Mini Review: Herding Cats by Sarah Andersen

herdingcatsHerding Cats by Sarah Andersen

My Rating: 4/5 TARDISes

Series: Sarah’s Scribbles

Date Published: March 27th, 2018

Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing

Pages: 108 pages

Source: Netgalley

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: Sarah valiantly struggles with waking up in the morning, being productive, and dealing with social situations.

Sarah’s Scribbles is the comic strip that follows her life, finding humor in living as an adulting introvert that is at times weird, awkward, and embarrassing. 

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*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

This is the third installment in the Sarah’s Scribbles series of graphic novels and, like the first two, it is another hilarious and adorable book. She always creates such charming and relatable comics that are bound to make you laugh, especially if you see yourself in her work. Andersen’s endearing art and witty text combine to tell a story of the daily struggle to “adult” from the point of view of an introvert. And, as I definitely fall into this category, you can understand just how much I relate to her experiences.

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These are always short, fast reads that unfailingly lift my spirits and put me in a better mood. Andersen makes us look at ourselves and our various quirks by opening up about her life and who she is. Never once have I had trouble connecting the topics she focuses on to my personal life experiences and behavior.

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Apart from the hilarity of it all, it does serve another purpose in my opinion. While everything about this book is pretty light and fluffy, it still reminds you that you are not alone in this world—you are not alone in the way you feel. And it teaches the most important lesson of all—the best way to deal with the difficult things in our lives, and really any aspect in general, is to combat them with a great sense of humor.

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4.0 TARDISes

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Review: Valley of Time by Jeremy D. Holden

valleyoftimeValley of Time: The Greatest Journey Ever Taken by Jeremy D. Holden

My Rating: 4/5 TARDISes

Series: Mal Thomas Mystery Series

Date Published: November 5th, 2017

Publisher: Clean Publishing

Pages: 262 pages

Source: Publisher

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: Fast-paced, full of wit and humor, and sure to delight fans of authors like Carl Hiassen and Nick Hornby, “Valley of Time: The Greatest Journey Ever Taken” is a truly original novel from one of contemporary fiction’s most thrilling new voices. 

Mal Thomas only escaped with his life through a mixture of good fortune and divine intervention, after he and his eclectic team of cynical mad men and women were charged with promoting the alleged second coming of the Messiah, by Alfredo Baptiste, the world’s most powerful industrialist. 

Having subsequently become famous as a best-selling author—as well as an unlikely spiritual leader—after having written and promoted a book about those experiences, Mal is now approached by another enigmatic billionaire with an equally incredible proposition.

Huw Hudson, the man often described as a modern-day Howard Hughes, wants to position his company, Space Rider, as the leader in commercial space tourism. He tries to enlist Mal and his team to help promote it, with one extraordinary twist: Hudson has evidence of an alleged UFO encounter, which he thinks could damage his business plans, and he asks Mal to investigate and manage the breaking news story.

Mal discovers a deeper purpose at work, as he crisscrosses Brazil, Miami, London, and Dubai in furtherance of Hudson’s audacious ambition, while being forced to keep an unbelievable secret from the FBI and even his closest friends. In confronting his deepest fears, Mal takes us on a journey that challenges the very core of our beliefs about space and time.  

In a fast-moving and often sardonic narrative, author Jeremy Holden will have you fascinated by the extraordinary nature of the challenges that Mal and his team find themselves confronted with, as they launch a massive global campaign to promote one of the most seismic events in human history.

“Valley of Time” provides a window into the modern world of digital and social media-driven mass persuasion, while posing this pivotal question: What if you could go back to the pivotal moment in time that shaped your life. Would you try to alter your fate?

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*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

This is a spoiler-free review.

Given how much I enjoyed Sea of Doubt, I eagerly jumped into this novel as soon as I had finished, excited for more adventures with Holden’s very loveable characters. And I was not disappointed in the least—this is a wonderful follow up to the first story. Though I think that I slightly preferred the first story, this one is another fast and extremely entertaining read. And the comedy is superb. Holden knows how to captivate his readers and hold them all the way through the final page. I just have so much fun with his work—I’ve completely fallen in love with it.

