Archive for the ‘Nonfiction’ Category

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Book Details
:The Side-Yard Superhero
Author: Rick D. Niece
Format: Hardcover
Number of Pages: 260
Summary: “I know where Bernie Jones is.” With one late-night phone call, Rick Niece is transported back over forty years to cherished childhood memories of small town DeGraff, Ohio. His daily newspaper route, the sights and wonders of a traveling carnival, the sounds of Christmas caroling-the idyllic memories all circle back to one special relationship.To Rickie, being friends with Bernie Jones was no different than being friends with any other boy in town. Bernie’s physical world was confined to a wheelchair, but that didn’t stop him from being an intrepid daydreamer, adventurer, and hero to Rickie. The unique friendship the boys forged defined an era in both their lives. When he left for college, Rickie promised Bernie they would meet again. Now, decades later, he is making the pilgrimage back to Ohio to fulfill that promise.
Price: $12.21
Author Bio: When he was four, Rick Niece’s family moved to DeGraff, Ohio, a town of 900 citizens. Life in DeGraff was good, and the lessons learned from treasured friendships still inspire him today. As president of the University of the Ozarks in Clarksville, Arkansas, Dr. Niece and his wife, Sherée, are the proud parents of 675 students.

The Side-Yard Superhero

The Side-Yard Superhero



In The Side-Yard Superhero, Rick Niece recalls his childhood friendship with Bernie Jones, a boy in a wheelchair who is confined not only by his own body, but by the limitations imposed by the 1950’s and 60’s small-town society. When Niece becomes a paperboy in DeGraff, Ohio, population 900, one of his customers is Bernie Jones’ parents. Bernie doesn’t attend school–special needs children had few opportunities for education in those days–but he does spend a lot of time sitting outside in his wheelchair. Niece is afraid of Bernie at first, and has a disasterous first meeting with him. But after a pep talk from his father, Niece takes the inititive to try again, and so begins a long friendship. After Niece leaves for college, he loses track of Bernie. Decades later, he discovers where Bernie is, and sets out to see him, as the happy and bittersweet memories come flooding back.

I admit to being predisposed to like The Side-Yard Superhero, simply because I grew up in a small town myself (and still live here.) But even if you didn’t grow up in a small town, this book is a delight to read. The Side-Yard Superhero is a mixture of humor, adventure, and memorable characters. Rick Niece has fond memories of the people and events that shaped his childhood, and it shows through the way he tells his story. Although the main theme of the book is Niece’s friendship with Bernie Jones, many chapters describe other people Niece grew to know during the years he delivered newspapers. One such person was Fern Burdette, a “brassiere wearing, hard drinking, wooden leg walking, frequent spitting, world interesting” retired newspaper jounalist whose best friend was a dalmation named Duke. Another was Miss Lizzie Moore, a recluse whose fiancé had been killed in France during World War I. Then there was Mary Waite, an invalid who requested Niece read the obituaries to her when he delivered the paper. These and other colorful characters weave through Niece’s tales of childhood exploits and revelations of universal truths.

Funny and poignant, The Side-Yard Superhero is well written, and my only quibble is that the chapters aren’t perfectly chronological. For instance, one chapter takes place during Niece’s teenage years, while the following chapter takes place during his childhood. This made me a bit confused at times, because afterwards I wasn’t always sure of his age when he started a new tale in a new chapter. However, I can’t think of a better way he could have organized the chapters/stories, so I really have no cause to complain.

Niece calls his book an “automythography” which he defines as “A work of nonfiction that looks reflectively at what we think we remember and how we think we remember it; an iridescent memory based upon truth and fact.” Whether or not everything happened exactly as Nieice recalls it, he tells it well, and I loved reading his “iridescent” version of life in DeGraff. I highly recommend reading it.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of The Side-Yard Superhero for review from Phenix & Phenix Literary Publicists. I subsequently lost the book on a trip to Rapid City, SD, so bought a replacement copy from Amazon. My reviews are not influenced by receiving free review copies, nor am I compensated in any other way.
Book Details
Title: Love Equals Sacrifice: The Journey of Loyalty and Service
Author: Michael Stidham
Format: Paperback Print.
Number of Pages: 96
Summary: As a Certified Public Accountant, Michael Stidham dealt with numbers most of his career. Alzheimer’s was just another passing word he heard on television. Little did he know that one word would become a focal point in his life. Thus began his journey back to the Catholic Faith and the realization that Love Equals Sacrifice.
: $9.95 (paperback)
Author Bio: Michael Stidham is a Certified Public Accountant who was self-employed for most of his career. After selling his business in August of 2002, he spent several years taking care of his father who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Michael is currently semi-retired and resides in Bellevue, Kentucky. He enjoys outdoor sports including golf and is a member of several organizations including The Knights of Columbus.


