Sunday Book Review – Sisters by Judith Barrow – #psychologicaldrama

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.

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Get This Book on Amazon

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Blurb:

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.

©DGKaye2023

Sunday Book Review – #Poetry – Sorrowful Soul by Harmony Kent.

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.

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Blurb:

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

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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

Your compassion

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.

©DGKaye 2023

Sunday Book Review – The Bubble Reputation by Alex Craigie #novella

My Sunday Book Review today is for Alex Craigie’s new release – The Bubble Reputation. Alex takes us into a story about the evils of social media when children’s author Emmie is setup by a rag newspaper by a ruthless Ursula Bloom who pushes her reporter Jessie to the limit by asking her to dig dirt on Emmie, who has a sparkling reputation that turns ugly when lies are created and images are photo-shopped. An eerie story that reminds us that we are all open game when it comes to the evils of social media and the digital world.

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Blurb:

If you want to destroy someone’s reputation, social media provides the perfect tool.

Emmie Hobson, children’s author and TV presenter, is riding high on a wave of popularity when an unscrupulous newspaper editor, desperate for a scoop, brings Emmie’s world crashing down.

Social media picks up the baton and a terrifying backlash of hate and abuse is unleashed. Threats are made and there are those, inflamed by the rhetoric, prepared to take the law into their own hands.

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My 5 Star Review:

I’ve never met a book from this author I didn’t enjoy. This book is a story about how low people will go and how easy it is to get people riled up and become haters through social media. Sad to see how far people will go to ruin a reputation for ratings and the almighty dollar.

Emmie is a kind children’s author and TV presenter with a near spotless reputation. But Ursula Bloom needs dirt on Emmie for better ratings – even though there isn’t any. Ursula, the editor of a rag tabloid pushes her reporter Jessie to get some dirt in return for a big bonus. There is no dirt so the ball gets rolling by asking the nasty co star Tiffany for some dirt, which is barely anything, but then distorted. Sadly, there seems to be no control on the evil on manufacturing lies and doctoring images, as defamation and libel run wild. Taking photos and embellishing them to look like events that never took place is the name of the game for Ursula. Then all that’s required is linking images to a BS story, and set it ablaze into social media, and one children’s author’s reputation is smeared.

Emmie’s friends shockingly join the masses of haters, because of course, it’s easier to be a sheep and go with the masses than to look for the truth. Emmie has only her husband Luke and her loving parents to stand by her side. Even Emmie’s loser, jealous sister Livvy gets in on the action. She has no ambitions, addicted to drugs, and never has money. But Emmie is too good to her until she finds out that Livvy too, helped create stories by offering personal information on her sister so she could earn some money to support her drug habit, demonstrating that money is thicker than blood.

The story grabs us as we get a good scope of exactly how easy it is to smear someone’s reputation publicly with lies. My heart went out to Emmie in this book and kept me wondering how she could stop the madness and restore her reputation. The author does a wonderful job of sewing up the story with a satisfying conclusion after squirming through Emmie’s unjustified attacks.

©DGKaye2022

Sunday Book Review – Fairies, Myths, & Magic II – A Winter Celebration by Colleen Chesebro

Welcome to my Sunday Book Review. I’m thrilled to be reviewing Colleen Chesebro’s new release – Fairies, Myths & Magic II. Colleen brings us into various fairy worlds, explains the myths and celebrations of pagan traditions, and stories inspired by the winter solstice.

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Blurb:

In this second book in the Fairies, Myths, & Magic series, step into a world where dark fairies and other magical beings converge in a collection of poetry and short stories inspired by winter and the celebration of the winter solstice.

From autumn’s scary fairies to the forgotten female characters of Yule, prepare to embrace the magical winter solstice myths from around the world. Meet Frau Holle in the Wild Hunt, Befana—the Christmas Witch of Italy, and the Japanese goddess Ameratasu who controls the springtime. Prepare to embrace the Scottish trows, the Irish Goddess of Winter—the Cailleach Béara, and Snegurochka—the Snow Girl.

Learn how to make Yuletide rituals part of your celebration by embracing the symbols of Yule by decorating with evergreens and crystals.

