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Apologize, Apologize!
Apologize, Apologize!
by Elizabeth Kelly
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.62

1.0 out of 5 stars These Characters Put the DYS in DYSfunctional!, 26 Jun. 2013
This review is from: Apologize, Apologize! (Paperback)
I admit that I really didn't like this book and I disliked most of the characters, other than the atrociously named protagonist, Collie Flanagan and his delightfully excentric grandfather, Peregrine, nicknamed the Falcon. (I love falcons and other birds of prey).

Here is the story: Collie was born on November 22, 1963 a day eternally linked with the assassination of President Kennedy. He was named Collie because Lad, the title character in the 1962 movie "Lad: A Dog" was a collie. Good thing that maudlin movie wasn't about a Dandy Dinmont Terrier or an Aafenpincher or he might have been named Dandy D or Aafenpincher. His poor brother fared no better - born on August 3, 1964 he was named Bingo after an Irish Setter Anaïs once had. (Too bad he wasn't named Ringo after the Beatle.) Their mentally ill mother Anaïs beats her husband and generally is an androphobe. She punishes her children because they were born boys and her brother is just as bipolar and eccentric as she is, only he at least is a tad nicer. That isn't saying much. Collie's prodigal brother Bingo lives the spendthrift life - casual sex by middle school and a list of expulsions from prestigious prep schools in the U.S. and Canada. I just could not like Bingo.

Bingo and Anaïs fared miserably as well. They both became literary casualties in 1983. One wonders what took this author so long to kill them off. The pen really IS mightier than the sword.

Again, I readily admit that I didn't like this book, but read it because it was like a train crash - you stare in horrified fascination. Any mother who expresses outright hatred for her children is certainly not a likable character. Anaïs was described as bipolar and her behavior supports that diagnosis. She is also a thoroughly hateful and reprehensible character. As another reviewer on the U.S. boards noted, Anaïs lavished love and praise on Bingo and their relationship appeared to be quasi-incestuous. The husband is an alcoholic known for getting drunk and acting a fool and the uncle is just plain weird. His idea of fun was to quiz Collie on trivia. The only part I liked was learning certain terms for groupings, e.g. a kettle of hawks, a rhumba of rattlesnakes.

The Falcon, while to his credit appreciates fine birds is a rich old buzzard who does not appreciate his grandchildren. He and Anaïs butt heads; she was on the emotional and social plane of a teen rebel. Anaïs is the picture of stunted emotional growth and remained firmly fixed in adolescent rebellion. She repudiated all he espoused such as a good work ethic and a sense of parental responsibility. The Falcon rightfully "coolly framed Anaïs in contempt." Anaïs also "madehating her father her life's workand study, her daddy doctorate." This book, as another reviewer astutely noted, the Flanagan wealth does nothing to buy this dysfunctional band of literary misfits happiness (or as Paul McCartney wrote in 1964, "Can't Buy Me Love.") There is a real PAUCITY, rather a DEARTH of love in this weird story. An astute reviewer on the U.S. boards notes that this book has failed to "be imbued with mad humor;" it is just plain mad. And maddening.

This is a ridiculous story populated with ridiculous characters and just isn't funny. As another U.S. reviewer noted, this book crashes and burns and is NOT the source of a "rare gift." The characters were just so unappealing that I was not able to summon up any sympathy or liking for them.

This book's soundtrack could well be the Doors' "Break on Through to the Other Side."

Me Too
Me Too
by P Cleaver Bill
Edition: Paperback

1.0 out of 5 stars For the Birds!, 29 Dec. 2012
This review is from: Me Too (Paperback)
Twins Lydia and Lorna Birdsong, 12 are very different. Lydia is described as having a head "stuffed with brains" and constantly taught and drilled by her intellectual father. Lorna is cognitively and developmentally a toddler and lives in a nearby institution. The girls' father walked out on their mother twice a decade earlier when the girls were 2 and again when they were 3.