I was most interested in reading Love Equals Sacrifice because I myself am currently caring for my elderly parents, and like Stidham’s father, my mother has Alzheimer’s. I expected the story to focus mainly on Stidham’s caregiving years, but only a little over a third of the book is devoted to that time in his life. And at a mere 85 pages of actual text, Love Equals Sacrifice seems more like a long essay than a book, and left me wanting more. Much more.

The book begins by sketching out Stidham’s parents’ early lives and marriage, and then Stidham’s own childhood. The story moves quickly to Stidham’s adulthood and his first jobs. The first time I wished for more details came when Stidham says of his sports bar’s customers, “As well as the good side of people, I also witnessed the dark things they are capable of. Some of the fictional things I’ve seen on television, I’ve also witnessed in real life.” But instead of giving specific examples, Stidham moves on with his narrative. (I’m also puzzled by the random italics.)

However, since the book’s description highlighted Stidham’s caregiving, I figured that section would contain more detail. Stidham described coming to the slow realization that something was wrong with his father, the doctor visits to resolve ailments, and the typical daily routine he and his father shared, as well as a few anecdotes. However, this section comes to an end all too soon. The book’s final chapters outline Stidham’s return to his Catholic faith after years of neglect.

Though Love Equals Sacrifice could have used a little editorial tweaking here and there, Stidham writes fairly well, and I found his story compelling. My only real complaint is that the book is much too sparse. I would gladly have read more family stories and wished he would have fleshed out details of the joys and frustrations of daily living with someone suffering from Alzheimer’s. Too many authors pad books with extraneous fat. Love Equals Sacrifice to the contrary, is much too lean.

Click here to buy Love Equals Sacrifice


Finding Grace

   Posted by: Lynne Tags: , ,


Book Details
Title: Finding Grace: A true story about losing your way in life…and finding it again
Author: Donna VanLiere
Format: Hardcover Print
Number of Pages: 224
Summary: Finding Grace is the powerful, often humorous, and deeply moving story of one woman’s journey of broken dreams. It is the story of how a painful legacy of the past is confronted and met with peace. This book is for anyone who has struggled to understand why our desires—even the simplest ones—are sometimes denied or who has questioned where God is when we need him most. This story is about one woman’s unlikely road to motherhood. Finally, it’s a book about the “undeserved gift which is life itself.” It’s the story of “Finding Grace.”
Price: $21.95
Author Bio: Donna VanLiere is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of The Christmas Hope series and Angels of Morgan Hill. She lives in Franklin, Tennessee with her husband and three children. 

Finding Grace: A True Story About Losing Your Way In Life…And Finding It Again


I recently saw an episode of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” in which a young boy is left an orphan after his mother is killed by a stray land mine from a long forgotten war on a seemingly uninhabited planet. It’s a senseless, shocking death that the Starship crew didn’t see coming. Then, an energy life form remaining on the planet attempts to make amends to the orphaned boy by creating a comfortingly familiar, but illusionary, “home” for him, a home that includes a recreation of his mother. The Starship crew is presented with the difficult task of convincing the alien (and the boy) that this illusionary world is ultimately not preferable to the cold, hard reality of life–and death.

I was reminded of that episode as I sat down to write this review of Finding Grace. After all, who among us hasn’t wished for God to put our life back to how it was; back before the pain, the loss, the confusion? Who hasn’t felt anger that He didn’t spare us from the hurt in the first place? And yet we instinctively know that reality, with all it’s hardships, is better for us in the long run than the most comforting fantasy world.

But we constantly ignore this. Over and over again we believe that if we only plan more carefully next time, if only we pick the right road, if only we read all the important signs, we’ll end up exactly where we wanted, feeling refreshed and ahead of schedule. Certainly life would be simpler if it was a straight, smooth road, with detailed maps and clear visibility. But it isn’t. It’s filled with sharp curves, rocky cliffs, roadblocks, detours, and lots and lots of fog. Our perfect life plans get sideswiped by other blinded and lost travelers. Death. Betrayal. Heartache. Illness. Shattered dreams. We break down and think we can no longer go on. And that probably there really aren’t any destinations worth getting to anyway.

Finding Grace is the true story of Donna VanLiere’s journey of being hit early on by one of those hidden land mines of life, and how she stumbled around in the fog trying to find her way back on the path she lost. It’s about how over the years she began to notice the light which illuminated a different path through the fog, and that this path, though not the one she had envisioned, was in fact better than the one she was trying to find.

“Perhaps you’ll recognize part of your own life,” VanLiere writes about her book, and I did. I found myself seeing a lot of my own life’s struggles echoing her frustrations and disappointments, and the same glimpses of God’s grace touching me as it did her. VanLiere describes God’s grace as a undeserved gift that we’re often unaware of having received. In Finding Grace she shows us the times she received God’s grace without recognizing it as such until years later. By doing so, it helped me to realize times when I, too, received this gift.

One of the most difficult Christian concepts to put into practice is letting go of self-made plans and allowing God to take control. At times we even believe that our goals are better than God’s will for us; that if we let Him “take the wheel” we’ll end up miserable and unhappy and doing something we absolutely hate. I’ve fallen into that trap myself. Whenever someone tells me to put my life into God’s hands and follow His path for me, I think to myself, “If I go down God’s path, I’ll end up a missionary in Botswana.” Now, you have to understand that I live in the same small town I grew up in. I’ve never really wanted to leave. My husband and I bought a house half a block from my parents. I’ve known most of my neighbors my entire life; some of my ancestors knew their ancestors. So the worst imaginable thing for me would be to end up in some far-flung country surrounded by strangers speaking a bizarre language–who I’m supposed to teach about God!

But why do I think God’s will for my life involves such a drastic change? Why do I think His goals for me can only be worse than the happy dreams I have for myself? In Finding Grace VanLiere shows us that God’s special plans for us include peace and hope, not misery and drudgery. He wants us to thrive and be joyful, and have a life of love, inspiration, and grace. This doesn’t mean he’ll create a familiar, illusionary world of empty bliss around us. And it doesn’t mean we won’t have pain and sorrow. VanLiere suggests God sometimes lets us get derailed off our path so we can finally see the one He’s laid out for us. God has a higher purpose for us than we can even envision for ourselves. It’s our journey to discover that purpose by choosing to follow His path, not ours. And that the crashes and injuries and wrong choices we suffer along the way doesn’t change His destination for us.

Finding Grace is a well written, poignant, yet humorous look back on a life spent searching for answers to all the wrong questions and discovering God’s grace in the process. It’s an entertaining, thought-provoking book that will make you examine the path your own life is on. At least it certainly did that for me. I absolutely loved Finding Grace and am recommending it to all my family and friends. When I finished it, I immediately wanted to read it again. I’d never read anything by Donna VanLiere, but now I want to read everything she’s written. I can’t give any higher praise than this.

For more information about Donna VanLiere and her books, visit
To order Finding Graceclick here.
For more books by Donna VanLiere, visit her online store.


Simple Fixes For Your Sick PC

   Posted by: Lynne Tags: , , ,

Ebook Details
: Simple Fixes For Your Sick PC
Author: Max Pinner
Author Bio: Max Pinner is a freelance writer and a PC technician.
File Size: 1.75MB Unzipped.
Format: Adobe Acrobat (.pdf)
Number of Pages: Part 1: 143 pages; Part 2: 51 pages
Subject: Fix common PC problems yourself.
Price: $47+

A couple years ago my computer decided one day not to boot up due to a corrupted registry. Of course, I didn’t know it was due to a corrupted registry at first; I had no idea such a thing even existed. All I knew was the computer wouldn’t boot. I ended up researching online (using my parents’ computer) and diagnosing and fixing the problem myself. Unfortunately, I had to roll back to a much earlier version of the registry, which undid months of changes to my computer settings. If I’d had Max Pinner’s Simple Fixes For Your Sick PC before that incident, not only would I have spent less time figuring out–and fixing–the problem, I would have had a recent backup of the registry to roll back to, thus saving me the nuisance of having all my settings go back to how I didn’t want them.

