Monday, July 26, 2010

Recovering the Self: A Journal of Help and Healing (Vol. II, No. 3)

Recovering the Self: A Journal of Help and Healing (Vol. II, No. 3)

Edited by Ernest Dempsey
Loving Healing Press (2010)
ISBN 9781615990481
Reviewed by Carol Hoyer, PhD, for Reader Views

Once again several exciting contributors provide insight into their addiction and recovery.  I have had the honor of reading prior books from many of the authors and find their information very valuable to those who work in the field and those who are affected by addiction.

There are several stories that caught my eye in this journal- one was "Rethinking the 'Monster' of Mental Illness." We really need to look at these individuals through different eyes and not just what we see on TV or hear others say. Another was "Flannel Shirt," by Tyler Tichelaar. He relives his wonderful moments with his grandfather who always wore a flannel shirt. However, there was an accident and his grandfather died from burns. The author never got to say goodbye to his grandfather or truly grieve for him.

In addition to stories, there are poems and quotes that provide inspiration to all. There are references to other great books and reviews of movies.

This is a very excellent form of journaling about trials we often go through. These recounts are not "woe is me stories," but stories sharing compassion and great insight. This journal comes out on a quarterly basis and is something we should share with others. Each issue has a different theme of recovery.

Skinquake: A Novel

Eric Mattingly
Lulu (2010)
ISBN 9780557267170
Reviewed by Richard R. Blake for Reader Views

The subject of Eric Mattingly's "Skinquake" captured my attention immediately. Without any fanfare or a lengthy introduction Eric introduces Randy Jones in the throes of waking up to the sound of birds "chanting."

Randy is a 32-year-old computer language prodigy, a self-employed consultant. He works from home, earns lots of money. The one thing missing in Randy's life is the ability to identify with an ethnic background. He is an amalgamation of mixed races and cultures and does not fit into any niche.

Nearly obsessed with this lack of belonging, and a sense of feeling excluded, Randy withdraws from social contacts and conducts his business using the computer and telephone contacts. Randy became deeply involved in metaphysical reading in his search for answers. Plagued with unresolved emotions and nightly dreams which left him out of sorts and restless Randy is confronted by a talking shampoo bottle named Clint. This event nearly pushes Randy over the edge as he fears for his sanity.

Karen, his girlfriend, of six years, has asked Randy to take charge of her small upscale coffee shop for a week while she vacations with her mother. In some strange way Randy finds satisfaction in helping Karen. He has done it in the past on a few occasions. He enjoys observing the customers. The experience gives him a certain "situational fluidity" in meeting the service needs of Karen's patrons. 

While working at the coffee shop he is re-united with four college dorm friends. He visits with customers from another time and place, metaphysical savants: one from a people of fire, another from a people of water, seen by many as a metaphysical representation of the flow of the collective mind and the collective unconscious. He also becomes intrigued by the concept of hearing the pulse of the earth, and the relation of time and space.  His week at the coffee house includes an experience in telekinesis, and an unexplainable thirst for knowledge and understanding while on the edge of losing any semblance of sanity. His fear of losing his mind reaches a "critical pitch."

Eric has chosen the medium of fiction and Randy his protagonist to demonstrate how we are a people between sanities. He put Randy in situations where he is confronted with his own multiple personalities, the ideals of celebrating diversity, the reality of his own ego, his self-absorption, selfishness, intolerance, and hatred. He tries to see culture in everything and race as illusory, arbitrary and irrelevant.

He is forced to consider being part of fostering understanding, while on a mission of peace, of healing by the conscious acceptance of a stranger, and other complex issues.
Inspired by the writings of Edgar Cayce, Lee Brown, Mary Summer Rain, the book of Genesis in the Bible, and the works of Rinpoche, Kupihea, and Carols Castaneda, Eric Mattingly has created a intricate plot which is entertaining, frightening, and thought-provoking.

Well-developed characters, a hint of romance, and a genuine empathy for Randy, the protagonist, captivated my imagination, drew me into the story, and challenged my thinking. "Skinquake" is addictive reading.

