Tuesday, July 29, 2014

My Brand-Spanking-New iPad Mini

After seeing that I had over 145,000 views on The Gal in UNDER a year, I got pretty gosh darn excited and decided to buy myself a brand-spanking-new mini iPad as a big kudos.  I can't tell you how excited I actually was about this purchase.  The weekend before, my mother had purchased herself one and, after checking out a few of the features, I refused to play with it because I didn't want her play toy to ruin the fun that I was gong to have with mine.

Saturday, July 19th, we headed to La Cantera (one of the big malls here in San Antonio, an outdoor one) so we could be at the Apple Store when it opened.  (We actually got their 30 minutes early - isn't that always the way? - and spent some time window shopping at the closed stores in that section of the mall.)

We walked into the store and stood over by the mini iPad table.  We watched Apple employees roam around the store, some helping customers, some completing the classes that they provide their customers, some just lost ... I was ready to bust with anticipation haha.  Seriously, the wait was killing me - I even wandered over to the covers to see if they had received anything new (in one week, right?).

It was FINALLY our turn (we were, honestly, probably in there for five minutes).  This "gentleman" (why is it in quotes, you ask? you'll see) comes up, does not introduce himself (but does shake our hands) and immediately starts rushing us through the process of picking out our item.  Now, we knew what we wanted, BUT that doesn't mean that his customer service capabilities should all of the sudden be thrown out the window.  (This was especially bothersome since, that weekend before, we spent several thousand dollars in this store and had AMAZING customer service - if you go to that mall, ask for Jay Walters - and were back to spend even more money.)

He rushed through the transaction, even though I was being courteous and playful (hoping to bring Mr. Poop-in-His-Pants out of his huff), then took the box holding my iPad, stuck it in the bag and laid it on the counter in front of me before handing me a printed out receipt.


You're thinking, "She's just being silly," right?  Have you BEEN to an Apple store?  This is not what they do.  You get sent over to the set-up table so that everything is working BEFORE you leave the store.  I had to ask him about this.  His reply?  "Well, we can do that, but it's super easy to do on your own."  (They were also one of the first companies to email the receipts to you and have never actually handed us a physical one in ALL the time we've been customers.)


I had to keep saying "Mom" very sternly - she looked as if she was going to Tombstone him RIGHT THERE.  

We ended up just leaving.  My play toy was ruined.  I couldn't even play with it in the car!!!!!!!!!

As we walked out to the car, my mom looks at me and says, "Was that the same one we got me?"  Yup.  "Didn't we pay more for mine?"  Hmm ... She's right.  We got in the car, me saying that I would deal with it when we got home, but I just could not wait.  We pulled into a parking space and I got out of the car to call the manager (thanks, douche bag, for printing out that receipt so I would have the store phone number AND the receipt number - your name wasn't on it and you didn't give it to us, but we still found you!!!!).  

The manager ... was shocked.  And very UNHAPPY that a customer was treated this way in his story.  I mean, people have off-days - I get that - but people in the Apple store are ALWAYS nice (mom says he must have failed orientation haha).  The whole time I'm talking to him, I'm watching her play with hers through the car window *sobs*  Turns out the reason that mine was cheaper was because I had asked for Apple Care, which he had put on my bill ... and then removed BEFORE we paid.  So the manager ended up having to take care of it - and was very nice about the whole thing, apologizing profusely (and it didn't sound like he was just saying it to appease me).

I know what you're thinking.  She got home and set it up and it worked beautifully and this has a happy ending.

Not quite.

The next day (this would be Sunday, July 20th), while I was checking my emails, the whole thing shut off on me.  No, the battery was not dead.  IT was actually plugged in at the time and I had just noticed that it was at 100%.  

I was ready to cry.  Just about did.  Went into mom, in a panic, with it cradled in my arms, thinking I had somehow already broken my toy.  She plugged it in her room and we left it alone for an hour.  When I attempted to turn it on again (I tried several times before and after I went into her room), the apple showed up on the screen.  Sadly, it kicked me off twice more that day.  And three times on Monday.  

On Tuesday I had grown quite annoyed and called Apple Care (where I got to speak to a man named Ron Cordery).  He spent several hours trying to get this thing to work and, after all that, we found out that what he tried had not worked.  He finally had to leave for the day, but promised to call me back on Thursday (he was off Wednesday) to try again.

On Wednesday morning, I tried what he had tried by myself - basically restarting the thing from straight-from-the-factory settings - and this time it worked rather quickly.  Sadly, a few hours later, things started to go wrong again - and I was kicked off twice that day.

By this time I was concerned that, even if we did get it "fixed," we would be having problems still later on.  The next day, I told him what happened and he set me up an appointment to go out to the store (yes, we were planning on going back to La Cantera) and get it replaced.  He also decided, to make me a happy customer again, that he was going to give me a gift of another Apple product.


I know when you get a bad pizza from Dominos, they will send you out a free one, but I NEVER in my wildest dreams thought that the Apple store (who doesn't have a cheap thing in their store haha) would send me one of their items for free.

I actually told him to stop playing around.

He laughed and asked me what color I wanted.  I told him blue.  

Shocked, I was!!

We decided against going out to La Cantera on Friday and instead changed to North Star Mall on Saturday.  The people in there were amazing, just like they should be - and yes, I did tell the story a few times.  They were all appalled that someone would treat customers like that, especially us since we are "so nice."  They gave me my new one (brand-spanking-new out of the box) and helped me to set it up (even though, by this time, I had the whole thing memorized).  

And while I dealt with that, mom bought some more Apple stuff haha - a blue rubber keyboard cover for the Macbook Pro and this pen that you can use on the iPad with Mickey Mouse on it (it's used to draw, color, etc on a Disney app).

