An Inkling, A Backpack and All the Time in the World–Traveling on a Whim by Tamara K. Bryant

An Inkling, A Backpack and All the Time in the World–Traveling on a Whim by Tamara K. Bryant was one of the more innocent backpacking stories I’ve read. Although partying was high on the author’s list of accomplishments as she traveled through Southeast Asia and Australia, she wasn’t looking to hook up with randomly met individuals or get high. Cute little drawings could be found throughout the story, but no pictures of the amazing things she saw.

There were ​just a few editing issues that should be addressed. A number of words had apostrophe ‘s when they should be s indicating plural. Then there was the repetition of the author’s introduction “mat backwards” which was cute the first time, but the joke got old fast. Another unnecessary repetition was the author’s sense of superiority when people scrambled to get off the plane. Just because the author had all the time in the world and could miss a connecting flight or ride from the airport on her leisurely travels didn’t mean everyone had that luxury.

As with most backpacking chronicles, the author enjoyed the camaraderie of fellow travelers. However, her immaturity was evident. Dumping a glass of water on a person in her hostel room because he complained about her 6:00 am noise certainly broke the unwritten consideration laws. Not recognizing the fact that one of her travel companions was interested in being more than friends is another example.

Some of her off-the-trail adventures could have been disasters. A female solo traveler can find herself in dangerous situations even when she takes precautions that the author didn’t even consider. The author was fortunate in her choice of travel partners and locations.

Overall, An Inkling, A Backpack and All the Time in the World–Traveling on a Whim by Tamara K. Bryant was a fun read. The author has a personable storytelling ability. The places she visited were unique. It’s hard to resist her zest for adventure. It’s a nice gap year narrative, which in the current limited travel situation we find ourselves in because of COVID-19, makes a pleasant armchair adventurer book.

I received an ARC from the author for this review.

Hidden by Lisa Sell

For decades, Jen Taylor believed she had killed her classmate Kelly in an altercation on the railway tracks. An email from Kelly’s mother reawakens all that Jen thought she had buried. Jen reluctantly agrees to look into the matter for the dying mother. This means revisiting her own childhood trauma, something she has attempted to avoid at all costs.

The story leaps back and forth between the present and the past, not necessarily in a linear manner. Clues to what really happened to Kelly are scattered like breadcrumbs throughout the narrative. Even if you think you have it pieced together, odds are you won’t get it just right. I know I didn’t. 

Having experienced the 1980s myself, I enjoyed the attention to detail that the author employed—references to songs, artists, current events, devices, and even clothing styles. Not being British, I also appreciated the cultural explanations, especially at the beginning of the book when describing Rembrandt Estates. 

I had some difficulty keeping track of the children and their parents in parts of the story. I’d have loved a genealogy or even a map of the housing development and its relation to the train tracks to help me keep everyone straight. But then, I’m a visual person. Other people might not have this problem. 
Hidden by Lisa Sell is a mystery you’ll enjoy solving alongside Jen.

Addicted to an Addict: Your Life Matters Too by Suna Spry

Addicted to an Addict: Your Life Matters Too by Suna Spry is written for anyone who loves an addict. It aims to help the reader discover and live his or her best life despite the addiction.

Part 1 discusses seven truths about addicts that you need to accept to find your own peace of mind. Although this section was informative, I would have liked to have had access to the author’s sources used to compile the list. 

Knowing that the author was herself in the position of loving an addict was helpful in tearing down the barriers between them and us. Anyone can find themselves in this situation. It’s what you do about it that matters. The first part includes a questionnaire to help you see that you are in a relationship with an addict.

Part 2 is about taking action. Loving an addict will cause you to do things that don’t benefit anyone in any way. It’s time to take back your control and stop repeating those behaviors. Through a series of pointed questions and the aid of select UK resources, the author shows how you can do just that. 

Part 3 talks about obstacles that you might encounter on your way to creating your best life. Grief, uncertainty, fear, and unhealthy behaviors can hold you back. Instead, the author encourages you to replace these emotions with forgiveness, courage, and positivity. 

In the Introduction, the author talks about Part 1, but not about the other parts of the book. In fact, parts 2 and 3 only have one main chapter. The Gratitude chapter in Part 3 is an acknowledgments page. It should be classified accordingly. The ending seems a bit abrupt as well. I would have liked a recap of the main takeaway points before being encouraged to contact the author to set up a life coaching session. 

As an appendix, perhaps there could be a list of places to go for help, hotlines, and support groups, both physical and online. Maybe the author’s suggestions could be more defined too, either in the appendix or within the chapters. For example, The Archangel Michael cards are mentioned. What are they? How do they work in this case? Could the reader see this in action?

Being in a relationship with an addict myself, this book resonated with me in a way that it might not for someone else.

I received an ARC from Reedsy Discovery. You can read my review here.

