Friday, 20 September 2019

Dying Made Easy(er) by Myra Bennett + #Giveaway + Guest Post


Dying Made Easy(er): Creating Your Happy Ending by Myra Bennett
Published in America by Balboa Press in June 2019.



Stories of American prowess in technology and medicine abound. And while these achievements have extended the lives of patients, they have not always extended the quality of those lives. As the older population in America skyrockets, more and more people who have received a terminal diagnosis, as well as those who love them, must grapple with the devastating decision of how they will forestall--or face--death. In Dying Made Easy(er) by Myra Bennett, we are guided through the diverse phases and considerations of the end of life by an experienced traveler who's spent many hours "as a guest in the sacred place of the dying." Bennett, a hospice nurse and certified end of life doula, who has also grappled with death in her personal life, invites us to contemplate dying from many different angles: legal, social, physical, psychological, and spiritual. Her Dying Made Easy(er) is both a handbook of pertinent information and a medley of informed suggestions for us to consider when experiencing or sharing the phenomenon that is the end of life. Bennett believes it is imperative that we--as a community--are aware of how to find help when faced with death and dying. In Dying Made Easy(er), she provides the resources to address this pressing need.

​Bennett, who is the co-founder of Compassionate Crossings in Sacramento, has seen it all. She's witnessed the dying process unfold in beautiful ways, with gifts for all involved, and she's seen it devolve into a series of anguished mishaps that leave the family praying for an early transition. As there are no opportunities for rehearsals or do-overs, Bennett is committed to helping us better understand dying as the last--but not the least--chapter of life, and to helping us dream what this chapter might look like. In her warm and wise book, we learn how to turn this dream into a personal reality that will meet not only our deep-felt needs and desires but also those of our family and loved ones.





CAN WE TALK? by Myra Bennett

Have you ever wondered why, when the subject of sex comes up, people will often smile? Why is that? Discussions about the subject can be humorous, but generally speaking, sex isn’t all that funny. What it can be however, is embarrassing. So we smile, when we would rather change the subject or even walk away.

The topic of death and dying however, doesn’t usually cause people to feel embarrassed--instead they may feel nervous, or often just sad. Who wants to be “bummed out” by talking about the death of oneself or someone we love? As much as we do not enjoy feeling embarrassed, we really avoid sadness. So we change the subject, walk away, or most of the time--refuse to discuss death and dying altogether.

End of life is as sure to happen as the beginning of life did. Our life comes with an ending that, while can be intentionally planned, can not be avoided. Most of us will have a dying experience that is out of our hands, unless we decide otherwise. If we hope to be in control of our life-- even when we are dying--we better start by talking about it now.

Acclimation is not a word you see in print often and not one you might expect to see here, but we humans have historically benefitted from our ability to acclimate to life. So too can we acclimate to death, and there are ways that we can learn how.

So how do we acclimate to something we so inherently dislike? Repeated exposure to just about anything in life will cause most of us to become accustomed to the object or subject, even becoming comfortable with it over a period of time. In essence, we just need to stop avoiding and denying death.

I suggest starting with small doses of the subject. Read a book or short articles, visit death and dying related websites (see the list below). Once you’re ready to have a discussion about the subject, visit a “death cafe”. If you don’t know what a death cafe is, “google” search it and find one in your area (they’re worldwide). Next, look for a “Let’s Talk About Death (over dinner)” event near you.

Once you’ve exposed yourself to the subject enough, you should be ready to invite dialog with your family and loved ones. Expect resistance, but don’t back down. They will need to know how you feel about your end of life, because they will likely be there too. And at least one of your loved ones may need to be your voice, should you not be able to speak for yourself. Make a list of those you hope will be there with you when you are dying, and invite them over for dinner or a cocktail party, and let them know the reason for the occasion. 

The last action I invite you to take is to complete your advance healthcare directive. You may include this task in your estate planning with your attorney, and many people do. I do not suggest this however, as attorneys know a great deal about the law, but very little about end of life healthcare decisions. Find an end of life doula (nedalliance.org) to guide you through the process, as this person will be a good source of knowledge about medical care choices.
Yes, we can talk.

List of death and dying websites:
Compassionandchoices.org
Theconversationproject.org
Yourlifetalks.com
Deathoverdinner.org


MYRA BENNETT


Meet the author:
Myra has been a student of death and dying since she experienced the loss of her husband in 2001. The years that would follow saw the loss of many friends and family as well, which gave her life experiences she would later use to care for patients as a hospice nurse at a large national hospice agency.

