The Note She Never Left: By The Time You Read This, I'll Be Dead is a lost teen's cry for help

By The Time You Read This, I’ll Be Dead
By Julie Peters
Hardcover, 200 ppg.
Hyperion, 2010
ISBN: 978-1-4231-1618-9

“This book is dripping with teen angst.”

That was my thought by the time I got to page 25 of this book.

Yes, I was still reading it by Page 25. And, yes, I actually kept reading it. I read the book until the end. Despite the drama, despite Daelyn’s stories of bullying bringing up memories of my own experiences of being bullied (and being called a “freak” just like she was), and despite my desire for all that misery to end. Which could have, if I stopped reading the book. If I stopped reading Daelyn’s story.

It all could have ended. But it didn’t. Because the misery never ends for Daelyn. And so she decides that she will commit suicide.

Yes, this is a story about a teen girl who wants to commit suicide. By page 25, even I wanted to commit suicide! (Kidding!) It was really depressing and filled with drama.

But I kept reading this book. I wanted to know what happened at the end. If she really does kill herself.

Meanwhile, we get to know a little more about Daelyn and all the things she has been through. Spoiler: This attempt will be her third one. The second one rendered her throat a terrible mess and she can’t talk. She must wear a neck brace, too – at least, most of the time. And she shares all of the horrible experiences she has been through – at a suicide website. She does not tell all in her journal. She doesn’t tell her parents ANYTHING – although her parents DO try to reach out to her and let her know they love her Very Much. But she pushes them away. She is Done with them. And she decides to tell all of her sad stories to a bunch of anonymous screennames on a suicide site.

Well, not all of them. Sometimes she thinks about her experiences of being bullied, too. These are also things she keeps to herself. She is hypersensitive and, apparently, secretive. She doesn’t trust anyone and, at this point, she won’t allow herself to feel love for anyone, either. In fact, she stops herself from growing attached or feeling anything resembling love for another person because it will make her decision easier for her to follow through on. Not only this, she also throws away all her possessions as the days tick done to The Day (the “Day of Decision” or “DOD”) she will off herself. She wants to erase any trace of herself or that she even existed.

Daelyn was bullied because she is fat. The bullying she goes through is terrible and it’s horrible and it’s a nightmare. She is even sexually assaulted. And these are the only things that she can think about. She can only dwell on the bullying. She can’t focus on anything else.  She is CONVINCED she is a loser, waste of space, etc., and that the world is better off without her. She thinks her parents will get over her killing herself. (And as a parent of a teen myself, I promise you that THEY WON’T.) And so she is set on killing herself. That’s it! Exit stage left! The end!

Well, I was Daelyn, once upon a time. I, too, did the cutting thing and I, too, tried to take my own life. I was bullied for years and also sexually assaulted. And I have been there once in wishing for NOTHING except death because I felt I had nothing to offer the world. I have been there.

And these days, I am GLAD I am alive! I wish I could go back in time to tell myself “it gets better” but the old, teen me would NOT believe it. And that’s the thing. It’s nearly impossible to get through to a teenager going through something like this. As a teenager, you are much more vulnerable and exposed to the bullshit in the world. You experience pain on a much, much stronger level than as a child or an adult. You are extremely sensitive and a fragile shell that can break so easily because you have a whirlwind of emotions raging inside of you that you are trying to understand and figure out how to use in a mature way and still trying to understand the world.

But when you get older, you get stronger. You develop coping skills. You figure out how to deal with things. And, the best part is, you REALLY stop caring about what other people think! What bliss!

But, Daelyn does not know any of this awaits her in the future. (Sidenote: I KNOW that Daelyn is a fictional character and NOT REAL, but she represents any teen girl out there in this situation contemplating suicide. So I rely on this construct when referring to her in this sense.) In fact, she has decided that she will never have a future. She will never grow up. She will never turn 18. She will never have her first car. She’ll never know intimate, physical love. She will never be old enough to buy cigarettes or alcohol. She will never graduate from high school, go to college or get a job. She will never get married, have kids, or grandkids. She will never get to have her own place to live in or have her own checking account at a bank. She will never get to travel to another country. No, she has decided on her death, and she wants her death to come about sooner rather than later. She does not believe in God anymore and she is convinced that there is no hope for her. A person could tell her “things will get better” or “you will grow stronger” until they are blue in the face and she will never believe them at all. This is the end of the line for Daelyn and she is prepared to take it. She doesn’t want her parents’ love anymore. She doesn’t want a boyfriend. She doesn’t want a friend. She only wants death, because that is what she thinks she deserves.

But it’s not. No one deserves suicide – not even people suffering from an incurable disease.

But we live in a world where people glorify suicide. People say that suicide is the best answer for someone who is suffering. And even if an animal is suffering, we choose to kill it because we believe that death is the cure for suffering.

But is it? Is death really the answer? Is suicide the answer?

I remember watching a movie called The Suicide Room, in which a teenager being bullied obsesses over a chat room for people who want to kill themselves. Like Daelyn, he disconnected from the world and threw himself into his addiction to this chat room. Like Daelyn, he is set on killing himself.

I’m not giving away the ending of this book except to say that it was a disappointment. It’s an open ending, leaving Daelyn’s fate in the hands of the reader. And then we’re fed a bunch of resources for suicide prevention. (Here’s a tip: People in Daelyn’s situation usually DON’T reach out for help!)

As I read this story, I felt sad for Daelyn. I really didn’t want her to kill herself. Maybe because I used to be her. I was never sent to fat camp but I understood what she was going through. I wanted her to be friends with Emily, because Emily needed her. I wanted her to encourage her mother to tell her more stories about her childhood. I wanted her to go to dinner with Santana. And take her medication, dammit!

But like I said, you can’t get through to these people. People try to break through the wall that Dealyn has built around herself but they can’t. She pushes everyone away.

I liked this book a lot, because it showed a teen's pain and sense of hopelessness so well. You could really understand just how hard it would be to get through to someone like Daelyn, because she is so set on killing herself and won't consider anything to save her. It made me sad, of course, but it also made me ask a lot of questions at the end. And one of those questions was, Why did the author write this book? I mean, as an author myself, I understand the NEED to write a story. But was this to portray the brutal reality of teen bullying? I know many teens have committed suicide because of bullying. Or was the author trying to shed light on the dangers of a suicide site on the Internet? Or is this novel an attempt to get a teen in this situation to reconsider her choice? To remind them that suicide is NOT the answer? For Daelyn, only death is her savior. I’d like to believe that the author wrote this story with the sheer hope of letting other teens in this situation know that it isn’t.

4 stars

Disclaimer: I checked this book out at the library and do not receive any compensation at all for writing this review of it.

To Boldly Go: Star Trek Psychology Offers an Analysis of an Enduring Sci-Fi Show

Star Trek Psychology: The Mental Frontier, Edited by Travis Langley, PhD
Sterling Books, 2017
ISBN: 978-1-4549-1842-4
Softcover, 309 ppg.

What is it about Star Trek that we find so compelling? Sure, a lot of people tuned in to watch Captain Kirk knock out a bad guy or to see Spock dispense with his Vulcan wisdom, but what is that one THING that kept Star Trek going so strong for so many years?

