Review – Dare To Write: Creative Writing Prompts

Dare To Write –
Creative Writing Prompts

Author: Kristen Fogle
Rockridge Press
2019
ISBN #978-1-64152-870=2

The cover of this book indicates that it is for young people and word rebels everywhere. My thought is that this is a vibrant book that has something for all ages, and all writing genres. At 165 pages, it is chockfull of advise, interesting writing prompts, and blank pages to write on. That would be the one area that the author and I part ways on – I will not write in a book. Period. I will use the prompts and keep an e-file. Others may choose to keep a handwritten journal. But I will not write in a book!

Fogle makes the suggestion that the reader use this book to get to know their own creative mind – and I second that motion! She suggests starting with Chapter 1: Writing Workshop, because it offers writers resources that will help the reader make the best of the rest of the book. Other than that, the book is organized by genre, and the reader can play around with whatever genre suits their fancy – whether it is one that they already write in, or one that they would like to dip their toes into.

The chapter entitled Writing Workshop deals with things like how to use characters, setting, dialogue and conflict to build a story. This is not a chapter to just read and move on – there are exercises for the reader to begin expanding their abilities. (I love that the exercises throughout the book are entitled “Your Turn”!) For instances, under building a character, Fogle asks the reader to answer questions such as: “The most important things that happened to my character are …”, “My character’s favorite outfit is …”, and “When speaking, my character sounds like …”.

Other chapters focus on memoir and self-inquiry; crimes, misdemeanors and total mysteries; love (the reader gets to develop a character worksheet in this chapter!); fantasy and sci-fi (in this chapter the reader gets to develop a setting worksheet; and poetry. At the end of the book are helpful suggestions and resources. Each chapter includes writing prompts, and several blank pages to write on.

I love this book – it is high energy, easy to work with, and can be used by writers of all ages and backgrounds. The only limits to what the reader gains from this book are those imposed by the reader on themselves. A mind that is open to experience can fly with this book!

© September 2019 Bonnie Cehovet
Reproduction prohibited without written permission of the author.

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Review: Mindfulness Meditations For Anxiety

Mindfulness Meditations For Anxiety –
100 Simple Practices To Find Peace Right Now

Author: Michael Smith, PhD.
Althea Press
2019
ISBN #978-1-64152-484-1

One thing that we do have to acknowledge is that there is a lot of anxiety running around in this world, and that each of us is greatly affected by it. In “Mindfulness Meditations For Anxiety” Michael Smith, PhD. presents 100 simple practices/meditations that can be done anywhere, anytime, to help us overcome anxiety and find peace within ourselves. Smith shares with the reader specific times of his life when he faced anxiety – as a child, through expectations in sports as he got older, and, more recently, through a severe and unexpected illness.

In his introduction Smith talks about his work as a psychotherapist, and a clinical and transpersonal psychologist. He discusses his training in different meditative practices, and how he views meditation as a strong healing tool. He also reinforces the thought that this book is about mindfulness meditation – something that will reduce your anxiety and help you to live a more joyous life.

In discussing what meditation is, Smith focuses on the fact that it is a process of getting to know our own mind and how it works, and to be able to maintain our attention where we place it. He also addresses a series of questions, including:

  • What is the best meditation position?
  • What do I do if my mind wanders?
  • Can I meditate while walking and running?

