Smorgasbord Christmas Book Fair 2022 – #Memoir #Cancer Miriam Hurdle, #Romance Ritu Bhathal, #Crimethriller Carol Balawyder


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 the poignant memoir by Miriam Hurdle…it is an inspiring read and I can recommend The Winding Road: A Journey of Survival.

About the book

In the summer of 2008, Miriam Hurdle was diagnosed with melanoma-an aggressive and invasive cancer in her internal organs. The survival rate before 2008 was low. Besides risking harsh treatments for a slim chance of survival, Miriam had hoops to jump through. By the time she received treatment at the beginning of 2009, her cancer had progressed from stage II to stage IV. It was a rough and uphill winding road. But alongside her was support and encouragement. Accompanied by the love of her family and community, this is Miriam’s journey of faith and miracle. It is a heartwarming story of resilience, courage, and the will to live.

One of the reviews for the book

Writing about a personal cancer experience as a therapeutic activity to cope with the emotions and physical changes that accompany diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis can be very beneficial to the person going through it.

However, making the transition from writer-based prose in the form of a cancer diary or journal to reader-based prose as a published cancer memoir poses a challenge. Miriam Hurdle faces this challenge head-on in her cancer memoir, The Winding Road: A Journey of Survival.

She begins by introducing the book with a Foreword in which she directly addresses the reader and explains her reasons for sharing her story: “I’m grateful to be alive, to give to others, and to receive from them.” Throughout the book, she never loses sight of the fact that she is telling her story to someone else. As a reader, I greatly appreciated this consideration. I also appreciated the family photographs she included, as her family played such a vital role in her journey of survival.

Key scenes–such as receiving an unexpected pathology report after a routine surgery–are dramatized so that the reader can experience the events and their accompanying emotions with Hurdle, rather than being told about them secondhand. She also includes italicized interior monologue, making the reader privy to her thoughts at the time, reinforcing the immediacy of the narration. In addition, she balances the experience of what she went through at the time with her current reflections on it now, so that readers can benefit from both perspectives on her cancer experience.

Hurdle includes just enough researched information about the type of cancer she had and the details of her own instance of it to give the reader a clear understanding of what she went through without feeling overwhelmed or getting the impression of reading a medical case study. (Make no mistake: the details of the treatments and their side effects are portrayed with brutal honesty.)

If I had to give just one reason to recommend that others read The Winding Road–regardless of where they are in their lives or their health–it would be that witnessing the support of a loving family and the incredible kindness shown to Hurdle by everyone in her personal and professional circles can serve as an antidote to the hatred and strife that characterize our current troubled times. Medical science aside, as critically important as it was, Miriam’s cancer journey gave me hope.

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

Also by Miriam Hurdle

Discover more about Miriam Hurdle and buy the books:Amazon US And:Amazon UK Goodreads: Miriam Hurdle – Blog: The Showers of Blessings – Twitter: @mhurdle112

The nex book today is a lovely and engaging romance that I can recommend, Marriage Unarranged by Ritu Bhathal. Look out for Ritu’s new book soon.

About the book

It all started ended with that box…

Aashi’s life was all set. Or so she thought.

Like in the Bollywood films, Ravi would woo her, charm her family and they’d get married and live happily ever after.

But then Aashi found the empty condom box…

Putting her ex-fiancé and her innocence behind her, Aashi embarks upon an enlightening journey, to another country, where vibrant memories are created, and unforgettable friendships forged.

Old images erased, new beginnings to explore.

And how can she forget the handsome stranger she meets? A stranger who’s hiding something…

One of the reviews for the book

I truly enjoyed this book and let out a huge sigh when I finished it so am very pleased to know there is a second on the way. That’s a sign of a good book, when you just want to keep on reading forever.

I love romantic fiction, the escape, the will-they-won’t-they, and this book delivered all of that in full, and I was fully willing on Aashi from the minute Arjun is introduced to us.
However, this book had so much more to it than a simple love story, it taught me things. It taught me a little more about Sikh culture (the novel is jam-packed with domestic detail that gave it such warmth, for example – mustard oil on the doorframes) and as the characters travel from Birmingham to India, it taught me about their destination in a way that made me want to explore in a lot more depth.

Two things really stood out for me, the insightful, wise way that the author wove the family relationships, the love between these characters and the pressures that expectations can bring. I loved all the relationships in this book, parental-child ones, siblings, best friends, community – all were written in a way that you could really relate to and that drew you in.

