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.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Non-Fiction Self Help Review

Neutralizing the Power of Fear
by Casalnnie O. Henry
ISBN-10: 0595409598
Review by Heather Froeschl

There are some 577 officially named fears that people hold. Of 350 people surveyed, 99% had some kind of fear. From spiders to intimacy, blood to toads and tombstones, there is an official name for the phobia. How can we overcome those odds? Dr. Casalnnie O. Henry has written a book, “Neutralizing the Power of Fear” to help guide the reader.

The information covered in the book is extensive and in-depth. I applaud the amount of research that was done and the references given. Here you can learn the basis of fears and why we develop them is a good place to start; knowing how fear originates in humans is a beginning to understanding, and with understanding comes power. Knowing what fear can do a person physically, mentally, socially and emotionally is like knowing the side effects of medication you might take. So what can be done once the fear is realized? Dr. Henry has much advice. He describes the various approaches to therapy, looks at how society has dealt with fears, and delves deeply into what religions can do for fears. He describes examples of common fears, like rejection, intimacy problems, abuse, self esteem, and more, in precise detail that will hit home for many readers. In many of these examples he gives advice on dealing with them, but here is where this reader had a problem, for some of the advice was to “leave it to God.” I was hoping for practical absolute steps to take, not advice to leave it to a higher power. While the book is excellently written, if not a little overly scholarly for the average reader, it should be known that it is a Christian publication and not just a therapeutic guide. Non-Christians can still gain insight into the fear factor but may be a bit disappointed in the advice for some of them.

This highly qualified individual offers a book to possibly help a good portion of society. It is quite thorough and full of valuable information. Not a light read, it is meant to show readers “how to subdue your fears and make them harmless.” Squash that spider fear and put your mind at ease. I recommend this book to the intended audience.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Fiction Review

The Changing River
by Dat Phan
ISBN-: 978-0-07-212575-7
Review by Heather Froeschl

When we seek happiness outside of ourselves, we are being perfectly human; but it is the person who looks within and changes what they don’t like, that truly ends up being happy. Such reminders are abundant in these days but rarely is a book fictionally interesting and captivating, yet also inspiring and even meditative in it’s unfolding. Dat Phan has penned a novel, “The Changing River,” that will leave readers looking within and building their own bridges over troubled waters.

Mr. Dubois enters the novel as a cranky drunk who leers at women, complains about life, and finds his only moments of connection with prostitutes. He’s been fired from work and at a moment when all seems to be caving in on him, he is given a helping hand by Rice Boy. Rice Boy loses his own job to simply help the drunken man home. This reaching out is the beginning of great change. Over time, Mr. Dubois has realizations that leave him knowing what steps he has to take. Volunteering as a clown in a hospital leads him to quit drinking. He goes back to school and eventually becomes a guidance counselor. But a voyage awaits him. He finds Rice Boy in the forest and the two become intense friends. This relationship leads Rice Boy to some realizations as well, including one of his wife. Mr. Dubois has more to learn and more to teach, and since we are all teacher and student, he has much to accomplish. He travels and finds home in various interesting places, including a hut high up in a tree, living like the monkeys.

The tale is classic and the writing is flowing, poetic, and calming. The descriptions evoke moments of meditation and deep thought, while the story carries the reader down one man’s river of life. His encounters are mostly easy to relate to (with exception to the tigers); his inner struggles are ones that many will understand all too well. It seems that most readers will find inspiration in these words and hopefully some guidance in their own lives, but surely they will enjoy the read. I hope to see more from Dat Phan in the future. For more information about this book and its author, see

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Fiction Review

Conversations with Asenath
by Sisi Theo
ISBN: 978-1-60266-902-4
Review by Heather Froeschl

Even today, unfortunately, cultures sometimes clash. Marriages are made and discoveries of incompatible traditions and beliefs must be worked through. What if such a marriage were highly public and important? In “Conversations with Asenath” by Sisi Theo, readers see the contrast between Egyptian and Israelite as wife and husband.

