Monthly Archives: March 2013

One Amber Too Many



One Amber Too Many:

Fran Orenstein



From the author of Gaia’s Gift, The Book of Mysteries and Reflections comes a One Amber Too Many a story that will definitely touch hearts and hit home with many young people. Award winning author Fran Orenstein introduces us to Gillian and Marcus Sandler.



Sometimes the world looks like a huge dark cloud and at other times an angry animal waiting to be let out of a cage. Many times children find themselves wanting to just hide under a rock, run away and find their own space or just get a hug from the two people that are supposed to care for them. Parents are human and make mistakes. Kids don’t see it that way. Family members have a certain allegiance to each other but what happens when that changes? What happens when one parent finds himself/herself searching for more than what he/she receives or has within the walls of his home? What happens when one parents feels like running away and does? Children suffer, the spouse left behind often deals with the fall out. Almost like the aftershocks of an earthquake or huge tidal wave that has taken the lives of so many and left destruction and despair in its wake. Gillian Sandler is our narrator, She is nine years old and her voice is heard loud and clear as she relates the events that led up to her finding out that her father was going to divorce her mother for a much younger woman. While Gillian finds herself wrapped in a world of anger, unhappiness and feels that her mother has turned into an evil, wicked witch, she fails to see the sadness, the unhappiness and the fear within her eyes as she realizes what this divorce means to not only her but her two children too. But, like some parents, her mother seems to be reverting into herself, forgetting to deal everyday matters leaving both Gillian and Marcus to fend for themselves.



Sisters and brothers have a gift and take relationship at times and of course insults, small fights and definitely annoying each other is often the norm. Both Gillian and Marcus’ lives will now change but he seems to be handling it better. When Gillian learns just who her stepmother is going to be she decides to devise a plan to break up the relationship and make sure that her father’s plans go awry and that her soon to be stepmother never gets that title. Imagine her father marrying his secretary. Neither Marcus or Gillian understand why this is happening and like most kids they are afraid, scared that they will lose their father to this other woman. Making it even worse her name is Amber, which is the name of half of the girls Gillian’s soccer team.


What happens when their mother becomes more of a recluse forgetting to do the everyday things they have always counted on her to do? No more clean laundry. No more cooked meals and definitely no more hugs. Divorce is horrific and many kids do not realize that it takes its toll on the parents too. Parents like Gillian’s mom become so wrapped up in their own sorrows and fears they forget about or do not realize how this is impacting her children. But, things change and situations lend themselves to making her mother more aware of what is happening to Gillian. But, you know kids and they are often resilient but in this case Gillian is working hard to find a way to get rid of Amber B. The B stands for you have to figure that out for yourself. Trying to cope with her mom’s mood swings, dealing with her father’s affection in public for Amber, Gillian still manages to save the day at the soccer team and helps get the win. Gillian decides that no matter what Amber B does she is not going to accept her. Trying to talk with her, dealing with her and Marcus at the same time the situations are often comical and the end result well you have to read it to appreciate what happens when poor Gillian plays soccer with a uniform that has not been laundered and the end result is more than anyone can bear at dinner.


Ruining her father’s relationship has become her full time quest or job. Going out of her way to be rude to Amber B comes easy at times. Wait until you hear what Gillian tells Amber is the real definition of her name. Added in both Gillian and Marcus team up and hopefully will convince her that going on Thunder Dome was dangerous and she better hope she won’t fall out. No matter how hard she tried her plans backfired. But, when she gets locked in the amusement park you have to hear her thoughts, words and feelings about her situation. What happens and why she gets locked in you will have to learn for yourself and just who insists that she did not run away you won’t believe. There is much more that author Fran Orenstein brings out in this outstanding book that can be used by both parents and guidance counselors to talk about divorce, how kids handle things when parents break up and what they think of Gillian’s reaction to Amber B.


Sometimes things work out in your favor and sometimes they don’t One Amber Too Many features a nine –year –old girl who is relentless, smart and not adaptable at times to change who learns many hard lessons before all is said and done. So, who are the other Ambers that she meets and befriends? Just what is the Amber Club and can a girl named Gillian join?


As Gillian finally realizes the end result and you hear her voice loud and clear as she and her father finally have a much-needed talk, you begin to realize that some things will change and others will not. Will she ever accept Amber B? Will her mother ever smile again? What will happen if her mother meets someone? Will he accept both her and Marcus? Divorce is hard. Children are affected and the seriousness of it often impacts in many ways on all of the family members.

