Book Review: The Seven Keys of Hildegard – Of Love & Betrayal

I finished my last book on my July TBR on August 1st so I was just teensy bit late but I am counting it! This one was called The Seven Keys of Hildegard: Of Love & Betrayal by David Dupuis and is the 2nd book in a series.

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Synopsis: In 1167, a German nun named Hildegard, has seven troubling visions of the end times. In 1958, the new pope, John XXIII, begins his reign and must decide how to make his church relevant in a rapidly changing and increasingly dangerous world of the 1960s and 70s. In this second book of David Dupuis’ thrilling five-part historical-fiction series, the ancient battle lines are drawn. From a convent in Fatima, Portugal, to a hut in Africa, the halls of the Vatican, office towers in New York City to a small town in Canada, the ancient Keys inevitably turn. Through it all, a mother’s devotion to her child and those who protect them are threatened. Can the church and world be saved from political, economic, military and spiritual assassinations? With evil lurking in the halls of power, only two things are certain. Where there is love—there is always betrayal.

Like I have said many times before, historical fiction has never really been my thing. But David’s first book actually intrigued me and gave me a little bit of a liking for the genre. So now in his second book, I can say that the little bit of love is still there as I enjoyed this one too.

I think I liked this one because you already knew a lot of the characters because one of my issues with the first one was that there were a lot of characters to keep track of and it was a bit hard for me to keep up but now that they have been fostered into my mind, this book went a lot smoother. I do think the book could have been a little bit shorter and there were some parts that could have been taken out but I can also see how the author wanted to build anticipation for that big ending.

Some of the relationships seemed a little forced but others were very heartwarming and had me invested. These books deal with family a lot and I do like that about them. Having a caring and supportive family is really nice to see in a book.

I will definitely read the rest of the books in this series when they come out.

Book Rating: 3/5

You can buy this book on Amazon and find it on Goodreads. This book was published through Friesen Press.

Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the author in ebook format to read and give an honest review.



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The new Taylor Swift album is here!!!! So what better way to celebrate than to do a book tag around it. Let me know in the comments which song is your favorite off the new album! Check out the video below:

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Cover Reveal: Awaken the Three

If you haven’t heard about the Highglade Series yet, check out the cover for Awaken the Three by D. L. Jennings, a must read for Fantasy lovers who love imaginative new worlds and epic adventures!

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Awaken the Three (Highglade #2)

Expected Publication Date: August 11, 2020

Genre: Fantasy

Beyond the Wastes of Khulakorum, a storm is rising . . .

The Shaper of Ages is gone, and along with her, the Breaker — yet gods are not the only threat to the peace of the living.

Aldis Tennech, the once-great general of the armies of Gal’dorok, finds himself in exile. His only hope of reclaiming glory lies in the hands of a self-proclaimed emperor, and the unearthly powers that put him there. Meanwhile, improbable alliances are forged in the north as unexpected enemies rear their heads and threaten ruin-with a single thread in common, connecting them all.

In the sequel to his award-winning novel Gift of the Shaper, D. L. Jennings once again brings to life an epic tale of war and chaos as earthly armies fight for otherworldly prizes. Ancient powers lying dormant must be called upon, bringing strength to those who need it and conquest to those who seek it; battles will rage and cities will fall, but only the most desperate or reckless would seek . . .

. . . to awaken the three.

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Gift of the Shaper (Highglade #1)

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For thousands of years, the Breaker of the Dawn has been locked away in the ethereal plane of the Otherworld. Now, a young blacksmith’s apprentice finds himself trapped in a war between the noble Athrani, a subset of humanity gifted with the ability to transmute matter, and the malevolent and powerful Khyth, who seek to free the ancient god from his prison.

When his father, Olson, is kidnapped, Thornton Woods and his childhood friend, Miera, must leave their small village of Highglade to find him. On their way, they are joined by Ynara and Kethras, cat-like humanoids called Kienari, who use their skills as hunter/trackers to follow Olson’s trail. When it comes to light that one among them possesses the key to the Breaker’s release, Thornton and his friends must defy the might of the Khyth as armies on both sides collide in pursuit of the ultimate prize.

Gift of the Shaper chronicles the epic struggle between the existing forces of good and evil, with both sides vying for control of the key that unlocks the Otherworld. The very powers of creation and destruction hang in the balance, and only a heroic effort by Thornton and Miera, backed by the power of the Athrani, can possibly stop the Khyth from unleashing ruin — and the Breaker — upon their world.

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About the Author

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Once again, D. L. Jennings, who won the “Beverly Hills Award for Fantasy” in 2018, brings life to an epic tale of war and chaos as earthly armies fight for otherworldly prizes. Reminiscent of Game of Thrones, AWAKEN THE THREE is a riveting page-turner, and a must-read for fantasy readers who want to escape to a different world, time and place ruled by other-worldly beings. It’s the perfect book to escape from the anxious times of our COVID-19 reality.

