Thursday, December 13, 2018


You Are A Badass at Making MoneyYou Are A Badass at Making Money by Jen Sincero   269 pages

Reviewed by Rae C.

This is straight up motivation for pursuing your dream.  It's 269 pages of hilarious, well-written, and concise cheer-leading.

I think women that want to start their own businesses (or write or paint, etc) will love this book, whether they are new to manifestation and prosperity thought, or solidly schooled.  This book is fun to read!  And Sincero has lots of solid advice, outlines, and stories and testimonials from clients.

I enjoyed it so much I am going to read her other two books!


Conspiracies by F. Paul Wilson, 11 hrs., 33 min., 317 pages

This is the third book in the Repairman Jack series. Jack's screening process has evolved with the times. He now screens through e-mail and voicemail. Technology is also making it harder to stay under the radar.

He is working two cases, both of which he has taken on reluctantly. One involves a brother trying to help his sister who is a victim of domestic abuse. Jack usually doesn't get involved in those kinds of cases but commits to at least investigating. As he feared things get complicated.

The other one is the main case. A man's wife has gone missing right before she is about to reveal a major discovery that explains conspiracy theories. Through mysterious means she has contacted her husband and told him that Jack is the only one that can help. Is someone trying to prevent her from revealing her findings or is something else going on? And is this case somehow related to events in Jack's past?

There were parts of this book that I liked but I wasn't satisfied with the reveal and the ending. Overall, I liked this book the least of the first three books in the series. It could be that the horror/supernatural element is not my favorite.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Daughter of Smoke and Bone - audiobook

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor. Audiobook 10 discs, (422 pages)

I had previously posted about my re-read of this book, which I enjoyed. I needed something new to listen to in the car on my commute, so I thought I'd try this book on audio.  It made for a completely different experience.

The reader was very good, giving character's unique voices and accents, which I really liked. What I found, though, was that I actually didn't like the voice of Karou.  And I noticed something else: when I read this book, the language and writing style seemed to flow and I found it beautifully written. When I listened to it, however, it felt . . . a bit overwrought. I noticed there was more emotion when listening to it, almost to the point where it felt too dramatic. Everyone is pretty, so thin and attractive. Karou's emotions are so intense. Some of the action sequences are very dramatic. Listening to the book being read intensified the feel of the story, to the point where I didn't really enjoy it.

I realize that this is probably due to the fact that I am not a young adult -- and that's who this book is written for. If I were a younger reader and listening to this book, I'd be all over it (and loving reading the book, too).  However, the fact that I'm noting how some of the writing comes across to me as overly dramatic probably underscores the fact that I am an adult who does remember being a teenager, complete with emotional mood swings, but who doesn't experience those emotional mood swings any longer.  Thank goodness.

So, an interesting experiment, but I won't listen to the other 2 books in the series (and might not re-read them again right now, either).

The Golden Child

The Golden Child by Wendy James  352 pages

Beth Mahoney blogs about her life with her husband and two daughters, painting a picture of a busy, happy life. Originally from Australia, they've been living in New Jersey (US) for the last ten years. When Beth's husband has a job relocation back to Australia, the move couldn't have come at a more perfect time: Charlotte, Beth's youngest daughter, has been accused of being the ringleader of a group of girls whose bullying has landed another child in the hospital.

Once they settle in Newcastle, the family settles into their new life, with the girls attending a prestigious all-girls school. Popular Charlotte, however, is soon being accused of again bullying a classmate, this time to the point of the other girl's suicide attempt. Charlotte denies she's at fault, but the bullied child's parents are seeking retribution. Beth, caught between what her husband and mother-in-law believe, and her wish to believe her own child, is forced into an impossible situation.

I liked this book, which felt very realistic. You get Beth's perspective, mainly, although throughout the book are pages from someone's online blog (and it's not Beth's), which lends another perspective on the story. I found myself sympathizing with Beth and feeling that Charlotte was a nasty little girl, while at the same time wondering about Beth's other daughter and what impact this was all having on her. I also sympathized with the mother of the girl who attempts suicide, although she's not necessarily a likable character.

