Saturday, December 16, 2006

Berlitz Scandinavian Phrase Book and Dictionary

Berlitz is a landmark organization in teaching foreign languages. It publishes glossy, easy to follow, and easy to carry language course books and phrase books, all carrying the Berlitz motto 'Helping the World Communicate'. This is met with full promise as far as the pocket size Scandinavian Phrase Book and Dictionary shows us. While the small size is in itself a great convenience, this publication is attractively designed and made special with several unique features. Words and phrases of daily use from 5 related languages have been included along with a guide to pronunciation and a brief English-Scandinavian dictionary at the end.

The languages selected are: Danish, Swedish, Finnish, Icelandic, and Norwegian. A map of the region where these languages are spoken is the guiding page at the book's end. Various sections are categorized and guiding boxes within the pages instruct on making sentences with important words/phrases. A special feature of the book is the color coding scheme that makes words and phrases easy to find. Seek the Danish in purple, Finnish in orange, Icelandic in green, Norwegian in yellow, and Swedish in red. It is the expertise of Berlitz to wrap the most important cultural tools of five of the world's most beautiful countries in a sleek gift of 192 pages. A wonderful gift for travel and learning!

ISBN: 2831577381


Friday, November 17, 2006

Your Boy

Vicki Courtney's Your Boy (B&H Publishing Group, Tennessee, 2006) is one of the books that have a specified target audience: Christian mothers. The book aims at educating moms on raising a godly son in an ungodly world. Mrs. Courtney combines advice on ways to develop godly qualities in their sons with accounts of personal views and experiences on the topic.

A large part of Your Boy is directed towards personal refinement and conscious effort in the direction of a virtuous life. The author has a heartwarming sense of family sanctity and righteous conduct. Her effort in writing this book sparkles to the reader's attention by its keenness about the subject of spiritual education and her courage to stand and speak in the face of a culture that has gone amok under the rubric of 'freedom'.

With its lively humor, the introduction and ending acknowledgement of the book, Mrs. Courtney transmits a live, charming aroma of motherhood. She makes nice spoof on the aspirations of becoming a super mom and moms wanting perfect kids. Her own experience with her family gives her the confidence to tell how to win the heart of your kids and help your son become a real man; how to share and soothe the aches of your children and how to avoid getting on their nerves.

What makes the admiring readership of Your Boy limited is the book's later part where the author adopts a highly conventional stance against forms of excessive freedom, especially sexual freedom, criticizing feminists in particular. A proponent of the ethical absolutism, Vicki Courtney rejects moral relativism, pre- and extra-marital sex, negative uses of the Internet technology, and the general waywardness of today's youth. These points certainly are going to be of interest to feminists and other non-conventional thinkers who may frown at the book's frequent resort to religious appeals and personal views. But one thing that makes the book special is that it will make one think either way. Like all good books, this one from Mrs. Courtney tends to bring things up for a serious debate.

ISBN: 0805430555


Author Website:

Monday, November 06, 2006

Dinner with Da Vinci: The Road Royale Through Rebirth

The name of da Vinci has reached an acme of attention with Dan Brown's pop buster The Da Vinci Code. Now used in a radically different mode, it shows up in Leslie J. Mcclinton's snazzy title Dinner With Da Vinci (Great Reading Books, Texas, 2006). Combining autobiographical nonfiction with science, history, anthropology, journalism, and spiritual quests, Mcclinton has strummed the thread of rebirth and its conscious experience.

The core significance of Dinner With Da Vinci lies in the uniqueness with which the work has been designed. The author's interdisciplinary approach dissolves epistemological boundaries in a way rarely seen before. This is a book like no other books. Mcclinton has depersonalized the names of icons like Cicero, da Vinci, Hitler, Yeats, John F. Kennedy, Shakespeare and several others to weave a tapestry of mystique that borders on personal belief and anthropological universals. The essential idea is more than one human form for the same person. The message is simple: look around you and find out who it is that you are again living with.

Of particular interest to many readers will be Mcclinton's intriguing concept of alternate sexual forms for the same person that reappears in human form. The soul or (for the hard shelled anthropologist) the set of core features of one human being appears in a different sexual identity in the next episode of existence. But this is exactly where the book demands too much of a reader: deep knowledge of the life of historical figures. For a layman, not a single chapter of this book will be an enjoyable read. The other thing that makes Dinner With Da Vinci a hard to swallow work is the peripatetic style of narrating events and inculcating implications of personal observations. At times, we find it hard to adjust our relation to the book's content.

While spurious correlations and quasi-fideistic assumptions appear to the skeptic reader, there is no denying that the book is rich in matter for the lover of knowledge. There is a passionate account of several people who had a cause in their lives and who were self-motivated to pursue it. The inspiration of loving knowledge of esoteric topics filters through the author's writing.

ISBN: 1933538554


Saturday, October 21, 2006

Pacifist Chicken And Other Largely Humorous Stories of small Hopes

Andrea Kampic has extended the title of her debutant book of humor Pacifist Chicken (Blue Agave Press, California, 2006) to specify that the stories are largely humorous but also include pieces that fall into the genre of monologues bordering on the line of cynicism. This book by Andrea Kampic is an enjoyable addition to humorous-satirical literature of our time on account of the many individual oddities and collective madness that we are all living with.

The individual stories of the book vary in mood and tone from the lambent My Dream Dog to pure maniacal ranting like Don't Make Me Hate You. The two things that connect the pieces are character driven nature of the situations and the intensity of consciousness to the lag between an idealized perfect life and the many holes in the shroud of perfection. The author has touched on a number of social issues and personal discontent in a light mood. Marital problems, parental relationships, artistic inspiration, narcissistic needs, pets, politics, meditation, and the ways in which modern urban society affects the inner world of its members are the sundry themes presented in Pacifist Chicken.

Andrea Kampic's book is made livelier by the addition of simple photos at the start of each new story. The stories themselves are short enough not to bore the reader. The author, or anyone, did not include a preface or introduction. Perhaps none was needed since Andrea Kampic has worked in Hollywood as a photographer and this first book of hers shows the insightful lens of her observation penetrating the habits of living our kind of life. It’s a book worth reading.

ISBN: 0976790939


Author Website

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

A Boy From Lawrence: The Collected Writings of Eugene F. Connolly

Sally A. Connolly has collected and edited the writings of her late husband Dr. Eugene F. Connolly in the form of a book titled A Boy From Lawrence (TypeStyles Desktop Publishing Services, USA, 2006), copyrighted 2005 but now available afresh as a second edition. The book carries entries from Dr. Connolly's journal: short passages of memoir, poems, recollections, letters, family photographs, and quotes of wisdom by icons of literature.

Two motifs of A Boy From Lawrence account for its value as a worthwhile read: love and education. The nucleus of Eugene's involvement with love is family, especially the sanctity of marriage. He lovingly writes about his children, wife, parents, and other kin. However he remembers to include his feelings of deep love for his friends, colleagues, students, and other figures in his life and those preceding it. For education, Dr. Connolly's quest of learning is aimed at the 'mystery of man', the reality and nature of existing as humans. Having served thirty years as an English Professor at a Massachusetts community college, Dr. Connolly had a passion for spiritual growth and had an intuitive sense of the God's eternal presence.

Mrs. Connolly has included some very touching memories of her husband's life in his own words. The winsome look of the professor, as adorns the cover title, is a reflection of the innocent pleasures of his childhood and the benevolent inspirations of his life as a grown-up, responsible individual. And of course, he was the man with a hunch. He taught an English class while acting dumb on account of throat problem. Even as a teacher, we feel the professor's role as more of a father who considers all students as God's children. Eugene Connolly was an inspirational teacher.

Letters of this 'Boy from Lawrence' come at the end of the book. The last two letters are of eulogy, written by his daughter and his friend, and they pay an enviable tribute to this wonderful man who lived a good life both for himself and for those who knew him.

A Boy From Lawrence comes off as an inspirational gift of wisdom and feelings that furbish the life in this world and promises a blissful life ahead. By Mrs. Connolly's book we meet a good man, something not very easy to find in our time.

