Month: April 2019

Spotlight + Giveaway: A Good Enough Mother by Bev Thomas

Posted April 30, 2019 by Lily B in Spotlight / 23 Comments

Howdy, all!

We have a special post introducing a debut author who has definitely gone with the ‘write what you know’ idea and produced a story in her own world of therapy and mental health. Let’s welcome author, Bev Thomas.

But first a little about her book: 

Ruth Hartland is an experienced therapist at the top of her game. The director of a renowned psychiatric unit for trauma victims, she is wise, intelligent, successful, and respected by her peers. But her calm professional demeanor belies a personal life full of secrets and sadness. The mother of grown twins, she is haunted by the fact that her son Tom, a beautiful but fragile boy who could never seem to fit in, disappeared eighteen months ago. So when Dan—a volatile new patient bearing an eerie resemblance to Tom—wanders into her waiting room, it’s not long before her judgment becomes clouded, boundaries are crossed, and disaster ensues. Bev Thomas’ debut novel, A GOOD ENOUGH MOTHER (Pamela Dorman Books / Viking; Hardcover; $26.00; On Sale: April 30, 2019), is a powerful page-turner about motherhood, grief, obsession, and the importance of letting go.

A clinical psychologist herself, author Bev Thomas has in-depth knowledge of therapy and mental health, and takes readers inside Ruth’s head with rich detail and realism. Who among us hasn’t wondered what goes on in the private thoughts and life of a therapist? What is it like to be a sounding board for someone else’s troubles—and how do you deal with your own demons in the meantime? A deeply compelling narrator, Ruth is poised on the outside but troubled within, incapable of moving on, fixated on how she failed her son and whether he can be found. With her family in pieces and her marriage crumbling, Ruth finds this new patient Dan is both a balm and a landmine—he is clearly unstable and manipulative, but he is also the shadow son she might actually be able to save. As Ruth twists herself into knots about her duties as a mother and a therapist, she becomes frantic and reckless, events spiral out of control, and her once calm and orderly life is violently disrupted.

A GOOD ENOUGH MOTHER will have readers on the edge of their seats, but it is also a brilliant, beautiful story of parenting, of how love consumes us and how difficult it is to heal from tragedy, even when we must.

Now, let’s see what Bev has to say about her book that she shared in an interview with Penguin Viking:

 

 

A CONVERSATION WITH BEV THOMAS

1.       The protagonist of A GOOD ENOUGH MOTHER is Ruth Hartland, an experienced therapist who specializes in helping trauma victims. You were also a clinical psychologist for many years, and have an in-depth understanding of this world. What made you want to explore the patient-therapist relationship in fiction and how did your real-life experiences inform the novel?

 

In my work, I had always been very interested in grief and loss – powerful emotions that not only underpin the human condition, but frequently find their way into the therapy room. But I was initially reluctant to explore the therapeutic world in fiction, as I didn’t want the focus to be on a patient. It was only when I flipped the concept and made the protagonist a flawed therapist instead, that the story began to emerge. What if a brilliant therapist is blindsided by feelings of grief about her own missing son? What if one of her new patients reminds her of him? And so the story began. 

 

All the detail around the case work is fictionalized, but the world is real. The workings of a National Health Service [NHS] department, the therapy work, and the understanding and treatment of psychological difficulties are very much drawn from my experience of working as a clinical psychologist in the public sector.

 

2.       How do you feel about the way therapy is typically depicted in popular culture, including books, movies, and television shows? And why do you think people are so consistently fascinated with this subject?

 

I find that in popular culture, therapy is often used as a plot device rather than something to be explored in its own right. There are many different types of therapy, but since my training was in the psychoanalytic model, it was this area that I wanted to explore in greater depth in fiction. It places emphasis on the transference, the relationship between therapist and patient, and the importance of boundaries, and these are the elements that get played out in Ruth’s story. 

 

Therapy is about enabling a person to make sense of their own life story. I think the general fascination with therapy in the media is partly because it’s such a private world: just two people talking in a room. There’s both an intimacy and secrecy to that relationship. In my book, people come to therapy feeling desperate, and hope their lives will change for the better. By opening a window into this world, the reader becomes a fly on the wall, and by seeing it all through Ruth’s point of view, the reader is simultaneously party to, and full of, her anxieties and struggles. People are endlessly fascinated and intrigued about other people’s lives, but I believe it’s more than just curiosity. I think people want to ‘listen in’ to learn about what makes people tick, in order perhaps to apply that learning and wisdom to their own lives.

 

There is clearly an appetite for this subject matter. Among recent works of nonfiction, there is the brilliant An Examined Life by the psychotherapist Stephen Grosz, where he writes beautiful case study vignettes. They read like perfect short stories that teach us about life, love, emotions and relationships. On television, the series In Treatment with Gabriel Byrne was an excellent portrayal of the complexities of psychoanalytic psychotherapy.

 

3.       A GOOD ENOUGH MOTHER is also, as the title suggests, about the responsibilities and challenges of motherhood. Why did you choose to ground the novel in Ruth’s role as a mother and in her relationships with her children—and were there particular themes or issues you hoped to explore?

 

In my clinical work, I became particularly interested in attachment theory, and how this can affect the relationship between a mother and child. The title is taken from the writings of Donald Winnicott, a British pediatrician and psychoanalyst. It refers to the necessary progressive detachment of a mother to her child, so that the child is able to develop appropriate independence. The aim is for something less than perfect, not all encompassing, enabling a child to learn to thrive. In the book, the irony for Ruth is that, despite her best intentions, it is her own difficulties in separating from her son that contribute to his problems. 

 

Attachment and mothering are key themes in the book, reflected in the relationship between Ruth and her mother, Ruth and her son Tom, and also what we come to learn about the relationship between Dan and his mother. We also see how patterns can unintentionally be repeated through the generations. And in making Ruth the mother of twins, I wanted to help the reader to see differences in the way she parents her two children. Carolyn, as the overtly less ‘needy’ child, gets much less attention and focus, which clearly affects their relationship.

