“The History Major: A Novella” by Michael Phillip Cash

thehistorymajorTHE HISTORY MAJOR: A NOVELLA

Michael Phillip Cash
CreateSpace (2015)
ISBN 9781518893797
Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views (09/16)

In “The History Major” by Michael Phillip Cash, college student Amanda wakes up one morning, after a night of heavy partying; realizing things seem strangely different from yesterday. She barely recalls the night before, she just knows that she said things she shouldn’t have said to her boyfriend, and they broke up. Feeling totally off kilter, she finds herself in a history class that she was sure she never signed up for, with a teacher that looks like remarkably like Aristotle. Not a fan of history, Amanda is very upset at being in this class. When a friendly stranger named Nick seems to take her under his wing, she feels better, but she still wants to be back in what she knows to be her reality, so that she can mend things with her boyfriend.

In “The History Major” by Michael Phillip Cash, college student Amanda wakes up one morning, after a night of heavy partying; realizing things seem strangely different from yesterday. She barely recalls the night before, she just knows that she said things she shouldn’t have said to her boyfriend, and they broke up. Feeling totally off kilter, she finds herself in a history class that she was sure she never signed up for, with a teacher that looks like remarkably like Aristotle. Not a fan of history, Amanda is very upset at being in this class. When a friendly stranger named Nick seems to take her under his wing, she feels better, but she still wants to be back in what she knows to be her reality, so that she can mend things with her boyfriend.

When three heavenly beings, Archangel Michael, St. Catherine, and St. Margaret visit Amanda, she realizes that things aren’t going to go back to normal. As the history lesson continues, Amanda finds herself thrown back into other lives, reliving moments that they experienced. This includes seeing things through the eyes of Joan of Arc and Lucrezia Borgia. Amanda doesn’t understand what they have to do with her and she is incredibly upset when these events trigger memories of abuse that she suffered at the hands of her stepbrother and the traumatic aftermath that followed when she finally reported him.

Slowly, Amanda begins to realize that reliving history can help heal her past. As she starts to understand the lessons set in place for her, she sees that healing from the trauma can help her move forward. She now has some decisions to make.

“The History Major: A Novella” by Michael Phillip Cash tells a unique tale. The author does a great job of taking us inside the mind of the troubled protagonist. Readers clearly see everything through Amanda’s eyes and are as confused as she is before she finally starts figuring things out. I would classify this book as a psychological horror because it utilizes elements of psychological suspense and fantastical horror. It is really a perfect blend of two genres. Fans of both will enjoy reading this novella and find themselves wishing it was a full-length novel!

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“Serenity’s Journey” by Linda K. Reed

serenitysjourneySERENITY’S JOURNEY

Linda K. Reed
Outskirts Press (2015)
ISBN 9781478755197
Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views (07/16)

In “Serenity’s Journey” by Linda K. Reed, the author shares the story of her journey after her husband’s death. Shortly after they married, Lindy’s husband Phil was diagnosed with terminal cancer. During the brief time they had together, she felt like he was her true soul mate. After his death, her experiences with him renewed that belief. Lindy and her family had spiritual encounters where Phil would appear and let them know he was still around.

When Lindy contacted a medium, the messages she received further cemented her belief that his love for her continued after his death. She experienced many beautiful encounters that helped her believe in both synchronicity and being able to communicate with those who have passed. Some of her sessions with the medium allowed her to communicate with other people that she had lost. However, it is her relationship with Phil that is the focus of this true love story.

“Serenity’s Journey” touched my soul in many ways. To me, this book is a huge reminder that there is so much more to our lives than just the mundane. It is important to keep our senses open so that we can receive messages from higher powers that give us clues about how we should be living our lives. It doesn’t have to be from a loved one, like Phil, but could be messages from anyone, including our own guides. Having personally just gone through a period of severe stress due to conditions at work, this book helped remind me that I need to center myself again and focus on my spiritual path so that things can fall back into place.

I am so glad to have had the opportunity to read “Serenity’s Journey” by Linda K. Reed. It is a beautiful love story, yet contains a message that goes beyond love. It is a reminder that there is so much more out there that expands far beyond our five senses. I truly hope that the magic continues for this author and that she continues to share her journey with us.

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“The Purpose Economy” by Aaron Hurst

thepurposeeconomyTHE PURPOSE ECONOMY

Aaron Hurst
Elevate (2016)
ISBN 9780996465526
Reviewed by Josh Cramer for Reader Views (09/16)

As an avid reader of professional development books and resources, I really wanted to like “The Purpose Economy” by Aaron Hurst. It has everything that should attract me:

·      Interesting chapter names like The 10 Drivers of the New Economy; Purpose Myth-Busting; Leading with Purpose; The Five Ways to Move a Market

·      Well-drawn comics exploring each focus of the book, from introducing the idea of purpose, to exploring it within our personal, organizational, and societal lives

·      Thorough checklists that help readers define and use their personal and societal purpose

As I read the book, though, instead of becoming more invested, I felt like I was being pushed away. At first, I thought that this book was not for me; instead that it was written for the author as a testimony to the great work that his nonprofit, Taproot, has accomplished. As you learn in the book, Taproot is an established organization that provides professionals an outlet for pro bono work.

However, the more I reread the book, the more I realized that I had originally missed the point. “The Purpose Economy” has many great ideas that can be used to jumpstart purpose in your own life and career. Each chapter is full of stories of companies and individuals who have sought out their purpose and found success, both in their career and lives (with a focus on how Taproot overcame its challenges). Hurst invites the reader to do the same through an update to the concept of “learning, earning, and returning” (which was originally explained as something that happens over a lifetime). Instead, Hurst encourages the reader to do all three simultaneously: to always be learning, which allows one to earn more, while at the same time taking care of the people in our communities through becoming a purpose-focused organization, volunteering, or helping in some way that ties into their unique who, how, and why.

Overall, the stories in “The Purpose Economy” by Aaron Hurst are interesting and the comics unique (I had never seen anything like that in this type of book before) and I have to admit that (like Hurst mentions) purpose is not generally revealed in an instant, but over a lifetime of trial and error. In the end, though, this book shows why an organization like Taproot works: it is a work of passion. I believe his final sentence says it all: “I realized that in founding Taproot, I had found myself” (232). It is only when we find our purpose that we ever really know ourselves.

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“That’s Special: A Survival Guide to Teaching” by Dan Henderson

thatsspecialTHAT’S SPECIAL: A SURVIVAL GUIDE TO TEACHING

Dan Henderson
Outskirts Press (2015)
ISBN 9781478752455
Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views (07/16)

A career in education that covers three different inner city schools provided author Dan Henderson the experience to write, “That’s Special: A Survival Guide to Teaching.” Through this book, he teaches teachers how to improve their skills in the classroom, especially when dealing with some very unique students. He begins each chapter detailing a very entertaining situation that happened in the classroom and then offers tools to help others in similar situations. Most of the situations discussed are the kind that you might not find so entertaining in the moment, but you know that you will laugh about them some day. Keeping humor in the classroom is a great way to avoid burnout, and in many cases, it is a necessity for the teacher in order to get through the day.

I love that the ten teaching tools offered are all very concise and not just opinions. Many are backed up with resources like links to websites, and some offer citations. The author’s enthusiasm radiates throughout the pages, in spite of having a career with special education students in inner city schools. It doesn’t get much tougher than that, and for someone to figure out how to resolve classroom issues and still maintain their sense of humor is a huge gift. Some of his suggestions will also help you prevent the situation before it occurs.

As a college instructor of students with disabilities, I have experienced many moments in the classroom that I will truly never forget. Most of them are ones that I can laugh about now, but I still have a few that weren’t so funny for me. Having an opportunity to learn some new skills, especially in the area of classroom management is wonderful.

I have already messaged two friends who are in the K-12 system to let them know that they need to read, “That’s Special” by Dan Henderson immediately. I have to admit they do share some entertaining stories with me of which they are not at the point where they can laugh yet, so I have to chuckle quietly. Maybe, I need to go ahead and send them this highly recommended book!

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“It Only Hurts When I Can’t Run” by Gewanda J. Parker

itonlyhurtswhenicantrunIT ONLY HURTS WHEN I CAN’T RUN

Gewanda J. Parker
MSI Press (2015)
ISBN 9781933455808
Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views (08/16)

“It Only Hurts When I Can’t Run” by Gewanda J. Parker, tells the story of a young girl, abused and then abandoned by her drug-addicted mother. When she wasn’t left alone to care for her siblings, Oma was usually placed in situations where she was either abused or neglected. Even when her materialistic needs were being met, her emotional needs often were not. Fortunately, there were a few people in her world that she knew loved her and that she could trust them

Her above average intelligence most likely helped Oma with her survival skills. Constantly being moved around and changing schools was difficult, especially when she had to defend herself for having a mom that was an addict. No matter where she lived, Oma was often victimized in some way, whether it was neglect, sexual abuse, physical abuse, or rape, she rarely felt able to let her guard down or felt safe. The neglect and abuse on the part of her mother was also demoralizing. She couldn’t trust the one person who was supposed to love her unconditionally. In spite of the heart-wrenching moments in Oma’s life, she still managed to work through the things that happened to her and not only did she become a very successful woman, she also was able to put what she learned from her experiences to use in helping others.

