Monday, April 9, 2012

Live Ammo

Lynda Fitzgerald
Crystal Dreams Publishing (2012)
ISBN 9781591462637
Reviewed by Olivera Baumgartner-Jackson for Reader Views

I've read a couple of Lynda Fitzgerald's books before, so I knew better than to start this one on a workday. Her books are best kept for a Friday or Saturday afternoon, but only if one is sure that one would not have to get up early the next morning. So I made sure everything was ready - the cat fed, the chores finished, my car parked in the backyard out of view, the shades pulled and a pitcher of iced tea brewed...

"Live Ammo" is the second in the "Live" series, following "Live Ringer," published a few years ago. It brings back quite a few of the characters, and does a great job of further developing them and making them even livelier. Allie Grainger is still dealing with the aftershocks of her divorce, and her best friend Sheryl still likes to enter her house unannounced, and possibly armed. Spook, the perennially scared dog Allie shares her life with, is still scared. Marc still loves Allie, and she is still not ready to make a real commitment. So things are pretty much the same, with the exception of land developers developing land right next to Allie's house, so maybe Allie's Florida would also turn into one of those scary "condolands." The biggest news in town? The death of the sheriff's wife, ruled a suicide, yet hotly contested by her son Rand. Rand is convinced that his mother was actually killed by his father, Sheriff Cord Arbutten. Since both men were at the scene within minutes of the fatal gunshot, there's plenty of blame to go around. Allie gets involved after a plea from her best friend, Sheryl, who works for the Sheriff. Will she be able to uncover the truth or will her curiosity get her killed?

Once again I had to admire Ms. Fitzgerald's exquisite sense of place. Her description of Florida, even when it is simply implied, was downright astonishingly accurate, and reminded me so much of the Florida I've discovered during my many trips there in the past. Her characters were amazingly well fleshed out; the good ones had enough flaws to make them life-like and likeable, and the bad ones were revealed for the villains they truly were by skillfully peeling off their layers of deceit and pretense. I certainly met a few new favorites in this one, particularly Frenchie and Libby. Those gals kept surprising and delighting me, and I hope they will appear again in the future books in the series. The plot presented enough twist and turns (and detours) to keep the reader fully engaged, and it was interesting without being too farfetched to believe.

Ms. Fitzgerald never disappoints, and "Live Ammo" was no exception to that rule. I'd highly recommend it to any lover of good contemporary fiction, and even more so to anybody who happens to love the old-fashioned Florida. For all we know, the next book in the series might have Allie's house demolished for more condo development and Allie move away...

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Monday, April 2, 2012

Kendra Kandlestar and the Crack in Kazah

Lee Edward Fodi
Brown Books Publishing Group (2011)
ISBN 9781612540184
Reviewed by Sophia McElroy (age 9) for Reader Views Kids  


This story is about two "een" wizard friends who go on a journey to the future and the past along with the Kazah Stone. These friends are Kendra Kandlestar an "een" wizard and Oki the mouse. Before they left uncle Griffinskitch gave her the Kazah Stone. It is a purple ring with a few cracks in it. Uncle Griffinskitch told Kendra and Oki to go back in time and change The Land of Een back to normal. But then something weird was going on, Kendra saw her mother when she was younger! When she saw her young mother, her name was changed to Gayla Griffinskitch. Things get a little crazy when Gayla finds out who Kendra really is in the future!

My favorite part of "Kendra Kandlestar and the Crack in Kazah" is the illustrations. My favorite character is Oki the mouse. He is a talking mouse and that just makes me laugh. This book is enjoyable for kids age 8 and up that love fiction books and magic. My favorite author and illustrator is Lee Edward Fodi. I hope you enjoy this amazing fiction book!

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Monday, March 26, 2012

The Battle for Tomorrow: A Fable

Dr. Stuart Jeanne Bramhall
Strategic Book Group (2011)
ISBN 9781612042190
Reviewed by Madeleine Sullivan (age 18) for Reader Views Kids


"The Battle for Tomorrow" by Dr. Stuart Jeanne Bramhall is narrated by Angela (Ange),  who has had to deal with lots of adult-level responsibilities in her sixteen years. In her thirteenth year, her mom had a stroke on her right side and lost speech and most mobility. Also at thirteen, Ange had her first abortion.  Now, at sixteen, she is getting her second abortion, and while she accepts that her relationship with the 23-year-old political activist is over, Ange is totally convinced of the need for activism.

In fact, Ange is willing to give up her goth-personality for a more responsible looking personality, and move to Washington, D.C. so that she can attend more rallies, particularly a large one later in the fall. Ange, at only sixteen, has some problems on her own, but manages living in a hostel, working at a grocery.

As she attends civil disobedience trainings and starts to lead trainings herself, Ange struggles to lead and interact with adults when they know she's underage. Additionally, the protocol for dealing with a minor in the event of arrest is problematic and bureaucratic for a minor without a guardian to call upon.

Throughout the book, Ange learns to personally handle her own (temporary) "age-deficiency" and learns how to interact with adults in a mature and responsible way. She also challenges societies' methods for handling minors, fighting for her right to live independently, without a legal guardian.

Dr. Bramhall's writing flowed well. Written in first-person narrative, almost stream-of-consciousness style, "The Battle for Tomorrow" used the technique well. Ange's voice was well-defined and clear. Dr. Bramhall captured the voice of a scared teenager who is still figuring herself out very well.

Although I didn't agree with some of Ange's political leanings (e.g., socialism), I admired the passion Ange exhibited, and the resolve she had to act on her beliefs and to see change happen. This inspired me to strive harder to stand up for my beliefs, even in ways that might not be comfortable.

I was also fascinated by the lifestyles I might not normally be exposed to – of living in a hostel, of marching and blockading roads – and I thought the book well-exposed the personal rationales behind any extremist movement.

