you will find story and commentary surrounding death and end-of-life choices (such as having a loved one’s body at home).
It’s time to take these historically “hush-hush” conversations out into the open. We all experience death and loss in our lives, and we should be talking about it.
Embrace the beautiful-horrible full spectrum of your life. Here you will also find resources and a community where you can further explore or seek support as you continue your journey.
This book will gently hold you as you increase your awareness and comfort surrounding death and is a perfect offering to others at those times when there are no words.
My 5 Star Review:
I’ve read several books on grief and loss and death, and I’m putting this one right up there with my recommends for anyone interested in death literacy. Like the author states, “We all experience death and loss in our lives, and we should be talking about it.”
This book gives us good insights with stories and conversations with the author and some of her clients who share their experiences on the subject of dealing with death, and things we don’t really want to know, but should. As the author states, “Death experiences can never be fully explained or compared…” adding, “We need to get death out of the closet too.” She refers to it as ‘talking about death’ because all people really want in their great times of trauma is someone to understand what they are going through. We want to hear people’s experiences on their grief journey, not from academic texts. This book is a definite balm to soothe the soul. Grief begins at the moment of diagnosis for both the patient and the loved ones. Aud-Jennison also warns that by stifling grief, it will certainly have its day. She also talks about the PTSD affect grief leaves on those left behind.
What I loved most about what this author said to those seeking grief therapy – a warning to seek out a therapist who has indeed experienced their own loss, because getting help from one who has never suffered great loss cannot possibly know the depths of grief. We will also learn how grief can wreak havoc on our bodies, “a mysterious thing that can never be taught”. So many great discussions on all aspects of grief, including how some people who are part of our lives disappear on us in our dire time of need to be surrounded by familiar people in our lives. Because many cannot handle the world which we the griever now lives in, warning: “Those are not your people.” “The absence of your loved one will forever be part of who you are now.”
The author reminds that Kubler-Ross’s Five Stages of Grief were initially written for the the patient diagnosed with the death sentence, compared to a griever’s life where we will live in and out and with grief for the rest of our days – in no particular order in a forever flux of triggers.
This book is all about the truth about death, dying, aftermath, and everything in between. I would certainly recommend this book as a guided tonic for the grieving soul.
My Sunday Book Review is for Judith Barrow’s brand new release – Sisters. Judith’s books never disappoint, and this new book kept me glued. This is the story of two sisters, and a huge lie that destroyed a family. The author has a talent for drawing out great characters that leave us thinking about them even after closing the book. The book is on pre-order now, release date, January 26th.
A moving study of the deep feelings – jealousy, love, anger, and revenge – that can break a family apart. … Sisters is another absorbing, emotional and thought-provoking creation from the wonderful Judith Barrow. – Janet Laugharne
Two sisters torn apart by a terrible lie.In shock after an unbearable accident. Angie lets her sister Mandy take the blame, thinking she’s too young to get into trouble. But she’s wrong. Mandy is hounded, bullied and finally sent to live with their aunt, where she changes her name to Lisa and builds a new life, never wanting to see her sister again. Angie’s guilt sends her spiralling into danger. Thirteen years later, they meet again at their mother’s funeral. Lisa starts to suspect something is wrong. Angie seems terrified of her husband, and their father is hiding something too. What does Lisa owe to the family that betrayed her?
I knew I was in for a treat. I wasn’t disappointed… I couldn’t wait to find out what happened to Lisa and Angie… A tale with characters that linger in your mind after you close the book. Jacqueline Harrett
My 5 Star Review:
Judith Barrow strikes again with this new release, Sisters. Barrow has a talent for creating rich characters who linger with us long after we’ve finished reading the book. She is recognized for her fantastic family saga stories, and this one had me going through varied emotions as one huge lie orchestrated by elder sister Angie, for a very evil deed she committed, is pinned on her younger sister Amanda, and changes both their lives and the family dynamic forever.
I found it a gripping read as I shook my head and wanted to shake Angie even more for destroying her family over her selfish whims and passing the blame on poor Amanda. It irked me that Amanda didn’t stand up to her evil sister and tell the truth, but as Barrow so cleverly weaves this tale, she makes us understand how big sister Angie holds a grip on Amanda and talks her into good reason why Amanda shouldn’t tell on her.
The horrendous event that took place that Amanda was being blamed for, eventually has her parents sending her to Wales to live with her aunt to avoid the bullying and terrorizing Amanda endured for the awful event that took place. And wanting a fresh start, Amanda even changed her name to Lisa.
The story kept me turning the pages, hoping that Angie would speak up and tell truth, while having me shake my head thinking about how one sister can even live with herself as she watches her little sister’s life spiral and turn upside down because of her horrible actions and her coverup lies that went unchallenged. But it does seem Karma always find her way back to those as a reminder.
Some thirteen years would pass before the sisters are forced to meet up at their mother’s funeral. In between those passing years we learn about both Angie’s and Amanda’s lives. Amanda/Lisa is happy in her life living with Aunt Barb and Uncle Chris, while Angie, who ran away from home shortly after Amanda was sent to Wales, lived a tawdry life, until she meets up with her childhood crush and cohort in ‘the big lie’, Stephen Birch, now a wealthy businessman and predator in more ways than one. Once Lisa returns home from her mum’s funeral, she learns about Angie’s unhappy past and present life, with her now, abusive and dominating husband Stephen Birch. And as Lisa works on sewing up her mother’s estate, she discovers more dark secrets about Angie’s insidious husband. The story grows darker as we learn exactly what is going on in Angie’s marriage and what exactly it is Stephen wants from her – from her family.
