Monday, May 30, 2011

The Queen’s Companion

Maggi A. Petton

Booklocker (2011)
ISBN 9781609106461
Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views (5/11)

The story begins in 1554 during the time of the Inquisition.  Queen Catherine of Montalcino finds herself becoming distressed over the Church's abuse of power.  People of her realm, whom she considers under her protection, are being falsely accused of heresy and then tortured and murdered.  Catherine personally finds a woman being brutally tortured and raped.  This woman, Lady Isabella, has had her whole family branded heretics and murdered.  As Catherine helps her to recover she finds herself falling in love with her.  This goes against everything she believes is right.  She is afraid that God will punish her for these feelings. 

The Queen also has a Bishop in her court who she knows hates her and would like to destroy her. This Bishop is not a good man, and he has a sick attraction to boys.  In her determination to help save her people Catherine has to try to make sure that her allies will support her, and she must also avoid being accused of heresy by this Bishop.   In order to hide her relationship with Lady Isabella, she agrees to marry.  She seeks a man to be King who will help her bear an heir and then leave her alone. When she finds the perfect Prince for this role, she marries him and they have a daughter named Sofia. 

As she continues with her efforts to try to halt the abuse of her people by the Inquisitors she becomes beloved to the people of her realm.     

Undaunted by the Queen's appearance of a normal life, the Bishop decides to use Catherine's daughter to his advantage. Knowing that he has been warned about having his unnatural tastes for boy revealed should he try to hurt the Queen, the Bishop uses subterfuge to get to her daughter and try to convince her that her mother is a heretic.  These actions set a course of events into action that will have a devastating effect on all who are involved.

Once I started reading "The Queen's Companion," I found it difficult to put down.  I immediately became totally wrapped up in the lives of the characters.  Interweaving actual historical events about the Inquisition into the story really brought the reality of what was happening at that time to life.  The descriptions of the ways that people were tortured was both educating and disheartening.   Catherine and Isabella's relationship was really beautiful, and it made me realize how hard it must have been at that time for women, especially for one in a role of leadership. 

Readers who enjoy historical fiction will really enjoy reading this novel. The author's chapter at the end of the book will also cause goose bumps!  I highly recommend "The Queen's Companion," and especially recommend it to reader's groups.

The Road-Shaped Heart

Nick Purdon
Modern History Press (2011)
ISBN 9781615990573
Reviewed by Marissa Libbit for Reader Views (4/11)


"The Road-Shaped Heart" by Nick Purdon is a collection of twenty-five poems written from the heart.  Covering topics such as addiction, loss, love, and grief, Mr. Purdon has a strong grasp on the English language and pens words in such a way that they tug at the reader's heart, and this statement is coming from a reader who does not typically read much poetry.  While not understanding every nuance in every poem, I certainly felt the emotion Mr. Purdon's words sought to provoke.

One particular poem that touched me was "Saying Good-Bye."  Purdon wrote, "…Are you now walking on the doused coals as I do?...Are you  picking through the charred remains as I do?...Our moon had long been waning, yet…Still, I breathe in…Your every breathing out."  In "Withdrawal" he wrote, "As the dark clouds roll in, heaving, they bring…decaying ravens plummeting from a sky of cracked bones…"  The imagery is so vivid the reader cannot help but recall his own emotions to the surface.

"The Road-Shaped Heart" is a quick read that can be read over and over.  Though not particularly a "happy" read, the emotions so beautifully depicted highlight the depth of real emotions felt by many.

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Monday, May 23, 2011

The God Matrix

Brian David Alexander
AuthorHouse (2009)
ISBN 9781438949611
Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views


John Phoenix is a college professor of psychology and a very gifted hypnotherapist.  When he notices an increase of clients who are claiming to have been abducted by aliens, his interest is piqued.  He classifies these people into three groups. One group consists of a few people who appear to have been abducted, yet they do not have clear memories of what happened.  The second group is what he refers to as abduction wannabes.  The third is of a group that appears to have had false abduction memories implanted into their psyche.  It is the first group that John is most interested in.  His first client in this category, Shelly, comes to him seeking answers through hypnotherapy.  As John tries to recover her lost memories, he realizes that she has had her memory tampered with so that typical hypnotherapeutic techniques are useless.

