Poetry and Prose Offer Solace and Hope #FridayFunReads #BookReviews #Inspiration

Peonies in Winter

by Sally Rosenthal

Copyright 2021.

 

What Amazon Says

 

This is a small book for the small hours when we sit alone in the dark or feel as though our grief isolates us. Although we all travel sorrow’s path at some point in our lives, many of us walk that road alone and bewildered, failing to reach out to grasp the waiting hand of a fellow traveler.

In the months following her husband’s sudden death, Sally Rosenthal explored her reactions to loss and came to realize that strength is a synergetic wisdom woven from the love passed on through the examples of relatives and beloved animals. In poems and prose, she shares what she has learned about survival and resilience. Come sit with Sally at her kitchen table and share the journey.

 

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My Thoughts

 

I met Sally Rosenthal several years ago through Behind Our Eyes, a writers’ organization to which I belong. I’ve always enjoyed reading her work and was moved to discover she mentioned me in the acknowledgements at the end of the book.

I can relate to many of the pieces here. The title essay, “Peonies in Winter,” in which Sally describes finding old perfume bottles in her closet, reminded me of my mother’s old perfume bottles that I’ve kept for years since her passing in 1999. “Charles Palmer,” in which she talks about the grandfather she never knew, tugged at my heart, making me grateful I knew my grandparents before they left this world.

Being a widow and having been a family caregiver, I felt a special connection with Sally through her poetry on the subject. I had to laugh when I read her piece about Grade A chocolates. The resources at the end add a nice touch. I recommend this book especially to those who are grieving, but I think anyone can find solace and hope here.

A photo of Abbie smiling in front of a white background. She has short brown hair which is cut short and frames her face. She is wearing a bright red shirt and a dark, flowy scarf swirled with hues of purple, pinks and blues.

New! Why Grandma Doesn’t Know Me

Copyright 2021 by Abbie Johnson Taylor.

Independently published with the help of DLD Books.

The cover of the book features an older woman sitting in a wicker chair facing a window. The world beyond the window is bright, and several plants are visible on the terrace. Behind the woman’s chair is another plant, with a tall stalk and wide rounded leaves. The woman has short, white hair, glasses, a red sweater, and tan pants. The border of the picture is a taupe color and reads "Why Grandma Doesn't Know Me" above the photo and "Abbie Johnson Taylor" below it.

Sixteen-year-old Natalie’s grandmother, suffering from dementia and confined to a wheelchair, lives in a nursing home and rarely recognizes Natalie. But one Halloween night, she tells her a shocking secret that only she and Natalie’s mother know. Natalie is the product of a one-night stand between her mother, who is a college English teacher, and another professor.

After some research, Natalie learns that people with dementia often have vivid memories of past events. Still not wanting to believe what her grandmother has told her, she finds her biological father online. The resemblance between them is undeniable. Not knowing what else to do, she shows his photo and website to her parents.

Natalie realizes she has some growing up to do. Scared and confused, she reaches out to her biological father, and they start corresponding.

Her younger sister, Sarah, senses their parents’ marital difficulties. At Thanksgiving, when she has an opportunity to see Santa Claus, she asks him to bring them together again. Can the jolly old elf grant her request?

***

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A Humorous Look at Marriage and Family #FridayFunReads #BookReviews #Inspiration

If Life is a Bowl of Cherries, What Am I Doing in the Pits?

by Erma Bombeck

Copyright 1978.

 

What Amazon Says

 

The hilarious #1 New York Times bestseller: Erma Bombeck’s take on marriage and family life is “fun from cover to cover” (Hartford Courant).

Ever since she was a child, Erma Bombeck has been an expert worrier, and married life has only honed that skill. She gets anxious about running out of ball bearings; about snakes sneaking in through the pipes; about making meaningful conversation on New Year’s Eve. Married life, she realizes, is an unpredictable saga even when you know exactly how loud your husband snores every night—and she wouldn’t have it any other way. In this crisp collection of essays, Bombeck shows off the irresistible style that made her one of America’s favorite humorists for more than three decades. When she sharpens her wit, no family member is sacred and no self-help fad is safe…

 

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My Thoughts

 

I first became familiar with Erma Bombeck in the 1970s when a fellow orator on my high school’s speech team presented an oral interpretation of one of her pieces. A couple of years ago, I was inspired to write my latest novel, Why Grandma Doesn’t Know Me, by a quote from Erma Bombeck I read online. “Your grandmother pretends not to know who you are on Halloween.” So, I thought it fitting to read one of her books.

These essays were written during the 1970s, but I think we can still relate to many of the topics covered. Being a singer, I especially liked her opinion on our national anthem.

I obtained a recorded version of this book from the National Library Service’s Braille and Audio Download site and listened to part of it while in my recliner, suffering from indigestion. What can I say about laughter being the best medicine? It’s definitely cheaper than Pepto Bismol, which I didn’t have on hand at the time. So, if you’re interested in marriage and family and want some good laughs, this book is for you.