Although I really enjoyed this book, I would only recommend this book to older readers, as it dealt with mature themes. That said, I would highly recommend "The Battle for Tomorrow" – it was an inspiring and insightful look at political change and the struggle for minors.

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Island Eyes, Island Skies

Reviewed by Ben Weldon (age 14) for Reader Views Kids


"Island Eyes, Island Skies" by Richard Levine is the story of D.C., a tween girl, and Rob, a tween boy, as they share life experiences and learn to overcome tragedy.  After first meeting at her cousin's birthday party, Rob and D.C. were reunited at school when D.C.'s family moved to Old Westwood.  Soon after they got to know each other, Rob's father had a heart attack and D.C.'s mother had a miscarriage.  D.C. and Rob found each other as kindred souls seeking explanations for the random tragedies that had struck their families. Will Rob and D.C. come to accept their disasters or will they continue to be haunted by these tragedies forever?

Just days after starting her new school and meeting Rob again, tragedy struck.  Rob was playing basketball with his father when his father had a heart attack, collapsed and died right in front of him.  That same day, D.C.'s mother had a miscarriage.  After these great tragedies, Rob and D.C. were eventually drawn together because they could understand the magnitude of each other's loss and offer each other sympathy.  But little did they suspect the worse fate that was to befall them.

This was not the most suspenseful book, but had some redeeming features that made me want to keep reading.  It had some humor and a little suspense thrown in for good measure.  The book was not as much for-fun reading as for watching someone else struggle with tragedy and learn how to overcome it. 

I would recommend "Island Eyes, Island Skies" by Richard Levine to people who like books where the main characters must overcome loss.  I would especially recommend this book to people who have just had a tragedy in the family.  The book had quite the surprise ending that will keep you on your toes, and you will have to read the book to find out what happens.

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Moonhawker

George A. Fox
iUniverse (2011)
ISBN 9781462046485
Reviewed by Joseph Yurt for Reader Views

A new book by George A. Fox, "The Moonhawker," is definitely a top-of-the-line action mystery that comes fully loaded to provide an edge-of-your-seat reading experience. Fox tells the thrilling tale of complex and unpredictable protagonist Atticus Gunner who is hurled from the pages almost as soon as you open the book. From that point on, the story unfolds at breakneck speed, with the reader hard pressed to keep up. But despite the book's length and pace, most readers will be left wanting more.

"The Moonhawker" is hard to summarize. It's easier to tell someone what it's got, than what it's about. And what the story has is more than meets the eye. Fox understands the thriller genre and all its sub-genres. He has created a classic "every man" protagonist possessed of both good and evil, with the capability to use both to overcome any obstacles which the story's villain-driven plot presents. And Fox has made certain that an abundance of villains populate the pages. Intriguingly, these are not the villains one would expect to find in a small island fishing and summer community off the shores of Lake Michigan. So, in addition to his current island responsibilities as school administrator and part-time cop, (or is he much more than just the local law?), Atticus must also face these unforeseen nemeses.

But Atticus Gunner is up to the challenge. Although Fox skillfully renders him as a real person with genuine flaws and weaknesses, he seems believably larger than life. As daunting and insurmountable as many of the obstacles he faces appear to be, and as unimaginable and suspenseful they might be, we believe Atticus will succeed - because, we want him to.

Fox has concocted his story with traditional thriller-action ingredients, including adventure, heart-stopping action, suspense, stress, exhilaration, mystery, and romance. But the key ingredient is a secret. Indeed, at times the reader might wonder if everyone on the island has at least one secret. The literary device of creating reader engagement through speculation adds yet another enjoyable element to the story.

George A. Fox had a long career in public school teaching and administration. He began the manuscript for what would become the "The Moonhawker" many years ago, during his time in school administration at a small island school community in Northern Lake Michigan. It was fifteen years after his retirement that he dug out the old manuscript, reworked it, and transformed it into this book.  The quintessential thriller-action novel, "The Moonhawker" will be a challenge to top for Fox. But I hope he is up for that challenge. I know Atticus Gunner would be.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Red, White, and Dead Again: The Nuclear Armageddon Conspiracy (Volume 1)

Jeffrey A. Friedberg
CreateSpace (2012)
ISBN 9781470048068
Reviewed by Tyler Tichelaar for Reader Views

Jeffrey Friedberg's novels never disappoint me. While I'm not a big reader of thrillers, now and then I find an author who knows how to entertain me so well I can't put his books down. This third novel by Friedberg, a sequel to "Red, White, and Dead" brings back Detective Jack Vane, my favorite detective since Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot bit the dust. I don't imagine they would have approved of Jack's methods, but Jack lives in the 21st Century, when anything seems possible, and especially in the American Southwest.

This time, Jack is on the trail of discovering the secret plans to a weapon of mass destruction that was developed alongside the atom bomb—a "super bomb" or "hell bomb" that is 1,000 times more powerful than the hydrogen bomb, which is itself 1,000 times more powerful than the Hiroshima A-bomb. In other words, this hell bomb is one million times worse than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. Now that's scary! And the plans for this hell bomb have long been lost or hidden, and numerous people want them found, and they think Jack is the man to do it.

I don't know how even to begin to describe all the plot twists and turns in this book, but I love that many of the characters from Friedberg's previous books return, including the Fat Man Yaakov Irgun, Jack's sort of employer—who has secrets from his past that are revealed in this volume. Also returning are Tiffany Chablis, who owns a delivery company and has a crush on Jack, and Little Boy, Jack's Native American friend who learns he has an interesting link in his past that connects him to the mysterious super bomb. Of course, a whole cast of colorful new characters are introduced, beginning with Mafia Baroness Sophia Gambeno-Lanskie and her Amazonian daughters. There's an old Native American woman with a past of her own who is still surprisingly agile when action is called for, and a nerdy park ranger obsessed with the past. How all of these characters are involved in either planning for or stopping a plan for world domination with the super bomb will keep the reader flipping pages and holding his breath.

