Score: 95/100 (9.5 out of 10)
Gratitude Goggles is a positive, uplifting, and beautiful children's book by Andrea Mendoza-Vasconez (PhD)!
We loved its bright, colorful, vibrant illustrations and its powerful message.
If there's one thing that's sorely missing in modern society, it's gratitude. If there's one thing that could improve society, it's more gratitude. Ungrateful people tend to be angrier, more depressed, less happy, less content, and more likely to act belligerently than grateful people.
A grateful person looks at what they already have and treasures those things. An ungrateful person takes people and things for granted. They look at what they don't have and what they want instead. Worsening the problem, what they want is almost never enough.
Grateful people let people know they are valued, approaching others with love, compassion, caring, and kindness. Ungrateful people are jealous, spiteful, envious, selfish, and greedy. This is because when you aren't grateful, you crave more and more and more. Ingratitude leads to more negative emotions, choices, and actions.
So, this book does a remarkable job at teaching children the importance of gratitude and in seeing the world with thanksgiving. Ultimately, it's a more positive and healthy way to see the world. It's a more positive and healthy way to live your life.
Gratitude changes lives. It opens your eyes to the great, terrific, and beautiful things that are right in front of you. When you look at the world with your gratitude goggles, life is a whole lot more enjoyable!
We absolutely fell in love with this book's message.
Another thing we fell in love with were the illustrations. No, they aren't as jaw-dropping as the illustrations in other children's books we read this season, however, there's a unique charm to them. These illustrations by Rita Nilson have a real, genuine hand-drawn and hand-colored appearance to them. They are vibrant and charming.
There is so much to love about this book!
Check it out on Amazon!
Score: 95+/100 (9.5+ out of 10)
Can We Get a Rhinoceros? by Christian Kueng is one of the funnest and most entertaining children's books of the year! It's also one of the most colorful and vibrant!
This book follows a curious, imaginative little boy who continuously nags his mom for a new pet.
And it's not just any pet!
This kid wants a RHINO!
His mother, who is both loving and rational, tries to entertain his idea by having her son think about the consequences and repercussions of owning such a pet. However, when the boy can't have a rhino, he asks for a whale!
Of course, the mother is able to remind her son that whales are also very big and wouldn't fit in their little bathtub.
The boy then inquires about owning a tiger, a seabird, a pig, or a snake!
It's so much fun seeing all of these imaginative scenarios and (mostly) adorable animals!
Also, we just couldn't help but fall in love with both the boy and his mom. They're such a loving and cute duo! Even though she knows his big ambitions aren't feasible, the boy's mother plays along. Rather than shooting down his dreams, she uses logic and reason to invite her son to think things through. This is actually great parenting. We should be encouraging our children to use their brains and to problem-solve.
Also, not going to lie, the mom is easy on the eyes in a Disney-mom sorta way. So, that helps.
The illustrations by Nana Melkadze are top-notch. They are bright, colorful, vibrant, and inviting. Melkadze also pays very close attention to detail. For example, in the scene in which the boy is asking about owning a whale, you can see that the boy actually owns a little toy whale that may have inspired his interest in whales.
It's also interesting to note the number of different scenarios that we see the main characters in. In many of these scenes, the mom wears different kinds of clothes and styles her hair in different ways. Even the boy's clothes are different from the beginning of the book to the end. So, the author and illustrator are really good at portraying the passage of time.
This is how relentless and persistent the boy has been about his need for a pet!
Lastly, the expressions of the two characters (and the animals) are all very distinct and readable. You know exactly what they are thinking based on how they are reacting. There's one scene in which the mom has had enough of being nagged, and she shows it with both her facial expression (closing her eyes) and body language (covering her ears).
This is a great children's book!
Check it out on Amazon!
Score: 92+/100 (9.2+ out of 10)
In February of 2022, the world was shaken as Russia invaded Ukraine. It sparked the largest war in the region in decades, hearkening back to World War II. There were concerns that this war might grow into an international and intercontinental conflict, potentially involving numerous nations with nuclear capabilities. The human costs were the most horrific part of all of this as soldiers and civilians on both sides perished. Thousands of refugees fled deeper into the country, abandoning their homes and businesses.
