Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Book with a View September 2010

Author: Jeffrey D. Barbieri
ISBN: 978-1-4327-5717-5
Publisher: OutskirtsPress.com, 2010
Genre and Target Market: fiction; family relationships; coming-of-age
Pages: 256
Reviewed by: Sarah Moore

How often do you read a book that provides you with the accompaniment of a physical ache as you turn every page? I am not talking about a painful reaction due to poor writing or awkward plot development—I have experienced that sensation plenty of times during my tenure in the writing and publishing world. Instead, I am referring to a story or a character so compelling that you cannot help but have an emotional pull to the pages before you. I felt that strong connection to Frog, the new release by Jeffrey Barbieri. The second in a series featuring Benjamin and his complicated family, Frog is a novel that continues with the storytelling and poetic insights that made Barbieri’s first offering, Let’s Find You, so intriguing. But now, Frog extends the desperate expression of a young man looking for love, comfort, and a sense of belonging to an even more gripping intensity.

Frog brings us back into the world of Benjamin, the youngest of four brothers who all seem to express their feelings towards one another with taunts, insults, and the occasional beating. The boys live with their seemingly apathetic mother, who moves her family with great frequency in order to keep a distance from her former husband, and a stepfather who is only ever referenced in passing and who has no apparent influence on the family dynamics other than to amplify the obvious disconnect that always has existed. Benjamin has recently moved to yet another new neighborhood. He misses the girl, Elizabeth, who is the muse for so much of his poetry and who embodies his ideals concerning love and romance. He is self-conscious about his appearance and his lack of ability to engage in conversation, envying his brothers with their seeming ease around every person they meet. Anyone who has experienced those feelings of not belonging (and you’re lying if you say you haven’t), will relate to Benjamin and perhaps revisit some uncomfortable moments of their own.

For me, one of the episodes in the book that most clearly defined the combination of emotional pain and endless hope for something better that Benjamin expresses throughout his storytelling and poetry occurs during a quiet moment with his mom. Benjamin has just been stung by numerous bees and his mom rushes him to the bathroom to clean his wounds and apply a paste to the marks left by the insects. He shares that this medical emergency was the only time he could remember his mom ever showing interest in him or displaying the slightest amount of tenderness. You could tell that, despite the certain pain he was experiencing, Benjamin did not want that moment to end. It was quite a powerful interaction between parent and child upon which I was able to eavesdrop as a reader. I wanted to reach into the pages of the book, hold those two characters in that room, and give them both the opportunity to share all of the feelings that had been forced to repress for so many years.

For those already familiar with Barbieri’s work through Let’s Find You, you can expect to find the same short story format and the continued inclusion of Benjamin’s poetry on more pages than not when you read Frog. And, like before, I believe it is the raw honesty exhibited in each poem that makes the readers stop and really digest an intense episode that has just been described. What Frog also offers, though, is even more of those rare and simple moments when true human bonds are established. While I encourage everyone to read the book to discover Benjamin’s emotional fate, I will share that he does find new sources of strength and rediscovers others that he thought were gone forever. Frog is a wonderful story of survival, love, and that need we all have for human connection.

The Sid Series ~ A Collection of Holistic Stories for Children
Author: Yvonne Perry
ISBN: 0982572204
Publisher: Write On! 2009
Genre and target market: Children, Mind-Body-Spirit
Price/Currency: $14 soft cover; $6.99 for Kindle

Honoring a Child's Intuition
Children are born with an innate spiritual sense, with the high creativity that comes with intuition, and with self-love. But, unless they are guided to value these gifts, some combination of upbringing, society, or school often causes children to ignore these important elements of a happy life. It then takes a lifetime of experience for these same children to relearn the gifts they already possessed when they were very young. If you’re an adult—parent, grandparent, teacher—with important influence over a young child, how can you best nurture that child’s innate spiritual sense and holistic growth?

