Showing posts with label Book Reviews. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Book Reviews. Show all posts

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Anne of Green Gables Early Reader Chapter Book Reviews

Anne of Green Gables Early Reader Books
I do not have any wee folk around anymore nor did I ever have any wee girls about the house but that did not stop me from holding throughout my life a love of all things related to Anne of Green Gables and Prince Edward Island.  A hold over from my girlhood, I am thrilled to know that the red headed heroine we loved as girls continues to be introduced to successive generations of girls through some beautiful books and television programming.

Green Gables in Anne Arrives
Anne Arrives and Anne's Kindred Spirits are a retelling of the traditional Anne of Green Gables story for early readers in an easy chapter book format that have been adapted by Canadian author Kallie George. Kallie, that is, with an e. Anne Arrives was released in 2018 and Anne's Kindred Spirits will be released in 2019.

The first story introduces the young reader to Anne Shirley and sets her down at Green Gables where we all know that she belongs. She settles in, that is, after a rough start when they find out she is a girl and not a boy and after she has a run in with the neighbor, Mrs. Lynde.

The second story introduces Anne and the reader to her bosom buddy, Diana. In this book, Anne enjoys a community picnic, which is her first, although that outing is jeopardized when Marilla's prized brooch goes missing.

Author Kallie George has written a number of other books for children including a picture book about Anne Shirley called Goodnight, Anne. Kallie says that she believes that she and Anne Shirley are kindred spirits!

Anne Shirley in Anne Arrives

The illustrator Abigail Halpin says that she was gifted with a copy of the original book when she was a teenager and that that book still holds a special place on her book shelf.  The illustrations in Anne Arrives, she says, were "influenced by her memories of one of the most beautiful, magical spots on the planet, Prince Edward Island." Her illustrations were crafted using a combination of traditional and digital media.

Both of these books were written with children aged 6 to 8 or in grades 1 through 3 in mind. However, if you child is not quite ready to read these books on her own, you could certainly read them to her. Although intended for children, they are suitable for any one who loves Anne.

I think that this book is wonderful, sharing as it does a simple version of the classic story with the accompaniment of some charming illustrations. My favorite picture might be the two page spread that shows Green Gables in the distance, shown above.  It sets the scene in my head, for sure.

As you can tell, yes, this book is RECOMMENDED by me. I think it is lovely but I am biased toward anything from Anne's world.  However, Kirkus Reviews calls Anne Arrives, "A dream of an adaptation that is an unabashed love letter to the series that inspired it." In my mind that is high praise indeed.

I think that either book would make a beautiful gift for anyone who loves Anne but it would be especially appropriate for any young girl who is learning or will soon be learning to read. If you want to expose your children to Anne's world, you can never start to young!

You can find both books on Amazon by clicking here.  If you are looking to put a great gift set together, you might consider bundling one of these books with one of the beautiful Anne of Green Gables gift ideas found on this page.

See you
at the bookstore!
Brenda

Quick Links:

Buy Anne Arrives and Anne's Kindred Spirits on Amazon.
Find a page full of beautiful Anne of Green Gables gift ideas.


Anne Arrives by Kallie George

Anne's Kindred Spirits by Kallie George






Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Summer Island by Kristin Hannah - Book Review

Book Review on Review This!
Summer Island by Kristin Hannah, the audio version, has been playing during every free moment for the past few days. This story has kept my attention. I am so glad to have discovered this author following the recommendations by two of our Review This writers and one co-worker. Kristin Hannah has a large fan base. And it is easy to understand why. Summer Island is a story about families: mothers and daughters, and how our memories about the very same thing can be so wildly different.

While they were still young girls, Ruby and Caroline Bridge were abandoned by their mother. Caroline, now a wife and mother, has begun working at building a relationship with her mother. But the thread of trust between the two is new and fragile. However, Ruby remains angry and unforgiving. She masks her pain with humor, a struggling stand-up comedian. 

Nora, their runaway mother, has spent the years becoming wealthy. She is a famous giver-of-advice, with a newspaper column and a radio show. She is a modern day "Dear Abby". Her focus is on giving relationship advice. Nora's fans know nothing of her abandoning of her children. Until, the tabloids publish the photos of her affair while married to Ruby and Caroline's father.

We meet the family at the time the tabloids publish the scandal. And the readers follow along, as this angry and broken family are pushed back together through illness and car accident. Ruby and Nora have the most work to do to heal. 

To me, the story is realistic and the voices are clear. It is a sample of difficult mother-daughter relationships. And the fact that parents are humans too, complete with flaws. Also, that they too were at one time someone's child. Summer Island gives us both Nora's version and Ruby's version of what happened. Will they come to an understanding? Will they agree to meet in the middle and find some common ground? Will fences be mended before it is too late.


"To you, it was the beginning of the story. To me, it was deep in the middle" Nora Bridges says to Ruby about her disappearance.


Whether you buy this book or rent it from the library like I did, it is a story I recommend. At this point, I plan to read Kristin Hannah's entire collection.  




Related Links:

Brenda reviewed Home Front: a novel about a women who is sent off to serve her country and the family she leaves behind; holding things down at home. It is a story of "love, duty, honor, commitment, sacrifice". Brenda recommends this emotional book by Kristin Hannah. Please see Brenda's review for more details: Home Front Review. 

Brenda writes in her Home Front review that The Nightingale is the book that led her to read more books by Kristin Hannah. The Nightingale is set in occupied France during World War II. Both Brenda and a co-worker, describe this story as "excellent", a "favorite", and highly recommend it. 

It is because of Renaissance Woman's review of The Great Alone that caused me to finally pick up a Kristin Hannah book. Set in an off-grid cabin in remote Alaska, the story appealed to me on the setting alone. We joined the Allbright family as they were chasing peace. The descriptions of the family and the setting pulled me in. Please read Renaissance Woman's Review of The Great Alone for a better description of why you too should read this book.




Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Wired by Julie Garwood – Book Review



Wired by Julie Garwood
Author Julie Garwood is well known for her romantic suspense novels, particularly those featuring her continuing and recurring characters in the Buchanan family. Her latest in the series is Wired where a beautiful computer hacker (Allison Trent) has to collaborate reluctantly with a sexy hotshot FBI agent (Liam Scott).


