Accepting NO review requests

As of 28 February 2016, due to decline in my health and chronic illness

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Tour: WITH OR WITHOUT YOU by Caroline Leavitt

4 Stars

  1. Sometimes there are fictional characters whom I want to metaphorically shake, and shout "Wake up! CHANGE YOUR LIFE!" That's how I felt about Stella and Simon in WITH OR WITHOUT YOU. If they could just change their individual perspective, I thought.. and sure enough, Life intervened. Stella descended into a coma. Simon therefore had to change in response to the new circumstances. When Stella awoke from the coma, she was different. Only time would tell if all these changes proved for the best...

Tour: THE COMEBACK by Ella Berman

5 Stars

I think that perhaps the world will not ever reach  a point when it doesn't need revelations of abuse and women and children [and men] standing up for themselves and standing tall despite abuse. Sometimes, as protagonist/narrator Grace demonstrates, being true to ourselves, moment by moment and day by day, in each decision and choice, means the abuser(s) did not win, did not succeed in breaking us, did not "get over." Victims can become Survivors, and Succeed. Sometimes, in the immortal words of George. Herbert, "Living well is the best revenge."

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Tour: HIEROGLYPHICS by Jill McCorkle

4 Stars

Walking through the memories: it's common among the elderly,  sometimes unavoidable for younger persons,  especially when the memories are painful. 

Paging through the memories: sometimes studying history, sometimes expanding on genealogical findings, sometimes just yearning to know someone. 

HIEROGLYPHICS unfolds around a long-married couple,  both striving to recall, and a younger single mother,  struggling to cope and to do her best for her son without fatherly input. Interaction of the couple and the mom sends memories unraveling like a yarn ball batted around by a playful kitten. 

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Review: MAYHEM by Estelle Laure

4 Stars

Review: MAYHEM was a difficult novel to read, and will be for a reader with even minimal sensitivity.  For readers who are survivors of childhood or adult abuse and violence, MAYHEM,  like Emma Donoghue's powerful novel ROOM, will mean treading a difficult road of memory and emotional pain. Those readers will catch all the nuances, because the "excessive startle" reflex gifted as a consequence of Abuse works with figurative triggers, such as in Fiction,  not just in "real life."

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Tour_IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD OF TRUE by Susan Kaplan Carlton

4 Stars

Historical Fiction

In the current sociopolitical uproar,  focus is primarily on the importance of Black Lives and the prevalence of attitudes and practices of White Supremacy. As demonstrated in IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD OF TRUE,  racism and bigotry doesn't only target People of Color.  For several millennia, those of Hebrew lineage have been,  and still remain, in the contempt of and often literally targeted by, individuals, groups, organizations,  considering themselves superior by reason of ethnicity and /or religious preference. 

In 1958, transplanting unexpectedly from New York City to Atlanta,  Ruth determines that concealing her ethnicity is key to popularity among the wealthy country club set. But Truth will out, and oftentimes violence is what propels revelation. 

I was particularly intrigued that this novel finds it setting in Atlanta, site of the murder of Mary Phagan in 1913, for which Leo Frank was convicted. At the commutation of his sentence  for dearth of evidence, in 1915, Mr. Frank was lynched in nearby Marietta. A month later, at Stone Mountain,  Georgia,  the Ku Klux Klan reconvened.  

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Review: COPY BOY by Shelley Blanton-Stroud

4 Stars

Strongly feminist metaphysical historical fiction focusing on a young girl who travels from dusty Texas to San Francisco to develop her own strengths of purpose and to rise beyond the frailties of her family.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Tour: IN THE ROLE OF BRIE HUTCHENS by Nicole Melleby

5+ Stars!


How I love this novel! Brie is all of us at one point or another, when our path seems clear before us, but we just can't manage that first step, or those around us seem more like obstacles to our course than like cheerleaders or fulcrums. Brie is so admirable and so adorable; I couldn't help but love her character and integrity.

Brie wants to be an actress,  but her parents' finances barely maintain her in parochial school.  There's no funds for the Performing Arts High School  [remember the film and TV series FAME? Different schools,  same purpose. ) Brie, at thirteen,  even more importantly struggles with her personal identity--including the early unflowering of potential interest in girls. It's so much for anyone to cope with; but I cheered for Brie, who after all is a remarkably special character. 