In this reviewer’s opinion, I believe it was the mystery of the unknown.

Travis Langley has studied this mystery in his book, Star Trek Psychology: The Mental Frontier. If you have ever watched an episode from one of the Star Trek shows and ever wondered why the writers didn’t go deeper with some of the issues the characters faced, then grab a copy of this book because that is exactly what Dr. Langley and crew take the time to explore. From Sulu running amok with a sword to Captain Picard’s psychological torture when he was captured by the Cardassians to Captain Sisko’s internal struggles as a single parent as well as captain of a starship, Star Trek Psychology boldly goes where no psychologist has gone before. While his book takes a look at the Star Trek shows from the point-of-view and analysis of a psychologist, it also delves into the mystery of just what made Star Trek and its characters click with viewers.

For centuries, humans have looked to the stars and wondered, What’s out there? Are we truly alone? What other worlds, other planets, have we yet to explore? And “explore” is the key word here. As one writer puts it in the book, "We are explorers by nature." (Page 11) While the basic tenet of the Federation starships is to “explore strange new worlds” as well as “seek out new life and new civilizations,” every single member of every single Enterprise starship knows and understands – and perhaps even welcomes – the dangers and challenges that would result from such solar exploration. They are lucky in being able to explore the great unknown of the universe but at the same time, they are able to answer the basic human call to explore. We want to know what’s out there. Instead of looking to the stars for answers, they explore the stars and find out just what awaits us.

But at the same time, even as Star Trek indulges our curiosity for space exploration on a vicarious level, another thing about the show that we find so appealing is that it turns the tables on life as we know it. As Eugene "Rod" Roddenberry is quoted as saying in the book, "I think St
ar Trek speaks to that person who questions the status quo." (pg. 47) We want to take a break from rules and from the same norms of life and try to step outside the boundaries. The show made headlines during its earlier days for having a Russian actor as a major lead player at a time the U.S. and Russia were struggling to get along and it had a female main character – an African American one, at that – playing such an important and crucial role on the bridge of a starship. A lot of people liked these changes and wanted more and, of course, Trekkies were not disappointed as future Star Trek shows (and movies) continued to overstep those lines.

For this particular Trekkie, however, there was always one thing about Star Trek that kept me coming back to watch more: The fact that aliens who looked so different from humans were accepted in society. Spock with his ears, Worf with the Klingon forehead, Quark with his Ferengi appearance. Indeed, these characters stood out because they were so different, but at the same time, their appearances were accepted. Of course, Data, being an android, was still beset with discrimination (especially when he tried to command a starship himself one time and a member of the crew admitted that he felt uncomfortable having a machine for a captain), but overall, they were not so fraught with bullying, discrimination or social ostracism as people usually are if they are different in today’s world. No, Star Trek embraced being different. That’s the one thing we like about it. As one writer in this book observed, "Being different most often means being bullied or hurt." (Page 99) As someone with third degree burn scars on the left side of her face and entire left arm, I know all too well about being bullied and hurt. Society only wants beautiful people. They want eye candy. The Star Trek universe does not. The Star Trek universe welcomes any and all sorts of people, beings, species, and, yes, even machines. In fact, there was one character on an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation in which her face was covered with what looked like the same burn scars that I have. I was so moved and hopeful when I saw this, because instead of getting looks of disgust or being called “ugly” or a “freak,” the characters in that scene with her treated her with respect and dignity. And this gave me hope that in the future – at least, Star Trek’s vision of the future – anyone with burns such as mine would be seen for the person that we are on the inside and not how we look on the outside. Star Trek understood this and that is one reason why I have always respected it.

At the same time, however, as a female, there were times on Star Trek that I was irritated by the frequent sexualization of its female characters. I was disgusted by women often being seen as mere sex objects. Granted, this was not the case with Uhura, and this eventually dissipated with the introduction of female doctors and ambassadors, but for a while there, it was still a big issue. That’s what I was thinking about when I came across this line: "Star Trek may have challenged stereotypes, but did it also perpetuate some?" (Page 268) I think that, in some respects, it did, especially with women. There was also the issue of religious stereotypes and racial stereotypes, but it did attempt to maintain its standing as a show to make people think. The stereotypes served both as a method of connecting viewers of a science-fiction show with real-world issues, but also it served as a way of engaging our thoughts and forcing us to question our feelings on these issues. When personally witnessing racism, we bring to mind characters such as Commander Nyota Uhura, Lieutenant Commander Geordi La Forge and Captain Benjamin Sisko. When dealing with religious stereotypes, the characters Spock, Worf and Quark may come to mind. Even in the Star Trek universe, cultural differences clashed. The effects these characters have on viewers and how we ultimately perceive them may change those stereotypes and differences but time will only tell if the messages this show was trying to send would have a lasting impact on society.

And that is the beauty of Star Trek. That right there is the huge appeal that it has with viewers. As Langley noted in the book, "Star Trek is about interacting with others while also getting to know ourselves as individuals." (Page 282) It’s not just a show of exploring outer space; it’s also a show about exploring ourselves and our interactions with others. What we see on Star Trek shows and in the movies are actually not just characters reciting a script but an emotional, psychological, and spiritual moment in which we must face issues and feelings. Langley put this experience in just the right context: "Star Trek makes us think and it makes us feel." (Page 282)

Who knew that seeking out other forms of life in the whole wide universe could turn out to be such a psychoanalytical experience? Meeting aliens, even fictional aliens, is exciting, but it’s scary, too. We don’t know how we humans would get along with, say, an Andorian or a Thasian, and what would such an interaction do for how we perceive ourselves and think about humans as a whole? In an old issue of Astronomy Magazine, Brian May asked in his article if we humans truly are ready to connect with intelligent life in space given how we already treat each other as humans. Humans are not peaceful by nature and many, many humans are stained and corrupted by the negative influences in society, such as power, lust and greed. So, at this point in time, how would we act with aliens? How would we represent the human race? Would we shoot first and ask questions later? Would we blow up their ships before they could land? Or would we try to establish a peaceful relationship with the hope of sharing our ways?

Those are the questions that Star Trek forces us to ask ourselves. It is also what we end up pondering as the show ends and the credits start rolling. In the end, we are challenged to examine just what we would do when confronted by a threatening alien species or facing certain death as life support systems fail. We turn to Kirk, Picard, Sisko, Janeway and Archer as our guides. They introduced us to these possibilities and inspired us on just what kind of a person we should be in just such a situation. They put their lives on the line in order to explore the final frontier and, in doing so, helped us to get used to the idea of knowing the unknown. As Langley wrote,  "It may be telling that the Star Trek mission statement refers to "strange new worlds" rather than planets because it's really not about charting the locations of gases and rocks; it's about life and civilization." (Page 282) Those strange new worlds were brought into our homes on our TV screens and we have had the privilege of knowing about them for over 50 years. Maybe someday, when man finally does make first contact, they won’t be so “strange” to us anymore.

Five stars

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

"Just like everyone else": Pretending to be Normal Sheds Light on Life with Asperger’s

Pretending to be Normal: Living with Asperger's Syndrome by Liane Holliday Willey
Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 1999
ISBN 1 85302 749 9
Softcover, 141 ppg.

