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, January 30, 2007

Non-Fiction Review

Passion and Paint in Creating "Great Art"
by Shirley A. Dahlsten
ISBN-10: 0977749703
Review by Heather Froeschl

As a Fine Art student in college I would have been quite happy purchasing Shirley Dahlsten's book, "Passion and Paint in Creating 'Great Art'." Such inspiration and guidance would have certainly boosted me up and given much help.

As a tool for beginning artists this book is invaluable to be sure. Offering technique and practice methods, it is a teaching tool that is as necessary as the drive to create and the materials to work with. My professors in college gave many of the same instructions and assignments and it took years for me to complete them. Through Shirley's book you can learn at your own pace and likely be completing great works in considerably less time than it took me. Her lessons in design, drawing, color, texture, and mediums are all spot on. Her deeper instructions on purpose, meaning, intent and preparation are inspirational. The how-to section of the book, on the business of being an artist, is a valuable addition. My favorite parts though involve the numerous quotations that are shared to involve the reader in the creation of art, the creation of an artist in the reader herself. It is an outreach to the part of the reader who needs to hear encouragement, acceptance, and inspiration.

"Passion and Paint" is fittingly named, but whatever the medium an artist chooses, the lessons within are purposeful and endearing if one lets them be. The text is open, honest, to the point, and simply - helpful. This easy to read and understand book is perfect for anyone considering picking up a pencil or brush, from the high school or college student to the next Grandma Moses. On the aesthetic side of things, the book is downright beautiful. Shirley's work is displayed throughout and the captivating images are motivating to say the least. Bright and colorful, exquisitely executed, and used as teaching tools themselves, her work is a delight.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Non-Fiction Review

Your Scientific Diet for Men: Scientifically Guaranteed Fastest, Easiest, Cheapest, and Permanent Weight Loss
by Alan Ritz
ISBN-10: 159800655X
Review by Heather Froeschl

My initial thoughts after reading Alan Ritz’s book, “Your Scientific Diet (For Men)” were that I was afraid to eat anything for fear it was the wrong time of day. After thinking about it more though I realize that Ritz’s messages are well thought out and scientific in nature, so there must be something to them. His work is backed by study, makes sense, and will change the way his readers think about weight, food, and health.

This somewhat short book, for the content it holds, is a bombshell. The information is a step outside what one would normally expect in a “diet” book. This isn’t a diet guide, it is a lifestyle plan. There are ten key factors to Ritz’s plan, but I can’t give them all away so I’ll just mention a few…Drink at least your minimum of mineral water (figuring out what your minimum intake is, is part of the plan), know your target caloric intake (again, figuring this is explained and involves mathematical formulas), avoid the bad stuff like cigarettes, caffeine, alcohol, etc., and don’t cut out the carbs. Ritz explains what completely cutting the carbs does to your body and readers of popular diet plans are going to be shocked. Other parts of the scientific lifestyle include testosterone levels, understanding why you might be emotionally eating, and not eating cooked foods in the evening. This last one seems to be a big deal since many of us are programmed to have a nice cooked dinner in the evening. Find out why you shouldn’t be doing this to your body. Discover why water is so good for you, why you shouldn’t eat right before bed, and why sex has shown to be good for the body and maintaining a healthy weight!

“Your Scientific Diet (For Men)” is not light reading but it is light on the nonsense you might find in other diet books. Absolutely written for the man who wants to take charge, create a plan and follow through with it, I am sure that Ritz’s title will be a hit.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

YA Fiction Review

The Crystal Dream
by Thomas F. Dawn
ISBN-10: 1563153777

So often we might feel that we have no control over our lives and what happens to us. Very often though, if we stop to listen to our friends and those who care about us, we might find some control that we weren't aware of. In Thomas F. Dawn's Young Adult novel, "The Crystal Dream," readers witness one young woman's journey into finding her strength.

Anna is about 15 and is dealing with a lot in her life. She's had problems with the males of our species, she's in the unwanted attention of a bully, and her parents aren't happy in their marriage, making her life so up in the air that she doesn't know what to do. Can she do anything? Her best friends try to help her, but Anna is sometimes too quick to react. Summer has begun, Anna's birthday is near, and she has the freedom to mess things up in a big way. After visiting a carnival and gypsy fortune teller, Anna tries to see what the fates have in store for her. In her dreams she begins to have conversations and visits with a vivid soul who just might be a guiding spirit of some kind. Anna learns a lot about herself and her summer of 15 teaches her more than she could have imagined. Will her parents stay together or will she have to move, again? Will she find a love of her own? Will Anna find that she does have control over her life, and her reactions to it?

