Smorgasbord Cafe and Bookstore – New Author on the Shelves – #Family – Sisters of the Undertow by Johnnie Bernhard

Delighted to welcome Johnnie Bernhard to the Cafe and Bookstore with her books and today I am featuring Sisters of the Undertow, a coming of age, family novel.

About the book

Sisters Kim and Kathy Hodges are born sixteen months apart in a middle-class existence parented by Linda and David Hodges of Houston, Texas. The happy couple welcomes their “lucky daughter” Kim, who is physically and mentally advanced. Following several miscarriages, Linda delivers “unlucky” Kathy at twenty-nine weeks, ensuring a life of cognitive and physical disabilities. Kathy enters public school as a special education student, while Kim is recognized as gifted.

Both sisters face life and death decisions as Houston is caught in the rip current of Hurricane Harvey. Kim learns the capricious nature of luck, while Kathy continues to make her own luck, surviving Hurricane Harvey, as she has survived all undertows with the ethereal courage of the resolute.

Sisters of the Undertow examines the connotations of lucky and unlucky, the complexities of sibling rivalry, and the hand fate delivers without reason.

One of the five star reviews for the book

Shanessa 5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, lyrical, haunting, and unforgettable….. Reviewed in the United States on June 9, 2020

“We were sisters,” Kim says. “I loved and hated her.”

Oh my goodness, what a gem of a book. As an only child, I find that I’m especially fascinated and mystified watching the sibling dynamic between my children. I’m equally fascinated by books exploring these complicated relationships. Sisters of the Undertow does a beautiful and heartbreaking job of doing just that.

I loved the Texas setting as I grew up in eastern NM in the 80s, which is basically an extension of West Texas. As much as I like books that take me to a place I’ve never been, there is just something special about a book that can take you back home.

I thought the characters were exceptionally well-written. I loved them and I hated them. I saw myself in both of them. Bernhard threw no punches in portraying the complexities of sisterhood, of showing all that is ugly and beautiful about families- and really, what is ugly and beautiful in us all.

Flawed characters that you are still completely invested in, beautifully descriptive writing, and a profound message of family and the ties that bind us, this book has it all. It’s one I’ll be thinking about for a long time

Read the recent reviews and buy the book: Amazon US – And: Amazon UK

Also by Johnnie Bernhard

Read the reviews and buy the books: Amazon US – And: Amazon UK –  Follow Johnnie: Goodreads – Website: Johnnie Bernhard Author – Facebook:  Author Johnnie Bernhard – Twitter@JABernhard – LinkedIn: Johnnie Bernhard

About Johnnnie Bernhard

A former teacher and journalist, Johnnie Bernhard is passionate about reading and writing. Her work(s) have appeared in the following publications: University of Michigan Graduate Studies Publications, Heart of Ann Arbor Magazine, Houston Style Magazine, World Oil Magazine, The Suburban Reporter of Houston, The Mississippi Press, the international Word Among Us, Southern Writers Magazine, The Texas Review, Southern Literary Review, and the Cowbird-NPR production on small town America essays.

A Good Girl (2017) was shortlisted in the 2015 William Faulkner-William Wisdom Writing Competition, as well as featured novel for panel discussion at the 2017 Mississippi and Louisiana Book Festivals. The novel was shortlisted in the 2017 Kindle Book Award for Literary Fiction, a nominee for the 2018 PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize, shortlisted by the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Fiction of the Year Award, and placed in the permanent collection of the Texas State Library and Archive Commission, Texas Center for the Book.

Johnnie’s second novel, How We Came to Be (2018) was a finalist in the 2017 Faulkner-Wisdom Competition. Named a “Must Read” by Southern Writers Magazine, the novel was featured for panel discussion for the 2018 Louisiana Book Festival and Mississippi Book Festival. It was selected for the 2019 Deep South Magazine recommended reading list and shortlisted by the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters for 2019 Fiction of the Year. It is the recipient of the Summerlee Book Prize, HM by the Center for History and Culture at Lamar University.

Her third novel, Sisters of the Undertow (2020) was chosen for discussion at the 2020 national AWP Conference, the Pat Conroy Literary Center of South Carolina, the Southern Book Festival/Humanities Tennessee, and Words and Music Literary Feast of New Orleans. It was an official selection for the 2020 international Pulpwood Queens Book Club and Deep South Magazine’s recommended reading list for 2020. Named “Best of the University Presses, 100 Books” by the Association of University Presses, Sisters of the Undertow was shortlisted in the Kindle Book Awards for literary fiction. It was placed in the Texas Center for the Book, State Library Collection.

Johnnie was chosen as a selected speaker in the 2020 TEDx Fearless Women Series. She also supports young writers in public schools through the Letters About Literature program with the Texas Center for the Book and with the Write for Mississippi program.


Thank you for visiting today and I know that Johnnie would love to receive your feedback and questions about her work.. thanks Sally.

Smorgasbord Posts from My Archives – Past Book Reviews 2020 -#Poetry Inner Rumblings: by Joyce Murphy

I read some amazing books in 2020 and I would like to share them again with you, updated with the authors most recent releases and their biography.

