Monday, October 26, 2009

The Auteur

Ward Wood
iUniverse (2009)
ISBN 9781440163531
Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views

Abandoned by his mother, who could no longer put up with his father's abuse, Scott has to suffer alone.  Starting high school in a new town, Scott meets Cody.  Cody immediately intrigues him and lets him know that he is interested.  Unfortunately, Cody betrays Scott almost immediately by secretly filming them for his porn site.  Scott is still drawn to him, but is unsure of what he should do about it.  He continues to hang out with Cody's group who are also involved with his work.  When Scott suffers violence at his father's hands, this group of people and especially Cody step in to protect him and be there for him.  As Scott is coming to terms with his feelings for Cody, Cody takes off to look for his lost mother.
Encouraged to find him, by Cody's father, Scott sets out on a journey that allows him to have some interesting adventures and introduces him to some eccentric characters.  His interactions with these new people help him to discover more about himself and his strengths.  When he finds Cody, he has the chance to be there for him and they discover how strong their feelings are for each other.
"The Auteur" is a very powerfully written coming-of-age novel.  The characters in the story have some very strong attributes that are mixed in with their weaknesses.  It was very interesting to watch them evolve as individuals.  Being homosexual young adults puts lot more stress in their lives.  Working together they learn to support each other. 
Mixed in with the story are some very humorous scenes that involve the pornography industry.  Coupled with many explicit sex scenes, this novel is not for the faint of heart.  I think that young adults, especially those dealing with issues regarding their sexuality, will really relate to this story.  It also might make their lives seem a lot easier.  I highly recommend this novel, "The Auteur" by Ward Wood.

Read interview with Ward Wood

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Dawn of Saudi

Homa Pourasgari
Linbrook Press (2009)
ISBN 9780977978014
Reviewed by Olivera Baumgartner-Jackson for Reader Views


Homa Pourasgari's "The Dawn of Saudi" is a surprising and eye-opening book. While at a first glance it appears to be your run-of-the-mill romance with some mystery mixed in, the reader might well find a good deal of enlightening and educating reading in it. In this shrinking world of ours I always found it to be a good idea to familiarize one's self with other cultures; and few of them are as mysterious and incomprehensible to most of us as the radical Islam culture, where woman's rights are not even a word.
Moving seamlessly between Saudi Arabia and the United States, the story of two young women, Dawn and Sahar, is gripping and engaging. Dawn, a young American, meets and falls in love with a Saudi man, who persuades her to convert to Islam and marry him, pretending to be a progressive thinker who will let her live a modern life. All too soon Dawn is faced with the grim truth and the only way to escape it is through rather grisly violence. Sahar, Dawn's friend, is a Saudi from a wealthy family, whose parents are quite progressive, but unfortunately the family is still ruled by her paternal grandfather who sees Sahar as a useful piece of barter in his business dealings. Sahar refuses to marry somebody she does not love and does her utmost to escape such fate, yet in the end she has to give in and is married to Husam, a cold and calculating business partner of her family. While both young women are trying their best to find a way to escape, the business dealings with Crawford Enterprises in the United States are going strong, and Jason Crawford, the rather spoiled and self-centered son of the owner, is busy making more money for the family's business. The fates of those three people interlace in a most unlikely way, and through a series of surprising twists and turns the reader learns a lot about life in Saudi Arabia.
I've greatly enjoyed Homa Pourasgari's "The Dawn of Saudi" and I found her subject refreshing, well balanced and well researched. She does not preach the superiority of one religion over another, but rather points out the severe violations of human rights and the desperate plight of females in the Muslim society. She also manages to remind the reader of how lucky most of us are to be living where we are living, and how often we take our freedom for granted.  Her writing is fluid and expressive, her characters well fleshed out and the storyline extremely engaging.  If you like your romances contemporary, and if you don't mind learning something new while reading, "The Dawn of Saudi" will delight you. I also believe that it would make for a great pick for any book club that does not shy away from slightly political subjects.

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

"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. 

