Monday, January 26, 2009

Born on Friday 13th


Anna Murray
CreateSpace (2008)
ISBN 9781440453403
Reviewed by Danelle Drake for Reader Views (12/08)

"Born on Friday 13th" by Anna Murray is so much more than I originally thought.  The date, Friday 13th, now makes you think of horror stories and ghostly haunting.  "Born on Friday 13th" is about life.  Life that is good and bad, happy and sad.  Life!
Piecing together a childhood uncommon to most, and adventure to others, Anna shares both joy and pain as she relives her childhood in Africa.  Born on Friday, November 13 - as times grow hard and searching for a reason - Anna places the blame on herself due to her date of birth.  The tragic death of her loving father and the circumstances that surround his death continue her on the downward spiral.  Losing her mother, who had long-suffered from the grips of cancer, only emphasized to Anna that life was about loss.  Losing her father, periodically losing her brother to boarding school, and finally losing her mother to cancer Anna is alone.  Anna felt that although she truly cherished the good times they shall always be followed by a gut-wrenching loss.
Following her heart, struggling for happiness, Anna soon finds herself alone and preparing for motherhood.  Regardless of what her extended family wanted and warned, Anna welcomes her beautiful son on Friday the 13th of February.  In an instant, this child became her life.
Sharing good times and times of struggles Anna rebuilds her life with Anthony.  She provides for him the best she can and makes many sacrifices some mothers never would see themselves making.  I cried for her loss when her precious son was taken from her.
How could a person continue to live, continue to want to live when her life was so at a loss?  Anna Murray is a rare person who has gained tremendous strength from each loss and has emerged an emotionally-strong woman.
After a twenty-seven-year absence Anna takes a trip back to her beginnings in Africa.  She is taken back by the nostalgia of the smell of Africa and emerges alive.  Anna Murray has written a book, "Born on Friday 13th" that has enabled her to heal and shares her passionate life with us, her honored reader.  I will carry Anna in my heart, and cherish each moment of my life to the fullest.

ReBecoming: The Way of Opportunity


J.R. Maxon
Dassana Press (2009)
ISBN 9780981520155
Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views (10/08)

"ReBecoming" is defined as:  "The personal process of continuous change facilitated by an individual's desire and belief that they can: 1. Re-aim their intentions, 2. Re-energize their mind, 3. Re-build their body, 4. Relinquish their unskillful choices, 5. Recognize and Redefine their happiness, and 6. ReBecome."
Diana Archer, the main character in "ReBecoming," has reached a point in her life where she knows that she needs to change.  She is in a job with an abusive boss, she is single, financially strapped and she is out of shape.  Even though Diana is unhappy, she is afraid to change.  Circumstances lead Diana into a gym membership.  She acquires a personal trainer who teaches her about more than just exercise, he teaches her about how to live with happiness.  The process is not easy, and will not happen overnight, but Diana is now on her way to ReBecoming the person that she was meant to be.
While Diana is following her Way of Opportunity, she meets others who are on their path to ReBecoming.  These people also help her learn through their experiences. She also encounters many people, like her boss, who try to distract her from her true way.  She has to learn to overcome their attempts.  She develops a very close relationship with Jon, her trainer/teacher.  Romantic feelings are definitely developing, but Jon teaches her that she needs to be whole and happy within herself first, before she brings someone else into her life.  
"ReBecoming" is a really beautiful, inspirational story about a woman's quest for happiness.  Inside of this book are lessons for those of us who are reading her story.  Never in my life, have I found a character that I could relate as well to as I have with Diana Archer.  There was so much in her story that I felt was written for myself and healing that I need to do in my own life.  I also really, really appreciated that the author put an emphasis on the importance of caring for your body through fitness.  So many times, fitness is overlooked or deemed as vain in spiritual pursuits. In this story, it was seen as vital to care for the vessel for our souls.
"ReBecoming" is definitely a must read for people who are seeking happiness in their lives.  The lessons in it taught me how to work on being a better person and to show more kindness both to myself and others.  I read it before I would go to sleep at night and it definitely had an impact on my dreams.  I recommend that other readers do this as well and keep their journals next to their beds to record their dreams.  Having the opportunity to read "ReBecoming" by J.R. Maxon made me feel like I was getting a gift from heaven.