Listen to interview on Inside Scoop Live

Read interview with Eric Mattingly

Monday, July 19, 2010

Taming Marital Arguments: Breaking Out of the T.R.A.P.

Robert P. Rugel, PhD
Loving Healing Press (2010)
ISBN 9781615990191
Reviewed by Carol Hoyer, PhD, for Reader Views

Let's face it- couples fight and make-up. Sometimes though it seems as if the fighting gets worse and couples end up getting a divorce. In "Taming Marital Arguments: Breaking Out of the T.R.A.P.," Dr. Rugel has provided readers with a wealth of information and exercises to help couples find out if they have a tendency to sabotage their relationships.

This guide is a genuine source of assessing your relationship and if one sees they are part of the problem, the author gives tips on how to make changes. Even being a practicing Psychologist for over twenty-five years, I found myself deeply involved in completing the exercises and, much to my surprise (or denial), I found that I often participate in the T.R.A.P. The T.R.A.P. stands for Threaten, React and Protect.

In addition to the exercises and tips, the author shares stories of couples he has worked with and how they would fall into the pattern of belittling, degrading and withdrawing from their significant other. This guide is written in an easy-to-read and understand format. All of the exercises and rating scales will help couples take a good look at how they contribute to a negative emotional climate. I have recommended "Taming Marital Arguments: Breaking Out of the T.R.A.P." to my college psychology students as a resource for their library.

Listen to interview on Inside Scoop Live

Mindfulness and The Art of Choice: Transform Your Life, 2nd Edition

Karen H. Sherman, PhD
Loving Healing Press (2010)
ISBN 9781615990320
Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views

I had the pleasure of reading the second edition version of "Mindfulness and the Art of Choice: Transform Your Life." Noting that it won the 2009 Best Personal Growth Book award, I was intrigued to have the chance to read it.  Having read so many of the personal growth books that are out there, sometimes I find myself wondering what there is left to write about, especially in less than 110 pages.  I am truly grateful that Dr. Sherman did not let me down.  The first thing that came to mind as I started reading was that she made me feel like she was speaking directly to me.  I could totally relate to her ideas and how I could apply them to my own life, especially in areas where I find myself feeling stuck and repeating the same behavioral patterns that do not support my personal healing and growth.

It is interesting for me to note, that just prior to reading this book, I began seeing a huge link between relationship patterns that developed from my childhood experiences that were carrying over to my adult personal and professional relationships.  Discovering this connection and feeling frustrated about it, I found myself wondering what to do to break the cycle.  "Mindfulness and the Art of Choice" could not have come into my hands at a better time.  Well, maybe 30 years ago would have been a better time, but the book wasn't written yet, and perhaps I wasn't ready for it!

Divided into two sections, Part I discusses, "How the Art of Choice Works" and Part II covers "The Art of Choice Exercises." Utilizing the tools that are provided, Dr. Sherman teaches you to become mindful of your thoughts and behaviors so that you can deal with issues by making rational choices, rather than just reacting to them based upon old patterns. Interspersed in her writings, Dr. Sherman gives examples from her own childhood, and of others that she has worked with. I really appreciated her honesty and willingness to include some of her personal information because it made me feel like she had a real understanding and could relate to what her readers might be experiencing, especially as they utilize the exercises. 

"Mindfulness and the Art of Choice" is a wonderful book to help you get started on your path to being able to transform you life by making mindful choices.  The book is concisely written, and not overwhelming.  While it will be quick to read, doing the exercises will take more time.  I think that readers will find themselves excited to be able to break out of their old frustrating patterns and start making mindful rational choices. In doing so, they will be able to free themselves from their past, and from the damage caused by the people who might have caused the negative patterns to develop in the first place.

