Four New Books for September

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I’ve been catching up on reading the past few weeks while getting over Covid. If you are a friend on Goodreads, you can see that I’m on target to complete my reading goal for the year, which brings this bookworm a whole lot of joy. I’m also reading way too many books at a time, but that is my style. A few years ago, I took a quiz on reading styles and my results were that I was a promiscuous reader. I’d rather say I’m an unrestricted reader. I can do whatever I want in my reading life, so I do!

Since I had several e-galleys that were waiting to be read and reviewed on NetGalley, Goodreads, and Amazon, I got comfortable with my Kindle, cups of tea, piles of blankets, and read through a virtual stack of books. And these are four that are worth telling you about, so here they are:

Daily Creative: A Practical Guide for Staying Prolific, Brilliant, and Healthy is a reader with an entry for every day of the year. Each entry begins with a short passage sure to inspire and encourage, and ends with a question for clarity, focus, reflection, and as a source of intention setting and challenge. Stephen Covey wrote about “sharpening the saw” as one of his highly effective habits, and starting each day with this book would be an easy way to practice this habit. Daily Creative would make a wonderful gift for entrepreneurs, artists of all kinds, and small business owners.

At the Breakfast Table by Defne Suman evokes the sparkling, bright Turkish sunshine, the fragrance of coffee, fruit, and fresh bread, and mesmerizes with the fascinating and complicated characters who make up this story.
Nur, Fikret, and Celine come to Shirin’s house to celebrate her 100th birthday. She is Nur and Fikret’s grandmother, and Celine’s great-grandmother, as well as a famous artist. There is also Burak, Nur’s on-again off-again lover and friend, and Shirin’s faithful servant, Sadik.

This begins an unboxing of personal and family secrets Shirin has kept close for years, told mostly through painting on her dining room wall.
A beautiful novel; one that will be lovely to read during cold winter months. Highly recommended!

Mark Nepo’s books are sensitive, poetic, deeply thought-provoking, gentle, and spiritually-accessible. Surviving Storms: Finding the Strength the Face Adversity was written for us who are weary and wary in the chaotic twenty-first century world we find ourselves in.

Meant to give us hope, direction, and a place to put our grief and sense of unease, this book provides us with tools for “heartwork” as Nepo calls it. “We need to deepen our roots and solidify our connection to Spirit and all life” he says, so that we can be strong and resilient enough to survive whatever comes our way.

He ends each chapter with a journaling exercise or question and a suggestion for a conversation to have with a friend or family member. I highly recommend this book to those who are spiritual seekers, those in need of comfort and solace, and those who enjoy reflective, self-help books.

The Rising Tide, the tenth Vera Stanhope mystery is just as satisfying as all the previous ones. The murder takes place on Lindisfarne, or Holy Island, off the coast of Northumberland. A group of friends, who have been gathering every five years for 50 years, meet in a house on the island and one of them is dead before morning.
The theme is very much connected to the tides, which cut off the causeway to the island when they come in and allow access to the island as they go out. The timing of the murder is connected to the tide, of course, as well as to a murder that occurred there 50 years ago.
Vera and her team do the thorough police questioning and investigation and close in on the killer who is not above killing again to save themself from being found out. Can Vera get to the murderer in time before they strike again?
The ending is very abrupt and a bit of a shock. Which means there must be an eleventh novel in the works. The Rising Tide is highly recommended for all mystery, British mystery, and Vera fans (of the books or tv series).

If you read any of these, be sure to let me know what you thought in comments!

*Thanks to NetGalley for the free e-galleys in exchange for honest reviews.

What I’m Reading in July

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It’s good to be back in this space. I’ve missed it. My soul missed it–this safe little corner where I share what I feel is good and lovely and worthwhile in my life, and particularly, the poetry and prose I’m reading.

So why the long hiatus? Well, sadly, we’ve had a death in our family. My kids’ father passed away in June, following a motorcycle accident and an extended stay in ICU. Even though we were no longer “together”, we were still co-parents and friends, and this feels very hard. The kids miss him terribly. His family and friends miss him. And I miss him. We each experience grief uniquely, while sharing in the sorrow together. Our friends’ love and support refreshes and strengthens us when we are weary.