 

I think the book highlights a general tendency towards ‘over parenting’ and perhaps taps into the maternal anxiety of our generation. We are bombarded with messages that encourage perfection, success, and the emotional happiness of our children. And while we of course need to offer love and support to our kids, we also need to know when to stand back and let them find their own way, however painful that might be. 

 

4.       Because of your background, you already had firsthand knowledge of psychological therapy and psychoanalytic theory before beginning this book. But you did do some additional research while writing. Can you talk a little bit about what that process looked like, and what you learned more about?

 

I did further research into the psychology of trauma. It was something I had encountered in my clinical work, but I was able to deepen this understanding through research, particularly into the psychoanalytic understanding and treatment of trauma. I came to appreciate the difficult and enormously valuable work done by therapists who treat the survivors of awful tragedies and traumas. We might read those stories on the front page of the paper, or see them on the evening news, but we don’t always think about how those people go on to live their lives after experiencing such terrible events. While Ruth is a flawed character, I hope readers will gain an insight into the psychoanalytic model of therapy and the extraordinary work done by skilled therapists in this field.

 

I also did further research into missing persons. I was appalled by the statistics of young people and adults that go missing every year.  My research focused on the lives of families and loved ones who are left in an awful limbo, a state that has been described as an ‘ambiguous loss’—a particularly painful psychological experience that is punctuated by hope, uncertainty, and a lack of closure.

 

5.       From the first introduction of Dan—Ruth’s new patient who bears a striking resemblance to her missing son—it is clear that he is damaged and manipulative. Yet Ruth is drawn to him all the same, and the reader must wait with bated breath to see just how bad things get. How did you go about building suspense, and were you inspired by any other novels or films?

 

I probably spent an inordinate amount of time on the opening chapter! It really needed to set up the book, revealing simultaneously both the risk and the inevitability of Ruth’s choice to continue seeing this patient. The reader needs to knows it’s unwise, but also to understand the pull. In the book, the two parallel stories of Dan and Tom are interwoven. In each strand, there are important questions to which the reader wants answers, and it is the slow and steady revelations that build suspense, continuing until the narratives collide and come to a climax at the same time.

 

Unsurprisingly, I’m drawn to books and film that explore psychological and emotional complexities. One film that gets a mention in the book is Ordinary People, which is an extraordinary film about the aftermath of grief and loss in a family. I am endlessly fascinated about why people do the things they do.  The books and films I enjoy the most are often about ordinary people’s lives. The dynamics of family life are steeped in conflict and tension, and encapsulate huge drama.

 

One of the fundamentals for me in writing this book was to ensure the characters make ‘psychological sense’.  I wanted the reader to really believe in them as characters; back stories, motivations, emotions and subsequent behaviors had to be believable and true. 

 

6.       In many ways, Ruth represents the archetype of the “wounded healer.” Can you expand on that idea a little further, and what it means in the world of this book?  

 

The “wounded healer” was a term originally created by the famous psychoanalyst Carl Jung. It refers to the idea that analysts are compelled to treat patients because they themselves are ‘wounded.’  

 

Many people in the caring professions come to the work because they are interested in it, but also perhaps because they have also had difficult personal experiences.  Therapists, just like all people, deal with the complexities of emotional and family life, and this can often add, rather than detract, from ability to do a good job.

 

As is highlighted in the book, however, a problem arises if work becomes a way of trying to heal a personal problem. For Ruth, helping and fixing was something that was rooted in her complicated childhood. She was the child of an alcoholic, and after her father left her family, she was the sole caretaker of a mother who was volatile and inconsistent. Undoubtedly, this life experience played a part in her decision to train as a therapist – and probably contributed to her being an extremely good one.

 

Yet, it is her more recent, current grief for her missing son that is her undoing. She is ‘wounded’ by this trauma, so at the very time she needs to be pulling back, she sinks in deeper, and Dan becomes a focus of her feelings of grief and despair. 

 

Therapists are not immune from the tragedies of life, and support and supervision are essential to ensure that their work is not compromised by their personal lives. In the book, Ruth has a supervisor, but she is not honest with him, hiding crucial information because she knows exactly what he would say if he knew the truth. She fails to practice what she preaches. 

 

7.       Without giving too much away, A GOOD ENOUGH MOTHER culminates in a terrible act of violence. But the book doesn’t end there, and instead shows the characters working through the aftermath—confusion, grief, penance, acceptance. Why was it important to you to examine the effects of trauma and to grapple with the toll that this violence takes on the characters?

 

There is a multilayered aspect to the book, as I wanted to create mirroring between the emotional experiences of the characters. We see how Ruth’s childhood feeling of suffocation and lack of individuation at the hands of her mother is mirrored in her relationship with her son. We also see how her unresolved trauma regarding the disappearance of Tom draws her inexorably to Dan, as she’s compelled to try to find a way to ‘fix’ him, in a way she has failed to do with Tom. Dan was looking for a mother; she was looking for a son. It was a perfect storm. Interweaving these stories was fundamental to the plot, but I also wanted to make sure the emotional fallout following the tragedy was similarly multilayered. It couldn’t be a clearcut line of blame and responsibility that would fall at the door of one person – life very rarely works that way. It felt important to show the subsequent emotional unravelling in all its complexity.

 

8.       What do you hope readers take away from A GOOD ENOUGH MOTHER?

 

First and foremost, it’s a book of fiction, and so I hope they enjoy it and find the narrative thought-provoking. But I also hope they learn something new about the model of therapy, and the fact that you don’t need to be in a therapy room to find the concepts useful. I hope people will take away the value of acknowledging and experiencing our feelings. While Ruth thinks she is in control of her world, she is in denial about the strength of her deep feelings of grief and loss. But these feelings seep out. While there’s no instant ‘cure’ for such feelings, talking and connecting with them is essential. Ruth’s state of denial involves the suppression of feeling and that is what causes problems. 

