Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Book with a View July 2011

WITS Book Reviews

Frankie the Walk 'N Roll Dog, A Pawsitive Coloring and Paper Doll Activity Book
Author: Barbara Gail Techel
Publisher: Joyful Paw Prints Press, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-9800052-5-7
Reviewer: Yvonne Perry, author of The Sid Series ~ A Collection of Holistic Stories for Children http://thesidseries.com/
A Totally Pawsitive Experience for Every Reader!

I'm always delighted when author Barbara Gail Techel asks me to take a look at her latest work because I know I'm in for a treat. Frankie the Walk 'N Roll Dog, A Pawsitive Coloring and Paper Doll Activity Book brought back memories of when I played with paper dolls as a child.

This book not only offers hours of coloring fun and dressing Frankie up in all her adorable outfits, it tells the story of how Frankie became disabled yet overcame and kept on rolling. It complements her first two books about Frankie. Speaking of outfits, my favorite Frankie outfit is the polka dot bikini! I got a chuckle imagining a wiener dog wearing that!

Best of all it gives a pawsitive (love that new word) message about overcoming difficult situations we may face in life. There's even a certificate/award you can fill in and print out when your child overcomes a challenge. Or, perhaps a child would award a friend with this honor. Such a creative and loving idea.

The book is interactive in many ways. The author has included a list of places where she and Frankie can be found online in order to connect in a real-life experience through her blogs and on Twitter. Truly ingenious!

Title: Sleepless Nights
Author: Norwood Holland
Publisher: Windmill Books Ltd.
ISBN: 0983165602
Reviewer: Dana Micheli

Amidst the Cherry Blossoms and historical monuments of Washington D.C., a gritty drama is unfolding. Norwood Holland's novel Sleepless Nights took me on a journey of life in the underbelly of our nation's capital. Holland's minimalist prose and authentic dialogue paints a vivid picture of the dark side of the American dream. Throughout the book I was struck by the irony that this story of loss, poverty and destruction was taking place against the backdrop of a city famous for the freedom and prosperity it symbolizes.

Sleepless Nights is the story of three young men whose horrible crime threatens to unravel their friendship and change the course of their lives—and the lives of those around them--forever. It seems like Tyrone Jones, Gustavo "Gee" Garcia and Jean "Jinx" Legere have been friends forever. More than friends, they are an urban family, bound together by deprivation and a life lived on the streets. But lately, Gee is feeling the pull of a different life, a better life. He is going to college and works at the Farragut, an upscale D.C. eatery. But his pursuit of success is causing a fissure in the once rock-solid bond he shares with Jinx and Tyrone.

Jinx is on the edge. Years of neglect by his drug-addicted mother have left him hopeless and angry. He sees no way out of the life or the neighborhood. I could feel the sadness and desperation in him as he committed the crimes. I could feel the loneliness in him as well, even when he was threatening his victims or manipulating Gee.

At the center of the story is the handsome and well-to-do Drew Smith. As one of D.C.'s hottest criminal attorneys, Smith has built his career on helping people outrun their demons. He, however, has a few demons of his own, including an ex-girl friend he still loves and a son who doesn't know he exists. More than anything else, I found this story to be about Drew's chance at redemption.

From the streets and strip clubs of inner-city D.C., to the packed courtroom of a homicide trial, Sleepless Nights is a gripping, edge-of-your seat drama that will keep you glued to every page. The only good part about reaching the end was when I learned that Sleepless Nights is only the first installment in the Drew Smith series! I look forward to seeing more of Drew Smith in (hopefully) the very near future.

Title: Kiss Me Quick Before I Shoot
Author: Guy Magar
ISBN: 978-0982866344
Publisher: Sea Script Company; First edition (May 4, 2011)
Reviewer: Vonnie Faroqui

Kiss Me Quick Before I Shoot, is Hollywood filmmaker, Guy Magar's, memoir detailing his journey from child immigrant, through college, years of filmmaking, and love along the way to becoming an accomplished director, writer and producer. In an industry known to gloss and glamorize a turd until it looks appealing, this book is being given all the best hype and promotional backing you might imagine the autobiography of a recognizable celebrity and talent would get. However, in this case the hype is REAL. Kiss Me Quick Before I Shoot deserves every bit of praise and recognition it gets and more.

For those of us who love the movies or have ever dreamed of, aspired to, danced around, or dived into a career in motion pictures or television, Kiss Me Quick is a "director's cut" commentary of life on the road to and inside the industry. When I read Guy's recollections and experiences, I wept just thinking of all the hopeful seekers and dreamers struggling for a break who never get one. The detailed behind-the-scenes knowledge and wisdom he so generously shares is beyond priceless to any aspiring film or television talent seeking entry into the industry. This is "must" reading for acting and directing students seeking film and television careers. Theater and film school do not prepare you for the cold reality of the industry, but Guy's conversational and revealing memoir sure will.

