A harrowing tale of family challenges one women faces traversing the life of her defiant father after her mother’s passing. Embodied with the faith of God the author narrates her perseverance with every roadblock she encounters, which adds up quickly as her patience is tested dealing with a rebellious father. Snapdragon reads as a series of episodic events, each chapter highlighting a situation that would bring anyone to the boiling point of frustration. Woven through each of these trials, the author recounts her involvement with faith. Her Christian beliefs are spun deep into the fabric of this intimate story revolving around confronting all odds to find peace with her father.
Allison St. James undoubtedly writes with a personal voice, her persistence to become close and receive the love of her father is heartbreaking at times. The seemingly open face view of her struggles with personal relationships, financial setbacks, and physical ailments never once waiver her beliefs. Aside from anyone who is a Christian or feels they have some connection to organized religion might find Allison’s passages depicting her beliefs to be preachy at times. However, her honest expression of the situation will have any reader astonished with her resolution and drive to care for her father.
The author writes with a clear tone that had me flipping through page after page finishing the book in no time. Easy to read and written in the first person the story flowed smoothly through each transition. I was impressed with the heart and emotion that shown through with such simple language. Although a few characters came off written with just a rigid introduction, and I wondered how many times Allison could be “emotionally drained”, the spirit of these relationships fostered a deeper understanding of how convoluted the authors’ life became as the story went on.
Allison’s story is composed of real-life scenarios which don’t always amount to a fairy-tale ending. Instead, despite all the challenges the author faces, Snapdragon portrays a genuine feeling of forgiveness. It reassures the reader that through these constant battles in life doing the right thing might be difficult but the conscious will always remember that decision.
Pages: 238 | ISBN:1449788777
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The King of Halloween & Miss Firecracker Queen is a memoir of your life growing up in a family that traveled often and the challenges you faced and lessons you learned. Why was this an important book for you to write?
I wrote this book for my mother- to help her heal after my dad’s death. We had spent almost 20 years dealing with his decline. Thus, it became all we could remember and all my children knew of their grandfather. I thought that if I could write the complete story, it would help all of us remember the good with the bad. Once I got into it, it helped me understand myself more fully, and set me up to live my current life which is wonderful.
This is a ‘daughters tale of family and football’. What were some ideals you wanted to capture in this book?
I want readers to feel the love and complexity of this family. We had/have big love for each other, and had a big love for football. I want readers to know that you can overcome the hang ups from your childhood. I want readers to see that race in the South was more complex than is typically discussed. I want people to know that sports can be a bridge. I want families that are dealing with the cognitive decline of a loved one to know that they can forgive themselves their impatience and frustration with the situation; we are all just doing the best we can with the situation as we understand it in the moment.
The book shows the dedication your father had towards his career and family. What is something that stands out to you to this day about your father?
My father was relentless- that was the key to his success. He was full of optimism and faith in things bigger than himself.
What do you hope readers take away from your story?
First, that my father would not have made a different choice, but he did not make an informed one. I want parents to think carefully about letting their young children engage in any kind of contact sport. I want football in general, and the NFL in particular, to think more deliberately about additional reforms to football that will make it safer. I want the general public to understand the burden CTE places on a family. And I want families that have experienced CTE to draw some comfort from reading our story.
The King of Halloween & Miss Firecracker Queen tells the story of a football life from a daughter’s perspective. Chronicling a rise through the competitive ranks—from high school to college to professional coaching, and ultimately a Super Bowl championship—it also reveals the struggle to deal with the decline and death of the patriarch, Lamar Leachman, from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) as a result of that life.
With forewords by NFL legends Phil Simms and Harry Carson, this is a true story of one family’s love for a game and for each other, one man’s strength of character, one woman’s love that sustained him.
Posted in Interviews
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The Mom and Her Autistic Daughter by Regine Dubono is a fitting title for this book. Dubono explains the life and turmoil of Desiree, an adult with autism, and her mother. Desiree’s medicines’ effects and side effects are explored. The struggle to find Desiree a long term living arrangement becomes a source of contention between Desiree, Desiree’s mother, and her caregivers. Her mother finds it difficult to find balance for herself and her daughter while playing a deck that seems stacked against them.
The author delves into Desiree’s everyday life which feels tumultuous at best. Desiree has parts of her life she enjoys such as shopping and manicures, but everything apart from that feels tense. In working in Special Education I have found in the past that this is pretty typical of autistic children. I assume that would generally carry over into adulthood as it has with Desiree. My students have had areas they excel in and become almost obsessive about their particular interests. Anything else feels boring or daunting. Any deviation from their schedule can also cause a tailspin or meltdown. These are things that readers who have not worked with people with autism may not know and may learn from the book.
