Category Archives: Book Reviews

Escape the Chain of Pain

Reading Escape the Chain of Pain was a very personal experience for me. I suffer from three forms of chronic pain, including peripheral neuropathy, which is the main focus of the two doctors who authored the book, and which is on the rise, according to them. So, I was curious and hopeful to see what treatments they might suggest, and very encouraged by their research and theories.

Many people think of peripheral neuropathy as a disease that’s a component of diabetes. But the book explains that diabetes is only one of several causes of the extreme pain that is neuropathy. One cause is a deficiency in certain vitamins, which are detailed in the book. The fact that vitamins are discussed speaks to the fact that the authors are not “typical” doctors, in the sense that they think outside traditional medicine, which normally offers either surgery or heavy doses of medication (not always with success).

Several treatment options are given in the book, and patient testimonials tell the story of the relief they’ve experienced. As a side note, neuropathy isn’t the only disease that can benefit from the suggestions. Sufferers of other types of nerve pain would also benefit from following these doctors.

Readers whose lives are impacted or have been interrupted by excruciating nerve pain, or who have a loved one with the disease, would definitely benefit from at least trying the non-traditional approaches suggested here.

The book is an easy read and gives a glimmer of hope to sufferers (like me) who most often settle for a life of pain and despair.


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Still No Word from You: Notes in the Margin by Peter Orner

As I’ve done before when reading a book by Peter Orner, I found myself murmuring, “That’s beautiful!” or “That’s stunning!” Not so much about the topics in this latest book of essays (though they are well worth mentioning) but because his way with words is a tribute to the English language.

It’s not flowery, not the type of writing style where you need to keep a dictionary nearby. It’s just the way he uses words in a perfect way. No wonder he’s been a professor or writing, “preaching the gospel of fiction”, as he describes it.

His essays in Still No Word from You: Notes in the Margin speak of quite ordinary things, for the most part: life, love, loss, piano lessons, wills, disinheritance, and his many family members. He also talks about other authors or poets as a jumping off point for a topic he muses about. The title of the book references his grandfather, in the military during World War II, who wrote home every day to his wife, without receiving a like number of responses from her in return. “Still no word from you…” he finally told her, asking for at least some communication from her.

But Orner makes up for the communication about his grandparents, as well as his mother and father, by relaying simple stories that made an impact on him. Speaking of his grandfather, he recollects that he’s only been gone 24 years – “a youthful dead” in the grand scheme of things, he says.

Even the author’s description of rain as “pecking the windows like somebody’s down in the alley throwing pebbles” against the window is simplistic, but beautiful and accurate. He turns a scene from “Death of a Salesman” with Willy Loman into a musing on losers, death, and the supposed importance of being liked.

There’s something painful and relatable about his essay on the last days of his dog. Most animal lovers have been in that situation, but few could capture the essence of the feeling of it.

With all of his references to other writers, it’s the quite often humble Orner here who deserves the same appreciation. This book of essays is a sometimes humorous, often touching master class in the art of writing, and not one to be missed.

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Essential Books on Writing – Boxed Set by Bryn Donovan

Successful author, editor and teacher Bryn Donovan loves to make lists, and writers should be very thankful for that. The set of books is sure to motivate, inspire and light a fire under anyone wishing to begin or complete a project.

This set is comprised of three books on writing and can benefit writers no matter their experience, genre, or skill set.

Every aspect of the craft is addressed, from writer’s block or procrastination, straight through to delivering the final product.

This boxed set is highly interactive, with exercises pertaining to many topics recently discussed. If anger or an argument is the issue, for example, readers are encouraged to craft a scene showing this predicament (with prompts from the author) through the eyes of the characters involved.

Speaking of characters, attention is paid to choosing their personality traits, any psychological disorders, their occupation, name, eye or hair color, and even the clothing they wear.

A section on crafting the best title was of particular interest to me, since I consider it a weakness of mine. Another fault of many authors (myself included) is the tendency to avoid writing for fear it won’t be good enough. But a quote provided by Donovan is very encouraging: “…you need to be willing to write, even when you know it’s not going to be perfect.” In other words, just get something on paper and revise it later.

Many authors are frightened about writing sex scenes, though they may be required for the genre being used. But even this receives assistance from Donovan.

The author says her many lists, including actual ideas for stories, are not “cheat sheets” but instead are meant to provide inspiration. A boost of energy and a desire to move forward was certainly the case for this reviewer, and I suspect it will do the same for many others.

If there’s one book (or actually three books) needed to complete any writer’s library, this is it. Expect to refer to it often and receive motivation as you do so.

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Far Forest Scrolls Earth on Fire, Ocean of Blood

I’ve been a fan of the Far Forest Scrolls series and Book 4 doesn’t disappoint. It continues the path of young squire (and animal talker) Bellae, considered to be the Chosen One who can save Verngaurd from the deadly cleansing cycle of Na Cearcaill. The series is fantasy, but much more than that. Since I’m not often a fan of the genre, it says a lot that I enjoy these books.

