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.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Backdrop: The Politics and Personalities behind Sexual Orientation Research by Gayle E. Pitman, Ph.D.

Active Voice Press
Sacramento, CA
Genre: Non-fiction
Rating: Excellent
ISBN: 9780615518121, $16.95, 298 pp.

Quoting from the back cover:
“In Backdrop, Gayle Pitman narrates the ‘story’ behind the science of sexual orientation–a science that has been rife with contradictions and controversies. Pitman argues that, when it comes to sexual orientation research, we could potentially glean more powerful insights from the backdrop of politics and personalities behind the research than from the actual studies themselves. Beginning with a focus on the causes of sexual orientation, moving then to the politics of transgender and intersex identities, and culminating in the political controversies of reparative therapy, ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’ and same-sex marriage, Backdrop brings into focus the rich and textured landscape behind the scientific research findings. Filled with plot twists and development, variegated characters (the scientists as well as the activists and reactionaries), and thorny political, moral, and philosophical questions, Backdrop brings the science to life, raising more complex questions while simultaneously providing us with a more nuanced understanding of gender and sexual orientation.

“Gayle E. Pitman, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist and Professor of Psychology at Sacramento City College. She has conducted research on the physical and mental health of lesbian women, and she has written numerous articles and book chapters on gender and sexual orientation. She lives in Northern California.”

When I received Backdrop: The Politics and Personalities behind Sexual Orientation Research to review, I thought, This is probably a boring, history college text...politics, research, but then again, sexual orientation might be interesting.

To my delightful surprise, I could not put the book down, except to rest my eyes and sleep. Of course the subject matter is interesting and complex, but it is Gayle Pitman’s style and quality of writing that makes this book a classic success, whether you are reading for enjoyment, information or a college class.

It is well organized–divided into three sections: The Biology Story, The Gender Story, and The Activism Story; contemporary–providing current nomenclature; and realistic. She takes a very complex subject and makes it understandable to the average person.

Pitman brings to life the significant research, researchers and the impact of their research: Irving Bieber and Charles Socarides who supported the idea that homosexuality was an abnormality; Simon LeVay from the Salk Institute in 1991 who postulated that the size of INAH-3, a tiny area of the hypothalamus, is correlated with sexual orientation–larger in heterosexual men and lesbian women, and smaller in heterosexual women and gay men; Dean Hamer, with an ironclad scientific pedigree, working at the National Institute of Health, studying the genetics of sexual orientation, found a shared marker on the X chromosome in an area called Xq28 in gay brothers. He published his findings in Science on April 2, 1993, A Linkage between DNA Markers on the X Chromosome and Male Sexual Orientation; and a host of others–Gregory Herek, Ritch Savin-Williams, Lisa Diamond, J. Michael Bailey, Angela Patttatucci, Richard Pillard, Vivienne Cass, Paul McHugh, Janice Raymond, Alice Dregers, John Money, Evelyn Hooker, etal.

To be sure, real life is more fascinating, colorful and controversial than fiction, and Pitman has done a excellent job of interweaving such elements for our entertainment, education, and contemplation. I highly recommend Backdrop: The Politics and Personalities behind Sexual Orientation Research to anyone who can read.

Kaye Trout - August 28, 2011

Friday, August 26, 2011


Two Pitts Publishing LLC
Genre: Fiction - Political Intrigue
Rating: Good
ISBN: 9780615499369, $13.95, 303 pp.

Quoting from the back cover:
“What if the unthinkable were about to happen, which should you fear more the upcoming apocalypse, or your government’s efforts to keep you from finding out too soon?

“If the end was near for all mankind who would you trust to tell you the truth?

“If you knew there was a chance to survive an apocalypse, who would you want to survive with you and would it be your decision to make?

“If the government has a secret list of ideal survivors of a potential cataclysmic incident, who made those decisions and who is on the list?

“If humans are given the opportunity to survive the coming event, can they survive the inhumanity of man?

“Alex Hanken will become one of the most important men in US history...but there are those who will come to fear him more than the coming apocalypse.

“Fear...Distrust...Deceit...a relentless killer.

“Courage...Perseverance...Patriotism...and an American hero.

“All come together in this book about a struggle to survive, to preserve a way of life, and to what ends men will go to achieve it.”

To begin, New Earth: Project O.N.E. is the first book in the New Earth Trilogy, and as such R. D. Pittman is off to a good start. This suspense novel is a page-turner of a read filled with fast-paced action by fast thinkers. Most of the story has to do with the discovery that earth will be hit by multiple asteroids, how to keep this a secret, and how to prepared for the devastation. There are lots of deaths–anyone who might know or cause a problem must die; there’s some light romance–both American and Russian–and family; and of course, there are the power people. The story flows smoothly, has a definite contemporary flavor, and a surprise ending.

D. R. Pittman’s writing style is typical of the average novel; he tells the story and gets the job done, but there’s nothing special to savor. New Earth: Project O.N.E. is well written, well edited, and has an attractive cover. And, yes, I can recommend this read.

