Author Archives: Kam Brook

About Kam Brook

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Nerves of Steel: Fighting for a Life by Robert Garrett (Book Review)

‚ÄúYou have ALS.‚ÄĚ Three words obliterated the path of a life.

Now a new route was under construction and at the end sat a monstrous, relentless steamroller on a direct collision course.

‚ÄúHow long do I have? When will this hit me? What about my family?‚ÄĚ

‚ÄúAm I brave enough?‚ÄĚ

Those are the devastating questions author Robert Garrett had to begin to answer the moment he was diagnosed with ALS while in his strong and thriving early 40s. He had a loving marriage, two healthy, beautiful young boys, and the career he had worked so hard for 20 years to achieve.

Now Garrett had to begin this new journey — one filled with devastating trials and exhilarating triumphs ‚Äď while, as if blindfolded, he navigated the physical, emotional, and psychological obstacles of dealing with a ruthless terminal illness as his body began dying out from under him.

Written solely with dictation and eye gaze technology, Nerves of Steel is also a journey of self-discovery, as Garrett learns to overcome nearly impossible obstacles and try to somehow push through all of this with his family and sanity intact. It’s an intimate look at a real life: raw, honest, dark, uplifting, and inspiring with a cannonball splash of humor Garrett refuses to lose.


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I received a complimentary copy of this book from Reedsy Discovery.  I voluntarily chose to read and post an honest review.

 

ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, is a progressive neurodegenerative disease affecting brain and spinal cord nerve cells. It’s the boogyman that no one wants to face. Unfortunately for Robert, he has to face the monster head-on. ASL strips away a person’s strength and functions by interrupting the signals between nerves and muscles. When it does this, your muscles wither and die. As the disease progresses, the afflicted become more dependent on others until the condition takes away a person’s last breath. That’s a horrifying thought – knowing life will never be the same, thanks to the incurable disease.¬†

Robert first noticed something was amiss when his left hand began cramping and taking a claw-like shape. His left bicep was also losing muscle mass. He was subjected to multiple MRIs, underwent a nerve conduction test, and an EMG (electromyography), spinal tap (lumbar puncture), and had a chunk of his peroneal nerve (branch of the sciatic nerve that supplies movement and sensation to the lower leg, foot, and toes)¬†removed for testing. With each test, Robert hoped his greatest fear wouldn’t become a reality; he didn’t want the diagnosis of ALS. No one does. Robert’s reaction to the diagnosis broke my heart. I cried with him. I looked at my kids and wondered how they would handle the news he had to share with his young sons. Despite every painful moment Robert has endured, the stares from strangers, he didn’t want to miss a moment with his family. Before ALS, he was an active family man. With ALS, he didn’t want the debilitating illness to take any more from him and his family than it already has and will in the future.¬†

Robert is lucky; he’s surrounded by family, friends, and co-workers that only want to improve his quality of life. No one could ask for a better mother-in-law than Janice. A widow, she moved into their apartment/basement and runs the house while Erin works full-time. She cooks, shops, cares for her grandsons (Walter and Henry), and helps Robert as needed. Then there was Carissa, a mother of four, who gave him unlimited access to her American Express for rides to work. Robert’s job also helped make his work life more manageable and graciously sponsors an annual 5k in his honor. The list of “angels” is long, so please read the book to discover how each act of kindness changed his life for the better.¬†

Robert appreciates and acknowledges many people who have helped or are helping him today. Nurses. Friends. Family. He makes it a point to show his gratitude. No one can deny he loves his family and being a dad. While I was touched by his “wants” for his sons, nothing moved me as much as chapter 36. It was a list of things he missed doing. Hugging his wife and kids…tossing a frisbee…eating with chopsticks…licking chip dust off fingers…holding a remote…This is only a small fraction of the items on the list that’ll break your heart and leave you emotionally drained.¬†

Robert has ALS, but he wants you to remember that he had a life before the disease, which he shares. He also wants you, the reader, to know he is still fighting. He still has wants to fulfill, and I hope he achieves each one, especially his dream ” to be standing tall and strong, wrapping my arms around my family in a tight hug.”

