Why Life Stories Change: As You Look at Your Own Life Story, You See Yourself Differently by Brent M. Jones

I admit, the title of this little book was what first attracted me. I wanted to know why life stories change and how I see myself differently as I have aged. I’m not sure that this book gave me a concrete answer to this question though. 

The author shared a few samples of his life story rhetoric as examples of how looking back he has reevaluated the importance of a particular event. He has a little more experience than most in retelling his life story as a member of a men’s church group focused on bonding. Mr. Jones first noticed that the stories of members in the group shared changed with the retelling over time which led to the thoughts contained in this book.

I would have enjoyed more personal stories and more development of the topic of why life stories changed in the book. The book was finished before I had time to mull things over. I was left with the question of what I was supposed to do with this idea of retelling life stories. Was the author encouraging me to just reflect on these events? Was I supposed to write my life story paying particular attention to how I saw events as I was writing? I felt at loose ends at the end of the book. 

The text was well edited, except for the words Little League which were not capitalized when used. Having been born a mere stone’s throw from the capital of the Little League World Series stadium, this was a glaring issue for me. Other than that, there were no major errors that I found.

I enjoyed the quotes from book characters, authors and celebrities that were sprinkled throughout the book. I also enjoyed reading the segments of Mr. Jones life story he chose to include. His About the Author was very well written, so much so that I would have enjoyed hearing more about some of those events in the book itself.

Overall, Why Life Stories Change: As You Look at Your Own Life Story, You See Yourself Differently by Brent M. Jones was a quick and simple read with quite of things I felt were worth highlighting. 

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

Wow! You look fantastic: Your Journey to a Happier, Healthier Life by Nancy N. Wilson

If you are looking for some practical encouragement to create a healthy way of life, then Wow! You look fantastic: Your Journey to a Happier, Healthier Life by Nancy N. Wilson is the book for you. While the author acknowledges the temporary power of fad diets, she emphasized that real weight loss will only occur when you make consistent lifestyle adjustments. 

With suggestions for apps to use, methods that have been proven to work and a list of questions for self-analysis, this book goes far beyond most diet books. I thought the introspective evaluation was especially useful in crafting an eating and activity plan that will benefit each individual the most. 

I would have liked to see these questions at the end of each chapter, however, instead of tucked away at the end in an addendum. While grouping all the questions together in one section might make sense in a printed book, on an e-book it was cumbersome to jump back and forth between the text and the questions. 

The author placed a lot of emphasis on the health benefits of the Medittearan diet as she summarized various eating plans. It would have been nice to have a little more information about this diet and others such as the flexitarian. Instead, the author suggested the reader look into these diets more on his or her own. A comparison of the eating plans might have been useful to distinguish the differences. Perhaps a sample menu for one day for each diet plan could have been included. 

In general, I found the book a good overview of healthy living habits that everyone can realistically incorporate into their lives. I thought the ideas that the author discussed about manifesting your own success to be an important aspect of healthy living and one that is often overlooked in diet and exercise regimens. 

So if you are ready to start healthier habits, pick up your copy of Wow! You look fantastic: Your Journey to a Happier, Healthier Life by Nancy N. Wilson today.  I received an ARC copy of this book from Reedsy Discovery. You can ready my review here.

Feral: Returning to the Wild by Kyle Cooper Shrivastava

The concept of Feral: Returning to the Wild by Kyle Cooper Shrivastava is that we have become too domesticated to be truly happy. Numerous comparisons were made throughout the text between animal and human behavior. This book is a call to action to escape from existential suffering that civilized societies inflict upon their members or rather individuals in civilized society inflict upon themselves.

Delightful parables introduce each section of the book. The Runner and The River Turtle set the stage to talk about mindfulness. The Author and the Ants broaches the topic of connection. Distant Family and Deep-Water Fish shows us the truth about adventure. And Finally, The Caged Accountant illustrates the concept of freedom. 

I found the section on bias especially illuminating. Because I live in an area populated by my own culture, I find I get frustrated with the closed society that surrounds me. By taking a moment to examine the biases I have and those of my neighbors, I was able to see that prejudice is a natural, but limiting mindset. Becoming “feral” in this context would mean learning how to accept the presence of other “species” in my environment as a potentially beneficial relationship. 

It may have been a case of preaching to the choir, but I found myself drifting off in certain sections. I definitely wasn’t present and needed to take some time away from the book. Maybe some of the information was a bit repetitive or maybe I had already incorporated some of the lifestyle and attitude changes and didn’t need to be convinced. 

Other than that, I thoroughly enjoyed Feral: Returning to the Wild by Kyle Cooper Shrivastava. It was a great reminder that we are meant to live life a bit on the edge, focus on connectedness, and be mindful in our actions to be truly alive.

I received an ARC of this book. You can read my review at Reedsy Discovery here.

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See

An incredible amount of research went to the writing of The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See. The intricate description of the Akha people of China, their traditional beliefs, clothing and the tea harvest made this novel come alive.   

The story revolves around the traditional saying “No coincidence, no story.” Li-yen’s life in the remote mountain village in the Yunnan Province of China is changed by the arrival of a stranger and his son. Three generations of women are forever changed by the coincidences that create the story told in The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane.