Thomas Dawn has written a touching story of young adulthood. The feelings teens deal with, things that we all go through, are adeptly conveyed, leaving the reader little choice but to connect with the main characters. The plot is fast moving and opens up the world of Anna and a few weeks of her life for all to see. Readers may learn a thing or two, but will at least enjoy the ride knowing that others are experiencing many of the same things they are going through. "The Crystal Dream" is a well written work that is likely to be a hit with readers aged 12 - 16.

Children's Book Review

Penelope and Priscilla and the City of the Banished
by Jennifer Troulis
ISBN-10: 097686021X
Review by Heather Froeschl

Magical purposes, enchanted events, and a quest to overcome the darker side are all wrapped up in Jennifer Troulis’ latest book, “Penelope and Priscilla and the City of the Banished.” This work of fiction is a fantastical journey within for the characters, encouraging readers to think about their own selves and what they would do in certain situations.

It has been a year since Penelope and Priscilla moved into their home in Dunville and began to understand that they are members of another community as well – a community of gifted people in the ways of magic. The girls are learning to use their powers more and also learning who they are inside. One begins lessons in family togetherness and another starts to discover who she wants to be. The twins soon find out that they are destined to play a big role in protecting their magical world as well as that of the “ordinaries.” Along the way they are experiencing life in school and with their friends just as any thirteen-year-olds, dealing with popular and not so popular students, changing desires in clothing, and living in a small town. These two however, also have visits to make to enchanted cottages, underground caverns and magical bookstores that will delight readers and fulfill the imagination.

Troulis offers a look into the typical lives of young teens but also opens the door for the magic and mystery of spells, wishes that come true, and a delightful tale of good overcoming evil in many forms. Readers may wish to read the first in the series before embarking on this continued journey but it isn’t all that necessary. The story is still captivating and enchanting even if this is a first visit to the twins. The plot is wonderfully full of relevant teen-hood, while creating a feeling of purpose and determination to see a fitting ending. This book, and the series as a whole, is a delight.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Science Fiction Review

Planet Torn Asunder
by K. J. Wolf
ISBN-10: 1425719201
Review by Heather Froeschl

Are other species, out there in the universe, really so very different from ours? We may never know, but in K.J. Wolf's novel, "Planet Torn Asunder," it would seem that some human-like qualities abound, no matter how many legs you have.

All is fair in love and war. Or maybe not so fair, but to be expected. On the planet Znski, there are rivalries, war stories, and even rites of passage. I adored the journey into adulthood the main characters went through, in a rebirth swim. Two ruling families have opposing views on who should be in charge and this leads to war. Sounds pretty human so far, right? However, the beings are lizard-like creatures and what they do in the name of war is far more than I would hope humans would demonstrate. Will the planet survive the chaos? Will there be anyone left to care?

Wolf tells a tale of science fiction well. You might feel as though you are on an away-team from the Enterprise as you witness the clash of the lizards. Bringing in a religious figure is an interesting twist for science fiction, and the plot is smooth and fast moving. Wolf's use of his freedom of creativity is what makes sci-fi fun to read.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Children's Book Review

Bonjour L'Enfant!: A Child's Tour of France
by Danna Troncatty Leahy
ISBN-10: 1425965210
Review by Heather Froeschl

Children's books that are engaging and a learning tool? But of course! In Danna Troncatty Leahy's children's book, "Bonjour L'Enfant!" the youngest of children can become fascinated with France and learn a French word, or two, or fifty!

Young Michael shares his scrapbook and explains how he and his parents, his little sister Elizabeth, and his teddy bear Globe, travel to France, dance and sing by the River Seine, and eat French foods. They visit the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre Museum, see the Tour De France, and admire Monet's Garden. Through it all, Michael engages the reader by naming the French words for colors, numbers, and days of the week and enticing children to say them too. Important conversational words such as yes, please, thank you, and the much needed French fries, are also included. Michael happily shares his adventures and gently broadens the worldview of children everywhere.

Leahy's "Bonjour L'Enfant!" is a delightful expedition into the great unknown for children to explore. Seeing the world as a bigger place than our own little environment, with people who are excitingly different and foods that are deliciously new (or comfortingly the same), is a great benefit to children, whether in preparation for a trip of their own or for the simple pleasure of reading. The book offers a more formal lesson in language in the back, with pronunciation and meanings of the words mentioned through out the story. With illustrations that are colorful and engaging, and characters that are fun and likeable, this second in a series of children's books is a delight. The series is sure to be a hit with parents and children alike.

Historical Fiction Review

Molly Lake
by Samuel Endicott
ISBN-10: 0741424207
Review by Heather Froeschl

The details of the French and Indian War were not drilled into my head as a student and so I had but a vague idea of what was entailed. Thanks to Samuel Endicott's novel, "Molly Lake," I now have a better grasp on the events, and have come away from the book as a satisfied reader.

