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  • Innocent War (Revised Edition): Behind an Immigrant's Past Series Book 1
    Innocent War (Revised Edition): Behind an Immigrant's Past Series Book 1
    by Susan Violante

Book Review of Haze by Michael Chavez

Book review first published by Reader Views

Michael Chavez
Regal Crest Enterprises (2013)
ISBN 9781619290969
Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views (4/13)

“Haze” by Michael Chavez is the story of Andrew. Growing up overweight and very reserved, Andrew never had a chance to feel like part of a group. When he goes to college and meets his first love, Nat, everything changes.  Nat completely accepts Andrew just as he is. He also encourages him to join his circle of friends. When Nat is involved in a horrifying accident, Andrew’s life is completely torn apart. While he stays loyal to Nat, he becomes best friends with Ilario. Ilario is haunted by memories of being brutally violated in high school. Efron, the person who led the assault, shows up in Andrew’s life after Ilario commits suicide. 

Andrew is filled with anger towards Efron. Vengeance is on his mind. When an opportunity to take revenge presents itself, Andrew actually backs down but he put himself in a position of being blackmailed by a witness. Since Efron has no clue who he is, Andrew decides to drastically alter his appearance by losing weight and getting fit.  By sticking to this plan, Andrew becomes more confident and assertive, especially at work.

Encountering Efron again, Andrew sees that he is still deceptive and disloyal to those who are close to him. At this time, Andrew’s change is complete and he is unrecognizable to Efron. When Andrew’s place of work has serious allegations made against them, Efron comes into the picture as part of the legal counsel for the opposing side.  When given the chance, Efron betrays Andrew to help his side. When he realizes what happened, Andrew has to reach inside himself to see how strong he really is. He knows that by doing what is right, he will risk losing everything.

“Haze” by Michael Chavez is a very complex novel. There are several dramas unfolding around the main one. Each one is connected in some way, yet at the heart of the novel is Andrew’s story.  I was really impressed with how the author managed to tie everything together. His subplots were also very complex, and he presented them all so that they stood well on their own. Tying everything together made “Haze” stand out as an extremely well written, thought-provoking story about redemption - I highly recommend reading “Haze.”


Book Reviewe of Bringing Home the War by Theresa Brandt

Book review first published by Reader Views

Bringing Home the War
Theresa Brandt
Outskirts Press (2012)
ISBN 9781478719564
Reviewed by Diane Lunsford for Reader Views (1/13)

Theresa Brandt’s autobiography “Bringing Home the War” begins with the end of her war.

In her second marriage as an ‘Army Wife’ to a Green Beret, John, the casualties of war Brandt describes, both on her home front (as well as the war John fought), are incredulous to say the least. The story opens with Theresa returning to her Missouri roots. This time, however, she is returning with her three sons, Nick, Gabe and Ben. She has left John behind, in the Tennessee home they made together the previous twelve years. As the story builds, Brandt reflects to her beginning and over the next couple-hundred pages, guides the reader as she fills in the details of her tumultuous and abusive life with John.

Over time, Brandt explains and defines the dynamics of her choices in not one but two men who demonstrated deep-seated abuse. Her first husband, Mark, as Brandt describes: ‘…was mad at the world and I was the easiest person to take out his anger on…’ In her second walk down the aisle, this time with John, it doesn’t take the reader long to figure out his tenacious appetite to pepper Brandt with the consistent dysfunctional behavior of emotional and mental incapacitation. Initially, John’s character is defined as a loving, caring and doting man—the kind of man Brandt is worthy of.