I’ve also had a bit of experience in dealing with drugs and their side effects while caring for my father. Dubono explores how drugs may “fix” one issue, but cause many more. One drug may also cause further symptoms that need to be controlled, thus producing the need for more drugs. These are frustrating waters to navigate. Readers may get more of a grasp of how many pharmaceutical companies and drug-pushing doctors work in this aspect. This part of the book is especially pertinent in today’s social climate.
Dubono’s explanation of the struggles in finding Desiree a permanent and sufficient placement especially hit home for me. Many readers who have dealt with this kind of thing will be able to sympathize with the accounts she gives. It is extremely hard to find caregivers for adults. It would be exponentially harder to find care for those who are prone to have outbursts and labelled as “difficult.” Clean and suitable facilities and genuinely caring and qualified caregivers aren’t always readily available. My family knows that from experience. Anyone who has dealt with this will find her accounts relatable.
The structure of the book feels somewhat lacking and feels repetitive at times. One letter in particular that is written by the mother is repeated almost verbatim in another part of the book. I had to flip back to make sure I hadn’t lost my place. There are quite a few grammatical and spelling errors throughout the book. There are also many abbreviations that are left unexplained. There is substance in the experiences and relationship of the mother and daughter, but the book doesn’t flow as well as I would have liked it to. I think the book would benefit greatly from an editor and proofreader.
There are important lessons to be learned here. This is a story that should be told as a cautionary tale and to help parents or guardians not feel alone in this situation. Desiree’s voice should be heard, I just think the book could use some revision and restructuring.
Pages: 123 | ASIN: B07H5RCYB5
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Beloved Mother follows the lives of several family members in a poor coal-mining town during the 1900’s. What was the inspiration for the setup to this intriguing novel?
I know these people. I grew up in a lower Appalachian coalmining area. My mother grew up in the Appalachians where coalmining was a way of life. I spent my summers there where soil was a black as the coal itself, where miners can’t wash the black rings from around their eyes. The livelihood of the community depends on what can be extracted from the earth’s belly. No coal=no food, no warmth, no clothing. An accident, a death, would turn a woman’s life into a catastrophe, as she tired simply to feed her children.
Three woman struggle to find their place in a harsh Appalachian mining town. What were some obstacles you felt were important to telling their story?
One of the primary obstacles women faced then, and for many today, is society’s failure to recognize that women must cope with whatever they have available. Often times, what they are relegated to do is not what society accepts. Society then shuns them, casts them aside, because they are different. The women in BELOVED MOTHER must choose. Mona must choose a way of life that will allow her to survive by using what she has been taught. Anna chooses to live her life for a lover, and Lily chooses to make her own way through what Nature offers her. Society doesn’t approve of any of their choices. As a result, all three find themselves isolated.
You explore many ideas in this novel like family, God, and humanity. What were some themes you wanted to capture while writing?
I didn’t think about themes as I wrote BELOVED MOTHER. The threads seemed to come together as the plot developed. This novel was gifted me. Once the characters and setting gelled, the action, dialogue, senses and plot – all the story elements – played out before me as if I were watching a movie. After I finished the preliminary plot, I did see that each of the women hold a different concept of family, even though they are biologically connected. I initially included the spirit world to emphasize the Cherokee legends, to justify the bizarre actions of Mona and to lighten the tone of what was happening to the earth people. As the spirits Sister Sun, Brother Moon and Great Spirit came into focus, I realized that they offer the differing beliefs of many people, not just mountain folk or Native Americans. As a result, the earth characters pull from the spirit world in order to establish their own philosophy. The beliefs are as different as the characters themselves. Some would argue that one belief is as valid as another.
God? God, or a supernatural power, is presented as a vengeful Old Testament being, a being that terrifies Anna as she realizes she is dying. As Great Spirit is known to Mona and Lily, this supreme being is sometimes tired, a forgetful character who gets overwhelmed by the actions of those on earth. Other times, he leaves people to survive their own actions. He also merges with the spiritual concept of a loving God for good, to help Lily survive the loses she must face. Then, too, Mona so distorts the concept of a superior being that she, or her talking weasel, convinces herself that she is more powerful than Great Spirit. In looking back, the reader might see these characters as prototypes of different ways of looking at a supreme being. I had no intention of writing such, but perhaps I did.
Humanity is depicted as humanity often shows itself to be: hurtful, manipulative, greedy, gentle, loving. One character who borders on being a narcissist comes forward to save the most vulnerable character in the novel. One character has no concept of the role of father and almost kills his son. One character, on the other hand, bribes his boss to insure that his son will have an education that will carry him out of the coalmines. Overall, the characters portray the different personalities that we encounter. We all are different. We all have different reasons for doing what we do. We make mistakes. We have successes. Like the characters in BELOVED MOTHER, we trod along, attempting to survive as best we can.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
The working title of my current project is SUMMER OF NO RAIN. The manuscript is currently with Beta readers. I hope that it will be available late 2019. The story is based on actual events of the late 1960s near Montgomery, Alabama. A clinic for women of color used 1964 Civil Rights monies to establish a program that used sterilization experiments on illiterate and young girls of color. The case against the clinic went to the US Supreme Court in 1974.
