Reading Fanatic Reviews

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



Death in Dalkinchie by Carly Reid

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Death in Dalkinchie*

Tale of Death in Small Scottish Town Delights

Another delightful, but slightly murdery, trip to Dalkinchie, Scotland! I read the first book in the series, Murder In Bloom, and enjoyed it thoroughly. So it was fun to revisit characters that I had enjoyed and have a new mystery to solve! American Jessica is becoming more firmly entrenched in small-town life in Dalkinchie. She’s not only helping her aunt, but she is also doing some reporting for the local paper. One of her first big stories is about a big annual craft show. I actually quite enjoyed visiting this craft show through Jessica’s eyes; I’ve lived in a small town in northern California, and this was definitely reminiscent of what that can be like. Up until one of the judges is murdered, of course. I did receive an ARC copy of this book, and unfortunately, it is full of problems with grammar, punctuation, and usage. I hope this will be cleared up before publication, as it did detract somewhat from my enjoyment of the story. The book is well written in terms of plot and characterization. The author kept me guessing, which I love in a mystery. Even though the murder happened a little later than I like in a mystery, the author supplied such charming details about the show and was still able to develop the mystery well—that I’ll forgive her. 😉  I love this little quirky community that this author has created. Everybody seems to know everything about everyone, which makes it a lot of fun. The author has created the community of unique individuals that are fun to watch. If you love small-town mysteries, you will most likely enjoy this book.

How to Have a Meaningful Conversation by Sarah Rozenthuler

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How to Have Meaningful Conversation*

The Art of Conversation

Conversation and sincere dialogue are essential even in this day of tweets and texts. Especially when dealing with those who are close to us, meaningful conversation is essential to true intimacy; it is also crucial to getting the most out of life both personally and professionally. I think that sometimes when we have the need for one of the great conversations that can cause a shift in life, we can have a lack of clarity within ourselves that is magnified when we attempt to communicate our wants, desires, and needs to another. This book gives you seven shifts or frameworks for the important conversations that we have with those who matter. The author has many examples to show what these mean and what effective and ineffective conversation looks like. She even has exercises at the end of the book that will help you increase your capacity for creating meaningful conversations, although some of them are simply helpful just to help you get clarity about your thoughts and your regular patterns of communication. If you’ve ever felt yourself at a loss for those significant conversations or they didn’t turn out quite as you had hoped, this book can guide you on the path to more effective conversations.

A Writer’s Paris by Eric Maisel

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A Writer's Paris*

The City of Lights from a Writer’s Perspective

What an unusual and delightful book! I’m been finding it hard to describe precisely. The author is a writer who has spent time writing his books in Paris, and this book is meant to encourage other authors to make a similar pilgrimage for their art. He is very specific about places to go, sometimes just to appreciate the place and sometimes to inspire writing. It’s broken down into 34 lessons, which are bite-sized nuggets about writing, Paris, or some aspect of the French or France. He discusses practical issues on occasion, like writing blueprints for your time in Paris and how to work around the potential language barrier. The glimpse he gives of Paris is very intimate, discussing things like footbridges and the human scale of the city. You can tell the man has a great affection and appreciation for Paris, and not only for what magic it evokes for his creative Muse but also for itself. I have never been to France—but took the language in high school and college—but I will admit that this book has given me a bit of the travel bug, making me wish that I would take such a writing pilgrimage. Perhaps one day. And I know just the guidebook to help me along the path.

Rescuing Lady Jane by Lydia Pembroke

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Rescuing Lady Jane*

Ghastly Look at Married Life in the 1800s

I didn’t like this book. It felt a bit Gothic to me even though it isn’t listed as such, and I’m not a fan of Gothic romance. The beginning of this book just seems so implausible. The baron at first acts as a man should while courting, but as soon as they are married—literally on the carriage ride to the bride’s new home—he makes a 180 into a completely different man. He is rather horrible to Jane from nearly the moment they wed. The author only gives us glimpses of the terror that she has to endure, like mentioning the bruises that he gave her on their wedding night. Ick. Jane herself seems to vacillate between despair and a forced happiness that she is determined to wring out of her awful situation. It was all just a bit much. To me, the baron didn’t have enough motivation to treat his young bride so terribly. I hated reading about their married life so much that I almost gave up on the book, but I was curious about the actual hero of the novel and how this story related to a prequel that I had read by the author. I still can’t say that changed my take on the book, unfortunately.

Entertaining Mr. Pepys by Deborah Swift

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Entertaining Mr. Pepys*


Of course I have heard of the most famous diarist in the English language, Mr. Pepys. So, of course, I was intrigued by the concept of this novel, where the life of one of the women mentioned in his diary is explored. Of course, we cannot know as much about Mrs. Knepp as is told in this tale, but oh, what a life she led. I will admit I did not like aspects of this book. I think I have been reading far too many dark romances lately, and I am quite sick of the darkness. As one who reads a lot of romance, I tend to like the relationship aspects of a novel to have a little more lightness to them. This one is quite heavy. I know that this book is meant to be historical fiction, not historical romance. But, still, I would have liked it better without the unpleasant relationships (or at least if they were turned down some.) In fact, I had a hard time getting to the more interesting parts of the book as reading about her marriage and married life was just so terrible. Her husband only wanted a wife for what she could give him: an heir, a cook, and a worker in his business. He didn’t care about her at all, and I found that hard to read. At least in the beginning of the book, too, everyone outside of the heroine is a villain of sorts, from her father who just wants to get rid of her because of his new wife who doesn’t appreciate having his daughter from a former women hanging around to that dreadful stepmother to the abominable husband, his man of business, and his workers. Honestly, I just about gave up on this story because I just did not like this level of melodrama. Once you get to the theater part and the parts with Mr. Pepys, it got more interesting. But I actually didn’t like the book because of all the difficult circumstances the author thrust the heroine into right at the start.

Speaking of Feminism by Rachel S. Seidman

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Speaking of Feminism*

Modern Voices of Feminism

This book is a collection of social history interviews of women who are prominent either nationally or locally in the feminist movement. For some reason, the author restricts herself to women between the ages of 20 and 50. This is such a fascinating read that I find myself curious about what the interviews would have looked like with women who are older feminists. After all, 50 is still relatively young in general and particularly if you look at the broader history of the feminist movement. In fact, those around the age of 50 would have been children during the feminist wave of the late 1960s and early 1970s. So I would have loved to have seen interviews with the still-living women who might have been a part of that particular wave. That said, this book does give fascinating insights into the lives and minds of 25 unabashed feminists. Their individual journeys are both unique and universal. With three decades looked at, are there are definitely generational differences between how they came to feminism and how they approach it now. I like how the book looks at feminism’s past, present, and future.

With the #MeToo movement, women’s marches, pink hats, and media leaders like Samantha Bee, feminism and all that it means is at the forefront of national consciousness quite often. As it well should be, because these issues matter to more than the just over 50% of the population that women are.

What Does It Feel Like to Die? by Jennie Dear

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What Does It Feel Like to Die?*

Scientific and Practical Guide to Death and Dying

As an RN who has seen death firsthand, I was curious about what this book had to offer. The author is a hospice volunteer, so she does have some viable personal insights into death and dying, and she has gone further and talked with medical professionals, some of whom specialize in palliative care, and studied current research into death and dying. She also shares some of her personal experience in dealing with her own mother’s death. If one is up for reading the science, I believe that this book would be helpful for those who are newly diagnosed with a terminal illness and for family members touched by such. The book not only looks at the physical aspect dying process itself (insofar as we can know it) but also at coping with it and getting your affairs in order. You’ll learn a little about the hospice system, which is not as well understood as it could be.

I feel like the book should have actually been several books: one just for the person who is dying, one for family members, one for caregivers, and one that speaks directly to the science of it all. At times, this book does feel like it is trying to be too much to too many types of people, so a specialized set of books would be more helpful. For instance, I believe that a simplified, well-organized version would be fantastic for the person who is actually dying, stressing the situations so they will run across in the physical aspect as well as the mental and financial preparation.

I find myself wondering at the statistic that she gave in the beginning, that 90% of us will die after living with a disease for days, weeks, or years. I don’t quite buy that, or at least, wouldn’t put it that way. Life is terminal; we will all die. Chronic diseases give one a higher chance for mortality but don’t necessarily cause death directly. After all, say, a person with high blood pressure doesn’t necessarily die from it even if they’ve lived with it for years. Sometimes death is sudden, like in a car crash. However, often it is more of an aggregate of certain factors: age, general health, and chronic diseases (co-morbidities) than a specific terminal illness.

All in all, though, I do you think this is a very helpful book for those involved in the dying process. you may want to cherry-pick your way through, picking the nuggets that apply to you and your situation.

