Tiger Heart, by Katrell Christie and Shannon McCaffrey #review #TLCBookTours

About the book, Tiger Heart Tiger Heart

Paperback: 232 pages

Publisher: HCI (October 6, 2015)

Katrell Christie never intended to visit India. In fact, her ideal vacation was a tropical beach where she could relax with a margarita in her hand. But when this former art student turned roller-derby rebel met three teenage girls at a crowded Buddhist orphanage in Darjeeling, she knew she had to help. What started as a trip made on a whim would prove to be a life-altering experience that would change the fate of these lost girls.

In her new book, Tiger Heart: My Unexpected Adventures to Make a Difference in Darjeeling and What I Learned About Fate, Fortitude, and Finding Family Half a World Away (October 2015), Katrell tells her remarkable story – from her quirky Atlanta tea shop to her fight for her young scholars halfway around the globe. Two scholars in the program are set to graduate from college and move on to pursue advanced degrees.

Most of the girls Katrell met in India faced grim futures as laborers or domestic servants. Some might have been relegated to lives of sexual exploitation. For them, she founded The Learning Tea, which has offered scholarships to 15 young women in Darjeeling, providing them with tuition, housing, clothing and medical care.

Katrell has us sipping tea with her at roadside tea huts, tasting hot samosas, dodging feral monkeys, and roaming the chaotic streets of Mumbai. The smells of small villages waft from the pages as we accompany her on her riveting and sometimes hilarious adventures across the globe in her mission to empower the young women who have become a part of her family. Join us in experiencing then sharing the inspiring story of one woman and her mission to make a difference through the power of educating girls.

Buy, read, and discuss Tiger Heart

Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble

About the authors, Katrell Christie and Shannon McCaffrey KattrellChristie

Katrell Christie is the founder and owner of The Learning Tea, a project which provides schooling and a safe haven for impoverished young women in India. Through her efforts with The Learning Tea, Ms. Christie has changed the lives of many women living in Darjeeling, India. Visit TheLearningTea.com for more information.

Shannon McCaffrey is an award-winning reporter focusing on investigative stories for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. She is an avid reader, a mother, and a runner.

My Thoughts MissMeliss

I have a ‘thing’ for memoirs – people’s personal stories. They always intrigue me. It’s a few levels above watching people on a bus or in a cafe and wondering what their stories really are.

In the case of Tiger Heart, I found Katrell Christie’s story to be very compelling. So often, we read about people who are going out into the world and doing good things, and their focus is on boys. This woman saw a need: educating girls, and she turned it into a personal mission. As a woman, as a feminist, as a citizen of the world, I really like that.

I also liked reading her memoir. It’s funny, candid, and completely honest. It could have sounded like an academic treatise; instead, it reads as if your best girlfriend is telling you about her latest exciting adventure.  This should in no way imply that the book is intellectually light. It is NOT. Christie and McCaffrey are honest about the predicament of girls in Darjeeling, and about their defeats – having to close a center, going home feeling as if failure had occurred.

Except there was no failure. Lives were changed, girls’ futures were improved, and I suspect Katrell Christie’s life is far richer for the experience than it ever would have been, otherwise.

Read this book if you want an uplifting message, one of hope and hard work.

Goes well with chicken tiki masala and cucumber water.

TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS for Tiger Heart: TLC Book Tours

Monday, September 28th: Bookchickdi

Wednesday, September 30th: Run Wright

Thursday, October 1st: Lit and Life

Monday, October 5th: Read. Write. Repeat.

Tuesday, October 6th: The Things We Read

Monday, October 12th: Dreaming Big Blog

Wednesday, October 14th: Raven Haired Girl

Thursday, October 15th: A Bookish Affair

Friday, October 16th: Broken Teepee

Wednesday, October 21st: The Reading Cove Book Club

Wednesday, October 21st: #redhead.with.book

Monday, October 26th: A Book A Week

Monday, October 26th: Svetlana’s Reads and Views

Friday, October 30th: Bibliotica


Life in General, by Becca Rowan (@ravenousreader) #Review

About the book, Life in General Life in General

  • Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (November 20, 2014)
  • Paperback: 358 pages

Approaching her 50th birthday in 2006, author Becca Rowan decided to explore her passage into mid-life through writing. She created a blog called Becca’s Byline, and soon connected with other women who were exploring questions about life, family, home, work, and pursuing their dreams.

