Friday, June 27, 2014

Book Review of As Is by Wendy Oleston

As Is
By Wendy Oleston

.99 Kindle
12.99 print
ISBN-13: 978-1499781335

Buy on Amazon

Life is hard for Mara Shaw. One bad relationship after another has left her a single mother with no faith in anything. She is unable to trust in anyone . . . including herself. She decides to start afresh, and never allow herself to be hurt again. Graydon Davidson walks into her life and begins to show her the truth. While the truth is hard to accept, it is also the key to her freedom. Is this gorgeous and compassionate stranger the answer to all her dreams? Or will specters from her past which emerge to haunt her take over? Mara is faced with a choice that will change her life forever.

My review:

For Christians, if you’ve ever tried to picture being the bride of Christ, Oleston puts a whole new spin on the subject in her new book.

We all have issues to deal with. Mara has a boatload of them, from being in denial of alcoholism to not knowing how to love or to receive love. A single mom in danger of losing her child, she agrees reluctantly to counseling. The reader is invited along as this woman walks through her despair to finally reach the lowest point and so be able to climb back out of the abyss, holding the hand of the only one we can truly count on.
On the way to her first counseling session, Mara meets a mysterious young man, Graydon, and they are instantly infatuated. Months pass during which they develop a platonic relationship and slowly learn each other’s story. Mara is constantly torn by her struggle to become a mom worthy of her son, a woman worthy of true love, and a person who can love wholly. It’s Graydon every bit as much as her counselor who forces Mara to face the ugly things in her life. Countless times Mara attempts to shove away those who want to help her. Graydon never lets her know he’s had enough. He always comes back, is always there when she needs someone, always knows what to say, acts as her conscious, and leads her gently through the valley of the shadow of death.

The reader is encouraged to conjecture about Graydon’s identity until Mara is able to come clean and accept the forgiveness she’s been offered all along. This story is definitely thought-provoking on many levels, and one that will show you the unyielding love of God. I have to offer this caveat, however, in that unfortunately vulgar language permeates the entire story. While I understand that cursing has become almost normal in society and I realize certain characters will swear as part of their makeup, I also don’t believe that it is natural for believers to continue to do so thoughtlessly once they develop a personal relationship with the Lord. It seems like a light thing to address in light of the enormous issues Mara overcame, but it was jarring and disappointing for all the care the author used in this intriguing story of second chances. Told in third person from Mara’s point of view, this is a story you’ll be thinking about for a long while.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Book Review of Identity Crisis by Jean Hackensmith

Identity Crisis
By Jean Hackensmith

Print: $14.95
  • ISBN-13: 978-1629010755

From the publisher:
Cheyenne Chief of Police, Brian Koski, is forced to resign his position as captain of the Sixth Precinct and goes into business as a private detective. His partner? A mahogany-colored Belgian Malinois named Sinbad. Brian's first clients are Jeff and Melody Patten. He's an explosives expert for a local demolitions company; she's a stay-at-home mom. Both are devoted parents to their young daughter, Angela. The problem comes when Collin Lanaski, an ex-Air Force lieutenant and Angela's second grade teacher insists that Angela is his daughter-the same daughter who died in a tragic car accident four years earlier. What does Collin base this incredible revelation on? Dog tags and car seats. Brian is convinced the man has suffered a psychotic break. He's delusional and dangerous, and it’s Brian’s job to protect Angela from a madman.

·         Print Length: 243 pages
·         Publisher: Inkwater Press (April 29, 2014)

My Review:
Beginning with a prolog in which Collin Lanaski returns to overseas military service and must say good-bye to his family, Identity Crisis is part mystery, part thriller, part crime novel.

This is book 2 of the B.K. Investigations series, and while there were several allusions to the former story, I never felt like I couldn’t keep up with the events of this sequel. Cheyenne WY’s police force apparently has some deep-seated issues if the chief has to resort to murder to get criminals bagged for good. Someone with a conscience finally spilled and Chief Koski, who hadn’t made the right kind of friends on the force, is booted. He takes out a shingle as a PI, but with the new chief making sure no one refers any work his way, things are tough. His first clients are friends of friends, and one scared young mom who’s afraid her daughter’s second-grade teacher has flipped when he started insisting that her daughter Angela was really his own little girl, whose mother was killed while he was overseas. Koski isn’t able to prevent her kidnapping and is the only one still on the case months later, even after his retainer runs out, his other cases start backing up, and no one else believes she’s still alive. No one, that is, but a psychic who insists she sees the little girl.

Out of leads, Koski listens to the psychic, gets his bearings and begins a search for the clues he’s given. As often happens, the exact right circumstances line up and Koski finds Angela and Lanaksy…only things don’t add up.

There was certainly much to like as the events unfolded in this tale. The characters borderline unlikeable, but tough and gritty and determined or as creepily evil as needed. There were a number of issues left hanging, such as Lanasky’s impending divorce before the death of his wife, and a few other things in Koski’s cases and personal life that teetered on the suspension of disbelief line. I still turned pages faster and faster to find out how things were going to come out in the end…though of course, the reader must beware that Identity Crisis is part of a series. Told from Koski’s perspective throughout, Identity Crisis is a contemporary every parent’s nightmare tale that will leave the reader curious about the next installment.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Margaret Rozga Poetry Play Date at All Writers'


From the desk of Kathie Giorgio, Director, AllWriters' Workplace & Workshop LLC:
WAUKESHA – Is there a poet lurking inside you, waiting to get out? Or are you already ‘versed’ in the art of poetry? Novice to expert, you’ll enjoy this creative and inspirational workshop that will set you well on the way to your next, or first, great work. AllWriters’ Workplace & Workshop welcomes special guest lecturer MARGARET ROZGA with her workshop, POETRY PLAY DATE.
Poems often start with what’s close at hand; what you see, or even overlook, daily. An object, experience or chance remark can unravel into inspiration. In this workshop, you’ll engage in observation exercises specifically tailored to stimulate your inner poet, guided by select works provided by your instructor. You’ll also be encouraged to compose your own original piece and share it for feedback, setting you well on the path to a finished poem.
MARGARET ROZGA is a poet, playwright and professor emerita of English at UW Waukesha. She is the author of two books and served as managing editor for a project to raise money for the First Amendment Protection Fund. Her poems have appeared most recently in Burdock, New Verse News, Wisconsin Citizens Media Cooperative, Nimrod, Split This Rock Poem of the Week. She had been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and awarded a 2014 Creative Performing Artists and Writers Fellowship by the American Antiquarian Society.

Celebrity Saturdays are a great chance to broaden your knowledge of what it takes to be successful and to learn from writers who are already knee deep in an author’s life. Margaret Rozga’s workshop will be held on Saturday, July 19th, 2014. This event runs from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. and costs $85, which includes a lunch catered by Waukesha’s own CafĂ© de Art.
AllWriters’ Workplace and Workshop offers on-site and online writing courses in all genres and abilities of creative writing, as well as coaching, editing, and marketing services. A schedule of classes, with online registration, is available at or available by calling (262) 446-0284. AllWriters’ is located at 234 Brook Street, Unit 2, in historic downtown Waukesha, as seen in Milwaukee’s Journal Sentinel.

