Monday, December 12, 2011

Fancie’s Followers

Jannet Ridener
iUniverse (2011)
ISBN 9781462008278
Reviewed by Marty Shaw for Reader Views


When I first heard of "Fancie's Followers," I thought it would be the perfect book for me to read. It's inspired by Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream," which I have never read, and I'm really not much of a Shakespeare fan, either. In other words, if I liked the book, I knew there was a good chance that others who weren't devotees to the Bard would like it, too.

While I have never read the play that inspired the book, I do know enough about the original story to see the parallel between characters. If you have read "A Midsummer Night's Dream," then you'll be happy to know all the characters are still here, albeit in thinly-veiled contemporary disguises, and the storyline runs close to the source material.

The story revolves around a group of people that are each facing their own seemingly insurmountable dilemma. Sheriff James Weaver is suffering from a severe case of boredom mixed with a dose of midlife crisis. He's tied down by the constraints of life and doesn't even know it. Elaine just wants to be loved, and she'd prefer if that love came from her crush, Alex, who is too busy doting on his fiancée, Mia, to realize he doesn't actually love her. Emmett is Alex's new friend, and Elaine's new crush. Each of these individuals are living messed up lives but things become even more chaotic when they find themselves unwittingly involved in a battle of wills between Theron and Eugenia, the king and queen of the fairies.

The mention of Theron and Eugenia brings up one of my few complaints with the book. I wish the author had made allowances for readers that have no knowledge at all about "A Midsummer Night's Dream." The word 'fairy' is never used within the pages so it could be confusing for some to read about people who talk to trees and animals and look down on mortal affairs as minor inconveniences. Even the infamous Puck might not be recognized because he goes by the name Robin, with the more familiar name never being mentioned.

I also saw little reason for the moon-worshiping women. They seemed to have very little to do with either the affairs of the mortals or the battle of wills between the two fairies. Their presence doesn't really detract from the overall story, but it doesn't add anything, either.

"Fancie's Followers" would be a great read for anyone that thinks about reading Shakespeare but worries about getting lost within dry and dated language. The contemporary setting dusts off the classic tale and makes it something fun and lively that anyone can enjoy. If you're looking for a light and funny story that flows easily and won't take too much of a time commitment, "Fancie's Followers" is the book for you.

Spare Change

Bette Lee Crosby
Bent Pine Publishing (2011)
ISBN 9780983887911
Reviewed by Olivera Baumgartner-Jackson for Reader Views


Bette Lee Crosby's "Spare Change" is a quirky mix of Southern flair, serious thoughts about important things in life, madcap adventures of a young boy and a late change of heart that made all the difference in the life of an unusually independent woman. More than anything, it is a heartwarming book, which is simultaneously intriguing and just plain fun.

Olivia Ann Westerly has always refused to conform. Instead of marrying and raising a family, as her father expected her to, she left home and found a job, rented a flat and had tons of fun. Oh, did I mention that she did that in 1923, when she was only 25-years-old? While today that would not have been anything extraordinary, she certainly was an exception back then. And then she decided not to marry and to continue her career, living in this manner quite happily all the way until 1956. It was then that she met Charlie Doyle and fell madly in love, agreeing to marry him without any hesitation when he asked her to. But then Charlie had to go and die while they were on their honeymoon, and Olivia seemed to have lost all her will to do anything. Until Ethan Allen Doyle, Charlie's grandson, showed up on her doorstep.  Olivia never wanted children, so why would she change her mind now? And to make matters worse, Ethan Allen was 11-years-old and number 11 has always been a bad omen for Olivia. To top everything else, it was clear that Ethan Allen was hiding something. Was there any chance of a happy ending here?

I truly enjoyed this imaginative and very entertaining story. Told from many different perspectives, it kept my interest from beginning to end. The voices of the characters were very distinct and the good ones were easy to like, just like the bad guys were easy to hate and fear. It does not happen very often that I truly like the more minor characters in any book, since most of them never get the chance to develop enough to be really interesting, but Clara was one of my favorites here - heart of gold and brassy manners, what more could one want in a friend? She was just one in the substantial line-up of supporting characters who kept Ethan Allen's presence in Olivia's building a secret, or at least they thought so. Every one of those characters was well defined and completely believable. I enjoyed the storyline and the lively dialogue, as well as the rapidly unraveling mystery of the secret Ethan Allen was trying to keep to himself. And I am going to do my best to keep the beginning of the story, as told by Olivia, in mind for the future. Here's what she had to say...

"I don't suppose there's a person walking the earth who doesn't now and again think if I had the chance to live my life over, I'd sure as hell do it differently. When you get to a certain age and realize how much time you've wasted on pure foolishness, you're bound to smack yourself in the head and ask, what in the world was I thinking? Everybody's got regrets; myself included.

Some people go to their grave without ever getting a chance to climb out of that ditch they've dug for themselves, others get lucky. Of course, the thing about luck is that you've got to recognize it, when it walks u' and says hello, the way Charlie Doyle did."

Those two paragraphs alone would be enough for me to like this book and recommend it, yet they were truly just the beginning. If you want to know more, you will simply have to read "Spare Change" yourself, and I am certain you will not regret that.

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Monday, December 5, 2011

How to Forgive: A Practical Guide

Lynda Bevan
Loving Healing Press (2011)
ISBN 9781615990306
Reviewed by Irene Watson for Reader Views

In the first chapter Lynda Bevan explains "this book will identify the many aspects and meanings of the word 'forgiveness' and will attempt to enable you to understand exactly how being able to forgive someone is a basic, essential, necessary process in your life."

Bevan further states "The focus of this book is 'forgiveness in adult relationships.'"  Indeed, it is a book for healing adult relationships. And, it certainly is one for those that have experienced various negative emotions/feelings and lived through the trauma/drama to get to the place of wanting self-awareness and healing the past. Any age group or relationship, whether it be young or old, married or divorced, same-gender or heterosexual, parent or child, or even platonic friendships, will find Bevan's simple method of much benefit to start the forgiveness process.

In the beginning of the book Bevan, in a gentle voice, helps the reader understand what forgiveness really is and why we need to forgive. She claims that we aren't able to "move on" if we don't practice and incorporate forgiveness into our lives.   Personally, I completely agree with her. Sometimes forgiveness is the only medicine that will heal emotional unrest.

Once the reader fully understands the necessity of forgiveness and is willing to start the healing journey Bevan gives a step-by-step process.  Her guidance is clear and direct.

I believe the most important chapter in this book is "Implementing Change."   The initial process may seem simple enough but the actual change can be a challenge.  Others may trigger negative emotions in us and it becomes easy to slip into the old patterns.

Bevan encourages addressing the feelings by providing a set of questions to ask ourselves. It's only when we become clear that we are able to truly forgive.  "How to Forgive: A Practical Guide" is an important tool for that clarity.


Emlyn Chand

Blue Crown Press (2011)
ISBN 9780983930808
Reviewed by Chandler Dixon (age 13) for Reader Views Kids

In Emlyn Chand's first novel in the "Farsighted" series, Alex Kosmitoras is a lonely high school sophomore, hoping to make friends.  When he meets Simmi he has hopes he won't be so lonely after all.  Simmi is new in town, having moved from India and it seems that she is the only person in school who is interested in becoming friends with Alex.   Soon Alex has someone to talk to other than the school bully, as Simmi proves to be a great friend.

Alex's mother runs a florist shop called Sweet Blossoms, and tells Alex about a new neighbor in the shop next door, a psychic from New Orleans named Miss Teak.  Alex is curious and goes to meet Miss Teak, and eventually also makes friends with both Miss Teak and her daughter, Shapri.
Soon Alex starts having visions of the future, hinting that Simmi is in grave danger.   When he has his visions, he sometimes thinks that they are happening in real time.  This leads to embarrassing outcomes, such as the time he is in the lunchroom at school and has a vision of Simmi choking.  Alex rushes to Simmi and tries to perform the Heimlich maneuver, and is embarrassed in front of everyone in the lunchroom, since she isn't really choking.  Eventually he learns to recognize when he is having a vision and can distinguish what is real from what is in his vision.

