Tag Archives: book reviews

Live Your Own Life – A Rant

Recently, I have been feeling that everyone else in my life thinks they know exactly how I should live it, and has no problem telling me. On a regular basis. This becomes a problem when all these opinions, shoulds and shouldn’ts, collide. That problem is further compounded when, as every human being, the owner of the life in question (me) has questions about life, wonders what to do next, or is afraid of trying something new (doing book reviews, for example) but does it anyway.

Some people seem to smell naïveté and uncertainty, and instead of respecting that I am just trying my wings, they think it is their duty to hone in on me, throw advice at me until I choke on it, then get upset when I choose to do what I think is best if it doesn’t follow their advice. (Although, you can bet your bottom dollar that they’d be singing my praises if I agreed with any of their advice and followed it).

There are many past examples of how people seem to be unhappy with how I live my life or choices I have made, but a recent one that has to do with literature I thought would be helpful to share and to possibly inspire other people who are feeling frustrated with their current place on the timeline to their goals. I am a member of LinkedIn, where many people often contact me to send me their books for review. A recent message I got started out sounding like a compliment, because the man who wrote it had clearly read my profile and was using flattery about my writing style to make his point. However, the more I thought about his message, the more insulted I became, because his entire reason for contacting me was to tell me that he thought my goal of getting paid to write book reviews should be secondary to writing other things (mainly because he didn’t like book reviewers – my guess is he has had a few bad reviews in his life – and because, according to him, he preferred a readership that could think for themselves).

What really bothered me about his message was that without even getting to know why I do book reviews (to learn for and support other writers, to stop being afraid of sharing my voice, and to keep in practice writing about literature as I continue my academic pursuit of literature over time), he had already taken something that makes me happy, something that makes me feel useful and that I am good at, something that other people like (I have proof of that by all the followers and likes on this blog – thank you all very much!) and tried to cross it out and replace it with what HE is doing with his life. He wasn’t respecting me or what I do, he wasn’t even asking or caring why I do it.

But you know what? I am so sick and tired of being told by other people what I should or should not be doing with my life, and I refuse to stop doing what makes me happy. I am going to keep writing book reviews, and doing it my own way, thank you very much. I have been through a lot in my life and have experienced many wonderful and terrible things, and through it all, reading books and talking about them have always made me happy. They are my therapy. I’m not going to let anybody take that away from me. And whatever current things any of you out there do that make you happy, make you feel useful, make you feel even a little more like there is a place in this world just for you, you keep on doing them too! Hold on to other goals if you like, but don’t let anyone steal your happiness, and don’t give up on the things that make your life worthwhile.

Love you all and peace out,

SharaLee Podolecki

❤ ❤ ❤


Husband/Wife Book Reviews: ‘The Twilight Saga: Twilight’ by Stephenie Meyer

My wife delighted in challenging me to read Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight, and despite my many delays I completed it nearly a year after being challenged. (An over-the-weekend reader I am not).
For those of you living in a cave and came out to read my review (a fine choice) Twilight is the love story of Forks, Washington exile Bella Swan and with the both unbelievably handsome and strange Edward Cullen. Through a variety of odd events/rescues, Bella finds out that Edward and his family are vampires. Drawn to one another, despite their differences, Bella soon finds herself in the world of the fascinating and dangerous world of the Cullens. With all its risks, Bella is left to decide whether or not a life with Edward is possible, and Meyer’s work ends happily with the two together.
While widely criticized (particularly the simplified movie version) for having a predictable storyline, a variety of romantic and high-school cliches, and at times groan-inducing/creepy acts of love (Edward watching Bella sleep every night comes to mind) Twilight does have some redeeming and enjoyable parts to it.
One of the things I noticed reading this work was Meyer’s naturalistic feel to the whole work. Forks, Washington really comes alive, and the idea of the dark, damp brooding forest surrounding the characters really helps add to the books feel of strangeness and beauty. Likewise, Meyer writes in an easy-going, at times quite humorous, style that instantly connects the reader with the mind and world of a high school student. Bella, despite how odd she believes she is, is a very easy person to understand and relate to. Certain relationships, like the one between Bella and her father Charlie are charming in both their distance and closeness. Even with all the supernatural things happening in Twilight, the characters and the environment are very real.
Meyer’s use of tension, especially when Bella is in Port Angeles, or dealing with the Tracker in Phoenix is very effective, and even had me an out-and-out critic of Twilight, really into it. Despite my best efforts, I actually did enjoy reading this book.
Now, only 3 books left to see if this will hold up.

