Monday, August 31, 2009

Artificial Imagination

Kalpanik S
Center of Artificial Imagination, Inc. (2008)
ISBN 9780981476247
Reviewed by William Phenn for Reader Views

Kalpanik S. is an artificial imagination software program. He has a wife and two daughters and resides somewhere in the United States. I candidly say "somewhere" because one never knows where he will be next. Constantly moving to accept interesting positions with software corporations, Kalpanik does not let moss grow under his feet.  Born twice, once in 1988 and then again in 2002, Kalpanik was not just an ordinary Artificial Intelligence program. He was created to be different, to feel and imagine like a real human. He was his own character, a graduate Computer Science Engineer.
Beginning with San Francisco, the story leads the reader through the many adventures of Kalpanik. After losing his job in San Francisco, he moves to Seattle, the comparison he draws between there and Silicon Valley is hilarious to say the least. He talks about the rain and the weather changes as opposed to California. How he hated parting with his California drivers license and how gently he was treated by the understanding clerk.
From there to Nashville like a wandering soul, he tells about the demographics of his new digs in Tennessee. Similar to a tour guide on a bus, he describes the different attractions and scenic beauty of each point of interest, giving the reader a humorous commentary. He even includes comparing the Chinese restaurant to others he has been in. He explains that while in such a restaurant one day, he noticed that all the servers were Caucasian. He had never noticed Caucasians in any Chinese restaurant working as servers, in any place he had ever been. This had to be the first one of its kind. The Nashville tour finishes off with Kalpanik comparing the ethnic percentages. Coming from a city where a high percentage of people were Asian, he had a bit of culture shock when he came to Nashville and saw that it wasn't Asian but African Americans that was the cultural dominant. After Nashville, he finds himself in San Diego; a California city more to his liking. He tells of the seventy miles of beaches and how they spread as far as the Mexican border. His description of "Mission Beach" (complete with picture) is straight out of a travel folder.
"Artificial Imagination" is a funny and well-written book with some very good photography peppered into its 176 pages. I enjoyed the unique way in which it was presented and gave it a very good grade of an A. I would recommend it for a good read for the general audience.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Love Each Day: Live Each Day So You Would Want to Live it Again

Gail Bernice Holland
Modern History Press (2009)
ISBN 9781932690798
Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views (7/09)

"Love Each Day" is a beautifully written book that contains 40 inspiring essays about people from different walks of life.  The main point of the book is to "Live each day so you would want to live it again."  Each story focuses on an individual's experience in which they realized that they were having one of those days that they would want to live again.  The topics cover a variety of situations which run from having a relaxing day, to qualifying for the Olympics, to setting foot on the moon.  Each one is valuable in itself because I felt like it inspired me to see that my ordinary life has incredible meaning, and if I choose to have the right attitude, even the difficult moments can be seen in a more favorable light.
I really enjoyed reading these stories.  I appreciated that each person allowed the author to interview them for this book. Their stories should be told so that we can be inspired to look at our lives and create our own stories.  Some of my most incredible life-altering moments have come from mundane experiences.  I found myself tapping into a source that allowed me to see things on a higher level.  "Love Each Day" reminded me of many of these experiences that I have had.  Several have happened while at work.  Realizing that I have my own special moments reminded me that I need to appreciate my career more and the incredible people that come into my life.
By reading this book, I see that there is less emphasis on the importance of money and material things and importance placed on engaging in activities that are meaningful and being of service to others.  This is where we will find true meaning in our lives.  I highly recommend "Love Each Day" by Gail Bernice Holland to graduates who are ready to launch themselves out into the world.  By giving them this message early, they will find themselves seeking out much more meaningful careers.  I also think that people who are in public service jobs will also benefit from this book.  It might even help them avoid burn out. 

Tangling with Tyrants: Managing the Balance of Power at Work

Tony Deblauwe
PageFree Publishing (2009)
ISBN 9781589615786
Reviewed by Tyler R. Tichelaar for Reader Views (7/09)