Alex's visions include nightmares, in which he watches Simmi being killed over and over again in every way you could imagine.   He's seeing visions of a man named Dax killing Simmi and other people.  Sometimes Alex sees himself helping Dax kill people.  In order to sleep, he takes to stealing sleeping pills from his dad.
In his effort to eliminate the threat to Simmi, Alex learns a lot about himself, his powers and how to develop and use them.  He also discovers important information about his father and grows closer to his newfound friends.
Author Emlyn Chand presents a believable storyline, with a very realistic setting and people.  The story moves smoothly, at a good pace, with lots of surprises that fit in well with the plot
This book is for teens who like books about magical powers, and the process of learning how to use them.  I enjoyed "Farsighted" very much and can't wait for "Open Heart," the next book in the series!

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Monday, November 28, 2011

Your Daily Walk with the Great Mind, 3rd Edition

Richard A. Singer, Jr.
Marvelous Spirit Press (2011)
ISBN 9781615991143
Reviewed by Carol Hoyer, PhD, for Reader Views 

As a person in recovery trying to make sense of my life and to identify changes I need to make, "Your Daily Walk with the Great Minds" is one of the best books I have read. Author Richard A. Singer did an excellent job in writing easy-to-understand terms to help us walk the path. 

Singer expresses that if he can just change one person or inspire him or her to make positive changes he has done his job. I believe he has done his job.

The book is very inspirational and uplifting. For each day of the week Singer has given words of wisdom from people like Einstein, Mother Teresa and Abe Lincoln. The book starts from January 1st with a quote, a meditation and, most importantly, a journaling exercise. He has provided an author's index with the date to find the desired information. In addition, there is a subject index by date, i.e., for 'adversity,' 'appreciation,' 'can't.' It is easy to find what you are experiencing in the here and now. For each month there are suggested books to read, most of which one can find at the library.

What I particularly liked, in addition to the above, is this is a great book to use for reading groups. As I reviewed this book, I felt hopeful that I could put these techniques to use to make positive changes in my life. Readers will enjoy "Your Daily Walk with the Great Minds."  It really is a must read, making notes along the way, then stop to look at what one really wants out of life.

Heaven’s Daughter

Maggi A. Petton
BookLocker (2011)
Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views

When I began reading "Heaven's Daughter," I found myself immediately held spellbound.  The story begins with two runaway slaves, who are mother and daughter. Having been captured in Africa, taken away from her family and her fiancé, the mother is desperate to give her daughter, Effie, a better life.  Since they are both slaves, this is difficult to do. As the daughter begins to suffer the same horrible abuses that her mother did, from their owners, they both know that they have to escape.  

As they begin the arduous journey north, they encounter a young blonde girl named Abby. Abby is also on the run, but in her case she is running from a kidnapper. The kidnapper grabbed her from her family's home so that he could pretend he was traveling with his daughter, instead of being an army deserter.  Fortunately, he did not abuse her.

Joining together to return Abby to her home, the girls develop a strong bond.  Effie's mother shares her African heritage with them with both songs and stories.  When they finally make it to Abby's home the family gives them a warm welcome and is grateful for their assistance in returning their daughter. As time goes by, and they suffer through some horrible tragedies, the bond between the two women becomes even stronger.  Knowing that this is a time where both interracial and homosexual relationships are not acceptable, the women have to keep their special love for each other a secret. Their incredible love for each other helps them hang on to their sanity and each other as they try to cope with family losses, betrayal, and tragedy. 
Having read and enjoyed "The Queen's Companion," I suspected that "Heaven's Daughter" would be an exceptional book. And I was correct. In this novel, the horrors of slavery, war, prejudice and discrimination are all brought together however; love and loyalty demonstrate a great healing power.  I found this story to be extremely realistic and well researched.  While I have studied this era and thought about how difficult it would be for people to mix interracially, I never considered what it would be like for homosexual couples. In this story, Petton addresses both issues in one relationship.  It was refreshing to be able to enjoy an incredibly written story, and to be offered something new to reflect on. I highly recommend "Heaven's Daughter."

Monday, November 21, 2011

Cinderella’s Magical Wheelchair: An Empowering Fairy Tale

Jewel Kats  
Loving Healing Press (2011) 
ISBN 9781615991129
Reviewed by Madeline (age 10) & Sophia (age 8) McElroy for Reader Views Kids



This is another Cinderella story with something added! In this book, Cinderella is in a wheelchair. It may sound like a weird story, but it is very good. Life is hard for Cinderella; her jobs are harder to do and her step-sisters treat her like an animal. The day of the ball, her step-mother says she can go to the ball if she makes jewelry for her and her step-sisters. She had worked all day on the jewelry and had made herself a dress too. Right before they leave, Cinderella's stepmother sneaks up behind her and disables her wheelchair so she can't make it move. Cinderella cried, "What about the promise you made?" She laughed and said, "Promises can be broken."  Just then somebody says, "Don't Cry."  It's Cinderella's fairy godmother! She zaps her. "But remember, the spell wears off at midnight, be careful!," said her fairy godmother. Then she disappears. Now, Cinderella is flying to the ball! She lands inside and her step-sisters and step-mother get very angry. The Prince comes over and asks her to dance. She possibly couldn't! Then, her wheelchair flies up and he grabs her hands, everywhere he went, the wheelchair followed while flying. The end is for you too see.

I liked this book because I like fairy tales and Cinderella is one of my favorites. It is great for kids who have disabilities in life such as being in a wheelchair or having a disease that bothers them. This book can help them get through it and realize life can be the same as others lives too.


"Cinderella's Magical Wheelchair" is a good story for kids who have had a horrible accident or injury. This book is about a girl named Cinderella with two evil step-sisters and one step-mother. The step-mother says the step-sisters can go to the ball, but the step-mother said Cinderella couldn't go. But the step-mother said she could make jewelry for the step-sisters. When Cinderella makes the jewelry for the sisters she gets ready. But when she is ready the step-mother makes a flat tire on her chair. Then she realized she had a fairy godmother! The rest you should read to see yourself. This book was very wonderful.

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Monday, November 14, 2011

How to Paint Chickens: And other Stories

Vladimri A. Shvarstman
VS Holding, LLC (2011)
ISBN 9780984377022
Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views

"How to Paint Chickens" is a collection of short stories that follow Mr. Shvarstman from his childhood in Siberia to his adulthood in the United States.  I found his recollections of growing up in Siberia to be absolutely fascinating.  His stories of having been raised in a poor area where governmental control reigned supreme were very eye opening for me.  Reading about how his family struggled to maintain what possessions they had, including chickens, was interesting and entertaining.  I also gained a deeper appreciation for what opportunities I have had living in the United States.

After the author immigrated to the United States, he married, had a son and experienced a painful divorce.  As he relives some of those experiences, he shares what he has learned from them.  He also does a great deal of reflecting upon how things could be improved in the United States.  I agree with much of his discourse, however, I know that most liberals will not.  But I think he makes a lot of sense.

When the time comes for Mr. Shvarstman to move on to a new relationship, he hits some interesting bumps in the road.  I found some of these experiences to be very amusing; however, I suspect at the time, they were not.  Exploring online dating proved to be both adventurous and disastrous.  He definitely put himself in situations where he could easily have been taken advantage of, yet I suspect his expectations from some of these women would have involved him taking advantage of them if they had not struck first.  In addition to entertaining, this section was very eye opening and enlightening.  Learning from this, I don't recommend that people make themselves vulnerable by traveling long distances to meet potential mates.  I also think that he learned that trying to date married women, who say they are in bad relationships, is futile.  I think it works this way for both sexes.

The last half of the book focuses on dialogue from some of his potential mates.  While there were some interesting points made in this section, I found some of the material to be too lengthy and this detracted from some of the story. 

Overall, I really enjoyed reading "How to Paint Chickens." I liked that the author included some of his artwork and pictures in the book. That definitely added to it. On the other hand, I found that there were a lot of grammatical errors that caused me to pause and try to figure out some of the meanings. I think that professional editing would really help make the book more enjoyable to all.

Read interview with Vladimi Shvarstman

A Slot Machine Ate My Midlife Crisis (eBook)

Irene Woodbury
SynergEbooks (2011)
ISBN 9780744314977
Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views

A few months from now I will be turning forty-five. Having suffered through the mid-life crises of two men, I figured it is my turn to have a good one.   For me a good mid-life crisis doesn't involve betraying anybody, it just involves buying a brightly colored sports car with a big engine. However, the cost of gas is so high right now my practical side is thinking of just dying my hair red again and renting a Corvette to drive up the Pacific Coast Highway.

Already forty-five years old, newlywed Wendy is facing a pretty major mid-life crisis. Hers actually extends into a total identity crisis.  Having dated her husband Roger for seven years, and only recently marrying him, she finds herself uprooted and unemployed. Sharing an idyllic life in Los Angeles; each had their own career. When Roger's career involves accepting a dream job in Houston, Wendy readily agrees to sell her condo and move with him. Recently unemployed, she is not leaving behind any prospects. However, shortly after they arrive in Houston, Roger turns into a major workaholic. 

Losing her identity as a career woman, being ignored and living in a home with critters and other problems, Wendy does not settle in easily.  While Roger is eager to become a part of high society in Houston, Wendy does not enjoy the snooty women who she feels pass judgment on her.  When an opportunity arises for her to go away to Las Vegas for five days, Wendy jumps on it. Feeling the honeymoon is over after less than four months, part of her feels disappointed that she is looking to get away from her husband.

After spending five crazy days with her friend Paula, that include a wedding being cancelled because of Paula's indiscretion with the groom, Wendy finds life in Las Vegas, crazy, but she is also enjoying massive amounts of food, retail therapy, and spa treatments. She has also made some eccentric new friends.  When it is time to return home, Wendy bolts from the airport and begins living her own life in Sin City.
While she tells Roger that she is just staying on for a little while longer, she actually doesn't know when she will be home. As weeks turn into months, Roger's frustrations at not having his wife with him cause many arguments. The communication between them becomes sporadic. Meanwhile Wendy begins building a life for herself that also involves achieving some of her career dreams. 

Fighting her attraction to some charismatic men, she is determined to stay faithful while she figures out what she is going to do.  Wendy has to decide whether or not she wants to be a wife and live in a place where she will see little of her husband and be miserable, or continue on with a rewarding career that helps her make headlines.
While Wendy's decision result in her making extreme changes in her life, I suspect that there are a lot of middle-aged married women out there who fantasize about doing what she has done.  Unlike Wendy, many of these women probably married their high school sweethearts and never had a chance to establish their own identities. Circumstances caused Wendy's identity to be taken from her, and her desire to reinvent herself, based upon her terms, does not mesh well with her role as a wife.  Wendy's dilemma is tough, especially since she has a husband that loves her but is waiting for her to return to his world.

I found "A Slot Machine Ate My Midlife Crisis" to contain both humor and drama.  The eccentric characters and the crazy Las Vegas lifestyle added a great deal of enjoyment to the story.  The dilemma faced by the main character is very complicated, yet I feel there are readers who will find themselves relating to it, perhaps just on a smaller scale. I recommend this novel to all midlife-crisis aged women!

Read interview with Irene Woodbury

Monday, November 7, 2011

Caged: Memoirs of a Cage-Fighting Poet

Cameron Conaway
Threed Press (2011)
ISBN 9780615521770
Reviewed by Joseph Yurt for Reader Views

Author Cameron Conaway is wise beyond his years. He demonstrates this clearly with honest self-analysis and unfiltered feelings in his fierce first book, "Caged: Memoirs of a Cage-Fighting Poet." It's as much about casting off the cages in his life as it is about the constraints they imposed on his heart and soul.

"Caged" delves deep into Conaway's demeaning, painful upbringing by his pathetically dysfunctional father. By the time he was thirteen, he was totally devastated by his environment and experiences. The remainder of the book is spent retelling and reflecting on the events of his past and present and on the application of his learned lessons on his aspirations for the future.

Conaway takes the road less traveled on his self-discovery journey the reader is invited to join. The choices he makes in pursuit of redemption are unexpected. His writing style is unconventional. His chapters are unpredictable. They flow smoothly enough to weave his writing tightly, but not so smoothly to allow us to know what's next; what's next is sometimes impossible to anticipate. The chapters have a self-contained, short story quality; some are rough and raw, some inspire, some are magical, and, some impart an almost heroic dignity to Conaway's Warrior Spirit.

"Red Tail, Chapter 14" and "Caged – Part Two, Chapter 15," which describes his second MMA cage fight, are back-to-back demonstrations of the range of Conaway's craft and creative process. Both are at once real and surreal, raw power and mysticism.  Whenever he feels like doing so, he steps outside his story to deliver teachable moments and to offer explanations and revelations of personal philosophies. He seems to find learning in every activity and invites the reader to do the same.

"Caged: Memoirs of a Cage-Fighting Poet," is one hell of a debut book. In this review, I have chosen to deliberately provide only the bare bones of Conaway's story. Instead, I have concentrated on my reactions during and after reading the book. "As for the adjective: when in doubt, strike it out." said Mark Twain, but "Caged" leaves one addicted to adjectives.

I want you to read "Caged: Memoirs of a Cage-Fighting Poet." I want you to root for Cameron Conaway. Most importantly, I want everyone to seriously consider the Warrior Spirit movement he has conjured. If you seek inspiration for dramatic change in your life, you will find it in "Caged: Memoirs of a Cage-Fighting Poet."

Facing Demons

Ashley Sanders
Trafford Publishing (2011)
ISBN 9781426951701
Reviewed by Avni Gupta (age 17) for Reader Views Kids

When I received "Facing Demons," I was quite excited to read it. I have always been pretty interested in reading about people who have had to go to rehab and the stories behind them. Normally, you just hear about them as a statistic, but behind every number and every statistic, there is a real person and a real story. Although the first three or four pages seemed a little preachy, in the "don't do drugs" sense, as soon as I got past the first few pages, and really got into the book, I was hooked! I was not able to put this book down (technically speaking, I was not able to put my i-pod touch down, since I was I was reading the e-book version)!

This book begins with a prologue, in which Blake Solomon, the man who runs the Anchor Beach Rehab clinic, is in the hospital with a boy from the clinic who doesn't seem like he's going to make it. Blake seems rather distraught, and in his mind, is transported to a different time and place in that hospital. That hospital is the place where Blake was cured of his cancer! The rest of the book is devoted to telling the stories of four of the residents of the Anchor Beach Rehab clinic. It talks about their issues with drugs, alcohol, child prostitution, self harm, gangs and other issues that many teenagers have to deal with.

This book was absolutely amazing. I definitely read it twice before I started writing this review! With every page I read, and every detail into someone's story, I became more and more hooked on this book. I feel like anybody who reads it will be in the same boat as I was!
One thing that I really liked about "Facing Demons" was the dedication that the author made at the beginning of it. This book is dedicated to "those who deserve a second chance."  I feel like that dedication was a perfect beginning to this book because all of the characters made a mistake and deserved the second chance that they were given.

Read interview with Ashley Sanders

Monday, October 31, 2011

Sleeper’s Run

Henry Mosquera
Oddity Media (2011)
ISBN 9780615505442
Reviewed by Richard R. Blake for Reader Views


"Sleeper's Run" is built on a plot in which the characters have inflated egos and are motivated by greed and the thirst for power. Author Henry Mosquera has created a non-stop action thriller exposing the protagonist Eric Caine to conflict, after conflict, after conflict with only brief respites of resolution. He includes action, romance, deception, and intrigue in this fast-paced international thriller.

Special Forces veteran Eric Caine is found wandering the streets of Miami as a result of a car accident. He has no memory of the details of the accident. As a result of his service in the War on Terror, Eric is suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), resulting in a way of life destined to end in self-destruction.

An unexpected timely chance meeting at a bar and the events that follow provide Eric with an opportunity to start on new a new path of life fulfillment. The new job requires that he relocate to Venezuela, the land of his childhood. Eric pours himself into the job, impressing his employers; however, things take a turn for the worse as suspicious incidents signal the threat of something evil. Suddenly Eric finds himself involved in a catastrophic event that threatens the political and economic stability of the country. Eric is forced to clear his name by exposing an elite team of CIA assassins in an international conspiracy.

Mosquera has a broad scope of understanding of international current events; the crime and corruption often found intermingled with political ideologies. He writes intelligently of subjects including: martial arts, self defense weaponry, security systems, internet hacking, and world travel. He introduces interesting aspects regarding paramedic techniques and provides insight into PTSD. All of these areas of expertise are interwoven into his writing.

