“The Vicissitudes of Fortune” by Bob Siqveland

TheVicissitudesOfFortuneTHE VICISSITUDES OF FORTUNE

Bob Siqveland
Outskirts Press (2017)
ISBN 9781478785897
Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views (12/17)

In many ways, Vietnam caused a great deal of pain and hardship. It also resulted in the creation of unbreakable bonds forged by those banded together to not only fight the war, but to survive it as well. In “The Vicissitudes of Fortune” by Bob Siqveland, five young men are brought together and form a tie amongst them that lasts a lifetime. These men come from a wide range of cultural and socio economic backgrounds. These include Japanese, Native American, Jewish, African American and Caucasian. While this combination might be unlikely to form a group in civilian life, the experience of being young men in war makes them a family. In fact, some of them have better relationships with each other than their own blood. It is also interesting to note that as a whole, their individual strengths helped to overcome their weaknesses.

“The Vicissitudes of Fortune” tells their stories. Author Bob Siqveland does a masterful job of tying real history in to this fictional story. I found myself looking up historical people and events that were mentioned, to assuage my curiosity about what I was reading. In addition to enjoying a great fictional novel, I also learned a great deal about the Vietnam era and other historical events, including the WWII internment camps, the Selma to Montgomery March, and life on the Pine Ridge reservation.

The author also takes us back and forth through each character’s life, from their childhoods through to their adulthood, along with information about their parents and their experiences. These details add greatly to the character development which enables the reader to better understand their choices. Siqveland manages to weave us through time without making it confusing. He not only has a great talent for doing this, but also changing the narration from first person to third without the story losing a beat.

I really enjoyed reading “The Vicissitudes of Fortune” by Bob Siqveland. The characters seemed so real to me, I felt like I was experiencing their lives in person rather than through the pages of a book. Readers who enjoy historical fiction will really enjoy this novel, especially those with an interest in the Vietnam era. This book would be a great selection for a reader’s group or a high school summer reading list.

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“Siren Song” by Ian T King

SirensongSIREN SONG

Ian T. King
CreateSpace Publishing (2017)
ISBN 9781546947424
Reviewed by Carol Hoyer for Reader Views (12/17)

“Siren Song” by Ian T King offers a new look into the War on Terror with vivid, emotionally charged characters who are devoted Jihadi supporters with a fanatical goal of revenge toward the West.

The story revolves around three characters: Jo Buck, a local small town hero who leaves for training at Parris Island, Jamal Shirani, who believes it is his duty to Allah to ensure that those who denounce Allah as a religious belief suffer, and a kidnapped woman held in a rat-infested cellar and repeatedly raped by want-to-be Jihadists.

King writes with great detail often switching from different tenses given the specific situation, and the transition is skillfully done. He is not afraid to write in such a way that goes against what most authors deem to be wrong, yet he can show what many believe to be a dedication to their religion as misguided motivation. Readers will find that the story is more about the soul of the characters rather than the physical events that take place.

I loved the fact that the author isn’t afraid to be honest and is sometimes very blunt in getting his point across, taking readers on a very emotionally charged ride that will have you asking, “Why and what are these people thinking?”

Another unique part of this book is an unnamed deity who comments on the activity going on below Him. At first, this deity’s thoughts threw me off until I realized the purpose of his inclusion. The characters are well developed and compelling. From a young local football hero who goes off to train to become a Marine who fights terrorism and then has second thoughts about the purpose of his actions, to a young lady who is enjoying time with her friends and suddenly finds herself kidnapped and repeatedly raped by individuals who feel she has treated their friend unkindly and they want revenge.

Readers will find themselves caught up in this vivid action story asking, “What would I do?” “Siren Song” by Ian T. King presents current events in the world today and will keep you on the edge of your seat. I highly recommend this read if you are ready to be challenged.

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“China Girl: And Other Stories” by Ho Lin

ChinaGirlCHINA GIRL: AND OTHER STORIES

Ho Lin
Regent Press (2017)
ISBN 9781587903847
Reviewed by Skyler Boudreau for Reader Views (11/17)

“China Girl: And Other Stories” by Ho Lin is a collection of nine short stories that range from contemporary vignettes to urban fables. The reader explores stories that range from the title piece that details a young woman’s haunting experiences while roaming Beijing, to a film treatment about four people interconnected by a fifth. Each story embraces its climate, whether it be Los Angeles, Hong Kong, or Beijing, embowing its tale with an immersive atmosphere that sucks the reader in. Ho Lin is a master of painting miniature worlds.

The entire collection is a map of tiny collisions, spanning from Eastern versus Western culture to history versus myth. While each piece is unique, Lin’s impressive storytelling weaves them together to build a unique tapestry. His prose is simple, reading almost like a documentation written by an outside observer, and the style lends itself well to each story.

“China Girl” is the first piece to be encountered. It draws the reader in with its casual descriptions of tragedy and a strange protagonist. It is the perfect opening to the anthology and lets the reader know exactly what to expect: a dream-like journey through culture.

