“Tara” by J.G. Possum

TaraTARA

J. G. Possum
Outskirts Press (2018)
ISBN 9781432734602
Reviewed by Skyler Boudreau for Reader Views (2/19)

“Tara” by J.G. Possum is a sci-fi novel following a group of men and women who have fled the planet Earth in the midst of an atomic war between nations. After traveling for fourteen months on their spaceship Aquarius, they reach a new planet they name Tara. Finding a new planet is not the end of their journey together though. Now they must build a new civilization and navigate new relationships with Tara’s current population.

Of Tara’s two continents, one is already spoken for upon the arrival of the Aquarius. The more hospitable Southern Continent, eventually named Erona, is inhabited by the Eron, an alien species that fled their own planet long ago. They allow the humans to attempt settling on the dangerous Northern Continent, which they name Earthland. One of the most interesting parts of this novel is watching the two nations navigate a tentative alliance. The Eron are cautious, having been taken advantage of before, but the humans are desperate to rebuild their civilization on Tara and must find a way to live in peace with their new neighbors. Watching the new diplomatic ties being formed and negotiated is thrilling.

The real story begins after the Aquarius has landed on Earthland. Building a new country is no easy task, and readers are taken through the process step by step. From forming a new government, to creating a monetary system, to actually building Earthland’s first city, the audience gets to witness a new society being born.

As readers follow Earthland’s birth and watch the new country’s leaders attempt to cement their people’s place on Tara, they will perhaps notice a flaw within the story; there is a lack of conflict. Earthland’s leaders never disagree with each other and their constituents are willing to go along with every decision they make. Lack of conflict is a problem that permeates other areas of “Tara” as well but is most prevalent in scenes between members of Earthland’s first designated governing body. Disagreements and tension between the government leaders would add another layer to the novel’s plot as well as add a more realistic element. Every government has some faction of the constituency it represents that stands against it, no matter how popular it is with the majority. In “Tara,” resolution comes far too easily to the protagonists in every circumstance.

“Tara” by J.G. Possum is an interesting case. While it is presented as a science fiction story, more emphasis is placed on building civilizations and creating a history for a new society. I greatly enjoyed those aspects of the novel. I could definitely see it becoming favorite of nonfiction/culture buffs looking to get into the fiction scene.

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“What Some Would Call Lies” by Rob Davidson

WhatSomeWouldCallLiesWHAT SOME WOULD CALL LIES

Rob Davidson
Five Oaks Press (2018)
ISBN 9781944355470
Reviewed by Sheri Hoyte for Reader Views (2/19)

“What Some Would Call Lies” by Rob Davidson is a fascinating collection of two novellas that delve into memory versus lies and how our lenses change to accommodate and mold our unconscious desires into creative, new “realities.”

I knew this would be fun as soon as I read the opening paragraph of the first story. In ‘Shoplifting, or How Dialectical Materialism Can Change Your Life,’ Monica Evans, a young author and mother is shopping in the boys’ toddler section of a discount department store. Discouraged by the stereotypical choices she heads over to the girls’ section, finally settling on a floral print dress for her young son because after all, “…if you must live your life as a cliché you could at least choose lavender.” (p. 11). Monica has issues that’s for sure – and that is the appeal of this novella. Readers experience the inner machinations of Monica’s mind as she eludes, deceives, denies, and challenges everything from the mundane existence of a “happy homemaker” to indulging in shoplifting adventures in the name of research (for the autobiography of her dead sister, which she is writing in first person). I’m not kidding, as soon as I finished this story, I wanted to read it again to go a little deeper and make sure I hadn’t missed any delightful nuggets of wit or hidden context.

The second novella, “Infidels,” sets a completely different mood as a classic coming of age story.  As Jackie Rose reflects on growing up in Duluth, Minnesota during the 70s, readers are transported directly into his world. Jackie takes us through a strained relationship with his father, his unrealized feelings of a teacher who inspired thinking outside the norm, and the magical wonders of getting to second-base with a take-charge-kinda-girl in the sixth grade – just to name a few.  His encounters will make you laugh, cry and everything in between as you sit there, incapable of doing anything other than reading straight through to the end. I loved this story.  Many of the characters sparked nostalgia for days seemingly lifetimes ago and made me wonder about some of my own childhood memories. Are they real? Imagined? A bit of both? And, how many of our perceived truths do we pass on to our children? This story really gets you thinking!

Both stories in this collection are extraordinary works that are a pure treat to read.  I highly recommend “What Some Would Call Lies” by Rob Davidson for a contemplative, eloquent reading experience certain to conjure up some of your own buried memories, real or imagined.

