Book Review: The Leadership Guide: Unleashing the Power Within and In Others

Title: The Leadership Guide: Unleashing the Power Within and In Others
Author: Dr. Srikanth Gaddam
Genre: Non-fiction; Education; Self-help
Year Published: November 11, 2021

Date finished: June 17, 2022

This is a book on how to be a better leader in the workforce and how to continuously work on leadership skills to stay on top. It focuses on techniques by looking at oneself and one’s goals and purpose. The book opens with an introduction providing insights into why the author wrote this book. It’s a really helpful section in that it helps you understand the purpose and importance of leadership. The chapters are executed with straight-forward descriptions using bullet points and bolded sections to make it easy to focus on each particular points. Each chapter ends with a chapter takeaway, a quick key-points of the chapter.

I have read other books on leadership in the past and this one is one of the best. I like that it talks about an individual’s abilities and to look within to find that leadership. The book is full of important methods and techniques in leadership. It explains why leadership matters and how to get to where you want to be. It also includes the different types of leadership styles, challenges to overcome, leading teams and organizations, organizational leadership, leadership during crisis, and more. It’s a very thorough book with excellent points.

The book is focused on leadership in the workforce, specifically larger companies, but it could also be applied to an individual or smaller businesses. If you’ve ever taken a Stephen Covey course, you’ll know that the skills you’ve learned can be applied to everyday life. This book works the same way. The difference with this book is that it’s to-the-point and can be used as a reference guide for years to come. There are no stories or examples of how to use these steps. It’s not meant for that. It’s rather about the inner self and how to grow one’s leadership skills by focusing within as well as paying attention to the changing world around. This book was extremely well executed.

Who should read this book: Everyone should read this book. Even if you’re already a leader or have years of experience in leadership, this book is a great reference resource for those moments you might question your own abilities.

Book Review: Life of Evil: A Reeves and Blake Thriller

Title: Life of Evil: A Reeves & Blake Thriller
Author: Robert Lalonde
Genre: Fiction, Detective Thriller
Year Published: June 25, 2021

Date finished: June 11, 2022

The is a detective thriller about a murderer who has a unique way of killing his victims. P.I. Frank Reeves is hard at work figuring out who the murderer is. His secretary, Sam who is working her way to become an investigator finds herself closer to the murderer than she imagined.

This was a pretty fast-paced read. The characters were thrown in almost all together, so it was hard to get into the story at first. I liked the idea of the story and how Sam worked her way to become an investigator. The murderer was hidden well. I couldn’t figure out who they were until the very end. That was done excellently.  Overall, this was a good read.

Who should read this book: If you’re into mystery thriller, detective, and psychological thrillers, this one is for you.

Book Review: The Combat Diaries: True Stories from the Frontlines of WWII

Title: The Combat Diaries: True Stories from the Frontlines of World War II
Author: Mike Guardia
Genre: Non-fiction; WWII; Anthology
Year Published: April 1, 2022

Date finished: June 9, 2022

This is the first time I’ve read a diary of sort about military men in war. It’s not so much a diary but stories—short memoirs—about a few individual service members during WWII. It lets us see (and just barely see) the horrendousness of war through the eyes of these brave men. The stories provide some backstory to how and where they grew up, and how and why they entered the military. Each story ends with what each of them did after the war and a photo or two of them either taken during the war and/or afterwards.

All the stories are well told and provide insights into the many ways these men dealt with survival, following orders, what they saw/experienced, and everything else. One of the stories took me by surprise. It was the one where the Lieutenant was introduced to an OSS agent named Julia McWilliams, whom after the war, married and became who we know as Julia Childs, the television chef. There were so many things I wasn’t aware of, like the POWs in the Philippines, the OSS (Office of Strategic Services) that eventually became the CIA, the concentration camp that contained not only Jews but everyone else that “didn’t belong,” etc. I don’t want to take away from each soldier’s story because it’s their story that reminds us what freedom looks like, but just wanted to point out that there’s so much to learn from this book.

This was one amazing read. I enjoyed every story and wanted more. What I found interesting was that even in this type of environment, the men were able to find humor. I wish there was a way to read as many of these stories as possible in this style. I don’t know why this isn’t done more often, but I can also understand, and respect, that some families might want to remain private. There were so many military servicemen that died, and their stories will never be heard. I find that so heartbreaking.

Who should read this book: I’d recommend everyone read it.

Book Review: The Peaceful Village

Title: The Peaceful Village
Author: Paulette Mahurin
Genre: Historical Fiction
Year Published: May 27, 2022

Date finished: June 5, 2022

This is a story that takes place in a small village in France called Oradour-sur-Glane. Marguerite is the main character. She’s an older woman and married. She lives a simple and quiet life with her family. As the story moves along, SS soldiers start showing up in the village. They’re a little rough and tough but the villagers don’t back down. They’re not afraid of these soldiers and fight back but fighting back created more anger from the soldiers. Marguerite just wants the soldiers to leave but she knows it wasn’t going to happen and she finds her way to help those who were injured, putting herself in danger.