Brandt is methodical in the telling of her story as she steps the reader through her meeting John, eventually marrying and beginning to build a family with the imminent birth of their first son, Nick, followed by two more sons over the ensuing years. Through the process, Brandt has assumed the role of military wife as she adapts to military life. The precursor to the perfect military wife is to be sure all needs of their soldier are met and supported. All John ever wanted since he was nine-years-old was to follow in the footsteps of his familial, military heritage. With strong reservations, Brandt eventually acquiesces to John’s desires to become a Green Beret. He serves not one, two, three, but four tours in Iraq. Brandt struggles with John’s long departures and realizes after John’s return from his second tour that life as they had set out together to conquer was trickling a little further away with each return from his mounting tours of active duty. It is understandable why Brandt insists on standing by her man; if for nothing else, but for the sake of their children. However, this logic becomes more distorted the further into the story and the question that becomes more prevalent is: Why does she stay?

I have a lot of admiration and respect for Brandt’s telling of her story - the word ‘courage’ comes to mind. Some of the personal tragedies she shares concerning the continued victory John achieved toward the chipping away of her spirit are nothing less than inhumane and unconscionable. Overall, “Bringing Home the War” is well-organized. If I could want for something more, it would have been for Brandt to play more on the strengths she eventually found within herself once she began her journey toward personal healing. From an editorial standpoint, a keener focus would have been beneficial. Throughout the book, double wording, missed wording and words used in the wrong context are found. This is a difficult biography to read based on content, but I do give Brandt credit for jarring this reader on more than one occasion because of the content.


Book Review of Barbed Wire and Daisies by Carol Strazer

Book review first published by Reader Views

Barbed Wire and Daisies
Carol Strazer
Outskirts Press (2012)
ISBN 9781432793807
Reviewed by Diane Lunsford for Reader Views (1/13)

In her debut novel “Barbed Wire and Daisies,” author Carol Strazer delivers an emotional and, at times, heart-wrenching historical account of German refugee Marike Wiens and her family.

The story opens during the final days of World War II in war-ravaged Prussia. Marike, her four children and her sister Agathe and her two children take flight from the only home they have ever known. The Russian army is closing in and their mission is to destroy the final remnants of what was once a tight-knit Mennonite community of indelible faith. Marike and the children are huddled in the basement of an abandoned row house in Danzig, Germany. They are waiting for her sister Agathe to return, hopefully with food. They are going to Denmark - a place of safety; yet a country that wanted none of the responsibility or the onus to care for any of the thousands of displaced German refugees.

Marike and Agathe continue their journey into the fear of the unknown. They are without their husbands, Horst and Herman; yet with each step, they wonder if they will ever see them again. They are lost to a war that contradicts the very fiber of Mennonite beliefs - an undying oath-taking to the conviction of non-violence and all-encompassing faith in Christ. Prussia is no longer and to turn around in hopes that things would be different simply isn’t an option anymore. When they arrive at the home of Abelhard and Theresa, Marike’s brother and sister-in-law, their safety is temporary as they plan the next leg of their journey.

Through endless crossing of land and sometimes sea, they arrive at their destination - the first of many refugee camps filled with conditions and horrors that will be their lives for the next several years. It is the strength of character and tenacity of their human perseverance that enables these families to prepare for a life where anything truly is possible.

I admire Carol Strazer’s ability to write such a compelling story in “Barbed Wire and Daisies.” War is rarely a topic that leads to a happily-ever-after ending, particularly the topics targeting the outlandish tragedies of World War II. Strazer delivered sensitivity as she patiently developed her work of fiction. Her infusion of real circumstances breathed a depth of credibility into each character she introduced. World War II is a time when any historian must question the existence of humanity. It is admirable for Strazer to have selected this topic because she maintained a level of poise and grace through her words as she delivered a tragic work of fiction. This is not a novel for the faint of heart; rather, it is a thought-provoking story that leads the reader on a journey toward the resurrection of faith.


Book Review of Daniel’s Heroes by Monel Costin

Book review first published by Reader Views

Daniel’s Heroes
Monel Costin
CreateSpace (2012)
ISBN 9781480118669
Reviewed by Daryn Watson for Reader Views (3/13)

Monel Costin’s novel “Daniel’s Heroes” is a story centered on a Jewish-Romanian family. The two main characters of the story are Daniel Sitaru, a nationally-ranked high-school tennis star, and his father, Colea, a former officer of the oppressive Communist-run government of Romania.