The Gap by Douglas Vigliotti

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The Gap*

Concepts Standing Between Us and True Understanding

The subtitle of this book definitely intrigues: The little space between what you know and don’t know. In this book, the author seeks to make us aware of this gap that can exist personally, professionally, and culturally. It isn’t a step-by-step blueprint to, say, help you better understand your relationship with your spouse or how to understand your company’s corporate culture. Rather, he looks at several concepts like gatekeepers, intelligence, bias, and specialists; and gives insight into them so that you can better understand what these really mean and how they are reflected in our experience of the world. Within each concept, he gives an example, sometimes a counterpoint, and a one-sentence takeaway. Given that some of the concepts can be a little intangible, the book is surprisingly engaging and makes you think about some of your preconceptions about yourself, others, and the greater world. It is a book best taken in small doses so you can ponder the information presented. The line isn’t always clearly drawn about how a concept is necessarily part of the gap between the known and the unknown, but the ideas are still interesting to think about. If you want to explore some of what could be seen as barriers to true understanding, you may very well enjoy this book. I know I did.

Kicking Financial Ass by Paul Christopher Dumont

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Kicking Financial Ass*

Surprisingly Helpful Book

I think it is unfortunate when an author or a publisher believes that they have to oversell a book. This book is a victim of just such a stratagem. This is actually quite a detailed, well-thought-out, and well-written book about how to get your financial house in order. So I have issues with the title, subtitle, and book blurb. The title suggests a humorous or edgy approach, and the subtitle—as it begins with a rather strange directive—supports this theory as well. The book blurb makes you think that it is going to be more about retiring early or entrepreneurship. While the book does address the former, that isn’t really the main thrust of the book. The book is really about getting your financial house in order and aligning what you do financially with your own personal values so that you can live a better present and future.

This book is meant for millennials, but I believe that most people could find benefit from it even if everything doesn’t apply to you, because of your age group or for any reason. The book is broadly divided into four parts: foundations, growth, investing, and living your life. The first part begins with getting your money mindset correct by considering your approach two money. This part moves on to take a look at where your money is going and looking at your savings. Then he looks into having an emergency fund before diving into debts. In the growth section, he discusses a salary negotiation and having a side hustle. In the investing section, he looks at index funds, retirement accounts, and real estate. The final two chapters that make up part four step more into the mindset perspective, looking at purpose in retirement and happiness with your financial goals.

This book is chock full of ideas and things for you to think about in your approach to your finances both now and in the future. The author freely admits that most of these ideas are not his own. He does have an MBA and is a certified financial analyst, but he also states that he has gathered information from various places online. Honestly, there is much that will help people here, both in mindset and in practicalities. It will get you thinking about what you do with your money now, what you want to do with it in the future, and why you want (or shouldn’t want) to do all these things. If you want financial freedom now and years from now, I would recommend reading this book—whether you are a millennial or not. 

Medical Terminology by Darrell Connolly

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Medical Terminology*

Disorganized, Poorly Written Book

Merciful heavens! Where do I even start with all that is wrong with this book? The cover doesn’t really state this, but I believe the author intends this book for people early in their medical education. Unfortunately, the book suffers from multiple problems. The first thing I noticed was that the language of the book is ponderous and overblown. I don’t know if the author is a non-native English speaker or just thought that he had to puff up the language to make it have more gravitas. In any event, most sentences in this book just feel like a chore to read.

The book also poorly organized on several levels. I actually have studied medical terminology for a couple of different reasons—first as a medical transcriptionist and later as an RN—and most medical terminology texts have an inherent logical flow to them regarding how you first learn about the generalities of this specialized terminology and then get to the specifics. This book is all over the map in terms of organization. Parts of it are repetitious. Other areas that should be kept together are broken up with intervening information in between that doesn’t seem relevant to the other bits on either side of it. Some concepts that the author has given great importance to, like eponymous medical terms, are actually given such short shrift—as, in this case, there are many eponymous terms—that the glossing over the subject in this book doesn’t do them justice. And in a relatively short book like this, it is better to emphasize the horses rather than the zebras. Many of the topics listed in the table of contents—which is a hot mess—are given just a paragraph or two, not really enough to aid learning. Within the chapters/sections themselves, there is repetition and wordiness along with a nonlogical flow of ideas.

There is no consistency with the actual parts of medical terms themselves. Typically in medical terminology books, learning the roots, prefixes, and suffixes is the heart of the book, especially if learned in the context of body systems. The sections that address these are relatively short—so many more roots, prefixes, and suffixes could have been mentioned—and the section titles are not wholly accurate. For instance, the root section contains many prefixes. Why weren’t those just put in the prefix section? Sometimes prefixes and suffixes are set off with hyphens to show where they join roots, but sometimes they are not. Similarly, root words and combining forms have inconsistencies of format as well.

The author lists a variety of tools and resources to aid learning of this complex topic, but even these are split out into different sections. I cannot recommend this book. If you have an interest in medical terminology for personal or professional reasons, there are some great websites, apps, and books out there that would be much more useful for you than this.

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.

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

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