Score: 95/100 (9.5 out of 10)
Tales of the Profitable Trader by James Harris can easily be called the “Encyclopedia of Modern Trading and Investing!”
If you're looking for a truly exhaustive, unabridged book on the topic of trading (in the realm of Economics), then look no further than this.
Something very interesting and unique about this book is that Harris draws from various experiences in his life, not just as an experienced stock market investor but also as an engineer and an innovator with several highly-valued products to his name.
He even draws from things like chess, physical sports, public transportation, and even card games like Magic the Gathering (believe it or not). Harris has an analogy for just about everything!
Like in chess, trading is mostly about making good moves—intelligent choices and decisions. Also like chess, a smart stock market trader should always be accessing the board and managing risk (versus reward). If you play recklessly and put all your pieces in harm's way, you will likely lose. Likewise, if you're overly cautious and never give your pieces a chance to attack when an opportunity presents itself, you'll never win.
Harris uses the analogy of a busy city subway system to describe what the stock market can be like. You're never going to know every single little detail about what's going on in the system, nor are you going to be able to control it. However, you can take a moving average (what Harris calls an “eight-period average”) of the status of a particular part of the system. You may not be able to control it, but you can track the “momentum” within the system.
Harris also tackles many of the “biases” that can negatively impact your decision making as a trader. He goes through things like “anchoring” in which you're basically basing your present and future choices on things that happened (or you believed to have happened) before. In a fluid situation, you can't always do that. There's also a psychological trap he warns of called the “endowment effect” which occurs when stock prices start dropping and we value something more simply because we own it.
Furthermore, there is a flaw in decision making called the “sunk cost fallacy” in which you keep overvaluing and hanging onto something (like a bad stock) just because you've already spent so much money, time, and energy on it. You hold on even though all the signs are there that it's a losing effort that's about to drain your wallet if it hasn't already.
Harris also warns of emotional entanglements such as anger and depression. These are things that can also throw off your decision making.
The author provides a great example of someone who both thrived from trading while suffering from many of these ailments that brought about his downfall (and death): Jesse Livermore. This is one of the central “tales” of the text as it demonstrates some of the highest highs and lowest lows of trading, serving as a cautionary tale.
The last thing we wanted to talk about is Harris's advice to not copy the trading style of someone else just because it seems to work for them. You are your own individual. You need to know what YOUR motivations are, what YOU are willing give up or lose, and what YOU are hoping to truly gain from the experience of trading. It's actually like chess or playing a sport. No two people play chess exactly the same 100% of the time. Some players are more aggressive. Some players are more conservative. Some players are very balanced. Some players specialize in one or two openings. Some players are a jack-of-all-trades. Some play for fun. Some play for fame. Some play for fortune. That's a lot how trading works.
Check it out on Amazon!
Score: 92/100 (9.2 out of 10)
Summarizing this fascinating and ambitious Holocaust and World War II biography by Martin Bodek are these words:
“The lives we live are so much bigger than the bodies they inhabit.”
That's definitely a nominee for “Best Quote” and it summarizes this book and its key figure, Zaidy, perfectly.
This book follows the life and experiences of the author's grandfather, Benzion (“Son of Zion”), better known as Zaidy.
Zaidy lived during World War II and the Holocaust, uniquely serving multiple different armies on various sides of the conflict.
Zaidy both literally and figuratively stared the angel of death, Joseph Mengele, in the face. Most admirably, he refused to give up his Jewish beliefs and principles even under the most dire and desperate of circumstances. For instance, even when theft was encouraged or even seemed like a necessity for survival, Zaidy refused to take the property and food of others. Even when cannibalism was adopted to keep the starving and near-death inmates alive, Zaidy refused to eat human flesh even if it meant losing his strength, his health, and potentially even his life. He continued to say the Kaddish (Jewish prayer for the dead) long after others in the same situation had abandoned their faith.
Zaidy is a superb example of an iron man in history and a champion of Israel and the Jewish people.
As you might expect from a Holocaust book, it is full of trauma and tragedy. One of the most heart-wrenching things in this book is when Zaidy's family members who were not selected “for life” are listed and named. This book goes on to teach and remind us that their deaths were not in vain and that they are not forgotten. The sanctity of human life is a reoccurring theme throughout this book, one which we loved and admired along with Zaidy himself.
Another theme that reverberates throughout is the concept of preserving the memories and history of people. We are told that the world should learn—and never forget—the name, life, and legacy of Zaidy and his family, some of whom are no longer here to tell their tales.
This book provides a lot of opportunities to learn from Zaidy's (and the author's) family via interviews. Genealogies are also provided, some of which link the family to some celebrities and even imply a possible link to King David himself. In a lot of ways, this book serves as a record and a time capsule for future generations to pick up and learn from.
Now, there are a few strange things about this book. The one thing that jumped out to us as being more than a little bizarre was that present-tense was used for the narrative despite this book being about history (things that happened in the past). Wouldn't you want to use past-tense for a book about... you know... the past? This might just come with the inexperience of the author as this is apparently their second book and part of a learning process.
Another thing that was a bit strange was that “Mommy” is used instead of “Mom” during the interview segments. It just reads strangely to most people for an adult male to tag their mother as “Mommy” in formal writing. That, however, is more of an annoyance than anything.
It also seemed like the same story was told two different times, but in two different ways—first as a summary, then as a series of interviews. Interestingly, the author was extremely diligent about confirming the accuracy of the information by not taking Zaidy's words at face value. There were times when Zaidy forgot information or misspoke, which is understandable considering how long ago these events occurred.
You can't really take away from the amount of research, heart, and effort that went into this book project.
One last positive thing we wanted to mention is that this book sends the message that a tragic event doesn't define you as a person or a human being. That event isn't the be-all and end-all. It's not the ONLY thing that ever happened to you. So, despite this being a World War II/Holocaust book, the actual war and Holocaust internment take up a surprisingly little amount of the book. Instead, we learn about Zaidy's life (and the lives of his family) before and after the war. It's an encouraging and inspirational perspective.
Check it out on Amazon!
Score: 95+/100 (9.5+ out of 10)
This children's book made us cry tears of joy!
What a wonderful, beautiful, emotional, and compelling feel-good story about actual, incredible, real-life events!
This book centers around Alfie, a charismatic, adventurous, lovable little dog who goes with his human parents on a trip from Pennsylvania to New York. Unfortunately, Alfie goes missing from his doggy daycare, causing great anxiety, sadness, and panic for his owners!
His owners go everywhere looking for and calling for Alfie. Anyone who has lost a pet or a child in a crowd can empathize with the way that they're feeling. What's interesting is that this book not only showcases the owners' feelings and experiences, but also Alfie's. Alfie is an autonomous and interesting character unto himself, feeling sad, concerned, worried, and lonely. There are times when he is scared by things like the passing of a train or fireworks. This only makes the audience/readers cheer for him more and more.
He is such an endearing character!
Then, the most incredible thing happens: the entire town and community rallies around Alfie's owners, helping them to search for Alfie. They put up posters, go on the news, and search near and far with every search-and-rescue resource they have on hand. It is incredible to think that the love of this little dog united and brought together so many people for a common purpose!
You and your kids/students will not be able to hold yourself back from cheering for Alfie to be found safely. Every time someone calls out for Alfie, you may find yourself calling out for him as well! In fact, prompting them to do so could be a great opportunity for young readers to engage with the text.
The art/illustrations by previous OCA winner Anthony Richichi is OUTSTANDING and excellent as always, especially when it comes to Alfie himself. Alfie is illustrated very well. He is very detailed compared to the human characters, whose facial features are usually quite similar.
What made this extra special were some of the pictures at the end showing the actual search and rescue efforts to find Alfie in real life!
Check this out on Amazon!
Score: 89/100 (8.9 out of 10)
Finding the Blaze by Maryellen Eyer captures the joys and wonders of hiking with your family and friends!
Hiking is one of our favorite activities! It provides great steady-state cardio with an additional resistance benefit due to terrain and elevation. It is also a terrific social and bonding activity that allows families, acquaintances, and friends to adventure and explore new grounds together.
One of the best things about going on a hike, as this book illustrates, is getting to see new and exciting flora and fauna, plants and animals.
In Blaze, a mother and her son, Alex, a curious and precocious little boy, are excited to be hiking up the trailhead on Hadley Mountain in New York, a 3.4 mile hike. Specifically, their goal is to reach the historic 40-foot-tall Hadley Firetower at the summit that was built in response to a string of wildfires in the early 20th century.