The second was the way the author described her settings. At points I felt like I was in India, experiencing the chaos and the colour of the Bangles market, travelling to and visiting the Golden Temple complex and the gardens of Jallianwala Bagh, learning about the massacre that occurred there. It was all so evocative, all my senses were stimulated at the vivid descriptions of sights, sounds, smells, tastes. I found myself racing to read this, to take myself back to the world that the author created and I am very much looking forward to the next in the series. 

Read the reviews and buy the bookAmazon UK And: Amazon US

Also by Ritu Bhathal

Find out more about Ritu Bhathal and buy the books:Amazon UK  and : Amazon US- Blog: Ritu Bhathal WordPress Follow Ritu: Goodreads – Twitter: @RituBhathal

The final author today is Carol Balawyder – with her coming of age crime thriller...Just Before Sunrise

About the book

A coming-of-age story with a domestic noir twist.

Nadine, tired of running her call-girl agency has upgraded to gold digger as she finds the perfect rich widower to marry. Discovering that her wealthy widower is an abuser she seduces his stepson, Charlie, to plot her husband’s murder.

But things don’t go as planned and soon she is turning to her experience hiring young call-girls to find the perfect girl to save her from going to prison…

Homeless Maya is drifting on the streets, grieving the recent loss of her mother.
When she is offered the opportunity to prepare a lake-side house to be used as a half-way home for delinquent girls, she doesn’t think twice.

She soon falls for Charlie, the attractive boy next door, who has a seriously dark side. She is drawn into his murderous schemes, doing anything he asks her to, risking her own safety for the promise of a future with him. When she finds herself party to murder, and she realises he is more concerned with his older female accomplice than with her, she must learn to trust her instincts and use all of her courage to get out of their trap alive.

As a subplot there is the rocky romantic relationship between an older woman and a younger man who become involved in investigating the murder for which young Maya is accused of committing.

Just Before Sunrise is a story about loss and survival. About loneliness, betrayals and deadly desires.

One of the reviews for the book

Nadine has her sights on her wealthy husband Logan’s life insurance, and the quickest way to cash in is to murder the older man. An affair with Charlie, Logan’s stepson from a previous marriage, guarantees her an accomplice. When photos show up of the man’s drowning, Nadine and Charlie start planning a second murder, but this time, they need someone to take the fall. Enter Maya, a sixteen-year-old trying to get off the streets and turn her life around. Charlie plays Maya, entrances her, and Maya is completely taken in.

The pace of this suspenseful read moves along quickly right from the start. I held my breath as I could see Maya making one mistake after another and falling in love with a man who was manipulating her and setting her up. Fortunately, at age sixteen, she has some allies looking out for her, but the heart wants what the heart wants.

The story is free of graphic sex and violence. It unfolds in multiple POVs, all third person except for Maya, whose chapters are in first person. I liked Maya as a character. Despite her naivete, she’s a believable teen with a full backstory and range of emotions. Nadine and Charlie were utterly devious, and I enjoyed their scenes, eager for them to fail. A subplot between two secondary characters threads through the main story. A fast-paced, suspenseful read that I highly recommend to fans of coming-of-age thrillers. 

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

A selection of books by Carol Balawyder

Discover more about Carol Balawyder and buy the books: Amazon US – And: Amazon UK – Read more reviews : Goodreads – WebsiteCarol BalawyderLinkedIn: Carol Balawyder – Facebook: Carol Balawyder

 

Thanks for dropping in today and I hope you are leaving with some books.. Sally

Smorgasbord Bookshelf – Summer Book Fair 2022 – #Crimethriller Carol Balawyder, #Thriller #Haiti Mark Bierman


Over the course of the summer months I will be sharing the recommended authors who feature in the Smorgasbord Bookshelf along with their books and a selected review.

The first featured author today is Carol Balawyder – with her coming of age crime thriller...Just Before Sunrise

About the book

A coming-of-age story with a domestic noir twist.

Nadine, tired of running her call-girl agency has upgraded to gold digger as she finds the perfect rich widower to marry. Discovering that her wealthy widower is an abuser she seduces his stepson, Charlie, to plot her husband’s murder.

But things don’t go as planned and soon she is turning to her experience hiring young call-girls to find the perfect girl to save her from going to prison…

Homeless Maya is drifting on the streets, grieving the recent loss of her mother.
When she is offered the opportunity to prepare a lake-side house to be used as a half-way home for delinquent girls, she doesn’t think twice.

She soon falls for Charlie, the attractive boy next door, who has a seriously dark side. She is drawn into his murderous schemes, doing anything he asks her to, risking her own safety for the promise of a future with him. When she finds herself party to murder, and she realises he is more concerned with his older female accomplice than with her, she must learn to trust her instincts and use all of her courage to get out of their trap alive.

As a subplot there is the rocky romantic relationship between an older woman and a younger man who become involved in investigating the murder for which young Maya is accused of committing.

Just Before Sunrise is a story about loss and survival. About loneliness, betrayals and deadly desires.

One of the reviews for the book

Jacqui Murray VINE VOICE 5.0 out of 5 stars The twisted turns of love  Reviewed in the United States on July 2, 2021

Carol Balawyder’s Just Before Sunrise (2021) is the story of a wealthy older man who marries a former owner of a high priced call girl business (which is how the two met). Nadine accepts this proposal as her chance to escape her past life but soon realizes (shock!) that he is not the knight in shining armor she had hoped for. It isn’t long before she dislikes him as much as he disrespects her. She is a master of manipulating men–

“Nadine had the kind of body you read about in pulp fiction novels”

So she persuades the older man’s thirty-something son–Charlie–to help her kill him so the two can be together. To cover their tracks, they involve a recently homeless and orphaned teen–Maya–who has been entrusted with the job of preparing a lakefront home to be used as a halfway house which happens to be next door to Carlie’s home. Maya falls for Charlies and not-so-reluctantly agrees to help him cover up the murder. If you read “cover up” as “take the blame for the homicide”, you have the gist of what will happen.

Tangentially, thirty-something Adam falls in love with an older woman (the same one who hires Maya to fix up the home) but leaves her because he wants children and she doesn’t. That sounds simple but it sure isn’t. You’ll see when you read it. The overlap between these two plots is clever and intriguing.

At its core, this is a love story but filled with hate and lies and hurt feelings and unusual events and so much more. Love in this book isn’t a synonym for blissfully happy or the answer to dreams. In this case, it’s more fake than real but young Maya doesn’t realize that.

A clever, enticing read that you won’t want to stop once you start. Recommended for those who like unusual love stories that are darker than cozy but still fulfilling.  

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

A selection of books by Carol Balawyder

Read reviews and buy the books: Amazon US – And: Amazon UK – Read more reviews : Goodreads – WebsiteCarol BalawyderLinkedIn: Carol Balawyder – Facebook: Carol Balawyder

About Carol Balawyder

I hold an undergraduate degree with a major on English Literature and a graduate degree in Criminology. I taught Criminology in Police Technology and Corrections programs in Montreal. My area of expertise was in drug addiction and I worked in a methadone clinic with heroin addicts. I helped set up a writing workshop for women in prison and worked in halfway homes and drug rehab centers.

My short stories have appeared in Room Magazine, The Canadian Anthology of Fiction, Mindful.or, Between the Lines and Carte Blanche. I was awarded an honorary mention for a play submitted to The Canadian Playwright Competition.

I manage a blog where I write about: Women Nobel Prize Winners for Literature, Famous Writers’ Desks, Femmes Fatales, India, Book Reviews and my dog, Bau. Carol Balawyder Blog

The next book today is that I have read and can recommend is Vanished the debut thriller set in Haiti by Mark Bierman.

About the book

Tragedy . . . heartache . . . how much more can Tyler Montgomery and John Webster take? This missions trip, the “healing” one, has only added fresh layers of pain. Construction of an orphanage in Haiti’s northwest . . . yes. But a doomed rescue operation, human traffickers, human anomalies, extreme personal danger . . . risk of death? They hadn’t signed up for those.

Turning their backs on the crisis, however, is unthinkable, it’s just not who they are.

One of the recent reviews for the book

Beem Weeks 5.0 out of 5 stars A Dark Look at Reality  Reviewed in the United States on May 9, 2022

John and Tyler arrive in Haiti on a missionary trip. Their goal is to help with the construction of a much-needed orphanage on the island. But the men soon learn of the terrible dark underbelly of life in the Caribbean nation. The scourge of human trafficking soon invades their insulated world when a young girl they’ve come to know is taken. The two men decide the only thing to do is find the child and reunite her with her mother. Obstacles and hazards attempt to thwart the pair with life and death situations. The action is rapid and harrowing throughout.

Human trafficking is a dark subject—no matter the area of our world in which you live. Author Mark Bierman tackles this story with an eye on reality. He digs deep into the human psyche and sheds a light on monsters that are always close by. Vanished is one of those reads that will open your eyes and give you reason to re-think your comfortable lives. This one is worth a read. 

Read the reviews and buy the book: Amazon USAnd: Amazon UK

50% of the proceeds from Vanished go to an organization that helps victims of human trafficking.

About Mark Bierman

Born and raised on a farm near Brockville, Ontario, Mark Bierman’s childhood consisted of chores, riding horses, snowmobile races across open fields, fishing trips to a local lake, and many other outdoor adventures. He was also an avid reader of both fiction and non.

Transitioning towards adulthood also meant moving from the farm and into large urban areas that introduced this “country boy” to life in the big cities.

After a short stint as a private investigator, he moved into the role of Correctional Officer, working at both Millhaven Institution and Kingston Penitentiary, until it closed.

Read the reviews and buy the book: Amazon USAnd : Amazon UKFollow Mark: Goodreads – Blog: Mark Bierman WordPressTwitter: @mbiermanauthor

 

 

Smorgasbord Cafe and Bookstore Update – #Reviews – #CrimeThriller Carol Balawyder, #Poetry Victoria Zigler, #Family Lisette Brodey


Welcome to the Cafe and Bookstore update with recent reviews for authors on the shelves.

The first author with a recent review for her latest release is Carol Balawyder – a coming of age crime thriller...Just Before Sunrise

About the book

A coming-of-age story with a domestic noir twist.

Nadine, tired of running her call-girl agency has upgraded to gold digger as she finds the perfect rich widower to marry. Discovering that her wealthy widower is an abuser she seduces his stepson, Charlie, to plot her husband’s murder.

But things don’t go as planned and soon she is turning to her experience hiring young call-girls to find the perfect girl to save her from going to prison…

Homeless Maya is drifting on the streets, grieving the recent loss of her mother.
When she is offered the opportunity to prepare a lake-side house to be used as a half-way home for delinquent girls, she doesn’t think twice.

She soon falls for Charlie, the attractive boy next door, who has a seriously dark side. She is drawn into his murderous schemes, doing anything he asks her to, risking her own safety for the promise of a future with him. When she finds herself party to murder, and she realises he is more concerned with his older female accomplice than with her, she must learn to trust her instincts and use all of her courage to get out of their trap alive.

As a subplot there is the rocky romantic relationship between an older woman and a younger man who become involved in investigating the murder for which young Maya is accused of committing.

Just Before Sunrise is a story about loss and survival. About loneliness, betrayals and deadly desires.

A recent review for the book

Jacqui Murray VINE VOICE  5.0 out of 5 stars The twisted turns of love  Reviewed in the United States on July 2, 2021

Carol Balawyder’s Just Before Sunrise (2021) is the story of a wealthy older man who marries a former owner of a high priced call girl business (which is how the two met). Nadine accepts this proposal as her chance to escape her past life but soon realizes (shock!) that he is not the knight in shining armor she had hoped for. It isn’t long before she dislikes him as much as he disrespects her. She is a master of manipulating men–

“Nadine had the kind of body you read about in pulp fiction novels”

so she persuades the older man’s thirty-something son–Charlie–to help her kill him so the two can be together. To cover their tracks, they involve a recently homeless and orphaned teen–Maya–who has been entrusted with the job of preparing a lakefront home to be used as a halfway house which happens to be next door to Carlie’s home. Maya falls for Charlies and not-so-reluctantly agrees to help him cover up the murder. If you read “cover up” as “take the blame for the homicide”, you have the gist of what will happen.

Tangentially, thirty-something Adam falls in love with an older woman (the same one who hires Maya to fix up the home) but leaves her because he wants children and she doesn’t. That sounds simple but it sure isn’t. You’ll see when you read it. The overlap between these two plots is clever and intriguing.

At its core, this is a love story but filled with hate and lies and hurt feelings and unusual events and so much more. Love in this book isn’t a synonym for blissfully happy or the answer to dreams. In this case, it’s more fake than real but young Maya doesn’t realize that.

