Saturday, April 30, 2011

Announcement: Beth's Book Reviews on Kindle!

For those of you with a Kindle I'm happy to announce that you can now receive Beth's Book Reviews posts on your Kindle!  Just click here:



Unfortunately, it's not available on the Kindle app though, per Amazon.



Friday, April 29, 2011

Excerpt: A Moment's Matinee by Bill Bailey

I received A Moment's Matinee from the publisher for review, but as poetry and I are not friends I'm posting an excerpt instead of a review.



An excerpt from A Moment's Matinee by Bill Bailey

It's In the Blood


This urge to smile on paper,
To trap my fears in lines,
To seek surcease in simile,
And press for hope in rhymes,
Must have a source an artistry
The Griots set in place
To offer solace during stress 
And fuel for the race.




The Final Act

At this the coda of a life that might, in truth, be called
A passage marked by minor gains and catastrophic falls -
My need to play the major roles increases with my age
And past failures merely serve as lighting for this final stage.
 


About the book:


A Moment's Matinee: A Collection of PoemsA language lover's delight! 

This book comments on most of the issues and concerns of thoughtful people in language that is at once dynamic yet accessible!

This book represents the lifelong writings of a teacher, administrator, father, advisor and foremost, a poet.





About Bill:
 
Billy Bailey, a former English teacher and high school administrator, has written a volume that engaging, insightful, and at times, an inspirational exploration of current concerns.




Monday, April 25, 2011

Excerpt: Broken Birds, The Story of My Momila by Jeannette Katzir

Jeannette Katzir, author of the book Broken Birds, The Story of My Momila, stopped by to share with us an excerpt from her book.



An Excerpt from Broken Birds, The Story of My Momila
by Jeannette Katzir

The walkway near the curb showed little evidence that such a gruesome place lurked just a short walk away. Pleasant and clean, the area outside the camp resembled any museum entrance. As we got closer, we found a monument that ac knowledged that this was indeed a camp, but upon further study, we noticed its message was incomplete. It mentioned only that this was a place where Jews, gypsies, gays, and po litical dissidents had been kept and put to hard labor. Absent from the description was any mention that these people were murdered systematically—that their bodies were burned to ashes, and their shoes, hair, and gold teeth filled large collec tion bins. And that those bins were the only hard evidence that these unfortunate souls had ever been there. The en trance had been sanitized so that visitors could feel better about the “camp” experience. To me, it seemed like just an other effort to cover up the stark truth of what had transpired here, and once again, I felt defensive and frustrated. 


We walked beneath the main office’s archway to a tall, ornate gate. Arbeit Macht Frei, “Work Makes Freedom,” was forged in iron in the metalwork. However, we all knew the brutal reality: work staves off death…for a short while. Sim ply touching the gate shot pain through our hands. How many people had walked through that gate and never walked back out? I could not imagine what it must have felt like for my father to open that gate after all these years and walk back into that camp. We entered without uttering a word. What could we say? It was clear from the look on his face that the memories had raced back, and that he once again had inhab ited his own private nightmare. As much as we wanted to support him and to understand, we all knew that we could never even begin to grasp the reality of what he had gone through. 


My first impression of the camp was how clean it was, almost parklike. The pathway was covered with gravel, and the outlying perimeter was carpeted in freshly mowed grass. In the center of the grounds stood a lone barrack, the others having all been torn down. This structure stood as a reminder of what the housing was like.

“This wasn’t what it looked like at all,” Dad said, shaking his head. The only indications that other barracks had ever stood on the grounds were large cement blocks with numbers chiseled into them. There was no explanation of what the numbers represented, but Dad knew. He walked across the gravel with his head down and his hands behind his back and then stopped at block number seven. He stood there quietly.

“This was where my barrack was,” he explained with des perately sad eyes. Part of him had never wanted to return, but he also needed to come; he needed to show us this place. He also needed to show himself and the world that the forces that had destroyed his family and threatened his very life had not won. He had lived on and triumphed. We were his living proof.

We walked the full circumference of where his barrack once stood, Shlomo a few steps behind the rest of us. All around the grounds, encircling the concrete slabs, was fencing with spiral razor wire bunched up in multiple rotations at the tops and bases. Every twenty feet or so, a solitary sentry structure stood. Each one was identical to the next. Each contained a single door, a single four-paned window, and a viewing platform. I easily visualized some Nazi smugly sitting there, well-fed and cozy, his gun pointed at the walking skele tons below.

