Lessons from Zachary – A Book Review

Lessons from Zachary – Turning Disability into Possibility

By Sandy Scott

Reviewed by Richard R. Blake, richard330@yahoo.com

Engaging and Releasing Hidden Powers Within – Standing Strong Through the Storm

Just twelve days after his birth Zachary Scott was diagnosed as severely physically and intellectually disabled. This news began a journey into the uncharted territory of the unknown for Sandy and Jonathan Scott; a heart-rending journey plagued by unexpected disappointments and uncertainties. The daily stresses of hectic schedules, social pressures, and the demands created by Zachary’s disabilities became overwhelming.

Sandy was devastated and frustrated by an unexpected and unusual combination of strained relationships and in desperation was forced to look within herself and to choose a new perspective – one that unleashed in her the power of love.

Sandy reached into the resources of unexplored potential to become a leader in coaching leaders in healthcare, to parents of children with disabilities, and to train professionals in the healthcare and educational fields.

Sandy’s writing is authentic, genuine, realistic and relevant. Her premises are well thought out, her choice of words stir the imagination of the reader and enable them to relate personally to her journey through a complex set of circumstances. As the reader becomes deeply involved in Sandy’s story; her insights and the lessons she learned become personal and identifiable and provide a new understanding into the complications, experiences and unknown potential of their own lives. Dozens of well-chosen pictures and good photography add a whole extra dimension to the heart felt emotions of love, pathos, and positive impact of Zachary’s life.

“Lessons from Zachary” will resonate with readers who have been touched by the challenge of disappointment in broken relationships and other personal tragedy; readers in need of a message of hope, and a strategy for tapping into their unknown potential.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

International Publishing Works, P. O. Box 415, Bellevue, Colorado 50512-0415, 978-097759205, 1995, 2017, 264 Pages






My Story in Black and White – The Autobiography of Jesse O. Thomas – A Book Review

My Story in Black and White – The Autobiography of Jesse O. Thomas

by Jesse O. Thomas/ Rosemary Braxton

Reviewed by Richard R. Blake, Richard330@yahoo.com

A Marvelous Story of Persistence in the Face o Adversity and Injustice

“My Story in Black and White” presents an absorbing account of a period in Black history, including antidotes that reflect a vivid observation into the relationships, behind the scenes drama, and an overall picture of the progression  made possible by the cooperation these personalities (black and white) that influenced the direction and motivation taken by educational institutions, government agencies, and economic environment during the first 50 years of the 20th century. The book is adapted from original autobiographical notes of Jesse O. Thomas, facilitated by his daughter Rosemary Braxton.

The author captures an amazing glimpse into the life, brilliance and accomplishments of George Washington Carver’s scientific imagination, and of the impact of Booker T. Washington’s life and influence on government officials.

While an undergraduate at Tuskegee Institute, Jesse Thomas came to the attention of Booker T. Washington and President Theodore Roosevelt. The results of these contacts opened doors for Thomas to become an outstanding influence and spokesperson for educational causes, for the underprivileged, for racial inequality and for integration, and desegregation.

Readers will find nuggets of truth which lie hidden away in Braxton’s detailed account, begging to be discovered, mined, polished and recognized as true gems of treasured wisdom.

““My Story in Black and White” is the story of a man who believes that regardless of the circumstances of birth, racial identity, or heredity it is man’s purpose to fulfill his destiny by making a contribution to make toward advancing the world during his generation. Jesse O. Thomas is an example of this kind of man; a man of accomplishment and purpose.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes.  The opinions expressed are my own.

Robert D. Reed Publishers, P. O. Box 1992, Bandon, OR 97411, 9781934759981, $ 14.95, 2015, 360 pages

From the Heart – The Life of a Jewish Boy During World War II in Palestine By Alexandro Modena – A Book Review

From the Heart – The Life of a Jewish Boy During World War II in Palestine

By Alexandro Modena

Robert D. Reed Publishers, P. O. Box 1992, Bandon, OR 97411

978-1944297022, $ 14.95, 2016, 120 pages

Reviewed by Richard R. Blake

Important Lessons Learned During the Hard Times

Alexandro Modena captures the essence of the adversities he and his family faced while existing in poverty at a time when Jews, Arabs, and Christians lived together in Palestine, when the cultures were changing and during a time the country was occupied by the British Army.

