Cheri Reviews On Fear by Ellis Avery

I received an email at the end of August from author Ellis Avery asking if I’d be interested in reading and sharing my thoughts on her newest essay, On Fear. This is the second offering in The Family Tooth series. I had read the first essay, The Sapphire and the Tooth and was very moved by the author’s writing regarding events and emotions surrounding her mother’s death. I knew I would want to continue with the series so I jumped at the chance to check out book two.

Then life got in the way and the essay got buried in my email inbox. Well, my podcasting partner, Andy, and I are scheduled to talk with Ellis on Cocktail Hour tonight so I thought this would be the perfect time to bust it out. I plugged it into my text-to-speech reader and got down to business. Here’s the blurb from Amazon:

After three years on a drug called Humira, prescribed for a crippling autoimmune condition, Ellis Avery was diagnosed in 2012 with leiomyosarcoma, a rare uterine cancer, and given a 26% chance of five-year survival. When Avery learned that there was no evidence to show that the radiation and chemo she was offered would save her life, she turned down treatment. But even brave decisions can be terrifying: suddenly, Avery had to learn how to cope with constant fear – that she had made the wrong choice, that her doctors would call with bad news, that her time was limited. ON FEAR, the second essay in a series on Kindle Singles, tells the story of how Avery learned to live one moment at a time, from meditating to singing in the shower to befriending a black cat named Fumiko. While most readers will never face leiomyosarcoma, all of us sometimes face fear: Avery’s essay offers hard-won wisdom, tools, and hope. ON FEAR is the second in a series of essays on grief, illness, and food entitled THE FAMILY TOOTH.

Much like the first in the series, On Fear gets right down to the nitty-gritty. One of the things that I enjoyed the most about this author’s style is the way she lays it all out. At first glance, her writing seems very direct, without many emotions showing but they’re all right there, just under the surface. I could feel her fear and her need to try to control that fear. And like my experience with reading The Sapphire and the Tooth, I saw so much of myself in her words. I have a nice sized collection of fear videos and it felt good to know that I’m not the only one who isn’t quite sure how to make them stop and that I’m not alone in my inability to give love and encouragement to my inner-child.

I know that I’ll read her essays again and I’m certain that I’ll discover some nuances that I missed the first time through.

You can download a sample or purchase On Fear by clicking here.

Cheri Reviews The Sapphire and the Tooth by Ellis Avery

As you may imagine, I get a lot of submissions from authors and publishers hoping for a review. The vast majority of these submissions never see a post here for various reasons. Many times it’s because the stories just don’t grab us enough to keep going until the end and we’d much rather quit and move on to a book that we want to share with others.

I received a submission from author Ellis Avery a few days ago asking if I’d be interested in reading and reviewing her essay The Sapphire and the Tooth which is available now as a Kindle Single. I had previously reviewed her novel, The Last Nude, and enjoyed it very much so I was pretty certain I’d enjoy her new release.

I wrote her back this morning and said I’d do my best to get a review posted within the next few days and then opened the attached file to check the length of the essay. I read the first couple of lines and I was hooked. Less than an hour later, I’m writing this review.

Here’s the blurb from Amazon:

A jeweler with a law degree, for decades Elaine Solari Atwood fought crippling arthritis with hard liquor, until she died of a brain aneurysm at sixty-eight, leaving behind two daughters in their thirties and a lifetime’s worth of unfinished business. Forced as a child to play nanny to five siblings, she grew up to become a mother who loved her girls as tenderly as her stifled pain and anger allowed. In THE SAPPHIRE AND THE TOOTH, award-winning author Ellis Avery, by way of telling the story of selling her mother’s jewelry in New York’s Diamond District, offers a searing portrait of alcoholism and difficult love. The first in a series of essays on grief, illness, and food entitled “The Family Tooth”.

Avery’s voice is clear and honest. I was immediately engaged in every aspect of the essay: Her relationship with her mother – and her mother’s alcoholism, the way she experienced the grief of her mother’s death, and the family history. She gives us glimpses into her mother’s past as an explanation, not an excuse, for her mother’s behaviors. As a child of alcoholic parents, I was able to relate to so much of what Avery and her sister experienced. In particular, the way adult children of alcoholics often emotionally revert back to scared kids when faced with a drunken, enraged mom or dad.

One of the things I enjoyed the most about this short work is the way the author blends the mundane with the emotional. There were scenes that nearly brought me to tears, one that gave me goosebumps, and one line that I highlighted and read no less than five times.

I definitely recommend The Sapphire and the Tooth and I’m looking forward to getting the rest of the series.

You can download a sample or purchase The Sapphire and the Tooth by clicking here.

The Last Nude by Ellis Avery

When the publisher offered me an opportunity to review The Last Nude, I wasn’t sure. I mean, I know nothing about Paris during the mid 1920’s and I know about the same amount about painters. I had never heard of Tamara de Lempicka. But the premise sounded interesting so I agreed. In a nutshell, the story is about the relationship between 17-year-old model Rafaela Fano and the famous painter, 12 years her senior. It’s also about Rafaela’s coming of age and, later on, Tamara’s final days.

The first two-thirds of the book is told by Rafaela and, while she had been around the block a few times, she was young and naive when it came to love. She had learned how to use her body to survive but she had not experienced anything like what she had begun to feel for de Lempicka. The final portion of the book is told by the painter. I wasn’t prepared for that switch but, after I got over the shock of the change in tone and voice, I settled in to learn more about her and how she viewed the events with that taken place decades before. The differences between Rafaela’s perceptions and Tamara’s were immense.

I don’t want to give away too much more about the plot but I do want to say that I was immediately engaged in the book. Ms. Avery gave us a tough but naive and sensitive 17-year-old young woman who was jaded, yet hopeful.  Through Rafaela’s eyes, we see the beautiful Tamara as an artist who is gifted, driven, and self-centered but who could also be tender, giving, and loving. We get a glimpse into the parties filled with artists, athletes, royalty, and plenty of drugs and alcohol.  Once the relationship between Rafaela and Tamara is cemented, the story moves on to the battle between two men to own a painting that Tamara has sworn never to sell. Once I got to this part of the book, I couldn’t stop reading.

The Last Nude was beautifully written and engaging with characters that were complex and felt real. I cared about them, even when I  didn’t want to. The author did a fantastic job of grabbing me and holding on through the entire book. I highly recommend The Last Nude and look forward to reading more by Ms. Avery.

Oh! I nearly forgot to mention that, because I was unfamiliar with Tamara de Lempicka’s work, I did a bit of research and her paintings are incredible. One of her works is described by Rafaela very early in the book and it was a delight to have seen it myself. From the author’s description, I  would have known it anywhere. Which reminds me, again, of how well Ms. Avery uses her skills to bring Paris to life in the book. Thank you, Ellis Avery for the great read!

The Last Nude by Ellis Avery