Book Review #89: “The Less People Know About Us: A Mystery of Betrayal, Family Secrets, and Stolen Identity”

When I did a recent Tag post, I picked this book as “An intimidating book on your TBR.”

I wrote: “The Less People Know About Us: A Mystery of Betrayal, Family Secrets, and Stolen Identity by Axton Betz-Hamilton. I know the backstory behind this book, Betz-Hamilton’s memoir, from the Criminal podcast. (Make sure you listen to Episode 51 first, then Episode 125). I want it to be as amazing as I think it is, based on the podcast episodes that were so masterfully produced.”


As soon as I heard about Betz-Hamilton’s book on Episode 125 of the Criminal podcast, I added it to my wish list. I was so thrilled when I opened it as part of my Christmas gift from Al at the end of 2019.

It took me nearly six months to get to it, but I knew I was avoiding it. I had so many high hopes for this book, and I did not want to be disappointed.

Thankfully, this was not disappointing.


It’s hard to talk about this book without giving away certain things. But, I will say that I hope Betz-Hamilton writes more books. She did an incredible job with this. It’s such a personal story, and she truly turned it into action. She has done incredible work with helping identity theft victims for many years, while simultaneously trying to solve the mystery of identity theft in her own family.

If you’ve wanted to learn about identity theft, and its interesting history, this is a great book to read. Betz-Hamilton started her investigation with hardly any resources, and little law enforcement involvement. Times have certainly changed, and she helped educate many people along the way. Without her work, I don’t think identity theft would be as widely known or investigated now.

I related to this book in a few ways. Axton and I were both only children. I struggled with my relationship with my mom, especially as I became a teenager. But, I realize how good I had it. Axton lived in a version of hell under her mother’s roof until she went to college. I recognized so many signs of abuse, sadly.


The chapters were the perfect length. I flew through multiple chapters every night, and struggled with putting the book down.

It was so interesting to read about her life. This book spanned from before she was born up through the early 2010s. I really enjoyed the personal anecdotes, mixed in with academia and identity theft history. I’ve found myself searching for presentations she’s given. I’m hoping she’ll offer a course on identity theft. I want to learn more from her.

This is currently my favorite book of 2020. I’m always planning to re-read it next year.

5 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Commentary #106: “The Public Library as a 21st-Century Indoor City Square”

Isn’t this space breathtaking? I could stay here for days. Image Credit: Civic Architects

My cousin Ryan sent me this link recently, and I was immediately intrigued!

Here’s the link: The Public Library as a 21st-Century Indoor City Square


This article was published in March 2019, but it’s a really cool idea. The U.S. should really start paying more attention to what the Europeans are doing!

The premise: Amsterdam-based Civic Architects helped transform a former locomotive shed into a public library and public space.

The skeleton of the locomotive shed was basically preserved. There’s a ton of natural light. A series of movable textile screens are able to be adjusted through a computerized system.

In addition to books, there are small “labs” in the space, visitors can learn new skills and experiment. Meetings are held, exhibitions can be displayed on the large reading tables, and there’s a coffee kiosk. The space can hold up to 1,000 people at one time.


I really like this idea. There are so many abandoned buildings and industrial spaces, and that’s not just in the U.S. If this idea were to be embraced, it would take time and money, but it would also create employment opportunities, engage revitalization efforts, and help the community at large.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Commentary #105: “I Wrote A Research Paper About The Publishing Industry … Here’s What I Found”

Image Credit: The Reedsy Blog

I thought Charis Rae’s research was so awesome, I wanted to share it!

Here’s the link to Charis Rae’s post: I Wrote A Research Paper About the Publishing Industry … Here’s What I Found


Charis brought up some excellent points and statistics. Here are a few of them:

  • Nearly 100,000 books were published by major publishing companies in the United States in the year 2019.
  • In 2018, more than 1.6 million books were self-published digitally and physically.
  • The odds of getting a publishing contract is 1 in 4 (25 percent), according to a 2014 report.
  • If you choose to self-publish with Amazon, you will get roughly 70 percent of the profits.
  • A traditionally published author will only receive 6-10 percent of the royalties.

Reading her analysis, it’s pretty obvious that self-publishing is the easiest way to get your book out to potential readers. However, you also face stiffer competition because there are far more self-published titles available by volume, and for less money. If you haven’t, just take a glance at Amazon Books, plus their Kindle Store. It’s overwhelming.

That said, there’s other booksellers, and publishers, than just Amazon. Many traditional book publishers still exist – HarperCollins, Hachette Livre, Penguin Random House, Macmillan, Simon & Schuster, Kodansha, Scholastic. In terms of other stores, there’s Barnes & Noble, Walmart, ThriftBooks, Books A Million, 2nd and Charles, Waterstones (UK), Strand Books, Book Depository, and even eBay.

In addition, you can also request Advanced Reader Copies (ARCs) through sites like NetGalley. Several of my friends have done that.

I was really impressed with Charis Rae’s research and analysis! I hope you take the time to read her post.

Also, consider your sources when you purchase books. Of course, I will always recommend borrowing books from the library or getting e-books if you’re into that (I’m not, but that’s just a personal preference). Amazon makes it really easy and convenient, but I encourage you to think outside the box a bit, and consider other sellers once in a while. For example, I bought a copy of Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson from a friend’s online store through eBay!


As for me and my writing journey, I’ve been studying both avenues for the last several years. I personally want to go the traditional route first, mainly for the experience because I’ve never attempted it. If I find myself struggling after a period of time, I’ll consider the self-publishing route. I’m excited to get my work out there!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Commentary #104: “Ten Books I Wish I Had Read As A Teen” (Top Ten Tuesday)

I saw several posts recently about ten books I wish I had read as a teen!

Books, Libraries, Also Cats – Top Ten Tuesday Books I Wish I’d Had As A Teen

The Bookish Hooker – Ten Books I Wish I Had Read As A Child

bookloversblog – Top Ten Tuesday #261

that artsy reader girl – 22 YA Contemporary Romances Teen Me Would Have Loved


Here’s my list!

Note, there are several here that were published after I left my teenage years. I turned 20 in 2008.


  1. The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien (1937)
  2. The Perks of Being A Wallflower, Stephen Chbosky (1999)
  3. Crank, Ellen Hopkins (2004)
  4. Looking for Alaska, John Green (2005)
  5. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Sherman Alexie (2007)
  6. Thirteen Reasons Why, Jay Asher (2007)
  7. The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins (2008)
  8. Wintergirls, Laurie Halse Anderson (2009)
  9. Eleanor & Park, Rainbow Rowell (2012)
  10. Dumplin’, Julie Murphy (2015)

Out of these ten, I’ve read The Perks of Being A Wallflower, Looking for Alaska, Thirteen Reasons Why, The Hunger Games, and Wintergirls. I read most of these when I was in college.

As for the others, I’ve only read parts of them, or heard of them through various media sources or other bloggers. However, I plan to add these five to future TBRs.


What about you? Have you read any of these books?

What books do you wish you’d read as a teen?


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Book Review #86: “The Ocean at the End of the Lane”

My friend Cynthia sent me a copy, along with a beautiful letter telling me how much she enjoyed this book. I’d heard of Neil Gaiman for years, but never read any of his books until now.

Some nights, I read multiple chapters. However, most nights, I slogged through one chapter and then went to bed. I almost gave up on this book about four chapters in.

I’m so glad I didn’t.


This book renewed my interest in fantasy. Gaiman is a master storyteller and world-builder. There were several events and plot points that I considered to be violent and unsettling, but I think that’s me, my personality, and this being my first introduction to Gaiman’s writing.

Even though I slogged through a chapter or two more often than not, it’s likely because of how immersive Gaiman’s world is from the get-go. You’re right next to the protagonist, unnamed, his family, and the Hempstocks the entire time. I put the book down once or twice and realized that I, in fact, was not in the English countryside with the characters. You’re immediately invested in every detail.

The imagery is profound. It’s fitting that he used the word “ocean” in the title – This book is like an ocean. Its never-ending words and story, lapping over you like constant waves. And it’s a good thing. It’s hard to put it down after one chapter, and the chapters are shorter than I thought they would be. It keeps pulling you in for more.


If you’ve read fantasy before, this is a treat. It will take you away, and not spit you out until the very end. It’s beautifully written, almost lyrical or song-like.

If you haven’t read many fantasy books, I’m not sure this would be a good place to start. Gaiman is a great writer, but he’s very heavy. I experienced multiple emotions while reading. It’s very dark, but it’s dark for a reason. However, that’s not a bad thing. It’s award-winning for so many good things.

In the end, this book was a good one for me to read. It came into my life at a good time. Reading Gaiman is almost magical, and I was sad when the book ended, because it ended.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Commentary #103: “The Elegance of Kindness”

Image Credit: Found on Gratitude and Trust

This post started with an email and a YouTube link. Thanks, Momma V.!

Al’s mom sent this link to me, asking if I’d seen it: Story Behind the Song: The Rainbow Connection


I hadn’t, so I clicked on it. It’s a bit dated now – It was posted in October 2016. However, what I clicked on and witnessed was nearly 12 minutes of magic and appreciation. It was an interview where Paul Williams discusses how “The Rainbow Connection” came to be. In the middle, Williams mentioned his website, Gratitude and Trust, along a post he wrote called “The Elegance of Kindness” about Jim Henson. I paused the video, grabbed a Post-It note, scribbled that down, and continued the video.

Visiting the website a little while later, I noticed that Paul posted it in September 2013. But, dates don’t matter.


As I started reading, all I felt was warmth when I digested Paul’s words. What an amazing life he’s had as a songwriter. He’s also a recovering alcoholic, a major feat by itself. And, to meet AND work with Jim Henson! Wow.

He told the same story in the video as he did in his blog post, about not wanting to throw any surprises at Jim when he and Kenny Ascher were beginning to produce the music for The Muppet Movie (1979).

Jim smiled, and reassured Paul with these words, “Oh, that’s all right Paul. I’m sure they’ll be wonderful. I’ll hear them in the studio when we record them.”

Hearing Jim say that immediately allayed Paul’s fears and worries. He also told this story in the liner notes when the soundtrack was re-released for the nearly 35th anniversary of the movie. And, in a way, this meeting paved the way for one of the most memorable and warm songs that has ever been created.


But the point here is “the elegance of kindness.” As I was telling Al about the video and the blog post, he immediately nodded and said, “Yes, exactly. That’s how many people have described Jim Henson. How kind he was.”

Jim Henson died in 1990. I wasn’t quite two years old when he left the world. But, I’ve learned who he was. And what an impact he has made! In his short 53 years, he became a legend. He created the Muppets, helped develop characters for Sesame Street, produced The Muppet Show, started the Jim Henson Foundation, and founded Jim Henson’s Creature Shop.


I made the same connection that Paul did about Jim. With kindness comes trust. With kindness and trust, magical things can bloom and grow. I don’t think “Rainbow Connection” would have been written if Jim Henson didn’t trust Williams and Ascher. There have been so many issues with trust, time and time again, with the world of entertainment. And it’s not limited to entertainment, either.

I write this post as the pandemic continues. I’m frustrated and appalled at the President of the United States and other leaders who have spouted clear lies, and they have incited great fear among millions of people. Millions of people who have gotten so many mixed messages at the worst possible time. No wonder I have trust issues! And there’s not a shred of kindness from the top. Sadly.


However, my spirit has been renewed. There is kindness, still.

Some Good News with John Krasinski is AWESOME!

I’ve loved Steve Hartman since he started reporting with CBS News in the 1990s (Remember Assignment America? And throwing a dart at a map of the U.S.?). A while ago, he did a four-part series called Kindness 101. Not only are his kids adorable, but he’s sharing many of his stories, old and new, and reminding everyone who’s watching what the important things are in life. Character. Gratitude. Empathy. Optimism. Purpose. I’ve watched all of them, and I’m excited the series is continuing.

Just today, I read a father’s account of his daughter, Emerson, and her letters. Her handwritten letters and decorated envelopes. She wrote a letter to her mailman, Doug, expressing her appreciation for him to help her mail her letters. Now, it’s gone all over the country, through thousands of people and postal workers. I’m inspired to be a pen pal again.

And, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Sesame Street’s theme is now “Smarter, Stronger, Kinder.” The elegance of kindness can, and should, be embraced as young as possible. But, you’re not too old to start. You’re never too old to embrace something like kindness.

Enjoy a special performance of “Rainbow Connection” from Kermit that posted to YouTube last week.

Stay safe, stay well, friends.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Book Review #85: “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” *Re-Read*

Image Credit: Amazon

Here are my reviews of the other books so far:


Originally, I didn’t really care for this book as much as others. However, I’ve had a change of heart. It’s still not my favorite book of the series, but I now understand why many people love this one in particular.

I fell in love with Lupin. I now realize why many people enjoy and are enamored with his character. I also learned more about the history of Hogwarts and the characters who came through before Harry, Ron, and Hermione – Especially Harry’s parents.

I’m excited to move on to Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire – Another favorite!

5 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