Friday, April 29, 2011

Pump Up Your Book blog tour: Is My Kid Stupid? Avoiding an Educational Disaster

By Nzingha West

From the back of the book:

Is My Kid Stupid reveals the unmitigated truth about special education, and parental involvement. Is My Kid Stupid is a must read for any parent, or friend of a parent, or relative of a parent. Is My Kid Stupid teaches parents how to: choose the best practitioner for their child, approach the school when you want something done, receive a free private school education for your child courtesy of the state …

About the author:

Nzingha West was born and raised in New York City, where she still lives and works. A teacher, her passion is working with children and helping families provide the education their children are entitled to.

After working with the American Museum of Natural History, Frederick Douglass Academy in New York, The City College of New York (CUNY), The Learning Annex, Harlem Children’s Zone and others, she saw the need for special educators to help children who have learning disabilities. In 2005, she started Urbane Academics to provide education for all types of students, no matter their level of intelligence or creativity.
West takes a tremendous amount of pride in the work she does and is committed to a fair education for all children no matter their age or capability. She is also a member of the Council for Exception Children and the International Dyslexia Association.

You can visit Nzingha West’s website at or

Just my opinion:

There is so much information packed into this book. Designed to answer all your questions, you will certainly find it helpful if you or someone you love has a child with dyslexia, autism, ADHD or any of the other common learning disabilities.

I will admit, I was particularly interested in this book when I agreed to review it and take part in the Pump Up Your Book blog tour. I know several parents with children who need a little extra help. And no, they certainly ARE NOT stupid. They just have issues that mean they need to maybe learn a little differently than children without learning disabilities. It’s not a bad thing and it should never be a stigma for any parent or child. It just means parents have to do a bit more work to ensure their children will have successful and enriching lives.

I was particularly impressed with the resources this author provides these parents. She presents her suggestions in a very heartwarming way, letting you know she wrote this book because she truly wants to help any and all children get the education they deserve. And at the end of each chapter, she asks poignant questions of the reader and provides space to write your answers and notes.

This is definitely one of the most useful self-help books I’ve seen in a long time!

If you are interested in information about purchasing this book, try this link. To follow this tour, visit Pump Up Your Book.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Friday, April 22, 2011

Going Green Without Going Broke

By Diedra “DD” Holley

From the back of the book:

If you have ever picked up a book on going green, you most likely put it back down after a quick glance. They all seem to have the same problem; these books are made for people with money! Buy solar panels, get a wind turbine, go geothermal, new insulation and such. These things cost a lot of time and money. Going Green Without Going Broke was written for those of us who have limited resources. You may have some money set off to the side, or you may not. Either way, this book is for you. The suggestions in this book range in cost from FREE to about $80. Between these covers you will find 25 ways to go green without emptying your wallet. Most of them will even put a little green back in! … Minimal impact on your wallet, minimal impact on your lifestyle, BIG impact on the environment.

Just my opinion:

The author sent me this book to review a while back, but I chose to hold on to it until today because it’s Earth Day! It’s the day we celebrate our planet and look at ways we can help improve our environment and appreciate what we find around us.

This year, Earth Day's theme is A Billion Acts of Green and we are asked to look at ways we can generate acts of environmental service and advocacy. Going Green Without Growing Broke is a great start to finding ideas to do just that.

I was actually quite impressed with this little book. It’s only 106 pages, but there is so much useful information packed into it. And the ideas truly are simple to implement and easy on the budget.

For example, take your old worn-out sheets, blankets and towels to your local animal shelter. They can certainly use them and you’ve now avoided a few less items being dumped into the landfills. This costs absolutely nothing! Limit your use of paper towels by switching to cloth dishrags or sponges. Most of us already have these items on hand, so the initial cost is nil or minimal. Yet, in the long run, you will save yourself the cost of paper towels (the author saved $20 a month) and you are, again, reducing waste in the landfills.

Sounds simple, doesn’t it? These are only two of the 25 suggestions Diedra has in her book. She also adds some ideas from friends and others on how they reduced their drain on the environment in easy ways.