I had some reservations entering this anthology. I find it difficult to engage with short stories sometimes. Some are too short to leave me feeling satisfied, while others drone on without saying much of anything. “China Girl: And Other Stories” is the first to hold my complete attention in a long time. I would recommend it to anyone who has the same problems as I do.

I’ve read far too many collections of pieces that seem thrown together only because they couldn’t survive as stories individually. Ho Lin doesn’t do that. Each of his short stories holds up well on its own, and forming a collection only strengthens each of them. That makes “China Girl: And Other Stories:  a perfect example of what an anthology should be.

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“But My Brain Had Other Ideas: A Memoir of Recovery from Brain Injury” by Deb Brandon

ButMyBrainBUT MY BRAIN HAD OTHER IDEAS

Deb Brandon
She Writes Press (2017)
ISBN 9781631522475
Reviewed by Kimberly Luyckx for Reader Views (11/17)

“But My Brain Had Other Ideas: A Memoir of Recovery from Brain Injury” is the story of Deb Brandon’s struggle with cavernous angioma – a brain vessel malformation that can often lead to life threatening cerebral hemorrhage with debilitating repercussions. The author’s intention is to share her perspective so that others can know the trials and tribulations of a person grappling with a brain disorder. Although Brandon’s story is her own and specifically addresses the condition of cavernous angioma, her hospitalizations, surgeries, recoveries and complications are the stories of thousands. Her point of view communicates what it really means to be with pain, fear, anxiety and guilt; difficult emotions that are even more arduous to face in times of grave illness. She recounts what it feels like when a patient becomes just another number to doctors, nurses and even loved ones. And, how, in certain instances, you only have yourself to rely on for survival.

In recreating the setting and dialog of her experience, the author weaves a fascinating tale – one in which I was fully absorbed. Many of the memoirs that I have read tend to list life events much like a section from a dry history book. This author “shows” rather that “tells” her story, drawing you into the scenarios so that you are there. At times, Brandon writes in short snippets to describe the symptoms of her disability almost as if she were journaling. Other times, the author’s writing is quite poetic in its verse and communicates more meaning than simple dialog or narration can express.

I value Brandon’s responses and thoughts. When she asserts that “(my children) had seen me in the hospital far too much over the past few months,” it rings true for many of us dealing with persistent illness. She addresses the issues associated with frequent hospital stays, worrisome surgical procedures and plenty of other frustrating conditions that families come up against in the face of poor health. I think it is most interesting to observe how differently Brandon’s friends and loved ones react to her disorder. Some stay present and face facts head on while others remain detached and distant. In general, this memoir confronts topics that would be engaging discussion for book clubs or advocate groups.

“But My Brain Had Other Ideas: A Memoir of Recovery from Brain Injury” is a story filled with fluid narration and gripping detail. I am thankful for Deb Brandon’s perspective. Although many of us know someone dealing with chronic illness, we sometimes forget that there is a real person underneath the disease. This book puts us inside the mind of a patient, offering an important viewpoint. The author tackles the concepts of fear, empathy and loss. She highlights the hopeless periods when tests, diagnoses and treatment options are tough to focus upon. Yet we also get to experience Brandon’s valiant moments when her level of determination is unflinching. This is a compelling story for all of those affected by a chronic disability and I recommend it wholeheartedly.

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“The Plan” by Kelly Bennett Seiler

ThePlanTHE PLAN

Kelly Bennett Seiler
Infinite Words (2016)
ISBN 9781593096700
Reviewed by Michael Keeton for Reader Views (11/17)

“The Plan” by Kelly Bennett Seiler is a heart wrenching novel of a woman named Claire and the devastating loss of her husband and three small children in a horrific car accident the day after Christmas.  Claire struggles to find a reason to keep moving and breathing. The devastation of her loss becomes too overwhelming.  She feels defeated and lost in this new world alone.  She doesn’t want to picture a life without her husband and children.  Claire drowns deeply into her own sorrows and depression.  She hides in the comfort of her own home and refuses to venture out even to the grocery store.  After 18 months Claire’s best friend Gia forces her to get out and start living again.  However, it wasn’t Gia’s intention for Claire to travel across the globe with complete strangers.

Irishman Callum Fitzgerald was born a trilateral amputee.  When he was born his parents were both in disbelief of his condition.  Life hasn’t always been easy for him; however, he stays focused on his career of empowering others.  He inspires listeners to find power in their own pain and use that power to become blessings for others.  People travel from all over the world to hear him speak.

When Callum hires Claire to be a vocalist on his seminar tour around the world she is surprised to notice she can’t stop thinking about her new “boss.”  Claire starts to build lasting friendships with other members of the traveling team.  However, as time goes on Callum and Claire start to explore their own new found friendship and it takes them on a remarkable emotional journey of love and acceptance.

Kelly Bennett Seiler’s novel “The Plan” is fluid, captivating, and real.  The emotions in this novel came to life and jumped right off each page.  I could literally feel Claire’s pain and extreme heartache.  The author knows how to reflect the power and importance of human strengths, weaknesses, and foibles.