Listen to interview on Inside Scoop Live
Read interview with Gail Holland

Monday, October 12, 2009

Storm Surge

Nadine Laman
Nadine Laman Books (2009)
ISBN 9780982332122
Reviewed by Cherie Fisher for Reader Views (10/09)
It was a nice surprise to see that Nadine Laman finished her third book in the Kathryn McKenzie series.  The first two books in the series are "Kathryn's Beach" and "High Tide."  You do not need to read the other two before this one, but I highly recommend that you do not miss them.  As with the first two books, this one does not disappoint. 
"Storm Surge" takes place four years after "High Tide."  The story begins with Kathryn getting the surprise of a lifetime when her Grandfather McKenzie publicly announces his retirement and appoints her to take over the family empire.  This sends the press into a feeding frenzy and she knows that the quiet life that she has built for herself has come to an end.  As she comes to terms with the changes, she leaves the job that she has had for several years and has come to love as a Social Worker at St. Mark's convent.  
As Kathryn leaves her beloved beach behind to move into her new position and the family mansion, she finds herself cleaning up her cousins' messes and that she is less than welcome by them.  She also begins to unravel family secrets, threats to her life and very suspicious corporate activity.  Just one of those issues would be enough for anyone to handle, but Kathryn must meet them all head on.  As usual, with large doses of her prized coffee, she does beautifully.
As Kathryn faces all these challenges, she is confronted with her own health challenges and must dig deeper than she ever has to deal with them.  As she does, she learns who she can really trust in her life and that being courageous is the only thing that will get her through. 
"Storm Surge" is very well written and as usual with Nadine Laman's work, I did not want it to end.  Hopefully, we will see more of her work in the near future.

The Seven

Sean Patrick Little
Dog Ear Publishing (2009)
ISBN 9781608440665
Reviewed by Maggie Desmond-O'Brien (14) for Reader Views Kids 

Shortly before their eighteenth birthdays and legal adulthood, tensions are building among the Subjects—seven kids torn from their families to be part of a top-secret genetic experiment at age seven; they can't help but wonder what, exactly, the experiments are supposed to prove. But when their powers suddenly manifest in horrifying ways, escape becomes a matter of life and death, love and the destruction of all that they hold dear. If only they could figure out who they are supposed to be fighting against….
This book is absolutely one of the best books in the genre I've read this year, period. I always pick up a self-published book with some trepidation, but honestly I've found more flaws in spelling and grammar in the paperback copies of major publishing houses' chart-topper novels than existed in this one! The formatting and presentation are flawless and the writing is (almost) beyond reproach.
To put it simply, this book is a comic book in novel form, and the author makes no secret of his inspirations. However, he takes it a step beyond shoot-em-ups and cheesy romance to bring us characters that we genuinely care about, even if right and wrong aren't always clear, and their motives are less than admirable. Here are teens that anyone can relate to! While I occasionally struggled with the dialogue and the pace was a little uneven, this book was a truly refreshing excursion out of the norm.
Perhaps because it is self-published, this book has a sort of nonchalant freedom about it that is a joy to read. Without caring who's reading, the author is free to make pointed statements about the true value of human (and inhuman) life, and is surprisingly philosophical for something so fun and entertaining to read. The government is especially portrayed in an unforgiving light, but it never crosses the line into angry justification or righteousness. Teens will most likely especially enjoy this book due to its anti-establishment feel, as the feelings of rejection experienced by the seven have been felt on some level by every adolescent as they struggle to metamorphose from the child they were to the adult they will become.
With "The Seven" by Sean Patrick Little, I think I have found a new favorite to pore over, and against all odds I am dying to read more!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Angels in the Wilderness: The True Story of One Woman's Survival Against All Odds

Amy Racina
Elite Books (2009)
ISBN 9781600700668
Reviewed by Olivera Baumgartner-Jackson for Reader Views