A photo of Abbie smiling in front of a white background. She has short brown hair which is cut short and frames her face. She is wearing a bright red shirt and a dark, flowy scarf swirled with hues of purple, pinks and blues.

New! Why Grandma Doesn’t Know Me

Copyright 2021 by Abbie Johnson Taylor.

Independently published with the help of DLD Books.

The cover of the book features an older woman sitting in a wicker chair facing a window. The world beyond the window is bright, and several plants are visible on the terrace. Behind the woman’s chair is another plant, with a tall stalk and wide rounded leaves. The woman has short, white hair, glasses, a red sweater, and tan pants. The border of the picture is a taupe color and reads "Why Grandma Doesn't Know Me" above the photo and "Abbie Johnson Taylor" below it.

Sixteen-year-old Natalie’s grandmother, suffering from dementia and confined to a wheelchair, lives in a nursing home and rarely recognizes Natalie. But one Halloween night, she tells her a shocking secret that only she and Natalie’s mother know. Natalie is the product of a one-night stand between her mother, who is a college English teacher, and another professor.

After some research, Natalie learns that people with dementia often have vivid memories of past events. Still not wanting to believe what her grandmother has told her, she finds her biological father online. The resemblance between them is undeniable. Not knowing what else to do, she shows his photo and website to her parents.

Natalie realizes she has some growing up to do. Scared and confused, she reaches out to her biological father, and they start corresponding.

Her younger sister, Sarah, senses their parents’ marital difficulties. At Thanksgiving, when she has an opportunity to see Santa Claus, she asks him to bring them together again. Can the jolly old elf grant her request?

***

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A Heartwarming Page-Turner #FridayFunReads #BookReviews #Inspiration

West with Giraffes: A Novel

by Lynda Rutledge

 

What Amazon Says

 

An emotional, rousing novel inspired by the incredible true story of two giraffes who made headlines and won the hearts of Depression-era America.

“Few true friends have I known and two were giraffes…”

Woodrow Wilson Nickel, age 105, feels his life ebbing away. But when he learns giraffes are going extinct, he finds himself recalling the unforgettable experience he cannot take to his grave.

It’s 1938. The Great Depression lingers. Hitler is threatening Europe, and world-weary Americans long for wonder. They find it in two giraffes who miraculously survive a hurricane while crossing the Atlantic. What follows is a twelve-day road trip in a custom truck to deliver Southern California’s first giraffes to the San Diego Zoo. Behind the wheel is the young Dust Bowl rowdy Woodrow. Inspired by true events, the tale weaves real-life figures with fictional ones, including the world’s first female zoo director, a crusty old man with a past, a young female photographer with a secret, and assorted reprobates as spotty as the giraffes.

Part adventure, part historical saga, and part coming-of-age love story, West with Giraffes explores what it means to be changed by the grace of animals, the kindness of strangers, the passing of time, and a story told before it’s too late.

 

My Thoughts

 

I’ve always enjoyed stories about animals, and this one didn’t disappoint me. I was right there with Woody, the old man, and the giraffes, as they crossed the country, dealing with one adversity after another, wondering if they would make it to California. I appreciated the author’s and historical notes at the end, which explain the inspiration behind the book and provide fascinating background information about the time period during which most of the story takes place. If you’re interested in reading an adventure story involving animals and learning something along the way, West with Giraffes is for you.

A photo of Abbie smiling in front of a white background. She has short brown hair which is cut short and frames her face. She is wearing a bright red shirt and a dark, flowy scarf swirled with hues of purple, pinks and blues.

New! Why Grandma Doesn’t Know Me

Copyright 2021 by Abbie Johnson Taylor.

Independently published with the help of DLD Books.

The cover of the book features an older woman sitting in a wicker chair facing a window. The world beyond the window is bright, and several plants are visible on the terrace. Behind the woman’s chair is another plant, with a tall stalk and wide rounded leaves. The woman has short, white hair, glasses, a red sweater, and tan pants. The border of the picture is a taupe color and reads "Why Grandma Doesn't Know Me" above the photo and "Abbie Johnson Taylor" below it.

 

Sixteen-year-old Natalie’s grandmother, suffering from dementia and confined to a wheelchair, lives in a nursing home and rarely recognizes Natalie. But one Halloween night, she tells her a shocking secret that only she and Natalie’s mother know. Natalie is the product of a one-night stand between her mother, who is a college English teacher, and another professor.

After some research, Natalie learns that people with dementia often have vivid memories of past events. Still not wanting to believe what her grandmother has told her, she finds her biological father online. The resemblance between them is undeniable. Not knowing what else to do, she shows his photo and website to her parents.

Natalie realizes she has some growing up to do. Scared and confused, she reaches out to her biological father, and they start corresponding.

Her younger sister, Sarah, senses their parents’ marital difficulties. At Thanksgiving, when she has an opportunity to see Santa Claus, she asks him to bring them together again. Can the jolly old elf grant her request?

***

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A Miss America Mystery #FridayFunReads #BookReviews #Inspiration

Image contains: Abbie, smiling.

