Blog Archives

The 86-Year-Old Orphan

Tessie always knew that getting old was part of life. What she didn’t expect was how quickly it happened. Or that she would be spending her golden years in Desert Twilights, the assisted living facility in Arizona, across the country from her home, her family, and everything she had ever known. As her 86th birthday approached, Tessie seemed to spend more and more time reflecting on the life that had led her here, even as those around her were often doing the same. She was comforted by memories of what was, as much as she was haunted by thoughts of what could have been.

The 86 Year Old Orphan by Caterine Bellizzi is a heartfelt, and sometimes heartbreaking, look at aging. It explores how hard this natural process can be to face, the different attitudes people take toward it, and the different paths that lead people to what is, eventually, the same place. When we’re introduced to Tessie, she has been at Desert Twilights for three years already, but faced with her upcoming birthday, falls into a bout of nostalgia that is stronger than usual. Via frequent flashbacks, Tessie’s life is shaped, from her tumultuous childhood as the daughter of immigrants, through her early hopes and ambitions, on to the expected role of housewife and mother. While Tessie expresses very little regret for her life’s decisions, she naturally wonders how things might have been different if her choices had taken other routes and different points. Her fellow residents at Desert Twilights are similarly introduced, both in their current situations and earlier years, and although they have all followed drastically different paths, they have all ended up spending the ends of their lives together.

The 86 Year Old Orphan touches on a variety of themes, ultimately focusing on acceptance, and the fact that life experience isn’t so much what happens to you, but your reaction to those events. Over the course of the story, Tessie has a renewed sense of self discovery, and comes to realize that the best way to live the last years of your life is to be as happy with the present as you were in the past, despite the gulf of differences that might exist between the two.

The 86 Year Old Orphan began a little slowly, and as a result I wasn’t sure if it would be very interesting, but it gained steam quickly and before long I was completely invested in Tessie’s life, wondering where it would go from here. I cried more than once as well! Bellizzi has written a beautiful story that will make reflect on your own life, past, present, and future.

Pages: 194 | ASIN: B0898K76SM

Buy Now From B&N.com

Fathering the Fatherless

Fathering the Fatherless by Todd Johnson is an enlightening book that explores the issue of fatherlessness. This touching book describes the issue very well and then goes on to explaining some possible solutions. A home without a father is traumatic for children and can lead to all kinds of societal and personal issues.

Todd Johnson does an exceptional job at relaying the statistics involved with fatherless homes and it really drives home the point that a father in a family and home is important for a child’s development.

Readers also get a bit of a memoir tucked into this informative book. Todd Johnson shares personal stories that are heartening and relatable. Readers get to build a connection to the author and this makes his message resonate so much more.

Faith and God are strong themes throughout this enriching book. Todd explains how these work together. The conclusion of the book includes testimonies from men who have stepped up to be fathers that I found to be stirring and inspiring.

Fathering the Fatherless by Todd Johnson is great for anyone looking to support a fatherless family, anyone looking to go into social work, or anyone that wants more information on the impact a fatherless home has.

Pages: 88 | ISBN-10: 1728333121

Buy Now From B&N.com

Our Forever Crazy Love

1

Jennifer Nolan’s debut romance novel, Our Forever Crazy Love, is quite the emotional roller coaster. First of all, the fact that it’s written in the first person through the perspective of the main character, Vivienne is something that makes it more personal. In many ways, it feels like you are reading her diary, taking a sneak peek into her most intimate thoughts.

In this riveting novel, we get a front-row seat to not only Vivienne’s personal life but her career life as well. As she explores her relationship with her long-standing crush Danny, we understand more and more why they have never ended up together. While in the beginning Danny is described as handsome but a bit standoffish, this perception is radically challenged as we get to know him better.

The book starts with Vivienne trying to seduce him but ends with her getting a complicated but yet fairy tale ending. More importantly, this is the story of a woman trying to juggle the demands of her career while trying to be there for everyone she loves. As life throws her numerous curve balls and she grapples with excruciating grief, her independent persona begins to unravel.

Apart from love, a recurring theme in this book is the struggle for control. Through the main character, the author attempts to explain how many women struggle with letting go and taking it easy; much to the detriment of their love lives.

As a modern woman, this book hit very close to home with me being able to see some elements of myself in Vivienne. Her struggle with relinquishing control is one that I believe many women can identify with.

While the author does a good job of describing the characters and their relationships with each other, there are some discrepancies and details left unshared. For instance, it would have been great to know more about Danny’s family and how that fed into the man he is today.

There was also little on Luis’ side of the family, especially during moments when such information should have taken center stage. Other characters like Rach also need more development. However, I do understand that the author may have been trying to focus on the main character, Vivienne.

