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Angie Mangino Looks at Books

Book Reviews

Growth and Change Are Highly Overrated

By Tom Starita

2018

Reviewed by Angie Mangino

Rating: 4 stars


Readers immediately meet Lucas James in the first chapter that the author wrote from a first person point of view. Chapter two continues, heavily indulgent in I’s, me’s, and my’s. Self-centered and selfish? That’s the most obvious first impression Lucas James gives.


When he stays self-absorbed, why keep reading chapter 3 through 43 with such an unlikeable protagonist? 


The author hints to the attraction right at the beginning.


“What’s to come will always make sense. It might not be the sense you’re accustomed to. There may be times when you may not entirely agree with my sense. You may prefer to call it nonsense.”


This “nonsense,” however, holds more sense than anticipated once readers approach this satire understanding the exaggeration and ridicule that it is, appreciating the author’s well done execution of this style of writing.


The author keeps readers reading with his humorous writing approach. He rambles at times, but that only enhances the satire. He holds readers to continue, nonetheless, since on these pages are glimpses of people they know, and maybe even shades of themselves. 


https://amzn.to/2LZTmX9


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Never, Never and Never Again

By K M Breakey

2018

Reviewed by Angie Mangino

Rating: 5 stars



“’Never, never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another!’ – Nelson Mandela”


In chapter one it is March 26, 1976 in Cape Town, South Africa where readers meet Pieter Van Zyl “behind the wheel of his beloved Maserati. … His mood lightened with each passing mile, as Brackenfall and the burden of responsibility faded and Cape Town’s possibilities emerged.”


Pieter had completed his second tour in the military a year ago. He was an Afrikaner “duty bound to family, God, and country.” But for now, he was on his way to a fancy party hosted by Malcolm Montgomery, “that madcap Englishman.”


Chapter two introduces readers to Audrey Hudson, who just flew in from London to stay for six weeks with Emily Morrison, her friend in Cape Town. Even though Audrey is feeling the effects of jet lag, Emily insists on their attending “the social event of the season. … Everyone who’s anyone will be there. Malcolm Montgomery holds the gayest parties.”


It is at Malcolm’s party that Pieter and Audrey first meet. Readers follow them from this meeting under Cape Town’s white rule, through the transformation, under black rule, to a new life for not only them, but all of South Africa.


The author shares the history of Apartheid and its aftermath though Pieter and Audrey, as well as with other people on both sides of the issues, in such a down-to-earth human experience of it that readers find themselves immersed in the story throughout. This experience stays with them long after finishing the book.


A Note to the Reader after the conclusion speaks of the author’s personal rational for writing this important book. Since the book “blends fact and fiction to create texture and historical perspective…this can make it difficult to discern real events and people from imaginary.” He clarifies this in the note, and then includes a cast of his characters followed by public figures referenced to differentiate the two for the reader. This seamless blending of fact and fiction speaks to the impact of the work.


https://amzn.to/2LYyijo


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Marital Advice to My Grandson, Joel

How to be a husband your wife won’t throw out the window in the middle of the night.

By Peter Davidson

2018

Reviewed by Angie Mangino

Rating: 4 stars




The book title, dedication page, and chapter sections of this book set the tone of the work.


“This book is dedicated to my grandson, Joel, and his wife, Abby, in honor of your marriage.


Abby- you’re perfect as you are – don’t change a thing.

Joel – you’re a guy, and you can use all the advice and wisdom you can get.”


After sharing the hidden truths about marriage, the major sections include: settling into married life, understanding your wife… and other myths, becoming even more exemplary, in it for the long haul, and the magnificent you. 


In each sub-section the author shares a short story to illustrate the advice, many of them from his own marriage, giving them a special significance from grandfather to grandson. Brief quotes stand out that separate the book for added reinforcement, such as…


“As the Marital Bus rumbles down the highway of life, there cannot be two people wrestling for the steering wheel, or surely the bus will crash. Know when it is your turn to drive, and when it is time to quietly sit in the back seat.”


