Book Review – Beautiful Ashes

Beautiful Ashes: A True Story of Murder, Betrayal, and One Woman’s Search for Peace

by Shelly Edwards Jorgensen


Synopsis: She watched as her mother’s body was removed from the ashes of her home . . .

Unbearable loss, dangerous secrets, and a life-threatening illness endangered her only hope for a future . . .

. . . But through it all, she found her faith.

When fifteen-year-old Shelly Edwards’s mother is murdered by her alcoholic father, she loses her home, her family, and the only life she’s ever known.

Abandoned, broken from abuse and assault, facing poverty, and gripped with fear for her life, Shelly struggles to dismantle decades of lies.

But into the deepening darkness that follows, God sends heavenly gifts, leading Shelly to a newfound faith. There she finds a peace she’s never thought possible.

When Shelly eventually meets the man she will marry, she thinks her life will finally be everything she’s ever dreamed of, but the lingering wounds of her past—and new, devastating medical complications—shake her faith. After all she’s endured, can she rise from the ashes and trust God once more?

You’ll be transformed by Shelly’s riveting memoir about how love, forgiveness, courage, determination—and the guidance of angels—can overcome even the greatest anguish.


My thoughts: This is such an incredible story, a memoir about daunting loss and trials in life. A struggle to hold onto hope and faith after Shelly lost her mother in a house fire at age 15. But that wasn’t the end of her challenges by far. Her story is inspiring and can give us all hope. I received an advance review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.


Beautiful Ashes


Publisher: BooksGoSocial – 392 pages

Publication Date: Apr 6th, 2022

My rating: 5/5 STARS

Book Review – Mating in Captivity

Mating in Captivity: A Memoir

by Helen Zuman


Synopsis: When recent Harvard grad Helen Zuman moved to Zendik Farm in 1999, she was thrilled to discover that the Zendiks used go-betweens to arrange sexual assignations, or “dates,” in cozy shacks just big enough for a double bed and a nightstand. Here, it seemed, she could learn an honest version of the mating dance—and form a union free of “Deathculture” lies. No one spoke the truth: Arol, the Farm’s matriarch, crushed any love that threatened her hold on her followers’ hearts. An intimate look at a transformative cult journey, Mating in Captivity shows how stories can trap us and free us, how miracles rise out of crisis, how coercion feeds on forsaken self-trust.

My thoughts: This is a tantalizing story filled with many turns that are surprising. I’m amazed at what the author went through on her journey of self-discovery in different places. But mostly what she took as enlightenment at Zendik Farms. I can imagine going there at her age and getting caught up in it, but as a recent Harvard grad, I would hope that I would have had more ideas of my own . I enjoyed the read, racing through to see what happens next. I received an advance review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.


Mating in Captivity


Publisher: She Writes Press – 249 pages

Publication Date: May 8th, 2018

My rating: 4/5 STARS


About the author: Helen Zuman is a tree-hugging dirt worshipper devoted to turning waste into food and the stinky guck of experience into fertile, fragrant prose. She holds a BA in Visual and Environmental Studies from Harvard and a Half-FA in memoir from Hunter College. Raised in Brooklyn, she lives with her husband in Beacon, NY and Black Mountain, NC. For more on life at and after Zendik, visit helenzuman.com.


Book Review ~ Deputy

Deputy: 35 Years as a Deputy Sheriff from Upstate NY to LA

By Cliff Yates


Synopsis: True street cop stories from retired L.A. Sheriff’s Sergeant Cliff Yates

Ride along with a real DEPUTY
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to patrol the streets of south-central LA?
What if you could go behind the scenes and see what life is really like on the Sunset Strip?
”DEPUTY” 35 years as a Deputy Sheriff from upstate NY to LA is the first-hand account of Cliff Yates, a thirty-five-year law enforcement veteran. His story begins in rural upstate New York, then takes a drastic turn that leads him to the mean streets of LA and the surrounding area.
This memoir invites readers into his world and see what he saw, experience what he experienced. Each story is real. Some may be tough to read. Others will make you laugh-out-loud. But all serve as a lesson Cliff will carry with him for the rest of his days.
If you’ve ever wondered what life is like for men and women in the law enforcement community, this book will answer most of your questions and give you great insight from someone who has been there. Fast, riveting and exciting.