D. L. Jennings is a fourteen-year active-duty veteran of the United States Air Force, serving under the Air Force Special Operations Command. In 2005, he earned his associate degree after graduating at the top of his Korean class at the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center in Monterey, California, and earning the Korean Consul General’s award for excellence. He is a graduate of Bellevue University in Nebraska, earning a bachelor of science degree in security management in 2008. He finished writing his debut novel, GIFT OF THE SHAPER, which won the Beverly Hills Book Award in 2018 for Fantasy, while serving on his ninth combat tour. He has been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan as well as several countries in Africa. When he is not reading or writing epic fantasy, he enjoys traveling, listening to ‘90s punk, and watching Ohio State football. Jennings lives in South Florida

D.L. Jennings

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It’s that time of year again where we take our final exams for the Magical Readathon and this will be the last one because G from Book Roast will be switching it up which is sad but understandable. So these are all the books I will be reading for my NEWT exams. Check out the video below:

Book Review: The Mirror Man

I read a sci-fi that was compared to stuff by Blake Crouch! It was called The Mirror Man by  Jane Gilmartin.

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Synopsis: The offer is too tempting: be part of a scientific breakthrough, step out of his life for a year, and be paid hugely for it. When ViGen Pharmaceuticals asks Jeremiah to be part of an illegal cloning experiment, he sees it as a break from an existence he feels disconnected from. No one will know he’s been replaced—not the son who ignores him, not his increasingly distant wife—since a revolutionary drug called Meld can transfer his consciousness and memories to his copy.

From a luxurious apartment, he watches the clone navigate his day-to-day life. But soon Jeremiah discovers that examining himself from an outsider’s perspective isn’t what he thought it would be, and he watches in horror as “his” life spirals out of control. ViGen needs the experiment to succeed—they won’t call it off, and are prepared to remove any obstacle. With his family in danger, Jeremiah needs to finally find the courage to face himself head-on.

I enjoyed this book for the most part. Would I compare it to Blake Crouch? Not exactly, but I can see where those vibes came from. I think the fact that I have read Blake Crouch books before this one made it very predictable and I was calling all the things that happened before they did. That is why is brought down the rating for me.

I believe that someone coming into this with no prior knowledge of Crouch’s books would love it and find themselves completely captured in the story. It is also similar to a book called Foe by Iain Reid which is another great one.

The concept is really cool and it would be so intense if clones were a reality. I like the little touches thrown in there to prove that the clone can’t always be “exactly” the same. I found that the characters could use a little bit more development because when big things happened, I didn’t feel that attached. That being said, when his mother was discussed and grown as a character, I related and felt she was very similar to my grandmother which brought the attachment and had me reminiscing on times with her.

Overall, the book is a good one for any SciFi fan that wants to see a new story told with cloning and consequences!

Book Rating: 3/5

You can buy this book on Amazon and find it on Goodreads.

Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by Harper Collins in ebook format to read and give an honest review. 



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It’s that time of year again where we take our final exams for the Magical Readathon and this will be the last one because G from Book Roast will be switching it up which is sad but understandable. So these are all the books I will be reading for my NEWT exams. Check out the video below:

Book Spotlight: Masters & Beginners

Welcome to the tour for Masters & Beginners, by Daley Downing, book one in The Order of the Twelve Tribes series! Read on for a sneak peek, and a chance to win a signed copy of the book!

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Masters & Beginners

Publication Date: August 2017

Genre: YA Fantasy/ Urban Fantasy/ Magic

When Sophie Driscoll’s grandmother dies, her parents take over running the Annex, a warehouse facility that stores magical artifacts and documents proving, and protecting, the existence of faeries. Sophie and her brothers, Flynn and Cal, happily adjust to a new house, new friends, and a new way of living, joining the ranks of generations who have kept the fey and mortal realms separate for centuries. Before the first month of their new life is over, they’ll encounter romance, elves, talking cats, ancient secrets, and potentially lethal danger. What could possibly go wrong…

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Excerpt

Prologue

It wasn’t a dark and stormy night. It was a pleasant late summer’s evening, shortly after sunset, the sky a rich navy blue, stars beginning to twinkle in the distance. In a pleasant subdivision, residents were settling in for the night. In a tent pitched on one of the well-mowed lawns was a group of four teenage girls, in their pajamas and sleeping bags, currently finding out who could come up with the scariest scary story.

“…and to this day, he wanders the woods, looking for his head.”

“Can I just say, eew.” Margaret wrinkled her nose and frowned disapprovingly.

“That was the Headless Horseman. That’s not an original story, Kimberly.”

“Fine! You come up with something better.” Kimberly flopped down onto her pillow.

The tent was pitched in a backyard just like so many other backyards up and down the street. The development was one of the last to be built in the town limits, and it sat near the boundary of the state forest. The fact they lived so close to a nature preserve meant to the adults lots of hiking and biking on the trails, a chance for the kids to see wildlife, and learn about the woods firsthand. To their children, it meant a sense of danger, dark goings-on, and the perfect atmosphere for telling ghost stories during slumber parties.

“Fine, I will.” Sophie sat up taller on her blanket. It was her tent, her backyard, her house, with her family inside, hosting the slumber party. Taking the flashlight, she placed it under her chin, the beam casting shadows over the contours of her face.