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Last Cowboy


Daniel Uebbing
Robert D. Reed (2008)
ISBN 9781934759134
Reviewed by Danelle Drake for Reader Views (10/08)


With eager anticipation I opened the book and was consumed from beginning to end. "Hey, baby, this is America.  It's a free country."  Even for those who would never admit it, everyone (both men and women) loves a cowboy.  Bringing up visions of the sweat-covered hottie out on the tractor or the Wrangler-clad bull rider on television, the cowboy is the all-American fantasy. 
Henry Dunn, "The Last Cowboy," reads like a crazy man.  He puts the best of them to shame.  Beginning with a duel where both participants, he and the sheriff, were both barely able to stand, much less shoot, Henry starts a killing spree which really never ends.  Rarely showing any heart, Henry is a cold, cold, uncaring man.  He is consumed by the fact he wants to return to his girlfriend in Kansas.  None-the-less he relieves his stress by bedding prostitutes whenever available.  One encounter left him with more than he bargained for; killed the mother and now caring for the child.  The Kid, barely a toddler, learns the ropes quickly and almost instantly becomes the cowboy's partner in crime.
Both serious and down-right hysterical at the same time, this book is worth the read.  From dance class to tae kwon do, I carried the book around for days while my daughters attended classes.  When asked what I was reading, I would giggle and say, "I am reading 'The Last Cowboy' a book about a drunken cowboy that could have been written by a drunken cowboy."

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The Organ Grinder and the Monkey


Sam Moffie
Xlibris (2008)
ISBN 9781436327756
Reviewed By Richard R. Blake for Reader Views (11/08)


"The Organ Grinder and the Monkey" is a complex story of three individuals whose lives, personalities and characters are molded by events of their childhood. Sam Moffie builds a plot around these three characters: Seymour Petrillo, Irving Hanhart, and Constance Powers.
Seymour grew up in Steubenville, Ohio. He spent a lot of time with his grandfather who imparted philosophical views on Seymour. His father was gay. The marriage broke up. Seymour spent weekends with his father and his father's friends.  A particularly distressing weekend visit to his father left Seymour emotionally traumatized. Moffie gives an insightful look at the blight of the ghetto, the death and decadence of decay and parallels this with Seymour's downward spiral.
Irving's mother was Jewish, his father Irish. They operated a bookstore in Brookline, Massachusetts, which was a meeting place for radicals. They were known as revolutionaries. Irving developed a sense that all the events around him were the results of a great conspiracy. A childhood incident caused him to establish his career goal early in life. He wanted to become a New York City policeman.
Constance grew up in Boardman, Ohio with her mother. She came from a wealthy family. The family went through the money on gambling, drinking, and other vices before Constance had the advantage of an inheritance.
Following high-school graduation all three of the protagonists enroll in Youngstown State University. Fraternity hazing, secondary roles in drama, part-time jobs, and constant put downs by classmates continue to shape their personalities, philosophies, and quirks. 
In a casual campus encounter, Seymour, Irving, and Constance discover that they are all planning to head for New York City after receiving their college diplomas: Seymour to become a veterinarian, Irving to attend police academy, and Constance to become a Rockette.
In a unique way Moffie weaves together the lives of these three very different individuals in a complex story with psychological twists that touch the emotions, through humor, tragedy, and reality. Broken dreams, disappointment, dysfunctional personalities, and difficult circumstances continually confront the three protagonists.

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Money Belt


Alan Robertson
Outskirts Press (2008)
ISBN 9781432727352
Reviewed by Tyler R. Tichelaar for Reader Views (12/08)

I was very excited to read "The Money Belt" because it is set in my hometown of Marquette, Michigan even though the description of the story sounded far-fetched when I first read it. However, not only did the author do an excellent job of making it clear where all the action was set—for anyone familiar with Marquette, Michigan—but he built an entertaining plot full of colorful characters that made it difficult to put the book down.
The story begins when Willie Salo, a drinking, pot-smoking, partying, womanizing fellow finds a money belt at the local dump. He soon gets the idea to use the belt to create a bomb he can attach to a wealthy man so he can make that person do whatever he wants, primarily get him millions of dollars. He tells his ex-girlfriend, Carmen, about his plan, hoping it will make her come back to him. Carmen is married to a wealthy man but she only married him for his money and would rather be with Willie. Once Willie has the money, she plans to spend her days with the man she loves. Together the two of them quickly scheme and take their opportunity when it presents itself.
Through a series of mishaps for several people in the Marquette area, Willie has the chance he has been awaiting when a wealthy man ends up in a dumpster at the Flat Squirrel Bar. From that point, the plot thickens with many twists and turns along the twisting turning road to Big Bay that involves a logging truck losing its load on the highway, a bank president being framed, and an airplane pilot finding love. I won't summarize the plot more because it will give away too much of the suspense regarding what happens to all the characters.
While the plot of "The Money Belt" may be a bit far-fetched, readers will enjoy this escapist story and even come to feel a bit of fondness for the main characters, despite their less than moral or likeable personalities. Robertson is a master at keeping the plot moving and the reader interested. With a couple exceptions, he writes short fast-paced chapters, and without giving too much detail, he provides believable character portraits that make the characters' motivations always clear. Anyone who loves a good story, especially one with many twists and turns will love this book. My only complaint is that the ending was left a bit open—a sign I hope that Alan Robertson will write a sequel to "The Money Belt" because I want to know what happened next for the characters.
I hope for more entertaining books from Robertson's pen. His first book, "The Money Belt" is definitely first notch in its genre.

Authors Access: 30 Success Secrets for Authors and Publishers


Edited by Irene Watson, Tyler R. Tichelaar, Victor R. Volkman
Modern History Press (2009)
ISBN 9781932690989
Reviewed by Vicki Landes for Reader Views (11/08)

Not too long ago, the only way to obtain the coveted title of 'author' was to sign with a traditional publishing company…and that was only for the extremely lucky ones.  The hopeful author spent a great deal of time writing query letters, contacting agents and editors, nervously waiting for replies, and knowing there are many more 'no thanks' in this business than 'welcome to the team.'  With the advent of self-publishing, the industry has literally exploded with hundreds of thousands of books on every imaginable subject.  But when everyone from your grandma to your neighbor's cat has the ability to publish a book, what can you do to ensure yours stands out above the rest?  Editors Irene Watson, Tyler R. Tichelaar, and Victor R. Volkman believe they have the answers.
"Authors Access: 30 Success Secrets for Authors and Publishers" is a compilation of podcast interviews of award-winning authors, editors, publishers, publicists, business owners, consultants, freelance writers, and book reviewers.  Within 200+ pages, they guide the prospective writer through many of the obstacles faced and common mistakes made in DIY publishing while making certain the finished product is as marketable as those published by established publishing companies.  Further, and as many new authors come to realize, there is just as much work after your book has been published.  "Authors Access" continues to provide sound information on promotion, obtaining book reviews, hiring a publicist, and making the most of today's technological advances.  
With an already innumerable amount of publishing how-to books on the market today, what makes "Authors Access" so special?  Consider this:  most of these types of books are written by one, sometimes two or even a small group of experts in a specific field of the greater publishing world.  This person, whether a published author, editor, or agent has extensive experience doing whatever it is that they do best.  However, their how-to books are limited to their road to victory.  Want a second opinion on how to be a publishing success?  Read another book…and another and another.  With "Author Access," you have the advice, the techniques, and the proven track record of many professionals from all aspects of the business…and in one concise book.  Additionally, there is a natural flow to the book; organized and edited in such a way that there is seamless cohesion despite the number of different 'expert voices' sounding out. 
"Authors Access: 30 Success Secrets for Authors and Publishers" is a must-read for any first time writer or self-published author looking to improve their skills.  As a self-published author myself, I've got lists of 'mistakes made' and 'lessons learned' from my experience.  As I read "Authors Access" I kept finding myself saying, "Oh, great idea!" or "I wish I'd thought of that before."  My lists are now being supplemented with 'here's what to do next time.'  There's a wealth of information in these pages; enough to keep you motivated and on the right track without bogging you down in 'information overload.' 
Although self-publishing has allowed many writers to fulfill their dreams, it has also inundated the industry with books considered substandard and unmarketable to traditional publishers.  Many wide-eyed, naïve authors have taken advantage of the opportunity to self-publish and their efforts have turned into an expensive disappointment.  Within "Authors Access: 30 Success Secrets for Authors and Publishers," you've got experts and their invaluable knowledge at your disposal.  Editors Irene Watson, Tyler R. Tichelaar, and Victor R. Volkman do have the answers!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Dear Anaïs: My Life in Poems for You


Diana M. Raab
Plain View Press (2008)
ISBN 9781891386411
Reviewed by Irene Watson for Reader Views
Diana M. Raab is an artist with words as she creates a tribute to late diarist Anaïs Nin, whose journals span several decades and profoundly explore insight into her personal life and relationships. Although Raab had never met her, she admires her work and offers a tribute, not only to the diaries but to Anaïs Nin herself.
Paralleling lives, Nin and Raab both started journaling at a young age as a healing process for losses in their lives.  Now Raab shares her writing with readers, not only to express her own thoughts and feelings but to encourage the reader to look within themselves and find comfort and peace. 
I found every poem of great meaning to me and resonated with much of Raab's writing.  I particularly liked "Luggage":
From our past
We carry
Rusty cars
Holey socks
Leaky pens…
Caked soap dishes…
Scratched sunglasses…
TV dinners with uneaten vegetables…
And dreams of unknown futures.
I smiled as I read this piece and read it again.  How true.  We carry many memories of things like leaky pens and probably remember how many times the ink was smeared on our clothes or hands because we didn't notice the pen was leaking – such mundane memories yet those we remember with significance. And, we always hang on to "the dreams of unknown futures" putting as much time and energy into the thoughts, dreaming of experiences we are to have, as we did with the leaky pen.
Diana M. Raab is a miracle worker with words.  Every piece she's sharing with us reflects intimacy and her personal memories. "Dear Anaïs" is not only her life in poems for herself, but for us, the reader, to put our lives into her words and reflect.  Poignant.

A Gift of Hope: 52 Ways to Live a Better Life


Shadonna Richards, R.N.
Infinity Publishing (2009)
ISBN 9780741451675
Reviewed by Irene Watson for Reader Views

Shadonna Richards, a Canadian registered nurse, freelance writer and former newspaper columnist, has put together a simple but concise book on how to live a better life.  As a nurse working with terminally ill cancer patients, who are told they have only six months to live, she was inspired to write empowering words of wisdom.  Richards also interviewed many individuals for her newspaper columns, thus compiling inspirational stories to encourage us to look at our own lives, makes changes as necessary, and to live a fulfilled life. Although her resources are Canadian, the concept of her book is global and I'm sure readers will find similar resources in their respective countries and areas.
"A Gift of Hope" is designed to be used as a workbook, with each week having an exercise to be done daily. For example, the first week starts with "Stay Mentally Fit."  The text talks about the stresses in our lives and then gives exercises. The first exercise for the first week is to "Identify, then rectify."  Richards says "A crucial part of any solution is locating the problem. Do worries keep you up at night? Go directly to the source of your tension."  The second exercise for the first week is "Detox Your Mind."  Richards says "We always have a choice. We can choose to dwell on being hopeless in situations or dwell on having hope."
The second week covers "Dare to Dream:  Believe that Anything is Possible" and captures president-elect Barrack Obama's "Yes We Can" powerful slogan. Using his story and his dreams, Richards iterates that our dreams can become reality if we persist and believe.
Other weeks cover topics like: Understand That Money Isn't Everything, Reach out to those in Need, and Be the Friend You Desire to Have.  For the purpose of this review I didn't have the opportunity to test the system for a full 52 weeks; however, being a student and teacher of transformation, I know it works.  Shadonna Richards has provided a book, "A Gift of Hope," to take us to a higher level of consciousness, a place where we can manage our personal lives with ease and contentment.

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