Kaye Trout - August 26, 2011

Saturday, August 13, 2011

JUST A BUNCH OF CRAZY IDEAS by Pardu S. Ponnapalli

Xlibris Corporation
Rating: Average
ISBN: 9781456882369, $12.47, 78 pp.

Quoting from the back cover:
“This book is about thoughts and ideas on a wide range of subjects. The ideas range from how to modify the game of chess to create a really interesting version to how to pursue exploration of space in a way that captures the imagination of the public. New and innovative viewpoints on practical methods to building a space elevator, designing a method to cope with cat litter and some simple ways to conserve energy are presented. Economic themes about the federal debt and deficit are also examined.

“Pardu Ponnapalli is an IT professional working in Rockville, Maryland. He has been a Star Trek buff all his life. He lives in Hagerstown, Maryland with his wife, son, dog and two cats. This is his first publication. After earning a Ph.D in Physics, he was promptly rewarded with unemployment. Realizing that he had lofty ambitions in life (like eating), he switched into the lucrative IT industry. He has been an IT professional for about 20 years. His hobbies and passions include chess, astronomy and most of all playing with his son.”

There are 17 chapters in this little book, each on a particular topic: 1) Space Elevator; 2) Alternative Energies and Energy Conservation; 3) More Thoughts on Energy Conservation; 4) Gas Stations and Filing Up; 5) Luggage and Airplanes; 6) Thoughts on Chess; 7) Thoughts on Ice Hockey; 8) Thoughts on Cats and Cat Litter; 9) Our National Debt and Deficit; 10) I Am Overweight and So are Most Americans; 11) Star Trek and the Reboot; 12) Thoughts about Laptops; 13) Thoughts about Space Exploration; 14) Thoughts on the Stock Market; 15) Automatic Inform Systems for IT Workers; 16) Hikers Who Hurt Themselves; 17) How to Improve Dishwashers.

Just a Bunch of Crazy Ideas is a fairly quick read as it’s only 78 pages–a good read before bed. I don’t think you’ll find any earth-shattering ideas or patents pending, but it was interesting. My favorite chapter was Ponnapalli’s self-designed diet program...soups, black coffee or black tea. He includes, in chart form, the progress of his diet. On day one he weighed 208.5 pounds. At the end of his chart, he weighed 204 pounds on day 23. He had tried many diets, as we all have, and decided to create his own. Why not? The only thing that matters is...does it work? I have my own plan: eat your main meal in the middle of the day (whatever your heart desires) and then have a bowl of cereal or cup of yogurt with fruit in the early evening.

As far as Ponnapalli’s writing style–informal to a fault–or quality of writing, it’s evident he’s not a professional writer, but he does gets the job done and his enthusiastic personality shines through. If you have a taste for such an eclectic read, then I’m sure you’ll find some value in this little book.

Kaye Trout - August 8, 2011

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


Millennial Mind Publishing/American Book Publishing
Genre: How to/Memoir/Inspirational
Rating: Very good
ISBN: 139781589828216, $22.00, 256 pp.

Quoting from the back cover:

“In the rapidly evolving arena of family dynamics, grandparents are often called on to provide a stable foundation for children. Author Jean Smith, a grandmother of nine, speaks from the field and provides guidelines for success that have been tried and tested. Personal testimonials and stories of a family’s journey will inspire you to succeed as a grandparent.

“This is a ‘how to do it’ book for mature adults who aspire to invest in the future through the lives of their grandchildren.”

One might ask, “Why would someone need a ‘how-to-do-it’ book about grandparenting? Doesn’t it just come naturally?” But then again, there are books on ‘how to do’ just about everything and so, why not a book for and about grandparents?

As I opened the book, I really didn’t know what to expect from a 256-page book titled Lifesavers for Grand Parents. However, it didn’t take me long to realize this was going to be an enjoyable, informative read, and the reason why?...Jean Smith herself.

Jean is an intelligent, gifted writer who draws upon her personal experiences as a mother of 3 and grandmother of 9, and great grandmother of 1. Her grandchildren span a period of 13 years and include 2 sets of twins, 2 adopted children, and 1 severely handicapped child. But more than her personal grandparenting experiences, she was a director/teacher at a Montessori school for young children, a Bible School teacher, a teen leader, a Cub Scout and Girl Scout troop leader, and a private-swim-school teacher for 30-plus years. As you can imagine, she has spent most of her life in the presence of children.

There are 38 chapters, starting with Chapter 1 - Transition from Parent to Grandparent and ending with Chapter 38 - Are We There Yet?. Each chapter is relatively short; she shares some personal stories; some chapters contain photos of Jean and her family; she provides lots of suggestions and guidance about patience, minding your own business, being helpful, not having your feelings hurt, planning events and what to do on Grandkids’ Night and all with a positive, spiritual touch.

It is clear that this woman and her family are a excellent example of a healthy, creative family unit because they care about family and make the effort to make it work. It’s not all easy and smooth, but to Jean, it’s evidently been worth the effort.

I can recommend Lifesavers for Grand Parents as a memoir, how-to, inspirational read for anyone who loves family, memoirs, and positive guidance.

Kaye Trout 8/10/2011