Today my review is from April 2020 and is for Joyce Murphy and her debut poetry collection Inner Rumblings: Poems to Give My Inner Self a Voice, the Self I Call Joycie Reilly

About the collection

Inner Rumblings is a collection of poems about life, about courage, and about emotion. Whether you are looking for the courage to keep going when your heart is breaking, the inspiration to follow your dreams or a feeling of ‘someone else has been here too,’ these poems offer an open invitation to share joys, struggles, loves and pain with you.

The poems are expressed through Joycie Reilly, the name the author gives to her inner self – the self that speaks honestly about her battles with social anxiety and self-approval – the self that is searching for acceptance in a cold and turbulent world.

But despite her struggles, Joycie Reilly continues her journey through life, experiencing feelings of great happiness and great pain along the way. And her hope for you the reader is this, that in knowing her journey, you may better come to understand your own.

The book is divided into 10 lifecycles – each lifecycle presenting a separate set of poems relevant to the age and circumstances of the author. The lifecycles span over a 30 year period beginning with Early Teens and ending with Coming Home.

My review for the collection April 18th 2020

Poetry should stir the emotions and convey imagery with flow and rhythm and Joyce Murphy achieves that in her debut collection of verse.

It is a collection that reflects many shades of human emotion through the various phases of the poet’s life from 15 years old after what was an idyllic childhood. Teenage years are not the easiest for many of us and it is clear that the poet experienced anguish and self doubt as she moved into young adulthood including the turmoil of first love. We travel with her to Germany where she worked as an au pair, experiencing feelings of being an outcast in this very different environment to Ireland… and the dilemma caused by a romantic attraction. 

There is also lightness from touches of humour and the renewal that comes with finding a soul mate in ‘Love’s Vision’, but it is countered by the enormity of great loss.

The poetry is a roller coaster that takes you along for the ride. I am sure that there will be life’s experiences that many will relate to throughout the phases of the collection.

Read the reviews and buy the collection: Amazon UK – And: Amazon US

Also by Joyce Murphy for Children


Read the reviews and buy both children and poetry books: Amazon UK –  And: Amazon US – follow Joyce: Goodreads  –  Blog: Joycie Reilly Poetry – Twitter: @JoycieReilly

About Joyce Murphy

I have been a scribbler all my life. We didn’t have money for writing paper in my house so I scribbled stories and poems on anything I could get my hands on. Wherever scribbling material was to be found, I wrote on it. This included between the lines of my Enid Blyton books, the white top and bottom margins of my parent’s ‘Joseph and his Amazing Technicolor Coat’ program, bits of copybook paper and even blank pages torn from other books.

The poems found in my book, ‘Inner Rumblings,’ were written on small pieces of paper, torn out copybook pages and even on blank pages at the end of my biology book – lack of paper was never going to stop my urge to write.

My goal is to inspire joy and play in children and help them discover themselves and their world through story. To this end I also use my poetry and poems to run adult creative voice workshops. I am a proud self-published author with a unique vision of the world and our place in it. A love of animals and the environment is close to my heart and also runs through my stories for small children. I am also a member of the Alliance of Independent Authors.


Thanks for visiting today and I hope you have enjoyed the review for Joyce’s poetry collection…Sally.

Smorgasbord Cafe and Bookstore – New Book on the Shelves – #YA #Fantasy – Rites of Passage (The Rites Trilogy Book 1) by Doug Parker

Doug Parker is already the author of a children’s book, and now has a YA/Fantasy novel on pre-order for February 26th. Rites of Passage: A contemporary fantasy action adventure. (The Rites Trilogy Book 1)

About the book

It’s a world full of magic…

…and ghosts aren’t supposed to be real.

Can two high school pariahs survive the path to adulthood?

Orphan Cassius is stuck with no girl, no car, and magic that breaks whenever he tries to use it.

His luck begins to turn when he sets his sights on righting an old wrong, but when a deeper evil is exposed it threatens the one person he holds dear.

Will their bond be strong enough to help them survive?

Can he master his magic?

And about that car…

You’ll love this fast-paced adventure, because of its captivating characters and thrilling twists.

Get it now!

This is Book 1 of a 3-Book Novella Series.

Head over to pre-order the book for February 26th: Amazon US – And: Amazon UK

Also by Doug Parker for children

One of the recent reviews for the book

How lovely to indulge myself and read these wonderful children’s stories. Superbly written and right on target for its audience, this book is an absolute delight. Diverse tales to fit all tastes, and just the right length for a bedtime read.

Hang on. I’ve someone here who wants to say something. “Squawk”. Oh yes, Squawk, I’m glad you reminded me. I recommend this book to all readers, young and old.

Connect to DougAuthor Page: Amazon UK – And: Amazon US – Follow Doug: Goodreads – Website: Doug Parker Author – Facebook: Doug Parker Author – Twitter: @DougAuthor

About Doug Parker – Husband. Father. Dog Groomer. Author.

With his days dedicated to his family, “Uncle Doug” (as he is known to his doggy friends) has taken to working as an author by night. A lover of reading from an early age, he has spent many years practicing his craft and now hopes to pass on that love to the next generation.

Thanks for dropping in today and it would be great if you could share the news of  Doug’s new book … thanks Sally. 

