Monday, January 31, 2011

Beyond Schizophrenia: Michael’s Journey

Reviewed by Carol Hoyer, PhD, for Reader Views 


As long as I have been a Psychologist, I have always believed, as the author does, that we fear mental health issues because we don't understand them. In this moving book Susan Dunham talks about the journey of her wonderful and talented son through schizophrenia. What started out to be a beautiful life with a brilliant son turned into a nightmare no parent should have to endure and neither should the individual who has encountered a mental health issue.

Part of our problem, as the author states, is that we have healthcare providers who are not adequately trained in mental health issues; individuals are being misdiagnosed or over medicated. Then you have the media, which tosses around psychiatric terms like they were water; no wonder the general population is so confused.

Mike was a wonderful, intelligent son who showed great promise in his life. He was funny, caring and a very sensitive young man. There were two things he wanted out of life- go to college and get into modeling/acting. However, his brain had other plans for him. It started with little unusual behaviors and then, when Susan and her husband Mark went away for five days, a whole new persona took over Mike. After many trips to the hospitals and doctors, Mike was diagnosed with schizophrenia. Susan does an excellent job of describing schizophrenia through her personal experiences and much research. She and Mark were at a loss for what to do – just when things seemed to get better, another issue would pop up. Susan, a nurse, did what most parent(s) would by asking: "Why didn't I know the warning signs? How could I have stopped this? Why couldn't it be me?" The problem is you can't stop it – you can help things go smoother, but you can't stop it.

Through NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), Susan and Mark learned so much from other parents and professionals, along with reading many books on the subject. Family and friends provided additional support- emotional and physical, even when Susan didn't want to tell anyone about Mike and what was going on.

One of the things that Susan discusses is the lack of quality care in some psychiatric facilities. I see this all the time when I visit facilities – it seems as if the staff doesn't care- medicate so they don't bother you. They provide no information or support for families. However, this is not all places- we are getting better but we have a long way to go.

Mike was a fighter.  He didn't let go even when he wanted to end it all; it took years, it wasn't an overnight cure. Actually, there is no cure for schizophrenia.

I loved the honesty in this book and the will to not give up regardless of what others said. Family members are often the only advocates for their loved one. What the author shares will say more about this illness than any textbook or class. If nothing else, readers will learn what it is truly like to live with someone who has a mental illness and have no control over anything.

I applaud Susan and her husband Mark, and their son Mike, for their love, dedication and willingness to share this journey with readers.

I would love to use "Beyond Schizophrenia: Michael's Journey" as required reading for my online psychology classes that I teach. It is written with love – not to make readers feel sorry for the family, but to educate. If you can read one person (and I'm sure Susan has reached more) you have done a fantastic job.

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Multiply and Divide with Sticks and Steps®: Teach this Easy Method in Just 5 Minutes

Reviewed by Christine Watson for Reader Views 

Maureen Stearns obviously has experience working with students.  In her book, "Multiply and Divide with Sticks and Steps®," she shares her clear and simple system for multiplying that I plan to use with my students from here on out.  As a teacher and administrator, I have seen many methods attempted to help students gain understanding of multiplication.  An important aspect to Ms. Stearns' "sticks and steps" method is that she shows concretely what multiplication is, instead of just having students memorize the times tables.  With a better understanding of why multiplication is used, it's much easier for students to make sense of the process.  Without that understanding, true learning is not taking place. 

I am grateful to Ms. Stearns for creating a book that teaches us all how to help students understand several math concepts with better clarity.  She not only teaches multiplication, but also shows how the method works with division, least common multiples, and square roots.  She also uses bigger numbers to show how the process works correctly every time. 

The book is simple to read and understand, and then teach to students.  Students could even read this book and understand it themselves.  There are step-by-step instructions as well as sample problems showing the how the process works.  There is a natural flow throughout the book as concepts get more difficult and problems can still be solved using her method. 

I highly recommend "Multiply and Divide with Sticks and Steps®" to any teacher looking to find a concrete way to teach multiplication and division that literally shows students on paper what is happening during the process.  This is a must-have for math teachers with struggling students.  I will be passing this book along to all of my teachers.

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Monday, January 24, 2011


Reviewed by Marty Shaw for Reader Views 


Snowy is a young slave who has never known any other life than one of servitude. However, he and his friends have figured out a way that allows them to stay together. They dance so well together that they sell for a higher amount as a group than as individuals. The life of a pleasure slave isn't a good one, but Snowy and his friends make the best out of a bad arrangement, and Snowy has special gifts that allow him to make things as easy for them as possible. Snowy is able to use these gifts to catch the eye of a R'il'noid named Derik, who buys Snowy and his friends. As for as masters go, Derik really isn't that bad and Snowy figures that life might not be that bad with him, but then something happens that changes everything. Snowy gets deathly ill from a disease that has little effect on humans. This leads Derik to discover, with the help of his half-brother, Nik, that Snowy isn't human. Snowy only has a few memories of his mother and no memories at all of his father, so he's shocked and frightened to learn that Derik's brother, Lai, is his father.

Snowy is given the name, Roi, and begins the daunting task of learning to live as a free person. The fact that his uncle was formerly his owner is a fact that affects the whole family and causes some understandable tension, especially when Derik's history of taking slaves as lovers is widely known among others. Another source of tension is Lai, who carries a lot of emotional baggage associated with Roi's mom and the memory of her departure. He doesn't know what to do with this child who appeared from nowhere and he fears doing the wrong thing because he feels that he did something wrong in raising his other son, Zhaim, although he can't actually admit that to himself. Will Roi be a chance at redemption or proof that the madman, Zhaim, truly is the result of Lai's parenting?

It's easy to feel a little overwhelmed with "Homecoming" because there are a lot of characters that are tied to one another in some form or another. Fortunately, the author does a good job of keeping things in order so it doesn't become too confusing. Snowy/Roi is a likable character and that makes him entertaining to read about. I felt his fear as a slave trying desperately to keep his little family together, and I felt that fear slide towards terror when he was introduced to his new life. He's known some decent R'il'noid slave owners, but the majority of them were twisted and depraved. As a R'il'noid , will this now become his future? His father, Lai, is a good man with a lot of responsibility and a busy schedule. I wasn't too thrilled with Lai at first. His aloofness made it hard to like him, but the story focuses attention on him towards the middle of the book and I was able to get to know him better and I learned that he was actually a good guy who just desperately needed another perspective in his life to allow him to see some errors in his judgment.

Roi's uncles, Derik and Nik, are both good guys who have the best of intentions for Roi, although Derik's wild past makes others frequently question his motives. Zhaim is the half-brother that nobody wants to be related to and he causes more than his fair share of heartache and heart in Roi's life. Ironically, Zhaim's attitude and constant plotting against Roi provides the fire that allows Roi to fully accept his new station in life. Marna isn't introduced until halfway through the book, but she is easily one of my favorite characters, second only to Roi. She is the definition of a true woman, elegant and formally polite when the situation calls for it, but a passionate warrior that won't hesitate to stand her ground when challenged. She's had centuries of heartache that could have destroyed a lesser spirit, but that history simply makes her stronger and more determined.

While "Homecoming" has an ending that confidently wraps up all the loose ends in this part of Roi's life, I'm left with the hope that Ms Bowling might one day let us see how Roi is doing as an adult. If you're looking for a science fiction adventure that has some thought behind it, I highly recommend this story.

How to Interview Like a Pro: Forty-Three Rules for Getting Your Next Job

Mary Greenwood, J.D., LL.M.
iUniverse (2010)
ISBN 9781450270892
Reviewed by Vicki Landes for Reader Views

Award-winning author Mary Greenwood puts her skills and experience on paper yet again in her latest 'like a pro' installment, "How to Interview Like a Pro: Forty-Three Rules for Getting Your Next Job."  Within the pages, she gives practical and realistic recommendations on how to act, what to say (and even not say), when to follow up, what to wear, and much, much more.  Greenwood's book makes for a quick and easy read with the implementation of her advice just as simple.

"How to Interview Like a Pro" is relevant and widely applicable, especially in today's struggling economy.  Jobseekers need the right tools in order to stand out from other applicants and Greenwood offers exactly that.  Each of the forty-three rules can be used by the young and old, the new and experienced, and even the entry-level to executive hopefuls.  Ultimately, the book seeks to prepare the reader for what they could potentially encounter, such as questions, interviewing arrangements (i.e., one-on-one or panel type scenarios), and even the out of the ordinary situations.  Further, readers are armed with a list of questions and subjects that employers cannot, by law, bring up in the interview process.  These questions include information on race, religion, health and genetic backgrounds, sexual orientation, and even marital status.  Greenwood concludes her book with helpful contact information for each state's employment agencies.

"How to Interview Like a Pro" is organized in short, helpful rules which makes learning each of them quick and painless.  Greenwood writes with authority and experience while giving plenty of encouragement and support.  She also includes some fun anecdotes of her own interviews and what she's learned from them. 

"How to Interview Like a Pro: Forty-Three Rules for Getting Your Next Job" is THE 'down and dirty' for learning how to interview in the most professional and prepared way possible.  Author Mary Greenwood already has two, multiple-award-winning books under her belt and this latest release is sure to garner the same type of attention and honors.  Today's tough economy calls for applicants who know how to make themselves stand out in a sea of nameless, faceless resumes and Greenwood's book gives those elusive 'hows' and 'whys' to make for a more successful employment search.  A must read for any job seeker!

Monday, January 17, 2011

The DeValera Deception

Michael McMenamin & Patrick McMenamin
Enigma Books (2010)
ISBN 9781936274086
Reviewed by Richard R. Blake for Reader Views

"The DeValera Deception" is the first in a series of "Winston Churchill Thrillers" by the father-son writing team Michael and Patrick McMenamin. It is set in the era 1929-1939 when Churchill was without power. His was a lone voice warning against the growing power of Nazi Germany.

In the summer of 1929 Germany plotted with the USSR in a secret military agreement to develop new weapons.  Both countries want to dismember the newly revived independent Poland. To distract Britain from helping Poland, the plot includes a conspiracy to put the new Irish Free State at risk by working with arms dealers. It is the intention of the IRA to buy large quantities of arms in the United States.

Winston Churchill is planning a three-month holiday to North America when Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald asks him to take on an assignment to thwart the plans of the arms deal for an IRA overthrow in the new Irish Free State. The plan calls for Churchill to enlist American President Herbert Hoover to prevent the weapons from being delivered to Ireland. British SIS agents are assigned to the project. However Churchill puts together his own unofficial team to gather evidence.

This team includes Bourke Cockran, Jr., a former military intelligence agent, and Mattie McGary a photo journalist working for William Randolph Hearst. The two are attracted to each other even though they often conflict as they travel form New York to Los Angeles in an effort to discover who is funding the IRA as well as the locations of where the arms are amassed.

Cockran has an agenda of revenge to the kill the leader of the IRA team responsible for the murder of his wife in the Irish Civil War. Mattie has secrets of her own. Churchill, Cockran, and McGary are all targets for assassination.

This is a definite page turner. It is a combination of creative historical fact, speculation, and political controversy. Revenge, greed, and power motivate influential men in powerful leadership roles in government, industry, finance, and in the media.

The authors carefully develop characters both fictional and real-life with additional images superimposed into Churchill's personality to better serve the role played out as the story is unveiled. As a member of English Parliament Churchill is described as: impulsive, a calculating romantic, with a reputation as being a swashbuckler, an opportunist.

This is a novel that includes universal interest, a historical setting with a fictional plot which features all of the elements of the "Mystery Thriller" genre. The authors are steeped in information and details from this era in history and Winston Churchill in particular. The Geneva Plan, IRA, and the politics of Irish freedom are all included in the development of the many-faceted complexities of an intricate plot.

I especially enjoyed the authors' attention to detail and the note of authenticity when describing unique and well-known locations of interest in each of the various locales mentioned in the narrative.

The reader is soon asking the question, "What if? What if this really happened?" "The DeValera Deception" adds a new dimension of international intrigue, terrorism, conspiracy, and personal revenge to the genre of historical fiction which is entertaining and highly informational.


Love More, Feed Less: A Tasty Path Toward Avoiding Childhood Obesity

Randi Lee Levin
The Muffin Lady Inc. (2010)
ISBN 9780974500836
Reviewed by Marissa Libbit for Reader Views

"Love More, Feed Less" by Randi Lee Levin is a guide to feeding your children less with more healthy alternatives.  Contents include "How to Add More Fruits and Vegetables into Your Foods," "Better Choices for Flavor and Health," and "Modeling for a Better Life."  There is also advice on motivating your children to move more.  One chapter titled, "The Power of Homemade Love," however, seems to be the permeating theme for the entire book as the pages are filled with many recipes for the reader to try to incorporate healthier alternatives into the family's diet. 

Ms. Levin's book is easy to read with short informative paragraphs about integrating healthy choices into your family's kitchen with quick hints and simple recipes.  There are also italicized tips such as to use canola oil rather than vegetable or corn oil as it contains the least amount of saturated fats.  While I have not yet prepared any recipes (and I plan to), none appear to have any obscure ingredients.

What I most liked about "Love More, Feed Less" is that the recipes and tips focus on real food that real American families like.  There are suggestions given that include serving pizza, bread, and sweets in ways that are still healthy.  Sometimes the tips are simply to lessen portion size or substitute fatty ingredients, but the family favorites are not made taboo which is much more practical for the average family.  Yes, cooking homemade meals every night can seem daunting, but Levin's ideas for planning ahead or making two meals at once to freeze one can end up saving time in the end.  The extra time in the kitchen will be an act of love that can only benefit your family. Help your family to enjoy the benefits of healthy eating with "Love More, Feed Less."

