“Schweres Wasser: Heavy Water” by John Alex Owen


John Alex Owen
Outskirts Press (2017)
ISBN 9781478789079
Reviewed by Michel Violante for Reader Views (2/2018)

“Schweres Wasser: Heavy Water” by John Alex Owen begins in a small abandoned town near Berlin at the end of WWII, where a group of SS soldiers are emptying an old factory, and loading a few trucks with sealed boxes filled with secret documents. An SS Captain was ordered to send the convoy transporting the documents to a meeting point where they would transfer the cargo to another truck convoy. He was also ordered to blow up the old factory. The Captain completed his orders and after the convoy leaves, he is eliminated. Once the convoy reaches the meeting point and transfers the cargo to the new set of trucks the soldiers are eliminated by the new soldiers leading the new convoy. This happened again until two officers left alive hid the boxes with the secret documents in a cave on the East side of Berlin as instructed. As the Allies take over Berlin, it has been revealed to the Americans, almost accidentally, that the SS were conducting research about heavy water to develop a nuclear bomb. Thus begins the race of the US to find that research before the Russians get to it.

John Alex Owen created an interesting and believable espionage story based on WWII history facts to readers. The beginning is mostly narration and description, which although necessary, made a large portion of the read move slower than what I would have liked. Yet once the main character, Rick Malloy enters the picture, the flow becomes faster and the story more animated through dialogue. I was impressed by Owen’s knowledge of the era, history and geography as it made everything real. It was actually hard to remember that I was reading fiction.

Overall, I really enjoyed “Schweres Wasser: Heavy Water” by John Alex Owen and recommend it to all WWII post war/espionage fans looking for an interesting, captivating, thrilling ride.

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“Beholden: A Marlowe Black Mystery” by Gabriel FW Koch


Gabriel FW Koch
Outskirts Press (2017)
ISBN 9781478792192
Reviewed by Michel Violante for Reader Views (2/18)

“Beholden: A Marlowe Black Mystery” by Gabriel FW Koch begins with a dead body sitting in the chair at Marlowe Black’s office desk the day after the fourth of July weekend in 1950.  Being a veteran turned private investigator after WWII, and having no open cases at the moment, it is no surprise that Black takes on the case of the dead body himself. Yet he is later hired by the sister of the dead man and she offers what little she can pay Black to find the killer. But she will not be his only client – a beautiful woman also requires his services to find some missing Russian coins for her. Finally Black also gets hired by the Treasury Department.  Little did he know that, what he thought to be different cases, would take him into a web of intrigue between the Mob, the US Treasury Department, and German SS hidden in the US – all related to the dead body in his office…

Gabriel FW Koch did a great job creating an impressive page turning mystery. This novel is well written and filled with intrigue and action that will take the reader to a credible adventure set in New York during the 1950s. I found myself at the edge of my seat more than once as I immersed myself in this plot driven read. The character development was spot on, the pace kept increasing along with the scheming. The dialogue moved the story forward as it developed characters even more. The contrast of what is right and what is wrong within Black’s own conscious added even more to this mystery.

Overall, I found “Beholden: A Marlowe Black Mystery” by Gabriel FW Koch to be a five star awesome page turner. I totally recommend this story to those that love a good detective mystery, and can hardly wait for another one from this author!

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“A Quarter Million Steps: Creativity, Imagination, & Leading Transformative Change” by Dr. Anthony Paustian


Dr. Anthony Paustian
Book Press Publishing (2017)
ISBN 9780996442898
Reviewed by Josh Cramer for Reader Views (2/18)

In “A Quarter Million Steps: Creativity, Imagination, & Leading Transformative Change,” Dr. Anthony Paustian creates an immersive reading experience that leaves you wanting more as you follow the Apollo mission to the moon, and the techniques and mental models they used to get there. I found myself jotting notes down each time I read—creativity comes from finding a connection between disparate things and then using this connection to create something new; a good leader thinks in shades of gray, but speaks in black and white; creativity requires asking questions no one else has asked; allow yourself to daydream; and ultimately, success is achieved through daily decisions—don’t go on autopilot. These are ideas I’ve been able to incorporate into my daily work life that, though I’ve heard before, have clicked in a different way after reading Paustian’s narrative.

The most useful advice from the book comes from a method Paustian feels the Apollo Mission used to successfully make it to the moon: HARD Goals (rather than SMART Goals). As you know, SMART Goals emphasize goals that are specific, measurable attainable, relevant, and time-bound. HARD Goals, on the other hand, create goals that require transformative thinking (“in order to change organizational habits and entrenched beliefs”). HARD Goals are honest, actionable, radical, and detailed—one of Paustian’s arguments against SMART Goals is that forcing a goal to be achievable and realistic acts against being able think creatively about a problem or goal. Instead, if we want new solutions, we must allow this freedom in our goals.

