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Stephanie S. - Reviews

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29 Gifts: How a Month of Giving Can Change Your Life
29 Gifts: How a Month of Giving Can Change Your Life
Author: Cami Walker
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.2/5 Stars.
 24
Review Date: 11/22/2021


I can understand how some would find this book flaky or a tad goody-goody. Some of the reviews I read prior to reading the book said precisely that. However, I think your enjoyment of the book will all depend on your approach--not only to the book itself--but towards life as a whole.

If you are skeptical of alternative medicines or therapies, unwilling to try meditation or apply something as simple as cognitive gratitude or humble free-form prayer to your day even when all else has failed, then this book is not for you.
Most likely eyes will roll and you'll become annoyed. However, just a slightly more open-minded approach might help readers benefit from what this book is offering.

I enjoyed it. Cami Walker was desperate in her search to learn how to live with a terrible MS diagnosis, especially as she grew weaker and weaker and her young body betrayed her. A healer suggested she try giving "29 gifts in 29 days". It didn't matter what the gifts were, only that they were given mindfully, and without expectation of getting anything in return. She went into this "prescription" hesitantly and skeptically. She felt (as many of us do) that she had nothing of valuable to give. But she took a chance, and gave small things in small ways. Thereafter she found, first, her outlook improving, and then gradually her health as well. The power of positive thinking put to the task.

I struggle with gratitude some days, and it really takes a willful adjustment of my thinking to turn that around. So, the stories that the author shares in this book were inspiring to me in their sheer simplicity. Maybe you will agree. It will depend on your approach.

*** 1/2 Three and a half stars!


Abracadaver: A Father Dowling Mystery
Abracadaver: A Father Dowling Mystery
Author: Ralph McInerny
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 2.5/5 Stars.
 1
Review Date: 9/22/2014


I wanted something light and non-taxing when I picked up this book. This is the first Father Dowling mystery for me, and unfortunately I'm not exactly dazzled. I should have been more clear in my thinking: light and non-taxing, but fun and interesting, too!

My main criticism stems from the fact that Father Dowling is almost a minor character; much (if not most) of the sleuthing is done by a police chief and some other town players. I guess I wanted a better introduction to the Title Character. The mystery was okay, but not such a page-turner I became voracious, which is my idea of a good book. I set this one aside more than once during the days I read it. All-in-all, there just wasn't much pizzazz. I think I will read another in the series to compare, for fairness sake. Surely such a popular series has something to enthrall its audience, and maybe I just missed it here. **1/2 stars and a big "meh" at this time.


All the Stars in the Sky: The Santa Fe Trail Diary of Florrie Mack Ryder (Dear America)
Review Date: 7/29/2020


I generally like these Dear America Books. But I found this one over-written and so it did not evoke a believable style for a supposed 12 year old writer.

For example: "Lo and behold, I saw a comet. Its flashing light streaked across the heavens, and when I gasped, Eliza spotted the fireball, too. A brilliant light flaming the western sky, with a tail as curved as a horseshoe. We cried out, and our whole band stood gaping in awe as the sky put on her light show while the dogs howled like wolves."

Too too much, at least for this reader. The book exasperated me a number of times, unusual for this series. So, not the best one in my humble opinion.

** 1/2 Two and a half stars only.


Annette Sierra Summer
Annette Sierra Summer
Author: Doris Schroeder
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 5/5 Stars.
 1
Review Date: 5/20/2008


Old-fashioned wholesome mystery for young girls or anyone who fondly remembers Annette Funicello. A flashback for sure!


Are You There God?  It's Me, Margaret
Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret
Author: Judy Blume
Book Type: Mass Market Paperback
  • Currently 4.1/5 Stars.
 157
Review Date: 5/28/2009


I read this book only recently (years and years since being a teenager!), because I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. I'd never read anything by Judy Blume before. Though the book (which is from the early '70s) is quite dated in the year 2009(kids today probably will not even understand what a sanitary nakpkin belt is...shudder!!), it does tackle some "heavy" topics that probably still confuse and baffle young girls nowadays---like getting their first periods, and deciding what role religion will play in their lives. So it's not all boys and crushes and silly stuff. I'm glad I read it after all these years, and will pass it along to some young ladies I know when the time comes if it isn't requested here at PBS.


The Art of Pressed Flowers
The Art of Pressed Flowers
Author: Sylvia Pepper
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 4.3/5 Stars.
 2
Review Date: 4/19/2009


At one time, I had three flower presses going at all times!! This book was very helpful because it contains lots of color photographs and many design ideas. If you or your child presses flowers and leaves, and you just need some guidance in how to use them in art projects, you will love this book!


Arthur, For the Very First Time
Arthur, For the Very First Time
Author: Patricia MacLachlan
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
 1
Review Date: 4/3/2011


This was a sweet and gentle book that I think young girls especially will take to. Arthur is 10 and introverted, his parents fight a lot and there is a new sibling on the way that Arthur is not exactly thrilled about. He listens and observes and writes everything in his faithful journal. Then he is sent to spend the summer with his kooky aunt and uncle on their farm. He meets Moira, a young neighbor, who's adventurous and reckless and who challenges Arthur "do" not just "write about it". And in time he does. Some rather weighty issues are tackled here, but with a very gentle hand. I really enjoyed this endearing and thoroughly believable book.