3 stars out of 5

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‘Someone To Call My Own’ by Bianca Harrison

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It has been said not to judge a book by its cover. This one, however, is just as strange and confusing and loosely tied together as the cover would suggest. First off, it begins with the main antagonist, Camille Young, having a dream (a foreshadowing dream, at that), which automatically puts it straight on my cheese shelf. Before I knew it, and without attaching me as a reader in any way to the characters in this book,  I was catapulted into Harrison’s world of interwoven extramarital affairs, kidnapped newborn babies, stabbings, shootings (it’s amazing how many people can apparently get stabbed or shot but not die in this book, except Nikki, whose injuries didn’t even seem bad enough to cause the damage that killed her), and one-dimensional Detectives named Floyd and Ball (who is actually described as being both short and round. I half expected Detective Floyd to be called Detective Chain instead, but since that might actually have been a good idea and we are apparently supposed to take this book seriously, it was not to be). As a mother, the part about the kidnapped newborn was extremely upsetting and difficult to read as it was not handled properly. The baby in question was put in several disturbing and life-threatening situations, the severity of which were not treated with the proper restect, and having the concept of kidnapping a child that young merely for revenge treated so cavalierly was very off-putting. It was like being forced to read 48 chapters of all the worst parts of The Young and the Restless.

It did not seem to me that any serious research had been done at all for this book. Greg Langston, the married man who is cheating on his pregnant wife (mother of previously mentioned kidnapped newborn baby), is a lawyer, and there is a lot of TV legal drama lingo used when trying to find his kidnapped son, all of it vague and none of it effective or truly making sense. The police force is also misrepresented, as in the scene where Detective Ball and Detective Floyd find Greg at Camille’s house. He has gone there to question her regarding the disappearance of Greg, Jr. (yet another original name), and has found baby items. He tells the detectives he suspects Camille of having stolen his son, but decides to HIDE THE EVIDENCE HE HAS JUST FOUND IN CASE SHE HAS NOT DONE IT. And instead of attempting to get a search warrant for her house, they take him to the police station for questioning for TWO HOURS, since he is a person of interest in the case, and he doesn’t even tell them about the baby items!!! No parent in their right mind would do that, and the police would normally have interviewed both Greg AND Camille, would they not?

ALSO (and this is one of my biggest beefs about this book): when it is discovered that Camille is… shall we say….”troubled” (have I mentioned that she poisoned her first husband because HE was divorcing her for another woman?), it comes out that in the previous State she lived in, she was seeing a therapist and that she has been diagnosed with ‘a bipolar disorder’. AND THIS APPARENTLY EXPLAINS EVERYTHING. Um, bloody hell it does. I happen to live with Bipolar Disorder myself and nothing about Camille or her behaviour is indicative of that particular mental illness. I’d believe that she’s a sociopath or a psychopath, in the truest clinical meanings of those words, but bipolar? If she is, her behaviour is too calculated (she plans for MONTHS to kidnap Greg, Jr. and even has a special soundproof closet built into her OWN closet so no one will hear him crying) and does not line up with what I know of the disorder (and believe me, I’ve been through and know a lot of people who have experienced a lot in regards to that disorder and done many things, but none of them like the things she did to Greg Langston and his family). Harrison shows an attitude of ignorance and disrespect to people with mental health issues that simply cannot be ignored. I just can’t believe there are still people out there who actually think all criminals are crazy or vice versa or who even use the terms ‘crazy’ or ‘insane’ to refer to people with mental health issues.

To put icing on this lovely little cake, there is an actual STUDY GUIDE AT THE BACK to examine the moral dilemmas presented in this book, with such peerless gems as “Do you really think Camille was insane or using that as an escape to not go to jail? Why or why not?”, “Was Michelle wrong for sleeping with Detective Floyd?”, and “Who do you think kissed who first (Michelle or Ed)?”. I’m supposed to read all of that and then take it seriously and try to learn from it, too?

An absolutely jaw-clenching, terrible read. 0 stars out of 5.


Husband/Wife Book Reviews: ‘The Count of Monte Cristo’ by Alexandre Dumas (March 19th, 2015)

Re-posted from LiveJournal:

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As you can tell, since my last entry (basically about a year ago already!) in which I reviewed Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and was given the further assignment by my husband Graham to read Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo, my copy of this beloved tome of over 1400 pages has seen some wear and tear. But it is now finished, and worth every single day I spent reading it!