For a while, most of the world seemed united in their disdain for Russia's needless act of aggression, standing with Ukraine. However, little by little, the news cycle and the world's attention moved on. Ukraine and Russia are still at war, people are still dying, and yet... it seems all but forgotten and ignored at this point. Ukraine is a country far away from the United States, one with a different history and a different culture, yet its issues are our issues—they're humanity's issues. That's true whether we want to accept or acknowledge that or not.
Grief Touched the Sky at Night by Gloria Mindock is a powerful, emotionally-charged poetry book that reintroduces the rest of the world to the war that's still wrecking havoc between Ukraine and Russia. Foremost, it brings our attention to the human costs of the conflict.
This book is split into three sections: Decomposition, Before War, and Anesthesia. Decomposition, as the name implies, discusses the brunt of the violence, gore, and brutality of the Russo-Ukraine War. The bodies of soldiers and civilians lie scattered—at times, fractured, fragmented, and ripped apart. Towns are razed, pillaged, raped, and plundered as if it were the Middle Ages. Baby strollers are left empty and alone in empty, lonely streets—ghost towns. Ukrainians are captured, kidnapped, and sometimes even sexually exploited. A family is buried in a hastily-dug, makeshift grave. Fighting and flames move from building to building. It is so horrific that the narrator, in The Blindfold, pleads to have their eyes covered so they cannot witness this horror anymore.
Perhaps the poem that stood out to us the most in this section was Bells of Kyiv, which seems to center around a bombed-out place of worship. Truly, nothing is sacred. Nowhere is safe. Even a crucifix containing the image of Christ lays discarded and battered on the ground.
Powerfully and beautifully, however, it is noted that one of Jesus' hands is missing, having been freed from its nail and cross by the fighting. This, strangely, seems to imply hope: a hope of being free from suffering and war in the future.
This is in stark contrast to the ending of Numb which pessimistically, dismally concludes, “Bandages won't help / The worm will find its way.”
Before War, as you might expect, is a section with a much more peaceful tone, albeit still one that's tainted by sadness, anxiety, and grim expectations. Despite the absence of fighting, violence, and gore, there's still a haunting and oppressive aura of foreboding—a terror of what's to come, especially considering having read the previous section. The narrator is haunted by the 5:30 time on the clock, a time that signals the darkness before the dawn—a dawn that brings more terror and a different kind of darkness: the brutality of humanity.
It is the former darkness that serves as the only time of relative peace that the Ukrainians enjoy—a time of an informal truce as militaries prefer to fight in the daylight. It is during this time that the people, hunkered up in their bunkers and makeshift shelters cling to their beliefs and faith. What are they living for? What are they fighting for?
Nature, like an albatross—like a harbinger of death—is privy to what's to come. The birds fly away. Then comes the clouds to obscure them. Yet, even as they flee, they leave behind their music and songs.
Speaking of music and songs, the tragic destruction of culture and the creative arts are highlighted in the poem The Chapel in which even these things are targeted by the enemy. Again, nothing is sacred. Nowhere is safe.
The third section of this book, Anesthesia, returns us to the ruins that were once towns. Bodies have turned gray. There are so many fires from all of the explosions that ashes fall like rain. The overall theme of this sections seems to be that the war has raged for so long and taken such a toll that it has become a way of life in Ukraine—as abysmal, sad, and tragic as that seems. It has become normalized. People are desensitized to the gruesomeness, the death, and the destruction. Humans trapped in this conflict have begun to accept that “We are dirt in more ways than one”--expendable, trashy, disgusting, sick, sadistic, brutal, inhumane, and violent.
It's “too late.”
Or is it?
This book accomplishes what it set out to do: to raise awareness of the continuing plight and suffering of the Ukrainian people in their ongoing war with Russia.
Check it out on Amazon!
Score: 94/100 (9.4 out of 10)
HAIL TO THE GREAT STATE!
The world, limited to a population of 4 billion, is fractured into eight warring shards, the most powerful of which is the Great State (implied to be the remainder of the United States), a totalitarian, hierarchical society that has completely abandoned any and all personal freedoms and civil liberties in exchange for cold, hard efficiency.
