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The Shadows by Alex North. A very late review

Hi, Little Bears!!

I was granted an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review 2 years ago. Not long after, I started seeing many 2-star reviews which, for some reason (anxiety played its part), stopped me from reading a book I had been dying to get my hands on. Well, it turned out I wasn’t wrong and this one was definitely for me.

I gave it 4.5 stars.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Celadon Books for granting me early access to this work. I have to let you know I was given the chapter sampler, but had to buy the book, given the amount of time passed (and I’m glad I did), so that’s what I’ll be reviewing.

Paul Adams has to go back to Gritten Woods, his hometown, because he finds out his mother is dying after an accident probably caused by her deterioration because of her dementia. However, there’s a reason why he left 25 years ago, the ghosts than hunt him for what happened, and they seem very much alive.

I have to say this review will be biased, as the book gave me the #1 thing that catches me and doesn’t let me go in books, atmosphere. I constantly felt the need to continue reading, the shadows lurking around me, the creepiness. I never knew exactly if the explanation was going to be supernatural or if Alex North was going to come up with something totally rational for the dark events, until the very end.

There are also a few plot twists that, at least I, was not expecting at all, so the rating for this horror skyrocketed when they were revealed. I kept speculating on who did what until the last couple of chapters, because I needed theories!

The writing style makes the story easy to follow and allows for easy distinction between dialogue and thoughts without having to stop to do so.

It is plot driven, but incredibly atmospheric and with proper character development, even though there are a couple of them for whom I’d have loved more time and action in the story.

To summarise, I don’t know why I didn’t pick this up before, but I should have. The only reason why I didn’t give it 5 stars was that I would have liked to have felt more emotion on the last couple of chapters, which doesn’t mean action whatsoever.

If you like creepy psychological horror/thriller books that keep you hanging, this book is for you.

Let me know in the comments if you’ve read this book or if you may get it.

Bear hugs!

Anne

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Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead. A review

Hi, Little Bears!!

Hope you’re having a good time.

Coming with another book review.

I’d like to thank NetGalley and Doubleday for granting me early access to a copy of this book.

I gave it 2 stars.

Ray Carney established an honest furniture business and has tried to live live as straight as possible, but he grew up and lives in Harlem. Surrounded by heist, crime and dangerous people, he finds himself involved in trouble regularly, especially because of his cousin, who for some reason tends to put his name up for things he didn’t do.

This is an adult standalone historical fiction that takes us through the life of Carney for three decades from the 1950s.

I loved how it emphazises the importance of Juneteenth, explains what it means and what life was like for black people in those years. We should all become better allies and feel shame at how the white man treated others, segregation, racism, classism, oppression, slavery and an endless list of issues that continue to this day.

This book is character driven, so we get to see people act and reflect on their own reasons to live a certain life, understanding that you cannot always choose how it’s going to go.

However, the story is full of reflections and remembrances that don’t take us anywhere. Just in the last part is that we see the logic in some of what happened before, but throughout the book, the general feeling I had was that everything just jumped form one place to another, many characters where simply thrown in without explanation and there were pages that were just there, not having a purpose. Very messy indeed.

Shamefully, I gave this book 2 stars, having loved his previous work. Well, not all your books can be as good, right?

Let me know in the comments if you’ve read any book by this author. I wasn’t for me, but that doesn’t mean it cannot be for you.

Bear hugs!!

Anne

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1414º by Paul Bradley Carr. A review

Hi, Little Bears!!

Hope you’re having a good time. I’m back with another book review.

Thanks to NetGalley and Snafublishing for granting me access to this book in exchange for an honest review.

I gave this book 3.5 stars.

A gripping technological adult thriller that discusses sensitive but important issues for the current society.

Lou McCarthy is a journalist and has spent her life exposing powerful men from Silicon Valley whose position has allowed them to abuse women. After she publishes an article agains Alex Lou, one of the biggest fish, she’s mysteriously invited to a party hosted by his company and, when asked to apologise, he seems to have committed suicide. Another powerful man commits suicide the same week and Lou is accused of murdering both men, so she starts an investigation to clean her name and find the killer. However, she ends up kind of wanting to help them once she learns their reasons.

This book is definitely plot driven. Characters are relatable, nobody’s perfect and mistakes have consequences that are sometimes deadly or irreversible. I would have loved side characters’ backgrounds to be explained more, though.

There are certain topics that I found essential to make readers think about, such as the discussion of who owns the world (a.k.a. white males, mainly), the fact that those who are powerful confuse equality with oppression and that no matter how far we’ve come along the journey, there’s still a long way to go and one of the best ways to become allies is to publicly put cases in the spotlight.

Although the topics were interesting, there were sections of the book, especially around two thirds of the way through, in which I was not interested.

I’d recommend this book to you unless the abovementioned topics or physical, verbal and psychological abuse are a trigger to you.

Hope you’re having a great month and don’t forget to comment!

Sending bear hugs,

Anne

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Daughters of Sparta by Claire Heywood. A review

Hi, Little Bears!!

Hope you’re having a good month and that you enjoy this new review.

First of all, I’d like to thank NetGalley and Hachette UK for granting me early access to an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I gave this book 4 stars.

TW: Sexual abuse, physical abuse, psychological abuse, being lied to, being forced to do things you do not want to.

This is a new adult or adult mythology retelling of the story of Sparta and Troy told from the women’s perspective. Helen and Klytemnestra are the pricesses of Sparta and told from an early age that they have to marry the appropriate candidate chosen by their father, and so they do. But, what will come of their lives? Will they see each other again? Did their view of live and the world change throughout their experience?

I was expecting a story pretty similar to Circe in the sense that we’d see female rebellion and independence in a time where that was not really a possibility. However, this was far from what I found.

I strongly belief that one’s expectations for a book should never determine your rating, so I tried to be faithful to this, because that isn’t the book’s or the author’s responsibility.

I felt the writing style was quite YA, although most topics are adult, but it was quick and easy to read despite how hard it was to face the reality of those women.

This work shows how women were treated in the Greek culture, how they were told they could not marry someone they loved because, either their father chose the most suitable candidate for them or several suitors would participate in tournaments and the woman was forced to marry the winner. They also had to do as told by males and had no right to talk or do anything unless the man gave them permission to do so. Many of them, hence dreamed of being loved and/or having a pretty different life to the one they were obliged to follow, so some tried to make this real and this book demonstrates that what is said to have happened, was simply the result of the oppression women were suffering.

I find these topics essential in books, so we can understand what their situation was like, how far we’ve come, and reflect on the fact that many women are still living like that in many parts of the world.

Another topic that is shown as a secondary one, but not of lesser importance, is slavery. Those in the ‘lower layers’ of society would be considered objects that nobles could decide on and do with as they pleased. They existed merely in order to do what others didn’t want to or, on the contrary, demanded. Their feelings, as those of women, were not taken into account, if others thought they had them, even. So they were not humans.

Despite being plot driven, characters are deeply developed and show evolution of lack thereof for plot purposes. They were real, full of flaws and led me to believe everything that happened to them because their feelings and thinking processes were perfectly portrayed.

I highly recommend you read this book if you’re not triggered by the contents.

Let me know if you’re read the book, what you thought of it or if you’re planning to read it.

Bear hugs!

Anne

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Heat Wave by TJ Klune, a review.

Hi, little bears!!!

Hope you’re doing great, reading and otherwise. I’m still working on my thesis, but happy that’s the only thing left to obtain my degree.

This book was, as most TJ Klune’s work, a 5-star read.

This is the last book in a YA fantasy/contemporary trilogy in which Nick, a 16-year-old gay young man with ADHD doesn’t have any powers in a world of superheroes. His city is protected by these special humans and he sometimes feels helpless, but he dreams of them and puts this into words on a fanfic he writes regularly. He lives just with his dad, who loves him, but he’s not the only one to appreciates Nick, who’s surrounded by love from family and friends. Will our villains destroy his city, or will Nick be able to support this justice league with other kind of superpowers?

All I can tell you is TJ Klune did it again and got right to the root of my heart, amking me cry and laugh althogether. Love his sarcastic sense of humour, which permeates all his work and makes it much more enjoyable. He uses it in all the right places and moments, so we have bittersweet moments and nostalgic smiles in all his books, and this one is no exception.

I have no idea how he does it, but he has an incredible ability to write people’s thoughts and emotions, making his characters alive and leading the reader to feel the characters’ emotions as their own. I personally have no support network in life (understood as those people who, no matter what, will be there for you and do anything in their power to get where you are if you need them), so it was beautifully painful, if it makes sense, to read this book. My heart was so full to see such a good quality support network full of so much real love, I cannot even put it into words.

