Everyday Tidbits...

Be Kind. Do Good. Love is a Verb.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Might As Well Laugh About It Now...Review

About the book:
Recollections, wisdom, and advice from the beloved entertainer, American icon, mother of eight children, and New York Times bestselling author.

When the Donny and Marie show ended its award-winning run on ABC in 1979, 19-year-old Marie was ready to leave the stage lights for a secretary’s life—she had prepared to say “goodbye” to fleeting fame by studying shorthand and typing! Clearly, life took a different turn.

Now, decades later and still a beloved superstar, Marie opens the door to her thoughts on many of her milestones and missteps, both the public and the personal. In a life brimming with a mixture of charm and chaos, blessings and hilarious bungles, victory and vulnerability, Marie recounts for her “family of fans” her greatest successes as well as her most crushing disappointments, career pressures and expectations, marriage and divorce, depression, weight issues, tough choices, honors and awards, and the incredible joys and challenges of raising children. Through it all, Marie has bounced back time and again with unstoppable enthusiasm, resilience, and an unbeatably healthy and positive outlook on life.

Might as Well Laugh About It Now, she imparts her insights on surviving all of life’s roadblocks and detours in a collection of friendly musings and heartening advice about learning to survive— and moving forward—with humor and optimism. 

Entertaining, but disappointing. I thoroughly enjoyed Marie's first book, Behind the Smile. This one was a bit of a let down. More a series of vignettes than an autobiography or memoir, Marie shares life experiences and the wisdom she gained from her own experiences as well as the example of others. Her main point is that life is better when you have a sense of humor and can laugh about it. I can't disagree.

What I found disappointing is that much of Marie's humor is meant to distract you from getting too close. I've seen this in interviews she's done and sometimes her humor seems inappropriate. There's also a sense of exaggeration that leaves you wondering what really happened and what is embellished.

I have no doubts that Marie's life hasn't been easy. I know she's overcome a great deal with regards to abuse, postpartum depression and divorce. I admire that pluck and the ability to handle it when everything goes wrong.

An entertaining, light read.   Thanks to my local library for having a copy I could borrow.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 6/09

* *
2/5 Stars

Monday, June 29, 2009

In Praise of Stay-at-Home Moms...Review

About the book:

They number in the millions and they are incredibly important to families and to our society, yet they are under-appreciated, little respected, and even controversial.

Who are they?
They are the stay-at-home moms.

These are women who know in their hearts that staying home to raise their children is the right choice for the whole family. Some do it from the outset of their marriages, while others make the difficult transition from career-driven women to homemakers. Either way, it is a choice that is incredibly rich and rewarding, not to mention challenging.

Now Dr. Laura, building on principles developed during her long career as a licensed marriage and family therapist, provides a wealth of advice and support, as well as compassion and inspiration, to women as they navigate the wonders and struggles of being stay-at-home moms.
Learn how:
  • to hold your head high and deal with naysayers;
  • to see the benefits of being home not only for your children but also for your marriage;
  • to understand the changes you see in yourself;
  • to realize that the sacrifices you endure now will make for lasting bonds and a stronger family, in addition to a more cohesive community.
In Praise of Stay-at-Home Moms is a special book, a profound and unique understanding of how important it is for mothers to raise their own children.

Having been a work-outside-the-home mom longer than I've been a stay-at-home mom, I can relate to both sides of this "issue".

While she claims to "come to praise at-home moms, not to bury full-time working moms", Dr. Laura's position is clear: stay at home moms are better. And, throughout the book, she does just that, praise stay-at-home moms. I did feel that she was hard on working moms and has the assumption that every woman who works has made the choice to work, and that if they just made more sacrifices it would be better. Sometimes that just isn't possible and working is necessary for some. And mothers who work from necessity do what they can to minimize the negative impacts on their children.

Dr. Laura talks about her own decision to stay home with her son, although she worked part-time and was able to manage it so that she and her husband took care of their son, rather than daycare. She's pretty harsh on daycare situations, which really bothered me. Perhaps an institutionalized childcare setting isn't ideal, and yes, parental influence should be the most important. However, her opinions on daycare situations were very generalized, in that all daycare is bad. I have to disagree. Do I wish I could have been with my children every moment of their infancy? Yes. Are they deficient in some way because I wasn't? No. They are happy, intelligent, well-adjusted children. Their in-home daycare provider was a blessing to us and is still a very dear friend.

As far as society goes, the influence of an involved, attentive parent is important. Having moral values influenced and reinforced at home is necessary. Can those things be done with working parents? Absolutely. Are working mothers the ideal? That depends on your personal situation and opinion. I did appreciate the praise and the pat on the back that Dr. Laura give SAHMs. Staying at home isn't easy, and often, it requires sacrifices of time and money, but I am very grateful that I am able to be home now.

I think that this is a terrific book. I think that SAHMs should read it, and I think their husbands should read it too. I also think it's a perfect book for women who stay at home, but feel inadequate and defensive about it. There are anecdotes and listener experiences and straight-forward Dr. Laura advice and opinions. I understand her purpose for the book and I applaud it.

Thanks to my local library for having a copy I could borrow. You can purchase your own copy of this book here.