The first Dumas book I ever read was an adapted version of The Knight of Maison-Rouge, which I do NOT recommend, especially as the adaptation I was unfortunate enough to read included such verbs as ‘electrified’ (as in ‘her presence electrified the silence’ or some similar usage) when CLEARLY, electricity was probably not discovered, let alone in such popular usage as to include in the lexicon of the average person. (Does anyone else get really annoyed by such anachronisms?) I would someday like to read a translated but NOT adapted version, as the story itself would have been interesting if it weren’t for grievous errors like those mentioned above. Needless to say, my first Dumas experience wasn’t as illustrious as his reputation had given it to be.

HOWEVER. I had seen the 2002 movie version of The Count of Monte Cristo,and had truly enjoyed it. I had also had the distinction of reading from cover to cover an unabridged version of Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables a few years previous, so I knew I was up to the task. I accepted, and thus my journey began.

Wait and hope: One of the last lines of this book basically describes the many facets of it, for those two elements are necessary for both revenge and redemption (two major themes of The Count of Monte Cristo). They are also important in every stage of a person’s life, which is so clearly seen in the life of poor Edmond Dantes. As a young sailor he waits and hopes for his chance to become captain and to marry Mercedes, the woman he loves. When that is all taken away from him, the fact that he has waited and hoped makes his disappointment even more palpable. While in prison with the intelligent Abbe Faria, he vows for revenge and this is what he waits and hopes for. When the Abbe dies and leaves his entire treasure to Dantes, he sets his desire for justice into action, but must wait and hope for each piece of his carefully constructed plan to fall into place. When his whirlwind of revenge begins to negatively affect the hopes and dreams of his young protege, Maximilian Morrel (the son of his former shipmaster), Edmond realizes that perhaps all he needs to wait and hope for is happiness, and after so much waiting and so much hoping, he seizes the day and sails off into the sunset with his new love, leaving Maximilian and his fiancee with a more positive form of his life motto of wait and hope

This book has everything. It has crime. It has romance. It has the dreams of the young crushed by the ambition of the powerful. It has murder, duels, intrigue, exotic locations, bandits, dandies, honour, luxury, and revenge, revenge, revenge! This book was originally serialized, which is why it was so long: it was so popular nobody wanted it to end! The Count of Monte Cristo was the popular TV drama of its day, and there are so many ways that modern shows have drawn from serialized works like it, I would be here all day if I tried to point them all out. All in all, I give this book 5 stars out of 5. It can be a bit daunting to carry around a hard copy like I did, so if you really can’t bring yourself to carry a book the size of a Bible around with you, please do get this on your e-reader. It will be worth your time, I promise you.


‘The Flame: Mode of Living’ by Bornbazie Flame (August 12th, 2014)

Reposted from LiveJournal:

I was contacted by Bornbazie Flame (real name unknown) to review his book on what is known as The Flame: Mode of Living. I am interested in philosophy, and always willing to read new things, so I agreed. Perhaps I’m simply an ignorant layperson or perhaps I’m merely stupid but I honestly can’t tell you even now what exactly TF:MOL is. Below is my review:

The Flame: Mode of Living by Bornbazie Flame (which can be purchased at http://www.amazon.com/Mode-Of-Living-The-Flame-ebook/dp/B00JI99L0O), was sent to me for review via LinkedIn. (The below image is the front cover of the book, and was never clearly explained):
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I give this book 3 out of 5 stars.

While the idea behind this book was promising – learning to maximize the energy fields of the universe to impact those around you (and, ultimately, yourself), I found it confusing and difficult to get through. Basic principles were introduced with extensive use of scholarly language, but with an absence of clarity and tangible life examples. Specific terms were often used to describe principles or points in a section of the book, but were not in themselves clearly identified or outlined. While reading, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was still in the introduction and would soon get to the real core of the ideology, which unfortunately never happened. This book left me wanting more, and not in a good way.

However, the principles themselves were sound, the advice given – especially in regards to being considerate towards other living things – was excellent. I was also fascinated by the idea of other people being mirror images of ourselves.

I think the best addition to this book would be a clearly stated glossary of acronyms and terms, especially when those terms are usually used to mean something completely different in a day-to-day context, as happened with some of the wording I came across. The average reader and seeker would benefit greatly from this, as well as from more of a history of what exactly Mode of Living is, who adopts it, and where it originated from.

All in all, I found the book to be a good effort, with good advice and a lot of potential. It simply needs some tweaking before it can reach its maximum impact.


‘Bumping Noses and Cherry Pie’ by Charie D. La Marr (March 29th, 2014)

This was reposted from LiveJournal, and was one of my first independent book reviews, so please forgive how terrible it is. However, if I remember correctly, the book really was this bad:

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“I was recently sent an ebook to review called Bumping Noses and Cherry Pie by Charie D. La Marr, of the circuspunk genre. Do not buy it. It gets 1.5 stars out of 5 for being vulgar and a waste of my time. Sorry, Charie, your intro was better written than your anthology. Better luck next time.”


