“The Newsmaker” by Tony Bridwell

TheNewsmakerTHE NEWSMAKER

Tony Bridwell
Elevate Publishing (2017)
ISBN 978194544956
Reviewed by Carol Hoyer for Reader Views (10/18)

Carson Stewart’s fall from fame from his once dynamic, reputable journalistic career is now lost in the bottom of a bottle. He will never again work in his chosen field nor have the contacts he once had. Tony Bridwell’s, “The Newsmaker” is not just a story about a fallen journalist, it is about making choices, making a difference in the world by giving to achieve happiness.

Readers follow Carson Stewart as he finds himself in a bar trying to figure out where he went wrong and how can he redeem himself. One small mistake cost him his job, friends and respect. The pressure to remain at the top of his game and beat out fellow journalists put enormous stress on Carson.  One of his few, if not his only friend was bartender Joe Hamilton, who has known Carson since his college days. Joe was a mystery to many, but all knew he knew the score and how many journalists would fabricate stories to stay in the game. Joe was the only person who understood Carson yet there was nothing he could do to save him.

Brian Palmer, long-time friend and fellow journalist, feels Carson deserves a second chance and offers him a job to cover Congresswoman Clara Becker from Texas. Seems Becker is loved by all and has an unremarkable record. Palmer wants the scoop- no one is that perfect. Becker’s biggest challenger is Congressman Ryan Burr, and he will do anything to get into the White House. Little does Carson know he has jumped from one frying pan to another which will kill him or others around him.

Bridwell is a deft storyteller with remarkable insight into the human heart. The characters are well developed, and the storyline is fast-paced, intriguing and skillfully constructed.

Given all the current events today with “fake news,” “The Newsmaker” by Tony Bridwell hits the mark with regards to the lengths one will go to slant the news to their side. It is a remarkable story on not just listening to how to treat others but how to treat oneself. I highly recommend this read to all who want to stay on the right path, regardless of their past.

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“Without a Map: A Caregiver’s Journey through the Wilderness of Heart and Mind” by Lisa Steele-Maley

WithoutAMapWITHOUT A MAP

Lisa Steele-Maley
Turning Stone Press (2018)
ISBN 9781618521224
Reviewed by Kimberly Luyckx for Reader Views (10/18)

This is a small story that packs a big punch. It is true to its description as a memoir/caregiver themed book. “Without a Map: A Caregiver’s Journey through the Wilderness of Heart and Mind” is the perfect title for Lisa Steele-Maley’s story. In it, she faces the uncharted territory of caregiving for her father who has dementia.

Before her father’s illness, Steele-Maley embarked on several wilderness journeys that took her to Alaska and Washington’s remote forests and high mountain regions. She planned routes, prepared necessities and stayed flexible for any deviations or unexpected surprises along the trail. Little did she know then that the tools she developed in these wilds would assist her greatly in her new caregiver role.

As her father gradually shuts down – limiting his outings and connections – he chooses to remain at home in order to avoid the confusion that the outside world has become to him. Steele-Maley visits her father monthly to set up bill payments and general household upkeep. Eventually, this assistance converts to more basic methods of organizing his daily routines and preserving his safety and health. Along with her brothers’ assistance, Steele- Maley eventually transfers her father to a center that can support and protect him as his mental health declines. Steele-Maley continues the journey as her father’s main caregiver seeking and discovering new ways each day to provide the comfort he needs as, together, they navigate the unknown territory of dementia.

It is refreshing to have the juxtaposition of Steele-Maley’s previous outdoor adventures to her current experience of trekking into the arena of mental illness. The descriptions of each are unique. Snowy peaks and campfire cooking vs. doctor visits and the aspects of assisted living. Despite the apparent differences between these two scenarios, they both contain twists and turns of unexplored terrain that lead to the same lesson – all you really have is the present. By living each day realizing the vulnerability of the situation and confronting the challenges that come with uncharted terrain, you stay in the moment.

