Welcome to the Smorgasbord Christmas Book Fair with a selection of books from personally recommended authors on my bookshelf I believe will make wonderful gifts for friends, family and for you.
The first book today is from fantasy author D.Wallace Peach who creates amazing worlds to set her stories in and amazing characters. The Sorcerer’s Garden.
About the book
Recently fired and residing with her sweetly overbearing mother, Madlyn needs a job—bad. In a moment of desperation, she accepts a part-time position reading at the bedside of adventurer and amateur writer Cody Lofton. A near-drowning accident left the young man in a vegetative state, and his chances of recovery wane with each passing day.
Cody’s older brother, Dustin, and eccentric grandmother aren’t prepared to give up on the youngest son of Portland, Oregon’s royalty.
Dustin’s a personable guy, bordering on naïve, and overwhelmed by familial corporate duties and cutthroat partners. Grandmother Lillian’s a meddler with an eye for the esoteric, dabbling in Dustin’s life and dealing out wisdom like a card shark. One innocent conversation at a time, she sucks Madlyn into the Lofton story, dubbing her the princess and bestowing on her the responsibility of both grandsons’ destinies.
And all Madlyn wanted was a simple reading job.
Uninspired by her self-imposed stack of literary selections, Madlyn opts for Cody’s work-in-progress. Fantasy isn’t her favorite, but with only four chapters completed, reading The Sorcerer’s Garden should be no sweat, right?
Little does she realize, the story will begin writing itself and, by the hand of destiny, become her own.
D. Wallace Peach’s eighth novel is a collision of medieval and urban fantasy centered in the Northwest Hills of Portland, Oregon.
Madlyn is quirky, blessed with a sarcastic sense of humor, and a tendency to say exactly what’s on her mind. At 28, she’s also abandoned her dreams of a fairytale life. A satisfying career and happily-ever-after romance simply aren’t turning up in her cards, and in fact, her junky car is careening downhill fast. A strong female protagonist with a reluctant streak, she finds herself trapped in a heroic adventure through overlapping worlds, unsure whether one or both are real.
Don’t look for a run-of-the-mill fantasy here. This is one tangled tale crafted especially for readers who enjoy plot twists that keep everyone, including the characters, guessing.
One of the reviews for the book
The Sorcerer’s Garden by D. Wallace Peach ranks high in the unique and clever category. The storyline weaves back and forth between reality and fantasy. Qualities such as integrity, greed, and feeling defeated by life itself play a big part. Peach intersperses delicate pieces of wisdom throughout this adventure that only entice you to press on – eager and excited to see what‘s revealed with each page turn. Madlyn, Cody, and Dustin become likable and genuine characters, keeping you entertained from beginning to end. Grandmother Lillian adds spice to the twist and turns. You’ll run into some bloody circumstances where you may be inclined to cover your eyes, but please don’t. You’ll miss the compelling action and superb description; even the subtle hints of humor add a bit of lightheartedness.
I began reading this book with the niggling awareness that fantasy isn’t my favorite genre. Candidly, I wasn’t sure if I’d like the story for this reason. But let me tell you, I was hooked from page one! Peach has an exceptional skill of painting pictures with her extraordinary words, along with her knack for excellent world-building.
Since I was thoroughly impressed with the writing and story-telling, I’ll peruse the author’s collection for more compelling tales to transport me into exciting imaginary worlds. So, if you’re a fantasy genre enthusiast, then I highly recommend reading The Sorcerer’s Garden. And even if fantasy isn’t your go-to genre, I implore you to dive into this adventure just as I did. Five stars for a fantastic adventure!
A small selection of other books by D.Wallace Peach
Head over to find out more about D. Wallace Peach and buy the books: Amazon US – And : Amazon UK – Follow Diana: Goodreads – Authors Website: D.Wallace Peach Books – blog: Myths of the Mirror – Twitter: @Dwallacepeach
Next non-fiction author and much appreciated long term contributor to Smorgasbord, D.G. Kaye (Debby Gies) with her heartfelt memoir Twenty Years After “I Do” – Reflections on Love and Changes Through Aging. A perfect gift for those of us who have enjoyed a long-term relationship as it evolves over the years.