Psychologically speaking, I have no complain whatsoever about this book. Every mental health issue that arises is portrayed exactly as it is and its consequences are spotlessly shown. What amazed me the most is how Klune writes the inner being of each character in such a way that they feel too real and always hit home.

As if it was not clear enough, I highly recommend this story of love, acceptance, diversity and support to absolutely every human on earth and beyond.

Hope you liked this review and that you read the books. Let me know if you did, what you thought of them and if you want to read them now.

Sending bear hugs!!

Anne

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On Tyranny by Timothy Snyder. Review of the graphic novel.

5 stars!!

Hello, little bears!!

I have a few (a lot of them, really) ARCs to review, so you’ll at least see one review per week here and on my YouTube channel (The Book Dreamer’s Alley) for the ones granted to me by NetGalley and just here for those for which I’m part of a blog tour.

First of all I’d like to thank NetGalley and the publisher, Ten Speed Press, for granting me an early copy of this graphic novel in exchange for an honest review. I’m sorry for the delay, but my last semester at university was driving me crazy, which is starting to change now because I’m just working on my thesis for the time being.

This is a non-fiction graphic novel about tips to make wiser political decisions, resisting and identifying authoritarianism.

The points are stated clearly, there text included to accompany the illustrations is just what is needed, so it’s not too much or too little.

This was quite an enjoyable experience that allowed the reader to stop and reflect constantly on the points given as a guide and the explanations offered.

Images were stunning, the colour scheme was brilliantly chosen to produce certain emotions and attract attention to the right details. I cannot even put into words how incredible I thought the illustrator, Nora Krug, was. I also loved the illustration style and cannot wait to see more of her job.

I personally agree with every single point stated by the historian Tymothy Snyder and believe everybody should read this to realise how close certain world leaders are from being dictators and act accordingly.

I do recommend this to everyone!

Let me know if you have read this and if you’re interested in reading it. Would love to discuss this.

Hope you’re doing well.

Bear hugs!!

Anne

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The Revelations by Erik Hoel. ARC review

3.5 stars

Hi, little bears!! I’m back with another review, which is becoming the main reason why I write here, although I hope that changes soon.

First of all, I’d like to thank the publisher and NetGalley for allowing me to have early access to this book in exchange for an honest review.

Summary:

Kierk, a neuroscience brilliant student, is living on the streets on his car after a heavy fight with the director of the doctorate he had been undertaking. Alone and with personal issues, he receives an invitation to be part of a postdoctoral fellowship, which would allow him to hit two birds with one stone and try to get both courses certified and done, getting his life and fame on the field again. But someone seems to be obsessively attacking every scientist working with him.

This is am adult psychological thriller that keeps you hanging. You need to understand the characters’ struggles to survive and to push forward on their studies; the importance of their investigations.

The main topics are neurosciences, conscience in the brain and, especially, neurophilosophy, so this book gets deep in to reflections and different opinions on the topic of consciousness, ethics and how to approach them when investigating. What should be our main hypotheses? Where to stop to make sure we’re not damaging our participants or the damage is minimal? When does your investigation become an obsession and forcing you out of reality?

This book is topic driven, which means everything that happens is focused on taking the reader on a ride through the reflections the author wanted to discuss. The plot is logical and, as crazy as it may seem, it is feasible. We also get to know and understand each of the characters, their emotions and the reasons for their behaviour. However, I didn’t attach to any of them and did not feel them particularly likeable, but they don’t have to be.

Being into the fields of psychology and neurosciences, I understood the discussions that took place throughout the story, but if you know nothing of these, you’d get deeply lost, so I recommend this book if you have at least some idea of what it’s being mentioned, given that it goes deep on the topics mentioned.

Let me know in the comments if you’ll read this book, if you’ve read it already or if you want to read it. I cannot wait to discuss it with more people who are into the field.

Hope you’re having a great month and please, take good care of yourselves.

Bear hugs!

Anne

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Dolly Considine’s Hotel by Eamon Somers. Blog tour and mood board

Hi, little bears!

Here I come with another book review I hope you like.

4 stars to this adult historical fiction/cosy mystery.

Summary:

My summary:

Dolly McClean is a woman ahead of her times who inherits and saves the family business, a hotel. She represents a real feminist and progressive female. On the other side, there’s Julian (Paddy), a young gay man of 18 years old who decides to reinvent himself, change his name and travel whilst attempting to become a writer. Life makes his first stop, Dolly Considine’s hotel, where he gets a job and meets the variety of guests and a tangle of stories.

The events and individual stories represented in this book are mainly historical and essential for current discussion of the topics they’re about, aka abortion, sexual orientation, etc. I personally love historical fiction and felt this helped me have a bigger picture of how these subjects developed in Ireland and the world to reach where were’re at nowadays.

The sense of humour was witty and quite funny, once I grasped it. Yeah, I have to say I did not find it funny at the beginning because I wasn’t used to it, but once I became accustomed, I couldn’t help but smile and laugh in every chapter.

The reason why I could not give this book 5 stars is that I was mostly confused for about 20% of it regarding the change of timelines and the writing style. It was hard for me to get used to the style, although I love the avant-garde in this cosy mystery and recognise the author’s writing skills.

So this is the link to my mood board for the book:

Even though I saw this work as character driven, I believe the plot is greatly developed, given that it was created as an excuse (if I’m not wrong) to discuss the sensitive topics it touches and to show that, even in the hardest of times, there were those who went out of their way to fight, raise their voice and help us get where we’re at now (I know there’s still a long way to go, but we have moved forward). Our life and freedom would not have been possible without them. Let’s thank these heroes, even if we don’t know their names.

But, hey, I realised I haven’t introduced you to the author here!

PS: He has my flag behind him!!

Eamon Somers grew up above the small corner shop run by his parents in Dublin’s inner city. After brief careers as a shop assistant, trainee motorcycle mechanic, courier, office worker, lounge boy, community facilitator, double glazing installer he moved to London. He worked for two years in Haringey Council’s Lesbian and Gay Unit, drawing on his several years’ experience of community development work with the National Gay Federation in Dublin. Redundancy from Haringey caused him to stumble into the social housing development career he enjoyed for the following thirty-two years.

From his early writing classes in the People’s College in 1970s Dublin, his studies at Birkbeck College London, summer schools at the Irish Writers’ Centre, to more recent zooming sessions with poet Diana Goetsch (via Paragraph NY), Eamon’s lifelong commitment to learning the art of creative writing, is obvious His short stories have been published in various magazines including Tees Valley Writer, Automatic Pilot, Chroma, The Journal of Truth and Consequences (which nominated his Fear of Landing for a Pushcart Prize), also in Quare Fellas, a collection of LGBT+ fiction published in Ireland. He is currently working on revisions to his novel A Very Foolish Dream, – Highly Commended in the 2019 Novel Fair sponsored by the Irish Writers’ Centre in Dublin. Dolly Considine’s Hotel is Eamon’s debut novel.

Eamon is the happy father of three children. He and his Civil Partner Tomás are proud to be called Papa and Papi by their two lovely grandchildren. They increasingly divide their time between London, Dublin, and other parts of Ireland.

What a better month to read this?

So, here’s where you can get the book:

And you can also check it at:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/57826740-dolly-considine-s-hotel

Hope you liked this review as much as I enjoyed the book and that you’re having a good time.

Take care!

Sending bear hugs!

Anne

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The Last Keeper by J. V. Hilliard. Blog tour

Hi little bears!!

I apologise for not having posted in such a long time, but my health took a toll for the worse and I’ve been worried about that, going to many doctors’ appointments, getting tests and also trying to finish my degree (which is closer every day).

4.6 stars!

The Last Keeper is an epic fantasy story and the first one in a series. Daemon belongs to an order of Keepers whose main power are visions, which are normally immediate, but he’s been having these weird ones that are even leaving him with real marks on his body. He’s not sure what to do with them and is too scared to share them. What do they mean? How do these risk the community and what problems will arise?

This is the official summary:

I was hooked to this book from the prologue. It kept me wanting to read more and it became quite hard to close the book whenever I needed to do something else. I thought of the story and speculated on every character’s role constantly. The writing style also helped this being a quick read despite it being an epic fantasy and the length was perfect for me.

Nothing was overly explained, neither was the reader left in doubt. The world building was fair and characters were not flawless, which meant you could relate to each of them easily and feel with them throughout the story. I felt you could enjoy this book either if you were plot, character or atmosphere driven. Descriptions of places were incredibly vivid too.

The story doesn’t show perfection because life is not perfect. Sometimes we must make hard decisions and people die along the way, so I did appreciate no false hope or perfect endings in it.

