C.T. M. (sirius-mama) - - Reviews

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Anybody Out There?
Anybody Out There?
Author: Marian Keyes
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 64
Review Date: 2/23/2010


Loved this book! Yes, it was sad but in a poignant way. The main character also has a clever sense of humor and her quirky family provide plenty of humor as well. Very engaging prose and easy to get into the story. I thought she built suspense well as she lead up to her reveal. I also appreciated her leaving a bit of mystery around the question of afterlife communication.


Apple Tree Christmas
Apple Tree Christmas
Author: Trinka Hakes Noble
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 1
Review Date: 12/25/2012


Lovely watercolor illustrations complement a nostalgic story centering on the Ansterburg family's Christmas in 1881. They live on a homestead in northern climes (the author grew up in rural Michigan). Provides a bit of info on how families of the time period prepared for winter and protected themselves & their livestock from frigid weather. Highlights how the family appreciated and utilized an apple tree on their property. The sadness at the loss of the tree is mitigated by the gifts it produces for all of them. The simplicity of their holiday rituals is refreshing compared to most present day trappings.


Before We Eat: From Farm to Table
Before We Eat: From Farm to Table
Author: Pat Brisson
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 1
Review Date: 6/28/2015


Large, bright and beautiful drawings dominate with succinct and rhyming text. Perfect for reading aloud - lots of openings to ask kids questions, to count, to discuss what they see. From seeds to livestock to trees to bees there is a wide range of farming examples. Delightful and recommended.


Can't We Talk about Something More Pleasant?: A Memoir
Can't We Talk about Something More Pleasant?: A Memoir
Author: Roz Chast
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 4.1/5 Stars.
 14
Review Date: 3/19/2016


A unique memoir told thru drawings, cartoon panels, photos, and some text. I found this to be a compelling read with both laugh out loud moments and tearing up moments. I'm currently in somewhat similar situation, so could relate closely to many of her struggles. I really appreciated her ability to bring humor to frustrating situations, along with her refreshing candor. Caregiving for ailing parents, especially when dealing with dementia, can be painful on many levels and it does help to know that one is not alone in sometimes losing patience or feeling that the responsibilities are a bit overwhelming. Although not a primary focus, I also appreciated the author pointing out the limitations, challenges, and high cost of healthcare. Many of her observations and experiences are thought-provoking. Her parents were fortunate enough to have sufficient savings to pay for an upscale assisted living facility, along with additional nursing or care services. So the progression of care and options follows along with paid help. The author focuses on her relationship and dealings with her parents exclusively. I did find myself wanting to know more about her relationship with her husband and kids. Overall a direct, honest, touching and memorable read.


Chasing Justice: My Story of Freeing Myself After Two Decades on Death Row for a Crime I Didn't Commit
Review Date: 12/2/2010


Engrossing and very well written book; highly recommend. While certain parts of the book are difficult to read (the brutalities Kerry endured in prison, the outrageous prosecutorial misconduct)other parts read like a best-selling thriller. The text sucked me in and I found myself losing time. I had very strong emotional reactions to the book - esp anger towards the corruption centered in Smith County, TX and the city of Tyler, TX. Amazingly, Kerry is not at all bitter and reveals his story using facts - he doesn't need to use strong adjectives when calling out those involved in the malfeasance because their own words and actions say everything. The end of the book ends on a high note. I feel totally inspired by the advocacy goals and achievements Kerry has accomplished to date since gaining his freedom. Interesting to note: Kerry's story is one of several featured in the theater production "The Exonerated" which played Off-Broadway; the play was adapted into a film which ran on CourtTV in 2005. If you are a proponent for the death penalty, you should really read this book for a unique perspective on the whole legal process. If you are against the death penalty, you should really read this book to become a more effective advocate. This is one of those books/stories which will stick in my head for a very long time.