“There was a house at the edge of the city that everyone called the glass house,” she began. “It looked like it was made all from glass, and it was strange to the people in the city. It belonged to the most wealthy family, the Greymalkins. They employed many servants and farmers in the past, people working on the land they owned. But these days, they had all but stopped hiring new staff.”

Margaret and Helen watched Sophie, listening politely. Kimberly pretended to be bored, and fiddled with a loose thread on her sleeping bag.

“The people didn’t really go near the glass house anymore,” Sophie went on. “The former staff, or their descendants, said that the Greymalkins were having troubles — illness, bad investments, and the like. They said that soon the family may be forced to sell the glass house and all their land.

“That was a shame, old Mrs. O’Connor said, as her grandson was coming back to town after traveling abroad for a few years, and he needed a job. He’d just completed his courses at an important university in another country, and he was well-trained in managing finances and keeping records. That was a very good thing, said Daphne, one of the few maids left at the glass house. Because the Greymalkins were looking for someone to do just that.

“And so Augustine O’Connor began to work at the glass house.”

Margaret and Helen were definitely interested now. Even Kimberly sat up a little more and glanced in Sophie’s direction.

“Daphne showed Augustine where he would work. It was mostly in one room, a study where all the family’s important papers were kept. After a few hours of working each day, he would go to the kitchens for a meal, and take a walk in the gardens if the weather was good. Most of the time, he only saw Daphne, or the cook, or the butler, Mr. Lee.

“One afternoon, just as he was finishing up, a very grand, and beautiful, woman came into the study. She wore a silver dress, and diamond combs in her hair. This was Lady Greymalkin, he knew, as he had seen portraits of her in the lobby of the glass house. Augustine quickly stood up and then bowed, as Mr. Lee had instructed him to do if he ever met a member of the family.

“Lady Greymalkin insisted he not bother about such a formality. ‘Thank you for doing this work for us,’ she said. ‘We need all our affairs in order before we sell the house.’ So it was true, Augustine asked, the rumors among the people? ‘Yes, I’m afraid so,’ the lady said. ‘Life has not gone…as we planned recently.’ Augustine gave his apology. ‘There’s no need to be sorry. It’s how things happen sometimes.’ And she invited him to tour the rest of the house with her.”

Outside the tent, it was quiet except for the chirp of crickets, and the occasional, brief passing of a car. Fireflies danced in the trees beyond the fence, but the girls didn’t notice.

“Augustine walked along the halls and saw the big dining room, the library, the grand parlor, where the family had entertained in happier times. Lady Greymalkin told him a little more about her children, her husband, and his parents, who built the glass house. When it was time for him to go, she invited him to tour the property on his own, as he wished.”

Kimberly couldn’t pretend anymore; she was listening as raptly as Helen and Margaret.

“A few days after this, the Lady came to find Augustine in the study,” Sophie continued. “She told him that they had a buyer for the land, and soon his services wouldn’t be needed anymore. ‘Thank you so much for your help. I’m sorry it means you’re out of a job. If I can do anything, please let me know.’ Augustine replied that a good reference would come in handy, but also, before he left, he’d like to walk around the gardens one more time. The Lady said yes, and that she would join him.

“As they walked, Augustine saw a door in the garden wall he had never noticed before. ‘Come with me,’ the Lady said, and she showed him a tunnel beyond the door. As they began walking down the tunnel, the Lady said, ‘Oh, I forgot, Mr. Lee needed to see me! Do wait here.’ And she ran back into the garden, shutting the door behind her.”

The back door of the house gently opened and closed. A shadowed figure slipped away from the lights inside, creeping into the yard and towards the tent.

“Confused, Augustine tried to open the door. He found it locked. There was only a little light in the tunnel, and he couldn’t see very far. Deciding he should wait as the Lady had told him to, he stood still.”

The dark figure paused near the tent, crouching down, trying to stay out of the light coming through the windows of his home.

Sophie’s hand was beginning to get tired of holding the flashlight, but she was almost done with the story. “Then a loud sound came from the other side of the wall, a sudden scream. Augustine jumped, and ran into the tunnel. As he ran, he heard other sounds, on either side of him, growls and snarls like those of wild animals. All the noise came out of nowhere, but it seemed to be all around him.”

Helen was spellbound. Margaret hugged her pillow close to her. Even Kimberly’s eyes were wide.

“Augustine stopped running when he realized the light was fading in the tunnel, and the noise seemed to be behind him. He stood in front of another door, and he wondered if this one would lead back to the garden, or to the glass house. He opened the door, and saw nothing else.”

A branch snapped in the yard, and something scratched at the tent. Helen and Margaret screamed, and Kimberly dived into her sleeping bag.

Sophie smiled and turned off the flashlight.

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About the Author

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Daley Downing is an autistic author, parent to special needs children, a dance teacher, and cat whisperer. She spends her days attempting to write just a few more words than in the previous 24 hours, and lovingly refers to her genre as suburban fantasy. Visit her at: https://daleydowning.wordpress.com/.

