Monday, December 13, 2010

Two Sisters’ Journey: From Darkness into the Light

Christi Rohan and Juli Rohan
Outskirts Press (2010)
ISBN 9781432750244
Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views (11/10)


By writing "Two Sister's Journey: From Darkness into the Light," sisters Christi Rohan and Juli Rohan reminisce about their lives with their loving father and how they pulled their family together to get over the pain of losing him.  Juli begins by telling her story.  Being in her mid-20's, she is caught up in getting settled in her career and a new marriage. Juli's life is very hectic.  Although her busy life kept her from getting home as much as she would have liked, she was there the day that her father suffered a fatal heart attack.  This event was incredibly devastating to her.

To grow in her relationship with her husband, they both had to get past the pain of losing her father, and deal with the other stressors that were present in their lives at the time.  This was not easy, but when the two hit a point where they were having difficulties, they realized that they had to stop and focus on their relationship.  I can't help but think that her father's influence as a parent and a role model helped prepare her to pull herself together and learn to refocus on her marriage. 

Next, Christi tells her story from her perspective.  She is happily married and has some very special children.  On the day that her father suffered his heart attack, she was there to perform CPR on him.  Unfortunately, he was not able to pull through.  Once her father passed on, Christi was there to help her mother and her children deal with the grief over losing both a husband and a grandfather. She also had to handle her own grief as well.  While her husband was there to give her support right after his death, when he is deployed to Iraq, she has to rely more upon herself.  Being very proactive, Christi set out to finish up a project that their father had planned with their mother.  It involved extensive remodeling to the family home.  Christi gets the family together to work on this project.  Keeping it a secret from her mom, they have nine days to complete this project while she is away on vacation.

As the family and friends join together to complete this project, it also brings them closer together.  As an outsider looking in, I really felt that their willingness to be involved with this project further demonstrated the incredible legacy that their father left in having played a part in creating such a wonderful family.  Even the grandchildren got involved.  This had to have played a huge role in their healing. In spite of this, both sisters still find themselves having to deal with irrational fears of being hit with something happening to one of their loved ones.  This obviously was an understandable reaction to the suddenness of losing their dad.

"Two Sister's Journey: From Darkness into the Light" is a wonderful tribute to the life of a very special man. Throughout both sisters' stories, it is obvious that he affected the lives of many people, not just those in his family. As I read this book, I felt that three very important lessons stood out to me. The first lesson involved recognizing the importance of getting on with your life, after losing a loved one. As the family suffered, it was obvious to me that this is not what their father would have wanted for them. By being proactive, the family was able to move on with their healing. The second lesson that stood out was the question of how I want to be remembered when I am gone. So many people stepped forward to honor their father, after his death, I felt inspired to try to live my life so that I will be remembered for having to touch the lives of others. The third lesson in this story involved the importance of stepping in and being there for friends and family when they suffer a loss. I usually let people know that I am there for them and am praying for them, however, when the sisters wrote about how much the help of others meant to them, even if it was just making a dinner for the family, I realized that I need to do a lot more for others. My only recommendation for this book would be to have it professionally edited. By cleaning up the grammatical errors, there will be nothing to distract from their story. What a beautiful legacy this book will be to the family members who had such a wonderful man touch their lives.

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Monday, December 6, 2010

The Bleeding Hills: A Novel

Wilfried F. Voss
Copperhill Media Corporation (2009)
ISBN 9780976511649
Reviewed by Richard R Blake for Reader Views (11/10)

From the opening scene of "The Bleeding Hills" I found myself engaged in the underlying issues of the cause of the Irish Republican Army. Wilfried F. Voss has captured the sense of urgency faced by his protagonists in their fight for freedom from the supremacy of Britain's uncompromised rule. I was stunned by the emotions generated as Voss described the aggression of misinformed, misdirected, relentless youth in the horror of unabated mob violence.

With evidence that Whelan is the mastermind behind a conspiracy to assassinate the First Minister of Northern Ireland British Intelligence has devised a plan to lure Finn back to, Northern Ireland. Conspiracy, personal vendettas, and double agents all add to the mounting suspense of Voss's complex compelling plot. Hidden clues and fast-moving action keep the reader turning pages to the final unexpected climactic conclusion of this important glimpse into the issues behind the War in Northern Ireland. Voss capably covers the history of the Irish War through the forty-year fictional career of Finnean Whelan, an IRA veteran, receiving exile protection in the United States.

Voss's creative imagination and careful attention to detail are remarkable. His research and career background in electrical engineering and electronic components add depth and authenticity to the technical information provided in the story detailing surveillance techniques and security procedures.

I enjoyed Voss's writing style, his unique narrative approach, character development, dialog, and his wonderful descriptions of Ireland's unique beauty, its geography, people and culture. "The Bleeding Hills" is a must read novel for anyone interested in the recent history of Irish politics and the cause of the Northern Ireland.

Monday, November 29, 2010

End Game: Irrational Acts, Tragic Consequences (Book III in the Antarctic Murders Trilogy)

Theodore Jerome Cohen
AuthorHouse (2010)
ISBN 9781456710033                
Reviewed by Richard R. Blake for Reader Views


"End Game" is the third and final book in Theodore Jerome Cohen's series the "Antarctic Murders Trilogy." The fictional story is based on actual events which took place in history.

Earlier books in the series describe in detail a robbery from the vault of the Banco Central de Chile in Talcahuano. Millions of dollars in cash, negotiable securities, gold coins, and jewelry were stolen. The incident involves members of the crew of the Chilean auxiliary fleet tug Lientur. The Trilogy takes place over a five-year period following the Chilean Earthquake of May, 1960, while the third book takes place only in 1965.

Dr. Grant Morris and Ted Stone, from the University of Wisconsin, members of the 16th Chilean Expedition to the Antarctic, played an intricate role in "Frozen in Time: Murder at the Bottom of the World." They now return in this final installment of the series. In an ambitious attempt by Captain Roberto Muñoz of the Lientur to cover up earlier crimes of theft, murder, and deception, Morris and Stone suddenly find their lives are in jeopardy.

Captain Mateo Valderas and his associate, Lieutenant-Commander Antonio De Rio, both of the Chilean Navy's Office of Internal Affairs, have met their match in Captain Muñoz, the Number One suspect of the Banco Central de Chile robbery. He is also the major suspect in a series of related murders. In a masterful technique of plotting, Cohen conveys a tension building drama of international intrigue.

The accompanying maps of Chilean Antarctic bases found on the North Antarctic Peninsula, the country of Chile, and France as well as a striking collection of photos of Iglesia de San Francisco, and the Teatro Municipal of Santiago, Chile, add another dimension to the reader's enjoyment of a complex plot that involves action on three continents.

As in his first book, "Full Circle," Ted takes the reader on an amazing journey through the world of orchestral music. "End Game" will awaken a latent gift for music appreciation in fans of the genre of mystery and suspense while adding a whole new world of drama and adventure to the music lover.

Theodore Jerome Cohen utilizes a style of suspense writing which builds anticipation and tension in the reader that calls for interaction, involvement, and emotional response. There is something unique and unexplainable in his writing style that becomes addictive, and is certain to attract an ever increasing base of Cohen fans.

"End Game: Irrational Acts, Tragic Consequences" is informative and entertaining. Cutting-edge drama and suspense, revealing characters and convincing dialog provide "The Antarctic Murders Trilogy" with all the elements of a cutting-edge, award-winning, best-selling novel.

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Monday, November 22, 2010

2012: The Year of The Changes

Fabio R. de Araujo
International Alliance Pro-Publishing (2010)
ISBN 9781609420246
Reviewed by Richard R. Blake for Reader Views


For centuries there has been a curiosity about the reality of prophecies. In recent years a new interest in the Mayan calendar which predicts 2012 as the date of the end of era on earth has become a popular point of discussion.  Population explosion, global warming, war in the Middle East, and the recent election results in the U. S. and in Russia have created a surge of speculation on end-time prophecies, authentic and fabricated.

Fabio R. de Araujo has studied ancient prophecies, premonitions, and history for the last twenty years. He has thoroughly researched the works of Nostradamus, the Jewish Talmud, as well as writings going back as far as the 16th century.

De Araujo's book "2012: The Year of The Changes" details prophecies about U. S. president Barack Obama, Russian president Vladimir Putin, and other political leaders. He relates prophecies concerning global warming, World War III, and acts of nature which will impact every nation on our planet. De Araujo records his analysis of prophecies that have been translated from many languages, various origins, ancient and contemporary that foretell events leading to the year 2012. The Nostradamus prophecies regarding Obama and Putin were intriguing. 

