Compelling Mystery, Friendship, and Redemption – When You Reach Me – 2010 Newbery Medal Winner

Miranda–the protagonist of the 2010 Newbery Medal winner When You Reach Me –is a twelve-year-old latchkey kid living with her single mom in New York City in the 1970s. She’s smart, she’s funny, and she reads only one book: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. Her mother–a would-be lawyer with a keen sense of justice–was forced to drop out of law school when she had Miranda. Now she works unhappily as a paralegal and dreams of winning the game show The $20,000 Pyramid so she can quit her job.

Miranda has lost her best friend, Sal, who lives in her apartment building. One day, while the two of them were walking home from school, a neighborhood kid named Marcus punched Sal, and from that day on Sal just seemed to drift away: he no longer waits to walk with Miranda, and he refuses even to look at her when they bump into each other. In the confusing void left by Sal, Miranda strikes up new friendships with Annemarie–who was recently ditched by her sometimes-snotty best friend Julia–and Colin, “this short kid who seemed to end up in my class every year” (p. 54). The three of them get lunchtime jobs together at the local sandwich shop, Jimmy’s, and bond over cheese sandwiches with smelly pickles.

One day Miranda finds her apartment mysteriously unlocked after school, and the spare key missing from its hiding spot, unnerving both her and her mother. Shortly thereafter Miranda receives the following mysterious note:

“This is hard. Harder than I expected, even with your help. But I have been practicing, and my preparations go well. I am coming to save your friend’s life, and my own. I ask two favors. First, you must write me a letter. Second, please remember to mention the location of your house key. The trip is a difficult one. I will not be myself when I reach you” (p. 60).

Miranda continues to receive notes like this–four in all–each as eerie and enigmatic as the first. The notes set her a mystery to unravel: Who is sending the notes? What kind of trip is the sender planning to take? Which of Miranda’s friends will be saved? And from what? And what’s with that crazy homeless guy on the corner that sleeps with his head under the mailbox? These questions, along with the rift between Miranda and Sal, drive the story forward.

Many things make this book appealing. The first, of course, is the mystery: the reader is as intent on solving it as Miranda is. Stead gives the mystery depth beyond the mere content of the notes by lacing the book with the science fiction theme of time travel. The most obvious way this theme shows up is in conversations Miranda has with certain friends–in particular Marcus, a math and physics prodigy who thinks time travel is theoretically possible. However, time travel is also woven into the book via Miranda’s attachment to L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, a book in which the protagonist, Meg, travels through time to save her family members. (Incidentally, Stead says in the acknowledgements that L’Engle’s books captivated her as a child.)

Despite the compelling mystery, though, When You Reach Me is most deeply about friendship. Specifically, the novel addresses the question of how to hold on to old friendships without stifling them, and it insightfully brings out the stabilizing effect that new friendships can have in the effort to preserve or reclaim old ones. Though I refrain from specifics here in order not to spoil the plot, the novel’s narrative reflections on friendship are extremely thoughtful and resonant. This theme of friendship will speak deeply to tweens navigating the frequently tumultuous social world of middle school.

The book is also just very clever. For example, as I already noted, Miranda’s mother wants to win on The $20,000 Pyramid. The final part of the game show is called the “Winner’s Circle”, in which a set of objects is described to the contestant and she is required to say what category the objects belong to. For example, if the objects were “a tube of toothpaste, someone’s hand” the contestant would say “things you squeeze” (p. 39). Stead cleverly titles most of the chapters in the book with categories like that, such as “Things You Keep in a Box,” “Things That Go Missing,” and “Things You Hide.” And sure enough, Stead puts objects in each chapter that fit into these titular categories. After a while, it became a fun extra game to find what the “things that smell” or “things that kick” were in the chapter I was reading!

In addition to these factors that give When You Reach Me subjective appeal, the book is developmentally valuable for young readers. In particular, the book communicates hopeful positive messages about some of life’s most important themes. Indeed, it seems to be part of Stead’s explicit purpose to lift, for a moment, the “veil” that generally hides from us “the world as it really is,” in all its “beauty, and cruelty, and sadness, and love” (p. 71). In other words, part of Stead’s aim is to inspire truthful but hopeful reflection on some of the things that matter most in life.