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My 5 Star Review:

This is book 2 in Chesebro’s FM&M series. In this edition, there is a delicious sprinkling of poetry, ancient pagan myths and legends, faery folklore, celebrations of winter solstice, and short flash stories with accompanying poems to highlight the stories.

The book begins by explaining the magic folklore and legends and some of the rituals of the winter solstice, pagan rituals, and an eerie faery story, the Changeling, about a little girl gone missing as revenge by an evil faery queen because of a generational curse. The way the author evokes the story is not only engaging, but the folklore in her stories give us insights as to the varying rituals pertaining to each subject.

In the Changeling, Trisha and David are filled with woe when Trish discovers her little four year old has gone missing from the back yard without explanation. When David arrives home from work and hears this news, he begins searching for the little one and discovers a piece of cholla wood in his garage with an engraved image of his daughter, making him realize, it was time for him to pay his debt to the faeries, otherwise known as the ‘good people’- despite them not all being good. David explains to his wife the curse and the story about how the dark faery queen shows up when it’s time to pay the debt for the accidental death of a baby killed back in David’s Irish ancestral history. The myth goes back to when the gentry would snatch a child and replace them with a changeling and send the human child to the ‘Otherworld’. But the people learned how to deal with these evil faeries and knew how to get their children back. In this story, the original plan of return backfired and so the penance for David’s family was that they would never know when the queen would show up and snatch one of their children.

David searches frantically through archived Gaelic scriptures in hopes to find out more about how the curse worked, while Trish searched online how to deal with the faery. David wants to sacrifice himself in his daughter’s stead, but Trish finds a different solution worth trying before sacrificing her husband’s life for her daughter’s. On Halloween, the next night, David and Trisha stood in the desert under a full moon and waited for the faery queen to appear. In a whirlwind, the queen appeared and swooped them right up and took them into her world. Trish gives an offering to the queen in exchange for her daughter and discovers her daughter and another changeling who looks just like her daughter. You will have to read on to discover if a bargain is struck and who is this other child. A few other of my favorite stories – Trash or Treasure? – The old saying – ‘One man’s trash is another man’s treasure’, Night of the Mothers – a Germanic holiday that celebrates motherhood and female ancestors. The author talks about Yuletide and takes us through the celebrations of solstice from various countries around the world – Germany, Italy, Iceland, China, Japan, and more.

Yuletide is the time to release the darkness and back to the light – making way for the sun’s return to spring. We will learn the significance of holly, ivy, mistletoe, and everything else tied in with this celebration, foods eaten to celebrate, and more. Did you know the foliage of the Evergreen trees represent immortality and mistletoe represents luck, love and fertility? Where did the usage of Christmas trees originate? Read this book to find the answers and more.

©DGKaye2022

Q & A with D.G. Kaye is featuring Sally Cronin from Smorgasbord Blog Magazine with her Hot #NewRelease – Variety is the Spice of Life – #shortstories and #poetry

November is promotion month here at my blog; and I’m kicking off this week with my dear friend, author/blogger, podcaster, and short story writer extraordinaire, Sally Cronin. Sally is a staunch supporter and promoter of so many writer’s books and blogs. I am also fortunate to be one of Sally’s ongoing guest writers with various columns I write for her on her blog – currently, my spiritual awareness series. My friend Sally tirelessly promotes others and barely a peep from her on the socials about her own new book – Variety is the Spice of Life – A blend of poetry and prose. So I’m happy to share Sally’s book here today along with a little Q & A.

I know most of you here are familiar with Sally and her Smorgasbord Blog Magazine, but she hasn’t been featured here for a while, so today I’m thrilled to have her over and share some more interesting tidbits about Sally and her writing. Enjoy!

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Sally Cronin image

About Sally:

Sally Cronin is the author of sixteen books including her memoir Size Matters: Especially when you weigh 330lb first published in 2001. This has been followed by another fifteen books both fiction and non-fiction including multi-genre collections of short stories and poetry.

As an author she understands how important it is to have support in marketing books and offers a number of FREE promotional opportunities on her blog and across her social media. The Smorgasbord Bookshelf

Her podcast shares book reviews, poetry and short stories https://soundcloud.com/sallycronin

After leading a nomadic existence exploring the world, she now lives with her husband on the coast of Southern Ireland enjoying the seasonal fluctuations in the temperature of the rain.