Before I finish, let me show you the author.

Born of steel, fire and black wind, J.V. Hilliard was raised as a highlander in the foothills of a once-great mountain chain on the confluence of the three mighty rivers that forged his realm’s wealth and power for generations.

His father, a peasant twerg, toiled away in industries of honest labour and instilled in him a work ethic that would shape his destiny. His mother, a local healer, cared for his elders and his warrior uncle, who helped to raise him during his formative years. His genius brother, whose wizardly prowess allowed him to master the art of the abacus and his own quill, trained with him for battles on fields of green and sheets of ice.

Hilliard’s earliest education took place in his warrior uncle’s tower, where he learned his first words. HIs uncle helped him to learn the basics of life—and, most importantly, creative writing.

Hilliard’s training and education readied him to lift a quill that would scribe the tale of the realm of Warminster, filled with brave knights, harrowing adventure and legendary struggles. He lives in the city of silver cups, hypocycloids and golden triangles with his wife, a ranger of the diamond. They built their castle not far into the countryside, guarded by his own two horsehounds, Thor and MacLeod, and resides there to this day.

I would highly recommend this epic fantasy and cannot wait to read the next book in the series ASAP!

Here’s where you can get the book!

https://www.amazon.com/Last-Keeper-Warminster-Book/dp/B09QMGFSP4/ref=sr_1_1?crid=3IN9HU7DOOOFL&keywords=the+last+keeper&qid=1653507189&sprefix=the+last+keep%2Caps%2C589&sr=8-1

And where you can check it:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/59832835-the-last-keeper?from_search=true&from_srp=true&qid=QvTap7Bl6L&rank=8

Let me know what you think of the book and if you want to read it. I’d also love to know what you’ve thought of it once you’re done. Cannot tell you anything else because I felt it was necessary to discover the book as you go.

Bear hugs!!

Anne

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Under the Whispering Door by T J Klune. A review

5 stars.

Thanks to NetGalley and Tor Publishing for granting me early access to this book.

*I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*

Wallace is an important and deeply hated businessman who does not care whatsoever about being human or making and keeping interpersonal relationships. One day he’s in his office and wakes up to see his own body dead on the floor. Unable to accept his death, a reaper is finding it quite hard to take him to a resting place; Hugo’s house, where he can find peace and himself until he’s ready to get to the other side.

I cannot say this enough, Klune always makes me smile and cry in equal parts and gets so deeply into my heart that I’m left with a huge empty hole in the pitch of my stomach that makes me need to cry and laugh out loud at the same time. Not many books have been able to do this throughout my life.

The story seemed to be going ‘the wrong way’ for a while and I was praying (I’m an atheist) the author had not written what I thought was going to happen. I’m so glad he didn’t, but he made me suffer!

I believe his books are mainly character driven and it’s literally impossible not to fall in love with these characters, not to understand and respect even their bad decisions and consequent actions. No character is perfect, which makes them human, relatable and, in general, real.

There’s a topic I feel is a MUST when reviewing a book by T J Klune, and it’s mental health. He does a fantastic job at making the reader know -and helping psychologists tell them- that it’s ok not to be ok, that there’s something that doesn’t work properly in all of our heads. Mental health is all about acquiring the tools to deal with that in the best way possible and not let it stop us from living.

I said this to him on a live show about The Extraordinaries and wanted to say it again here. As a psychologist, thank you! Thanks for that, thanks for telling people it’s ok to mourn and not be ok for some time when you lose someone and that the process will take its time, which is also different for everyone; thanks for reminding us that it’s ok to make mistakes as long as you learn from them, which is actually the point of being alive (or dead for the case of this book).

This, to summarise, has been my favourite TJ Klune so far and I need to continue reading all his books! Everybody should read them.

Please, let me know in the comments if you’ve read this and what you thought of it.

Hope you’re having a wonderful time.

Bear hugs!

Anne

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The Car with a Soul by Ruchira Khanna. Blog tour

Thanks a lot to Travelling Pages Tours and the author for granting me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

4 stars.

Book summary

“Rahil is a car geek and attributes his desires to the four wheels of the car.

Amy is hungry for happiness as her career has hit the brakes.

Joan is on the lookout for a meaningful relationship as her unpleasant past gives her nightmares.

Tara was living a fulfilled life until her wheel of health gets a puncture.

When the four of them go on a journey of a lifetime, can each of them endure the travel while keeping their wheels balanced, or will their car lose its momentum along the way?

The Car with a Soul is an emotional, uplifting story of love, heartbreak, laughter, and friendship.”

This is a literary fiction about 4 people who are trying to get the best of the life they chose to live, their struggles through it and how their stories intertwine. The complexity of feelings and life itself are perfectly portrayed in their stories. I’d say it’s a character driven story in which psychology makes total sense.

Characters are believable, real and so relatable it’s impossible not to feel attached to any of them in their differences. I felt closer to Joan, the one who pushed everyone away from them because they couldn’t take rejection, humilliation and pain from human relationships any longer. Although she had her long-term friends to get through hardships, she tended to keep things to herself and somehow isolate from others.

The guiding theme of the story is the comparison between human life and a car. I loved the parallels I would have never throught of, the tyres being key aspects of human relationships and how easy and logical it seemed to compare both.

The writing style made this a really quick and easy read that I could not close. Had to read it in one sitting! There was only one issue I found in it; the characters’ thoughts. Let me explain myself. In many occasions I thought they were designed so the reader would know certain things, but I found that’s not how you talk to yourself. For example, at some point one of the characters is reflecting on the clothes they were wearing and detailed them as if thinking to themselves they didn’t look good, but I believe if you’re talking to yourself and thinking about it you’d say something like “Oh, these clothes look terrible”, but would not specify what they are; you’re looking at them.

But let me introduce you to the author:

Ruchira Khanna, a biochemist, turned writer, left her homeland of India to study in America, where she did her Master’s in Biochemistry and a certificate course in Technical Writing.

Her love of writing grew, and she started working on her books. After four years of freelancing, Ruchira published her first book, a fiction novel for young adults called Choices.

Ruchira Khanna draws inspiration from the issues that stalk our minds, she addresses such matters through her tales of fiction. Her character’s undergo a contemplative arc she hopes her readers will, which is why they classify each of her novels as, “one that will make you ponder.”

She blogs at Abracabadra which has been featured as “Top Blog” for three years. Many of her write-ups have been published on LifeHack, HubPages to name a few.

I’m so glad she started writing fiction!!

If you’re curious, you can find her here:

Twitter

https://www.instagram.com/ruchira.khanna/

Website

Facebook

Goodreads

If you like contemporary books focused on the characters and their emotions, this book is for you! I’d highly recommend.

Finally, I have a surprise if you read this far. There’s a giveaway!!

I encourage you to enter because you can get money for books! So, this is the link:

Hope you get to it. If you do so, please let me know in the comments.

I’ll live the blog tour schedule here, so you can visit the other bloggers!

Would love to know you’re having a great time this month!

Bear hugs!

Anne

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Letters to Bizzy by John M. Tabor. Blog tour

Hi, little bears!!! I’m back with another book review.

Thanks to the author and Travelling Pages Tours for granting me an ARC of this book to review.

3.5 stars.

Letters to Bizzy finds a man, John Tibbits, past his prime staring down the barrel of old age, having to come to grips with his mother’s death and regrettable fact his dysfunctional youth has burdened him with a lifetime of unwelcome baggage. As he sorts through his mother’s personal effects he discovers boxes of unopened letters written some 50 years earlier from a man, Robert Guthrie, to his daughter, Bizzy. They tell the story of a life lived on a barrier island off the coast of North Carolina, Bogue Banks. There is nothing sensational in the telling, average by most accounts. However, through the eyes of Robert Guthrie we come to see beauty in the tragic, humor in the absurd, and sensitivity from the susceptible. It is in fact an apologetic to the ordinary lives we live. Those of John Tibbits and Robert Guthrie are inexplicably intertwined; and, it is only until the end, do we learn how. For both it is a journey through their own private battles.

John Tibbits is going through his mother’s things after her death, not feeling quite ready to do so. However, he finds a bundle of letters that seem unopened and spark his interest, truning this task from annoying and hard to eye-opening and compelling in this adult literary fiction.

The premise was really promising. A son being able to put the pieces of his mother’s family and herself together through a bunch of letters sent from his grandfather to his mother. She was alienated from him by her mother who, due to differences with his wife, decided to part ways, even though he did not want to leave his daughter.

It shows how important it is for a person to know their family history; how much understanding of yourself comes with this and how much peace it brings to put the pieces of it together.