We made our way to the lone exhibition barrack. The wooden door had a plain metal pull handle that clicked the door open when pressed. There was a single step up, and suddenly we were inside, walking on plain wooden plank floors that creaked with each step. The small entrance area was spotless, with windows that cranked open to the court yard. Opposite these windows was a wall filled with lockers.

“There were no lockers!” Dad blurted out, disgusted. “They took everything from us; we didn’t have anything to put in lockers!”

The walls were spotless and even appeared freshly painted. A small area off to the left featured five brown toilets lined up against the wall. Again, Dad shook his head. 


“These weren’t here either! All we had were holes in the floorboards!”

But the biggest farce was the sleeping accommodations. They were clean, newly constructed wooden bunk beds. Where were the original beds? The ones stained with urine and blood? Where were the original bed frames, carved with messages for the new arrivals? Where were the bunks that broke under the weight of two or three men trying to sleep in a bed wide enough for one? No, this was not a realistic repre sentation of Dad’s death camp, but an advertisement for a children’s summer camp.

When a young German guide walked through the barrack, reciting her script about this “work camp” to a group of Eng lish-speaking tourists, Dad could not contain his anguish.

“Why are you lying to these people?” he asked loudly.

“Excuse me?” she answered with a German accent.

He held out his papers. “I was here in barrack number seven. I am a survivor of this camp, and what you are showing and telling these people is a lie!”

Shocked by his accusations, she walked off without a word, taking most of the tourists with her. But some visitors remained behind and spoke with Dad. They asked him ques tions about what it was really like to be there, how he had escaped, and what his life had been like to this date. Some had Jewish stars hanging from their necks. They seemed to be close to my age and were there to see what their family mem bers had had to endure. Two tourists asked if they could have their photographs taken with him. He stood proudly with his papers in his hand as his photo was taken repeatedly. Steven pulled the video camera to his eye and captured every mo ment.

Dad was not happy about the way the camp was por trayed to the public, but he felt vindicated that day, if only by a small number of people. As I watched my father, then looked at those bunks and out the windows to the common areas, my eyes welled up. I hated that my father had to suffer so, and as I stood right where it had happened the reality hit home. Man is so cruel, I thought.

There was one other building we had yet to see…the one with a chimney.

“I’m going to stay here,” Dad told us as he sat down in the shade of a tall eucalyptus tree. “I don’t want to see it.”

We understood. A part of me did not want to see it ei ther, but I needed to. I needed to see the horrible place where the individuals who had been so important to my dad had been so unimportant to others.

The crematorium was hidden from view, sitting beyond another collection of gates and further shielded by tall trees. From the exterior, it looked like a charming little cottage with dark, red-brownish bricks and a lovely chimney that reached to the heavens. The building’s purpose was still concealed as we entered. The entry room was the area where the prisoners were supposed to undress so they could take their “showers.” It seemed pocket-sized for the number of people it had had to accommodate, with no real place for them to put their things. Then again, they did not have very much. I followed a tour group into the next section, which was the shower room. Mock showerheads protruded from the walls, hiding the gas piping behind them. The room was so clean. Where were the scratch marks on the walls from the dying who had tried to claw themselves upright? No, these walls were plastered, pretty as you please. I tried not to listen to the tour guide’s blathering; she did not marginally represent what had really happened here. Instead, I stood for a while looking at the walls and tried to envision what it must have felt like. 


We left the gas chambers for the oven room. Two brick pizza ovens with iron doors sat on the cement slab floor. Again, it was cleaner than clean, with no hint of the innocent ones who had been burned to ashes. My stomach turned. 


“These ovens were used to dispose of persons who died while in this work camp,” the guide recited dispassionately. 


“Death camp!” I said, correcting her dim-witted state ment. “If this was only a work camp, then what were the gas chambers in the other room for?” I added, knowing I would get no honest reply here. The guide ignored my correction and continued delivering her memorized diatribe. I was in creasingly enraged as I looked around—this sanitized version of the camp was an insult to the survivors, as well as the dead.