As Stephen continues to emotionally abuse and torment Angie, Lisa’s empathy has her worrying for her sister. And by the time the next tragedy strikes in their family, Lisa begins investigating and working with an old friend, Ben, now a journalist, she teams up with to investigate just what the evil Stephen Birch is really up to.
Why is Stephen so evil? What is it he wants? What is it he has hanging over Angie’s head? Will Stephen be caught and punished for the physical abuse he caused to Angie? Will he be found discovered responsible for causing harm to the girls’ parents? How far will this deranged man go to get what he wants from these two sisters? You will find no spoilers here, and will want to keep reading to the end, anxiously waiting to see if Angie escapes Birch’s stranglehold on her and if just desserts are served.
Welcome to my Sunday Book Review. Today I’m reviewing Frank Prem’s new release – Ida: Searching for the Jazz Baby. In this story of historical fiction written in free verse poetry, Frank touches on the life of Ida Pender, aka Jazz Baby, and her wild lifestyle in the 1920s. Complete with newspaper clippings and stories to accompany.
Who is Ida Pender? Is she the elderly woman – Ida-Spider – rumoured to be resident in a 1970’s Mental Asylum?
Is she Squizzy Taylor’s teenaged gangster moll of the roaring 1920’s in Melbourne? The woman the police declared had shapely legs? She is Ida. The Jazz Baby.
Frank Prem explores the story of Ida Pender, largely forgotten now, but once the notorious associate of a 1920s Melbourne gnagster. From the young girl sneaking out of her bedroom window to go dancing at the Palais de Danse, companion, accomplice, then wife and mother to Squizzy Taylor’s child by her early twenties, Ida is an extraordinary woman and a marvellous story.
My 5 Star Review:
A freeverse poetry collection about a jazz dancer and true crime in 1920s Melbourne, Australia where Jazz baby, Ida, daughter of a horse trainer, falls in love with Melbourne’s notorious underworld criminal, Leslie ‘Squizzy’ Taylor, once a horse jockey. The story begins in the 1970s where the author, Prem, as a young student, was a pyschiatric nurse at the Lunatic Asylum where several elderly women were called Ida. ‘Rumor’ had it that one of these Idas was Ida Pender, the gun-moll of Squizzy Taylor.
Prem researched the story of Ida Pender and Squizzy Taylor, who was eventually killed in a shootout, leaving Ida a widowed, single mother at the tender age of 23. Ida loved to dance since a child and was discovered to be part of a competitive dance group who loved to dance to jazz at the Palis de Dance. Prem brings back to life the story of Jazz Baby in prose and poetry. With each newspaper clipping headline, Prem tells the story in poetry through the character’s minds. An introductory poem to the elusive Ida:
the company (she keeps)
The pair are “Squizzy” TayJor, and his paramour, Ida Pender, who has been associated with him since she was a mere child of sixteen “Squizzy” Taylor——As He Is! The Mirror, Perth 05/07/1924 is she a bad girl or does she just choose poor company . . . a man might be a murderer but still be nice to me and if I love him . . . and I do love him . . . where else should I be is she a bad bad girl or is she just . . . just . . . just keeping company as best she can
If you enjoy a ‘different’ kind of story-telling, you will enjoy this well-researched story combined with the author’s imagination, written in poetry, accompanied by headlines. All the author’s research resources are listed in the book.
My Sunday Book Review is for a heartfelt read, – Harmony Kent’s new release – Sorrowful Soul. This book was written in free verse poetry and dedicated to the claimed, seven stages of grief – despite the stages in no way being linear – just ask me, one who is living with grief. A beautiful Calla Lilly was depicted for the cover. As the author expresses, the Calla Lilly is used for both weddings and funerals, and occasions in-between, but also represents tears as the water droplets form on the petals.
f we’re lucky, we meet twilight at the front door and old age creeps in on the night breeze.
Even if we make it to our twilight years, the more we age, the more loss we must endure as part of the cycle of life. Many of these poems lament death, but they also relate to broken relationships, severed friendships, and the loss of youth. This book of grief poetry is as much about saying goodbye and working through loss as it is about death and love split asunder.