LIFE IN GENERAL is a collection of essays reflecting on experiences familiar to women in midlife: the empty nest, becoming a grandparent, long term marriage, caring for aging parents, downsizing a home, changes in the workplace, finding a passion for living. Readers will connect with these thoughtful, humorous, and inspiring pieces, and find new hope and ideas to make their own particular lives more fulfilling.

Buy, read, and discuss Life in General

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Direct from the Author | Goodreads

About the author, Becca Rowan Becca Rowan

Becca Rowan is a writer and creator of the blog Becca’s Byline. She is a senior editor at All Things Girl magazine where she writes about books, popular culture, and home life. She is also a musician, and performs as a pianist and as a member of Classical Bells, a professional handbell ensemble. Born and raised in southeastern Michigan, she currently lives in Northville (a suburb of Detroit) with her husband of 38 years, and their two pampered Shih Tzus, Magic and Molly Mei.

Connect with Becca

Website | Facebook | Twitter

My Thoughts

It’s not often that I get to review a book by someone I consider a friend, but Becca and I have been ‘blog buddies’ for years, and worked together at All Things Girl. Despite this, or maybe because of it, my review is an honest one, and, for the record, I paid for my copy of her book.

In a world where anyone can publish with relative ease, many people look down at self-published work. If you’re one of those people who recoils in horror when you see “CreateSpace” listed as a publisher, and therefore skip this book because of that, then I’m sad for you, because Becca’s collection of essays are candid, witty, beautiful glimpses into the life of a typical American woman, and as much as they are universal, they also prove that there really is no such thing as ‘typical.’

As a long-time reader of Becca’s blog, some of the material in Life in General, more correctly titled Life in General: an American woman reflects on midlife in the 21st century, was familiar to me, but her writing style – that of an old friend you’re meeting for coffee, or a favorite (and very young) aunt offering life-lessons – is so warm and engaging that even the familiar felt new, and the pieces I hadn’t read offered me wonderful insights into her personality and character.

But you don’t have to know Becca, or be familiar with her previous work, to enjoy this book. If you’re already over fifty, you’ll likely find yourself nodding in agreement at some of the things she relates – how her lifestyle has changed now that she and her husband are empty-nesters, for example. If, like me, you’re still a few years shy of fifty, there’s still a lot to appreciate. While her essays are exactly what she calls them: personal reflections, they are also full of ideas, advice, and little tidbits of daily life that make you go, “Hey, I should try that,” or, “wow, that sounds so cozy.”

More than just being an enjoyable read, however, I found that the process of carefully reading Becca’s work made my own fingers itch to be flying over a keyboard again, after weeks (at the time I read it, around Christmas of last year) of not feeling very ‘writey.’

And that’s what good writing does, I think. It educates. It inspires. It says, “hey, this is me and this is my story, but why don’t you tell me your story, too?”

Becca Rowan’s Life in General is really good writing.

Goes well with a pot of tea, a plate of buttery scones, a rainy day, and a dog or two to cuddle.

Life from Scratch, by Sasha Martin (@globaltable) #review @tlcbooktours #giveaway

About the book, Life from Scratch Life from Scratch

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: National Geographic (March 3, 2015)

It was a culinary journey like no other: Over the course of 195 weeks, food writer and blogger Sasha Martin set out to cook—and eat—a meal from every country in the world. As cooking unlocked the memories of her rough-and-tumble childhood and the loss and heartbreak that came with it, Martin became more determined than ever to find peace and elevate her life through the prism of food and world cultures. From the tiny, makeshift kitchen of her eccentric, creative mother to a string of foster homes to the house from which she launches her own cooking adventure, Martin’s heartfelt, brutally honest memoir reveals the power of cooking to bond, to empower, and to heal—and celebrates the simple truth that happiness is created from within.

buy, read, and discuss Life from Scratch

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Goodreads

About the author, Sasha Martin Sasha Martin

SASHA MARTIN is an award-winning writer and blogger who spent almost four years cooking her way around the world. Her work has been featured on NPR (Travel with Rick Steves), Whole LivingBon AppetitThe SmithsonianThe Huffington Post, CNNgo, and Food52. Her website, Global Table Adventure, is a go-to hub for foodies around the world.

Connect with Sasha

Website | Facebook | Twitter

My Thoughts

When this book showed up on my doorstep in the middle of an ice storm, I was pleasantly surprised to find that instead of an ARC, which is typical for someone participating in a book tour, I’d received the actual hardcover edition. I confess, I was so excited about it that I hugged it to my chest, and I’ve been reading and re-reading it ever since.

It’s a really wonderful book.

Memoirs are tricky things, riding the line between pure fact and ‘creative’ non-fiction. Even the most interesting person can come off as dry and boring if they don’t have a good writer’s voice. Sasha Martin, who honed her voice with a popular blog (which, I confess, I’d never visited until I read Life from Scratch, despite it being right up my alley), never seems dry or boring, though at times the situations she was in, whether by her own design or precipitated by others, made me want to reach into the book and throttle people.

When you have that visceral a reaction to words on a page, you KNOW it’s a good story.

And Sasha’s story, while sometimes dark, and a bit overloaded with disappointments, is a truly interesting, fairly candid account of her life, her coming of age, her relationship with family, food, and cooking.

As the daughter of a single mother, many elements of Sasha’s story were familiar to me, though I’m very lucky that, if my mother and I were ever in any situations half as dire as hers, I was never aware of it. Still, the comfort of cooking, the pops and sizzles, burbles and whistles of kitchen noises, the enticing aromas of different spices, and the gradual understanding of how those spices work with each other…those are nearly universal, and she describes them so well, that at times I wanted to reach out and steal her slice of raisin cinnamon toast “pizza.”

As Sasha’s memoir (and forgive me for referring to her by first name, but reading her book really makes you feel like you’ve met her) approaches her contemporary life, the mellowing, the settling, of her personality and the way it conflicts with the ingrained wanderlust of her childhood felt all too familiar. I know what it’s like to constantly be uprooted, to always be the new kid, to never quite belong, and though our circumstances are radically different, I think it’s this familiarity that made this book resonate with me so deeply.

That said, even if you’ve never been the child of a single parent, and never found that a favorite food from childhood (and one said single mother invented out of necessity) has lost its appeal to your adult palate – even if you’ve lived in one place your entire life, I think Martin’s book will still appeal to you. Why? Because food and cooking are universal elements of community. Because her recipes are nearly intoxicating on the page, and the itch to try them is almost palpable.

Because this is a well-written, well-crafted love story to youth and family and to the concept of the kitchen as the heart of a home, and to not read it would be to miss out on a very rare treat.

Goes well with homemade pizza made on raisin bread, and a glass of horchata.


One lucky reader (US only) will win a copy of Life from Scratch for their very own. How? Tweet the link to this review (tag @Melysse on Twitter), or comment on this post. Winner will be selected by random drawing on the night of Sunday, March 22, and announced on Monday, March 23.

Sasha’s Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Tuesday, March 3rd: Books on the Table

Thursday, March 5th: The Well-Read Redhead

Friday, March 6th: girlichef

Monday, March 9th: Patricia’s Wisdom

Tuesday, March 10th: A Bookish Way of Life

Wednesday, March 11th: Bibliotica (That’s ME!)

Thursday, March 12th: Pickles and Cheese

Monday, March 16th: Ms. Nose in a Book

Tuesday, March 17th: Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews

Wednesday, March 18th: Booksie’s Blog

Thursday, March 19th: Wholistic Woman

Friday, March 20th: I’d Rather Be At The Beach

The News Sorority, by Sheila Weller – Review

About the book The News Sorority, by Sheila Weller The News Sorority

A provocative look at the three remarkable women who revolutionized television broadcast news

For decades, women battered the walls of the male fortress of television journalism, until finally three—Diane Sawyer, Katie Couric, and Christiane Amanpour—broke through, definitively remaking America’s nightly news. Drawing on exclusive interviews with their colleagues and intimates from childhood on, bestselling author Sheila Weller crafts a lively and eye-opening narrative, revealing the combination of ambition, skill, and character that enabled these three singular women to infiltrate the once impenetrable “boys club” and become cultural icons.

Raised in Louisville, Kentucky, Diane Sawyer was a driven, elegant young woman in a time of societal upheaval. Her fierce intellect, almost insuperable work ethic, and mysterious emotional intelligence would catapult Sawyer from being the first female on-air correspondent for 60 Minutes to presenting heartbreaking specials on child poverty in America while anchoring the network flagship, ABC World News Tonight.

Katie Couric, always convenient l y underestimated because of her girl-next-door demeanor, brazened her way through a succession of regional TV news jobs until she finally hit it big in New York. In 1991, Couric became the Today show cohost, where over the next fifteen years she transformed the “female” slot from secondary to preeminent. Couric’s greatest triumph—and most bedeviling challenge—was inheriting the mantle of Walter Cronkite at CBS Evening News, as the first woman ever to anchor a prestigious nighttime network news program.