ISBN: 0977265315


Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Admit It, You’re Crazy!

Ever heard of someone who makes holes in her socks? A person who irons his newspaper? What about a cat who runs a treadmill? These and many other quirks are now available in one book to tickle your sane nerve. Author Judy Reiser brings to public notice the many quirks and idiosyncrasies of people in her recent book Admit It, You’re Crazy! (Andrew McMeel Publishing, Missouri, 2005).

Judy Reiser’s book is a collage of interview clips of numerous individuals, all adults, in first person. These run the gamut of humor from real crackers to slightly off-the-track peculiarities of living. Obsessive thinking and resulting compulsion is the recurring motif in most of the instances included. At times, the behavior will not seem so irrational as some of the persons relate it to their early experiences and some of them definitely reflect the reader’s own quirks.

As far as goes the fun part of the book, it will depend on the reader’s own rationality whether the instances scribed elicit a guffaw or a sigh out him/her. More matter-of-course response from the reader, more reason to suspect one’s normality. Grins! But the book is certainly unique in that the author’s absence is nearly fixed (except in occasional questions); in some ways a short coming because after reading over fifty pages you feel lost in a deluge of voices popping in and out incessantly.

One beautifying feature of the book is the adornment with colored headings, fun figures, and vignettes that go in perfect accord with the business of going bananas. Money, eating habits, bathroom behavior, travel, and germ-response stories are presented with the profession, gender, and age of the people involved. Judy Reiser has done a nice job in letting people put on the make-up of self-critical smile before they stand under their shower. Wink!

PS: Judy Reiser is open to receiving more quirks and idiosyncrasies from people. She can be reached by e-mail given at the end of her book.

ISBN: 0740751093


Author Website:

Admit It, You’re Crazy!

Ever heard of someone who makes holes in her socks? A person who irons his newspaper? What about a cat who runs a treadmill? These and many other quirks are now available in one book to tickle your sane nerve. Author Judy Reiser brings to public notice the many quirks and idiosyncrasies of people in her recent book Admit It, You’re Crazy! (Andrew McMeel Publishing, Missouri, 2005).

Judy Reiser’s book is a collage of interview clips of numerous individuals, all adults, in first person. These run the gamut of humor from real crackers to slightly off-the-track peculiarities of living. Obsessive thinking and resulting compulsion is the recurring motif in most of the instances included. At times, the behavior will not seem so irrational as some of the persons relate it to their early experiences and some of them definitely reflect the reader’s own quirks.

As far as goes the fun part of the book, it will depend on the reader’s own rationality whether the instances scribed elicit a guffaw or a sigh out him/her. More matter-of-course response from the reader, more reason to suspect one’s normality. Grins! But the book is certainly unique in that the author’s absence is nearly fixed (except in occasional questions); in some ways a short coming because after reading over fifty pages you feel lost in a deluge of voices popping in and out incessantly.

One beautifying feature of the book is the adornment with colored headings, fun figures, and vignettes that go in perfect accord with the business of going bananas. Money, eating habits, bathroom behavior, travel, and germ-response stories are presented with the profession, gender, and age of the people involved. Judy Reiser has done a nice job in letting people put on the make-up of self-critical smile before they stand under their shower. Wink!

PS: Judy Reiser is open to receiving more quirks and idiosyncrasies from people. She can be reached by e-mail given at the end of her book.

ISBN: 0740751093


Author Website:

Friday, August 04, 2006

Dying to Be Free: A Healing Guide for Families after a Suicide

Mental health nurse Beverly Cobain and crisis intervention specialist Jean Larch have authored a short but inspiring paperback book Dying to Be Free (Hazelden Foundation, Minnesota, 2006) that will serve as a healing guide for suicide surviving families and friends.

Dying to Be Free is a book written in the ink of humanistic spirit, featuring stories of survivors of suicide and how they reunited with life while befriending the memories of their loved ones. The author Beverly Cobain tells of her own cousin’s death by suicide and presents a moving picture of what it means to be touched by such a death in family. Of course, the authors do not mean to merely console the survivors but strongly advocate identification of suicidal signs and possible preventive measures.

Suicide is alarming not only in that it brings an insufferable shock to the deceased’s kin and pals but more so due to the fact that suicide can be contagious: guilt, sorrow, and confusion combine to press the survivor(s) to enter the dark tunnel that ends in self-inflicted death. What are the signs of such cases? Can it be prevented? If yes, how to proceed? These questions are all answered clearly by Dying to Be Free and that is where the significance of the work lies.

One important element the authors elaborate in educating about suicide situations is the prevalence of what they call ‘Myths about Suicide’. For example the thought that talking about suicide results in a self-fulfilling prophecy. That these myths can in fact lead indirectly to the killing tunnel is one alarm the authors alert the readers with so as to remind all that ignorance might be an excuse but a fatal one for someone’s life.

Every sensible and caring soul needs to hear the cry of Cobain and Larch and restructure their behavior in order to prevent the deadly pain that drives one we know to death and the pain that follows thereafter.

ISBN: 1592853293


Monday, July 31, 2006

The Mentoring Mom: 11 Ways to Model Christ for Your Child

Over the years, Hollywood movies have stamped on the layman’s mind an image of a typical American family as a rubber band stretched by stressors of self-centeredness and unbridled individualism. This stamp is particularly lasting in case of teen folk. As we read Jackie Kendall’s The Mentoring Mom (New Hope Publishers, Alabama, 2006), the Hollywood’s stamp is washed away and the American family appears in a new light-that of love, care, and trust. Surely you would need a mentoring mom.

Jackie Kendall addresses caring mothers in her book, sharing the eleven images (what she calls stamps) she imprinted on her children’s lives-images that model Christ- to help them grow up in God’s image. Kendall tells simple, true nonfiction stories from her own family life and asks the readers ‘Questions for Reflection’ at the end of each chapter. It is her excellent writing style, lively humor, and prodigy of construing thoughts in the most beautiful sentences that makes her book a wonderful gift to moms and everyone else.

The Mentoring Mom carries invaluable lessons: loving the Lord by way of loving fellow human beings, the difference between mere learning the word ‘God’ and knowing God intimately, and above all, the true spirit of a real family. An indelible lesson of the book, of course, is the vitality of ‘wholesome grief’. In Kendall’s words: tears do not bring back the one who has died, but tears do bring us back to the life that must be lived without the ones who have died.

As an author Jackie Kendall’s words work wonders. The reason is not hard to figure: you can actually feel the persons, she tells of, in their own voices as if the author has a miraculous force by which she transforms herself into the soul of the one she is talking about. You can identify your life’s instances with Kendall family’s history of love and benevolence. This is indeed an achievement.

Jackie Kendall’s book is a must read because we all need Kendall’s wisdom’s light to arrive safely at our destiny of peace.

ISBN: 1596690054


Author Website:

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Human Species and Beyond

The rather effusive start of Rajesh Singh’s Human Species and Beyond (Synergy Books, Texas, 2006) sets the reader on precarious footing while grappling with the metaphysical codes that come riveting at him/her from the very first page. With no preface or foreword, Singh’s book starts brusquely with the assumption that man is suffering in his present stage of existence on account of his ignorance. The author comes a long way off his assertion through an intelligently designed argument to conclude what adherents of metaphysical schools of thought have long been insinuating-the unity of being.

It would be hard to cogently deny the intelligent connections that Sing makes in his discussion of the orders manifest in scientific discoveries in the fields of cosmology, quantum physics, evolutionary biology, and the philosophy of consciousness. A thorough understanding of the hidden order, and the message implied, are vital to guide the human species straight to its destiny. Rajesh Singh urges on humans to bridle their consciousness and steer their efforts towards the noumenal signpost or else suffer the anxiety that is not at all their true lot. The upshot of the book is a more purposeful growth and, for this, the need for redesigning our institutions.