Tony Deblauwe's "Tangling with Tyrants" offers practical advice for dealing with stress at work, primarily resulting from a difficult boss. Deblauwe begins by making a case for how the workplace is full of difficult bosses and how many people have difficulty with their employers. While few people I think would disagree, Deblauwe offers some interesting statistics; for example, surveys about work attitude show that a person's relationship with his or her manager is the most important factor in determining a person's satisfaction at work, even outranking pay and benefits. Television programs such as "The Office" reflect how common bad bosses have become in today's business world, and people need to learn how to manage their managers, how to get their work done despite their managers, how to avoid emotional bullying from managers, and how to know when to move to another job. Furthermore, today people are being asked to do more work, with fewer resources, which puts pressure on everyone, including the managers, who then put pressure on their employees.
"Tangling with Tyrants" offers numerous suggestions for dealing with a difficult manager. The answers are not simple, but largely introspective. Employees need to change their perspectives, understand the situation from the manager's point of view, and avoid making assumptions or having pre-conceived ideas about their managers based on past actions or stereotypes. Having an effective communication process with your boss is extremely important, and it can be used to align your actions with your boss' needs to create a partnership to get the job done.
For me, this book had two strong points. The first was the discussion of popular ideas for how to deal with a difficult boss, and why those ideas are not the way to handle the situation. Among the seven common ideas are standing up for yourself, going over your boss' head to his or her boss, and getting your co-workers to complain with you as a group about your boss. Instead, Deblauwe suggests the GRACE model, which shows how to be Grounded (rather than reacting to your boss from fear), then Reframe the request, Acknowledge the boss' perspective, create a Consensus with the boss, and then Execute the action necessary to complete the task. The second strong point was the inclusion of scripts demonstrating the GRACE method so people could see ways to verbalize how to respond to the boss.
I thought "Tangling with Tyrants" was a good starting point for dealing with difficult bosses. I would have liked to have seen a great deal more of the scripting, and maybe even a sort of index or appendix that provided multiple scripts to use on different occasions such as: when your boss expects you to cover for him, when your boss takes credit for your ideas, when your boss comes to work in a foul mood, etc. Some of this was covered in the book but a handy reference guide to multiple situations with effective scripts would have been a bonus and an easy way to keep going back to the book in times of need. Even in the form of a workbook this would have been helpful.
I hope "Tangling with Tyrants" will help many people find ways to improve their work situations. If not, Deblauwe also offers good advice on when and how to leave your job.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Defenders of the Scroll: In Some Places You Should be Afraid of Shadows


R. M. Productions Ltd (2009)
ISBN 9780981013503
Reviewed by Ben Weldon (age 11) for Reader Views KIds

"Defenders of the Scroll" by Shiraz is the action-packed adventure story of fifteen-year-old Alex, a guitarist, who is sucked into a strange and troubled world.  The realm of Mythos has problems.  A Shadow Lord has risen and is taking over.  Possibly worse, the king has been imprisoned, leaving the princess in danger of capture.
When nine-year-old Dara's father Mornak was abducted by the Shadow Lord, he managed to send all of his power to a magic scroll that Dara now possesses.  The Scroll has a massive amount of power that the Shadow Lord wants.  While Askar has distinct orders from the Shadow Lord to capture Dara and the Scroll, he would rather just destroy everything in his path including the Scroll.  If the Shadow Lord can get the Scroll, he can drain its magic and become invincible, and a mythical world apocalypse would ensue.
Soon after Alex appears in Mythos, he meets Dara, the princess of the realm. Seconds later, a giant, evil two-headed monster (an ettin) tries to viciously club them.  As he is being attacked, Alex recalls a character from his history book and wishes he were present.  Amazingly, a Roman legionary named Scorpius (the character that Alex had wished for) appears and slices the monster to bits.  Alex learns that he can summon other characters from his history book:  Tenzin, a very likable Shaolin monk; Bantu, a giant African warrior; Maya, an Amazon archer; and Genjuro, a fierce young samurai. All are youthful like Alex, and very skilled with their preferred weapons.  This will come in very handy seeing that this is only the first of numerable monster attacks.  Can they defeat the Shadow Lord and protect the Scroll? Will Mythos fall into the hands of the evil Shadow Lord?
The story is very riveting on its own, but the color illustrations that occasionally appear make it even better. The illustrations look like they are out of a graphic novel.  I think that they are computer generated, but they are still really cool and look like paintings.  The pictures were really exiting and gave me and even better feel for the characters.
This is Shiraz's first book, and has understandably won several awards.  If you have questions about the book you can go to his website and contact him.  This book ended with a cliffhanger and I can't wait for the next one.  I would recommend this book to people who like action, adventure, and fantasy.  I think that kids age nine to fourteen or so would especially like this book.  "Defenders of the Scroll" by Shiraz was an awesome book and I think that most every one that reads it will like it. 

Wally the Walking Fish Meets Madison and Cooper


Gary Lamit
BookSurge (2009)
ISBN 9781439225417
Reviewed by Sophia McElroy (age 6.5) for Reader Views Kids 

This is a great story about a walking fish named Wally. Madison and Wally meet when Madison catches Wally in the pond. Of course, she let Wally go because she believes in "catch and release." Madison and her dog Cooper discover that Wally can walk and talk! Wally is my favorite.
I never knew that Catfish could walk! They are called "Walking Catfish." They put their tail in like a puddle or something and can stay out of the water for several days as long as they stay moist.
The three friends have fun singing songs in the forest and swimming to meet the beaver family. Wally, Madison and Cooper met a flying fish named Frankie. They don't really have wings!
The artwork is beautiful. My favorite picture is of Wally walking. My favorite funny part of the book is when Cooper, the yellow Labrador, jumps into the air trying to fly. This really made me laugh!