Their mother is a shadow figure who works in a factory. The institution closed due to adverse circumstances for the summer and Lydia is responsible for her sister. You don't get much of a sense of the twins' mother. Lydia tries teaching Lorna with middling results. When Lorna refuses to go along with one of Lydia's lessons, Lydia calls her cruel names. Lydia has delusions of curing kids "like her sister" and having an angel statue erected in her name for her "good works." Real altruism seeks no return and Lydia is just kidding herself. She's rude, bossy and demanding and I really didn't like her at all.

I did like her friend, a Native boy named Billy-Frank Blue, also 12. They had fun together until Lydia took on the responsiblity of her twin sister. She becomes crabby and even more domineering and even the kind Billy-Frank jumps her ship. He had always been a loyal protector, even going toe-to-toe with his own sister, Rucelle when she said she didn't want her brother to marry Lydia lest they have children "like Lorna." Rucelle, newly married became Rucelle Blue Bell. The names - Birdsong, Blue, Bell - you have to have a bit of a giggle. Then there are the Dragoo sisters, spoiled rude girls with a sense of social entitlement who mock Lorna, thus incurring Lydia's wrath.

At the end of the summer, Lydia understandably loses her last friend; Lorna returns to the institution and the girls' father's whereabouts remain unknown. I have intensely disliked this story since I was a child and still do. Lydia was for the Bird(songs).

Mother's Helper
Mother's Helper
by Maureen Freely
Edition: Paperback

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Atrocious Stinker!, 9 Nov. 2012
This review is from: Mother's Helper (Paperback)
This is a very weird story. Laura, 18 is the protagonist. She is a freshman at a local college who was hired by the Pyles to care for their three children, Sarah 10 (her age is given as 8 in the middle of the book and magically she becomes 10 again); Bess, 6 and Nathaniel, 4. Kay Pyle is overly permissive with the children, allowing them to act out sexually and has sexually themed conversations with them. Bob Pyle, a former professor turned lobbyist of sorts tries to be an adult in this household of weird characters. He is described as having brown eyes; later in the book, his eyes are are blue and then later revert to brown. Editing, anyone?

The children are left to run freely. The only "punishment" if you will is when they are told to go to the Thinking Room, a closet in which they are told to think about their behavior. Sarah is truly vicious; Bess, timid and Nathaniel, yearning to belong. The children share a bedroom in the basement and Nathaniel still has a crib. They play such games as Mate, wherein they create hybrid words, e.g. "what do you get when a fish mates a plant? A plish!" "A dog mates a cat? A Dat!" Nathaniel goes so far as to try to mate their dog and cat to create the fictitious "dat."

Sexual talk and adult sexual behavior is pushed onto those children. It's not as though the kids came in with questions, KAY would talk to them about adult sex and pushed sexual talk on them quite frequently. At one point in the book, the kids lock Laura and a male visitor in the Thinking Room and refuse to let them out until they consummate their "relationship." The whole thing just makes one wonder why this was permitted in the first place.

Over time, the Pyles go their separate ways. Kay becomes involved with a group of women, two of whom are partners. She keeps the intercoms in the house on at all times and the children are free to listen in on adult conversations, particularly those involving the partners and their sex life. Kay is open with them to a fault, even telling Sarah that had she waited to have her first child, Sarah might not exist and Bess would be the oldest, but "I still would have called you Sarah." The women are equally bizarre and so is the magazine they want to create. Melissa, the most dislikable one on the bunch becomes even more so when her partner jilts her. I didn't like Melissa at all and felt it served her right.