I was also impressed with Henry Mosquera's character development. He effectively uses a combination of back story, dialogue, inner dialogue, narrations, and flashback to introduce his main characters. Mosquera carefully combines a protagonist first person narration with sequences where his protagonist is not present. Occasional verb tense changes add interest to specific scenes but triggered insecurity into my own editorial instincts.

"Sleeper's Run" may be a book that many will find so compelling that they will read it in one sitting. For me, the rapid pace of the action was so intense I had to take breathers, however, I found myself quickly drawn back into the mêlée.  If you like super-heroes, non-stop action, and intrigue and suspense you are destined to become a fan of Henry Mosquera. I am looking forward to reading his next intrigue and adventure novel.

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Read interview with Henry

Monday, October 24, 2011

Nickels: A Tale of Dissociation

Christine Stark
Modern History Press (2011)
ISBN 9781615990504
Reviewed by Joseph Yurt for Reader Views

Mental Health America defines dissociation as a mental process that causes a lack of connection in a person's thoughts, memory and sense of identity. Driving on a familiar road and abruptly realizing that you don't recall the past few miles you just traveled is the kind of mild dissociation many people have experienced. But when new author Christine Stark decided that one of the concepts she wanted her first book to explore was dissociation in an immediate and centrally focused way, she chose to write a story in which dissociative experiences of childhood sexual abuse are the central, chronic, and overwhelming problem.

Stark's story, "Nickels: A Tale of Dissociation," takes the reader on an unimaginable, excruciating journey in the company of the mind of a biracial girl named "Little Miss So and So," from age four into adulthood. The vast majority of readers are not likely to have seen the written and verbal portrait of childhood and developing personhood that the author paints. Her canvas is the character's inner-most mind in which she blends a unique, rhythmic prose with powerful and unsettling imagery.

Particularly piercing and provocative is the dissociative world created by "Little Miss So and So" in her early childhood years of four and five.  She uses her own special language and her own secret places to help her sustain her disconnection from the never ending horror, which she cannot yet fully comprehend, brought upon her by an incestuous father. It's a world populated by China Doll Girl, P girl, Suit Man and Mad Dad. But it's a world that keeps her safer than her real world.

"Nickels: A Tale of Dissociation" will inherently fall on a continuum of reader opinion. Educators, writers and advocacy organizations have already lauded the book on many fronts. Among more casual readers, some will no doubt set the book aside after reading the first chapter and never return. Some will simply find it a good story. Still others will find it a riveting story that they are unable to put down.  As for me, the author's innovative writing style and powerful verbal imagery simultaneously commanded my attention and distracted me. There were times along the way when I had to step outside the child's world for some fresh air. And there were occasions when I wished the journey would just end. But, all things considered, I am grateful to Christine Stark for taking me to that place. Childhood sexual violence is more widespread in America than most people realize. Take the journey with "Little Miss So and So" because if we don't know about her world, we won't care enough help solve the problem.

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House of Cards: Dead Men Tell No Tales

Theodore J. Cohen
Outskirts Press (2011)
ISBN 9781432779801
Reviewed by Marty Shaw for Reader Views 

A seemingly random murder on Halloween leads Detective Louis Martelli into an elaborate conspiracy that threatens more than just the financial security of the world, as the FBI tries to keep him from learning the truth.

"House of Cards: Dead Men Tell No Tales" has a plot that was ripped from the headlines and then blended together with the colorful characters that were first introduced in "Death by Wall Street: Rampage of the Bulls." Martelli and his IT assistant, Missy Dugan, are once again using their combined expertise to dig through the lies and uncover the bad guy.

Martelli is probably one of my all-time favorite crime-fiction heroes because he's a good cop, but he's not perfect. He's the type of guy that believes in the law, but he also believes that laws can be bent a little bit if the end result is justice being served. Missy Dugan, his partner in both law and illegal activities, is a feisty counter to Martelli's gruff demeanor, providing more than one laugh with her verbal sparring against Martelli. She might not be pounding the pavement with Martelli but she's definitely an essential member of his team.

The plot moves at a steady pace, and Cohen provides plenty of depth and description to the story, allowing the reader to easily get lost within the pages. The machinations of Wall Street and the banking industry play an integral part in the storyline, and I am far from being a Wall Street guru. Fortunately, an in-depth understanding of the industries is not required because Cohen is able to walk a fine line that allows him to provide the necessary information in an easy-to-understand manner without actually talking down to us. The story took a couple of unexpected twists that I didn't see coming, keeping me thoroughly engrossed in the book as Martelli does what he has to do to uncover the truth. The FBI, depicted as the bane of local police in numerous works of fiction, are up to their old tricks once again, hoping to keep 'the little people' in the dark because there's no way they could understand 'the big picture.' The only complaint I have about the story is that Martelli's partner, Sean O'Keefe, didn't play a larger role. I understand that Martelli and Dugan are the main characters, and I wouldn't dream of destroying that chemistry, but O'Keefe often seemed to exist just so Martelli would have someone to talk to. I'm not saying the crime-solving duo needs to be turned into a trio but I think, for future stories, it would be best if O'Keefe either had a beefier role or just went away completely.

If you enjoy the 'ripped-from-the-headline' stories of shows like Law & Order, then you should definitely take a ride with Lou Martelli and Missy Dugan. They'll keep you educated, informed, and entertained all at the same time.

Editor's note:  This novel contains adult language.

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Monday, October 17, 2011

Blood in the Promised Land

Eliot Sefrin
iUniverse (2011)
ISBN 9781462026104
Reviewed by Richard R. Blake for Reader Views

At the height of World War II another intense confrontation is spawning divisive hostilities on America's home front. Wartime production jobs have lured thousands of poor blacks from the rural South to defense jobs in the North.

In "Blood of the Promised Land" Eliot Sefrin interweaves the separate life journeys of two men: Roosevelt Turner, a young black migrant who flees the South to work in Pittsburgh's flourishing steel industry and Jacob Perlman, a Jewish physician forced to escape Nazi-occupied Austria.

Eliot describes, with heart-breaking pathos, Roosevelt's traumatic reaction to the massacre of family members by a crazed crowd driven by frenzy to acts of mayhem and murder. Orphaned and alone, Roosevelt's every waking moment is plagued with visions of the vigilante mob, their unchecked rage, violence, and blind groundless malice.

Jacob and his family experienced total humiliation at the hands of Hitler's Gestapo police.  Their property was confiscated or destroyed. They were forced to flee their homeland to save their lives. After immigrating to America, Jacob maintained his dream of a better life.

The impact of this influx of displaced peoples on American's major cities exposed prejudice, bias, and underlying animosities. Industrial centers became the breeding ground of racial conflict. Race riots and hate strikes beset factories, shipyards, and defense production, as whites attempted to impose long-held racial barriers, against blacks who discovered that the dream of entering "the promised land" is unrealized and has only exchanged the South's Jim Crow harassment to the Northern bias, injustice, and bigotry.

Roosevelt and Jacob have been shaped by the stigma of the past, by racial or ethnic identity.  They both hope to rebuild their life. In the midst of an incident of violent racial conflict their paths cross. An unlikely bond propels them into the crucible of the civil rights movement.  They valiantly join forces in an effort to defeat a terrorist hate group. 

Sefrin carefully lays the foundation for his story. His images are extraordinary, his character development amazing.  He has created believable characters from opposite ends of the professional and economic spectrum. He brilliantly uses southern dialect and Jewish idioms in his dialog. He is equally at ease with creating the caricature of southern sheriff as with a newspaper editor, FBI agent, churchmen, or family members. Sefrin's writing is so intense and authentic that I often lost sight of the fact that I was reading a fictional account. I found myself drawn into the emotions of the outrage and the toll of suffering experienced by his protagonists.

The Second World War, waged from 1939-45, has inspired countless novels of the era. "Blood in the Promised Land" is unique among them as it gives the reader a glimpse in the unresolved issue of bias, prejudice, and bigotry prevalent in our nation.

Plan B: 5 Differences That Make a Difference in your Small/Home Business

Cesar V. Teague
Xlibris (2011)
ISBN 9781465334787
Reviewed by Olivera Baumgartner-Jackson for Reader Views

Times are tough, there is no denying it. Our economy is in shambles, previously solid companies are folding daily, and unemployment is looming on the horizon for many fellow Americans. If you are one of those who have been contemplating a change in their career, and if such change includes a possibility of opening a small business, you could do much worse than invest in the "Plan B: 5 Differences That Make a Difference in your Small/Home Business". Although a slim volume, "Plan B" contains enough information to enable anybody curious and brave enough to switch, in the author's words, from "being stuck in a full-time job and a part time life to having a full-time life and a part-time job – living life on your own terms."

The author, Cesar V. Teague, defines the five basic differences as:

  1. Multiplication vs. Addition,
  2. Success vs. Struggle,
  3. Focus and Flow,
  4. Aligning Opportunities and Goals,
  5. Action Steps for Geometric Gains.

Each of those differences is outlined in a separate chapter, complete with examples, personal stories and truly powerful quotes. While the book is obviously geared towards the novices in the small business field, I am certain that it could also prove useful for those of us who have been working for ourselves for a while already. I have found the content of "Difference 5, the Action Steps for Geometric Gains," particularly enlightening. The breakdown in the "Identify Your Business Activities" made me look at some of my work practices again, and I was amazed at the difference this made nearly instantly.

The appendix, containing forms and worksheets, should be an invaluable resource as well, particularly for those readers who are just starting to think about a new business venue. Just the business plan outline alone is well worth the price of the book, and some of the tax issues mentioned in the last couple of pages were extremely useful and eye-opening.

I have enjoyed Mr. Teague's clear and direct writing style, which remained pleasantly conversational, yet precise. I would highly recommend this book to those who are toying with the idea of branching out on their own, as well as any current owners of small or home businesses, since even those already established ones could clearly learn some valuable lessons from "Plan B."

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Monday, October 10, 2011

Ding Dong the Diva’s Dead

Cat Melodia
Camel Press (2011)
ISBN 9781603818070
Fiction, Mystery, Romance, Novel
Reviewed by Olivera Baumgartner-Jackson for Reader Views

I like proverbs and old sayings of all kinds. Very often I even try and live by what they tell us, and in such endeavors I could be more or less successful. Here is one of my favorite ones: "Don't judge the book by its cover." And yes, this is one that I try to follow as often as possible. When it comes to "Ding Dong the Diva's Dead," that was truly a good decision. If I judged this particular book by its cover, I would have never opened it. The slightly cartoon-like cover showed a voodoo-doll-crossed-with-an-inflatable-object-from-the-adult-store depiction of a diva and a cast of sinister looking people. The title with its weird yellow script and the shadowed sub-title did little to make me any more interested in the story. But I decided to be brave, and I opened the book on a randomly selected page. After the first couple of sentences I was giggling uncontrollably, deciding to start it from the beginning, as it should be read. Granted, being fluent in more than one language certainly helped me to catch some of the well-placed barbs, but even without that I would have found the book to be an absolute delight.

Deborah de Lille is an opera singer. Just not of the Maria Callas caliber. So she is more than thrilled when her agent secures her a minor role with a small town opera company in Ville d'Aurore, an idyllic looking and sounding setting. The production? Offenbach's "Tales of Hoffman," a rather spooky opera even in its classical form, but even more so under the direction of Corabelle Swift, the stage director with peculiar ideas on how to make it more contemporary and relevant. When one adds three leading ladies with huge egos, an assorted bunch of cocky males, a suspicious death of a prominent singer, and various creepy incidents to the mix, Debbie certainly has a lot to worry about. Who is out to get her? And more importantly – why?

The "Ding Dong the Diva's Dead" was a well-paced and utterly charming mystery. Its cast of characters, although large enough to be difficult to keep track of, was extraordinarily charming, even when it came to the villains. The dialogue, the story line, the twists and turns, author's obvious insider knowledge of all opera related things and her wicked sense of humor kept me turning the pages until I finished reading the story late the same day. My favorite part? It would have to be some of the names. Kopfschlager, Perlmutter, Mannschliesser and Poubelle?  Chapeau, Madame Melodia, and "Brava!" for sure.

I would recommend "Ding Dong the Diva's Dead" to any lover of unpredictable mysteries with a hefty dose of intelligent humor. If this person happens to be an opera lover, even better - but I certainly do not believe love of opera would limit the enjoyment of this clever whodunit.

Are We Our Past Lives?: Soul Patterns in Personalities and Relationships

Marie Gates
CreateSpace (2010)
ISBN 9781452867731
Reviewed by Carol Hoyer, PhD, for Reader Views

As a Psychologist and college professor I get many questions about reincarnation, especially from my students at a Christian college. Although many do not believe in past lives, Marie Gates has provided her own research and thoughts on this topic. Through her writing, she will get you to have second thoughts about what you believe.

Gates has done much research over the years on her own past lives and karma. Her extraordinary way with words describe in detail how she discovered these past lives and what her feelings were at the time of discovery. She is enthusiastic about her theory and supports it through research from individuals like Edgar Cayce, and the use of Harmonic Vibrational Therapy (HVT). In addition she gives great detailed information about HVT.

She states "Who are we and why? Don't most of us think of this? Do you have vivid dreams of people that have made an impact on your life?" She goes on to quote Sylvia Browne, "Almost everything about us in rooted in a past life."

In "Are We Our Past Lives?," Marie Gates discusses negative karma, emotional challenges and the roles we play. Her book is very informative. You will need to read this slowly, jot down notes or questions and do some research of your own. After reading this book, you might be undecided as to what you believe - some of us are on the fence.  Ms. Gates' information, research and excellent writing skills will give you food for thought - this is a journey all should take.

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Monday, October 3, 2011

Black as Snow

Nick Nolan
AmazonEncore (2011)
ISBN 9781612180052
Reviewed by Irene Watson for Reader Views

When I got Nick Nolan's "Black as Snow," I was excited to start reading it because of his previous award-winning writing, knowing that I was in for a pleasurable journey.  However, I really didn't realize the treat I was going to get until I started flipping the pages.  At first it was intimidating because I find reading a near 400-page book a challenge but as soon as I got into the first few chapters, I realized that I was hooked.

The basic story revolves around Sebastian Black, in his late teens, who has extra-ordinary powers of telepathy.  His mother, Kitty, creates a spiritual movement using Sebastian as the prophet but there is a movement by Christian militants set out to kill him because they believe he's a false messiah.  Sebastian flees to get away from the threats and his controlling mother only to come upon ordinary people that change his life forever.  Sounds like a common story, right?  Well, the premise might be but I can assure you "Black as Snow" is like no other novel out there.

The chain of events that take place while meeting the stream of commoners is breathtaking.  Readers, through Sebastian, meet incredible people that not only change Sebastian's life but theirs as well.  Nolan brings in an aging lesbian couple, a Mexican handyman, a female student who is anorexic, a meth addict just out of prison, a gay teenager and a host of others that pass through Sebastian's life.

The thing is that Nolan's writing skills are so refined that he is able to bring each character to full life and there is no forgetting who each one is or what they depict in the story.  The character development is well beyond any I've seen and Nolan's wordsmithing is incredible.

Readers will find a multitude of concepts in this book: radical religion, spirituality, love, control, murder, mystery, romance, gay exorcism, greed, intrigue, hate crimes,

paranormal, friendship, and, anything else you want to read into it. It is difficult to place a genre on "Black as Snow" because it covers so many different aspects but don't let that fool you, it's a story that you would not forget very soon because, although fiction, it streams of reality of everyday life.

It's not too often I get so grabbed by a book that I forgo watching a favorite TV series or going to a movie as "Black as Snow" did.   I firmly believe that you too, as a reader, will get drawn in and have a hard time putting the book down.  Oh, a word of caution - each chapter ends with a cliff-hanger!  Need I say more?  I loved this book!!

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Gathering of the Indigo Maidens

Cecilia Velastegui
Libros Publishing LLC (2011)
ISBN 9780983745815
Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views

When rare art and book collector Paloma Zubiondo receives a disturbing phone call from a young woman speaking in her native Ecuadorian language, begging to be rescued, her peaceful existence is shattered.  Along with receiving pleas to be saved, Paloma is also accused of being in the possession of a rare stolen painting.  She is told that she can help this girl by giving the artwork back to its rightful owner.  Knowing that she carefully selects what she purchases for her collection, Paloma believes that she is being set up.  In spite of this, she wants to keep the authorities out of it because she doesn't want any suspicion or doubt cast upon her reputation.

