Blog Archives

Wales High School: First Diagnosis – Book Trailer

It’s the year 2003. Teenagers are messaging each other online, listening to punk music on MP3 players, and writing blogs on LiveJournal to fit in. One such teen is walking the halls of Wales High School with bright shirts, leather jackets, and blue hair: Jacques Peters. He’s determined to become best friends with one of the coolest guys in school, Davis Mavis. But he soon discovers that smoking, skipping class, and putting up a front aren’t as cool as they seem, particularly when mental health is involved. His friends gossip behind his back, push him out of their clique, and turn a blind eye to the cuts on his wrists. He’s dragged into a life that leads to a long stay in a psychiatric ward he hates, full of therapy, pills, and a strict routine.

That troubled teen is me.

When I was discharged, I was in a daze. Numbed by medication and left with few friends, I spent my days listening to music and giving my teachers lip. Eventually, on a cold winter night home alone, I posted a single word on my blog: “goodbye.” I took a cocktail of pills and hoped to slip into an endless sleep.

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Control Their Own Chosen Path

Liza Gino
Liza Gino Author Interview

Imelda’s Secret is a historical fiction novel based on true stories from women during the Japanese occupation of the Philippines. Why was this an important book for you to write?

I wrote Imelda’s Secret in the hopes to inspire and empower those who read about the Filipina “comfort women” and their continued struggle to find peace and justice decades after the end of World War II. After learning about the “comfort women,” I embarked on a mission to build awareness of their continued plight.

I did not want to write another war story. In this novel, I focused on the continued struggle by the “comfort women.” To survive, many of these women kept their torturous experience a secret that further exacerbated their situation because the alternative was nothing better. For the women who came forward were ridiculed, shunned, branded and sometimes killed. Those who endure with their secrets slowly devolve as their secrecy slowly destroys their lives and the lives of those around them.

If anything, the goal is to help empower individuals, especially women, to have courage and take their power to control their own chosen path.

I thought the historical accuracy of the novel was excellent. What type of research did you undertake to ensure things were accurate?

These were based on stories told to me by members of my family and friends of their own experiences. The first chapter was based on what my grandfather had to do to hide my mother and her siblings when the Japanese army stormed their next door neighbor’s house and how the river was filled with blood and headless bodies. I had a few eyewitness accounts on how male babies were thrown up in the air and sliced with a samurai sword. My very fair mestiza grandmother described how she had to cut her hair, wear men’s clothing, and roll in the mud to hide from the Japanese soldiers.

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

I want to bring awareness to the “comfort women” and the struggle that still continues for them. I truly want my readers to be inspired and empowered to do more. Survival takes sheer will at times. Things may be insurmountable, but change begin with one step.

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

I am working on another women’s interest book and I plan to have it available next year.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | LinkedIn | Website

Award winning book is based on real-life accounts, “Imelda’s Secret” delves into the story of two cousins who are grappling with the emotional scars of being forced to serve as ‘comfort women’ during the Japanese occupation of the Philippines in World War II. Forced into sexual slavery, ‘comfort women’ were stolen from their families and stripped of their dignity. The stories of these women have been swept under the rug for far too long.

“Imelda’s Secret” is a story of story of hope, redemption, and strength. It exposes the experiences of ‘comfort women’ in the hopes of sparking awareness and advocacy in all who read it.

Fascinating Historic Intertwinements

Matthew Hodge
Matthew Hodge Author Interview

Cool Cats and a Hot Mouse explores the history of Disney and Jazz and how they’re related. Why was this an important book for you to write?

I thought this was an important book to write because I noticed through my personal studies and fascinations with Disney and jazz music that they had an incredible history together. Both worlds were vastly different, yet had decades of historic interactions that were inspiring, surprising, and even controversial at times. I describe it in the book as “two ships continually passing each other while sailing the same sea (or at times even crashing into each other).” I also noticed that although there were multiple books with specific sections highlighting these interactions, there was not one complete book that was entirely dedicated to these fascinating historic intertwinements. So, I decided to write one!

I loved all the bits of history and insider knowledge you provided. What kind of research did you undertake for this book?

As a professor and scholarly writer, I put a lot of emphasis on research. All of my writings for various academic books and journals are heavily researched and well-cited. And although I wanted this book to be more of a casual entertaining read (as opposed to the more formal textbook-style writings I frequently publish) I wanted the book to be just as thoroughly researched — hence the 18 pages of referenced research listed at the end of the book. Additionally, I knew Disney had interesting histories with not just artists from the ‘pure’ jazz world, but also from musical worlds that I refer to in the book as “jazz adjacent”. I knew some music purists might argue my discussions of these artists and genres that aren’t on the surface ‘pure’ jazz, so I make the case in the book to explain and defend why these “jazz-adjacent” stories should be included in the book.

