Wednesday, January 18, 2017

A Bend in the Willow by Susan Clayton-Goldner

Genre:  Adult, Realistic Fiction
Source: I received a copy to facilitate my review. The opinions expressed here are my own.

I love reading a book where it is written in layers. In this story we find things out one layer at a time. It added such depth to the story and made it a compelling read.  I had to ask myself what I would do for my kids. Would I risk my marriage and my own freedom?  I would like to think I would. I think most parents feel that way.  There were so many messages the reader could take away from this book. Messages about being truthful no matter what the cost. The message that child abuse is never okay and should be dealt with. I know this is easier said than done. Trust was a big part of this book. Catherine/Robin’s lack of trust, or fear of trusting completely. This book touched some tender spots in my own life which made it a compelling read as well as a hard read.

Catherine the main character is facing every parent’s nightmare. Her son’s leukemia is killing him. Without a bone marrow transplant he will die. The best chances for a match is through family. This is where the story gets really interesting. Catherine must face her past if she wants to have a chance at saving her son. This is a past so horrific that she fled twenty years before, legally changed her name and moved on with life. Throughout the telling of this story as we learn about her past she paints herself as weak. We the reader can draw on how much strength it took to leave. The guilt over the years has eat her up. Her father, a drunk died in a house fire. She watched him burn. She did nothing to save him. There is no guilt about that because the family secrets died with him. However, after searching the house and making sure her brother was not there she runs away. Fear of being arrested for not helping is one of those issues. She carries the guilt of having never located her brother and then changing her name and moving on. Then we learn of a son born nineteen years earlier. She must contact him and try to find her brother if she has a chance of saving her son. When she locates her brother her guilt comes back double. Her marriage is in jeopardy because she had to tell her husband about her past to try to find her family. He reacted the way she thought he would. She no longer cares about the consequences of possibly being arrested for her father’s death. She is spurred on by her son’s dire situation. Then she meets Her brother’s wife and daughter. Can this small child save them all?  I really wanted to leave this with so many questions that anyone reading this review would have to read the book to find the answers. I sat and read this book from cover to cover. I just could not put it down. It was absolutely awesome.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Two Middle Grades and Seven Children's Picture Books

Purple Pup -Karl Steam
Genre: Middle Grade, Science Fiction
Source: I received a copy to facilitate my review. The opinions expressed here are my own.
This book exceeded my expectations. I loved the premise and the book didn't disappoint. Imagine a lab that is experimenting with genetics. Imagine one of those genetically modified animals is a purple puppy. I'd love a purple puppy. This lab has created a new set of animals. Two of the dogs have a heightened sense of smell and hearing, not to mention having camouflage colors. You know that if the military is involved that all cannot be good. What happens when the purple pup escapes and finds a family that treats him with love? When the purple pup is seen and put on the news things change. He is returned to the lab where he helps several of his friends escape. The adventures this little pup finds keeps you turning the pages. It was a quick read. I sat and read it in about two hours. This is one of those books that make you think how cool it would be to have some of these animals. Then you have to think about how fair it is to the animals.  This would be great to read in conjunction with a science unit on genetics. The possibilities for conversations with students about genetically modified things could bring about some great discussions.  Not only do I love this book because of educational reasons, but I love it because it is well written and sure to keep young and old alike reading.

The Left Behinds: Abe Lincoln and the Selfie that Saved the Union – David Potter
Genre: Middle Grade, Science Fiction, Historical Fiction
Source: I received a copy to facilitate my review. The opinions expressed here are my own.
Want a fun way to teach some history? This is the book you must read. Imagine three kids traveling back in time through a phone app. That is what happens to Mel, Brandon and Bev. There is a first book to this series. I will need to read it and add it to my shelves. Don’t let me misguide you with my first statement. This is one of those fun books with just enough history to make kids the inquirers we want them to be. An added bonus is the author notes at the end of the book that five you so much more information. I know my middle school students will love this one because it has history and technology. What a great mix. These three children are left behind at their boarding school and use the app one of their professors invented to escape back in time. They must stop history from being changed. This is such a fun premise. Yes I am a lover of time travel books and a lover of history. What could be better? The only thing that could be better would be reading the first book, and then the next book in this series.

The 30 Most Amazing Geography Facts – Nuhh Adams
Genre: Children’s, Picture Book
Source: I received a copy to facilitate my review. The opinions expressed here are my own.
This book is a combination of geographical facts and science facts. This will give readers a basic knowledge of our planet. I would even go so far as to say this would be a great resource for classrooms, especially for parents who homeschool. There are many other books in this series. I would recommend you check them out.

Dr. Ella Has a Surprise – Alon Tamir
Genre: Children’s Picture Book
Source:  I received a copy to facilitate my review. The opinions expressed here are my own.
This is a cute book that shows three kids with three ailments. Then we meet Dr. Ella. The repetitive stanzas demonstrate to readers that there is nothing to fear when they go to the doctor. A list of items doctors use helps familiarize children with the doctor’s office.

