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!

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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!

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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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Read interview with Ted Cohen