This heartfelt collection provides company and compassion through the devastating journey of loss and shows us we do not travel this lonely road alone. Within these pages we share shock, numbness and denial, catapult into anger, bargaining, depression, loneliness, and guilt, and—eventually—make the seismic shift into testing the possibility of a new normal and finding acceptance.~~~~~
Praise for Slices of Soul, Book 1 in the Soul Poetry Series:
“I found my answer in this wonderful treasure-trove and have already read it three times.” Robert Fear
“I found in Slices of Soul something approaching aesthetic bliss, a sense of being connected in some way to other states – like tenderness, kindness, ecstasy – where art is the norm.” Colm Herron
“A stunning collection of poems that I read in one sitting! Unable to simply put this down until I had read the last. I love the clarity of the short poems, such clear images created in so few words or phrases. Many of them touched my heart and I will be giving them a 2nd and 3rd read!” Audrina Lane
Praise for Life & Soul, Book 2 in the Soul Poetry Series:
“…a wonderful and relatable look on the seasons of life and the heartbreak and happiness of love and family.” Julie
“I would highly recommend this book to anyone who’s looking for some good poetry that hits you right in the feels.” Katie
“Powerful and Enlightening: I highly recommend this volume and eagerly look forward to her next collection.” Writester
My 5 Star Review:
I couldn’t wait for this book to come out in paperback, and I wasn’t disappointed. I’m familiar with this author’s multi-genre talent in writing, and I especially enjoy her heartfelt poetry. The book is divided into what is said – the seven stages of grief. As the author points out, and I can attest to, these stages are by no means the law and order of grief and can and will be felt at various times after a loss, and in no specific order – Shock and Disbelief; Denial; Guilt; Anger and Bargaining; Depression, Loneliness and Reflection; Working Through; and Acceptance.
It’s difficult to write this type of heartfelt poetry if one hasn’t loved and lost someone or something, just as a reader won’t take in the breadth of it unless they too have lived loss themselves. But one doesn’t have to have lost someone to take in these evocative poems and feel both the love and the pain of loving and losing to stir up emotions and reiterate how precious life is. These stories in poetry speak of painful losses – death, youth and health.This is a beautiful book that one can pick up at anytime and open up a page to. A handy reference to revisit time and time again. This would be a lovely gift for someone who is grieving or for friends and relatives to offer some insight into the grieving process and the loneliness that ensues.
All these poems hit me hard, in fact, each and every poem spoke to me, especially, Borrowed Time from Part 1 – Shock and Disbelief:
“From wedding bells
To funeral dirge
From dancing and fun
To tears and disbelief
None could have known
How soon you’d be gone
We miss your smile
And loud, easy laughter
And unassuming friendship
From May to December
You withered away
And by the new year
We burned your bones
Scattered your pale ashes
To the fickle wind
And looking back
I still can’t believe
Nor properly grieve
From wedding bells
To funeral dirge
Where to now?”
Each and every poem resonated me as I endure my own great loss, and my compassion was lent to the author in her own stories of her losses. It’s difficult to pick out a favorite in this heartfelt read, but a few more that gave me pause, some favored quotes from:
No Words – “…I’ve died a hundred times since you left my life bereft”
The Worst Kind of Thief – “…The sparkle in your eyes ignited me whole”
Not Since – “…Didn’t sleep last night Nor the night before, Not since they carried you, Out the door”
Down Deep – “… And joy on the beach, All I feel now is the scratch of the sand, In this barren, strange, unknown land, You were my navigator, my pilot, My life’s one true love, And, oh my darling, I miss you so much”
Triggers – “a discarded shoe, an odd sock, or a simple visit to the shop, who ever knew the total and utter shock such simple things could induce?”
At the end of the book, Kent also leaves some important resource links for people who are in need of seeking help with mental anguish. I highly recommend this beautiful book full of verses of the human condition and emotion.
As another year comes to a close, we tend to all have flashbacks of reflection on what we accomplished this closing year. I think, like many, it feels as though this year has flown by. Or is it, the older we get, the faster we feel time fly?
For me, it feels as though the days, weeks, and months kept flying by as I worked on each project I had set goals to accomplish for the year. Last year was basically, a write off for me while my new solo life overwhelmed me at every turn after losing my husband. This year, although my grief was no less, I fought and still fight my grief daily, but I understood that I must find a way to make my life go on and in order to do so, I had to set goals for myself to accomplish feeling I was still part of the living by immersing myself into projects that helped me do so.
After coming back from last winter’s escape to Mexico, I set my intentions for the new year ahead because I always need a plan, that’s how I function. I worked on taxes, planned to write episodes for a podcast I promised myself I’d begin in 2022 and, promised myself to get back to the book I finished writing in 2019 and publish it. I also prepared my columns for Sally Cronin’s Smorgasbord Blog Magazine in my Spiritual Awareness series, as well as lots of intermittent writing for my next book on grief. Being in solitude much of the time reminded me I have to have goals and have to be busy to keep myself from dwelling on the dark side of my life. I can honestly say that I don’t think I’d be here today if it weren’t for writing. Writing is the passion that dwells within, and allows me to expel in words the gnarled mess of emotions that I live with daily. It’s my sanity. My solitary time also afforded me more time to read more books, and books are my ethereal escape into another world, another life, which gives me a welcome break from being in my own skin sometimes.
As this year comes to a close, I’m already setting goals for 2023. First and foremost on my agenda is to once again, get out of Dodge and go back to Mexico later in January. Last winter, going to Mexico for the first time without my husband, overwhelmed me, yet I went. Once there, I learned more life lessons and faced more harsh realities when I learned ‘our’ friends were no longer because my husband too, was no longer. It was another painful lesson on human behavior, but gratefully, the universe sent me the ‘right’ friends, and I forged some new and very tight relationships with new friends. We are all reuniting again next month back in Mexico, and I’m excited for my two-month escape from my real life here for a pause with an active social life – something I no longer have here. No doubts I’ll be learning some new life lessons. My tribe has been cut substantially since my husband passed as tragedy often shows us who is left in our corner when the chips are down. But the quality is excellent, showing me excess quantity was in dire need of spillage.