Additionally, each chapter is full of stories that both setup and provide a thorough line of the main idea of the chapter. As I read, it reminded me of how Charles Duhigg writes his books—a couple of main stories that introduce a topic and builds as more about that topic is learned. However, Paustian’s chapters are much more concise, so resolutions are found much faster.

One very helpful feature that each chapter contains is the “Taking a Few More Steps” section (found at the end of each chapter). This section generally provides five actionable items to help you apply the concepts from the chapter. I found these activities to be incredibly helpful as I made my way through the book.

Overall, I enjoyed my time in “A Quarter Million Steps” and I was sad to see it end. I look forward to Dr. Paustian’s future books and writings. That said, I highly recommend this book to anyone who desires to find new strategies for thinking creatively. Actually, I recommend this book to anyone who has ever questioned whether SMART and stretch goals achieved what they needed to.

I leave you with one of Paustian’s main questions: “What if you knew exactly when your time was up? Would you live life any differently? Would you make different choices?” I hope one of those choices is reading this book.

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“Ride the Wave: How to Embrace Change and Create a Powerful New Relationship with Risk” by John Wessinger


John Wessinger
Wise Ink Creative Publishing (2017)
ISBN 9781634890649
Reviewed by Josh Cramer for Reader Views (2/18)

In “Ride the Wave: How to Embrace Change and Create a Powerful New Relationship with Risk,” author John Wessinger pens a dual narrative using his life experience: comparing surfing to business. He shares his first surfing experience, which he felt he was prepared for, but ultimately discovers he just wasn’t, and barely survives the ordeal. He then juxtaposes this against his job as a salesman where he receives a metaphorical punch to the gut: his customer doesn’t need him anymore. He discovers that his customers are now able to research and teach themselves about his product, which forces him to look for a way to transform his business. To find a way to transform, he turns to surfing.

Wessinger then uses both surfing and changing conditions within sales/marketing to talk about universal business principles. This is a creative approach—each of his chapters is laid out in an easy to read way where he first discusses his surfing story/or common surfing events, his business story, and then lays out applicable takeaways from both. His writing technique is easy to read and the business principles he shares are on point.  One of my favorite sections of the book (besides his opening business story is, “Don’t you try to teach me about your product” (54)).

However, it is ultimately his journey as a surfer and the lessons learned from other surfers that, in my opinion are the weakest part of the book. The sections that explore business principles and risk (and especially his story) provide great advice on pursuing risk and building a sales business. The sections that try to conflate both business and surfing just missed the mark for me. In many cases, the surfing sections feel more like filler and it seems to take a long time to get the main point. There are great nuggets, but you have to dig for them.

Wessinger’s book is a book I really wanted to like more, perhaps a better understanding of surfing would have helped me to enjoy this book more. For one thing, it looks pretty. The book binding is fantastic. It is high quality and thick. The cover image is well-designed. The pages are nice and thick. This is not a cheaply-made book. I appreciate that a lot, as not many books aren’t printed using these kinds of quality materials anymore.

I recommend “Ride the Wave: How to Embrace Change and Create a Powerful New Relationship with Risk,” by John Wessinger to those that have a passion for surfing and business.

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“Tears Before Exaltation” by Fidelis O. Mkparu


Fidelis O. Mkparu
Harvard Square Editions (2018)
ISBN 9781941861608
Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views (02/18)

“Tears Before Exaltation” by Fidelis O. Mkparu is an extraordinary literary medical thriller that tells the story of young medical student, Ben Ava.

Having lost both parents, Ben suffers their losses and struggles to finish his education on his own. He is excited to discover that he has been awarded a scholarship, which requires him to move to Memphis. While this move causes him to lose his girlfriend, it also means that he will no longer have to work two jobs. Shortly after he arrives, Ben discovers that an old friend and classmate of his, Brenda, with whom he was once close, has been awarded the same scholarship. Ben learns that Brenda is suffering from severe emotional issues and, having to share a suite with her, quickly recognizes that she despises him. Ben is also dismayed when he realizes that the doctors directing his education are pompous and egotistical. One doctor goes after Ben because he is interested in Ben’s latest romantic interest Rita.

For someone trying to survive medical school, Ben has a lot of other issues on his hands. He is especially affected by the women in his life who are suffering from emotional damage caused by family members who betrayed them when they were young. Using compassion and determination, Ben does everything he can to help them heal and move forward with their lives while continuing to pursue his own dream.

“Tears Before Exaltation” is a stunning literary drama that combines key elements such as romance, suspense, and psychological intrigue. The author immediately caught my attention by creating a likable, compassionate hero who rules his life by acting with integrity. He is surrounded by several key players who do not share his ethical standards. The hero often suffers because the people surrounding him are damaged by things that happened in their pasts. While Ben came from a normal, loving upbringing, he still carries the ability to try to understand and help his friends. It is interesting to watch his character evolve and mature throughout the story. The other characters in the story are well developed and most of them are not always likable. This aspect adds even more to the drama because they rarely act in ways that help improve the protagonist’s life.

