[Book Review] Gables Court

I was emailed by the author to review his book yesterday — I read it in one night. Let me just start off with stating that this is the first review request where I’m compelled to give a rating of 5 out of 5 stars! The book is that good!

Gables Court, by Alan S. Kessler (available on Amazon.com) is a very well written novel. I am usually not so generous with my criticism (even when I always try to be “nice” to every novice author who requests an Amazon review from me); but this book really has the makings of being a potential hit or even a NYT Best Seller.

I admit, at first, I didn’t think I would enjoy it. I mean, Kessler started his novel with one-page chapters and a rather odd fixation on Van Gogh that seemed all over the place, all of a sudden jumping from childhood to adult in a matter of less than 5 pages into the novel — but the novel redeems itself relatively fast, so that even though you’re not quite sure if you’re interested, you are engaged quickly once Samuel actually starts having a real dialogue in the book.

Samuel is a wealthy secular Jewish lawyer, during the Vietnam War era, when the draft was in full force. He’s from the New England area, and moves down to Miami to get some work experience as a newbie lawyer. He starts off with eviction cases. He moves to an apartment complex call the Gables Court, where he meets characters that develop his life (even though he’s already 24 by the time this all happens — so he’s no naive “little boy”).

You feel kind of bad for the poor schmuck! He can’t get a break in love, it seems. Kate reminds me of Ginger (Sharon Stone) from that mob movie Casino (the one with Joe Pesci and Robert De Niro). I mean, even though it doesn’t really go into any details, you kind of just assume she’s a woman who has lost her looks as the years go by, and it was something that she had depended on heavily… you also assume she’s some kind of druggie too (at least I did).

I was disappointed by the abrupt ending though, kind of a non-ending almost. All of a sudden he feels there’s a chance of hope in love when he’s at a diner and sees some Russian waitress who references Van Gogh — a bit too Hollywood-ish in my opinion, but even the lacking of an ending doesn’t take away from the overall appeal of the bulk of the novel.

I highly recommend this book as a “good read” — I wish Mr. Kessler huge success with it.

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[Book Review] My Light

Tonight, I received a late-night review request, and I figured I get right into it… since sometimes my emails go ignored for months (I still have not replied back to one of the CNN producers from the summer on doing a short video segment for their Salute to Troop program) — but I digress!

My Light, by E Darkwood (pen name??? — available on Amazon.com), is a coming of age novel about two twin sisters. First, I am not sure why it’s deemed “mature content” — it’s not. I was expecting some sort of erotic novel or even some trashy romance, it’s neither. At the most there’s some very mild cursing during heated arguments. Also, the title could have been better (having done marketing in corporate America for six years in NYC before becoming a history teacher — the editor/publisher should have given better input for category content and working title, as that’s what readers notices first).

The story is about the coming of age of twin sisters, Penny and Cass, from Kansas. They lost their parents due to a plane crash and end up being raised by their grandparents. The novel transitions from their early school years to college, to eventual full-fledged adulthood.

You read the story from Penny’s perspective, and she lets you know within the first sentence that she misses Cass, so you automatically assume she’s dead (which is what I did). The story is easy to read, the narratives easy to follow, and the dialogue natural to the reader.

I am not sure what Darkwood’s intended targeted audience is, but this would work best for teenagers, as I’m not sure adults would be as engaged. This book reminds me of a few novels I read in junior high school actually. It focuses on things that are socially more important to high school teenagers than any other demographic — specifically: career goals, friendship, sisterhood, what to do with your life, etc. (Think of it as the PG-13 version of Elsa and Anna.)

Penny seems like the protagonist to her sister Cass, wanting to always do the right thing by her, and feeling like she’s being shut out by her cold sister instead (again, think Elsa/Anna). The story ends with Cass dying just like her parents, in a plane crash — kind of surreal until you think of JFK and all his family’s bad luck with death, it doesn’t seem so unrealistic when you compare it to history.

This was an easy to read novel. I appreciate Mr./Ms. (???) Darkwood for the opportunity to review his/her book, and wish him/her success with it.