I felt those letters didn’t exactly make sense when directed towards a daughter, though. He was talking to her as if to his best friend, but that’s not the tone a father would use when writing to their child, including some of the events shared in them. I felt he was writing his story to be published or to a brother. There was no connection between Robert Guthrie’s story and his daughter either up to the last letter, whente author explains to the reader why father and daughter don’t know each other.

The writing style was pleasant, but didn’t help me connect with the characters. I only cared about Thomas because he got an illness my mother had when she was a child and about the animals, that I always connect to. Did not feel with the characters as I was detached from beginning to end.

There are certain reflections on life that made me smile, though. It shows how society’s way of thinking and traditions have changed throughout centuries, such as starting to bath in public and the development of swimsuits, how males saw females, the identification and classification of Asperger syndrome and the invention of vaccines. These are so well included into the story that you never feel them forced at all.

Characters were realistic and believable. Even side characters’ personalities were so well portrayed through their actions and feelings that you felt you were reading a non fictional story.

But, hey! I haven’t introduced you to the author.

Where to find him:

https://www.johntaborauthorspage.com/

https://www.facebook.com/John-Tabor-authors-page-108386350692728

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4838181.John_Tabor

I think it’s better if you know history from the USA, or have visited Boghe Banks, so you can imagine the places better and jump into the scenery in your mind.

It’s just 176 pages, so a quick read to connect you to history, family and processing loss (TW).

I’d recommend it, so if you feel curious and want to get it, just click any of these links: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/60133769-letters-to-bizzy or Amazon: https://geni.us/letters-to-bizzy Amazon: https://geni.us/letters-to-bizzy

Please, take good care of yourselves. I hope you’re having a great time!

Bear hugs!!

Anne

Featured

Surrogate Colony by Boshra Rasti. Blog Tour.

4.5 stars

Hi, there, little bears!

I’m back with another book review today. Hope you enjoy!

First of all, I’d like to thank Travelling Pages Tours and the author for granting me access to an ARC copy of this book in exchange for an honest review and a Music Playlist (you can find this one on my Bookstagram account, the.book.dreamers.alley).

After a huge pandemic situation (TW), Arthur Mills, the only surviving polititian, creates a massive community segregated from the rest of the world, in which population now lives, MicroScrep. It is ruled by a computer system that seems impossible to hack and decides the fate of each citizen. Yes, it’s manipulation, but they’re safe thanks to the system. However, not every member of the community is happy with this. Will they be able to escape?

This is a dystopian thriller that made me not want to stop reading at all since I started. It kept me intrigued and actually nervous all the way through and, trust me, this does not happen often.

The writing style made it a quick and easy read, even though there are such heavy topics being approached here, so I flew through the book. I’m not sure I would have been able to wait any longer to know what happened.

Adriana is a particular citizen, having one blue and one brown eye. Nobody knows why, but her mother hides this from the world. Although she was eugenically created -like everyone else-, it is rare that she and several of her close ones, are questioning the system.

I really loved this character something happened and she started making decisions that did not at all fit her personality and thoughts. I’m pretty sure, though, the author meant for you to transfer your love to another character right after, who takes over the story.

This change of perspectives was done so swiftly, that I was not aware of the intention until it actually took place. Really well done here!

There are surprises, twists and turns that make this a gripping page-turner.

I do not want to go into detail as to tell you the types of citizens and how they serve the community or fit in it, but loved how the author merged elements from several famous books to create this. I could see a really strong influence of George Orwell and Aldous Huxley here, the idea of the castrati -originally taken from classical music- and surrogacy, to name a few, in a world in which the population cannot see the truth and, to be honest, most of them just refuse seeing.

A brilliant work! I’ll read more books by the author in the future and I encourage you to pick up this book is you are not triggered by:

TW: the pandemic, rape of a teenager (no details given), being manipulated by the system, hormone manipulation, castration, control.

Let me know if you get to read the book and leave a comment with your thoughts!

Hope you’re having a wonderful month.

Bear hugs!

Anne

Featured

Gasoline Dreams by Simon Orpana. A review

*I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*

2.5 stars.

This is a non fiction graphic novel focused on a necessary purpose creating awareness about the excessive use of petrol based energy that’s destroying our planet at a staggering speed.

I loved the fact that it mentions and goes deep into every aspect of how this usage is a huge problem for every form of life within this planet and the multiverse itself. It also shows there are other options and illustrates his arguments with clear examples of the aspects that are problematic about excess and the use of non-renewable sources of energy.

There are, however several objections I have towards how this graphic novel was done.

The first of these is that I found the density of illustrations and text to be constantly overwhelming. This was probably intentional given the aggressive attitude towards the so-called Petroculture the author shows, but I believe regular readers would not appreciate it as positive, given that it makes the reading experience too heavy. It even gave me anxiety at times.

The writing style gave the impression to be more appropriate for a dense non fiction book, being full of citations of formal texts and investigations at a rate of one or more per page, which also took it further from being a graphic novel.

Regarding certain topics, I have to say that the arguments given at times were not exactly scientific. With this I do not mean to state they are invalid, but that to prove a point it is rather preferable to choose arguments that have scientific validity, which in many occasions they did.

An example of this is the explanation of Sigmund Freud and his definition of Thanatos or death/destruction drive. This is the same evolution theories explain in the mention of humans being a dominant species and this translating into the fact that we tend to our own destruction and that of our environment. Even if Freud talked about this (long after Darwin, by the way), having the support of science would certainly make it stronger.

This ‘undead urge’ Simon takes from psychoanalysis is the excess that is not at all strange, but normal in dominant species, who just believe they can do as they please and dominate their environment without major consequences. Least can an example of this behaviour be given through a psychopath with PTSD. Does he have any idea how a person with PTSD feels? I mean, it is not pleasant or even voluntary and the feelings of a sufferer of this disorder (I am a psychologist) are far from suitable to explain or illustrate the abovementioned behaviour. Even a person with Antisocial Personality Disorder (what he should have mentioned instead of ‘psychopath’) does not feel empathy towards others, but the reason is the structure of the brain in charge of making this happen are not working properly, mainly as a result of neglect, abandonment and/or abuse as a child and/or adolescent -I recommend checking scientific articles and the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders on its fifth version-.

Another issue I had with this work was that, instead of making a certain parallel, he affirms certain films, such as Aliens, Taxi Driver, A Quiet Place and The Shining have direct references to Petroculture when they’re not even obvious. The author assumes that the type of energy used has something to do with Petroculture or the dialogue itself. Well, I consider it closer to the truth to state that he sees or can give examples from and not assure the reader they are references to a topic that is not even mentioned in them.

The typography was too hard to read sometimes -at least for me- and I found it to be quite a Baroque graphic novel in a way, if it makes sense, as it is too overloaded and dense either on images (rare), text or both. Sometimes the language is also too complex.

The topic, don’t get me wrong, is essential to discuss and many people need such a shock to start grasping the very basic ideas of this topic.

Finally, I would love to point out the author’s ideas seem to be congruent on every field and properly portrayed on every aspect of this graphic novel.

You could decide this book is for you and I would actually love to hear different perspectives if you have or are planning to read it.

Please, take good care of yourselves.

Bear hugs!

Anne

Featured

Winterset Hollow by Jonathan Edward Durham. Blog tour review

Thank you wo much to The Book Review Crew (now Travelling Pages) and the author for allowing me to have early access to this book in exchange for an honest review.

5 stars!

Eamon feels different from everyone and has come a long way to be able to talk to others normally and get close to them, which he mainly does with those who share his passion for a specific book, Winterset Hollow. That’s how he met his best friend, Caroline, and her boyfriend (not really a reader) Mark. One day, the three of them receive a free ticket to go to the very place where their favourite book takes place and there they find there’s not much difference between fiction and reality.

As for many readers, one of my favourite tropes is a book within a book, category that this story fits into. The first time I saw the cover, I thought it would be a horror/mystery/thriller and I was not wrong. Actually, when I chose it, it seemed to be giving me similar vibes to Bunny by Mona Awad, but even darker. I’m so glad I was right!

I found the plot somehow predictable given that many tips are left some time before events take place, but I was not bothered by this in the slightest. Those who have watched my channel (The Book Dreamer’s Alley) will know I’m not plot or character driven, but atmosphere. Well, this book delivered such a dark and attracting atmosphere that it was impossible for me to close it. Whatever I had to do throughout the day, I’d feel the pull of the book calling me. It was really hard to put it down even for a few minutes.