ASL is a brutal disease that only knows how to destroy a body without caring about how its actions affect a person’s mental, physical, and emotional state. Robert’s story will inspire other sufferers to fight back, love those around them, and make every moment count.¬†

I have nothing but love and respect for Robert and his story. He made me laugh. He made me cry, A LOT. I was in awe of his strength. I recommend you read his life’s journey.

 

Heart Rating System:
1 (lowest) and 5 (highest) 
Score:¬†‚̧‚̧‚̧‚̧‚̧

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Meet the Author

Robert Garrett grew up on the Space Coast in the heyday of 80s Hair Metal, feathered hair, and the Space Shuttle. Writing found him in the offices of the Tampa Tribune, where he worked as a janitor. He spent the next seven years covering sports for the Tribune as well as other publications.

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Cruel Lessons (Lessons in Peril Book 1) by Randy Overbeck (Book Review)

On a school camping trip, fifth graders experiment with a dangerous new hallucinogen and die in a horrific accident, their deaths shattering the quiet town. Assistant Superintendent Ken Parks, hoping to redeem a fatal mistake from his past, grasps the opportunity to conduct the district investigation of how students are getting the drugs. Almost before he begins, the cops make a stunning arrest. But Parks battles on, convinced the real pusher is still out there, poisoning more kids until he receives an anonymous threat: if he continues, those close to him will pay. Is Parks willing to risk those he loves for a chance at redemption?

Preorder now: Amazon Purchase Link

 

(review request submitted by the author for an honest critique) 

 

Cruel Lessons¬†was a 457-page novel (print edition) that touched on a sensitive real-life issue: drugs in school. It’s common for young adults to experiment with pot, cigarettes, or alcohol. The age bracket partaking in illegal drugs exists well before high school.¬†Cruel Lessons¬†features the effects of drug use among 11 to 13-year-olds. Drugs are entering Foster Middle School, mainly a hallucinogen-inducing wolf tattoo. Once the young buyer presses the drug to their skin, their time is almost up.¬†

Cops witness numerous horrific crime scenes through their time on the force; the death of 4 young boys close to the science camp will haunt their dreams for a long time, maybe forever. 

The school board asked Ken to take point and find out how the kids got a hold of the drugs and discover if the school was liable for their deaths. The board seemed more interested if they would get sued or not. I wasn’t surprised people valued the bottom line over the loss of 4 lives.¬†

Ken, not a trained investigator, began to work the case. He interviewed staff members and students and enlisted the help of Bart (resource officer). His “meddling” was not appreciated by the dealer, “the doctor.” Lives were lost in the pursuit of justice. A popular teacher was fighting to prove her innocence. Through all the school drama, readers also watched love triangles unfold in the background. Wow, the cheating spouses drama could be its own soap opera. While I understand each purpose in the story, I wanted their faithful spouses to discover their misdeeds. I wanted more drama!¬†

The list of suspects was long. Who brought the tattoos into the school and how they did it might stun you. As you work the case with Ken and Bart, do not write off a suspect so quickly. At the end of the story, I had 75% of the resolution figured out. I was wrong about one prime suspect, which falls in the 25% category. 

Cruel Lessons will keep you guessing. When you think you figured it out, the author throws you a curveball. The uncertainty, the twists, kept me going back for more. Even though I loved the book, it left me with many unquestioned questions. To avoid giving out spoilers, I will refrain from elaborating on what puzzled me. 

If you like crime stories that take time to solve, this book is for you! 

 

Heart Rating System:
1 (lowest) and 5 (highest) 
Score:¬†¬†‚̧‚̧‚̧‚̧

Releases 10/11/23: Preorder (Amazon) Link

 

 

Meet the Author

Dr. Randy Overbeck is an award-winning educator, author and speaker. As an educator, he served children for more than three decades in a range of roles captured in his novels, from teacher and coach to principal and superintendent. His thriller, LEAVE NO CHILD BEHIND (2012) and his recent mysteries, the Amazon No. 1 Best Seller, BLOOD ON THE CHESAPEAKE (2019), CRIMSON AT CAPE MAY (2020) and SCARLET AT CRYSTAL RIVER (2021) have earned five star reviews and garnered national awards including ‚ÄúThriller of the Year‚ÄĚ‚ÄĒReadersFavorite.com, ‚ÄúGold Award‚ÄĚ‚ÄĒLiterary Titan, ‚ÄúMystery of the Year‚ÄĚ‚ÄĒReadersView.com and ‚ÄúCrowned Heart of Excellence‚ÄĚ‚ÄĒInD‚ÄôTale Magazine.