A glamorous but unorthodox cosmopolite— the daughter of a British Catholic mother and Iranian Muslim father—Christiane Amanpour made a virtue of her outsider status. She joined the fledgling CNN on the bottom rung and then became its “face,” catalyzing its rise to global prominence. Her fearlessness in war zones and before presidents and despots would make her the world’s witness to some of its most acute crises and television’s chief advocate for international justice.

The News Sorority takes us behind the scenes as never before to track Sawyer’s, Couric’s, and Amanpour’s ascendance to the highest ranks of the media elite, showing that the compelling desire to report the news—a drive born of curiosity, empathy, and humanity—must be matched by guts, awesome competitive fervor, and rare strategic savvy.

My Thoughts

I was offered this book by a publicist who found my blog, probably through some other review campaign, and I leaped at it, because I read Sheila Weller’s previous book Girls Like Us (about women in music) and loved it. I’ve also interviewed her for All Things Girl so, I sort of knew what to expect.

I was not disappointed.

Weller takes us through the lives of three women at the forefront of news media – Christiane Amanpour, Katie Couric, and Diane Sawyer – weaving them in and out of each other, and letting us see them as girls, as women, as people, as the faces of the news.

I enjoyed learning more about these women, all of whom I’ve watched since forever, and I also enjoyed Weller’s narrative style. She makes biography read like a novel, and is always candid but seems to make an effort to do so from a place of kindness. You can tell that she may not always agree with her subjects, but she always respects them.

If you want to feel as if you truly know these women, read this book. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you’ll never look at television journalism the same way again.

A Breast Cancer Alphabet, by Madhulika Sikka (@madhulikasikka) – Review

About the book, A Breast Cancer Alphabet A Breast Cancer Alphabet

Hardcover: 224 pages
Publisher: Crown; First Edition edition (February 25, 2014)

From NPR News executive editor comes an indispensable and approachable guide to life during, and after, breast cancer.

The biggest risk factor for breast cancer is simply being a woman.  Madhulika Sikka’s A Breast Cancer Alphabet offers a new way to live with and plan past the hardest diagnosis that most women will ever receive: a personal, practical, and deeply informative look at the road from diagnosis to treatment and beyond.

What Madhulika Sikka didn’t foresee when initially diagnosed, and what this book brings to life so vividly, are the unexpected and minute challenges that make navigating the world of breast cancer all the trickier.  A Breast Cancer Alphabet is an inspired reaction to what started as a personal predicament.

This A-Z guide to living with breast cancer goes where so many fear to tread: sex (S is for Sex – really?), sentimentality (J is for Journey – it’s a cliché we need to dispense with), hair (H is for Hair – yes, you can make a federal case of it) and work (Q is for Quitting – there’ll be days when you feel like it).  She draws an easy-to-follow, and quite memorable, map of her travels from breast cancer neophyte to seasoned veteran.

As a prominent news executive, Madhulika had access to the most cutting edge data on the disease’s reach and impact.  At the same time, she craved the community of frank talk and personal insight that we rely on in life’s toughest moments.  This wonderfully inventive book navigates the world of science and story, bringing readers into Madhulika’s mind and experience in a way that demystifies breast cancer and offers new hope for those living with it.

Buy, read, and discuss A Breast Cancer Alphabet

Amazon | Books-a-Million | Goodreads

About the author, Madhulika Sikka Madhulika Sikka

MADHULIKA SIKKA is a veteran broadcast journalist with decades of experience. Among other media outlets, she has worked at NPR News and ABC News.

Connect with Madhulika

Website | Twitter

My Thoughts

There are two ways to read A Breast Cancer Alphabet. You can read it straight through, in which case it feels very much like one woman’s memoir of a trip down breast cancer lane, at times witty and at other times poignant, and mostly a mixture of both. Alternately, you can read the introduction, and then flip through the actual alphabetized entries at random, going forward and backward as your mood dictates. Either way, you’re likely to learn something new, either about breast cancer, or about the woman who wrote the book, journalist Madhulika Sikka.

Either way, what you’ll find is information that is witty and engaging, but also honest and useful about this disease that affects so many of us, across cultures, heedless of age, income level, or geography.

To be honest, it’s not the kind of book you sit down and read straight through, like a novel. Even if you read it in order, it’s probably best in small doses…it makes a great “bathroom book” in that way. (Which is not to denigrate the author or the book – I get the majority of my reading done by multitasking in the bathroom or in the actual bathtub.)

It would make a great gift for the mother, daughter, or sister of someone going through breast cancer, or someone who’s just been diagnosed, and it’s designed to feel almost like a journal, and not at all like the encyclopedia of a malady it could easily has become.

