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.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Poetry Review

Rocking in a Free World
By Mark Allen Gray
ISBN-10: 0976109530
Review by Heather Froeschl

Without chaos there is no peace, without struggle there is no celebration. These are the concepts of a collection of poetry, titled, "Rocking in a Free World," by Mark Allen Gray.

Broken into four chapters, Independence, Journey, Struggle, and Celebration, the author works to demonstrate his understanding of the feelings behind the words. In Independence he looks at the freedoms we have and the restrictions that keep us circled in. In Journey, Mark examines our purpose to Be, and experience life. In Struggle, he bears witness to inner turmoil and outer conflict. Celebration is all about that pivotal moment of change, that moment to rejoice; it regards the rupture of spring and laughter, and the burst of song.

Gray's style is point blank poetry. His words are honest and clear; his meaning is obvious. His artful intent is complete with self-made symbols for each chapter. It was a delight to read this book and reflect on his purpose.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Non-Fiction Sports Review

The Fat Lady Never Sings: How a Football Team Found Redemption on the Baseball Diamond
by Steven M Reilly
ISBN-10: 0595394671
Review by Heather Froeschl

A twenty-eight-year winning streak in the game of football is no small matter in the town of Derby, Connecticut. When that streak ends, the results are devastating to three seniors. In a search for redemption they take on other ball fields in their midst. In Steve Reilly's book, "The Fat Lady Never Sings," readers come to know some great sports while hearing the true tale of the come back kids.

Not willing to give up the game, some of the boys and the coaches take to the basketball courts over the winter. Come spring training, the green fields and tan diamonds beckon to the hard working sportsmen to play. Baseball season takes on a whole new purpose as the boys strive to leave school with a win. And what a win! The team qualifies for the state baseball tournament and advances to the championship game. Will they pull off a final win for Derby?

The book is told in the view of one of the assistant coaches, Steve Reilly. Reilly gives us the details of practice, practice, practice, and win, win, win. Every obstacle the team overcame, and every moment of sportsmanship is relayed in the tone in which it was felt. With passion for the game and support for the team. Reilly understands the people he describes, right down to the need to win, and the tear in the eye of suffering players. This memoir is a moment in time that will not be forgotten by those players, the coaches, or the small town of Derby, but what's more is that it reaches out to every coach and player who reads it. Well played! Good game!

Monday, December 18, 2006

Non-Fiction Review

Handwriting Analysis: Laws/Principles…and More
by Jacob J. Cammarata
Review by Heather Froeschl

What precisely can our handwriting reveal about us? So much more than you might think. Jacob J. Cammarata explains the process well in his book “Handwriting Analysis: Laws/Principles…and More.”

Handwriting analysis is a somewhat complicated science; there are principles and laws to consider, and much study to be done. This book is a guide that is in line with one you would expect to see in a college classroom. Many years of experience and observation were utilized within its pages. Cammarata speaks clearly that this is not a light subject, not a new age practice, but a field of study that is long and enduring.

First and foremost in handwriting analysis is measuring, and today’s analyst has tools available to make this a more exact result. These measurements (of letter spacing, size, etc.) are the basis for understanding of every other aspect. The writer’s speed, spacing, slant, rhythm, organization and so much more are examined in the book with traits that have been shown to correlate with them. Does a person whose writing is illegible have psychopathic tendencies? The book doesn’t go that far because there is much study to be done on an individual and the habit of illegible writing isn’t the only factor. The whole picture must be seen in order to make projections as to personality. The last chapter looks at tendencies and gives an inkling as to what the person is like, but the author reminds the reader that this is just a single clue. For instance, if a writer’s slant is consistent, the writing has a straight baseline, shows regularity, legibility, and has an even pressure, then the person might be analyzed as being trustful. Each analysis must be given hundreds of measurements though and it is not an easy science to learn.

