“Eliza Waite” by Ashley E. Sweeney

elizawaiteELIZA WAITE

Ashley E. Sweeney
She Writes Press (2016)
ISBN 9781631520587
Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views (02/17)

“Eliza Waite” by Ashley E. Sweeney is the story of Eliza, born into a family that would do anything to protect their image, even if it meant harboring dark secrets. Unfortunately, one of their darkest secrets involved her. Eliza’s father makes arrangements with a preacher, offering him a great sum of money to marry Eliza, raise her son, and take her with him, far away from their home. Living on an island in Washington, Eliza has a loveless marriage, however, she makes up for it with the love that she has for her son. When disease strikes the island, one-third of the residents are killed within a month, including her husband and son. Heartbroken at the loss of her son, Eliza moves into an isolated cabin and spends her time alone, so that she can be near the grave of her son. She only sees a few people who come to visit, and she meets others when she paddles into town for supplies.

In time, Eliza meets a man who is destined to break her heart, and he does. Deciding that it is time to leave her island and venture elsewhere, she packs up a few meager belongings, including a picture of her son and a stack of treasured recipes. She journeys up to the Klondike, where she sets up a relatively prosperous bakery, and befriends some colorful characters, including a Madame.

Eliza enjoys her life in this town, however, it takes a while before she finally starts feeling her frozen heart melt and begin beating again. Her friendship with Pearly the Madame, has taught her a lot about herself and her desires. She is finally able to love again, and desperately hopes that those feelings will be returned. Meanwhile, as she is processing this, life around her is moving on and she realizes she should move on as well.

“Eliza Waite” is a beautifully written historical novel. I found myself totally caught up in the story. Eliza’s character was born ahead of her time. She is an independent woman, living during a time where this was unusual. She also has a deep connection with nature, and doesn’t allow the rigid Christian beliefs that she was raised with to try to break that connection. This novel was obviously well researched and the author intersperses many old recipes into her story. These recipes were a treat to see, but also made my stomach growl continuously as I read! “Eliza Waite” by Ashley E. Sweeney is the perfect choice for a reader’s group. The author even includes some questions for discussion at the end of the book. I truly hope she continues with Eliza’s story in another book!

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“Whispers in the Windstorm” by Kathryn Danylko

whispersinthewindstormWHISPERS IN THE WINDSTORM

Kathryn Danylko
Peregrine Productions (2016)
ISBN 9780997398397
Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views (02/17)

In “Whispers in the Windstorm,” Kathryn Danylko takes us along on her journey through breast cancer. As she tells her story, she also shares how she feels that God “whispered” to her through her writings. She began journaling by writing in spiral notebooks. Upon completion, she condensed 700 typed pages into 366 pages. Her journals cover from December 2010, when she got her diagnosis, to November 2011, after she completed her chemo. She was very open about her diagnosis, which allowed people who cared about her to step in and help. Throughout her story, Kathryn is surrounded by her family, people from her church, and friends. She was also blessed with other amazing people who came into her life at the perfect time. This includes medical professionals who had overcome breast cancer.

The diagnosis did not stop Kathryn from continuing with her plans to go on a missionary trip to Haiti. It had already been planned and she was still waiting to find out when she would have surgery. Her whole life has been about helping others, and she was not going to give up the promise that she made when she volunteered to lead this mission. Her Ukrainian Pentecostal Church plays a huge role in helping Kathryn and her family get through this ordeal.

Kathryn did not have the typical symptoms usually seen with breast cancer. Initially, she thought that she would just need a lumpectomy and then possibly radiation. However, when she discovered that she had an aggressive form of breast cancer she ended up with a mastectomy and chemotherapy. If she did not have the chemo, she would risk a 30% chance of it returning to somewhere else in her body like her brain or her bones. The thought of her children outliving her was terrifying, so she took the best route for recovery. Throughout all of this, and having to deal with the emotions involved, she never once let go of her faith. She was very open about her fears, including those of not surviving surgery, dying from cancer, and even the thoughts of feeling that her body was going to be mutilated.

