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

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.

Monday, September 10, 2018

A Fall of Marigolds by Susan Meissner Book Review

Reviewing A Fall of Marigolds. 
A Fall of Marigolds by Susan Meissner is both heart-breaking and triumphant. It is a story of two women who lost the men they loved during two separated tragedies. A co-worker recommended this book to me. The first chapter was easy to read. I was immediately hooked. Then I got bogged down in the second chapter. My co-worker encouraged me to continue reading. I'm so glad I did! 


A Fall of Marigolds


Chapter 1 begins with Taryn and the setting is Manhattan in September 2011. Her story begins at her job - a job she loves in a boutique fabrics shop. Her specialty is identifying and matching old fabrics. Taryn's word-of-mouth advertising is that she can always find a match to old and rare textiles. Her response is, "Almost always."  There is one piece of material that stumped her. Lily's "French-made from an Indian design, and surely a hundred years old" marigold patterned scarf was a mystery. 

Taryn was a young widow, her husband killed during the 9/11 attacks. And she was raising her daughter alone. Taryn had no way of knowing how that customers scarf would tie together the past and the future.

Chapter 2 opens with Nurse Clara at Ellis Island, August 1911. The shift from a setting in this century to a setting 100 years ago was jarring for me. I got stuck in Chapter 2 and had to re-start it a couple of times (from a combination of the book and from my typical response of falling asleep as soon as I begin reading).  Clara's voice was subdued and her story seemed as though it was going to be boring compared to Taryn's.  I am so glad I continued reading because Clara's story was not boring. 

We spend days with Clara and the other nurses and doctors on Ellis Island as they care for the immigrants who are ill, contagious, and often dying. It became very hard for me to put the book down as the relationships on the island, and the characters become fully formed. Clara has reason to sound subdued. She lost her love in the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire. 

The Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire occurred and the issues with the elevator and stairs trapped the workers on the floors above the fire. 145 people died, either in the building or while jumping to their deaths from the windows. 

Part way through Clara's story, I began to think that the author would tie the two story lines together in some fantastical or annoying way. I was happily wrong. The lives of the characters were woven together in a beautiful way.


Author Susan Meissner


In the Author's Note, Ms. Meissner writes 
"I strive to be as accurate as possible when I create an imagined story in a historic place .... I have in these pages proposed how one nurse might have experienced Ellis Island Hospital in the second half of 1911."

I enjoyed reading about Nurse Wood and the writing was so engaging that I could completely imagine the setting. A setting that I had never before given much thought. I felt as thought I was on the streets during 9/11. And as though I were watching Nurse Clara care for those who were recovering or dying on Ellis Island. 

The book dealt beautifully with tragic events, grief, and mourning. The age-old battles of how to make sense of tragedy, how much to let yourself love, and how quickly to trust. And finally, how does each person try to make sense of life, the "hard and beautiful aspects of a full life."





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Saturday, September 1, 2018

Ed McBain's 87th Precinct Mystery Series – Book & Author Review

The 87th Precinct Series

This series of police procedurals were featured around a group of detectives in a big city police department. McBain's publisher was looking for a new group of mystery stories with a fresh and original lead character.  McBain decided his character would be a cop dealing with murders, along with the other crimes most cops have to deal with on a daily basis. But then he thought if he were going to do a whole series, then having just one cop as the central character wouldn't be realistic enough if the character was the only person solving the crimes over and over. 

Instead, he decided to base his characters on a squad-room full of cops with different traits and ways of handling situations, all working together. That way he could introduce new characters along the way as one cop got killed or transferred to another department.  Thus his 'lead character' became a conglomerate of characters, different ones being featured in different books in the series, with the others being visible to various degrees throughout each story. 


New York City - Source: Pixabay
McBain wanted to place the series in New York City, his hometown with which he was familiar.   As he began his research, he found he was at the NYPD almost daily and soon became a pain-in-the-neck to that police department who were too busy working real crimes to sit and discuss fictitious ones. If he were to base his books in New York City, he'd have to verify every fact.  

Instead, he decided to 'invent' a city that was LIKE New York but not quite New York.  Thus, a mythical city was born.  McBain named his city Isola, which is Italian for 'island' and if you are at all familiar with NYC you will recognize Isola as Manhattan, as well as knowing that 'Calms Point' is Brooklyn. McBain stated that he had a ball 'inventing' historical background and naming places to suit his fancy for each section of his 'city'.  Along the way, the city then also became a character. Quite a unique approach to a mystery series and one that did not seem to have been done previously. 