Until this phone call, Paloma has prided herself on living comfortably among her prized possessions.  Unlike most people who just see dollar signs on valuable works of art, Paloma looks at their intrinsic worth.  When she gazes upon her paintings, she is able to experience the feelings that the artists try to convey through their art.  To have someone accuse her of illegally obtaining items that she holds as sacred in her heart is a terrible travesty.

While living in her peaceful world, Paloma has remained aloof from the evils of our society. When this desperate caller tells her that she is being violated, Paloma is introduced to the vile world of the sex trade.  She desperately doesn't want to be involved with this case, however, she cannot allow herself not to do anything, especially when this young woman reminds her of a treasured family employee from her childhood. 

As Paloma seeks information to vindicate herself from the accusations, she also learns more about how young women are being taken from their poor homes with false promises of employment and turned into prostitutes.  She discovers that it is a huge problem that has taken place all over the world throughout history.  Knowing that her own life is in danger, Paloma cannot sit back and do nothing. She has to turn to friends that she can trust for help.

"Gathering the Indigo Maidens" tells an incredible story that incorporates both the beauty and history of Spanish art into a modern story about the evils that come with greed in our society.  The author does an excellent job of taking us to different times in history where we can see that things weren't much different even going back as far as 1699.  Lack of respect and abuse towards women existed then and still exists today.  By sharing this story, my eyes were opened.While paintings which depict women don't suffer physically, they do experience some of the same disrespect that the young women do.  Neither the paintings nor the women are seen as anything more than their monetary worth.  There is no humanity or appreciation for the beauty of both.  The exception to this is in Paloma's eyes. 

"Gathering of the Indigo Maidens" is an exceptionally written story that is guaranteed to hold you captive and stir at your heart strings while you read it.   I highly recommend it, especially for readers who enjoy a mix of history, art and mystery.

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Monday, September 26, 2011

Five Dances with Death: Dance One

Austin Briggs
Helvetic House (2011)
Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views



The first book in this series begins in 1516, during the time of the Aztec Empire and the Spanish conquest.  Lord Angry Wasp, a prince of Tlaxcala is playing a deadly ballgame against his nemesis Talon. Talon had captured Wasp's precious daughter Dew. Desperate to find her, Wasp agreed to the ballgame, hoping to reclaim her.  When this does not happen, Wasp refuses to give up on his search for her.  Much of his future decisions and actions are based upon this goal.

Wasp has two wives, one is his beloved Otomi witch Broken Plume, who is also Dew's mother. The other is a Toltec princess named Rainbow Obsidian. Her role as his wife is to give status based upon her Toltec heritage.  Broken Plume has taught Wasp to use sorcery to make a spiritual double of himself, so that he can travel to other places, including the underworld and also enter into other's bodies and see things through their eyes.

Desperate for the return of his captured daughter Dew, Wasp takes journeys to gather information about her whereabouts.  He also obtains information about his enemies, and the newly arriving outlanders who come from the sea. During one of these outer body quests, Wasp is somehow captured by the Moonwalk people and forced to play games truly based upon life and death. Dying is considered an honor and Lord Wasp holds a strong belief that his death will not be the end, but rather a continuation of his journey.  However honorable this may be, he is still not ready to die yet.

The people of Tlaxcala are facing difficult times because blockades by the Mexica are preventing food and supplies from being brought to them.  As Wasp endures great physical and spiritual battles, he does not always act honorably with his decisions. His easiness to anger also gets him into some sticky situations.  As he discovers more about what is happening in the lands around him, and the incoming outlanders, he has to figure out who he can best ally his people to and then convince his people about what is best. This is not an easy task.

"Five Dances with Death: Dance One" tells an amazing story of a leader who faces incredible trials while trying to keep his people safe from both the Aztecs and the incoming Spanish Conquistadors.  Using sorcery, strength and his wits, the hero has a daunting task set in front of him, especially since major decisions can affect whether or not he sees his enslaved daughter again. Austin Briggs does an excellent job of bringing this period to life and as I read I found myself totally captured by the story. Readers will truly appreciate both the story and the amount of historical research that went into bringing this novel to existence.

Hurrah’s Nest: Memoirs of a Money Trader

Barbara Kennedy
iUniverse (2011)
ISBN 9781462011230
Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views

"Hurrah's Nest: Memoirs of a Money Trader" is the first book in "The Baby Boomer Memoirs." Not being familiar with this phrase, out of curiosity I looked it up in The Webster's Dictionary which defines "Hurrah's Nest" as the "state of utmost confusion."  That definitely applies to the characters in this novel; however, it takes them some time to figure this out for themselves.

The story is mainly based upon two women, Meg and Becky.  Best of friends and sometimes the worst of enemies, Meg and Becky were both born in the same bed a week apart.  Meg's mother does not survive the birthing, so her father takes her away from the family, to Florida, where he raises her.   Meg and Becky were able to overcome the distance that kept them physically apart by writing to each other.  Through their letters, they shared intimacies like they were sisters.

The circumstances surrounding Meg's loss of her mother and having to move away from family that could have helped raise her left Meg feeling abandoned and out of place.  She was also betrayed and horribly taken advantage of by an older male neighbor.  It seems like Becky got the life that Meg wanted.

As Meg approaches adulthood she decides to pursue an acting career which will eventually take her back to New York and she will be able to be closer to Becky.  Meg is married to Dick and they have to live frugally while he is pursuing a career in directing.  Becky, on the other hand, is married to Kevin, who works on Wall Street as a money market broker.  She appears to live the good life, yet like Meg, neither woman is very happy with her life or her relationship.  Unbeknownst to Meg, Becky feels that Kevin only married her to fulfill a role that will help him achieve his goals.  It isn't until much later that she discovers how his use of his relationship with her has a profound effect on the global market.  And, in the long run it will seriously affect decisions that she has to make for her future.

Meg tires of having to struggle for what she wants. Her husband spends most of his time at work.  She doesn't give the impression that she trusts him. Becky puts up a good front of appearing to enjoy her high class social status as the wife of a man of wealth, who also comes from good breeding.  While she appears happy, deep down she really wants to be with someone who she feelstruly loves her.  Meeting Alex, an older, unfaithful book store owner with a sports car and a wife, Becky begins to feel alive.  But obviously the circumstances are not the best for her.  As her husband's career takes him to other countries, Alex is just a distraction for her.  This is also when Becky begins to see the repercussions of her husband's schemes.

In time, Meg also finds a relationship with a married man. He has wealth and enjoys spending it on her. When Dick's job takes him to California, she stays behind.  Both she and Becky have lives, but they aren't really living. Even as Meg's finances improve, neither woman has the emotional security that she desperately desires.  Meg realizes that Becky's loyalty is to herself first, and that she will take what she needs from others to get what she wants.   Becky and Meg also discover that their pasts are more convoluted and intertwined then they could have ever possibly imagined. Their futures will be as well. Deception is a key theme throughout both of their lives based upon acts done to them, and acts that they do to others. 

I found "Hurrah's Nest" to be a fascinating and compelling novel.  I felt linked to the characters because the story appeared to be so realistic.  The twists and turns that the author takes the plot along provide for many shocking revelations. As I read, I kept thinking, "It is true, money does not buy you happiness; but then neither does poverty." This story also made me realize that true loyalty is more important than anything.  I highly recommend this novel!

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Monday, September 19, 2011

Fighting CPS: Guilty Until Proven Innocent of Child Protective Services Charges

Deborah K. Frontiera

Bluebonnets, Boots and Books (2011)
ISBN 9780980006162
Reviewed by Joseph Yurt for Reader Views


The back cover notes of "Fighting CPS" by Deborah K. Frontiera state that the book "chronicles thirteen months of agony and frustration suffered by the innocent Bonilla and Frontiera families as a result of Children's Protective Services removal of young James Bonilla from his parents." But the significance of the story this book tells reverberates far beyond the Child Protective Services Division of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services on which the book focuses. This book is relevant for all fifty states with similar agencies charged with responsibility for investigating reports of abuse and neglect of children.

Few Americans take exception to the mission of child protective services and their primary goal of protecting children. But a mounting body of evidence, like that presented in "Fighting CPS," has made it clear that an alarming number of state agencies and family court systems are broken. This reality has resulted in a growing grassroots movement demanding change and reform in numerous states. Based on Frontiera's book, it's hard to imagine a state in greater disrepair than Texas!