The whole book was ludicrious and surreal. Laura remains on the periphery of the group of women except in one memorable evening when Kay calls for a rage night. Kay's mother in law rightfully told Kay that never had she ever "seen a woman so bent on destroying her children as Kay." The magazine group and Laura sit at the table and each woman vents to the one sitting beside her all the things in her life that made her angry. Melissa, ever her dislikable self turns on Laura although Laura is not her assigned target. She blames Laura for turning the children against her. Melissa was the one who caused a lot of strife. In one unforgettable scene, Nathaniel squirts his water pistol on the work the women have done for the magazine. Melissa snatches the gun telling Nathaniel it's a "penis substitute." That is hardly the thing to tell a 4-year-old. (That is an example of pushing and projecting adult sexual knowledge and motives onto a child.)

Bess' 7th birthday party was also surreal. She forgot to pass out invitations to her classmates, so Kay throws a party together at the last minute with Violet and two girls from Brussels who are living in the area. Had Kay been thinking, she would have called Bess' teacher to be sure Bess handed out the invitations in time. The sisters think very poorly of Kay and her obvious adulterous romance with Martin. They snicker and make rude remarks. Only the Pyle children's paternal grandmother is the reasonable and stabilizing voice. She was the only character I liked.

To make a bad story even worse, there is bigotry. Bess has a playmate named Violet who is black. Violet's mother worked for Bob. Kay makes a point of not saying she won't scold Violet because of her race. Her friends criticize Violet's mother and make racist comments about her and Bob when they become a couple.

Kay also hooks up with someone. Martin, her laywer friend becomes her new love interest. She even told Nathaniel to come to her bedroom where she was sleeping with Martin. She also encouraged Nathaniel when he wanted to pretend he was a released sperm en route to new life. The Pyle children have a very adult knowledge base of sexual matters and to make things even worse, the girls tackle male visitors and punch their privates. Stupid Kay just puts up silly little memos on her bulletin board advising against this instead of putting a freeze on the behavior in question.

Their sexual aggression gets even more out of hand. Sarah and Bess play a sexual game in the bathtub called "marshmallow" and to make a bad thing even worse, the girls terrorize Nathaniel and threaten to hurt his privates. Laura stops them in time, but not before some damage is done. Sarah bares her fangs and claws and Laura is her avowed enemy for stopping her "ceremony" involving her brother and a knife. Nathaniel is traumatized to the point where Kay decides not to let him join the girls in trick or treating with Bob, who was picking them up. Why the girls were allowed to go after they maltreated their brother is a mystery. Sarah was allowed to rule the household in spoiled, tyrannical fashion with impunity.

You can't help but feel sorry for the children. There is one casualty in this book and Bob Pyle has been more or less relegated to an infrequent visitor. Kay maligns him to their children and generally sets a bad example for them. She flaunts adult sexual matters such as affairs; details and has no sense of adult-child boundaries. Instead of discipline, they are allowed to run free and wild. At various points, the three of them run around the house naked. Sarah is an especially cruel child and Kay bends over backward to win her over. Sad, really.

Laura is just a tragic figure. She did earn a modicum of respect when she stood up to Sarah, a rude little tyrant with a real sense of entitlement. Gently put, I didn't like this book and certainly cannot recommend it.

Breaking the Silence
Breaking the Silence
Price: £5.79

5.0 out of 5 stars Let Every Voice Be Heard!, 13 Jun. 2012
Diane Chamberlain is a gifted author and this is a truly stellar book! I literally could not put it down.

Set in 1998, Laura Brandon, 40 is coping with the death of her father, Carl Brandon who was a gifted astronomer. He leaves with her a deathbed request, which is to check in on a woman named Sarah Tolley. Ms Tolley is a widow in a nursing home and she has the beginning stages of Alzheimer's.

Curious, Laura tries to figure out her father's connection to Sarah Tolley. Her husband Ray, champion for the rights of homeless people and her daughter Emma, 5 round out her current family. Laura's mother died in 1966 when she was 8.

Ray is adamantly opposed to Laura visiting Sarah. She refuses to back down and goes out to meet the mysterious Sarah Tolley. They immediately form a bond and Laura learns a lot about Sarah's past. Sarah had been married to a lovely man named Joe Tolley and her late Aunt Jane had a crippling case of agoraphobia. As a nod to her aunt, Sarah becomes a psychiatric nurse and has many horrific tales to share about the hospital in which she worked in the late 1950s. She also had a daughter named Janie who was born in April of 1958 whom she is trying to locate.