And as unbelievable as it all feels right now, the sun continues to rise and set each day. We still need to eat, rest, work, and take care of our responsibilities. We still have our gardens, our daily joys and challenges, and yes, we have our books. In the past poetry has been a source of healing, speaking light to the darkness and peace to the parts of myself and my story I have yet to understand.

Two books of poetry I am drinking in this month:

Inward by Yung Pueblo. Each page is a poem in the form of a self-help message, note of encouragement, or a wise saying. Here’s an excerpt:

don't run away
from heavy emotions

honor the anger;
give pain the space
it needs to breathe

this is how we let go

Rhythms and Roads by Victoria Erickson is an introspective collection of thoughtful, sensitive verses that soothes, gently prods towards healing, and encourages each of us to be ourselves. Here is an example:

There will come a time
when you'll meet acceptance.
Your shoulders will soften,
the sky will stretch on,
and the night will hold a pulse
both electric and warm.
And the moon will feel familiar.

So check out these two collections of poetry if you haven’t already. The words and messages within feel loving, comforting and kind, and our world needs more of these right now.

As always, I would love to know what you’re reading this July. Please share in the comments below.

Evening Poetry, March 17

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St. Patrick’s Day
By Jean Blewett

There’s an Isle, a green Isle, set in the sea,
     Here’s to the Saint that blessed it!
And here’s to the billows wild and free
     That for centuries have caressed it!

Here’s to the day when the men that roam
     Send longing eyes o’er the water!
Here’s to the land that still spells home
     To each loyal son and daughter!

Here’s to old Ireland—fair, I ween,
     With the blue skies stretched above her!
Here’s to her shamrock warm and green,
     And here’s to the hearts that love her!

You can find this poem in Jean Blewett's Poems.

Five Non-Fiction Books to Read in March

This month I’m hoping to finish up a few non-fiction books I’m meandering through because my TBR is piled super high. And because I’m soaking in the content and learning a great deal.

Creatrix: She Who Makes by Lucy H. Pearce. The author shares personal stories from her own life as well as the voices of many other creative women. What are the joys, the challenges, the highs and lows of creative living. The exhilarating experiences, the slogging through to finish, finding and making time for creative work in the margins of our busy lives. And I haven’t gotten to it yet, but there’s even a practical section about business and marketing. More when I finish the book!

Saving Us: A Climate Scientist’s Case for Hope and Healing in a Divided World by Katherine Hayhoe. This book could also be titled ‘How to Talk to the Deniers, Dismissers, and Those Resistant to Reality’. LOL. But seriously, in only the first few chapters, the author gives clear ideas and examples on how to talk to people about planetary peril, climate catastrophe, etc. I look forward to reading the rest of it.

Abundance: The Inner Path to Wealth by Deepak Chopra. With his clear writing, Deepak takes complex concepts and distills them into easy-to-understand and practice principles for living an abundant life. I’ve already had several aha moments. I’m reading through his explanation of the chakra system at the moment and appreciate the way he takes the ‘woo woo’ out of this yogic way of looking at life.

The Intersectional Environmentalist: How to Dismantle Systems of Oppression to Protect People + Planet by Leah Thomas. This book has so much to teach us: from the explanation of terminology of words and concepts such as intersectional, to what has happened and what is happening to dismantle systems of oppression, to what we can do. I am learning so much and can’t wait to read the rest of the book.

Kinship: Belonging in a World of Relations, Volume 1: Planet edited by Gavin Van Horn, Robin Wall Kimmerer, and John Hausdoerffer. All I have to do is see Robin Wall Kimmerer’s name anywhere and I immediately have to read it. This is the first volume of a five volume set from the Center For Humans and Nature. Each piece is thoughtful and beautiful and helps the reader understand even more how we are all connected and related and how what we do matters. I am really looking forward to the piece by Kimmerer as well as the one by Drew Lanham in this volume.

Black Cake (A Book Review)

The new novel, Black Cake, by Charmaine Wilkerson unfolded into a much more complexly woven book than I expected. It starts out with two estranged adult siblings, Benny & Byron, who come together to listen to an audio recording their mother Eleanor left for them after her death.

