I specialize in reviewing Print-On-Demand (POD) published books for my website and Midwest Book Review. Please query for a review by email to hgunther234@hotmail.com.

Friday, October 12, 2007

MORE SENIOR MOMENTS by David Wayne Silva

Getting the Most Out of Your Golden Years
Outskirts Press
Parker, CO
Genre: Self Help/Inspirational
Rating: Good
ISBN: 143270107X, $13.95, 180 pp.

Quoting from the back cover:

""When I first wrote Senior Moments I had no idea of the impact that it would make upon the reader. It wasn’t until I began to get phone calls and e-mails about the content that I became aware of what readers really thought. They asked for more senior moments topics. They wanted to know more about self-identity, exercise, family strife, accepting death, sex, and many other topics..."

"In More Senior Moments, the sequel to author David Wayne Silva’s popular anthology Senior Moments, you’ll find an all-new collection of stories and essays on growing older. Like the first book in the series, More Senior Moments was written to help seniors find the answers to common questions with simple stories told by their peers. The well-thought out and sympathetic advice encourages those entering their golden years to face both the joys and problems that come with aging.

"Silva writes: "Seniors, this is your book. It contains your stories and your ideas. It is about you. I just put it together. Most of the stories and information in this book come from your friends and neighbors, from my own experience, and from the medical profession that takes care of us. After years of working as a counselor, I find it easy to approach my senior friends and ask for their ideas on different subjects. They feel comfortable talking about their emotions and their physical problems even touchy subjects like dressing themselves and sexual matters. Many senior men and women have worked together with me on this book. It is good that we can band together and help each other have more enriching lives while we accept the challenges of aging.""

I reviewed David Silva’s first book, Senior Moments, in February 2006 and was delighted with his writing at that time. As the quote from the back cover states, More Senior Moments is a continuation on the theme of senior topics and inspirational stories. This book is also contains thirty-three short chapters.

David Silva was a teacher, school administrator, and family/grief counselor prior to his retirement, and I’m certain these aspects of David's life played an integral part in the creation of his well-written books. If you’re a senior, young or old, you will find helpful information on many subjects, plus lots of inspiration to help keep us in a positive frame of mind. I’m a senior myself and appreciate the time and effort David has taken to create these inspirational books.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


Outskirts Press
Parker, CO
Genre: Memoir/Spiritual/Environmental Commentary
Rating: Good
ISBN: 1432705547, $11.95, 228 pp.

Quoting from the back cover:

"In the late 1960s my parent purchased land northwest of Ft. Collins, Colorado. We named it Medicine Rock. I was not born there, but Medicine Rock was a birthplace for me; it was the beginning of consciousness and a place that continues to be vital for my becoming. The reflections of Medicine Rock presented here are like spring waters finally percolating through layers of rock and earth to reach the surface. Medicine Rock was a place where exposure to the elements shaped my inner landscapes to be attuned to the vital spiritual energy inherent in the natural world and to feel a deep connection with it. The place didn’t just grow on me; it grew in me. There was an unmistakable feeling of being a part of the greater whole that was instilled in me at a young age, the roots of which continued to grow deeper in my consciousness with each passing year. Will I ever get back to Medicine Rock? The manifestation of the life force I became aware of there is just as profound today, and I return to Medicine Rock each time I am out in the wilds."

Well, I’d say that Kyle Gardner’s writing is right up there with other environmentally-concerned/caring authors such as Barbara Kingsolver and Edward Abbey. Medicine Rock Reflections is part personal memoir, part spiritual journey, and part environmental commentary. It is a well-written and well-edited book, and allow me to share a small sample of Kyle’s writing with you, from page 13:

"The notion that nearness to nature keeps the spirit sensitive to impressions not commonly felt has also been suggested by John Muir’s implication of a chemical reaction. As Muir said when examining the spiritual impact of a wild place, "all that is required is exposure and purity of material because no earthly chemical is as sensitive as the human soul." Taking Muir’s insight just a small step further, the chemicals of the soul certainly must be receptive to the exposure to pure materials, because some chemicals, or souls, may not react even under the most perfect conditions. In my experience, the time at Medicine Rock provided the exposure to the natural world. The materials there, all the natural elements and then some, were as pure as I would imagine possible given the time of history. And for some reason, whether purposeful or otherwise, whether through genetic predispositions or family predilections, through soulful sensitivity, via dumb luck or some other reason, I had a reaction to what was afoot, a reaction that continues to send out reverberating waves decades later."

