Good day, my bookish peeps. As I’ve often said in the past, I’m an eclectic reader. I enjoy reading nonfiction and fiction, as well as short stories, essays, graphic novels, novels, etc. If it’s an interesting read, then chances are I’m going to read it. This is just one of the reasons why I’m pleased to welcome today’s guest, Bill Fentress, author of The Yellow Honeysuckle is the Sweetest, a collection of of 14 short stories about family and more. Mr. Fentress will be piquing our interest a bit with his essay “My Best Day Ever.” I sincerely hope you’ll enjoy it, grab a copy of The Yellow Honeysuckle is the Sweetest, and follow this blog tour to learn more about this book and author. Thank you, Mr. Fentress, for joining us today and a special thank you for sharing this essay.

My Best Day Ever
by Bill Fentress

I suppose one of my identifiers now is “author.” So, perhaps this post should revolve around my best day ever as a writer…or perhaps as an author? I thoroughly enjoy writing, especially when I am on a roll. But my best day ever had nothing to do with writing. It was June 19, 2003.

That day started in the spring of 2002 when my wife, Susan, and I met with doctors in Chapel Hill, NC. After trying to have a baby with no success, we had been referred to those doctors by Susan’s OB-GYN. It had been determined that our best bet was to find out if we were candidates for in-vitro. I can still remember my discussion with Susan in her office the day we got the last of the initial tests back from her local doctor. She worked on the floor just below me in the same office building. We had been expecting tests results that day and they had indeed been delivered to her over the phone. “Well, what did the doctor say?” I asked, closing her office door behind me, anticipating there to be some fertility problem with her that we would just have to workaround. “Actually, there is an issue with you, baby,” she relayed, with a regretful glance up from her desk. I will never forget that surprised, stunned, sickening feeling that engulfed me as I looked into her hopeful eyes. Me? I thought. “What is the problem?” I asked – still reeling. She continued to explain our issue and told me that our best bet, according to the local doctor, was to visit Chapel Hill and talk to their specialists.

The next week, we drove to Chapel Hill and met with one of their top fertility doctors and his assistant. He was very informative and encouraging – frank, but supportive. We spent roughly an hour and a half in the meeting, sitting across a conference table from him. The entire time, my banker soul was wanting to know the bottom line…the odds…will the deal work? “I feel really good about your chances,” he told us, as he leaned forward over the table, his relaxed mannerisms soothing our internal nervousness.

“Doctor,” I said. “I deal in loans every day, and percentages. Exactly, what does ‘good chances’ mean?” In my cash flow and debt service-warped mind, I was thinking…It’s got to be 93-100%…surely. “Oh, your odds are very good with this particular procedure. I would say approximately 35%.” That news hit me and Susan worse than the original news regarding our situation. I remember feeling stunned, like I had just been in a car accident. Not hurt…just shocked by what I had heard. I regrouped. “Thirty-five percent? Why so low?” Yep, I had to ask. “Well, what you need to understand is this procedure just gets you up to nature’s normal percentages that guide whether anyone gets pregnant. And typically, there is only about a 35% chance you will get pregnant at any given time. But I feel your chances are excellent for success. Take all the time you need to think about it. Here are our numbers. Call and ask for me when you are ready to talk further. I am available at any time. I will do anything to help.”

I don’t remember saying goodbye. I don’t remember walking out the door. I don’t remember hitting the elevator button or riding down to the lobby. I was still shocked by the car accident around that conference table. I don’t recall anything until we got to the walkway heading toward the parking deck just across Manning Drive from UNC-Chapel Hill Hospital. I looked over at my equally stunned, but stalwart bride. “What do you think?” I ventured first, as we walked in step heading toward our car. The air in my college town did not feel as light as it had 20 years earlier, or even 2 hours before the conclusion of our consultation. “I’m not sure we really have a choice,” Susan replied. She looked over at me, wanting my opinion, and hoping I felt the same. We locked eyes and I knew then we would go for it. “I agree. If we want a child, let’s roll with it.” That was it. No looking back. Our heads were down, and we were set, like plow mules turning into the next row. And we continued a vigil that had started months earlier…and would continue months later. We prayed together every night…asking God to give us the gift of a child.

We started in-vitro in September 2002. It consisted of regimented shots leading up to the all-important conception procedure. Then we spent an agonizing 2 weeks waiting to take the most important test of our lives. I will never forget a nurse friend of ours telling us we did not have to wait until Friday for the blood test. She said a pregnancy test on Wednesday would let us know…if we wanted to know. We discussed it and could not wait any longer. Susan put the strip on the kitchen table and took a seat in her chair in the den. We both prayed…and sat there…every emotion in our bodies at a precipice. After the prescribed time, I looked at her and she nodded. I’ve had many important walks in my life: down the aisle (twice), graduations, getting up to speak in front of hundreds, and walking over to the first pretty girl out of my league that I asked to dance, in front of my buddies. None were as nervous as that 30-foot walk to the kitchen. I looked down at the strip. I picked it up, blinked, and re-blinked.

“How dark do the lines have to be?” I asked. “It doesn’t matter. If there are 2 lines, I’m pregnant,” came Susan’s hidden plea. I looked again…and blinked again. There they were…one was faint…but there were two lines – one bolder than the other. “Well, I see 2 lines!”

Susan ran into the kitchen screaming the whole way. She grabbed the strip and looked at me with the happiest tears I’ve ever seen. We hugged for a long time. That is a hug everybody should have right there. We just about wore out that two-line strip, picking it up and looking at it until late into the night…only beginning to anticipate our dreams. I’ve not cried and smiled simultaneously many times in my life…that was one night I did.

Sarah Elizabeth was one of eight eggs that were fertilized, and one of 4 that were implanted. “You were one of eight,” we tell her. And she was born June 19, 2003. The best day of my life. By far. ♦

The Yellow Honeysuckle is the Sweetest

by Bill Fentress

March 14 – April 8, 2022 Virtual Book Tour



The Yellow Honeysuckle is the Sweetest by Bill Fentress

THE YELLOW HONEYSUCKLE IS THE SWEETEST is a salute by the author to a lifetime of outdoor experiences in eastern North Carolina and beyond. It encompasses 14 true short stories about family, friendships, and the emotions involved in hunting, fishing, and other outdoor-related topics. It is not a how-to book, nor just a compilation of hunting and fishing stories; it describes how simple family and personal interactions, with the outdoor sports and unmatched natural beauty as a backdrop, can result in treasured memories like perhaps no other pursuits.

If you hunt and fish, or grew up enjoying histories of family traditions and friendships revolving around the outdoors – whether it be in North Carolina, or elsewhere – THE YELLOW HONEYSUCKLE IS THE SWEETEST is for you.

Book Details

Genre: Sports, (as in Hunting and Fishing), Nature, Family, Memoir
Published by: Indie
Publication Date: February 3, 2022
Number of Pages: 257
ISBN: 979-8-9855598-1-1
Purchase Links: Amazon | Goodreads

Here’s a word from our author:

Author Bio:

Bill Fentress

Bill Fentress is a retired banker and current Finance Officer in eastern North Carolina. A current resident of New Bern, NC, Bill grew up in Pamlico County, North Carolina, where many of his hunting and fishing experiences in The Yellow Honeysuckle is the Sweetest take place. He has enjoyed nature’s beauty and God’s gifts of family and the outdoors throughout his lifetime, in North Carolina and elsewhere.

Learn More About Bill Online:
Facebook – @billfentressauthor

Tour Host Participants:

Visit these other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and giveaways!


This is a giveaway hosted by Providence Book Promotions for Bill Fentress. See the widget for entry terms and conditions. Void where prohibited.

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2020 Book 81: THAT CAN BE ARRANGED by Huda Fahmy

That Can Be Arranged: A Muslim Love Story by Huda Fahmy
ISBN: 9781524856229 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781524861964 (ebook)
ASIN: B084DL8K2R  (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing
Publication Date: March 10, 2020

Chaperones, suitors, and arranged marriages aren’t only reserved for the heroines of a Jane Austen novel. They’re just another walk in the park for this leading lady, who is on a mission to find her leading lad. From the brilliant comics Yes, I’m Hot in This, Huda Fahmy tells the hilarious story of how she met and married her husband. Navigating mismatched suitors, gossiping aunties, and societal expectations for Muslim women, That Can Be Arranged deftly and hilariously reveals to readers what it can be like to find a husband as an observant Muslim woman in the twenty-first century.

So relevant in today’s evolving cultural climate, Fahmy’s story offers a perceptive and personal glimpse into the sometimes sticky but ultimately rewarding balance of independent choice and tradition.

Purchase Links: #CommissionEarned   IndieBound  |  Amazon  |  Amazon Kindle  |  Barnes & Noble  |  B&N Nook Book  |  BookDepository  |  Books-A-Million  |  Books-A-Million eBook  |  eBooks  |  !ndigo  |  Kobo eBook

Imagine you’re a twenty-something-year-old female in a conservative Muslim American family. You’re not allowed to date and you’re not really interested in dating, but you are interested in getting married. (Certain Muslim cultures just don’t allow for dating y’all, get over it.) All of your friends are getting married. Your sisters are getting married. You, on the other hand, are not. This was Huda Fahmy’s life. Huda wasn’t seeking an “arranged marriage” per se, but she was looking for something akin to the marriages found in Jane Austen novels. As a matter of fact, she actually refers to Jane Austen novels in her search for the perfect husband. Muslims (and other cultures) prepare a dossier or “biodata” that is used to “match” compatible couples when all else fails, and at this point in Huda’s life, all else had pretty much failed (or had it). What is in this “biodata” you ask? Ms. Fahmy provides the perfect definition in her book:

“biodata (noun): personal information about one’s life, work, family, personality, goals, financial status, values, beliefs, health history, favorite Pokémon, and other preferences about things both religious and secular. Think super-detailed Tinder profile, except instead of dating, they’d get married.”

That Can Be Arranged: A Muslim Love Story is a quick read but one that had me laughing out loud, choking on my chai, and bookmarking pages to return and read later. Any author/artist that can reference Jane Austen, J.K. Rowling, and Pokémon in one book is beyond amazing in my opinion. Huda’s quest and it was a quest, for a husband was rife with hilarity. Although I know her story ended well (I follow her on social media), I was beginning to believe she might actually become a single cat lady at one point. (Hey, there’s nothing wrong with being single or owning cats). She pokes fun at the meddling aunties (trust me, read the book and you’ll understand this reference) and the variety of suitors she encounters throughout her quest. I cheered when she met Gehad and achieved her happily ever after, this is a love story, it says so in the title! FYI, this isn’t every Muslims’ story but it is one specific Muslimah’s story of growing up in this country and her quest to find love and get married within the bounds of her religious beliefs. Ms. Fahmy tells her story with style, grace, respect for the religion, and quite a bit of humor. Although this graphic novel/memoir discusses bits of Muslim culture and the Islamic faith, this is a book that can be read and appreciated by any reader. If you’re into graphic novels, memoirs, humor, or just want a quick read, I strongly encourage you to grab a copy of That Can Be Arranged: A Muslim Love Story by Huda Fahmy to read. If you can’t tell, I thoroughly enjoyed That Can Be Arranged: A Muslim Love Story and will be re-reading again in the near future. I look forward to reading more from Ms. Fahmy in the future.

Happy Reading y’all! 

Disclaimer: I received a free digital review copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book Spotlight: THE REILLY THANKSGIVING INVITATIONAL STORY by Brent Parrott and Bryan Renfro

The Reilly Thanksgiving Invitational Story by Brent Parrot and Bryan Renfro Stewart
ISBN: 9781697180015 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781697180015 (ebook – PDF format)
ASIN: B07YN7HYDH (Kindle edition)
Publisher: The RTI Story
Release Date: October 14, 2019

In 1960, on the front lawn of an elementary school in North East Dallas, a tradition was born. A group of seventh-grade boys captured the free time before Thanksgiving dinner to engage in a game of touch football. It was a good day to play. So good, in fact, that the game would resume each year at the same time in the same place.

Through the ebb and flow of lives, loves, and responsibilities, the Reilly Thanksgiving Invitational (RTI) continued for five decades. With my good friend Bryan Renfro, we have collaborated to memorialize and reminisce about our lives, the times, the game, and the traditions. The story is chronicled through text, photos, videos, and links; over 200 links 200 photos and 42 invitations.

The Reilly Thanksgiving Invitational Story offers a first-hand glimpse into an era long past and captures the essence of tradition, friendship, life lessons, history, culture, the ups and downs, happiness, and sadness for those lost, over decades.  Today, Alzheimer’s has touched most of the 22 members and a portion of the book proceeds will be donated to Alzheimer’s research.

Purchase Links:  IndieBound  |  Amazon  |  Amazon Kindle  

More about this book

Thanksgiving Team Picture – Old Team
Thanksgiving Team Picture – Bryan Renfro

For more than a half-century, a group of friends from Texas assembled to play touch football each Thanksgiving Day morning on the front lawn of their old elementary school. As the men aged, their determination and love of the game stayed strong. After the final game in 2009, reporter John  Anders noted:

“They arrived on walkers and in iron lungs…Grandchildren would drop them off and perhaps stay behind to serve as stretcher-bearers following the conflict.”

Team leaders Brent Parrott and Bryan Renfro collaborated to memorialize and reminisce about this incredible 50-year tradition, their lives, the times, and the game, in the book The Reilly Thanksgiving Invitational Story.

“(This Book) captures the era of growing up in the 50s and 60s with sensitivity and humor. Baby Boomers are a distinct group who experienced a large variety of social, political, and historical events and changes. We all can identify with the angst and joys of our teenage years…I recommend this fun coming-of-age read to anyone.” — Neilia West (Reviewer)

Meet the authors

Brent Parrott and Bryan Renfro
BRENT PARROTT is a writer, former technology executive, and teacher, and currently serves as Board Chairman for the charter schools of Pioneer Technology & Arts Academy. With his life-long friend, Bryan Renfro, he is the co-author of The Reilly Thanksgiving Invitational Story, a memoir about a group of friends who kept an annual touch football game going for 50 straight years.

He is also the author of two new books scheduled for publication in 2020, Jackpot: The Summer of ’69 and What Would You Do? What Would You Not Do? Brent and his wife Robyn (that’s right, two bird names) spend as much time as possible with their daughter Brynn, son-in-law Jacob, and two amazing grandsons. He has always lived, worked, and played in Dallas, Texas.

BRYAN RENFRO graduated in 1970 from the University of Texas at Arlington and was drafted into the Army the following year during the Viet Nam war. He was the editor and sports writer for Sound Off, the base’s newspaper in Fort Meade, Maryland. His work life followed an untraditional path for the times as he experienced a mix of endeavors through the years, including the furniture importing business.

For five decades, he served as the organizer and “Commissioner” of an annual Thanksgiving touch football game in Dallas, Texas. Known locally as the Turkey Bowl, Bryan chronicled his experiences in the book, The Reilly Thanksgiving Invitational Story, with co-author Brent Parrott. The 400-page memoir was published for the game’s 60th anniversary in 2019. Today, Bryan lives in Dallas with his wife LaDonna and enjoys bible study, photography, his woodshop, and nurturing long-time friendships.

Connect with the authors via Facebook or their website

This spotlight brought to you by Farrow Communications

Guest Post: Gary McAvoy – AND EVERY WORD IS TRUE

Hello, my bookish peeps. I hope everyone has had a wonderful week and, perhaps, time to read some wonderful books. I’m always fascinated by what draws an author to a particular subject matter. Or more simply put, why that book is written that way? With fiction, the answer can be quite convoluted, but we generally expect the answer to be simplistic when dealing with nonfiction. I don’t know why since reality is often anything but simple and often convoluted with stories within stories and intrigues within intrigues. Author Gary McAvoy deals with just that scenario when faced with the possibility of purchasing and researching the records of one of the key investigators in the infamous Kansas murders that led to Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood. Read what Mr. McAvoy has to say about his journey to becoming an “accidental” author in today’s guest post. Thank you, Mr. McAvoy, for stopping by and sharing this information with us. I’m looking forward to reading And Every Word Is True to learn more behind the scenes details in this investigation and I hope you’ll be putting this book on your TBR list.

Gary McAvoy

Though I’ve been writing professionally, on and off, for some 30 years, I had no plans to even start the book I’ve just finished. It wasn’t until the State of Kansas sued me—to prevent making public the research I obtained—that the thought even occurred to me. And then, I couldn’t not write it.

As a dealer in rare literary manuscripts and other historical memorabilia, I was approached in 2012 by the son of Harold Nye, a former special agent for the Kansas Bureau of Investigation and the lead field investigator for the 1959 Clutter family murders, a case made famous by Truman Capote in his bestselling book In Cold Blood. The younger Nye was looking to sell his father’s signed books and handwritten letters from Capote in order to meet family medical expenses, the type of transaction dealers like me encounter often.

When the State learned of the pending auction of Agent Nye’s personal archives, however, they went ballistic, issuing a cease and desist order—one I was not about to comply within the normal course of legitimate business—which quickly morphed into a lawsuit. Beyond the books and letters, Nye’s personal journals and investigative field notes of the notorious murders of a Kansas farmer and his family were interesting enough at first glance, I thought, but hardly seemed the type of material a state government would sue over to gain protective custody.

That type of extreme action made me more curious as to what I was actually in possession of, so I dove into a deep pile of research lasting six years, discovering in the process that while Capote’s book told a gripping tale exceedingly well, there was another, more sinister reality to the investigation that hadn’t been made public—one that appeared to have been the State’s urgent target of suppression.

Having ultimately prevailed in that litigation when the Court ruled in our favor—affirming our First Amendment right to publish—I came to realize this was much more than a simple auction of memorabilia. This was potentially a book of historical literary import. But I did not want it to be a take-down of an important and treasured American work (although, as a byproduct, I did uncover an abundance of erroneous or contrived material in Capote’s work). No, this book needed to set the record straight in a story that had been read and deeply believed by millions of readers worldwide for over fifty years—no small task.

Surprisingly, more than one publisher we approached with early versions of the book while finding its content and premise fascinating, responded: “We don’t want to be the house that brings down an American classic…”! That was hardly the intention of the book, but clearly, my work was cut out for me. That’s when I chose the path of an indie author, and never looked back.

To have “fallen in” to a topic I normally wouldn’t have been drawn to was one thing. But, as we learned from the bullying tactics of a well-funded legal opponent, backing down when we were in the right would have been unconscionable. Faced with a do or die moment, we took the high road, won the day, and have published a book that will stand the test of time. And, after all, every word is true.

Author Bio:

Gary McAvoy

Gary McAvoy is a veteran technology executive, entrepreneur, and lifelong writer. For several years he was also a literary media escort in Seattle, during which time he worked with hundreds of authors promoting their books—most notably Dr. Jane Goodall, with whom Gary later collaborated on “Harvest for Hope: A Guide to Mindful Eating” (Hachette, 2005).

Gary is also a professional collector of rare literary manuscripts and historical letters and books, a passion that sparked the intriguing discoveries leading up to his latest book, And Every Word Is True (Literati Editions, March 2019), a revealing look at startling new disclosures about the investigation surrounding the 1959 Clutter family murders, heinous crimes chillingly portrayed in Truman Capote’s “In Cold Blood.” And Every Word Is True pulls back the curtain for a suspenseful encore to Capote’s classic tale, adding new perspectives to an iconic American crime.

Catch Up With Gary McAvoy On:, Goodreads, BookBub, Twitter, & Facebook!

And Every Word Is True by Gary McAvoy Banner

And Every Word Is True

by Gary McAvoy

on Tour April 1 – May 31, 2019


And Every Word Is True by Gary McAvoy

Truman Capote’s bestselling book “In Cold Blood” has captivated worldwide audiences for over fifty years. It is a gripping story about the consequences of a trivial robbery gone terribly wrong in a remote village of western Kansas.

But what if robbery was not the motive at all, but something more sinister? And why would the Kansas Bureau of Investigation press the Attorney General to launch a ruthless four-year legal battle to prevent fresh details of the State’s most famous crime from being made public, so many years after the case had been solved?

Based on stunning new details discovered in the personal journals and archives of former KBI Director Harold Nye—and corroborated by letters written by Richard Hickock, one of the killers on Death Row—

And Every Word Is True meticulously lays out a vivid and startling new view of the investigation, one that will keep readers on the edge of their seats as they pick up where Capote left off. Even readers new to the story will find themselves drawn into a spellbinding forensic investigation that reads like a thriller, adding new perspectives to the classic tale of an iconic American crime.

Sixty years after news of the 1959 Clutter murders took the world stage, And Every Word Is True pulls back the curtain for a suspenseful encore to the true story of “In Cold Blood.”

Book Details:

Genre: True Crime, Memoir
Published by: Literati Editions
Publication Date: March 4, 2019
Number of Pages: 310
ISBN: 978-0-9908376-0-2 (HB); 978-0-9908376-1-9 (PB)

Purchase Links: Amazon Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | Goodreads

Tour Participants:

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Enter To Win!:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Gary McAvoy. There will be four (4) giveaway winners.  One winner will receive one (1) Gift Card and three (3) winners will receive one (1) print copy of And Every Word Is True by Gary McAvoy (Open to U.S. addresses only). The giveaway begins on April 1, 2019, and runs through June 2, 2019. Void where prohibited.

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Book Showcase: QUILT OF SOULS by Phyllis Lawson

Quilt of Souls by Phyllis Lawson 
ISBN: 9781507789759 (paperback)
ASIN: B00V8QTPXS (Kindle edition)
Publication date: March 13, 2015 

Like many Black Americans of the mid-twentieth century, Phyllis Lawson’s parents moved from their hometown of Livingston, Alabama to the big city in search of a better life. It wasn’t long before hardships left them unable to provide.

Soon, four-year-old Phyllis is plucked off her front porch, ripped away from the only family she knows and sent to live with her grandmother Lula on an Alabama farm with no electricity, plumbing, or running water.

Heartbroken by her mother’s abandonment, Phyllis struggles to acclimate to her new surroundings. Thanks to the unconditional love of Grandma Lula and the healing powers of an old, tattered quilt, she is finally able to adjust to her new life.

In Quilt of Souls, Lawson documents her childhood growing up with the incredible woman who raised her and the powerful family heirloom that served as the cloth that would forever stitch their lives together.

With its tales of family, despair, freedom and hope, the true story behind this deeply personal memoir serves as the inspiration for, where individuals share relics and stories from their own family histories.

Read an excerpt: 


There were some deep and troubled times during the 1940s and 50s when many Blacks made the long trek north to large American cities in search of better living conditions. Once they got established and began having babies, hardships arose. They’d end up sending a child or two down south to live with grandparents; grandparents they might never had met before. Just like that, a young’un would be plucked off their front porch, out of the only family they knew and without explanation, left on the doorstep of virtual strangers. Sometimes these children didn’t return north until they were teenagers. Sometimes they never returned.

I was one of these “Grandma’s other babies;” four years old taken from my home and driven sixteen hours down the road in a car full of strangers, to a house in the middle of nowhere, with grandparents I never met before. I was abandoned. No way around it. The stigma of being given away followed me around for many years, like a lost puppy nipping at my heels.

It took my grandmother’s love and an old, tattered quilt to repair my self-esteem and return me to wholeness. She was responsible for preparing me to overcome a myriad of obstacles, and tilled the soil for my resiliency. She built me a solid foundation as I prepared to face an uncertain and harsh future over the next twenty years.

Grandma Lula told me stories of the amazing, and often tragic lives of her loved ones as she wove pieces of their clothing into quilts she made by hand. I sat and listened intensely. I connected with those people whose stories and souls were transformed into a patchwork of healing with every pull of the thread. I knew one day I’d retell them as Grandma Lula conveyed them to me.

I may have long since forgotten the first time I rode a bike, received my first kiss, or got my driver’s license, but I never forgot Grandma’s stories of the Quilt of Souls. They stitched my broken heart back together and healed my life.

Those heroic grandmothers of the 1950s and 60s have been passed over by history. No notice has been taken of how they toiled to raise grandchildren who were left on their doorsteps: the endless hours of changing diapers and drying the tears of those young children who were considered surplus. Like other grandmothers from her era, Grandma Lula was a pioneer, a symbol of hope who found alternative ways to soften the horrors of racism and bigotry. She made beautiful quilts as a way for people to refocus their gaze from the ugliness. Even if only temporarily. She was an impenetrable wall that weathered all the storms of life. Through her, I learned the meaning of unconditional love. She was my rock. She taught me everything I needed to know about life, including all its twists and turns. She solidified my ability to conquer any roadblock that stood before me. I can’t stop thinking about the stories of those people whose clothes were embedded into her quilts. Their lives interrupted, cut short, and the children who suffered and died needlessly.

Years later, I know these stories are what carried me through the most difficult periods of my life including, emotional and physical abuse and homelessness. The days of quilting with Grandma became a period of transformation for me. The pillars of our culture are those unwavering grandmothers who held up, and continue to hold up, multitudes of children and families. The debt of gratitude I owe these women who loved me so completely is one that can never be repaid. I honor them by embodying the lessons they taught me.

Meet the author:

Ms. Lawson was born in Detroit, Michigan. At the age of four, she was sent to the tiny town of Livingston, Alabama to be raised by her grandmother Lula Horn (1883-1986), who made beautiful quilts out of the clothing of her loved ones. Each strip of fabric tells the story of the wearer’s life and death. She shared these mostly tragic and sometimes witty tales with little Phyllis as she sewed their clothes into a quilt that threaded broken lives back together. Ms. Lawson now shares these profound stories with the world as Grandmother Lula told them to her.

After graduating from High School, Ms. Lawson joined the United States Air Force as a WAF (Women’s Air Force) and was one of the first female B-52 mechanics. She served one tour in the Air Force and left the service in 1978. She used her military educational benefits to attend the University of Maryland, receiving a Bachelor’s of Arts Degree in Sociology and Social Work. She spent twenty years working as a counselor for incarcerated youth, women who were victims of domestic violence, and with youth and adults suffering from alcohol/substance abuse. Three of those years were spent in the United States Army Reserves.

Following a seventeen-year break in 2002, Ms. Lawson returned to the military as a member of the U.S. Army National Guard and Active Duty Service, retiring from the U.S Army in 2013. After retiring from the military, Ms. Lawson spent the following two years writing her memoir Quilt of Souls, released March 13, 2015. Ms. Lawson currently resides in Viera/Suntree, Florida with her husband Larry. She has two sons and five granddaughters.

Connect with the author:

Website   |   Facebook   |   Twitter   |   LinkedIn   |   Amazon   |   Goodreads 

Buy the Book

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PrintQuilt of Souls

PrintQuilt of Souls


Non Fiction – Memoir – Self Help – Breast Cancer
Date Published: August 2013

 photo add-to-goodreads-button_zpsc7b3c634.png

Readers can delve into the breast cancer journey and beyond in Losing the Girls, a unique memoir differentiated by the author’s cutting-edge nipple-sparing mastectomy (NSM)—a little-known breast cancer surgery technique that leaves the breast completely whole.  Shirley Alarie shares her story to boost awareness of this specialized procedure, which is only offered at select hospitals.  She believes that women facing mastectomies deserve to know all of their options. 

Shirley found that the biggest challenge of her life began with a convoluted breast cancer diagnosis; and then there was the overwhelming array of surgery options.  Mastectomy or lumpectomy?  Single mastectomy or double?  Reconstruction or no reconstruction?  She worried about making the right choice and how her decision would affect her both in the short and long term.  How would it affect her marriage? W as it crazy to choose a hospital three hours from home?

After the surgery, Shirley’s determination to beat the cancer triggered a lifestyle transformation that resulted in a stronger, more empowered woman.  Her deep faith in God and her peace with the afterlife helped shape her response to this life-changing ordeal with cancer—and the love and support of an amazing posse of family and friends, along with a liberal dose of humor and hope, pulled her through the darkness and back into the warm, sunny light.

Losing the Girls is a powerful and uplifting book for every woman—and the people who love them—to read.

What others have said:

As I read ‘Losing the Girls- My Journey Through Nipple Sparring Mastectomy and Beyond’, I was touched by Ms. Alarie’s honesty, humor and spirit that shone through her written words. I cried, laughed and at times held my breath as she took the necessary steps to face her fears and come out the other side of the journey, strong and healthy. Ms. Alarie faced the gut wrenching reality of hearing – you have breast cancer, and now she is a survivor sharing her story with the world. A must read. Lucinda Race

What a fantastic read! From the very first pages Shirley opens up and gives honest glimpses of her life to her readers. Knowing she has a family history does little to take the sting out of her diagnosis. The way she deals with her tests, results, doctor visits and eventual surgery is truly an inspiration for any woman dealing with this disease. Along with writing about her emotional journey, Shirley shares with her readers all the information she has gained from researching breast cancer and what she has learned through her support system of Drs., nurses and the like. Great knowledge for anyone who many deal with breast cancer themselves or have a family member go through it. I found her reliance on God through her ordeal comforting and inspiring. Any reader will feel that they’ve gained a friend by the end. P Walker


Non Fiction – Memoir – Self Help – Breast Cancer
Date Published: July 2014

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Lovey’s nightmare has begun. She’s been thrust into a terrifying and confusing journey, joining the nearly 250,000 women who will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year. If Lovey is fortunate, she has an excellent support team, also known as Angels. The Road Paved in Pink: A Practical and Personal Guide for Breast Cancer Patients and Their Loved Ones offers Lovey and her Angels the comprehensive guidance needed to withstand the challenges ahead.

Readers will be empowered by the love and support of the many others who have already traveled the same bumpy road.

The Road Paved in Pink is offered with a unique “Pay it Forward” program designed to reach as many people in need as possible. By request via her website, Shirley Alarie will provide a free book to people recently affected by breast cancer, with the stipulation that they forward it to someone else in need when they are finished with it, and so on.

If someone agrees to take a booklet from the Pay it Forward program, they will be asked to sign in to the website and log their first name and location, so we can watch the books travel around the country – and hopefully, the world!

Request a copy of The Road Paved in Pink – Pay it Forward Program at the following link:

What others have said:

This is a very worthwhile read. The author does an excellent job of giving useful information that is very understandable, which doesn’t always happen in the medical field. She is able to tell her story as well as provide the reader with an understanding of the many choices available for their own journey. Also a great guide for families and friends to help them be helpful in what can be a truly difficult time. P Walker

A moving and to the point awesome guide. If you don’t know someone with breast cancer odds are in your lifetime you will. Have this book on hand, everyone involved will need it, as will you. Twenty seven years ago my mother had her first breast removed only to have the other one worked on seven years later. I was there, so wish I had this guide. I have it now and have already highlighted my “talking points”, when I’m faced with being an angel for someone. Marion Brenan

About the Author

I spent the first twenty years of my career in an industrial manufacturing environment, running around the hamster wheel as fast as my legs would carry me. My breast cancer diagnosis jammed on the brakes and forced me to put life in perspective. My journey since breast cancer has been focused on making a positive difference in the world. Stepping off the hamster wheel has brought greater harmony to me and my home. My husband and furry baby appreciate that the “Crazy Lady” of the house is gone and a more “Mellow Mama” has taken her place.

My writing adventure began with Losing the Girls: My Journey Through Nipple-Sparing Mastectomy and Beyond, my memoir, written with the intention to entertain as well as spread awareness of nipple-sparing mastectomy (NSM). My website identifies some of the hospitals that perform this surgery, through the “What is NSM?” and “Where is NSM?” links.

My follow-up, The Road Paved in Pink: A Practical and Personal Guide for Breast Cancer Patients and Their Loved Ones serves to heighten awareness of reconstruction options, among other key topics specific to a breast cancer challenge. I am thrilled to offer the “Pay it Forward” program in conjunction with this book promotion.

Another tool I’ve created to help further the awareness of breast cancer surgery options is a free 11-minute video that describes and shows the various options. Since studies have shown women undergoing treatment for breast cancer aren’t always informed of all of their options, I’m striving to ensure women facing this challenge are able to make fully informed choices. I invite all women to become educated on this topic, as this information might make a huge difference for someone they love. The video can be found on my website:

I’d love to have you join me in my journey to making a positive difference in the world!




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Book Showcase: WILD WITHIN by Melissa Hart

Wild Within: How Rescuing Owls Inspired a Family by Melissa Hart
ISBN: 9780762796809 (hardcover)  
Publication date: August 5, 2014
Publisher: Lyons Press

Melissa Hart, a desperately lonely young divorcée and L.A. transplant, finds herself stranded in rainy Eugene, Oregon, working from home in the company of her two cats and two large mutts. At the local dog park, she meets a fellow dog owner named Jonathan: a tall, handsome man with a unibrow and hawk-like nose. When he invites her to accompany him on a drive to Portland to retrieve six hundred pounds of frozen rats and a fledgling barred owl, sparks fly!

Their courtship blossoms in a raptor rehabilitation center where wounded owls, eagles, falcons, and other iconic birds of prey take refuge and become ambassadors for their species. Initially, Melissa volunteers here in order to “sink her talons” into her new love interest, but soon she falls hopelessly in love with her fine feathered charges: Archimedes, a gorgeous snowy owl; Lorax, a fractious great horned owl; and Bodhi, a baby barred with a permanently injured wing. As “human imprints,” these birds see themselves and people as the same species yet retain a wildness that hoodwinks even the most experienced handlers. Overcoming her fears, Melissa bravely suffers some puncture wounds to get closer to these magnificent creatures.

Melissa and Jonathan start out convinced they don’t want children, but caring for birds who have fallen from their nests triggers a deep longing in Melissa to mother an orphaned child. Thus they embark on a heart-wrenching journey to adoption. Every page sparkles with vivid imagery and wit in this beautifully written memoir of parallel pursuits. Wildness Within is, above all, about the power of love—romantic, animal, and parental—to save lives and fulfill dreams.



“Clip Me”

“Are you sure you want to do this?”

The urologist with the slicked-back hair and tawny soul patch regarded me perched on a stool beside my husband in his chilly white office. The man’s latex-sheathed fingers held the stainless steel scalpel with practiced ease, the way Jonathan wielded a syringe before tube-feeding electrolytes to an emaciated hawk. The doctor was maybe in his early forties, healthy and cheerful like usbut sober in the face of our request.

“You’ve got to assume you won’t be able to conceive a child after your vasectomy.” His eyes sought Jonathan’s, and then mine: “You need to treat this surgery as irreversible.”

He emphasized the last word; it hung in the disinfected air a moment before dissipating. Jonathan and I traded raised brows. The doctor’s gaze dropped discreetly to the floor, then lifted slightly to focus on the great horned owl tattooed on my ankle, just visible beneath the rolled-up cuff of my Levi’s.

Irreversible. I remembered how the artist’s needle had punched permanent black-and-brown feathers into my skin, the stinging exhilaration of each jab to commemorate my transition from Los Angeles urbanite to Oregon nature girl. No going back.


My husband lay down on the exam table, sheet pulled to his waist. He reached for my hand, and his T-shirt sleeve stretched up to reveal the outspread wings of a hawk inked on one bicep. He entwined his fingers in mine and grinned so that I could see his crooked right incisor, subtle but sharp as the tomial tooth a falcon uses to sever the vertebrae of its prey.

“Now I know how the raptors feel when we’re about to do a procedure,” he told me.

For years Jonathan had suffered from epididymitisinfections that rendered him mute with fever and achingly swollen testicles. We celebrated our third date in the ER, my hand gripping his as a nurse ran the ultrasound wand over his groin. A vasectomy would remove the path which the infection traveled.

An easy outpatient surgery, the doctor informed us. “I do several a day.” His scalpel glowed under fluorescent light.

I pondered the gravity of the moment, but only just. Never to be pregnant, never to give birth, never to see the curious amalgamation of his-nose-my-eyes-his-chin-my-mouthall of this felt irrelevant as long as I could spare Jonathan further physical pain.

I squeezed his hand. He looked up at the urologist with that deferential gratitude he’d reserved for all medical professionals since breaking his back in a car accident fourteen years before. Then he issued his humble mandate to the doctor.

“Clip me.”

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Meet the author:

Melissa Hart lives in Eugene, Oregon with her husband (photographer Jonathan B. Smith) and their daughter. 

Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Orion, High Country News, The Advocate, Adbusters, Hemispheres, Horizon Air Magazine, Writer’s Digest, and The Writer.

She teaches Feature Writing courses at the School of Journalism and Communication, University of Oregon, and speaks frequently for writing-related organizations and conferences in the Pacific Northwest.

In her free time, Melissa likes to hike and run half-marathons, kayak and camp and cook and travel to quirky places.

Connect with the author:

Website      |     Facebook      |     Twitter      |     Goodreads 

Buy the Book

Available at:     BookDepository     |     Alibris

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Guest Post by Author Frances Simone, PhD

The Book Diva’s Reads is very pleased to host a visit by one of my local bookish friends (fellow book club member) and author, Frances Simone, PhD. Dr. Simone is the author of the memoir, Dark Wine Waters: A Husband of a Thousand Joys and Sorrows, soon to be released by Central Recovery Press. Today Dr. Simone discusses the journey from writer to published author. 

In two weeks my memoir, Dark Wine Waters: a Husband of a Thousand Joys and Sorrows, will be published. I feel like a teen about to go on her first date. Excited and anxious. A new chapter of my writing life looms ahead. All is possibility. 

It’s been a long journey from that first draft many years ago, with starts and stops along the way, and so many revisions that I stopped counting. Finally after the last draft, I perfected the requisite query letter (once again many drafts) and sought a literary agent. No luck though I did have a few bites, several requests for the first three chapters and one for the entire manuscript.  Then the long wait,  followed by terse emails informing me to go take a hike.  I felt rejected, just like when Billy Madden tossed me aside for Jocelyn Kelly, the high school homecoming queen. No possibilities there.

Time passed; I regrouped. Should I self-publish? Should I seek out an independent publisher? While pondering these options, serendipity intervened. One day while browsing through the new book section at the library, I came across a book on addiction and recovery published by Central Recovery Press in Las Vegas. Bingo! A possible match. I checked out the website, revised my query, sent it off and waited. A few weeks later, I received a request for the first three chapters. I sent them off and waited. About a month later, I received a request for a proposal. Never having written one, I asked a writer friend for help. Using her proposal as a model, I drafted mine and we revised it together. I sent it off and waited. Another month passed and then I was offered a contract. I felt like a prom queen. To hell with Billy and Jocelyn. 

Time passed. I was assigned an editor. Helen and I worked together on polishing the manuscript for about two months. Thankfully, we were on the same page. Her suggestions were spot on and strengthened the book. I learned a lot during this critical part of the publication process, and I’m grateful to Helen for advice and guidance. Eventually the galleys arrived, another pass at proofreading and an invitation to  sign copies at Book Expo America 2014 at the Javits Center in Manhattan. I felt like a blushing bride. 

In two weeks my book will be launched. I’m excited, as well as anxious about how it will be received. All is possibility once again.

Frances Simone, PhD

About the book:

Dark Wine Waters: My Husband of a Thousand Joys and Sorrows by Frances Simone, Ph.D.
ISBN:  9781937612641 (paperback)
ISBN:  9781937612658 (ebook)
ASIN:  B00L781FG2 (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Central Recovery Press
Publication Date: July 14, 2014

The dynamics of codependency are brilliantly illuminated in this gripping tale, lovingly told, of a marriage destroyed by the husband’s addiction to alcohol. Author and widow, Dr. Frances Simone, describes in vivid prose the progression of both her relationship with husband Terry from its earliest beginnings to the progression of his disease through all its stages. She recounts his attempts at treatment and subsequent relapse, his suicide, and her own recovery through a twelve-step program for families.

About the author:

Frances Simone, PhD is a recently retired professor emeritus from the graduate college of Marshall University in South Charleston, West Virginia. She received her PhD from Duke University, and she has served on the board of the West Virginia Humanities Council. Her professional affiliations include West Virginia Writers, Inc. and Story Circle Network. Her essays have appeared in The Voice and The Quarterly of the National Writing Project, the Charleston Gazette, and Writers Digest, The Forum (a twelve-step fellowship magazine).

She currently resides in South Charleston, WV.

Connect with the author:     Website      |     Facebook      |     Email 

Buy the Book

Available at:    BookDepository     |     Alibris






Book 7: MWF SEEKING BFF Review

MWF SEEKING BFF: My Yearlong Search for a New Best Friend by Rachel Bertsche
ISBN: 978-0-345-52494-2
Publication date: January 10, 2012
Publisher: Ballantine Books

When Rachel Bertsche first moves to Chicago, she’s thrilled to finally share a zip code, let alone an apartment, with her boyfriend. But shortly after getting married, Bertsche realizes that her new life is missing one thing: friends. Sure, she has plenty of BFFs–in New York and San Francisco and Boston and Washington, D.C.–but nobody in her adopted hometown. Taking matters into her own hands, Bertsche develops a plan: She’ll go on fifty-two friend-dates, one per week for a year, in hopes of meeting her new Best Friend Forever. The result is this thought-provoking, uproarious memoir.  

For many people, male or female, it is difficult to acclimate in a new city or state especially when you don’t know anyone other than your spouse, their co-workers and your co-workers. Some people are able to establish friendships with co-workers that exist outside of the workplace, and others simply can’t because there are no common interests. Some people find new friends with common interests at book clubs, exercise classes, cooking classes or even at places of worship. Rachel tries many of these tactics and more in her search for a new BFF. 

Rachel isn’t a needy, clingy woman that relies on her husband as her sole contact outside of work. She has a full life with friends, family and often traveled out-of-state to weddings, etc. keeping in contact. But we all crave someone to hang out with on the weekends, call when we’re having difficulties at home or work, shop with, etc. Rachel’s friend-dates are her attempts to find this person in her new hometown. She “dates” women that she may have overlooked because they were older, different ethnicities, or simply different. She is highly descriptive in describing these dates and her expectations. 

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I began reading MWF Seeking BFF simply because I’m not a memoir reader. However I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this book, although it did seem to drag a little in the middle sections. I don’t know if I could have the chutzpah to put myself out there as Rachel did when she moved, but I can understand her goal and rationale. This book provides a glimpse into why friends are necessary in order to be a well-rounded person, in addition to providing a glimpse into Rachel’s quest for a new BFF. (Couples with close friends apparently do better than couples without close friends according to one quoted sociology study.)  If you enjoy memoirs with a humorous bent then MWF Seeking BFF may be just the book for you.

Disclaimer: I received an copy of this book free for review purposes from the publisher. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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