Monday, July 28, 2008

Rue de la Pompe: A Satiric Urban Fantasy

by James Earle McCracken
ISBN: 9781594678660 - iUniverse (2008)
Reviewed by Olivera Baumgartner-Jackson for Reader Views (7/08)





Let me start this review by saying that I certainly read a lot. Between my reading for work and reading for pleasure, I probably average at least 150 books a year. And since I've been doing this for a while, I've read a good few books by now. I do not find it surprising that nowadays I often feel I've read a variation of what I am currently reading before. Granted, all authors are at least somewhat influenced by the work of others, but all too often the similarities are too great to overlook. So it has been quite a while since I've read a book and thought, "Wow, this was truly different and truly refreshing…"
 
Well, this past weekend has been one of those "wow" moments. After having read the first couple of chapters of James Earle McCracken's "Rue de la Pompe," I had to put it down and ask myself where the author was going with his story. After a few more, I was no closer to being able to categorize the book, but I was sure having a good time. Having finished it, I still would be extremely hard pressed to describe it with any accuracy, but I feel just like after an exhilarating day at an outstanding amusement park. It was wild, it was unpredictable, it was mad-cap and scary at times; but always witty, picturesque and never boring.
 
The story is deceptively simple. A thirty-year-old American living in Paris, Michael Whyte, receives a mysterious gift of formal wear and an invitation to a party on his birthday. This sets him on an epic quest for the very first French franc coin. It is the author's truly unique approach to telling the story – through the inner voices of Michael's different personalities (Mr. Whyte, Mikey, Smart Ass, Dumb Ass and Jackass) – and the fantastic use of the locale, Paris, which set this story apart in the best possible way. I do not know of another author who would dare to describe Paris as "On the good days, the city struck Michael as a beautiful woman who wasn't his type; the rest of the time, Paris was a bad summer camp with weird counselors and lousy toilets." When you add to this a cast of extremely quirky characters (a Zen-master quote-spouting jeweler, a Castilian "compact assassin," a helpful deaf-mute, a farting statue of Benjamin Franklin, a joke-telling rhinoceros, a Doberman-like concierge, an epistemologist, an enigmatic beauty who speaks all of the languages, a couple of villains, as well as a few other more or less lunatic characters), you should not be surprised when the book turns out to be a cross between a roller-coaster, an abduction by a flying saucer, a carousel, the Pirates of the Caribbean and the Haunted House located in the Hall of Mirrors and completed with a few side shows.
 
The author manages to poke fun at pretty much everything and everybody, but he does so in a highly entertaining and intelligent way. Nobody and nothing get spared, be it the pacifistic Dutch, the Japanese tour groups, over-the-top menus filled with pretentious ingredients and complicated dishes, cheese-discussing French alligators or the sex life of elephants… I've enjoyed his highly individual writing style, the unorthodox story and the unbelievably peculiar set of characters immensely. A great book to brighten an otherwise uninspiring weekend, a tedious trip or a wait in a doctor's office somewhere, "Rue de la Pompe," by James Earle McCracken, is certainly by far the most original work I've read lately and I do hope the author will keep his promise about the upcoming Book Two.
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The review above was used with permission from ReaderViews.com. Reader Views provides a one-stop service for authors. Besides providing reviews of books, they provide publicity packages, editing services, live interviews, book videos, and book proposal coaching. Their services and staff are highly recommended by the Polka Dot Banner.


The Polka Dot Banner (PDB) is an author's web community especially designed for busy authors looking for Internet exposure but who lack the time or know how. The PDB is a great starter web home that can serve as a stand-alone website promoting your book(s). Or, as a fast-growing author community, the PDB can help direct web traffic to a site you already own. Better yet, they do all the work for you, saving you time and effort.

Mystical Mentor: Breaking Through Barriers Finding Peace of Mind

by Dick Warn
ISBN: 9781425161651 - Trafford Publishing (2008)
Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views (6/08)




A chance encounter at an international Toastmaster meeting in Anchorage, Alaska, introduced Dick Warn to a mystical mentor who changed his life.  His mentor, Russell Swank, was a self-made millionaire.  He did not acquire his wealth easily.  He had some hard lessons to learn on his path.  Turning negative events into lessons provided him with some tremendous learning experiences.  He took the author Dick Warn under his wing to provide him with some guidance to get him started on his journey of breaking through barriers to find peace of mind.
 