Stiff Competition; Miss America (Tracy Gayle Mysteries)

by Trish Hubschman

 

What Amazon Says

 

America’s favorite rock band, Tidalwave, is playing the Miss America pageant. Band leader Danny Tide is emceeing the event. All is going according to schedule. The judges have picked the 10 semi–finalists. Suddenly, everything comes to a halt. Miss New Jersey is missing. Nobody knows what happened to her or where she is. Danny calls his longtime PI friend, Tracy Gayle, and asks her to come down to Atlantic City to help figure things out. In need of her best friend for personal support and eager to get to another case, Tracy agrees. There’s an all–out search of the hotels on the boardwalk. They find Miss New Jersey, but it’s not good. Her kidnapping leads to another assault and murder. The big star and the lady PI work together on this one, so that the Miss America pageant can continue as usual.

 

Buy from Amazon.

 

My Thoughts

 

I recently reviewed the first book in this series, Tidalwave, here. These books are like the Nancy Drew mysteries I read as a kid. They’re fast-paced and suspenseful, with not too much violence, and I couldn’t read just one.

As I said in my review of Tidalwave, stories about musicians have always fascinated me, since I wanted to be a professional singer when I was young. Beauty pageants were once a source of intrigue for me when, as a teenager, I took an interest in being Miss America and watched the pageant religiously for a while. Although scenes where the rock band was rehearsing or Mis America want-to-bes were strutting their stuff were few and far between, I still found this book hard to put down.

Stiff Competition also contains some romance. I was pleased to discover that love-making scenes were not too explicit, with just enough foreplay. At the end, the romance and mystery are brought to a satisfying conclusion. I like the way the post script provides back story from the previous book and ties up those romantic loose ends.

 

New! Why Grandma Doesn’t Know Me

Copyright 2021 by Abbie Johnson Taylor.

Independently published with the help of DLD Books.

Front cover image contains: elderly woman in red sweater sitting next to a window.

Sixteen-year-old Natalie’s grandmother, suffering from dementia and confined to a wheelchair, lives in a nursing home and rarely recognizes Natalie. But one Halloween night, she tells her a shocking secret that only she and Natalie’s mother know. Natalie is the product of a one-night stand between her mother, who is a college English teacher, and another professor.

After some research, Natalie learns that people with dementia often have vivid memories of past events. Still not wanting to believe what her grandmother has told her, she finds her biological father online. The resemblance between them is undeniable. Not knowing what else to do, she shows his photo and website to her parents.

Natalie realizes she has some growing up to do. Scared and confused, she reaches out to her biological father, and they start corresponding.

Her younger sister, Sarah, senses their parents’ marital difficulties. At Thanksgiving, when she has an opportunity to see Santa Claus, she asks him to bring them together again. Can the jolly old elf grant her request?

***

Books

My Amazon Author Page

Facebook

Website

 

 

A Novel About Loss #FridayFunReads #Inspiration #BookReviews

Image contains: Abbie, smiling.

The Optimist’s Daughter

by Eudora Welty

 

What Amazon Says

 

This Pulitzer Prize–winning novel tells the story of Laurel McKelva Hand, a young woman who has left the South and returns, years later, to New Orleans, where her father is dying. After his death, she and her silly young stepmother go back still farther, to the small Mississippi town where she grew up. Along in the old house, Laurel finally comes to an understanding of the past, herself, and her parents.

 

Buy from Amazon.

 

My Thoughts

 

It should also be said that Laurel is a widow, having lost her husband, I’m assuming, during World War II. Because I lost my own husband and father, I can relate to her. Her stepmother, the New Orleans doctor, and the people in the small Mississippi town where Laurel and her stepmother return help create this short, heart-wrenching tale of loss. However, preferring stories with a more positive ending, I found this one’s conclusion disappointing. But I’m not sorry I read the book.

 

New! Why Grandma Doesn’t Know Me

Copyright 2021 by Abbie Johnson Taylor.

Independently published with the help of DLD Books.

Front cover image contains: elderly woman in red sweater sitting next to a window.

Sixteen-year-old Natalie’s grandmother, suffering from dementia and confined to a wheelchair, lives in a nursing home and rarely recognizes Natalie. But one Halloween night, she tells her a shocking secret that only she and Natalie’s mother know. Natalie is the product of a one-night stand between her mother, who is a college English teacher, and another professor.

After some research, Natalie learns that people with dementia often have vivid memories of past events. Still not wanting to believe what her grandmother has told her, she finds her biological father online. The resemblance between them is undeniable. Not knowing what else to do, she shows his photo and website to her parents.

Natalie realizes she has some growing up to do. Scared and confused, she reaches out to her biological father, and they start corresponding.

Her younger sister, Sarah, senses their parents’ marital difficulties. At Thanksgiving, when she has an opportunity to see Santa Claus, she asks him to bring them together again. Can the jolly old elf grant her request?

***

Books

My Amazon Author Page

Facebook

Website