 

I’ve worked in the NHS for many years, and currently work with staff teams in mental health services. On a daily basis I work in a system that is stretched and under-resourced. Mental health problems are increasing and services to support people are decreasing. It was my aim to highlight this pressure in the book. In one chapter, when Ruth works with a traumatized staff team, we see firsthand the tragic impact of the unavailability of in-patient beds for a desperately unwell patient. Services for mental health patients are shockingly underfunded and as a patient group, they are often disenfranchised and without voice and power to demand better services. One in four people will be affected by a mental health problem in their lives regardless of culture and social class, so this is an issue we should all be paying attention to. In particular, the book highlights adolescent mental health issues and so I hope it will draw attention to our responsibility for the youngest and most vulnerable in our society.

Where to find A Good Enough Mother:

GoodReads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/40603516-a-good-enough-mother?from_search=true

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Good-Enough-Mother-Novel/dp/0525561250/ref=tmm_hrd_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1555179848&sr=8-1

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/a-good-enough-mother-bev-thomas/1129244860;jsessionid=63BE91CA198B451E735CDC1230448E8B.prodny_store01-atgap07?ean=9780525561255&st=AFF&2sid=Goodreads,%20Inc_2227948_NA&sourceId=AFFGoodreads,%20Inc#/

Giveaway

Pamela Dorman Books/Penguin Viking is graciously giving away one (1) print copy of A Good Enough Mother by Bev Thomas to one randomly selected commenter on this post. This is a US ONLY giveaway. The winner will be contacted by email and asked to provide US mailing address details that will be forwarded to Penguin Group who are handling the giveaway and responsible for distribution. The giveaway will remain open for ONE WEEK beginning the date of the post. You must be over 16 years old to enter, or have a parent enter for you.

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About Sophia Rose

Sophia is a quiet though curious gal who dabbles in cooking, book reviewing, and gardening. Encouraged and supported by an incredible man and loving family. A Northern Californian transplant to the Great Lakes Region of the US. Lover of Jane Austen, Baseball, Cats, Scooby Doo, and Chocolate.

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Review: The Summer Retreat by Sheila Roberts

Posted April 25, 2019 by Lily B in Reviews / 14 Comments

Review: The Summer Retreat by Sheila RobertsThe Summer Retreat by Sheila Roberts
Series: Moonlight Harbor #3
Published by Mira on April 23, 2019
Genres: Womens Fiction, Romance
Pages: 384
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 4 Stars
Heat:one-flame

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Join USA TODAY bestselling author Sheila Roberts for a seaside escape to the beaches of Moonlight Harbor
Celeste Jones has plans for a perfect summer with her boyfriend (and hopefully soon-to-be fiancé)—until he dumps her to be with the woman he’s had on the side for months. Heartbroken and furious, Celeste resolves to move on. When the going gets tough, the tough…okay, the not-so-tough go to the beach.
As soon as school lets out for the summer, she waves goodbye to her first-graders, packs up her bikini and heads for Moonlight Harbor, where she knows her big sister, Jenna, will receive her with open arms. Jenna could probably use some help at the Driftwood Inn, and Celeste is happy to do chores around the place in exchange for a relaxing summer escape. She just needs something—or someone—to distract her from her troubles.
Finding The One can be tricky, and Jenna is determined to make sure Celeste gets it right this time around. Not that Jenna’s an expert. She’s still trying to sort out her own love life. But if both sisters listen to their hearts, eventually they’re bound to discover that life—and love—is good at the beach.

After finding out that her boyfriend cheated on her Celeste Jones joins her sister Jenna at Moonlight Harbor, where she helps her take care of the Driftwood Inn. Celeste is more than happy to do the chores in exchange for a summer escape.

Finding The One isn’t easy and her sister Jenna of all people should know that. Still, Jenna is determined to help her sister out by introducing her to Pastor Paul in hopes that her sister would make the right connection and choice. All Celeste wants is to find the perfect man, one that isn’t reminiscent with her ex-boyfriend who did her wrong. Pastor Paul definitely checks out in that department, he definitely wouldn’t cause her the heartache. But while Paul is sweet and comfortable, maybe being the Pastor’s wife is not something Celeste is all cut out to be and what about Henry the writer in room number 12?

This was a cute summer read. I found that I really enjoyed it and flew through the pages. I liked how it felt like a good beach read and I really enjoyed the characters and the small town life, despite having a few issues.

I had a hard time believing Celeste age in her late 30s. She acted a lot younger, especially when it came to love and men and she continued to make some wickedly bad decisions. I could see why she did it though, I think she was truly afraid of being hurt again but settling down with a family appealed to her. I wish it didn’t take her till the very last minute to see where she went wrong, but it was still a fluffy entertaining story. I really loved the interaction between Celeste and Henry and wished there was more of them over Paul.

There was a lot going on and I’d normally have a hard time with the character’s actions, but I found that I was just thoroughly enjoying it despite her decisions and it was an awesome fast phased palate cleanser.

I really want to see where Jenna’s storyline goes. From what little I got from Seth here I already found myself taking his side and hope she comes to a decision. While  I really enjoyed this, I do find that Celeste’s actions are probably not for everyone. But with it’s fast-paced writing, a charming small town and a wonderful cast of characters, this book makes a lovely summer read.

Overall, I will be coming back for more of the small town drama because I really enjoyed this book, despite some issues.

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Review Round Up #5

Posted April 24, 2019 by Lily B in Reviews / 10 Comments

Review Round Up #5The Highland Chieftain by Amy Jarecki
Series: Lords of the Highlands, #4, #4
Published by Forever on July 31, 2018
Genres: Historical Romance
Pages: 352
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Heat:three-half-flames

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

He is the last man she would ever marry…After being unceremoniously jilted by her betrothed, Lady Mairi MacKenzie is humiliated and heartbroken – but she’s not desperate. As the daughter of an earl, she won’t give her hand to just anyone, and she definitely isn’t swayed by a last-minute proposal from Laird Duncan MacRae. The powerful clan chieftain may be disarmingly handsome and charming, but he’s not a nobleman. Mairi doesn’t want his pity or his charity – even though his dark smoldering gaze makes her melt with desire.
She is the only woman he could ever love…Dunn may be a battle-hardened clansman, but he’s always had a soft spot for Mairi. For years, she tormented him with flirtation – only to reject him. But he’s not giving up. When Mairi is attacked by redcoats, Dunn goes after the woman he loves. Through brute strength and fierce action, he will protect her life at any cost. But to win her heart, he will have to show her the tenderness in his own.

