Tag Archives: Life

Book Review: “Beatrice Munson” by Lorena Bathey

In Vista Heights, the women of the neighborhood have started to look like their homes, varying shades of beige.  Lost in this world of suburbia, Marissa Lyons learns her high school nemesis has bought the house right across the street from her. Afraid that her arch enemy, Beatrice Munson, will move in with Marissa’s high school crush as her husband and cause Marissa to relive the insecurity of high school in her forties, she decides to face the music and heads to Beatrice’s house with warm cupcakes. But what Marissa finds is something she never expected.  How will Marissa and the rest of the women of San Martino deal with someone like Beatrice Munson, whose defining moment in her life was to get a boob job or go on a trip to Egypt. This story is about friendship, love, learning to look at things differently, and great parties. Step into the world of Vista Heights where you might recognize the women, or you might be one of them. (from Goodreads) 


When Lorena Bathey was looking for reviewers, for her book “Beatrice Munson”, I jumped at the opportunity.  Many months ago, as I was cruising around on Goodreads, I came across “Beatrice Munson”, and immediately fell in love with the cover!  I think the cover is beautiful, and enticing, and is among my favourite book covers. Lorena Bathey generously mailed the book to me, in exchange for an honest review.  I could not wait for the book to arrive!!  And when the book did arrive, just holding the book in my hand brought a smile to my face.  Then I started to read about Beatrice, and all the ladies in the community of San Martino, a suburb of San Francisco. 

Lorena Bathey’s narrator, Marissa Lyons, is a character who captured my heart in the very first paragraph, (truly, she did!).  I identified with part of her story, of her high school experiences, and her challenge to find her true place in life. 

The character of Beatrice Munson moved into a house across the street from Marissa Lyons.  Once Beatrice settled into her home, decorated in her own personal style, Marissa came for a visit.  The vision of Beatrice’s house was described through Marissa’s voice.  I say vision, because that is the word that came to mind, as I read Lorena Bathey’s beautiful description of Beatrice’s house.  It was a house that I wanted to be in, a living room that I wanted to settle into a chair, with a cup of coffee, and a really good book.  Lorena’s talent with words drew me into the San Martino community, made me feel welcomed. 

Lorena Bathey

The action in this novel moved smoothly and quickly.  The only reason I did not finish the book in one sitting, was because family commitments called me away.  But I did finish the book in my second sitting – reading into the wee hours of the morning!  I could not go to sleep without knowing how everyone’s life turned out! 

In following the characters’ daily lives, the reader sees how each character develops. The enjoyable thing was that Lorena Bathey showed this development through conversation and action, rather than pages of description.  The humour in “Beatrice Munson” is at times elegantly displayed, in beautiful phrases that bring the reader further into the world of all the San Martino ladies.  Sentences like this:   

“….Graydon was like the high dive in the male dating pool, and on the female scale I was about halfway down to the deep end with floaties on my arms.” 

San Francisco – Lorena Bathey Facebook Page

I laughed out loud, and re-read the line a few times before moving on!  Lorena Bathey also brings humour and memories together: 

“Her hair was teased up to the level of a Jiffy Pop popcorn container,….” 

Ah, yes, Jiffy Pop foil container just about ready to burst, before Mom removed it from the stove, cut the foil, and we dived in – nice memories, and an excellent description of a hair style! The book description on the back cover, also part of the Goodreads summary, reads:  “Step into the world of Vista Heights where you might recognize the women, or you might be one of them.”   And that happened to me as I read through the book.  A couple of times I found myself thinking, “hmmm, that sounds like (insert name)” and “oh, my goodness, that’s me!”  Such is the gentle, yet powerful, word pictures created by this author.  Talent, pure talent. In my book reviews, I do not like to give books a ‘number rating’, or a ‘star rating’, rather I stay with word recommendations, (or not!).  And fiction is so personal; each person experiences the story through their own life experiences.  But with all that said, if I was to give “Beatrice Munson” a number rating, it would definitely be 5 out of 5, in my mind, without question, a 5 star rating.  So, my recommendation to my readers is to definitely read “Beatrice Munson” by Lorena Bathey, and enjoy!! 

photo – Gavin Hellier

Where is the Joy of the Written Word in this book?  The answer is: from cover to cover, from beginning to end. 


Choose Joy!  