Read 6/09

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Prairie Tale...Review

About the book:
A fascinating, heartbreaking, and ultimately uplifting tale of self-discovery from the beloved actress who earned a permanent place in the hearts of millions when she was just a child.

To fans of the hugely successful television series Little House on the Prairie, Melissa Gilbert grew up in a fantasy world with a larger-than-life father, friends and family she could count on, and plenty of animals to play with. Children across the country dreamed of the Ingalls' idyllic life -- and so did Melissa.

She was a natural on camera, but behind the scenes, life was more complicated. Adopted as a baby into a legendary show business family, Melissa wrestled with questions about her identity and struggled to maintain an image of perfection her mother created and enforced. Only after years of substance abuse, dysfunctional relationships, and made-for-television movies did she begin to figure out who she really was.

With candor and humor, the cherished actress traces her complicated journey from buck-toothed Laura "Half-pint" Ingalls to Hollywood starlet, wife, and mother. She partied with the Brat Pack, dated heartthrobs like Rob Lowe and bad boys like Billy Idol, and began a self-destructive pattern of addiction and codependence. Left in debt after her first marriage, and struggling to create some sense of stability, she eventually realized that her career on television had earned her popularity, admiration, and love from everyone but herself.

Through hard work, tenacity, sobriety, and the blessings of a solid marriage, Melissa has accepted her many different identities and learned to laugh, cry, and forgive in new ways. Women everywhere may have idolized her charming life on Little House on the Prairie, but Melissa's own unexpectedly honest, imperfect, and down-to-earth story is an inspiration.

Melissa Gilbert weaves an interesting and enthralling tale of life in Hollywood. She is open about the fact that she was adopted at birth, and how that information affected her perceptions of herself. She name drops at every turn, which is understandable, as she grew up in a show business family and her friends and acquaintances from an early age were actors. If you've thought of Melissa as a sweet, innocent actress, she shatters that perception. She's very open about the fact that she has addictive tendencies and because of that, struggled with alcoholism and substance abuse for years, before finally becoming sober.

Melissa talks a great deal about her time on Little House on the Prairie and the father figure that Michael Landon was to her, and his influence. Her little insights into the filming of the show were fun. She chronicles her long-term, often volatile romance with Rob Lowe and their adventures with the Brat Pack (including Tom Cruise and Emilio Estevez), and her drug use. She writes of her first marriage and divorce; of meeting her second husband, Bruce Boxleitner and their romance, and the subsequent premature birth of their son, Michael. Melissa also chronicles her stint as SAG President, and includes some snarky commentary about various difficult actors and actresses.

While entertaining and enthralling, this is the memoir of a woman who struggled with many issues throughout her life, including her identity, the need to present a perfect front, and her attraction toward dysfunctional, dangerous men. The book is a veritable Who's Who in Hollywood, including who slept with whom.

This was a book that I had high expectations for and while I wound up liking it, I was also disappointed at the same time. The narration was often disjointed and jumped around a bit. However, my biggest disappointment was in the amount of profanity, which is what kept me from giving it three stars. The crass, prolific vulgarity was distracting and unnecessary. Other than that, it was an entertaining read.

Thanks to my local library for having a copy I could borrow.

Read 6/09

* *
2/5 Stars

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Bollywood Piano...Review

About the book:

Parents, who can’t afford a piano tutor for any reason such as time, distance, finance etc., now have an option to musically educate their children and help them become successful.

In today’s sluggish economy when many parents are laid-off or fear loss of job, a better investment is to purchase The Bollywood Piano (ISBN 978-1934938355, 2009, 96 pages, Mill City Press, $14.95 www.bollywoodpiano.com) by Rajan Shah and conveniently stay at home while their children learn to master the piano in about 48 hours.

About three years ago Rajan Shah, an accomplished musician, was teaching his daughters to play the piano and became so frustrated purchasing one instructional book after another that Rajan decided to write his own piano book.

“The problem with the books I purchased for my daughters is they would introduce the basic scale of C and maybe G and then you’d have to buy another book to advance to another skill,” explains Shah. “So I wrote the complete instruction book that allows the reader to learn to play in just 30 minutes and to master the piano in the 48 hours it takes to read the 96 pages and take the exercises. So you only have to spend $14.95 for your child to learn the piano!”

The Bollywood Piano allows the student to learn to sight read or play their favorite song by ear, to articulate chord progressions, and to compose their own songs – all within one book. The Bollywood Piano is a complete method to learn keyboard based instruments like piano, accordion, and digital keyboards.

This logically laid out instructional manual offers an accelerated and innovative method by using old-fashioned songs like Jingle Bells to teach basic musical knowledge. Bollywood pop songs are then integrated to significantly shorten the learning curve for the sight reading process. From this base more advanced topics are introduced that require students to accurately read musical notation instead of simply guessing the note and its duration.

Rajan Shah included the Bollywood music in his book so students do not take a guess on a note or on the duration of a note as they might for American songs they are familiar with.

Rajan Shah’s intent in writing The Bollywood Piano is for students to fully comprehend music rather than enduring countless practices just to learn the scale, a few notes and chords. Instead Bollywood Piano students will learn to play the 16th note in the first few chapters while mastering the basic scale.