Daniel dreams of making the Romanian National Jr. tennis team, a status that would allow him to earn a small financial, yet more importantly, prestigious status with his countrymen and, more importantly, young beautiful women. It could also present him a career path as a professional tennis player, something which few Romanians have access to.

His father, Colea, is on the downside of his professional and personal life. While he is no longer a high-ranking officer in the Romanian military, he attempts to remain in contact with current officers by throwing parties for them. Once revered by many, and feared by others, Colea’s struggles with his fall from glory and power is quite evident. He and his wife, Sarah, managed to survive the German invasion of Romania during World War II. While growing up, Colea felt he had to defend his Jewish heritage and the Nazis only reinforced his mindset to defend Jews no matter what.

While training for Nationals, Daniel encounters his first real experiences with young women. He is insecure, clingy and he “falls in love” very easily for beautiful women who show attention to him. One girl in particular, Elena, catches his attention so much so that he almost sabotages his tennis aspirations before he has made the National Junior tennis team. His fascination and fantasizing about women is definitely his Achilles heel. Despite his professed love for Elena, the relationship fizzles completely once the tournament ends and they regrettably part ways.

Upon returning home, Daniel shockingly discovers his parents’ plans to relocate to Israel. Colea’s past is returning to haunt the family’s safety and they feel relocating to the newly created Homeland of their people will give them all a fresh start. Daniel agrees to move with them and eventually abandons his tennis career. He meets a woman named Liora, a fiery activist who supports equal rights for women, immigrants and the poor. Despite their sometimes confrontational relationship, they eventually marry and relocate to Canada. They become well established, but not before a bombshell from Daniel’s past eventually catches up with him.

“Daniel’s Heroes” by Monel Costin works well for the most part. The storylines are good and developed. There are several spelling errors throughout the book that need addressing. I would have also liked to see the beginning of the chapters to show a location and timeline for the family’s characters. This would have helped the book flow a bit better.


Book Review of The First To Say No by Charles C. Anderson

Book review first published by Reader Views

The First To Say No
Charles C. Anderson
Outskirts Press (2012)
ISBN 9781432791018
Reviewed by Michel Violante for Reader Views (3/13)

“The First To Say No” by Charles C. Anderson is about two female doctors from Parkview Hospital who decide to stop the physical abuse of a local gang. “The Plagues,” as they were called, were an ethnically-mixed group of delinquents who went to Parkview pretending to be sick in order to get drugs. Once at the hospital, they would terrorize the staff and patients, while the corrupt police force did nothing and the hospital administration looked the other way, as they believed them to be patients nonetheless.

It was after Dr. Elita slaughtered the seven gang members that raped her, that Elita and her best friend, Dr. Kate, took action as they became Parkview’s female vigilantes. While their plan developed and unfolded, Kate at one point recruited her own mother to help them as well as coworkers and friends.  I found it fascinating how this suspenseful story mingles with some of the characters past as well as the medical field. Anderson creates well-developed characters whose love of helping others goes beyond their duty, turning them into heroes.

I am a fan of medical mysteries and thrillers, but what I found fresh and unique about this story was the fact that regular professional women turn into action heroines for their community. I loved how these women utilized their knowledge and came up with a realistic plan to exterminate “The Plague.”

“The First To Say No” also reflects the current failing of the U.S. Health Industry. I was amazed at how bad the doctors really have it.  Anderson’s writing style was clear, crisp and simple, even when dealing with medical terminology. The plot flowed wonderfully and kept me interested at all times. The details about the Health Industry, and clear descriptions made the story so real, it felt almost like true crime.

I recommend “The First To Say No” by Charles C. Anderson to anyone who loves a fresh, suspenseful read.  It is definitely a page turner.

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