Category Archives: Book Reviews

Do A Day

Do a Day: How to Live a Better Life Every Day

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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J.O.E.

J.O.E.: Just an Ordinary Earthling

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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Entrancement: The Consciousness of Dreaming, Music and the World

Entrancement: The Consciousness of Dreaming, Music and the World

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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Descendent Darkness: Legacy

Descendent Darkness: Book Two: Legacy

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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Hatching Charlie: A Psychotherapist’s Tale

Hatching Charlie: A Psychotherapist's Tale

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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Century Sentence: A Chinese’s Accusation Against All of the World

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 Seasons of a Giant

The Seasons of a Giant

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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Coming Darkness

Coming Darkness

In Susan-Alia Terry’s novel Coming Darkness myths and legends become real. Known as the Other-kin, angels, demons, werewolves, vampires, and other fabled creatures live among one another. When Archangel Michael appears to seek Lucifer’s help, Lucifer’s comfortable life starts to unravel. The Father and the rest of Heaven are missing, there’s a mysterious black ooze that burns the skin of angels, and an unknown race reveals itself seeking to destroy. As Lucifer struggles with this conflict, his lover Kai sets out to prove himself worthy of respect. But with Lucifer gone, Kai realizes how dependent on the fallen archangel he has become.

I love the world Terry has built in Coming Darkness. She wove together characters from myths and folklore, as well as creatures from different religious sects, to create a seamless and fascinating story. Her characters have distinct personalities, which make the reader want to know more about them and who they are. Terry provides glimpses into interesting backstories – glimpses that explain why Lucifer was exiled from heaven and the relationship he holds with Michael.

There was a lot going on in this novel. Terry uses various sub plots to help us get to know the characters and to move the story along. This is a great technique to use – it adds interest and excitement. It also keeps the reader from becoming complacent since so many things are happening at once.

However, there are so many things going on that I sometimes felt lost, every time I felt I had a direction, the story would change or add a different sub plot. Ultimately, I felt there was too much happening.

The world and characters the author has created are fantastic. Angles on Earth have been written about so many times, but Terry is able to imbue her characters with original personalities that sets this apart from most books in this same genre. The ideas presented were interesting, and I couldn’t wait to read more. There are some steamy sex scenes in Coming Darkness as well. Although I felt that they could have been handled more subtly, they do add another emotional layer to this already thrilling story. Terry’s skills as a storyteller are superb which is why I wish that one or two ideas were really fleshed out so that I could immerse myself in this fascinating story.

If you enjoy reading about werewolves or vampires, or find Lucifer and his fallen angels intriguing, this book would be a good fit for you. Honestly, everything about this book pulls me in and makes me want to like it. As I do with any author with great writing talent, I beg for more focus, detail and character development. Coming Darkness showcases Susan-Alia Terry’s talent and I cant’t wait to read more of her work.

Pages: 258 | ASIN: B01D7MM5IM

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Apollo’s Raven

Apollo's Raven by [Tanner, Linnea]

When a historical fantasy grips you from the very first page, you know you are in for an excellent read. With Apollo’s Raven by Linnea Tanner, we are brought into the world of the not-so-distant past when Rome set their sights on Britannia. We follow the experience of our protagonist Celtic princess Catrin and her star-crossed Roman lover, Marcellus. On opposing sides of a battle that grows fiercer with every passing day. There is more to this tale than love and war for magic and mysticism are part of the lifeblood of our characters. This is more than a tale of might and magic. This is also a tale of a woman coming into her own as a powerful warrior and a strong mystic. Catrin has faced uncertainty and hardship even within her own family. When pitted against the Roman Empire will she find the strength she needs to survive?

When you write a story that has its base in history, research is a must. You cannot simply write whatever you wish and hope that it makes sense. Tanner realizes this and does her best to research her time period. How people acted, how they dressed, their beliefs and their mannerisms are carefully reviewed in this tale. At the end of the book she does acknowledge that the Celts did not leave much written history. This is a blessing for a writer though, because it leaves an open creative license. Since they didn’t keep records, who is to say that the druids did not behave in exactly the same way they did in this book? This is where the fantasy aspect comes in. Tanner is careful not to get too carried away and the tale feels believable and relatable.

Tanner begins each chapter with a brief excerpt. This gives the reader a sense of where the story is going. This can be a useful tool when you take long gaps between readings. While there is some slightly graphic content, a teenager would find this to be a friendly reminder of what is about to happen and can help jog the memory if they haven’t picked up the book in some time.

The way Tanner portrays women in this book is also very empowering. Our protagonist is a princess, yet she is not fragile. There is no Snow White here. She is forged with fire and metal and trains to be able to reach the pinnacle of fortitude her eldest sister has. For a young woman who is trying to figure out where she belongs in her world, this tale is relatable to other young women in our timeline who are also trying to figure out where they belong.

If you’re looking for something entertaining with a fast, action-paced rhythm, Apollo’s Raven by Linnea Tanner is a definite must. The first in a series this book firmly establishes backstory while also being able to stand alone if necessary. It’s a very exciting read and readers of all ages and genders will find something to identify with in this tale. How will things turn out for Catrin? What will happen with her relationship with Marcellus, scion of the Roman Empire sent to oppress her people? You’ll have to read and find out.

Pages: 400 | ASIN: B06XJQ74H6

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A World of Wonder

A World of Wonder by [Ford, Brent A., Hazlehurst, Lucy McCullough]

A World of Wonder by Brent A. Ford and Lucy McCullough Hazlehurst is an educational combination of photographs and poetry, designed to be enjoyed by parents and children together. Giving the latter an interest in the world and to act as a starting point for appreciating its wonders. It consists of 41 high-quality, color images of nature and natural phenomena across the globe, each paired with a relevant, short poem – some newly written for the book, and some classics. The interactive copy has links to further information related to each photo.

The first thing that struck me was the quality of the photos, which are expertly-framed, beautiful shots of a range of animals, scenery, and weather across the globe, as well as views from beyond the upper atmosphere. As an adult, I still wonder at many of them, so it must be magical for a child. They evoke multiple emotions – some are dramatic, some cute, some calm – but all are of a suitable nature for young children, as should be expected.

The accompanying poems are apt for the stated age range of 3-8, and grade level K-2; they’re short, accessible and fun to read aloud. Some are humorous, while many are more instructive about the habits of animals or natural processes. They match well with the photos, and explore different aspects of life on Earth.

The combined variety of photos and poems are ideal for promoting conversation of all kinds between parents and children; it’s easy to tell that the authors have experience in education. Not just parents, but teachers could certainly get a lot of use out of this book, too.

It’s not particularly long, and because it’s designed to be picked up and put down, it seems perfect for different attention spans and available periods of time. It could be used at bedtime, or for car journeys.

The amazing choice of photographs enables you to revisit this book many times, so parents can ask different questions to highlight different points and to introduce more complex ideas as their child grows. This flexibility of use would is a huge draw for parents. It would be ideal for guessing games – trying to remember the photo from the poem, or even the poem from the photo. Budding artists could get some great inspiration from it, and it could be a very useful starting point for crafting projects or for guided research about animal habits and habitat.

I appreciate the authors’ aims and the work that they have put into the book in order to achieve them. A World of Wonder truly delivers on the wonder that it promises.

Pages: 88 | ASIN: B072LJWBSZ

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