Characters are properly developed, although I’d have loved to have learnt more from Caroline’s and Mark’s backgrounds. The animals (the main characters of Winterset Hollow, the book within the book are such) were incredibly anthropomorphed, their language expressions distinctive from the others’ and their descriptions so vivid, you could see all of them and imagine their behaviour and manners as if you, as the reader, were another spectator of the story. This is to say that the character development was impeccable.

This story is so well done and twisted (meant as a compliment) that I’m not quite sure how to classify it. It’s surely adult, but you could see it as a fantasy with magical realism elements or a magical realism that already includes some fantastic elements, but to me, it’s more of a purely horror story about a book within a book in which the dividing line between reality and fiction blurs to the point of disappearing completely from view.

The writing style is engaging and takes you deeper into the atmosphere. Here’s the author!

Jonathan Edward Durham was born near Philadelphia in one of many satellite rust-belt communities where he read voraciously throughout his youth. After attending William & Mary, where he received a degree in neuroscience, Jonathan waded into the professional world before deciding he was better suited for more artistic pursuits.

He now lives with his partner in California where he writes to bring a unique voice to the space between the timeless wonder of his favorite childhood stories and the pop sensibilities of his adolescent literary indulgences.  His debut novel, Winterset Hollow, an elevated contemporary fantasy with a dark twist, is mined from that same vein and is currently available everywhere.

You can find him at:

https://www.jonathanedwarddurham.com

https://www.facebook.com/jonathanedwarddurham

https://www.instagram.com/thisone0verhere

https://reedsy.com/discovery/user/jonathandurham

https://amazon.com/author/jonathanedwarddurham

What will they discover in the island? What parts of the story may seem too real? What will they be shocked and surprised about?

If you like dark stories and a book within a book, if your atmosphere driven and like surprises and twists, this book is for you.

I really hope you read this and let me know in the comments what you thought of it afterwards. I’d love to have a nice discussion about it!

Hope you’re taking good care of yourselves and that you read this book!

Bear hugs!

Anne

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The Crowns of Croswald by D. E. Night, a review

*I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*

Thank you so much to Net Galley and Stories Untold, the publisher, for granting me access to this book in exchange for an honest review.

I gave this book 3.7 stars.

Ivy Lovely grows up as a maid and is constantly mistreated by her supervisor her whole life. However, at 16, she escapes the castle where she worked and finds out she has magical abilities when she’s given an invitation to enter a famous magical school, where she’s meant to unveil many secrets and mysteries.

I saw this as a late middle grade/early YA fantasy story.

The writing style was appropriate for the target audience and sometimes gravitated towards the lower end. It made this book a quick and easy read without being too simplistic.

The story is full of well-known tropes, such as “the chosen one”, “the evil queen”, “the servant that ends up being the heir”, etc., which makes the plot quite predictable although you never really know what’s going to end up happening until the last chapters. This may be biased given that I was expecting something completely different or the previous information to be misleading.

However, I did enjoy reading this and it took me back to my adolescent years. I would have given the world to have a female chosen one badass heroine’s story for emotional support and validation. Ivy is not perfect; she makes mistakes and is too sassy at times, which gets her into trouble, but she’s real and doesn’t really need a partner’s love to succeed, but friendship.

I feel I still need an explanation to how certain things were too easy they didn’t make sense even in a fantasy story, such as her friendships and her winning over the bully.

The world building was quite well done and I could vividly imagine every character and place described throughout the story, including the colours.

If you want a fast-paced, tropey, and beautiful fantasy story with a happy ending, this book is for you. It warms the heart and puts a smile upon your face.

Let me know in the comments if you’re interested in reading this, what was the last ARC that put a smile upon your face and what you think about books like this one.

Please, take good care of yourselves.

Bear hugs!

Anne

Featured

The Mad Trinkets by Cameron Scott Kirk. A review

*I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*

4.2 stars.

I have to deeply thank NetGalley and The Mage’s Lantern (the publisher) for granting me early access to this book in exchange for an honest review. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

This is an adult dark fantasy novel about Tristan de Merlon and a group of his former war comrades, who discovered a cave just before going back home that contained some strange trinkets that would later show strange powers on their bearers.

Even though this book is character driven, I thought the plot was nicely threaded and clearly showed the logic order of events even though we don’t only have current events, but also remembrances from some characters that would allow us to understand certain reasons or the logic for specific behaviours they portrayed. There was an initial confusion every time a memory started, but it was the same feeling as when a dream starts or you’ve just woken up and it takes you a couple of moments to adjust to the new reality and comprehend which one you’re in.

Characters, although some of them were somehow supernatural, were quite relatable. Most of them had their personalities ups and downs, which is generally true for people. We’re full of contradictions, at least in most cases, which makes us human. There’s good and bad, evil and purity in all of us; we decide where to focus each minute of our lives. Just one character stands out for pure goodness, which confirms the rule by showing there’s an exception.

The amount of characters could seem overwhelming, but I never felt lost or needed to go back to clarify some differences. They all expressed themselves in a particular way and you always knew who was talking, also having distinct personalities.

It would seem to much talk about our characters, but trust me, there’s a lot to say.

Some of them made me feel like reading A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin, or watching the series. The curious aspect of this is that I was on a live interview with the author right when this book was released (yeap, I read it ages ago and hadn’t written the review because I was not ready yet to publish it on my channel) and he stated he has not even watched an episode of those series or read the books! I couldn’t believe that as I read. The similarities among some of his characters and some of those in GOT are shocking, so who knows where the inspiration came from.

Now, I just had an issue with this book, that I’m not yet sure it be such. The sense of humour was sexist and aggressive. I’m still not sure if this was linked to those who were negatively influenced by the trinkets -these made them turn evil and not care for others whatsoever- or if the author found it funny, which would worry me.

The writing style, in general, made things conversational -so, quick- or allowed the reader to vividly imagine the scenes. I actually had a constant sense of needing the film ASAP.

If you like cinematic dark fantasy that’s character driven but has a solid plot, this book is for you. I highly recommend it!

Please, take good care of yourself.

Bear hugs!

Anne

Featured

At the Fields of Fire and Blood. A blog tour spotlight

Hi there!!

Today, I’m coming with another book spotlight for you. I saw this one, read the synopsis and was already intrigued, so I decided to participate on this blog tour. Thank you so much to the author and Erik (Breakeven Books, you should check him out) for allowing me to be part of this.

It is a 500+ pages web novel that I now need to read.

First of all, I’d like you to admire this stunning book cover! Isn’t it interestingly dark? It certainly sparked my curiosity.

Now that you’re (I’m pretty sure) already interested, let me show you the book synopsis!

Humanity set out to achieve Godhood and failed. Their attempt left a ruined world behind, one touched by magic for the first time, but blighted by Heaven and Hell seeping into it. The ones who were left behind hide in great walled cities, caught in the throes of a timeless undeath, and almost completely decimated by the monsters set loose from the deepest abyss of their collective unconscious. The Scions — warrior-mages who ate the fruit of hell and became possessed by fragments of God known as “Archons” — are the only ones who can fight these nightmares and cross the barriers between the worlds. They’re kept locked and isolated in abbeys, reared to protect the cities and their inhabitants. And, one day, to undertake the Pilgrimage,
the mythical heroic journey through Heaven and Hell that will finally open the doors to Eden and grant humanity what it once sought and couldn’t grasp: eternal peace.
But, inside the walls of one of the abbeys, rebellion is brewing. Kayla, Joshua, Sarah, Matthew, Vivien and Darren tire of their captivity and plot to gain back their freedom and find answers to the mysteries of their dying world. Yet it’s not only monsters that stand in their way. Some humans will fight for secrets to remain hidden, while others don’t wish to see the scales of power they’ve so carefully balanced tip. The Scions will have to follow in their ancestors’ footsteps and attain what their predecessors couldn’t to succeed: kill the Godhead and become gods themselves.

But what’s a book without its author? Her profile makes the book even more appealing to me. This is she:

Author Bio:
Crisyah is a Portugese, queer, neurodiverse writer who left traditional publishing behind in order to be able to write about characters like herself with no limitations.
Raised on a steady and varied diet of horror movies and epic fantasy, JRPGs and anime, her first big project was a horror mahou shoujo starring her middle school classmates as the heroines. It’s no wonder her current series, At the End of the World, is a gothic fantasy Soulsborne and Madoka Magica mash-up. You can find her on Twitter @crisyahwrites, yelling about videogames, BTS and her giant, fluffy cats.

Please, let me know if you get to read this because I cannot wait to read and discuss the book with other readers. You tell me gothic and I’m instantly interested! Are you too?

You can also support the book here:

Support on Indiegogo:
https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/at-the-fields-of-fire-and-blood–2/
coming_soon/x/27793666

Please take good care of yourselves.