Complications: A Surgeon's Notes on an Imperfect Science
Complications: A Surgeon's Notes on an Imperfect Science
Author: Atul Gawande
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 18
Review Date: 2/23/2010
Helpful Score: 1


Excellent book regarding the US healthcare system in general. He comments on the need for changes without getting caught up in politics. He keeps the prose intelligent but accessible to non-surgeons. His case studies are totally engaging. He asks thoughtful and valid questions, then explores a variety of possible answers. There are no pat solutions here, but many openings for further thought or personal action. I especially appreciated his willingness to admit when he himself was imperfect. He seems quite patient-focused and has some innovative suggestions for system changes.


The Condition (P.S.)
The Condition (P.S.)
Author: Jennifer Haigh
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
 81
Review Date: 8/12/2010
Helpful Score: 1


I enjoyed this as a summer read. My original hope - that the book would address how siblings are impacted when one of them has a serious medical condition and/or how siblings would support each other - wasn't realized. The family members were all so caught up in their own personal dramas that they weren't there for ANY other family member. (And strangely, each family member seemed to only have one friend to confide in outside of the family. No circle of friends, no social lives, just one friend.) That said, however, it certainly delivered on the premise of providing a family drama. Each family member seemed a bit stereotyped to begin with, and some were less likeable than others; I didn't enjoy the chapters featuring Scott so much, but Gwen's chapters were great. By the end of the book I felt the characters had become more rounded out and their behaviors were at least somewhat explained. For me, the ending pulled multiple story strands together and satisfied.


Contemporary Diagnosis and Management of Allergic Diseases and Asthma
Review Date: 2/23/2010


I haven't actually read this book but I have had the misfortune to meet Dr. Gern. He was arrogant, condescending, rigid, and a horrible listener who frequently interrupted to insist he is right and anyone who disagrees with him is wrong or a "quack." He talked in total contradictions and was argumentative. He was convinced he already had all the answers and he asked questions only to "prove" his points - not to comprehensively take an individual history. He offered exactly one treatment option and it was very old school with the potential to cause harm. I placed a formal complaint and was granted a refund. In good faith I feel compelled to warn others - his philosophy is not the least bit empowering to patients or families. There are so many other doctors and approaches for asthma patients - don't waste your time on this one.


Contemporary Diagnosis and Management of Allergic Diseases and Asthma
Review Date: 2/23/2010


I haven't actually read this book but I have had the misfortune to meet Dr. Gern. He was arrogant, condescending, rigid, and a horrible listener who frequently interrupted to insist he is right and anyone who disagrees with him is wrong or a "quack." He talked in total contradictions and was argumentative. He was convinced he already had all the answers and he asked questions only to "prove" his points - not to comprehensively take an individual history. He offered exactly one treatment option and it was very old school with the potential to cause harm. I placed a formal complaint and was granted a refund. In good faith I feel compelled to warn others - his philosophy is not the least bit empowering to patients or families. There are so many other doctors and approaches for asthma patients - don't waste your time on this one.


Eighteen Acres
Eighteen Acres
Author: Nicolle Wallace
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.1/5 Stars.
 19
Review Date: 4/16/2011
Helpful Score: 1


Disappointing! I saw Nicolle Wallace interviewed by Rachel Maddow when the book was first released. She said that the VP candidate in her book was somewhat based on Sarah Palin and that she used the writing process to vent some of her feelings about getting thrown under the proverbial bus following the 2008 presidential campaign. So I was expecting a dishy novel with feisty and interesting characters. I was expecting her to deliver on a premise of how exactly does the election campaign react to unflattering or damaging revelations from an unvetted candidate going offscript? And considering the numerous scandals of the actual VP candidate, I was wondering how many may come into play for the fictional candidate. Sadly, none!

