memoir

Book Review: While the Bombs Fell by Robbie Cheadle & Elsie Hancy Eaton

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While the Bombs FellWhile the Bombs Fell by Robbie Cheadle
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

While the Bombs Fell is a collection of memoirs written jointly by Robbie Cheadle and her mother, Elsie Hancy Eaton. While some of the tales might be fictionalized, everything is based on memories and history experienced by Elsie during the 1940s WWII bombing of England by the Germans. What a wonderful way to conclude my July month of [mostly] autobiographical and non-fiction works.

Elsie was born shortly before the war began but knew only a life about rations, ducking for cover, and living without… at least in her first few years. While I know a lot about the war and life in the last century, I learned more through these stories. Elsie and her siblings struggled immensely. Imagine daily life without showers, toilets, heat, prepared meals, or other modern conveniences? We think we know what it’s like when we catch a 30-second glimpse on a television spot or hear someone mention it, but to read twenty or thirty pages in each major tale–reliving the experience through Elsie’s words–it’s a whole lot different. I wonder if people today (born in the last 30 years) could survive such a life. I’d definitely struggle, and I’m somewhere between these two generations.

This memoir isn’t meant to be an all-inclusive look at life during the war. It’s more like the authors have shined a spotlight on 8 to 10 specific experiences that as a larger collection offer a taste of the past. It’s also an opportunity to understand where Elsie came from and for her to remember both the good and the bad. What I liked most about the book was Elsie’s focus on turning negative events into something positive or a lesson for the future. The book could’ve easily just told a sad story and let readers wallow in the pain of the past. Instead, it’s an inspirational outlook on how our past sometimes denotes who we are capable of becoming. Elsie seems like a wonderful woman, particularly seeing the way she was raised and how special her mother was.

I’m really glad I had the opportunity to read this one. Not only did I feel several heartwarming emotions, but I also saw the wonderful relationship between the two authors. Having read other books by Robbie before, I can see where she gets her talent at weaving together descriptions, characters, and personal experiences. This is the kind of story to share with your older relatives who might remember going through some of these moments in their own lives. It’s also good to show those who are so far removed from it what the past was really like. Kudos to both authors. Seeing the “Nethergate” reference in this book makes me even more excited for Robbie’s upcoming fall YA release – I wonder how they will connect?

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About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. My new book series, Braxton Campus Mysteries, will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations but with a twist. There are five books: Academic CurveballBroken Heart Attack, Flower Power Trip, Mistaken Identity Crisis, and Haunted House Ghost. I read, write, and blog A LOT on this site where you can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

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Book Review: P.S. I Forgive You (A Broken Legacy) by D.G. Kaye

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P.S. I Forgive You: A Broken LegacyP.S. I Forgive You: A Broken Legacy by D.G. Kaye
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

My month of memoirs continues with an autobiography by D. G. Kaye — ‘P.S. I Forgive You: A Broken Legacy.’ Although not quite a series, this is the second book by the author as she explores the impact of a narcissistic mother on her daily life. I read this before bed last night, and all I can say is that some people are dealt a very unfair hand in life. That said, it’s amazing to see how wonderful Kaye is handling all that she went through in the last ~50 years. What a great (but painful) read!

Imagine growing up with a mother who seems to intentionally cause pain for her children. The oldest of four, Kaye spent years letting the woman treat her horribly. In this introspective and emotional autobiography, we learn how and why she tolerated it. The memoir kicks off by letting readers know that the author’s mother has passed away, and this is the story of how she handled the decision whether to be there when the woman crossed over. Sick for many years, touch and go at times, it seems like every possible painful opportunity was taken to cause trouble for this family. It was heartbreaking not just because of what they went through but because you really want this to turn out to be a positive story.

In some ways, it does turn out that way… in death, you are often released from the troubles of the past. Not quickly. Not immediately. Not entirely. Kaye suffers to this day because of the trauma she went through. Emotional pain can be far worse and impacting that physical pain. Seeing how the author connects with her siblings and her aunt helps provide a sense of love and hope for her future. Kaye has a phenomenal way of sharing her past with readers… we feel as if we are there, but one thing is for sure — we were not. That… is fantastic writing.