Mr. Warn learned we are here to learn from our experiences.  We choose what kind of life we want to experience.  Heaven and Hell are states of mind which we are experiencing right now.  It is up to us to decide which one we want to experience.  Each day is a new day that offers us a fresh start and a chance to be the person that we want to be.  Russell provided him with exercises to help him discover what his three top goals for living were.  He also had him identify barriers that were holding him back.  I wrote these exercises down in my journal.  It was fascinating for me to realize that one of my barriers holding me back is that I buy things that I don't need to try to fill a void that cannot be filled by things that I don't need.  How simple and basic this is, yet I had never put it into words prior to this exercise.   Quoting Russell Swank, he states, "The battles that need to be won are within."
 
There is also a very powerful exercise that involves creating a forgiveness deck of cards. On these cards you write the name of a person that has hurt you and a prayer forgiving them and releasing them.  In a few short minutes of creating these cards, I found myself forgiving and releasing people.  There were a few that I was totally able to release in that moment.  There are still a few that I will need some time to work on.  What is interesting is that the day before reading "Mystical Mentor," an ex-boyfriend offered an apology for his atrocious behavior during our relationship.  What a gift I received in that phone call.  I feel that I will be able to forgive and release him much easier now. 
 
In addition to reading about Mr. Warn's powerful experiences with Russell Swank, the book also offers a large selection of quotes taken from various powerful mentors who have gone before us.  I really enjoyed taking the time to read and contemplate what was being said.  I also found a list of books that he suggests reading.  I already have about a quarter of these books in my book room. Unfortunately, I had only read one of them. 
 
I found "Mystical Mentor" to be an incredibly insightful and inspiring book.  I appreciated Mr. Warn's willingness to tell his story and to do it so openly.  Once he started his journey, he still encountered some rough spots that became tremendous learning experiences.  By being so candid and honest, readers will appreciate his book so much more.  I am truly grateful for having the opportunity to read "Mystical Mentor."  It came along at the perfect time.  Now that I am done with it, I have a reading list to get to work on.  I look forward to rereading it after I have read the books on the list.  Enjoy your journey.

The review above was used with permission from ReaderViews.com. Reader Views provides a one-stop service for authors. Besides providing reviews of books, they provide publicity packages, editing services, live interviews, book videos, and book proposal coaching. Their services and staff are highly recommended by the Polka Dot Banner.


The Polka Dot Banner (PDB) is an author's web community especially designed for busy authors looking for Internet exposure but who lack the time or know how. The PDB is a great starter web home that can serve as a stand-alone website promoting your book(s). Or, as a fast-growing author community, the PDB can help direct web traffic to a site you already own. Better yet, they do all the work for you, saving you time and effort.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

F.N.G. by Donald Bodey

ISBN: 9781932690590 - Modern History Press; Revised Edition (4/08)
Reviewed by Richard R. Blake for Reader Views (5/08)





Donald Bodey captures the feeling of loneliness mixed with the camaraderie of being part of the team as a combat soldier in Vietnam. He describes with graphic realism the fear of death and the horrors of warfare experienced by Gabriel Saurers, infantry man assigned to Two Squad in the combat zone of Vietnam in 1969 in the novel "F.N.G." During Gabriel's first night on assignment he learned the ravages of combat, incoming mortars, casualties, and the trauma of seeing a new buddy killed in action.

Gabriel faced the conflict of eager patriotism with the question of purpose, as he was drawn between a rebellion against the "army of COs" and loyalty to the "army of grunts" in the trenches.

Bodey's fictional account of day-to-day details is a composite of the life of the American soldier serving in the infantry during the Vietnam War. Bodey writes with such strong feeling that I felt I was reading an actual autobiographical account taken from entries recorded earlier in his personal journal.

Descriptions of Vietnam, the terrain, the vegetation, the bird sounds, the bush, ravines, mountains, and the sound of silence make it hard to understand how a country so beautiful could be turned into a battle zone filled with tension and the intermittent sound of artillery explosions so strong that its victims soon become mentally paralyzed.

Bodey describes the monsoons and the tedium of living in mud-soaked dugouts near the Cambodian border in the midst of incoming mortars and unrelenting enemy attacks. Here, in a few short months the incoming new recruit becomes a hardened veteran left with nightmares that linger years later.

Forty years later, Gabe is grappling with another conflict as his grandson Seth is scheduled for deployment to Iraq. His reaction will have a dramatic impact on their lives forever.

This is strong writing, convincing, and compelling. It should be required reading for every member of Congress and everyone with influence in the military. "F.N.G." is an important reflection on a period in American History. This is a book that will touch the hearts of veterans. It will help the families of men returning from combat to understand Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and the nightmares which follow as their loved ones return to the "World" after being a part of another world far removed from the life we know and experience.

The review above was used with permission from ReaderViews.com. Reader Views provides a one-stop service for authors. Besides providing reviews of books, they provide publicity packages, editing services, live interviews, book videos, and book proposal coaching. Their services and staff are highly recommended by the Polka Dot Banner.


The Polka Dot Banner (PDB) is an author's web community especially designed for busy authors looking for Internet exposure but who lack the time or know how. The PDB is a great starter web home that can serve as a stand-alone website promoting your book(s). Or, as a fast-growing author community, the PDB can help direct web traffic to a site you already own. Better yet, they do all the work for you, saving you time and effort.

When Your Hair Falls Out, Keep Dancing, by LeslieAnn Butler

ISBN: 9781933449586 - Nightengale Press (8/08)
Reviewed by Olivera Baumgartner-Jackson for Reader Views (6/08)


Losing one's hair is probably high on the "disaster" list for most people, and I would imagine even higher for women than for men. That is why I found it so surprising - in the best possible way - that the cover of Leslie Ann Butler's " If Your Hair Falls Out, Keep Dancing!" is so cheerful looking and so attractive. Looking at the cover illustration one cannot help but feel joyful and uplifted; having said that, I need to add that the author's artwork, included throughout the book, lends a similar upbeat, positive tone to the entire book and makes it visually extremely appealing.

Leslie Ann Butler wrote a tremendously important and impactful book for people suffering from the auto-immune disorder called alopecia areata, which affects nearly five million people in USA. Having been affected herself - and with the most severe form of it, leading her to lose all of her hair everywhere - she is in the position to be not only highly informative, but also highly personal and compassionate in her writing. The book stays upbeat, giving hope - but not false hope! She offers advice for just about any "sticky" situation a person with alopecia areata might find her- or himself in.

The opening chapters deal with the facts about this immune disorder - what it is, what could possibly cause it (nobody really knows...) and what could help alleviate it. Later chapters deal with the day-to-day living with alopecia areata - when and whom to tell about it, how to deal with your hair loss in different "extreme" situations (think sports and sex...), how to travel with wigs, how to choose the right wig and how to deal with loss of eyebrows and eyelashes as well as what your options are in such situations.

The last few chapters, while still practical, really deal with this condition from the psychological perspective, helping one accept the hair loss and coping with it in a positive fashion, as well as even finding some positive aspects in it. No more bad hair days, anybody? How about not having to pluck those pesky stray facial hairs ever again?

The Resources section at the very end of the book should prove to be an invaluable selection of contact information for both the general information about the disorder and sources for wigs and other items the alopecia areata sufferers might need or want.

Warm, upbeat, but first and foremost realistic and informative, "If Your Hair Falls Out, Keep Dancing!" by Leslie Ann Butler, would benefit anybody with alopecia areata or anybody who in any way cares for or about somebody with it. Gorgeous illustrations turn it into a work of art and the written part turns it into a very valuable resource and a deeply wise work.


The review above was used with permission from ReaderViews.com. Reader Views provides a one-stop service for authors. Besides providing reviews of books, they provide publicity packages, editing services, live interviews, book videos, and book proposal coaching. Their services and staff are highly recommended by the Polka Dot Banner.


The Polka Dot Banner (PDB) is an author's web community especially designed for busy authors looking for Internet exposure but who lack the time or know how. The PDB is a great starter web home that can serve as a stand-alone website promoting your book(s). Or, as a fast-growing author community, the PDB can help direct web traffic to a site you already own. Better yet, they do all the work for you, saving you time and effort.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Desert Journey by Jerry Burgener

ISBN: 9780595908509 - iUniverse (2007)
Reviewed by Ron Standerfer for Reader Views (5/08)




The basic premise of Jerry Burgener's well-written and moving book, "Desert Journey," is this: A middle-aged man, battered by a series of failed relationships and filled with self-doubt, decides to take a couple of months off and travel to the American Southwest.  Once there, he plans to do very little but ride his horse, enjoy the breathtaking scenery of the Superstition Mountains, and maybe---just maybe---sort out the issues that had been plaguing his life.  But destiny had something different in mind for him, and what was waiting for him in those mountains, was the start of a profound, mystical journey of self-discovery, facilitated by a wise and ageless Indian who soon became his mentor and spiritual advisor.
 
