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DOG CRAZY: A Novel of Love Lost and Found ~Meg Donohue

Monday, March 23rd, 2015

“Packed with deep emotion and charming surprises, DOG CRAZY is a bighearted and entertaining story that skillfully captures the bonds of love, the pain of separation, and the power of our dogs to heal us.”  (Book cover)

DOG CRAZY came my way via TLC BOOK TOURS for review and it was a delightful addition to a very busy week.  The uncorrected proof came in paperback form and just tucked into my carry bag for a week of medical appointments (“Growing Old is Not for Sissies”~ Jack Benny) and my husband even dove into it when he was the designated driver and water bottle handler.

Maggie Brennan is making big changes in her life by leaving her mom and dad who live in Philadelphia and moving to a new apartment in San Francisco; starting a Pet Bereavement Therapy Practice on her own.  The apartment is within her former roommate’s home so not everything is new.  Maggie’s mother is agoraphobic and has not left her house without heavy medication for nearly 30 years.   Maggie also has her trusty dog Toby to help her make the transition.

Maggie sets out in San Francisco to make the connections to start her practice and finds an animal rescue group who refers her first clients and she is able to do lots of volunteering for them on their website.  Apparently, Toby was only meant to assist with the move and the actual living this new life with Maggie was not on the list and he becomes ill and dies.  This causes major problems for Maggie and threatens to ruin this new opportunity.

Along comes a very “INTERESTING” young woman who believes her dog has been stolen and does not want any therapy for her missing dog, just assistance in walking SF to find him.  With Anya in need and with “the assistance of a poodle, a mutt, and Basset retriever named Seymour” the funny, poignant story begins to unfold creating healing.

This story had a gentle voice in the telling, and I would have loved to take this story and my own pooch to the beach to savor.  It so reminded me of the Women’s Magazines full of short stories that my mother loved to read in the late afternoon with a cup of tea.  This tail/tale is about 255 pages long and I could pick it up and put it down with out losing the story line or any of the dog identities.  It was an easy to read study of how we humans handle loss and fear and that everything changes with one step at a time.  Very entertaining – DOG CRAZY.

MEG DONOHUE is the USA TODAY bestselling author of HOW TO EAT A CUPCAKE and ALL THE SUMMER GIRLS.  She has an MFA in creative writing from Columbia University and a BA in Comparative literature from Dartmouth College.  Born and raised in Philadelphia, she now lives in San Francisco with her husband, children, and dog.    (From Book cover)

Meg Donohue Facebook

Related:
Short Leash
Merle’s Door
The Language of Hoofbeats
WILD 

WHERE HAVE I BEEN ALL MY LIFE? A Journey Toward Love and Wholeness ~Cheryl Rice

Monday, January 19th, 2015

“WHERE HAVE I BEEN ALL MY LIFE? Is an engaging, nourishing must-read for any woman who wants to love and accept herself more fully.” (Marci Shimoff #1 New York Times best-selling author of LOVE FOR NO REASON and HAPPY FOR NO REASON – cover)

TLC Book Tours sent me a copy of WHERE HAVE I BEEN ALL MY LIFE? for review.  The book is a memoir and a very gentle personal story about recovery and self-discovery.  As the opening quote says it is a book for anyone who wishes to accept himself or herself more fully and find that moment of self-love which sustains the whole person.  I heartily recommend this story.

WHERE HAVE I BEEN ALL MY LIFE?  was a very good read for me in January of a new year.  I am sorting out my business and my life and thinking about where I want this new year to move me; what is my goal for this year and what will I work on for myself?  So reading a memoir about someone taking action is a good inspiration.  Cheryl Rice was catapulted into her journey by the loss of her mother after a short dance with cancer.  Rice was overwhelmed by the profound sorrow that surrounded her and by the fact she came to a stop in her own life efforts because of this sorrow.