Synosis 


Allison has a brilliant mind for computers.  She loves to write code and has secretly been known to 'hack' into computers.  Before you condemn her for this behavior, you have to realize that she has only done it occasionally to help others who have been cheated by unscrupulous scammers and to 'right the wrong'. 


Source: Pixabay
FBI agent Liam Scott has discovered a serious problem ~ a deep leak within his own department leaking information about ongoing investigations. He needs a top-notch hacker unknown in his field to secretly break into the FBI computers and find the traitor. 

Allison is friends with Jordan (Buchanan) Clayborne, a genius in the technology field, whose husband and brother are both FBI agents and friends with Liam. With Jordan's help, Liam arranges to meet Allison and asks her to take on the job.  There is only one problem – Allison wants nothing to do with his job and turns him down.

Liam doesn't know that Allison is hiding her hacking secrets that she doesn't want the FBI to uncover.  She knows what she has done would be considered illegal by the FBI, even though she never benefited from her hacking and only helped others. 

How Allison's refusal to help is resolved, how she discovers the traitor and how romance blooms between her and Liam make for a very delightful story. 


Author Julie Garwood



Author Julie Garwood
Julie Garwood was born in Kansas City and today lives in Leawood, Kansas. She married young and had three children. Julie was always interested in writing, but waited until her youngest child was in school before she began writing full time.  She has written many best-selling novels.  

One of her most popular novels, FOR THE ROSES, was adapted for a HALLMARK HALL OF FAME production. 

Ms. Garwood has written 27 novels of romance since 1985, either in the historical fiction field or that of suspense.  Her suspense novels usually involve one or more FBI agents.  In each of  her books you will find a recurring theme based on family, loyalty and honor. Her romantic scenes are done in good taste. Her humor and poignancy keep readers coming back for more. 

Julie states her goals as:


“I want my readers to laugh and cry and fall in love. Basically, I want them to escape into another world for a little while and afterwards to feel as though they’ve been on a great adventure.” 


More Romantic Suspense by Garwood



Pixabay

Wired is Julie Garwood's most recent book (published 2017) involving one or more of the Buchanan family.  The family consists of the mom & dad (who is a judge), six brothers and two sisters, all of whom are involved in either the technology field or law enforcement, most particularly the FBI. I've always enjoyed reading series with continuing characters and Garwood's books are among my favorites. 

So, if you read and enjoy Wired, be sure and seek out some of the other Julie Garwood stories involving the Buchanan family


For more book reviews, check out the list at:
ReviewThisBooks.com


(c) Wednesday Elf, November 24, 2018








Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Review of California Plant Field Guides by Matt Ritter

Who is Matt Ritter?


Matt Ritter is a biology professor at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, very near my home in Paso Robles, California. I'm very interested in the plants that grow in my area, the ones I see in the streets, in the parks, and in the yards of my neighbors. I like identifying them and photographing them. That's one reason I decided to take a guided tour of the trees in City Park at the art festival there a few years ago. Matt Ritter led that walk. I saw how knowledgeable he was.  Afterward I visited the native plant booth where his book, A Californian's Guide to the Trees Among Us, was for sale. I purchased it. I've never been sorry. I've owned the book since 2011 and I use it several times each month.

Review of California Plant Field Guides by Matt Ritter


Why I Like Dr. Ritter's Trees Among Us


I have many field guides for trees. So why did I buy yet another one? Dr. Ritter's book has gorgeous overview color photos of most of the trees. You see the tree's shape and usually a closeup of the bark, the leaves, and even the fruits or seed pods. Most tree pages have an inset that gives information about other trees that may be confused with the tree pictured. If a tree has many different species living in California, there may be an inset that helps you see the differences and identify the individual species.

Whereas my Peterson Field Guide to Western Trees has maps, color photos of trees and fruits, and detailed plant descriptions, it doesn't have the same kind of photos of entire trees. Trees Among Us shows photos of some of the large trees next to buildings so one can better see their actual size. The descriptions of the trees also are more interesting to those of us who are not botanists. In some cases we learn about the tree's history in California -- how it got here, how it's been used, or something else special about it. The introduction provides classification and other scientific information. If you live in California and love trees, you really need to get this book.

Review of California Plant Field Guides by Matt Ritter
A Catalpa Tree I Identified with Help from The Trees Among Us


California Plants: A Guide to Our Iconic Flora


Our Country Registrar has an office above the Atascadero Library, and my husband decided to fill out his early ballot in the library and then take it to the clerk. I had already turned my ballot in, so I checked the new books on the shelf. That's how I found Matt Ritter's California Plants: A Guide to Our Iconic Flora. I was quite excited and checked it out immediately to look it over. I fully intend to buy it when I have to return it.

This book describes the native flowers, trees, and shrubs one will be most likely to see when exploring California's forests, trails, and scenic routes. Habitats range from shrublands to beaches, desert, forest and everything in between. Plant entries are arranged by their habitat.  There are over 1000 color photos and photo collages (showing various parts of plants), along with maps showing the range of most pictured plants. You may see a field of wildflowers along with a close up shot of a single plant. As in Trees Among Us, there are stories and background information on the plants and their origins (if non-native) and their uses by native peoples. I did not find a lot of duplication between the trees in this book and the trees in California Plants. Trees Among Us concentrates more on urban and suburban trees than those that are uncultivated.

Review of California Plant Field Guides by Matt Ritter
California Plants has a lot to say about this wild mustard.


 At the back of the book there's a section featuring non-native plants. It includes many of the weeds I've found in my garden. You will also find a glossary, bibliography, list of online resources and botanical gardens, a tree identification flowchart, a wildflower identification color chart, and an index.

Although I have other wildflower books, The Audubon guides cover too much territory, have smaller photos, and separate photos from their descriptions. The Peterson Field Guide to Pacific States Wildflowers is arranged by color, form and detail. Most of its drawings are not in color but black and white. There aren't any photos. And there aren't any trees or shrubs. Dr. Ritter's book has everything -- not just flowers.

