Archive | June 2017

Getting Grief Right: Finding Your Story in the Sorrow of Loss, by Patrick O’Malley, Phd with Tim Madigan. Sounds True Publishing

This is a compassionate book written by a caring and thoughtful therapist. He starts with an explanation of how the accepted views of grief and recovery can actually further wound those already trying to deal with their grief and sorrow after the loss of a loved one.

 

Is there a “right” way to grieve? If you don’t go through the long-accepted theory of “stages” is there something wrong with you?

 

The author doesn’t think so. He has found a way for those in grief to discover a better way through telling their own story and coming from a path of love rather than from one of guilt for not doing it right.

 

He offers a self-help program for readers to write their story of healing and love, with guidelines for how to do this on your own that are clear and understandable. However, he also offers something that I think more self-help books should take care to do, and that is to provide clearly defined considerations for a decision to seek professional help.

 

As a practicing psychotherapist, I highly recommend this book for those seeking a path through their pain of grief and loss.

My thanks to author, publisher, and NetGalley for providing an advance copy to read and review.

Review: The Miss Seeton Series: Books 1-3 (A Miss Seeton Mystery). Kindle Edition. Ferrago, an imprint of Prelude Books.

This Box Set includes three Miss Seeton stories, previously received through NetGAlley and reviewed singly in May and July, 2016. Reviews are collected together below:

 

  1. PICTURE MISS SEETON

 

The first, and possibly the funniest, of the Miss Seeton stories. A laugh-out-loud murder mystery? You bet! Picture this: Miss Marple with the Keystone Kops as staged by Mel Brooks with a hint of Beatrix Potter.

 

That would be this story, featuring Miss Seeton, respectable spinster art teacher. She is having a lovely evening. After hearing “Carmen” at Covent Garden. Bizet’s beguiling tunes are running through Miss Seeton’s head even as she bewails Don José’s unseemly and “unnecessary” stabbing of Carmen. Miss Seeton is looking forward to a nice stay in the country at her newly inherited cottage, “Sweetbriars.”

 

Walking down an alley on her way home, she is displeased to encounter a young couple, the girl exclaiming in French, and the boy striking the girl. This is too much for Miss Seeton, who prods the ungentlemanly boy in the back. From there, the story is a lively dash for Miss Seeton, her “battling brolly” and her ever-useful sketchpad.

 

Our story is set in English country settlement of Plummergan, and stocked with a cast of memorable characters. Of course there is the vicar, Arthur Treeves who Does His Best, and his sister Molly who runs him; Sir George, Lady Colvedon, and their son Nigel; Miss Nuttel and Mrs. Blaine, dedicated to providing the latest, though perhaps not the most accurate, news to the village; Mrs. Venning, successful author of children’s stories featuring Jack the Rabbit, and her daughter Angela; Mrs. Bloomer, who “does” for Miss Seeton; and of course the Scotland yard men: Superintendent Delphick (The Oracle), whose admiration of Miss Seeton’s abilities grows throughout the book, and of course his stalwart sergeant, Bob Ranger.

 

In other words, a fairly typical English village murder mystery–but with an important difference. The author is a gifted storyteller. I started reading, and soon found myself chuckling at the literate, spot-on descriptions of these characters and their foibles. Miss Seeton sails serenely on, encountering numerous events that would unsettle most people, meeting each obstacle with her unique but effective resources. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and enthusiastically recommend it.

 

  1. MISS SEETON DRAWS THE LINE

 

Once again, Miss Seeton is requested to lend her unique sketching talents to Scotland Yard. This time, there is a series of child stranglings without any leads. Also in Miss Seeton’s little village there has been a series of burglaries leaving residents missing some of their most prized possessions.

 

Miss Seeton is asked to sketch the children of the village. All goes well, if unremarkably, until Miss S. tries to sketch little Effie Goffer. Indeed, she feels quite embarrassed that her picture goes seriously awry, with wavy lines across it. Of course, being as how this is Miss S. the odd drawing turns out to be significant, although not quite in the way Scotland Yard had hoped.

 

As usual, the village gossip line is working overtime and the stories surrounding Miss Seeton are becoming downright ludicrous. Leave it to Mel, an enterprising young journalist, to put the false and misleading stories in their place.

 

Miss Seeton soldiers on, finding difficulties with her bank and also encountering yet another young person whose picture she cannot complete. In the course of events, Miss Seeton comes into harm’s way but ultimately succeeds with the help of a few stalwart friends and, of course, her trusty brolly.

 

Author Carvic leads us on a merry chase with an outcome that Miss Seeton’s fans will relish.

 

  1. WITCH MISS SEETON

 

I am an enthusiastic fan of the Miss Seeton books–especially the early ones by Heron Carvic. This book finds our Miss Seeton being made an official part of the police force, still in her role as occasional sketch artist to help the authorities with particular problems.

 

This time, there is a double plot at work–one involving black magic, witchery and the occult, and the other centered on a new religious sect called Nuscience whose principal goal seems to be to separate affluent members from their money and valuables. Of course, Miss Seeton find herself involved with both the witches and Nuscience and her duties become quite hazardous.

