Saturday, September 29, 2012

Book Review - The Lovers - Charlie Parker #8 - John Connolly

The Lovers (Charlie Parker, #8)
Title:  The Lovers

Author: John Connolly

Review: How can you tell a great writer?  When he can basically present in book eight of a series 400 plus pages of back story and keep it thrilling.  

The top advice given to writers is start with the action; avoid the exposition like the kiss of death.  But yet Connolly manages to prove there is always an exception to every rule.  His private detective Charlie Parker has always been an interesting character with a much storied past, but there are even parts of if it he was unsure of.  With that premise the author threshes out the character of Parker more fully than ever before and we the audience gets to experience it with him.  He didn’t even need to resort to using his best supporting characters Louis and Angel except in minor roles.

In all the Charlie Parker books there is a hint of the supernatural, a whisper of something more is going on than just bad luck.  Forces that he doesn’t quite understand, and maybe not even fully believe in are at work behind the scenes of his life.  With the Lovers we delve into the origin story of these rumors and confirm that there is more to him than what appears.  While brilliantly not revealing his whole hand, Connolly manages to whet the appetite of his fans, to leave them begging for more.

When reading these books I am left with the desire to know more about these ancient people and their stories.  Who were the Sumerians?  What are the lost angels?  He tells just enough to start the fire of the reader’s curiosity, all while interlacing it around a solid mystery and a flawed but likable lead character.  And what first drew me to Connolly  is the skill and time he spends even on the most minor of characters, each one seemingly possessing a personality and story worthy of several books of their own.

Read The Lovers if you want a master class of how to do exposition correctly, and read John Connolly if you want to understand character development.  He is one of the best pure writers in the mystery genre today.

Publisher: Published June 2nd 2009 by Atria (first published June 1st 2009)
ISBN: 978-1-4165-6955-8
Pages: 466
Copyright: 2009
Quick Review: 5 stars out of 5-
Why I Read It:  Sent by the publisher for review/catching up on John Connelly’s backlist.

Synopsis: Charlie Parker is a lost soul. Deprived of his private investigator's license and under scrutiny by the police, Parker takes a job in a Portland bar. But he uses his enforced retirement to begin a different kind of investigation: an examination of his own past and an inquiry into the death of his father, who took his own life after apparently shooting dead two unarmed teenagers. It's a search that will eventually lead Parker to question all that he believed about his beloved parents, and about himself.

But there are other forces at work: a troubled young woman who is running from an unseen threat, one that has already taken the life of her boyfriend; and a journalist-turned-writer named Mickey Wallace, who is conducting an investigation of his own. And haunting the shadows, as they have done throughout Parker's life, are two figures: a man and a woman who seem driven to bring an end to Charlie Parker's existence.

Haunting, lyrical, and impossible to put down, "The Lovers" is John Connolly at his best.

Compact Disk Includes a Bonus MP3 CD of John Connolly's "Every Dead Thing"
John Connolly 
Author Biography:   John Connolly was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1968 and has, at various points in his life, worked as a journalist, a barman, a local government official, a waiter and a dogsbody at Harrods department store in London. He studied English in Trinity College, Dublin and journalism at Dublin City University, subsequently spending five years working as a freelance journalist for The Irish Times newspaper, to which he continues to contribute.

He is based in Dublin but divides his time between his native city and the United States.

Friday, September 28, 2012

TLC Book Tour - Book Review - The Good Pope - David

Title: The Good Pope
Author: Greg Tobin 

Review: As a non-Catholic I came to this book with no knowledge of Pope John XXIII or the tenets of the faith, but I enjoy stories of great people and how they got that way.  Tobin’s biography did not disappoint as he took us through the life of Pope John; from his peasant childhood in the Italian mountains to the beginnings of his greatest achievement, Vatican II.

From the very beginning his parents were committed to the faith as they waited all day at the church for the priest to return so Angelo (Pope John) could be baptized.  “There was no question of returning later” as hard life in the country had taught them tomorrow may never come, at least for some.  It is a great message for all those who procrastinate the truly important, like living a more righteous life.

The general theme of the man (and the book) was one of ecumenicism, that respect for others and worrying about the weightier matters in life would do more to further the work of God, or at a minimum, peace in this world.  Too often in life, especially in politics, religion, sports, etc., people become severely partisan.  So much so their entire focus becomes how the other side is wrong.  They sacrifice understanding why they believe what they do in order to understand all the ways others are not right.  They build walls to separate themselves from others and eventually lose the ability to work with those different from themselves.

While stationed in Turkey Atatürk banned all religious displays including clothing.  Angelo Roncalli said “What does it matter whether we wear the soutane or trousers as long as we proclaim the word of God.”  It demonstrates how people get fixated on some outward appearance rather than what is on the inside.  Several parables come to mind that teach this same principle, from the mote in the eye to the Good Samaritan.  Roncalli was a man who believed the bible when it said we were to love all men.

He also demonstrated good humor about his situation from describing his father, “There are three ways of ruining oneself – women, gambling, and farming. My father chose the most boring.”  His description of his circumstances to a friend “Without having taken a vow of poverty I am practicing it.” When asked about how many people worked in the Vatican “About half of them.” It all goes to show a man who did not take himself too seriously while at the same time holding the office which he held with the greatest respect.  This ability to get down literally in the trenches (served as a priest in WWI) with those he was called to minister served him well as his responsibilities increased.

The message of the bible and the Gospel of Jesus Christ is love for all men, respect of others and their sincere desires to be good people.  Through the daily actions of his life he tried to live this principle to its fullest, and worked to change those who would co-opt the scriptures to abuse their fellow men.  When criticized for working with the Russians to secure the release of a imprisoned Bishop, or even the peaceful end of the Cuban Missile Crisis, he said “We must not condemn them (Russians) because we don’t like their political system.”  It is a sad world when a lot of us condemn others for much less.

