My Father's Suitcase

My Father’s Suitcase: A story of family secrets, abuse and betrayal – an

Reviewed by Lily Andrews

My Father’s Suitcase” is a heartfelt memoir that chronicles author Mary Garden’s struggle with sibling abuse, an understudied and rarely spoken kind of domestic violence.  Purchase Here.

Garden’s life altered radically when her younger sister, Anna, began to physically abuse her during their childhood. Her reaction to this was one of fury and terror at what the sibling, who suffered from mental illness, might do to her next. Garden was always under the impression that her turbulent family life had a significant part in the disintegration of her connection with her sister since she had a violent father and a melancholy mother who was constantly running away from a past she could never bring herself to disclose to her spouse. Garden’s parents made her feel constantly alone by publicly supporting Anna’s actions and holding her responsible for all of her issues.

Her rivalry with her sister did not fade quickly; rather, it intensified throughout adulthood, leaving her deeply wounded and with a warped perspective on life. Garden was especially horrified to hear that her sister had embarked on a project that she believed to be an extension of her abuse. Her brother Robert and other family members were aware of the situation but opted not to notify her. This served as the last blow to her hopes of ending Anna’s pervasive hatred and rekindled her urge to exact reckoning—something she had long resisted doing.

The most prevalent type of domestic abuse today is the subject of this real, thoroughly researched story. Through it, the author exposes the behaviors and potential consequences experienced by those who attempt to conceal and repress their stress. This is the ideal book for people who have controlling or abusive siblings because it provides guidance on self-rescue and clarifies what many perceive to be typical sibling conflict. When sibling violence is ignored and persists in the lives of many individuals, society bears a heavy price.

My Father’s Suitcase” effectively illustrates the need to close the knowledge gap that currently exists on sibling abuse. “My Father’s Suitcase” is highly recommended.


Travels and Tribulations

Travels and Tribulations by Tyrel Nelson

Reviewed by Lily Andrews

An emotional and physical journey, “Travels and Tribulations” is a compulsively readable memoir written by Tyrel Nelson. During the bleak time of the COVID-19 pandemic, Tyrel lost his mother whom he had shared a close relationship with, to a kidney disease and thereafter, his job.  Purchase Here.

It was a depressing moment for him pushing him into persistent despondency and it was during this time that he began making a recollection of significant experiences in his life going back from 2008 to 2020 including the people and places that he got a chance to meet and see respectively. This somehow provided a much-needed catharsis for him, relieving him from the agony and grief that hung around him. It was through sorting various compilations that he had written over the years that he penned these captivating vignettes that he shares with us today.

With a unique sense of rare immediacy and keen depth, the author walks us through the memories of his life, his experiences, and his relationships and even goes ahead to share the sorrow that engulfed him during the pandemic period. Part travelogue and part self-reflection odyssey, “Travel and Tribulations” takes us across the physical excursions and super-famous Carnivals in Ecuador, the lowlands in Guatemala, the countryside of Mexico, and back to Minnesota in the United States. Throughout, Tyrel’s voice shines with raw honesty and candidness, not holding anything back, leading us to moments of soul-searching during the reading.

He credits his mother for laying the groundwork and sparking the desire in him to see the world. This is after traveling with her to her homeland, the Philippines for a two-week trip. He does not stop there but goes ahead to celebrate both his parents for instilling in him the values of resilience, compassion, selflessness, and living in the moment from an early age. Across, the author’s writing and travel style are equally affable invoking in his exposition, an inviting feeling of shared thoughts and experiences, both poignant and impactful. “Travels and Tribulations” by Tyrel Nelson is an indelible biography and one that marks the arrival of a quintessential voice in biography writing.


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Hidden Behind the Mist of Arrow Lakes

Hidden Behind the Mist of Arrow Lakes

Book Reviewed by Timea Barabas

Hidden Behind the Mist of Arrow Lakes is the result of an in-depth and extensive historical investigation by Lucia Mann. This is a deeply personal writing by a daughter of a Holocaust survivor. In this book, the author presents her own perspective on the history of the Holocaust and the branches that pierce through our present. Mann fearlessly shines a bright light onto uncomfortable dark corners of the human psyche.  Purchase Here.