Today Myra is a certified end of life doula at Compassionate Crossings in Sacramento where she not only guides and supports terminally ill persons and their families, she also speaks and educates on all subjects related to death and dying.

Connect with the author:
Website  ~  YouTube  ~  Facebook ~ Instagram

Enter the Giveaway!  

Win one of two hard copies and 3 ebooks of Dying Made Easy(er). One winner will receive a $25 Amazon Gift Card (six winners)
Open to the USA only.
Ends October 5th, 2019

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by Caitlyn Minimalist in
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Thursday, 19 September 2019

The Women at Hitler’s Table by Rosella Postorino


The Women at Hitler’s Table by Rosella Postorino
First published in Italian as Le Assaggiatrici by Feltrinelli in Italy in 2018. English language translation by Leah Janeczko published by HarperCollins on the 1st August 2019.

One of my 2019 New Release Challenge reads

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Inspired by the powerful true story of Margot Wölk, this is a heartbreaking and gripping historical novel for fans of The Tattooist of Auschwitz and The Beekeeper of Aleppo

East Prussia, 1943. Hitler hides away in the Wolfsshanze – his hidden headquarters. The tide is turning in the war and his enemies circle ever closer.
Ten women are chosen.
Ten women to taste his food and protect him from poison.

Twenty-six-year-old Rosa has lost everything to this war. Her parents are dead. Her husband is fighting on the front line. Alone and scared, she faces the SS with nothing but the knowledge every bite might be her last.

Caught on the wrong side of history, how far is Rosa willing to go to survive?


I mistakenly thought, at first, that The Women At Hitler's Table was a nonfiction work. In reality it is well researched historical fiction based around the wartime experiences of Margot Wolk who was selected to be one of Hitler's food tasters for several years. The real life Margot kept this a secret for decades after the war had ended, only eventually breaking her silence at the age of ninety-six. Rosella Postorino has crafted this around Margot's story. I don't actually know how much of what I read was factual and how much imagined, but I appreciated that the story felt authentic throughout and I felt that Postorino had done a lot of research on life at Wolfsschanze. The Women At Hitler's Table allows us to learn about a formerly hidden aspect of World War Two. When recounting wartime history, women are often overlooked in favour of analysing battle strategies or telling soldiers' stories. Recently however novels such as How We Disappeared and histories such as Les Parisiennes have allowed me to view the war through a much wider lens.

I particularly liked how Postorino depicted the fraught relationships between Rosa and her husband's family, and between the ten women food tasters. Their views of the role are very different with some actively relishing the prospect of being so vital to Hitler's survival and others doing the work because their terror of the SS is greater than that of eating poisoned food. Another consideration was, of course, that by the time Hitler had moved to Wolfsschanze, many of the local villagers were practically starving. At least this job meant being fed so there would be one's rations could be shared amongst one's family.

I enjoyed reading this novel very much. In common with Good People, it poses uncomfortable questions to the reader about how we might act under similar circumstances so would make an interesting source for book club discussions. It is also a tense and exciting read with believable characters struggling to survive under increasingly dangerous circumstances. I would recommend The Women At Hitler's Table to readers of character-driven wartime fiction.


Etsy Find!
by Magasin De Curios in
Torigni-sur-Vire, France

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Wednesday, 18 September 2019

Killer In The Band by Lauren Carr + #Giveaway


Killer In The Band (A Lovers in Crime Mystery #3) by Lauren Carr
Published in America by Acorn Book Services in September 2016.

K for my 2019 Alphabet Soup Challenge and a Book With A Vegan Character



It's a Summer of Love & Murder!

Joshua’s eldest son, Joshua Thornton Jr. (J.J.) has graduated at the top of his class from law school and returns home to spend the summer studying for the bar exam. However, to Joshua's and Cameron's shock and dismay, J.J. moves into the main house at Russell Ridge Farm and Orchards, the largest dairy farm in the Ohio Valley, in order to rekindle a romance with Suellen Russell, the one-time leader of a rock band, who is twice his age. Quickly, they learn that she has a deep dark secret.

The move brings long buried tensions between the father and son to the surface—not the least of which being J.J.'s inexplicable dislike for his stepmother Cameron. But when a brutal killer strikes, the Lovers in Crime must set all differences with Joshua's son aside to solve the crime before J.J. ends up in the cross-hairs of a murderer.