How do you teach kids that divorce is not their fault and that sometimes parents need to move on in order to live their lives and move ahead? Not an easy concept to grasp or teach. As you hear Gillian’s voice and you begin to understand her fears, her anger and feel the heat of her tears as they stream down her face you hope that someone that loves her will be there to dry them.

What is next for Gillian? Will she get rid of Amber B? Only author Fran Orenstein knows what’s next for Amber and lets hope she writes a sequel so we find out: One Amber Too Many: Or is there Room for One More? Once again award winning and best selling author Fran Orenstein tops the charts and writes a YA book not only for Young Adults and Teens but also as a resource for teachers, parents, clergy and for guidance counselors to use in group discussions. It would be interesting to find out what kids think of how Gillian handled some of the situations in this story? It might be interesting to know how they would have handled some of the same situations and whether they think Marcus was really on her side? The issues are many: divorce, betrayal, anger, fear, frustration, loyalty, love and most of all friendship. This is one book that I have to say that both boys and girls will enjoy reading, as the boys will definitely identify with Marcus and the girls with Gillian. Stepparents get bad press and not all are really wicked. Sometimes you just have to give those Ambers a chance.


Fran Lewis: reviewer


Let’s Give this book: FIVE Amber Rings


Death and Living to Talk About It – Brian M. Hayden


death and living to talk about it“Death, Living to Talk About It” by Brian M. Hayden is a frank look at death from the point of view of the dying. Hayden doesn’t pull any punches, speaking of his heart and lung problems with honesty. He admits what he did to bring on his issues, not making excuses for himself. Smoking and drinking from a young age surely were major contributors to his health problems.

Hayden’s health issues began in 1989 when he experienced his first heart attack at the ripe old age of 35. From this point onward, his health degrades until doctors finally tell him it’s time to go to hospice. Resigned to his fate, he and his family arrange for him to go, only to pull him out again two weeks later. And guess what? He’s not dead yet!

Hayden was given that death sentence back in 2007. It’s 2011 and he’s still alive to talk about it. Hayden’s book chronicles his journey through heart attacks, blood clots, pulmonary problems, spots on his lungs, pace makers, COPD, migraines and medication issues. His life has been a series of doctor’s appointments, hospital visits, operations and treatments all designed to improve his quality of life. Some have the desired effect, others—not so much.

 Hayden’s courage and tenacity see him through. His loving supportive wife, Denise, whom he credits with saving his life more than once, also keeps him going. Her love and care make life tolerable for a man who’s seen death. Hayden stresses that life for the caregiver of the chronically ill isn’t easy. Denise has constantly been at his side, dealing with hospitals, doctors, medications and worries. This has been her journey as much as his. She sounds like an amazing woman.

“Death – Living to Talk About It” is a wonderfully readable book which gives hope to those with chronic health problems. It gives shows the reader that no matter how bad it gets, there is always hope.

My favorite quote says it all: “Hope and faith are very powerful, and while I cannot tell you that they are all you need, I can say with certainty that without it, there is no hope. Please read my story and think: if this poor bastard can still be skulking about after all he has been through; after all he is still going through, maybe I can too.”

I highly recommend this book to anyone, especially those dealing with chronic health issues.

Five Golden Acorns

© 2011 Dellani Oakes

Detour Trail: my thoughts


Detour Trail

by Joy V. Smith



A straight line can be defined as a line “traced by a point traveling in a constant direction which has zero curvature and is the shortest distance between two points. Traveling in a straight line you hope to get to your destination without any curves, obstacles or roadblocks in your way. But, what happens when out of nowhere this route you are taking is blocked, changed and you have to take a different course. What happens when the reason you have to change directions is due to an event in your life caused by the death of someone close to you? This road and your hope to get where you need to go are changed because you are no longer free or welcome to travel this course. Lorena Emerson finds herself alone after a thief attempts to steal her money and kills her uncle. Traveling with a wagon train she is no longer welcome to continue and refuses to go home as suggested by the wagon master. Finding another course, another way traveling westward on the Oregon Trail she uses her initiative and persistence to find another course to travel, enlist the help of others in the same predicament and hopefully join another wagon train. Two enterprising young men are enlisted to help her find others who might help her along the way. Some would join to handle the cattle, one couple the food and the heavy gear and some would help to find her a man to help her get back what someone lost.  