In Valley of Time, we are back again to witness another crazy situation Mal finds himself in, as well as to see further examples of the incredible skills he and his entire CREATIF team possess when it comes to advertising outrageous subjects. And this time around, they are presenting an astonishingly major scientific development that will forever change humankind—space tourism.

Huw Hudson, the creator of a company called Space Rider, reaches out to Mal for help promoting his offered space tourism, with the goal of establishing Space Rider as the top company in the world. He also tips Mal off about some alleged evidence of extraterrestrial life popping up around the world. Sworn to secrecy, Mal is put in charge of investigating these reports as well as controlling the portrayal of these stories—and Space Rider’s accomplishments—in the media. As things progress, Mal uncovers a hidden purpose in the background of these events, one that challenges what the world knows about space and time.

At the start of the novel, I was feeling a little bit apprehensive due to the fact that it begins very similarly to the previous story in this series. However, it becomes obvious fairly quickly that the plot is going in a completely unique direction. Once again, Holden’s character depiction and development is top-notch and still my absolute favorite part of these novels. I cannot talk enough about how much I love everyone and how he involves them in the events of the plot. This is a very character driven novel, and those characters are some of the strongest I’ve seen.

Holden’s writing continues to be quite easy to fall in to, and his style of storytelling is highly engaging. He weaves very fascinating and extremely unique plotlines full of adventure and excitement. Just like the previous one, I found this story to be full of surprises, and I never really guessed what was coming next or how things would resolve. Holden manages to turn the very fictional elements into something that feels believable—it’s easy to imagine Mal going through these experiences.

Again, one of the only complaints I have in regards to the writing itself is that there is far more telling rather than showing in this novel. With this particular plot, as opposed to the first novel, that style of narrative slows things down quite a bit more. There is a lot of talk about science and technology, so the story is very description heavy. The balance between this and the action is a bit unequal, and even though I am a huge fan of science fiction and, in particular, anything to do with time travel, even I felt like the narrative got slightly bogged down a few times.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed Valley of Time, and continue to love Holden’s plotlines and characters. I’ve heard numerous people say that this novel works as a standalone, and while the plot is unique in itself and does not give away much information about the first book, there are still enough important, potentially vague references made that these stories should really be read in order—I personally feel this would make for the most enjoyable reading experience. As with the first novel, I am extremely glad that I got the chance to read this, and I am very much hoping there will be plenty more installments in this series in the future. I very highly recommend giving these novels a read.

4.0 TARDISes

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Review: Sea of Doubt by Jeremy D. Holden

seaofdoubtSea of Doubt: The Greatest Story Ever Sold by Jeremy D. Holden

My Rating: 4/5 TARDISes

Series: Mal Thomas Mystery Series

Date Published: October 2nd, 2016

Publisher: Clean Publishing

Pages: 252 pages

Source: Publisher

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: After leaving behind a brilliant, but emotionally exhausting career in advertising, Mal Thomas wants nothing more than to enjoy the peace and serenity of the home he and his wife share in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. That serenity is interrupted when, seemingly out of nowhere, Mal gets a call that pulls him back into his old world, and on a path to undertaking an extraordinary assignment: Alfredo Baptiste, the world’s most powerful and mysterious industrialist wants Mal to promote the alleged second coming of the Messiah.  

As Mal and his team of cynical “Mad” men and women confront their own doubts about the validity of Baptiste’s seemingly ridiculous claim that his adopted son Sebastian is this new Messiah, they can’t resist the challenge, and find themselves thrust into a world of greed and revenge.

In a fast moving and often sardonic narrative that crisscrosses New York, North Carolina, Miami, and Buenos Aires, Sea of Doubt has its roots in our endless obsession with fame and pop-culture. As Mal’s team develops an unstoppable global campaign, a worldwide media feeding frenzy ensues, causing people to set aside all logic and reason, leading to tragic consequences.

Baptiste’s motivation is ultimately revealed in a twisted and unexpected ending as parallel worlds and a seismic conspiracy explode in an ending that will make you wonder how you didn’t see it coming earlier.

Sea of Doubt provides a window into human nature and media driven mass persuasion, forcing us to look at consequences of the choices we make. You will laugh out loud at the absurdity of the challenges that Mal and his team find themselves confronted with, while at the same time being forced to examine the role we all play in enabling the media to shape our thinking, and dictate our lives.

