Author Archives: Literary Titan
Do a Day by Bryan Falchuck is written from the author’s own experience of turning his life around – losing weight and eating healthier. He has turned his method into a general philosophy, which he wants to use to help others with achieving their goals and improving their lives. The book is organized into relatively short chapters, so that it can be read a little each day. In order to help readers who want to leave the book and come back to it, each chapter has a helpful summary at the end.
Do a Day is appreciative of people’s differences and faults – the author doesn’t write as if he expects everyone to live exactly as he does now. He even shares where he went wrong on his journey so the reader can learn from it. These semi-autobiographical sections are one of the strengths of this book, for me. It added interest and a more human element than lists of instructions.
I felt as if some parts were over-explained, such as the metaphor of the chapter entitled “Before My Dawn”. I enjoyed the humor that I read, but there was too little of it, making the book a little more serious than it otherwise could have been.
The chapter order was well-chosen to guide the reader through the author’s philosophy, and I appreciated the references to scientific studies and other data that lent some credibility to the method, which was otherwise based on anecdotal evidence.
The content of the method itself was not revolutionary, but I felt that in this form it might be more accessible and inspirational to some people who might otherwise not care or not have the opportunity to learn about it. Do a Day felt like an honest account that didn’t promise any quick, or low-effort fixes.
Mainly, the book gives sensible advice. It covers how to apply the described way of thinking to every aspect of daily life – exercise, eating, parenting, work, and getting through a bad day. It’s very thorough, and feels like a natural fit for each.
Overall, it contains useful advice with interesting sections of autobiography and is well-explained and is accessible and inspirational.
Pages: 137 | ASIN: B06W9L9NDT
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Nate knelt beside the dead girl. This wasn’t his first homicide, it wasn’t even the first dead prostitute he’d investigated. It wasn’t the first strangling death he’d been assigned to. But, this one bothered him.
Maybe it was her youth, she appeared to be in her early twenties. Maybe it was her looks, as death had yet to rob her of her beauty. Maybe she reminded him of his own daughter, Lizzie, who was only a few years younger. Maybe it was something else entirely.
The big detective looked over the body, careful not to touch or disturb her. He had one of the best crime scene technicians, Winston Rawls, and he did not want to make his job harder.
“Look at her fingernails,” Rawls observed from the other side of the body.
“What about them?”
“Most of them are broken and some are torn free of the quick. Some are missing.”
Nate slowed his visual scanning of the girl and focused on her hands. Rawls was right, the nails were ragged, broken, and torn. Some of her fingers ended with just the bloody fingertips.
It made his injured finger hurt. Maybe this was why this murder haunted him from the start.
The girl’s hands were bagged in plastic to preserve evidence that hopefully was there. Gently, Nate lifted a hand, holding it on his open palm. He looked at the girls eyes, that looked down and away from him.
“I don’t know what happened that led you to this place. I don’t know why you chose to live the life you did. But you deserved better than this.”
Rawls looked at Nate with an expression that asked, “What are you doing?”
Nate glanced at the technician and then focused again on the girl’s hand.
“I promise you, I give you my word, I will find who ever did this to you and I will bring him to justice. I will hold him accountable for this. Rest assured.”
Gently, as if he didn’t want to wake her, Nate lowered the girl’s hand to the pavement. He stood and Rawls stood with him.
“Do you want to tell me what that was all about?”
Nate studied the bearded tech, “I made her a promise.”
“Nate, you and I both know solving the death of a streetwalker is one of the hardest crimes to solve. Unless she was killed by her pimp, or another girl jealous of her, the doer is a complete stranger. There’s just not enough to tie the two people together.”
Rawls shook his head, “You’ve worked more of these than I have. You know how difficult this is going to be.”
Nate looked at Rawls, placed a hand on the technician’s shoulder, “I made her a promise.”
He turned and walked from the alley, giving the technician a controlled wave, “See you at the morgue.”
The Tenth Nail is the story of a homicide detective obsessed in finding the killer of a streetwalker. It is fast paced, with well developed characters and a twist at the end most will not see coming.
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Joe is your average college kid on spring break, just wanting to take a camping trip with his friend Homer. They are camping out in the continental divide, Homer’s first experience with camping and Joe being the good buddy that he is teasing him to no end. Late at night Joe is off near the lake watching the stars when unexpectedly an alien ship crashes into the water. Frank and Fred soon have their first encounter with an Earthling. After accidentally getting stuck on Frank and Fred’s ship and launching into space, Joe finds himself in the middle of a jewel heist, and some intergalactic espionage, as well as at the center of a planets battle for freedom from two other worlds disturbance. It was a busy week for Joe and his most eventful spring break ever.
While the book starts out on Earth and then moves to the planet Ladascus, it is hard to remember sometimes you are not on Earth. Some of the characters are described, but aside from the different language they sometimes use, so much of the scenery and even the day to day activities are the same as any town on Earth. There is a very familiar and at home feeling to the setting and even the characters, that while the authors tell you they are not human, the definitely feel human in their personalities and mannerisms. The town most of the story takes place in is called Ngorongoro. It has a mix of low tech and high tech devices, including part of the population being androids that are made to emulate human minds and appearances. They can even have addiction problems, what are they addicted to? 9 Volt batteries from Earth of all things. The novel has quit a bit of humor such as this sprinkled through out, like the Ladascus Zoo, it has four humans on display. This creates an awkward moment for all parties involved. While the story doesn’t always feel like it’s from an alien world, I love that I can relate to experiences that are going on. The political maneuvering of the characters reminds me of the insanity revolving around our own politics right now. The authors write on a level that made me want to be there, to see it all unfolding and made me care about the characters, especially Joe.
The story line of the diamond heist introduces us to Ralph (not their real name) and how the miss scheduled job interferes with an intergalactic spy ring’s operations. This side story is quite fascinating, reading about the double life, bringing me back to the old spy movies, it was engaging. There are highly sophisticated and complicated spy nets and agents. One famous agent is Evinrude for the Quesonte. He is entertaining and very good at what he does. He is one of my favorite characters in the novel because of how well he outsmarts the others and always seems to be in the right place at the right time.
Edward A. Szynalski and Allen L. Petro give JOE Just and Ordinary Earthling a comical and unique twist to the alien abduction plot. The connection to the characters and relatability to them and their world with our own world is the reason for the five stars. The aliens are so human like in their behavior it is relatable to the reader. The subplot of Homer being lost in the woods and thinking he is going to die is comical and provides a reminder that Joe is off in space with aliens. Overall it is a good novel that will keep the reader engaged and entertained by the antics of all the characters as well as the different plot lines to follow. I would love to see a sequel to this novel and read more about the world of Ladascus.
Pages: 218 | ASIN: B06XJWVKTN
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The False Prophet is set in a post apocalyptic America and follows Donald of Fisher, our unlikely hero, as he must confront an army raised to conquer the land. What was the inspiration for the setup to this exciting novel?
The question applies to the first novel, The Stonegate Sword as well as The False Prophet although it is not necessary to have read the first book in order to understand the second. The initial idea was to create a character with a world view similar to present-day America and place him in a society with very different values, such as Medieval Europe. I considered a time-travel approach, but then hit on the idea that in the future the world could enter a second Dark Age. So the main character, Donald of Fisher is a lore-man, steeped in the study of the past from an early age. Then circumstances forces him to take up a sword and take on the role of a warrior. The conflict between the evil figure in the west owes a bit to Tolkien and a bit to the prophecies of the last days in Biblical prophecy. I made no attempt to create the details associated with the Antichrist, except that if the imagery in Scriptures is taken literally, it sounds as if the final battles will be fought with antique weapons. I realize that this could be figurative language, but I decided to take it literally, and that implies, again, that a dark age lies in the future.
The story follows two characters, The False Prophet and Donald of Fisher, which I felt were two contrasting characters. What themes did you want to capture while creating your characters?
The story follows the archetypal “hero’s quest.” Don is the hero and must face adversity. The False Prophet is the anti-hero and he does not actually appear in the first novel, being only a rumor, a malignant force driving the forces of evil. In the second novel, he is revealed to be a ruthless despot of the kind with whom we are all familiar. The Prophet’s armies are the driving force behind much of the conflict that Don must face and overcome, though human frailties (his own and those of his companions) are other obstacles in his path.
There were many biblical undertones throughout the novel. Where do you feel you paralleled the Bible and where did you blaze your own path? And how did that help you create an engaging story?
The story of the novel does have some similarities to the Bible in that the Israelites were often raided by their enemies and the kind of weapons were similar. The military tactics I describe are probably not similar to those used in Bible days, although some of the principles are timeless. The use of walled cities reminds one of the Bible and also Medieval Europe. The political situation in the free cities east of the mountains reminds me of Israel during the time of the Judges, when there was no king, and “everyone did what was right in their own eyes.” The apostasy or falling away from the faith is prophesied in the Bible. The rediscovery of lost technology, for example, cannons, is a new path. The idea of a man of sin arising in the last days is found in the Bible.
The False Prophet is the second book in the Stonegate series. Where does book three take readers?
Book three will take place a generation later. The False Prophet was not destroyed, and the evil in the West rises again. It is up to the children of Don, Rachel, Carla and Howard to bring the saga to its final conclusion. Donald, now a middle-aged man, past his prime, attempts to mount an invasion of the West to overthrow the Prophet, but his attempts are met with disunity among his friends and overwhelming might of his foes. As to be expected, the victory depends on help from a totally unexpected quarter.
Stonegate remains the key, and Donald returns to that great walled city and his beloved Rachel just as the hosts of enemy are also closing in. Part adventure, part love story, this epic saga covers the vast panorama of New Mexico deserts and Colorado Rockies in a possible future that looks very much like the medieval past. But duty, love, courage, and honor remain and are even more important than ever.
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If you’ve ever wondered where your mind goes in those moments when you’re not quite awake or when you’ve been staring out the window for just a tad too long, you will find some clues to an answer in Ruth Finnegan’s Entrancement. This collection of essays from educated professionals will expose you to different viewpoints on the topics of dreaming, trancing and the collective unconscious. Fashioned the same way a textbook might be, readers will gain insight into various hypotheses on what happens to our minds when we enter these states. Exploring the world from a slight occultist view, readers are privy to personal stories from professionals in the field of the social sciences who have backed up their personal experiences with data and sources. Investigate how music and dreaming contribute to artistic expression; identify your own personal cues and what might draw you into a trance.
Finnegan begins with her own personal experience with trancing. During her sections at the beginning and the end of the book she uses language that is friendly for non-academic readers. The same can be said for all of those who have contributed to this piece. By using common language, Finnegan has opened up the potentials for her audience. Anyone who is interested in this topic will find useful information within its pages.
There are some typos in the book which were distracting in such a highly educated piece. But the errors are few and can be easily forgotten. The presentation of the book leaves a little to be desired. The table of contents could use some formatting and the pages between essays could have been laid out better. These are all minor things, but they impact the reader experience.
It is interesting to read a collection of essays on a somewhat supernatural topic that is rife with research. For someone who is studying psychology or the other social sciences, Entrancement by Ruth Finnegan would be an excellent resource piece to read. The abilities of the mind have been studied for decades and we are no closer to unraveling the secrets now than we were in the beginning. If you’re a beginner doing preliminary readings or research on this topic, you will find this book useful. The content is not only useful, but the suggested readings in the back open up a whole library of future readings. For those who hunger for more information, who want to explore this world and our place in it, this is a delightful bonus.
Pages: 288 | ASIN: B06XVD9WKM
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Legacy, by A.J. Macready, is the second installment in the Descendent Darkness series and returns to visit the families of Clarke’s Summit; a seemingly innocent town ridden with the darkest of secrets. Families will be torn apart, truths will be exposed and the Gaston family will finally learn the dark history of their past. When evil comes a knockin’, no family will be prepared for the deadly consequences that occur. Lives will be shattered when the demon that haunts Mike Gaston’s nightmare is finally brought to light. Who is the mysterious woman that has possessed his nightmares?
Legacy– Powerful in name, powerful in nature. Within the first few pages of Legacy, the reader is instantly given a feel as to what type of horrors they may encounter- a creature that can be “stronger, faster, and have greater sensory perception than man” and most importantly- be able to out reason them. And Legacy did not disappoint. The supernatural creatures were vicious, twisted souls that will be sure to give the most avid horror fans the heebie-jeebies.
The clues may be lined up like dominoes but with evil knocking on the door, Ally, Holly, Mike and the rest of the town will be faced with a supernatural presence unlike no other. Questions will be answered and fates will be sealed as we embark on another supernatural roller coaster with the people of Clarke’s Summit. Favorite characters will return and Macready delivers a sequel that will not disappoint. If you enjoyed the first book in the series, then I can promise you- the second one is even better.
The story flits between various families within the town which allow the reader to experience an almost movie like feel when reading the novel. The fear, the passion and the horrors twisted into the plot, created a sense of urgency and at times I genuinely began to feel scared! Much like a horror movie, I found myself mentally yelling at the characters to stay back, or to run away. I applaud Macready’s use of language and skill that created an air of suspense throughout the entire novel. Macready also plays on fears that many of us have had- the quiet darkness of when you are alone outside, the noises you hear when you are tucked up in bed and the nightmares that have you questioning whether they are real or imagined.
Rather than focusing on the romantic relationships, Legacy will draw you to the importance of family ties and once again we are treated with the beautiful bond between siblings Mike and Holly Gaston. Loyal and understanding, this sibling duo will find themselves facing off with vampire style evils who wear faces of those that they least expect.
I would would recommend this to anyone who enjoys a thriller/horror style plot line with a big spoonful of supernatural surprises. I could honestly see this novel being turned into a movie and I look forward to reading the other books in the series!
Pages: 173 | ASIN: B017SDSXKU
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Charles Creath McCormack’s book Hatching Charlie: A Psychotherapist’s Tale is quite a book: a frank autobiography centered around the theme of the pursuit of happiness and a meaningful life, from a man who has sat both on and beside the psychotherapy couch; or as the author himself describes it, “a story of the follies and wisdom’s of the human condition”. Mr. McCormack is fully aware of both the theories and the realities of mental health, although the book contains no technical language at all. It’s an accessible account covering every stage of his life, from his youngest years into his partial retirement. Not to give too much away, but as the imagery of the title implies, his tale starts in darkness, and concludes with a breakthrough, with all the usual human drama of a life lived fully.
I found the style of writing very interesting; it perhaps relates to his experience as a psychotherapist. He makes use of imagery, not frequently, but when he does it’s usually a long, in-depth passage. Thankfully they don’t feel convoluted, because they exemplify his points well.
The imagery adds well to the overall narrative, which is compelling. If I’d had more time, I’d probably have read it in one sitting. Although the author references forward and back to events distant by dozens of years and pages, I was never left feeling confused or lost, so it was neatly accomplished. There was a clear sense of reflection as to what the reader may be thinking, and at points it almost felt like I was part of a conversation. However, I thought that near the end the narrative became a little unfocused, with some unnecessary repetition and description of his family that doesn’t always feel directly related to his main subject – his state of mind.
I want to describe it as a generous story, because I was given extremely honest details about Mr. McCormack’s life that many would have found embarrassing to tell. But he hides no faults or uncomfortable thoughts, and constantly admits when he was wrong. In one chapter the author relates the unfortunate stories of some of his patients. In this way, the book truly covers the full gamut of human experience – warmth, love, friendship, loneliness, unhappiness, violence, despair: life and death.
Despite the author’s wishes that we might take responsibility for our happiness, his book is not a manual for how to obtain it. Observant readers might pluck helpful wisdom from its pages, but this isn’t written as advice – just as he says he does with his patients, he places no obligation on us to try it.
Overall, I would recommend this to any adult reader who is willing to confront life’s uncomfortable truths and those who enjoy a fly-on-the-wall tale of other’s joys and sorrows. I enjoyed trip.
Pages: 373 | ASIN: B06XFG5G3M
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If you’d like to know how people feel in a country different than your own, you should read collections of their thoughts. Century Sentence by Xu Xue Chun is just that: a collection of previously published thoughts from a man who lives in China. At a staggering volume of over five hundred pages, you will learn how Chun’s thoughts have impacted his life and how he feels about the state of the world. Available in both Chinese and English, for the purposes of this review we will be referring to the English version. Here, readers will be able to see inside the mind of a single citizen of China while learning how one man has taken his upbringing and applied his cultural views on various states and topics of global concern and turning it back again upon his own country.
This book is broken down into three key sections and the thoughts within are organized as such. The first section refers to a commentary on China. Here, readers will find the thoughts of a man who is not always at peace with the decisions of his country. Chun gives readers a glimpse at what his reality is and how he feels about this. He dabbles with philosophical ideas and his views on them. The second section is a commentary on Islam. Chun is not pleased with how things are developing around the world and within China on this subject. The final section is a commentary on Western and other countries. As a writer from a western country, it is interesting to see how others perceive my country from a completely different perspective. By sectioning off his thoughts like this, Chun makes it easy for readers to get into a flow.
As the author is Chinese and has limited English skills, by his own admission, grammatical and spelling mistakes are expected. It can be difficult to read this, however, because of how the translation was done. There is no flow and sentences can feel choppy and uncomfortable. Chun’s thoughts on western countries are fairly archaic. His thoughts on gender roles and how the world can resolve its incessant need to keep fighting itself are also alarming. There are several passages in the book where Chun makes reference to how men and women should treat each other and what Japan can do to be seen in a better light from his perspective.
If anything, Century Sentence by Xu Xue Chun is an exercise in seeing how a citizen of a country as large as China views the world around him. The thoughts are fairly well organized although the translation could use a bit of work. It is an exhausting read, however, and not one that would be easily recommended. This book could be useful for those who are studying international societies or for people who are looking for a wildly different perspective on world cultures.
Pages: 895 | ASIN: B01M8LIWBS
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The Mystery of St. Arondight’s tells the story of six teenagers on a mysterious supernatural quest across Europe. What was the inspiration for the setup to this thrilling novel?
Like my characters I was a teenager when I had my first taste of field archaeology. It was exciting, that feeling that you never quite knew what was waiting under the ground for you. It didn’t seem to matter how many of the experienced archaeologists on the site told me that treasure is unlikely, I firmly believed that every shovel full of dirt could hold some priceless artefact of great importance. Now, having been a professional archaeologist for ten years I have learned that not every excavated site uncovers great historical mysteries. In fact the closest I have ever come to treasure is five scattered Roman Denarii, probably from a lost purse. But I still have that belief that something important could be hiding just under my feet.
History itself consists of so many unanswered questions, so many what ifs, so many intangible stories. Folk law suggests the presence of ghosts at sites of violence, or in places they knew when alive. Legends tell of strange women living in trees, lakes or isolated ruins, of heroes who transcend time. There are so many mysteries out there to solve, who is to say that the conclusions must always be rational. Some stories tell of tangible artefacts, a philosopher’s stone, a sacred cup or a powerful sword. Legends give us all the chance to daydream … What might happen if one day I excavate a sword of Arthurian date from a waterlogged deposit. Could the legends be true?
The story has a host of young characters all with their own unique personalities. What themes did you want to capture while creating your characters?
With my characters I aimed to create firstly a group with a shared interest, archaeology, but to give them their own skills, knowledge and personality. The intention was to balance them so that no one character held all the aces and there was essentially no go-to hero of the piece.
I wanted to make sure that the girls were just as capable as the boys. When I was growing up I spent most of my time wanting to be one of the lads. So called ‘girly’ activities did not interest me and I felt that as a teenager there were no characters in my world, with perhaps the exception of ‘George’ from Enid Blyton’s ‘Famous Five’, that represented me as a perpetually bruised, knee skinned tomboy, hanging out with the boys, fencing with sticks and pretending that my bicycle was a motorbike. What I wanted to do here was to create characters that represented my sixteen year old self. The girly side, the tomboy side and the downright laddish part of me. Alongside my own traits I have borrowed elements of personality from the many wild, passionate, and possibly crazy archaeologists of all ages and genders, that I have met whilst digging holes all over the country. I had to try and capture some of that combination of crude humour, intelligence and boundless enthusiasm, encountered on all archaeological sites.
