Maximise Your Child's Performance

Maximise Your Child’s Performance: A Concise Guide to Unlocking their Potential by Jennie Segar

Reviewed by Dianne Woodman

Maximise Your Child’s Performance: A Concise Guide to Unlocking their Potential is a marvelous book of information. Jennie Segar discusses ways to make a difference in children’s development and benefit them academically, professionally, and socially. The book is an invaluable resource not only for parents but also for anyone involved in the caregiving role of children. Segar is well-qualified in the book’s subject matter, as she has years of experience as a parent and in different jobs working with children. Purchase Here.

The book is divided into ten chapters with sub-headings and the corresponding page numbers, making it easy for readers to explore chapters that focus on issues of interest. The introduction is a wonderful overview of the specific topics discussed in the book. Readers will gain helpful insight into many topics important to a child’s healthy growth and development. Segar shares meaningful experiences from her own life, offering readers a personal perspective on everything the book addresses.

Some of the discussed topics pertain to positive and constructive approaches to guiding children’s behavior and how playing games can help build cognitive skills. The author also includes the advantageous effects of exercise and healthy eating on a child’s physical and mental development, the educational benefits of learning to play an instrument, the importance of shared reading from an early age, the value of a family-owned pet, and the impact of technology on children.

All the material covered in the book is supported not only by the author’s personal experiences as a parent, child-care worker, and teacher, but also by the results of research and case studies. Segar shares her own opinions on ways to encourage and support children in their journey to adulthood. The author provides helpful information that clearly and accurately describes different types of age-appropriate toys, exercises, sports activities, musical instruments, and online games. Segar also talks about the nutritional needs of children and the effects on their health from chemical additives added to food.

At the end of the book, the author includes an addendum with samples of sentences used in teaching students. Segar believes that acquiring the skill of telling and writing down stories is an essential component in the all-round development of children. The author’s insights and experiences, along with a detailed reference list, add to the credible level of authority for Segar to write on a range of topics related to child development. Readers will find the methods advocated by Segar for promoting positive child development extremely useful. Maximise Your Child’s Performance is an inspiring book that provides a thorough overview of ways to motivate children to achieve their best and reach their full potential.

La Chimere of Prague

La Chimère of Prague: Part II (The Chimera of Prague Book 2) by Rick Pryll

Reviewed by Ray Palen

Prague is the capital of the Czech Republic and one of the largest and most bohemian cities in the European Union. It is important to have an understanding and a sense of Prague to truly appreciate this novel as the majority of it is set there during the late 1990s. Specifically, LA CHIMERE OF PRAGUE spans the length of August – December in the year 1998. Purchase Here.

It was not that long before the action of this novel that Czechoslovakia saw a schism referred to as the Velvet Revolution and later the Velvet Divorce which saw the country split into the new Czech Republic and Slovakia. Prague is found in the former and by the late ’90s became one of the business and cultural centers in all of the EU. Author Rick Pryll knows all this only too well as he lived in Prague from 1997 to 2002.

Someone who knows and understands Prague even better is the protagonist in this tale, Joseph. He is an American ex-patriot American now living and working in Prague. He is not only leaving behind the U.S.A. but also the memories of his late love. In one of the most interesting love affairs in modern fiction, Joseph was involved with a bi-sexual mermaid who died under mysterious circumstances. He still intends to get to the bottom of her death but for now, must focus on his own life and moving forward.

Joseph recognizes that change is good and not everything with his new life in Prague is bad. For instance, there is the young woman Karina who he also fell for. Karina is a waitress-turned-supermodel who Joseph felt he could have a life with — or at least some really great sex. Unfortunately, Karina left Joseph and Prague as she took off for Italy with her English tutor. As Joseph waits patiently for her eventual return he immerses himself in Prague and the family and friends he spends time with there.

