Monday, February 23, 2009

More Than a Memory: Reflections of Viet Nam


Victor R. Volkman, Editor
Modern History Press (2008)
ISBN 9781932690644
Reviewed by Dr. Michael Philliber for Reader Views (11/08)


Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD) is the new kid on the block, or is it? Certainly, the diagnostic category may be new, but the emotionally tumultuous concoction behind it seems to have been around since the dawn of human consciousness. Victor Volkman has compiled a bundle of stories and poems from Viet Nam veterans who are struggling with PTSD, for decades now, after their involvement in combat. "More Than a Memory: Reflections of Viet Nam" is part of the Reflections of History series put out by Modern History Press. This short, 221-page paperback dossier places in the reader's hand a bundle of firsthand accounts on the personally harrowing struggles of over 15 authors, in the form of narrative and verse.
The one major theme that gradually dawns on the reader is that almost every writer in "More Than a Memory" is rehearsing their battle with PTSD. From hyper-vigilance and anger to depression and self-medicating drug abuse, each participant bares their bleeding soul. Many of the accounts are about the gruesome events of combat, loss of friends, violent actions of fellow GIs under constant stress, individual fear, the absurdity of leadership decisions, and numerous regretful events that still feed on the writers' psyches. These veteran combat soldiers and Marines bring out the grueling and gory death they lived through, in brusque and harsh detail. These are not sissies! These are men who need relief, who want release, and some of whom have finally found reprieve.
If there is any aspect that detracts from the theme of "More Than a Memory" it is the short piece promoting the left-leaning American Servicemen's Union (ASU).  With this article smack in the center of the book it taints the whole work. If the volume has not been pulled together to show the 'rightness' of the ASU, then this particular chapter deflects from the real theme of the manuscript. Either way, this section turns "More Than a Memory" in directions probably not intended by the editor or the writers.
Overall, this is an important resource for those professionals or family members trying to help combat veterans struggling with PTSD. It may also be a step closer to healing for those veterans wondering what is happening to them, who worry if they're normal, and where might they go for help. I highly recommend "More Than a Memory."

Handwriting for Heroes: Learn to Write with Your Non-Dominant Hand in Six Weeks


Kathleen E. Yancosek & Kristin Gulick
Loving Healing Press (2009)
ISBN 9781932690699
Reviewed by Carol Hoyer, PhD, for Reader Views (12/08)


The authors have written a very exceptional workbook to help those individuals with dominant-hand problems regain their writing skills. Both authors state that this gives adults the opportunity to make positive changes in their life by utilizing well-designed, adult material and not children's coloring books.
Each chapter is filled with repetitive exercises that will increase one's fine-motor control and wrist stabilization. There are six chapters as well as a Certificate of Completion. In each chapter there are therapist tips, which include exercises, information about posture, utilizing scissors and the necessity of having good lighting.  The authors have provided homework assignments that are easily done in the convenience of one's home while watching TV, reading or visiting.
I believe as the authors do, it is important that individuals utilizing this workbook experience positive outcomes. Each chapter is built off the previous one. If a person doesn't understand something, or needs additional help, it is suggested that they go to the website and speak to a therapist. I found the exercises and lessons interesting, easy to understand and use. There are many people who cannot afford therapy for extended periods of time or are embarrassed about the limited use of their dominant hand. This excellent workbook, "Handwriting for Heroes, by Yancosek and Gulick, is for them.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Awakening Consciousness: A Girl’s Guide!


Robin Marvel
Loving Healing Press (2009)
ISBN 9781932690804
Reviewed by Brenna Bales (age 10) for Reader Views (12/08)


