Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Choices by Lisa Suggs

Book: Choices

Author: Lisa Suggs

Release Date:

Genre: Self-Help (Psychological: marriage and Family)

Pages: 122

Review Date: March 23, 2010

Review: Choices is a quick and provocative read that tackles the subject of divorce from a practical, solution focused perspective. As a clinical psychologist, I found this book had a pragmatism and realistic approach to divorce that clients will probably relate to in a much better way than many books on the market that are probably more geared to professionals.

On the writing style: Everyday, accessible words. Short and to the point phrases. But not in a boring manner. In fact, I felt that the author did an extremely good job making the topic of divorce “non-evil” and personal, as if you were able to get in the mind of the author and see from her perspective how divorce might be managed to the best outcome possible.

On the Target Audience: Well…for people in and around the process of divorce. Parents of those getting divorced, older children of parents getting divorced, and anyone else interested in and fascinated by the perspective of divorce!

On the best parts: I appreciated how the author remained objectively positive throughout the text without being blind to how divorce can be negative. Although I believe some readers may initially suspect this author is in denial about or is too optimistic about the idea that divorce does not have to be ugly, I disagree. Maybe I am too shrinkish here, but I got the sense that what the author is doing is (1) talking about the content of divorce—the facts and thoughts and ideas that are pertinent—but even more is trying to depict (2)the process of divorce, in other words, she is modeling how to have a positive, solution oriented philosophy moving forward with regard to how divorce might be engaged. I wonder and even suspect that divorce was extremely ugly for her—heartbreaking, not something she wanted, even wonder that maybe she had many mature and defining moments that required to her to big the bigger and better person---obviously I don’t know, but that would be my guess because I have worked with so many people in divorce, but you never get this sense from this author. It is more like “hey, this sucks, yeah, but it’s happening, and here’s how it can happen less painfully, and maybe even in a way that some self learning can come out of it.

Closing thoughts and overall summary: I found this book helpful, practical, informative, humanistic, intriguing, emotional yet professional, and overall—and perhaps this is the most important quality—consultative: it did not force guilt into the equation, but offers many wonderful and pragmatic pointers and insights that seem to say, “hey you can do what you want, but here is how I got burned, and feel free to not replicate!” Highly recommended!

Heath Sommer, Ph.D.
Author: The Manufactured Identity

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Day of War Book Club Welcome and Question 1

Welcome to all of our followers for the book club review. For those of you participating you will have twenty four hours (and really more....what are we gonna erase this?) to post your responses to the five questions about the book. Be honest, be "pg" rated or under, and most of all have fun!

Question 1: How was the introduction, storyline, character pacing, and your overall impression of the novel?

Day of War Book Club Question 2

What character, storyline, and specific chapter did you like the best and why?

Day of War Book Club Question 3

What other stories, movies, or storytellers come to mind that is like Day of War?

Day of War Book Club Question 4

What if anything do you wish the author had done different?

Day of War Book Club Question 5

What rating (using our Tate Authors scale of course, it is on the right banner of this website) would you give this novel?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Unspeakable Journey by Rinda Hahn

Book: Unspeakable Journey
Author: Rinda HahnPerfect Paperback: 300 pages
Publisher: Tate Publishing (March 23, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1615666931
ISBN-13: 978-1615666935
Genre: Christian fiction; chick lit
Review Date: 3/16/2010
Review: Unspeakable Journey tales the story of the nightmare of being taken captive and brought to a strange land. Excellently imagined, and told in an escalating crescendo, Hahn effectively creates the drama she sets out to in the contemporary Christian fiction novel.

From the beginning I was drawn in by the story, and found myself wanting to read more and further despite the many time constraints I experienced while reviewing Journey.

On the writing style: Hahn does an excellent job of using language and prose that is easily accessed by a wide range of consumers, yet she also finds her voice quickly and expresses her artistic style where appropriate and does so in a way that did not pull me away from the story proper.

Hahn also in my opinion excellently captures the plight and terror of someone held hostage, not only by depicting the behavior and structure of kidnapping and kidnappers, but by also wonderfully depicting the thought processes and human experience of those who would find themselves so powerless and frail.

On the Target Audience: While the story has mass appeal and so I think will be interesting to a wide variety of readers, there is a strong Judeo-Christian philosophy running throughout the text and so I believe individuals with an affinity for such teachings and philosophies will be the most attracted to and satisfied with this well paced and flowing storyline.