But Friedberg does more than write thrillers. When I could stop reading, I found myself running to the Internet to look up the atom bomb and other historical details in the novel. Friedberg expertly blends in history with the plot until readers begin wondering, "What is fact and what is fiction?" Despite the somewhat exaggerated "thriller" world that Friedberg creates, he does it so well that suspension of disbelief happens effortlessly for the reader who begins to believe in conspiracies and mystical moments and enjoys it all the way to the last page.

As in his previous novels, Friedberg also sets the story in the American Southwest. This time, he gives his readers an extra treat by including photos of many of the places mentioned in the novels. These photos help add to the overall effect of fiction feeling like history. Friedberg has obviously thoroughly researched Santa Fe's history and specifically the many buildings he mentions and for which he provides photographs. Photos include: The Kill Box at 109 East Palace Road, Santa Fe, which was the 1945 Headquarters of the A-Bomb Project; Atomic Bomb Creator Oppenheimer's Office; several photos of Chaco Culture National Historical Park, as well as the Sandia Casino Hotel, and the Sena Plaza. These photos really made me appreciate and visualize the novel's locations since I have never been to Santa Fe. Most of the photos are in the back of the book, so I encourage readers to look at them as they read without sneaking a peek at how the novel ends.

And the novel is so funny! I laughed more times than I could ever count. Friedberg is a master at creating witty dialogue. Humphrey Bogart would not be able to compete with the witty manner in which Jack Vane and his fellow characters can deliver their lines—in fact, this book would make a great movie, an incredible blockbuster summer movie, and unlike most of those films, it would have some depth to it as well. Here are a few quick examples of the humorous dialogue. The first is Jack's conversation with the Fat Man Yaakov Irgun:

"Let me ask you something, Yaakov. You're, like 180 years old or something, right?"
"I'm a robust seventy-nine.
"At this point in life, why do you still do this…job? What do you want?"
"Power. It's what I live for."
"You have power. What's the point of more power?"
"The point of power is power."
"What about friends?"
"I don't need friends, Jack—what I need is enemies. Get off my back. You don't need to know anything personal about me."

The second occurs at the end of Jack's conversation with the Mafia Baroness Sophia when she tells Jack she wants him to find the plans for the super bomb:

"Oh, he knew that we would want the design for ourselves, of course. But he's gambling on you winning—not us. Funny, right?"
"But what if I do destroy it? Then what?"
"Then, Jack—you don't get paid."
"That's bad."
"And you would be killed all kinds of dead."
"That's badder, Sophia."
She stared at him silently, her eyes too narrow.
She leaned forward, and he prepared for the slap because he'd used her first name.
She said, "Jack, would you like to see all my tattoos privately somewhere?"

I wish I could quote more, including some of the fast-paced action scenes that made this book end all too quickly for me, but readers will just have to enjoy this book for themselves. I don't think anyone who loves a good read and intelligent, witty writing will be disappointed. I can't wait for the next book and the opportunity to return to Friedberg's conspiracy ridden, action-packed Southwest again.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Discipline: A Play

Gerard Bianco
iUniverse (2012)
ISBN 9781462070220
Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views

Poor Howard Jenkins lives in state of constant sexual frustration.  Living with beautiful, sexy Lily who frequently spurns his sexual advances adds to his discomfort.  Lily constantly reminds Howard that he needs to keep his urges in check because he has already been in trouble for his outrageous behavior.  But having to see Lily in her sexy lingerie is pure torture for Howard, so he usually has to take matters into his own hands. He rudely lets Lily know that someday he will have a woman who will satisfy his needs and not try to encourage him to discipline himself so that his behavior will remain appropriate.

One night, after once again being spurned by Lily, Howard realizes that there is a stranger in their apartment. Not only is this man just a stranger, but he is a very strange man named Frustrato. Lily doesn't believe this man exists even after Howard calls the police to report his intrusion. When Frustrato reappears, Howard overcomes his fears to find out why he is there.  Threatening Howard with the need to get rid of Lily, Howard has a dilemma. Frustrato promises Howard a friendship that will be full of the two men being able to pursue whatever they desire.  Lily, in spite of her reticence with fulfilling Howard's desires, represents a stable, disciplining force in his life.  Howard truly can't picture his life without her, but it will make his special doctors happier to have her gone. Howard has to decide which direction he wants to go, and he has to make this decision very quickly.

"Discipline," by Gerard Bianco, written in play format, truly made me laugh out loud. The outrageousness of Howard's thoughts and Lily's reactions to those thoughts was hysterical. Frustrato also adds an interesting twist to the story by trying to convince Howard to take the path that he thought he wanted, but when faced with the reality of the situation he realizes that he might not.  This play is quirky and fun and has some twists in the story that make it a very unique book to read.

Listen to interview with Gerard Bianco on Inside Scoop Live

Monday, February 27, 2012

Mini Skirts and Laughter Lines

Carol E. Wyer
YouWriteOn (2011)
ISBN 9781908481818
Reviewed by Olivera Baumgartner-Jackson for Reader Views


No, I am not quite there yet, but the dreaded 5-0 is creeping ever closer. Therefore it was not really a stretch to feel quite connected with Amanda Wilson, the heroine of Carol E. Wyer's "Mini Skirts and Laughter Lines." Amanda is about to turn fifty, her husband is treating her like she's invisible, things in her life are shifting rapidly (and mostly downwards), her moods are volatile at best and the world is not making very much sense. So what does a woman do at such a time? Well, if she's a modern one, she starts to write a blog and tells the world about everything that drives her crazy. Yes, the Internet is the cure-all nowadays, and very quickly Amanda will get some faithful followers for her blog, who will look forward to her adventures.

Buying a bunch of new cosmetics in attempt to revert the aging process? "Meeting" an old flame online and thinking about meeting him for a little reunion? Thinking you are an empty nester, just to have your son move back in? Dealing with your rather crazy old mother, who refuses to give in to old age? Fighting moles in the garden? Weekend survival courses for the spouse? There is a story in each of those events, and Amanda's faithful followers chime in with fantastic comments every time. Will the marriage survive?

