“Maiden General” by Mike MacCarthy


Mike MacCarthy
Outskirts Press (2015)
ISBN 9781478763512
Reviewed by Shamekia Agnew for Reader Views (08/16)

“Maiden General” by Mike MacCarthy is a story about Jehanne d’Arc and her rise in popularity to lead the French to victory against the English. The story and writing were enjoyable and an easy read. I was a little disappointed that the story glossed over some of the miracles that caused the French people to believe in Jehanne as their savior.

“Maiden General” by Mike MacCarthy is a story about Jehanne d’Arc and her rise in popularity to lead the French to victory against the English. The story and writing were enjoyable and an easy read. I was a little disappointed that the story glossed over some of the miracles that caused the French people to believe in Jehanne as their savior. That however, can be easily forgiven if you are just looking for a less detailed version of her rise to fame, or want to see a glimpse of what she may have been like as a person. It also didn’t go into much depth about the trials The Dauphine put her through to test her validity, so by the end I wasn’t sure why the French had so much faith in “just a poor farm girl from France,” that happened to know her bible, and was a virgin. If I didn’t already know some things about the story, I wouldn’t know why they believed in her, outside of desperation.

“Maiden General” by Mike MacCarthy is a story about Jehanne d’Arc and her rise in popularity to lead the French to victory against the English. The story and writing were enjoyable and an easy read. I was a little disappointed that the story glossed over some of the miracles that caused the French people to believe in Jehanne as their savior. That however, can be easily forgiven if you are just looking for a less detailed version of her rise to fame, or want to see a glimpse of what she may have been like as person. It also didn’t go into much depth about the trials The Dauphine put her through to test her validity, so by the end I wasn’t sure why the French had so much faith in “just a poor farm girl from France,” that happened to know her bible, and was a virgin. If I didn’t already know some things about the story, I wouldn’t know why they believed in her, outside of desperation.

This would be a good read for a young adult. It does take you through Jehanne’s journey without feeling overwhelmed by the uphill battle she fought to get The Dauphine to believe her. MacCarthy does a very good job of showing Jehanne’s desire to do well and be good, although sometimes it makes her seem like an ill-tempered child. The way the story is told, it was never herself she believed in and wasn’t something she wanted to do or be, with the exception of serving God. It tells how she felt she failed in her mission. He also speaks of her bravery and her ability to rally and inspire others.

In all, it’s a good starting point to learning who Jehanne d’Arc may have been as person, and understanding what drove her as a heroine. If the story had gone into a little more depth about the struggles she had to endure as a woman of low birth, it would probably work for an older audience. “Maiden General” by Mike MacCarthy is a good book for a rainy day, or for inspiration when you are feeling a little bummed or overwhelmed.

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“When Is Sylvia Wallace?” by Brad Anderson


Brad Anderson
Outskirts Press (2015)
ISBN 9781478763949
Reviewed by Judy Derby for Reader Views (08/16)

“When Is Sylvia Wallace? from The Janus Project files,” by Brad Anderson is a roller coaster ride from the time U.S. Marshall Sylvia Wallace wakes up in an abandoned mine. The Earth has undergone a geomagnetic shift and is tilted on her axis, sending most of the planet into an ice-age when, in a Western-style shootout, friends Robert Mackie (from the “Guardians” trilogy) and Colonel John Callan (from “The Janus Project”) attempt a retrieval to take her back to her own time.

Brad Anderson does a wonderful, thorough job at describing this cold, nearly barren world Sylvia now finds herself in. The dystopian society she is surrounded by is so believable and realistic that one shudders to think how easily circumstances could devolve into the very struggle for day-to-day existence he so graphically portrays in this tale. With a style reminiscent of Stephen King, note how he describes one of his protagonist’s actions.