“Most songs can be easily performed once students get accustomed to the 16th note,” says Shah, “Upon successful completion of the book, the absolute beginners ages 8 and older will be able to perform all kind of music and gain the knowledge and skills that will help them become an expert pianist.

Purchasers of the book will have access to free mp3 downloads that were written to advance chord recognition skills and to enhance the student’s ability to play music by ear.

About Rajan Shah:
Rajan Shah is a composer, music arranger and a seasoned pianist with more than 30 years experience. Rajan has performed in more than 1,200 live shows in India and America, and recorded commercials and music videos in Bollywood. He is an adjunct professor at Northern Virginia Community College, and has written arrangements for more than 40 songs in 10 years. He became an author to teach his two daughters how to play the piano.

My Review:
I have played the piano since I was 11. I only took lessons for about two years, and I've always regretted quitting. However, I love to play the piano and am a fairly good master of simplified pieces.

When the opportunity to review The Bollywood Piano came, I was intrigued. I was not familiar with any Bollywood music, and the idea that one book could teach you the basics in two days. I'm pleased to say that the book lived up to my expectations.

I sat down at the piano, with the book and my ten-year old son. Since piano lessons aren't an option for us at the moment, I've been going through my old primary music books with him and he has grasped the concept of some things. However, within minutes of sitting down with The Bollywood Piano, he was playing Ode to Joy with his right hand. I love hearing my son play Beethoven, even just a simplified version!

I learned a great deal from the book: so many points and piano principles that I didn't remember, if I had known them at all. It really is a great, overall instruction manual. You can go through it as fast or as slowly as you want. We're taking a bit of a slow route with it.

Easily recommended for those wanting to learn how to play the piano or who want something to use as they teach their children.

Thanks to Scott Lorenz and Westwind Communications for the opportunity to review this book. You can find out more about Rajan Shah here. You can purchase the book here and here.

Read 6/09

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Talking to the Dead...Review

About the book:
Twenty-something Kate Davis can't seem to get this grieving widow thing right. She's supposed to put on a brave face and get on with her life, right? Instead she's camped out on her living room floor, unwashed, unkempt, and unable to sleep-because her husband Kevin keeps talking to her.

Is she losing her mind?
Kate's attempts to find the source of the voice she hears are both humorous and humiliating, as she turns first to an "eclectically spiritual" counselor, then a shrink with a bad toupee, a mean-spirited exorcist, and finally group therapy. There she meets Jack, the warmhearted, unconventional pastor of a ramshackle church, and at last the voice subsides. But when she stumbles upon a secret Kevin was keeping, Kate's fragile hold on the present threatens to implode under the weight of the past. and Kevin begins to shout.

Will the voice ever stop? Kate must confront her grief to find the grace to go on, in this tender, quirky story about second chances.

A terrific, thought-provoking book.

Kate Davis can't move forward after her husband's sudden death. She refuses to go upstairs to their bedroom. She finds even the most mundane, normal activities difficult, and soon finds herself sleeping in the living room, forgetting to shower and unable to sleep. The fact that Kevin keeps talking to her, doesn't help. As Kate tries to figure out why she hears Kevin's voice, she finds herself running from an attempted exorcism by a disturbed pastor, participating in an eclectic group therapy, visiting a psychiatrist's office, and finally, admitted to a mental hospital.

When she meets Jack, a non-traditional pastor of a grassroots church, she begins her return to finding her life again. But, when Kate discovers Kevin's hidden secret and confronts her own, buried memories, her tenuous hold on reality shatters.

As Kate struggles to confront her grief, she wonders if she will ever find the peace she desperately craves, and the ability to gain a second chance at life.

I enjoyed Kate's voice. I read the book in a day, I couldn't put it down! Bonnie Grove has captured grief, and takes you on an incredible journey as you walk through Kate's mind and life with her. As experiences unfold, you hurt for Kate and cheer for her at the same time.

The novel is Christian, but the focus is not at all preachy. In fact, any real mention of Christianity doesn't come until you're well into the story. The themes of betrayal and abortion are mature, but dealt with in a realistic manner.

An interesting, compelling story, and a terrific debut novel. I look forward to reading more from Bonnie.

Thanks to First Wild Card and David C Cook for the opportunity to review this. You can read the first chapter here. You can find out more about Bonnie Grove here. You can get your own copy here.

Read 6/09

* * *
3/5 Stars

Talking to the Dead...Wild Card!

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Talking to the Dead

David C. Cook; New edition edition (June 1, 2009)


Bonnie Grove started writing when her parents bought a typewriter, and she hasn’t stopped since. Trained in Christian Counseling (Emmanuel Bible College, Kitchener, ON), and secular psychology (University of Alberta), she developed and wrote social programs for families at risk while landing articles and stories in anthologies. She is the author of Working Your Best You: Discovering and Developing the Strengths God Gave You; Talking to the Dead is her first novel. Grove and her pastor husband, Steve, have two children; they live in Saskatchewan.

Author website: www.davidccook.com – www.bonniegrove.com

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition edition (June 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1434766411
ISBN-13: 978-1434766410


©2009 Cook Communications Ministries. Talking to the Dead by Bonnie Grove. Used with permission. May not be further reproduced. All rights reserved.