Asenath is a religious Egyptian woman who follows her upbringing’s beliefs. She is the daughter of a priest of On, and marries an important man whom her own father had a hand in helping in an interesting way. Joseph goes from slavery to prison to the palace, earning respect. A marriage is arranged by the Pharaoh, as Asenath desires. Asenath and Joseph have two sons, but Joseph gives them Hebrew names and this makes Asenath wonder. She meets her brother in law, Benjamin, and the two, over the years, have discussions regarding the betrayal of Joseph by his brothers, the naming of his sons, the raising of their sons away from Asenath, and the customs of both cultures, as seen from their quite different perspectives.

What comes out in these conversations is each side’s point of view, if there must be sides, and the personal joys and ramifications of beliefs and traditions. It is a wonderful study in sociology. Theology comes in and the question of free will is examined closely. This book is captivating in its descriptions of life in Egypt, its easy to read style, and the intimate look at one woman’s self examination. In the recent trend of retelling of Bible stories, this is a more personable attempt and makes for an enjoyable read.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Fiction Review

Desert Medicine
by Judy Alexander
ISBN-10: 0825420083
Review by Heather Froeschl

When we share of ourselves with other people, we often find ourselves. It doesn’t take much to reach out and in the end the rewards are usually greater than the effort. In “Desert Medicine” by Judy Alexander, a newly single mother in transition discovers the giving and receiving of being an unselfish friend, but she also discovers herself, her truth, and her desire to trust again.

Laurelle is a mother of five year old twins. She works two jobs, is divorcing her cheating husband, and agrees to visit a homebound member of her church. Rhoda has terminal cancer, but her early life did more damage to her spirit. When Laurelle visits, Rhoda shares stories that tell of her growing up in Texas during the Depression and then in Calexico, California, as her aunt’s live in babysitter. With an abusive alcoholic father, Rhoda was lucky to have the escape. Laurelle listens, at first reluctantly, but then is captivated by this woman’s strength and determination to survive. She is learning about her own life though these tales as she applies certain lessons to her dealings with her children’s father and her impending divorce. Her current life carries on.

Invitations to singles' events at the church, meeting a man at traffic school, a new puppy, and the holidays all put Laurelle on an emotional roller coaster of ups and downs. Realizing that she is bringing joy to Rhoda’s life is a gift unto itself but Laurelle is also receiving support and love just when she needs it most. It gives her enough perspective to find these things within her own family too. Rhoda becomes an integral part of her children’s lives and just when she understands how close she is to this elderly woman, Laurelle begins to doubt what she’s been told. Can she ever trust again? Is there hope for love in her life?

Judy Alexander has written a captivating tale in two voices. Laurelle is someone whom many readers can identify with and her struggles are unfortunately too common. Her story is familiar and her character is likable. Rhoda’s tales are sprinkled throughout the book in a different font and dialect, giving her a charm all her own. Hers too is a familiar tale of a different generation. The plot of the book runs like a gentle but fast running river, deep and green, embracing the rocks of life and passing under the bridges that connect us all. “Desert Medicine” is a book you won’t want to put down but will be sorry to come to the end of. I look forward to more from this author in the future.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Self Help Review

What Your Mother Never Told You
by Richard M. Dudum
ISBN-10: 1419678698
review by Heather Froeschl

Ah, the teenaged daughter. They are a wonder. I have my own and feel qualified to say this. I want to be everything I can for her, but we all know that this isn’t possible. Providing her with the tools she needs for life is important. For this reason, I am ever grateful to Richard M. Dudum for authoring “What You Mother Never Told You.” I could have used this book when I was a teen and I still appreciated the reminder of certain passages. Get a copy for the teenaged girls in your life, or get one for yourself if you fit that demographic. You’ll be glad you did.