Unfortunately, Steele-Maley has to discover the heart of life through many trials and tribulations. The loss of her father’s memory, his identity and place in the world are traumatic yet place him permanently in the present moment where he can experience life as it truly exists – new, fresh and zestful. Many memoirs I have read in the past communicate difficulties and journeys that are specific to someone’s problem. And, unless you are experiencing the exact issue, the journey is not always relatable as a whole. “Without a Map” is different. Steele-Maley’s memoir is reflective of a greater life lesson, maybe the greatest of all. Connection. One such example is when she uses the smooth rhythm of her words to relate the foundation of our lives to the roots of nature’s trees – “long and strong, stretching deep into the earth and reaching out to one another.” All throughout her book, the author relays a universal message that infiltrates and transcends the reality of her situation. Her circumstances present a larger perspective of life. Being in the “wild” she is granted with a view often described as awe-inspiring and infinite.

Even if you aren’t the primary caregiver to an ailing parent, you will benefit from “Without a Map.” Lisa Steele-Maley’s self-help tips are constructive and reassuring. From discovering how and when to assist a once independent parent to letting them go when the time comes and ways to stay grounded along the way. As a reader, you get a true sense of Steele-Maley’s evolution as she cares for her father through his dementia. Towards the book’s conclusion, each line written is more significant than the next. In the end, the author’s wilderness journey grants all of us with a panoramic view of life that honors the journey and not the destination.

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“A Bullied Reunion” by Chris Ponici

ABulliedReunionA BULLIED REUNION

Chris Ponici
Tellwell Talent (2018)
ISBN 9781773708270
Reviewed by Sheri Hoyte for Reader Views (10/18)

“A Bullied Reunion” by Chris Ponici is a gripping psychological read involving a young man and his tumultuous journey through high school as the target of bullies. The toll that years of mental and physical abuse play on his psyche will leave readers feeling battered, heart-broken, and demanding of justice by the end.

From the very first day of high school, Cristiano Leuca is easy prey for a trio of bullies, and the torment continues through to graduation.  A bright student and athlete, Cris is quiet and keeps mostly to himself.  His only friend, Alex, is his exact opposite – a feisty young girl who doesn’t let anyone stand in her way. It seems there is little she or anyone can do to help, but Cris is patient and bides his time…

The writing in this book is phenomenal.  Just, wow. Chris Ponici has a knack for showing the reader exactly what is going on in the narrative.  From the horrendous actions of the trio of bullies to the raw emotions of Cris to the indifference and condescension of many adults and students, I had such a clear visual the entire time I was reading it almost felt like I was there.  Perhaps Ponici’s telling will even hit a nerve with memories thought long forgotten?

The characters set an equally impressive tone.  As a protagonist, Cris portrays the exact kind of kid that as an adult you want to protect and root for, but as a peer, you just want to ignore, especially if there are similar traits in your own personality.  Alex is such a fun character with an admirable quality in her unconditional support of Cris.  The bullies are first-class jerks you will remember from your own high school days, and again, Ponici nails it through their mannerisms, speech, and brute mentality.

Though one might get a feel for what “could” happen, the ferocity of the ending will simply astound the reader, and the way the story comes to a close is absolutely perfect.

Make no mistake, while “A Bullied Reunion” spotlights a high-school student, some of the subject matter, including drugs and sexual violence, does not make for a coming-of-age teen read. A mature young adult crowd will enjoy it, but the intended audience is clearly adult. I highly recommend “A Bullied Reunion” by Chris Ponici for an intense, riveting psychological thriller. A stunning debut novel.

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“How We Perceive Reality” by Allan Arnold

HowWePerceiveRealityHOW WE PERCEIVE REALITY: OUR BRAIN DEFINES REALITY

Allan Arnold
Outskirts Press (2018)
ISBN 9781478798149
Reviewed by Susan Violante for Reader Views (10/18)

“How We Perceive Reality” by Allan Arnold is a 30-page scientific explanation on a philosophical question: Is what surrounds us real? Or, what is reality? As a retired aerospace engineer who worked on the Apollo among other high-tech projects, the author applies his scientific knowledge to this philosophical question to explain what reality is for humans, based on the affirmation that ‘our brain defines reality’. To do this Arnold takes the reader on a journey from the micro world to the macro world. He deconstructs what happens within biologically when simple life forms and how complex life as humans take in the outside world that surrounds us and what it is made of vs. what we perceive. If this sounds complicated it’s because it is! However, the author does an awesome job simplifying it for the reader.

Allan Arnold produced a thought-provoking short read which will linger within the reader’s mind for days. His unique premise of answering a universal philosophical question scientifically makes this book a must read for anyone looking to enrich their mind. Having said that, I did find it a little repetitive at times, although I wonder if that was unavoidable when simplifying such a complicated argument. I think the essay style format he chose made it feel more like a conversation instead of a science paper, which made it more welcoming to non-tech readers like me.

Overall “How We Perceive Reality” by Allan Arnold is an interesting scientific and biological point of view of our reality which shows the reader facts of what actually exists vs. what we perceive. It does not go into spirituality, which he explains as nonexistent. Yet, whether the reader is spiritual or not, “How We Perceive Reality” does provide a wealth of information of the mechanics of the physical world and the biological process involve on how we take in what surrounds us. Definitely a must read!

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“Last on A Match” by Diana K. Perkins

LastOnAMatchLAST ON A MATCH: THE FINAL CHAPTER

Diana K. Perkins
Shetucket Hollow Press (2018)
ISBN 9780989199476
Reviewed by Carol Hoyer for Reader Views (10/18)

In 1888 twins Felicity Louise White and Millicent Submit White were as different as night and day. Even within all the six siblings, one could tell the other children were favored, and Millie appeared to be the “Cinderella” of the family. Felicity, from birth was quite sickly and wasn’t able to help complete chores in her family’s inn. It was during this time that Felicity did the unspeakable and ended up in the Norwich State Hospital for the Insane.

“Last on A Match” by author Diana K. Perkins is an amazing, incredible story of how being different can land one in an insane asylum regardless if they were crazy or not. In 1901 homosexuals could be committed to an asylum and this is where readers will find Felicity White.

Having worked in a state school and hospital during the late 60’s I found the author’s vivid description of the living environment, the treatment and the reasons for placement to be exceptionally right on target. Perkins’s writing allows readers to become Felicity living her life as she did. Given the author’s in-depth research regarding laws on institutionalization during the 1900s and her intimate knowledge of eastern Connecticut, I found the reading to be exceptional, captivating and shocking.

During the time Felicity was committed she learned a couple of valuable skills: to do as they say and to become a talented seamstress. Even though most medical staff seemed to care about the welfare of the patients, there were many experimental treatments given which caused more harm than good. I will say that Nurse Bliss although somewhat stereotypical as the bad guy, made me crazy with my emotions. Gosh forbid someone, especially those who are locked up be treated like a human being.

“Last on A Match” is a complex read as one follows Felicity her in and out life in an asylum only to return to the real world and be committed again. At the end of the book, the author provides some of the factual buildings, and historical information utilized in her book.

This is the sixth book in the Shetucket River Mill Town series by Diana K. Perkins, and I will be reading them all. It’s rare that an author can keep me so captivated that I want to read the rest of a series right away. I highly recommend “Last on a Match” to all who like to find relatable characters, a little bit of history and a fascinating read.

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Interview with Betty Jean Craige, Author of “Aldo”

Betty Jean Craige
Black Opal Books (2018)
ISBN 9781626947795
Interviewed by Sheri Hoyte for Reader Views (10/18)

In 2011, Betty Jean Craige retired from the University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia, after thirty-eight happy years. During this time, she published books in the fields of literature, poetry translation (from Spanish), history of ideas, ecology, and art. She curated two museum exhibitions of the art of Alvar Suñol and produced a documentary about him titled Alvar: His Vision and His Art, which won first place in its category in the Indie Gathering Film Festival. Her non-academic books are Conversations with Cosmo: At Home with an African Grey Parrot (2010); three Witherston Murder Mysteries: Downstream (2014), Fairfield’s Auction (2016), and Dam Witherston (2017), published by Black Opal Books; and Aldo (2018), a thriller, also published by Black Opal Books. Fairfield’s Auction won a first place in the category of Murder and Mayhem in the 2018 Chanticleer International Book Awards. Dam Witherston received Honorable Mention in the Mysteries category of the 2017 Royal Dragonfly Book Awards and Distinguished Favorite in Mystery in the 2018 Independent Press Awards.

Welcome, Betty Jean!  Thank you for joining us today at Reader Views.  What is Aldo about?

Aldo is about the consequences—academic and political—to a terrorist’s holding a university president for ransom. It is also about the controversial science of modifying a human’s germline to affect future generations.Headshot 1

Here’s the situation that sets in motion a chain of events: On the same day that Isabel Canto, associate director of Pembrook Atlantic University’s Institute for Genome Modification, discovers she is pregnant with IGM post-doc Frank Marks’s baby, Pembrook’s president Mary Ellen Mackin receives a letter from “Aldo” threatening harm if she does not dissolve the institute and fire its director, Linus Winter. Linus hopes to use genetic therapy to eliminate Huntington’s Disease, for which he has tested positive, and other horrific hereditary disorders from the human population. His grant from the LeClair Foundation, which funds germline gene modification in Europe and the United States, supports Frank. When President Mackin does not comply with the terrorist’s demands, she is kidnapped.

The novel is also a love story, Isabel and Linus’s love story. The story is framed by Isabel’s notes to her son Lino on his sixteenth birthday, when he delivers his Papa’s eulogy. Isabel has written the “novel” to tell Lino the story of his father, who is not Papa. Lino’s father is Frank. Papa is Linus, whom Isabel married a month after Lino’s birth and who died sixteen years later from Huntington’s Disease. Because of Linus’s modification of his own germline, Linus has given Lino a younger sister who is healthy, as will be all her descendants.

What inspired you to write this story?

One evening I began wondering what academic crime would be most consequential to the health of a research university. I realized that a terrorist could hold a university president for ransom and disrupt the ordinary functions of the institution to its core. I decided to focus my story on genome modification because of its potential to arouse passionate opposition as well as passionate support, and because I have long been interested in it for its capability to do good.

I wrote Aldo both to entertain readers and also to alert readers to a university’s vulnerability to external pressures to discontinue controversial programs. I want readers to contemplate the importance of maintaining freedom of speech and thought in higher education.

Which character do you relate to most and why?

Isabel Canto. She is a young associate professor developing her academic and scientific values. I was there once.

Are there bits of you or people you know reflected in any of the characters?

Yes, I am part of Isabel Canto.

How extensive was your research for the book, particularly involving genome modification?

Quite extensive. Years ago I read in manuscript a book titled The Hope, Hype and Reality of Genetic Engineering written by my colleague John Avise, a distinguished professor of genetics. So when I started writing about genome modification I realized that I was already familiar with some of the issues. I consulted John while writing the book, but I also did a lot of research on the web.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating Aldo?

In writing Aldo and the Witherston mysteries, I came to see that a good murder mystery is a system. Everything is—and should be—connected to everything else. Every paragraph I wrote affected the meaning of the events I had already developed and imposed constraints on what I could develop next. The reader’s pleasure comes from seeing the interconnections as well as the whole.

You have written in a number of different genres. Which one is your favorite and why?

Murder mysteries! I like creating a puzzle for the reader—who committed the murder?—and then enabling the reader to solve the puzzle by picking up clues from various sources. The writer must play fair with the reader: Give clues but not make the solution of the puzzle too easy.

I want to give the reader pleasure, stimulate the reader’s mind, and make the reader smile.

Tell us about your Witherston Murder Mystery series.

After the Sunday column, “Cosmo Talks,” which I had written for two years for our local paper, was discontinued, a novelist-friend encouraged me to write fiction.

BJ-Cosmo2Having loved mysteries since I read Nancy Drew in my girlhood, I decided to try that genre. I set my first mystery in a fictive town in the north Georgia mountains, twenty miles north of Dahlonega, site of Georgia’s gold rush in 1829. In Downstream, which turned out to be the first in a series of four murder mysteries, I created a story that brought together north Georgia’s thousand-year-old Cherokee civilization, the white settlers who took their land and gold, and the current residents of Witherston. The second and third mysteries, as well as the forthcoming Chieftains in Witherston, likewise bring together Georgia’s past and present.

In all my mysteries I provide the reader with information from many places: online conversations, emails, texts, letters, police reports, obituaries, wills, deeds, legal documents, diaries, radio interviews, and news accounts, as well as third-person narration. I don’t limit the novel’s point of view to one character. Ultimately, the reader knows more about what happened than any single character.

Which writers have inspired your own work as an author?

Barbara Kingsolver for her style of writing and Louise Penny for her creation of a fictive town. The late ecologist Gene Odum, whose biography I wrote, inspired my thoughts about the environment.

What is one thing you wish you knew when you started out?

I didn’t know how much fun I would have. If I had known, I would have started writing mysteries long ago.

Tell us about your writing schedule.  What is a typical day like?

When I’m writing a book I don’t have a schedule. I write every moment I have free. The computer is like a magnet to me. I can’t stay away.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Travel, plan trips, cook, drink fine wine, entertain friends, watch movies, and talk with my African Grey Parrot Cosmo.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received, about writing, or about life in general?

Write what you want to learn about. And that’s what I do. I love steep learning curves.

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

Write what you want to learn about.

Do you have a website or blog (or both) where readers can learn more about you and your works?

http://bettyjeancraigebooks.weebly.com/

Where can readers connect with you on social media?

Just email me at  bjcraige@uga.edu .

My parrot Cosmo has a Facebook page– https://www.facebook.com/BettyJeanAthens/–but I don’t.

So, what’s next?  Do you have another project in the works? 

I’m between projects.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I am a lifelong liberal and an environmentalist. I am not religious. I care deeply for non-human animals, especially dogs and parrots. I live with a highly intelligent, very talkative African Grey Parrot named Cosmo. I have one bumper sticker that says MAKE AMERICA GREEN AGAIN and another that says LOVE FOR THE EARTH / JUSTICE FOR ITS INHABITANTS.

Betty Jean thank you so much for joining us today at Reader Views – it’s been a pleasure getting to know more about you and your passions!

Thank you.

Read review of Aldo

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“Insomniac Dreams” by Mark Gaedtke

insomniacdreamsINSOMNIAC DREAMS

Mark Gaedtke
Outskirts Press (2018)
ISBN 9781478723226
Reviewed by Carol Hoyer for Reader Views (10/18)

From one insomniac to another, author Mark Gaedtke gives me more creative things to ponder on nights (which are most) I can’t sleep. Just open “Insomniac Dreams” to any page, and you will find the most humorous, clever topics to amuse oneself.

Gaedtke covers topics he has written about while writing for his local paper “The Tomahawk Leader.” Although the book is slim, not a page goes by that doesn’t make one think twice about a particular topic even though it may be normally inconsequential.

‘Put Down the Bag and Step Away from the Chips’ had me falling on the floor laughing. It reminded me so much of my husband who feels that no fragment of chips should escape his lips and like the author it is his mission in life to get every last one of them.

I found it quite funny rather than looking things up to gather more information, Gaedtke makes wild stabs at what he thinks it is all about. After all, it takes time and energy to look things up. One has to have a warped sense of humor to continually come up with such witty thoughts as the author has, however, I did find that stories about squirrels and kayaking to be a bit repetitive for me.

‘What About the Dung Beetles’ was not only hilarious but interesting. Given that dung beetles maintain a straight line by celestial navigation. The author goes on to say that scientists from Sweden’s Lund University tested the hypothesis by outfitting some beetles with tiny visors to block their view of the sky! As the author says, where does one find tiny visors for dung beetles? Do they even have heads? As an individual who has done many studies and research papers during graduate work, I found this to be an unbelievably, funny study.

Having read a few books on random musings by other authors, I have to say Gaedtke makes a lot of sense. I enjoyed many of the topics he chose and found his point of view to be refreshing while giving one the opportunity to get to know what makes him tick. Easy to read, witty and full of just plain crazy thoughts – I recommend “Insomniac Dreams” by Mark Gaedtke for anyone who loves humor that makes them laugh throughout the day causing others to wonder what they are laughing about.

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