So what leaves the reader at odds while coming to terms with Singh’s reconciliation of Rig Veda and Biblical allusions at the cosmic harmony and man’s current level of consciousness? Perhaps more than one point. First of all is Singh’s use of language, a web of long and intricately crafted sentences that adds to the complexity and associated disorder among the author’s meanings, especially when the book is aiming at presenting a concise view of epistemological concepts. Then the issue of conformism sets in. The concepts of cosmic psyche, cosmic self, cosmic being, cosmic consciousness, supramentalhood, and several others that the author has employed in his argument are more in line with a conformist thinking pattern and the skeptic has in stock at least one deep frown over Singh’s arbitrariness of divisions such as seven fields (and still one Grand Unified Field), seven kingdoms, seven oceans of energy (of which Agni is born), seven oceans of human biology (corresponding to seven plexi), and so on.

Singh’s discussion in Human Species and Beyond is undoubtedly intelligent, interesting, and thought-provoking. The author’s caliber stands on high grounds and his emphasis on the teleological order of existence is meant for salvation and peace. Whether one agrees with him or not is an issue aside; first, Human Species and Beyond is to be read, reread, and understood. For minds of serious and philosophical liking, Human Species and Beyond is commendable plus.

ISBN: 0976498170


Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Miracle of Miracles

The most effective aspect of Mina Nevisa’s Miracle of Miracles (Long Wood Communications, USA, 2004) is the personal voice of a woman who stood against the forceful captivity of thinking foisted by fundamentalist Muslims. All the pains, this devout Christian woman details, stood in her path of freedom from the reckless talons of Islamic laws hunting for the religious converts in Iran. Mina’s escape is indeed a living miracle that sends shivers through the hearts of many who do not yet know what it means to shun Islam in a fundamentalist Muslim country.

In her quest for freedom of thought and belief, Mina lost her friends to death by torture at the hands of Islamic authorities; her family to shackles of prejudiced hatred, and her first ever child to death before birth. It was a Pyrrhic victory for her, but her faith in Christ redeemed her from the dread of slavishly following something she did not choose. Miracle of Miracles is a touching account of her persistence in pursuit of what she believes the true path of salvation.

Mina’s account of her experiences is followed by an addendum at the end of the book that criticizes sharply the logical flaws of Islam’s basic teachings and tenets. She exposes the darkness incumbent on the developed world by the arrogant ideologies of Islamic fundamentalists and justifies her claims by instances from history.

Two features of the book pose a challenge to the reader’s faculty of reason. First, the account of several miracles that touched Mina’s life and those of her friends, family, and acquaintances, appear either contrived or just another interpretation of reality. For a nonbeliever, this certainly is a serious drawback of Mina’s work. Then there is the last part of the book, which acts counter to the whole mode of reading the author’s realistic account of Islamic barbarism. Mina directly addresses the readers urging on them to convert to Christian faith. Not only does this sound too preachy and unwanted in a book of mature discussion but also tames the bright image of the author’s personality. Perhaps, Mina could not subdue her emotions while thinking of ways to let people out of the claws of fundamentalist Muslims.

ISBN: 188392846X


Touch of Christ Ministries:

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Mayday! : A Physician as Patient

‘Stand tall-think tall’ was the advice of Allan Lohaus’s physical therapist, as Dr. Lohuas was wanting in spirit while having just caught the road to convalescence. Earlier came in Dr. Lohuas’s life course a painful period of intestinal surgeries and dependency on medical aid. As he came out of the nearly helpless anguish, memories of pain and distress became the subject matter of his short book May Day! A Physician as Patient (Synergy Books, Texas, 2006).

Allan Lohuas himself was moved by the agony of his mother, a cancer patient, and he decided to become a doctor. Becoming a gynecologist was sparked by his observation of mothers losing their lives to death in the process of creation. ‘Salvaging infant life’ was the spirit behind the choice. All went well till his late adolescence when abdominal pain struck him. Later a boat accident reserved him a place in hospital for months demanding patience and endurance. No doubt, the doctor’s mettle was down as he witnessed his own decline.

The psychological scars, however, that came with Dr. Lohuas’s condition were deeper. A sudden reversal in social roles brings its shock. In Dr. Lohuas’s case, the shock was stronger since it threw him into a writhing thing looking for someone who he himself was supposed to be. Enduring the pangs of silently watching a doctor operate on you is the crux of Dr. Lohuas’s story. The stages of healing are always looking the patient’s way; only the latter must keep hope: with family, friends, and memories of the good old days.

Physical healing is not the only point in Mayday! As Dr. Lohuas finds during his illness, the spirit needs as much care as the diseased body. The doctor cum patient turned to prayer and feeling a superior being when his courage to cope with the pain started to yield. In the end, we read him drawing parallels between his regaining health and the Resurrection. It’s this walking out of a nearly dead state that makes our patient a voice of hope.

First-hand experience gives Dr. Lohuas’s voice a genuine sound and his autobiographical nonfiction story is moving and strengthening. The great thing is that the convalescent doctor regains his humor. We do hear him calling his stool a ‘bomb’.

ISBN: 0975592297


Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Islam Revealed: A Christian Arab’s View of Islam

When a Muslim scholar Ahmed Deedat claimed before the audience in Birmingham Hall, England, that Jesus promised his followers the coming of his successor, Muhammad, it was Dr. Anis A. Shorrosh who challenged Mr. Deedat to a debate on the divinity of Jesus. Two debates then ensued between the two religious scholars. The second, centered on the topic ‘Is Jesus God?’ resulted in a setback to the Muslim veteran. Dr. Shorrosh’s book Islam Revealed: A Christian Arab’s View of Islam (Thomas Nelson Inc, Tennesse, 1988) is inspired by this experience.

With a foreword by Dr. Adrian Rogers, Islam Revealed is divided into two main parts. The first part presents an overview of Islam as a religion, the life of Muhammad, Islamic convictions on Jesus and crucifixion, and the validity of Quran versus Bible. Dr. Shorrosh brings to light the turbulent life of Islam’s last prophet touching on his polygamy, alleged holy wars, literacy, and strategies adopted to expand his circle of influence. Startling secrets are revealed by the Christian Doctor of Ministries as he refers to some unspoken-of historical happenings. Comparing Muhammad’s life with that of Jesus, the author attempts to prove the divinity of the latter. Interesting connections are revealed between Quran and earlier Arabic texts; connections that challenge the divine claim to Islam’s most revered book.

The second part of the book presents the readers with main points from the arguments of both debaters and rebuttals of both sides. While both show logical slips in their arguments against refuting each other’s position, Dr. Shorrosh maintains his composure and a greater degree of reason against his Muslim contestant. Questions for thought about God, Jesus, and crucifixion add to the flavor of this interesting religious debate.

Islam Revealed carries endnotes, bibliography, and a glossary of Arabic terms with English meanings makes it easy for a Non-Arab to apprehend the points taken up in Dr. Shorrosh’s arguments.

ISBN: 0840730152


Thursday, June 08, 2006

Pain Free for Life: The 6-Week Cure for Chronic Pain--Without Surgery or Drugs

Mind-body interaction has long been the topic of arguments in philosophy and science. Psychosomatic approach to painful symptoms is well known among physicians and psychotherapists. Doctor Scott Brady has, for the first time, designed a six-week cure for chronic pain ascribed usually to physical causes but rooted in reality in a patient’s history of repressed negative emotions. He gives an account of it in his book Pian Free for Life: The 6-Week Cure for Chronic Pain--Without Surgery or Drugs (Center Street, New York, 2006), co-authored with William Proctor.

Dr. Brady coins the term Autonomic Overload Syndrome (AOS) to describe the symptoms of physical pain, insomnia, and skin conditions like psoriasis arising from repressed emotions like anger, guilt, shame, frustration, and fear. Physical manifestations of AOS are varied and have been frequently ascribed to herniated disks, fibromyalgia, and other bodily conditions. Dr. Brady relates them to emotional overload of the mind’s unconscious part and advises on how to keep pain away by following his mind-body-spirit healing program. The six-week program includes harnessing a disturbed unconscious by practices of relaxation and fathoming repression of the past, and providing an outlet for this mental monster to flee via techniques like depth journaling and biofeedback.