Recently, I posted the following status update on Facebook:

“Quote in a book I'm reading: "I wish people could understand that I can soak up all I need from most friends in just a few minutes, then walk away happy and content, knowing I have just spent time with a friend." This is SO ME!”

That particular book was Pretending to be Normal by Liane Holliday Willey. I found this book in my neighborhood’s Little Free Library and thought I’d read it. I only know one person who has Asperger’s Syndrome so I was curious about it. This book was a great introduction in understanding a person with Asperger's Syndrome. The stuff at the back of the book like how to explain AS to other people and how to survive in certain social settings would be good reading for anyone with Asperger's. I thought it was a great book and a very honest sharing of what life is like with Asperger's. I didn't even know that the AS community refer to others with AS as "Aspies."

As I started to read this book, I began to grow concerned. Some of the things the author described from her childhood resembled my own son’s habits, such as easily losing his temper and flying into a rage, how he sees things differently from other people, how he has his own “way” of doing things and anyone trying to change or stop it causes him to shut down, and his poor social/communication skills.

But those above habits that my son has are also things that I have, too. I am like that, as well.

And as I read this book, I discovered that the author’s description of life with Asperger’s was similar to the way I am, too, in my own life.

Her taking her husband's comment of "you're so weird" as a compliment is something I relate to. I consider that a great thing to be told! I LIKE being weird. I LIKE being different. Sure, it bugs me that a lot of people just don’t “get” me, but I cherish the ones who do. They are the ones worth holding on to!

I, too, use landmarks and oddities to help me guide my way. And if a landmark is shut down or if it moves, then I have no idea which way to go. This happened once when I was driving to an appointment. The landmark I used telling me to turn left here was gone and it took me a while to reorient myself to try familiarize myself with the other surroundings in order to figure out which way to go.

I, too, don't need to spend hours or all day with people to be happy. Like the quote above, I am perfectly content to just spend 5 minutes with a friend and consider it time well-spent. I can go months without seeing a friend, and if I see her or him again for just a few minutes, I can walk away from that meeting just as happy that I touched base with a friend.

I, too, have my own sense of personal space. I don't let people who I don't know and don't trust get too close to me, let alone touch me. This is why I don't automatically hug someone who I just met. I need to know them first, trust them first and feel comfortable being close to them first before I can hug them. If I hug them, it means I trust them enough to get close to me.

I, too, can be awkward in social settings. The Halloween party scene in the book is a good example. I also end up saying the wrong things and taking things people say the wrong way. I misunderstand what someone said A LOT of times, take things the wrong way and perceive ideas and emotions incorrectly then end up royally screwing things up because the other person thinks I meant to be rude or hurt them or just be mean. Most of the time, I think it’s okay to say something and then a person comes along with their own ideas about what’s ok to say and what’s not, and if I don’t speak or act like they do, they act like there's something wrong with me and take off. Or they tell me off and shut me out. It happens quite a lot, actually.

My husband is one of the people who understands my communication style and he, too, gets me. He knows my quirks and pitfalls. So does my daughter, and she’s not afraid to tell me things like “Mom, you’re bluffing again” or to let me know that I misunderstood her. Fortunately, despite these problems, they haven’t dropped me yet! (See what I mean about cherishing the people who get you?)

I am also not very social and I don't like large crowds. I’m an introvert and prefer to be alone most of the time. Being in a large crowd drains me if I stick around for too long.

The author doesn't like pastels and I don't like stripes. The author talks to herself and so do I. I even talk to technology! Like, if the computer is acting up, I’ll scream at it, “Stop being a dickhead!” Or I’ll get caught up in a TV show and yell things at characters. As it is, the other day, I even yelled at my phone. A person texted me, I immediately texted back, and when she didn’t respond after 10 minutes, I looked down at my phone as if it was her and demanded, “What, did you suddenly DIE?!” And, oh yes, the author has a raging temper. Guess what, so do I! I get angry and I get Incredible Hulk Angry. My family could tell you horror stories about my temper.

And, like my son, I get caught up in things I am working on. I tend to zone out everything else when I work on something because I am only focused on That One Thing. I can only handle one project at a time and one task at a time. And because I may need time to take care of something else before I answer an email, I will put on hold answering ALL other emails because chances are I’ll answer the email that needs me to check on something first and if I answer it, my brain checks that item off as “done” and I’ll move onto other things without realizing the person needed more information from me. So I tend to save that task – answering emails – for when I’ve done everything I need to do for ONE email because I’d rather get it all done in one sitting. This has been frustrating for some people who do not understand this quirk of mine. One girl got so mad at me for taking so long to reply to her email, for example, that she told me off and cut off communication. Well, sorry about that, but I am not like everybody else and I have my own way of doing things! I do things in a way that works best for me – warts and all!

But do all these similarities that I share with the author mean that I also have Asperger's Syndrome? Or my son? I doubt it. For one thing, I don't have sensory overload. (I have people overload! That’s what happens when you are sensitive to the energy vibes coming from people AND also being deaf and trying to stay caught up on what everyone is saying.) I do not become confused or disoriented when in large crowds or from my senses being attacked all at once by lights, noises, smells or textures – I just get uncomfortable because, as a deaf person, there are too many things and people to pay attention to all at once. And I am also introverted. I don't like being in crowds! But I don't have Asperger's and neither does my son. We are just different. We are not what society considers to be "normal." And for that reason, we are, unfortunately, shunned. But we have our own people – the people who GET US – and for us, that is enough. Heck, one of my friends doesn’t get offended if I walk right past her somewhere because she knows I tend to get distracted by things, caught up in my own thoughts or lost in a moment. (I often have to tell my family not to rush me when we have to leave, because if they rush me, then I’ll get so hurried up and move so fast that I’ll forget things!)

Which is why this last paragraph in the book resonated with me: "I do not wish for a cure for Asperger's Syndrome. What I wish for, is a cure for the common ill that pervades too many lives; the ill that makes people compare themselves to a normal that is measured in terms of perfect and absolute standards, most of which are impossible for anyone to reach. I think it would be far more productive and so much more satisfying to live according to a new set of ideals that are anchored in far more subjective criteria, the fluid and the affective domains of life, the stuff of wonder...curiosity...creativity...invention...originality. Perhaps then, we will all find peace and joy in one another." (pg. 96)

I take solace in the fact that my own family, my tribe, my “people,” do find peace and joy in one another. Despite our quirks and imperfections, we all love each other. More people in this world should understand that we are not all the same. Everybody has their own quirks, their own habits, and their own issues. We do not all think alike, act alike or feel alike. Pretending to be Normal is a book that steps outside of the strict definition of what is considered to be “normal” and tries to remind society that we may not all be the same but we are trying very hard to work with our quirks and be something of at least a little bit “acceptable” as we are.

Five stars.

How To Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically is Great for Authors in Search of Reviews!

