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.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Fiction Review

Devil's Game: A Novel
by Charles A. Reap Jr.
ISBN-10: 0595392105
Review by Heather Froeschl

Do you ever feel like someone is just playing a game with your life? How would you react to sudden changes and tragic circumstances that you had absolutely no control over? In Charles A. Reap, Jr.'s novel, "Devil's Game," his main character is about to take a wild ride and all he wants is to get off and stand on solid ground again.

George Sheldon seems like your ordinary, hardworking, average guy. He's married, enjoys gardening and has been working for the same engineering company for 20 years. So when he starts seeing the devil driving a light blue oversized SUV right before major accidents and tragedies occur, it just seems quite unbelievable. First the SUV crashes into a tanker truck and causes a massive and deadly multi-car crash that George narrowly escapes. Then there is the plane crash, the train derailment and other tragically wild occurrences, with George always nearby and trying to forewarn those who will be involved. The police become suspicious and just aren't buying George's claim of a mysterious blue SUV that has never been found at the scene.

George tries to block out the visions and slowly sinks into alcoholism. This doesn't do much for his marriage or job, and pretty soon his life goes from mundane to the absolute worst it can be. There are those that think he is part of a terrorist group and others who assume he has a need for a nice long rest in the state mental ward. Will George be able to reclaim his life? Will anyone ever see this blue SUV that haunts him? Will George have to face the devil himself?

The author has done a great job in portraying the confusion and loss of control that his character feels. The crescendo of events and challenges that George endures will leave readers breathing a sigh in relief that this is just a work of fiction. The concept of the tale is fascinating and very well thought out; the plot progresses quickly, though at a time or two may have been a little over done for this reader's taste. I enjoyed the book and look forward to seeing what else Charles A. Reap, Jr. comes up with.

Fiction Review

Lemon Curd
by Homa Pourasgari
ISBN-10: 0977978001
Review by Heather Froeschl

Be careful of what first impressions you may be making on
those you never know when you'll be making new
relationships and you wouldn't want to be thought of as
brash or rude forevermore, would you? Neil Whittaker could
have saved himself a good deal of trouble had he only been a
gentleman in a small, specialized food market, and Anna Lisa
would have seen him for what he truly is right from the
start. But then there wouldn't have been much to start the
story on! Homa Pourasgari's delightful novel, "Lemon Curd"
offers lessons to learn, enjoyment of the story, and an
enticement for a savory toast topper.

Anna Lisa is an account executive with a prestigious
marketing firm. She's used to working alone, at all hours,
and getting the job done. So she is quite surprised when her
boss Simon calls in help from across the pond on a large
account she's been working on. Neil Whittaker is to be her
partner for the next eight months, sharing her office and
her account. The firm is working on a campaign that will
focus on expanding both the London and American market, and
first impressions gone sour or no, the two of them will work
together. Eventually, their friendship blossoms, the account
is doing well, but Neil's and Anna Lisa's other
relationships suffer immensely. Will the two of them be
successful in work and play? What about Neil's fiancé, his
parents back home, and Anna Lisa's mistrust of love?

This is a work of romance but it is also a study in all
relationships, our roles in the workplace, and our goals in
today's hectic lifestyles. The plot is well thought out, the
characters multileveled and quite realistic. An interesting
and easy going read, "Lemon Curd" offers strong female roles
as well as positive male ones. Whichever side readers' root
for, the book is appealing and well written.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Short Story Collection Review

Drizzle of Yesteryears
by MK Ajay
ISBN-10: 8188811424
review by Heather Froeschl

Having moved many times in my life, I can attest to the feeling of holding onto one's roots yet feeling a need to adjust to new cultures. In MK Ajay's book, "Drizzle of Yesteryears," his protagonists are examples of this struggle. To be or to have, that is the question.

This collection of short stories is a vibrant example of good writing. Two sections divide the book into At Home and In Exile with the tales together giving the overall message of belongingness. The At Home section includes stories of a fictional village set in the Malabar region of Kerala, a southern Indian state. Revolving around a seemingly forgotten temple, a possibly sleepwalking pastor, and a man who sang to the stars, among others, the short works are powerful in evoking the feeling of home. The sense of belonging exudes from every page. The In Exile section deals with those who have left their homes for various reasons and their feelings of homesickness, belonging, and dealing with the change. Learning from a stranger met through spam, discovering that a trip is not what was expected in any sense, and being drawn back to artful ways are some of the topics touched on as the author explores the feeling of living in exile. My favorite tale is one with a wonderful twist, a visit from a young man's parents and a realization of happiness.

