“Gone Before Glory” by Stephen G. Yanoff

Gone Before Glory: The Life and Tragic Death of William McKinley

Stephen G. Yanoff
AuthorHouse (2021)
ISBN: 9781665530774
Reviewed by Amy Lignor for Reader Views (09/2021)

Stephen G. Yanoff is an author well-known for his historical books, as well as his murder mysteries. But when it comes to the non-fiction historical arena, his books have garnered thirty national and international history awards. Now, with a resume like that, it’s not exactly difficult to pick up a book by Yanoff and receive the best. This tale, once again, shows his research-oriented mind that brings to life very real people from our past, exposes secrets, explains decisions made and not made, and artistically answers any questions you might have about the given subject.

When it comes to William McKinley, I have to admit that I knew very little – just the basics you’re presented in school before the teachers focus on the larger subject of Lincoln and his life and work during the Civil War. McKinley, like Lincoln, was a small-town lawyer, also assassinated. But McKinley became a Civil War officer and rose in the military from an enlisted man to a brevet major. Of course, he also went on to be elected to Congress and then became the 25th President of the United States, serving from March 4, 1897, until his assassination on September 14, 1901. His successes were numerous, while some were controversial: After leading this nation to victory in the Spanish-American War, he raised protective tariffs to promote American industry. In addition, his administration is seen by many historians to be a period in our history that focused on rapid economic growth.

This author delves into each and every aspect of McKinley’s life, from working as a lawyer in Ohio after the war and marrying his wife, Ida; to all of McKinley’s victories, such as the defeat of Bryan in the 1900 presidential election in a campaign focused on protectionism and free silver. He also is detail oriented when it comes to the Polish American anarchist that took out McKinley, replacing him with Vice President Theodore Roosevelt; the latter’s popularity eventually overshadowing McKinley.

As we all know, the beginning of the 20th century was a turbulent time in America, and this author makes sure that his book presents that turbulence and uproar perfectly. And even though there have been many books written in regard to the McKinley administration, Yanoff has worked hard to communicate the very real-life motivations of the people involved, and the way certain paths, people, and decisions connected that led to the assassination. It also rings very clear while reading that this author creates with the mind of a mystery writer; the cliff-hangers, so to speak, that he leaves at the end of the chapters increases your desire to read on.

It is clear to me why this superior author has won numerous awards for “Best U.S. History Book of the Year.” His dedication and hard work is evident, and his desire to tell every facet of a person’s story shines through.  

Posted in Book Review, History, Non-Fiction | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

“Live Love Engage” by Gloria Grace Rand

LIVE. LOVE. ENGAGE. how to stop doubting yourself and start being yourself

Gloria Grace Rand
BeyondPublishing.net (2021)
ISBN 978-1637920176
Reviewed by Jill Rey for Reader Views (9/2021)

Born to an alcoholic father and abusive mother, with more than a decade separating her from her next sibling, author Gloria Grace Rand could have led a life of bitterness, but instead, after losing her last remaining family member, her sister, to cancer she got serious about putting her L.O.V.E. method down on paper.  “Live. Love. Engage.” is the cumulation of her experiences and lessons learned as she works through her own spiritual journey after the loss of her loved ones.

It is clear, Rand has spent countless hours and personal dollars on trainings, sessions, seminars, and coaches to better herself and the business she founded.  Using these experiences, she instills the lessons she’s learned to her readers through advice, practice, and guidance.  With a simple L.O.V.E. formula, “Live. Love. Engage” provides readers with a roadmap to help individuals let go of the events that no longer serve a purpose in their lives and their own self-doubt while embracing the present moment fully surrounding them and living in their authentic and loving self.  Guiding readers through the L.O.V.E. method, an acronym that stands for: Let go and let God, Open your heart to receive, Value your uniqueness and Embrace your diversity.  This read and L.O.V.E. method formula is grounded in the author’s own experiences and circumstance.  Rand seeks to use the resilience and lessons she’s picked up over the course of her life to target and engage others in finding the success she’s had both in her personal life, her relationships, and her business. 

As the author’s own personal story unfolds and is rooted in her L.O.V.E. method, it should be noted that it is littered with spiritual references, and an abundance of godly advice.  Jumping from present day to the 2016 health journey and childhood experiences that set her on this path, the role of her spirituality in keeping her grounded and positive, as well as the relationships contributing to her present self, become ever more clear and dispersed amongst this read.  However, regardless of your own spiritual journey and life experiences, this short and sweet book has resonating lessons, grounding readers through the sharing over her own motivations, trials, and tribulations.  

Posted in Book Review, Non-Fiction, Self-Help | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

An Interview with Mark M. Bello – Author of Betrayal at the Border

As an attorney and civil justice advocate, author Mark M. Bello draws upon over 40 years of courtroom experience in his Zachary Blake Legal Thriller Series.