While deciding where to settle down certain things did to be in place. Each member of this new group supplied services that would help the others. One would provide the cooking, another the building and clearing of the land while some would go with her to find supplies. After meeting several people she and her group decide to leave the wagon train, find a place to live, hopefully join forces and with the help a mule named Jake, they just might succeed.


This is a story about courage, teamwork, understanding, caring and survival. Taking a group of people and finding a place to live is one thing but trusting this young girl as they do is quite another. How hard is it to settle in the west, endure the winters, plant in the spring and harvest the crop? Just what lessons will be learned before all is said and done. A man named Brock would join them and be their guide helping them clear the land, get supplies and hopefully build a settlement that would be safe from enemies, Indians and harm.


Each step of the way Lorrie seems to have the situations under control from getting feed, hay and supplies to dealing with anyone that comes in their way. Taking different people along with her we get to know more about Carol and her brother Dennis and their attachment to Lorrie. Fighting the cold, fighting those that mean them harm, leaving bodies in her wake and making sure that the people that comprise the new settlement have all they need it seems that this young girl has taken charge in more ways than one.


A uniquely told story that takes the reader across the west through hills, mountains, the many detours, trails and definitely not in a straight line to find a safe place to live, create homes, stores and much more. Throughout the novel we meet Shadow, Jake and many other horses, oxen and animals that help the new settlers find their way in their new homes. But, what about Lorrie? When will she get the house she so definitely deserves and how many trips will she make before something happens? With the help of so many and reuniting with both Jason and Timothy the two enterprising young men we met at the start of our journey, she learns more about the people and the life she hopes to live.


The people that she meets along the way are truly remarkable. Dealing with so many different personalities, nationalities and people enlightens readers to the hardships they encounter, the obstacles that they overcame and the friendships and loyalties that they formed. Prejudice rears its ugly head when Starlight hears the words of others calling her a half-breed angering not only Lorrie but her parents too. However, we meet others whose stories are quite compelling too. Cathy who lives with her husband and has to deal with her mother –in-law and her rude comments. Hoping that she and her husband will move to their new town called Sugar Valley and even open a hotel. Hoping to find more settlers along with way to fill her town along with Catherine. Lorrie was always on the move and never seemed to settle down. There was always work to be done, supplies that needed to be gotten and people that wanted to move to a new home. So, who was questioning Ink  the man who owned the newspaper about the new town? Why did this person want to know about the people, the robbers and about the townspeople? A reporter from New York why would she care about this town and what did she hope to accomplish? As the reporter gets the information about the new town and the photos are taken little does everyone know that something amazing and special has been created. But, there is much more. As Lorrie’s life is about to change when she meets a wonderful man named Barr and things move ahead for her in a different way.


The frontier is dangerous and at times lives are lost as we meet more of the people within her new community and the hope that their safety will be assured but not in every case. Bodies are found, identified and some are buried without any pause for thought. Others are reminded of those that have passed and then something changes it all. Lorrie and Barr are married, the people of the settlement help prepare for her wedding but what does she really know about the man she is marrying. Instinct is sometimes enough, the wedding is beautiful and then a friend comes along and things change even more. Detours are not only the ones we travel on but sometimes those we encounter even at home along the way. Asking to leave his son with her and her new husband was a great favor, the end result adding Davy to her family, having a young man to help and later an older brother for her children.


Just what the end result for everyone will be you will have to learn for yourself as there are many more surprises, a reporter who presents the town with a memorable gift, others whom she meets that will bring her closer together with events from ther past and one determined girl named Lorrie set the west in a new direction of her own and created a detour that you might consider traveling on one day.


This is an interesting book that brings to light many important issues. Loyalty, family, strong-willed women that can care for themselves, family units, respect for elders, teamwork, prejudice, dealing with racial issues and one young girl that proved that sometimes things happen when you Detour in the right direction. Lorrie is a strong character that I feel could be brought back in another novel bringing her young daughters and son into the plot, creating more problems that would be indicative to the west and possibly adding the book that the reporter was writing with another chapter. This book can be read by young adults and teens teaching them responsibility, respect and family values.