Prague in the late ’90s was also a time of sexual revolution and pumping-hot techno music that seemed to stream forth from every nightclub. What will frustrate the reader is how Joseph seems to fend away love at every opportunity. Pryll digs deep into Joseph’s family history and past and it easy to know him deeply. He is an extremely sensitive and self-aware person and you are able to slip into his skin and spend time as a fellow American living in a foreign country that was still fighting for its’ own identity.

As a businessman, it is intriguing to see how Joseph feels about Prague and its’ efforts to become a player at the high finance table. In fact, the socio-economic status of this time is enough to keep Joseph occupied and forget about his love woes and constant mourning for the dead. That is until things take a turn and have him once again opening up old wounds from his past involving his deceased ex-girlfriend. You know that it must mean trouble when the only person who might be able to provide him all the answers he needs is named Naked Pete. It would probably be really cool to say you had a friend named Naked Pete, the only problem is he is terribly unreliable and never seems to pick up his phone when you really need him.

The characters in this story are all somewhat bizarre and yet very real. This is converse to the Prague that Rick Pryll has invented, a place that almost seems dream-like or taken from a fairy tale. With a central figure like Joseph, himself a fairly odd and deep-thinking character, Pryll has created a novel that grows on you bit by bit. LA CHIMERE OF PRAGUE presents a handful of problems for Joseph to solve and readers of literary fiction will be drawn to this narrative and find themselves rooting for him right through to the stories’ conclusion.

Acts of Faith

Acts of Faith: Part I of the Inquisition Trilogy by Martin Elsant

Reviewed by Ray Palen

The British Jewish historian Cecil Roth, who was educated at Oxford, wrote a book that was of special interest to author Martin Elsant. The book was entitled History Of the Marranos and of the many figures covered in it was one Diego Lopes of Pinancos in Coimbra, Portugal. Ironically, Mr. Elsant is a former radiologist living in Jerusalem and Mr. Roth died in Jerusalem in the year 1970.  Purchase Here.

While much of ACTS OF FAITH is dedicated to the descendants of Diego Lopes, Martin Elsant includes two quotes prior to his Author’s Notes from different sources. One in particular I found quite interesting: “Folded under the dark wing of the Inquisition…the influence of an eye that never slumbered, of an unseen arm ever raised to strike. How could there be freedom of thought, where there was no freedom of utterance? Or freedom of utterance, where it was as dangerous to say too little as too much? Freedom cannot go along with fear.” – William H. Prescott, The Age of Phillip II and the Supremacy of the Spanish Empire, 1858.

It is easy to pick up a history book or click on Wikipedia to find out about Diego Lopes. I prefer, whenever possible, to read historical fiction — an infusion of actual history within the opportunities that allow for creativity when re-examining historical events. I believe that this is what Martin Elsant is doing with ACTS OF FAITH, retelling historical events during one of the most difficult times in human and religious history — The Inquisitions — in such a way that it feels as if the reader is enjoying a book of fiction, filled with all the expected plot twists and turns.

The story we are following involves Maria, the daughter of Diego Lopes, and a young man whom she is quite fond of, Aristedes or ‘Ari’ Coelho. Ari had a difficult life, having to watch his parents succumb to the Black Plague when he was only twelve years of age. His Aunt and Uncle already had six children and were unable to take on another so Ari ended up spending his ‘orphan’ time living with the village priest, Father Affonso. It was perhaps this experience at such an impressionable part of his life that led Ari to join the Seminary as soon as he was old enough to.

When and Ari and Maria met she was immediately fond of him. He enjoys having biblical discussions with her, beginning with an explanation as to why the bible was not just meant for kind-hearted souls such as hers but also for sinners like himself. Regrettably, it was The Inquisitions that brought about a short falling-out period for Ari and Maria. One of Diego Lopes’s servants, Pedro, is taken by one of the Inquisition Familiars. Being a servant with no political influence, Pedro was unable to fight against the planted evidence used to imprison him. Pedro soon becomes one of the many victims of The Inquisition when he is tortured to death. Maria finds Ari and they have a heated discussion over this matter — heated only because Maria asked Ari if the Inquisitors who tortured Pedro to death were sinners and he indicated that, while they may have made unintentional mistakes in the case of Pedro, they did not sin.