When Laura returns home, she is greeted by a mute and traumatized Emma. Ray had shot himself to death and left a very unsettling note. In dealing with the aftermath of the man's suicide, Laura has to help Emma work through her trauma. Emma stopped speaking when she found out what Ray had done.

Eight months slog past and Emma still isn't speaking. Emma's therapist is very encouraging and even invites Sarah to join them for Emma's sessions, which turns out to be a good thing. Emma has developed a real terror of men and think all they do is scream and shoot themselves. She won't even play at a friend's summer house when the girl's father is present.

Again, Sarah Tolley might have more insights as to what caused Emma's fears to segue into more fears. She and Emma bond.

So does a man named Dylan Geer. He receives a call from Laura, literally out of the blue and denies the claim she makes. He has a successful hot air balloon touring business and he wants to keep his life attachment free. His current girlfriend is a selfish whinebag named Bethany. More than once I wanted to kick Bethany in the shins. Laura counters Dylan's anger by sending him a picture of Emma. Once he sees that picture, the world changes for him.

"Breaking the Silence" is a masterpiece. Sarah's tales of horror about atrocities committed on psychiatric patients in the 1950s bleed over into 1998, which is when this story is set. She is the glue that binds Dylan, Laura and Emma as well as Emma's very astute therapist. Their stories are heartwarming and this book might make you cry. Just a warning.

At the risk of sounding corny, I am going to miss these characters. This book gets nothing but accolades from me.

The Fifth Dimension's 1967 classic "Up Up & Away" could be the soundtrack of this book.

by Elin Hilderbrand
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars Circle in the Sand, 12 April 2012
This review is from: Barefoot (Paperback)
I enjoy Elin Hildebrand's books, even though these common denominators exist: the Nantucket setting, emphasis on sand and a local male who becomes a love interest. Even so, I enjoy her books and good chick lit is worth it every time.

Vicki Stowe, 32 and her sister Brenda Lyndon, 31 are spending their summer on Nantucket, of course with Vicki's friend Melanie in tow. Vicki's two children Blaine, 4 and his gruesomely named brother Porter,* an infant are on this trek. In fact, readers are introduced to the trio when Melanie nearly trips at the airport with Vicki's kids. (Having Porter as a surname is one thing, but to inflict that name on a hapless baby is an entirely different matter.)

Luckily, Island resident Josh Flynn, 21, and a summer employee at the airport is taken by the trio. He dislikes his job and is only doing it to help defray the cost of his senior year in Vermont. He has an unrequited crush on Brenda as, according to her character, men seem to do.

In fact, Brenda was fired from a teaching post at a small university for having an affair with a student who was one year her junior. To make matters worse, Brenda was being sued because in a childish fit of pique, she threw her esoteric book at a Jackson Pollack painting, causing minor damage. She acted a fool at her hearing and ultimately hurt her own case. The university staff were made up of a cadre of very dislikable people. Brenda's hearing was also comprised of dislikable people, including the traitors, one of whom was a faculty member who turned Brenda in. Sadly, Brenda's area of expertise was so narrow as her entire academic life and career in academia revolved around a rather obscure book.

Melanie's husband Peter was involved in an affair with a rather dislikable woman named Frances. Melanie walks out on Peter and their house in Connecticut to take Vicki up on her offer to spend the summer on the Island. Vicki and Brenda's mother believe, to a humorous degree that "Nantucket sand between your toes" is a panacea. Melanie is pregnant, finally after several years of unsuccessful in vitro attempts.

Vicki has been diagnosed with lung cancer and believes, to a certain extent that Nantucket sand really IS a panacea. She has a delightful medical team at the hospital on the Island and her husband Ted, who comes to visit later in the book is a truly good person.

So is Josh Flynn, whom Brenda commissions to babysit Vicki's boys. Josh bonds with them and to a certain extent identifies with them as he lost a mother under very traumatic circumstances some 10 years earlier. He also has a former girlfriend with nothing to recommend her. In fact, Didi is such an odious character that you just can't like or sympathize with her. She extorts money from Josh; has a fatal attraction on him; threatens him and is involved in a number of questionable activities. Many was the time when I wanted to kick Didi in the shins and I was so glad when Josh made it plain to her he was no longer interested in her. What I found hard to believe was when Didi, who had a job at the Admitting Desk at the hospital where Vicki was being treated made snide comments about Vicki's possible death and for threatening Brenda on another occasion. She should have been reported ASAP and fired even sooner. I had an EXTREMELY adverse reaction to Didi and thoroughly detested her.

I was not overly fond of Brenda either and wanted to kick her in the shins a few times. I thought she was very selfish, self centered and self serving. I didn't like the way she treated Melanie and said mean things about her when Melanie could hear them. Although the results were good, I didn't like the way she advertized for baby sitters without consulting Vicki. Sixteen months Vicki's junior, she had long been an antagonist to her sister. One part I found a tad implausible was Vicki's reported response and behavior to Brenda shortly after Brenda was born. Her behavior sounded far advanced for a 1-year-old and more believable from a child at least twice that age.

I loved the men in this book for the most part. Brenda's boyfriend was just delightful. A brilliant, kind man from Australia, John Walsh brought a fresh insight into the story. Josh was a very kind and unusually mature young man who was able to provide support on an adult level and be a kind and responsible example/caretaker for the Stowe boys. He was incredibly kind to Vicki, knowing how seriously ill she was.

For anybody who has ever lost a loved one to cancer and/or who has cared about somebody going through chemo and radiation treatments, you might cry when you read about Vicki's ordeal. George Harrison died from lung cancer. A relative died from cancer. This book is so on target that readers will come away thinking about it long after they have turned the last page.

On a tangential note, I didn't like the cover. I am tired of feet, toes and sand instead faces being shown. The cover just was not aesthetically appealing. However, the UK cover is much more appealing as you see people and where they are instead of just feet.

I would recommend this book to anybody. Belinda Carlisle's 1988 "Circle in the Sand" could be the soundtrack of this book along with Tom Chapin's "All My Life's a Circle."

*Dr. William G. Porter, an oncologist who is acknowledged in this book had a literary namesake.

A Summer Affair
A Summer Affair
Price: £3.59

3.0 out of 5 stars Footprints in the Sand, 12 April 2012
This review is from: A Summer Affair (Kindle Edition)
Claire Crispin Danner, glass blower extraordinaire is married to a hard working man and is blessed with 4 children, J.D., 10, Ottilie, 8, Shea, 4 and Zack, 1. While she appears to have it all, she has 2 voids in her life - her husband's strong stand on her going into her workshop to blow glass and her own unfulfilled aspirations. She also wants to spice up her love life. Add to it Claire carries a guilt complex where her son Zack is concerned. Had she not gone into her ultra-hot workshop to blow glass, she would never have fainted and delivered the baby prematurely. Her husband, while seemingly a nice guy is a bit of a caveman and does not appear to have any cultural interests.

An accident a year earlier (2007) set the wheels in motion for everyone's collective lives to change. A friend named Daphne, mother of Heather, 16 and wife of billionaire Lock Dixon, who is directing Nantucket Children's Gala was injured in that accident. Daphne suffered from permanent cognitive impairment. Lock, by then married in name only commissions Claire to chair the Gala. Chair Claire agrees as she felt guilty about Daphne's accident and resulting personality change. Even the Dixons' daughter avoids Daphne and attends a boarding school.

Lock also commissions Claire to create an extraordinary chandelier. Claire has to sneak out to her workshop to create this masterpiece. She is also sneaking out to see Lock, with whom she has an affair.

They meet regularly in his office and other private venues, living by the credo of discretion. Claire's friend Siobhan, mother of two tween boys is the only person other than her parish priest in whom she confides her adulterous affair. Naturally, neither approve and this strains Claire's relationship with Siobhan.

Add to their list of woes is a company thief who has been skimming funds from the Gala events for years. Claire's sneaking around and creating her mega-masterpiece in secret all underscores the theme of secrecy in this story.

With regard to the affair and the chandelier, there were no surprises there. Claire's flair for glass blowing easily reminds those who read The Island. Readers will recognize parallels between India's husband's gift for sculpting and Claire's flair for glass blowing and the metaphoric importance in their respective art media. I did like the inclusion of a meal with Paul McCartney included as a prize in the Gala. Even so, I thought the story was as light and frothy as whipped cream in Ovaltine. Dark background with a light touch. I also thought the story was quite predictable.

As another reviewer on Amazon US notes, the cover is not the greatest. I'm tired of toes, feet, sand, towels and no showing of people's faces. After all, the adulterous couple did conduct the better part of their affair in an office and didn't leave any footprints in the sand, so to speak.

The Shangri-Las' 1964 classic "Walking in the Sand" could be the soundtrack of this book.

The Island
The Island
Price: £3.59

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Calico Cats & Ginger Dogs, 12 April 2012
This review is from: The Island (Kindle Edition)
This book is equally balanced as a light summer read and some heavy literary emotions.

Birdie Cousins, a soon-to-be-we-hope divorcee has two grown daughters, Francesca (Chess) and the gruesomely named Tate (actually, Elizabeth Tate Cousins - just the "Tate" is gruesome) is throwing herself into planning Chess' wedding. Chess' fiance has it all - he is rich; has graduated from a top school and is on the fast track. In the 1980s he would have been called a "Yuppie" (Young Urban Professional).

Birdie has her own marital issues. Her husband Grant has been cheating on her, so she meets a nice man named Hank. The drawback? Hank's wife Caroline is in a nursing home with Alzheimer's and Hank feels he cannot get divorced as long as she is still living. Still, he and Birdie see each other until sadly, Hank breaks it off. Birdie does end up with a partner, but I admit I was disappointed in the partner she got.

Chess breaks quite a few things off as well. She has her 26" hair cut off and her head shaved. She ends up looking like a buzzard without the wrinkled neck. She jilts her fiance without any discernible explanation and takes Birdie up on her suggestion to come to Nantucket, where their family home is being repaired. She is plainly clinically depressed - her bizarre behavior and decisions all point up to it. She is like a buzzard, living on death.

Tate, a computer whiz in Charlotte, North Carolina accepts Birdie's invitation as well. Like other characters from other Hilderbrand books, she is a Bruce Springsteen fanatic with a penchant for revenge. In fact, she exacts a very resourceful and very funny form of revenge on a woman she thinks has her hooks out for a man for whom she carried the torch.

The man? Barrett, long-time Island resident, widower and father of two boys, ages 3 and 5. Tate had a vendetta against Chess because Barrett appeared to be more interested in her. Claws and fangs are bared and it's the Calico Cat vs. the Ginger Dog. I didn't like either one of the daughters. I actually wanted to knock their heads together in as much as they had already locked horns with one another. As with all Hilderbrand books, there is always a local Island male in whom one of the major characters sets her cap for and predictable results.

Birdie's sister India also arrived, per Birdie's invitation. She is the mother of 3 grown sons and has a grandchild on the way. India, a curator in Philadelphia left the City of Brotherly Love because of her affair with another woman at the museum where she worked. India's husband Bill had a gift for sculpting, which can easily remind readers of Claire Danner Crispin, the gifted glass blower in A Summer Affair: A Novel. Readers who have read "A Summer Affair" can see some parallels.