If you’re interested in environmental issues and reading about spiritual journeys, you just might be interested in this personal/historical memoir.

THE VALLEY OF DEATH by Gwynne Huntington Wales

2021 Pine Lake Rd, Lincoln, NE
Genre: Fiction/Espionage Thriller
Rating: Good
ISBN: 0595418899, $23.95, 413 pp.

Quoting from the back cover:

"In November 2002, before the invasion of Iraq, the CIA responds to a report from a highly placed British spy about an Iraqi operation to recover and sell nerve gas to terrorists, by dropping Jan Vandermeer into a remote valley in northeast Iraq to determine whether or not the report is correct. He discovers that the lake at the head of the valley is contaminated with VX nerve gas. Using Predator surveillance, the CIA watches the Iraqis recover a canister of the gas and deliver it to the initial transporters. Now the CIA must make a decision–destroy the gas before it moves out of Iraq or let it proceed to protect the source of the report as well as to try to roll up the network of terrorists engaged in moving it to its ultimate but unknown destination.

"The decision to track the gas requires a team of CIA and British agents as well as the National Security Agency and the National Reconnaissance Office. Vandermeer and his Iraqi partner, the beautiful Sophia, are assigned leading roles in the operation. An intensive two-week battle of wits follows, taking Vandermeer and Sophia on a gripping journey through the deepest recesses of the Middle East toward what they come to believe is the final target in the United States."

I must tell you that I did not read the entire novel. When I got to page 35 and the following ...

"I don’t need to tell you guys how important it is that we keep track of this thing," said the briefing officer. "If we lose it and it gets into the hands of terrorists, we could be looking at a disaster that would make 9/11 look like child’s play. The purpose of this exercise is to find out who is behind this and to put whoever it is out of action. It also shows that Iraq indeed has weapons such as this hidden away and is prepared to use them. If the trail leads to al Qaeda or some other terrorist group, it shows that Iraq not only supports terrorists but also supplies them with such weapons."...,

I felt to’ track’ rather than ‘pick up’ the VX nerve gas (a bird in the hand ...) when they could was an ignorant decision, considering the potential deadly disaster nature of the gas, and chose not to read further. I read to page 35 and the last few chapters. My decision certainly does not take away from the quality of writing which is very good. Gwynne Wales is an accomplished, knowledgeable writer, and his novel is well organized, edited and filled with interesting details. If you like espionage thrillers and don’t mind poor decisions, I’m certain your will enjoy The Valley of Death.

Thursday, October 04, 2007


A Coming-of-Age Tale
iUniverse, Inc.
2021 Pine Lake Rd, Lincoln, NE
Genre: Fiction/Literature
Rating: Excellent
ISBN: 9780595448104, $14.95, 186 pp.

Quoting from the back cover:

"Connecticut, 1952. School is out for the summer. In a time before computers, X-boxes, and iPods, the neighborhood kids have to get into trouble the old-fashioned way–using their imagination.

"Ten-year-old Sonny Boy get the bright idea for a practical joke involving his mother and a snake. He fears the loathsome reptiles more than anything in the world, but he figures it will be a great gag that will make him a hero to his buddies, Charlie and Pudgy–and to a certain girl. But three bullies harass the boys at every turn, and a battle of wits ensues. Nothing, however, diminishes Sonny Boy’s infatuation for, or attempts to impress, the lovely Mary Lou.

"During that hot summer, Sonny Boy befriends an octogenarian named Otto, whose wisdom facilitates his introduction to adolescence–and a final showdown with a snake."

Somewhat of a strange title for a book, but in the end, it all makes perfect sense.
Why You Shouldn’t Throw a Snake At Your Mother is one of the most delightful stories I’ve read in quite some time. Phil Gray has a true gift for story telling, particularly about young boys. He has a marvelous sense of humor, contagious enthusiasm and is a master at description and creating colorful characters. His style of writing is reminiscent of Stephen King’s great talent for writing about adolescents and setting the stage with historic trivia. Allow me to share a small portion with you, from page 4:

"This was the summer of l952. Baseball was in the air in America, the Summer Olympics were underway in Finland, and a nasty war was sputtering in Korea. Our world was largely unaffected by these events. School was out, and we were at play...everywhere except, of course, in the Woods.