Reading to that child Yvonne Perry’s cleverly illustrated The Sid Series ~ A Collection of Holistic Stories for Children is an easy way to teach a young child about love, acceptance, self-worth, intuition, caring for the body, facing fears, dealing with change, and understanding the spiritual experiences most young children exhibit. The twelve individual stories in The Sid Series, told through a young boy’s visits with his grandmother, each focus on a different life skill, such as environmental awareness, helping others, being true to one’s self, overcoming fear, healing, and following inner guidance. During each of Sid’s interactions with his grandmother, their dialogue frames the lesson of that story and resolves the issue with Sid’s acknowledgement of the meaning of the experience.

To my mind, the real value of The Sid Series is its recitation of enjoyable stories about everyday events in a child’s life, with the adults honoring the child’s creativity, and thereby encouraging it. How often does that happen in a three-year-old’s life? If you’re an adult with significant influence in the life of a very young child, reading metaphysician Yvonne Perry’s The Sid Series to that child is an easy way to communicate powerful and loving messages about how to enjoy the dignity and worth of the human experience.

Jim Wawro, Author, Ask Your Inner Voice. While trying cases as an international lawyer, I discovered that some people have learned the secret to actively calling on inspiration whenever they need it. My books reveal the proven methods used by history's greats and regular people alive today for actively tapping into the wisdom that lies within you. www.ActivateIntuition.com.

The Drawing Lesson
Author: Mary E. Martin
ISBN: 1450229360
Publisher: iUniverse
Reviewer: Vonnie Faroqui for WITS
The Drawing Lesson, by author Mary E. Martin stands among the best of literary fiction. She brings wisdom, grace, and beauty to the page as skillfully as the best painter to the canvas.

Alexander Wainwright has won Britain’s celebrated Turner Prize with a landscape painting of The Hay Wagon. He should be thrilled but the taunting criticism of contemporary and rival artist Rinaldo has thrown him into a soul searching spiral of self doubt.
His beautiful landscapes, once so full of light and presence, begin to fill with creeping, shadowy figures. These troll-like creatures deny understanding and confuse Alex's artistic vision. His muse seems to have left him. A journey to rediscover his passion unfolds as Alex attempts to understand the creatures in his paintings.

The journey carries Alex into contact with a range of interesting characters who all struggle with personal inner demons. Alex touches each of their lives with his spirit and allows each in return to touch his own. The action of the story rises as the consequences of past choices return to entangle Alex in self doubt and recrimination, with the story reaching a climax as Rinaldo sets plans in motion to destroy Alex in a scene of public humiliation.

In the end Alex Wainwright transcends himself and his body of work by illuminating the human form with his divine vision, transfiguring on canvas both his inner and outer demons into beings of luminous spirit.

The Drawing Lesson is a deeply insightful book about life, choices, forgiveness, madness, self doubt, and creative inspiration. Martin has an understanding of humanity, its inner turmoil, needs, and the creative urge that is both honest and compassionate. This is a compelling and moving story to be savored on the palate like fine wine.

Ask Your Inner Voice
Author: Jim Wawro
ISBN: 978-1-886940-70-3
Publisher: Ozark Mountain Publishing, Inc. June, 2010
Genre and target market: Body, Mind, & Spirit
Price/Currency: $14/hard copy; $9.99/Kindle
Purchase on Amazon : http://ow.ly/2tZ6Y
Reviewed by Yvonne Perry for WITS
Follow the Yellow Brick Road!

Following intuition means we begin to pay attention to coincidence. Inspiration comes as a quick, mental picture or as a fully-formed thought. Because intuition often appears to be outside of the logical process, it may arrive when we least expect it such as while we are in the shower, or exercising, or driving to work, or at any other time when our intellect is not strongly focused on any particular set of thoughts.

Just like in the Wizard of Oz, the inner voice of intuition is nonjudgmental to the point of being totally impersonal: “Follow the yellow brick road.” Its messages are often short, to the point, completely helpful, and delivered in love; and, having spoken, moves on without staying to chat about our good and bad characteristics.