I have greatly enjoyed "Mini Skirts and Laughter Lines." I found the author's writing style to be pleasantly chatty and very real, and the issues Amanda faced all too believable. The inclusion of the ever-present Internet activities made this story particularly relevant, and a good illustration of what we do or don't know about the people we might "meet" there. Some of the revelations towards the end of the book will probably surprise you a bit, and they should serve as a serious reminder that the cyber world is truly all-inclusive.

While I did not always like Amanda's character, she kept me amused throughout the book and I found her to be well drawn and believable. If I had my pick, I'd rather be like her amazingly quirky Mum, who was my absolute favorite throughout the book. Maybe I'll get as brave as she was one day, and I will treat myself to a sports car as well...

"Mini Skirts and Laughter Lines" was a feel-good book and one that I would highly recommend to any woman who is even remotely battling a mid-life crisis. If Amanda could do it, we all could!

Read interview with author

Monday, February 20, 2012

Hot Sexy Banker Chicks

Elizabeth Pier
CreateSpace (2011)
ISBN 9781456502751
Read by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views (2/12)

I have to admit, at a glance, I was sure that the title of the book was, "Hot Sexy Biker Chicks," instead of "Hot Sexy Banker Chicks."   Boy was I wrong!  The real title actually makes for a more unique and interesting read because books and movies about biker chicks have flooded the market over the years.  This is actually the first book that I have ever seen written about banker chicks. 

The author, Elizabeth Pier, writes a fictional story based upon real incidents.  The main character Marilyn was born and raised in New Orleans during the 60s. In the 80s she moved to San Francisco and began working in the banking industry.  From there she moved with her husband and children to the east coast.  She finally manages to settle down in North Country which is a rural area in upstate New York where the cows outnumber the people.  Feeling out of sorts and bored after she gets settled in, Marilyn decides to return to work in the banking industry.  It is not easy to find openings, let alone people who are willing to hire a newcomer to this area. When she finally is hired by an international bank, her career begins again, only it is very different this time.  Unlike the metropolitan areas where she previously was employed, the people who require banking services are very different. Some of the ones who you would least expect to have money, have the most. They don't stand out as wealthy when they come into the bank dressed very casually with cow manure on their boots.  Almost every customer has a story to tell, or an eccentricity which the bank employees have to handle.  In "Hot Sexy Banker Chicks," we get to be entertained by these stories. 

When Marilyn is hired as the bank's Asset Relationship Manager, she develops a quick rapport with Steph who is the branch manager and Louise, the assistant manager.  These are the "Hot Sexy Banker Chicks."  As with the customers, these ladies have their own eccentricities.  For Steph, she has a blended family that involves mischievous boys who are constantly in trouble.  Marilyn is grateful for the friendship of these two ladies. As co-workers they usually try to help each other out when dealing with pesky customers. Other times, they just laugh, as I did when reading their exploits.

Marilyn's experiences while working at this bank offer the reader many lessons to be learned about life. One is to remember to treat each human being as a person with value. She also learns not to judge people by their appearances, there are some incredible souls lurking behind long hair. She also taught me to be very careful about making sure that my personal affairs are in order now while I have most of my mental faculties intact.  There is a huge lesson about this in one of her stories. I also pray that one day, when I am old and lonely, people will look forward to seeing me and that I will not overstay my welcome when I venture into town to do business.

I highly recommend reading "Hot Sexy Banker Chicks" by Elizabeth Pier and I think that this book is a must read for women's reader's groups.  It is guaranteed to be enjoyed by all!

Listen to Live interview on Inside Scoop Live

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Auto-Self: The Key to Creating Star Performers and to Becoming a Star Yourself

Dr. Barry Borgerson
2-Selfs Publishing Company (2011)
ISBN 9780983815013
Reviewed by Richard R. Blake for Reader Views 

Unique features in the format of "The Auto-Self: The Key to Creating Star Performers and to Becoming a Star Yourself" added to my reading enjoyment and helped me understand and assimilate the concepts introduced. I especially enjoyed the explanatory callout boxes, the clever illustrations created by Dan Nelson, the highlighted key thoughts, the bulleted lists, and the thought-provoking quotes from recognized leaders.

Dr. Borgerson's new material on the auto-self, the underlying principles, and suggested improvement techniques offer the reader the empowerment to transform undesired habits,  to conquering our auto-self, and to improve aspects of our auto-self in order to achieve specific goals.

The book is filled with powerful real life stories, examples, and case studies which demonstrate the effectiveness and fundamental principles introduced throughout the text. The patterns reflected in these cases are an important aid to helping the trainer/reader examine their own automatic activities.

This is not a book for cursory reading but a study guide for application and transformation.  Although I found some of the material repetitive, this may be an intentional teaching tool used by the author to help the reader retain, understand, and assimilate the information. Dr. Borgerson introduces a lot of new terminology directly related to the concept of auto-self.

Over the years I have read any number of self-help and motivational books. Many of these have encouraged me to take positive actions steps. Dr. Borgerson's approach intrigues me as it goes further than self-help to enable the reader to move beyond motivation to transformation and positive lasting change.

"The Auto-Self" is an important guidebook for training leaders in industry, business, and education, as well as life-coaches and their clients. I plan to keep my copy readily available for personal reference, motivation, application, and ongoing transformation.

Blomqvist (2nd Edition)

Michael Hickins
Mynameisbooks (2011)
Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views

Blomqvist's story is told by his beloved cowardly bard Axel Oxensteirna.  Axel swore his fealty to Blomqvist after he savagely murdered Axel's parents. Letting him live, Axel promised his allegiance to him.  This included his love and adoration.  The same situation had happened to Blomqvist in his youth when his parents were killed.  However, there is a huge difference between the two men. Blomqvist the Black is known for being a warrior that is massive in stature, yet still quite agile.  He is renowned for both his prowess on the battlefield and with women.

Set during the 11th century where many battles were held among the Christians, Muslims and Pagans, Blomqvist holds no religious beliefs.  He has difficulty understanding the concept of Christianity, because while the religion worships Christ, a man of peace, Christians are engaging in battles that involve killing others for the sake of Christianity.  He forms alliances where he can best be served.

The love of his life is his betrothed Alix.  Alix is the only woman who has managed to hang on to Blomqvist's interest in spite of the numerous children that he has created with other women.  To ensure Blomqvist's support and prevent him from backing out of a pledge, Alix is taken hostage and taken far away from him. In a rage, Blomqvist leaves in search of her.  Along the way, as he journeys across foreign lands, his adventures continue. Unfortunately, he also loses many friends in battle.  His loyal Axel continues to remain at his side, even during times of capture. In his desire to have Alix returned to him, Blomqvist forfeits offers of great riches. 

"Blomqvist" is an incredibly well-written historical fiction. The story is told in such vivid detail that there were times that I felt I might have been watching a movie instead of reading words typed on paper.  The battles are bloody and well described which would be expected for the times.  Alex's devotion to Blomqvist is admirable, and Blomqvist's love for Alix is timeless.  I truly look forward to reading the next story in their journey.

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Monday, February 6, 2012

Birth of the Half Elves: World of Ryyah (The Elven Age Saga)

H. L. Watson
Two Harbors Press (2011)
ISBN 9781937293420
Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views

"Birth of the Half Elves" is the first of six books in the "Elven Age Saga." It takes place on the planet Ryyah. The tale begins when the human youth Donovan's quiet village is overtaken by barbarians.  Catching the people off guard the barbarians attack the town while the men are out on a salmon fishing expedition.  These barbarians are slavers looking for women and young men to capture.  After they initiate their attack on these peaceful people, the only remaining survivors are the women and the young men deemed fit enough to sell into slavery. Twelve-year-old Donovan and his best friend Akenji are both captured.  While they are being led off, they are spotted by Elven Rangers.  The leader of these Elven warriors is a female named Alayna.  Alayna takes pity on the captives and orders her men to rescue them.  She knows that this goes against her Elven Lord Aden's wishes, because he wants all human trespassers to be destroyed.  In her heart she knows that these young men are innocent.

Alayna decides to convince Lord Aden to allow her to train the youth as spies so that they can prove useful in helping protect his forest. He agrees, but always does everything in his power to send them into battle before they are ready. This pains Alayna greatly.  When Lord Aden's daughter Princess Brandela is sent to Eldergate to find eligible servants, she is captured when the town is attacked. Once again barbarians are seeking slaves. They are also hoping to capture the princess because they know that she will bring in a huge bounty from the dangerous Shadow Elves.  As the fighting commences, lives are lost and the princess is taken captive.  When Donovan discovers who he has lost to the barbarians, he vows revenge and seeks to free the princess so that the Shadow Elves will take their fury of her loss out on the leader of the Barbarians.

Once Donovan gets to Brandela, the adventure really begins. They discover a connection that they did not know was possible between humans and elves. As they journey back to Brandela's forest they have to remain vigilant to avoid the barbarians. This is much easier said than done. They also try to understand what is happening between them. Their connection to each other is incredible, and Brandela's father will not be happy when he discovers the truth. 

"Birth of the Half Elves" is a wonderfully written Elven fantasy.  I read it in one sitting. As a matter of fact, as soon as I started reading, I was hooked and I wished that I had all six of the books that are in the series.  The story is unique in that humans are trained in the Elven ways.  Having a romance between a human and an elf also leads to some interesting dilemmas. The background descriptions of the places where the tale takes place are colorfully written and easy to picture.  The characters are also all very complex and add a great deal of reality to the story. I highly recommend this novel to fans of fantasy fiction.

Lilith: Demon of the Night

Theodore Jerome Cohen
TJC Press (2012)
ISBN 9780984920907
Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views

The media is so flooded with trendy vampire stories right now I was incredibly impressed to read a "vampire" mystery that is completely unique to anything else that is out there.  Fast paced with snappy dialogue, likeable characters and a touch of Middle Easternmythology, this is a book that I could really sink my teeth into.  "Lilith: Demon of the Night" continues the Detective Louis Martelli, NYPD, mystery series.  Being my first Martelli mystery, I did not feel lost in the series. The characters were well introduced so that the novel can be read out of the series. 

In this tale, two NYPD detectives Martelli and O'Keefe are perplexed when they discover a corpse has been desecrated in a manner that might be believed to keep one from returning as a vampire.  Further investigation through toxicology testing shows that the person did not die as first believed. He was murdered in a very unusual way.  As the detectives pursue their investigation, more bodies start piling up, and they discover that other people have died in the same manner.  These people seem to have some sort of connection to a mid-eastern couple and their young daughter.  They also appear to have had blood drawn from them while they were alive, and to have been anemic. 

Hmmh, if you are thinking what I was thinking, think again because there is a much more complex situation going on.  This is what made this story so enjoyable to me; I did not expect the story to head off in the direction that it did.  I am going to stop here, because I do not want to spoil this story. I just have to say that I really enjoyed the writing talents of Theodore Cohen, and think that mystery fans will agree with me.  Highly recommended reading for both individuals and reader's groups.  "Lilith" will definitely provide material for some interesting, lively discussions.

Editor's note: This novel contains adult language.

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Monday, January 30, 2012

Through Whose Eyes: Rise Child of God

Jacqueline Rainey
Strategic Book Publishing (2011)
ISBN 9781612048550
Reviewed by Carol Hoyer, PhD, for Reader Views

There are not enough words to describe the incredible insight and thoughts that Jacqueline Rainey has shared in "Through Whose Eyes: Rise Child of God." Many readers may find, through her writing and her approach, it seems she was in their minds.