[Book Review] Megan’s Pet Sitting Adventure

I was emailed sometime at the end of last year to review the follow-up to Ms. Foland’s first book in the Megan’s World book series — which follows the learning curves of a young teen girl in Texas, and her adventures in being a mom to furbaby kittens.

As stated in my review of her first book, this is definitely targeted towards a young children’s demographic; I’d say below Middle School age, so a girl below the age of 13 would be the best audience for this book series.

Megan’s Pet Sitting Adventure, by Pamela Foland (available on Amazon.com) happens only a month after the last book, which I felt was not enough of a time gap. Ms. Foland should have at least made the setting during the summer school break. The whole story actually takes place over a short weekend.

Also, as a cat and dog owner, I can relate to some anecdotes of the book with my own personal experiences; but cats are actually very solitary animals, even kittens are way more independent than puppies. The kind of needy sentiment to always be with her kittens seems a bit amateur-ish… like in the first book, the idea that she would be able to keep the kittens a secret; anyone that has ever owned a cat knows there’s no way of keeping an inside cat a secret when it goes in the litter-box (and I just had one cat!).

This book follows Megan and her friend Jill over a short weekend as they pet-sit for the local librarian. The woman has a dog, cat, and bird. Over the weekend, Megan learns that it’s not as easy as she thought it would be to be a pet sitter. She finds a lot of comfort and pride on achievement during payday and after talking to her older brother Kevin, who reveals to her the struggles of his first job mowing lawns for the neighborhood.

It’s a cute story. Four out of five stars — Ms. Foland still needs some improvement in her creative writing, but overall young girls will enjoy reading it. I appreciate the opportunity to review her book and wish her continue success with the series.

[Book Review] Thank God I’m Here

In the beginning of December I had received a request for a book review: Thank God I’m Here, by Raymond Dale (sorry for the late review).

The marketing manager for Mr. Dale’s book had emailed me and asked if I would review the book; I replied I would, and that I prefer PDF formats via email rather than a physical book be mailed to me. Today I finally read Mr. Dale’s book.

It is a Christian testimonial book. I, being of the non-practicing Catholic faith, still gave it a fair critic from an author’s standpoint. I give it 3 out of 5 stars.

The book is not very long, and it could be read in one day if you have the time. Mr. Dale writes in a very easy way, as if talking to a friend, so the sentences flows freely and naturally. There are black-and-white photos that are included in each chapter to correspond with the chapter’s theme.

It starts off with the death of Mr. Dale’s son, and his stated forgiveness for those he felt responsible for the death. Although the story does get personal, it is not personal enough. The chapters always starts with a story from his past and then moves on to the next awakening or enlightenment by God through Jesus Christ — in that aspect, the author could have improved his creative writing skills to follow through with his stories.

For example, there was no deeper details about the death of his son; or the other anecdotes of his revelations, including the last chapters of his business dealing and how he felt cheated or wronged — instead, it reminded me of when someone says: I have a secret, but I can’t tell… well, why are you telling me you have a secret then?

The book would be more captivating if Mr. Dale’s story-telling writing was better sharpened; but as a Christian-faith book, those devoted to the faith will probably enjoy it the most. He talks about the different ways Christ has entered his life, the constant battle with Satan, and the power of forgiveness.

I appreciate the opportunity to review Mr. Dale’s book, and I wish him success with it.

[Book Review] Megan’s Munchkins

Today I received an email to review a new children’s book series Megan’s Munchkins, by Pamela Foland.

It is the first book in a series of thirteen year-old Megan, who lives in Texas. The book starts off with Megan finding a box of stray kittens. She manages to hide her kittens in her room for five weeks, without her parents knowing. The book ends with her coming clean to her parents after she comes home during the day to realize her mom and sister-in-law are at the home too; her parents decide to let her keep her kittens.

