Back on Track

New reviews coming soon! I'll be importing my work from the past two years, but in the meantime,
I'm reclaiming my small place on the web.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Memoir Review

Sixtyfive Roses
By Heather Summerhayes Cariou
ISBN-10: 1552786781
Review by Heather Froeschl

Bonds between sisters can be deeply profound. Life changing, life sustaining relationships with our sisters prove this. Heather Summerhayes Cariou’s memoir, “Sixtyfive Roses” demonstrates the bond of sisterhood in a way that readers will never forget. When your sibling, your best friend, is given months to survive, and you vow to die along with her, life becomes a struggle to live.

When Pam was just four years old, and Heather was six, Pam was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis, which Pam pronounced Sixtyfive Roses. It wasn’t a new experience, handling Pam’s illness, since she had been ill all along, but it now had a name, and a death sentence. Heather’s family began to learn everything about Cystic Fibrosis; became founders of the Canadian Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and fought for Pam’s life with every fiber of their being. Heather describes how helpless it felt to lay awake listening to her sister breathing, ready to jump up to get her parents, and how scared she was to wake in the morning to find Pam gone from life. The treatments they were to give Pam at home, the long hospital stays fighting infections, the struggle to pay bills, and the toll on everyone’s lives shook the foundation of their family but at the same time made them all the stronger. Heather’s internal struggle with her feelings and adolescence brought forth an angry young woman; the constant turmoil affected each family member in different ways. The tradition of having tea became a soothing ointment for many moments. Was it enough to soothe their souls?

This memoir is an astounding testament to the strength of family, but also to the reality of illness and a person’s spiritual growth. Witnessing Pam finding her own peace and subsequently Heather’s whole family is the gift Pam left for us all, wrapped up and crafted into “Sixtyfive Roses” by Heather Summerhayes Cariou. This book is about depth of love and dedication, it is about sisterhood and family, it is about Cystic Fibrosis and the research that is being done, it is about one family’s selfless dedication, and it is about Pam. Excellently written, with a foreword by Celine Dion, who has also been touched by Cystic Fibrosis in her family, readers will not be able to put the book down. One can’t help but be moved in reading it.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Non-Fiction Review

What They Want You to Know!
Messages from beyond the grave
by Carter Shepard and Carolyn Cummings
Review by Heather Froeschl

If we could speak once more with some of the great minds of our time, the icons of civilization to some, what would they tell us? What would we ask them? Is communication with the dead actually possible? In “What They Want You to Know!” by Carter Shepard and Carolyn Cummings, it does seem possible, and the examples given just might shatter the reader’s preconceptions of the afterlife.

Carolyn, a professional medium for twenty years, and Carter, a student of metaphysics for thirty years, interviewed eighteen well known people, from the other side. It may seem like star gazing but the list of interviewees is what it is: astounding. Starting with Albert Einstein, some of those included are Benjamin Franklin, John Kennedy Jr., his mother, Jackie Kennedy, Howard Hughes, and Steve Irwin. These souls were very much a part of what our civilization is today, so going to them for some answers does make sense. What would you ask intelligent spirits who now have the ability to see much more than we here on the earth plane? What is our purpose here on earth? What is death like? Is there a heaven or hell?

The answers to these are not all that surprising for anyone who has been a student of the metaphysical. However the questions and answers about the current situation in Iraq, the current president and race for office, and other political ponderings were a little more shocking to me. I wasn’t able to wholeheartedly believe that the answers weren’t what the questioner wanted to “hear.” The subject of religion too, was a little overpowering to me. I got the sense that the authors had certain messages that they wanted to portray. My opinion, of course, and perhaps not what the authors had in mind after all. Their disclaimer is that those who can believe will, and those that can’t, simply won’t.