Stead’s elevation of the value of friendship is perhaps the most important and striking example of what makes this book good for tweens. Her focus on the deep importance of friendship is a welcome counter-weight to the catty, superficial social culture typical of middle school.

The possibility of redemption is another developmentally valuable theme that Stead explores in the novel. For example, the book builds toward second chances for Miranda’s mother–both vocationally, and relationally. Similarly, Miranda has a redemptive conversion in the way she views and treats her classmates Julia and Alice Evans. Whereas before she viewed Julia simply as a competitor for Annemarie’s affection, and Alice as the weird kid who waited too long to go to the bathroom, toward the end of the book Miranda’s veil is suddenly removed, revealing Julia as Annemarie’s faithful friend, and Alice as an insecure outsider. This insight gives Miranda new compassion and kindness toward both of them.

In sum, When You Reach Me is a fantastic book for children aged nine years and up. Not only does it engage interesting themes bundled into a compelling mystery, but it elevates friendship and redemption, and thereby encourages the right sort of values in tweens.

Keep Your Head Back and Behind the Ball Through Impact! Six Top Golf Pros Agree

Bobby Jones published golf tips in several newspaper columns back in the 1920’s. Fifty of these columns were compiled and printed in a book entitled The Best of Bobby Jones on Golf, published in 1996. Jones was quoted: “Stay behind the ball is a splendid maxim. Should your head ever get ahead of the ball, at any point in the swing, a poor shot will no doubt result.”

In Harvey Penick’s, The Little Red Book, published in 1992, page 75 is entitled “Stay Behind the Ball” “All great golfers move their head slightly backward before and during impact, but never forward. A golfer must stay behind the ball. I mean set up with your head behind the ball and keep your head behind the ball. If you move your head forward during your downswing or through impact, you will hit a wee, ugly shot, probably a pulled slice.”

Tommy Armour, in How to Play Your Best Golf All the Time, (1953) emphasizes: The cardinal principle of all golf shot making is that if you move your head, you ruin body action. In his 12 key points summary to his book, Armour lists key points 5, 10 and 12 identically as “keep your head steady.” Interestingly however, in all pictures of golfers’ swings throughout the book, the head is seen as behind the ball through the impact area.

David Leadbetter in 100% Golf, 2004, states: “the head and upper body stay behind the ball as you unswing and accelerate into impact.” Try to maintain your spine angle from the set up all the way to the moment of impact and don’t worry if your head has a little lateral movement. Your head and spine are behind the ball at impact.

Jack Nicklaus is the most steadfast about head movement. In his book Golf My Way (2005), Nicklaus offers this warning: “If you are hoping to improve your game through these pages, but can’t or won’t learn to keep your head steady throughout the swing, read no further. There is nothing I, or anyone else, can do for your golf game. Any shifting of the head, at any point from address to impact, will alter the arc and plane of the swing, which, if not a totally destructive factor, is certainly a complicating one.” All swing pictures of Jack show his head to be held steady, but also well behind the ball until after impact.

Like many golfers, I have tried dozens of tips and instructional techniques, all to little or no avail. It was not until I focused on this aspect of the swing, did I finally break 80, and that was at age 65. Since then, I have broken 80 several times and I am finally able to enjoy the game. Learning to keep the head back was not easy. It required considerable practice, much of which was done without hitting balls. New muscle memory had to be learned and such was not easy, particularly at my age. But with tactile feedback to the head, the bad habit of “looking up” could be overcome.

Tiger Woods published his book, How I Play Golf, in 2007 and already it has become a bestseller. He writes: “Impact should look like address. My spine angle is the same and my head is in virtually the same spot.” The accompanying picture shows his head to be well behind the ball. He concludes: “It proves how uncomplicated the golf swing can be.”