Your mother might have sat you down for “the talk” and you cringed, and she cringed. Likely it wasn’t enough to answer all of your questions but maybe you couldn’t stand it anymore. Maybe you were lucky enough to have a really open mom who you could talk to about anything, but I’ll bet there were still a few things that didn’t get covered. “What Your Mother Never Told You” covers everything. Yes, everything…from how you are perceived in high school – as a snob, slut, show off, or shy girl – to how you will be remembered at your twentieth reunion, from accepting compliments and gifts from a guy to what you should not feel obligated to give him in return, from telling your parents that you are embarrassed by their behavior, or even appalled by it, and everything in between. What should you do if a friend seems to have an eating disorder, or you think that you might? What can do for a friend who is cutting herself? How can you be supportive of a friend whose parents are getting divorced? What if you need that support?

Discovering who you are and who you aren’t is part of being a teen (and an adult!) and this book can help sort things out. It’s like having this really cool parent to guide you, but not tell you what to do. Richard offers his advice and readers are free to take it or leave it, but reading it is the way to make informed decisions. Information is an important tool to have, and the best possible tool any parent can hope to give their daughters.

Written in a no-nonsense, straight talk manner, “What Your Mother Never Told You” is right on target with today’s teen. Each topic is covered succinctly and with care. In between are pretty images of floral designs, speaking to the femininity of its readers. Used as a tool for parents to broach topics with reluctant-to-talk teens or as a guide for them to read on their own, this book is sure to touch lives, inform minds, and even make you smile as you read about how “you don’t owe him Jack…” It is “the talk” on subjects that might make you blush, but are the must have tools for today’s society. Bravo!

Monday, March 3, 2008

Historical Fiction Review

Lady of the Roses
by Sandra Worth
ISBN-10: 0425219143
review by Heather Froeschl

History is never more alive than when explored through a fictional accounting. With extensive research and a passion for an era, an author can enlighten readers and pay homage to the past. Sandra Worth does so in her novel “Lady of the Roses.” This intense work of art brings life to English history during the times of the War of the Roses with as much rich vibrancy as the castle tapestries that are woven into the tale.

A classic love story, and one that was likely the inspiration for many others that we know and cherish, Sir John Neville and Lady Isobel Ingoldesthorpe’s tale is exquisitely bittersweet. At fifteen, Isobel was orphaned and became a ward of Queen Marguerite and King Henry VI. Her marriage would bring a decent price for the queen, but Isobel boldly requested that she be married for love instead. Such a thing was truly rare in the days of arranged marriages. Isobel was drawn by fate to meet John, and her heart would not be happy until they were wed. Favors do cost when bequeathed by royalty. During the struggle for marriage greater struggles were occupying the lands. Battles raged and many lives were lost. The red rose rivaled the white as brother fought brother, cousin slay cousin, and friends became foes. Treason was the common crime for those in dungeons and for those beheaded. How it came to be that Isobel and John were able to wed and live life through it all is a great tale.

Titles changed with the blowing of the wind and the troubles this caused, and heartache it inspired are worthy of a modern day soap opera. With such changes the futures of the young heirs changed as well, with marriages being arranged at birth and carried out at even the age of eight. The king’s throne being the highest in ruling the land, many questioned the sanity of a queen’s influence. The lifetime of this novel shows the insanity of two queens who essentially ruled the throne and subsequently caused many deaths and sorrows. The years of 1456 through 1476 are played out in “Lady of the Roses” with the intensity of battle and the decadence of pure love.

Sandra Worth has brought to life Sir John Neville, of whom no biography has yet to be found, but much is accounted to and admired for. Her research of his deeds and character are plain to be seen. Dear Isobel, our narrator, becomes a cherished companion to the reader. Seeing the times and strife through the eyes of first a young girl of fifteen and then as a young woman in love, and later as a mother and dedicated wife truly opens a window into the past. The writing is rich with precise details, lush scenery, and blunt bloodshed. Weaving in the authorship of the unparalleled tales of King Arthur and Sir Lancelot is a delightful inclusion. I look forward to further reading of this accomplished author.