October 2015 Independent Press Profiles
Biography and Autobiography
Girls Do Cry
Big Girls Do Cry is recommended for any pop music history collection and for fans of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, and presents the story of the Jersey Boys from the perspective of author April Kirkwood, one of their biggest fans.
Unlike most fans, Kirkwood cultivated a childhood friendship which evolved into a scandalous teenage romance, then became a stormy decades-long affair. Unlike most books about musical personalities written by fans, Kirkwood's intimate and long-lasting relationship, which began when she met Valli at the age of eight and moved into a sexual relationship when she was seventeen, reflects a detailed, in-depth love affair with Frankie Valli that few memoirs could have duplicated.
All this is recounted in a sassy, honest story of how she pursued the man of her dreams and handled the romantic 'substitutes' for Valli throughout her life.
Kirkwood followed her heart, she followed her dreams, and eventually she came to realize that this path was resulting in a one-sided arrangement with a famous personality who was already married, much older, and could offer her little in return.
Any who would learn about not just Valli but the highs and lows of romantic obsession will find Big Girls Do Cry a powerful story that is as much about the psychology of “imprinting” we all experience as it is about Valli - and that makes it much more than just another story of a star; but an examination of what it means to be 'star-struck' and to experience the kind of love that changes lives.Big Girls Do Cry
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and a Happy Ending
Tia Shurina had three special men in her life: very different individuals who each provided her with something unusual, and who contributed to her evolution during one year that combined elements of heaven and hell after Shurina struggled with a possible cancer diagnosis and its impact on her life, relationships, and perspective.
It's also about American culture, the risks and challenges of the healthcare system, family relationships and the spirituality of children, pregnancy and work, shifting energies and values, quests for interpersonal connections, and reaching out to life publically and privately.
The unifying factors to Shurina's memoir are that it's wide-ranging and logical, relationship-driven, and indicative of the backwards and forwards flows of life itself.
Readers who harbor a prior affection for autobiography fueled by interpersonal interactions, romance, and angst alike will appreciate this multi-faceted account of one woman's wild ride through a changing life. Such an audience will find Everything and a Happy Ending a rollicking ride indeed, filled with the ups, downs, and changes indicative of a life well lived.Everything and a Happy Ending
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From Rome to Sicily
Gilda Morina Syverson
Divine Phoenix/Pegasus Books
P.O. Box 1001
Skaneateles, NY 13152
My Father's Daughter, From Rome to Sicily comes from a Novello Literary Award Finalist who blends a travelogue into a memoir, and is recommended for both memoir readers and any with an interest in Italy.
One might expect, from the book's title, the plethora of family trivia which brightens and personalizes the saga and provides more than a glimpse of personalities and family interactions; but what is less anticipated (and equally rich) is the exploration of not just family but the sights, sounds, and atmosphere of Italy.
Syverson took her elderly parents back home to visit the 'old country' after decades of living in America: their journey offers a rich set of first-person insights and experiences cemented by warm family relationships and a sense of place. If it's a travelogue alone that is desired, move on; but if it's a wide-ranging discussion of the heart of both Italian and family connections, then the richness of My Father's Daughter is a pleasure not to be missed, recommended for readers who want both personal observations and experiences and fun cultural interactions under one cover.
Red Heels & Smokin': How I Got My Moxie Back is a spicy, fun romp through aging and blends a memoir with insights into how to create a memorable legacy and celebration of life in one's later years. The template for this process is Nikki Hanna's life itself - from her youth to her sixties - and how she handled the realities of aging.
In sharp contrast to the numerous books on the market that depict a slow and inevitable slowdown and many adjustments, in many refreshing ways Hanna is just beginning to move into her true 'moxie' with grace, humor, and the wisdom of both hindsight and foresight.
Chapters discuss everything from dating to dancing, professional careers, and how her very presence in executive circles creates waves, and offer an intriguing and different perspective on not so much 'aging' in the traditional sense as gathering one's sense of self and presence and using it to best advantage.
Readers interested in memoirs that are fun and thought-provoking reads all in one - especially those about successful women - will find Red Heels & Smokin' a top choice that narrates events well, quickly, and with enthusiasm.