A Side Note: I do find it interesting how the JFK church/state separation is much touted as a criticism of Mitt Romney and his Mormonism, but JFK, the Russians, and Pope John XXIII were very involved together to end the Cuban Missile Crisis.  The aforementioned “complete” separation obviously had some cracks no one seems to interested in discussing nowadays.  Plus, don’t get me wrong, I am not criticizing the involvement at all, I just find it fascinating.

I found almost the entire book delightful and full of interesting quotes and stories that served to uplift my own worldview.  All of us could be a little nicer in life and while I am sure Pope John XXIII would be the first to agree he was far from perfect, at times in his life he did a pretty good job of doing his best.

Unfortunately I did find one section of the book that was out of tune with the rest, that was like hitting a jarring speed bump on the highway when all else had been fine.  At one point the author’s own biases bled through and took me out of the narrative completely.  I won’t get into the several issues the author brought up because at the end of the day they are things of personal opinion and have nothing to do with Pope John XXIII.  But when you are purporting to write a biography and you begin a sentence with “It might be mere semantics and revisionism to ask how John himself might comment on the contemporary issue of …” and then go ahead and spout your personal opinions and state that the Pope would have clearly agreed with me – you have gone wrong.

This process of co-opting the Pope to make divisive statements of contemporary issues was just plain disgraceful.  It ruined the flow of the book and it honestly took at least fifty more pages to get back into the life story again.  Furthermore it made me suspicious of the rest of the text that the author might be forcing his opinion in and I just wasn’t noticing.  At the end those ten or so pages really brought down an otherwise excellent life story of a great man who, as it seemed to me, deserved better.

Publisher: HarperOne
ISBN: 978-0-06-208943-4
Copyright: 2012 
Pages: 245
Quick Review: 3.75 stars out of 5
Why I Read It: I enjoy biographies of interesting people.
Where I Obtained the Book: Sent to me by the publisher for review.

Synopsis: On November 23, 1958, Cardinal Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, the son of peasant Italian farmers, became Pope John XXIII. Widely expected to be a transitional pope, John surprised the Church hierarchy and the world by convoking an ambitious ecumenical council—the first such council in more than a century—to bring the Catholic Church into the modern era. "I want to throw open the windows of the Church," he said, "so that we can see out and the people can see in." Broken into four sessions and held over four years, the Second Vatican Council ("a new Pentecost," according to John) breathed new life into the Church and its pastoral mission, knocking down the centuries-old wall between the Church hierarchy and the laity and repositioning the Church as a universal instrument of hope, justice, and compassion for people of all faiths.

Fifty years after he convened the Second Vatican Council, Pope John XXIII remains one of the most beloved and remarkable fi gures in the history of the Catholic Church. Affectionately known as Il Buono Papa, or the Good Pope, John is remembered today by Catholics and non-Catholics alike as an enduring symbol of peace, ecumenicalism, and Christian spirituality. In The Good Pope, Greg Tobin recounts John's remarkable story, from his impoverished childhood in Bergamo, Italy, and his successful tenure as a papal ambassador in war-torn Europe to his surprise ascendancy to the throne of St. Peter. In the process, he traces John's legacy as the spiritual father of the modern Church and explains why the Good Pope and his great council are as vital, vibrant, and important to Catholicism as ever before. Meticulously researched and engaging, The Good Pope captures the heart, soul, and spirit of the man who ushered in a new era of religion in the twentieth century.

Author Biography: Greg Tobin is the author of several books on the Catholic Church. He was the editor of The Catholic Advocate, and during the April 2005 papal transition he appeared frequently on national radio and TV programs as an expert commentator on the popes and the papal election process. His books Selecting the Pope and Holy Father were widely used as authoritative resources on the subject and were quoted in the Los Angeles Times and The New York Times, as well as the Associated Press. He lives in West Orange, NJ.

Other Reviews: 
Fifty Books Project
Imprisoned in my Bones
Archdiocese of Cincinnati

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Book Review - The Next Best Thing - Jenifer Weiner

The Next Best Thing
Title: The Next Best Thing

Review: I often hear interviews with writers bemoaning the fact that their baby was absolutely gutted and destroyed by the powers to be in Hollywood, but have not truly understood it.  The Next best Thing documents the entire process from the point of view of one young writer who has created a touching sitcom about a young girl and her grandmother moving to the big city.  Given that Jennifer Weiner herself has recently creating a sitcom for network TV I am willing to believe there is a lot of truth to be found within its pages.  (She developed State of Georgia.)

This book is a fascinating inside look at the television production process and just how too many cooks do indeed spoil the broth.  As a writer you would think you would know best how to tell a story, especially since you have thousands of books sold to prove it.  Or as a comedian you get direct audience feedback on whether you are funny or not would know best on what funny is.  Well welcome to Hollywood where nameless suits sit behind desks and pick apart everything you believe in.  Instead of giving in to the true creative progress they try to force everything into a mold of previous successes and then wonder why audiences get bored and feel they have seen it all before.  It would be like telling an author like the great Jennifer Weiner on her next book, “Could you add some teenage magicians who have to fight each other to death” because that is what people are going for these days.

The set upon writer is the naïve Ruth, mistaken both professionally and personally, she is never quite sure of herself when navigating this superficial and dangerous world.  Life should be great when she sells her show but she is forced one small bite at a time to swallow her dignity as she tries to get her show made.  Like most bad things in our lives, we don’t get there all at once but rather we make small seemingly insignificant compromises one after another.  On a lesser person it would break their spirit, but our heroine Ruth decides enough is enough and fights back to reclaim her pride.

