Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Book with a View October 2009

The Rendering
Leann Marshall
ISBN: 143274318X
Publisher: Outskirts Press, 2009
Reviewed by Barbara Milbourn for Writers in the Sky

Move over Southern writers, there’s someone new among you, and she’s good—really good.

I’m not sure Leann Marshall wants to be called a Southern writer, but her first book, The Starfish People and now her second, The Rendering, both take place there, and she lives there as well. She’s a whiz at writing stunning Southern dialogue and getting her readers into the heads, hearts, and laps of her Southern characters.

Don’t think for an instant though that you’ll feel stifled by or anchored to a specific region. She has supplied both books with big wings that transport the reader from the flars (flowers) down home to lofty and deep-reaching themes.

In The Rendering, Mike Lot is released from 29 years in prison for the murder of the one he “loved more than anything.” He’d never talked of her to anyone the whole time there and he’d done well to keep his thoughts of her sequestered in a place he called the Dream Safe. But he feels her around him; it’s almost as if she were not dead, and when the prison gates close behind him, the one thing he wants to do is to see her again.

While he makes that journey, the reader’s attention turns to an art studio in which something speaks in first person of becoming, of being created, of seeking to see and understand itself. It discovers its power to not only think and to feel emotions of love, loneliness, fear and desire, but its power to move things, to break things, to transfer its self into people and stuffed animals. It observes and comes to question and then conclude which is greater in this “round world”—good or evil, love or anger.

Mike returns to the time and place he first met his love and there encounters and old dowser woman who dowses for more than water. She knows things and wishes to teach him so he can find his love again, save her, and send her home. There’s a spirit tree, an artist, a terrific storm, a lightning strike, and events that change things forever. There is a private eye that sets Mike upon a road and a townsperson from Ash Creek who discovers a secret. There is opposition in many forms and another surprise near the end that makes the book even greater than the sum of so many already wonderful parts.

As Long As He Needs Me
Author: Mary Verdick
ISBN Number: 978-1-4327-2427-6
Publisher: OutskirtsPress.com, 2009
Genre and Target Market: fiction; romance; family
Pages: 215
Reviewed by Sarah Moore for WITS

There are times when I want to dive into a completely fantastical novel that transports me to a life or a place that could never be my own. Maybe it’s a sci-fi adventure in which an alien life form threatens the existence of everyone on our planet. Or, it could be a historical piece that takes place in the royal courts of Victorian England. Sometimes books can provide that perfect escape that a reader needs from her everyday existence. However, other times I prefer to settle in with a story that is completely familiar, one that portrays the challenges and comforts that come with human relationships and exposes the emotional frailties that exist in all of us. As Long as He Needs Me, the new release by author Mary Verdick, beautifully fits into the latter category. This fictional work does not necessarily allow the reader to escape, but certainly provides an opportunity to be challenged with very real emotions.

As Long as He Needs Me tells the story of Kitty and Clem Johanssen, a couple that has just embarked upon a cruise to celebrate their thirty-fifth wedding anniversary. However, the ship does not even leave the port before events change the course of their vacation. Both husband and wife are forced to confront their own feelings of guilt, self-doubt, and loneliness. Along the way, Verdick does a beautiful job of slowly revealing details of the history of Johanssen’s lives through flashbacks and conversations. We learn about their children, their parents, and other relationships that all contributed to the current dynamic of the marital bond. I imagine every reader will be able to identify with at least one of the supporting characters in the novel, if not with the husband or wife directly, making the emotions all the more piercing and convicting. You cannot help but become invested in the success of Kitty and Clem’s marriage once their entire story is told.

One of the great strengths of Mary Verdick’s writing throughout As Long as He Needs Me is her ability to capture a genuine sense of human frailty. She does this without creating a sense of pity for her characters and without making them exaggerated in their weakness. Instead, Verdick illustrates the delicate nature of an intimate relationship that has weathered heartache, devastating losses, and old-fashioned jealousy all while being comprised of two unique individuals. No one is completely evil or saintly in As Long as He Needs Me. Just as the reader is about to condemn a character for a despicable act, a detail will be revealed to show the situation is more complex than originally assumed. When writing a story about human nature, that is about as realistic as it comes!