I received my gift yesterday - it's ... beautiful!!  :)

If I wasn't already an Apple customer, I would definitely be one from now on.  The way that all of the employees took care of us and made sure that we didn't have another bad experience was amazing and shocking, especially in this day and age when there are lots of people who don't have any pride in their place of employment and work-ethic is something people don't know the meaning of.

Way to go, Apple, on doing EVERYTHING you could to make up for the bad situation ... and going even beyond that.

REVIEW: Birth of an Assassin

Birth of an Assassin
Author: Rik Stone
Genre: Historical, Crime, Thriller
Publisher: Silver Publishing
Publication date: 6.28.2013
Pages: 430

Date read: 7.28.2014
Recommended by: Sage's Blog Tours, Read 2 Review

Summary: Set against the backdrop of Soviet, post-war Russia, Birth of an Assassin follows the transformation of Jez Kornfeld from wide-eyed recruit to avenging outlaw.  Amidst a murky underworld of flesh-trafficking, prostitution and institutionalized corruption, the elite Jewish soldier is thrown into a world where nothing is what it seems, nobody can be trusted, and everything can be violently torn from him.

Authors are always asking me what kind of books I read, which is a question that makes me laugh.  Why?  Because a list of what I DON'T read would be far shorter and easier to recite.  No matter what, though, I always seem to be drawn to books that have a historical background to them.  There's something about reading about how the characters lived in another time period that really catches my attention every time.  I am especially drawn to the past monarchy of England (like Queen Elizabeth and the rest of the Tudor clan) and anything having to do with World War II (I blame the latter on my father, who loved to read/learn about war).

This story is about a young Jewish man named Jez.  All of his life he wanted to be in the Red Army and one day, shortly after WWII ended, he headed out, without his family knowing, to join up.  If it weren't for the drunken antics of two soldiers (giving him the wrong directions), he would have never met up with Petrichova and his life would not have gone down the path that it did.  Even though he was under age, Petrichova got him into basic training and took him under his wing, wanting him to be the future.  One day, one "wrong" choice, and everything changed for him.  He had to choose between his family and his country - little did he know that the woman he was in love with (and hadn't seen since boot camp) was sent to spy on him from afar.

This was a really interesting story, with twists and turns that were unexpected.  The author did a great job of describing all the things that Jez was going through, from his first kill to his new commander who hates Jews.  I loved how much Jez changed and grew up through it all, how what he thought he wanted and loved ended up being something he could not stand in the end.  At first, while Jez is in boot camp, he's just this kind of annoying guy (his inner monologue about Anna this and Anna that) who happened to be in the right place at the right time, but then you see how things progress, you really start to see his character shape into a man, as if you are watching his whole life through these pages.  The events that unfurled kept me interested to the very end, even though it wasn't an action-packed book.  Definitely a good read.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Author Interview: Darryl Olsen

Today I'd like to welcome Darryl Olsen to The Gal. He is currently doing a Blog Tour with Worldwind Blog Tours for the book Children of the Gods: The Talon Project (you can see my review here on The Gal).

Hi, Darryl. Welcome!! Let's start with you telling us a little bit about yourself.

I'm a Sydney based author currently contracted with ASJ Publishing. I am the author of the following titles including Purgatory Soldiers of Misfortune and Purgatory Origins-Powers of Darkness. The title "Children of the Gods" is my first attempt in the world of space opera and code breaking, I can't wait to show everyone some of the strange things that run around in my head. When I'm not writing (or working), I love travelling, camping, 4WD and fishing. I have been known to swing the odd golf club.

What are some things about you that most people don't know?

If I wasn't writing, I'd probably be admitted to a Mental Health Facility, seriously some of the stuff that goes around my head is scary and maybe a little crazy. But it's all fun. You'd probably be surprised to know that I also own a number of racehorses, so don't be too shocked if you run into me at the local race track.

What is the first book you remember reading?

I can't remember the title, but I'm guessing it would have involved military action, adventure and maybe a little bit of Science Fiction just to mix things up. I remember reading a lot of those Star Wars novels when I was young, so chances are it could have been one of those.

What made you decide to begin writing?

The main reason I started writing was that I found it a major emotional outlet. It can really be a tool where you can put some of your crazy ideas onto paper and watch the characters develop.

Do you have any quirks that you go through when you write?

Each book is different for me, some of my writing is developed and planned, while others are taken out of emotions or ideas I have picked up during that day. I'll go to my local state forest, sit down and let nature inspire me. You'd be surprised how many times that works.

Do you have a special place you like to write?

I prefer the outdoors, under a nice tree. You may even find a beer in my hand, laptop in the other, that's the life.

Is there anything about writing you find most challenging?

I guess the hardest thing is getting started on that first novel, but the end result is so rewarding.

What do you think makes a good story?

Putting the reader in a place of uncertainty, and watch them try to make sense of it all. It always brings a smile to my dial.

What book(s) have most influenced you?

I'm a huge fan of Greig Beck "Black Mountain" and the Charlie Parker series by John Connolly. I have also just read the new "Knight of the Old Republic" books which I think are a great addition to the Star Wars Franchise.

What inspires you most?

Probably family friends, other authors (and alcohol), but not politicians, I hate those guys.

Where do the ideas for your books come from?

From events and everyday life. I sometimes get my ideas from Mother Nature herself. (Thanks mom)

Which of your characters do you think is the most like you?

I'd like to see myself as former CIA deputy director Mr. Hayston, a man with a secretive past.

What have you learned creating this book?

It's the first time I have written anything in the speculative fiction world, I hope people enjoy the read.

What do you think your readers will take away from this book?

Just go into the novella with an open mind, and let your mind run free.