While away, basking in sunshine and social fulfillment, I’ll assess what my goals are for 2023, then tackle them with fresh enthusiasm, upon my return. I know I will be working on my grief book, which I also know will take a great deal of stamina and time to go through the almost 100,000 words in various rough drafts I’ve written over the last two years. I have good experience with knowing that painful writing requires distance in between revisions. Being a memoir writer means having to relive over and over with each revision and edit, the memories of what we write. I know when I wrote P.S. I Forgive You, about finding forgiveness for my mother, that the emotions that bubbled within as I reread painful memories, had me having to walk away from the computer and letting the words sit until I could gain back the heart to sit down and read it again. In between my distancing myself from the book, I worked on other projects. I assume this next book will probably be the most difficult book I will ever write. But I feel compelled to write it. So no doubt, I will need a distraction project to divert to. Thankfully, there’s never a shortage of work for a writer.
I imagine January will pass almost too quickly as I prepare for the packing and usual travel anxiety, and will remain until I land in Puerto Vallarta and finally letting out a huge exhale. As per all my winter breaks, I won’t be reading blogs on a regular schedule as I do at home, nor will I be posting anything (because I don’t like to close comments and cannot commit to responding to any in a timely fashion), but I will pop into some of your blogs sporadically when I get a few spare moments from my busyness. And upon my return in late March, no doubts I’ll have some fun stories to share about some of the shenanigans that will undoubtedly be going on in Mexico.
Thanks for keeping track of all the wonderful books I’ve read this year #Goodreads. I surprassed my goal and read 56 books! You can check them out by clicking below
I would like to take the opportunity to wish you all a very happy and healthy new year. I always include ‘healthy’, because like my husband always liked to say, “Cubby, without good health, nothing else matters.”
It may be a shameless promotion, but I don’t do it often, and since I just released my new book Fifteen First Times, a week ago, I was thrilled to find some have already read, enjoyed, and reviewed it. I also picked up a few other beautiful reviews for three of my other books, and am thrilled to share. I am also thrilled to announce that my book, Fifteen First Times is NOW AVAILABLE in Paperback.
“Fifteen First Times” is a group of personal stories told in a humorous yet perceptive manner. It felt like I was sitting with Ms. Kaye having a cup of tea while she shared some of her life stories. I found it easy to relate to a first kiss, first heartbreak, or first-time driving. It got me reflecting on many of my firsts and how I navigated life after. The author’s strength, fashion sense, and humor shined through the words, painting a picture of her moments. This is a book of youthful reflections and what we can learn from all our firsts. There was also a loving dedication to her departed husband that touched my soul. This is a beautiful collection of coming-of-age stories I can easily recommend.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 16 December 2022
Fifteen first times is a lovely memoir by D G Kaye. Reading it I recalled many of my first times too! In this short memoir, she mentions memories such as her diets, first kiss, colouring her hair, Christmas tree, first apartment, getting her driving licence, travel to Israel and Europe and much more. It is a personal, and relatable collection which I enjoyed.
I think it would be enjoyed by all and in particular bloggers, writers (a lot of the content is female centric such as the short section on first period!) This is a topic that needs to be spoke about openly! So hats off to D G Kaye for being so honest sharing her personal memories.
She also shares her sadness at loss of several family members, a dear friend Alba and her much loved husband.
So, at times humourous, sometimes poignant, a sneak peak into the author’s life.
The author has a natural conversational style of writing that draws you in as if she is talking to you personally. Her memories prompt the reader’s own experiences at similar ages, and raises a smile or two at the similarities between girls of a certain age, however many thousands of miles they live apart.
This is particularly true in this collection of stories as Kaye shares episodes from her childhood such as playing in her mother’s stiletto shoes which would fuel a lifetime’s love of footwear, a first kiss, and taking that first puff of a parent’s discarded cigarette.
With the smiles comes the tears, as we identify the moments of loneliness and isolation as a girl becomes a woman without the support needed from a mother, a dysfunctional family life, and the loss of a much loved friend who shared the formative years between teens and late twenties.
At the end of the collection is a wonderful tribute to her late husband, who made her laugh every day and was the first and last love of her life.
D.G. Kaye writes with poignancy but also great humour, which makes these first times all the more delightful and memorable. The experiences are not just relevant to girls growing up, as many are relateable to boys and young men coping with the cultural and social expectations of the day, and finding their way in life and relationships. Take a walk down the memory lane of your own life in very good company. Highly recommended.
Our experiences are stepping stones for much of what feeds our character. We live, we experience, we learn, we become, and we overcome.
I always look forward to reading D.G. Kaye’s books because I know they will be authentic, witty, and compelling.
Throughout D.G. Kaye’s latest memoir, she draws her readers in by sharing her past experiences. A reader can easily relate to fifteen real talk stories that cover topics such as her obsession with shoes, her hilarious experience with her first Christmas tree, her disastrous experiment with changing from blonde to redhead, her first kiss, and many more firsts, at times bittersweet, including the death of a close friend.
In particular, I found her tribute to her beloved husband to be so very touching. She writes how no man could make her laugh. In the past laughter for her “could mask so many scars, aches, and insecurities….It was always me making someone else laugh…That was until I met my husband. Here was a man who made me laugh.”