In SUMMER OF NO RAIN, the characters, the setting, the events all are fiction. I researched what medicines and procedures were used to sterilize these young girls and let those events become part of a 12-year-old mulatto’s summer. The plot focuses on her socialization failures, her physical decline, and her eventual suicide attempt and the love her mother has for her.
Like BELOVED MOTHER, the tone is serious. It must be, for the procedures were brutal. The outcome was a farce as the reader will see, but I tried to lighten the mood by including events typical of children in 1968 in rural Alabama.
SUMMER OF NO RAIN depicts a grave injustice that many today know nothing about. Unlike when writing BELOVED MOTHER, I had a goal in creating this novella. That goal is to make people aware of the hidden evil man can perpetrate on his fellowman.
A story of the lives of three women, tightly woven together and surviving the harsh societal environment of an Appalachian mining town in the early to mid-1900s. Two religions contrast with each other—the Cherokee spirits of the native people and the Old Testament God of the white settlers—as each woman struggles to find her place. Love and hate, marriage and adultery, childbirth and abortion, all have their parts to play. Beloved Mother accurately portrays the evilness in humanity, in which the wicked corrupt the innocent to create a vicious cycle of abuse, until one person—with a heart of understanding and forgiveness—has the courage to end it.
Posted in Interviews
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Addicted to Hate is an engaging story that follows Madeline through many obstacles in her troubled life. What was the inspiration for the idea behind this novel?
The inspiration for this novel is the hope that I can empower other hurting, shattered souls who feel helpless and hopeless, and who are hiding beneath a veil of shame, like I did.
Madeline is a character I was able to empathize with. What were some driving ideals behind her character development?
I’m a survivor of horrendous parent abuse, and other nightmarish sufferings, imposed on me by perpetrators of hate-filled hearts. Being of rational, intelligence thinking, I tried to theorize what was happening to me, thought about the monstrosity of another person putting his or her ideas above another’s. The abuse went too far and for too long. Finally I realized I am not a pathetic victim. My epiphany sounded like this: I am a strong, dynamic person. I am sick to death of being abused, humiliated, and threatened. It is time to do something. It is time for ME to change! The turnaround – The right to say NO. The right to peace in senior age. The right to freedom. The right to my own happiness. The right to be “imperfect.”
The concept of love, family and abuse played were compelling drivers in this story. What were some themes that were important for you to capture in this story?
I’m hoping to see this book’s release sometime after summer 2019. The theme behind all five books is: Have self-respect… self-resilience, it is your right! You are not to blame for others wrongdoings. Get rid of any nasty memories stored from your hippocampus that traps the human trait of wallowing, and shred them. The saying goes: “If you want a future, don’t live in the past.”
What do you hope readers take away from your book?
An adult child should never… ever… mishandle a parent, even if he or she is convinced the mother or father deserves it. Like most survivors, I have much to teach about bravery and emotional resilience, and so I wrote Addicted to Hate. The message in this book is: “If you are an abused parent, it’s time for you to consider following in my footsteps. Please recognize that YOU are not to blame for the hard-wired brains that seek to destroy you. And never ask yourself how and why did I let this happen! Divorce yourself (the freedom to disown) from the raw pain that has been “bestowed” upon you by an unconscionable abuser. Suffering won’t kill you … death will! This relating adage is found in all my books with a profound message: “Love does not conquer hate! Even clinically trained minds cannot truly have the answer to heredity bad markers … bad seeds that exist.” This is the theme in my new book “Lela’s Endless Incarnation Sorrows.” (You live and die, and repeat.)
It’s remarkable what you can discover from a little saliva! DNA explains how we got here… over millions of years. I chose to believe that my first (Ashkenazi) imprint on this earth has a lot to do with who I am today in this century. So it begs the question” Does the Law of Karma for the sole-called sins of the forefathers and foremothers, play a roll in generational rebirths. Is it a real cold-hearted fact that some humans are just born BAD?
Maddie’s story raises the time-honored question of nature vs. nurture.
Parents abused by adult children suffer silently, shamed to the marrow by words, moods, acts, and blows that pierce through their imagined bubble of safety and kidnap any notions they had of sharing a mutually loving relationship with their children.
Maddie loved her daughters unconditionally . . . until, as a financially depleted and physically bruised senior citizen, she was forced to cut ties permanently with her adult descendants. Maddie’s cruel and dysfunctional upbringing prompted her to smother her children with love, to soften the blows of life, even when consequences would have been a healthier, more effective choice.
