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.


Zoey: 

"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."


Nana:

"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.


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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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