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Book Review: “The Imitation of Patsy Burke” by John J. Gaynard

World-renowned sculptor and hell-raiser Patsy Burke comes to in a cheap hotel in Paris covered in blood and with a broken arm—and no idea what happened the night before. Thus begins a journey through the bars of Paris, during which Patsy, with the help of a few “friends,” including Caravaggio and the Scandal Man, attempts to unravel the events of the previous day and night. Along the way, he relives the major occurrences of his past, most of which involve a combination of women, drink, and violence. Has he ever been truly responsible for the man he is, whether for his successes or for another crime he suspects he may have committed? His “friends” take him to breaking point. If he does not wish his life to finally come full circle, he must make one final, possibly fatal choice. (from Goodreads) 

One of the classic lines in “The Imitation of Patsy Burke” must be:  “What came first?  Was it the overdrinking or was it the voices?”(page 10).  If the reader has not figured it out by this early point in the novel, this quote ensures a better understanding of the narration.  The “voices”, the “friends”, exist within the very compelling mind of the main character, Patsy Burke; in actual fact, the only true character in the novel.  The other characters exist, but they exist within Patsy’s very complicated mind.  It is from this perspective that John J. Gaynard spins this tale of emotion, action, and vivid description.  The tone is raw, irreverent, racy, provocative, and infrequently loving. 

When I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author, it was in exchange for an impartial review.  At that time, I thought I was about to read an action packed thriller, with a psychological bent.  That was not how it turned out!  But the writer’s style caught my attention after only a couple of pages.  Then the plotline caught my eye, and I was hooked.   

Due to the use of offensive language, there were times when completion of the novel seemed out of reach.  Throw in some graphic violence, and it is not my pick for summer afternoon reading.  However, the author still held my attention.  You see, each of the voices in Patsy Burke’s mind, made up an aspect of Patsy’s personality.  The skill of the author is in holding the reader’s attention to see how all the voices fit together, and how the author can actually create quite a storyline, all from the voices in the lead character’s mind.  Are you intrigued yet?? 

As a word of caution, I would suggest that the reader keep in mind that this is a work of fiction – even though at times it reads like history.  I choose not to expand on that comment, as I try to avoid ‘spoilers’ in my book reviews. 

One skill of Gaynard’s is the ability to remain neutral throughout this book.  By that I mean, the reader is left guessing about Gaynard’s own history and personal beliefs.  And I think in a book of this nature that is key to the plotline and readability of the book itself.  Keep your mind open, and your wits sharp, and this book may be just what you are looking for! 

Where is the Joy in the Written Word of this novel?  While not a ‘joy-less’ story, the word ‘Joy’ does not come to my mind in this instance.  If you have read, or do read, this novel, I invite you to leave me a comment on where you do, or do not see Joy.  And in all humility, John Gaynard, if you read this post, I truly welcome your thoughts on “The Imitation of Patsy Burke” and on where you see the Joy of the Written Word.


Choose Joy! 




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Book Review: “From Zero to Four Kids in Thirty Seconds” by Amy L. Peterson

Amy is a 30-year-old woman who spent many years polishing an unapproachable outer shell and maintaining a long list of reasons why not to have children. She keeps a canoe on her front porch, a mountain bike in her kitchen and a balance in her checking account. Mark is an older, divorced man with four kids. He sleeps on an Army cot and eats out of pots and pans given to him by his therapist. He has a Ph.D. in stream ecology, a VW Rabbit with 285,000 miles on it and enough fishing tackle to sink a small boat.  Amy falls for Mark hook, line and hundreds of dollars in sinkers. (from Goodreads) 

I would like to thank Amy Peterson for giving me the opportunity to read and review her book.  Amy sent me her book free of cost, in exchange for an honest review.  “From Zero to Four Kids in Thirty Seconds” is Amy Peterson’s true story of adapting to life as wife and step-mother.

The book’s chapters chat about different events and stages in Amy’s life, as she moves from being a very independent single, to a still independent married.  The trick was to maintain her link to independent thinking, while being part of a six person think tank – with the two oldest members, Amy and her husband Mark, ruling the roost!  Even if the kids thought they ruled the roost! 

