Sentinel of the Seas by Dennis M. Powers – A Book Review

Reviewed by Richard R. Blake for Reader Views (5/07)

“Sentinel of the Seas” reads like a novel. Dennis Powers has written another classic masterpiece which chronicles man battling the sea. As in his earlier works “Treasure Ship” and “The Raging Sea,” Powers has thoroughly researched his work. He spent five years in preparation, searching archives, original journals, dairies, ship logs, Lighthouse Board Reports, and doing personal interviews of survivors, and their families. The lighthouse was built on St. George Reef which is one of the most hazardous reefs off the West Coast.

Powers recounts the history, engineering and construction of the lighthouse. He also explains the various lighting and sound warning devices used over the history of the lighthouse. Powers masterfully weaves into the record heroic stories of the men and women who designed, built, and maintained the St. George Reef Lighthouse from it’s completion in 1892 until it’s abandonment in 1975, and renewal in 2002.

“Sentinel of the Seas” heralds the career of Alexander Ballantyne, who supervised the project, as well as the careers of George Roux, and Fred Permenter the lighthouse keepers. Powers details the work of the “wickies,” lighthouse life, the history and the development of other U. S. lighthouses. He shows a deep appreciation for the courage the lighthouse keepers demonstrated in the midst of crashing waves, tumultuous storms, and hurricane force winds which they faced on a recurring basis.

Turnover among the personal was significant. Powers explained it this way: “This station was one of the least sought-after assignments in the service. Potential wickies had already heard what duty would be like on Dragon Rocks. It had earned its reputation.” I personally enjoyed the insight into the contrast between routine work and boredom of the assignment with hazardous way of life of the lighthouse keepers. Powers uses descriptive phrases that made me feel “the enveloping curtains of cold mists” or hear the “barks of the seals, cries of the seagulls, and the crashing surf.”

This is great adventure reading, brilliantly written. I highly recommend “Sentinel of the Seas” to everyone who loves epic adventure stories of the adventure of the sea, shipwreck, and nautical history.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for feview 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.”

Along the Templar Trail by Brandon Wilson – A Book Review

Along the Templar Trail

By Brandon Wilson

Pilgrim’s Tales, Inc.

Reviewed by Richard R. Blake

Seven Million Steps to Peace

“Along the Templar Trail” describes Brandon Wilson’s personal pilgrimage for self-exploration as well as an important journey for the cause of peace. Brandon has written and amazing account of a mission that took him from St. Jean de Losne, France to the city of Jerusalem, a distance of 2,620 walking miles.

Brandon’s descriptions are so vivid I could almost feel the pain of blisters forming on his feet as he walked. My back ached along with E’mile’s under the weight of his twenty-seven pound backpack. While tilting back in my recliner I escaped the torture of Brandon’s swollen feet and painful exposed blisters, as I loaded my Gregorian Chant CD’s in the player and lived vicariously the quest of two men traveling two continents on a pilgrimage for peace. I, too, entered the transcendent experience of the Baroque Chapel of the Benedictine Monastery at Beuron, Germany.

Brandon described his quiet contemplation and reflection along his walk this way: “Isolated, I wore the solitude like a comfortable cloak…a primeval sanctuary, the most holy of cathedrals…allowing retrospection and quiet contemplation…”

Although supportive of each other, Brandon and E’mile each faced their own personal quest. They had to individually confront their insecurities, the unknowns, the “what if” questions, the pains, limitations, and fears. Risk, danger, in-climate weather, and the challenge of physical endurance created an air of drama and suspense throughout the odyssey. As nerves became frazzled and patience wore thin the ongoing relationship between the two pilgrims was threatened.

I enjoyed the accounts of “angels” miraculously providing food, lodging, and encouragement at critical stages along the way. Engaging stories of generosity, and camaraderie, demonstrated the universal concern for peace among peoples of every ethnic group, culture, religion, and generation.

Word pictures depict Brandon’s subtle humor, even as these same words portray the reality of the drama of life. “The streets were patched together like an ugly, gray, communist quilt, rife with moth eaten holes. It had more bulges than a fat lady in Spandex. The corridor was strewn with trash, rotting animals, and those ever present plastic liter bottles.” In the midst of all this poverty Brandon experienced another side of life on those rare occasions when at the end of the day he shared meals and the hospitality of emphatic hosts. I enjoyed Brandon’s ongoing descriptions of ethnic cuisine and epicurean delights as well as his commentary of wine aficionados, and his connoisseur’s taste.

Invitations along the way for Brandon and E’mile to appear on TV through interviews reaching over 1,000,000 people demonstrate the power of one or two individuals to make a change when dedicated to a cause. Seed thoughts sown through the media coverage gave opportunity for prejudice to be challenged in hopes of producing needed change.

A gallery of photos depicting highlights of the journey, important monuments, buildings, and locales add a significant dimension to the book, especially for any who may want to consider their own pilgrimage along the Templar Trail as it becomes recognized as an International route for peace.

“Along the Templar Trail” is a timely, important book a must read for every American.  This is a step in fostering peace and eliminating the root cause of war. Thought provoking, engaging and inspirational, this is a great read.

Dead Men Don’t Leave Tips: Adventures X Africa

By Brandon Wilson

Publisher: Pilgrim’s Tales, Inc.  978-0977053650, $ 14.95, 2005, 280 pages

Reviewed by Richard R. Blake,

Africa, An Amazing Journey

Wilson’s acerbic humor and amusing antidotes relieve the personal tension that arises from twenty-three unlikely characters being thrown together for a five month journey into the heart of Africa. Brandon describes their truck transport as an “enormous overland Dutch oven.”

The author’s word pictures and phrases created images so real I felt I was present with him on the summit when he said, “Hundreds of feet above the Lilliputian village, impressive dunes stretched miles behind us, as far as eye could see. Down below a cluster of palms looked like tiny drink umbrellas poked into a sandbox.” At that moment I had a sense of the immensity of the Sahara desert.

Wilson’s flair for artistry is also revealed in the results of his “photo stalking”. Twenty pages of exquisite photos add another dimension to Wilson’s narrative and reveal the breathtaking beauty of Africa’s diverse scenic wonders. Other photos are of wildlife taken in the jungles of Africa. Prize photos portraying African natives endear the reader to the human side of this troubled continent in turmoil and transition.

Speed reading this book was out of the question. I did not want to miss a single word or nuance of meaning in Wilson’s steady flow of language magic.

Brandon Wilson is gifted with powers of observation and a rich command of language. I found his writing to be both moving and powerful. Extraordinary!


Over the Top and Back Again, by Brandon Wilson – A Book Review

Over the Top and Back Again, by Brandon Wilson
Pilgrim’s Tales, Inc. 978-0977053650, $ 14.95, 2010

Reviewed by: Richard R. Blake

Trieste to Monaco Over The Via Alpine Traila

As I read Brandon Wilson’s account in “Over the Top & Back Again” I enjoyed vicariously all the excitement, danger and adventure Brandon and his wife, Cheryl, experienced as they traversed a new hiking path called “The Via Alpine Trail.”

After experiencing what Brandon describes as “facing the scary sameness of so-called normal life” he was ready for a new challenge. Together the Wilson’s made the decision to downsize their belongings and to burn their bridges behind them to follow the alpine trail.

The Via Alpine Trail crosses eight countries and covers 200,000 square kilometers. The trail is made up of five tracks connecting existing long distance trails across the Alps. There are various stages and runs which sometimes intersect allowing hikers to explore a personal Alpine interest. The Wilson’s itinerary was planned around the goal to complete the trail from Trieste, Slovenia to Monaco in one five month season.

They soon discovered the difficulties confronting them. In spite of the dearth of good maps, disappearing trails, and harsh weather Brandon and Cheryl enjoyed Slovenia scenery, culture, and the promise of “Discovering the Alps” as they traversed parts of Italy, Austria, Germany, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, France and Monaco.

Clever illustrations by Ken Plumb, accompany the helpful maps detailing the trek and spectacular photos that include: the “breathtaking grandeur” of the Alps, a “jaw dropping panorama,” the marmot and other wildlife, a refuge hut, and a unique reminder of the danger of a trek, “agony of de feet.”

Brandon has a gift for creating descriptive phrases that bring a scene to life. For example: a “breathtaking, heart throbbing climb.” Other graphic descriptions include colorful characters met along the way, “a crotchety fella” and “a grand mountain woman.” These descriptions compare the vast range of attitudes of refuge owners. He uses the heart to illustrate both sight and sound, “heart-stopping vistas” and “our hearts pounding a polka.”

I especially enjoyed the thought of solitude as found in a “magical sanctuary” or “a cathedral among the clouds” as the epitome of tranquility, contrasted with a storm where the “thunder boomed like cannon fire.”
I also appreciated Wilson’s careful attention to detail, his subtle sense of humor, candid approach, and spontaneity.

Throughout the entire trek made up of 350,591 feet of vertical climbs and descents across the Alps, the rain, the snowstorms, and death-defying dangers, Brandon and Cheryl, did not lose sight of their motive and the underlying joy that drove them to experience the adventure of breathing fresh air, the freedom to explore, daily measurable accomplishments, memorable views, personal peace, the companionship of community and reconnecting with nature.


Rapid Teamwork – 5 Essential Steps to Transform Any Group into a Great Team By: Sean Glaze – A Book Reviwew

Rapid Teamwork – 5 Essential Steps to Transform Any Group into a Great Team

By: Sean Glaze

New Shelves Distribution, 20 Office Park Way Suite 126, Pittsford, NY 14534

9780996245814, $ 16.95, 2015, 156 pages

Reviewed by Richard R. Blake,


Transforming River Rafting Principles to Rapid Teamwork Realization


Sean Glaze has hit upon a fascinating approach to inspire, motivate, and transform disgruntled employees to productive, successful and, winning teammates. In “Rapid Teamwork” Glaze uses the platform of fiction to help readers discover, assimilate, and apply five ingredients important to building effective teams in today’s fast moving, ever changing economy.


A surprise visit by Matthew Patterson, president of CDI National, with Greg Sharpe, manager of the Memphis branch of CDI, puts into motion a river rafting retreat for Greg’s management team. Patterson uses his background as a basketball coach and Sharpe’s common interest and respect for highly respected basketball coaches, to put him in contact with Sofia Mitchell, his former basketball team leader, presently leading river rafting retreats with a focus on teaching team leadership principles.


By the end of the river rafting retreat every member of Greg’s CDI management team had a new understanding of and commitment to apply five G-R-E-A-T principles of “Rapid Teamwork.” They were each determined to become a amore effective team, and were ready to build a stronger, more productive and more unified workforce.


Glaze uses a lot of dialog and strong character development to move his plot forward and to accomplish his goal of teaching strong team building techniques. By the last chapter I had become deeply empathetic with, protagonist Greg Sharpe, as well as engrossed in the storyline. I was eager to discover how the multifaceted “team” would move forward and find closure to unresolved issues in their loosely connected relationships. I was not let down.


Sean Glaze is a professional team building facilitator leading interactive events in leadership development. He is a keynote speaker, inspiring “Rapid Teamwork.”


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

Heaven in a Wildflower by Don Smarto – A Book Review

Heaven in a Wildflower

By: Don Smarto

Frontline Press, P. O. Box 764499, Dallas, Texas 75376-4499

978-098935792, $ 29.95, 2014, 542 Pages

Reviewed by Richard R. Blake,

Breathtaking Photography – Evidence of God’s Creation and Intelligent Design

Award winning author and photographer Don Smarto combines breathtaking magnificent photographs with deeply profound writings addressing questions everyone asks: Where did I come from? Why am I here? Do I have a destiny to fulfill? Is God the Creator of the Universe? What happens after death?

“Heaven in a Wildflower” is formatted with five amazing color pictorials and a thought provoking narrative that takes the reader through the Biblical account of creation: of light, water, plants, animals, and man. The book includes biographical sketches of twenty fascinating personalities, illustrations on structure and design, and ends with meaningful insight into questions pertaining to death and resurrection.

Smarto’s writing is packed with awe inspiring word pictures, incredibly enhanced by color photos taken from twelve major cities within fifteen different countries which include: flowers from the rain forests of New Zealand and animals from jungles of Africa. His color photos of people from around the world reveal a depth of character and personality through their facial expressions, body language, and background settings. Each theme whether narrative or pictorial provides the reader with another opportunity for an awe inspiring worship experience and exploration into faith, philosophy, the arts and science.

Don Smarto’s “Heaven in a Wildflower” has a prominent place on our coffee table. It opens the way for discussion starters for family and friends and as well as with those seeking answers to questions of faith and truth.

Beautifully bound, “Heave in a Wildflower” is ideal for gift giving for any occasion.

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



The Face at Mount Rushmore – National Park Mystery Series by Mary Morgan – A Book Review

The Face of Mount RushmoreThe Face of Mount Rushmore – National Park Mystery Series

By Mary Morgan, Illustrated by Dawn McVay Baumer

Buttonwood Press LLC, P. O. Box 716, Haslett, Michigan 48840

Reviewed by Richard R. Blake,

The Cooper Twins Uncover Clues to a Cryptic Plot by Some Shady Characters

“The Face of Mount Rushmore” is the second book in Mary Morgan’s “National Park Mystery Series.” The Cooper twins, Ben and Bekka, are excited about an uncharacteristic request from Uncle Paul to join him for a 4th of July fireworks celebration at the Rushmore National Monument in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

Excitement is in the air as preparations are made for a family vacation of camping along their way to meet Uncle Paul. Bekka keeps the family up-to-date on what to expect as she quizzes them with important “For Your Information” (FYI) quizzes, using her tour book as a source of reference. As they near their destination plans are made plans to pan for gold at the Thunder Mountain Gold Mine; dig for dinosaurs, follow the 1874 expeditions of Colonel George Custer, to hike along the Presidential Trial, and to check out the Junior Ranger experience offered at the Rushmore National Monument.

Ben was stunned when he overheard two suspicious looking men alluding to a cryptic plot to detonate dynamite at a time when the fireworks would muffle the sound of an explosion. Tension continued to heighten as the mystery unraveled and the intrigue continued to build to a “dynamite” conclusion.

Morgan’s unique writing style, genuine characters, and love for story provide the preteen reader with elements of adventure, history, and family values, using a balance of humor, entertainment, inspiration, and informative data.

“The Face of Mount Rushmore – National Park Mystery Series” should be on the reading lists of elementary school, church, and home school family libraries. Preteen readers will enjoy each mysterious adventure in the series. Highly recommended.





Book Review: Walt Disney World with Kids 2013 by Kim Wright Wiley and Leigh C. W. Jenkins

Fodors Walt Disney World with Kids 2013

By Kim Wright Wiley and Leigh C.W. Jenkins

Reviewed by Richard R. Blake

A User Friendly Definitive Guide

Whether visiting Disney World is a family tradition or if this is your first time visit with your family, Fodor’s “Walt Disney World with Kids 2013” will help make your trip more meaningful and memorable. Seasoned editors Kim Wright Wiley and Leigh C. W. Jenkins pack this edition with exciting touring tips and plans including visits to: The Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, The Animal Kingdom, Disney’s World Water Parks, Downtown Disney, and many other featured points of interest.

“Insider Secrets,” “Helpful Tips,” “Quick Guides,” and Maps are invaluable resources included in this user friendly trip planning guide. Every chapter focuses on making this an enchanting never to be forgotten family adventure. A comprehensive index, illustrated features, trip planning tools, and perceptive recommendations, all add to the practical value of this updated vacation guide to Walt Disney World.

The format includes shaded highlighting used as topical guidelines throughout the book. The lack of hundreds of colored photos, found in many guides of this nature, allowed for additional pages of more helpful tips and updated information as well as keeping the price of the book more reasonable for families on tight budgets. Important updated ticket price charts, advice on group travel, tips on maneuvering lines, budget schedules, ride recommendations by age, with information on height restrictions, are all designed to make your visit less stressful and more enjoyable.

I find “Fodors Walt Disney World with Kids 2013” to be a User Friendly Definitive Family Vacation Guide.

As reviewed for Amazon’s Vine Program. A complimentary coy of the book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.




Book Review: Italia by Don Smarto

Italia: A Father & Son Journey

Author: Don Smarto

Reviewed by Richard R. Blake

A Proud Heritage, Childhood Memories, and a Walking Miracle

A first generation Italian-American International award winning photographer and author Don Smarto shares poignant stories and treasured memories of his youth with his adult son Luke as they visit ten cities in Italy, including Rome, Florence, Milan, and Naples. Smarto skillfully weaves absorbing stories touching anecdotes, and treasured memories into the history, and background data on important art, architecture, and Italian food..

Smarto’s writing comes from a father’s heart.  This is a touching story, emotionally packed with expressions of parental love and friendship. Smarto tells of a proud heritage filled with unforgettable memories of his childhood and youth. He describes the difficult journey experienced during the days of his son Luke’s heart surgeries, and of his role as father in developing a bonding relationship with his son.

In another kind of journey Smarto details the father/son tour of Italy and a father/son friendship.  He talks of ancient and contemporary Rome, developing unique insights not found in generic travel guides. He tells of their experience in Vatican City in the heart of Rome, other cities throughout the duo’s extensive visit to Italy. These include:, Venice,   Murano, Pompeii, Naples, and Perugia.

Frequent references to popular movies featuring Italian cites, fountains, art, and sculptures help the reader identify with Smarto’s narrative, photos, and well-known Italian personalities introduced throughout the manuscript.

Don includes interesting highlights from Italy’s history, technological advances, with detailed descriptions of the points of interest he and Luke visited throughout their trip.  The text is generously seasoned with Italian idioms, familiar and not so familiar words and phrases. These add a uniqueness not found in traditional generic travel guides.  I found it interesting to note that the Vatican museum includes not only religious art, but also features ancient Greek, Etruscan, and Roman sculptures.

“Italia: A Father & Son Journey” is a book that will have a prominent place in our home for years to come.  Don Smarto’s writing and photography are inspiring in the imagery created by well-chosen word pictures and spectacular photography.

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

Publisher: Frontline Press, P. O. Box 764499, Dallas, Texas 75376, 978-1467511551, $ 22.00, 2012, 340 Pages