A Michigan native, Mark received his B.A. in English Literature from Oakland University and his law degree from Thomas M. Cooley Law School. After working extremely high-profile legal cases, Mark wanted to give the public a front-row glimpse of what victims face when standing up for justice.

Combining his legal experience and passion for justice with a creative writing style, Mark not only brings high-quality legal services to his clients but captivating novels to his readers.

When Mark’s not writing legal and political novels, he writes and posts about fairness and justice in the civil justice system on his website, Legal Examiner and NotFakeNews. In his spare time, Mark enjoys traveling and spending time with his family. Mark and his wife, Tobye, have four children and 8 grandchildren.

Hi Mark, thank you for joining us today at Reader Views! What is Betrayal at the Border about?

I’m probably not telling you anything you don’t know, but our immigration system is broken and many of our citizens have forgotten that they are the descendants of immigrants. The America we know today was built by these immigrants. In addition, we are not well liked around the world, especially in the Middle East. Betrayal of the Border tells both stories: One, an undocumented South American couple, separated from their children after ICE raids the plant they work at, and two, a young Muslim American citizen who travels with her young daughter and is kidnapped by ISIS. Two unique situations, two interesting consequences of a dysfunctional system. Enter, Zachary Blake.

All of your legal thrillers are based on actual news headlines in the world today. What compelled you to write about the immigration issue?

Constantly seeing stories of these policies playing out in real people’s lives, especially during the Trump administration. Pick your ethnic group. If our ancestors were treated like this when they arrived at Ellis Island, we would not be here today, and America would not be the country it is today. I am not suggesting open borders or condoning law breaking, but I believe we can do better. After all, we are America! It’s a cliché, I know, but I prefer we build bridges, not walls.

What was your inspiration for the story?

As with most of my novels, I was inspired by many news reports of people who were trapped in similar circumstances and by colleagues who specialize in immigration law and shared stories of the plights of various clients. People are being treated horribly, and the conditions in some of these detention centers are deplorable. The government is overwhelmed by the volume, not processing people in a timely manner, and detaining them instead of releasing them into the custody of relative citizens.

As to the situation in Syria, I read, with interest multiple accounts about how America counted on assistance from the Kurds and then abandoned them when they got involved in their own “border crisis” with Turkey and Syria. The Kurds and Kobani experienced their very own “Betrayal at the Border” where Syria meets Turkey. I decided these were stories that needed to be told.

For those not familiar with your books, can you share a little about your protagonist, Zachary Blake?

I’m very proud of Zack. His is quite the rags to riches story. In the first novel, Betrayal of Faith, both his personal and business lives are in the toilet. He is drinking too much, ignoring his family, teetering on destruction, and a woman named Jennifer Tracey calls him with the case of a lifetime, changing everything. But his success was not miraculous; he didn’t win the lottery. He pulled himself out of the gutter, used his God-given brains and talent, and transformed himself into Detroit’s “King of Justice.” He has taken on and brought down the most powerful church in the world, white supremacists, bad cops, evil gun manufacturers, a supreme court justice and the president of the United States. David speaks truth to power and beats Goliath in a court of law, the great equalizer.

In Betrayal at the Border Zachary Blake takes on two immigration cases based on different circumstances – legal and illegal immigration. What’s the difference?

Well, he doesn’t exactly “take on” legal immigration. He takes a case where (Muslim, Syrian-born) American citizens, legally naturalized citizens, are being held hostage. The captives have gone through a legal immigration process and been granted citizenship. They return “home” to Kobani for a visit, are captured and held for random by ISIS terrorists. The other family came to the country legally from Venezuela but overstayed their visa. You will read that there are many sensible reasons for their decision to become “illegal”, but illegal they were. The children in Betrayal at the Border were born in the United States. They are citizens, yet negatively affected by these draconian policies. Worse, we have the category of the so-called DREAMERS, who came here as babies, are not citizens, but know no other country than America. What do we do? “Illegal?” “Legal?” I’m afraid these stories (and people) are not so simply categorized. 

Can you tell us a bit about the specific cases in your story?

Miguel and Mary Carmen Gonzalez live in Lincoln Park, MI. They came into the country legally but overstayed their visa. Their two children are American born citizens. ICE raids the plant where they work, rounds everyone up, and places them in a detention center. Shortly after that, their kids are hauled away to parts unknown (an out-of-state detention center for children) and the government loses track of them. When the parents are released, they can’t find their kids. This story is playing out in real homes, all over the country.

Canan Izady takes her daughter Hana to meet her grandmother for the first time. The problem is that grandma lives in Kobani, in Syria, where it borders Syria. The area has been the focus of an intense civil war, which is, supposedly, now over. But someone forgot to tell ISIS. Canan and Hana are stopped on the road, kidnapped, and a ransom is demanded for their safe return.

Zachary Blake and his immigration lawyer, Marshall Mann, bravely place themselves squarely in the middle of both conflicts.

Is one set of circumstances more heavily targeted than the other, in your story and in real life?