Plants of San Luis Obispo: Their Lives and Stories


This is similar to California Plants but limits itself to 206 plants found in and near San Luis Obispo. Like Ritter's other books, it has full-color photos, but no range maps. I have compared the entries for some of the plants that appear in both books, and they are not identical. Others I have compared are identical but an identical photo may be of better quality in one book or the other. In some cases the photos are different. If you have to choose, I'd go with California Plants, since it's more complete.




My Recommendation 


These books are all wonderful additions to any California nature lover or gardener's library. I'm a nature and gardening blogger and find them the most useful books I have for identifying what I see when I go on photo walks. These books are beside me when I start trying to figure out the names of the plants I've seen and photographed. These books would be welcomed as gifts by California hikers, campers, nature photographers, and gardeners who like understanding what they see.

You may also be interested in my review of Nature's Everyday Mysteries. See all Book reviews on this site here.

Review of California Plant Field Guides by Matt Ritter
I identified this redwood by using The Trees Among Us




Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

The Perfect Mother (2018) Book Review

"Some people are so good at making perfect look easy…"

The Perfect Mother is a psychological domestic thriller as well as a reflection on motherhood. It is set in Brooklyn, New York, where a group of new mothers whose babies are all born in the same month become friends through a mom’s group and go on to support each other through the ups and downs of new motherhood.

These women and one 'token' man are very different individuals and come from a variety of backgrounds. However, they are united through the common experience of motherhood.

When the mothers finally allow themselves to go out for an evening and leave their babies at home, their worst nightmare comes true. A baby is kidnapped.

A few members of the group become obsessed with helping recover the baby and their informal investigation unearths secrets from the past that will test marriages and friendships.

Author Aimee Molloy told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle that she came up with the idea of the book when her own children were less than five years old. She was still very aware of “the pressures women face and the choices they have to make, particularly when they’re raising a child in a city with no family around to help.”

Here is the short book trailer, which does not really tell much about the book but definitely gives you a feel for the mood in this story:

The Perfect Mother is Molloy’s first novel. However, she also wrote the very successful New York Times Bestselling biography However Long the Night: Molly Melching’s Journey to Help Millions of African Women and Girls Triumph and she is the co-author of several non-fiction books.

Is The Perfect Mother RECOMMENDED by me? It is. It is a very enjoyable, easy-to-read book with a suspenseful ending that will keep you guessing. Amazon says that it was one of the most anticipated books of the summer of 2018 though I do not know how they measure that statistic. It did go on to become a New York Times bestseller and will soon be a movie. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle said it is "gripping and suspenseful and impossible to put down, a true who done it." Pick it up and you will take a suspenseful trip into motherhood.

Of special note is the fact that the grandmothers in my book club who have young grandchildren enjoyed the daily emails woven throughout that detailed what babies might or might not be doing at each stage.

Order your copy of The Perfect Mother on Amazon by clicking right here. If you have read it, do tell what the rest of us what you thought of the book and, if you enjoyed it, do stay tuned for the upcoming movie version of this novel that is being compared to the previous book and movie releases, Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train.

See you
at the book store!
Brenda

Quick Links:

Order your copy of The Perfect Mother from Amazon.
Follow my Pinterest board full of gift ideas for moms and my board full of great books to read.











Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Jesus Always by Sarah Young Book Review

Jesus Always: Embracing Joy in His Presence
I seem to be able to manage stress and chaos less well as each year goes by. And I am very aware that when I meditate or pray I am able to feel more peaceful. Thing is, I'm not so good at the praying part. I have been looking for ways to slow down and find joy and peace. 

Recently, I was wandering around a Christian book store, looking for something I might like to read. This was probably the third time in my adult life that I've ever entered a Christian book store. I picked up Jesus Always and flipped through a few of the short devotionals. It was written in a way that was easy to read and it spoke to me, so I bought it. And thus far, I'm reading it daily and enjoying it. 

Jesus Always: Embracing Joy in His Presence


Susan Young is the author of the Jesus Calling series. She writes to help people connect with Jesus and the Bible. She and her husband were missionaries. They currently live in the U.S and she has written this series of devotionals.

Jesus Always consists of an entry for each day of the year. This devotional is meant to "bring joy for each day" and  "strengthen your relationship with Jesus" (from the author's website)

The hardcover version I purchased has easier-to-read print than many devotionals offered and is a well-made book. The book lays open, not quite flat, and includes an attached ribbon book mark. The book feels as though the paper and the cover will last for many years.

Why I Choose This Devotional


There are MANY Christian books for sale. Shelves full of devotionals, Bibles, testimonials, and more. So why am I recommending this particular book?

It is easy to read. Bible studies and reading the Bible alone feels too far over my head. Despite all of those years in Vacation Bible School as a child, I just "don't get it" when I read most of these types of books. I can't focus and it feels too much like work.

Susan Young has written Jesus Always as though Jesus were the writer. The daily entries are short - only a page in length. The writing is in a conversational and friendly tone which makes it very easy to read. 

Corresponding verses are listed. Each devotional is followed by several verses from the Bible that correspond with the entry. My skeptical side doesn't have to wonder how much of the writing is personal opinion - the verses repeat what was written in the entry. I like that. And there are not so many verses that it feels like homework.

My Birthday Entry. I sampled many of the devotionals on the shelves of that bookstore that day. Flipping through them, flipping specifically to my birthday, and considering each book. Some had print that was too small to read. Some had writing that was too much like a Bible study. Some used very formal language. Then, when I flipped open Jesus Always to the September 5th entry, I found this:


"Joy is a choice. You may not have much control over your circumstances, but you can still choose to be joyful."

That is exactly what I am looking for. A way to let go of my anxiety and grouchiness, and find joy. The photo below shows the remainder of the entry that spoke to me (and there are more samples on Amazon in the "look inside" feature).




Related Links and Other Books of Faith:

Our Bev Owens wrote a review of Mary's Message to the World. Bev writes, ".. if you are open to spiritual growth and want to grow in your faith; I recommend that you read this book." The book she reviews documents Annie Kirkwood's reported visits from Mother Mary.