Who was Ed McBain?


Evan Hunter a.k.a. Ed McBain nee  Salvatore Albert Lombino (Source: Wikimedia)

The 87th Precinct police procedural mystery series was written under the pseudonym of Ed McBain. Prior to this series, the author had written and published a variety of short stories under several different pseudonyms.  But unknown to me until I did MY research, Ed McBain's real name was Salvatore Albert Lombino which he legally changed to Evan Hunter in 1952.  

Evan Hunter was the author of the well known book and movie 'Blackboard Jungle' and also the screenplay for the Hitchcock film The Birds. By the time he switched to writing crime fiction, he was best known in the literary field as Ed McBain. 


How Ed McBain Wrote the 87th Precinct Mystery Series



Source: Pixabay


"I usually start with a corpse. I then ask myself how the corpse got to be that way and I try to find out—just as the cops would. I plot, loosely, usually a chapter or two ahead, going back to make sure that everything fits—all the clues are in the right places, all the bodies are accounted for.”

*(quoted in the Wikipedia article about the 87th Precinct.)

  

Summary


Available on Amazon Kindle
My favorite part of the background for the 87th Precinct series was the story McBain told in an afterword to the third book, The Pusher.  He had set up this group of characters, detectives working in the 87th Precinct, which he called his 'Conglomerate Hero'.  He introduced them to us individually (see the list of regular characters in the Wikipedia article called 87th Precinct - the detectives of the 87th Precinct), let us as readers find our favorites, then proceeded to bump off mine and everyone else's top favorite ~ Detective 2nd Grade Steve Carella ~ in book three.

See, McBain had originally described the series as being about cops going and coming, cops getting killed and replaced by other cops, as a way to keep the readers interested by introducing new characters here and there. Steve Carella gets shot in The Pusher, mistaken for someone else, so McBain ends the book by killing him off. He thought he was pretty hot stuff, doing something no one else had ever done in crime fiction writing, killing off a guy we'd all been rooting for throughout the first two books. McBain figured he was being innovative! 

So he gleefully sends off book three to his agent, who calls the next morning and said “What did you do?  It's Christmas Day, Carella is dead, you've killed the hero.”  McBain tried to tell his agent that no, Carella isn't the hero, he's just one of the characters. It doesn't matter that this is the third book he's been in and that the story ends on Christmas Day!

The agent sends the manuscript on to the publisher and the  next day McBain gets a call from his editor saying “What did you do?” “It's Christmas day, Carella is dead, you've killed the hero.”  McBain kept saying “No, no.” Remember what I told you in the beginning about cops getting killed, other cops replacing them…..remember all that?”  His editor answered with, yes, but nobody said you could kill the hero.  McBain tried again to say “but he isn't the hero.”  His editor replied “He's the hero. Period.”  McBain went back to his typewriter and rewrote the ending.  

Needless to say, Steve Carella survived and remained the hero of the 87th Precinct throughout the series! 


Cop Hater, First Book of the Series
McBain's first 87th Precinct book, 'Cop Hater' was published in 1956. By the time the series ended shortly before the author died in 2005 at age 78 McBain had written 55 books in the series. (And I've read them all more than once). A truly terrific series of mysteries!









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(c) Wednesday Elf - 9/1/2018




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Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Come to the Quiet by Denise George: A Book Review

Are You Tired Today and Longing for Rest?


I know I am. Although I now live only with my husband and neither of us works outside the home, I still find it hard to find the rest I need. It's especially hard to find quiet rest. It seems there is always some kind of noise in the background. Maybe it's a neighbor using a leaf blower or my husband watching television or a motorcycle driving by. Since I've moved to the city it's never been quiet. That's why I have to use white noise to block unwanted sounds and get to sleep.



Even though I work at home as a blogger, it seems I never have time to relax. There's always something to read or write, photos to take or edit, other blogs to visit and comment on, and social promotion to do. That's on top of the normal chores involved in keeping us fed and in clean clothes, doing necessary housework, and paying bills. Interruptions come in the form of phone calls, husband, workmen, and knocks on the door. There are errands to run, doctor appointments, and emergencies to deal with. I have to plan carefully to spend time with friends.

