“Prairie Dog Town” by Karl A. Bacon

prairiedogtownPRAIRIE DOG TOWN

Karl A. Bacon
CreateSpace (2016)
ISBN 9781535044769
Reviewed by Ben Green for Reader Views (10/16)

Article first published as Book Review: ‘Prairie Dog Town’ by Karl A. Bacon on Blogcritics.

“Prairie Dog Town” by Karl A. Bacon is a fast-paced piece of historical fiction set during the American Civil War. The narrative follows the story of Stanley, a “former” Union soldier, turned slave/prisoner, who was wounded in battle and trying to make his way back to his love in Tennessee.

This is the second book in the story and I want to admit up front that I have not read the first one. That being said, reading the second book first did not seem to detract from the experience and Mr. Bacon has done a great job ensuring the second book functions well enough as a stand-alone story. The story begins with Stanley as a prisoner on a Confederate riverboat; however, as luck would have it, the riverboat meets with disaster and Stanley is able to begin his journey back to Tennessee, albeit briefly, before he is waylaid again. This time, Stanley finds himself living in an underground shelter and working in a military hospital providing for wounded soldiers.

The author’s chosen backdrop of the American Civil War is well created, probably because it is a time period in which Mr. Bacon has been dedicated to since his youth. At times, it seems a bit romanticized although there are moments, particularly in the field hospital, that are a bit gruesome and reality seems to seep through. Overall, however, the setting holds up well and any soft sell of events seems to be due to the author’s passion for the time period as well as his ability to make the story easily consumable. Speaking of consumable, the font is large, the chapters are short, and the story progresses at an excellent pace, which allows the reader to easily lose track of time while reading.

Karl A. Bacon’s “Prairie Dog Town” does justice to both Indie authors and historical fiction by recreating one of America’s darkest moments in a way that is inspiring and entertaining. The only downside I found was, while the story itself is interesting and the book well written, the main character felt somewhat flat to me. Stanley, a man left for dead by his comrades, enslaved by his enemies and is now free and seeking out his long-lost love, while reflective, also seems passive in his own story and almost approaches his imprisonment on the riverboat and subsequent escape with a laissez-faire attitude. At one point, Stanley is told that if God wants him to be reunited with his love in Tennessee then eventually he will be. This seems to be his whole approach to everything. By Chapter 26, I still found myself having difficulty connecting with the character and unfortunately, it never got any better. The rest of the story, however, makes up for the character development and I found myself approaching Stanley less as an important part of the story and more as a set of eyes taking in the action around him.

To conclude, Bacon’s “Prairie Dog Town” is a good read for anyone interested in the time period. It would make an excellent companion for a long flight or rainy day and I don’t think it would disappoint anyone who is a fan of historical fiction. I give it an unusually high rating on my scale, 4 out of 5 stars.

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“Connected Parent Empowered Child” by Leeza Carlone Steindorf

connectedparentempoweredchildCONNECTED PARENT EMPOWERED CHILD

Leeza Carlone Steindorf
Illustre Press International (2015)
ISBN 9780996952903
Reviewed by Carol Hoyer for Reader Views (10/16)

“Connected Parent Empowered Child” by Leeza Carlone Steindorf provides tools for parents to help develop a positive, more rewarding home environment. Given all the stressors families have on a daily basis who wouldn’t want a more pleasant, less conflicted home environment?

Throughout the book, the author provides family activities to increase communication and cohesion. She also provides CORE success activities that help determine how one handles stress, over-commitment, and other issues we all face. Emphasis is that the whole family has to make a commitment to this program for it to work. There are no parenting tools that are 100% correct since each individual is unique, so one must be able to utilize as much information they can get that will help the family.

The activities included in the book need to be geared to each person understanding, especially when incorporating them with children. In order to help, parents must understand their beliefs and how they would like to see the family operated. This means taking a step back for some and having some good old self-reflection. After this, one needs to explore all options on what changes need to happen and how to incorporate them. This is not a speedy endeavor. I found it easier to first skim through the book to get a general idea of the topics addressed, and activities involved, and then read the book again slowly making notes on themes or ideas that caught my attention.