There is one casualty in this story and the circumstances surrounding that character's death remain an open question. There are some suspicious conditions, but again, that is for the reader to conclude.

On a somewhat tangential note, I was not overly fond of the cover. I'm tired of feet and toes being featured instead of faces.

The family members who are staying in the ancestral home on the Island have decided to go without digital conveniences such as cell phones, computers and iPods. We know computer hound Tate will go along with that for so long. Friendships, family relationships and self perceptions and gaining new tolerances are very fluid and malleable in this book. The outcome is predictable, but it does keep you occupied and it sure beats television.

The Castaways
The Castaways
by Elin Hilderbrand
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Outer Limits, 12 April 2012
This review is from: The Castaways (Paperback)
Greg & Tess McAvoy, a young, free-spirited couple blessed with 7-year-old twins, Chloe and Finn appeared to have it all. They hid the cracks in their marriage with a swan song sail that ended in tragedy off the island of Nantucket.

Their 6 best friends, three couples who have known them for years try to piece together the wreckage of their lives in the aftermath of the tragedy. Addison and Phoebe, who had their own set of issues including Phoebe's dependence on her twin brother Reed, who sadly perished on 9/11 have also hit rough waters in their marriage. Jeffrey and Deliliah, he a farmer who returned to his rural roots after receiving his inheritance and she, a runaway from Michigan who, some 20 years later returned to the peaceful idyll of Nantucket. They have 2 boys, Drew and Barney who are close in age with the McAvoy twins. Lastly, there is Andrea and Eddie, known as the Chief. They have two highly responsible teenagers, Kacy and Eric. Tess and Andrea were cousins.

Meanwhile, a young girl of 16 who was allegedly with Greg shortly before he and Tess perished is a new wrinkle. She claims he acted improperly toward her. Did he? Or did she initiate the relationship, if any even occurred? And what of the girl's mother, who has cancer? What of the girl afterward?

Friendships expand and contract and questions keep arising regarding the accident. One of which is who will take in the twins, Chloe and Finn? The brother and sister pair are inseparable. Who will decide their fate?

A riveting story that will keep readers with it until the last page. Friendships travel many boundaries and the 1963 hit, "The Outer Limit" could well be the soundtrack of this book.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 13, 2013 2:58 PM BST

The Golden Hat: Talking Back to Autism
The Golden Hat: Talking Back to Autism
by Kate Winslet
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £17.34

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I Tip My Hat to the Golden Hat Foundation, 31 Mar. 2012
I love Kate Winslet, Leo DiCaprio, Johnny Depp, Natalie Portman and all the other high profile people who have passed the Golden Hat around to the world at large. Thank you all so much for what you've done!

Every so often I come across a book that moves me so deeply and is so personally valuable like a king's treasure and this book is one of them. People with autism have so much to contribute and, as do all people have the innate desire and need to communicate.

Keli, the youngest of 3 Thorsteinsson boys has autism. For years he was nonverbal and the so-called experts told Margaret Ericsdottir and her husband Thorstein not to expect much from their son as he was believed to be on a mental plane with a 2-year-old. When you dig deeper into that erroneous finding, never underestimate even a child that age. The toddler brain is absorbing language and a lot of brain development is taking place then. Sadly, nobody knew just how bright Keli was until he was closing in on his teens. Over time, it was discovered that Keli had a wide range of musical appreciation and was even a Beatles' fan!

The Golden Hat foundation, named by Keli is created to help people with autism and their families find communication tools. Good on Kate Winslet and all the others who banded forces to make the Golden Hat Foundation a reality. These kind people who have stepped up to the plate have paid it forward. Kate Winslet, in her series of e-mails to the author has shown a deep empathy for what family members of a loved one with autism confront and at all times she showed respect for Keli. Keli had the pleasure of meeting Kate Winslet in London during a film shooting.

People familiar with autism literature and films encounter old "friends" such as Tito and Soma The Mind Tree: A Miraculous Child Breaks the Silence of Autism, (Soma worked with Keli as well as Dov, Portia Iversen's oldest child from Strange Son, Carly, the bright young woman who was nonverbal from "Medical Mystery Story" and Carly's Voice: Breaking Through Autism and Neal Katz, who was just delightful in Autism: The Musical.

I loved reading updates on people I had read about in other books and learning about more people who have been helped with communication techniques. Bless you, Kate and thank you! I can never thank you and the others enough. You have been Ambassadors to Autism and have paved a Boulevard of Tolerance. Again, I say thank you!

As an added bonus, readers are treated to Icelandic culture and some of Keli's writings include nods to his Icelandic heritage. His poem about the mountain is very a propos and very deep.

This book has a common bond with SOULS: BENEATH & BEYOND AUTISM (paperback version) in that extraordinary photographs of people with autism with a short passage by them are included. I found Keli's poetry especially intense; again, it is crucial to remember that because a person is nonverbal, that does not mean the person isn't understanding what is going on. Dov, the young man featured in "Strange Son" said he'd been spending his time listening. That was the way he learned. Tito and Soma, who came to America from India and worked with Dov have since relocated to Austin, Texas. Rowan Isaacson, the boy featured in The Horse Boy: A Father's Quest to Heal His Son (Thorndike Press Large Print Basic Series) was helped via unconventional methods and he, like Tito is in Austin Texas.

In fact, on an interesting note, Soma and Tito have founded HALO, (Helping Autism through Learning & Outreach) in Austin, Texas which is rapidly becoming an educational center for people with autism. Soma's book Understanding Autism through Rapid Prompting Method is the key that unlocked the limbo of silence in which many people with autism are trapped.

Please, please buy this book and make a gift out of it. It is a gift to you as well. You can pay it forward by passing the Golden Hat around to others so that they, too can share in this very special gift, the gift of being a good person. It is past time to LISTEN to autism. It is long past time people with autism were given a turn at bat and I am glad to see that is happening.

Margaret Ericsdottir, Kate Winslet, Leo DiCaprio et al., again, I thank you all from the bottom of my heart. You have really reinforced what it means to be a good person.

You Can Be a Friend
You Can Be a Friend
by Tony Dungy
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £11.08

5.0 out of 5 stars Friends: Ones We Can Depend On, 18 Mar. 2012
This review is from: You Can Be a Friend (Hardcover)
"Friends,How many of us have them?/Friends-Ones we can depend on?
Friends/How many of us have them?/Friends-Before we go any further, let's be friends." -- Whodini, 1984

Jade and Jordan, tween siblings are excited when a new family moves into their neighborhood. They stop their game of freeze tag to watch a moving van and a red Honda bearing a girl about Jade's age pull up to a neighborhood house. A few days later, their new neighbor stops by with her younger daughter.

Jade was disappointed as she thought she'd meet the older girl. The Dungys come up with a good plan. They offer to invite the new family over and Jade was surprised to find out that Hannah, her new neighbor was in a wheelchair!

"Friends is a word we use every day/Most the time we use it in the wrong way.
Now you can look the word up, again and again/But the dictionary doesn't know the meaning of friends." -- Whodini

The girls do become friends and even outsmart Jordan when he snatches a prize toy from Jade. They like a lot of the same things. However, Jade has some reservations about her new friend's wheelchair and feels she can't invite Hannah to her party, which will be held at a theme park.

Her older brother Eric, an astute young man listens to her problem and tells her she has to do what her heart dictates. Again, this book has many affirming messages about love and God's affirming us as people. Hannah gives Eric's advice serious consideration.

This is a wonderful book and I can't recommend it highly enough. It is right for all ages and the warm illustrations make a good thing better still. I recently saw Coach Dungy on television and was so impressed with his message of love through God. He has been richly blessed with a good family and his books are ones that will find permanent places in the hearts who read them.

Whodini's 1984 hit "Friends" is the soundtrack of this wonderful book.

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