Kevin was dead and the people in my house wouldn’t go home. They mingled after the funeral, eating sandwiches, drinking tea, and speaking in muffled tones. I didn’t feel grateful for their presence. I felt exactly nothing.

Funerals exist so we can close doors we’d rather leave open. But where did we get the idea that the best approach to facing death is to eat Bundt cake? I refused to pick at dainties and sip hot drinks. Instead, I wandered into the back yard.

I knew if I turned my head I’d see my mother’s back as she guarded the patio doors. Mom would let no one pass. As a recent widow herself, she knew my need to stare into my loss alone.

I sat on the porch swing and closed my eyes, letting the June sun warm my bare arms. Instead of closing the door on my pain, I wanted it to swing from its hinges so the searing winds of grief could scorch my face and body. Maybe I hoped to die from exposure.

Kevin had been dead three hours before I had arrived at the hospital. A long time for my husband to be dead without me knowing. He was so altered, so permanently changed without my being aware.

I had stood in the emergency room, surrounded by faded blue cotton curtains, looking at the naked remains of my husband while nurses talked in hushed tones around me. A sheet covered Kevin from his hips to his knees. Tubes, which had either carried something into or away from his body, hung disconnected and useless from his arms. The twisted remains of what I assumed to be some sort of breathing mask lay on the floor. “What happened?” I said in a whisper so faint I knew no one could hear. Maybe I never said it at all. A short doctor with a pronounced lisp and quiet manner told me Kevin’s heart killed him. He used difficult phrases; medical terms I didn’t know, couldn’t understand. He called it an episode and said it was massive. When he said the word massive, spit flew from his mouth, landing on my jacket’s lapel. We had both stared at it.

When my mother and sister, Heather, arrived at the hospital, they gazed speechlessly at Kevin for a time, and then took me home. Heather had whispered with the doctor, their heads close together, before taking a firm hold on my arm and walking me out to her car. We drove in silence to my house. The three of us sat around my kitchen table looking at each other.

Several times my mother opened her mouth to speak, but nothing came out. Our words had turned to cotton, thick and dry. We couldn’t work them out of our throats. I had no words for my abandonment. Like everything I knew to be true had slipped out the back door when I wasn’t looking.

“What happened?” I said again. This time I knew I had said it out loud. My voice echoed back to me off the kitchen table.

“Remember how John Ritter died? His heart, remember?” This from Heather, my younger, smarter sister. Kevin had died a celebrity’s death.

From the moment I had received the call from the hospital until now, I had allowed other people to make all of my bereavement decisions. My mother and mother-in-law chose the casket and placed the obituary in the paper. Kevin’s boss at the bank, Donna Walsh, arranged for the funeral parlor and even called the pastor from the church that Kevin had attended until he was sixteen to come and speak. Heather silently held my hand through it all. I didn’t feel grateful for their help.

I sat on the porch swing, and my right foot rocked on the grass, pushing and pulling the swing. My head hurt. I tipped it back and rested it on the cold, inflexible metal that made up the frame for the swing. It dug into my skull. I invited the pain. I sat with it; supped with it.

I opened my eyes and looked up into the early June sky. The clouds were an unmade bed. Layers of white moved rumpled and languid past the azure heavens. Their shapes morphed and faded before my eyes. A Pegasus with the face of a dog; a veiled woman fleeing; a villain; an elf. The shapes were strange and unreliable, like dreams. A monster, a baby—I wanted to reach up to touch its soft, wrinkled face. I was too tired. Everything was gone, lost, emptied out.

I had arrived home from the hospital empty handed. No Kevin. No car—we left it in the hospital parking lot for my sister to pick up later. “No condition to drive,” my mother had said. She meant me.

Empty handed. The thought, incomplete and vague, crept closer to consciousness. There should have been something. I should have brought his things home with me. Where were his clothes? His wallet? Watch? Somehow, they’d fled the scene.

“How far could they have gotten?” I said to myself. Without realizing it, I had stood and walked to the patio doors. “Mom?” I said as I walked into the house.

She turned quickly, but said nothing. My mother didn’t just understand what was happening to me. She knew. She knew it like the ticking of a clock, the wind through the windows, like everything a person gets used to in life. It had only been eight months since Dad died. She knew there was little to be said. Little that should be said. Once, after Dad’s funeral, she looked at Heather and me and said, “Don’t talk. Everyone has said enough words to last for eternity.”

I noticed how tall and straight she stood in her black dress and sensible shoes. How long must the dead be buried before you can stand straight again? “What happened to Kevin’s stuff?” Mom glanced around as if checking to see if a guest had made off with the silverware.

I swallowed hard and clarified. “At the hospital. He was naked.” A picture of him lying motionless, breathless on the white sheets filled my mind. “They never gave me his things. His, whatever, belongings. Effects.”

“I don’t know, Kate,” she said. Like it didn’t matter. Like I should stop thinking about it. I moved past her, careful not to touch her, and went in search of my sister.

Heather sat on my secondhand couch in my living room, a two seater with the pattern of autumn leaves. She held an empty cup and a napkin; dark crumbs tumbling off onto the carpet. Her long brown hair, usually left down, was pulled up into a bun. She looked pretty and sad. She saw me coming, her brown eyes widening in recognition. Recognition that she should do something. Meet my needs, help me, make time stand still. She quickly ended the conversation she was having with Kevin’s boss, and met me in the middle of the living room.