The book is very well written with detailed information and examples. Again, it is a slow read due to the nature of the information. One question that did arise is how do both parents read this information? Do they share the book and discuss it first before implementing? What if both parents don’t agree, and there are issues? Change begins with one person so possibly one parent can make changes and the family will follow.

The author is very upbeat and positive when providing information. One of the areas of concern is the time commitment. Often we start out with good intentions but then get sidetracked. One way to combat this is to hold weekly family meetings where topics, concerns, and open communication happen.

Overall, “Connected Parent Empowered Child” by Leeza Carlone Steindorf provides excellent information and certainly something to be considered by anyone in search of tools to provide a more positive and rewarding home environment.

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“Conjuring Casanova” by Melissa Rea

conjuringcasanovaCONJURING CASANOVA

Melissa Rea
She Writes Press (2016)
ISBN 9781631520563
Reviewed by Sheri Hoyte for Reader Views (10/16)

“Conjuring Casanova” by Melissa Rea is a delightful romantic tale about an ER physician, Elizabeth Hillman, and her encounters with the most infamous rogue of the eighteenth century, Giacomo Casanova. Elizabeth hasn’t had the greatest luck with the men in her life so for her, cozying up with the memoir of the legendary lover seems like the safest and best antidote. When a young child dies tragically in the ER under her care, Elizabeth is put on administrative leave and uses her time to take a much-needed trip. She escapes to Venice, staying in a hotel that was once the home of her Italian obsession. When Casanova shows up one morning beside her on the rooftop of her hotel, things get very interesting!

Melissa Rea is a fantastic writer. I became a huge fan before I even got to the first chapter of the book. She completely won me over with the Table of Contents – tagging every chapter with the name of a famous song, which she then wittingly incorporated into the story. Her quick wit and obvious sense of humor shine throughout the narrative, as does her expertise in the subject. “Conjuring Casanova” is a skillfully crafted, delicious tale, successfully integrating contemporary romance, time travel, history, and intrigue.

I’ve heard many accounts and read several stories about this legendary ladies man, but “Conjuring Casanova” certainly brings a unique spin to the table. The characters are extremely well developed and really take the center stage. Of course, Casanova is Casanova, and though there are limitless ways in which he could be portrayed, watching him grow and adapt to life in the twenty-first century felt convincing and realistic. Elizabeth is a respectable, intelligent female protagonist and I appreciate that she was not a “perfect” subject, but had genuinely relatable issues regarding her friends, relationships, and her own body.

“Conjuring Casanova” by Melissa Rea is simply a must-read for all fans of contemporary romance, historical fiction, and time travel. I can’t wait to see more work from this author. Five stars for this exceptional story.

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“Growing Up Metric” by George Contos

growingupmetricGROWING UP METRIC

George Contos
Advantage Media Group (2016)
ISBN 9781599326382
Reviewed by Kai Yaniz for Reader Views (10/16)

“Growing Up Metric” by George Contos explains how to become an efficient leader through defining values, hiring the right people, and fostering optimism and respect as a leader. I found this book to be motivational in terms of the reader finding impetus to revitalize his or her own business aspirations based on the author’s advice.

Contos is a developed writer. There are chapter summaries that also include reference to other books such as “Eat That Frog” and “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” The author struck a balance between personal stories and adding inspirational quotes and other book references, which were placed in ideal locations. There were specific sections that were very strong (e.g. the chapter on customer service and being positive). The author understands his readers’ demographics and was relatable in the telling of his personal experiences. It helped me as the reader to feel closer to the material because I was able to relate to the author and find inspiration in his business advice. The book also discussed concepts that every reader can follow.

“Growing Up Metric” is for the reader aged sixteen to retiree. It is ideal for the business owner or potential entrepreneur whose goal is to learn how to change the direction of their business or to get a better start to their entrepreneurial endeavors.

This book is well written. It had the capacity to inspire and motivate me to rethink my own entrepreneurial endeavors. What I liked the most was the chapter on the concept of a business journal. It was a term I was not familiar with, and I have every intention to create my own business journal due to reading this book. I also enjoyed the section in the introduction that compared companies in the 1970’s with little or no training processes, to today’s companies with human resources departments and developed training programs. It gave insight as to how companies have changed for the better.

I have read numerous business books in the past, and “Growing Up Metric” is recommended for anyone, who has an interest in learning how to improve themselves and/or their business trajectory. I would like to have seen the author vocalize more examples of mistakes in his business growth as the result of not initially implementing his “Growing Up Metric” strategy. This would have made the book even more relatable.

In conclusion, “Growing Up Metric” by George Contos is an enjoyable read that influences motivation and inspiration. The author was able to share his own experiences and discuss other powerful books without removing anything from his perspective. This book is recommended if you are searching for inspiration and how to goal set.

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“The Illusion” by Patrick Garry

theillusionTHE ILLUSION

Patrick Garry
Kenric Books (2016)
ISBN 9780983370352
Reviewed by Sheri Hoyte for Reader Views (10/16)

In “The Illusion” by Patrick Garry, we follow Luke Sellmer, a man on his way up in the world, in all areas of his life. A savvy investment banker with an impressive reputation, he is soon introduced to the world of the wealthy, acquiring elite clientele through his future father-in-law. His bride-to-be, Lauren, is fashionable, and well connected, the perfect partner. Luke has come a long way from the paltry existence of his upbringing and there’s no turning back now. Or is there? As is often true, not everything is as it appears, and Luke carries within him a number of secrets. Unwitting circumstances expose Luke to betrayal, murder, and social scandal, any one of which could bring his carefully crafted world crashing down.

I enjoyed reading “The Illusion,” an entertaining and fast-paced mystery/thriller. The characters really drove the story home for me. Fully developed and realistic, I found them all to have distinct characteristics and formed a bond with each one, whether I liked them or not. I actually flip-flopped in my opinions of the main characters as the story developed and the characters evolved. I felt sorry for Luke during his childhood, cheered his rebellion against his family, admired his determination for a better life, was outraged by some of his character defects and exasperated by some of the choices he made throughout his life. And that was just Luke’s character! Character development is definitely the strong suit in this drama.

The manner in which the story unfolded was a bit irregular, and the chapter titles threw me off, as they didn’t seem to have a consistent theme. For instance, the first chapter is titled Thursday, Courthouse Waiting Room, while the second chapter is simply titled, Vince Gullin. But hey, I figure there is a reason for everything, and as I read, I could see the intention in presenting the story in this manner. I quickly fell into a rhythm and found the unique style to be insightful and creative.

“The Illusion” by Patrick Garry is sure to draw fans of multiple genres. The excitement, high-society dysfunction, obsessive stalker-type relationship drama, murder, and intrigue will keep readers engrossed to the very end.

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“Scapegoat: A Flight Crew’s Journey from Heroes to Villians to Redemption” by Emilio Corsetti III


Emilio Corsetti, III
Odyssey Publishing, LLC (2016)
ISBN 9780997242102
Reviewed by David K. McDonnell for Reader Views (10/16)

Article first published as Book Review: ‘Scapegoat: A Flight Crew’s Journey from Heroes to Villains to Redemption’ by Emilio Corsetti, III on Blogcritics.

“Scapegoat” by Emilio Corsetti III, tells the story of a Boeing 727 known in aviation circles and media accounts as “the plane that fell from the sky.” In 1979 while 39,000 feet over Michigan, flying from New York to Minneapolis, TWA Flight 841 went into an uncontrollable spiral and 360° rollover. The plane nose-dived to near ground level before the pilot regained control and completed an emergency landing in Detroit. The opening chapters are riveting as a re-creation of the vertical descent, through the eyes of the passengers and crew.

What would cause an airplane at its cruising altitude to suddenly drop from the sky? That is precisely the question Corsetti seeks to answer. The book is meticulously researched, with critical reviews of crew and passenger statements and depositions, Boeing and TWA tests, the National Transportation Safety Board investigation, and numerous expert evaluations. One would think it would be a relatively easy question to answer – particularly since the plane did not crash. But therein lays the rub. Mechanics began repairs within hours after the plane landed, and had it back in service within weeks. As Corsetti explained:

“Ironically, had the plane crashed in … Michigan, the bits and pieces would have been taken to a hangar, rearranged, and placed where each part was located on the plane, and then examined with a fine-tooth comb. In this instance, they had a mostly intact aircraft. Few accident investigations are so lucky. But any opportunity to preserve that valuable evidence was lost as soon as mechanics began repairs. … Had the aircraft been the scene of a crime, these actions would have been equivalent to destroying evidence. But no one … objected. As a result, evidence that would have been extremely helpful to investigators was replaced, repaired, and/or destroyed.”

Investigators were left with imperfect Boeing simulators and tests on other similar aircraft to determine whether mechanical failure was the cause. In addition, when they couldn’t find any mechanical cause, investigators were all too quick to blame the crew. There was no evidence that the crew did anything wrong, but somehow, and sometime, during the near-catastrophic dive, the cockpit voice recorder was erased. Investigators assumed that a crew member intentionally erased the recording and, therefore, that the crew had something to hide. Thus, the investigators simply would not believe anything the crew had to say.

“Scapegoat” is a scathing indictment of nearly everyone involved in the investigation, particularly the NTSB and Boeing. They quickly reached a conclusion – that the pilot and crew were hiding something – and ignored or minimized any evidence that suggested otherwise. “Scapegoat” is also critical of the media, which preferred a quick answer to the mystery to a delayed, but more accurate one. Media outlets put out theories based on snippets of information or misinformation and rarely put forward a thoughtful or thoroughly researched analysis.

The book does an excellent job of taking the reader through the investigative process. One sees the chronological progression suggested by the subtitle in which the crew is recognized as heroes for avoiding a catastrophic crash, and then portrayed as villains by the tunnel-vision investigators, and ultimately as blameless decades later. The book is quite technical at times and often way over my head. Corsetti is a professional pilot and perhaps overestimated the aeronautical background of the average reader. Or, perhaps the book was intended for those with far greater knowledge I in this regard. There are a few graphs and drawings in the beginning of the book, and it might have helped to include more and to have disbursed them throughout the book. In addition, many of the photographs and other graphics in the book were of poor quality, and sharper images with greater explanation may have helped.

Despite that, “Scapegoat” by Emilio Corsetti, III, is a superb “truth is stranger than fiction” tale and a thorough exposé of a botched investigation. While TWA Flight 841 fell from the sky nearly 40 years ago, “Scapegoat” certainly provides lessons to be learned and heeded today.

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“These Thy Gifts” by Vincent Panettiere

thesethygiftsTHESE THY GIFTS

Vincent Panettiere
Create Space (2016)
ISBN 9781503199880
Reviewed by Susan Violante for Reader Views (10/2016)

Article first published as Book Review: ‘These Thy Gifts’ by Vincent Panettiere on Blogcritics.

Being familiar with the author’s work, I quickly jumped at the opportunity to review “These Thy Gifts” by Vincent Panettiere. The story follows Steve Tromboli, a catholic priest, in his journey through faith, history, and his own human impulses within the context of the environments around him throughout his life. The story not only visits concepts within the Priesthood of the Catholic Church, such as chastity, hierarchy, scandal, and corruption; it also presents the reader with how a young priest deals with his own doubts, human needs, relationships, and sins, while trying to live out his vocation and serve his parishioners. Through Tromboli’s life, readers will experience fifty years of history. Readers will also visit the Italian-American community and its colorful characters, and live the impossible romance of his forbidden love Rosalie, who married low-level mobster, Tony Lamarca.

As a Catholic born and raised woman who did her schooling (as well as my children) in Catholic school, I found “These Thy Gifts” to be a must-read for all Catholics. The topics touched on within this fiction novel are disturbing facts about the corruption within the Church, and its efforts to remain hidden. As an Italian, I felt at home with his characters, as they took me back to my childhood friends, relatives, and even priests I knew while growing up. As a reader, I was captivated by Tromboli as in many cases he reminded me of my favorite character of Guareschi and his books about “Don Camilo.”

Panettiere’s writing is spot on with character development, descriptions, writing style, and research. However, one noteworthy issue would be about story editing, as it moved somewhat slowly at times. This might be due to some scenes and details that did not move the story along, and could have been flushed out to help the pace. Even so, the story was so captivating it did not affect my enjoyment of the book.

Overall, “These Thy Gifts” by Vincent Panettiere is a captivating, and revealing journey through history, faith, and a man’s lifetime dedication to serving his vocation. I truly enjoyed this read, and found it to be interesting, thought-provoking, fun, and entertaining. Definitely recommended reading!

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