Reading it as an adult, it was hard for me to be excited about it (even as a teacher, I am NOT an elementary teacher); however, it reminded me of book series that I read as a kid in like sixth grade — books like Sweet Valley Twins, The Baby-Sitters Club, etc. The book is corny as an adult, but cute as a kid’s book… but I wouldn’t put it in the same category as Judy Blume though, or other classics like the Betsy-Tacy series (or my favorite classics like Little Women or Charlotte’s Web).

I felt the whole bit of calling the kittens “munchkins” was a bit cheesy. It reminded me of my high school students going around calling their friends “babe” in the hallway between classes. I also found it too convenient and unrealistic that Meg’s parents were oblivious to cats living in their home for over a month — I had a cat that I loved very much, and he was just one cat… there’s no way of disguising the smell of a litter box.

However, I am sure there will be middle school kids out there that will enjoy. I appreciate Ms. Foland for the opportunity to read and review her new book, and I wish her success with her series.

[Book Review] Puppy Training

Today I received a book to review: Puppy Training: A Step-by-Step Guide to Crate Training, Potty Training, Obedience Training, and Behavior Training — by Julia Chandler.

It’s a good instruction book that is best suited for a first-time dog owner. It has beautiful photos of various dogs which helps the book a lot visually. It’s an easy read with some great tips. The paragraphs are broken up very neatly instead of being long and compact. There’s some really good info in the book like poisonous plants, the kind of collar to choose, click training, etc. I highly recommend for someone who is getting a puppy for the first time.

Thanks to Ms. Chandler for the opportunity to review her book, and the best of luck for her success with it.

[Book Review] Your Breakup, Your Blessing

A few days ago I received an email to review a new book: Your Breakup, Your Blessing: Breakup Self-Help — How to Live Before, During and After Divorce, by Karen R. Rivera.

This is a self-help book for women going through a divorce. On Amazon, I gave it 4 out of 5 stars. It is very straight forward and offers some good advice and insights. However, I find that most of the info in the book can be found by just using Google, where there are thousands of articles written about this subject. I, myself, have written lots of posts on my blog on dealing with a breakup.

With self-help books like these, on relationship advices, I find that most women are seeking answers to questions that their common senses already are telling them — but breakups, especially a divorce situation, is hard to deal with, and sometimes you just need to hear it from someone else instead.

The main criticism I have on this book is that it starts off its first chapter with different types of abuses in relationships. I don’t think this is a good self-help book for general breakups or divorces, automatically assuming that relationships are always caused by some sort of an abusive relationship is not accurate.

Like most self-help books, this one is targeted towards a female demographic, but I think it is best suited for someone in a relationship like Kourtney Kardashian, dealing with an alcoholic womanizing baby daddy relationship… or Nicole Simpson, who was actually in a physically abusive relationship.

Thank you to the author for the opportunity to review her book, and I wish her lots of success with it.

[Review] Learn ANY Language: A Practical Guide to Learn Any Language to Any Level of Fluency

I was given a digital copy (PDF) of a self-help type book, learning a new language, for review: Learn ANY Language: A Practical Guide to Learn Any Language to Any Level of Fluency. The book is available on Amazon.com for purchase as a digital copy (Kindle), and it’s free for those that have the subscription service Kindle Unlimited. The book is authored by Janina Klimas.

The book starts off with the usual self-help books, especially with language learning, which is basically that you can do it. You can do it if you put the time into it.

It’s not a learning book in the sense of an actual language book. It’s not teaching you a new language, but gives you tips and advice on how you can learn a language. A lot of the things are common sense knowledge; and as a teacher, a lot of it is common core knowledge.

As someone who speaks conversational Cantonese, and have an elementary understanding of French, being a native speaker of English; here’s my advice — submersion is key. Especially with today’s technological society, even being in a place far removed by my beloved NYC, I can still find ways to “submerged” myself in rural Buddha-land Iowa somewhere. Movies, music, books… I spent a whole summer about two years ago watching French movies, listening to French music, and flirting with French military pilots while my ex-fiancé was sleeping.