Lady Mairi MacKenzie has been left humiliated and heartbroken when she is jilted by her betrothed, but she is not desperate enough to accept a last-minute proposal from Laird Duncan MacRae. When Mairi is attacked by redcoats in the forest, Dunn rides to her rescue. But rescuing Lady Mairi seemed to come with a cost because now her father wants Dunns head for “kidnapping” his daughter.

This was a good Highlander read. I really enjoyed Amy Jarecki writing, I think she is a really good author. Although I liked Mairi and Dunn well enough, I found the plot to be a little lacking. I did enjoy the two characters together, the romance was really sweet. I found Mairi’s father to be completely unreasonable in his assumptions and what he did to Dunn. I am still interested in the next book in this series, because it features what looks like a forbidden romance.

Review Round Up #5Duke of Desire by Elizabeth Hoyt
Series: Maiden Lane,
Published by Grand Central Publishing on October 17, 2017
Genres: Historical Romance
Pages: 308
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Heat:three-half-flames

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

A LADY OF LIGHT
Refined, kind, and intelligent, Lady Iris Jordan finds herself the unlikely target of a diabolical kidnapping. Her captors are the notoriously evil Lords of Chaos. When one of the masked-and nude!-Lords spirits her away to his carriage, she shoots him . . . only to find she may have been a trifle hasty.
A DUKE IN DEEPEST DARKNESS
Cynical, scarred, and brooding, Raphael de Chartres, the Duke of Dyemore, has made it his personal mission to infiltrate the Lords of Chaos and destroy them. Rescuing Lady Jordan was never in his plans. But now with the Lords out to kill them both, he has but one choice: marry the lady in order to keep her safe.
CAUGHT IN A WEB OF DANGER . . . AND DESIRE
Much to Raphael's irritation, Iris insists on being the sort of duchess who involves herself in his life-and bed. Soon he's drawn both to her quick wit and her fiery passion. But when Iris discovers that Raphael's past may be even more dangerous than the present, she falters. Is their love strong enough to withstand not only the Lords of Chaos but also Raphael's own demons?

Elizabeth Hoyt reminds me time and time again, how much I enjoy her writing and how easy it is to immerse yourself in her world. This book was no different. I love her witty writing style, I also love the humor she weaves into her stories that can at times be a bit on the dark side.

Duke of Desire, thought was an interesting read, wasn’t always an easy read for me. I loved Raphael and Lady Iris. I love how the characters were crafted. How much depth she bought into Raphael’s character through his past. He was such a damaged character and it took him a while to come out as Iris continue to try and break down his barriers.

I really loved these two characters, I thought they were really well crafted. That being said, this wasn’t my favorite background storyline. The chapters with Lords of Chaos went to some disturbing areas and sometimes were a bit hard to read. Despite that, I really enjoyed most of this book and it’s making me want to revisit the books I’ve missed. I really adore her writing.

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Sophia Rose Review: The Mint Julep Murders by Angie Fox

Posted April 20, 2019 by Lily B in Reviews / 12 Comments

Sophia Rose Review: The Mint Julep Murders by Angie FoxThe Mint Julep Murders by Angie Fox
Series: Southern Ghost Hunter Mysteries #8
Published by Moose Island Books on April 25th 2019
Genres: Paranormal, Cozy Mystery
Pages: 331
Format: Kindle Edition
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 3.5 Stars

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

For Southern girl Verity Long, friendship means sitting down to stories and sweet tea on the front porch. For her gangster ghost housemate, it means dragging Verity out to a remote haunted asylum during a raging thunderstorm to do a favor for a long-dead mob boss.
But Verity is always ready to help out a friend, even one as eternally eccentric as Frankie. And in the case of Mint Julep Manor, the stakes are too high to refuse. The criminally insane mob boss holds a secret to Frankie’s past, one that might set Frankie free. Do the favor—survive the favor—and they might change Frankie’s afterlife for good. Fail, and they might never leave the asylum.

In this latest ghost hunting adventure for Verity and Frankie, they must brave an old haunted insane asylum if they want to get answers that might help Frankie.  Not long after their arrival, they are up to their necks in murder and trapped inside with a bunch of insane ghosts and a killer.

 

The Mint Julep Murders is the eighth installment of the Southern Ghost Hunter mysteries.  These fun blend of paranormal and cozy mysteries work well read/listened to in order as the reader gets to see how it all began with Verity and Frankie and Verity’s relationship with cop boyfriend, Ellis.  But, that said, they are all standalone mysteries so could be gotten out of order in a pinch.

 

Most of the time, these get a little bit creepy with a nice ghostly, scary setting, but this one took the cake.  A decrepit insane asylum where the traumatic old-style treatments took place and every room more chilling than the last with a bunch of ghosts and odd people was a perfect spooky read.  I was more into the description of the setting and the situations for all those poor haunts than the murder mystery.

 

Verity was her usual Pollyanna naive self that gets on more by luck than anything else which gives her a bravado that had me rolling my eyes along with Frankie and feeling sympathetic to Ellis’ worry that she’s in over her head.  The trouble is that she has a tender, giving heart and blithely ignores danger because she thinks she’s Mother Theresa to all those ghosts. She manages to fumble and bumble her way through each case including this one. When she ends up in a tight spot and the death is knocking, she admits that maybe Ellis and Frankie have a point, but then later, she’s back to offended that they ever doubt her.  She’s a sweetheart and funny. I admire her for doing as well as she is after all that has happened to change her life and I’m not just referring to all the ghost adventures.

 

Verity can be a trip at times, but I have a pretty good time with each story in this series and this one was no exception.  Frankie was his usual gangster wise-cracking self, reluctantly at her side, and comes through when it counts. Verity poo-poos Ellis’ worry, but she’s actually got it pretty good that she has a man who stalwartly believes in her ghost business and in the ghosts, who isn’t scared off, but only struggles because he cares about her safety.  I sure hope she figures out how to compromise instead of the path she’s on insisting he do all the bending.