What is one thing that stands out in your mind as the best marriage of Disney and Jazz?

Although there were times in history that these two worlds collided with friction and controversy (which this book does not shy away from discussing), the overwhelming thing that became evident through my research was how much affection was shared between the pioneering artists in the Disney and jazz (and jazz-adjacent) worlds. Some of the most successful and memorable Disney works were because of these musical artists, and many of these musical artists described their Disney partnerships as among their most creatively-fulfilling and personal favorite works. I found it inspiring how these two worlds consistently inspired each other.

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

I hope readers take away a fresh way of looking at America’s history. Because these two worlds became quintessential entertainment for 20th-century America, their stories reflected the successes (and failures) of a nation. I describe them in the book as “two forever connected entertainment empires that helped define a country, to both its own people and to the rest of the world.” As readers learn entertaining and fascinating stories about the rise of Disney’s empire and significant music pioneers, I hope they take away a fresh perspective of American culture.

Author Links: GoodReads | Website

What does a ‘King,’ a ‘Queen,’ a ‘Duke,’ and a talking mouse have in common? They are all part of the intricate tapestry that helped define American entertainment, built by two different, yet connected pioneering industries: jazz music and Disney.
Cool Cats and a Hot Mouse: A History of Jazz and Disney is a first of its kind. Award-winning composer, professor, and author Matthew Hodge offers this unique book as the first to entirely dedicate its pages to exploring the vast histories of these two worlds. While rising in popularity and importance during the same decades, jazz and Disney spent more than a century consistently intertwining in ways that are remarkable, inspiring, surprising, complicated, controversial, and everything in between.
Whether a jazz listener, a Disney lover, a fan of both, or unknowledgeable of either, this book will navigate readers through many fascinating stories. With nearly 300 significant jazz artists and Disney properties referenced in these pages, Cool Cats and a Hot Mouse guarantees to entertain and educate readers of all ages as they journey through America’s jazzy landscapes—sprinkled along the way with plenty of Disney magic.

Honing A Champion

Honing A Champion: My Pandemic Journey From White Belt To Achieving Black Belt by [Haon Campbell, Monty Campbell]

Honing a Champion is an inspirational biography about a young boy who sets out to achieve a dream and the journey is punctuated by many life lessons. We follow Haon and his aspirations to learn, Tang Soo Do, becoming a black belt along the way and learning so much more in the process.

Honing a Champion is a compelling autobiography that explores what it like to be so young and so driven. Rather than viewing Haon’s experience, this book allows us to sit next to Haon himself as he eagerly tells us every step of his awe-inspiring journey. While I appreciated the exceptional journey, towards a goal so few achieve so young, what I really enjoyed was the powerful life lessons Haon learned along the way. These lessons can inspire anyone to improve themselves, in many ways, through determination and hard work. Haon’s writing is exceptional in it’s ability to deliver these stirring lessons in a way that makes you feel as if you were right along side him as he learned them. This motivational autobiography is filled with great quotes that, if effort is given, can push you to achieve your aspirations in life.

I enjoyed this book, but there were a couple of experiences that were repeated, along with a few grammatical issues. Otherwise, this is still a powerful book with great lessons to be learned through a stirring journey through martial arts. Haon Campbell does an exceptional job of sharing his life lessons with the world in a book that I highly recommend.

Pages: 54 | ASIN: B08GSNXMCH

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The Path Taken

The Path Taken - A Father and Sons Journey to Santiago de Compostella by [Hector M. Rodriguez]

The Path Taken: A Father and Sons Journey to Santiago de Compostella by H. M. Rodriguez is an awe-inspiring story that is filled with wisdom, enlightenment, and history. Rodriguez recounts his time trekking the Camino Frances with his son Simon as they immerse themselves in the spiritually enriched offerings of the journey.

Inspiring is the first word that comes to mind after reading this memoir! Rodriguez’s interpretation of the world around him is heartwarming, even when he discusses upsetting subjects. His accounts of the stories’ he heard while on the trek were my favorite parts.

There were times where I did not agree with some of Rodriguez’s sentiments, but I understood the source from which they came. I think that is an important lesson to be learned from this book. We must try to understand others even when we disagree with them.

Despite the religious undertones, there is something for everyone to take away. You will feel wiser and more thoughtful after reading the book. Although Rodriguez has a simplistic writing style, he makes you think long and hard about life and how you live it. There was more than one occasion where I put the book down to reflect for a few minutes on my own life.