This cold, hard efficiency primarily comes in the form of technological advantages like pre-programmed cybernetic humanoids (“AE humans”) and the AI which rules them all.
The author truly wasted no time introducing us to their horrifying, terrifying apocalyptic world. For once in our contest's history, we really appreciated that. In most other literary situations, you want to show the audience what's going on rather than tell them. You want to build to it. You want to develop it. You want to drop hints and leave some crumbs. This is usually how literature is approached.
However, we're so used to this that it's actually tiring at this point. We're jaded of authors leaving us confused and bewildered, having to chase after basic information like who is who and what is what on page one.
Contrary to that, this author just straight up told us everything that was going down within the first twenty pages of the book. There was no mystery, there was no build, there was no tension, there was no development—just a cold, hard, efficient introduction to the world we're now trapped in. And, for once, it made complete and total sense. This is how information is presented to the AE humans who are born into this strange, foreign world. So, in a sense, it immerses us. It makes us (the reader) feel the shock, surprise, horror, and cognitive dissonance that these AE humans feel.
This book follows XY777-316, often shortened to 316, a human-cyborg hybrid who is constructed to be one in a male warrior class. Yes, even your job is predetermined. So, there goes free-will.
Like others in the male warrior class, he is assigned a gender, a height, and even a hair and skin color that fits the uniformity assigned by the Great State.
Now, one thing that we found both fascinating and funny about this book is how the competing socio-political ideologies of the 2020s play out in the story. It actually kinda beats you over the head with it. However, what we found most interesting is that it's hard to tell what the author's political leaning is. On one hand, you get every right-wing conspiracy theory presented in this book. On the other hand, you get every left-wing conspiracy theory presented in this book. It is surprisingly humorous and amusing, almost as if the text is mocking all of this tribalism.
We also appreciated that this book was short. It wasn't an epic, complex, long-evolving story with twenty characters and forty side-plots. Instead, it said what needed to be said and did what needed to be done. Do you know what else was short, sweet, and simple? 1984, the greatest dystopian novel ever written, which is almost certainly the inspiration for this book.
Check it out on Amazon!
Score: 95/100 (9.5 out of 10)
Circus Dogs Roscoe and Rolly is yet another emotionally-charged and powerful children's book by Tuula Pere, our 2023 Author of the Year and multi-time overall winner! This book packed a punch that we weren't expecting and in a way we weren't expecting it.
How is it that Pere keeps pleasantly surprising us? Despite most of her books being packed with emotional depth and complexity, each one seems to tackle emotional depth and complexity in a fresh and different way! It's incredible to consider the range that Pere has as an author and, really, a thinker.
Circus Dogs Roscoe and Rolly focuses on Roscoe, a furry, fluffy, fan-favorite circus dog. Roscoe specializes in an act in which he solves math problems by barking. However, old age is catching up to poor Roscoe. After years of being at the top of his game and performing as a superstar, Roscoe is beginning to decline. His eyesight and mind are not what they used to be, and he stops being able to identify cards and count numbers like he used to.
Rolly, his young protege and co-star, is forced to take up more of a starring role, yet she is anxious and unprepared for the spotlight. Roscoe steps up as a mentor and a coach, encouraging and teaching her.
In the midst of all of this, a child goes missing during one of the circus's performances, creating a crisis for everyone there. No one is able to find the child. However, Roscoe comes in handy because, despite his sense of sight and his mind having declined, his strong sense of smell remains keen. Can old Roscoe become the unlikeliest of heroes and avert this catastrophe?
This book does so many things well. First of all, despite the illustrations being different from what usually appeals to us, it's still wonderful. Next, the story is very relatable and easy to follow. Anyone who has lost the ability to do something they loved or has experienced the effects of aging can relate to Roscoe's struggles. This story also has a lot of layers to it. First, there's Roscoe's struggle—the focal point of the story. However, his struggle overlaps with that of Rolly, who is really just trying her best to fill the big shoes that Roscoe is leaving.
If there's any one bit of criticism we have, it's that the text/font size is pretty small, making it a bit hard to see or read at times, which is ironic given Roscoe's worsening eyesight in the book.
