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Along with You

Along with You by [Areaux, Michelle]All Blair wanted was to fit in and find a place where her dark past wouldn’t keep following her and haunting her. After many moves Blair and her parents end up in the small farm town of Shady Oaks Kentucky. Having always moved around from one big city to the next, a small farm town with country side and horses was the last thing Blair expected to find and fall in love with. Here in Shady Oaks, Blair finds real friends and starts to imagine she could have a real life there. Than someone from her past shows up, and everything crumbles. Would she be able to stand her ground and overcome her past here with the new friends she has, or will they turn on her like everyone else has in the past?

Being a teenager is hard these days, the world is hung up on social media presence, how many followers do you have, is your life documented one image after another for all the world to see? No matter how much we may try to delay this, it happens, our children are exposed to the world online and it has permeated even into their education system. Parents can no longer protect their kids from the world online. The increase of social media has made bully’s even more prevalent, no longer is it teasing on the playground, the bullies follow their victims’ home and even when they move to their new homes. Michelle Areaux does an amazing job at showing how this can impact their lives. Written for this age group, they can relate to the characters, the school groups, the feeling of being the new kid. The story is relatable. It is not so far-fetched, even with Blair’s secret, to believe this could be any kid in the school with them. The feelings are real, and the personalities are believable. Hunter is very endearing, and you want to love him from the start, same with Grace. I was drawn to all the characters, I felt like I could have been Blair, or Grace at different points in my life. Now I relate to her parents as I navigate the world of mental illness, bullying, cyber-bullying, and all the other stress that kids these days face with my own children. They thought moving all the time was what was best for Blair, they wanted to do the right thing for her, to make her life easier. It is what all parents want, to give their kids a better life. Moving to Shady Oaks was the best thing they could do for Blair and their love and frustration at helping her find her normal is easy for parents to relate to as well.

Along with You by Michelle Areaux is a young adult novel that is filled with topics we should all be talking to our teens about. This would make a great book club or family reading novel to share with young teens that are facing a world filled with technology and social media. It covers topics of bullying, cyber bullying, and the fact that once things are online they never really go away.

Pages: 232 | ASIN: B079ZPSFJ6

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The Blue Wings of the Dragonfly: Finding Magic in Every Day, Everyone, and Everything

The Blue Wings of the Dragonfly: Finding Magic in Every Day, Everyone, and Everything by [Roggeman, C. Lee]

Cynthia Roggeman’s personal memoir details the events throughout her life. She goes into great detail about her relationships, family and health complications. She does this while offering snippets of advice and wisdom that she has learned along the way. The book is often upsetting and full of events – on a number of occasions it seems as everything is happening at once for our author. She shares her life’s journey with the intention of learning from the process of writing and to divulge the positive aspects that result from a lifetime of hardship.

The sections about her family, mainly her father and her Italian grandmother, Nonni, are bittersweet and filled with memories that she describes in the manner of a child – because at the time she did not understand what was going on. Her childhood was filled with both happy and sad memories and she does not seem to resent any of the negative aspects at all. In her family circle, she experiences alcoholism and mental illness – which she regards as a choice.

Throughout her life, she has various serious health issues and is in the hospital a number of times. She suffers quite badly and even has to learn to self-medicate – something which carries a great responsibility, even if it is towards yourself. However, she does not let these problems set her back and each time she recovers and returns to work and normal life – this is not a woman who gives up easily.

The book is separated into short chapters, each beginning with a date. This makes it easier to place the events in the author’s life as they are not in chronological order. At times it can be difficult to remember at what age things occurred for her but she has ordered it according to her own time frame and reference of events – how she feels events in her past relate to each other. This is reflective of a realistic memory because often things do not go through our minds in order and jump around randomly.

She has written the book for it to be a therapeutic process, it seems to be a place for her grief, hope, and wisdom. She has learned to be imaginative and to really remember her past self. She has also learned to be grateful for the things she has, as well as the things she had. She writes that she has had to mourn her losses and accept them, as well as remember the fond memories.

