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 already planning to re-read it next year.

5 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Book Review #88: “Thank You, Mr. Falker”

My mom asked me to buy five copies of this book from Amazon toward the end of 2019.

I said, “Sure. Absolutely, I’m happy to help.”

I read many of Patricia Polacco’s books as a kid, but I hadn’t heard of this one. I first learned about her through LeVar Burton and Reading Rainbow.


My mom let me read one of the copies I purchased soon after they arrived. At the end of the 37 pages, I was crying. The story is so special and heartwarming.

It shows that teachers truly make a difference. Mr. Falker made a huge difference in the little girl’s life, especially when there weren’t nearly as many male teachers back in the 1940s.

It’s hard to talk about this book because I don’t want to spoil anything. What I will say is this book is based on true events and real people.


This is one of the best children’s books I’ve read. I plan to buy a copy for several teacher friends for their classroom libraries. If you haven’t read Polacco before, I highly recommend it. Her writing is beautiful, and she also illustrates them.

5 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Book Review #87: “Big Magic: How to Live a Creative Life, and Let Go of Your Fear”

This was one of FIVE books that Al bought me for Christmas!

This book, along with Kristen Martin’s Soulflow (Review coming soon!), felt like divine guidance when I needed it most. I was in such a slump with blogging and writing until the beginning of May. Then, it felt like a switch was flipped in my head. I felt inspired again. And both these books were big contributors.


I’m planning to read more from Gilbert down the line. But, this book is just what I needed at this particular moment. It’s part memoir, part self-help, part inspiration.

Although not pleased with how choppy everything felt at the beginning, I liked how she structured the book. It was like listening to a wise friend or relative tell stories over the course of a summer afternoon. And there was something for me to remember or ponder over with every chapter. She placed good reminders in my hear and heart.


It’s hard to describe Big Magic! But I felt comforted the entire time. It was a breezy read, perfect as the weather here has gone up and down and sideways. Until yesterday, it felt like September!

As someone who has Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), and struggle most days with imposter syndrome, this book allayed my fears. It’s shown me to stare my fear(s) straight in the face, and proclaim, “You don’t own me. You don’t control me. I do. So step aside and let me finish the work I was called to create. Thanks!”

4 1/2 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Book Review #66: “WHO KNEW? …Reflections on Vietnam”

I received this book as a gift! My dear friend, Lydia, sent a sweet card with the book, explaining that she knows the author, and wanted to send it to me after reading a blog post regarding my interest in Vietnam. Thank you, Lydia!

The best way I can describe this book is a mix of a memoir, photo album, and poetry collection, all wrapped up into a nice book. It gave me a sense of what Watts went through during her year of service.

While preparing to receive her undergraduate degree at Villanova, she knew wanted to travel. She wanted to join the Peace Corps, but they wanted her to start before graduation. Then, she found a brochure for the Supplemental Recreation Activities Overseas (SRAO) program of the American Red Cross.

What she ended up with was a year of service, and a lifetime of memories.

Watts blends photos, poems, soldiers’ artwork, and her memories into a powerful book. It made me feel like I was there with her.

I also learned about the SRAO program of the Red Cross, and how instrumental these women have been since World War II. I gained a new perspective, and a sense of gratitude. I know Watts and her crew were appreciated by the men in the jungles of Vietnam, during a very trying time there, and here at home.

Although I wasn’t alive during her service, I appreciate Watts for writing this book. It provides a unique perspective on a unique type of service during the war, and I’m grateful for her to show me, and others, this insight. Reading accounts like this makes me want to learn even more about the Vietnam War and the people who were involved, both soldiers and civilians.

Thank you again, Lydia, for this gift!

4 1/2 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Book Review #57: “Victory in the Valley”

Victory in the Valley

Image Credit: Amazon

I’m incredibly excited to say that Victory in the Valley is authored by someone I know and respect. Domeka Kelley is a courier at Riverside, and I love seeing his smiling face as often as possible. He is well-respected in the Riverside community, as well as our local communities here in Virginia. He is a pastor, and has left a lasting influence on everyone he meets.


Kelley has written a really good memoir. It’s part memoir, part testimony, and part Bible study. For this being his first book, it’s really a good effort. I respect his attention to detail, and including so many Bible verses. He has inspired me in so many ways with this book!

The main message he’s trying to get at is “valleys” are not bad things. Valleys are preparing you for climbing the mountains. What a powerful message!

Victory in the Valley is roughly 100 pages long, but I found myself taking my time to digest every single page. I love how he incorporated so many Bible verses throughout the book! It took me three full reading nights to finish the book, and I have a greater appreciation now for books that make me stop, pause, and think!

Like I mentioned, Kelley shares his powerful testimony. He gives glory to God, his wife, his children, and quite the amazing group of people who have encouraged him along his journey. He takes the time and effort to share multiple definitions of words, and connect the Bible to his own experiences. However, he remains humble in saying that his life experiences hardly compare/relate to the experiences that people in the Bible went through. How awesome is that!

With all the praise and positivity I wanted to proclaim, there were just a few places where I had issues/problems.

There were some continuity issues, but I think that’s only because I’m using to seeing memoirs that are more chronological. So, that’s not a major issue.

One big problem I did have was at the very end of the book, Kelley writes that he has a sequel in the works. That’s great! Woohoo! I did a happy dance!

However, I didn’t really appreciate the multiple mentions of the sequel at the very end. One mention at the very end of the book, like the very last page, separate from the text, would have been enough for me. It’s like he wanted to set up a cliffhanger, but made it come off as a drawn-out “To Be Continued …” moment, spread out among several pages. That didn’t make me feel so awesome at the very end.

I really don’t like giving a lot of criticism, but I try to make it as constructive as possible. I realize that writing a book, no matter how long, is NOT EASY. It isn’t! Kelley even admits toward the end that he struggled immensely with how to end the book, and it wrapped up beautifully (except for the multiple mentions of the sequel).

I’m all for self-promotion. Do it, don’t shy away from it. But, just don’t force it down your readers’ throats, that’s all. There’s a need for balance.

I’m eagerly looking forward to the sequel. I waited several weeks to get my copy of Victory in the Valley from Amazon in my hands – It was out of stock for quite a while (Not a bad thing!), so I’m hoping that when the sequel is released, I can get my hands on a copy a little bit faster!

I definitely recommend that everyone read Victory in the Valley. Even if you’re not religious, everyone can learn something from this book. But, if you are religious, it’s a powerful example of how God moves in someone’s life, and affects every aspect of their being. Kelley has had the opportunity to be a motivational speaker in several instances, and I believe that this is one of his callings, along with being a pastor.

He is incredibly inspiring, motivating, and just has a great story to tell. Reading his book has reaffirmed my faith, and motivated me to buckle down and finish writing my own books!

4 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