During this Christmas season, if you’re feeling stressed like many of us are, I highly recommend this book. Relax and give yourself this gift for the holiday season. Your heart will likely smile as you reflect on some of your firsts and take a journey down your own memory lane.
P.S. I Forgive You
Reviewed by Mac Trish (Alex Craigie) Dec. 12, 2022
This book is a painfully honest account of the author’s fractured relationship with her narcissistic mother.
Throughout Ms Gies’ childhood and into adulthood, her mother not only neglected her and her three siblings, but also ate away at their self-esteem and terrorized them into obedience. The mother’s volatility, frequent absences, lack of interest in their achievements and lives, and the exploitation, punishments and bare-faced lying made for a nightmare scenario that was endured with a loyalty that in the end became so severely strained, it shattered.
It is clear that the author did everything she could to understand and excuse her mother’s behaviour. It is also clear that she was desperate for her to demonstrate some motherly affection, but none was forthcoming. The hateful responses and the game-playing took such a toll that in the end, in a desperate attempt for self-preservation, she cut her mother out of her life. ‘I crested the wave of poison my mother tried to drown me with, and I snapped’.
The empathy Ms Gies had for her parent clearly made the situation very painful for her. When it became clear that her mother was dying, she struggled with her feelings, but she couldn’t bring herself to go to her because she was afraid of being damaged yet again by another of her vicious barbs.
After the death, came the soul-searching. I found the turmoil the author facedheartbreaking. ‘Guilt doesn’t subside; it resides in the hidden nooks and crannies of our hearts’. She did all she could to try and understand what had made her mother like this, but there were no easy answers. In the end, she knew that she couldn’t rest herself unless she could forgive her mother and release her own bitterness and resentment. She writes ‘So I set her free of her sins, and in turn I set myself free’.
This is a beautiful book and one that had a profound impact on me. It is to the author’s credit that she takes such an honest and candid approach. It is truly remarkable that she was able to forgive someone who had hurt her so badly.
This was a quick, fun read for all those adventurous souls who love to travel or read about it. It took us back to days of more effortless traveling, to current times when there’s a lot more involved. Told in a personal, humorous tone, I immediately connected to the antidotes told. I’m glad I’m not the only one who over packs and then had to pay for it when checking the luggage. I shook my head, knowing how hard it is to get traveling purchases home in luggage — and through customs. Luckily, I’ve only had my bags searched once. I can’t imagine being a target when I came back to my country. I thoroughly enjoyed this; it not only made me want to travel but long for the good old days when planes offered more room. This ends with some sound advice for traveling that includes a luggage scale. An excellent read for travelers!
Twenty Years: After “I Do” is a memoir by D.G. Kaye regarding her 20-year marriage to Gordon, a kind man 20 years her senior. While I believe the author wrote this book for people in a similar situation that have a spouse considerably older or younger, I think it is an essential read for any married couple.
Having read previous books by this writer, I knew I would get honesty and humor—two elements that make any read better. Kaye doesn’t try to sugarcoat anything and describes the many challenges married partners face, particularly in her situation, having a much older husband.
Some priceless nuggets included the importance of a sense of humor, communicating about and listening to each other’s problems, giving each additional space to follow individual hobbies and passions, and being flexible enough to take on different roles over the years.
I liked that there were so many relatable topics—health challenges, hearing loss, and depression, just to name a few.
Welcome to my Sunday Book Review. To end off the year, I’m sharing my reviews for five different books I read this year that I hadn’t had a chance to feature yet on my Sunday reviews – The Worst Noel by Amy Reade (A Christmas Cozy Mystery), Life Work by Lesley Hayes (A women’s relationship character study), It’s Okay to Laugh by Nora McInerny (Finding laughter even in grief), Baking Bad by John Dolan (An off the wall diary of a crazy guy) and Clay Tongue by Nicholas Conley (Mysticism)
The Worst Noel
The Worst Noel is a cozy mystery, perfect read for the holidays or anytime – Book 1 of the Juniper Junction cozy Holiday mysteries by Amy Reade.
On the busiest shopping day of the year, Lilly opens her jewelry store to discover it’s been burgled. Then she trips over a body. Talk about a Black Friday.
When a second victim is murdered, Lilly finds herself squarely in the crosshairs of suspicion. The clock is ticking as Lilly tries to unwrap the mystery of the real killer’s identity.
As the bodies pile up like so much snow, Lilly is shocked to discover her ex-husband has returned to town after a fifteen-year absence. Could his reappearance have anything to do with the murders? One thing is sure: Lilly doesn’t want him anywhere near their two teenage kids, neither of whom remember him, or her mom, whose mental health is declining.
Can she figure out who killed the victims before she becomes one herself?
Find out if Lilly is about to have herself a merry or scary little Christmas in this cozy, small-town mystery. Recipes included!
My 5 Star Review:
A fun cozy mystery read with mom Lilly as the protagonist divorced mom with two teenagers, her mother with early dementia, and her jewelry store on main street in the cozy town of Juniper Junction. Just as Lilly has prepared her store for the big day, Black Friday, she discovers her store has been broken into and one of the town’s other store owners was found dead in her store. The woman was not well liked among the chamber of commerce circles and besides this fact, Lilly’s store is closed down by the police for the investigation, Lilly finds she is also a suspect in the mysterious murder case because her fingerprints were found on a pearl necklace, but heck, it’s her store where she helps customers try on her jewelry. It’s a good thing her brother Bill is a cop who also keeps her in the loop and safe from an elusive ex-husband who mysteriously shows up at the same time-frame as the murder. But wait, there is another murder. Herb the yoga instructure from down the road of businesses is also found dead. Lilly didn’t particularly like Herb, so she may again be a person of interest.
