Tag Archives: reviews

Indie Thursday: Battle of the Bulge

Last week I started a segment reviewing indie, self-published, small publisher books. Remember: THE MARTIAN was originally self-published! Fellow book bloggers, take heed of those emails in your inbox, you may have the next Matt Damon on your hands. Or something like that.

BTW: here’s Andy Weir’s “ask me anything” on reddit today.




Glenn Livingston must have seen my review of The Tapping Solution for Weight Loss (for women). This book is a more machismo, more demonstrative approach to weight loss. He determines that “ALL of your fat thinking shall be deemed “the Pig!”” and that you have to learn “to cold-heartedly ignore its squeals.” This book isn’t about acceptance or comfort, this is a book about taking control. Like a man.

Livingston takes the approach like The Diet Fix, where he doesn’t create a diet for you, but “cementing our ability to stick with the Food Plan of your choice.” He uses the metaphor of “the Pig” throughout, looking at food outside of your plan as “That’s Pig Slop…and I will Never Eat Pig Slop Again!” He wants there to be no ambiguousness in your plan. He wants to know that you will, not that you can. He wants you to “cage the Pig and let it suffer!”

He does have a section that is optional reading where he offers his learning. Mainly, “whole, unprocessed, organic plant foods–and a modest amount of organic animal protein.” Again, this is able to be skipped and not part of the theme and function of the book.

Livingston is also very generous with the plans and worksheets and extras that he offers for free on his site NeverBingeAgain.com. While I typically like the softer, more gender neutral approach to weight control and health, his techniques do prove useful for controlling my inner pig.

Though there are many days when I just want to celebrate who I am:


Philip Caravella’s book is cut-and-dry. He’s been a doctor for a long time, specializing in weight loss, health, fitness, and diabetes management. He takes all of his findings and puts them in a book. The chapters are topic to topic. There are bullets and underlines and everything is easy to digest. There’s just no pizazz. You won’t find this on Oprah.

From my research on weight loss and management, his ideas are on par. Much of the same in what I found in EAT MOVE SLEEP. The basics are:

  • Eat fewer calories than you need, or
  • Increase your current activity and eat the same, or
  • Decrease your current calories and exercise more.

Straight forward. “Moderation is key in nearly all aspects of a healthy and useful life.” He has the typical provider approach to saturated fats and carbs, despite some of the recent evidence found in books like The Big Fat Surprise. It’s all even keel.

The only thing I noted about this book is that the chapters seemed out of order. The first chapters talked about dietary options in schools and control of diabetes, then he spoke about exercise, then toward the end he talked about diet and controlled eating.

Short version: don’t over do it (even mindlessly).


TOP TEN TUESDAY: Top ten reasons to do a top ten list…on a Tuesday

I’ve been avoiding top 10 lists like the plague. Why? Because I’m lazy. I thought book reviews could be my bread and butter–and they still are–but there are reasons to do a top 10 list. And here they are:


Seriously. Everyone on my friends list seems to be doing Top 10 lists. The Bookish Barrister and Caught Read H&nded follow the protocol of what specifically to do each week. They are quite talented and have huge followings. Then folks like Shaina Reads breaks the mold and goes with a Top 10 list of “giving a shit”. So, I’ll start here with my first ever top 10 list.


My latest blog post: a book review.


Do you want to win a copy of ARMADA? Sure you do! Click here.


Whoever thought taking pictures of books could be so much fun! There’s a great community of book take-a-picture-ures, too. AKA bookstagramers. Here’s mine.


Two things foster creativity: constricted space and a long list of things to come up with. Examples: Twitter and Top Ten lists. By the time you get your brilliantly constructed sentence to fit within 140 characters or struggle to come up with those last two items, your brain will have expanded to twice its size. Or something like that.


Speaking of Twitter, here I am: @Ryan_Reads


Life isn’t always about pulling out the tissues and reading Man Booker listed books like THE FISHERMEN. Though that’s “fun” in its own right, it’s nice to relax a bit, get connected with the community, and post a bunch of GIF images. Like this one:


If you scroll down my blog, you’ll see the constant headline:


Oh, look, another GIF!!