On the best parts. I think more than anything else Hahn’s ability to tell a captivating story, as well as her ability to expose that in every death there is a life, or restated that humans emerge with redeeming features regardless of the desperate circumstances creates a message that undoubtedly will touch and inspire many who read Journey.

Closing thoughts and overall summary: An ever escalating read that will challenge the way you think and worship, as well as tease you with the life too many of our earthly kin must live, Journey is the type of novel you will be talking to your friends about when you finish!

Heath Sommer, Ph.D.
Author of The Manufactured Identity

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Next Book Club Book

We are excited to announce that our next Book Club Book is Cliff Graham's Day of War. To participate please have the book read by March 21st. Commenting will be all day on March 21st, so please remember to visit the site and share your thoughts about this excllent book!

-Heath Sommer

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Day of War by Cliff Graham Book Review

Book: Day of War

Author: Cliff Graham

Release Date: September 29, 2009

Genre: Historical Fiction (religious)

Pages: 364

Review Date:2/20/2010

With a final burst, he released one of the ropes, sending the stone whistling through the air, and as it flew towards the black form of the warrior, he whispered in his spirit: Cover me in the day of war.” (p.10, day of War)

Review: Sometimes an action book is just an action book--the fighting, the intensity, the imagery, the hype of the plot and the fans all clamoring really just about the entertainment of the story—a story without substance. A story without meaning. A story that will be fashionable for a moment, then forgotten. That is not this story.

Day of War is a special novel amid special novels. The only flaw with Day of War is that very few people may actually get what the author is trying to do, so compelling is the writing. If one—and the story is so fiercely driven and compelling that it would be very easy to do— is distracted enough to be caught up merely in the characters swinging swords and bleeding bodies, they may miss the brilliantly composed dialectics bleeding through every carefully crafted page and chapter. They may miss, just as they might in the Bible itself, the real and true meaning of stories about war and painful descriptions of human suffering. The real story that speaks about paradigms, lifestyles, and above all the quest for ontology—literally what it means to be, who we are, and why we suffer along with triumphs.

The point is that this novel, while as white-knuckled, and testosterone producing as any blockbuster war epic, is really about people, not war. This novel is about parents and sons, women, and honor and righteousness. It is about the religiously supernatural, and the human traps we all must experience, and Graham’s writing is so detailed and compelling that one would have to have a dormant heart to not feel the pain as one reads the perils of Jonathon, Saul, David, and Benaiah.

Finally, the story is really about conversion, and confusion of conversion. Graham doesn’t paint a simplistic or unitary figure of who prophets and people are, but describes characters who are real—flawed, but heroic. You will respect what our ancestors have done in new and profound ways after reading DOW.

As a slightly compulsive student of the Bible myself, I am constantly frustrated when novels that describe the Bible use populist and even pontificating promotions of the Bible that are often odd, unrealistic, hopelessly inaccurate, and frankly, a little Star Trek.

Graham’s knowledge and passion for the history and depth of the Bible is a wonderful breath of relieving oxygen. For instance, where most writers gloss over the importance of the Old Testament’s temple attire, use of Urim and Thummum, and reliance of both males and females with metaphysical insight, and where most seem to be confused or adrift on the chapters of Isaiah and Ezekiel and the meaning and intent of the Abrahamic Covenant, Graham brilliantly strangles the reader into the realities and daily life of the ancient inhabitants of the modern Middle East, and makes it all believable and palpable, and he even accurately describes the atrocities and unbelievable vices of ancient temples and standards of those who would follow and serve Baal, all in a way that doesn’t feel odd, preachy, weird-o-ish, and for lack of a better word, is mesmerizing.

The point is that DOW is so expertly written, so absolutely tantalizing, that one is tempted to feel the rush of a story such as Braveheart and do nothing more. In fact, probably most of the book reviewers will talk just about that aspect of DOW, and it is worthy of that kind of attention. But to this reviewer DOW is so much more than a story about dead bodies and interesting Hebrew trivia. It is about the confusion of following God in a land over three thousand years lost, but even more than that, it is about giving, through the recordings of the Bible mixed with a blend of archaic and presentist prose, lessons for our own children about what it means to be a valiant warrior against temptation and sin in a life that has never been more complicated than in the modern day. Brilliantly done. Brilliantly done. Brilliantly done. It feels sophomoric to simply say this is a must read.

