Uncontrollable by Sara Staggs

Uncontrollable by Sara Staggs
Publisher: Black Rose Writing
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

At 36-years-old, Casey Scott appears to have it all: a booming career as a civil rights litigator, a loving husband, and two sweet young children. But she also has epilepsy, and her worsening seizures threaten to destroy the life she toiled to build.

When her doctor says she is likely to die if her seizures are not controlled, Casey is at a crossroads: will she choose her career and lifelong aspirations, or her family and health?

The decisions she makes affect her marriage, children, and future in ways she could never expect.

Told by Casey and her husband, Uncontrollable is an emotional roller coaster that examines both what happens when the life we may be forced to live is not the life we planned to live, and the compromises we make to survive in the face of adversity.

Painful, but beautiful…which is a lot like life.

Casey has seizures from her epilepsy and it’s taking a toll on her life. She’s already stressed and over her head, but she’s not about to tell anyone she’s in too deep. That’s not how she’s wired. That said, the balances in her life and her stresses are about to become too much for her to handle. This is the story of how she has to learn to balance and let go, while potentially getting what she wants.

This book and the author show how having a chronic illness can be a pain, but also something possible to live with. It’s not the hardest thing to handle, but it’s difficult at times. Casey is flawed and human, which makes her an interesting character. I liked how she had to learn to power through in a way she wasn’t used to. There’s a sensitivity to her character, too. I liked the dynamic between her and Jonah as well. The book showed how life isn’t always clean and the messiness is what makes it great.

If you’re looking for a book to challenge you, but also stay with you long after the last page, then this is the book for you.

The Husband Hunters: American Heiresses Who Married into the British Aristocracy by Anne de Courcy

The Husband Hunters: American Heiresses Who Married into the British Aristocracy by Anne de Courcy
Publisher: St Martin’s Press
Genre: Historical, Non-Fiction
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

A deliciously told group biography of the young, rich, American heiresses who married into the impoverished British aristocracy at the turn of the twentieth century – the real women who inspired Downton Abbey

Towards the end of the nineteenth century and for the first few years of the twentieth, a strange invasion took place in Britain. The citadel of power, privilege and breeding in which the titled, land-owning governing class had barricaded itself for so long was breached. The incomers were a group of young women who, fifty years earlier, would have been looked on as the alien denizens of another world – the New World, to be precise. From 1874 – the year that Jennie Jerome, the first known ‘Dollar Princess’, married Randolph Churchill – to 1905, dozens of young American heiresses married into the British peerage, bringing with them all the fabulous wealth, glamour and sophistication of the Gilded Age.

Anne de Courcy sets the stories of these young women and their families in the context of their times. Based on extensive first-hand research, drawing on diaries, memoirs and letters, this richly entertaining group biography reveals what they thought of their new lives in England – and what England thought of them.

These women wanted to find husbands and they were willing to stop at nothing to get them.

I picked up this book because I wanted to know more about the women who desired to marry up at the turn of the century. I’m glad I read this. It’s informative and fascinating how these women went looking for men to marry, but it’s also fascinating how the men didn’t stop until they found the one they wanted, too. It’s entertaining because there’s so much wealth being tossed around, but sad because many of these women didn’t know what they were getting into. They were destined for lives of loneliness and running a household instead of being lavished with luxury. I liked how some of the women figured out how to make this work for them and even made the situation even better.

I have to admit there is a lot of excess on display among these people. They knew how to travel to the hilt and how to showcase their wealth. At times, it was over the top. I mean, disgustingly so. But it was how they were raised and of the times. One really did wear a necklace with a gigantic sapphire on the end that was essentially kicked when they walked…because luxury. Show the wealth. I don’t blame the author, but the topic. The people in this book were essentially disgustingly rich.

If you’re interested in a snapshot of times gone by with a lot of wealth and vivid descriptions, then this book might be for you,

May Book of the Month Poll Winner ~ Overdue by Jo A Hiestand

Overdue by Jo A Hiestand
Publisher: Cousins House
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery
Rated: 5 stars
Review by Rose

Voted BoM by LASR Readers 2013 copy

A spate of three murders in as many months has Derbyshire’s local police and populace in near panic. And there will most likely be a fourth killing in two weeks unless something happens to stop the cycle. Former police detective Michael McLaren is that “something” that his best mate, Jamie Kydd, is counting on to end the alarming deaths. He enlists McLaren’s help to look into the events, hoping his friend can solve what, so far, has confounded the Constabulary.

Each of the three crime scenes is the same, yet different: the same types of things but not the same specific things left with each body. As McLaren becomes enmeshed in the hunt for the killer, his friend Melanie arrives for a planned visit. Can his days become more complicated than simultaneously playing host and unmasking a killer? They can when he’s aware that each tick of the clock brings them closer to the next planned murder. And perhaps an unplanned one…thrown in for fun.


Jane Austen: A Literary Celebrity by Peter J Leithart

Jane Austen: A Literary Celebrity by Peter J Leithart
Publisher: Nelson Books
Genre: Historical, Non-Fiction, Biography
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Jane Austen is famous for such books as Persuasion, Pride and Prejudice, and Emma. Now learn about the author’s journey through a life spent making up stories that touched the lives of millions.

Jane Austen is now what she never was in life, and what she would have been horrified to become–a literary celebrity. “Janeia” is the author’s term for the mania for all things Austen. Dive into Jane Austen: A Literary Celebrity and discover:

how it all began and Austen’s love of poetry
her early masterpieces and the inspiration behind the stories
her road to getting published and the health decline that led to her death
In this updated edition, you’ll also find discussion questions that work well for book clubs and ELA lesson plans. This biography is perfect for:

Jane Austen fans and collectors
men and women who have enjoyed Austen-inspired films and TV series adaptations
anyone interested in learning about the varied sides of Austen’s character and the characters she created
Jane Austen: A Literary Celebrity is a fascinating look at a woman who never meant to be famous.

A decent overview about the life of Jane Austen.

I picked this book up because I wanted to get to know more about Jane Austen. She’s considered the titan of the romantic genre, but I didn’t know much about her. This was my entre into her life. I’m glad I read it.

I learned quite a bit about Austen and can now say I respect her writing even more that I know her. This book would be great for hardcore Austen fans and enlightening for those who want to know a little more.

The writing is utilitarian and serves the purpose of telling her story, but there were times it needed a bit more personality. I liked the story and liked learning about Austen, but there were times the author referred to her as Jenny. It’s not incorrect, but got a bit confusing, especially early on. I also got a little lost in the family tree descriptions early on. That’s not to say this is a bad book. Far from it. It’s a nice pocket read, but one has to read it with the notion there will be rereading involved.

If you’re a fan of Austen and want to know how her faith somewhat influenced her, how her life went and want something quick, then this might be the book for you. Give it a try.

I Walked the Line by Vivian Cash

I Walked the Line by Vivian Cash
Publisher: Scribner
Genre: Historical, Non-Fiction, Music, Autobiography
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

I Walked the Line is a chronicle of first love, long-kept secrets, betrayal, forgiveness, and the truth–told at last by Johnny Cash’s first wife, the mother of his four daughters.

It is a book that had the full support of Johnny Cash, who insisted it was time for their story to be told, despite any painful revelations that might come to light as a result.

Many myths and contradictions regarding the life of Johnny and his family have been perpetuated for decades in film and literature. Vivian exposes previously untold stories involving Johnny’s drug addiction, his fraught family life, and their divorce in 1968, as well as the truth behind the writing of two of Johnny’s most famous songs, “I Walk the Line” and “Ring of Fire.”

Supplemented by a never-before-published archive of love letters and family photos, I Walked the Line offers a deeper look at one of the most significant artists in music history. Here, fans and readers can experience the extraordinary account of love and heartbreak between Johnny and Vivian, and come to understand Vivian’s dignified silence over the years. Through this elegant, revealing, and powerful memoir, Vivian Cash’s voice is finally heard.

Haunting, sweet and sad.

I wanted to hear the words from Vivian Cash when it came to the breakup and how she handled it. What was her side? This book tells that and more. This isn’t a tell-all book, though. This is her life through her eyes. This is how she handled what she went through. But it’s more than that. Cash includes letters Johnny wrote to her during their time courting and eventual marriage. She shows his hopes, fears and how he interacted with her in his letters. Those looking for some huge tell-all and naughtiness won’t find it, but if you’re looking for tender letters and her side of the story, then this will satisfy. I’m glad I read it.

There are moments when the author gets a bit bitter, which is understandable. She thought the marriage was going okay until it wasn’t. She wasn’t prepared to handle Johnny’s drug use or his utter devotion to June. The author somewhat demonizes June Carter, but honestly, it’s not surprising because that’s how she saw the situation. I can’t fault her for being bitter or telling it how she saw it.

If you’re ready to hear Vivian Cash’s side of the story, then this is the book for you.

Magnifico!: The A to Z of Queen by Mark Blake

Magnifico!: The A to Z of Queen by Mark Blake
Publisher: Permuted Press
Genre: Non-Fiction, Historical, Contemporary, Biography
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Addressing the phenomenal success of the movie Bohemian Rhapsody, acclaimed music journalist Mark Blake builds on the legend of Queen and their enduring audience appeal.

Providing a fresh, unparalleled take on Queen’s music, story, and legacy, Blake’s complete portrait covers not only the major hits and bestselling albums, but also the inside stories behind the music.

Via a series of essays, interviews, and biographies, the author shares a wealth of lesser-known details—gained from over thirty years of original material—and explores what the songs of Queen say about their creators.

Queen facts, Queen stories and Queen tidbits. How can you go wrong?

I picked up this book because of the band. Queen. I’ve been a fan for years and wanted to learn a little more. This book does that and more.

If you’re a fan of Queen, some of these stories are going to be old hat. There are legendary stories that go along with the band. But there are a few nuggets of info I didn’t know, which was good. The book is formatted as it states, in an A-Z manner, with everything according to their letter. I liked that it was like that because it made it easy to read, but also not necessarily chronological, which was different.

If you’re a fan of Queen, this book is a must. If you’re a casual fan and want to know more, then check this book out. I recommend it.

Love, Pamela by Pamela Anderson

Love, Pamela by Pamela Anderson
Publisher: Dey Street Books
Genre: Contemporary, Autobiography, Memoir, Non-Fiction, Poetry
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

The actress, activist, and once infamous Playboy Playmate reclaims the narrative of her life in a memoir that defies expectation in both content and approach, blending searing prose with snippets of original poetry.

In this honest, layered and unforgettable book that alternates between storytelling and her own poetry, Pamela Anderson breaks the mold of the celebrity memoir while taking back the tale that has been crafted about her.

Her blond bombshell image was ubiquitous in the 1990s. Discovered in the stands of a football game, she was immediately rocket launched into fame, becoming Playboy’s favorite cover girl and an emblem of Hollywood glamour and sexuality. But what happens when you lose grip on your own life—and the image the notoriety machine creates for you is not who you really are?

Growing up on Vancouver Island, the daughter of young, wild, and unprepared parents, Pamela Anderson’s childhood was not easy, but it allowed her to create her own world—surrounded by nature and imaginary friends. When she overcame her deep shyness and grew into herself, she fell into a life on the cover of magazines, the beaches of Malibu, the sets of movies and talk shows, the arms of rockstars, the coveted scene at the Playboy Mansion. And as her star rose, she found herself tabloid fodder, at the height of an era when paparazzi tactics were bent on capturing a celebrity’s most intimate, and sometimes weakest moments. This is when Pamela Anderson lost control of her own narrative, hurt by the media and fearful of the public’s perception of who she was…and who she wasn’t.

Fighting back with a sense of grace, fueled by a love of art and literature, and driven by a devotion to her children and the causes she cares about most, Pamela Anderson has now gone back to the island where she grew up, after a memorable run starring as Roxie in Chicago on Broadway, reclaiming her free spirit but also standing firm as a strong, creative, confident woman.

She’s self-possessed and shy, but man, she’s a force.

I wasn’t sure what I was going to get when I picked up this book. I wasn’t expecting the poetry, which is nice, or the blatant honesty. Anderson doesn’t hold back. Not one bit. She tells it like she saw it and she’s seen a lot.

Pamela Anderson gets dismissed because of being a body or being Mrs. Tommy Lee, but there’s a lot more to her. She’s a staunch advocate for animals, she’s against animal cruelty (I will warn there is a story about kittens that will break anyone who has an affection for animals.), and she’s accomplished. She knows what she wants and she’s not afraid to get it. But she’s also fragile. She’s been through a lot. Being that ‘body’ she’s had to deal with invasiveness and people thinking she owes them. I liked her candor and ability to laugh at herself while being serious.

There aren’t many big revelations in this book, but it’s a solid memoir and worth the read.

If you’re looking for a Hollywood memoir full of heart and passion, then this might be the book for you. Check it out!

Racing Through the Snow by Gracie Guy

Racing Through the Snow by Gracie Guy
A Dickens Holiday Romance, Book 13
Publisher: Summer’s Gift Publishing
Genre: Holiday, Contemporary, Romance
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Dane Rutger, a life-time Manhattanite, spent summers as a teenager in Dickens. Memories of those idyllic days propelled him to return to that special town for a stress- free holiday. After a soul-sucking, COVID lockdown, induced divorce and overwhelming professional volatility, Dane desperately needs a break and decides to try something he hasn’t done in years, riding lessons at Creekside Riding Academy.

Mari Lincoln, a Dickens home-town girl, left at eighteen to ride showjumpers for a living. After the heart-breaking death of her husband and the slow destruction of her career, she returns to take over the floundering Creekside Riding Academy. When she walks into the barn for the first time in many years, the first person she sees is her summer crush, Dane Rutger. Little does she know Dane had always had a soft spot for her.

Fighting the signs of their rekindled attraction, Mari and Dane team up to plan the first ever Christmas Derby to raise money for the Dickens Community Center. Success could be three-fold; the community center gets funds needed for after school programs, it might just save her family’s stable and maybe, she’ll even get a second chance at love.

Racing, horses, Christmas and romance. What’s not to love about this book?

I picked this book up because I love the work of Gracie Guy. The writing plucks along at a great clip and the characters are inviting. I couldn’t put it down. Not a bit. I don’t know the first thing about horses or racing or riding, but I didn’t feel lost when reading this story. I felt like I was right there with the characters.

The romance is great, too. I liked the chemistry between Mari and Dane. They’ve always been a little in love with each other but coming home and coming clean is best. I liked the way the town rallied around them, too. This felt a lot like a Hallmark story, and it was so fulfilling. I’m glad I read it. In fact, I went looking for more Gracie Guy and more from this series.

If you like a sweet romance set at Christmas with horses and fun, then this is the book for you. Highly recommended.

Cat Dog by Mem Fox and Mark Teague (illustrator)

Cat Dog by Mem Fox and Mark Teague (illustrator)
Publisher: Beach Lane Books
Genre: Contemporary, Childrens
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Once there was a huge, scary dog. Right?
Wrong! But there was a cat.

In this zippy, call-and-response-style adventure, a cat and dog are astonished to find a mouse in their house! The three circle each other while the story sometimes correctly describes their antics—and sometimes doesn’t. Young readers will love participating by pointing out which parts are right and wrong.

Cute book with fun responses.

This book struck me right away as a good call and response book. The cadence is just right for it. It’s also a good conversation starter book. The cat and dog are both interpreting what happened at one particular moment and it’s up to the reader to decide who was right. The art also helps to get the reader to interpret what might be happening. It’s cute.

I liked the illustrations because they are spot on. The dog might be sleeping, but might be barking. The cat might be ignoring the mouse, or pouncing. It’s normal.

It’s a simplistic book, but it seemed meant to get conversation going between children and caregivers. What might happen next? How do you know what might happen next? Who was right in what they saw? Why? They’re great questions to get kids to think a little deeper about the story.

If you want something to start a conversation and something that’s fun and cute, then give this one a try.

Yes & No by Elisha Cooper

Yes & No by Elisha Cooper
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Genre: Childrens, Contemporary
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

From Caldecott Honor author/illustrator Elisha Cooper comes Yes & No, a timeless tale of friendship, adjusting your perspective, and the joys (and trials) of siblinghood.

Good morning, good morning. It’s time to wake up!

Join a cat and puppy pair through their day―the ups of being fed and romping through grass, and the downs of days that are too short and things that don’t go as planned―as they realize that sometimes the very best thing that can happen is just being together.

Siblings can be a blessing and curse.

I liked this book because it not only shows that having siblings can be a challenge, but it also shows that sometimes siblings aren’t just the ones by blood, but by choice.

The writing in this book is simple but the theme is easy to grasp. The illustrations are intriguing, showing the ways the siblings — in this case a cat and dog — are different, but the same and can get along. I liked this story because it’s cute, but also gives a good lesson.

If you’re looking for a book to read to your younger children, then this might be the best one. Recommended.