Parisian Promises

Parisian Promises
Cecilia Velastegui
Libros Publishing (2014)
ISBN 9780985176914
Reviewed by Susan Violante for Reader Views (06/14)

Article first published as Book Review: ‘Parisian Promises,’ Romantic Fiction by Cecilia Velastegui on Blogcritics.

“Parisian Promises” by Cecilia Velastegui is the story of Monica and her friends during their year of study abroad in Paris. The girls make a promise to watch out and take care of each other while they are away. The setting is in 1973, and the three American girls all have their own idea of the Parisian dream. Very quickly Monica is swept away by the mysterious and handsome Jean-Michel.

The American students are boarding with Madam Caron de Pichet, an old lady stuck on believing that she was one of the most famous madams in Paris, fighting for her country when she was younger. Only Madam Caron de Pichet would truly know if her rants and raves from the past were even remotely true. 

Monica is lured away by Jean-Michel and she fights the sexual urge to be with him, all the while thinking she is in love, while he sets her up to complete his mission of destruction. Little does Monica know that she is being set up for mind control by Jean-Michel’s smooth talking and lustful domination. One will have to read for themselves to find out if Monica will survive her trials and tribulations and discover what true love is really all about.

Although there is not much depth to the characters of the other American students, Lola is a character who has a little more of a supporting role in this novel. Lola’s personality is true to that old saying “What Lola wants, Lola gets,” as her character lives up to that for sure! Unlike Monica, the main character, Lola lives a much more “down to earth” life, rather than being on a fairy tale cloud, and she takes life by the minute. While Monica is naive, Lola is very strong willed and very mouthy. 

Velastegui’s writing is captivating and elegant. “Parisian Promises” by Cecilia Velastegui is a historical fiction novel with elements of intrigue, suspense, fairy tale dreams of the perfect romance and even the perfect touch of heat that sparks the naughty mind. Velastegui writes with purpose and it is apparent that she is well traveled. Highly recommended!

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D’mok Revival: Retribution

D’mok Revival: Retribution
Michael Zummo
Zummo Books, LLC (2014)
ISBN 9780989004428
Reviewed by Richard R. Blake for Reader Views (01/15)

Article first published as Book Review: ‘D’mok Revival: Retribution,’ S-F Adventure by Michael Zummo on Blogcritics.

Years ago the Nukari destroyed the D’mar space station and its entire population, with the exception of one sole survivor, Rhysus Mencari.  When Mencari discovers that he possesses superhuman abilities he begins working with Osuto, a D’mok warrior to develop these newly found powers. Together they search for others who also possess these powers to form a force of D’mok Warriors. “D’mok Revival: Retribution” by Michael Zummo is the second book in the “D’mok Revival” series and begins where “Awakening” the first book in the series left off.

Mencari and his team are faced with a new threat; indescribable, humanoid beasts with D’mok-like powers bring terror and war throughout the worlds of space. When another mysterious and unfamiliar race of aliens with super powers enters the battle against the Nukari, Mencari is faced with another dilemma-he must determine whether this unknown group is an ally or another adversary.

The author has developed strong, unique and imaginative characters…

A natural flow of dialog includes observations on recent technical advances, the threat of the battle going on around them, and reveals insights in relationships, the level of personal isolation required by their career choices, the “infectious joy” of Eyani, and the empathy displayed by her friends as she struggles over feelings of remorse mixed with sorrow at the loss of a loved one. Zummo also captures the casual ribbing and teasing among the group as well as the flare up of tempers, when personal opinions and individual temperaments clash in times of stress.

I appreciated Zummo’s remarkable attention to small details without becoming tedious. Vivid descriptive phrases like “fireworks dancing,” or “swarms of fireflies against the black darkness of space” open up new vistas of the possibilities, adventure, and mystery of space travel.

However, I almost missed the impact of Zummo’s strong graphic descriptions as I found it hard to assimilate and identify individual characters, due to number of individuals introduced, their unusual names, the multi-faceted plot and numerous subplots.

A gifted wordsmith with incredible imagination, vibrant imagery, passion for interaction, and command of language all work together to insure the author’s readership, fan base, and recognition as an established writer in the genres of science fiction and high-tech adventure, and recommend “D’mok Revival: Retribution” by Michael Zummo to fans of both genres.

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D’mok Revival: Descension

By Michael Zummo

D’mok Revival: Descension
Michael Zummo
Lightening Press (2014)
ISBN 9780989004442
Reviewed by Richard R. Blake for Reader Views (1/15)

Article first published as Book Review: ‘D’mok Revival: Descension’ by Michael Zummo on Blogcritics.

“D’mok Revival: Descension” by Michael Zummo is the third and final book of the Nukari Invasion Trilogy. The Nukari threat continues to plague Rhysus Mencari. Though they eradicated the D’mar populous years ago, the sole survivor, Mencari begins working with Osuto, the last remaining D’mok warrior. Mencari discovers he possesses the superhuman abilities of the D’mok. Osuto and Mencari work together, as Mencari develops his powers, to find others who possess these same powers to form a force of D’mok warriors. Once organized, this force is directed by a human coalition.

In “D’mok Revival: Descension,” Andric, the leader of the coalition is captured by the Nukari. The ensuing fast-moving, action-packed space adventure is filled with amazing advances in technology, survival tactics, and dramatic life and death skirmishes. Vivid descriptions, attention to pacing, and stimulating dialog add to the intrigue and keep the complex story line and subplots moving forward.

Zummo’s genius at “igniting” the creative imagination of his readers rivals that of the early high-tech thrillers of Michael Crichton. Zummo crafts a unique suspense that intrigues the reader drawing them into a story of futuristic technology, genetic creations, super human powers, and cloning; each new chapter begging to be read. It is worthy to note that the memorable strong characters of the trilogy reveal a new progression in depth of personality, empathy, and sensitivity throughout “Descension.”

Zummo draws on his childhood interest in interactive storytelling, an avid reader of the classic science fiction writers, his work as a software developer, video game developer, and his highly curious nature as the basis for his creative writing.

Zummo’s writing magically reveals possibilities of an unknown future. The nature and multifaceted fascinating themes of super powers, space exploration, and survival throughout the “D’mok Revival” trilogy provide the potential for another trilogy or series. “D’mok Revival: Descension” insures that Michael Zummo will continue adding to his growing fan base. The “D’mok Revival” trilogy is destined for an award winning status in the genre of science fiction and high-tech thrillers.

“D’mok Revival: Descension” by Michael Zummo has something for all science fiction fans, from the new generation of readers to those classic readers ready to speculate on futuristic sci-fi technology.

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Selling Energy

$23.96

Selling Energy
Mark Jewell
Energy Efficiency Funding Group (2014)
ISBN 9781941991008
Reviewed by Susan Violante for Reader Views (12/14)

Having worked for many years designing and implementing systems and procedures to improve administrative efficiency and productivity in different industries, including the energy industry when working for a big construction company that installed oil and gas pipelines for the government owned PDVSA in Venezuela, I was very interested in the concept of efficiency presented in “Selling Energy” by Mark Jewell. The book begins by presenting an interesting point on different selling angles about selling an efficient project to a prospect by providing an energy efficiency upgrade to a corporation’s office building. In short, Jewell makes his point that it is not all about saving the environment, but about saving money and improving productivity, when trying to sell energy efficiency. 

Jewell did an amazing job creating a simple but thought-inducing guide for a growing audience, as today’s energy efficiency is one of the most relevant topics in all industries. He raises the question of why a company would invest in being energy efficient in the beginning. He continues questioning the approach of the sales presentation and its tools, and how to deal with different type of buyers as each one will have different interests, needs, and values that will influence their decision. Finally, what I found most impressive about this book is how Jewell tackled a business topic guide by encouraging and motivating growth and accomplishment to the reader on a personal level. 

I also found Jewell’s writing style to be easy to read and interesting. It actually kept my attention from start to finish as I found it enriching to me, even though I’m not in the efficiency sales business. The writing was perfect, and the hard cover and book quality in general was of top quality as well. I am positive that Jewell’s book will enrich his readers’ library as a guide that they can go back to over and over when preparing a sales presentation.

“Selling Energy” by Mark Jewell is the perfect guide for a sales force proposing energy efficiency, as well as other types of industries as the tactics and philosophy presented in it could be applied, in my opinion, when approaching a customer prospect for a project in any industry. A must read five star guide for energy efficiency.

R.W. “Buzz” Kaplan: The Life of an Adventurer

R.W. “Buzz” Kaplan:  The Life of an Adventurer
Kristin Kaplan Holsworth
Beaver’s Pond Press (2014)
ISBN 9781592989638
Reviewed by Michel Violante for Reader Views (11/14)

“R.W. “Buzz” Kaplan:  The Life of an Adventurer” by Kristin Kaplan Holsworth is a compilation of six books of about 120 pages each. The story is about the author’s grandfather’s life since his birth in 1924, through his death in a plane crash on 2002. The author began writing this story in the year 2000 organizing Kaplan’s worldwide adventures in chronological order within the six installments. This is definitely the life of a remarkable man who took life as the opportunity of a great adventure. His adventures begin with his deployment to WWII in Europe with the US Army, and continued with his travels throughout his life in parallel with the successful buildup of his inherited tool company, becoming the CEO of Owatonna Tool Company and its subsidiaries in Minnesota. Kaplan was definitely a very smart man and as such, he kept a detailed journal of his life and adventures along with his taped recounts, which made possible for his granddaughter to compile his legacy into a six volume book collection.

As the son of Italian immigrants and an immigrant myself, I am a fan of adventure stories that will take me to lands and experiences unknown. I was very happy to have come into this collection of experiences and travels by Kaplan and found it to be a treasure to be kept not only as a legacy to his family members but also as a couch travel jewel for people who enjoy traveling through other’s experiences recorded in books. 

I think Kristin Kaplan Holsworth did a wonderful job compiling her grandfather’s amazing adventures and life in this chronological narrative, as it is rich in different experiences as well as detailed. Having said that, I do wish all of Kaplan’s experiences would have been presented in a more animated format. I believe that if all the facts would have been presented in a creative memoir or novel format utilizing all the fictional writing tools and skills, the reading of these experiences would have had a higher entertainment value, and thus a larger pool of readers.

Nonetheless, I found “R.W. “Buzz” Kaplan:  The Life of an Adventurer” by Kristin Kaplan Holsworth to be a wonderful narrative of a great adventurer and an admirable way to honor a great man’s life.

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Questioning Protocol

$17.79

Questioning Protocol
Randi Redmond Oster
Well Path Press (2014)
ISBN 9780989912006
Reviewed by Christine Watson for Reader Views (7/14)

“Questioning Protocol” by Randi Redmond Oster is a candid view of a mother fighting for her son and his well-being as he struggles with Crohn’s disease and the complications caused by this disease.  Her journey through the ups and downs of life is portrayed with struggle, frustration, hope, and humor. 

I am not a parent. I am not an engineer. I am not a health care professional. I wasn’t sure how this story would connect with my life, and yet, it left a powerful impression on me that I will not soon forget! Ms. Oster shares the woes of having a child with a chronic illness, including the middle-of-the-night ER visits, surgeries, hospital stays, therapies, and the painful waiting game. With all that, she includes little rays of hope that can inspire and encourage even the most negative cynic. I particularly liked her thoughts about “moment memories” because that is truly what life is about. This author taught me how to find moments of appreciation within dark times and capture those moments in memories. I love that idea and plan to apply it in my own life immediately.

I found myself not wanting to put this book down, and I felt the common sadness as I finished the final pages, knowing I would no longer be a part of this family’s life through this book. There are moments in the book that are lighthearted and funny, as well as times where the reader can feel the mother’s frustration and pain as she watched her son suffer. I recognized that there is protocol for health care, but it may not always be the best path for a patient, and it is important to do research and listen to the patient’s needs and ideas before blindly taking a doctor’s opinion. The author stresses the importance of educating yourself and also listening to your intuition because both are powerful tools and can make a significant difference when making difficult decisions regarding health care.

I highly recommend “Questioning Protocol” by Randi Redmond Oster to anyone who is looking to be enlightened. While I didn’t expect this reaction to this book, I was pleasantly surprised with all the life lessons I took away from the story, and plan to implement these in my personal life. I thoroughly enjoyed this book!

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Questionable Autism

$12.78

Questionable Autism
Susan Louise Peterson
Vilnius Press (2014)
ISBN 9781940136189
Reviewed by Christine Watson for Reader Views (10/14)

“Questionable Autism” by Susan Louise Peterson is a very thought provoking book that questions the accepted and typical protocols that are supposed to help students with Autism. The author digs in to everything from the screening and testing protocols to the management of students with Autism for educators as well as parents. While there are great systems in place to make accurate diagnoses and provide proper care, it is important to question what is happening to make sure the screening, testing, and practices aren’t just routines used, but actual best practices for each individual.

As a former special education teacher, I worked closely with many students with Autism, and I found each student to be very different, with unique needs from one another. That is true of all children, and I think this book helps educators and parents take notice of what is happening with their child/student, and question the protocols. This book helps parents in particular by giving them knowledge of what to ask and what to look for. Often, parents have no idea what is going on with their child and the behaviors that are exhibited. “Questionable Autism” can empower parents to ask the right questions and take notice of what is going on, instead of being in a position of having to trust the professionals. This doesn’t mean that the professionals are lacking, it just puts more power in the parents’ hands to get the answers they are looking for. 

I recommend “Questionable Autism” by Susan Louise Peterson to any educator or parent with a child or student with Autism. This is also a good recommendation for children with other special needs, because it opens the eyes of the parents and the educators, and offers meaningful questions to ask their doctors or diagnosticians. I think this book can bring a peace of mind to many parents looking for answers for their children

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Of Sentimental Value

$17.06

Of Sentimental Value
Fumi Hancock
Princess in Suburbia (2014)
ISBN 9780990584803
Reviewed by Christine Watson for Reader Views (12/14)

“Of Sentimental Value” by Fumi Hancock is a novel about a young woman from Africa named Siberia, who comes to the United States in hopes of fulfilling her dream of becoming a famous author. While her family is still in Africa, Siberia struggles to make it in America. This independent young woman has many challenges to overcome, including financial battles, family health struggles, and nosy neighbors. 

I enjoyed being with Siberia on her journey towards independence and success. She is a likeable character who is charming as well as feisty. While the story is interesting, I thought there was an excessive amount of dialogue where the characters were arguing. I found myself getting frustrated with all the arguing, which I think took away from the story. There was so much dialogue that the book read more like a script than a novel at some parts. Since this book was made into a movie, it may have been the intention of the author to create a lot of dialogue. Another distraction was the grammatical errors throughout the book. 

The author brings to life many of the characters in the book. There are several of Siberia’s family members introduced, each with a distinct personality. Siberia also has neighbors who are overbearing and nosy, love interests who are handsome and strong, along with a hero who provides Siberia with a source of inspiration and hope. 

I recommend “Of Sentimental Value” by Fumi Hancock to anyone looking for a story about triumph over struggle. Readers will be inspired by the story of Siberia and her journey towards achieving her dream of becoming a successful writer.

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My Affair with Mickey

$9.99

My Affair with Mickey
Tami Casias
OOMM Books (2014)
ISBN 9780982973523
Reviewed by Christine Watson for Reader Views (1/15)

It’s easy to connect with the main character, Mini, who struggles to find herself after learning of her husband’s affair, and winning the grand prize to Disneyland at almost the same moment. This book does a good job of showing the complexity of life’s events. Mini experiences a devastating blow at the same time she wins the prize of a lifetime. The story is about her three day experience at Disneyland, and the emotional ups and downs that weigh her down, and lift her up. Her inner battle revolves around what to do with her future as she is determined to enjoy the moment. Mini treats her time at Disneyland as invaluable while she explores new rides, eats her way through the park, and makes new friends.  

The other characters in the book provide Mini with the connections and friendships she had missed out on most of her life. As her husband had complete control of her life, she didn’t know how to think for herself, and make her own decisions. She was forced to make decisions and take an honest look at her life. 

I thoroughly enjoyed “My Affair with Mickey” by Tami Casias, and the light-hearted environment of Disneyland used to solve heavy adult problems. I found myself thinking of this story when I wasn’t reading it, wanting to know what was going to happen next. While this is a light and easy read, there are also many lessons to learn from Mini’s life experiences. It’s a refreshing story of renewal and self-worth. I highly recommend this book to anyone wanting a great story with some life lessons built in. I now have a renewed desire to get back to Disneyland as a middle-aged woman

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Murder, She Floats

$13.46

Murder, She Floats
Stephen Kaminski
Cozy Cat Press (2014)
ISBN 9781939816498
Reviewed by Michel Violante for Reader Views (12/14)

In “Murder, She Floats” by Stephen Kaminski everything starts when Damon Lassard embarks on Vitamin Of The Seas, a seven day Caribbean cruise leaving from Miami’s port with his mother Lynne during the New Year’s celebration. During their first dinner in the Pelican Room they meet Houston Drummiller, his wife Kitty, son Miles and wife Philippa, Philippa’s daughter, Miles sister Amanda, and Houston’s God child with wife at their table; definitely a wealthy family. The next early morning after arriving at Nassau, Damon was jogging around the boat when he noticed a group of people gathering at the ship’s rear on the starboard side. They were pulling a dead body up which looked very much like Philippa. At the same time the Nassau police came aboard and involved Damon in the investigation as a witness since he had recognized the body. During Philippa’s room search, the police found a suicide note, but because it was in the drawer of the night table under the Bible, Damon did not believe it was a suicide.

Kaminski not only gives the reader just another murder mystery, he actually takes the reader in a fun, and even humoristic cruise adventure. He does a great job hooking the reader as they wonder “who did it.” In fact I tried to guess throughout the book. Kaminski also keeps it light injecting humor through character development and complicated relationships. Furthermore, Damon’s personality and interaction with his mother gave a personal take as the amateur detective wannabe gets involved in solving the case. Kaminski’s writing was also impeccable. The story had the right pace and flow and the plot and characters kept my interest from start to finish. 

“Murder, She Floats” by Stephen Kaminski, in my opinion, is a light, fun and entertaining murder mystery which will hook any fan of the board game Clue. I am certain Kaminski will grow his fan base with this third book of the Damon Lassard series and give this a five star rating, as I wait for the next one

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