"The year had started with a yawn–Dimitri Shostakovich finishing his fifth string quartet, the Dutch finishing a new Bible translation, Elizabeth Taylor marrying Michael Wilding a second time–and didn’t get the first jolt of consequence until the end of February when Winston Churchill announced Britain’s first atomic bomb.

"After that, things picked up. Puerto Rico became a self-governing U.S. commonwealth, the Communists re-invigorated their offensive in Korea, the U.S. Senate finally ratified the peace treaty restoring sovereignty to Japan, and the most important contribution to the pop culture of the civilized world, the very first Rock and Roll concert, called the Moondog Coronation Ball, was introduced at the Cleveland Arena by a local disc jockey named Alan Freed–peace be upon him.

"The Jackie Gleason Show, featuring the Honeymooners, debuted on television that year. Earnest Hemingway published The Old Man and the Sea, and William Gaines published the first Mad comic book. Herman Wouk won a Pulitzer Prize for Caine Mutiny, and Humphrey Bogart received the Academy Award for Best Actor in the l951 movie African Queen. The Academy Award for best 1951 film went to An American in Paris. The big 1952 movie hits were High Noon, The Greatest Show on Earth, and Moulin Rouge." And that’s only the beginning.

Let me give you a sample of one colorful character: Charlie Miller.

"Charlie Miller was a ragged little urchin that none of the kids in the neighborhood were allowed to play with. That’s because Charlie lived on another planet. He didn’t seem to have any rules, or at least he wasn’t aware that he did. He was a free spirit way before the ‘60s.

"All Hail! It was the Charlie’s of the world who invented the ‘60s.

"I never saw Charlie clean, and I always knew what he had for lunch because he wore the remnants of it on the front of him like a badge of honor. To Charlie, meals were an adventure, his mouth was a target, and his hands were the shooters. Every afternoon after lunch, a shimmering rainbow of juices and food particles could be seen dripping from his chin, sluicing down his shirt, pants, and even to his shoes. Ordinarily, shoes don’t draw flies, but Charlie’s did.

"He was tall for his age, and thin, almost to the point of emaciation (could there be a connection here with his eating habits?). His limbs were long and willowy, their motions first appearing discordant. A closer look revealed more ballet than brawn.
"He had unruly, sandy-brown hair, cut short, as if by a weed-whacker, and an impish grin, as integral to his character as the food on his shirt.

"He had a weak right eye. When he was lazy, agitated, or indifferent, it wandered about, not in cooperation with the left eye that locked on its subject like a mariner on Canopis. I found it disconcerting to carry on a direct conversation with Charlie while his good eye bored into me and the other danced around in search of a place to alight. The effect was even more unsettling when combined with his impish grin. But I got used to it by focusing on the good eye.

"And he would do anything for kicks, short of setting himself of fire (I take it back, he did that once).

"He was adventuresome to the point of recklessness. If you challenged Charlie to test the thin ice, he would do so. If you dared him to stomp on a cow-pie, you would lose the dare. If you bet him a nickel he wouldn’t bite into a cow-pie, you would be five cents lighter. ...

"He fancied himself a magician, claiming he could make a bullfrog disappear by the count of three. This, in fact, he accomplished by stuffing an M-80 firecracker down a bullfrog’s throat and counting out three hops before it dematerialized in a fine green mist. In Charlie’s world, an instantaneous change of state from solid to liquid was sufficient to constitute a disappearance."

This novel is well-written and well-edited and hopefully it will be picked up by a mainstream publisher so that Phil Gray’s writing talent can be enjoyed by more readers. If you’re looking for a story to brighten your day and lift your spirit, you won’t want to miss the adventures of Sonny Boy and his friends, Charlie and Pudgy.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007


The Presidency of George W. Bush
BookSurge Publishing
North Charleston, South Carolina
Genre: Political/Nonfiction
Rating: Excellent
ISBN: 9781419669507, $24.95, 460 pp.

Quoting from the back cover:

""Sinking the Ship of State traces the arc of the Bush presidency from its humble beginnings in the slime of the South Carolina primary to its zenith on a carrier deck beneath a "Mission Accomplished" banner and down to its sorry demise in proposed impeachment proceedings. Brasch lays the whip to the indolent press, "cash register patriots," and a corrupt Congress. It is an exhilarating ride." –Don Kaul, syndicated columnist; retired Washington columnist, Des Moines Register

""When most Americans and the mainstream media were accepting whatever they were told by the Bush Administration, Walter Brasch was meticulously peeling away the incompetence, deceit, corruption and, most of all, their cavalier attitude to the Constitution." –Jim Hightower, syndicated columnist ...

