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.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Thriller Fiction Review

The Reincarnationist
by M.J. Rose
ISBN-10: 0778324206
Review by Heather Froeschl

Ancient secrets are uncovered and little by little the truth is revealed. If you have ever had a moment of wonder about reincarnation, about seeming to instantly know someone you’ve just met, I give you my highest recommendation for M.J. Rose’s book, “The Reincarnationist.” It will call to you to read its pages until you’ve frantically gotten to the last.

Josh Ryder survives a bomb’s explosion only to become haunted by flashes of someone else’s life. These flashes hit him as vividly as memories but seduce him with a desperate need for knowledge, a need to know just who lived these memories. After exhausting every medical approach to his turmoil, Josh discovers the Phoenix Foundation – a research facility that scientifically documents cases of past life experiences in children. Josh becomes an understudy and soon understands that the flashes he goes through are experiences from his own past lives. Desperate to understand the feelings of despair and urgency he feels regarding those in his previous lives, he ends up in Rome, at the heart of his memories’ settings. There he meets Professor Gabriella Chase who has just made a remarkable archaeological discovery – the tomb of a Vestal Virgin, buried alive in approximately the year 390 A.D. So how does Josh know that the tomb is the resting place of a woman named Sabina, and that she was put to death for breaking her vow of celibacy? His sense of urgency to understand grows stronger and more intense with every clue he uncovers. There is something much greater at risk than his sanity though. In her death, Sabina held tight to a treasure that is said to unlock the mysteries of reincarnation, and it was stolen. Ironically, the cost of the treasure is valued in human lives.

“The Reincarnationist” is superbly written. It is fresh and compelling, creative and intellectual. This novel is a delightful mix of psychological thriller, suspense, and paranormal, and the writing is mesmerizing in its own right. With a plot that flows around the world and through a millennium of time, the excitement doesn’t stop until the book is reluctantly closed and completed. With sophistication and class, M.J. Rose offers a novel to be remembered.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Author Interview with Ann Marie Zakos

An interview with Ann Marie Zakos, author of “First Class Ticket”… “an irreverent look at a week in the life of a college student, Madison, along with two of her classmates, as they learn about life through a philosophy class. A medley of teaching tales divided into 13 chapters, it explores the nine truths of life…”

Heather: How did you develop these nine truths in the book?

Ann Marie: I developed these truths from my own personal life experiences. I took experiences that I encountered in my daily life from interacting with co-workers, friends, and family. I realized these truths to be self-evident and that they apply to us all universally.

Heather: Are you a student of philosophy?

Ann Marie: Although I took a couple philosophy classes in college, I didn't enjoy them and found them unfulfilling. Therefore, I created my own philosophies from my perceptions of the world and incorporated them into this book.

Heather: Did you take a special philosophy course in college?

Ann Marie: I took two philosophy courses in college that I didn't like very much. I'm not sure if it was my state of mind at the time, or the lack of passion about the subject from the professors. But I intuitively knew that philosophy should be fun and rewarding and that the younger generation should be influenced and inspired by it. So I guess the lack of inspiration I felt from my professors about the subject made me want to inspire others about philosophy.

Heather: What prompted you to write a book about spiritual development?

Ann Marie: I feel that our culture is materially rich, yet spiritually poor, and I wanted to inspire others to look at what really matters in life and realize that the only real measure of wealth is our own character.

Heather: Are you a supporter of the idea that we are in an age of information?

Ann Marie: I strongly believe that our culture is shifting from the material age into the age of information. This is relevant with the great technological advancements that have been made in the last twenty years, as well as the "Green" movement that is taking place. I like to think that I am part of the "metrospiritual" movement.

Heather: I love the quotes at the beginning of the chapters. What gave you that idea? Are you a collector of quotes like many authors are?

Ann Marie: I love quotes because when thought about, they have the ability to touch us and awaken us deep inside.

Heather: Are there more tales of college students in the works?

Ann Marie: I am following up “First Class Ticket” with the sequel called “The Inn Between.” It's the second philosophy assignment for Brian, Diana and Madison where they are assigned the task of going on a scavenger hunt through an old hotel near their college campus.