 


About the book:

Broken Birds, The Story of My MomilaThere is a truth in war: Every survivor has a story to tell. Sadly, it is very true. They have remembrances of evil too horrible to talk about, but unable to be forgotten. But, what of their children, the second and third generations? They too have stories to tell. Fortunately, their tales are not of prison guards and ovens, but of parents, who because of the war, were badly broken. 

Channa, a Partisan Fighter during World War II, prepares Katzir and her four siblings to survive a war that ended before they were born. Channa's rules are unbreakable: Failure means Death. Strangers mean Danger. Anyone who is not blood is a Stranger. When Channa suddenly dies, the unexpected contents of her will force her adult children to recognize the affects her guidance has had on their relationships with one another, with their created families, and with her. What was once a close-knit family is now led down the road to emotional destruction.  
 


About Jeannette:

As a child of Holocaust survivors, Jeannette Katzir’s life has been a study of the lasting effects of war.  Inspired  by her own family experiences, Katzir has dedicated years to in-depth research of the impact of World War II on survivors and  their children.  She currently resides in the Los Angeles area, not far from her two children and grandson, with her husband.







Sunday, April 24, 2011

Review: Awaken the Kryst Within by A'dayara BudAea Rivera

Awaken the Kryst Within: Memoirs of an IndigoIn 2000, after twenty years of drug, sex and alcohol addiction, Adayara BudAea Rivera witnessed an immense, inner consciousness shift as a result of a near-fatal drug-alcohol overdose. Since that multi-dimensional walk-in, walk-out experience, Adayara searched many spiritual traditions for the answers of WHO am I, WHERE do I come from, WHAT is my purpose and WHERE am I going after death; all of them falling short until he chose to "Awaken the Kryst Within" himself.





Received from the publisher for review.

This one gets one star.  The slim volume (under 100 pages) frankly didn't do much for me.  I wanted to like it, but just couldn't.  The excessive use of both bold and italic text was just distracting and quickly annoying.  The author's autobiographical story was just plain odd.  The suspension of disbelief required to complete reading this was simply beyond me.  I cannot recommend this unless you follow the author's beliefs. 

☆☆ = Didn't Like It



Saturday, April 23, 2011

Excerpt: Into My Father's Wake by Eric Best

Eric Best, author of the book Into My Father's Wake, stopped by to share with us an excerpt.



Prologue Excerpt
By Eric Best
Author of Into My Father's Wake

In the years before I finally went sailing alone I struggled with something nameless whose manifestation in my life I did not recognize for the longest time. Most of it was negative -- a dull ache of some internal sort, sudden rage at conditions that would not submit to me, relationships that foundered in conflict or the effects of drinking, or drinking itself. This I had learned at home from a couple of experts and the traditions in which they came of age, where alcohol was just something one did at the end of the day. The drinking dulled but did not eliminate the background noise of the thing, which was perhaps the background noise of sadness, or echoes of irreconcilable conflicts, or the thing itself, whatever it might be. In matters of the heart, over time, I found I could only go so far and no farther, derailed or obstructed by something that must have been rooted in me early, if it was not my own by nature.

How much of this had to do with me alone and how much was a function of my family or the way I understood my place in it, or my father and mother, or the New England upbringing of my youth, I could not tell. It is easy enough to blame one's troubles on others, particularly the people who brought us into the world and raised us. But surely I figured in it somewhere. Who expected to be fully happy, anyway? Perhaps it was all in the pursuit, as books on the topic seemed to say. For a long time I did not appreciate that most people were not raised as I was, and therefore had their own experiences of parental love and the frailties and failures that went with it. Some of those were devious and for me would be intractable to understanding without the help of others.

Not until my first experiments with psychotherapy (in which I was the lone family explorer) with a grey-haired woman in Cambridge did I suspect there was something to uncover in my family that might explain some of my conflicts. Early school reports documented me as very clever and engaging, but contentious and sometimes explosive. My years growing up on a former dairy farm in a small Massachusetts town, and later in private schools, were marked by more than my share of fistfights, confrontations on the soccer field and a record number of ice hockey penalties, though I never developed a taste for bar-brawls or street fighting. I could be very funny and entertaining -- at least my family and friends generally said so -- but when it came to being argumentative or provocative, few could match me in any grade from kindergarten on up. I despised authority in any form and if I felt the least bit trapped or pushed, in word or physical space, self-control was not my natural instinct. Call it spoiling for a fight, or a chip on his shoulder, or just a confused kid in pain, this tendency did little to endear me to my contemporaries, among whom I had a few but fortunately enduring friends.