How To Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically: The ins and outs of using free reviews to build and sustain a writing career
By Carolyn Howard-Johnson
CreateSpace, 2016
340 ppg.
ISBN-13: 978-1536948370
ISBN-10: 1536948373

Any author with a new book out is often faced with a dilemma: The desire to want to solicit reviews of his/her book but also not wanting to be a pest or end up “spamming” people for reviews. In this case, it would be a good idea to check out How To Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically by Carolyn Howard-Johnson. Carolyn has many books under her belt and years of experience in soliciting reviews of her books. She knows the ins and outs of getting her books reviewed and she has learned many lessons the hard way during her journey as an author. Guess what? She has taken the time to share all those lessons learned in this book, and she wants to let you know about mistakes to avoid in your quest to get reviews of your book. It is definitely a good idea for an author to read this book if you want to know just what those mistakes are!

When I learned about this latest book, I immediately snapped to attention. This is definitely a touchy issue for many authors. I have had both good and bad experiences in trying to get reviews of my own books, and as a book reviewer myself, I was interested in just what Carolyn had to say.

One big issue that both authors and book reviewers wonder about is whether it makes any difference if a book is reviewed in a major media outlet or not. Carolyn actually had something to say about that: "I have a traditionally published friend whose book was reviewed by Newsweek (back in the days when it was published worldwide in print and its reach was arguably unparalleled), and her book still did not earn royalties over her advance." (pg. 38) So I guess it really doesn’t make much difference where a book review is published. I don’t know many authors with similar stories to tell and I can’t really say either way, either. Still, this information does have more strength to it so I think we should stop beating ourselves up if we don’t get a review in the New York Times or Parents Magazine.

If you think that as an author of a book published months ago you would not find such a book helpful to you, think again! As Carolyn says, "[I]t is almost never too early—or too late in this new age of publishing—to start working on the review process for your book." (pg. 39) She shows you just how to get reviews for your old book! There is definitely a way for authors to make an old book new again through the book review process. As someone who reads both old and new books (and reviews same books here), I don't think the date of publication is a problem unless your book contains outdated or obsolete information.

Carolyn also touches on the dangers of sending out review copies of your book to reviewers. When I was working for a publishing company, I offered to review some e-copies of their books. The publisher sent them to me. Unfortunately, there were formatting mistakes in the ebooks. Pages were cut off at the bottom and I was unable to read entire chapters. I let the publisher know but she never responded to my emails and she never sent fixed copies of the books. Unfortunately, because I could not review the ebooks since they were unreadable, I was probably seen as someone looking to score a free ebook. It was such a shame, too, because I enjoyed what of the stories I was able to read!

Another issue addressed is how there is a major preference for sending out e-copies to review rather than print. I used to be a huge e-book reader but, for some reason or another, that changed. I stopped reading e-books for a long time and mostly read print books. Any publisher or author who contacted me asking what format of a book I wanted to review was told “print” and of course they bowed out in sending that review copy. But the problem was that print was more convenient for me. My life was crazy-busy at that time, and without any e-reader of any kind to keep with me, I could only spend most of my time reading with a print book. These days, I am making time for reading e-books (starting with this one), but if a reviewer says they prefer a print copy, then either send them a print or miss out on their review. That is just the way it is. As Carolyn says on page 118: "And don’t try to convince reviewers to accept the e-copy over the paperback. It’s insensitive; if they accept your book, they should be able to read it in whatever form they prefer."

However, I understand the hesitation of sending a print book because a review cannot always be guaranteed. I have sent out print copies of my own books to reviewers in the past and I never got a review on many of them. Of course I was angry at the time, but then I considered it a lesson learned in researching potential reviewers. (And even with reputable book review sites, like Night Owl Reviews – which I review books for – there is still no guarantee a book will get reviewed. Some print books I have sent to NOR never got a review. It happens!)

And again, there may be a reason why a book does not get a review...

As it stands, a reviewer really cannot guarantee that he or she will indeed review your book. Aside from the formatting problem that I mentioned earlier, other issues with a book may hurt its chances of getting reviewed. I had another situation in which someone contacted me through Twitter asking me if I’d review his book. The information he provided about his book sounded interesting so I agreed and he sent me an e-copy of his book. Unfortunately, I discovered that there was an inappropriate scene in the story of children and nudity. I let the author know that I really don’t like reading suck books and decided not to review it after all. He did not take it well. Most authors probably expect a reviewer to review his or her book if he or she agrees to do so and they go to the trouble of sending it, but the reality is that a reviewer IS NOT under an obligation to write that review. There will always be something that can prevent it from happening.

This is pretty much why I limit the books I review on my book review blog ( to books that I have personally come across and want to read. Sometimes, my daughter will recommend a book to me and I just may review that book, too. But ultimately, the books I review on DRB are my own personal selections. This is why I note on the profile that I do not accept pitches from authors to review their books. I cannot guarantee a book will be reviewed. If a book grabs my interest and they send it, great! But I cannot and will not promise them a review on this site. Also, I may take some time to read a book. I am not a fast reader. Most authors want their reviews yesterday. This is also not something I can promise them. But I do promise an honest, fair and FREE review. Take it or leave it.

I don’t agree with the general idea (or her opinion) that “hack” is a dirty word. (Page 95) It doesn’t have to be! Thanks to Life Hacks and several articles on “parenting hacks” or “study hacks,’ the word “hack” is fast becoming synonymous with smart, crafty, quick and inspired. I love Life Hacks and also the “parenting hacks” because those kinds of sites, memes and articles are brimming with ideas on how to save time, money and your strength. In the past, I felt bad having the “hack” label as I worked as a freelance writer and as a ghostwriter and wrote about various topics, but these days a “hack” in no longer necessarily “bad.” So fly your hack flag proudly!

Many authors may not be sure of who to contact or where to send queries in soliciting reviews of their books. Take heart! There’s a handy list of book reviewers, both large and small, included in this book. That’s awesome! However, I think she should add Night Owl Reviews

When I was working in marketing for a publishing company, I regularly pitched book review bloggers who invited such solicitations about the authors I was representing to see if they wanted to review any of their books. I never considered such mailings a “query” though Carolyn does in this book. As someone who has also worked as a freelance writer, I could see how calling such a letter a query. This is, after all, a professional correspondence meant for business purposes. You are not trying to socialize with a reviewer or try to all of a sudden be their BFFs. No, queries mean business, and the author should approach the process of soliciting reviews of his/her book as such. I like how she walks the author through the process of crafting the query letter. The newbie author faced with the task of getting reviews for her book might freeze in terror, unsure of what to say. Here Carolyn takes the author’s hand and guides them through the process each step of the way, in words that are easily understood and brimming with hints for ideas.

This book shows you not only how to get reviews but also what to do with them – and how they can go a long way in making your book look great! That can also help boost sales even if the reviews do not.

I like the suggestion to thank a reviewer for a nice review. Myself, I don’t really care if an author thanks me or not, but the thank you notes are nice to receive. On the other hand, I do thank people who review my book, if I am able to. It is just good manners to say thank you! However, I don’t agree that a thank you note should always be on paper and sent through land mail. First of all, I absolutely, positively DO NOT want to give out my mailing address to just anybody. I feel safer giving out my email address. Second, it is really unnecessary to get a thank you note by land mail when an email can be sent instead. I really don’t care either way. Lots of authors have contacted me via email with a thank you note for reviewing their book, and I was just fine with this. It did not bother me at all. The same goes with authors who thank me in a comment on a blog post or in a tweet. They are still saying "thank you" and that is what matters. It is even better whey they share the link to a review of their book on social media. (That right there is a great way to show your gratitude for a review!) So, while Carolyn feels such notes MUST be on paper and go through land mail when thanking a professional reviewer for a review, I disagree and feel that an email should be just as good, too. I also don’t think sending a small gift as a token of appreciation is a good idea, either – but that is just my opinion! Even so, she recognizes this is not always possible and offers alternative methods for expressing your thanks for a review, and I think that they are good suggestions too. I like the Twitter suggestion – which is also always nice!