Smorgasbord Posts from Your Archives 2021 – #Pot Luck – #Writing – Author Bio Dos and Don’ts by K.M. Allan

Since this series began in January 2018 there have been over 1000 Posts from Your Archives where bloggers have taken the opportunity to share posts to a new audience… mine. The topics have ranged from travel, childhood, recipes, history, family and the most recent series was #PotLuck where I shared a random selection of different topics.

In this series I will be sharing posts from the last six months of 2020

It is an opportunity to showcase your writing skill to my readers and also to share on my social media. Which combined is around the 46,000 mark. If you are an author your books will be mentioned too, along with their buy links and your other social media contacts. Head over to find out how to participate: Posts from Your Archives 2021

This is the second post by author K.M. Allan who shares some elements to consider when putting together your author bio.

Getting into the writing game doesn’t just mean composing entire books, dreaded synopses, and query letters, you also need an author bio.

Yep! As much as you might want the focus to only be on the art you’ve created, agents, publishers, and readers are going to want to know about the person behind the pen, and an author bio helps them do that. What will help you craft a worthy one are these dos and don’ts.

Author Bio Dos and Don’ts

Don’t Write Just One

While you can base your bios off the same info, using a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work for every place you’ll list it. For example, a bio listed on your own blog or website can be a few paragraphs long. A bio that goes at the end of a query letter needs to only be a few sentences.

The best thing to do is to write a bio that includes everything you want (your name, writing experience, competitions/short story publishing wins, previously published titles, something fun about you, where you can be found online, etc), and then strip it back to just the essentials (name, writing experience, where you can be found online).

Aim for at least 200 words as your standard bio, and 50 for the compact version.

Do Adjust For Each Audience

As well as making sure your length is right, adjust the tone of your bio. Professional sounding with all the relevant info is perfect for your website “About” page, “About The Author” section of your book, and a press release. While a fun, quirky sentence is ideal for social media.

Don’t Include Everything

If you’re lucky enough to have an extensive number of books or accolades to include, don’t fill up your bio with everything. List only the latest and greatest.
Do Include One Interesting Thing About Yourself

While it’s an author bio and should mainly revolve around your work as an author, make sure to add at least one interesting thing about yourself.

You might think you have nothing to include, but the world is a big place. You’d probably be surprised to know that mentioning the fact you collect animal-shaped pot plants resonates with others. On the flip-side, if you have no publishing achievements to list (I’ve been there!), list your passions or why you write.

Don’t Forget To Update Your Bio Regularly

It’s a good idea to revise your bio regularly, especially after every new release. While re-jigging the bio for your latest book is a given, don’t forget the other places your bio appears, which brings us to our final do…

Do Keep A List Of Where Your Bio Is Published

Even if you think you’ll remember, write down all the places it’s listed. That way, when you need to update your bio, you can easily tick off every place on your list and know you’re giving the world your up-to-date achievements.

I recently updated my bio after the release of my second book, and even though I thought I’d hit every place, I logged into Pinterest a few months after release and noticed the bio there was out of date. Now I do have a list, which is below to give you an idea:

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • Facebook Author Page
  • Pinterest
  • Goodreads
  • Amazon Author Page
  • Amazon Reviewer Page
  • About (Blog/Website)
  • WordPress Bio
  • Gravatar Profile
  • All Author Profile
  • BookBub Profile

A bio written and ready to post anywhere online, in your press releases, book releases, and with queries and publisher/submission correspondence is worth crafting, and I hope these dos and don’ts help you do that.

©K.M. Allan 2020

About K.M. Allan

K.M. Allan is an identical twin, but not the evil one. She started her career penning beauty articles for a hairstyling website and now powers herself with chocolate and green tea while she writes books and blogs about writing.

Her debut novel, Blackbirch: The Beginning, was released February 2020, followed in July by the second book in the Urban Fantasy series, Blackbirch: The Dark Half. Both books have been a hit with readers, receiving multiple 4 and 5 star reviews.

When K.M.’s not creating YA stories full of hidden secrets, nightmares, and powerful magic, she likes to read, binge-watch too much TV, spend time with family, and take more photos than she will ever humanly need.

Visit her social media to discover the mysteries of the universe. Or at the very least, some good writing tips.

Books by K.M. Allan

One of the recent reviews for Blackbirch – The Dark Half

Ms. Laurie J. Bell 5.0 out of 5 stars The twists just keep on coming.  Reviewed in the United States on November 14, 2020

There are new enemies, new mysteries, new secrets and new friends. And not everyone is telling the truth. The dark half explores what is dark in all of us. Everyone has two sides. What they show to the world and what they keep hidden. Well, what if you saw both sides?

Book two jumps in where book one left off. Josh has come into his magic but is desperate to learn more about it. Kallie, the girl he thought only existed in his dreams, is real and has come to show him how to use his magic. But she is hunted and haunted by her past. Now it is Josh’s turn to save her.

This is a terrific action packed book. Magic and spells and crystals abound. Someone is collecting magic and Josh and Kallie are on his list. Just when you think you have this story pegged you are hit with a new twist. Cleverly plotted, this story is well told and full of mystery. Author K.M. Allan will keep you hooked to the very end. Over and over I sat up and went, “Ooooo!” I can’t wait to read the next installment.