 

The murder mystery wasn’t hard for me to figure out even when the twists happened, but I enjoyed trailing along behind Verity as she worked to get to the truth.

 

All in all, I zipped through this one enjoying it thoroughly.  It was the first cozy mystery series I liked and remains a firm favorite that I can gladly recommend to those who enjoy spooky-style cozy mysteries that focus on old historical settings around a small town in Tennessee.

 

I rec’d this book from Net Galley to read in exchange for an honest review.

 

About Sophia Rose

Sophia is a quiet though curious gal who dabbles in cooking, book reviewing, and gardening. Encouraged and supported by an incredible man and loving family. A Northern Californian transplant to the Great Lakes Region of the US. Lover of Jane Austen, Baseball, Cats, Scooby Doo, and Chocolate.

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Sophia Rose: Who Slays the Wicked by CS Harris

Posted April 15, 2019 by Lily B in Guest Post, Reviews / 16 Comments

Sophia Rose: Who Slays the Wicked by CS HarrisWho Slays the Wicked by C.S. Harris
Series: Sebastian St. Cyr, #14
Published by Berkley Books on April 2, 2019
Genres: Historical Mystery
Pages: 352
Format: Hardcover
Source: Bought
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 4.5 Stars

The death of a fiendish nobleman strikes close to home as Sebastian St. Cyr is tasked with finding the killer to save his young cousin from persecution in this riveting new historical mystery from the USA Today bestselling author of Why Kill the Innocent....
When the handsome but dissolute young gentleman Lord Ashworth is found brutally murdered, Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin, is called in by Bow Street magistrate Sir Henry Lovejoy to help catch the killer. Just seven months before, Sebastian had suspected Ashworth of aiding one of his longtime friends and companions in the kidnapping and murder of a string of vulnerable street children. But Sebastian was never able to prove Ashworth's complicity. Nor was he able to prevent his troubled, headstrong young niece Stephanie from entering into a disastrous marriage with the dangerous nobleman.
Stephanie has survived the difficult birth of twin sons. But Sebastian soon discovers that her marriage has quickly degenerated into a sham. Ashworth abandoned his pregnant bride at his father's Park Street mansion and has continued living an essentially bachelor existence. And mounting evidence--ranging from a small bloody handprint to a woman's silk stocking--suggests that Ashworth's killer was a woman. Sebastian is tasked with unraveling the shocking nest of secrets surrounding Ashworth's life to keep Stephanie from being punished for his death.

When a murder hits too close to home, Sebastian finds himself investigating the death of the man he most reviled. The difficulty is that it turns out everyone hated the man and the man’s wife, Sebastian’s niece has the most reason.

In this fourteenth installment of the Sebastian St. Cyr historical mystery series, I found myself transported once again to Regency Era London on the eve of the Napoleonic War coming to an end when a sadistic fiend who raped and murdered young children, took advantage of every trades person and servant he encountered, and lived as the ultimate profligate turns up dead. Very dead. As in someone stabbed him so often that blood flowed everywhere.

I’ve enjoyed this series- which, incidentally, must be read in order. Watching Sebastian come to terms with his father and the secrets that hurt Sebastian deeply when they were hidden and then came out in brutal ways. In the last few years, he has happiness in his own life with his courageous and strong-willed wife and son. That said, he careful stays one step ahead of the political intrigue and danger swirling around his father in law that threatens him occasionally, and he is still determined to discover the last of the secrets surrounding his own enigmatic history. But, through it all, Sebastian has become a keen consulting detective for the London police with his military background, keen personal abilities and clever ability to not just look, but actually see when it comes to people and events. It doesn’t hurt that he has entre into places in the upper classes that the police can’t help to go.

Lord Ashworth was a repulsive, evil being. Sebastian’s need to get to the bottom of it is driven by his fear that his intrepid niece might have taken the knife herself- and many clues and facts do point her way. However, they also point toward a powerful and ruthless Russian princess whom his father in law warns him away from and also toward a despairing furniture maker who has been ruined because Ashworth wouldn’t pay a large bill. Oh, and let’s not forget the dangerous criminal hired by Ashworth as an assassin who also got angry over overdue bills. And, that is just the short list.

Meanwhile, Sebastian’s wife, Hero, is working on treatise about the poor and their lives who make their living as rag and bone men, pure pickers, and night soil men. She hopes to rouse the powers that be to social reform by exposing the lives of so many eking out their existence right under the noses of the affluent. Hero is unable to shake the worry over her distant cousin Victoria scheming with Jarvis, Hero’s father. Jarvis is the power behind the throne and will stop short of nothing to achieve the results he desires which seems to be the case with Victoria and the shadows around her past life and the significant glances she shares with Jarvis now and then.

Sebastian doesn’t even feel guilty for the relief he feels at Ashworth’s killing and no one else does either beyond the man’s father, an old family retainer, and an actual best friend. This was a case of too many suspects and too many motives. It also rounds out the story arc begun in the previous book when Sebastian solved the case, but didn’t get full satisfaction at the results. Sebastian also learns what drove Stephanie all this time (it’s been a mystery through a few books).

I am always keen on historical mysteries that provide as much authentic historical flavor as a clever well-developed mystery and engaging characters. This series continues to stand the test of time and keep me riveted with each new book released. The main mystery was good, but I also enjoy the background series-long ones as well. All historical mystery fans should try this series and join me in anticipating each new book.

 

About Sophia Rose

Sophia is a quiet though curious gal who dabbles in cooking, book reviewing, and gardening. Encouraged and supported by an incredible man and loving family. A Northern Californian transplant to the Great Lakes Region of the US. Lover of Jane Austen, Baseball, Cats, Scooby Doo, and Chocolate.