In addition to Shelly's group having their memories blocked, they also have had life-altering experiences.  All of these subjects had been involved in working with government research.  After their unexplainable experiences, they find themselves making career changes that will enable them to use newly acquired gifts to help others. Shelly starts a small practice that involves healing others, using energy therapy.
As John continues to work with these different groups of people, he begins to suspect that the government is somehow involved.  The further he delves into this mystery, the more endangered his life becomes.  He also begins to realize that there is something happening at a much higher level.  Because of his special gifts, he has the power to try to convince humanity to save itself.  However, because of the damage that has been done to the planet and the psyche of the majority of the people, this is a daunting task.  In spite of the dangers involved with the mission that John has undertaken, he is gifted with the opportunity to experience an incredible spiritual metamorphosis. While doing this, he also finds himself drawing closer to Shelly.  They must work together to save mankind.
I found "The God Matrix" to be an incredibly written, well-thought-out novel.  Brian David Alexander really impressed me with his ability to write an exceptional science fiction novel incorporating all of my favorite elements such as metaphysical, psychological, intrigue, romance and suspense.  But most of all, his story infused me with the desire to want to make positive changes in my spiritual ways so that I can be more like the people who can save the planet.  In spite of the knowledge that this is a fictional novel, there is a part of me that believes there could be some truth hidden in this tale. It takes a real gift of writing for an author to be able to do that.

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33 Days: Touring In A Van. Sleeping On Floors. Chasing A Dream.

Bill See
Lulu (2011)
ISBN 9780557758814
Reviewed by Marty Shaw for Reader Views

I wasn't really expecting much from "33 Days" because the band, Divine Weeks, didn't exactly set the world on fire, so how exciting could a story about their road trip be? However, that view changed when I realized one very important thing: This isn't the story of a big-name band with a huge record deal, and it's not meant to be. Within the pages of this book are the hearts and souls of some young men who dared to follow their dreams and the author does a great job of bringing us along for the ride.

Bill See is our doorway into the adventure these five young men embark on, and his first-person account helps reveal these dreamers for who they really are. Divine Weeks is heading out on a road trip for their first tour and emotions are riding high as they leave their local comfort zone for the very first time. They'll entertain hundreds, see new parts of the world, and learn more about each other, and life in general, as they set out to create their future. Through the author's eyes, we'll get to experience the fear and excitement of passing that first mile marker, feel the joy of total strangers that enjoy the music we create, and we'll see how the bonds of friendship change when you're stuck in a van with the same people for a little over a month.

Bill's band isn't going the indie route because they stink, but because Bill has a dream of following in the footsteps of other independent labels. He believes that hooking up with a major label would be selling out and giving up on the artistic side of the venture, but performing on stage with a stripper pole and depending on the kindness of strangers for a place to sleep isn't everyone's cup of tea, and one person's big dreams could cause problems along the way.

In addition to different aspirations, the road trip reveals the pressures that hinder almost everyone at some point in life. Do you follow your dream or take the safe and traditional route of college? Please the family or please yourself? We all face these decisions, and See does a good job of using that common ground to make us care about his fellow road warriors. By the end of the book, we've seen a few people change and make decisions based on their new over-the-road education and we understand them because we took the trip with them.

If you've been in a band or taken a spur-of-the-moment road trip to chase a dream, then "33 Days" might bring back some fond memories, but the descriptive locales and colorful characters will make this an enjoyable read for anyone, even if you've never toured in a van, slept on a floor, or chased a dream.

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Monday, May 16, 2011

Final Destination

Ankur Choudhury

Xlibris (2011)
ISBN 9781456864446
Reviewed by William Phenn for Reader Views (4/11)


This is a book of thoughts of a twisted and pained mind.  The words that are written bleed through the pages with heart wrenching strength.  In one such poem called, "Funeral," Ankur Choudhury expresses his suicidal tendencies with the words "I see death as the only escape from reality."

This 119-page book is filled with the thoughts of Mr. Choudhury's twisted view of reality. His gripping fear is expressed in a way that will make the reader feel his pain. With what is written, he wants the reader to share in his anguish as he takes you down the grizzly road that he has traveled.

Poems like "Happiness," express his feeling of being followed by death. Then in "Shadows," he states, "Won't someone kill me, tie me up and nail me?" There is a definite fixation that the author has with doom.

Clearly these and many more such examples, prove that this is a very dark volume of stressful and erratic thoughts. Passages in this book are seriously not for the meek. They are frank and scary poems that take the reader into the abyss of a twisted mind.

If one is to take what is written seriously, then it is evident that the author was emotionally distressed. The way the poetry is presented is of a mature and very dark nature, not recommended for young impressionable minds. The book has a parental advisory warning about "Mature Content" and should be avoided by young readers.

There were some typos and the cover did not strike me as being an eye catcher. I did, however, give it one of my high grades of a B. It was gloomy and sad; it would be welcomed by the Goth folks and I have to agree it achieved its goal. I didn't mind it as a change of pace from my usual reads but would not make a habit of it.  I would definitely recommend "Final Destination" to anyone who enjoys dark poetry.

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Innocent War: Behind an Immigrant’s Past, Book 1

Susan Violante
Outskirts Press (2011)
ISBN 9781432770471
Reviewed by Ben Weldon (age 12) for Reader Views Kids


"Innocent War" by Susan Violante is the story of her father's childhood experiences growing up in Italy during World War II.  Up until the war, Nino led a relatively ordinary life for a kid growing up in Europe.  When World War II broke out he went to school and tried to live as ordinary a life as he could.  But then the bombing started.  Life became intolerable and food became scarce.  Nino thought it couldn't get worse, but when his father was drafted and one of his best friends killed, he knew he was wrong.  How will his life change?

After a long time of wandering, and trying to find a safe place to stay, Nino and his family settled down in the mountain town of Modica Alta.  Life there was pretty quiet until the American bombing raids.  Several American planes were shot down and the pilots taken prisoner but only after the soccer field was completely obliterated.  Soon after this incident the Germans left and the Americans came in. 

For a kid, Nino faced the dangers of World War II pretty well.  I am not sure I could have done the same.  At times Nino did some things he probably shouldn't have; such as disassembling different weapons like mines and selling the detonators as firecrackers.  All in all he held up pretty well to stress and constant danger.  But life just wasn't as good without his father.  Will he ever see his father again?

One interesting aspect of this book was that it was written from an Axis perspective.  One of Mussolini's speeches praised war, guns, and fire.  During his time in Modica Alta everyone was scared of the Americans, especially after some had been imprisoned.  Some of the character'' experiences helped me to understand why some of the Italians hated the Americans so much.  It was fun to try and place myself in Nino's shoes and see how I would react if faced with his same choices. 

I would recommend "Innocent War" by Susan Violante to people who like adventure and non-fiction.  This was a true story and it was interesting to see what Nino had to live through.  It was a fun read, and I will recommend it to my friends who are interested in history.

Read review of Innocent War on Reader Views  (Adult Review)

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Monday, May 9, 2011

Plato’s Apology of Socrates: A New Translation, in the Style of a Cinematic Novella

Steve Kostecke

CreateSpace (2011)
ISBN 9781456490614
Reviewed by Richard R. Blake for Reader Views


"Plato's Apology of Socrates: A New Translation, in the Style of Cinematic Novella" is a unique and innovative approach to introducing classic literature to a new generation of readers. This is a relevant translation of Classic Greek Philosophy, translated into clear contemporary English, easy to understand.  In lieu of footnotes Kostecke has chosen to use bracketed paragraphs to create cinematic word pictures which help the reader visualize the Athenian Courthouse and the courtroom where the dramatic trial takes place.

Detailed cinematic instructions clearly describe sets, costumes, body language, hand movements, and character descriptions. This cinematic strategy allows the reader an opportunity for creating their own imaginative impression and to build a personal movie like visualization of the scene, the action, and the characters. Kostecke clearly understands the emotional power of words. By adding a sense of audio to the oration and dialog, the trial takes on a real life dimension for the reader.

Kostecke's writing reveals amazing insight into the Greek classics. His extensive research is well documented and referenced. Extracts are pieced together from Demosthenes' writings. I especially appreciated the handling of the four flashbacks to the scene in the Agora from Xenophon's version of "The Apology of Socrates" and the scene of Socrates' death taken from "Plato's Phaedo." Steve Kostecke has drawn from the Greek text edited by John Burnet and Liddell as well as Scott's Greek-English Lexicon. Several other texts are credited in his documentation of sources. I was also fascinated with the scene where Socrates digressed in his appeal to give a glimpse into his philosophy of life.

A major in English literature, Greek studies, and a Masters degree in Foreign Language Education led to opportunities for Kostecke to teach English as a foreign language in universities in Japan, Korea, Thailand and Pennsylvania.

"Plato's Apology of Socrates: A New Translation, in the Style of Cinematic Novella" is entertaining, enlightening, and a powerful and dramatic presentation of Socrates' defense plea for his life.

Rehearsing for Heaven

Mark B. Reed

CreateSpace (2010)
ISBN 9781450597777
Reviewed by Olivera Baumgartner-Jackson for Reader Views


If you are a believer – and regardless of your faith – there is some sort of Heaven promised to you at the end of your journey IF you do things right and IF you live your life in accordance with the beliefs and rules of your faith. But those are big IFs, and most probably getting perpetually bigger along with the bigger desires and more indulgences that life in today's world offers and entices us to wish for. Compared to all that is on offer right around us every day, it is sometimes difficult to imagine that Heaven the way it is described in the old texts would be particularly appealing to most modern people. Yet we are supposed to aspire to it as our final destination. So what is a believer supposed to do?

Usually I am not a big fan of books telling me what to believe and how to "change" myself to be a "better" person. Most of them are extreme, as well as extremely preachy, and all too often based on very simplistic equations that do not make much sense to me. Luckily there are exceptions to every rule, and Mark B. Reed's "Rehearsing for Heaven" is definitely one of them. I found his book to be very engaging and approachable. His writing style, in spite of the obvious copious amount of research, never became too convoluted for the average reader; and the mix of personal stories and quotes from various sources kept my interest aroused throughout the 400+ pages.

I've highly enjoyed the unusual format of the narrative, which is structured like a theatrical production in three acts, explaining to the reader how rehearsing for Heaven while living on Earth will not only earn you a spot in Heaven but also assure you of a more fulfilling and worthwhile everyday existence.

Refreshingly non-judgmental and accepting of the realities of life, including the mistakes all of us make at some point in life, this is a book which will make you think and re-evaluate your path, or as the author aptly put it, "rehearse for Heaven," without the fear of being refused entrance due to some transgressions in your past. For once I did not feel that the book was telling me what to do as much as it was telling me to re-evaluate and rethink the way I approach my daily life, and by doing that change my appreciation for all that has been given to me. Read this book if you feel lost in your quest for spiritual answers, or simply to reinforce your beliefs. Either way, "Rehearsing for Heaven" will change your perception of Heaven in a very positive way.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Shelby & Shauna Kitt and the Dimensional Holes

P. H. C. Marchesi
Out-of-this-world Books (2011)
ISBN 9780615475448
Reviewed by Ben Weldon (age 13) for Reader Views Kids  (4/11)


"Shelby & Shauna Kitt and the Dimensional Holes" by P. H. C. Marchesi is the story of Shelby and Shauna Kitt, thirteen-year-old twins tasked with saving Earth. When the twins' mother lost her job, Shauna and Shelby were thrown out of school, and their mother was attacked by evil Klodians, aliens bent on killing them; you might say that they had had a bad day.  Then Lendox found them.  Lendox was an alien from a planet called Miriax that orbited Earth in an alternate dimension.  He had been sent to find the twins and recruit them for a dangerous mission into yet another dimension to close some holes that had allowed evil aliens to enter Earth's dimension.  Lendox then took them to a top secret military base to meet other kids that would be coming with them.  But danger lurked at the base.  Can Shelby and Shauna stop the ever present evil before it is too late?
When the twins and their friends Vanessa and Jit arrived on Miriax, they were stunned by the amazing beauty of the planet.  Trees with emerald green leaves and the transparent walkways were some of the many wonders they found.  The lifestyle of the Mirians was also quite interesting to them. Tea with exploding mushrooms was a favorite snack. But not even these utopian features can hide the danger that lurks nearby.  Can Shelby and Shauna protect themselves from the Klodians?
While on Miriax, Shauna and Shelby discovered that they each had different and special powers.  Shauna couldn't get sick, could heal people, and could communicate with animals.  Shelby was extremely prone to motion sickness, could pilot vehicles or games having only just touched the controls, and could manipulate gravity to an extent.  With these new powers the Kitt twins thought that dealing with the Klodians would be easy.  Maybe they can contend with the Klodians, but can they deal with an enemy closer to home?

I would recommend this book to people who like adventure and fantasy.  This fast-paced book has an interesting style that merges science fiction with fantasy.  "Shelby & Shauna Kitt and the Dimensional Holes" was very entertaining and I didn't want to put it down until I finished it.

A Colonial Adventure: Fitch Tavern Tales #1

Lea Ann Knight
Stone Croft Press (2010)
ISBN 9780982835708
Reviewed by Sophia McElroy (age 8) for Reader Views Kids (4/11)


This is a really fun book to read; every page is a new adventure! First you will get to know a ten-year-old girl named Skip. She was always getting into something. The story begins when Skip goes to find her sister, but she is missing. While looking for her sister Skip finds herself magically back in the colonial times. She was very scared and nervous at first. She meets a girl named Elspeth and they become friends. The girls prepared food for men and learned how to care for the farm animals. She liked living there, but she missed her family and tried to focus on figuring out how to get home.

My favorite character is Skip. She is a very adventurous girl who I think I would like. Skip thought about her family worrying about her. She was mostly worried about her little sister, Ruby. Skip continued to think of a way out. Then before bed she finds a notebook. She opens it up under her covers and it showed initials. Initials? It was like a riddle to her. She loved riddles. After she thought about it she went to bed. In the morning she had stepped on something, "It was just the book." Skip said to herself.

"A Colonial Adventure" is one of those books you will want to read over and over again to discover some more surprises!