Within each chapter, Amy gives the readers tips on getting through each new adventure as it arises.  Sometimes it is tips on how not to do things!  Amy’s chapter topics range from falling in love, family vacations, and meeting her step-children, all the way through to handling married life – not necessarily in that order.  Amy’s tips range from knowing that all the family does not like her new love, to how to be grateful for holidays that only happen yearly, and how ‘old’ families and ‘new’ families need not vacation together…… 

Amy’s humour is good, clean fun.  While we all cannot identify with Amy’s roles, I think the general reader can find something to laugh with.  For today’s world of many styles of blended family living, I believe most of us have been in one, or a number, of Amy’s family situations.  For anyone, of any marital status, who has had to immerse themselves in a new family’s traditions, (and isn’t that most of us?), even if we don’t admit we are laughing, Amy’s stories will strike a familiar chord. 

For the most part, Amy’s stories run somewhat chronologically, and that is the way I read the book; but, this is also the type of literature that enables the reader to pick up the book, open to any page, and begin reading.  Sometimes, even a couple of paragraphs will be all that is needed to bring some laughter into our days. 

When Erma Bombeck started writing in 1967 about her family adventures, not everyone laughed.  But, at the time of her death in 1995, her books were read around the world.  Bombeck’s work was very similar to Amy Peterson’s style, although as a newcomer, Amy’s efforts may be a little rough around the edges.  Maybe one day, Peterson and Bombeck may be considered of the same genre and gift. 

I think most readers will find “From Zero to Four Kids in Thirty Seconds” a breath of fresh air, in a world where even pleasure reading can have a dark twist.  Do yourself a favour, and check it out! 

Well, we have reached the end of this written word post, and I ask “Where is the Joy?” in this reading.  If we want to relax a little, kick our shoes off, and put our feet up, this book may be the remedy we are looking for.  One thing that occurred to me as I read Amy’s story, was that reading these pages aloud with your spouse, may bring a taste of Joy into the room.  Maybe give it a try…… 

Choose Joy! 




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Book Review: “Say Not What If” by Andrew Friedman

“Say Not What If” is about a man on death row, and has as its theme the concept that time is our most valuable commodity. As someone once said, “waste anything but time, because we really are promised no tomorrows.” This theme is explored through the life of a man who sacrifices his marriage and everything else for his career. He realizes much too late the terrible consequences of this decision, and then desperately tries to regain those lost years by making a much worse choice. The resolution of this latter choice involves an additional examination of the concepts of accountability and responsibility, redemption, and the morality of the death penalty. (from Goodreads)


This exceptional book is a short story, (approximately 10,000 words), written as a rhyming poem, which really makes it a long, (51 page), poem!  However you choose to describe it, however you choose to summarize it, this literary work is something incredibly special.

I was not sure how I would feel about a long prose-poem, and I was a little intimidated by it. However, it did not take long for me to know how I felt about the book itself.  I was hooked by the second page.

Most of us can probably relate to a story of a man spending too much time away from his family, and not enough time appreciating the time he has on this earth.  Why is it that we can all find ourselves in this situation, even when the world around us is filled with examples of how “not-to”?  I am reminded of two famous sayings: “Learn by example” and “Learn by our own mistakes”.  Which one is correct?  Or are they both correct?

The main character in this short story is depicted, in the beginning, as one who has a passion for his job, or if not a passion, then dedication and loyalty.  When everyone else leaves for the day, he and his boss remain.  And it is clear that he believes this is the way to get through life, the way that will lead to a wonderful time of retirement. 

Reading the opening stanza, it seems as though this man’s life theory is: to live for the day.  “Say Not What If”, embrace life and all it offers.  We learn, almost immediately, that this philosophy of life was only arrived at after some big moments of regret.  The bulk of the story finds the main character struggling with his life choices.

While it might be tempting to read this book in one short period of time, I would caution against this.  I took multiple sittings, as the subject matter was heavy, even though the style of writing was light.  And as the book progressed I was pleased with the slower pace of my reading.

As I read his story, I could not help but feel pain for the main character.  But also pain for those of us living part, or all of our lives, saying “what if”.  For a short book, this story addresses major life issues, ones which the reader will find speak to the core of our beings.  The author has the skill to reach directly into our hearts, souls, and minds – in a very short amount of time.

I highly recommend this book, and hope that we as readers, will learn life lessons that will stay with us for the rest of our journey.


I would like to thank Andrew Friedman, for providing a complimentary copy of his book, for my review.


