Books in 2023

And here we go again!

I have no idea if I will top the 37 books I read in 2023. I doubt it. I’ll be happy to read one book per month since I’ve got a busy work life and home life. But I’m already on my third book of the year and for the month of January. I will soon post a TBR pile for the year. Again, I like to alternate between memoir and fiction and, already, I have more contemporary fiction and mysteries than I do of memoirs. So, give me a few weeks and, hopefully, I’ll get a stack you can view – to see if I can do it and to see if you might like to read any.

Below are my reviews so far for 2023. As usual, I post reviews here on my website, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads, and BAM! (Books-a-million). I also post on my Instagram feed depending on the book and time constraints.

January 2023


Lynne Schmidt

Excellent; highly recommended.

Genre: Poetry; pet loss grief.

My Review: “A touching poetry collection of pet love and loss….Had I not had to give my heart a break from the depth of love in every word, I could have read all the poems in this book in one sitting. The emotions and compassion the author evoked in me as I read left me even more passionate about my fur babies than ever. If you have ever loved and lost a pet, you will appreciate reading Dead Dog Poems. This poem collection may only feature a few pages, but they pack a real punch.”

Book Quote:

“They said

I would know when the time comes….

….The thing they forget to warn you about,

is that you can know when it’s time,

you can know it’s the right thing to do,

but just because it is,

doesn’t mean you’ll ever be ready to let go.”

From “When It’s Time,” Lynne Schmidt, Dead Dog Poems (page 19)


Lynne Schmidt

Excellent; highly recommended.

Genre: Poetry; grief and loss.

My Review: “When a relationship ends, put those emotions into poem-form…A collection of poems filled with raw emotion, that of disappointment, sadness, hope, and misplaced love. In this short poetry collection, Lynne Schmidt captures the evolution of a relationship not meant to be, the one-sidedness, the grief, the dawning of insight when it becomes apparent he is not the one. If you are looking for poetry that hits you full force or that may lead you to healing, you will appreciate Gravity. This poetry collection is fresh and gutsy, while being descriptive yet concise, and right on target.”

Book Quote:

“I’m going to give you a universe.

The kind we talked about

where we both say maybe



From “Maybe, Someday, Somewhere,” Lynne Schmidt, Gravity (page 19)


Pamela Stockwell

Excellent; highly recommended.

Genre: Fiction; friendship; women’s friendship.

My Review:A story of community, loss, and new beginnings filled with spunkiness and boundless hope….I absolutely loved A Boundless Place. Pamela Stockwell masterfully weaved a story filled with interesting characters and then surprised her readers with the main characters’ backstories. If you love light-hearted stories of community mixed in with some depth and a little mystery, then this story is worth your read. I found each character delightful from beginning to end. I’m definitely looking forward to this author’s next novel.”

Book Quote:

“Rescue? You think I need rescuing?” A wave of anger cascaded over her, replacing her fear of losing him like a sudden summer storm. Did he think she was laying all this before him because she wanted to be rescued?

I think I put that badly…” Nick started.

“No, no, I think you put it perfectly.” She stood stiffly, smoothed her skirt, and steeled her spine. “If you think I need someone to rescue me, then you’re right. We need a break. Because you don’t know me at all.” She crossed the room to the door and held it open. She needed him to leave. Now. She was shaking with fury. “Good night, Nick.”

(Violet) Pamela Stockwell, A Boundless Place (page 334)

February 2023

THE ART OF REASSAMBLY: A Memoir of Early Mother Loss and Aftergrief

Peg Conway

Excellent; highly recommended.

Genre: Nonfiction; memoir; grief and bereavement; love and loss.

My Review: “A journey through early mother loss and its aftergrief….Reading Peg Conway’s The Art of Reassembly was enlightening. Having myself experienced the loss of loved ones at a very young age, I could see and feel her angst as she faced life without her mother, and at a time when there was no one to speak to about one’s grief. I was impressed how Peg would not give up on her journey to reconnect with her mother, care for her aging stepmother, and learn how to deal with her ever-present grief. I could feel her confusion over being a daughter to two mothers and its affect on her, and I highly recommend to anyone who has lost their own mother to read Peg’s memoir. I have not lost my mother yet, although she has been recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, but I did lose my father at the age of seventeen. Peg’s story has encouraged me to read books on the loss of father-daughter connections. If you are experiencing aftergrief from the loss of a parent, I encourage you to begin your journey of healing and reconnection by reading Peg’s memoir. It is a story for anyone who has lost a parent and are still struggling with grief over that loss. Peg has a way of showing her vulnerability with honesty and determination. It will encourage you to dig deeper and discover how to embrace your parent-loss and live wholly rather than walking around with questions and unresolved sorrow.”

Book Quote:

“After my cursory research on bereavement, I appreciated anew the pain that flowed through my aunts’ accounts of my mom’s disease and death, beneath my dad’s anger, and within my grandma’s listlessness. Our family’s loss occurred just before a cultural tipping point on grief, and all of us suffered, young and old alike, because we could not talk about what we felt. We did not know how to, and there was no one to help us.”

Peg Conway, The Art of Reassembly: A Memoir of Early Mother Loss and Aftergrief (page 197)


Ronit Plank

Excellent; highly recommended.

Genre: Fiction; short story; women’s fiction.

My Review: “Short stories with powerful impact….I love short stories, and this compilation of short stories does not disappoint. Ronit Plank does an excellent job of telling each story within a few short pages. After reading each gripping story, each with its own surprising plot twist, I was left with a new perspective of family, love, and loss. If you enjoy short stories, I highly recommend Home is a Made-Up Place. Each story is stand-alone, and yet each one encourages you to read the next one and then the next one after that. Once you get started reading, you won’t want to stop.”

Book Quote:



He gives my hand a squeeze.

“Take care of yourself.”

I nod and back away from his car.

I’m so tired of taking care of myself.

I walk toward my building. From our third-floor apartment, blue television light flickers in the window like always when my father is home. My eyes sting. I can’t swallow past the lump in my throat. I wipe tears off my face.

Somebody is always missing. “

From “What February Feels Like,” Ronit Plank, Home Is A Made-Up Place (page 96-97)

March 2023

MANGO, MANBO, AND MURDER (A Caribbean Kitchen Mystery)

Raquel V. Reyes

Excellent; highly recommended.

Genre: Mystery; amateur sleuths; women sleuths.

My Review:A fresh and fast-paced mystery with a Caribbean flair….I love mysteries, and Ms. Reyes’ Mango, Mambo, and Murder was a delight to read. I love how she combined family and friends, food and recipes, and mystery and suspense into a worthwhile read. I also love how she kept the story moving with vivid characters, events, and interesting dialogue peppered with Spanish, reminding me of my growing-up days in a bi-cultural Hispanic family. If you love a good mystery with viable plot twists, loveable characters, and a steady build in amateur-sleuthing, then you’ll love this book. I’m so looking forward to reading Ms. Reyes’ next installment in her Caribbean Kitchen Mystery series!”

Book Quote:

“But your family lives in Coral Shores, is that correct?”

“My husband’s family.”

“I see. Alright, thank you for your time. Here’s my card if you remember seeing anything else. Anything. Someone she might have talked to before lunch. Or someone giving her a pill? Prescription or OTC.” The detective signaled to Gordon that they were leaving.

Prescription or over-the-counter? They don’t think this was natural. They think she was killed. A chill ran up my spine. “

Raquel V. Reyes, Mango, Mambo, and Murder: A Caribbean Kitchen Mystery (page 64)

Share Your Stuff. I’ll Go First.

Laura Tremaine

Excellent; highly recommended.

Genre: Friendship; Christian self-help; memoir.

My Review:A self-help book that reads like a memoir….I absolutely loved this book. I could read it forever. And as I was reading it, I kept asking myself, “Where has this book been all my life?” If you are looking for a book that will help take your life and self to the next level, this is it. It’s filled with candidness, friendship, and inspiration. Several chapters resonated with me, but they were all wonderful. Whether the author meant this book to be a self-help or not, I’m not sure. But what I am sure of is all her sharing and going first has me doing the same even more now. Take a chance and read it for yourself. You’ll be happy you did.”

Book Quote:

“….This whole book is about sharing our stuff. I would never advocate that we tell our stories haphazardly, but we have to be in a place of trust with one another. We are going to honor and not belittle one another’s stories. The telling of them doesn’t diminish their truth. The telling of them doesn’t diminish their magic. I’m not going to share every single thing, nor are you.

But there is magic in the sharing, and there are stories in this magic.”

Laura Tremaine, Share Your Stuff. I’ll Go First. (Page 161-162)

A MYSTERY IN HAWAII (Margaret & Molly)

Sarah Evangeline Martin

Excellent; highly recommended.

Genre: Fiction; children’s mystery; grade school chapter book.

My Review: “A children’s mystery that keeps even adults engaged….Considering the author’s age, I was quite impressed with her book’s storyline and the amount of dialogue contained within its less than 200 pages. Miss Martin has a natural ability to flesh out her theme and characters. I enjoyed her elements of familial relationship as she built upon her little sister’s obsession with solving their Hawaiian vacation mystery. I also loved how she was able to include her love of God, enhancing rather than detracting from her story’s flow. I look forward to future books by this young author and will enjoy gifting them, and her current book, to my nieces and friends’ daughters.”

Book Quote:

“She looks like someone I’ve met before,” Molly said….

I tried not to freak out. “Mom’s high school friend?” I questioned.

“That’s it!” Molly blurted out. “It’s Miss Mary!….”

….I looked over to where Miss Mary had been sitting. She was gone. “Where did she go?”

Sarah Evangeline Martin, A Mystery in Hawaii (Margaret & Molly) (Page 71)

April 2023


Allison Hong Merrill

Excellent; highly recommended.

Genre: Nonfiction; memoir; Asian biographies; immigrant biographies; dysfunctional families; personal transformation.

My Review: “A memoir that keeps you engaged from start to end….It was such an honor to read Ninety-Nine Fire Hoops. I was amazed at so many things – how the author endured growing up at the hands, or I should I say voices, of her parents; how her first marriage suffered from the fallout of her in-laws’ marriage; and how her subsequent dating life went – before finding Mr. Right. And then, she fit all of these and more into a well-written book of ninety-nine chapters. I was and am inspired by Ms. Merrill’s story – her desire to rise above her circumstances in life, communication challenges, and simply being a woman at the mercy of men who took advantage of her naivety and of her kindness. If you love being inspired, you’ll love reading how Allison did not let culture, society, or fear keep her from her best life but instead picked herself up and rose to a place of beauty, love, and grace.”

Book Quote:

“We live in the narrative of gravity; life has a way of bringing us down to our knees, to the level of dust. People age. People fall ill. People become weak. People divorce. All my childhood heartaches, desperate cries, and seemingly endless trials and tribulations felt like God’s test to try my faith, resilience, and tenacity. It was as though He’d asked me to jump through ninety-nine fire hoops to receive the promised reward, gift, and blessing….”

Allison Hong Merrill, Ninety-Nine Fire Hoops (Page 344)

THE 4Ls: A Simple Way to Find Life Purpose

Lynne Beverly Strang

Excellent; highly recommended.

Genre: Self-help; happiness self-help; success self-help.

My Review: “A book to help you find your purpose in life….I found the 4Ls very insightful. Filled with practical tips for defining your likes and don’t-likes, this book can help you find a career, change careers, consider a job promotion or major move, take up a new hobby and which one, or even just assess your current lifestyle. As I read Ms. Strang’s book, I jotted down my routines and interests in each quadrant of Love, Like, Live-with, and Loathes. Now, I’m using this knowledge to reduce stress in my life and to move forward with the writing support group I’ve been wanting to start for years. Whether you’re looking for a career change, to find an extracurricular activity, or just improve what you’re already doing, I highly recommend The 4Ls. By clarifying your life purpose, you can find the time to do what you love. You’ll be pleasantly surprised!”

Book Quote:

“Each of us is on this planet for a short time. Why spend it on something you don’t enjoy? Define where you want to go and create a plan to get there. Set yourself free.”

Lynne Beverly Strang, The 4Ls: A Simple Way to Find Life Purpose (page 103)


Joani Elliott

Excellent; highly recommended.

Genre: Fiction; women’s contemporary fiction; family life fiction; women’s domestic fiction.

My Review: “A novel with lots to offer – mystery, romance, and writing…..Right from the start, I was pulled into Sara Grayson’s life. The author did a great job of establishing suspense on if Sara would honor her mother’s dying wish thereby leading the reader on her journey of discovering whether she had it in her. This novel is filled with warm characters, great dialogue, and family intrigue involving her parents’ past. The present is filled with Sara’s yearning to find herself and the peeling back of layers of family secrets, and how they have influenced each of her loved one’s life directions, even affecting her new love interest. A huge thumbs up to Joani Elliott for writing such a wonderful book of, well, writing. My only criticism is that it wrapped up way too soon; for being a longer book than I usually read, I didn’t want it to end. I highly recommend this book to any writer – a pure delight! – and any person thinking of becoming a writer. You absolutely won’t be disappointed.”

Book Quote:

“…. Sara stood in London’s Heathrow airport in front of an aging passport control officer with wildly overgrown eyebrows. His eyes looked permanently suspicious, half-closed and squinty.

“State the purpose of your visit.”

“Business…I guess.”

“You guess?” He looked at Sara’s passport and then back at her. “What do you do?”

Sara looked down at the dingy, gray countertop and back at the officer. She straightened her back and said, “I’m a writer.” ….”

Joani Elliott, The Audacity of Sara Grayson (Page 323)

May 2023


Lainey Cameron

Excellent; highly recommended.

Genre: Fiction; women’s divorce fiction; relationships fiction.

My Review: A book of shock, unexpected friendship, and rising to the top…The Exit Strategy is more than having a backup plan. It’s about being transparent in a world of fakery, being real instead of a fraud, and having grit and tenacity. The main characters were delightful. I loved how both Ryn and Carly, both different yet complimentary to one another, fought to rise above their circumstance. The Exit Strategy is about bouncing back after learning the life you built is nothing more than a Jenga puzzle waiting to come crashing down. I loved how Ryn and Carly chose friendship over fear and took time to stand up for women in an imbalanced and unethical work environment. Seeing them rise above the injustices handed out to them and choose the higher path of courage – and taking their life back – was a true delight. If you enjoy stories of women pulling together in support of other women – and finding the grace to choose a new journey for themselves, you will love Lainey Cameron’s novel, The Exit Strategy. This book was definitely a pleasant surprise.”

Book Quote:

“….“Tell me again that thing your Uncle Remy used to say?” Ryn asked.

Carly set aside her wine and met her gaze. “It’s never too late to become the person you want to see in the mirror.” She searched Ryn’s eyes, as if questioning whether she could rise to the challenge….”

Lainey Cameron, The Exit Strategy (Page 296)

The ABCs of Self Love

Melody Godfred

Excellent; highly recommended.

Genre: Nonfiction; self-esteem; happiness self-help; personal transformation.

Review: “ABCs on learning how to love ourselves better….I was so pleased to “happen upon” The ABCs of Self Love. I’m all about LOVE in all its shapes and sizes and how everyone of us can learn to love each other, and ourselves, more. Each letter of Melody Godred’s ABC book on self-love is filled with a wise reflection of how to better love ourselves as we journey the road of life. Each letter has a little exercise, mostly written but sometimes something else, of how we felt about the letter we just read and how we let this new knowledge affect the world around us. If you enjoy discovering more about yourself, in a self-paced and gentle way, this book is worthy of your time. I loved it, and I’m looking forward to sharing it with all my friends and family. I think you will, too.”

Book Quote:

“Realizing your potential is not about conquering the space between where you are and where you want to be. It is about recognizing that who you are is already enough.”

Melody Godfred, The ABCs of Self Love (Page 100)

GABRIEL: Angel in Training

Meredith Baldwin

Excellent; highly recommended.

Genre: Fiction; family life fiction; Christian literature fiction; young adult Christian fiction.

Review to be posted in May 2023.

Twice A Daughter

Julie Ryan McGue

Genre: Nonfiction; memoir; adoption; personal transformation.

Review to be posted later in May or June 2023.

And here we are…in 2023. The year I didn’t think I would be able to read as much as I did in 2021 or 2022. And yet, I am already reading my 14th and 15th books and it’s only the middle to end of May (at this writing). Granted, the books have been easy ones to read so far.

And how do I read two books at once? Because I have this amazing ability to read a nonfiction book alongside a fiction book and not get confused. In fact, I seem to be happier reading this way as it feeds both sides of my brain, and I can focus on each one better. I’m not a big fiction reader, so my mind can wander a lot, especially if I’m tired or have a lot of to-dos to tackle. However, in the month of May, I somehow inadvertently am reading two fiction books; thankfully, they are both interesting and have my attention. What happened is I’m trying to squeeze a review for a new friend and I tho’t the other was nonfiction. I know…how did that happen? Lol. I guess, we’re never too young to be tripped up – in a good way!

My reading goal for 2023 is one book per month, but I am averaging 2.75 so far. If I exceed this rate, great. And if I stay on target, also great. I am particularly trying not to over-achieve as I usually do (lol), as I do have a lot on my plate right now with working full-time. However, now that I’m done with volunteering once a week teaching an 8th grade religious class, I’ll have more time for reading, writing, social media, and starting that writing support group I’ve been want to for years now. But, in fact, I am constantly trying to simplify my life. And, of course, as you may well know from your own life, this is the greatest challenge of all these days.

My main reading and writing goal is to get the second book, which I’ve now been writing on for over two years, finished. But reading helps me to sleep better. So, read, I will.

What are you reading lately?

“One must always be careful of books, ” said Tessa, “and what is inside them, for words have the power to change us.”

Cassandra Clare, Clockwork Angel