"Molly Lake" gives readers the view of war from a humanistic and personal point of view. Young Molly and her father witness first hand an attack on civilians in Schenectady, New York. Molly's mother is taken captive and her baby brother killed. The two remaining family members vow to return Marie to their loving arms. To do this, they travel first to New York City by foot and canoe, and there, join the Royal Navy as it is known the ships will be traveling up to Quebec. It is thought that Marie is being held there, or nearby, and it is the Lake's sole purpose to set her free. Along the way though, Molly and Peter become members of the fleet, and worthy of respect as sailors, soldiers, and even as spies.

Quebec was an important battle in the French and Indian War, and it is here that the English finally overcome the French in a seemingly impossible situation. Scenes of battle abound in "Molly Lake," in such a way that history books just can't convey. The reader is entranced and given both points of view of the battlefield. What's more is that the reader is drawn to care about the people who are generals, ship's captains, and powder monkeys.

Samuel Endicott clearly knows his history and the details of combat; he also demonstrates an endearing knowledge of the power of love. The characters in this book come to life, commanding attention. The plot is full and inclusive, leaving the reader satisfied with a story well told. If more works were presented as such, of the personal side of war, perhaps there would be fewer battles to write about. Thank you for the touching history lesson, and the fantastic, entertaining read.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Fiction Review

My Angel
by Denise Skelton
ISBN-10: 0979087708
Review by Heather Froeschl

If you've ever felt that someone else was running your life, you'll find a connection to Denise Skelton's latest novel, "My Angel." When it comes to love, life choices, and family, Denise has got the plot sealed.

Simone Porter is a loving, caring, supportive person who just wants to do what she can in the world. Her mother is an overbearing, interfering, judgmental bother that ought to back off but seemingly can't. She sets Simone up with someone who is totally wrong for her and is constantly picking on what she wears, eats, and does in her life. Simone needs to find herself in order to stand up to her mother and she's certainly old enough to do so. In her mid twenties it is time to cut those apron strings that have been tied so tightly around her wrists.

Simone helps a car crash victim at the scene of an accident and finds that fate is intervening on her behalf. The victim, Matthew, remains in a coma for four months but Simone finds she cannot stay away. When he awakens he remembers her as his angel and from there a deep friendship blossoms. The two help each other in many ways but most importantly, they help each other to take control over their own lives. Will Simone stand up for herself as Matthew stands up for her? Will Matthew break ties with his ex-wife and her deadly serious boyfriend?

This novel is more than romance and fun fiction. The book touches on topics of importance such as bigotry, self respect, and self love, as much as love and friendship. The plot is well formed and has some interesting surprises. The characters are realistic and full of human flaws...just perfectly relatable! Denise Skelton tells it like it is in the real world but adds her touch to make it fabulous fiction.

Saturday, January 6, 2007

Fiction Review

Nice Jewish Felon
by Michael Eliot Mehler
ISBN-10: 0595844510
Review by Heather Froeschl

What makes us the people that we are? Is it our childhoods? Our birth order? Our free will? Maybe it is a combination of all things, but trying to understand ourselves could possibly lead to the avoidance of major trouble. In Michael Eliot Mehler's memoir, "Nice Jewish Felon," readers are captured by a compelling tale but are also led to delve into their own why's and wherefore's of their own existence.

Michael did a bad thing. FBI level bad. Though it didn't seem like such a bad thing at the time, and probably the "victim" deserved the loss of the Paul Klee painting, and in looking back there were reasons for Michael's behavior, the book examines the who, what, why, when and where of a period of time in Michael's life, right up to his epiphany of growth related thinking. Through it all, from the moment of the theft to the dealings with Sotheby's, from the flashbacks of Michael's attention and unconditional love deprived childhood to his divorce, superficial relationships and pure love adoration of his dog, the reader sees a man in all of his possible weaknesses and strengths. We witness a man faced with federal prison, the loss of his career and lifestyle, and see a person come to know himself, or at least, begin to.

The book is an interesting read. For a memoir it takes on a feel of fiction for Michael does his best to convey the sights, sounds and feelings of his experience. Not your typical life story, "Nice Jewish Felon" is a tale about a guy who is caught up in himself, and then realizes that there is a whole life out there to embrace. This well written piece of sharing makes for a good read, and might just inspire a trip inside yourself along the way.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Slice of Life Review

She Wrote Her Blueprint
by Blanche Piper
ISBN-10: 0595413536
Review by Heather Froeschl

Is our fate predestined or do we have the ability to control the lessons we must ultimately learn? In "She Wrote Her Blueprint," by Blanche Piper and Di Coffey, readers witness the life lessons of one woman and her contemplation of fate.