Read the reviews and buy the books: Amazon US –  And: Amazon UK – Follow K.M. Allan: Goodreads – Instagram: K.M. Allan Writer – Facebook: K.M. Allan Writer – Twitter:  @KMAllan_writer


Thanks for visiting today and I know that Kate would love your feedback.. thanks Sally.

Smorgasbord Children’s Reading Room – New Book on the Shelves #Ghosts – Brody Cody and the Haunted Vacation House by Toni Pike.

Delighted to share the news of the second children’s book by Toni Pike released a few days ago..Brody Cody and the Haunted Vacation House (Brody Cody Series Book Two)

About the book

Brody Cody loves his new stepmother but is surprised to hear that she is expecting a baby. To celebrate, his parents take Brody and his friends away for a week to a very spooky house in the Blue Mountains, owned by the elderly and even spookier Mr Sludge.

Very strange things start to happen, and the friends soon become convinced that the house is haunted. They love scary stories and know all about ghosts, but will they be able to solve the mystery?

A hilarious adventure for children aged 6-9.

It would be best to read the series in order. Book 1 is BRODY CODY AND THE STEPMOTHER FROM OUTER SPACE.

One of the early reviews for the book

Uma Iyer Van Roosenbeek 5.0 out of 5 stars A delightful children’s adventure!!!  Reviewed in the United States on February 15, 2021

Brody suddenly discovers that he is going to be a brother and the idea doesn’t appeal to him as he has been an only child so far!

His parents plan a getaway and decide to take all of Brody’s friends to have some extra fun!

They get to stay in a real mansion and are enjoying their stay despite some misadventures!!! They also decide to tackle the ghost that they keep encountering !

What happens when they encounter the ghost and the aftermath is the content of this enchanting book. The characters are totally lovable!!!

Read the reviews and buy the book: Amazon US – And: Amazon UK

Also by Toni Pike for children

Connect to Toni: Buy the books: Amazon US – And : Amazon UK – Follow Toni:Goodreads – Website: Toni PikeTwitter: @piketoni1

About Toni Pike

Toni Pike is a multi-genre author who enjoys writing exciting thrillers for adults, non-fiction, and hilarious books for children. She also loves travelling and being with family and friends. She lives in Australia and firmly believes that coffee and long walks are an essential part of any day.

Do you like books that you can’t stop reading? Pike is the author of DESOLATION BLUFF, DEAD DRY HEART and The Jotham Fletcher Mystery Thriller Series: THE MAGUS COVENANT, THE ROCK OF MAGUS, THE MAGUS EPIPHANY and HOLY SPEAR OF MAGUS.


She’s also the author of two non-fiction books. THE ONE WAY DIET is a no-nonsense guide to losing weight and coping with the journey. HAPPY TRAVELS 101 is a short book of travel tips with great advice for anyone who wants to travel overseas.


Thanks for visiting today and it would be great if you could share the news of Toni’s newest children’s book..thanks Sally.

Smorgasbord Cafe and Bookstore – New Book on the Shelves – #Thriller – Shattered Lives: A Jo Naylor Adventure by Allan Hudson

Delighted to share the news of the latest release by Allan Hudson,  the thriller – Shattered Lives: A Jo Naylor Adventure 

About the book

Jo Naylor is on the run. Wanted back in Canada for questioning regarding her father’s suicide. She has no intention of returning. With a new identity, she takes up temporary residence in a foreign country. She may not be a detective any longer but once a cop, always a cop. A distraught woman pleads with Naylor to find her daughter. Should she help? She doesn’t know anyone in Thailand, doesn’t know the geography but that doesn’t stop Naylor from sticking her nose where it shouldn’t be. Naylor and her new sidekick, an orphaned girl, join up with a local PI. There’s more than a missing child at stake.

One of the early reviews for the book

by MJ LaBeff  5.0 out of 5 stars One tough heroine, one fast-paced read!  Reviewed in the United States on February 9, 2021

Former detective Jo Naylor is on the run and finds a whole lot of trouble in paradise when she saves a young girl from the clutches of a predator. She becomes a temporary guardian to the orphaned girl and a special bond between the two is easily formed. When another girl is taken her mother pleads to Jo for help- who can’t say no despite the limitations she faces. Jo enlists the help of a PI who like her isn’t a woman to be underestimated. Together they uncover a crime ring that runs deeper than either could anticipate and puts both of them in danger.

Jo’s take no prisoners attitude, relentless pursuit of justice, and fearless fight against the men she encounters is an action-packed adventure. The author’s snappy writing and spot-on pacing makes this mystery a perfect page-turner.  

Head over to buy the book: Amazon US – And: Amazon UK

A selection of books by Allan Hudson

Read the reviews and buy the books: Amazon US – And: Amazon UK – Follow Allan: Goodreads – Website: South Branch Scribbler – Twitter: @hudson_allan

About Allan Hudson

I live in Eastern Canada where the summers are warm and the snow is deep in the winter.

I married the greatest gal on earth, Gloria, and have a wonderful son Adam, two great stepsons Mark (Georgette) and Chris (Mireille)Young. Three grandchildren Matthieu, Natasha and Damian.
I’m a very happy man.

I love reading. My mother was a school teacher and taught me to read and write when I was young.

I love jazz music, 70s rock and am a HUGE fan of JJ Cale.

