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Learning to Dance in the Rain II

Learning to Dance in the Rain Ii: Surviving Grief, Internet Dating and Romance Scams! by [Shelby Wagner]

Learning to Dance in the Rain II: Surviving Grief, Internet Dating and Romance Scams! tells the author’s personal story about her own life experiences, but it is also intended to be a self-help guide to assist others who are going through a similar experience avoid the mistakes that the author encountered. The book explores several different issues following the loss of a spouse, including grieving your loss, deciding whether to remain single or beginning to date again, with a focus on internet dating and how to avoid romance scams online.

The author offers some good tips to help readers who have suffered a loss find ways to cope and work through the grieving process. Although this book is geared toward older women who have lost their husband, many of the suggestions in the first part of the book can be helpful to readers of any age or gender who have lost a loved one. Several of the exercises in the book can be applied to anyone who needs guidance in finding themselves and their worth, and many of the strategies for dealing with rejection can be used not just in an individual’s personal life but in other aspects of their life, as well. I liked how the author was willing to open up and share the details of her own mistakes in order to help others avoid making the same mistakes that she did. And I liked the inclusion of the exercises, which help readers to apply the principles in the book to their own life and situation.

The author cites many expert sources throughout the book, but I would have appreciated it if the numbered footnote information appeared on the bottom of the appropriate page. With an abundance of exclamation points in the beginning of the book and some repetition throughout, though sometimes distracting, it shows the authors passion and brings attention to important points that need to be emphasized.

Learning to Dance in the Rain II, by Shelby Wagner, shares a fascinating life story that will inspire readers to continue through grief and loss. The thought-provoking lessons shared throughout Shelby Wagner’s uplifting story will motivate readers to come to terms with their loss, recover, and create a new life for themselves. This is a refreshing memoir that provides some critical coping and life skills that will stay with you long after you put the book down.

Pages: 200 | ASIN: B08S3CGMD6

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“Whatever you’re feeling is okay.”

Jennifer Stults
Jennifer Stults Author Interview

Carry on Castle is a very personal story for you. How hard was it to put this story out in the world for people to read?

I discovered through my blog that I have the rare ability to talk about death and grief. I can handle it, I guess you could say. So many of my fellow widows have written to say, “This is exactly how I feel!” I had one thank me for sharing my story, because she didn’t feel brave enough to share hers.

I don’t think bravery has anything to do with it, but I am able to talk about death and grief. Not everyone can, but they can read my story and realize that they aren’t alone, that their feelings are normal. That is a strength that I didn’t realize I had in me.

I want to tell the truth. It’s not lollipops and rainbows. It’s death. I wasn’t going to tell people we were fine, because we were not fine. I wasn’t going to gloss over it. That would have been an injustice to Dan, to pretend I was okay with him being gone.

It was also important because I don’t want people to forget Dan. Please don’t forget Dan. Dan wanted to leave a legacy. He wrote,

“Our lives are but mist, or the equivalent of the blink of an eye in all of time. We will not be around very long and we will not be remembered. I want to leave a legacy; I want the time allotted to me to result in more than consumed resources and over-populating offspring. I want said offspring to know me, to know their history through me. I want lives and subsequent generations to be different because I was involved. I want to help people heal and be transformed…”

I want people to know what he did. How amazing he was. How much he loved the world. I am his story keeper now.

What is one piece of advice someone gave you that changed your life?

I was talking to my best friends about possibly dating again, and was ambivalent about it. I knew I would never find anyone like Dan so I didn’t see the point in trying. I wasn’t ready for marriage. I wasn’t sure I ever wanted to be married again. They told me, “You don’t have to try to find another husband. It’s okay just to find someone that you can go to a movie and have a conversation with.”

That changed my whole mindset about dating. I wouldn’t replace my husband, but I could go to a movie with someone. I signed up for online dating with that intention. I managed to get lucky, and found an incredible man who I am deeply in love with. My mother in law goes as far as to say that Dan picked him out for me. He is like Dan and wholly different from Dan at the same time.