That’s an interesting question. I would suggest that the Venezuelan citizenship story and conflict is frequently experienced by South American immigrants. Family separations and government inefficiencies have become commonplace at the border. The likelihood of traveling to Syria and being kidnapped by ISIS is certainly possible, but a far more “fictional” or “less common” event that a family being mistreated and misplaced by ICE.

How does your background as an attorney influence your writing, both through your storylines and your characters?

My legal background is a heavy influence on my writing. I like to pick a newsworthy legal topic, decide how a future Blake client might be treated or mistreated, and insert Blake into the equation to, hopefully, right some wrongs.

My Holocaust novella, “L-Dor V’Dor—From Generation to Generation” (free for registering on my website at http://www.markmbello.com) is the only Zachary Blake story that does not focus on the law. All of my books feature elements of Zack’s Jewish and Detroit roots, but not to the extent of his legal pedigree. I am currently writing a cookbook “L’Dor V’Dor II” that focuses almost entirely on his Jewish roots. I’m having fun with it—should be available for the holiday season.

Did you ever handle any immigration cases?

No. But the stories break my heart. We are better than this.

What kind of research was involved in creating the cases for your story?

Lots and lots of library and internet research. I’ve spoken to numerous lawyers who shared stories and non-confidential case information with me. There are areas where the law takes a back seat to dramatic license, but legal research and legal “realism” are important components of any Zachary Blake novel.

WHY do you write about social justice?

It was John Bradford who coined the phrase: “There, but for the grace of God, go I,” or something similar. Throughout my legal career, I have tried to help people less fortunate than I have been. It is who I was as a lawyer, who I try to be as a person, and who I’d like Zachary Blake to be as the principal protagonist of my novels. I could not see myself representing insurance companies or large corporations against wronged individual citizens. Some of my colleagues make a lot of money doing so, but it is not for me. I do, however, value these colleagues’ input when writing a Blake novel.  

In addition to writing legal thrillers you also co-host a talk show. Can tell us a bit about your show? What is the goal of the show? Where can listener’s find you, etc.

Thanks for asking. Yes, I recently started my “Justice Counts” podcast on the Spreaker Network and streaming on other podcast networks as well. We’ve recorded several episodes but have only broadcast three. The show examined the concept of justice, from multiple points of view. Justice or “injustice” for that matter, is not limited to the law. We certainly cover the law; we’ve recorded shows about immigration, the Larry Nassar scandal, the clergy abuse crisis in the Catholic Church, policing and police abuse, the 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, and 14th Amendments to the Constitution.

But we also see injustice outside traditional legal settings. How do the police treat different ethnic groups? How are these same groups treated by the government or business?  Do Hispanics or Blacks have the same access to goods and services as white people? Do minorities and woman earn the same pay for the same work as white men? Can all live in the same neighborhoods? Where do we locate cell towers, power plants, or power stations? Can we all buy the home or car of our dreams? Do we have equal access to financing? Equal access to education?  “Justice Counts” in all these situations, too. The upcoming schedule is available on my website, at www.markmbello.com. We have some VERY interesting shows and guests coming up.

Betrayal at the Border is available now for preorder and releases October 11, 2021 so I imagine you’ll be working on marketing and promotion for a bit.  Do you have plans to continue your Zachary Blake series in the future?  If so, what’s the next item of social justice to be tackled?

I’m not sure what’s next for Zachary Blake. I’m a grumpy old man. Something in the news will make me angry enough to write a book. Fact has been much stranger than fiction over the past few years, would you agree?

Looks like you’re also venturing out into other genres. Tell us a bit about the other things you’re working on?

I am working on finishing my Blake/Lewin Family Cookbook of Jewish Recipes (L’Dor V’Dor—From Generation to Generation II). These are old family recipes handed down over the years by generations of family members on both sides of my family. The book is written by Zachary Blake “as told to” Mark M. Bello. There’s a lot of memories and Jewish “schtick” in the book and many of my relatives will be calling to thank or chastise me after they recognize themselves or their ancestors (good and bad). I’ve had a lot of fun putting it together.  

I am also writing a series of children’s books that tackle some important safety and social justice issues but speak to kids—in a kid friendly way. I firmly believe that when it comes to safety and social justice, we need to start delivering these messages much earlier in life. Delivering a distracted driving or bullying message, for instance, to a group of high school or college students is way too late. I’d like to “visit” (Zoom?) as many schools as I can and carry these messages to kids across the country.  If you are a school administrator, email me at info@markmbello.com.

The “we are all in this together,” “stronger together” or “a chain is only as strong as its weakest link” messages need to be delivered as soon as a child can comprehend the importance of them. Hopefully, (I’m trying not to rush them) these messages will be delivered in the form of my children’s picture books by the 2021 holiday season.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Thanks for giving me the opportunity to reach and touch people with my work. These issues are important.


Website: https://www.markmbello.com
Facebook: @markmbellobooks
Twitter: @markmbello
Instagram: @markmbellobooks

 Mark’s books can be found on his website, Amazon, Goodreads, and all other online retailers. The books are available for reader, in print, or as audiobooks.