All kinds of characters and shenanigans are happening. While Lilly is ridiculously, a suspect, someone is also after her. Her house is broken into, her dog goes missing, and then she is ultimately, kidnapped. What else could go wrong? Every few chapters the author will have us sidetracked choosing a new suspect.
With the colorful characters and all the mayhem around the snowy holiday season, this cozy little whodunit will keep you turning the pages as we read along to try and figure out what is going on in Juniper Junction. A perfect read for the holidays or anytime.
It’s Okay to Laugh
This is the third book I’ve read from Nora McInerny, who I refer to as the ‘grief author’ who shares slices of humor in her heartfelt and sometimes funny stories in the midst of her grief, It’s Okay to Laugh (Crying is Cool Too)
“Thank you for the perfect blend of nostalgia-drenched humor, wit, and heartbreak, Nora.” — Mandy Moore
comedy = tragedy + time/rosé
Twenty-seven-year-old Nora McInerny Purmort bounced from boyfriend to dopey “boyfriend” until she met Aaron—a charismatic art director and comic-book nerd who once made Nora laugh so hard she pulled a muscle. When Aaron was diagnosed with a rare form of brain cancer, they refused to let it limit their love. They got engaged on Aaron’s hospital bed and had a baby boy while he was on chemo. In the period that followed, Nora and Aaron packed fifty years of marriage into the three they got, spending their time on what really matters: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, each other, and Beyoncé. A few months later, Aaron died in Nora’s arms. The obituary they wrote during Aaron’s hospice care revealing his true identity as Spider-Man touched the nation. With It’s Okay to Laugh, Nora puts a young, fresh twist on the subjects of mortality and resilience. What does it actually mean to live your “one wild and precious life” to the fullest? How can a joyful marriage contain more sickness than health? How do you keep going when life kicks you in the junk? In this deeply felt and deeply funny memoir, Nora gives her readers a true gift—permission to struggle, permission to laugh, permission to tell the truth and know that everything will be okay. It’s Okay to Laugh is a love letter to life, in all its messy glory; it reads like a conversation with a close friend, and leaves a trail of glitter in its wake.
This book is for people who have been through some shit.
This is for people who aren’t sure if they’re saying or doing the right thing (you’re not, but nobody is). This is for people who had their life turned upside down and just learned to live that way. For people who have laughed at a funeral or cried in a grocery store. This is for everyone who wondered what exactly they’re supposed to be doing with their one wild and precious life. I don’t actually have the answer, but if you find out, will you text me?
My 5 Star Review:
This is the third book I’ve read by Nora. As a new widow myself, I find Nora so relatable and her stories, although heartfelt and crushing, always offer something humorous betwixt her grief that sparks a light. Nora tells stories of her past through her triple journey of grief and loss, losing her her father, her husband, and a miscarriage, all in the span of a very short time.
I love how Nora tells us how she creates her own kind of grief therapy, whatever works for her, escaping to the gym or into a TV program to take her away from herself. I also love how she explains, she is not depressed, just sad. These two emotions are very different. She explains the difference between ‘clean pain’, the actual pain of loss, and ‘dirty pain’, the part where us grievers go through the pain of guilt for 101 different things we shoulda, coulda done, as we beat ourselves up mentally. She touches on some of the small things that are very big – like coming home to an empty house and upon entering, shouting, ‘I’m home’. This is me. Nora talks about all the things she does to vent frustrations and a good list of things to do in those moments – as well as, what not to do.
One of my favorite lines, “Marry someone who thinks you’re funny.” Such an important piece of advice. I am blessed that I did, and my husband found me equally amusing. It was our sense of humors that brought and kept us together.
Nora talks about the difficulties of being around family when there is a loss, because everyone’s grief is personal. That of a parent’s grief is different to the grief of the spouse left behind, how lonely grief leaves us, not feeling like ourselves anymore, the loneliness of once being someone’s person and now we aren’t. Nora uses her great sense of humor to emphasize all the emotions a griever endures and more, by sharing some of her crazy stories about trying to find herself back in social standing – and The Widow’s Club.
While the book reads as though it’s about her life with Aaron, it encompasses much more of her personal life, other people, her family, other relationships she’s had, and stories about her growing up and being a blacksheep.
“I wrote this book in the six months after my husband and father died, right after my miscarriage. What you read is me sifting through emotions and memories.”
The author has learned how to move on with her life and is remarried with more children. Her words about doing so are: “This is not moving on. This is moving forward. Aaron is forever a part of my life, and a part of me. Falling in love again didn’t mean replacing him, because there is no replacing the people we love. It meant finding space in my heart to fit all of us.”
Nora on people who never know the right things to say to a griever: “It can be hard to know what to say to a person who is going through something difficult, but you can probably wipe these options from your list of conversation starters.” She proceeds to list quite a few common things that come out of people’s mouths – some with good intentions, some without thinking how silly they sound.