“Hey,” she said, touching my arm. I took a small step back, avoiding her warm fingers.

“Where would his stuff go?” I blurted out. Heather’s eyebrows snapped together in confusion. “Kevin’s things,” I said. “They never gave me his things. I want to go and get them. Will you come?”

Heather stood very still for a moment, straight backed like she was made of wood, then relaxed. “You mean at the hospital. Right, Kate? Kevin’s things at the hospital?” Tears welled in my eyes. “There was nothing. You were there. When we left, they never gave e anything of his.” I realized I was trembling.

Heather bit her lower lip, and looked into my eyes. “Let me do that for you. I’ll call the hospital—” I stood on my tiptoes and opened my mouth. “I’ll go,” she corrected before I could say anything. “I’ll go and ask around. I’ll get his stuff and bring it here.”

“I need his things.”

Heather cupped my elbow with her hand. “You need to lie down. Let me get you upstairs, and as soon as you’re settled, I’ll go to the hospital and find out what happened to Kevin’s clothes, okay?”

Fatigue filled the small spaces between my bones. “Okay.” She led me upstairs. I crawled under the covers as Heather closed the door, blocking the sounds of the people below.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The King's Legacy...Review

About the book:
In a land and time far from our own, there was an enchanted kingdom ruled by a benevolent and much-loved king. He had led his people through times of uncertainty and turmoil into a golden age of prosperity and peace.

Now nearing the end of his storied reign, the king longs to leave a lasting legacy for future generations. He considers soaring monuments, precious coins bearing his likeness, larger-than-life statues. But then the king's most trusted advisor steps forth with a remarkable idea: To discover the wisdom of the ages, the greatest secret of the known world to benefit the entire human race.

So the king invites citizens from all walks of life and all corners of the realm to share with him the best of their life lessons. Yet as the king encounters a wealth of wisdom from his subjects, he faces a new dilemma, just how to determine the single greatest truth in life. Little does he know that the profound answer will come from the most unexpected and unassuming of places.

A little book that packs a powerful punch.

In a land far away, a good and well-loved king had led his people through times of uncertainty and turmoil into a golden age of prosperity and peace. As his reign was now ending, the king desired to leave some kind of legacy for his people and future generations. He considers a monument or some kind of coin. But, wishing for more, he turns to his trusted advisers and one suggests that the king discover the wisdom of the ages. He can then leave the greatest secret, the best wisdom to his people. The king, unable to determine on his own what that wisdom is, invites the citizens of his kingdom to share their wisdom and life lessons. The king is hopeful that once the people have spoken, he will know what the greatest wisdom is.

Once the king decides to hear from the people, each chapter is the wisdom of those people: the Healer, the Teacher, the Parent, the Soldier, the Farmer, and more. Each person shares a life lesson and the king is touched by each one. As time progresses and he hears from the people, he finds it difficult to settle on one particular piece of wisdom. Many principles, while familiar, were still quite profound: I found myself underlining passages and sharing them with my husband, who is now reading the book.

The greatest wisdom finally comes to the king from a delightful and unexpected source. The book is short and doesn't take long to read. It would be a fabulous book to read aloud with your family, as it could provoke some good discussions and teaching moments.

Thanks to First Wild Card and David C Cook for the opportunity to review this. You can read the first chapter here. You can find out more about Jim Stovall here. You can purchase this terrific book for your own library here.

Read 6/09

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Sunday, June 21, 2009

DVD: Stretch 4 Life...Review by the Doctor

About the DVD:

Flexibility is an important aspect of overall health and well-being. The body has an enormous and amazing way of healing, and incorporating simple stretching exercises can be extremely helpful in speeding up recovery as well as in maintaining good physical fitness.. Licensed massage therapist and educator Lori Walter has developed Stretch 4 Life, a proven and effective tool for people of any age and level of muscular fitness. By using this full body stretch routine, relaxation and flexibility can easily be achieved. The Stretch 4 Life DVD and manual are a wonderful resource for anyone who wishes to pursue enhanced health and well-being. This fabulous routine will also help reinforce healthy habits.

With this practical and easy to use program, Stretch 4 Life will enable anyone to achieve increased flexibility. Tailor any stretch sequence you need to aid in your journey to better health. Individuals can get started with only a few simple stretches to begin the healing process. Later, as the range of motion and strength improve, individuals can increase the specialized plan by simply incorporating additional stretches from the manual and DVD.

Lori Walter is a licensed massage therapist and stretch instructor. She has developed this Stretch 4 Life routine over her 13 years of work with the goal to help people heal and repair their structural integrity. For more information or to place and order, visit www.Stretch4Life.com.

Frequently Asked Questions Why do I need to stretch? Although the mind is the dominant center of control, by attaining relaxation in the voluntary muscle system, we can influence relaxation in the involuntary muscles and other systems of the body. While the muscles in the heart will perform their jobs without conscious effort, we can assist them by ensuring that the muscles we can control do not become tense and thus interfere with the processes. Instead those muscles can be relaxed, which conserves our energy for those times when we need extra. By learning to relax we have a useful tool for release when life gets more complicated.