These “messages” from beyond the grave are sometimes funny, often touching, and are certainly thought-provoking. Opening the mind to the continuance of the spirit is a purposeful goal that this book leads to. “What They Want You to Know!” is an interesting project indeed.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Children's Fiction Review

Treasure in Tahiti
by Connie Lee Berry
ISBN-10: 0977284816
Review by Heather Froeschl

Journey to the other side of the world? Max and Sam are going on an incredible journey to Tahiti. What waits for them there is a fantastic mystery, in Connie Lee Berry’s book, “Treasure in Tahiti.” This action packed adventure book for young readers promises excited page turning!

Their island paradise is not exactly what their mother had in mind. The family is left on their own at a simple hut with no electricity or inside running water. However the majestic scenery and ocean waves make up for it. When one of the boys finds an old treasure map beneath a loose floorboard, the adventure really begins. Convincing their dad to explore a nearby deserted island doesn’t take long and soon the boys are daring the darkness of a cave. Someone else is on the island though; someone else is searching for the hundred year old treasure. Will the boys be able to follow the clues and beat their opponent to the prize? Is it even still there after so long?

Written in a fun and upbeat tone, Connie Lee Berry’s books are perfect for reluctant readers. The intrigue of the plot makes “Treasure in Tahiti” a page turner. Max and Sam are likeable characters that kids can relate to who just happen to be going on incredible journeys. Giving a bit of history, geography and even science, this book is a well rounded offering that packs in the surprises. The variety of it creates a buffet of island tastes. The Incredible Journey Book series is a fun collection to treasure.

Children's Fiction Review

The Criminal in the Caymans
By Connie Lee Berry
ISBN-10: 0977284808
Review by Heather Froeschl

Family adventures and incredible journeys await brothers Max and Sam. Going to the Cayman Islands would be an adventure enough for any first and second grader, but a mysterious box arrives at their home before they leave, adding intrigue to the voyage. Connie Lee Berry’s book, “The Criminal in the Caymans” is the beginning of an exciting series for young readers.

This first book is a great introduction to Max and Sam’s family and their lives in grade school, but then jumps right into the adventure with a mysterious map and a leather bound journal. Their vacation begins in the normal way, running to the ocean and playing in the sand but suddenly turns quite extraordinary as the boys realize they are in the midst of a dangerous criminal. An amazing thing happens just as one of the boys is about to call the FBI. What exactly does their dad do for a living, being sent to this paradise for work? They are about to find out.

Connie writes in a fresh and outreaching way. Young readers will be captivated, which is sometimes hard to achieve. The story, setting and feel of the book is right on the level of excitement needed for this age group. Adding in some interesting facts about the Cayman Islands is a plus for parents and teachers and as another bonus; a science project is described in the back of the book. These extras are like getting that special package in the mail…surprising and fun. Max and Sam are likeable characters who promise some incredible journeys. Expect the unexpected.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Non-Fiction Review

Messages From the Other Side
by Joseph Tittel
ISBN-10: 1419666452
Review by Heather Froeschl

How does a psychic develop their gifts? Is it actually something that can be developed in all of us or is it a talent you must be born with? Many believe that we all have psychic ability to tap into. Joseph Tittel shares his life story as a medium in his book, “Messages From the Other Side.”

When he was just four years old, Joseph was aware of spiritual energy watching over him at the foot of his bed. This book chronicles how he grew up being psychic and shares his experiences of helping others as a medium. With his mother’s passing, Joseph was expecting a big sign from the other side, all the while he was telling clients to be aware of the smallest thing being a message. This is the reminder that we all need, because often the signs go unnoticed. Spirit may guide us to glance at the clock and see significant numbers, or change the radio station to one where their favorite song is playing, but they probably are not going to physically tap you on the shoulder and announce their presence, although I know this does happen too. Sharing his realization that he wasn’t taking his own advice, Joseph shows his humanity to readers. Even a psychic sometimes needs to pay closer attention.

Giving readings, Joseph has helped bring messages to loved ones from the other side. This allows some closure and validation and ultimately peace of mind. The book shares some of his more intense experiences and explains how this interaction with spirit can be healing for those left on the earth plane. Joseph goes on to help readers to tap into their own psychic abilities using detailed meditation techniques. Yes, we are all born with ability.