I hope that you will enjoy my stories and thank you for your support.


Thanks very much for visiting today and it would be great if your could share the news of Allan’s latest release.. thanks Sally.


Smorgasbord Weekly Round Up – February 14th – 20th 2021 – Romance, Songs 1960s, Chilled soups, book reviews, videos and funnies

Welcome to the update of posts that you might have missed from the week here on Smorgasbord.

I hope all is well with you. Quiet here except for the noise of the wind howling around the house and the six inch puddle stretching across the front of the house. I know I wished I had a swimming pool but clearly the genie was having an off day.

The garden birds have been having a tough time of it with the winds and driving rain making it difficult to fly, particularly for the small birds such as the sparrows and tits. I usually buy my birdseed and fat balls at the garden centre or at a push smaller packs as the supermarket but of course the centres have been shut since the New Year and the supermarket shelves are bare of both seed and other products. One store has at least got some sunflower hearts and I have mixed that with sultanas and cooked brown rice.. They can at least digest that easily and it has nutrients for them.. The sunflower hearts provide the good fats and protein.

I have taken to put some on the ground as well as on our platform feeder and hanging baskets and hopefully they will get enough nourishment.

They are staying in the thick hedge in our back garden but when I got out (dressed in full wet gear) there is a sudden chorus of song and I can feel hundreds of eyes on me… as soon as the back door closes they are in the feeders and on the ground which is encouraging.

Anyway.. on with the posts from the week and as always my gratitude to William Price King, D.G. Kaye and Carol Taylor for their terrific contributions and to you for visiting, sharing and commenting.. it keeps me motivated..

The Breakfast Show with William Price King and Sally Cronin – Chart Hits 1963 – Part One

D. G. Kaye Explores the Realms of Relationships – February 2021 – Online Dating – Staying Safe

Bread, Homemade Peanut Butter and Home Grown Vegetables and Herbs.

St. Valentine’s Day – The Meaning of Romance to Me by Sally Cronin

Charlie the Junkyard Dog



Barbados and the last letter home 1986. Sally Cronin

#WWI – #Family Saga – The Heart Stone by Judith Barrow

#Children’s – A Beechworth Bakery Bears e-Book (too) by Frank Prem

– Past Book Reviews 2020 -My Name is Danny – #Doglovers – Tales from Danny the Dog assisted by Andrew Joyce.

Butterfly Cinquain – Fate’s Voice by Sally Cronin

Your Own Opinions And Feelings #selfaware by Toni Pike

#Finance – Working with a Financial Planner by Sharon Marchisello

– #Spying – The Story about House Hunting While Being Watched by D.G. Kaye

#Q&A D.G. Kaye, #Valentines Carol Taylor, #Interview as guest of Amy Reade

#Swearing The Story Reading Ape, #Deserts Cindy Knoke, #Speedreading Robbie Cheadle

-#JulesVerne Carol Seidl, #Waves Melanie Stewart, #Medication D.G.Kaye

#Reviews by V.M.Sang, #Cookbook Marian Beaman, #IrishMyths I.E. Kneverday

#Teaching Pete Springer, #Betrayal Abigail Johnston, #Hitching Andrew Joyce

Turning Back the Clock 2021 – Part Six – Anti-Aging and Oxygen

Salads are not just for Summer

New Book on the Shelves – #Fantasy Dead of Winter: Journey 2, Penllyn by Teagan Riordain Geneviene

#Psychological Thriller Lucinda E. Clarke, #Thriller Alex Craigie,

#Thriller Gwen M. Plano, #WIIDrama Marina Osipova, #Paranormal John W. Howell

February 16th 2021 – Hosts Debby Gies and Sally Cronin

February 18th 2021 – Hosts Debby Gies and Sally Cronin – Vows and Good Deeds

February 2021 – Another Open Mic Night with author Daniel Kemp – Flying first class and Shakespeare insults


Thank you for all your support and I hope you will drop in again next week… enjoy your weekend.. thanks Sally.

Smorgasbord Book Reviews – #WWI – #Family Saga – The Heart Stone by Judith Barrow

Delighted to review the eagerly awaited new release by Judith Barrow...another wonderful family saga The Heart Stone.

About the Book

1914. Everything changes for Jessie on a day trip to Blackpool. She realises her feelings for Arthur are far more than friendship. And just as they are travelling home, war is declared.

Arthur lies about his age to join his Pals’ Regiment. Jessie’s widowed mother is so frightened, she agrees to marry Amos Morgan. Only Jessie can see how vicious he is. When he turns on her, Arthur’s mother is the only person to help her, the two women drawn together by Jessie’s deepest secret.

Facing a desperate choice between love and safety, will Jessie trust the right people? Can she learn to trust herself?

My review for The Heart Stone February 20th 2021 – Five Stars

I have read all of Judith Barrow’s previous novels and was delighted when a new book was announced.

As always the author has created a cast of characters that embody all aspects of human nature and are guaranteed to elicit an emotional response. Combined with the harsh reality of life during this dreadful period in history, Judith Barrow has written a compelling saga .

The book covers seven years in the lives of two young people who face moments of joy but also untold dangers, loss, and at times despair. Arthur at only 16 is thrown into the maelstrom of the first year of the war leaving behind Jessie, his first and only love, to face her own devastating life events on the home front.