If a turning point was signaled along the way it came without much notice during lunch in a Fifth Street bar in San Francisco in the mid '80s. I was in my mid-thirties, stunted in some ways I could not name, drinking regularly if not relentlessly and slipping inexorably into the collapse of my first marriage. I remarked to another journalist and unrequited novelist -- bound together as we were by the San Francisco Examiner, our unrealized ambitions as writers and a common tendency to fly into rages over trivial matters -- that I didn't think I could ever write my first book while my father was still alive. Why I said this at the time I was not sure, but I knew it was true and felt I was disclosing something powerful by saying it out loud to anyone. I was telling a truth without knowing why.

It would be about a decade before my father died in his waterfront bedroom in Cape Rosier, Maine, in the house my mother's father had built 80 years earlier, overlooking the rocky shores of Eggemoggin Reach, where I did my first sailing and my father did his last. In the meantime I had sailed alone to Hawaii and back and struggled to write the story of that trip and the life that brought me to it. Expecting his death by congestive heart failure to arrive at any time, I invited him to read the first draft, about which he only said, with a grim, narrow look I knew too well, 'So, you hate me, then?' It defined the gulf between us more eloquently than anything I could have ever come up with on my own. A few months later, with that still between us, I drove him home from the Bangor hospital, knowing it to be the last time, so he could have a view of the water and his sailboat, 'Enfin,' idling at her mooring nearby. He died three days later in his sleep, just after I left on a business trip. A dozen years would pass -- including my mother's decline and death, and another failed marriage -- before something moved me to finish the story once and for all -- to try to accept and forgive and bury him with a decent tribute, and perhaps set myself free in ways I had never been.

It is a truism that we never know when we set out on a long journey just where we may arrive, or when. Life is made up of the unexpected, coming at us point-blank. Things are seldom what they seem, so our charted course is never the course we make in the end. While the father whom life dealt me left his indelible marks -- for better and worse -- there were others I found along the way. One was a tennis buddy of his, a former RAF pilot who flew night-fighters in Korea and then ran a mysterious business involving military hardware. During one of my explosive tantrums over a failed shot in a casual weekend doubles game, John Striebel looked at me with mild contempt and said simply, "That's it, I'm done." He sat down beside the court with an air of finality, rejecting summarily his younger partner, which broke up our precious Saturday game and made everyone a victim of my behavior. John was the first partner (or player) ever to walk off the tennis court when I was throwing a fit -- the only one, actually. And I felt oddly grateful, even as I had to walk the half-mile home alone as he and my father drove past without showing any sign of my being there. Years later John would counsel me through my first divorce -- don't let your anger take over, he said. He also warned me not to wait too long before trying to sail solo in the ocean. Getting older has a way of making you afraid to do things, he said, and the fear will come on you unexpectedly.

Other fathers I found, or who found me, helped me discover certain truths that I could not see clearly on my own. Don Michael, an educator and consultant who became a mentor to me in my consulting practice, looked at me with compassion when I recalled some of my earliest memories, some of them clouded or blocked, which had something to do with violence. "No child can reconcile love and brutality, it just doesn't make any sense," he said, putting me on a path to understanding my history over time. Joe Miller, a Sufi philosopher and spiritual guide in San Francisco, showed me the power of powerful listening and evoked words that would become my compass for the rest of my life. And Professor Bill White, who continued to teach through his last tortuous months at Harvard Business School as he died of leukemia, showed me with deathbed selflessness what it meant to help others find their way.

It was my own act of faith that in finishing this story something crucial about my father and my relationship to him might finally come clear, although its manifestation would be a surprise. The manuscript that had gone on the shelf after he died suddenly demanded attention when my son turned five. That was about the same age that I had become consciously aware that my father was in my life. He had spent my earliest years commuting from Connecticut to a New York City bank and was seldom at home when I was awake, a condition I had recreated in my own son's life. There was something about this age -- five. My first daughter was five when my marriage to her mother broke up, and I felt compelled to get into the ocean alone, to get out there -- maybe just to get out of here -- to be truly alone to figure something out. This journey would not be finished, if I could call it so, for another 20 years. In truth perhaps it would never be.

