Saturday, November 28, 2015

THE GIFT OF FAILURE by Jessica Lahey (A Review)



“Today’s overprotective, failure-avoidant parenting style has undermined the competence, independence, and academic potential of an entire generation. [...] we have taught our kids to fear failure, and in doing so, we have blocked the surest and clearest path to their success. That’s certainly not what we meant to do, and we did it for all the best and well-intentioned reasons, but it’s what we have wrought nevertheless.”

We don’t want our children to hurt, but every time we shelter them and save them from a challenge, we implicitly tell them that we believe they are incapable and unworthy of trust. Our mission as parents should be to support our kids’ autonomy: although motivated by love and desire to protect them from possible harm, our constant ‘hovering’ teaches them to be dependent from us. Research has shown that children whose parents don’t allow them to fail  are less motivated, less engaged in their education, and ultimately less successful. It may sound inconceivable, but decades of studies and scientific evidence  prove that when parents back off the pressure over grades and achievements, and allow their kids to deal with (and even fail) their intellectual and physical challenges, self-esteem and academic performance will improve significantly.   The middle school years appear to be particularly challenging as some major physical, emotional, and intellectual transitions happen during that phase of their growth.

With an eminently competent and compassionate voice, Jessica Lahey offers her guiding hand through the milestones and hurdles parents and educators are confronted with in their lifework of raising and educating capable and motivated children and adolescents: the power of intrinsic motivation; the connection between praise and self esteem; adolescent social angst; the role of friendship and sport in the formation of kids’ identity; the lessons that children (and parents) can learn from failing in school.

As a mother of two, age 6 and 11, I highly recommend The Gift Of Failure: perfect read for parents, caregivers, and teachers of pre-teen/middle grade kids. My rating: 5 stars
***The opinions and views expressed in this review are my own and no compensation or incentive whatsoever was offered by the author or the publisher.
“How The Best parents Learn To Let Go So That Their Children Can Succeed”
Jessica Lahey
Published by HarperCollins; August 11, 2015
Hardback, 243 pages
Parenting, Psychology, Self-help, Guide, Non-fiction
In the tradition of Paul Tough’s How Children Succeed and Wendy Mogel’s The Blessing of a Skinned Knee, this groundbreaking manifesto focuses on the critical school years when parents must learn to allow their children to experience the disappointment and frustration that occur from life’s inevitable problems so that they can grow up to be successful, resilient, and self-reliant adults.

Modern parenting is defined by an unprecedented level of overprotectiveness: parents who rush to school at the whim of a phone call to deliver forgotten assignments, who challenge teachers on report card disappointments, mastermind children’s friendships and interfere on the playing field. As teacher and writer Jessica Lahey explains, even though these parents see themselves as being highly responsive to their children’s well-being, they aren’t giving them the chance to experience failure—or the opportunity to learn to solve their own problems.

Overparenting has the potential to ruin a child’s confidence and undermine their education, Lahey reminds us. Teachers don’t just teach reading, writing, and arithmetic. They teach responsibility, organization, manners, restraint, and foresight—important life skills children carry with them long after they leave the classroom.

Providing a path toward solutions, Lahey lays out a blueprint with targeted advice for handling homework, report cards, social dynamics, and sports. Most importantly, she sets forth a plan to help parents learn to step back and embrace their children’s failures. Hard-hitting yet warm and wise, The Gift of Failure is essential reading for parents, educators, and psychologists nationwide who want to help their children succeed.

Jessica Lahey is a writer, teacher, and speaker. Her column, "The Parent-Teacher Conference, is published bi-weekly at the New York Times Motherlode blog, and examines the intersection of education and parenting. She is a contributing writer at the Atlantic, and while her usual beat is education, she also writes about health and politics, sometimes with her co-author and husband, Tim Lahey. You can also find her commentaries at Vermont Public Radio. Jessica lives in New Hampshire. To learn more about Jessica, visit her website



Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wishing  you all a Norman Rockwell picture perfect Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 16, 2015

THE WHOLE-BRAIN CHILD by Daniel J. Siegel, M.D. and Tina Payne Bryson, Ph.D. (A Review)


Tough job being a parent, constantly in precarious equilibrium between surviving throughout the daily tantrums, the countless sibling quarrels, the uncontrollable crying fits, and raise our kids in a way that lets them thrive, become responsible adults, and feel good about themselves. In our over-busy, hurried life, the goals of surviving difficult parenting moments and nurturing our kids’ minds seem to be almost irreconcilable and choosing one parenting style over another, well, at times a brain-racking decision to make.

The use of the word ‘brain’ in this context is intentional, because according to what Daniel J. Siegel, M.D. and Tina Payne Bryson, Ph.D. claim in their book, The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies To Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind, parenting is a ‘brain science’. When deciding whether we should just try to get through the day or do whatever we can to find the time to create for our children opportunities to live fulfilling and meaningful experiences, an understanding of some basic brain functions can be of invaluable help.

Contrary to what we normally believe, those parenting challenges (battles over sharing toys with siblings and playmates, homework, meltdowns, etc.) are exactly the opportunities parents and committed caregivers have at their disposal to teach their kids about reflective hearing, respectful communication, compromise, sacrifice, negotiation, etc. Can such meaningful teaching moments happen during a heated sparring between siblings or in the middle of a temper outburst? Incredibly they can, and the great thing is that we won’t necessarily need to carve out special time to help our children’s brains develop relationship skills - those conflicts, those tantrums will be the teaching tool.  We’ll get to that in a moment.  

The next fundamental step is to ask ourselves: What qualities do we hope our children develop and take into their adult lives? We would like them to be healthy, responsible, independent, caring, successful, resilient, and to possess a good self-esteem - we all agree on that. What might differ among parents is the idea of how to raise them to become accomplished and happy human beings.  As parents, we are wired to protect our children from any harm and hurt and many of us try as best as they can to shield them from failure and negative emotions, but sheltering our kids from life’s challenges and disappointments prevents them from learning and growing. What helps kids make sense of their lives is not only what happens to them but also how their caregivers respond to those difficult experiences: as they develop, our children’s brains mirror our brains, and our own emotional growth and health have an impact on our little ones.  

Not only does the brain play a central role in virtually every aspect of a child’s life, from discipline, to decision-making, school, relationships, and self-awareness, it is also shaped by the experiences we offer as parents.  Let’s take a closer look at how the human brain is wired:

  • the left side of our brain helps us think logically and organize thoughts into sentences; our 'left brain' loves and desires order; it is logical, literal, linguistic (it likes words); it likes to know the linear cause-effect relationships in the world and to express that logic with language
  • the right side helps us experience emotions and read nonverbal cues; it's holistic and non-verbal; instead of details and order, our right brain specializes in images, emotions, and personal memories
  • we also have a 'reptile brain' that allows us to act instinctively and make split-second survival decisions
  • our 'mammal brain' leads us toward connection and relationships

One part of our brain deals with memory, another one with moral and ethical decisions. The 'upstairs brain', the one in charge with emotions and decisions, is under construction until the mid-twenties. In young children, the ‘emotional’ side of the brain (the right side) overrules the ‘logic’ side (the left side): "In terms of development, very young children are right hemisphere dominant, especially during the first three years. They haven't mastered the ability to use logic and words to express their feelings, and they live their lives completely in the moment. [...] logic, responsibilities, and time don't exist for them yet" - it doesn’t surprise that kids seem to be so out of control at times. The great news is that this is not a permanent condition - the brain can be re-wired and so can behaviors. The key to help our little ones thrive and grow into calmer and happier children is the balance and coordination (often referred to by the authors as integration) of the logic and emotional sides of the brain.

Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson, a clinical professor of psychiatry and a pediatric and adolescent psychotherapist, offer twelve key strategies to implement the integration of emotional and intellectual development: use the left-brain’s affinity for words and storytelling in order to calm emotional storms and bodily tension; help children pay attention to sensations, feelings, and thoughts so that they can make better decisions; use discord to encourage empathy; and many more strategies that will assist you in dealing with day-to-day struggles and help your kids reach their full potential.

[...] children whose parents talk with them about their experiences tend to have better access to the memories of those experiences. Parents who speak with their children about their feelings have children who develop emotional intelligence  and can understand their own and other people’s feelings more fully. Shy children whose parents nurture a sense of courage by offering supportive explorations of the world tend to lose their behavioral inhibition, while those who are excessively protected or intensively thrust into anxiety-provoking experiences without support tend to maintain their shyness.

Although The Whole-Brain Child focuses on the years from birth to twelve, centering especially on toddlers, school-age kids, and pre-teens,  it can easily be tailored for teens. The book provides multiple suggestions and practical examples of how to apply each scientific concepts to our relationship with our kids, at any stage of their growth. Ground-breaking and extremely accessible. My rating: 5 stars

***The opinions and views expressed in this review are my own and no compensation or incentive whatsoever was offered by the author or the publisher.
The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child's Developing Mind, Survive Everyday Parenting Struggles, and Help Your Family Thrive
Daniel J. Siegel, M.D. and Tina Payne Bryson, Ph. D.
Published by Delacorte Press on October 4, 2011
Hardcover, 192 pages
Parenting, Psychology, Self-help, Non-fiction

Daniel J. Siegel, M.D., is an internationally acclaimed author, award-winning educator, and child psychiatrist. Dr. Siegel received his medical degree from Harvard University and completed his postgraduate medical education at UCLA with training in pediatrics and child, adolescent and adult psychiatry. He is currently a clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine, where he also serves as a co-investigator at the Center for Culture, Brain, and Development, and is a founding co-director of the Mindful Awareness Research Center. In addition, Dr. Siegel is the Executive Director of the Mindsight Institute. Published author of several highly acclaimed works, Dr. Siegel’s books include the New York Times’ bestseller “Brainstorm”, along with "Mindsight," "The Developing Mind," "The Mindful Brain," "The Mindful Therapist," in addition to co-authoring "Parenting From the Inside Out," with Mary Hartzell and "The Whole-Brain Child," with Tina Bryson. He is also the Founding Editor of the Norton Professional Series on Interpersonal Neurobiology, which includes "Healing Trauma," "The Power of Emotion," and "Trauma and the Body."

Tina Payne Bryson, Ph.D., is a pediatric and adolescent psychotherapist, a parenting consultant, and director of parenting education and development for the Mindsight Institute. A frequent lecturer to parents, educators, and professionals, she lives near Los Angeles with her husband and three children.  


Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Interview with Cherie M. Hudson, Author of Unforgettable (GIVEAWAY)

Hear hear, all ye good people! Today, for our author interview series, we are taking a trip ‘down under’ to chat with Australian author Cherie M. Hudson. Cherie has recently released her latest New Adult novel (Unforgettable, Always series #2; Momentum Books, October 22) and she is graciously offering 3 e-copies of the first two books in the series to 3 lucky followers of this blog. The giveaway is open to all countries so, read on, enjoy the interview, and don’t be shy - leave us a comment and your email address for a chance to bring the prize home.
Q. Welcome to Mina's Bookshelf, Cherie! Great to have you on the blog - we would love to know more about you, about your background, and the a-ha moment when you decided to give it a try as a published author. Was it a sudden epiphany, a dream you kept in a drawer since childhood, or mere chance?

A. It was a dream from when I was a little kid. I loved writing and would hurry away from the dinner table every night to work on my “books”. I remember at 6 years of age taking what felt like a lifetime to write a two page story about a girl and her pet dragon. That dream of making up stories of adventure and excitement never left me. One day, my husband (who was my fiancĂ©e at the time) told me to actually send one the manuscripts I’d written away to a publisher. I did, and landed my first contract. To this day he keeps telling me “I told you so!”