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“The Lupanarium” by Adele Leigh

TheLupanariumTHE LUPANARIUM

Adele Leigh
Crooked Berliner (2018)
ISBN 9781720246374
Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views (02/19)

“The Lupanarium” is the first book in ‘The Many Trials of Matt-Lin and Jak’ series by Adele Leigh.

In the time of Ancient Rome, Matt-Lin is a teenager who was kidnapped and recruited into sexual slavery as a child. She is famed for being the only child to survive the highest level of brutal and horrific training for prostitutes at the Lupanarium, a famous brothel. Matt-Lin has no memory of her past, but she carries an inner strength which her captors have been unable to touch. She lives a life of sexual servitude, from which others profit. She is not allowed to talk, eat nor sleep without rules being involved. She hides aspects of herself from others including her knowledge of other languages and her ability to read. When she is placed with another sex slave/gladiator named Jak, he tries to guide her so that she will survive, but it is hard for her to trust him because he has to rape her for the entertainment of others. Jak sees something in Matt-Lin that makes him uneasy. He suspects that she might be very dangerous. There is another person who also sees something in Matt-Lin, but what she sees makes her think that she knows who she really is. Meanwhile, Matt-Lin continues to follow her own agenda which ends up putting them all in danger.

The story, while it occurs during a different time period, reflects what is going on today with child sex trafficking. Children are treated brutally and if they manage to make it out alive, they have to live with the physical and emotional trauma that was done to them. In this story, both Matt-Lin and Jak are both damaged from having gone through similar abuses. Jak has more freedom than Matt-Lin, but they are both still enslaved and in servitude to others. Their freedom to be individuals has been taken from them. Even if they manage to escape or buy their way out, they will always be affected by the trauma done to them. I felt that this resonates with children who are being abused today.

This was a hard story to read because of the explicit nature. When I looked up information on the author, I could see that her motivation for writing this story was about how trauma affects victims. I would not recommend that a survivor read this novel unless they fully understand the scope of how graphic the sexual scenes are because this could be a trigger for them. It is extremely graphic and should only be read by mature adults.

I would like to read the future books in this series with the hope that at some point, Matt-Lin will be able to take full retribution out on the people that damaged her. “The Lupanarium” by Adele Leigh is a powerful read you won’t soon forget.

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“The Mind of a Deviant Woman” by Paula Paul

TheMindOfADeviantWomanTHE MIND OF A DEVIANT WOMAN

Paula Paul
Outskirts Press (2018)
ISBN 97814787988282
Reviewed by Kimberly Luyckx for Reader Views (8/18)

“The Mind of a Deviant Woman” by Paula Paul is a wonderful work of historical fiction documenting how a society’s effort to improve itself can lead to catastrophic consequences for the world.

The story begins in 1914 in Charlottesville, Virginia. Its main character, Carrie Buck, lives a Cinderella-like existence with her adopted family, the Dobbses. When she realizes her birth mother is the town’s most unfortunate citizen – a prostitute and drunk – she is fraught with embarrassment yet determined to keep a connection with her real kin.

When Carrie is slated to join her mother in a Colony for Epileptics and Feebleminded, she meets Louisa Van Patten, a researcher in the field of eugenics – a movement geared to regulate the social order and prevent the genetic spreading of specific traits through sterilization. Louisa’s discourse, “The Mind of a Deviant Woman,” supports the field of eugenics through the study of unfortunate women and their offspring. As Louisa digs deeper into Carrie’s situation, she comes in contact with Ben Newman, a newspaper columnist. Ben is wary of Louisa’s research and the implications it will have on society.

This is a book that should not be judged by its cover – literally. Its dark wrapper with the mysterious figure and the use of the word deviant may make you think it is filled with promiscuity and eroticism but it is far from that. It is a well-written piece of historical fiction that documents a time in the US when women could be judged by their misfortunate situations and labeled as feebleminded and unfit to mix in society. While there is some reference to prostitution in the book, the author does not delve into any graphic details and remains focused on the topic at hand.

The book’s character development is outstanding – the complexities of Paul’s main characters are well narrated through dialog and action. Her depiction is a study in contrast. Emma Buck, a homeless woman and the true unfortunate and sufferer of the story, Carrie Buck, her daughter who was rescued from her circumstances and brought to live in a middle-class home, and Louisa Van Patten, a privileged, educated woman who has the advantage to acquire whatever she can dream. Despite their apparent differences, the author paints them all as victims of a society that has no tolerance for their desires or needs. Each, in her own way, deviates from the norm.

The author’s leading man in the story, Ben Newman, is written as Louisa’s conscience. His viewpoint as a journalist is her inner voice prodding her to look more closely at the situation. Each time he expounds, “I ask you again, who gets to decide who’s unfit and why?” we are reminded that there is another side to this story – one in defense of human rights.

