Archive for the ‘Book Review’ Category

Interview: Tony Gaines, Author of ‘Diary of the Lost Teen Age’

I am elated to interview a local Colorado author. Tony Gaines wrote his first short story in the second grade after the teacher assigned the class to read The tale of Peter Rabbit and by the age of twelve he was firmly hooked on writing in a diary regularly. He has written and published several poems and songs and his first novel called, Diary of the Lost Teen Age is showing lots of promise by the reviews it’s receiving on Amazon. He was a military soldier in his early twenties and has lived all over the world including three continents and now resides in Colorado. Tony Gaines is presently working for the U.S Postal Service.

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Are the events you wrote about based on your life or are they all fiction?

All the events in my novel happened in the lives to at least one of the characters in the novel. I rearranged circumstance so no one character could ever be prosecuted for past events.
What lessons do you want your readers to learn from reading Diary of the Lost Teen Age?

I would like the readers to learn as they read forward and the novel unfolds how I crafted each main character in the novel to have learned a lesson about themselves and life as they mature throughout the novel. I also would like the challenge the readers to witness how the current events of the day dramatically changed the lives and behaviors of the main characters.
How long did it take you to write such a novel? What paths did you take to reach this artistic point?

I begin unconsciously taken notes for the novel when I bought my first diary at the age of thirteen when a friend suggested I journal what was going on these days in our lives in the ever-changing 1970s. I kept an ongoing diary throughout my teenage years and had grandiose plans to one day write a novel about those teenage years after I was retired living on some island and collecting a pension.

My inspiration came in 2005. At that time we had the typical American two teenager, two career frantic fast pace family lifestyle that ended in divorce. When I was moving out of the suburban home I had shared with my family I discovered my old teenage diaries I had kept from the 1970s in a briefcase in the downstairs closet right next to my old bowling ball which hadn’t been seen in decades either. 2008 arrives, and I am now discovering the diminishing returns of hanging out with my teenagers and their friends, dropping them off at parties and listening to latest teenage craze, leaving me with spare time I had never imagined.

I gathered those old diaries from my briefcase, bought my first computer, went to the library and checked out a book on how to finish your novel. There were mornings I would be late for work because I had gotten up early to work on the novel. I just couldn’t stop working on it. There would be times when I’d get a Starbucks coffee on a Friday evening and watch the sun come up on Saturday morning, not knowing the hours had pass. Eight months later I had written Diary of the Lost Teen Age.

I really like your writing style. The novel is fast-paced and very funny at the same time. How did you develop such a unique style?

Once I started reading back over my old diaries the writing part was the most satisfying part of the journey. There is a writer in all of us just waiting for the right opportunity to express itself. I had unconsciously learned so much from my teenagers, which in turned made my novel more enlightening, having had the experience if knowing how best teenagers think and react. My style came from the voices I kept in my head from my old friends who eventually became characters in my novel most of which I still be in contact with to this day.

Where will your next book take you — and your readers?

If all goes according to plan I would love to take time and write two more novels.  One about what it’s like to lived through your midlife, another about living through those golden years.

How can readers learn more about you and your accomplishments?

I have a website called, Diaryofthelostteenage.com.  I would welcome readers to post on my website reviews of my novel Diary of the Lost Teen Age and their thoughts about midlife and their golden years.  I could one day incorporate some of their ideas in my next novel.

Thank you so much, Tony for doing this interview. I enjoyed reading your book. Your book is very informative  and I learned many lessons.

My Thoughts on the book:

I have read and reviewed more books than I can count.  Reading Tony Gaines’ newly published novel, Diary of the Lost Teen Age, was by far the best reading experience I have had in a long time.

The novel chronicles the life of Tom and all the hurdles he had to endure living with a religious fanatic mother and an alcoholic father.

The author does a great job portraying the life of a devoted Jehovah Witness.  I heard many negative things about the Jehovah Witness religion, but never in my wildest dream did I ever imagine how bizarre they are.

The following passages from the book shed light on how controlling the Jehovah Witness religion is.

