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Review: Confessions of a Sociopath by M.E. Thomas

[ 1 ] August 1, 2014

41Jm7UtPFlL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Reviewed by Jenna Arthur

When you hear the word “sociopath”, what do you think of? Do you think of criminals? Murderers? The people you see on the news and have nightmares about? In Confessions of a Sociopath: A Life Spent Hiding in Plain Sight by M.E. Thomas, Thomas shows just how false this stereotype is. Thomas tells us that sociopaths, like herself, are your neighbors, your doctors, your teachers, even your spouse. They are characterized as extremely intelligent, charismatic, passionate–the person you want to take home at the end of the night and at the same time, the person you want to take home to your mother.

Thomas delves, honestly and completely, into her life, giving us such examples as her indifferent response to a drowning animal. In describing her dating life, Thomas states that truthfully, in most interactions that she has, she merely gives exactly what is needed so that she gets exactly what she wants. She goes on into great detail about her life and includes quotes from other non-violent sociopaths that dive into the career aspects of their lives. These other sociopaths note that many people place too much emotion and empathy into their working environment. By not doing this, sociopaths are instead climbing, easily, the career ladder and far exceeding those who are more empathetic.

Thomas is charming, successful, and the type of woman most women would long to be. But she is also a diagnosed, though non-violent, sociopath. There are violent sociopaths roaming our society, but many more are non-violent. A statistic that reads, “One in every twenty-five people is a non-violent sociopath”, will make you wonder….could this be me? Work, relationships, and life is different for these people and you, as the reader, must form your own opinions when it comes to sociopathic views and strengths.

Thomas’ book is vivid, smart, and brutally honest. It is a read that stimulates the mind in a variety of ways as it should since sociopaths do what they have to in order to charm us into submission. Pick it up if you’re looking for an interesting read.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Jenna lives in the bustling city of Pittsburgh, PA with her wife, her chihuahua Penny, her retriever Ella and her two beautiful cats. Along with her passion for reading and the literary world, she is also an artist, writer, environmental activist, creative coordinator and aspiring culinary genius. She believes there is nothing better to her then a good book, and lives one cover to the next.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Broadway Books. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: A Long Time Gone by Karen White

[ 0 ] August 1, 2014

51obymFecuL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Reviewed by Amanda Schafer

Vivien comes from a very long history of women who leave. They walk away from their families as if it’s their destiny. Vivien was no different, only she left before there were children to be hurt by her decision. Three generations before her had left their children for someone else to raise, leaving the children to wonder why they were left and what caused their mother to leave them. Vivien’s mother, Carol Lynne, left years before and Vivien’s grandmother, Bootsie, was left to raise the children. But Carol Lynne would come back…then leave again…then come back…then leave. Vivien just couldn’t stand it, so she too left and didn’t come back for 15 years. What she found when she returned was not at all what she expected: the remains of a body found under the cypress tree in the back yard after a storm had uprooted it. Who was this? And why was she buried in their backyard? Vivien also didn’t expect to find that Carol Lynne had left one last time for good, only this time, she didn’t leave physically but mentally. Bootsie had also passed away while Vivien was gone, so now she had nobody at the house that really knew her.

Except Tripp. Tripp was the one thing Vivien thought she’d left far behind her when she left town years before. Tripp, however, was still here and just as all-knowing about her as always. With one look he could see her very soul and know what she was thinking, being able to help her work through her problems without ever saying a word.

When Chloe, Vivien’s ex-step-daughter, shows up at the nearby airport, things take another turn for Vivien. Being forced to finally deal with her own personal issues also draws her into dealing with the multi-generational issue that needs to be answered once and for all. Through the process, Vivien realizes she has to “stop chasing the ghosts of the past because she’ll never catch them.”

Karen White weaves a wonderful tale of four generations of women who have secrets, secrets, and more secrets! The story was a bit difficult to follow in the first couple of chapters simply due to odd word choice, but once I got past that point, I was hooked. Be prepared to read for a while as A Long Time Gone is quite lengthy but it really couldn’t have been done any other way and done justice to the characters and the story. White shows us all how to let go of the past and make the most of what we have right in front of us.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Amanda lives in Missouri with her engineering husband, two sons, and one daughter. In between homeschooling and keeping up with church activities she loves to read Christian Fiction, Women’s Fiction, and any Chick-Lit. She never goes anywhere without a book to read!

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Penguin Group. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: Bold: A Cookbook of Big Flavors by Susanna Hoffman & Victoria Wise

[ 0 ] August 1, 2014

BOLD a Cookbook of Big FlavorsReviewed by Shannon Trenton

Food is a central part of our lives, whether choosing what or where to eat or learning new dishes–even counting calories has us thinking in a fundamental way about the food we eat. Shelves of cookbooks in the store are an apt illustration of our culture’s love affair with food.