“It Only Hurts When I Can’t Run” affected me to my core. Working with adult students who survived some really bad childhoods like Oma’s helped me to relate to her story. Seeing that she was able to forgive her mother at the end was very inspirational to me, because I am not sure that I could have done this after what she had done to her. Oma inspired me because, being able to forgive her mother and separate the person that she was from the addiction allowed her to heal and grow so that she could direct her energy towards helping others. Gewanda J. Parker taught me a lesson in humility, and for that, I am humbled.

I highly recommend that counselors, therapists, and survivors of abuse read “It Only Hurts When I Can’t Run” by Gewanda J. Parker. There are lessons in it to be learned by all.

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“How is Dan Doing?” by Margo Davidson

howisdandoingHOW IS DAN DOING?

Margo Davidson
Outskirts Press (2014)
ISBN 9781478734222
Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views (09/16)

In “How is Dan Doing?” author Margo Davidson recounts her personal experiences of raising a child who has Antisocial Personality Disorder (APD). In sharing her life with us, we gain a better understanding of how the disorder not only affects the person with it but also family and friends. Dan was an adopted child raised in a loving normal environment. In spite of this, he began displaying symptoms of the disorder when he was young. As he aged, it became more apparent that something wasn’t right. He followed many of the patterns of the disorder, however, not the ones that society tends to use to stereotype someone with APD. He was not violent, nor did he seem to be heavily involved with drugs (characteristics society tends to put on violent criminals).

Dealing with Dan was very difficult for his immediate family. There were moments when he would shine and they would let their guard down. Shortly after doing so, he would revert to his old patterns, which included stealing from them and writing bad checks on their accounts. Confrontation would follow these instances and then the family wouldn’t hear from him for a while. Like other people that I know who have a family member with this disorder, they keep giving them a chance to change, but the patterns continue and the families are let down.

In addition working professionally with people who have APD, I also have a family member diagnosed with it. He is so much like Dan, versus the people with the disease that often make the news. At this time, he has cut all family members off, including his own young children. It is extremely painful to have a person like this in the family. I still care about his well-being, so I check in on him from a Facebook account that he doesn’t know I have (and hasn’t blocked me from).  I appreciate Margo Davidson sharing her story because I think that there are more families out there, like mine, who will be able to relate to her experience.

There are no easy answers with this disorder, but I think a lot of readers will learn from Margo Davidson’s life lessons in “How is Dan Doing?”

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“Blacktip Island” by Tim W. Jackson

blacktipislandBLACKTIP ISLAND

Tim W. Jackson
Devonshire House Press (2016)
ISBN 9780991033287
Reviewed by David K. McDonnell for Reader Views (07/16)

Article first published as Book Review: ‘Blacktip Island’ by Tim W. Jackson on Blogcritics.

“Blacktip Island” by Tim W. Jackson is a fascinating, well-written story. The lead character is an almost-inadvertent embezzler from the United States who seeks anonymity in a small (fictional) Caribbean island. The island, it turns out, is inhabited almost entirely by others hiding from their pasts. They work as cooks, barmaids, charter captains, dive masters, cottage landlords, and they share cheap flats — and each hides a secret, which is unveiled slowly throughout the novel. It is their interaction, and the gradual reveal, which makes the story such an interesting read.

The setting is almost as important as the characters. Perhaps most of us envision a life on a Caribbean island. “Blacktip Island” shows us some of its shortcomings – inadequate housing, intrusive landlords, quirky neighbors, and the lack of privacy, which should be expected with life on a small island. But, it is nevertheless the stuff of fantasy, which, in turn, makes good fiction.

“Blacktip Island” is otherwise a bit difficult to classify. It is an adventure story, to an extent, and a mystery, to a lesser extent. There is a plot – the hero attempting to avoid detection, eco-terrorists trying to stop construction of a new airport, a beautiful bartender keeping her own secrets, and hunts for a pirate treasure, each overlapping within the story. But, the story is less driven by a plot than by the characters and the idyllic setting.

The book’s opening paragraph sets the story’s tone, and also illustrates the author’s voice:

Blake Calloway had really done it this time. Here he was trying his damnedest to blend in with the scuba tourists until he could stash the bricks of money he wasn’t supposed to have, and now everyone on the boat was watching him. It couldn’t be helped, though. The bonehead needed rescuing.

The “bonehead” was another diver. The protagonist’s successful rescue enabled his transition from island tourist to resort dive master – and immersion into the soap opera lives of the island locals. And, it is the lives of the island locals that makes the story so engrossing.

“Blacktip Island” by Tim W. Jackson is, indeed, an entertaining tale of the misadventures of expatriates on an island, which should be, but is not quite paradise.

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