Escaped criminal and self-appointed mayor Rich Witkowski has realized that he must dispose of the bodies of his abducted victims quickly and chooses dismemberment:

The ulna and the radius just above the left wrist were exposed because that was where he had first grasped this corpse. He slipped the joined bones into the cutter opening. “Good. Just wide enough. I can save the hatchet and the hacksaw for the larger bones.” He lay the used shop towel on the concrete near the hand. “But first, the fingers.”

This novel is not just for those who wonder about the possibility of time travel, but also for those who enjoy dystopian tales, psychological thrillers, or high drama. Personally, I’ve always been fascinated with science fiction and time travel in general. But, what I most enjoyed about this story was the minute details concerning survival itself. With both John Callan and Sylvia, Anderson goes into extensive description of just what is necessary to survive in an arctic environment. From the character’s step by step thought processes on deciding how to wrap one’s head for protection against the harsh elements, to the lengthy descriptions of ice walls and submerging into below-freezing water, to the panoramic detail of the physical environments the characters encounter.

Without having read The Janus Project, the connection, the familiarity and loyalty between the main characters nevertheless came through loud and clear. “When Is Sylvia Wallace? from The Janus Project files” works perfectly as a stand-alone novel, and will encourage readers to seek out the original story. However, in my opinion, the author could spin this into a series of its own: “From the Janus Project files, volume XX,” because this is a topic and genre that could garner an increasing fan base. With the blurring of genre lines, Brad Anderson has written an engrossing story that will grab readers of science fiction, action and adventure, and psychological thrillers.

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“The Silver Locket” by Sophia Bar-Lev


Sophia Bar-Lev
CreateSpace (2015)
ISBN 9781508845546
Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views (04/16)

In “The Silver Locket” by Sophia Bar-Lev, two women’s lives intersect during WWII in a way that will connect them for the rest of their lives. When one of them is brutally attacked and impregnated as a result, she has a huge decision to make. Her husband is working in another state during this time. While she could easily terminate the pregnancy and pretend it never happened, she instead decides to continue with the pregnancy and give the innocent child a chance at a better life through adoption by a loving family. Just after giving birth, and while still in the hospital, she discovers that her hospital-mate also has a tough adjustment to make in her life. The two women find a special connection with each other and bond over their life-changing decisions. Each woman carries her secret over the next two decades.

As the women move on and have other children, their secrets stay safe until the time comes when they must be revealed. When the family’s lives intersect again, a rabbi and his wife step in to provide emotional support.

“The Silver Locket,” is a beautifully told story. I have hopes that women contemplating what to do with unplanned pregnancies will read this novel and gain some insight on how their lives might be affected depending on which path they choose to take. This story covers all of the bases. I did find it to be a little bit too unrealistic as the dilemmas always had perfect resolutions; however, overall I really enjoyed this story. Knowing that it is partially based on a true story makes it more compelling. I highly recommend reading it and suggest it as a selection for reader’s groups.

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“The Diabetes Comfort Food Diet” by Laura Cipullo


Laura Cipullo, RD, CDE
Robert Rose Publishing (2015)
ISBN 9780778805182
Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views (02/16)

In “The Diabetes Comfort Food Diet,” Laura Cipullo, a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator, has created the perfect diabetes cookbook that won’t leave you feeling deprived. In the first part of the book, she provides valuable information about understanding and living with diabetes. This information is beneficial to both the diabetic and family members who might be cooking for them.

The recipes that follow are pretty traditional dishes that use healthier ingredients. Each recipe has suggestions on cutting carbs, adding fiber, and using healthy fats. There are charts to show the caloric difference between using the recipe versus the traditional version. The author covers recipes for the three basic meals plus snacks. She then breaks the recipes down further by separating them into divisions like meat, poultry, seafood, vegetarian, sides, and dessert. There are also pictures provided for some of the dishes that look amazing! The one that caught my eye the most is the Lemon-Raspberry Cheesecake.