Readers looking for a Hollywood fix, an insider's candid perspective on breaking into the business or stories of life among the stars will lock themselves behind closed doors to indulge their celluloid passions with this master story teller. I think I'm in love. Too bad Guy is taken. Which leads me to another aspect of this book, which I think places it a cut above other memoirs and books of its genre. Kiss Me Quick is more than a Hollywood success story, it also relates the very real human drama and love story between Guy and his wife, Jacqui, sharing intimate details of her diagnosis with Leukemia and of the trial medical treatments that saved her life. Guy opens his heart and with incredible spirit, courage, and candor shares it all.

The creativity and passion which infuses Guy's film work also comes through in his writing. Kiss Me Quick Before I Shoot has all the excitement, flare, human interest, and drama Hollywood promises the hopeful, with a measure of reality, and God's grace thrown in. Both of my thumbs are up for Magar's Kiss Me Quick Before I Shoot. Hand me the popcorn. I am reading that again. http://www.kissmequickbeforeishoot.com/

Title: The Answer: A Journey from Anger to Peace
Author: Allison Wynn
ISBN: 978-1432770945
Publisher: Outskirts Press
Reviewer: Vonnie Faroqui

The Answer relates a pivotal moment in the lives of Eric McPherson and Allison Wynn, two strangers drawn together by chance, who experience a life-changing connection. Eric, frustrated and full of self-loathing, stops at the local Starbucks on his way to work and finds a journal laying on the only available table. He opens it to look for identification, but there is none and so he reads the day's entry.

When Allison returns to her table she finds him weeping, her journal clutched in his hand. "Are you okay?" she asks. And so the tale begins. . .

The Answer explores the destructive anger cycles that cripple human interactions, causing frustration and pain for so many individuals. The book is written using a journal entry format, from the perspectives of Eric, Eric's wife (Mary Ellen), and author Allison Wynn. The Answer provides a deeply insightful and poignant look into human relationships and the significance of feeling insignificant.

"How do we deal with anger in either ourselves or in others?" and "How do we create a more peaceful life?" These are the questions that Eric and Allison are asking. Eric knows that his anger is destroying his life and damaging his relationship with his wife, but he can't seem to stop his angry outbursts. After spending the day deep in discussion with Allison, He returns home to share with Mary Ellen what he has discovered about himself and the changes he would like to make in his life.

This is a must read for anyone who is struggling with anger issues and domestic instability. The message of the book is one that everyone could benefit from. Emotionally charged, intellectually stimulating and insightful, The Answer offers an eye opening perspective on relationships, and the need for significance. This book will change lives.

Title: Lee's Bread Machines
Author: Jerome T. Peoples, MS, ED
ISBN: 978-1432763374
Publisher: Outskirts Press
Reviewer: Vonnie Faroqui

Many of us are familiar with George Washington Carver and possibly one of the other great African American and former slave inventors who have had a lasting impact on the industrial revolution and life in America today. Most of us, however, will never have heard of Joseph Lee, the inventor of the automatic bread making machine that revolutionized the bread industry. This former slave overcame incredible hardship to rise (pardon the pun,) above adversity to have a significant impact on modern day America. The impact of his inventions--the first bread machine, then the bread crumber—changed the slice of bread on America's table by allowing bakeries and restaurants to produce loaves more efficiently and in greater numbers than ever before. Why without Joseph Lee there wouldn't be a bread industry as we know it. And yet, in spite of the impact this man's incredible inventions have had on us, hardly any information has been available about his life and accomplishments until now.

Much credit is due to retired science teacher turned author, Jerome T. Peoples MS. Ed., who researched and wrote Lee's Bread Machines as an educational and inspirational tribute to this minority hero. With chapters covering the African origin of bread, the life of house slaves, secret schools, the Civil War, Joseph Lee's move to the north, his journey to greatness as an entrepreneur in the restaurant business, and especially his work as an inventor, this book is a treasure of information.

The book has a school primer feel, but the layout makes for easy reading and information retention. Every child should have access to this book in school libraries and the knowledge of this American inventor should be included in school curriculum. Joseph Lee belongs to all of us, but his history as a former slave opens a door for further exploration of social history that could really capture and ignite the hunger for knowledge in students. I thoroughly enjoyed learning about Joseph Lee, his life, and his inventions. I hope that others will read and be as deeply moved as I was by the example set by this African American inventor who rose from slavery to find freedom, enterprise, and lasting significance through the power of creativity and invention.