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Monday, January 10, 2011

Mourning Under the Bridge

C. Amethyst Frost
WingSpan Press (2010)
ISBN 9781595944214
Reviewed by Madeline McElroy (age 9.5) for Reader Views Kids

This book is about a ten-year-old girl named Mourning. She is an orphan who lives with five other orphans under a bridge near a castle. She has been a stray her whole life and being a stray is not easy.

During the winter, Mourning and her friends only had small rags to keep warm and only a small amount of food - they were hungry. Sometimes Mourning and her best friend Jo would sneak around a certain house where a woman who lives there throws parties all the time. After the party, the girls sneak into the house and get some leftovers.

One cold evening, Mourning and her friends heard the orphan hunters. They were all really scared of them because they rode on dragons and captured orphans! When one of Mourning's friends is captured, all the orphans are sad. Later, a carriage pulls up at the castle in front of the bridge. When the man in the carriage spots Mourning, he put a cage on her like she was an animal! To everyone's surprise she finds out that the man who captured her was her older brother! His name was Damien.

Soon everything turned out fine with Mourning and Damien. Although Damien's wife Flora, and her kids Draken, Rowan, and Lacy have a couple fights with Mourning, they soon accept each other and everyone was happy. Damien and Flora adopted Mourning and helped the rest of the orphans find a special place to live. The next chapter will blow your mind, nothing was what it seemed!

I liked "Mourning Under the Bridge" because all the characters and fantasy stuff in the book made it real interesting.  I think kids eight to thirteen would like this book just as much as I did. If I could, I would give this book fifty stars!

The Raindrop Who Lost His Cloud But Found His Purpose!

M.A. Toffle
Beaver's Pond (2010)
ISBN 9781592983537
Reviewed by Cayden Aures (age 6) and Mom for Reader Views Kids

Cayden's comments:

"In this book there is a raindrop and his name is Stewart.  He has a face with eyes, a nose, and a mouth, and he even has arms and legs and hair!  His head is shaped like a raindrop because it is kind of pointy on top.  He lives up in a little cloud in the sky.  He gets bored though and wants to know what his purpose is.  That is what it says in the title, his purpose.  That means that he wants to know what he is there for.  He asks some of the other raindrops and they all say the same thing.  They want to get bigger and fall to land and go into the big ocean.  Stewart doesn't want to do that though.  He wants to do something else but he doesn't know what so he asks some other raindrops on different clouds.  At the end of the book he figures out what he wants to do though."

"I liked the pictures of the raindrops in the book because they all had different faces.  Most of the pictures kind of looked the same though and they weren't very colorful.  I didn't think it was nice when those troublemaker raindrops made fog on the roads though because that is hard for people to drive in the fog.  I liked what Stewart decided to do at the end of the book.  That was a good idea."

Parent's comments:

"The Raindrop Who Lost His Cloud But Found His Purpose!" is one of those books that really make a child think.  I enjoyed the discussions about life purposes that this book opened up with my son.  M.A. Toffle has created an original book that I think would be best enjoyed by children ages 5 to about 8.

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Monday, January 3, 2011

Iraq Through a Bullet Hole: A Civilian Wikileaks

Reviewed by Richard Blake for Reader Views

Iraqi playwright Issam Jameel left Iraq in 1994 to work in Jordan during the regime of Saddam Hussein. He took a job with the Almoustakbale radio station owned by one of the Iraqi opposition groups. This choice labeled him and left him in exile. During his stay in Jordan he converted to Christianity. In 2002 he left Jordan to relocate in Australia, where he resides today. "Iraq Though a Bullet Hole" is his unique account of a two-month return for a family visit to Iraq beginning in July of 2005.

Jameel describes his country as shattered by war, made up of a people traumatized by fear, and a government ruled by intimidation, violence, and intolerance, bent on preventing political reconciliation. His visit to Iraq was an effort to provide comfort to a brother and his family whose son was killed by American forces while guarding an Iraq parliament member. He details his day-to-day activities as he exchanged the comparative safety of Jordan for the uncertainty and hazards of Baghdad.

I enjoyed the insights into the concerns of various family members for Issam and his safety welfare. The ongoing dialog with Sami regarding Islamic faith and his concern for Issam's conversion to Christianity provided an interesting slant on the teachings of the Qur'an,

Maps and photos provided in the appendix add another dimension to the narrative, revealing the devastation, congestion, and culture of central Baghdad, its suburbs, traditional houses, and modern structures. He describes the basic hardships such as food, water, and power. He discusses the difficulty in getting a job and selling real estate in light of the hostile religious factions, ethnic splinter groups, and radical political blocs and their on-going struggle for power.

Jameel gives a fair and honest look at U. S. Involvement in Iraq. His writing is stimulating, authentic, and revealing. "Iraq Through a Bullet Hole" is a powerful and relevant account.

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