Cynthia reviews the Bibles that make the best gifts. In her article she recommends different versions; from a family Bible, to a pocket version, to a study Bible, and more.

Olivia recommends watching The Young Messiah movie. In her review, she explains why she recommends this movie, especially during the upcoming holiday season, despite it being a work of fiction. 

Finally, in my search for peace, joy, and finding balance I am combining learning to pray with mediation from a variety of approaches. I have found meditation beads and chants (Christian and OM mantras) to be helpful. You can read my post about those things here. When I meditate, I am significantly more relaxed. And now I have added the Jesus Always daily devotions.




Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article.

Monday, October 22, 2018

What Have You Done Book Review

Book Review: What Have You Done by Matthew Farrell
What happens when you are a forensics specialist and you realize that you are the prime suspect in a brutal murder of the woman you were dating? And how would your brother, a homicide detective, be able to help you? Or maybe he would be of no help to you. What Have You Done by Matthew Farrell is a psychological thriller full of twists and turns. It kept me awake at night, reading. And that says a lot about any book.

What Have You Done

Liam Dwyer is a forensics specialist in Philadelphia. The impact of his own childhood trauma follows him into adulthood - unwilling to take a bath so great is his fear of water. Unwilling isn't the correct description. He's terrified of the bathtub. For good reason. Liam is married to Vanessa and that marriage had been on shaky ground. But they've gone to therapy and are trying to repair their relationship.

Liam had been cheating on Vanessa but broke it off recently in an attempt to save the marriage. Then his girlfriend suddenly pops back into his life - as a murder victim at a brutal crime scene. Liam is the prime suspect not just because he dated the victim, but because of the evidence. His fingerprints are at the scene. And Liam has no memory of where he was or what he was doing during the murder. But he remembers the paper flowers his mother made when he was young. Why are they showing up now?

Sean is Liam's older brother. Sean has always taken care of his baby brother. And Liam turns to him now for help. Sean is a homicide detective so he has contacts within the department to help investigate Liam and the murder; before the assigned detectives figure out the connection between his baby brother and the murder victim.  Don is one of those connections.

Don is Sean's partner. He is juggling his job and looking after his ailing, aging mother. Don has mentored and looked after the Dwyer boys over the years. He's a good guy, but when Sean asks him to bypass procedures to buy Liam some time, he does. 

I chose this book from Amazon Primes' First Reads. I like getting free books. 

I do not normally gravitate toward police procedural and crime novels but I do like psychological thrillers. In this story, I liked the twists and turns. Near the beginning of the book, I thought I knew the "who did it". But the twists and turns threw me off. In the end, I wasn't fully surprised as my initial guesses were on track but even so I liked the journey of finding out the truth.

This was a quick read and interesting plot. It wasn't the most expert writing, but it kept my attention. I found myself wanting to know what would happen next and how the murder would be solved. I wanted the cover-ups exposed. And they were.

I believe What Have You Done is Matthew Farrell's debut novel. I look forward to his next book I Know Everything, due to be released in August 2019. 







Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Food Pets Die For - Book Review

Read More Reviews
As one focused on saving animal lives on a daily basis, it is my responsibility to do as much as possible to help animals thrive.  Certainly, nutrition is a critical factor.  Many ailments and diseases, even deaths, can be linked directly to the food consumed by companion animals.  This is no surprise.  What did come as a surprise to me was how reading Food Pets Die For, by Ann Martin, would shake me to my core.  It is my hope that what I share here will make a difference in helping others avoid the heartache of losing a beloved pet, or of having a pet suffer needlessly.

Let's start with why I felt shaken and shocked as a result of reading this book.  Having learned quite a bit about commercial pet foods through my shelter work, I didn't expect to be horrified by the contents of Food Pets Die For.  What did I find horrifying?  Well, would it make you sick to know that the furry members of your family have eaten euthanized dogs and cats?  I'll never get over that ugly reality.  Are you up to hearing more about the "ingredients" in Fifi's so-called premium pet food?  I hope you haven't just eaten.

For starters, it is not unusual for pet food (and not just the cheapest brands) to be made up of:  fecal matter, decomposing garbage, road kill, poisons, known carcinogens (herbicides, pesticides, and fungicides), the ingested stomach contents of dead animals, drugs used to kill animals, diseased animals, chicken pen shavings, blood, toxins, feathers, additives not approved for dogs and cats, and unregulated levels of supplemental vitamins that can kill our animals.

You may be wondering how this is possible.  Largely, this is the result of a self-regulated, multi-billion dollar industry.  The author has meticulously researched the commercial pet food industry for nearly 30 years.  Though it seems too shocking to be true, and though many pet food manufacturers have attempted to block the release of damaging information, the evidence is compelling.  What pet-lover could ignore these facts?  To do so is to be an accomplice to crimes against animals.

And speaking of crimes, I found it beyond disheartening to learn of the animal experimentation supported by well-known pet food companies.  I would never have purchased food from these companies had I known about the extreme pain, and premature deaths, inflicted upon the subjects of their so-called nutritional research.  I will continue to be haunted by the barbaric experiments documented by undercover employees.

At this point, you may be wondering if you have the stomach to read this book.  If we care about animals, we can't afford not to.  How can we justify supporting practices that hurt innocent creatures who depend on us for their safety and well-being?

There is much to be learned from Food Pets Die For that can move us to making a positive difference (whether you currently have companion animals or not).  In addition to enlightenment about the lesser known inner workings of the pet food industry, you will also be introduced to options for feeding your pets homemade meals and treats.  Key considerations, including the nutritional needs of dogs and cats, are presented.

While reading this book, I found myself standing in the pet food aisle of my neighborhood big box store.  I have to admit that I could not bring myself to purchase a single can or bag of food from their pet food offerings.  I knew too much to be able to do that to the animals I treasure.  I am making the commitment to cook meals for my animal family.  It is impossible for me to fill the stomachs of my pups and kittens with lethal substances given what I now know.  I just hope I can forgive myself for not knowing sooner.  Ignorance is no excuse and with knowledge comes new responsibility.