How to Write a Book That Doesn’t Suck and Will Actually Sell: Your No B.S. Guide to Learning How to Write a Nonfiction Book by Michael Rogan

You have to admit, How to Write a Book That Doesn’t Suck and Will Actually Sell: Your No B.S. Guide to Learning How to Write a Nonfiction Book by Michael Rogan has a catchy title. What author doesn’t want to write a book that doesn’t suck?

The tricks and tips author Michael Rogan presents are simple but effective strategies. Basically, they boil down to picking a topic, doing some research and writing the book. Keep in mind, your niche may be so well, nichey, that only a handful of people will ever read it. BUT… if you present your material well, you’ll be the expert in your niche and might even sell some books.

So if you are ready to actually get a non-fiction book written, then How to Write a Book That Doesn’t Suck and Will Actually Sell: Your No B.S. Guide to Learning How to Write a Nonfiction Book by Michael Rogan will jump start your process. It’s a quick read with useful pointers that you can take advantage of immediately. If non-fiction is your thing, then it couldn’t hurt to pick up a copy of this book.

Anxious People by Fredrik Backman

Anxious People by Fredrik Backman is a bit of a study in behavior with a bit of a mystery. It’s set in Sweden and there’s a sort of running joke about people from Stockholm throughout the book. I guess maybe it would have been funnier if I were Swedish. 

The story begins with some general commentary on life. Eventually the author gets to the point that everything that follows was the result of one single really bad idea. A desperate parent tries to hold up a cashless bank, ends up taking hostages accidently, and well, everything just goes downhill from there. 

The hostages and police officers trying to negotiate their release each have their own backstory, some of which end up overlapping before all is said and done. The mystery is how this messy situation resolves itself (or doesn’t) and what it all has to do with the man on the bridge ten years previously. Anxious People by Fredrik Backman is a quirky, light read that I’m sure you’ll enjoy. 

A Reason to Be: A Novel by Norman McCombs

A Reason to Be: A Novel by Norman McCombs begins in the Scottish highlands with the great battle of independence of the MacTomas clan from Chief Mackintosh.  After that rousing introduction, it’s quite a letdown to meet the main character Douglas McCombs who is struggling with depression. It wasn’t clear whether his wife Hope, who had Alzheimer’s, was removed to a long-term care facility or died. Later in the book, there’s an incident where Hope’s friend attacks Douglas for abandoning his wife, which seemed to imply she was still alive. 

Regardless of what has happened to his wife, Douglas finds a new lease on life by investigating his genealogy. The segments that provide a glimpse of his ancestors were fascinating. However, the switch back to the present day, even with the blossoming love between Douglas and the librarian seemed stilted. There’s mention that Douglas is holding something back in the relationship, and it seems implied that it’s that his wife is still alive at some points of the story. (NOTE: The author says that the proof edition I read has been changed and the wife is no longer living in the final version.) Douglas believes the new love interest has something holding her back from the relationship. Never fear, though. The reader is magically transported into the librarian’s mind, so everything is clear to us, if not to poor Douglas. 

I would have liked to have been given a family tree someplace in the book so that I could keep track of the jumps through history. The historical sections were prefaced with some information about the family member, but there’s nothing like a visual to help organize the timeline of events. It also would have helped to keep track of the variations in the spelling of the last name through the years from MacThomas to Macomb.

The novel is advertised as semi-autobiographical. Just as Douglas, the main character, the author Norman McCombs is a White House National Medal of Technology and Innovation winner. However, Douglas never seems to be as three-dimensional as the characters in the past, which is a shame, because the author would be an interesting fellow to meet. 

I received an ARC of this book from the publisher.

Plan SEA: A Guide to a Work-Travel Life, Amazing Adventures Around the World, and Preparing for Your Own Sea Change by S.E. Ansley

I’ve been working towards becoming a digital nomad for the last five years or so and have finally created a location-free income network. Of course, things being what they are, the reality of implementing it is quite another matter just now. So when I saw Plan SEA: A Guide to a Work-Travel Life, Amazing Adventures Around the World, and Preparing for Your Own Sea Change by S.E. Ansley, I thought to myself, “Well, if I can’t do it right now, why not read about someone who is a successful digital nomad in the meantime?”

I had mixed feelings about the book. The first 60 percent or so of the book consists of the author’s quest for the next gig, next location, next sexual encounter, next joint, next rave. While all well and good, it didn’t appear to be the “guide” I was looking for. Finally, SEA faced some hard truths about his lifestyle. Being strapped for cash constantly, sleeping in baseball dugouts, sneaking into overpriced tourist attractions, and fleeting relationships were not what he had been aiming for after all. He changed his focus to include more of his passions, found a committed relationship, and even a home base from which to base his travels. Then worldwide travel restrictions in early 2020 put an end to all that. 

It was fascinating to read how SEA and his companion struggled being stranded far from “home” and interesting to see how entitled some ex-pats were, believing locals would continue to provide them with every creature comfort even in a lockdown situation. The book concluded with quite a bit of navel-gazing by the author, though, rather than details on how he transitioned to van living, a goal he had for several years. 

Living in a “developing nation” myself, I can attest to spotty internet frustrations, power outages, police brutality, banking impossibilities, visa restrictions, and even animal cruelty that SEA experienced in his adventures as a digital nomad. It’s not often that ex-pats are willing to take off their rose-colored lenses and admit that paradise isn’t what it’s cracked up to be. For that reason, I think Plan SEA: A Guide to a Work-Travel Life, Amazing Adventures Around the World, and Preparing for Your Own Sea Change by S.E. Ansley is a must-read for all those that romantically dream of living on less in constantly changing locations. However, as an actual guide on making a successful location-free lifestyle, perhaps you’ll need to keep searching for something else.

I received an ARC from Reedsy Discovery. You can read my review here.

Harness the Power of the Invincible Mind: Spatial Strategy to Success and Happiness by Alex Neumann

I enjoyed reading Harness the Power of the Invincible Mind: Spatial Strategy to Success and Happiness by Alex Neumann for a variety of reasons. First, there were the CBT (Cognitive Behavior Therapy) references throughout. Then, the parables were apt. Finally, the references to real life individuals who beat the odds were inspiring. 

If you are interested in becoming your best self, then this is a book that should be in your library. The author attacks several “givens” found in society that hinder us from reaching our full potential, such as commercialism, not saying no, self-limitation, and having a negative mindset. Each chapter has several parables illustrating a better course of action and at least one example of someone who succeeded where others failed. 

NOTE: The author had his editor fix these issues in the book that is now available on Amazon. 😉

That being said, I would have liked to have seen a little bit more attention to detail by the author. There were a handful of typos and some inaccurate information. For example, Helen Keller was not born blind and deaf. You don’t have to be naked to procreate. There aren’t nine planets anymore in our solar system. Sarah Breedlove was not born on a plantation in Pennsylvania. And the phrase “fake it til you get it” should be “fake it til you make it” and actually is more in line with what the author suggests (having an optimistic mindset which helps realize goals) than not.

Despite those oversights in the proofreading, I found Harness the Power of the Invincible Mind: Spatial Strategy to Success and Happiness by Alex Neumann to be both positive and practical.

I received an advanced reader copy from the author.

Einstein’s Last Message: Saving Our World by Changing How We Think by Dr. Rod O’Connor

This year has brought several baffling concepts to light for me. These include: Why does a racist con-man have 74,122,580 registered supporters? Why are children kept in cages for years and women and girls given forced hysterectomies? Why are governments around the world unable to agree to a course of action that would reduce the spread of COVID-19? Why have 1,508,906 died already from this virus when this isn’t human’s first experience with a plague? Why black and indigenous lives don’t matter to the vast majority? Why extreme weather, wildfires, and drought are not seen as evidence of climate change caused by humans? Why are we rushing to get things back to “normal” when “normal” is what brought us to this precipice in the first place?

Dr. Rod O’Connor had some answers for me in Einstein’s Last Message: Saving Our World by Changing How We Think. This meticulously researched book discusses the flaws in thinking that are preventing us from making lasting changes in order to avert the total world destruction we are on the verge of enacting. Not only that, it provides some key adjustments we can make in our thinking to literally save the world. Scientists have already told us exactly what actions we need to take to save our planet and ourselves. It’s up to us to prioritize these actions and change our thinking about our place in the world. (See also Our planet is on the brink. Here’s how we save it, Saving Life on Earth: A Plan to Halt the Global Extinction Crisis, and Why we’ll succeed in saving the planet from climate change)

Dr. O’Connor presents an overwhelming topic in manageable parts. He uses the metaphor of Russian nesting dolls that contain our thoughts and actions about the world, people, self, and right and wrong to explain how and why we are where we are in history. With personal anecdotes, scientific research findings, and examples from individuals throughout history, including Einstein), the author lays it all out for us. In addition, the appendix has a checklist for decisions about the material world, involving people, gaining happiness, and our individual sense of right and wrong to help everyone make better choices going forward. The second appendix gives suggestions on ways to improve ourselves through personal reflection. 

As you can see, there is an unbelievable amount of useful information between the covers. The book isn’t long but it does delve into deficiencies we all have. Once I began, I could not put it down. Unfortunately, some readers may not be ready to hear what Dr. O’Connor has to say and that’s a shame, because until we are of one mind, there will be no future for us or our children or grandchildren or great-children. But if you are up for it, I invite you to pick up a copy of Einstein’s Last Message: Saving Our World by Changing How We Think by Dr. Rod O’Connor. It’s a book everyone should read.

I received an ARC from Reedsy Discovery. You can read my review here.