I think you’ll enjoy browsing this book. Not only does it provide some excellent suggestions on how to go green, it’s also well-written and fun to read. Do you have ways you help our planet? I’d love to hear some of them.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Sweet Relief of Missing Children

By Sarah Braunstein

From the book jacket:

In New York City, a girl called Leonora vanishes without a trace. Years earlier and miles upstate, Goldie, a wild, negligent mother, searches for a man to help raise her precocious son, Paul, who later discovers that the only way to save his soul is to run away. As the narrative moves back and forth in time, we find deeper interconnections between these stories and growing clues about Leonora – this missing girl whose face looks out from telephone poles and billboards – whom one character will give anything to save.

Just my opinion:

Sad, forlorn, convoluted, disjointed … these are just some of the adjectives that describe the characters in this book. It’s a revealing tale of human misery … of how dysfunctional lives provide children with no hope or pleasure to call their own.

This is a heart-rending novel of young people who find it necessary to run for their lives, to exist elsewhere in a time and place where they expect to escape the reality that is their families. A parallel is drawn between real and self-imposed abduction as children disappear and their parents have no idea what happened to them. Even the authorities wonder if they were kidnapped or if they simply ran away.

For some, it is the horror of the former, of being nabbed by those who find it necessary to imbibe in sadistic pleasures at the expense of the innocent and trusting. The latter category is made up of those who feel they have no other option but to flee the reality of the lives they have been thrust into.

Although at times this is a difficult book to follow, the reader does eventually find connections between the people’s stories within the pages. You feel sympathy for these youngsters and, at times, wonder why no one realized they were in need of help. It’s a fascinating look at the human psyche. Admittedly, it’s not an easy book to read and you do have to pay attention to what the author is saying. Otherwise, you may miss something that will leave the story up in the air later on in the book.

Fascinating, intriguing and eye-opening … this isn’t a book for everyone, but for those who enjoy a deep read, you will find this book marvelous.

Some favorite passages from the book:

A fraud is someone whose whole being, body and soul, is full of lies, all the organs, the skin, not a pore free of them. A liar is a person who tells stories now and then.

What a day! Not sunny but wickedly bright, the sky white as snow and silver at the horizon, the tree’s bare branches suggesting the arms of a rich, emaciated matron, all elbows and knuckles, the bark like cashmere.

Girls aren’t supposed to know they’re pretty. They’re supposed to be oblivious, to believe that beauty is an accident, irrelevant, a trick, but of course no one is oblivious. Girls know where they stand right from the start.

Jesus was a vase and they were the flowers. That’s what Pastor Gold said, and that’s what it felt like, it was the right analogy. Jesus made life seem packed with good people, stem against stem against stem. He made of the crowded world a community; he made of the wilderness a bouquet.

She did not believe in investigating nostalgia, which is merely the costume self-pity wears.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Pump Up Your Book Blog Tour: Redemption

Welcome to the Redemption blog tour. Hosted by Pump Up Your Book, this tour will cover a variety of blogs to promote Laurel Dewey's novel Redemption as a prelude to the release of her third book in the Jane Perry series, which will hit the shelves in July.

From the book jacket:

"Seeking some level of comfort at an AA meeting, Jane encounters a women who knows what Jane does for a living. The woman wants Jane to drive with her from Colorado to Northern California in search of a man who matches the description of the killer who murdered her granddaughter many years before. She's convinced that the man has started to kill again and she wants to stop him."

About the author:

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Calif., Dewey began her career working in public relations. Her writing talents quickly took her into other entertainment avenues. She was an assistant editor at BOP Magazine, helping launch the blockbuster career of teen pop groups. During this time, she wrote a string of successful mystery radio plays for Los Angeles radio networks.

Not satisfied to write in only one genre, Dewey went on to pen a western novella In the Name of the Land, which was nominated for a Silver Spur Fiction Award. A collection of short stories followed, as did a successful stint writing and producing radio ads and promos.

In the early 1990s, Dewey relocated to rural Colorado. But her eclectic writing forte continued as she pursued work as a freelance investigative journalist, advertising and marketing promoter and editor of children’s books. In the mid and late 1990s, two of her books on plant medicine were published, along with 10 booklets and hundreds of articles on alternative health. During this time, she appeared as a featured guest on over 300 national radio and television programs and lectured extensively across the United States and Canada.

In 2007, Dewey released her first fiction novel Protector, a gritty, paranormal crime thriller that follows the rocky life of Denver homicide detective Jane Perry. Redemption, the sequel, was released in June 2009. She is currently writing the third book in the series, Revelations, which is due to be released in July.

Just my opinion:

I wish I had read the first book in this series prior to picking up Redemption. I get the impression some of the characters are developed fully in Protector and by not getting those descriptions, I may have missed out on some of their personalities.

However, I also believe Redemption can clearly stand on its own. It a truly intriguing suspense that will keep readers on the edge of their seat.

It's interesting how the author pulls the reader along with this book. She gives you just enough clues to make you think you know the answer to "whodunit," until you turn the page and wonder if it was someone else. You definitely are kept guessing, which is a plus for lovers of suspense novels.

Plus, throw in some antagonism between some of the main characters, charismatic suspects and tear-jerking murder and you have a combination that's sure to keep your mind within the pages.

The book is well-written and a page turner, so I'm sure you'll enjoy this read.

Some favorite passages from the book:

If we're smart, we realize real quickly that the truth is not what matters when the lie is what you're selling.

When I take my last breath, know this: my heart will be at peace and not at war with my past. I will die with redemption.

For more information about this blog tour, visit Pump Up Your Book. To purchase the book, try this link.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Mountains Bow Down

By Sibella Giorello

From the back of the book:

“Everything’s going to work out. Time away always makes things better … That’s what FBI Special Agent Raleigh Harmon believes as she boards a cruise to Alaska. A land of mountains and gems and minerals, the Last Frontier is a dream destination for this forensic geologist who’s hoping to leave behind a hectic work schedule and an engagement drained of romance. But when a passenger goes missing and winds up dead, Raleigh’s vacation suddenly gets lost at sea. The ship’s security chief tries to rule the death a suicide, but Raleigh’s forensics background points to a much darker conclusion: Somewhere onboard, a ruthless murderer walks free.”

Just my opinion:

This is the second book by this author I’ve reviewed. The first was “The Clouds Roll Away” about a year ago. That review can be found here.

First off, let me say I’m such a huge fan of Sibella Giorello. She is an excellent writer and her stories have such wonderful descriptions (see passages below for examples). She is a former journalist and I love reading books by those who are or have been in my chosen profession. In journalism classes, we learn how to capture the reader’s attention and keep it. Gone are the days of the “inverted pyramid.” Now we are told to keep the reader from putting the paper down after the first couple sentences. After all, we put a lot of work into our stories and we want the reader to stay with us to the end.

The first thing about writing is to have a good “hook” or lead. The first passage I listed below is the opening for this book and as you can tell, it grips you right from page one. And the author doesn’t stop there. She continues to write with such panache and style. Just beautiful!

On top of that, the story is quite compelling. Here is a group of people on a cruise ship through some of the most gorgeous scenery in the world. It’s a cruise many say they would someday like to take. Yet, when a body is found dangling from the side of the ship by a noose, the main character (who just happens to be an FBI agent) immediately suspects foul play, even though most of the evidence points to suicide. Not to be deterred, she launches her own investigation, recruiting the help of the reluctant chief of security. Convincing her boss of her suspicions, he sends out assistance – her former nemesis Jack Stephanson.

This really is a superbly written novel by an author from my own state of Washington! Now, I’m on my way to see if I can find the other two novel in this series about FBI agent Raleigh Harmon before the next book comes out next year.

Some favorite passages from the book:

With the trajectory of launched missiles, the mountains soared from the ocean. Smothered with evergreens, the steeps pointed to a sky so blue it whispered of eternity.

The ocean brushed against the side, whooshing and splashing.

Under the sun shining as though clouds didn’t exist, Juneau clung to the bottom of two mountains, Mt. Roberts and Mt. Juneau. Near ninety degrees, the slopes fell with the long and lush lines of weighted skirts. Between the shops along the waterfront, strips of wooden stairs stitched up the hillsides, embroidering small houses to green forests.

When I saw the federal building, it didn’t exactly lift my spirits. The place was an aesthetic crime, especially amid such fulsome natural beauty.

I could see the gray-green channel as it coursed past Douglas Island. And the mountain forest looked like a quiver of emerald arrows, aimed for a cerulean sky that leased eternity.

Finally dipping, the sun was placing rose-colored crowns on the snowcapped mountains, and the glaciated rock, backlit by golden rays, had the detailed splendor of the finest filigree.

One day the oceans would rise and the mountains bow down, and every last speck of this cherished earth would be forced to recognize true power and true majesty.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Catch my interview at Gatekeepers Post

Those of you who would like to get to know me a little better can read an interview I did at Gatekeepers Post. Check it out here.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Celebrate National Poetry Month: Dylan Thomas

This blog tour is hosted by Savvy Verse & Wit. Click on this link to learn more about this event and to see what other blogs are participating!

This is the house where Dylan Thomas was born.

Dylan Marlais Thomas was born Oct. 27, 1914, in South Wales Swansea. His father was an English literature professor at the local grammar school and would often recite Shakespeare to Thomas before he could read. He loved the sounds of nursery rhymes, which led to his love for rhythmic ballads. Although both of his parents spoke fluent Welsh, Thomas and his older sister never learned the language, so Thomas wrote exclusively in English.

As a child, Thomas was neurotic and sickly. He avoided school, preferring to read on his own. He excelled in English and reading, but he failed in other subjects. He began writing poetry, which was published in school magazines.

He dropped out of school at the age of 16 and became a junior reporter for the South Wales Daily Post. He left that position in December 1932 to concentrate on his poetry. It was during this time, in his late teens, that he wrote more than half of his collected poems. Thomas was obsessed with words — with their sound and rhythm and especially with their possibilities for multiple meanings. 

Dylan Thomas

In 1934, when Thomas was 20, he moved to London, won the Poet's Corner book prize and published his first book, 18 Poems, to great acclaim. The book drew from a collection of poetry notebooks that Thomas had written years earlier, as would many of his most popular books. Thomas also began a habit of alcohol abuse.

During the almost two years between the publication of 18 Poems and 25 Poems (in 1936), Thomas moved back and forth between London and Wales a great deal. In London, he began to meet influential people in the literary world. At this time, Thomas had a mostly long-distance relationship with the poet and novelist Pamela Hansford Johnson, later the wife of novelist C. P. Snow. His drinking became a serious problem and his friends would sometimes take him off to out-of-the-way places in Cornwall and Ireland to remove him from temptation with the hope that he would do more writing.

Two years after the publication of 18 Poems, Thomas met the dancer Caitlin Macnamara at a pub in London. They married July 11, 1937, penniless and without the blessings of their parents.
Despite the passionate love letters Thomas would write to her, the marriage was turbulent, with rumors of both having multiple affairs. His third book, The Map of Love, appeared in August 1939, the year war broke out in Europe.

Dylan Thomas and his wife Caitlin Macnamara

In 1940, Thomas and Macnamara moved to London. Thomas began writing Adventures in the Skin Trade, a novel he never completed, though its first section was subsequently published. To avoid the air raids, the couple left London in 1944. His Deaths and Entrances, containing many of his most famous poems, was published in 1946. They eventually settled at Laugharne in 1949, in the Boat House where Thomas would write many of his later poems.

In January 1950, at the age of 35, Thomas visited America for the first time. His reading tours of the United States, which did much to popularize the poetry reading as a new medium for the art, are famous and notorious, for Thomas was the archetypal Romantic poet of the popular American imagination: he was flamboyantly theatrical, a heavy drinker, engaged in roaring disputes in public and read his work aloud with tremendous depth of feeling and a singing Welsh lilt.

