Thursday, August 27, 2009

Rick & Bubba's Guide to the Almost Nearly Perfect Marriage

Rick & Bubba’s Guide to the Almost Nearly Perfect Marriage by Rick Burgess & Bill “Bubba” Bussey is probably one of the funniest books I have read in recent memory! “The two sexiest fat men in America” have found an entertaining way to share marital advice, based on over 33 years of experience between them.

While the book is told from the man’s point-of-view, and inevitably makes fun of the way that women act in various situations, Rick & Bubba allow plenty of page space to poke fun at themselves, as well. They recognize that men and women interpret everything differently, and the lack of communication and understanding can either become humorous or disastrous.

Filled with examples from their own families, Rick and Bubba’s Guide is a beneficial read to both single and married people, alike. Learn how to have a sense of humor when dealing with the tricks life throws at you. Remember that no one is perfect and embrace each other for who you really are. Love yourself. Love each other. Be patient. Forgive. Be graceful. Be faithful to each other and to God. And stay determined. Together you will grow stronger and make it through this thing called life.

I received a review copy from the publisher and was not required to leave a positive review.

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Saturday, August 8, 2009

Review of The Perfect Christmas by Debbie Macomber

Author: Debbie Macomber
Publisher: MIRA Books
ISBN: 9780778326823

Debbie Macomber consistently can be found at the top of numerous bestseller lists. She is also a huge fan of the Christmas holiday. Her upcoming novel, The Perfect Christmas, is sure to enjoy the same kind of success.

While I found The Perfect Christmas to be predictable, simply by reading the back cover, I also found it to be a highly enjoyable way to relax on a summer’s evening, as I‘m a sucker for the story of a thirty-something year-old looking for love.

Cassie Beaumont is a relatable character, as she is thirty-three years old, and still single. It’s horribly difficult to meet a man. Then, any man she meets ends up being a total stinker. With so many friends in wedded bliss, her misery is amplified. When she receives a perfect Christmas card, before Thanksgiving no less, from her perfect friend with a perfect husband and a perfect boy and a perfect girl, and the perfect house, and, well, the perfect life, Cassie decides to take drastic action.

Upon the recommendation of her best friend, Angie, Cassie decides to enlist the services of Simon Dodson, a professional matchmaker. He’s assertive, somewhat egotistical, and a know-it-all. He promises that he will find her the perfect match, otherwise he will give a full refund. And the fee will be $30,000.

Before Cassie can meet her match, she must perform three simple Christmas tasks: be a charity bell-ringer, dress up as Santa’s elf, and prepare a traditional turkey Christmas dinner for her neighbors. The first two seem easy, but Cassie does not have any kind of positive relationship with any of her neighbors.

Meanwhile, her best friend, Alexis, who had been refused services by Simon, has a mysterious new man, and isn‘t sharing any dirt. And something is going on with her brother, Shawn. She focuses on her tasks so that she can meet her beloved John, while simultaneously being drawn to the enigma that is Simon.

Throughout her escapades, she has some Bridget Jones-worthy moments that make you laugh out loud as you shrink in embarrassment for her. You encourage her through her misfortunes, because you want to see her happy. And while paying $30,000 for a matchmaker seems like the most unrealistic thing in the world for even the most desperate woman to do, you realize in the end it is inconsequential. The price of true love and happiness is worth so much more than that.

Andrea Coventry is a book reviewer for

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Review of The Box From Braunau by Jan Elvin

Author: Jan Elvin
Publisher: Amacom Books
ISBN: 9780814410493

The Box from Braunau: In Search of My Father’s War is a touching tribute. Not only does it celebrate the life and legacy of author Jan Elvin’s father Bill, it also gives honor to the men who fought in WWII and celebrates the prisoners of the concentration camps they liberated.

All through Jan Elvin’s childhood, she and her siblings were warned to be careful around their father. They were especially warned to never be close-by when waking him, as he may attack. He was anxious and controlling. He often appeared apathetic to his family and their needs. What they didn’t know then, was that he was suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD.

Jan Elvin had a somewhat strained relationship with her father, as he seemed incapable of really opening up to anyone. Then, a few years before he died, Jan stumbled upon a familiar box from her youth. It was a metal box, upon the side of which read “Braunau 1944”. When she questioned her reticent father about its significance, she discovered that he had been a part of a regiment that freed a slave labor camp in Braunau, Austria. He received the box from a prisoner out of gratitude.

Bill Elvin also revealed that he had witnessed first-hand the atrocities of the concentration camp Ebensee. Desperate to discover more about her father’s experiences, which were too painful for him to articulate, Jan Elvin began a four-year quest to find out about Ebensee and Braunau. The Box from Braunau is the result of her research.

Jan’s research literally took her around the world and introduced her to many of America’s finest, who served with her father. Through those experiences, and through her father’s journal, she was finally able to paint a better picture of her father, and of the war in which he fought.