Q. Your "Always" series combines genres and themes that will greatly appeal to a young readership: romance and realistic fiction, a la John Green (The Fault In Our Star) so to speak. Are you comfortable with the New Adult label or you think Unconditional (Momentum, February 2015), Unforgettable (Momentum, October 2015), and the upcoming Undeniable (Momentum, February 2016) could possibly entice a larger and more diversified audience?

A. I think it the series is definitely open to a larger audience. The stories of the Always series are so diverse and the characters so different. In Unconditional, the narrator is a 23 year-old American exchange student with early-onset Parkinson’s disease. In Unforgettable the narrator is a 25 year-old Australian guy who discovers the girl he has always loved has kept a major secret from him, one that can no longer be kept and in Undeniable, the story is told by both a 22 year-old American girl who is deaf in one ear and partially deaf in the other, and a 23 year-old Aussie guy who rarely takes anything seriously but is suddenly forced to do so. All the books touch on real life problems and deal with real life decisions that both young people and old people like myself (I’m the grand old age of 44) can relate to and contemplate.

Q. You have authored numerous novels under a different pen name, and in a completely different genre. Now you write romantic fiction with a strong highlight on illness and disabilities. The change of focus is radical: what brought you to such a change of direction?

A. Without sounding weird, I only write the stories that are in my heart. If I try to write something else, I turn into a horrible shrew (ask my husband, he’ll tell you). Having said that, Unconditional was the book that allowed me to write as Cherie M Hudson. Both my dad and my brother have Parkinson’s disease and my uncle had it as well. I’ve spent many many years with PD in my life, watching its horrific effect on the ones I loved. I wanted to tell the story of their strength, their struggle and the love that makes that struggle possible. That story wasn’t a Lexxie Couper story. That was the real beginning of Cherie M Hudson’s voice and Cherie M Hudson’s stories. The exploration of the medical conditions found in Unforgettable and Undeniable, I think, come from not only being a mother and wondering how I would cope if my child was diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, but also from the fact my best friend is a nurse and one of her daughters has a hearing impairment. I’ve watched Caitlin grow into a strong, independent young girl but I’ve also seen her struggles. I wanted to share with the world what it takes to live with something that not only defines you, but can impact on how people treat you.

Q. How did the story of Brendon and Amanda in Unforgettable come into being? Can you tell us a bit more about the genesis of the book and its characters?

A. The story of Brendon came about essentially because I hate doing burpees. The inspiration for Brendon Osmond was my personal trainer, Brendon Osborne. Brendon loved to make me do burpees every session. One day, mid-burpee I tried to bribe him into not giving me any more burpees by promising to create a character on him. Brendon the Biceps was only meant to have a small role in Unconditional, but he ended up taking a life of his own. When the real life Brendon kept making me do burpees I promised him I was going to make his character suffer and suffer big time in his own book. Like the character he is based on, the real life Brendon is an optimist and rarely gets rattled. As a writer, I wanted to see how much I could tear apart a character like that and I knew the place to start was with the heart. So what started out as, essentially me being horribly vindictive for all those burpees, turned into a book more profound and emotional than any I’d planned or written. And honestly, all the pain of those burpees was worth it because I am incredibly proud of Unforgettable and Brendon and Amanda’s journey. Amanda was born in my head when I imagined what kind of girl would steal Brendon’s heart (someone just like him) and what kind of situation would force her to go against everything she holds dear. When it comes down to it, I wasn’t very nice to either of my main characters.