For a chance to win a signed copy of Masters & Beginners, click the link below!

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Master&Beginning

Blog Tour Schedule

July 27th

I love Books and Stuff (Spotlight) https://ilovebooksandstuffblog.wordpress.com

Kiki’s Books (Review) https://www.instagram.com/kikis_books/

The Faerie Review (Review) http://www.thefaeriereview.com

July 28th

Breakeven Books (Spotlight) https://breakevenbooks.com

The Magic of Wor(l)ds (Spotlight) http://themagicofworlds.wordpress.com

Didi Oviatt (Spotlight) https://didioviatt.wordpress.com

Rajiv’s Book Reviews (Review) https://www.rajivsreviews.com/

July 29th

Book Dragons Not Worms (Spotlight) https://bookdragonsnotworms.blogspot.com/?m=1

Read and Rated (Spotlight) https://readandrated.com/

Rambling Mads (Spotlight) http://ramblingmads.com

July 30th

Dash Fan Book Reviews (Review) https://dashfan81.blogspot.com/

J Bronder Book Reviews (Review) https://jbronderbookreviews.com/

Jessica Belmont (Review) https://jessicabelmont.wordpress.com/

July 31st

Reads & Reels (Spotlight) http://readsandreels.com

Sophril Reads (Spotlight) http://sophrilreads.wordpress.com

Book Reviews by Satabdi (Review) http://satabdimukherjee.wordpress.com

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Hey everyone! I did an author interview with Lisa Luciano, author of the mystery crime novel The Chosen Ones! It is a book that goes inside the scandalous & icy world of Olympic figure skating. Check out the video below:

Book Review: Billionaire Boss, Undercover Affair

Sooooo I read a romance book….and I liked it! I had no idea what I was getting into going into this but ended up enjoying the experience. This one was called Billionaire Boss, Undercover Affair by Kyra Radcliff.

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Synopsis: Susan Johansen is efficient, ambitious and cool-headed in a crisis, which is exactly why her boss, Charles Dunlap, needs her. As the successful owner of one of the richest old money industrialist conglomerates in the world, he is under pressure of a different kind when his daughter Alicia becomes involved with internet entrepreneur Miles Middleton.

With an ego as big as his bank balance, Miles has a reputation for a string of affairs and Charles doesn’t want his daughter anywhere near him. And so he enlists Susan, as a Trojan Horse, burying her deep within Miles’ business interests in the hope that she can sabotage his relationship with Alicia.

It isn’t long before the plan seems to be working and Miles is missing lunches, dinners and other dates with Alicia in favour of making money and sealing deals. But it’s when he takes Susan away on a business trip and tries to seduce her that she sees him for what he really is. But now that she is close to her goal, Susan suddenly has a crisis of confidence? Is she really still working for Charles or is she now pursuing her own agenda with Miles?

As he continues to get under her skin with his continuous attempts at seduction, Susan finds that she is more conflicted than ever. And the closer she gets to completing the assignment, the greater the chances are that Miles will discover her secret.

I have read maybe one other romance book before and remember not liking it because of some of the odd content that it involved but this time around, I actually had a pretty good time with it! The book was well crafted with a story that gets right into it.

It is a very quick read and I will admit, at times, I was getting a little turned on reading this book. I can see why people like this genre. Some of the descriptions in the sexual scenes made me laugh because of how ridiculous it was but that just amplified my enjoyment of the book.

The narrative was a little bit predictable in my opinion but I was invested none the less and flew through this book. The jealousy I was feeling was real since the characters in this book got to travel all over the world. That is the dream.

I would definitely read more books by Kyra and be interested in reading more romance in general after experiencing this one.

Book Rating: 3.5/5

You can buy this book on Amazon and find it on Goodreads.

Disclaimer: This book was sent to me in ebook format by Dawn Hill Publications in exchange for an honest review.



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Hey everyone! I did an author interview with Lisa Luciano, author of the mystery crime novel The Chosen Ones! It is a book that goes inside the scandalous & icy world of Olympic figure skating. Check out the video below:

Book Review: The Seven Keys of Hildegard – Of Mercy & Of Death

I took another try at historical fiction and let me tell you, I didn’t mind it this time! I read The Seven Keys of Hildegard: Of Mercy & Of Death by David Dupuis.

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Synopsis: In 1167, a German nun has a troubling vision, prophesizing the end times. In 1917, Mary appears to three children in Fatima, Portugal, revealing mysterious secrets. In 1936, a young man is inexplicably hurled to his death off the side of a mountain in Italy, and the newborn he unknowingly leaves behind is spirited away to America by his terrified mother. But why?

Tackling events throughout the early 20th century, The Seven Keys of Hildegard: Of Mercy & Of Death will challenge the very truth of what the church and the world knows. Through two world wars, and from the Vatican in Rome, Italy, to New York City and small-town Canada, two knowing popes, an unsuspecting archbishop and a monsignor become entangled in Hildegard’s ancient web of prophecies. And one thing is certain—Armageddon is nigh.