Friday, June 19, 2020


Review 5 Stars

Early in this unflinching novel of sexual violence and human trafficking,  a rescued young woman, our narrator,  exclaims, "We ain't never going to be okay. Never." While that proves to be true for some of the secondary characters,  and while "Poppy" (Alexa) still has trouble and danger in her future, she has an unbreakable,  ultimately untrammeled, spirit. For those readers who can endure, the ultimate outcome will prove hopeful, inspirational,  and well worth the wait. Ultimately,  Alexa has won, despite all the horrors, because her spirit and soul remain unbroken.

Jacket Copy:
Lex was taken–trafficked–and now she’s Poppy. Kept in a hotel with other girls, her old life is a distant memory. But when the girls are rescued, she doesn’t quite know how to be Lex again.

After she moves in with her aunt and uncle, for the first time in a long time, she knows what it is to feel truly safe. Except, she doesn’t trust it. Doesn't trust her new home. Doesn’t trust her new friend. Doesn’t trust her new life. Instead she trusts what she shouldn’t because that's what feels right. She doesn’t deserve good things.

But when she is sexually assaulted by her so-called boyfriend and his friends, Lex is forced to reckon with what happened to her and that just because she is used to it, doesn’t mean it is okay. She’s thrust into the limelight and realizes she has the power to help others. But first she’ll have to confront the monsters of her past with the help of her family, friends, and a new love.

Kate McLaughlin’s What Unbreakable Looks Like is a gritty, ultimately hopeful novel about human trafficking through the lens of a girl who has escaped the life and learned to trust, not only others, but in herself.

Author Bio:
KATE McLAUGHLIN likes people, so much so that she spends her days making up her own. She likes writing about characters who are bent, but not broken - people who find their internal strength through friends, strife and sometimes humor. When she's not writing, she likes studying people, both real and fictional. She also likes playing board games with friends, talking and discovering new music. A proud Nova Scotian, she'll gladly tell you all about the highest tides in the world, the magical creation known as a donair, and people who have sofas in their kitchens. Currently, she lives in Connecticut with her husband and four cats. She's the author of What Unbreakable Looks Like.

Early Praise:
"With unflinching honesty, What Unbreakable Looks Like exposes the injuries and scars we wear on our skins or in our souls. Hidden damage is tragically common, but helpful others who dared embrace hope invite Alexa to step onto the healing path. This novel may offer a springboard for a reader's own healing or foster empathy for life's walking wounded." - Liz Coley, author of international bestseller Pretty Girl-13

"Raw, unflinching, and authentic, Kate McLaughlin's thoughtful What Unbreakable Looks Like carefully crafts a story exposing the vulnerability of underage trafficked girls and what it takes to begin the process of healing from sexual trauma." - Christa Desir, author, advocate, and founding member of The Voices and Faces Project

“This is a powerful book about a sobering topic that I found myself thinking about for days after I completed it. It is wonderfully poignant, painfully real, and even laugh out loud funny at times. Not everyone can truly wrap their minds around the trauma these victims endure and yet somehow, despite all of it, are still just regular kids. But Kate McLaughlin gets it. ‘Lex’ is truly what unbreakable looks like and you’ll fall in love with her spirit.” - Tanya Compagnone, Trooper First Class

“Sex trafficking continues to seep into all our communities. In this novel, Kate McLaughlin brings to life the trauma that transpires in youth who forced into the life of sex trafficking. Her novel is a reminder that each of us can make a difference in someone’s life.” - Dina R. St. George, MSW, Juvenile Re-Entry Unit OCPD

Buy Link:

Social link:

Monday, June 15, 2020

Tour_ORDINARY GIRLS by Jaquira Diaz


In this searing memoir, Jaquira Díaz writes fiercely and eloquently of her challenging girlhood and triumphant coming of age.

While growing up in housing projects in Puerto Rico and Miami Beach, Díaz found herself caught between extremes. As her family split apart and her mother battled schizophrenia, she was supported by the love of her friends. As she longed for a family and home, her life was upended by violence. As she celebrated her Puerto Rican culture, she couldn't find support for her burgeoning sexual identity. From her own struggles with depression and sexual assault to Puerto Rico's history of colonialism, every page of Ordinary Girls vibrates with music and lyricism. Díaz writes with raw and refreshing honesty, triumphantly mapping a way out of despair toward love and hope to become her version of the girl she always wanted to be.