Now this is still Hollywood so a happy ending is definitely possible, but even so it stands a message to all of us.  Stand up for what you believe in, it is the only chance you have at happiness.

Publisher: Published July 3rd 2012 by AtriaBooks
 ISBN: 978-1-4516-1775-7
 Copyright: 2012
 Pages: 386
 Quick Review: 4  out of 5 stars
 Why I Read It: I enjoy well written humorous fiction
 Where I Obtained the Book: Sent to me by the publisher for review

Synopsis:     Blockbuster #1 New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Weiner returns with an irresistible story about a young woman trying to make it in Hollywood…

At twenty-three, Ruth Saunders headed west with her seventy-year-old grandma in tow, hoping to be hired as a television writer. Four years later, she’s hit the jackpot when she gets The Call: the sitcom she wrote, The Next Best Thing, has gotten the green light, and Ruthie’s going to be the show-runner. But her dreams of Hollywood happiness are threatened by demanding actors, number-crunching executives, an unrequited crush on a boss, and her grandmother’s impending nuptials.

Set against the fascinating backdrop of Los Angeles show business culture, with an insider’s ear and eye for writer’s rooms, bad behavior backstage and set politics, Jennifer Weiner’s new novel is a rollicking ride on the Hollywood rollercoaster and a heartfelt story about what it’s like for a young woman to love, and lose, in the land where dreams come true.
 Jennifer Weiner
Author Biography:  Jennifer Weiner was born in 1970 on an army base in Louisiana. She grew up in Connecticut and graduated from Princeton University. She worked as a newspaper reporter in Central Pennsylvania, Lexington, Kentucky, and Philadelphia, before the publication of her first novel, GOOD IN BED, in 2001. She is the author of the novels IN HER SHOES (2002), which was turned into a major motion picture; LITTLE EARTHQUAKES, (2004), GOODNIGHT NOBODY (2005), the short story collection THE GUY NOT TAKEN (2006) and CERTAIN GIRLS (2008), the sequel to GOOD IN BED. There are more than 9 million copies of her books in print in 36 countries.

Other Reviews:

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Book Review - Thorn - Intisar Khanane

Title: Thorn

Author:  IntisarKhanani

Review :  I never know what to expect from a CreateSpace book…it is a crap shoot to be sure.  Well I have to say I was shocked when I picked up this book just to give it a few pages(I like to do this with new books to see what they are  about and so forth) and didn’t put it down  until I finished it.  I wanted to know what would happen to Thorn and the princess and the kingdom and the curse and the …..   Wow I was shocked at how this book pulled me in completely and I couldn’t let it go without knowing what happened.  I stayed up way too late finishing it and I loved it.  Fantasy is not one of my favorite genres, but this book was fantastic.  It reminded me a bit of Amanda Hocking….hummm another self-published author who is fantastic and therefore no longer self-published.

Thorn is a character you will come to love and yet still want her to do more.  The life that is thrust upon her makes her take a double take and choose the easier route and yet is it really easier?  The prince confuses Thorn and yet in the end you find out why.  Valka is someone to hate, a good book needs someone to hate and she is dreadful.  Thorns brother and mother are a piece of work.  The other characters that fill the pages are interesting and multi-faceted.  A few deaths will cause you to tear up and wonder Why?  But they all play apart in this book and in making Thorn who she becomes.

Thorn may at times come off as too good to be true, but wouldn’t it be wonderful to think that people really could be that nice?  I have met a few that make me think it’s possible.  You will fall in love with her and understand why so many others in the story have fallen likewise.  This is a fairy tale like the Goose Girl and yet I can tell you I’m not that familiar with that tale and still found this book a page turner.  I rarely stay up past my bedtime and yet I just couldn’t put the book down until I was finished.

If you love fantasy you will love this book, but even if you don’t you should give it a try.  I really can’t say enough good things about this book.  Nothing keeps me up at night(early to work) and yet last night I didn’t turn off the light until after midnight, way too late for me.  I loved this book and the characters and I hope to see more from this author.  She should have a mainstream publisher soon, this is a good story, well edited, fast paced and interesting to boot.

Give this book a try – it is great for any age and I know you won’t be disappointed.
Publisher: Published May 30th 2012 by CreateSpace
ISBN: 9781470181338
Copyright: 2012
Pages: 237
Quick Review: 5 stars out of 5 
Where I Obtained the Book: Sent by the author for review. 

Synopsis: Princess Alyrra’s strength lies in silence. Scorned by her family, she avoids the court, spending her time with servants. When her marriage is unexpectedly arranged with the prince of a powerful neighboring kingdom, Alyrra feels trapped. As the court celebrates her match, dark rumors spread about the unexplained deaths of the women of her new family. Alyrra begins her journey with mounting trepidation; betrayed while traveling, she seizes an opportunity to start a life away from court.

Walking away from a prince whom she doesn’t know should have been easy. But from the moment she sets eyes on him, Alyrra realizes that her freedom could cost him his life. Without any magical defense of her own, she is plunged into a lethal game of sorcery and deceit. Now Alyrra must decide whom she can trust and what she’s willing to fight for—before her silence proves fatal.
 Intisar Khanani
Author Biography:  Intisar Khanani grew up a nomad and world traveler. Born in Wisconsin, she has lived in five different states as well as in Jeddah on the coast of the Red Sea. She first remembers seeing snow on a wintry street in Zurich, Switzerland, and vaguely recollects having breakfast with the orangutans at the Singapore Zoo when she was five. She now resides in Cincinnati, Ohio, with her husband and young daughter. Intisar writes grants and develops projects to address community health with the Cincinnati Health Department, which is as close as she can get to saving the world. Her approach to writing fantasy reflects her lifelong passion for stories from different cultures. She is currently writing a trilogy set in the same world as Thorn. This is her first novel.