This book has a steadily increasing, almost relentless pace, and I found myself eager to find out what was going to happen at the end. I found the book very satisfying and, without revealing any spoilers, will say that there is a reveal of something which I found very surprising.

The Odyssey of Homer

The Odyssey of Homer by Yuri Rasovsky          Audiobook: 8 hours         334 pages     

     A few months ago, after trying to decide what book to read next, I settled on an ancient classic— a book that people have loved for thousands of years (and one of the oldest stories of Western civilization).  I was hoping that I, too, would enjoy it.

     What I checked out isn’t exactly the epic poem written by Homer, however; it’s not even a book I could actually read.  Rather, it’s a radio play that I listened to on audiobook— but it follows the story described in the ancient poem.  Odysseus is a Greek king who fought valiantly in the Trojan War, but is prevented from sailing home to his beloved wife due to the anger of Poseidon, god of the sea.  Instead, he and his men are forced to wander the seas for ten years, enduring terrors such as being captured by the hideous monster Cyclops.  Odysseus also faces temptation in the form of the beautiful, but deadly, song of the Sirens (mythological creatures that are half-woman, half-bird) and the enticement of another female, Calypso, who imprisons him and offers to make him her immortal husband.  Meanwhile, back at home in Greece, Penelope, Odysseus’ wife, faces her own temptation as she endures the harassment of a rowdy, lawless group of men who vie for her affections.  They’re also gradually eating her out of house and home.  Finally released by Calypso, Odysseus arrives home in the end, wreaks bloody vengeance on the suitors and reunites with his faithful wife.

More interesting than the story itself to this history lover were the discussions of classical scholars at the end of each disc in which they explained the culture of Homeric times.  The society described in the play reminded me a little of the Old Testament— there was a lot of emphasis on hospitality to strangers and again and again you hear people and gods referred to not only by their given name, but also their father’s name (e.g. “Odysseus, son of Laertes”; “Athena, daughter of Zeus”).  Genealogy was apparently as important to the Homeric Greeks (called “Achaeans” in the story) as it was to the ancient Jews.  Since I’m somewhat familiar with the Old Testament, these characteristics made the book seem interesting and somewhat familiar to me.  A huge difference between the Old Testament (and modern Western culture) and Homeric culture, however, is polytheism: the Greeks’ worship of many gods.  It isn’t just that they worshipped more than one God, it’s that their gods are so different than our modern conception of the Deity.  Their gods don’t seem to be exemplars of any kind of morality (on the contrary, they’re sometimes petty and mean), but essentially fallible humans who happen to have supernatural abilities.  The main gods in the story are Poseidon, who is Odysseus’ vindictive enemy, and Athena, Odysseus’ staunch ally.  Poseidon makes Odysseus and his men’s lives pretty miserable, while Athena uses her power to help Odysseus finally get home and take vengeance on the suitors.

     I like a lot of action in what I read (or listen to, in this case) but there wasn’t much of it in most of the story.  The audiobook is divided into eight episodes, one per disc, but the only action-packed ones are discs 4, 5 and 8; the rest of the story is rather slow.  Still, it kept my attention enough that a few times I forgot to make turns I needed to make as I listened to it while driving, so rapt was my attention on the story.

I was hoping I would enjoy this story, since it’s a classic, and I did to some extent.  I initially didn’t like it very much, but the story grew on me.  I also find Odysseus’ virtues of good leadership, perseverance and resourcefulness admirable.  But I wish there had been more action and found the world of the Homeric Greeks (especially their conception of deity) hard to relate to and therefore to appreciate.  In sum, I’d say The Odyssey is a fairly good story, but not one of my absolute favorites.