While on my way to work one day I heard a voice in my head say, “Turn right and take the other road.” I’m very glad I followed that instruction. When I reached the point where my alternate path intersected the route I would normally have taken, I looked to my right and saw a horrible (possibly fatal) accident that had happened less than a minute prior. Had I taken my normal route, I would have been at that very place when the incident occurred.

I’m also glad Jim Wawro, the author of Ask Your Inner Voice followed his intuition when he contacted me after reading an article I had posted on Dr. Caron Goode’s blog. Jim could have ignored his divine guidance, but I’m truly thankful to have the chance to read his book, learn more about intuition, and network with him.

Throughout the book Jim gives tons of stories about people such as Picasso, Mozart, Homer, Da Vinci , Bach, Billy Joel, Bob Dylan, and others who have followed their feelings, hunches, inner urges, dreams, and deeper desires to reach their creative genius. These stories help support the author’s findings and define what intuition is and is not.

Chapter IV shares insight on listening to the inner voice, recognizing what it sounds like, how it is accessed, how we get messages, and how to determine whether what we are hearing is coming from divine guidance or from the voice of ego or others. Intuition is always neutral; it does not have its own agenda. It is instructive rather than fearful or flattering. You can test it by asking a few simple questions about the hunch you get: Is this the highest thought on this subject? Is this the thought that contains the greatest amount of love? Is this the thought that produces the grandest joy? If so, it is your inner guidance. If not, ignore it. A voice that is not reliably for the good of the whole, that comes from a place of scarcity, fear, or guilt, or that counsels harming another, is not the inner voice of divine guidance. When the directions received are followed, the inner voice becomes stronger. If the directions given are not followed, the voice becomes weaker. The universe respects our free will and will not shout louder if we are not listening.

Chapter III talks about how childhood conscience awakens. I especially liked this chapter because I feel it is very important to learn to recognize and follow divine guidance while we are still young. In my book, The Sid Series ~ A Collection of Holistic Stories for Children, there’s a story titled “Ask Your Body” that teaches children to hear and follow inner guidance by communing with their body. Just imagine how spiritually attuned the next generation would be if they were raised knowing how to consult their inner voice when making decisions!

“Try It” exercises at the end of the chapters help readers practice following intuition so it will be strengthened as it becomes more subtle. For example: You can use your intuition to make shopping more efficient by stopping for a moment, sitting quietly, and asking “Where do I find the article that I am looking for?” and then listening for the names of stores that come to mind. If you do not receive an immediate answer, just observe as you go about your routine. Often what you need appears as your intuition leads you to what you asked for.

When we follow our intuition, we have freedom from danger, accidents, and confusion. We become free to meet people by being at the right place at the right time. Without accidents, missed planes, struggle and conflict, we are more calm and less stressed. When we operate from intuition, things happen easily; and, as our intuitive abilities increase, so do the coincidences.
Overall, this book is full of helpful information to help readers discern the wise voice of intuition and follow through with action.

Queen Vernita Meets Sir HeathyBean the Astronomer
Author: Dawn Menge
ISBN: 978-1-4327-3120-5
Publisher: OutskirtsPress.com
Genre and Target Market: children; fiction
Publication Date: 2010
Reviewed by: Sarah Moore for WITS

Just earlier today, I sat riveted to a documentary on The History Channel that charted the presumed future of the sun. I watched a demonstration of how the gases that comprise this large star will eventually expand, consuming the Earth and other planets along the way, and then how all of the matter of the universe will explode under the force of a “dark energy” that has yet to be fully understood. I was fascinated by every moment of the program, and found myself imagining a class of children learning this exact same information. Would they find these details as amazing as I do? How can we help to encourage a desire to learn more about the expanse that surrounds us, as there is still so much more to know? In her newest addition to the Queen Vernita series, Queen Vernita Meets Sir HeathyBean the Astronomer, author Dawn Menge offers us one great tool that I believe will get children excited about space and astronomy.