The Autobiography of Donovan : The Hurdy Gurdy Man
The Autobiography of Donovan : The Hurdy Gurdy Man
Author: Donovan Leitch
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 2.6/5 Stars.
 4
Review Date: 3/7/2021


I broke my own Cardinal Rule of Reading with this book. My cardinal rule is, I give any book 50 pages, and by then I had better be enthralled, or else. Well, at page 50, I was not enthralled at all. I found his wording ponderous, tedious and very self-absorbed. He rambled, often sinking into a thick Scottish brogue of sorts which I found difficult to navigate. I was done, I thought.

But something---I am not sure what--told me to give it another chapter, and I did, and from then I became interested. His fame and success came quite meteorically. He was a rambling and homeless (by choice) teenaged minstrel one month, and then an almost overnight superstar along side the Beatles and Dylan the next. I enjoyed reading about the peaceful message he longed to convey in his songs. He claims the term Flower Power was coined in a review of one of his concerts.

This book spans only the first 24 years of his life. By 24, he was ready to walk away and raise a family. I wished he would have let us readers in on a little of how he eventually evolved or changed as he grew older and, presumably, wiser. The book basically ends in 1970 and that's 50 years ago now, and was even still 35 years in the past when the book was published in 2005. There must surely have been more to tell!

As a Donovan fan, I felt compelled to read the book. If you are not a fan, you might find the pages rambling and dreamy and very self-indulgent. You will decide...

** 1/2 Two and a half stars!


B for Buster
B for Buster
Author: Iain Lawrence
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
 1
Review Date: 1/30/2010
Helpful Score: 1


"B for Buster" really made me rethink--and appreciate--what YA is all about. There are very mature subjects covered in this book: war, death, fear, loyalty, friendship, history, prejudice, and so much more--all told from the perspective of a 16 year old boy who runs away from an abusive home and joins the airforce in WWII. He envisions super heroes and returning home to victory parades--only to find himself mortally terrified after his very first mission and desperate to get out and go home thereafter. Until he can, he is determined to stay loyal to his crewmates and hide the fact that he is underaged, all while again and again mustering up the courage to board his bomber, the B for Buster, and fly missions. Iain Lawrence again delivers a thoroughly believable young hero emeshed in a moving and thrilling story. Very recommended reading!


The Beardstown Ladies' Common-Sense Investment Guide: How We Beat the Stock Market-And How You Can, Too
Review Date: 6/3/2009


Good book, with good advice for beginners who are a tad nervous about investing mostly because they don't know much about the stock market. Also an excellent starting point if you are thinking of joining (or creating) an investment club.


Review Date: 6/3/2009


Full of common sense tips about how to create your own nest egg and secure your own finanacial future. I enjoyed the no-nonsense approach, and the mini-biographies of each member. They really are just plain folk who made good sound choices and have great advice to share.


Beautiful Boy: A Father's Journey Through His Son's Meth Addiction
Beautiful Boy: A Father's Journey Through His Son's Meth Addiction
Author: David Sheff
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.8/5 Stars.
 161
Review Date: 3/29/2013
Helpful Score: 2


I could not put this book down. David Sheff's description of his son's descent into drugs was gut-wrenching. His sadness, horror, guilt, fear and struggle to hold onto hope, all shine through on every page. The absolutely beautiful writing made it easy, even joyous for me to read, even while it broke my heart. Highly recommended.

****** Six stars out of five, and three thrumbs up.


The Best of Cooking with 3 Ingredients
The Best of Cooking with 3 Ingredients
Author: Ruthie Wornall
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.3/5 Stars.
 2
Review Date: 3/5/2015


This book gave me my favorite cookie recipe of all time (using any number of ingredients!), which I still use to this day: Miracle Peanut Butter Cookies. 1 cup peanut butter, 1 cup sugar, 1 egg. That's it!! Combine all. Roll into balls. Flatten and crisscross with a fork dipped in sugar. Bake on greased cookie sheet at 375 for 8-10 minutes. Delish!! Simple!! No other crap! This recipe alone makes me glad I have this book!

That said, this book relies heavily on using pre-packaged foods, making it simple to only need 3 ingredients that way. As I mature I am trying to cook and bake more from scratch. However, this book is loaded with extremely simple and fast recipes, and I believe most cooks will be happy to have it in their cookbook library.

*** Three stars!


Billy Boy : A Novel
Billy Boy : A Novel
Author: Bud Shrake
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.8/5 Stars.
 3
Review Date: 6/27/2022


An unexpected treat! Billy Boy is coming of age in 1951, recently suffering the loss of his mother and hitting the road with his wild and reckless father. His father passes his love and skill for the game of golf to Billy, and soon Billy finds himself trying to make his own way on the greens of a ritzy country club.

I had no expectations at all when I began this book, but was quickly charmed by Billy, his determination and his take on things. Every character was necessary and well drawn. Like I said, an unexpected treat!

