Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Book with a View August 2010

The Protected
Author: Rowena Portch
ISBN: 1432758667
Publisher: Outskirts Press Inc.
Reviewed by Vonnie Faroqui for WITS

Fantasy and romance fiction lovers alike are in for a delightful and surprising read as author Rowena Portch presents The Protected, book one of the Spirian Series. Portch successfully gifts the reader with a heroine and a story that will capture as well as excite the imagination, deeply satisfying the avid reader’s hunger for freshness with a style and plot line all her own.
Skye is a blind massage therapist with special gifts and a bright spirit that has attracted the wrong attention. Skye’s power to heal has been noticed, making her the coveted target of those who would steal her freedom and manipulate her gifts. The fate of her race rests on choices she must make. Poised in the balance point of shifting powers, Skye must choose her loyalties well. One wrong choice will tip the balance between redemption and destruction. If she falters, she dooms not only her race, but all of humanity. Vulnerable in ways that would terrify and immobilize lesser spirits, Skye transcends the circumstances of her blindness to wage a battle for Spirit and for all of us.

Portch has drawn from her own life and history to write Skye’s character and world, sharing—in a way that only a skilled and talented writer can—the very personal experience of blindness. Not only has Portch succeeded to write a blind character in a sighted world, she has done so in such a way as to create a world paradigm, characters, and circumstances that elevate this book from the ranks of a good story to that of a great read. The Protected is full of rich descriptions, breath-catching tension, humor, and desire, with characters that come to life and walk off the page to live in you. With a voice and experience uniquely her own, author Rowena Portch will make you believe the world she writes and you will seek it inside yourself.

A Blueprint for Financial Success
Author: Manuel Showalter
ISBN: 978-1-4327-5503-4
Publisher: Outskirts Press
Link to purchase: http://amzn.to/bBolb7
Reviewed by Vonnie Faroqui for WITS

A Blueprint for Financial Success is not the typical financial success guide book. It is in fact more of a conversation about finances and life. Author Manuel Showalter shares his life and financial experiences along with the knowledge he has acquired along the way quite neatly in this easy-to-read, conversational book. The tone is rather like that of a mentor, the wise uncle, or a beloved coach. Showalter speaks frankly about money matters and fiscal responsibility and recovery to those who have not had the benefit of silver spoons from birth, financial grooming, or parents with portfolios.

Blueprint is straight hitting, weighing in with ten chapters, 63 pages; an easy read for one sitting. Showalter writes about how work ethic, education, addictions, finding jobs, savings, giving, credit, buying a car, home ownership, and thinking outside the box affect one’s financial health. He shares and draws from personal experience; offering the knowledge he has gained in the ring and up against the ropes of life. Showalter is not promoting himself as a Wall Street financial wizard, to teach you stocks and bonds or e-trading; but then not all of us need or are ready for that level of financial guidance. What the author has to say in his book you aren’t going to hear from Mr. Wall Street. “Coach” Showalter is going to spell things out for you in simple, understandable layman’s terms; information and tested advice about the statute of limitations on debt collection and how to work within the system rather than going down for the count because of what you don’t know.

A Blueprint for Financial Success is written for those lacking the benefit of the everyday kind of financial guidance most helpful to the working class. Young America will especially benefit from the practical information and tips in this slim volume. As the subtitle says, “Learn how to play the game.” Blueprint is the “Rocky” of financial success books. I give it two thumbs up.

Frugal and Focused Tweeting for Retailers: Tweaking Your Tweets and Other Tips for Integrating Your Social Media 
Author: Carolyn Howard-Johnson
ISBN-10: 1451546149
Publisher: CreateSpace (April 1, 2010)
Pages 130
Reviewed by Yvonne Perry for WITS

Twitts• pir• a• tion • n. What Frugal and Focused Tweeting Gives You
I always get inspiration and ideas when I read something Carolyn Howard-Johnson has written about book marketing. However, when I got hold of her latest book, Frugal and Focused Tweeting, I wasn’t too sure I would learn something I didn’t already know. After all, there’s only so much you can say about Twitter—like most social networking sites, it takes up valuable time and distracts people from getting other things done.

But, I was pleasantly surprised and realized I was in for an interesting read when I opened the section before the first chapter and found, “Twitter was designed to be a simple communication device. I propose to keep it as simple as possible, or at least as simple as you want it to be.” I’m all about simplifying my life, so I kept reading.

She promised to reveal how to use Twitter as a business tool by tailoring your Tweets to your goals. I’ve been doing that, but it was a great reminder to keep doing what I know works.

