“Sycophants” by Linda Gould

SYCOPHANTS

Linda Gould
Independently Published (2018)
ISBN 9781790874170
Reviewed by Carol Hoyer for Reader Views (06/19)

“Sycophants” by Linda Gould finds readers empathizing with Imogene Wittier, a small-town girl aspiring to be a famous Hollywood writer in a dead-end atmosphere. While putting her husband through law school, Imogene runs into her former college roommate Sara, who is back in town to establish a film production company.

Imogene jumps at the chance to work with Sara in what might be the most adventurous and problematic film ever. She becomes Sara’s confidante and assistant in an ambitious movie project about a youth revolution that threatens to engulf the nation’s capital. As the cast expands and the script evolves, the storyline flirts dangerously with reality. The filmmakers can’t predict whether the project will make their fortunes or shatter their lives.

I found the plot to be captivating with a full range of characters who show their true selves once they drop their public masks. The author piques readers interest when she chooses to have two dueling ministers staging a protest and trying to sabotage the filming to get their way. With excellent narratives from the characters, the author delivers detailed, sometimes tricky interpersonal relationships involving family and close friends.

Gould provides engaging insight into ruthless work relationships, with Sara’s office personnel, whom she trusts, stealing script ideas and presenting them as their own, not to mention some behind closed doors sexual affairs. As many of us can relate, it is a dog-eat-dog world, and some will do whatever is necessary to achieve their goal. I did have to laugh at the musical chairs theme about who would act as a receptionist while chaos runs amuck. Having worked in an environment where chaos reigns, it brought back vivid memories.

It was a turbulent time in America with the political undercurrents and anti-war feelings, and I felt the author touched on those feelings adequately in her writing. I found Gould’s portrayal of her characters with all their flaws to be realistic and many readers will relate to the characters.

Overall, I would recommend “Sycophants,” as Linda Gould provides a lot of action and many twists with political turmoil, drama and facing challenges while trying to maintain relationships.


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“Reaper’s Lament,” by Steven Lane Smith

REAPER’S LAMENT

Steven Lane Smith
Outskirts Press (2019)
ISBN 9781977209078
Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views (06/19)

“Reaper’s Lament,” by Steven Lane Smith contains a collection of about 45 spine tingling true stories of pilots who managed to outsmart the Grim Reaper. The stories are presented by pilots from varied backgrounds which include military, airline and bush pilots. Each chapter begins with an introduction about the person behind the story. In most cases, a photograph, the author’s name, military affiliation, rank, place where educated, and current career are all listed. There is usually a list of planes in which the individual has experience. If the pilot of a story has written books, this information is given at the end of the chapter. This gives readers an excellent opportunity to read more material by an author that triggers their interest. Each adventure is told from the perspective of the individual experiencing it. I love that each one is written in the pilot’s voice, so at times, I felt like I was being read to, rather than reading the words myself. The pages truly come to life when reading such harrowing accounts of what people have survived.

Many of the stories take place in the military. Readers who enjoy history will find themselves learning a lot about the experiences of pilots during times of war. There are also other stories that are involved with topics like inclement weather. I think those hit me the hardest because most of the things that went wrong, could easily happen to me on a flight. As I read, I was amazed as to what these men did to escape from deadly situations. In some cases, it was pure luck, in others their ingenuity was the key that helped them stay alive.

It was ironic that a few days before I started reading “Reaper’s Lament,” a Marine helicopter caught on fire at my local airport. Nobody was injured, but I must look at the burned-out shell of the helicopter every time I pass by. This is less than a half a mile from where a harrier jet pilot ejected right before his plane crashed into a home. Once again, no one was hurt, but as the case is with this book, I am reminded that the grim reaper doesn’t always get people who are in the air.  There are many lessons within these pages about not taking life for granted.

“Reaper’s Lament,” by Steven Lane Smith is a must read for people who enjoy non-fiction stories about aviation. I really enjoyed it and plan on gifting my father his own copy. Having been involved with aircraft carriers in the Navy, and a private pilot after he retired, he has quite a few of his own interesting stories to tell and I know he would really enjoy this book. This is a great gift for readers who have an aviation and/or military background.

Posted in Anthologies, Book by Book Publicity, Book Review, Books, Memoir & Biography, Non-Fiction, Short Stories | Tagged , | Leave a comment

“Finding St. Lo: A Memoir of War and Family” by Ted Neill

FINDING ST. LO: A MEMOIR OF WAR AND FAMILY

Ted Neill
Independently Published (2019)
ISBN 9781730959738
Reviewed by Carol Hoyer for Reader Views (6/19)

“Finding St. Lo” by Ted Neill is a touching, soul-wrenching memoir about unsung heroes of the Second World War. With the first-hand accounts of Gordon Edward Cross, (medic) and Robert Lewis Fowler (sergeant) and their service in the 134th US Infantry Regiment. Ted Neill (Fowler’s grandson) includes essays about his grandfather’s PTSD and the effects it has on three generations, combining three stories into one remarkable piece of history.

Neill often found his grandfather to be loving and outgoing yet at the same time he had his dark side. After Fowler’s passing in 2006, Neill wanted to know more about his grandfather and his military experience. When he came across an unpublished journal he knew he must interpret the meaning and visits St. Lo to investigate. During his research, Neill comes across a journal of Gordan Edward Cross, another veteran. With this knowledge, Neill is able to come to terms with how the war not only impacted the soldiers but the ripple effect it had on the family and generations to come. I found the account of the younger generation and protests against war is a true reflection of the anger and sadness veterans felt when they realized no one cared they had given up their youth and dreams so these same individuals could have the freedom to protest.

Ted Neill does an excellent job of providing readers with an honest and factual account of the war, as well as the impact and lasting brotherhood developed among those who served. This is not a fluff read. The author does his research, taking a long journey to St. Lo to walk in his grandfather’s footsteps. He doesn’t hold anything back. There are also many photographs included that were taken by Cross. These add a layer of depth and understanding and brings the reality of the events to life. I found “Finding St. Lo” to be a tremendous salute to those who gave their lives and to all the families who in some way sacrificed so we can be here today I highly recommend “Finding St. Lo.” for history buffs and for the families who never understood what changed their soldier during this war.

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“Animal Wisdom Word Search: Yoga for the Brain” by Cristina Smith, Rick Smith and Lauren McCall

ANIMAL WISDOM WORD SEARCH: YOGA FOR THE BRAIN

Cristina Smith, Rick Smith, Lauren McCall
Post Hill Press (2019)
ISBN 9781642931303
Reviewed by Sheri Hoyte for Reader Views (6/19)

“Animal Wisdom Word Search” by Cristina Smith, Rick Smith, and Lauren McCall is the latest book in the Yoga for the Brain series created by Cristina and Rick Smith. I’ve read several of the books in this series and it’s always fun to see how Cristina and Rick put their unique spin on the word search, one of the pillars of the puzzle world.

In this latest book, Lauren McCall an animal communication instructor and author, brings her animal wisdom to the table to inspire, encourage and celebrate our relationships with animals. In her introduction, Lauren asks, “How do we talk to the animals?” There are probably as many different answers to that question as there are animals! You know that special way you and your beloved pet seem to know what the other is thinking – little nuances that put you on the same page. For instance, my cat, Fred and I communicate in many ways, but the way he gets straight to my heart is by winking at me!  We’ll be sitting across the room from each other and all of a sudden he’ll wink.  Then I wink back, and this continues until one of us (usually Fred) finds something else to do. It’s so heartwarming!

These types of communications are featured in each puzzle in “Animal Wisdom Word Search,” each page highlighting a different animal, a few interesting tidbits about the species, and a transcript of Lauren’s communication with this animal. The conversations are candid and enlightening, with many species often wondering why we humans behave as we do! An example of the communication between Lauren and Indie the Cat (page 18): 

“Lauren: I want you to know that I love you very much.

Indie: Me too. I feel really happy when we are together. We are buddies, friends.

Lauren: Yes, we certainly are. When I go out to work, do you like it when I leave the radio on?

Indie: Yes, but I like it better when you are home.

Lauren: Me too. Unfortunately, I do have to work. It’s one of those tedious human things I have to do.

Indie: Yes, humans have a lot of odd things they do.

Lauren: Like what?

Indie:  Laundry. You have to take your clothes off to wash. I don’t. I wash and wear my fur!”

As to the puzzles themselves, they progress in difficulty with puzzles 1-10 being the easiest, the words spelled forward in either horizontal, vertical or diagonal lines.  Puzzles 11-60 are more advanced with the words appearing in backward as well as forward formation.  The word list for each of the puzzles come Lauren’s communication with the featured animal, the leftover letters provide a bit of animal wisdom at the end of each game. I gotta say, Rick Smith is a puzzle guru. As stated, puzzles 1-10 are the easiest, but even those present some challenges (in a good way) and definitely call for the puzzler to do some “yoga for the brain!” Sometimes the words just jump out at you.  Other times you may find yourself looking letter-by-letter.  It’s interesting to note what our brains focus on and see first.

Overall, I found “Animal Wisdom Word Search: Yoga for the Brain” by Cristina Smith, Rick Smith and Lauren McCall to be a delightful elevation from the standard word search puzzle books. Fun facts about the animal world combined with the stimulating exercises to keep your mind sharp, I recommend this book to all yogis, puzzle enthusiasts and animal lovers!

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“We Can Do It: A Community Takes on the Challenge of School Desegregation” by Michael Gengler

WE CAN DO IT

Michael T. Gengler
Rosetta Books (2018)
ISBN 9781948122146
Reviewed by Carol Hoyer for Reader Views (6/19)

“We Can Do It: A Community Takes on the Challenge of School Desegregation” by Michael Gengler provides readers with an in-depth, well-researched account of how Alachua County, Florida faced the challenge of desegregation of their schools with openness and concern for the well-being of all schools.

The author provides an excellent point of view on how the parents and community came together to put black and white students together so they all would end up with the best education possible. Given that during this era private schools or going to another school district were not an option, I was thrilled with how everyone came together to do what was right for the students.