The reader is invited to view de Araujo's writing as "nothing more than a curious compilation of prophecies about an American President, about a Russian President, and other issues related to the United States." However, he points out that there has never been a time in history when a U. S. President and a Russian President there have had so many prophecies and predictions as there are today. Other prophecies brought to light point to an economic crisis, the anticipated Jewish Messiah, a Muslim Messiah, and Russia's involvement in World War III.

I found myself fascinated with "The Roosevelt-Obama Spiritualism prophecy." The author cites, quotes and documents dozens of recent articles from reputable journals, magazines, newspapers, and internet news services on the subject. Climate change, global catastrophe, and International conflict, as well as signs of prophecies concerning end-of-the-world events have attracted the interest of political leaders, serious thinkers, theologians, environmentalists, scientists, and economists.

All are concerned and have various opinions and agendas regarding alerting the public with warnings derived from religious sources, from data showing historical and economic cycles.  There are implications from mathematical formulae and scientific evidence that indicate the relationship of these prophecies to current events and to the inevitable crisis facing the world today.

De Araujo's writing is articulate. His work is well researched, informative, and provocative. "2012: The Year of The Changes" is an amazing combination of prophecies, premonitions, historical fulfillment and speculations of things to come.

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Monday, November 15, 2010

Vivian’s Song

Tom Pointer
CreateSpace (2009)
ISBN 9781442106000
Reviewed by Marty Shaw for Reader Views (10/10)


"Vivian's Song" will catch you by surprise. The book basically starts towards the middle of the story. A state senator, Charles Wentworth, is informed that a cult leader and his followers are moving to the quiet, little town of Bandicoot, Missouri. The good senator is shocked and outraged, and we can't help but feel a little sympathy for the guy. Then, an interesting thing happens. The author takes us back in time to see how William Joseph 'Duke' Tanner becomes the manipulative leader of a cult. This trip back in time allows us to see that Duke is just a normal cowboy from Texas. He's a good-hearted and good-natured guy whose unique views on the world, combined with his dissatisfaction of traditional religion, leads him to form a unique system that some others mistakenly view as a new religion. Duke's goal is simple. He wants to show people how to make money and find happiness, while making money and finding happiness himself.

He's aided in his quest by his wife, Melody Birdsong. Like Duke, Melody has led an interesting life that's had its fair share of up's and down's. When the two literally bump into each other, it seems like destiny has drawn them together. Duke and Melody are soon joined by other colorful characters, each one a friend or acquaintance from Duke's past. A real estate venture leads to all of them living in the same area, which they jokingly refer to as 'The Compound.' Duke's business has grown beyond even his wildest dreams and when he decides it's time to find a new location, Melody's spirit guide, a bird named Vivian, leads them to Bandicoot.

By the time we catch up to where the book started, we're able to see things from a new perspective. Duke isn't the evil cult leader that a few select individuals see him as, and the 'good' senator's motives become questionable. The two large personalities are headed for a collision that will provide laughs through almost every turn of the page towards the end of the book. The imaginative use of acronyms to get various points across, while still maintaining levity, is one of the most hilarious points in the book.

I wasn't entirely thrilled with such in-depth backgrounds being provided on so many characters. We naturally need the whole story on Duke but I feel that a few people, Melody included, could have done with just a few paragraphs of information, instead of an in-depth biography.

Even with the extra character information, the book maintained a steady pace and kept me interested through the whole story. Entertaining, humorous, and a little thought provoking, "Vivian's Song" will leave you intrigued and amused.

Words of a Journey: My Thoughts on Life and Living

Kaitlyn Kashman
Modern History Press (2011)
ISBN  9781615990528
Reviewed by Theresa La (age 16) for Reader Reviews Kids

Life.  A four-letter word that sounds so simple, but it's only a disguise for the true rollercoaster that life is.  The teenage years are one of the most difficult periods of life to navigate.  Many times problems become too personal to talk about with parents and friends.  Many times these problems can weigh you down and it's difficult to know how to cope with these problems.  This book is about the life of a teenager and her reflections and the way in which she has dealt with them.  There are also inspirational quotes about what she observes around her and the emotions and thoughts that are connected with those observations.  There are also many interesting thoughts that give a new perspective on things that have become such an integral part of life that many people now take for granted.  This book helps the reader to take a step back from a busy and disturbed life to reorganize priorities and reevaluate their lives.

This book came at a perfect time in my life.  Summer is ending and I have an overload of homework to do. As I was reading this book to review, it helped calm me down and helped to see the bigger picture.  I like the title of this book.  I liked how each of the pages had a lined page across from it so that the reader could reflect on his/her thoughts as the same time.  I really enjoyed reading all the short stories and reflections and many of these reflections could relate to many people.  My favorite quote was "Our biggest fear in life is to fail, but failure can sometimes be the best thing. We learn from every mistake and we achieve great things because of them. "This is certainly true as the pressure rises each day to for students to get into the best colleges, the top schools."  However with this quote, it reminds me that failure has led to some of the greatest achievements and with every mistake that we make, we could learn a lot and those mistakes could change our lives.  I would suggest that, if possible, the author include a possible quote from a famous person who echoes the same thought or a quick short story of someone who was successful and embodies the same reflection that Kaitlyn has. This story reminds me much of the "Chicken Soup for the Teenage Souls," but I can connect to this one more because it's more female-oriented and I can relate to these stories better. I would suggest this to any teenager, especially any female teenager who is feeling the stress of life and wants to know that someone else has also gone through the same problems and how they dealt with the problem.  This was a motivational book and an inspiring read!  This book has a great format.

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Monday, November 8, 2010

Kaleidoscope: An Asian Journey of Colors

Sweta Srivastava Vikram
Modern History Press (2010)
ISBN 9781615990344
Reviewed by Irene Watson for Reader Views (09/10)


I love Sweta Vikram's ability to create a colorful pattern of words that describe many aspects of a Hindu woman's life, both in sorrow and happiness, from birth to death.  "Kaleidoscope: An Asian Journey of Colors" is her second chapbook of musings.
Touching the heart of women, Vikram gives us an opportunity to reflect within ourselves to deepen our own understanding of life.  In the introduction Vikram says "The color she adorns herself with almost depicts the story of her life. (For instance, widowhood cries white and green conveys conception.)" Although each culture has its own interpretation of color, a woman from any culture can resonate with the words Vikram so gracefully carved:
Poetry in Flowers

With feet like petals of daffodils
dipped in almond milk.
Mind, a butterfly nudged
by the toothed leaves of Buttercup.
I dash to chase the breeze
of daisies singing melodies.
Vikram's wordsmithing is outstanding.  I have read much poetry and have never seen such creativeness as that of this author. She allows her words to flow with rhythm and deepness.  The wisdom that comes through her is beyond any I've seen.  She best describes it as:
...the round of turmeric
in the sky serenades me with its color
and tulips sing rhythmic words of poetry.
"Kaleidoscope" by Sweta Srivastava Vikram is like tulips sing[ing] rhythmic words of poetry. Sensational!

The Shaman Speaks: How to Use the Power of Shamanism to Heal Your Life Now

Shaman Elder Maggie Wahls
Marvelous Spirit Press (2010)
ISBN 9781615990078
Reviewed by Irene Watson for Reader Views (10/10)


Shaman Elder Maggie Wahls has a 400-year old heritage of Shamanism that has been passed down to her by her Shaman Grandmother.  Practicing Traditional Shamanism for over fifty years, Shaman Elder Maggie is now passing her knowledge to those that have an interest in this pagan principle of healing.  Over the years of using her healing skills on others, as well as teaching and counseling, she has been asked thousands of questions. Although all important, Shaman Elder Maggie has chosen forty questions and provides answers in "The Shaman Speaks" - answers that most aspiring Shamans, or those seeking healing, would have.
One of the most common questions is "Why study Shamanism?"  Her answer is lengthy, but to summarize, she says "Healing the spirit is the primary function of a Shaman."  This can be done through soul-retrieval, soul restoration, hands-on healing, herbal healing, dreamwork and soul leading.  Shaman Elder Maggie continues to say "Each of us has one or more of these gifts buried somewhere inside our spirits."
On the flip-side, the answer to "I have the sensation of swimming or flying up to a different point in time" is "this...has been happening to more and more people as we move along the spiral of earth changes.  It happens because there is a message for you in that place you are swept away to."  She continues to say these are astral journeys and that we are to look for the messages that are there for us. They are lessons for our growth.
I found the questions interesting and in many cases felt I would have had the same ones if I was sitting with Shaman Elder Maggie and talking to her.  In fact, the writing is much like she is talking; not only does she answer the question but she often tells a story of her own experience or relates to a situation.  Her voice is gentle, peaceful, and with a tone of spirituality. 
I feel "The Shaman Speaks" would be ideal reading for anyone wanting to learn more about Traditional Shamanism.  Although each one of us has the ability to become a Shaman, not all of us are destined to do so in this lifetime.  Those that are called to become Shamans will find their teacher and Shaman Elder Maggie Wahls' "The Shaman Speaks" may be the catalyst that opens up the spirit to move forward and let the healer out.
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Monday, November 1, 2010