Killer In The Band is the third in Lauren Carr's Lovers In Crime series. In this story we see Cameron and Joshua investigating crimes from 1988, 1998 and the present day. I liked the cultural references to the earlier times, especially distinctive late-1980s fashion choices and hairstyles - most of which sound pretty atrocious now! There's a nod to the first Lover's In Crime novel, Dead On Ice, with the first body here also being discovered in a freezer although this time it's in a disused psychiatric hospital and lack of information results in the gruesome discovery becoming a cold case (an intended pun?). I initially thought Lauren would have her characters spend a lot of time in such a dark setting, but she doesn't overdo the obvious and instead we are swept into the present day.

Killer In The Band felt like a faster paced story than Real Murder. (which I'll be reviewing here soon. I am reading the books in the right order even though my blog posts indicate otherwise!) There are still a lot of characters, but I kept a better handle on them all this time. I did wonder though if I had forgotten characters such as Suellen and Clyde from a previous novel. It seemed as though I was expected to have already met them although I didn't recall having done so. This didn't impact on the narrative however and I enjoyed the horsey setting of Suellen's farm. For me Killer In The Band had quite a classic crime vibe to it. Amateur characters including Joshua's son and a blogger get deeply involved in the investigation and Cameron's gathering together of all the suspects for the denouement felt very Agatha Christie! The storylines tie in nicely together and I was satisfied with their conclusions. 



Meet the author:
Lauren Carr is the international best-selling author of the Thorny Rose, Mac Faraday, Lovers in Crime, and Chris Matheson Cold Case Mysteries—over twenty titles across four fast-paced mystery series filled with twists and turns!

Book reviewers and readers alike rave about how Lauren Carr seamlessly crosses genres to include mystery, suspense, crime fiction, police procedurals, romance, and humor.

Lauren is a popular speaker who has made appearances at schools, youth groups, and on author panels at conventions. She lives with her husband, and two spoiled rotten German shepherds on a mountain in Harpers Ferry, WV.

Connect with the author:
Website  ~  Twitter  ~  Facebook ~ Instagram


Enter the Giveaway!  

One winner will receive a $50 Amazon Gift Card
Open internationally across the Lovers In Crime blog tour posts until November 1st, 2019

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by Art By Shano in
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Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Relatively Happy by Whitney Dineen + #Giveaway + Excerpt


Relatively Happy (Relativity Series, #3) by Whitney Dineen
Published in America on the 18th September 2019.


Add Relatively Happy to your Goodreads

Sarah Hastings' life is chaotic. Between running her organic farm, her yurt-style holistic B&B, and her vegan café Eat Me!, she barely has time for an aura cleanse. What's more, her spirit guide just announced the universe is sending her a man. Suddenly, a sexy pro-football player, a hipster photojournalist, and fellow organic farmer practically fall from the sky onto her doorstep. But which one is her cosmic soulmate?

While Sarah meditates on the answer, her parents show up unexpectedly throwing the mother of all monkey wrenches into her carefully laid plans. With only morning yoga and her erotic book club to keep her sane, no wonder she's chucked her vegan diet in search of bacon. Will the stars of love align, or will the universe let her down in the biggest way possible?

Relatively Happy is a laugh-out-loud, cry-your-heart-out tale that will have you believing in the beauty of life's journey.





Excerpt

Rix mostly disappears for the next few days. When we do see him, it’s only in passing. Nan told me he’s been eating his meals in town, probably devouring all kinds of hideously toxic food. The more I think about his duplicity, the madder I get. Imagine him staying here while simultaneously setting into motion a plan that will ruin my life. 
This morning when I walked by his car, I was overcome by the urge to slash his tires. The only thing that saved him was that Tony was with me and I wasn’t in possession of a sharp enough object to do the job properly. Although I’m pretty sure I could have gnawed my way through them if I’d been alone. 
Tony has been shadowing me and learning everything there is to know about my farm. We’ve had some amazing conversations about Native American art, the healing properties of cilantro, and the best time of year to experience Machu Picchu. He’s interested in a lot of the same things I am, and it’s made the time we've spent together fly by. It’s also making me more and more convinced of how compatible we are.
So far, he’s had a sweat lodge and a mud roll. He’s currently enjoying a hot stone meditation. He’s on the slate pad that I’ve heated with boiling water. Before having him lie down on it, I misted the stone with a combination of lavender and tea tree oils, then I placed Moldavite crystals on his chakras to raise the energy in his body. 
I believe I’ve previously mentioned Tony’s attractiveness, but let me say, without his shirt on, he looks like a gladiator—all golden and chiseled and buff. I stared at him for a solid ten minutes after he closed his eyes to start his meditation. Tingles shot through me, causing the hair on my arms to stand on end. After returning to the cafe yurt, I may have needed two tall glasses of mint water to cool off afterward. 
I’m kneading bread dough and trying to remember every contour of his smokin’ hot bod when Emily pops in. “Nan and Dorcas are here. They want to chat.” Her aura is bright yellow, which is the color for happy. Emily is positively thriving on her vegan diet.
“They want to chat with you or me?” I have so much to do today I don’t really have time to sit and talk.
“They asked me to get you,” she answers.
I slam the dough down on the counter a few more times before covering with a cloth while I ask, “Do you have any idea what they want to talk about?”
She smiles. “I do.”
“Are you going to tell me?”
“I’m not.” 
“For heaven’s sake, what’s up with all the secretiveness?”
“They asked me to get you and not say anything about why they’re here.”
I have no idea in this world what they could want. When we head out to the porch, I realize they aren’t alone. Ethan is sitting on a rocking chair next to a very good-looking man about my age. 
The stranger has wavy blond hair and strikingly blue eyes. When he stands, he positively towers over me. He’s built like a linebacker. He steps forward and reaches out his hand, “Hi there, I’m John Abernathy.”
Abernathy? John, Johnny … it’s all coming together, “Dorcas’s grandson?”
“That’s me.” He beams like he’s got halogen headlights illuminating his teeth. 
I turn to the minister’s wife. “You didn’t mention your grandson was visiting.”
Dorcas looks moderately contrite. “I told you about him the other day.”
That she did. What she didn’t mention is that he’s one fine looking bacon farmer. I turn to John and ask, “Are you in town for long?”