Cynthia’s novel is a work of remembrance, which will make any reader reflect on their own lives and take heed of her writing. The deeply personal writing is both engaging and emotional, however sometimes it can be hard to keep track of the order things that happened. She urges us to be grateful, flexible and open to new things and changes and to be powerful – just like the blue dragonfly.

Pages: 100 | ASIN: B07DNDWFKN

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Returning Souls

Returning Souls by [Colombo, Ernestine B.]

Where does a soul go after one’s life is over? Does it drift away into nothing while the body returns to dust? Or does it goes on to rest, to be resurrected? Or does it recycle back into the physical plane of existence in yet another form? These questions always come to mind as we see, feel and live the experience called life.

Returning Souls by Ernestine B. Colombo is a unique book that allowed me to connect with the characters and allowed me to visualize not only the descriptions the author presents but also the struggles and emotions the characters go through in the story.

The story starts by presenting our protagonist, Evelyn D’Arico or Evie and takes her point of view. The beginning is captivating as we find the character lying on the floor, incapacitated and on the edge of death. The narrative masterfully captures the emotions you might have if you were to find yourself in the same predicament. The descriptions easily come as they paint some dramatic pictures. The language is fluid and allows you to get lost in the story. I particularly liked the author’s presentation of the behavior of the pets. I always believe that animals are more attuned to the metaphysical plane of souls and spirits.

The story, to me, presents a unique idea that I have not read in any piece of literature, the concept of Pre-incarnation. As the story progresses the reader gets to know a different character, Astara. She is a girl a little over 12, living in the Mesolithic time period. She is a unique complement to Evie’s character. Switching between the two characters points of view is handled expertly and I enjoyed being able to inhabit both of these two fascinating characters.

The story is touching as well as we get to learn of her sister who is suffering from Down syndrome. This for me, was one of the more emotional elements to the story that left the character endearing. The relationship was believable and the condition, I thought, was explained with care.

This book will take you on a reincarnation adventure with a deep look at the beauty, and maybe even the futility, of life. This is a must read for people coming of age or people looking for a metaphysical story that stands out from the rest as different and compelling.

Pages: 292 | ASIN: B079ZZ2M84

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Heartbreaker

Heartbreaker

Heartbreaker, by Thomas Duffy, is a dramatic story about a young woman, Amber Robertson. The book opens in Brooklyn on Amber’s 19th birthday. Her birthday is eventful as it is the first time she is arrested (for stealing). While in jail, she meets Missy, another young woman, who has been arrested for prostitution. As Amber and Missy talk, Amber decides that the life of an escort is as good as any other (and could help her earn some much needed money).

Amber starts her business with some online advertising as an independent escort. Unfortunately, she immediately draws the attention of a pimp, Pete. He starts making promises of protection for a cut of Amber’s money. Soon, her landlord, wants to evict her, so she starts renting motel rooms.

Unfortunately, she soon faces bigger problems. She’s kidnapped by one of her clients and starts a sordid love affair with another that eventually makes a sudden turn into something even more frightening.

As you can imagine, this book is complex and not necessarily a feel-good story. Heartbreaker’s protagonist, Amber, goes on a wild and weird anti-heroic arc right from the beginning of the story and the audience can see how those early misfortunes lead to an increasingly painful and tumultuous life. She initially presents as both hesitant and impulsive; constantly not sure about what she wants to do, but will then make a sudden and foolhardy decision.

As a reader, there is some sympathy for Amber. She ends up in pretty bad situations. Anytime things start to look as though they may improve for her, it only gets worse. Yet, she is also frustrating. Her impulsivity sometimes leads her into her worst outcomes. For example, late in the story she takes bold, rash action. Of course, I am avoiding sharing the ending here to prevent spoilers, so you will have to read for yourself to see how Amber’s story fully unfolds.

This story, in its own way, forces the reader to examine the evil that can hide in people. The evil, within the story is almost infectious, capable of spreading from person to person, evolving and mutating along the way as it collides with new lives, who act it out in their own unique way. Amber’s progression through the story seems to demonstrate her methods for confronting the evil in her past and present. It shows how she, like anyone, is capable of becoming somewhat immune to bad acts, bad people, and a bad life. Like so many people, she acts out what she has seen and experienced by replicating pain onto others.

This book is well-written, but I felt there were some issues with the pacing. At points the story seemed to drag out, such as during Amber’s interactions with Miguel and Jeffrey. I think these could have been shortened up a bit without losing any essential character development. Heartbreaker is written for mature, adult readers, who enjoy dramatic characters in intense and emotional situations.

Pages: 184 | ASIN: B017UZDW02

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Like the Hero in the Myth

Charles C. McCormack Author Interview

Charles C. McCormack Author Interview

Hatching Charlie: A Psychotherapist’s Tale is a frank autobiography centered around the theme of the pursuit of happiness and a meaningful life. What was the inspiration that made you want to write a memoir?

I was inspired by two of my children and some of my patients. My oldest daughter, Keeley, once presented me with a book that asked questions about me. The idea of the book was to have it for the grandchildren in posterity. I liked the idea of leaving something for the grandkids but didn’t like the venue. I didn’t think that telling them my favorite color was particularly pertinent to letting them know who I was. Then my son Chandler, several years later, prospering greatly in both his business and personal life in his mid-thirties asked me, in somewhat of a despondent tone, “Is this it?” He was kind of like the hero in the Myth of Percival who after garnering great fame as a killer of Dragons asked a similar question. I translated my adult children’ questions into “Who am I?” and “What is it [life] about?” My patients also played a role in that I often use stories from my life to illustrate points I am trying to make and also to normalize rather than pathologize the struggles they are having. In turn, they have found these stories very helpful and even entertaining and often suggested “You should write a book of these stories.” These three factors percolated in my mind for several years until one day they bubbled up and I just started writing.

There is a lot of reflection on life events in this book. Is there anything that was hard for you to write about?

My relationship with my first wife, Jane, and my own struggles in relationship. My first wife came to fight mightily with mental illness and I was extremely concerned with writing anything that might upset her. However, when my editor received the manuscript she noted immediately the presence of the absence of much to do about that relationship. I explained the problem and she respected the restraint feeling that many people make the book the all of everything without concern for its impact on others. At the same time, she pointed out that the readership would have a difficult time in empathizing with either Jane or myself with such sparse information. I was thus pushed to confront this issue and did so after several sleepless nights by writing the chapter on Jane and then sending it to her with complete and total veto power. To my surprise she responded with praise for the chapter, thought it was beautifully written and wouldn’t change a word. That felt so healing.

Other chapters that were difficult to write were the ones several reviewers have picked up on including yourself. Those are the chapters on the kids. They were indeed somewhat of an afterthought in that they were written later after my kids asked me why there wasn’t much on them or the grandkids in the book. On thinking about this, I did think it was an oversight driven by the difficulty in deciding what to write and the impact this could have on them. At the same time, even though somewhat an appendage to the book, I decided to go forward with it in that I thought, particularly as a family therapist, that there were valuable lessons to be learned within them for both adult children and parents. So, though I agree the book may seem to lose focus in these three family related chapters, I still thought they added to the lessons I wanted to share with readers and pertained to my ongoing hatching and self-discovery, as well as sensitizing me to the shadow my history cast on the lives of my offspring. In addition, with these chapters I was able to discuss the challenges of the life cycle and I older readers, those from my generation, have expressed particular appreciation for them.

Finally, just writing about my romantic relationships and failures in them were difficult to write because I find them embarrassing and felt some shame about them, particularly in that I’m a marriage and couples’ therapist. Yet, I didn’t feel I could tell my story with integrity and walk the walk of my talk if I avoided them. As I note in the book, you can’t lead a self-examined life if you cheery pick what you look at.

In this book we get to witness many peoples lives, loves, and tragedies. What do you hope readers take away from this book?

First, that we are all human and imperfect and to be okay with this. In saying this I don’t mean to imply we should shrug them off as “typically human,” but recognize the losses, or mistakes and/or harm we have done and to learn about ourselves and grow from them. I believe it is incredibly important for people to keep learning and growing till death do us part and that if we stop doing so we are more likely to become despairing as we’re caught in the smothering quicksand of stagnation. Second, that we have to live our lives, there are no short-cuts and that the attempt to not deal with our lives through avoidance and denial only leads to bringing about that which we fear. Finally, I wanted to posit a belief I’ve come to as a therapist and as a human being in the last several years. It was a realization that struck me as as an epiphany. That is, “Each of us is as happy as we can stand.” Isn’t that a concept worth thinking about? Here I’m not talking about people with psychotic illness or intense mental illness of any kind, but more so what I call the normal/neurotics who have been primarily affected by issues of nurture rather than nature that comprise the majority of the human race. The ultimate limiter of our happiness is we ourselves. We are each encompassed in habituated mental/emotional states that resist change, even when or perhaps even especially when, those changes are for the good. I won’t rewrite the book here but the how and why of this alone, in my view, is worth the read.

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

I don’t know the answer to this although it is a question I have been asking myself. Writing is hard for me. I don’t do it for fun unless I feel inspired, then it is one of the most fun and rewarding experiences of my life. So, I’ve been looking inward, trying to discern what is moving out of sight within the fathoms below. It has not yet come into view but I do feel its stirrings.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

If you’ve ever wanted to read someone’s diary, be a fly on the wall during a private exchange, or wondered what someone, possibly your therapist, really, really thinks, then Hatching Charlie will roundly satisfy that curiosity. It’s a fascinating read if you just leave it at that, but, in doing so you’d miss a rare invitation to be guided through elements of your own personal story on a parallel plane. An emotionally charged, inspirational, thoughtful and humorous book filled with wisdom, psychological insight and relationship truth Hatching Charlie: A Psychotherapist’s Tale is both an autobiography and a quest story. In spellbinding fashion, it interweaves the incredibly interesting life journey of Charles McCormack with his becoming a counselor and psychotherapist. Born into an abusive home and spending early years in the racist Jim Crow South where he witnessed segregation first hand, Charlie at age eleven is then involuntarily exiled to a Catholic boarding school in France even though he doesn’t speak the language. There he is again abused. Cut off from family and friends, isolated from those around him and under the rule of sadistic authorities Charlie spirals downward in the grip of anxiety and depression. Disoriented and confused he feels a determination to make sense of his life, his world, his relationships, and his place in them, core questions that will shape the rest of his life. But the going is not easy. Charlie acts out, flounders, is a mediocre student, fails high school, is expelled from college, and goes on an odyssey to Mexico where he meets a psychologist turned auto-mechanic who plants an idea in his mind. After this encounter, Charlie pursues a career as a counselor and psychotherapist. He returns to school, finds he’s a natural, and eventually earns a master’s degree in psychology and then another in clinical social work. Subsequently, working on a long-term psychiatric locked door inpatient unit he suffers PTSD following the suicide of a patient, begins writing, becomes published, and encounters career success. He is invited to join the faculty of the Washington School of Psychiatry, promoted to Senior Social Worker of Long-Term Adult Inpatient Services at a psychiatric hospital in Baltimore, is named the Clinical Social Worker of the Year in Maryland, and writes a book on how to treat “difficult to treat” couples entitled Treating Borderline States in Marriage: Dealing with Oppositionalism, Ruthless Aggression and Severe Resistance that is well received. Yet, as his career is evolving his personal life is disintegrating. He is forced to confront mental illness in his own family, divorces twice, suffers a return of anxiety and depression, and leads him to question the impact of his early relationships on his own capacity for love and loving, and of being a father and grandfather. Throughout his journey Charlie repeatedly travels to his own interior, his internal world, where he continues to grapple with those early questions, “What is life about? What’s the point? How can one be happy? How can one be secure in relationship? What is love? What is loving?” In so doing Charlie “truly covers the full gamut of human experience – warmth, love, friendship, loneliness, unhappiness, violence, despair: life and death.” (Literary Titan) His insights and answers will surprise you. “Hatching Charlie: A Psychotherapist’s Tale” is an inherently fascinating, thoughtful, and thought-provoking read from beginning to end.” (Midwest Book Review)

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