“The Diabetes Comfort Food Diet,” by Laura Cipullo caught my attention because I have diabetics in the family that prefer to eat the Standard American Diet, otherwise known as SAD. Since I do not follow this “diet,” I needed to find recipes that would appeal to these relatives and keep me from feeling guilty about what I am feeding them. I am very excited about having the opportunity to test the recipes, especially that cheesecake!

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“Higher Places” by Annette Marie Spiezio


Annette Marie Spiezio
Outskirts Press (2015)
ISBN 9781478759973
Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views (02/16)

“Higher Places: The Spirituality found through our dogs,” by Annette Marie Spiezio is a beautiful tribute to the author’s dogs. She provides spiritual insight as she recounts special experiences with each dog. As a dog lover, I really enjoyed reading about her four-legged family and how much they positively impact the lives of her and her partner. I am teased so much about my enthusiasm for my dogs, I loved thinking, “I am not alone!”

I appreciate how the author tied the spiritual aspects of her dogs into her story. I also feel that my dogs have had a huge impact on my beliefs and feel that I have been blessed with so many gifts from my interactions with them. “Higher Places,” by Annette Marie Spiezio is less than one hundred pages, but it is so full of fun stories and inspirational thoughts regarding dogs, I feel it would make a great gift for other animal lovers, especially if you want to give someone something small that has meaning. They will be sure to enjoy this book!

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Interview with Emily Christensen, Ph.D., Author of “Keeping Kyrie”


Keeping Kyrie

Emily Christensen, Ph.D.
HWC Press, LLC (2016)
ISBN 9780997758801
Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views (08/16)

Article first published as Interview: Emily Christensen, Ph.D., Author of ‘Keeping Kyrie’ on Blogcritics.

Dr. Emily Christensen works as a counselor, helping couples and families to heal emotional wounds, overcome addictions, and live after the manner of happiness. Her private practice began in 2004, with a focus on forensic trauma, Deaf issues, and rural childhood services. She has earned a B.S. in Human Development, an M.S. in Professional Counseling, an M.Div. in Pastoral Counseling, and a Ph.D. in Marriage and Family Therapy, and is doing post-doc work in Hebrew and Jewish Studies.

After joining the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 2009, Emily served a thirty-month mission with the international research team of FamilySearch Worldwide Support, followed by a two-year extension doing special projects for the Family History Department. She began serving as an LDS chaplain in 2014.

Emily has been journaling since she was in the second grade and blogging for twelve years. She is deaf, receiving bilateral cochlear implants in 2010, and maintains her love for sign language. She chooses books over television, and organics over processed. She thinks nothing is as close to flying as ballroom dancing. She also enjoys playing outside, running, kayaking, and cycling. She is in love with words and writes every day no matter what. Dr. Christensen is happily married to her husband who writes musical theater, and she and her husband have adopted six children from foster care.


Emily Christensen.jpg

Sheri:  Welcome, Emily and thank you for joining us today!  Why don’t you start by telling our readers a bit about yourself?

Emily: I have been writing since I got my first journal in second grade, and have been actively blogging for twelve years. I am Deaf with cochlear implants, and my heart language is still signing.  I love to read, but also enjoy ballroom dancing, kayaking, and playing with my children at the river back near our home in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  I am very happily married to my husband Nathan, who writes musical theater, song lyrics, and plays.

Sheri:  What is Keeping Kyrie about?

Emily: It’s about love, and how much that can hurt, but also what miracles we experience every day as a family. I tell the story of our journey into foster care and adoption, through the process of my own journey from losing my mother to becoming a mother.  The frame of the story hangs on the drama of our youngest daughter, who was born with almost no airway.

Sheri:  What inspired you to write this book?