Summer Hanford
AllWriters' Assistant

234 Brook St., Unit 2
Waukesha WI 53188
Phone: 262-446-0284
Please "like" Author Kathie Giorgio on Facebook, and follow KathieGiorgio on Twitter!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Book Review: Positive Paradigm Change Handbook

Positive Paradigm Handbook
Patricia E. West, PhD

2014 +A Positive Action Press
Muscoda, WI

ISBN 978-1495470325
15.95 paperback
5.99 e-book
Buy on Amazon

My review:
Using a Wheel of Change model to promote self-discovery and positive change, the author proposes readers can develop a personal plan of improvement. “Some things Change. Others never do. Knowing the difference between absolutes and ephemerals is matter of life and death.” Pg 37

At the heart, this handbook is an intellectual guide to survival of the species. Axiom five states: History is Neither Progressive or Linear, Nor can human survival be taken for granted. West says (pg 38) “Those who love life and take human survival to heart have passed the basics of how the world really works on to those with hears to hear. In contrast, others hoard this knowledge as if to prospect themselves at others’ expense. They deny or even ridicule it, keeping perceived enemies “in the dark” to prevent their success.”

Parts 1 and 2 of roughly fifty pages defines the need to change; from the individual change to positivity that affects the universe, “the one manageable unit is the one closest to home: yourself” as “Unity is accomplished through personal effort, one person at a time” because “global unity through world organizations” are unnatural. There is some basis for this thought, as anyone can see how diverse cultures all seek to establish a global platform based perceived success.

Part 3 describes dysfunctional paradigms, “being aware of current beliefs and recognizing that they’ve created a place you’d like to leave.” (pg 55) People create lifestyle choices to suit themselves at any given time, and West says these “distortions” have negative consequences for mental health which, spiraling outwardly, affect society.

Part 4 shows how West’s Wheel of Change model can be employed individually. Using examples, and a series of self-examining questions and answers, readers are shown how to fill out and develop a personal Wheel, which leads to accomplishing various goals to bring life into a healthy harmony.

Part 5, Make Yourself Whole, shows how the Wheel works, giving readers instructions and thought-provoking questions to work on.

Wrapping up in Part 6, West shares her story.

For those who like lots of charts and diagrams, clearly designed and reasonable axioms and corollaries, West’s Wheel of Change in the Positive Paradigm Handbook is an intriguing tool for self-examination.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Patricia West discusses the Positive Paradigm of Change

I was first introduced to the Chinese Book of Change as a history major at Oberlin College. For its historical value alone, Americans should know more about it. Though different in content, the I Ching's influence on Asian cultures is equivalent to the Bible in the West – except that it has inspired the thinking of entire civilizations for more than 8,000 years.

The Common Sense Book of Change is an easy-to-read version, suitable for young people as well as adults. It maps the cyclical patterns experienced as yearly seasonal changes as well as the seasons of our lives, from birth, growth, maturity and decline into death. It sums up the Law of Karma, compatible with the biblical teaching, “As ye reap, so shall ye sow.” As such, it's the foundation of practical ethics. For thousands of years, this book was the premier leadership manual used by decision-makers in every walk of life.

In terms of international business and political relationships, the Book of Change is required reading for an understanding how our Asian counterparts think and behave. From a psychological point of view, its profound insights into the dynamics of human behavior and relationships is far more sophisticated than anything evolved in the West. The popular concept of Emotional Intelligence is the closest equivalent.

The Book of Change informs the philosophy of Confucius as well as Taoists like Lao Tze, who wrote the world-loved Tao Te Ching. Hence my version, called Two Sides of a Coin: Lao Tze's Common Sense Way of ChangeThe reference to common sense indicates the relevance of this wisdom to Americans, both historically and right now.

Unfortunately, these seriously undervalued books are rarely included in public school curriculum, in part because early translations were hard to understand and didn't do them justice. Therefore, Conscience: Your Ultimate Personal Survival Guide includes a Q & A section that dispels common misunderstandings.

Rethinking Survival: Getting to the Positive Paradigm of Change tells the personal story of how my ideas evolved. It's based on the premise that Einstein, a fellow violinist, already had the Unified Theory, but didn't know it. The title comes from his saying, "We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if mankind is to survive."

The Positive Paradigm Handbook is the easy-to-read summary of the wisdom and methods embodied in the Book of Change reformulated to meet the needs of today's leaders and decision-makers in every walk of life. Consistent with the wisdom of the original, it gives illustrations along with examples and forms to increase self-awareness and improve our lives,
one person at a time.

Bottom line: Ignorance of natural law encoded in the the Positive Paradigm of Change represents a fatal deficit in our knowledge banks. This blind spot in our way of thinking explains the current leadership deficit as well as related budget deficits. Restoring this information to public awareness now would be a major step towards realizing the positive change everyone wants, many promise, but few succeed in achieving. 

Contact Patricia: 

Patricia E. West, Ph.D.
+A Positive Action Press
Amazon author page

Thursday, June 12, see my review of Positive Paradigm Handbook

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Christine DeSmet's new mystery, Hot Fudge Frame Up

Review of Hot Fudge Frame Up by Christine DeSmet
Book 2 in the Fudge Shop Mysteries
ISBN: 978-0451416483

Penguin Group
Mass Market Paperback $7.99
E-book $5.99

From the publisher:
Candy shop owner Ava Oosterling mixes it up with a fudge judge with a grudge—who loses his life before he can pick a winner....

Ava is gearing up for the First Annual Arts Festival—a huge celebration that could draw national attention to her old-fashioned fudge shop in Door County, Wisconsin. She’s invited two celebrity chefs to go head-to-head with her in a fudge contest. Everyone is having a tasty time…until a judge for the festival is found dead.

To her shock, he’d been complaining around town that her Fairy Tale fudge flavors were…well, fudged. Now the sheriff is wondering if Ava fits the mold for a murder suspect. As Ava tries to square her reputation and find the real killer, she’s in for a whole batch of trouble….

Includes Delicious Recipes and Fudge-Making Tips!

About the author: Christine DeSmet is the author of First-Degree Fudge, and a winner of the Romance Writers of America Golden Heart as well as a three-time finalist. She is also a winner of the Slamdance Film Festival writing contest. A member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and Romance Writers of America, Christine teaches fiction and screenwriting at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. 

My review:

I came in on this second book in a series. Although there were a number of references to the first case, I never felt as though I had to know what had happened earlier in order to enjoy this story. Ava is in the process of being evicted from her rental cabin due to a property sale by the owner, her grandfather’s best her friend. Her very helpful former fiancĂ©, whom she’d left at the altar, helps her move boxes into her fudge shop’s back room where she intends to live for the time being; meanwhile, her former husband and his dog are doing all they can to woo her back, her best friend is involved with a shady operator who put together a fudge festival during tourist season in Door County, Wisconsin and films the whole thing for a potential reality TV show. The celebrity candy makers selected to compete against Ava are doing their best to make Kitchen Nightmares look tame, and the lead judge—Ava’s landlord, a property owner with a lot of secrets—is inconveniently deceased. Murder or suicide? Oh, and the sheriff also thinks Ava is a pain, when he’s not trying to make a pass.

There’s certainly a lot going on this summer in Fisher’s Harbor, so it’s a good thing Ava can count on her family and employee, a young man with slight Asperger’s, to run the shop while she goes sleuthing, breaking and entering, stumbling across bodies, and taking people—and herself—to the nearest hospital. Hot Fudge Frameup is a whirlwind read with all the quaintness of an ethnic community of stubborn Belgians, romance with all the wrong people, an octogenarian marital toss-up, and a dog named Lucky Harbor that might make non-dog lovers, if not find him adorable, at least have a few giggles. Ava’s number of suitors got a little over the top for me, but otherwise, I enjoyed unwinding all the clues and aptly positioned red herrings to the end of the story.

Told in Ava’s first person voice throughout, likeable characters and fun subplots make Hot Fudge Frameup a fun virtual visit to a place I know and enjoy. The fudge-making background is intriguing. I would also consider reading the first book, as well as sequels. This book makes a great addition to Penguin’s cozy mystery line.