I’m convinced that people’s eyes cross when they see the onslaught of reviews. Add in a Glee or Homer Simpson GIF and the page counters light up. Well. They increase by one or two. Hopefully more.


And that’s one of my biggest goals. Blogging, Tweeting, Bookgramming: it all equals community. I want to share what I’ve read with you, and I want you to share what you’ve read with me. We’ll learn together, grow together, and find great book together.

Group hug time:

How about it? Do you participate in Top Ten Tuesday? Should this be a regular thing?

Review: NOS4A2 – Don’t read this book if your kids sing Christmas carols in July

NOS4A2 by Joe Hill
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This doesn’t help: my kids singing Christmas songs in the middle of summer. That’s right. While reading NOS4A2, a book about a draconian dream-weaver who kidnaps children, taking them to a macabre, bloodthirsty place called Christmasland—my own kids are scattering Santa notes throughout the house signing Jingle Bells in July. Not cool kids, not cool.

My introduction to Joe Hill (AKA Stephen King’s son) started with his graphic novel WRAITH, which was written after NOS4A2, but serves as its prequel. WRAITH proved to me that Joe Hill was a sick and gross man. I loved it. You can see through the colorful drawings the children with rows and rows of sharp teeth, chasing down mean, abusive adults; those adults would be the kids’ next dinner. Blood and Christmas—what could be a better match?

I am pleased with Hill’s non-illustrated foray into Christmasland in this book. If anything, the over 700 pages took me deeper into Charlie Manx’s twisted world, revealing the grotesqueness of it all. Even better: a kickbutt female anti-hero. Oh, yeah! Hill’s pages brought the build-up, mystery, and devilishness all to an exciting climax and sentimental close.

My only critique is, as true with many of his father’s writings, this book felt like the bellows of an accordion: the writing was built-up in places where I couldn’t flip the pages fast enough, while in other places it was drawn out with over-detailed descriptions of comic outfits, airport food, or the carpet on the floor. You can tell he had fun writing this, but some of it should have been edited down.

I also appreciated the similarity to what I refer to as King-isms. Stephen Sr. has a habit of concluding his chapters with a laidback observation that makes you laugh at the absurdity of what you’ve just read. It could be an astute observation to a life-inspection-worthy quote. It’s a great tool to engage the readers.

If you can stomach, or even appreciate, the crude nature of its subject matter, or if you are just looking for more King-like writing, I think you’ll be pleased with NOS4A2.

NOTE: If you haven’t seen it already, can you guess what the NOS4A2 license plate stands for?

You can view this book’s preview and its other reviews, many of which are 5-stars, on Amazon: NOS4A2: A Novel

Happy Reading!

Review: The Wheel of Healing: An Easy Guide to an Ayurvedic Lifestyle

The Wheel of Healing: An Easy Guide to an Ayurvedic Lifestyle
The Wheel of Healing: An Easy Guide to an Ayurvedic Lifestyle by Michelle S. Fondin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is the best book I’ve found that introduces the Eastern whole-healing philosophy without being too “out there”. The author doesn’t require the chanting of foreign mantras while requiring a strict vegan diet. She keeps it real.

I appreciate Michelle Fondin’s approach to the ayurvedic lifestyle: health is beyond a set of symptoms—it is a life balance. She presents the entire wheel of health: physical, spiritual, emotional, relationship, occupational, financial, and environmental. And like the multi-spoke wheel, so each of these life-spokes build around the middle: you. THE WHEEL OF HEALING opens with a related quote I love:

“Thirty spokes are joined together in a wheel, but it is the center hole that allows the wheel to function.” – Tao Te Ching

Fondin begins her book talking about the ayurvedic lifestyle and finding your dharma, or purpose (she does well to define terminology, but also includes an index of sanskirt terms). There is a brief, two-page-ish section that tries to help you find your life’s dashas. Think of it as a personality test, of sorts. Yet, this is an overview, not the definitive resource. This book deals much more in the context of the earlier mentioned “spokes” of life and seeks not to intimidate.