Jacob J. Cammarata has explained his science and practice in a clear and concise manner. Handwriting analysis is an ancient and newly high-tech discipline. The uses for such a tool are many, from police investigations to personnel matters, psychological understanding and insight to learning more about your ancestors through their old letters. The book describes the science of the subject well, in clear and certain terms. This isn’t a light read, but anyone with an interest in it will not be disappointed.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Thriller Review

by Steven Paul Mark
ISBN-10: 1601450621
Review by Heather Froeschl

Is it possible that greed could actually put an end to our world, as we know it? Could our gluttonous behavior be our demise? In Steven Paul Mark's novel, "Drift," the world is in grave danger of dinosaur extinction proportions, all because of the almighty dollar.

Imperium Solutions is an oil company of epic standings. Their drills go deeper and produce more liquid gold than any in history. And they are making history in other ways. The only problem is that if they continue on, there will be no one left to record that history or even care about it. Our hero, Max, stumbles upon the company one afternoon, as fate throws a drafted inter-office memo in his face during a tickertape parade in New York. Max, having just been let go by his previous employers, takes the seeming opportunity that the memo mentions. It seems some guy named Bran is about to be terminated and Max sees it as an opportunity to get his foot in the door. What he doesn't realize is that Bran is not to be let go, but exterminated, and the mention of his name is enough to get his apartment ransacked, his wife killed and his own life in grave danger. What follows is a crescendo of story that involves the underworld of NYC subway systems, the elusive Bran, paid off cops, and the destruction of the world, literally. Drift refers to continental drift, fault lines, deep vibrations in the earth and Mother Nature's reaction to greed. The whole world is under the influence of one company's doings. Can Max do anything about it?

This wild ride of a thriller is fraught with intense possibilities, consequences, and excitement. Full of drama of all kinds, from the police and FBI side of things to terrorism, and from psychological intrigue to human relations and romance, it's all in here. The result is a book that transcends the gender gap of reading materials and the genre gap of novels. The writing is excellent, with a tight plot and perfect flow. The characters are well conceived, creating people in the mind whom we hope are truly out there to protect our world, and also detailing the villains who unfortunately have a basis in reality. An excellent read!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

YA Non-Fiction/Self Help Review

University Wisdom
by Vanessa McCallum
Review by Heather Froeschl

As a student, I assumed that I knew what I was doing, approximately where I was going, and hoped for the best. I wish I had had a book to tell me that I might be able to be more successful if I just did this or that little thing. Vanessa McCallum lets students know that adding a habit here, or stressing less over there can go a long way, in her book “University Wisdom.”

“Discover the secrets of getting the most from your experience at university and use them as stepping stones to launch your life and career” in this guide. It doesn’t read like one of those lectures from your guidance counselor might sound. This guide can be taken in small doses, one short chapter at a time, or you can breeze through the whole thing in a very short time. Chances are, you’ll want to keep the book around and refer to it now and then. 50 lessons on what you can expect from college, life, careers, and yourself, are sure to grab your attention at some point. Can’t decide what you want to be “when you grow up?” Do you freak when it comes time to settle down and take a test, get a project done, or be interviewed for a job? Parents pressuring you to pick a course of study? Financial situation have you concerned that college is out of the question? Vanessa has answers for you. This interactive guidebook will get you centered, thinking, and planning your future.

Written in a down-to-earth, easy-going tone, the author doesn’t attack and conquer, but rather she explains where she’s been (right where you are) what she did about it, and encourages readers to take steps of their own, whatever they may be. With tips on everything from hanging out with friends, and serious relationships to learning about budgeting money, and planning finances, there is sure to be numerous topics you will relate to. Take some stress out of your life and get a grip on a book that will definitely help, in a fun and practical way. I highly recommend this title for any high school senior, college student or parent of one.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Short Story Collection Review

Shielding Her Modesty
By Sita Bhaskar
ISBN-10: 8188811343
Review by Heather Froeschl

As an "American Mutt" I truly enjoy learning about other cultures through all forms of publishing. In Sita Bhaskar's collection of short stories, "Shielding Her Modesty," readers are in for a treat of Indian culture.