Seeking spiritual guidance and self-discovery from within the Native American shamanistic culture is not a new concept, of course.  Carlos Castaneda explored that paradigm brilliantly in the 1960s with his series of writings based on "The Teachings of Don Juan."  But there is something about Burgener's approach that is more---how shall I put this---peaceful, than the frenetic, peyote-induced rituals described in Castaneda's writings. 
 
The thing I liked the most about "Desert Journey" is how quickly Burgener's journey became my journey.  Thanks to his talented and descriptive writing, I could feel the warm nuzzle of his horse on my arm, smell the crisp, clean desert air, savor the sight of the multi-hued canyon walls changing with the light, and hear the sharp "screech" of a hawk flying overhead.  I also found myself reading and rereading many of the passages in the book trying to divine the deeper wisdom buried within.  One of my favorite sayings was, "dreams are powerful tools for us to use to connect with other worlds."   This is a new and refreshing idea to me as I had always thought dreams were tools for exploring our subconscious, a place I have no desire to visit!
 
The only part of "Desert Journey" that did not totally fulfill my expectations was the ending.  I expected the story to rise to a crescendo and finish with some kind of profound proclamation summarizing what the journey had really been all about.  Instead, the author loads his horse into the trailer and heads back to Illinois.  But then again, that's what life is all about, isn't it?  Every time we reach the summit we discover that we are only on a plateau, and there is more climbing to be done.
 
"Desert Journey" is written in the first person singular and I am assuming the narrator, "Jerry," is in fact the author.  On the other hand, the book is listed as fiction and is described as a novel, so I could be wrong.  I hope I'm not though, because there are a million questions I want to ask Jerry Burgener as one Illinois boy to another.  Meanwhile, "Desert Journey" is an excellent book and I strongly recommend it.  Be forewarned, however, that if you do read it you may be tempted to take your own spiritual journey.  I know I am.

The review above was used with permission from ReaderViews.com. Reader Views provides a one-stop service for authors. Besides providing reviews of books, they provide publicity packages, editing services, live interviews, book videos, and book proposal coaching. Their services and staff are highly recommended by the Polka Dot Banner.


The Polka Dot Banner (PDB) is an author's web community especially designed for busy authors looking for Internet exposure but who lack the time or know how. The PDB is a great starter web home that can serve as a stand-alone website promoting your book(s). Or, as a fast-growing author community, the PDB can help direct web traffic to a site you already own. Better yet, they do all the work for you, saving you time and effort.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Edith and the Mysterious Stranger by Linda Weaver Clarke

ISBN: 9781589824690 - American Book Publishing (2008)
Reviewed by Wendy Cleveland for Reader Views (5/08)




"Edith and the Mysterious Stranger" centers around the Roberts family living in the Wild West of Bear Lake, Idaho.  Melinda is about to have a baby with her husband, Gilbert, but has found out that she needs to be bedridden for the remainder of her pregnancy.  They enlist the help of Melinda's cousin Edith, who is a nurse, to stay with them until the baby is born.  Edith has never been married.  Though many men have courted her, she seems to always find fault with each one.  Melinda and Gilbert challenge each other that they will introduce Edith to two men, Henry and Joseph, with the help of Edith's mother, Martha.  Of course, Edith does not give either one of them a chance even though they continue to fight for her heart throughout.  During one of Edith's visits to her mother, she hands her a letter and tells her "We truly don't know men until we're married because we never know the inner person.  You know, the heart, his spiritual side.  We're so busy courting and trying to impress one another that we never get to know the soul of the person."  Throughout the story, Edith receives numerous letters from this "Mysterious Stranger" each becoming more personal.  Edith soon falls in love with this person even though she has never met him.  Once Edith finds out who the "Mysterious Stranger" is, she is pleasantly surprised.  Meanwhile, another love story is taking place between the new ranch-hand, David, and Gilbert's 16-year-old daughter, Jenny.  However, David came to the ranch with his own intentions that will be tested.
 