Based on a true story, the authors add fiction to round out the edges and fill in the spaces to this captivating tale of a hard life. From early in her life the main character faces turmoil in matters of the heart. As a teenager she was raped by a trusted friend's brother, she then faced the judging eyes of a small town and the hardest decision to help raise her own son as her brother. Another heart wrenching decision to give up a second baby for adoption left her wondering just who was in charge of her life. Relationships with the wrong men led to realizations that people are often not what they seem and love is difficult to find. But find it she did, in a married man. Will Lee ever find happiness? Will she take control of the blueprint of her life and become the maker of contentment? Is it possible to change the plans that fate has in store for us?

The authors convey the struggles of Lee affectively. Readers will feel her turmoil and share her tears. The call to stand up and be strong is felt and is an inspiration. Following this character through the years is a glimpse into a real life. At times it feels a bit voyeuristic but the purpose of the book is to share a touching story. Reading it as pure fiction is easier but the messages of the book shine through when remembering that it is indeed a mostly true tale. "She Wrote Her Blueprint" is a brave and caring work that reaches out to readers of all walks of life.

Conspiracy Theory Review

Mission Accomplished
by Patrick S. Johnston
ISBN-10: 1598582445
Review by Heather Froeschl

Just how interested is the government in your everyday life? You may or may not be surprised. Patrick S. Johnston gives readers something to think about with his work of fiction, "Mission Accomplished."

John Hudson is a college student, exploring his views of politics, the Gulf War, and life in general on the campus of Louisiana State University. In a specified area, students are permitted to get up on the soapbox and share. John captured the attention of a particular student as she smacked him with a soda can for mentioning, in the heat of the moment, that he'd kill President George Bush if he could. Only this student wasn't a student, she was an undercover agent planted to identify threats to national security. John's fate was sealed that day and his life would never be the same.

As time progressed, John was brought to "meet" President Bush Sr. where he discovered that his "girlfriend" was an agent and his life a lie. Refusing to be brought in under the wing of the government and take an offered job where he can be controlled and closely monitored, John seals the fate of his loved ones. His father meets with an unfortunate demise, and later his mother is in grave danger, all in the name of national security. John does eventually take a job with the government where he begins to research what is really going on right under our noses. Did presidential hopefuls die at the hands of those in power? Was there a plot to kill his father simply because he'd mentioned killing the President?

When Bush Jr. takes office, John is still a blip on the Bush radar. He becomes a tool to help the current president look good in the eyes of the people. In a most elaborate and detailed scheme, involving plastic surgery, falsified backgrounds and identities, and a seemingly domestic terrorist plot wherein the Trade Exchange Building in Chicago is imploded, full of daily workers, John is set up to take the fall.

Told in flashback style, as John is led to and undergoing lethal injection, the story is captivating right from the start. Just what would our government do to "protect" national security? How far do "we" go before lunacy is proclaimed? Patrick S. Johnston is likely standing on that soapbox trying to draw readers' attention and insight questions of the supposed truth as it is reported to us. As a work of fiction the book unfortunately falls right in with our current events. A conspiracy theory at its best! - Note to Homeland Security: this is simply a book review and nothing more.

Thriller Review

Tranquility Denied
by A. C. Frieden
ISBN-10: 0974793418
Review by Heather Froeschl

How great is the cost of truth? How far would you go to discover what is being kept from you, from the world? In A.C. Frieden's novel "Tranquility Denied," readers witness the literal depths of one man's quest for answers.

Lawyer Jonathan Brooks is having a hard time with his current case. It's no wonder as it seems there is a government cover-up going on. When a U.S. Navy captain lies under oath in regard to his ship seemingly ramming another ship in the North Sea, things just don't add up. Brooks is warned not to venture too far nor dig too deep, but apparently he doesn't like being told what to do. In search of clues, he travels across the ocean where he finds much more than he hoped for. Being followed wasn't warning enough for him to stop his digging and soon he is in grave danger. Nearly everyone who helps Brooks falls victim to violence of some sort. Someone is trying desperately to keep things under wraps. Every new clue reveals a much bigger sinister plot, one that involves an international roster of players and a play list of biological warfare, Cold War games and spies around every corner. From an absolutely appalling Russian jail to sultry scenes of New Orleans, from the Kremlin to Washington D.C. to an island in the Baltic Sea, Brooks leaves no stone unturned. Will he survive his own curiosity?

Frieden is a top notch author. His plot is deep and twisted and full of excitement to the very end. His characters are full of life right up until the moment that many of them are murdered. His attention to detail is superb and his flare for storytelling deserves applause. "Tranquility Denied" is a fascinating read that will have you looking over your shoulder to see if anyone is following you.