My thoughts: This is a page turner written by author Cliff Yates, who grew up in a law enforcement family and decided on a career in the same field. After working for 5 years in his home area of rural New York, he decided he was ready for more of a challenge and some warmer weather. He applied to multiple departments in different parts of the country, and ended up in LA. I enjoyed his stories of becoming a cop in NY, and also going through the Academy in LA. Then following his career as he did his time working the jail and eventually got on patrol. A very readable book that goes by all too quickly. For those who would enjoy a ride-along type book.


Deputy


I won this in a Goodreads giveaway. Written by Cliff Yates

Independently published – 182 pages

Nov 5th, 2019

My rating: 4/5 Stars


About the author: Cliff Yates retired from Police work after 35 years of service. He worked as a Deputy Sheriff in upstate New York for five years, before joining the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. Cliff worked many assignments with the L.A. Sheriff’s Department, most of them in the Patrol division, both as a field deputy and a field Sergeant. For many years Cliff worked as a cop by day, and a stand up comedian by night. When a Local L.A. News channel profiled Cliff’s double life, he adopted the moniker “L.A.’s Comedy Cop”. He has produced his own comedy shows around Hollywood at some famous venues; The Hollywood Palladium, The Roxy on Sunset, and the El Portal Theatre. He recently Headlined the Punchline Police Comedy Tour, with shows across the United States, bringing people together through comedy, with positive humor supporting American Police Officers. Cliff works now as an Actor, Comedian, Producer, and Writer.


Book Review ~ Coming Clean


Coming Clean: A true story of love, addiction and recovery

by Liz Fraser


Synopsis: In this wrenching debut memoir of love, family, and addiction, Liz Fraser tells her story of watching a partner unravel from alcoholism and working to rebuild a life together.

“My name is Liz, and I am the partner of an alcoholic.”

This is the story of two people in love, who packed up their lives and drove a thousand miles across Europe in a transit van to the magical island of Venice, to start their new lives and dreams together and raise their baby girl there. They left behind everything they didn’t need. But they also brought something terrible with them: alcoholism.

In the summer of 2019, Liz Fraser watched her husband fall into a catastrophic vortex of depression, alcoholism and self-destruction, which, unbeknownst to her, had been slowly bubbling and building for years. She was suddenly left alone with their baby, in a foreign country, renovating a house, and paying all the family bills along with his enormous drink-related costs. She worked when she could with no childcare or support, all while slowly losing her mind from shock, exhaustion, and heartbreak.

It was a long and lonely time before she met others who live, or have lived, with alcoholism or other substance abuse, whether a spouse, a partner, a child or friend, and found enormous relief in talking about it with people who could understand. In Coming Clean, Liz tells her story–of life with an alcoholic at his darkest moments, and the uncertain journey through recovery as her husband nears six months of sobriety. With this raw, wrenching memoir, she gives a voice and offers hope to everyone watching a loved one struggle with substance abuse with the crucial reminder: you are not alone.


My thoughts: I liked this book and empathized with the author. It tells the story of her meeting and falling in love with Mike who enjoys drinking. Liz is totally unaware about alcoholism, having never been around it or learned anything about what is involved. They have a daughter together and Liz sees Mike struggling with jobs, depression and anxiety. His drinking gets out of hand more and more, so they decide to move from the UK to Venice, Italy for a new start. At first Mike does great, but after a while he starts a major slide downward and Liz finds herself lonely and stressed by events. A fascinating memoir showing what addiction to alcohol is like to live with in a partner. Advance electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, author Liz Fraser, and the publisher.


Coming Clean


Publisher: Green Tree – 211 pages

Publication: Nov 30th, 2021

My rating: 5/5 STARS


About the author: Liz Fraser is a writer and broadcaster on all aspects of modern family life. The author of five books, she has written for the Sunday TimesThe Telegraph, The GuardianGraziaGlamourMarie ClaireRed and Runner’s World among others and appears frequently on TV and radio. She has a psychology degree from Cambridge University and speaks openly about her struggles with various mental health issues. Liz has four children spanning twenty years, and lives in Oxford.





