Tag Archives: TMBOA recommended

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: The Art of Persuasion

The Skinny On: The Art of Persuasion – I’m Convinced!

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: The Art of Persuasion, Randel uses the example of selling real estate as a way to teach the art of persuasion.   However, the ten rules presented apply to all persuasive settings.  While one can be successful in the short term with false sincerity, the true key to persuasion is integrity and truly understanding what the motivations of the party you are attempting to persuade.  In order to master this skill, one needs to learn to be observant.  Randel uses the phrase “Think big ears, big eyes, small mouth” in order to drive home the importance of really “hearing” the other person through all your senses than talking the to death to drive home your point.  In fact, Randel warns not to go to far once you’ve already persuaded someone – know when to stop talking.  He provides a nice anecdote of a real estate deal almost lost when the persuader didn’t know when to stop.

A few other items he highlights are that people want to be consistent.  In other words, it may be easier to have people agree to small incremental items than going for the big sell all at once.  Once you have someone agreeing with you, the process to move along the “sale” becomes much easier; for this Randel uses a story where people eventually agreed to have giant signs placed in their yard asking drivers to be careful while driving.  Frankly, I found this result fascinating.  The discussion on creating a sense of reciprocity was interesting; while I knew of this concept, I think it may be one of the most powerful opportunities in any persuasive undertaking.  Finally, being persuasive isn’t about manipulation but truly understanding the motivations of others and aligning yours and their agenda together to achieve a collaborative end result.

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 – The Skinny On: Time Management

The Skinny On: Time Management – Practices What It Preaches!

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: Time Management, there were a number of items that resonated with me.  First off is the idea of inertia, that is to say an object at rest stays at rest which is why it is many times easier to do nothing because it takes so much effort to get going; but one can also take advantage of inertia in that once something is moving it tends to stay moving.  Therefore, getting things done becomes much easier once one gets started.  One of the keys to getting started is when creating to-do lists is to not just list the item to get done, but also the first few key steps that must be taken to accomplish the task. In this way, it is much easier to begin a to-do item because most of the energy required to start is the forming of the action steps, especially the first, to be taken.  That way when one gets to the fourth or fifth item on the list for that day, instead of staring at the item and thinking through how to attack it – which likely includes remembering what the item was to begin with, it’s implications, etc. – one skips all these steps because that work has already been done and the first few actions to be taken are already there!  On a related note, the author quotes an interesting statistic that one immediately increases their efficiency 25% just by creating a to-do list because of the focus it provides.

The idea of batching similar work is also good because it forces planning, increases focus and as a result increases efficiency; Randel quotes “effective beats busy every time”.  Lessons on prioritization are also good.  What has worked for me is to use index cards for to-do lists: one to-do for each card.  This way I can list the item, its key action steps on the left side of the card, and status on the right side.  Each morning I take my list of index cards and prioritize them in order of greatest importance and impact.  When each one is done, I collect them in an every growing pile of accomplishments which provides positive reinforcement and feedback in the short term (which helps to keep inertia) and for the bigger items these finished cards serve as reminders of what I’ve accomplished when writing my self review at performance cycle time.

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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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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Book Review – The Crown Conspiracy

The Crown Conspiracy – A Rollicking Good Fantasy Tale!

Rating: 5 of 5, TMBOA Recommended

Author: Michael Sullivan
Available: Paperback, Kindle

With no particular affiliation to crown or guild and known for their cunning and creativity, medieval thieves Royce and Hadrian specialize in accomplishing tasks others would believe impossible.   Forgoing their usual background checks and thorough planning, they take on a what appears to be a simple heist and what they believe is ultimately a good deed.  Unfortunately, their kindness lands them accused of murder and suddenly they find themselves at the center of a conspiracy for the crown. Their actions will not only determine their own fate but that of their land.

Michael Sullivan’s The Crown Conspiracy is a rollicking good tale.  Sure, it is a fantasy novel, but it will most certainly appeal to a very wide audience.  At its core, it is just great story telling.  Filled with intrigue and a fair number of twists and turns, Sullivan weaves the tale such that the reader is drawn through a wonderfully engaging experience.  The main characters, Royce and Hadrian are well crafted with a wry sense of humor and, though they are thieves, have their own code of honor which many of the royals of their day could learn from.

The world Sullivan creates through beautifully descriptive passages quickly draws the reader in.  I especially enjoyed the character’s journey to find an ancient and powerful wizard held captive for a thousand years.  Finding and penetrating a very uniquely crafted prison and the events the subsequently transpire showcase Sullivan’s creativity.

While the first in a series, The Crown Conspiracy is a complete and very satisfying offering.  I’m already reading book 2 – Avempartha and book 3 Nyphron is on my kindle waiting it’s turn!

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Review – Circles of Mercy

Circles of Mercy – Fargo Meets Witches of Eastwick

Rating: 5 of 5, TMBOA Recommended
Author: Gerry Bacon

Available: Paperback

George Bogart was indifferent toward most folks in the small town of Glaston, Michigan.  He preferred the serenity of tending his garden over the chit chat most folks enjoyed.  His new neighbor Mercy Horstman was nice, though a little different, and was often seen around the town trailed by her many cats.  George was rather indifferent to cats as well that is until he came upon Mercy’s prized “Precious” destroying and relieving itself in his garden.  Well, nothing a little shot to the head wouldn’t cure.  And the next thing you know, Precious used up her nine lives and George’s garden was safe from further destruction.  But Mercy was no ordinary neighbor and soon not only George but many of the town’s folks learned the true meaning of the phrase “what goes around comes around”.

Gerry Bacon’s Circles of Mercy is an unassuming treasure of a read.  In the small town of Glaston, he creates a unique set of down home quirky characters whose insights into the world are universal though displayed in almost caricature like fashion.  Ironically the one person who stands out as different in the town – Mercy – is in reality likely the most “normal”.

The banter between many of the town’s folks are hysterical.  There’s an entire sequence debating why a meeting’s notes are referred to as minutes and who Robert was from Robert’s Rules of Order and why anyone should be following his rules anyway.  This novel begs to be made into a movie by the Coen brothers.   It’s a wonderful cross between Fargo and Witches of Eastwick.

Run out and pick up a copy today.  You won’t be disappointed.  This is a unique and entertaining read that will have talking about it around the water cooler.  One of my favorites this year.  Enjoy!

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