Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Return to the Desert

Dr. Jerry Burgener
iUniverse (2010)
ISBN 9781450205238
Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views

"Return to the Desert" is the sequel to "Desert Journey."  In this adventure, Jerry continues on his spiritual path with lessons and guidance given to him by Tom, a Native American spirit guide.  On this journey, Jerry experiences past-life regression.  Freshly out of a relationship in which he felt betrayed, Jerry is able to make the connection between incidences that he did not clear up in his past lives with those that he is re-experiencing in this life.  As he progresses through his memories, he begins recognizing the connections between the different relationships and gains an understanding of how he needs to heal them, so that he will not keep reliving them.

Most of Jerry's regression memories involve experiences with a father who he felt abandoned him.  By not clearing up those negative feelings, he finds himself feeling betrayed again in a relationship with a woman.  Recognizing similarities between the two experiences, Tom helps him to figure out what he needs to do to heal so that he can move on with his life.  Jerry also has a friend named Sam who offers him some very sound, good advice.  Between Sam and Tom, Jerry is given a lot of things to think about.
"Return to the Desert" is beautifully told in vivid detail so that, as a reader, I felt like I was seeing Jerry's life directly through his eyes.  The settings were also beautifully described and Jerry's relationship with his horse, also added a special touch to what he had going on in his life because he knew that he could rely on her. His spiritual guide at times seemed very real, and at other times seemed to be an enigma.  I felt that this demonstrated that Jerry was progressing to the point where he could use his intuition to see the lessons that the guide had for him, especially since many of their contacts were in dream like states.
I gained some powerful insights from reading "Return to the Desert."  The first insight focused on the importance of clearing up past life issues so that we no longer have to relive them and so that they will not hinder our spiritual growth.  The second and third insight came to me at about the same time. I realized that it is important to clear up relationship issues in this life time so that I do not repeat the same mistakes in this life, as I have seen many people do, and also that I do not need to repeat them in future lives.  Jerry's story taught me to clean issues up now, so that they do not hinder my spiritual growth.  "Return to the Desert" is a wonderfully written story of a man's spiritual journey that will also have an impact on the reader's journey and spiritual growth. 

Read interview with Dr. Jerry Burgener

Monday, May 17, 2010

Portrait of Deadly Excess

D. Jeffrey Ostling
Xlibris (2009)
ISBN 9781441507075
Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views (04/10)

When Van Hazard, a free lance investigator, gets a mysterious, desperate phone call from a friend, he rushes over to the house to find it ablaze. Unable to save the caller, and another friend, Hazard is able to rescue a young man with a very unusual story.  According to this witness, who was also badly burned, the assailant was a man named Kane who is supposedly already dead.  As Hazard investigates further, he discovers a series of victims whose bodies resemble husks.  As unimaginable as it may seem, it appears that Kane is stealing the life from these victims via his paintings.
Not being the type of person to believe in the supernatural, Hazard gets further involved in the case.  As he investigates, he also has to deal with other undesirable characters and racist cops.  He immediately rectifies many of the situations, and teaches the undesirables that it is really not good to get on his bad side.  Having extensive training in self defense tactics, he gets to put his abilities to use on both the bad guys and some bad cops.  He definitely had me in his corner rooting for him. 
Hazard has his hands full with trying to keep himself alive, while also trying to figure out exactly what is going on.  While he is hard headed, he is also very level minded so, the allegations of a dead man committing these crimes just does not make sense.   He also has to figure out really quickly who he can trust and who is against him.  He is fortunate enough to have a tough girlfriend who can kick some major butt.  Working with him, she helps him infiltrate some of the darker places so that he can get the information that he needs. Nothing comes easily though.  This is one interesting case.
I totally enjoyed reading "Portrait of Deadly Excess." I liked that the main characters were strong and not easily taken in by the supernatural elements of the case. I also enjoyed the uniqueness of the individual characters, especially the bad ones. They gave the story so much more flavor.  This suspense definitely has an incredibly unique plot.  I feel that other readers will really appreciate the uniqueness of this story and look forward to future adventures with Hazard.

How to Marry and Keep a Supermodel: Lessons from a Mid-Wife Crisis!

Herman Franck, Esq.
Kit Media (2009)
ISBN 9780984396207
Reviewed by Olivera Baumgartner-Jackson for Reader Views (04/10)

"How to Marry and Keep a Supermodel" by Herman Franck, is, according to the author himself, a "hybrid of reality and fiction," strongly influenced by the so-called Appendix B, which describes the real story as remembered by the author. The story is an age-old one. Boy meets girl. Boy chases girl. Boy marries girl. They live happily ever after. Until they don't. Girl falls in love with another man. Boy still loves girl. Boy wants girl back. Boy fights for the girl.

The more I read, the more confused I became. First of all, there was this underlying current of bitterness, nastiness and barely hidden desire for vengeance, or so it seemed. Granted, a man betrayed will definitely feel bitter, but the overall tone of the book, starting with the assessment of the supermodels as "having various psychological issues, mental shortcomings, and a general shallowness permeating their entire lives" simply did not sit well with me. If the supermodels are this bad, why in the world would anybody so badly need to marry one? That overall tone really turned me off, although I tried to view it as some sort of catharsis or a healing process and tried my best to find humor in it.  Another strongly jarring note in the book was the author's constant self-promotion, stressing his image as a handsome guy, successful attorney and prolific writer. While self-promotion can certainly be useful, I usually find it more palatable if it is at least slightly more subtle. Then along came the occasionally downright crude imagery and statements such as, "There are those times when the best therapy is a hooker." No matter how hard I tried, I simply could not develop much of a liking for our hero, whether he was real or imaginary.

Having said all of this, on a certain level I found "How to Marry and Keep a Supermodel" quite entertaining. Some of the passages, particularly those describing the early stages of Mr. Franck's relationship with Sassafras, were refreshingly down to Earth and quite touching.  While I am not a big poetry fan, I can see how writing poems to the girl one loves could really make her see the suitor in a new light. Mr. Franck's poems were touchingly vulnerable and there is no denying that Mr. Franck loves to write and he should continue to do so.

While I am not somebody who enjoys the "airing of family's dirty linens in public" and "tabloid stories," I can still see certain merits in this book and I definitely hope that writing "How to Marry and Keep a Supermodel" helped Mr. Franck heal. As for his next book, I would love to see him write something more positive and upbeat though.

Listen to interview on Inside Scoop Live

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Frozen in Time: Murder at the Bottom of the World

Theodore Jerome Cohen
AuthorHouse (2010)
ISBN 9781452002705
Reviewed by Richard R. Blake for Reader Views (04/10)

Theodore Cohen goes back to a time in his life to create a fictional story based on his own real-life experiences during the Austral summer of 1961 -1962. He was part of a Chilean Antarctic expedition with a team of scientists from the University of Wisconsin doing a gravity survey.  The work was down on the North Antarctic Peninsula.

Cohen carefully builds a plot which includes natural dangers of weather and environment, criminal activity, greed, and murder. Cohen uses actual events which occurred during the period 1958 through 1965. Real people from his life, fictional characters, and fictional agencies and organizations are all a part of the carefully developed plot. Cohen incorporates the Great Chilean Earthquake of May 22, 1960 and the theft of valuable assets from the bank's safe deposit boxes valued at millions of dollars to build suspense that leads to an unexpected surprise ending.

The following is typical of Cohen's amazing descriptions: " a world of ice, enveloping, looming over, and dominating the landscape…melting cracking, separating, inching inexorably toward the sea, calving in thunderous convulsions that send thousands of tons of ice and snow pouring down from great heights…"

The University of Wisconsin team had a threefold objective. Grant mapped large portions of the area and collected a variety of rocks and fossils that he needed in defense of his doctoral theses in Cretaceous sedimentation. David similarly was collecting rock samples needed for his doctoral work. Ted was working to establish a new gravity network in the Chilean Antarctica.