 - John W.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

The Paris Diversion

The Paris Diversion by Chris Pavone  373 pages  I read a galley - book is due out May 2019

American expat Kate Moore has started a normal day in Paris, dropping her kids at the international school, doing some shopping, etc. Across the city, tech CEO Hunter Forsyth is annoyed that his police escort has just left and, even worse, he has no cell service.  On the nearby rue de Rivoli, Mahmoud Khalid climbs out of a van and makes his way into the crowded plaza of a museum, setting down his briefcase and taking off his windbreaker.  To reveal what looks like a bomb vest.  

What do these three people have to do with each other?  All is revealed in this follow-up to The Expats, a story which I found filled with so many twists and turns that it was, at times, tricky to follow.  There are multiple viewpoints in this story, which can make it hard to keep track of unless you sit down and just power through this book (which I would done, had it not been for the fact that I had to go to work).  Kate is still our main character, but there are other important characters here with storylines that intersect.  And while a few of those characters are annoying (cue Hunter Forsyth), they're all interesting, intriguing or compelling.  How they all tie together is revealed, bit by bit as you move through the story.  Add to that action sequences worthy of a Jason Bourne movie and you have a completely enjoyable book.

I had really liked The Expats, so I was excited when I got my hands on a galley of this book. I also really liked how I couldn't tell how all of the characters and the plots were tied together until there was a small reveal --- I like that I was kept guessing.  I also enjoy the character of Kate Moore. She has a good head on her shoulders and she doesn't seem to rattle easily, thinking on her feet and making quick decisions without looking back.

Then She Was Gone

Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell    359 pages

When Ellie was fifteen, her whole life was ahead of her and everything seemed perfect. And then, in the blink of an eye, she was gone.  It's now been ten years since Ellie disappeared but her mother, Laurel, has never given up hope of finding her. And then one day, a charming stranger named Floyd meets Laurel and sweeps her off her feet. Before long, she's staying overnight at his house and getting to know his daughter, nine year-old Poppy, who is an unusual child. She's also the spitting image of Ellie.

Is Laurel imagining a connection? What happened to Ellie? And is Floyd hiding something he knows?

This book kept me on the edge of my seat, which I really liked. A few times, I thought I knew what was happening or what was about to happen, but there were some twists I didn't see coming. I found the book to be atmospheric and the characters to be interesting and sympathetic. There's a lot of emotion in this story, as you would expect, and I found Laurel to be well-written character; she comes off as realistic, so at times, you wonder if she's jumping to conclusions just because she's been living with the grief of losing Ellie for so many years.  Good story, quick read.


Ghosted by Rosie Walsh   337 pages

"Seven perfect days. Then he disappeared. A love story with a secret at its heart."

Sarah's life has been in a sort of holding pattern until she meets Eddie and feels an instant connection to him. And it's mutual, as though Eddie has been waiting to meet her. Sarah's never been so certain of anything in her life so when Eddie leaves for a long-booked vacation and promises to call her, she doesn't doubt him. However, he doesn't call. In fact, it seems like he's dropped off the face of the earth. Sarah's friends are telling her to forget about him, but she can't --- she knows something must have happened to him.

As it turns out, something has happened. And it also turns out that some of the things that Sarah and Eddie didn't share with each other over those amazing seven days has something to do with what has happened.

I really enjoyed this book. It was a bit of a slow start and I found myself agreeing with Sarah's friends that maybe she should just forget about this guy. And then the pace started picking up and I found myself agreeing with Sarah that maybe there was something behind Eddie's lack of communication.  Before I knew it, I was hooked on the story and turning the pages nonstop.

That's not to say the book is not without flaws. There are a few threads running through the main storyline that could have been thinned out. Sarah's relationship with her ex-husband and his new girlfriend was played up a bit more than I felt necessary.  And, is the ending believable?  Well, does it matter?  I found this an enjoyable read and was satisfied by the end.

The Screwtape Letters

The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis      Paperback: 211 pgs.       