A good cookbook has complete recipes that a home cook can follow with minimal difficulty. A great cookbook includes interesting combinations of flavor and unexpected ingredients that elevate simple dishes to a new level. With Bold: A Cookbook of Big Flavors, Susanna Hoffman and Victoria Wise have surpassed these milestones and presented something even greater: a love story of food.

The book is divided as one would expect, including brilliant courses from appetizers to dessert and everything in between. As their focus is on quintessentially American dishes, Hoffman and Wise also give game and fish their own section; however, they are also friendly to vegetarians with an entire vegetable chapter.

There are no “simple” recipes in this cookbook, though most home cooks will find many ingredients already in their pantry. Intriguing combinations like zucchini with cheddar and lime (p. 26) or olive oil cardamom ice cream (p. 386) are a celebration of American cuisine’s evolution and a promise to stir the diner’s palette with every dish. And they do not neglect the technique of cooking: every recipe includes clear measurements and cook times (as always, adjust for your equipment as needed), and there is a comprehensive conversion table right before the index.

As a reader who loves food, Bold is a one-two punch of fantastic: more than a cookbook, it is a food novel. Every chapter includes sections with fun facts and information about staple foods in the American diet–you have never been so close to the food you eat! For example, did you know:

  • In 1917 the Girl Scouts baked their famous cookies at home with their mothers (p. 378);
  • Pasta can be cut and formed into more than 600 shapes (p. 314);
  • Lewis and Clark used Dutch ovens during their expeditions (p. 88)

In addition, Hoffman and Wise pay tribute to the many other cultures whose culinary practices have been absorbed into what is considered American cuisine–in some cases, to the point that some dishes considered “ethnic” are actually all-American creations (looking at you, General Tso’s chicken)!

If you want to cook great food, there are a number of cookbooks that will suit your needs. If you want to cook amazing food, and fall in love with American cuisine, the only book you need on your shelf is Bold.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Shannon lives in Cleveland, Ohio with her husband, son, and two cats. When she isn’t reading, getting paid to play on social media, or running her own business she enjoys playing with her baby, cooking, and blogging at www.shannontrenton.com.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Workman Publishing Company. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: The Heir by Deborah Hill

[ 0 ] August 1, 2014

cover-the-heirReviewed by Amanda Farmer

The Heir is the third and final book in Deborah Hill’s Kingsland Series. The series has focused on Elijah and Molly Merrick’s legacy and their descendants throughout the years. The Heir is about Emily Merrick and her son, Steven, and their ongoing family feud with the Bradleys. This is the story of how Steven rises above his step-father’s cruel and controlling ways and gets even with him, and becomes a true Merrick. He inherits Kingsland from his grandmother and begins to make his own way without his step-father having any say in his life. He brings his family to live at Kingsland when he is once again passed by for another promotion. They easily adapt to the Cape Cod way of life and rent out rooms of Kingland to vacationers for extra money. Steven finds himself drawn to the sea and goes in with several men, and together they purchase a vessel to take out vacationers during the summer. Steven has liked being out on the sea since he was a child. He does what all Merricks do and has an affair and leaves his wife. Steven also comes to terms with Alice Bradley and her part in the Merrick family history. At least Steven wasn’t afraid of hard work unlike some of his earlier descendants, although he was still afraid of what society would think of him.

I had a hard time connecting with any of the characters in this story. I found them to be selfish and self absorbed. The Heir is just like the first two in the series; at least Ms. Hill was consistent with her writing and the story lines. There was a good deal more history in this book than the other two but I did not find that it added to the story or characters. The story seemed to drag on for me unfortunately. I had to keep forcing myself to keep reading to finish the story, and I hate to do that.

I have a hard time recommending this series to others to read.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆ 

Amanda loves spending time at home with her husband and their dog, Oreo. She loves reading, playing puzzle games, beading and watching movies. When she’s not reading, she’s working on her Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Authoright. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: I Can Barely Take Care of Myself by Jen Kirkman

[ 3 ] July 31, 2014

15757384Reviewed by Carrie Ardoin

Even before I became a parent, I knew I never wanted to be one of those mothers who starts every other sentence with, “As a mother…” and then proceeds to give her opinion to anyone within hearing distance, regardless of their parent status or if they had asked for my opinion at all. For the most part, I think I have avoided being that type of mom. I do, however, know plenty of other parents like this. For as much flack as Jen Kirkman catches for being happy in her decision not to have children, I too have heard so many people offer their unsolicited advice on the fact that I am content with having only one child. So while it’s not exactly the same thing, I can relate to the author and understand why she felt the need to write this book explaining her stance.

The most disappointing thing though, was that for the most part, I Can Barely Take Care of Myself: Tales From a Happy Life Without Kids did not do what the title said it would; we don’t hear too many tales about Jen having a “happy life” without kids. Instead, she mainly defends her decision and answers the questions so many have pressed upon her through anecdotes about her multiple neuroses, failed relationships, and stalled career. I don’t think any of the tales I read in this memoir were happy at all, actually.

The book is divided up into chapters which are titled accordingly: they are questions or statements related to motherhood that Jen Kirkman has heard countless times such as, “But you’d make such a good mother” and “who’s going to take care of you when you’re older?” In each chapter, the author addresses the question and tells a tale about why she doesn’t necessarily need a child to fulfill her life or to accomplish the things people are telling her. The stories themselves aren’t funny or even particularly entertaining. I’m not sure if they are meant to be.

Kirkman has tried to explain her decision every which way to others, and no one seems to get the hint that she just doesn’t want to be a mother, period. Whether her reasons are valid to them or not is irrelevant–she is a grown woman and is allowed to make her own decisions without having to explain them to anyone else. The fact that Jen felt this book needed to be written at all lights a fire under me–it’s 2014, not 1914. Whether a woman wants kids or doesn’t want kids, I don’t think a book needs to be written about it. Either way it’s a bit narcissistic to think your decision is affecting the lives of so many, because in reality, it’s not. People ultimately just love to stick their noses where they don’t belong.

For answering questions Jen has been asked so much in her lifetime, this book succeeds. For trying to prove that she is happy without children…not so much.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆ 

Carrie runs the blog Sweet Southern Home, and is a stay at home wife and mom to one little boy. When she’s not reading, she’s usually watching Netflix with her husband, playing outside with her son, or baking. Her family would describe her as sometimes annoyingly sarcastic, but mostly lovable. 

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Simon & Schuster. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: William Shakespeare’s The Empire Striketh Back by Ian Doescher

[ 2 ] July 31, 2014

empire striketh backReviewed by Cal Cleary

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…

For some reason, those words captures America’s imagination in a way that few other pieces of entertainment every have (or will). One of the most interesting aspects of the documentary The People Vs. George Lucas was the way that Star Wars, for some reason, ignited the creativity of a generation. There have been countless fan recreations, mash-ups, fan edits, costume mods, and much, much more as fans took something created by Lucas, threw it in a bag with all their other passions, and tried to turn it into something new. One of the most interesting examples of that in the last few years was Ian Doescher’s William Shakespeare’s Star Wars, a book that rewrote Star Wars as a Shakespearean play, borrowing the Bard’s language and structure. Now, Doescher returns with William Shakespeare’s The Empire Striketh Back.

Ian Doescher’s love of Shakespeare and Star Wars is clear from page one. Some of the jokes are subtle – an early callback to The Winter Tale’s infamous ‘Exit Pursued by a Bear’ went completely over my head when I first read it, for example – but for the most point, Doescher plays things admirably straight. This is an elaborate work of fan-love for a franchise, one that’s thorough enough, for example, to note that Shakespeare’s language varied by the class of his characters and put that into play by having Boba Fett speak in prose, indicating a lower class. Little touches like this make the book feel more complete, and more interesting.

The book’s biggest flaw comes in its overcrowding. The Empire Strikes Back is an epic adventure film, spanning multiple worlds and introducing a large number of tertiary characters to lend drama to its battle scenes. But rather than taking the opportunity to streamline, Doescher goes largely for accuracy, which makes the book too heavy on stage direction and too crowded with unnecessary characters. And while Doescher makes some interesting choices in adapting the work – Yoda, for instance, speaks exclusively in haiku, an excellent choice and one the author struggled with mightily according to his afterword – few are terribly insightful or interesting beneath the surface.

But while it is a gimmick, it’s a gimmick that works, at least. Doescher may not have the Bard’s sense of rhythm, immaculate pacing, or gift with wordplay, but William Shakespeare’s The Empire Striketh Back offers a reasonable facsimile – and, more importantly, a good time. While I can’t imagine the book being of much interest to the average public, Star Wars diehards can (and have) done worse when it comes to adapted or spun-off material, and fans of Shakespeare’s work should enjoy the care Doescher’s taken to combine the two. As a novelty, it’s more than worthy, but I’m not sure it succeeds as anything else.

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

Cal is a librarian, critic, and writer in rural Ohio. You can find more of his writing at his blog, The Comical Librarian, or follow him on Twitter.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Quirk Books. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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