Dylan Thomas

Thomas toured America four times, with his last public engagement taking place at the City College of New York. A few days later, he collapsed in the Chelsea Hotel after a long drinking bout. He returned to his room in great pain and a doctor was summoned, who administered a large dose of morphine sulphate. Thomas slipped into a coma and dies at St. Vincent’s Hospital in New York City Nov. 9, 1953. He was 39. He was buried in Laugharne, and almost 30 years later, a plaque to Dylan was unveiled in Poet's Corner, Westminster Abbey.

Dylan Thomas' grave at Laugharne.

Today, his work is in a permanent exhibition at the Dylan Thomas Center, located in Swansea, Wales. It opened in 1955 through the efforts of American ex-President Jimmy Carter, who was a Thomas enthusiast. The center includes a restaurant and bar, bookshop care, conference rooms and theater.

The Dylan Thomas Center

To find out more about Dylan Thomas and to read some of his work, visit these sites:

The following is one of Dylan Thomas' most famous poems. It was written for his father.

Do not go gentle into that good night  
by Dylan Thomas

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Pump Up Your Book blog tour: Deed So

By Katharine Russell

From the back of the book:

A young girl struggles to understand a tightening web of racial and generational tensions during the turbulent 1960s in the astonishing new novel Deed So by Katharine Russell. All twelve-year-old Haddie Bashford wants is to leave the close-minded world of Wicomico Corners behind, in the hopes that a brighter future awaits elsewhere. But when she witnesses the brutal killing of a black teen, Haddie finds her family embroiled in turmoil fraught with racial tensions. Tempers flare as the case goes to trial, but things are about to get even hotter when an arsonist suddenly begins to terrorize the town.

About the author:

Katharine Russell is a former executive in the health care industry. She has a bachelor's degree in history from Northwestern University, a master's degree in journalism from Boston University and a certificate in creative writing from UCLA's Writers Program.

A descendant of Maryland colonists, who grew up in Southern Maryland, Russell divides her time between Baltimore, Md., and Palm Desert, Calif. Under the pen name Kath Russell, she writes the Pointer Mystery Series.

For more information about Ms. Russell, visit her website at or her blog at

Just my opinion:

I absolutely loved this book! In fact, I really had a difficult time putting it down and read it in no time flat – to the sacrifice of other things I should have been doing. Any time of day or night that I had a few minutes, I could be found with my nose buried in it.

This is the first time I’ve read a book by this author and I was very impressed with her writing. She had such wonderful descriptive phrases (see passages below) that drew you right into the pages.

Having grown up in a similar area during the 1960s, I could easily relate to the tensions the author talked about – the race riots, the war protests, etc. It was, indeed, a turbulent time in the history of our nation and one I hope we never return to. People were outright cruel to each other where politics were concerned. Friendships were broken by the disagreements on where they stood on these topics. And while our boys were fighting for their lives in Vietnam, wars broke out on the streets back home.

Those unfamiliar with those times should definitely read Deed So. Ms. Russell brings to the pages a story that will help bring an understanding of what was happening in the U.S. at the time. Written in the voice of 12-year-old Haddie, the reader begins to see how young people were forced to grow up before their time simply because of the circumstances around them.

An excellent read, well-developed characters, poignant storyline … an all-around good book.

Some favorite passages from the book:

But remember, down here, when we say ‘deed so, what we mean is we recognize the truth.

Her teasing was worse than stepping barefoot on an anthill.

The diminutive coffins looked like flotsam bobbing up the aisle amid the big pallbearers.

The stumps from this year’s harvest left a dark swath like the gap in the mouth of a second-grader.

In the muddy field, the muted swan was gleaning. The heavy bird raised her head to study me. Her breast rose and she flapped her wings, triumphant in the rain as if to say I am in my element, and you are cast adrift, awkward one.

The distance between them yawned like a chasm in the Alps, ferocious with chill.

For more information on this blog tour, visit Pump Up Your Book.
To purchase Deed So, try this link!