 Well, that did not last long!!  Did anyone happen to notice what I forgot in this post?!

“Where is the Joy?”!!!!!

My very next post, after deciding I would ask that question at the end of any post, I forgot!  Maybe no one else remembered either!!

So, where is the Joy in this post, in this book?  I thought that might be a challenging question, given the subject matter of the book “Say Not What If”, (maybe that’s why I ‘forgot’!??).

However, the answer came quite easily.  I found Joy in the rhyming pattern of the stanzas, in the flow of the words, and from there the images of what was being depicted. 

That was the Joy.


Choose Joy!





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Book Review: “Go Big: Make Your Shot Count in the Connected World” written by Cory Cotton

Cory Cotton, the author of this book, is a recent Texas A&M University, who, with a dream, a simple camera, and five self-confident friends launched Dude Perfect, a friendly, high-flying basketball competition that started on YouTube (45+ million hits) and then slam-dunked its way into commercials, TV appearances, and business success. Written with freshness of a true adventurer, Go Big implores readers to take to the air with their God-given dreams. (from Goodreads)

I received this exciting and well written book from Tyndale Blog Network in exchange for an impartial review. When I opened the box and looked at the cover, my instinct was to say: “Oh, it’s a kid’s book”, and “it’s all about sports, looks like basketball”.  Wonderful!  I know basically nothing about sports, and definitely nothing about basketball.  What do I do now for my review??  I quickly flipped through the pages and saw pictures of guys throwing basketballs outside, inside, and upside down! 

I eventually pulled back from my initial reaction and gave the book another check. And am I ever glad that I did! This book is all the things I mentioned above – but it is SO much more.  What started as six university guys throwing basketballs in the backyard of their house, and challenging each other to “go forward”; as well as a few dares: “You’ll never make this shot”, has now turned into a strong motivational force with a web page, an on-line game app, group presentations, and of course, this book.  In this social media world the “Go Big” Philosophy has reached to faraway places, and impacted many lives.  And all this has happened in the last two years.   

Although this book is written by just one of the “Go Big” guys, it is really a compilation of all their efforts to reach their highest goals. Over time the original six became five, as one member decided to follow another dream – a dream well understood and accepted by the team.  Throughout the book we are introduced to all members of DudePerfect.com.  We get to know each individual and what they bring to the team.  For me, one of the brightest lights in this book is how the group shines as a team, how they work together and grow even stronger. 

Dude Perfect's Backyard!

This is hard to believe coming from a group of guys just interested in trick basketball shots.  Here’s the catch, if this was just about trick basketball shots, it would not have captured and held my interest past the end of the book.  This book is many things, and to me it is a great business model centred in something that is bigger than the individuals involved.  This group of young men are clear in their dedication to God, and their dedication to social justice causes.  Stated clearly throughout the book, and printed on the back cover, 5% of author’s proceeds will go to charity: water, a nonprofit organization bringing clean, safe water to people in developing nations.  The author is clear in their spiritual beliefs, and their need to bring better lives to the needy.  For a book that is “not-religious”, when was the last book you read that could make those claims?  These guys are making an impact on this world. 

The Dude Perfect brand is based on five principles: 

Get Excited, Own It, Blink Later, Inspire Others, and Give Back. 

Each principle is expanded upon, highlighted, and made clearer, as the reader moves through each page, each chapter.

Dude Perfect started out with a number of personal goals, and if you check their website, some goals are still on the horizon – life goals.  It is clear that Dude Perfect will be around for a while!  Their motto is ‘Go Big’, their brand is Dude Perfect, and their hope is to inspire readers to reach and obtain their own goals. 

“Go Big” gives us, the readers, the tools we need to reach our own Dude Perfect phenomenon.  The skills set forth can be used in many of life’s situations:  team building, management skills, conflict resolution, positive attitude formation, life skills, and spirit building, (to say the least). 

What started out as a book that held a vague interest for me, became a book I had to force myself to put down when life called me away!  To say that I felt the momentum begin in the Introduction is not an exaggeration.  The subject, the writing style, the graphics, all worked together to capture and hold my interest and enthusiasm. 

This is not just a book about a group of guys who took trick basketball shots to a new level, (although it is), this is a reference book for many years ahead.  I value this book as a book that will push me at times I need pushing; and congratulate me at times I need encouragement. 

 And it can do that for you, too!!



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