All around us are companies pushing pink products because it’s October. Most of them use Breast Cancer Awareness Month as just another marketing ploy. If you really want to think pink this fall – or at any time of year – I heartily suggest this book. Not only will it help you, or someone you love, you’ll also be supporting another woman.

Sisterhood is never something to look away from.

Goes well with a strawberry milkshake. Or a lot of liquor.

TLC Book Tours

This review is part of a blog tour sponsored by TLC Book Tours. For the complete list of tour stops, see below. For more information, click HERE.

Wednesday, October 1st: The Reading Date 

Thursday, October 2nd: Peeking Between the Pages

Friday, October 3rd: Guiltless Reading spotlight/excerpt

Monday, October 6th: WV Stitcher

Tuesday, October 7th: Lisa’s Yarns

Wednesday, October 8th: Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews

Wednesday, October 8th: Life is Story

Thursday, October 9th: Melanie’s Muse

Friday, October 10th: Bibliotica

Monday, October 13th: A Chick Who Reads

Tuesday, October 14th: Nightly Reading

Thursday, October 16th: Back Porchervations

Monday, October 20th: Lesa’s Book Critiques

Monday, October 20th: From the TBR Pile

Tuesday, October 21st: Sincerely Stacie

Tuesday, October 21st: My Shelf Confessions

Thursday, October 23rd: Luxury Reading

Monday, October 27th: Patricia’s Wisdom

Review: Daring: My Passages, by Gail Sheehy (@Gail_Sheehy)

About the book, Daring: My Passages Daring: My Passages

• Hardcover: 496 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow (September 2, 2014)

The author of Passages, a book that changed millions of lives, now lays bare her own life passages in a captivating memoir that reveals her harrowing and ultimately triumphant path from groundbreaking 1960s “girl” journalist to fearless bestselling author who made a career of excavating cultural taboos—from sex, menopause, and midlife crisis to illness, caregiving, and death. Daring to blaze a trail in a “man’s world,” Gail Sheehy became one of the premier practitioners of New Journalism at the fledgling New York magazine, along with such stellar writers as Tom Wolfe, Gloria Steinem, and Jimmy Breslin. Sheehy dared to walk New York City’s streets with hookers and pimps to expose violent prostitution; to march with civil rights protesters in Northern Ireland as British soldiers opened fire; to seek out Egypt’s president Anwar Sadat when he was targeted for assassination after making peace with Israel; and to break the glass ceiling in a media world fueled by testosterone, competition, and grit.

Daring: My Passages is also the beguiling love story of Sheehy’s tempestuous romance with Clay Felker, the charismatic creator of New York magazine and the mentor who inspired her to become a fearless journalist who won renown for her penetrating character portraits of world leaders, including Hillary Clinton, both Presidents Bush, British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, and Soviet premier Mikhail Gorbachev, among others.

Sheehy reflects on desire, ambition, and wanting it all—career, love, children, friends, social significance—and coming to terms with waiting until midlife to achieve it all. With candor and humor, she describes her early failures; the pain of betrayal in a first marriage; her struggles as a single mother; the flings of an ardent, liberated young woman; the vertigo of becoming an internationally bestselling author; her adoption of a second daughter from a refugee camp; the poignant account of Clay’s decline; and her ongoing passion for life, work, and love.

Fascinating and no-holds-barred, Daring: My Passages is a testament to guts, resilience, and smarts, and offers a bold perspective on all of life’s passages.

Buy, read, and discuss Daring: My Passages

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound

About the author, Gail Sheehy Gail Sheehy

Gail Sheehy is the author of sixteen books, including the classic New York Times bestseller Passages, named one of the ten most influential books of our times by the Library of Congress. A multiple award-winning literary journalist, she was one of the original contributors to New York magazine and has been a contributing editor to Vanity Fair since 1984. A popular lecturer, Sheehy was named AARP’s Ambassador of Caregiving in 2009. She lives in New York City.

Connect with Gail

Website | Facebook | Twitter

My Thoughts:

I remember being six or seven years old and hearing my mother talk about this book called Passages with her girlfriends. “Read it,” she would tell them, “and make it your Bible.”

While I often stole reading material from my mother, even then (by the time I was ten we would be in a monthly race to see who got first crack at Redbook and Ms.), I confess, Passages was not one of the books I ‘borrowed.’ I think I was a little too young, and more interested in getting to the part of The Hardy Boys novel where Frank and Joe find out why the room had no floor.

I also confess that for some time I thought Passages was one of those nice-lady inspirational books, never mind that my mother is – and always has been – a fierce woman who would often remind me that, “Ladies are women who don’t have to work,” and who gave me her original copy of Our Bodies, Ourselves when I turned sixteen, following up with the then-current version when I turned twenty-one. I mean…this was not a woman who would read and respond to some namby-pamby nice-lady book.

But the title stuck with me, in the back of my head, so when the awesome women at TLC Book Tours invited me the chance to review the memoir of the author of the book that had so influenced my mother’s life, I HAD to say yes.

Wow! Am I glad I did, because Gail Sheehy has had a really interesting life, and she tells her story with a voice that is both strong and confident as well as witty and wry, all qualities that she’s obviously honed through her incredible career. I sat down with this book at the beginning of the week, and read it as if it were a novel. I was gripped. I was hooked. I wish Gail Sheehy would live to be a thousand so that she could write fifty more amazing memoirs. (Can you tell I was a Theatre major and am not so good with the math?)

Daring: My Passages is more than just one woman’s memoir. It’s a glimpse at the early days of American feminism, at the civil rights movement, and at how our society continues to change and evolve. And for the sense of history alone, it’s worth the read, especially for women, and most especially for young women, who are being told that feminism means hating men (it doesn’t) or that it’s somehow wrong (it’s not.)

As well, though, it’s the poignant story of a woman, who shares the universal struggles we all share – finding her voice, finding her place in the universe, growing up, growing older, dealing with parents who are human and flawed and inconsistent…as well as those struggles that are uniquely her own: making a name in journalism, and later as an author of books, navigating workplace romances that become life-long relationships, and dealing with a partner whose health is being eroded away.

It is the combination of the universal and the unique, the public and the personal that make Daring: My Passages such a compelling read. And read it you simply must.

As an aside, one of my favorite novels as I was growing up (around the time I was fourteen or fifteen, I think) was Allen Drury’s Anna Hastings: the Story of a Washington Newspaperperson, and there were times when I wondered if Gail Sheehy might have been one of the people who inspired Anna’s character.

Goes well with a perfectly cooked steak with sauteed mushrooms, potatoes mashed with gouda, and an endive salad, and either a J&G or a glass of Scotch.

TLC Book Tours

This review is part of a blog tour sponsored by TLC Book Tours. For more information and the complete list of tour stops, please click HERE.

Spotlight On: Through the Withering Storm, by Leif Gregersen

About the book, Through the Withering Storm:

Through the Withering Storm

Mental illness is something that is a great deal more common than many think. Statistics show that 1 in 5 North Americans will require treatment for a major disorder at some point in their lives. This means either you or a family member or friend close to you are very likely to be stricken down by a failure of our most essential and complicated organ in our bodies.

When I was first treated for a mental health issue there was so much stigma and misunderstanding about mental illness that I completely denied I had a problem. Despite that mental health issues ran in my family, no one talked about them, everyone shunned those who were different, and as a result I wasted years of my life not understanding that there was help available and that I didn’t just have to ‘tough things out’. My denial and pain was so bad at one point I tried to join the military during the first Gulf War just to find a way out of life, I thought I would either gain the discipline needed to overcome my illness or die trying. I needed neither.

Some find my story funny, some find it sad, but it is a story that is being played out among more people than you may think right now, right around all of us.

Depression, Schizophrenia, Anxiety, Addiction. It‘s something we can no longer avoid, especially with America now deploying and redeploying troops en masse to combat zones where even the strongest among us can succumb to the pressure of such a situation. It is my hope that those who read this book can walk away from it having had a look inside the mind of someone who lost his mind and one day regained it, but not without first going through incredible pain and suffering. This suffering doesn‘t have to happen. What has to happen is that attitudes and knowledge have to improve.

Buy a copy from Amazon.

About the author, Leif Gregersen:

Through the Withering Storm

From a young age I showed promise in writing and poetry, and did well in school. Even in grade five I used to draw and write stories for my own comic books and post them on the bulletin board in class. When I got to high school, I began to read voraciously, and though I failed my first academic English course, I took continually more advanced courses and got higher and higher grades in them.

I was hopeful to attend University and study English, but before I finished school I was stricken with a severe breakdown and had to be hospitalized where I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. From that point, family and friend relationships broke down and I ended up sort of drifting until I signed up for Flying School in Vancouver, BC.
In the middle of this training, I took off for the US with a friend and tried to join the US Army as a helicopter pilot.

All of these adventures are detailed in my memoir, which covers my life from the age of 13 to 21 which was the point at which I decided I had to stay in one place (I had returned to Edmonton near my home town and where my parents lived) and I took treatment for my disorder and began to write seriously.