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*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

This is a spoiler-free review.

I had some hesitations going into this novel, as I was not sure it was quite the type of story that would really interest me. The idea of looking at advertising from a psychological perspective very much piqued my curiosity—I find it fascinating to see how certain media tactics are designed to affect us all both individually and as a society. On the other side of things, I am not typically a huge fan of novels that delve too deeply into the topic of religion, and I didn’t know what to expect in that area. It’s not that I am disinterested and much more that I feel religion is a very private subject, so I hoped it would not put me off.

However, I absolutely could not have predicted how much I would end up truly enjoying this novel. The synopsis does not even begin to cover all the unique aspects of this engrossing and fast-paced narrative. And with an incredibly unexpected twist in the final chapters, even though it felt a bit rushed into the plot, I was kept on the edge of my seat all the way through.

In this novel, we follow Mal Thomas—a retired advertising agent who gets roped back in to work on his craziest assignment yet. He is called in to collaborate with his former advertising company, CREATIF, by one of the world’s most powerful men, Alfredo Baptiste. Baptiste claims that his adopted son, Sebastian, is the Messiah, and requests Mal and his former CREATIF team’s help in introducing this topic to the world. Despite his personal doubts, Mal is taken by Baptiste’s sincerity and agrees to assist him, but not all is as it seems. Some people’s true motives are not clear, and this entire process leads to shocking and devastating consequences that no one saw coming.

Following a short initial hook, the novel starts out at a bit of a slow pace as Holden introduces us to the main characters and their backstories. This could have easily made it a bit harder to get into, but I felt he did a good job of not only carefully constructing and acquainting us with the characters, but also of immediately bringing them to life. And very briefly, after the introduction of the main plot line, the speed ramps up exponentially.

We are quickly swept up into the life of Mal Thomas and his colleagues as they tackle this controversial and seemingly impossible task of convincing the world that the second coming of the Messiah is indeed happening. Figuring out the psychology of marketing something as stunning as this is going to be the biggest challenge they have ever faced. Not only do they have to contend with the resistance and backlash that is sure to come from the public, they have to wrestle with their own personal doubts and skepticism.

I really enjoyed this peek at the behind-the-scenes workings of mass media and advertising, and the planning that goes into campaigns that are effective on the public. We get to see the sort of power these images have over all of us—whether we realize it or not—as well as the underlying purposes that these promotions and movements can have. As shown here in this story, there are both good and bad intentions floating around in this aspect of society. Sometimes, these movements can spark wonderful things, bringing people together as a community. At other times however, there are darker schemes at work, many times revolving around greed.

The best part of this novel, by far, are the characters—Holden does an absolutely brilliant job of creating interesting, three-dimensional characters that carry the story to new levels. As I mentioned before, he takes a good amount of time crafting the personalities and backstories of every single person, not allowing any of them to come across as insignificant or not fully fleshed out. And Mal is the most fantastic narrator—one of my new favorites. He is humorous, intelligent, and kind-hearted, such an easy character to fall in love with. Reading from his perspective is a joy.

As for the writing itself, I found Holden’s work to be very easy to fall into, and it flowed nicely from beginning to end. His talent in every aspect of storytelling is abundantly clear, as well as his background knowledge of advertising and the persuasiveness of media. He manages to produce an entertaining and at many times hilarious narrative, while also inserting information and serious circumstances that are very relevant in today’s world.

It is a quick and extremely fun read, while also having quite a surprising amount of depth to it. The only real complaint that I had was that there was far more telling than showing, which was not a huge detriment, but definitely slowed down the pace just a bit.

Overall, I am so glad that I took the chance and decided to give this book a try—it ended up being even better than I had hoped. Though it wasn’t absolutely perfect, it was certainly a page-turner, and one of the most unique plotlines I’ve come across recently. Skillfully plotted and unraveled at a fitting pace, Mal Thomas and his quirky personality will captivate readers from page one. I enjoyed experiencing all the twists and turns this story took, as well as spending time with some of my new favorite literary characters. I’ve already gone on and read the sequel, and I am looking forward to talking about that one soon as well.