Many reading this have even more on their plates than I have -- a full time job outside the home, children to care for, getting children where they need to go in their own busy lives, etc., etc., etc. It never stops, and probably neither do you until you drop physically and emotionally exhausted into bed at night.

The Right Book at the Right Time


Solitude and quiet have always been important to me. Up until we moved into our house in a small city I always had a place to get away to de stress . Since we now live in a one story house and have a television which can be heard from almost every room, it's been much harder to have my solitude. And I've been feeling the tension build. Sunday I had almost the entire day to myself and I spent most of it reading this book: Come to the Quiet by Denise George. I found it sitting on a shelf of samples publishers had sent me years ago. For me it was certainly the right book at the right time.



My husband was gone almost all day. I took advantage of the solitude to rest my body and my spirit. This book was like a drink of ice cold water on one of those triple digit summer days we've had this summer. It confirmed my need to escape to solitude more often.

When my mind and body can't rest my spirit suffers, too. Rest for body, soul, and spirit are essential for physical and mental health. George's book explains how we can find the quiet and rest we must have even though it seems like there is no time or place for it. We were created for quiet. To be healthy we must leave room for quiet rest in our lives.



Finding Rest in the Midst of Stress

George points out that we often bring unnecessary stress on ourselves. Maybe a mother doesn't really need to work outside the home. George helps a woman who has a choice evaluate the value of her job to herself and her family. Denise George also recognizes that some women must work -- especially those who already have the stress of parenting alone. She suggests ways even single working moms can find quiet rest in the midst of their stress.

She also helps us work through our priorities. Misplaced priorities are a major source of our stress and overwork. Some stresses are easy to get rid of by changing habits we might not have even thought of as stressful. She points out some of those stresses that have easy fixes. She explains ways we can tune out external noise we can't control and have a more peaceful life.

I think many of us are so used to some stressors we don't even realize they are there, but George shows us some practical ways to escape them. There are changes we can make and places we can go to rest our stressed minds. George's suggestions will help anyone, no matter what causes the stress or how economically well off one is.

Christian Answers to Stress

Christian women's lives can be as stressful as any other lives, but our faith and relationship with Christ mean they don't have to be. It's very easy to buy into the world's mindset and get our sense of worth from what we do instead of who we are in Christ. This book shows us how to let Christ transform our minds. It also offers suggestions for resting our bodies and spirits.

Stress eventually affects our bodies enough to make us sick. Researchers have determined how much stress we can take before this happens. The book contains a stress test that gives points for various life events and pressures and you can see how close you are coming to the 300 points that can make you sick. As the points add up, quiet, self-care, and solitude become more important than ever in keeping you well. There are plenty of suggestions in this book for lessening the stress both you and your children have in your lives.

George invites us to come to Jesus when we are physically and emotionally overburdened and find rest for our spirits and minds. She shows us how to do that. She leads us to the quiet place of healing and shows us how to guard our hearts against the hate, prejudice, bitterness, and selfishness which stress us and  hurt others. Jesus can replace those things with agape love in our hearts.

Jesus invites you to come and rest with him. He wants to lift your burden of stress and lead you to his quiet place of refreshment for your body, mind and spirit. Come to the Quiet will give you the details on how to rest in Him.









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Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Dear Mad'm by Stella Patterson: A Book Review

Dear Mad'm Decides to Move to the Wilderness


Dear Mad'm is the name by which many readers know Stella Walthall Patterson who wrote a memoir with that title.  She did something I'd be afraid to do. Her Arcata friends and family were ready to retire her to a rocking chair and wait on her when she  turned eighty. But a doctor had told her she had "young legs." She wanted to see how far they could still take her. She preferred a life of adventure to a life of ease.

Dear Mad'm by Stella Patterson: A Book Review
Photo by get directly down, Flickr, modified. CC 2.0


By the time she was eighty, Stella Walthall Patterson had lived a full life. Born in Stockton California on October 14, 1866, and orphaned at seven, by the age of sixteen she had graduated from Mills Seminary (later Mills College). She had published her first story in the Oakland Tribune when she was only fourteen. Later she studied in Paris and became proficient in art and music.