Other Reviews: 
I heart reading
Reading it All
Book Snatch

FYI:  The first 3 chapters can be read here.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Book Review - Life Drawing for Beginners - Roisin Meaney

Life Drawing For Beginners
Title:  Life Drawing for Beginners

Author:  Roisen Meany

Review: When I finished this book I really wanted to learn to draw.  I realize that wasn’t the author’s original intention when she wrote the novel, but it is an interesting result all the same.  She presented a fun book of adults coming together over an activity that I felt a longing for the activity itself.  That is pretty powerful stuff.

Ms. Meany brings together a large cast of diverse strangers in an almost farcical way over the course of several weeks to give us touching stories of love, confidence, heartbreak, redemption, and all the other emotions you can think of.  It demonstrates the possibilities of growth if we just allow ourselves to open up to the human experience.  For the characters in this novel that avenue is life drawing; the drawing of the human form.

It shows the power of art when we brought into our lives by someone who really cares, who is enthusiastic in spite of the set backs life can offer.  It speaks to all of us of the need to find our creative outlet as a means of dealing with our stress.  For some that may mean a life drawing class, or pottery, or cooking, or in this case, good literature.  Do yourself a favor and pick up this book for inspiration and who knows where it will take you.  

A delightful book and a quick read.  Me?  I was inspired to buy sketching pencils and start watching instructional videos on YouTube after reading.

Publisher: FiveSpot
ISBN: 978-1-4555-0408-4
Copyright: 2012
Pages: 411
Quick Review: 4 stars out of 5
Why I Read It: Female Irish Author
Where I Obtained the Book: Sent to me by the publisher for review

Synopsis:   From the author of Semi-Sweet comes a delightful new novel about the art of friendship, love, and (still) life. When Audrey Matthews offers an evening class in life drawing, all she's looking for is a little extra pocket money and something to fill her Tuesday nights. So she hires a model and recruits five students - each of whom have their own reason for being there. For Zarek, a Polish immigrant, the class is a welcome distraction and a place to escape his dull cafe job and noisy roommate. Then there's the handsome, mysterious James who has moved to the small town of Carrickbawn looking for a new start for himself and his daughter. He's vowed to keep to himself, but then his interest in Jackie, the class model and single mom, takes a more personal turn. While Audrey has just fallen in love -- with the adorable puppy in the window of the local pet shop. Will she be put off by the store's brusque owner or does she find out that his bark is worse than his bite? As the weeks pass, it becomes clear to the members of the drawing class that their fellow students aren't exactly who they seem.
Roisin Meaney 
Author Biography: Born on 3rd September.
A published author of eight books for adults and two for children, Roisin has also written numerous articles for journals and newspapers. She worked as an advertising copywriter for a number of years, and brings a vast amount of experience to the editing team. Her first novel, The Daisy Picker, won a Write a Bestseller competition. Her third novel, The Last Week of May reached number one on the Irish bestseller list and her fourth, The People Next Door reached number two. Her books have been translated into several languages, and two, Semi-Sweet and Life Drawing for Beginners, have been published in the US. She's currently working on her ninth novel and is also planning another children's book.

Other Reviews:

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Book Review - Scarlet - A. C. Gaughen

Title:  Scarlet

Author: A.C. Gaughen

Review: Scarlet is an alternate take on the folklore of Robin hood and his Merry Men.  Scarlet is Will Scarlet, a women posing as a man working alongside Robin Hood as he steals from the rich in order to feed the poor.  Scarlet is a broken girl who's father tried to marry her off for money but instead she ran away to find what she feels is a better life.

Scarlet works alongside the famous Robin Hood and his small group, Little John and Much.  Scarlet starts with the early stories of Robin Hood, and tells the stories from before he had a large band of men following him. 

The author wrote the characters the same way I have always imagined them in my head but with a modern twist.  Robin of the Hood is noble, strong, and does everything to save the people because all that he loved was destroyed or stolen from him and given to Prince Jon.  John Little loves the women, loves life and when he find something he likes he takes it. Much is the band mate who tries to be the peacemaker but everyone treats him like a kid brother.

The violence in the book follows the line of a PG-13 movie. For example, the characters seem to feel remorse for killing a person to save another. Romance is on par with what a teen novel should have with kisses and chasing but nothing offensive for 13 and older readers and it fits with the story line.

I love how the author takes a story we have all heard millions of times and creates a strong woman in Will Scarlet. Who keeps up with her fellow Merry Men, biting down hard in order to never let anyone know if she happened to be in pain.  However some of the injures were severe enough that the character Scarlet should have been deathly ill or resting but instead Robin had Scarlet climbing trees and running around the forest.  I would have preferred during the time of healing Scarlet and the other main characters were developed more instead of rushing into the friendship\romance building.

I have heard mention that her book has many errors but personally, the only thing I noticed was her use of language changed in the book and I couldn't tell if that was the author's intention. Sometimes there was a very modern feel to the book and that made it feel like the author broke character. Scarlet is running and upset and starts to swear and Robin says “You swear like a sailor." It’s something people say now and I just couldn't see it back in the 12 century. So that took me out of the story for just a few minutes but I dove back in and loved every second of the book. 