Homeless Narratives & Pretreatment Pathways: From Words to Housing

Jay S. Levy, MSW, LICSW
Loving Healing Press (2010)
ISBN 9781615990269
Reviewed by Carol Hoyer, PhD, for Reader Views (09/10)


This is one of the best guides I have read about working with the underserved and homeless. I wonder why all cities don't put it into place. Quite frankly, I get tired of hearing professionals say they are overworked and underpaid. How we approach our homeless can definitely make a difference. Sometimes it's not in the techniques, but in the attitude of the case manager.
As the author says "It was equally clear that many of the most severely impaired were unwilling to 'accept' their illness under the terms and conditions imposed by housing programs with strict eligibility requirements." In addition, this is the life the individuals live regardless of we like it or not, or point fingers. Change is very hard for them. When someone gets into the homeless individuals' face and starts spouting what they should do, naturally they are going to back off and you may lose them forever.
The author discusses two types of the underserved. Those who live under bridges and in the woods who would come in occasionally to get help. These individuals are often not treated for their mental illness and/or substances abuse and had serious medical problems. The other group was those who are high profile. These individuals have difficulty in homeless shelters, have conflicting behaviors with what society feels is "normal." It seems as if we cannot come up with a term that will describe chronic homelessness.
An important point the author made was regarding pretreatment. Whenever anyone approaches the homeless on the street or in the shelter it must be made carefully, not too quickly and with compassion and understanding. They must be able to see how we interact with others in a shelter or on the street and take little steps. Pretreatment is important in safety and enhancements, from painful bleeding feet to getting a warm winter coat and shoes.
Throughout the book, the author describes in detail homeless individuals he or his organization has come into contact with. It really gives you a look at how these individuals do not trust the government or anyone in power, regardless of their reasoning. This is a process that takes time; it is not an overnight cure. Trust is very important, along with speaking the same language the client does.  Client-centered work is also very important- it's not what we want, but what the client sees as a need at any given time.
Overall, "Homeless Narratives & Pretreatment Pathways" was very enlightening and full of compassion and caring. You can tell the author, along with others, has changed the direction to working with the homeless. Anyone in the helping field will do a great disservice to themselves if they do not read this book.

The Everyday Housewife: Murder, Drugs, and Ironing

Bryan Foreman
iUniverse (2010)
ISBN 9781450234726
Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views (09/10)


What do you do when you are a thirty-eight-year-old housewife, from Oklahoma, with a husband who can't keep his hands off another woman, a daughter who can't keep her hands off of food, and a teenage son who publically can't keep his hands off himself?  Well, you can put up with it and pretend like it isn't happening, or you can hop on a bus to New York City and explore your aspirations to be a published author.
In "The Everyday Housewife," that is exactly what Katharine Beaumont did, only things turned out to be a lot different then she expected. First of all, she discovers that you can't just show up at a literary agent's office with a handwritten story in a notebook.  Secondly, she learns about how high rent is in New York City, even if the apartment comes complete with unruly spiders and cockroaches.  She also discovers why some apartments come furnished. I don't want to give that one away, but it was an eye opener!
Katharine also learns about the fine art of waitressing, when she finds that she has to get a job to pay the rent. Books don't get published as quickly as she expects.  She also gains some interesting new friends.  One is a sensitive hitman/bartender and the other is a crackhead neighbor who is always fighting with her pimp lover.  Yes, for Katharine things are very different in New York City versus the suburbs of Oklahoma. 
Katharine also graciously shares the novel that she is working on with us. Truly a bodice ripping tale, it is like none that I have ever read before. Actually, "The Everyday Housewife" is also like no fictional novel that I have ever read before.  I think that the author, Bryan Foreman, threw out all the standard rules on how to write fiction.  As a result of this, "The Everyday Housewife," is one of the most unexpectedly entertaining novels that I have had the pleasure of reading.  In this story, and the story within the story, nothing is as it should be, and I found myself totally unable to guess what was going to happen next.  What a refreshing change from the usual fictional formats!
I highly recommend "The Everyday Housewife" to readers who are feeling the need to "get away from it all!" It might make you think twice about doing so, or at least distract you enough to forget that you have the need to go.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Grave Echoes: A Kate Waters Mystery

Erin Cole
AuthorHouse (2010)
ISBN 9781452070186
Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views (09/10)


The mystery begins when Kate Waters is notified that her sister Jev died in a car accident.  Strange things begin happening.  Kate has both visitations and visions from the otherworld.  She finds a mysterious key hidden in her sister's belongings. Suspicion is raised about whether or not Jev's death was really an accident. At this point, Kate's life is thrown into turmoil and she has no idea who she can trust.  Unfortunately, she has reasons to suspect everyone that is close to her.  This includes her boyfriend and her co-worker who was dating Jev.  Kate soon realizes her own life in danger.
When Kate finds items used for witchcraft in her sister's belongings, she is shocked because she had no idea that Jev was a practicing witch. She also learns that Jev was attempting to perform a binding spell to protect her from an evil person.  Who is this person?  Kate is not sure if it is someone close to her, or one of Jev's witchy friends. As more deaths occur that are linked to the investigation, the paranormal activity increases in Kate's home.  Trying to find a link between Jev's death, the key, and the unexplained occurrences has Kate scrambling for answers. 
"Grave Echoes" is the perfect modern gothic tale.  My arms were covered with goosebumps through most of the story.  How the key and the apparitions are involved with the mystery surrounding Jev's death makes for a great paranormal story.  The author, Erin Cole, truly has a gift for writing suspense.  Her suspicious characters and eerily descriptive paranormal happenings in both Kate's house and the cemetery had me hooked.  I highly, highly recommend "Grave Echoes" and I am looking forward to reading the next book in the Kate Waters Mystery series.


The Sixth Surrender: A Novel

Hana Samek Norton
Plume (2010)
ISBN 9780452296237
Reviewed by Marissa Libbit for Reader Views (09/10)


"The Sixth Surrender" by Hana Samek Norton is the fictitious story of Lady Juliana and her entwined relationship with her husband Guerin de Lasalle.  Never wanting to wed Guerin, Juliana is sucked into a world full of so many twists and turns the reader may find his head spinning along with Lady Juliana.  There are plots to take over kingdoms, marry off daughters and sons, and take over property.  Juliana tries desperately to hold onto Tillieres, her home, which Lord Lasalle has assumed ownership of within the bonds of marriage.  He treats her unkindly causing Juliana to reconsider the life of a nun.  Unexpected surprises await the reader in discovering how deep many of the relationships truly run. 
"The Sixth Surrender" is a very well-written book.  Ms. Norton has done her research, giving fictitious stories to some "real name" characters.  The medieval specifics are so well defined the reader can easily place herself in this world.  The style of writing reflects the spoken language at that time, and I am impressed with Ms. Norton's ability to stay true to that style throughout the book.
I found myself rooting for Juliana throughout "The Sixth Surrender" at every turn, and the basic story of her relationship with Guerin de Lasalle kept my focus.  However, there were so many, many characters (and some with very similar names) as well as locations and intertwined relationships that I know I missed a great deal of the book.  I read it, but without a referral guide to keep everybody and everyplace straight, I was confused.  I have read books like this before with a large cast of characters, and have found such character guides to by helpful.  That said, I still want to know the continuation of the tale of Guerin and Juliana.  I feel like Ms. Norton may have more to tell us, and I am excited to read her next book. 

Monday, October 18, 2010

Reena’s Bollywood Dream: A Story about Sexual Abuse

Jewel Kats
Loving Healing Press (2010)
ISBN 9781615990146
Reviewed by Zoey Crane (age 6) and Carol Hoyer, Ph.D., (Nana) for Reader Views (09/10)


A well illustrated, brightly colored book that is very informative about inappropriate advances by adults toward children. The story is easy to read and understand, and can be adopted by any culture.


