Monday, April 27, 2009

Life Without Jealousy: A Practical Guide

Lynda Bevan
Loving Healing Press (2009)
ISBN 9781932690859
Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views (3/09)

"Life Without Jealousy" is the fourth book in the 10-Step Empowerment series. It is a practical guide to help you to overcome jealousy.  The first step in dealing with jealousy is learning to understand what it is and common reasons of why it occurs.  For myself, I discovered that I most often encounter this negative emotion when I am feeling insecure because I feel my relationship is being threatened.  Being aware of this will really help me recognize the signs earlier on, which in turn will help me deal with the emotion before I start back into my old negative patterns.  Upon reflection, I realized that I would have benefited from ending relationships much sooner where my emotional needs were not being met. 

I found the discussion on the difference between jealousy and envy to be very enlightening.  I decided that I would no longer tell people that "I am jealous or envious" of something that they have, even if I mean it in a joking way.  It really puts some negative emotions out there.  I want to try to completely remove myself from these mindsets.

The third step in the program discusses over ten types of jealousy.  For myself, I have always been most affected regarding relationship jealousy. It is wonderful that more types are discussed.  This will allow everyone who is experiencing some form of jealousy to benefit from what they read in these pages.  Also of great benefit are the introspective questions that are in each chapter.  As I read the material, I gained a greater understanding of the subject, and then by contemplating the questions, I was able to see how the information applied to me.  Beneficial, realistic suggestions are also offered.  At the end of the book is an appendix with emergency contacts and a bibliography which readers can refer to for more information.

I truly feel that every individual who is dealing with issues of some form of jealousy will greatly benefit from reading "Life Without Jealousy" by Lynda Bevan.  This includes people who are not jealous themselves but are being affected by others who are. Learning to understand it, overcome it, and gain effective new ways to communicate will greatly improve the quality of our lives.

Lemon Curd

Homa Pourasgari
Linbrook Press (2008)
ISBN 9780977978007
Reviewed by Carol Hoyer, PhD, for Reader Views (3/09)

Ms. Pourasgari has written an exceptional book about relationships, assumptions and controlling individuals. Her first novel is well written and very easy to read. As readers you will be able to relate to her story.

Anna Lisa Gibson works at a highly-regarded marketing firm and likes to be in control in her work atmosphere. Her boyfriend also works for the firm. Believing that all is going smoothly, she finds that her boss is sending someone in from the London office to help her with a large account. Not only does she feel that he is saying she can't handle the job, she resents the fact that she has to share this job with this interloper.

As she works on her anger she goes to a market to get lemon curd, her stress reliever and finds there is only one bottle left and she can't reach it. A tall young man comes in and takes the last bottle. She gets very upset and demands that he give it to her as she saw it first. This leads to a little verbal argument.

Her boyfriend Paul is attentive, but something is missing and she can't quite put her finger on it. No one in her family or office like him- they feel he is using her and is very flirtatious with other females. Although in her mind she has some questions about their relationship, she doesn't feel concerned.

When her new working partner shows up to work, it is none other than the horrible man who stole her lemon curd and sparks begin to fly. She finds him stuffy, arrogant and yet he is attractive.

"Lemon Curd" by Homa Pourasgari is a down-to-earth romance novel, that all can relate to. It is very captivating from the first page. Each reader will be able to understand how relationships can be confusing and harmful, yet we tend to ignore the warning signs.

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Monday, April 20, 2009

First Night

Tom Weston
Tom Weston Media (2008)
ISBN 9780981941301
Reviewed by Neha N. Kashmiri (age 14) for Reader Views Kids (3/09)

In Boston, in 1688, Sarah Pemberton dies of smallpox. More than 300 years later, her ghost wakes up in a world that she can't understand. Luckily, she runs into (or through, actually) Alex and Jackie O'Rourke, two San Diego girls stuck in the cold city for the New Year.

Apparently, everyone can see and hear Sarah and assume that she is a colonial re-enactor. After Alex and Jackie show Sarah around, they find out that Sarah is looking for an advocate to defend her in a witch trial where the accusers are the ones closest to her. Jackie, always impulsive, agrees to defend Sarah; as soon as she does both the sisters find they are wrapped up in a mystery that is not so easy to solve. Can they save the 17th century ghost from damnation? Or, more importantly can they save her from herself?