Without giving away the ending, in my opinion, the book capitalizes on the coincidences that become a little too convenient for a happily every after tale. Despite this, it’s a riveting story, full of sorrow, triumphs, loss and love.

You are sure to enjoy The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See !

The Girl with Seven Names: A North Korean Defector’s Story by Hyeonseo Lee

Growing up, Hyeonseo and her family could look across the river into China and could not even imagine what life was like on the other side. It might as well have been another planet, so different were the two countries. 

What began as a simple act of teenage defiance set her feet on a journey she never expected to take through China, Laos and finally as a refugee to South Korea. Each leg of her travels forced Hyeonseo to assume a new identity. The name she has chosen for herself in the end, Hyeon (sunshine) and seo (good fortune) is the woman she discovered she was after facing such insurmountable odds.

Hyeonseo Lee presented a TED talk about her experience which you can find here. She also spoke at the United Nations Security Council meeting in New York in 2014 about human rights violations that happen as a matter of course in North Korea. She did an interview with Time in 2015 entitled Freedom, Sanctions and North Korean Ice Cream as well. 

I found The Girl with Seven Names a little difficult to read, not that it was complex, but there seemed to be an emotional reserve in the writing that made it challenging to connect with the author on a personal level. However, given all that this poor girl went through, it is only natural that the retelling is repressed emotionally. How else could she have gotten through it?

The author’s descriptions about the insidious government regulation that rewarded informing on your neighbors, coworkers and family members was detailed. The stories of other refugees she met along the way was eye-opening. I had never before considered North Korea in that light and can never return to ignorance again. The Girl with Seven Names was a powerful story that everyone should read in order to understand the complexity of North Korea just a little bit.

Resilience Road: Exploring Your Authentic Life Path by Beth Koritz

I had high expectations of positive motivation when I began Resilience Road: Exploring Your Authentic Life Path by Beth Koritz. Unfortunately, there were some issues that I couldn’t get past initially, although I did find some redeeming value towards the end of the book.

First, I felt like the author began with a sermon full of trite clichés. I hadn’t made a connection with her as a person yet, so I was unwilling to hear her advice without seeing how she applied these bits of wisdom in her own life. 

From the advice section, we jump right into a major turning point in her life. The author describes being paralyzed from Guillain-Barré Syndrome as a wake-up call. She talks about that experience as well as others beginning from when she was a child of seven. She really did meet adversity head-on!

Mid-way through her life story, there is another sermon meant to be inspiring. Honestly, I would have preferred if these segments were all grouped together after the personal narrative comes to a conclusion. The jumping back and forth between the viewpoint of a counselor and a woman in need of counseling was abrupt. I also didn’t feel like the clients she referenced were helpful in self-analysis, if that was the intent. The points the author was trying to make would have been more powerful when drawn from her own life experience rather than her clients’.

These issues aside, I found that I developed a deep admiration for the author by the end of the book. She had overcome many obstacles to find her place and tribe. Having traveled with her through her memories, I felt more open at the conclusion of the book for the recommendations she made to better my own life. The list of Tools To Create Your Resilience was concise and practical. Everything recommended in this section, from focusing on what you can do and control to the idea that asking for help is a sign of strength not weakness was spot on. 

In the end, I felt that the book was certainly worth the time I invested in reading it and rate it a 4 out of 5 stars.  Get your copy from Amazon here.

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

Life Coaching: The Key to Your Future by Alexander R. Davis

There were a lot of good tidbits in Life Coaching: The Key to Your Future by Alexander R. Davis. The author provided his own enthusiasm and easy to follow steps to help the reader manifest the things that are needed, whether it is financial or otherwise. 

Despite all the inspirational information, there were a few issues I had with this book. First, I believe there was a section missing. Each of the steps to manifesting the Law of Attraction had its own section except Inspired Action, which I believe to be the most important step. If someone does not take action, no matter how much he or she wants something, it will never happen. I think that the author meant to include a section on this since it is a step listed in the full example, but someone it wasn’t included in the book. 

Update: After an email conversation with the author, this section is now in the book.

Then were some word choice errors that must not have been detected by the spell checker like barrow for borrow, marry for merry as well as a few capitalization mistakes. Plus there were a few sections that were redundant, especially in a book this size. Another proofreading pass through seems to be in order. 

Update: These errors and a few others have been fixed and the book updated.

Now, here are the parts I most enjoyed about the book. There was quite a bit of emphasis on overcoming self-imposed limitations, the beliefs that are holding you back. Not only was the information clear and concise, the author provided several coach/student example sessions so the reader could see how this process played out.  

Another aspect I really appreciated about this book was that although the author referred to successfully obtaining your heart’s desire as manifestation, there was nothing magic about the process. Goal setting, actionable steps, and hard work are the keys to manifestation. Anyone who says anything differently is just blowing smoke.

So there you have it! Life Coaching: The Key to Your Future by Alexander R. Davis is a great little book that provides a short and understandable introduction to the Law of Attraction through life coaching. 

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

The Thinking Game: A Winning Strategy for Achieving Your Goals by Kara Lane

Have you made goals that you haven’t met yet? Do you have a vague dream that you want to accomplish someday? Are there things you want to try but are afraid of failure? It’s time to buckle down with The Thinking Game: A Winning Strategy for Achieving Your Goals by Kara Lane and catch those rainbows!

Kara Lane wrote The Thinking Game with the objective of helping you (that’s right YOU) achieve a goal, any goal. However, there are some rules to the game that you need to learn first.

Once you’ve understood the rules, there are things you can do to prepare yourself to meet your goal. You wouldn’t just wake up one morning and decide to run the Boston Marathon now would you? Kara Lane provides some exercises to help you manage your unconscious mind, develop a thinking mindset and strengthen your thinking skills.

The Thinking Game also gives a brief summary of several critical thinking techniques for you to choose from. When making a goal, a decision or pondering the future, you could make a pro/con list, comparisons table or a checklist. You could also use the +1 Solutions, 5 Whys or the Six Thinking Hats methods of analysis.

A goal can never be realized without a little creativity, so Kara provides several creative thinking techniques for you to utilize as well. Meditation, visualization, affirmations, brainstorming, mind mapping, and brain mining are all proven methods to aid you in thinking outside the box.

My favorite chapter was Chapter 6: Questions to Frequently Ask to Improve Your Thinking. We all have aspects of our life that we want to improve. Asking questions like the ones suggested for success, relationships, money, personal satisfaction on a regular basis will help you (and me) stay focused on those long-term goals.

The good stuff doesn’t stop there. Part 3 is all about applying conscious thinking to achieve your goals. In order to get from here to there, you need a plan. This section helps you narrow your goal into something you can reasonably obtain, or if your dream still seems unobtainable, how to make smaller goals that take you in the direction of your dreams. And if you fail, well, what did you learn to make the next plan better.

The Thinking Game is a must read for EVERYONE (seriously). The title belies the seriousness of the book. Yes, thinking can be a game but it’s so much more than that.

I enjoyed the challenges the author included to help the reader move out of his or her comfort zone. Our lives are not meant to be wasted with mindless tasks and passive entertainment. I admit to having a fondness for this type of self-improvement book. In fact, I have a whole shelf of books designed to bettering your situation. This is a book that I gladly added to that shelf.

After all, we all want something. And reviewing the advice and activities in The Thinking Game, you (and I) will be able to move closer to obtaining those goals.

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

Trouble Ahead: Dangerous Missions with Desperate People by Susan Burgess-Lent


Susan Burgess-Lent shared candid diary excerpts from her missions to Africa in Trouble Ahead: Dangerous Missions with Desperate People. She chronicled her time in Rwanda, Sudan, Kenya, and Darfur when she was moved to fight on behalf of the women and children she saw struggling in those areas from 1998 to 2011.

The large charity organizations already in place, designed to provide nourishment and support, were clogged by endless layers of bureaucracy and corruption. The author shares her experiences on fifteen different missions to Africa.

Her adaptatation from middle-class America to third-world (or more politically correct “developing”) nations was hard-learned. The size of the cockroaches alone would have had me scurrying for cover. The descriptions of the environment and people brought her adventures to life for me.

I enjoyed reading how the author made a sort of peace with the endless red-tape and bribery necessary to complete government transactions. She also found a way to deal with unreliable information, roads and transportation that were daily hurdles to jump.

She found inspiration in the unbroken spirits of the women who lived in the refugee camps. Despite the need to travel miles to bring clean water, enduring violence and rape by the men charged to protect them, the malnutrition, heat and flies, these women still found joy in the everyday.

In some areas, she set up a weaving cooperative. She picked up the baskets on her rounds and shipped them out to be sold internationally. In another area, she set up an educational center for women. There they were taught the basics of reading, writing and math which had been denied them in the war-torn country.

The hope she brought to these women was created by empowerment. Learning business skills, the women went on to manage their own micro-businesses. Not even the leveling of the marketplace by government officials deterred them.

While I was reading Susan’s accounts, I had some difficulty keeping track of the multitude of organizations that she dealt with. I can’t imagine how she managed. A glossary or list of all those organizations, what their intentions were and how Susan Burgess-Lent was involved with them would help the reader considerably in this regard.

I loved reading about the hardships she encountered even though they seemed endless: bandits, violence, ineptitude, greed, cultural and language differences. She did what she could even when her best wasn’t even a drop in the bucket in the huge ocean of need she encountered.

When the conditions in Africa no longer allowed for Susan’s aid trips, she turned her attention to Oakland, California where “women’s needs are every bit as urgent as in Africa.” Her continued efforts to assist women better themselves is admirable. May we all be as lucky as Susan in finding our life’s purpose.

Having work for a variety of non-profit organizations over the years, and banged my head in frustration more than once, I could to relate of some of the trials and tribulations Susan endured. It’s a difficult road to travel, bringing aid to the most desperate in Africa, and Susan’s account isn’t a feel-good type of story so some may not enjoy the book as much as I did. It doesn’t skimp on the difficulties she encountered or the frustration she felt. 

I received an advanced review copy from Reedsy Discovery. You can read me review here.