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Review: We Must Be Brave by Frances Liardet

Posted April 12, 2019 by Lily B in Reviews / 7 Comments

Review: We Must Be Brave by Frances LiardetWe Must Be Brave by Frances Liardet
Series: Standalone
Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons on February 26, 2019
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 464
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 4 Stars

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

THE NATIONAL BESTSELLER
Spanning the sweep of the twentieth century, We Must Be Brave explores the fierce love that we feel for our children and the power of that love to endure. Beyond distance, beyond time, beyond life itself.
"This stirring debut will work its way indelibly into your heart." --Georgia Hunter, author of We Were the Lucky Ones
One woman. One little girl. The war that changed everything.
December 1940. In the disorderly evacuation of Southampton, England, newly married Ellen Parr finds a small child asleep on the backseat of an empty bus. No one knows who little Pamela is.
Ellen professed not to want children with her older husband, and when she takes Pamela into her home and rapidly into her heart, she discovers that this is true: Ellen doesn't want children. She wants only Pamela. Three golden years pass as the Second World War rages on. Then one day Pamela is taken away, screaming. Ellen is no stranger to sorrow, but when she returns to the quiet village life she's long lived, she finds herself asking: In a world changed by war, is it fair to wish for an unchanged heart?
In the spirit of We Were the Lucky Ones and The Nightingale, here is a novel about courage and kindness, hardship and friendship, and the astonishing power of love.

December  1940 during a rushed evacuation of  Southampton, England, Ellen Parr finds a young child asleep on the back of the bus and no one knows who this child, Pamela is.

Ellen Parr has professed not to want any children with her older husband, Mr.Parr and she finds that she does not, the only one she wants is Pamela.  It’s a rocky start for the two of them, especially for a little girl who longs for her mother and does not know her father. But after three glorious years, Pamela is taken away, leaving behind a broken heart filled with sorrow.

This book. This book took me a while to get into, I will be honest here. It’s dense and long and had parts that I felt could have been edited, but once I started pushing myself through it I grew to enjoy it. Really enjoy it.

The writing was something to get used to, but as the story unfolded, we got to learn about Ellen through her timeline and her childhood and I think that made me appreciate her a little more and everything she went through to become a strong, resilient woman. This book had some really emotionally heartbreaking parts that brought me to near tears, especially centering around young Pamela and Ellen Parr. I loved how the author emphasized that love for a child can span countless decades, and that was evident with how Ellen felt for Pamela years after the two were forced apart.

I love the way the author crafted the characters and took time to allow us not only to enjoy them but also get to know them.

I didn’t particularly liked the way Ellen handled things when Pamela was leaving, it was a bit cruel given everything that they went through, but I grew to realize it was the only way at that time she thought was necessary.

I also felt that maybe their reunion at the end seemed like it could have come sooner than it did, but even so, no matter how long it took I felt like it was still emotional and tear-inducing.

I wish the author did not forget to mention all the letters that Ellen had written to Pamela over the years and maybe mentioned that they were given to Pamela?

Either way, this story was beautifully heartbreaking, and I really enjoyed the characters so much so that I grew attached to them to the point where the end was just absolutely sad. It was hard to let go and brought me to tears on more than one occasion.

Wonderful debut novel and I cannot wait to see what the author will have in store for us in the future.

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Review Round up #4

Posted April 11, 2019 by Lily B in Reviews / 11 Comments

Review Round up #4Panic by Lauren Oliver
Series: Standalone
Published by HarperCollins on March 4, 2014
Genres: Paranormal, Paranormal Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 408
Format: Kindle Edition
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 3.5 Stars

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Panic began as so many things do in Carp, a dead-end town of 12,000 people in the middle of nowhere: because it was summer, and there was nothing else to do.
Heather never thought she would compete in Panic, a legendary game played by graduating seniors, where the stakes are high and the payoff is even higher. She’d never thought of herself as fearless, the kind of person who would fight to stand out. But when she finds something, and someone, to fight for, she will discover that she is braver than she ever thought.
Dodge has never been afraid of Panic. His secret will fuel him, and get him all the way through the game, he’s sure of it. But what he doesn't know is that he’s not the only one with a secret. Everyone has something to play for.
For Heather and Dodge, the game will bring new alliances, unexpected revelations, and the possibility of first love for each of them—and the knowledge that sometimes the very things we fear are those we need the most.

Carp is a dead-end town of about 12,000 people in the middle of nowhere. Carp is also a very poor town. Every year seniors who graduate from High School play this dangerous legendary game called Panic and the winner of the game takes the big pot of money that awaited them in the end.

This follows Heather and Dodge two teenagers that enter the game of Panic each for their own reasons and how they will do everything to stay in it, even when the stakes begin to rise and the game is starting to spiral out of control.

This was an entertaining read. I liked that I never found a dull moment in this and I really enjoyed Lauren Oliver’s writing in the past, so it was nice to revisit her work again.

I was a little confused about some of the stuff in the book, including that it felt a little dystopian? The game of panic sounds like it’s been around for a while (though no mention of how long) and I am confused by how some of the adults that participated in it did not try to stop what was happening.

Also, the entire book felt like the adults were just missing from the scene, I did not feel like any adults, even made an attempt to stop it with the exception of the local police that kept getting outsmarted by the local teenagers.

It wasn’t bad, it was a fun ride I enjoyed most of it, some predictable, some lacking cohesiveness I was a little frustrated at the beginning of the reason Heather entered the game, due to a boy, but the author made up for it by adding depth to the character later on. Again, this is where shitty adults come into play as that excuse in YA.