Tom Weston is really good with providing information, while still keeping track of a good storyline. Basically, "First Night" is a sort of paranormal mystery with a lot of history thrown in. If you like reading about the Salem Witch Trials, this is a good book with tons of information.

Listen to interview with Tom Weston on Inside Scoop Live

Of Words & Music

Lynda Fitzgerald
Five Star/Gale/Cengage (2009)
ISBN 9781594147760
Reviewed by Olivera Baumgartner-Jackson for Reader Views

Music, the universal language. . . . transcending the borders of language, culture, religion, and even age. Music has the power to connect and to heal. Music has the power to make us look at ourselves and really see. If one decides to not only listen to the music, but to create it by playing it, one will invariably become more persistent, more disciplined and better equipped to deal with life's challenges.

Lynda Fitzgerald uses music masterly in her new book, "Of Words & Music." When a rather sour widow in her sixties, Lilah Kimball, discovers that her estranged daughter Elizabeth had been killed in an accident, she is also confronted with the existence of a grandchild that she knew nothing about. Bethany Freemont, Elizabeth's twelve-year-old daughter, is an orphan now. Her father died several years ago and Lilah and her son are the only known relatives that Bethany has. Lilah is not keen on taking the child in, but she finally consents to a trial-run during the summer months. She warns her housekeeper and best friend, Marabet, that this is a strictly temporary arrangement, since she has no intent to keep Bethany. Slowly Lilah develops real feelings for Bethany, greatly aided in that endeavor by the music lessons she shares with her granddaughter, lessons that bring back many memories of her daughter Elizabeth as well. As soon as the things seem to be working out for Lilah and Bethany, a secret from Bethany's past surfaces and threatens to shatter the still fragile, barely emerging family ties. Can they overcome this new challenge?

Lynda Fitzgerald wrote a beautiful, very touching story about family, love and healing. Her characters are vibrant and complex; their motivations are always explained in a believable manner. Her insightful approach to them makes the readers feel like they really got to know Lilah, Bethany, Marabet and even a bunch of side characters, such as Lilah's son Charles and his wife Lesa, Lilah's attorney and friend, Tom, and the social worker Felicity and her beau Elliot. The interactions between the characters are animated and interesting. The challenges they all face are real, and many a reader will find her- or himself in some of them. "Of Words & Music" delivers an important message: life is not fair and bad things do happen to good people, but we all have the power to turn things into something positive, if we only want to do so.

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Monday, April 13, 2009

For the Love of Dogs

Suzanne Woods Fisher
Vintage (2009)
ISBN 9780981559292
Reviewed by Olivera Baumgartner-Jackson for Reader Views (2/09) 

I've always thought that good writing in many ways resembles a magic trick. Just think about it – a flick of the wrist with a magic wand and a white rabbit emerges from the previously empty top hat… a flick of the wrist while turning a page and one can plunge into a totally new and different world, one whose existence was a total mystery before.

Suzanne Woods Fisher's "For the Love of Dogs" is an encouraging and deeply wise book. It's a book which teaches you how to put things in perspective, how balance matters most and how good things can emerge from events that look desperately horrible at first. It is a book about love, about forgiveness, about wisdom in many forms and first and foremost, it's a book about trust.

Samantha and Kathleen, the twins who were raised by their grandparents while their parents worked as missionaries, are doing quite well, managing The Running Deer, a ranch devoted to the production of olive oil. It's the days of Woodstock and the man first landing on the moon, so the benefits of the olive oil are not so well known yet. In spite of that, the ranch is getting a lot of national recognition and even receives a couple of important awards. While on the surface all looks smooth, there are a lot of undercurrents threatening to destroy the idyll. First of them is Samantha's near blindness, which is progressing rapidly. While Samantha manages nicely with the help of a cane, she is all too well aware that one day soon the last shreds of her vision will be gone, yet she refuses to get a service dog. Her new neighbor, Jack, who trains them, is just too annoying for words, and she will not admit that she needs help. After finally giving in and learning to trust – and what a hard lesson that was! – Samantha returns to the ranch and finds it in utter turmoil. Her twin has a miscarriage and sinks into deep depression, her beloved grandmother, Nonna, is clearly getting befuddled and her brother-in-law, Pete, is being threatened by two hoodlums. It will take a lot of courage, wisdom and even more trust for Samantha to disentangle the twisted mess and see the things as they really are.

