An engaging, spiritual tale that will touch the hearts of animal lovers.



Oklahoma horse rancher McDonald recalls her almost mystical connection to a shy border collie pup in her debut memoir.

In early childhood, McDonald coped with the frightening effects of an overbearing father and a mother suffering from mental illness. She recounts the chilling tale of how, when she was 5 years old, her father ordered a doctor not to give her a local anesthetic for stitches she needed in her forehead. When she was 7, she and her two younger brothers were taken in by her aunt. Her mother had been hospitalized after an attempted suicide and would return nine months later, but her father disappeared from her life. The psychological wounds of her childhood later haunted the author, although she married happily and become a respected trainer. Many years after first seeing a sheep herding contest, McDonald felt an overwhelming urge to add a border collie, and as it turned out, a few sheep, to her ranch. She had no idea how much she would have to learn about the rules of competitive sheep herding. Or how profound a relationship she would establish with the beautiful but very timid 9-month-old pup, Luke, who had “human-like eyes”: “I felt a sudden pulse of love so palpable it took my breath away.” Luke had been raised without training in a kennel and after what seems to have been the canine equivalent of a traumatic childhood. McDonald’s tale is infused with mystical symbolism from the beginning, when it describes how she made eye contact with a coyote. In fact, coyotes appear frequently at emotional turning points. Some readers may be put off by McDonald’s strong convictions about reincarnation, but her road to self-confidence depends heavily upon her explicit visions of an experience in a past life. Doubters notwithstanding, there is no denying that she and Luke formed an extraordinary, perhaps cosmic, connection that allowed the dog to discover his innate herding ability, and the author to appreciate her own worthiness, despite a human bully on the competitive circuit. Her informative sport-herding tidbits are a bonus.

An engaging, spiritual tale that will touch the hearts of animal lovers.

Pub Date: Sept. 11, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-982231-04-0

Page Count: 236

Publisher: BalboaPress

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2020

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The heartbreaking story of an emotionally battered child delivered with captivating candor and grace.


The former iCarly star reflects on her difficult childhood.

In her debut memoir, titled after her 2020 one-woman show, singer and actor McCurdy (b. 1992) reveals the raw details of what she describes as years of emotional abuse at the hands of her demanding, emotionally unstable stage mom, Debra. Born in Los Angeles, the author, along with three older brothers, grew up in a home controlled by her mother. When McCurdy was 3, her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Though she initially survived, the disease’s recurrence would ultimately take her life when the author was 21. McCurdy candidly reconstructs those in-between years, showing how “my mom emotionally, mentally, and physically abused me in ways that will forever impact me.” Insistent on molding her only daughter into “Mommy’s little actress,” Debra shuffled her to auditions beginning at age 6. As she matured and starting booking acting gigs, McCurdy remained “desperate to impress Mom,” while Debra became increasingly obsessive about her daughter’s physical appearance. She tinted her daughter’s eyelashes, whitened her teeth, enforced a tightly monitored regimen of “calorie restriction,” and performed regular genital exams on her as a teenager. Eventually, the author grew understandably resentful and tried to distance herself from her mother. As a young celebrity, however, McCurdy became vulnerable to eating disorders, alcohol addiction, self-loathing, and unstable relationships. Throughout the book, she honestly portrays Debra’s cruel perfectionist personality and abusive behavior patterns, showing a woman who could get enraged by everything from crooked eyeliner to spilled milk. At the same time, McCurdy exhibits compassion for her deeply flawed mother. Late in the book, she shares a crushing secret her father revealed to her as an adult. While McCurdy didn’t emerge from her childhood unscathed, she’s managed to spin her harrowing experience into a sold-out stage act and achieve a form of catharsis that puts her mind, body, and acting career at peace.

The heartbreaking story of an emotionally battered child delivered with captivating candor and grace.

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-982185-82-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2022

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A blissfully vicarious, heartfelt glimpse into the life of a Manhattan burlesque dancer.


A former New York City dancer reflects on her zesty heyday in the 1970s.

Discovered on a Manhattan street in 2020 and introduced on Stanton’s Humans of New York Instagram page, Johnson, then 76, shares her dynamic history as a “fiercely independent” Black burlesque dancer who used the stage name Tanqueray and became a celebrated fixture in midtown adult theaters. “I was the only black girl making white girl money,” she boasts, telling a vibrant story about sex and struggle in a bygone era. Frank and unapologetic, Johnson vividly captures aspects of her former life as a stage seductress shimmying to blues tracks during 18-minute sets or sewing lingerie for plus-sized dancers. Though her work was far from the Broadway shows she dreamed about, it eventually became all about the nightly hustle to simply survive. Her anecdotes are humorous, heartfelt, and supremely captivating, recounted with the passion of a true survivor and the acerbic wit of a weathered, street-wise New Yorker. She shares stories of growing up in an abusive household in Albany in the 1940s, a teenage pregnancy, and prison time for robbery as nonchalantly as she recalls selling rhinestone G-strings to prostitutes to make them sparkle in the headlights of passing cars. Complemented by an array of revealing personal photographs, the narrative alternates between heartfelt nostalgia about the seedier side of Manhattan’s go-go scene and funny quips about her unconventional stage performances. Encounters with a variety of hardworking dancers, drag queens, and pimps, plus an account of the complexities of a first love with a drug-addled hustler, fill out the memoir with personality and candor. With a narrative assist from Stanton, the result is a consistently titillating and often moving story of human struggle as well as an insider glimpse into the days when Times Square was considered the Big Apple’s gloriously unpolished underbelly. The book also includes Yee’s lush watercolor illustrations.

A blissfully vicarious, heartfelt glimpse into the life of a Manhattan burlesque dancer.

Pub Date: July 12, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-27827-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2022

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