What can you do starting today?  Please read and share this book widely.  You will likely save lives.  Also, please consider doing something for shelter animals.  Many of the animals arriving at shelters are already in a greatly depleted state (suffering from malnutrition and starvation).  Shelters are often dependent on donations of pet food.  One powerful thing you can do is to provide a gift of high quality pet food for the animals awaiting adoption.  There are few things more satisfying than filling the empty tank of a beautiful companion animal with what that creature needs, and deserves, most.









Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Favorite Christmas Pop Up Books By Robert Sabuda

Pop Up books always bring a smile to my face! My favorite pop up book creator is Robert Sabuda. I was first introduced to Robert Sabuda when moonlighting at Borders Books (ah, I remember it well, we miss you Borders!). His pop up books bring the Christmas classics to life and are a must on the Christmas list for all ages!
Robert Sabuda pop up reindeer.

Christmas Pop Up Books By Robert Sabuda


 My first Christmas pop up book was The 12 Days Of Christmas! One of the special treats in the pop up books are the extra pop ups intertwined in the story. Loved finding a reindeer in my 12 Days Of Christmas !
The 12 Days Of Christmas

The Christmas pop up books by Sabuda cover the Christmas and winter classics like no other and are a wonderful addition to your library. These books will be a permanent addition to your library.


  • The 12 Days Of Christmas
  • The Night Before Christmas
  • The Christmas Story
  • Christmas Alphabet
  • Winter In White
  • Winter's Tale
  • Cookie Count
  • Believe




Who Is Robert Sabuda?


Robert Sabuda is the author, creator and renowned paper engineer who creates intricate pop up books for kids. The books are unique, whimsical and visually stunning. His artistic career spans many mediums with a specialty in 3-D paper engineering which uses to transform children's stories into stunning pop up books.

Find out more about Robert Sabuda in the video > (in his own words.) It is fascinating to hear the authors' view of his craft.

How To Make Pop Up's?


Feeling crafty? Robert Sabuda's website offers step by step tutorials on how to make your own pop up! The tutorials are organized by category and skill level plus provide pdf templates, instructional slideshows and motivation to DIY a pop up. My next DIY is the Pop Up Lion and Reindeer for the holidays.

Christmas Pop Up Books For All Ages


What I love about the Robert Sabuda collection of Christmas books is the appeal to all ages. If a book lover is on your Christmas list I guarantee delight when a Sabuda pop up book is received. Half the fun of giving a popup book is watching the facial expressions as the pages are turned and each page brings spectacular artistry mixed with the classic stories of Christmas.

More Robert Sabuda Pop Up Books


Classic children stories and topics are also artistically created by Sabuda and a wonderful gift for any occasion. Alice's Adventures In Wonderland, The Wizard Of Oz, Beauty And The Beast, The Little Mermaid, The Movable Mother Goose and Cookie Count are among my favorites. Dinosaur fans will love -  absolutely love the Dinosaur book.




Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Louise Penny Still Life Book Review & List

Louise Penny Still Life Book Review
Despite the recommendation of every member of my book club and many of my other friends, I have only just finally found my way into the world created by Louise Penny. Penny is a Canadian author who, since the year 2005, has written a series of murder mystery novels that are set in Canada in the romantic Eastern Townships of the province of Quebec.

I was happy to at last have the first book, Still Life, in my hands. I read the first few pages and wondered what all the fuss was about. I can honestly say that I did not like the book until page 59, when I met the main character, Chief Inspector Armand Gamache. It is he who makes this series great when he solves crimes with careful observation and integrity.  When I met him, I was hooked.

I love Penny's realistic portrayals of people both good and bad, of the careful and sometimes instinctive detective work and of the idyllic, almost cottage-like setting.

Three Pines is a village so small as not to be found on the map and I have yet to look and see if it is a real village or not. It has cozy homes with fireplaces, friendly community gatherings and lots of home cooking. This book, Still Life, and presumably subsequent ones in the series, will make you want to visit and stay at the village's lone bed and breakfast.

I am a city girl but Penny’s books have me wanting to move to a quaint little village somewhere 'away from it all.' However, as we all know, it is impossible to truly be away from it all and despite the lovely location, the people who live here enjoy real life issues. They struggle through whatever life throws at them and even, sometimes, experience a murder or two. When that happens,  Chief Inspector Gamache and his team of of provincial police officers are called in from Montreal to solve the crime.

In Still Life, Chief Inspector Gamache arrives to investigate the suspicious death in the woods of a local school teacher and secret artist. Is it an accidental hunting death or is it something more sinister? You will have to read the book to find out.

Is Still Life recommended by me? Yes, it is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED as is the second book, A Fatal Grace.

In 2006, Kirkus Reviews wrote that Inspector Gamache was, “Cerebral, wise and compassionate" and that "he was destined for stardom.” They were absolutely correct on both counts and, as they also said, this first novel was a “stellar debut.” Since then, Louise Penny’s books and Gamache’s adventures, have kept fans reading and anxiously awaiting the next book. Yes, I will be reading more of the books in this series in the order as presented here on this book list:

Still Life
A Fatal Grace
The Cruelest Month
A Rule Against Murder
he Brutal Telling
Bury Your Dead
The Hangman
Trick of the Light
The Beautiful Mystery
How the Light Gets In
The Long Way Home
The Nature of the Beast
A Great Reckoning
Glass Houses
Kingdom of the Blind

If you enjoy a clever mystery solved in an interesting environment, you should check out the first book, Still Life. You can find it here on Amazon or see all of Louise Penny’s books by clicking right here.

Still Life has been made into a television movie. I have yet to see it but the general consensus of avid Inspector Gamache fans is that the movie was disappointing, which is not really surprising considering the popularity of the books! If you are going to watch the movie, make sure to read the book first!

See you
at the book store!
Brenda

Quick Links:

Buy Still Life in book, Kindle or audiobook formats on Amazon.