Sally’s blog: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com

Variety is the Spice of Life by Sally Cronin

Get this book on Amazon!

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0BMXMVGZ7

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B0BMXMVGZ7

Blurb:

Variety is the Spice of Life is a collection of poetry and short stories about relationships with others, including pets and animals inhabiting the world around us. The connection with others brings love and friendship, excitement and sometimes surprises, danger, mystery and sometimes the unexpected.

The poetry explores human nature, the fears, desires, expectations and achievements. Nature offers a wonderful opportunity to observe animals both domesticated and wild. Even in a back garden you can observe a wide variety of creatures and the daily challenges to survive a harsh environment.

The short stories introduces you to a healer whose gift comes with danger, a neighbour determined to protect a friend, a woman on the run, an old couple whose love has endured, an elderly retired teacher who faces a life changing accident, a secret that has been carried for over 70 years and a village who must unite as they face devastating news.

Welcome

Welcome back to my blog Sal. Thrilled to have you over today and share your good news!

Thank you so much Debby for inviting me over to chat and to share the news about my latest release.

What inspired you to Write this book?

I love writing and over the course of a year I will jot down poetry, sometimes participate in a blog challenge, or an idea will come to me when I am doing tapestry or listening to music. These days I have to write things as they come to me, otherwise they might get lost if I leave it too long. It is the same with short stories, and I throw them down in a rough draft on the computer whilst the muse is with me and then go back and refurbish them down the line.

This is how I ended up with nearly 40 poems and 8 short stories. For the last ten years the tag line for my blog Smorgasbord Blog Magazine, has been Variety is the Spice of Life, so I decided it was time to make that the headline rather than the afterthought.

D.G. – Sal, you and I, once again, with the same working system. My musings go right into a Word doc or forever lost! ❤

What can you tell us you’ve gained from blogging as an author?

I would find it difficult to fully measure the impact being part of the blogging community has made to my life. The first day I began blogging was during the last few months of my mother’s life. I had been living with her full time for two years and had given up my work as a nutritional therapist and my radio and television commitments as she required round the clock care.

I don’t regret that in any way, but it did suddenly shrink my world with a loss of contact with others in the real sense. I had to focus all my physical and emotional efforts on keeping my mother well and in her own home, which was very important to her.  To be honest, that was important to me too, as I really didn’t think she would be happy in a care home. At that point my husband David, who had been looking after his father for the last year joined us and that made a huge difference, but I still felt isolated and cut off from the world.

I was reading a blog online one day and realized that I had a lot of health articles that I had published individually, and in a couple of books, that might be of interest to others. I also had my first collection of short stories that I could share. I came up with a couple of names for my blog over the next year and dabbled with a few posts before finally settling on Smorgasbord Blog Magazine in early 2012.

During the last months of my mother’s life, blogging offered me the opportunity to get back out in to the world in a virtual sense at least, and it gave me a huge boost. I began to make connections, chat to people about their lives and swapping stories, it opened the universe back up to me. It provided an outlet for what I have always loved doing, which is writing and telling stories. It also went a long way to reducing the personal pressure that had been building up steadily over the previous two or three years.

To be honest, I probably work as hard at blogging as I did any of my full-time jobs, and I don’t mind in the slightest. I began promoting books for other authors eight years ago in a more organized way and this introduced me to the amazingly generous writing community we are part of today.

I get far more back than I give in terms of support, and this was particularly so during the pandemic, when we were house bound and without the physical connections we all need so badly.

I have gained so much from blogging and apart from the companionship, friendship and support it has also increased my confidence in my own writing, encouraged me to return to poetry and to push myself out of the comfort zone we create as we get older. It is so important to be mentally engaged and participating in the world, even when it is a virtual environment.

It is something I plan on doing until the last possible moment. I would love to be doing this at 100 but might need a little medicinal tequila to keep it up lol.

D.G. – I am certainly with you on the gratefulness of our writer friends and blogging community. I know well of what you speak in dire times of loneliness when being a caregiver. If it weren’t for you and this wonderful community, I shudder to think where I’d be now. And lol on the tequila my Margarita, cohort pal. 🙂

How has writing changed your life?

