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A Daughter for the Mountain Firefighter–past collides with future

A Daughter for the Mountain Firefighter

by Melinda Curtis

If you’ve been following the tales of the Silver Bend Hot Shot crew from Idaho, you know what a difficult and dangerous job mountain firefighters have. A Daughter for the Mountain Firefighter is the fourth book in this series written by Melinda Curtis. Itfocuses on Cole, also known as Chainsaw because his responsibility is to cut paths through the forest for fire barriers and roadways.

As this fire season draws to a close, Cole is preparing to attend medical  school in the Bahamas. To his surprise, his path crosses with an old friend, Rachel, whose sister Cole dated. Rachel has become a mechanic and pilot employed to fly her tanker in support of the firefighters.

Cole and Rachel have complications and issues that go back to their birth families. Cole carries guilt and sorrow. Rachel suffers from PTSD and feels responsible for the well-being of her dad, her niece, Jenna, who has had to grow up too quickly, and her nephew, Matt, who never really knew his mother.

The discovery of the identity of Jenna’s biological dad causes tremors in family relationships. A nearly fatal airplane crash sends Rachel to the hospital and jeopardizes the family’s financial stability. Meanwhile, romance is brewing as Cole begins to wonder if he ever really loved Rachel’s sister, Missy. Rachel, on the other hand, has only ever loved one man. As they stumble through their current, seemingly insurmountable problems, will Cole and Rachel manage to overcome their pasts to find happiness?

I would like to extend my thanks to Melinda Curtis for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4/5

Category: Romance

Notes: #4 in the Mountain Firefighter Series, but works well as a standalone.

Publication:  June 26, 2020—Purple Papaya

Memorable Lines:

She understood that the callouses on hearts were’t reliable, that they sometimes softened and let the ache of loss back in.

“Every pilot knows they’re defying the laws of nature by taking to the skies. We weren’t born with wings. But every pilot loves to fly more than they fear the risk of falling.”

Rachel had boarded the denial train.

Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes–Christmas wedding

Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes

by Jessica Redland

A sweet holiday tale with some sibling troubles, an upcoming wedding, PTSD, and friends who could be so much more. Those are the threads found in Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes by Jessica Redland, Carly started a cupcake business four years ago. Her much younger sister Bethany has been working for her, but she is klutzy and prone to mistakes that are costly. Carly and Bethany are both wondering if the cupcake shop is a good place for Bethany, but Carly is driven to take care of her sister who is also second-guessing her upcoming marriage. Meanwhile, Carly starts to realize that her very long-term best friend, Liam, on a tour in Afghanistan, is possibly the love she has been denying herself.

There are several unexpected twists as the countdown to the wedding and Christmas draw closer. You’ll enjoy watching the tangled threads unravel as you read this charming story and root for the likable characters to solve their problems.

I would like to extend my thanks to NetGalley and to Boldwood Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4/5

Category: General Fiction (Adult), Women’s Fiction

Publication:   August 13, 2020—Boldwood Books

Memorable Lines:

And there it was—the exact moment I realised I’d been in love with my best friend for years. Nobody else I’d met had held my interest because Liam already held my heart and I’d never even realised it.

As I stepped out of the front door, I inhaled the delicious aroma of chimney smoke. I loved that smell. There was something about real fires that was so intrinsically Christmassy. I paused for a moment to look up at the white lights strung between the shops, like stars in the inky sky. It was the beautiful simplicity that made them so enchanting to look at.

I felt a pang of guilt again that I’d worked beside her for months and had been too busy to notice when the laughter had ceased until it became too late. 

A Field Guide to Homicide–writing retreat you’d love to attend

A Field Guide to Homicide

by Lynn Cahoon

A Field Guide to HomicideAs a book lover, to hear an author’s thoughts on writing embedded in a cozy mystery is a special experience. Lynn Cahoon provides just such an opportunity through her Cat Latimer Mystery Series, but there is even more sharing of the writing process in the latest installment of the series. Cat Latimer, a former professor, conducts writers’ retreats in her restored Victorian mansion one week per month while she continues her own writing. She appreciates that she has the best of both worlds, authoring her own books while helping other writers develop their unique potential.

In A Field Guide to Homicide, Cat is hosting an unusual group that has two writing couples and a rather awkward college student. She is just beginning to recognize the different dynamics of this group and attempt to mesh them into a working team, when they have to cut an outing short due to a gruesome discovery. Seth is Cat’s boyfriend. He restores old homes and helps out with the retreats. Suddenly he finds himself in the middle of a mystery that seems to revolve around some old army buddies who are gathering for a reunion. Cat’s Uncle Pete plays a role too; as chief of police, he attempts to solve the crime and keep everyone safe. At the same time, he tries to entertain his girlfriend Shirley, a retired Alaskan deputy and aspiring writer, who is in town for the week.

A Field Guide to Homicide is structured so that as you finish one chapter, you absolutely must keep reading into the next. The characters are likable. The relationships are complicated, but not overly so. Although the writing process is a major theme, the all-important mystery takes the lead as it  heads in unexpected directions. The setting is a writer’s dream come true with Cat having her special writing space on the third floor with both a view and privacy. Her best friend and business partner, Shauna, cooks for the trio of Cat, Seth, and herself as well as providing breakfast and delicious snacks for the retreat group. This is a bookish mystery you won’t want to miss.

I would like to extend my thanks to Netgalley and to Kensington Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #6 in the Cat Latimer Mystery Series, but holds up well as a standalone. Cahoon has a talent for jumping right into the plot while bringing readers up to speed on the characters.

Publication:  January 28, 2020—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

…she settled onto a living room couch and got lost in a futuristic world where good did conquer evil, even if it took three hundred pages.

She was sitting in the living room, in what she liked to call a good book coma or hangover. Where her mind didn’t want to leave the magic of the world she’d just created as she read the story.

Some people never found their true voice because they want to write what they think will sell or worse, what they think they should write. People needed to realize that writing is all about telling the story. And if you don’t like the story you’re writing, write something different.

The Confession Club–baring your soul

The Confession Club

by Elizabeth Berg

The Confession ClubAs a group of women, representative of all ages, convene each week, we get a glimpse into their pasts and their presents, their hopes and dreams for the future. The members of the Confession Club eat, drink, talk, laugh, and cry as they share their most secret moments with each other. There is joy and also an underlying sadness as we experience poignant moments of human desires and frailties. The meetings tie together the characters; but their stories extend into other chapters, and their lives overlap outside the club and with others who are not a part of the group.

My favorite characters are Iris, who teaches a baking class, and Maddy, Iris’ landlady. I also enjoyed Maddy’s daughter, Nola, a precocious seven year old with an insatiable appetite for learning, life, and fun. Although unstated, a current flows through the book pointing to the concern that  everyone is going through something. The characters are realistically portrayed with frailties and strengths that make you want to know them. The Confession Club by Elizabeth Berg is a quick read with a tale that draws you in and keeps you coming back. Berg is a master of both storytelling and language, This is the third book I have read by her, and it just makes me want to return to the well of literary magic found in her writing.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Random House for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: General Fiction (Adult)

Notes: Though I wouldn’t officially consider this a series, there are characters and references in it that originate in The Story of Arthur Truluv and Night of Miracles. It is certainly not necessary to read either to enjoy The Confession Club.

Publication:   November 19, 2019—Random House

Memorable Lines:

“They’re snobby. The displays are so fancy you don’t feel you can touch them. You stand in front of the cheeses and it’s like they’re whispering to one another about you, in French.”

The filing of citizenry out from coffee shops always reminds Iris of cattle coming out of a barn in the morning, in their slow, blinking line. Not the most flattering of images, but for her, it’s calming, suggesting a kind of optimism about at least one thing in the world. A new day. A new start.

She envies Nola for the way she is always in a rush to do everything, the way she rises so quickly to the possibility of joy. Most of all, she envies Nola her default setting of goodwill toward man, beast, or weather.

Murder on the Chopping Block–movie set turns violent

Murder on the Chopping Block

by Shawn Reilly Simmons

Murder on the Chopping BlockThe Red Carpet Catering Mystery Series is always open to new adventures because the main character, Penelope Sutherland, is the owner of a catering company that provides meals and snacks for movie productions. So, Penelope and her crew have to travel to wherever the setting for a film is. In Murder on the Chopping Block, they are in Salacia Beach, California, near Monterey. 

Author Shawn Reilly Simmons really knows how to move a cozy mystery along. She uses fairly short chapters, but they end up making you want to jump into the next one. This book has just the right amount of character focus, intrigue, and action combined with a little romance and settings that range from cliffs along the Pacific to beautiful homes of the wealthy. A fun character in this cozy is Mirabella, a cat with an important role.

When a shot rings out on the movie set, the blood is not fake, and Penelope jumps into action. She also overhears a domestic incident that later leads to violence. She picks up on  a lot of clues that others might miss by being observant when she is in the right place at the right time. When others notice her perceptiveness, however, things get dangerous for her.

I would like to extend my thanks to Edelweiss and to Henery Press for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #7 in the Red Carpet Catering Mystery Series, but works well as a standalone as this plot is not dependent on understanding an extensive character background.

Publication:   September 17, 2019—Henery Press

Memorable Lines:

“Come on, sweetie,” Penelope said in a soft voice. Mirabella stared at her, acting like she wasn’t going to follow, then rose up on stiff legs and strutted toward the gate as if it was her idea in the first place.

“I never even thought about what happens to animals after…” “The unexpected happens,” Brice finished her thought. “You know how it is. A lot of people have pets. Even criminals have pets. When stuff goes down, these guys are impacted too. Kids and animals, they suffer the most, if you ask me.”

“Forgiveness is its own reward,” Joey said. “It’s easier and healthier to forgive than it is to carry around a grudge forever.”

Death by Jack-O’-Lantern–vets helping vets

Death by Jack-O’-Lantern

by Alexis Morgan

Death by Jack-O'-LanternOstensibly a Halloween cozy mystery, Death by Jack-O’-Lantern by Alexis Morgan is so much more. In addition to a great mystery, there is a budding romance between Tripp Blackson and his landlady Abby McCree and lots of small town activity as Snowberry Creek in the Pacific Northwest pulls together to make their Halloween Festival a success. In the midst of a murder investigation, pumpkins carved to resemble townspeople crop up all over town, produced by an anonymous artist. There are lots of supportive new friends for Abby as she tries to settle into her new town, but there are also some puzzling characters. The overarching serious questions are important ones: How can we help returning veterans with PTSD? To what extent does a person go to help and protect his friend?

Abby goes too far in her investigations, stirring up danger for herself and anger in Tripp and the local law enforcement officers as they fear for her safety. Zeke, her mastiff mix, plays a recurring role as her buddy and protector. Abby, an excellent manager and organizer, spends a lot of her time coordinating volunteers for several committees. She also loves to bake, especially for her friends, and to consume copious amounts of caffeinated coffee and sweet treats.

I enjoyed this top notch cozy mystery, and I’m looking forward to the next one in the series. Kudos to the author as this story’s ending was one I didn’t see coming!

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Kensington Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #2 in the Abby McCree Mystery Series. It would be OK to read as a standalone, but I think it would be more enjoyable if you read #1 in the series first.

Publication:   August 27, 2019—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

“Connie has a real talent for ‘volunteering’ people. I swear, you walk into city hall to ask a simple question about property taxes and somehow walk out in charge of a major town event. You’re even grateful for the chance to help out.”

Abby used artificial sweetener in her coffee to help compensate for the huge chocolate chip macadamia nut cookies she’d ordered. Yeah, it was a bit silly, but logic didn’t play a big part in her need for chocolate in times of stress.

She’d let Zeke outside for his usual morning patrol around the yard, but he hadn’t come trotting back in to inhale his breakfast…When she finally spotted him, her heart almost broke. He was sitting on Tripp’s front porch and staring at the door as if sheer determination would make his friend appear. How on earth was she supposed to explain to him that his buddy had been locked up in the people pound?

Ripe for Vengeance–love for a pot-bellied pig

Ripe for Vengeance

by Wendy Tyson

Ripe for VengeanceMegan is a commercial organic gardener with an organic store and café in Winsome where it seems everybody has at least heard of everyone else. She has a handsome, charming boyfriend in Dr. Denver Finn, the local vet. When some of his friends come to town, however, it seems that a cloud of confusion and possibly evil has arrived with them as one of the group is murdered.

In Ripe for Vengeance, author Wendy Tyson has created yet another cozy mystery that is a page turner. The character of Dillon, a high IQ young man suffering from PTSD after witnessing family trauma, is an oxymoron. Is he a mild-mannered introvert as some believe or did he snap in response to an emotional trigger? This cozy is replete with twists and turns revolving around a special school for students like Dillon and drug trials for a startup pharmaceutical company. The introduction of a Pot-bellied pig into the story adds a little humor and softness. Tyson resolves the plot’s mysteries quite well, even picking up one tiny thread at the end that I had completely forgotten about. In doing so, she actually ties up three threads into a nice bow. As I finish each book in this series, I’m always looking forward to the next one.

I would like to extend my thanks to Edelweiss and to Henery Press for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes:  #5 in the Greenhouse Mystery Series, but can be enjoyed as a standalone.

Publication:   July 16, 2019—Henery Press

Memorable Lines:

If hope were a season, it would be spring.

Despite working with the public at the café and farmers markets, and years of practicing law before that, she wasn’t particularly extroverted, and walking into a party that was already underway lived between root canal and scrubbing toilets on her favorites list.

“Rough neighborhood. Kid born there is already a few football fields behind their peers in the game of life.”

Little Girls Sleeping: an absolutely gripping crime thriller

Little Girls Sleeping: an absolutely gripping crime thriller

by Jennifer Chase

Little Girls SleepingMy general philosophy is “I don’t read thrillers, especially psychological thrillers.” They just hold too much impact for me. I read an online review, however, that led me to believe that perhaps I should make an exception for Little Girls Sleeping, the first in a new series by Jennifer Chase. As I started reading this thriller, I wondered if I had made a mistake as the story involves the disappearance of young girls and gives some insight into the twisted mind of the perpetrator. Soon, however, the tale expands into the story of returning veteran Katie Scott and Cisco, her K9 military companion.

A former police officer, Katie is taking some time to decide her next career move when she comes across a cold case file on her uncle’s desk. For Katie, the case is personal because it brings up memories of a childhood friend at camp who was murdered. The rest of the book tracks Katie’s pursuit of the truth and is part thriller, part mystery, and part police procedural. If you are drawn to K9 stories you will certainly enjoy this one as Cisco plays a major role.

Katie, who suffers from PTSD, is a strong and determined young woman. Her character is likable, and readers will look forward to watching her develop in future books in this series. She has support from a childhood friend, Chad, and from her uncle, Sheriff Scott. The plot line is engaging. At about 60% through the book, I had figured out who the evil “Toymaker” is—but I was wrong, and at about 80%, the true murderer is revealed. At that point, however, the action just gets more intense. I’m glad I read this page turner, and I am happy to report no nightmares as a result.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Bookouture for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery and Thriller

Notes: 1. If you are interested in the review that inspired my choosing this book, visit blogger/reviewer Shalini.  

          2. #1 in the Detective Katie Scott Series

Publication:   May 31, 2019—Bookouture

Memorable Lines:

The detective didn’t scare her. She had encountered some real tyrants in the army, from sergeants to training officers, so Templeton was like a yapping little dog to her—fierce, but only annoying at best.

Anxiety was a stealthy and unpredictable enemy.

She rubbed her hands together and let the happy memories flood her mind—at least for a short period. Sometimes it was difficult for her to let the positive things into her life. Her experiences had skewed her perception so that everything seemed on the verge of catastrophe. It was as if she had blocked out anything good in her life.

The Printed Letter Bookshop–books as a pathway to healing

The Printed Letter Bookshop

by Katherine Reay

The Printed Letter BookshopThis fictional work opens with the rather stark and extremely well attended funeral of Maddie and shares the perspectives of her estranged, but much loved, niece Madeline and of Janet and Claire, two ladies who are employees and friends of Maddie. What follows takes us into the lives and families of all of these ladies. They struggle with work and relationships, but Maddie leaves each an encouraging letter listing books that will help them in their life journeys. Maddie has a reputation for matching up readers with just the right book. Life is a battle for each of these ladies, and there is some characteristic in one or more of them that readers can identify with.

Part of The Printed Letter Bookshop draws attention to Proverbs 31 in the Bible which describes a wise woman and provides a model for the characters in forming their aspirations. I followed the ups and downs of the characters with hopes for successful resolutions to their problems. Will Madeline continue on her intended path to become a successful law partner? Will the town’s beloved bookshop survive during an online economy and after some bad business decisions? Can Janet find restoration with her husband and children? Is there a way for Claire to be a good mom while meeting her own needs? The story builds at an adequate pace as we are introduced to the characters and storyline, but accelerates towards the end as things come to a head for each of the characters in solving their personal dilemmas. Although there is closure for each of the ladies, it is not a puffy pink, cotton candy kind of resolution. There are surprises, heartbreaks, and difficult situations along the way as they learn what is important, how to forgive, and the need to avoid jumping to conclusions based on appearances.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Thomas Nelson for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Romance, Women’s Fiction, Christian Fiction

Notes: I would LOVE to visit this bookstore!