Part One is entitled “Calm The Mind”, and includes directions to such meditation exercises as “Basic Mindfulness Meditation”, “Observe Non-judgmentally”, “Redirect From Distraction”, and “Resting In The Open Awareness”.   Part Two is entitled “Calm The Body”, and includes directions to such meditation exercises as “Mindfully Link Diet And Anxiety”, “Body Scan”, “Breath Through It To Dissolve It”, and “Mindful Walking”. Par Three is entitled “Calm The Emotions”, and includes directions to such meditation exercises as “Get Close To Anxious Emotions To Heal Them”, “Quiet The Inner Critic”, “Finding Forgiveness”, and “Reduce Negative Thinking To Reduce Anxiety”. Part Four is entitled “Morning”, and includes such meditation exercises as “A Wake-up Meditation”, “Mindful Morning Stretch”, and “Finding What You Want And How To Get There”. Part Five is entitled “Evening”, and includes directions to such meditation exercises as “An Effective Evening Wind-down”, “The Day In Review”, and “Zero In On Tomorrow”.  Part Six is entitled “Moving”, and includes directions to such meditation exercises as “Mindful Movement”, “Mindful Cooking”, and “Mindful Driving”. Part Seven is entitled “5-Minute”, and includes directions to such meditation exercises as “Circular Breathing”, “Notice And Stop Negative Thinking”, and “Distraction Challenge”. Part Eight is entitled “Do Anywhere”, and includes directions to such meditation exercises as “Standing In Line”, “Accept Whatever Is Happening”, and “Encourage Yourself”.

At the back of the book is a list of resources (books and websites), and an index.

Smith writes in very plain language that can be understood by anyone, and his instructions are clear and concise. This book is a very “hands on” help for readers dealing with anxiety.

© September 2019 Bonnie Cehovet
Reproduction prohibited without written permission from the author.

 

 

 

Review: The Fast Forward Mindset – How to be Fearless & Focused to Accelerate Your Success

The Fast Forward Mindset –
How to be Fearless & Focused to
Accelerate Your Success

Author: David Schnurman
Highpoint Executive Publishing
2019
ISBN #978-1-64570-879-7

“The Fast Forward Mindset” addresses how we hold ourselves back from having the impact that we want, and how we can become focused enough to break through our own mental walls. Schnurman has developed a three step formula that anyone can use to accelerate their own journey to success. While addressed to entrepreneur’s, anyone can employ these principles to their life and achieve success.

In his foreword, international bestselling author Hal Elrod talks about the specific actions that Schnurman took to support him and his book, “The Miracle Morning mission: Elevating the Consciousness of Humanity, One Morning at a Time”. Why is this important? Because it is a living example of Schnurman’s commitment to help others grow their life and their business.

The three steps that Schnurman defined from his own life experiences are: (1) take action, (2) nip fear in the bud, (3) find your focus. The information presented in this book is distilled from Schnurman’s own life experiences. He hits the nail on the head in his introduction when he talks about how we often feel that we are not as far along in life as we should be. The foundation for this little voice in our head is what we have always expected to do and achieve, and the impact that we expected to have on others. I feel this is true for anyone, in any occupation.

Schnurman presents his material in an anecdotal manner – through stories of things he has experienced in life. He is very straightforward with what he says, and how he says it. He points out that he learned from his good experiences, as well as his bad experiences. We cannot let anything get us down. In walking through the process of Schnurman’s success, we gain a new perspective on how we can achieve success in our own lives.

Schnurman talks about taking ownership of our own thoughts, about learning to deal with things that are out of our control, making bold decisions, and being able to visualize what our future success will look like. Throughout the book we find templates that we can use to move ourselves forward. (Note: These templates can be downloaded from Schnurman’s site.) There are also exercises included that help the reader to develop qualities within themselves that are supportive of their success.

At the end of the book Schnurman presents the Fast Forward Mindset template, and an example of how he completed the template using the goal of publishing this book. (Note: The templates for this plan are available for download from http://www.ffwdmindset.com/resources.

Bottom line – to achieve success, we need to move out of our comfort zone. “The Fast Forward Mindset” gives us the tools and resource we need to do that, whether we are entrepreneurs or not. This book acts as a gateway to a better way of living.

© August 2019 Bonnie Cehovet
Reproduction prohibited without written permission of the author.

Review: Meditation For Relaxation – 60 Meditative Practices To Reduce Stess, Cultivate Calm, and Improve Sleep

Meditation For Relaxation –
60 Meditative Practices To Reduce Stress,
Cultivate Calm & Improve Sleep

Author: Adam O’Neill
Althea Press
2019
ISBN #978-1-64152-396-7

“Meditation For Relaxation” is all about using meditation as a tool to help enrich your life. In his introduction, O’Neill talks about meditation improving our quality of life in many ways. (Having practiced meditation for many years, I would add to this that meditation improves the quality of our lives on all levels.) O’Neill also notes that the practice of meditation is not inherently religious, and that it can be practiced by anyone, no matter what their belief system. He talks about his mother encouraging him to “use the breath” – to tune into the present moment to improve mental preparation, focus, and performance. The bottom line: the practice of meditation allows us to detach from our thoughts, allowing us to reset our relationship with our total life experience.

Before going into meditative practices, O’Neill addresses what exactly meditation is, and how it helps us to relax, reduce stress, and sleep better. He then presents a quick five minute meditation to help achieve calm and relaxation. The meditation was very simple, and easy for anyone to follow. The second meditation that he presents is on being “present and complete” – which helps us to reassure ourselves that we are complete as we are.

The meditations that follow are all for specific time periods, and for a specific purpose (such as relaxation, releasing layers of memory and emotion, walking meditations, awareness in the present moment, using a visual focal point to maintain awareness in the present, working with the sound of rain, working with aromatherapy, working with non-attachment, accessing your emotions, and so much more!). I found them all to be easy to follow, and quite effective.

There are twenty different meditations presented – all powerful tools of empowerment. At the end of the book several different resources are presented, including books and an app, as well as a listing of references, and an index. The index itself is a wonderful way to find the meditation that you need at any given time, and is worth its weight in gold!

I should really add a little PS here – Mr. O’Neill is the CEO of YMF.tv, a merger of Broga®Yoga (which he co-founded) and Yoga For Men.

 

© August 2019 Bonnie Cehovet
Reproduction prohibited without written permission from the author.

Review: Murder In The Crooked House

Murder In The Crooked House

 

Author: Soji Shimada
Translated by: Louise Heal Kawai
Pushkin Verigo
2019
ISBN #978-1782274568

“Murder In The Crooked House” is the sequel to Shamada’s “The Tokyo Zodiac Murders”. The original book came out in 1982, and was revised in 2016. The English translation became available in 2019. It falls into the genre of the locked room mystery, and is very well executed.

The setting is in the remote northern tip of Japan, with the action taking place in the Ice Flow Mansion (The Crooked House). This is a literal name – the house is built on a snowbound cliff, and consists of a maze of sloping floors and two oddly placed staircases. It was built to the specifications of millionaire Kozaburo Hamamoto, and features a drawbridge to Hamamoto’s private bedroom, along with a collection of Tengu masks, clock-work dolls, and life-size dolls collected in Europe.

Hamamoto hosts a Christmas party, to which he invites a select group of people. A very strange group of people, who really don’t want to be there. Then there is Hamamoto’s daughter, Eiko, an educated but not so pleasant individual.

Strange things begin happening – a chauffer is found dead in a locked room, his body in a very strange position with both arms above his head – and one arm chained to his bed. A life-size doll is found dismembered in the snow outside of his room – with the head quite a distance away. The police are called, but they cannot solve the puzzle.

There are more deaths, and a young female guest wakes up hearing noises outside her window. When she goes to look. She sees a grotesque man’s face staring at her through her window. She screams hysterically, which draws Eiko (who is sleeping in the next room), Hamamoto and others to the room. The window is opened – and here is no sign that anyone was there. No footprints in the snow below, no nothing!

The police are very embarrassed that they are nowhere near solving the murder. The Chief Inspector contacts his superiors for help. To his consternation they send Kiyoshi Mitarai, a fortune teller and psychic that was famous for finding the culprit behind the Umezawa family massacre. However, to the policemen already on the scene, he comes off, at first, as a joke, someone not to be taken seriously.

This is a wonderful mystery, filled with improbable clues and characters with their own problems and perspectives. It is written in the style of a play, four acts, with multiple scenes in each act. As a help to the reader, there are sketches of the house and its rooms interspersed throughout the book. The tone is very Agatha Christie, focusing on honor, revenge, and murder. The sleuthing itself is very “Sherlock Holmes”. I found much of the book to be very “western” in orientation. I would have preferred to have more of the Japanese culture brought in, but that does not distract from the book. My only quibble really is that I wish the female characters had been presented in a better light.

I highly recommend this book, and it will certainly be on my list of books that I want to re-read from time to time.

© July 2019 Bonnie Cehovet
Reproduction prohibited without written permission of the author.

 

 

Review: Death Of An Art Collector

Death Of An Art Collector –
A Nero Wolfe Mystery

Author: Robert Goldsborough
MysteriousPress.com/Open Road
2019
ISBN #978-1-5040-5754-7

“Death Of An Art Collector” is book fourteen in the Nero Wolfe Mystery series by Robert Goldsborough. The series is meant to be an homage to author Rex Stout, and the original Nero Wolfe mystery series. I am an ardent fan of Rex Stout and the original Nero Wolfe series, and was pleased to see the series continuing. That was before I read this book. I was very disappointed with what I was reading. I have only seen this one other time, and that was when I read two books from an author that I truly admired that were published posthumously. In that case, it was clear that the books were written by someone in the publishing company that had not actually read the authors previous books (this was a series also).

On the pro side, the original character are intact, and no new characters were added. The background, as far as era and the brownstone Wolfe lives in, were reflected realistically. That is about all the pro there is to talk about. Reading other reviews, I see that the original two books in this series were actually interesting and well written. I will go read them. I also see that the series went downhill from there.

This book very much feels like a template that was just filled in. There is no emotion to it, the storyline is good but not presented well, and the dialogue – well, all of the characters sound the same. Very boring.

The working premise is that art collector Arthur Wordell has fallen to his death from the 20th story window of the building he has his office in. Is it an accident, suicide, or murder? Coincidental that Archie Goodwin and his girlfriend attended a dinner at the Guggenheim, and sat at the same table as Wordell and his daughter Nadia, the night before Wordell’s death.

This could have been an interesting book. The Guggenheim wants Wordell’s extensive art collection, Wordell is not fond of the architect’s inclusion of a spiral staircase in the museum, Wordell’s estranged wife wants part of the collection, Wordell is at odds with the individual that he hired to curate his collection … the list goes on! Oh, and Mr. Wordell is notoriously not easy to get along with. And there is no will.

I will say that the ending does tie up the story – no one and nothing is left hanging. I will also say that unless you are an ardent fan of the original series, this book is not for you. It is not well written, will not draw you in, and will basically waste your time.

© July 2019 Bonnie Cehovet
Reproduction prohibited without written permission of the author.

Review: The Burglar

The Burglar

Author: Thomas Perry
The Mysterious Press
New York
2019
ISBN #978-0-8021-4679-3

The protagonist in this book is a twenty-four year old woman named Elle Stowell with the unlikely profession of burglary. Elle has a lot going for her – she is short, petite, beautiful, and smart. Why is this important? Elle targets high end homes, and, quite frankly, this allows her to canvas the neighborhoods (primarily as a runner) to see which houses look like a good target. Her size allows her access that bigger people would not have.

This works well for her until she enters the master bedroom (her target in every house, as this is where people tend to keep important items) of a wealthy art dealer, and finds said art dealer and two young women, all three of which have been shot in the head.

Elle is now a target herself, and the chase is on! She has no clue who the dead people were, or why they were murdered. There will be more murders to follow, one a little too close to home. She uses her skills as a burglar and her computer savvy to catch the people behind the murders.

The story has a great plot that technically moves along nicely, but there is a small problem of lack of meaningful dialogue. And one does have to suspend ones view of reality to believe that someone Elle’s age would have the knowledge that she has, and the perspective that she has, at her age. There is little to no emotional content in this book. And the play on her name gets old really, really fast! The ending is anti-climatic, and not really very believable.

This was a fun read for me, but not something that I intend to re-read, as I do with mysteries that I really like.

© June 2019 Bonnie Cehovet
Reproduction prohibited without written permission from the author.