On the plus side, the book has a rhythm to it quite like that of real life; there are a few things that matter and others that are just part of the flow. I also appreciate the use of foretelling by incorporating a psychic; that was a nice touch. At the end of the day, Our Forever Crazy Love is a good read.

Paperback ISBN: 978-1-989733-00-4

In the Realm of Ash and Sorrow

In the Realm of Ash and Sorrow was a unique historical fiction novel colored with themes of guilt, sorrow and suffering over all that had been lost. Although this was a very emotional novel, it wasn’t all negative emotions, it also had happiness, romance, and a (possible) love like no other, mixed in with some supernatural elements and fantastical hints of history. The story caught my attention in the first couple of pages, remaining consistently entertaining throughout with only rare moments that seemed to slow a bit due to necessary exposition. The detail throughout the book is absorbing and really pulls you into 1940’s Japan. When it came time for the atomic bomb to drop I could see the horror surrounding Micha as he searched for Kyomi, the burning bodies that he came across and the fear that he would never find her or Ai. I could visualize most every scene, which is something I truly appreciated in a novel that covered such a cataclysmic event that reshaped human history.

While Kyomi’s character was interesting I wanted to see more of her personality. Her character seemed monotone at first, but after awhile her character began to grow on me just as she developed in the novel. I liked Micah from the first page, I’m not sure if that’s because he was the first character introduced to me or because I could empathize with him, perhaps it’s because I felt bad for him after the plane crashed. I liked Ai’s character from the beginning as well, children are always fun characters and Ai was no exception. The three of them together made for a great read with interesting interactions and I liked some of the other spirits that they came across along their travels.

Something that made me enjoy the book even more was how the author used the actual terms used by the Japanese such as calling the military Kempeitai instead of using one of our military terms like Army, Navy, Coast Guard, etc. This happens frequently throughout the book which showed me that the author did thorough research for this book and it also helped me learn a few terms. This is an example of the authors dedication to historical detail in this book. Something that I praise the author for is the way that this novel helps you see different points of view from the American and Japanese sides in World War 2. It is also an exploration of Japanese culture at an interesting time in their history. It covers how the Japanese lived, their culture, their work, routines, the hardships they face and much more. I really loved having bits of history weaved into the pages and the way it gave me a new insight. History and fiction meld seamlessly in this novel to deliver a captivating story.

Pages: 344 | ASIN: B083Q4WRPD

Buy Now From B&N.com

A Strong Foundation of Trust

Medea Kalantar Author Interview
Medea Kalantar Author Interview

A Circle of Trust teaches kids and parents about the importance of creating a safe place for open communication. Why was this an important topic for you?

This book has a dual purpose, to enlighten children on the importance of trust and open communication as well as to educate parents on the vital need to create a safe space for children to open up from a young age. This book is also excellent for strengthening bonds between parents and children as they read it together and implement the lessons learned in the story. I feel it’s so important to build trust and create a safe space, to be able to speak openly with our children. We want children to feel safe and come to us whenever something is bothering them. By starting this practice at an early age, it will come more easily for children to talk without fear, or shame, or worrying about being judged. Building a strong foundation of trust with unconditional love and giving them the ability to speak openly, will play an important role in shaping their core values, which are instrumental for any future relationships whether personal or professional. 

What has been your favorite reader reaction so far to your Honeycake series?

Every single reader has told me they wished they had these books when they were growing up, or while they were raising their young children. I feel so honored by the outpour of gratitude by my readers for creating a children’s book series with characters that reflect their household of mixed ethnicities and giving the term “Honeycake” as a way to represent who they are.My favourite reaction is from a reader named Gaby Murillo who lives in Santiago, Chile. “Hi!!! I JUST READ YOUR BOOKS AND LET ME TELL YOU, YOUR BOOKS ARE PURE GOLD! THEY ARE SUNSHINE AND HONEY AND WARMTH AND ALL THE GOOD THINGS IN LIFE IN A FEW PAGES. THEY MADE ME FEEL SO COZY INSIDE! AND TOOK ME BACK TO THE BEST MOMENTS OF MY CHILDHOOD FOR SOME REASON! MY ADVICE: The whole world MUST read your books! This is the kind of books that could help make this world better. I don’t even have kids but I swear I will read them in my class at the church, they are about 4 – 8 years old and I’m sure they will love it as much as I do right now. THANK YOU FOR MAKING THIS WORLD BRIGHTER!”

In this book you introduce the idea of A Circle of Trust with no beginning and no end. Why do you feel this is an important idea for kids?