What techniques will I learn to help me relax?
Muscle work always has at least two parts. A muscle contracts and shortens or it relaxes and lengthens. In this way muscles also work together but in an exactly opposite and reciprocal relationship. For example, when we bend an elbow, the biceps muscle contracts and the triceps muscle behind lengthens to allow the movement. Sometimes this interaction may be disturbed, as when our foot goes into a cramp. The muscle remains in a state of contraction, which becomes painful because it is prolonged and very fatiguing. Relaxation is the physiological state that follows muscle contraction. To achieve relaxation, we will learn to move in one direction followed by a balance of movement in the opposite direction.

What is diaphragmatic breathing and why is it important?
Respiration at rest is performed most significantly by the diaphragm, and any “action” occurring in the abdominal area is quite passive. In fact, if the muscles of the abdomen are not relaxed and passive, then breathing is forced up into the chest. Diaphragmatic breathing and relaxation of the abdominal wall complement each other by helping us stay loose and keeping our breathing slow and deep.

Why is posture important and can I learn to stand up straight now?
Correct posture is energizing to the system of the body. It is the position your brain likes best and will re-learn it quickly and easily.

When the opportunity to review this DVD came along, I knew it would be perfect for my husband to do the review. His assessment follows.
As a Chiropractor, I’m always on the look out for anything that will help increase patient’s flexibility and overall motion.

I liked the stretches in this video. They were a good entry level stretching display, which people could work through without over-exerting themselves. The stretches are well displayed, and there are often graphical additions to help people visualize the muscle groups being targeted.

I think the control interface for the DVD was a little bit ‘clunky’, but that’s just me being a perfectionist, and did nothing to detract from the overall educational value of the program.

Overall, a nice starter video for people who need to stretch, but haven’t in a long time

Thanks to Tracy McCarter at The B&B Media Group for the opportunity to review this DVD. You can learn more about Stretch for Life here.

Reviewed 6/09

Friday, June 19, 2009

Veiled Freedom...Review

About the book:
Naïve and idealistic, relief worker Amy Mallory arrives in Kabul ready to change the world. She soon discovers that as a woman in Afghanistan, the challenges she faces are monumental. As the new security chief to the Minister of the Interior, former Special Forces veteran Steve Wilson is disillusioned to find that the country he fought to set free has fallen into its old habits of greed and corruption. Afghani native Jamil returns to his homeland seeking a job while his painful past continues to haunt him. All three search for truth . . . and for freedom . . . but at what cost? 

Amazing. Absolutely amazing. The book opens in Kabul, Afghanistan in 2001. Steve Wilson, a young, idealistic soldier, and the American forces have liberated Afghanistan, or so they thought. Eight years later, when Steve returns to Afghanistan as security chief to the Ministry of Interior, he's no longer idealistic and is angered at the greed and corruption he sees everywhere.

Amy Mallory, a young relief worker, arrives in Kabul ready to change the world and liberate the women of Afghanistan. As a Christian woman, she is faced with many obstacles but, still, comes to love the people. As she finds her way, she meets Steve and his security team, as well as Jamil, a young Afghan man who becomes her translator and assistant.

Jeanette Windle has captured a society in all its honest and difficult detail. So much of the aid and relief that is sent into Afghanistan and other middle eastern countries is never seen by those who need it most. Greed and corruption is rampant. Women have never been seen as equals. I am not familiar with the people and politics of Afghanistan, but the descriptions and attention to detail here was incredible. Here we see not only the cultural differences within Afghanistan itself, but the cultural differences between Christianity and Islam.

As Amy works with women who were former prisoners, she organizes a half-way house where they can go as they try to find places for themselves after their release from prison. Most of these women are not true hardened criminals, but Islamic law has condemned them for different reasons. With Jamil to help her, she begins to make a difference in the lives of women and children. As she and Jamil strengthen their friendship, Amy shares with him her belief in Jesus Christ. Jamil's journey as he struggles to come to terms with his forced belief in Islam and his growing love for Christ is beautiful. I found myself underlining several passages as Amy and Jamil discuss the differences between Christianity and Islam. I am not familiar with Islam and so I don't know how accurate the portrayal of it is here, but the interactions between Amy and Jamil were moving.

The first couple chapters were a bit slow starting for me as I found my way around the subject matter and the foreign words and phrases, which were tossed in here and there. Once I found my footing, however, I couldn't put the book down. I was completely captivated. These were characters I cared about.

My copy is an unedited ARC, so I don't know what the finished product is like. I would have appreciated a glossary because there were many words and phrases I was not familiar with and while I could assume some meanings, definitions would have been appreciated. I also wish Amy and Steve's relationship could have been a bit more resolved, but the ending was perfect.

With compelling characters and an equally compelling narrative, Veiled Freedom is a remarkable book and one I highly recommend.

Thanks to First Wild Card and Tyndale House Publishers for the opportunity to review this. You can read the first chapter here. You can find out more about Jeanette Windle here. You can get your own copy here.

Read 6/09

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Monday, June 15, 2009

Lizzie's Rake...Review

About the book:
Can a rake reform his ways and truly love? Lizzie's head tells her one thing, her heart another.

Infamous rake and Corinthian, Maxim Beaufort, Earl of St. Ive, finding himself in possession of a property in Yorkshire, is unprepared for the changes it will bring into his life.