What makes your book different than others that fall under this genre?

You'll never read another book like this, I can guarantee that!

What can we expect from you in the future?

More science fiction, more horror, and maybe a little adventure thrown in.

You can email me at: Darryl@darrylolsen.com
I also have an Amazon page, Twitter and a Facebook page.

REVIEW: Children of the Gods: The Talon Project

Children of the Gods: The Talon Project
Author: Darryl Olsen
Genre: Science Fiction, Adventure
Publisher: ASJ Publishing
Publication date: 4.27.2014
Pages: 69

Date read: 7.22.2014
Recommended by: Worldwind Blog Tours, Read 2 Review

Summary: Some codes are best left secret.
     What if I told you there existed a bible code? Not just any bible code, but one capable of turning the Book of Genesis into the most technologically advanced epics ever told; would you believe it? Well thanks to one of the Cold War's best kept secret, such a code does exist.
     The Talon Project is an original bible code discovered by the world's best and foremost scientist. This unique code turns the Book of Genesis and other ancient creation stories into the most technologically advanced epic ever conceived.
     Not everybody is happy with the project going public. Will you believe in the code?

Ex-FBI and a reporter, conspiracy theories and secret government projects, the paranormal and secret codes, an interview that leads to more questions, a strange black SUV, a secret meeting, and the "true" story behind religion. Who do you trust? What do you believe?

This was a very interesting story. A meeting with an ex-FBI agent leads this reporter to an adventure he did not expect – and answers he never expected to receive.

The reporter was the most interesting character to me. He wasn't necessarily a "good guy," but he still got involved with this story, took chances, put his family on the back burner … all to find out what this big story was all about (typical reporter? eh, maybe not). The people he met along the way made the "lead up" to the end of the story even more interesting. I definitely want to know more and see where this story will lead.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

REVIEW: Social Elephant

Social Elephant
By: Kia Wakefield

Genre: Social Psychology & Interactions, Relationships
Publication date: 9.14.2013
Pages: 146

Date read: 1.11.2014
Recommended by: Read 2 Review

Summary: Friendship often starts when two people's priorities, interests, schedules and appetites click. Unfortunately, more people are finding that they simply aren't clicking. Despite an authentic, human desire to connect, millions of people are predisposed to undermine social connection. But the problem isn't always a lack of social skill.

Cicero, the Roman philosopher, defined friendship as an agreement in things sacred and profane, accompanied by good will and love. And Henry Adams, the first cosmopolitan American journalist, said that to have one friend in life is much, two are rare and three are hardly possible. People tend to mistake acquaintances for friends, and unfortunately, many people don't have any true friends at all.

Social Elephant: New Rules for Making Friends in Our Changing Social Economy is an amalgamation of personal experiences and academic research on friendship. After moving five times in the past five years, Kia Wakefield struggled with developing close friendships. On her quest to make friends in her new cities, she's learned a lot and would like to share. 

When I was given the opportunity to read this book, I jumped at the chance.  I won't lie - I secretly (well, not so secretly now) love self-help books.  Any time one looks interesting, I pick it up - and I always find at least part of them to be beneficial.  But this, this was more than that.

Over the last couple of years, I have found myself in many conversations discussing how hard it is to make friends in this day and age.  I always thought it was me - I'm getting older, sometimes I would rather stay at home and read then go out, I moved to a different city where I didn't know anyone, I'm not really a drinker - but these people all felt the same way.  We complained, vented about the situation - but none of us knew how to fix the problem.

This book was perfect and exactly what I needed.  In fact, it's a book that I have recommended to some of those people that I had those conversations with and kept in touch with.  It is not just full of advice and ideas, but friendship philosophies and the reasons why things have changed.  It was easy to read and very helpful.  It just made sense.

REVIEW: Guilt-Free Quiet Times

Guilt-free Quiet Times
By: Emily E Ryan

Genre: Spirituality, Prayer
Publication date: 12.3.2013
Pages: 120

Date read: 1.26.2014
Recommended by: Read 2 Review

Summary: Somewhere along the line, you’ve been taught some version of this: Your quiet time with God is only effective when you have the perfect atmosphere, the proper tools, and the right formula. You must rise before dawn, gather your study Bible, devotional book, concordance, highlighters, colored pencils, and journal and devote thirty minutes of undisturbed silence to communicate with the Lord. If you cannot do this every day without fail, you must not love Jesus.

When it comes to your quiet time, it’s time to say no to someone else’s rules or magic formulas that work perfectly for him or her but only create chaos and guilt in your own life. With the perfect blend of sarcasm and Scripture, Emily Ryan exposes the most common myths about traditional quiet times and gives you the freedom you need to chase after God in your own unique way. 

The book includes small group discussion questions and an exhaustive list of practical ideas that will help you get to know God rather than get to know how to have the perfect quiet time.

I am a religious person, though probably not as religious as I should be.  I speak to God, but probably not as much as I'm supposed to and usually more like I'm having a conversation with a friend than actually speaking to God.  I've often wondered if I'm doing it right and, when speaking to other more religious people than me at my church, I've always walked away knowing that I'm doing it all wrong.  Instead of encouraging me, it actually keeps me away, which I'm sure is even worse.

When I had the chance to read this for an r2r, I jumped at the chance.  I mean, the title alone spoke to me and isn't that one of the things that pulls us into a book?

I really enjoyed this book.  She was motivational and not too preachy.  Some of the myths she used were ones I had heard myself from those "more religious people than me at my church" and what she said after each really put everything into perspective.  She gives tips, ideas ... and one of the things I liked the most was that she includes links to interesting articles that focus on smaller things that she mentions in passing.

I found this to be a very interesting book and recommend it to any other religious person who isn't sure if they are "doing it right."