As a member of the Mystery Writers of America, Dr. Overbeck is an active member of the literary community, contributing to a writers‚Äô critique group, serving as a mentor to emerging writers and participating in writing conferences such as Sleuthfest, Killer Nashville and the Midwest Writers Workshop. When he‚Äôs not writing or researching his next exciting novel or sharing his presentation ‚ÄúThings Still Go Bump in the Night,‚ÄĚ he‚Äôs spending time with his incredible family of wife, three children (and their spouses) and seven wonderful grandchildren.

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How to Fix the Smile of a Crocodile: An ocean wide hunt for kindness! by Rebecca Kurien (Book Review)

Dive into the depths of the ocean and meet Barry, the saltwater crocodile who is in desperate need of help. With a toothache so terrible it won’t go away, Barry sets out on a journey to find the most talented sea creatures in the ocean for help. Along the way, he meets

  • An octopus with 8 helpful arms
  • A sperm whale, the loudest creature on earth
  • A sailfish, the fastest fish in the ocean
  • A blue whale, the biggest creature on earth
  • A great white shark, the fiercest in the ocean
  • An orca known for their extreme intelligence

Through this heart-warming and inspirational children’s book, your child will learn incredible facts about sea creatures woven into the plot of the story and discover the value of kindness and empathy.

 

Featuring beautiful illustrations, lovable characters and an awe-inspiring twist in the end, this book promises entertainment for your child. Perfect for children between the ages of 3 and 7, this book is a must-have in any collection.

Booksirens.com
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(review request submitted by the author for an honest critique) 

 

At some point, everyone will require help from a friend, family member, or stranger. It could relate to work, schooling, a flat tire, sewing a tear in clothing, a scrape from a fall, or carrying a heavy or bulky object. Barry, the saltwater crocodile, required medical assistance. He, unfortunately, was dealing with a terrible toothache. He couldn’t eat or sleep. The pain was making him downright miserable.

Tooth pain is no laughing matter. While humans can call a dentist, Barry didn’t have that luxury. Even though Cleo, a little bird, swore she could help him, Barry rebuffed her help due to her small stature and species. Instead, he ventured into the ocean, where readers will meet the most extraordinary creatures in bright, beautiful colors. I was highly impressed with the underwater images. Every page was more stunning than the last. It was movie-quality artistry. (illustrator: Eduardo Paj)

Rebecca Kurien’s children’s book had a balanced collection of new and familiar water friends. For example, depending on age, kids should recognize the great white shark, but maybe not the sailfish. As Barry talked to the six ocean dwellers, he learned an interesting fact about each. In turn, your child will gain fun facts, too, such as an octopus does not have teeth.

While the crocodile’s toothy situation wasn’t fixed during his adventure under the sea, the trip proved worthwhile. He met and gained knowledge about new animals. He also learned a valuable lesson. We should never discount someone’s worth based on outward appearance. Also, if help is needed, be open to a person’s ideas or assistance. You never know who has the right tool for the job. Finally, we should teach kids to help others in need.

Children will fall in love with the vibrant colors, the many animals featured, and (of course) Barry’s mission to fix his achy tooth. Parents: Buy a copy for your house. Teachers: Include it in your themed lessons. Librarians: You’ll want multiple copies because I see the book flying off the shelves!

 

Heart Rating System:
1 (lowest) and 5 (highest) 
Score:¬†‚̧‚̧‚̧‚̧‚̧

Booksirens.com
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Meet the Author 

Rebecca Kurien is an Indian-Australian writer, lawyer, musician and perhaps most importantly, a mother of two. She has lived between Oman and India in her childhood, before moving to New Zealand and then Australia.

Her debut book, ‚ÄėHow to Fix the Smile of a Crocodile‚Äô was inspired by her son‚Äôs fascination with the ocean and its wondrous creatures. She wanted to create a book for her children that was based on science and fact, while still leaning on the charm and magic of storytelling.

It is her dream to fill children’s lives with the richness and amazement of the world that we live in, by showing them that the journey to learning is never complete.

