Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Joy of WiFi & Anne Perry

For many years, we only had dial up internet which meant everything took forever to upload or download anything. About five years ago we got Hughes-net satellite but it only connected to our main desktop computer which meant the only way to do blog posts when I wanted to was if it was my 'turn' to use the big computer. Since I used it so much for our sewing pattern business, Moonwishes Sewing and Crafts, some postings fell by the wayside as hubby also had to use the computer for his piano business to update customers.

Fast forward to last month. Finally a chance to not only get cheaper satellite cover but for whole house WiFi for a $100 cost connection. Now I can use my TV time to also use the computer with my legs propped up and comfy in my little nest. I'm looking forward to being able to make a lot more blog posts about the books I have read. This past year, I've had a lot of author's publish their own books and asked me to read and review. Frankly a lot of the books were terrible, so I saw no reason to post about them here.

After reading a lot of frightfully awful books this past year, I was really pleased to find a new author for me that made for an interesting read. The author is Anne Perry. I had been collecting her books from Friend of Library books sales as the synopsis on the jackets looked interesting. As she wrote in two different series, I didn't want to start reading the books until I had a goodly amount to be able to read several in a row if the books were good.

I have now read three of her books from the Thomas and Charlotte Pitts series. They take place at the end of the Queen Victoria's reign. They are investigative novels with Mr. Pitts a policeman (he raises in rank throughout the books). His wife, maid and great aunt are all happy to lend their ear and knowledge to help him solve the crimes. If you are a Downton Abby fan these books, while earlier in time, are very helpful to understanding the different classes in England of that time of the British Empire that was world wide, that men considered their honor their biggest asset and for most of them women's place was most definitely in the home.  If you like mysteries that depend highly on brains and common sense instead of forensic testing, you might really enjoy these series. To see more about Anne, check out her Amazon page here: Anne Perry  Book Page Here are the three books I've read so far and I am excited to have plenty more at home to read and plenty more that have been published so if needed I can find more at the library. What do you think of Anne Perry and which is your favorite book of hers?


Friday, November 1, 2013

Michael Palmer

With the greatest of sadness, I have to tell my readers that Michael Palmer passed away on October 30 from complications of a heart attack and stroke. His son Daniel wrote a large post in Facebook announcing this loss to his followers. Michael's latest book Resistant is to be published May 20, 2014.  It is his 20th and last book. the family has requested that "in lieu of flowers donations can be made to Asperger's Association of New England (AANE) an organization near and dear to his heart". Michael and I had some correspondence about our boys that are on the autism spectrum.  I was so pleased to see a book written by someone that truly understood the problem from the front lines and was able to show just how able this kids can be.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Better Homes and Gardens Baking Cook Book

Doesn't this peach tart look yummy? You too can make one. The recipe for this came from the newest Better Homes and Gardens Baking that is being published in October 2013. You can preorder it now.

Here is the review that I posted on Amazon for this great book. This book is the most exciting new cookbook from Better Homes and Gardens that I have seen in a long time.

I was so disappointed that my advanced reading copy of this book only had the black and white pictures as there are lots of photos in this book, one for every recipe. Usually when sent a cookbook to review it is the final version. Because I was seeing the black and white photo copy, I did notice spots where writing was set against a gray background. I don’t know how this will play out in the final version, but if you have trouble with your eyes, you might want to check on this before buying the final version.

That technical bit about the construction of the book out of the way, we can now go on to the ‘meat’ of the book. The book begins with baking techniques that are supposedly good for both novices and kitchen pros. While the recipes are easy enough for a novice baker to make, the instructions at the front of the book aren’t the best or most thorough in my opinion. They are however a decent enough review for someone who hasn’t been baking for awhile. For baking equipment they showed the usual pans but didn’t bring up the latest silicon ware that is so popular at the stores. Perhaps they found, as I did, that silicon baking ware isn’t all it is cracked up to be and so it was left out purposefully. If it wasn’t deliberate however, they should have mentioned it as currently you can purchase all sorts of baking ‘pans’ made with that material. My other bone of contention with them was when they got to butter. There was no mention made nor do I recall seeing any item using margarine. While apparently some items absolutely have to have butter and not margarine when making them, good quality margarine is a reliable substitute. In over 40 years of baking, including winning blue ribbons at the fair for my baking, I have never used butter in any baked good. The item that I made out of the book I used margarine in instead of butter and it tasted great. Butter is much costlier than margarine as well, so on that point alone, margarine should have been mentioned.