I had written poems and short stories from a very early age, but without any intention of sharing them to a wider audience.

My first book was never intended to be published, as it began as a journal to record my weight loss in my early forties, and a way to explore why I had become morbidly obese. When I lost 150lbs in 18 months it had a profound impact on my life and health. I had studied nutrition over a two year period in an effort to understand my body and its needs. Then, having developed my own successful eating programme, I wanted to share that with others.

When the manuscript was finished I approached a well-known agent here in Ireland where we were living at the time in the late 1990s. I was running a health food shop and dietary advisory centre, and felt confident that the book was now comprehensive enough to help others lose their weight. My agent approached 7 established publishers in the UK and all said the book was great, but I was an unknown author, and they didn’t feel I would attract the media attention for this book. Also they were concerned that I would only have the one book and would therefore not be profitable in the long run.

That pushed me into self-publishing this book and the following novel Just an Odd Job Girl with Trafford publishing in Canada. I did the promotion for the first book without the benefit of the Internet in those days and with press releases and leg work managed to get some national and local coverage.

David had not only formatted my books, but was also doing so for other authors and we formed Moyhill Publishing in 2004 which gave both of us an opportunity to take full advantage of the emerging self-publishing market. I had taken my books back from Trafford in 2002 and we reformatted them for print and as soon as eBooks became available in that format too.   David took care of the technical side and I worked with our authors on their book launches and promotions.

Writing that first book did change my life and sent me in a direction I never imagined I would take. It led to a career on radio and online television. This current book is the 16th and I have a sequel to Size Matters coming out in the New Year 2023 with a couple more in process. After that, who knows but I am looking forward to finding out.

I have no idea where I would be if I had not taken the plunge with my writing, but I have no doubt my life would not be so fulfilled as it is today.

D.G. – No doubts your health articles are very informative. And you are so blessed to have David – not only as a loving husband, but a best friend, and great help for your publishing. 🙂

Do you agree with the general consensus that writers are loners?

The act of writing does tend to be solitary that’s true, but to be creative does require interaction with the world and other people.

I notice that many of the writers in our community are relatively late starters as far as writing their blogs and books is concerned. This usually means that they have experience of the world, relationships both personal and work related, and have come to know themselves well.

Whether it is fiction or non-fiction, it requires a depth of understanding about life, to make it resonate with the reader. Even fantasy authors need to have a good understanding of human nature, even if they are creating fabulous alternative universes.

I don’t believe you can be creative within a vacuum. So being a loner does not necessarily serve a writer well. Solitude on the other matter, when in the process of writing a book, is something to be treasured. But then being able to obtain feedback, support and the confidence it needs to publish that book, requires other people, such as those in our writing community, in blog world and on social media.

I suspect more than one of us is now more inclined to isolate from large crowds, public transport, plane travel and other tight spaces where others gather. I am certainly wearing my mask when I am in a crowded area, although I notice more people smiling with their eyes, nodding to each other and being more courteous than before. That has to be a good thing.

And it is hard to be a loner when part of our writing community. It seems you only have to be missing for a day or two for someone to come knocking on your virtual window and asking what’s going on. As it should be, and I am very grateful for it.

D.G. – I absolutely agree Sally. Writing is a solo invent, but engagement, support, and community are such a big part of our writing world.

I have selected one of the poems to share from the collection

Lullaby

to sing
a lullaby
you must first consider
preferences of the baby
waiting

perhaps
a jolly song
aimed to make them chortle
to wave their hands around with glee
happy

maybe
slow and gentle
soothing a fractious mood
or the soreness of teething gums
tearful

deep toned
to reassure
those fearing the shadows
now allayed by a father’s voice
safety

language
a foreign tongue
but words that mothers sing
to babies all around the world
loving.