Howard’s stepfather has been disfellowshipped  for conduct unbecoming a Christian. During his disfellowship, Leonard is not allowed to sit in Christian fellowship with the other members of this congregation. Although he is expected to attend services and fulfill all of his Christian duties, no one, including his family is allowed to speak to him or otherwise acknowledge his presence in any way for one year.

 Even with a 148 I.Q. I’m not clever   enough to understand how a religious organization can prevent a man from associating with his own family.

It is truly mind boggling to think on how men use religion as a way to control other people.  I applaud Mr. Gaines for not holding back and for displaying all of the dark side of  the Jehovah Witness religion.  I believe Diary of the Lost Teen Age is definitely a novel that should be made into a movie.

If you are looking for a fast-paced and funny book to read, I recommend you pick up a copy of Diary of the Lost Teen Age.

Interview: Maisha I, Author of ‘Journey to I’

It is always a pleasure meeting local authors.  Last month I had an opportunity to  meet Maisha I.  I read her newly published book Journey to I, and decided to interview her.  Her book chronicles what happens when a child is set in his or her ways.  Being too obstinate is never a good thing.

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You were raped at thirteen, have you forgiven the boy that raped you?

It has been a real roller coaster ride of a journey, because I truly was not able to put into context what he had done to me was a rape until I was in my 40s. I had re-framed the incident as to something that was my fault; there was something that I had done, a non-verbal message I had given to him, that provoked his actions. I had somehow brought this on myself as girl/woman and he as a boy/man wasn’t responsible for his inability to control his animal nature. I had to go through a lot of processing and forgiveness for myself, I can now say I have forgiven the boy and have moved on.

Your relationship with your Mom was not the best — have you been able to restore your relationship with her? What are her thoughts about you publishing your tell-all memoir on how badly she treated you as a child?

I discovered so much more about Mom as I wrote my book Journey to I. She actually read through many of the chapters and helped me with some of the early editing. Much of her story that I had no clue about begin to take shape in the book as she helped me filled in some of the blanks. All of a sudden, I began to see her as a woman who had also endured many traumas and she was getting through life the best way she knew how.

Mom had a difficult time when the book was first published and realized that some people may see her in an unforgiving light; however, she always encouraged me to write my book because it was my story, my interpretation of the events as seen through child eyes.

Recently she shared with me. “Maisha, I knew that you were going to have some hard knocks in life; I thought you might get pregnant, maybe have to drop out of school. I thought you would go through something traumatic that would make you come running back to me so that I could protect you. I could never imagine that you were going through what you went through and keep going back out there for more.”

My Mom lives with me now, and I am excited about traveling on the road of healing our mother/daughter relationship that we have embarked on. I can only hope that we can be an example that it is never too late to let the healing begin.

You were a strong-willed child, and your Mom did not know how to handle you. Do you think your life would have been different if your Mom had given you the attention you craved?

 For sure I was an exceptionally strong-willed child; I would not have wished the raising of me on anyone. Mom is a very gentle spirit, and I came out of her womb with a spear in my hand, daring anyone to tell me “No”. You know, this is a difficult question, because I really like myself now; I like to think that I am in the place that I am now because of how I was raised. Maybe if she had given me more attention, I would have felt smothered and had nothing to live for, this way I was always pulling, striving, clinging to the pieces I could get from her. It gave my life purpose.

Do you believe in destiny?  

 I believe that each of us came to the planet earth at this time for a specific reason and no one else can tell us what that is; only each one of us knows our own specific mission for being here. I believe that there are ways in discovering/remembering your mission: ie, speaking with your higher self, guidance through spiritual practices. I believe that there are many wonderful ways placed on this great big planet and in the universe to help us glean our own individual paths. I believe that the destination is already predetermined and we will all eventually get there (or we’ve actually never left). We only get to decide the road we want to travel to the destination.

You spoke about getting involved with Wicca, and having out of body experiences while in prison, do you still practice these rituals today?

 I have practiced many things, I am clear that that I came here to play and experience as much as I can in the realm of co-creating. Out-of-Body experiences are common events that happen to most of us as we sleep; many times we leave our bodies and experience things from a different perspective than our everyday 3rd dimensional can grant us. I am always open for seeing a bigger picture and will not allow anyone to tell me that their interpretation of experiencing life on this planet is any more valid than my own. I love learning and experiencing new things, tasting new foods, participating in various cultural practices. Seeing how for all of our differences, we’re all the same.

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What do you hope your readers will learn from reading your book? 

Mess happens. Sometimes we can find ourselves in the biggest mess that we or anyone around us could have thought of. Sometimes it’s way bigger that anyone could have thought of. No one around me saw that I would one day be facing the Death Penalty.6 years in prison for murder. Serving time for armed robbery. And have cancer. My life was a huge mess, and I had to face that I co-created that. I made that mess, no one else. I had done all of that to myself. When I realized and faced that I had totally co-created my worst life, the worst experiences, my worst self. I was able then to begin replacing the worst with my best. I realized I was sitting at a smorgasbord of experiences, and I was choosing the foul and rotten when fabulous and yummy chocolate cake was on the menu.

You were born in Alaska, and lived in Japan. What led you to relocate to Colorado?

That’s a long story in itself and will be part of my next book entitled Giving Birth to the Goddess of Love: a mother/daughter…daughter/mother saga in which I talk more about me and my mother’s relationship and I bring in my own experiences with raising my own daughter.

In short I ended up in Colorado after I had lived in Trinidad and Tobago WI for about 6 months. I just couldn’t go back to the extreme cold after that.

What advice can you give to teens to help them avoid the many mistakes you made, that ended with you serving six years in prison?

Take responsibility for who you are right now, the person you are being. Circumstances may seem out of your control, but you mind is your own, how you choose to deal with it is up to you. Your thoughts create what is around you. You have much more power than you can ever know. Listen to that part of you that guides you to your greatest joy, no matter what anyone else tells you. Only you know your true mission for coming to this planet at this time. You are the one you have been waiting for.

Can you talk about the woman who you thought was your friend and betrayed you, by reporting you to the police?

 Aww…Kim. I was very hurt by her deceitfulness initially. It didn’t take me long to realize that she had done for me what I could not do. Remember I always try to see how I have co-created the circumstances in my life. I was the one that told Kim, there were a number of people in my life that I could have told and perhaps it would still be a secret today. I chose Kim because on some level, I knew what she would do. On some level I knew what needed to be done. I only wish her a good life and health.

Tell the reader about your former partner Tony who committed the murder, is he still serving a life sentence?

 Tony is still in prison; he did escape once about 18 years ago and was caught after 3 months. Tony is still professing his innocence to this day and after all these years he probably believes his lie. I actually saw him about eight years ago, Please, don’t ask how and why just know that occasionally I still make stupid decisions and choices. I’m really done now. That encounter will be in a future writing.

Now that you have been released from prison, how are you different from the former defiant teen person you wrote about in your memoir?

Ohh… that defiant teen Deidra Gaddy is always with me. I love to say my job is to bust it up, change the conversation, shift the paradigm and give a different perspective. To see possibilities where others may see none. One of my favorite quotes is  “Let no theory contradict your own experiences”—Seth

I would not be who I am without having gone through the experiences I have had. I would not be able to be the voice for magnificently defiant teens like myself. I understand them, I am them. I hope that I can help them realize their voice and focus it in the way of powerfully creating what they want instead of using their voice to cause havoc in their lives and the lives of others. I am still very much a member of the defiant tribe, I’ve just learned to sprinkle it with a little bit of wisdom and grace.

Thanks Maisha I for doing this interview.  I hope you will continue to excel in every endeavor.  I am wishing that when troubled teens read your book, they too, will climb their way back to being  productive citizens.

 My Thoughts on the Book:

I thought the book is well written.  I give it a rating of five out of five stars. This is a book that a parent can read together with a teen that is defiant and who is determined to go down the wrong road.  It can teach what happens when one do not follow certain boundaries.  Troubled teens can learn the lesson of why they should be very careful who they associate with or befriend.