"No one should ever ask you to do something you don't like, that includes relatives. Reena likes her uncle and he believes in her. He helps by taking pictures of her, but asks her to take off her top and she doesn't like it. She doesn't think her parents will believe her so she has to do something to show them it's for real. She takes the video out of her uncle's room and shows her parents. Her mom and dad said she was right in telling and that she could tell any adult she trusts what happened. Our private parts are ours- no one has the right to see them if we don't want them to. I learned to tell an adult if someone does something I don't like."


"Reena's Bollywood Dream" was a very easy to read and understand book for my 6-year-old granddaughter. She learned that no one can touch her if she doesn't want it and she should tell an adult. Even though the individual may be a family member, she knows what to do now. We had a long discussion about this and about what you call your private areas (real names), so that if it happened to her she could describe when and how and by whom.

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Death by Wall Street: Rampage of the Bulls

Theodore Jerome Cohen
AuthorHouse (2010)
ISBN 9781452079455 
Reviewed by Richard R. Blake for Reader Views


Theodore Jerome Cohen has chosen to use the medium of the novel as a platform to express his repugnance for the brazen manipulation of the stock market in the field of biotechnology. As a result of the collusion among pharmaceutical developers, unscrupulous doctors, Wall Street stock analysts and inaction by government agencies, the lives of innocent victims are put jeopardy. "Death by Wall Street" is a work of fiction. The story is based upon real events.

Three separate murders appear to be related because the heads of the victims were severed and left to be discovered in prominent places. One is found pinned to the horn of the bronze sculpture "The Charging Bull" in Bowling Green Park near Wall Street. Another is left in the lap of Robert Aitken's statue "Future" at Federal Triangle on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. The final of the trio is propped against the window on the driver's side of his black Mercedes-Benz, which is parked near the delivery dock behind the Delacourt Theater in Central Park.

The public, the mayor's office, and the chief of police are all clamoring for results, a quick arrest, and closure to these heinous crimes. Feeling "strangled" himself, Homicide Detective Lou Martelli of the NYPD is forced to think outside the box to solve the case.

Cohen proves to have an innate ability to instill believability in his fictional characters. Steve Jacobs, John Williamson, and Tricia Fournier represent the various levels of stock market analysts. They demonstrate the corruption, greed and lack of ethics often resulting from affluence.

Dr. Broussard is the embodiment of the persona without moral fiber. Ruthless and unprincipled, he smears the reputation of all his peers in the medical profession.

Detective Martelli and his support team of experts in crime detection, although somewhat devious on occasion, are examples of the finest in character, dedication, and loyalty to public service.

I especially appreciate Cohen's strong characterizations and attention to detail. I admire his boldness to speak out with a keen sense conviction on the unethical practices flagrant in industry and government today.

Detailed footnotes document instances where facts are introduced into the fictional account. Important background information on Wall Street practices, drug research, and investigative procedures added to my personal enjoyment of Cohen's writing style. This is a book that should be added to the reading list of college and university classes in ethics, political science, finance, business, law, science, and medicine. Detailed footnotes document instances where facts are introduced into the fictional account. Important background information on Wall Street practices, drug research, and investigative procedures added to my personal enjoyment of Cohen's writing style. This is a book that should be added to the reading list of college and university classes in ethics, political science, finance, business, law, science, and medicine.

"Death by Wall Street: The Rampage of the Bulls" will be enjoyed by mystery readers who enjoy matching wits with the protagonist and by concerned citizens eager to see reformation in steps to enforce the laws regulating US financial markets and the nation's health care practices.

…Cutting edge reporting, important insight, timely, and relevant… "Death by Wall Street: Rampage of the Bulls" is destined to firmly establish Theodore Jerome Cohen as a fresh voice in literary journalism.

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Monday, October 11, 2010

Lost Relic of the Gods: The God Conspiracy (Volume 1)

Jeffrey A. Friedberg
Jeffrey A. Friedberg (2010)
ISBN 9780615384924
Reviewed by Marty Shaw for Reader Views


I wasn't sure about 'Lost Relic of the Gods" at first. The prologue takes place in 950 BC, 150 miles outside Jerusalem, and I started to think I misread the copy on the back cover. Fortunately, the prologue merely sets the stage for the actual story, which quickly moves to modern times. The prologue also provides some very useful information that comes to light later in the book.

Once the story shifts to modern times, we're introduced to Jack Vane, a seemingly washed up private eye who is quite happy to accept what life has to offer so long as he lives that life with his beautiful wife, Diana, at his side. An attorney friend contacts Jack and talks him into meeting with a client that wants to hire him. The client, a mystery woman named Charmant, offers Jack a deal she believes he can't refuse… but he refuses the job offer, anyway. Shortly after that, Diana and her unborn twins are killed. Jack is convinced that turning down the job of hunting for an ancient relic is the cause of the deaths so he begins a quest to find the relic and get revenge against the murderers. He soon finds himself entangled in ancient legends and prophecies, fighting against two powerful organizations determined to use him for their own purposes. Jack is a man with a destiny. Now he just has to figure out if that destiny is to save the world, or destroy it.

The character of Jack Vane appealed to me almost instantly. He's a hero not forged in the typical 'hero' mold. He has morals, but his moral code is strictly his. Immoral acts are acceptable as long as there is justification for those acts in his mind. He's a knight with slightly tarnished armor that believes that getting one's hands dirty is just a part of the job. A stubborn streak and a mouth that has a talent for saying the wrong thing at the wrong time have the ability to frustrate his enemies, while entertaining the reader at the same time.

There's a lot going on in the story, but the author does an excellent job of balancing the information out. We learn things as Jack does and that allows the tension to build as the action keeps you turning the page at a brisk pace. While the powers at play are cosmic in size, the real-world settings and the humanity of Jack and the other main characters keep things grounded, and it's easy for us to place ourselves within the story and experience the adventure through Jack's eyes.

"Lost Relic of the Gods" is packed with tons of suspense, plenty of action, a few graphic deaths, and one mildly graphic sex scene. Readers who enjoy themes along the 'Indiana Jones" and "The DaVinci Code" storylines will enjoy this book and will be looking forward to the next chapter in the story as anxiously as I am.

Read interview with Jeffrey A. Friedberg

Irish Twins

Michele VanOrt Cozzens
McKenna Publishing Group (2010)
ISBN 9781932172362
Reviewed by Olivera Baumgartner-Jackson for Reader Views

I am not a twin, Irish or regular, I do not have children and as far as I know, my family's secrets are nowhere near those described in Michele VanOrt Cozzens' "Irish Twins," so why was I so spellbound from the first page on? Sure, the book is well written, but so are many others. Yes, the subject is appealing, but it is certainly not the only one. What then sets this book apart? I kept asking myself those questions while reading, and savoring each page.

The story begins with a death. Anne Catherine Monaghan Shields, a wife and a mother of five living children, suffers a stroke while waterskiing, which at the age of 80 is quite an amazing thing by itself. Entering a new existence, she finds herself in a beautiful place called Ohr, where she is greeted by her own Irish twin, Molly, who passed many years before. Over numerous cups of tea they follow the life of those Anne left behind, particularly her own Irish twins, Jenny and Caylie, who by now are middle-aged women themselves. Many family secrets are revealed, and Anne realizes that as much as she did not know about others, she also did not realize quite a few things about herself.

It was the very last page, the Acknowledgements, which brought some light to my questions. It was the author's mother who actually passed at the age of eighty while waterskiing, and although the rest of the story is not biographical, at least not intentionally, it shines with an undeniable honesty. Stories that come from the heart are always special, and there was no doubt in my mind that this book was one of them. When we add the life lessons learned by Anne and her family, the undeniable truth that love makes one live on in others, the fact that everybody makes mistakes and still manages to live a good life, a well as many others, it becomes clear that this is a book that will be cherished by many.

I have thoroughly enjoyed "Irish Twins." The story pulled me in from the first page and it flowed beautifully. The characters were all too believable and extremely likeable, flaws and all. Although it often spoke of life lessons, it never sounded preachy or soppy. If I could find any fault with it, it would be that it ended all too fast. I wanted more, and I will definitely be on the look-out for more of Ms. VanOrt Cozzens' work for sure.

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Castlebots Book One: From Earth to the Asteroid

Terry S. Goudy
Xulon Press (2010)
ISBN 9781609574628
Reviewed by Ben Weldon (age 12) for Reader Views Kids


"Castlebots Book One: From Earth to the Asteroid" by Terry S. Goudy is the story of sixteen-year-old Scott as he tries to stop an impending asteroid collision with Earth.  When Scott's rival from a previous adventure suddenly showed up on a peaceful beach, Scott was stunned.  He had thought that his rival was out of his life for good.  Later when he arrived at a space station that housed a giant virtual reality adventure, he was amazed to find that the scenario he had been expecting had been changed.  Will he be able to survive the new adventure?

