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Book Review – Amsterdam 2012

Amsterdam 2012 – Thought Provoking Alternate Future Reality

Rating: 4 of 5

Author: Ruth Fransisco
Format: Kindle

Carefree and making their way across Europe, Peter and Anne meet a group of locals in Amsterdam willing to show them around to the various sites and galleries.  Finding their guides fun and engaging, they agree to accompany them to their home in the outskirts of town and enjoy dinner, desert, and new guests who arrive during their stay.  As the alcohol flows and the night drags on, Peter and Anne agree to spend the night in the Amsterdam couple’s old windmill recently converted to a guest bedroom.  After a restful and relaxing sleep, the young couple make their way to their guests house to help clean up and start breakfast.  Inside, they find their hosts brutally slain bodies.  What follows is a harrowing escape from Europe that will not only change their lives, but the course of the world.

In Amsterdam 2012, Ruth Fransisco paints what I would call an alternative reality of a potential future sequence of world events.  Similar to the assassination of Arch Duke Ferdinand which started World War I, Fransisco shows how these slayings in Amsterdam begin the start of World War III except this time, it is a war of Islam versus the rest of Europe and the United States.  I can understand the comments from some reviewers regarding the unlikely series of events or the speed upon with the Jihadists can take over so much of the world.  But this is why I call this an alternative reality.  Fransisco is hitting readers over the head with hyperbole of some of the potentially politically correct leanings of this country and how far it could take us if we aren’t home watching the store.

Do I think events could unfold as described?  No.  Do I think the book is thought provoking and compelling?  Absolutely.  Those who like a more subtle approach may not enjoy this read and would not find the United States to be so willing to embrace such radical cultural indoctrination.  Having said that, Clavell’s book “A Children’s Story” frightening shows how easily and quickly it is to change beliefs.  My estimate is this book will polarize readers but all will come away thinking.

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Book Review – Primal Wound

Primal Wound – Engaging, Compelling, Disturbing…

Rating: 5 of 5: TMBOA Recommended

Author: Ruth Fransisco
Format: Kindle

A naked, pregnant, teenage, American Indian girl is found floating face down – dead; detective Val Piccard is brought in to lead the case.  As the investigation unfolds, the pieces don’t add up.  The young girl, though she had a troubled past, was clearly on the path to recovery and making a life for herself.  Piccard finds dead end after dead end while trying to uncover who would commit such a brutal murder.  Was it just fate?  Could it have been simply her being in the wrong place at the wrong time?

Across town, Cecily Scott desperately tries to save her father who is in dire need of a kidney transplant.  After having herself tested to see if she is a match, she learns the shocking truth – not only is she not a match, but genetic tests confirm she isn’t even related.  Thus begins her journey to find her biological parents.

Ruth Fransisco Primal Wound is a compelling read of two interweaving stories lines.  Clearly the reader knows that these arcs must at some point intersect – but how?  Fransisco expertly gets the reader into Cecily’s head in her quest to find her biological family.  She slowly shows us how Cecily step by step goes from investigating, to stalking, to interfering, and how all of it could seem quite reasonable as events escalate as the chapters unfold.  Frankly, I could not turn the pages fast enough.

While some actions seem a bit out of character for Cecile, I think this was Fransisco’s point – that the primal wound she endured is so embedded in who she is she isn’t even aware of its impact. The ending was definitely satisfying, but I enjoyed the slow buildup of tension and the unraveling of Cecily’s psyche.  Primal Wound is a gripping, compelling, and disturbingly good tale.

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Review – The Skinny On Willpower!

The Skinny On: Willpower – Literally, Where There is a Will There is a Way!

Rating: 5 of 5: TMBOA Recommended

Author:
Jim Randel
Format: Paperback

What I like about Jim Randel’s The Skinny On books, is that they are like hiring an excerpt consultant to come and spend a couple of hours teaching from their extensive research and experience, all for the price of a couple of cups of coffee.  Written in a power point type fashion with wonderfully simple but effective and well illustrated characters, Randel teaches through fictional case studies.  Peppered throughout these studies are the wisdom of experts who have been well researched and quoted by Randel along with an extensive bibliography for those wanting to delve deeper.  Usually when I attend a conference or listen to an expert speaker, I consider it well worth my time if I can learn one new factoid or item that I can put into practice.  While I have read a number of the references Jim uses in his books, I still found multiple take-aways to use going forward making reading The Skinny On books well worth the time.

In The Skinny On: Willpower, Randel uses an example of eating properly (fewer marshmallows!) and losing weight to impart lessons regarding willpower.  Given the number of dieting books, exercise videos, and overall size of this market, use of this example should resonate with many readers.  Randel reiterates common lessons with respect to willpower which include goal setting.  Important in this exercise is the specificity of the goals – how much, by when, etc.  Generic goals – be happier – eat better, etc. are prone to failure because there isn’t anything objective to hold oneself accountable to.

Of even greater interest to me, however, was Randel’s focus on preparing for challenges.  Inherent in needing to exercise willpower is the fact that one’s will will be challenged.  For example, in dieting, one will be challenged with emotional stresses that could trigger unhealthy eating – before setting off on a new goal, one needs to anticipate what the potential challenges to the goal and one’s will will be and create a “willpower plan”.  The idea is to think through these future stresses and how to manage them before they happen.  By making a plan before the issue comes up, one is able to effectively plan a response and practice this response before the challenge comes.  This way, when the eventual challenge comes the stress of the challenge itself does not break one’s will and success is easier to obtain.  Randel provides some research suggesting that this practicing improves one’s willpower similar to training a muscle in athletics or the mind in intellectual pursuits.

Finally, I enjoyed the discussion on self discipline.  Randel’s writes “self discipline is about doing things today that may not be your first choice for the pleasure of experiencing bigger and better things tomorrow.”  Well said.

Regardless of the methods you use, Randel’s book contains a lot of information packed into a small and engaging package.  Perhaps not all ideas will resonate with everyone, but there is so much good content here, everyone will gain a key take-away or two.

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Review – Run for your Life

Run For Your Life – Alligators and Seniors: A Surprisingly Charming Story!

Rating: 4 of 5

Author: P.B. LaSalle
Format: Paperback

Having witnessed the brutal alligator attack and subsequent death of his best friend, Anthony Lucas devoted his life to understanding their habitats, behaviors, and interactions with humans.  Years later, Lucas – now a doctor – travels the world both studying and lecturing on the dangers of cohabitating with these animals.  Recently, some strange goings-on in a Florida mobile home park for seniors have drawn the attention of the residents as well as Dr. Lucas who comes to both investigate and educate the park’s members.  What is in store for all is mystery, adventure, and even possibly – romance.

P.B. LaSalle’s book Run for Your Life took me a bit by surprise.  Given its title and opening chapters, I thought this would be a bit of an action adventure B-movie type of novel with a crazed alligator terrorizing a mobile home park.  Instead what I found was a charming story of senior residents and the culture surrounding their Florida lifestyle.  There is the lonely but helpful widowed handyman missing his departed wife, the attractive but self conscious woman struggling to manage the affections of two men, the world traveling famous doctor, the couple always meant for one another but never together, and so on.  The presence of an unwanted alligator in their mobile home park is the catalyst that brings all of these personalities together.  But the story is really about the residents – their struggles, their desires, their lifestyles, and the relationships that grow and evolve with the events that have drawn them together.

Run for Your Life is a charming story to be enjoyed as a quick vacation read.  You’ll connect with its characters while wondering what could happen to one or more of these lovely people as the wayward alligator threatens their community.

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Review – The Month of Zephram Mondays!

The Month of Zephram Mondays – A Great Story with a Great Message to Young People!

Rating: 4.5 of 5

Author: Leslie A Susskind
Format: Paperback

Being the sons and daughters of the King of Zephram would seem to have its privileges – that is unless your different.  Life for Tom, Lizzie, Ned and Nell – the young princes and princesses of the kingdom – was a daily challenge because of their difference.  You see they are the only citizens in the thousand year history of their kingdom to not have any magical ability at all – nothing – they couldn’t even learn to levitate a piece of paper!  Their friends made fun of them and their father would not accept their affliction forcing multiple magical tutors on them in an attempt to train them out of their condition.  But what no one realized is that because they could not do magic, they had to learn other ways to manage life – learning to cook and be independent was something they had to do to survive without special gifts.  And while it set them apart from the rest of their people, it also might be the one thing that saves them all!

Leslie Susskind’s debut novel The Month of Zephram Mondays is an entertaining book which teaches kids tolerance, acceptance, and that one need not be special or a superhero to in fact be a hero.  These lessons are taught in a kid friendly fashion and in subtle ways through the fun and exciting adventures and experiences that the foursome encounter.  What I really enjoyed about the book is how the children came to understand for themselves that saving their family and kingdom was something they could do all on their own.  They didn’t need an army of helpless and hapless soldiers, they had the skills and the smarts all their own to save the day.

It is rare these days to read an engaging and enduring story for young people that involves the everyday hero and can make kids both escape into a fantasy world yet be able to relate with characters that are very much like themselves – not wizards, vampires, shape shifters, spies, spider people, Olympians, or super geniuses.  Just good everyday kids doing what is right.  This book is a great addition to the juvenile reader’s (9-12 year olds) library.  They will enjoy the fun story, and look forward to the future adventures of these very non-magical but special none-the-less royal quadruplets.

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Book Review – Completely Restored

Completely Restored – An Unassuming Jewel!

Rating: 5 of 5, TMBOA Recommended

Author: Robert Kerr
Available: Paperback

After years of putting their blood, sweat, and tears into renovating a Victorian era home in small town Iowa, Joe and Linda Murphy, along with their two children, celebrate the final touch of their restoration – hanging the original front door.  Kept for years in the basement, the door needs professional help to bring it back to it’s former glory.  Fortunately, Joe finds a local craftsman able to complete the work.  The same night the door is hung, a thunderstorm moves through the area.  The next morning, when the Murphys awaken, they find themselves transported back in time to the year 1909.

Robert Kerr’s Completely Restored, starts as a very unassuming book.  I read the opening pages and was immediately engaged by the characters but was unprepared for how engrossed and special the story would be for me.  I suppose what appealed to me was how the story enfolded so effortlessly and the magic of going to what would have initial appeared to be a simpler time and less complicated life.

After multiple failed attempts to return to their own time, the Murphys resign themselves to finding ways to adapt to life in 1909.  Because very little technology such as televisions and such do not yet exist, the sense of community and family really starts to grow for the Murphys.  They spend time with their neighbors sharing lemonade and cookies on the front porch; they spend time with the kids playing family games and sharing their days experiences; they make friends with locals and find hard but rewarding work; they become a closer and loving family.

But Kerr is careful not to turn this into a simple romantic view of the past by interjecting a number of plot arcs which also convey how different the rule of law, child protection, and the limitations of medicine were one hundred years ago.  I encourage readers to pick a copy.  The book evokes a feeling of nostalgia and desire for simpler times while at the same time making one appreciate the things they have today.

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Book Review – Nyphron Rising

Nyphron Rising – Great Addition to a Great Series

Rating: 5 of 5, TMBOA Recommended
Author: Michael Sullivan

Available: Paperback, Kindle

After crowning an unwitting empress, the Church of Nyphron quickly sweeps over the land amassing amazing power.  The only thing stopping their advance are Alric’s kingdom of Melengar and a group of Nationalists led by Degan Gaunt.  Alone, both will eventually be swallowed by the imperialists.  But an alliance could save them both.  Setting out to find and forge such a partnership, Arista once more turns to Hadrian and Royce for help.  But is the church already too powerful to deny and will the empress eventually awaken from her stupor to save them all?

In Nyphron Rising, Michael Sullivan once again brings back all the elements that made The Crown Conspiracy a great book except this time, the world is a little darker, a little more desperate, and not all is well with our duo of thieves.  Hadrian has tired of their lifestyle and wants out certain he was meant for greater things but knows not what they are.  Royce knows Hadrian’s destiny but dares not share it for fear of what might happen.  As in the first book, Sullivan sets up scenarios where our protagonists face capture and certain death but find ingenious ways of saving themselves and others.  Multiple parallel story arcs are introduced with the empress, Hardrian, Royce, and Arista, all while the depth of this world continues to be painted.

I especially enjoyed Arista’s journey into unlocking the power of The Art and her realization that it is just that – an Art.  The mechanics can be taught and learned, but to truly understand and use The Art, one must make it their own.  Unfortunately, she must learn to deal with the responsibilities and consequences of such power and this volume only hints of what may be to come in later editions.  As with its predecessors, Nyphron Rising serves as a complete novel even though it is midway through the series.  The end, however, left me wanting even more as so much is certainly left to be told.  This has been my favorite in the series thus far, just inching out The Crown Conspiracy.  Readers of Sullivan’s work will surely be clamoring for the next installment.

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