**** 1/2 Four and a half stars!


Black Beauty Grows Up (Anna Sewell's the Adventures of Black Beauty, Bk 1)
Review Date: 5/27/2009


A wonderful beginner book for a young reader. Told first person by Black Beauty, this all-too-brief book tells his story from pony through his first few homes and masters. Young girls especially will fall in love with Black Beauty....and grow up wanting a horse of their own!!


BORN ON 4TH JULY
BORN ON 4TH JULY
Author: Ron kovic
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.3/5 Stars.
 5
Review Date: 2/17/2010


I have avoided this book for many years, mostly becaue Tom Cruise starred in the movie, and I am not a Cruise fan. I also mistakenly believed it would be a lengthy discourse on the evils of America. However, the book surprised me completely and touched me deeply and I wish I'd picked it up sooner!

Kovic was indeed born on the 4th of July, and grew up a typical kid of the 50s and 60s, emeshed in patriotism, very idealistic, believing in good guys and all-American heroes. This book begins with his injury--he was paralyzed from the chest down on his second tour in Vietnam--and chronicles the horrors of his hospitalizations (honestly, this book is an indictment of the often inhumane and deplorable treatment he received and witnessed--and should be required reading for all hospitals staffs, aides, doctors and nurses), plus his utter heartbreak over his lost body. It wasn't until years afterward, as he struggled with the additional burdens of several incidents on the battlefield that haunted him, that he came to believe the war was morally wrong.

His writing style is clear, simple, descriptive, thoroughly moving and very very readable. I highly recommend this book.

***** Five stars!


The Boy in the Burning House
The Boy in the Burning House
Author: Tim Wynne-Jones, Tim Wynne-Jones
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
 3
Review Date: 1/6/2010


I am currently on a YA kick---and this book is a big reason why. The hero, Jim Hawkins is a totally believable 14 year old boy. He's just emerging from a deep grief following his father's apparent suicide. He valiantly steps up to fill his father's shoes to help his mother keep their farm going.

Then one day he meets a wild, mysterious young girl named Ruth Rose, who seems to delight in taunting him....until she reveals that Jim's father may not have taken his own life. Perhaps it was murder? Reluctantly, Jim forces himself out of his shell, befriends Ruth Rose despite being afraid of her, and begins to follow some clues.

This book tackles grief, depression, religion and a host of other real issues all while telling an engrossing and enjoyable story. I liked especially that Jim and his mother were close, on the same side, worried about each other, but that they argued and bugged each other just the same. Very believable. The writing style is not frivolous, but perfectly descriptive. I highly recommend this book!!

****1/2 Four and a half stars!


Boy O'Boy (Canadian Library Association Book of the Year for Children Award (Awards))
Review Date: 3/15/2011


This was a wonderful book. At the onset, it's just about a young boy in a rather unhappy house: his beloved grandmother just died, his parents argue all the time, and his twin brother is disabled. Then, it reveals a subtle underlayer--of child molestaton, by trusted adults in very normal settings. For me, this was quite a page-turner. A short book, but long on message and depth. Beautifuly and very clearly written. Recommended!!


Brady Bunch Book
Brady Bunch Book
Author: Andy Edelstein, Frank Lovece
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.4/5 Stars.
 4
Review Date: 3/9/2015


As a self-proclaimed BIG Brady Bunch fan, I must say this book fell short for me. I prefer books that look back at the Brady Bunch with fondness; the writers of this book instead seemed derisive and jeering to me. I guess they are fans of the show (why else write a book about it?). But their commentary was snarky instead of humorous, and the overview of this world was not very complimentary. The BB is all about nostalgia and kitsch these days, not so much about making fun of the mores, times and fashions, and in this regard the writers failed to deliver.

In my opinion, Barry Williams' "I Was A Teenage Greg" was a much better look-back. Plus his was a first-hand account, and contained a full episode guide, too, making this tome virtually unnecessary.

Lastly, this book was published in 1990--far too long ago for any satisfying (or even relevant, at this point) "updates" on the cast. Of course, a book can't help when it was published. But, it does affect the satisfaction of the reader (THIS reader anyway). So, all in all, I didn't love this book.

**1/2 Two and a half stars only.


Brian's Return (Brian's Saga, Bk 4)
Brian's Return (Brian's Saga, Bk 4)
Author: Gary Paulsen
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 4.2/5 Stars.
 7
Review Date: 3/21/2015


I like Gary Paulsen's writing style. His word choices are simple and non-taxing, but perfectly describe scenes and and feelings without any unnecessary gush. For instance:

While still back home and before deciding to return to the wild, Brian is accosted by a bully: "Brian came off the ground like a spring. His eyes, his mind, searched for a weapon, something, anything that he could use but there was nothing; pavement, a brick wall, a glass door. Nothing loose. It didn't matter. The thought did not slow his movement, and he had himself. He had his hands." Brian's resiliency--and his core being--shine through, yet the sentences are simple and unfussy. I appreciate that.

Even better, this story of his decision to return to the woods, possibly for good, is believable and interesting from start to finish.

***1/2 Three and a half stars!


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