I found the section of the book discussing what criteria Amazon uses to pull a review for a book a very interesting read. I have heard a lot of discussions from disgruntled authors AND reviewers who had a legitimate book review deleted. They always said that Amazon gave them some vague reason for deleting the review. I have reviewed many books on Amazon, as well as other products I have bought from there (like a diaper bag!), and never ran into any problems. One of the things Carolyn noted is that a professional book reviewer can also be suspect according to Amazon and that Amazon may pull such a reviewer’s review. I review books for Night Owl Reviews but have never had any of my reviews of other non-NOR books pulled from Amazon. I never post my NOR reviews on there (per NOR’s guidelines) and all of the reviews I have posted on Amazon were ALWAYS for things I bought directly from Amazon. This is my own personal policy. If I did not buy the item from Amazon, I just won’t post a review of it on Amazon. This is why I started this blog. I wanted to share reviews of books, but some of those books I have read were NOT Amazon purchases! So I post my reviews of such books here. All the same, like I said, I have never had problems in getting a review I posted on Amazon deleted for some reason or another. I know they probably wish I would post more reviews of books I bought from them more often but I am just a slow reader buried with books to read!

Also, Carolyn shares what you can do about reviews that disappear from Amazon. My advice? Don’t freak out. As Carolyn explains in the book, there could be a number of reasons why a review disappeared. She tells you what actions to take and how to cope with such a situation. The big thing she (and I) want authors to keep in mind during a situation like this is to not automatically fire off a negative and angry email to TPTB. As Carolyn says, “You aren’t required to put negative energy into the universe.” (pg. 234)

And while we’re talking about the downsides of book reviews, let us not ignore the fact that some authors may thumb their noses at getting their book reviewed by an amateur reviewer or by a book review blogger with no following. I don’t think it’s a good habit to do such a thing, although I understand such authors’ reasons for taking this stance. However, it’s really a judgment call. Carolyn reminds us that it might still be a good idea to consider paying attention to such review requests, As she writes in this book, "Don’t turn your back on an opportunity until you know what you might be gaining—or losing." (pg. 249)

I know that I personally do not have much of a readership on this blog (can’t find out that info for my reviews appearing on NOR), but I do like the opportunity to review new books here. I usually only contact authors that I know, however, because they won’t refuse to send me a copy of their book to review just because I have a low readership. I would not do such a thing to them, either.

I like the Q&A section and the sample letters at the back of the book are also very helpful. There are also tons of ideas on how to get reviews for old books. Her “Never say never!” attitude can get authors of books published a year or more ago to put on their marketing caps and start thinking of new ways to get old books out there again with new reviews that just might give their books a second life. I love the catalog idea! I have authored and co-authored many books so I definitely could use something like this to promote my books.

How To Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically is a book that offers up a ton of useful information to an author trying to get reviews of a book. It won’t tell you how to put together your media kit (you will need to get her other book, The Frugal Book Promoter, for that info), but it gives authors a really good jumping point on how to solicit for reviews without looking like a pest. And if anything, this book will arm authors with the information they need to get reviews for books and how to make those reviews go the extra mile in order to generate more interest, more publicity, and hopefully more sales! This is certainly a book that every author should keep handy and one I know I will be referring to again for later use.

Five stars.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a complimentary copy of this book to review for this blog.

"For stamps": Penpal is a chilling novel about a stalker obesessed with a child

by Dathan Auerbach
1000 Vultures, 2012
238 ppg.
ISBN 10: 098554550X
ISBN 13: 978-0-9855455-0-5

There are so many different ways in which a book is written. This is especially true for a novel. When it comes to fiction, we read the stories and, at the same time, try to put together the puzzle pieces handed to us on the page. We try to observe what is happening and figure it out. And usually, the author makes it easy for us to figure things out. We go along with the story, gathering bits and pieces here and there, and at the end, as the author gives the big reveal, we are nodding along and going, Yes, that’s it. That is the mystery solved.

With the novel Penpal, however, it is not so easy to figure out the puzzle that is the story. With Penpal, a brilliant novel by Dathan Auerbach, you are given clues, but you are not told everything straight out. You have to think about things and figure it out on your own.

This is a story that makes you think. You are trying to figure out what happened, why it happened, and who’s behind it.

I first learned about Penpal through Pinterest. I follow some booklover boards and I kept seeing that book appear. It pretty much grabbed my interest so I added it to my wish list, hoping to read it later. Later became a very long time. But then one day, my daughter bought the book, and I remembered how I had hoped to read it. She assured me I could borrow this book to read, but first she read it herself. When she was done, she couldn’t stop talking about how good of a book it was and how much she loved it.

Finally, the day came when I was able to read this book. And it was hard to put down! Not just because it was a mystery to solve but because the character was in so much danger, with the threat closing in on him. I wanted to know what happened next. I wanted to understand why things happened the way they did. Of course I was bothered that the story was not written in consecutive order – from beginning to end. Actually, it jumps from this point in time to that point in time. But that’s the beauty of it. That’s what makes this story even more interesting to follow. The author gives you bits and pieces of things that happened and it is up to you, dear reader, to figure it all out. And when I figured it out at the end, it just blew my mind. This novel is fucking brilliant!

I must admit, though, I did not figure things out right away. Sometimes I got what happened right when I read it, and sometimes it took a few minutes for the pieces to fall into place.

As an example: On one day, I was sitting at the kitchen table, reading this book. My daughter came in and asked me to make her a peanut butter sandwich. I laughed and said I was actually thinking of having one, too. When she left the kitchen, I continued reading, planning to finish the chapter I was on. (I wasn’t kidding when I said I couldn’t put this book down!) As I was reading, I came across this passage: "That night was the last time I saw Mrs. Maggie. It was the last time her yard would be transformed into an arctic kingdom by her poorly timed sprinklers. But, as a kid, you just accept that people come and people go. That's just the way the world is -- they have their own lives, and as they live them, sometimes that takes them out of yours. Only later do you look back and ask yourself: what happened? Where did they go?" (pg. 156)

After I finished reading the chapter, I got up with that particular passage stuck in my head. The whole passage right there just really stood out. And, at first, I thought it stood out because it was true. That was something I related to. People come into our lives and then they walk out. They leave. They’re here today, gone tomorrow. I have known such people. One day, I’m talking with them, and then, poof! They’re gone. No message. No last words. No “see you later.” They just disappear. And sometimes they came back. Sometimes they didn’t. I have known people who I have talked with who just disappeared from my life and I’ve never seen them since. And I never know what happened. And with the people who did come back into my life, some of them just picked up where we left off, while others did share why they all of a sudden just dropped off the planet. So, yeah, that was a passage I understood.