 

In truth, I didn’t find this book as laugh-out-loud funny as some other Miss Seeton books I have read recently. The plot is rather intricate and the author becomes enmeshed in a detailed description of both sinister plots and their inner workings. I found this section a bit tedious. Also, a central character is named Merilee (similar to my first name). Perhaps I am oversensitive, but in my experience this name is rarely found in literature, and when it is the character is often a bit off. This book follows that pattern–although this Merilee does redeem herself–at a cost–in the end.

 

But back to the central character: in the course of her work Miss Seeton serves as a substitute teacher for a short time, and the story of how she interacts with the youngsters, turning their boredom into enthusiasm, is engaging. Since I spent several years as a teacher myself, I particularly enjoyed that aspect of the book.

 

Once again, Miss Seeton’s helpers–human and angelic–find themselves highly challenged keeping the determined little lady safe. Events are also particularly hard on the brollys–several are destroyed or severely damaged in the course of the story. And once again, Miss Seeton foils the evildoers and emerges from her labors relatively unscathed by her daredevil feats.

Review: The Big Adventures of Tiny House by Susan Schaefer Bernardo (author); Courtenay Fletcher (illustrator). Inner Flower Child Books

This is a wonderful book. I reviewed with great appreciation an earlier book by this same author and illustrator, Sun Kisses, Moon Hugs. It is so heartening to see another small masterpiece created by this pair.

 

The story of Tiny, an old farmhouse reborn as a wonderfully snug little home with wheels, discovering the big world mirrors the world of the child embarking on his own life journey of discovery.

 

The pictures are marvelous; the message is timely. In our world, home is becoming a central issue for our society. For children, home and security are essential to their sense of self and growth. As a licensed psychotherapist working with children and families for over twenty years, I would recommend this book wholeheartedly for parents and children to experience together.

My thanks to authors, publisher, and NetGalley for sharing an advance copy to read and review.

Review: Life Lessons from Catsass, by Claude Combacau. Andrews McMeel Publishing.

This book is labeled as “entertainment” and it is certainly that. Our guide through this book is surely one sassy cat!

 

Cat lovers will welcome this book with great enthusiasm, as it very well captures that catly attitude that we all know. There are puzzles, coloring pages and DIY projects, a Politeness Guide–and lots of other activities.

 

This would be a great gift for the cat lover in your life. Not really for children, though–the language includes a few words most of us would not encourage children to use. But it truly is great fun and quite amusing.

Thanks to the author, publisher, and NetGalley for making an advance copy available to read and review.

Review: Zoo Zen, A Yoga Story for Kids, by Kristen Fischer and Susi Schaefer. Sounds True Publishing.

Zoo Zen is a charming book with amusing illustrations that is sure to be appealing for children. It is intended to use with children ages 4-8.

 

The idea here is for children to learn some basic yoga poses by emulating the animal illustrations for each pose, along with helpful tips. It is described as “an imaginative book that combines the benefits of yoga with kid’s natural love for animals to create a magical learning journey that parents and children can enjoy together.” The helpful creatures include balancing bears, gliding cobras, proud eagles, roaring lions, bending camels, perching crocodiles, swimming dolphins, scaly lizards, screeching gorillas, hip-hop frogs, and a serene pink flamingo.

 

This seems like a good book for parents and children to pursue together. I’m sure the children would love emulating the poses, and an adult could help them to follow the additional tips about breathing and relaxation. Perhaps this could be used as a textbook to accompany a children’s yoga class. I do think adult supervision is wise, at least while children are first learning the poses.

Review: The Queen’s Accomplice: A Maggie Hope Mystery, by Susan Elia Macneal. Kindle Edition, Bantam Books.

As I have greatly enjoyed all the previous Maggie Hope stories, I was looking forward to this one–and it did not disappoint.

 

What a story! Or, what a bunch of stories–because there are several threads spun simultaneously by the author. There is the story of Maggie helping to solve the brutal case of a WWII-era Jack the Ripper type, identified here as “the Blackout Beast” as he targets young working women in London. But there is also the story of Maggie’s half-sister Elise, a prisoner in Nazi Germany, the story of her friend and her new adorable new baby, the preparation of a pair of Maggie’s colleagues for a dangerous mission in occupied France, and the varied appearances of Maggie’s mother, father, and stepfather.

 

This book held my attention from the start and I finished it in record time as I found it difficult to put down. There is much that in sobering in this story of brave people dealing with the terrible realities of World War II. It is not a story for the faint of heart, as suffering and brutality are as prominent as the heroism of some characters and the evildoing of others. We are made to feel some of the ambivalence faced by people trying to survive this awful period in our history.

 

I did give this book 5 stars, because it is so brilliantly plotted and excellently presented. But it certainly is not what I would call a “cozy” mystery, but rather one that is sobering and thought-provoking.

 

Review: The Trouble With Harriet, An Ellie Haskell Mystery by Dorothy Cannell. Random House Publishing Group – Alibi

I’m a staunch fan of Dorothy Cannell’s Ellie Haskell mysteries, so it was my pleasure to re-read and review this book.