It is the connection of the author’s characters, through story and actual written correspondence that add grit and reality to this tale. The letters interspersed in “The Mind of a Deviant Woman” support the early 1900 timeframe and add to the story’s validity as a piece of historical fiction. I am thankful for Paula Paul’s research and for communicating the details of sterilization laws – to learn that they were never formally revoked is shocking. Although it is always horrific to learn that there are persons who deem parts of our society unworthy, it is not unfamiliar. This book is a great reminder that we should continue to stand up for what is right in a world tainted by unjust politics and corruption.

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“Romantic Illusions” Book Two – An Affair with Beauty: The Mystique of Howard Chandler Christy by James Philip Head

RomanticIllusionsROMANTIC ILLUSIONS
BOOK TWO – AN AFFAIR WITH BEAUTY: THE MYSTIQUE OF HOWARD CHANDLER CHRISTY

James Philip Head
North Loop Books (2019)
ISBN 9781545635278
Reviewed by Sheri Hoyte for Reader Views (2/19)

“Romantic Illusions” is the second book in the An Affair with Beauty trilogy by James Philip Head. An exquisite celebration honoring the life of Howard Chandler Christy, one of the most famous American artists and illustrators in the Jazz Era, this book is a piece of art in itself.

Howard Chandler Christy is perhaps best known for the “Christy Girl,” a representation of the ideal modern woman at the turn of the twentieth century.  His work encompassed a much wider scope than beautiful women however, because Howard Chandler Christy saw beauty in everything.  His creations include illustrations of events witnessed first-hand during the Spanish-American War, illustrations for magazines, posters aiding WWI recruitment efforts for the military, and portraits of some of the most well-known, powerful and influential people during the time period, including presidents and congressmen, movie stars, socialites, generals, etc.

“Romantic Illusions” covers Howard Chandler Christy’s life in the early years as he was making a name for himself as an illustrator, up to the time when he chooses his new profession in the art world as a portraitist.

I have to say I loved everything about this book from beginning to end!  Howard Chandler Christy was a figure larger than life. By documenting this life in such a beautiful manner, the author does justice not only to Christy’s legacy but to the art world and American history as well.

The story is told from the perspective of Howard’s wife, Nancy Palmer Christy, and the delivery is spell-binding.  Set in 1969, Nancy Palmer Christy is now an elderly woman, and as she reflects on her early days with Howard and their time together, she transports the reader back in time. I felt as though she was speaking to me directly. The inclusion of Howard’s voice interacting with Nancy throughout the narrative allows readers the opportunity to actually get inside his head, and by the end of the story readers will experience a familiar camaraderie with Howard, and actually with Nancy as well.

“Romantic Illusions” is a remarkable story and the author, James Philip Head, does an amazing job. Well-written, engaging, no – mesmerizing, the passion he has for his subject is undeniable. Going far beyond the bounds of typical research, one gets the impression James Philip Head somehow transported himself directly into the artist’s shoes, reliving Christy’s experiences first-hand. As a reader, I was moved and appreciated the attention to detail and the love that was put into keeping the legacy that is Howard Chandler Christy alive.

Further demonstrating the author’s passion for his work, he also includes a complete listing of the portraits painted by Christy during his lifetime in the back of the book. As per the author’s impeccable style, this is not a mere listing of names and dates – no, no.  Rather, he has taken the time to research the people in these portraits, regaling readers with interesting tidbits of their lives. I found this section to be fascinating!

As with everything else I’ve mentioned, the production quality of this book is superior – from the satiny pages to the gorgeous cover art and amazing photographs displayed throughout. I think it’s fair to say this book is a beautiful complement to any personal library.  I have my copy displayed on my coffee table, which has piqued the curiosity of many family members and friends, beginning with my young history graduate!

Everything about “Romantic Illusions,” book two in the An Affair with Beauty trilogy by James Philip Head is top-notch – a notable piece celebrating American culture, art, history, and beauty – and an extraordinary read.  Well done!

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“Poems of Love, from My Heart To Yours” by Kerry C. Irons

PoemsOfLovePOEMS OF LOVE, FROM MY HEART TO YOURS

Kerry C. Irons
Outskirts Press (2018)
ISBN 9781478795582
Reviewed by Susan Violante for Reader Views (01/19)

“Poems of Love, from My Heart To Yours” by Kerry C. Irons is a collection of poems about love all from the author’s life and heart. This collection is in a freestyle format where sometimes rhyme is used, and other times is not. Written in plain simple English, the reader can focus directly on the feelings and the messages shared by the author about love. From expressing his love for Rukayatu in ‘A Love Letter’ to the love of a grandmother in ‘My Granny’s Love,’ Kerry C. Irons’ poetry is not just a collection of poems, but little heartfelt stories that flow with a poem’s melody. Each one tells a love story from his heart, from his life. That is exactly what I loved about it.