Find Sally on Social Sites:

Find Sally on her Social Sites:

http://uk.linkedin.com/in/sallycronin1

https://www.facebook.com/sally.cronin

https://twitter.com/@sgc58

Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7979187.Sally_Cronin


Blog : https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com


Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/sallycronin

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Sally’s books:

Sally's book covers

Books
https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/my-books/

Amazon

https://www.amazon.com/author/sallycroninbooks

©DGKaye2022

Sunday Book Review – Well Behaved Wives by Amy Sue Nathan

My Sunday book review is for Amy Sue Nathan’s – Well Behaved Wives. This book takes place in the early 60s where most women were coming into themselves and waking up for and beginning to stand up for their equal rights. But there are many places where that kind of ambition and talk is just nonsense. Ruth Applebaum is the main character and will have you cheering for her all through the facade she must keep up, hiding her true ambition.

This book is available on Amazon

Blurb:

Perfect wives, imperfect lives, and upending the rules of behavior in 1960s America.

Law school graduate and newlywed Ruth Appelbaum is acclimating to life and marriage in a posh Philadelphia neighborhood. She’ll do almost anything to endear herself to her mother-in-law, who’s already signed up Ruth for etiquette lessons conducted by the impeccably accessorized tutor Lillian Diamond. But Ruth brings something fresh to the small circle of housewives—sharp wit, honesty, and an independent streak that won’t be compromised.

Right away Ruth develops a friendship with the shy Carrie Blum. When Carrie divulges a dark and disturbing secret lurking beneath her seemingly perfect life, Ruth invites Lillian and the Diamond Girls of the etiquette school to finally question the status quo.

Together they form an unbreakable bond and stretch well beyond their comfort zones. For once, they’ll challenge what others expect from them, discover what they expect from themselves, and do whatever it takes to protect one of their own—fine manners be damned.

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My 5 Star Review:

This story is set in mid-upper class suburb of Wynnefield, Philadelphia, early 1960s. This is where Ruth has moved to with her newlywed husband Asher after she graduated law school in New York and eloped with Asher. They are living with Asher’s parents Shirley and Leon, with the secret that Ruth is a liberal woman who is studying for the bar exam, and decide not to tell Asher’s parents because his pushy mother Shirley expects Ruth to be an obedient, good Jewish wife and be subservient to her husband.

Shirley decides to send Ruth to her friend Lillian’s private housewife etiquette school at her home where a small group of girls learn how to become the perfect wives, shop, cook, clean, have babies, praise their husbands, and of course, after a day’s work, make sure they get changed into fancy dresses and put on make-up to greet their husbands when they return from a hard day’s work at the office, complete with a cocktail in hand upon their return – almost Madmen-esque. Except Ruth is a sharp and educated young woman and has seen and dealt with things growing up and living in New York that this group of girls she meets are oblivious to – until they become woke.

Ruth came from a family where women were treated equally and she lost her mother at four years old. She is forward thinking for the times. She didn’t want to upset the apple cart by sharing her becoming a lawyer intentions with anyone, until she befriends a few girls in the etiquette class and reveals her education to one of them. These girls also went to college, but not so much for the education, but to snag a husband. Ruth also volunteered to help abused women while back in New York, and somehow observes that there is indeed abuse going on in high society where she now lives, which isn’t exposed, nor believed around the good family value circles she’s now living among. The other girls in her group are Carrie, still childless with a secret, Irene who was made to give up her nursing career once married, and now has four young kids, and Harriet, newly engaged to be married, and both envious and curious about Ruth’s ambition.

Through the story we learn that Lillian’s seemingly perfect life isn’t as fulfilling as she wishes it could be Lillian could have had a career too, she comes to realize, once she learns how independent Ruth is. We can sympathize with Lillian, despite how she comes off at first as ‘Miss Manners’, as we get to know more about her sad childhood that comes to light in conversations, discovering she was raised by her grandparents because her mother was put in an institution when Lillian was only eleven and her father was dead. Until one day, Lillian discovers an old photo of herself with her parents, which compels her to go visit her institutionalized mother – with said, dementia, to see if the picture stirs anything of recognition – then a whole new kettle of fish is discovered – and a terrible secret exposed about what caused her mother to be institutionalized.

