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Not a Blueprint; It’s the Shoeprints That Matter

Relationships play a significant role in human experiences throughout life’s journey. Nina Norstrom, in her memoir Not a Blueprint: It’s the Shoeprints That Matters refers to the toxic relationships she lives, endures, and learns through as a daughter, mate, mother, and working woman. The reader is taken on the author’s journey as they follow the shoeprints she leaves along her life path and those left behind by many others in her life. By going along with these shoeprints, the by-products of her life, readers learn about her battle against toxic relationships in various forms.

There are seventeen chapters in the memoir, which begin with an account of the author’s life. In the first nine chapters of the book, the author describes her experiences and struggles with domestic violence, both as a child witness it and in her own personal relationships. Throughout the remaining chapters, the author vividly recalls, her experiences while dealing with the toxic relationship with cancer that invades the life of her angel, her daughter.

In addition to expressing the author’s diverse emotions, the book pays homage to Nina Norstrom’s daughter, who tragically succumbed to a diseased toxic relationship in her life. My experience as a reader was emotional, and I commend the author for being open about her feelings while letting the readers inside the usually restricted area of a person’s psyche. The poems written for the departed soul of her daughter are beautifully expressed, seeping out the multitude of emotions of a parent. Moreover, the other feelings expressed in the book, whether it’s grief, anger, or resentment towards certain people, fate, or God, are raw and genuine.

This inspirational non-fiction story recounts Nina Norstrom’s journey of grief, guilt, and anger at God, to the path of finding peace with the will of God. Apart from providing solid shoes with which one can walk the hard paths of life, God also accompanies His children as they leave their shoeprints along the life journey. In the end, four appendices provide support resources, centers, and reading materials for those who are caught up in toxic relationships and would like support.

Not a Blueprint: It’s the Shoeprints That Matter is a deeply personal memoir that is recommended for those who want motivation from a genuine account of a battle with toxicity and self-reflection in the aftermath of trauma.

Pages: 179 | ASIN : B016X198SO

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Her Heart

Her Heart by Mary L. Schmidt is an inspiring and emotionally riveting story of a woman who, after years of abuse, can finally find love. Sarah is a warm-hearted nurse, a loving mother, and a women who experienced an unpleasant childhood. After years of abuse from a husband she doesn’t love she manages to leave with her son. Concerned for her son’s wellbeing, Sarah starts a new life on her own. Free of the abusive husband, and with a fresh start on life, Sarah has no intention of getting into a relationship or even thinking of marriage again. That is until an old friend from her past comes back into her life. Will Sarah believe she is worthy enough to be loved? Will she be able to trust again?

Mary L. Schmidt has written a powerful story that will inspire women who are going through the turmoil of abuse. Sarah’s story is a testament that a better life for themselves is possible, and that they are worthy of being happy. Mary’s writing is honest, and she doesn’t hold back when describing the horrifying and disturbing situations that abused women face. The author takes the reader on an emotional rollercoaster and readers really get to feel Sarah’s hopelessness. Mary’s character development is one to be admired as you see Sarah, who is an emotionally broken woman, come out of this shell of defeat and begin to rebuild her life. Through the guidance of her Cherokee grandmother’s spirit, Sarah finds her voice.

Her Heart is a powerful and emotionally stirring story that will have you rooting for Sarah. This fast and gripping read will appeal to those who can relate to Sarah’s experience but also to readers who want to understand the same trauma that Sarah lives through. It is a heartfelt story of drama, self-discovery, and perseverance.

Pages: 94 | ASIN : B09CP2C1LK

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Her Doomed Destiny

Author Interview
Amir Barghi Author Interview

Sarah follows the story of a woman who’s caught in the grip of an abusive man and is changed by the experience. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

The story of Sarah is not a new one. It might have happened for thousands of women in history who were persuaded to marry much older men or sold by their family. Most of them succumbed and accepted their fate but Sarah was different. She apparently had everything a young girl wished to have, even a young sexual partner, and her old husband didn’t care. However, it wasn’t the life she wished to have. She wanted her freedom and it was so interesting to me because few people are like her.

Sarah is an intriguing character. What were some driving ideals behind your character’s development?

Sarah not only has a beautiful face but she also has a beautiful soul. She is not just a sex object. I wanted her lover to see and understood that, too. Sarah betrayed her husband; she broke all societal norms and still wanted to go back. She wanted to make a new family with her lover and live like an ordinary woman but society usually doesn’t forget or forgive such a reckless, bold woman, and either punishes her harshly or simply exiles her. In most stories they don’t have a happy ending. They commit suicide like Anna Karenina or Madam Bovary. I know this is closer to real life, but I don’t like this ending. Therefore, just a revolution could change her doomed destiny and society might ignore her reckless behavior.

What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?

I think love and hate are the most important themes for me to explore in most of my stories. I believe a good story must follow just one general theme, not more than one. As one of my professors always told me: ”A story with too many themes just confuses the readers.” I tried to explore the concept of different types of love in my story, because I think the colonel and Sam both loved Sarah in different ways. The colonel loved her as his possession and Sam loved her as a human being.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

I have already written 10 books; two were translated and published on Amazon, Sarah and Devil’s Garden. I am actually working on others to translate and publish as well. I think my next book will be the story about a poor girl who manages to rescue a mentally sick prince with music and her magical songs. This time a female character will save the soul of a young man.

Author Links: Amazon | GoodReads

Nightingale has the most beautiful songs among the birds, but never sings in the cage. Sarah, a lonely girl with a lot of expectations, fell into the trap of a man, kept her captive because of her astonishing beauty, but never understood her feeling. First, she tried to adapt to a new life. However, it led her to unwanted change. Finally, she returned to herself when she broke the cage, got free.

The Fragments Left Behind

Omar Gonzalez
Omar Gonzalez Author Interview

Paradise Taken shares the story of Eden Flores to inspire and inform readers of the lasting effects of child abuse and sexual trauma. Why was this an important book for you to write?

Initially, I just set out to tell the story of my lifelong friend, Eden Flores. However, the more I heard about her traumatic childhood experiences, my inspiration changed. I did not just want to write a book about Eden Flores’ early life; I wanted to write a book that would inspire all who seek to understand or overcome the fragments left behind from child abuse and sexual trauma.

What was the most challenging thing you faced when putting this book together?

The most challenging part was the multiple interviews I conducted with Eden Flores. Some of the discussions became so intense that I often felt very uncomfortable and emotional and even stopped the interviews to give Eden and me a break.

What were some ideas that were important for you to share in this book?

Paradise Taken needed to serve as an advocacy recourse for sexual trauma and domestic violence victims. Sharing these strong and mature topics with Paradise Taken readers would also expose them to delicate and terrible issues some may find unfamiliar.

What do you hope is one thing readers take away from your book?

I want readers to recollect the abuses young Eden had suffered and reflect on the ways childhood abuse and trauma rob people of their innocence and impact every facet of their outlook for the rest of their lives.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook

Award-nominated author Omar Gonzalez returns to form with his trademark mixture of poetry and prose. In his debut collection, The Phantom Struggle: Memoirs of a Life Once Struggling, Omar examined the personal experiences that have defined his life to date-love and heartache, adventure, domestic violence, and more. In this follow-up, Omar dives deeper into the topic of childhood trauma by embodying the persona of his lifelong friend Eden Flores. The result, Paradise Taken: The Diary of Eden Flores, is unlike anything that Omar has ever written. Through various forms, the book ultimately serves to honor the story of Eden Flores while inspiring all who seek to understand or overcome the vestiges of child abuse and sexual trauma.

Paradise Taken

Paradise Taken: The Diary of Eden Flores Part I by [Omar Gonzalez]

In Paradise Taken author Omar Gonzalez tells the story of an American girl born to a naturalized Hispanic father. The author describes him as a physically abusive companion to his wife and his children. When their mother leaves them with their father, he escalates his alcoholism and physical violence. His daughter, whom he prefers, dresses like a boy and becomes the subject to his sexual violence. She does not disclose this to anyone, and it eats at her. When they finally leave their dad to go to their uncle’s, they are reunited with their mother, and some semblance of closure is achieved.

Paradise Taken is an emotionally-charged memoir that progressively escalates the plot by explaining the main protagonist’s life from different points of view. The narrator portrays her abusive father as a rounded character, protective and caring for his family but also a drunk, violent, and a sexual offender. In this way I think the book does a great job of showing the duality of a person.

I like how the author extracts from Eden’s journals in the chapter “Like a Boy,” giving a glimpse into what it was like, living in a constantly oppressive environment—added to the fact that they are also immigrants. A bias that exposes their dad to a racist interaction with a police officer. 

The way the author uses the third person perspective to highlight this family’s development gives readers first-hand experiences of the oppressive environment they were in. The letters by the protagonist make the pain of her abuse along with that of her mother’s are very relatable.

Paradise Taken is a remarkable translation of Eden’s story from her diary. This is a stirring and thought-provoking biography that is relatable across genders and social structures. This is an illuminating and impassioned story that is guaranteed to stick with you long after you have put the book down.