4.0 TARDISes

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Mini Review: Vertigo: Of Love & Letting Go by Analog De Leon

vertigoVertigo: Of Love & Letting Go by Analog De Leon

My Rating: 4/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: November 21st, 2017

Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing

Pages: 176 pages

Source: Netgalley

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: In this modern epic poem, poet Analog de Leon (Chris Purifoy) offers an empowering message to anyone who has loved, lost, or yearned for freedom. 

Inspired by the life of Syrian Saint Simeon Stylites, a 4th-century Monk who lived for many years on a small platform atop a pillar, Vertigo encourages introspection, contemplation, and self-love.

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*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

I was intrigued by the description of this work when I first discovered it, but I also was not quite sure what to expect from it going in. The whole concept of a modern epic poem sounded very unique, and I was eager to see what a present day take on this classic form of literature would be like. I assumed I might end up being sort of skeptical and critical given not only my general pickiness when it comes to poetry, but also because of the unconventional nature of this particular work. However, I ended up enjoying every aspect of this far more than I could have anticipated—it definitely exceeded my expectations.

As this is an epic poem, it is all one connected story rather than a collection of individual poems. Because of this style, it is broken up into small, simple sections of text, punctuated by beautiful and surreal illustrations that work to enhance the overall atmosphere the poem gives off. Everything comes together to radiate the enormity of the world of human emotion, as well as the vast expanse of universe itself compared to us as humans. Each little piece is quite straightforward, and they slowly build on each other to create the journey of the narrator as he acknowledges the pain of loss and the great power of love. As a whole, there is so much depth and positivity to be found within the full message that this work conveys. Personally, the strength in the text and the accompanying imagery really made quite an impact on me.

One other extremely interesting and unique aspect of this poem is the online media that can be viewed in connection with it. The book provides links to a website that takes you on a virtual tour through the same emotions and message that the actual text does. With animations in the style of the illustrations in the poem and atmospheric music to listen to as you read, this becomes a very distinctive reading experience. Overall, this is the type of modern poetry that I have come to love—poetry that uses fairly simple and easily accessible language to express much deeper emotions and cause significant personal introspection. Everyone will have a truly personal journey with this poem.

4.0 TARDISes

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Mini Review: The Road Between by Courtney Peppernell

theroadbetweenThe Road Between by Courtney Peppernell

My Rating: 5/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: August 29th, 2017

Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing

Pages: 288 pages

Source: Netgalley

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: The Road Between is poetry well-lived.

Poetry for the soul that walks the fine line between losing yourself in the world and finding yourself again, often in the smallest of moments. Courtney Peppernell is the bestselling author of Pillow Thoughts, a collection of poetry and prose about heartbreak, love, and emotion.

Make a cup of tea, find your place, and lose yourself in the pages.

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*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

This is a spoiler-free review.

Courtney Peppernell has quickly become one of my new favorite authors. This was yet another beautiful collection that truly spoke to me. Peppernell has a great talent for creating short and deceptively simple poetry that has a much deeper underlying meaning. Her striking prose flows perfectly, and each line packs a strong emotional punch. This particular collection is about the journeys that life presents all of us. Specifically, these poems deal with the process of finding yourself again after becoming separated from it along the way—how we have to carefully piece ourselves back together until we feel whole.

The theme of finding oneself is something that, at this time in my life, really speaks to me. I’ve definitely been taking this exact journey over the last few years, feeling like I had lost touch with myself and trying to figure out who I am and what I need in my life. I’ve been feeling a deep need to settle into and truly come to terms with every aspect of myself. It’s this sort of work that I can connect to very easily—that makes me feel more confident in who I’ve discovered that I am and what love means to me. Peppernell’s words are wonderfully profound and they deeply touched me.

I always think it’s fantastic to see more LGBT+ work coming into the the literary world. Even though many of the poems that focus on love deal with a romance between two women, I believe these poems will speak to anyone, no matter their orientation and how they love. Love is love—it is a universal subject that can touch the hearts and souls of all of us. I’ve already gone ahead and purchased her two novels and I absolutely can’t wait to read more of her work.