In addition to the well constructed and multi-layered story, which drew me in within minutes, it was the author's strength in creating strong, likeable and well-rounded characters. Nobody's too good to be believable, and everybody shows at least some weaknesses. Each of them has a distinctive voice, which goes double for the sweet Etienne Number Five, the elderly Frenchwoman who delivers one of the most important messages in the book, "Everyzing iz a matter of balanz." The characters are so well built that I found myself even feeling sorry for the two hoodlums. Who could not feel sorry for somebody this inept?

I would love to see more books by Suzanne Woods Fisher in the future. Her messages about courage, trust in God, trust in others and keeping things in balance are important for all of us, and listening to them would make this world a better and sometimes easier place to live in.  "For the Love of Dogs" is an encouraging and deeply wise book.

Listen to interview with Suzanne Woods Fisher on Inside Scoop Live

Legacy of the Archbishop: Volume 3 of The Myrridian Cycle

Debra Killeen
Helm Publishing (2009)
ISBN 9780982060513
Reviewed by Ron Standerfer for Reader Views (4/09)

It is a case of power run amok, pure and simple; and unless Aldric, a consummate purveyor of black magic is stopped, life in the Kingdom of Myrridia will never be the same, and thousands of innocent lives will be lost.  This is the basic premise of Debra Killeen's latest book, a gripping and well written work of fiction and fantasy entitled "Legacy of the Archbishop."

The setting for this tale is during the Eleventh Century, presumably in England, although the countries described all have mythical names.  In that context, the dialogues and descriptions of everyday customs and habits ring true enough. But wait!  A few of the characters are heard using slang that is decidedly 21st Century.  Could it be that the author stumbled into a time warp and   momentarily lost her bearings?  Or, are there some time travelers enmeshed in the plot?  As it turns out, it is the latter, much to my relief.

The book drew me into the story immediately, although I confess that it took me a while to sort out all the characters.  There are a lot of them, after all.  But is that a bad thing?  Not really.  I've had that problem for years reading books written by the likes of Tolstoy and Chekhov.  Meanwhile, the story took me for a colorful ride amongst all the things that make for a good yarn, namely: lies, betrayals, deceit, murder, violence, love, romance, and even a little bit of sex. If I missed anything on that list, it was probably there too!

As the tale unfolds and Aldric has his way wreaking murder and mayhem wherever he goes, it becomes evident that he must stopped - But when, how, and by whom?  Aldric's powers are enormous, and appear to come from the Devil himself.  Some have the courage to confront him, but not the magical powers; while others have the power but perhaps not the courage.  In the end, it falls on Bishop Edward Fitzroy, the Primate of Myrridia and an old seminary rival of Aldric's, to face him in a confrontation where the magical powers of each will be tested in a final battle between the forces of good and evil, a contest that is arduous, surreal, and richly described by the author.  So who wins this epic battle?  The good guy?  Don't be so sure.  You need to read the book to find out.

Book reviewers use the term "a good read" a lot; but what does that term really mean?  To me, a good read is any book that pushes me firmly into my easy chair and refuses to let me get up, even when it is bedtime.  "Legacy of the Archbishop," by Debra Killeen is the third of a series that will run for a total of five books and that is a very good thing for her readers.  It is a good read by my standards and I suspect it will be a good read by your standards as well.

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Monday, April 6, 2009

Saved From Silence: My Journey Back from a Childhood of Abuse

Amanda Richardson
iUniverse (2009)
ISBN 9780595524440
Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views (3/09)

In "Saved From Silence," Amanda breaks her silence and tells us her story about her abusive childhood.  She and her brother were physically abused by her father, and she was also sexually abused.  Amanda's abuse began at an early age.  Her father manipulated her into believing that she had very little self-worth.  When she went to her mother about the sexual abuse, she was devastated when her mother didn't believe her.  This made her believe that no one else would believe her as well. 