""Walter Brasch shines a merciless light on the moral hypocrites and constitutional villains who act as the self-appointed protectors of the nation. His writing is propelled by a lively sense of humor and an acute sensitivity to the darker ironies of our times." –Jeffrey St. Clair, co-editor, CounterPunch...

""Brasch is one of the first and most consistent columnists to warn about George W. Bush and his neo-conservative administration’s plans for a pre-emptive attack on Iraq and the drummed up evidence of WMD. Brasch is an articulate and entertaining writer exposing constitutional and human right violations." –Regina Huelman, Editor, Liberal Opinion Week."

Walter Brasch has used past writings from his social issues column, Wanderings, as the basis for this book. The columns have been presented in a chronological order, starting in 2000, making the book historical, informative, and easily digestible. If you’re interested in politics, this book should be on the table beside your bed.

Walter Brasch is a master at weeding through the political lies, deceit, corruption, rhetoric, and hyperbole to help us find the truth. He is a man we need very much in today’s complex society. If you want to know the truth, buy this book and help support his efforts.

SECRETS FROM THE SOFA by Dr. Kenneth Herman

A Psychologist’s Guide to Achieving Personal Peace
2021 Pine Lake Rd, Lincoln, NE
Genre: Nonfiction/Self Help
Rating: Good
ISBN: 059541432X, $16.95, 165 pp.

Quoting from the back cover:

"If what everyone really wants from life is happiness, success, and peace of mind, then why do people stay at unrewarding jobs or in destructive relationships? Why are people neglecting their physical and mental health? Why do we sometimes have so much trouble just getting through the day?

"Unfortunately, people feel safe and secure with familiar emotions. Even misery is preferable to the anticipated anxiety associated with change. Intellectually, we would like to change; emotionally, we question if change is necessary–or even possible.

"As a practicing clinical psychologist for over 45 years, Dr. Kenneth Herman shares his ‘Secrets from the Sofa’–his proven step by step approach to helping people change and achieve a greater sense of purpose, happiness and peace. He offers readers the chance to be their own psychologist; to look at their problems, to address were they are coming from, to make a plan to overcome the issues, and then to execute that plan.

"With motivation and determination, you will find that your personal peace plan can make a change for the better completely possible. Secrets from the Sofa can lead you to a happier, more fulfilling life. And if you really put your mind to it, it will."

The heart of this book and Dr. Herman’s therapy is a form of psychotherapy called cognitive therapy which was developed by Dr. Aaron Beck. The basic premise of cognitive therapy is that negative thoughts and attitudes affect our moods. Negative thinking causes depression. Cognitive therapy attempts to help people change their thought patterns.

Secrets of the Sofa is organized into five parts: 1) Understanding Why; 2) Gearing Up; 3) Your Personal Peace Process: 4) Your Emotions and Feelings: and 5) Emerging Stronger. In addition, there are nine exercises: 1) Childhood Log; 2) Childhood Misfortune Checklist; 3) Coping Styles; 4) Defense Mechanisms; 5) Hopefulness Gauge; 6) Life Areas; 7) Self Image; 8) Problem List; 9) Goal Worksheet. His Principle of Change are: 1) Treat yourself with respect and care; 2) Face problems and conflicts directly; and 3) Identify, understand, and let go of resistances. He states . . . "These principles are simply incompatible with unhealthy thinking. Each time you act according to these principles, you are redefining yourself and becoming a stronger person."

I love books like this from experienced psychologists . . . always hoping for something innovative. However, I didn’t find anything particularly new (having worked a twelve-step program in the past), but this little book did remind me that the quality of our lives is largely the result of our thoughts. And, I think Abraham Lincoln said it most succinctly: "People are as happy as they make up their minds to be." I also appreciated being reminded that ... "Anger is a healthy emotion. If someone violates our boundaries or threatens to take advantage of us, anger can mobilize us to protect ourselves."

As far as helpful therapy goes, Dr. Herman did not address: 1) making amends to those we’ve hurt in the past, when possible (a twelve-step chore), which helps us to rid ourselves of guilt feelings and 2) finding a support group, not just a friend, where we can verbalize our feelings, which has the affect of minimizing the intensity of our problems. Other than these two thoughts, Secrets from the Sofa is a well-written, well-edited, self-help workbook you may want to consider if you are thinking about making changes in your life.