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

“Whatever you’re feeling is okay.”

My best friends told me that a lot. When I messaged them in the middle of the night crying, it was okay. When I told them I wanted to punch Dan in the face, it was okay. When I laid on the floor because I couldn’t do life, it was okay. When I locked myself in my dad’s bathroom on Christmas because I couldn’t stop crying, it was okay. When I started taking antidepressants, that was okay too.

There is no right or wrong way to grieve. You feel what you feel, you do what you have to do to survive. Don’t let anyone tell you you should be acting differently, especially people who have never been through it.

Author Links: Facebook | GoodReads | Blog

High school sweethearts Dan and Jenny Stults were living their happily ever after. They had a beautiful daughter and dreams of more children. Their life was ripped apart in January of 2015, when 36 year old Dan died suddenly, leaving Jenny and their 7 year old daughter to carry on alone. Despite unfathomable grief, they endured. Jenny recounts the story of this nearly impossible task in her memoir about true love, sudden death, and penetrating grief.

Carry on Castle

There are certain kinds of grief no one should ever have to endure, but nonetheless happen every day. Losing the love of your life at an early age is one of these, and one that author Jennifer Stults had to endure. Although she expected to live happily ever after, life had other plans. Chronicling the journey of loss and learning to live with the pieces, Stults details a life she never would have, or even could have, imagined for herself and her daughter. The story she tells is in turn heartbreaking and heartwarming as she illustrates the stages of grief in startling clarity. 

In Carry on Castle, Stults relays the good, the bad, and the incredibly ugly that comes with unexpected loss at an extremely unexpected time in life. Her brutally honest narrative, and vivid details of the night her husband Dan died, leaves nothing to the imagination. During the course of the book she details each of the stages of grief and her own reaction to them. It’s a hard fact to accept that while life is shattered it must still go on, but Stults unflinchingly describes doing so, even on days when she has no interest in doing so. Despite the support system in her life, her family, Dan’s family, her friends, and her daughter, among others, the loss of her husband creates a vacuum that Stults feels powerless against, with the feeling resurfacing at the most random times. 

Stults’ book is just as much a roadmap for others dealing with the same grief as it is catharsis for her own journey. She is open about the fact that writing was never an aspiration of hers, yet her style and tone flow so easily, it would be reasonable to guess she had done it all her life. Even with the melancholy subject matter, Stults manages to infuse enough humor to keep it from becoming too heavy, as well as showing the value of laughter as a coping mechanism. For those who have suffered this type of loss, the book is a solid reminder that no one is alone in their struggles. For those that haven’t, it is a rollercoaster of a ride that they can never completely understand. Her candor helps to convey such an incredible story.

Carry on Castle is such a well written and riveting story that I’m certain wasn’t easy to put on paper. Whether you have been through a similar experience or not, Stults provides some wisdom for both sides of the coin.

Pages: 254 | ASIN : B07Q2DX7HG

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There Is No Recipe For Grief

Judy Lipson
Judy Lipson Author Interview

Celebration of Sisters shares your personal grief journey and how you moved forward years later. Why was this an important book for you to write?

Many individuals encouraged me to share my story. I am an introverted, private person. The concept was out of my realm. I felt the time had come to be open and reveal thoughts that had been kept quiet for many years. Writing the book was two- fold. First, the message as states in the title “It Is Never Too Late To Grieve,” and second to bring awareness about sibling loss.

I never shared my feelings. Due to the circumstances of our family and the times many secrets were kept. I hoped in telling my story anyone who experienced grief would discover some common chord. Grief will become more of an open conversation. The topic not only for those who suffered a loss, but with for others to support individuals who have experienced the loss of a loved one. It is also about forgiveness something that I still struggle with today.

Sibling deaths are referred to as disenfranchised losses, the forgotten mourners. Siblings who lost siblings are often overlooked and take on the burden, worry and caring of other family members. No matter the complexity of the relationship siblings share a unique and special bond. Who knows you better than your sibling? The dream of sharing your life together changed in an instant. Navigating your life without your sibling(s) is a complex journey.

When asked the question, how many siblings do you have? I cringed and rather than share my story. I answered, “just me.” Today I say, “I am the middle of three girls, sadly I lost both my sisters.” My sisters although they are gone, are my past, present, and future.

I appreciated the candid nature with which you told your story. What was the hardest thing for you to write about?

The hardest piece to write concerned the actual deaths of my sisters Margie and Jane. The painful recollections of November 7, 1981, and August 1, 1990, were buried deep in my subconscious. In tandem, writing about the work in the Complicated Grief study. Reliving that agonizing time was another step on the grief journey. Every anniversary of my beloved sisters’ death is sad, and each year varies in the intense feelings. Writing about the actual day sparked raw feelings I had not experience for a long time.

Memories buried so deep bubbled to the surface. When I relived those tragic days, my hands shook on the keyboard and tears streamed down my face. Forced to take breaks, I took walks. The fresh air calmed me down. Although the process incredibly challenging at times, lost memories came alive – some dark but many filled with light.

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

I say in the book, there is no recipe for grief. The instant you suffer a loss, your life is changed. It is my hope that anyone who has suffered a loss will not feel alone. They will find someone to communicate with, and know whatever their journey is, it is theirs.

In families, grief looks different to every member. In trying to protect each other, we often shut each other out. Everyone is grieving and it is important to have difficult but open conversations where everyone understands each other’s feelings.

I was fortunate to have ice skating as an outlet to find peace, joy, and a connection to my sisters. Gliding across the ice I could turn everything out and focus on stroking on the slick surface, the cool breeze flowing through my hair, and feel my sisters on my shoulders.

Many lessons learned on the ice transferred to life. When learning a new element, patience and practice are key. The same holds true for grief. It is not something learned, we have to practice and be patient with ourselves and reach out for help. A new skill which I had to learn, practice and be patient. Another lesson learned is that when we fall, we get up.

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

Hope and love.

Everyone in life has a story or a cross to bear. There is always hope. When you share your story and are transparent, people open up to you with their stories. A conversation begins finding a new bond, friend, and connection.

For many years I was haunted because I lost so many memories of my beloved sisters Margie and Jane. I learned the love of my sisters and I shared prevails overall.

I know my life has its tragedies and challenges and has shaped who I am today not without scars, however in the end I hope I channeled it forward.

I quote what the Rabbi so eloquently stated in Jane’s eulogy:

“There is no satisfactory answer to understanding why bad things happen to good people. Not all questions have answers. Unanswered “whys” are a part of life. The way to face tragedy is with love. “

Margie and Jane, I will always love you.

Author Links: GoodReads | Facebook | Instagram | Website

For Judy Lipson, her sisters were her compass, constant, champions, and competitors and for thirty years she suppressed the grief of losing her two beloved sisters.

Judy lost her younger sister Jane at age twenty-two in an automobile accident and nine years later her older sister Margie at age thirty-five to a twenty year battle with anorexia and bulimia. It was not until 2011 that Judy began her journey to mourn for Margie and Jane.

Judy experienced the reality that those who lose siblings are the forgotten mourners and they are left to take care of their parents and children. The impact of their loss takes a back seat.

Through her participation and work prescribed in a complicated grief study, Judy learned to restore her well-being, happy memories of her sisters, and the passion the three of them had for figure skating. By bringing her sisters and their memories together more present in her life, Judy found peace.

To honor the memory of her sisters, Judy created and continues to hold, Celebration of Sisters, an annual ice skating fundraiser which benefits Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts.

This is the story of how Judy used her memories and their shared love of ice skating to come full circle. When she performs on the ice, Judy feels Margie and Jane on each shoulder guiding her and whispering in her ear, “Judy, you’ve got this.”

This is a story of love, grief, and moving forward, even years after the loss.

The Prodigal Father

The Prodigal Father by [Forrest Hutter]

The Prodigal Father by Forrest Hutter is a touching story about family and faith. The novel tells the story of Tom Davis, a man who was a drunk in his youth, and when he wasn’t drinking he would be angry constantly. Everything changed when his wife got pregnant and had their eldest son. Tom became a different man, a loving husband, and a devoted father. Even though they struggled financially they had each other and that’s all they needed to be happy. Everything came crumbling down when he tragically lost his wife. And with her passing, he also lost his faith. The years went on and Tom felt like he was only sinking deeper and deeper with no escape. This impassioned story of heartbreak and redemption tells readers that no one is past the point of saving and we can always find our way back to ourselves and our loved ones.

The author writes effortlessly and readers can feel the powerful emotions conveyed in the story. As we dive into this inspirational Christian fiction story we are more than just readers, we are a part of the book and the characters. Even though the book follows two timelines, the present and the past, the author manages to keep the narrative straightforward while simultaneously creating an ocean of emotions for us to experience with the characters.

As a reader who is interested in character development, I am pleased with Hutter’s approach to writing. He took the time to develop every character so that they feel as real and raw as possible, giving them flaws and weaknesses as well as just good characteristics. We see all aspects of our main character, Tom. At the beginning of the book we see him do extra work on a client’s car and not charge him, even though he had to pay the extra out of his own pocket and that even caused him to get fired. We see his love and grief. We see his flaws, however, my favorite thing, as a reader, about this character is how he is aware of all his flaws, weaknesses, and wrongdoings.

Yet another plus of The Prodigal Father is the length of the chapters. Hutter keeps his chapters concise and quite short. He brings each one to a fitting end that urges the reader on to the next for more. This captivating book is a quick read and difficult to put down.

The way Hutter captures and describes faith is incredible. In a world with so many religions, agnostics, and atheism, he manages to write a spiritually uplifting book fitted for any kind of belief. The Prodigal Father is a thought-provoking Christian story worth reading. This is an emotionally-charged novel that will stick with readers long after they put the book down.

Pages: 213 | ASIN: B08ZLLWW6T

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A Document Of Our World

Marin Darmonkow
Marin Darmonkow Author Interview

The Epic of Gabriel and Jibreel tells the story of two boys who form a powerful friendship amidst devastating loss. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

My goal was to create a document of our world – a piece of realistic and painful evidence. According to SAVE THE CHILDREN REPORT for 2019, 160 million children lived in high-intensity conflict zones. We, the adults, created these conflict zones and we know well that such environments alter the direction of children’s lives and cause many casualties. My main protagonists’ fate is just proof — sad proof, unfortunately — that the world doesn’t care.

The art in the book is vivid and impactful. What was the artistic process like to bring this story to life?

As you already know, I create the illustrations for my publications — my stories give me suggestions for the style of visuals they need. In the case of THE EPIC OF GABRIEL AND JIBREEL, the request was for as-close-as-possible-to real-life illustrations in order to connect the reader with reality. This way the “holy trinity” — narrative, illustrations, and layout, perfectly match and create a cohesive piece of art. 

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

Many themes form the building blocks of the book’s DNA, but two words from the Publishers Weekly review define the main theme well — “cosmic unfairness”.

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

I am currently working on ART — a wordless book about an autistic and artistic circus virtuoso named Art. It is also a book about art…that defies gravity. The title, as you see, is so demanding that the illustrations must be one-of-a-kind. The publication will be available at the beginning of 2022.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

The Epic of Gabriel and Jibreel is a cautionary tale of the ultimate friendship. It is a heartbreaking story of two boys, a refugee, and a child from a wealthy suburb. Gabriel lives with his father in a large house surrounded by other large houses. One day while exploring the beach, Gabriel meets Jibreel. Jibreel lives with his father in the upside-down boat that brought them across the sea. With similar stories of devastating loss, yet joyful dreams, and a love for flying, the boys form an incredible and indestructible friendship. This is an excruciating story – a children’s picture book with a powerful message that is worth hearing.

Celebration of Sisters

Celebration of Sisters: It Is Never Too Late To Grieve by [Judy Lipson]

We will always carry the people we love most with us throughout our lives. It took a while for Judy Lipson to figure this out and not feel overwhelmed; even seeing people who knew her sisters was a harsh reminder of their passing. Lipson grew up tight-lipped, unable to express her grief for over thirty years. Lipson writes about losing her sisters, one to an accident and the other to a long, hard battle with mental illness. With this book, Lipson hopes to connect with people who feel the same inability to grieve their loss and help them.

The bond between siblings is a powerful thing. In Judy Lipson’s Celebration of Sisters: It’s Never Too Late to Grieve, we learn of Lipson’s greatest tragedies and the grief she has over losing two of the most important people in her life, and the journey she has taken to heal from their loss. The book starts with the harrowing stories of Jane and Margie’s deaths. Lipson’s grief is palpable through her strong writing; her readers will feel the hard, cold reality of her loss. Starting with the loss of her sisters, Lipson helps readers to slowly understand her upheaval and why it took so long for her to find help.

Lipson shares memories from her childhood. These heart-warming stories relieve the depressing atmosphere of the book and encourage readers to continue with Lipson through her journey of healing. This is a very emotional story that will certainly tug at the heart. Readers will be overcome with empathy, but the story is ultimately uplifting.

Lipson’s story of the passing of her sisters creates a strong foundation for the story structure. As we continue on to the beginning of Lipson’s life, working our way through her childhood and slowly into adulthood while revisiting her sisters’ deaths; this creates an almost half biography/diary sort of structure that is a bit chaotic, at times jumping around the timeline of Lipson’s life, but otherwise engaging. While I enjoyed all the memoires that Lipson shares throughout this impassioned memoir, I felt that some of the memoires were repeated, which sometimes helped to reaffirm the scene but other times it felt repetitious.

I found this book to be a heart-aching reminder of my own loss. As a very empathetic person, I could not help but shed a few tears when I read about Margie and Jane. Even though this was an emotionally difficult book to read, I would recommend it to anyone who struggles with the grief of losing loved ones.

Celebration of Sisters is a sentimental view into the life of someone who experienced tragedy and came out the other side to tell her story, and the story of those that are now gone. Readers who are looking for an emotionally honest and engrossing biography will find this book hard to put down.

Pages: 150 | ASIN: B08VZPCK8X

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The Epic of Gabriel and Jibreel

The Epic of Gabriel and Jibreel: A Cautionary Tale of Ultimate Friendship (2GETHER picture book collection 4) by [Marin Darmonkow]

The Epic of Gabriel and Jibreel, by Marin Darmonkow, is a children illustrated book filled with deep themes, hidden by the genre of the book. It narrates the story of two children Gabriel and Jibreel, who can’t be friends as one is a refugee, whereas the other one is a normal child living there, whose father is xenophobic.

Darmonkow uses vivid colors in the illustrations and makes them as realistic as possible, making it appealing to children while giving a hint that it refers to situations that happen in our world, giving readers a connection with reality. Furthermore, I appreciated the choice of the boys’ names as both Gabriel and Jibreel are two angels but belonging to two different religions and cultures. This contrast and the friendship between them represent the clash of culture that we find whenever a refugee meets a native and vice versa.

The Epic of Gabriel and Jibreel, by Marin Darmonkow is a quick read, but takes on important and actual themes, so I would recommend it to both children and adults. Furthermore, the plot reminded me of the book The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyle, which deals with similarly deep themes.

This is a thought-provoking children’s book exploring friendship, with provocative commentary on society and detailed imagery that readers will spend plenty of time looking at and appreciating.

Pages: 32 | ASIN: B08NWTHGJR

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