Overall, this was a good story. I loved the writing and the opening description of this small village. I was surprised at what happened to the people in this village since they kept to themselves. It was unfortunate and sad. The story itself moved a little too fast pace with too much going on and with lots of characters thrown in that I felt a little confused as to who each character was. I would have liked to know more about Marguerite’s husband, their youngest daughter, and the priests. I think the tension buildup wasn’t very strong and thus it lost me a little, but it’s definitely a story to check out.

What I found unique about this story was that SS soldiers infiltrated a laid-back, peaceful, small village. When we think of WWII and what Hitler did, we tend to focus on the big cities. This was a great way to show that even small towns were attacked.

Who should read this book: If you’re into WWII historical fiction, this is a good read to add to your list.

Video Swatching Miya Gouache Set and Night Skies Paintings

As you know I thing for gouache. This is my third set. I’m still debating on reviewing the first set because the plastic odor was too strong so I haven’t been able to use it for awhile because I can’t handle the smell. I may just do a really quick review. I don’t know…still thinking about it.

This is the video swatching of the Miya Gouache.

To test the gouache out, I painted four 5×5 paintings. Two are of the Northern Lights and two are of the Milky Way. They were done on Arches 300 gsm/140 lb hot pressed watercolor paper (smooth). My first try on hot pressed paper was a mess and I didn’t finish it. I almost thought about switching to cold pressed paper (rough) because I painted with gouache on cold pressed before and was comfortable with it, but I’m glad I hung in there because I actually like the way the paintings turned out on the hot pressed better. These paintings were given away as birthday cards to my siblings.

May’s Playlist 2022 and Ramblings

Last weekend, went to grab donuts and coffee and couldn’t resist taking a photo of the clouds. Aren’t they something? If you’re curious as to why the road looks rough and uneven, it’s because they are repaving it. May usually feels like a forever month because of that extra day, but it pretty much flew by this year. I guess I should accept that as I/we get older, time starts to feel as though it’s moving faster. I remember wishing for the time to pass quickly. Now, I’m always aware that I only have so much time in a day to get things done, and there’s never enough time.

I was so busy with writing and trying to get my hands at doing more crafting that I didn’t get a chance to listen to anything different other than my default playlist of Enigma and writing music. Husband and I did go see the movie, Top Gun: Maverick and we both enjoyed it. The soundtrack was nostalgic and excellent. Afterward, I told him that returning to civilian life felt a bit slow and boring, but that I enjoyed it. The speed of those jets was a serious adrenaline rush and I don’t think that kind of life would ever be for me. It’s very different for sure, but you know, maybe it’s just the age thing.

Anyway, the one song I did listen to a few times was Meet Me Halfway but Kenny Loggins. He’s also the singer of the song Danger Zone, which was played in the 1986 Top Gun movie as well as the new movie release. Meet Me Halfway was a song played in the 1987 movie called Over the Top, which I haven’t seen yet.

My daughter is on summer break now. She finished 9th grade and will be starting 10th grade come fall. She’ll be taking classes for her driver’s permit this summer. Once she passes, she’ll be able to drive with me or her dad in the car with her. Then come her 16th birthday next year and she’ll be able to test for her driver’s license. Strangely, she doesn’t want to drive.

Hope you all enjoy your summer.

Book Review: When She Woke

Title: When She Woke
Author: Hillary Jordan
Genre: Sci-fi; Dystopian
Year Published: September 18, 2012

Date finished: May 22, 2022

This story is about a future America where religion is a political power and having an abortion is a crime. Hannah Payne, the main character, falls in love with a pastor and gets pregnant. She is then chromed red for her sin. People stare at her and judge her because her red skin speaks for her crime. She refuses to tell anyone who the father is or the doctor who performed the abortion. She escapes the last institution she’s put in and stumbles upon people who were willing to free her from this strict world.

This story started out interesting. I couldn’t put the book down because I love myself a good dystopian story. It’s been a while since I’ve stumbled upon a book I couldn’t put down. The opening really grabbed me and kept me reading. However, midway through, the story slowed down and went a different direction. The ending was just meh. I may have had such high hopes that I was left disappointed. I wanted some sort of victory for Hannah. I also wanted to know what happened to the pastor, her family, and her friend. They all just seemed to disappear. There wasn’t anything said about what happened to them.

Overall, this wasn’t a bad read. It had a lot of potential, but just didn’t hit the right spot for me.

Who should read this book: If you enjoy “The Handmaid’s Tale” and “The Testaments” by Margaret Atwood, you’ll probably like this one.

Book Review: The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue

Title: The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue
Author: V.E. Schwab
Genre: Historical Fantasy
Year Published: October 6, 2020

Date finished: May 7, 2022

“Be careful what you ask for, be willing to pay the price. And no matter how desperate or dire, never pray to the gods that answer after dark.” ~Estelle

This was a marvelous book full of magic, anticipation, heartbreak, and love. Once you are pulled into the story, it’s hard to stop reading.

When the book first came out, I had wanted to read it and so checked it out from the library. I got a few pages in and couldn’t get into it. My mind just wasn’t there. The book expired and I waited a year to recheck it out (because I was busy). When I checked it out, again, I was busy, so the book expired and I missed my chance. I checked it out one more time and told myself that if I can’t get to it this time, then maybe it wasn’t meant to be. Luckily, I had just finished a book and had reading time on hand, so I gave it another chance.