Book 4 begins when Book 3’s battle has ended, and it was assumed peace might prevail. Not so fast, though. Vampires, dragons, guardians and magicians are forced to fight once more.

This book, in my opinion, as a fan, is a bit more brutal than the others, with violent details and a theme of fear, bravery and stress.

In the midst of this, though, are tender moments and elements I’ve come to look forward to, where the author addresses love, grief and all manner of life issues very much relevant today.

As always, these philosophical moments are my favorite. Example: “Do not ever confuse being selfish with looking out for self.” Who doesn’t need to hear that? Also, “Who will grieve the death of my dreams?” Definitely food for thought. There are many more examples which resonate strongly with me, and I assume with most readers. There’s a commentary on battles and the futility of them, too.

A main theme of Book 4 is the fact that Bellae is sent on a quest to retrieve 5 Macht Crystals, believed to put an end to suffering. But can she achieve this mission? There’s a cliffhanger at the end, paving the way for Book 5, which will hopefully be released in the near future.

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Mirror Meditation by Tara Well, PhD

I’ve been a believer in various forms of meditation for many years. This book caught my attention because it sounded new and intriguing. BUT — a mirror? Looking at myself in a mirror has never been a favorite pastime. In fact, I avoid mirrors as much as possible. A brief look to make sure nothing’s in my teeth, or that my hair isn’t frightening, or my makeup smeared, and I’m good to go.

It turns out, though, that this book addresses, among many other things, the art of learning to look at and learn from, one’s reflection. Far from being an act of narcissism, it’s a way to embrace self-discovery. The book is written in an easy-to-read format, and author Tara Well, PhD is highly knowledgeable. She’s an Associate Professor in Psychology and it shows. I loved the amount of interaction that’s encouraged throughout, with ideas for not only looking in the mirror but doing a video diary of what you’re experiencing while doing it. Whether it’s anxiety, fear, anger, lack of self- confidence, low self-esteem, or lack of understanding the way you see others and they see you, there is something to be learned here. I had several moments of “aha! that’s me!” when reading.

It might be easier for a very young generation to warm up to looking at themselves – after all, selfies rule the world today. But as the book explains, there’s so much more to looking at oneself or sharing a selfie. Life is not just about getting “likes”, it’s about making real contact, with oneself and with others.

I found this book not only a way to make contact with my inner self, but to overcome self-criticism of myself and others. I highly recommend it!

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Mysterious Midwest by Adrian Lee

My interest in this book was two-fold: I have been interested and involved in psychic phenomena for many years. And the book is about the Midwest, particularly Minnesota – where I was born.

It was a treat to read about these spirit encounters as told by British psychic and psychic investigator Adrian Lee. Haunted locations in Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin are featured, whether they’re hotels, opera houses, banks, homes, graveyards or railroad depots.

Following today’s trend of ghost-hunting, Lee and his team use every tool in their investigations, from a ghost box (which spirits speak through) to EMF and EVP meters, plus thermal imaging cameras, but also their own psychic abilities of sight and sound, which this “old school” spirit hunter appreciates.

The author gives a historical description of each location before beginning the actual investigation. While a bit dry at times, it nevertheless provides a brief background. The encounters are quite believable, and the book also offers addresses for the locations, should amateur ghosthunters choose to see for themselves what spirits manifest in places that are still open to the public. My only question arises from cases where spirits from the 19th century, for example, use words such as “yeah” or “sure.” I’m not sure whether people spoke that way in the 1800s, but it’s a minor detail, and I could be wrong about speech patterns of the time.

It’s well worth a read for those intrigued by the afterlife, and the author has similar books available, as well.

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A Ghost for a Clue – Immortology Book One by C.L.R.Draeco

Are ghosts real? Can they be proven and communicated with, whether you’re psychic or not, with the help of advanced technology?

Set in the year 2032, A Ghost for a Clue takes place just far enough in the future to make you wonder if some parts of the story could actually happen by then. Robotic waiters and cops are just two elements that belong to the time period in the book.  It has a strong beginning, several intriguing side stories, and keeps readers wanting more.

Main character Bram works at a company that makes robots – sophisticated ones that are capable of far more than we have in the present time. Yet in spite of this, he is saddened and shocked at the fact that his friend and co-worker Franco has just been killed in something as simple and outdated as a car crash. Franco’s death triggers the beginning of an exploration into ghostly activity. At first it appears to be a hoax when Bram hears Franco’s voice, but as time goes on, things appear more real.

Bram has been dreaming of a career as an astronaut, though he’s been turned down three times. Then, he is offered a job working at an offshoot of NASA, on a project called PANGAEA, the International Space Exploration Alliance. It would mean leaving Earth for good to work on the mission. He’s seriously considering the job but feels it would only be worthwhile if he can convince the love of his life, his former girlfriend Torula, to give up everything and go with him, even though they haven’t seen each other for years.
When Bram returns to the town where he once lived, he’s determined to re-connect with Torula and see if she will make this commitment.  But before asking her, he has more ghostly encounters and Torula seems involved in them.  The story is fascinating and well written. The best part? There’s a Book Two on the way!  I can’t wait!