The writing is contemporary and compassionate, tackling highly relevant social issues such as mental illness, including alcoholism and depression.  The story has an engaging pace that makes it hard to put down with twists and excitement that will leave you wanting more.

Readers who enjoy intrigue, drama, and romance set in the medical field, will quickly find themselves immersed this novel. I highly recommend “Tears Before Exaltation” by Fidelis O. Mkparu!

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“Cashed Out” by Michael H. Rubin


Michael H. Rubin
Fiery Seas Publishing, LLC (2017)
ISBN 9781946143198
Review by Michel Violante for Reader Views (2/18)

“Cashed Out” by Michael H. Rubin is a fast-paced legal thriller featuring an unsuccessful lawyer, his corrupt ex-wife, and a shady client involved in a large corporate cover-up. Set in a swampy bayou in Southern Louisiana, readers will find themselves right in the middle of the action that doesn’t stop until the very end.

Hypolite Schexnaydre, known as ‘Schex’ is a failed lawyer, with a failed marriage, failed credit, no cash and a broken business.  When he is unexpectedly hired by G.G. Guidry, the owner of a toxic waste processing plant, Schex thinks his luck has changed.  Guidry wants Schex to “paper up” his companies and has him register five different corporations under the name of Guidry’s girlfriend. Less than a week later Guidry shows up dead in his toxic waste processing plant. A couple of nights before his death Guidry stopped by Schex’s place and handed him a suitcase, requesting he hide it in a safe place without opening it.  After Guidry’s death, Schex decides to open the suitcase, finding $4 million in cash.  With his only client dead, and a suitcase filled with cash, what else can go wrong? Oh yeah, his ex-wife asks him to defend her, as she is the prime suspect in Guidry’s murder…

Michael H. Rubin presents readers with a well-written, fast paced legal action thriller.  I enjoyed the narrator’s voice – so funny at times and sarcastic, definitely entertaining. The action is described so vividly that it was easy to picture in my mind, almost like watching a movie, and the descriptions of the bayou area transported me directly into the action. Filled with dialogue, the plot flows perfectly, as characters developed and unraveled through the dialogue. Schex is a character with genuine flaws, easily identifiable with readers. I honestly found it hard to put this book down, and finished it in a couple of sittings.

I am more than comfortable recommending “Cashed Out” by Michael H. Rubin as a five-star legal/action thriller to anyone looking for a fast-paced awesome read!

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“My Love Affair With Italy” by Debbie Mancuso


Debbie Mancuso
A Passion For Italy (2017)
ISBN 9780998973234
Reviewed by Susan Violante for Reader Views (02/18)

“My Love Affair With Italy” by Debbie Mancuso is the author’s memoir, which focuses on her lifelong love for Italy, but that is not all she shares. Mingled within her travels to Italy is the story of a single woman of 100% Italian descent growing up in New Jersey, her relationships, her love for her father, her troubles with her sister; in short her life from her teen years up through adulthood.

The story begins when 17-year-old Debbie sets a goal to visit Italy. She enrolls in a student tour to Italy, France, and Switzerland for the summer after her high school Junior year, with plans to take off right after her 17th birthday. This was Debbie’s first trip, and she was going by herself! The trip was nothing like what she expected. Her journey there had the surprise of a helicopter ride to the airport, as her mother decided to drive her to the heliport instead of going directly to the airport where she was supposed to meet Mr. Zappola and the rest of the student group. Once in Italy Debbie not only realizes that her level of Italian is not the same as the rest of the group, she will also learn a lot more of herself as she gets to discover a little bit of Italy, Italians, and oh yeah, an unexpected event that will have the family worried down to their bones!

Debbie Mancuso has a wonderful narrating voice. Her descriptions are so vivid they truly transported me to Italy. Being an Italian who grew up away from Italy myself, I easily related to Debbie. I remembered when I went to Sicily as a 19-year-old and every good looking guy I noticed ended up being my cousin! Of course this made me give up on any idea of a summer romance in Sicily all together. I love how Mancuso presents to readers the Italy I know instead of the ‘tourist Italy’ – its beauty, its flaws, its mysteries and thrills of traveling there…everything that makes going to Italy the adventure of a lifetime. I also liked the fact that this is her memoir from her coming of age years to adulthood, and its different life stages.

There are some technical issues that did take me out of the story, however – some were grammar issues, but the main one was the fact that she tells the story in present tense. Memoirs are by concept in the past, so the narrations in memoirs are always in the past tense. Finding the opposite voice kind of threw me off a little, especially in the beginning. The major problem was that I found the present tense jumps into the past tense sometimes, which was confusing to me as I read and thus it would take me out of the story. I think that these flaws could have been caught by a professional memoir editor.

Overall, I found “My Love Affair With Italy” by Debbie Mancuso to be a lovely tale of an Italian woman’s love for Italy and life. I do hope the author republishes a revised edition as the story’s telling voice and the stories within deserve it.

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