Emily: There was just so much that happened to us, so much that we endured as a family, it seemed like a story that needed telling. So much happened to us in such a short amount of time, my mind and heart were full of what needed expressing, and writing was a way I could let that out and process it all.  We also really had concerns about some of the care the baby received and needed a platform through which we could advocate for change and improve the lives of foster babies who are medically fragile.  We also hoped that it would be somewhat educational for new foster parents as well as new parents of medically fragile babies with issues like Kyrie.  We also wanted to share with social workers and medical professionals what it’s like to foster and the kinds of things we face every day as a family so that they could see and learn from our perspective.

Sheri:  It must be difficult to foster children and then let them go. How do you handle the attachment/detachment process?

Emily: Sometimes it’s easier than others! We write about this in depth in the book, but if when you legitimately sign up for fostering and do it well, then it is very hard to let the children go.  What helped us was staying focused on our role as being part of the support system for families, and our testimony that families are part of the plan of happiness.  It’s almost too hard to let those little ones go if you are only focused on yourself, but fostering isn’t about you – it’s about the children and their families. We really had to stay focused on that.

Sheri:  You and your husband have fostered many children and adopted six. What prompted your decision to foster, and how did you decide to adopt the six children that are now a permanent part of your family?

Emily: I had been a therapist on several different inpatient units where children were ready to be discharged but had no place to go because foster homes were not available. Clinically there was no reason for them to continue staying in the hospital, but practically there was nowhere for them to go.  Nathan had taught children in New York City, and many of them were foster parents.  We were just aware of the need and felt we couldn’t really advocate for those children without trying to be part of the solution by helping.  Fostering was something we discussed before we were married, and we filled out the paperwork while we were on our honeymoon.  The six adoptions happened as fostering unfolded; it was never a part of the plan, and when we signed up to foster we had no idea that we would be unable to have our own biological children.  Our story of infertility, miscarriages, and the adoption process for each of the six children – those stories are all in the book.

Sheri:  It seems that the personal struggles you have endured have only made you stronger. Where do you get your strength and determination to not only carry on but thrive, while enriching all the special little lives around you?

Emily: Our faith is obviously a big part of that. When life is too hard or everything is so overwhelming, it helps to know there is purpose in what we are doing and to feel that we are not alone in trying every day to just keep going.  Our community, both the town where we lived and our faith community itself, was such a big part of our support system.  Their prayers and their participation in our fundraising events, including this book, so that we could get the best care for all the children and provide for ourselves as a family – that made all the difference.  It’s one thing to be willing to help these children, and even to do the work to prepare spiritually and mentally, but it was our faith and our community that made actually doing it even possible.

Sheri:  What can you tell us about Kyrie’s condition?

Emily: Kyrie was diagnosed with Pierre Robin Sequence (PRS), meaning she was born with a very small airway, smaller than a coffee straw, as well as a cleft palate and a recessed jaw and almost no tongue tissue. Her condition was complicated due to polysubstance drug exposure in utero.  She has had multiple surgeries that have saved her life, but her airway will continue to be a battle as she grows.

Sheri:  And how is Kyrie doing today?

Emily: Today was a good day. Some days are scary.  Her presentation is really inconsistent, so we have to watch her closely.  She is still on oxygen sometimes, though not all the time like during her first year, and we still are supplementing with a feeding tube through her nose as needed.  We still have her on a high-calorie diet because she is so tiny, and we still have to thicken her liquids, but she is fighting hard.  Many babies born with PRS do better if they can get through the first year, but we are just now getting to that point at seventeen months, maybe because of the additional battles from the drug exposure.  But she is crazy smart, and such a little miracle.  She is so happy with such good attachment, which has been a blessing after some of the attachment struggles some of the other children have had.

Sheri:  What is the public’s awareness level around PRS, and what is being done to help raise awareness?