Irresistibly drawn to Elizabeth Granger, the former owner’s daughter, he attempts to help the family, finding himself filling the role of benefactor.

When the house is razed to the ground, he arranges for temporary accommodation for Elizabeth and her siblings on his estate and when Elizabeth rejects his proposal of marriage, he is nonetheless determined to win her over.

However, events and his reputation conspire to thwart his efforts and his course is one fraught with dangers.

Trust does not come easily and determined to protect her heart, Elizabeth struggles to resist her own longings. At times, their difficulties appear insurmountable but the earl is widely known as ‘The Indomitable’ and the name was not lightly earned.

I found this to be a charming book. Hazel has captured the Regency period perfectly. Elizabeth is a strong young woman who refuses to be pressured and Maxim is a man who unwillingly loses his heart to her. William and Lucy are sweet and completely taken with Maxim. Aunt Bella is simply lovely. With a bit of mystery and a lot of romance, Lizzie's Rake is a delightful read. I was surprised that it wasn't longer, but I soon realized that it was enthralling and just the right length.

I think that Maxim reformed a bit quickly, but perhaps finding his world unexpectedly turned upside down by a defiant girl was enough to do that. And, I do wish that we knew more about Elizabeth's older brother and what happened to him after he lost the estate by gambling. But, at any rate, Hazel has created some endearing characters. The romance is passionate, but sweet and appropriately honorable. A delightful, historical read and easily recommended.

Thanks to Pump Up Your Book Promotion for the opportunity to review this book.

You can find out more about Hazel Statham here, and read some interviews with Hazel at Fiction Scribe, Divine Caroline, and The Real Hollywood. For other reviews of this book check out these bloggers: The Bookstack, Long and Short Reviews, Cafe of Dreams, and The Book Connection.

You can get your own copy here.

Read 6/09

* * *
3/5 Stars

Friday, June 12, 2009

How Do People Find My Blog...Part 1

I post this feature every couple of months on my regular blog. You can see the last one I did over there here. I thought it would be fun to do it here too.

what path does God want me to do...That's between you and God. I make no presumptions about your life. I'm trying to figure out my own, most days.

Mr Darcy takes a wife free online...in that book, he'll take her wherever and whenever he can. I didn't like the book. I don't recommend it.

funny results of not proofreading... There are always funny results from not proofreading. Perhaps I'll start a blog about it.

life is tough...
Life is tough. And, as my mother is so fond of saying, it's not fair either. Actually the best quote about life is from the Princess Bride, "Life is pain, highness--anyone who tells you differently is trying to sell you something."

book how not to be tired...I had no idea such a book existed. Will you share the title?

breaking dawn shallow... Actually, I found Breaking Dawn the best of the bunch. Twilight was the shallow one.

kids finishing books... My son has three or four started at the same time and often doesn't finish them. If you really don't like a book, I see no reason to waste time finishing it. I've left some unfinished. If it's just from laziness, well then...

"feeling sorry for yourself" depressed "single father"... I'm sorry. I wish I could help. Perhaps some counseling? I think counseling is a good thing. It's helped me in the past.

is this book good for my kids to read...Well, that would depend on the book now, wouldn't it? Give me a title and I'll give you my opinion.

quilting poems... You won't find any here, but I'm sure there are some out there.

jewish people reading andy andrews... I don't think it matters what your faith is, reading Andy Andrews is definitely recommended.

automythography definition... In The Side-Yard Superhero (which I highly recommend), Rick Niece defines automythography as, "a work of non-fiction that looks reflectively at what we think we remember and how we think we remember it; an iridescent memory based upon truth and fact. "

tired mom solutions...
Take some time for yourself. Hire a sitter and get out of the house. Read Kathy Ireland's book, Real Solutions for Busy Moms.

blog book reviews by kids... You will find a couple here. I love it when my son writes reviews for me.

Married women in Idaho Spring who want an affair with a maried man... Um? I don't recommend affairs at all, but especially with married men. That's a big no, no!

mormon lisa wingate... My understanding is that Lisa Wingate is not Mormon.

Kids in Mr. Darcy takes a Wife... Who cares? It's not worth reading.

don't let your feet extend beyond your quilt egyptian saying... I have no idea. I can't find any reference to this anywhere.

Lenore Mattingly Weber... Actually it's Lenora and she's one of my favorite authors from my childhood. She wrote the Katie Rose books, which I love.

David Boreanaz posters... I like David Boreanaz posters. I have a life-size cardboard cut-out of David Boreanaz as Angel in my office. He was given to me as a birthday present from co-worker when I worked full-time. He always stood guard in my work office and when I quit working, I couldn't part with him. He traveled with us to Idaho and remains in the corner of our home office. My sweet husband humors me.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A Passion Denied...Review

About the book:
Young Elizabeth O'Connor is the little sister John Brady always longed for. But she wants much more than that from her spiritual mentor. As she blossoms into a beautiful young woman intent on loving John, he must push back the very real attraction he feels for her. His past just won't let him go there. Unfortunately, Lizzie won't let him go anywhere else--until she discovers he is not all that he seems. Can true love survive such revelations?

The third book of The Daughters of Boston series. This one continues the O'Connor family saga with Elizabeth's story. I loved it.

