Wednesday, October 31, 2012

School Struggles - Dr. Richard Selznick

Released August 2012

Dr. Richard Selznick
Sentient Publications

Book Review by Jen Beams

One of the largest controversies we face today results from the question of; how much help do we need to give our children? At what point do parents step in? When should a child see a psychologist? If a child refuses to learn, is there something wrong with that child? Why can’t he or she just focus in class? Dr. Richard Selznick gives opinions on all of these questions in his book School Struggles.

At first glance, the book appears to be mostly generalizations and broad categories of good kids and bad kids. Dig a little deeper and you find a plea to parents to take action in their child’s learning, for teachers to individualize learning, for each child to be watched carefully so that they do not fall in the “cracks” of our educational system. He gives examples of real situations and snap shots of parents’ and children’s minds. He tells the reader exactly what to take away from the reading, providing for easy summarized reading, perfect for the busy parent or teacher.

As an education student, I highly recommend School Struggles to any parent and every teacher. It gives a solid look into the minds of children with diagnosed disorders, disabilities, and even those who are considered “average.” One solution, though it may work for some, does not work for all. He outlines the “cracks in the foundation” of our education system. Education is worked too much like a machine, where
children fit a specific mold and are treated as such. Where testing is the best and only way to determine intelligence, which is defined only by academic skill, and learning of social skills is a responsibility left to the children.

All of the great educational theorists I’ve read about, all of the text books I’ve been assigned to study agree with Dr. Selznick that we need to individualize learning, and we need to treat our children with respect and care in order for them to learn and develop. Dr. Selznick puts it into a language and organization that is
quick and easy reading, yet chuck full of knowledge, experience, and helpful insight.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Operation Snow - John Koster

Released September 2012

Regnery History

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Deep down, Operation Snow is a look at the events leading up to, during, and after the attack on Pearl Harbor. What it comes down to is the author's look at a conspiracy theory that delves into the possibility that Harry Dexter White, a chief monetary expert who apparently was also working as a mole for the Soviets, helped the Soviet Union get Japan to attack the U.S. rather than Russia.

The theory was based partly in an RAF airman's claims that "the war was not exactly as depicted in textbooks" and the experiences of the author's Japanese wife who grew up in the devastation that followed Hiroshima. The author also read many journals and biographies of the key players in this conspiracy. Including Vitalii Pavlov's, second in command of Soviet espionage operations for the NKVD (pre-KGB), book about Operation Snow.

John Koster's Operation Snow does bring up an interesting point, and one that the evidence does seem to corroborate. Whether it is the real truth, I can't say, but then it's definitely food for thought.

I'm not a history buff. A high school teacher ruined that for me. Given that, I hardly paid attention to the history books, because anyone who dared disagree with the teacher's opinion received less than stellar grades. It's not how it should be, but that's just how that teacher was. I'd love to see his reaction to Operation Snow!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Live Chat Tonight at 7 p.m. EST **Moved to Monday 11/5

Chat with Dr. Richard Selznick at the Parenting Allies Facebook page tonight. Providing, of course, you have power as many of us in the northeast are being impacted by Hurricane Sandy.

For more information about Dr. Selznick's books, visit his site or Amazon:

My Enemy's Tears: The Witch of Northhampton - Karen Vorbeck Williams

Released October 2012

Karen Vorbeck Williams

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

My Enemy's Tears is a fictional account of what transpired between two women in 1600s New England. The Bliss family left everything behind and moved to New England in order to avoid the king's rising taxes. For Mary, her brothers, and her baby sister, this meant giving up a life of relative wealth and starting over in a house that was too small, in a family that struggled to make ends meet among the Puritans.

Eventually, Mary was hired out to the Lyman family where she worked as a maid while receiving the training she needed to become a proper young woman. Soon Mary befriends the Lyman's daughter, Sarah, and the two become close. When Sarah's father and then her mother dies, Mary decides to return home, an act that Sarah takes personally, thus ending their friendship.

Years later, both women are married. Jealousy takes over and one of the women accuses another of witchcraft. What happens next will shape both of their lives forever.

I admit, I struggled with the start of this book. The build up to their lives in New England took a while to reach a point where I was truly hooked. They do a far bit of moving around, but once they were settled and lived in the same community, I was hooked. I couldn't wait to see what would happen with the pair and ended up wasting an entire morning and afternoon reaching the final part.

If you are at all interested in the historic witch trials or simply want to experience life in a Puritan community, read My Enemy's Tears. Some of the characters are maddening for sure, and I'm thankful I live in today's world, but it was gripping while I experienced it.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Within Reach - Sarah Mayberry

Released August 2012

Sarah Mayberry

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

What should be a joyous day turns into a tragedy, and it leaves Angie Bartlett without a best friend and Michael Young without the love of his life.  Trying to raise his children alone isn't easy, so when Angie's studio is broken into, Michael has the perfect solution, she can move into the studio he'd built for his wife, Billie. That way, the children have the"aunt" they adore nearby, she can help out with school and daycare schedules, and she's in a safe location and can focus on her jewelry making.

Neither Angie nor Michael expect to find their friendship expand into something else. One thing is certain, Angie is certain having a fling with her best friend's husband is not okay, and Michael's just as convinced that hooking up with his late-wife's best friend is wrong. Now if they could get their emotions to listen.

Within Reach was a touching book. I did tear up from time to time, as I could understand Angie and Michael's hesitance, but at the same time, I knew they were a perfect match. From the start, right when things start to take a turn at the beginning with Billie's death. That came unexpectedly and the impact was immense.

As a Harlequin, the book is shorter at under 300 pages. This does push things into high gear, but the story feels complete. A lot of time lapses in the first few chapters, and then the romance gets into high gear. This does rush the grieving process along, but it didn't bother me. I loved Within Reach and feel it's one of the best Harlequin romances this year.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Driving the Saudis - Jayne Amelia Larson

Released October 2012

Jayne Amelia Larson
Simon and Schuster

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Actress Jayne Amelia Larson landed a few roles, but not enough to manage the cost of living in California. As a result, she took a job working as a chauffeur thinking it would be a glamorous way to meet Hollywood's elite. She never imagined she'd spend seven weeks driving Saudi royalty around Los Angeles.

What follows is her account of those weeks where she learned a little about their culture, lifestyles, and views of America as she escorted princesses, nannies, servants, and a hairdresser around the city. Her treatment as the only woman among dozens of drivers is also delved into, as clearly Middle Eastern men view women differently.

Driving the Saudis isn't a book I'd typically pick up, but it surprised me. It could have been a tell-all, and at times it does delve into their wasteful spending, etc., but overall it simply offers a personal glimpse into the cultural differences. In addition, it's told in a way that the reader can relate to. It's simply an enjoyable tale that certainly makes me happy I live in America.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

We Got to Play Baseball - Gregg Olson and Ocean Palmer

Released December 2011

Strategic Book Publishing

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

We Got to Play Baseball is a collection of 60 stories from past and current professional baseball players. Some stories made me chuckle, while others brought tears to my eyes. I admit, things were off to a rocky start with the first couple of stories that annoyed rather than intrigued me. After reading these two stories, I feared everything would be tales of juvenile pranks that I personally felt were too much. However, those two stories ended that type of prank and what followed were the stories I'd expected to find.

There are a number of stories that I could talk about, but a handful really touched me in some way. Probably top of the list is Jeff Brantley's recollection of being underground at Candlestick Park when the San Francisco earthquake hit. He managed to get up to the field to find his wife without realizing in the process the concrete walls had chewed his hands up, and then they still had the bay to cross to make sure their young daughter was okay. I apologize for some of the schmucks in the world who took Gregg Olson's slump so personally that they felt it was okay to continually destroy his mailbox. I read with horror the tale of Doug DeCinces' experience tossing the ball with 12-year-old Cal Ripken, Jr. only to have some idiot teenager start using them for target practice.

