Reading Fanatic Reviews

Books to Add to Your TBR list... or Not!

Cyber Security by Matt Reyes

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Cyber Security*

A Good Introduction to Cyber Security for Regular People

If you fully read the book description, you might come away a little paranoid. I’m sure we all have a vague sense that we are vulnerable to cyberattacks, whether it is to our own devices or to companies that we work with. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has gotten a Credit Karma alert that one of the companies I do business with has been compromised. But in the description of this book, the author really puts forth very strongly how we can be personally vulnerable in so many ways.

While the blurb is a bit doom and gloom, the book itself is not. After a brief introduction to cybersecurity, the internet of things/everything, and “dangerous wares” like malware and viruses, the author breaks down digital security by device, application, or platform. In each section, he talks a little about what that particular piece of the cybersecurity puzzle is and its vulnerabilities, giving a real-world example. Most helpful, though, are the three sections on how to prepare, react, and secure that particular item. He goes so far as to share specific applications. The items explored include some that you would expect (like your computer and smartphone) but also includes things you might have never thought of like key fobs, voice assistants, and your social media and internet profiles.

While this book may not be the be-all, end-all book on cybersecurity, it is a well-written, easy-to-understand book that gets you thinking about your potential vulnerabilities and what to do about them so that you are not as open to attack. I think it is a great introduction to the topic for the layman or laywoman.

Am I Codependent? by Jane Kennedy

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Am I Codependent?*

Disorganized Bits of Info About Codependency

I have read several books by this author that are interconnected with their themes of empathy and codependency. This book, as the title suggests, the focus is on codependency, though there is a chapter on codependency in the empath-narcissist relationship. Unfortunately, I found this particular book to be poorly organized and lacking an overall coherent structure. It seemed more like unconnected bits of information about codependency put together into one book. Some chapters are longer, while others are probably too short.

Let me talk a little about the structure of the existing book. Part of my problem with this book’s framework is that it feels like the topics are out of order. For instance, I think the first two chapters should have been reversed, or chapter 1 should have been a part of chapter 2. Chapter 2 defines codependency, while chapter 1 looks at distinguishing codependency from dependent personality disorder. I would not have started the book with that narrow distinguishing factor. Next should have come more basic information, like chapter 5 on childhood roots of codependency and chapter 6 on what the author calls the one root cause of codependency. After getting these building blocks in place, she then should have moved on to looking at how codependency manifests in adult romantic relationships. Instead, some of that is sandwiched between the definitions area and the developmental causes chapter and then is explored more after the causes. Because of this lack of cohesiveness and some brevity of the included sections, I cannot recommend this book.

PCOS by Jane Kennedy

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Learn about PCOS

In this book, the author has gathered some of the latest science and writing about PCOS. She explains what it is and its symptoms. She spends a fair amount of time on the mental and emotional aspects of the syndrome. While the subtitle proclaims that you will be able to reverse PCOS, inside the author states that some symptoms and effects can be reversed but not necessarily everything. She details different ideas and techniques that either directly address the causes of PCOS or its symptoms and effects. She spends some time discussing how hormones play a factor, dedicating a chapter to insulin alone. Some later chapters address how PCOS affects fertility. At the end of the book, she has an extensive list of references. The author really has tried to take from many sources, including studies and people who are considered PCOS experts. If you suffer from this syndrome, you may very well find the information in this book to be helpful as you try to move past the difficulties it causes for you.

Empath Awakening by Kara Lawrence

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Empath Awakening*

Information and Self-Care for Empaths

Have you ever thought that you were an empath? The author states in the subtitle that this book will help you with the negative aspects that that (though more is covered). The first chapters of this book explore the typical traits that empaths possess as well as the different types. Next, she looks at what empathic abilities are and how empaths can avoid negative energy so they don’t feel overwhelmed. But as empathy is not something that can be switched off, she next offers ways of self-healing. Chapter 6 has the same title as the book and discusses how to grow as an empath and learn to read energy. The next chapter is an interesting look at the different types of alternative healing like reiki and reflexology. Not all healers are empaths nor are all empaths healers, but I found this to be an interesting look at how empathy can relate to a variety of healing modalities. The end chapters look at energy shielding, the possibilities of forming toxic relationships with narcissists, and other pitfalls.