While deeply rooted in historical analysis, the book is written in an accessible way, which is not an easy accomplishment given the topic. The vivid scenes create a sturdy bridge into the past, which allows readers to engage with history in a way that feels remarkably immediate.

Structured into four parts, Hidden Behind the Mist of Arrow Lakes follows multiple narratives that weave together seamlessly, creating a disturbing tapestry of stories that span across generations. From the fall of the Romanovs to harrowing accounts of World War II atrocities, this book is a captivating exploration of the threads of history that shaped our world.

Lucia Mann’s latest book was prompted by the revelation that the region of Arrow Lakes (which is close to her home in British Columbia) also became home to former SS officers and sympathizers who escaped persecution by entering Canada using fake identities. Mann offers an invaluable account of the social and psychological impact of Holocaust survivors (and their descendants) being faced with the living ghosts of their abusers.

The author starts and ultimately concludes her narrative by revealing what (and especially who) lies hidden behind the mist of Arrow Lakes. This creates a comforting circular storytelling arc. However, since this section of the book offers the most unique and intriguing storyline, it leaves a sense of longing for a more detailed account of how war criminals found a new home in a remote Canadian region and the intersectionality of the communities ’life with this hidden history.

For those familiar with Lucia Mann’s previous works, her unmistakable voice shines through once again. The reader-friendly prose sprinkled with the author’s personal reflections opens a window into her thought process and emotional journey. This vulnerability reveals her inner strength and emanates authenticity.

Hidden Behind the Mist of Arrow Lakes prompts a discussion about the long shadow of the Holocaust that stretches across generations. Lucia Mann’s words sound a powerful call to action, urging individuals, organizations, and nations to address the unresolved threads left in the wake of the profound historical tragedy.

The Destination Birth

The Destination Birth by Alex Bisset

Book Reviewed by Lisa Brown-Gilbert

A uniquely perspective re-accounting of what for many, is known to be one of life’s greatest adventures, The Destination Birth by author and recent new dad Alex Bisset, shares the touching story of the unplanned birth of his daughter.  Purchase Here.

Altogether, this book is quite unique in and of itself, as it draws attention immediately by the book’s cogent content featuring twists and turns of events. Most times birth stories are told from the birthing mother’s perspective. She brings in all the gory, funny, happy, and/or sad details, of the awe-inspiring venture; meanwhile, the father’s voice in the birth scenario is almost inaudible.

However, this book brings into focus a different aspect. Told solely from his distinctive perspective of a new father, author Alex Bisset, unabashedly shares the heartwarming, humorous, intense, emotional, and compelling moments leading up to his daughter’s birth, as well as offering deep insights as to the occurrence of the unexpected with the unplanned birth of his and wife Lauren’s first child.

Moreover, the book starts with an introduction to their lives in general, including the fateful day that they found out they were pregnant. Things seemed to progress well until author Alex Bisset and wife Lauren wanted to attend a friend’s wedding in another state at 34 weeks pregnant. After attaining permission to take the trip from NY to Montana for the wedding, the couple looked forward to enjoying time with friends and celebration which for the most part they did enjoy. However, life can sometimes throw us incredible curveballs, and as it turned out one early morning while in Montana, Lauren’s water broke leading to the memorable adventure of having to birth a baby far away from home. Meanwhile, this is also a story flowing with twists, turns, and funny moments including transportation issues such as when seeking an urgent ride to the hospital, they forgot they could have called 911. As a matter of fact, not only would their child be born while present at a destination over 2000 miles away from their home and intended birthing setup but also, the baby was arriving weeks early and was breech.

Overall, I absolutely enjoyed The Destination Birth by father/author Alex Bisset. It is well-written, easily relatable, affecting, humor-filled and eye-opening. There is a lot to be gleaned from this wonderful event, especially for newbies embarking on the experience of childbirth. As well, there are life-changing lessons aplenty to be found within this documenting of a life-changing experience, especially the primary life lesson of expecting the unexpected when it comes to having a child. As a mother of six, I found this to be a refreshing take on the experience of having a child as told through the eyes of the father. I do heartily recommend this book to all expecting parents. It is a worthwhile read.

10% of all proceeds will be donated to the Bozeman-Deaconness Hospital NICU.

Saint Bloodbath

Saint Bloodbath by Frederick Douglass Reynolds

Book Reviewed by Timea Barabas

True crime stories tend to explore the darker facets of human nature and society. Yet, in Saint Bloodbath, Frederick Douglass Reynolds artfully highlights both the extraordinary and the mundane good that twinkles in the deep night.  Purchase Here.

The book is formed by carefully braided narratives that come together in a layered and captivating story. Starting in the fringes of society, we walk alongside those who exist on the periphery, the homeless, runaways, and disreputed gang members. We share their struggles, dreams, and aspirations, even if only for a brief moment.

A savage homicide scene propels two detectives into a complex investigation, where they work to substantiate gruesome details surrounding the crime. Five victims were brutally murdered in a homeless camp in Long Beach, California. The case becomes known as the “Quintuple,” based on the number of victims found at the scene.

The possibility of a socially targeted crime sweeps a wave of fear over the homeless community. Yet, in this tense environment, the detectives must unearth their initial leads. Taking into account possible gang-related and personal motives for the attack, a suspect slowly comes into focus.

When a severed hand leads to what appear to be the remains of a person who died under suspicious circumstances, the true magnitude of the bloodbath starts to reveal itself. A life ended in the desert becomes the missing catalyst that brings the “Quintuple” to the next stage.

Frederick Douglass Reynolds conducts an exhaustive analysis of the case to write a complex and compelling narrative of the tragic events. His keen vision underlines the interplay between psychological and social factors that give context to the unexplained.

The author helps readers meet protagonists as flesh-and-blood characters and not just victims. One of the most difficult feats for a true crime author is capturing the essence of real-life people in an honest yet considerate way. Nevertheless, Reynolds makes this seem effortless.

Containing violence and profanity, Saint Bloodbath promises to be raw and abrasive. However, Frederick Douglass Reynolds sprinkles in delicate introspective notes, amusing anecdotes, and witty comebacks to soften the experience. While not a comfortable read, the book invites us all to ponder our role in the magnetic dance of light and shadow.

This Too Shall Pass

This Too Shall Pass by David Yuen

Book Reviewed by Lisa Brown-Gilbert

Continuing to share his altogether discerning, literary journey through life, author David Yuen supplies another artistic tour de force with his work in This Too Shall Pass. A thought-filled work that artfully presents an insightful collection of his poetry, prose, and essays, while inviting the mind, heart, and soul of readers to experience life from his decidedly intelligent and Christian perspective. Purchase Here.

Immediately, author Yuen engages the mindset with his stirring discourse, This Too Shall Pass, an essay that is also the title of the book. This well-known adage presents a penetrating and thoughtful look at the true experience of life’s events, which does well to set the poignant tone for the remainder of the book. Moreover, positing the general theme throughout the book that while change is inevitable whether good or bad there is always a reason for it and nothing that happens in life occurs and remains in a stage of permanent stasis but eventually will pass, as life is always a series of emotion rending fluxes. This essay is just the beginning of many well-written excerpts which show the impermanence of life’s events, while many of author Yuen’s poetic works serve to inspire, with elegant locutions embodying stalwart personal strength, morality, faith, and endurance.

Meanwhile, throughout the remainder of the book, there is a diversity of themes covered including multiple essays containing revelations on the Invasion of Ukraine, War in Ukraine, and the atrocities thereof. As well, author David Yuen also presents with eloquent articulation his personal experiences with COVID. Also, he presents many meditative works which flow like stream-of-consciousness narratives where he covers topics including; Fasting, Atrocity and Death, and Impermanence.

Additionally, the poetic works included are stellar intimations of reflection, as they are thoughtful, provoking, insightful, and fulfilling. While I enjoyed all his poetic entries a few remained with me, well after reading them; I Am Man See Me Stand; which engages the prowess of inner strength, All That Remain; which focuses on surviving adversity through maintaining a strong character, So Much So Little; demonstrates the character strengths and weaknesses of appreciation and disregard, My Fragile Foolish Self; embodies a stark look at negative perspectives. Albeit most of the included works were more of a serious nature, there is also included humor with A Poet Argues with His Coffee over Coffee, (this is my personal favorite).

Altogether, I enjoyed David Yuen’s expressive works in his book, This Too Shall Pass, the whole of his works this collection promotes faith in God’s hand in our lives, and although life can be imperfect, it is actually perfectly imperfect because God is always there teaching us through the perceived imperfections. This is a work of intellectual depth, both well-written and observant, which may bring about a change in perspective for readers toward life and all that it entails. As a whole, this luminous literary culmination penetrates the reading experience with lucidity and aplomb and I do highly recommend it.

The Butterfly Cage

The Butterfly Cage by Rachel Zemach

Book Reviewed by Lily Andrews

The Butterfly Cage” is a brilliant and thoughtful memoir written by Rachel Zemach, a deaf educator, writer, and activist. Here, Author Zemach recounts her remarkable navigation through the intricacies of teaching while Deaf in a California public school. It is a crucial and sometimes disquieting panorama of the patchiness of deaf education in public schools offering necessary advice for educators and families alike.  Purchase Here.

She fuses these experiences with her own heartfelt story of sudden deafness at the age of ten, and her ensuing and rather challenging journey toward a deaf identity and taking up a teaching role. With a striking foreword, the text does not tally in its progress but carefully details what it is like as a deaf teacher to strive for her pupils in a system that does not understand their needs and identities and which may end up damaging their potential and psychological well-being.

Her inspiring role in a deaf public school offers a role model that parents wish for their children in a school setting but whom deaf students rarely get in their classrooms. Zemach further details her struggles with the administration, staff, and aides who try to cripple teachers’ efforts at every turn, a scene all too frequent in mainstream schools.

The Butterfly Cage” is one of those indelible memoirs that you finish reading and feel a little like you have lost an old friend. Readers will learn from the true stories of individual students told in an artful and affecting manner, what the deepest struggles of deaf and hard-of-hearing students are, and why the majority of these students in the country may end up losing their birthright due to a broken system that urgently needs restructuring. Zemach is unflinchingly honest and accomplishes much in this appealing and intelligent tapestry by rallying the society behind her to help these vulnerable group attain their budding capabilities.

That’s what places the book squarely among the best memoirs written out there. Her writing passion has adroitly amplified a thousandfold in the quiet world of the deaf. Her generosity of spirit is bound to encompass every reader who puts their hands on this hard-to-put-down memoir.

Indeed, “The Butterfly Cage” by Rachel Zemach makes a major contribution to our understanding of deafness, the challenges deaf students meet, and a call to legislators and educators alike in creating a conducive environment for them to learn in public schools. It is an oeuvre from a quintessential voice in America.


We Are All Made of Scars

We Are All Made of Scars by Christopher Morris

Book Reviewed by Lily Andrews

Christopher Morris’s new memoir “We Are All Made of Scars” rivets with arresting echoes of his life’s moving and highly volatile episodes while at a tender age in the hands of a dipsomaniac mother.  Purchase Here.

This book offers a gripping prologue that aptly introduces the reader to a roller coaster of childhood memories and events that foretell a teenager’s story in dire need of survival. Chris’ life seemed like a pushover and his dreams were an afterthought after finding himself surrounded by nurses and doctors who couldn’t stop taking tests on him to bail him out of dejection that set him up as a pledged suicidal kid.  A few days earlier, the frustrating lifestyle exhibited by his mother was getting the best of him as efforts to acquire her attention became futile. She was always sunk on her rocking chair while ceaselessly imbibing and smoking her lungs out without a care in the world.

Her long calls meant that Chris would never get a chance to talk to his girlfriend and this was quickly breaking the swelling banks of his emotions. It is a sad affair to see him give a five-minute ultimatum to his mother if she didn’t drop her long call to which he would openly harm himself if ignored further.  An unforeseen twist into Chris’s daily routine would however beautifully have him gasp in amazement as his oblivious mother showed up to pick him up from school wearing a rather different outfit- a super concerned mum, only to prove otherwise when the mother mentioned the word, doctor.

This magnificent memoir carries a unique tone and style which ably captures a reader’s emotions and feelings from the beginning to the end. The author’s experience is one to sympathize with as he narrates the devastating nature of being a supposed psychic patient due to a foolish decision that left him broken and unstable. Readers may however find themselves shedding a tear due to the author’s family’s horrific lifestyle that brims with gloom and despondency but will quickly jump back to their realities and deep reflection on experienced situations that may have occurred through unsound planning, emotional breakdown, and desire to prove a point.

In conclusion, Christopher Morris’s new memoir “We Are All Made of Scars” is a perfect family read whose voice and moral lessons will echo for years to come. Readers are bound to incalculably draw strength and hope from this new magnum opus, which undoubtedly stands out as one of the most real and inspirational stories ever written.


Why Christians Are Wrong About Jesus

Why Christians are wrong about Jesus by John W. Campbell…A Brief Synopsis

Trial lawyer John W. Campbell demonstrates why Christians are fundamentally wrong about Jesus, the leader of the movement that developed into modern Christianity. Using the most up to date research and findings, Campbell shows, among other things, why Jesus was not the Jewish Messiah, why the true Jesus was replaced by Paul’s Christ of faith, and why Jesus was not resurrected from the dead. Campbell reveals now Jesus came to be severely misunderstood, unwittingly giving birth to a religion he would not have recognized and surely would have opposed.  Purchase Here.

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Invited to Life

Invited to Life: Finding Hope After the Holocaust by B.A. Van Sise, Neil Gaiman, Mayim Bialik, and Sabrina Orah Mark

Book Reviewed by Lily Andrews

Invited to Life: Finding Hope After the Holocaust” by B.A. Van Sise is a deeply moving composition that features the startling experiences of ninety holocaust survivors who lost everything to war including loved ones but rose from the ashes to defy the very prospect of depression and death.  Purchase Here.

The author, a veteran photojournalist, has compiled stories of individuals who survived the jaws of extinction, mental and trauma after finding themselves trapped in unfamiliar circumstances and territories, in the wake of a dreadful catastrophe that saw millions of civilians targeted based on their race, political affiliation, religion, and sexual orientation. As the text progresses, readers will encounter and interact with unique people such as Werner and Weiss, who possessed enduring resilience that saw them remain flexible in action and behavior, in the face of disruptive and highly distressing moments.

It is evident that the majority of the survivors never meted out justice to their tormentors but rather turned to rebuilding new families and careers under the shadow of those absent. New beginnings were not automatic but rather were achieved from deliberate efforts to try not to be warped by the wounds of the past and irreversible scars that had the potential of constantly reminding them that were meant to suffer and die, with no reprieve, no hope, no possible amnesty, and no chance for alleviation stories.

Van Sise’s exposition of holocaust survivors as heroes and heroines who defied devious odds rather than helpless victims places this book in the must-read category of the most real and outstanding holocaust books ever written. The inclusion of stories such as Lyubov’s who in spite of being a woman participated in the eventual liberation and freedom journey will have readers inspired to stand against enemies of peace and unity, and bravely call out the slightest form of discrimination which if ignored can have long lasting consequences over millions of individuals.

Invited to Life: Finding Hope After the Holocaust” by B.A. Van Sise is overall an invaluable read that will have its readers enlightened besides being challenged to reject hatred, anti-Semitism, injustice, and prejudice that still threaten the world today. Van Sise’s work stands out from all angles and will have the world reminded that every human being, regardless of religion or race should be respected and honored.