REVIEW: She's Out, I'm In

She's Out, I'm In
By: Toneal M Jackson & Dominique Wilkins

Genre: Relationships
Publication date: 12.22.2013
Pages: 98

Date read: 1.28.2014
Recommended by: Read 2 Review

Summary: Abuse. Blended Families. Communication. Money. Self-Esteem. Setting Boundaries. Trust.
What do they all have in common? Regardless of age, race, or economic status, these issues typically plague all relationships. The difference however, is the manner in which the situations are addressed, and ultimately resolved.

Encountered bumps in the road regarding your relationship? How did you handle it? Did you leave or did you stay? Still trying to decide exactly what to do? Your solution may be lurking inside...

I previously read a book by Dominique Wilkins as an r2r, then won a book by her (she included all kinds of author swag when she sent it to me, which I found pretty cool, to be honest), so when I saw that she co-authored a book and had it up for r2r, I decided to give it a go.  It's about relationships.  I'm sure I'll eventually be in one of those again (haha) and most likely will need all the help I can get (haha).

I found it to be a very interesting book.  Each of the seven relationship problems are split into two parts: a story of a couple up to their necks in the problem (written by Dominique) and relationship advice on that particular problem (written by Toneal).

The stories really made you feel the situations that each person was going through and the advice was well thought out.  They really have a good start here and their two parts went well together - I look forward to seeing what these two will come up with next.

REVIEW: All I Needed to Know I Learned from Columbo

All I Needed to Know I Learned from Columbo
By: Adam Graham

Genre: Mystery, Self-Help
Publication date: 1.20.2014
Pages: 70
Amazon link: All I Needed to Know I Learned from Columbo 

Date read: 2.20.2014
Recommended by: Read 2 Review

Summary: Detective stories are fun and interesting, but as Adam Graham writes, they also have a lot to teach us about life..

Join podcaster Adam Graham on this fun journey through the annals of detective fiction as he examines the history and career of seven of the greatest detectives from literature, radio, and television. Along the way, he stops to point to the sometime surprising insights that these detectives teach such as:

-How to avoid cluttering your brain from Sherlock Holmes.
-How to form valuable opinions from Nero Wolfe.
-The importance of character from Dan Holiday.
-The proper use of anger from Columbo
-How to find courage from Adrian Monk

These detectives provide twelve timeless life lessons in a fresh and entertaining way. All I Needed to Know I Learned From Columbo is a must-read for any fan of detective fiction. 

Ok, so I'm sure I've said over and over again (enough to irritate anyone who listens) that I am a HUGE fan of Mystery.  I've seen every Columbo episode/movie there is.  Same with Murder, She Wrote.  I love Sherlock Holmes ANYTHING.  I am 20 episodes away from finishing the entire series of the original Hawaii Five-O.  Agatha Christie is one of my all-time favorite actors - so, yes, I not only know who Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple are, but I love them love them love them.  Midsomer Murder - amazing show!!  I've been told that certain aspects of my personality are very, um, Adrian Monk.  Nero Wolfe - great mix of culinary and mystery.  I could go on, but then I would forget why I'm here in the first place...

My point of all that is - that's what made me pick up the book.  Adam, you had me at "Columbo." 

This is an awesome self-help book.  I love that he explains who the different investigators (for lack of a better word) are for those who have no clue - and the things that he learned from each one of these guys makes so much sense.  Then, when we get to the end, the "conclusion," he sums it all up beautifully.

A fun little book that you can learn a lot from.  

REVIEW: Lola's Prayer Cocktail

Lola's Prayer Cocktail
By: YL Mitchell

Genre: Religion, Self-Help
Publication date: 1.13.2014
Pages: 46
Amazon link: Lola's Prayer Cocktail 

Date read: 2.20.2014
Recommended by: Read 2 Review

Summary: If there’s one thing women love is a good cocktail. Cocktails often incorporate unwinding, your girlfriends, and great fellowship (or womenship). Well this book is not recipes for your favorite drink! But it does shake-down and mix-up 10 different areas of a woman’s prayer life that often need a sisterly touch.

The goal is to encourage your spirit for a better relationship with not just those around you, but most importantly with God, using devotionals, famous quotes, story-telling, topic specific prayers and more. I truly hope you enjoy, from one sister to another!

I am a religious person, though there are times when I feel that I should be more religious than I am.  I speak to God and all that other good stuff and books that talk about prayers and religion really catch my attention.

This one was short little book about prayer and I fully admit that the cover caught my attention.  When I started reading it, though, I found out that it was more than just about prayer, but about making yourself a better person and fixing your life, making it better.  The words of wisdom are powerful, the prayers that are included with some of the chapters are meaningful and I really enjoyed reading this.  I recommend it to anyone who thinks that they are not being listened to, that feels God has deserted them in some way or even ones that just want a better understanding about prayer and speaking to God in the first place.

Favorite line: "Don't allow your pain or setbacks to be the things that define you, or how and if you worship the Lord.  He doesn't allow our sin to stop us from His love.  The enemy would only be too happy for you to focus on what pains you, instead of the joy of the new day provided you.  So instead of living for the future you end up dying in the past."

REVIEW: Tiastasia's Food Memoir

Tiastasia's Food Memoirs
By: Stasia Nielsen

Genre: Cooking, Memoirs
Publication date: 6.15.2012
Pages: 143
Amazon link: Tiastasia's Food Memoirs 

Date read: 2.27.2014
Recommended by: Read 2 Review

Summary: Most of our earliest memories can be grounded in family and food: loved ones gathered around the kitchen while grandma cooks up her famous fried chicken or tacos, little ones sneaking spoonfuls of cake batter while momma’s back is turned. Almost everyone can recall a favorite food memory from their childhood.