Posted in Interviews
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Madeline Clark’s life seems like the life of a dozen different individuals. From the beginning of her troubled life, she is met head-on with one horrific circumstance after another at the hands of people she hopes and prays will be her saving graces. After finding her way out of South Africa, Maddie finds fleeting hope with David Blakely, a man she has no choice but to trust to pull her from poverty and imminent death, but cannot possibly know that his attention will be the beginning of her end and the catalyst for a lifetime of heartache and repeated loss and grief.
Maddie’s life, laid out for readers by Lucia Mann in her book, Addicted to Hate, is one of the most tragic about which I have ever read. It’s difficult to know where to begin explaining the layers Mann has revealed with her vivid and gripping descriptions of Maddie’s harrowing childhood, her abusive marriage to a vile man, and the horrific road she travels as a mother to three girls who could not care less if she lived or died. It is almost beyond comprehensible that Maddie could survive the mental and physical challenges with which she is faced from the beginning to the bitter end of her amazing and tortured life.
Mann has taken this story, based on actual events, and set Maddie forth as an unlikely heroine who overcomes insurmountable odds as she talks herself through each of her hardships including three pregnancies that, by all accounts, were miracles and curses at the same time. Maddie is the poster child of life testing us. She seems to have received each and every trial imaginable, the most tragic of which is the complete abhorrence her daughters have for her. I found myself rooting, paragraph by paragraph, for a turn of events for Maddie. I felt a visceral reaction with each mention of her daughter Mara’s blatant and evil brutalization of her mother. I wanted desperately for Maddie to see the light and make a break from her toxic children, but Maddie is better than most; she may be better than all of us.
Maddie’s intellect is her own saving grace. Her abilities are put to use in the most fascinating ways, and even that amazing opportunity cannot completely pull her from her spiral. Mann is a master at having her readers draw hopeful conclusions before letting them down abruptly.
The overall subject matter of Mann’s work is enhanced by the tone in which she writes. While maintaining a third person point of view, she manages nicely to incorporate a hint of second person questioning while drawing the reader further into Maddie’s overpowering drama.
Mann has given audience to an amazing tale of endurance and determination. In addition to the heartbreaking events of Maddie’s life, Mann shows readers the embodiment of true and unwavering unconditional love. Nowhere else can readers find a more poignant tale of loss, betrayal, and incredible triumph.
Pages: 254 | ASIN: B07K4TXQC7
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Skeins by Richa Gupta is the story of a large group of globe-trotting Indian women who take a trip to see the sights in Spain and Portugal. The women are similar in heritage, but vary widely in age and experience. Even though they are from the same general area, they also differ in culture and socio-economic status. As the women grow closer, they let each other into their personal lives. They confide in each other and share secrets, regrets, hopes, and dreams. However, it’s not one big happy slumber party. Some of the women find some serious trouble along their journey.
Overall, Skeins was a pretty easy read. The grammar and sentence structure is impeccable. I didn’t find any errors at all. If anything, there were only a few turns of phrase that only suggested that the author’s roots were different than my own. That’s not a bad thing.
If I have any complaint, it’s that the cast of characters was very large. I found it hard, at times, to keep the names of characters and their story lines straight. There seemed to be so much going on at once between all of the background stories.
I enjoyed the diversity of the characters. I especially enjoyed the diversity paired with the camaraderie that the women enjoyed. They came from all walks of life, different social classes, and different customs to form one big, instant family. They seemed to get along very well. They will make readers hope for these kinds of quickly formed but long lasting friendships.
Readers will also identify with the problems that the women face. They discuss the not-so-perfect aspects of their lives without giving the story too heavy of a feel. The story doesn’t bog down or get lost in their troubles. They simply state what’s going on in their lives, but characters don’t seem to dwell too much for the most part. For a story that deals with adultery, a crime ring, decades old grudges, etc., it is a decidedly uplifting tale. The women tackle their problems instead of becoming victims of circumstance.
I liked that Gupta showed the women as strong, powerful, and independent. None of them were “just a wife” or “just a mother.” None of them were leaning too hard on anyone but themselves. In a country where women aren’t generally in hierarchical positions, it was refreshing to see these women being so self-sufficient. Still, they walked the line between traditional arranged marriages and living their dreams, while sometimes doing both with one foot in each world. They seek out independence, their wildest dreams, and love all at once.
The book feels light-hearted in nature. I enjoyed that combination woven with real-life issues. I enjoyed the cultural journey following the women from India touring the Iberian Peninsula. The characters felt real. I’d love to see one of the characters step forward to star in a sequel.
Pages: 312 | ASIN: B07HP6ZPYM
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Ondie Reid, a schizophrenic who is finally living a normal, productive life with the help of medication, finds her world once again spiraling out of control when her daughter’s father, whom she is trying to win back, begins sleeping with her younger sister. Original.
Posted in Book Reviews
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