Book Review ~ I Was a Stripper Librarian

I Was a Stripper Librarian: From Cardigans to G-strings

by Kristy Cooper


Synopsis:
No one at the library she worked at knew about Kristy Cooper’s other job.

On the surface, it seemed that being a librarian and a stripper are polar opposite jobs, but in practice Kristy found that they were not nearly as different as most people would think. Strip club customers and library patrons both produce wild stories, and you have to be good at working with people in both professions (whether your clothes are off or not).

In this first-hand account, Kristy describes her decision to get into stripping to make her student loan debt more manageable, overcome her introversion to learn how to hustle customers, learn about sex worker advocacy, and finally transition into full-time library work. For years Kristy hid her stripping history to fit into the mold of a respectable librarian, but as time went on, she realized this wasn’t something she should feel ashamed about. Telling these kinds of stories helps destigmatize sex work, which makes it safer for current sex workers.

Librarianship is changing, especially as the profession begins to evaluate itself through a greater anti-oppression lens. Through her unique experiences, Kristy learned that librarians can gain a lot of insight about class struggle and privacy advocacy from sex workers.


My thoughts: I found this to be a good read. It is surprising at times and funny as the author describes trying to get her nerve up to audition for a strip club for the first times. It’s an interesting inside look at the world of stripping and how she learned the ropes. She researched quite a few things online before choosing which club would be the best to start out at. Kristy also found things like lists of what the strippers put in their bags to go to work, which helped her figure out what to take. She said other strippers were pretty helpful with information online at different sites for them, but at the club in person, it was a different story. This is a very good pick if you have any interest in checking out what its like to work in gentleman’s clubs, and what it takes. So get out your stripper shoes and read along.


I Was a Stripper Librarian


Publisher: Olivier – 270 pages
Publication: July 27th, 2021
My rating: 4/5 STARS


About the author: Kristy Cooper is a librarian single mom in Michigan. In her spare time, she fights politicians for libraries and will eventually get around to finishing writing her YA series.

Stay up to date with her books at kristycooper.com. ​


Book Review ~ My Mother, Munchausen’s, and Me

My Mother, Munchausen’s, and Me: A True Story of Betrayal
and a Shocking Family Secret

by Helen Naylor


Synopsis:
There was a time when I loved my mother. It’s shocking to imply that I stopped loving my mum because mothers always love their children and always do their best for them. Mothers are supposed to be good. But my mother wasn’t good.

Ten years ago, Helen Naylor discovered her mother, Elinor, had been faking debilitating illnesses for thirty years. After Elinor’s self-induced death, Helen found her diaries, which Elinor wrote daily for over fifty years. The diaries reveal not only the inner workings of Elinor’s twisted mind and self-delusion, but also shocking revelations about Helen’s childhood .

Everything Helen knew about herself and her upbringing was founded on a lie. The unexplained accidents and days spent entirely on her own as a little girl, imagining herself climbing into the loft and disappearing into a different world, tell a story of neglect. As a teenager, her mother’s advice to Helen on her body and mental health speaks of dangerous manipulation.

With Elinor’s behaviour becoming increasingly destructive, and Helen now herself a mother, she was left with a stark choice: to collude with Elinor’s lies or be accused of abandoning her.

My Mother, Munchausen’s and Me is a heart-breaking, honest and brave account of a daughter unravelling the truth about her mother and herself. It’s a story of a stolen childhood, mental illness, and the redemptive power of breaking a complex and toxic bond.


.

My thoughts: This was quite a biography involving Munchausen’s. I was curious about it after seeing a rather famous case of Munchausen’s by proxy on TV a couple of times about a girl named Gypsy Rose Blanchard who killed her mother. This book is about regular Munchausen’s in the author’s mother Elinor, who made her childhood so difficult while pretending a disabling illness. As the story progresses, it’s fascinating to see how the mother devolves as the daughter grows up and has children of her own. It just becomes shocking and sad the lengths Elinor goes to in order to keep the attention on herself and her supposed illness. The author shares what it was like to go through the experience and how it affected her. Advance electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, author Helen Naylor, and the publisher.