Turbulence comes from a former airline captain who enjoyed several decades of work with American Airlines, and who provides a memoir of his tumultuous life from his childhood, when his father sent him to Holland to live with foster parents to how he realized his dreams of flying.
Readers expecting an airline account alone might be disappointed; but the truth of the matter is that Turbulence is far more than the story of a pilot: it's about realizing dreams against all odds, following John W. Van Kleeff as he embarks on flight paths that move from the U.S. Army and Vietnam to owning a German flight school and working in Saudi Arabia, and it covers both his flying challenges and how his childhood woes actually contributed to his strengths.
Readers who enjoy blends of autobiography and aviation insights will relish Turbulence for what it is: a solid exploration of both.
Scintillating Science Fiction and Fantasy
Smith: Last Known Survivor of the Microsoft
John Smith: Last Known Survivor of the Microsoft Wars is dystopian science fiction at its best, portraying the disintegration of human society from the perspective of a reporter, Susan, who sets out to interview the last survivor to have known the 'Earth That Was' before it was broken into twelve continents and changed forever.
What were the Microsoft Wars which caused such disruption? Apparently they were predicted by Mayan prophecy and as events are told to a reporter who gets so much more than she bargained, she decides to publish one John Smith's eyewitness report in its entirety - and is challenged by him to adjust her pat reporting style to more critical thinking in an approach that requires her to understand many underlying facets of the Wars and their outcome.
What sets this saga apart from other dystopian productions is its specific, methodical focus not just on events of mass destruction, but how they came to pass. By including the social and political structures that ultimately contributed to disaster, John Smith becomes a study in frames of reference - and by using the give-and-take question/answer format of a reporter's interview, its characters, events and worlds come alive. While at times this format seems weighty and the reader might wish for a story that juxtaposes the format with the usual third-person narrative style, it ultimately proves a powerful device offering more depth than the traditional story line approach could have provided.
What do Atlantis, rules of conduct, and Microsoft have in common? Read John Smith to find out: its thought-provoking insights linger in the mind long after the story is done - and that's truly the hallmark of a dystopian read that stands out from the crowd and eschews formula writing and pat predictability for a taste of something far more complex and richly satisfying.John Smith: Last Known Survivor of the Microsoft Wars
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Sizzling Social Issues
What? A Handbook for Families with Transgender Children
Rex Butt, PhD
Now What? A Handbook for Families with Transgender Children fills a gap in parenting literature by offering parents an in-depth coverage of the many issues that confront transgender children and their parents. Given the escalating publicity of adults who have transitioned and the dilemmas faced by transgender children, Now What? couldn't have been published at a better time: just when social awareness is on the cusp of acceptance and parents require a comprehensive resource for both understanding gender identity and their own children.
Now What? blends the personal experiences of the author, himself a parent of a transgender person, with guidelines for parents who are facing many of the same questions, and it surveys both traditional and non-traditional options for treatment and behavior in a discussion directed to parents of children of all ages.
From social pressures and stereotypes to variations in gender non-conforming people and how parents can provide acknowledgement, confirmation, and guidance throughout the many confusing scenarios that arise in a child's life, Now What? synthesizes history, cultural analysis, and parenting skills specific to gender questions in a book that goes beyond the author's personal experiences to represent insights and information gained from interviews and interactions with over two hundred parents of transsexual or gender-non-confirming children.
And while one might have wished this book could have appeared much earlier, the timing just wasn't right. It is now - which makes Now What? a highly recommended addition to any parenting collection, and a standout on the subject.
Long War & Common Core
Donna H. Herne
Freedom Basics Press
P.O. Box 37054
St. Louis, MO 63141
9780692389331 $10.00 www.theconservativepundit.com
The Long War & Common Core: Everything You Need to Know to Win the War! comes from a former Reagan official in the Department of Education and documents the move to integrate Common Core standards into the educational system with the underlying purpose of fostering a nation of uncritical thinkers. As such, it provides a damning assessment of public education processes in general and the Common Core in particular.
Chapters draw important connections between computerized testing methods, educational objectives, and government interests in manipulating the minds and hearts of children, and they document the changing purposes and approaches of the public education system while analyzing changing science standards, programs set up to monitor students for life, and indicators of mind control methods.
Educators and parents alike should consider The Long War & Common Core as round one in a battle against the processes that negate American freedoms and promote non-educational objectives.
Powerful Picture Book Picks
the Trees Got Their Voices
Susan Andra Lion
9780983268758 $16.95 www.satiama.com
How the Trees Got Their Voices has received eleven national book awards, and as soon as young readers and their parents choose this picture book, it's easy to see why it's a standout.
On the surface it provides a gentle visual story of how Mother Earth gave the trees their names and voices - but on another level, it encourages realization of the interconnected ecology of all living things and emphasizes these relationships in a book packed with unique full-page color drawings, fun facts, and descriptions of nature's processes which make for evocative, fun visual reading: "Grasses chattered on and on, pushing the news farther and even farther, bending and bowing in waves."
The result is a lovely read recommended for kids with basic reading skills and for parental read-aloud for those still in the early reading stages.
Book on Retirement
Kevin Houser, CFP, CES and Gary Plessl, CFP, CPA
Richter Publishing LLC
The Book on Retirement: Are You Ready for the Second Half of Your Financial Life? tackles a topic one would initially think has been more than covered in competing books - planning for retirement - but it offers some insights not seen or depicted as clearly elsewhere; so should be on the radars and bookshelves of any who would better understand the common pitfalls in retirement planning.
From an IRA account's possible tax disadvantages to protecting assets and minimizing taxes, The Book on Retirement focuses on the IRA, primarily, and how to leverage it for maximum benefit.
One surprise in The Book on Retirement is that the book encourages spending money - albeit in an informed manner. Chapters provide calculation methods, discuss financial returns and taxable implications, reviews strategies for early retirees, documents market rises and falls, and provides concrete, specific recommendations for any who have built up a retirement nest egg and want to keep it strong throughout their retirement years.
Premier Publishing/Open Road Media
345 Hudson Street, Suite 6C
New York NY 10014
Dances with Spirits: Ancient Wisdom for a Modern World seems at first glance to be yet another blend of new age wisdom and early history - but offers far more than a pursuit of ancient spiritual values: its intention is to explore how ancestral wisdom from ancient cultures can meld with new ways of thinking and, ultimately, of living.
Chapters provide a holistic approach to life as they link ideas of spiritual self-reliance with such subjects as the juxtaposition of technological breakthroughs and their impact on common sense processes, how to craft harmony out of chaos, how to understand connections to nature and mystical roots in human and animal worlds alike, and how to identify potentially self-destructive cultural mindsets, such as the value of unlimited growth.
The result is a wide-ranging series of connections between ancient and modern times that stands out from the crowd by creating exact, methodical examinations of ancient and modern values and belief systems and how they do and do not work.
Red Adept Publishing
104 Bugenfield Court, Garner, NC 27529
Take a maverick crime detective who has never fully recovered from her partner's death and pair her with a teen she rescued eleven years ago after his parents' death. Bring these two loners back into touch after Michael develops an ability to see the future.
Now add a mysterious girl who asks Michael to predict her future, unleashing a vision that leads him to question whether she has her own secret powers. Weave all three lives together and you have a unique crime book about fate, prediction, and special abilities, in Seeing Evil.
Because Jason Parent takes time to explore the lives and personalities of his characters, the three individuals featured are well-drawn and evolve in gripping, separate lives with different concerns through a winding story that slowly tightens the web of their connections. This means that readers used to quick entertainment reads will find that the thrill factor more than present in Seeing Evil requires an affinity for slowly-building, carefully-constructed protagonists.
Yes, you can enjoy a quick taste - but an author who takes the time to build real character developments can provide a depth of flavor and complexity not possible with a lighter pen: the evidence shines from Seeing Evil in a story line that takes its time to build and ultimately proves a stellar read recommended for fans of mystery, crime and thriller/detective stories.
Young Adult/Teen Reads
Karen Rita Rautenberg
Castle in Danger takes place in the Middle Ages and tells of beautiful, kind Emma, who lives with her rich father in a huge castle and who becomes friends with a brave peasant when he saves her life. Readers ages nine to twelve will receive a number of stories of Emma's adventures as she faces thieves, mystery, battles, a journey through a forest, and more.
Woven into its plot are all the trappings of the Middle Ages, from jousts and fairs to holidays - and Karen Rautenberg's attention to rich historical details is what sets her story apart from others: that and the inclusion of political struggles and dreams. From trappings of the supernatural that permeate peoples' lives and help them make sense of their world ("Look, someone threw squashes, turnips, onions and cabbages all over that cottage," said Nicholas. "It's the witches. I heard that witches fly on their brooms with their cats. They play tricks and scare us on this night," Emma exclaimed while they were jumping on their horses.") to the sights, smells and sounds of the times ("That night, visiting nuns, monks and friars, wearing long woolen tunics, sat at the wood burning hearth in the great hall. They were going on a journey to a holy cathedral the next day. Emma joined many other guests who were roasting apples and chestnuts in the fire."), Castle in Danger is replete with scenes key to understanding the Middle Ages, and will delight middle school readers looking for a lively rendition of the period, packaged in the guise of an adventure and mystery.
Spencer Hill Press
9781633920064 $9.95 www.spencerhillpress.com
Freaks of Nature is young adult dystopian fiction at its best and takes place after the Ebola-X pandemic of 2022, which wiped out millions and left behind a generation of psionic 'freaks' who can turn thoughts into weapons.
In such a world, teen Devon's ability is somewhat less than memorable: he talks to plants. It wouldn't seem that this ability would be much of a threat; but when Devon is captured after escaping from a detainment facility and finds himself on a military transport heading for prison or death with six others who harbor more powerful abilities, he is forced to re-examine his talents and his drive to survive.
Science fiction sagas about psionic powers aren't new, and neither is a dystopian setting that brings them out in children or teens. What does stand out, here, is the additions of romance and mystery which crosses genres and draws together a disparate group of individuals at odds not only with their abilities, but with their worlds and even with each other. Navigating such a world, for Devon, is like navigating a minefield blind. You never know what will blow up, or which move will be wrong - and the pleasure of Freaks of Nature lies in the fact that neither does the reader.
Teens will thus find it a compelling, absorbing story, hard to put down.
Keys to Atlantis is Book Two in the 'Odyssey of Jon Sinclair' series, and is recommended reading for these who relished BlackHeart's Legacy. It continues where the first book left off, depicting Jon and his grandfather, who are desperate to travel back through time to the 21st century in their time ship, but who remain stranded due to the lack of antimatter fuel in their era.
Only Atlantis may hold the clue to what they need - but their journey there in search of answers leads them to confront dangerous gods, uncertain truths, and the elusive nature of an Atlantis that may never be reachable.
Newcomers will receive a fine recap of events of the prior book which makes it easy to absorb the setting of Keys to Atlantis, while examination of the characters' skills and abilities (and how they don't necessarily translate to the task at hand) are exceptionally well done. The second book provides solid characterization and action in a dramatic page-turner recommended for teens who enjoy fantasies of time-travel adventure, historical encounters, and perseverance.
Dr. William L. Conwill
Spirit Training: A Book of Ethics for Black Teens is a guide designed to help black teens tackle common challenges, whether at school or in their communities, and creates a powerful training program in a book that is based on traditional African values and principles of living and resisting negative influences in the world.
One could deem this a philosophical piece, a psychological self-help guide, or a set of insights into African cultural values; but it also uses brain science in combination with ancient traditions to encourage teens to examine the foundations of their beliefs and pair them with experiences.
Chapters tackle such topics as developing fearlessness, understanding the wider ramifications of sharing, and preparing to be a hero in the world, with suggested activities encouraging teens to think about themselves and their worlds in a different light.
The result is a special kind of guide that skirts the line between spiritual, philosophical and psychological details to provide teens with solid information that juxtaposes questions about belief systems with insights on values.