About the book
In this personal accounting, D.G. Kaye shares the insights and wisdom she has accrued through twenty years of keeping her marriage strong and thriving despite the everyday changes and challenges of aging. Kaye reveals how a little creative planning, acceptance, and unconditional love can create a bond no obstacle will break. Kaye’s stories are informative, inspiring, and a testament to love eclipsing all when two people understand, respect, and honor their vows. She adds that a daily sprinkling of laughter is a staple in nourishing a healthy marriage.
Twenty years began with a promise. As Kaye recounts what transpired within that time, she shows that true love has no limits, even when one spouse ages ahead of the other.
One of the reviews for the book
Twenty Years: After “I Do” is an autobiographical non-fiction book about the author’s experience with marriage and relationships. I’ve previously read another of her autobiographies about her relationship with her mother, and it was such an emotionally charged and well-written book, I decided to keep reading more from her every few months until I caught up on all her works.
In this one, Debby tells us what happened almost twenty years ago when she debated whether to marry the man who is now her husband. Given he was twenty years older, she had a lot of decisions to consider when it came to how her life would change. At the core of this book, and her approach to life, is her commitment and honesty in all that she achieves. Debby knew… if she married him, she would have to accept all that came with it in the future. From there, she dives into key aspects of married life: emotions, sex life, personal time, separation of couple and individual, fighting, decision-making, and death. Lessons we all need to consider.
Debby’s writing style is simply fantastic. It’s easy to devour in a short sitting, but it always makes you feel like part of her life. She openly shares so much (the good, the bad, and the ugly) while holding back in all the appropriate areas to allow for proper balance, e.g. we learn about the impacts to her sex life when one partner is ill but she doesn’t go into the details. She tells us how she and her husband tackled the issues from a day-to-day perspective and moved on… because they loved one another (to the moon and back).
There is a refreshing honesty and truth in her words, and readers will quickly find themselves a path to compare their own lives to that of the author’s. What have I done well? What could I do better? What needs to change? Excellent questions to consider, but Debby doesn’t directly tell us to do this–her actions show us why this is at the core of a good marriage. I’m thrilled I had the chance to read this one today. Although I’ve only been with my partner for 8 years, it’s easy to track where things are and what we could do differently.
Debby bravely tells us her story, allowing us to interpret for ourselves what everything means, especially in this ever-changing world where people live longer and have access to more things but it’s harder to get them. I highly recommend this book to nearly anyone in a relationship, or those who want to know how to handle one when they are. Debby shares a few secrets, some hints, and a few suggestions to consider. It’s not just for newbies or long-term couples… there’s a bit of everything for how to co-exist and still be who you are. Great work!
Also by D.G. Kaye
Discover more about D.G. Kaye and buy the books: Amazon US – and: Amazon UK – follow Debby: Goodreads – Blog: D.G. Kaye Writer – About me: D.G. Kaye – Twitter: @pokercubster – Linkedin: D.G. Kaye – Facebook: D.G. Kaye – Instagram: D.G. Kaye – Pinterest:
The final book today is by Judith Barrow the compelling family drama that I found a compelling read The Memory.
About the book
Mother and daughter tied together by shame and secrecy, love and hate.
I wait by the bed. I move into her line of vision and it’s as though we’re watching one another, my mother and me; two women – trapped.
Today has been a long time coming. Irene sits at her mother’s side waiting for the right moment, for the point at which she will know she is doing the right thing by Rose.
Rose was Irene’s little sister, an unwanted embarrassment to their mother Lilian but a treasure to Irene. Rose died thirty years ago, when she was eight, and nobody has talked about the circumstances of her death since. But Irene knows what she saw. Over the course of 24 hours their moving and tragic story is revealed – a story of love and duty, betrayal and loss – as Irene rediscovers the past and finds hope for the future.
The new novel from the bestselling author of the Howarth family saga
One of the reviews for the book
“What gets us into trouble is not what we don’t know. It’s what we know for sure that just ain’t so.”—attrib. Mark Twain
I have nine brothers and sisters who must have grown up in nine other families because our memories just don’t match up. Each of us sees our past through the filter of personal experience, making us the unreliable narrators of our own memories. Yet somehow, it’s those memories that shaped the people we are today.
In Judith Barrow’s The Memory, it’s the memory of one moment in time that shapes Irene’s family and defines her life. In a brilliant structure, readers are swept along dual timelines as we try to understand or even identify that moment. First we’re introduced to an adult Irene. It’s 2002 and she’s taking care of her dying mother. In the midst of her exhaustion and resentment, Irene wonders if her mother is also experiencing that pivotal memory, “The one that makes hate battle with pity and reluctant love.”
But it’s also 1963, the moment eight-year-old Irene’s happy childhood changes forever when her baby sister Rose is born with Down’s Syndrome. Even as her parents’ marriage crumbles, Irene’s world is transformed. “That was the first time I understood you could fall in love with a stranger, even though that stranger is a baby who can’t yet talk. And that you could hate somebody even though you were supposed to love them.”
As the two timelines converge, the impact of little Rose’s life and death continues to shape every aspect of big sister Irene’s life. With her parents’ relationship becoming increasingly dysfunctional, Irene tries to wrap a cocoon of fierce love and devotion around her beloved little sister. She realizes her life isn’t like other girls, but with her grandmother’s support, she struggles on. One of her earliest friends, Sam, becomes her rock and then her husband.
But despite Irene’s love for Rose, her grandmother, and Sam, she can’t prevent tragedy from striking. Her parents’ marriage ends, effectively separating Irene from her weak but loved father, while sending her mother into a downward spiral of resentment. Her only ally at home, her grandmother, becomes ill. Irene’s dreams of a teaching career and motherhood are sacrificed to the needs of her family.
With the death of Rose, Irene and her mother are trapped an endless cycle of love and resentment shaped by one memory. But it’s a child’s memory of an event, and even Irene isn’t sure exactly what it means. Unable to leave the childhood home that’s her only connection to Rose, she turns to the ghost of her little sister for answers.
The Memory is quite possibly Judith Barrow’s masterpiece. The dual timeline structure is ideally suited to bring us to that critical moment in the past. What exactly did Irene see? She’s an unreliable narrator, a child trying to understand a single memory that redefines her life in one timeline, while in the other timeline she’s a woman who has lost everything she ever loved except for the memory of the sister who haunts her.
The writing is spare and elegant, with just enough detail to create a picture of Irene’s world. Told in the first person, we see Irene as she grows from a bewildered child determined to care for her ‘special’ little sister to a woman who sacrifices her own hopes and dreams to care for her family. Those who’ve been caretakers to parents suffering from alzheimer’s and dementia will also recognize the sheer exhaustion and thankless effort demanded.
But the other thing I enjoyed in what could have been a desperately dark tale was that Irene knew love along the way. She remembered her childhood days with loving parents, she cherished the love of her grandmother, and she accepted the bedrock certainty of her husband Sam’s love. Most of all, she had the memory of loving little Rose.
As the two timelines converge, all of those loves combine in a single moment of realization that finally explains and then redeems the memory haunting Irene’s life. As a reader, when a character becomes as completely real to me as Irene does, I often find myself wondering what happened next for her. But Irene’s story is so perfectly and elegantly resolved that I know without a shade of doubt what her future holds.
The Memory is not a comfortable or easy read. But if you’re looking for a beautifully written, character-driven story with a dark base but superb resolution, it just might be the perfect choice.
Also by Judith Barrow