Excellent points are made by Gengler in that this was a new experience for all, and this means that there is no manual to follow. Teachers, administrators and students learned through challenges how to make it work in all areas. Gengler also addressed that even though blacks and whites lived in the same community and there were separate situations, both races wanted fair and equal treatment, especially when it came to education.

The book itself is quite lengthy and will take time to read; this approach from both the legal standpoint and local individual stories have a huge impact. Many previous books only talk about the negatives regarding desegregation; I was pleased to see the author give individuals a voice.

I found the comparison of Gainesville High School and Lincoln High School to be quite interesting. Gainesville High School students were predominately middle class and children of educated parents, while Lincoln students were often poor and lacked education. Also, Lincoln families resented the fact that many students abandoned all-black schools. Many of the black students who went to integrated schools realized just how far behind they were academically to their counterparts.  I also found it interesting that white schools were deemed the model education program. Why didn’t they improve black schools?

“We Can Do It: A Community Takes on the Challenge of School Desegregation” by Michael Gengler was a fascinating read, well researched and informative. The read itself appears to be a study given all the historical facts and information. I highly recommend this educational and enlightening read.

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“Making Life Work for You” by John Schmidt

MAKING LIFE WORK FOR YOU

John Schmidt
Path Publishing Company (2017)
ISBN 9781891774256
Reviewed by Robert Leon Davis for Reader Views (6/19)

“Making Life Work for You,” written by John Schmidt, is a spiritual teaching guide to fulfilling your life’s promises, gifts, and talents. The author attempts to get one to look at the deeper sides of life; what does life mean?  How do you take a negative and make it a positive? And finally, understanding the perspective of Self. Hence, the title, “Making Life Work For You.”

His various essays also go into detail concerning suicide prevention, as many people who haven’t developed the skills to cope with life often commit or attempt to commit suicide. Adolescents and suicides is also discussed in great lengths, as he points out that the suicide rate for this group is on the rise. Suicides, Schmidt says, are usually committed by people who have given up hope! Lastly, he speaks about God, His son, and the Holy Spirit. He discusses how They can assist the individual to make better decisions, achieve peace, and experience tranquility.

“Making Life Work for You,” is a very wonderful mental journey. Not a journey to a place, event, or time, but an author’s plea that one should search the soul if you desire “the meaning of life”. Even though the book is a spiritual work, I love the fact that it isn’t preachy; which could turn off many readers. He simply attempts to ask the reader, “Are your decisions in life causing a decline in your life goals or a detriment to such goals?”

He brings up some fascinating observations concerning how to guarantee failure, thus leaving the readers with “what not to do in life.” He eloquently details how to find hope, live in hope, and master the concept. “Making Life Work for You,” by John Schmidt, is well-written, clearly engaging, and an eloquently written book for either the spiritual-oriented reader or non-spiritual oriented reader. Readers will get a fairly good perspective from this book on the meaning of life and “how to make life work for you.” 5 Stars

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“Islam: Europe Invaded. America Warned.” by Hege Storhaug

ISLAM: EUROPE INVADED. AMERICA WARNED.

Hege Storhaug
Hege Storhaug (2019)
ISBN 9788230339596
Reviewed by Carol Hoyer for Reader Views (6/19)

Author Hege Storhaug is Europe’s leading expert on immigration, integration and Islam in Europe. “Islam: Europe Invaded. America Warned.,” is a detailed and informative read on immigrants from the Middle East, Africa, and Asia as they descend on Europe, and the impact by those who endorse Islam as a way to attack women, Jews, homosexuals and those who do not submit to their doctrines. What concerns me most is some have demonstrated this type of thought in the US Congress recently.

I am grateful for the detailed information and hope that readers do not assume all Muslims are like this and lump them into one category. “Islam: Europe Invaded. America Warned.,” is information about Islam, not the author blaming different factions.

I will forewarn readers this is not a fast, easy read. At times it feels like a textbook, and as such it behooves readers to read little at a time, digest the information, and pick it up again. I have some basic knowledge of Islam and I found the information provided improved my knowledge of the subject, while at the same time scaring me.

Chapter 5 expands on the different Islamic groups, many of which I did not know about. An example is the Salafis who promote a very literal interpretation of the Quran and the Prophet Muhammad’s traditions. For the most part, there is no common sense, but one has to believe this information is the only truth and must be followed blindly. They may not show their ideology vocally but will show it physically in dress and mannerisms.

Storhaug also provides excellent information on the historical sources of the Quran, the Sirah and the Hadith in Chapter 6. Interestingly, after Muhammad was forced to leave Mecca in 662, he became a political and military leader who promoted acts of war and violence. In other words Jihad, holy war. For those who are non-believers, death is the only answer. More than anything, I think the message is open your eyes, listen and learn. Are we going to be the America that insulates itself from reality or start making the necessary changes now?

Well written, detailed facts and history are what makes this a good read. The print is somewhat small, and the information is quite extensive, so read slowly, put it down for a bit, then read some more.

I recommend “Islam: Europe Invaded. America Warned.,” by Hege Storhaug. It is a highly informative read and will truly open your eyes.

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