Times were very hard and despite the progress made by the suffragette movement, for women it was even tougher. Despite some enlightened men, particularly in this small village, the pressure was applied forcing women into marriages doomed from the start.

I am not going to share any spoilers but I do recommend The Heart Stone as a wonderful story with well drawn characters which will certainly bring you to tears from time to time. The author deals with the heartbreak and trauma with great sensitivity but does not shy away from writing honestly. This includes a thread of hope running through the novel which leads to a fitting conclusion to the story.

As with all the books of Judith Barrow, I highly recommend The Heart Stone. It is a story that will linger in your mind for a long time to come.

Head over to buy the book: Amazon UK – And: Amazon US

Also by Judith Barrow

Read the reviews and buy the books:Amazon US – and: Amazon UK – Goodreads – blog: Judith Barrow – Twitter: @judithbarrow77

About Judith Barrow

Judith Barrow,originally from Saddleworth, a group of villages on the edge of the Pennines,has lived in Pembrokeshire, Wales, for forty years.

She has an MA in Creative Writing with the University of Wales Trinity St David’s College, Carmarthen. BA (Hons) in Literature with the Open University, a Diploma in Drama from Swansea University and She has had short stories, plays, reviews and articles, published throughout the British Isles and has won several poetry competitions..

She is a Creative Writing tutor for Pembrokeshire County Council and holds private one to one workshops on all genres.


Thanks for dropping by and I hope you have enjoyed my review for Judith’s book..Sally

Smorgasbord Short Stories – Life’s Rich Tapestry – Charlie The Junkyard Dog by Sally Cronin

Over the coming weeks I will be sharing some of the stories from my collections new and old… and I hope you will enjoy them.

Today a story from Life’s Rich Tapestry, about second chances..

Charlie was a junkyard dog and had the scars to prove it. He was head of security of this fenced off mass of scrap metal, dotted with mounds of old tyres he called home, and he took his job very seriously. During the day, he was chained up next to the beat-up old trailer, where his human would shout loudly at other humans; sometimes throwing things at the thin metal walls. In bad weather Charlie would retreat into a rough scrap wood shelter; resting his bony body on a ragged old corn sack on the hard concrete floor as the water dripped in through the roof.

His human would unshackle Charlie as night fell; throwing a few handfuls of dried dog food into a bowl, kicking it toward the dog.

‘Gotta keep him lean and mean,’ he would laugh as he got into his truck to head down to the bar on Main Street. The junkyard was now Charlie’s responsibility, and he would prowl in and out of the wrecks through the darkness; barking and growling at any real or imagined intruder.

The feral cats kept their distance, building nests for themselves in the precarious metal heaps and hunting for rats and mice at night; keeping one eye open for the mangy dog.

Many a lad had climbed the fence, looking for a spare part for their hot-rod, or to find some forgotten treasure in a glove compartment. All had gone back over the wire at speed, with one or two new rips in their jeans and sometimes even missing a sneaker. Charlie would swagger back to his kennel, taking a drink from a puddle along the way, pleased that he had done his job as demanded of him.

Rarely did the dog feel the kindness of a human hand, despite the men who worked in the yard throwing him the odd bit of sandwich, or even a left over piece of hamburger. None were keen to find out if he was as handy with his teeth as some of his victims had claimed after lucky escapes. The boss told them not to coddle the dog, and despite some of them pitying their half-starved workmate, they were too afraid of losing their jobs to push the matter.

Then a thin, lanky lad called Jimmy turned up one day looking for a job. The boss thought he was too scrawny for the kind of hard labour that was needed, but he knew the boy would work for a lot less than he had to pay a grown man, and gave him a week to prove himself. He had to give it to the boy; Jimmy did not mess about, arriving early and leaving long after the others had left for a beer.

He pulled his weight and earned the respect of the other men who took him under their wings. Although Jimmy didn’t say much they sensed the boy didn’t have a great place to go home to. Over a mug of coffee after lunch, he finally shared that he had been living on the streets for some months but was now in a hostel. It sounded a bit grim, but it was clean and he had a room, dinner and a change of clothes. With the money he was now earning, he planned to save up and find a small place of his own.

Like his workmates, Jimmy began keeping some of his lunch for Charlie. They warned him to throw the food and not to get too close in case the dog ripped his arm off. They were amazed when he calmly knelt down, holding out his hand with the piece of sandwich in his cupped palm. After a couple of days, hunger overcame his fear and Charlie edged closer and closer until he snatched the food, racing back to the other end of his chain.

They also advised Jimmy not to let the boss see him petting the dog, and the lad was careful to only do so when the man was out in his truck, or on the other side of the yard. He didn’t want to lose his job, but he also couldn’t bear to see this neglected dog and the way he was living. It brought home memories of his time on the streets, and he knew only too well how desperate it was.

Through the summer months, Jimmy began to climb over the fence after the gates had been locked, rather than return to the stifling room in the hostel, until the evening cooled. Charlie by now accepted the boy and eagerly nuzzled his pockets to see if there were any treats for him. He would snuffle delightedly as he came upon a piece of cheese or sausage, dispensing a slobbery kiss in gratitude.