Listen to interview on Inside Scoop Live

Monday, July 12, 2010

Mary Magdalene, Her Legacy

Bettye Johnson
Living Free Press (2010)
ISBN 9780578049762
Reviewed by Olivera Baumgartner-Jackson for Reader Views

What appeared to be just another ordinary day in the quiet life of former adventurers, Ellen and Peter, quickly started a series of events that will forever change their lives as well as lives of those close to them. While Ellen was walking through the forest, she encountered a strange old man, who informed her that he had something to place in her care. As quickly as he appeared, he also disappeared again, leaving the stunned Ellen with and old portmanteau at her feet.  Upon closer inspection and consultation with their friends, Ellen and Peter discovered that they have been most likely left with some documents connected to their earlier adventure, where they discovered scrolls with the legacy of Mary Magdalene. They embark on another perilous journey of discovery, only to have their lives and happiness threatened in many ways by an unscrupulous villain who is intent on gaining possession of those newly discovered documents for his own goals.

"Mary Magdalene, Her Legacy" by Bettye Johnson spins a complex tale of mystery and intrigue, interspersed with many musings on life, love and interpretations of history. While I have certainly enjoyed several aspects of the story, most notably the contents of the scrolls and the message they deliver, I have also noticed several issues which diminished my enjoyment of the story. I believe that hiring a good copy editor would have caught many of them, and in such a way made for a more believable and solid book. The punctuation was random, the French less than stellar and while the misspelled "Deux Maggots" provided a good chuckle on my part, I would have by far preferred a spell-checked and proofread work. The writing clearly shows the immense amount of research and reading the author must have done in preparation for this book, but the sheer overabundance of issues (anything from stem cell transplants to levitation, from telepathy to dematerialization…) made me feel like Ms. Johnson wanted to include everything she's ever read, seen or experienced in one book, and somehow that made this work too complex and too wordy to really enjoy. Sometimes less is truly more. I have also found the characters very two-dimensional and the dialogue rather stiff.

Having said that, I will add that I did enjoy those previously mentioned aspects, namely the scrolls and the message they contain, as well as the bold and actually quite believable statements about Mary Magdalene and her family. It was refreshing to see such an audacious work clearly praising several extremely strong and strong-willed women, and providing us with a believable and uplifting message.  Although "Mary Magdalene, Her Legacy" is fiction, it presents a believable alternative history and delivers a worthy message. I have no doubts that this book will appeal to many readers, particularly those who enjoy books about ancient mysteries and those who do not shy away from strong female characters.

Listen to interview on Inside Scoop Live


Maria Lucia
Andrusian Press (2010)
ISBN 9780984475544
Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views

What if one day you suddenly discover that nothing is as it really appears to be? You find out that your imaginary friends from childhood are real, just not real human. You learn that there are supernatural forces at work that are responsible for horrible events that are occurring in the United States. Talk about experiencing a paradigm shift!
In "Liberation," this is what happens to Amora Madre.  She finds herself being pulled from her comfortable life in the Smokey Mountains to Washington, DC, where she discovers that she has been chosen by the Intergalactic Supernatural Intelligence Agency to help fight an wicked supernatural syndicate that has evil plans of destroying the balance of good and evil on the planet.

Joining Amora in this battle is her soul mate Gabriel, and Casey and Nia, who she discovers are Onaweyans, and not just products of her childhood imagination.  The team finds themselves being able to travel through other spiritual dimensions and having to deal with supernatural creatures that are larger than life.  When they realize that the United States has been under the control of this darkness for ages, they go through the dimensions and time to battle the evil, and enlist the aid of the founding fathers of the United States.  This adventure really helps the couple learn how powerful they truly are.

"Liberation" is a really uniquely written novel.  The author ties together actual devastating events that have happened in the United States, with real historical characters, and an evil supernatural syndicate.  This combination is very thought-provoking and makes you think, "What if?"  There are so many natural catastrophic events happening on our planet today, along with ones caused by power hungry, evil humans, that reading "Liberation" makes you believe that the idea for this novel could really be based upon some truth.  That is truly a scary thought!  I highly recommend this novel.  I think that readers who enjoy paranormal fantasies will appreciate the unique ideas that tie the plot together.

Listen to interview on Inside Scoop Live
Read interview with Maria Lucia

Monday, July 5, 2010

Decoding the Language of God: Can a Scientist Really Be a Believer?

Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views (06/10)

In 2007, "The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief," was written by a renowned geneticist Francis Collins.  In his book, he argues that science proves that a personal god exists. Uniting scientific beliefs with faith-based ideas is comforting for many moderate Christians because it enables them to believe in both science and a personal god. This would be a god who desires personal interaction with people.
George C. Cunningham, MD, MPH, has written "Decoding the Language of God," to provide a critical analysis of Collins' ideas.  While he accepts the scientific information by Collins, he addresses his concerns regarding his religious ideology. Cunningham also notes that only the ideas of a Christian God are discussed, other faiths are not; this rules out discrepancies in beliefs between Christians and those of other religions, without even having to involve any scientific ideas.  Cunningham finds it difficult to understand how a scientist can base his scientific beliefs on proven theory, yet in contrast have religious beliefs that are faith based, or considered supernatural.  He feels that presenting faith without evidence is not valid for an argument in proving the existence of God.

Cunningham does a critical analysis of the ideas presented by Collins and presents what he feels are inconclusive statements.  In doing so, he explains the proper way to do a critical analysis. "Decoding the Language of God" is written with respect to the author of "The Language of God."  This author simply explains what information he feels is incorrect.  Every chapter is heavily referenced, which helps provide information to back up Cunningham's claims.

For myself, I found it very interesting to have an opportunity to see a discussion about questions that have passed through my mind.  These are inquisitive thoughts that I have rapidly tried to dismiss for fear of retribution by a Higher Power for my doubts.  These irrational fears go back to my strict Catholic upbringing.  I found it interesting that the author had the same religious background as myself, and also experienced some of the same thoughts.  I enjoyed reading his thoughts about the questions that I have shared, yet felt afraid to ask the nuns in high school and college. As I read, it dawned on me that a confident religion should have no fears of being analyzed and questioned because they should know that they have real evidence to back up their beliefs.  In all honesty, I don't think that I can name a religion that can actually do this.

I really enjoyed reading this book.  It is not a fast read because it involves a lot of processing, however, it is a very intelligently written piece of work that involves an extensive amount of critical thinking and an analysis of the reader's self, so that they let go of their fears to get a clear understanding of how and what they believe.  "Decoding the Language of God" would make an excellent textbook for a college critical thinking class. I highly recommend that professors consider using this book for that purpose.

Readers who are seeking deeper meaning in what is happening on our planet, will also really enjoy being able to sink their minds into this book, "Decoding the Language of God."

Healing with Words: A Writer’s Cancer Journey

Reviewed by Carol Hoyer, PhD, for Reader Views (06/10)

We don't want to ever hear the words "You have cancer." It stuns us, puts us in depression and makes us look at our life day to day." Ms. Raab tells us, in the beginning, as a child, she was not allowed to express her opinions to her family, so she wrote a journal instead. Hidden in her closet when she was a child, she wrote about her experiences as being a child who "was never heard." After she left the home and got married, she continued to write in journals.  When life has finally given you hope and courage, it is most devastating to know that you might have or do have cancer. This diagnosis tore the author up and left her feeling that she didn't want this life.

Through her honest and candid remarks about how she felt, the author relates with many who have had the same thing happen to them. She doesn't condemn the medical profession or how she and her family handled the situation.  She, in a quiet, easy tone explains what she went through but at the same time, throughout the book, gives those who have been given the same diagnosis cause to ponder their thoughts on when they went through the same thing.

These are her own words on how she felt, what she did and the many frustrations she went through. Regardless of how many opinions you get or comments from family members- each individual has to make decisions. It is not easy.

None of us as cancer survivors want to be a burden on others, and yes there are times as the author says "They would be better without me."  But it is important that readers, either those diagnosed or their family members, read "Healing with Words." It is true feelings and thoughts- as readers we need to know the early warning signs, get support from our family, not pity and get second opinions.  It is a journey none want to take, but journaling is a great way to express thoughts- as did the author. I hope many people read this and take to journaling and talking very directly to their families about choices.

Listen to interview on Inside Scoop Live
Read interview with Diana M. Raab