Book Review: Little Things Long Remembered

December 5, 2014 Book Review, reviews 1

Many thanks to the publisher for the complimentary review copy; however, these are solely my thoughts and opinions and not influenced in any way.

Book Review:  Little Things Long RememberedLittle Things Long Remembered: Making Your Children Feel Special Every Day
by PhD, Susan Newman
Published by Iron Gate Press
On October 1st, 2014
Genre: Non-Fiction
Pages: 148
Source: complimentary review copy
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Filled with practical tips on creating memories with your children {or grandchildren}, Little Things Long Remembered is a practical, darling addition to any parent or grandparent’s repertoire of parenting. It is especially great for new parents or even veteran parents who need quick tips without a lot of steps. The ideas are broken up into memory-makers for 5 minutes, 30 minutes and longer.

Soon after I received this book the Little Monkey was spending the day with me and it happened to be pouring rain. I was at a loss as to what to do {sometimes in the moment it’s hard to think of cool ideas that are both entertaining, memory-making and educational}. Anyone else ever feel that way? Normally we would head outside to go on a nature walk but the cold rain prohibited that idea. Sooo, I grabbed this little gem of a book, flipped through the pages to “5 Minutes More or Less” and “Sick Days” {I figured rain days would fall into that category as well} and quickly was reminded of a game my kids had enjoyed – flipping playing cards into a hat. Yup, something as simple as flipping playing cards kept a three year old entertained for quite a while and in the meantime taught hand-eye coordination {without the benefit of a game station might I add!}; playing well with others {hey, the Little Monkey can’t win every time!} and simply laughing at the simple things in life. Now, on the days I have the Little Monkey he always asks if we can play cards/throw cards!

Much of what is included in Little Things Long Remembered is common sense, practical tips that anyone can implement. I would love to see this in the hands of every parent and grandparent. Makes for a perfect stocking stuffer, baby shower or everyday gift.

Be sure to read Susan Newman’s guest post on Making Memories during the holidays. A gentle reminder to enjoy the little things and not try too hard.

What little memories do you remember from your childhood?

Many thanks to iRead Book Tours for including me on this tour.


Making Memories: Don’t Try Too Hard

December 4, 2014 Guest Post, Spotlight Author 1


Guest Post by Susan Newman, PhD and author of Little Things Long Remembered: Making Your Children Feel Special Every Day


Holidays—and every day–are great opportunities to pile on the memories. With very little effort, and often no effort at all, so many memories create themselves.

Yet most of us, whether we are parents, grandparents, aunts or uncles, get caught up in the idea of presenting picture perfect celebrations, events or activities. We hope to turn them into cherished remembrances of the day and of us. That trap wastes adults’ time and energy, and can take away a lot of the fun for the children.

The strange thing about any get-together or event—Christmas dinner with all the relatives or a child’s birthday party—generally isn’t how beautiful the tree or birthday cake looked. What children and those in attendance remember is the dog in the corner quietly chewing on someone’s brand new slipper or the birthday cake that was lopsided or had a strange color frosting because someone added too many drops of food coloring to the icing mix.

Whether it is Valentine’s Day or Halloween, the mishaps or quirky things that happen are more likely to be stored in the children’s and whole family’s memory bank to be recalled and laughed about for years to come.

Nonetheless, certain rituals and traditions play a role in creating positive recollections. They too, are a major part of growing up: the mistletoe hanging over the doorway (and the kisses that go with it), for instance. You might put candy kisses next to your child’s cereal bowl on Valentine’s Day or bring home cupcakes with shamrocks in the frosting every St. Patrick’s Day every year. Or, save and bring out holiday decorations made each year in school or together at home. When children are young adults, they will still want to see the ornaments they made in second grade or carry on the tradition of decorating gingerbread houses.

As I discuss in Little Things Long Remembered, whether you have five minutes, half an hour, or the whole afternoon, when trying to build memories go for the simple, the mundane. Don’t try too hard. Choose games your children love and you like well enough to play often; make it a point to sit down without electronic devices and play. You’ll be amazed at what you can learn about your kids when you do. Reserve one night a week for a few hours to be together as a family—call it family game night or movie night. Invite other relatives to join you.

A happy memory could be of an aunt or uncle who bakes bread or makes pizza with nieces and nephews once a month. It is the repetition that turns the most ordinary event into something special and an important part of a child’s life. A recent study from Harvard confirmed my longtime belief and my own findings that the simple, mundane and ordinary — not dazzling, over-the-top trips or hugely expensive gadgets — are what people remember most fondly. Small parcels of time well spent shape long-lasting memories that are the backbone of family unity and the glue that holds families together.

In other words, the ordinary frequently becomes extraordinary…and that is something all of us need to keep in mind when we are trying too hard for perfection. You don’t know exactly which “little thing” will have the most impact and be what children look for and ultimately remember. So try many, relax, and see what sticks. You will be pleasantly surprised.



Susan Newman is a social psychologist and parenting expert focusing on issues related to raising children and family relationships. She is a contributor to Psychology Today magazine where she writes about parenting and is the author of 15 books on family concerns, most recently,  Little Things Long Remembered: Making Your Children Feel Special Every Day.   For more information or to connect with Susan visit her website | Twitter | Facebook



Right or Happy? That IS the question.

December 3, 2014 Book Review, reviews 8


Recently my baby brother did something to make me so angry I could have beat him up with my bare hands if he were not a foot+ taller and outweigh me by 100 lbs.  What’s ironic is that he was thinking his actions were helping me when, in reality, it did just the exact opposite.  But isn’t that the way it goes?  In The Mill River Redemption sisters Rose and Emily are completely estranged.  Reading the terrible manner in which they treat each other had me thinking about the situation with my brother and thankful we resolved the drama before Thanksgiving dinner!

I’m reminded of a popular saying do you want to be right or do you want to be happy?  As stubborn as my family can be {yes, me included} I’ve figured out that being happy is more important to me.  Especially when the argument is about something stupid, and this one was!

Now that sentiment would go out the window entirely if someone’s life were in danger.  For most instances though, dealing with family stuff by the ‘happy or right’ quotient keeps me sane {as long as I truly DO let. it. go. and choose happiness over rightness}  And man is that hard to do. But also absolutely necessary.

How do you deal with family drama during the holidays?

This post was inspired by the novel The Mill River Redemption by Darcie Chan, about two estranged sisters who are forced to work together in order to uncover the hidden inheritance by their mother.   Join From Left to Write on December 2nd as we discuss The Mill River Redemption and enter to win a copy of the novel.  As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

This novel along with The Mill River Recluse  paired together makes a great gift for anyone who enjoys fiction with inspirational, healing stories!

For more about author Darcie Chan visit the website or connect on Facebook | Twitter


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Take a Trip Back to High School in Brutal Youth

November 21, 2014 Book Review, reviews 5

Many thanks to the publisher for the complimentary review copy; however, these are solely my thoughts and opinions and not influenced in any way.

Take a Trip Back to High School in Brutal YouthBrutal Youth
by Anthony Breznican
Published by Macmillan
On June 10th, 2014
Genre: Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 416
Source: complimentary review copy
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Buy the Book from IndieBound


Perhaps I lived under a rock in high school.  I’m actually really, really glad I didn’t go to a private school, especially one as, um, toxic, as St. Michaels in Brutal Youth.  Did you know that some private high schools actually sanction hazing?

Filled with snippets of profoundness like Everyone bullies somebody, and When people didn’t like you, they got in your way.  When they didn’t care about you, they let you get in your own way.    The first scene is gripping, horrifying ~ like watching a train wreck happen.  Peter Davidvek happens to be doing a freshman tour on the day Colin “Clink” loses it after years of brutalized bullying.  Because his parents do not believe Peter’s version of the events {everything is hushed up in the newspaper and as it’s the early ’90s there’s no social media or cell phones at the ready} Peter ends up attending St. Michaels.

The Cast

Peter Davidvek ~ the likable freshman who tries to do the right thing {like save a boy in the opening chapter only to incur the wrath of the guidance counselor, Ms. Bromine, and the utter disbelief of his parents}

Noah Stein ~ gutsy, take-no-crap attitude scarred-face friend of Peter and partner-in-crime {actually partner in trying to save the boy from harm by kissing Ms. Bromine while Peter pulled boy to safety ~ see what I mean about gutsy?!?}

Lorelei Paskal ~ also new incoming freshman with something to prove.  She simply wants to be popular and will go to surprising lengths to gain that popularity.  Also in a sort-of love triangle with Peter and Noah.

Ms. Bromine ~ guidance counselor, teacher, ultimate mean girl {yep, she’s the mean girl abusing her position and power in ways you will not believe!}

Father Mercedes ~ his church {and buildings} are crumbling and falling down around him and he just wants it to end so he can start over fresh.

Sister Maria ~ the well-intentioned but completely ineffective principal

Brutal Youth had the feel of early ’90s high school amped up to the nth degree.  The writing is absorbing with clear ability to drag emotions out of its reader whether it be anger in a “no, she did not just say that-” kind of way or a cringing kind-of compassion wishing you could jump through the pages, hug a student and tell her “there is really a better way.”  The one thing I will especially commend Anthony Breznican about is his ability to drag me back to high school even though I never stepped foot in a private school.  There’s something so universal about the emotions one goes through as a freshman that Anthony was able to effectively communicate on the pages of Brutal Youth.

While the youth in the novel were clearly developed, well-rounded characters, the adults were almost garish in comparison.  I probably feel that way because there is not a single adult I liked in the book.  As a matter of fact, I wanted to slap most of them, especially Peter’s out-of-touch parents.

The first chapter is a hold-your-breath, edge-of-the-seat introduction to Brutal Youth and plateaus somewhat after the explosive beginning.  Not necessarily a bad thing as my heart certainly could not have taken many more chapters that emotional.  Recommended for anyone who went to high school in the 80’s, early 90’s or someone who wants to know what not to do as a high school guidance counselor. . .and for anyone who simply enjoys the emergence of a debut author with a unique sense of humor and writing ability galore.

Be sure to check out my interview with the author in which he shares his own stories of private Catholic school ~ terrifying!

How were your high school days?  Have a beloved teacher story or a vindictive, hateful, horrible teacher story {we all probably have one of those I imagine!}?

Many thanks to BE Consulting for including me on the Blog Tour!


4 Actionable Steps to Effect Change as Inspired by the Howard Jacobson novel J

November 19, 2014 Book Review 9

4 Actionable Steps to Effect Change as Inspired by the Howard Jacobson novel JJ: A Novel
by Howard Jacobson
Published by Hogarth
On August 14th, 2014
Genre: Dystopian, Fiction
Pages: 326
Source: complimentary review copy
Visit Goodreads
Buy the Book from IndieBound


When I would tell strangers that I work with abused and neglected children I would often get the response “there’s no way I could do that job.”  For the longest time, in self-important manner, I would respond with “how can I not,” subtly implying that they should be out advocating for children as well.  I’m not proud of my self-righteousness nor my judgement {they may have been feeding the hungry for all I knew!} but I am proud of the work I did.  Those years taught me so much about my fellow man.  While I met a few truly evil individuals there were many more that were just unprepared or unable to care properly for their children.  I’m not excusing any parent’s mistreatment of their child, but I did come to learn that not all things are as they appear.

My years working with CASA and in a group home also ingrained in me that in every single case the little things added up and made the biggest differences.  I wish I could tattoo that fact on the hearts of everyone, everywhere how true that concept is in action.  And then I saw the news this week that gave me pause:   the brutal beheading of American Peter Kassig by Isis and the horrific slaughter of four men in a Jewish synagogue and the subsequent death of one of the police officers stopping the two killers.   Helpless and hopeless.  Two incredibly self-defeating emotions.  Two feelings that suck the life right out of me and two that I try very, very hard to not fall into.  With the newscasts this week it is understandable to either fall into despair from the senselessness or to turn a blind eye so that you don’t fall into that despair pit.

What got me out of hopeless and helpless and what keeps me going is moving forward.  Taking action.  Relying on my knowledge and training to propel me forward; knowing Margaret Mead is spot on when she said never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.  John F. Kennedy is right when he quoted Edmund Burke by saying the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.  With that in mind I made the beginnings of a list of actionable steps anyone can do to move in the direction of making the world a better place, for all of mankind.

Four Actionable Steps to Take Today

1.  Be kind to your fellow man.  Change starts with me. with you.  To effect change we must be the change.  Kindness to all and not just those we deem “worthy.” Anything less perpetuates prejudice and injustice.

2.  Become informed.  If you feel that the newspapers and television news shows are only giving us part of the story, go online.  Read blogs.  Read the news from other countries via the Internet {more times than not you can find sites with news in a language you can understand}.  Seek out the truth.  Interview those who are in the thick of it and can tell you the truth.

3.  Write letters to those in power positions outlining your views on an injustice.  Ask for a response.  If it’s someone in political power use your vote to influence.  You’d be surprised what a well-worded letter in the right hands can accomplish.

4.  Use social media to inform others in a non-threatening, non-violent manner.  Social media has been shown to be a hugely effective platform for initiating calls-to-action.  Anyone participate in #GivingTuesday that began a couple of years ago?

Please do share any additions you have to this list in the comments.

This post was inspired by the novel J: A Novel by Howard Jacobson, about a world where collective memory has vanished and the past is a dangerous country, not to be talked about or visited:  “the past exists so that we may forget it.”  In a world recovering from a second holocaust, differences are not celebrated.  Heirlooms are not tolerated, and still the “J” are not accepted.  

Join From Left to Write on November 20th as we discuss J: A Novel.  As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.