Even in the most dire situations, the book chronicles that one should never give up, and that with a willing spirit one can  find ways to overcome obstacles.  This is the number one reason why I think this book should be read in all detention centers for troubled teens.

I do not hold any judgement against the author for her out of body experiences or getting involved with Wicca, but being a christian  I was a bit shocked when I read about these things. This is the part of the book I liked the least.

Book Review/ Author Interview with Melissa Kline

Author Melissa Kline has done it again.  She has written a breathtaking coming-of-age story that addresses issues affecting teens from all backgrounds. As a high school teacher, I understand fully some of the social issues most teens encounter on a daily basis. It is not easy being a teen, and Miss Kline has written a well-penned story that chronicles the life of Storm, the main character.

melissaStorm is a story that most teens will be able to relate to, because the characters are believable.  The emotional difficulties Storm has to endure are what most teens in real life may experience, and this is why I enjoyed readingStorm. Navigating through emotional ups and downs is never easy, but the author does an outstanding job showing that with determination one can overcome any and all obstacles.

securedownloadI highly recommend this book for all high school classrooms.

After reading Storm, I wanted to find out how Ms. Kline came up with such a riveting story line.  Below is an interview she agreed to do.   

What inspired you to write Storm?

Storm came to me right after I finished writing a novel where one of the main characters died. That story ended in a funeral home and the essence of Storm seemed to arise from the feeling of mourning. Storm “spoke” to me and I knew that his story needed to be written.

How long did it take you to write Storm?

It took me about a month to complete the rough draft. I tinkered with the first chapter after receiving a few suggestions from publishers, then decided to revise the entire manuscript a couple of years before it was published. Storm and I have had a very long relationship — it took years to fully develop this work. I’ve learned that it is important to honor the writing process and each book’s timing.

I noticed there were quite a few sex scenes in Storm. Why did you decide to include the sex scenes being that the novel is for teens?

This is a great question. Sex is a touchy subject and this has definitely been controversial for my readers. However, I don’t believe that this book would have been as powerful if I had left out the intimate stuff. I feel that this part of Storm’s experience was important to include because sexuality is one of the challenges that teens contend with in our society today. I chose not to glaze over the issue or completely omit Storm’s sexuality because this would not have seemed genuine or realistic. I am telling the story of a teenage boy who lost his mother and whose father is emotionally preoccupied. So, I think that Storm’s intimate encounters are authentic to the circumstances that that the character faces. And please notice that there are repercussions in the story for Storm’s promiscuity. I am by no means advocating teen sex or promiscuity, but I think that every teen is faced with making decisions in this area. I hope that my readers will take away a valuable lesson by reading about Storm’s mistakes.

What lessons do you hope teen readers will learn from reading Storm?

A sense that they are not alone and that there is hope for the future. That you can make mistakes and overcome. To keep moving forward. To have compassion for yourself and others. To know that it’s okay to reach out and ask for help. To realize that nobody is perfect; we all have secrets, wounds and scars. Embrace who you are, quirks and all, and be proud!

I understand Storm was a finalist in some prestigious awards. Can you tell readers about those?

Storm received recognition as a finalist in the 2012 ForeWord Book of the Year Awards and 2013 Next Generation Indie Book Awards. I attended the NGIB awards ceremony in New York City where I received a medal and celebrity treatment. It was one of the best experiences I’ve had as a published author. Being honored and recognized as a finalist in both of these awards programs is incredibly significant. It is so important to celebrate and to be celebrated.

What are you currently working on?

I am currently working on a book similar to Storm called, Accepting Hannah. I’m also working on a sequel/series to My Beginning. I have many projects in the works, including a fun, non-fiction book project for teens. Lots of books to come!

What advice can you give for those wishing to get published?

Enjoy the process — being published is wonderful but there is nothing like having the freedom to write for the pure love of it. Be patient and know that your time will come. Don’t ever give up on your dreams.

Thank you Ms. Kline for doing this interview.  I am wishing you great success with all of your future projects.  To learn more about Melissa and her continuing journey, please visit her  website

Book Review: ‘If You Don’t Believe Me… Lessons Learned From Listening to the Greats’ by Sam Adams

I love supporting my local sports teams in Colorado.  I watch every Broncos, Denver Nuggets, and of course, the Colorado Avalanche games that are on television.  An opportunity became available to read and review former sports writer Sam Adams’ book, and naturally I happily accepted.

If you are an avid sports fan like I am you will definitely get a kick out of reading Sam Adams’ book, If You Don’t Believe Me.. Lessons Learned from Listening to the Greats.  What a great idea for a book!  Sam worked as a sports writer for the Rocky Mountain News  During his tenure, he interviewed many great sports celebrities.  The book is an account on his encounter with these individuals.

969815_10200782953630853_317243820_nReading Sam’s book gave me an opportunity to gain some insights about famous athletes like John Elway, Shannon Sharpe, Magic Johnson, and many more famous sports figures. His writing style makes the book an enjoyable read.  I like Sam’s use of humor to captivate his readers. My favorite passage in the book is his encounter with John Elway.  Sam, a hardcore Cleveland Brown, fan had this to say to Elway on November 5, 1993:

“My mother hates you, my sister hates you, my cousins hate you, my friends hate you…”

A puzzled look settled on his face as I finished the rant. “Yea, I’m from Cleveland.” Elway went back to tending to his cleats, looked up again, and said,” You’re from Cleveland?  I am sorry.”  He cackled as I left the locker room burning mad.  The Broncos won 29-14, with Elway throwing three touchdown passes.  Afterwards I approached him in the visitors’ locker room and sarcastically asked why he continued the pattern of walking out on Municipal Stadium with wins. Elway laughed and said,” I guess it was because I knew you were a native… I did it for your mom.”

Sam’s penchant for humor helped him transitioned from journalism to standup comedy gigs. So, if you are looking for a fun read while getting insights on some famous athletes and show business people, you may want to get a copy of, If you Don’t Believe Me… Lessons Learned from Listening to the Greats.

For more information on Sam Adams check his Facebook page.

 

Book Review:Still More Names for Animals? Are You Serious? by Carnita Groves

Still More Names for Animals? Are You Serious? by Carnita Groves is a must read. Even though the book is dedicated to ranchers, cowboys, cowgirls, farmers, and wranglers, anyone wanting to know more about animals will enjoy reading the book.

BookCoverImageThe book introduces the reader to some unique animals. I am always open to learning new things and reading, Still More Animals, introduced me to many new animals. One in particular is the Cassowary bird. The Cassowary is one of the largest flightless birds in the world second to the ostrich. All authors must find a way to market and brand themselves.

Carnita Groves’ use of humor is an ingenious and effective way to write about a topic that most people find boring. The author’s humor drew me in right away. I absolutely love the section about the Kiwi bird. I never knew such a bird existed.

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“Oh sure! Kiwis are delicious as fruit, but once they hatch and become mammals — turns out they are not so tasty. And fruit smoothies? Forget about it! Just try cleaning fur out of a blender. Just leave these little guys be and let them roam the farmyard, barns, cow pens, and wherever in the world it is they roam. They are totally harmless. Gently pet them now and again, while humming a lovely tune.”

I plan to read all of Carnita Groves’ books. Her writing style is very refreshing. Therefore, if you like learning about animals and want to get entertained at the same time, I recommend you purchase a copy.

Article first published as Book Review:Still More Names for Animals? Are You Serious? by Carnita Groves on Blogcritics.

Article tags animal lovers • animals • Carnita Groves • farmer

BOOK REVIEW: MOVING MOUNTAINS BY JAN HAAS

Do you believe in divine intervention? I do. I believe we are all here for a reason and God allows us to go through trials and tribulations in order to mold us into the person he wants us to be. To the non-believer this may come across as foolishness, but as a follower of Christ, I hold on very tightly to my faith in Godly favors.