I think the book is basically well organized, though I might have put energy shielding along with the earlier chapter on negative energy and self-healing with energy healing. The author has a friendly and accessible style. She identifies as an empath, so the information she shares has a ring of personal authenticity, not just a repackaging of topics gleaned from other sources on the internet—which, unfortunately, books like these often are. The chapter on empaths and narcissists correlates to another book of hers, Toxic Magnetism, and a section within that chapter also reflects another of the author’s books on codependency. If you believe you might be an empath, you might find this helpful read so that you can protect yourself even if you align with others on a variety of levels.

Dragon Fairest by Amberlyn Holland

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Dragon Fairest*

Snow White and Dragons

This is a fantasy retelling of Snow White, minus the seven dwarves, with a dragon twist. The heroine’s fascination with magic has unwittingly unleashed her evil great-aunt who subsequently plays havoc with all members of the royal family. This sends our princess heroine on the run, unsure of what to do next. She aligns with a group of treasure hunters who are also dragon shifters. The book looks at her attempting to get her family and her kingdom back to the way it ought to be. Along the way, she develops a deeper relationship with one of the dragon shifters.

I do enjoy retellings of the classic fairy tales, and I found this one to be mostly enjoyable. There were times I felt like something crucial was missing—like a key scene that would be a bridge between others—but the characters were enough to keep me interested and reading to see what would happen to them next. I know there are more books in the story, and they appear to be about the brothers of the princess as they each engage with a new heroine in another fairy tale retelling. This book is enough to make me want to check out the second book.

The PCOS Diet by Jane Kennedy

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The PCOS Diet*

Clear Bias Shown

After just having read the PCOS book by this author, I find myself surprised by this one. The book doesn’t really live up to the title, subtitle, or what the author states in the introduction. She shows a clear bias for and against particular ways of eating that don’t seem appropriate in a book that should be objective so it could help the most people.

She states in the introduction that she really won’t be discussing PCOS in general as she has another book for that. However, a large chunk of the book is precisely about that and not about diet in particular. If you’re hoping for one particular PCOS diet, she doesn’t offer that here, not even in the chapter labeled The PCOS Diet. In fact in the chapter summary of that section, she stays that there is no one PCOS diet. After discussing generalities—like an introduction to PCOS, insulin resistance, exercise, and androgens—she finally moves on to more information about nutrition as she looks at the anti-inflammatory, Keto, and plant-based vegan diets. The author clearly favors the anti-inflammatory and keto diets. The chapter on the vegan diet was so biased that I actually had a hard time reading it. Clearly, the author loves meat and cannot fathom that people would stay on a vegan diet long term. She goes so far as to state it is radical, not realistic, and requires too much sacrifice to be viable. Honestly, I could say the same thing about keto, as I find its love of fat and eschewing of carbohydrates to be extreme. I would have preferred some objectivity in a book like this. A few other concepts are discussed, like diet breaks and mindset.

I don’t know how many books are out there about nutrition and PCOS, but I would imagine that there are better books that don’t have quite the biases that this one has.

The Secret of the Spellbook by Isabel Riley

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The Secret of the Spellbook*

Magical Female Academy Meets Victorian Steampunk

This is a fascinating paranormal novel that combines the idea of a magical academy with Victorian steampunk. The heroine is an orphaned young woman who has magical powers. When she accidentally unleashes these on the orphanage’s tyrant caretaker, a maid and good friend of the heroine sends her away to London to seek sanctuary at a special school for young women with magical powers. Because she specifically sought sanctuary, she is bound to this academy for three years, during which time she will study and learn more about magical ways. But there are rules that she must follow, or her residency will be terminated. If she breaks these rules, then she will be turned out and gradually lose her magical powers and ultimately her life. The young women at the academy are forbidden to interact with the young men across the way at the Embers Society who are training to be alchemists and engineers; these young men are the ones who bring the steampunk element to this story, as they make magical mechanical objects and other things. One of the graduates of the magical academy has been working in secret with these young men and encourages the heroine to do so. She does not want to break the rules because of the dire consequences, though she feels like she knows one of the young men.

This novel has some elements that we often see in magical academy books. For instance, there are rivalries between the girls, one particular bad seed, and a pecking order. The headmistress of the school is at times a bit of a terror, but she does have the girls’ best interests at heart. I was quickly swept up in this world and was fascinated by the way that magic worked in its universe as well as the way the steampunk aspect was incorporated in. If you enjoy books about magical academies, you may very well enjoy this book.

Coming Home for Christmas by RaeAnne Thayne

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Available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Kobo, Google Play, Thalia, Mondadori, Angus & Robertson, Indigo (Chapters), and

Coming Home for Christmas*

Not an Easy Holiday Read, But a Good One

I am new to this author, and of course, am new to this series. So I feel like I wasn’t quite prepared for all this book would be. The cover of it looks like any inviting and lovely Christmas romance. I thought the blurb was a little confusing, as I couldn’t quite figure out the timeline and some of what the author was hinting at. Let me just disabuse you of one notion to start with. If you’re expecting a light and fluffy Hallmark-style Christmas romance, this is not it. I know for me, sometimes, I want to read that light and frothy holiday romance. But if you are in the mood for a holiday romance that tackles more difficult subjects, like severe postpartum depression and traumatic brain injury, this book definitely delivers a compelling story with all the feels.

I will have to say that I had a hard time liking the hero and heroine at the start before I knew their full story. I couldn’t imagine a mother willingly leaving her family, as Luke suggested rather angrily several times. I also didn’t like that Luke at first was unwilling to engage with Elizabeth more than he had to. Even his sister was surprised that he didn’t try to find out the “why” and other details on their trip back to Idaho. I probably would have had more sympathy for Luke if I were familiar with the series. But once the couple got back to Haven Point, and the full story began to unfurl, it was amazing and I’m glad I stuck with it. Elizabeth has been through so much. And the children, my goodness! This story is about so much, including the themes of forgiveness of both self and other and the meaning of family and all that entails. There are definitely moments that will have you breaking out the tissues.

Lavender & Mistletoe by Donna Kauffman

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Lavender & Mistletoe*

Short Look at the “Science” of Love

This, to me, seems a little short for the story that it wanted to tell. I am new to this author, and I believe this is a series. I haven’t, obviously, read any of the other books in it, and I wonder if the heroine, Avery, would have made more sense to me if I had read previous books. I don’t know, though. I’m definitely a fan of an intelligent heroine, but Avery seemed to the extreme, and therefore, not quite believable. Is it actually possible to earn two PhDs by such an early age? I did like that the hero and the heroine were both brainiacs, though. In that way, they seemed well suited. Hiding beneath the brainy exterior, the heroine was actually a kind and considerate person, as shown by the way she treated the goat and her good friend, Chey. I found her scientific approach to love to be amusing, especially contrasting with the way it actually played out for her. As I said above, I thought this felt too short, so both character and plot couldn’t really be explored as much as the characters and the story warranted. All in all, I still found it a charming romance.

Three of Swords by Michael Jason Brandt

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Three of Swords*

Excellent Start to a Complex New Fantasy Series

I have been reading more fantasy than usual lately, so I was curious about this book when it came to one of the book review sites. I will admit to a little trepidation when I saw the rather long descriptions of roles in this world as well as a detailed, but not complete per the author, dramatis personae. However, I’m happy to say that the author did juggle all these characters and the  variety of roles well. This book is a combination of three intertwined stories, each with their own set of characters, so it is a little easier to keep track of than I had imagined. I thought the main characters were well drawn, and even the secondary characters were more than just stock figures. The pacing seemed slow at first, as we got to know the characters and the world. I do appreciate that the author did not do a massive world data dump, as is often seen in fantasy, although there were character data dumps when we are introduced to some of the characters. At least in terms of the world-building, the author revealed it naturally, giving information as it was needed. Gradually showing a world like this actually tantalizes and makes you curious about the rest of it. I definitely find myself curious to see where the story goes next, and I hope that the author continues to develop the characters, as he has given them a good foundation. As a freelance copyeditor, I appreciated that the book was relatively free of any errors with grammar, punctuation, and usage. That is definitely a problem in this world of independently published books, but at least it is not an issue in this book. If you enjoy fantasy, you may enjoy this introduction to a new series.

Jamie Brydone-Jack

Jamie Brydone-Jack

Reader, Editor, Writer

I’m an avid reader, for both fun and business. I enjoy a wide variety of books, including literary fiction, romance, thrillers, cozy mysteries, and fantasy for fiction and history, contemporary issues, philosophy, music, medicine, and cookbooks for nonfiction. I’m a freelance copyeditor who also does beta and alpha reading. I have two websites that are all about romance and mystery. You can follow my reviews at Amazon, Goodreads, and Bookbub.


The asterisks (*) by the book title denote the source of the book copy.

One star = I received it as a free advance/review copy or directly from the author.

Two stars = I borrowed it through my Kindle Unlimited subscription.

Three stars = I purchased the book outright (sometimes for free).

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