Emily:  I think the general public is more aware of cleft palates as a thing that happens more than they are aware of PRS specifically, and I don’t think they know at all how hard it is to care for a medically fragile child who is a foster. There are some good organizations for all of the issues we face in the book: infertility, miscarriage, cancer, fostering, adoption from foster care, parenting deaf children, autism, cerebral palsy, fetal alcohol syndrome, reactive attachment disorder, PRS, cleft palates, chaplaincy, advocacy, grief, secondary medical trauma… there is just so much that we went through in the last five years.  We support those organizations that are bringing awareness, and try to share the work they are doing when we talk about those issues on our Keeping Kyrie Facebook page.  We also started a nonprofit to help support medical needs of foster children to get them supplies and items that Medicaid doesn’t cover.   Now because of the book, we are getting a lot of opportunities to speak about these different issues and help raise awareness.

We are also focusing a lot on advocating for patient-informed care rather than just patient-centered care.  There’s a difference, and that difference saves lives.  For example, Kyrie also has medical cerebral palsy now, with little pink braces on her feet, because of ongoing oxygen issues and not being trached when she was first born or during those early months.  That’s intensely frustrating, and part of what has thrown us into advocating for better patient-informed care, because that should not have happened.  If someone were diabetic or had a heart problem, they would not deny treatment because the patient had a good day – no other illness is treated for its good days, the way PRS kids get denied access to breathing air because of a good day or a better sleep study when structurally what is happening is so positional and variable that it’s not a good measurement of what is going on from day to day.

Sheri:  Your family seems to be having quite a bit of fun promoting the book!  How did the idea for the video you created come about?

Emily: That’s funny! My husband writes musical theater – he wrote Broadcast about the history of the radio, as well as an adaptation of The Giver – and he loves working with actors and composers and all things theater.  When he does a project, it is an experience, not just an event.  He’s amazing.  But one way he shares this with the children is by making these videos – you can see them on our YouTube channel @housewifeclass – where he takes well-known songs the children love and rewrites new lyrics for our family.  They love to sing with him, and it’s a way they can bond together and learn about that part of his life.  They love dressing up and going to his shows and events, but the videos are a way they can share in his creative process at home.  It’s been a delightful way to bond with them and to just play together as a family.

Sheri:  What has been the most rewarding part about publishing the story of your family?

Emily: Sharing our story, and the hard work of writing it, was worth it the moment we got a note from a mother whose baby’s PRS had not been diagnosed and getting proper treatment saved his life. We have also gotten letters and a huge response from the foster community, both foster parents and social workers, about how much it has helped them – as well as some biological parents, who are grateful that we advocate for maintaining those connections when it is safe and possible.  We love the people we have met through these shared experiences, and it feels like change the world for the better, even if it is in some tiny way our own little corner.

Sheri:  What was your biggest challenge in writing “Keeping Kyrie”?

Emily: Besides having to stop to change diapers and feed tiny little mouths who are always hungry? Or staying up until after midnight to write while the children are asleep, and then getting up before dawn to write before they wake?  Or maybe living it in real life when it was all actually happening?!

Really, the time it takes to write and to write well, was the hardest piece.  Writing is such an intense process, and the material I was covering was very emotional.  I had to really focus on the mental aspects of the structure of the book to get through it.  We designed the book to work like a chiasm in Hebrew poetry: the dramatic climax comes in the very middle of the book, and each chapter before and after both parallels and re-emphasizes each other.  This created a feminine narrative structure, which I wanted, where every piece of our story circles around over and over again, creating the effect of really experiencing the emotional roller coaster we endured while still keeping it very readable as a book.

Sheri:  What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received, about writing, or about life in general?

Emily: Write every day, no matter what.

Sheri:  What advice can you give to people aspiring to write memoirs?

Emily: Writing every day is critical, not just for the discipline but for the practice of capturing intensely live moments. Going back to capture it later will be too difficult, and will taste dusty to the reader.  We wrote and edited Keeping Kyrie in only five very-very-very intense weeks, but that was after five years of daily writing as the events were happening in real time.  We had material to use and ready for us to select for polishing.  If we had waited, doing it from scratch would have used up the time we spent polishing.  I am really proud of the book as a piece of literature, but we would not have gotten it so presentable if all the drafts hadn’t already been written as before we sat down to pull the book together as an entity.  Instead of having to come up with words, we were able to take our words already written and use them as paint to create this piece of art.  It is beautiful, and I am really pleased.

