The Last Portrait: A Psalm for Monique – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

4 Stars

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Deborah Nelson

The Last Portrait: A Psalm for Monique is Deborah Nelson’s memoir about the grief she endured after the loss of her daughter, Monique. Monique had just finished getting holiday portraits taken of her and her two-year-old son, then found herself in the wrong place at the wrong time. A gun fight between rival gangs erupted around her and she threw herself over her son to save him – ultimately losing her own life in the process. Afterwards, Deborah Nelson struggled to overcome a “Black Hole” of devastation and grief, sending her on a whirlwind journey to acceptance, love, and life.

The Last Portrait is not exactly a book to be enjoyed; on the contrary, it is overwhelmingly bittersweet. Although many joyful and sweet moments are shared, both from Deborah Nelson’s childhood and her daughter’s, starting the book by discussing Monique’s death added a certain sorrowful weight to any of the happier memories. Perhaps, though, that was the point. Still, The Last Portrait is a heavy story, and not one that could – or should – be read lightly.

Nevertheless, it is engaging and intriguing anyway, largely because of Deborah Nelson’s captivating narration. She writes in an eloquent, enlightened, incredibly human manner that draws the reader in with every word. By the end of The Last Portrait, readers will have felt Nelson’s joy, her anger, her sorrow, and her sheer determination and will along with her as she recounts her story. This is not an easy read by any means, but a wonderful one all the same. The Last Portrait: A Psalm for Monique is a heart-wrenching, exhilarating, human story of love, joy, loss, and life that will be sure to touch the hearts of all who read it.

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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Transition: Mastering Life


Transition: Mastering Life’s Movements



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Book Description:

What do we do when we find ourselves “caught in the middle of a life shift” that awakened without our permission?

How do we navigate between “hearing” and the manifestation of the Promise?”

Transition articulates the disciplines, reasonings, and divine logic that surrounds this human and spiritual “phenomenon,” and provides solutions on how to manifest the Greatest Significance imaginable though the Journey of Life and Spirit!

Janelle’s Review:

Stan Ellis kicks off his new book, Transition: Mastering Life’s Movements, with a unique example of mastering transition via a story about the Los Angeles Lakers from the 1980s. It grabs the reader’s attention and makes one think, but the overall message and the depth of Ellis’ book moves far beyond a basketball game. The premise instead is focused on the vast amount of transitions or seasons that everyone goes through in life. Ellis says, “Transition is when one season of your life abruptly ends and you’re forced to enter a new season.” Having a major change and a major period of transition forced upon you is often a breaking point for people. They need help. This book helps readers bring God more fully into their lives during such challenging times. Filled with Christian teachings and insight, Transition opens reader’s hearts and minds to new levels of support and guidance while learning how to embrace the transitions they may be currently facing and the ones they will face in the future.

At the end of each chapter in Transition: Mastering Life’s Movements, author and strategic life-shifter, Stan Ellis shares numerous “power points” in addition to the highlighted nuggets of wisdom he shares throughout the chapter. This is a book readers can pick up, flip to a page, and quickly and easily find powerful Christian guidance along with practical motivation. Ellis shares that, “Life is a series of transitions, and your ability to master transition is the key to you mastering the human experience.” Furthermore, he expresses that “transition should cause a transformation of your ‘self-view’, ‘God-view’, and ‘world-view’.” That may feel like a big undertaking, but Ellis walks you through it one step at a time. Transition, Mastering Life’s Movements is a fairly quick read, but it is jam packed with profound concepts and Godly counsel.

The Mastermind behind Transition: Mastering Life’s Movements:

Stan Ellis

Stan Ellis is an innovative strategist, compelling teacher, dynamic thought provoker, and inspiring motivator. He’s been studying and communicating creative strategies and solutions for the past twenty-five (25) years.  He is known for helping people think in new ways that they’ve never considered so they can advance to places they have never gone.  He shares his life with his wife Evelyn, and their three (3) young-adult daughters (Sharnae, Chera & Leah).


Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to subscribe to Authors Talk About It via iTunes and get your copy of Transition: Mastering Life’s Movements.

The question remains – Will you accept your mission?

Rob and Janelle



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Authors Talk About It Book Award Contest

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Four of Her Six Children Died

Four of her and her husband’s six children died due to a rare blood disorder. Do you wonder how this horrific challenge didn’t tear their family apart? Gwen and Henry shared with me that it actually drew them closer together. They also shared that we are all going to hurt at times in our lives, but we must not give up or give in. Instead, we have to live our lives for ourselves while being there for and loving those who mean so much to us.



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Angels Never Die is the true story of love, loss, and faith. It chronicles the struggles and triumphs of Gwen and Henry McNutt, first as children in the pre-Civil Rights Era South, to their love-at-first-sight meeting at a county fair, to the trials and tribulations of marriage and raising six children. When they met, Gwen and Henry had very different ideas about the role faith plays in our lives; but when all four of their sons fall ill with a rare blood disorder, they learn to put aside their differences and “walk their faith”–in both God and each other. Through an endless series of hospital visits and painful procedures performed on their boys, Henry and Gwen learn that they both carried a gene that, when combined, created two different rare diseases: Fanconi Anemia and Wiskott-Aldrich. While their two daughters were left unscathed, all four of their boys would eventually succumb to these diseases. How they survived–and even thrived–is an incredible story of love; love for each other, their children, and their family. It is also a story of holding onto faith – in family, friends, and God, even when faced with the most horrific test a parent can imagine. Without faith, neither Gwen nor Henry could not have endured all that was put before them. Their journey taught them that as long as you have faith, you can overcome anything, even the loss of a child–even the loss of four children. This book stands as an example of, no matter whom you are, or what your background, you can endure all that God puts before you. It is a lesson in understanding God’s greatest gifts–our children–and how you must cherish every moment they are on this earth. This book is a testament to the McNutt’s and their belief that “God will never give us more than we can handle”.


Gwen and Henry 59 and henry 56 Pic

Gwendolyn McNutt is the author of Angels Never Die, which is the true story of love, loss and faith. She and Henry were blessed with six children – four boys and two girls. What they could not have foretold was the two diseases that all four of their boys would eventually succumb to. Their’s is a story of love; love for each other, their children, and their family. It is also a story of faith. Gwendolyn says that without faith, they undoubtedly could not have endured all that was put before them.

Their journey has taught them that, no matter what, as long as you have faith, you can overcome anything, even the loss of a child. This book stands as an example of, no matter who you are, or what your background, you can endure all that God puts before you. It is a lesson in understanding the gifts; the children that God has given you, and how you must cherish every moment they are on this earth. This book is a testament to their lives, and how faith can see you through – even the worst of times.

Trying to always remember how special every day is,

Drs. Rob + Janelle Alex, Ph.D.


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How to Be Happy Again After 3 Big Deaths Back-to-back

Harriet Hodgson wants you to know that you “can create a new life after the loss”.  She wants you to know how to be happy again after deep loss.  She knows first hand after losing her adult daughter, her father-in-law and the father of her deceased daughter’s twin children all within a nine-month time frame. Harriet and her husband took their twin grandchildren into their home as teens and raised them.

As an expert on grief, Harriet shares quick and reliable help in her book, Happy Again! Your New and Meaningful Life After Loss.  She shared that life throws things at you you might not expect, and in fact, you are in charge of your happiness.



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Book description:

“Will I survive? Will I ever be happy again? Questions that Harriet Hodgson asked herself after she was left to raise her twin grandchildren, while grieving for four family members, including her daughter. Harriet reminds us that we are not alone in our grief and, though losses may define our lives, they will not destroy them. This book tugged at my heartstrings. Harriet’s account of a journey from despair to hope is filled with practical suggestions on how to once again have a meaningful life. Happy Again! inspired me and I think it will inspire you.” ~ Heidi Horsley, PsyD, LMSW, Executive Director, Open to Hope Foundation and Adjunct Professor, Columbia University “Harriet Hodgson speaks wisely and compassionately from the very depths of her soul. Engagingly written with personal experiences, psychological insights, and practical wisdom, she transforms crushing tragedy to growth and a positive affirmation of life.” ~ Rabbi Earl Grollman, DHL, DD, author of Living When a Loved One has Died




Harriet Hodgson has been a freelance writer for 36+ years and is the author of 33 books. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists, Association for Death Education and Counseling, and Minnesota Coalition for Death Education and Support.  She has appeared on more than 170 talk shows including CBS Radio, dozens of television stations as well as CNN.  Learn more at



Death is just a transition,

Drs. Rob + Janelle Alex, Ph.D.

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