So I went to the cabinet to get out the jar of peanut butter, thinking about that. And as I got the loaf of bread and opened it to get the bread out, I also thought about what happened AFTER that passage. And I started thinking, Wait a minute, where did Mrs. Maggie go? Did she just disappear? She was old and it didn’t seem like she would just flee from her house.

Then I remembered the clues about Mrs. Maggie in this story and her habits. Passages from what I’d just read came back to my mind – that one whole passage and sentences that followed. And ALL of that helped me to suddenly realize EXACTLY what had happened to Mrs. Maggie.

That passage had not stood out because it was something I could relate to. In that moment, I realized it stood out because it was a clue.

I dropped the slices of bread I was holding in my hand as the realization struck. “Oh, my God!” I cried out. I ran to my daughter’s room and asked her about it to see if I was right. And she said that I was!

Like I said, brilliant!

But if you want to just read a story about a kid being stalked by some weirdo for nearly 10 years and how it turns the kid’s life upside down, then check out Penpal.

Penpal is definitely a story I will not forget for a very long time. It will haunt me just as the memories of what happened to the character haunted him. I am so glad that I got to read this book. There were times it made me laugh, times it made me relate to the mother doing everything to protect her child, and times I was on the edge of my seat reading it with wide eyes and holding my breath. It was a really good book. If anything, this story was ultimately about someone being stalked by some psycho. A psycho that was a very bad man. A bad man who terrified everyone the character knew and loved, and takes the lives of innocent people all because of his obsession with a little boy. As the author writes: "The world is a cruel place, made crueler still by man." (pg. 238)

Five stars

Destiel: Twist and Shout has Dean Winchester and Castiel in alternate universe of love and chaos

Twist and Shout
By Gabriel StandByMe
Lulu, 2015
432 ppg., Paperback

"Mom! Mom! Mooommm!!! You HAVE to buy me this book! "

So arrived a series of text messages from my teen daughter, who enjoys reading fan fiction. She happened to just finish reading one such fanfic story that brought to life what many in the Supernatural fandom have been asking for: A real, actual relationship between Dean Winchester and Castiel. Fans will recognize this pairing as what they call "Destiel." Watching Cas and Dean together in the show, it's obvious that Cas loves Dean. But he's an angel. He is not susceptible to feelings of sexual attraction to another person like we humans are (or aren't, if you are asexual). But when it comes to fanfiction, writers of such stories don't care about that. If they want Dean and Cas together, then they'll find a way to get them together!

One particular writer, writing under a pseudonym, did just that: He put Dean and Cas in an alternate universe, where Cas is human, Dean is no longer a hunter but instead a motorcycle racer, and (gasp!) Jess is alive! Not only this, but the boys seemed to have had a normal upbringing, although their mom did die years ago and their dad is absent from their lives. No surprises there!

I am a huge fan of Supernatural. I have seen all of the shows and I follow the SPN fandom religiously. I have a Supernatural board on Pinterest, we have bought Supernatural merchandise (including DVDs) and I am planning to read ALL of the Supernatural books. Heck, I even want to write one myself – if I ever finish all my other WIPs. So I am not new to Supernatural.

When my daughter pleaded to me to buy her the Supernatural fanfic novel, Twist and Shout by Gabriel StandByMe (like I said, pseudonym), she encouraged me to read it. I was very interested in reading this Supernatural-inspired story. I have no qualms reading gay fiction, so as soon as I finished reading OTHER books in my TBR pile, I finally started reading it. My daughter told me she died a thousand deaths while reading this book (and of course that's going to happen with a Supernatural story!), so I was prepared for some serious heart-wrenching moments.

I loved this story. It's a good book. Despite the many editing mistakes, this book was definitely hard to put down, but mostly because I love Supernatural so much. More Dean and Sam! Yay! (And Sam does become a lawyer in this story.) The story takes place in the 1960s and the Winchesters are living in California, not Kansas. In this story, Dean and Cas are both college students who meet at a party. Dean's old flame Lisa actually makes an appearance at this time, although she doesn't have too much of a role. Things click between Dean and Cas from the very beginning and soon they start seeing each other. Later, after Cas is thrown out of his apartment once his manager learns he is gay, the two lovers live together.

The relationship carries on and I couldn't get over how cute Cas and Dean are together. They really love each other and that love is very strong. But then life happens: Dean is shipped off to fight in Vietnam and it all goes downhill after that.

I really enjoyed reading this novel, even though the tragic ending had me in tears at the end. I didn't die a thousand deaths while reading it, though. Actually, I went on an emotional roller coaster. These are actually some of the things I was saying as I read it:

"Aw, kiss him, already."

"Grow a backbone, Cas!"

"Ohh, they're so in wuv."

"If only he knew." (when Dean calls Adam "little brother")

"ADAM!!!!!" *sobs uncontrollably* (and I'm crying again just writing this!)

"No! Dean, don't do that!"

"Cas....." *more sobbing*

For any fans of Supernatural, this "alternate universe" type of story is definitely a must-read. Most of the usual suspects are here. Ellen still owns a food joint (a diner, in this case), Bobby is still a father figure to the boys, and Meg and Ruby are here-- although as crack whores! LOL (I bust a gut laughing over that!) I thought it was interesting that Cas has brothers named Gabriel and Michael. (Ahem!) And when Balthazar made an appearance, I was all, "Balthazar! ... Wait, what?"

Twist and Shout is definitely one of those books that will stay with me for a long time. I might recall the scene where Cas is walking home singing "Twist and Shout" every once in a while, or remember the scene where Dean and Cas are having fries and a milkshake and Ellen is admonishing Dean to behave himself. But it's the ending that packed the most emotional punch of the whole story.

More than anything, this story was a tribute to the love, to the bond, that Dean and Cas share. You don't need to throw sex into that recipe to appreciate it, either. Their love transcends physical desire. It is more stronger than anything else. When Cas rescues Dean from Hell in the show, that was the beginning of a bond that goes beyond human desire, beyond human attraction. What Dean and Cas have is real, it's strong, it's unbreakable. And it's perfect.

Four stars

“Mortal Blood Drinkers”?: Vampires More Occult Speculation than Occult Truth

Vampires: The Occult Truth
By Konstantinos
Llewellyn Publications, 1996
194 ppg., Softcover
ISBN:  1-56718-380-8

Do you believe that vampires are real? The book, Vampires: The Occult Truth by Konstantinos, will make you wonder if the children of the night truly exist in the real world rather than in just movies or books.

I bought this book a long time ago but I suppose it was going to happen that it would get misplaced over the course of several episodes of moving from one place to another. I just never got around to actually finding the book and reading it.

Well, it recently fell into my hands, and I decided that I would finally read it.

Unfortunately, the book is more of the author’s result of research on the topic of vampires than it is a testament that vampires are real. Granted, he shares some information about his cases in which he investigated whether someone was a vampire or not, but they do little to convince me that vampires were actually involved. While I give the author credit for having sense enough to scientifically explain some things that happened in stories of so-called “vampire attacks,” it isn’t enough to make me believe the other more modern-day stories are actual vampire attacks. People love to pull a fast one over other people, and if they have a chance to fool a so-called “expert” on something, all the better. I really don’t think the two people included in the last part of the book were being entirely truthful about their experiences, and here’s why.