It is an interesting examination of distinctions between Indian ways and American, and the combination of both in the Indo-American experience. What a delight! The fact that human emotion and habit abound in all cultures is clear throughout the book. One eight-year-old girl's enchantment with Barbie and her abundance of clothing is clearly an almost universally felt feeling. The fact that she works in a factory, packaging G.I. Joes while her brother boxes the Barbies, brings out the desire all the more. Reading about a young couple's grief over the death of their baby is something that is sure to touch many readers, but seeing it through the culture in which it is set, where a woman cannot officially enter a cemetery without her husband, makes the tale all the more poignant. Other tales include universal themes of getting married, rekindling love, admitting to feelings, lust, and death. All of them are told with delightful tidbits of Indian essence.

This book is a wonderful collection of short stories. The settings are vibrant and alive, while the characters are enticing. Feel the silk sari, smell the aromas of delectable spices as they cook, and smile at the knowledge that it is a small world.

Friday, December 8, 2006

Christian Non-Fiction Review

I Can Do All Things Through Christ Which Strengtheneth Me
by Charity Gustovic
ISBN-10: 1419634364
Review by Heather Froeschl

Witness one woman’s spiritual journey through poetry. Charity Gustovic’s offering, “I Can Do All Things Through Christ Which Strengtheneth Me,” is a testament to her faith.

Beginning with poems written before her journey, Charity shares her darkest days. Then readers witness her growth and joy in finding her faith. Each work expresses feeling and understanding of the process she undergoes. From heartbreak to pure joy, Charity allows readers to see who she is through her words. Always with the message of outreach, Charity tells her story in effort to lead others along her path.

In a style of openness and willingness to share, the poetry is effective. A short read, likely it is meant as something to ponder over time and again, and not just read through as a reviewer does. A Christian offering, in its simplest form.

Self Help Review

Maximizing me: 30 lessons on the the journey to self-empowerment
by Hart Cunningham
ISBN-10: 0944031994
Review by Heather Froeschl

What is stopping you from being everything you want to be? It could very well be yourself. In Hart Cunningham's book, "Maximizing Me," he offers 30 lessons on your journey to self-empowerment.

Who are you? The first step is discovering just who you are. What are your talents? From there you can do all things as you develop yourself, make determined goals, and following Cunningham's advice, reach them. This book takes you through all of the steps to change your life. Whether it is something like changing you health for the better or developing a multi-billion dollar company, the path begins with the same steps.

Written in a been-there-done-that-so-I-know-you-can-too tone, the book is easy to read and feels like a friend is giving you guidance. Wisdom is added to the friendly, no-nonsense feel with relevant quotes at the beginning of each lesson. Efforts to bring home the message are made with "remember this" and "try this" sections at the end of each lesson, where the author goes over the key points in the chapter and gives readers a particular assignment to complete and make the idea a reality.

Overall the book is a nice package. It offers a lot, in a tight and simple form. Why take advice on changing yourself from Hart Cunningham? He's obviously on a highway to success, and he's offered to give you a roadmap. Take him up on it and see where you end up!

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Interview with Beneath A Marble Sky author John Shors

John Shors
Publisher: Penguin Group

Heather: Why the story of the Taj Mahal? I've been lucky enough to spend a great deal of time in Asia and have been powerfully influenced by its history, as well as the sights, sounds, smells, and customs found today in that part of the world. For a decade I've wanted to write a novel set somewhere in Asia but waited to find the right story-or rather to have the right story find me.

John: In 1999, my wife and I were traveling in India and of course made it a point to visit the Taj Mahal. We arrived at the mausoleum as soon as it opened to the public and were the first people there that day. Walking within its chambers, hearing our voices echo in the same manner as voices did hundreds of years ago, and touching its sculpted walls was an overwhelming experience. Seeing the wonder of the Taj Mahal, and understanding that a man built it for his wife-a woman he cherished above all else in life-was uniquely inspiring. Indian poets have been writing about this love story for centuries. And yet, not many people in the West know the tale. I realized that I had to tell it. Quite honestly, I was amazed and delighted to discover upon my return to America that no one in the West had ever fictionalized the story.

Heather: What impressed you most during your research?

John: The period that I wrote about was so advanced when it came to the arts. Poets and painters and architects were celebrated on a very profound level. The Taj Mahal blends elements of the greatest of such artists together into one wondrous sight. Thousands of hours of thought went into the design of the Taj Mahal, and generations of visitors have benefitted from the brilliance and vision of those who created this monument. There's nothing quite like the Taj Mahal. It was designed to celebrate love, and it succeeds in doing so like nothing else I've ever seen.