Other than that, we really enjoyed and appreciated this book.
Check it out on Amazon!
94/100 (9.4 out of 10)
For some reason, we were expecting a cute little story about a cute little mermaid girl who swims around the ocean with her cute little seahorse friend, solving cute little mysteries. Instead, we got something much deeper and much more adult! This book is intense, action-packed, and even violent!
This novel develops from a murder mystery into a multi-layed romance. From there, it then evolves into an intense action-adventure/fantasy tale involving mythical creatures who are after each other's throats. This all goes down with a very hot, very attractive, and very desirable human female caught in the middle of it!
Speaking of whom, this book follows Vivienne Griffin, a very hot, very attractive, very desirable young woman who comes to Savannah, Georgia to marry Jesse Leighton, the heir to the Leighton estate. But little do Vivienne and Jesse know that their town is about to become the focus of several brutal, violent, and mysterious murders.
And little do Vivienne and Jesse know know that they're about to get entangled in a love-triangle that becomes a love-square, that becomes a love-rectangle, that becomes a love-hexagon; that morphs into a love-cube, that morphs into a love-pyramid, that morphs into a love-sphinx. Only, unlike most love-triangles, everyone seems really cool with the others. Ok, almost everyone.
But going back to the plot, since that's clearly what everyone bought the book for (right?)...
For some reason, Savannah, Georgia is the center of the universe, a gateway between humankind and an aquatic, eternally-damned, demonic race known as the kelpie. Ok, they might be damned, but they're not entirely demonic. The kelpie are more like horse-people, or werewolves who—instead of becoming wolf-people—become horse-people. And, instead of being like horses (galloping and frolicking over land), they're more like giant fish or sea-dragons.
As you might have guessed, the kelpie are the monsters behind the brutal, violent deaths of people throughout Savannah.
The kelpie are powerful, frightening, and blood-thirsty, but they're not all bad, and they're not all evil.
In fact, one kelpie named Eelus is actually friendly and kind. Eelus, while distrusting humans like other kelpies do, has a soft spot for them. In particular, he gains a liking and admiration for Vivienne because she's hot, attractive, and desirable. Ok, well, that's not the only reason. Vivienne has something huge in her chest:
Vivienne does, in fact, have a huge heart (in addition to her huge tracts of land). Vivienne is sweet, caring, and compassionate. She doesn't want anyone to suffer, even horse monsters who eat people for sustenance.
Vivienne understands that there's always two sides to every story. Not all humans are good, and not all kelpie are bad. In fact, a lot of how the kelpies feel is somewhat justified. They were captured and abused in ancient times, sometimes even beaten to death for sport. In exchange for a semblance of freedom and autonomy, the kelpie were cursed by an alpha-kelpie known as Droch, arguably the main villain of the series.
Droch's actions made humans and kelpies permanent enemies, like oil and water. The only person powerful enough to stop Droch is another alpha named Lochin, who is kinda like an arch-angel in this book.
Lochin, too, gains a liking to Vivienne because of the giant thing in her chest. He gives her a magical coat and leaves her with marks on her chest that connect them like a plug to a wall socket... or like free McDonald's Wi-Fi to your laptop.
The primary and most active villain in this book, Bleeder, is after Lochin, and he constantly threatens and menaces Vivienne to force her to give Lochin up to him. In fact, Bleeder threatens to kill humans every day until Vivienne gives up Lochin.
Bleeder is an absolute creep, and he's quite an effective villain. For some crazy reason, Vivienne feels sympathy for him, even after he kills and tries to kill numerous people, including her loved ones. This really got us rolling our eyes.
The central relationship in this book is actually between Vivienne and Eelus. The scene in which they bond and “swim” together (although it seems more like flying) is arguably the best scene in the book. At this point, Vivienne is able to control Eelus, but refuses to do so. Eelus could probably kill and eat Vivienne, but refuses to do so. There's a powerful mutual respect between them.
Oh, yeah, there's also a teenage boy in this book named Michael who's in this book for some reason, but no one really cares about him. And no one really cares about Jesse either. He's like the rich jerk from Titanic, you kinda just want him to go away.
