“Please Stay: A Brain Bleed, A Life in the Balance, A Love Story” by Greg Payan


Greg Payan
CreateSpace (2017)
ISBN 9781540493736
Reviewed by Kimberly Luyckx for Reader Views (11/18)

“Please Stay: A Brain Bleed, A Life in the Balance, A Love Story” reads like a piece of personal history. By incorporating intimate email and text record communiqués, its author Greg Payan chronicles the tragic event that would change his life forever.

At age 39, Payan’s fiancée, Holly, experiences a ruptured brain aneurysm that leads to severe neurological and systemic complications. As Payan explains, a brain bleed is difficult to survive from let alone attain any type of recovery. Their catastrophe is fully laid out and explained at the book’s beginning, however, it is the details and repercussions of the ordeal that make up the story. Author Payan maintains that the notes he received from friends and family were “like oxygen” to him on his most dismal days. Believing these communications to be the backbone of his experience, he uses them as the foundation for a book that proves that it isn’t so much the event that grants us transformation but the journey itself.

Initially, as I skimmed through the pages of Payan’s memoir I anticipated a superficial record of messages from various people associated with the couple. However, this book is more than just a catalog of correspondences. There are photos of Holly appearing throughout the memoir along with copies of handwritten notes that she scribbles while going through her trauma. In addition, there are the words that Payan himself pens.

Right from the start, the author’s dedication and prologue create the heartstrings that bind you to this harrowing journey. Scattered between the emails, texts, medical documents, doctor’s reports, and statistics are Payan’s own thoughts, observations, and experiences. They provide a critical insight into the emotionality of the situation and lend a chilling reality to the account. As a reader, I felt as though I were a direct witness to the couple’s predicament. While the woman he loves fades in and out of consciousness, Payan is dedicated to keeping her from becoming a clinical number. He continues to hold onto the human connection and what Holly has meant to him and all of the friends and family she has impacted in the past.

This is a story of giving and receiving and how we need that symbiosis to survive. Greg Payan’s book, “Please Stay: A Brain Bleed, A Life in the Balance, A Love Story” is inspiring and would be a healing balm for anyone experiencing a traumatic health event. It is a tale of how the life of just one person can affect so many others. And, it is a reminder that every day should be lived to the fullest. Payan writes, “If her life was to end at thirty-nine, we had lived every bit of it. We had loved, laughed, eaten, drank, and given all we had to each day and to each other.” By the end of this account, you will feel as though you have gone on a long, significant journey – one that is filled with love, gratitude, and hope. It will lift you up and give you faith in human kindness.


Posted in Book Review, Books, Memoir & Biography, Non-Fiction, Relationships / Family / Parenting, Self-help / Motivational / Inspiration / Lifestyle | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

“The Staten Island Butcher” by George R. Hopkins


George R. Hopkins
CreateSpace (2018)
ISBN 9781723080418
Reviewed by Michel Violante for Reader Views (12/18)

“The Staten Island Butcher” by George R. Hopkins is the seventh book in his mystery/thriller series featuring brothers, Tom Cavanaugh and Jack Bennis.

The story begins when a girl named Sophia Bellini is kidnapped while she was jogging on the boardwalk in Staten Island, New York.  A month later Father Jack Bennis and his retired cop brother, Tom Cavanaugh meet an army veteran at a restaurant by the water, for lunch. Father Bennis had invited the now homeless veteran to lunch when he recognized him from his training camp during the Vietnam war. Their waitress recognizes Father Bennis from high school. He was her English teacher years before he became a Priest. Little did Father Bennis know that one of his former students would be the next girl to disappear later that rainy night as she accepted a ride home from a familiar face. Father Bennis and his brother decide to tackle the case on their own to find out what happened to his former high school student. They didn’t know she could have been another victim of the serial killer on the loose known to police as ‘The Staten Island Butcher.’ Nor that the homeless veteran would be considered as a suspect…

George R. Hopkins presents crime story fans with a well written who-done-it mystery. The intriguing story unravels through a lot of dialogue, which features the author’s skills in “showing vs. telling” the reader what happens through convincing writing.  The descriptions are on-point, providing clear pictures of local landscapes and settings, while also leaving room for individual imagination.

The characters are well developed, the interaction between the brothers both familiar and genuine. There are numerous plot twists to keep the reader engaged, though I would love to have seen a little more suspense. But, in all honesty, I still enjoyed this story as a five-star read!

Overall, I recommend “The Staten Island Butcher” by George R. Hopkins to all readers looking for a captivating mystery. Furthermore, I encourage them to check out all Hopkins’ other books featuring Father Bennis and Tom Cavanaugh…I know I will.

Posted in Book Review, Books, Fiction, Mystery / Thriller / Suspense | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

“Tears from Iron” by Jonathan Oldenburg


Jonathan Oldenburg
Autarch LLC (2018)
Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views (12/18)

“Tears from Iron” is the first book in the Memories of the Cataclysm series by Jonathan Oldenburg. This fantasy takes place in a land after a cataclysm was caused by a great war between gods. The war left the land devastated with natural disasters including earthquakes and floods. The Syraestari are immortal beings who broke an oath so that they could live on their own terms. Their terms involved binding others into slavery. The T’Okaedrin are the warrior brothers and the Pi’aernoth are the sisters who serve the Syraestari, which includes capturing others. The warrior brothers and sisters think that they are helping the children that are captured, because they are rescuing them from an uncivilized life. They also believe that the Scions and Wildmen are meant to be enslaved, until one day when a T’Okaedrin named Vistus wakes up to the truth and realizes that he and his people are also enslaved. Vistus has been sent undercover into the slave camps so that he can gather information on the secret locations of the enemy tribes. This will enable the tribes to either be enslaved or destroyed. In addition to learning about the people he is sent to betray, Vistus is also visited by powerful individuals who help wake him up to the truth of his own reality. He discovers that he has within him, the power to be a powerful sorcerer. Vistus struggles with the truth, because it goes against everything that he has been taught and he must decide which side he is going to be on.

“Tears from Iron” is a classic that fans of military or epic fantasies will enjoy immersing themselves in. The author Jonathan Oldenburg has done a fantastic job of creating a land where there are different factions of people who are dealing with warring against each other and huge natural disasters. Throwing magic into this mix adds a great deal more to the drama.

In addition to the fantastical aspects of the story, it is also enjoyable to watch the characters evolve. This especially applies to the protagonist. As he learns the truth about being enslaved, his character experiences a paradigm shift, and he not only changes his attitude towards people whom he thought were below him, but he goes further and accepts them as if they were his own family.  The land is also described in wonderful detail. Fantastic cataclysmic events are happening as the story progresses. I found it interesting and unsettling to be reading about earthquakes, while I was experiencing several where I live!

I also appreciated that there is a true ending to the story, instead just being cut off and leaving readers hanging, as some sagas do. The author did leave room for the readers to see that another adventure will follow. There is a lot of violence in this story, however, I feel it is still appropriate for teens and adults. “Tears from Iron” by Jonathan Oldenburg is a large book, yet there is so much happening, the reading goes by quickly. At the end, I found myself wishing that the next one in the series was already available, because I didn’t want to leave this world! I look forward to the forthcoming adventure in this series.

Posted in Book Review, Books, Fantasy, Fiction | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

“Up On Game: From Robbing Banks to Stacking Bitcoin” by Richard Stanley


Richard Stanley
Melrose & Main Publishing (2018)
ISBN 9781732141711
Reviewed by Araceli Noriega for Reader Views (12/18)

“Up On Game: From Robbing Banks to Stacking Bitcoin” by Richard Stanley is a memoir about a man who grew up in an impoverished community and went on to live in wealth and privilege outside of said community as an adult. The author shares selected stories of his youth when he lived with his family in a neighborhood largely targeted by the local police, especially the youth and minority families. He then describes at length, what his stay in the California correctional system was like as a young man. The book dedicates the last 30 pages to the author’s life after prison.

I think the author is very effective sharing his version of events from childhood to the present. He writes as honestly as possible, with a unique perspective, and passionate tone. Readers will know what he truly feels and thinks throughout the book.

The author is not an experienced writer, conventionally speaking. However, that doesn’t necessarily interfere with the content. There are only a few places where the narrative seems to transition awkwardly from one topic to another. The language used in this book is honest and perhaps will be offensive to some readers in a few places. However, as this is it a memoir about the author’s experiences, it only makes sense to keep the raw language and explicit situations described.

This book is written for anyone interested in learning about how a capitalistic value system can affect a young person’s perception about what it means to be successful. Audiences interested in what prison life is like for many white men in the U.S. will also find this book informative.

I am personally familiar with several of the themes covered in this memoir (poverty, racism, classism, the San Diego community, cholo life and culture) and I definitely had strong feelings as I read this memoir. My favorite part of this book was in the beginning when the author talks about what his family was like and how they treated each other. My second favorite part was when the book finally ended, as there were too many points where I was disheartened at the clear exploitation of racial privilege on behalf of the author. While it is evident that there are systemic barriers in place to ensure that men like Mr. Stanley always live in poverty, I equally believe that there was a lack of personal responsibility for the consequences of his actions.

I recommend this book to anyone interested about prison life in the U.S. from a heteronormative perspective. Many of the systemic problems within the prison system are described in this memoir. This book is also recommended to readers interested in what life was like for a “latchkey kid” in the 90s.

Richard Stanley’s memoir “Up On Game: From Robbing Banks to Stacking Bitcoin” is a quick and raw read largely dedicated to life in the California correctional system. Readers will see a man who regularly looks for an opportunity to survive despite the abundance of hopelessness and injustice. Unexpectedly, the writer only thinly disguises certain experiences as true accounts at different points of the story. Readers may ask themselves, “For what reason?” Perhaps he is protecting loved ones? Or himself. Or maybe he just wants to keep his audience guessing, and therefore entertained. Still, Mr. Stanley does what so many of us only dream of doing—he tells his story and he makes himself vulnerable regardless of the judgments that complete strangers will undoubtedly feel entitled to make about him. One can only respect and honor such courage.

Posted in Book Review, Books, Business, Memoir & Biography, Non-Fiction | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

“After the Darkness” by Rev. Candace Nadine


Rev. Candace Nadine Breen
Independently Published (2018)
ISBN  9781983312656
Reviewed by Jennifer Wilson for Reader Views (11/18)

“After the Darkness” is a succinct re-telling of one woman’s terrible abuse and neglect at the hands of the very people who were trusted to love and nurture her.

Rev. Candace Nadine Breen suffered enough heartbreak for a lifetime by the time she made it to high school. Born into a confusing and large family of half-siblings, she was later abandoned by her mother and left to be raised by her disabled father. Her father, a man with a third-grade education, does not value his daughter or her desire to better herself. Her father controls every aspect of her life and tries to make sure she is so far down on herself that she will always have to be there for him. His needs, wants, and desires are all that matter.

I was touched by the way Candace always seemed to love others, even when most people would agree that hatred would be justified, maybe even deserved. Her will to not only survive, but to thrive after each set-back is inspiring. I finished this book in a weekend because I just had to know how this brave woman’s life turned out. The story pulled me in and held my attention. I loved the addition of song lyrics and poetry that seemed to be written with her story in mind.

That being said, I felt as though the book could definitely use some more fine-tuning. The story is there and very powerful, but the writing was sometimes choppy. I also found a few typographical errors that I would suggest being corrected to make this book flow more smoothly. I cannot imagine what a huge undertaking writing a book is, much less self-publishing. I just feel like this could be a much bigger success with a little more editing.

“After the Darkness” by Rev. Candace Nadine Breen really made me go back through my memory and think about some of the classmates I have had throughout the years. What kind of life did they have at home? It reminded me that we aren’t all blessed with parents who know how to love and protect us. That not all children are allowed to simply be children, and this world can be a cold and cruel place. But, as Candace has proven, faith in God can help you overcome that which seems hopeless.