Her first husband was Judge Augustus Belcher. She lived with him in San Francisco, socializing with other writers, including Jack London and Ambrose Bierce. The 1906 earthquake and the fire that followed prompted her to leave that area. She had lost everything.

Judge Belcher liked to hunt in the Trinity mountains, and he sometimes hired James Patterson, a rancher in Willow Creek, to act as his guide. Thus, he had occasion to meet Stella.  In 1907, Stella surprised all her friends by marrying Jim Patterson and moving to his Hawkins Bar Ranch in Willow Creek. During the years in Willow Creek, the couple adopted two children -- Ralph and Thelma.

By the time Stella was eighty, she was separated, but not divorced, from Jim Patterson. At the time this book begins, Stella was living in San Francisco again. Not long before her eightieth birthday, while visiting with friends based in Arcata, she injured her leg. After her X-rays in the hospital, the Sister in charge told her she had "young legs."

 She had lived an active and busy life. She had traveled to Europe and mingled with the cultured people of San Francisco. After marrying Patterson she was a rancher's wife, and the couple also had some contact with miners.

The day before her eightieth birthday, as she sat at her friend's house recuperating with her leg propped up, she still felt young. She didn't want to stick around, "waiting to be carried out feet first" when she could still be enjoying new adventures. She wanted freedom to do as she pleased.

 She decided to go live in an old mining cabin she had bought two years earlier as part of a placer mining claim. It had no modern conveniences. She imagined that in the wilderness of the Siskiyou Mountains overlooking the Klamath river she would have solitude and the space to live as she pleased with no human interference. She decided to go for it. She packed her bags, took leave of her friends, and took a bus to Willow Creek. From there she planned to take a mail stage to her cabin. It was 1946. She had promised herself to stay there a year.


Getting to the Wilderness Cabin


The mail stage driver Tom left Stella and all she'd brought with her at the foot of the fifty-foot trail that led UP to her cabin. Evening was rapidly falling. She was exhausted. She pondered the mound of luggage and boxes that somehow had to get up the steep trail to her cabin. She writes:

I had been feeling young and gay all day. Now I felt as old as Methuselah. There was work ahead and no one but me to do it. 

She lugged her belongings up to the edge of her property. Her mind was filled with doubt. She asked herself what she was doing "sitting on a box in the Klamath National Forest far from electric lights, plumbing, inner-spring mattresses" and everything else she had in San Francisco. She contemplated how she would get her things up the trail and into the cabin. She decided to take only what  she needed for the night in one load and come for the rest in the morning. Once inside she took a jar to fill outside at her water barrel. She could feel the scary darkness all around. She recalls:

The feeling of being alone on that vast mountainside, no neighbor within hailing distance, was working on my nerves. I might scream, yell, shout. None to hear. Just an echo from the bluffs cross the river to answer me. 

After taking every safety precaution she could think of, including putting a chair against the door and loading it with pots and pans that would clatter if moved, she crawled into her bed and fell asleep.

Dear Mad'm by Stella Patterson: A Book Review
Klamath River Photo courtesy of Tony Webster on Flickr, CC 2.0 License


Meeting the Neighbors


Life in the primitive cabin (actually a shack) did not quite offer the solitude Stella hoped for. First, she did have neighbors closer than she thought They were the "boys" she had hired to take care of her mine assessment work. She called them Dearsir and Up'nUp. You'll need to read the book to find out why. They just called her Dear Mad'm. The names stuck.

Very early that first morning she heard a knock on the door. She was still barefooted with her hair down. The door opened and Dearsir announced he and his partner had brought her luggage up to the cabin. She learned they had moved about half a mile up the mountain to Bent Pine Cabin. She offered them coffee and then realized that wasn't enough. She didn't have much, but she fed them bread, butter, and all her strawberry jam with it. She did manage to grab one slice herself. The men invited her to come along with them to shop at the grocery in Happy Camp in a couple of days.

Another neighbor was the eccentric Frenchy. He roamed the trails with a book in one hand an a bulb of garlic in the other. He always offered a helping hand when needed.

One day sixteen-year-old Milly came to call from across the river. She wanted to be very proper, but she was very lonely. Once Stella discovered her stilted Victorian speech came from Emily Post, she encouraged her to just be herself. They became great friends.

Occasionally Up'nUp's wife Nora, who lived in Yreka, came to visit and stayed with her.

Later Stella would meet the men's chickens, goats, and English shepherd dog Vicki. She would also meet their mule Pete "the friendliest mule" DearSir ever met. That had not been Stella's first impression.

But Stella's most dangerous neighbors were  her wild ones -- a cougar and a rattlesnake. By the time she met them "the boys" had given her their dog Vicki to be her companion and protector. She turned out to be both.


Peace and Adventure

Photo by Miguel Vieira, Flickr, modified. CC 2.0

One of Stella's first projects was to plant a flower garden. She didn't think she'd be successful with vegetables, but she had always wanted a flower garden. In fact, when she had shopped for her trip she had bought more seeds and bulbs than food. Although the gardening work was difficult, it motivated her, as it does every gardener, to envision the blooming color her labor would bring forth in a few weeks or months.

At the end of the first full day in the cabin she had her first adventure. She came face to face with an escaped billy goat at her door. But the "boys," to whom the goats belonged, quickly caught up with them, took them away, and promised to bring her goat milk in the morning. She didn't like goat milk. Of course, she'd never tried it.

She then puzzled over a way to deal with the rats who lived just between her ceiling and her roof. Her method met with less than success until Frenchy came up with an answer a bit later.

It wasn't long before Stella finally met Pete. Their relationship got off to a rather bad start. It's quite a humorous scene, but you'll have to read it to fully appreciate it. For now we'll just say that first encounter almost made enemies of them forever. That animosity didn't help much when she later had to help trim his hooves.

Dear Mad'm by Stella Patterson: A Book Review
Mule, courtesy of  Pixabay


One day the "boys" came by in the morning to tell Dear Mad'm they were leaving on a trip to Arcada and leaving Vicki with her for protection and company. Vicki was a permanent gift even though the men would return in a few days. She turned out to be a very valuable gift.

That night there was a terrible thunderstorm. Both Stella and Vicki were frightened to death of the storm that might fell the tree above the cabin. Vicki hid under the bed. Somehow, though, they got through the storm without damage and no trees crashed down on them.

Dear Mad'm had another adventure when the men took her to see her claim. It was up a very steep trail -- too steep for her to climb -- so they dangled her on a rope between them. They let her walk back down with an occasional lift where needed.

She did have a few quiet days of birdwatching and relaxing, but one day while she was in her garden with her nose to the ground she heard heard the whirring sound of a rattlesnake. Vicki sounded an alarm, and I'll let you read the book to see how it ended. Their encounter with the cougar that had been raiding the men's goats was also very tense. The men couldn't believe how she'd solved that problem.

But something even topped that. A storm came up when the group of friends were on the way back from Happy Camp one night. It sent rocks crashing down on the narrow mountain road as Dearsir drove the jalopy around the curves. You'll be on the edge of your seat reading that chapter.

Not long after that night Up'nUp's very pregnant wife Nora came to visit two weeks before her due date and stayed a bit too long. Never a dull moment!

You can purchase Dear Mad'm here. 

Never Too Old to Be Needed


As you can see, Stella's expected year of solitude didn't go quite as planned. But she certainly did have adventures on those "young legs" of hers. Near the end of the year in her cabin she had committed herself to, there were many changes in their mountain "neighborhood." Stella had just about decided those changes would make her continued presence unnecessary because no one would need her there anymore. But another big event persuaded her to stay several more years. The book explains what happened to change her mind.

Dear Mad'm moved to a travel trailer in Redding, California, in autumn, 1955, near Thelma, and died on December 23, at the age of 89. She is buried in Redding. She died just before her book was published, so she never got to see it. Stella Patterson's writing sparkles. Her book is also sprinkled with delightful and comical line drawings by Alice Harvey, who was an illustrator and cartoonist for the New Yorker. 

In the years since her death Dear Mad'm has had so many fans wanting to know what happened to her after her book ended that one of her relatives wrote a sequel to try to answer the questions. That book is Dear Mad'm: Who Was She? I'm hoping to read it soon. I just discovered it.

If you are interested in active aging, nature, animals, wilderness living, placer mining, or neighbors bonding and helping each other like family, don't miss this book. It will make you laugh and it will give you moments of heart-stopping suspense. It will show you you're never too old to have adventures when you're young at heart. 




The biographical information that was not in the book came from these sources:

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