The above is an excerpt from the book Into My Father's Wake by Eric Best. The above excerpt is a digitally scanned reproduction of text from print. Although this excerpt has been proofread, occasional errors may appear due to the scanning process. Please refer to the finished book for accuracy.

© 2011 Eric Best, author of Into My Father's Wake


About the book:

Into My Father's WakeThe book records a solo, 5,000-mile Pacific journey aboard the 47-foot ketch Feo, in which the author attempts to put his powerful father to rest once and for all.
 








About Eric:

Eric Best, author of Into My Father's Wake, is a speaker, and strategy consultant to individuals and corporations. Educated at Hamilton College, Harvard and Stanford Universities, his background as a journalist (Lowell Sun, USA Today, San Francisco Examiner), futurist (Global Business Network, Morgan Stanley), and solo ocean sailor (SF-Hawaii and back, '89 and '93) inform his insights. The father of three, he lives and maintains offices in Brooklyn, NY, where he currently consults for a global financial firm and is working on two new books.

For more information please visit http://ericbestonline.com and follow the author on Facebook and Twitter




Monday, April 11, 2011

Guest Post: Eric Best author of Into My Father's Wake

Eric Best, author of the book Into My Father's Wake, stopped by to share with us a piece he wrote.




Be Your Own Coach


By Eric Best

An old friend who is struggling through a dark period in life (recent death of a cherished parent) is trying to climb back into the light, so to speak, and called to talk things over. I found myself suggesting something that I realized I would do well to listen to myself.

In Little League coaching, the suggesting rule of thumb is 5-1, positive to negative. Say 5 positive things to a player for each correcting or critical observation you make.

It works. They learn faster, play better, have more fun.

I learned this a few years ago when I coached my son's team and found it is not my natural way. I am quite good at spotting what is "wrong" and suggesting what should be done to "improve."

I was raised by two parents who watched quite carefully and commented on any shortcoming, error or misstep they saw in their children. There might be a bonus for exceptional performance in the form of praise or rewards (or sometimes just an absence of criticism). It often seemed that love itself was conditional on good behavior (and to some degree on good manners and general appearance.) It certainly wasn't enough in my family to simply be.

I sometimes have to fight this now in myself and in the way I treat my own children (and others). Being truly positive is a challenge. The negative is often trying to find its way in, as if it were just as "good" to see what is wrong as to see what is good.

It isn't.

So in this spirit, I encouraged my friend, be on guard against negative thoughts and feelings about life around you, and yourself. Try to outnumber them 5-1 with positive ideas. It's a way to become a better coach to yourself.

You may find you play better, learn more and have more fun.

And tomorrow is another day.

© 2011 Eric Best

 


About the book:

Into My Father's WakeThe book records a solo, 5,000-mile Pacific journey aboard the 47-foot ketch Feo, in which the author attempts to put his powerful father to rest once and for all.
 








About Eric:
 

Eric Best, author of Into My Father's Wake, is a speaker, and strategy consultant to individuals and corporations. Educated at Hamilton College, Harvard and Stanford Universities, his background as a journalist (Lowell Sun, USA Today, San Francisco Examiner), futurist (Global Business Network, Morgan Stanley), and solo ocean sailor (SF-Hawaii and back, '89 and '93) inform his insights. The father of three, he lives and maintains offices in Brooklyn, NY, where he currently consults for a global financial firm and is working on two new books.