“. . . easy schmeazy, free way to garner a few online sales” she says.
“Hmmmm . . .,” Says I. “I’ll keep reading.”

Did you say wallpaper? Excuse me while I open the Internet and see what I can do to improve my Twitter backdrop. Distracted? Oh, yes. But you should see my new wallpaper @writersinthesky! Or you can snag one from MyTweetSpace.com as Carolyn suggests in chapter three.

Moving right along. Next, the author says we should appreciate our customers and let them know we are thinking of them. By, George, she’s right and it’s #FollowFriday. I’ll be right back . . .

Sorry it took so long, I had to update my lists, follow some new people, and try out SocialOomph.com. But, hold on; I’m going back in to create hastags!

As you can see, this book has a lot to offer business owners. It contains a lot of useful information that can help you use Twitter more effectively and make better use of your time—frugally!

Photographs and Memories
Author: Barbara Fifield
ISBN: 978-1-4327-5238-5
Publisher: OutskirtsPress.com, 2010
Genre and Target Market: fiction, women
Pages: 197
Reviewed by: Sarah Moore for WITS

I would like to begin this review by asking the readers a few questions. Have you ever experienced a tense relationship with a close member of your family because he/she was making poor decisions in their life or simply due to differences in personality? Have you watched someone you love suffer from an agonizing illness and felt helpless in not being able to ease his/her pain? Do you struggle to find happiness and fulfillment in your romantic relationships? I imagine that many of you were able to answer “yes” at least once. Let’s try one more. Do you strive to find happiness and contentment for yourself and your loved ones despite all of the challenges that life may bring? Hopefully, we all can nod our heads in agreement with that one. With all of the issues mentioned above featured in the new release by Barbara Fifield, Photographs and Memories, this book provides points of connection for all of us.

In what the author admits is a loosely autobiographical account of relationships and events in her life, Photographs and Memories tells the story of a woman named Angela who must move to a completely new part of the country, confront her alcoholic sister, tend to the ever-increasing needs of her elderly sister, accept the mortality of her beloved husband, try to strengthen the relationships within her blended family, and face the future alone. And, she tackles all of these significant life changes over the course of only a couple of years.

Barbara Fifield does a wonderful job of capturing the complicated situation in which many women of the “Baby Boomer” generation are finding themselves. With parents now living quite a few years past retirement age, children are often responsible for arranging the long-term care that will meet the physical and psychological needs of Mom and Dad. At the same time, these same women are trying to maintain relationships with adult children and, as is the reality in today’s society, perhaps fostering second marriages and the new extended family that these unions create. Fifield acknowledges that she has lived through every one of these situations. The fact that she is choosing to share her very real struggles and triumphs through the fictionalized Photographs and Memories makes the novel even more compelling.

Whether or not you are a member of Fifield’s generation and facing these unique circumstances, I believe that you will be able to relate to the messages this book sends about family, love, and the will to be a survivor. Despite all of the painful hardships that Angela endures over the course of the book, we leave her on the last page as a woman filled with hope and as someone who is looking forward to the future. Having dealt with some difficult and painful circumstances in my own life over the past year, Photographs and Memories offered me an important reminder that we all have a choice about how we face tomorrow and who we choose to be by our side when we do so.

I have now had the opportunity to read three books by Barbara Fifield and in all instances I have been struck by her honesty and her strength. Even though all three of her titles have been quite different from one another in genre, Fifield’s dedication to showing the complexities that come with being a woman has been evident in every instance. In Photographs and Memories, readers will share the journey of one wife, mother, and daughter who is determined to create the best and most meaningful life possible, even in the face of frequent and devastating loss. It’s hard to imagine a more realistic portrayal of strength than that!

Babes in Bucksnort
Author: Davis Aujourd’hui
ISBN: 978-1-4327-4500-4
Publisher: OutskirtsPress.com, 2010
Genre and Target Market: fiction; humor; social commentary
Pages: 202
Reviewer: Sarah Moore for WITS

Now that I have been involved in the book publishing and marketing industry for several years, I am enjoying the opportunity to review subsequent works from authors whose first offering I also had the chance to read when it was released. What a pleasure it is to watch the evolution of a writer’s vision and message. This is particularly true when the author is in the midst of creating a series of books with a common theme or that is focused on a particular set of personalities. In these instances, I get to spend more time with characters I have come to love and I get a more complete sense of what the author is intending to show the readers. Such is the case with the release of the second book in the Sister Mary Olga Fortitude series by Davis Aujourd’hui, Babes in Bucksnort.