If you have Kindle Unlimited, it’s worth the read. Otherwise, it’s $6.99 for the digital copy. I’m not sure if there’s an actual physical copy of the book though, there wasn’t a format option on Amazon.com for it.

I wish Ms. Klimas the best of luck in her continued success in writing and teaching (and learning). Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to review your book! ♡

“The Little Voice” [Review]

In December, an author found my blog and asked if I would write a review for his book. (Sorry it has taken me a while to filter through my blog emails, especially during the holidays!)

The book, The Little Voice, by Joss Sheldon is available for purchase on Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.

The theme of the book seemed to be rebellion against society and social norm. It’s a short novel and I finished it in one day. I felt it was missing a plot, and the storyline seemed very monotonous. The characters could have been built on more, and this seemed kind of all over the place. When I think of other “societal rebellious” novels like Catcher in the Rye, although it was only Holden as the main character, it was focused on what happened to him in a span of just a few days from prep school back to NYC.

This jumped from grade school to adulthood, and there was too much narrative explaining what was going on instead of the book being able to do it on its own through the story. Another “rebellion” novel, I think of, The Basketball Diaries, the grammer sucked and I’m quite certain Jim Carroll was high when he wrote it, but it was incredible because it didn’t feel pretentious.

With Sheldon’s novel, there was way too much quotes from Lao Tzu in every chapter (he’s the ancient Chinese philosopher who wrote The Art of War, for those of you who don’t know); and maybe he could have focused more on one aspect of the character to make the story more readable.

This was a novice book, and I’m sure Joss Sheldon will only continue to improve with his writing. I did not particularly like the novel, but that’s just me. I strongly recommend my readers to give it a try and see for yourself. There’s a Kindle version available for only $2.99, as well as a paperback and hardcover edition.

Joss had emailed me a PDF format of his novel, and the cover art looks great. Thank you so much for giving me an opportunity to review your novel, Joss. The best of luck in your continued success! ♡

The Great Gatsby

This is one of my favorite 20th century novels, I read The Great Gatsby when I was thirteen years old. I loved it back then, and I’ve recently saw the movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio, which I liked much better than the one starring Robert Redford.

I recently bought the book on Amazon.com, and I read it in one day. It’s a very short novel. Funny, I seem to have remembered the book as being so much thicker for some reason, but I guess to my 13 year old mind the whole world was a lot bigger than it is now.

I fell in love with this book all over again. It’s so much better reading it as an adult, I felt there were things that I’ve missed before — like Nick’s witty dialogues and narratives, the tragic love of Gatsby and Daisy, the selfish and shallowness of Daisy, etc. The disdain from those whose old-world wealth was being mixed with those whose new-gain riches in society, was met with haughtiness. The American mainstream era during the roaring twenties was that anyone could be rich from any background, you no longer had to depend on aristocratic names or pedigrees… this of course was scorned by those established families who felt that the “new money” didn’t hold the same prestige as the “old money” did.

What I found very “renewing” was my compassion for these star-crossed lovers; especially since Gatsby went overseas during WWI and was a lieutenant in the Army, and I think Daisy never really loved Tom at all… I thought it amusing that Daisy’s character never drinks. This is definitely more tragic and romantic than any corny Nicholas Sparks novel!

Plus, I just love any book about NYC. I love when I read about areas I know, places I’ve been to… even when they talk about the two “eggs” and the “valley of the ashes”, all pseudonyms for locations in the metro-NY area that I’m well acquainted with.

The 2013 movie was excellent, in my opinion. I know that there were mixed reviews with critics, and a lot of people felt that it fell short of its bar… but, this is also an adaptation of possibly the best novel of the 20th century, so the expectation was impossibly high. I also think that the characters were very difficult to play, but that this cast was the best adaptations of the characters so far. I think this version was also the most faithful to the book, including the dialogues. A little bit was changed, but not significantly like other movie versions previously were. The soundtrack was also really good; but the costumes, the production design, and visual effects were spectacular. The whole movie was so vibrant with colors… and of course, I think DiCaprio was the best man to play Jay Gatsby.