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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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
Young Jim has reached adolescence and is struggling with where he fits in life. Mostly because he doesn’t know himself well enough at this point to figure out where he feels most at home. He doesn’t fit in school. He joins a gang where he can only hope to belong, but never really does. His home is more house than home with both his parents living almost separate lives. Will the relationships he fosters be meaningful enough to withstand the tumult of adolescent existence?
Jim’s story is quite representative of what teens go through. The author has woven an almost poignant tale of Jim’s struggle to find a home. The story is thoughtfully narrated with an evocative plot and colored with insightful observations. Most of all, it is candid. All has been bared for the reader to see and experience. The reader is pulled into this abyss of raw emotion and overwhelming teenage confusion from the minute Jim celebrates his entrance into the Lancers (the gang) to the point where he loses his friend.
The book makes sparing use of dialogue and utilizes mostly internal dialogues between Jim and the ‘Voice’. The reader gets in depth peeks into Jim’s mind. This helps carry the story and paints a clearer picture of what Jim must have been going through. It is actually easy to lose oneself in Jim’s mind as it is a web of unanswered questions, self-doubt and all-around uncertainty. This is brilliantly executed and is well suited to the plot.
The book is written in plain language that is easy to understand, utilizing simple language to create striking imagery. Keeping the focus on the intriguing characters rather than on some grand literary design. Each character represents some form of human insecurity or peculiarity. Almost every reader will recognize themselves in one or more of the characters. Thereby enhancing the bond between the reader and characters for a more fulfilling experience.
This book left me feeling… haunted (I suppose that’s the right word). Although in the end Jim seems to be settling down, I felt that his questions of where he really belongs and his purpose have not been fully covered. This begs the question; will human beings always carry a degree of uncertainty with them?
This is an exceptional installment in the Leaving Home Trilogy. The first one was an absolute delight, the second one is undeniably beautiful and I am positively giddy for the third.
Pages: 234 | ASIN: B07CPDY81Y
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The Spell is a captivating memoir about your life, the obstacles you faced, and your perseverance. What was the inspiration that made you want to put your story into a book?
It’s not that I wanted to put my story into a book; I was compelled as you will find out at the end of Book III. I see my journey as archetypal and no longer my personal story. I have had many people connect with me about how one thing or another from the story affected them—something similar that they faced in their life. When I wrote it, I had no idea why I need to share this story.
You retrace your steps through some painful years in your life. Was there anything that you see different now that you have reflected on it?
Back then, I was another person. I often look at how ridiculous and childish I was. Many times I wanted to chop out the parts in the story that were embarrassing and what seems to me now, as ridiculous! But the character arc, my arc changes across the span of the three books. The thing I remind myself to do is to hold me, the person I was back then and the character of the story with tremendous tenderness. I can not discount how my life shaped me and the challenges I’ve overcome. Like a migrating Sandhill Crane, I have a perspective from a higher vantage point that spans across space and time.
I felt that you did a fantastic job of revealing the truth, no matter how painful. What do you hope readers take away from this book?
Thank you! There is no point in hiding behind your shame and your fears. And, no one has the right to judge another’s life and their choices. You don’t know what they’ve been through. You don’t know how much courage it takes to face themselves each day. We all have a story. That is what links humanity together. We all have our role to play and the only thing I can do, you can do, is make sure your life is an Oscar-winning performance.
This is book one in the The Shaman’s Lover Trilogy. Where will book two pickup and when will it be available?
The Shattering, Book II is gestating as I write this. It will be out this year. Here is a blurb from The Shattering.
What are you willing to risk to become who you really are?
As Georgina’s life faces a disastrous implosion, her best friend Sandy invites her to a healing center deep in the Peruvian Amazon where she naively enters into the mysterious world of ayahuasca-a potent visionary plant medicine also known as the “vine of the soul”. Magical journeys and other-worldly adventures submerge her into the shadow world where she discovers her demons and uncovers the lie she has been living. Just as she begins to reconnect with the Divine, Georgina meets with an unexpected twist of fate, when the healing center’s shaman casts a powerful enchantment on her. In order to unbind herself, she must face her past and strip away an imprisonment that is not only hers but shared by women world-wide.
Travel with Georgina as she takes you into an extraordinary reality. The Spell, Book One of The Shaman’s Lover Trilogy is a mesmerizing memoir about healing the Wounded Feminine and embodying the Divine Feminine. This personal account will inspire women to free themselves from the patriarchal program of shame, guilt and low self-worth and awaken to their power, radiance and beauty. Join Georgina and an unforgettable cast of characters as she takes you on a journey of magic and paradoxically, what it means to be ordinarily human.
Posted in Interviews
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Every mother’s journey is unique, however, they all share one thing: heartache. In one way or another, every mother travels down a difficult road as she fights tooth and nail to bring her child to adulthood unscathed. Sandra Bowman, author of The Farthest-Reaching Ball: A Memoir of Motherhood is no stranger to heartache. As the mother of two children, Grant and Parker, Bowman relates the trials and tribulations she overcomes as she raises her children virtually on her own. A mother’s love is nowhere more evident than in Bowman’s explanation of how she comes to understand the needs of her children and the struggle that has permeated her son’s life since an early age.
Sandra Bowman describes virtually every aspect of her journey as a mother in her poignant memoir, The Farthest-Reaching Ball. She details the birth of her sons so vividly that I felt, as the reader, that I attended the delivery. Her emotions surrounding the births are clearly drawn, and any parent who has experienced a particularly difficult birth will appreciate how very frank Bowman is with her details.
As a teacher, I am struck by the battle Bowman and her son, Grant, face as he begins school. His gifts are both amazing and obvious to all, but the obstacles he faces are numerous. Children with talents beyond those of the average child are often overlooked in the regular classroom, and they are not always afforded the opportunity to showcase their skills. Grant is one of those children with a mother on a mission to find a setting that suits her child’s best interests.
When Bowman’s son begins to experience behavior challenges and depression sets in, the author’s challenges multiply. Moreover, Grant’s own slowly-revealed identity crisis begins to consume his thoughts and every interaction. Bowman is more than understanding and is the proverbial mother bear–she is fierce and stops at nothing to make sure her child is content with himself. The author is beyond adept at communicating her feelings and her ever-fluctuating fears regarding Grant’s mental state. His worries are her worries, and his unhappiness is hers to bear.
There doesn’t seem to be a problem Bowman and her son haven’t endured. From excessive weight gain, to depression, to attention deficit disorder, Grant runs the gamut. Bowman is exceptionally open with her own feelings of defeat, despair, and utter helplessness. She is at loss as to how to help her son deal with an identity crisis that threatens to be the end of them all. Mothers of all walks of life can relate to Bowman’s honesty as she admits to her own suicidal thoughts.
I am impressed with Bowman’s forthrightness and openness. She lays out every frustration, worry, and obstacle for readers and shares with them the most intimate of details about her own regrets as a mother. Parents of children struggling with identity crises of all types will appreciate Bowman’s story.
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