Meet the Author 


Whitney loves to laugh, play with her kids, bake, and eat french fries -- not always in that order. Whitney is a multi-award-winning author of romcoms, non-fiction humor, and middle reader fiction. Basically, she writes whatever the voices in her head tell her to. She lives in the beautiful Pacific Northwest with her husband, Jimmy, where they raise children, chickens, and organic vegetables.

Gold Medal winner at the International Readers' Favorite Awards, 2017. Silver medal winner at the International Readers' Favorite Awards, 2015, 2016. Finalist RONE Awards, 2016. Finalist at the IRFA 2016, 2017. Finalist at the Book Excellence Awards, 2017 Finalist Top Shelf Indie Book Awards, 2017.

Author links:

And now it's time for the Giveaway!

The prizes are 2x $25 Amazon gift cards.
Open internationally until the 26th September.

a Rafflecopter giveaway



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Etsy Find!
by Made In Sun State in
the USA

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Monday, 16 September 2019

Two Tides To Turn by R R Gall + #Giveaway


Two Tides To Turn by R R Gall
Self published on the 15th February 2019.

One of my 2019 New Release Challenge reads


Add Two Tides To Turn to your Goodreads

A family ripped asunder.
A terrible secret lurks in a thrilling novel of love, grief, and mystery.

Patrick thought his grandfather, John, died before he was born. In later life, he finds out that it wasn't true. For the first five years of Patrick's life, they stayed in the same small village. So why were they kept apart?

Patrick wishes to search the past to find the reason - but only if he can be united with his young daughter first. And that means bringing her home to Scotland. It means journeying to France to take her away from the care of her mother, Patrick's ex-wife. 

In 1915, with the war raging in Europe, John is a young man working on the family farm. Not yet old enough to enlist but aware of its looming threat, he meets Catherine. But his attempts at courtship end suddenly when an accident rips his life apart.

Told in alternate chapters, set, mainly, in South-West Scotland, this is the dramatic story of Patrick, interwoven with John's traumatic life.


Two Tides To Turn is an ingenious dual timeline novel where the narratives have a link, but do not end up resolving each other which I appreciated as that overly convenient device can often end up ruining a book for me! Instead, here, we have a present day story of Patrick who is trying to get his life back on track after having split up from his French wife, Maria. I couldn't in any way sympathise with the solution he chooses but, after I discovered just how unreliable a narrator Patrick is, this storyline really took off for me. It is wonderfully confusing!

Alternating chapters with Patrick's story is that of his grandfather, John, a young Scottish dairy farmer during the First World War. John's life is defined by a brief meeting with a girl riding a bicycle. She is Catherine and we are encouraged to believe that his determined pursuit of her and its aftermath will have serious repercussions on both his life and that of his descendants. On the face of it, this storyline is beautiful romantic historical fiction and I did very much enjoy Gall's portrayal of 1910s and 1920s Dumfries life, especially his inclusion of lots of authentic details of the farming lifestyle. Across both storylines, Gall's poetic prose is a real treat for the reader. My uncertainty came from the female characterisations though which did seem to fall mostly into the saintly virgin or evil witch trope. John himself is a complicated and nuanced creation so I was a little disappointed that the significant women in his life, Catherine and Renee, didn't feel to have been given the same depth.