Not every reader will agree that all women enter marriage to change a man, or that all men must hold back to say only what a women wants to hear to not make his life as a married man miserable. While some of the advice may contain outdated stereotypical advice, the main idea of the book is an encouragement of the partnership of marriage and of not taking the relationship for granted. The parts of interpreting “Real Estate Speak” when buying a home, as well as the part of overall sound financial advice, are particularly informative while told in a fun, easily understood way.


Overall, this is book that shows many sides of marriage, with an excellent Winston Churchill quote applied to marriage by the author.


“Never give up, never give up; never, never, never, never quit.” 


Readers will enjoy this book, laughing at the humorous way the author imparts his wisdom about marriage to his grandson, and to them.


https://amzn.to/2ydLI9k


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Hollywood: Hollyweird

By Art Norman, Jr.

2018

Reviewed by Angie Mangino

Rating: 3 stars




Told in short blog-like chapters, with all but one chapter only one to three pages long, the author tells this story of Hollywood with the book title taken from the name of a documentary he was involved with from 2005 until 2009.


“The gist of the documentary was how people survive and make it in Hollywood. Period.”


Chapter 24, which tells of the author’s return to North Carolina, is the longest chapter at six pages. It concludes his Hollywood days from 2002 through 2010. At the end, called “Critical thinking Hollywood,” the author changes to a diary approach with dated entries of thoughts from 8/28/15 to 10/24/15.


The author begins a good account with a parking lot meeting with paparazzi hounded Paris Hilton. The author then follows with a flashback to age five to his meeting his biological Dad in 1996, twenty years later. When the author continues his Hollywood story, however, he does not clearly define the arc of the story, causing some confusion in the reading.


If readers take the time, however, to put together all the colloquial snippets, they will get a clearer picture of this memoir of his experiences in Hollywood.


“If you lose your way briefly, it is always good to follow a blue-eyed blond white person; then you are sure to get back on track. There is so much witchcraft and voodoo going on there that it is unbelievable. … Remember that jealousy and envy are the roots of just about all evil in a place like Hollywood.”


https://amzn.to/2LYwWp8


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Three Shoeboxes

By Steven Manchester

2018

Reviewed by Angie Mangino

Rating: 5 stars


2018

“It was their fifteen–year wedding anniversary.”


Thus begins the story of Mac and Jen Anderson that will capture the hearts of readers. The occasion has Mac pondering what special gift to give Jen.


“In the hopes of being creative or original … Mac …abandoned his mind and ventured into his heart” for gift ideas.


On the day, fifteen long stemmed roses arrived for Jen while Mac was at work with a card that said, “Thank you for fifteen great years, three beautiful children and one incredible life.” When Mac gets home he announces the children will be staying at Jen’s sister’s house, they have dinner reservations, and most importantly, “all night” just for the two of them, a rarity in their busy household with three children.


The night progresses beautifully as Mac had planned, with only one disruption on their way home when they witness a two car accident.


“The windshield of one of the cars has been shattered, half of it now covered in crimson red. That’s a lot of blood, he thought, his own blood turning cold.”


The story builds from this beginning to a place Mac and Jen never could have imaged they arrive. Anxiety attacks mimicking physical distress with the accompanying sense of impending death begin to torture Mac. Then the symptoms disappear, only to recur again and again, stronger and stronger each time they rear their head.


The author brings readers into this uncomfortable and unfamiliar world where Mac, Jen, and their children suffer the consequences of post-traumatic stress disorder. 

Written realistically, this is a portrayal of the inner conflicts, outward expressions, and terrifying confusion within a loving family torn by the unseen demons of PTSD. The author uses fiction to shatter the stigma of mental illness which keeps Mac and Jen trapped and spiraling into unknown territory. Readers will care about this family, remaining engaged through it all by the author’s writing style, until the satisfying, hopeful conclusion.


https://amzn.to/2JS8HrY


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Ashes

By Steven Manchester

2017

Reviewed by Angie Mangino

Rating: 5 stars


2018

Stu Prendergast, a cruel father, raised the brothers Tom and Jason. Tom, the younger of the siblings is a professor. Jason is a sergeant at Southeastern Correctional Center. Letters to both from attorney Russell Norman at the death of their father for the reading of Stu’s will reluctantly unites the estranged brothers.

Even at death the man torments his two sons with conditions tied to their inheritance.


“My final wish is that my two sons, Jason and Thomas, bring my final remains to 1165 Milford Road in Seattle, Washington, where they will spread my ashes…I’ve always been afraid to fly, so I’m asking that I not be transported by airplane, but driven by car.”


The strained road trip to fulfill the conditions of the will have the two men confronting the tangled roads of the past as they struggle to endure the forced confinement.


Readers will find themselves laughing with and crying for the brothers as they witness the many unexpected paths this journey unfurls.


The author’s past books have tapped the human condition in its multifaceted manifestations, pulling readers into the lives and hearts of the protagonists. This book not only does that, but reaches an even deeper fulfilling connection, with its touch of humor that softens the blows of the truth in the unexpected twists along the way.


https://amzn.to/2JZR8dF


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Baffled By Love

By Laurie Kahn

2017

Reviewed by Angie Mangino

Rating: 4 stars



2018


In the introduction the author, a trauma therapist who specializes in the treatment of survivors of childhood abuse, informs readers of the substance of this book.


“When they were children, my clients were abused by someone they believed to be trustworthy – someone who professed to love them. … Love is why they come to therapy. Love is what they want, and love, they report, is not going well.”


In these true stories of her clients, Kahn shows their struggle and resolve to unearth what prevents them from loving and being loved. In writing their story an element of memoir creeps in unexpectedly for the author.


“Yet over time I came to realize that intertwining my own stories with my clients’ was more honest and human. … At times, we are all baffled by love.”


This honesty and humanity gives the book its greatest strength. Readers are not reading clinical problems, but rather are involved with the personal look at the interaction of therapist and clients. By getting to know and relate to the people, perhaps discovering bits of themselves in the process, readers find that they need not be “baffled by love.”



https://amzn.to/2toDE0O


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A Boy from Bustina

By Andrew Burian

2018

Reviewed by Angie Mangino

Rating: 5 stars




2018

A Boy from Bustina is a memoir that addresses the holocaust from such a personal sense of sharing. As the author describes in the prologue:


“This is what happened to me. This is what I saw. There was not one Holocaust. There were six million Holocausts. I am witness.” 


In Part I, An Idyllic Childhood, the only clue of what is to come are the first two sentences.


“How wonderful it is to be a child, that is, if one is allowed to be one. Yes, once upon a time I was a child, a very happy child – but, alas, for a very short time.”


Readers meet Andrew before his 8th birthday with his family in Bustina, Czechoslovakia. The section tells of Bustina, the extended family, their home and his school life.


Part II, End of Childhood, begins with the Hungarian occupation in 1939. This led to wearing yellow stars, to enduring restrictions, and eventually to the family’s deportation. 


Part III, Life or Death, begins with their arrival on June 2, 1944 at Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp. The guards drove the family forward, with loudspeaker instructions for the elderly to keep to the right while the “fit” were to walk to the left. His grandfather and great uncle followed instructions to keep right, the first family separation. Andrew’s mother went with her father and his brother to care for the elderly gentlemen, while Andrew and his brother Tibi went to the left with their father. Before splitting up they hugged, said “tearful ‘temporary’ goodbyes” to be with each other again when the war was over.


When the guards eventually chose Andrew’s father and brother for work detail, they separated the young Andrew, preventing him from staying with them. His father called to his son in Yiddish.


“I have three things to say to you, listen well…keep yourself clean so you don’t get sick; be a mensch (a person of integrity) and don’t let them make an animal of you.”

Now totally alone, Andrew took his father’s parting words to heart, determined to survive to reunite with his family.


In Part IV, Liberation, on May 4, 1945 young Andrew begins his journey home, followed by the epilogue of how his life progressed with a postscript recounting a speech on December 13, 2015 from his three children for his birthday that brings the writing to a resoundingly excellent conclusion.


“You did everything your father asked of you.

You valued home, you lived a clean life and you stayed a mensch.

Your parents would both be very proud.

Moreover, we are very proud.

Happy eighty-fifth birthday Daddy.

We love you.

- Matilda, Saul, and Lawrence”


Family photographs in this well written book add to this testament of Andrew and his family. This is an important book with a far reaching message all of us need to know.


https://amzn.to/2KDNEOi


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Hidden Treasure

By Alice McDowell PhD

2017

Reviewed by Angie Mangino

Rating: 5 stars


2018

“There must be something more…”


“…Well, there is something more – and this book will show in a clear, straightforward way how you can break through those stuck areas of your life so you can find it.”


The author begins on a personal note from her own experience to guide readers into searching for the Hidden Treasure of the something more in our lives if we make the effort to discover it.


All of life experiences contribute to the unique character structure that we show to the world. Yet the structure we present is not our true selves. When we connect to our true selves is when we experience inner peace; but to find this true self takes work.


“Doing this work helps you realize who you are not. Such awareness sends you on a journey to discover who you truly are.”


Using stories from students throughout, the author gives concrete examples that bring the theoretical concepts to life helping readers to better understand them. Images and cartoons further enhance the ideas.


A character structure questionnaire helps highlight chapters that will be most relevant to the reader as the chapters that follow are individually directed to each of the five structures: schizoid, oral, masochist, psychopathic, and rigid.


The author concludes this encouraging book with what to do now, followed by two appendices to help become aware of your idealized self-image, shadow, and true self, and to help with active imagination and inner child work.



https://amzn.to/2yC6cc3

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Memory Warp

How the Myth of Repressed Memory Arose and Refuses to Die

By Mark Pendergrast

2018

Reviewed by Angie Mangino

Rating: 4 stars


2018


In the introduction the author shares the premise, tone, and reason for this book.


“It has been over two decades since I wrote Victims of Memory, an exploration of the debate of the accuracy of so-called repressed or recovered memories of sexual abuse. … Now it is time to revisit it and update this extraordinary phenomenon.”


“I have updated my research on the subject. … The book … is partly a social and cultural history of our recent past, documenting how this incredible juggernaut of pseudoscience and malpractice, which caused so much harm, came to be…. continues to fester … will inevitably cause another major outbreak and damage the lives of additional millions of people if we do not learn from the past.”


The research is intensive. Just the essential sources after the ending chapter numbers a little over three hundred. These include books both critical of and espousing repressed memories and multiple personalities; about false convictions and sex panic; about day care sex abuse panics and leading interviews of children; about memory, the brain, and suggestibility; related to Sigmund Freud; about incest and other abuse; about religion, cults, history and culture; and about psychology and mental illness. The author additionally list Documentaries cited. 


From the introduction of The Return of the Repressed to the ending ninth chapter of Conclusions and Recommendations readers have the opportunity to explore the author’s take on the repressed memories controversy. 


Not a quick read, obviously, since the subject matter is complex, it gives readers the chance to evaluate the subject matter intelligently for themselves.



https://amzn.to/2NmrGw6

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Need More Road

By Stephen Jared

2017

Reviewed by Angie Mangino

Rating: 5 stars


2018

Eddie Howard has lived in same house in the town of Barstow in the Mojave Desert since his birth for nearly fifty years. In 1939 he started his job at the Security Pacific Bank where he now was an assistant manager. Though bored with his job, change was not something Eddie did.


Another more pleasurable routine, escaping through movies, broke the boring routine that was his life. With only one movie house in town, he would watch the same movie tow, or even three times.


“The day had been long and tiring, but Eddie’s energies improved once he showered and threw on a short-sleeve button down shirt. He marched to The Barstow, thinking about how much he loved movies. They were everything to him. They expanded his mind, his vision, put a beat in his heart. What would he ever do without them?”


Readers learn the time setting as the mid-fifties when the movie showing is Written on the Wind, later replaced by A Kiss Before Dying.


One Friday at the bank a change broke its way into Eddie’s life.


“Time seemed to stop, however, when shortly before closing, a woman, clearly from somewhere else, stepped inside…She looked like a movie star. She looked like Marilyn Monroe.”


Listening as she spoke with the manager, Eddie learns she is from Los Angeles and wants to find a home to buy for her father.


That night, as he sat in The Barstow “…he was heavy-hearted, trapped in a cloud of loneliness thanks to a beautiful woman’s three minutes inside the Security Pacific.”


When Mary Rose introduces herself to Eddie at the bank the next day, the man who avoided changes was beginning to want to change, with no inkling at the time of how radical that change would be.


Readers will enjoy the journey in this compelling nostalgic story that rivals Hollywood’s cinemas in its audience satisfaction and involvement in the life of the protagonist.




https://amzn.to/2yzwTOL

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Old Flames and Heroes

By Mord McGhee

2017

Reviewed by Angie Mangino

Rating: 4 stars


2018

Luck, love, and lake monsters play a major role in this adventurous novel which draws in readers as they relate to Oliver.


“Oliver is the most famous boy at Belray Elementary in Bentwood, Pennsylvania.”


He rescued Buddy, the firehouse dog who had fallen through the thin ice, thus becoming a hero.


A little blue sun appears in the sky. Its meaning and its repercussions play an important role in the story.


“It was the sort of magic that followed Oliver around… Oliver doesn’t always understand what he sees and hears, but he has a unique way of pulling it together into his own terms.”


Young readers will enjoy this tale that brims with imagination, transcending the real world in ways only an eleven-year-old can phantom.



https://amzn.to/2MkFVkF

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The Most Hated Man in America

By Mark Pendergrast

2018

Reviewed by Angie Mangino

Rating: 4 stars



2018

In the introduction the author explains his choice of book title by his first sentence.


“Jerry Sandusky, former defensive coordinator of the Penn State football team and now convicted of serial child molestation, is perhaps the most hated man in America.”


He continues, however, to state the book’s premise.


“But what if this compelling story, which has appalled virtually everyone in America, isn’t true?”


Divided into three sections with 23 chapters, endnotes, and a bibliography, this book presents an extensive exploration on all aspects of the circumstances surrounding the accusation. The author explores the allegations against Sandusky, the people who made the charges, the events starting from the public release of the Grand Jury on November 4, 2011 until the June 2012 trial and aftermath. He takes a look at Sandusky through the view of his family, others who knew him, as well as from the man himself in prison interviews.


The author additionally adds information to the Sandusky case from his previous three books on the questionable therapy of repressed memories and how he feels it played a significant part in the condemnation of the man.


Readers can weigh all of the many itemized details of the interrogations, therapies employed, motivations, and quotes from the people involved as they live through the events alongside Jerry Sandusky. From this, readers can form their own conclusion.


https://amzn.to/2BswhM8

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Great Cape O’ Colors

By Karl Beckstrand

2018

Reviewed by Angie Mangino

Rating: 4 stars


2018

Written in both English and Spanish, complete with a Spanish pronunciation guide, this book is book four in the Careers for Kids series. With children dressed in costumes depicting different jobs, it speaks to and encourages bilingual learning, colors, and careers. 


Illustrations by John Collado capture reader interest in this simple story exploring job options with children dressed in capes of splendid colors. 


The capes of many colors worn in the illustrations teach colors through attracting children’s interest. A color wheel showing the use of both the primary colors, as well as the other colors one attains from their mix in the capes enhances the educational value. In this look at different careers, exploration of occupations of other cultures adds diversity while encouraging interest and understanding.


The author includes online extras at the end increasing the value of this book primarily for ages three to seven.



https://amzn.to/2MSbs1f


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The Case of the Ex Who Plotted Revenge

By Georgann Prochaska

2017

Reviewed by Angie Mangino

Rating: 5 stars


2018

This third mystery in the Snoopypuss series earns yet another five star rating, something this reviewer does not give out indiscriminately.


In The Case of the Girl Who Didn’t Smile, the first mystery, Lena Vincenti discovers and reads a child’s diary stuffed in a doll, and immediately calls her friend Alice Tricklebank. The two retired widows decide to take a road trip, determined to unravel the mystery uncovered.


Next in The Case of the Hound Who Didn’t Stay clues from the past intermingle with those in the present, as readers meet Audrey, a bloodhound Alice adopted, after someone dumped her in Alice’s small town of Limekiln.


Now in The Case of the Ex Who Plotted Revenge Phil Greer, Lena’s ex-husband, is out of jail and back in Limekiln looking for revenge against three people: his ex-partner, Lena, both for not lying to keep him out of jail, and Alice who he resented for not keeping her “snoopy puss” out of his business. 


To her credit, the author provides just enough background in this third mystery of the series to allow readers to enjoy this as a stand-alone story, while satisfying previous readers with a continuation of previous stories with the focus now on Phil.

“Phil Greer walked out the prison door with all the swagger a man in his sixties could call up… His bones ached from sleeping in prison beds for forty months… Someone needs to pay for my years of missed opportunities.”


The author’s excellent descriptions, enriched characterizations, and realistic dialogue keep readers involved in the absorbing mystery.


https://amzn.to/2MPi5ym


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The Brutal Illusion

By Stephen Jared

2017

Reviewed by Angie Mangino

Rating: 4 stars




2018

The Brutal Illusion

By Stephen Jared

2017

Reviewed by Angie Mangino

Rating: 4 stars


Readers meet twenty-three year old Allyson Rockwell as she dresses to go to watch the stars arrive at a premiere on Hollywood Boulevard for her last night in Los Angeles. A year ago she had come from Indiana to become an actress. Now with her money depleted she reluctantly, but practically, plans to go back home.


A chance encounter in the crowd with Lenny Carson has him leading her through the confusion of people and ultimately to Mr. Laemmle, the top production man at Universal. After the two men rattled on about mutual acquaintances, Mr. Laemmle began to take his leave for another appointment.


“Stepping around his desk, he faced Allyson and right then and there changed her life forever with a simple question. ‘How about tomorrow?’”


With that he gave a contract for seventy-five dollars per week to her and the instruction to report the next day as an actress.


“’I’m so happy Lenny,’” she told him. “’Meeting you was the best thing that ever happened to me. You’re the most wonderful man in the whole world.’”


Is he, or is this the beginning of something she couldn’t ever imagine?


Her friendship with a young writer at the studio develops during the story, eventually intersecting with her life with Lenny.


Readers will follow this path with her, caught up in the excitement, intrigue, and sadness of this quick moving, but impacting read.


https://amzn.to/2NeAn01

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The Brutal Illusion

By Stephen Jared

2017

Reviewed by Angie Mangino

Rating: 4 stars




2018

Quick and the Dead

By Susan Moody

2017

Reviewed by Angie Mangino

Rating: 5 stars


In this first book of the Alex Quick Mystery Series, Alex, a former police detective, at the age of 33 ruminates of being “in danger of becoming a maiden aunt,” unlike her business partner, Dr. Helena Drummond, who at 50 as art historian and university professor, lives a vibrant life, albeit with somewhat of a mysterious past.


“My mobile buzzed. Quick here, I said.


‘Alex, darling.’ It was Dr. Helena Drummond, my collaborator. My friend. And, in several ways, my savior.


‘Hi, Helena!’ I couldn’t help smiling. It was the effect she always had on me.”

They spoke of their appointment with a publisher at 10:30 the next morning, as well as Helena’s evening social plans.


“’And don’t be late,’ Alex warned her.


‘I won’t be – unless I’m kidnapped or something,’ Helena said, going on to repeat once more that she was being stalked.


Since Helena tended to be dramatic my flippant reply was to ‘Tell him to come back the day after tomorrow.”


When on the next day Helena did not show at the appointment, nor answer her phone, Alex regretted not taking Helena more seriously.


Readers will find this mystery literate, witty, and intriguing, as it challenges them to decipher the events that uncover many of Helen’s past secrets in this complex plot.


https://amzn.to/2K1DpCY


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The Brutal Illusion

By Stephen Jared

2017

Reviewed by Angie Mangino

Rating: 4 stars




2018

Coming soon on Kindle: 


Everyday Joy is a Community Book project of 98 contributions from the heart put together by Lead Editor Donna Kozik. 


It’s with joy that I share that my essay “Finding Joy” is in it.



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