The book is thoroughly researched, fully documented, and highly informative. Ham radio operators will appreciate the detailed descriptions of strategies involved in communicating world wide with Ham radio and other high frequency communications. Avid Chess fans will enjoy the reference to highly complicated chess moves and mention of various well-known Chess Tournaments. Frequent references to Catholic tradition and rites will be of interest to practicing Catholics.

I appreciated the use of the Spanish language when appropriate in the dialog with the easy reference to the English translation. I was enthralled with Cohen's account of the Chinstrap penguins (a rookery of over 100,000.)  Cohen's own pictures, other photos, maps and illustrations add a stunning visual dimension to the narrative Cohen writes with depth, authenticity, and meaning as he draws from his own experiences. He adeptly expresses the feelings, emotions, and psyche of his characters. It became difficult to pinpoint where biographical writing ended and fiction began.

"Frozen in Time" is compelling reading combining the elements of conflict, suspense, intrigue, entertainment, and enlightenment. I highly recommended it.

Listen to interview on Inside Scoop Live
Read interview with Theodore Cohen

Monday, May 3, 2010

Rewriting Life Scripts: Transformational Recovery for Families of Addicts

Liliane Desjardins, Nancy Oelklaus, Irene Watson
Life Scripts Press (2010)
ISBN 9781932690972
Reviewed by Carol Hoyer, PhD, for Reader Views

I can honestly say that in all the time I have been a Psychologist working in the substance abuse field, I have never found a book that covered all the topics families need to know about recovery in one place. The authors have written this book in a format that is easy to understand and read. They cover so many topics about addiction, recovery, misconceptions and family roles that one would end up highlighting the whole book.

There are seventeen chapters in this book which cover topics such as the family process, psychological tendencies of the addicted to how families' unrealistic expectations put everyone in the down spiral again.  I am a firm believer, like the authors, that families do not understand the addiction process or the underlying problems that might start it. Nor do many families receive treatment for themselves. As the authors state, even if the addict gets help it is important for family members and friends to learn new ways of living their life. This book dispels the myth that I hear so many times from my college students that if the addict had willpower, they could stop.

There are several parts of the book that I really appreciated. One is Higher Power. Many of those going into treatment get upset with thinking they have to rely on God to help them in the process of becoming clean. In short, Higher Power is really what motivates a person to make changes.  The information on co-dependency was very informative, as were the roles we take on in our families of origin which often follow us through our adult lives. Each role is broken down into what the addicted person is thinking and what they present to others in their outside appearance.

Chapter 7 discusses The Authentic Self. If we can't be honest with ourselves, how are we going to be honest with the addict? This chapter also will have readers questioning: What need is met for me by keeping the dysfunction going? The authors also discuss boundaries, which many of us have a hard time putting into place.

Throughout the book, the authors provide simple exercises one can do in the privacy of their own home, and then discuss the impact of these answers on the family or individual.  It is important to note that one important part of this chapter is the Grief Inventory, for when we lose a family member to addiction, regardless of what it is, we do go through a grief process.

The remainder of chapters discusses surrender- we cannot change others, we can only change ourselves. I think this is one of the hardest things for individuals to realize. I can say from my own personal experience of living with a family of alcoholics my family expected me to get my brothers to change and when I said "I can't," they would be angry with me. We have to learn that we can only change the things we have control over, we have to learn to let go and let the addicted person figure out situations on their own.  It may cause many tears, anger and resentment; however, that individual needs to learn to be responsible for their choices.

There are so many things in this book that will help families become better informed and lead them to resources that will help and help them learn to live a peaceful life. We will always worry about family members or even friends who are addicted to something. But, this book gives us step-by-step tips on how to take care of ourselves as well as the addict.

I wish, as a Psychologist, I had this book years ago; not only would it have helped my clients, but my family as well. This is a book that I will recommend to my college students to have in their resource library, as well as make a recommendation for this to be a required book for my Substance Abuse classes.  Readers will appreciate the honesty and information provided in an all-in-one book, "Rewriting Life Scripts: Transformational Recovery for Families of Addicts."

Listen to interview on Inside Scoop Live