What we did care about was the relationship between Vivienne, Eelus, and Lochin, as well as the bloody, thrilling conflict between the humans and kelpie.
One last thing is that this book is surprisingly well-written, above and beyond what we normally read in these genres.
Check it out on Amazon!
Score: 95/100 (9.5 out of 10)
Author Conrad J. Storad continues to wow us with his incredible children's books and his undeniable, contagious passion for animals and wildlife!
We always come away from Storad's books being both entertained AND more educated, learning so much while having so much fun!
That's the way children's books should be.
That's the way education should be.
No book by Storad embodies that more than Gator, Gator, Second Grader (Classroom Pet... or Not?)!
This book mainly concerns the relationships between humans and animals, and which animals are appropriate to keep as pets and which aren't.
This book follows Mrs. Nichols's second-grade class and covers many of their fun, interesting, and, at times, exotic animal including a gerbil named Sue (AKA “Snoozer”), a cat named Nat, numerous goldfish, a bearded dragon, two leopard geckos, and even a red tarantula named Lolo!
This is clearly a class (and a teacher) that appreciates animals! We wondered what it might be like if Lolo got loose or if Nat got in and ate the goldfish. That would be a whole lot of shenanigans!
Sue/Snoozer serves as the narrator throughout the book, although in all honesty, she doesn't really talk or act differently from any other (human) narrator. She is cute, though, and does initially refer to humans as “two leggers.” Then, she kinda vanishes into the background and allows the rest of the tale to play out. She becomes a fly on the wall, which, you could argue, is what a proper narrator is supposed to become.
The real crux of this book is the incident in which some boys in the class bring a baby alligator to school! We have to admit, he's kinda cute! Seriously, this ravenous baby reptile is probably the cutest, most adorable thing in the whole book!
However, his introduction brings several things into question: Is it right to take an animal from nature? Is this a safe or appropriate pet to have/keep?
The children in the class, who are diverse and all interesting in their own ways, brainstorm different animals that are good to keep as pets and ones that aren't. These vignettes are really the highlights of the book! All of them are fun, and most of them are also quite funny!
Mrs. Nichols is able to explain to the students that the baby alligator might only be one foot long now, but could be over ten feet long in the future! It could come to see them as food rather than friends!
There's so much to like about this book. One of the best things about this book are the brilliant and vibrant illustrations by Alex Lopez, who once worked for Konami, 2K Games, and Sega! Like we said, both Sue and the baby alligator are adorable! One illustration in particular, on page 14, really stole our hearts! It's an illustration that really summarized the fascination and wonder the children have with the baby alligator while also showing off the baby alligator at its peak cuteness.
Lopez is really good at capturing the expressiveness of both the human and animal characters. There were times when we were looking at Sue's expressions and drawing comparisons to Disney animations!
The other thing that we greatly appreciated about this book is that it's more than just entertaining, it's educational. Following the story, there's an expansive bonus section in which the author teaches us about some of these different animals. We actually learned something! We didn't know that there were only two types of alligators in the world: American and Chinese alligators!
There's even an additional bonus section which presents some fun and interesting activities for teachers and parents to try with their kids!
What a great children's book!
Check it out on Amazon!
Score: 95/100 (9.5 out of 10)
Breaking the Cycle: The 6-Stages of Healing from Childhood Family Trauma is an excellent self-help & psychotherapy book by Kaytee Gillis.
Gillis is an experienced and well-respected psychotherapist who specializes in helping people to overcome childhood emotional trauma, family dysfunction, traumatic relationships, and separation abuse (among other things). She even has her own blog on Psychology Today, a highly respected and often-quoted medium among scholars.
Gillis brings years of experience together to present the audience with great case studies, workbook activities, education, and inspiration that all come together to achieve one key purpose: to BREAK THE CYCLE of trauma that is keeping us from living our happiest, best, and most fulfilled life.
This is all necessary in the process of HEALING.
Like many psychotherapists, Gillis seems to focus on two key areas: childhood and relationships. In a sense, it's a classical Freudian approach, however, with a much more gentle and personal touch. While Freud obsessed over some pretty gnarly stuff (like stamping people with one complex/label or another), Gillis is much more concerned with the individual and their unique struggle outside of their sexuality and dreams.