Read Our Review of Betrayal at the Border

Posted in Thoughts | Leave a comment

“The Journey” by David A. Fiensy

The Journey: Spiritual Growth in Galatians and Philippians

David A. Fiensy
Crosslink Publishing (2021)
ISBN: 9781633573772
Reviewed by Rachel Dehning for Reader Views (9/2021)

“The Journey: Spiritual Growth in Galatians and Philippians” by David Fiensy is a devotional-style book meant to inform the reader as well as make them think about things on a deeper level. Fiensy is an author, speaker, and consultant on things Biblical with a long resume to back it up. In his latest book, he delves into the author of many books in the New Testament – the apostle Paul.

From the get-go, Fiensy provides for his audience a biography of Paul with commentary provided by himself and other sources. The introduction includes information not only about Paul but also about his family and upbringing. The primary focus of the book isn’t on Paul’s theology, but rather his spirituality. In keeping this our focus, we might soak it in and learn to become like Paul ourselves. Each chapter in the book pertains to an attribute of Paul that leads the reader back to Jesus. Real-life examples from people recent and historical are found throughout to make each chapter more powerful. Each chapter can be viewed as either a devotional or a mini-sermon; the real-life application is present, as well as the law and gospel. Topics discussed include conversion, crucifixion, discipline vs. suffering, redemption, and our unrealistic views of God.

Each chapter concludes with questions for discussion, most likely in a group setting, and further information that includes some facts about the culture, additional scripture passages, or further clarification.

I love that Old and New Testament passages back up each other to provide understanding. The Bible is a cohesive book with all parts working together to point to the same thing: Jesus. I have been studying the books of Acts recently, so I found it interesting to learn more about its author and other books he penned, such as Galatians and Philippians. I love that scripture passages are the sole means (other than the occasional commentary) that support a questionable piece of scripture. Seeing an Old Testament verse coming to the aid of one from the New Testament in question is validating and expected from the Bible. The format is done well, with the main idea for the chapter first, followed by questions and additional information taken or left, but best when taken. I can see this book successful in Bible studies worldwide; Paul’s work and letters are some of the best things to read and reflect on. The way that Fiensy writes is understandable to any audience. The reader does not have to be well versed in scripture or theology to understand what he is saying or figure out how he fits everything together. “The Journey” is an informative read about the culture and lifestyle of the time of Jesus and Paul and includes questions and material that universally applies to any reader.

Posted in Book Review, Non-Fiction, Religion & Spirituality | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Colored Water Fountain” by Calvin James

The Colored Water Fountain

by Calvin James
Illustrator: Jordan Pizzuti
Calvin James Creates (2021)
ISBN 978-1737178910
Reviewed by Sheri Hoyte for Reader Views Kids (09/2021)

With Calvin James’s promotion to DAD in 2017, he aspired for ways to educate his son about the intricacies of life and the world we live in. What better way than through stories! James now has eight children’s books designed to teach his son, and all children, values such as truth, kindness, friendship, love and hope. His latest book, “The Colored Water Fountain,” dives deep into the world of racism through a simple yet unforgettable story about a very different world.

Asher and Adeline are immortal children living in a world recreated by a great flood. This world is beautiful and good and the two have no memory of the past, nor do the animals who are the caretakers of this new world. But some things from the previous world were left behind. When the kids discover a water fountain with a sign above it reading, “Colored Water Fountain,” they are baffled. Whatever could this mean? This water is crystal clear—not colored at all! Curious, Asher and Adeline set out to discover its meaning. When they encounter a turtle who survived the great flood, Asher and Adeline learn the truth behind the sign. But what will they do with this newfound knowledge?

Wow! This story may be written for children, but make no mistake: every single adult on the planet needs to read this book as well. I got chills reading it through the first time and have read it several times since. Calvin James tells an evocative story of prejudice and racism as a story that is reminiscent of an old fable. The mystery around the water fountain propels readers forward with an eagerness to discover the answers as they travel right alongside Asher and Adeline.

The characters combine humans and anthropomorphic animals, providing a nice balance for young readers. While Asher is black and Adeline is white, they are not aware of this because skin color in the new world is not an indicator of anything. Good or bad. Right or wrong. What a novel concept. When Asher and Adeline meet Aeon the turtle, they learn the truth about the colored water fountain. It’s what Asher does with this information that reveals the absolute goodness and rightness in his heart.

While readers will admire Asher for his actions, those same actions are likely to stimulate even deeper conversations with your children. As they should. Is it right to wash away or cover up the past and, in doing so, cover up the truth? What are the detriments of racism to humanity? How can we come together as one? Many other questions will surface and these conversations are so important, especially in today’s world.

I highly recommend “The Colored Water Fountain” by Calvin James. It is respectful, inspirational, and thought-provoking. A MUST READ for kids of all ages 0-99+.

Posted in Book Review, Childrens Books, Fiction | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Messiah’s Servant” by William I. Brazley, Jr.

The Messiah’s Servant

William I. Brazley, Jr.
Enhanced DNA Publishing (2021)
ISBN: 978-1-7360431-6-5
Reviewed by Rachel Dehning for Reader Views (9/2021)

It is over two thousand years since the Son of Man has walked the earth, and there is so much more we want to know about him and his ways. Since the Fall of Adam and Eve, there has been no shortage of violence and evil in the world. Nowadays, it is almost commonplace to turn on a screen and see a news article or report of war, murder, assault, affair, or anything falling in the sinful nature category. The idea of God is so strong that it has caused a divide between humans who wonder, “Why is this happening, God? I’m confused, but I trust You,” and those who wonder, “Why is this happening, God? You must not be real, or else you wouldn’t allow this to happen” – both sides feel justified in their thinking, and both believe that they know the truth.

“The Messiah’s Servant” plays to this issue through God’s servant Simeon of Cyrene. The story begins on the night of Jesus’s crucifixion – Good Friday. Jesus is bloody and exhausted from his whipping, torture, and ridicule by his chosen people. Simeon of Cyrene is around for the Passover and wonders about the excitement. Being a genuinely caring person, Simeon can’t help but to assist Jesus when the cross becomes too heavy for him; what comes from this one decision changes his life forever. Simeon is given instructions from Jesus to do the work of the Lord, which is easier said than done. Simeon leaves his family and everything familiar and goes out into the world for centuries; he experiences every way that Satan has infiltrated our lives to behave and think opposite from our original design; the holocaust, slavery, and death and wonders, “Why?!” What Simeon learns while under the direction and guidance of Jesus is something that we all should remember daily – He knows best.

The Bible verse Romans 8:28 was my child’s memory verse recently; I found this fitting because it ties into everything that the story is about – “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Simeon experienced some of the worst times in history; I can imagine how it would feel justified for someone to question if God had left them or was ever around in the first place. Brazley did an excellent job of “playing God” and having Jesus’s answers to Simeon’s questions based on scripture, which is all we have at the moment to answer our questions. The way that Brazley wrote the interaction between Jesus and Simeon, as well as interactions between anyone in the story, is genuine and relatable. I had a mix of emotions while reading this book; some of the situations felt real and having to imagine leaving your family forever was tough to process for me. I like how Brazley extended and added to the story of Simeon, albeit it seems a little far-fetched at first, but I’ve been told anything is possible with God.   

Posted in Book Review, Christian Fiction, Mystery/Thriller | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

“We Never Knew Just What It Was” by Mike Murphey

We Never Knew Just What It Was…The Story of the Chad Mitchell Trio

Mike Murphey (with Mike Kobluk and Chad Mitchell)
Acorn Publishing (2021)
ISBN: 9781952112652
Reviewed by Amy Lignor for Reader Views (09/2021)

Unfortunate but true, there are many who do not remember this incredible group. Let me just say, I didn’t either. But after reading this, I did my research because I found them to be exemplary; they had that “star” quality during their time period that did not come from using tricks, special lighting, speakers that caused audience members to actually lose their hearing; nor did they dress up in silly costumes or cake their faces in make-up in order to grab someone’s interest. No. These three men (specifically; Chad Mitchell, Joe Frazier and Mike Kobluk) were categorized as a “folk group,” yet were so much more. They were young, clean-cut gentlemen who had the ability to speak their minds when it came to the social issues of the day through their unique sound and beguiling words. And although they never received the credit they deserved, they stood on stages as big as Carnegie Hall and brought audiences to their feet.

Now, Mike Murphey has created this book that goes in-depth into the times and trials of the Trio, opening the curtains on a group that was more than interesting and had a ton of things to say. This being his first shot at non-fiction, Murphey states at the very beginning that his look into the Trio is more “creative” non-fiction. After all, with time moving forward and primary figures leaving this earth, it’s impossible to quote these conversations between the Trio, even with the help of two who were there. But when it comes to his portrayal of the young men, it feels more than accurate.

The tale begins in 2007 in the Spokane Opera House, with Mike and Chad talking things over forty-three years after they’d performed there and received a review calling them “depressing.” A big screen set center-stage shows clips of the Trio performing on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1963. (Five years before Mike turned the Trio over to John Denver.) Mike then went on to manage the Spokane Opera House and the entertainment events held there for years to come, which had him meeting all the “big names,” from Bing Crosby to Ella Fitzgerald.

Chad, on the other hand, had thought about staying in the industry after the Trio’s time had passed, and still felt anger over the conflict that’d broken up their group so long ago. But when these three voices got together, even after all these years, it was a stunning concert to hear. Jim Kershner of the Spokane Spokesman-Review was the one who was definitely happy about that fact, seeing as their review this time around had been placed in his hands.

The writer, along with two of the Trio, take us back in time to see the beginnings, the missed opportunities, and both the enjoyable and painful moments the three men had to go through when it was their time to shine. And it makes the reader even happier to know, after all these years, a little more about the men who shaped the minds of many and how they ended up. Intriguing, in-depth, and cool are the three words I would use to describe this book. It felt like the 60s came alive once again, and this author was kind enough to bring to the surface a band that should have been higher up on the popularity food chain. Why? Because they weren’t fluff; they actually had something to say. I thank the writer for showing that to everyone! I would definitely classify this as a “must read.”  

Posted in Art, Book Review, Non-Fiction | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Rebel Leadership: How to Thrive in Uncertain Times” by Larry Robertson

Rebel Leadership: How to Thrive in Uncertain Times

Larry Robertson
Post Hill Press (2021)
ISBN 9781642936896
Reviewed by Jill Rey for Reader Views (9/2021)

A leader in my own organization once pointed out that the rate of change has never moved this quickly in all of history, and yet it will never move this slowly again. “Rebel Leadership” not only supports this statement, as we currently find ourselves in a rapidly evolving world but addresses the ever-increasing complexities leaders are facing as the world and business environment brings more and more uncertainty with each passing day. 

If 2020 taught us anything, it is that uncertainty is all around us. It is not a stretch to say with certainty that no single organization had “global pandemic” as the answer to the question regarding what would bring them the most challenge prior to 2020, or the stereotypical question about what they saw themselves facing in the next five years. And yet look at the leaders that successfully navigated organizations through it, those that quickly and readily acted, rebelled against the norms at that point in time and shifted to unprecedented remote workforces or curbside pickups.

“Rebel Leadership” is all about the new abnormal, encompassing interviews of renowned leaders like Microsoft’s Satya Nadella and leadership researchers such as Peter Drucker, among many others. Broken into five key pillars of leadership, including soul, moves, culture, source of power and long-term views, author Larry Robertson walks readers through the importance of leading like a rebel in the ever-shifting business landscape. No industry is off limits as we traverse Walmart, the University of North Carolina, Microsoft and many more in the engaging, informative, and ever relevant interviews and research housed within.

Not just a book for those in formal leadership positions, Robertson targets individual contributors as well as executive leaders as he explains and examines the swiftly changing environment. Briefly tackling everything from environmental change and the need for corporate social responsibility to the challenges individuals faced during sweeping institutional changes, “Rebel Leadership” really offered readers an opportunity to hear from all different types of individuals facing all different facets of uncertainty. 

Well researched, referenced and compiled, Roberson has put in the work to provide a unique addition to the plethora of leadership literature. Using strong voices and recognizable figureheads, “Rebel Leadership” comes at the perfect time, post 2020.  

Posted in Book Reviews, Business, Non-Fiction | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

“Scarlet at Crystal River” by Randy Overbeck

Scarlet at Crystal River

Randy Overbeck
The Wild Rose Press (2021)
ISBN 978-1509237876
Reviewed by Megan Weiss for Reader Views (03/2021)

“Scarlet at Crystal River” is Randy Overbeck’s third novel starring history teacher and football coach, Darrell Henshaw. Darrell has just married the love of his life, Erin, and now he and his new wife are embarking on the Christmas honeymoon of a lifetime in Crystal River, Florida. Their relaxing sweet holiday quickly takes a turn, however, when Darrell’s “gift” rears its ugly head. Darrell is a sensitive. He can communicate with and see the dead. Already, this “gift” has given him more trouble than it seems it’s worth, but he cannot ignore his instincts that tell him they need his help. Together with Erin and a new friend, a young Hispanic man named Luis, Darrell sets out to discover what happened to a couple of migrant children who have been “visiting” him. Something bad seems to have likely befallen them, and their spirits cannot rest until the truth is uncovered. Over the next several days Darrell, Erin and Luis will have to confront some shady plantation supervisors, dodge bullets, and ruffle some feathers in order to discover the children’s’ fates. 

“Scarlet at Crystal River” is a wonderful follow-up to Overbeck’s first two books featuring Darrell Henshaw, “Blood on the Chesapeake” and “Crimson at Cape May.” While this third book did seem to start out a little slow, once Darrell stumbles upon the spirits of the two children and starts chasing this new mystery, the pacing of the book really picks up and the suspense builds just enough to keep the reader wanting to turn pages to get answers to their questions. 

One thing that is particularly special about Overbeck’s books is that they unabashedly tackle social issues within their plots. Already having discussed racism and human trafficking in his first two Henshaw books, “Scarlet at Crystal River” once again forces readers to confront a particularly pervasive and dangerous social issue. This book, in particular, touches upon the dangers of racism and xenophobia, as well as emphasize the often-ignored plights of the hundreds of thousands of migrant workers who are the reason we are able to have such a variety of fruits, vegetables and other resources in our daily lives. Overbeck encourages readers to evaluate their moral standards and consider how much different things could be if only humans could treat each other a little more humanely, regardless of race, wealth, ethnicity, or gender. 