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Blue Fairy: and other tales of transcendence


Ernest Dempsey
Modern History Press (2009)
ISBN 9781932690927
Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views (7/09)

Dedicating this book to his dear aunt who passed away in 1992, Dempsey has written a collection of short stories on the subject of death.  Thinking about death tends to make people uncomfortable, for obvious reasons, I would assume.  Because of this, I was very curious about what I would find inside these pages.  I was actually quite impressed.  While the subject is about death, the stories actually led me to develop some thought-provoking questions about life.  It is the living who has to deal with the loss of their loved ones, not the dead.
In several of the stories, people vainly try to hold on to something that will connect them with the deceased love one. Sometimes the only thing that they can keep is a memory, other times it might be something that the person had with them when they died.  Dempsey adds plenty of twists to the stories to keep them thought-provoking and sometimes a little twisted.  That's what made reading "The Blue Fairy" so fun.
In several of the stories in "The Blue Fairy" by Ernest Dempsey, I found myself feeling discomfiture for the characters, especially when they were asked to do something or had to deal with an issue regarding someone's death.  It definitely calls to mind my own mortality.  I think that readers will really enjoy burying themselves in this book.  No pun intended of course.

It’s Just My Imagination


Rick Keeling
Black Rose Writing (2009)
ISBN 9780982101292
Reviewed by Madeline McElroy (8)  & Sophia McElroy (6.5) for Reader Views (6/09)

Madeline: I think this book is a really good tool for parents or teachers to tell children about using their imaginations. My favorite part was when the boy was pretending the mud in the backyard was flour for baking cakes. My sister and I use play-doh to make pizza and mini cookies pretending we are Girl Scouts and pizza makers.
I really enjoyed the colorful swirly painted pictures. But, some of the words I couldn't read because the paint was too dark.
Sophia: This book has some great ideas for using my imagination. My favorite part of the book was when the little boy was signing autographs for his book at the bookstore. I love going to the bookstore and I think it would be fun to write and draw a book for kids. I liked the part when the boy was baking. I also like to pretend that I am a chef! I liked the paintings because they were pretty.


Monday, August 3, 2009

Anywhere the Heart Goes

Tim Smith
eXtasy Books (2009)
Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views (7/09)

Burned out on relationships and on being hurt, Sam Diamond is only interested in playing the field.  When his close friend, Ron, asks to set him up, at first he isn't interested, but finally he does change his mind.  Married to Wanda, Ron frequently espouses the benefits of being in a committed relationship.  Sam doesn't quite buy it, but he does listen.  Ron of course, is not always 100% content in his relationship with Wanda, yet he does love her and feels that being with her is worth making compromises.  Wanda, of course, is the one pushing Ron into convincing Sam to meet her friend Rachel.

Rachel has also been very hurt in relationships.  She is extremely cautious, however, based upon what Wanda has told her, she is also intrigued about meeting Sam.  On their first date, both feel a major physical connection to each other, however, as their relationship progresses; they continue to allow their fears to hold them back emotionally.  It is these fears that they have to work through in order to really be able to succeed with each other.  Meanwhile, as they are working through their "stuff," Rachel and Sam enjoy some incredibly fulfilling and erotic moments.

As I read "Anywhere the Heart Goes" I was really impressed by the author's inclusion of the doubts and fears that both Sam and Rachel were experiencing.  He really tapped into what a lot of 40-something women are feeling.  The fears and frustrations were perfectly expressed in Wanda's character.  I also liked that he took us into Sam's heart and showed us what he was experiencing.   Sam was portrayed as a real man, with real fears and insecurities.  As in many real relationships, the characters weren't saying much to each other about them.  Instead they were holding them in, which in turn held them back from experiencing true happiness.  We also got a realistic look at Wanda and Ron's married relationship.  Again things weren't perfect for them; however, they knew that they would be happier with each other than anyone else.  So they both work at it.

Reading "Anywhere the Heart Goes" by Tim Smith was a really nice surprise for me.  This was a book that I, as a 40-something divorcee, could really relate to.  Plus the author does an excellent job in creating his sensual scenes.

Recovering the Self: A Journal of Hope and Healing (Vol. I, No.1)

Ernest Dempsey with Victor Volkman
Loving Healing Press (2009)
ISBN 9781932690095
Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views (7/09)

I believe that the first edition of "Recovering the Self: A Journal of Hope and Healing," will be truly transformational for its readers.  The journal consists of a variety of articles that address issues involving recovering from trauma, grief, forgiveness, health issues, and substance abuse.  In addition to the essays, there are also a poetry, fiction, and reviews sections.

I truly enjoyed reading all of the articles.  I found information that would benefit me both as a counselor and as a human being.  Several of the articles were written by inspirational authors whose books have already had an impact on my life.  I really enjoyed being able to read more of their thoughts.  Something that I found that stood out in this journal is the human element that is incorporated into each essay.  In addition to imparting their knowledge to us, the writers also share their personal experiences with the topic at hand.  This made what I read so much more meaningful to me.

I highly recommend a subscription to this journal, "Recovering the Self," for professionals who are in the counseling profession or who deal with crisis situations. Readers involved with the healing process will also really enjoy this journal and feel inspired to continue on.  The topics covered in the first journal alone, will motivate you to continue reading books on the subject matter presented.  Guaranteed.