Queen of America by Luis Alberto Urrea

Queen of America by Luis Alberto Urrea is the second half of the life of Teresita Urrea, the Saint of Cabora, so imaginatively told in The Hummingbird’s Daughter. Forced to leave her home in Mexico, she begins a new life in Arizona in 1892. 

Things aren’t easy for Teresita. Endless petitions for healing, unscrupulous business conglomerates running the show, and a husband that tries to murder her on their wedding night. Somehow, she manages not just to get by but thrives in the turn-of-the century New York world that clamors for her attentions. 

While I was fascinated with the story of the girl who inspired a revolution, I didn’t find the second installment as interesting to read as her childhood in Mexico had been. Perhaps because there were more documented facts about her life in the US from newspaper clippings and interviews, the author didn’t let his imagination take wing as he had when writing about her youth. That’s not to say it wasn’t an enjoyable read, just not as good as The Hummingbird’s Daughter.

The title confused me somewhat since the only reference to the Queen of America in reference to a servant in the Urrea household. However, in a commentary by the author, he indicated that he wanted a title that had the same number of syllables as The Hummingbird’s Daughter. He also made an allusion to one of the titles of Mary, Queen of the Americas, although I think he would have done better to choose a name from the titles granted to la Virgen de Guadalupe such as Queen of Mexico and Empress of the Americas. After all, she was indigenous and often credited with miraculous healings in Mexico, just as Teresita was.

Regardless of where the title comes from, Queen of America is an interesting read, especially if you were captivated by this little Yaqui girl’s story from the onset.

Learn to Love: Guide to Healing Your Disappointing Love Life by Thomas Jordan, Ph.D.

It was obvious that Learn to Love: Guide to Healing Your Disappointing Love Life was written by a researcher. The book begins by explaining what book will cover. Then the book discusses those points, one by one. Finally, the conclusion recaps the information, exactly as if it were a research paper. 

While I personally felt that the section on what will be covered in the book was unnecessary, the rest of the book was well-presented. Appropriate citations were included throughout the book to reinforce the main points. The author also used his own love story to make the message personal. When I finished the book, I felt like I had attended a “love relationship class”, which I believe was the author’s intent all along.

So what did Dr. Jordan have to say about love relationships? In a nutshell, our relationship choices are often based on the types of relationships we had in our family of origin. It’s likely that a person who was abused as a child, will find a way to become an abuser or take on the role of victim in his or her romantic relationships.

This recreation of past hurts isn’t really a new concept. However, Dr. Jordan takes the idea a step further and proposes that once we realize this, we can change it. The types of unhealthy relationships are discussed as are their healthy counterparts. There are questions to help you determine what types of interactions you are repeating so that you can work towards finding healthy and whole love relationships. 

The material is simply and clearly presented in terms that everyone can understand. In conclusion, I feel that Learn to Love: Guide to Healing Your Disappointing Love Life by Thomas Jordan, Ph.D. is a book that should be read by those in a relationship, those looking for a relationship, and those who have ended a relationship.

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

Authors’ Revolution Workbook by B. Alan Bourgeois

Unbelievably, I did it again. I choose a workbook to review without having read the main book that the workbook as a companion for. This time I chose Authors’ Revolution Workbook by B. Alan Bourgeois and had high hopes. After all, I am a self-published author myself and am always on the lookout for tips. 

My reaction towards this book was mixed. There were excellent bits of information for authors that help them look at the publishing dream reaslitistically. The graphics were also very useful as visual representations of that reality. The Cost of Publishing Worksheets were worthwhile additions. Using them, an author could compare his or her costs to the average amounts spent by authors in the creation, publishing and marketing areas. Becoming a successful published author isn’t an overnight event as the uninitiated might believe. 

The companies and organizations that were listed under different headings were also practical resources. Each company or feature was classified by average price and services offered. There were listings for places to have your book reviewed, marketing and publishing companies, and useful social media tools. There was even a section on companies to avoid. 

You may ask, with all these beneficial guides included, why have I not given this a five-star rating? That’s a fair question. Yes, the workbook contained great resources for authors. However, I didn’t feel that it was enough for the workbook to stand on its own. In fact, the workbook would have done better to be included as an appendix in the main book. 

There was also inconsistent capitalization throughout the text, as if headings had been copied and pasted from another source. Then there were an overwhelming number of blank pages. There were no exercises to complete or self-reflective questions to respond to as might be expected in a workbook with lots of space to respond. In fact, the only work in this workbook were the The Cost of Publishing Worksheets and a question about your book’s launch date.

Finally, there was a second author bio included at the end of the book. The first bio was shorter and placed at the beginning of the workbook so readers had a general idea who the author was and why he was qualified to bring us this workbook. However, a second author bio which said pretty much the same thing was really unnecessary. 

So even though I found much of the information in Authors’ Revolution Workbook by B. Alan Bourgeois useful, I find myself unable to justify its existence apart from the main book, which I have not read.  