Q. As a reader and a writer, do you have a favorite genre, book, author?

A.This is probably going to sound completely weird coming from a romance author, but my favourite writer is Stephen King followed by Douglas Adams. I love King’s ability to create characters so real I feel like they are in the room with me, despite the completely unreal (and quite often, terrifying) situations of the books. Depending on my mood, my favourite King book is either IT, or Bag of Bones. Douglas Adams is my second favourite author. Comedy sci-fi with a beautiful biting satire, Adams is the author of my favourite book ever, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. In every book I write, no matter if it’s as Cherie or Lexxie, I include the number 42 as a homage to Adams (if you don’t know the significance of the number 42, Google The Ultimate Answer ☺ )  

Q. Totally random question: if you could be a character from a book, who would you be and why?

A. Hmmm… from one of MY books, Heather (who is in Unconditional and Unforgettable), because she is a hyper-energetic fire-cracker who knows she’s loopy and completely owns it with pride. From a book by a different author…hmmm…Tricia Macmillian, AKA Trillian, from The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy series. Because she gets to travel through space and hang out with the President of the Galaxy, Zaphod Beeblebrox, who is the coolest, most frustrating character ever created ☺

Q. In 140 characters or less, Twitter style, why should we read Unforgettable?

A. Because, as NY Times bestseller, Erin Nicholas says, it’s “Poignant and raw, while heartwarming and uplifting at the same time.”
About the Author
Cherie M. Hudson is happily married to the man of her dreams, a busy mum of two little girls (one nine going on sixteen, the other five going on twenty), a proud cat owner (although she suspects the cat thinks she owns her) and an insanely manic writer. She has written over forty erotic romances under the pen name Lexxie Couper. A long time ago she gave up trying to suppress the stories in her head constantly trying to escape … Follow Cherie on her website, on Facebook, and Twitter. You can also find her on Goodreads, Amazon, Amazon UK, Barnes & Noble, Google Play, iBooks Store, Book Depository, and Kobo.
Giveaway (Int'l)
 Cherie M. Hudson is graciously offering 3 e-copies of the first two books in the Always series (Unconditional and Unforgettable) to 3 lucky followers of this blog. Join Mina's bookshelf via GFC, Facebook, Twitter, Bloglovin, or Google+,  and leave a comment about this interview in the section below. The giveaway is open to all countries.

About Unforgettable

My name is Brendon Osmond. I'm a 25 year old post-graduate student who knows three things with absolute conviction. I know damn near everything there is to know about keeping in peak physical shape. I have a plan to make a lot of money from that knowledge. I'm an optimist who's not easily rattled. But then the girl I fell in love with almost two years ago texts me out of the blue and everything I know is thrown out the window.

Am I rattled? No. Not until I fly to the other side of the world and discover the girl I fell for has kept a very big secret from me. A secret that mocks all my knowledge of the human body and how to keep it healthy. A secret that shatters my plans for my own personal training business. A secret with my eyes. A secret who needs me more than I can comprehend. Ask me again if I'm rattled. Now ask me if I'm still in love. Perfect for fans of The Fault in Our Stars and Nicholas Sparks, Unforgettable is the second book in the Always series that began with Unconditional.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

BASKING IN THE LIGHT by Saylor Storm (Spotlight, Excerpt & Giveaway)

About the book

Ambitious budding reporter, Ellen Singer, grows weary of being alone and pursues a partner through an online dating site; it turns out to be the worst decision of her life. Courted by a handsome, successful author, she is abducted and held captive by his murderous younger brother on a remote island.

Ellen fights for her health and sanity while in captivity. She is forced to witness monstrous acts by her captor all the while dependent on him for her survival. Ultimately she is saved by seasoned FBI agent, Arnie Darrow, and rushed to the hospital in a fight for her life.

Family and friends stand by hoping for Ellen’s complete recovery. The young reporter pulls through only to struggle with the psychological aftermath of her abduction. Is tenacious Ellen capable of returning to her former self or is she forever altered by her horrific experience? And, what part, if any, does Arnie Darrow play in her recovery?
Basking In The Light
Saylor Storm
Published on October 5, 2015 by Storm Publishing
Kindle edition, 208 pages
Bonus material

During the blog tour - Purchase Basking in the Light, and receive the novella Reclamation FREE ... After purchase send Saylor an email at
Ellen and Arnie's story continues ...
In Basking in the Light, aspiring reporter, Ellen Singer, survives being captured and held hostage by serial killers for months. Reclamation takes us where Basking in the Light left off; where Ellen is left with the arduous task of rebuilding her life both physically and mentally. With devoted FBI agent, Arnie Darrow, by her side she is able to overcome her many obstacles and in the end he proclaims his deep love for the woman he has grown to admire and revere. Does Ellen reciprocate his feelings, or has her ordeal left her emotionally incapable of returning Arnie’s love?