I normally am not a big fan of historical fiction but this book was pulling me in. There is this intense sense of urgency the entire time that something bad is coming and they must do everything they can to prepare for it. The characters are developed well and the book stays interesting by jumping back and forth from different time periods as well as places around the world.

It took a whole new turn on good vs evil and there is so much more to explore as this is only the first book in a series.

There were times that I was less interested in the book. These were when they were having lots of conversations between different members and denominations of the church. I also found it a little difficult to keep track of different roles within the church and all the different priests as the series deals with a lot of them.

I will definitely be continuing the series as I finally found a historical fiction that doesn’t bore me to tears.

Book Rating: 3.5/5

You can buy this book on Amazon and find it on Goodreads.

Disclaimer: This book was sent to me in an e-book format by the author to read and give an honest review.



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There are so many great popular book series out there and so I decided to make a video telling you about the ones that I would like to start and the popular book series that I have started and just need to finish! Check out the video below:

Book Review: The Tech

It’s about time I reviewed a thriller book am I right? Well, I wouldn’t say it was exactly scary but more of a crime thriller. This one was called The Tech by Mark Ravine.

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Synopsis: Alexandra has just taken charge of her new team, a motley crew of screw-ups at the Arizona Field Office, the latest in a series of forgettable assignments. With a history of rebelling against authority and blunt speaking, she vows to change her ways and make this assignment work.

Within minutes of her taking charge, she is drawn into a bank robbery case. She leads her new team to catch the robbers but discovers that there is much more to the case than meets the eye. The very next day three girls go missing. Before they could be trafficked out of the country, she races against time to rescue them. Soon, she begins to realize that all the cases coming her way are mysteriously connected. As she unravels the threads of a massive conspiracy, she discovers that a secret organization with immense power and authority is behind these horrific crimes. Forces within the FBI thwart her every move to discover the truth. Helping her navigate this maze is the shadowy Michael Patterson. But can she trust him? Can she trust anyone? Soon, witnesses disappear, suspects are killed, with her life and the lives of her team in lethal danger. Will she come out of this alive? Will she uncover and expose this cabal? As time starts running out, Alexandra Cassidy has to evade indictment and defy death in a deadly game of cat and mouse.

This was labeled as a suspenseful thriller and it was quite the book. I really enjoyed how much was happening and I felt like you never had a chance to stop as there was little “down” time. The main character was okay, I didn’t really like her character as much as I was hoping but I did enjoy Mike as the “tech”. I think I related to him more since he was kind of like the IT guy and I do a lot of that at my current workplace.

I do think that it could have been a little bit more thrilling than it was. The suspenseful parts were done really quickly and didn’t give enough time to build up the suspense to get me nervous for the characters.

I wish that it left a little bit to the imagination so that I could puzzle through and try and figure it out on my own because I find that brings a novel together well when you have the reader guessing but a lot of this book was pretty much laid out for you and didn’t leave much to the imagination.

The action scenes, although brief, were very intense and I will say that helped keep me on my toes for it. I would suggest this book to anyone that wants a fast-paced crime book.

Book Rating: 3/5

You can buy this book on Amazon and find it on Goodreads.

Disclaimer: This book was sent to me in ebook format by Dawn Hill Publications to read and give an honest review.



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Does anyone here like comic books? I do and did an entire video of me matching comic books to awesome prompts. Check out the video below:

Book Review: The Day The Sun Changed Colours

Our external reviewer Chris sent in another review for us. This time he read The Day the Sun Changed Colours by Scott Talbot Evans.

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Yes, this is really the book cover.

Synopsis: When the Sun starts bombarding the Earth in changing colors, it disrupts the perfect utopian society of the year 4377. The world’s water is drying up fast, and a family of seven humans–two mothers, three fathers, and two kids–must build an evacuation ship. But the insanity causing sky colours make it impossible. LITTERBOT is a humble and faithful cleaning robot who gets no respect. His body is able to transform into any shape to meet whatever situation arises. His processors can predict spills up to 3 days in advance. Unfortunately, there’s not much to clean in a perfect world. TROLL, one of the mothers, is a fun-loving water scientist who must draw on her heroism to save her family. BULB, one of the fathers, is exceptionally logical and grumpy. His utter faith in science will be put to the ultimate test. When the world computer crashes, they must find primitive paper books. Society unravels, and they are forced to face their savage natures. Will a clumsy cleaning robot sacrifice himself to save his masters?

Do not expect a typical sci-fi book. Or typical any book. Due to sentence structure and the way characters speak, it is difficult to tell if the spelling and grammatical errors are deliberate or were missed in proof-reading. You get used to it after a while so it seems a clever way of not having to do proper proof-reading. Incidentally, despite what the blurb says it is not the year 4377, it is 11,987 AD. It is set in 4377 kiloday though, which demonstrates one problem with making stuff up willy-nilly—even the person who wrote the blurb (the author?) got confused.