Bear hugs!

Anne

Featured

The Apology Box by Naomi Ulsted. Blog Tour Review

4.5 stars

Thanks to The Book Review Crew and Naomi Ulsted for granting me early access to this wonderful book.

This is a contemporary drama for YA readers that wouldn’t do any harm to adults. Here’s the summary:

First of all, I’d love to say that I’m not generally that fond of contemporary because it tends to be focused on romance and this one has some because it’s part of life, but this aspect is never our main focus. When the romance appeared, I swore everything would take a turn and it would be a case of saved princess by blue prince. I was wrong.

Tessa is 17 and finding it incredibly hard to forgive herself and, after years of a loss that shook her whole family, she has not been able to forgive her mother either, which is just adding to everybody’s pain and making it impossible for her to deal with the hardships coming her way, even though there are beautiful people around her who are trying really hard to be there and give her their hand.

I found the book to be character driven, especially focused on their emotions and how these lead to behaviours that would affect themselves even for life and their future relationships with life, others and nature itself.

It shows how, when you don’t love yourself enough or cannot forgive yourself, anything and everything you do is directed towards pushing away those things and feelings from others you believe you’re not worthy of. Mental health should not be ignored or thought of as lees important. We have to stop thinking going to psychotherapy is for those who are crazy. We are all crazy in that sense. Nobody’s head is perfect because the system is too complex not to have problems. We all need help and, as we go to the doctor when we have a physical symptom, we should go to the psychologist when there’s something that’s not ok in our head. Let’s normalise psychotherapy!

Now, on this regard, the book could be misleading. Depression is not the main cause for suicide or self-harm. Borderline Personality Disorder is. If you need more information on this or want me to make a post on the topic, please let me know in the comments, but be clear on this issue, because this disorder is the most misdiagnosed one.

Characters are incredibly well portrayed. They’re likeable or hateable, real with all their flaws and mistakes, relatable. I felt so close to Tessa because the feelings she has are much closer to BPD than those of depression or anxiety. These two appear to be features of the disorder in this case. This made me cry and laugh with her throughout the story, even though I’m 39 and she’s 17. I loved her relationship with Effby, my favourite character in this book by far.

TW: anxiety, depression, loss, self-harm, BPD, death of a child.

There’s just one thing I found not believable in the romance, that she makes comments that are too much for the first time you meet a person. He’s working on her car, which is why they meet, and after a very brief encounter in the car shop, she seems to be deeply in love and not be able to live without him. And again, this would be normal in a person suffering from BPD.

The writing style was perfect for me. The author has a great sense of humour, the style made it a quick and easy read without making it simplistic and helped the reader get closer to the characters’ emotions.

I’d highly recommend this book if the trigger warnings are not an issue for you. It’s totally worth it and helped me think of ways to forgive myself.

Let’s also raise awareness on mental health, suicide and BPD!!

Bear hugs!

Anne

Featured

Your Career, Your Business by Gina Cajucom. Blog Tour. Book Spotlight

Hi everyone!

Today, I’m coming with a spotlight of a book I was not likely to have accepted to read, but I had the hunch that I’d love this one and I was right.

First, I’d like to thank the author and Erik McManus from Breakeven Books for allowing me to become part of this blog tour.

I have it 4 stars and it’s my first 4-star rating for a self-help book! I was pleasantly surprised by the content and organisation of this book. It was really useful for me at this precise moment of my life and it reminded me that you should do anything and everything you can to reach your goals and achieve your dreams.

Here is the summary, for a sneak peek:

“This self-help book is about managing careers and managing self through self-coaching. It is NOT a book about job search strategies or techniques. It is not about doing a job interview or presenting yourself well. It is not about what you’re doing wrong and what you can do about it. Instead, the book is a reflective companion about you and your work life. It is about finding the power within you and using it to coach yourself to success.
It is a self-coaching book that goes through the journey of reflections that clarifies what’s essential in the hope of helping you to manage your career better. Managing a career is much like growing a business. The entrepreneurship aspect is not apparent until you get self-employed and need to create your opportunities, which is quite comparable to a job search. If you’re reading this book, you might be seeking fulfillment, or satisfaction at work or recognition of one’s talent being unused or potential still to develop. On the other hand, you might be ambitious and strategic and would like to position yourself for bigger things.
Whether you’re stuck and looking to jump-start your career or doing well but want to fast-track it or feeling unfulfilled and looking for clarity in your work life, you can coach yourself to success. The book presents self-coaching opportunities to enable forward movement, especially when there’s a sense of being stuck in career development.

  1. It’s a primer that engages the reader to act and do something. It’s a call to action.
  2. It’s a self-coaching book that uses reflective questions or inquiries. It invites you to reflect upon, dig deep, and increase self-awareness and self-empowerment.
  3. The language is short and straightforward but still refers to sources when necessary and available.
  4. This primer hopes to speak from the voice of a friend and a perspective of a coach.
    Your Career Your Business is a self-help handbook that you can read over time, hoping that you will take the time to stop and reflect upon the inquiries at specific points. You will see the rationale for the book and who might benefit from reading it, and how in the Introduction. Hopefully, you can identify yourself as the book’s subject and set aside time for reflection using the questions in every chapter.
    The first chapter illustrates how thinking over your career can be solution-focused instead of problem-centric. Taking the former perspective opens up possibilities, while the latter can be self-defeating. The second chapter introduces the idea that you can coach yourself to success by focusing on your best hope, amplifying what is important, looking back at past achievements proving your strengths and moving forward with small doable steps.
    A paradigm shift presented in Chapter Three needs to happen to reclaim your ability to take charge and control your future. Chapter Four will show how taking charge of your career is necessary for responding to environmental shifts and the changing workplace. Then, as presented in Chapter Five, these developments call for an ability to reinvent yourself and your career when necessary. Finally, it speaks of how changes in the past point to the possible significant shifts in the future.
    The book emphasizes that your career is your business, so nobody will if you don’t take charge of it. Through time, career management and development have shifted from the employer to the employee. So how should you manage your career? Chapter Six presents the parallel process of managing a business and managing a career, while Chapter Seven explains how strategies can be intentional or emergent in some cases. Like a business, careers can develop with the goal of continuous growth. Chapter Eight presents how careers can grow very similar to how a business can grow and thrive over time.
    Chapters Nine and Ten ask the reader to look inwardly to reflect on how their purpose and mission play a role in making career decisions and how the search for a resonant career can veer one toward one direction instead of another. The search for authenticity, meaning, and passion could influence career choices. These are some of the best predictors of fulfillment.
    Chapter Eleven is a call to action reiterating how managing oneself and personal leadership can engender commitment to career success by listening to your own voice. The inquiries serve that purpose. If you reflect upon the questions and listens to your authentic inner voice, it could open up some possibilities that you don’t see being drowned out by the day-to-day busyness of life.”

Now, it is structured in a way that allows you to reflect on the important aspects of every step to take and thought to modify in order to get exactly where you want to.

I’d also like to update you on the author, who made me feel close to her by giving me a situation I think all of us have lived, choosing a job that’s not making us happy over love and family, not even stopping to think about the importance of enjoying what you do and creating balance in your life.

Gina Cajucom, author of Your Career, Your Business

“Gina Cajucom is an Associate Certified Coach (ACC) of the International Coaching Federation (ICF) who promotes better conversations in the workplace using ©Authentic Workplace Engagement (AWE).
These are future-focused, progress-oriented, and co-constructive dialogues that need to happen in the workplace to break the selfdefeating cycle of attributing cause or casting blame. AWE emphasizes strengths and small steps toward progress using essential dialogues and touchpoint conversations.
Gina’s extensive experience working with upstarts, small businesses, and large
corporations across industries, gives her the unique ability to see organizations in
their duality. Top executives, owners, and major stakeholders are focused on the
bottom line—productivity and profitability. People at the grassroots level, who
grapple with work-life balance and career development, are either partly engaged
or completely disengaged. Gina’s strength and commitment is to work-life
integration while contributing to bottom-line business results through leadership
coaching.
With over fifteen years of experience in human resources management (H.R.)
and organizational development (O.D.), her stints in coaching emerging leaders
and executives across industries awakened her passion for leadership development
and work-life integration. This unique experience inspired her to help young
leaders and professionals with their career management challenges within or
without their organizations through Career Coefficient http://www.careercoefficient.ca.
A Certified Human Resources Leader (CHRL) in Canada, Gina completed
two years of graduate study in MS Human Resource Management at the
University of Santo Tomas in Manila and has completed a Master’s Certificate
in Organizational Development (MCOD) from the Schulich School of Business
Your Career, Your Business
at York University in Toronto. Her extensive training in co-active coaching
techniques with the Coaches Training Institute (CTI) and Solution-Focused
Brief Coaching with the University of Toronto, complements her undergraduate
degree in B.S. Psychology. She currently contributes to the development of
Brief Coaching in the Philippines in partnership with the Canadian Centre
for Brief Coaching http://www.briefcoaching.ca. She also volunteers her time with
The Coaching Fellowship http://www.tcfs.org, helping young international women
leaders of impact accelerate their leadership potential.”