For readers who are not already familiar with Queen Vernita, she is a character created by Menge to teach children about the months of the year and the days of the week through repetition, beautiful illustrations, and visitors whose personalities are pulled from the author’s own life. Each month, Queen Vernita welcomes a new friend to spend time with her and the readers learn what the two do or learn every day of the week. In Queen Vernita Meets Sir HeathyBean the Astronomer, the Queen invites Sir Heathybean and Cora the Teacher to stay at her home for an entire year and teach her and her friends about some of the heavenly bodies that surround us. Each of the nine planets, the sun, the moon, and asteroids and comets receives focus in the book.

What I love about Queen Vernita Meets Sir HeathyBean the Astronomer, and all of the books in the Queen Vernita series, is that Dawn Menge displays a contagious excitement for learning in each of her characters. They love spending time with Queen Vernita as they explore Venus or the sun or a comet, and each page ends detailing ways in which the learning will be extended when that month’s visitor returns home. This desire to discover is particularly important given the diversity of people who come to visit Queen Vernita. Males, females, the young, the old, and those who were born with physical or mental challenges—all are welcome and treated with respect and high expectations. I also enjoy the fact that the details included in this book go beyond the basic facts you would be expected to know on a fourth or fifth grade exam. For example, young readers will learn that Mars is called the Red Planet due to the iron oxide present on its surface and that the temperature in the center of Jupiter might be as high as 43,000 degrees Fahrenheit!

I had the opportunity to read Dawn Menge’s first Queen Vernita book, Queen Vernita’s Visitors, more than two years ago and became a fan immediately. All of her books are now regular parts of the bedtime reading routine in my house, per request of my preschool daughter. While my young girl enjoys the calendar repetition and the illustrations now, these books will only continue to grow with her as she understands more the higher-level details provided on each page. The newly-released third book in the series, Queen Vernita Meets Sir HeathyBean the Astronomer, Menge continues to offer the quality writing and attention to detail that her previous books provided and adds wonderful facts about a subject in which we really need to get more young people excited. This book is one that I recommend for every home collection and school library!

White Gold Railroad: Plaster City Narrow Gauge
Charles M. O’Herin
Link Pen Publishing (2008)
ISBN 9780977627912
Reviewed by Marty Shaw for Reader Views

Providing an in-depth look at the Plaster City Railroad, White Gold Railroad is great for train aficionados, train model enthusiasts, and history buffs. The book provides an in-depth look at the narrow gauge railroad, complete with detailed histories and both black-and-white and color photos.

The Plaster City Railroad is an example of progress by necessity. When Samuel W. Dunaway envisioned the creation of Imperial Gypsum and Oil Company in the 1920s, a way to transport the products from the quarry to the production plant also had to be created. Unlike other railroads that have occasionally doubled as a public transportation system, the rails at Plaster City have always been dedicated to the sole purpose of moving gypsum, a soft mineral used to make plaster, Sheetrock®, agricultural soil conditioner, and some cements.

The layout of the book makes information easy to find by splitting the history into distinct categories – Historical Summary, Trains & Operations, Structures, and Flora & Fauna. Detailed indexes make easy work of locating a particular figure or photograph by providing easy-to-read lists that provide page numbers, figure/photo names, and brief summaries of each item.

I thought White Gold Railroad provided an interesting look into the past, providing some provocative insight into Sam Dunaway’s efforts of transforming his vision into reality. Instances such as getting the attention of potential investors by including the word ‘Oil’ in the company name of Imperial Gypsum and Oil Company, although there was never any evidence of oil being found in the area, reveal how dedicated the man was to his idea… and how lucky he was that gypsum turned out to be such a profitable product that the lack of said oil never caused any investor relationships to turn sour. The fact that the Plaster City Railroad is still hauling loads of gypsum today is another testament to the vision of a man who saw potential where others did not.
I was also impressed by the work and the challenges faced by the engineers who were dedicated to making the railroad work. The terrain and weather of the Imperial Valley in California were not forgiving adversaries and a lot of work went into designing, and re-designing, a transportation system that could withstand the harsh environment.