Here I have collected recipes from all over the world-- from my international adventures while serving as a missionary mom-- that we as a family have thoroughly enjoyed. Some of these have been handed down from grandmas from such places as Mexico and Korea. Some of the recipes are from dear friends, but the majority of them are the result of me just fiddling with ingredients and making something yummy with ingredients that we as a family enjoy.

My hope for this book is to bring to your table some of the culinary delights from places you may never be able to go. We enjoy cooking together and making memories in our kitchen. I hope and pray that you have those times with your loved ones as well.

I have always been truly captivated by cookbooks (since I was very young - one of my earliest memories is being 5 or 6 and getting in trouble for taking several cookbooks off the shelf and hiding them under my bed - in my defense, it was so I could "read through them" where my sister couldn't pester me - or go back in and lose my spot) and can (and will) read them from cover to cover.  In this day and age, when you can go online and look up any recipe, it seems that cookbooks - with the author's notes and stories - have become obsolete and this truly saddens me.  I really enjoyed reading the memories the author shared and look forward to trying several of her recipes.

A lot of the recipes she has included are ones you can find elsewhere, but her notes made them more appealing to me - I just wish she had added notes to all of them and not just a handful. 

She included potato chip cookies, something my mom used to make for me when I was a kid (something I still love), something most people have never heard of.  That's awesome :)

REVIEW: The Drummer's Manifesto

The Drummer's Manifesto
By: Pamela Lynn-Seraphine

Genre: Psychology, Stress management, Self-Help
Publication date: 1.23.2014
Pages: 149
Amazon link: The Drummer's Manifesto 

Date read: 2.27.2014
Recommended by: Read 2 Review

Summary: Is stress costing you time, money, happiness, security, health, and your peace of mind? The Drummer's Manifesto is an outstretched hand for anyone in need of an uplifting way to deal with the overwhelming stressors of life. Infused with sexuality and thought-provoking theoretical concepts designed to stimulate interest in the topic and practice, Pamela Lynn-Seraphine's debut book offers a new angle to a complex problem, taking a bold, compelling, and inspirational look at something not yet looked at by other scholars in the self-help genre. Acknowledging the fact that stress is the number one health complaint in North America, this book is the first of its kind to educate readers on how to harness the health benefits of rhythmic entrainment to reduce stress, maximize brainpower, and optimize health. Written with the layperson in mind, The Drummer's Manifesto bridges the gap between self-improvement and brain health in an accessible format that will reach millions of stressed-out consumers. It is a timeless book that offers a simple yet effective solution for the throngs of people who suffer from the stress. Presenting rhythmic entertainment as a radical new way of enhancing one's quality of life, Lynn-Seraphine thoughtfully and thoroughly showcases how the seductive effects of drumming produce unbelievable health benefits, with none of the boredom one might expect from a meditative practice. Drumming, she stresses, engages the body, mind, and soul, putting joy, passion, vitality, and enthusiasm for life well within the grasp of any reader.

I am a drummer.  One that has idolized Animal and his stint in the Dr Teeth & the Electric Mayhem band her whole life.  Drumming relaxes me - whether it's playing behind a big drum set, drumming my fingers (or pencils) on my desk, twirling drum sticks in my hands or listening to the beat of drums in American Indian music. 

It's called music therapy and this book is all about one aspect of that, the drums and how they help with stress management, among other things.  I chose to read this not only for myself (who doesn't want to better themselves?), but as part of the research I do for my mother/boss (she's a Pediatric Occupational Therapist and I'm her personal assistant) to help her with the children she works with who have special needs.  Music therapy is being used by people from all walks of life, though, and there has been lots of research done on the topic.

The first half of this book is a backstory behind it all and interesting information written in a concise form.  The second half is tips and steps you can use to make this work for you.  Throughout the book, she has included "inspirational resources" to help you along on your journey (you can use an app on your phone or tablet to scan them or follow the links provided).  Definitely an interesting little book full of helpful information.

REVIEW: 37 Ways to Improve Your Cat's Life

37 Ways to Improve Your Cat's Life
By: Maris Munkevics

Genre: Pets & Animal Care, Cats

Publication date: 12.27.2013
Pages: 46

Date read: 1.23.2014

Recommended by: Read 2 Review

 Summary: "37 ways to improve your cat's life" will give you a better understanding of your cat's needs, and it will show you how to turn your house into a cat paradise, make your best friend healthy and full of life, and much more...

Inside you will find 37 ways to have a happy, healthy cat, and you'll be able to implement most of the tips right away. Even if your cat already enjoys a great life with you, there's always room for improvement! 

I am a big pet lover and love my cats a great deal so when the chance to read a book on how to make them happier and make their lives better for an r2r, of course I jumped at the chance.

The author did a really good job with this book.  Not only are the pictures she chose very cute, but the 37 things are very helpful.  Now, some of them I already knew and some of them are common sense, but her description of them and the reasoning behind them was very interesting and informative. 

Definitely a good short read for all the cat lovers of the world.

REVIEW: Everyday Prayers

Everyday Prayers: 365 Days to a Gospel-Centered Faith
By Scotty Smith

Genre: Prayerbooks, Meditations

Publication date: 9.1.2011
Pages: 385

Date read: 12.31.2013

Summary: How would life be different if we could think, see, and do all things in light of the person and work of Jesus? With this inspiring collection of 365 Scripture-centered prayers, Scotty Smith helps readers pray the Scriptures through the lens of the gospel, mining the resources of God's grace and applying them in every season of life. He frees readers to abandon any posing or pretending in favor of an honest, no-spin relationship with a God who claims them as his own.

Each day includes a Scripture reference and an inspirational original prayer, born from both moments of great faith and moments of crisis. Like a modern-day book of Psalms, Everyday Prayers is a year's worth of growing in grace that readers will lean on year after year.

One of my 2013 resolutions was to read some of the Bible and to pray more.  I did read more of the Bible and I highly recommend the Laudate app for anyone who wants to do this - the whole Bible, plus daily readings, prayers, etc.  I thought this book would be encouragement for me to pray, but sadly, it was not.

I hate to say anything bad about this book because it is someone's personal prayers, but he published them as something that could help others and, though some of them were beautiful, not a lot of them are relatable - and the writing is just not engaging, doesn't keep you interested.  He actually talks like he was alive back when the Bible was originally written, which is tedious at times and I spent a lot of time looking up old words in the dictionary (and I'm a very articulate person who uses big words a lot).

As I said, some were very beautifully written and some did make me think, but after awhile I found myself skipping some - or missing out for a month and having to go back and skim to catch up.  Not what I wanted and, honestly, wonderful that he wrote these and that they helped him - but disappointing because they were not helpful to me.

REVIEW: The Child of Dawn

The Child of Dawn
By: Belangela G Tarazona

Genre: Special Needs, Autism

Publication date: 10.29.2013
Pages: 64

Date read: 1.5.2014

Recommended by: Read 2 Review

Summary: This is the story of our journey towards Noah and beyond since it also reflects the joy, the arrival of a baby normally brings into a family, and the turmoil of unleashed emotions when confirming the suspicion that all isn't idyllic.

Noah is autistic.

It also tells on the process of putting our own pain aside to give Noah the best opportunities for development and independence, without expecting other thing than Noah's wellbeing.

It is a trip to acceptance, which should not be seen as an act of giving up. It is a way to rebuild our existence based on what we've got.

This is a brilliant book for parents of children with autism, but something I think everyone (extended family, teachers, childcare personnel, people who know someone who has autism or someone who has a child with autism, anyone) should read. 

This is the story of a woman who found out that her young son (Noah) has autism - what she went through, the steps she followed, how she felt.  It was such a good story.

The best part of the whole story is the very end, where she includes a letter that she wrote to her son and some pictures.  Absolutely amazing.  Another thing I liked about this book was the letter that she wrote to the parents of the childcare center, in her son's name, explaining what is "wrong" with him.

My favorite line: "Many times I feared the rejection of my own son - not because he wanted to push us away, but because he wasn't programmed to reciprocate."

REVIEW: God's Promises of Love

God's Promises of Love
By: Mona Hanna

Genre: Christian, Devotionals

Publication date: 4.6.2012
Pages: 58

Date read: 1.5.2014

Recommended by: Read 2 Review

Summary: God understands your pain.

We go through so much difficulty in our lives - stress because of work, anguish from our relationships, negativity from our self-hatred and judgment. We wonder how we'll ever cope.

God promises love and healing in all our circumstances. God sees every single thing that happens to us - our every worry and concern - and is right by our side in what we go through. There's no situation that God can't manage. He'll help us when we're distressed. He'll help us when we're not coping. He'll help us when we can't help ourselves.

God's Promises of Love contains 30 Christian devotions, focusing on God's help when we're hurting. It's the follow up to Mona's successful first devotional, The Nature of God. Continue your journey on the path to discover God's true love and acceptance.

It's really hard to write reviews on books like these because this is a personal thing that someone wrote and published to share with others.  This is their personal feelings, their emotions, their beliefs.  And how can you judge those?  What gives us the right to do so?

That being said, at first I wasn't so sure about this book.  I like devotionals and enjoy reading what other people have to say on their beliefs, BUT it seemed a little childish.  As she wrote, though, she grew and I really got into what she was sharing.  She even made me think, which I feel is one of those things that devotionals need to do.

Favorite lines: "God does love us, and wants what's best for us.  If a thousand sunny days was best for us, God would provide that.  But sometimes it has to rain.  No one likes the rain.  But without rain, nothing can grow."

"If he's not seeing my sins, then he can't see my strengths, either.  If he doesn't see the bad, he can't see the good."

REVIEW: The Hummingbird Way

The Hummingbird Way
By Sherri Lynea Gerek

Genre: Self-Help, Motivational
Publication date: 2.2.2014
Pages: 182
Amazon link: The Hummingbird Way 

Date read: 3.6.2014
Recommended by: Read 2 Review

Summary: Sherri Lynea Gerek wants to help you fulfill the highest vision you hold for yourself and your life. In The Hummingbird Way, Sherri offers up a bright perspective on overcoming challenges by elevating your everyday thoughts and behaviors. As you apply the book’s lessons to rise above your circumstances like the hummingbird, you will broaden your horizon and unearth new possibilities for greater understanding and acceptance of yourself and others.

The Hummingbird Way includes lessons such as . . .
• Have Confidence in Your Ability to Fly
• Hover and Rise Above
• Face Your Fear and Fly Right Th rough It
• Every Feather in Place
• Fight Fairly
• Fly Higher
• File Your Flight Plan
• Fly Forward—Don’t Look Back
• . . . and more!

Each of its twenty-two chapters opens with a hummingbird scene providing a metaphor for a common life issue we all face. This is followed by a personal life lesson conveyed through a story, a strategy, and a worksheet for further self-exploration. The Hummingbird Way stirs the imagination. As you aspire to live in harmony with the world around you, life is not always easy. You look for flowers. You encounter hornets. You desire nectar. You’ll find it all here.

The way this book is written is beautiful.  Each chapter begins with a story written while observing different hummingbirds that the author cares for and feeds on her property.  Each story leads into what she is tying to teach you with that lesson.  She had a lot of great things to say - very motivational - as well as some great advice.  Each chapter/lesson also has a worksheet to help you learn what she (and the hummingbirds) are teaching you.  Everything she wrote REALLY made me think.  I especially liked the hummingbird story for Lesson 16 and the story about her grandchildren in Lesson 15 brought happy tears to my eyes.

Favorite line: "When you let go of judging yourself and others, you will enjoy more positive energy and peace of mind.  You may notice that you breathe more easily, experience less stress and feel the weight of your worries tumbling from your shoulders.  That is what acceptance feels like - a knowing that each of us is simply amazing just the way we are, imperfections and all."

"When we can stop beating ourselves up over the past and learn to look at what happened to us in the proper perspective - as something that we learned, survived or overcame - we can embrace our growth and transformation."

REVIEW: Break Up Not Down

Break Up Not Down
By: Caro Cowan

Genre: Self-help, Relationships
Publication date: 2.1.2014
Pages: 36
Amazon link: Break Up Not Down 

Date read: 3.7.2014
Recommended by: Read 2 Review

Summary: For anyone who has ever gone through a breakup, for anyone who is still going through a breakup, here is a book that can help you sail through it so that what you are left feeling is up and not down. Breakups can be one of the hardest things to deal with, leaving us feeling rejected, hurt and miserable. But what if we were able to turn that around and see the opportunities in a breakup? See how you can get easily get through your breakup to feeling happy, recharged and positive. This book comes with practical advice, simple but powerful tips, and meditations to take you back to genuine happiness and optimism for the future.

Some of this is common sense, but things we should definitely be reminded of none-the-less.  It's well-written and casual, as if your best friend is giving you the advice that you need.  She even includes some exercises throughout to help you get through it all.  Being that I've just gone through a "break up," some of the things that she said really took hold of me and made me think.

REVIEW: Never Give Up on True Love

Never Give Up On True Love
By: Bernice McDonald

Genre: Relationships, Self-Help
Publication date: 1.24.2014
Pages: 77
Amazon link: Never Give Up On True Love 

Date read: 3.8.2014
Recommended by: Read 2 Review

Summary: What if you have given up on love when your very next relationship could be the one you’ve been waiting for?

What if there are ways that you could have that over the moon, wild, fun, passionate love you dream about but they are so rare, you’ve never been introduced to them?

What if you have been settling for security when what you long for is romance and to be “seen”… really “seen”?

What if, instead of struggling in a cycle of resentment and anger, you could actually grow more in love with someone as time goes by?

What if there is a you that you have never even met and certainly never permitted to just be, without fear of judgment or condemnation?

If any of these "What If's" are true in your life, then we need to talk. And, through these pages, we will.

Now is the time to make the biggest choice of your life. Never Give Up on True Love: the Greatest Thing You Will Ever Learn is to Love and to be Loved in Return. 

Having just had something end, having this book suggested to me for an r2r really seemed like some higher power trying to speak to me.  I really am glad that I chose to read it.  I like the way she laid the book out, making general points, then specific points, which she goes into detail on.  I like that she gives you steps and answers the questions herself as well.  I like that this is based on things that she learned while going through this, that she knows the pain you're going through and wants to - sincerely - help you through it to be a better person.  I also like that it's not like other break up books that I've read in the past - this one talks about making yourself a better you and shows you how to love the right way, not selfishly but selflessly.  She did a great job with this book.  She takes a personal subject and continues to keep it personal, which makes, at least in my opinion, advice that much more meaningful.

Favorite lines: "You must take care of your own heart first.  You can not give out an empty well."

"It's lonely in there - in that place of isolation - just you and your heart.  Its a secret place; invisible to everyone but you."

"The truth about beauty?
          Weight has nothing to do with it.  Most people neither see nor care what you weigh.
          A man is attracted to a woman's heart, her happiness, her laugh and self-confidence, not how thin she is.  (Many men will tell you that the sexiest thing about a woman is her smile.)" 

REVIEW: Living Your Potential

Living Your Potential
By: Alexi George

Genre: Christian Living, Self-Help
Publication date: 2.12.2014
Pages: 15
Amazon link: Living Your Potential 

Date read: 3.8.2014
Recommended by: Read 2 Review

Summary: Have you wondered where your life is headed? You worked hard and invested your most productive years hoping to reach your potential or a particular goal. But your life seems to be going nowhere. The years pass by, and you leave behind lots of unfinished goals and unfulfilled dreams. Some who are younger have already begun to see doors close right in front of you. You had clear goals for your life, but after several missed opportunities and failures, you are doubtful about ever reaching your goals. You were taught that if you worked hard and gave it your all, you'll accomplish much. But for you, that just does not seem to be the reality. This book is for those who worked hard to reach your potential, but life has disappointed you. You look back and wonder if it was all worth the effort. Then you look forward and contemplate about the future and wonder if more disappointments are up ahead. Together we'll look at how you can live your potential.

There is some interesting information in this book, but I expected more talk on "how" instead of just talking about it.  Also, some of his opinions - because that's exactly what they are - just didn't sit right with me i.e. his spiel about people who are trying to find themselves possibly finding out that once they pull away all these layers of things people expect them to be, they'll find out they have no substance without them.  I did really enjoy the "conclusion," though.

REVIEW: Former Fat Girl Tells All

Former Fat Girl Tells All
By: Kelly Ann Grimaldi

Genre: Weight Loss, Self-Help
Publication date: 1.31.2014
Pages: 81
Amazon link: Former Fat Girl Tells All 

Date read: 3.8.2014
Recommended by: Read 2 Review

Summary: First time author Kelly Ann Grimaldi shares with the world just how she conquered the mountain of extreme weight loss after losing more than 100lbs and keeping it off. For those of you who hate diets and hate the gym but want to live a healthier lifestyle and lose some weight, this is the book for you. Learn how she changed her entire lifestyle and outlook on life step by step in a language even wellness rookies can understand.

Claiming to hate diets and the gym, there will be no counting calories or meal plans in this book. She’ll motivate you to change your unhealthy habits, by showing you how much she benefited both mentally and physically after changing every aspect of her life as she knew it. Starting with no knowledge of how to live a healthy lifestyle she’ll tell you everything she learned about eating healthy and exercise along her journey. Learn what she started with, how her fitness evolved, how to deal with secret saboteurs and just how far outside of your comfort zone you really have to go to make really big changes in your life.

By the end of her book, you’ll know that you too can achieve lasting weight loss and do so for all of the right reasons. Check it out to see how she changed her behaviours, thought processes, eating habits and physical activities and learn about lasting weight loss from someone whose actually done it.

A lot of weight-loss books really bug the mess out of me.  Why?  Because most of them are written by people who have never been overweight a day in their lives - or worse, they only had to lose a small weight, like 20 pounds, but constantly talk about how obese they were.  Now maybe I'm the only one who feels this way, but it's hard to listen to someone talk about how they "did it" when they really didn't do that much.  They may know everything, but they just don't understand.

This book was different.  She WAS overweight - and she did it the healthy way - no diets, no medications, no operation, no gym membership with a personal trainer.  Not only that, but when she decided to do begin this journey, she knew nothing about what she was doing.  She tells you how she felt, the steps she took, how she figured things out and what she learned - and she does it like a real live person, she talks to you as if you two are buddies.  She even, at one point, says that if you need someone to talk to, you can talk to her.  And I love how she tells you that she thinks you're beautiful, no matter your size.

That was a big thing I liked about this - how personal it was for her, how personable she was - and how she reminds you that you are beautiful and just right the way you are, reminding you that, if you are going to lose weight, you need to do it for the right reasons.

She even makes very good points about how your body reacts to meat and processed foods.

My favorite parts of the book are the second paragraph of the preface, the last paragraph of Chapter 2 (she proves that she is very insightful and caring) and Chapter 18 is the most important one of all.  I loved learning her story.

Favorite lines: "If you're dieting, you'll never be able to keep it up consistently.  What you need to do is find something you can keep doing consistently well into the future.  When I started this, I concentrated on making changes to my life.  I removed habits that I found were unhealthy and replaced them with healthier habits."

"Pick one meal and alter it.  Pick one activity and change it.  Pick one thought pattern and modify it.  If anyone mentions the changes they see you making just tell them you're trying to eat a bit healthier.  It's as simple as that.  We're all just trying to better ourselves.  Trying to live a bit healthier should be looked at as an act of love for yourself."

REVIEW: A Method for Prayer

A Method for Prayer
By: Steve Kindorf

Genre: Prayerbooks, Christianity
Publication date: 11.10.2013
Pages: 474
Amazon link: A Method for Prayer 

Date read: 3.10.2014
Recommended by: Read 2 Review

Summary: This Prayerbook is the Puritan writer Matthew Henry’s world renowned Christian classic 'A Method for Prayer' -the 1710 edition. It was created as a Bible companion for daily devotions and is professionally typeset in a classic prayer-book format with wide margins, and is printed on cream colored paper. With modernized spelling and all the cross references from Matthew Henry's original prayerbook.

With added devotional prayers and Bible study aids from the publisher/author of this new blue expanded edition. -Featuring a collection of devotional prayers to the Godhead of Jesus Christ called 'My Affection' -A poetic setting of Psalm 119. -A Glossary containing 2400 words of the King James Bible. -And a daily Bible reading plan.

I want to start off by saying that I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.  I usually wait to the end to tell people that, but I wanted to say first and foremost that I didn't buy this book - and you shouldn't too. 

1) It's for sale for $.99 on Amazon, but according to the description, you can get the e-book and audio free on his website.  Leaves me wondering why he has it for sale on Amazon then.

2) It is the exact book written by Reverend Matthew Henry back in 1710, so if you've already read this, then you know what it says.  Yeah, this guy went through and did some modern spelling on things.  He also added a glossary in the back, a daily Bible reading plan and Psalm 119.  According to the description, there's also something called "My Affection," which is described as "a collection of devotional prayers to the Godhead of Jesus Christ."  THAT is really just a bunch of sayings with places in the Bible to go read.  I guess it could be called a "poem" of sorts, but with the Bible passages, it's just awkward.

I wanted so much from this book.  I really did.  But the formatting in the e-book I was sent is just plain awful.  Things that are from Henry are set up in a somewhat odd outline form while others are just paragraphs.  And it's basically ways to praise and pray to him, followed by Bible passages to back up what he's saying.  I found myself skimming through the Bible passages to try to get the meaning of what was trying to be said in the first place.  This is obviously not a sit-down-and-read book because it comes across more like a reference book.  The Bible reading plan is interesting - by the end of this you'll have read the Old Testament once and the New Testament twice - you skip around - but I've seen similar things before online.  If the author wanted to fix it up to make it more relateable to modern readers (which is why, I assume, that he used modern spelling of the words), he should have fixed it up to where people could read it and understand the point without being bogged down by so much that is not necessary - maybe have an Appendix in the back.

Since I'm moving these reviews from a soon-to-be-defunct blog over to my main blog, I decided to take the chance to update this review.  Shortly after I wrote this review, I received a package from the author with a couple of physical copies of this book inside (a few hardcover and a few paperback).  Some of my opinions remain the same, but I must say that the book itself is beautiful in physical form and the formatting issues that I did not like were not an issue in the physical copy.