While Fondin has trained with and presented for the likes of Chopra, her style does not come across nearly as demanding. Chopra says no meat; Fondin suggests a certain percentage. Chopra says no microwave; Fondin suggests eating cooked food within 24 hours. This is based upon you and what you are comfortable with changing. As the title suggests, this is “an easy guide” to a more well-rounded and healthy lifestyle. We read about non-forceful pathways to overall improvement.

This book is easy to read through and implement. There are plenty of sections with spaces to write notes that help make this a personal journey. The author realizes that “social conditioning is not easy to overcome” and allows room for the growing process. The pictures of various sun salutations at the end of the book were a nice touch, too.

This is a great book that I highly recommend to anyone seeking more than a symptom check. For this, I thank the author for sending me the book to review. I want to mention one more quote featured in the book:

“Even if a physician has profound book knowledge, without entering into the patient’s heart with the flame of love and the light of knowledge, one cannot properly treat disease.” – Charaka Samhita V: 4/12

View all my reviews

Review: Your Hidden Riches: Unleashing the Power of Ritual to Create a Life of Meaning and Purpose

Your Hidden Riches: Unleashing the Power of Ritual to Create a Life of Meaning and Purpose
Your Hidden Riches: Unleashing the Power of Ritual to Create a Life of Meaning and Purpose by Janet Bray Attwood
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

YOUR HIDDEN RICHES is not a re-packaging of THE SECRET or E-SQUARED, but it does take me away from my more recent thought-dumping exercises and moves me into something more structured. In other words, instead of a meditation, focusing on just breathing, the authors focus more on visualization that borders on the name-it-claim-it philosophy. You just won’t be talking to cacti or moving coat hangers with your mind (see those other books referenced).

The authors present a delicate balance of psychology and philosophy to achieve a little something for everyone. Each chapter shares personal stories of people seeking relationships, or money, or health, or whatever other common need/want there may be. Following these stories are the rituals. These aren’t séances, but rather habitual strategies set to focus your mind. For example, someone seeking a life partner could leave an open drawer in their dresser, anticipating someone soon moving in.

The key here: rituals don’t bind, they liberate. These aren’t “watch the clock and schedule” strategies, but rather life changes meant to produce desired and worthy results. Sure, some may decry that some of these are strange particulars, but I promise you that there is something worthwhile here for you. For me, I specifically enjoy the visualization of pink-colored energy flowing out of my heart, enveloping those people I may have difficulty understanding. Whether that pink energy is real or not, attitudes change when colored as such.

I also appreciate the authors’ liberty in citing other comparative works. For instance, I enjoyed learning about Byron Kate’s The Work. There, we learn to ask if something is true, what happens when we believe that thought it true, and who we become without that thought. Furthering this, we turn thoughts around on ourselves, we turn them around to other people, and we turn the thought on its opposite. We get the full picture. The specifics are outlined in the book.

The start of YOUR HIDDEN RICHES begins where the authors’ left off with their last book: your passion. The end-matter of YOUR HIDDEN RICHES delves into mandala-like structures of organizing thoughts and behaviors. To the newly initiated, this may seem deep or out-of-bounds, but slide gently along for the ride and you may be impressed…and hopefully, bettered.

Overall, YOUR HIDDEN RICHES provides great strategies to provide freedom, health, and other heart-desires. The information isn’t all new, but what is familiar has been referenced. This is a great collection of life-improving works. Thank you, Harmony and Crown, for sharing this book with me for review.

View all my reviews

Review: Constructive Wallowing: How to Beat Bad Feelings by Letting Yourself Have Them

Constructive Wallowing: How to Beat Bad Feelings by Letting Yourself Have Them
Constructive Wallowing: How to Beat Bad Feelings by Letting Yourself Have Them by Tina Gilbertson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It’s your party, you can cry if you want to. Cry if you want to. Cry if you want to. Or as Tina Gilbertson says in her new book CONSTRUCTIVE WALLOWING, “Even if the feelings are hard, it’s easier to feel them than to pretend they’re not there.” The goal of the whole book: feeling is healing.

“Think about a difference it could make in your life if you only had to deal with each feeling once instead of over and over again,” writes Gilbertson. And it’s true. Instead of pushing the feeling away, suppressing it, or covering it up, just deal with it. Wallowing is allowing. “Once I could accept my feelings as they were, they changed.”

The big pull of this book is Gilbertson’s TRUTH acronym that helps you establish a constructive wallowing process. I’ll give it away here, but you have to read the book for the full meaning and explanation:

T – Tell yourself the situation
R – Realize what you’re feeling
U – Uncover self-criticism
T – Try to understand yourself
H – Have the feeling

You may see wallowing as acceptance of the negative, but Gilbertson writes, “If you are serious about not being negative, don’t negate your own feelings.” Much like Tolle writes in my favorite book on feelings, Gilbertson echoes those sentiments with: “feelings are neither positive nor negative. They’re just feelings.”

I feel there are a couple of incongruent items in this book. Gilbertson says to explore your emotions and put a label on them (list of emotion names on page 62). This doesn’t jive with the strategy above about being positive or negative. She also allows bringing up past feelings as much as needed. This doesn’t concur with present-mindedness or feeling the emotion of the moment.

The whole of CONSTRUCTIVE WALLOWING stands upon solid advice that will help conquer the hurdles of emotion by dealing with them head-on.

Thanks to Viva Editions for sending this book to me for review.

You can find this book’s preview and other reviews here: Constructive Wallowing: How to Beat Bad Feelings by Letting Yourself Have Them


Channel your inner Quixote and achieve your impossible dream with Chris Guillebeau’s THE HAPPINESS OF PURSUIT

The Happiness of Pursuit: Finding the Quest That Will Bring Purpose to Your Life
The Happiness of Pursuit: Finding the Quest That Will Bring Purpose to Your Life by Chris Guillebeau
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is not about happiness. Throughout, the author writes about loneliness, failure, despair, and the “post-quest funk”. If you are seeking a book about happiness, I have some recommendations for you below. Instead, this book is about the quest. It is about channeling your inner Don Quixote and dreaming your impossible dream–and then going for it! This book is a guide: about picking your quest, planning your quest, and achieving your quest.

Are you ready? Author Chris Guillebeau says you are.

Quests come in all shapes and sizes. THE HAPPINESS OF PURSUIT gives you plenty of examples. You can decide knit or crochet 10,000 hats like Robyn Devine, or you can produce the world’s largest symphony performance like Gary Thorpe, or you can run marathons in 99 countries like John “Mad Dog” Wallace. The quest is up to you. It’s yours. Here are the categories that Guillebeau presents:


Guillebeau provides ways to discover your ideal quest, how to fund and prepare for it, how to keep a positive mindset during the lonely periods, and what to do if things don’t exactly tie-up. All of this kept reminding me of this quote from Steve Jobs:

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”

Guillebeau has an inviting writing style that you’ll connect with. He talks and relates to everything from Shakespeare to video games. Judging by the other stellar reviews, Guillebeau has already made that connection hundreds of times.

Overall, if you need motivation, guidance, or support for your quest, THE HAPPINESS OF PURSUIT should be your go-to guide. And you are welcome for getting “To Dream the Impossible Dream” stuck in your head.

Here’s a video of the song for added effect:

As for those books about happiness, I recommend these:

10% HAPPIER by Dan Harris
THE POWER OF NOW by Eckhart Tolle (my favorite of the bunch)

Thank you Harmony for sending this book to me for review.

You can find this book’s previews and other reivews on Amazon: The Happiness of Pursuit: Finding the Quest That Will Bring Purpose to Your Life