All round, this was an entertaining read that had me nodding my head in agreement to plenty, and appreciating some of the interlude stories with humor, to lift weight of grief a little.
I was drawn to Life Work by Lesley Hayes because of my interest in observing relationships – both the functional and dysfunctional. This fictional book involves six different stories and romantic relationships depicting different women, all with a story to share – their struggle and how they handled their situations.
Women – looking for, disappointed in, and learning about love. Some are mothers, while others are lovers. Friendships with other women reveal that not all are loyal to the sisterhood, especially when it comes to men. A new collection of stories from Lesley Hayes that opens windows into the minds of six different women, caught in the searchlight of romantic realism as they navigate the turbulent waters of relationships.
My 4 Star Review:
Hayes takes us into various short stories about women and relationships. In each of these stories we get to stand outside the box and glimpse in at how a woman values herself in romantic relationships. In the first, Placebo – Caroline complains to her best friend Imogen how she is tired of being taken advantage of by men, not treated well, used, unappreciated, and always left ghosted. She pines for a man who will treat her right – ironically, when she meets the perfect man, Andrew, who treats her like royalty, she feels smothered and breaks up with him. It leaves me thinking that she was so used to being treated like crap that she couldn’t handle a good man. In Double Dealing, we learn that Chrissie is either under a spell or has such low self-esteem when her cheating husband Jack talks her into thinking it’s cool to have affairs as Jack says, they have an ‘understanding’. Oddly enough, he gets tossed by all his conquests. In Springtime, a nameless woman sharing a flat with her friend Jane, complains about her studious boyfriend Mike coming back home from university. She’s been fooling around on him all the while he’s been gone and makes it clear to her friend Jane that she couldn’t care less anymore about Mike, that is until Mike notices the change in her and lets her know he’s been seeing Jane now for sometime. Just desserts.
This book is a short read with some well written stories about various relationships, human nature, and characters that make us think.
I am going to preface my review here by saying – Baking Bad – Notes from my Diary by John Dolan is definitely not for everyone. Dolan writes this short book with a warped sense of humor including some very dark comedy, definitely not for the faint of heart.
“I need to spend some time reburying in the garden. Next door’s dog has dug up a foot.”
Thus begins a surreal journal the like of which (if you’re lucky) you have never encountered before. Author John Dolan’s unnamed diarist plumbs the depths of black comedy in a way that might make your hair stand on end. Not recommended for the PC-aware or those with a weak stomach. Contains helpful tips on cooking and on murdering people.
My 4 Star Review:
I’ll preface my review here by saying, this book will not be for everyone, but if you appreciate dark humor, a bizarre telling, and far from politically correct, there is laughter to be had in this book.
The diary is written by an unnamed character who enjoys stalking the internet, indulging in unhealthy habits and people as he rolls through the days in his bizarro life. He shares his deranged accounting of daily observations, which are sometimes crude and even vulgar, as well as some farout characters, shady women, a few horrifying events, and throws in a little murder and some interesting recipes in between, mostly all taking place in his neighborhood, and a crazy 60s themed party he holds in his home, where one may risk their life just eating or drinking at the venue. If you think that’s a crazy mixture of happenings in one short book, it is. But if you are a fan of Dolan’s tales, which I am, you will find this book a hilarious smorgasbord of entertaining weirdness. Beware of some strong language and sexual content.
Clay Tongue is a beautiful novella by Nicholas Conley. The author writes compassionate stories that usually contain a bit of mysticism. In this case, we’ll learn about an inquisitive girl who searches for what is known as the mythical Golem that she discovered was hidden in her own backyard – at least, that’s what her grandfather’s writings in his notebook told her.
For those of you who aren’t familar with the term ‘golem’, there are many said myths, mostly from Judaic mysticism, said to be a human like structure built of clay and given life and human abilities, created by mysticism. Alice Hoffman uses a golem in her story I reviewed a few years ago – The World That We Knew.
From the author of the award-winning Pale Highway and the radio play Something in the Nothing comes a short fantasy of love, shyness, and the secrets of human communication.
Katie Mirowitz is a small little girl with an even smaller little voice. She possesses a deep love for her grandfather, who suffers from aphasia after a bad stroke cuts loose the part of his brain that processes verbal language. When Katie uncovers a miraculous secret inside the pages of her grandfather’s old journal, as well as an ancient key, she goes out into the woods in search of answers — hoping to uncover a mythical being that, if it exists, may just have the ability to grant wishes.
My 5 Star Review:
Ten year old Katie loved her grandfather who’d recently returned home to live with her and her parents. This home was originally grandfather and grandmother’s house. Grandfather suffered a stroke and was left aphasic and in a wheelchair. He couldn’t speak, only in garbled words, but Katie knew from his animated facial expressions everything he was trying to say when he spoke.
One day Katie found a notebook on her grandfather’s desk, knowing her grandad could no longer speak or read she was curious to see what he was writing. But grandpa noticed her eyeing the book and snatched it away and put it in his drawer. She glimpsed the title – The Golem from Abeodan.