I can only name a hand full of books that have me hoping the story doesn't end because I was so invested in the characters.  I enjoyed every second of Scarlet and I can't wait to read the next book.  That's a hint for the author…hint…hint.  Buy this will love it!

Thanks goes to Heidi for this review.

Publisher: Published February 14th 2012 by WalkerChildrens
 ISBN: 9780802723468
 Copyright: 2012
 Pages: 292
 Quick Review: 5 stars (out of 5)-
 Why I Read It:  Sent by the publisher for review.

Synopsis: Many readers know the tale of Robin Hood, but they will be swept away by this new version full of action, secrets, and romance.

Posing as one of Robin Hood’s thieves to avoid the wrath of the evil Thief Taker Lord Gisbourne, Scarlet has kept her identity secret from all of Nottinghamshire. Only the Hood and his band know the truth: the agile thief posing as a whip of a boy is actually a fearless young woman with a secret past. Helping the people of Nottingham outwit the corrupt Sheriff of Nottingham could cost Scarlet her life as Gisbourne closes in.

It’s only her fierce loyalty to Robin—whose quick smiles and sharp temper have the rare power to unsettle her—that keeps Scarlet going and makes this fight worth dying for.
 A.C. Gaughen 
Author Biography:  I am shamelessly addicted to staying up far too late (it feels like stealing time), diet coke (it burns so good), Scotland (stupid country stole my heart and won't give it back. Interpol has been ineffective for prosecution) and thieves (so I guess I'm not that mad at Scotland).

Want to know more? Just ask!

Other Reviews:

Friday, September 21, 2012

Book Review - School Struggles - Richard Selznick, PhD

School Struggles: A Guide to Your Shut-Down Learner's Success
Title:  School Struggles-A Guide to the Shut-Down Learners Sucess

Review:  I have two school strugglers in my family of seven.  My 2nd and my 5th child, both boys, struggle with reading.  The problem with reading is that it is in every subject.  They take extra time to decode unfamiliar words and they get frustrated and then just guess making the whole thing they are reading useless.  They both struggle with liking school and the youngest calls school a huge waste of his precious time.  Also I'm in school to get my license to teach Special Education and so this book was extremely informative for me.

I have dealt with teachers telling me that they will get it, or just be patient everyone learns at their own pace, or they will learn to do it, that thing you want them to do, when they feel the need to do it.  Well it has gotten a bit better, but my 11th grader still struggles and yet isn’t low enough for extra help at school.  The author explained that low enough is below the 30 percentile.  Well that is low and neither of them are that low.  Average is what the teachers call them, but they are in a family of above-average learners and so it is difficult for them.  My other 3 children are soaring at school and only don’t do as well as they could because they have other more important things to do(this is according to these 3 of course not me.)

My strugglers feel the difficulty at school and then again at home.  We have a designated home-work time after school I think that helps them realize that school is important.  No computer(except for school assignments), no video games, and no TV are allowed during this time.  Last year it was only an hour, this year it is until after dinner.  They can go outside and play with friends once homework is done, but no screen time until after dinner.  Now I just have to stay strong when the, “I’m bored,” starts.

I found this book had great information for parents who have kids that struggle, or ADHA, or other issues that make learning difficult.  The day after finishing this book I called up the stairs to to my slow-poke son, “Time to get up, if I have to tell you again you will have no computer time after dinner tonight.”  He was up and dressed in record time and I didn’t have to yell at all.  That is one thing I have taken from this book and if that is it, it was worth it.  This morning I told my daughter it was time to take the dogs for a walk(Saturday), she told me she would when the show was over.  I told her no she needed to do it now.  She repeated her statement and I shut of the TV.  I didn’t yell, but I got my point across(she had already watched two episodes and it was on-demand so she could start where she left off the next time, not a huge deal.)  I think she will listen better going forward.  If I cut down my yelling I will thank this book.

If you teach, or if you have a child that hates school or struggles this is a fantastic book for you.  Relax and enjoy the kids is hard for me, but maybe with less yelling and more consequences for not doing what they are asked…things may go better around here. Also I will watch their progress at school closer and try to keep disasters from occurring around report card time.  I have had my 2nd son even hide the report card when it comes.  With Parent-portal(web-site provided by our schools) they let us know how each child is doing and after reading this book I am going to keep better track of that information.  Also I am better able to keep them on task and hopefully help them realize how important learning is and avoid end of the quarter meltdowns(for both of us.)  Get this book if your kids struggle at all....he covers tons of topics that I found interesting and I could put these topics to several kids I have and several I teach.

Publisher: Published August 16th 2012 by Sentient Publications (first published July 16th 2012)
 ISBN: 9781591811787
 Copyright: 2012
 Pages: 180
 Quick Review: 5 Stars out of 5
 Why I Read It: Sent by the author for review.

Synopsis: Richard Selznick is a child psychologist who has helped parents with their children’s struggles in school for more than 25 years. His first book, The Shut-Down Learner, identified the problems faced by spatial learners and recommended ways that parents and teachers can help them learn. School Struggles offers aid, comfort, and perspective to parents whose children have difficulty in school for a multitude of reasons. Selznick addresses reading and writing issues, task analysis, learning disabilities, behavioral problems, difficulties with organization, social skills, medication, parents’ interactions with teachers, and more, in a practical, down-to-earth manner. The book is filled with takeaway points, surprising insights, and new actions to try with your child that are a godsend for families struggling with school and behavioral issues.

Through his work with thousands of academically struggling kids and their families, Dr. Selznick has developed techniques and easily applicable tools on pretty much any topic that plagues parents and children alike, including the excessive use of technology, parental indulgence of their children, and the difficulty of being patient with a frustrating situation. This is an indispensable guide for any parent who stays awake at night worrying about their child’s school experience, whether the issues are academic or social, or both.
Image of Richard Selznick
Author Biography:    Dr. Richard Selznick ("Dr. Selz") is a psychologist, nationally certified school psychologist, graduate school professor and university professor of pediatrics. He is author of the "The Shut-Down Learner: Helping Your Academically Discouraged Child" and the soon to be released "School Struggles." You can learn more about Dr. Selz on and on Twitter: @DrSelz.

As Director of the Cooper Learning Center in Voorhees, Dr. Selznick oversees a program that assesses and treats a broad range of learning and school-based academic and behavioral problems. The Cooper Learning Center is a Division of the Department of Pediatrics, of Cooper University Hospital. Dr. Selznick presents nationally and internationally to parents and educators on a variety of topics related to school struggling.

A down-to-earth presenter who looks to discuss difficult topics in non-jargon terms, Dr. Selznick recently presented to educators in Dubai and Abu Dhabi on issues related to struggling children. Among the topics that he presents include "Relationship: The Key Variable in School Struggling," "Myths & Realities of Dyslexia," "Understanding the Shut-Down Learner Formula," "Stages of Reading Development: Signposts That Guide Instruction," "We Keep Telling Him You Have to Get Organized: Executive Function Deficits."

Other Reviews:

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Book Review - A Case for Solomon - Tal McThenia and Margaret Dunbar Cutright

A Case for Solomon: Bobby Dunbar and the Kidnapping That Haunted a Nation

Author: Tal McThenia & Margaret Dunbar Cutright

Review: How much would you be willing to do to get your son back?  On a family picnic/camping trip the Dunbar family lost their young four year old son Bobby.  One minute he was there, and the next he had disappeared.  Unfortunately no body was ever found so closure was never an option.  What ensued was one of the largest manhunts ever seen as they scoured the entire south for little Bobby, ultimately finding a little boy in the possession of a vagabond piano tuner.

Claiming they had found their son the Dunbar’s were anxious to take him home and restart their life.  Only problem was another Mother came forward to claim the boy as her little Bruce; that she knew the wandering William Walters had him.  An actual court case took place, and more importantly a court of public opinion happened in the papers of the day.  The book documents both cases as we see rather than a battle of good versus evil, we have a fight between two desperate mothers, rich versus poor, truth as people desired it rather than truth as it is.  In the end we see a family destroyed as they hang on to the tiny threads of hope, and a fractured family rebuilt.

The scrap book of the case containing all the historical newspaper articles is passed down to Bobby Dunbar’s granddaughter.  Having grown up with the Dunbar family legend of the kidnapping the articles painted a very different picture than the romanticized version she had been told.  This began a multi-year quest to find out the truth – who was Bobby Dunbar?  Through painstaking research a clear story begins to emerge, which is ultimately confirmed through modern DNA testing.

What emerges is not a story of right versus wrong, but rather a tale of extreme sadness as a desperate family tries everything they can to heal their family.  It also provides a historical look that the ends definitely do not justify the means as the the events surrounding Bobby altered the Dunbar family for generations, still causes fractures that remain to this day.
A fantastic book analyzing the damage loss and denial can do to a family.  A modern true retelling of King Solomon as one mother makes the ultimate sacrifice for the love of her child.  As a bonus it shows the influence, for better or worse, the media can have.  Unfortunately that influence hasn’t changed at all today.    

Publisher:   Published August 14th 2012 by Free Press (first published January 10th 2012)
 ISBN: 978-1-4391-5859-3
 Copyright: 2012
 Pages: 464
 Quick Review: 4 Stars out of 5
 Why I Read It: I love a good true crime/psychology book
 Where I Obtained the Book: Sent to me by the publisher for review.

Synopsis: A CASE FOR SOLOMON: BOBBY DUNBAR AND THE KIDNAPPING THAT HAUNTED A NATION chronicles one of the most celebrated—and most misunderstood—kidnapping cases in American history. In 1912, four-year-old Bobby Dunbar, the son of an upper-middle-class Louisiana family, went missing in the swamps. After an eight-month search that electrified the country and destroyed Bobby’s parents, the boy was found, filthy and hardly recognizable, in the pinewoods of southern Mississippi. A wandering piano tuner who had been shuttling the child throughout the region by wagon for months was arrested and charged with kidnapping—a crime that was punishable by death at the time. But when a destitute single mother came forward from North Carolina to claim the boy as her son, not Bobby Dunbar, the case became a high-pitched battle over custody—and identity—that divided the South. Amid an ever-thickening tangle of suspicion and doubt, two mothers and a father struggled to assert their rightful parenthood over the child, both to the public and to themselves. For two years, lawyers dissected and newspapers sensationalized every aspect of the story. Psychiatrists, physicians, criminologists, and private detectives debated the piano tuner’s guilt and the boy’s identity. And all the while the boy himself remained peculiarly guarded on the question of who he was. It took nearly a century, a curiosity that had been passed down through generations, and the science of DNA to discover the truth.

A Case for Solomon is a gripping historical mystery, distilled from a trove of personal and archival research. The story of Bobby Dunbar, fought over by competing New Orleans tabloids, the courts, and the citizenry of two states, offers a case study in yellow journalism, emergent forensic science, and criminal justice in the turn-of-the-century American South. It is a drama of raw poverty and power and an exposÉ of how that era defined and defended motherhood, childhood, and community. First told in a stunning episode of National Public Radio’s This American Life, A Case for Solomon chronicles the epic struggle to determine one child’s identity, along the way probing unsettling questions about the formation of memory, family, and self.