That’s because the first thing Simple Fixes For Your Sick PC has you do is set up your Maintenance Toolkit, a collection of free (or cheap) software programs designed to help prevent problems or, when a problem occurs, help diagnose and correct the underlying cause. And the first item in Pinner’s Toolkit is a registry backup program. You can bet I downloaded and ran it immediately! That suggestion alone let me know Max Pinner knew what he was talking about. (If only I’d known about the importance of backing up your registry a couple years ago…)

Next in the suggested Toolkit is a program designed to clean up your registry, which I also downloaded and ran. It removed lots of old junk cluttering up my registry. Other items in the Toolkit include anti-virus and anti-spyware programs (which I already had), as well as a disk cleanup program used to delete “electronic fluff and rubbish files.” After running this last program my laptop boots up a little faster.

Simple Fixes For Your Sick PC provides the solutions to other common Windows XP and Vista problems, such as blue screens, error messages, program freezes, computer crashes, and internet connection issues. Simple Fixes also touches on hardware problems with monitors, mice, drives, and keyboards. Max Pinner doesn’t claim his solutions will work every time for every computer, but that his solutions will usually fix 7 or 8 out of every 10 PC problems. I believe him, just due to my own experiences fixing my “sick PCs” with simple solutions.

For example, several years ago when I was still running a 486 computer, it decided one day not to boot up. In a panic, I immediately called a local computer tech company to set up an appointment to bring it in. The receptionist calmly asked me if I had a recovery disk. Um, why yes, I did. She told me to insert it into the floppy drive and try to boot the computer again. I did so and voilà, it worked! I was back in business in a matter of minutes. That receptionist saved me a costly service call and a day or two without my computer.

Simple Fixes For Your Sick PC is just like that receptionist–a calm voice offering a simple solution that saves you lost time and countless dollars. Pinner walks you through each step in diagnosing and fixing a problem. If it works, you just saved yourself a tech support call. If none of the solutions work, you’ll have a better understanding of the underlying problem when you talk to your technician. (And the more you can explain to your tech the less likely he/she is to treat you like a noob. That’s worth it right there.) Pinner tells you when you need to stop and call a technician, or, as the case may be, when it’s more cost-effective to just junk a component (like a troublesome printer) and buy a new one.

If you purchase Simple Fixes For Your Sick PC, I suggest you print it out (at least the sections dealing with computer access problems) because obviously if you can’t boot your computer, you can’t read the ebook to figure out why! Perhaps Pinner could market a print version…

Simple Fixes For Your Sick PC is $47, which I think is a bit pricey even though the information contained within is excellent. I’d market it for around $27, with a print version for $47. However, the current price is still well worth it if you’re having continuous troubles with your computer. (And if my laptop decides like all my other computers to just not boot up one day, I’d be willing to pay that and more to fix it…)

I also think perhaps the manual could have been condensed somewhat by consolidating sections that have the same or similar instructions. However, it isn’t meant to be read straight through like I read it, but by skipping to whatever section is relevant to your particular computer problem, so you likely won’t notice the repetitiveness of instructions as I did.

The instructions themselves are non-techie, easy to follow, and include some levity to help keep you calm when you feel like panicking. Cartoons sprinkled throughout the manual provide more humor, though I admit I didn’t quite get all the punch lines. Perhaps I just don’t understand Australian humor. (Max Pinner is Australian.) The Australian component also accounts for the alternate spelling of words in the text (which most people likely wouldn’t notice, but it’s my curse that I do) such as color/colour, practice/practise, etc.

Bottom line: Simple Fixes For Your Sick PC is a great manual for anyone with a PC computer to have on hand, especially those who aren’t technically-minded. If you have a PC running Windows, it will eventually blue screen and crash. That’s a given. Get Simple Fixes For Your Sick PC before that happens!

For more information and to purchase, visit Simple Fixes For Your Sick PC