A compelling read, “Messages From the Other Side” addresses the questions many have sought the answers to. Joseph Tittel reaches out to readers in a friendly, easy going tone. Much like chatting over coffee with a good friend, the visit passes all too quickly. This book is an excellent introduction to the spirit world and a comfort to those who are grieving.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Fiction Review

The Wish I Wish Tonight
by Barbara Elliott Carpenter
ISBN-10: 1434342301
Review by Heather Froeschl

Can you really go home again? While our memories of childhood, teenaged years, and college may be bittersweet or even deep dark chocolate delicious, going back in time is a difficult task to attempt. Dare we even try? In Barbara Elliott Carpenter’s novel “The Wish I Wish Tonight,” the drive to move forward and hang onto the past is a struggle many can relate to. Letting go of the past is sometimes a better option.

This concluding book in Carpenter’s Starlight Trilogy is a completion of certain chapters in the main character’s life. Sissy Bannister has gone through some challenging times and her character has been a joy to have known. Readers who are new to the series will be able to enjoy this book and all three in any order, but for those who have witnessed her growing up in the trilogy this last title is a satisfying conclusion. Following Sissy in her career to New York City is exciting and fulfilling, and witnessing her homesickness for West Virginia is something we can all relate to as we make our own lives away from family. The emotional roller coaster of her high school reunion is again a familiar encounter with poignant moments to recall in real life. Some lingering questions are answered, some new ones are addressed. In this stage of her existence, Sissy faces some of her demons, some of her family’s demons, and is attacked by yet another one along the way. The result is a growth that only time and experience can provide.

This work of fiction reaches out to readers on many personal levels. The issues are ones that are familiar, and so the reader can relate to the characters and plot. It is an entertaining work but also a thought provoking one. Getting lost in a fictional world is delightful and coming away from a book with some lingering thought to goals, life lessons and family is a blessing. As always, Carpenter presents a polished and well rounded offering. She has a true gift for evoking emotion, showing her plot like a well loved home movie, and depicting real life, even when it is a made up one. With hope for from this author, I heartily recommend her works.

Non-Fiction Book Review

The Five Secrets You Must Know Before You Die
by John Izzo, Ph.D.
ISBN-10: 1576754758
Review by Heather Froeschl

Looking to our elders for guidance is a time honored and wise practice that unfortunately is not played out often enough. John Izzo encourages us to go back to that tradition in his book “The Five Secrets You Must Discover Before You Die.” Seeking the secrets to happiness, it makes sense to look to those who have lived it.

John interviewed over 200 people, all over the age of 60 and some up into their hundreds, who had been identified by their own friends and family as “the one person they knew who had found happiness and meaning.” These people were asked such questions as: “What has brought you the greatest sense of meaning and purpose in life?” and “What is the greatest fear at the end of life?” They were asked to finish the sentence: “I wish I had…” These elders came from all walks of life and acted many roles; some were authors, professors, or business owners, others were a nurse, psychologist, biologist, and a barber. Amazingly, or expectedly, their answers were quite similar. Therein are the five secrets.

The first, and only one I will divulge, is “Be True to Your Self.” Of course this can mean different things to each person who reads the words, but author John Izzo guides readers to the purpose behind them. His guidance leads one to ask in this chapter, “Am I following my heart?” “Is my life focused on the things that really matter to me?” and “Am I being the person I want to be in this world?” Answering these questions will lead a person to be true to themselves. Izzo demonstrates the secret by sharing stories from his interviewees. They share by example, much as elders have done since the dawn of humanity. This brings the secret to life for us, and then Izzo gives us homework. He gives us questions to ask ourselves each day or week, that bring the secret home and to the front of the mind. Practice, practice, practice. And so on, with each of the five secrets.