After reading Jan Haas’ book, Moving Mountains: One Woman’s Fight to Live Again, I am even more convinced God has us go through many hardships for a specific purpose. We all encounter challenges in life. In the case of Jan, she faced death and by prayers from her community, church and loved ones, her story of tragedy became one of triumph.

We are not promised to have a perfect human experience, but when tragedy strikes, we must find the strength to move forward. Jan became deadly ill with invasive strep A infection, which should have killed her after giving birth to her third child. Her story re-affirmed that God is good and he is willing to answer our prayers even when we are too weak to pray for ourselves.

Personally, I have never crossed paths with death, but my daughter and youngest son did. Like Jan, the only alternative is to let others help you embrace the pain through prayers. Lucky for my children and me I had an army of people praying and through their intercessions, both my daughter and son survived the storm of death.

Jan Haas’ story is a great reminder that though we may not fully understand God’s motives, but he is always willing to turn us from victims to victors. The one thing that resonates well with me is Jan’s attitude of gratitude. Yes! Instead of being bitter, she embraces life.

So, if you find yourself needing inspiration to remove the mountains of trouble you might be facing, I encourage you grab a copy of Jan Haas’ book. Her prose will alter your heart forever and leave you feeling hopeful and grateful.

Article first published as Book Review: Moving Mountains by Jan Haas on Blogcritics.

Book Review: 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Stressing Out by Lauren E Miller

International best selling author Lauren Miller’s new book, 99 Things you wish you Knew Before Stressing Out, will change your live forever. The author chronicles 99 things one can do to help keep stress at bay. Miller’s own experience through two of the top stressors at the same time, cancer, and divorce makes her an expert in how she is able to empower her readers with practical, valuable, and easy to use information.

When applied, the advice in the book holds the potential to transform one’s perception of life, thus making it easier to handle life’s curve balls.

On a personal note, reading the book opened my eyes and ushered me through the doors of deliverance and a new way to live life.

Examples of my favorite stress advice:

#41: Are You a “Take Everything Personally” Addict?

As a child, I was verbally abused, and because of it, I suffered many years with low self-esteem issues. Reading section 41 made me realize I have to assume the position of the observer not the reactor. Miller drove her point in a very succinct and easy to understand fashion. In fact, I have a copy of the following lines taken from page 76 of her book engraved in my soul:

“The bottom line; don’t give your power away to any human being. You only feel inferior by your own consent; you can apply this to any emotional response.” 

#42: It’s Not Rejection, It’s Just Direction

February 2012, I lost my teaching position to a less qualified younger teacher. Needless, to say I was devastated. It took me three months to find a new position. What appeared to have been a major blow turned out to be a major blessing. I now teach at a school twenty minutes from my home. More importantly, my principal treats me with the utmost respect and I love working with the diverse student body. As a polyglot who speaks fluent Creole, English, French, and Spanish I feel very lucky to be working at a high school where the students speak sixty different languages.

#82: The Rainbow in The Midst of the Storm

I have weathered through many storms, but the worst had to be when my 16-year-old son came near death summer 2012. His symptoms started with a sore throat. Next, his fever rose to 104. He was admitted to the ICU with no clear answers to what was the cause of his illness. After five days in the hospital, he was sent home with oral antibiotics. Two days later, he was in surgery. The final diagnosis: He had Lemierre’s Disease, a very serious condition that starts with a peritonsillar abscess, a blood clot, filled with bacteria near the tonsils in the jugular vein. If this infection is not caught in time, the blood clot will start to break apart and travel to the lungs and other major organs. The bacteria first attacked my son’s liver and later settled in his hip joint. This is why he had to have surgery.

My world swirled out of control with my son’s illness, and I had no choice but to search for the rainbows in the midst of the storm. I turned to God and prayers and in the end; my son’s life was spared. Very few teen that get Lemierre’s Disease make it out of the hospital alive.

I do not know what is going on in your life; all I know is 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Stressing Out will help you take back the ability to live life in a more meaningful way. The practical and effective information will serve as a blue print for you to apply so you can keep stress at bay.

Article first published as Book Review: 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Stressing Out by Lauren E Miller on Blogcritics.