Ruth’s husband is crazy about her but keeps putting off the time to share Ruth’s ambitions with his parents. Ruth befriends one of the girls in particular and shares her secret that she has graduated law school and studying for the bar. She suspects this friend is being physically abused by her husband, but the girl denies it and makes excuses for her husband and tries to shut Ruth out of her life, afraid to cause trouble. But Ruth instinctively wants to help her, because it’s part of who she is and what she does – defend powerless women. Later in the book the women are forced to confront the realism of domestic abuse and many secrets of the past are revealed about Lillian and Shirley’s past, and secret lives.

This story takes on many issues about women back in the early 60s. Society dictates what’s expected of them, but some have a voice and go against the norm. Spousal abuse in an upper class surburbia just couldn’t be possible. Respectable men with important jobs would never abuse their wives, would they? And awakenings stir on the topic of mental health, which back in those days didn’t take much to have a woman committed for hysteria or any other dispicable label they could place on one to have them certifiably locked up because their men declared them so.

This book was a time capsule about the place of women back in the early 60s, a nod to how far we’ve come since then, but then again, how much further we have yet to go. I enjoyed this book so much – the characters, the issues, and the development of these ‘Diamond’ girls who learned to take their power. The writing was beautiful, and I should look forward to reading more from this author. At the end of the book, the author offers many resources for abused women to seek help. I’ll definitely be reading more from this author.

©DGKaye2022

Sunday Book Review – The Second Mrs. Astor by Shana Abe #Historical #Titanic

Welcome to my Sunday Book Review. Today I’m reviewing Shana Abe’s hot seller – The Second Mrs. Astor: A Heartbreaking Historical Novel of the Titanic. This is the story of the upper class families of New York in the early 1900s when the Astor family were the creme de la creme of the elite and privileged. A true love story emerges between Jack and his much younger love, Madeleine Force who also comes from a wealthy family, but not quite as elite as Colonel Jack Astor’s.

Blurb:

Blurb:

Blurb:

“Abé is an exquisite storyteller. Rich in detail and deeply moving.” —Fiona Davis, New York Times bestselling author of The Magnolia Palace

“One of the most beautifully written books I’ve ever had the pleasure to read. A gorgeous, phenomenal novel I won’t soon forget.” —Ellen Marie Wiseman New York Times bestselling Author of The Orphan Collector

Perfect for fans of Jennifer Chiaverini and Marie Benedict, this riveting novel takes you inside the scandalous courtship and catastrophic honeymoon aboard the Titanic of the most famous couple of their time—John Jacob Astor and Madeleine Force. Told in rich detail, this novel of sweeping historical fiction will stay with readers long after turning the last page.

Madeleine Talmage Force is just seventeen when she attracts the attention of John Jacob “Jack” Astor. Madeleine is beautiful, intelligent, and solidly upper-class, but the Astors are in a league apart. Jack’s mother was the Mrs. Astor, American royalty and New York’s most formidable socialite. Jack is dashing and industrious—a hero of the Spanish-American war, an inventor, and a canny businessman. Despite their twenty-nine-year age difference, and the scandal of Jack’s recent divorce, Madeleine falls headlong into love—and becomes the press’s favorite target.

On their extended honeymoon in Egypt, the newlyweds finally find a measure of peace from photographers and journalists. Madeleine feels truly alive for the first time—and is happily pregnant. The couple plans to return home in the spring of 1912, aboard an opulent new ocean liner. When the ship hits an iceberg close to midnight on April 14th, there is no immediate panic. The swift, state-of-the-art RMS Titanic seems unsinkable. As Jack helps Madeleine into a lifeboat, he assures her that he’ll see her soon in New York…

Four months later, at the Astors’ Fifth Avenue mansion, a widowed Madeleine gives birth to their son. In the wake of the disaster, the press has elevated her to the status of virtuous, tragic heroine. But Madeleine’s most important decision still lies ahead: whether to accept the role assigned to her, or carve out her own remarkable path…
 
“A touching, compelling, and haunting love story that will delight fans of historical fiction and enthrall those of us for whom the Titanic will always fascinate.”
—Hazel Gaynor, New York Times bestselling author of When We Were Young and Brave

 
“An engaging novel told with both heartbreaking care and vivid detail. The Second Mrs. Astor is historical fiction at its gripping and irresistible best.”
—Patti Callahan , New York Times bestselling author of Surviving Savannah and Becoming Mrs. Lewis

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My 5 Star Review:

This book was most beautifully written with great details of characters and settings, taking us right into the times of the early 1900s – the ‘gilded age’, in this fictionalized telling about the true love story between two wealthy socialiates – Colonel John (Jack) Astor, and Madeleine Force. The elite travel in similar circles, which gave young Madeleine the opportunity to meet divorced Colonel Jack Astor – twenty-nine years her senior. The age difference didn’t seem to be a problem back then, as long as there was money mixing with money.