The Box From Braunau
alternates between narratives of the author’s memories of her family and journal entries made by her father during the war. She supplements those entries with factual information garnered in her research. The combination of memory, journal, and research provides an insightful and personal look at one of the worst experiences of mankind.

In addition to the book itself is a comprehensive bibliography for those who wish to research the war further. Jan Elvin also includes resources for those who wish to research their own family’s history as it relates to WWII.

It is an interesting read for anyone who is interested in WWII. It is also a sharp reminder to listen to your father’s stories, and to embrace him while you still have him.

Andrea Coventry is a book reviewer for

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Sunday, August 2, 2009

Review of Whiteout by Brian Duren

Author: Brian Duren
Publisher: Beaver’s Pond Press
ISBN: 978159282875

Author Brian Duren’s debut novel Whiteout is a remarkable first work. I’ll admit I had minor hesitations when starting it, as I am always wary of new writers. But I always try to keep an open mind, and was not disappointed.

The story revolves around Paul Bauer, who is a freelance journalist who fled to Paris several years prior, to escape his family. His estranged older sister, Christine, keeps calling him to return home to Minnesota, as their mother is on her deathbed. Simultaneously, Paul is plagued by a dream in which a little boy is walking in huge snow drifts. When the boy reaches the peak, he lifts off and soars....and Paul wakes up. Adding to the confusion is a Christmas card, sent to Paul by his mother the previous year, including his parents wedding announcement from 49 years ago.

When Paul’s mother finally passes, he obligingly returns stateside, sans girlfriend Claire, to attend her funeral and reacquaint himself with his family. In addition to Christine, he has an older brother, Fran, whose infamous mood swings can erupt into unpredictable rages. And then there is Stone, whose actual relationship with the family remains fuzzy in Paul’s mind.

All Paul has ever known about his father was that he was lost in a snowstorm whiteout thirty-five years ago. He has little to no memories of the man, yet is curious about him. A cryptic conversation with his mother’s long-time friend, Ruth, and stumbling upon ripped-up photographs in his mother’s closet, propel Paul to search for the truth about his family, no matter what he may discover.

The novel is full of long descriptions of Paul’s surroundings. At first one questions the necessity of such descriptions, but then the purpose is revealed. As Paul takes in every detail around him, he is also processing any new information he may receive via provoked memories or conversations with others. Many of us also become hyper-aware of small details in our environment when we are entrenched in deep thought.

Much of the story is also told through dialogue between the characters, which reveals their personalities without an omniscient narrator being responsible for doing so. This makes them a little more believable.

The story is fluid and a desire to keep up on Paul’s discoveries keeps the pages turning. The inevitable twist toward the end of the book is slightly predictable, yet the change of voice and mood is jarring enough to be entertaining.

I look forward to hearing Brian Duren’s fictional voice in the future.

Andrea Coventry is a reviewer for

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Saturday, August 1, 2009

Review of Learning Disabilities by Etta K. Brown

Learning Disabilities: Understanding the Problem and Managing the Challenges by Etta K. Brown, is a smorgasbord of information for both parents and educators of children with learning disabilities. Divided into three parts, Brown covers environmental influences on learning disabilities, history and laws pertaining to special education, and how to observe and accommodate special needs both in the classroom and at home.

This book is not one that can be read quickly in one sitting. Instead, it is meant to be read slowly, absorbing each bit of information before moving on to the next part. Brown even tells readers at the end of Part I to stop and be sure they understand what they have read before proceeding to the next part.

The language is technical, yet understandable. It reads almost like a textbook, fully explaining each term in context. Concepts are subdivided in bold print, and bulleted lists allow for easy readability and easy searches within the text. I just wish there would have also been an index in the back.

It is beneficial for educators as it can serve as a reminder of concepts learned may years ago in college. It may also provide new information, especially for those who are not as aware of some of the learning disabilities contained within. Research in this area is constantly evolving, and it can be overwhelming to keep up with it all.

Parents will benefit the most from Learning Disabilities. Brown is good at reinforcing the rights of the parents of the child with learning disabilities. Many parents quickly give in to schools, even when they don’t have to do so. This book arms them with information about the disabilities, accommodations that should legally be made, and the phraseology of the laws that back them up.

Brown also articulates accommodations that should be attempted at home to facilitate the child’s learning process. School and parents need to consistently work together to truly help the child.

A unique aspect of the book is Etta K. Brown’s desire to help parents in any way possible. She has a website that is dedicated to providing information to parents. She encourages parents to email her with any questions, or if they are feeling dejected about the process. The goal is to be an advocate for the child, though she and her partners cannot provide legal advice as attorneys.

I found this book to be a great review of the special ed laws that I learned several years ago. It provided further information about issues I am starting to see more of in my classroom, that perhaps I haven’t before observed. It gave me language to share with parents as they go about the evaluation process. The openness and willingness of the author to discuss issues also provide a lead for me to share with my parents.

Brown, Etta K. (2008) Learning Disabilities: Understanding the Problem and Manging the Challenges. Minneapolis: Langdon Street Press.

Andrea Coventry is a reviewer for

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