Maria Writes Stuff

Womanhood. Motherhood. Autism Awareness. Book Reviews

Book Review: Forged Through Fire by Mark D. McDonough M.D.

Title: Forged Through Fire

Author: Mark D. McDonough, M.D.

Genre: Memoir

Publisher: Revell

Publication date: September 3, 2019

Page #: 272

Star rating: 5 out of 5.

Back Cover Copy:

“When Mark McDonough was a teen, a catastrophic fire claimed the lives of his mother and younger brother. It also left Mark with burns on over 65 percent of his body. During a long and painful recovery, his faltering faith in God was strengthened by a remarkable near-death experience. Inspired to pursue a career as a plastic surgeon to help those who suffer as he has, McDonough has overcome numerous other adversities on his journey, including addiction and a stroke. Now he shares his incredible true story of survival and perseverance to bring hope and healing to those dealing with great physical and emotional pain.

Anyone who has suffered or watched a loved one suffer from a personal trauma, disease, or loss that has tested or stolen their faith and exhausted their emotional resources will find real hope in this redemptive story.”

My Review:

Forged By Fire is a memoir about the life experiences of Dr. Mark McDonough, and how he survived being severely wounded in a house fire as a teen with strength and courage. Dr. McDonough faced many challenges during his recovery. He managed to remain strong and steadfast in his faith while enduring the loss of family members, a near death experience, alcoholism, and stroke. This is a memoir about overcoming the anguish brought about by life’s unexpected experiences to find strength and a reason to be hopeful for the future.  

I was sent this book by Revell as a part of their blog tour. All opinions are my own.

Links to Purchase:

Amazon Barnes & Noble

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Book Review: Confessions of a Domestic Failure by Bunmi Laditan

Title: Confessions of a Domestic Failure

Front Cover of Confessions of a Domestic Failure

Author: Bunmi Laditan

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Mira Books

Publication date: May 2, 2017

Page #: 336

Star rating: 4 out of 5.

Back Cover Copy:

From the creator of The Honest Toddler comes a fiction debut sure to be a must-read for moms everywhere 

There are good moms and bad moms—and then there are hot-mess moms. Introducing Ashley Keller, career girl turned stay-at-home mom who’s trying to navigate the world of Pinterest-perfect, Facebook-fantastic and Instagram-impressive mommies but failing miserably. 

When Ashley gets the opportunity to participate in the Motherhood Better boot camp run by the mommy-blog-empire maven she idolizes, she jumps at the chance to become the perfect mom she’s always wanted to be. But will she fly high or flop? 

With her razor-sharp wit and knack for finding the funny in everything, Bunmi Laditan creates a character as flawed and lovable as Bridget Jones or Becky Bloomwood while hilariously lambasting the societal pressures placed upon every new mother. At its heart, Ashley’s story reminds moms that there’s no way to be perfect, but many ways to be great.

My Review:

This story is funny and mothers everywhere will find it relatable. It’s a fictional story that manages to make real-life mothers feel seen, as though we’re not imagining the adjustments, and difficulties of first time motherhood. I really enjoyed the laughs through the story. I managed to cry a few times, too. I highly recommend this book if you’re looking for something that will make you appreciate the difficulties of motherhood, and has a happy ending.

Links to Purchase: Amazon Barnes & Noble

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Book Review: The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides | A Debut Novel!

Title: The Silent Patient

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Author: Alex Michaelides

Genre: Fiction/Psychological Thriller

Publisher: Caledon Books

Publication date: February 5, 2019

Page #: 336

Star rating: 4 out of 5.

Back Cover Copy:

The instant #1 New York Times bestseller

“An unforgettable—and Hollywood-bound—new thriller… A mix of Hitchcockian suspense, Agatha Christie plotting, and Greek tragedy.”

Entertainment Weekly

The Silent Patient is a shocking psychological thriller of a woman’s act of violence against her husband—and of the therapist obsessed with uncovering her motive.

Alicia Berenson’s life is seemingly perfect. A famous painter married to an in-demand fashion photographer, she lives in a grand house with big windows overlooking a park in one of London’s most desirable areas. One evening her husband Gabriel returns home late from a fashion shoot, and Alicia shoots him five times in the face, and then never speaks another word.

Alicia’s refusal to talk, or give any kind of explanation, turns a domestic tragedy into something far grander, a mystery that captures the public imagination and casts Alicia into notoriety. The price of her art skyrockets, and she, the silent patient, is hidden away from the tabloids and spotlight at the Grove, a secure forensic unit in North London.

Theo Faber is a criminal psychotherapist who has waited a long time for the opportunity to work with Alicia. His determination to get her to talk and unravel the mystery of why she shot her husband takes him down a twisting path into his own motivations—a search for the truth that threatens to consume him….”

My Review:

The Silent Patient is a psychological thriller with twists and turns I didn’t see coming, the perfect debut novel. Alicia is a painter married to her fashion photographer husband, Gabriel. Alicia and Gabriel seem to have it all, until violence erupts in their relationship, and Gabriel ends up dead. Theo is the psychologist Hell bent on getting the truth out of Alicia – the silent patient. This is a really great read if you’re interested in a story that will keep you guessing until the end!

Links to Purchase: Amazon Barnes&Noble

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Book Review: My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing (A DEBUT NOVEL)

Title: My Lovely Wife

Author: Samantha Downing

Genre: Fiction/Mystery/Thriller

Publisher: Berkley Books

Publication date: March 26, 2019

Page #: 374

Star rating: 5 out of 5.

Back Cover Copy:

“Think: Dexter but sexier.”—theSkimm

“A dark and irresistible debut.”—People

“Will shock even the savviest suspense readers.”—Real Simple

Dexter meets Mr. and Mrs. Smith in this wildly compulsive debut thriller about a couple whose fifteen-year marriage has finally gotten too interesting…

Our love story is simple. I met a gorgeous woman. We fell in love. We had kids. We moved to the suburbs. We told each other our biggest dreams, and our darkest secrets. And then we got boredWe look like a normal couple. We’re your neighbors, the parents of your kid’s friend, the acquaintances you keep meaning to get dinner with.

We all have our secrets to keeping a marriage alive.

Ours just happens to be getting away with murder..”

My Review:

This story is disturbing and very well written, I could not put it down! Ms. Downing takes you on a roller coaster of twists and turns, and thrills that you don’t see coming. Millicent and her husband are NOT your typical suburban couple. Yes, they both have jobs, have a couple of kids…but they’re not as plain jane as they may appear. In order to spice up their marriage, they’re resorting to murder to make their seemingly boring life, interesting. The story just continues to get more mysterious, and a bit crazier as the pages turn. SO. GOOD. MUST READ!!!

Links to Purchase: Amazon Barnes&Noble

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Book Review: Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

Title: Big Little Lies

Author: Liane Moriarty

Genre: Fiction/Mystery/Contemparary

Publisher: Reprint; Penguin Publishing Group

Publication date: August 11, 2015

Page #: 512

Star rating: 5 out of 5

Back Cover Copy:

From the author of Nine Perfect StrangersTruly Madly Guilty, and The Husband’s Secret comes the #1 New York Times bestselling novel about the dangerous little lies we tell ourselves just to survive.

A murder…A tragic accident…Or just parents behaving badly? What’s indisputable is that someone is dead.

Madeline is a force to be reckoned with. She’s funny, biting, and passionate; she remembers everything and forgives no one. Celeste is the kind of beautiful woman who makes the world stop and stare but she is paying a price for the illusion of perfection. New to town, single mom Jane is so young that another mother mistakes her for a nanny. She comes with a mysterious past and a sadness beyond her years. These three women are at different crossroads, but they will all wind up in the same shocking place.

Big Little Lies is a brilliant take on ex-husbands and second wives, mothers and daughters, schoolyard scandal, and the little lies that can turn lethal.”

My Review:

I was interested in reading this book after watching HBO Series. The show had me on the edge of my seat wondering what was going to happen next, and I wondered if the book would as well. The book did not disappoint at all! Big Little Lies is a well written story about three mothers whose lives intersect through their friendships, school drop off, and each character’s share of their own personal drama with their pasts, children, and love interests/spouses. I really enjoyed the character development, and the really well developed backstories of each character. Each chapter leaves you wanting to know more about each character and how their lives intertwine (in some surprising ways!) with each other.  Big Little Lies is a gripping story filled with suspense, lies, and even murder!

Links to Purchase: Amazon Barnes&Noble Book Depository

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Ben Has Things to Say…

Book Review: Living Lies by Natalie Walters

Title: Living Lies

Author: Natalie Walters

Genre: Fiction/Mystery

Publisher: Revell Publishing

Publication date: May 21, 2019

Page #: 336

Star rating: 3 out of 5.

Back Cover Copy:

“At least that’s what Lane Kent is counting on when she returns to her hometown with her five-year-old son. Dangerously depressed after the death of her husband, Lane is looking for hope. What she finds instead is a dead body.

Lane must work with Walton’s newest deputy, Charlie Lynch, to uncover the truth behind the murder. But when that truth hits too close to home, she’ll have to decide if saving the life of another is worth the cost of revealing her darkest secret.”

My Review:

I read through the first 5 chapters of the book, and the story just didn’t hold my interest. I did not find that Lane and Charlie were really relatable characters (to me personally). I think the story was well written, but the characters lacked in their backstory to make them relatable. I didn’t have the urge to know more about them, who they were, how they got to where they are in the story line. I don’t think this was a bad book, just not a book for me.

I received this book from Revell Books for their online book tour. I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions are my own.

Links to Purchase: Amazon Barnes & Noble

*This post may contain affiliate links.

Book Review: The Refuge by Ann Gabhart

Title: The Refuge

Author: Ann H. Gabhart

Genre: Christian Historical Fiction

Publisher: Revell Publishing

Publication date: April 30, 2019

Page #: 400

Star rating: 4 out of 5.

Back Cover Copy:

“When Darcie and Walter Goodwin hear of a new cholera epidemic sweeping the area, they join the Shakers whose villages seem immune to the disease. It’s meant to be a temporary stay, but Walter is killed in a riverboat accident. With no family and no money, Darcie has little choice but to stay with the Shakers. To complicate matters, she is expecting a baby conceived before she and her husband came to the Shaker village. Marital relationships are considered sinful in this celibate community, putting Darcie in a unique–and lonely–position. Can the arrival of widower Flynn Keller and his headstrong daughter offer Darcie the hope of happiness . . . and family?

Ann H. Gabhart returns to the enigmatic world of the Shakers in this emotional exploration of the power of love and the bond of family”

My Review:

In The Refuge you are introduced to two characters, Darcie and Flynn. Darcie came to the Shaker Village with her husband Walter to find a safe haven from the Cholera epidemic. When Darcie finds herself pregnant and alone, she’s faced with an uncertain future.

Widower Flynn longs for stability for he and his daughter. Is it possible that these two could find love in a celebite community? I really enjoyed the book, and thought that Ms. Gabhart did a wonderful job in giving the reader a small history lesson about the beliefs of the Shakers and how their community works. The story is intertwined with the history of the Shakers, so you learn something as you find out more about the characters pitfalls and triumphs. I recommend the book, and really enjoyed all the little unexpected surprises in the story.

I received this book from Revell Books for their online book tour. I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions are my own.

Links to Purchase: Amazon   Barnes & Noble

*This post may contain affiliate links.

Book Review: Beauty and the Beast

Title: Beauty and the Beast

Author: Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villenueve

Genre: Fairytale

Publisher: Harper Design

Publication date: Illistrated Edition, January 2017

Page #: Hardcover, 208 Pages

Link to Purchase:  Amazon Barnes and Noble

I have been a fan of the animated (and now live action) film, so I wanted to read the book too. I can honestly say that this story did not disappoint! The story is beautifully told, and is a great read for anyone who’s a fan of the films. There are similarities to the films, but with some added surprises. The author writes a page turning fairytale with fun details that give enertaining mental immagery. to a version of a tale loved and known the world over. The book design is beautiful and the interactive elements are really charming and fun. If you’re a fan of fairytales…I highly recommend this book!

Star rating: 4 out of 5.

A Stack of Books

These are the books I recieved as Christmas gifts or had bought (I only bought two) just before Christmas. I will list titles and Amazon links below. I’m not sure which one to read next, as I’ve already finished (and loved) Beauty and the Beast. Any recommendations?

From top to Bottom:

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking Glass

– By Lewis Caroll

The Haunting of Hill House

-By Shirley Jackson

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall 

-By Anne Bronte

Leonardo da Vinci

-By Anne Abraham

The Wizard of Oz

-By Frank Baum


-By Gregory Maguire

Beauty and the Beast

-By Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villenueve

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