Elizabeth, younger sister to Faith and Charity was always the quiet bookworm. When her brother-in-law Collin goes into the printing business with his best friend, Elizabeth falls hard for John Brady. Elizabeth is the younger sister Brady never had, and they become good friends as Brady mentors Lizzie spiritually. But, as she grows up and becomes a beautiful, Godly young woman, Brady has a difficult time reconciling his feelings for her. When Brady's past comes between them, Lizzie wonders if she'll ever marry the man she loves.

The entire O'Connor family returns in this novel. Faith and Charity are happily married to Collin and Mitch, and Charity is expecting, but hasn't abandoned some of her old tricks. Marcy and Patrick have their own crisis of faith and trust in their marriage.

One of the things I have enjoyed about this series is that these characters are real. They struggle with their passions, they struggle with their faith, and they struggle in their relationships with each other. Julie Lessman has also explored the issue of pride and its downfall, and in a remarkable way.

This one is a bit darker with the themes explored in regards to Brady's past. The passions are stronger and more descriptive, especially in regards to marriage relations. But, the point is clear: passion without marriage, and marriage without God, are weak imitations.

Thanks to First Wild Card and Revell Publishing for the opportunity to review this. You can read the first chapter here. You can find out more about Julie Lessman here. You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 5/09

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Nothing But Trouble...Review

About the book:
It's not fair to say that trouble happens every time PJ Sugar is around, but it feels that way when she returns to her home town, looking for a fresh start. Within a week, her former teacher is murdered and her best friend's husband is arrested as the number-one suspect. Although the police detective investigating the murder—who also happens to be PJ's former flame—is convinced it's an open-and-shut case, PJ's not so sure. She begins digging for clues in an effort to clear her friend’s husband and ends up reigniting old passions, uncovering an international conspiracy, and solving a murder along the way. She also discovers that maybe God can use a woman who never seems to get it right.

Ten years after leaving it in disgrace, PJ Sugar returns to her hometown to look after her nephew while her sister is on her honeymoon. PJ always had a knack for finding trouble and soon after arriving home, she finds herself knee deep in it again. Her former boyfriend is now a cop and when her best friend's husband is accused of murder, PJ decides that she's going to solve the mystery herself.

The first of the PJ Sugar series, it took me awhile to get into and I found it light on the mystery and suspense, light on the romance and light on the Christian.

Entertaining and easy to read, PJ needs to grow up and find out who she really is. I liked it, I didn't love it. Perfect for a light summer read.

Thanks to First Wild Card and Tyndale Fiction for the opportunity to review this. You can read the first chapter here. You can find out more about Susan May Warren here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 6/09

* *
2/5 Stars

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The Tutu Ballet...Review

About the book:
Ms. Berry, the ballet teacher, is given a talented group of students. The students do not always do what Ms. Berry instructs them to do. What will Ms. Berry do? A ballet emerges that suits the talents of her students and it is the best ballet ever. It is a story about tolerance, patience, creativity, teamwork, and love. 

A sweet little story about a ballet class where each member wants to do their own thing, but the teacher creates a ballet that highlights each animal's strength. Each animal has their own talent, but the message is that everyone wins when they work together to create the final ballet.

The pastel illustrations are lovely, but the font type is very difficult to read. Better for girls than boys. My son didn't want to read it, but I gave my ARC to my 5-year old niece and she was thrilled with it.

Thanks to the author for the opportunity to review this book.  You can purchase your own copy here.
Read 6/09

* * *
3/5 Stars

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Before the Season Ends...Review

About the book:

Regency Romance meets Christian Inspiration in this satisfying historical romp into 1813 London, where the principled, sweet heroine, Miss Ariana Forsythe meets her match in Mr. Phillip Mornay, London's current darling rogue. 

Trouble at home sends Ariana to her aunt's townhouse in the fashionable Mayfair district of London. There, she soon finds herself neck-deep in high society and at odds with Mr. Phillip Mornay, London's current darling rogue. Then, a scandal changes Ariana forever. Her heart, her faith, and her future are all at stake in an unexpected adventure that gains even the Prince Regent's attention.

Will Ariana's faith survive this test? What about her heart? For it's Ariana's heart that most threatens to betray the truths she has always believed in. When she finds herself backed against a wall, betrothed to the wrong man, how can it ever turn out right?

A prequel to The House in Grosvenor Square.

Young Ariana Forsythe is sent to her wealthy aunt's home in London when she forms an undesirable attachment at home. Ariana is a young woman of strong faith in God and one who isn't afraid of stating her mind and opinion. As Ariana makes a triumphant entry into London society, she meets handsome Phillip Mornay, the current, most wealthy and admired man in London. Phillip is notorious for not marrying, nor for singling out any one woman. When Ariana inadvertently offends a high society matron, rumors are started which could ruin her chances for a successful London season. Phillip then steps in with a ruse that could certainly put all the rumors to rest.

Phillip isn't a practicing Christian like Ariana, and she fears losing her heart to him. Will she be able to reconcile her feelings and faith?

This was a charming story. Light Christian, with some detailed descriptions of how one accepts Christ into their life, but the story isn't preachy at all. A delightful look into the Regency period of London when society's opinions mattered and propriety reigned.

Read 6/09