The book starts out a bit like Douglas Adam’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy complete with a mega-intelligent bored robot but then changes into something rather nonsensical. It seems to be trying for satire but misses the mark by a flivver (which is one of the nonsensical units of measurement in the book, which in itself isn’t consistent. For example, a major building is described as a flivver tall yet the robot stands a flivver behind someone as it prepares to clean up dining table messes. Either the building was barely head height, or the robot was standing 20-30 m away from the table).

Anything can and does happen even if, maybe especially if, it doesn’t make any sense. One character goes for a gallop, a literal gallop on all fours like a horse, to get exercise. Later, under the influence of increasing radiation, one mutates and grows four more arms, another gets the lower body of a snake, another turns into a werewolf, another has one’s head grow very large.

Reading this book is completely surreal. It rambles, it wanders, it “nonsensicalizes”. An occasional attempt at satire comes through before being buried by more terse descriptions of what sounds like a hallucinatory drug-induced dream.

Halfway through when the family unit builds a spaceship to escape the impending explosion of the sun the writing becomes more controlled, more pointed, more humorous, with some proper satire popping up. The beginning and the middle part of the book are the most readable parts.

The ending started the hallucinatory ramble again, and the last chapter actually didn’t make sense (even for a nonsensical book) in that the sun, which was supposed to go nova, didn’t actually go nova. Instead, the moon crashed into the earth and rolled to a stop on top of the Eifel tower. We were promised a nova. We want a nova! It didn’t happen and not even a reference to explain why. It’s like the author wrote the first half of the book, then a year later wrote the second half of the book, but forgot he had the sun exploding. Two temporally separated writing jags would explain why the first part and the middle part of the book are the best parts as the author starts fresh each time.

It was quite a strange book. If there had been more consistent pointed satire then it would get more stars, but it seems satire was vastly overshadowed by silliness. Full stars for imagination and creativity though, and it probably would be a brilliant book if the satire actually worked.

I was going to give the book 1/5 stars, but the chuckles from the middle part brought that up!

Book Rating: 2/5

You can find this book on Goodreads.

Disclaimer: This book was sent to us in an ebook format by the author to read and give an honest review.



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Book Spotlight: Winning the Game of Work

Welcome to the blog tour for Winning the Game of Work, by Terry Boyle McDougall! Today I have an excerpt from the book, and a chance to win a $25 Amazon gift card!

Terry_McDougall_Winning_the_Game_of_Work_Amazon_Ebook_CoverWinning the Game of Work: Career Happiness and Success on Your Own Terms

Publication Date: April 10, 2020

Genre: Non-Fiction/ Career Coaching Guide

You can be happier and more successful when you learn to play the game of work. If you’re not currently satisfied in your career, it could be because you’re playing by the wrong rules.

In Winning the Game of Work, Terry Boyle McDougall shares the rules she learned from wise mentors and coaches, as well as the lessons she learned the hard way. She entered the workplace as an ambitious “go-getter” and was confused about why she wasn’t advancing at the pace she expected. She learned that being smart and working hard aren’t enough. The reward for developing a strategy for the game of work is success and happiness with less stress and duress.

This book will help you:

* Get recognized for your value on the job
* Develop and appreciate your unique “superpowers” at work
* Cope with a bad boss without burning out or getting fired
* Get the promotion you deserve
* Deliver more impact on the job with some simple hacks
* And more…

Winning the Game of Work is the essential guidebook to help you develop your unique skills as a “player.” Now is the time to see the whole field, make the savvy moves and win the game of work on your own terms!

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Excerpt

Chapter 5

When You’re Dealt a Bad Hand: Coping with Toxic Work Situations

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.

–Reinhold Niebuhr

Toxic Workplaces Are Common

Workplaces can become toxic when the work demands, culture, and/or coworkers cause serious disruptions in the rest of your life. According to a 2019 research report published by the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM), nearly two-thirds of working Americans have worked in a toxic work environment at some point in their career, and 26 percent have worked in more than one. That’s truly astounding!

We spend a lot of time working, and most of us are dependent on work for income and a sense of purpose. When work becomes toxic, it can have a devastating impact on both job and life satisfaction.

Here’s a story of a toxic work environment that I lived through back in the late 1990s and the lessons I came away with.

In Comes Shelly the Screamer

About four years into an otherwise great job, I had my first encounter with workplace toxicity. My department was restructured and the department leader who worked in another city hired a new director for our office. Shelly left a global consulting firm for this role and moved to the Southern city where the company was headquartered.

Within the department, Shelly made us wary. Her direct style clashed with the gracious and courteous culture of the organization. Admittedly, when I moved there a few years before, I quickly realized that small talk in this culture was a requirement if I wanted to develop productive relationships within the organization. Getting directly down to business, which had been the norm at my employer in DC, was considered rude there.

Culture Shock

Shelly was fast moving and direct. And when she became upset, she tended to scream. (Yes, scream!) One day, I was unfortunate enough to hear her side of a phone conversation through the office wall I shared with her—at an incredibly high decibel, I heard her berate the dry cleaner in the building for allegedly losing the pants to a suit she’d dropped off for cleaning.

As time went on, I realized that this was not a one-time loss of composure on Shelly’s part. This type of unhinged behavior became shockingly common. I shook my head and could not believe this was my job and that she was my boss. I mean, who acts like that?