On the writing style: graphic, intense battle scenes not for the faint of heart, but a compelling, obsessive-compulsive page turner. Don’t plan on needing sleep for awhile if you read the first chapter late in the evening, you won’t just stop there.
On the Target Audience: Without wanting to sound sexist, this novel is undoubtedly more for males than females, but regardless of gender those who love the history of the world, and especially religious history MUST spend some time in this book. Some will disagree on the characterizations of the some of the prophets and people, simply because David is arguably one of the most controversial, and thus disagreed on beings recorded in the Bible, but regardless of theological perspective, all can appreciate the extremely accurate details of war, and the extremely astute insights on the effect war has on the character in battle.

On the best parts: For 99% of the readers, I think it is highly likely the story pacing, detail, and drama itself is what will be enjoyed. As much as this is good, the message the author is trying to convey, to me, was wonderfully done and not in a corny, super-obvious sort of way.

But, in terms of the best part of the storyline for me...the death of Prince Jonathon, son of Saul = raised, bumpy skin on the arms and legs.

Closing thoughts and overall summary: One word: Unbelievable. Get into this book as soon as you can. This sounds like a paid promotion, it is not, it is hard for me to get into books sometimes as an author because it feels like study...this didn’t, I was enraptured by this brilliantly written novel, and look forward to the rest. Graham is one of the best storytellers on the market today. Really. It is not hard to see why this story is being made into a major motion picture.

Rating: Five T's
Heath Sommer, Ph.D.
Author of The Manufactured Identity

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Book Review: Left In His Closet (Mary Krome)

Book: Left In His Closet

Author: Mary A. Krome

Release Date: Advanced Review Copy, available in prerelease (Tate Publishing)

Genre: Mainstream Fiction

Pages: 296

Review Date:2/13/2010

As a phoenix is born from his own corpse
And his false image dies…

There is no honor in being alive
Unless in his closet they still reside

(excerpts of a passage from In His Closet by Mary Krome)

In his closet is one of the more genuine stories I have read in years. Sad, but sincere, this multiperspective story shreds the invisible taboo of gay versus heterosexual philosophies into a brilliant and ingenious study of human philosophy, connection, sexuality, and identity. Krome, the author, is a doctorate who has won awards for her research, which she brilliantly spins into the prose without it ever feeling like an academic lecture. This reviewer has a background in clinical psychology, and therefore it was easy to identify the sound research perspective and thoughts Krome spins into the web of human frailties recorded throughout Left In His Closet, but never once did I feel I was being talked at, but rather let into a privacy and undiscovered world that so few know.

Rephrased, I felt that Krome’s subtle poetry, and soft-lit inner dialogues mixed with a story really moved more by conversations than events in a way a pointillist painter might blend the blurriness of inane color dots, that seem hazy at first glance, but from far away form into a beautiful whole that is too easy to miss if one’s review of the art at hand values Polaroid over Picasso (yes I know Picasso was not a pointillist, it’s a metaphor).

The point is that Krome sets out in Closet to do more than tell a story, she seeks out to bleed it into your own veins, merge it into your own thoughts, press it into your own vulnerabilities, and triumph it into your own hopes, and she achieves in a glorious way the untold story of the other spouse left in the closet when a gay lover wanders into a new life, and all without demonizing human beings in general along the way. This story will trouble you, move you, make you smile, make you frown, make you cry, but in the end, make you a better person for having suffered through the darker with the lighter parts of the human landscape.

On the writing style: mainstream fiction, brilliantly written and softly guided. Krome is undoubtedly a fine artist including a great writer. She also mingles poetry throughout in a way that doesn’t feel foreign or surreal, as the poetry is written by a character who writes poetry, but the words highlight the points too easy to miss to the untrained reader.

On the Target Audience: Women do appear to be a better fit for much of what is discussed, although there are scenes and storylines written for the male experience of the book’s message, so there is wide appeal to all who have loved and lost, and loved some more—or at least wanted to. However, the style screams to me that a woman who enjoys the gentle but direct analysis of life could curl up on a rainy day and explore herself and life more thoroughly with Krome as the host for a day.

On the best parts. I think more than anything, and consistent with the tenets of mainstream writing itself, Krome expertly connects people with people. If you do not feel the power of the human drama while reading this book, you may as well give up on reading altogether and spend your life doing something else!