Louise Penny Still Life Book Review & List




Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

The Weird Sisters Book Review

The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown, A Book Review


Most of us are aware of at least some of the personality traits that come with birth order. The oldest often assumes more responsibility as a child, the middle often feels like they need more attention, the youngest often seems to be more doted upon. The Weird Sisters embraces, among other topics, the topic of birth order as it shares the life of three sisters in small town Barnwell, Ohio.

Eleanor Brown’s first novel's title does not reference weird as you and I might think when we first see the book. As a matter of fact, the sisters are not weird at all.  Brown’s meaning is as in wyrd from old English. Fate or fated. Destined, which sort of suits the book given the presence of William Shakespeare’s books throughout the story line though that difference was not obvious to me when I picked up the book.

The oldest sister in the trio is the stereotypical eldest sibling. She is a reliable, predictable woman who held a caretaker role over her sisters when they were all children and, though now a successful math professor, never left their hometown and never gave up her role as family caretaker.

The middle sister is a woman who wants to impress, throwing herself into everything she does with gusto in an attempt to stand out and be noticed. Sound familiar? She has a successful career in New York City but is fast-living and promiscuous and, underneath all of her expensive veneer, is ashamed of who she has become. Her failed attempts to maintain her lifestyle has her packing her designer goods and heading for home.

The youngest sister, the stereotypical spoiled younger sibling, is a real vagabond. She floats from experience to experience, town to town, job to job and cannot figure out what she wants to do with her life. Events in her world have her grabbing her backpack and heading for home, too.

Their father is a famed Shakespearean professor who cannot keep his head out of a book for a minute and their mom is equally obsessed with and distracted by books. Growing up, the family did not own a television. Instead, reading was their source of entertainment. Everyone in the family embraced the love of books and became avid readers though as adults some of them did not want the world to know that fact. Brown’s interwoven references to and quotes from William Shakespeare are interesting but will not in any way take away from your enjoyment of this book if you are not a fan of his writings.

Coincidentally, the sisters return home at a time when their mother is suffering through a cancer diagnosis and the resultant treatments. While helping to look after her, there is a whole lot of learning and growth done by all three. They learn who they are and who they want to be as well as to trust in themselves and in each other. You will have to read the book if you want to find out whether or not they stay at home or pursue lives outside of Barnwell.

Obviously, one of the strong themes in this book is that of birth order. The New York Times says the book seems drawn from a Sociology of the Family textbook, which made me smile because yes, I thought that when I was reading the book. It does include some of the stereotypes of birth order. Other themes include coming of age, boomerang children, family conflict and love.

There is no violence and minimal foul language in this book. There is however, sex and adultery as well as drug and alcohol use though I believe that they are presented in a manner that is not offensive. They are an important part of the story of these women who are trying to find themselves.

The Weird Sisters is an entertaining novel and HIGHLY RECOMMENDED by me. It is my first book by Eleanor Brown, a New York Times, national and international bestselling author and it will not be my last. You can buy your copy or read more about it on Amazon by clicking right here.

Be sure to let us know if you have read it or if you will be reading it and, of course, what you thought of it.

See you
At the book store!
Brenda

Quick Links:

Buy your copy of The Weird Sisters on Amazon.




Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

The Ragged Edge of Night - Book Review

The Ragged Edge of Night - Book Review
What Others Are Saying About This Book
Nazi Germany.  1942.  A priest in search of redemption.  A widow seeking provision for her fatherless children.  A people desperate for relief—relief from oppression, from evil, from hopelessness.  Olivia Hawker's new historical novel, The Ragged Edge of Night, is a revelation.  To immerse ourselves into Anton and Elisabeth's war-torn lives is to see glimmers of unimaginable beauty beneath the desolation of loss, shame, failure, and fear.

As the story begins, Anton is still reeling from the abrupt end of his mission as a Franciscan friar.  To be wrongly stripped of his life's calling has been painful, but even worse, he cannot forgive himself for being powerless to save the children who were in the church's care.  When the Nazis loaded up Anton's students, he was overcome by an overwhelming sense of having committed the unforgivable sin.  Though there was nothing Anton could have done to save the children's lives, the guilt is crushing.


While Anton wrestles with his demons, Elisabeth, a young mother of three who is still grieving over the unexpected death of her beloved husband, is in the midst of considering the hardest decision of her life: whether to remarry in order to provide for her family.  Elisabeth feels great shame as she struggles to reconcile the feeling of being unfaithful to her first husband.  If there was another option, she would gladly choose it.  Alas, the harsh realities of wartime force Elisabeth to publish the following personal ad:
Good churchgoing woman, widowed, mother of three.  In need of a humble, patient man, willing to be a father to my children.  Interest in legitimate marriage only.  I have no money, so those who think to profit need not reply.
 In coming across Elisabeth's plea for help, Anton is immediately struck with a new sense of purpose.  Though his first choice would be to eventually return to his Franciscan order, and while Anton remains true to his sacred vows, he feels that supporting Elisabeth and her children is the right thing to do.  This opportunity has the potential to fulfill Anton's deep need to be useful, to find forgiveness, and to protect those who need it most (addressing his need for redemption due to the loss of the children snatched up by the Nazis who shut down Anton's school and religious order).

The soul of this book is revealed in the simplest, and yet loveliest of ways, as two faithful individuals remain true to their vows, their principles, their hearts, and all that defines a life worth living, and for which they are willing to die.  When Anton's involvement in the resistance movement against Hitler brings danger into his new family's life, relationships will be tested, and the true nature of love will be revealed.

Based on the real life experience of one of the author's family members, The Ragged Edge of Night is a timely story that is sure to inspire every reader who is concerned about the extreme tensions that are being felt in today's world.  This is a moment in history when every single one of us can take heart as we consider the difference an ordinary person like Anton can make in the lives of those who are hurting.  I was deeply moved by this book and highly recommend it.








Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Hoarders' Daughters Tell Their Stories: Book Reviews

Two Hoarders' Daughters Tell Their Stories 


We've all heard about hoarders or seen documentaries about them on television. Few of us, however, have grown up in a hoarder's house. The children of hoarders have no choice. I'd like to introduce you to two of those children, now adults, who have written their stories.