The two of them would wander the yard enjoying the evening sunshine and then sit side by side watching the sun go down; Jimmy’s arm around his buddy’s neck. Both of them had filled out over the recent months of better food and the boy had also been to the vets and stocked up on medicine for parasites and fleas. Charlie’s improved condition was becoming a problem. The boss had noticed that Charlie was calmer and less aggressive and that he could no longer see his ribs. Somebody was feeding him and he decided to keep a closer eye on who was around him during the day.

It didn’t take long to find out who the culprit was, and he was furious. He left the trailer and walked off into the lot telling his men, who were eating their sandwiches around the wooden table by the gate, he would be back in ten minutes. Instead he went around the back of the shack and peered around the side towards Charlie’s kennel. He saw Jimmy gather up the scraps from the other men, and walk quickly over to Charlie who sat waiting eagerly. His anger grew as he saw the dog calmly take the food from the boy’s hand and the way he accepted the ear scratching and petting.

He raced to the front of the trailer and shouted at the top of his voice, making the men stand up in concern and Jimmy leap back guiltily from the dog.

‘I warned you what would happen if I caught any of you messing with that dog.’ He strode towards Jimmy and grabbed him by the arm; causing Charlie to growl and leap to the end of his chain. ‘You’re fired boy! Get your stuff and leave now.’ He pushed the lad towards the gate and kicked him in the backside. ‘And don’t think you are getting your last week’s pay either.’

The men looked at each other, and as one they walked towards their enraged boss and Jimmy. In the background Charlie was pulling at his chain and barking madly, foaming at the mouth, desperate to get free.

‘Hey boss, leave the lad alone,’ Jack the foreman held up his hand to try and calm the situation down.

‘Get out of my way! You knew the rules and you let that boy ruin the dog.’ The boss snarled at the men.

‘Take one more step and it won’t be just the boy who gets canned.’ He grabbed Jimmy’s rucksack from the table and threw it at him before grabbing his arm in a vice-like hold.

Suddenly a massive snapping sound erupted from behind them, and everyone, including the boss, turned towards the trailer. All they could see was an enraged dog, virtually flying through the air with the remnants of a chain trailing noisily behind him. The men scattered and the boss let go of Jimmy’s arm. He turned to run for the gate only to be yanked off his feet as a jaw clamped onto the back of his jeans and shook him like a rag doll. The denim ripped and, freed from the gnashing teeth, the boss was off like a rocket, clambering up the side of a precarious mound of wrecked cars. The dog took up station at the bottom of the pile as the sobbing man scrambled to get a foothold on the slippery metal.

‘Charlie, Charlie, it’s okay boy, come here, come here.’ Somehow Jimmy’s voice managed to get through to the enraged dog as he paced back and forth growling in frustration.

He turned and stood head down and shivering as the boy walked towards him and knelt down. ‘Okay Charlie, you and me are going to leave, come on let’s get out of here.’

The foreman stood in front of the boy and placed a hand on his shoulder. ‘Hang on a minute lad; we need to sort something out first.’

He stepped over to the pile of cars and looked up at his boss perched on a rusty bonnet.

‘Boss, I’m going to the trailer and get the lad his pay for the last week, and I am also going to write him a receipt for a dollar, which is the cost of the dog.’

He turned around and walked to the trailer as Jimmy and Charlie waited by the gate, the boy kneeling with his arms around the quivering dog; finally calming down and licking the boy’s face. The man reappeared with a leash in one hand and an envelope in the other.

‘There you are boy, and there is a bit extra in there, plus I’ve scribbled a reference for you, with my telephone number.’ He smiled at Jimmy. ‘I think you boys better leave town and leave us to sort this out.’

He winked and nodded in the boss’s direction. ‘He can’t afford to lose all of us or for us to tell this story down the bar, he would never live it down.’

The other men clapped Jimmy on the back and a few of them slipped a few more dollars into his pocket. The foreman leant down and offered Charlie the back of his hand and felt a long rough tongue as it glided over the skin. He stroked the dog’s head and stood up to open the gate.

‘Take care of each other you two, and don’t worry, there won’t be another dog in this place, I’ll make him buy surveillance cameras instead.’

Jimmy stood for a moment looking at the men who had befriended him and now offered them both this second chance. He glanced down at the dog waiting eagerly to see what was outside the gate that had held him prisoner for so long.

The boy wiped his hand across his face embarrassed by the tears. Then he smiled and lifted a hand in farewell and the men watched the boy and dog head off down the street to the highway and freedom.

Jack shut and padlocked the gate before turning towards his boss now clambering down the metal mountain. When he reached the ground and turned prepared to give them one of his tirades, he found ten men with their arms folded waiting for him.

©Sally Cronin 2019.

I hope you have enjoyed the story.. thanks for dropping in… Sally.

About Life’s Rich Tapestry

Life’s Rich Tapestry is a collection of verse, microfiction and short stories that explore many aspects of our human nature and the wonders of the natural world. Reflections on our earliest beginnings and what is yet to come, with characters as diverse as a French speaking elephant and a cyborg warrior.

Finding the right number of syllables for a Haiku, Tanka, Etheree or Cinquain focuses the mind; as does 99 word microfiction, bringing a different level of intensity to storytelling. You will find stories about the past, the present and the future told in 17 syllables to 2,000 words, all celebrating life.