There is a cathartic honesty in her writing style as well as how she processes the events of her life. On the outskirts, it might seem simple: (A) She’s your mother, you should stay and respect her, or (B) She’s been evil and nasty, you need to run away and forget her. Nope… Kaye fully provides the wide spectrum of all the scenarios that ran through her head, some positive and some not-so-positive. How do you make such a decision? Only a strong person can thoroughly see through the minutia to determine what’s best for both the victim and the victimizer (I might’ve made that work up).

If I could reach through a book to hug someone, this would be the prime one for it to happen. I’ve felt these emotions tons of times before when an author creates a character who suffers… but when a real-life woman shares the truth and the pain she’s gone through, it’s a whole different ball game. If you have a high threshold for reading about someone’s emotional suffering, I suggest you take this book on… it might give you the perspective you need to help others.

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About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. My new book series, Braxton Campus Mysteries, will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations but with a twist. There are five books: Academic CurveballBroken Heart Attack, Flower Power Trip, Mistaken Identity Crisis, and Haunted House Ghost. I read, write, and blog A LOT on this site where you can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: Florence and Me by Elaine Bertolotti

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Florence and Me (...And Me #1)Florence and Me by Elaine Bertolotti
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What an adorable and fantastic memoir. Florence and Me, the first in the ‘… And Me’ series by Elaine Bertolotti brought back tons of memories for me today. July 2019 is a month of memoirs and autobiographies for me… as I’m trying to choose at least half of my reads this month in that genre. I visited Florence last year, as well as other places in Italy, and this was the perfect book to take a trip down memory lane.

Elaine went there over forty years ago on a whim to start new after school. She knew no one. She barely spoke any Italian. It was a very different time period. Through ~12 chapters, she shares with us how she learned the language, cooked meals, took public transportation, and made friends. Written in a simple but immersive manner, I fell in love with the place all over again. Elaine sounds like a wonderful woman, and now that she’s permanently living in Italy, I’d love to see a follow-up about it. There is another book in the series about a different city she visited years ago, but what about a memoir showing the differences across her lifetime in the country?

These are the types of books that I love to devour in an afternoon… 90 minutes of culture and emotional connection with a beautiful person and a fantastic story. A definite recommend for those who like to see how someone else has lived their life.

View all my reviews

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. My new book series, Braxton Campus Mysteries, will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations but with a twist. There are five books: Academic CurveballBroken Heart Attack, Flower Power Trip, Mistaken Identity Crisis, and Haunted House Ghost. I read, write, and blog A LOT on this site where you can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: Through the Mind’s Eye by J.P. Willson

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Through the Mind's Eye: A Journey of Self-DiscoveryThrough the Mind’s Eye: A Journey of Self-Discovery by J.P. Willson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This July, I opted to focus a majority of my reads on non-fiction books, mostly on the autobiographical end of the spectrum. The first was a memoir by J. P. Willson who wrote ‘Through the Mind’s Eye: A Journey of Self-Discovery.’ I stumbled upon the author via his Goodreads profile and liked the cover and synopsis, so I added it to my TBR a couple of years ago. I finished it in a short time, but it’s also written in a way where you can easily stop and start at your leisure.

J.P. is in his fifties and tells us from the beginning that he’s always been an alcoholic. From the get-go, you feel the honesty and raw pain he’s gone through. Rather than blame others, he’s taken the bull by the horns, so to speak, to focus on his recovery and ensure his future is a happy one. By the end of his memoir, readers clearly understand the key things he went through, what he believes changed him, and how the AA program helped him get to where he is today.

Is one drink per night too much? Two? Five? Drinking before noon? It’s not that simple, as Willson generously shares with his readers. The AA program worked for him on many levels, but not necessarily on all. One by one, he discusses each of the twelve steps, the original religious aspects, and the concept of having a sponsor. In his introspective and personal analytics, readers find common sense and new ideas to consider. It’s not as simple as ‘stop drinking’ or ‘follow the plan.’ It’s a disease, he reminds us, and sometimes, it can be sneaky and vengeful.

Willson is brave to share this with others. Then again, after what he went through in reality, perhaps sharing this truth is cathartic. Whatever you believe, it’s clear that the man has truly learned how to live without the dependency. He wasn’t satisfied to understand why he drank on a surface level; it was necessary to dive deep and explore everything that led to his decisions. And now that he’s a recovering alcoholic, he can even poke fun at himself on the things he can’t believe once occurred. Or point out how hard it is for a chef who loves to pair wines to suddenly not be able to do it anymore.

It’s wonderful to see a success story, and while he will always remember the pain of the past, the new attitude and attentiveness to his words in this book clearly show the success he deserves to have in the future. I’d recommend this book for anyone who has an issue with alcohol (or other addictions) or is watching someone they care for go through it themselves.

View all my reviews

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. My new book series, Braxton Campus Mysteries, will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations but with a twist. There are five books: Academic CurveballBroken Heart Attack, Flower Power Trip, Mistaken Identity Crisis, and Haunted House Ghost. I read, write, and blog A LOT on this site where you can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: The Nuns of Lemon Tree House by Melanie Mole & Robert Brooks

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I was introduced to author Melanie Mole in 2017 when I read one of her earlier books which talked about embracing the simple life. In the book, she also covered a small part of her interest in joining a convent, but it is in her latest book, The Nuns of Lemon Tree House, co-written with Robert Brooks, where Melanie explores the entire experience. Although it would never be the life for me (I love the silence and can be obedient, but I think I might miss a few things like tv, foods, liquor, et al…), reading about someone else’s days in a life that often seems to embrace so many of the things to keep us healthy and relaxed is quite intriguing.

The first thing I’d convey about this book is that even with the simplicity of having very little events, it is warm, inviting, and full of action. But that’s kinda the point, isn’t it? A half-day’s walk around the convent just exploring the architecture or floor plan while not highly eventful does offer significant experience and commentary about life. Asking questions, thinking about change, or finding connections between your own life and those living within the convent’s walls induces tons of moments I enjoyed reading about. The authors’ descriptions of everything are in very fine details, conjuring up full images of what Melanie saw during her days with the nuns. It’s vivid and bright even when the room she’s meeting with one of the nuns is dark and gloomy (until she opens her eyes to what’s really present).

nuns

The next thing I found charming about the book was Melanie’s own voice and tone. She laughs at herself and finds humor even in the negative experiences. Fully acknowledging she will have issues with the ‘vow of silence’ helps set the stage for many moments where readers hear her ask question or speak to a nun only to realize she’s not supposed to… after a few, I felt myself reaching out to stop her — it brought levity to the topics and helped us connect with the narrator, Melanie herself, as how many of us would truly remember to keep our mouths closed! But it was when she began talking to herself out loud in the hallways as she explored the buildings and grounds where I realized she’s actually quite savvy at embracing the virtues of the order in her own way. And it helps lead to the answers she’s been searching for.

The journey is one that provided opportunity to learn — both for Melanie and for readers. Slowing down to ask questions (even silently in your own head), to wonder how the nuns function together with little words being said, or to understand how sometimes doing nothing can be more tiring than doing something… all these theories pop into your head. I enjoyed this break from my normal reading style and genre, but I also enjoyed learning about someone else’s life and thoughts. It’s important to breathe in other opinions and experiences, and what better way than by reading a memoir / autobiography of a few weeks in someone’s life.

Kudos to both authors (I’m curious how’d they co-write this… interesting approach), but I also wonder whether Melanie provided a copy to the nuns for future guests in the convent? Life can be a giant circle sometimes and wouldn’t this be a way to connect the past and present together for all visitors and those interested in learning about becoming a nun… And so, you are probably asking yourself whether she became a nun after this experience. Well, here’s what happened… oh, wait, I don’t believe in spoilers for other people. Experience it yourself and go read the book. I’m confident the ending will be quite a fun surprise!

 

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. I write A LOT. I read A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge – words and humor. You can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: Watching the Daisies by Brigid P. Gallagher

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I began following a blog entitled Watching the Daisies earlier this year shared by Brigid P. Gallagher and discovered she’d also written a book, Watching the Daisies: Life Lessons on the Importance of Slow, a few years ago. I purchased Ms. Gallagher’s holistic memoir last month and dropped it into my reading queue this week. It came at a great time and helped provide a few clear reminders we should all remember when things get too complex or tough.

Life can be difficult, especially when we encounter illness, pain, and death. It can also be wonderful when we meet new friends, fall in love, or share our days with family. Ms. Gallagher covers it all in this ~50 year memoir of many key events that occurred in her life. One of the biggest impacts I felt from reading her personal insights and history is an acute awareness of how lucky many of us are to have little to no physical pain or be raised by two loving parents who hadn’t died young. The author spent lots of time in hospitals, surgeries and doctors trying to diagnose symptoms that ultimately took a rather long time to discover. Along the path, Gallagher shares her home remedies for dealing with the pain, both mental and physical, as her career develops and she travels throughout the world studying and learning about different medicines, approaches and healing powers. I enjoyed reading about the path she took and felt sadness and happiness with each of her own ups and downs.

From losing family members she loved, to moving back and forth from Ireland and Scotland, to adopting and saying goodbye to many pets, Gallagher shares all the occasions in life that help craft who we are as people. We can face our obstacles with our head held high or sneak away letting no one help us. Gallagher teaches us about medicinal, herbal and other holistic healing options, teases us with trips we want to take in the future, and offers ideas to explore in our own lives on how to be happier and healthier. I next saw the bravery in this woman for not only living through many of the ordeals she’s experienced but in sharing them with readers like me who may have little or no knowledge about the difficulties of a disease or the unknown forces impacting our bodies.

The book is an easy-read with memoir moments, teaching opportunities, and whimsical thoughts. Some hit home for me, others were just a laugh or a nod of my head in acknowledgement of what the author’s been through. In the end, it’s the kind of book where you have a few hours to breathe the same air as someone else, learning how she would deal with all the curves and fun being thrown at her. Stepping out of my own shoes is always a good thing as it helps provide perspective and alternative opinions and ideas. Kudos to Gallagher for sharing such a wonderful life journey with us… I can only hope she’ll share the second half of her life sometime in the future as it sounds like she’s got a lot more planned as accomplishments.
daisy

If you enjoyed this review and think the author and/or book are for you, definitely check our Brigid’s blog as her insight and voice are a wonderful addition each week. You can find life lessons on the importance of slow and a whole lot more @ Watching the Daisies.

 

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. I write A LOT. I read A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge – words and humor. You can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: The Private War of Corporal Henson by E. Michael Helms

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Before I get into my review, I wanted to share with everyone that this author is a blogger many of us have interacted with before. He shares writing advice. He is very supportive of other writers. He shares, tweets and re-blogs content to help market books, posts and thoughts from other people. He’s a solid guy and I’m privileged to be part of his online life… that said, I chose to read his book without him even bringing it up. And my review is completely free and clear of impacts from knowing him. He’s genuine and I thank him for the opportunity to read his work and about parts of his life. If you’re interested in reading more about him, check out his blog and other books. He’s also written a mystery series I can’t wait to get my hands on! But that will be another review later this summer… let’s get to the review on the first book of his I’ve read…

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After noticing the author’s name mentioned a few times on various blogs, then seeing some reviews of his books, I downloaded a copy of The Private War of Corporal Henson by E.Michael Helms. I didn’t realize until I started reading the introduction that this is a follow-up to his first book about life in Vietnam, but I don’t think you need to read them in order, as it’s a bit of a mix: fiction and a semi-autobiographical memoir of his experiences during the war and adjusting to life afterward. I’m not a frequent non-fiction reader, and when I do, war isn’t usually the topic I’d want to learn about; however, I had a good feeling about this author’s work from seeing his blog and social media posts, so I chanced it. I’m glad I did and would give this 4.5 stars. Great work, Mr. Helms.

The novel takes place in the mid 1980s about 20 years after the Vietnam War has ended. Nathan Henson is struggling to live a full life without the past continually haunting him. He’s encouraged to meet up with other veterans and forms a group of guys who support one another through the days and nights. Nathan considers dating again, though he’s somewhat avoided it the last two decades. He and his friends decide how to balance the need for medicinal support, alcohol to calm the nerves, and truthful conversations that bring up a lot of pain. Consider it a coming-of-age journey thirty years later than normal, but that’s meant in a very supportive and honorable way. Nathan, like so many other soldiers, have to figure out how to re-formulate who they are in a world that is no longer the same both personally and globally.

I fully admit I was worried about the flashback scenes. It’s not that I can’t handle the violence or gore, actually rather than opposite — I like reading and seeing it when I know it’s fiction. But emotionally, it’s hard to accept this was a reality for many people in the past and even today. What Nathan endured, as well as his friends, and all the people we probably know in real life, including the author, is horrific… and when I see it in a movie or read about it in a book, it’s too much to handle without taking on some of the pain. So I tend to avoid these types of literature or flicks, but Helms provides the right balance of horror, humor, pain, survival, and support to make reading his story much easier than I’d expected. Whether it’s the right place or not, I feel an intense need to say thank you to the author as well as others in his similar position, for all the energy, effort and time they put into protecting people around the world and in my own country. Thank you, Mr. Helms for both your service and this book.

Nathan as a character is great. He’s well-depicted with both charm and old-school anger / attitude that toes the line of being raw and real, but also frustrating and compelling. I’ve never been thru anything like this, so I’ve no right to judge anyone’s behaviors… yet reading this story opens my eyes to how and why people act or react the way they do. You’re changed coming out of war. And Nathan and his friends deserve the right to take whatever time is needed to figure out their post-war life. It seems simple on the outside… you meet a girl, you fall in love and everything goes away. But that’s not how it is — and Helms’ descriptions, detailed emotions, thorough examples and witty commentary help make that plainly clear to someone on the far outside of the experience. Only a strong writer and someone who’s experienced these events could pull off that task. Kudos to him for making me believe what’s happened in the story and for awakening me to a different reality.

Helms shares a good balance of camaraderie between all the men in the group who meet regularly to discuss their experiences. Each has an opportunity to reflect back on what happened and how they are dealing with it. Sometimes things go well. Sometimes they do not. Each character is vivid. Nathan although not the leader of the group feels like it because he’s sort of narrating the story (not really, but that’s how it seems). He’s a solid guy, and when he has to cancel plans to support a friend, or debates loaning money to one, or we learn about medicine being sold on the side… you understand the bond these men share. You feel the pain when they reveal their stories and what happened to each of them. Who lost a limb and how did they deal with it? Who can’t allow himself to get close to anyone post war? Who has children but no job and can’t support his family? All the things that happen in reality are covered in this story, and as a reader, your heart aches for them.

That said, I also want to kick their ass a few times. Men talk. Sometimes it ‘vulgar’ but that’s the truth and how it happens especially in the 1980s. Helms provides a little of this side of life, too. He doesn’t hold back, but that’s a good thing. It elicited a bit of anger from me, just as it would from someone doing those things in real life around me. He’s got the dialect and voice down. The setting felt very 1980s to me. All good things in a memoir and a piece of fiction.

I’m not gonna lie and say it’s an easy book to get through. War is difficult. The savagery that happens to people in the army or navy is horrendous. You will hear those stories. You will need to put the book down for a few minutes to let it sink in and then somehow flush out of your system before you take on a new story of pain. But it’s well-written, balanced with positivity and humor, and forces you to accept some harsh (that word doesn’t truly do it justice) experiences many people in today’s world aren’t familiar with. Kudos to Helms for successfully pushing me out of my comfort zone on this one.

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. I write A LOT. I read A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge – words and humor. You can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.