I recommend this book for youths and for general informational reading. The content is well documented and presents interesting images and records that will educate as well as fascinate most readers. Grade A work Mr. Peoples!

Title: The Killing Game
Author: Joe C. Stevens
ISBN: 978-1432769086
Publisher: Outskirts Press
Reviewer: Vonnie Faroqui

The Killing Game is a novelette about a former mob hit man, Bronson Trellisane, who is being forced out of Retirement to kidnap a government witness. Why kidnap when, as Bronson puts it, "I'm a shooter, not an errand boy?" Ah, now we get to it. You see Bronson isn't just any hit man and this witness isn't testifying about the run of the mill mob activity. The whole messy business centers around the last job Bronson handled before disappearing into anonymity. Linda Masters is a bit of flash secretary for his former mob boss and she is running scared with information about the mob's involvement and Bronson's part in the assassination of JFK. Bronson needs to know what she's got on them and at the same time extricate himself for good. Add to the mix a shady CIA man and the game they are all playing just gets deeper.

J.C. Stevens has written an interesting "what-if" story for conspiracy theorists and crime fans to enjoy as a quick read. Perfect for airplane reading or an easy day on the beach. The Killing Game offers intrigue and a fast-paced cross-country ride to thrill audiences. There are a few surprising twists that I won't spoil for you. Over all, The Killing Game is a good time read.

J.C. doesn't attempt to prove any conspiracies with this book. He approaches the idea of a hidden gunman in the grassy knoll as if it was fact and not fiction, treating the assassination of JFK as background for the story he wants to tell. There comes a time when the truth can never be discovered and the myths develop. The Killing Game is an example of where one person's creativity and imagination can journey out of the realm of fact and into the haze of fantasy.

Although it isn't easy to find much sympathy for a person such as Bronson Trellisane, the author doesn't seek to win hearts. This book isn't about getting answers or true justice for JFK. This isn't even a serious consideration of the JFK assassination, or an author's attempt at historical reconstruction. The Killing Game is a creative exploration down one road in the many facets and theories surrounding the JFK murder. It isn't intended as a school primer or to be confused with fact.

Title: Summer Is Her Name: Born in Kentucky
Author: Betsy Houser
ISBN: 978-1432767778
Publisher: Outskirts Press
Reviewer: Vonnie Faroqui

Summer Is Her Name relates the coming of age story of Summer Rogers. Follow Summer through her childhood on a farm in Appalachia, through painful losses, youthful infatuations, and disappointments. Share Summer's college days, and join her during World War II as she earns money for school working in a defense plant. Travel with her around the globe and witness other cultures, places, and people. Finally, return home with her to find true love and peace in the old farmstead where she was born. This isn't a typical romance coming-of-age book. It isn't written in the typical fashion. The story doesn't rise and fall following all of the conventional plot formulas. Summer Is Her Name reads like a life. I like life. I like it a lot. This book reminded me of how much.

There is a quality of grace and an acceptance of the "what-is-ness" of life contained in its pages that affected me in a way I hadn't anticipated I would feel. Betsy has given breath and flesh to her characters, placed scents on the wind, and transported me into the heart of the farmlands. I have tasted the wild blackberries and felt the sun-warmed grasses of Kentucky embrace me. In reading, I have felt the flush of embarrassment, the burn of surprise, the shudder of fear, and the thrill of anticipation. She has distilled life experience into a bottle and poured me a glass. I hope to taste the like of it again. I feel completely humbled in reviewing her work. What can I say?

It is a damn shame that Betsy Houser waited to publish her first book until she was 85! I feel sick to my stomach just thinking about it. I am sure that Betsy has many accomplishments of worth to her credit but, oh, what a sweet treasure she has given us in this lovely fiction. I am actually choked with emotions at the thought that she might have passed away without sharing it.

I interviewed Betsy, and she told me that there were aspects of the book based in part on events and people she had known, lived or heard tell of during her lifetime. Betsy shared that she wove these bits into her tale, but that Summer Is Her Name really is a work of fiction and not autobiographical. I can't say I was disappointed, because deep down I had already determined that, for me, Betsy is Summer, whether she says it is so or not. I just want the story to be true; for there to have been a Summer Rogers and a Mont, and for the story of Summer's life and their love to be real and to last. I want this badly enough to convince myself that it is so, just as Betsy has written the story out for me. Thank you Betsy, for being you and for sharing Summer with us. You move me.

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