With White Gold Railroad, Mr. O’Herin set out to create a book that would “give railroad hobbyists, enthusiasts, and historians equal consideration of their interests” and I believe he did exactly that with this detailed look at the Plaster City Railroad from its origins to its present-day operations.

The Lost Secret of the Green Man: Book 2 (The Crystal Keeper Chronicles)
Tiffany Turner
Trafford Publishing (2009)
ISBN 9781426921575
Reviewed by Evan Weldon (age 8) for Reader Views

The Lost Secret of the Green Man: Book 2 by Tiffany Turner is an AWESOME book! This book is about two girls who go into the fairy world to help save the bees that the fairies are finding dead everywhere. The first chapter is a little bit slow but the rest of the book is page-turning entertainment.

The book starts out on Wanda’s first day of middle school. Wanda is no ordinary kid. She is a Crystal Keeper and has a cat named Brewford who is a sorcerer. As a Crystal Keeper she does missions for the fairies. Once she gets to school, class starts and she meets a girl named Eddie. They become best friends. But unbeknownst to Wanda, Eddie, like her, is a Crystal Keeper and has a mission from the fairies. After school Eddie said that she knew a place that Wanda would like, so they ran to the park. At the park there was a little hill with a tree which was Eddie’s special tree for entering the fairy world. Then Eddie revealed to Wanda that she was a Crystal Keeper and that the fairy queen had a job for the two of them. All the bees were dying and that since the bees helped the fairies before, now it was time for the fairies to help the bees. So the girls headed to a crystal store to do research and found a book about the Green Man. The Green Man balanced the forest life but now that most people thought he was a myth, he went into hiding. Eddie and Wanda go in search of the Green Man in hopes that he will know why the bees are dying and can help them. Will they find the Green Man? Does he know what is happening to the bees? Can they save the bees? Is some evil brewing?
The mission was more dangerous and complicated than they had anticipated. Luckily, they had the help of Chyra, a unicorn, and Brewford’s crystal-ball reading teacher who was a cat. The crystal ball revealed secrets even graver than the bees dying. Will Wanda and Eddie be able to help? Will they survive?

I would recommend this book to all my friends. The Lost Secret of the Green Man: Book 2 book is great. There is something in it for everyone to enjoy. It leaves off on a cliff hanger, and I can’t wait to get my hands on the third book!

Viola, A Woeful Tale of Marriage
Author: Katherine Pym
ISBN: eBook: 978-1-59705-468-3, paperback: 978-1-59705-540-6
Publisher: Wings ePress, Inc. 2009
Purchase Kindle version on Amazon
Purchase print copy: http://www.wings-press.com/Bookstore/Viola.htm
Reviewer Byline: John Claire

Viola, A Woeful Tale of Marriage is a well researched piece of fiction, and fast reading of 1660's London when King Charles II was brought back to England from exile.

Without being textbook, it is a story of common people and how they handle the changes in a government that's always deeply tied to religion, from Puritan's dower restrictions to the colorful openness of the Restoration. It confronts the confusing rules of what was Puritan and what will again be the Church of England.

Throughout the story, the detailed backdrop of London's lifestyle is remarkable, from walking on London Bridge filled with houses, churches and markets, and feeling the rush of the river's current under your feet, to eating in an 'ordinary'(eatery)of pasties stuffed with venison and mushrooms. As a reader, you travel through the noisy lanes, eat and drink in taverns that sound like they must have been there. You wander through the city crowded with the people's anticipation of the old 'Rump Parliament' being cast aside in favor of the King, as rumps of beef are roasted over bonfires that have sprung up and down the streets.

If you want to feel like you are there during this time of history, read Viola, A Woeful Tale of Marriage.

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