Hoarders' Daughters Tell Their Stories: Book Reviews
A Hoarder's Living Room Probably Looks More Cluttered than This
By Maschinenjunge [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0  (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], from Wikimedia Commons


My myLot friend, Lori Moore, wrote The Hoarder's Daughter: Memories of a Life in Chaos. Her mother was not only a hoarder but also an emotional abuser. Lori wrote her book to show others what the life of a hoarder is like and how it often destroys the hoarder's relationship with family and friends. She hopes to help people distinguish between a real hoarder and a messy or really disorganized person that keep a lot of clutter around. She also wanted to finally expose her family secret. She says "Toxic family dysfunction has to be acknowledged before it can be fixed."

Izabelle Winter's father also hoarded his possessions. Izabelle had left home as a young woman to escape the house.When she was married with eight-year-old twin girls and a ten-year-old son, her father fell from a ladder while pruning. He had turned his backyard into a garden all his neighbors admired, but most had never seen the inside of his house.

Izabelle's mother had died nineteen years earlier, after a mental breakdown. Isabelle's brother Ant still lived in the house with his father even though he was long into adulthood. He suffered from learning disabilities that hindered his ability to make decisions and take initiative. Isabelle knew she would have to take charge of getting the house ready for her dad to come home to, probably unable to walk. She wrote Diary of a Hoarder's Daughter to help others who may find themselves in a similar situation.

Lori's Story of Living with Emotional Abuse in a Hoarder's House


Lori writes as an abuse survivor. She dedicates her book to her brother whom she calls "my sibling survivor of the lying, manipulating, stealing, and hoarding person that we un affectionately referred to as 'Mean Mom.'" In the book she calls her mom Louise, though it's not her real name. Louise had so perfected her skills of  intimidation  and inducing guilt that Lori was fifty before she realized she was the abuse victim -- not her mom. Although her brother was also a victim, Lori believes his story is his to tell, not hers, so she tells only her part of it.

Growing Up in a Hoarding House


Lori recalls that the house she grew up in smelled so bad that people almost gagged when they walked in. The house was already full but her mother kept accumulating and the possessions had to go onto the backyard patio. Lori called the junk at the entrance "Mount Trashmore."

There were also health hazards. I won't go into all the horrifying details, but here are a couple to give you an idea. Trash was strewn everywhere. There was an air force of flies and gnats. There were maggots in the toilets and sinks. A stray cat had become part of the household, but no one cleaned the litter box, so the cat stopped using it. I think you've got the picture. It was so bad that Lori's brother, who had inherited the house, had to evict Louise from it after she'd lived there for 19 years.


Trying to Help Louise

After the eviction, Lori and her brother found a low-rent apartment for senior living and Louise didn't even pack since she resisted moving. Lori and her brother had supplied the new residence with clean furnishings and clothing and stocked the apartment with food. Louise had already begun to hoard again a month after she had this chance to start fresh. After four months she had done no cleaning, dishwashing or laundry.

How This Affected Lori

Lori's parents divorced when she was eleven. Her father and brother were now a hundred miles away and she missed them. Her mother neglected her and she was often hungry. This probably is part of what led to Lori's eating disorder. Lori also suffered the lack of love, security, protection, and approval she craved. She believes her mother was incapable of providing it. 

Because of the emotional abuse and the secrecy the hoarding behavior required, Lori was socially isolated. She could not have friends over.  She has been through years of therapy to deal with the abuse she has endured.  

In spite of what she suffered during childhood as a hoarder's emotionally abused daughter who struggled with guilt, lack of parental support, and social isolation, Lori has had a successful adult life. She has four graduate academic degrees and has been an adjunct professor and an upper level manager for large corporations. She has also written several books besides this one. 

Things I Learned from Lori's Book


Besides just telling her story, Lori did a lot of research on hoarding and emotional abuse. She covers some of these areas:  
  • Ways in which emotional abuse and hoarding are related. 
  • Manifestations of Antisocial Personality Disorder
  • Symptoms of a Cognitive Disorder
  • Cognitive Symptoms of Depression
As I was reading through the behavior of someone with Antisocial Personality Disorder, something hit me like a bolt of lightning. I believe that's what my daughter suffered from. It may be part of the reason for her suicide as an adult

Izabelle's Efforts to Clear Space in a Hoarder's House


Izabelle Winter, a busy mother with a part-time job, had to completely disrupt her life for over a month to suddenly deal with what she saw as her "personal Everest" that she had to climb -- alone! She even refers to the clutter in her father's house as "The Mountain" whenever she writes about dealing with it. Because she found around sixty pairs of shoes in the clutter she went through, she calls her father Imelda in the book, after Imelda Marcos.

Climbing "Everest"


Izabelle had a deadline to clear enough space in the house for her father and visiting outside help to function. He could not be released from the hospital with a broken back until this was done. Wheelchair or walker access might also be needed.  He needed to be able to get to his bed and an accessible bathroom.

The problem with clearing space in a hoarder's house is that there is no room for sorting. Every available space in Imelda's house was filled with junk from floor to ceiling -- every room, every cupboard, and every path through the house. The kitchen, bathroom, and stairs were also full. None of the items were organized. Junk mail mixed with shoes, clothes, spare parts, broken items, unopened packages of children's clothes, money inside magazines and receipts, trash ... well you get the idea. Izsabelle describes her feelings here:

I felt as though I was at Everest base camp, all  alone, wearing just flip-flops and a woolly hat. I was totally unprepared for the nightmare I faced; totally terrified by it and afraid I'd fall on the way up the mountain. I just wanted to go home and hide. 

Health Issues


To add to Izabelle's problem, she had severe dust allergies and asthma. She sometimes had been unable to breathe when around too much dust. This often sent her to the hospital and she almost died there once. How was she to attack clearing the space Imelda needed?  Even on her visits to him she always talked to him outside in the garden.

After he fell, whenever she entered the house to work she had to wear a dust mask, trousers, and long sleeves. When she started the clearing project, she had to recruit help, often from her brother Ant, to carry boxes of stuff outside so she could sort there.

