Back on Track

New reviews coming soon! I'll be importing my work from the past two years, but in the meantime,
I'm reclaiming my small place on the web.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Historical Fiction Review

The Spear of Lepanto
by Leon J. Radomile
ISBN-10: 0967532930
Review by Heather Froeschl

In 1570 the world is in turmoil. Europe is on the verge of being invaded by Ottoman Turks. Pope Pius V must do something to create a united Christian front. He is given a message, from the dying hand of Nostradamus. The key is to secure a holy relic, the famed Spear of Longinus. The spear was used by the Roman Centurian to pierce the side of Jesus as he hung on the cross and has become a treasured artifact, coveted for its power in battle.

Pope Pius commissions Leonardo Radolowick to secure the relic, on the word of Nostradamus that it will serve to conquer the "infidel". Radolowick partners with a young Spaniard, Miguel de Cervantes, and they make their way on an innovative ship that was built from long lost plans of Leonardo da Vinci himself. Thus begins an epic adventure where the two will meet with turmoil, comrades, and come face to face with their own souls. What will become of it all? Will the battles be won? Will the relic leave its holding in the Ottoman Empire? Is the Pope acting upon divine guidance or is he a religious extremist who has gone astray?

"The Spear of Lepanto" is an interesting and enthralling glimpse at historic events. The book is full of old world adventure but also touches on timeless romance and heroism. An epic in the works, this Book One: The Papal Prize is deep in character and plot. Some readers may be overwhelmed by the character list, of which the author has included a guide for, encompassing the first ten pages of the book. Others may be troubled or intrigued by the religious conflict. The book will be of particular interest to history lovers and those who enjoy epic adventures.

If "The Spear of Lepanto" is a sign of things to come, then Leon J. Radomile is an author to watch.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Poetry Review

Covered By Blood
by Linda Kleinman
ISBN-10: 159467423X
Review by Heather Froeschl

"Covered By Blood" is a book of poetry that reaches out to its readers like an offered hand. With words of purpose, Linda Kleinman shares her thoughts on Christianity and Jesus. Readers will witness moments of humility, prayer and hope.

A short book of 104 pages, 73 poems, "Covered By Blood" is a testament to Christian belief. I am not sure exactly whom the book is intended for as the closing thoughts imply it is for the unconverted, a hope to turn the reader toward Christianity. Many of the poems are clearly written with this intent. However, quite a few of the poems are geared toward those who are in the process of converting others. Either way, it is an outreach.

As a book of poetry, its merits are not high. The poems are not altogether fluid or rhythmic and where rhyme is intended it is not always found. A handful of typos and misspellings added to my discontent when reading the book. The illustrations throughout the book were a nice addition though the feel of them is sketchy. The cover art is somewhat disturbing though that may have been the objective.

I feel the author's intentions were high and the effort was fine, but the end result is not a highly graded book.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Children's Book Review

Magic for Hire
by Alex Greene
ISBN-10: 1591136490
Review by Heather Froeschl

13-year-old Dix Claudel cannot be what his father expects him to be. His father, the King's top Commanding Gaurdsman, has no idea that Dix dreams of being one of the King's Magicians instead. The problem is, Dix doesn't do too well on the Royal Magician's Test. Neither do any of the group of youth he takes his test with. Each of them was able to manage only one portion of the exam, giving them, in combination, the abilities to begin study. Individually they will need to start over and wait until next year to take the test again.

With not much else to do, the group bands together in order to freelance magic for hire and learn from each other along the way. Minor jobs here and there, from truth serums to controlling weather to save a farmer's crops, and a development of partnership, begin a name for themselves, and soon some bigger jobs come their way. The adventure truly begins when they take on a quest that proves dangerous and nearly deadly. This quest though, could save the kingdom and challenge them all in deeper ways than the exam ever could.

"Magic for Hire" is a fantasy adventure full of mystical wonder and youthful interests. Readers aged 8 and up will enjoy the camaraderie and suspense of this tale and will likely be clamoring for more of the same. Alex Greene has passed his test with his first book and I hope he intends to produce more of the same.

