“Are You Happy? A Guidebook to Earning Happiness” by Lea Colleens


Lea Colleens
Harlen Books Pty Ltd. (2018)
ISBN 9780648229513
Reviewed by Sheri Hoyte for Reader Views (7/18)

In “Are You Happy? A Guidebook to Earning Happiness,” author Lea Colleens takes the reader on a journey of discovery in a quick and easy to read self-help manual that will open the eyes to a unique concept on how to find happiness – by earning it.  The book is divided into three sections: Happiness ExplainedInstruction Guide and The End Result, each section providing clear and easy to understand ideas, explanations and suggestions along the way.

The journey begins with a simple question – Are you happy?  Seems an easy enough question, right? But it leads to several other questions.  How do you know if you are really happy?  How can you be sure? How does anyone know what will make them happy?  How can anyone know? To help answer these questions, Colleens begins by explaining what happiness is and what it is not.  She states that contrary to the popular beliefs that have been spoon fed to us over the years, it is not contentment, the absence of ego, pleasure, self-esteem, positive, thinking, etc.  Nor will nice things make one happy. Rather it is cited that happiness is certainty of future pleasures (that nice things often bring), but that the nice things of themselves, don’t, and won’t make you happy. The basic formula for happiness as defined by the author is Happiness = Affection + Excitement.

Colleens goes on to explain the functions of the three brains in your head vying for control:  The Master Brain, The Dog Brain and The Reptile Brain, and explains how each brain makes us act the way we do.  According to Colleens, if we can learn to let our Master Brains run the show, we will be happy, because our Master Brains want us to be happy.

Colleens has a distinctive, clear voice that is crisp and to the point. One can almost feel her energy emanating from the pages. Though while the pages are full of zest and enthusiasm, some of the language used in the delivery is distracting from the message.  The profanity will be off-putting to those with an aversion to that sort of thing, as will the sarcasm. Granted, there are times when such a tone is effective and beneficial, but in a self-help book on happiness?  I leave that up to the individual reader.

That being said, there were many things in “Are You Happy? A Guidebook to Earning Happiness,” by Lea Colleens that I thoroughly enjoyed.  The illustrations are excellent and clearly add definition and an extra layer of understanding to the text. I also found the charts on Seeking Excitement: Do’s and Don’ts and Seeking Affection: Do’s and Don’ts to contain valuable advice.  In the end, I fully agree with the author when she says, “There are no shortcuts…to help you earn happiness” (59). It takes consistent hard work and dedication to the cause, but in the end, happiness is totally worth it!

Posted in Books, Non-Fiction, Self-Help, Self-help / Motivational / Inspiration / Lifestyle | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

“Death, Unchartered” by Dorothy Van Soest


Dorothy Van Soest
Apprentice House Press (2018)
ISBN 9781627201971
Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views (07/18)

“Death, Unchartered” by Dorothy Van Soest is a haunting read that will cause readers to sit up and take notice.  It is a powerful journey wrapped up in an intense mystery/thriller one won’t soon forget.

When former school teacher Sylvia Jensen learns that the skeleton of a young boy has been discovered hidden at a school in the Bronx, she is distraught. Not only is she sure she knows who the boy is, but she is also convinced she knows who murdered him. The only way to know for sure is for her to team up with her friend JB Harrell, who is an investigative reporter. Because there was a lot going on at the time that Sylvia was involved with this school, many painful memories come to the surface. She was a young, married teacher who tried to fight a system that allowed another teacher to physically abuse students. Her passion for teaching also caused her to decide to keep teaching during a strike. Not only did this cause her to lose friends but it also endangered herself and people close to her. The events that took place during the late 60s caused Sylvia to end up in a dark place that took her a long time to escape. Now she must go back and confront those painful memories.

“Death, Unchartered,” covers a lot of hot topics from both the past and the present. Racial inequalities, poverty, political corruption, greed, and gang violence were particularly of concern to the protagonist in the past and much of it carried over to the present. The protagonist and several other related characters must step back into painful times in order to find answers. In doing so, they put their lives at risk. Confronting the painful memories and misconceptions also provides a change for healing and redemption.

I found “Death, Unchartered” to be riveting. The drama also took me back to my early years when I was doing graduate work as a counselor in education. One of my practicums was at an elementary school in a rough area. I will never forget being in the same room with a bunch of fifth graders when their teacher kicked over a desk. Fear of what might happen, when adults weren’t present, made me speak up. His behavior was immediately dismissed as being a result of him being a former cop. Nothing was done. There were other instances like this that came to mind as I read this story. I suspect that there are many others in education with similar stories.

While I think this book is a great choice for readers who enjoy a good murder mystery, I especially recommend “Death, Unchartered” by Dorothy Van Soest to social workers and educators. It will leave an impact.

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“Confound It” by Maggie Toussaint


Maggie Toussaint
Camel Press Publishing (2018)
ISBN 9781603815956
Reviewed by Jennifer Wilson for Reader Views (6/18)

“Confound It” by Maggie Toussaint is a new addition to her ‘Dreamwalker’ series. However, even though I was not familiar with any of the author’s previous works, I had no problem keeping up with the characters and storyline.

In this charming novel, we are introduced to a variety of characters, new names as well as some faces familiar to fans of the series, including: Mandy Patterson, a meth cook trying to stay below the radar in Sinclair County, Georgia, her son, 16-year-old Doodle, and the mysterious palm reader, Cipriona Marsden.

Just as Baxley Powell is beginning to gain confidence in her abilities as a second-generation dream walker, everything is turned upside down when she is asked by the Sherriff to help sort through Mandy’s sudden, unexplained, death. She also has to consider her feelings for her friend, fellow dream walker, Sam Mayes, who has just arrived in town for a visit.

In Mandy’s last moments, shown to Baxley during a dream walk, she asks Baxley to “tell them” (31), making her unexplained death look more like premeditated murder. When Mandy dies, Doodle only family member left is  his mother’s unpleasant sister June, who is obviously only interested in what the boy can do for her. Baxley has a soft spot for the boy and his criminal mother, even though she can tell that Doodle is hiding something.  What could he be hiding?

With a myriad of possible suspects, I was never sure of the “who done it” until it was revealed. The story was not so complex as to be confusing, but it didn’t leave me feeling bored either. The connection between the spirit world and the “real” world that Baxley and Mayes experience is described with such intense detail that I found very easy to picture in my mind’s eye.

The characters were colorful, i.e. Ricky and Tip Dixon, and diverse. I found myself rooting for Baxley to let go and allow herself to be happy. If I could, I would change the way Doodle interacted with other characters. As the mother two sons, I found his verbiage to be inaccurate based on my experience with a house constantly full of teen boys.

I found “Confound It” as a whole to be an easy to read, thought provoking, but not overly complicated novel that will please Maggie Toussaint’s current fans, and is certain to gain her even more!

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“Death of a Kootch Show Girl” by Corey Recko


Corey Recko
Black Opal Books (2017)
ISBN 9781626945920
Reviewed by Carol Hoyer for Reader Views (7/18)

“Death of a Kootch Show Girl” by Corey Recko reminds me of growing up in the country, and one of the major attractions we all waited anxiously for was the carnival. I can’t recall what the attraction was, maybe the sword swallower, bearded lady, or the rebel game hosts. Typically, on the last night of the carnival, the carnies look forward to either going home or just staying in one place for awhile. On the last night in 1953 Ohio, one of the strippers is found dead.

Recko provides an interesting take on the profiles of carnival workers, and how freak attractions are often fake, but look so real one wouldn’t be able to detect it. Much of the wording and language show that many who travel with the carnival have little or no education. I thought the author did a great job in his description of the carnival, and characters. As in many cases, people have their own perception of others “odd” behaviors, often based on lack of knowledge of history.

One area that distracted my reading somewhat was the interrogation. Relationships with the victim from each character’s point of view seemed redundant from the original narrative. I also found the scene where a man finds the stripper’s body in a pool of blood to be somewhat funny in that on the way to call the police he races past the food tent and yells for someone to make him a burger. Another interesting point is Bozo the Clown refers to himself in the third person.

The local police have no leads, weapon or anyone who might have committed this murder. Although Chief Davis doesn’t believe anyone in the carnival would kill the stripper, he does suspect that her teasing the local men with sexual favors and giving them fake keys to her motel room might cause some harmful thoughts.

Overall, I enjoyed this story. Readers will find the ending to “Death of a Kootch Show Girl” by Corey Recko a surprise. Never in my wildest thoughts would I have imagined the ending!

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“This is Portland: The City You’ve Heard You Should Like” by Alexandar Barrett & Andrew Dickson


Alexander Barrett & Andrew Dickson
Microcosm Publishing  (2018)
ISBN 9781621064015
Reviewed by Kimberly Luyckx for Reader Views (6/18)

Its title, “This is Portland: The City You’ve Heard You Should Like” definitely made me want to pick this book up and delve into it – especially considering its allure for today’s younger generation. The guide’s graphic design and general layout is bold and quirky – just like I had imagined it to be. It’s true that people will tell you that Portland, Oregon is “the best city ever.” And when you ask why, they reply, “it just is.” I like that this book explains why. And, it has two authors: the original writer, Alexander Barrett who penned the book’s first edition and long-time Portland resident, Andrew Dickson. So, it gives you information from both sides of the fence – as tourist and citizen. The guide boasts of bikes, beer, books, beards, bridges, BBQs, bubblers, baristas, bakeries and bands. So many B-words, the place should be called Bortland.

The authors explain that the most Portland-type is “alternative, business casual, stubbornly eco-friendly, doesn’t care how stupid he looks and involves the suffix, “cycle.” In communicating the nature of the culture that is Portland, this scenario explains things perfectly: When you meet someone here for the first time he doesn’t ask, “What do you do?” he asks, “What do you like?” And that is because this culture is based on living the life you want. In short order this book verifies this premise with accounts of highly specific food, craft and entertainment options – you certainly get the idea that there is something for everyone.

I love the casual speak these authors offer. They are honest yet not insistent, relaxed but still concise. The book communicates what it needs to through narration, fun wording and unique paragraph construction. It tells you that Portland’s reputation, although still vibrant, is changing due to the influx of people – but only slightly. Although its popularity may be increasing, it is the unconventionality that everyone still comes to experience.

Its attractive cover and small dimensions make you think you are getting the ideal travel size book for this trending place called Portland. But “This is Portland” is not a destination guide filled with hotel, restaurant and attraction recommendations. It is an explanation, a true confessions type chronicle that spells out the culture and the vibe of the city. But don’t dismay, you will most certainly be informed if or when you visit the city. In fact, you may be so enlightened by this guide you won’t even feel or look like a tourist when you arrive. Buy, borrow or barter for this one – it is a unique treasure.

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“Shattered to the Core” by Charlotte Ann


Charlotte Ann
CreateSpace (2017)
ISBN 9781537525204
Reviewed by Carol Hoyer for Reader Views (6/18)

“Shattered to the Core” by Charlotte Ann is the memoir of one woman’s struggle to become whole after dealing with lifelong abuse.  It is a unique way of describing years of physical and sexual abuse by close family members that resulted in the author assuming different personalities to protect herself, with each having a particular function in her daily life.

From infancy the author had been abused, sexually abused and traumatized by her mother, sister and grandfather. In the beginning of the book, Charlotte Ann describes it to be like the shattering of a mirror – being hit with a hard object and breaking into small pieces.

The author’s memoir deals with Dissociative Identity Disorder or multiple personality disorder. She also discusses depression, suicidal thoughts, impairment of functioning, alcohol abuse and gaps in memory to name a few. This memoir takes on a different perspective from others in that it is written by alter personalities.

She also relates about her encounters with psychologists and psychiatrists who misdiagnosed her and only provided medications. During the time she sought treatment not much was known about DID and the cause. Many in the field felt the individual was making up stories to draw attention to ones’ self. During my time as a psychologist for the Department of Army, I had one client with multiple personalities. It is an amazing, and educational experience to see an individual change from one persona to another right before your eyes. Needless to say, I was not qualified to treat this person and referred her to a therapist who specialized in that field as it is very long and traumatic treatment.

There were several areas I wish the author would have provided more insight as she gives a very vague background of how things came to be and when she first noticed it. I believe the author has great intentions to help others with this memoir yet I also feel that it might cause some major damage to people who are still learning about DID. She does state that during the time she was writing this she was under the care of a psychiatrist and therapist due to flashbacks and suicidal thoughts.

Given that the memoir jumps in right away with the alter personas, it is not for the general audience reading. I do think that college psychology courses would benefit from learning about the different personalities and their function. I would recommend “Shattered to the Core” by Charlotte Ann for professionals in the field and highly recommend the author obtain the services of an editor.

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“3 Women 4 Towns 5 Bodies” by Townsend Walker

3Women4Towns5Bodies3 WOMEN 4 TOWNS 5 BODIES

Townsend Walker
Deeds Publishing (2018)
ISBN 9781947309210
Reviewed by Sheri Hoyte for Reader Views (6/18)

“3 Women 4 Towns 5 Bodies” by Townsend Walker is an intriguing collection of twelve short stories that take place in vastly different worlds spanning the course of several centuries.  Walker’s writing is seductive and compelling, and his imagination knows no boundaries. His stories range from scandalous to bittersweet and captivate the audience from the very first page.

The stories feature strong, wily females, and the self-titled novella sets the pace for this riveting collection. Readers follow Francesca and Lucia as they use their wits and God-given assets to improve their lot in life.  Always one step ahead, navigating delicate boundaries and questionable intent, these ladies give any man a run for the money. When Lucia meets up with Mia later in the story, the result is cunning, unpredictable and oddly, inspiring. Walker drives his characters through narrow slips of fate with sharp, witty dialogue, suspense and drama.

One of my favorite stories in the collection is ‘The Second Coming.’  Set primarily in Texas, the story begins in 1928 with a revival preacher and a farmer’s daughter, aptly named Charity. When the reverend’s foretelling of the second coming of Jesus fails to materialize as planned, Charity takes control of the venture, her astute senses and guile yielding healthy profits for the duo.  The good reverend could certainly learn a thing or two from Charity but, alas, is guided by the worldly pleasures of the flesh.  As a native Austinite, I loved the references to the Driskill Hotel and other local treasures, as well as the way the author captured the vibrancy of the city in another era.

‘A Little Love A Little Shove’ tells a tale of the type of relationship that should never thrive, with the good times blurring the reality of bruises and scars. Only the twisted, irresistible pull of the fine line between love and hate keep the dysfunction alive and strong as the tortured souls feed their relational addiction to each other.  ‘Storm Painter’ yields another tale of love-gone-wrong, as an artist and a writer effectively hamper the other’s creative passions. ‘Cold Beer’ will leave you pining for love lost and better days. All of the stories are unique, bewitching throughout, down to the very last page.

“3 Women 4 Towns 5 Bodies” by Townsend Walker is an impeccably written collection of stories–each one different, but somehow creating the same effect. The dark tone, the morally ambiguous characters, and the vivid imagination of the author make this collection worthy of a permanent place on the bookshelf.

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