Review Round up #4Dark Witch by Nora Roberts
Series: The Cousins O'Dwyer Trilogy,
Published by Berkley on October 29, 2013
Genres: Paranormal, Paranormal Romance
Pages: 342
Format: Paperback
Source: Gifted
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Heat:two-half-flames

With indifferent parents, Iona Sheehan grew up craving devotion and acceptance. From her maternal grandmother, she learned where to find both: a land of lush forests, dazzling lakes, and centuries-old legends.
Ireland.
County Mayo, to be exact. Where her ancestors’ blood and magic have flowed through generations—and where her destiny awaits.
Iona arrives in Ireland with nothing but her Nan’s directions, an unfailingly optimistic attitude, and an innate talent with horses. Not far from the luxurious castle where she is spending a week, she finds her cousins, Branna and Connor O’Dwyer. And since family is family, they invite her into their home and their lives.
When Iona lands a job at the local stables, she meets the owner, Boyle McGrath. Cowboy, pirate, wild tribal horsemen, he’s three of her biggest fantasy weaknesses all in one big, bold package.
Iona realizes that here she can make a home for herself—and live her life as she wants, even if that means falling head over heels for Boyle. But nothing is as it seems. An ancient evil has wound its way around Iona’s family tree and must be defeated. Family and friends will fight with each other and for each other to keep the promise of hope—and love—alive…

Follows three cousins O’Dwyer and the historical evil that haunts them.

Iona Sheehan makes a move to Ireland because that is where her roots are as well as her cousins. She knows she is special, but does not know how to use the power inside her.  The three together make a very powerful combination, especially against Cabhan, the evil that should have been destroyed by the dark witch Sorcha their ancestor.

This was a good read. I like the basic plot line and I liked the setting. I could not stand the romance. I think romance just did not work for me in this book.

It felt a bit juvenile and I was confused by these people’s ages because they acted so young when it came to love. There was also a big dramatic moment that, of course, drove the characters apart because Boyle couldn’t stop running his mouth and said some nasty things that he shouldn’t have and there was also a bit of insta-love tied into it.

Overall, I think this would have been really enjoyable if you cut out all the romance, that part just did not work for me. Otherwise, the running storyline was actually really interesting.

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Review: Someone Knows by Lisa Scottoline

Posted April 10, 2019 by Lily B in Reviews / 8 Comments

Review: Someone Knows by Lisa ScottolineSomeone Knows by Lisa Scottoline
Series: Standalone
Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons on April 9, 2019
Genres: Mystery, Thriller
Pages: 400
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 2.5 Stars
Heat:one-half-flames

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

From the New York Times-bestselling author comes a pulse-pounding domestic thriller about a group of friends who have been bound for twenty years by a single secret—and will now be undone by it. Someone Knows is an emotional exploration of friendship and family, as well as a psychological exploration of guilt and memory.
Twenty years ago, in an upscale suburb of Philadelphia, four teenagers spent a summer as closest friends: drinking, sharing secrets, testing boundaries. When a new boy looked to join them, they decided to pull a prank on him, convincing him to play Russian roulette as an initiation into their group. They secretly planned to leave the gun unloaded—but what happened next would change each of them forever.
Now three of the four reunite for the first time since that horrible summer. The guilt—and the lingering question about who loaded the gun—drove them apart. But after one of the group apparently commits suicide with a gun, their old secrets come roaring back. One of them is going to figure out if the new suicide is what it seems, and if it connects to the events of that long-ago summer. Someone knows exactly what happened—but who? And how far will they go to keep their secrets buried?

Allie is headed home for the funeral of a childhood friend when she runs into two other people that share a terrible secret that they kept for twenty years.

Twenty years ago a terrible accident happened. No one was supposed to be hurt. The gun was never supposed to be loaded. But someone died, and four other people were there to witness and each carried the secret for years

This was my first foray into Lisa Scottoline’s writing, although I have collected several books from her over the years, I picked this one because it sounded exciting.

I thought this book had a lot of potentials and I liked how it was entertaining enough to keep me flipping through the pages and engaged. Ultimately, it just missed the mark.

The book is riddled with unlikable characters and the book alternates between these characters in chapters, which to me just happened to be one of its downfalls because I really did not like or care for most of these characters. I think there were only one or two characters I really liked and they just did not have enough spotlight in the story.

Even if you skip reading the blurb, it’s easy to predict who dies in the book. The book ends up being kind of split into two sections, one before the ‘accident’ and then the after.

I wish the actual twist in the book was who dies instead of the ‘twist’ that the author decides to throw at us in the end.

The last couple of chapters in the book I think is what ultimately spoiled the book for me. I thought it was just a mess. A completely freaken mess. It was clunky, a bunch of stuff thrown together for shock value that did not make sense to the overall story.

I don’t even know how to explain the stuff that just pissed me off without spoiling the book.

One of those things is the stupid direction it goes with one of the characters that just made my head hurt and honestly felt like it was added to make this book into a thriller. I think this book would have been better off focusing on how the event that occurred shaped the character’s lives.

Then this ultimate twist occurs at the end of the book and I almost threw the damn thing out the window because I was sooooo livid. IT DID NOT MAKE SENSE. I’m sorry. If it was added for shock value. Congrats. I am shocked. Shocked that it was even put in the book.

To break it down without spoiling it to the best of my ability. Knowing what we did from the book, this character’s actions did not make sense to me, especially if the character knew what was going to already happen the following day at that moment in time. Also, the behavior of the character in the epilogue after learning this horrible twist did not coincide with the character’s behavior from just witnessing the event. How it affected the character’s life, then and how it affected life after just did not make sense to me. It felt like it would have affected them worse, instead it felt like they basically said “oh well, we know now… we move on”

It just…

No.

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Sophia Rose Review: Holy Sister by Mark Lawrence

Posted April 4, 2019 by Lily B in Guest Post, Reviews / 14 Comments

Sophia Rose Review: Holy Sister by Mark LawrenceHoly Sister by Mark Lawrence
Series: Book of the Ancestor, #3
Published by Ace on April 9, 2019
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 368
Format: Kindle Edition
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 5 Stars

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

The third installment in a brilliant fantasy series from the international bestselling author of Prince of Thorns.
As a young girl, Nona Grey was saved from the noose by the Abbess of Sweet Mercy. But behind the convent’s walls she learned not a life of prayer and isolation, but one of the blade and the fist. Now she will serve as the convent’s fiercest protector as the emperor moves to destroy the last bastion that stands against him.

I wouldn’t have missed this one for the world. The thrilling conclusion to Nona Grey’s story and the grand finale for the story of all the people living on a planet facing a dying sun.