Heather: What was your inspiration?

John: Well, again my personal experience of visiting the Taj Mahal inspired me to write Beneath a Marble Sky. So also did the fact that no one in the West had ever fictionalized the story. The story behind the Taj Mahal's creation is one of the great love stories the world has ever known, and yet until Beneath a Marble Sky came out, very few Westerners knew of this story. I felt blessed to know the story and I wanted to share this blessing with others.

Heather: One wouldn't think a thirty-something American male would want to tell a love story, especially in the voice of a princess; yet you did so perfectly. Did you have trouble doing so?

John: Let's just say that writing in the first person as a 17th-century Hindustani princess wasn't completely natural to me. Additionally, not only did I need to write convincingly as a woman from another place and another time, but I had to re-create the way in which Hindustanis spoke in general. Upon reading memoirs from that time, I quickly realized that the manner in which people spoke was much more formal than how people converse today. I wanted to capture some of this formality without getting carried away.

So, a great deal of work went into Jahanara's voice, as well as the other voices within Beneath a Marble Sky. I edited my novel fifty-six times. This number did not always sit well with my wife, as I was forever editing at night or during a much-needed vacation! However, I think that all of these edits allowed me to create consistent, unique voices within my novel.

Heather: How much truth is there to the tale?

John: Beneath a Marble Sky is a nice blend of fact and fiction. For the most part, my novel is based on fact. For instance, I depicted the royal family quite accurately. And I depicted the creation of the Taj Mahal and the civil war accurately. I did take two fairly significant liberties with Jahanara's character. However, besides these liberties, my novel is really rather true to fact. The events that I describe in Beneath a Marble Sky were so compelling (in real life, that is) that I really didn't need to fabricate much of anything.

Heather: How did you hook up with Penguin Group? Did you have an agent before the book was accepted?

John: Yes, my agent sold the rights to Penguin, and I've been blessed to work with some wonderful people at Penguin.

Heather: I hear there is a movie in the works. Can you talk about that?

John: Sure. Eriq LaSalle (Dr. Benton on "ER") liked Beneath a Marble Sky enough that he hopped on a plane and flew to India. Eriq's production company, Humble Journey Films, bought the film rights to Beneath a Marble Sky, and is developing my novel into a major motion picture. Fun stuff for a first-time novelist.

Heather: What's next for John Shors?

John: Right now I'm still heavily involved with promoting Beneath a Marble Sky. Beyond that, I've started thinking about my next novel. I have several ideas in mind, and now it's time to talk with my agent and my editor to figure out what novel makes the most sense. I am really looking forward to working on my next novel. It's been too long since I've written.

Heather: Your outreach to readers through book clubs is a fantastic promotional idea. How did this come about? Do you plan to continue?

John: I grew up reading several books a week, and always wanted to connect with authors on a personal level, but never really had the ability to do so. And so I promised myself that if I were ever able to get a novel published that I would go to great lengths to give readers a new experience. In the back of the Penguin version of Beneath a Marble Sky, I wrote a letter that invited readers to invite me to their book clubs. I included my email address ( My program has been a huge hit. During the past six months, I've chatted with 300 book clubs. I've spoken with groups in the U.S., Canada, and even Africa. My program has gotten a lot of media attention, and was even featured on The CBS Evening News with Katie Couric. My goal is to chat with 1,000 book clubs, and I'll reach this goal by summer's end.

Heather: Did you learn anything about yourself while writing this book? About women?

John: Yes, I learned many things about myself while writing Beneath a Marble Sky. I learned that my stubborness can sometimes be a good thing, as the publishing industry is so hard to break into! I learned that my belief in myself and in my novel paid off. And yes, I learned a great deal about women. For five years I put myself in Jahanara's shoes, and thought as I imagined her thinking. Many, many women have told me that they found Jahanara to be extremely believable, and I'm always delighted to hear this. It's about the best compliment I can get.

Heather: Anything else you'd like to add?