Heather: Do you think that there is a lack of interesting, engaging, enlightening reading material for young adults? I hope you know that this book certainly fills that bill.

Ann Marie: That is exactly what influenced me to write this book. I feel that young adults are bombarded by the media with the wrong messages. There is too much emphasis on MTV, Britney Spears and Paris Hilton and not enough emphasis on the things that truly matter. I feel that they need to be inspired by positive, enlightening and life-altering books that can shape them into becoming better people.

Heather: Have you been writing fiction long?

Ann Marie: I've been writing fiction for the past six years and I intend to continue writing for the rest of my life. It's my passion!

Heather: Please give us a brief bio and share anything else that you wish to.

Ann Marie: I recently gave a book speaking event at Transitions Bookplace in Chicago (a store that I love) and many of the people in the audience kept asking me, "You're so young, how do you know about these truths, how do you understand so much?" My response to them was that when I first starting writing the book, I had no outline, I just had the basic story plot in mind. I started with a blank computer screen and everyday for hours I would get quiet and I would just listen. Miraculously, the words starting to take shape on the page. I truly felt that my entire experience of writing the book was from a divine source. A higher form of energy was helping me write, and I was just the vessel that it came through.

“First Class Ticket” is available on and on

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Non-Fiction Historical Collection Review

Franklin County True Stories: Letters and Recipes from the Grapevine
by Edith McGhee Sigmon and Beverly Merritt
Review by Heather Froeschl

Sadly, the days of family history being passed down from generation to generation are being lost. Gathering what you can of your grandparent’s stories is always a good idea. The newspapers don’t report everything that goes on and even if they did, the stories that pertain to your personal family might not be known to you. Discovering what has gone on in your community might be a considerable and exciting treat, and I encourage everyone to talk to their neighbors and elder residents to see what might be known. For Franklin County residents, two thoughtful authors have put down some of the verbal history for us. “Franklin County True Stories: Letters and Recipes from the Grapevine,” by Edith McGhee Sigmon and Beverly Merritt is a delightful step back in time.

Reminiscent of tales told to children at grandma’s knee or over hot tea at the kitchen table, this little book is full of this and that and some other things too. It’s an eclectic collection shared with delight and disparage of Franklin County’s history. From rumors of witchcraft to the biggest feud in this area (involving a State Senator as killer no less!), and from moonshine to squirrel stew, this collection is certainly colorful. Ghost tales, murder mysteries, and family memories are accompanied by descriptions of long forgotten cemeteries, letters sent home from the front of the Civil War, and interesting tidbits from the county courthouse records. My favorite was a collection of old sayings and their meanings and the descriptions of preserving foods back in the day.

Reading this book made me realize that there is an abundance of history right under our noses, literally, right under our feet, and going by the wayside. I had no idea that George Washington had been out to Franklin County, and I find it extremely interesting to learn that officially, “If you are well bred, you will not gulp your soup so audibly that you can be heard across the room, nor sop up the sauce in your plate with bits of bread.” Darn!

While there are typos and (true to source) misspellings to be found in this book, one can overlook them with admiration at the charm it exudes. The authors have done a fantastic job of compiling a bit of history to share before it is long forgotten. I would be remiss to not mention Beverly Merritt’s other publication, “Civil War Records of Franklin County, Virginia 1861-1865.” This is a compilation of articles regarding the Civil War and its affects on Franklin County, including newspaper clippings, the National Park Service records, letters sent home to family, battle dates and battlefield names, and the extensive list of records of the individual soldiers and sailors from Franklin County. Interestingly enough, an article about the dedication of the Confederate Monument at Rocky Mount (which recently was destroyed in a vehicle accident) is also included. This examination of 1861-1865, which was a monumental time in America, is a fine tribute to those who were so deeply affected. Both books are available for purchase from the authors: $25, includes postage, mail check to Edith Sigmon, 11625 Franklin Street, Ferrum, Va 24088. Beverly’s Civil War collection - $45, includes postage, mail check to Beverly Merritt, 675 Carver Lee Road, Ferrum, Va 24088. For questions on both books, email at

Monday, September 24, 2007

Fiction Review

Irreparable Damages
by Karlene Heinkel
ISBN-10: 0595443222
Review by Heather Froeschl

Reunions with the past don’t always bring fond memories. What we do with our reminiscences can sometimes be a matter of life and death, happiness and sorrow. In Karlene Heinkel’s novel, “Irreparable Damages,” the past and the present commingle with the ease of memory replayed.

Michael Stanford is on top of the world one minute…wealthy, a partner is his own business, a loving member of a large family, and recently engaged, yet moments later his world comes crashing down as his fiancĂ© reveals that she’s pregnant. Why should this be so shocking? The next day finds him murdered in cold blood on his office floor. With so much going for him how could this happen? The family, and the town, is devastated. Charlie Whitman is a little too close to the case. As sheriff, he has only been back in his home town for a number of years after escaping it in the military and FBI. Michael wasn’t exactly his best friend back in high school but they were in the same circles and Charlie knew things that only one of the guys would know. Investigating this murder would bring back all of those memories, and the feelings that ran rampant with them.

What would Michael’s business partner, in the small town of Hillcrest, have to do with a Vegas-connected casino owner? Why would Michael’s fiancĂ©e remain living in his home after his death…with her ex-husband for company? What does Shelley Bowden, a girl both Michael and Charlie had feelings for back in the day, have to do with the whole tragedy? These things all bubble to the surface as the truth is revealed. Will Charlie lay the past to rest? Will justice be delivered?

The book is full of characters you will recognize in life. There are many different personalities to contend with that it all seems very real. The plot is rich with a past that is spelled out right in front of you, and a future that is not revealed until the very end. This guessing game is what many mystery readers love. I enjoyed the book and trying to work out the case along with Charlie. “Irreparable Damages” is a reminder that there is always so much more than meets the eye in everybody’s story.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Philosophical Fiction Review

First Class Ticket
by Ann Marie Zakos
ISBN-10: 0976452332
Review by Heather Froeschl

There are no coincidences. We come face to face with life lessons every day and can grow from them if only we choose to. Ann Marie Zakos reminds us of this in her fantastic work of fiction, “First Class Ticket.” Philosophy should be this fun and enlightening for all of us!

Madison is upset when she learns that she has to squeeze a philosophy class into her busy college schedule. What’s worse is that it ends up being an early morning class and she doesn’t know anyone else who is taking it. The teacher is somewhat mysterious and on the first day he gives an assignment to learn nine truths within a week. These truths are printed on cards in an envelope, but are written in a way that is not truly understandable until a guide helps them to figure it out. The trick is that the students can’t seek out their guides; the guides must come to them. The kids are grouped into experience partners and as luck would have it (no such thing…) Madison is grouped with two partners instead of one. Brian is a lighthearted happy young man, while Diana is somewhat his opposite. Together the three must uncover what these truths could possibly mean to them. Along the way, a remarkable thing occurs – friendship of the deepest kind.

The truths will affect these three friends in life changing ways and the process of discovering them is somewhat miraculous from their point of view. Strangers come up to them and engage in philosophical conversations, guiding them toward understanding. What’s more is that you as the reader will come to these understandings too. Like Madison, you might learn to draw energy and give it back to those around you, change your perspective from negative to positive, and develop your inner strength through thought and meditation. Like Diana, you might learn to trust your instincts. And like Brian, you might learn that you are already on the right path.

This story is much like a fable, where characters learn a lesson and teach it to us as well. But it is some much more as a delightful work of fiction and is rich with many messages of growth. The cast is lovable and endearing, making you wish you could be at that campus and taking that class. The writing is tight and well executed. The descriptive imagery is nicely done and evokes the feel of the campus quad, freshly cut grass, sandy beach, and an energetic college baseball game. This book is for readers of all ages, from high school to grandparents, for we all could do to learn a thing or two and reading for enjoyment knows no age. I highly recommend “First Class Ticket,” for, “adventure lights the path to spiritual development.”

Monday, September 17, 2007

Non-Fiction Review

The Way from Science to Soul
by Casey Blood PH.D.
ISBN: 978-0-9797888-8-8
Review by Heather Froeschl

Using quantum physics to illuminate the spiritual journey? The author does just this in the book, “The Way from Science to Soul: Integrating Physics, the Brain, and the Spiritual Journey,” by Casey Blood, PH.D. But, why would you do such a thing? Why mix science and soul, quantum mechanics with spirituality? Dr. Casey Blood is a Professor Emeritus at Rutgers University, so if he wants to do this, I suppose he is qualified to. I'm not a scientist, so what do I know? A little something about spirituality at least.

Physics is the study of the physical universe, and one wouldn’t expect to learn about the spiritual side of life, or the nonphysical universe when reading about it. However, Dr. Blood begins our education on this matter with an in-depth coverage of physics and quantum mechanics, the brain (including the synapse), and how these all pull together so that we can either see the spiritual side, or choose not to. The point of it is that there are several versions of reality to perceive while we choose to only see one; the existence of the soul can not be disproved, nor proven by science. So how does the nonphysical soul interact with the physical world? The soul can perceive the physical brain and through this, perceive the world. But, the physical world is not the only plane to be aware of. The soul can exist on many planes, the physical, the angelic plane, which is closest to the source of all, and the “jinn” plane, which is where our souls can communicate with other souls. Dr. Blood explains that our soul’s journey is much longer than that of our earthly existence, and that we have time to spend on each plane.

Dr. Blood describes spiritual practices which help us to remember that we are a nonphysical soul that has a physical body. These practices include meditation, yoga, focus on breathing, using retreats and finding teachers to help us. These practices though, are not the end goal. Our personality and contribution to society is important too. Dr. Blood states that we need to develop certain qualities like insight, compassion, friendship and wisdom and gives guidance on how to do so.

I was a little worried when I was asked to review this book. However, Dr. Blood takes a very complex topic and relates it to the average reader in a carefully chosen tone of support. The interest in spirituality is growing in leaps and bounds so that this connection to quantum physics will surely have a target audience, but, is still something of interest to the masses. The book is not an easy read, but it is worthwhile to wrap your physical mind around it for a time. Your spiritual mind will thank you.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Interview with Author Debbie Robins

Interview of Debbie Robins, author of "Where Peace Lives"
by Heather Froeschl

Debbie Robins spent over 20 years in the entertainment industry. She was the president of Roland Joffe’s Warner Brothers company, Lightmotive, a producing partner with director John McTiernan and Donna Dubrow, a producing partner with Penny Marshall, and a vice president at Disney. After achieving success in the entertainment industry and working with some of the top stars, Deb realized a call to action to help strengthen our Peace “muscle,” and to make it our most dominant, global trait. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of “Where Peace Lives” will go to City Hearts, a non-profit dedicated to healing the effects of violence and discrimination through the inclusion of Art in the inner city classrooms ( and to Earth Rights Institute, which is dedicated to securing a culture of peace and justice throughout the world.

Heather: Thanks so much for taking time for an interview. I so enjoyed “Where Peace Lives,” and hope to be of some help in spreading the word about it.

Debbie: I appreciate your support beyond words, Heather. Peace is calling and we are answering the prayer. There is more war/hatred on our precious planet than ever before. It is my passion and purpose now to help children and grownups alike, myself included, strengthen their peace muscle.

Heather: “Where Peace Lives” is as much for adults as it is for the younger reader.
How did you come up with the idea to write such a far reaching children’s book?
Was “The Little Prince” something you read as a child?

Debbie: “The Little Prince” was not only a book I read as a child but a story I have treasured as an adult. The creative, magical, seemingly non-sensical style in which Saint Ex addresses a universal theme – gratitude for what you have rather than a focus on what you don’t have- is, for me, sheer brilliance. Because of that I’m sure it will come as no surprise to your readers that my second favorite book is “Jonathan Livingston Seagull”! I slept with “The Little Prince” on my nightstand for three years.

Heather: What prompted the idea of having the Angel, Peace, locked in a box?

Debbie: That’s a great question. And you are the first to ask it. Peace being trapped in a box is really my metaphor for our present day reality. Globally, we say we want peace, yet we are actually creating more of it. The book was, in part, my journey to discover what the gap is between our intentions and our reality. What I discovered is that we have peace imprisoned in the wrong box. We treat peace as an ideal, a hope, a prayer, when in fact it is a discipline, a muscle, a choice, a skill, a skill set. And until we choose to make peace a part of our global educational curriculum it is unlikely we will have more of it.

Heather: Have you heard back from children, or their parents, that they understand the imagery and symbolism?

Debbie: The response from children and adults alike has been humbling. I have over 250 letters kids have written me, ages 8 to 18, telling me that the book has changed their lives. They also include their promises for peace. I have also had the experience of being a volunteer peace teacher in the Los Angeles public and charter school system. What I can share with you is that our children are viscerally aware of the heightened level of violence on this planet. They want to make a difference but they’re not sure what it is they can do. "Where Peace Lives" seems to be answering that prayer.

Heather: Have you done a good deal of study on the wise people your six central characters are based upon (Martin Luther King, Jr., Siddhartha, Ghandi, Jesus, Moses, and Muhammad)?

Debbie: Yes, I have read a lot about the peacemakers celebrated in the book but am, by no means, a historian or expert.

Heather: Why put the story in parable form? Why not in “real” circumstances with “real” people characters instead of animals?

Debbie: There were many reasons I put the book in parable form, primarily its natural ability to speak to all ages. Since peace is a choice, at every age, this was very important to me. The use of the animals was because animals tend to open our heart charka even more. And peace, as I’m sure you have experienced, lives in the heart.

Heather: What was your greatest challenge in writing the story?

Debbie: The greatest challenge for me, although I love every part of the process of writing, is getting a first draft done. It is that gigantic leap of faith and demands tremendous trust and perseverance.

Heather: Are there more books in the works that readers can look forward to?

Debbie: Thank you for asking. Yes, your readers should expect two more books in 2008. “Where Happiness Lives” and “Where Peace Lives; The First Challenge”.

Heather: Do you have other goals to work toward that involve this same peaceful theme?

Debbie: I feel that all my creative expressions, be it my consulting practice, film producing or writing are all, at their core, about peace. I work with clients and companies to create more peaceful and aligned environments from which to generate their success. I write movies about love, the home to peace. And my books of course, hopefully speak for themselves.

Heather: What has been the most interesting response you have gotten from readers? Does it seem that the message is being received?

Debbie: The interesting experience has been the enormity of the positive reaction to the book from children and adults alike. The book is touching the same chord; it is acting as a universal call to action to remember that peace is a choice, at every age, and we can make a difference. Also, the buying patterns have been in multiples. Few people purchase just one copy of “Where Peace Lives”. Instead, they buy books for themselves, their children, friends, colleagues, mothers, fathers, nieces, nephews, favorite teachers, non-profits, at risk youth centers, libraries, etc. Peace is back by popular demand!

Heather: And thankfully so! Thanks so very much Debbie, for visiting with me, but more for writing "Where Peace Lives."

Monday, September 10, 2007

Biblical Study Review

Ruth of Moab: Triumph of a Daughter’s Love
by Author Wright
ISBN 978-1-6024747-03
Review by Heather Froeschl

What might have really happened in the lives of those in the Old Testament? Can we ever know the stories that weren’t told? We can speculate. “Ruth of Moab: Triumph of a Daughter’s Love” by Author O. Wright is a novel of speculation told with an outpouring of admiration.

What happened to the family of Elimelech after his emigration to Moab, as told in the Old Testament? In Wright’s novel, Naomi, Elimelech’s wife, is grief stricken at the death of her husband. She seeks comfort and understanding. Her two sons grow and eventually marry women of Moab. She begins to teach them about her God. When, tragically, both sons die as well, Naomi feels that she must return to Bethlehem. Her daughter in law, Ruth, refuses to be left behind. Out of dedication and love for her Mother in law, Ruth accepts the possible consequences and hardships they will face. It is in Bethlehem that Ruth shows how gentle and kind her heart is, and is recognized for it. Naomi’s prayers are answered.

This depiction of events is heart touching. The language is reminiscent of biblical times and offers an added enticement to imagine things happening in this way. Wright is a gifted author who immerses his readers into the given situation. A touching and compelling read.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Children's Book Review

The Candy Shop War
by Brandon Mull
ISBN-10: 159038783X
Review by Heather Froeschl

Never take candy from a stranger! Brandon Mull, New York Times bestselling author of “Fablehaven,” likes to use the messages we all hear as kids, like, “Drink your milk,” and this traditional warning to stay away from strangers bearing sweets. The similarities to anything you’ve heard before stop there. “The Candy Shop War” is something completely new and different, and I might add, something fantastic and full of action.

Brandon Mull has created a whole new world where special candy can make kids float, shoot electric shocks from their fingers, and even enter the land of wonder through the looking glass…but it isn’t anything wonderful in there! Nate is new to the neighborhood, having just moved in, and the friends he makes in the first days will become the truest sort he can hope for. They will come to rely on each other in ways they never could have imagined. The kids start doing after school chores for the owner of a new candy shop in return for special treats. Here’s where that warning comes in to never take candy from people you don’t know. The chores turn into assignments, which turn out to be quite dangerous and progressively wrong. The temptation might seem sweet but Nate and his friend Trevor decide to hang in there for other reasons. There is a mystery to be solved, and it turns out that there is a rival candy seller who has an interest in what is discovered. A great legend comes into play, and while talking dogs and horses are very cool, what is going on is becoming terribly bad. It’s up to Nate and his friends to put a stop to it, if they aren’t eaten by giant black widow spiders, or turned to bones and dust first.

This middle grade reader is fantastically full of adventure and fun of a completely different sort. While there is magic and wonder involved, it isn’t like anything published in recent history. The underlying messages are well thought out, while the characters steal the show. Kids aged 8-12 will see themselves as Nate figures out what to do to save the day, and even as he bounces from rooftop to rooftop. Who wouldn’t love to give their teacher fudge in order to make her forget about assigning homework? The writing is, as always, a pleasure to partake of. Brandon Mull is a gifted author who knows how to reach out to his readers even when giving them those important reminders to drink milk and not take candy from strangers. I will anxiously await even more published work from this author, and Shadow Mountain.

Non-Fiction Ghost Story Review

Ghosts? I think so!
by Sue Sereno
ISBN-10: 1424117968
Review by Heather Froeschl

Virginia has its fair share of ghosts roaming around. A lot has happened here! I’ve always loved a good ghost story; Hans Holzer is one of my favorite paranormal authors. Sue Sereno authored “Ghosts? I think so!” to share the story of her own haunted home.

Over 30 years of living in a house can bring you pretty close to it. You get to know every little inch of your home, and also every little thing that doesn’t seem quite right. Sue began to notice things right away though. The small house in southern Virginia has a bit of history that Sue discovered along the way, with property deeds going back to 1873. Some history had other ways of making itself known to her. Sue tells of things happening from bodiless footsteps, whispers in the woods, phantom cars crunching gravel in the drive, to EVP’s, cold drafts, and even ghostly scents of baked goods. There seems to be a female presence that tucks visitors into bed, and a male presence in the woods that likes to play tricks. Sue and her husband just live with the spirits around them and so have many stories to tell of their interactions. Their visitors in human form tend to have more stories than they care to. Her book is an open door to experience some of those things along with them.

The writing is honest and friendly and feels like you are sitting down with a friend over coffee. It is a fast read, made all the more so by such fascinating events. This non-fiction title would make an excellent addition to a ghost story collector, and an even more perfect book to curl up with for Halloween.