How I wish I hadn’t given up the first time because this is a wonderfully written book. It opens with Addie in the early 1700’s. She’s young and curious and wants to know about the old gods from an old woman neighbor. As Addie becomes an adult, her parents want her to get married, but she’s not ready—especially not ready to marry a man who recently lost his wife and has two young children. On the day of her wedding, she runs into the woods and asks the gods to help her.

“I want a chance to live. I want to be free. I want more time.” ~Addie

The darkness speaks to her and tells her he can’t grant her what she wants, but she is determined and tells him he can have her soul when she is done. He agrees and her wishes are granted.

Addie lives a very long life. She finds things to do and places to see, but it’s lonely because no one remembers her. One day, she goes to a bookstore and meets a man named Henry. When she returns a book to exchange for another, Henry remembers her, and that changed everything.

“Everyone wants to be remembered.” ~the darkness

I truly enjoyed this book. The characters were well thought out, the dialogues were beautifully done, and the storyline was executed excellently. I might say that it did start out a bit slow, but it picked up pretty fast. It was a strangely thought-provoking story. It made me think about what I’d wish for if I were granted a wish in exchange for my soul. I’m not sure I’d wish for anything, but it’s very tempting. One thing I really liked about the book is that there are references to artwork that Addie is in, a few are done without her knowing it like the painting of her on the shore by a famous painter. I loved the way they were presented. It really piqued my interest because I almost thought they were real, that they were actually of her!

Who should read this book: The book reminded me of Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, and the movie, The Age of Adaline. I found some similarities between those books and this one. So, if you’re into any of those stories, you’ll probably enjoy this one. The character “darkness” reminds me so much of the main character, Lucifer, in the T.V. series, Lucifer. For some reason that’s how he appears in the book to me, however, I don’t think darkness is meant to be portrayed as the devil. He feels more like the reaper. Also, the book is being made into a movie, so if you’re anything like me and prefer to read the book before seeing the movie, you might want to get on it.

Btw, I ended up buying a hardcover. Just couldn’t help it.

Book Review: You Have the Right to Remain Silent

Title: You Have the Right to Remain Silent
Author: Mark M. Bello
Genre: Legal Thriller; Detective Thriller
Year Published: April 12, 2022

Date finished: May 2, 2022

This is a murder mystery legal thriller about a case where a man was pretty gruesomely killed, and the key suspect is the wife. Zachary Blake is the lawyer on the case, and he doesn’t think the wife is actually the one who murdered her husband. Zach and his team tackle the detective work with Zach hiring Shari Belitz to work on a trial focus group to get answers that otherwise may have been missed. Everyone worked round the clock to get to the bottom of this case.

I’m trying not to give too much away because I think this book is worth reading and finding out who the killer is. The author doesn’t hide who the killer is. He subtly tells us who it is, but we still have to figure it out on our own. I loved that! Zach is one amazing lawyer. He knows who he needs to have work on the case, he doesn’t make quick conclusions or assume what-you-see-is-what-you-get. It was too perfect to have the wife be the primary suspect. Also, the doctor who watched over the wife knew a few things, proving that the wife didn’t do it, and I’m glad Zach listened to the doc.

The book was very enjoyable. The angle of the story from the lawyer’s perspective was unique and kept me intrigued. I liked how the author showed how well everyone worked together. They didn’t always agree but it all came down to proof, so even if someone thought they knew who the killer was, if they couldn’t prove it in any way, that theory was thrown out.

This was a fast paced read with lots of important information and knowledge about how the law works.

Who should read this book: This was an excellent read and I’d recommend it to everyone, especially those who love murder mystery or detective type stories. This angle (from the lawyer) is well done, and again, very unique in a murder mystery type of story.

April 2022 Playlist

I was surprised to see the magnolia in the backyard bloom. A few years back only a few flowers bloomed, so I thought this bush was on its way out, but I’m so glad it’s still thriving.

I finished Camp Nano and hit over 100K words so I’m really happy that I was able to get that far. My goal was 80K. As a gift to myself, I purchased quite a few celebrity perfumes. Once I receive them all, I’ll probably share some photos.

Something was in the air in April and I got hooked on the song “Never Enough” from the movie, The Greatest Showman. Have you seen the movie? What did you think? It came out in 2017 but I only watched it a year ago and I wish I had seen it sooner. I knew how popular a lot of the songs were, but there is so much more meaning in having watched the movie. I love the original “Never Enough” version by Loren Allred, but also love Morrissette Amon’s version as well as Kelly Clarkson’s. If you get the chance, watch Morrisette’s version. It’s very beautiful. Here’s Kelly’s version. I believe they’ve played this on the radio. I remember hearing it driving the kids to dance practice when oldest daughter was still in high school. She’s now finishing up her second year of university!

Here are a few other songs I listened to:

Into Dust” by Mazzy Star

Je T’aime Till My Dying Day” by Enigma

Glass Palace” by Jens Gad