     This inventive and witty satire consists of letters purportedly written by a demon named Screwtape, offering advice on how best to ensure the damnation of a human soul.  Though it is an old book— Lewis wrote it (and it is set) during World War II— it is just as relevant to a 21st century audience as to those who read it over 75 years ago.  What shines through the most to me is Lewis’ amazing wisdom and insight into human nature and the nature of good and evil.  Lewis sees through temptations into the core issues involved and then explains it all to us through the pen of the fictional Screwtape.  It is therefore an excellent source for Christians to go to for knowledge of the real devil’s strategy and tactics.  The only major temptation missing here, as Christian writer Steve Farrar points out, is the attempt to keep people from studying the Bible.  We never see Screwtape urge his nephew to keep his “patient” (the man he’s tempting) from God’s Word— yet this is surely a major part of the devil’s strategy in real life.

     The edition I read also includes a speech by Screwtape, called “Screwtape Proposes a Toast,” written in 1959.  Lewis imagines here what Screwtape would say at a graduation ceremony of demons about to go out on their first assignments.  Lewis, through the mouth of Screwtape, explains the dangers of excess in democracy (resulting in evil and injustice), especially in our educational system.  Lewis even posits an interesting theory of why the United States fell behind the Russians at the beginning of the Space Race in the late 1950’s.

     One thing to keep in mind when reading this book is the “demonic” authorship.  What Screwtape loves, Lewis means us to hate; what the demon hates, we should love; what he thinks is good, we should abhor and vice-versa.  Also, demons aren’t exactly known for telling the truth, so in a few cases, Screwtape’s descriptions and judgements may not be entirely accurate.  Nevertheless, Lewis has made Screwtape’s observations mostly very accurate, so as to explain truth through the demon’s pen.  Not that Christians (let alone non-believers) are likely to agree with everything Lewis says.  I certainly don’t, but my disagreements with him are very few and far between.  To me, this is still one of the greatest books I’ve ever read; a great guide to truth, temptation, human nature, good and evil, and even reason.  I highly recommend it!

 (posted for John W.)

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Devil's Share

Related imageThe Devil's Share by Denis de Rougemont, translated by Haakon Chevalier, 189 pages

"Over dessert we agreed: what democracies in general, and America in particular, most lack is belief in the Devil."  This is, according to Denis de Rougemont, a serious problem, since the Devil is the Prince of Lies and therefore Lord of Unreality, and he begins his seduction by making himself seem unreal.  De Rougemont observes that in the modern West sin, like everything else, is mass-produced.  The gigantism of modern society allows for the efficient escape of the individual from responsibility.  Thus, by careful gradualism, Satan reduces persons to damned things.

As the book was written in France in the 1940s, it is not surprising that Hitler features prominently - it is more surprising that de Rougemont recognizes the peril in using Hitler's evil to deny our own.  Indeed, it is precisely in his recognition of the connection between the Germans' "necessary" desire for Lebensraum and the romantic's surrender to the "vital" demands of his own passions that he has proven most prescient.


Manifesting Made EasyManifesting Made Easy: How to Harness the Law of Attraction to Get What You Really Need by Jen Mazer  223 pages

Reviewed by Rae C.

This is a great book whether you are already familiar with The Law Of Attraction (LOA) or a newby.  It is clear, concise, and handles some of the more challenging aspects of positive thought and manifestation, such as "thinking positively but feeling negative about a situation" and forgiveness as a path to manifestation.

My problems with this book are the same that I have with all of the LOA gurus: it would be nice to hear from people who have become wealthy, successful, healthy, and happy, and NOT because they became LOA gurus!

Also, most of these books are written by and for middle class white people, and there is often a real lack of understanding in applying LOA to people that very desperately need to manifest the basics, have difficulties to overcome that are outside the scope of the status quo experience, and/or are in a state of mind where the power of positive thinking is very difficult to access.

LOA has worked for me, but remains a challenge, so I am always glad to find a new resource.  Recommend to anyone with an interest in changing their circumstances by changing their mindset!