Guts – by Gary Paulsen (2001)


If you’ve read either “Hatchet” or “Brian’s Winter” by Gary Paulsen, you may have marveled over the vivid descriptions of wilderness living and survival. As a reader, I could see the story in my mind as I followed the adventures of Brian, the main character in the books. How did Mr. Paulsen write such incredible books? This autobiography reveals the answer.

In “Guts”, the author opens the window on some of his life experiences. Gary had an unstable childhood with parents that he described as drunken and neglectful. Often it was up to Gary to take care of and feed himself. By the age of twelve, when the family was living in Minnesota, he was delivering newspapers, pulling rocks out of farm fields, harvesting produce, and doing other odd jobs to support himself. He learned to be totally self-sufficient, teaching himself to hunt in the woods with both arrows and a shotgun. Much of what he learned was by trial and error. It was these experiences that formed the backbone of his novels about Brian.

It made me sad to think of the author growing up in such a fashion. No child should feel unwanted, or have to find their own supper. It would have been easy to label himself a victim, and turn to theft or other vices to support himself. But instead, Gary chose to educate himself on how to survive and provide for himself with almost no resources. He then used those experiences to write many wonderful books for young people (which are also enjoyed by adults of all ages).

If you managed to go through childhood without reading any Paulsen books, give these a try:





Deceived – by Irene Hannon (2014)


Kate Marshall is a successful counselor who works with women who have been traumatized by abuse or difficult divorces. She helps them work through their emotions, then prepares them for interviews and work situations. Although the work is fulfilling, Kate has a deep sadness. Three years previous, her husband and four-year-old son died in a fishing accident. Her son’s body was never recovered, so she has a hard time convincing herself he is really dead.

One day while at a local mall, she spots a child on the escalator who looks exactly like what she thinks her son would look like at the age of seven. The boy even says something unusual that her son used to say. Kate freaks out and tries to get to the boy, but he and the man he’s with are gone before she can get to the upper level of the mall. She is so shaken by the incident that she hires a private investigator to find the boy, in the hope that it is her son.

This novel is part of Irene Hannon’s “Private Justice” series. This author is best known for her romantic suspense books, and has won a number of awards. Her books are “clean reads”, meaning you will not find any gratuitous violence or sex, or any foul language. I have to say that although I enjoyed this book, there was not a whole lot of suspense. It was pretty obvious from the beginning what the truth was. So if you want a book with lots of twists and turns, and a surprising ending, this isn’t your book. But if you want an easy read with a happy ending, this is an enjoyable one.

Then Out Came The Sun…

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It’s still winter, but we have sunshine and the snow has been melting!

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Looking out the window, I can see the snow on the swing melting.

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The wavy snow in the yard has some sort of animal tracks going through it.

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In fact, it looks like a couple critters have been through.

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Time for a walk. The rock by the front door is covered with an icy glaze that is melting in the sunshine.

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The duck pond is still empty and silent.

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The reeds along the edge of the pond are dead and brown.

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The pine trees stand tall and proud in the blaze of the brilliant sun.

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A lone pine cone, waiting for winter to end.

As long as the sun shines, I know that winter will end and spring will come again.

The Second Opinion – by Michael Palmer (2009)

The Second Opinion

Dr. Petros Sperelakis is an internal medicine physician who helped start the Beaumont Clinic, a hospital specializing in diagnosing and treating terminal illnesses. When Petros is in an auto accident that leaves him comatose, his four children rush to be with him. It is doubtful that Petros will regain consciousness. Three of his children are okay with turning off the devices that are keeping their father alive. Only Thea, the daughter who has devoted her life to Doctors Without Borders in the Congo, disagrees. She believes that her father is actually conscious and aware of his surroundings, but unable to communicate. As she finds a way to “talk” with him, questions begin to arise. Was the car accident really an accident? Is the tight security around the hospital’s patients’ medical records abnormal? Did her father know something that someone doesn’t want revealed?

I listened to an abridged audio version of this book. The narrator, Franette Liebow, did a masterful job of speaking exactly as a person with Asperger’s Syndrome (Thea) would – somewhat flat and a bit staccato. Everything was very logical and literal for her. Throughout the novel, you could see the situation through her eyes. Her brother, Dimitri, also had Asperger’s, but we were not permitted to see into his mind.

There was a bit of language and some sexual content, which I basically skipped over for the most part by jumping to the next CD track. (Each track was 60 seconds or less, so there was not much lost.) There was also a gory scene at one point, which could make some readers feel squeamish. But overall, I found it to be a good medical mystery-thriller and the villain someone I did not suspect.

About the author: Michael Palmer was an internal medicine physician himself, first working in his own practice, and later working in an emergency room. After a failed marriage and a series of knee surgeries, Michael became addicted to alcohol and pain medication, and lost his job. He got psychiatric help for his problems, and began writing as a form of therapy. Later, he began to do interviews and bring awareness to the issue of substance abuse among physicians. In 2013 he suffered a heart attack and died, but he leaves behind many medical novels.


A Walk Through The Dark – by Eva Piper (2013)

A Walk Through The Dark

If you have read “90 Minutes In Heaven” by Don Piper, you will remember the horrific accident he went through, and his long, painful road back to a somewhat normal life. This book is the story re-told, from his wife Eva’s point of view.

While Don was suffering from unbearable physical pain in a body crushed by a semi, Eva was going through her own hell. She had to see her husband suffering in a hospital bed for months, and there was nothing she could do to ease his suffering. At the same time, she had to reassure their three children, keep up with her teaching job, juggle the bills, and hassle with the insurance company.

Parts of the book were very real for me, after having my son in a similar accident: the helpless feeling of sitting in a hospital room every day while he was in excruciating pain, seeing the love and care of the nursing staff, and trying to make sure the insurance covered things it was supposed to. But the thing in the book that really brought back vivid memories was Eva’s description of the fixator device, a tortuous thing that put rods through his leg and connected them to a metal frame around his leg, in an attempt to hold all the broken pieces together as new bone tissue grew (see sample picture below from wikipedia).

As Eva concluded, life can change in the blink of an eye, but Jesus will walk through those dark times with you.

photo credit: wikipedia

Going Yellow

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Are you tired of all that white stuff that’s piled everywhere now? Has it got you feeling blue? Try going yellow – you’ll feel better.

After I got home from school (where this mountain of snow was), I pulled out my bottles of Lysol cleaner and Joy dish detergent. The bathrooms got thoroughly disinfected, and even the tubs got scrubbed. The dishes were washed in steamy-hot, wonderful-smelling lemony detergent.

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Then on to the floor, which was swept and washed (after unfreezing my poor popsicle of a mop).

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Then I got out some yellow chicken broth and a yellow onion, and made up a pot of chicken-rice-onion-carrot-pea soup.

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Yup, all it takes is a little bit of yellow to make a winter day sunny!

Chicken Every Sunday – by Rosemary Taylor (1943)

Chicken Every Sunday

This old-time book could have been called “The Family Of Entrepreneurs”. All through the story you see members of the family sizing up things and figuring out ways to make a little more money or get things for free. Mother loves taking in boarders, and cooking for them. She even has a second house built on their lot that is rather like a dormitory, for extra income. The father is a land speculator, and often impulsively buys up land that he thinks will increase in price. Sometimes he’s right, but other times he loses money, and then it’s Mother’s boarders that carry the family budget. The kids collect scrap lumber from construction sites, change bed-sheets, help entertain the boarders, and sell flowers from their yard to people passing by. And then there was the hot-tamale business.

But this family is not about just getting, they’re also very giving. They are generous to a fault with hobos coming to their door looking for food. They help individuals down on their luck get back on their feet again, and often lend money to those they know will not be able to repay them.

The book is chocked full of lovable, crazy characters. Miss Sally, who took multiple baths a day, and was obsessed with how her hands looked. The hen-pecked young man Jeffery who didn’t know how to do anything but write sad poetry. Neighboring Mr. Mendoza with his chickens that he refused to pen up. Mr. Pryce, who didn’t know how to drive a stick-shift car. The missionary couple that was convinced God was punishing the Taylors for not properly observing Sundays.

This is one of the books that was printed in a special Armed Services version during World War II. It was part of an effort to relieve the terrible psychological stress that the soldiers endured while waiting for orders to move forward, or while huddled in foxholes. (To read more about books and World War II, check out this book:)
It was one of the first books to be mass-produced as a paperback by the publisher so that it could fit into a soldier’s pocket.

Chicken Every Sunday paperback

Because of its age, this is a hard book to get your hands on. You can buy it used off Amazon for between $8 and $155, or you can do what I did – borrow it with your library card. My own library didn’t have it anymore, so it was borrowed through a program that searched state-wide for it, and found a library willing to lend it out. I’m glad some libraries still keep these old-time books!