Sheri:  What do you like to do in your free time, that is – if you have any free time?

Emily: I make time for myself; it’s a necessary part of the creative process as much as just being healthy in general. I wake up early before Nathan or the children are awake, and am able to spend that time in study and writing.  Before cancer, I loved to read at night, but my body doesn’t let me do that anymore.  I work hard during the day to finish tasks so that family time can really be family time and we aren’t distracted from that.  For now, our children are still young enough that they go to bed early and Nathan and I have our evenings together which helps a lot, but after having fostered teenagers, we know that won’t always be so easy.  While we work hard, and long hours, and do a lot of speaking as well, we really fight to protect our personal time for ourselves and our family.  It’s really a big priority for us.

Sheri:  Do you have a website or blog (or both) where readers can learn more about you and your family and your book “Keeping Kyrie”?

Emily: I write a blog at HousewifeClass.com and our store lists the book at HousewifeClassStore.com – it’s available in hardback at the major online stores for books – it will come out in paperback in those stores next year, but you can get it in paperback at our store already.

Keeping Kyrie has a Facebook page, and we are @housewifeclass on Instagram and Twitter

Sheri:  Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers today?

Emily:   If you buy the book, you should also buy Kleenexes! We are just really grateful for the outpouring of support from so many, thank you.

Sheri:  Emily, thank you so much for being with us today.  It has certainly been a pleasure getting to know you and your family!

Emily:   Thank you.

Read review of Keeping Kyrie
Visit authors website

Posted in Author Interviews, Books, Memoir & Biography, Non-Fiction, Relationships / Family / Parenting | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

“The COMPLETE Model for Positive Behavior Management” by Dina Al-Hidiq Zebib


Dina Al-Hidiq Zebib
CreateSpace (2016)
ISBN 9781535464024
Reviewed by Christine Watson for Reader Views (8/16)

Article first published as Book Review: ‘The Complete Model for Positive Behavior Management’ by Dina Al-Hidiq Zebib on Blogcritics.

“The COMPLETE Model for Positive Behavior Management” by Dina Al-Hidiq Zebib offers simple, yet powerful advice on how to manage behavior in a positive way. This book is jam-packed with ideas, examples, and tips that can immediately be taken directly to the classroom or home.

Ms. Al-Hidiq Zebib has provided not only educators and parents with a how-to manual for raising and teaching children through positive behavior management, but her ideas and techniques are useful to all people. As a former educator, this book would have been extremely helpful to me in classroom management. I think back on my time in the classroom, and wish I had this book available to me as a resource. I also believe that all human beings can benefit from the ideas shared in this book. Just the tips on active listening alone could help countless relationships that struggle with communication. The tool on values is useful for anyone wanting to really get focused on what is important to him or her. Young people often struggle with knowing what their values are, but many adults have the same problem. The use of a matrix at home and at school can be valuable to everyone in tracking daily routines as well as progress over time.

The author spends some time on praise, and how to provide authentic and specific praise so children (and adults) know why they are being praised. This significantly adds to the feeling of accomplishment for the one being praised. Ms. Al-Hidiq Zebib also stresses the importance of tactful correction. The Non-Progressive Consequence System is a compact tool that can serve as a powerful reminder of what can be done when corrections need to be made.

There are so many examples of great ideas and tips in this book, I cannot possibly cover them all in this review. I highly recommend “The COMPLETE Model for Positive Behavior Management” by Dina Al-Hidiq Zebib for not only teachers and parents, but for all people in general, as well. I know that I will be able to use many of the ideas and tips in this book in my relationships at home and at work. I will definitely be sharing this book with former teaching colleagues as well as many others. This book is truly a gem!

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