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.

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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.

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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!

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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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