One thing the author noted in this book is that people are easily influenced by what they read. They get caught up in fandoms or in Internet groups devoted to certain books or authors, and their imagination tends to get away from them. It’s no secret that Anne Rice’s vampire books, the Twilight series  and LARPing games influenced people so strongly that they started to have these crazy ideas about vampires or they tried to act like vampires, even though they are NOT vampires. They just like to dress up and act  like one, even believe they are one, and live in their own fantasy worlds of bloodsucking and night-wandering.

That’s the thought I had as I read the letters the author included in this book, letters addressed to him, from people claiming to be vampires. There were many times I was shaking my head as I read the letters, rolling my eyes and muttering “these people need to get a life.” Having read the letters, I have this to say about them:

Drinking the blood of small animals such as birds, lizards and rats does not make you a vampire (with apologies to Anne Rice's Louis).
Being a night owl does not make you a vampire.
Having a sensitivity to light to the point where you must wear sunglasses during the day does not make you a vampire.
Wearing all black every day does not make you a vampire.
Cutting yourself and drinking your own blood does not make you a vampire.

One thing the author noticed about the letters from so-called “vampires” is that many of them were studying Wicca and reading books about it. I found this to be interesting, because the first rule for Wiccans is “And harm none.” The author noted, "It would be interesting to learn how other Witches feel about the practices of mortal blood drinkers." (page 95) I agree!

I liked the chapter that lists various methods to either slow down or kill a vampire. When it mentioned using a mirror to scare off a vampire by its lack of reflection, I couldn't help but remember the scene in the movie The Lost Boys where the characters Sam and Edgar tried to prove the man his mother was dating, Max, was a vampire by turning out the lights then turning them back on with a mirror placed in front of him. He was startled by seeing his own reflection. He was able to see his reflection because he had been given permission to enter the home. That just showed how sometimes vampires can be tricky in working their way around methods used to prove their true identities.

This was an interesting book about vampire legends, types of vampires, ways to stop or kill a vampire and how to protect oneself from psychic vampires. (The Banishing Ritual seemed strongly Wiccan to me.) It’s probably a book that Supernatural character Bobby Singer would have in his library. But ultimately, this book did not convince me that vampires are real. Perhaps they are when we dress up as a vampire for Halloween or pretend to be one in a movie or in our minds when we read vampire fiction, but no, they don’t exist in the real world. Vampires are fictional. I don't agree with or believe all of the ideas and theories put forward in this book. In fact, I still don't believe that the types of “vampires” portrayed in this book exist. Still, it was an entertaining read and probably would be a useful book to keep on hand to use as a reference should I write another vampire story.

Two stars.

“The Salem Tragedy”: The Witches Sheds New Light on the Salem Witch Trials

The Witches: Salem, 1692
By Stacy Schiff
Little, Brown and Company, 2015
498 ppg., Hardcover
ISBN:  978-0-316-20060-8

Disclaimer: I borrowed this book from the local library. I do intend to own a copy one day!

I have not read many books about the Salem Witch Trials but I have seen The Crucible so I have an idea of what happened during that time in history. When I was watching the movie, however, I wasn’t sure if I was getting the whole story. It turns out that I wasn’t. Yet where The Crucible comes short on filling in the gaps, Stacy Schiff’s new book, The Witches, makes up for many times over.

The Witches takes you back in time, to 1692, when mass hysteria gripped the residents of Salem village and created what has become known as one of the darkest episodes of American history, let alone Colonial history. It all began with a small group of teen girls who started to accuse their friends and neighbors of being a witch, as well as of performing witchcraft-related rituals. Not only this, but the accused supposedly did things such as nurse their familiars through a “witch’s teat” (which could appear anywhere on the body), poke and bite their victims, torment the townspeople as ghostly visitors, and cause animals to drop dead just from one glance from the evil eye. Of course the accused were innocent, but how could they possibly defend themselves against a town caught up in religious fanaticism that is bent on destroying all witches? (The Bible instructs its followers to murder witches and to avoid witchcraft. See Exodus 22:18 and Galatians Chapter 5.) It was also impossible for many of the accused to defend themselves because, first of all, many of the judges refused to believe that they were innocent. They were more set on finding someone guilty of being a witch than on taking into consideration evidence to the contrary. There was also some gain to be had if a person was found guilty of witchcraft: Many who were sent to jail and/or the gallows lost everything because those involved in the trial wasted no time in ransacking their homes, taking their cattle, helping themselves to whatever food or money there was to be found, as well as pilfering the crops. So with that in mind, some of the judges made very sure to find some accused guilty no matter what happened to prove them wrong. Additionally, any colonist who was hard of hearing or deaf was doomed; the inability to hear or understand the judges talking to them only served as “proof” that the devil was whispering in their ear and that’s why they couldn’t hear anything. And it would seem that anyone accused was doomed no matter what, because the judges claimed a real witch could not recite the Lord ’s Prayer. While an accused minister stood on the gallows, about to fall to his death, he did indeed recite the Lord ’s Prayer without any trouble. The judges decided that the devil must be helping him to say it.

I would rather not give away too much of what is in this book about what happened during the Salem Witch Trials but I will say that there were many times that I was shaking my head in disbelief. Some of the methods used to determine if a person was a witch were so bizarre, almost nonsensical. (The touch test? Really?) There were also many times that I was very thankful that we as a human race eventually wised up, woke up, and came to our senses. These days, we know about mass hysteria and understand how it works. We also understand how the youth tend to act out for attention, how people tend to do anything to relieve themselves of the boredom they endure because of every day drudgery, and we also understand how literature, even popular literature, can influence the youth. At that time in history, there were many books about witchcraft, some of them even in the homes of the accusers, and we know it is very likely the same girls who started naming witches read these books and it stoked their imaginations. These books spread a religious and dominating fear of witches and witchcraft among the colonists, detailing what witches did and the types of ways in which they swore loyalty to the devil. Also, at that time, stories of Indian attacks circulated throughout the village, and the atrocities done from such attacks only added to the girls’ imaginations.

But even as I was struck with anger and disbelief as I read this book, I could not also miss feeling a sense of irony over the whole situation. These people came to America to escape religious persecution – approximately 200 years after Columbus set foot on American soil, in fact. Yet it was religious persecution they practiced in their quest to get rid of all witches in their village. It would seem that they wanted religious tolerance for their religion but not any other religion. Unfortunately, as much as we would like to believe that America is a country where its people accept all religions, religious persecution still happens today. This is also happening in other parts of the world. It is obvious that religious persecution isn’t going anywhere and also obvious that anyone trying to smoke out others of a different faith (and Wicca is indeed a religion) have not learned anything from what happened in 1692. The message we are supposed to get from the Salem Witch Trials of “never again” is one we would do well to heed. Unfortunately, we cannot ask the same of other countries, where Jews have been slaughtered because of their faith or where, today, Christians are being murdered because of their faith. But America is our one last haven where a person should feel safe to practice his/her own religion, and be free to do so.