The format of this book is alternating poems (I like to call them words of wisdom) and stories in which she covers topics such as throw-away children; prostitution; drug abuse; losing one's self to drugs and alcohol. In addition, Rainey addresses loss of spirituality and loss of being in touch with God. I loved the way she approached these various topics; inner thoughts that one might feel given any of these circumstances.

Many readers will be able to relate to these inner thoughts. As a person in recovery, my favorite story was "I Use To Be." Many of the thoughts expressed were things I learned in recovery and I still use today. Many of us who are in recovery are often mad at God because we think He let us down; yet we never gave up hope and some of us got out of that lifestyle and found ourselves again.

Even though some of Rainey's poems and stories relate to specific high-risk behaviors, most everyone can relate. As humans, we question who we are, why we present abnormal behaviors or lifestyles and sometimes beg God to help us each day.

As a psychologist, I am thrilled "Through Whose Eyes" was written because it will help so many that are lost in their journey of life. Rainey's wisdom is non-judgmental and does not give advice; it is a reflection of living life on life's terms.

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Staying Alive: A Love Story

Laura B. Hayden
Signalman Publishing (2011)
ISBN 9781935991182
Reviewed by Olivera Baumgartner-Jackson for Reader Views

While any loss of somebody dear to us is a horrible thing to endure, there are some that are simply even more difficult than the others.  Losing a spouse is certainly right there at the top, particularly when the loss is sudden and at an early age. And that is precisely what happened to Laura B. Hayden, who found herself a widow even before she turned fifty. Not only did she have to raise two children alone now, but she soon faced a battle with cancer herself. Yet throughout all of that she did not lose the faith, nor focus.

There was one small paragraph towards the beginning of the book that really struck a chord with me. In it, the author stated, "I have come to realize I took my 20 years together with Larry for granted. Larry didn't." What a powerful statement, and one that really made me stop and think about my own personal relationships and how I deal with them. I will certainly try to do my best from now on not to take anything for granted ever again.

"Staying Alive: A Love Story" truly is a love story on many levels. It is undoubtedly a story of Ms. Hayden's love for her husband, but also for her children, and for life in general. Throughout the book the reader learns about Ms. Hayden's childhood and adolescence, and then her adult life, including her professional and personal growth. We follow her spiritual evolvement - and involvement, we see her learn and struggle and doubt and grow and stumble, but never really fall. Her memoir is a powerful mixture of emotions and tales of incredible resilience, and while it gets terribly sad at times, it never descends into whimpering or self-pity. She finds support and courage in many things, as well as many people, and she is lucky to recognize what really matters. She reminds us of the things we all know, but oftentimes forget or overlook - what really matters, or better yet, who really matters. 

Ms. Hayden's writing is beautiful, and she truly connected with me as a reader. She made me think again and again, and that is something that I really cherish in a writer. I would highly recommend this book to all those who have suffered a loss of a loved one, as well as anybody who just needs reminder of how amazingly resilient we human beings can be, and how with enough resolve we actually manage to overcome even the biggest obstacles. As "Staying Alive" will remind us, we do that and more, and if we are as strong as Ms. Hayden, we can actually do it with great grace.

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Monday, January 23, 2012

The Call

Derald Hamilton
D. Hamilton Books (2010)
ISBN 9780984619207
Reviewed by Richard R. Blake for Reader Views


Derald Hamilton's "The Call" combines satire, humor, and spoof in this unpredictable fictional account of seminary training and the broad spectrum of individuals who have responded to the "call to ministry." The story is presented in the first person voice of Ishmael O'Donnell.  His childhood is beleaguered by the strict disciplines administered by his military father and his religious mother who accepts as her "lot" subjection to an unfaithful husband. Added to Ishmael's dysfunctional childhood is the unexplainable supernatural indwelling or possession of the "spirit" of his long-dead twin brother Isaac.

Hamilton understands the importance of audience to the success of satire. He writes for a wide audience covering a time span of over 30 years directly impacting the veterans and families of three wars or Military conflicts who will relate to the account of Ishmael's coming of age in the transient lifestyle of military families, the diversity of political views of U. S. involvement in these intervention actions, and the extremes of disciplines and control exercised by his military father. Another audience that will be touched by Hamilton's observations is made up of anyone concerned about illusion versus reality in organized religion.

As Ishmael grapples with the his family's dysfunction and the harassment of Isaac's spirit, Hamilton focuses on another potential audience as he parodies the religious neuroses plaguing Ishmael by the inconsistency of forced church attendance by his father and the genuine religious zeal of his mother. Participation with Campus Para church ministries while attending University lead to Ishmael's "call" to attend seminary as a means to find life fulfillment and spiritual cleansing.

Part Two of the novel deals with the three years of Ishmael's seminary training. He is frustrated by the inconsistencies and the church politics often practiced within the established church, issues of integrity, and conduct behind the cloistered walls of the seminary. The illusions and reality of Hamilton's observations open the door for his articulate tongue-in-cheek satiric exposition. Hamilton has cleverly recreated believable characters into caricatures which disconcertingly uncover fraudulence, impertinence, personal inconsistencies, character flaws, prejudices, and biases often found in the Christian community. Liberal, conservative, charismatic, nor ultra-fundamental escape his invective.

I became deeply involved in Hamilton's storyline and characters. A composite development of fewer characters and a merging of the curriculum, training, and field assignments into typical content rather than detailed descriptions of the repetitive progression of each individual year of the program would have enhanced the flow and pace of the book for me.

"The Call" offers brilliant writing that is reflective, funny and provocative – a troubling look at the duplicity of influential leadership in today's culture.

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Monday, January 16, 2012

Will the Courageous: A Story About Sexual Abuse

Amy Barth
Loving Healing Press (2011)
ISBN 9781615990009
Reviewed by Carol Hoyer, PhD, for Reader Views 

Anybody who works with children, or any parents of young children, will find this book to be very helpful, especially when it comes to sexual abuse. "Will the Courageous" is easy to read and understand therefore making it accessible to young children.

Will is an energetic six-year-old who has to go to a caretaker's home after school since his mother started working. Nana Winnie is fun to be around and really listens to the children she watches. One day Nana Winnie's nephew Perry came to visit for a few weeks. At first Perry was fun to be around and listened to Will's knock-knock jokes. Perry then wanted to play the tickle game which Will wasn't very fond of. Perry started to make Will feel uncomfortable when he touched him between the legs.

After that incident Will started going straight to his room, acted like he was sick and didn't want to go to school. Will's mom and dad took him to the doctor's to have him checked out. Finally Will mumbled to his doctor what happened. He was then referred to a child advocacy center. Will learned it was not his fault what happened and was taught ways to handle situations like that in the future.

Ms. Barth did an excellent job in writing this book so any six to nine-year olds will be able to understand about inappropriate touching and "secrets." It is the responsibility of all parents to teach their child about this. Avoiding the topic will not help and children will eventually stuff their feelings.

The illustrations are bright, colorful, and interesting to look at; any child would be able to relate to Will.

I would recommend "Will the Courageous: A Story About Sexual Abuse"to all counselors, doctors and staff that work with children as well as parents of young children.  The book certainly makes it easier to discuss sexual abuse with them.

Ruby’s Juke Joint: Americana Cookbook

Ruby Dee
Bando Press (2012)
ISBN 9780983782407
Reviewed by Irene Watson for Reader Views


How much more fun is there than going into your kitchen, putting a CD into your player, grabbing a glass of wine, and rockin' and two-steppin' around the island?  Oh, wait, this is a cookbook and I'm supposed to be making dinner.   Nevertheless, I'm doing both because I'm about to start cooking from "Ruby's Juke Joint: Americana Cookbook" as I'm listening to the companion music CD provided with it.  You see, there is more to Ruby Dee, she's not only a fantastic cook but she's also part of the music scene known as Grammy-nominated "Ruby Dee and the Snakehandlers."

For the purpose of the review we are asked to test three recipes.  For the first recipe, I made "Blue Cheese, Pecan, Apple-Stuffed Bacon-Wrapped Pork Chops." I took two butterfly chops and seared them on both sides; then I stuffed them with a combination of blue cheese, pecans and apples. I wrapped the stuffed chops with a slice of bacon and placed in pan. While baking in the oven I deglazed the pan with wine and then added broth and butter.  Oh my, the end result was very tasty and the chops were fork tender. 

Ruby suggested serving the chops with "Potato Pancakes" so this ended up being my second test recipe.  It has been a long time since I've made potato pancakes so I was eager to try Ruby's recipe.  Using a food processor, I grated the potatoes and then added the remaining ingredients of onion, eggs, flour, salt and pepper.  There was also an addition of a pinch of baking powder which was different from the recipe I used before.  The pancakes ended up being crispy and yummy.  They certainly did go well with the stuffed pork chops.

The third recipe I tested was "Ginger Snaps."  I was attracted to the recipe because there are two ingredients that normally don't go into ginger snaps and those are oil and dry mustard. I was very curious how the cookies will end up being crisp when I use oil.  Well, to my surprise the cookies are crisp and have a zing to them.  I suspect it's the dry mustard that does that.  By the way, these cookies also have cinnamon in them which isn't a normal ingredient either.  I have to tell you, this is now my favorite ginger snap recipe.

Ruby Dee, who has the bragging rights of cooking on the "Rachel Ray Show" where she shared her infamous "Ruby's Thanksgiving Leftover Enchiladas," has given us recipes for good ol' homecookin.'  As I perused the rest of the book I noticed the recipes are simple and all the ingredients can either be found in the kitchen pantry or purchased at a local grocery store.  "Ruby's Juke Joint" is an easy to handle cookbook and sits well on a book stand.  The colored photographs of the recipes look great and help to see what the end result will look like.

Ruby's passion for cooking and music meld brilliantly in "Ruby's Juke Joint: Americana Cookbook." Her enthusiasm for good food prepared in the home comes from the heart and she shares it beautifully with us. Of course, the music CD is the added bonus that will bring a smile to your face. Good food and good music is the order for today.

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Monday, January 9, 2012

Edge of Ready

L. B. Tillit
Saddleback Educational Publishing (2012)
ISBN 9781616517786
Reviewed by Madeleine Sullivan (age 17) for Reader Views

"Edge of Ready" by L.B. Tillit follows the story of Dani. Dani, a high school senior, wants to graduate, but that prospect keeps looking less and less likely to happen. Dani manages to juggle school with watching her baby brother while her mom works overtime; she is, after all, strong. But the odds are stacked against her, and a terrible tragedy befalls her. Is Dani strong enough?

I enjoyed "Edge of Ready." I found the story pleasantly unpredictable and dramatic, with enough of twists and turns and ups and downs, while still maintaining a reasonable and believable flow of events which powerfully depicted human truths. Although "Edge of Ready" was full of many layers and turns of plot, it was a beautiful illustration of the power of brevity. Although only a small paperback -- only 192 pages, with three-page chapters -- it had remarkable depth, flow, and progression. Because of the smaller size, L.B. Tillit's ideas in the book are compact and more powerful for it. Each word, phrase, and sentence has bucket loads of meaning packed in -- the word to thought ratio is small, and this makes it more memorable and meaningful.

Not only was it well crafted, but the narrative voice was powerful. I could really hear Dani's thoughts and ideas as she processed the events. She is a believable teenager, dealing with hardship, who is in the process of figuring out how to cope and be a strong person. We watch Dani struggle with ideas throughout the book. As she narrated, "I just wanted to move on, but there was something about Mrs. Grady that made me think I was missing something, I just couldn't figure it out." She is dealing with difficult events, and she does receive some guidance as to what to do, but the main point is Dani's conclusions and thought processes as she herself deals with things.

The title was well chosen, perfectly describing the crux of the book. Dani is "on the edge of ready," and we see her practice the ready better and better. One of the characters advises her, "Dani, whatever happens, life will go on. She paused, taking my queen off the boars. She looked at me and said, and you can handle it. I promise." "Edge of Ready" by L.B. Tillit is an excellently written reminder that we are all practicing. No matter what happens, we must just continue pretending as if we had it all together, and as we practice, we get closer and closer to the edge of ready, until we, like Dani, will find ourselves no longer on the edge, but truly ready.

I would recommend "Edge of Ready" to older students looking for a meaningful, enjoyable portrayal of the power of living.

Unthinkable: Tips for Surviving a Child’s Traumatic Brain Injury

Dixie Fremont-Smith Coskie
Wyatt-MacKenzie Publishing (2011)
ISBN 9781936214419
Reviewed by Joseph Yurt for Reader Views

Following her own child's harrowing traumatic brain injury Dixie Fremont-Smith Coskie wrote a highly acclaimed book which emotionally and passionately documented her nightmarish journey as mother and caregiver. In that book, "Unthinkable: A Mother's Tragedy, Terror and Triumph Through a Child's Traumatic Brain Injury," published in 2010, each chapter, written with deep emotion, is concluded with tips for coping and participating throughout the process. It was these rational tips that offset the unbridled emotion in that first book.

In the Introduction of her new, follow-up book, "Unthinkable: Tips for Surviving a Child's Traumatic Brain Injury," the author has excerpted these tips to create a concise yet thorough caregiver's companion. Coskie's priceless experience make this book a valuable resource for dealing with an unthinkable, life-changing event for which none of us is ever prepared.

Coskie presents her tips in ten sections. The first group of tips addresses the steps and components of preparedness. The advice offered in this section is not unlike that which is generally recommended for any medical emergency. But, the reader is cautioned not to assume that brain trauma events are like other medical events. Section 2, "Traumatic Event," will abruptly and jarringly dismantle that false assumption. And from that point forward, the reader will be riveted by information that might make some readers simply give up and set the book aside.

But read on we must if we, our child and our other family members are to have any chance at all of surviving one of the most horrific and unthinkable occurrences that can befall us. Not only should primary and secondary caregivers and other family members read this book, so should doctors and medical services providers involved in the process.

Each section of tips following Section 1 in "Unthinkable: Tips for Surviving a Child's Traumatic Brain Injury" continually startled me with relentless "slaps in the face" of reality. But I feel blessed for having had the opportunity to read the book and I am grateful that Dixie Fremont-Smith Coskie had the strength and passion to share her experience and lessons learned. Otherwise, who would have known?

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Friday, January 6, 2012

Between the Cracks (eBook)

Kim McDougall
Kim McDougall (2011)
Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views

"Between the Cracks" contains an odd assortment of short stories and poetry. While the author's creations tend to "fall through the cracks" of being able to be labeled under a specific genre, many of them have a touch of fantasy in them. The fantasy ranges from folklore to horror.  Within each story I also found themes involving humanity or inhumanity.  The author does an excellent job of conveying the emotions of each character in her stories. Most of them also had a great deal of descriptions involving nature. I felt that this touch allowed me to "feel" what was happening.  For example, when she describes cold winter weather, I felt like I was sitting right in the middle of it.  When other worldly creatures interact in natural settings, it also makes them seem more real.

Within the stories, I found touches of humor, fantasy, folklore and eroticism.  Having such a variety present in one small book is a real treat.  Each story or poem stands alone on its own and is not dependent upon the others.  This enables you to either read it in one sitting, or if you are short on time, you can go back to it as your time allows.  I would love to read other works by this author, including her young adult stories, however, due to the adult themes in several of the stories, I suggest that this particular book be limited to adults.  While I might not recommend this for a high school summer reading list, I highly recommend it for an adult reading group.  The stories will be enjoyed as they are read and then enjoyed again as they are discussed. "Between the Cracks" is a keeper!

We Shall Rise: Misfits of the Lore, Book 2

J.E. Hopkins
CreateSpace (2011)
ISBN 9781466427327
Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views


"We Shall Rise" is the second book in the "Misfits of the Lore" series.   Tired of being cast down by vampires and werewolves of pure blood, the lower caste immortals are waging a war to escape from their domination.  These lesser breeds include the witches, sages, shifters, demons and those of mixed blood.  Children are not even safe during these times. Reysa, a half-breed vampire/warrior owns a night club called The Lore, that welcomes all who enter in peace. She has created her own family of half breeds whom she calls "The Misfits."  She wants no part of this war. When people in her club become endangered she has to become involved.

While all of this is happening there is a smaller battle being waged between Reysa and the vampire Kaden Gaspard.  Reysa and Kaden are fighting the uncontrollable attraction that they have for each other.  Kaden, has many inner demons to deal with. He has made a mess of most of the relationships that he has had in his life.  This includes betraying his brother with his fiancĂ©. That fiasco resulted in the deaths of seven women.  Kaden is afraid to take a chance with Reysa because he fears that she will end up being hurt.  In spite of this, their attraction to each other is too strong to be denied. When they team up to rescue a mutual friend who has been kidnapped, their constant closeness not only drives them crazy, but it also affects others around them. To survive, they have two battles to win.
I absolutely loved reading "We Shall Rise." The author did a tremendous job with creating unforgettable characters.  From the emotionally tortured vampire to the drag queen Mother-Father witch and everyone in-between there was not a dull moment with any of them.  She also did an awesome job with creating and sustaining sexual tension between the hero and heroine.  This totally added to the drama.  "We Shall Rise" has the perfect blend of drama, romance, humor and magic.  In spite of being almost a four-hundred page book, I was disappointed that it ended so soon! I look forward to following the rest of the "Misfits of Lore" series.