By describing pain-prone personality types and asking assessment questions, Dr. Brady helps his readers judge their own situation and vulnerability to AOS. His book is encouraging in that it boosts the pain-prone soul’s confidence by asserting the fact that conscious part of our mind is stronger than the unconscious. While this defies the Freudian psychoanalytic approach to illness, a new hope of healing without surgery and chemotherapy is sparkled through Dr. Brady’s research: pain is controllable by will and insight.

The book ends with Dr. Brady’s answers to questions arising in the minds of his readers. He recounts how he recovered from chronic pain by tending to the urges of his mind. Certainly, his work is a landmark in motivating pain-sufferers to step on the path of healing with greater confidence, courage, and independence.

ISBN: 0446577618


Brady Institute Homepage:

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Sleeping on Potatoes

‘Sleeping on Potatoes is the metaphor for the bumpy and lumpy ride I had in my formative years,’ Dr. Carl Nomura explains in the preface to his debut publication Sleeping on Potatoes: A Lumpy Adventure from Manzanar to the Corporate Tower (Erasmus Books, Washington, 2003). Nomura then extends this metaphor into a vivified mosaic of his life’s experiences by bringing them to view through the eyes of a child and all the way up to a person with aspirations.

Starting informally with his mother Mizuko’s story, a Japanese woman who married Nomura’s father because ‘she heard that in America everyone was tall’, Dr. Nomura creates a series of true, non-fictional, real life stories that border on the line between short story and personal essay. Reliving in linguistic light the hardship of poverty, a heartless father, the humiliation of being forced to move into relocation centers during the Second World War, and the travails of disease and bereavement, Nomura throws his readers into a joyous shock with the amazing optimism of his attitude and his lively humor that arises spontaneously from the interaction of situation and language. One instance is from his school days: ‘we thought her name (Sister Perpetual) fitted her because she beat us perpetually’. Certainly not to overlook the fun of fishing and poker, and giving smoking up for good when an angry woman comes inches from your face and calls you a ‘polluting pig.’

Though a doctor of philosophy in Solid State Physics, and an important figure in the corporate world of technology, it is Nomura’s flair of seeing things as matter of course that lures one to appreciate his magnanimity. Not going a braggart, he opens a window to the philosophy of life-contentment, be it a doctorate in physics and excellence in management of small businesses, or using a bathroom 200 feet away from his bed in a trailer. Life is joy if you have your guts tuned to its frequency of vicissitudes.

Marking Sleeping on Potatoes as a book to amuse would be a reader’s pitfall. It is a book enormous in its scope, though not in its volume (250 pages). By no means is this the adventurous story of a single person, reflecting on his past. It is the story of many characters that endured and fought against social injustice and untoward circumstances-from women like Mizuko and Louise, to the sufferers in relocation centers, and the motherless litter of cats who were lucky enough to make it to Nomura’s house. His heart touching memories of Mox, the neighbor’s dog, harbor all the richness and beauty of life. Nomura traces the causes of discontent in marital life, discusses issues associated with terminal illness, and informs on linguistic and the cultural relativism of English and Japanese native speakers.

Now in his eighties, retired and coping with prostate cancer, Nomura’s lumpy ride has not come to a pause. It is bumping all along with new interest in learning and doing things and new ways of adding to the richness of his life. With his new wife, children and grandchildren, pets, garden, books, and the untamed freshness of mind, Dr. Carl Nomura lives as if he is immortal.

ISBN: 0970194730


Book Overview:

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

O’Connor’s Federal Rules: Civil Trials 2005

Michael C. Smith is an attorney with The Roth Law Firm in Marshall, Texas, where he specializes in product liability, and complex commercial and patent litigation in federal and state courts. Smith has served as chairman of the Local Rules Advisory Committee for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas since 2000 and is president of the Eastern District of Texas Bar Association. He has updated O’Connor’s Federal Rules: Civil Trials 2005 published by Jones McClure Publishing, Texas, 2005. It is a bulky tome (1200 pages) whose intended readership comprises lawyers and judges.

Smith’s book is a rulebook on procedure in federal courts, divided into ten main sections, which exhaustively deal with all the aspects of trials in civil courts. Half of the book’s volume details commentaries on the framework of procedures that are to be legally followed in a civil court. The commentaries deal with introduction to the Federal Rules, various considerations on part of attorneys and plaintiffs, proofs and evidences, judgment factors, hearings and pleadings, and all contained within and related to such issues.

The rest of the book deals with MultiDistrict Litigation Rules, Federal Rules (of Civil Procedures, Evidences, and Appellate Procedures), Code and Constitution of the United States, Advisory Committee Notes to Rules, the Hague Convention on Service Abroad, and eventually with Timetables followed in civil court procedures.

The author has taken care to refer district judges as the ‘district court’ and parties as ‘it’, presenting them as corporations (which they often are). This certainly has helped him make a gender-neutral voice.

An index categorizing the major topics with detailed sub-headings, alphabetically, has been added to facilitate topic search.

In sum, Smith’s Civil Trials guide is the law-professional’s complete source for advice and knowledge on every aspect of civil trials in the U.S.

ISBN: 1884554962


Author’s Website:

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Envy of the Gods: If The Reward Were Right

Envy of the Gods (Bridgeway Books, Texas, 2006) is the first in Andrea Savitch’s trilogy of fiction. Set in the medieval world of Raalek, the tale gives an account of power-hungry Duke Atan Ishtba whose recklessness could not be checked by any means until the arrival of beautiful and willful Raphela. In 316 pages, Andrea Savitch circumscribes the peak period of the lives of her two main characters with sensuality and power as her motifs.

Savitch’s work has the desirable quality needed for every work of fiction, a smooth and fluent narration. Her use of language is creative and there are no verbal barriers in the reader’s progress with the book. Letting the reader know in the first page that the story of the Duke is told on the first night each spring readily induces the ambience of folklore. The story of the young Duke’s craving for power and Raphela’s passion for conquering him hooks the reader from the first few chapters.

Then the unwieldiness of the novel’s plot starts hovering over the mind. Little description of the Castle Cordan, the characters, and the social world, the emptiness of events and their causal unrelatedness all render the tale incapable of a deeper impact. Accounts of punishment and subsequent compassion are highly incompatible with the outlines of characters. The author’s unending concern with Mahtso’s chain bothers. Before late, the interaction of characters assumes a mechanical air that seems to linger until the meeting of Raphela and Nabus at the end, a scene touching in its unaffectedness.

The transformation of Atan into a man from a beast and Raphela’s victory in standing by her love of knowledge give something of a plot to Savitch’s tale. The title stays unthought of. It is the Absence of Gods that needs to be dealt with. The story of Svaitch’s ‘legends of power’ is not over and in the coming ventures a convincing conclusion can be hoped for.


Author’s Website

ISBN: 1933538112

Friday, May 05, 2006

Double Blank

Double Blank

Drugs, lies, murders, and hunt for the culprit at the root-a typical crime story everyone has been watching for decades. This time Yasmina Khadra sets the scene in Algeria with his (or her, if you would) political thriller Double Blank (Toby Press, Connecticut, 2005). We now know Khadra is the nom de plume of Mohammed Moulessehoul, an Algerian army officer whose books breach the underpinnings of violence in Algeria. It is easy to see where a modern political thriller like Double Blank ends up-at the doorstep of a crooked businessman cum politician. And Khadra gets us way up there.

Double Blank tells of police superintendent, Mr. Llob, who is set to track the hand behind a series of murders involving puppets in the drug market and the red-light district. Things get to a little higher level as clues point to a conspiracy theory living in a diskette. There is little new in the 140 pages of killings and investigation except its Algerian setting. You are watching Law and Order with some added action and subtracted coherence of plot.

Khadra’s book is a prey to many weaknesses. It is supposed to be a novel but the mode of narration is typical of a short story. The voice of the narrator in present has unnaturalness hard to put up with, especially in a story with events that certainly have taken place in the past. There is little true action in the story and the most blatant murders happen in two sentences. Lack of description leaves a very poor mental picture of the scenes. Characters too are extremely ill-defined and character development seems a thing alien to the author’s concern.