While the book seems to be light reading, upon further inspection it is actually a work that can be pondered for many an hour. The study in human reactions, an examination of the minute details and the overall picture, and the fluent telling of the tales all culminate in a delightful and interesting book. MK Ajay's attention to detail, his perfect simplicity in characterization, and broad spectrum of subject and plot leave the reader wanting more. I hope to see additional books from this author!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Non-Fiction Review

Back to Good: Six Billion Ways to Bring Goodness Into Our World, One Person at a Time
by Ken Ferrara
ISBN-10: 0595383661
Review by Heather Froeschl

Six billion people in the world represent six billion ways to make it all good. Ken Ferrara offers up a reminder to feed the good wolf inside you with hope, love, compassion, serenity and goodness and to let the evil wolf, who feeds on selfishness, guilt, anger, envy and lies, die. In his book, "Back to Good," Ferrara gives guidance to goodness.

First understanding the purpose of the book is the topic; answering the question of "What is good?". From there the author goes into how to do it and why. Being thankful, looking within, giving of oneself, being tolerant of others, and finding complete purpose, are all topics he covers well. This is all good, and will hopefully touch many readers in a positive way. The author pushes the reader though, to one particular "how to" in the name of faith. On a personal note, I truly feel that people can be and are good without having to have faith in a higher power. But my problem with the book is that the author repeatedly states that he is not supporting one religious belief over any other, all the while saying that those who have "true" beliefs are valid. I feel that all beliefs are valid and we should not judge whose are "true" or not. This was the only negative thought I had about the book, as the purpose is genuinely good and positive.

Written in a personal tone, reaching out to readers with anecdotes, quotes, poems, to-do lists and journaling pages, "Back to Good" is a wonderful book of possible positive change. Whether it is affective or not is up to the reader, making it a truly interactive book.

Monday, August 7, 2006

Non-Fiction/Spirituality Review

Enchanted Cat: Feline Fascinations, Spells and Magick
by Ellen Dugan
ISBN-10: 0738707694
Review by Heather Froeschl

I am most definitely a cat person, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I found “The Enchanted Cat,” by Ellen Dugan to be a delightful exploration of the feline persuasion and a fun book to explore. Geared toward Wiccans, the book details feline fascination, spells and magick.

Starting with the history of cats and their influence on our lives, then examining the cat Deities, are wonderful introductions to feline whiles and ways. Then a look at feline folklore and divination, and a wonderful chapter on cat magick bring readers deeper into the embrace of feline affection and admiration. Guides to feline power animals, and selecting a name for your own familiar, round out the book that is jam packed with spells, incantations, quotations of feline fancy, and so much more.

Ellen Dugan is gifted when it comes to writing in a personally outreaching way. When reading her work, it is like reading a letter from your favorite witchy friend. You won’t want it to end. But with this particular title, the delight keeps going as you take your new knowledge and apply it to your life. Of course, you may be inspired to add to your cat family, and at the least, you’ll be enticed to cuddle up with the one or two you already have, gaze into their eyes and embrace the magick!

Friday, August 4, 2006

Fiction Review

The Apocalypse Parable: A Conspiracy of Weeds
by Brian Kaufman
ISBN-10: 0972044256
Review by Heather Froeschl

Where would Jesus go if he were to return today? Which broadcast station would he choose to spread his word? What would the censors say? Haven't people been interpreting the words of Jesus since the moment he spoke them? Chances are, if he did come back, he might have some editing to do to the Bible; chances are, people would ignore him and assume he was just a nutcase. It is what people assume about others that really touches home in Brian Kaufman's book, "The Apocalypse Parable."