I have always liked Better Homes and Gardens Cookbooks and had their earlier version of their baking book so was a bit nervous that I would get a repeat of the same recipes. Not so! I was very presently surprised at the many recipes that I wanted to make as I went through the book. BHG is bringing out another cookbook at the same time as this one called Comfort Foods . While I didn’t get to review that book, I think with the baking book that was their theme as well. Besides the usual culprits of white bread, chocolate chip cookies and apple pies, there were fruit crisps, fruit crumbles, all sorts of baked deserts and yummy things. For many of the recipes they gave master recipes and then how to change the recipe to make one or more other flavors. And for some they gave ways to make smaller versions of the recipe. Most of all though, this book brought back many ‘old time’ desserts with modern variations, I also didn’t see the need to run out to the store for ingredients as long as you have a well stocked normal kitchen.

I made one of the recipes, a fresh peach tart (our area is having a wonderful peach crop at this moment for the first time in several years). Other than the peaches that I had to buy, I had everything on had to make this yummy treat and yummy it was! It called for almond slices at the top which I did include, but as much as I like almonds, they gave a strange feeling to the bites of soft peaches and pie dough. I will leave them out next time I make it. The recipe was easy to follow, hubby who doesn’t like peaches said the dough was excellent and the flavors good but because of the peach factor he would leave the rest of the tart to me. For those like me that have great difficulty, rolling out two pie rounds, one to fit in the pie plate and one to cover and then figure out how to make it cover nice and neatly, making a tart is the perfect answer. With only one piece of dough, there was no need to have it look perfect as that gave it a rustic appearance. I will be using this cookbook again!


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Tumbling Stones by Carol Clark Roberts

Tumbling Stones by Carol Clark Roberts, Outskirts Press 2013, ISBN 978147871585.

I was asked to read this book and review it. I gave it three stars on Amazon, mostly because this is a the same old story in many respects. It was difficult in some respects for me to read since it hit to close to home and my childhood.

Sometimes your husband isn't who you think he is and neither are your best friends. People hide secrets while acting as if life is going along smoothly. This is a classic tale of a philandering husband with the twist that he is a professor at a `Christian' College. The college appears to be very liberal in what people do and how they act, so the fact that these troubles are taking place with supposedly Christian people shouldn't offend any but very conservative Christians. As someone that went to a Christian College, the one being portrayed in this book and the faculty staff were offensive to me as I would hate for everyone to think that this is what is routinely happening at these types of colleges. Anyhow read at your own risk.

This is a classic book of love and betrayal with a bit of a different spin. Only in this instance it is a case of allowing the fox to guard the hen house. Dr. Rockford under the guise of counseling students and others going through a rough time seduces woman after woman and then his wife finds out because he went that one step too far and seduces her best friend. Anne Rockford finds herself helping to put an end to her husband's behavior with the assistance of the very women he betrayed; since no matter what he says or promises he doesn't stop seducing women. The book has a bit of a surprise ending.

Hard to say whether I would recommend this book as it certainly wasn't entertaining, but for those going through problems such as this, it might provide some comfort although in real life there is no story book ending. In many ways this book is just a retelling of a story that has been heard far too often -- so not very original.

Monday, June 24, 2013

A Sheltered Life by Jeremy Reynalds

A Sheltered Life: Take it to the Streets  by Jeremy Reynalds, West Bow Press, 2013, ISBN 9781449790202

This was an interesting book that I was asked to review. While the review that I wrote doesn't mention it, please note that the book itself has strong Christian content. You can allow that to turn you off from the book's message of the homeless need our help or you can appreciate or ignore the Christ centeredness of this book, whichever your leanings on the topic.


We hear much about the homeless these days, but this book brings is home and makes it personal. The author, Jeremy Reynalds, helped found and directs Albuquerque, NM largest homeless shelter. Not only do they have a homeless shelter, they have a food ministry where they take food to the homeless where they are, on the streets. They also have different programs where the people can stay an extended time while they get their lives in order again.

Many of the homeless aren’t that way due to drug and alcohol addiction although many do slip into that along the way, but also by way of job losses that send them to other parts of the country where they hear the promise of jobs. For many their car breaking completely down or running out of gas and money at the same time stranded many in his town. One of the things that is different about this ministry than in many others, is that if you call them, they will come and pick you up.

This book brought home to me the many needs of the people on the streets. Business owners won’t let them use their facilities for cleaning up or toileting, with no home there is no kitchen to get food warm even in the midst of winter. I thought of many things while reading this book that I’m sure many homeless shelters would appreciate receiving to pass onto their clients. This is just a short list I made up when I finished the book:

Toothbrushes and toothpaste, deodorant and soap, wet wipes for baby and adults (they have no other way to get clean), disposable diapers for babies and adults (babies since they don’t have laundry facilities to wash cloth diapers and adult ones since many of these people have to ‘hold it’ until they can find a place to go which may be longer than their bladders and bowels can tolerate). Also tampons, sanitary napkins, mini-pads for females. Bottled water packs, white tube socks which can fit a variety of foot sizes, blankets for the winter along with hats, mittens, coats, sweaters. The shelters themselves can always use supplies of food if they serve food.