That said though, Two Tides To Turn kept me absolutely engrossed from start to finish. It often takes unexpected turns, but always in a plausible manner and I liked the alternating chapter jumps most of the time. Only occasionally had I become so involved in one family that the appearance of the other took me by surprise! I would highly recommend this novel for readers interested in mysteries, twentieth century historical fiction, and stories which aren't exactly as they seem.

Meet the author

RR Gall lives in Scotland and is the author of:
The Case of the Pig in the Evening Suit,
The Case of Colourful Clothes and Kilts,
The Case of the Hermit's Guest Bedroom
Two Tides To Turn,
A Different Place to Die,
Only the Living Can Die.

Author links: 
Website


And now it's time for the Giveaway!

The prize is 1 of 2 ebook copies of Two Tides To Turn by R R Gall. There will be 2 winners.
This giveaway is open Internationally.

Two Tides To Turn by R R Gall ebook giveaway

The giveaway closes at midnight (UK time) on the 30th September and I will pick 2 winners on the 1st October. These winners will have three days to respond to my email otherwise their prize will be forfeit. And, yes, I Will be checking that the winning entrant actually completed the winning task!




Etsy Find!

by Happy Green Shop in
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Sunday, 15 September 2019

Monster, She Wrote by Lisa Kröger and Melanie R Anderson


Monster, She Wrote The Women Who Pioneered Horror and Speculative Fiction by Lisa Kröger and Melanie R. Anderson
Published by Quirk Books on the 17th September 2019.

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Meet the women writers who defied convention to craft some of literature’s strangest tales, from Frankenstein to The Haunting of Hill House and beyond.

Frankenstein was just the beginning: horror stories and other weird fiction wouldn’t exist without the women who created it. From Gothic ghost stories to psychological horror to science fiction, women have been primary architects of speculative literature of all sorts. And their own life stories are as intriguing as their fiction. Everyone knows about Mary Shelley, creator of Frankenstein, who was rumored to keep her late husband’s heart in her desk drawer. But have you heard of Margaret “Mad Madge” Cavendish, who wrote a science-fiction epic 150 years earlier (and liked to wear topless gowns to the theater)? If you know the astounding work of Shirley Jackson, whose novel The Haunting of Hill House was reinvented as a Netflix series, then try the psychological hauntings of Violet Paget, who was openly involved in long-term romantic relationships with women in the Victorian era. You’ll meet celebrated icons (Ann Radcliffe, V. C. Andrews), forgotten wordsmiths (Eli Colter, Ruby Jean Jensen), and today’s vanguard (Helen Oyeyemi). Curated reading lists point you to their most spine-chilling tales.

Part biography, part reader’s guide, the engaging write-ups and detailed reading lists will introduce you to more than a hundred authors and over two hundred of their mysterious and spooky novels, novellas, and stories.



I started reading Monster, She Wrote, with a pencil and notebook by my side thinking to jot down a few titles and authors that caught my attention. I would like to start this review by saying Do Not Do This! Within just a few chapters I had patted myself on the back for already having read Frankenstein and The Yellow Wallpaper, and having an Ann Radcliffe collected works downloaded since reading Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey (note to self, Read the Radcliffes!). However I had also already blunted my pencil on a TBR of suffocating proportions and I wasn't even a quarter of the way through this book yet. If you truly want horror, the realisation of just how many important women authors I haven't read was terrifying!

I am, of course, partly joking here, but also partly serious. Monster, She Wrote is an excellent resource for horror and speculative fiction fans, and also for readers such as myself who want include as wide a variety of influences as I can. Nesrine Malik's We Need New Stories, which I recently reviewed, clarified my thoughts around how the stories we read and hear informs our social and cultural expectations. Monster, She Wrote is a perfect accompaniment because it shows me hundreds of stories already in existence. Perhaps we don't only need new stories, but to make sure that these older stories continue to exist and aren't forgotten.

Kroger and Anderson have done an excellent job in drawing this book together. At times the sheer number of books and authors they cross reference is bewildering, but it's also a superb statement of pride in the history of female authors in what are commonly mis-assumed to be male-dominated genres. I liked the progression through time from the 1600s to the present day and also the grouping of authors by genre where possible. The illustrations are a wonderful idea too. They are brilliantly evocative of classic horror themes. So I now have a real burst of enthusiasm for historic horror, a teetering TBR, and the kernel of an idea for a Monster, She Wrote reading challenge - I just need to make a list of every book Kroger and Anderson namecheck, and then read them!


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