Author Biography:  :  In 2000, Bobby's granddaughter, coauthor Margaret Dunbar Cutright, began to dig into the legend. After years of research, debate, and a DNA test, the truth finally emerged.

Other Reviews:  Publisher Weekly, Book Diary

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Book Review - The Marriage Bargain - Jennifer Probst

The Marriage Bargain (Marriage to a Billionaire, #1)
Title:  The Marriage Bargain

Review:  I’m a sucker for the romance/happily ever after genre.  I love happy endings and romance is a great place to find that.  That said I have to say that I really enjoyed this book.  Marriage on paper, yes, but could it also include a bit of hanky panky with the spouse?  Than great, but is that in the contract?  No…oh well then lots of longing looks and late night make-out sessions to remind them of that clause.  Interruptions galore to be sure the contract is followed to the letter.  Well what do you think happened?

The plot was cute and the chemistry between the two leads was off the charts.  The story is fast moving and I read it in one evening.  I did tear up at the end and the dog…..oh so sweet and the way that Nick needed that.  Alexa is someone I would like to be good friends with, if she were real, and Nick well he needs some work, but he is a good guy at heart.  This is a great romance that will make you believe in love again and again.  I look forward to the authors next book in this series…she left it wide open for another.

If you like romance you will love this book and it will make you smile as you read it.  Say good-bye to real life and enjoy this fantasy for awhile.  The ending will make you cheer and maybe even cry happy tears.  Sex alert for those not wanting to read that.

Publisher: Published February 14th 2012 by EntangledPublishing (Indulgence)

ISBN: 2940013903296

Copyright: 2012

Pages: 306

Quick Review: 4 stars (out of 5)-nothing intellectual or deep in this romance….but for a romance it was a good one.

Why I Read It:  Sent by the publisher for review.

Synopsis: A marriage in name only...

To save her family home, impulsive bookstore owner, Alexa Maria McKenzie, casts a love spell. But she never planned on conjuring up her best friend's older brother—the powerful man who once shattered her heart.

Billionaire Nicholas Ryan doesn’t believe in marriage, but in order to inherit his father’s corporation, he needs a wife and needs one fast. When he discovers his sister’s childhood friend is in dire financial straits, he’s offers Alexa a bold proposition.

A marriage in name only with certain rules: Avoid entanglement. Keep things all business. Do not fall in love. The arrangement is only for a year so the rules shouldn’t be that hard to follow, right?

Except fate has a way of upsetting the best-laid plans.
Jennifer Probst
Author Biography: Jennifer Probst wrote her first book at twelve years old. She bound it in a folder, read it to her classmates, and hasn’t stopped writing since. She took a short hiatus to get married, get pregnant, buy a house, get pregnant again, pursue a master’s in English Literature, and rescue two shelter dogs. Now she is writing again.

She is the NYT and USA Today bestselling author of The Marriage Bargain. She is published both erotic and sexy contemporary romance with Entangled, Decadent, Red Sage and TWRP. She has also written a children's book, Buffy and the Carrot, co-written with her twelve year old niece, along with a short story, "A Life Worth Living." Visit her website for more info!

Other Reviews:

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Book Review - The Language of Sisters - Amy Hatvany

The Language of Sisters
Title: The Language of Sisters

Author: Amy Hatvany

Review: I had several thoughts while reading this beautiful little book.  It is said you love most those you serve (thus explaining how Mothers seem to love their children through thick and thin), how you don’t know what you have until it is gone, and how family members of the severely disabled usually say the person’s influence in their lives made them who they are today (i.e. they have been blessed by their presence).  Amy Hatvany has managed to capture these emotions perfectly in the story of two sisters.  For anyone who has known a disabled person, this book will open your eyes to the power of their spirits on the lives of others.

Nicole was burned out.  A severely disabled sister, a distant mother, and an absent father; she desperately needed her own life; she needed to get away and be free.  SO she started over and found a power career and yuppie boyfriend who didn’t want anything to do with family and their inherent problems.  Her life was just as she imagined it but yet she was not happy.  Her career already breaking down she got the phone call came pulling her back into her past.  Her sister had been raped by a caregiver and now she was pregnant.

The Language of Sisters is a story of a woman who loses her dreams only to find her happiness.  It demonstrates with compassion how frustratingly hard it is to take care of a special needs person.  Through the daily rituals of trying to listen to her sister she finds she is finally able to listen to her heart.  The white noise of her superficial life had been drowning her conscious out, while the purity of her sister’s needs was able to finally cut through.  The language they shared was one of love.  Not the passion most of us confuse as true feelings, but the deep well of love that resonates through better and worse.  The love that will be there through the worst life has to offer.  The love that will support us when we cannot support ourselves.
An honest, sweet little book that understands forgetting yourself is the best way to find yourself. The most accurate description of what unconditional love for others can do for you.

ISBN: 978-1-4516-8813-9
Copyright: 2002
Pages: 275
Quick Review: 4 stars out of 5
Why I Read It: Synopsis looked interesting
Where I Obtained the Book: Sent to me by the publisher for review

Synopsis:  Ten years ago, Nicole Hunter left her troubled home behind her, unable to cope with the demands of a life with her disabled sister, Jenny. But when a shattering event turns her world upside down, she finds herself back in her hometown, caring for her pregnant sister and trying to heal her embattled relationship with her mother. And when she is faced with the most difficult choice of her life, Nicole rediscovers the beauty of sisterhood-and receives a special gift that will change her life forever..
Amy Hatvany
Author Biography:  Amy Hatvany was born in Seattle, WA in 1972, the youngest of three children. She graduated from Western Washington University in 1994 with a degree in Sociology only to discover most sociologists are unemployed. Soon followed a variety of jobs – some of which she loved, like decorating wedding cakes; others which she merely tolerated, like receptionist. In 1998, Amy finally decided to sell her car, quit her job, and take a chance on writing books.