On the other hand, once the reader uncoils from their own initial reaction of disbelief, made possible by the detailed documentation drawn from the author's own copious journal notes, no imagination is required to comprehend the ordeal of young James Bonilla, his parents Rufina and Julio and grandparents  Deborah and Jasper Frontiera. I wonder, however, if those individuals from Texas CPS who were involved with this case understand, or even care, about the ramifications of their ineptitude.  I was not, in the case of James Bonilla. Many reform advocates believe that the investigative component of the process would best be executed by trained law enforcement agencies. And, to make a difficult process even more daunting, the Bonilla case was handed off to thirteen different case workers over thirteen months. Nearly all of them failed to even find time to read the case file.

In "Fighting CPS," Deborah Frontiera shares her story in an honest, open and endearing manner.  I felt her agony and frustrations and sometimes intense anger throughout the book. I was eager to keep reading so that I could celebrate the victory that I wished for this family to achieve. While Frontiera follows-up on her own story with ten other case studies in answerer to the question of whether or not her case was typical, it is her own story that undoubtedly will compel others to engage with this issue or become involved with a movement. At least that was the case for me. Before penning my final draft of this review, I began researching the current condition of CPS in my own county and state. I hope the author will tell James and his parents that the sharing of his story has already had an impact on someone who read the book.

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Padman: A Dad’s Guide to Buying...Those and Other Tales

Mark Elswick

Modern History Press (2011)
ISBN 9781615991150
Reviewed by Joseph Yurt for Reader Views

As a young man just out of high school, author Mark Elswick experienced a devastating traumatic brain injury (TBI) in a car accident. Although doctors wrote him off, he beat the odds, and not only regained his life, he discovered a single act that is critical to the recovery process for both patients and caregivers. This is a giving back book for Elswick on more than one level. He is donating a percentage of the proceeds from the sale of each book to support TBI research. But, his kindest gift, given to all who will read "Padman: A Dad's Guide to Buying...Those and Other Tales" is the book's collection of humorous short stories. Elswick writes in his preface that he hopes to "...entertain you with humorous stories taken from my life, but also to sprinkle in some more serious stories about my traumatic brain injury incident and other survivor stories." His aim is true; he hits the mark!

While the book targets multiple audiences, the short stories will especially entertain the diverse reader population that can relate to a single parent, in this case the author, living the challenges of raising his daughter. Elswick also hopes his personal stories will provide much needed stress relief and an emotional pit stop for daily caregivers. There are many amusing books, blogs and articles out there chronicling the "Dad raises daughter" scenario. What creates point of difference for this book is Elswick himself and his stream of consciousness writing style. Elswick is quaintly macho - a source of humor in itself, and his story telling is based almost entirely on a streaming dialog in his mind, in which he encourages the reader to join. Among the stories included just for amusement and laughs, I laughed out loud at "Red Flags of Age, Frogger Shopping, Newborn to Dad: No Multi-Tasking and In Front of Me? ('Listen punk! If you ever kiss my daughter again, there will be consequences that you won't like.')" 

The stories which explore various aspects of TBI are sprinkled in, as directed by Elswick. The design is seamless, a result of the author's clearly established persona, giving the reader a feeling that they are having a relaxed, informal conversation with the author. Among the best examples of these stories is "Little Brooke: A TBI Story ALL Parents Need to Read." In fact, Brooke's story will be compelling for anyone who reads it because it awakens the realization that on any given day, anyone could be affected by TBI. This is the story that is most likely to stimulate a greater interest learning more about the brain and the buzz around TBI. And it that regard, Elswick hits the bull's eye again.
I like Mark Elswick's book a lot. My own personal commitment to being of good humor every day is buoyed by these stories. And, I understand that we are not likely to care deeply about a problem like TBI unless we are familiar with it.  Elswick's book compels me to care; to contemplate how I would cope if TBI affected me or someone I loved some day; how I can help those affected now? As Elswick notes, "Learning about traumatic brain injuries can, and does, have that big an influence on one's thinking."

So, as of this writing, I am officially announcing my own support for Mark Elswick, the writer who won his own battle with TBI and is now giving back of himself to those who are continuing or just beginning theirs. "Padman: A Dad's Guide to Buying...Those and Other Tales"offers an "edutaining" read on a subject that is anything but humorous. And it underscores the importance of embracing now the devastation of TBI among the general public, as well as in the face of our affected troops returning home. In the opening paragraph of this review, I mentioned that during his own experience, the author discovered a single act that is critical to the recovery process in general. As the patients and caregivers echo in their stories, that act is support. I highly recommend you begin giving yours by reading the book. 

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Monday, September 12, 2011

What Do You Use to Help Your Body?

Jewel Kats
Loving Healing Press (2011)
ISBN 9781615990832
Reviewed by Cayden Aures (age 6.5) for Reader Views Kids

In "What Do You Use to Help Your Body?" a girl whose name is Maggie and her mom go on a walk.  Her mom made it so that they would see different people who use different things to help them.  Sometimes people need help with things if they got hurt or something.  Sometimes people are born that way too and need extra help.

Some of the different things that the girl Maggie learns about are hearing aids, wheelchairs, canes, and walkers.  I have seen people with wheelchairs, and canes, and walkers before. 

Some of the things in the book I didn't know about.  I haven't ever seen anyone who had an artificial leg before.  I also thought that the communication board was kind of neat.  It is good that the lady had one so that she could talk to people. She talked by pointing to pictures and letters on the board so people knew what she wanted to say.  If she didn't have one of those, I don't think anyone would know what she needed and that wouldn't be very good.

I liked learning about all of the different things that help people.  It says in the book that they are called "assistive devices."  I liked the pictures of the things in the book too.  I thought the walker was a wheelchair though because the lady was sitting on it.  But, it says that she sits on it when she needs to rest. "What Do You Use to Help Your Body?" is a good book; it helps kids learn about these things that some people need.

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Less Blah Blah More Ah Ha: How Social Savvy Real Estate Agents Become Trusted, Preferred, Referred -- and Rewarded

Ken Brand
CreateSpace (2011)
ISBN 9780615462424
Reviewed by Irene Watson for Reader Views 

With the downturn of the economy in the past few years real estate sales have been down and many of the agents have been at a standstill; many changing careers or supplementing their income with part-time work.  Those that are on top of their market are still successful because they know the ins-and-outs of being a good agent.  Ken Brand's book, "Less Blah Blah More Ah Ha" is geared for those that are struggling in the market because they haven't learned what it takes to be an agent or for those breaking into the industry.  But, the book is also for those that aspire to learn new information and for those that have been in the business for a long time but are relentless in learning new techniques and strategies.

Written in a conversational style, Brand provides a book full of proven approaches and tactics that have helped him and his team succeed.  Chapter Two is titled "Surprise! We're not in the Real Estate Business."  If nothing else, that should grab your attention.  According to Brand, "Selling a house is the end result of a transaction, but client delight and our long-term success happen only when we focus on the total client experience...;the total client shaped by the quality of our communication, presentation, sharing, problem solving, and service."   He continues to tell the reader that the total client experience is "a reflection of our values: what we believe in, what we stand for, and where we choose to draw the line between common and uncommon."  At the end of the chapter Brand encourages the reader to jot down the answer to "What business are you really in?" as a personal mini Values Statement.  By the time you get to the end of chapter two, or in fact, any other chapter, I can guarantee you will want to proceed to the next because there is always a hook and bait to keep you engaged.

I am a former licensed agent and also have purchased and sold properties through other agents.  From my experience there are just agents, and then there those that are truly good agents; those that put the seller or buyer in the forefront and give total attention to their needs and wants. They are the ones that listen to the client and actually hear what is being said, and they are the ones that establish credibility in the beginning through their words and actions.  Brand gives the step-by-step formula to be what it takes to be a truly good agent.  (He also gives tips on how to adopt abandoned buyers - something many agents inherit.)

Although "Less Blah Blah More Ah Ha" is geared toward real estate agents, I can assure you anyone that is selling any item will find the strategies would work for him or her. The bottom line ends up being awareness, on-purpose direction, and attentiveness; those three will provide the person with communication skills that are beyond the run-of-mill seller. Brand teaches the skills with humor and directness.

Brand's writing style is captivating as he draws the reader to the next page or next topic.  Like a well-written novel, the cliff hangers at the end of each chapter don't allow you to put the book down. "Less Blah Blah More Ah Ha" by Ken Brand is a must-have for all real estate agents, especially those starting out in the highly competitive industry, as a resource/workbook.  But, the techniques only work if worked.

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Monday, September 5, 2011

Why China Will Never Rule the World: Travels in the Two Chinas

Troy Parfitt
Western Hemisphere Press (2011)
ISBN 9780986803505
Reviewed by Richard R. Blake for Reader Views

Troy Parfitt introduces an analysis of China's culture, history, government, and citizens exploring them within a cultural context in a time relationship exploring the past, the present, and the future in his book "Why China Will Never Rule the World: Travels in Two Chinas."

I enjoyed Troy's descriptions of the often lush, sometime arid, flora and fauna of China's ever-changing landscape. Whether traveling by train, bus, or following a "scenic walking tour" (suggested in one of his tour books), his descriptions paint picturesque, colorful, and detailed word pictures. In contrast, at times I was disturbed by the exposure to the blind acceptance of the Chinese citizenry to the dismal drab reality of existing circumstances as their destiny.

My perceptions of China's culture and history have been formed through early exposure to missionary biographies, high school curriculum, anti-Communist propaganda, and a number of home visits by Chinese students in our home.

It should come as no surprise to the reader that Troy's own bias, personal philosophy and sometimes cynical outlook come through loud and clear in his writing. His conclusion that China's modernization is largely superficial will meet with criticism and controversy by many. His investigative observations, however, bring out in the open the lack of progress in areas of human rights, educational reform, or freedom of expression in the political arena. I want to think that I will be more objective in my personal understanding and analysis of future news reports regarding China. As an aside, I found it interesting to consider the impact of foreign aggression and of the Opium Wars on China's anti-foreign sentiment.

Although intimidating at first (over 400 pages), I found Troy's writing compelling as well as enlightening. I enjoyed his subtle humor and his entertaining and informative writing style. It is rare to find an author who combines such insight into current affairs and travel. I found the book to be an important learning experience. Troy's impressions, observations, and intimate anecdotes, are engaging, well formulated, and superbly articulated.

The background information, historical anecdotes, travel narrative, and geographical descriptions added immensely to my enjoyment of "Why China Will Never Rule the World."

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Hell Hounds of High School

Patricia Marie Budd

iUniverse (2011)
ISBN 9781450242660
Reviewed by Richard R. Blake for Reader Views

High School English teacher and writer Patricia Marie Budd collaborates with illustrator Tara Nakano to create this unique book "Hell Hounds of High School." The story provides glimpses behind the doors and typical scenes which occur in the English classroom, the principal's office, the counselor's desk, and the teacher's lounge at a fictional parochial school.

Her protagonist Mrs. Pricilla Bird began her teaching career with the ideal that "there is something good in every student." As the reality of disruptive students, out-of-control classrooms, and non-supportive school administrators and parents is seen, Mrs. Bird struggles to maintain this belief. However, she unexpectedly becomes a student advocate, as she attempts to defend her students' actions with the other teachers.

"Hell Hounds of High School" demonstrates the extremes found in individual personalities, the bravado, the insecurity, the determination.  Bird discovers the magnitude of the impact environment; family life, drugs, and abuse have in molding the personalities of her students.

Although the book is fiction, many of the episodes and characters represent a composite of Budd's experiences of nearly twenty years of teaching.  Students Greg, Mary, Frank, and Damien make up this cast of characters as well as Mrs. Bird's peers, Miss Payne and Mr. Wood.

These students and teachers become caricatures and reveal Mrs. Bird's cynical viewpoint of the educational system. Each chapter contains animated pen and ink drawings which add additional humor and another dimension to the narrative.

I enjoyed the segment where Mrs. Bird exchanges a hilarious series of e-mails to express her woes to a friend, Livy. Livy's responses soothe Bird's panic and provide her with needed encouragement and confidence.

Budd uses a writing style that combines comedic satire, a character driven plot with "cheeky" fast moving dialog, (letters and dashes allow the reader to use their imagination to fill in the blanks). Her humor is clever and colorful, sometimes demeaning, often exaggerated, not always politically correct, but admittedly funny. Budd's earlier writing includes script writing and a historical novel. Although "Hell Hounds of High School" is a diversion from these works, elements from both genres are incorporated in this project.

Budd continues to maintain that working with students is an energizing experience. "Hell Hounds of High School" will add school administrators, teachers, and educators to her growing base of fans.

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Monday, August 29, 2011

Stealing Angel

Terry Wolverton

Spinsters Ink (2011)
ISBN 9781935226451
Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views

After Maggie Seaver's lover Yoli leaves her, she continues to be a mother figure to Angel, a child that was conceived while Yoli was cheating on Maggie. Knowing that Angel is a blessing in her life, Maggie loves her as if she had given birth to her.  Angel, now seven, calls Maggie "Maggiemama."

As Yoli pursues a career in music, she also hooks up with a lot of unsavory characters whom she hopes can help to further her career. This does not sit well with Maggie because she worries about these people hurting Angel. After Yoli removes Angel from Maggie's care, at the directive of her latest boyfriend, Maggie gets a call from Angel's teacher.  Rather than contact authorities and have Angel become a potential victim of the system, the teacher calls Maggie to let her know that Angel is being hurt. When Maggie arrives at Angel's school and sees her bruises, she rashly decides to take off with her. 

She hopes to get Angel out of the United States and down to The Light Beings, a religious commune in Baja California, without being caught.  As they venture down into Mexico, Maggie does everything she can to protect both of them.  Relying on others from her religious group Maggie gets some help along the way.  Venturing down into Baja California, below where the American tourists usually go, Maggie is seeking Guru Tam, whom she hopes can help guide her to make the right choices for Angel.

When Maggie arrives in the place where she believes that the commune is located nearby, she discovers that American way of life has been extended down to this part of Mexico and that with satellite television people will know that she is being sought, and might be willing to turn her in for the reward.  When Maggie finds her way to the Light Beings, she learns that Guru Tam is very ill, and she also sees that the people living there are not as friendly as the ones that she left behind in Los Angeles.  Having to rely purely on her faith as the situation escalates, Maggie discovers more of the truth about these people and how much they can really help her.  She also learns who her true friends really are.

"Stealing Angel" tells an incredible story of a woman who learns to seek the answers from the truth that she holds within herself first, before she seeks it from others.  Maggie's inner dialogue contains a great deal of wisdom from which all readers will benefit and find a great deal of material for journaling.  I loved reading this story because it tells the tale of a woman on a journey that will teach her to trust the voices within herself and to discover her sacred gifts. This is definitely a "must read" book.

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The Human Hologram: Living Your Life in Harmony with the Unified Field

Dr. Robin Kelly
Energy Psychology Press (2011)
ISBN 9781604150629
Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views

I found it incredibly refreshing to read "The Human Hologram."  By demonstrating how modern science and ancient wisdom are connected, Dr. Robin Kelly presents a convincing argument to explain his theory that we are living in a holographic universe.    To support his theory, he provides us with Ten Guiding Principles of the Human Hologram.  The Fourth Principle, "Modern scientific and mathematical theory lends support to the theory that our universe is holographic. It follows that we, as part of the universe, must also be holographic. Modern Science acknowledges that pure information is fundamental to our universe."  What this means to us, as both humans and holograms, is that we are actually able to play an active role in co-creating our future. In doing so, by combining our knowledge of modern science and the ideals of ancient wisdom, we can connect to a unifying field of consciousness that will enable us to transform our health and our environment.

In explaining how he arrived at this idea, Dr. Kelly heavily expounds upon scientific processes.  Having personally read many books that put a lot of emphasis on metaphysical ideas while throwing some scientific jargon in, I was pleased to see that Dr. Kelly utilizes his obviously extensive knowledge of natural physical laws and constants to show how "The Human Hologram" can be a reality. 

While "The Human Hologram" presents a lot of complex ideas, Dr. Kelly presents it in a way that I was able to follow, even though my last science class was fifteen years ago! I felt that this book was beautifully written and I loved how the author showed that both eastern and western medicine can be connected. Utilizing a great deal of explanations, diagrams, case studies, compassion and a touch of humor, I totally enjoyed reading this book, and was excited to see that scientists are heading us in a direction where as individuals we will be encouraged to play a more active role in taking responsibility for our health and transforming our lives.     

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