They haven’t been on speaking terms for years and they can’t wait to get through their mother’s funeral and get back to their lives. When their mother’s lawyer sits them down to listen, their mother reveals one hidden layer of her life after another, stunning Byron and Benny with what she tells them. And the secrets they discover about their mother’s life will change their own.

I loved reading about Eleanor, and her friend, Bunny, as they grew up on the island, and about their lives after they left. Eleanor is really the main character and such a rich, unexpected and beautiful person.

I honestly didn’t like Byron or Benny. Byron is 45 years old, but emotionally is like a 25 year old. And Benny is also immature and self-centered. I can’t imagine not answering my mother’s texts or voice messages for years and years, no matter what happened.

There was such a message of regret through the whole book, which to me said very clearly, “Don’t let this happen to your family!” Life is beautiful and brief. Forgive. Move forward. Let stuff go. Be kind. Love your people. You’ll never regret these actions when you’re at a family member’s funeral.

Read Black Cake, enjoy the story, and may you be encouraged toward love and good deeds.

Memphis (A Book Review)

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This richly beautiful novel, Memphis, by Tara Stringfellow tells the stories of three generations of Black women living in the South.


It weaves back and forth from the 1930s to the present day to unfold the lives of Hazel, her daughters Miriam and August, and Miriam’s daughter, Joan. (Her younger daughter Mya is a supporting character.)
It opens with Miriam, Joan, and Mya returning to live with her sister August in their mother’s home.

Miriam’s marriage has fallen apart and now she must find a way forward, make a new life for herself and her girls. August has been on her own for many years, raising her troubled son alone, supporting herself with the beauty salon she owns and runs from her basement. Joan is an artist and a dreamer who experienced trauma at age three and hasn’t recovered. And eventually the story winds back to Hazel, how she fell in love and married, and how she carried on after white violence changes her life forever.


One of the assets of this family is the Black community who know and love “the North women” and rally around them whenever they need it. Throughout the book, Black women and men are talked down to, mistreated, abused, and even killed by white people. The only white person the North women consider a friend is the Jewish deli owner.


There are tough circumstances, tragedy, traumas, and hardships but these women each find their strength, lean on one another, and keep living. Through the years, they support themselves, raise their children, reach for their dreams and let some go, lose and find love, and continue to discover truths about themselves and each other.


I highly recommend Memphis to everyone! The release date is March 8, 2022.

*I received a free e-copy from Net Galley in exchange for my honest review.

Our Crooked Hearts (A Book Review)

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I will receive a small compensation at no extra cost to you. This helps keep my blog ad-free.

Melissa Albert’s new book, Our Crooked Hearts, exceeded my expectations in so many directions. I knew it would be dark, and it is. And twisted. And a story of a mother’s and daughter’s relationship, the love, the mistakes, the ugly and beautiful, and the thread that connects them. This was one I stayed up late reading.


Get ready to be scared and for good reason. Teenage girls dabbling in magic seems like a fairly normal plot, except when the magic is real and overpowers them; when it gives them power to do things that cannot be undone, for better or worse.


The story is about Ivy, a smart, introverted teen who is trying to discover who she is and understand her mother who seems harsh and self-centered and definitely weird. It’s also about her mother’s teen years and how she and her friends got involved with magic that changed their lives forever. The narrative switches between present-day Chicago from Ivy’s POV and the Chicago of twenty years earlier with her mom, Dana, telling the story.


There are some intensely dark and scary scenes, so if you like fantasy and horror YA, you definitely will be thrilled. I highly recommend Our Crooked Hearts! The release date is June 28, 2022; pre-order your copy wherever you purchase books.


*I received a free e-galley from Net Galley in exchange for my honest review.

Saint X (Book Review)

Saint X is one of the very few books I’ve read this year that I could not put down! The bright, tropical cover disguises the depth of the subject matter. For although it is a clever, suspenseful thriller, this novel addresses the evolution of self, the parent-child relationship in its various stages, the advantages and guilt of white, wealthy people, and the disadvantages of poor people of color on Caribbean islands and the rest of the world.