When I first started reading "Awakening Consciousness" I had a very different perspective on life. Reading this inspirational guide can actually cleanse out a lot of the bad thoughts you may be having in your life. The exercises and meditations that the author outlines in the book can have an almost purifying effect on your soul, filtering out feelings of hurt or discomfort.
The exercises in particular spiritually "work" all of your "chakras." Chakras are the spinning centers of energy at the bottom of your spine, and end at the top of your head.  Your body feels lighter and more at peace after doing them. Several of the chapters include game-like activities which are very enjoyable and interesting to do.
I would definitely rate the book a 5 out of 5.  This book sparked something inside of me that I had never felt before. The exercises in the book can wash out feelings of uneasiness, worry or tension, and they can be done anytime you feel upset.
The book was very engaging right from the beginning. It has some unique concepts that other books do not discuss. It gives some practical ways to guide the reader through spiritual movement.
If readers come from traditional Christian, Jewish, or Muslim backgrounds, they may not be as open to receiving the information outlined by the author. The book focuses on teaching how to connect with your inner being and/or consciousness, and generally leaves out techniques found in the Bible and other religious works.
I was extremely eager to read the book the moment after I received it. The book just looked like it had some secret waiting inside for me to discover.  I would recommend "Awakening Consciousness: A Girl's Guide!" by Robin Marvel to anyone looking to explore new ideas about their spirituality.

Taking the Sea: Perilous Waters, Sunken Ships, and the True Story of the Legendary Wrecker Captains


Dennis M. Powers
ISBN 9780814413531
Reviewed by Richard R. Blake for Reader Views (12/08)

"Taking the Sea" is the fourth in Dennis M. Powers' celebrated maritime narratives.  Research on his book "Sentinel of the Seas" triggered Powers' curiosity about the ships used during the building of the St. George Reef Lighthouse, and about the colorful Captain Thomas P. H. Whitelaw and other master wreckers. The book describes an era when shipping was the dominant form of transportation throughout the world. Powers writes about the courage, achievement, risks and the challenges these men faced.
Powers delved into the records of maritime museums, libraries, newspapers, and magazine articles to bring together the facts for the stories for this project. He supplemented this information with interviews and genealogical records.
The account begins in 1863 when, as a sixteen-year-old seaman, Tom Whitelaw, arrived in San Francisco. The book covers his career of over sixty years. Powers documents detailed descriptions of Whitelaw's most memorable salvaging projects, including: The Rosecrans, the Respigerdo, the Umatilla, the Dumbarton, and the Blaimore.
Tom's grandson Ken shared intimate insights into the family life of his grandparents and of his personal career with Whitelaw & Company.
Articles in the Literary Digest, American Magazine, Popular Mechanics, and Sunset Magazine all have featured various aspects of Whitelaw's story. His divers made 17,000 dives while Whitelaw's salvage operations saved over 289 ships.
In addition to Thomas P. H. Whitelaw, Powers includes stories of other colorful divers and wreckers, like Dynamite Johnny, Martin Lund, T. A. Scott, William E. Chapman, and Israel J. Merritt. He tells of wrecking and salvaging phenomenon's from the Bering Sea and the coast of Alaska, up and down the western coastline of Canada and United Sates and on the East Coast from Canada to the waters of the Florida Keys, and the islands of the Bahamas.  I especially enjoyed the story of a ghost ship, the City of Columbus.
Detailed background on Maritime Law and its evolution include specific judgments, appeals, and settlements between, Ship Owners, Insurance Companies, and the Wreckers.
An amazing collection of photographs dramatically reinforce Powers' narrative. The scope of his selected bibliography gives evidence of the background reading and specific research that has gone into the preparation of this book and which so deftly qualify Powers to compile this chronicle.
Powers' writing is imaginative, informative, and motivational. He is a gifted story teller. His descriptions are strong and powerful. He paints word pictures of wave explosions, ferocious storm conditions, and the devastating loss of lives. I could almost feel the tension of the octopus gripping my leg, squeezing my arm, and throttling my throat in an underwater wrestling match.
"Taking the Sea" by Dennis M. Powers will be enjoyed by anyone understanding the call of the deep, lured by maritime adventure, and tales of an almost forgotten era in history when Spanish galleons, steam schooners, and tall masted sailing ships gave fortitude to commerce and industry.