‘Things in Ditches’ by Jimmy Olsen (March 13th, 2014)

Originally posted on LiveJournal:

This was the lovely book sent to me to review by the ever-obliging Jimmy Olsen. AND I LOVED IT.

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I did not expect Things in Ditches by Jimmy Olsen to be as good as it was. A murder mystery set in a small town in Minnesota? What could be interesting about that? Plenty, it turns out. Having lived in small towns most of my life, I was pleasantly surprised by the true-to-life foibles and quirks of the characters of Willow River, Minnesota, who seemed as though they could step out of the pages at any moment to give me their small-town gossip. This book especially shone in comparison to an anthology I have recently read, all stories claiming to be in small towns of just over 700 people, yet complete with street gangs, multiple insurance firms, and booming coal businesses.

The mystery itself was intriguing and kept me guessing, even, at times, laughing. The conclusion was all one could hope for, with a resolution to every loose end and a twist at the revelation of the true killer that infinitely satisfying.

One other aspect I found endearing, being from Winnipeg myself, was Olsen’s mention of it as the protagonist’s possible getaway point.

All in all, I give this novel 5 stars out of 5 and recommend it to anyone looking for a mystery that could be happening right now, next door.

Congrats to Jimmy Olsen for a stellar first novel.


Finally, An Update! (December 8th, 2013)

Written December 8th, 2013 and posted on LiveJournal:

Hello, friends!

The past month has been crazy busy, with obstetrician appointments, sleepless nights, baby preparations, and reading my first book for BTS Book Reviews,Firebolt by Adrienne Woods. I just submitted the review today and as primary reviewer, I will be published for certain in the January issue, which can be found at http://www.btsemag.com! I have also been writing the first few chapters of my own novel, which will be submitted by January 16th as the final assignment for the correspondence course I take via the Institute of Children’s Literature in West Redding, Connecticut, USA.

As soon as I listed myself as a book reviewer for BTS Book Reviews on LinkedIn, I was pleasantly surprised to be inundated with connection requests from fellow book reviewers and authors, some of whom have asked me to review their books. Jimmy Olsen sent me hard copies of three of his books: Things in Ditches,Poison Makers, and The Hero of Blind Pig Island, all of which I am looking forward to reading and reviewing first exclusively on this blog! Charie La Marr has also sent me a copy of her book Bumping Noses and Cherry Pie, and while I am currently up to my ears in books to review, if you have written a book and want an honest, constructive review for it, as well as a chance to be advertised, please contact me and I would love to do that for you! I will simply have to add you to my ever-growing list, but I will get that review done for you!

It’s amazing to me how quickly the ball started rolling for me after such a long dry spell in my writing, even in opportunities for me to write. I had an account on LinkedIn for almost a year with barely a notification before Myra Nour contacted me about BTS Book Reviews, but since I was accepted as a reviewer, I have had connection requests daily and have found an incredibly supportive circle of literary people who are willing to help out a newbie like myself. I have to say, the power of the Internet is astounding.

When my review for Firebolt (and subsequent books to be reviewed for BTS) is published, I can post the link to BTS Book Reviews here, but you’ll have to go to the website for the full review. Independently done reviews will be posted here in full as well as shared on Facebook and Twitter, reviewed on Goodreads and, if applicable, on Amazon as well.

Anyway, enough promotion! I hope you are all having an excellent December and finding as much comfort in being warm and indoors when it’s so cold out as I am (or cool and indoors when it’s hot out, if you are from the land down under!!!). I am immensely excited for Christmas, not just because Baby is due January 1st, 2014 and could be early, but simply because it’s my favourite holiday.

Does anyone have any good books they’re currently reading? My currently-reading list includes the NIV Archaeological Study Bible (published by Zondervan), A Song of Ice and Fire: A Feast For Crows by George R.R. Martin,Searching: A Research Guide for Writers (edited by Susan Tierney), and my husband Graham and I are just starting the second book in C.S. Lewis’ The Cosmic Trilogy, called either Voyage to Venus or Perelandra, depending on the publication date.

Well, I am done my first book review and Graham is done his final assignment ever for his Bachelor of Arts in History, so we are off to celebrate with popcorn and some Doctor Who. Wishing you all an excellent holiday season and happy reading,
SharaLee Podolecki. ❤ ❤ ❤