Like the book that preceded it, The Misadventures of Sister Mary Olga Fortitude, Babes in Bucksnort follows the antics of the diverse residents who live in Bucksnort, Wisconsin, as told by the hard-drinking, chain-smoking nun whose name graces the entire series. However, while the first book was intended to introduce the readers to the large cast of characters and establish Sister Mary’s belief in tolerance and unconditional love, Babes in Bucksnort now takes a more focused approach to the storyline and confronts the growing prejudice against homosexuality in the town.

Becoming increasingly concerned about the infiltration of gays and lesbians in Bucksnort, Priscilla Bunhead forms a group of like-minded citizens who are determined to chase the people who they believe to be perverts out of town. Their efforts are reinforced when Reverend Billy-Bob Blunthead brings his Born Again or Burn Forever Disciples for Jesus to Bucksnort for a large rally that is meant to galvanize the supposedly moral people to save their community. As readers will discover, Billy-Bob, Priscilla, and other dispensers of harsh judgment will face a stronger and more unified opposition than they ever expected.

In this book, Aujourd’hui continues to do an excellent job of sharing social commentary through his memorable characters. Reverend Billy-Bob immediately conjures up images of television preachers who use their claim of Christianity to make a fortune from condemning others. Lilliliver Lipstick, another new character to the series and sidekick to Priscilla Bunhead, reminds me of the weak child who stands behind the playground bully and quietly watches while her fellow students are belittled and beaten. And, of course, Sister Mary Olga is still the necessary voice of kindness and reason in the middle of a wild atmosphere. I imagine in more than one instance, readers will recognize a character in Babes in Bucksnort as an exaggerated representation of someone they know in their own lives.

As I read both published installments in the Sister Mary Olga Fortitude series, I realized that I was enjoying the content for two distinct reasons. First, Aujourd’hui creates men, women, and children with unforgettable (and descriptive!) names and even more outrageous behavior. I appreciated the sharp humor that the author employed to this end and found great entertainment value in turning each page and discovering what these characters would do next. But, I also enjoyed the important messages of love and acceptance that Aujourd’hui emphasizes, particularly through the teachings of Sister Mary herself. Once in a while, we all need mirrors placed in front of us to help us examine and rethink how we treat one another, and Davis Aujourd’hui accomplishes this through his writing. Babes in Bucksnort is a book that will make you both think and laugh, which defines a great read for me. Now, I just need to wait for book number three so that I can discover who Sister Mary will bring to task next!

Passion’s Evidence
Author: Barbara Fifield
ISBN Number: 978-1-4327-5357-3
Publisher: OutskirtsPress.com, 2010
Genre and Target Market: poetry
Pages: 77
Reviewer: Sarah Moore for WITS

When asked to review a writer’s published collection of poetry, I always have a brief moment of hesitation. To me, poetry is such an intensely personal genre in which one person’s expressive and soul-wrenching output may be viewed as a jumbled mess to a reader who comes to the material with a different perspective or background. But then I remind myself that what I am expected to offer when I provide my opinion on a poet’s work is my specific reaction. I am entitled to review the poetry of another writer because I am entitled to my own emotional response. And, in the case of Passion’s Evidenceby Barbara Fifield, I was left with an ache over words that conjured up my own thoughts on loss, love, and beauty.

This was not my first opportunity to read the work of Ms. Fifield, as I previously reviewed her novel Lucifer Rising. While I enjoyed her writing style in my initial exposure to her efforts, my appreciation for her talents was multiplied by Passion’s Evidence. Fifield shares poetry that she has composed over the past twenty-five years, dividing the pieces into several powerful themes, and every page contains language that carries a message that is not content to lie flat and typed on a page. At the risk of sounding too cliché, this book really does come alive.

Perhaps the most difficult section to read was the one dedicated to her late husband, Roger. She writes to him while she sits by his side in the hospital, “I mourn for you,/my beloved/my husband/my angel/my soul mate,” and as she prepares to bury his ashes by the ocean, “Your ashes lie at my bed’s foot/I feel too crippled to disturb them.” I could feel the grief emanating from every word that she selected to share her loss, but also understood the love and intimate connection that this man and woman shared.

As the mother of a young girl, I was affected by the poems Fifield wrote to her own daughter as she developed into adulthood. She shared the same fears, worries, and pride that every mother expresses for their children as they start to make their way in the world. As she writes in “To Mona at 36,” “Mona—you dash from job to job and career to/ career—/looking for something to bring you joy.” These phrases will resonate with many parents who only can watch as their kids search for direction and a calling in life that is rooted in passion.