Publication:  May 14 , 2019—Thomas Nelson

Memorable Lines:

You can miss your family so much you have to look down to see your chest rise and fall, to confirm that it hasn’t been cut open and you’re not bleeding out and you’re still breathing. Friends can’t hurt you like that, nor can they fill that fissure.

“I remember Aunt Maddie saying you could lose yourself in a book and, paradoxically, find yourself as well.”

I do remember that his resignation ignited my anger. Anger always comes first for me. Anger keeps embarrassment, humiliation, shame, all manner of painful emotions at bay—for a time. But it requires so much fuel. And while it burned hot that night, and for a couple weeks after, it soon flickered out. Shame replaced it, and shame doesn’t need much fuel to thrive. It can live on tiny nibbles for years, possibly a lifetime.

Crux: A Cross-Border Memoir

Crux: A Cross-Border Memoir

by Jean Guerrero

CruxCrux: A Cross-Border Memoir attracted my attention because I live part of each year in Mexico and part in New Mexico, U.S.A.  After five years of cross-border experiences, I have such mixed feelings because I love the U.S. with its fairly balanced mixture of freedom and order, but I also have enjoyed the kindness and diverse cultures of the Mexican people.

Crux, however, addresses cross-border experiences on a whole different level. The author Jean Guerrero is the daughter of a Puerto Rican mother and a Mexican father. Guerrero survives a dysfunctional childhood to become a journalist. This book is an effort to understand herself through an attempt to understand her father, a brilliant man who at various times is addicted to drugs, and alcohol, believes the C.I.A. is performing experiments on him, and is schizophrenic according to her mother, a medical doctor.

Guerrero longs for her father’s affection. She received it when she was very little, but most of her memories are of an unpredictable and often hateful man who occasionally dropped in and out of her life. Guerrero tries to win her mother’s affection and approval through scholastic achievement. In the process of becoming an adult, she is always introspective but she experiments in dangerous arenas—drugs at raves, trips to dangerous areas of Mexico, bad boys and sexual exploration, and the occult. The occult is tied in with her heritage as she had a great-great grandmother in Mexico who was a healer and diviner and other Mexican relatives who were involved in similar activities.

Crux contains a lot of family stories: Guerrero’s own memories, interviews with her father and his mother, and trips to Mexico to discover the truth of her roots. It also includes some of her philosophical thinking at various times in her life as well as information from her neurological studies in college. She minored in neurology as a part of her efforts to understand her father’s schizophrenia and her genetic predilection to become schizophrenic herself.

As a cross-border tale, Crux is sprinkled with Spanish, some of it translated, some not. I am not fluent in Spanish, but I appreciated the authenticity added to Crux by including Spanish. I do wonder, however, if understanding the book would be affected by a reader’s not being able to translate as they read. One could, of course, use an online Spanish dictionary to help, but that would definitely interrupt the flow.

Crux is a very personal memoir exploring the raw feelings of the author. The point of view changes in the latter part of the book as Guerrero addresses her father. There is also a maturity and cohesion in that part of the book not present in the first. Perhaps that is appropriate as she was initially relating experiences as remembered from a child’s point of view. Readers who enjoy history will receive historical background to provide context; it is interesting and succinct.  All in all, Crux is a good read. There are very few heart-warming moments, but that was her life.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to One World (Random House) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4/5

Category: Memoir

Notes: There are some sexually explicit portions and offensive language in Crux. The treatment of women is particularly disturbing.

Publication:  July 17, 2018—One World (Random House)

Memorable Lines:

Life was not turning out as we had hoped. Creativity was a crime. Innocent creatures were mortal. Fathers left their daughters and broke their mother’s heart.

I had grown accustomed to the idea of my father as dead. If he was dead, he wasn’t willfully ignoring us. This belief had become a sinister source of comfort.

He persisted without pausing for protest, the same anger he had directed at me when he was driving me to my riding lessons as a teenager. I stared at the table, steeling myself. The numbness came naturally—a habit of my adolescence.

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