“Scarlet at Crystal River” is a rollercoaster of a mystery, hurtling up and down hills and around sharp corners until the very end, when the reader is left slightly breathless, waiting for their hearts to beat back to a normal rhythm. 

Posted in Book Review, Fiction, Mystery/Thriller | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

An Interview with Charlene Wheeless – Author of “You Are Enough!”

Charlene Wheeless – Author of You Are Enough!

Charlene Wheeless is the founder of her namesake firm Charlene Wheeless LLC.  She is a renowned business and communications professional, author, speaker, and executive and life empowerment advisor. Additionally, she is the senior advisor for equity and justice at APCO Worldwide, a global advocacy  and communications consultancy.

Wheeless is the chairman of the board of trustees for the Page Society and the HCA Virginia Reston Hospital and serves  on other industry and community boards. She has received numerous awards for communications and leadership excellence throughout her career, including being named to the PR Week Global Power Book for most influential professionals in Public Relations and The Network Journal’s Most Influential Black Women in Business. Many business, industry, and lifestyle publications have featured Wheeless for her expertise and as a contributing writer.

Before launching her consultancy and following a four-year health crisis, Wheeless retired from corporate America as the principal vice president of global corporate affairs for Bechtel Corporation, a $40B global firm. In her words, “Cancer changed me; so I changed my world.”

Charlene Wheeless/Amplify Publishing 2021/ISBN 9781645435860

Hi Charlene, welcome to Reader Views! What is You Are Enough! about?

The book is part memoir, a cautionary tale, and part of how to create the life you want.  The book’s full title was very deliberate and speaks to the book’s purpose: You are Enough! Reclaiming Your Career and Your Life with Purpose, Passion, and Unapologetic Authenticity.  The title says it all.

As you state above, You Are Enough! is publicized as a memoir, but it’s actually so much more. What inspired you to write this book?

Many people have mentioned to me that the book is more like two or three books rolled into one! 

At the time I wrote the book, I was coming off a difficult battle with breast cancer. Even though I was a “survivor,” I fell into a depression and found that people don’t give you the room to be depressed.  They would say, “you just beat cancer; what do you have to be depressed about?” I felt alone, but as I spoke with other cancer survivors they also spoke of depression and didn’t know where to turn.  At the same time, I went back to my high-powered job and expected to walk back into my life as though cancer never happened.  Boy, was I wrong!  I didn’t recognize this new life I was in post-cancer – I mean, I didn’t even look the same, and I didn’t fit into the corporate life I had spent 30+ years building.  I had sacrificed a lot as a Black female in corporate environments.  I was lost, and I thought someone needed to start talking about these things out loud because people are suffering.  So, I wrote about it in the most authentic way I could.

This may seem strange, but I made a commitment to myself that I would never ask God, ‘Why me? Why did I get cancer?’ But I did ask him through prayer to help me see what I was supposed to do with this experience.  The book is his answer.

Why do you think it’s so hard for people to give others room to process and just go through the emotions and experiences needed to get to the other side?

As I was preparing for my first day back to work, my husband said, ‘Remember that no one cares that I had cancer.’  At the time, I thought that was such a cold-hearted thing to say.  In hindsight, he was mostly right.  Once you return, for most people, it’s like it never happened.  One of the reasons is that some people are not empathetic to others and are focused on themselves in the workplace.  Equally, if you haven’t been through something life-changing, it’s hard to understand that even though someone appears fine, they aren’t.  Initially, I tried to keep up a brave front, but within just a few weeks, I couldn’t anymore.  I wasn’t up to it,  and I wasn’t okay.  Now, every chance I get, I ask people to show one another some grace.  Sick or not, we can all use a little grace.

You have risen above many challenges in your life. If you had to choose, which was the most difficult?

Living through it all, in general, has been the most difficult.  Many of the challenges I’ve faced have impacted how my life went forward at each point.  Living through it each time was most challenging, whether it was cancer, abuse, or even feeling marginalized.  All of it can make you question your value.  That’s another reason I want everyone to understand and honestly believe that they are enough – no matter what anyone else tells you.

What is the biggest thing holding people back from living their best lives?

Fear.  People are often afraid of moving forward with something new even when they are unhappy with their current lives.  If you’re unhappy or dissatisfied, it’s easier to do nothing. They feel like they don’t have a choice.  I like to remind people that doing nothing is a choice.

Does You Are Enough! provide specific steps to follow? How do you recommend one read your book to get the most out of the content?

There is a how-to aspect to my book, which is why I put a few blank pages for notes in the back.  Each chapter in the book is a career, and in many cases, also a life strategy.  I suggest everyone read it based on what will be most helpful to them at the time.  I think it reads nicely in the order intended because it’s a journey.  It’s always good to start journeys at the beginning. Take notes of the strategies and how they can implement them in their own lives to change their lives.

If you are a man, you should especially read the book because I spend quite a bit of time talking about how men diminish women in the workplace without knowing it.  It’s not a male-bashing book, but it is one that male leaders can learn from, and it will change how they lead.

You talked about the sacrifices you made as black woman in corporate environments. At any time did you feel your sacrifices and the progress you made on behalf of women were all for naught?

Definitely and often.  Progress has been so slow.  Slow enough that sometimes you have to ask yourself if it’s worth it.  It’s two steps forward and one step back. It’s hard.  There’s no other way to put it.  But I try to remember that there were women before me who fought hard so that I could achieve and that now it is my turn to do the same—to pay it forward.  I have to believe that If there can be one female executive or minority executive, then there can be two and three and more. 

What was your rentry into the corporate world like? After your successful battle with cancer, what changed in the workplace that prompted you to adjust your focus from being a C-level executive to helping other accelerate their own careers?

I’m a high-achieving individual who had nearly died a few times due to complications.  That has a powerful way of getting you to focus on what matters.  I don’t think anything changed in the workplace, but after being out of the day-to-day for seven months, I felt that I had paid a high enough price for my success and that it was time for me to find a new way to make an impact.  I learned a lot during my life journey, and it became more important to me to use that experience to help others. 

There are a lot of books on the market about personal empowerment and growth. How –does You Are Enough! stand out from the crowd?

It’s so much more than a personal empowerment and growth book; it’s a cancer book; it’s a career book, and it’s a book about creating the life you deserve.   Most everyone can relate to it – men and women, and it’s my story that is true to my experience. Even so, people tell me they see themselves in the book.  It’s also not an instructional book.  There’s no five-step process to being happy, and I don’t try to offer one.

It’s absolutely so much more and that is exactly what makes it unique to me – what it combines. I’m curious as to what drove you to combine it all into one book instead of writing 1., a memoir about beating cancer and, 2. A leadership/business book?

Well, you have to remember that I set out to write a memoir first and foremost.  The more I wrote, I realized how much my career shaped my life, and cancer put an exclamation point on it.  It’s a purposeful memoir about resilience; it’s an accidental business and cancer book.  But all of it combines to tell my authentic story.

What kind of feedback have you received on your book so far?

I’ve been overwhelmed by the reaction and feedback on the book.  So many people have reached out to me through social media to thank me for writing the book, and it had a significant impact on them.  A young woman told me that my book changed her life.  And since then, I’ve heard that from many other people as well.  It’s a remarkable feeling to hear that you’ve made that kind of an impact on someone.

Would you say people are responding more to your business advice or defeating cancer or your life story as a whole?

Yes, to all of it.  I didn’t spend much time thinking about who the story would appeal to, and I recognize that is not the right way to write a book.  But I wasn’t concerned about commercial success; I was focused on my purpose and my message.  To my surprise –and delight—I got feedback from people who concentrated on the business side and found the cancer story interesting and others who found that the cancer story resonated for various reasons.  Overall, I would say people read the book for one or the other but ended up appreciating the life story.

Can you share any success stories?

Just last week, a mid-career woman sent me a note that brought tears to my eyes.  She said. “I recently read your book.  It was sent to me as a gift, and as soon as I started reading it, I knew it was going to impact me in a big way.  I’ve even sent it to some friends.  I really just want to thank you for putting in the work and sharing your story.  I cried reading several parts of the book because it resonated so deeply with me.  Many passages made me feel seen and not alone.  The book truly blessed my life.”

It is incredibly touching for someone who doesn’t know me to pour their heart out to me and be vulnerable.

Also, I now have lots of digital “pen pals” through social media.  When someone writes to me about the book, I respond, and it sometimes leads to new friendships with people I may never see.  I also hear from people who have been or are touched by cancer, and I make it a point to stay in contact with them.

How can readers deepen their experience after reading your book? Do you work with people one on one?

Yes.  I provide executive coaching where CEOs and other senior executives most often contract me to coach them or a high-potential employee.  I also offer life coaching where people come to me to help them work through something or gain clarity or whatever else is holding them back.

What is the single-most important piece of advice you would give to someone seeking to overcome obstacles to living their best life?

It’s choice, not chance, that changes your life, and you have the power to choose.

Is there a female executive who most inspired your business journey? How a personal female hero?

No.  As I was coming up in the corporate world, few women, if any, looked like me.  I can’t recall ever seeing a female executive and saying that I wanted to be just like her.  There just wasn’t a lot of representation.  Now, there are plenty of women that I admire, starting with my mother.  I admire poets – Maya Angelou; I admire people who break barriers – Oprah Winfrey and Michelle Obama. I admire everyday women who are working their butts off just to make life work.  No matter how hard it is, they don’t give up, and they don’t give in; they just keep going.   

So, is this the beginning of your author journey? Will you write other books?

I guess you should never say ‘never,’ but I don’t currently have plans to write another book. My editor seems to think I have another book in me, but who knows. In another ten years, I might have a lot to say!



Posted in Author Interview, Business, Inspiration, Interview, Memoir/Biography, Self-Help | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment