Brothers in War

Brothers in War, Richter Publishing acknowledged for aid, copyright and written by Ginger Rodeghero.

Brett Chance, the protagonist is a soccer star in his senior year at his local Allendale High School. His sister to whom he has been closely attached had been murdered recently while providing ‘hands-on’ educational opportunities to girls in Afghanistan. Because of her great desire to engage in these endeavors, he had been helpful in convincing their parents to allow her to go. Now remorseful and full of self-blame, he is experiencing an extremely difficult period. He found concentration on his studies difficult and social relations with class mates nearly impossible. His 2-year relationship with Madison even was suffering considerably but was surviving with talks with her while grooming her Arabian at the stables in close-by Pittsford, N.Y. As the Allendale H.S. soccer star he gets some solace from the concentration required by this activity, especially when his goal is to obtain a scholarship from Syracuse University’ prominent program. His problem suddenly exacerbates when a new student joins the school. The new student, Rasheed, has moved here from, the now for him hated, country of Afghanistan. He also is an extremely accomplished soccer player who can affect Brett’s position of prominence. The plot develops as Brett discovers that Rasheed is haunted from experiencing brutal personal attacks magnified by a most recent family tragedy. The evolution and progression of these activities slowly evolve to provide the substance of the tale where with remembrance of discussions with his grandfather, mentoring by his understanding and very wise coach, and gradual mental maturation, Brett begins to adjust to his life as it evolves.

Discussion: In a brief Introduction, the author explains that she has written this book because she hopes that in some small manner her passion with respect to Human Rights and elimination of violations of individual rights that still exist today will aid this cause and “inspire you to make changes in this world around you with the truth about your human rights.” The ensuing story is an interesting, credible, plot based coming-of-age tale that can initiate worthwhile thoughts in young minds. To strengthen her position, the author includes at the end of the book a statement from the General Assembly of the United Nations. This Universal Declaration of Human Rights, with attendant Articles 1 through 30 is followed by a brief note from “About the Author’ that ends with “I write to communicate to the next generation in a way that they will hopefully strive to make our world a better place.”

Summary: Nicely presented tale that should be efficacious in advancing the author’s agenda.

5* Interesting, well-told coming-of-age tale advancing author’s agenda.

Will to Die

The Will to Die ISBN: 9780985957681 Z Squared Media, copyright and written by Joe Pulizzi.

Will Pollitt, the protagonist, along with his partner Robby are attempting to sell a new marketing proposal to a prominent Cincinnati, OH company that markets an extremely popular type of ice cream product. They really need it to be accepted because their own organization’s bank account is a little shaky and Will’s personal one non-existent. In fact his numerous credit cards are maxed out and he just had received a final note from his daughter Jess’s university that he either pay her next tuition installment or she would no longer be a student. He was five hundred thousand in debt and struggling with a gambling addiction that finally had led him to Gamblers Anonymous. His wife, whom he still loved dearly, had left him when, after telling her he would never do it again, she had found out he again was involved. Added to this, Denise, his older sister informs him that his father, owner of one of the two funeral homes in Sandusky has passed away. He returns to his home and discovers that the business was in a rather bad financial state and his dad’s attorney and closest friend who always had been almost a family member and known as ‘Uncle Dan’ says that he, William, has been left the business with a suggestion by his father he try it for a year. Among attendant ensuing complications are an offer for more than twice the worth of the business from the other funeral home in the city, the son and co-owner of which had been his closest friend growing up; the fact that he desperately needed the money; his ex-wife worked as the embalmer in his father’s business; incongruity  in ‘vibes’ he was receiving from Dan as well as others; Janet, his father’s office manager who also had a close relationship to the family and her position; Jack, long-time ‘man  Friday’ for the business and Will’s friend; discovery of a set of daily journals his father had left secretly for him; a gradually evolving understanding of the existence of a widely distributed plot to eliminate anyone who deviated from the beliefs set forth by a ‘white supremacists-like group. This later complicated even further by the fact that Robby, Will’s partner and friend, was of mixed parentage and his sister Denise was a lesbian. The ensuing action masterfully is blended into a tale of suspense, mystery and excellent investigative work presented in a highly convoluted manner to culminate in an exciting and until then, quite well-hidden agenda.

