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.