What makes the golf swing complicated is the often contradictory instruction that can be found in print and by word of mouth. Some pros will teach that the head should remain steady throughout the swing. Some will preach that it is OK to have some backward or lateral movement on the backswing and just before impact. Others will say to keep your eye on the ball. But NONE will suggest that the head come up, or move forward of the ball until after impact. As written above, most if not all pros will agree that the head MUST stay back and behind the shot through the impact zone.

The Book Seat – Book Holder and Travel Pillow – Red

The Book Seat - Book Holder and Travel Pillow - Red

Price: $29.99


Usually book stands or rests need to be located on a flat surface. Not the bookseat The Book Seat will mold itself and shape to sit at any angle on any surface that you place it. The bookseat is filled with Polystyrene beads that enable it to sit into any position, this makes reading in bed or a chair much more comfortable and pleasurable. Helps to remove the discomfort associated with holding a book for extended periods of time. Eliminate aching neck shoulders, arms and wrists while reading for long periods of time. Multi-tasking with the Bookseat. There is a clear perspex page holder that enables you to read Hands-Free! and do other things at the same time, such as knitting, typing, drinking, eating, crafts, writing, studying, etc. Multi use. The Book SeatTM doubles as a travel pillow; in a car, bus, plane etc. Different Book Sizes – Designed for standard novels, larger books and magazines can easily be positioned in the book seat. There is a Handy storage pocket – for mobile phone, reading glasses, sunglasses, remote control, pen, or even your favourite chocolate bar. Loop Carry Handle – for storing on your door handle, bed post or for carrying. The fabric used is the latest high quality 190gsm faux-suede. It is very tactile soft and highly stain resistant. Has a 12 month warranty against poor manufacturing workmanship and defects.Hands free book holder
The Book Seat doubles as a travel pillow; in a car, bus, plane etc.
The Book Seat will mold itself and shape to sit at any angle on any surface that you place it.
The fabric used is the latest high quality 190gsm faux-suede.

Gosnell: The Untold Story of America’s Most Prolific Serial Killer

Gosnell: The Untold Story of America’s Most Prolific Serial Killer

Price: $18.96


Gosnell is the untold story of America’s most prolific serial killer.

In 2013 Dr Kermit Gosnell was convicted of killing four people, including three babies, but is thought to have killed hundreds, perhaps thousands more in a 30-year killing spree.

ABC News correspondent Terry Moran described Gosnell as “America’s most prolific serial killer.”

Gosnell is currently serving three life sentences (without the possibility of parole) for murdering babies and patients at his “House of Horrors” abortion clinic.

This book—now a major movie starring Dean Cain (Lois & Clarke)—reveals how the investigation that brought Gosnell to justice started as a routine drugs investigation and turned into a shocking unmasking of America’s biggest serial killer. It details how compliant politicians and bureaucrats allowed Dr. Gosnell to carry out his grisly trade because they didn’t want to be accused of “attacking abortion.” Gosnell also exposes the media coverup that saw reporters refusing to cover a story that shone an unwelcome spotlight on abortion in America in the 21st century.

Gosnell is an astounding piece of investigative journalism revealing a coverup among the medical political and media establishments that allowed a killer to go undetected for decades.

EZ Home and Office Address Book

EZ Home and Office Address Book

Price: $29.95


EZ Home and Office is easy to use address book software for home and business. Any number of names can be added and adding a name is simple and straightforward. Any number of addresses can be added to a name. The city and state are automatically filled in when a zip is entered and phone numbers are auto formatted. Pictures can be added to the address book and viewed in the picture gallery. There are three different printable address books including a 5-1/2″ x 8-1/2″ address book. A phone book can also be printed. Name and address labels can be printed using many common label forms. Pictures and clip art can be added to all labels. You can also print on any size envelope. There are birthday and anniversary reminders when the program starts, a printable report, and a printable birthday and anniversary calendar. There’s a Christmas function to easily select names for labels, envelopes, and email lists. Other functions include daily reminders, a reminder calendar, printable reminders, Google and MapQuest address mapping, a recipe organizer with pictures, a budget maker, and saving sensitive information in an encrypted lockbox. You can even customize the program to only show the features you want. More than one database can be added so you can have one for home and one for business. Names and addresses can be imported from any program, including Parsons, which can export to a CSV (comma separated values), comma delimited, or tab delimited file.Address book software for home and business (WINDOWS 10, 8, 7, Vista, and XP). Three printable address book formats.
GREAT FOR CHRISTMAS LABELS! Print colorful labels with clip art or pictures on many common Avery labels.
Printable birthday and anniversary calendar and a reminders calendar.
Add any number of databases. You can add one for home and one for business.
NEED PROGRAM FAST? Ask for a download after ordering.