From the pleasure in eating fresh strawberries straight from the vine, to her belief in the connection that be found only in true love, to the healing powers of quiet moments at the beach, Fifield has seemingly transferred her soul onto the pages of Passion’s Evidence and given herself as an emotional offering to her readers. She shares her highs and her lows, as well as the moments during which she cannot discern exactly how she should be feeling. For those who appreciate the power that a poem has to capture a moment in time, Passion’s Evidence is a recommended addition to your collection.

Da Vinci and the 40 Answers : A Playbook for Creativity and Fresh Ideas
Mark L. Fox
Wizard Academy Press (2008)
ISBN 9781932226638
Reviewed by Irene Watson for Reader Views (07/10)

My first exposure to Da Vinci and the 40 Answers through a 2-day workshop under the same name facilitated by the author, Mark L. Fox. The premise is based on the principles of TRIZ (Theory of Inventive Problem Solving) created by a Russian engineer/scientist Genrikh Altshuller. Altshuller's findings showed that, after studying hundreds of thousands of patents, “there are only about 1,500 basic problems.” Fox further states “Every answer to every problem is found within the 40 principles of TRIZ . . .”

For the purpose of this review, I will cover two “lenses” (principles) of TRIZ and the relationship to a business. One is “Peel the Onion.” This particular lens made me stop in my tracks when I read Fox’s sub-title of “Everything You Know is Wrong.” Further reading explained that if we rely on conventional wisdom as the key source for making decisions failure is imminent. If we aren’t willing to look at other options we stifle our own creativity. Challenging ourselves is of utmost importance if our goal is growth in our business and our personal lives.

Another lens is “Brainstorming.” To me, this is one of the most important aspects of managing a business. However, as Fox explains in Da Vinci and the 40 Answers , on many occasions the brainstorming sessions don’t produce effective results. According to Fox the ineffectiveness is a result of not setting rules for the brainstorming session. One rule is “Generate as many ideas as possible. Go for quantity, not quality.” I've been in many sessions when the brainstorming stops when everyone agrees on one idea but this always isn’t the best result. On a personal note, when in Fox’s class, I was chosen to have my goal for the business brainstormed. I acquired twenty-seven new ideas that can be implemented and this was as a result of the rule “Encourage Wild and Exaggerated Ideas, No Matter How Crazy, Ridiculous, or Far-fetched the Idea Might Be.”

Fox comes from an engineering background with accomplishments such as Chief Engineer on the Space Shuttle program and Chairman of the “orbital debris” committee. With that comes his creative side from which he draws extensively in his book and business consulting. “Da Vinci and the 40 Answers ” is concise, written in lay language, and provides a diverse list of lenses that can be used in any business or personal advancement. The examples and ideas can transform or update a business to become the forerunner in the industry. And, I can personally attest to that.

The True Nature of Tarot: Your Path to Personal Empowerment
Diane Wing, MA
Marvelous Spirit Press (2010)
ISBN 9781615990214
Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views (07/10)

The True Nature of Tarot is the revised and expanded version of the 2003 Mi The Nature of Tarot. Diane Wing, the author has an extensive background in psychology and metaphysics. She has been reading tarot cards for over twenty-five years. There is a common belief that tarot cards are to be used for reading a person’s future. Wing dispels this idea and recommends that they be used as a tool for enlightenment. She states, “A tarot deck provides a pictorial journey of the self to foster connections with the Universal Energy and Higher Self.” This allows the person being read for to gain insight into what they are experiencing. It can also help them to direct their psychic abilities.

She has a very interesting discussion on how the use of tarot cards has been associated with evil. Personally, I was raised with this idea, however, my experience with tarot card readers who had integrity taught me otherwise. The intent of the card reader determines whether or not the use of the cards is good or bad. If the reader wants to try to control or manipulate the person being read for, then their intent is bad. This idea also applies to other areas of our lives where we place our trust in someone to give us guidance. Wing offers ideas on to how to tell if a card reader is legitimate. She makes it very clear that if the reader predicts something bad will happen, that they can fix for a price, they do not have the right intent. As spiritual beings, if we do learn something that we are not comfortable with, we can use that knowledge to make choices to change this.

Having had some incredible experience with Tarot card readings, I have been very interested in how the process works. The True Nature of Tarot, lays everything out for both the card reader and the person being read for. From beginning to end, Wing offers advice in how to prepare for the reading, do the reading, and gain insight into interpreting the cards. She also does an extensive review of the meaning of each card. From my experience, The True Nature of Tarot provides the most extensive, yet easy to understand review of the tarot card reading experience. I also feel that the author’s explanation of how the cards should be used will help the reader gain understanding into how they can empower their lives by using the cards. Whether you are a novice or an experienced card reader, The True Nature of Tarot is a must read for people who have an interest in tarot cards.

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