A clever, enticing read that you won’t want to stop once you start. Recommended for those who like unusual love stories that are darker than cozy but still fulfilling.

Also by Carol Balawyder

Read the reviews and buy the books: Amazon US – And: Amazon UK – Read more reviews : Goodreads – WebsiteCarol BalawyderLinkedIn: Carol Balawyder – Facebook: Carol Balawyder

The next review is for poet and children’s author Victoria Zigler for her latest poetry collection Born from Stardust and Other Poems.

About the collection

A selection of poems of various lengths and styles, exploring a variety of themes and subjects.

Topics explored in the poems that make up this collection include – but are not limited to – animals and nature, writing and creativity, death and grief, as well as the Covid-19 pandemic.

A recent review for the collection on the blog of Kevin Morris 24th July 2021

The title poem in this collection begins as follows:
“We’re born from stardust, you and I,
And that alone’s the reason why
I’m pretty sure that when I die
I’ll join the stars up in the sky.”

Born From Stardust is a beautiful poem, and the book of the same name is a highly enjoyable and thought provoking read.

Amongst my favourite poems is “When Mummy Missed Story Time”, in which the poet poignantly describes the emotional reactions of a young child when it’s mother won’t read a bedtime story due to her fear that she has the Corona Virus, and her very natural desire not to pass on the infection to her son/daughter.

There are several other poems which touch on the pandemic, including one dealing with the impacts of social distancing on the individual and on society as a whole. I can relate to this series of poems, and it is a topic which I have, myself tackled in my own poetry.

Other poems deal with the threat posed by climate change. Again, this is a fine series of poems.

The serious poems are interspersed with lighter pieces such as “When Even the Beach is to Hot”:

“You know the temperatures are too high,
When even the beach is too hot!”

The above poem is especially apt at the moment given the very high temperatures we have been experiencing here in the UK and elsewhere.

I have read a number of Victoria Zigler’s poetry collections, and in my view this is her best thus far. 

A small selection of other books by Victoria Zigler

Read the reviews and buy the books in print and audio: Amazon UK – and : Amazon US – Follow Victoria on: Goodreads – Website: Victoria Zigler – Twitter: @VictoriaZigler

The final author today with a review is LIsette Brodey for The Sum of our Sorrows.

About the book

In an idyllic suburb in Northern California, tragedy strikes the Sheppard family when Abby, the mother of three daughters and wife to Dalton, is killed in a car accident. Charlotte, the middle daughter, is in the car with her mother and survives without physical injury but remains deeply scarred on the inside.

Dalton tells Lily, his eldest daughter, that she must sacrifice long-awaited college plans and put her life on hold to take care of her sisters. Lily is torn between her devotion to family and an increasing need to find her place in the world — but how can she leave, knowing her family may crumble? Will her presence eventually cause more problems than it resolves?

The Sum of our Sorrows reveals how the aftermath of a family tragedy can precipitate sorrows never imagined. It is a tale of grief, hope, healing, coming-of-age, friendship, and survival. It is also a love story of two broken souls living through pain in search of better days and the renewal of one’s spirit.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I write characters as I hear them speak to me. Some of these stories contain non-gratuitous expletives and sexual references. This book also contains some situations that may be triggering to some readers. If this is not to your liking, please don’t read this book. Thank you.

A recent review for the book

Cynthia 5.0 out of 5 stars A Must Read  Reviewed in the United States on June 4, 2021

This book is amazing! I laughed, I cried, I was angry at a couple of the characters….what a ride.

Lisette Brodey is an incredible writer who has the ability to draw the reader into the story so deeply that all you (the reader) care about is to keep reading. I read this book in two days, I hated to put it down.

Ms. Brodey is a writer who belongs at the top of the Best Seller lists as she proves time and time again her skill and acumen in creating and allowing the characters in her stories to take us on incredible journeys.

‘The Sum of Our Sorrows’ is a MUST read 🙂

A selection of books by Lisette Brodey

Read the reviews and buy the books: Amazon US – And: Amazon UK – Follow Lisette: Goodreads – Website/blog: Lisette Brodey – Twitter: @LisetteBrodey – Facebook: Lisette.Brodey

 

Thanks for dropping in today and I hope you will be leaving with some books.. thanks Sally.