Category: book tour

Letters to Jacob: Grieving the Loss of a Child

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“If you have lost a child, you know you’re weathering the largest storm life can bring you. I hope that my words of loss, tears, punches, smiles, friendships, and renewed happiness can give you a sense of not being along on this journey.”

About Letters to Jacob: Grieving the Loss of a Child

“If you have lost a child, you know you’re weathering the largest storm life can bring you. I hope that my words of loss, tears, punches, smiles, friendships, and renewed happiness can give you a sense of not being along on this journey.”

Maria Hopfgarten’s son Jacob was born on January 31, 2006. He was the most perfect baby boy she had ever seen. But Jacob had devastating health issues, culminating in a diagnosis of mitochondrial disease, a fatal condition.

In the ten short years of Jacob’s life, Maria found strength in blogging about Jacob’s life. Her raw, honest posts from the year after Jacob’s passing have been gathered into this book along with Maria’s tips for parents coping with their own grief after losing a child.

My Thoughts

I am an incredibly sensitive and emotional person, and while I couldn’t put this book down – my boys found me two mornings in a row crying as I was reading this very powerful book.

I love working with children – they have such an innocence and beautiful way of seeing the world. I worked in Family Medicine for ten years and working with children during this time was a blessing to me, hearing that first heart beat, or watching a child grow at their well child visits, holding their hand when they were scared during stitches or listening to their stories of how they broke their arm. It felt a privilege to be a part of their live for that small moment in time and that they trusted you with these feelings. So often, we can get so caught up in ‘life’ that we forget what a special gift life actually is. And how quickly things can change and be taken away from us.

While I cannot comment on this book from a grieving parent viewpoint, as a parent I can tell you how this book made me feel. I don’t think any parent is ready for a diagnosis that will change their child’s life and their own life as they know it. We take for granted good health and the dreams that we have for our children. Grief is so overwhelming and powerful, we all experience grief in different ways but it is also one of the hardest things to talk about.

Maria shares in her story how wonderful Jacob was – his sense of humour, his relationships with his sister and peers, his time spent at school, his trip to Disney all in the context of his health conditions that ultimately led to his passing. I loved how she shared these intimate details that I am sure were difficult to share but so important, too often we see the patient as a patient and not for the incredible, strong person that they are. It was special reading the beautiful stories of Jacob, his sister, family and the impact he had on those around him in his ten years.

From the very beginning of the story, Maria shared the importance of living and cherishing each moment. I find I am very guilty of not always being present, especially in these last two years dealing with COVID and my own mental health. It is something that personally touched me, the importance of slowing down and living in each and every moment. While Maria may have had to live in each moment due to how quickly things could change for Jacob, this is so important for all to take a step back and use as a guide. I appreciated the personal guidance and tips that Maria shared at the end of each entry for parents as they struggle to cope with their grief and the things that helped her and her family. Maria did not encourage a one size fits all approach, instead she offered several solutions that aided her and offered suggestions on what others could do.

This is an incredibly touching and powerful story of love, grief and how one family has coped with the passing of a very special young man. While a great support book for grieving parents, I think this would be a great book for parents to read as well.

You can purchase a copy of this book on Amazon.

Rating: 5/5

About the Author

Maria Hopfgarten began her blog Moments with Jacob in 2009, writing about Jacob’s life with mitochondrial disease. She had followers around the globe. Maria continued to write blog posts to Jacob after he passed in 2016 to make sense of the loss of her son. Jacob was 10 years old. She has now turned part of the blog into the book “Letters to Jacob,” sharing her raw, honest first-hand experience on grieving the loss of a child.

Maria is the President of the non-profit Miracles for Mito and has been supporting families living with mitochondrial disease for over a decade. She has also been an active Parent Partner at Children’s Hospital Colorado and has been a Parent voice for many chronically ill children. Maria also sits on the Patient Safety Committee of the Board at Children’s Hospital Colorado.

Originally from Sweden and with a degree in Journalism from Stockholm University, Maria lives with her husband Joakim, daughter Sarah, and rescue dog Max in Colorado. Her favorite thing to do is to share a good cup of coffee or glass of wine with a friend. Maria loves the outdoor and is always up for a bike ride or hike.

You can connect with her on her website, Facebook and Instagram.

The Giveaway

Enter to win a copy of Letters to Jacob: Grieving the Loss of a Child here.

Disclosure: I received a digital copy of this book in order to facilitate this review, all opinions expressed are my own.

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Thrive: The Facilitator’s Guide to Radically Inclusive Meetings

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Whether you are a skilled practitioner or new to leadership, Thrive will teach you techniques for facilitating more effective, inclusive and energizing meetings.

About Thrive: The Facilitator’s Guide to Radically Inclusive Meetings

Imagine meetings where everyone is heard and all people matter.

Picture organizations that embrace all voices and are committed to justice, equity and opportunity. Imagine businesses, nonprofits and the public sector creatively engaging people in thousands of ways—seeking their best ideas, empowering the silenced, and building communities where all are treated with dignity and respect.

That’s what Thrive seeks to create.

Each chapter contains practical insights and accessible stories that transform meetings from dull to dynamic.

You will learn how to:

  • capitalize on diversity’s strengths.
  • keep meetings task-oriented and collegial.
  • facilitate effectively in polarized or conflicted settings.

Thrive includes chapters on privilege and power, multilingual and virtual meetings, and full inclusion of people with disabilities.

Whether you are a skilled practitioner or new to leadership, Thrive will teach you techniques for facilitating more effective, inclusive and energizing meetings.

You can purchase a copy of this book on Amazon.

Book Trailer

About the Author

Dr. Mark Smutny is a professional facilitator, consultant, speaker, author and founder of Civic Reinventions, Inc. He is known for helping organizations uncover the wisdom hidden in their diversity, build cohesion, and achieve their goals.

He draws upon decades of work planning and leading retreats, facilitating meetings, and working with nonprofits and businesses. He teaches and writes on the arts of inclusive facilitation and inclusive leadership skills. He has worked in the fields of homeless services, affordable housing, transportation services for special needs populations, business and resident associations, faith-based groups, and public/private partnerships dedicated to strengthening civic engagement.

Mark received his Master of Divinity degree from the Harvard Divinity School, one of the most religiously diverse theological institutions in the world. His doctorate focused on organizational revitalization in multicultural settings. He is a Program Associate with the Kaleidoscope Institute, an agency that equips leaders to communicate effectively across cultures, ethnicities and race.

When not working, Mark and his wife, Barbara Anderson, enjoy the Cascades, cooking, gardening, exercising their dogs, and playing with their granddaughters.

You can learn more about Mark Smutny and Civic Reinventions, Inc., professional facilitation services, consulting, coaching and training at civicreinventions.com.

The Giveaway

You can enter to win a signed copy of Thrive here.

Disclosure: This is a spotlight tour, I did not receive compensation for this post. All opinions expressed are my own.

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The Keepers

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In The Keepers, Beth can’t imagine a worse nightmare until she gets a call in the middle of the night with shocking news about her son!

About The Keepers

Despite struggling to raise a troubled teenage son on her own, Beth Marshall has no intention of selling her beloved vineyard and moving to the city where her ex-boyfriend awaits with open arms. She has strong ties to the land, where she is happy living with her granddad and aunt in the old farmhouse, so when she gets an offer to sell her property, she turns it down. Meanwhile, a writer recovering from a shattering past moves into the guest house, tugging at her heart. She’s not going anywhere.

But after her granddad discovers a dead body in their shed, Beth fights jail time. She can’t imagine a worse nightmare until she gets a call in the middle of the night with shocking news about her son!

You can purchase a copy of this book on Amazon.

Author’s Note

Children’s mental health is a growing concern in today’s schools. Often kids suffer in silence because of the stigma attached to their mental health needs. Mental health organizations such as the Canadian Mental Health Association work hard to change this mindset. It can’t come soon enough. As a teacher, I worked with troubled teens and saw firsthand the devastating effects of their silence. With this in mind, I began writing The Keepers, for if I could help just one “Alexandre” find his voice, my efforts would be well worth it. There are a few mature scenes and some bad language here and there, reflective of a character coming-of-age.  

Book Trailer

About the Authors

Joy Lynn Goddard teamed up with husband Daniel Pike to write contemporary adult fiction. Their first and second novels, Moonshadow and The Keepers, have global appeal and won Canada Book Awards. Besides novels, they wrote Buyers, Liars, Sellers and Yellers, a collection of humorous short stories about the real estate industry. Although she is well known for her young adult and junior fiction—starting with the award-winning Daredevils and including Hello, my name is Emily, Charlie’s Song, Jazz, When Pigs Fly, and Mrs. Maloney’s Garden—her adult novels are quickly attracting attention. Each book involves romance, mystery, and suspense genres.

Joy and Dan divide their time between Guelph and Belleville, Ontario, where they spend time with family when not working on their next book.

You can connect with them on their website, Twitter and Facebook.

The Giveaway!

Enter to win a copy of The Keepers here.

Disclosure: This is a spotlight tour, I did not receive compensation for this post. All opinions expressed are my own.

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Awake with the Songbirds

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Awake with the Songbirds is a collection consisting primarily of poems written during the COVID-19 pandemic, a time of loneliness and rumination.

About Awake with the Songbirds

This collection consists primarily of poems written during the COVID-19 pandemic, a time of loneliness and rumination.

Lyndon’s poetry stems from intense emotions that swing from one end of the pendulum to the other as she captures the agony of love and loss, along with innocent joy and lighthearted fun.

Each poem is an earnest response to life, love, and everything in between.

You can purchase a copy of this book on Amazon.

About the Author

Kyrian Lyndon is the author of Shattering Truths, the first book in her Deadly Veils series. She has also published three poetry collections, A Dark Rose Blooms, Remnants of Severed Chains, and Awake with the Songbirds – Poems from the Pandemic. Kyrian began writing short stories and fairy tales when she was just eight years old. In her adolescence, she moved on to poetry. At sixteen, while working as an editor for her high school newspaper, she wrote her first novel, and then completed two more novels at the ages of nineteen and twenty-five.

She is forthcoming about being a person with many years of recovery, as well as a trauma survivor. Throughout her journeys, she expressed her thoughts through poetry, embracing every challenge to triumph over adversity. In her conviction that learning, growing, healing, and evolving is a never-ending process, she remains as grateful for the dark days as she is for every flicker of hope and light. She considers herself a cheerleader for those trudging on against all odds in the hopes of living their dreams.

Born and raised in Woodside, Queens, New York, Kyrian was the middle of three daughters born to immigrants –her father from Campochiaro, Italy; her mother from Havana, Cuba. She has worked primarily in executive-level administrative positions with major New York publishing companies.

Kyrian loves nineteenth-century British literature, parallel universe fiction, and dark romanticism. She also enjoys music, art, history, fitness, and cooking.

You can connect with her on her website, Twitter and Facebook.

The Giveaway

Enter to win a $25 Amazon giveaway and copy of the book here.

Disclosure: This is a spotlight tour, no compensation is received for this post. All opinions expressed are my own.

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The Sand Pounder

“The Sand Pounder” is a Young Adult historical fiction set during World War II. 

About The Sand Pounder

Fearing an invasion by German and Japanese forces during World War II, the U.S. Coast Guard enlisted horsemen to patrol the beaches along the east and west coasts. The unit was called “The Sand Pounders” and they rode their horses up and down the beaches from 1942 to 1944.

In Tillamook, Oregon, a young equestrian decided to join them. There was only one problem…they were only accepting men. That didn’t slow her down.

“The Sand Pounder” is a Young Adult historical fiction set during World War II. 

My Thoughts

I loved every moment of this young adult historical fiction – it has action, courage and hope in the face of the uncertainty, racism and fear in World War II.

After reading this novel, I had to look up the term Sand Pounders. This was a new term to me and I didn’t realize that during World War II, the US Coast Guard launched a beach patrol. This group took over many functions of the Coast Guard as well as keeping an eye out for enemy ships, stopping communication from ships to land and reporting any enemy landings along the coastline of Oregon.

Jane is a young woman whose life has been turned upside down by the war. Her brother has enlisted and heads off to war efforts, she is a first hand witness to her Japanese neighbours being forced out of their home and to an internment camp, all while she herself is living alone. Jane is angry at the treatment of her neighbours, who are good American citizens and whose family name should not be held against them – they are American first, not Japanese. Jane wants to help out the war efforts but as a female she is not left with many options (and she is a very talented young woman). With the Sand Pounders only accepting males, Jane did what she had to do to join the group and to do her part (go Jane!).

I loved this novel and I strongly believe so will many young adults. We learn about a group of individuals that I had no idea existed during World War II and we also touch on some very important topics – racism, the treatment of Japanese Americans and sexism. Jane is the first to defend her fellow Americans – to her they are Americans first, not Japanese. These are good people that have contributed to their community and are facing persecution for their family history despite being contributing members for many years, business owners and friends. Jane is the perfect example that your gender does not impact your ability to succeed. She is just as smart, fast and good at her role as any other male.

This was a special novel that I enjoyed from start to finish – a great read for young adults (both male and female). It encourages you to learn more about the treatment of Japanese Americans, internment camps and even the war efforts at home. I think that this is the most important aspect of any historical fiction – that it empowers you to learn more and question what you do know. This is a definite must read novel for young adults.

You can purchase a copy of this book on Amazon.

Rating: 4.5/5

About the Author

Award-Winning, Best-Selling author, M.J. Evans grew up in Lake Oswego, Oregon, and graduated from Oregon State University. She spent five years teaching junior high and high school students before retiring to raise her five children. She is a life-long equestrian and enjoys competing in Dressage and riding in the beautiful Colorado Mountains.

You can connect with the author on their website.

Disclosure: I received a digital copy of this book in order to facilitate this review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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