Monday, July 27, 2009

The Gathering of the Clan: An Independent Political Option for America

Thomas Richard Harry
iUniverse (2009)
ISBN 9781440117503
Reviewed by Ron Standerfer for Reader Views (7/09)

The number of Independent voters has increased dramatically since 1995.  Depending on whose statistics you read the proportion of Americans registering as political Independents (or decline to state their affiliation) is currently between 38 and 40%; and this is scaring the hell out of both the Democrat and Republican Parties. But Thomas Richard Harry, author and third-party candidate for the U.S Senate in Missouri in 2000, is not afraid at all.  In fact, in his latest book, "The Gathering of the Clan," he takes pains to assert in a logical and persuasive way that the rising tide of Independent voters could very well be the best thing to happen to our society in a long time.

"The Gathering of the Clan" is not a large book, nor does it take a Masters Degree in Political Science to understand.   As a matter of fact, the author himself characterizes the book as "a book written by a pretty average American primarily for other pretty average Americans."  What the book does require, however, is that the reader pay careful attention to certain chapters that are in fact the foundation upon which the entire book rests.  But how will you know when you are reading a foundation chapter?  Don't worry; the author is very careful to point them out   and at times even suggests that you go back and reread them before moving ahead.  At times I felt like I was back in college studying Political Science 101, but the exercise of reviewing the bidding from time to time is well worth the effort.

"The Gathering of the Clan" is divided into three parts, which keeps the reader from losing his or her way while navigating through the book.  In Part One Harry provides the "who, what, when and whys" of the Independent voters.  As for "who" the Independent voters are, it becomes obvious that they are more than a statistical entity.  In fact, they can be found in local organizations scattered across the socio-economic and geographical landscape.  The "why" part is fairly straight-forward as well.  It all boils down to failed expectations and a lack of viable options afforded by the two-party system.       
In Part Two, Harry shifts gears from talking about what Independent voters "could" do to what they "should" do.  This is where the book really started to get my attention.  Laying out his logic carefully, he draws the reader to the inescapable conclusion that there are only two Independent political options available: 1) "a nonelectoral shadow government; an organized, active, and visible interest group if you will, possibly in the organizational form of a think tank," or 2) "a direct electoral challenge to the duopoly in the form of an Independent political party."  This is where the author drops the other shoe and opines that a third party is the way to go.

Having established his preference for a third party Harry proceeds to describe how it would all work.  The Independent political ideology would be based on a simple concept: "the greatest good for the greatest number;" and the platform would stress ways to return greater balance to our society.  With an ideology and platform in place, Part Three goes on to discuss specific planks to the platform pertaining to special interest influences on the government; various tax issues; Social Security and Minimum Wage.

The current dominant political parties in our two–party system are failing our country; that much is clear. "The Gathering of the Clan" doesn't have all the answers; but it provides an excellent point of reference for promoting change. Kudos to Thomas Richard Harry for writing a thought-provoking self-criticism of America's political system.  It is a must read for all of us who care about America's political future.  

Confessions of a Trauma Junkie: My Life as a Nurse Paramedic

Sherry Jones Mayo
Modern History Press (2009)
ISBN 9781932690965
Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views (6/09)

My initial reaction when I started reading this book was, "Thank God for people like Sherry!"  Having worked in clerical positions in radiology and pharmacy, at two hospitals, for several years, I saw a lot, but never had to get my hands dirty.  When making my career choices I knew to head into the counseling realm because I didn't have it in me to handle situations like the ones written about in "Confessions of a Trauma Junkie."  It takes a very special kind of person to handle emergency response situations, especially on a daily basis.

This book contains stories that take us inside the lives of people who deal with traumatic emergency response situations.  The author has been an Emergency Medical Technician, an Emergency Nurse and she is involved with Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) teams.   In her writings about incidents involving both herself and those close to her, we learn about the depth of humanity that is involved in being willing to work in this field.  Sometimes the humanity is reflected by finding humor in macabre situations, other times it is reflected in the despair that the worker feels when they are unable to save someone.  As to the humor, it is amazing what some humans are willing to attempt to put in their bodies.  As to the despair, I would imagine it is very humbling to realize that you can't save everybody. 

I found each essay to be incredibly compelling.  Several also reminded me of similar situations that would occur at the hospitals that I worked at, especially the humorous ones.  I was also reminded that in addition to dealing with the job stresses and long hours, each person also has to deal with their own personal issues.  Some of the incidents that they are involved with, might be especially difficult if they trigger a personal response, such as when dealing with the tragic death of a child that might be the same age as one of their own.  It is very important that emotional intervention is provided when needed to help avoid Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and job burnout.

