Has Someone Sit on Your Cake?

“A bad review is like baking a cake with all the best ingredients and having someone sit on it.”–Danielle Steel

Baby Sitting on Wedding Cake

I was never one to write reviews for books until it became easy. (I love technology!) There was a time when there were very few places to write a review or I probably would have. I know that because I was very good about writing reviews on waiters in restaurants or in hotels when there was a form to fill out. Now we live in an age where you can write reviews for anything and everything and it only takes a few minutes. So, do you take he time to do that?

Let’s talk specifically about books because after all that’s what I do, write books. Now, I write reviews, or at least give them a rating, for almost every book I finish reading. I say that, because I tend to only write reviews if I can say something positive and if I really don’t like a book I’m reading, I won’t finish it. That’s a more recent behavior because I used to finish everything I started. I just had to see it to the end no matter how much I hated it. Now that I’m in my autumn (or at least late summer) years of my life, I’ve learned I don’t have to do that. I choose to spend my time doing things I enjoy. But back to the review part…I’m much better about writing them than I used to be. Some of that I’m sure is because I appreciate whenever someone takes the time to write a review for my books.

I know how important the reviews are to authors, but how much are those reviews worth to readers? As a reader, do you buy books based on the reviews? Do you even read them? And when you write one, why do you do it?

Some authors read their reviews, others choose not to. I read all of mine. I try to learn from the negative ones, and I’m motivated by the positive ones. I have well over 1400 combined reviews for my books and they all average around 4.5, but sometimes I wonder if the readers are reading the same book. I understand people have different tastes and I’m good with that. But I had a review that said she was upset because the book had less than 150 pages. Another reader said he was overwhelmed because the book had over 600 pages. This was for the same book! The book actually has around 300 paperback pages. Now I realize you can change the font if you’re reading on a digital device, but that’s a bit of an extreme range.

And then there are those that just make me laugh. Like this one, for example:

It was a 3 star review.

I purchased this kindle book because it sounded like something I enjoy reading and it was Free on Book Bub. I have purchased many books and I haven’t had time to read them all yet and this is one that I have not read yet (hence just an okay rating). When I get around to reading it, I will try to remember to come back and update my post.

Can anyone tell me why someone would post such a review? I just don’t get it. Another reader apparently couldn’t leave it alone. He or she responded:

What a ridiculous waste of time for you to post this “review.” How could you give the book a rating when you haven’t even read it?

Then there is this 1 star review for The Advocate:

 There was far too much detailed sex. Had I known it was “R” rated due to sex, I never would have read it. As it is, I skipped over many pages due to the sexual material. I won’t read any more of her books. However, if you like that type of material, you’d probably like the book. Story line was good.

FYI: This book had NO sex in it, not even a kiss. There was no relationship, no romance, nothing, zip, nada, zilch! I can only guess that the review was placed on the wrong book…or someone stole my cover and put it on a “smut” book. Hmmm…

And then there’s the spoiler:

I love this book….this book was very thrilling until the bitter end I would have never thought it was ______ that did the killing. 

I removed the name above and replaced it with the blank. She gave me 5 stars. You gotta love her! Of course, no one else has to read the book now because they know “whodunit.”

And one of my favorites:

I felt relief at the end, knowing I wasn’t going to have to pick up this book again.

What does that even mean? It was a 3-star review. I would expect a 1-star with that statement or perhaps a 5-star if you want to put a really positive spin on that statement…Like I wore her out with all my suspense and twists and turns. But a 3-star? Go figure.

Readers, authors really appreciate reviews. Write them when you read a book you like because it will encourage the author to write more books. I want to thank all of you who have written a review for me. I understand not everyone has the time or the interest in writing a review. That’s okay. Thank you for reading my books.

For two reasons, I don’t agree with Danielle Steele when she says: “A bad review is like baking a cake with all the best ingredients and having someone sit on it.”  One, because I get good reviews and I get bad reviews. Fortunately, I get more good than bad, and as I said earlier, I use the bad ones to grow. And second, if I were to bake a cake, one would likely be better off sitting on it, than eating it.

Teresa Burrell

Author of The Advocate Series

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month


In 1983 April was proclaimed Child Abuse Prevention Month by the president. I don’t know how April was chosen but it doesn’t matter. The important thing is that we have a month where there is an extra effort made to stop this awful behavior that is so rampant in our society. 

According to Children’s Bureau (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) there were 686,000 children abused or neglected in the fifty U.S. states, DC, and Puerto Rico. Of those, 1640 died. Many of those could have been prevented with good community programs in place such as early childhood development programs, parental support, and maternal mental health.

The Child Welfare Information Gateway provides some good information on how to help your community prevent child abuse.


This is a cause that is very near and dear to my heart. I have spent a great deal of my life fighting this battle. I worked as a child advocate for many years and I continue to do what I can to prevent child abuse. This is a cause you can join as well. There are many organizations joining in this fight this month. I noticed when I stopped at In N Out Burger (my favorite burger joint) they have a program this month where they are collecting donations and matching 3 to 1 whatever they collect up to $250,000. Many other businesses are doing similar things. This is one way to help, but for those of you who can, getting personally involved is the best way.


Teresa Burrell, Author, Attorney, Advocate

Author of The Advocate Series 

Technology and Child Abuse

Some recent studies have been done indicating that there is a serious lack of training in technology for professionals who work with abused children. This includes nurses, child protection workers, and educators. The professionals dealing with these children need to be at least as technologically smart as the pedophile seeking the children online. Computers, tablets and smart phones are here to stay and we need to keep up. We need to know what to look for and how to find it or we aren’t going to be able to provide the service we need to our children.

A study was done in the UK by Plymouth University and University Campus Suffolk showing a serious gap in technological training, but a definite desire by the same workers to get that training. I couldn’t find any study that has been done in the US. I doubt it is because we don’t have the same problem here, but rather that we haven’t even gotten far enough to assess the problem.

Many parents today have already been surpassed by their eleven or twelve-year-old child in their internet savvy. To me that is frightening. Professionals need to keep up. Parents need to keep up. It’s an important and significant way to help in the prevention of child abuse.

Teresa Burrell

Author, Attorney, Advocate

We don’t need everyone’s help to prevent child abuse, just yours.

An Author and a Gentleman


Jeff Sherratt

Jeff Sherratt was a dear friend to me and a great storyteller. He wrote The Jimmy O’Brien Mystery Series which included The Brimstone Murders, Guilty or Else, and Detour to Murder. He raced against the clock to finish his last novel in the series, Cyanide Perfume, but time ran out before the final edits. His loving wife, Judy Sherratt, judiciously completed this novel so it remained Jeff’s work. I know many of you have been waiting for this novel to be released. It took a long time and a lot of hard work by his wife, along with the help of a few others, not the least of which was his good friend and editor, Mike Sirota.  

Anyone who ever knew Jeff would tell you what a wonderful storyteller he was. If you get a chance to pick up his book Cyanide Perfume on Kindle or in paperback on Amazon you can see for yourself. I’m sure you will enjoy it—his final words.

Jeff was a man with integrity, a great sense of humor, and a heart the size of Texas. He gave good advice, shared his knowledge with whoever would listen, and loved his family more than anything on this earth. I only knew Jeff Sherratt for a few years, but he felt like a brother to me. He was my mentor and a dear friend. He took me under his wing and led me into the world of fiction. I have him to thank for my success as a novelist.

Sometimes in life, a friend comes along just when you need him, leads you where you need to go, and watches out for you along the way.  Jeff was that friend to me—and I expect to countless others who crossed his path.  

Whenever Jeff did an event with other authors or attended their events (which he always seem to make time to do), he never failed to buy the other authors’ books. Not only did he buy them, he read them, and wrote reviews. 

So if you want to return a favor he did for you, you can do that by purchasing Cyanide Perfume. And if you enjoy his last book, please go on Amazon and leave a review, or at least tell your friends about the book. Jeff would appreciate it and so would his loving wife, Judy. I know it would make her feel good to know that people cared enough to take the time to do that for him.

Rest in peace, Jeff Sherratt. May your words live on…

Teresa Burrell

Author of The Advocate Series

Georgia Takes Action to Prevent Child Abuse

I’ve been trying to focus on what different states are doing to help prevent child abuse. This week I’m looking at Georgia.

In 2011, Georgia had 21,205 substantiated cases of abuse or neglect, and 76 children died.  That same year the child abuse hotline went down due to lack of funds. The hotline had been established by Prevent Child Abuse Georgia, a division of Prevent Child Abuse (PCA) America. The hotline has recently been revived by a $165,000 challenge grant from the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation.

PCA America is based in Chicago. There are forty-eight states that have active chapters. PCA is the only organization whose sole purpose is to prevent child abuse and neglect. It was founded in 1972 by Donna J. Stone, convened the first national conference on child abuse prevention in 1973, and formed the first state chapter in 1976 in Kansas. It has grown since to include every state in some fashion as well as Puerto Rico and Canada.

Every minute a child is abused. Five to six children die every day due to abuse or neglect. Please do your part to help prevent child abuse. Use the provided hotlines.

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month–Maine Action

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month. If you live in Maine, you can support their efforts by placing a blue light in your window throughout the month of April. As reported by the Maine Today, several towns will be participating such as Skowhegan, Waterville, Augusta, and Hallowell. It would be nice to see other towns participate as well and even other states. But more importantly, be aware and become a part of the solution. We all have something to offer.

Please help build awareness. And report if you suspect abuse. Many of you are in positions where you you come into contact with children who are being abused and you may not recognize it. School employees, for example, (and not just teachers) are often in one of the best positions to prevent abuse. However, if you can’t detect it, you can’t report it. Get educated. Most schools have policies for abuse awareness programs, many of which are not being implemented. The Bay Area in California just got a wake up call. You can read about it here. Ask your administration what they are doing.

Many of us see it happening in our own families. Don’t ignore it. The life you save may be your niece or nephew or grand child.

What will you do to help? Please post any suggestions for others who want to help, but don’t know where to start.


Tennessee Task Force on Child Abuse

Tennessee needs to take action!

The lawmakers in Tennessee were provided with a report from the Joint Task Force on Children’s Justice/Child Sexual Abuse. Several detailed recommendations were made on how to better protect the children of Tennessee. They include such things as joint training for different groups involved in child welfare, better methods for collecting data, ways to improve the legal system, and ways to raise awareness of child sexual abuse. These suggestions need the backing of the Tennessee General Assembly.

The Task Force is seeking more statewide consistency in child protection. There are recommendations on how social workers, law enforcement, and health providers can better work together on behalf of the children. A lot of emphasis seems to be placed on improving the quality of Child Protective Services within DCS. There has even been a recommendation for increased pay for front-line workers. I found this to be a bold move in this economy. Finally, someone is talking about backing their recommendations with financial support.

The Task Force consists of approximately forty people including lawyers, doctors, and DCS employees. DCS has already tried to implement some of the recommendations. Last year’s recommendations spurred DCS to provide new child protection training across the state. They have instituted a program called In Home Tennessee to help at-risk families with local services.

The report also had data regarding the amount of abuse for a one-year period in Tennessee. There were 93,799 referrals made in Tennessee and 7,852 confirmed victims. That is only in Tennessee . . . a small state. You can imagine what the numbers are nationwide.

If you’re in Tennessee tell your legislatures to get off their duffs and do what needs to be done to protect our children.

Here’s the full report if you want to read it.

Way to Go Montana!

Montana Seeks New Bill for Child Abusers

I worked for many years in the dependency courts in California with abused children and so often saw very little accountability for the crimes committed. When a child was seriously injured it was generally not the first offense by the perpetrator. So, I’m pleased to see what one state is doing on behalf of these children.

Several new bills have been proposed in Montana to help protect children from abuse. This article explains why they are taking action.

Senate Bill 160 proposes new felony charges for child endangerment.

SB 198 proposes revising the laws for penalties for assault on a minor. This bill would raise the maximum to 20 years for children under 36 months old and if it causes serious bodily injury, the penalty would rise to 40 years.

SB 113 allows evidence of previous crimes in prosecuting sexual offenses.

House Bill 74 requires disclosure of child abuse from Child Protective Services to law enforcement in all cases.

There is a loop hole in the law that allows registered sex offenders to avoid prosecution for not disclosing their true address. An additional bill has been proposed to close that loop hole.

These bills are supported by both parties and it appears Montana is taking serious steps to help protect its children.

The bills are designed to bring greater accountability for the crimes, but more importantly it would seem that it would help prevent more serious abuse in the future. If intervention is done before the crimes escalate (and they generally do) hopefully it will save many children from serious and permanent injury and often death.

If you live in Montana, please let your legislators know if you support these bills. The public can make a huge difference.



A Special Thanks to my Online Readers

Isn’t it enough that a child is born with no pigmentation in his or her skin, to have a condition that affects his eyesight, to be at higher risk for skin cancer, and on top of that to be treated with such contempt by those around you. This is the plight of the PWA (Persons with Albinism).  PWA have to constantly be leery of the sun. Most of them have impaired eyesight if not complete blindness. Images are distorted making formal education a difficult task to manage much less conquer.

In some countries, such as Africa, many people believe albinos are not human, but rather “ghost-people.” In countries such as Tanzania, PWA are hunted down and dismembered, often killed, for their body parts. It is particular difficult for children who cannot protect themselves and are often betrayed by their own family members and sold to witchdoctors.

Under the Same Sun, founded by Peter Ash, is a non-profit organization that has done much to try to help these people. A great deal of time is spent in educating the residents of Tanzania, in providing facilities and education to the children, and in clinics to help them with their eyesight. For more information or if you are interested in helping in this cause, please go to the website:

As many of you may already know, for the past year I have been sending sunglasses to these children. For each book I sold online I sent a pair of sunglasses to a PWA in Tanzania. I want to thank all of you who have helped me in this endeavor. Your purchase of my book has helped to protect the eyes of one of these children. I had initially decided to continue on this path for one year. I have now decided to extend this program for another six months.

It’s that time of year to be giving thanks. Think about all that you have and be grateful.


Thank You, Montana

I just returned from a wonderful trip to Montana where I traveled to Kalispell, Great Falls, Missoula, Helena, and then to Couer d’Alene, Idaho. I had several book events in Kalispell. I spoke at a book club (always one of my favorite kind of events), a luncheon, and a Court Appointed Special Advocate’s (CASA) training class. I have such respect for the CASA program and the efforts made by their volunteers. It is a thankless job and always takes a great deal of time to do the job well. I was especially impressed by this group in Kalispell.

I also got to see my dear friend, Marilee, who was such an incredible hostess. My only regret is we didn’t have enough time. Next time, Marilee…

In Couer d’Alene I met with a Head Start group. They were fantastic and made me feel so welcome. This is a group of women who work so hard every day with our children. Thank you to all our Head Start employees.

But it wasn’t all work. I spent time with my two brothers, my nieces and nephews, and a few very special friends. We made lefsa (an old family tradition), played cards, barbequed, went boating, and had a great visit. It’s such a different lifestyle there, not at all like the hustle and bustle of southern California. All in all it was a fabulous trip.


Sweet Montana life…