For more information please visit http://ericbestonline.com and follow the author on Facebook and Twitter




Sunday, April 3, 2011

Review: The Cosmic Order of Reincarnation by Khun Shwe Thike

The Cosmic Order of Reincarnation: Fearless BibleDiscover the Cosmic Order and Four Elements that Will Change Your Outlook on Everything

What really happens after we die? What are the mechanisms that give us birth? Do we really have a soul? What is it? Such questions have kept philosophers, religious leaders, and mystics busy for millennia. Now, the author and philosopher KhunShweThike sheds new light on these and other inquiries in The Cosmic Order of Reincarnation: Fearless Bible. In this breakthrough book, you'll discover the surprising truth about reincarnation and how it works. While most explanations of this phenomena focus on the effect of past lives on the present, The Cosmic Order of Reincarnation powerfully argues that what befalls us in this life is completely unrelated to the past. And that revelation has important ramifications for how we live our lives. You'll also learn:

•How other cultures share and differ in their understanding of death and rebirth
•The importance of the Five Laws of Cosmic Order
•The meaning of the Four Ultimate Realities and how it impacts your life
•Why certain tragedies and hardships affect us in this life, and what we can do to stop them from happening
•How such understanding and realization can and will contribute to increased peace and understanding the world over

The Cosmic Order of Reincarnation: Fearless Bible is perfect for anyone interested in philosophy, death, healing, or self-improvement.



Received from the publisher for review.

This one gets three stars. While well written it does lean a bit towards more academical wording which can be tedious. The chapters are nicely sized to make for convenient breaking points so one does not get overwhelmed though. Although I don't necessarily agree with all the author's assertions he does present his ideas well. Fans of spiritual self improvement books, such as Wayne Dyer's, will find this intriguing.

★★☆☆ = Liked It



Saturday, April 2, 2011

Review: The Tapestry Shop by Joyce Elson Moore

The Tapestry Shop (Five Star Expressions)The Tapestry Shop is the story of the trouvère, Adam de la Halle, a thirteenth-century poet/musician who entertained in France's royal courts. Adam's secular play, Robin et Marion, led to the birth of the comic opera form and the first penning of the Robin Hood legend.


The book draws the reader into the Middle Ages, where women joined the crusades and students held discourse on the Street of Straw, but the overriding appeal of The Tapestry Shop is Adam's connection to the legend of Robin Hood.

After enduring political exile, Adam returns to the city of his birth to confront the reality of his failed marriage, but first, he must find the hangmen who stole his purse and his dignity.

As protégé of King Louis's nephew, Adam attends the university in Paris. When he meets Catherine, a shopkeeper's daughter, his life takes an unexpected turn.

Catherine is bound to another by a secret she cannot reveal. Her deep religious convictions and guilt for her past bring danger to her and to those she loves. When she decides to join the king's latest crusade, Adam must confront his disdain for what he considers an intolerant Church, based on his knowledge of its treatment of Cathars and Jews.

Torn by conflicting ideals, they move toward their destiny, each determined to prevail, but the choices they make bring them both to heights and depths neither could ever imagine.



Received from the publisher for review.

This one gets three stars.  While it was beautifully written and had a fabulous cover historical fiction of this time period just really isn't for me.  I found it enjoyable and reminiscent of The Mists of Avalon, but the characters themselves didn't do much for me as people.  This is recommended for historical fiction fans.

★★☆☆ = Liked It



Friday, April 1, 2011

Review: The Chinese Consipiracy by John Mariotti

The Chinese ConspiracyWhen Jim Martini goes back to his WV hometown to see why its major employer failed suddenly he finds more than a failed company. He risks his life, finds a lost love, and stumbles into an international conspiracy. A Chinese revolutionary group is using viruses, hacking, malware and cyber-technology to over-throw its own government and attempt to control the US--by shutting down all forms of computers and communications--all at once.

Suddenly nothing works-communications are "silenced". The US is preoccupied fighting global terrorism, so it's up to Jim, hometown friends and a small team of CIA, FBI, and NSA agents to overcome this devastating threat and stop The Chinese Conspiracy.

Set in the lush mountains of West Virginia and half-way around the world in China, The Chinese Conspiracy weaves a chilling tale of cyber-terrorism, current events and a tender love story. Read The Chinese Conspiracy and then call or e-mail someone you love, but do it while everything still works.



Received from the author for review.

This one gets four stars.  The deliciously creepy, Fringe worthy story, was made all the more creepy because it could actually could happen.  At times it was a bit on the technical side, language wise, but it wasn't overly distracting.  The masterful writing locks you into an escalating level of suspense worthy of a John Grisham.  Fans of John Grisham and Brad Meltzer will find this engrossing conspiracy tale incredibly enjoyable.  I sincerely look forward to future books by the author.  I highly recommend this!

★★★★ = Really Liked It