When I first started reading this book, I did not know that it was Christian Fiction nor have I ever read any.  I was pleasantly surprised to find this story very uplifting.  Ms. Clark did a fantastic job of portraying the importance of knowing your God Given Gifts.   The history of the Wild West was also intriguing with the world of outlaws and cattle rustlers as well as the medicines and herbs they used. The doctor kept telling Melinda to take a few glasses of wine or whiskey each day for her cramping.  Who knew! 
 
The Power of the Written Word -- this is the life lesson I took away from Linda Weaver Clarke's book "Edith and the Mysterious Stranger."  In today's society, no one writes letters anymore. Everything is done by email or telephone.  Most everyone today is also materialistic looking at the outer rather than inner person.  The fact that Edith fell in love with someone just by getting to know them through their letters and not seeing them was inspirational to me.  Humility -- if we all could just get a little of that, we would all be better people.  Even though this book was a Christian love story, I would definitely recommend this to anyone interested in a good inspirational read from beginning to end.  You won't be disappointed.  I'm definitely a fan and will be looking for another installment in the Roberts family saga.

The review above was used with permission from ReaderViews.com. Reader Views provides a one-stop service for authors. Besides providing reviews of books, they provide publicity packages, editing services, live interviews, book videos, and book proposal coaching. Their services and staff are highly recommended by the Polka Dot Banner.


The Polka Dot Banner (PDB) is an author's web community especially designed for busy authors looking for Internet exposure but who lack the time or know how. The PDB is a great starter web home that can serve as a stand-alone website promoting your book(s). Or, as a fast-growing author community, the PDB can help direct web traffic to a site you already own. Better yet, they do all the work for you, saving you time and effort.

Quondam: An Ancient Mirror’s Tale by Jayel Gibson

ISBN: 9781933538839 - Synergy Books (2008)
Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views (5/08)




(Click the title link to view Jayel's Polka Dot Banner Page.)

It was such a pleasure to be able to get my hands on the latest edition in the "Ancient Mirrors Tale" series by Jayel Gibson.  "Quondam" begins when the evil Queen Karid sends a fire-breathing assassin through a magical portal, into another world, to destroy people whom she fears are a danger to her.  Karid's ordered assassination attempts pull two women through the portal into Quondam. One of them is Cwen.  She holds a special power to link her to the Dragon spawn. This is a half man/half dragon being that has been held in exile on an island for over a thousand years.  Queen Karid's attempts to fight the prophecy that links Cwen to D'raekn, the dragon spawn, only manage to push them together. 
 
When Cwen manages to end up on D'raekn's island of imprisonment, she appears to have been beaten to death.  Followers of the queen have horribly violated her.  Believing her to be dead, she is dumped into the sea and rescued by mere folk.  D'raeken plays a role in her healing.  Having been emotionally broken by her abusers, he also has to gain her trust.  An intimate moment between the two begins awakening the dormant magical powers of the land.  Previously the queen tried to kill off all the magical beings and hold any powers for herself.  Now the land is awakening, and so are many of the magical inhabitants who have kept themselves hidden. 
 
D'raekn and Cwen must work together to see that the prophecies come true.  Having people that they believe to be their allies, working against them for their own selfish reasons, works against them.  More mysteries surrounding D'raekn must be solved for them to find the answers that they seek.
 
I really, truly loved this story and hated to see "Quondam" end.  The magical elements add so much to the story.  The feelings between D'raekn and Cwen are tumultuous and in need of some answers.  The history behind the prophecy of the dragon spawn was fascinating and unique.  Ultimately, this being, which was brought about in a unique manner, has to decide whether or not to choose to be a man or a dragon.  Others decide that his love for Cwen must not get in the way of his decision.  They have a lot working against them, yet through it all, their love has to prevail.  Fans of fantasy novels will love "Quondam."  Readers who have been following the other books in the Ancient Mirrors Tale series will not be disappointed.

The review above was used with permission from ReaderViews.com. Reader Views provides a one-stop service for authors. Besides providing reviews of books, they provide publicity packages, editing services, live interviews, book videos, and book proposal coaching. Their services and staff are highly recommended by the Polka Dot Banner.


The Polka Dot Banner (PDB) is an author's web community especially designed for busy authors looking for Internet exposure but who lack the time or know how. The PDB is a great starter web home that can serve as a stand-alone website promoting your book(s). Or, as a fast-growing author community, the PDB can help direct web traffic to a site you already own. Better yet, they do all the work for you, saving you time and effort.