Gracie Lou and the Bad Dream Eater – Danielle A. Vann
Genre: Children’s Picture Book
Source:  I received a copy to facilitate my review. The opinions expressed here are my own.
Gracie Lou has a problem. Every night a bad dream monster keeps her awake. She wakes her parents up until one of them sleeps with her or she crawls into their bed. Her dad and mom are tired of getting no sleep. Dad decides to become the Bad Dream Monster Eater. Will his plan work? This is a wonderful story to read to children who fear going to bed alone at night.

The Very Tall Tale of Ranger the Great Pyrenees and his Adorable Friend Miss Keys – Danielle A. Vann
Genre: Children’s Picture Book
Source:  I received a copy to facilitate my review. The opinions expressed here are my own.
This is a strange story of a friendship between a great Pyrenees dog and a very young skunk. When Miss Keys’ momma skunk goes off to join a circus, she leaves behind her daughter. She and Ranger become great friends and travel all over the place. But, what happens when they become homesick and meet up with Miss Keys’ momma” A cute book that shows no matter how different we are there should be nothing to keep us from being friends.

A Kooky Spooky Stroll by Stephanie K. Adams
Genre: Children’s Picture Book
Source:  I received a copy to facilitate my review. The opinions expressed here are my own.
This fun rhyming story follows two young children as they are out at night on Halloween. They walk through many scary things to go trick or treating. Can you figure out how scared they will get?

Nola – Stephanie Lisa Tara
Genre: Children’s Picture Book
Source:  I received a copy to facilitate my review. The opinions expressed here are my own.
Nola is based on the real rhino named Nola. She was a rare rhino. She was taken to a zoo to protect her because her species was almost all gone. For me, the information from the zoo keeper, and the back of the book, made this a wonderful book.  Oh yes, there is also all those cute illustrations of Nola.

Autumn Snow by Flitzy Books
Genre: Children’s Picture Book
Source:  I received a copy to facilitate my review. The opinions expressed here are my own.
Ginger is excited for the “autumn snow”. She takes her younger brother Tommy outside to enjoy the autumn snow. I grew up in Indiana on a farm. We had lots of maple trees nut trees. We had a lot of different types of leaves and my sisters and I loved to play in them. I could identify with Ginger. It took me back to my childhood. I live in Florida and the falling leaves is one thing I really miss up north. I loved the way the author incorporated photos into her illustrations a wonderful and heartwarming book.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Guest Post by Larry and Carolyn Watts


Cop stories are some of the most written about and filmed topics in the shelves of bookstores, the television programming guide and at the movies.  They are either glamorized and worshipped as heroes or demonized and castigated as part of what's wrong with our society.  Neither the defenders nor the detractors look for middle ground.  But looking back at history can tell a very different story.  Once the emotion of the time and the news media attention has subsided, which sometimes takes many years, a different story emerges than that reported and discussed at the time of the events.

Our book, Dishonored and Forgotten, is an attempt to take a fresh look at an old news story that had political and law enforcement leaders in Houston, Texas engaging in a fierce battle with the federal government and some of its own officers.  A police chief, who media and courtroom testimony accounts labeled as an abuser of illegally obtained codeine, lost his job after his department was embroiled in a narcotics scandal that left one detective shot dead and others with permanent blemishes on their reputations.  But years later the City of Houston named its new police academy building in his honor.  Some never accepted that there were criminal acts by high ranking Houston cops. A single detective was sent to prison, causing some observers to believe he was the sacrificial lamb. 

More than sixty years later, Dishonored and Forgotten is an attempt to tell the story of Houston's first major police narcotics scandal with a dispassionate voice, reconstructing from actual documents and newspaper accounts of the time a story of what might have really happened.  Certain people who were considered traitors then are cast in a more positive light; some of those who defended the actions by officers involved in the scandal get a second look without the pressure of having to defend what they may have been involved in themselves.

As we are overwhelmed today with news accounts of officers being attacked, and others caught on camera mistreating and even killing citizens, a look at history will remind us that in real life heroes are flawed and nearly all villains have some redeeming value.  As you read Dishonored and Forgotten, try to remember that more often than not, the true story is usually somewhere between the two extremes promoted by those who have agendas.

Larry and Carolyn are Texas authors who have teamed up as authors for the first time to write Dishonored and Forgotten.  Larry’s career in law enforcement began in Houston, Texas, as a police officer. He became active in police labor issues and served on the board of directors of the Houston Police Officers’ Association and the National Association of Police Associations.  He retired after 21 years and began working for a state-wide association representing law enforcement officers throughout Texas, eventually becoming the chief of staff.

Carolyn worked for Continental Airlines for 16 years.  She was a flight attendant scheduler early in that career and worked in Continental's Public Relations Department before returning to school to attain a BS in Psychology and an MS in School Psychology. Her professional career has spanned positions in education, a non-profit counseling center and shelter for victims of domestic violence, and a private practice that enabled her to fulfill her desire to work with couples and their children. 

Dishonored and Forgotten is their first team venture. Larry and Carolyn live on the Texas Gulf Coast where they spend their time writing, enjoying family and attempting to capture all that life has to offer.

Blog URL: blog on website
Twitter: @LarryWatts2

Buy link for Dishonored and Forgotten