Jack and Madeleine were equally drawn to each other, and theirs became a beautiful and tragic love story. Once Madeleine turned eighteen they could and finally did marry, and with that brought the media press always hounding them. Jack decided to take his bride abroad to visit Europe and Egypt to escape the cold New York winter – and the press, where they shared a most beautiful long vacation, with rich, picturesque descriptions. On their journey back to America they sailed back from Europe on the brand new Titanic on its maiden voyage, and by this time, Madeleine was already with child.

The author does an amazing job of recreating the incident of the Titanic hitting the iceberg.The story will take us right into the lives of these elite families, making us feel we are right there observing the action. Abe did a wonderful job recreating scenes, and as one could imagine, there was a wealth of research done on this period, in fact, the author cites where she did a lot of the research, at the back of her book.

The love shared between Jack and Madeleine both, a pleasure and a heartbreak to read. Jack was a handsome, divorced, rich man who could have had anyone he wanted, but all his love was only for Madeleine. It’s their beautiful love story that keeps us engaged in the story, but later in the book when they embark back for their journey home, our hearts will sink along with the Titanic as we learn what was happening with the ship, what was happening with the passengers, and most of all, what would happen to Jack and Maddie? Would they make it to safety? No spoilers here, but we all know what happened to the Titanic.

After returning home and giving birth to her son Jack Junior – Jakey, young widow Madeleine must decide where her life will take her now. Does she keep her Astor status, will Jack’s eldest son from his previous marriage finally find common ground with Madeleine? You will have to read this beautiful and heartbreaking book to find out.

©DGKaye2022

Sunday Book Review – The Necromancer’s Daughter by Diana Peach #Fantasy

Welcome to my Sunday Book Review. Today I’m reviewing Diana Peach’s newest release – The Necromancer’s Daughter. For those of you who regularly read my Sunday reviews, you will know fantasy is not one of my most go-to genres. But besides the beautiful cover, and the fact that I devoured Diana’s last book too, The Ferryman and the Sea Witch, the concept of this story had piqued my curiosity. Read my review below to see why. And let me add. I was addicted to the story and found it difficult to put the book down. Judging by the wide great reception this book is getting, I urge you to grab yourself a copy and prepare for a great adventure escape – especially while it’s on sale now for 99 cents!

Blurb:

A healer with the talent to unravel death. A stillborn child brought to life. A father lusting for vengeance. And a son torn between justice, faith, and love. Caught in a chase spanning kingdoms, each must decide the nature of good and evil, the lengths they will go to survive, and what they are willing to lose.

A healer and dabbler in the dark arts of life and death, Barus is as gnarled as an ancient tree. Forgotten in the chaos of the dying queen’s chamber, he spirits away her stillborn infant and in a hovel at the meadow’s edge, breathes life into the wisp of a child. He names her Aster for the lea’s white flowers. Raised as his daughter, she, too, learns to heal death.

Denied a living heir, the widowed king spies from a distance. But he heeds the claims of the fiery Vicar of the Red Order—in the eyes of the Blessed One, Aster is an abomination, and to embrace the evil of resurrection will doom his rule.

As the king’s life nears its end, he defies the vicar’s warning and summons the necromancer’s daughter. For his boldness, he falls to an assassin’s blade. Armed with righteousness and iron-clad conviction, the Order’s brothers ride into the leas to cleanse the land of evil.

To save her father’s life, Aster leads them beyond Verdane’s wall into the Forest of Silvern Cats, a wilderness of dragons and barbarian tribes. Unprepared for a world rife with danger and unchecked power, a world divided by those who practice magic and those who hunt them, she must choose whether to trust the one man offering her aid, the one man most likely to betray her—her enemy’s son.

