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Christmas Switcheroo

Christmas is a fun and exciting time of the year, filled with great food, fun crafts, and making memories with family. Sometimes though, this time of year gets stressful, and things don’t always go as planned. In this heartwarming story, one family does their best to make the holidays magical, but somehow things go astray. After carefully picking out gifts for four difficult-to-shop for family members, the package shipping labels get mixed up, and the gifts go to the wrong homes! So now the question is, will this ruin Christmas, or will it be a joyful surprise?

Christmas Switcheroo by children’s author Tuula Pere and illustrated by Outi Rautkallio is a heartwarming story that children and adults will be able to relate to. Adults often try to make the holidays perfect for their children, from crafts to cookies, to outside decorations. Then there is the process of picking out the perfect gift for everyone. Tuula has captured the feelings of an overwhelmed mom with accuracy. The children in the story are able to pick up on the emotions and offer to help out, showing compassion and kindness. While things do not go as planned, everyone is more than happy with the results, and a lesson is learned that just because things don’t go as planned doesn’t mean it is ruined.

Christmas Switcheroo is a beautifully written children’s book that will entertain readers, young and old, with the mishaps that this family finds themself in the middle of. Children will learn about empathy and helping out, while adults will find relatable situations and, perhaps, be reminded that there is joy even when things do not go as planned. This is a wonderful book to read during the holiday season to remind families of what is really important about the season.

Pages: 54 | ISBN : 9523573284

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Secrets In The Mirror

Psychology around twins is a fascinating subject. Identical twins have the same DNA, but what happens when you throw in a domineering father who favors one twin over the other? Treating one twin differently over the other twists their self-confidence and personality, sometimes for the worse. Gavin and Devon are identical mirror twins, which means they’re the opposite of each other, even though they look the same. When Devon looks into a mirror, he sees Gavin. But their twin bond can only take so much strain, right?

Secrets in the Mirror by Leslie Kain is a psychological thriller about a set of twins, Devon and Gavin, and how Devon’s narcissistic personality affects their relationship and their entire family. At first, everyone just believes that Devon is full of himself and has a lot of self-confidence. Still, after a horrific traffic accident, the doctors who treat Devon start to unravel his web of lies, diagnosing him with Narcissistic Personality Disorder. But, of course, Devon doesn’t believe a word of it, and he knows he is superior to everyone, including the doctors.

Gavin has always been Devon’s crutch, and this becomes worse as time goes on. Gavin is expected to clean up after Devon’s misdeeds, but eventually, Gavin realizes that he needs to protect himself from his own twin brother. One truly feels sorry for Gavin and his mother, the story’s victims.

Secrets in the Mirror by Leslie Kain is a fascinating book written from multiple perspectives, including Devon and Gavin. Kain gives readers a look into the twins’ minds through chapters from their point of view. The story takes a while to pick up and can be frustrating to read because of the personality disorders. However, I believe that just shows Kain’s ability to craft compelling characters. I recommend this book to anyone interested in twin psychology, personality disorders, and psychological thrillers.

Pages: 366 | ASIN : B0B34H59Y1

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Triskele by B. D’Amato is a captivating novel that delves deep into the human psyche and the complexity of relationships. Readers follow the story of two siblings separated at a young age. Paul, the oldest child, is forced to take on the responsibility of his younger sister Bethany, while his single mom works nights to support the family and drinks during the day to cope with her life.  When one of Paulie’s closest friends pushes the boundaries of acceptable behavior with Bethany, Paulie punches him as payback which leads to some unexpected consequences for all. Paulie escapes to their absent father’s family orchard, leaving Bethany with her troubled mother. Two decades later, the siblings find themselves settled separately in New York City, both struggling to form meaningful connections while carrying deep-seated emotional scars.

D’Amato’s writing is incredibly rich and evocative, creating a vivid and symbolic backdrop for Paul and Bethany’s struggles. The story is told through the eyes of a gifted psychoanalyst named Lillian, who develops independent relationships with both siblings as they try to navigate their internal struggles. Of the three of them, Bethany suffers the most as a result of not only losing her brother but also her mother. She is plunged into the foster care system leading her into a turbulent life of pain. The book explores irrational behaviors and seemingly opposing motives that drive individuals’ actions, delving into the human desire for emotional wholeness. I liked that the silver lining in what Paul experienced is what turned his life around in a positive direction. D’Amato expertly immerses the reader into the character’s world, from an idyllic upstate farm to the gritty crime-ridden streets of New York City.