Modena’s memoir “From the Heart – The Life of a Jewish Boy During World War II in Palestine” focuses on his values and perceptions he learned as a fourth grader under the tutelage of Mr. Cohen,  the only male teacher in his elementary school.

These observations are narrated by Alex voice expressed form a 10 year old’s perception level, but with amazing insight. Each chapter details an experience revealing his progress and development as seen through his: improved grades, confidence, self-esteem, and lessons learned about genuine friendship, envy, greed, forgiveness, and deception.  Alex recorded these lessons in a special journal that ended with a short poignant summary statement.

Preteens, teens, and adults will benefit from reading “From the Heart” a heart touching real life story modeling good citizenship, establishing genuine friendships, and living as a community. A fast moving story told with pathos, including Alex’s personal setbacks, and victories.

“From the Heart – The Life of a Jewish Boy During World War II in Palestine” is timely reading for today’s challenges, ideal for opening family discussions with contemporary applications. Highly recommended.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my onw.




Troubled Mission by John Wagner – A Book Review

Troubled Mission

By: John Wagner

Kelly House, Sacramento, California, 978-0996248501, $ 14.99, 2015, 292 pages

Reviewed by Richard R. Blake

A Quest for Personal Transformation and Self Discovery in the Midst of Terrorist Violence, Corrupt Government, and Injustice

In “Troubled Mission” author John Wagner takes his reader on a dramatic adventure; a quest for personal transformation, justice and human rights, in the midst of terrorist violence, and increasing corruption in government. Wagner combines the literary forms of the fictional novel with this gripping personal memoir presented as an eye witness account of his personal mission to fight for the plight and rights of the underprivileged in Peru, South America. The novel is based on the events, terror, and bloodshed which occurred during the chaotic period of Sendero Luminoso’s regime.

Wagner’s writing is penetrating and thought provoking, filled with descriptive phrases and carefully crafted word pictures that enable the reader to visualize the scenic wonders of Peru and become immersed in the culture of the people. The introduction of romance adds another human dimension to an already dramatic, fast moving plot filled with corruption and terror, spiritual redemption and social interaction.

“Troubled Mission” is a fascinating account of one man’s potential impact while on mission for the human rights of the under privileged in the midst of a country plagued by injustice, under an autocratic government, and political corruption. The book is highly readable, with unforgettable content; steeped in social, political, and spiritual awareness.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Life Lessons from Proverbs by Jack Nordgren – A Book Review

Life Lessons from Proverbs, By Jack Nordgren

Create Space Independent Publishing Platform, 978-1500252434, $ 9.95, 2014, 108 pages

Reviewed by Richard R. Blake

Thoughtful Wise Words to Live By

In his book “Life Lessons from Proverbs” Jack Nordgren draws practical applications for daily life from selected verses found in the book of Proverbs; through personal stories from Jack’s own life experiences.

A unique feature of Jack’s writing is his “down to earth” way of communicating truths, in practical terms that speak to the heart. He is open and honest in his writing.  He writes with an amazing insight into human nature and the resultant consequences of sin and selfish desires; the pain divorce, the chains of addictions, tragedy, hurt and suffering. He also offers encouragement with stories of the blessings of reconciliations and changed lives.

Each chapter is filled with hands-on guidelines for practical living and with suggestions for effective ministry, including: lessons on listening, lessons from the lottery, and the secret of facing the fear of sudden disaster.

Jack’s earlier books tell of his spiritual journey, from surfing in Lake Michigan to a call to Chaplaincy and a ministry to surfers on Waikiki Beach in Hawaii. “Wave Chasers’ Volume I and II tell of searching for surf on Lake Michigan and on the Great Lakes.

Jack writes for surfers, men and women. Life Lessons from Proverbs is a book and  for all readers facing the struggles and challenged of life today.

A complimentary copy of this book was received for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.




The Other Side of Heaven – An After Death Experience by Russ A. and Virginia G. Vassallo – A Book Review

The Other Side of Heaven – An After Death Experience

By: Russel A. and Virginia G. Vassallo

Krazy Duck Productions, Liberty, 2227 Woods Creek Rd, Kentucky 42539

978-0996162210, $ 26.00, 2015, 372 Pages

Reviewed by Richard R. Blake

A Life and Death Heartwarming Story of Love Threatened by Misunderstanding, Insecurity, and Resentment

In their book “The Other Side of Heaven – An After Death Experience” Russ and Virginia Vassallo provide inspiration and encouragement to readers experiencing suffering and pain that comes with the uncertainty and devastation of losing a loved one and the imminence of death.

Russ’ account is reflective and autobiographical; not necessarily chronological, sometimes humorous, often profound, with a lot of insight, and stimulating unanswered questions. Virginia’s story ties together some loose ends in an orderly sequence of events and adds a positive perspective on some issues needing resolution or closure while finding purpose to the uncertainties of the relational misunderstanding introduced in Russ’s narrative.

As the hours turn to days and the days to weeks, in the hospital, Russ’ thoughts turn inward.  On more than one occasion his heart stopped, while clinically dead Russ envisions a glimpse of heaven. He tells of conversations with his guardian angel Malcius and with Jesus. He describes heaven as a place of mist, just out of sight, where all the loved ones of God reside, a place of peace and harmony.

In a brutally honest openness  Russ relates the indelible imprint of parental neglect and the needless negative input and verbal abuse led to disappointment, insecurity, and a low self-esteem that led to misunderstanding, resentment, and mistrust in his expectations of Virginia’s love. He relates the impact of his culture and relives the anguish resulting from resentment and thoughts of vengeance.

Stories of growing up in Newark, of relatives linked to the mafia, of his days as a successful lawyer and bring back wonderful memories of the past which are linked together with recurring themes of a fierce determination for justice, his inability to see his own value, questions as to why he was spared from death and entering heaven, and of finding purpose and solace in the rituals of the church.

“The Other Side of Heaven – An After Death Experience” is a beautiful story of finding love, redemption, and peace; an inspirational journey, filled with encouragement for the reader “homesick” for healing memories of the past.

A complimentary copy of the book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.




Finding Home with the Beatles, Bob Dyland and Billy Graham – A Book Review

Finding Home with the Beatles, Bob Dylan, and Billy Graham

By: Jess Archer

WestBow Press, 1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403978-1512721614, $ 11.95, 2015, 124 pages

Reviewed by Richard R. Blake, richard330@yahoo.com

Struggles with Insecurity – On a Path Leading to Finding Home
In her book “Finding Home with the Beatles, Bob Dylan, and Billy Graham” Jess Archer describes a transitory life style with inescapable adjustments; of creating new family routines in another rented house or apartment in a new neighborhood, with new schools, stores, and doctors, over a period of 15 years.

Jess opens her heart to the reader with candor and frankness in a way that help them identify with her anxiety struggles, fears and doubts as well as discovering new insights into finding answers to their own questions of faith, purpose, and spiritual meaning.

Archer’s sensitive poetic nature, beautiful descriptive phrases, and her gift of communication enhance her writing skills. Add her sense of humor and light hearted wit, and you know you are in for an exceptional read.

“Finding Home with the Beatles, Bob Dylan, and Billy Graham” will resonate with three audiences: those touched by the Billy Graham Crusades going back to the well-publicized crusade in Los Angeles that launched the Crusades in the early fifties, the fans of the music of the Beatles and Bob Dylan who were searching for purpose and meaning to life, and the generation who responded the Youth Crusades of the Nineties.

Brilliant writing. Highly recommended.

Bronner – A Journey to Understand – A Book Review

Bronner – A Journey to Understand
By: Sherri Burgess
New Hope Publishers
P O Box 12065, Birmingham, AL 35202
978-1625915009, $ 16.99, 2016, 222 Pages
Reviewed by Richard R. Blake
Finding Triumph in the Midst of Tragedy

‘’Bronner – A Journey to Understand” is a memorable, heart wrenching story that will impact the reader and linger in their thoughts long after the books’ covers are closed.

Sherri Burgess challenges the reader to find triumph in the midst of personal adversity through God’s limitless grace. Sherri’s writing is sensitive, filled with beautiful descriptions of defining moment, inner struggles, and personal victory.

A supplemental interactive reader’s guide: a resource for personal growth with life changing questions for application, contemplation, which will lead the reader to pursue a pure heart, manifest by a passion to know the heart of God, The study guide is designed for individual or small group use.

“Bronner – A Journey to Understand” will resonate with every parent and family who has experienced the loss of a child through death.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Sunrises and Sunsets, By Holley Kelley – A Book Review

Sunrises and Sunsets, Final Affairs Forged with Flair, Finesse, and Functionality
By: Holley Kelley, M.S, C.P.G.
Robert D. Reed Publishers, P. O. Box 1992, Bandon, OR 97411
978-1934759974, $ 19.95, 2016, 212 pages
Reviewed by Richard R. Blake

A Template for a Life Long Planning Guide – Preparing Your Own Personal Living Legacy

In her book “Sunrises and Sunsets” gerontologist and journalist Holley Kelley helps the reader’s perception of end of life issues from a taboo subject into a non-threatening road map or planning guide; leading the reader into an exciting exercise in finding a life of fullness and a legacy for experiencing a new richness in family relations, and a unique sense of peace through simplicity.

The book is divided into three sections. The first section is devoted to a discussion of life and death, and your thoughts on these. I enjoyed her insights into the origin of the term “bucket list and of the benefits of having one.

Section two covers the importance of having: Advance directive, a will, preparing a written record of your finances, insurance policy. This section also includes important insights into making your final wishes and funeral preferences known.. Valuable sample forms, templates, with important commentary help the reader think through and record each of these issues. Interesting illustrations and stories reinforce the need for advance planning.

I especially liked section three. Forms are provided that will helped me create a summary of special dates, events, family traditions, early memories, core values, family history, and some parting “words of wisdom.” A sample chart is provided for tracing your family tree, final planning checklists, and much, much more.

I enjoyed Kelley’s writing style, appreciated her expertise, and plan to incorporate her suggestions in my advance care planning, with the intent of deepening family relationships and continuing a memorable and honorable family heritage. The importance of the content, reader friendly format, and universality of the subject make this a “must” addition to the family of every household at whatever stage of life being entered. Highly recommended.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Legging It by Craig Clapper – A Book Review

Legging It – Life Lessons Learned Thru-Hiking the Appalachian Trail
By: Craig Clapper, AKA Hoosier
Xulon Press, 2180 West State Road 434, Suite 2140, Longwood, Florida 32779
9781498418867, $ 14.99, 2014, 116 pages
Reviewed by: Richard R. Blake

Legging It – A Life Changing Pilgrimage

The Appalachian Trail begins at Springer Mountain, Georgia and ends at Mount Katahdin, Maine. Craig Clapper brings together for the reader three facets of life observed during his 2,186 mile Appalachian Trail (AT) thru-hiking experience: the physical, mental, and spiritual.

In a logical progression Hoosier, Clapper’s trail name, carefully describes the topography of the trail, the climate, the scenic beauty, and the pitfalls and dangers along the way. He uses his keen power of observation to draw parallels from these unique experiences and shows how they mirror life and give insight into man’s personal quest to find purpose and meaning.

Hoosier devotes a full chapter to the benefits of “Traveling Tight – Traveling with Friends.” The community of hikers on the Appalachian Trail attest to the fact that the camaraderie and companionship developed along the trail is a driving force behind reaching Katahdin and attaining their goal of becoming a thru-hiker.

Photos taken of scenic markers and of fellow hikers add a significant dimension to Hoosier’s creative word pictures of these new friends; they include: Sparks, Caribou, Dovetail, Nickelodian, Rash, Punkin Pie, Mot, Joe the Hiker, Samson, and many others. Hoosier compares this to the bond of friendship of David and Jonathan described in the Old Testament.

I especially appreciated the emphasis of the final chapters: Traveling with the End in Sight – Staying Committed, and The Joy of Completion. After completing the journey the thru-hikers received certificates of completion. The author’s certificate is made out to “Hoosier, formerly known Craig Clapper.” Hoosier reminds the reader of a more important “Joy of Completion” for the Christian, that is when at the end of our journey we hear the words from Jesus, “Well done thou good and faithful servant.”