The circle is a symbol that is recognized around the world, in marriage the exchanging of wedding rings signifies everlasting love. Teaching children the meaning of the circle symbol will help you communicate that your love is unconditional and it will never be broken. You’re also making your child feel safe and secure, and building a strong relationship between you and them. This gives children confidence and security which will lead them to open up freely when something is bothering them. Children’s relationships shape the way they see the world and affect all areas of their development. By building a loving, open, and honest relationship with your child, you’re helping shape the adult they’ll become and give them a strong foundation for the rest of their lives.“With “A Circle Of Trust” there is no beginning and no end, which signifies that your love for one another is endless and will last forever.”

This is getting to be one of my favorite children’s series. What is the next book in the series and when can readers expect it out?

Thank you so much, what a beautiful compliment. I’m truly grateful for your continuous support in the Honeycake book series. Coming December of 2020, Book 5 – “Honeycake: Counting All My Blessings”. This book teaches children the importance of gratitude and how to focus on what matters most in life.Teaching and showing gratitude is also a great way to find balance in the materialistic culture we live in today. Nala’s Uncle JD and Auntie Reilly are celebrating the birth of their newborn son. But when baby Milo receives so many new presents and all the attention, Nala becomes very angry and green with envy. With the help of her grandfather, Nala learns the importance of gratitude and that being thankful for all the wonderful things she has in her life, equips her with a powerful tool to make those icky feelings of jealousy from the “Green-Eyed Monster” disappear.

Author Links: GoodReadsTwitterFacebookWebsite | Amazon

Honeycake: A Circle of Trust by [Medea Kalantar]

In the fourth installment of the delightful Honeycake series, Nala goes into her papa’s office without permission and breaks his favourite mug. Nala panics and hides in her bedroom. 

With the help of her parents, Nala learns a valuable lesson of trust and how to have an open and honest communication in a safe space. 

Nala also learns that trust takes a long to build and can easily be destroyed in a split second!

With A Circle of Trust there is no beginning and no end, which signifies that your love for one another is endless and will last forever.

Buy Now From B&N.com

Mad Max & Sweet Sarah

Mad Max & Sweet Sarah (Greek Mythology Fantasy Series Book 3) by [Ellie Collins]

Max’s life is about to change, and he isn’t sure how he feels about it. When his estranged father invites him to stay for two weeks during the summer, Max begrudgingly agrees. Adjusting to life outside of Hawaii, the only home he has ever known, is bad enough, but he also faces meeting a half-sister with whom he seems to have nothing in common. Between maneuvering a new relationship with a sibling he’s only just met and fighting his own inner demons who try to sabotage his newfound father/son dynamic, Max has an interesting summer ahead of him.

Mad Max and Sweet Sarah, by Ellie Collins, follows the newly-blossoming family relationship between Max, the father he has never met, and a half sister who already adores Max before they are ever introduced. Collins, always a teller of poignant tales for young readers, has hit the nail on the head once again with this beautiful story of two siblings getting to know one another and learning more about themselves in the process.

Collins, an accomplished fiction writer known for incorporating fantasy and Greek mythology into her story lines, is adept at bringing her readers messages of hope and building environmental awareness through her work as well. In Mad Max and Sweet Sarah, Collins has created a character, Sarah, who is easily unlikable at the outset and reshapes her throughout the plot. She desperately wants to be a sister and, even moreso, to have a brother. Readers will enjoy watching her attempt to cure all that ails her ever-changing family. In addition, Collins is clearly environmentally-conscious, and it shows in her work. She brilliantly weaves effective messages into the interactions between her characters.

Underneath all of Collins’s obvious plot lines lies an important one on trust between both family members and friends. The author uses a relatable cast of young teen characters to communicate a pertinent message of betrayal. Collins uses her characters’ growing relationship to highlight typical drama and its consequences. Readers will appreciate the growth shown by Max from beginning to end.

Mad Max and Sweet Sarah is a beautifully-crafted tale of family, trust, and growth among family members and between two hurting young souls. Teen readers will enjoy Collins’s writing style and more than appreciate her ability to relate to her audience. Ellie Collins is an amazing up-and-coming author with a superb talent for spreading joy with her words.

Pages: 128 | ASIN: B0849PBY3J

Buy Now From B&N.com

Their Parents Choices

Amy Voltaire Author Interview

Amy Voltaire Author Interview

My Name is Erin, and My Mom’s an Addict is a fictional story of a young girls struggle to accept her mother back into her life after drugs destroyed their bond. What was the inspiration for the setup to this emotional novel?