Some of my favorites are ‘A poets Inspiration,’ ‘Understanding,’ and ‘My Heart.’ Below is another favorite of mine that is short enough for me to quote here to give an idea of the author’s simple, honest and heartwarming voice:

‘Today

Today I felt lost and alone.
Because my baby’s words were out of my reach.
My heart was wounded and bleeding, because

Her love runs through my veins as life giving blood.
The mere thought of being without her sends my world
spinning out of control.

But when I reached her again, she’s there holding on
to me.

And that’s when my heart sighed and said, love is love is love.

No matter the age, the shape, the size or color, love is love,
love is love.

You control all that is me, you are that which my eyes care
to see.

My lips, my lips long to press so ever softly against yours,
my eyes long only to see you.

My arms dream of surrounding you and not letting you go,
for a long, long while.
My heart jumps with anticipation of your heart being near.
My mind, my mind since you have appeared,
has never been really clear.

Your love is like the mighty storm clouds that roll through,
nothing stands in their way,
they can’t be stopped by the hand of man.
To God they will only give away.’

Overall, “Poems of Love, from My Heart to Yours” by Kerry C. Irons is heartfelt inspiration for love which will appeal to all poetry lovers. I recommend it to all readers who have been in love, who have loved, who have felt loved…but I especially recommend it to those in search of love.

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“Blossoming Hope” by Tonya D. Armstrong

BlossomingHopeBLOSSOMING HOPE: THE BLACK CHRISTIAN WOMAN’S GUIDE TO MENTAL HEALTH AND WELLNESS

Tonya D. Armstrong, Ph.D., M.T.S.
Overflowing Hope Media (2018)
ISBN 9780999389416
Reviewed by Valicia France for Reader Views (2/19)

Let me just start by saying I absolutely enjoyed reading “Blossoming Hope” by Tonya D. Armstrong. As a woman who identifies as a Christian, it is always a blessing to find a book that aids my spiritual journey—as we know, it is truly a never-ending process. However, what makes this book even more of a gem is its attention to the different challenges faced by women that are black and Christian. Dr. Armstrong has done a great job with the overall organization of the book, primarily focusing on four areas key to mental health and wellness: the mind, spirit, body, and soul. She touches on many issues—mental illness, microaggressions, financial concerns, lack of self-care, etc.—specifically in light of how many black women are impacted and provides solutions on how to address or face those issues while remaining connected to God.

A short quiz in the introduction helped determine which area I needed to focus on the most; however, I still read the book sequentially. Each section was supported by anecdotes recognizable by the black community, quotes from powerful and famous black women, scripture, data and other validated information, and my favorite, recordings by the author. With every lesson, I received guidance on how to achieve growth, develop good habits and overcome bad ones, all while looking toward the Creator.

I have many favorite things about this book. The author provides statistics on each topic applicable specifically to black women. I found this to be very important as black women often have a skewed view of mental health and wellness as it applies to them—the combination of being black and also a woman presents unique issues that Dr. Armstrong eloquently states in this book. In addition, the vignettes on the struggle with mental illness for the black women presented in Part One of this book each provided something that I could relate to.

Another favorite was the recordings provided on her Blossoming Hope website. The references to the recordings are littered throughout the book and were applicable to each section. I enjoyed every single one, witnessing that Dr. Armstrong is indeed a multitalented creative, but recordings #8 (The Jesus Prayer) and #9 (Keepin’ It 100 Prayer) literally took my breath away. The spiritual connection that I felt to God was more palpable while actively listening to both of those recordings than I have felt in a long time. While they would be powerful on their own, I believe they were even more so in the context of the lessons they were included in.

I even learned new spiritual concepts such as the kairos (which means God’s time) and an acronym (ACTS-L) that anybody can use for prayer, whether if you are new at prayer or a solid prayer warrior. There was a list of daily affirmations that I will be printing and incorporating into my daily activities. There is document referred to as the Blossoming Hope Tool that includes more than 100 cheap or free self-care ideas. I plan to print out this list, cut out each idea, and stick into a jar that I will randomly pick from as needed—because, as the author promotes, this “radical notion of self-care” (Chapter 18) maybe shouldn’t be that radical at all.

I am giving this book a 5-star rating for how accurately Dr. Armstrong portrayed the black woman and her challenges, for the skilled manner she has been able to incorporate so many topics in a way that was seamless and not overwhelming, for her thoughtfulness in the choice of quotes and development of her recordings and other resources.  I recommend this book for all black Christian women, whether strong in your faith or searching for a deeper connection with God. I even recommend this book for individuals seeking to gain insight into the struggles of black women from a Christian perspective.

Overall, I highly recommend “Blossoming Hope” by Tonya D. Armstrong for giving the ‘Strongblackwoman’ permission to take care of herself while growing in her spirituality.

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