Conclusion: This story is a little slow developing but provides a most engaging tale of combined mystery and suspense generated by greed and white supremacy well-hidden through deceit, treachery, betrayal and modern technology in an agenda entirely possible with today’s technology.  One that is revealed only by astute observations combined with revelations conjured up from the mental acuity of an individual who instinctively was of a highly empathetic nature with an excellent memory and recall ability. These abilities combined with a high level of investigative activity ultimately reveal this well-hidden clandestine activity. And, as a pertinent and amusing aside, this first book of fiction was written by a well-known/respected author of non-fiction “because I wanted the love of my life and best friend, Pam, to read one of my books (my other five published books are business marketing books, which she doesn’t care for)”.

5* Captivating, highly recommended ‘different’ mystery/suspense.

A Coin for a Dream

Coin for a Dream published, copyright and written by Mae Adams.

This volume presents a series of short stories, the first fifteen of them told to the author in her early childhood growing up in Korea. They are simple tales, the significance of some perhaps even a little unusual for the uninitiated to absorb. Included are tales of egg ghosts, water ghosts, angels of death, servants of the underworld, a 9-tailed dragon shape-shifter and its nemesis, a 3-legged dog, also of the monstrous part lion, sheep and unicorn haechi with scales, feathers and horns who actually seek justice by punishing the wicked. Other tales, some provided a little later, detail the legends and folktales along with historical explanations of Korean beginnings, religions and practices. Included are tales of how shamans, these mediums between this and the spirit world are created, fascinating explanations of the differences among the Chinese, Japanese and Korean Dragons, discussions of their zodiac, and more. All of these later features gradually and ultimately fade into and join material of a bio- and autobiographical nature.

Discussion: This is the second book by the author of “Precious Silver Chopsticks” which I had reviewed approximately a year ago and stated “This autobiography/memoir is written by an eighty-four-year-old Korean woman of considerable intelligence, fortitude and an amazing ability to survive and prosper” and concluded: “Certainly a relieving catharsis for the author and a book of considerable interest for a diverse reading public.” Because I had witnessed the conditions and people of  Korea during the U.S. involvement, my conclusion with respect to this second book retains my admiration for the author and personally find considerable material she has provided to be quite interesting. But regrettably and in all honesty, I must narrow the scope of those for whom I believe this book will have appeal. There is much redundancy in her presentation and repetition within the body of the work as well as a considerable amount from her first book. Thus, I strongly recommend this book to readers who are interested in learning more about other people, their history, cultures, religions, activities, habits, individual beliefs, and their personal abilities to adapt and especially as depicted here, to survive. For readers with these interests, the subject matter most assuredly requires a 5*. The rating unfortunately must be reduced by 2 because of matters that judicious editing would have removed, plus the most regrettable fact its level of interest for others than those mentioned; i.e. general readership, probably would not be extensive.

3* 5* story regrettably reduced by 2 as explained in the discussion.

Let’s Pretend

Let’s Pretend a book published by Amazon, copyright and written by Christian Hagesth III.

The opening passages of this book induce a reader to believe the author has set forth a fantasy novel loosely based on the ‘genie in the bottle’ theme. The protagonist, Peter Andresen  is a retired psychiatrist whose wife died several years ago in an accident and he has two grown sons who are ‘too busy’ to bother seeing him. He believes he is in his sixties, suffers from Parkinson’s disease, has been bankrupt and now “scrapes by on Social Security and V.A. Benefits.” He is alone and lonely and walking aimlessly on a beach with no person or even buildings in sight. He spots a corked empty bottle that has drifted ashore, picks it up and sees a note inside. Amused by remembrance of the old tales, he attempts to remove it. The task is difficult so bringing it closer a faint voice seems to emanate from its depths requesting release. Shocked, he rapidly reverts to remembered Marine Drill Sargent’s marching orders continuing until encountering a lovely young woman. She greets him with no hint of a sexual come-on, which would be useless anyway because his Parkinson’s long ago had removed the possibility of any such activity. They do however, acquire what seems to be a deep mutual understanding and attachment, so continue walking together and the young woman appears to be able to provide all manner of ‘good things’ out of nowhere. Thus, the tale’s subtitle “A tale of Mind, Imagination, and Healing” quickly is recalled. Holly is able to cause welcome sleep, wonderful breakfasts, fine dining with all of the amenities, sessions of swimming with whales, functioning as partner of a raptor and of an entire flock of birds and more. She also facilitates visits with his Aunt Nora, participation in conversational gatherings with historical medical figures such as Hippocrates and Galen, another non-religious individual from whom he learns that “God needs to be experienced, not dissected”, and other pertinent individuals.  But eventually from this non-physical reality where everything he needs is provided by his mind because it is not limited in the more usual manner by attention to material reality, the reader witnesses the evolution of a physically ill individual, additionally suffering from a degree of PTSD, who ultimately re-emerges in the ‘real world’ as a truly empathetic individual who is a true ‘healer’.

Discussion: This is an engaging book. It literally forces a reader to return to the too-often forgotten thoughts first provided on the importance of the mind on bodily action centuries before Sigmund Freud. As quoted by the author, Hippocrates stated “It is more important to know what patient has the disease than what disease the patient has” i.e. the mind’s content fundamentally is the important factor in treatment. As an extension on his theme, the author provides examples of the many psychological burdens carried by the protagonist. Included are early strange thoughts arising from the child’s bedtime prayer “Now I lay me down to sleep…”, being recognized as a hated other young boy instead of as her son by his mother just being returned from a psychiatric facility, thoughts about shooting himself in college and a horrifying experience after being shot down on a mission over enemy territory. Many more compelling features of mind-body interrelationship along with additional pertinent details and thought compelling reaction are included. A reminder of medicine’s mortal conflict with ignorance not only is legendary but particularly relevant again today by the recent resistance to immunization and the cautionary admonition “The greater the ignorance, the greater the dogmatism” necessitating the cautionary remark “Be careful talking to people about your understanding of the infinite mind…you know it will be distorted. It will be seen as both heresy and gospel.” But enough! This is merely a review by a relatively knowledgeable reader who has been impressed by the author’s ability to bring forth, in a rather succinct manner, a basic tenet of the mind-body-disease relationship that, as stated, has appeared to have been lost for centuries. Granted, Freud, Jung and others resurrected a piece of it which H. Flanders Dunbar and others expanded to a degree. However, this particular treatise reestablishes the basic tenets and does so in a quite charming fictional tale that is highly recommended both as a simple fantasy, but even more importantly as a book to enjoy analyzing and absorbing its message.

5* Riveting dual level tale; enjoyable fantasy; crying for deeper analysis.

The Unconquered

The Unconquered, “Originally published 2018 as Heart of the Dragon – The Oracle Current version is Edition 2 Printed by Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing.” Copyright and written by Peter Man.

This book is unusual from several different aspects, thus actually requiring a somewhat different (and lengthy) review format. It is sub-titled Children of the Divine Fire, Romance of the Flower Kingdom, Book One and is a novel but also described as “An Epic Drama across the Galactic Stage Spanning the History of Human Civilization including that of mysterious CHINA.” It also is assumed that Jim Brown who participates actively in a China-themed “writers group,” participated in some manner in that he “came to notice and appreciate the mind and work of Peter Man, who has now graciously accepted our invitation to join TGP’s stable of affiliated writers.” Several glowing reviews describing the book’s imagery – art history, world geography, mythology, literature, sci-fi, action, militarism, mystery, thriller follow; then a preface; Table of Contents containing an Author’s Note; 52 chapters; “Why you should write reviews”, “Image Licenses” and “Acknowledgements.” A dedication follows “to Charlie Man Dunn because he may one day want to learn the meaning of being Chinese” while the numerous ‘Acknowledgements’ are issued with respect to individuals who in one way or another affected the author sufficiently to evoke an intense interest in China and its world relationships or would be so affected; then follow “Examples of approximate Putonghua (Mandarin) pronunciation using English spelling”; and ultimately, arriving at Chapter 1 which has the interesting title “Everything is a Lie” which informs the reader that he/she is about to be introduced “directly into the crux and climax of the unlikely, unfortunate, and unfathomable events that befell upon one ordinary and unexceptional girl by the name of Victoria Solana.” The story begins to unfold when Victoria as a small child had been given to Michael and Angela, a couple who had moved to Canada because of trouble in their own country, by David (Chinese who didn’t look Chinese) for her protection. Here she develops into a pleasant young girl with magnificent intellect seemingly as a result of exceedingly good training. Suddenly, her parents are killed in an orchestrated attack by a huge truck while she survives and again is rescued by David. He informs her that the two of them now “were facing a very powerful enemy that’ll use every evil tool at their disposal, including lies and illusions. In real life, fraud, deceit, and malice are usually mingled with truth and sincerity.” He then explains that he is using a “VR Gamebox” that “will help convince you that there is another reality….basically a lying device to teach you about the truth. It’s a Paradox and an oxymoron. But you’ll decide what is real. Think of me as your guide and mentor.” “We enjoy unfettered freedom of expression which includes the freedom to lie, the freedom to slur, the freedom to insult, and the freedom to use the basest profanities in the Holy of Holies. Lies pervade the air we breathe …”  “This is the brave new world we live in – the Land of Lies.” “I’m training you to fight the final battle. We need you to win” From here the story follows Veronica as she learns of her strange heritage that reaches back through centuries in China and why it is so important for her to survive.

Discussion: The author here has exhibited the mental abilities and extensive knowledge that have called forth the lavish praise mentioned above. He is eclectic as well as appearing to provide, almost to a lexicon degree, a history of China. The quantity of material alone regarding China’s centuries-long history is enthralling in its range from the similarity of the causes of the trek begun by 86,000 peasants that ended with 8100 to that of the American Indians’ Trail of Tears, to presenting further material with respect to the duplistic part played by Chiang Kai-shek. Additionally, the basic plot is intriguing and the multi-genre approach excellent. Thus, as stated, as a historical treatise, this book is most illuminating and the fictional plot is unique enough to provide great interest. It is only in the presentation of this latter, that this reviewer encounters disappointment. It gradually assumes a level more appropriate for young adults but again only partially. It is granted that we are reading a story, one of whose genres is fantasy. However, the credibly acceptable characters first presented gradually move further into fantasy until eventually being ‘swallowed-up’ within this fairyland and fading away to a point where we are informed that any questions raised “my friend, is another story.” Granted, this analysis obviously depends upon highly individualistic evaluation and may be that of this reader alone. If totally a personal conclusion, this reviewer offers most regrettable and sincere apologies, and suggests that each reader may need to make his/her own personal evaluation.

3* 5* eclectic with fascinating Chinese history; -2 Most difficult to review/interpret.

The Thin Gray Line

The Thin Gray Line ISBN: 9781098740139 assumed published, copyright and written by Michael Kenneth Smith.

This is a story of the Civil War between the states of the newly expanding democracy. The protagonist, Luke Pettigrew was little more than a boy when he is forced to leave his home on a hardscrabble farm in Tennessee by his seemingly uncaring father. He joins the confederate Army, is severely injured and attempts to make it home, when Clyde, a trader, finds him struggling, lifts him into his wagon and gives him a ride to his burned-out home a short distance from his own. Worried about him, he returns to find Luke passed out, takes him to his home where, with Joanie his wife’s help, he removes the partially destroyed leg above the knee because any medical help is at least 50 miles away and he won’t be able to make it alive. As he begins to recover, Clyde’s young sons Timmy and Tommy start asking him questions and he tells them his story. Luke had been assigned to the Ambulance Corps where he had met Col. Bedford Forrest, had performed heroically in battle, had fought at Shiloh, had joined Jeb Stuart where his horse had been shot from under him resulting in the badly injured leg that had required amputation. From this initial activity, Luke continues an interesting and quite serendipitous journey through the war-torn south as he engages in numerous activities dictated by the time and his abilities – care of the wounded as well as amputees specifically, a group with communicable disease, racial concerns, impact of the war on social relationships and more. The characters include several important and even notorious figures of the time as well as a number of fictional heritage.

Discussion: Although presented as a most interesting fictional tale with appealing characters, the author has set forth a fascinating history of some of the first and little known successful attempts made to supply functional artificial limbs to amputees. A man by the name of James Hanger initiated the procedures and lived until 1919 but his company continues today “as a world-wide leader in the development and manufacture of prosthetic devices with branches around the world. During WW I, the company received contracts from the U.K. and France and vaulted them to the top of their field where they remain today.” The only unfortunate aspects of the story are the manner in which the proof readers have let the author down and just a passing but haunting thought of what happened to Luke’s ‘long-sustaining true love’.

5* Heart-warming Civil War tale providing interesting historical details.