This book is a gem. It is an obvious quest to go to our wise members of society and seek answers to life’s questions, but many of us no longer do it. “The Five Secrets You Must Discover Before You Die” does it for us, and hopefully will prompt us to do it ourselves with our own elders. The stories here are all about living wisely, living in the moment; some are funny, while others are poignant. All should be thought-provoking. The consistency of the lessons makes for an easy to understand and digest plan. Taking one secret at a time to work on may be best for some people, pausing in the consumption of the book to work on that particular goal. Other may devour the entire book in one sitting and go back to reflect more carefully as they consider each message. The end result is surely one that will be self fulfilling and inspired. While the title may cause one to stop for a second, for good reason and cause, the content and purpose is wisdom.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Author Interview

Mike Sandrolini, sportswriter and editor/author of “All the Good in Sports,” a collection of stories of 25 contemporary sports personalities finding their faith, agreed to speak with me recently. A review of Mike’s book can be seen here.

Heather: How did you get started writing about sports?

Mike: I grew up in north central Illinois loving hockey. My hometown of Peru is located along the Illinois River. All of us who played hockey in the area couldn’t wait for the river’s backwaters to freeze; the nearest indoor skating rink was 60 to 80 miles away. My best friend in high school, Larry Lister -- he was the goalie -- helped me out one day with a story I did for our school’s newspaper on hockey. That was my first story.

Heather: Sports is usually geared toward game performances, scores and statistics. What made you decide to look at the spiritual side of sports stars? To write a book length work?

Mike: Sadly, I think whenever an athlete – or anyone in public eye for that matter, whether he or she is a politician, a celebrity, etc. – says “I believe in God” or “I believe in Jesus,” they are viewed with a certain degree of skepticism, or dismissed as a holier-than-thou bible thumper. I think they get a bad rap. They’re not perfect; they simply try to live their lives according to their beliefs. I wanted to give readers an in-depth look at why they believe what they believe, and how they rely on their faith, both on and off the field.

Heather: How did you find those who participated in the book?

Mike: The stories in this collection are adapted from the pages of Sports Spectrum magazine, which is published nationally and in Canada. It comes out six times per year. I went through all the issues of the magazine, dating back to the early 1990s, then consulted with Sports Spectrum staff members and editors at Regal Books, the book’s publisher, to decide which 25 stories would appear in the book.

Heather: Certain topics are often seen as taboo to speak of, religion among them; was this a concern?

Mike: Not at all. Some people are turned off by it, but I don’t think discussing things that are religious or spiritual is as taboo as it once was. Many athletes have openly expressed their faith during interviews. Their faith is at the core of who they are. Certainly, anyone who watched last year’s Super Bowl may recall how Tony Dungy, the Indianapolis Colts head coach, gave credit to the Lord on national television following the game. I think that’s quite refreshing!

Heather: What was your main goal in compiling “All the Good in Sports”?

Mike: In this book, I wanted to show how these sports figures go through many of the same life challenges, struggles, disappointments and loss that you and I do, yet the recurring theme in this book is how their faith has either helped carry them through their circumstances, or helped them cope with something they could not change.

Heather: Has the release been as successful as I expect? Are you pleased with the results?

Mike: Yes, most definitely. In mid-December, All the Good in Sports was ranked among the top 100 most popular sports books on I think that’s a testament to the great stories that are in the book, and the talented group of writers who told the stories. They deserve the credit.

Heather: What is next for Mike Sandrolini?

Mike: Well, I certainly would like to be involved in another book project sometime. We’ll have to see what happens.

Heather: Thanks Mike! Readers, here is a little bit of a bio about Mike, in his words.

I’m a graduate of Illinois State University, and have worked for over 20 years as an editor, reporter and columnist at four different newspapers. Over the years, I have written articles for Suburban Life Publications, Sports Spectrum, the Chicago Tribune, the Daily Herald, Copley Newspapers, SLAM magazine (a nationally published basketball magazine), the Chicago Bear Report and Preview Sports magazine (nationally published).

Web links:,