For live-in shelters, especially ones that take in women and children they can use shampoo, child’s barrettes and pony tail ties, soaps, shower gels, brushes, combs, make-up, nail polish, nail polish remover, razors. Why things like barrettes and shower gels? These women and children have lost so much, giving them those articles like other females use, allows them to regain some dignity, femininity and feel that others care about them. Children’s books, coloring books and crayons can be used by bored children as well. Check with your nearest shelter that you would like to bless with these articles and check whether they can use them.

This book has a powerful message and for that I give it five stars although the writing itself could use some help with editing, etc.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Coming Through the Fog

Coming Through the Fog by Tami Goldstein, OutskirtsPress, ISBN 9781478714132

This is a book where a mother shares her journey with her daughter through autism and sensory Processing disorder to what they call functional recovery to independent living.

As a mother of a high functioning son, who I would assume could now be described as being in Functional Recovery; I am always interested in reading what I can about children on the Autism spectrum. All our experiences are so different. Some parents practically stop their own lives to take on getting their child the best possible help and taking up the call to deal with doctors, schools, therapists, etc. I know I couldn't do that so am very thankful for what we could do with my son and I'm very proud of where he has come from and what he has now accomplished.

Probably one of the best things about this book is learning a bit about the different therapies, tests, etc. that are now available to children. I wish the book would have gone into more detail describing some of the more useful therapies. At least though they were named which would allow parents to look them up on line to get more information.

The book also seemed to be out of sequence as the story unfolded which made it hard to follow. I felt like we heard more about the difficulty the mom was having with Heather's school districts than actually about Heather. I think better editing would have made for a tighter book that made it easier to follow the story.

I also think that we were denied parts of the story that would have helped us understand what Heather was going through during her early years. In the timeline in the back of the book, we find out that during her life Heather had at least eight surgeries but why and what for is missing. I assume the author was trying to shield Heather's privacy, but I can't think of any series of surgeries that wouldn't have affected her autism in a negative manner, as any child going through 8 surgeries would certainly be impacted and not necessarily for good. Also how mom and dad deal with an autistic child going in and out of surgery might have been helpful information to those of us that also have to put an autistic child through surgery. Handy hints are always helpful.

One thing I was extremely curious about is what kind of grant Heather got to buy her home. How does she maintain a home with all the costs of home ownership on 25 hours of work a week? How she copes as an adult would have been a very interesting chapter in the book and one that would give some encouragement to parents still struggling in the early stages of this syndrome.


Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Lamby by Nikki Polidori

Lamby: A Mother's Journey Through a Twisted Medical System to Save her Son by Nikki Polidori. SMA Publications, ISBN 9780578118659

Lamby is a book that if anything shows the problems within our medical services. A child is born and released from the hospital with a bad cough, frequent vomiting (as opposed to spitting up) and other problems. His mom, an RN, calls the pediatrician over and over only to keep being told he has reflux and to give him a medication and just wait it out. Three years later Dylan is still sick with multiple medical problems. He has been averaging something like 60 doctor appointments a year, where for the most part mom is being blown off as a nervous Nelly, doctors never want to even see him to check him out in person so for a year he hasn’t even seen his respiratory doctor, they fly to different states to see specialist that didn’t bother to read his chart before he showed up and the doctor only gives them 15 minutes of his time. Then you throw in his non-custodial father taking him for weekends and never bothering to give him his medications and breathing treatments which left Dylan sicker by every Sunday evening. And so the story goes.

The book is written as a journal/diary that is mostly about Dylan and his needs and how absolutely exhausted his mom was. The only jarring thing in the book is her suddenly married to Mike, we got the drift along the way that Dylan’s father and her weren’t getting along and so the divorce wasn’t unexpected. But the first indication we had that she was with someone new was the entry talking about her having gotten remarried and then another journal entry that she just had another baby. Other than that, there wasn't a lot of personal history other than to see what his mother was doing to get her son well.

It is easy to relate to, as I got very sick 11 years ago with all sorts of weird symptoms. One of which was intense pain. When we asked our doctor at the time if it could be fibromyalgia, he blew us off and said it was too hard to diagnosis! Since when does difficulty with diagnosing a problem mean you don’t try to diagnosis it anyhow? It is very hard to find truly competent doctors including those that are smart enough to say that something is over their head instead of treating something that they don’t know how to treat. This is what the author went through. Only one doctor ever took his time with her, as he discussed Dylan’s truly rare problem but had to admit that he didn’t know how to fix the problem. At least it gave his mother a stepping stone to find a doctor that could.

This was a very interesting book and you feel sorry for this child that had to go through so much pain and discomfort in his early life.

Monday, April 29, 2013

A 1,000 ~ Mile Great Lakes Walk by Loreen Niewenhuis

A 1,000 Mile Great Lakes Walk: One woman’s Trek Along the Shorelines of All Five Great Lakes. Crickhollow Books, 2013 ISBN 1933987219

I have to say, that this was the most personally interesting book for me to read in a long while. I grew up in southern California and then moved here to Pennsylvania within a few miles of Lake Erie. I learned little snippets of information about Lake Erie and even less about the other lakes as the years went by. Except for my college years, I’ve lived most of the last 41 years within 10 or less miles of Lake Erie. My husband and sons (his stepsons) though were learning about the lakes while in school while I had learned about the various California missions as I grew up. So this book was my catch up. And boy did I learn a lot. Up to this point, the most important thing I knew about Lake Erie was what an unfrozen Lake Erie in winter does to us during a snow storm – ever heard of lake effect snow?

The author didn’t just skim over and give cursory bits and pieces about this walk of hers. It had been well researched before her trip and she shared that research with us in her hike. She also shared what she learned along the way as people open their lives, hearts and museums to her. She had already completed a 1000 miles walk around Lake Michigan and this walk encompassed parts of all the Lakes. She carried a huge backpack with all her needs trimmed down to the barest essentials. And lest anyone think she was a young thing that had lots of energy, for this last walk she was 48 years old. She camped out at many times including during drenching thunderstorms (obviously not by choice). . She drank the lake waters by way of filter bottles. She ate freeze dried food and chocolate and was always happy to restock or eat chocolate when she found it. She also talks about the difference between Canadian chocolate bars and those found in the States. After going to college in Canada for 4 years, I sure miss some of their chocolate creations as well!

This book I had to read with an open atlas of the areas on my lap to learn where she was, as most of her hikes took place in spots where I have never been. Her final triumphant walk took place in the Niagara Falls area and since I have been there, I could picture her very steps and where she was. This was a delightful book. I only wish it had been loaded with photos. You can see some photos and videos at her blog including a video on how to scare off bears. Our Great Lakes are precious both for the water and the minerals found near or under the lakes. This book will help you to understand the need to protect these important resources far into the future.
This book is available through independent book stores or check at the authors website for details on how to order it.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Whole Latte Life by Joanne Demaio

Whole Latte Life by Joanne Demaio ISBN 9781466427501

One of the difficulties with writing book reviews is if you 'give away' any part of the story there are howls of protest that one has 'spoiled' the story. Many times it is hard to write a review, especially for and to not try to give the story away without offending the "Spoiler Alert" police. This is the review that I wrote for but I feel that I couldn't say quit everything that I wanted to. Sara Beth was suffering from severe depression, she was very tied, still, to her dead mother's apron strings; she was still emailing her and writing her letters in her journal as well as calling her phone number. It was very obvious that she cared more for her dead mother than she did for her husband and three children. I found her a very hard character to like, while Rachel was the kind of woman I would love to have for a friend. Willing to love and yet willing to confront. I loved Rachel's story so much more than Sara Beth's and it was almost as if Sara Beth's story was the back drop to allow Rachel and Michael's story to exist.


This is Joanne Demaio’s debut novel. I had read her second book, Blue Jeans and Coffee Beans first. While there is some overlap of characters and places in the two novels, it is not essential to read the books in order to understand what is going on. They are stand alone novels.
The book starts out with Rachel and Sara Beth in New York City for a weekend to celebrate their 40th birthdays. Sara Beth goes to the restroom and doesn’t come back. Eventually, Rachel checks the restroom and doesn’t see her. When one of the restaurant employees hands her a note stating that Sara Beth, was basically going out on her own to find herself, Rachel panics. In the last few years, Sara Beth had gotten pregnant at 38, long after all maternity clothing and baby items were gone out of the house. She had lost her mother whom she was close to to a brain aneurysm. She was frustrated about not having achieved many of her life goals including opening an antique shop that she and her mother had shopped for items for it for many years.

Rachel in her panic to find Sara Beth ends up confronting a mounted policeman for help. As the story unfolds she becomes better acquainted with him. As I don’t want to spoil the book for you, I won’t go into the story any more other than to say it was a very different one with a lot of the characters taking a look at themselves and the changes they may need to face.

Sara Beth was a very different sort of character than one usually finds in a novel. She appears to be suffering from true clinical depression, although she had been hiding it so well her best friend Rachel and her husband Tom never really noticed it. But she crashes at the point of the New York weekend. As the story progresses, you will see many of the things that had been weighing on her. She also has a very forgiving and loving family and best friend as they go on this ride with her.

I think one of the strongest things about this book is the author knows and writes her characters as flawed, imperfect people that are still deserving of love and attention. But aren’t we all like that? I do think however that Sara Beth, besides the changes she makes in her life, should also get lined up with some professional help so that she can make long term changes in her life. A problem that I had with the book, and it is a small one, was money for the most part was not a problem. Everyone had money to spend in sufficient quantities for whatever they wanted to do, whether vacationing at a beach house for weeks, going the NYC for the weekend, going out for dinner, buying jewelry, actually buying anything. As someone that has always had to count her pennies, books where there seems to be an open wallet, ‘take what you want’ tends to offend me a bit. In this novel, it took away form the realism of the book, especially when it comes to Sara Beth’s wedding and engagement rings. Read the book and see what I’m talking about.
For book clubs, there is a reader’s guide at the back of the book.


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Kathryn's the Grape's Piece of Love by Kathryn Cloward

Kathryn the Grape's Piece of Love by Kathryn Cloward 2012 Kandon Publishing Hardcover, 32 pages ISBN 9780982927724 Written for 4-9 year olds.

After reviewing many books for Amazon over the years, I have been getting requests for reviews from independent publishers which is rather fun as I am getting to see some rather interesting books that I would normally never get a chance to see (and no time limit for when the review needs to be finished!) this a rather charming book that you might enjoy reading to your students, child or grandchildren.


Children’s books have changed so much since I was little, a very long time ago. Even the characters names have changed from Jane, Dick, Susie, Mary, etc. to names that I have never heard of much less know how to pronounce such as Cael, Talia, Isha and Esu. But that is our world today. This is a very colorful book that features a school assignment about “What is something helpful you do for our planet and others?”  Each of the children have a large puzzle piece to write down what they have done and then the puzzle is put together signifying how we and our world are all intertwined. What we do affects others and so it is important to show kindness and caring.

This book teaches diversity and that we are all important in subtle and not so subtle ways. At the same time it is a story that children should enjoy, especially since Kathryn the Grape has a little fairy named Maggie to come help her if she gets stuck on an assignment. This would be a good book to share at library story time, story time at school as well as reading time with parents so that they can reinforce the book’s ‘lesson’.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Suffering in Silence by Carolyn Outlaw Kuhn

Suffering in Silence by Carolyn Outlaw Kuhn ISBN 9781478715146

This is an independent book review that I have posted on Amazon. Please note, that while I gave the book one star, the other 6 reviewers at this point have all given it 5 stars at Amazon. Perhaps I am wrong in my evaluation, but I don't think so. Just because someone has a compelling story to tell doesn't mean that they need to publish a book about it, especially if using a self-publishing press.


This is a story that should never have to be written. It is one of family misery, physical, emotional, verbal and sexual abuse written by the daughter that survived it all. For too long people try to keep ‘family secrets’ while doing great damage to the family that they are trying to preserve. If you read these types of books as research into this type of family dynamic and to learn how to counsel survivors, then it should be of great interest to you. It is a heart felt story written about generations of family problems.

I really hate to say bad things about a book, but with reviewing books, at times I have to. It is to let the ultimate reader be warned. While this was a sad story written out of a woman’s anguish, it is very poorly written and edited. The timeline of the book gets jumbled so at times it is difficult to follow the story. I never could see or understand how she came to drop her anger towards her mother and then started loving her. She spoke about her mother going blind due to a stroke but when a subsequent stroke affected her hearing, they used a whiteboard to write on to communicate with her. These things she might have wanted to be clearer on.

The author also claims that her mother was “a good Christian and very religious throughout her life”. Being religious does not a Christian make. The Bible says “Ye shall know them by their fruits” Matthew 7:16. From the author’s writing during here entire childhood her mother never exhibited any signs of her mother wanting to follow Christ or follow Christian principles. She went to church on Sundays, period. She never showed love towards her children. She took in as many foster children as she could, not because of her love for children but for the money which she kept careful track of her ‘profit’ in a ledger. Her children never felt loved or safe from abuse. Her mother never called the police on the writer’s stepfather when he sexually abused her and then went on to sexually abuse one of the foster girls. At which point the mother did get rid of the foster children. That seems to be the only rational thing she did in the entire book.

I know that some survivors of abuse are encouraged to write about their experiences as a therapeutic thing. I think that this basically what this book ended up to be. But as a book to be published for the general public, not such a good idea. A ghostwriter could have helped to turn this book into a much more powerful and readable work. I also had a hard time trying to understand if this book was being written from a Christian perspective and if that was supposed to be the reason for the ultimate healing with part of the family. It just wasn’t clear, like many other points in the book.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Blue Jeans and Coffee Beans by Joanne Demaio

Blue Jeans and Coffee Beans by Joanne Demaio  ISBN 9781479262779

Here is my latest book review on this easy reading novel.

At times I find myself scratching my head trying to figure out how and why a book got its title. I was happy to be able to truly understand the title of this book as one of the main characters was a designer of denim clothing. This is the author’s second novel. I wasn’t able to read her first but I was very pleased with this story. Other than some confusion at first trying to sort out all the different characters, it was an interesting story of old friends meeting up at the beach where they had hung out in the summers while growing up. Now they are all in their late 20’s or early 30’s and life hasn’t been kind to all of them. Some have survived tragedies, others are having financial and marital problems and others are having emotional problems due to unanswered questions form their childhood. Maris feels cut off after losing her mother, a woman she only knew through old 8mm home movies, and Eva who was adopted and has spent much of her life trying to track down her birth parents.

As someone who moved around way too much while growing up, I always wonder if there are really these kinds of deep long term relationships from a person’s teen years. Since I read a lot of books about close friendships, I can only assume that they do exist. If so, these were a group of kids that grew up that still cared for each other, they weren’t being catty behind the others backs. So this was a great picture of friendship and relationships. It also involved finding the clues to what Maris and Eva searched for all these years.

This is an interesting and readable book with characters that you can relate to and like. I don’t like reading books where I really end up hating several of the characters. While some of the story may seem a bit far fetched, they do say that truth is stranger than fiction, especially in Eva’s search for her birth mother, a delicate topic even still in today’s world.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Perfect Ghost by Linda Barnes

The Perfect Ghost by Linda Barnes Minotaur Books 2013 ISBN 9781250023636

This is another book from the Amazon Vine program that I just read. I gave it 3 stars on my Amazon review as I think it could have used some editing help.


This book is a huge departure for Linda Barnes and her Carlotta Carlyle book series. She has an interesting main character Em, which is part of a two person team of biography writers. Teddy does the interviews and she does the writing. That is until the fateful day when Teddy is killed in a car accident and she has to take on the rest of the interviews and writing on her own and still make the books deadline. Em is a very quiet, low self esteem girl who had apparently been raised in foster homes and with step fathers that were abusive. She also has a case of agoraphobia, although if needed, she can leave her house. I would have liked to have had more background into her early life to understand what was making her tick now.

The current book that they had been working on was about a movie star turned director. As Em interviews and investigates him, more and more things bother her that she feels that she has to figure out. It is during this part of the book that I felt like it bogged down a bit. I set the book down after reading almost 2/3 of it and a week later I hadn't picked it up again. It took yet another week to try to finish it. This is usually a signal to me that the book had gotten boring or redundant and the story just didn't interest me anymore. I did persevere however and made it to the end. It did perk up a bit and had a rushed yet surprise ending. Perhaps with some tighter editing, the book might have earned 5 stars. 

Monday, April 1, 2013

Tom T's Hat Rack by Michelle Spry

Tom T's Hat Rack: A Story About Paying it Forward by Michelle Spry, Spry Publishing 2013 Paperback ISBN 9780988778238 .

A review I wrote for This is a chapter book for children. The main character is 10 years old and has just finished 4th grade.

I don’t read a lot of children’s books anymore now that I’m grown up and so are my children. However, I do like a well written children’s book. This one was charming with a definite message of not only ‘Paying it Foreword’ as it is stated, but the main character Shelby is presented as a friendly, helpful, loving, kind, wonderful child. While I know that there couldn’t possibly be such a perfect little girl, the message is clear. If you are friendly, helpful, kind, polite, and willing to get along with everyone including teachers, parents and older people, then others will like you and be kind and pleasant to you in return. My only concerns are for a child that is in an abusive situation that nothing works to get the abuser to be loving and kind to them. But the practicality of the message is clear. You get back the responses from others in the same way you give them.

This book delves into subject matter that many would think not appropriate for a child to know and that is her substitute grandfather, who along with his wife has been her babysitter for 10 years, develops cancer. Rather than shut Shelby out they involve her deeply into the healing process so that she can help her beloved Mr. T in any way she can. In return Mr. T gets to have a warm loving face with him during his treatments and recovering.

When Mr. T proposes that he and Shelby make a special ‘mystery’ project that summer when school is out that would help others, Shelby jumps at the chance to help. Not only does she get to help, Mr. T involves her in every step of the project from writing out the shopping list for supplies, measuring, cutting and sanding and even helping to insert screws in with a drill. All these are activities that a 10 year old can easily do with proper supervision. I think that is one of my favorite things in this book. I see so many kids who other than working cell phones or video games don’t have any practical skills of any sort any more. Hopefully this book will encourage parents and kids to get busy doing real projects, not ‘dumbed down’ ones.

Another interesting feature in the book was the first paragraph telling what Shelby’s parents did for a living so they aren’t just some amorphous beings like Charlie Brown’s adults in books and movies. They became real people.

While the book has lots of bright illustrations by Peggy A. Guest, I wasn’t impressed with them. The people's faces were rather weird looking but not so much as to detract from the book.

Proceeds from the book will be donated to the American Cancer Society.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Spark: A Mother's Story of Nurturing Genius

The Spark: A Mother's Story of Nurturing Genius by Kristine Barnett. Random House 2013 ISBN 9780812993370, ebook 9780679645245

It was a total pleasure to read this book. While my son isn't the genius that Jacob in the book is, it was interesting to read about a woman and her autistic son, Jacob, that in many ways traveled some of the same paths that I have been traveling for year. This is a very special book which showed not only the help she gave her son, but also other autistic children. The author, Kristine Barnett, is a very giving woman even though dealing with chronic physical problems and another child in the family that also had special needs.
Here is the review that I wrote for Amazon.

I could so much relate to this woman's story and how she is raising her autistic/genius son. No, I don't have a genius son, but I do have an autistic son who is rather bright and in many ways their stories are roughly parallel. The author tells the story of how her son who seemed normal at birth became more and more distant and different as he got older till at around age 2 he became non-verbal. Then she hunted down the doctors, therapists, and treatment ideas that would hopefully be able to help her son. She found though, that their ideas didn't seem to be doing much for her son and at times seemed almost detrimental. Please note that she is not knocking these people trained in dealing with autistic people, only that what they were doing didn't work for her and her son Jacob. I ran into the same thing when I was having trouble getting my son to eat. The recommendation: if he doesn't eat dinner, send him to bed hungry and he will soon learn to eat his dinner. Well, two mornings with my son throwing up on the kitchen floor due to being too hungry was enough for me. That didn't work and I wasn't about to see just how many mornings my son would be sick until he decided to eat supper because some childless therapist thought it was a great idea. I doubt that any therapist would give that sort of advice now, but that was close to 30 years ago when as much wasn't known about treating autistic children.

The author learned to combine her talents as a mother and a daycare provider with how she helped her son. As she started to notice and encourage his unique talents to get him to react to everyday situations and to talk, he started to respond. I called this going through the backdoor with my son. Instead of the normal frontal approach, you have to go out back and find a different way, or many different ways of reaching these children. Happily Jacob responded and then was able to pour his intellect into math, physics, and astronomy.

This book is one about hope and finding each child's unique talent or interest to help them come into normal relationships. Well written by one very busy mother whose family spent everything they had to not only help Jacob but also to open a center for other autistic children where they can participate in activities that usually they are kept out of such as sports of all kinds (many autistic children have coordination problems). If you have an autistic child and are looking for new ideas to help them, this book just might give you some answers and food for thought, although I'm sure that it will upset some mainstream providers of care.

I hope many of you will read this book or pass it on to families that are coping with autism in any of its shapes and forms.


Monday, February 11, 2013

Joni & Ken: An Untold Love Story

As a member of the Amazon Vine Group, I get to review 4 or more books and items each month. For a prolifica reader like myself this is a jackpot. even more so when a book comes my way that touches my heart and this one did. Here is my review that I posted on Amazon for Joni & Ken: An Untold Love Story by Ken & Joni Eareckson Tada with Larry Libby.

I was only 12 years old when Joni had her accident. She dove into some water that was too shallow and broke her neck. Instantly she became a quadriplegic destined to live the rest of her life in a wheelchair with someone else taking care of all her physical needs. It would have been hard to grow up in any youth group in the late 60's early 70's without hearing about Joni, so it was refreshing to hear the latest on what is going on with this woman. At this point in time she is one of the longest surviving quads, which I am sure that Joni would lay at God's feet and those of her faithful caregivers over the years.

In her thirties, Joni meet a young man named Ken Tada and after much time together, prayer and discussion they took the step to get married. At this point you would think their marriage would somehow be `different' because of Joni's difficulties. Yet as I read this book I couldn't help but compare it to my marriage and others that I have seen. Marriage is hard work whether you are a quad, suffer from severe arthritis like I do, or happily have no health problems. It is so easy to drift apart or just be living in tandem, and forgetting why you married in the first place. As their marriage started getting stale, Ken had an opportunity to both read a book by John Eldredge Wild at Heart and also visit and talk with him. As Ken started understanding himself as a Godly man things started to change for the better with their marriage, but Joni was facing another health care crisis. She noticed a lump on her breast and at the point of diagnosis, it was already at stage 3 cancer. Within days of discovering it, Joni was taken into surgery where she had a mastectomy followed by chemotherapy. I can't even imagine the horror of the nausea when you can't even bend over and aim where the nausea would go or not even be able to wipe off your own mouth. And that would only be the least of dealing with cancer. Yet God was good and Ken with a renewed love for Joni was with her every step of the way.

As I said the story of their marriage really isn't so different than many of ours. They just found out what to do to rescue it from the doldrums and put God back in the center of it. This was a fantastic book to read and I also look forward to reading Wild at Heart as well.


I found it interesting after writing my review, I read some of the others that were posted and found that some writers felt like the book didn't tell the story well. For someone like me though, who 3 weeks after I got married to my husband came down with a devastating chronic disease that had been creeping up on me for years, but it exploded almost eleven years ago now I knew what they were talking about. We in many ways live through what Joni and Ken do so I didn't need the details for what Joni and Ken go through. I live it every day. I have learned that when we start feeling distant from each other, the best thing to do is pray about it and pray for God's blessings on your mate. I think it is enough that we know that even this woman, that so many look at as so spiritual, also has troubles with her marriage jsut like the rest of us do. It takes work and dedication to your marriage vows to keep a marriage on the same set of tracks instead of parallel ones. I did appreciate the book very much and have also put John Eldredge's books on my wish list. I hope you will read this book and be touched by it as well.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Needing to Read

On a forum I participate on, someone wrote a post about wants vs. needs and I thought abut what do I feel that I need and I realized it is books. Some people could go a year while only reading one book (according to my son and a statistic he once quoted me, that is the average amount of books read in the US in a year. Obviously they would never consider books a need. I see some people with 'needs' that I think are pretty silly. Who really needs shoes with 5" heels? But as I thought about it, this is what I came up with for my need to read.

I could go without a cell phone (I do), I could go without the internet (that would be tough), I could go without TV (no problem), but I personally need books and lots of them to keep me sane. Not sure what would happen if I went without a book for a week, but I suspect I would spontaneously combust. That being said, I know this particular need and handle it in the most economic way. I don't constantly buy new books, or download a new one to my Kindle as soon as I have read my latest book. Nope I buy them at bag day at the library, I borrow them from the library, I use the library to library exchange if I need to, I download FREE Kindle books, I read and review books for Amazon and they send them to me for free (maybe 30-40 a year). So a habit that could cost me at least a $1000 or more a year at the rate I read, probably costs me $50 or less a year. I think this is an example of dealing with ‘needs’ in the cheapest way possible.
I do love my books! I hope you do to!

Monday, January 14, 2013

My Kindle and Me

Been a long time since I posted, but not a long time since I read a book. I've actually read a lot of books, but get side tracked from writing up reviews on them. anyhow, for my birthday I received a Kindle Keyboard 3G .  When Kindle's first hit the market, I thought that there was no way in the world that I would ever want one. I love books, I love reading books, holding books,and having selves full of books all over my house. Then I started noticing just how sore my hands were getting when I read, especially books like thick paperbacks that are constantly fighting you. With severe arthritis, the last thing I wanted was more pain in my hands. I was also having authors asking me to review their work that was, surprise, only available on a Kindle or e-reader.

So I checked into Kindles, studied the descriptions and realized that since we are too far out of town to get WiFi and we didn't have it at our house, I would need a 3G Kindle so I could actually connect to Amazon's Kindle store. So with hubby's blessing I bought one and expected to only read some books on it. When it showed up in just a couple of days, I had fun figuring it out. I was happy to see that I had a dictionary on board and that turned out to be one of the first things that really got me happy. Now instead of having to pick up our 5# dictionary, I can look up words on my Kindle. I also found that I was able to download for free many of my favorite authors like Jane Austin, Charlotte Bronte, Jean Stratton Porter. I found that my Kindle would alert me to my newer favorite author's latest releases and I was able to use it get a sample of their books to be sure whether or not I had read it yet or if there was another book in the series that I needed to read first.

This past week really showed me though, just how nifty a Kindle can be. I had checked a book out of the library, Jane Austen's Guide to Dating , when I started reading it, I kept finding references to Northanger Abbey one of Jane's books that I had read but only once so the references were obscure to me. So I pulled out my Kindle and looked up Northanger Abbey and started reading it. The book itself kept making reference to yet another book that the young ladies in the novel were reading. So I wondered to myself, could that be a real book? I looked up Udolpho on my Kindle and sure enough it was there!  Now I know I can find a copy of all Jane Austen's works at my local library, but the chance of finding this book that a book written in 1818 was commenting impossible and yet here I now have it on my Kindle! If my Kindle only had a good US and world atlas and a dictionary of old fashioned word usage it would make reading really fun. I think using my Kindle for more than reading, had made me realize what a valuable addition to my reading it can be even when I have  my  nose buried in an old fashioned book. Is this 6 degrees of separation when it comes to books?