Saylor is offering two fantastic gifts to her readers: a set of pearls and a signed copy of her latest book. Enter the Rafflecopter giveaways at the bottom of this post for a chance to win. Good luck!


About the Author

Saylor Storm takes something from real life and turns it into something fun, and perhaps a bit twisted. Reality becomes fantasy, or is that imagination turns into real life experience? Her stories include places where she has lived or visited from the beaches of Malibu to Islands of Fiji and lots of destinations in between. A fun fact, Saylor worked for nearly eight years as a Sharon Stone lookalike traveling the country as the star. Visit Saylor Storm's website or connect with her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Watch the video on Youtube
Visit Saylor Storm's website to learn more about her books and read a fun interview with Mina's Bookshelf.
a Rafflecopter giveaway a Rafflecopter giveaway

Basking in the Light: Excerpt Chapter 6
A boy’s view of the world is affected by what the mother has demonstrated.
  Jonny meticulously swept his tiny cabin. The sand was a constant problem. Living on the beach had its benefits, but Jonny had no patience for the daily task. He grumbled under his breath as he opened the front door and pushed the sand back outside with his broom.

  He had a daily routine and did not like to alter from it. After sweeping, he took a long walk to town. Jonny wore the same outfit every day: a beige shirt with the sleeves rolled up, a pair of well-worn jeans, and a grey vest. On his feet was a pair of Keen sandals. His long hair, tousled with curls, bounced slightly as he walked. With determination he walked directly to his favorite spot with his treasured cooler in tow.

  As odd as Jonny was, the townspeople were used to him and his daily walks to the local coffee shop, where he sat every day, talking to himself and ordering nothing. People ignored him and found him to be harmless.

  Jonny returned to his small cabin, before dark, where he would prepare a simple meal and go to bed early. This day there was an interruption in his routine. When he returned to the cabin, he had a visitor.

“Where have you been?” Jim wanted to know.
  “I t-took a w-walk, like I always d-do, so w-what?”
  “You didn’t talk to anyone, did you?”
  “No, I n-never t-talk to anyone. Just like you t-told me. Why are y-you here?”
  “I have a surprise for you. I told you that I found her; she’s here, in the car. Come help me get her out of the car.”
  “D-do I get to k-keep her?”
  “Yes, but you have to keep it a secret.”
  “I will! I promise!”

  Jonny followed his older brother to the blue sedan in the driveway. Jim popped the trunk. Jonny could make out a woman wearing a white blouse and red shorts. She was tied with rope and tape and was passed out cold.

  “She is p-perfect! Why is she s-sleeping?”
  “I had to drug her. Help me get her inside.”

  The men each carried an end of the body. Jim was at least a foot taller than his younger brother. They placed her on the bed. Jim returned to the car and retrieved a small duffle bag.

  “W-what are you g-going to d-do with that?” Jonny asked.
  “Just watch.”
 Jim pulled an old wooden rocking chair to the center of the room and chained it to a hook he had screwed in to the ceiling.

  “Help me get her in the chair,” Jim instructed.

  The two men placed her in the chair and cut loose the rope and tape. Jim re-taped Ellen’s ankles and wrists together, then placed a heavy chain over the tape and secured it to a hook that he had screwed in to the floor.

  “This should hold her.”
  “W-what d-do I d-do if she w-wakes up?”

  “She can scream all she wants to, no one will hear her out here. She’s yours; you can do whatever you want with her. I’ll be back tomorrow with food and supplies.”

  Jonny smiled at his big brother, “Thank you, J-Jim, she’s p-perfect.”