The most fatal slump of Double Blank is, perhaps, the quirky employment of humor throughout the telling of events. Superintendent Llob’s voice sounds detached from its inner care for peace by constantly gushing out twisted quips, many of which are too idiosyncratic to be appreciated. Clumsy experimenting it language and slack exaggeration for the sake of humor nullifies the effect of Khadra’s tale. In general, Double Blank falls too very short of a novel. It sounds like a story you try to get involved in as a reader and always find yourself far behind where you started.

ISBN: 1592641199


Sunday, April 30, 2006

Your Healing Diet: A Quick Guide to Reversing Psoriasis and Chronic Diseases with Healing Foods

The impetus for writing a book against psoriasis came from Deirdre Earls’ own long and painful encounter with the skin condition. The dietitian from Texas chose a more natural way of tackling her problem by healing with diet instead of chemotherapy. Her book Your Healing Diet (BookSurge Publishing, South Carolina, 2006) gives dietary advice on coping with problems, including psoriasis, resulting from noxious food.

Though Earls’ book is a short one, mere 62 pages, it offers a simple and clear explanation of the anatomy of psoriasis and other diseased conditions in terms of food intake and digestion. Particularly informative and interesting are the author’s description of human body’s acid/alkaline balance, nutritional value of different food species, and comparison of natural versus processed food items. The facts sum up to the uncommon but wholesome principle of ‘healing from the inside out’ rather than ‘healing only the symptoms from the outside in’.

Earls puts forth her three central healing principles: diet, positive outlook, and outdoor activity. The brunt of her dietary commendation stands on fresh vegetarian food, discouraging flesh, fat, and artificial snacks. She shares her own culinary chart with the readers, caring for taste, which, to her, comes after good health.

The real value of her work is latent in the power of motivation her words stir up in the reader. The many side effects of drugs are the horror of a patient. Knowledge of our natural nutritional treasure is essential to each and every person who is having health problems of any sort. Earls’ short book comes close to achieving this aim.

For Americans, or those visiting here, Your healing Diet is of practical guidance in that it has a list of stores where food of value can be purchased. Whether one is home or traveling, Earls’ book is a good guide to better eating.

ISBN: 1419617079


Author Website:

Friday, April 28, 2006


Naveed Nori is an author’s pseudonym now getting to be known for his novel Dakhmeh (Toby Press, USA, 2003). Noori’s work is disturbing, antirevolutionary, and almost deliriously scornful toward Islamic totalitarianism in post revolutionary Iran.

Dakhmeh is the story of a young, irreligious man, Arash whose nostalgic compulsion drives him back to Iran, his home country that his family fled during the war of Islamic Revolution. The misery of post revolutionary Iranian life shatters his idealistic picture of life in his country and he ends up as a political prisoner somewhere between sanity and madness.

From the first page, the text of the book hits the reader as poorly written, egotistical, and sloppy. The story lacks a clear point and character development is null. Narration is mostly incoherent with alternating first person and omniscient modes, both abruptly truncating. Too much of personal pique shows on every page till the end. Even conversation between the vaguely portrayed characters feel like formal interviews, all leading to a prefigured viewpoint.

Certainly the author has plucked a significant string in the history of politics and societal transformation. His (?) criticism of media and cruel treatment of all creatures outside the fundamentalist’s circle are of appeal to the humanistic mind. Still, Noori fails badly as a novelist. The motives of his (?) protagonist are diffused and Arash’s obsession with socio political change is utterly boring. Lack of meaning in the protagonist’s experiences is disappointingly manifest. His vindictive bitterness pours out on leaders and historical figures alike, childishly with little thought or coherence of ideas. The intended audience of the author is also hard to imagine.

In general, Dakhmeh is a frumpy text of sloppily worked political history and social dilapidation. After Arash contracts a prostitute, we read him asking himself ‘Where was I heading?’ A reader’s wish might well be ‘If only the author had asked himself (?) the same question before setting out to write this book.’

ISBN: 190288177X


Thursday, April 20, 2006

Chains Around the Grass

Naomi Ragen is an international bestseller novelist, a writer of and about the core of human life. Chains Around the Grass (The Toby Press, USA, 2003) is the book Ms. Ragen says that she became an author to write. Setting the story of a poor Jewish family in the heart of America, Naomi Ragen calls for a revision of attitudes shaped by the sickness of reckless capitalism and its people who have turned into machines fuelled with business.

The novel’s prologue is captivating. Through the eyes of the moment, little Sara Markowitz is shown sitting in humility in her rich uncle’s house with her mother Ruth and brother Jesse out for the funeral of her father David Markowitz. Pursuing the old American dream of a well-off future, David never realizes the greater need of familial love that is showering him all along and the lives of his family chug along the uncertain paths of the business world. With the loss of David the family slumps into an indefinable channel of struggle against the demands of the society and its own integrity.

Chains Around the Grass is one of the semantically richest works carrying a number of issues. Sick capitalist values are questioned in the suffering of widowed Ruth and her children with several close, rich, relatives. The dilemma of a poor minority’s identity under social pressure speaks in Ruth’s resentment of changing Jesse’s family name to ‘Marks’. What underlies insanity is illustrated cogently in Jesse’s character. Sara’s character embodies the process of personality development under early childhood traumas. The best explored is, perhaps, gender inequality prevailing in the social world, best instantiated in Sara’s feelings of hatred towards her own brother.

Naomi Ragen’s striking symbolism in her novel’s situations is the quality of her work that best complements other merits. The heaven of idealized life is shattered to ‘chips flying away under time’s relentless chisel’. When they were united and beautiful like young lush grass, they were out of reach on account of ‘chains’ around them. One set of ‘ropes’ is replaced with another and the dream of catching your life’s beauty is never actualized until you see your life’s time ending abruptly like a dream. Naomi Ragen is at her best in justice with her characters. Reality comes to them as they finally learn to ‘measure their life with the right yardstick’. Through Ruth’s faith, we all know that a purely humanistic relationship is possible if we know the beauty of our inner self. It is an illustration of Eric Fromm’s humanistic psychoanalysis; a story as real as reading one’s own mind.

With all its beauty of language and elements of realistic fiction, Chains Around the Grass carries a problem as a book. The title and the prologue are suggestive of Sara as being the protagonist. It is through Sara’s eyes that the tenderness of life and monsters of fear are revealed to us but Sara’s character is treated scantily as compared to that of her parents and her brother Jesse. Essentially it is the story of Ruth’s life. Her figure could have given a better illustrative title and prologue.

ISBN: 1902881826


Author’s Website:

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Three 1-Act Plays

The second volume of Tom Anselmo plays Three 1-Act Plays (Red Brindle Press, New York, 2006) is not a series like the first one Gail’s Place by virtue of the same protagonist and unity of place, but by the common motif resolution of self’s internal conflicts. As Anselmo puts it in his preface to the plays ‘I write about people who are on the verge of self-discovery’, the book causes the conflicts in an individual’s mind peep through the voice of the leading characters. As the person in the story discovers his or her own suppressed urges, values of familial love, commitment, and obligation undergo critical scanning.

The plays begin with Matt and Sara, set in a resort, in which the protagonists consciously deny themselves aspects of their personalities that society might find obnoxious. Matt gives up speaking in company to evade any awkwardness on account of his stuttering. Sara is a self-restrainer, ashamed of her aunt’s showy manners practiced for winning men’s affection. Their need and struggle for self-acceptance bring them together on common grounds. The theme of the play symbolically comes out to be the victory of human understanding over flirtatious ostentation in any meaningful relationship.

Getting deeper to the core of the conflict is The Voices, a play in which two different impulses of Cathy, the heroine, are personified characters. The issue at hand is Cathy’s suspicion of Steve in regard to his sincerity to Ellie, Cathy’s friend and Steve’s girlfriend. Cathy has seen Steve with another young woman in way that makes her inner voices contend for keeping or revealing the incident to Ellie. The first voice presses on retaining the secret for the sake of intimacy while the second one is resolved on squaring things at the surface for the sake of making relationships better. Anselmo presented the conflict in Gail’s Place. Only this time both impulses are vis-à-vis, sweeping dust off the true nature of social reality: is social reality there as matter of course, or is it created when one impulse gets over the others to seize the self? The author leaves the question open to the audience, to be taken up by their own inner voices.