From best-selling fantasy author D. Wallace Peach comes a retelling of the legend of Kwan-yin, the Chinese Goddess of Mercy. Set in a winter world of dragons, intrigue, and magic, The Necromancer’s Daughter is a story about duty, defiance, cruelty, and sacrifice— an epic tale of compassion and deep abiding love where good and evil aren’t what they seem.

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My 5 Star Review:

I’m going to start this review by saying that fantasy is not my go-to genre, but being a big fan of Diana Peach’s writing, and the storyline of this book, I couldn’t wait to get my copy. I was engaged from the first page and felt it difficult every time I had to put down the book.

This is a story about good vs. evil. We are first introduced to Barus, as he works with his adoptive mother Olma in their rustic shack-like home making up magical concoctions to heal the sick in the wilderness in the village of White Leas, Verdane. Olma also has the gift of being a necromancer – bringing the dead back to life. Barus has yet to master this gift but is put to the test when the vicar of the Red Order bangs on their door demanding they save his dead son. But it’s too late to bring him back and the vicar beats up the already semi-crippled Barus and his mother and destroys their meager contents, vowing to come back to avenge them.

Later, Barus is summoned by the King of Verdane to save his almost still-born child and his wife, the queen. Their marriage was a blend of two kingdoms – Verdane, and the Princess of Blackrock. But the Red Order intervenes and vows the people won’t accept anyone brought back to life. The child is born dead, and left as forgotten, but Barus hides the stillborn under his cloak on his departure, and performs his first necromancer ritual to bring his now adopted daughter, Aster, back to life. In the meantime, the king becomes aware of Aster’s existence and keeps an eye on her from afar, until one day when he is aging and realizes he has no heirs, he goes to summon her to come back to his castle, but the ‘Red Order’ weren’t going to have any of that. This sets Aster fleeing her home with her father Barus whom she first finds a safe place for him to stay while she continues to flee through the icy cold forest of the Silvern Cats, east, to find the king of Blackrock Kingdom where her birth mother had come from.

Along her journey she meets some interesting people who help her on her journey – mainly, Joreh, ironically, the vicar’s son, who saved Aster from his own father’s evil edict, and Teko, a barbarian cutter from the forest, and they run into many perils along the journey of escorting Aster to Blackrock through the forest in dead of winter. The action and suspense is nonstop.

Aster has the gift of a gentler, as her birth mother did. She is able to tame dragons that typically attack others, and there is one in particular that shows up at the right times in her hours of need. She also learned the craft of necromancy from her adopted father, which quite often puts her in peril as she is called a witch who preforms evil, instead of being praised for giving back life.

The plot kept me glued as Aster travels through forests and cutters and dragons and evil-doers with her new-found friends and allies in her efforts to reach her uncle, the King of Blackrock, for safe harbor, and to acknowledge she is the lost daughter of the Princess of Blackrock. She must prove herself many times over to spare her life, which is threatened repeatedly in this riveting telling.

Her quest continues and has her journeying back to Verdane to gain her rightful place as queen and to find her beloved father Barus, and in so doing, she hopes to make peace between Verdane and Blackrock, and with the Catticuts in the forest in between the two lands, instead of the constant warring between them all. With her new friends Joreh, son of the evil Vicar of Verdane and the Red Order, and Teko from the Catticut forest tribe, it was an addictive read, hoping they make the journey back to the west, safely, and hoping Aster will be accepted as the rightful new queen.

This story will grab you from the beginning and will tug at your heart strings as you root for Aster and continue to hope that goodness will overtake the evil of greedy men and their ignorant beliefs. The emotion that Peach masters in this book jumps off the pages and had me tearing up through the last chapter, but I cannot tell you why. You will have to read for yourself.

Peach is a master fantasy story teller and world builder. In this book she brings in the two opposing elements of good and evil – Aster, the daughter of royalty with a healing gift, but considered witchery and not accepted, as necromancy is a black mark deemed evil by the actual evil people in her world. Peach can write about flawed characters and deplorables, yet bring out the human side in them. This book is a fast-paced plot that will keep you turning the pages and rooting for all the good people as the story unfolds and leaves us remembering the characters long after reading.

©DGKaye2022