I highly recommend Triskele by B. D’Amato to anyone looking for an enthralling read that will challenge and inspire them. This psychological fiction novel will have you pondering the intricacies of the human psyche and the power of the human spirit to heal and persevere.

Pages: 295 | ASIN : B0BW46TSRP

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Stella and the Berry Bay

Stella is excited about getting to start school this year. She has spent all summer getting ready and making plans with her friends. Nothing can deter her excitement, that is, until her parents give her some heartbreaking news. Stella’s family is moving to Berry Bay. As a result, she will not get to start school with her preschool friends and will have to move to a new house. She is devastated and worried about what will happen when they move.

Stella and the Berry Bay by Tuula Pere is a beautifully written childrens book about moving and change. This story reminded me of what I felt when I moved right before starting school. A book like this would have been wonderful to help ease my fears about going to a strange new place and having to make new friends. Tuula has captured the complex emotions that children can feel when moving and explained in a way that young children can understand and help them understand what they are feeling is normal.

I loved how Stella’s new teacher tried to help her; she validated her feelings and concerns and helped her when struggling. She did not just give in and give Stella what she wanted; instead, she worked with her to find a solution that would work for everyone. This is a beautiful example of problem-solving and teaching these skills to young readers.

Stella and the Berry Bay is a captivating childrens book that kindergarten and young elementary students can relate to and feel seen with. Parents and teachers can use this story to help children struggling with new situations, particularly moving, and help them realize that while they may be afraid, it is normal and ok to feel that way. It also is a story that offers hope that things will turn out alright, even when it doesn’t feel like it will at first. This is a beautiful book to share with all children.

Pages: 48 | ISBN : 9527107970

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Raina’s Rainbow Lemonade

Every Saturday, young Raina heads to her Grandmother’s house to spend the day. While there, they set up a lemonade stand, but not just any lemonade stand; this one is special. Raina has created rainbow lemonade to sell to her community. Each colored glass of lemonade is custom-made for each customer. Raina loves this time she gets to spend with her Grandmother and with her community doing something she enjoys.

Raina’s Rainbow Lemonade is a heartwarming picture book that teaches the value of community, family, and some color theory as well. Author Shawndrea Magee shares with children a story about serving one’s community and the importance of spending time with family. Mixed into these important messages is a recipe for homemade lemonade and the instruction on blending food coloring to make rainbow colors. Children will love following along and learning how to make the fun colors Raina serves her customers. The illustrations by Ayan Mansoori will entice kids to want to make their own rainbow lemonade as they follow along with the story.

At the end of the story, the author includes a list of discussion questions that children and their families or classmates can discuss. This is a great way to introduce the concept of business and money to young children. Teachers could use this picture book in preschool and kindergarten classes for an entire unit, covering social studies, math, science, and art. It is the perfect childrens book to engage children and have fun while learning.

Pages: 47 | ASIN : B0BHFCNHCP

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The Music We Make

The Music We Make tells the story of Santiago DeAngelo, who discovers he is the sole survivor of a car crash where his mother died at the scene of the accident. When Santiago wakes in a hospital to this devasting news, he soon learns that his emotionally distant father blames him for the incident. Santiago struggles with grief and shame, which complicates his relationship with family and friends.

The author does a great job of portraying the complexities of grief and how loss can profoundly impact the people involved and those closest to them. As Santiago tries to cope with his grief, he instead unravels and goes down a path of self-destruction, looking for an escape. Only when the unexpected inspiration comes to him does he realize his new journey is to pursue a life creating music. As Santiago embraces his new life, he must first face his past, battling his fears and inner demons, before he can find success. This emotionally-resonant story is well written and touches on many aspects of how loss can impact a person’s life and decisions. Santiago feels inspired when he believes his mother sends him to write a song in her honor.