Fran Lewis: reviewer



Appreciating Life As It Is


Appreciating Life As It Is


Barabara Fleming


A diagnosis can change your life and perspective in an instant. Some require an operation while others treatments, medications and procedures that will hopefully restore your health. A diagnosis that your illness is terminal and that there is little anyone can do is devastating. There are so many illness or diseases that attack a person out of nowhere. Many would fold and hide within the confines of their mind, their homes and never fight their way out. Others like Barbara Fleming decided to share her story take a more direct approach and find a way to take the hand that was now dealt to her and turn it into one winning one. Cars have repairmen who diagnose their problems, find the parts needed and repair it with skill and limited pain to the car. Doctors do not have that luxury nor can they in most cases get the spare parts, replace every organ or find a cure to restore a person’s former good health. Appreciating Life As It Is: A powerful title that really says a lot. When the author was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, the thoughts that she shares that went through her mind and body will definitely help readers understand more than just the gravity of this illness. Speaking directly to the reader, explaining her thought processes and how she deals with the pain, the tingling, the slurring of words and more plus the emotional pain is quite remarkable.


Every book has its own voice and every author presents his/her story in his or her own way. The voice that you hear is that of Barbara Fleming the story that she shares is her real life journey living with Multiple Sclerosis. Part two explains how she learned about it. A diagnosis such as this impacts your life in many ways. Learning more about the illness, finding out it is not terminal and realizing that she has many options and different paths that she can take to definitely helped. She shares the many symptoms and the tests that she endured. But, the information about the physical therapy programs is invaluable. Finding the right therapist and both physical and occupational is paramount and she did. The exercises that she does and the medial team helped to include activities such as swimming in adaptive programs, yoga, stretching and much more to improve her range of motion. But, for anyone who wants to really understand this illness Chapter Four focuses on the various definitions, the four types and how she went about finding more data to clarify what she was experiencing. Page 41 will enlighten readers to the many non-invasive therapies that helped to support her progress and explained how they impacted on her both mentally and physically.

Chapter 5 is crucial to your understanding of this illness as the author shares her own story including her symptoms, her mindset after receiving as she states the cheery news and her reaction.  Her symptoms included fatigue, heat sensitivity, speech problems, visual disturbance, drop foot, balance issues and walking. Each symptom is described as it pertains to the author followed by personal choices chapter 6 where she continues with sharing how she found the right neurologist and the researching questions that came to mind.



You will now hear in Chapter 7 her voice, her experience and how the illness affected her in a narrative that will surprise readers as she realized the potential to encourage herself to reevaluate her life and live it with a different perspective. Her reasons for seeking help migraine headaches and some physical problems with walking and balance. Getting the diagnosis and what she experiences the reader needs to find out for themselves in order to understand the gravity of this illness, her courage to seek help and never give up and what exactly she went through and is still going through today. Chapter 8 includes how her life changed, pictures of the author, the real physical effects, unrecognizable symptoms of her own MS and other changes she experienced. The pictures on page 88, 95, and 103 tell their own story.


The remainder of this outstanding book, resource and personal journey includes how she handles life with this illness, her insights, and the part her faith in Buddhism played as you will learn in the chapters titled View, Meditation, Action followed by Contemplation where she includes exercises in Breathing, Yoga, Study, Well Wishing, Chanting, Nature, Music and explanations for each one.



The chapters that I found most compelling and really interesting were the ones titled Four Truths and Four Reflections. The four Noble truths according to HH the Dalai Lama:

  1. The truth of suffering
  2. The truth of the cause of suffering
  3. The truth of the cessation of suffering
  4. The truth of the path to the cessation of suffering.


The author goes on to explain that life is difficult and unpredictable. She includes that her journey is hard and the struggles she has with even the simplest things some trivial and some that are crucial to life and death. She includes her feelings, her dissatisfactions and much more that reveals her inner most thoughts about living with MS, how she began with four basic principles and much more. Within this enlightening chapter she elaborates and explains each of the four truths. The four reflections that she shares are on page 210 and you will have to find that out for yourself.


In conclusion let me quote the author: Telling my story is an attempt to intertwine the internal journey with the physical one. She elaborates further on pages 211- 215. She describes the preciousness of life, impermanence and uncertainty and law of cause and effect. The rest you need to read for yourself including the interesting epilogue titled Personal Meditation, which says it all in one page.



Included is a detailed glossary of terms, her timeline of when she found out about the illness until the present and important resources. Barbara Fleming takes readers on her own personal journey, inside her heart, mind and body to share her knowledge, her experiences and her positive outlook on life and dealing with MS and “Appreciating Life As It Is! She is focused, positive, energized and definitely I hope going to write more books for this reviewer to read and review.


This is an excellent resource for anyone who wants to understand MS, for doctors to give to patients to let them know that the sky is definitely not going to fall down on them and there is hope, student nurses and nurses in working in Assisted Living Care Facilities can learn a lot from reading this informative and well researched book.


Fran Lewis: reviewer