As Long as He Needs Me is a book that I read from cover to cover in one day. This is not because the writing was overly simple, but because Mary Verdick managed to create characters in which I took an interest. I wanted to see the story of the Johanssen’s relationship through to the end. And, along the way, I took the time to do some self-reflection on the weaknesses that exist in my own relationships and the way in which I may be contributing to the current dynamic. If you enjoy works of fiction that force you to examine some personal truths, As Long as He Needs Me is a book for you.

The Light Won: A Tutorial in Co-Creation
Author: Barbara Joye
ISBN: 978-1-4392-4417-3
Genre and Target Market: spirituality, philosophy, self-improvement
Publication Date: 2009
Pages: 206
Reviewed by Sarah Moore for WITS

I will admit to experiencing some hesitation when presented with the new release The Light Won: A Tutorial in Co-Creation. I hardly consider myself well-versed in the areas of spirit guides, angels, and other concepts involving a connection with another realm. Would I be able to understand a genre with which I was so unfamiliar? Would I find these ideas so foreign to my beliefs and the way that I operated in my own attempts at self-improvement? I always have had an academic interest in the study of philosophy and how it brings people a sense of self and their place in our greater society. So, I decided to approach my reading of The Light Won with the same intellectual curiosity. As I progressed through the book, I found that my comfort level with the material increased and I was making the connections that the author stated as her hope for her readers.

The Light Won: A Tutorial in Co-Creation is written from the perspective of The Angelic Realm and all of the elements and energies that exist within it. The purpose of the book is to encourage those of us in the physical realm to push ourselves out of our comfort zones and open our minds to a new set of beliefs. Author Barbara Joye, who is a Soul Connection therapist and Intuitive Re-invention Life Coach, explains that most of us live in a world that focuses on false divisions that comprise “The Game of Duality.” Examples of these earthly splits include good and evil, right and wrong, and even the supposed state of alienation between the Light of the Creator and the Darkness put forth by Lucifer. Joye lets her readers know that the Light has already won and that these labels of opposition we place on the entities within our safe, controlled environment are unnecessary restrictions on our potential. This idea resonated with me immediately. I clearly see how we allow our creativity and potential for joy to be limited by our fears of anything different.

As Joye guides her readers through the five steps of shifting life beliefs, which lead to the confidence in our ability to participate in co-creation and the acceptance of ourselves as unique and exceptional beings, she does so with a writing style and layout of content that makes the information accessible to every reader. She leaves physical space after each point of reflection or moment of emphasis as a way of letting her readers know that they need to stop and allow themselves to sit with their thoughts. Joye also uses conversational language to develop a sense of relationship with those who are holding the book. She asks each of us such questions as, “Can you even imagine?” and “Would it be better to truly co-create the life you desire?” Her writing requires full engagement from the reader. Each person will feel as if The Light Won had been written specifically to address their own desires and fears.

Anyone who has been searching for how they fit in with the greater energy and entities of our universe, or who simply want to find more meaning and fulfillment in their own lives, will find The Light Won: A Tutorial in Co-Creation a wonderful guide through the process of discovery. Barbara Joye is known by her clients as The Shift Guru, as she assists them in shifting their beliefs. The author’s desire to see her fellow travelers find deeper connections and relationships with one another and the spirit world made for a wonderful and stirring book.

Kill the Addiction
Author: John English
ISBN: 978-1-4327-3944-7
Publisher: Outskirts Press, Inc.
Pages: 72
Reviewed by Barbara Milbourn for Writers in the Sky

“What’s in a word?” we ask.

Sometimes everything; or, more specifically in John English’s book Kill the Addiction, whether you choose to continue being addicted to smoking cigarettes or not.