Monday, February 9, 2009

The “O, MY” in Tonsillectomy & Adenoidectomy: How to Prepare Your Child for Surgery (Book #3 in the Growing with Love Series)


Laurie Zelinger, PhD, RPT-S
Loving Healing Press (2008)
ISBN 9781932690743
Reviewed by Danelle Drake for Reader Views (12/08)

When I was a little girl growing up in the 70s, having your tonsils taken out was something that went right along with starting school.  I could not wait until it was my turn.  The surgery, I had no idea about; but, afterward was pay-dirt from what my playmates said.  Just about every child in my development had the opportunity to indulge in the ice cream and pudding for three meals per day for at least a week.  After my turn finally came and I enjoyed the goodies it was someone else's turn for the good stuff.  After that we all grew up and became adults and had children of our own. That is just about the time I was hit in the face with a brick.  These precious little ones did not come with instruction manuals.  You were handed your little bundle of joy and out the hospital doors you went into the world of parenthood.  The first chance I had I went and purchased every parenting book I could get my hands on.  Some were very practical and some were far from. 
"The 'O, MY' in Tonsillectomy & Adenoidectomy: How to Prepare Your Child for Surgery" is a great tool to help you understand what will be happening to your child, why they are performing the surgery, and what you need to know to be better prepared in caring for your child after the surgery is performed.  "The Ultimate Preparation List" and "Caregiver's Organizer," which are included, make it easy to have yourself prepared so you can focus all of your attention on your child.  Regardless of the time-frame you are dealing with for the upcoming surgery, "The "O, MY" in Tonsillectomy & Adenoidectomy" will take you from several months away or days away and lead you through the path to make the surgery non-traumatic for your child. 
Laurie Zelinger, PhD, RPT-S has provided us with the first-hand experience she had with her own child to better prepare us for the experience with our own child.  "The 'O, My' in Tonsillectomy & Adenoidectomy" is a must for each parents "how-to" library and will be very beneficial when the time comes.

Saffron Dreams


Shaila Abdullah
Modern History Press (2009)
ISBN 9781932690736
Reviewed by Olivera Baumgartner-Jackson for Reader Views (10/08) 

Arissa Illahi, a Pakistani woman living in New York, has it all - a loving husband, the freedom to pursue the work she enjoys, good friends, understanding family and a child on the way. Then one fateful morning her life shatters – the World Trade Center in NYC collapses in a terrorist attack, and takes with it Faizan, Arissa's husband. Arissa's world will never be the same. Not only has she lost her soulmate, her beloved husband and the father of the unborn child, but she suddenly finds herself in a world where she is perceived as an enemy just for being a Muslim.
There are books that are beautiful simply because they are so positive and pleasant. And there are those that manage to be beautiful in spite of the pain and the suffering and the heartbreak contained within. Shaila Abdullah's "Saffron Dreams" is both. Her writing is mesmerizing. On one hand it feels like a classically cut diamond – precise, sparkling, blindingly beautiful, but also incredibly sharp. On the other hand her writing reminds me of a dish I've often had traveling in India – a thali. Yes, I am very well aware of the fact that the author is Pakistani and not Indian, but many of the foods she mentioned in the book reminded me a lot of India, and that is probably why I thought of thali. Thali is usually a round metal tray with many compartments, each containing a different item, such as rice, dhal, different vegetables and curries, chutney, yoghurt and something sweet to finish. Each of those items complements or contrasts the others to perfection, and together they are some of the best food I've ever tasted. This is the way I feel about "Saffron Dreams."  It was comforting, it was funny, it was spicy; and then heartbreaking, full of despair, filled with hope, amazingly fresh and vibrant and satisfying. Following Arissa's story makes the reader realize how little most of us know and understand the world of Muslims, and how incredibly wrong so many of our perceptions are.
If you are looking for a tender love story, you'll find it here. If you are curious about how people live, love and laugh in another culture, you are in for a treat. If you want to read about overcoming challenges, your wish will be granted. If it is simply beauty that you are searching for, you'll find it in abundance in "Saffron Dreams" by Shaila Abdullah.  This is a book I would highly recommend to anybody who loves beautifully written and intelligent contemporary prose, especially to the readers who are curious and open minded, and to those who enjoy stories with strong female characters.
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Monday, February 2, 2009

The TrailFolk of Xunar-kun: Book Two in the Tellings of Xunar-kun


Tina Field Howe
TrailFolk Publishing (2008)
ISBN 9780976858546
Reviewed by Olivera Baumgartner-Jackson for Reader Views (10/08) 