I do not read self-help books because after doing so with a few, I was fed up. However, this book has been an eye-opener and I’m already planning to read it again and take notes on my answer to the questions made in it, so I can make plans for my future ASAP.

Before leaving you, I’d love to allow you to read the excerpt and the link to the promotional video I added to this post, so you feel that urge to get to this great book. Also, it’s a short one that gives you so much in so little!

Without further ado, let’s just read it, shall we?

Hope you enjoy if you decide to get to it.

Cannot wait to hear your thoughts!

Bear hugs!

Anne

Featured

Mischief Maker, a Norse mythology retelling reviewed

4 stars

This book was kindly granted to me by The Book Review Crew and the author, Bruce Nesmith, in exchange for an honest review and as part of a blog tour. Thank you all for that.

This is a new adult or adult (does not specify) retelling of Norse mythology from Loki’s perspective in which there are epic and fierce battles, love, betrayals and, basically, every typical aspect of mythology and its intrigues. But not all is tradition. It focuses on making Loki look like a good guy; one that receives the wrong treatment and image from most other beings in Norse mythology.

I have to confess something. I have never liked Loki and feel instant rejection at an annoying being who show themselves as good, not being able to help themselves or just generally mistreated. I believe there’s a high probability that many others effectively mistreat you throughout life, but if there’s a majority the evidence suggests it will initially be your own fault and there’s always something you can do to improve it, even though it might not be easy at all; but, hey!, a little bit of effort is not going to kill you, is it?

So I do appreciate how well the author did his job and achieved his goal. Loki is here shown so nicely that it’s quite difficult not to feel somehow related to him.

I loved how he rejects being called “god of mischief”, so the reality of his nature is explained and people who believe he was such, get clarified. I was also quite interested in the amount of Norse mythology that is explained here, although it may be overwhelming for someone with no deep knowledge of it, given the amount of events and names.

The writing style was initially hard to read for me, yet I flew through it and enjoyed the sense of humour (especially that of Runnin, the raven) considerably. This happens to me quite regularly when there’s a new to me author, so I never felt stuck by that.

Although the book is plot driven, I realised characters are so deeply analysed and explained that no action is surprising in the sense that they’re coherent with their personalities. However, the reader may reach a few climatic points in which shocking reactions could arise.

The world-building could have been a bit more detailed, but it didn’t feel too short. I could imagine the places and characters easily and really felt on the scene as one more spectator several times.

I’d recommend this book if you’re into Norse mythology and somehow like Loki (Thor was portrayed as evil, which I disliked, but some people may) no matter if you’re character or plot driven. I’m atmosphere driven and, once I got into it, I was totally in!

Hope you enjoyed reading this review and don’t hesitate to comment here if you’ve read the book.

Bear hugs!

Anne

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Beyond the Birch by Torina Kingsley. A review

4.5 stars.

Macy is 11 and lives in Grimsby, a small where animals seem to be their only friends. She’s loved by her parents and is shocked when her mother seems to have stopped caring for her and her parent are fighting because of a sheep that keeps on escaping. This is followed by a series of scary events and sudden discoveries about magical beings.

I wouldn’t be able to set if this book is character or plot driven because they’re quite intertwined, so I’ll state that they’re both equally well developed. I found that characters are congruent and their actions coherent with their personalities. I really loved Jay’s personality and how everything developed.

Macy is kind but sure of herself and her decisions. Which reader wouldn’t feel connected to a girl who loves books and the library? I found all characters made their mistakes and really loved the fact that not only the MC finds answers.

There were character tropes typical on children’s fairytales, but I was not at all bothered by them. On the contrary, they took me back to a time in which I did believe they were true and made me smile. We have the chosen one, the best friend that seems is not going to help but ends up being key, the mischievous fae, the magical tree, and some more.

Just missed much more information about the fae and how they became so mischievous, which I don’t think would have been so sudden as to from a simple battle.

However, there were three phrases that really bother me every time I find them because they’ve become too commonplace, and they are the breath you didn’t know you were holding and expressing a feeling that’s contrary to what you’re really thinking.

In general, this book is cute, magical, scary and interesting. It takes you back to your childhood fairy tales, but does it using new ideas that merge with the traditional ones perfectly.

I’d highly recommend reading this, especially if you want a lighthearted and beautifully told middle grade. Also, look at this stunning cover!!!

Hope you’ve found this review useful and please let me know here if you ever read this book.

Bear hugs!

Anne

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A Prophecy of Wings by Jane McGarry

3.5 stars.

Hi everyone!!

First of all, I’d like you to take a few minutes to admire this cover because when I saw it, had to ask for this book to review immediately.

We follow Lina, a princess pushed out of their future kingdom as a baby by her evil aunt, her loving mother’s sister. However, the most powerful sorceress of her kingdom protects her and is actually the one who protects her (together with an amulet given to her by the queen, her mother) on the 16 years before she decides to go back to her kingdom and try to take the throne that’s hers to save the fairy world.

This story must ring a bell to many of you, as it is a Thumbelina retelling. For those of you who don’t know who this other character is, it’s a folk tale written by Hans Christian Andersen, the Danish author and Disney has a film based on it. There are a couple of twists and turns that change things, but of course it’s kept quite loyal to the original story.

As a half-Danish and a lover of Andersen’s stories, I couldn’t avoid getting engaged in the story and falling in love with each character. In a world full of fairies and animals, someone like me doesn’t want to miss a thing. However, I felt the writing style corresponded to a middle grade, even though it had been marketed as a YA.

I ignore if the mistake was made by the publisher or by the author and the editor, but the writing style is simple, which makes the book accessible to young readers and the book quite easy to read. I flew through it and really loved that. Not only the style, but also the cover seems to focus on middle graders, which is by no means a criticism, but a compliment -they have the most beautiful ones-.

Although this story is plot driven and our characters are evidently black or white, good or bad, I fell in love with them and travelled through the story with Lina, who took me back to my childhood stories and didn’t let me go.

As a retelling, I felt it could have exploited originality a lot more and gone far from the original tale to offer the reader more surprises and more of a new and refreshing product somehow.

There are also no real consequences to the actions of the chosen one, rather than friends dying or getting in trouble. It is because of what has been said that I gave this book 3.5 stars, even having quite enjoyed reading it.

I’d recommend this book if you’re into classic fairy tales, love black and white characters and want a nice trip back to childhood.

Hope you liked this review!

Please, let me know if you’re planning to read this book and what middle grade fantasy books you’re read lately. I’m always eager for some recommendations.

Bear hugs!!

Anne

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Flash Fire by T J Klune, a review

It seems this blog has lately been gravitating towards writing review, but the truth is I was so behind on reviewing and my life has been so unexpectedly hectic that I’m just now getting up-to-date with everything, so just hold on there for a bit, please, while you enjoy these reviews (at least I hope you are).

I gave this book 4.5 stars and I was kindly given an ARC in exchange of an honest review by the publisher -thanks a lot, Tor!!- and NetGalley. Thank you so much, it was totally worth it! And sorry for the delay.

I think we have all at least heard of The House in the Cerulean Sea. If you have not read that, please do so. If you have, what are you waiting for to read more TJ Klune?! This book was a warm hug in a cabin whilst there’s a pretty strong snowstorm outside; pretty much like what Danish people call “hygge”. This is why I did not doubt it for a second when I saw two more of his books on NG and, surprise surprise, I was accepted for both (second one coming very soon)!

However, I realised too late that this book was a sequel to The Extraordinaries, which I had not read at the time, so I chose to read that one first. I mean, who wants to start a duology with the second book?

In this series we follow Nick Bell, his father, friends and biggest crush through a series of adventures. Nick is a teenager whose mother passed away, living in a world of superheroes, but dreaming of becoming what he cannot be; one of them. He suffers from ADHD and struggles to focus and stay calm, which he’s trying to learn how to do. He writes a fanfic about his crush, Shadow Star and has quite a few followers.