Closing thoughts and overall summary: An EXCELLENT read. Both for the lover of fiction, and the professor trying to get students to get life and not just research. I highly and thoroughly recommend this book, and look forward to the next from this new fiction author.

Rating: Five T's

Heath Sommer, Ph.D.
Author of The Manufactured Identity

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Book Review: Assorted Nuts by Sandy Bax

Book: Assorted Nuts

Author: Sandy Bax

Release Date: November 2009 (Tate Publishing)

Genre: Memoir narrative

Pages: 352

Review Date:1/20/2010

Book Synopsis (Back Matter)

In the bucolic state of Vermont, a mother-daughter relationship is about to change forever. The daughter, Sara is getting married. And with two out of three husbands in attendance, Sandy feels herself on the brink of madness as she stumbles against long-ago forgotten faces, both friend and foe, each evoking a vivid memory. The recollections in Assorted Nuts: A Family Album will take you on a candid and unforgettable journey from the depths of an anxious childhood to the heights of emotional freedom, and will have you laughing, crying, and laughing again all the way. Sandy Bax frankly and cleverly relates how she battled cancer, alcoholism, the pain of divorce, and the serendipitous assignment of becoming caretaker for an aging mother slipping rapidly into dementia. Assorted Nuts is a survivor's tale and is delivered in the languages of hope and courage. A must read for every woman, as surely she will find herself in at least one of these intimate family snapshots.

Review: I loved this book. Really. I cannot tell you enough how wonderful it was to read. Memoir narrative is a dying, underappreciated set of literary product in today’s increasingly academic, garbage self-help, and endlessly storied market. Bax is an undiscovered, but shamelessly exposed writer who is genuinely expert at her craft. A tragedy in being a largely unreviewed novel at the time of this writing, without fluff I concretely state that Nuts was one of the best books I have had the pleasure of reviewing or reading in the past months.

What makes it so compelling for me is the blending of genuine and sentimental humor, and unbridled intimacy the reader feels as he reads the narrative. From the table of contents to the last paragraphs, humor is a subtlety of coping the author shares with the voyeur reading in a private room the tragedies and triumphs of a human being that leaves nothing hidden under a bushel.

Instantly I was sad for this woman. Although she appears to triumph out of the chards of life that so brutally yet lovingly are strewn across the pages, the psychologist in me cannot help but to notice a gentle remorse or perhaps sadness that is distilled throughout the insights—as if to say to the reader “I am sorry for taking so long to discover me, don’t make the same mistake.”

As you progress through the early life, marriages, and vices one cannot help but to feel the genuine spectrum of human pathos associated with the vagaries of lie, and without feeling the unending sadness and isolation to which we all at times must feel. However, masterfully Bax spins humor and subtle insight throughout without the hubris of calling herself the Socrates of the new millennium. 100% recommended.

On the writing style: Excellent writing and editing. Straight forward and unapologetic. You will probably not like this novel if you enjoy a barrier between reality and perception—this book is life full speed ahead.

On the Target Audience: sober minded who enjoy humor. Those who can relate to a checkered life, or those who appreciate those who have had a checkered life. I especially think women in their middle to later ages would find the read quite enjoyable. Unfortunately while it is probably aimed at the younger generation it may be lost on them as they may be in the same mode of narrowed thinking Bax exposes was her early life.

On the best parts: the biting humor brilliantly juxtaposed with human tragedy. From the beginning scenes describing being freaked to sleep in the morgue, to the unusual descriptions of “pet flies”, to the closing description of daughter Sara’s inconvenient memories, Bax’s humor is a rarity to treasure.

Closing thoughts and overall summary: The only negative I have to say about this novel is that I fear its brilliance sand honesty will be lost on too many people. This is a novel about true mental health disorders in a world that like to pretend that maybe five people suffer from them. For the rest of us, a wonderful, rich read of the ugliness and triumphs of life.

Heath Sommer

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Body in the Baptistery Book Club Review!

Welcome to all of our followers for the first Tate Authors book club review. For those of you participating you will have twenty four hours (and really more....what are we gonna erase this?) to post your responses to the five questions about the book. Be honest, be "pg" rated or under, and most of all have fun!

Question 1: How was the introduction, storyline, character pacing, and your overall impression of the novel?