It is hard to critique someone’s personal story, so this is why I’m telling you how the book affected me and less about how I think of the story itself. The Path Taken: A Father and Sons Journey to Santiago de Compostella is a short but thought-provoking travel memoir that I enjoyed reading.

Pages: 77 | ASIN: B08L8B7J4T

 

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After All … : A Memoir – Book Trailer

A Story of tragedy, triumph and the strength of one woman’s spirit in the face of adversity.

A haunting memoir of one woman’s survival of childhood abuse and neglect. After All … is an inspiring story of how faith and a grandmother’s unconditional love gave young Maria the strength to survive a loveless home and, incredibly, showed her the path to forgiveness.

The memoir traces her journey from poverty in rural Portugal to a full and happy life in Canada.

After All … is an inspiration of perseverance, courage and forgiveness.

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The Conman: A Baseball Odyssey

The Conman by Mike Murphey is based on a true story of the life of professional baseball player, Keith Comstock. The story follows Conor Nash a professional baseball player. His sole mission in life is to pitch in the major leagues. He has been released from his baseball contracts ten times within his 16 year career. After being forced to retire due to an injury he is not able to recognize the person he has become. He goes on a journey to discover who he is now that he can no longer pitch.

Mike Murphey has done a fantastic job portraying the life of a professional baseball player and the struggles they deal with. You begin to understand Conor and his tenacious attitude towards baseball. Conor has gone through so many challenges from being fired, dismissed, kicked off the team, traded multiple times but he still persevered. The portrayal of Conor’s wife Kate is admirable, she is a strong and loving woman and supported Conor throughout his baseball career. The author seamlessly switched between third person narration to first person. Murphey displays his sophisticated writing skills by smoothly transitioning between a memory and what was going on in the present.

You don’t have to be a fan of baseball to truly appreciate this story. The dialogue is funny and witty and keeps you entertained from beginning to end. Not only does the author discuss the obstacles that Conor went through he also brings forth Conor’s accomplishments. You are taken on an emotional roller coaster right alongside Conor. At times I did get frustrated with some of the decisions Conor made but I was still rooting for him.

The Conman is a witty, complicated and inspiring read that gives the reader hope that no matter what you are going through in life, if you never give up, you will reach your dream.

Pages: 379 | ASIN: B07ZJNDSHD

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Sorrow to Shero: Pain, Power, and Peace

Sorrow to Shero: Pain, Power, and Peace by [Dr. Jeannita Bussle]

Sorrow to Shero: Pain, Power, and Peace takes its title from Dr. Jeannita Bussle’s unofficial moniker for her struggles and eventual recovery from her former husband’s undiagnosed mental illness and his subsequently abusive nature. Despite the normalcy of the opening of the book, the backdrop of Bussle’s childhood and her adolescent experiences in Detroit, it’s clear that she’s struggled with exceptional challenges, and lives with the effects of their underlying trauma. The pain in Bussle’s story never tips over into despair or hopelessness, and Sorrow to Shero is a tale that treats serious mental illness and episodes of domestic abuse with vulnerability and honesty. It’s an assured debut, and a memoir that already means a great deal to many people.

Bussle demonstrates real skill in bringing to life her world for the reader; vibrant in details, with her past and present delicately balanced against the backdrop of her faith and love for her children. Survivors of trauma and those that struggle with mental illness will find comfort in Bussle’s words, and how she’s been able to anchor the worst moments and events of her life firmly in her past. Bussle remains firmly in control of the narration of the events of the book – so complete, and so flawless in her perspective of the past, that it’s clear that her story is meant to be one of empowerment for other women who may find themselves in a similar situation. This is Bussle’s true achievement – a book about abuse and recovery, that captures the experience of it, with remarkable nuance and candor, without skipping over the ambiguities and the hardship. At the same time, Sorrow to Shero: Pain, Power, and Peace is also about motherhood and the deep bond between a mother and her children. Bussle describes herself, more than anything else as a proud mother, and this is instrumental in her ability to better her life for both herself and her children. The role of motherhood and the value of close family relationships is movingly explored throughout the book, there’s no doubting the integrity of her experience as a parent. Despite Bussle’s credentials, it should be made clear that her book is not the equivalent of a university professor addressing a packed lecture hall. This makes it both effortlessly readable, and highly personal. It’s a book that abuse survivors are likely to find in some senses recognisable, whereas the casual reader may find themselves mentally filing away ideas and terminology to dig into further at a later point for a greater level of understanding. Sorrow to Shero is a captivating and emotional memoir that explores some the things that break us and make us as people.

Pages: 133 | ASIN: B08CRY2FD4

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