In a sense, she presents a very grounded psychoanalytical approach.
This book does a great job at addressing those suffering from various kinds of trauma. However, we wanted to mention that we felt like this book would be most useful for parents, particularly new parents. Why? Well, it focuses so heavily on the relationships between parents and their children, particularly in child-rearing. It is a powerful and important reminder why parents should be attentive, compassionate, patient, and loving.
That sounds simple, but it's easier said than done. The temptation to be neglectful, severe, or even abusive can be great due to the fact that these methods seem to “work” faster and more efficiently. Yes, you might be able to get the results you want if you beat it into someone, but there are far-reaching consequences to that. Children of parents who are neglectful, severe, or abusive are more likely to develop psychological and personality disorders. They are more likely to be depressed or anxious. They are more likely to turn to drugs (and other addictive behaviors like drinking) as a means of coping. Furthermore, they are more likely to be distant, detached, and opposed to forming/keeping relationships, that includes their relationships with you as a parent.
So, while you might think that forcing a child to do things your way through severe discipline is a shortcut to their compliance and success, think again! It might come around to bite you. If you think it's easier just to leave your child and walk away from your parental responsibilities, think again! It might come back to bite you. In fact, it very likely will.
One of our favorite aspects of this book are the discussions of a concept called “family dysfunction.” We've all heard of dysfunctional families. Some of us have felt like we live in one (or have lived in one).
However, it's actually comforting to note that this isn't weird, strange, or even unusual. In fact, it's fairly normal for a family to experience imperfections, conflicts, and dysfunctions. It's not the end of the world.
Some of our favorite quotes from this book are:
“All families are different, and no family is perfect or completely void of dysfunction” and “All families are dysfunctional” (although this latter quote is treated as wrongfully dismissive). However, there's truth and some comfort in knowing this.
Now, that's not to say that families have to continue to be so dysfunctional and conflict-prone. In fact, the author encourages families to work through their problems/issues rather than ignoring, dismissing, or bottling them up. Families, like all groups, all teams, and people in all relationships, should be working to do better and better each day. Acknowledging, addressing, and working on problems/issues is part of the healing process, and it's good for everyone's overall outlook on life.
The same is true for feelings and emotions. Don't ignore them. Don't bottle them up. Don't think that they'll just go away. Develop positive, healthy ways of expressing and working through these feelings and emotions.
Having read a lot of autobiographies and memoirs about trauma and abuse, we've developed a unique appreciation of dealing with these things. Of course, a few of us have had traumas of our own such as car accidents and violence. So, we could appreciate this book from a personal perspective as well as form the perspectives of other sufferers.
Check it out on Amazon!
Score: 93+/100 (9.3+ out of 10)
Wow! Well, this book was absolutely, positively nothing like we expected!
It was actually FUN, exciting, vulgar, hard-hitting, action-packed, and—quite frankly—a bit goofy. This was not the super-serious, realistic, gritty drama that we were expecting based on the title and the cover. It's actually an imaginative, experimental mind-bender that marries the seemingly uncompatible subjects of martial arts, artificial intelligence, medical science fiction, daoism, and tai-chi!
The author puts these [totally unlike] ingredients together in a blender, then hits the puree button. It is wild. It is silly. It is goofy. It's over-the-top. It's a bit nonsensical, but—like a typical Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris, Steven Seagal, or Van Dan movie—it's dang entertaining.
The author is clearly passionate about martial arts, particularly tai-chi. Many of the concepts, a lot of the moments, and even the very MOOD/TONE of some of chapters is supposed to reflect aspects of tai-chi. We're surprised because we, like the majority of people, don't usually view tai-chi as a serious fighting art, rather as a practice done by geriatric people in the park (which the author acknowledges). Well, apparently, tai-chi does have combat applications which characters demonstrate throughout this winding, weaving tale.
Speaking of this tale, it features the badass, titular Girl from Wudang, Yinyin. Look, we're a little confused due to how chaotic and wild this book got, but from what we gathered, Yinyin is the living, breathing manifestation of a powerful, legendary, mythical female tiger, possibly related to the tiger from the Chinese zodiac. For this reason, she is often referred to as “Tigress” which she seems to also adopt as her ring name when she becomes a professional fighter in California.
When we first meet Yinyin, she spends about thirty minutes (maybe 20 pages) beating up a lecherous man who disrespects her and another girl at a venue. We're not sure if the author realized this, but it was actually hilarious and comedic how detailed, specific, and drawn out this one-sided brawl was. If you thought Goku and Frieza's duel on Namek was drawn out, you haven't read the opening fight in this book.
However, what's clear about Yinyin from the beginning is that:
What's interesting is that we get a little more context for this throughout the book, such as during her mentorship under Shifu. So, she doesn't hate all people and all men after all. In fact, she even explores a relationship with a man named Simon, someone who begins to chip away at her hard exterior and melt her cold heart.
But that's beside the point... back to fighting! We get a bunch of action scenes of Yinyin as a professional fighter beating up everyone like she's Alice from the Resident Evil movies or Beatrix from Kill Bill. She is clearly the best, most awesome, and most unstoppable fighter ever in the history of everness. And she don't need no man.
Anyway, Yinyin's supernatural/nigh-supernatural fighting prowess garners the attention of the scientific community. In particular, the unscrupulous Dr. Lamberechts seeks to take the very best of humanity (supposedly) and put it into an AI program that can solve all of humanity's problems (supposedly). He targets Yinyin as the ultimate template for his AI as far as a physical, fighting specimen with top-notch martial arts instincts and knowledge. In other words, Dr. Lamberechts is Dr. Wheelo from Dragon Ball Z: The World's Strongest.
Dr. Lamberechts and his associates seem more concerned with using this AI to gain a military and technological advantage over the east, particularly China, Yinyin's home. What's interesting is that this book actually seems plausible in this regard, even providing precedence for this by referring to Meta/Facebook's ongoing AI program(s).
In case you're wondering: what does any of that have to do with anything else that happened at the beginning of the book? Just stop. Just enjoy this for what it is.
This book has a lot of style and pizzazz. For example, the author's name, subtitle, and a lot of the text throughout the book has a kind of technical, serif-like font, almost as if it were part of a computer program. Also, we can't help but comment on the fight choreography in this book. It's both awesome and ill-advised at the same time. You don't normally want a play-by-play in action scenes because it becomes clunky and bloats the length of the text. However, the author still managed to make those moments interesting, if a bit unnecessary (or unnecessarily long).
Do you know what this book reminded us the most of?
No, it wasn't Kill Bill, Resident Evil, or any other female power fantasy. It actually reminded us the most of The One with Jet-Li from 2001. Do you remember The One? It's a movie that seemingly ended before it began. However, it was so over-the-top and awesome with its action scenes that you almost forget that the movie had a plot. It also featured a sci-fi element to it that married itself with the idea that dao is finite and split between people (and universes).
Anyway, this is a worthwhile book if you like martial arts and action stories with a sci-fi edge.
Check it out on Amazon!
Score: 95+/100 (9.5+ out of 10)
Every Other Weekend: Coming of Age with Two Different Dads is a compelling, fascinating, and emotionally gripping memoir by Judge Anthony Mohr. It explores themes like love, fairness, growing up, relationships, keeping promises, and what it means to be a family. This book spans several decades that defined our country (and our world), providing us with a glimpse of what it's like to be a boy in a world evolving and changing as rapidly as he is.
Anthony Mohr, who served as a judge in the Superior Court of California (Los Angeles County) for nearly three decades, came of age in the middle of the 20th century—a time rife with sociopolitical change and the looming threat of a nuclear disaster in the middle of the Cold War.
The 1950s and 60s saw the rapid transition from radio as the primary form of media and information transmission (from which Mohr's biological dad made a career) to the television. It also saw the escalation of a nuclear arms race between the USA and USSR, leading directly into the space race—humankind reaching heights that the ancients had only dreamed of.
However, in the midst of all of this, Mohr was facing more personal and immediate issues. He grew up with two dads—one a biological father and the other a step-father—both of whom would go on to greatly impact him, shape his character, and influence the course of his life.