After cleaning every closet and room in her life and making stacks of things for charity she did not know how to proceed further, move on, and she felt like she had lost her self in all the care giving to her new husband and his children, the intense workout of caring for her mother’s last days and her father’s profound depression.  Rice proceeded to therapy and found her therapist trustworthy, helpful, and her ‘love object rescue hero’ extraordinaire. She kept going and peeling away the masks and actions which restricted her best self from emerging and being present.   She was taking care of everyone except herself and it was a deep and old pattern.

I could identify with Rice’s position and the fatigue of not being able to move forward and not wanting to stay in the intense caregiver mode any longer.  I too had children to care for and a partner and the intensity of the loss reveled that I too had been trapped into a caregiver role for way too long and self recovery seemed distant and beyond the reach alone.    I believe this kind of storytelling enhances our own well-being and revels clearly the way to healing and rediscovery for the next endeavors and discoveries.   “Life is constantly changing”, but when we are captured in a cycle of intense care giving making change can seem beyond our reach.  Looking back to our early years, how did we get caught into these roles and how did they keep us from our best selves, from finding our own true lives and our truest love?

WHERE HAVE I BEEN ALL MY LIFE? is an excellent look at people pleasing, of separation anxiety, of social anxiety and how we get pulled into the ‘perfect life’ of exterior acceptance and often loose ourselves in the process.  I believe everyone could benefit from this story of Cheryl Rice’s experience and how she embraced change in her life.

Cheryl RiceAbout the Author

“Cheryl Rice is a professional speaker and coach. Her company, Your Voice Your Vision partners with women striving to be leaders in their own lives. When Cheryl decided to take the advice she so passionately offers her clients, she emerged with a memoir. Her essays have appeared in The Philadelphia Inquirer, Cactus Heart, and Cure Magazine. Cheryl has M.S. degrees in both Psychological Services and Organization Development, and lives with her family outside of Philadelphia. Find Cheryl online at www.YourVoiceYourVision.com. You can also find Cheryl on Facebook and Twitter.”

Related:
The Long Goodbye
Little Island 
Coincidence 
The Moon Sisters 

MY THINNING YEARS: Starving the Gay Within ~Jon Derek Croteau

Monday, September 22nd, 2014

“From the time I was a child in such an unsafe household, I’d been putting on layers of emotional fat, thickening myself for years to protect myself from the inevitable truth.  I must have been preparing myself for the ultimate rejection I assumed would come from my father, and eventually, everyone else.” (from page 210 of Advanced Copy Uncorrected Proofs)


MY THINNING YEARS is another self-help/recovery book from Hazelden Publishing.  It is a well written biography of a young man having to deal with identity issues in a verbally and often physically abusive household.  The author’s father only wanted certainly things for his three children and then they could not do them “right”.   His father was determined to destroy any “sissy” tendencies in his youngest son and determined that he was going to be a sports star in school – especially in baseball.   Croteau was a sport’s star but only in tennis.  His mother was very supportive and tried to protect her children managing her anger by chain smoking.

Food was a big issue along with perfect grades and achievements.  For the author, this translated into anxiety, anorexia, obsessive behaviors, perfectionism, and nearly suicide.  Many of his friends were females and neighbors who allowed Croteau access to their homes when his father rampaged.   Many of these friends stuck by him all of his life and protected him at school.  He loved to sing but was only allowed to be in theater productions required at school.

Croteau’s mother got him counseling help as best as she could provide by cashing checks at the grocery store and having a teacher provide the transportation so husband/father would not know.   His brother and sister had a hard time too, but not as tough as Jon because they were great at sports and not as sensitive.  Appearance was important and not having any “faggy” behaviors.

This is a well written account of how difficult it was in the 80s and 90s to find an identity and become self-affirming.  At one point in my career I was working with a group of teens as a counselor – all had eating issues, identity issues and food issues.  4 of the males in the group were anorexic and I wished I had had a copy of this book to share with them all; they were not alone it was a struggle for many.

I could identify with Croteau’s pathway too, because my home was run by a quiet perfectionist who used criticism as a tool.   My siblings were not safe or protective we were all in competition for attention and sometimes food.  Many, many people could relate to this recovery process and issues of self-affirmation.  It is good story telling.

“Jon Derek Croteau, Ed.D. is vice president at a leadership consultancy for higher education and health care clients across the globe. He is the author of three academic books on staff development and leadership as well as numerous articles for journals and periodicals, and he is a member of the speaker’s bureau of the National Eating Disorders Association.  Jon legally married his partner, Justin Croteau, in 2007 and currently resides in Vermont”

TLC Online Book Tours   and Hazelden sent me a copy of this book for review. MY THINNING YEARS is a very good read and resource.  Thank you for the opportunity.

Related
Conquering Shame and Co-Dependency 
Mind Without a Home 
Shadows In The Sun
The Isolation Door

NO LONGER AND NOT YET: Stories ~Joanna Clapps Herman

Thursday, July 24th, 2014

“Death, when you weren’t actually faced with it, was something like that.  A small boat in a large body of water going toward a vague line that never came any closer-death always the same safe distance from your boat.  No matter how long you moved toward it, it continued to move off ahead of you.  Then when someone you knew died, death appeared in your boat, and you were supposed to contend with its abrupt, confusing arrival, for which you had no talent, no gift.  It was never as if you came to believe it.  You were just very confused.  Full of refusal.  After a time of stunned confusion it moved back out there far away where it belonged.  And wasn’t considered again until it had to be again.  The horizon what is not yet.”  (Page 102)


NO LONGER AND NOT YET is a collection of 26 stories which are all connected to the Upper Westside of New York City. As of late, I have been reading a number of books that for varied reasons keep me reading long into the night and wanting to savor and finish them right away.  As much as I love short stories and like to read one a day when partaking, this was an exception to my rule for the fact that I have a fixed review date and because the stories touched each other in ways that made the reader want to know.

Tess, Max and eventually Paul were the thread that held the weave of the stories together.  Tess has a wealth of friends right in the neighborhood and they then became their own stories and found connection back to Tess for advice and support.  Tess told the stories of living and what she is aware of and then interpreted these ideas to the reader to get the whole picture.  Her best friend Naomi lived in a building on Riverside Street and the residents within added the breadth of the friendships. The reader is able to get a clear picture and attend to the day’s experience.

It made a section of NYC cozy and connecting and the writing and details brought clarity with the exquisite use of words. The reader is connected and feels present; for me particularly about the “mother thoughts” going on inside each woman during her day or excerpt.  The problems seemed normal and not overblown and were infused with moments of wine, a sigh of relief and laughter.

These are everyday stories which make sense in our everyday and yet we are privy to the thinking and the actions in a way which reminds us that we are not alone.  There are others living plain lives and having questions and concerns just like ours and yet they are drawn together because of their communications and sharing.  The words tighten the threads of connection and understanding.  There are two thinking about the crazy flower woman in the park and two attempting to help the box man not freeze to death on a rare cold snowy night.  Can you imagine being the only mother and son playing in a NYC park – no one else on the swings?  Is the teacher always right or does she say the wrong things to your child?

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and it was so wonderful to have a summer rainy day to wander and walk through years with these delightful characters into their lives and resolutions.  NO LONGER AND NOT YET is a 5 star read.

tlc logo  TLC online book tours  sent me a copy of NO LONGER AND NOT YET for review and it was a pleasure to share this book with you

“Joanna Clapps Herman teaches creative writing in the MFA Graduate Program at Manhattanville College and at the Center for Worker Education, a division of City College of New York, CUNY.  She is the author of THE ANARCHIST BASTARD:GROWING UP ITALIAN IN AMERICA, also published by SUNY Press; coeditor (with Carol Bonomo Albright) of Wild Dreams: The best of Italian Americana; and coeditor(with Lee Gutkind) of OUR ROOTs ARE DEEP WITH PASSION: Creative Nonfiction Collect New Essays by Italian-American Writers.  She lives in New Your City.” (Cover)

Joanna Clapps Herman Online 
Joanna Clapps Herman on Facebook

I am counting on folks sharing this review – please share and like – Thank you – Sharing is a good thing to do.

Related:
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Olive Kitteridge
Late Lights
Half as Happy Stories