Pure Soapbox by Kimberlie Dykeman

Pure Soapbox
Kimberlie Dykeman
ISBN 978-0-9740703-3-9, $14.95, July 22, 2008
Reviewed  for Reader Views (8/08)

Author Kimberlie Dykeman is a motivator, and “Pure Soapbox” is her platform.  In her book, Dykeman uses some of her favorite inspirational quotes as a springboard for a broader discussion. She examines the true meaning of these quotes, including those attributed to Albert Einstein, Abraham Lincoln, Robert Frost and the Nike Corporation, and encourages the reader to delve deeper in to each ones significance.

Examine the quote “Just Do It”. It seems simple and broad at first, but Dykeman asks leading and provocative questions to persuade you to look for the deeper meaning of these three words,  and she gives a not so gentle nudge to help you find the value of their meaning, and to discover how you can make them resonate in your own life.

There is an exponential wealth of knowledge to be gained reading “Pure Soapbox” and appreciating the words of wisdom it has to offer. This book can be used as a daily devotional without the religious aspects usually associated with such works. The importances of its words are best served one day and one quote at a time. Studying the book in this manner will give readers the best opportunity to understand, comprehend, and figure out how they can use the quotes and Dykeman’s motivational words in their every day life. If you are looking to be inspired, or searching for a way to inspire others, I encourage you to pick up a copy of “Pure Soapbox”. You will not be disappointed.

 

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All Through the Night by Davis Bunn

All Through the Night
Davis Bunn
Bethany House Publishers
ISBN 978-0-7642-0542-2, $13.00, July 1, 2008
Reviewed  Reader Views (8/08)

 

Wayne Grusza grew up as the son of a preacher and always felt that he was not good enough in his father’s eyes. The choices Wayne has made during his adolescence and adulthood have run on a course directly opposite what his father sees as the right way, as God’s way. His sister Eilene followed in their father’s footsteps and became a pastor herself, which caused Wayne’s choices to reflect in an even more poor light. Back from serving in Afghanistan Wayne find himself adrift, with no real home or sense of family. He is able to fall back on his accounting background and his sister’s reputation to secure a job reviewing the books for a retirement community that lost everything to a scam artist. Using both his finance and Special Ops training, finding and retrieving the money the senior citizens of the Hattie Blount Retirement Community lost should not be a problem. Fitting in with this rag-tag crew and putting down roots in another story.

 

Based on the work he does for the retirement community, Wayne is pulled in to try and unravel an even more dangerous and devious scheme. Lured by his attraction to the woman seeking his help, Wayne will have to use all of his physical and mental prowess to get to the bottom of the clandestine warning received by Easton Grey, a successful Florida businessman, and its subsequent fall out. For the first time in his life, Wayne will need to trust and rely on the help of others if he is going to come out of this mess alive.

 

“All Through the Night” features some notable characters and unusual mysteries, as well as fast-paced action and more than a little suspense, but does not pack the punch I was hoping for. Over and over again as I read the novel, I keep getting the feeling that I was missing something. The storyline for what was occurring in the present time was there, but too much of the background, the “how” and “why”, was lacking. David Bunn manages to deliver an interesting tale, but too much is left to the readers imagination for the story to feel complete.

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Dobie, The Canine Saint by Paul Greenbaum

Dobie, The Canine Saint: A Spiritual Love Story
Paul Greenbaum
iUniverse, 2007
ISBN 9780595421268
Reviewed for Reader Views 7/08

Paul Greenbaum’s life was changed irrevocably on a summer day in 1985 when he met up with his friend Tom for a camping trip to Maine. Tom showed him a dirty chicken wire and wood cage that held three small Doberman/Rottweiler mix puppies. He explained that the puppies belonged to his neighbors and not only were they not taking good care of the animals, the neighborhood children were being abusive to the dogs when they happened upon their cage. Tom asked Paul if he would be interested in taking one of the dogs. Paul had just days before had to put his 12-year-old dog Big Pal to sleep, and was not ready to think about another having another animal, so he politely declined.

The men went on their camping trip and when they returned to Tom’s home, Tom again encouraged Paul to take one of the female puppies, who had been misnamed Vicious, as the timid girl was anything but. Paul’s first inclination was to again say no, but the voice of his inner guide pushed him in a different direction, and he said reluctantly said yes. On the trip back home to New York, little Vicious was so unnerved by the whole experience that she defecated and urinated all over the backseat, and Paul wondered what in the world he had gotten himself in to.

Over time, after Vicious was renamed “Dobie” and she grew used to her new home, her fears were slowly dispelled through Paul’s constant love and companionship, and she became the true definition of “man’s best friend.” Dobie and Paul spent many years together, and over those years, Paul learned more about himself than he had during all of the previous years when he was without this special canine. Guided by his inner voice and the love he and Dobie had for each other, he was able to open up more to the possibilities that life has to offer if we will only listen to what is going on around us.

“Dobie, The Canine Saint” is a heartfelt tribute from a man to the animal that changed the course of his life through her playfulness, courage to overcome fears and obstacles, and her faith and love in her master. Paul Greenbaum is obviously a very spiritual man and he uses his story to not only tell the tale of Dobie, but to spread the message of inner peace and love that he himself learned over the course of Dobie’s life. Animal lovers, as well as readers with an interest in spirituality, will enjoy this well-written saga of the bond between mankind and animals.

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Belly Up to the Bar: Dining at New York City’s Top Restaurants without Reservation(s) by J.S. Mitchell

Belly Up to the Bar: Dining at New York City’s Top Restaurants without Reservation(s)
J.S. Mitchell
Cumberland House Publishing, 2008
ISBN 9781581826364
Reviewed for Reader Views 7/08

“Belly Up to the Bar” is a collection of reviews of 101 New York City restaurants that service their full menu at the bar. All restaurants included in the book have a Zagat rating of 23 or higher, and some are Michelin starred as well. While it could take up to a month to get a reservation for a seat in the dining area at most of these establishments, you can walk in off of the street and pull up a stool to the bar without reservations. Restaurants highlighted include well-revered spots like Jean Georges, Gramercy Tavern, wd-50, Babbo, and Veritas.

Each of the 101 establishments in the book list the address, phone number, Zagat rating, Michelin rating (if any), website address and the name of the chef. The author gives wonderful descriptions of the atmosphere at each location, including the crowd that typically frequents the bar (businessmen, vacationers, opera-goers, thirty-something’s, couples, older foodies, etc.). The décor of the location is included as well as what to expect when you pull up a seat and ask for a menu, right down to the type of placemat that is laid before you, the bartenders’ knowledge of the menu, the bread and butter and how it is served, and if water is provided without asking.

Background information on some of the chef’s and the concepts behind their menu design and the set-up of their dining establishments is included. “Belly Up to the Bar” also highlights the beer and wine selections available at each site, and the price ranges that you can expect for your drinks. Quite a few of the appetizers, entrees and desserts available at the restaurants are noted, along with their prices, and the author tells you what she ordered and how it was. Handy indexes are also included for the 101 restaurants included in the guide, broken down by cuisine, location and Michelin star rating.

I would suggest this guide to any New Yorker who appreciates fine dining and doesn’t mind the less-formal bar and lounge area as long as the food is just as good as what is served in the dining room. Vacationers planning a trip to New York City will find this guide no less handy than those native to New York, as with so many dining options to choose from, even native New Yorkers probably don’t know which spots offer full menu’s at the bar for those times when you can’t possible wait four weeks for a table. “Belly Up to the Bar” by J.S. Mitchell is a guide that will allow you to walk into the setting with confidence, knowing the crowd to expect, the attire required, the atmosphere, and the certainty that you can pull up a bar stool without reservations for a great meal.

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The Constant Outsider by Thomas M. Cirignano

The Constant Outsider
Thomas M. Cirignano
Xlibris Corporation, 2008
ISBN 9781436320931
Reviewed for Reader Views 8/08

“The Constant Outsider” is the autobiography of Tom Cirignano, a man who grew up in the working-class neighborhoods of Boston, including South Boston, Dorchester and Braintree. While he isn’t famous, his story is one wrought with tension, danger, love, laughter, tales of poor judgment, and the lessons to be learned from a life lived on the edge.

Growing up as an Italian boy in the predominantly Irish neighborhood of Dorchester, Tom got his first taste of being an outsider. He did not understand why he was being alienated by the other kids. He was ignored and excluded from playing in the street ball games, and had few friends, because he was from a different ethnic group. His father managed a relatively successful gas station and repair shop, Emerson Auto, and he would often come home with gifts for his son that the other kids saw and envied, which led to even further ostracism.

As he got older Tom worked in, and eventually managed, Emerson Auto. He still felt the prejudice against himself as a teenager and adult when he moved from town to town because he was not from these neighborhoods and was therefore an “outsider.” Not one to be cast aside, Tom did his best to incorporate himself in to a group of young men that hung out at the neighborhood high school and, then as an adult, to gain acceptance in the local taverns and restaurants. Through his perseverance, he was able to make some great and lasting friendships.

“The Constant Outsider” by Thomas M. Cirignano is a tale of bullying, fistfights, drinking and the problems that go along with it, mob connections and run-ins, like the one with well-known crime boss Whitey Bulger, theft and loss. It is a tale of finding acceptance, learning and growing from personal and professional mistakes, faith and love. It is a multifaceted, complex, interesting story. As the author tries to impress upon his readers during the course of his story, if a South Boston mechanic has a tale to tell, so do you. Write it down, even if you don’t plan to share it as Tom Cirignano did. You just might be surprised how interesting your life has been.

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The House on First Street by Julia Reed

The House on First Street: My New Orleans Story

Julia Reed
Ecco Press, 2008
ISBN 9780061136641
Reviewed for Reader Views 8/08

Julia Reed, a contributing editor at Vogue and Newsweek, spent her childhood in Greenville, Mississippi and traveled frequently to New Orleans with family and friends to experience all that the Big Easy had to offer. As an adult, she again found herself trekking from her new home base in Manhattan to New Orleans, with more and more of her time spent down in the Delta as the years went by, even though she still maintained a home in Manhattan.

The experiences Julia had while in New Orleans, both during her childhood and as an adult are described for the reader in resplendent detail. From the hotels where she stayed, and the restaurants where she ate, to the districts of the city that she visited; the narrative is bright, crisp and meticulously told. Because of this the reader is able to conjure up the people and places in the novel in their minds eye, and I am sure that those familiar with the locations described in “The House on First Street” will find the descriptions to be on point.

Finally, in her forties, Julia was ready to commit to living her life full time in New Orleans, and along with her husband, she purchased an old Greek Revival home in the Garden District on First Street. Julia had many frustrating, funny, and repeated run-ins with the various contractors that were hired to work on the home, and she recounts these experiences in vivid detail. After more than a year, she and her husband were finally able to move in to their home, and four weeks later Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans with a vengeance.

Julia never doubted that she would return to her home in New Orleans, and did as much as she could to assist the friends and employees that were, to varying degrees, left to pick up the pieces after Katrina hit the city. In “The House on First Street: My New Orleans Story “ she recalls her first visits back in to the city, when FEMA was not yet involved, and the devastation that she witnessed traveling through the flooded streets with her press pass as the “golden ticket” past the city limits. She reveals the steps she took to get her life back on track, as well as recounting what those around her were doing to make it through the days and to reclaim the lives they had come to love in New Orleans. Julia and her large circle of friends did an immense amount to bring the city back to life, through the re-opening of well-loved restaurants, holding fundraisers to get money back in to the city, and helping fellow citizens in whatever way was necessary, from cleaning out refrigerators full of rancid food, to bringing meals in to the National Guard troops, and offering desperately needed work to the craftsman who came to rebuild.

The House on First Street: My New Orleans Story” is a poignant, heartfelt and humorous tale of one woman’s journey back to a semblance of normalcy after one of the most devastating events in our country’s history. It is not meant to be a sob-story, but is rather a tale of the strength and courage that it took for one woman to reclaim her life in the city she calls home.

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Blacklight Blue by Peter May

Poisoned Pen Press, November 2008
ISBN 9781590585528
Reviewed for Reader Views 7/08

Scotsman Enzo MacLeod gained fame and recognition throughout Europe when he successfully solved two of France’s most notorious cold cases. French journalist Roger Raffin, who is also the boyfriend of Enzo’s daughter Kirsty, had written a book about seven of these well-known crimes, and Raffin’s book was the catalyst for Enzo’s interest in turning up new leads and trying to solve these decades old crimes. While he had planned to investigate the remaining five murders, Enzo’s thoughts are driven elsewhere when he is pitted in an even bigger struggle, one for his own life, after being diagnosed with a life threatening illness and given only months to live. Enzo’s focus is on everything but detective work until he is pressed into action when the lives of his friends and family are put in danger, and he is set up to take the fall for a brutal murder.

Enzo quickly concludes that the person behind the mayhem that has befallen his family must be someone intent on keeping him from solving any of the remaining cold cases, someone with everything to lose if Enzo starts digging around, someone who has killed once and will do whatever it takes to keep their secret buried. After some research, Enzo feels that whoever is behind the attempts to destroy his reputation and his life is most likely also to blame for the murder of a rent boy in Paris sixteen years ago. With his nearest and dearest safely tucked away in the French mountains, the hunt for the killer takes Enzo from country to country in a deadly game of cat and mouse. What is not immediately clear is, who is the cat and who is the mouse?

Peter May has weaved an intricate plot that does not fail to deliver. The novel skips back and forth in time between the 1970s, 80s, 90s, and the present day. These flashbacks are well timed and delve deeper into what is happening now by giving insight into what happened back then. May does a great job with character development, both in the background details he gives and the dialogue he has written for his characters. Enzo MacLeod is rough around the edges, but has a heart that shines through in the darkest times. He is the kind of man you would trust with your life, and you can’t help but root for him to come out on top. The twists in the plot are many and “Blacklight Blue” keeps you guessing until its nail-biting ending.

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