Saturday, July 25, 2015

Alchemy's Daughter

This historical novel opens with critical acclaim for both the book itself and its sequel Nonna’s Book of Mysteries, and is dedicated to the memory of the author’s grandmothers. Writer Mary A. Osborne indicates in the novel’s acknowledgements section that she commenced writing it when her son was in preschool and finished it during his seventeenth year as a student. Also opening the book is a timeline of various historical events such as the foundation of the Order of Hospitallers and relocation of the Papacy from Rome to Avignon, France, not to mention maps of San Gimignano and Certaldo, Italy, alongside a depiction in Europe of the Via Francigena, the road to Rome from France.

The chief protagonist is a female named Santina, who takes lessons from a scholar named Calandrino and becomes more comfortable as a bookworm ever since her older sister Lauretta married and moved away. Santina has loved her instructor since she was fourteen, having thought that he could have cured her mother, Adalieta, three years dead, of her health issues, becoming interested in things such as alchemy, The Book of Thoth, and the philosopher’s stone central to the forbidden art of alchemy. Santina ultimately becomes the apprentice of Trotula as a midwife after her father forbids her to see Calandrino, and she attends several childbirths, learning about things such as Cesarean sections.

Santina ultimately faces the decision of joining a convent or entering a loveless marriage, although she takes the middle route and pursues her former love Calandrino, who continues to fuel her interest in alchemy with a package, and she continues her pursuit of him. Ultimately, this is an enjoyable historical novel, with the glossary making sense of unfamiliar terms and the author showing her work in the story’s bibliography. The subject of alchemy certainly isn’t new to literature, and has been touched on in other media such as the Japanese manga and animated series of Fullmetal Alchemist, but the book is certainly a worthwhile read.

Mary A. Osborne is the multiple award-winning author of Alchemy's Daughter and Nonna’s Book of Mysteries. A graduate of Rush University and Knox College, where she was mentored in the Creative Writing Program, Ms. Osborne is a registered nurse and holds degrees in chemistry and nursing. Her freelance work has appeared in publications such as Hektoen International, Newcity, and the Ms. Osborne lives in Chicago. 

Connect with Mary: Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Two Hearts

Author James Eric Richey dedicates this romance novel to his wife Heather, who supported her husband as he wrote his first book, with novels in the mentioned genre not normally coming from men. The story itself is told in the third-person perspectives of specific characters akin to the Song of Ice and Fire books, with one of the chief protagonists being Jaxon Thomas “Jax” Tagget, who finds a lump of gold while mining and forges it into the chief charm of a necklace he gives to his beloved Annie Bradley. The two become high school graduates, with plenty backstory on Jax’s family present in the first chapter, alongside colorful descriptions of his hometown of Dillon, Montana, and its environment.

Annie is one of the other main viewpoint characters, serving as president of her student body and being able to speak at her high school graduation alongside her class’s valedictorian. Jax quickly proposes to his beloved, and after he receives a degree in mining engineering from Montana State University in Bozeman, he applies to several occupations in his field around the world, including one in Venezuela, where he climbs up through the ranks of a mining company in the country, and getting attention, sometimes unwanted, from one of his coworkers, Mariana Delfino, with Jax’s marriage put to the test, he and Annie ultimately finding themselves back in their Montanan hometown.

Some twists throw Jax and Annie’s life in turmoil, with their financial situation becoming dire, although the former makes a discovery in the mine he frequented early on in the book that could reverse their fortunes, Jaxon ultimately making it his mission to go to a resort town in Colorado to meet with a gold-testing executive. Other minor characters come into play such as Valentino, a criminal who gets a few viewpoint chapters of his own and serves as the chief antagonists. Ultimately, this is an enjoyable romance novel with plenty of twists and surprises, and while there were some minor confusing moments, this reviewer would otherwise recommend this read.

Author's Bio:

James Eric Richey was born and raised in California. He attended Brigham Young University, studying English with an emphasis in Literature. After graduating from BYU he returned home to California to further his education by attending law school. After passing the bar, James practiced in California for several years, but he quickly learned that he did not have a passion for the law.

In 1998 James obtained his real estate appraiser license, which has given him a flexible work schedule and allowed him to pursue his true passion, writing books. Besides his writing, he also enjoys reading, running, and sailing. James currently lives in Cheyenne, Wyoming, with his wife, Heather, and their two daughters.

Connect with the author:   Website  ~   Twitter  ~    Facebook

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Her Sister's Shoes

This book, which the author dedicates to her family, occurs in the fictitious town of Prospect, South Carolina, with each chapter beginning with an indicator of the alleged perspective from which the story is told, with characters including the sisters Samantha, Faith, and Jacqueline, akin to George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire books. However, these indicators are hardly necessary, since each chapter doesn’t necessarily keep to a certain woman’s point of view, since all the sisters tend to play significant roles in the chapters hypothetically dedicates to one of their perspectives, although this fortunately doesn’t detriment the narrative.

There’s quite a bit of backstory initially revealed, such as the opening in May 1959 of Captain Sweeney’s Seafood Market, which appeals to vacationers who visit the town, by fishermen Mack Bowman and Oscar Sweeney, the latter moving from Maine to escape frigid New England weather, as well as the injury of Jamie, Samantha’s wheelchair-bound son, in an ATV accident. Faith has a six-year-old daughter named Bitsy, and has a violent relationship with her husband Curtis, who plays a significant role in the novel’s latter chapters, Jamie’s handicap serving a decent role as well.

Most of the novel involves the introduced characters dealing with their situations, with each of the women having children who, as mentioned, have their own share of issues, and somewhat turbulent marriages if they do have spouses. The writer, in her post-story note, indicates that she spent time in Murrells Inlet in the lowlands of South Carolina and drew on experiences in that region, having written the book for most members of her family. Ultimately, this is an enjoyable story with three-dimensional characters and believable situations, with only a select few moments that drove this reviewer to go back and reread passages due to minor confusion.

Author's Bio

Ashley Farley is a wife and mother of two college-aged children. She grew up in the salty marshes of South Carolina, but now lives in Richmond, Virginia, a city she loves for its history and traditions.

After her brother died in 1999 of an accidental overdose, she turned to writing as a way of releasing her pent-up emotions. She wrote SAVING BEN in honor of Neal, the boy she worshipped, the man she could not save. SAVING BEN is not a memoir, but a story about the special bond between siblings.

When she's not working on her next novel, HER SISTER'S SHOES, scheduled for release in July of 2015, she can be found book blogging at

Connect with the author: Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook

Monday, July 6, 2015

Conquer Your Pain in 9 Steps

This self-help book is dedicated to her husband Rod, an unconditional supporter, and to her daughters, the pride of her life, additionally featuring testimonials from individuals that it helped and acknowledgements to sundry individuals with medical expertise that guided her on a path to better health and made possible the guide. Opening the book is a quote from William Johnsen and a saying by the fourteenth Dalai Lama starting the prologue. The author wants to share her wisdom with others since she doesn’t want others to suffer as she did, the author mentioning that she slipped, fell, and broke her hip when she was thirty.

Staveley further mentions three primary principles in the quest towards recovery, including the establishment of a problem-solving mindset, building a team to help, and the need to expect perseverance in the journey. She builds the book’s section upon these principles alongside a fourth section dealing with chronic pain. Three chief aspects of North American healthcare also drive the expectation of a health revolution, including the payment by a third party with knowledge that someone else knows what’s best to address health concerns, the “patching up” of health problems rather than search for long-term solutions, and that many doctors do not have adequate trainings in the achievement of optimal health.

Section I dedicates itself to readers setting themselves up to be problem solvers when it comes to questions of health, its first chapter challenging individuals to identify what’s holding them back, and notes that focusing on “numbing the pain” stunts growth opportunities. Staveley provides the analogy of seeing the forest, the big pictures of things, as opposed to the trees, the trivial aspects of pain. She mentions three characteristics of wholehearted living, including courage to embrace being imperfect, feeling compassion for others, and believing that what makes one vulnerable also makes one beautiful. The book goes on to ask how the reader handles adversity, if they accept themselves for who they are, and if they “numb” problems instead of facing them directly.

The first chapter afterward provides several steps for practicing gratitude, and highlights two stories that view weaknesses as opportunities for growth. Then she brings to light a “magic wand” exercise where readers ask what they’d wish for, with blank tables allowing the book’s audience members to write in their wishes, following which is a list of questions that help them identify if they’re doing everything in their power to recover, such as identifying a greater purpose in life, setting measurable goals, researching the best medical professionals, and leading the discussion on recovery whenever they have a health appointment.

Chapter Two dedicates itself to readers establishing their “why,” opening with quotes from Friedrich Nietzsche and Nathaniel Hawthorne, noting that purpose can trump fear. The author narrates a story about how she began and progressed through her career as a Pharmaceutical Sales Representative, after which she relays the reader many questions that deal with topics such as how life will be better when the audience improves their wellness. Staveley asks what it means for people to be healthy as they can be, terminating the chapter with the statement that getting to one’s healthiest state is a journey and battle fought daily.

Chapter Three deals with goalsetting and opens with a Denis Waitley quote, after which the author again emphasizes the importance of completing the second step in the journey to overcoming pain. She establishes a guideline of creating appropriate goals, with the descriptions of Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-sensitive, forming the acronym SMART. The author proceeds to ask more questions about the adjustment of maximum motivation, and concludes the chapter with a story about how one can disassociate himself or herself from the outcome of negotiation. Terminating the section is a synopsis of the primary points of the first three chapters.

Staveley commences Section II assuming the reader has established a mindset of purpose and goals about his or her health. She mentions a story about how Albert Einstein said that had he an hour to save the world, he would dedicate fifty-five minutes to defining the problem and five minutes attempting to solve it. The author offers nine strategies for readers to use to apply to their health problems if possible: rephrasing the problem, exposing and challenging assumptions, making problem pieces bigger, making them smaller, finding alternate perspectives, using various language constructs, making the problem engaging, looking at it backwards, and gathering facts.

Chapter Four, opened with a Maya Angelou quote, involves developing and using one’s social support network, which involves three chief steps: identifying supporters, leveraging knowledge and experience of your network, and taking action. Staveley suggests not only associating with positive, supportive people, but with those who inspire. She further notes that those on the path to recovery can acquire resources from people with whom they regularly associate, bringing forth the animalian analogy of the ostrich, which feeds with others from its group and uses its social skills to avert predators.

A Lucas Remmerswaal quote opens the fifth chapter, which involves the selection and challenge of the right healthcare professionals. Staveley suggests the preparation steps of compiling a list of symptoms and related circumstances, composing several questions to ask their provider, and doing research, for instance, by gathering information from others who have suffered similar symptoms. She follows with a list of issues to consider when dealing with health professionals, alongside research such as looking into lists of best metropolitan doctors, and urges readers to be ready for several potential responses by doctors to a patient’s symptoms.

Staveley further suggests thinking outside the box by looking into non-MD individuals for help such as chiropractors and occupational therapists. She provides extensive thoughts about general practitioners and specialists, noting that many receive salary based on how many patients they see during a regular day. A list of websites the author provides as well, such as the Mayo Clinic’s page and WebMD for patients to prepare for their medical visits, and she suggests going through a scientific method in determining symptoms and potential causes of ailments. She notes that questions can lead to productive interactions, further suggesting patients receive all their available options, share their experiences, and concludes the chapter with a list of important minerals necessary for healthy lifestyles such as calcium and iodine.

Chapter Six opens with a quote from American Vice President Joseph Biden, Staveley noting that readers should be ready to invest finances in their quests to recovery. She indicates her seventeen-year journey through Canada’s healthcare system proved wrong the assumption that treatments she didn’t have to pay for were most effective, and provides a table for readers to theorize their potential expenses. The author poses various questions to consider such as the effectiveness of optional treatments, and encourages readers to carefully analyze their financial situations. In the Section II summary, she provides checklists of various things the reader should be doing in their adventure towards better wellness.

Section III opens with brief mention that it will provide the reader with tools to persist and persevere with their healthcare approaches. Chapter Seven deals with the implementation of potential health solutions, and suggests the audience asks questions of their care providers such as what medicine does exactly. The author explains what to do if the reader doesn’t like a doctor-recommended solution, relaying the story of a nurse that suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after her return from war. She concludes by emphasizing that even if a doctor’s recommendation isn’t pleasant, they should go through with it anyway.

Chapter Eight deals with the everyday search for motivators to keep patients going towards their healthcare goals, and opens with a selection of music that can motivate the audience, such as “Inner Ninja” by Classified, with their lyrics allegedly being inspiring, and which she suggests readers can apply towards their goals. She suggests various visual indicators such as images of people the reader loves to keep them going. The chapter concludes that the right aural and visual indicators can be sufficient motivators towards wellness goals.

Chapter Nine presents the final steps on the journey towards the conquest of pain, which is to never, ever give up, a Winston Churchill quote emphasizing this. Staveley suggests turning adversity into advantage, and mentions that deep happiness is inaccessible without overcoming challenges. She acknowledges that there is no such thing as one-hundred-percent healthiness, and urges her audience to inquire what the lessons of setbacks are. The author lists several expectations of those on the journey towards improved health, such as giving treatments time, working on weaknesses, overcoming adversity, and acknowledging that the quest for better wellness is neverending. Concluding is the story of a blind man who received cataract surgery and could see, Section III ending with another checklist for readers.

Section IV promises to narrate the author’s experience with chronic pain and triathlons, the tenth chapter being her tale of how she overcame chronic myofascial pain syndrome. She describes the condition itself, following which are approaches that alleviated her condition, including changes in nutrition, and she provides a list of mineral depletion causes such as alcoholic and caffeinated beverages, not to mention “in” foods such as fruits and vegetables and “out” foods such as most bread and pasta. Addition approaches such as supplements Staveley suggests too, not to mention yoga and massage, and the reader finding out what works best for them.

The eleventh chapter opens with the assurance that perfect health is not necessary for participation in athletic events such as triathlons, and that one can stay healthy in spite of a fragile body. Staveley details her training for triathlons and ultimate competition in an IRONMAN event, suggesting as well necessary equipment and preparation. She gives some tips on strength and flexibility training, and suggests that family members become involved to ensure their wellness, as well. The author concludes by mentioning that there is no magic cure for better health, alongside lists such as resources and her training song playlist.

In the end, this is an excellent guide to self-recovery, giving nice detail to the author’s nine essential steps, and this reviewer, as an autistic adult, can certainly emphasize with those who need to take certain steps to better well-beings, and has suffered emotionally due to things such as things beyond his control. This reviewer can furthermore relate to the author’s overcoming of adversity, and, even prior to reading the book, has had an effective plan for fitness, although he very much still needs to work on achieving optimum mental health. Overall, this reviewer would highly recommend this self-improvement guide to those young and old in need of major changes to their wellness.

Author's Bio:

After suffering 13 years of debilitation caused by a chronic myofascial pain condition, Carole Staveley realized there was no “magic bullet” coming to her rescue. She took charge of solving her health challenges and went on to complete an IRONMAN triathlon in 2013. Carole’s book, Conquer Your Pain in 9 Steps, takes you through her proven 9-step Health Champion approach to suffering less and achieving more. Carole Staveley is President of Inner Victory Coaching, an organization she founded to empower others to become their own Health Champions and reach their full potential.  
Connect with the author:    Website ~  Twitter  ~  Facebook

Interview questions from Jeremy, blogger at The Autistic Gamer

1. What special advice would you give to adults on the autism spectrum such as myself to overcoming pain such as that emotional?

A: Emotional pain and mental health need to be approached in a similar way as the approach I've laid out in my book. We can't achieve our fullest physical health unless our mental / emotional issues are also being addressed and vice-versa. In some cases, the person suffering might not be able to be their own "Health Champion" and that responsibility will fall on the individual appointed to care for that person (for example, someone severely affected by autism spectrum who requires assistance for daily living). Whether it's the person who is suffering or the caregiver, the approach should be the same: 1. Develop a Health Champion mindset. Recognize that you alone are responsible for achieving your best health outcomes; 2. Build and leverage your health team. Tap into your social network, and act on their tips and suggestions. Identify health professionals who are collaborative, and take responsibility for challenging their knowledge - engage them in discussions that could lead to even better solutions for your particular case; and 3. Persevere. It's a journey filled with adversity, and it's by confronting the adversity that we grow to new heights. Never, ever give up on making progress toward a better version of you.

2. What's your take on psychiatric assistance for recovery such as that I receive?
A: I'm not familiar with the details of the type of psychiatric care you receive. However, psychiatrists, as with all different types of health professionals, can be a valuable resource on your road to recovery. The key is to not sit back and expect that the psychiatrist has all the answers, that he/she will do all that is necessary to achieve the best possible outcome. It's important to view him/her as one of your team members, and not as the "untouchable guru" who can't be challenged.

3. I lost a fourth of my body weight with Wii Fit Plus for the Nintendo Wii and maintain my BMI of 22 by avoiding snacking and desserts on days in which it goes above that number, and eating extra and snacking on days when it falls below. Would you recommend a similar method of weight maintenance?
A: Whether an approach to your health goal is successful depends on many factors, including your personality and your readiness for behavior change. It's great that you found something that works for you. If the goal is to lose weight, I think the individual needs to spend some time thinking about the following: (1) WHY do I want to lose weight? What positive changes could occur in my life as a result of weight loss? How can I carry out my life purpose and positively impact others if I lose weight and feel better? (2) How have I successfully implemented significant behavioral changes in my life in the past? What aspects of that approach can I apply to this weight loss challenge? (3) Who can I enlist to help me through the process - both as an accountability partner and as a supporter?

4. Is lunch as important a meal in the day as breakfast?
A. I eat 5 or 6 times per day, and I view each one of those meals / snacks as being equally important! Keeping your blood sugar levels from fluctuating too much and making sure you're feeding your body with nutrition that allows it to thrive will contribute to reducing cravings and the tendency to dive for the junk food!

5. I weighed as much as 210 lbs and am now down to around 155, although I attribute this solely to my personal weight loss goals established by the aforementioned Wii Fit Plus. Would you consider it possible for others such as myself to work for themselves in reaching goals such as weight loss and overcoming pain?

A. Congratulations on reaching your goal! The fact that you found the approach that worked for you is testimony to the fact that by keeping up the search and believing there are solutions out there for you, you can achieve things you never thought possible. It's all about believing you have the power to identify the resources that can help you and to implement the solutions you discover on your journey. We can all achieve much more than we think is possible today - no matter what our starting point.
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Saturday, July 4, 2015

Promise of Mercy

*may contain spoilers for Price of Vengeance*

As was the case with the first installment of Kurt D. Springs’ Dreamscape Warriors series, the second’s publisher bases its creed upon the biblical Psalm 68:11, though again, there aren’t a whole lot of religious overtones aside from some references to the Creator, and one character in the text mentioning that they’re not religious. The author dedicates the sequel to the late Andre Norton, the “Granddam” of science fiction, and further thanks family, friends, the editor, and the cover artist, alongside aid with occasional Irish Gaelic terms within the text and readers and reviewers responsible for the continuation of the sci-fi saga.

The prologue opens with Ambassador Jarek of the Galactic Alliance from the first book camping out on the planet Etrusci, his homeworld being Gothow Prime, alongside his various charges, which marks the first time Neo-Etruscans and Finnians come together, his business on the planet being a meeting with the High Council. Utopians striving to create a perfect society also receive mention. The main chapters pick up eleven years later at a small compound on the Isle of Circe in the Arctic zone above the Northern Continent of Etrusci, where three Utopian Founders find themselves broken out of cryonic stasis, and conspire.

Liam, also from the first book, is now married to Celinia, and has three daughters, chief among them Deirdre, and a son, Aidan; Swift Hunter the bear-lizard also has sundry scion, among them being his grandson Ted. Liam and her children ultimately find themselves in conflict with Marisa, and repeatedly throughout the book characters enter the dreamscape to espy upon one another, this ability figuring significantly into the book’s plot, which resolves nicely, in spite of occasional confusion, the need to reread passages to make more sense of things, and the need to be fully familiar with the first book to enjoy the second. Even so, those that enjoyed the first entry of the series will likely appreciate the second.

About the Author:

 Kurt D. Springs is presently an adjunct professor of anthropology and archaeology in New Hampshire. He holds a PhD. in anthropology from the State University of New York at Buffalo, as well as a Master of Literature in archaeology from the National University of Ireland, Galway, and a Master of Liberal Arts in anthropology and archaeology from the Harvard University Extension School. His main area of interest is megalithic landscapes in prehistoric Ireland. He also reviews science fiction and fantasy on his blog Kurt’s Frontier.
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