Publisher: Thread Books – 276 pages
Publication: Nov 25th, 2021
My rating: 4/5 STARS


About the author: Helen Naylor has been writing as a hobby since she was a small child, but it wasn’t until she began a memoir about growing up with a mother who faked illnesses and had narcissistic personality traits that she was encouraged to pursue writing professionally.

Helen lives in Nottingham with her husband, two children and cat, and enjoys playing guitar, drinking good coffee and cycling.


ARC BOOK REVIEW ~ Love Her Madly

Love Her Madly: Jim Morrison, Mary, and Me by Bill Cosgrave


Synopsis:

A riveting memoir that works its magic like a slow-acting drug, revealing the story of Jim Morrison’s first love, a long-lost friendship, and the man who existed before the Doors.


In the spring of 1965, Bill Cosgrave was smuggled across the border into the United States after receiving an irresistible invitation from his captivating friend Mary Werbelow. When he made it to her apartment in Los Angeles, Mary introduced Bill to her boyfriend, Jim Morrison. The two young men quickly bonded.

When Jim and Mary’s relationship faltered, Jim headed for Venice beach with his notebook. Bill and Jim spent endless days together, enjoying the aimlessness of their youth and the freedom of the times, fuelled by Jim’s unlimited supply of dope

Jim’s writing would morph into iconic hit songs, rocketing him to international fame as the hypnotic lead singer of the Doors. Beautiful Mary would set off on her own journey. After years of futile searching, Bill finally tracks down the woman he had secretly loved. He’s dying to know where her life has taken her and stunned by what he discovers.



My thoughts: I really enjoyed this memoir and read it in one sitting. It’s like a hidden portal back to that time of youth again, with a pre-celebrity tossed in for good measure. What could be better than that, unless we were in it too? (Yeah, we wish!) This awesome book was just waiting to be written. What a great life Billy made for himself with his sense of adventure. We’ve all had a few crazy moments in our lives, but this reads like a movie script. Ok, so who should play Morrison? Advance electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, author Bill Cosgrave, and publisher Dundurn Press.

Cover

Publisher: Dundurn Press – 224 pages
Publication: Nov 11th, 2020
My rating: 5/5 STARS


About the Author– Bill Cosgrave was born in Toronto. After his vagabond days in Los Angeles, he settled down and co-founded a national travel company which he named, appropriately, Fun Seekers. He lives in Kelowna, British Columbia.


AUDIOBOOK REVIEW ~ Sorry Not Sorry


Sorry Not Sorry: Dreams, Mistakes, and Growing Up by Naya Rivera



Description:
Navigating through youth and young adulthood isn’t easy, and in Sorry Not Sorry, Naya Rivera shows us that we’re not alone in the highs, lows, and in-betweens. Whether it’s with love and dating, career and ambition, friends, or gossip, Naya inspires us to follow our own destiny and step over – or plod through – all the crap along the way.


After her rise and fall from childhood stardom on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Family Matters, barely eking her way through high school, a brief stint as a Hooters waitress, going through thick and thin with her mom/manager, and resurrecting her acting career as Santana Lopez on Glee, Naya emerged from these experiences with some key life lessons. Even with a successful career and a family that she loves more than anything else, Naya says, “There’s still a 13-year-old girl inside of me making detailed lists of how I can improve, who’s never sure of my own self-worth.” Sorry Not Sorry is for that 13-year-old in all of us.


My thoughts:
I enjoyed this audiobook narrated by the author a great deal. It was so impressive to hear her talk about her career that started so young, yet still sounding so very down to earth. It held my interest all the way through as she talked about growing up, and her family, being broke at times when she didn’t get a lot of acting gigs around her early teens, etc. I went into this not knowing a lot about Naya Rivera, as I’ve not really watched Glee, so this helped me to feel like I know more about her. Since she passed away this month by drowning, I wanted to make a point of reading about her in honor of her as a young mom lost too soon. Advance electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, and the publisher.



Written and Narrated by Naya Rivera
Publisher: Highbridge, a division of Recorded Books
Format: Digital Audiobook
Run Time: 5 hours 45 mins
Publication: Oct 11th, 2016
My rating: 4/5 STARS


About the Author– Naya Rivera is an actress and singer from Valencia, California. As a child, she appeared on Family Matters, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and The Royal Family. For six seasons, she played Santana Lopez on the hit show Glee. She lives with her husband, son, and two dogs in Los Angeles. EDIT– Naya Rivera’s body was recovered on July 13, 2020 from Lake Piru in Ventura County after a boating mishap. Her son, Josey was found safe on the boat sleeping. Her former husband is now raising their son.


MINI BOOK REVIEW ~ The Heart and Other Monsters

The Heart and Other Monsters: A Memoir


 

I enjoyed this memoir by Rose Andersen, reading it in one sitting. I’m not quite sure how to tell you about it beyond that, it’s still swirling around in my mind. It’s about her dysfunctional family, the opioid crisis, the rehabilitation business, and the loss of her sister to an overdose under strange circumstances at her sister’s boyfriend’s house. The true crime is pretty subtle in this book. It’s mostly memoir. Advanced electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, author Rose Anderson, and the publisher.


heart


 

Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing – 208 pages
Publication: July 7th, 2020
My rating: 4/5 Stars


 

The Author-  Rose Andersen received her MFA in writing at California Institute of the Arts, where she was awarded the Emi Kuriyama Thesis Prize. Her essays have appeared in The Cut, Glamour, and elsewhere. She lives in LA with her spouse, Josh, and their dog, Charlotte.


 

BOOK REVIEW ~ Alice & Gerald

Alice & Gerald: A Homicidal Love Story

 


 

This is a rather creepy case in Wyoming that goes cold, brought to us by author Ron Franscell. I’ve read and really liked his true crime in the past, and decided to buy this 2019 paperback to read at leisure. Some of the main players are really twisted in this one, and the game playing between exes gets nauseating at times, but that’s how it is for some folks in the real world when kids are pawns.  A good true crime story by a very good true crime writer, worth a read.


 

 

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Written by Ron Franscell
Publisher: Prometheus Books – 336 pages
Published: April 9, 2019
My rating: 5/5 Stars


 

The Author- “Alice & Gerald: A Homicidal Love Story” (Prometheus Books) explores a grisly, real-life case of murder and perverse devotion. “Alice & Gerald” features a femme fatale whose manipulative, cold-blooded character rivals Lady Macbeth, this page-turner by bestselling true-crime author Ron Franscell revisits a shocking cold case that was finally solved just when the murderers thought they’d never be caught.

Ron Franscell’s writing has been compared to Truman Capote, Charles Frazier and Robert Olen Butler–diverse, poetic, evocative and muscular. His widely acclaimed 2016 true crime, MORGUE: A LIFE IN DEATH (co-authored with renowned medical examiner Dr. Vincent Di Maio) was nominated for an Edgar in 2017.

This lifelong newspaperman burst onto the literary scene in 1998 with his first novel ANGEL FIRE, a poignant, mythic tale of two brothers wrestling with personal ghosts in the small town where they grew up. ANGEL FIRE was subsequently named among the San Francisco Chronicle’s 100 Best Novels of the 20th Century West.

After his 1999 mystery, THE DEADLINE, Ron became a senior writer for the Denver Post, writing about the entangled past, present and future of the American West. THE DEADLINE and its sequel, THE OBITUARY, have been re-published in print and digital editions by WildBlue Press, one of the most innovative new publishing ventures in America.

In 2008, his first nonfiction, THE DARKEST NIGHT, won rave reviews from true-crime legends Ann Rule, Vincent Bugliosi and Gerry Spence. The book explored a monstrous crime against two of Ron’s childhood friends in the small town where they grew up, and how that crime has echoed across almost four decades. It is now a national bestseller.