Summing up the argument between the inner voices in the third play Penny is again Gail Stanza, heroine of Anselmo’s trilogy of 2-act plays Gail’s Place. Eponymous Penny is Gail’s sister in law who has continued pampering her husband Robby despite his repeated indulgence in gambling. As Penny asks Gail for help with their debt, Gail reacts crossly to Penny’s blind devotion to her husband in the name of love. The dialogue between Gail, Ron, and Penny brings out the issue of familial obligation versus common sense. The underlying question is whether sympathy should be furthered or checked when one’s peace of mind is knuckling under it.

Anselmo’s plays renovate the tradition of serious drama by invoking a debate over the limitations of social norms and individual obligation to follow them. The scope of his discussion is multifold, pertinent to matters of family, sense, obligation, spontaneity of one’s self, and discovery of new ways of existing against the modus vivendi.

Anselmo’s Three 1-Act Plays is the thoughtful mind’s donut.

ISBN: 0977079422


Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Gail’s Place: A Trilogy of Plays in Two Acts

Thomas Hardy didactically preserved his Tess, a young woman who attempted to be honest in her intimate relationship by revealing her secret, and thus ended at the gallows. Tom Anselmo takes care to let his Gail clinch a footing in both her inner and social worlds as she unveils the mask of falsity in relationships. Anselmo’s first volume of plays is a trilogy of two-act plays by the title Gail’s Place (Red Brindle Press, New York, 2006). While each plays stands on its own plot, central to all is Gail Stanza’s character, a woman who is bent on reconciling her inner self with that of her social role by cracking secrets that tend to stifle one’s individuality and true identity.

The opening play Secret Burdens centers Gail Stanza at the heart of their party in the honor of their friends’ marriage anniversary. While Lily attributes her marriage’s success to care in keeping secrets from the spouse, as do Mark and Evelyn, Gail is disposed nearly in excess to resurrect past grievances so as to ensure calm in the future. Gail’s character has no hint of sullenness about her and so the audience is likely to appreciate her assertiveness as the moral implications of it unfold.

Clues starts as a detective drama with Evelyn Harper lying in coma in the hospital. Gail’s speculations about Mark are turning into reality and the question of responsibility arises from the depth of Gail’s character. We meet Gail’s inner self, personified, and conversing with Gail over shutting down of vital human sensibilities. Gail’s self-conscious speech makes her a lovable character: ‘I have the distinguished honor of being a big-mouth.’ And her pride in her truthfulness is an impetus to secretive sufferers like Margaret: ‘I’m glad I don’t have the kind of ties that turn us into moral pretzels.’ As Gail scatters the shards of hypocrisy for good, Lily sees her own inner self, clad in a shroud, rising and walking. Anselmo’s genius shows, not tells, how to connect with your being’s center.

The third play The Place moves the argument closer into Gail’s home as her husband Ron finds himself at odds with his inner self against his colleague’s promotion grounded on Ron’s support. Carl is suspected of sexual harassment of one of his students. Again it is Gail who goads her husband to act in harmony with his inner voice. Gail’s personified, abstract, self finds a mate in form of Ron’s resurrected center. Alongside we see the false consciousness of Lynn, Carl’s wife, who accepts compromise as matter of course.

Anselmo has fixed the familiar signboard of serious drama in the history of modern literature. With no foul language, no hip-hop mania, conscientious protagonists, and character-driven situations, Anselmo’s plays speak the truth about the nature of secrets, their implications, and behavioral significance.

The serious subject matter and ease of writing style place Anselmo’s book among lovable reads.

ISBN: 0977079414


Author Website:

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Heaven’s Witness

In the vista are two authors, Joseph Telushkin and Allen Estrin, who have joined heads to chill the breath of mystery nuts with their paranormal psychological thriller Heaven’s Witness (Toby Press, Connecticut, USA, 2004). The prologue of this 462 pages, hardbound, chiller sets one’s curiosity on heels in a second and keeps the reader’s breath stranded for a pretty good while.

To call Heaven’s’ Witness a unique thriller of its kind would be overlooking an overwhelming number of thriller books and movies. Those Indian flick maniacs are long familiar with the ‘transmigration of soul’ belief and even in Hollywood it is not a novel idea. Heaven’s Witnes's specialty is the way it has attempted to reconcile the age-old idea of soul survival with the partially explored realm of paranormal psychology.

In the novel, we meet Robin Norris, a young actress of twenty-five, who is taken in deep hypnotic trance by a psychiatrist Jordan Geller. In a state of regression, Robin assumes the identity of a seventeen-year old girl Beverly Casper and describes a horrifying murder scene of the teenager, a murder that took place seven years prior to Robin’s birth. Who can resist leaping up! The story thus proceeds in the usual suspense movie style with a series of murders of teenage girls, each killing followed by a message to the parents from the Messenger, the serial killer. Suspects get shifting in the reader’s mind and the protagonists run themselves in deeper trouble before finally coming up with the Messenger’s real identity.

Two things undermine the novel’s take over. First, the question killer who? is answered nearly in full by the time we read a little more than half of the book. Second, the curiosity about why is quenched at nearly the same time. What is worse is that the main hook in the story Is Robin’s account an instance of reincarnation or a rationally possible revival of suppressed memory? is left unresolved at the end. The effect is like being cheated.

There are weaknesses that are all too obtrusive. Dr. Geller’s hypnotic skills working on Robin are almost cartoonish. Lack of character development is the book’s Achilles Heel. The element of romance in the story is little more than dead and we look at a passive, talking-only hero. The situations are not effectively experienced from any single character’s eyes and a feeling of detachment from the whole tale prevails through most of the book’s’ length. Perhaps it is what comes off when you try to gather thirty-two years of mystery in two weeks of the narration’s span.

In spite of all the weaknesses, Heaven’s Witness has some convincingly appreciable qualities. Deviant psychiatrist Geoffrey Bolton’s belief things just don’t happen, there’s a reason is a conviction that strengthens Dr. Geller’s case of pursuing his view of reality with genuine force. The need to deviate from the stereotyped and clichéd has found firm footing in the story’s framework. Still more significant is the psychological peep into the depths of some common diseased products of life: the panic-stricken writer whose real disease is the degradation of audience’s taste of comedy, the porn-obsessed young man whose root problem is low self-esteem on account of his homely figure, and the mother-hating young woman who is the victim of her domineering mother’s hard-shelled feminism.

Heaven’s Witness is a nice read but not hypnotically riveting.

ISBN: 1592640915

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Slow Dancing at Death’s Door: Helping Your Parent Through the Last Stages of Life

It is impressive to see that a woman, Amy C. Baker, from the corporate world has stepped forward to show us our deepest human value: the need for serving our departing generation. Her book Slow Dancing at Death’s Door (Life Journey/Cook International, Colorado, 2006) incarnates a healthy form of what has been called ‘Survivor’s Syndrome’. Amy Baker exhausts her experience of anger, frustration, loneliness, and grief, that are the lot of so many aging members of our ‘Sandwich Generation’, and comes out with an enlightening lesson: forgiving for not knowing better.

Losing her mother to cancer and father to Hepatitis C, Amy Baker recounts what it feels like losing your loved ones and how best you can play your role of a caring child, at the same time a spouse, a parent, a responsible employee, and many temporary roles that one is obliged to take in life. That business world has not calcified her human spirit shows in Baker’s account of all she did for her dying parents to claim her success as a humane being. That she is an intelligent writer is evident from the warmth and energy of emotion that saturate her expression throughout the book.

As Amy Baker maturely embellishes her passages with good-hearted humor, the gravity of a subject like death (and that of one’s own parents) has no chance to oppress or offend the reader. However, Baker does more than that. With her faith, she illustrates the falsity of our perfection-seeking attitude towards life, thus showing us the importance to shed our slough of self-centeredness while at the same time not overlooking the need to take care of ourselves in order to be able to care for our parents. The emphasis is on growth not only in flesh and blood but more so in human spirit. On the practical side, we can see advice on hospice, management of ailing parents, and legal matters pertaining to inheritance, estate panning, and wills.

The nonconformist reader might frown over Baker’s frequent resort to biblical quotes, which are seen as the source of inspiration and divine power. This does become a bit obtrusive, especially at end of the book, where the author discusses preserving family history for future generations. Nevertheless, the spontaneity of her account of her parents’ death holds high her attempt to ‘light beacons of hope’ in her reader’s heart. The touching beauty of Amy Baker’s tapestry of words in paying homage to her late parents is heart winning. She is one writer who emerges victorious from her situation as a caring survivor.

ISBN: 0781442621


Author’s Website

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Dressed in Fiction

Starting with a discussion of the centrality of fashion in dress to human behavior, independent scholar Clair Hughes takes a look at the employment of dress in select English fiction in her book Dressed in Fiction (Berg Publishers, Oxford-New York, 2006). Clair’s work is a confluence of literary criticism and critical description of scenes of dress in a group of English fictional texts written over a period of about 200 years, from early eighteenth to the late twentieth century.

As the author admits beforehand, most of her discussion in the book is of fashionable, middle or upper class clothes; the reason being that dress of the underclass varies little until the advent of the mass market. The novels chosen for the bulk of the discussion range from Daniel Defoe’s Roxana to Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth, and the author sums up the topic in a quick glance at fiction from Samuel Richardson’s Pamela to Anita Brookner’s Hotel Du Lac.

While Clair Hughes makes women’s dress the core of her consideration, she does not fail to relate the ideas of gender, color of the dress, technical terms for costumes, and the excess or absence of dress references. Thus an interest in history and society is at once sated through the medium of clothing. Literary criticism shows in the author’s ingenious foray of the exploration of how fiction authors’ employment of dress and its accessories can illuminate the structure of that text. Ultimately, human values of the specific social world that existed at the time of the text’s creation are researched.

Supplementing the book’s discussion are paintings or engravings of nearly the same date as the text in view, imparting a general image of the period and its particular style of dress. This is a merit of the book that counts.

Dressed in Fiction has its shortcomings. Devoting an appreciable amount of space to history and stories of the fictional works, it fails at places to relate strongly the employment of dress with the main frame of the novel’s plot. An intrinsic connection of situations taken up for explanation with the dress described does not always seem valid.

Endnotes, a bibliography, and an index at the end of the book give an academically professional touch to it.

In its entirety, Dressed in Fiction is an experimental work following the lines of Gillian Beer’s 1989 book Arguing with the Past. It opens up a topic for critical discussion to be fathomed by future studies.

ISBN: 1845201728


Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The Feel the Fear Guide to Lasting Love

The subject of a successful love relationship has been tried to banality in innumerable publications. While most of them might be out in the print for making bucks, Susan Jeffers’ latest book The Feel the Fear Guide to Lasting Love (Jeffers Press, California, 2005) is one winning endeavor of showing the path to a lasting love life. Jeffers, who has been titled with ‘the Queen of Self-Help’, presents secret lessons of love that make one’s person lovable rather than tiring oneself out in finding an ideal mate. It teaches how to be the ideal mate.

The conversational style of Susan Jeffers befriends the reader since the first page. Her openness inspires when she confesses that her meaningful knowledge of love did not come from her university degrees but from her personal experience of marriage, divorce, dating, and remarrying. Thus she discovered the higher purpose of love, becoming a more loving person, and she generously shares it with her readers.

Jeffers makes the important distinction between ‘selfish love’ and ‘real love’. She peeps into the politics of relationships and redefines power as control over one’s own actions and reactions and not as controlling others. Revealing the vitality of communication to the happiness of a relationship, Jeffers speaks about maintaining a happy sex life well into the advance age. Impact of problems related to children and in-laws, money, and betrayal of trust are taken up and cogently resolved in the light of self-purification.

Perhaps the most significant aspect of Susan Jeffers’ book is her advice on seeing beyond the stereotyped concept of ideal love that permanently blocks our way to happiness. For example the picture of love as carved in the traditional way of thought by characters of long-adored fairy tales and literature of romance. Hence the humbug of love at first sight and other clichés. Shaking us out of the inertia of stereotyped gender roles, the author stresses nurturing essential human qualities of strength, assertiveness, rationality, protection, and so on. Her question ‘Find one reason not to end the war between the sexes’ stuns the rational mind.

Redundancy does show in the book. There is repetition. Nevertheless, The Feel the Fear Guide to Lasting Love does not bore and as a whole remains enjoyable. Words of wisdom from great brains give each chapter a lovely start. No denying that Jeffers’ book is valid in all relationships and not restricted to romance or sexual life. It creates an openness that leads straight to the diseased root of unhealthy relationships. Its audience encircles all who have anything to do with any sort of human relationship.

ISBN: 0974577693


Author Website:

Saturday, March 11, 2006

The 4 Realities of Success During and After College

Here is a self-help/how to book that tells college students about all the things they must take care of in order to be mate with success. Published by Authorhouse, (Indiana, 2005) Bob Roth’s The 4 Realities of Success During and After College is a guide for college students, recent graduates, and young adults, showing how to achieve success by a stepwise pursuit of the four realities of success. These are:

1. You can be more successful in college
2. It takes an effective job search to land the job you want
3. You can be more effective in your job search
4. Going out on your own shouldn’t be a rude awakening

Roth takes the pains to present his readers with 62 chapters, 7 appendices, a bibliography, and an index all that would leave no point practically counting in a successful career. The book offers advice on organizational skills as a student, intelligent job-hunting, fixing a stance in one’s first job, and living as an individual. There is enough information and advice on each point the author lists.

With all the advice and lists of innumerable things to care for, The 4 Realities of Success During and After College underwhelms as a book. A lot of repetition and redundancy is obtrusively thwarting the reader’s attempt to get along with it. Points are given patchy descriptions instead of full-fledged elaboration, resulting in a jumpy feeling. The reader is constantly stuffed with points and steps to follow and no passage is devoted to let him participate in the field being explored. A preachy tone is seen in which a voice constantly haunts you to do or avoid certain things. More importantly, three fourth of the book tells you ‘what to do or avoid’ but not ‘how to bring this about’. Part four (Going out on your own shouldn’t be a rude awakening) is more practicable and wisely construed than the other three realities where countless things are to be done without having any idea how to be motivated in their direction. In any case, the individual has to lose most (if not all) of his self if he follows half of what he is being led to. It’s like ‘be yourself or gain success.’

One thing, perhaps the only one that captures the interest and conveys wisdom is inclusion of quotes from really successful figures like R.W. Emerson, Oscar Wilde, Benjamin Franklin, Frank Tyger, and so on. One such from Albert Schweitzer reads ‘I do not believe that we can put into anyone ideas which are not in him already.’

ISBN: 1420844709


Tuesday, March 07, 2006

The Dark and Bloody Ground

Hailing from Jenkins in Southeastern Kentucky, Roberta Webb worked as a psychiatric nursing supervisor, continued her nursing at the University of Virginia, and worked for a short time on the first atomic bomb as a minute technician. Now, living in Texas, she has embarked on a writing career with her debut novel The Dark and Bloody Ground (TurnKey Press, Texas, 2006), a historical saga of a Kentucky family through its five generations.

The story starts with Morgan Collier’s irresistible fascination with the wild highs of Kentucky. As he settles there with his family, a full-fledged adventure lived in the open ensues with all the richness of natural vitalism. Adaptation to the wild, action against enemies both natural and human, and the harmony of love and force all constitute the history of life lived in and with the wild. Morgan’s progeny is fostered ahead in his daughter Sarah giving birth to Amy, she in turn becoming the mother of Ben Cantrell and the grandmother of Ben’s son Thomas. Zooming in on characters across generations, the author skillfully pilots an omniscient voice.

Webb’s experience of history contributes immensely to the realism of her novel’s story: the Bessemer’s Process for purifying steel, the Yamaha Pianos of the Japanese, details of mining and construction, and the craft of winemaking make an imagery of high appeal to evocation. Kentucky is slowly unmasked as the ‘dark and bloody ground’ where a wild innocence sheltered its inhabitants as early as 1840 until the arrival of investment for mining and Levi Cantrell’s obsession with making money and until after the Second World War. With the advent of capital and people, Levi’s lust for wealth drags him into bootlegging, and murder while the town is ravaged by competitiveness, theft, and worthlessness of man. The care for one’s family falls servile before satiating the masses’ craving for moonshine. The cracks widen and the Cantrell family is torn between losing their blood to war and keeping their faith in Mother Nature. A plot of its kind!

To involve the reader head over heels, Webb hooks the reader up on the supernatural trait of Ben Cantrell and his son Thomas. Both have got cat eyes, and in the words of Levi Cantrell ‘…cats have nine lives.’ Webb’s symbolism certainly conveys the power of nature in human life. To side with the wild is to survive in the eternally fierce world no matter what form wildness assumes. And hence we find Thomas Cantrell breathing his life while his peers enter their graves. Crueler is the case of Wesley Adams who is on a curse by Lettie Mullins, whose son he killed, that haunts her mind as he fears for the lives of his own sons.

The Dark and Bloody Ground is tout in its plot. It outstrips tautology except in the reminders that the old mountain people still looked healthy and beautiful despite their age. A couple of chapters are overly descriptive, exceeding plot and character, and zooming in on labor employed to urbanize Kentucky. But most of the 24 chapters are beautifully written. And at the end of the book you cannot help asking, with a sigh, Sarah Collier’s question, ‘How could a place so beautiful witness so many tragedies?’

ISBN: 1-933538-08-2


Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Unscrambled Eggs

If a book is short and carries choice verse, few would leave it to a second sitting. Miami author Nadia brown instantiates this assertion in her first book of poetry Unscrambled Eggs (Publish America, Baltimore, 2005). A collection of sixty poems, Unscrambled Eggs is an artistic pluck in the floating stillness of mundane thought. A daring, dissenting return to self-respect is the upshot of Miss Brown’s poetry.

The individual poems in the book are short, each centered closely on a distinct point. Tone varies from aspiring to confessional, though never leaving the self-conscious position of a deserving soul in the broad social milieu. Themes explored are more humanistic, less illusory or sentimental, and crucial to one’s self-esteem. Social injustice in Sea of Poor (in a country of gold and ledger, lies a sea of poor), self-respect in The Lesson Learned (Yet I exceed, your scant recognition) an urge on poet’s art to be more than mere words in Liquid Muse (what good are handsome metaphors, when profoundness eludes your pen), the nature of skin-deep, lie-loving love in Unforeseen Affair (it was not maliciousness, that hastened you away, but truth), and many vital issues are taken up in a mere 70 pages.

Unscrambled Eggs defies the conventional, the prejudiced, and whets the human spirit with determination, hope, unyielding fidelity to one’s purpose, and confession of one’s own fallibilities. There is a strong penchant for a purpose in life, at times growing morose. But the poetess never fails in keeping hold of the softness that opens the reader’s unbiased ear. This is achievement.

The degree of freedom with which the themes involve us is maintained in the lack of absence of end rhymes, reinforcing the mode of free, unprejudiced writing. Alliteration is not ardently employed and rhythm solely bears the characterization of verse. Nevertheless, the balance is secured. Cadence is not perfect but melodious and smooth. A quality that cannot go unappreciated is the feeling of fullness in each and every poem; no brusque truncations.

The crux of Miss Brown’s book is enmeshed in two poems sparkling with brilliance. Suppose glances wistfully at the irreversibility of time and its damage.

‘imagine life as a chalkboard
where errors are erased’

And certainly, the title poem Unscrambled Eggs pictures the ‘holes of the size of mountains’ each of us has in his or her life. How assiduously we try to refill them, the task is no easier than unscrambling eggs.

‘but when will I learn
I can no more unscramble eggs
Than change the past’

Unscrambled Eggs is a gift to poetry lovers.

ISBN: 1-4137-8169-1


Sunday, February 19, 2006

Positive Energy

Veteran psychiatrist Dr. Judith Orloff ventures to spotlight practical Energy Psychiatry, her expertise, a blend of traditional medicine and subtle energies of body and mind in her latest book Positive Energy (Three Rivers Press, New York, 2005). Grounded mainly in the deep-rooted mystical traditions, Energy Psychiatry is a scientific transformation of abstract energy principles for the treatment of a range of everyday problems like anxiety, maladjustment, mood swings, sexual discontent, and the general stresses of life. That makes Positive Energy a book for almost everyone.

Dr. Orloff divides her book in two parts: Building your Energy and Creating Positive Relationships and Combating Energy Vampires. The first part offers seven prescriptions each showing a window to utilizing and boosting one’s subtle energy resources. The second part involves three prescriptions on creating positive relationships, tackling energy-draining people (the Energy Vampires) and tuning in to the abundance of joy all around. Personal experience and stories of her patients make an interesting vista of healing with positivism. What attracts more, perhaps, is the voice of celebrities like Jamie Lee Curtis, Larry King, Shirley Maclaine, and others commenting on their encounters with energy-draining situations. The essence of Dr. Orloff’s advice is her emphasis on staying in the Now that can be procured by some simple exercises, meditations, and mantra.

Given all the good points of the book, Positive Energy has its slack slots. The subject matter is not free of serious speculation. Myths of flowers blooming on the statue of a goddess in South Korea and intuitive premonitions of energy-sensitive people raise doubts. Some of the personal stories are redundant and sound like thrumming on the same string. The narrative mode too feels rather preachy with repetitive reminders of ‘I’ll teach you’, ‘I’ll show you’, ‘You’ll learn’ and so on. Above all, it is the view of existence through the hazy Lens of Energy that puts the author’s viewpoint to question.

A reference guide, brief overview, and an index aid the reader with choice passages.

Positive Energy’s interested readership is wide and varied. For a Type A person, it is a thing to seek. For a hard-shelled scientist, it is one to answer.

ISBN: 1-4000-8216-1


Thursday, February 16, 2006


The distinguishing merit of Michael Ehrenreich’s first novel Amaranth (iUniverse Inc, Nebraska, 2005) is its striking modern realism. A rich imagery of modern city environment, modes of life, and tearing stresses of disease and ugliness make Ehrenreich’s literary fiction a 21st century classic.

Amaranth bears a mature plot. The first 50 pages reveal so much that it’s hard to anticipate the thematic passages as something still on their way. But more comes than one can anticipate. One can tell from the start that the story is nucleated around disease and ugliness, both physical and beyond. Dr. Bing Denton is a surgeon with magic hands who is struggling to save his professional life by putting up with the ugliness of surgical procedures and his family life by trying to be a husband and a father. Standing at the dichotomy of hurting and healing, Dr. Denton finds his teenage daughter, Liza, pregnant in a drug-induced coma. The surgeon extraordinaire has a mind left that presses on itself to remember any of his wife’s friends who might tell him how to reach her and tell her about their child. So much for the sickness of life!

The issue raised in the novel is the quest of beauty by one engulfed in a hollow of ugliness. True beauty must be found and at once since ugliness is contagious as flu. The latter spreads through individuals while the former sweeps generations. And so we meet Ehrenreich’s symbol of beauty amid the sickness, the artistic Deborah who is going to lose her breasts and beauty to cancer. How she heals is the modern-day miracle, the amaranth, of Ehrenreich’s work. As one approaches the end, it gets harder to take the eyes off the spell woven in print. Spiritual self is probed with the lancet of words, an art peculiar to the author’s own experience in medicine.

The feeling of continuity in the narrative is one thing a good novel needs. In Amaranth the absence of page breaks and numbering or naming of chapters attains this, at least in part.

Amaranth’s audience is a mature, thoughtful, sensible adult who is ill at ease with the horrors of disease and ugly attitudes, a heart that seeks beauty in its pure form.

ISB: 0-595-36992-8