I spent some years just studying and writing poetry and then moved on to short stories, and my book, Through The Withering Storm is actually partially short stories I wrote and collected at that time. Now, since I turned 30 I have been living in an assisted-living house for males with Psychiatric Disorders and life has gone quite well.

I landed a great job doing labour work/stage hand/security work for the stage and screen Union, IATSE. I have seen many concerts, worked closely with some big stars, and made enough money to continue writing and self-publishing my books, which have already paid for themselves in sales for the most part.

Watch the trailer for Through the Withering Storm, by Leif Gregersen:

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Spotlight on Hopefully Ever After by Linda Barrett

About the Book, Hopefully Ever After


Linda Barrett could be any one of us. She’s an ordinary woman living a wonderfully ordinary life – husband, kids, teaching, writing – totally unprepared for Murphy’s Law on steroids. In February 2001, everything goes wrong. She discovers her breast cancer exactly when she starts a brand new teaching job which is exactly the same time as the release of her very first published novel. Secrets must be kept to protect her fledging career as a writer. No secrets in the classroom however. Her adult students, preparing for the GED exam, out her in five minutes when they spot her wig!

Nine years later, Linda is fully recovered from her lumpectomy, chemo and radiation when breast cancer hits a second time. She is no longer a random one-in-eight woman who develops this disease. Blood tests show she’s a target of faulty genes, a carrier of the BRCA 1 gene mutation. Without drastic measures, she’d be susceptible to a third or fourth cancer hit. Murphy’s Law once again comes into play. This second time around coincides with a thousand mile relocation from Houston to Tampa. Putting a house on the market while handling a double mastectomy, implant prep, and six rounds of chemo is not for the faint of heart. Linda’s heart is not faint as she implores: “Do house hunters think we’re part of HGTV? Real homes aren’t perfect!”

At the heart of this memoir, however, is a love story. Cancer is merely the vehicle that exposes a mature marriage in full bloom. With her Knight-in-Shining-Tinfoil at her side, Linda and Michael Barrett meet the challenge of two enemies: cancer and fear. Their fight is hard won, but with cancer now in their rearview mirror, they are relaxed and laughing again. As Linda says, “Life is good. After all the turmoil, we’ve landed in a soft place. Friends and family are all around, and I expect to live out a natural lifespan however long that may be.”

Everyone deserves a Hopfully Ever After, and that’s what you’ll find here.

Buy the book from Amazon.

About the Author, Linda Barrett


Linda Barrett is the author of 13 novels of contemporary romance. She’s earned many industry awards through Romance Writers of America, including the Holt Medallion, The Award of Excellence and the Write Touch Reader’s award. Family Interrupted is her first women’s fiction story. A graduate of Hunter College, Linda now lives in the Tampa area with her husband. They have three grown sons and the most adorable, intelligent, super-duper grandchildren ever!

Connect with Linda Barrett:

Website: Linda-Barrett.com
Facebook: Linda Barrett

Review: Visiting Tom by Michael Perry


Visting Tom
Michael Perry

Product Description (from Amazon.com):
Tuesdays with Morrie meets Bill Bryson in Visiting Tom, another witty, poignant, and stylish paean to living in New Auburn, Wisconsin, from Michael Perry. The author of Population: 485, Coop, and Truck: A Love Story, Perry takes us along on his uplifting visits with his octogenarian neighbor one valley over—and celebrates the wisdom, heart, and sass of a vanishing generation that embodies the indomitable spirit of small-town America.

My Thoughts:
I first encountered Michael Perry’s work sometime in 2009 when I picked up Population: 485 from a “new paperbacks” table at Barnes and Nobel (this was before most of my reading shifted to Kindle). For some reason I didn’t read it until February, 2010, but I loved it to bits. He’s got that truly American writing style that is shared by Stephen King (except Perry’s books never include killer clowns or radioactive spaceships, though one did involve a pig being butchered), and Garrisson Keillor. You can hear echoes of Twain and Hemingway in his prose, as well, but I digress.

When, earlier this summer, the lovely folks at TLC Book Tours offered me a copy of the newly released PAPERBACK version of Perry’s latest offering, in exchange for an honest review, I didn’t hesitate: I said YES.

Michael Perry’s book Visiting Tom: A Man, a Highway, and the Road to Roughneck Grace arrived at my door a couple of weeks later, and I chose to savor it, rather than devouring it in a matter of hours in my typical fashion.

I’m glad I made that choice, because reading Perry’s book, about a series of visits with an older neighbor who shares shopwork expertise, life experiences that cannot be matched, and a fetish for vintage artillery (i.e. canons), is a book meant to slow us down for a while. It’s the literary equivalent of staying seated at the kitchen table, talking and laughing, long after the meal has been finished, and the coffee has gone cold.

Like so much of Perry’s work, Visiting Tom tells two stories. The first, most obvious one, is that of Tom Hartwig, who has spent his entire 80-plus years in the same community – the same farm – the same HOUSE, even – in rural Wisconsin.

But the second story is Perry’s own, the one in which his farming is something he dabbles at along side his real job (writing and making music), and his relationship with his daughters and wife provides him another set of mirrors into the world.

This book, like all of Perry’s work, is – by turns, funny, sweet, alarming, and poignant. It’s that poignance that affected me most, because my husband’s family also hails from rural farming country, and in Tom, and in his story, I see, not only bits of my father-in-law, but also the very real truth: that family farms are disappearing, that most rural kids grow up and leave the farm (neither my husband nor his two siblings stayed in a rural environment, or, indeed, a related career, choosing instead to work with computers, or, in the case of my sister-in-law, to teach in public schools.)

But I’m digressing again.

Perry’s words let us feel as if we, too, have visited, not just with Tom and his wife and their dog, but with Michael Perry and his family as well.

And really, that’s how the best books SHOULD feel.

Goes well with: A glass of fresh milk and a slice of strawberry-rhubarb pie.

Connect with Michael Perry:
Website: Sneezing Cow

Buy the Book:
Amazon.com | Barnes and Noble

Watch the Trailer:

TLC Book Tours

Review: A Soul’s Calling, by Scott Bishop

A Soul’s Calling
Scott Bishop

Description (via Amazon.com):

A Soul’s Calling is a memoir about a man who listened to his heart instead of reason.

Scott, a forty-something attorney, is average in every way except one. He has a connection to the Other Side. He speaks to Spirit and Spirit speaks to him. He sees, hears, and interacts with an invisible realm that is beyond ordinary human perception. When Scott learns his soul has been spiritually compromised he travels to the ancient kingdom of Nepal to win it back. Once there, he hikes the Himalaya carrying a mysterious bundle and a stick laden with prayers from Luminous Beings hoping to come face to face with the greatest mountain on earth: Mount Everest. As his journey unfolds, Scott is called on to battle his fear of heights, the thin air, and his physical limitations.

A Soul’s Calling transports readers to the rugged but enchanting Khumbu Valley where mountains speak and nature is imbued with a special kind of magic. The novel is an inspiring modern day adventure that weaves the timeless themes of living an authentic life, the consequences of power, and what a man would do for unrequited love.

Part travelogue, part hiking adventure, A Soul’s Calling blends elements of shamanism and magic as it brings the Himalaya to life in vivid detail. Powerful, sweeping, and deeply moving, readers will search their hearts as the book draws to a stunning conclusion.

My Thoughts:

Anyone who’s grown up reading National Geographic or watching The Discovery Channel dreams of trekking to far away lands, but a surprisingly few number of us ever DO it. It’s an even fewer number of us who are tapped into Spirit – that voice inside all things that speaks to us about the past and future and our place within it.

Scott Bishop is one of those rare few who not only hears the voice of Spirit, but also acts on it, choosing to climb Mt. Everest.

In his book, A Soul’s Calling Bishop takes us on his journey, from a fairly mundane existence to the life of a spiritual pilgrim, climbing mountains to find the answers to life, the universe, and his personal spirit quest.

His story is part travelogue, part spiritual awakening. What could seem silly or pretentious in another writer’s hands (the Voice of Spirit speaking through trees) becomes, instead, an ominous warning, and a wake-up call to his very soul.

The details of the actual trek are similarly compelling, though he obliterates the notion of a stark, lonely mountain, making it seem – at least at lower elevations, like a fairly busy microcosm of granola hippies, religious seekers, and explorers in every sense of the word.

A Soul’s Calling, isn’t an easy read – at least it wasn’t for me. At times I had to put it down and take time to digest what Bishop was saying. But it’s a compelling, well-written, deeply personal tale that touches on some fairly universal themes, and I can honestly say that I’m a better person for having read it.

Goes well with:
Herbal tea and trail mix, followed by a hot bath.

Apologies to Mr. Bishop. I read this MONTHS ago, but have been suffering such a bout of writer’s block, and dealing with some personal craziness, and my review queue is woefully behind.