This beautifully crafted novel left me a better person than I was before reading it.  I highly recommend this emotionally captivating novel to anyone that has lost a husband, child, or loved one.

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“Deceived” by Reginald Buchanan

DeceivedDECEIVED

Reginald Buchanan
Outskirts Press (2017)
ISBN 9781432798307
Reviewed by Sheri Hoyte for Reader Views (11/17)

I rarely turn down an opportunity to read a mystery/thriller, and “Deceived” by Reginald Buchanan promised all the elements that draw me to a suspense novel: murder, drama, lies, cover-ups, deception – you get the picture.

The story revolves around Joan Witherspoon, a high school senior from the small town of Fall City.  After returning home from volleyball practice one day, Joan finds her mother and father dead in their bedroom. Something is not quite right, but the deaths are ruled as the result of medical conditions, both parties suffering from cardiac arrest due to their history of heavy smoking and heart disease. Joan is taken in by her neighbors, longtime friends of Joan’s family.  Joan finishes school and moves away from Fall City to start attend college and start her new life.  All is well until years later, when Joan becomes a suspect in the deaths of her parents and two other citizens of Fall City.  Horrific events of the past begin to surface as authorities try to unravel what really happened.

While the story has all the potential of a successful thriller, there are several components keeping “Deceived” from achieving that status, most of which could have been prevented prior to publishing.  Primary needs include a thorough edit to address holes in the plot, repetition, consistency issues and the overall structure of the novel.  I found very little room for imagination as everything is “told” rather than “shown” to the reader, and the pace drags with details and events not necessary to the advancement of the plot.  There are complete chapters that don’t appear to have anything to do with the mystery, completely taking the reader out of the story.

Towards the end, the book gets somewhat more interesting and the author does a relatively good job with some of the gruesome details of the murders, but these details were few and far between and did not outweigh some of the significant issues needing to be addressed.

Overall, even though the potential for a good story is there, I cannot recommend “Deceived” by Reginald Buchanan in its current form, and sincerely hope the author will take some time to tighten up his plot and address these issues.

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“The Map to Abundance” by Boni Lonnsburry

TheMapToAbundanceTHE MAP TO ABUNDANCE

Boni Lonnsburry
Inner Art (2017)
ISBN 9781941322147
Reviewed by Kimberly Luyckx for Reader Views (11/17)

Want to bring more prosperity and happiness into your life? In the book, “The Map to Abundance: The No-Exceptions Guide to Creating Money, Success and Bliss,” Boni Lonnsburry illustrates how you can make this possible. In her self-help manual to success, Lonnsburry maps out a seven-stage process designed to produce a life filled with abundance. The author’s plan of action moves from discovery to actualization, providing tools, techniques and innovative ways of thinking to get you reaping the benefits that you deserve. Each chapter is organized to plot out the road to abundance by providing various ways of analyzing the concept of fulfillment and all of its components. You are taken on an encouragement journey that spurs you to discover yourself and question some of your deepest beliefs. Assisting you along the way are “true stories” of people that have followed the path and discovered its significance. In addition, each chapter contains a summary for retracing your steps and reaffirming the key concepts with bonus tips for solidifying a particular course of action.

“The Map to Abundance” is the second volume in the “Map” book series by Lonnsburry. Her first, “The Map: To Our Responsive Universe, Where Dreams Really Do Come True!” is touted as a more generalized guide to manifesting what you desire. The author’s motivation for developing this second text was to specifically address the subject of money and how it factors into consciously creating an abundant lifestyle.

Initially, this handbook reads like a “get rich quick” manual. Its structure and language mimic that of an infomercial with the author dangling the carrot of “how to make money” from page to page. In time, however, the book’s framework evolves to incorporate the importance of positive affirmation and the true meaning of abundance. Here the author shines when she supplies valuable insight into the misconceptions of how we view wealth and money and what we feel we deserve in life.

Unfortunately, the idea of a “map” to abundance gets a bit lost in the text. At the beginning of the book, Lonnsburry provides a visual flow chart with descending circles that represent the seven stages of abundance and how specific chapters relate to each stage. However, when these same seven steps are introduced in the main body of the publication, it is difficult to reconnect them with the diagram, as the wording and numbering do not intuitively coincide. If the steps or stages were more consistently described and the chapters more apparently labeled, the guide’s format would have greater cohesiveness. Overall, I do find the content to be well written and very informative. I appreciate the way that the author engages the reader by posing questions and offering suppositions along the way. There are a lot of substantial takeaways presented here; the main one being that everyone can benefit from removing negativity in their lives and visualizing themselves in a more positive light.

The first few chapters of “The Map to Abundance” appear to wind you along a fanciful path that promises great wealth and financial success. But do continue on because this guidebook has the potential to lead you to an even greater purpose – one of fulfillment and inner peace. I would recommend it for anyone at a crossroads in his or her life. Its uplifting techniques will enable you to gain a clear and joyful perspective. With this publication, award-winning author, Boni Lonnsburry furnishes the tools needed to unearth one’s power and confidence for transformative changes that can result in a truly abundant life.

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