Posted in Book Review, Books, Memoir & Biography, Non-Fiction | Leave a comment

“Rogue Waves” by J.A. Anderson


J.A. Anderson
Independently Published (2018)
ISBN 9781980263791
Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views (11/18)

“Rogue Waves” is an exciting romantic suspense by J.A. Anderson. When Sienna wakes up from being unconscious and finds herself held captive on a ship, she knows that her life as a forensic accountant will be forever changed. Miami crime boss Contrada believes that she was given important information regarding access to records and journals that he does not want to be in anyone else’s hands. Sienna has no idea what he is talking about, however, she does remember finding a strange slip of paper with a code on it, after a man accidentally bumped into her. As she recollects, she saw his deceased body in the limo that she was thrown into when she was kidnapped. Her photographic memory saved those numbers, but she is terrified to admit that she has them.

Sienna is also guarded by a man named Colt, who is an enigmatic character. Initially she tries to fight her attraction to him because he handles her roughly. As the adventure continues, she learns that he is working undercover for a Rogue Alpha team. She soon finds herself falling for him while trying to help the team locate the hidden records. All but one team member finds themselves taking her under their wing and trying to protect her. None of them are safe because someone close to their group is feeding Contrada information. The team unites to try to find answers, while also trying to stay alive. Meanwhile, the attraction between Colt and Sienna continues to grow and they have to figure out what they are going to do with it, because their regular lives are very different.

“Rogue Waves” is the first book in the Rogue Series. Author J.A. Anderson did a wonderful job creating a fast-paced romantic suspense. She brings the characters to life with vivid descriptions about their looks and personalities. The heroine’s character is developed so that she is able to step into a new role that brings a great deal of danger and excitement to her life. It appears that this is the life for which she was created. This includes her relationship with the hero. Everything was muted until the sparks created between the two start to fly. This aspect of the story adds even more to the actual adventure that is taking place. Readers of romantic suspense with love this. They will also enjoy Sienna’s comradery with the team. Most female readers will enjoy picturing themselves in her shoes! I highly recommend reading this novel and also suggest that it be considered for a reader’s group selection.

Posted in Book Review, Books, Fiction, Romance, Romantic Suspense | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

“Cockloft: Scenes from a Gay Marriage” by Kyle Thomas Smith


Kyle Thomas Smith
Gatekeeper Press (2018)
ISBN 9781642372168
Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views (11/18)

A “cockloft” is defined as “a small loft or attic.” Urban Dictionary has another definition, but I will leave it at this one. In “Cockloft: Scenes from a Gay Marriage,” the author, Kyle Thomas Smith shares stories with us that are inspired by his personal life. They range from adventures in his childhood through his life with his husband Julius. Kyle and Julius take us from their home that has a cockloft in New York City, through their exotic travels around the world, to their Theater Loft in San Francisco.

After being able to share much of Kyle’s life with him through his literary adventures, I felt like I found a new friend. Unfortunately, he knows nothing about me, so if I were to approach him on the street, he would probably think I was a stalker. However, I truly enjoyed his writings. Not only are the stories funny, but there is also a heartwarming touch to them, especially regarding his family and his life with Julius.  Having grown up on the east coast, I found it easy to relate to the vivid descriptions and behaviors of the locals. It was also fun to see their perspectives, especially as a gay couple, traveling through Sri Lanka, Italy and Denmark. I haven’t been to any of those places yet, but if I go, I will be going in armed with some knowledge, especially if I decide to smoke hashish in Amsterdam.

I made the mistake of starting “Cockloft: Scenes from a Gay Marriage,” on a Saturday afternoon. It was cold outside, (southern California cold) and I wanted to curl up with a good story. Once I immersed myself in these pages, I did not want to stop reading! This was much to the dismay of my boyfriend, who was wanting to go out and have fun on a Saturday night. I had to tell him I was fighting a cold and wanted to stay in so that I could keep reading. There was some truth to that, but if I hadn’t started the book, I know I would have gone out.

As a result of my enjoyment of this book, I highly recommend “Cockloft: Scenes from a Gay Marriage,” by Kyle Thomas Smith to readers who enjoy works that are creative and funny. This would make a great selection for a reader’s group and a wonderful gift for someone who needs something that will put a smile on his or her face.

Posted in Book Review, Books, Fiction, Humor | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment