Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Review: Weighty Issues by Scott A. Cunneen M.D.

In Weighty Issues: Getting the Skinny on Weight Loss Surgery, noted surgeon Dr. Scott Cunneen gives you his undivided attention, taking the time to answer all your questions about a decision that can forever change your life! The tone is informal and engaging. The information comes from a doctor who has performed thousands of weight loss operations at a world-renowned medical center. You are sitting across the desk from him in his office. You're the only one in the room. Go ahead, ask him anything!

He'll talk to you about gastric bypass vs. lap band vs. "the sleeve." What you can expect with each surgery and what kind of commitment and lifestyle changes are expected of you. Improvement or even resolution of diabetes, hypertension, heart disease. Reclaiming your health. Your energy. Your mobility. Actually increasing your life expectancy.

Good thing he likes to talk. And listen.

Received for review.

Okay, I do not personally need weight loss surgery but I read this as an intellectual exercise to gain more information on the topic.  I found the Q&A format extremely helpful and quite readable.  It truly made it feel more like an accessible conversation with the doctor than a dry lecture.

The doctor's answers were thoughtful and caring, yet frank.  He also covered all topics from the kinds of surgery to the surgery itself and life after surgery, as well as who actually are the best candidates, etc.

If you're looking for a clear, concise, caring discussion of weight loss surgery issues this is the book for you.  I highly recommend it.

★★★★ = Really Liked It

Monday, July 30, 2012

Book Excerpt: Financial Sorcery by Jason Miller

Jason Miller, author of the book Financial Sorcery, stopped by to share with us an excerpt from his book.

Book Excerpt of Financial Sorcery

by Jason Miller

The first thing most people think about in conjunction with wealth magic is the desire to be “rich.” Most people don’t have a clear idea of what this means, and those who do typically tell me that what they want is to have enough money that they never have to think about it again. I know a few people who are what many people would call rich, and I can tell you that all of them think about money. A lot.

As I pointed out in The Sorcerer’s Secrets, terms such as rich and wealthy are relatively meaningless. The truth of the matter is that on a global scale, almost everyone who reads this book is rich. According to the World Bank Development Research Group, anyone making more than $47,500 a year is in the top 1 percent of income earners on planet Earth. If you make more than $25,500 a year you are in the top 10 percent of income earners. The bottom 85 percent earns less than $2,185 a year. Think about that for a moment. This means that half the people on planet Earth live on less than $800 a year.

I know you’re thinking that $25,000 may be in the top 10 in the world but it’s still pretty poor for America, where the federal poverty line is currently listed as $10,787 for an individual. But let me remind you that even the poorest people in America or Western Europe have access to amenities that the poor in most of the world do not. The roads, sanitation systems, plumbing, and access to charitable services and social safety nets are things that the bottom 50 percent will never see. The simple idea of potable water coming out of a faucet is a foreign idea to much of the planet. The guy flipping burgers at your local diner may live close to the poverty line in America, but that still puts him among the top 10 percent wealthiest people on the planet, and his life reflects it.

Am I saying that you should just be happy with what you have and not strive for greater wealth? No! Most definitely not. I am all for you attaining greater and greater levels of wealth. If your desire is to be rich enough to own your own jet, then I say go for it! My point is simply this: You can’t do magic with merely the aim of being rich. If you summon Jupiter and ask him to make you wealthy, he is going to look at you funny and remind you that you are probably already in the top 10 percent, if not the top 1 percent. If, however you ask him to help you reach specific goals, and you present him with a detailed plan, he is probably going to be a lot more helpful. You need perspective about where you are and where you want to be, as well as a plan to get from one to the other.

Reprinted, with permission of the publisher, from Financial Sorcery © 2012 Jason Miller Published by New Page Books a division of Career Press, Pompton Plains, NJ. 800-227-3371. All rights reserved.


About the book:

This life-changing book goes far beyond simple "money magic." This is a tome of true financial sorcery that will show you how to ensure success no matter what life throws at you.

Financial Sorcery will give you the step-by-step instructions on how to improve your fiscal situation. You will learn how to:
  • Stop using magic to fix emergency problems and start using it to build your dream life.
  • Use times of economic uncertainy to create new opportunities rather than cause problems.
  • Work joyfully with money as part of your spiritual discipline rather than as a necessary evil.
  • Make offerings to help increase the flow of prosperity around you.
  • Ditch old concepts and retrain your mind to make money in today's world.
  • Use the interplay of macro- and micro-enchantment to find jobs and get promoted.
  • Deploy strategic sorcery to kill your debt.
  • Create secondary income streams that will ensure continued revenue.

About the author:

Jason Miller’s interest in the occult was sparked by a series of psychic experiences he had when he was just five years old. He took up the practice of both High Magick and Rootworking while still a teenager, learning how ceremonial and folk magic can work together and complement each other.

He has been involved with a number of magical orders and pagan groups over the years, always seeking the quintessence of the art that lies behind specific traditions. He has traveled to New Orleans to study Hoodoo, Europe to study Witchcraft and Ceremonial Magick, and Nepal to study Tantra. Miller is an initiated Tantrika in the Nyingma and Bon lineages of Tibet as well as a member of the Chthonic Ouranian Temple and the Sangreal Sodality.

He is the author of Protection & Reversal Magick: A Witchʹs Defense Manual, The Sorcerers Secrets: Strategies in Practical Magick, and the Strategic Sorcery Training course. Miller lives with his wife and children on the New Jersey shore, where he practices and teaches magick professionally.

Visit him at www.inominandum.com 

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Featured Book: Growth Above the Clouds by Michael S. Lawson, MBA

About the book:

This effectively researched book proves that organizations can effectively grow their unit volumes, sales revenue, profits and market share despite the clouds of the recovering economy and immense competition. Leaders will learn how the top companies:

1. Expand into new markets
2. Acquire growing businesses
3. Access new capital to grow
4. Introduce new products and services
5. Establish strategic growth partnerships
6. Capitalize on new growth trends
7. Enter emerging markets

About the author:

Michael S. Lawson has 25 years of management and leadership experience. He is a chief operating officer and business management researcher. He has published many articles in national management journals and his previous book was Leading Change in Turbulent Times.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Review: The Pyramids and the Pentagon by Nick Redfern

The Pyramids and the Pentagonis a detailed study of how and why government agencies have, for decades, taken a clandestine and profound interest in numerous archeological, historical, and religious puzzles.

Focusing primarily upon the classified work of the U.S. Government, The Pyramids and the Pentagon invites you to take a wild ride into the fog-shrouded past. It's a ride that incorporates highlights such as:
  • The CIA's top-secret files on Noah's Ark
  • U.S. Army documents positing that the Egyptian Pyramids were constructed via levitation
  • Disturbing military encounters with Middle Eastern djinns
  • Claims of nuclear warfare in ancient India
  • Links between the Face on Mars and the pharaohs
  • And many more
Nick Redfern's The Pyramids and the Pentagon clearly and provocatively demonstrates that deep and dark conspiracies exist within the shadowy world of officialdom--conspiracies that have the ability to rock the foundations of civilization, religion, and history to their very core. The strange and amazing secrets of the past are just a heavily guarded government vault away.

Received for review.

I have to say that I really enjoy the author's work so I was really looking forward to this.  As with the author's other books this was well researched and clearly written.  I have to admit that I gave only cursory attention tot he religious artifact sections, but the remainder of the book was quite enjoyable.  The author's friendly writing style really added to the reading experience.

I especially enjoyed the chapters on the Egyptian and Mayan pyramids.  I did object to the author's (mistaken) assertions that the Egyptian pyramids were built by slaves (admittedly with advanced science).  Let me say it yet again here that modern Egyptian archaeologists have definitively proven that the pyramids were not built by slaves.

While I, of course, did not agree with all the author's assertions I found this to be exactly the educational and entertaining read I expected from the author.  If you're a conspiracy theory fan this book is for you.

★★★★ = Really Liked It

Friday, July 27, 2012

Featured Book: The Adventures of Ralph Ribbit by Louise T. Constantinople

About the book:

“Where is it? Where is it? I knew it was around here somewhere,” Ralph Ribbit croaked in a panic. He looked under his armchair: nothing but a few dried leaves. Then he checked under his morning newspaper, which lay spread out on the table next to his chair. Not there either. He was already off to a late start; now he was wasting more time searching for the map of the stream. But somehow it had gone missing. Ralph is ready to start out on his trip upstream to pick up shirts for the Muddyville Middle School track team. The championship meet starts at noon on Saturday, and his son Reggie and the rest of the team are counting on him to get back with the shirts in time. But Ralph can’t find the map to the sports store, and he doesn’t know the way there without it. Follow Ralph on his frantic race against time as he struggles to complete his mission. Will he make it back in time?

About the author:

Louise T. Constantinople is a former middle and high school Language Arts teacher with a Master’s Degree in Reading and over 20 years of classroom experience. She resides in Connecticut with her husband.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Featured Book: Long Island Gold by Love Cherie

About the book:

“Long Island Gold” is the first of two tales that embraces the Romance and Mystery of Long Island and the Long Island Sound. Marisa Brie and Lee Ann Brockman, two Accounting Majors on Long Island, decide to take a Senior Course Project the summer prior to their Senior year. The course enables them to begin their own business, “Long Island Gold”, as a vending table on Port Jefferson Harbor. Although Accounting Majors, their true dream is to have their own business. Needing to disguise their true dream, Marisa and Lee Ann enlist their friends, Steven and John, who own a local photography studio in Port Jefferson; because her parents would prefer their daughter marry her soon to be Lawyer boyfriend, Aaron, and to become an Accountant for Corporate America. But, as with life, one fateful starry night on the Long Island Sound, Marisa meets Nick Stone, whose band is playing on the Ferry Cruise. Seeming to be “A Dreamer who only Dreams”, Nick charms Marisa into revealing her true Dream, which leads her, her friends and the world, to the true purpose of life.

About the author:

Cherie, wrote this first novel in 1994. Through the years she shared it, as an unpublished novel, with many readers who expressed that the story touched both their heart and soul, and that it must be shared with the world. The tale continues in the sequel novel, “Long Island Treasure”.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Featured Book: The Emptiness That Kills by Jim Taylor

About the book:

What goes through the mind of such a man as he edges towards his ultimate goal, or the flip side; self destruction? How much could any single encounter change any one life? How much in a life could be predestined. Jim Taylor writes of a fine balance between success and failure. When women, alcohol, gambling and confrontation encroach upon an almost obsessive desire for something better, the threat to that balance reaches breaking point.

About the author:

In 1996 Jim Taylor was living alone on the south coast of England.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Featured Book: Sequela by MP Kollman

About the book:

Jerome Grayson is dead; Wade Addams arrested; Jane Doe identified; Jackson Nolan committed suicide, evidently to avoid the humiliation of a trial. The entire case has been neatly wrapped up. Sandy Grayson’s greatest regret is his brother’s death. But the case which brought the drug enforcement agent back to Jaspar also brought Samantha Greene into his life and brought him back into the house from which he had been banished years ago...a place he felt certain he would never be welcome again, especially since he had been the instrument of Jerome’s death. Destiny brought them together...Will She rip them apart too soon? His father’s suicide, Jerome’s death and the similarities to his brother’s suicide 12 years ago, drive a young man to wage war against the residents of Jaspar.

About the author:

MP Kollman is a student of the human condition, wielding the written craft to enrapture the mind much like an artist wields a brush. The pages are a blank canvas on which to draw from a talent heralded by many and matched only by an imagination that rises to the task. Sequela is the second in a series of recent pursuits, with work progressing quickly on the follow-up.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Featured Book: A Shadow's Tale by Robert D'Angelo

About the book:

Divina felt joy and sadness as she lay in the palace bed. Through good fortune as a serf, she and her sister, Carolina, had freed King Vicentro’s son, Prince Roderick, from his curse as a lily growing next to the pond where the two women hunted for frogs for a living. Prince Roderick married Carolina and brought Divina and her mother into the palace. Divina was sad because she missed her father who disappeared several years ago. As she mused, Divina was startled to see an apparition at the foot of her bed. “I am Zelda,” said the apparition. “I am the sorcerer Barmello’s assistant. Your father is not dead. When King Vicentro suspected Peter might thwart his attempt to conquer the peaceful fief of King Celentro, he had Barmello turn Peter into a ghost and lock him into the Valley of Shadows. Peter’s soul is locked. He has no self or personality. I have stolen the incantations, which will allow you to enter the Valley of Shadows and retrieve your father as a whole person.” But by mistake Zelda sends Peter’s ghost and Divina into a strange world where they confront danger and magic that tests his unstable personality and her resolve. A Shadow’s Tale is an entertaining and instructive modern fable that takes the reader on a journey both mythical and practical, showing how Peter learns who he is and breaks the five locks binding his soul, and how Divina matures from an insecure teenager into a confident woman. As she mused, Divina was startled to see an apparition at the foot of her bed. "I am Zelda," said the apparition. "I am the sorcerer Barmello's assistant. Your father is not dead. When King Vicentro suspected Peter might thwart his attempt to conquer the peaceful fife of King Celentro. He had his sorcerer Barmello turn Peter into a ghost and lock him in the Valley of Shadows. Peter's soul is locked. He has no self or personality. I have stolen the incantations, which will allow you to enter the Valley of Shadows and retrieve your father as a whole complete person." But by mistake Zelda sends Peter's ghost and Divina into a strange world. In this strange world Divina and Peter confront danger and magic that tests his unstable personality and her resolve. Peter fights puppets and turns the mirage of a castle into a real one. Divina is changed into goo, thrown off of a cliff, and sentenced to death. As Peter learns whom he is and how to react to adversity, he is able to break the five locks upon his soul. With the help of friends they meet on their journey, they find a way out of this alien land.

About the author:

Change and personal growth have been themes in Robert D’Angelo’s professional career. He has been a mechanical and industrial engineer, a teacher of psychology and management courses, and a licensed marriage and family therapist in California. His interest in counseling, to become one’s true person and realize all the potentials within one’s self, became the basis for writing his fairy tale. He enjoys reading, writing and hiking with his wife and friends. His interest in actualizing counseling, to become one’s true person and to realize all the potentials within one’s self, became the basis for how his character, Peter, would regain his soul and his daughter, Divina, would mature from a insecure teenager into a confident woman. Bob enjoys gardening, reading, and hiking with his wife and friends.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Featured Book: The Complete Mystery of Matthew Alcott by Michael Osborn

About the book:

Was Joseph Smith the Hugh Hefner of the early 1800s? While doing his research, Matthew couldn’t help wondering if the sexual revolution started as a church. “Women make up over 50% of the population of our country," Alcott announced as he completed his research. "I fear our constitution will never be safe until congress is half women.” At the time he figured no one gave a damn. People have been making statements about women and sexual discrimination for years. What he didn't know . . . someone was watching. He had come under the scrutiny of a silent political power beyond anything he had ever known. Matt was in a hospital. For two weeks he’d been imprisoned and subjected to powerful drugs and daily beatings. He wasn’t himself yet when he learned his fiancée had disappeared. Health critical, doctor and staff warned him against leaving. That didn’t matter now. He had to find Cate before they did to her what they'd done to him. The thought was intolerable. Matt felt his mind would break. While studying the private papers of Brigham Young, Matthew Alcott, historian for the Mormon Church, stumbled upon a lost revelation Joseph Smith received from God. Church authorities informed him that the revelation was bogus, but Matthew had it independently tested. It was authentic. Why did the church fathers want it silenced? Matthew decided to write a book, expose the truth. That was his big mistake. When Cate Lynn disappeared he said he would stop publication, but it was too late. The books were already in distribution.

About the author:

The U.S. Army sent Michael Oborn to Information Specialist School for training in media journalism. After graduation he was shipped to Camp Zama, Japan, to manage a theater, where he directed live stage plays. He is also a Chemical Dependency Professional who worked with addicts and their families before his retirement, and he continues an affiliation with SAFE CALL NOW, a nonprofit organization that works with police, firefighters, and other first responders experiencing the disease of addiction. Michael lives with his sweetheart of 22 years in the Puget Sound.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Featured Book: King Trevor by Susan Helene Gottfried

About the book:

The aftermath of his onstage collapse has taken its toll on Trevor Wolff. He’s become a virtual shut-in, dependent on the people around him to help in his healing. To make matters worse, he might have hung up his bass for good.

This is not the Trevor Wolff way.

When Mitchell hatches a plan to turn Trevor into the official King of ShapeShifter, it sounds like bunk. However, when Mitchell finds the perfect building to repurpose, the Big Idiot hires the best architect around—the brother-in-law he’s never met. Trevor can’t help but smell secrets that awaken the person he used to be.

After all, there’s nothing Trevor Wolff likes more than intrigue—except maybe a chance to square off against his arch-nemesis: Mitchell’s wife, Kerri.

About the author:

Susan Helene Gottfried is the author of The Demo Tapes: Year 1, The Demo Tapes: Year 2, Trevor's Song, and The Demo Tapes: Year 3 -- four books (and counting) about the fictional band ShapeShifter. My short story, Mannequin, is a stand-alone, but if you're familiar with the band, you may catch a cameo...

A tone-deaf rocker at heart, Susan worked in retail record stores, in radio stations, as stage crew, and as a promoter while earning two college degrees in creative writing.

Drop in at Susan's online world: http://westofmars.com and stop by the official author's blog, The Meet and Greet. Check out the book reviews at Rocks 'n Reads, and maybe even become one of the select clients Susan takes on for manuscript editing work.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Review: Sweet Addiction by Maya Banks

He awakened a need within her. But now she belongs to another...

Cole is successful beyond his dreams. He can have any woman he wants, but there's only one he can't stop thinking about: his childhood sweetheart, Renita. He's never forgotten his first taste of innocent love and the desire that consumed them-or the pain he brought upon her...

Her long-ago brush with submission awakened a longing in Ren that drove her to walk the darker edge of desire. She has become a beautiful woman at ease with her sexuality and unapologetic about her need for a dominant man. When Cole finds her again, he's gutted that she belongs to another. Ren's current master agrees to give her to Cole for a short time, but then she must return to his keeping. And though Cole agrees to this bargain, he knows he will never be able to let Ren go again...

Received for review.

This was essentially the usual erotica formula with the always boring white male with tiny Asian woman combination.  Yes, he's tall and handsome and she's a tiny, delicate doll.  Yawn.  I suppose it could be classified as erotic romance as it did at least have a bit of plot but I really can't recommend this.  It really doesn't hold a candle to Anne Rice's erotic novels.  Seriously, if Anne Rice's are Godiva truffles then this is a Hershey's miniature.  It was acceptable but nothing extraordinary or particularly different than all the others out there.

☆☆= Just Okay

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Review: The Reversal by Michael Connelly

Longtime defense attorney Mickey Haller is recruited to change stripes and prosecute the high-profile retrial of a brutal child murder. After 24 years in prison, convicted killer Jason Jessup has been exonerated by new DNA evidence. Haller is convinced Jessup is guilty, and he takes the case on the condition that he gets to choose his investigator, LAPD Detective Harry Bosch.

Together, Bosch and Haller set off on a case fraught with political and personal danger. Opposing them is Jessup, now out on bail, a defense attorney who excels at manipulating the media, and a runaway eyewitness reluctant to testify after so many years.

With the odds and the evidence against them, Bosch and Haller must nail a sadistic killer once and for all. If Bosch is sure of anything, it is that Jason Jessup plans to kill again.

Received for review.

First, the reader, Peter Giles, was an excellent choice for the material. His almost gravelly voice perfectly matches the story and adds an extra layer to keep the listener intrigued throughout the rather lengthly book. I'm am actually looking forward to finding other books read by this reader.

This must read for legal suspense fans had a good story that was fast paced and engrossing and, of course, very well written. The characters weren't exactly people you would want to be friends with in real life, but were perfect in their environment. This was one of my first books by the author and I look forward to his future releases.

★★☆☆ = Liked It

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Guest Post at Wordsmithonia

The always lovely and incredibly thoughtful Ryan at Wordsmithonia asked me to write a guest post about my favorite fictional character as part of his weekly series!  Needless to say I was quite excited!

So, stop by to see who I chose! Make sure you check out the rest of his wonderful blog while you're there too!

Review: Nice Bike by Mark Sharenbroich

Nice Bike is a collection of stories based on making meaningful connections with others in both your work and in your life. It's about being a part of a community, knowing that contributions matter and experiencing a greater affiliation with others. The premise begins at the 2003 Harley- Davidson Motorcycle company's 100 year anniversary celebration. Thousands and thousands of bikers throughout the world attended the event. As a Harley owner stood proudly by his bike at that event, what two words from a passerby would have made their weekend? "Nice Bike." "Nice Bike" is more than a casual compliment. It's the engine that is fueled with the three actions of acknowledging, honoring and connecting with others. Nice Bike can help you with your daily interactions, create more meaningful relationships and add more joy in your journey on the road of life. Acknowledge, honor, and connect and you will change the world, one person at a time.

Received for review.

This slim volume is clearly not for everyone but it is a fast, informative, and amusing read for those interested in connecting to others on a human level.  It was well written for a business book and communicates the themes in a new way.

If you're looking for a business communication book you may want to give this one a try.

★★★★ = Really Liked It

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Review: The Taker by Alma Katsu

True love can last an eternity . . . but immortality comes at a price. . . .

On the midnight shift at a hospital in rural Maine, Dr. Luke Findley is expecting another quiet evening of frostbite and the occasional domestic dispute. But the minute Lanore McIlvrae—Lanny—walks into his ER, she changes his life forever. A mysterious woman with a past and plenty of dark secrets, Lanny is unlike anyone Luke has ever met. He is inexplicably drawn to her . . . despite the fact that she is a murder suspect with a police escort. And as she begins to tell her story, a story of enduring love and consummate betrayal that transcends time and mortality, Luke finds himself utterly captivated.

Her impassioned account begins at the turn of the nineteenth century in the same small town of St. Andrew, Maine, back when it was a Puritan settlement. Consumed as a child by her love for the son of the town’s founder, Lanny will do anything to be with him forever. But the price she pays is steep—an immortal bond that chains her to a terrible fate for all eternity. And now, two centuries later, the key to her healing and her salvation lies with Dr. Luke Findley.

Part historical novel, part supernatural page-turner, The Taker is an unforgettable tale about the power of unrequited love not only to elevate and sustain, but also to blind and ultimately destroy, and how each of us is responsible for finding our own path to redemption.

Received for review.

This had an almost Diana Gabaldon feel to it.  It was detailed and full of emotion, yet I still didn't particularly care for the characters.  They just didn't do anything for me as people so I never really connected to them and their story.

That said, the book was well written and entertaining but long.  If the characters had been likeable it would have been more enjoyable but reading it quickly became a chore.

I would recommend this only to those who prefer a (long) more intellectual romantic story.

★★☆☆ = Liked It

Monday, July 9, 2012

Review: Change Your Life Not Your Wife by Tony Feretti and Peter Weiss

Are you winning at work but failing at home? Save your marriage before it's too late! Divorce is everywhere. Especially among high-achieving and success-driven professionals, who may leave a trail of broken relationships in their wake. In Change Your Life, Not Your Wife, psychologist Dr. Tony Ferretti and physician Dr. Peter Weiss demystify this seeming discord-highly successful individuals failing at home—stressing that the same character traits that drive career success can destroy families. Using true-to-life examples, they outline the perils of being achievement or power oriented in our intimate relationships. Eschewing blame, the authors note that usually both partners have played a role in arriving at a marital crossroads. Their good news is that relationships can get better. When couples are willing to work through their issues, dramatic improvement and healing are possible. In this book you will: discover the common personality traits behind the succeed at work/fail at home syndrome, understand how your current behavior in relationships has been shaped by your childhood experiences, assess the priorities in your life and the importance of shifting your focus from possessions to people, find simple assessments and exercises to help you evaluate your marriage, learn through a step-by-step process how to heal, nurture, and grow your marriage with proven and effective tools, and see how counseling works to help couples heal relationships, or to heal separately when relationships fail. Change Your Life, Not Your Wife can bring breakthrough changes to your marriage. This provocative message will challenge and encourage you as you get started on the road to improving your relationships. Start today!

Received for review.

While this was rather dry and printed in an unfortunate font size that inspires immediate eye strain this actually did provide some useable advice. Of course, this was written by and targeted towards men so I was not the best judge of its contents but the overall message was solid.

So guys, if you are looking for a new source of marriage advice, this may be for you.

★★☆☆ = Liked It

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Review: Activate Joy by AlixSandra Parness

Although much of our media seem to consist of a never-ending babble of gloom and doom, a significant number of people are seeking a new way to find joy amid the pessimism. Activate Joy offers a powerful and delightful series of practical methods designed to make your journey to joy easy and fulfilling.

An ordained minister, doctor of divinity, and trained clairvoyant in a wide variety of healing and energetic modalities, AlixSandra Parness uses her brilliant tools to create new strategies to lead us into the heart of joy.

The major teachings in Activate Joy include:
  • The art of blessing--intentional blessings to replace criticism and condemnation
  • Finding perfect alignment-actions for instant joy retrieval
  • Discarding emotional debt for joyous living
  • The goodness process--I Am the Essence of Pure Goodness uncovers and transforms core shadow issues
  • Profound insight into recovering from grief and returning to joy
With fresh and original ideas, exercises and techniques, Activate Joy will carry you through an ascending spiral up and into the spirit of joy. It is the single resource you need to learn how to live your life beyond limitations.

Received for review.

I wanted to like this more than I did. I really loved the cheerful cover art but the message within dimmed my initial enthusiasm somewhat. This was essentially the now ubiquitous Law of Attraction mantra mixed with religion which did not make for particularly enjoyable reading.

While the religious aspects did remove some of the reading pleasure the messages presented were generally informative. However, the author does insist upon using the particularly annoying term "Yabbit" which left me with the unfortunate imprint of Elmer Fudd talking about his "wabbit" every single time I read it. While amusing the first few times it quickly became annoying.

Anyway, if you're looking for Law of Attraction packaged with religion this is the book for you and you should find it quite enjoyable and informative. Everyone else should probably look for an alternative option.

★★☆☆ = Liked It

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Review: The Vigilant Investor by Pat Huddleston

Making sound investments is tough enough without having to worry about unscrupulous financial advisers and outright frauds. But recently strengthened laws aren't enough to stop the "professionals" intent on profiting from - or just plain stealing - your money. As an Enforcement Branch Chief at the Securities and Exchange Commission, Pat Huddleston witnessed countless people lose their life savings to reckless stockbrokers and fraudulent schemes. Now an SEC-recommended Receiver and CEO of a securities and investment fraud investigation agency, Huddleston has intimate knowledge of how scam artists and bad brokers operate. In The Vigilant Investor, he explains WHY we fall for investment scams, HOW con artists play on our emotions, and WHAT we can do to protect ourselves from predators. With its unique look into the science of financial decision making, the book blows up the popular myths and simplistic "do's and don'ts" of investing while sharing techniques anyone can use to perform due diligence even better than the "experts." With gripping stories of actual cases, Huddleston sheds light on the dark corners of the investment industry and teaches investors and professionals alike how to spot fraud and guard themselves against financial catastrophe.

Received for review.

While I found much of this to be plain common sense many of the anecdotes about various schemes do bear repeating because, yes, there are scam artists out there and this may help you identify a questionable opportunity as a scam (or safe).

The language could be a bit technical at times, but the overall potential helpfulness of the book makes it worth the investment to look into it should you feel you need its type of advice.

★★☆☆ = Liked It

Friday, July 6, 2012

Review: Growing Happy Kids by Maureen Healy

We all want children to be happy and grow into productive, fulfilled adults, and according to parenting expert Maureen Healy, the secret to that success is in providing a foundation of inner confidence. With twenty years of experience as a spiritual teacher and child development expert, Healy knows that confidence is never "out there" but is something to be cultivated from inside.Healy literally traveled the world in search of the best practices in raising inwardly strong children and the connection between inner confidence and lasting happiness. In Growing Happy Kids, she draws on her Buddhist training, her background in child psychology, and the latest scientific research. The result is her insightful model for creating inner confidence and cultivating a sense of emotional strength that lays the foundation for children's happiest lives.Anyone who touches the life of a child—parents, teachers, school administrators, grandparents, clinicians—will gain wise ideas and practical suggestions for nurturing a child's sense of confidence and ultimately, happiness.

Received for review.

This was certainly a new take on the idea of promoting a healthy level of self-confidence in children though I don't necessarily agree with the practicality of all the author's profered ideas. For instance, she recommends parents help children visualize themselves as confident, etc. Seriously though, if my parents had suddenly started with that when I was a child I would have wondered if they'd been abducted and replaced by hippie robots. So, yes, some of the tools are good ideas, but others are probably best to leave until children are older, or at least old enough to make educated choices.

I'm all for healthy self-confidence in children and adults alike but this is really a bit too far over on the crunchy granola side for most of the population, however, the crunchy granola crowd should benefit from its ideas.

★★☆☆ = Liked It

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Review: Gossip by Beth Gutcheon

"Did you know that the origin of the word gossip in English is 'god-sibling'? It's the talk between people who are godparents to the same child, people who have a legitimate loving interest in the person they talk about. It's talk that weaves a net of support and connection beneath the people you want to protect."

Loviah "Lovie" French owns a small, high-end dress shop on Manhattan's Upper East Side. Renowned for her taste and discretion, Lovie is the one to whom certain women turn when they need "just the thing" for major life events—baptisms and balls, weddings and funerals—or when they just want to dish in the dressing room. Among the people who depend on Lovie's confidence are her two best friends since boarding school: Dinah Wainwright and Avis Metcalf.

Outspoken and brimming with confidence, Dinah made a name for herself as a columnist covering the doings of New York's wealthiest and most fabulous. Shy, proper Avis, in many ways Dinah's opposite, rose to prominence in the art world with her quiet manners, hard work, and precise judgment. Despite the deep affection they both feel for Lovie, they have been more or less allergic to each other since a minor incident decades earlier that has been remembered and resented with what will prove to be unimaginable consequences.

These uneasy acquaintances become unwillingly bound to each other when Dinah's favorite son and Avis's only daughter fall in love and marry. On the surface, Nick and Grace are the perfect match—a playful, romantic, buoyant, and beautiful pair. But their commitment will be strained by time and change: career setbacks, reckless choices, the birth of a child, jealousies, and rumor. At the center of their orbit is Lovie, who knows everyone's secrets and manages them as wisely as she can. Which is not wisely enough, as things turn out—a fact that will have a shattering effect on all their lives.

An astute chronicler of everything that makes us human, Beth Gutcheon delivers her most powerful and emotionally devastating novel to date. Gossip is a tale of intimacy and betrayal, trust and fidelity, friendship, competition, and motherhood that explores the myriad ways we use and abuse "information" about others—be it true, false, or imagined—to sustain, and occasionally destroy, one another.

Received for review.

This was my first experience with the author's work and I must say that I was not particularly impressed. This was pretty standard Debbie Macomber territory and didn't do much for me. The characters were't particularly likable but the writing had a good flow so you got to know their personalities nonetheless.

If you're a fan of the author I'm sure you'll thoroughly enjoy this, as will general women's fiction lovers. Others may find it a bit wearying.

☆☆= Just Okay

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Review: Soup of the Day by Williams Sonoma

ENDLESSLY VERSATILE, soup is perfect for any season and every occasion. What better way to capture the essence of spring than by simmering freshly shelled peas and fava beans in a fragrant broth accented by bracing mint and refreshing lemon zest? In summer, a cool gazpacho made by whirling perfectly ripe tomatoes, juicy cucumbers, and vibrant red peppers is fitting for a hot and humid day—no pot necessary! When the air turns brisk, soup nourishes and satisfies like no other dish. In autumn, white beans mingle with sturdy greens in satisfying, peasant-style pots, and starchy squashes and root vegetables blend into silky purées. Winter brings even more soul-warming fare, such as chilis and stews featuring sausages and other hearty meats and thick vegetable soups scented with woodsy herbs.

Williams-Sonoma Soup of the Day offers a tantalizing collection of 365 soup recipes: one for each day of the year. Colorful calendars at the beginning of each chapter offer an at-a-glance view of the dishes best suited for the ingredients, occasions, and typical weather of the month. From January to December, you’ll find a seasonal soup that will satisfy any craving, and match any meal ranging from a quick weeknight supper to an elegant dinner party. A handful of the recipes are even appropriate for the holiday table, while others are perfect for using up a leftover roast or chicken. Notes accompanying each recipe offer ideas for ingredient variations, garnishes, and other helpful tips. All of the soups can be dressed up or dressed down; served in rustic earthenware mugs or on heirloom china; garnished with a flourish of fried herbs or dollop of pesto, or stripped down to the bare, tasty essentials—the possibilities are endless, but always delicious.

Full-color photographs enhance many of the recipes inside to help guide your cooking. You can start your soup-making journey at any time—just open this book, check the calendar, and you’ll be inspired to create a new soup du jour every day of the year.

Received for review.

This literally is a soup recipe per day so this is one fat book. It is interestingly organized by month and day with the recipes varying from heart to light depending on the season. The photographs by Erin Kunkel were beautiful but there were not photos of all the recipes which was rather disappointing as I really prefer to see what I'm supposed to be making.

There were several recipes that I'd like to try:

Parmesan Broth with Lemon, Chicken, & Spinach
Pea & Arborio Rice Purée
Three-Mushroom Purée with Sherry
Scallops & Pancetta in Saffron Broth

While these are soup recipes that doesn't necessarily mean that they're fast and some are quite involved. Overall though this is an interesting cookbook and would make a lovely gift.

★★★★ = Really Liked It

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Review: Devil's Hand by M.E. Patterson

A Las Vegas poker ace with supernatural luck is swept into a world-ending conflict between fallen angels and otherworldly shades, in a thrilling debut novel for readers who enjoy Dean Koontz, Jim Butcher, and Tim Powers.

The lone survivor of a tragic plane crash, Trent Hawkins inherited a mysterious lucky streak that made him famous, and hated, in the poker circles of the City of Sin. It wasn't long before the eyes in the sky threw him on the blacklist and chased him out of town. Now, after years away, Trent returns to Las Vegas, and walks right back into trouble.

As a serial kidnapper terrorizes the city, Trent and his wife, Susan, rescue a strange, thirteen year-old girl, only to find themselves caught in a fallen angel's plot to cleanse Las Vegas with an unholy blizzard.

As the neon dims and the city freezes, Trent is forced to make terrible sacrifices in order to protect his new charge, and learns dark truths about himself and the creatures plotting against mankind. Poker-playing demons, fallen angels, and otherworldly shades all vie to enlist his strange luck, and Trent must choose his role in the coming War, or watch our world fall to ruin beneath a blanket of shadow and ice.

Received for review.

This was frankly quite unusual. The story was a bit complex (religion plus Vegas) but it was quite well written with a nice flow. I didn't particularly care for or about the characters as individuals but they served their purposes well.

Overall this relatively quick read is a solid start to the author's promising career and I recommend it to those looking for something a bit different. I look forward to reading future releases by the author.

★★☆☆ = Liked It

Monday, July 2, 2012

Review: A New Way to Be Human by Robert V. Taylor

A New Way to Be Human is an invaluable guide for individuals intent on transforming their lives, revolutionizing our society, and refining our world. It is for those who seek:
  • An impactful life of meaning and purpose, love and hope, compassion and delight
  • The courage to cross the boundaries of religion and move beyond the demonizing debates about gender equality and human sexuality
  • The spiritual wisdom discovered in the many forms and disguises of the Holy
By identifying 7 pivotal, universally recognizable life occurrences as spiritual pathways, A New Way to Be Human will immediately connect you to actionable personal spiritual practices.

From his miraculous physical healing as a teenager in Cape Town, to fighting apartheid alongside Desmond Tutu, to his eventual appointment as one of the United State's highest ranking, openly gay Episcopal priests, Robert's life shows anyone how to integrate personal spirituality with a legacy of compassionate purpose in the world--and invites others to do the same.

Received for review.

Since the author was born and raised in South Africa (he's white, by the way) there was quite a bit about race relations in the book. This, in combination with the religious aspects of the book, didn't particularly impress me.

The messages are generally positive and to encourage the reader to become the best person they can be. Some of the inspirations provided are beneficial, but obviously not everything is for everyone. Every reader should take away something new and different. I recommend this for those looking for a more spiritual take on self-improvement.

★★☆☆ = Liked It

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Review: The Midwife of Venice by Roberta Rich

A “lavishly detailed” (Elle Canada) debut that masterfully captures sixteenth century Venice against a dramatic and poetic tale of suspense.

Not since The Red Tent or People of the Book has a novel transported readers so intimately into the complex lives of women centuries ago or so richly into a story of intrigue that transcends the boundaries of history. Hannah Levi is renowned for her gift at coaxing reluctant babies from their mothers using her secret “birthing spoons.” When a Christian count implores her to attend his dying wife and save their unborn son, she is torn. A Papal edict forbids Jews from rendering medical treatment to Christians, but the count’s payment is enough to ransom Hannah’s husband, Isaac, who has been captured at sea. Can she refuse her duty to a woman who is suffering? Hannah’s choice entangles her in a treacherous family rivalry that endangers the child and threatens her voyage to Malta, where Isaac, believing her dead in the plague, is preparing to buy his passage to a new life.

Beautifully told with exceptional skill, The Midwife of Venice brings to life a time and a place cloaked in fascination and mystery and introduces a captivating new talent in historical fiction.

Received for review.

Historical fiction of this type doesn't normally do much for me and this was no exception. Granted, it was very well written and an intriguing premise, but the actual story did nothing for me. It was almost entirely about religion (I mean, it was the 1500s, but still) and the religious attitudes of the characters simply appalled me. As such, the characters really did not draw me in or make me care about them which really impacted my enjoyment of the story.

Also, there were quite graphic birthing scenes. Give me a good old gory murder or vampire attack over these blood soaked, violent scenes. Ick!!

All in all, this was just not for me, but others who enjoy women's historical fiction may find this a good fit. At the very least it was worth a peek.

☆☆= Just Okay