Amanda's story is painful to read.  It is sad to see an innocent soul being forced to endure what she went through.  She really gained my admiration with the steps that she took to help herself.  Both Amanda and her brother went through a great deal of trauma.  It angered me to see that her mother was ineffective in dealing with their abuse.  I am so grateful to her for sharing her story.  She will help so many people on their paths to healing.  For children of sexual abuse, it is hard to gain a strong self-esteem when you are dealing with a parent that puts their own sexual needs before the welfare of their child.  If our parents don't show us love and respect, it is hard to expect it from others.  I am really glad that Amanda found a strong support system with her husband, his family and an aunt.

Amanda worked hard to get away from her family.  She married a wonderful man, who I believe helped her to believe in her self.  When she began experiencing depression, her doctor convinced her to seek therapy.  Fortunately, she found a very good therapist who understood her issues.  Like many survivors of abuse, Amanda tried to maintain a relationship with her mother, in spite of her unwillingness to accept what happened.  As Amanda goes through her therapy and begins healing, she learns about how her abuse has affected her as an adult.  This includes gaining an understanding of Disassociative Disorder and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  Amanda's ability to persevere and talk about what happened with friends and relatives also helps her with her healing and to do what she needs to do for herself.

I think that survivors of abuse will find similarities in their experiences as compared to Amanda's.  Every story is different, but the feeling of shames, worthlessness and the fear that you will not be believed is common.  Amanda also mentioned seeing something evil in her father's eyes while he was abusing her.  For myself, I refer to this as "the creature."  I have spoken to other people have also reported seeing the same thing in their abuser's eyes.  I think that these similarities will help other people know that they are not alone.

In addition to her story, Amanda also offers sobering statistics about the prevalence of abuse and resources to help other find help.  I really think that "Saved From Silence" by Amanda Richardson is a must-read for survivors of abuse, their loved ones and health professionals.  I hold a tremendous amount of admiration for Amanda's willingness to share her story so that others can be helped.

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The Year of No Money in Tokyo

Wayne Lionel Aponte
Watkins and McKay, LLC (2009)
ISBN 9780982055007
Reviewed by Ron Standerfer for Reader Views (12/08)

As an American who once lived and worked in Tokyo during the go-go years of the 1980s, I've often wondered what life was like in the 1990s when the bottom fell out of the economy and Japan endured the worst recession since World War II. Surely, I thought, the financial, emotional, and psychological effects of this decade-long experience would cause profound changes in a society who once considered a downturn in their previously robust economy as unthinkable as an invasion of aliens from outer space. But after reading Wayne Lionel Aponte's intimate and powerful book, "The Year of No Money in Tokyo," I am convinced that such changes never occurred, or if they did, they were scarcely evident to the outside world.  Instead, while enduring the grinding persistence of a stagnant economy, it was business as usual for the Japanese people, at least as far as their mores and social values were concerned.

As the story begins Aponte is out of work, a condition he endures during most of the narrative.  Unemployment was at a record high during the Japanese recession of course, but Aponte is not Japanese, he is a foreigner. Worse yet, he is not just a foreigner, but an American, a class of aliens traditionally subject to special scrutiny and criticism in Japan for reasons that are not always clear.  Last but not least, he is black and this in itself put him in emotional harm's way in ways only blacks can understand.

Like most intimate, first-person, true stories, "The Year of No Money in Tokyo" comes across as being written straight from the heart.  In particular, the descriptions of Aponte's life in Tokyo ring true and I can visualize the cramped, closet-like rooms he lived in, hear the noisy chatter of inconsiderate neighbors, and smell the collage of scents in the streets.  The narrative had its share of bittersweet and touching moments as well, especially when describing the complex relationships he formed with the various women in his life, especially those upon whose largesse he was forced to depend to get him through those times when money was in short supply.

The cover of "The Year of No Money in Tokyo" asserts that the story highlights an aspect of what it is like to be black and simultaneously American in Japan, and in many respects that is certainly true.  But I think that the book rises to a much higher level by describing how one man, through endless and dogged determination, managed to reinvent himself, and by doing so, triumphed over the adversity of living under some of the most difficult financial conditions imaginable.  Consequently, the book is an inspiration to us all.

So how is Wayne Lionel Aponte doing these days?  I cannot say for sure, but his biography states that he lives and works in Tokyo, Japan.  That means he is still fighting the good fight.  Good for him!  "The Year of No Money in Tokyo" is an excellent book and is well worth reading; especially by those of us who need an extra jolt of inspiration because we don't think life is treating us fairly.

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