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 www.laketrek.blogspot.com 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 www.laketrek.com 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 Amazon.com and to not try to give the story away without offending the "Spoiler Alert" police. This is the review that I wrote for Amazon.com 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 Amazon.com. 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.