When Scott started the new adventure, he found himself in a strange world ruled by robots called Castlebots.  It seemed as if their only purpose was to have fun.  Their idea of fun included jousting, torobot roping and riding, and foxbot laser tag.  However, after Scott met a mysterious, outcast Castlebot named Threadneedle for the second time, he learned a dark and dangerous secret about the Castlebots.  Can Scott bring the news to the rest of the Castlebots before it is too late?

After several days of relaxation and fun Scott was abruptly challenged by a strange Castlebot named Lady Pearl.  Pearl said that Scott was a spy from people called space pirates.  Can Scott prove his innocence before it is too late and a cataclysmic disaster occurs? 

I would recommend this book to people who like adventure with a smattering of science fiction.  At the top of each chapter there was a quotation from the Bible that would relate to what happened in the chapter.  "Castlebots Book One: From Earth to the Asteroid" was a fun read and left off on a cliffhanger.  I can't wait to read the next one.

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Monday, October 4, 2010

The Picture of Music: The See C Piano Method™

Lesley Anne Sears
Raberdash Publishing Company (2010)
ISBN 9780615336459
Reviewed by Kam Aures for Reader Views (08/10)

In the Introduction for the Adult Student section of "The Picture of Music:  The See C Piano Method™," Lesley Anne Sears writes, "The purpose of this book is to enable you to understand the exquisite simplicity of music.  From that understanding, you can then direct your ability to translate that basic order into personal expression of your deepest emotions- through music's written form."   (p.3)

I, personally, was able to read and play music back when I was in middle school.  I did not play the piano, I played the clarinet, but the basic overall music knowledge is the same.  When my son started to take piano lessons at age five I had a hard time helping him at home because all that I had learned way back when seemed to have disappeared.  Without looking them up, I didn't know the notes or basically anything else that he needed help with.

Lesley Anne Sears' book fills a much needed void in the music instruction world.   She takes music and breaks the components down into straight-forward and easy-to-understand images.  My son, now six, and I went through "The Picture of Music:  The See C Piano Method™" together.  He especially enjoyed all of the animal references, like sitting like a begging dog and hopping like a kangaroo.  While he added to his musical knowledge, I relearned mine in a fun and unique way.

We did find some of the wording to be a little confusing though.  For instance, it is stated many times that "C is the white key just below each pair of black keys."  This wording, to us, implies that the C would be directly below the pair of black keys which would be the white key in between them (which is actually D).  The diagrams throughout the book do correctly show though that the C notes are actually the white key to the left of each pair of two black keys.

Overall, we really enjoyed "The Picture of Music:  The See C Piano Method™."  The repetition paired with the wonderful diagrams was very helpful in aiding our learning process.  We enjoyed the uniqueness of the method and think that this would be a fun way for anyone to learn to play piano.

Siegfried Follies

Richard Alther
Regent Press (2010)
ISBN 9781587902048
Reviewed by Richard R. Blake for Reader Views (09/10)


Born in the midst of history's most shameful atrocities, Franz (Frank Mann) and J (Jay Radius) become victims of the Lebensborn program in Nazi Germany, a secret and appalling Nazi project designed to create a "Master Race." Children born in the Lebensborn nurseries were sent to foster homes or remained in the Lebensborn houses to be nurtured and educated by the SS in hopes the children would grow up to lead a Nazi-Aryan nation.

Ultimately the Lebensborn program expanded to include the kidnapping of "racially good" children and extended to the occupied countries of Europe.  The blonde hair and blue eyes of the children were among the favored. Some of these children were orphans; others were stolen from their parents' arms. Thousands of these children were taken to the Lebensborn centers to be "Germanized." Alther provides amazing insight into the deplorable and despicable condition in the Lebensborn houses in Germany in the final days of World War II.

After the war many of the Lebensborn children were tormented by the uncertainties about their origins. Thousands of Lebensborn files were destroyed by SS troops during the last days of World War II. This further added to difficulty in finding their real identities.
"Siegfried Follies" begins in 1945. Eight-year-old Franz, a blonde, blue-eyed Hitler youth, is among those living at the Lebensborn hospital, where he has been assigned to clean lavatories and run errands for the head nurse in charge of the center. While returning from one of his regular errands Franz witnesses a bundle containing a child being thrown from of a passing train. Franz smuggled the emaciated child into the children's ward of the hospital and nourished him to health. They bonded together as brothers. The story covers the next 30 years of their lives. Together they escaped the state institution and found refuge in the cellar of an abandoned opera house. Together they wrote and produced a series of puppet shows of Wagnerian folk heroes. Franz worked to provide J with the opportunity to read and develop his intellectual skills.

A few years later, J, a Jew, left Franz to join an Israeli kibbutz in Israel. He also studied at Yeshiva University and finally migrated to the United States to eke out an existence as a Hebrew storyteller and puppeteer in New York. Plagued with loneliness, he turned to interior solitude. While seeking his family and personal identity J (Jay) descended into hopelessness, squalor, and degradation.

Franz changed his name to Frank Mann and found employment in marketing with a soap products company in the United States. He married and began a family. He was continually plagued by vivid memories of the past and a recurring nightmare of the war years and growing up with J.

In a remarkable set of circumstances Franz and J are reunited. The story then builds to a crescendo of events that lead to an unexpected climatic dramatic ending.

Alther has the potential for becoming a highly acclaimed writer. He writes with realism, is proficient in articulating intellectual subjects of culture, philosophy, the arts, music, and education. I found his writing style confusing, sometimes serious, and sometimes superficial.  He has included far more graphic sexual scenes than I felt were warranted in light of his indicated target audience. Raised as a Lutheran German-American, Alther has been immersed in a lifelong search into the roots of Nazism, German and Jewish history, folklore, and languages.

"Siegfried Follies" is a novel which addresses a powerful haunting period in world history, a story that will be of special interest to avid readers of World War II literature and to those readers who are interested in the Holocaust. Alther writes with sensitivity on the subjects of seeking ancestral roots, family, community and the complex issue of self identity. This is memorable writing that will disturb the reader long after closing the cover on the final chapter.

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Monday, September 27, 2010

It’s Your Choice! Decisions That Will Change Your Life

Marjorie McKinnon
Loving Healing Press (2010)
ISBN 9781615990443
Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views 

It is of utmost importance that we have purpose in our life so that we have a reason for living.  There are six dimensions in our lives that we need to address to develop healthy behavior patterns.  These dimensions are: mental, emotional, physical, spiritual, social and financial.  The six dimensions are interconnected. By developing all of them to the maximum level possible, these dimensions will work together to help us to live at our fullest potential which in turn will maximize our quality of life.

McKinnon dedicates a chapter for each of the six dimensions. She relates stories from her own experiences in dealing with these areas and she offers sage words of wisdom, which she refers to as "rules," on how we can improve these areas in our own lives.  By sharing her personal stories with us, I really felt a stronger connection with her because I could relate to so many of her experiences and thoughts. This also includes her "Ten Commandments of Obsessive Behavior."  Having created this kind of connection makes me feel like this book was written specifically for me.  However, I also suspect that the majority of readers will feel this way!

I highly recommend immersing yourself in "It's Your Choice!" You will find yourself doing a lot of journaling. This book will encourage you to look inside yourself to assess where you are at and what you need to do to get to where you want to be if you are not there yet.  I think that the more work that we do in these areas, not only will we improve those aspects of our lives, but we will also learn to listen to that inner voice, when it is speaking, and in doing so, we will trust in ourselves more. We have the choice to decide what we need to do to better our reality. Keep in mind that while it is never too late to change your life, it is best to get started now!

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Blood Lily

Mason Cranswick
30 Degrees South (2010)
ISBN 9780958489195
Reviewed by Richard R. Blake for Reader Views


"Blood Lily" is the story of Bruce, Conway, Scott, and Simba, four young men ready to take on the world. Mason Cranswick takes the reader back to the 1970's to a time when Zimbabwe was a respected contributor to African culture.

The Rhodesian War left the country devastated and still divided. A nation in which a minority ruled a majority population became a country ruled by terror, greed, and carnage under the rule of Robert Mugabe.