I highly recommend "Confessions of a Trauma Junkie" by Sherry Jones Mayo to nursing and EMT students.  I think it should be required reading for them.  I also recommend this book to people who are already working in the field.  They will enjoy the stories and I believe that it will be reassuring to them to know that they are not alone in both their feelings and their experiences on the job.

Listen to interview with Sherry Jones May on Inside Scoop Live

Monday, July 20, 2009

Conscience and Consequences: The Diary of Rocco Nero

Mavrik Menalus
iUniverse (2009)
ISBN 9780595443031
Reviewed by Carol Hoyer, PhD, for Reader Views (7/09)

Who would believe that a small diary filled with thoughts and memories of one man could change so many lives in an instant? Author Mavrik Menalus has given readers everything they ever hoped for in a mystery- lies, deception, killing, illusions and heartbreak.

Amelia Victor is living in a world of luxury, with a devoted mother and money-hungry father who only want the best for her. Yet, Amelia feels like something is missing and she can't put her finger on it. Her mother is fragile, drug and alcohol dependent and has no back bone. Edmund, her father, is devoted only to status, money and being in control.

Enter Father Andrew McInnis, a devoted man to his religion and to those he serves. Spend five minutes with Father and you are hooked under his spell. Little did anyone know that he has many hidden secrets that will cause his downfall .  Under Father's watchful eye and Edmund's money, Rocco Nero is barely living due to an accident that happened many years ago while working for Edmund.

From the very first page, the reader is hooked on this book. Menalus has pulled out all stops to describe his characters, events that will keep readers on the edge of their seat. Just when you think you have figured out what is going on another sinister character jumps in to throw readers off.  Each character adds more suspense to plot of this read. Each has their own hand in deception and greed.

"Conscience and Consequences: The Diary of Rocco Nero" by Mavrik Manalus is a fast-paced mystery that will keep your mind swirling with sympathy, anger and wanting the bad ones to suffer. I guarantee you will be glad that you read this book.

Welcome to La Beaux Plantation

Ami D'nae
Treble Heart Books (2009)
ISBN 9781932695977
Reviewed by McKenzie Tritt for Reader Views Kids (7/09)

"Welcome to La Beaux Plantation" by Ami D'nae begins with Elizabeth Hausman and her mother moving to the La Beaux plantation after her father passed away. Little is known about her past life, besides the fact that she was a typical teenage girl who got into a bit of trouble with the boys.  Elizabeth was none too happy about the move, but her mother wanted a better life for the both of them.  When they arrive they are greeted by Mrs. La Beaux, the plantation owner, and Ben, Mrs. La Beaux's son. Elizabeth is instantly attracted to Ben. Next she meets Virginia, Mrs. La Beaux's daughter, and her friend Julia. Both are rambunctious girls with plenty to talk about. Elizabeth must begin to adjust to the slow, easy life of the plantation and, along the way, begin home school and etiquette lessons.

At first, Elizabeth has a tough time coming to terms with her new life and its slow pace. But through Ben and her new friends she quickly learns to adjust. She begins piano lessons, as well as horseback riding, and her grades improve quickly. Elizabeth also takes on confirmation classes and lessons on how to become a lady. She learns to love the simple things in life and she begins to appreciate her mother more than ever. She would be unrecognizable to her old friends. Elizabeth is pleased with the changes she has made and cannot imagine returning to her old life.

Tragedy then strikes the plantation, and its members must learn to rely on each other. In this time, Ben and Elizabeth develop a deeper bond and the line between friendship and something more begins to blur. Elizabeth wants more, but she doesn't want to mess up their perfect friendship. Mrs. La Beaux turns to Ben and Elizabeth for help, and they begin planning for Thanksgiving and the winter ball. These events lead up to the cotillion, in which Elizabeth will be announced and receive her class ring, and graduation, where Ben will be free to go off to college and pursue his interests. There are still many issues to resolve, however, before those happen, one of the biggest being where Elizabeth and Ben's relationship stands.

I loved this book! It may have been slow for some, but I loved its characters and its history. I could imagine the entire book in my head as I went along. The characters were all so lively and each was different. Their Southern charm had me smiling the whole time. "Welcome to La Beaux Plantation" had me laughing at times, sad at others. It was much better than the majority of young adult books today. I've never read anything similar to it. Most of the time, I wanted to be in Elizabeth's place and experience her lovely life. I only had a couple of problems with this book. First, it didn't follow the back cover description. The events mentioned there were incredibly minor in the storyline, such as the mysterious girl named Kasi. Those occurrences were never explained, but maybe they will be in later books. My second complaint is that there are quite a few grammar mistakes in this book. I expect published books to have good grammar and flow easily, but many times I had to reread parts because there was an extra word placed in a sentence or a word was spelled incorrectly. Other than that, however, I loved the book. It was full of charm and elegance. I would recommend "Welcome to La Beaux Plantation" by Ami D'nae to all teens, and even those a bit younger. There was no bad content, just a good book about family and how important it is. I can't wait for more La Beaux Plantation books. I'll read them for sure, and so should you, right after you finish the first in this great series.

Monday, July 13, 2009

101 Tips For Survivors of Sexual Abuse: A Pocket Book of Wisdom

Amy Barth
Loving Healing Press (2009)
ISBN 9781932690941
Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views (5/09)

"101 Tips for Survivors of Sexual Abuse" is a twenty-three page book that does not waste one word.  Small enough to be carried around in a purse or briefcase, this book touches on the subject of sexual abuse.  Each tip addresses a different issue that a victim might be dealing with or have dealt with.  By reading the tips, I felt that survivors of sexual abuse will be easily be able to relate to most of them and in doing so, they will also know that they are not alone with whatever feelings they are experiencing.  This would especially apply to the painful areas of feeling guilt and shame.

Each tip has a paragraph space underneath it which will also allow the reader to make personal notes for themselves.  This will be helpful because as they go through their recovery, they will probably be experiencing a myriad of emotions at different times. By taking notes, they will be able to address the feeling that they are experiencing at that moment in time, and they will also be able to look back and reflect on how far they have come with their recovery.

At the end of the book is a list of suggestions and exercises for people to do when they are having bad moments.  There is a suggested reading list. I think that all of these will make excellent tools for people who need some guidance when they are dealing with their painful thoughts and negative emotions.  It will give them something practical to do to help with their healing. 

I think that "101 Tips for Survivors of Sexual Abuse" by Amy Barth will be perfect for both individuals, family members and for people in group therapy.  The information within is highly personal, however, it would make great discussion material for both family members in recovery and for group counseling sessions.

Awakening Consciousness: A Boy’s Guide!

Robin Marvel
Marvelous Spirit Press (2009) 
ISBN 9781932690910
Reviewed by Ben Weldon (age 11) for Reader Views  Kids(6/09)

"Awakening Consciousness: A Boy's Guide" by Robin Marvel is a workbook that helps the reader to "awaken his inner consciousness."  The book's format was interesting because, like a typical book, it had information and stories, but it was also a workbook in that it had spaces for the reader to draw pictures about how he felt about things or to write his thoughts.  I had fun reading it.  It was a short read so even if you are kind of impatient and not much of a fluent reader, you will be able to easily and quickly read it.  Of course, you could spend a lot of time doing all the activities.  It would probably be a good book for kids to do with their parents.

The book has some really cool activities such as making a balloon drum and a didgeridoo out of toilet paper tubes.  It also has Native American lore that is supposed to help you to understand your spirit, and some "ChakraCizes" that help to relax and energize your Chakras.  Meditation is emphasized.

My favorite part of the book was a Native American lore story.  It was about an old Native American who described his spirit as two wolves, each vying for control.  One wolf was at peace with everything around him, and the other was angry and wished to destroy everything around him.  When the storyteller's grandson asked which wolf won, the grandfather replied by saying, "The one I feed."  The moral of the story is to feed your good side, and not give in to the bad. 

I would recommend this book to boys who wish to understand their spirit or find inner-peace.  The book was pretty good and it was fun learning about spirits and other cool things.  "Awakening Consciousness: A Boy's Guide" by Robin Marvel was an interesting book and kind of helped me to understand myself in a new way.

Listen to interview on Inside Scoop Live

Monday, July 6, 2009

Shooting an Albatross

Steven R. Lundin
BookSurge (2009)
ISBN 9781439228005
Reviewed by Richard R. Blake for Reader Views (3/09)

In the year 1943 the United States was deeply involved in World War II on the European front.  As a result of the war effort, this was also a unique year in the game of golf. It was the only year in the history of professional golf that games were canceled for the entire season.