Part of Ari’s seminary training included a tour of the torture chambers used by the Inquisitors. It is but the first thing that begins to slowly change his feelings about the entire Inquisition process. The Bishop, having been privy to Ari’s slight change in attitude, sits him down for a good talk. It is during this talk that Ari’s mind is made up — what the Inquisitors are doing in the name of God is nothing but absolute, unadulterated evil. The question was, how does he fight it from the precarious position he is in?

Ari learns of people being tortured just because of their contrary religious beliefs — like those of the Jewish faith celebrating the ritual of fasting during the high holy day of Yom Kippur. Ari knew that it was not just one evil Church leader but an entirely evil system that needed to be stopped. The trouble was that the Inquisition Familiars in Portugal were trying hard to emulate those from Spain — and the Spanish Inquisitions were no Monty Python sketch but one of the most deadly events in European history. The story takes a big turn when Ari’s old friend Maria finds him and tells him that her father, Diego, has been arrested as part of The Inquisition. She begs him for help, but as much as he would like to, Ari realizes there is little he can do.

The case against Diego Lopes is weak, and he is defending himself during the trial. When asked, he indicates that the only reason why he has been called out by the Inquisitors is because he has been accused of Judaizing. Things did not look good for Diego. This was a period in human history where there was not much sympathy for those who were feared. These people were simply eliminated, much in the same way that over 50,000 ‘witches’ were killed in neighboring European countries. While Diego spent months in prison, Maria spoke with Ari in fear that it was just a matter of days before he was executed.

Maria begs Ari to try and help indicating he is her last hope. It is tough for Ari to disappoint her, but there was really nothing he could do that would not find him in the same position as her father. At the same time, Ari finds is difficult to understand her proclamations that Judaism is superior to Christianity — his seminary teaching and upbringing responsible for his stance. Regardless, the latter part of this book is a retelling of the plan made to free Diego and make an escape away from Portugal. Some readers may already know of Diego Lopes’s fate but I will not spoil that here and encourage all to pick up this book from Martin Elsant and settle in for the ride in what represents the first book in the Inquisition Trilogy.

The File

The File: A Mother and Child’s Life Changing Reunion by Anita Keagy

Book Reviewed by Nancy Eaton

It is very frightening for a teenage girl to find out she is pregnant but just imagine if this pregnant girl is the daughter of a pastor.

Anita had a loving family; they were close and supportive. Her father was the pastor and her mother was the church musician. Being the child of the pastor had advantages and disadvantages; Anita could sleep a little later because the church was right next-door but on the other hand if her father caught Anita talking during the sermon, he would call her to the front of the church and make her sit by herself.
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Anita was friends with Allison and Brent. Brent was in love with Allison but she wanted to keep their relationship as friends only. Anita and Brent had a class together during their senior year and they went out on a date. They became bored at a party and left to be alone so they could talk more. They ended up in a place where a lot of the kids went to make-out. They also ended up doing more than talking and things went a little too far.

Anita soon discovered that she was pregnant. There was a difficult decision to be made. She could keep the baby, have an abortion or give the baby up for adoption. Her first thought was to have an abortion because it seemed the easiest. No one would know. Her parents wanted her to make the decision but offered some advice. They told her that an abortion would be hard for her to live with since she would be taking a life.

Anita went into her closet and began to cry. After a lot of praying and crying, she decided to give the baby up for adoption. Little by little she started to tell her siblings and her best friend of her pregnancy. They were all supportive. Her father was the pastor of a new church and he asked the bishop if he should step down. The news was given to the congregation and Anita asked if she could speak. She told them how truly sorry she was for bringing this upon the church.

As time went on, Anita began to feel her baby kicking. She was starting to have second thoughts as she was feeling emotionally attached to the baby. She signed up for a couple of college courses to take her mind off things.

The day had finally arrived. Anita went into labor. She had to make another difficult decision. Did she want to see the baby after it was born? Would it be easier to give the baby up if she did not see the child? She decided it would be easier to not see the child. She heard the doctor say it is a little girl. They did tell her how much the baby weighed. They moved Anita to a room away from other mothers who would be taking their child home.

After Anita returned home from the hospital, she had to make arrangements to sign more paperwork. The adoption was not final yet. She, again, began to have second thoughts. Her parents, once again, offered their support if she wanted to keep the baby. This only made it more difficult.

Once everything was finalized, Anita began to feel a little better. The judge assured her that the adoptive parents had the same spiritual beliefs as her and that they would provide a good home.

As Anita tried to get her life back to normal, she received a call from a young man she had met before. He asked her out. She soon realized that he was the one for her and it did not take long for them to get married.

Even though she seemed happy, she hardly had a day go by without thinking of her daughter. Anita knew she could not have any contact with her daughter until she reached the age of 18.

Anita and her husband had four children but she still wondered about the daughter she gave up for adoption.

The one thing Anita could do for her adopted daughter was to place items in “the file” at the agency. When her daughter turned 18, she could ask to see the file.

Will Anita’s adopted daughter ask to see the file?

I am not going to say anything more because this would be giving away “spoilers”. I want readers to find out for themselves what happens.

The File is a book that shows the heartbreak a mother has when she makes the decision to do what is best for her child. You could feel the pain in every decision that Anita had to make. On the other hand, this book also shows how happy an adoptive family can be when they have the opportunity to bring a baby into their loving home.

The author has done a wonderful job in weaving every piece of this story together. From sad emotions to joyous ones, the reader will feel like Anita is sitting right beside them as she tells her story. The File also shows how important spiritual beliefs can help in the process of making very difficult decisions.

On a personal note, I attended a workshop where Anita Keagy was the speaker. She spoke about giving her baby up for adoption. Her emotion and tears told the audience everything they needed to know. If you ever have the opportunity to hear Anita Keagy speak, please do yourself a favor and sign-up.


The Four Hats of Leadership

The Four Hats of Leadership by Drake E. Taylor

Book Reviewed by Dianne Woodman

Drake E. Taylor, an officer in the United States Air Force, advocates four types of hats that will help individuals become effective and successful leaders. The Preface is an excellent tool for drawing readers into The Four Hats of Leadership: Be Who Your People Need You to Be. The four types of hats are The Farmer’s Hat, The Drill Instructor’s Hat, The Psychologist’s Hat, and The Self-Care Hat. Taylor does an excellent job of providing an analogy between a farmer’s job and that of leading a team of people, describing the role of when it is appropriate to use the drill instructor’s hat in a civilian environment, the value of the psychologist hat and ways to help people with their emotional well-being, and the importance of the self-care hat for a leader’s mental health. Purchase Here.

The book focuses not only on the viability of utilizing the four hats in the military but also in the civilian environment. Black and white photographs and quotes from well-known individuals tie in beautifully with the subject matter in each hat section. Taylor explains how each hat serves a purpose in leadership and the benefits of incorporating them into a work environment. He provides many ideas and goes into detail about key principles needed to become an outstanding leader and the challenges facing anyone in a leadership position. Taylor interweaves his own personal experiences throughout the book, which reflect both his achievements and his missteps in his career path. These examples are invaluable for making the information more compelling and relatable. Unambiguous sentences lead to easy understandability for the reader. Words on a few pages are missing letters. However, readers can still easily decipher the words.

At the end of the book is a beneficial section titled “Leadership Library.” It includes a worksheet questionnaire that will enable organizations to learn pertinent information about individual employees. Also, there are several quotes that are applicable to leadership and self-care that can be used to motivate not only people in management positions but also their workers. This book is a useful tool for individuals either pursuing a leadership position or interested in incorporating these hats into their leadership job.