Accompanying mom and Alex for most of their journey are two hikers, a couple and their dog. The male hiker is referred to as “Salt” because of his white shirt. Meanwhile, the female hiker is referred to as “Pepper” because of her dark, tanned skin. Pepper is the owner of the giant dog that serves as the book's namesake, Blaze. Blaze also gives us one of the tensest moments of the book when he goes missing, providing some form of conflict for the protagonists.
This book is a relatively easy read and is great for older children and young teens. It would make a decent first chapter book with its short length and simple language.
The book also excels at bringing the hiking experience to life including the characters resorting to eating snacks (“energy pellets”), having to transverse steep sections of the trail that require actual hands-and-feet climbing, and the discovery of at least one unique animal: a newt.
The book does a good job at teaching some of the basics of hiking including bringing a paper map, coming prepared with food, and traveling with others in a buddy system.
There were times, however, when what was happening in the book seemed a bit flat and uninteresting. There was little to no actual conflict or tension in the book, which contributed to that feeling. The only real conflict or tension occurs when Blaze, the dog, goes missing. It also doesn't seem like most of the characters had time to develop or to become more than two-dimensional. Literally, Salt and Pepper never really outgrow their nicknames. They're just there. Alex, however, does stand out a little bit as being curious and insightful, such as when he talks about the history of the fire towers.
The art of Anthony Richichi is always at least serviceable, and it's always nice to see some nice illustrations in a children's book.
Check it out on Amazon!
Score: 90/100 (9.0 out of 10)
If you are a fan of Jane Austen and her timeless classic, Emma, then My Dearest Miss Fairfax is the book for you!
We were pleasantly delighted and surprised to finally get to read a quality example of Jane Austen fan-fiction! Austen's following and fandom is rivaled by few in literary history, and her characters are truly timeless—up there with those of Shakespeare, J.K. Rowling, and Stephen King. Like the characters of those novels, their very names evoke a feeling and emotion associated with them.
So, does Jeanette Watts do justice to Austen's iconic characters? Yes, she does!
That starts with the language of the book, which mirrors, matches, and meshes with Austen's. The characters talk similar to how they talked in Emma. Now, with that said, that might catch a lot of uncultured, modern readers off guard. Let's face it, for this newer generation of readers, hearing people talk like they're in 19th century England can seem kinda silly. However, we didn't find it to be a problem at all. If anything, it makes the book seem and feel more authentic and true to the time.
This book also features the romance, letters, carriages, and parties that were a huge part of Emma.
Those unfamiliar with Jane Austen or Emma may find themselves a bit lost, especially since a lot of characters are presented in a matter-of-fact manner (as if you already should know who they are). However, for those who've already read Emma, that shouldn't be a problem at all. It would be like reintroducing Luke Skywalker or Darth Vader to Star Wars fans. They really need no introduction.
This book features many of the favorites from Emma including the heartthrob, Mr. Knightly, as well as the Campbells, the Eltons, and the Bates. However, this book primarily focuses on the relationship between the titular Jane Fairfax and her squeeze, Frank Churchill.
This is rather interesting because, as you recall, in the middle of Emma's meddling, Jane and Frank had actually gotten engaged off-screen or in the background. So, this book explores what on earth happened in the background with all of that.
Jane, in a sense, is the Boba Fett of the Austenverse. She was a character who didn't really say or do very much in the grand scheme of Emma, yet she served as one of Emma's chief foils in the novel and a character who endeared herself to the Austen fan base because of the mystery and charisma that she put across in her short time on page. This book really humanizes and fleshes out Jane in a way that just wasn't possible in the source material. In this book, you get to hear/see Jane think, hope, dream, worry, and even get emotional and cry at times. She has a depth to her that wasn't obvious in the source material.
Frank, similarly, is given a lot more time for the reader to get to know. He is a loving nephew and someone who obviously cares about Jane.
Now, the author is kinda forced into a tough spot by default. Like we said, if you haven't read Emma or forgot what happened in it, you might find yourself lost. On the contrary, if you read Emma and/or are a big Jane Austen fan, then you already know what's going to happen between Jane and Frank. You also know the fate of Frank's aunt.
However, remember, Emma wasn't privy or smart to everything, which was partly the point of the book. Emma was highly intelligent and rich, but she really underestimated people like Jane and Robert Martin because they weren't as rich or as high up the social ladder as she and the Eltons were. Emma also wasn't aware of what was really going on with Frank and Jane as she was preoccupied with getting Harriet and Frank together.
So, this book is really good at filling that gap and exploring the mysteries in Emma.
Check it out on Amazon!
Score: 94.5/100 (9.45 out of 10)
Rogues of the Crosslands: Azoria's Blade is a marvelous and emotional fantasy-adventure novel by John Daze! It surprised and wowed us in so many ways! The world-building is next-level, the story is interesting and easy to follow, and—best of all—the characters are lovable and compelling!
Azoria's Blade is the first installment in this fantasy series, and, boy, is it a great way to kick off a series!
We can't talk about this book without first discussing the extraordinary characters and the masterful way the author crafted them. Leading this all-star cast of characters is Azoria Dash, a young elf (implied to be younger than 13) who was tragically orphaned following an orc attack on her family in the little old village of Averstone. Due to this, Azoria holds a blood feud with the orcs, even becoming prejudice against their entire race. This is perhaps one of the most interesting things about this book. While Azoria is justified in her anger against the orcs who killed her loved ones, the narrator and the other characters constantly remind her that not all orcs are evil and that not all orcs are responsible for what happened.
This is most pronounced when Azoria visits her first big city, finding that the orc teams blend in with the other races: humans, elves, etc. She also holds resentment against the humans, whom her father taught her were responsible for a great catastrophe that led to widespread suffering among the elves. Once again, Azoria must come to terms with the fact that not all humans are evil, especially since her mentor and protector, Jandar, turns out to be a human. Furthermore, her best friend, Razzle, turns out to be a former human who was transformed into a cat!
So, this book tackles bigotry and prejudice in a very tactful way that we greatly appreciated.
One of the best quotes in the book states that “Not all humans are evil, and not elves are good.”
Azoria is armed with the titular blade, which she calls “Clair.” We later learn that the blade's full name is “Klarion” or the “Klarion Blade”--a sacred, mystical blade that was passed down in her family, the Dash dynasty, for the sake of demon slaying. Azoria was born to be a protector and a demon slayer. When we're first introduced to her, she's a struggling warrior who can hardly fight her own battles against Orcs and a hag spirit.
This is also something we appreciated. Azoria is not some unstoppable uber-feminist female beating up on men and monsters like they're no challenge at all. She's not a Mary Sue. Instead, she's very vulnerable. That's something you want in a protagonist.
Something else we noticed and appreciated is that even when she says and does things that are rude, mean, or unlikable, she's self-conscious about it. It bothers her. This is because she has a conscience and, thus, has a drive to be a good person and to do the right thing.
Jandar is an early nominee for “Best Supporting Character.” He is the grizzled old mentor and veteran with a dark past, similar to Obi-Wan Kenobi or Gandalf. Jandar is a father-figure to Azoria, although his relationship with her is often a tug-o-war as Azoria is naturally distrustful and rogue-like (hence the title). Azoria is not used to trusting people. In fact, she has major trust issues. So, working with other people and depending on them requires a steep learning curve.
Another excellent and fun character is Razzle the cat. A large part of his appeal is that he is a cat, and the author plays into that so well. Because he's a cat, he also has many of the traits and limitations that a cat has. He has a lifespan of only 15 years, making turning him back seem urgent. He also possesses and uses magical items at some points in the book, resulting in some comedic moments when the spells don't work as planned. What's interesting is that even though Azoria and Jandar are clearly the main protagonists overall, there are times when Razzle steals the show and becomes the center of attention such as when he feuds with a falcon who is trying to eat him or when he desperately seeks help in transforming back.
The other thing that's great about this book is the world-building. This would make Tolkien and Joanne Reid proud. The way the author weaves humans, elves, Orcs, and other creatures together is great. You can tell that there's some sort of story behind all of them. They aren't just “ugly and evil.” You can tell that all of them have their own stories to tell and a reason to like or despise the others.
What a terrific adventure! Check it out on Amazon!
Score: 84/100 (8.4 out of 10)
The Merry Meerkats Go!! is a promising, positive, and energetic children's book by Ty Loyd-Calhoun, illustrated by Cameron Wilson.
The book follows a family of anthropomorphic Meerkats as they compete, play, and socialize throughout the day. Shirley Meerkat introduces us to her family including James Meerkat, Junior Meerkat, and Dorothy Meerkat.
We are also introduced to Naomi Meerkat (who is called a “jokester”), Ruth Meerkat (who is called the best dancer), and Lois Meerkat.
Now, right off the bat, you may have noticed there are a lot of characters in this children's book to try to keep track of, and you'd be right. Now, you could excuse this with the explanation that Meerkats are extremely social creatures who live in groups that can number in the dozens. We could also understand that the author may have wanted to pay homage or to include characters and names of friends and/or family.
The author does make a valiant and interesting attempt to differentiate between these different Meerkat characters including giving them a distinct color associated with them. Each character and each name is given a color. These characters wear a bandanna with the color associated with them. This is a lot like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and in fact the characters somewhat resemble the turtles.
Shirley- wears pink
Junior- wears green
Dorothy- wears purple
Naomi- wears orange
Ruth- wears red
Lois- wears yellow
Even knowing this, it's still somewhat difficult to keep track of them all.
The Meerkats do have somewhat of a positive and adventurous day. They eat bugs together. They do calisthenics and stretching they call “KATSCAT.” This is something that could be relatable for students who start off the school day with similar guided morning workouts. The Meerkats then proceed to the highlight of their day: a race across the desert. This is an arduous affair that the Meerkats bravely and courageous undergo both for exercise and for fun. You also get the sense that it's a great bonding activity for all of them.
Their bravery and courage are tested when they encounter a frightening and very hungry predator: an eagle named Ebo. Ebo is effectively the villain of this book and a possible candidate for Best Villain, though his appearance is very brief. It does leave an impression. He is also, bizarrely, the best drawn and illustrated thing in the entire book, especially on page 26 when his highly-detailed head appears at the mouth of the cave.
Speaking of the illustrations, they do leave a bit to be desired. Thankfully, they're bright and colorful. Unfortunately, there's something a bit wonky about them. Keep in mind that our standards for children's book illustrations have become pretty unreasonably high with the many professionally illustrated ones we've read over the years.
The last thing that bothered us a bit was the writing itself. This book really needed to be proofread. With that said, we read a book earlier this month by a doctor, and that has just as many grammatical issues as this one. However, that doesn't change the fact that it still tarnished the reading experience a little bit.
The very first passage in the book is a bit bizarre. The words in the statement “What a Great Day to be Alive” are capitalized for some reason. There should be a comma after “Good Morning” (and “Morning” doesn't need to be capitalized in this context). The first sentence is actually a run-on sentence with two sentence fragments. “Wake up Wake up you sleepy heads” should read “Wake up! Wake up, you sleepy heads.” However, the strangest part of this passage is that Shirley Meerkat—out of absolutely nowhere—says that she “can do anything boys can do.” Um... ok... we never said you couldn't. You're a female anthropomorphic animal character in an unserious, lighthearted children's book, do you need to get all in-your-face with the social commentary on the first page? Sheesh. How about you show us rather than just flat-out telling us?
The same can be said about Naomi and Lois. We shouldn't be told that one is funny and the other is a good dancer, we should be shown that.
Commas also appear or fail to appear in random places. We'd be ok if it were consistent, but it isn't. Sometimes they appear at the end of quotations, sometimes inside of them.
With that said, there are some commendable things about the book. For one, it doubles as a workbook, and the activities actually help to flesh out the characters. For example, one of them is a pair of jokes by Naomi. Another shows off some of Dorothy's intelligence.
There's also an undeniable positivity to this book that we actually appreciated. It does have great potential, especially as a possible series. All the author needs to do is correct/improve some of the writing and the art.
Check it out on Amazon!
92/100 (9.2 out of 10)
Are you in the mood for a traditional, classic western that takes you into the shoes of people trying to find their way in the late 18th century? How about a treasure hunt filled with multiple competing parties including highway bandits, prospectors, a secret order of guardians, and simple farm folk just trying to survive in the very harsh and very wild west?
White Sands Gold stands out as refreshingly different from the grand majority of fiction novels we've read over the years.
It almost seemed like old westerns were a dying breed, a genre far past its prime. The demand for these types of books (and movies) is sadly (perhaps tragically) low. There was a time when westerns reigned supreme, ruling the silver screen on the backs of men like John Wayne, James Stewart, Sam Elliott, and Lee Marvin.
We have to admit something: we LOVE westerns, and we miss them being a larger part of fiction. Nowadays, fiction books are constantly being written about the turn of the 20th century or World War II. Very few people, it seems, write about the time before that: the time of dreamers, of the prospectors, of covered wagons, and of Colt & Remington revolvers. It's a romantic time. A scary time. A time of great promise and, yet, great uncertainty. It is a fascinating time.
Mike Torreano brought that all of that to life in the pages of this book, or at least valiantly attempted to do so.
The book follows a woman named Lottie Durham, whose brother, Yancy, goes missing on a search for the legendary gold that's said to entice prospectors in the caves of Victoria Mountain. The prologue of this book features the frightening, nail-biting cave collapse that befell Yancy, but the audience is tantalizes by questions about what happened afterward. Thankfully, Lottie wonders the same things that the audience does, making her a rather sympathetic character who is pleasant to follow.
Lottie is a tough dame with somewhat of a fighting prowess, something which both comes in handy in warding off terrible people and also captures the attentions of the Guardians and Ma (we'll get to them soon). Lottie is joined on her journey by Deputy O Sanders, the coolest cat in the room. In a film, Deputy O would likely be played by John Wayne, leaning back, calling everyone a pilgrim, and firing from the hip. O isn't afraid to let Lottie get some words in and to let some of the action happen before acting himself. That's just how he is. Cool, calm, and collected—the archetypical western hero.
Twill, the most active of the Guardians and one of the other major protagonists, is a rugged, determined individual who isn't slow to take action. You could make the argument that Twill is the main protagonist of the novel despite much of the focus being on Lottie, O, and Yancy. Twill is the one going out like Geronimo (or Rambo) and taking on/taking out the main baddies. It almost seems that many of the other characters are just along for the ride or caught up in the chaotic events.
There's also Ma, the leader of the Guardians, whose life revolves around protecting the mysterious sacred relic that accompanies the gold in the Victoria caves.
Rounding out the cast are the villains, Dolan and Bart Richards. Dolan in particular stood out to us. He reminded us of someone like Liberty Valance, a no-good bully who is feared by all. Ultimately, though, Dolan is a stooge for Richards, who “owns most of the town.” What's interesting about this is that it kinda reminds us of how Liberty Valance in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance was said to have been hired by the cattle barons who opposed statehood, yet we never actually got to see or learn about the cattle barons “north of the Picketwire.” In this book, we have Richards, a man who uses his wealth and influence to bully and control.
Now, there are a few ways in which this book loses some of its edge. One is that there's a character that seems to be dying for 1/3rd to 1/4th of the story. It seems like she keeps giving her final words long after we've properly mourned, and she starts to overstay her welcome as a character(sad to say). Another way in which this book loses some of its uniqueness is when it becomes a mystery. We've read our fair share of mysteries, and it gets cloying after a while. It almost made this book seem more like The Mummy than The Searchers. There are just too many books about an ancient relic/magical item and a secret order that's supposed to protect it.
However, this is a good book overall.
If you love westerns, you might really like this book.
Check it out on Amazon!
91+/100 (9.1+ out of 10)
Scared to Swim is another stellar book by our most prolific children's author, Tuula Pere!
It follows a little girl named Lillian as she pursues learning to swim, something which initially proves to be an arduous, challenging, uncomfortable, and even scary endeavor.
What really makes this book stand out and shine is how relatable Lillian and her struggles are. If you were to replace the topic of swimming with something like learning to ride a bike, speak a new language, go skydiving, or run your first marathon, you would still be able to empathize with what Lillian is going through. It's something that all of us, at one point or another, struggle with: doubt, fear, apprehension, and discomfort in experiencing or trying something new.
Fear comes in a lot of forms: the fear of failure, the fear of letting others down, the fear of looking foolish, the fear of dying (in this case, drowning), and the fear of getting hurt. These are very common fears and concerns that most of us have experienced at one point or another.
The truth of the matter is, when you first learn to ride a bike, you're probably going to experience a few falls, scrapes, and bruises. Similarly, when you first learn to swim, having your face submerged underwater is going to be new and uncomfortable. One of our judges has a swim instructor in their household. Swim instructors see these issues all the time, and it's hard for them too. They don't want to feel like they're causing suffering and distress to their pupils, but that's often part of the process, especially early on.
Although the art isn't stellar, it isn't necessarily bad. It's good enough to facilitate the great characters and relatable story. It also has a bit of style and character of its own. You can still distinguish between characters and things. You can still tell what's going on.
The other issue is that the text is sometimes too small and a little difficult to read. There also appears to be a slight text-wrapping issue on paragraph one of page 8, causing some of the words to appear connected.
All in all though, this is such a good, relatable story.
We encourage you to check it out on Amazon, especially if your children are trying something new like swimming!
90/100 (9.0 out of 10)
What happens when we die? Is there an afterlife? Do we have souls?
Are we ever truly gone?
A Voice from Heaven by Alexander & Cynthia Girman explores some of the mysteries that have haunted the human conscience for centuries.
This is really a beautiful and powerful book about coping with and healing from the loss of a loved one—one of the most difficult things many of us will experience in our lives.
This book takes the perspective of the narrator, Cynthia, as they take up a Virgil-like role (from Dante's Inferno), interacting with her late son, Alec, in the afterlife.
In his life, Alec suffered from Asperger syndrome and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Partly as a result of dealing with these disabilities and having access to his grandpa's pain meds, Alec developed a dangerous and ultimately deadly drug addiction. This seems to have escalated as he began mixing drugs and herbs like kratom, the latter of which may have contributed to his eventual overdose. Alec sadly passed away due to this overdose, discovered dead by his mother and father in one of the most heartbreaking scenes in the book.
So, this book isn't just about loss or spiritual/metaphysical issues; it also doubles as a book about addiction and the consequences it has for both the addict and their loved ones. Everyone suffers. Nothing goes without consequence.
Anyone who has suffered with addiction or who knows someone who has struggled with addiction understands how painful, challenging, and difficult it can be. And let's face it: addiction is, sadly, a more and more common human experience. Some of the best and most emotional parts of this book simply dealt with Alec's life in the earthly plane. It was a lot more grounded and relatable than some of the rest of this book, much of which seems speculative and idealistic. That's not to say that being speculative and idealistic is a bad thing (in fact, it can be a very positive thing depending on the context), however, Alec is the afterlife seems like too different a person to be believable from a reader's/outsider's perspective. Alec in life and Alec in the afterlife are a complete 180 of each other outside of some memory of life and a love for things like chocolate.
Although Afterlife-Alec isn't omniscient, his knowledge, wisdom, and understanding seem to have increased exponentially. He speaks with confidence and authority. You can tell throughout the book that Cynthia is the one being taught, enlightened, and educated by her late son, not the other way around. It seems incredibly idealistic and optimistic. It also begs the question: if one person gets to interact with their deceased loved one, why can't everyone? Keep in mind, this is also something we asked about Beloved by Toni Morrison.
There is a slight explanation to that question in the book when the narrator discusses seeking the help of a psychic to achieve this purpose.
That gets into something that's also a bit odd but interesting: this book's religious perspective is a bit all over the place. A nicer way of putting it: this book's perspective on the afterlife seems to be an amalgamation of different religions. Yes, there are a lot of Christian references in this book—the most obvious being discussions about Jesus' purity and divinity. However, there are also constant Hindu/Buddhist-like references to concepts like reincarnation and enlightenment. Afterlife-Alec says that he has effectively lived many lives, suffering for a distinct reasons and for a distinct purpose—all the while learning how to be more loving, compassionate, and enlightened. According to afterlife-Alec, he continues to exist eternally (and infinitely) without a body. He exists, like similar beings, in a state of “continual bliss.” All the while, his existence crosses multiple dimensions at the same time. This is a result of humans having a “divine soul.”
Now, that's actually an interesting theory as to why certain people can see and hear ghosts, especially if these souls are crossing multiple dimensions at the same time (including ours).
This book presents one of the most interesting visions of heaven/the afterlife that we've ever read about. The author does a good job at presenting the tastes, sights, and sounds of heaven, using analogies like bells to describe the indescribable.
This book can be very heavy-handed, overly idealistic, and speculative at times. Despite all that, this is a really interesting read, especially if the afterlife (or the infinite everlife) is of interest to you.
Check it out on Amazon!