Throughout the reading of this book, I kept wondering what it was that REALLY afflicted the girls. As angry as I was at them for what they did (often wishing I could go back in time so I could smack them), I understood they were caught up in the vise of hysteria. Even so, I wondered how it was possible they were able to contort their bodies in ridiculous positions and bear marks on their bodies where they claimed to be bitten or stabbed by witches. The author gives a very good explanation for this in the book. At one point, she writes, "Hysteria is contagious and attention addictive; wanton self-abuse comes naturally to a teenager." (Page 391).

A public apology was made in 1694 (though it was more a plea for forgiveness rather than owing up to what was done), but before then, it was chaos. Despite struggling to come to terms with the hysteria they had been swept up in, they also realized the gravity of what their actions had done. They tried to forget that it ever happened. Records were destroyed or lost, history was actually rewritten. Cotton Mather, who scrupulously recorded what happened in his books, now must have realized what a shameful spectacle he had made of himself because he immediately got to work changing what he wrote in his books. "His writing of 1692 is all rewriting." (Page 364)  There is much speculation over whether or not Mather – or even his father, Increase – was ever even present during the trials. At the beginning of the book, the author makes it clear that he wasn't. And on page 380, she again asserts, "Mather wrote himself into the story." For someone who wasn't there, he sure had a lot to say and write about the whole affair. And he was among the many hated and condemned men "involved" in the trials during the aftermath, even for one who was not really present for them. (Cotton Mather was also one of those involved who refused to issue an apology.)

I wasn't surprised to learn that the ghost of Giles Corey haunted the same place he was put to death at by being crushed to death for 150 years.

One accuser eventually went insane because of her experience of seeing her infant sibling dying in jail and her mother being hanged. One other victim went to his grave over 20 years later still spouting hatred and rage at one of the judges involved in the witchcraft trials. (Page 378)

The victims' survivors, however, were not so quick to forget. The son and son-in-law of one woman put to death raged against a priest for over an hour in having a hand in the death of the innocent woman. As it says in the book, "The men refused to accept communion from their minister until he apologized." (Page 365)

The trials happened in Salem village. There was Salem village and Salem town. Salem village won independence from Salem town in 1752 and renamed itself Danvers. It became a town where talk of witchcraft was taboo and nobody breathed a word about the trials. In an ironic twist, the town of Salem – which today is Salem proper – embraced witchcraft, advertised all things witchy and soon became the location of a major Wiccan community. Today we know about what happened at the Salem witch trials thanks to historical record, Salem, The Crucible, and now Schiff's book, The Witches. By far, this last source is the most in-depth, unbiased and trustworthy account we can rely on for what really happened in Salem in 1692.

Creatures of the Night: I Love The Night teaches children about nocturnal critters

I Love The Night
By Dar Hosta
Brown Dog Books, 2003
32 ppg., Hardcover
ISBN: 0-9721967-0-6

Sometimes, when I arrive at my son’s preschool, he is not yet ready to leave. I pass the time away by reading flyers, looking at the birds outside, watching the hen scuttle about in the backyard, tidying up or putting things in order in the entry room, or even read a book left out. Today I read a book left out. Today, such a book was I Love The Night by Dar Hosta.

It was the cover of the book – a picture of a big, blue moon – that drew me to it. Then when I read the title, I wondered, hm, what kind of book is this? As I read this book, I was soon in a colorful and hidden world where creatures of the night talked about why they love the night.

At the beginning of the book, a day has come to an end. It is night. For people inside of a house, it is time for them to go to sleep. A new adventure awaits people going to sleep at night through their dreams. But outside of the home, in a lustrous world of plants, flowers, swamps and trees, the nocturnal creatures have their own adventures. For the people, their day has ended. But for these creatures, they are just waking up and starting a new day – er, night.

There is the horned owl in the tree, the frogs in the swamp (or tree), the luna moth, the crickets with their songs, fireflies lighting up the dark sky, fruit bats and raccoons. Each critter has its own pages in such a beautiful, nonthreatening display of colors. Even the spider looks friendly with the vibrant yellow, orange and black colors. The pictures would definitely hold the interest of a young reader and the writing is so gentle, soothing and almost like a lullaby. This book is a great introduction to children of just what kind of critters and creepy-crawlies there are that are nocturnal, and why they prefer the quiet, peaceful evening time over the day. For example, the cricket says he loves the night because it is “so marvelously marvelous for making moonlight music.” The fruit bats are able to find food growing on trees and the dormouse enjoys the scent of honeysuckle on the evening breeze.

And, of course, there is the moon – who the night truly belongs to. The moon loves the night, as well, and sends down to the Earth a sweet song of peace.

This was such a sweet and beautiful book to read. Children may enjoy it for learning about nocturnal creatures or to look at the colorful illustrations it contains. It may also help them feel a sense of peace before drifting off to sleep at night, knowing that humans may go to sleep at night, but for other creatures, the night is when it is time to wake up and enjoy life anew.

Five stars.


Remembering Mr. Aggie: Jack Stories is a devoted widow’s tribute to a wonderful man

Jack Stories: Favorite Memories of Jack Jordan Ammann Jr.
Compiled and Edited by Lillie Ammann
Self-pubbed, 2013
Ebook, 104 ppg.
Lillie’s blog

Because this is Read an E-Book Week, some authors are providing their ebooks at a deep discount or as free downloads. I knew about this ebook, Jack Stories, for some time, and it had been on my wish list since. So I was thrilled when the author, Lillian Ammann, offered this book as a free download in honor of REBW.

I have had the good fortune of communicating with Lillie personally and have been a longtime reader of her blog. I always enjoyed reading posts about her and her beloved husband, Jack. As the situation grew bleak as far as Jack’s health went, I came to each post with a sense of nervousness and dread. Even though I have never met these two people in real life, I’d grown to adore them through the blog posts, so I was saddened to learn that Jack’s health had taken a turn for the worse. Then the sad day came when Lillie announced that Jack had gone home to God. Shortly thereafter, she put together a collection of stories her Jack often told, as well as fond memories shared by family and friends during his memorial services. There are also the blog posts which Lillie wrote – a joy to read again.

Reading the stories and memories written by Jack’s friends and family was also a joy. The stories talked about Jack’s love of Texas A&M and the Aggies, how he loved driving fast and racing cars, how he always did every job to the best of his abilities and how he had such a helpful and compassionate nature. There were the stories of how Jack helped someone, his unwavering sense of humor and the jokes he liked to tell. He was such a devoted husband to Lillie and a caring friend to all who knew him. The stories made me smile, laugh and cry. Never again will I read “hi, Jack” without remembering how Mr. Lillian joked, “Don’t say that at an airport!” There were also his favorite sayings in this ebook, as well as Jack’s final goodbye to his sweetheart, his soul mate, Lillie.

It was such a wonderful ebook to read. I loved reading all of those stories and I am so grateful to Lillie for putting them together into an ebook. I am especially grateful that she made this ebook a free download for Read an E-Book Week. This was such a treasured ebook to read and I enjoyed reading it to the very last word. It brought a smile to my face and such joy to my heart. Rest in peace, Jack. Thank you for being such the wonderful person that you were.

Five stars.