Reminiscent of Tara Westover's Educated, Kiese Laymon's Heavy, Mary Karr's The Liars' Club, and Terese Marie Mailhot's Heart Berries, Jaquira Díaz's memoir provides a vivid portrait of a life lived in (and beyond) the borders of Puerto Rico and its complicated history-and reads as electrically as a novel.

5 Stars

The best memoirs are those in which the author is unafraid of transparency and vulnerability, of holding themselves accountable for living their lives, able to write with clarity of the good and bad. With such emotional exposure, the reader is able to examine the author's life, to relate, to learn, and sometimes even to gather renewed purpose. In ORDINARY VOICES, Jaquira Diaz explores her life vividly and saliently.

Friday, May 29, 2020


Review: 5 Stars

A fascinating and original exploration of urban "gentrification" from the viewpoint of the residents and shopkeepers most directly affected, rather than the upscale citizenry who directly benefit from sports stadiums, gourmet shops, and hugely expensive loft apartments. The characters are deeply delineated and the urban setting is brought vividly to life along with the concomitant issues, domestic, political, and socio-economic.

Info Sheet / THE TALKING DRUM by Lisa Braxton
THE TALKING DRUM by Lisa Braxton / Info Sheet
On sale date: May 30, 2020
Publisher: Inanna Publications
ISBN: 9781771337410
Price: $22.95
Buy Link: AmazonIndieBoundB&N 
Author website:
In 1971, the fictional city of Bellport, Massachusetts is in decline with an urban redevelopment project on the horizon. The project promises to transform the dying factory town into a thriving economic center, with a profound effect on its residents. Sydney Stallworth steps away her law degree in order to support her husband Malachi's dream of opening a cultural center and bookstore in the heart of their black community, Liberty Hill. Across the street, Della Tolliver has built a fragile sanctuary for herself, boyfriend Kwamé Rodriguez, and daughter Jasmine, a troubled child prone to frequent outbursts.
Six blocks away and across the Bellport River Bridge lies Petite Africa, a lively neighborhood, where time moves slower and residents spill from run-down buildings onto the streets. Here Omar Bassari, an immigrant from Senegal known to locals as Drummer Man, dreams of being the next Duke Ellington, spreading his love of music and African culture across the world, even as his marriage crumbles around him and his neighborhood goes up in flames. An arsonist is on the loose. As more buildings burn, the communities are joined together and ripped apart. In Petite Africa, a struggling community fights for their homes, businesses, and culture. In Liberty Hill, others see opportunity and economic growth. As the pace of the suspicious fires pick up, the demolition date moves closer, and plans for gentrification are laid out, the residents find themselves at odds with a political system manipulating their lives. “It’s a shame,” says Malachi, after a charged city council meeting, where residents of Petite Africa and Liberty Hill sit on opposing sides. “We do so much for Petite Africa. But still, we fight.”
Lisa Braxton is an Emmy-nominated former television journalist, an essayist, short story writer, and novelist. She is a fellow of the Kimbilio Fiction Writers Program and was a finalist in the William Faulkner-William Wisdom Creative Writing Competition. She earned her MFA in creative writing from Southern New Hampshire University, her M.S. in journalism from Northwestern University, and her B.A. in Mass Media from Hampton University. Her stories have been published in anthologies and literary journals. She lives in the Boston, Massachusetts area.

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Review: WHEN ENEMIES OFFEND THEE by Sally Whitney

5 Stars

A painful,  angry, novel suffused in hope. This could have so easily been yet another account of #Metoo, but the author chose to really dig deeply into her characters and to examine the backdrop of their culture, economy, history.  Reading what happened to protagonist Clementine, the ugly crime and the ugly aftermath,  frightened and infuriated me. But the novel didn't drop us there. What ensues is a marvel of character evolution,  acknowledgment that joy can come eventually after grief. I would never say Clementine 's tribulations should be visited on anyone, but her ability to strengthen in the Crucible of Adversity made me proud for her.