Cranswick captures the beauty of the Zimbabwe's vegetation and wildlife. He brilliantly reveals insights into the bonding and friendship discovered in boyhood, the loyalty of friendship developed in the midst of battle, the competitive drive for winning, and the self destruction of personal revenge.

Detailed descriptions are given of the meticulous repetition of SAS beret training, the briefing sessions, and the risk of the enemies' reaction to diversionary attacks. 

The symbolism of the "Blood Lily," reflections seen in the mirrored water, dreams, premonitions, and memories all play a part in carrying out the drama, action, suspense, and romantic aura of Cranswick's sensitive writing.

I personally enjoyed Cranswick's literary style and his underlying compassion, in the midst of graphic descriptions of battle, torture, and death. On occasion I found I had to backtrack in my reading to determine the timeline, and some difficulty in sorting out the reality of the plot with the dreams and back-flashes. I enjoyed the choice of word usages of African/ English expressions which added to the local flavor of the story.

The author was born and raised in Zimbabwe, has an MBA degree from Cambridge University, a degree in commerce from Rhodes University in South Africa, as well as a career in investment banking with assignments in Tokyo, London, New York, and Singapore which adds credibility to the many facets of the background and plot twists of this complex story.

This is a book for the history buff that enjoys the fast pace of battle scenes a realistic look at the political impact on a country's economy, culture, and future, as well as the sensitivity of interpreting individual differences, in abilities and opportunities.  "Blood Lily" is a gripping story with a lingering sense of wonderment.

Read interview with Mason Cranswick

Ambrosia: Weapons Underworld

Robin Sutton
The Robin's Nest Books (2009)
ISBN 9780975509821
Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views

"Ambrosia" tells the modern tale of Helena, who lives in an undersea world that was once part of Atlantis. Helena has recently lost her fiancé. She suspects that her current employer Matthew was involved in his death. Matthew is interested in being much more than Helena's boss, he wants to completely dominate her. As Helena tries to find out what really happened to her fiancé, Matthew tightens his control around her.

Except for a select few, the people who live above on earth, also known as "land dwellers," are unaware of the presence of Ambrosia. The people who know of them, trade with them. Some of them are also involved with Matthew's illegal activities. These activities involve trading in deadly weapons. Matthew has the desire to control more than just Ambrosia; he wants to take over the world.

A land dweller named Kevin, who is also an officer in the Navy, discovers Ambrosia. He is amazed by how beautiful the place is, and the special abilities of the people. Kevin is especially taken with Helena. This makes his life there very dangerous. Helena feels equally attracted to Kevin.  Having to leave with Matthew as he travels above the sea, Helena leaves her underwater world.

Encountering Kevin again, while she is on land, he continues to endanger himself while he tries to help her escape. Their feelings for each other are deepening.

As the drama intensifies, Helena learns more about Matthew's treachery involving her family.  To complicate matters further, she also discovers an unexplained attraction to Matthew.  Is this magic or chemistry?  Helena has a lot of important decisions to make.

I really enjoyed the unique idea of this story. How incredible it would be if a place like this really existed! The unusual abilities of the people of Ambrosia also added excitement to the adventure.  The author's vivid descriptions of the undersea world brought it alive in my imagination.  While there are some grammatical errors that detract from the story, I feel that "Ambrosia" will still be enjoyed by fans of fantasy.

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Monday, September 20, 2010

The “O, MY” in TonsillectOMY and AdenoidectOMY: How to Prepare Your Child for Surgery, Second Edition

Laurie Zelinger, Ph.D., R.P.T.-S
Loving Healing Press (2011)
ISBN 9781615990535
Reviewed by Marissa Libbit for Reader Views


"The 'O, MY' in TonsillectOMY and AdenoidectOMY" by Laurie Zelinger, Ph.D., is a book designed to educate parents about the procedures, what to expect on the day of surgery, and what happens in the days after.  The book is divided into four phases:  "Introducing the Topic to Your Child," "Tackling the Subject," "Getting Closer, Getting Ready," and "The Day of Surgery- It's Here!"  Following the four phases is a preparation list and a special section about rare, but possible complications.

Dr. Zelinger has written a clear, specific guide to aide parents in describing the what, when, why, and how of having a tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy.  There is a countdown of what to tell your child beginning at a 1-2 months period prior to surgery to the day of surgery.  Specific dialogues are suggested to give parents a practice sheet of sorts to initiate conversation about what the child should expect. 

As a parent of two children that have had their tonsils and adenoids removed, I can attest to the missing information I had before surgery and how nervous the lack of knowledge made me.  I remember having a very thin pamphlet to read.  Dr. Zelinger's book would have not only alleviated any anxiousness my children may have had, but it would have given me confidence and peace of mind about what to expect the day of surgery and immediately following.  One child had no complications while the other threw up, suffered worse pain, and had nightmares.  This book lays out the possible side effects my child experienced which would have put me more at ease.  "The 'O, MY' in TonsillectOMY and AdenoidectOMY" is a must read for parents of future tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy patients and ENT 's who perform the surgeries.

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Because All is Not Lost

Sweta Srivastava Vikram
Modern History Press (2010)
ISBN 9781615990467
Reviewed by Irene Watson for Reader Views


Loss of a loved one is evident; it's just part of living. Emotions rise, feelings are tested, and thoughts wander.  Sweta Srivastava Vikram takes her inner experiences and transforms them into fluid words in "Because All is Not Lost.

"Vikram's creative wordsmithing is a joy in itself:

We talk.  Grandma and I.  She delivers flakes
of snow and cupcakes of hope
with the ceaseless wind,
in the shape of her stories.


Loss, like the seeds
on strawberries,
is littered everywhere,
faith in its pulp.

Sometimes dark, however poignant in nature, "Because All is Not Lost" touches the heart and soul.  Each piece offers inner reflection and gives the reader an opportunity to make peace with his or her own feelings.  I admire Vikram's ability to transform her inner thoughts into such moving works of word art.

Unfinished Business: Pursuit of an Antarctic Killer

Theodore Jerome Cohen
AuthorHouse (2010)
ISBN 9781452061788
Reviewed by Richard R. Blake for Reader Views


"Unfinished Business: Pursuit of an Antarctic Killer" is the second in the "Antarctic Murder Trilogy" based on real events in the life of the author. The series is a fictional account of incidents that took place in the years 1960 through 1965. The story picks up where "Frozen in Time" leaves off.

Captain Roberto Munoz and members of his crew from the Lientur are back on the scene. The Lientur is undergoing repairs in readiness for the upcoming 17th Chilean Expedition to the Antarctic scheduled for September 1962. Captain Mateo Valderas and Lieutenant-Commander Antonia Del Rio, from the Chilean Navy's Office of Internal Affairs are sent to solve a murder at the naval base located in Arica, Chile. During their investigation Valderas and Del Rio discover clues that link the murder to the 1960 bank robbery in Talcahuano. Their inquiry uncovers suspicious evidence that indicate that Captain Munoz may be deeply involved in both crimes.

Cohen is a master at the craft of characterization. His characters are based on the lives of real people. They are solid, essential and each contributes an important part to the flow of the plot. For instance: Vaderas strengths lie in his powers of detection and deduction, his familiarity of numismatics, his knowledge of security procedures, and his technical knowledge of shipboard protocol and naval nomenclature. These all add to his reputation as "el sabueso, the bloodhound" and are typical of Cohen's strong character development. Active interaction between characters, believable dialog, stunning descriptions of the dangers and beauty of the environment, and the natural flow of details relative to Chilean culture and the rites of the Catholic Church all add to the credibility of the story.

Although the author generously supplies background information throughout the narrative of "Unfinished Business," I would strongly suggest that the reader read "Frozen in Time: Murder at the Bottom of the World" before reading book two in "The Antarctic Murders Trilogy." Either way, you will not be disappointed in your reading experience.

Degrees in Physics and Geophysics and a background which includes exploration in South America and Antarctica, communications, electronics, a love for music and a full life of keen observation all are incorporated in Cohen's writing. His extensive research comes to light in his well-placed footnotes, maps, and illustrations.

Theodore Jerome Cohen, author of "Unfinished Business: Pursuit of an Antarctic Killer," is a master at creating an aura of mystery, suspense, and drama. Cohen's writing style is engaging, innovative, and focused, clearly designed for the post-modern reader.

Read Interview with Theodore Jerome Cohen

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Secret Pillars of Writing: A Crash Course!