This book is also recognition of the value to a writer, of being part of a generous and inspiring blogging community, where writing challenges encourage us to explore new styles and genres.

One of the recent reviews for Life’s Rich Tapestry on Bookbub by Marina Osipova December 1st 2020

Engaging. Moving. Amazing.
As always, Sally Cronin’s writing (be it verse, micro fiction, or short stories) awoke in me a fountain of emotions. Some manifested themselves in goosebumps (Life’s Greatest Gift, Musical Interlude, Reunion, An Ugly Mutt, A Moment of Alignment-just to name a few), others brought a smile to my face, (My Mouse, Splashing Good Time, The Witch’s Handbook, etc.). The Enhancement Project was frightening in its futurological likelihood. You’ll find the tales grim or sad, yet most promise hope at the end. While reading all these beautifully written stories, I shook my head in disbelief: how is it possible to tell a life story in such a short piece of literature? Take my word, you won’t be unaffected by these poignant snippets of life, and after turning the last page, you will crave more from this remarkable writer. Can’t help but recommend Sally Cronin’s books to readers who seek tales that deeply move soul and heart.

Read the reviews and buy the book Amazon  :Amazon UK – Amazon USAmazon US

My other books and recent reviews can be found on my Books and Reviews Page 2021

Smorgasbord Posts from My Archives – Past Book Reviews 2020 – #Children’s #GreatDanes Joyful Trouble by Patricia Furstenberg

I read some amazing books in 2020 and I would like to share them again with you, updated with the authors most recent releases and their biography.

I enjoyed reading Silent Heroes by Patricia Furstenberg and picked up one of her children’s books and reviewed in April 2020, Joyful Trouble.

This turned into a trip down memory lane, as much of the action takes place in Simon’s Town Naval Station where my father was based 1963 -1965 and where I went to Saturday morning cinema each week and to Christmas Children’s Parties. Including the excitement of seeing Father Christmas arrive by helicopter.

About the book

A humorous read about an incredible dog and how he found his true, yet unexpected calling.
A dog. A friendship. A purpose.

Proven to warm your heart, “Joyful Trouble” is a fast-paced, engaging and funny story.

Patricia Furstenberg paints a charming portrait of the bond between a small girl and boy and their much-loved Grandad. This book takes readers on an unbelievable journey, tackling universal themes and voicing animal rights and the importance of fighting for what is right.

When a Great Dane arrives in a Navy base nobody expects him to win everybody’s hearts, although breaking some rules along the way. But things soon turn sour as somebody threatens to put him to sleep. Who will stand up for this four-legged gentle giant?

A charming celebration of innocence.

My review for Joyful Trouble April 4th 2020

This is a lovely book for all ages, but particularly for children as they are introduced to not just Joyful Trouble and his extraordinary story, but also dogs in general with their amazing abilities and their special bond with humans. This involves some valuable lessons on how best to treat man’s best friend with kindness and respect with the wider view as to how we as humans should behave towards each other.

Great Danes are massive dogs and when they get into trouble, it is difficult not to miss it. Joyful has already bonded with a little boy who goes to boarding school, leaving his best friend behind, which leads to the dog wandering the town and connecting with sailors from the naval base and accompanying them on their trips into Cape Town on the train when off duty. Clearly not appreciated by everyone including grumpy ticket inspectors.

However, a high ranking naval officer sees a solution and this leads to the true story of the enlistment of Joyful Trouble into the Royal Navy. There are several escapades that follow, and it is a wonderful story of how animals and humans find companionship and solace in a time of war, when young men leave home and find themselves in a very rigid and unfamiliar environment. Anyone who has ever been owned by a dog will love the book as well as the characters of Grandad,Tommy and Ana, who are the delightful recipients of his stories of this wonderful dog he was given responsibility for.

At the end of the book, as an added treat, there are some recipes for Vetoek a traditional fried dough bread and some delicious sounding lemon and cinnamon cookies. There is also an introduction to the poem Jock of the Bushveld that will delight any child as they sample the cookies.

Read the reviews and buy the book: Amazon US – And: Amazon UK

A small selection of  other books by Patricia Furstenberg (some in Afrikaans)

Read the reviews and buy the books: Amazon US – and: Amazon UK BlogAlluring Creations Goodreads: Goodreads – Twitter: @PatFurstenberg

About Patricia

Patricia Furstenberg is a skilled author, poetess and mother. With a medical degree behind her, Patricia is passionate about mind, brain and education and the psychology behind it.

Her latest book, “Silent Heroes: When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for”, is a highly emotional read, action-packed, a vivid story of enormous sacrifice and bravery. “Silent Heroes” is a narrative about the value of life. Whose are the spoils-of-war? A new look at the War in Afghanistan, at the MWD, Military Working Dogs and the brave Marines fighting it, but also at the Afghans caught in it.

When she’s not writing Patricia enjoys reading, researching for forthcoming books and traveling with her family. She never counts how many cups of coffee she enjoys in a day.
Patricia lives happily with her husband, children and dogs in sunny South Africa.


Thank you for dropping in today and I hope you have enjoyed my review of Joyful Trouble…and that you will head over to check out Patricia’s books in more details.. thanks Sally