An adventure filled with magical creatures, responsible youth, mysterious forests and caves, and a quest for the brave of heart promises an exciting read.

Saturday, May 7, 2005

Non-Fiction Language Guide

A Year In the Life of an ESL (English Second Language) Student: Idioms and Vocabulary You Can't Live Without
by Edward J. Francis
ISBN-10: 1412020034
Review by Heather Froeschl

For anyone who is an English Second Language (ESL) student, the most challenging aspects of the language are idioms, slang and vernacular. It can be very difficult to follow what people are saying and to make sense of it all. ESL instructors are there to help but they cannot always be present to explain things. You likely wouldn't want to go to the movies or hang out with your friends with your teacher by your side. Edward J. Francis has created an excellent study guide just for the idioms and vocabulary that an ESL student can't live without.

Whether for use in the classroom as an additional tool for teachers or as a personal aid for anyone whose second language is English, "A Year in the Life of an ESL Student" is sure to be a welcome help. With hundreds of vocabulary words and idioms to work with, readers will find that their understanding of English has improved upon completing this study guide.

Using a storyline to show the words in context, Francis allows readers to experience what is being talked about rather than just read about it. Andre, a student from Switzerland, spends a year studying English in North America. His experiences center around typical young adult life, including trips to the mall, movies and a bar. Days spent in class, on the road for a weekend trip and picking up a friend at the airport give example to every day life. During all of these short story experiences Andre encounters idioms and slang. Reading these in context is a perfect way for ESL students to learn about them.

Each chapter includes a story scene, a list of definitions, seven exercises including matching terms, fill in the blanks, crossword puzzles, word searches, and more, comprehension questions to think about and answer, discussion questions to work on with a partner and a section to put your new knowledge to the test. After the sixteen chapters the author gives an extensive list of website resources that relate to each chapter, the answer key to the entire book, and finally, a glossary that lists every one of the hundreds of idioms in the book.

This is a thorough guide that is sure to be a hit. It will make learning English a bit more fun and "hands on". Edward Francis is an ESL professional with over 15 years of teaching experience. He has created a tool that will enhance the lives of many people and those that surround them.

Monday, May 2, 2005

Fiction Review

by Jim Meirose
ISBN-10: 1412040191
Review by Heather Froeschl

Walter and Lucas make a disturbing discovery in a nearby field after hearing an explosion and seeing the resulting fire begin. A plane had some misfortune, apparently exploding, spilling some of its contents and then crashing to the ground. What fell out of the sky was not just debris, but a sealed coffin complete with occupant, being shipped from one funeral home to another. Annie, a little girl that lived not too far away, also witnessed the falling plane. She would have an encounter with the lady in the coffin too, and it would change her life though she had no idea of how or why. The body in the coffin, Claire, has its own point of view.

Walter and Lucas open the box and discover Claire, finding that she is dead but eerily fresh. They decide to take her home, hoping for some kind of reward. After a few weeks Claire is still fresh as a daisy and the brothers decide to sell her to a freak show/fair that is passing through. Meanwhile, Annie discovers a cache of dirty magazines in her family's basement and the reader finds that Father is just a bit off base, perhaps even obsessed with a certain sort of woman. He lusts after an image and ignores his willing wife. And readers are also given the unique perspective of the dead woman's take on, buses, being the star of the freak show. These chapters and parts of others are written in an almost poetic manner, with incomplete sentences creating a feel for details rather than spelling them out in context.

"Claire" is a somewhat disturbing tale of chance happenings, circumstance, and the desperate needs of people. It is a short book that might leave some wondering what the heck they've just read. Entertaining in its own way this book addresses some real life dilemmas - poverty, family commitment, and secret desires. Jim Meirose has written a strange book. I can accept the unusual and respect the desire to stand out in a crowd, but I cannot overlook spelling, typographical, and punctuation errors. There is not a quotation mark to be found in this book, leaving the reader to struggle through character conversations.

For all of its faults "Claire" is still a morbidly interesting story. I wouldn't be at all surprised if sometime down the road an independent film is made in its image. Though I don't think I'd personally want to see it.