Jeffrey A. Friedberg
Cybergator Productions (2010)
ISBN 9780615396590
Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views (09/10)


In "The Secret Pillars of Writing: A Crash Course!," the author Jeffrey A. Friedberg offers sound writing advice that will benefit new and seasoned authors.  Mr. Friedberg presents the material in a manner that is both highly motivating and concise. He provides some creatively imagined and humorous examples to illustrate his points. Because some of the examples are so outrageous, I feel that the reader will find it easier to latch on to his ideas.  He definitely makes them stand out! I found myself wishing that I had grammar books written in this manner, back when I was in school. Having read his fictional novel, "Lost Relic of the Gods," I can definitely say that Mr. Friedberg applied these rules to that novel, and that they really worked in allowing him to create a fast action, riveting adventure. In other words, he successfully practices what he preaches.
As a book reviewer, I truly feel that most authors, especially those who do not use professional editors, should make "The Secret Pillars of Writing," mandatory reading material for themselves before they attempt to publish a book.  I found that Mr. Friedberg addresses some common areas where many authors could easily improve their writings. From my perspective, this is especially true in the case of reviewing and refining drafts.  As he points out, publishers are bombarded with a tremendous amount of manuscripts every month.  The majority of these are disregarded if they do not stand out.  An author really needs to make their manuscripts shine.  This is even before they have to worry about what a reader is going to think about their book.

In the last chapter, Mr. Friedberg lists other resources that writers can use to continue to further their abilities.  These additional resources will help those who are seeking information in more specific areas such as writing screen plays.  I think that writers will also find this section to be an extremely valuable.  Readers groups could also use this book and the resources suggested as additional tools when discussing and evaluating books. 

While I think that "The Secret Pillars of Writing" will greatly benefit writers, I also believe that it would be a great book to use in college level writing classes.  I think that students will really gain from both the information provided and that they will feel motivated to up the ante on their writings. Teachers will really appreciate this!

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The Lost Secret of the Green Man: Book 2 (The Crystal Keeper Chronicles)

Tiffany Turner
Trafford Publishing (2009)
ISBN 9781426921575
Reviewed by Evan Weldon (age 8) for Reader Views (08/10)

"The Lost Secret of the Green Man: Book 2" by Tiffany Turner is an AWESOME book!  This book is about two girls who go into the fairy world to help save the bees that the fairies are finding dead everywhere.  The first chapter is a little bit slow but the rest of the book is page-turning entertainment. 
The book starts out on Wanda's first day of middle school.  Wanda is no ordinary kid.  She is a Crystal Keeper and has a cat named Brewford who is a sorcerer.  As a Crystal Keeper she does missions for the fairies.  Once she gets to school, class starts and she meets a girl named Eddie.  They become best friends.  But unbeknownst to Wanda, Eddie, like her, is a Crystal Keeper and has a mission from the fairies.  After school Eddie said that she knew a place that Wanda would like, so they ran to the park.  At the park there was a little hill with a tree which was Eddie's special tree for entering the fairy world.  Then Eddie revealed to Wanda that she was a Crystal Keeper and that the fairy queen had a job for the two of them.  All the bees were dying and that since the bees helped the fairies before, now it was time for the fairies to help the bees.  So the girls headed to a crystal store to do research and found a book about the Green Man.  The Green Man balanced the forest life but now that most people thought he was a myth, he went into hiding.  Eddie and Wanda go in search of the Green Man in hopes that he will know why the bees are dying and can help them.  Will they find the Green Man?  Does he know what is happening to the bees?  Can they save the bees?  Is some evil brewing?The mission was more dangerous and complicated than they had anticipated.  Luckily, they had the help of Chyra, a unicorn, and Brewford's crystal-ball reading teacher who was a cat.  The crystal ball revealed secrets even graver than the bees dying.  Will Wanda and Eddie be able to help?  Will they survive?
I would recommend this book to all my friends.   "The Lost Secret of the Green Man: Book 2" book is great.  There is something in it for everyone to enjoy.  It leaves off on a cliff hanger, and I can't wait to get my hands on the third book!

Listen to interview with Tiffany Turner

Please Explain “Anxiety” to Me! Simple Biology and Solutions for Children and Parents

Laurie Zelinger, PhD, and Jordan Zelinger
Loving Healing Press (2010)
ISBN 9781615990290
Reviewed by Evan Weldon (age 8) for Reader Views (08/10)

"Please Explain 'Anxiety' to Me! Simple Biology and Solutions for Children and Parents" by Laurie Zelinger, PhD, and Jordan Zelinger is a book that explains what anxiety is and why it exists.  The second part of the book gives ideas and suggestions for getting rid of anxiety.

The chemicals that our bodies make when we are in danger prepare us for action like running away or fighting.  Anxiety is when someone acts all scared without there really being any danger.  People who are really anxious can't concentrate or have fun because they are worrying.  Some people even feel sick to the stomach.
This book also tells people how to control anxiety by riding a bike, thinking happy thoughts, and blowing bubbles.  The end of the book has a couple of rhymes like "Blow Slow!" and "Distract-Get the Fact" to remind kids of things they can do to control anxiety.
More than half of each page is a color drawing.  The pictures are simple drawings, but they are good and helped me to understand the book.

I would recommend this book to kids who have too much anxiety and need to learn how to control it.  "Please Explain 'Anxiety' to Me! Simple Biology and Solutions for Children and Parents" would also help the friends of kids who have anxiety problems to understand what is going on.

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Monday, September 6, 2010

White Gold Railroad: Plaster City Narrow Gauge

Charles M. O'Herin
Link Pen Publishing (2008)
ISBN 9780977627912
Reviewed by Marty Shaw for Reader Views

Providing an in-depth look at the Plaster City Railroad, "White Gold Railroad" is great for train aficionados, train model enthusiasts, and history buffs. The book provides an in-depth look at the narrow gauge railroad, complete with detailed histories and both black-and-white and color photos.

The Plaster City Railroad is an example of progress by necessity. When Samuel W. Dunaway envisioned the creation of Imperial Gypsum and Oil Company in the 1920s, a way to transport the products from the quarry to the production plant also had to be created. Unlike other railroads that have occasionally doubled as a public transportation system, the rails at Plaster City have always been dedicated to the sole purpose of moving gypsum, a soft mineral used to make plaster, Sheetrock®, agricultural soil conditioner, and some cements.

The layout of the book makes information easy to find by splitting the history into distinct categories – Historical Summary, Trains & Operations, Structures, and Flora & Fauna. Detailed indexes make easy work of locating a particular figure or photograph by providing easy-to-read lists that provide page numbers, figure/photo names, and brief summaries of each item.

I thought "White Gold Railroad" provided an interesting look into the past, providing some provocative insight into Sam Dunaway's efforts of transforming his vision into reality. Instances such as getting the attention of potential investors by including the word 'Oil' in the company name of Imperial Gypsum and Oil Company, although there was never any evidence of oil being found in the area, reveal how dedicated the man was to his idea…and how lucky he was that gypsum turned out to be such a profitable product that the lack of said oil never caused any investor relationships to turn sour. The fact that the Plaster City Railroad is still hauling loads of gypsum today is another testament to the vision of a man who saw potential where others did not.

I was also impressed by the work and the challenges faced by the engineers who were dedicated to making the railroad work. The terrain and weather of the Imperial Valley in California were not forgiving adversaries and a lot of work went into designing, and re-designing, a transportation system that could withstand the harsh environment.

With "White Gold Railroad," Mr. O'Herin set out to create a book that would "give railroad hobbyists, enthusiasts, and historians equal consideration of their interests" and I believe he did exactly that with this detailed look at the Plaster City Railroad from it's origins to it's present-day operations.

Read Interview with author Charles M. O'Herin

The Labrys Reunion

Terry Wolverton
Spinsters Ink (2009)
ISBN 9781935226024
Reviewed by Olivera Baumgartner-Jackson for Reader Views

Every now and then I challenge myself to read something that is clearly out of my usual comfort zone. The results of such endeavors are a mixed bag at best. We are creatures of habit, and all too often pushing the boundaries of familiar leaves us quite ill at ease. Here and there though, such a detour into the unknown and usually slightly scary world leaves me enchanted and enriched. This was definitely the case with my latest foray in the field of lesbian and feminist literature, namely the utterly brilliant "The Labrys Reunion" by Terry Wolverton.

Let me start by saying that this was not an easy, nor a pleasant book to read. It was intense; it was gritty and full of tension. Quite honestly, I do not think I could have read it in one or two days, a few chapters a day was quite enough. In spite of that, or maybe because of it, I loved every page of it, and if I could give it six stars, I would. While my taste usually runs more towards sunny and happy books, or those of the fantasy genre, there is simply something about really good writing that transcends those personal preferences. I couldn't even identify myself with any of the extremely believable, detailed and nuanced characters, yet even that did not bother me any.