There are prank stories too that didn't bother me because they were done in good humor and didn't harm innocent bystanders, such as a hotel maid who then had to clean up a trashed room or a women knocked to the ground by a water balloon lobbed from the top of a Boston hotel. Ken Griffey, Jr's steak dinner bet with Lou Pinella or filling a team's water cooler with salt water. Those are amusing recollections.

In the end, We Got to Play Baseball captured the personal stories fans of the sport don't often see. With baseball season about to come to an end, this is the perfect way for fans to fill their time until spring training kicks back in. I'm not a big baseball fan, in fact, in my house I'm both a "football widow" and a "baseball widow." I can see this being a story my husband will be eager to sit down and enjoy.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Missing Daughter, Shattered Family - Liz Strange

Released September 2011

Liz Strange
MLR Press

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Private investigator David Lloyd finds himself challenged both at home and on the job. His struggles with his partner are a distraction. He wants Jamie to stop being so secretive about their relationship, but Jamie isn't quite ready to come out to his family. It's David's latest case that really is posing problematic. He's become very involved in finding a young woman, Stella, who's disappeared. The police aren't doing much as Stella is an addict and a prostitute, but Stella's mother wants to know what happened to her. David's determined to unravel the truth.

David knows how the police works, he was on the force for years until a homophobic attack left him injured. He got out of the force and now focuses solely on his work as a private detective. As he starts delving into Stella's world, it becomes clear that someone does not want the truth revealed. Vandalisms, threatening phone calls, and physical threats are all trying to keep David from finishing his job, but he's not about to give up. He'll do what it takes to find out what happened to Stella.

Missing Daughter, Shattered Family is the first book in the David Lloyd series. It's a good balance of David's home life with his partner and his time spent on the job. That balance of personal history and job details provides the reader with a complete look at who David is and what he believes in.

 I admit to being a bit of an armchair sleuth. I grew up on a steady diet of Nancy Drew and later dozens of authors, classic and new. I did figure out part of the mystery very early into David's investigation. Usually, I find that distracting because I know the majority of the outcome. This time, knowing in advance drew me in because I wanted to see certain characters get their comeuppance.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Sultry With a Twist - Macy Beckett

Released October 2012

Macy Beckett
Sourcebooks Casablanca

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Over the years, I've read many new authors and only one has grabbed my attention the way Macy Beckett has. I adored Sultry With a Twist. While the premise isn't dramatically unique, the characters are what makes this romance stand out. I fell in love with the town of Sultry, and I'm so glad that she's returning to the town for future novels. I'd be heartbroken if she left Trey single!

In Sultry With a Twist, June Augustine is about to open her own trendy bar in Austin when she gets some unexpected news. There's an outstanding warrant for her in her former hometown, Sultry, and until that is cleared up, she can't have her liquor license. She's shocked because she's never broken the law. Her only option is to go clear that matter up immediately. When she arrives, the judge, a family friend, informs her she can either serve time in jail or stay in Sultry for a few weeks and complete community service. Opting for the latter, she's stuck in Sultry for a while.

June never imagines she'll run into the former love of her life, Luke Gallagher. Luke broke her heart, and she's not certain she can stand to remain near him for a month. Especially when she learns that his non-profit is one of the two on her list of community service options. June still loves Luke, and this time she's determined to take her grandmother's advice and show him that love isn't just a fantasy.

Luke and June had tough lives, and the author makes that very clear from the start. As they start to explore their childhood friendship and teen romance from an adult viewpoint, it's fun watching them battle with desires while trying not to become the talk of the town in this area where many of the older adults are highly religious. The laughter, tears, and smiles I shed while reading this book certainly put this one on my keeper shelf.

I've learned that there are two more books to come. I can't wait to see what happens next with Trey, Luke's right-hand man, and then to find out who is the hero/heroine in book three.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Blood Line - Lynda La Plante

Released October 23, 2012

Lynda La Plante
Bourbon Street Books

Detective Anna Travis struggles to move past her boyfriend's murder. Emotional breakdowns occur without warning, and that can make it hard to focus on her latest case. A court employee's son disappears and he's convinced his son has been murdered. Anna wants Missing Persons to handle the case, but her supervisor, James Langton, urges her to investigate. When a bleached section of carpeting is found under furniture, Anna starts to fear the worst. Finding the body doesn't seem possible, so it's going to take steadfast detecting to unravel the truth.

Blood Line is the first Anna Travis novel I've read, and I think not having read prior books reduced some of the impact I could have felt. I found myself wondering what exactly happened with Anna's boyfriend, and none of it was really summed up other than knowing he'd been murdered.

That aside, I was stunned with the opening. The detail and passion in that first chapter blew me away. As you become witness to a brutal beating, you can almost feel the blows; they're that detailed. That hooked me, even if I wasn't always certain how the relationships between characters were formed. There seems to be a connection between Anna and James, but it seems pretty limited for now. I suppose it's being built slowly over time. I'll have to keep reading to find out.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Presenting Readerpedia

Publishing house Cascada Productions, in collaboration with Green e-Books, has licensed and released the first-ever Readerpedia® edition of an eBook for the Kindle platform. Wayward Son, which takes its readers on an epic sweep through millennia of ancient history, is now even more compelling with Readerpedia®.  

What is Readerpedia®? Readerpedia® is a creative way to enhance your e-Book. At its essence, Readerpedia® is a glossary that is "embedded" and "in context" to your novel. This allows a reader to navigate seamlessly between specific words and their relevancy to the novel. The reader's experience is enhanced due to the author's ability to communicate additional information when necessary.

The Readerpedia® edition of Wayward Son contains over 100 hot links to embedded Readerpedia® entries, containing succinct textual and/or graphical descriptions of the colorful historical people, places, things and events. 

Wayward Son tells the story of Cain who, because he has killed his brother Abel, is destined to become a restless wanderer on the earth. The story covers eons of time, as Cain does not age, a fictional twist on the protective "mark" God has placed on him. Wayward Son takes the reader back in time where epic adventures in Egypt, Greece, China and Rome collide with modern-day intrigue and suspense. Witness the incredible story of the world's original Wayward Son.

Wayward Son is the first of many books to have this new program. Please watch this new video to see Readerpedia in action.

The book, Wayward Son, available for .99 on for a limited time,  is the first book to have Readerpedia.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Spy in a Little Black Dress - Maxine Kenneth

Released October 2, 2012

Grand Central Publishing

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Spy in a Little Black Dress is the second novel in the CIA/Jackie Bouvier (Kennedy) series. I missed the first, so I may have missed some backstory, though I don't think I missed too much. What's painted within the book is speculation on what her life may have been like working for the CIA, something I never knew about.

 In Spy in a Little Black Dress, Jackie heads to Cuba where her mission is to check out Fidel Castro, and see exactly what he's like. Her trip isn't quite as easy as it seems when she faces kidnapping, tracking down a murderer, and even trying to solve the mystery behind a treasure she stumbles upon in an old diary. While this seems like a lot to handle, it's just another job for the well-trained CIA operative.

I have mixed feelings about this novel. I did get caught up in her world, as many well-known names make appearances - JFK, Hemingway, Grace Kelly, Frank Sinatra, Fidel Castro, etc. As for the actual espionage, I often found myself drifting because it just wasn't holding my attention fully. I think partly because I just can't imagine the Jackie Kennedy I learned of in history class as being a CIA operative. That's no fault of the authors, however, it's simply a part of history that's completely new to me. I think the other aspect is that I was born after Kennedy was president, so I have no recollections of the woman before and during the presidency and assassination. For that reason, some of this book seemed more like a history lesson than a novel, and I hated history in school.

Given that, I did love the writing in Spy in a Little Black Dress. It's fast-paced and often witty. I often found myself snickering at the things Jackie said or thought. Given that, for someone more in tune with the times, I think this would become a must-read and a keeper.

The Road to Christmas: A Sweet Holiday Romance Novel by Sheila Roberts

Release Date - September 20, 2022  Sit down and explore the holiday season through four sets of eyes in Sheila Roberts' latest holiday...