 

But reviewing it presents problems–how to review without using any spoilers? That is a challenge.

 

Well, to start from the title, Harriet certainly causes trouble from the moment she appears in this story. Ellie and Ben are just about to leave for a romantic holiday when Ellie’s long-lost father Morley appears. Furthermore, he has Harriet with him. More or less. That is, Morley produces an urn carrying the ashes of his late beloved Harriet.

 

The vacation is off, and the plot thickens when the urn goes missing. In addition, Ellie is puzzled by a Gypsy fortuneteller’s appearance on the scene uttering dire warnings.

 

The story is full of twists and turns, things that are not as they seem, and more. Cannell weaves all this into an entertaining and witty story that leaves us following Ellie and company all the way through to the turbulent end. As always, great fun.

 

My thanks to NetGalley for providing an advance copy to read and review.

Review: More Work for the Undertaker (A Campion Mystery) by Margery Allingham. Kindle Edition, Ipso Books

I am an unabashed admirer of Margery Allingham’s work, and this is one of her most splendid, in many respects.

 

For starters, it gives us some important clues into just who “Albert Campion” really is. The War (WWII) is over, and Campion is in line to become Governor of some unnamed island. We are told that finally, the man is offered something “even his grandfather” would consider suitable. And his man Lugg refers to Albert as “the young viscount” at one point. All this is by way of reminding us the exalted position that the unassuming Albert apparently holds in abeyance.

 

Then there are the characters we meet. Of course there is the splendid Lugg (of whom we learn a little more about in the course of the story). There are the Scotland Yard folks, notably the Chief Stanislaus Oates, Superintendent Yeo and the young, brilliant D. D. I. Charles Luke (again, we learn quite a bit more about Luke here). The Lady Amanda, Albert’s spouse, has an important cameo role and in a way is given the opportunity for the last word (always satisfying, don’t you think?”

 

The new and indelibly memorable characters belong to the eccentric Palinode family. Allingham outdoes herself in her depiction of characters at once extremely odd, unaccountably appealing, and uncommonly intelligent. Then there is the undertaker (Jas Bowles & Son), a creation any author would be proud to claim.

 

The story itself full of momentous happenings, poisonings, anonymous letters, a magnificent coffin that appears and disappears seemingly at will, a sizeable but apparently worthless inheritance, and a case that Scotland Yard wants very much to solve–quietly and quickly.

 

This is a fun, adventurous and challenging read from beginning to end.

Review: Overcoming Fear and Anxiety Through Spiritual Warfare, by Carol Peters-Tanksley MD DMin. Charisma House.

As a practicing psychotherapist, I know how patients with symptoms of anxiety and fear welcome help. So, I was very interested in reading what Dr. Peters-Tanksley (“Dr. Carol”) had to say.

 

In many ways this is a most excellent book. It is well organized, and the author clearly writes from a strong background in both medicine and spiritual matters. The book is in three parts. Part I, The Problem of Fear and Anxiety, has much sound information to impart to troubled readers. Part II turns to scriptural aspects with “What the Bible Says”. This quotes numerous Biblical passages on the subject of fear and anxiety, which would likely be most welcome to the committed Christian reader. It is part III that sets this book apart from most other self-help books. Titled “Strategies of Spiritual Warfare to Defeat Fear and Anxiety” this section calls the reader to a deep commitment of faith.

 

The subject of spiritual warfare is addressed, with a set of strategies for the believer to use in combating fear and anxiety. Now, in this section, I feel a need to be cautious. As Dr. Carol herself says, “there is significant danger in discussing techniques of spiritual warfare” and in another place she notes that the subject is not without its dangers.

 

This is a book for the committed Christian, and I would recommend that it be approached with close and careful reading. I would also suggest having a support system in place. Possibly a church might form a group led by a qualified person to assist those ready to embark on the deeply challenging road set forth here by Dr. Carol. I would also suggest the reader carefully note Dr. Carol’s admonishment that it might be necessary to call upon professional resources, spiritual, medical, and psychological. In my opinion, this is not a book for the weak or fragile to deal with on their own.

Review: James the Connoisseur Cat: A Novel, by Harriet Hahn. Kindle Edition. Open Road Media.

Well, I am a long-time cat person, so I was intrigued by this title as well as James’ portrait on the cover.

 

I soon was charmed by the British silver-grey cat named James and his good friends who introduce him to the good life (which he embraces wholeheartedly). Not sure my veterinarian would approve of James’ penchant for saucers of single-malt whiskey or his taste for gourmet ultra-rich foods. But this is a light-hearted book, so if you take it in that spirit and you like cats, this is a charming read.

 

It’s true that some of James’ exploits strain credibility. But at least the author does not have James actually talking to people, as is the case in some detective stories featuring feline sleuths.

 

If you like cats, and just want a little light reading with some amusing moments, this is a good book for you. I enjoyed it, although it’s true that the story is a little thin on plot and drama.

 

I gave it five stars because, as noted above, I am a cat person and I found this a fun read. Someone who is not a cat person would likely not be amused for long, and would probably award fewer stars.