Wednesday, January 09, 2008

January Book Reviews

The Mango Tree Café Loi Kroh Road
Author: Taryn Simpson & Alan Solomon
Author Web site:
Book Trailer:
ISBN-13: 978-1430325222
Reviewer: Barbara Sharp Milbourn
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Alan Solomon and Taryn Simpson, in The Mango Tree Café Loi Kroh Road, present the life of Larry. We both meet and say goodbye to Larry as an old man sitting in his cane chair on the veranda of his Chiangmai home peering into the past and future. What’s in-between is an entertaining and sensitive story of a man’s awakening to find and serve the truth.

Larry, a teenager, heeds the words of his father to leave the small New Zealand village so that his achievement will be greater than “. . . watching the grass grow and releasing the pressure from the udders of cows. . .” His travels take him to Thailand, “Land of a Thousand Smiles” and to the fertile beauty of the Mae Rim region where the solitude of the jungle stands in sharp contrast to the noise and bustle of Chiangmai’s Loi Kroh Road. On this famous and hypnotic road, the powerful and the powerless come to wash bad luck away in drink, prostitution, and anonymity.

In one of its bars, Larry has a vision (not his first) that points him to partake of the road and feed it a different food, to experience a different kind of love, and to acknowledge and embrace his purposefulness.

I’m convinced that roads like this and their seedy, gritty dynamic exist around the world. What I especially liked about The Mango Tree Café Loi Kroh Road is that it places us in the pocket of Larry’s shirt closest to his heart. We are standing with him in the press of his life, peering into and out of the café, seeing it for what it is, meeting its characters, smelling its smells, tasting its strange humor and barely disguised grief.

We move back and forth through time and reality to the accident scene, and eventually come to rest as the realization of who he is and why he is here presents itself. Through Larry we are reminded of how little we are really known and understood by others—and often ourselves—and how his seeking is hardly different from our own if we will but stare into its face. Enjoy The Mango Tree Café Loi Kroh Road.

Hear author Taryn Simpson in an interview with Barbara Milbourn by clicking on Taryn’s name on the right side bar at

A Trial Of One

Author: Mary E. Martin
Author Web Site :
Reviewed by Jaimie Bell

Although the third book in the Osgoode Trilogy, A Trial of One can definitely stand on its own. Henry Jenkins is the executor of the vast but missing fortune of declared mental incompetent Norma Dinnick. As attempts to locate and retrieve the Elixicorp shares for his devious client advance, Henry finds someone else is also searching for her millions.

Dr. Robert Hawke insists the funds belong to his institute, which developed Emerituus, a miraculous drug that claims to reverse the effects of Alzheimer’s disease. Dr. Michael O’Hearn is unaffected by Hawke’s astonishing presentation and magnanimous offers designed to manipulate the greedy and ambitious medical staff. Though determined to uncover the hoax and expose Dr. Hawke as a fraud O’Hearn has yet to learn something more sinister is afoot at Hawke Institute and that the Doctor will stop at nothing to achieve his diabolical goal of the trial of one.

As this drama was set in motion, lonely widow Dorothy Crawford finds some startling letters that hint her philandering husband, law partner to Henry Jenkins, did not die of natural causes. Ignored by police, she sets off to investigate the identity of the person only known as Q. Crushed under the weight of a loveless marriage, she finds new strength in her skills as an amateur detective.

The story heats up as Jenkins races to Venice for the precious bank code with Hawke’s thug hot on his trail and spies seemingly everywhere in and around the dark channels.

A thriller, murder mystery, and romance novel rolled into one, Martin is an excellent storyteller who created compelling multi-faceted characters. Wading into the dark waters of Alzheimer’s she presented various stages of the disease, from mild dementia to mania, through her use of minor characters. The contrast between those unfortunates and the fully functioning Dorothy Crawford was a nice touch. Intriguing references to the first two books in the trilogy made them seem a terrific read as well. The fast moving and tense buildup led to a very satisfying conclusion. A Trial Of One is an iUniverse Publisher’s Choice.

Stop Being Pushed Around!: A Practical Guide
Author: Lynda Bevan
Loving Healing Press (2008)
ISBN 9781932690453
Reviewed by Olivera Baumgartner-Jackson for Reader Views (12/07)

Lynda Bevan’s “Stop Being Pushed Around!” is Book #3 in the 10-step empowerment series. The first two books in the series are “Life After Your Lover Walks Out” and “Life After Betrayal,” so a practical guide for victims was obviously a logical next step.

This seemingly slim volume delivers plenty of information, written in an easy-to-understand and easy-to-follow style. It starts with an introduction, which makes it clear that this book could be helpful to you if you are either a victim or living with one. Afterwards Ms. Bevan lays out a ten-step strategy, leading one from recognizing one’s role as a victim and how one became a victim to the question about wanting to change and how to achieve that. Filled with real-life stories as well as comprehensive lists of factors and examples, the book guides one through the process of identifying the problem and solving it. The suggested changes are doable and sound realistic.

There are also two added chapters in the book, the Appendix A –Bullying in the workplace and Appendix B – Emergency contacts. The first one of those would definitely be helpful to anybody who is in a threatening, victimizing situation at work and the second one has a list of two dozen contacts both in USA and abroad.

Another rather interesting feature is a poem, included in the book, called “Victim.” It is chilling, yet encouraging at the same time. Make sure you read it!

A book like this would definitely help an emotionally insecure person feel less alone and less strange, which would be a great first step on the road to recovery. Breaking the process down in ten steps makes it look less daunting for sure and the encouraging words of Ms. Bevan should assist one in seeing the situation as less overwhelming. Ms. Bevan’s down-to-earth writing and sensible advice make this book a valuable tool and an asset in every victim’s library. And, for those of you who are not victims, but know somebody who is – buy a copy of “Stop Being Pushed Around!” for them. It just might save somebody’s life.

Winter Blossoms: and other poems
Mamata Misra
iUniverse (2007)
ISBN 9780595443727
Reviewed by Richard R. Blake for Reader Views (10/07)

“Winter Blossoms” is a collection of poems depicting the inequity faced by women who are caught in a cross-cultural journey. These women are destined by society to experience the complexities of indignity, hostility, and domination. Mamata Misra has captured a yearning for change, and a call for understanding. In a courageous bold voice she uses her poetry to speak loudly with a message of hope to these courageous women.

The illustrations by Indira Chakravorty vividly reinforce the message of the poetry. These poignant words and pictures tell the story of the restlessness of communal violence, offer a prayer for peace, describe the loving presence of a mother, and relate the bravery of Seetha walking into fire to prove her chastity to prove her worthiness to be queen.

The book is arranged in a topical format. Pen and ink drawings coinciding with the words of the poem impact and enhance the message conveyed through the written word.

The topics include “Mother and Child,” “War and Peace,” “Questions and Answers,” “Hope and Despair,” and “Sound and Silence.” The final chapter entitled “Poems and People,” includes a brief background on each of the poems, the time and circumstances of its origin, and a brief comment or two regarding the message being conveyed. A biographical sketch of the author and the illustrator are also included.

The poems in “Winter Blossoms” reveal the amazing insight, of the author, into the nature of the struggles faced by South Asian women. Mamata Misra brings to the forefront the need to speak out against the reality of family violence, and abuse. She faces squarely the incongruity of the power struggle of war in the guise of establishing peace. I was deeply moved by the poem, “Despair.”

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