While reading this inspiring journal, I immediately thought of all the people who could benefit from reading this, including women with cancer, caregivers, loved ones, and medical professionals. Her words will let people know that they are not alone. There is also another important part of Kathryn’s story that comes through her words; I feel that this experience also gave her a chance to share her work with helping others, especially those who have nothing. Being faced with a possibly fatal illness, and doing her missionary work allows Kathryn to remind us that we need to focus on what is truly important and that is our faith and our loved ones. Her message of not focusing on materialistic things really shines through her journey. I highly recommend “Whispers in the Windstorm” by Kathryn Danylko.

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“The Thundering Herd” by John E. Peltier

thethunderingherdTHE THUNDERING HERD

John E. Peltier
Outskirts Press
ISBN 9781478765332
Reviewed by Carol Hoyer for Reader Views (2/17)

“The Thundering Herd” is an awe-inspiring memoir looking through the eyes of John E. Peltier growing up in the 1950s and 1960s. Peltier, the fifth of twelve children, grew up in an era where family values, hard work, dedication to God were the norm.

Peltier provides background information on his family history with humorous and often sad stories of life as it was then. Not many readers today can say they experienced life trying to raise a family on rice fields or cattle. Each family member had a job to do, and it was done without question. Often, times were hard with little or no money coming in, so the family packed up and moved to better conditions. Education was very important to this family, and regardless of how many miles away it was, you walked to get to school. The only time they were absent was during harvest time.

1967 brought a huge change to America and John knew he had to make some serious decisions that would impact his life. Rather than wait for the draft to get him, he enlisted. Far from his home, and what he knows, John describes his time in the military with heartbreak, honor, and dedication. Even though he never was away from home before his service, John took it in stride, remembering what he was taught growing up. In a formidable way, he describes his experiences with death, drugs, and dangerous conditions. If you have ever experienced the military, you will appreciate his humor. Peltier’s writing is very vivid and clear, readers will find themselves right in the middle of each escapade with him. Throughout the book, he provides pictures of his life and military career, which puts names and faces together.

“The Thundering Herd” by John E. Peltier is a warm, loving tribute to his family and the life lessons learned along the way. “Sometimes,” he says, “You don’t appreciate what you learned till later in life.” Readers will enjoy the family antics, humor, and love. It is well written, emotional, and very inspiring. John and his family currently run Peltier Brothers Construction, where they still value family.

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Interview with Joshua Landeros, Author of “Reverence”

INTERVIEW WITH JOSHUA LANDEROS


Reverence

Joshua Aaron Landeros
CreateSpace (2016)
ISBN 9781517726133
Reviewed by Susan Violante for Reader Views (02/17)

Article first published as Interview: Joshua Landeros, Author of ‘Reverence’ on Blogcritics.

Joshua Landeros was born in Pomona, CA, but was raised in Perris of Riverside County for years uncountable now.

He comes from a large family in which he is admittedly “the black sheep.” Landeros grew up on Dragon Ball Z, Godzilla films, Batman the Animated Series, and Star Wars. Not to mention an infinite love for dinosaurs and all movie monsters.

He began writing in middle school starting with Godzilla fanfictions. He kept writing and eventually created his own world full of characters. In 2016, the dream was finally realized in his first novel, Reverence. He now attends University of California, Riverside where he majors in History Admin Studies and minors in English.

Josh Landeros.jpg

Sheri: Welcome, Josh and thank you for being with us today.  Why don’t you start by telling our readers a bit about yourself?

Josh: Well, I’m a 90s kid as they once used to say, born in April 1992. I’ve lived most of my life in Perris, California, which is a hot and barren little town in Southern California. I was an odd kid in school, namely that while most kids were gossiping or playing sports, I was drawing dinosaurs and reading. In my math class, I would often be reading my dinosaur encyclopedia, to the chastising of my teacher.

My love of reading and watching various TV shows/movies was probably my defining trait in school and to this day. I graduated high school in 2010 and attended community college in Moreno Valley, CA. It was my original intention to major in film, but problems with money in my single-parent home forced me to do solely full-time work for a few years. Luckily, after time things stabilized and I came back to school and even managed finally, to transfer to a university, one of the proudest moments in my life.

Even after all that, old habits die-hard. During most of my classes I still end up reading novels or comics, depending on whatever my latest purchase has been. Nowadays I have a new habit during class: jotting down ideas for my planned series.

Sheri: What is Reverence about?

Josh: Reverence at its core is about William Marconi, a super soldier who, for many decades, has held up the superpower known as the United Nation Republic. The tyrannical government rules unopposed, that is until a new terrorist group emerges to challenge Chancellor Venloran. Will and his fellow soldiers are tasked with putting down the rebellion, but as the fight goes on Will learns the empire he’s been holding up may be keeping secrets from him. The super soldier becomes trapped between two choices: remain loyal to his Chancellor, or trust the words of the dangerous dissidents.

Sheri: What was your inspiration for writing this book?

Josh: A number of things really, but some of the major points off the top of my head would be the films Children of Men, V for Vendetta, and Blade Runner. Not only are these fantastic films, but they all comment on different aspects of society, which I definitely wanted to do in my work. As for the character of Will Marconi himself, I drew the biggest influence from Alucard of the Hellsing series and Roland from King’s The Dark Tower series. Both are anti-heroes that do unsavory things to get what they want, and yet at the same time the audience can still feel for them. Like both of those characters, Will is on a quest and the question, among many in the story, is if he’ll maintain his morality along the journey.

Sheri: What was your biggest challenge in writing Reverence?

Josh: Two things come to mind. First, I wanted Reverence to be relevant beyond just an action story, which is how it started out. Don’t get me wrong, I can enjoy a good action-oriented story, but for me the films and books that stick with me the most are the ones that leave you thinking about the topics they address in their stories. I went through several different versions of the story until I reached a version I was pleased with.

The second biggest challenge was editing. It was definitely a trial-and-error process, but I did learn a whole lot. So as painful as it was, I’m grateful for the lessons I learned.

Sheri: What is it you hope readers take away from your story?

Josh: A whole lot, especially considering the turbulent times we live in. At the heart of the story, I hope readers embrace the idea of constantly questioning your surroundings. Questioning his surroundings is what truly starts Will’s journey. The moment we stop questioning things we become complacent and potentially blind to the true nature of a situation. The characters who “just go with the flow” are victims in their own way, which was the idea of the tragedy behind the character, Luis.

Another important aspect of the story I wanted to present is the duality of life, especially in politics. Leaders have the power to bring prosperity to people, but also to destroy lives. This duality is also present in the rebellion movement. Both sides can promise the world and claim righteousness, but both need to be questioned. I didn’t want it to be a matter of ‘good vs. evil’ because while I believe good and evil definitely exist, it is incredibly rare for any matter to be that simplistic.

Lastly, I wanted to instill the horror of war. Reverence is not All Quiet on the Western Front, but I didn’t want to make a story where the casualties are thrown aside. When war is waged, no matter the cause, people suffer. Civilian and soldier alike become threatened. In a world like ours that is increasingly dangerous, we need to be very careful about when we choose to engage in war. This something I expand upon in the sequel.

Sheri: What can you tell us about your self-publishing experience?

Josh: It is both awesome and arduous, but at the finale very rewarding. It takes dedication and a willingness to learn because I learned A LOT myself in 2016.  These range from little things like formatting (embarrassing stuff like when to indent and when not to) and big things like pursuing the best cover and book blurbs possible. Everything has to be taken into account before and after publishing your work. To anyone who I may have scared off, let me reassure you: once you get the process down, it’s a lot of fun, and the feeling you get when you progress is indescribable.

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

Josh: Great question, and I think I have an answer that ties into both: Never shy away from help in life, including your writing. Having an outside opinion is key to making your work better, which is ironic considering the ‘do-it-yourself’ nature of self-publishing. Also, the necessity of sticking to your guns on certain things in life, as well as writing. It’s important to edit, but if there’s a scene, piece of dialogue, or character choice you strongly feel is relevant to your book, don’t budge on it.

Sheri: Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

Josh: First, find the right editor because they’ll see things you missed even after you’ve read your book a thousand times. Secondly, be patient. It’s rare for an author to be a hit overnight. Instead of worrying about making it big, focus on writing your next book. The fruits of your labor will shine through as long as you continue to move forward.

Sheri: What do you like to do in your free time?

Josh: I LOVE going to the movies. In fact, no matter how bad the film is, I have never walked out of a film. It’s such an awesome experience to watch a movie on the big screen and to me no amount of speakers and 100-inch TVs can compare. I also like to try new beers and bourbons, so when I have the money I try to visit local breweries. Last but not least, I love a trip to the comic shop.

Sheri: So, what’s next, do you have another project in the works?

Josh: My God, a whole lot! I’ve already written a sequel to Reverence which I am very proud of. A preview of it is provided in both print and Kindle editions of my first book, Reverence, and it greatly expands on the world. Readers can expect it to be released around April of this year. I’m also in the works of writing a prequel to the Reverence saga. I can’t say much, but what I can say is that you can expect it to be released this year as well. The prequel will focus on familiar characters like Robert Neeson, Captain Halsey, and Chancellor Venloran, but the main focus is on Will’s wife and daughter, Julissa and Zaneta. The story will explore the early stages of the UNR-rebel conflict.

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

Josh: Indeed I do. The site is http://jlanderos5.wixsite.com/joshualanderos, although if you just Google ‘joshua landeros wix’ you’ll find it. I recommend readers check it out since I have a blog on there, a list of all my reviews, and a link to my YouTube account, where I talk movies and more.

Sheri: Where can readers purchase Reverence?

Josh: Right now, I believe it is exclusively on Amazon, but both print and Kindle versions are available so readers can pick which ever they choose. I myself prefer the feeling of a book in your hands, but I understand Kindle readership is expanding rapidly.

Sheri: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers today?

Josh: I just want to say thank you for the opportunity to talk with you. It was a lot of fun! As for the readers, read on my friends, and as for the writers, keep on pursuing it. No matter how big or small the idea, see it through to the end.

Sheri: Josh, thank you so much for joining us today! I really enjoyed getting to know more about you and your work.

Josh: Thank you.

Read review of Reverence
Visit authors website

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“Tangled Trails” by W. Floyd Elliott

tangledtrailsTANGLED TRAILS

W. Floyd Elliott
Outskirts Press (2016)
ISBN 9781478769088
Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views (02/17)

W. Floyd Elliott the author, now past his mid-eighties, reminisces about growing up in the 1930s and 1940s in his memoir, “Tangled Trails.” Growing up in East Texas among extended family provided him a lot of stories to share. Times were a lot different back then–some good ways, and some not so good ways, yet still very interesting to read. Because Elliott turned out well, many of his stories are also tributes to people who had a positive influence on his life. The biggest tribute is the dedication of this book to his wife, with whom he shared sixty-six years of marriage.

Elliott’s tales range from being chased by an alligator while investigating an abandoned graveyard, to watching artificial respiration being performed on his chicks after they had almost drowned. Castrating roosters by reading the directions from a manual was another unique tale! Getting involved with mischief kept Elliott’s life interesting in a way that was fun but didn’t involve really doing anything bad. An example of this is a story about him gaining the title of King of the Sewers! There are also heartwarming remembrances about animals that had an impact on his life, including a horse named Tony. Health care back in those days was also very different. Some examples included having to be quarantined because of scarlet fever, and another one was using kerosene to treat a nail wound in his foot. Things are done very differently today, and in this case, it is probably for the better!

While it would seem like this would only be a perfect book for Elliott’s family members, I must say that I fully enjoyed stepping back in time and feeling as if I was listening to the author narrate as I read along, even though I am not related. It is refreshing to read about adventures that took place during a time before technology, when youth could go out and create memories that didn’t involve being chained to a television or social media. In addition to be an engaging story, “Tangled Trails” by W. Floyd Elliott shows us that wonderful memories can be created and still shared over seventy years later!

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“Power Your Career: The Art of Tactful Self-Promotion at Work” by Richard Dodson and Nancy Burke

poweryourcareerPOWER YOUR CAREER: THE ART OF TACTFUL SELF-PROMOTION AT WORK

Richard Dodson, Nancy Burke
Beaver’s Pond Press, Inc. (2016)
ISBN 9781592987030
Reviewed by Josh Cramer for Reader Views (02/17)

When I first saw this book, “Power Your Career: The Art of Tactful Self-Promotion at Work” by Richard Dodson and Nancy Burke, I wasn’t sure what to think. “The Art of Tactful Self-Promotion?” What is that? I’ve always been at odds with the idea of promoting myself—it just seems wrong. I’ve always been taught to be humble. Of course, the tension with this is the central conceit of Dodson and Burke’s book: finding that line between showing what you do well while simultaneously showing you care about other people too. In fact, the authors argue that our career management is YOYO (You’re On Your Own) and ask this question: “Who cares more about your career progression than you do?” Of course, the answer is “No one.”