The 170th Field Artillery Battalion of the Army took over and occupied the El Rancho Golf Course in Hollywood, California. Recently discovered facts of history give substance to this fictional account of "Shooting an Albatross" written by Steven R. Lundin.

An army General and a naval Admiral arranged to play an unauthorized round of golf, in a match which would give prestige to both branches of the military. Knowing their own limitations in the game, they each selected a man from their ranks to fill out the foursome to represent their branch of service. The Admiral chose SN. Bentley Knudson, the General chose Pvt. Evan Wilkins. Athletic, handsome, quiet, and confident Wilkins is relieved from artillery duty to concentrate on preparing for the big game on the prestigious empty golf course. 

Mansions bordering the back of the golf course were owned by Hollywood film industry moguls.  John Nichols, father of Amanda Nichols, owned one of these. Answering Amanda's startled scream Evan rushed in to rescue her from an unidentified spy. This effort resulted in a dinner invitation in Evan's honor at the Nichols home. Amanda introduced Evan to a world of affluence and sumptuous living. She secretly joins Evan's daily training on the golf course. The young couple's relationship develops into a wartime romance.

Evan's commanding officer, Major Floyd Akerly, became annoyed with Evan's golf privileges. He was soon obsessed with the thought of revenge as the flicker of frustration fanned the flames into fiery passion. He also begrudged the fact that he no longer had any jurisdiction over Evan.

After the dinner party at the Nichols, where Floyd falsely thought he would monopolize Amanda for the evening, he became possessed as his resentment toward Evan grew. His animosity exploded into jealousy and exposed his dark evil side, which produces an anger and rage which ultimately destroyed his sanity.

The golf competition was set for the last day of August. The spectators included newsmen, film industry executives, members of the UCLA golf team, Hollywood celebrities, men from all branches of the military and other golf enthusiasts.

In an attempt to discredit Evan, Floyd was caught in a despicable act. He was beaten, demoted in rank and taken into custody by the Military Police.  Left alone in his cell he continued to plan his revenge.

Following the golf tournament, Evan and Amanda made plans to marry as soon as he returned from Europe. The action that follows moves quickly, as Lundin creatively weaves a fast-moving plot of deception, murder, intrigue, suspense, and romance.

The book begins and ends relating a series of visits by a distinguished guest in the home of 94-year-old Floyd Akerly. Floyd narrates the story of the golf game, Evan Wilkins, the European battlefield and of his part in the story. The final scenes lead to a climactic, unexpected, dramatic conclusion.

Golf enthusiasts will know that to shoot an albatross is rare, a double eagle. It may mean shooting a seabird, or shooting an individual that holds back a man's achievement. Steve R. Lundin has masterfully crafted "Shooting an Albatross" around this theme.

This is a book for anyone enjoying the genre of intrigue, suspense, or romance. Lundin includes the use of comedy and the game of golf to draw the reader into a look into the past, a heartwarming story, and a madman's psyche. "Shooting an Albatross" by Steven R. Lundin is a great read. 

Listen to interview on Inside Scoop Live

Meaning and Relatedness

Khepri Rising
Lulu (2008)
ISBN 9780615255477
Reviewed by Richard R. Blake for Reader Views (6/09)

"Meaning and Relatedness" combines Eastern Philosophy, Mysticism, Spirituality and poetic fiction in a thought-producing exploration into discovery. Khepri Rising draws from the masters, classic and contemporary philosophers, theologians, and respected friends in his personal quest for truth and meaning.

Rising writes to encourage the reader to more distinctly and qualitatively question the status quo to endeavor to make change, to make people better people, smarter, more aware, and more sensitive. By means of involving the reader in a philosophical introspection he exposes the shallow expectations of acceptance and challenges the reader to experience reality in the discovery of the person we really are.

Reminiscent of the counterculture of the beatnik, it is unlikely that "Meaning and Relatedness" will bring a resurgence of its influence; however, these existential poetic ruminations will have a significant resonance with generation X.

In a lengthy treatise on "words" Rising gives the reader cause to ponder the conundrum of language and the symbolic representations of words. Articulate and expressive in his use of words Rising teases the reader with a panache of lighthearted rhetoric and riddles as to their meanings.

Rising discloses his underlying thirst for idealism in ethics that always asks: What should I do? What is right?  His honesty and vulnerability in humbly sharing his thoughts on holocaust victims is deeply moving and unearths the evil and a dark foreboding side of man which demands personal reflection and a sober self examination.

Listen to live interview with author on Inside Scoop Live