Daniel Bain is a skip-tracer. He finds people who are in debt, have run away from life and responsibilities, or are hiding for other various reasons. When Mordecai Ryan, an eccentric wealthy invalid, hires him to find Jesus, Bain assumes at first that he is being taken for a fool, or else his client is one. He turns the research onto Mordecai himself, trying to find out just a bit more information. What turns up is very interesting. The research uncovers a connection to Hitler, a lot of importing business, and a church that stands empty. Getting deeper into it, Bain uncovers a connection that has to be more than coincidence; in fact, if he believed in such things, he might think it were divine intervention.

During the investigation, we are given a personal glimpse at the character who is Daniel Bain. Readers see his personal life and along with it, a parallel plot that is full of suspense and interest. Being a skip tracer he is able to track down a pretty young thing whom he has met at a questionable site on the internet, and arrives near her home just in time to save her from another, more sinister, stalker. The two have an instant connection and will end up learning a good deal from each other. Also in the story are Daniel's sister and her not-so-nice life partner, his terrible cook of a mother, and his best friend who also happens to be the priest at his seldom-visited church. Through it all, people make assumptions and learn from the repercussions of doing so.

The book is very well written, and is impossible to put down. Just when you think you've got things figured out, think again. With interesting and original twists, author Brian Kaufman will capture your attention and leave you with a satisfied understanding of his presented points. Something to think about, and a great tale!

Tuesday, August 1, 2006

Historical Fiction Review

The Seanachie
by Bob Huerter
ISBN-10: 1598005545
Review by Heather Froeschl

The gift of family history is one that all too often is ignored until it is too late to recapture. Our heritage is something we need to pay close attention to, yet it passes into an unclear past. In Bob Huerter's novel, "The Seanachie," one struggling young man is about to meet his family history face to face. It is a gift beyond anything that could be imagined.

Frank McGrath is getting into trouble, nearly with the law and decidedly with his father. As punishment he is to do the bidding of his grandfather and drive him to his childhood home in eastern Iowa; a last trip to soothe the soul and put to rest a troubled heart. The trip starts out with a groan as Frank realizes that he is a captive audience to his grandfather's remembrances. However, the story soon touches his heart and the tale is just beginning to become clear. After a tragic set of circumstances, things become even clearer as Frank is given an up close and personal look at the history of his family, of his people, of his heritage.

The Seanachie, a gaelic word for storyteller, was the one who held the traditions, kept the tales alive and the past in safe keeping. In a wonderful twist of storytelling, Bob Huerter is a seanachie in his own right. The book is full of emotion and feeling, history and life lessons. The descriptive scenes are so well written that readers will feel the hunger of Ireland during the potato blight, the rock and sway of the coffin ships, and the broken hearts of tragically lost family. Most notable throughout is the pull of Ireland as the family immigrates to America; what exudes is a magnetism that pulls the reader deeper and deeper into the story. "The Seanachie" is one of those books that will stay with you long after the last page is turned. A must read!

Non-Fiction Review

Behind the Union Curtain: The battle between union workers and company doctors
by Richard E Sall
ISBN-10: 1419634054
Review by Heather Froeschl

Conspiracy theories abound but how do they come to be? Does anyone really make up their own mind about things that our culture has so much influence on? In Richard E. Sall's book, "Behind the Union Curtain," he examines the abundant distrust that worker's compensation patients have of the company doctor, and how this vicious cycle all began. Doing so took his research into the beginnings of unions and the people who started it all. This look into our history and the affects it all has on us now is most interesting and opens the mind to wonder about so many other instances where our minds may be made up for us by something larger than ourselves...society.

Having just reviewed another book that dealt with the railroad construction of our country with the labor of new immigrants who served basically as workhorses, I was highly interested in the very beginnings of unions being formed by these same strong-willed persons. The personal tales are told in this book, the statistics and facts of the first pre-paid medical coverage, and the first inclinations of fear for the care that was needed versus what was actually given...all for the matter of saving a buck. Here lies the start of society's distrust. Sall goes on to examine the development of unions, strikes, management, company doctors, and the lack of trust that grew at the same rate.

"Behind the Union Curtain" is a fascinating look at America's society. These are issues that most of us will have to deal with at some point, and even if not directly, the psychological impact is on us all. It is a well written work with variety in its text, including quotes, well researched facts, first hand stories, and well spoken narrative. In the voice of Richard E. Sall, MD, the book offers a unique perspective.