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Take Your Mark, Lead! By Kelly Parker Palace

Take Your Mark, LEAD!  by Kelly Parker Palace

Kelly Parker Palace seems like the perfect person to write a book about being a champion and a leader. She’s been a champion athlete and swim coach, and then became a top figure in the corporate world.

There’s no question she calls on her sports background in writing this book, beginning with a Foreword by Bob Bowman, coach for Olympic legend Michael Phelps. But in the process, she relates how winning – in life, in love, in your career – can apply to anyone.

With advice from top business leaders and champions in the sports world, as well as quotes from General Douglas McArthur, Nelson Mandela, Mark Twain and many others, she motivates the reader to be their best. She reveals top attributes of a champion, recommends books to read, lists resources to follow and gives simple but powerful advice.

Her honesty about her own life is inspirational and motivational, including her experiences on 9/11 and living through (triumphantly) a bout with breast cancer.

Whether you want to break a bad habit, manage pain, set better goals, improve your communication skills, and of course if you want to be the best leader you can be, I highly recommend this book. I took away information I will remember and apply in my own life from now on.

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Moments Like This – by Anna Gomez and Kristoffer Polaha

Moments Like This reads like the perfect premise for a Hallmark Channel movie – sweet, exciting and deeply romantic. Actually, that’s not a surprise, since it was co-written by Kristoffer Polaha, a popular film and television actor who is often a favorite in Hallmark movies.

He and co-author Anna Gomez give readers a romance set in idyllic Hawaii. It’s like a breath of fresh air, enticing you to relax, unwind and enjoy.

In the story, high-powered venture capitalist “Andie” Matthews collapses during a traumatic work meeting, ending up in the hospital with exhaustion. In a fortunate turn of events, her dear friend Api invites her to take a break from her power career to run Api’s island coffee shop while she’s away. Andie agrees. It’s not exactly the money-making enterprise she’s used to, but something about the island lures her and awakens her creativity.

She quickly makes friends with the staff and meets a mysterious man named Warren. They share a special, unexpected moment on Christmas Eve, leading to many other moments on their way to a blossoming love. But Warren holds a secret. When Andie finds out – will it change everything?

I immediately “cast” Polaha as Warren as I was reading, and it worked beautifully. This is the first pairing of established author Gomez and new but highly-talented writer Polaha, but they promise more books in the future. Readers, I’m sure, will be eagerly awaiting them. And perhaps the Hallmark series will come about , too?

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Griffin’s Heart by Reagan Pasternak

If you’ve ever loved an animal, and perhaps more importantly, if you’ve ever suffered the devastation of losing one, this book could be the first step in your healing process. Just as the author points out in the book, some people will get this, and some will not. For some, losing that dog or cat or any other creature is something you “get over quickly” – it was “just an animal.” Author Reagan Pasternak is not addressing those people here. And rightly so. They aren’t the ones needing help.

But for the rest of us, and there are many, who feel our beloved companion animal is actually a member of the family – perhaps our best friend or our saving grace in life – the grief process is real. And painful.

The book is a guide to dealing with the loss, accepting it and feeling free to not only grieve, but mourn. This means being able to openly express your sadness with a chosen few people who won’t judge you, who won’t expect you to “recover” at warp speed.

Griffin was the author’s cat, who in 7 short years found a way into her life. The heart in the title takes on a double meaning – Griffin suffered from a heart condition, but also gave and received enormous love during those years.

What makes this book special is its interactive nature. The author relays her heartfelt feelings during her own process, but then incorporates them into exercises designed to help readers heal, whether through journaling, attaching photos of a beloved “Being”, as she refers to a pet, answering questions, going through meditation, and other very gentle but hands-on techniques. The book itself becomes a memorial of sorts for the Being who has passed. Each topic and section is short, so you can move at your own pace, not feeling overwhelmed by the contents. Do a little, do a lot, it’s about the journey. Essays from others as well as quotes about grief, life and loss from famous persons help to offer comfort and inspiration, as well.

She covers topics about disenfranchised grief, guilt, seeing our pets as babies who never grow up, even as their bodies betray them, and how they are to many of us a guardian angel. I speak from experience about this, having lost several feline and canine companions over the years. And I feel that my current dog Wally, as I often tell friends, literally saved my life. My life partner Kenny passed away and I’m not sure how I’d have gotten by without the gentle kisses and warm fur that Wally provides. I know he was sent by my partner, three weeks after his passing, as a way to slowly heal me.

How I wish I’d had this book during past times of loss. But I have it now, and dread the day when I might need it again, though I also treasure it. There couldn’t be a more perfect book, either for a friend or family member who is going through pain, or for yourself as you struggle to deal with the very real mourning process.

My heart goes out to Reagan Pasternak for writing this book, and to little Griffin, who inspired it.

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