Without giving away too much of the story, let me just say that "The Labrys Reunion" deals with a reunion of a group of feminists who were part of a 70s collective called Labrys. One of them, Dana, has lost her young daughter, Emma, and her former colleagues have come to support her. They are joined by Emma's friends, and a clash of generations is inevitable.

I've never considered myself a feminist, although I am sure many of my friends and acquaintances, not to mention my husband, would disagree with that statement, yet I found the insights into the feminist beliefs and the generational differences stunningly interesting. As I've mentioned previously, the cast of characters was superbly drawn, as was the dialogue. The story pulled me in quickly, and definitely did not let go. Ms. Wolverton has a masterful way with words, and the world she draws, as foreign and still scary to me as it was when I first started reading the book; it definitely put me under a spell. I was looking forward to each new scene and I kept marveling at the exquisite details she managed to weave in the story.

While not for the faint of heart, "The Labrys Reunion" is definitely a book that would appeal to the discerning reader who loves a well crafted story and a book with strong messages, delivered in a clear and distinctive voice.

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Monday, August 30, 2010

Burgher and the Woebegone

Kim Chatel
Guardian Angel Publishing (2010)
ISBN 9781616330613
Reviewed by Evan Weldon (age 8) for Reader Views Kids

"Burgher and the Woebegone" by Kim Chatel is a choose-your-own-adventure book about an ugly, fat gnome named Burgher who wants to destroy spring because it reminds him of a friend he once lost.  His friend was an inchworm named Katy.  One day she made a chrysalis.  When she hatched out as a butterfly she heard Johnny Gold's magical flute and flew away toward it.  Burgher was upset that he would never see Katy again and blamed his unhappiness on Johnny Gold.  Johnny Gold, also known as the Apple Tree Man, magically brought life to the forest.  

Burgher had been able to get rid of Johnny Gold once by tricking the fairies into thinking that Johnny Gold's treasure was gold.  The fairies were very tempted by gold and dug around all the trees in search of the treasure.  They dug until the trees fell over.  But even the fairies knew that it would be too tragic to dig up the Queen Tree, the base of all the forest life.  So, except for the Queen Tree, the forest was left in ruins - tree's fallen and birds flying from their trees, all was in distress.  There was no green.   The forest was just how Burgher thought he wanted it.

Has Johnny Gold played the last tune on his flute?  Is spring gone for good?  Will Johnny Gold come back?  Will Burgher find happiness again?  The fate of Burgher and Johnny Gold is your hands!  There are lots of different choices to make.  Some lead to somewhat unhappy endings and some lead to happy endings.  It is all up to you.

I think lots of people would enjoy "Burgher and the Woebegone."  It might be an especially good book for kids who miss a friend.  I kept reading it until I had read all the different parts and endings.  It was a very fun book.  There were a handful of black and white sketches that added a good feel to the book.

If I Were a Farmer: Field Work

Gordon W. Fredrickson
Beaver's Pond Press (2010)
ISBN 9781592983407
Reviewed by Sophia (age 7) and Madeline (age 9) McElroy for Reader Views Kids

Sophia:  I loved this book because the pictures were nice, and also I liked what the book talked about - kid farmers! My favorite part of the book was when they all worked together as a team. I also liked the part when they were riding the tractors. I would choose to use the new tractors for my farm because they have air-conditioning! My favorite picture in the book was when the neighbors were talking about old and new tractors because they both had their pets on the tractors with them. I think it would be nice to live on a farm.

Madeline:  This is a funny book about farming from a kid's point of view. I learned that tractors can be very expensive and that farming takes a lot of work! The drawings are good and they are fun too. My favorite picture is the little girl driving the hay tractor. My favorite part is when the little boy and his dog ride on the small tractor and the dog is riding on the back off it! This is a really nice book; it's very fun to read. I have read the first book by this author and I think they're both really good books. I think I would rather work on the farm with the animals than in the field. The "If I Were a Farmer" series has really fun books to read. If you liked this book you might like the others too! 

Sophia and Madeline:  We both highly recommend this fun book, "If I Were a Farmer: Field Work."

Listen to live interview on Inside Scoop Live

Monday, August 23, 2010

It Simply Must Be Said: A View of American Public Education from the Trenches of Teaching

Hank Warren
iUniverse (2009)
ISBN 9781440134005
Reviewed by Christine Watson for Reader Views

I simply couldn't put this book down once I started reading.  Hank Warren delivers an incredibly accurate depiction of public school, particularly from the perspective of a high quality teacher.  I couldn't have been more enlightened or entertained while reading this book.  As a former teacher, and new administrator, I found myself relating with many of his stories and experiences as a teacher. 

Mr. Warren states many issues in public education clearly and concisely, with plenty of humor thrown in the mix.  I laughed out loud often, starting with the first page.  He mentions the troubles with teacher shortages, and how the current evaluation system is utterly useless.  He accurately portrays the struggles that arise when policy that "looks and sounds good" on paper are so horrendously executed in reality.  Merit pay for teachers is one particular plan that sounds good, but is nearly impossible to implement fairly.  Mr. Warren writes about the problems associated with special education and simply states that all children are worthy to receive the attention that a few are afforded currently.  As a former special education teacher, I cannot agree more with his stand.  All students require special attention, and it looks different for each individual. 

Mr. Warren has several suggestions for improving public education, including doubling teacher salaries, reducing class size to ten students, having all administrators continue to teach in the classroom, and many other ideas.  He states that most often, within one year of being removed from the classroom, administrators "forget" what it's like to teach.  After just finishing my first year as an assistant principal, I can testify that this is true.  I taught summer school for our middle school students this year so I could reconnect with students in the classroom.  It was a powerful wake up call and I highly recommend continuing the teaching experience. 

"It Simply Must Be Said" needs to be distributed to everyone remotely involved in education, from teachers, to administrators, policy makers, parents, and tax payers who wonder where their money is going.  Education is such a critical piece of our future and it is handled so poorly.  Mr. Warren does a fantastic job of bring that to light along with powerful considerations for improving education for everyone.  Well done!

Da Vinci and the 40 Answers: A Playbook for Creativity and Fresh Ideas

Mark L. Fox
Wizard Academy Press (2008)
ISBN 9781932226638
Reviewed by Irene Watson for Reader Views

My first exposure to "Da Vinci and the 40 Answers" was through a 2-day workshop under the same name facilitated by the author, Mark L. Fox.  The premise is based on the principles of TRIZ (Theory of Inventive Problem Solving) created by a Russian engineer/scientist Genrikh Altshuller. Altshuller's findings showed that, after studying hundreds of thousands of patents, "there are only about 1,500 basic problems."  Fox further states "Every answer to every problem is found within the 40 principles of TRIZ..."

For the purpose of this review, I will cover two "lenses" (principles) of TRIZ and the relationship to a business.  One is "Peel the Onion."  This particular lens made me stop in my tracks when I read Fox's sub-title of "Everything You Know is Wrong."  Further reading explained that if we rely on conventional wisdom as the key source for making decisions failure is imminent.  If we aren't willing to look at other options we stifle our own creativity.  Challenging ourselves is of utmost importance if our goal is growth in our business and our personal lives.

Another lens is "Brainstorming."  To me, this is one of the most important aspects of managing a business.  However, as Fox explains in "Da Vinci and the 40 Answers," on many occasions the brainstorming sessions don't produce effective results.  According to Fox the ineffectiveness is a result of not setting rules for the brainstorming session.  One rule is "Generate as many ideas as possible. Go for quantity, not quality."  I've been in many sessions when the brainstorming stops when everyone agrees on one idea but this always isn't the best result.  On a personal note, when in Fox's class, I was chosen to have my goal for the business brainstormed.  I acquired twenty-seven new ideas that can be implemented and this was as a result of the rule "Encourage Wild and Exaggerated Ideas, No Matter How Crazy, Ridiculous, or Far-fetched the Idea Might Be."

Fox comes from an engineering background with accomplishments such as Chief Engineer on the Space Shuttle program and Chairman of the "orbital debris" committee. With that comes his creative side from which he draws extensively in his book and business consulting. "Da Vinci and the 40 Answers" is concise, written in lay language, and provides a diverse list of lenses that can be used in any business or personal advancement.  The examples and ideas can transform or update a business to become the forerunner in the industry. And, I can personally attest to that.

Free Download of Da Vinci and the 40 Answers

Listen to live interview with Mark Fox