Pages: | ASIN: B09CW9P87B

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The Women’s Meeting

The Women’s Meeting by [J. E. London]

The Women’s Meeting by J.E. London combines crime thriller, mystery, and psychological fiction to portray the cutthroat world of insatiable men, the shocking and uncomfortable aspects of humanity, and the irrevocable effect of devious crimes on the victim. Dr. Angela Morrison, a psychologist in Washington D.C., facilitates the women’s meetings at the Church with four women who all have been victimized by sexual exploitation, intimidation, neglect, and silence they restrict within themselves. She recognizes aspects of her mother in each of these women and aims to help them find themselves and their truth; however, she finds herself searching for her own truth, with the grim truth coming out in ways incomprehensible to both her and the reader until the very end.

This is an ensemble story, and each character feels both unique but relatable. The characters relive their experiences through flashbacks, recalling some disturbing situations and scenes, but each one has an essence of truth that carries a larger message. While Earnestine, Candace, and Toni may represent hapless and forlorn victims, I personally connected with Anita and her domestic abuse, but they all inspire remorse in the reader.

The message in the book that I feel should be embraced is the practice of will and determination combined with the aid of a therapist to come out of the dark past without solely relying on prayers and divinity to get us through it. Among the devious and disturbing stories of men deceptively dressed in angelic clothing, I appreciate that the author also showcases the trustworthy and humane side of the male gender. There is not only a relief for the women in the story to be around men like Kyle and Dr. Atkins, but I also felt they brought much-needed goodness to the story, representing that evil lies in intent rather than in man.

The part of the book that is uncomfortably vivid and made me squirm is the abundance of explicit descriptions of lustful passion, rapes, and sexual interplay with women and young girls. It is hard to believe that such conduct occurs in this world, so easily overlooked, affecting the victims’ futures and souls, but it does and the truth reflected in these stories is what made me squirm, not the literature that conveyed the message so skillfully.

From beginning to end this novel is filled with drama and intrigue. The revelation of Angela’s grim and unsettling secret at the end of the story caught me by surprise. While the novel is dark and reveals the unfortunate hardships hidden behind the glamorous veil of hypocrisy, it also conveys a message to be grateful for the taken-for-granted comforts of life such as family, friends, and shelter.

The Women’s Meeting is an emotionally charged story that is ultimately uplifting and always entertaining. I would caution readers as there is mature content in the book, but if you can handle it then I believe you are going to enjoy the intriguing characters and profound themes explored within.

Pages: 412 | ASIN: B081DNQCJT

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User. by [Fivos Panayiotou]

User, by Fivos Panayiotou, is the recollection of true experiences involving domestic abuse over time. The main character, Brondo, finds himself in a relationship that he believed was the best thing to ever happen to him. Over time, he realizes the manipulation at hand, and is left to wonder how he got to that point in his life.

The book begins with the main character feeling so depressed about his life that he contemplates suicide. Brondo is introduced to Sheena online and they form a relationship. Sheena tells Brondo she has dealt with abuse in her marriage and because she has children with him, she feels stuck. Brondo starts to fall for Sheena the more they get to know each other and four months into their relationship he believes he has met his soulmate. Throughout the story Brondo is manipulated, used, disrespected, and violated by Sheena. Who you believe to be a victim at the beginning of the story is revealed to be the abuser of this relationship.

Panayiotou has a writing style that is explicit in verbiage and very raw. Throughout the book, Panayiotou introduces difficult topics such as emotional and physical abuse, molestation, and rape. The events depicted in this story are not sugar-coated, and this may be difficult for some to read, but it definitely paints a vivid and realistic picture. The characters in this story were relatable, and they depicted bad qualities you see in real-life individuals.

The raw truth throughout this story is truly heart-wrenching. Reading the graphic details of what this character went through, I felt events from my own past resurface. When reading this book, I felt as if I was right there with the main character.

User, by Fivos Panayiotou, is a riveting, authentic, and impassioned story that will stir the soul. I would not recommend this book to anyone who has experienced emotional, physical, or sexual abuse.

Pages: 241 | ASIN: B08ZRWSJ3M

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A Victim Can Win

Mary J Schalla
Mary J Schalla Author Interview

Escaping My Predator details your experiences in an abusive relationship and the ordeal of bringing him to justice. Why was this an important book for you to write?

I started writing my story as a way to document everything that had happened to myself and my children. I didn’t want my story to disappear like so many others do. As I continued to write my story while continuing to go to court with my abuser, I realized I had to try to help others. I had to google a ton of information for my next steps to fight my abuser, and I realized someone in a way worse off position than I was in, wouldn’t think to do that. I wanted to make the court process slightly easier, by explaining where I had contact, explaining the protection orders I asked for and received, and also applying for a private information and how I was able to have charges laid on my abuser. Many do not know that this is even an option.

I also wanted my book to have the resources I was able to use. I wanted to show people that there are many resources to help them through something like this and to also give them an idea of how those resources help. I had to show people that a victim can fight and that a victim can win.

Upon completion of my book, my only goal at the time was the hopes of it helping even one person. Today my book is being read by police officers, lawyers and victims. My book won’t just help victims of domestic violence, it will help the police to understand that when they respond to a call like this, it is a call a victim will never forget. That call for the victim and how it is responded to will either save their life so they can escape if they haven’t already, or it will harm them further, possibly sending them back to further abuse and/or possible death because they felt unheard and now feel hopeless. My book details how I had a couple of officers who were very involved in my case, who took the time to listen, to document every detail, and who understood that I was calling because I was scared for my life and that of my children.

The police understood the importance of keeping my children safe from my abuser. They also understood the dire need I had, to ask them to come to court with me to explain to the Judge why my children and myself needed such protection. It will help family law lawyers and emergency protection lawyers better understand why it’s important victims fight for their safety and that of their children. This book gives them more than a glimpse as to where changes need to be made, from the first time they connect with a victim, to go through the multiple court battles, and between family and criminal court matters of the same two individuals (the victim and the abuser) when dealing with these particular matters.

Overall, I wrote the book to help victims in any way it can.

What is a common misconception you feel people have about being in an abusive relationship?

A big misconception I think people make is assuming it’s as simple as walking out the door. There are so many reasons people have a hard time leaving an abusive relationship. I had a hard time leaving because I didn’t understand what was happening to me, only realizing I was scared of him and of being alone with him. I was naive and truly didn’t know, my then spouse could sexually assault me. I didn’t understand that I was being pulled away from people I loved and cared for. I also didn’t realize the financial abuse and psychological abuse I was being put through until I left.

I had no money to leave, I felt guilty I was breaking up my family, I didn’t know where I was going to go, and I didn’t know if I would be able to get a place to live due to not having money and because he helped me ruin my credit. I thankfully didn’t have pets, but for many, this is also a big factor in whether or not a victim can leave abuse. There is a fear of what the abuser will do to the victim should the try to leave or successfully leave. It is not uncommon to be stalked and harassed by the abuser after fleeing.

So the big misconception is “if it is that bad, why don’t you just leave”, it is never, nor will ever be as simple as walking out the door.

What is one piece of advice you wish someone had given when you were younger?

I lived a very sheltered life as a child. My parents didn’t want us to see the effects of alcohol or drugs. My parents are old school and therefore never talked about sex or what rape and sexual assault were. As a child, I never experience or was ever around anyone being abused.

I remember learning about sex in school, but they only ever touched on the word consent. They never talked about sexual violence or what to do should you ever experience it. The schools also never talked about domestic violence. So I wish the schools had this in their teachings, and I also wish parents would talk about these issues more with their teens and young adults.

What is one thing you hope readers take away from your story?

I suppose the biggest things I hope readers take away from my story is that it’s okay to rely on resources, there are many that can help you. There may be road blocks, but you can walk around them. It’s okay to be scared, but call the police when you need them, even if you call the non emergency line to ask questions about your concerns, and it’s important to stand up and advocate for yourself and your children. Understand you are never alone, there are many people out there who have gone through this, who understand how you are feeling in these moments and who will listen and believe you. When you decide you are ready to leave, take it one day at a time.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

Spousal abuse is all too common, and there are many-too many-families that are irreparably damaged.

This book is a first-person account of what it takes to survive sexual assault, emotional abuse, and long-term harassment by an intimate partner. It takes the reader through the fear and anguish, the hiding and moving, and the journey through the court system to finally achieve justice and safety for the author and her children.

Few of us can imagine that we could allow ourselves to fall victim to this kind of abuse, and this book is a perfect illustration of how a strong and confident woman can go from being on the verge of meeting her career goals to being under the control of a man who is not what he seemed, and who ultimately damaged her physical and mental health, her ability to support herself, and her sense of trust and safety in the world.

But this is also a story of hope: you CAN escape an abusive relationship; you CAN ask for help and be believed; you CAN keep your children safe; you CAN bring your abuser to justice through the courts; and you CAN come out the other side to happiness and safety.
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