In the face of the end, people learn what truly matters to them. Holy Sister paints a beyond desperate situation for everyone living. Some seek to grab up power and will slaughter as many as it takes to have this. Some will do anything to survive on the winner’s side even if it means betrayal. And, for the strongest, it means doing whatever it takes to benefit the all.

The trilogy is all one story broken into three parts and must be taken in order. It starts with the focus on one girl with Red Sister. Then, the reader starts to realize that a whole chess board is in play by deft hands in Grey Sister. But, Holy Sister? It takes the machinations of a great mind orchestrating the events that occur to a new level. I found it an interesting blend of guided future with free choice playing a role, too.

I’m not trying to be mysterious, but that was how I felt as I was reading this one. Plus, there is only so much that I can say without running into spoiler territory. I’ll say what I feel that I can.

The setup is simple. The Durn are pushing in and raiding from one side and the Scithrowl are mowing down all in their path from the east. As the sun continues to die, the narrow corridor of land not covered by ice grows smaller and makes people fight to hold or take. Between the two others is the weakening empire where Nona and her fellow Sisters of Mercy live and do their work. The Emperor’s sister planned to betray him and her people to take up with the Scithrowl Queen. People are being forced to take sides and watch their backs even within the walls of the abbey.

Holy Sister tells its story in split time line of present day and three years before. The three years before follows the direct events of book two, Grey Sister, while the present drops one into the desperate times of a kingdom on the verge of annihilation from all sides. Nona and the efforts of her small band are the key. The reader is led through a complex series of missions and close, intense situations. It is twisting and turning and keeps the reader wondering constantly. The promised buildup to confrontations do come and it was breathtaking. War is costly so there is that, too. It was an interesting finish that left me pondering several things after the last page. I’m not sure how I feel about it, but I can’t deny that it doesn’t fit.

So, all in all, I am sorry to be looking back on the end. It was one exciting and engaging ride from page one and I can highly recommend this book and the whole trilogy to those who enjoy intrigue, character growth, a good feel for setting, and gritty action in their fantasy reading.

I rec’d this book through Net Galley to read in exchange for an honest review.

About Sophia Rose

Sophia is a quiet though curious gal who dabbles in cooking, book reviewing, and gardening. Encouraged and supported by an incredible man and loving family. A Northern Californian transplant to the Great Lakes Region of the US. Lover of Jane Austen, Baseball, Cats, Scooby Doo, and Chocolate.

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Review Round Up #3

Posted April 3, 2019 by Lily B in Reviews / 14 Comments

Review Round Up #3River Queen Rose by Shirley Kennedy
Series: In Old California, #1, #1
Published by Lyrical Press on December 26, 2017
Genres: Historical Romance
Pages: 210
Format: Kindle Edition
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 3 Stars
Heat:two-flames

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

The ramshackle River Queen Hotel is home to vagabonds, gamblers, and heathens—and now, to new widow Rose Peterson. The rundown Gold Rush establishment is the only thing her late husband, Emmet, left her. Despite its raucous saloon and ladies of the evening, Rose can see the hotel’s potential. Her late husband’s family claim that sheltered Rose isn’t capable of running the Sacramento inn herself. But she is determined to make a new life for herself and her young daughter, even if it means flying in the face of custom and propriety. She feels as if she hasn’t a friend in the world.
Except, perhaps, one. Decatur “Deke” Fleming, a tall, lanky Australian who once served as Emmet’s farmhand. Pride prevents Deke from revealing his moneyed past; conscience keeps him from confessing his feelings for the still grieving widow. But when Rose is tempted by wealthy civic leader and hotel owner Mason Talbot, Deke may be the only person who can save her—and the one man capable of reviving her bruised and battered heart.

Rose Peterson finally arrives in California after a long journey only to discover her husband Emmet is dead, shot in an illegal duel. He left her behind his hotel the River Queen, home to the vagabond, gamblers, and ladies of the night. The man who dueled her husband desperately wants to buy it, but to prove herself Rose decides to keep the hotel because no one outside of Deke believes she is capable of handling it.

I liked the setting. I liked that it took around the time of the gold rush. I liked the storyline enough, it kept me interested.

I hated the characters. None of them outside of Deke were really all that likable.

Rose was annoying. She ends up, allowing her husband’s killer to try to swoon her despite having some reservations about him and not understanding some of his anger when she mentions the hotel. She also allowed her in-laws to push her around way too much even when she ended with some power to throw them out.

Deke is on crutches at the beginning of the book so Rose treats him as if he is missing his leg forever and that just downright bothered me. She keeps calling him a cripple like he is no longer a man.

The romance was okay. It was okay. Went by quickly.

Review Round Up #3When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
Series: Standalone
Published by Vintage on January 5, 2017
Genres: Non-Fiction, Memoir
Pages: 225
Format: Paperback
Source: Bought
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 4.5 Stars

At the age of thirty-six, on the verge of completing a decade’s training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer. One day he was a doctor treating the dying, the next he was a patient struggling to live.
When Breath Becomes Air chronicles Kalanithi’s transformation from a medical student asking what makes a virtuous and meaningful life into a neurosurgeon working in the core of human identity – the brain – and finally into a patient and a new father.
--back cover

Beautiful, heartbreaking, powerful. Is a few words that I feel do sum up this book as a whole.

When I first heard about this book. I knew I wanted to read it. I didn’t realize how hard it would be to read it.

Written by Paul Kalanithi himself, this memoir covers his story. About how he found out at the age of 36 that he has inoperable lung cancer while being on the verge of a turning point in his career as a neurosurgeon. How he went from being a doctor himself to a patient and how ultimately he came to face the reality of impending death. His decisions and his family.

This book was hard to rate. The writing was wonderful. The loss of such a life full of potential was devastating. The ending written by his wife was moving, emotional, heartbreaking and brought me to tears.

The honesty of his words and how he viewed life and death as a surgeon working with patients versus how he is viewed as a patient was both poignant and real.

This was his journey. His story to tell. Finding light in moments of bleakness and living your life to the fullest, as to what that fullest means to you as a person.

I’m glad I read this book.

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