I've never thought of myself as anything but a brave person. I don't shy away from adversity, I welcome challenges and very little throws me off for any length of time. After having finished "Angels in the Wilderness," a book on true courage, I have to admit I might have to rethink my assessment of my own bravery. Compared to Ms. Racina, I am a wimp.
Before I tell you what her book is about, I'd like to tell you what this book is not. It is not pretentious, not bragging, not self-aggrandizing and not preachy. What it is, in short, is an unbelievable story of a hiking trip gone haywire and a fantastic rescue and recuperation of an incredibly brave woman, who manages to find the best in even the most adverse situation and overcomes incredible odds to survive, heal and thrive again, while also discovering some more truths about herself and those around her.
On that fateful trip in the beautiful Sierra Nevada Mountains Ms. Racina fell sixty-feet onto solid granite, in the process shattering both her legs and sustaining a variety of other smaller injuries. Having lost the trail shortly before that, and already hiking one of the less-traveled areas, the chances of her rescue were slim to none. In spite of the debilitating injuries she managed to drag herself a short distance from the site of her fall over the period of the next three days, a distance that has probably saved her life since three hikers were able to find her on the third day of her ordeal. She was rescued and airlifted out at the end of the fourth day, and treated by the capable and dedicated staff at the UMC in Fresno. Her friends rallied around her and against all odds Ms. Racina healed to the extent where she is perfectly capable of hiking again.
I absolutely loved "Angels in the Wilderness," both for Ms. Racina's compelling writing and her incredible courage. Her descriptions of nature and what hiking means to her were powerful and beautiful. Her ruminations on faith and tenacity, gifts we are all given, and ways we decide to accept them or not were thought-provoking, wise and definitely worth remembering. If you are struggling with a difficult situation and see no way out, you could do much worse than follow Ms. Racina's 12 steps, the spiritual tools for physical survival, which are:
 1.  Look, listen and learn.
 2.  Create a world in which help is available to those who need it.  
3.  Know what you want the outcome to be.
 4.  Never give up.
 5.  Acknowledge the interplay between attachment and surrender.
 6.  Allow for the unexpected.
 7.  Narrow your focus.
 8.  Look for the good.
 9.  Make a plan.
10. Do everything you can.
11. Count.
12.  Pray.
If some of those steps sound unclear to you, pick up Amy Racina's "Angels in the Wilderness." You will be glad you decided to do that.

The ART of Grandparenting

Edited by Valerie Connelly
Nightengale Press (2009)
ISBN 9781933449791
Reviewed by Carol Hoyer, PhD,  for Reader Views

"The ART of Grandparenting" is a wonderful collection of stories, humor and wisdom from several authors. Whether you are a soon-to-be, current, or seasoned grandparent, the author's real life stories and experiences give you great insight into some good and not-so-good adventures.
This was such an easy-to-read and fun book that I look forward to using it as a gift to my friends who will be grandparents. No one tells us how to be parents, much less grandparents. We often think it is an easy job, but we find that we must conform to the parent(s) guidelines, share our grandchildren and learn through each adventure.
One of the things I particularly loved about this book is that it was not telling you what to do, but sharing experiences others have had and how they overcame any obstacles they encountered. After each story, there was a wonderful Tips and Tricks page which summarized what one had just read.
I also found it interesting, although we all want to jump in with both feet and spoil our grandchildren and help the parents, we must sometimes "watch from the sidelines without trying to coax" or intervene.  I know, just like many of these authors stated, we just want to "be in the moment" and let schedules and rules fly out the window. In my own experience I have found that sometimes that is okay, but on a consistent basis it causes problems on the home front.  Heaven knows I have had this "battle" with my daughter many times.
Even though we are ready to help whenever we can, we must learn that there are two sets of grandparents and we must share. This part of the book made me laugh as I'm not too good at sharing my granddaughter, even at my mature age.  I really enjoyed the encouragement grandparents are given to share stories of their lives. The authors give many great suggestions on how to do this from verbal to journals to recordings.
The authors relate that there will be many times that you will not live near your grandchildren and it is important to keep in touch with them through mail, phone calls, cards or email.  Also the authors suggested that we must be "flexible" in our holiday schedules. Usually during this time there are many family members to visit, and sometimes we just might have to have our holidays and visits not on the actual day.
This is such an excellent resource full of humor and is non-threatening. "The ART of Grandparenting" is a book that all should have on their shelves and read many times, especially when things get rough.