5.0 TARDISes

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Mini Review: A Candle From The Far East by Y.T. Kim

acandlefromthefareastA Candle From The Far East by Y.T. Kim

My Rating: 2/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: October 3rd, 2017

Publisher: Mill City Press

Pages: 114 pages

Source: Netgalley

Links: Goodreads

Synopsis: In his first collection of English poems, Korean writer Young-Tae Kim (Y.T. Kim) presents a remarkable anthology of work with themes ranging from political musings on an international scale to living well in an increasingly global world. Kim offers a unique blend of the modern and traditional, as overtones of the poet’s Eastern cultural roots permeate each page.

In addition to musings on present-day society, A Candle from the Far East (Poems) offers reflections on more emotional themes—such as the growth of deep and profound love, alienation of once close friendships over time, and finding purpose through spiritual growth—culminating in a beautifully rich collection of works that have universal applicability. The end result is a collection that readers will turn to time and time again and one that successfully shares wisdom and contributes to the well-being of all.

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*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

This is a spoiler-free review.

While I can appreciate the themes and meanings Kim tried to convey through his poetry, I personally did not get caught up in his writing. There were only a small number of poems that really resonated for me. This collection ranges from reflections on Kim’s personal life to commentary on history, modern technology, and the current state of our society and the world as a whole. Even though these are all interesting topics, there were many poems that felt less like poetry and more like reading a textbook or list of facts—this took away from the fluidity of the writing.

The poems that focused on history or his more intimate thoughts on his own experiences spoke to me the most. The history aspect, as well as the wonderful photographs that accompanied it, really caught my attention. In just small snippets of text, I felt that I learned a lot of new information I hadn’t come across before. His short reflections on his own life were the most poetic of the collection. Kim created beautiful snapshots of his view of the world around him as well as his relationships with family and friends. Again, the placement of pictures coinciding with these poems really brought his meaning to life.

As for the actual writing itself, apart from a few select instances, I found the overall flow of these poems to be quite rough and choppy. There were some attempts at rhyming that really did not come across well and ended up being a detriment to the piece. There were many occasions where I felt as if I were reading a list of facts rather than poetry, so many of the poems were quite stilted. The moments where he focused on subjects like A.I. just did not come across like poetry in my opinion, and I found myself skimming through these.

Of course, poetry is always subjective, and my personal experience is going to be unique to me. Therefore, I still encourage you to check out this collection if it appeals to you. Kim’s talent is obvious, and I’m sure his poetry will touch the lives of readers for whom the depth of the work is more easily accessible than it was for me.

2.0 TARDISes

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Mini Review: Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur

milkandhoneyMilk and Honey by Rupi Kaur

My Rating: 3/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: November 4th, 2014

Publisher: Createspace

Pages: 204 pages

Source: Library

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: Milk and Honey is a collection of poetry and prose about survival. It is about the experience of violence, abuse, love, loss, and femininity. It is split into four chapters, and each chapter serves a different purpose, deals with a different pain, heals a different heartache. milk and honey takes readers through a journey of the most bitter moments in life and finds sweetness in them because there is sweetness everywhere if you are just willing to look.

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This is a spoiler-free review.

Milk and Honey is a collection that has me finding difficulty in pinpointing my feelings about it. I think part of this is due to the hype surrounding this collection—it didn’t quite live up to my expectations based on reviews I had seen floating about. However, it was far from disappointing at the same time, leaving me feeling a bit lukewarm about it as a whole. These poems started out very strong and immediately captivated me. Kaur’s writing style was beautiful and poignant, and she displayed quite a bit of candor throughout. I definitely felt the most connection to and impact from the opening sections.

However, the strong start did not last until the end of the work. For me, I began to like each part less and less, and this caused me to become quite detached from the poems by the end of the collection. I think this is where I began to feel a decrease in the fluidity of the writing as well—some parts came across as a bit jumbled and choppy. Though her intended message retained its power, the disjointedness was a bit off-putting. Nevertheless, I can see why Kaur’s writing has touched so many people’s lives.

These poems display a lot of bravery and boldness—they unflinchingly tackle tough yet important topics. Journeying deep into the core of humanity, Kaur delves into dark topics in a very heartfelt way. Though it fell a little bit flat for me in the end, I truly do appreciate the beauty in her words and the impact of the messages she is conveying to the reader. Overall, I would definitely recommend giving this collection a try, and see if and how it speaks to you.

3.0 TARDISes

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