The action scenes and references to historical sites was well developed. Was there anything you pulled from you own life and used in this novel?
I first started fencing at university and was lucky enough to fence for my university, even becoming captain of the team and later the club. Fencing is a lot like chess, but played at the speed of light and with significantly bigger bruises, but you get a real appreciation that timing and intelligence are every bit as important as strength and skill. In writing the sword fights in St. Arondight’s, I wanted to put across some of my own experience as a fencer – the noises, the exertion required and the clear presence of mind required to make a successful attack.
Having lived in the UK all my life, I have visited many of the locations from the book, although I do admit that for a few of them I may have used a little creative licence – getting to the “beach” below the White Cliffs of Dover is much more difficult than Sarah and Jerry found it and I certainly wouldn’t advise trying it!
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
I am currently working on the sequel to The Mystery of St. Arondight’s, following the same characters on their next archaeological adventure. I’m hoping it will be available March/ April 2018 although the first draft is playing hardball right now, and it’s fair to say that working full time as an archaeologist, active fencer and motorcycle enthusiast does take up some writing time. So I’m afraid the date is tentative and it may be a little later.
Camping at ruined abbey at the end of the summer holidays, six teenage archaeologists find themselves witness to a violent haunting and discover a secret crypt below the abbey.
The discoveries they make set them on an epic quest across the country. In a race against an unhinged academic and armed with only their honour, knowledge and swordsmanship the group will have to trust one another and work together, as reality and mythology merge and the quest for an artefact of legend becomes a fight for survival.
Told in a unique blend of first and third person narration, The Mystery of St. Arondight’s follows Suzannah Jones, Melody Knight, Sarah Heddon, Claire Scott, Jerry Llewellen and Símon James Matherson in their first archaeological adventure.
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The Seasons of a Giant by Pamela Hartley is a fun read! We follow Isabel LaDuke, known as Izzy, as she tries to discover who or rather “what” is stealing her family’s cows. A young girl with no real talents or skills unless you count her courageous heart. She eventually finds her quarry, but then soon is transported to the home of Behemorphs, giant shape-shifters, and their world Skyworld, which rests above the clouds. For Izzy to find her way home, she will have to team up with the monster she hunted. Her disappearance intensifies a conflict between her people, the Groundlings, and the Behemorphs, which will mean she may have to make a fateful choice…
With 250 pages, one would think this would be your average children’s novel, but I was pleasantly surprised. A fun twist on Jack and the Beanstalk, Izzy is a fun take on the heroine trope, although I may have enjoyed it more if she was more self-actualizing then what occurred in the story itself. I think the courage that Izzy embodies is brilliant and an excellent message to children. I think the “journey of self-discovery” is a classic tale to come up again and again and is given fresh legs by Hartley’s narrative.
The classic turn of “foe turned friend” is great because it allows Izzy to then reflect upon herself and evaluate her own strengths and weaknesses. The character, Boone, is great because he is everything she is not. She is small and weak with too few real skills. A Behemorph, he is larger than life and has his own magical abilities of shape-shifting. The juxtaposition is almost too pointed, but Hartley saves this with humor and keeping the story pace brisk and fast for even the most anxious reader.
Hartley’s prose reads well and both her voice as the author and the voice of her characters come through. Izzy is a great heroine to follow and I hope there’s another story on the way with her being the lead character again. There is something very relatable with a character who is not talented and instead has to rely on what she has on the “inside”. Again I believe that sort of theme and message is perfect for children and adults.
Overall, the pacing was spot on. The ending was unexpected, but well developed. I believe that Hartley has a gift for story, especially when telling children’s stories. The world she has built was fun and enjoyable and overall it will make a great read for anyone looking for an entertaining weekend read.
Pages: 250 | ASIN: B06XSN4JG3
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