In that vein, the book reminded me of others like, “Accelerate Your Impact” by JJ DiGeronimo, and, “Wait, How Do I Write This Email” by Danny Rubin. How Dodson and Burke set their book apart, though, is by dividing the book into three sections that mirror the three skills needed to tactfully promote yourself: (Step 1: Position Yourself; Step 2: Cultivate Strategic Relationships; Step 3: Increase Your Visibility). While these skills alone are great concepts, the authors further subdivide them into easier to accomplish ideas and tasks. The end of each chapter includes a section called “Take Action to Power Your Career.” For example, at the end of Chapter 1 (Be Worthy), you are asked to do simple tasks like think of things you already do to make you worthy of self-promotion and staying current on trends in your profession. These tips have already paid off in my own career. Of course, I believe all professional/career/personal development books these days should include sections like this as self-reflection and action is the only way any change can occur.

The authors’ best decision, though, is their decision to include the stories of four people at different points in their careers, where they were without the books’ concepts, and where they got because they practiced the ideas presented in the book. These stories include a marketing director wanting to get international experience, an independent consultant struggling to build his business, a recent Human Resources graduate trying to get her foot in the door, and a desperate, recently laid-off IT professional.

Many of us probably find ourselves in similar shoes; perhaps you have as well? Have you ever felt passed over for a promotion or a position that you know you deserved? Even if not, you have probably put yourself down in a way when you should have built yourself up. In any of these situations, I highly recommend this book for you (and me, too).

I feel this quote may sum up how you can use “Power Your Career: The Art of Tactful Self-Promotion at Work” by Richard Dodson and Nancy Burke: “I cannot say whether things will get better if we change; what I can say is, they must change if they are to get better.” Do you need a change?

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“My Journey Through War and Peace” by Melissa Burch

myjourneythroughwarandpeaceMY JOURNEY THROUGH WAR AND PEACE

Melissa Burch
Gaia Press (2016)
ISBN 9780989342971
Reviewed by David K. McDonnell for Reader Views (02/17)

“My Journey Through War and Peace” by Melissa Burch is the author’s memoir of her experiences in the 1980s, including her freelance filmmaking in Afghanistan and the Soviet Union. It also includes her strained relations with her family, her loves at home and abroad, and her quest to find independence and self-identity.

Her retelling of the Afghanistan experience is the best element of the book, by far. At only 21, she went to Afghanistan to film the Afghan-Soviet war. She was assigned by an Afghani leader to a seven-man mujahedeen unit. The unit was ordered to ambush a Soviet convoy so she could film it for an American and British audience. Burch did shoot an ambush, with the Afghan destruction of a Soviet truck and the Soviet destruction of an Afghan village. Burch later shot footage of an already-downed Soviet helicopter. CBS News spliced the footage of the small ambush and the helicopter scene, together with someone else’s training footage, to present it as a much larger battle.

Burch returned to Afghanistan a few years later to track down a story of local cease-fire. A local mujahedeen leader and his Soviet Red Army counterpart tacitly agreed to stop fighting. It appeared to be an amazing story, and Burch had to cross the treacherous mountains from Pakistan to get it. She got the story, with the necessary film, but no one wanted to air it. It simply did not fit the network’s narrative for what was going on in the war.

Both Afghan stories, as well as a later film expedition in the Soviet Union, are told crisply and with surprising detail – surprising since the book was written decades after the experiences. They also lay the foundation for her life journey, since her dangerous and arduous reporting was unappreciated by network news.

Burch mixes the overseas stories with remembrances of her home life in Washington, D.C., and her return trips to visit her family. Her relationship with her mother was especially poignant. The mother was an alcoholic and sometimes overbearing. She was also the family breadwinner and a feminist and, ultimately, an inspiration to the author.

The author’s father was a Zen Buddhist, as the author eventually becomes. The book is designed, in part, as Burch’s quest for spirituality, which ultimately leads her to Zen Buddhism. In this area, I felt the book didn’t quite get there. There is little of her experiences in the 1980s that would inexorably lead one to Zen. Perhaps her memoirs of the next decades might fill in this gap.

Unless the author is already rich and famous, it is difficult to make a memoir entertaining or engrossing. Yet Burch does a wonderful job in translating her personal experiences, though decades past, into a compelling and inspiring story.

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