Book Reviews – Aiming for the Pot of Gold

As authors what do we most want from the publishing of our books public recognition, skyrocketing sales, or simply spreading our message?

We may want all three and receiving a review can be reaching that pot of gold. A review in a prestigious print magazine can truly make an author’s name and multiply sales. Even a review in an online magazine can be archived and available to the internet for years. But how to achieve this goal in a competitive market is tricky.

The quid-pro-quo is that publishers send reviewers a free copy of a book as part of their marketing plan, in the hope that it will be reviewed and brought to the favorable attention of the reviewer’s audience/readership. All books sent to a reviewer for review consideration, requested or unrequested, become the property of the reviewer to dispose of as he or she deems fit.

Before you begin sending books out to all possible magazines do your research. Despite Oprah’s popularity, O magazine isn’t right for every author. Maybe your book is a better fit with Prevention magazine or Popular Mechanics? Or maybe is your best bet. Read what books are reviewed in your magazines of choice. Then research who is the best person for you to contact. Is it the feature editor, or is there a book review editor? Keep in mind that you are competing with thousands of other authors for the diminishing number of publications that review books.

But first create 3 lists of possible review sites, magazines, and newspapers. This list is meant to offer a sampling of book review options, there are many other magazines and newspapers not listed here.

1. The “pot o gold” list – We characterize these magazines as gold because any review or mention of your book in their print publications will result in more sales, more recognition and your message received by large numbers of people. All magazines and newspapers in this category require advanced reader copies sent at least 4 months in advance of the books launch. Prepublication magazines include Publishers Weekly, Booklist Reader and Library Journal. Post publication magazines in this category include People, New Yorker, Reader’s Digest, or Slate. To claim a little of the gold by submitting their books to Publishers Weekly PW select. For the small fee of $149 you have a better chance to reach that gold.

2. The “silver lining” list – We characterize these magazines or newspapers as silver because they have a great circulation and maybe a little less prestige. From the Los Angeles Times, to the Boston Globe, to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, to the Christian Science monitor all have a great deal of power to launch a book. Most magazines and newspapers in this category have both a print edition as well as an online edition, and they accept books that have already been launched. Landing a review in The Atlantic would be a huge boon to any author. The Bloomsbury review has eclectic tastes, has been around for decades and often prints authors who reside in the West. Regional magazines in your area like Virginia Quarterly Review tend to favor local authors. Online magazines in this category because of their huge circulation are Shelf Awareness and Huffington Post. Depending on the genre of your book other magazines that review books are Crosscurrents magazine, Tricycle, Insight Retailers magazine, Psychology Today and Utne Reader.

3. Evergreen list – I refer to these online magazines and review sites as evergreen because they archive their reviews. Anyone can find the review months later and also having your review online will help build your overall SEO ranking. Getting reviewed on Amazon or Barnes and builds recognition as well as sales. Many of our authors have become best sellers. Goodreads is a social media network for authors to create a fan base. My personal favorite online review magazine is of course San Francisco Book Review. Other favorites include Midwest Book Review, Bellaonline or Women’s Review of Books. For a small fee of $59 you can obtain an express review from Readers Favorite reviews –

Of course a review doesn’t guarantee that you will get a good review. Even a review that starts with “This is an amazing book” and finishes with criticizing the author’s purple prose can be useful.

You can go for reviews yourself or you can hire a publicist to make this task easier. A publicist has the contacts and skills to get your book in front of interested editors. There is a great deal of work involved in going for reviews, from research to query to follow up. But any review can be used to promote your book and improve your sales which is well worth the effort. And the possibility is always there that you will be fortunate enought to find your own pot of gold!

© January 2017