The literary gods took kindly to her aspirations and THE KIND OF LOVE THAT SAVES YOU was published in 2000 by Bantam Doubleday. THE LANGUAGE OF SISTERS was picked up by NAL in 2002. (Both titles published under "Yurk.")

Amy spends most of her time today with her second and final husband, Stephan. (Seriously, if this one doesn’t work out, she’s done.) She stays busy with her two children, Scarlett and Miles, and her “bonus child,” Anna. Their blended family also includes two four-legged hairy children, commonly known as Black Lab mutts, Kenda and Dolcé. When Amy’s not with friends or family, she is most likely reading, cooking or zoning out on certain reality television shows. Top Chef is a current favorite. She eagerly awaits auditions for the cast of “Top Author.” (“Quick Edit” instead of “Quick Fire” Challenge? C’mon, producers! That’s gripping television!)

Other Reviews:

Monday, September 17, 2012

Monday in our mailbox

Whats in your mail this week?  Anything like this steamy number below?
The Marriage Bargain (Marriage to a Billionaire, #1)A marriage in name only...

To save her family home, impulsive bookstore owner, Alexa Maria McKenzie, casts a love spell. But she never planned on conjuring up her best friend's older brother—the powerful man who once shattered her heart.

Billionaire Nicholas Ryan doesn’t believe in marriage, but in order to inherit his father’s corporation, he needs a wife and needs one fast. When he discovers his sister’s childhood friend is in dire financial straits, he’s offers Alexa a bold proposition.

A marriage in name only with certain rules: Avoid entanglement. Keep things all business. Do not fall in love. The arrangement is only for a year so the rules shouldn’t be that hard to follow, right?

Except fate has a way of upsetting the best-laid plans…
Charlotte Street: A NovelJason Priestley (not that one) has just seen her. They shared an incredible, brief, fleeting moment of deep possibility, somewhere halfway down Charlotte Street.

And then, just like that, she was gone - accidentally leaving him holding her old-fashioned, disposable camera, chock full of undeveloped photos...

And now Jason - ex-teacher, ex-boyfriend, part-time writer and reluctant hero - faces a dilemma. Should he try and track The Girl down? What if she's The One? But that would mean using the only clues he has, which lie untouched in this tatty disposable...

It's funny how things can develop..
A Place Called ArmageddonTo the Greeks who love it, it is Constantinople. To the Turks who covet it, the Red Apple. Safe behind its magnificent walls, the city was once the heart of the vast Byzantine empire.

1453. The empire has shrunk to what lies within those now-crumbling walls. A relic. Yet for one man, Constantinople is the stepping stone to destiny. Mehmet is twenty when he is annointed Sultan. Now, seeking Allah’s will and Man’s glory, he brings an army of one hundred thousand, outnumbering the defenders ten to one. He has also brings something new – the most frightening weapon the world has ever seen...

But a city is more than stone, its fate inseparable from that of its people. Men like Gregoras, a mercenary and exile, returning to the hated place he once loved. Like his twin and betrayer, the subtle diplomat, Theon. Like Sofia, loved by two brothers but forced to make a desperate choice between them. And Leilah, a powerful mystic and assassin, seeking her own destiny in the flames.

This is the tale of one of history’s greatest battles for one of the world’s most extraordinary places. This is the story of people, from peasant to emperor - with the city’s fate, and theirs, undecided... until the moment the Red Apple falls.
Life Drawing For BeginnersFrom the author of Semi-Sweet comes a delightful new novel about the art of friendship, love, and (still) life. When Audrey Matthews offers an evening class in life drawing, all she's looking for is a little extra pocket money and something to fill her Tuesday nights. So she hires a model and recruits five students - each of whom have their own reason for being there. For Zarek, a Polish immigrant, the class is a welcome distraction and a place to escape his dull cafe job and noisy roommate. Then there's the handsome, mysterious James who has moved to the small town of Carrickbawn looking for a new start for himself and his daughter. He's vowed to keep to himself, but then his interest in Jackie, the class model and single mom, takes a more personal turn. While Audrey has just fallen in love -- with the adorable puppy in the window of the local pet shop. Will she be put off by the store's brusque owner or does she find out that his bark is worse than his bite? As the weeks pass, it becomes clear to the members of the drawing class that their fellow students aren't exactly who they seem.
Relentless PursuitA cool million to help a withdrawn child in time for kindergarten? Widowed teacher Ava Barton is touched that the girl's guardian, Texas billionaire Will Delaney, cares so deeply. But the job includes moving into Will's mansion for the summer. And suddenly, Ava is working nights and weekends trying—unsuccessfully—to resist the gorgeous tycoon down the hall. Will wants her in his bed for June, July and August. But come fall, he'll move on. Unless she can teach him a thing or two about opening his guarded heart to love.
A Tangled Affair (The Pearl House #2)They'd been embroiled in a hot, secret affair. Until Lucas Atraeus's and Carla Ambrosi's feuding families were merged by marriage and business. Suddenly the situation was …complicated. Burned by the past, Lucas has never let his heart rule his head. Now, with Carla closer than he had ever imagined she would be, their affair must end.

Saying goodbye to such intense passion is not easy… as he's now Carla's boss.

But even as he sets out to choose an appropriate bride—one who won't break down his guard—Lucas fears he's fighting a losing battle. Sometimes temptation is meant to be seized.

Disclaimer for all reviews sent by the publisher, publicist or author for review.