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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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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