Author Michelle Rene DeBellis delivers a heartfelt story that is conversational and straightforward and dives into Santiago’s psyche so that the reader has a clear idea of his emotions and reasoning from one scene to the next. It’s a tale that carefully captures the dynamics of grief and how inspiration can prevail over the darkest moments in one’s life. I enjoyed this compelling story, but I would have it enjoyed it more if the author described Santiago’s challenges in greater detail. The overall story was narrated well and touched on many aspects of the character’s experience, including how he was able to make a significant turnaround in his life. I recommend The Music We Make as I feel this book is a great read and an excellent inspiration for anyone struggling with grief and loss.

Pages: 393 | ASIN: B0B6XJJXP1

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105 Steps

When Stephen Trigwell’s wife falls ill, the life his family has always known is forever changed. Their lives are consumed with doctor visits, hospital stays, medications, surgeries, and an overwhelming sense of fear. In March of 2021, Glen Trigwell was diagnosed with an aneurysm that required immediate surgery in order to set a stent in place. From that day forward, Stephen Trigwell made the decision to document the events that followed not only for his family but for his wife’s sake as the months that followed proved to be a time she may just lose. This memoir was written so she would know the love, care, and time that went into her experiences.

105 Steps is the true story and memoir of Glen Trigwell’s journey as documented by her husband, Stephen. Her shocking diagnosis in March of 2021 took their family down a frightening road. The aneurysm that changed their lives would pull them even closer together as they watched Glen fight to regain her life from this beast.

Stephen Trigwell’s writing is raw, open, and honest. He gives readers a deeply personal look into his family’s life as they cared for Glen from the beginning with her diagnosis through the moments from which they begin to believe she may never recover. Readers will feel each and every triumph and the devastating lows along with Stephen as he recounts each moment of her hospital stays and the harrowing days following her surgeries.

It’s difficult to say that I loved a story like this one because it’s true and painful, but I truly do. Trigwell has given readers an amazing gift with this account of his wife’s experience. I can see how his willingness to share his family’s pain and joy will help others living through the same type of challenges. His generosity is amazing and appreciated.

105 Steps, by Stephen Trigwell, is for anyone who wants to read a heartwarming and touching story about real unconditional love. The Trigwell family’s story is as inspiring as it is amazing and goes a long way to making so many feel less alone in such trying circumstances. I highly recommend Trigwell’s work to any reader looking for a beautifully-written true story of love, faith, and the determination to overcome the most incredible odds.

Pages: 222 | ASIN : B0B21XQFZ6

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The College Shrink

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Author William Haylon’s The College Shrink is a stunning piece of literary fiction. The story follows Emily Metcalf, an on-campus college psychologist, as she is navigating life post-divorce. We hear the stories of how she came to be who she is today, particularly how her former husband’s actions affected her. We also dive into the lives of her clients. It’s a true exploration of real-life issues through a beautifully artistic writing style. You will find yourself and others you know in the pages of The College Shrink.

This book starts off with a slow-burn writing style giving readers a chance to know Emily. The detailed and methodical style fits her personality and allows the reader to step into her shoes. Haylon’s writing provides a realistic sense of Emily’s mood and feeling toward her life.

The story-building further proves this when we find out what Emily’s former husband did. She is a woman mourning the life she thought she had and realizing that it wasn’t ever what it seemed. Her story shatters the middle-class American dream illusion. You can see the amount of thought Haylon put into this story strewn across the pages. He carefully chose each word and the sequence in which he told us the events. Everything has a purpose in this story.

I appreciated that the author shows that psychologists do not always have it all together. We often assume the people who are paid to handle the emotions of another human don’t have many of their own. That they are somehow immune from the problems that life often brings. But that couldn’t be further from the truth, and Haylon does an excellent job displaying that fact. Haylon also did well portraying the lives and issues of Emily’s college-aged clients. Writers above the age of twenty can often miss the mark when attempting to realistically portray people under a certain age. I’ve personally encountered young women like Jelly and have heard real-life stories of people in Mana’s situation.

The College Shrink is a beautifully written literary fiction novel with realistic characters that readers can identify with. Dealing with topics of romance, friendship, relationships, and family, there is something in this story for everyone.

Pages: 262

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