Both of Mohr's fathers were fascinating and unique people, and we're not just being hyperbolic when we saw that. Gerald Mohr, Mohr's biological father, was a Hollywood actor known for his Westerns and TV shows. He was named “Best Radio Actor” by one of the leading media magazines of the time. Mohr's step-dad, Stanley Dashew, is considered the father of plastic credit cards and a founding father of the credit card industry.
These are two very different people—one a boisterous, playful actor, the other a stoic, no-nonsense businessman.
But before you write this off and assume that it's going to be like every other “evil step-parent” story, stop. It's far from that. In fact, this book surprised us with its innocence, naivety, sense of wonder, and humanity. The author skillfully and powerfully brings us into the mind of a child of the time—confused, bewildered, curious, and searching.
Mohr, a powerful voice of authority in his community for three decades, is still able to capture the youthful and vulnerable spirit of a boy in a unique and challenging situation. It's really sobering and eye-opening!
Something we really loved about this book is how it focuses on these relationships and how they differed. You can really tell that Mohr made a powerful emotional connection with both men, but in different ways. Furthermore, the book never takes the perspective that one of these men is bad, abusive, neglectful, or evil (something we often read in memoirs, sadly). No, neither is perfect, and there is at least one incidence which could be considered abuse, but the author always gives these men the benefit of the doubt. Remember, these were very different times. Children were to be seen not heard. Corporal punishment was normalized. That doesn't make it good or right, but it does provide a different perspective for a modern audience.
The relationship between Mohr and his biological dad (the actor) is particularly touching and powerful, setting up the audience for the heartbreak that is to come in the form of the inevitable divorce. Gerald Mohr's personality is infectious. His sense of humor is contagious. Even though he is rough around the edges, you can tell why people love and are attracted to him. He is the life of the party, and a joker with perfect dramatic timing. He is also incredibly friendly and playful. In fact, Anthony Mohr often considers him a friend or a “pal.” One precious, sentimental memory of Gerald, involving soap, stands out in the author's mind, reverberating later in the book.
In contrast to Gerald is Stan or Stanley, the step-dad. Stanley seems to be a cold, stoic, cutthroat businessman at first, but it quickly becomes evident that he isn't an “evil step-parent” or a bad guy. In fact, rather than pushing Anthony away or displaying jealousy, Stan seems to genuinely accept, care for, and even love Anthony, the son of his beloved. This was a breath of fresh air to read.
Stan demonstrates interest in Anthony's schooling and wants to see him do well. He also invites him to do things with him like sailing. For the most part, he supports Anthony and proves that you don't need to be blood-related to care for someone.
With that said, Anthony shares at least one troubling incident with his step-dad, suffering a series of blows. This is an incident that haunts Anthony and does continue to affect their relationship long after it happens.
What we thought was the most interesting thing about this book is how moments like these (and various other moments in the book) helped to shape the author's character and even what he went on to do as a judge.
One of our favorite lines in the book is:
“Maybe that’s why I like the law. The law lags progress. It trails behind everything, as do most judges.”
In context, this is referring to the slowness of some things to change in comparison to others—a way of holding on to the past. This is a consideration for “Best Quote.”
You also really get immersed into the spirit of the times from the culture, the technology, the conflicts, the music, and even the TV shows (like the now-obscure 50s TV show Half Pint Panel on which Anthony Mohr appeared).
We couldn't help but think about what other autobiographical authors like Richard Saillant and R.C. Larlham were going through and experiencing while Mohr was living out his own story around the same time.
Speaking of time, this book does an excellent job at putting forward the idea that our time with people is precious and finite. Treasure every moment you get to spend with your loved ones because you never know when it might end. Lastly, there's something very special about the weight that the author gives the words of his fathers. For example, both fathers make statements about giving the author something (like a book) or teaching them something (like how to tie a tie). However, there's a weight and power to the fact that they sometimes weren't able to fulfill their promises because of the circumstances and the relentless passage of time.
This is a really fascinating glimpse into a child's life in the middle of the 20th century!
Check it out on Amazon!