As usual, everything was wholesome, cute and incredibly touching. The author’s sense of humour is impeccable and it’s not easy to make me laugh, so believe me when I tell you something’s funny enough to achieve this. It is sarcastic without being aggressive whatsoever, ironic without crossing the fine like between this and not being a joke anymore.

Character-wise I felt that was the drive for this book; or their emotions to be much more precise. I have found this great writer to be a master on human behaviour and emotions. Being a psychologist, I don’t think I have ever read books with such depth on human motivations, reactions and thoughts as his. Actually, the characters’ train of thought is hilarious!

I feel I cannot reveal anything else without spoiling the book, so I’ll leave you to read it, which you should totally do. No matter if you are character or plot driven; most of us are emotion driven.

Hope you had fun and let me know if you’ve read these or any other TJ Klune’s books, what you thought of them and if you’re planning to do so!

Bear hugs!!

Anne

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Wolves of Adalore Blog Tour

4.4 stars

I fell instantly in love when I read the synopsis and the author’s replies regarding why she wrote this book. The idea of a chosen-one female warrior appealed to me.

Niobi, Crispin and Salome are siblings, but the oldest one betrayed their family, got their city burned and had her family ‘killed’. But there was a guardian who helped their oldest brother save Crispin and Salome. Now, they are seeking revenge and they have an unexpected tool nobody believes exists anymore.

The plot contains what, from my point of view, attracts the reader towards this book: our female warrior MC.

Although we have had many in recent years, women in this book are more real to me than any other story I’ve read. I find, as strong male MCs are regularly shown feral, fearless and fierce, female warriors tend to be portrayed the same way just to make them seem similar to males. However, our females are driven by emotions (which is phylogenetically normal), strong, adaptable to different situations and just humans who have certain abilities. All these personality features allow them to feel real and relatable to the reader. I personally always wanted a badass princess I could identify with.

Now, I believe this book is character driven because all of them are properly developed. There are many characters and more appear as the story develops, although there’s no mistaking one for another given their particular personalities and behaviour patterns. I never felt so close to a bunch of people who are not (allegedly) real. I constantly felt as if a friend was telling me their stories.

The story’s pace is not stable, which I don’t find annoying at any moment. I think the pace of life is not consistent, so why should that of the book be? This book is more focused on building the story through conversations and memories rather than getting you into a world without a deep understanding of the background events that made things and people the way they are.

I found elements from Game of Thrones (even specific characters and events), Viking culture and others; not sure, but I felt there was Wicca or Celtic influence too, which I quite enjoyed and made the story much more logical to me. Female Vikings were free to choose a professions, so much so that some of them were pretty strong warriors and went away with males. This is the reason why Viking women don’t exactly have a flat belly, but a curve under their belly button which is a fat storage just men have in other cultures because it’s designed for when they had to spend long periods of time fighting far from home and wouldn’t know how often they would be able to eat.

There’s just an element I found somehow confusing; the book cover. From this and the synopsis, I was quite sure this would be an adventure Middle Grade. There was nothing further from the truth. The art style and the choice of words led me to believe the target audience was late middle graders, but upon reading, it is obviously a YA high/epic fantasy.

So, if you’re either character or plot driven, but care about the logic and background information of your characters and story, this book is for you. Also, who doesn’t like a pretty strong female MC who’s also the chosen one these days?

Highly recommended.

Let me know if you get to it and follow the tour!

Bear hugs!

Anne

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The Last Line of Their Lives Blog Tour

I was kindly given this book by The Book Review Crew and the author, Andrew Doan, in exchange for an honest review.

4 stars.

This is the second time The Book Crew Review pleasantly surprises me.

I would have never chosen to read this book. My whole life I’ve avoided small towns and I tend not to enjoy films or books set in small places, but this book was a jewel.

Emmitsville is a small town in Pennsylvania started by a bunch of people who put their faith and businesslike minds to work and build luxury to make this place their home for life. There live two brothers, Allen and Ambrose, who own the cemetery and funerary services of the best place to be buried, so much so that every inhabitant could kill to get a spot in it.

I thought of Emmitsville as a sentient place. Its history was incredibly detailed and nicely explained. I could imagine Greg, our MC, walking through its streets that mane years ago and dreaming of starting to help others through medicine. For some strange reason, its streets are cobbled, the buildings 3 stories at the most and people wear 40s-style clothing and fancy hats.

Character-wise, Greg had this House(the Character from the series)-like attitude and sense of humour that made me empathise with him instantly from his first conversation with Ambrose. The latter has the perfect body and character for a mortician and I wouldn’t take any of our characters off the book.

Regarding the plot, I absolutely loved death was part of life. Contrary to other books and films, death is simply as important as life and these people take as good care of their burial arrangements. Given the allegedly dark topic, this felt like being part of a play written by Edgar Allan Poe or somehow by Godot and, trust me, there’s nothing more enjoyable to me.

The fact that the author, Andrew Doan, is a teacher and a drama director, allowed me to vividly imagine each scene (chapter, if you want to make it dull) and feel as if I was watching a play.

If you like a relatively dark plot with a sarcastic/ironic sense of humour, this book is for you. Also, who doesn’t feel touched by a group of elderly people living their life to the fullest while preparing their deaths? Trust me, you have to read this even if you normally wouldn’t.

Bear hugs!

Anne

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Kingdom of the Silver Cat by Thomas M. Carroll. A review

*I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*

3.5 stars

The first thing that caught my attention was the gorgeous cover you see above. Isn’t it stunning? Well, let’s get to the review, you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.

This is a middle grade adventure story in which 10 children take the bus to school one morning, as usual. At a crossroads, they find themselves transported to a magical fantasy world where there are many dangers as well as magical creatures that try to help them in their quest to look for a way to go back home.

I thought the characters were brilliantly made. Each child acquires a power once they arrive into the fantasy world that goes with their personality and their rol in the story. All of these powers fit each of their personalities perfectly, even giving you tips on how they’ll behave and interact.

The world they get to introduces quite a lot of magical beings and events, such as fairies, sprites, huge evil birds, a gigantic silver cat, humans who arrived like them and stayed and dragons. However, you’re never confused either among the characters or the magical beings. The author did a great job intertwining their personal stories with the events they go through. It is never easy to portray so many different characters and do it in a way the reader never feels confused.

Regarding the world-building, I thought it was perfect. Atmosphere is what catches my attention first on a book and makes me like it more than the media, and this book’s created magical world is so atmospheric I dived straight into it and was able to imagine everything clearly; colours, appearance and magical beings.

Nevertheless, there were a couple of issues I found on the writing style and a certain character.

Regarding the style, I found it appropriate for the age range and easy to read, although every now and then, there’d be a paragraph that seemed written for a 4-year-old given that the sentences became straightforward, short and simple, with no connection between ideas. That leaves the reader lost, kicking them out of the story and trying hard to dive back into the world.

Also about the writing style, I believe the chapters were too long. 409 pages with approximately 20 pages per chapter may be too long for the age range it’s aimed at.

One of the characters, Dylan, obtains the ability to jump incredibly high through farting. This is ok and even funny, initially, but not when the farting thing is repeated far way too many times throughout the book.

I’d recommend this book to those who like a good adventure story and are character or atmosphere driven, mainly.

Hope you’re taking good care!

Bear hugs!!

Anne

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Where We Belong by Shann McPherson

 *I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*

A contemporary that is also a bildungsroman in which I found it impossible not to connect emotionally from page 1.

This book got 4.5 stars from me, which is pretty high.

Page 1 got me into the skin of our main character, Alice Murphy. Chapter 2 had already made me cry twice. 51% of the book meant I was not able to stop at all, despite my continuous tears rolling down my cheeks without previous notice. It was one of these books that has you yelling at her every other page to do or refrain herself from doing something.

You can picture the settings perfectly, thanks to incredible descriptions not only of the places themselves but also of the feelings they produced on the people who lived and visited, their traditions and how they felt live in general.

The characters are so well rounded and real that it is impossible not to clearly imagine them and feel close to them in a way. It has been, in fact, the first book that makes me live the story from the perspective of several characters!

I found, however, a couple of aspects that I personally disliked. The first one was the fact that they all seem alcoholics. None of the main characters -except one- are mature enough to face their issues without a drink (or a couple of them), and get drunk regularly, even if it’s morning time.

The second issue I had with the book was the message that one who loves you will necessarily hurt you somehow or that women will play dirty on each other to obtain a man’s love.

What did I like the most? That despite being a contemporary romance, it is not at all focused on the romantic side of it, but it shows how different events in life will change you view of things to come and your behavour towards whatever comes your way next; real life issues that affect you and any living person would, in a way, be able to relate to.

This book is, definitely, a must if you like contemporary romance. Highly recommended.

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