It’s almost impossible not to come across a story every day about another victim of the opioid/mental health crisis that is devastating cities around the globe.
This ongoing tragedy encompasses so many issues and has so many facets but at the end of the day it is a tragedy of people. Real people who have real stories and whose stories have elements that anyone can relate too.
So, what makes a person succumb to pain, depression and despair? Why are some people able to stay clean and others can’t break free? The answer is not always the same, neither is the end of each persons tale. Taking a page from a true life news article, singer/songwriter Steve Murphy embraces the idea of the person behind the byline in a short story centering on Mark; a homeless man who battles his personal demons, usually without much success.
From the opening of Foul Play is Not Suspected Murphy asks the questions we should ask and take the time to think about. The characters of this short story could be anybody and like anybody, they have twists and turns in their lives; as well as a desire to find the best lives for themselves.
The crisis’ of drugs and depression often go hand in hand and by no means can be put into a box or a quick article but the authors considerable talent allows him to illustrate an accurate and savvy picture of how these problems affect all people in society.
At the center of Foul Play is Not Suspected is Mark an everyday man who becomes the symbol of a life interrupted by darkness and bad decisions and the inability to get past his addiction. But, there are more layers to Mark and to Murphy’s story in general. Thankfully, the message is not lost in complexity nor overwritten to prove a point. His vision stays true to the message and is clear as well as impactful.
Steve Murphy closes the story with links and ideas to be more active, as well as a link to the original article and a link to an informative article about the health risks of opioids.
Reading stories like Foul Play is Not Suspected will help put the right take on this overwhelming problem and should be part of any book club. A longer version of the story would have been wonderful.
Pages: 103 | ASIN: B07XC1QFZD
Every person in their youth has dreamt of escaping to some exotic locale for fun, freedom, and newness. Someplace on the globe that is ‘other’; a place that can physically represent the internal battle of reaching adulthood and really understanding how things change and how one wants to find their own and new identity.
For the author, Nan Sanders Pokerwinski, the dream of a far off world full of new possibilities was a lush and beautiful reality. Mango Rash is a memoir of her brief time in America Samoa as a teen back in the mid-sixties. But it is so much more than that! Nan’s recall of her life-transforming time is a lush, layered, inviting and provocative tale that is so delightful to read!
Mango Rash peppers in historical references and factual instances in a perfect way that makes Nan’s story more intriguing and doesn’t date the story. In fact, the writer’s coming of age story is so timeless in the way that any teen can relate too in any age or any setting.
America Samoa provides such a picturesque and breathtaking backdrop to the timelessness of Mango Rash. Nan’s voice is so strong and effective and pens such a likable and marvelous story with a place that everyone will want to visit and a group of people that everyone will want to meet.
Nan’s ups and downs on the island mirror her ups and downs in life and her voyage to figure out where her home really is. The all too brief interactions with her parents and the very quick observations she makes about the world around her were such wise touches!
Mango Rash has an ending I did not see coming, but probably should have. Despite the memoirs’ sudden end and out of nowhere change, the author makes the conclusion stick with flair and whimsy.
Pokerwinski has a huge talent for drawing the reader in with such ease and flair; like listening to a story being told by your best friend! Everything about Mango Rash is delightful and wondrously fun!
Take the time to enjoy this book and you will find yourself reflecting on the people and places that helped shape you and still hold a part of your heart today; as well as identifying closely with the characters. For sure, you will dream of American Samoa and will be hoping that Nan has more stories to tell.
Pages: 300 | ASIN: B07WNXS6LV
Almost everyone has been touched by cancer; either indirectly or directly by this aggressive and unpredictable disease. Serious diseases affect people in different ways, sometimes the emotional storm leaves you as unprepared as the illness. A child battling cancer is as bad as it gets and the real life story of Adrienne Wilson is a total gut-wrencher as well as beautiful, uplifting and encouraging one. Better off Bald: A Life in 147 Days is an undeniably fascinating read that should be experienced!
There is so much raw truth and strength in the authors recounting of her sisters battle with childhood cancer. Andrea Wilson’s story is a roller coaster of hope, anger, grief, nostalgia, determination, self guilt, and courage that can only be matched my her marvelous and spirited sister. The truth about cancer is that there is no absolutely true path or outcome. Everyday and every story is different. Despite knowing the end for Adrienne the author is successful at making the reader understand how every day and moment is different and unique and the journey of these 2 strong women is just as compelling as can be hoped for.
Andrea Wilson Woods opens up her soul with her memoir Better off Bald: A Life in 147 Days. This fabulously narrated journey lays out all that can be experienced when dealing with the terminal illness of a minor.
There are countless ups and downs in Adrienne’s story and it’s not straight forward nor easy. What in life is? The roller coaster ride is raw and real and the unbalance of this story makes it remarkable.
Better off Bald paints such a vivid picture of the complexity of cancer and the real life challenges of living in the moment and how people think and react to every changing scope of their new reality. The author captures the readers heart and attention with clarity and grit. There is so much in Adrienne and Andrea’s story that makes you wish you had known them in person and feel like you already do.
From beginning to end A Life in 147 Days demands attention and you just want to keep reading and reading. The triumphs and tragedies of the two sisters is a story that must be shared and I am so grateful the it was! The author ends her story with a call to action and perspective that is relatable and honest. A truly great read!
Pages: 394 | ASIN: B07X3N6TCP
From Miracle to Murder is about surviving domestic abuse, a misogynistic religious cult, and being falsely accused of the murder of a disabled child. Why was this an important book for you to write?
I began From Miracle to Murder as a letter to my daughter, Anne. I needed her to know how much I loved her and her brother, Adam.
I fought like a mother to protect them but opponents overwhelmed me and I failed. After Adam was murdered, I was accused, and Anne was given to my abusive ex-husband. There were times I became so despondent, giving up would have been easier then continuing to live but I learned how to be an advocate for my daughter.
I have no super power, talent, or strength, so if I can survive a Pandora’s Box of horrid events, I hope others will be inspired by Miracle to know they will not only survive, but they will become a presence and a voice for those who are unable to speak for themselves.
You share a lot of emotional and personal moments in this story. What was one thing you were not sure you could discuss in this book?
Discussing the extent to which Anne and my relationship with her was damaged was extremely painful. Adam’s death was horrid, but watching Anne be destroyed in increments of days and months as the years passed by people who were trusted by the authorities was evil. The first priority of a parent is to protect their child. I failed to do that with both Anne and Adam. I hold my inability to shield them from harm accountable for the misery that followed.
What do you hope readers take away from your book and your experiences?
If you are in a relationship and are wondering if you are being abused, listen to your inner self and seek help. It is possible to break the cycle of abuse. It begins with you.
Never, never lie. Tell the truth at all times. If I had told even one lie all those years when I was accused of murdering my own child, it would have been found and my credibility would have been destroyed. Never telling a lie saved my relationship with Anne when she was ready to work with a counselor. My prayers for her return were rewarded when she looked at me and said, “Mom, you are the only one who never lied to me.”
Forgive yourself for your mistakes. I did the best I could with the tools I had to use at the time. I was too naïve and trusting. These aren’t sins but please be aware of your environment and the credibility of the people who are in your space.
No matter how awful the situation, please avoid any medication, prescribed or otherwise, that may lead to an unintentional dependency. Follow the advice I was given and wait until the situation improves, then indulge in a glass of your favorite beverage. Better yet, go on a hike, a walk, or vacation, and visit your favorite healing place.
Writing a memoir often causes one to reflect on past choices. Is there anything you see differently now that you wrote this book?
If I could return to the past and change one of my decisions, it was when my father told me to go to my high school counselor’s office and turn down the scholarships and grants I had earned. I wanted to go to medical school and become a doctor. I was too timid and too dominated by the rules of my father and the religion in which I was raised to stand up and say, “No. I’m going to college.” That one declaration of independence would have totally avoided the hell that followed.
I now firmly believe an advanced education for both men and women is the key to a lifetime of enlightenment, success, emotional and financial independence.
From Miracle to Murder: Justice for Adam is about surviving domestic violence, the trauma of being raised in a misogynistic religious cult, the murder of a disabled child, and being falsely accused of that murder. It is the memoir of a true crime. It’s the story of a mother who was determined to survive. It’s a, “Oh my God, this really happened to a mother and her children! But she survived! She’s doing all right! Then, maybe so can I.”
From Miracle to Murder is not an essay into court or investigative procedures. Instead, the reader is invited into the author’s life. She wants them to see what she saw, thought, heard, and felt as she says her last goodbye to her son and when she’s formally charged. Experience what she does when she is pushed to the edge of insanity, adjusts, acquires skills to survive, and then creates a different normal as she forgives and finds joy again.
Joyce loved her son. She treasured every minute of his short life. In spite of what the rest of the world viewed as terrible physical deformities and mental disabilities, Adam laughed. He enjoyed being alive. Joyce was devastated after he died. When police showed up at her door and accused her of murdering her little boy, her world shattered.
The characters are real people. What they did, what they said, and what they wore happened. All scenarios are depicted as accurately as possible and are based on police reports, depositions, court records, a grand jury transcript, criminal trial transcripts, psychologist’s written evaluations, eye witness accounts,journals, victim impact statements, different avenues of public media, Adam’s autopsy, and the author’s haunting memories recalled to the best of her abilities.
From Miracle to Murder: Justice for Adam is for anyone who believes in the presumption of innocent until proven guilty. It is hoped that readers will walk away from Miracle with a greater faith that they can survive the impossible, forgive the unforgivable, learn how not to become a victim, and the importance of creating moments of clarity in the midst of chaos.
My Life at Sweetbrier: A Life Changed by Horses is a non-fiction book written by Deanie Humphrys-Dunne about her true life experiences growing up on a horse farm in Easton, Connecticut called Sweetbrier. After Deanie’s parents were told she would probably never be able to walk, she not only overcame her disability in order to learn to walk but Deanie also learned to ride horses and becomes an equestrian jumping champion, riding a horse named Fleet Nancy (Peach). Then she has surgery on her leg to help her walk better and she has to relearn to walk and ride all over again. After many months of physical therapy and hard work, she comes back to the jumping circuit and wins even more championships.
I enjoyed reading this book. It had an inspiring message about overcoming obstacles in order to reach your goals, to keep trying even when you fail and not give up. It’s a message that will resonate with all readers regardless of whether or not they have a physical disability like Deanie.
The descriptions of Little Man (Deanie’s first pony) were humorous as she described his actions when she was learning to ride, but it was sad to read about the horses that the family lost when the barn caught on fire.
I loved that the author included family photographs and pictures of the house and barns at Sweetbrier and the horses owned by the Humphrys Family while Deanie was growing up. There were also pictures of the Humphrys sisters jumping at various horse shows.
Although I enjoyed the book, I felt that the story was a bit disjointed at the beginning, with Deanie retelling various events in her past, jumping from one memory to another without connections between them. I would have preferred a more cohesive narrative in that section of the story, but this is not an issue in the later parts of the story. No dates were mentioned, and I would have liked to know when Deanie was growing up and when she won numerous equestrian jumping championships.
This is an inspirational story that excellently conveys the moments and emotions of Deanie’s life. This book invites readers into a personal story, one that is told boldly, and I appreciated it.
Pages: 144 | ASIN: B0711P67DM
In May of 1977, Joyce gave birth to her second child, a son named Adam. Adam was a beam of light in an otherwise dark world surrounding Joyce and her daughter, Anne. Joyce was faced with the daunting task of raising a child with Cornelia de Lange Syndrome–a child she was told would never thrive and would require intense specialized care the rest of his short life. Joyce, a woman already trapped in an intensely abusive marriage, vowed to raise her son and his older sister together for as long as he may survive. In May of 1977, Joyce began a journey of new love with her two small children. In September of 1983, she was accused of Adam’s murder.
From Miracle to Murder: Justice for Adam is the true story of Joyce A. Lefler’s harrowing experience as a battered wife and a mother accused of murdering her young so told in her own words. From the first pages of Lefler’s story, it is painfully clear that Joyce is a fighter. The abuse she endured at the hands of her husband was nothing short of horrific. The author describes in vivid detail the moments of hair-pulling, his verbally abusive tirades, and the incidents of rape she endured as her children slept. Her husband, Allen, was a monster by all rights and possessed no redeeming qualities whatsoever. Several times while reading, I gasped audibly at the terrorizing scenes described by the author.
When accused of murdering her young son, Adam, Joyce faced obstacles at literally every turn. I cannot imagine losing one of my children and having the other ripped from my arms and turned against me. Joyce is a special person indeed. She is a survivor in every sense of the word.
The circumstances surrounding Adam’s death and the light shed on the many mistakes made during his murder investigation are overwhelming. She describes the most infuriating neglect on the part of the police department. All of these oversights led to one heartbreak in Joyce’s life after another. From having her husband awarded custody of her daughter to having trusted friends run the other way after her own arraignment, Joyce watched her life fall out from beneath her, but she somehow held her own.
It’s difficult to say this is a great book because it’s a tragic true story. I will say this–if your life has in any way been touched by abuse, this is a book you should read. By the same token, if you are the parent of a child with special needs, Joyce’s life story is one with which you should familiarize yourself. So much can be learned from her experience with her son and some of the medical professionals Joyce encountered in Adam’s first days. From her childhood to her marriage with her first husband to her painful existence looking back in fear of being accused again of her son’s death, Joyce describes for readers an incredibly difficult life of choices no one should have to make but everyone should read.
Pages: 309 | ASIN: B07FMGGHTG
My Kill Play is the true story of the author’s life, struggles, and triumphs as told through his journey in the world of roller derby. The term “kill play” refers to a group of players on a team organizing themselves to violently take out a specific player on the other team. In this book, Tim Patten, is referring to the HIV/AIDS virus that was “ganging up” on gay men in his roller derby world and across the nation. It is absolutely heart-wrenching as the author describes how this virus came into his world and turned it upside down. I enjoyed getting an inside look into the uprising of the roller derby world as it becomes the well-known sport it is today. Unfortunately, this story also involves the discovery and uprising of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
Tim describes his path through roller derby as well as his experience with extreme illness. This book taught me a lot about this time in history as experienced by someone really living in the heart of the crisis. The author gives emotional recollections that truly put the reader in the middle of it all. At times I felt so uncomfortable and helpless, knowing full well how much this illness continues to impact peoples’ lives all over the world. The writing was emotive and sincere. Although I felt that it would have been more impactful if it was written in the first person versus the third person. I knew that this was his story, so I found it somewhat disconnecting to read in the third person. I absolutely loved learning about the inner workings of the roller derby, as I know several people who currently participate in this intriguing sport. I also loved the relationships he describes amongst the characters in his life.
Despite the upsetting pieces to this story, I found it to be a heartwarming and inspiring book overall. Tim took what was given to him and turned it into a platform for thriving. As he says, he truly embodies the expression, “what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger”.
Pages: 321 | ASIN: B06XRZSRPS
Through the eyes and voice of a child, Dazhoni Green recounts her battle with brain cancer, wrestling with the debilitating effects of its initial symptoms, the diagnosis and ensuing treatment. These experiences, doubts and fears, were a prelude to a lengthy and arduous recovery. Souvenirs Of Suffering is a candid account that will find the reader cheering Dazhoni on, sometimes with tears, at every obstacle on her way to become the compassionate, energetic young woman she is today. The champions in the story are friends, family members, teachers, hospital staff and camp counselors who patiently and lovingly supported her and other children struggling with debilitating diseases. These children are the real heroes, each and every one. Having cancer as a child changed Dazhoni’s view of life, something the reader will sense as she portrays each milestone along the way.
The Farthest-Reaching Ball A Memoir of Motherhood by Sandra Bowman is definitely a unique read. The book starts with an Author’s Note explaining that the author has a daughter and that this daughter has always been her daughter. When I first read that sentence I wondered if maybe the author had adopted her daughter and that’s why she had declared that, but in fact, it turns out that her daughter is transgender which made it an intriguing read. In the story, you follow the life of Sandra and her son Grant with husband, Robert, and youngest son, Parker, almost being side characters. Grant realizes at a young age that he feels as though he is a female, but he is unsure of how to open up to anyone for fear of rejection.
Throughout the story, he is an intelligent man that everyone loves but he goes through some very dark times hiding away from the world, wanting to be left alone, dropping his grades despite his intelligence, dropping out of college multiple times as well as other situations all because he is afraid of rejection. He is afraid of coming out and people rejecting him, hating him, taunting him. He’s on medication for depression, later he’s diagnosed as bipolar, he skips therapy and doctor’s appointments multiple times. He’s one huge depressed messed. It takes years for Grant to finally come out and admit that he is a female and that his name is Grace.
I had mixed feelings towards this story because I try very hard to not judge parents since I’m a parent myself, but I found it hard to not judge Sandra for almost forgetting that she had a second son because she was so focused on Grant and his issues. I felt bad for Parker throughout the story and wanted to adopt him. I was so glad when Parker finally opens up about feeling neglected and I am happy that eventually the family is able to find happiness and become a whole again. I love that Parker accepted Grace for who she is even though she was the cause of him being neglected throughout his childhood and young adult life. I felt bad for Sandra for everything that she was going through, I could feel her emotions as she battled her own depression, I could feel her relief when she finally knew what the problem was with her daughter and I could feel her happiness when her family became whole again. I think Sandra did a really great job conveying the emotions in the story.
This is an exceptional memoir, the only thing that I didn’t like was that the timeline jumps around a bit, Grant is young and then in the next scene he’s an adult and then the next scene he’s young again. This happens a few times but isn’t really a huge problem, to be honest, it’s just the one thing that I think could have made the book a little easier to follow.
I liked how Sandra’s story helped me see what it’s like for transgenders growing up, what they go through during the transformation, the process of creating their new identity and being on hormones. I hope that this story helps to soften the heart of those that have problems with transgender people.
It’s not every day that we come across a historical work with as much life in it as we see in Left for Dead at Nijmegen: The True Story of an American Paratrooper in WWII. The level of research and attention to detail that went into the retelling of Eugene Metcalfe’s harrowing tale of survival is shown in spades. The reader has no problem understanding not only the physical situations faced by the main character but also the emotions and state of mind.
The author of this incredible story is hard to identify. Marcus A Nannini is certainly the one who organized and wrote the book, but he did such a good job putting it together that you just can’t help but think it is Gene himself telling you his own story. To add to that effect, Nannini puts a lot of focus on Gene’s sense of humor and personality.
The conversations between important members of the SS as well as many other details seem almost too good to be true from a historical perspective. Nannini dutifully constructs images and characteristics of the POW camps that his subject was forced into that were previously unknown. This work, therefore, is as important to historical study of the period as it is a riveting and fascinating tale.
The story starts off with Gene Metcalfe at school and illustrates his departure from his home, family and friends. Looking to do his part, Gene sets off and quickly finds himself shipping off. From the title, the reader knows there is going to be a traumatic event from the get-go, but what transpires afterwards is quite unpredictable. Left for dead, captured, moved from camp to camp, and bearing witness to many horrifying things, it is hard to believe at times that Gene is going to make it. Even more impactful are the ways that Gene gets himself through the atrocities he experiences.
The writing is direct, simple, and honest, relaying the same feeling that you get from the main character. Left for Dead in Nijmegen, written by Marcus A Nannini and published by Casemate, a resounding recommendation to readers of historical novels.
Pages: 256 | ASIN: B07QM86WDW
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