Wallaces characters are all two dimensional. The election team seems comprised of only 2 main staffers (no others are named or included in strategy sessions) and while they dont agree on most things it amounted mostly to eye rolling and one staffer getting outvoted. I know Wallace is a political insider, not to mention was a key player in the last presidential election, so why she didnt develop or add any life to the fictional campaign in the book was baffling. How the campaign gets run and the interpersonal dynamics, teamwork, or conflict within that group of staffers could have been really interesting. There was a side mention of a stylist for the VP candidate fighting with the candidate over inappropriate outfits and a hinted at past problem that did not seem like a big deal to me and that evidently, conveniently, was squashed by a staffer to prevent a day-before-the-election news exclusive. (Like any reporter wouldn't break that kind of story! Unbelievable. And may have added a bit of excitement to an otherwise boring conclusion.) Why even mention a potential scandal if it doesnt play any role in the plot?

There also is a part of the story where the president gets mad at a Cabinet member and forces him to resign. I was never clear on what he did that was so wrong or why the consequences played out as they did. She seemed to betray him for no apparent or explained reasons. And having him out of that post did not add anything to the story or advance any plot lines.

Overall the whole story line was bland and fluffy. No drama, no suspense. An original take on how a woman would manage the presidency it was NOT. A political thriller it was definitely NOT. The writing has some flow, I did read the whole book, but there is no interesting story arc.

I was also a bit put off by all the designer name dropping on fashion & gadgets (some other readers thought it added authenticity to the story; I thought it bogged down the writing and sounded like advertising.)


The Everything Homeschooling Book: All you need to create the best curriculum  and learning environment for your child (Everything Series)
Review Date: 8/14/2013


I found this book quite helpful, especially with the numerous resources and the broad scope. This is a great introduction, but didn't get into much depth on any topics. The chapters are well organized and I found the info I was looking for quickly. I appreciated that the author touched on the wide variety of approaches to homeschooling.


The Family Treasury of Classic Christmas Carols
The Family Treasury of Classic Christmas Carols
Author: Sarah Gibb (Illustrator)
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 1
Review Date: 11/26/2012


Oversize and lavishly illustrated, this book includes the lyrics to 21 traditional songs for Christmas. The layout and visual images are outstanding. Includes a very brief history of caroling. A holiday treat.


The Food Allergy Experience: Real voices. Real disease. Real insights.
Review Date: 10/26/2015


It is very important to know that this doctor is NOT a board certified Allergist and misrepresents her qualifications. Her "advice" is nothing I have heard anywhere, after consulting with close to 10 Board Certified Allergists affiliated with major research universities. I'm afraid her "tips" could endanger children's lives. She has also testified against parents in legal cases with schools such that children with life-threatening food allergies were not safe or included in public school settings. For Food Allergy resources written well and by highly qualified, Board-Certified (actual) Allergists, try either "What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Children's Allergies and Asthma: Simple Steps to Help Stop Attacks," by Paul Ehrlich and Larry Chiaramonte or "Understanding and Managing Your Child's Food Allergies," by Scott Schicherer. The resources by Ehrlich, Chiaramonte and Schicherer are well articulated, easy to follow and empowering for parents and children.


The Forgotten Helper
The Forgotten Helper
Author: Lorrie Moore
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
 1
Review Date: 12/29/2010


Very clever and entertaining story for children; a light read for adults as well - I sure enjoyed it. The writing is engaging and the characters are rounded out despite the brevity of the book. Both Aben and Ivy, the naughty little girl, have quite a bit in common. And similar lessons to learn. I particularly liked the chapters focusing on their friendship. The illustrations add to the overall story. And the story ends on an up note. One quibble... there is a lot of emphasis on Ivy hating Christmas. She lives with her aunt and not her parents. Mother is lost to her, dad is absent. I would have appreciated a bit more background or explanation as to her family situation and how she came to hate Christmas.


Halloween: Romantic Art and Customs of Yesteryear
Halloween: Romantic Art and Customs of Yesteryear
Author: Diane C. Arkins, Diane Arkins
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 1
Review Date: 11/12/2013


Little gem of a book! If you appreciate vintage post cards and learning about the history of Halloween you will treasure this. Full color postcards are featured from the 1880's thru the 1920's. Poems & greetings from those time periods are also highlighted. I really enjoyed the details describing how folks in different countries celebrated Halloween. It was also surprising to see the romantic - instead of the spooky - side to the holiday. So many of the Halloween postcards read like valentines. The book is beautifully designed. A Halloween treat.


The Hoarder in You: How to Live a Happier, Healthier, Uncluttered Life
Review Date: 7/1/2018


This is an inclusive and sympathetic primer on clutter management from a Clinical Psychologist with extensive expertise. Her descriptions are easy to follow and easy to relate to. She includes information for people to self-assess their level of clutter and for self interventions as well as information for professional resources. She includes info for family members or friends who want to help. She does a great job explaining why people are prone to hanging on to stuff, why it can be so difficult to de-clutter, what emotions or brain processes are behind certain behaviors. Her main approach is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and addressing underlying anxiety and/or depression. The anecdotal clinical cases illustrate her points well and add context. Lots of check lists, helpful tips, talking points, and other resources. Great starting point for family members.


Imperial Bedrooms
Imperial Bedrooms
Author: Bret Easton Ellis
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.1/5 Stars.
 8
Review Date: 2/27/2011


Don't bother. While I didn't find the characters from Less than Zero likable, I did find Ellis' writing to be lyrical - especially the sequences with Clay in the desert when he visited his grandparents. And Less Than Zero had a great overall theme that worked for the superficial, young characters. Blair said in the beginning of that novel that people in LA are afraid to merge, referring specifically to driving on the freeway; Clay generalizes that idea to all their shallow relationships. Imperial Bedrooms, unfortunately, seems to pick up exactly where Less than Zero left off. All the main characters are STILL lost, vacuous, indulging in addictive even debasing behaviors, and totally unlikable. None of the characters evolved. This novel features several quite gruesome murders and I never figured out how they were connected or why they were necessary to the story. To have shallow and self indulgent characters was a trend in the early 1980's. To present the same flat characters after 20 yrs, with no self-growth and no redeeming qualities whatsoever, just seems pathetic and pointless.


Love in the Present Tense
Love in the Present Tense
Author: Catherine Ryan Hyde
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.7/5 Stars.
 13
Review Date: 12/29/2010


One of my all time favorites. The characters are all so flawed, and yet so compelling and complex that I couldn't help but care deeply about them. The little boy at the heart of the story is unforgettable. I found the characters diverse in background, culture & privilege and brought into play in unexpected circumstances. The writing pulled me into the story from the very beginning. Characters who make very poor choices face natural consequences. Characters who are thrown into unexpected situations rise to the challenge. The mystery at the heart of the novel keeps unraveling so slowly, but satisfies in the end. I found this a treasured read. The novel explores the notion of who makes up a "family," explores the depth of love, and brings out the best of the human spirit in the main characters. Highly recommended.


Madeleine's Ghost
Madeleine's Ghost
Author: Robert Girardi
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.4/5 Stars.
 7
Review Date: 2/23/2010


This is one of my favorite kinds of ghost stories. The ghost actually has an identity and a specific reason for the haunting behavior. I thoroughly enjoyed the journey Robert Girardi creates for the reader through multiple locations and time periods. It seemed disjoint at the outset, but by the end my questions were answered in surprising ways. A real treat.


The McGraw-Hill Homeschooling Companion
The McGraw-Hill Homeschooling Companion
Author: Laura Saba, Julie Gattis
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3/5 Stars.
 2
Review Date: 12/2/2013


I found this book a good starting point & overview. It offers a wide range of info & resources relating to homeschooling. Can be helpful skimming thru chapters of interest or reading in order. Generous appendices cover topics from individual state law summaries to scope & sequence of content across grade levels, w/additional resource suggestions and web links. Inclusive of all kinds of homeschooling approaches, but does not get into any in depth. You won't find enough info to make a well-informed choice on a specific educational approach nor find highly detailed lesson/unit planning; however, you'll get lots of general ideas and friendly tips.


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