It starts like a film, zooming in to the fictional Caribbean island of Saint X. It’s the mid-1990s. The reader is introduced to a well-to-do white family from New York vacationing at a luxurious resort for their New Year holiday.

Alison, the elder daughter, is eighteen, pretty, self-absorbed, bored, and typical of girls of that age. The unusual one and the heroine is the younger daughter, Claire, or Clairey, as the rest of the family affectionately calls her. She is seven years old, has an unusual appearance, is shy, socially awkward, and appears to display possible OCD tendencies. The parents remain on the periphery of the story, and what we know of them is seen through the eyes of Claire.

The other main character in the novel is Clive Richardson, a young man who was born and lives on Saint X, and who, along with his friend, Edwin, becomes a suspect in Alison’s death. In comparison to the comfortable lives led by Alison and Claire, Clive is without the advantages that wealth can provide. He grows up without many prospects for the future, so after high school, he and Edwin find employment serving the rich white people at the resort. Which is how they meet Alison and become involved with her on the night she goes missing.

As the novel unfolds, we glimpse some of what Alison gets up to and who she interacts with in the days and nights leading to her disappearance and death. After her body is discovered, Alison and Claire’s parents are frantic to find answers, to discover who is responsible for their daughter’s death. Although Clive and Edwin did spend some time with Alison on the night she disappears, not enough evidence is found to charge them with her supposed murder, so it goes unsolved.

The novel moves forward to when Claire is in her mid-twenties and living a fairly normal life in New York City complete with a good job and friends. She calls herself by her middle name–Emily–in an attempt to put the past behind her. Except she can’t. She still longs to learn more about Alison, and more about why and how she died.

We flash back in time to the months immediately following Alison’s death when Claire’s parents are wrapped up in their own grief and she feels forgotten. Then we see her as she grows up, through all the awkwardness of adolescence and into young adulthood, and how she must deal with the way people treat her when they discover who she is. And even though she wishes she could forget, Alison haunts her wherever she goes.

So Claire is in NYC, trying to live like other people do. As a way to assuage her guilt for her affluent background, she moves into an apartment in a part of Brooklyn that is mostly inhabited by economically disadvantaged people of color. She is still socially awkward, so she doesn’t interact much with the other tenants in her apartment building, but she wishes she could.

Then, out of the blue, while taking a taxi home one day, Claire looks in the rearview mirror and is shocked to find that her driver is Clive Richardson–the man that she has always believed was involved in Alison’s death! Everything she lived through as the sister of a murder victim comes flooding back in that instant. She becomes obsessed with getting Clive to confess. She relentlessly stalks him every night after work. She finds out everything she can about him. Then she pretends to befriend him.

What comes of this obsession with and connection to Clive? Will he eventually confess to his involvement in Alison’s murder? Will Claire ever be able to heal and let go of the past? Ah, but that would be telling! That is what you’ll find out when you read Saint X for yourself.

I was very fortunate to receive an Advanced Reading Copy of Saint X from Celadon Books; however, all opinions are entirely my own. Saint X, written by Alexis Schaitkin, will be published on February 18, 2020 and I absolutely recommend this novel to lovers of mysteries, crime thrillers, and really good fiction.

Evening Poetry, October 24

Dreams

by Mary Oliver

All night

the dark buds of dreams

open

richly.

In the center

of every petal

is a letter,

and you imagine

if you could only remember

and string them all together

they would spell the answer.

It is a long night,

and not an easy one–

you have so many branches,

and there are diversions–

birds that come and go,

the black fox that lies down

to sleep beneath you,

the moon staring

with her bone-white eye.

Finally you have spent

all the energy you can

and you drag from the ground

the muddy skirt of your roots

and leap awake

with two or three syllables

like water in your mouth

and a sense

of loss–a memory

not yet of a word,

certainly not yet the answer–

only how it feels

when deep in the tree

all the locks click open,

and the fire surges through the wood,

and the blossoms blossom.

You can find this poem in Dream Work.

Evening Poetry, September 21

Fluent

by John O’ Donohue

I would love to live

Like a river flows,

Carried by the surprise

Of its own unfolding.

You can find this poem in Conamara Blues.