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

Live Your Gift by Dana V. Adams

Having read and enjoyed the companion guide to Live Your Gift by Dana V. Adams already, I was excited to read the main book. Although a good read, I didn’t find it quite as useful as the workbook, which was a little disappointing but not overwhelmingly so. 

Let me start with the Foreword. While I think that having the Foreword written by Bill Cohen who was the author of the little yellow book called Life Mapping that changed Dana V. Adams’ Life, was a great addition, it was amazingly dated 2081. Perhaps a little time travel occurred? 

The introduction to Live Your Gift by Dana V. Adams, mother of four, covers everything from personal fulfillment to global reckoning, a momentous challenge for just an ordinary person. From the onset, I was interested in learning how Ms. Adams was going to make the connection between self-development and world-shaking betterment in her book. That seemed to be a big stretch to me. I never did feel that the connection was made, though. 

I would have liked a little more focus on the concept of life mapping in the introduction or maybe in the first chapter, what it entailed and what it can provide. I felt like I was jumping from concept to concept without seeing the whole picture. To be fair, life mapping was thoroughly explained in section two of the book. By then I was committed to reading the entire book, whether or not I was fully following the steps.

I also thought the book relied heavily on the stories of celebrities and famous people. I found more inspiration in the chapters that the author shared her own story and that of her oldest son. Some of the biographies didn’t really illustrate the concepts covered in the chapter or tie directly in to the self-reflection activities at the end of each section. Others did an excellent job of making the connection. For example, chapter four focused on values. The story of Walt Disney was a great way to illustrate what it means to live with values. The tie-in was very clear. 

I loved seeing Benjamin Franklin’s 13 virtues list used as an example of how to design your own principle list. The author’s own examples were also very helpful in completing the assignments for each section. Overall, the book convinced me, as if I needed convincing, that I too needed to make my life map, which I believe was the intention of the author. 

So if you are ready to take control of your life and “Live Your Gift” you’ll find inspiration galore in Live Your Gift by Dana V. Adams and a place to create your own life map in the companion guide. 

I received an advance review copy of this book from Reedsy Discovery. You can read my review here.

Frankenstein: or the Modern Prometheus by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

Frankenstein: or the Modern Prometheus by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley is told through a series of letters from 28-year-old Robert Walton to his sister Mrs. Saville. While Robert is on an exploration in the Arctic ocean, he happens upon Victor Frankenstein and a single sled dog upon a float of ice. 

Victor is from Genovese, the eldest son of an important family who discovered a way to create the spark of life in inanimate bodies, from whence came all of his woes which he recounts to Roberto who then records the story for his sister.

Frankenstein’s creation is amazingly sensitive and fluent in German, French and English having taught himself by spying on different people he encounters. He manages to dress himself and forage for edibles without any difficulty at all. When the monster, who is never given a name, first speaks, I was astounded by the femininity of his speech. 

The creature begs Victor to create a companion for him to end his loneliness. When he refuses, the being exacts revenge by attacking Victor’s family and friends. In the end, despite the atrocities he committed, my sympathy was ever for the creation and not the creator.

The author’s own life was as pitiable as the monster’s. Her mother died shortly after Mary was born. She ran off with Percy Blythe Shelley, who was already married, at the age of 15. Mary herself lost several infants in quick success as she was writing Frankenstein, only one child surviving to adulthood. Her older sister commited suicide. Shelley’s wife also commited suicide, allowing the couple to finally marry. And then, Mary was widowed at 24 when Percy drowned. Is it any wonder that the monster speaks with such painful eloquence?

Intoxicating Tango: My Years in Buenos Aires by Cherie Magnus

Intoxicating Tango: My Years in Buenos Aires by Cherie Magnus was a captivating read from the very first page. The author used such vivid descriptions to describe her South American expat life that I could picture the chaotic streets and smokey rooms perfectly. Tango is the perfect metaphor for living abroad, really. The seduction, the nuances, the rhythm, the surrender and finally the disillusionment are the stages most expats go through. 

In June 2014, Cherie Magnus stepped off a plane with a few suitcases to begin her life in Buenos Aires, Argentina. This third installment of the author’s life covers those 10 memorable years in the birthplace of the tango. She tells us how she infiltrated the dance halls of milonguero, mastered the miradas, and tangoed her heart away. What an amazing story!

Although not particularly familiar with the steps of the tango, the author made it come alive in my mind. So don’t let not knowing how to tango keep you from finding pleasure in Ms. Magnus’s accounts as she chronicles the trials and tribulations of learning how to manage in a foreign country.

You don’t have to be well-versed in South American language or culture either to enjoy this particular story. A glossary of Argentine terms was included at the end, which certainly helped on some words that aren’t used in the Spanish speaking country I live in. Mostly though, the Spanish terms were easily understood in the narrative. 

I found no typos or spelling errors, although there was that strange twist of fate (or perhaps lapse in editing) that turned Ramon, the Latin lover, into Ruben briefly in chapter 23. The languorous tone that most of the story was told in changed towards the end into more of an anxious and hurried summary of events. I’m not sure if it was deliberate or an unconscious shift mirroring how the events unfolded, but all in all, that was perhaps my only complaint about this fascinating memoir. 

I’m sure that you too will get swept away by the dips and turns found in Intoxicating Tango: My Years in Buenos Aires by Cherie Magnus.

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

Live Your Gift Companion Guide: The Workbook for Creating Your Life Map by Dana V. Adams

Over the last few months, I’ve been concentrating my studies on learning more about Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in order to become a certified life coach. I have to say that the Live Your Gift Companion Guide: The Workbook for Creating Your Life Map by Dana V. Adams is the perfect complement to my studies.

I eagerly dove into the material. The informative sections were clear and concise. The worksheets were thought provoking and had plenty of space for reflection. The activities build upon each other so that at the end, I had a completed action plan. 

Since I’ve been studying CBT, the concepts weren’t completely new to me. In fact, several of the activities were exactly like those I’ve seen in my courses. The fact that they were familiar in no way detracted from the effectiveness. I thoroughly enjoyed working my way from defining my beliefs and principles to creating goals that aligned with my core values, and so will you!

I was a little leery about the quality of the book since it is meant to be a companion workbook for the book Live Your Gift: Discovering Your Authentic Life Through Life Mapping. However, I found that there was enough explanatory material included for each activity that I had no problems following the reasoning behind it without having read the other book.

There were very few typos, a double ‘the’ and a ‘youself’ were all that I found. The layouts of the worksheets were appropriately designed. The graphics, like the Personal Well-being Wheel, were also large enough to write on. There were duplicate forms included at the end of the book for the development of additional goals and plans. 

All in all, I was delighted with Live Your Gift Companion Guide: The Workbook for Creating Your Life Map by Dana V. Adams and not just because it fit so well into my current pursuits. I would recommend this workbook to anyone that wants to improve any aspect of their life, no matter how small or large. It’s especially good reading when designing those New Year’s Resolutions. I encourage you to pick up your copy today so that you can create a life that lives up to its potential this year.

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

The World is Your Lobster by Lee Mountford

Lee and his wife Nicki decided to take a belated gap year in their 40s and travel the world. Beginning in Melbourne, Australia, they went to 27 countries, covering a total of 77,427 kilometers and sampling 276 domestic beers. Lee recounts the highlights and little adventures in a tongue-in-cheek fashion, with corny jokes, and nearly funny puns. You can’t say the man didn’t try. 

The adventure itself had some inevitable lows, including icky accommodations, being charged extraordinarily high prices, and one instance of denied entrance to the temple for the blatant display of knobby kneecaps. They met some memorable characters on the way, such as the Italian Hamster and Paul, the poetry reciting Russian. 

As I was reading, I kept thinking that I would love to see some of these pictures Lee was yammering on about. Lo and behold, midway through the book, there was a QR code above to view some of the pictures online. Since I may be one of the last remaining people in the world that does not own a smartphone, that feature wasn’t as exciting as the link to their Instagram account. (https://www.instagram.com/worldisyourlobster/). My personal favorite photo was of Lee carting around the hotel safe in Myanmar.

Roundabout the time when the Mountfords arrived in Europe, both trip planning and book proofreading went to the dogs. Random apostrophes appeared in places they had no business being (her’s). Muddled homophones confused the issue at times (who’s vs. whose). Enough inconsistent capitalization sprouted up to drive this English teacher bonkers. (Eiffel Tower, Eiffel tower, eiffel Tower, anyone?) Maybe Maggie-Jane, the orange Brazilian VW camper van that the couple was trundling around in, affected the grammar in some way.

Like all good things, eventually, the journey came to an end. Nicki and Lee took up the yokes of the middle-aged once again, albeit with a gleam of wanderlust in the eye from time to time. So if you are an armchair traveler and enjoy a good travel story, or in this case hundreds of good travel stories, then The World is Your Lobster by Lee Mountford is the book for you!

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

The Grape Series by Laura Bradbury

If you are looking for fun and lovely memoirs, you can’t go wrong with The Grape Series by Laura Bradbury. Whimiscal and throught provoking, you’ll find yourself shaking your head at the situations that Laura finds herself in.

In My Grape Year, Canadian teenager Laura participates in a study abroad program in France and finds the love of her life. 

In My Grape Paris, Laura and Franck head to Paris for a year so that Laura can study Medieval French Literature.  

My Grape Wedding is the crazy marriage ceremony of Franck and Laura. 

My Grape Escape chronicles Laura and Franck’s efforts to create a French village vacation rental. 

And in My Grape Village, Laura and Franck return to live for a year in France with their two young daughters in tow. 

My Grape Cellar finds Laura and Franck remodeling a thirteenth century wine cellar.

All of these books are delightful reads. And you can actually see some of the places that Laura describes on her website Graperentals.com. Once you start on this adventure with Laura, you’ll want to continue.

Laura’s descriptions of her life, her cultural struggles as an expat, and her descriptions of village life in France are amazing. I enjoyed living vicariously with her through these stories and I think you will too!