Tina Field Howe's "The TrailFolk of Xunar-kun" is the second in the "Tellings of Xunar-kun" series and a worthy sequel to the wonderful "Alysa of the Fields." Just like the first book in the series, it is set on a planet Xunar-kun, some 3000 years after a catastrophic event, referred to as the Cat'clysm, which wiped out most of the planet's population.
Alysa, a young girl belonging to the Field Folk, met Szaren, who belongs to the Trailmen, in Book One. In Book Two, the two of them have been "paired" for a while, which is the Xunar-kun's folks equivalent of being married; and searching for the Parents of Orphans, a bunch of children rescued in Book One. Their quest brings them further and further from their dwellings, deep in the so-far-unexplored lands.
Fraught with peril and unforeseen complications, the quest for Parents is suddenly stopped, when the Seekers encounter Trakip-sèn and his people. They lead the Seekers to believe that they are the Parents everybody has been searching for, and enthusiastically head back to meet the Orphans. Once there, they show little interest in the children, and gradually the truth emerges. Who are they really and what brought them to the village?
I've thoroughly enjoyed the story of the quest and even more so the developments between the two clans, the Field Folk and the Trailmen. As the story progressed, we learned more about how the two clans started to get closer to each other, both by learning about each other's customs and history as well as by more of the clan members falling in love with the members of the other clan. Tina Field Howe teaches crucial lessons in tolerance and understanding, as well as importance of being brave and open to change. Her characters are very believable and overall very likeable, with the exception of a couple of nearly perfect villains. The story moves swiftly and draws one in from the first page.
As much as I liked the characters in the story, I liked the locale even more. The world of Xunar-kun is exceptionally well drawn and in a way one of the central "characters." It should remind the readers a lot of our world; but it also points out some things that could bring destruction to what we cherish and love, if the fundamentals of our beliefs were to be forgotten or ignored. I would like to point the readers' attention to the story of "Orryn's Lantern" and its significance. I do not want to give too much away here, but paying particular attention to that part of the story would be a great idea.
Tina Field Howe's "The TrailFolk of Xunar-kun" by Tina Field Howe was another delightful and worthwhile read from a very talented and unique author. Although geared to young adults, those of us who remain curious and willing to learn should enjoy it greatly as well. A perfect read for a cold winter afternoon, the kindness of this story should warm you up nicely.

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The Whole Youth Worker: Advice on Professional, Personal, and Physical Wellness in the Trenches


Jason Tucker
Loving Healing Press (2009)
ISBN 9781932690811
Reviewed by Rev. Michael Philliber, PhD, for Reader Views (12/08)


The allure of youth work can quickly fade, especially when there is very little direction on what to do and how to get it done. Jay Tucker has pulled together his eight years of experience into a short manual, "The Whole Youth Worker: Advice on Professional, Personal, and Physical Wellness in the Trenches," that will help guide most youth workers around the dangerous curves and out of the sinkholes of youth ministry. This short, 148-page, readable paperback, has very valuable, sensible, workable counsel that most every person who works with teenagers in an ecclesiastical setting ought to read.
"The Whole Youth Worker" covers a wide range of subjects in 21 succinct chapters. The author lays out solid ground rules for any Church youth program, while avoiding the air of regulatory bullheadedness. Simple things like how to set up and run a "Lock-In", how to keep yourself emotionally and physically healthy, and how to manage the inevitable romances between youth group participants. The realistic approach Tucker takes is the stuff most youth workers have never heard and want to know.
One of the greatest strengths of "The Whole Youth Worker" is the pithiness of each content-full section. Tucker could have sacrificed subject matter to keep the material accessible, but instead he has crafted a delightful balance of substance with shortness. That makes this an easily digested handbook for any busy Minister of Youth out there, while making it a worthwhile guide.
If you're a Senior Pastor wondering what to give your Youth Minister to help them negotiate this important work, or if you're a youth worker trying to figure out what to do and not to do, or if you're thinking about becoming a Youth Minister of some kind, then "The Whole Youth Worker" by Jay Tucker is the book to get.