I am very close to someone who is helping raise her grandchildren because of their parents’ addictions. When I decided to start writing a book, I couldn’t decide what I wanted to write about. One day, after spending some time with the kids I mentioned, I thought about how tough this must be for them, and I realized that a lot of people are raising children who aren’t theirs because the kids’ parents are addicts. I looked online to see if there were any books out there for kids who are going through similar situations, but I couldn’t find any; so I decided I’d write a book for them. I wanted the book to: entertain them, hold their interest, and let them know that they’re not alone. I wanted them to understand that their parents’ choices do not define them.

Erin is an interesting character and I enjoyed watching her develop throughout the book. What were some driving ideals behind her character development?

For years, Erin has lived with hurt, which eventually turns to hurt and anger. She yearns for her mother’s love, but at the same time, she’s angry at her mom for leaving her and is terrified that if she opens her heart to her mother, her heart will end up broken again. As she becomes close to both Grace and George she learns that Gram & Pap aren’t the only people she can trust. Erin also begins to understand that her mother’s addiction has absolutely nothing to do with her. Often, loved ones of addicts feel like they can fix an addict, but the reality is that nobody but the addict has any control over his or her choices. Erin learns in her dealings with Jimmy that she is not the only person who may have something going on at home… something that is embarrassing and that a kid wouldn’t want their peers to know about. She begins to see her own flaws, not only because they’re pointed out to her, but also because she sees a bit of herself in Jimmy. She doesn’t want to continue the angry outbursts and drive away the people who genuinely care about her.

This story deals with drug addiction and how it affects families. What is a common misconception you find people have about addiction?

A lot of people assume that addicts are bad people and that they are worthless. Yes, addicts do bad things, but so do people who have never even tried drugs or alcohol. I’ve known several recovering addicts and all of them are kind, intelligent, funny and talented.

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

I plan on starting the next book in late June of 2019. In all of the feedback I’ve received, readers have told me that they want me to continue on with Erin’s story—I like Erin, so I’m happy to comply. Hopefully, it will be done and ready to go by this time next year.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

My Name is Erin, and My Mom's an Addict by [Voltaire, Amy]

Raised by her grandparents when her mother chooses drugs over her daughter, Erin knows she isn’t like other kids. Then her world is shaken a second time by her mother’s reappearance.

Being a teenager is never easy, but just when Erin thinks she has her life on track, her mother shows up and warms her way back into Erin’s life. Can an addict really ever kick the addiction? How many lives will be affected?

Buy Now From B&N.com

My Name Is Bacci Bogie: Frequent Flyer Extraordinaire

My Name Is Bacci Bogie: Frequent Flyer Extraordinaire by [Glosser, Sandra]

My Name is Bacci Bogie, by Sandra Glosser, is a story of travel, of life’s ups and downs, and above all, of love and acceptance. However, unlike many other stories, this one is told from the perspective of a small, but boisterous, Maltese dog.

Bacci tells us the story of his adoption by his doggie mom, Sandra, and their lives together as traveling companions. By accompanying Sandra on her travels as a motivational speaker, Bacci becomes an expert at flying in planes, staying in hotels, and making friends. He gets to live a doggie life full of adventure while bringing joy not only to Sandra’s life, but to many other people’s lives as well. Through Bacci’s own voice we learn about the real love and companionship that is shared between animals and humans.

I think Glosser’s choice to write this book from the perspective of her dog works really well to convey her story in an interesting way. Many pet owners can attest to wondering what their pet is thinking from time to time, and this attempt by the author to reveal her dog’s interpretation of events can appeal to pet lovers everywhere. Even those who are not doggie parents will enjoy hearing about the world from a fresh perspective. By imagining what Bacci is thinking, Glosser reveals her story to us a lighthearted way that is fun to listen to.

While the overall approach to the book is compelling, I think the structure of the story itself could use some fine tuning. Frequently, one anecdote seems to lead into another without much transition, making it hard to follow where one idea ends and another begins. The text is not always divided into chapters in an effective manner, leading me to feel at times like I may have missed something in the plot. In addition, while the stories that Bacci tells are endearing I felt that they were underdeveloped. I think the book would benefit from elaboration on these stories to develop their significance a bit more. Without this, the book at times feels like it is a string of thoughts rather than a fleshed out story.

With that being said, the book is a fairly enjoyable read overall. The author’s message in the preface and epilogue turn what may just be another story into something with a more personal meaning as they reveal the author’s real feelings and motivation for sharing her story with her audience. Grosser’s heartfelt story pays tribute to the life of her beloved pet in a way that is touching to hear.

Pages: 51 | ASIN: B07R9Z76LC

Buy Now From Amazon.com

%d bloggers like this: