A Review of Growth: A Mother, Her Son and the Brain Tumor They Survived.

Karen DeBonis’s engaging memoir, Growth: A Mother, Her Son and the Brain Tumor They Survived is a story many women will relate to, especially those of us who grew up believing that in order to be liked, we had to present agreeable personas. Yet, when Karen’s eight-year-old son, Matthew, first exhibits a change in his behavior, she comes to the realization it’s difficult to remain agreeable and silent in the face of an uphill battle. As Karen tries to figure out how to help her son and find answers that will explain why Matthew’s “sharp-as-a-knife brain lost its edge,” she must figure out how she’s going to handle the dismissive attitudes of the doctors and other professionals.

As Matthew’s social interactions and thought processes falter, and doctors try to pinpoint exactly what is wrong with him, Karen finds herself challenged in a multitude of ways. The story progresses and readers follow the frustration and effects of misdiagnoses. I was in the middle of the story when I found myself nodding along in agreement. I, too, had to deal with similar challenges when my daughter was diagnosed with her disability.

In my opinion, the title, Growth perfectly illustrates how the author herself grew along with her son’s brain tumor. Karen learned to become more self-assertive and achieve more confidence in her ability to speak up because she was forced to advocate for her son. Those readers who haven’t had to face this type of challenge will still be able to relate to the universality of a mother’s love and desire to protect her child.

A Review of As Far As You Can Go Before You Have to Come Back





If you enjoyed Laura Davis’s book The Burning Light of Two Stars, you must read Alle C. Hall’s debut novel, As Far As You Can Go Before You Have To Come Back. Readers will be immediately drawn into this intricate, dramatic story of the effects of childhood sexual abuse. There are elements of betrayal as we learn the well-kept family secret: That the abusers are Carlie’s, (the main character,) father and her father’s friends. Carlie tells us how she handled the situation, “When you sensed danger, you left for the ceiling. That’s when you found yourself looking down on yourself, thinking, look what’s happening to me. When it wasn’t so scary, you moved only to the side. The first time it happened in my room, I was reading in bed when there was a noise from the hall, then the sound of him paused in my doorway.”

Hall’s vivid scenes and descriptions kept me riveted to the page. Carlie escapes her abusers and plans a strategic exit. A savvy teenager, she maps out her scheme to travel to the furthest place she can imagine, a journey that begins in Hong Kong. Readers who enjoyed Kristin Addis’s, A Thousand New Beginnings: Tales of Solo Female Travel Through Southeast Asia, can revisit Southeast Asia as Carlie navigates life on the run. We meet Cho and Ava, and journey along with Carlie as her new friends help her begin the healing process from her childhood trauma. The author threads a myriad of layers of connection, using Cho and Ava to guide us to the end of the story. The pacing of this novel was believable, laced with emotional, heart-wrenching scenes. Hall delivers a satisfying ending.


A Review of a Book by Allison Hong Merrill. Buy her book, 99 Fire Hoops

After hearing so many positive reviews of Allison Hong Merrill’s book, Ninety-Nine Fire Hoops, I knew I had to add it to my reading list and was intrigued from the moment I began reading. The author introduces the reader to her story with this perfect hook: “I discovered that I became a starter wife from a light switch.” Allison skillfully recounts her history of a difficult upbringing in Taiwan, ignored and abused by her mother, father, and stepmother. The plot thickens as she is swept off her feet by an American missionary, then faces subsequent trials at the hands of her husband and his family. Allison’s portrayal of each subsequent challenge kept me turning pages. I loved her author’s voice, her perseverance, her self-reflection, and most of all, her refusal to give in to the perils she faced. By the end of the book, I was cheering for her. This book deserves the accolades it’s already received. I highly recommend it. Brava!


A Review of a Book by Alexis Page, a fellow author at Vine Leaves Press. Buy her book,Work Hard, Not Smart 


Work Hard, Not Smart: How to Make A Messy Literary Life by Alexis Paige (Vine Leaves Press, Feb. 2022) was written for writers like me who seek effective ways to learn the craft of writing, and yet who also struggle with focus and inattention. As someone who can relate to the ADHD-Inattentive Type diagnosis, I appreciated the story of how she came up with the title for her book. This book was a memoir as well as an instruction manual in how to write, and I was thoroughly entertained by the author’s stories and insights. How could I not relate to essays and stories of the author’s life, as she explored the different aspects of a writer’s journey? I nodded along in agreement in each section as she explored the challenges, successes, and failures that she met along the way. Although I am coming into writing late in life, I enjoyed the way Paige braided stories about how her writing journey, how she offered advice about the craft as she included it with chapters about her personal life, including infidelity and first-time journalism jobs. I appreciated her honesty, her point of view that analyzes mistakes without the accompanying self-reproach, and the most important element of who we are writing for: our readers.

A Review of Malnourished : A Memoir of Sisterhood and Hunger

Raised Voice Press sent me a complimentary copy of Cinthia Ritchie’s memoir, Malnourished A Memoir of Sisterhood and Hunger, with a request to write a review. If you like reading memoirs, this is a fairly good one. It took me time to read this, but I was intrigued as soon as I began. 

The author weaves an emotional story about the relationship between a family of four sisters. Written in a lyrical style of vignettes, Ritchie opens her account by telling readers that Deena, one of her sisters, has been dead for years. However, the book focuses on Ritchie’s journey of her and her sister’s survival from their stepfather’s sexual abuse. The story draws readers in from the first pages as Ritchie processes her and her sisters’ complicated past and the lifelong scars from the childhood abuse that led to Deena’s death. Ritchie writes with raw, emotional honesty in her prose, and I appreciated the lyrical movement of the story. Ritchie kept this reader intrigued in the scenes where she admits to lying, her relationship with food, sex, and the need for attention. The scenes that described her eating disorder included pica, and the author shows this in a way that seems to make perfect sense as Ritchie casually sucks on rocks, ingests dirt, and even eats her sister’s cremated ashes. There’s an element of an ‘eww’ factor, but Ritchie’s openness, even juxtaposed in this way, kept me riveted to her story. Although Ritchie’s experience growing up on a Pennsylvania farm is vastly different than my childhood, growing up in a suburb in Miami, the thing that resonated after I finished Ritchie’s book was the narrative we each have, the one we tell ourselves about our past.



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