John: I'm very, very grateful for readers' support, and I'll do my best to continue to earn that support.

Originally from Des Moines, Iowa, I now live in Boulder, Colorado. After graduating from Colorado College, I lived in Japan for several years. I managed to save up enough money in Japan to travel all over Asia, and finally returned to America. I then became a newspaper reporter and later a public relations professional. Beneath a Marble Sky is my first novel.
Books: Beneath A Marble Sky

Historical Fiction/Romance Review

Beneath a Marble Sky
by John Shors
ISBN-10: 0451218469

One of the most touching love stories of all time...the Taj Mahal. Why was it built? Who was the designer behind the grandest testament of love? In John Shors' novel, "Beneath a Marble Sky," readers will be touched by a love that transcends time.

In seventeenth century Hindustan, we meet Princess Jahanara as she tells a secret tale to her two granddaughters. It is a life full of secrets that has kept Jahanara from living as a Princess should, but also it is her secrets that have let her live a life of love. Jahanara's mother was the love for which the Taj Mahal was built, though she never saw the testament to her memory. Jahanara's father, the Emperor, had it built as a mausoleum for his beloved. The building must be as splendid and heartbreakingly beautiful as Arjumand herself. The designer was a common man in standing, Isa.

Jahanara must endure a marriage made for politics, but worse, she must endure a man she could never love, a foul, despicable man. It was her greatest hope to find love as grand as her parents'. Through the years Jahanara came to be nearly as wise as her mother, who was said to have ruled the throne except in name. The people loved her as much as her mother and many would do anything for her. Over the years, two of Jahanara's brothers were destined for great things. One, to be placed on the throne when the time came, the other who sought to take the throne and command the land through violence. This battle took the greatest toll on the kingdom. Jahanara did not stand by and watch it happen, but rather took steps to save them all. Would she succeed? Would she find love? Would she be worthy of her father's love and make her mother proud?

John Shors has taken the pinnacle love story and given it new life. Readers will weep for the Emperor, will feel the adoration Jahanara feels for her mother. The marble blocks will pulse with passion as the Taj Mahal is built, and glow with love forevermore. The plot is perfectly presented and the characters are inspiringly real. This is a story you will not forget, full of life's most glorious truths.

Friday, December 1, 2006

World War II Book Review

The Cielo: A Novel of Wartime Tuscany
By Paul Salsini
ISBN-10: 0595406971
Review by Heather Froeschl

What people can get through when standing together, is sometimes unbelievable. When you couldn't imagine going on for another second, and a friend assures you that you can, you suddenly know that you will. In Paul Salsini's novel, "The Cielo," a group of villagers will come through horrific circumstances, very much different from how they were before, but ultimately, closer.

World War II reached into the hills of Tuscany, causing many farmers and young men to become partisans, fighting against the Germans in their own ways, often defending the most helpless right at the doorsteps. The villagers of Sant'Antonio are forced to leave by Hitler's SS troops. Fearing boarding a train to Germany, the 100 or so people flee to the hills where previously farmers had eked out an existence growing olive trees and making wine. In five abandoned farmhouses, broken into groups of nearly 20, the villagers gathered in fear of what would happen next. Shortage of food was the least of their worries, with German soldiers threatening to kill ten Italians for every German that the partisans kill. The woods are filled with dangers, mine fields, and desperate men, from escaped war prisoners to army deserters. Virtually trapped in the farmhouse, the souls gathered there, some knowing each other all their lives, and some not known in the least, must learn to reach out to one another, for if they do not, then even their sanity will be lost.

Sickness, desperation, bravery, betrayal, heartbreak and love all find the farmhouse to be home for months. Confronted by Nazis, bonded by terror, the villagers of Sant'Antonio find a family amongst themselves. Salsini's work brings history to life in rare form. Obviously, "The Diary of Anne Frank" comes to mind. The tale is told through the honest lives of the characters, through the human emotions of living. The beauty of this book is the raw humanity of it. Examining the terrible, atrocious actions of war, and balancing that with the heartbreaking compassion and outreach of one soul to another, "The Cielo" is an unforgettable read. You won't be able to put it down, through tears and smiles, until you reach the very end.