English ought to know. At age 20, the Britt was swept into compulsory military service and supervised the weekly cigarette ration at the officers’ mess. In those circumstances (and assuredly in circumstances of your own), try avoiding being caught in the smoking web in the first place, and when you see you haven’t, try escaping it.

Over the next fifty years, English tried to do just that, and he’ll tell you he quit “many, many times. The shortest was for several hours. The longest for eight months . . .” Then he found a way—or rather made his own way—to stop smoking, and he shares that method with you in his book.

Kill the Addiction is a slim book with a dynamite cover guaranteed to grab attention. The author tells you a little about himself, how to use the book, how it is structured, and what the essential first step is if one seriously wants to stop smoking. In short, snappy paragraphs, he’ll tell you what the method is not, and he’ll cover popular smoking myths. As a former smoker with a handful of friends who still smoke, all of the myths rang true with me. He’ll hit you between the eyes with smoking facts; not pretty—not pretty at all. The author primes the reader’s pump a little further with information about overall physical and emotional health, provides a brief review, and then delivers you to the method’s starting line and on into the battleground.

I appreciated the book’s directness, and how when the author knew he would never smoke again, he set out to test the method with others. Toward the end of Kill the Addiction, he shares the statistics and the comments from some of those in his control group and provides numerous resources on where smokers can get additional information.

Each of us finds our own way, and most often it is with a helpful point in the right direction. John English delivers one such direction.

How to Fight for Your Goals: Social Combat Theory

Avi Schneider
Lulu (2009)
ISBN 9781409283362
Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views (8/09)

In How to Fight for Your Goals, author Avi Schneider teaches you how to apply your martial arts skills to more than combat situations. You can also use these skills to help you achieve goals in your personal and professional life. According to the author, “Social Combat arises any time an entity attempts to exert influence over another entity, which will not readily accept that influence.”

By reading this book, I am learning how to apply these strategies to go beyond the physical and actually work with behavioral responses to situations. I also enjoyed the discussions about how this theory applies to psychological theories. The author states, “Martial Arts is a discipline that teaches effective strategies and techniques to combat opposition to ones goals. Any opposition.” Learning how to apply the strategies to other areas of our lives makes the training much more meaningful.

Physical attacks are discussed, and demonstrated in photos, to show how they can also be applied to social situations. The three main types of opponents and strategies for best handling them are also covered. These three types are the Brawler, the Bluffer and the Boxer. In relating to social interaction, these opponents are viewed as aggressive, passive or in-between.

As an individual with a second-degree black belt in karate and a Master of Science degree in Counseling, I found “How to Fight for Your Goals” to be incredibly informative, presenting information that can apply to my everyday life. I also realized that in some areas of my life, I had been subconsciously applying these strategies. By reading this book, I have a much better understanding of how best to use them. One of the reasons I began training in martial arts was with the hope that it would give me the confidence that I would need so that I would not actually ever have to fight. But if I ever do, I am prepared. The knowledge gained from reading this will definitely help me continue to avoid violence in confrontation situations.

I believe that utilizing the information presented in this book will assist me with achieving my goals outside of the dojo very effectively. I highly recommend How to Fight for Your Goals by Avi Schneider to martial artists.

Christyna Hunter
Wasteland Press (2009)
ISBN 9781600473241
Reviewed by Olivera Baumgartner-Jackson for Reader Views (8/09)< /p>

Joanna Webb is no stranger to brute male force. She grew up with a father whose cruelty to animals was overpowering and who never failed to remind her that men were far superior to women. So she decided to dedicate her life to protecting wildlife and to forget about anything else, including dating. Her plan works pretty well until the day she runs into the hunky Ryan Stewart. The mutual attraction is immediate and clearly palpable. But any chance of further developments is quickly squashed when Joanna identifies Ryan as an enemy, due to the fact that he is utterly dedicated to his family’s construction business, whose current project is the erection of a commercial building very close to Joanna’s place of work, the Animal Conservation Trust.

While both Joanna and Ryan fight the lust and the loathing they feel for each other, they can’t seem to stay apart for long. Their affair escalates quickly and virtually erupts in flames - just not the kind one would expect. Can they find a solution that would enable them to build a life together or are their differences insurmountable?

Christyna Hunter’s “Wildfire” is a contemporary romance with a very relevant side-theme of preservation of nature. Although slim, this book packs quite a powerful punch. Transcending the mere romance, it discusses much graver matters as well, such as blaming oneself for things one could not have prevented, sibling rivalry, forgiveness, compatibility and many ways humans impact the nature with oftentimes mindless urban overdevelopment.

While I found the story overall appealing and nicely written, there were oftentimes huge time gaps that I felt needed more explanation or more backstory. At 144 pages, the book would not be overly long-winded even if the author added another 50 or 100 pages, and if they were written as compellingly as the original 144, I would have enjoyed reading them for sure.

I would recommend “Wildfire” by Christyna Hunter to lovers of contemporary romance, who will certainly not be disappointed by Ms. Hunter’s latest offering. Endearingly infuriating hero and heroine, interesting supporting characters, fiery twists and satisfying ending make for a fun read anytime.

USA Anytime Anyplace
Author: Ercell Hoffman
ISBN: 978-1-4327-4344-4
Publisher: OutskirtsPress.com
Genre and Target Market: fiction; psychology
Publication Date: 2009
Book Length in Pages: 323

Sometimes I am simply in the mood for a light read that allows me to escape from my ordinary circumstances. Give me a simple romance or a fun adventure in which the good guy always comes out ahead. These novels pass the time and do not result in much lingering thought after the last pages are closed. In other instances, when my psyche is in a place of introspection, I enjoy books that challenge me to think and reflect on the circumstances that I face in my own life. With the new release USA Anytime Anyplace by Ercell Hoffman, the latter type of experience is the one that readers should expect. Hoffman offers us a psychological profile of a woman who is struggling with a series of hardships that seem to compound without a moment of respite.

Readers likely will not be able to relate to every hurdle that the main character, Kithira, must handle, but almost certainly will find at least one area of her life that resonates. As a woman, I connected with Kithira’s struggle to receive respect in the workplace, her difficulty in finding a healthy relationship with a man, and the insecurities that comes from being a woman living alone. Others who pick up USA Anytime Anyplace may find themselves connecting with Kithira’s legal battles stemming from racial discrimination she faces from employers. Or, perhaps you will recognize a bit of your own situation in the frustration that Kithira experiences in her neighborhood. You may never have purchased a shotgun and fired it into the ground as a way of silencing some troublesome people on your street, but you may be able to relate to the sentiment. When all of these situations come together, they weave a story of one woman’s struggles and successes as she moves forward with a determination to excel in her life.

Author Ercell Hoffman does a wonderful job of taking her reading audience into the mind of Kithira Manoff and making us see the world through this character’s perspective. By allowing us to be present not only for the major events in Kithira’s life, such as the death of loved ones and her brave battles to defend her professional honor in federal courts, but also those everyday moments like dealing with an office nemesis or chatting with a girlfriend, we are given a complete portrait of the woman. Hoffman skillfully blends well-written dialogue, including a captivating scene in the latter half of the book in which Kithira faces lengthy questioning from attorneys concerning her claims of prejudice against her employers, with great descriptions of her protagonist’s inner conflicts and feelings of self-doubt. We come to know Kithira Manoff as a woman who simply wants the recognition, respect, and peace of mind that she deserves.

Ercell Hoffman is an accomplished author who brings her strong writing background, as well as an education in counseling, to her new release USA Anytime Anyplace. With this expertise, she develops Kithira Manoff and a novel that reads almost like an intensely personal memoir. Anyone who wants to cheer for a woman who makes the decision to be strong despite the odds of the world being stacked against her will be glad that they decided to read USA Anytime Anyplace. And, just maybe you will find some way in which you can apply this indomitable spirit to overcome to your own lives as well.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

An insightfull post. Will definitely help.

Karim - Positive thinking