One night Katie awakes in the wee hours to take the book out and read it. She discovers the story is about her grandparents when they first were about to buy the house she was now living in. The realtor told them there was a cave way back on the property and gave them the old rusted key that belonged to it. Grandma thought it was crazy and didn’t believe in any folklore, but grandpa was mystified and kept the key – right beside the book in the drawer. The legend said, a mad scientist, Aszerowicz, had been exiled from the community after trying to erect a 50 foot tall golem there that could grant wishes – only one wish per person. As Katie continues to read, she discovered that when grandpa realized grandma couldn’t have a baby, he decided to take that key to the cave to find the golem to ask his wish for a child. And boom! End of writing! Katie was left hanging (and so were we).
Katie surmised her grandpa couldn’t finish the story because of his stroke, so she took the rusted key, put it in her pocket, and wandered down outback in the still of night to find the cave. She had to find out what happened. As she approached the cave and entered dark caverns she heard voices telling her not to be afraid and sees electrical torches leading a path through a grotto like cave, rocky walls and a pool of water glowing blue. She discovers a small clay sculpture that looked like a baby swaddled in a blanket. Then an enormous stone carved face with Hebrew characters engraved in its forehead, jutted out from the rock wall, and a heavy noise calling her name. The tall golem was made of clay with some resemblance to man. He offers Katie a wish, adding that he’d granted her grandfather one years back. But only one wish. Katie feels as though she’s in between two worlds when the golem asks her to take a piece of his clay and mold it to her wish and witnesses her grandfather as a younger man molding a piece of clay into a baby, signaling he got his daughter, who was Katie’s mom. Katie begins trying to mold a mouth to resemble her grandfather’s so that he may speak again, but her compassion gets the better of her as she felt for the poor golem trapped in this rock wall for decades, so instead, wishes she could free the golem. The next thing she knew, she woke up back in her bed, and that is where I will leave it to learn what happens next.
I hope you enjoyed my Sunday book reviews throughout the year. I managed to exceed my Goodreads Reading Challenge by 22 books this year. Stay tuned for next year’s mixed bag of genre reviews.
Welcome to my Sunday Book Review. Two seasonal reads, today I’m sharing. Two heartfelt short story reads by Robbie Cheadle – The Christmas Bird, and D. L. Finn’s – A Long Walk Home. These are two short reads that are sure to touch our hearts and remind us about the spirit of Christmas.
The Deanne family is having a difficult time financially. Mr. Deanne’s business has failed and there is no money for Christmas presents and other luxuries. The family’s undernourished dogs discover a bird’s nest on Christmas Day and attack and kill the chicks. All except one tiny ball of fluff with luminous bright eyes like drops of oil. The baby bird is in shock, but the four Deanne girls try to save it. Will the Christmas Bird survive?
My 5 Star Review:
My 5 Star Review:
Hard times in the Deanne family. Mr. Deanne scrounges up what he can, enough to buy two chickens and cherries for Christmas. This would be a great treat for the family with four daughters who haven’t had the luxury of a savory meal in awhile. Even their pet dogs were emaciated looking from a non substancial diet. So no doubts they found the nest up on a tree tempting and killed the brand new baby chicks – except one.
When the girls hear all the commotion out front with the dogs barking, the one tiny Hoopoe bird is still alive. The girls take care of him and nurse him back to health and name him Hoopie.
A few months later, Mr. Deanne picks up a new job, and the eldest daughter, Stella also gets a part-time job. When Easter rolls around, the mother announces they are all going on a beach holiday for school break. By then, Hoopie is home- trained, and they of course take him with them on vacation. Hoopie enjoyed flying around there freely. The girls worried he may fly away now that he learned to forage for his own food and they hadn’t seen him now for a few days. Hoopie does return and he goes back home with the family. Later Hoopie meets a mate. The girls are sad for Hoopie’s new independence, but realize he is a creature of the skies who must make a family of his own, so they build a nest in preparation for the one day Hoopie will come back to nest with family. Will he?
This is a lovely story about a loving family with kindness and nurturing for each other and their feathered friends.
All alone on Christmas Eve, Kenzie was feeling the betrayal of her recent break-up. While the sky was heavy with the dark clouds of an impending storm, she walked home from work to clear her head. Lost in her memories, Kenzie was completely unaware she was being followed by a man with green-eyes. Was this not-so-human being the good or evil that lurked around her? On the most magical night of the year, will Kenzie be able to save herself from that evil or will she need some divine inspiration? The outcome will depend on whether she can find the strength to forgive as the storm not only rages outside, but deep within her soul.
My 5 Star Review:
This is a short heartfelt Christmas story with all the elements of the season – a blustery cold almost Christmas day, friendship, angels, furry friends, and one evil man to disrupt hearts, but is eventually rewarded with his due karma.
Kenzie is not having a good Christmas. Her fiance has dumped her, her parents are dead, and her best friend has betrayed her, leaving Kenzie feeling there isn’t much left for her to live for, when her guardian angel gives her a new reason to want to continue on.
Kenzie was ‘left at the altar’ so to speak, when her awful fiance Heath stiffs her days before her Christmas wedding day. If that wasn’t bad enough, she discovers her best friend is now the one to marry Heath. That’s a hard pill to swallow. But just as a furry litter of kittens has given Kenzie a new reason to soldier on, she discovers her now ex-bestie was dumped just as she was – a suspicious pattern of women being used. We discover more dirt on the dastardly Heath as the two girlfriends meet up serendipituously on a blustery Christmas Eve and discover Heath’s evil pattern. Will the spirit of Christmas bring these two friends back together? You will have to read on to find out.