Helpful People Who Told Comforting Stories


You can just imagine Izabelle's life, caring for her children, working on "The Mountain," and visiting Imelda in the hospital every afternoon just before going to work in the late afternoon. I will leave the details for you to read in the book. She attacked the junk piles methodically and searched through every pile or box before throwing anything from it in a trash bag. Close friends and neighbors often helped her, and they told her stories about her mother from the good years. She appreciated that. She also unearthed diaries her mother had written that showed how the hoarding had affected her.

It's Hard to Cure a Hoarder

This first video is very sad. We watch a woman choose her stuff above her relationships. She just can't let go. But we do get a feel for why some people hoard and why they can't stop even with professional help.


This next video shows us two other hoarders who may be headed for a more normal life. But you can see how hard it is for them to make the changes that are good for them. 



Success?


When Imelda was finally released from the hospital, Izabelle had cleared enough space so he could come home and sleep in his bed and take care of his needs. She and her friends had worked almost nonstop in every spare minute. Later Izabelle and Imelda were approached to participate in a BBC documentary show on hoarding. After much soul searching and discussion with the producers, they decided to participate. Later they did a follow-up episode. Before that episode, professionals came to clear the living room enough to allow Imelda's grandchildren to get to the sofa so they could sit there together to interact. The camera view of the room was clear, even though some stuff still remained outside the camera view.

The idea was that they took everything out and were hoping Imelda wouldn't want to bring it all back in, but he did want to bring most of it back in. Izabelle didn't visit much that first month. She wanted to see if her father would actually clear anything he had said he would.

Six months after the program was filmed, Imelda's stuff was creeping back up the stairs and into other places Izabelle had cleared. She decided it's his house and she would let him live as he chose. It's hard for a hoarder to change -- even with professional help. She accepted he'd never change at 83. Ten months after the fall, at the time the book was written, the house was filling up again.



Contrasting These Memoirs by Hoarding House Survivors


Both books discuss these topics.

  • Some reasons people hoard
  • Broken family relationships due to hoarding
  • Experiences of family members trying to help hoarders
  • Descriptions of hoarder house conditions
  • Health hazards of hoarding and living with a hoarder

Unique Content in The Hoarder's Daughter by Izabelle Winter

Izabelle had a deadline to meet and had to act quickly to meet it. She emphasizes the emotional and physical struggles of clearing rooms without harming her own health. She goes into more detail than Lori about the mess and the clearing strategy she used. Izabelle was less socially isolated than Lori appeared to be in clearing clutter, and her friends and neighbors supported and helped her. Lori and her brother seemed to do most of the work in helping their mother themselves. 

Izabelle goes into much more detail on the thinking process of a hoarder. A hoarder's perception of value is different than that of someone who is just messy and accumulates more clutter than neater people do. Because Izabelle understands the process, she realizes she won't be able to change her father. Since he seems to be able to function in the mess, once he heals, she leaves him be and resigns herself to the condition of the house going back to what it was. 

Although Izabelle doesn't analyze her father's mental conditions as much as Lori does her mother's, she does mention the ways that her father still treats her like a child. She goes into detail about his selective hearing and not caring about what she and her children have to say to him about everyday things unrelated to the hoarding. She feels dismissed because she is female. She gives examples of conversations that make her point. She doesn't label this as emotional abuse, but Lori probably would have. 

Isabelle's story is primarily about dealing with "The Mountain" and her relationship with her father in that context. While clearing she also unearths her mother's diaries that reveal the effect the hoarding had on her mother's mental health. 

Izabelle seems to have a better relationship with her father than Lori did with her mother, in spite of the past and continuing problems caused by the hoarding that affected her life. Example: Izabelle visits her father and brother often, but she doesn't visit with them in the house because she can't breathe inside the house. I don't know whether her visiting is also primarily because of her brother. She did want her children to have a relationship with their only living grandparent. 

Note: One thing that took some getting used to while reading this were all the uniquely British terms Izabelle used that aren't in American English. Izabelle lives in Wales. 

Unique Content in The Hoarder's Daughter by Lori Moore

Unless Izabelle left out some of the worst details in the hoarding, it would appear that Lori's mother's hoarding was more unsanitary than that of Izabelle's father. Perhaps that is because Ant, an adult child, still lived with him to see that it didn't get to the place where feces -- both human and cat -- were scattered around. Louise's house didn't deteriorate that much until Lori and her brother had moved out and she lived in the house alone. 

Lori shares, as noted above, many of the facts and symptoms of the disorders that turn someone into a hoarder. She points out that secrecy is a factor in both emotional abuse and hoarding. In her research she discovered that hoarding is a distinct genetic subtype of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. The best chance for changing the hoarding behavior appears to be Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in the hoarder's home. A hoarder needs a lot of help in developing new habits. You can see this process in the videos I shared above. 

Both Lori and Isabella struggled with their duty to their hoarding parents. Lori shares Billy Graham's suggestions for how to honor a parent engaged in such behavior without enabling the behavior itself. Lori alone provides a list of helpful resources and things to read for those who want to dig deeper. 

More Resources

Here are some additional resources if you want to get more information not included in these memoirs. Amazon Prime has several videos on hoarding and helping hoarders. Click here to see the list.  At least some are free for Prime members to watch. 

The product page for the book below has an informative series of clutter rating images by Randy Frost and Gail Steketee, experts in dealing with hoarding. These images can serve as a guide in identifying the difference between normal clutter and a hoarding disorder. 

The books below are aimed at those who fear they may be headed toward hoarding and want to deal with it now, those who want to help a loved one with a clutter problem, and those who want to understand and help those close to them they suspect may have a hoarding problem. The two memoirs I've reviewed here are also included for convenience.



Whether you have a tendency toward hoarding, want to help someone with a severe hoarding problem, or just want a better understanding of hoarding, I hope this post has helped you. If it has, please share it. People who hoard tend to keep it secret. You never know whom you may be helping by giving them this information.


Hoarders' Daughters Tell Their Stories: Book Reviews

The image above is credited as follows: By TheDoctorMo [CC BY-SA 3.0  (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL
(http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], from Wikimedia Commons, modified





Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article.