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Do I have Something on my Face? by D.L. DiBenedetto (Book Review)

Step into the heartwarming world of Michael, a young man with Down Syndrome, and experience a delightful story from his perspective that will connect with children of all ages. This beautifully illustrated children’s book is a must-read for any young person who has ever felt different or struggled to fit in.

With its uplifting message of self-acceptance and positivity, it is perfect for anyone who wants to teach their children about empathy, acceptance, and the power of seeing the world through someone else’s eyes. Whether your child has Down Syndrome, autism or other challenges, this book with inspire them to focus on their strengths and see the positive in every situation. Get your copy today and embark on an endearing journey of everyday life through Michael’s unique perspective.

Our motto is: we laugh (a lot), sometimes we cry, but most of all we try!

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I received a complimentary copy of this book from Reedsy Discovery.  I voluntarily chose to read and post an honest review.

 

During those long months in the womb, our bodies grow and develop from zygote to baby. A fetus has no control of the process; they are just floating in the amniotic fluid, patiently waiting for the time they can greet the world. They do not select what color eyes they’ll have, how their limbs will form, how tall they’ll become, or decide if they’ll be born with 46 or 47 chromosomes. Michael was born with Down Syndrome; a genetic condition where a person is born with an extra copy of chromosome 21, meaning he has 47 chromosomes total. This extra chromosome affected how his brain and body developed but did not change who he was on the inside.¬†

Michael’s head and face structure may look differently than yours, but he still likes to do the same activities as you. He loves play video games, especially the dancing ones. He loves watching videos online and listening to music. He enjoys family trips, such as visiting the zoo or theme parks. Michael can not fly due to air pressure behind his eyes, but that’s okay. Many people avoid them due to a fear of flying. Moving floors are tricky, but I’ve seen people without Down Syndrome get tripped up by them. Michael has to adjust how he handles some obstacles, but don’t we all have something that is hard for us to do? I’ve known many children and adults without D.S. who find swallowing a pill impossible. I prefer liquid or powder over solid pills, too.¬†

Michael’s courageous story teaches children to treat others the way you want to be treated. Don’t stare unless you like being stared at. And, just because a person looks or sounds differently than you does not mean they are unintelligent. Judge people on how they act, not how they look or sound.

Michael’s story will inspire all children with Down Syndrome, autism, or¬†other challenges to focus on their strengths and see the positive in every situation. I recommend this sweet, inspirational book for children 4-10.¬†

 

Heart Rating System:
1 (lowest) and 5 (highest) 
Score:¬†‚̧‚̧‚̧‚̧‚̧

Amazon Purchase Link

 

 

Meet the Author

I’m a software program/product manager juggling work while being a caregiver for my bedridden mother and my nephew, Michael, who has Down Syndrome. Michael’s experiences, and musings have inspired the creation of this book. He truly inspires, and challenges me every day to be a better person.

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Look Out for the Little Guy by Scott Lang (Book Spotlight)

Look Out for the Little Guy is the in-movie memoir by Scott Lang, also known as Ant-Man, that he’s written and shared with the world, as seen onscreen in the new Marvel Studios film Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania. Hyperion Avenue is proud to bring this book to real life.

This is the incredible story of an ex-con turned world-saving Super Hero.

In¬†Look Out for the Little Guy,¬†Scott Lang shares with the world a bracingly honest account of his struggles and triumphs, from serving time to being a divorced dad to becoming Ant-Man and joining The Avengers. These are stories of epic battles won and lost, as this everyman turned Super Hero finally tells all‚ÄĒfrom the official account of what really happened between The Avengers and Thanos to how shrinking down to ant-size really feels to the challenges of balancing the roles of hero and dad.

Across his many adventures big and small, Scott has gathered the wisdom of countless amazing experiences into this, the first memoir from a real-life Avenger. Once you learn the unforgettable details of his epic journey, you won’t need to be reminded . . . to look out for the little guy.

 

 

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Meet the Author

Scott Lang is a scientist and inventor with a master’s degree in electrical engineering. He has been an ice cream scooper, a corporate whistleblower, a consultant for The Pym Van Dyne Foundation, and an Avenger. He lives in San Francisco.

 

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