Shelly’s approach to management alternated between ingratiation, manipulation, and micromanagement of female subordinates and colleagues. With men, she also included flirtation, which I suppose is a form of manipulation.

Her frequent emotional outbursts tended to be confined to times when only subordinates on the marketing team were present, which meant that it took a while for her dysfunction to become apparent to her business partners, HR, and leadership.

Stress and Self-Medicating Behaviors

I began to dread going to work and encountered health issues such as insomnia, irritability, and anxiety. As much as I hate to admit it, I began drinking wine just about every night after work to relax and forget about the chaotic situation at work. Though I didn’t recognize it at the time, I was dealing with a toxic boss in an otherwise supportive workplace.

I was experiencing some of the common responses: depression, anxiety, weight gain, self-medicating behavior, a drop in productivity, and reduced ability to focus. Other common responses include self-harming behaviors, workplace absence, increased illnesses, raised blood pressure, and other negative health effects.

The Dangers of a Toxic Environment

A toxic workplace can leave you feeling trapped. Most people work to earn money for material needs and enjoyment. Work can also contribute to self-esteem and a sense of purpose. When you are in a toxic workplace, you can feel like your existence is being threatened, and that can cause you to retreat into survival mode.

You may stop doing the things that you enjoy, which disrupts your ability to relax and recharge. Stress increases, and you may become fixated on how to “solve the problem” of work. In my case, initially I had a hard time seeing what was really going on as I redoubled my efforts to avoid, then please, my demanding boss.

Coping with a Toxic Work Situation

Whether or not your bad work situation rises to the level of “toxic” doesn’t really matter. If you’re finding that work has gone from enjoyable (or at least tolerable) to draining and dreadful, you can take three actions:

  1. Do nothing and continue to endure the situation as it is,
  2. Leave to find a better situation,
  3. Stay and try to improve the current situation (including making changes in your own behavior, discussing the issues with someone who has the authority to effect change, such as HR or a supervisor, or other actions).

To help you decide which path you should take, here are some questions to consider:

  • How long has this been going on?

Is it related to a specific project or deadline? Can you see the light at the end of the tunnel? If it’s a relatively short-term situation, you may want to wait it out. The stressors may pass, and the environment may return to a state that you can tolerate or even go back to enjoying. If this is the “new normal,” you may be motivated to make a change.

  • What caused the change in the environment?

Was it sudden or gradual? Did the situation change due to new leadership or organizational structure, new policies, or a change in market conditions? If you can pinpoint when and where the situation started, you may be able to understand whether you can potentially change or adapt to it.

There’s a big difference between lobbying for a change to a poorly conceived policy and arresting the effects of a tanking economy. Some things you have the power to change, and some you don’t. Understanding the root and magnitude of the issues at hand is a good start.

  • What influence do you have over the situation?

Are those in leadership aware of the impact that the environment is having on you? How able are you to have a frank conversation about it with your boss or another person in a position of influence? Sometimes the issue is not with your boss. It could be coming from higher in the organization and your boss may have little influence on the expectations. Or it could be that your perception of what is expected is not aligned with your boss’s.

Getting clarity and bringing ideas to the table on how to do things better is often welcomed. After all, those in leadership may not fully understand the impact their decisions have on your day-to-day experience. Speaking up could result in positive changes. Give it a shot before deciding on more radical actions.

  • Are others in your organization having similar experiences? How are they coping?

Sharing your experiences with coworkers may help you to feel less alone. You could learn tips on how to better “manage up,” or build a coalition to influence leaders to make changes. Building alliances with fellow employees can help ensure management doesn’t perceive you as a “problem employee” in case a true structural or management problem is at the root of the issue.

  • Will opportunities at your organization allow you to leave the toxic work situation?

Is it your boss or department that is causing the situation, or is it a more systematic malady that exists throughout the entire organization? If the toxicity is confined to your specific department, you may decide to explore other opportunities to leverage your current organizational knowledge and network. If the toxicity is rampant throughout the organization, you may need to get out to save your health and sanity.

  • Is the environment unique to your organization, or is it a reality of the industry?

Can you consult people in your network at other organizations to find out? Your skills and experience may be in demand at another employer that has a better culture or is in a more favorable position in the marketplace. Getting a view of what it’s like at other companies can give you information you need to decide if you should stay, go, or try something completely new.

  • What does it cost you to remain in your current situation? Is your confidence waning?

How is the situation affecting your health and relationships? Sometimes people will stay in a situation for much longer than they should. It’s hard to consider leaving without another job, but sometimes it can be the best option before their relationships, health, or confidence are eroded to the point of not having the energy to look for another job.

Sometimes hanging in there can eventually lead to being fired by an unreasonable manager or pegged as the scapegoat for mistakes. Both of these scenarios can be hard to bounce back from. Though leaving a job without another job is not ideal, sometimes taking control of one’s destiny is preferable to continued suffering and abuse.

  • How egregious is the situation? Has it risen to the level of illegality?

Does blatant abuse, harassment, or discrimination take place? Are you able to document it? If the abuse is significant, you may consider consulting an employment attorney to explore your options. Some companies may be open to a negotiated exit, which could include a severance package.

Some employment attorneys provide free consultations, and, even if you need to pay for an hour of their time, it could be well worth the investment. Experienced attorneys often know a lot about specific employers. They may know whether your employer would negotiate or if they’ve been accused of other employment law violations. At the very least, they can advise you of your rights.

  • How much of this situation is based in reality and how much is your perception?

Sometimes people will label a situation “toxic” when it’s actually just uncomfortable because it requires them to develop new skills, adapt to a new structure, or learn new processes. Take a close look at yourself and ask whether your experience could be different if you responded differently.

If other people are not having issues with the situation, it could be that you need to learn some new skills to cope. It’s always helpful to get perspective on the situation. A mentor, coach, or experienced friend can sometimes help you see the bigger picture and help you decide what options you have.

What’s within Your Control?

Without going into too much detail about my role in the toxic dance with Shelly, suffice to say, initially I didn’t handle it well. As a manager, she sought to control me and I, in turn, tried to avoid her. Eventually, I realized that I would hurt myself if I didn’t begin to respect her position as my boss.

Because the department leader was in another city, he wasn’t witness to her worst behavior, and she was able to control the narrative with him. Any complaints to him from her direct reports were seen as the team getting used to the new structure.

Taking Control of What I Could

I finally woke up to the fact that I would need to proactively show my support for Shelly even if it meant I had to grit my teeth and paste a smile on my face when I checked in to say hello to her each morning. What I found was that she relaxed and actually began stopping by my office to get my opinion on things.

My job became easier, as I was no longer the target of her vitriol and frustration. Once I turned over this new leaf, I found acceptance of the situation took less energy than the resistant stance I’d previously taken. When I approached the situation differently, Shelly’s response to me changed. However, that didn’t mean she was reformed.

Shelly Finds a New Target

Unfortunately, a colleague soon became the new target for Shelly’s nitpicking and bullying. Though I knew nothing of it at the time, Shelly’s bullying of my coworker was the proverbial “last straw.” She had finally overstepped the boundaries between poor management and documented abuse (with witnesses) so that the HR department could take decisive action.

One evening as I sat in my office finishing up a project, the voicemail light on my phone suddenly blinked red. As the message played, I realized my fervent prayers had been answered. The departmental leader stated that effective immediately, Shelly was no longer employed by the organization. Shelly’s ten-month reign of chaos had ended.

Lasting Lessons from a Horrible Boss

As painful as that episode was, I am glad that I went through it. I realize that both despite and because of her poor management skills, I learned several important lessons that have served me well since then:

  1. If you want to lead change, you need to know where you’re starting from. It’s important to understand the situation you’re entering, communicate a vision, and gain buy-in before trying to lead a change. Shelly had been hired to lead a team that was already high-performing, close-knit, and collegial. She approached the team as if it were in need of a turnaround rather than a basic tune-up, and because she neglected those steps, she met resistance. More open dialogue would have gone a long way to gaining buy-in with the team.
  2. Regardless of the effectiveness (or ineffectiveness) of a supervisor, it’s imperative to respect the role. Avoiding interactions with my boss served no purpose for me or the organization, other than to make me insubordinate. It wasn’t my place to pass judgment on her effectiveness. I was also obliged to ask her for what I needed—such as reminding her to provide feedback on the projects she was reviewing so I could keep them on schedule. I needed to be fully responsible for my part of the projects, regardless of whether she was delivering on her side. Though her style was frustrating to me, I had no excuse not to keep up my work commitments or to respect her authority as my manager.
  3. Have a contingency plan. While it wasn’t my place to judge, it would have been wise of me to take note of her lack of effectiveness and document my own actions so I could explain project delays caused by her slow review and approval of project deliverables. If there had been an accounting for why projects were not being completed on time, the blame could have easily been placed on my shoulders, even though the delay was caused by her failure to provide timely feedback. Though documentation can be time-consuming, sometimes it’s a wise insurance policy if you foresee the situation taking a bad turn.
  4. Keep some perspective. Nothing is forever. During that time, I allowed myself to become highly stressed, and then suddenly one day, the cause of my stress (Shelly) was gone. At that moment, I realized that I’d been walking around loaded for bear, but suddenly the bear was gone. All at once, those big guns were heavy and unnecessary. At that moment, I realized that it had been my choice to be defensive and resentful. In fact, I was the cause of my own misery due to my beliefs and how I chose to respond to Shelly.
  5. Working through personnel issues can take some time in the corporate world. HR issues are confidential and only those who need to know will be privy to what’s going on. It may seem like the abusive employee is getting a free pass and that no one in authority is taking notice when, in fact, due process may be moving along behind closed doors. For several months, as Shelly continued to bully and cause mayhem, I believed that the HR department had left me and my coworkers at the mercy of a madwoman. That’s what it felt like. I later found out that the department leader was aware of the problem and was working on a resolution with HR.
  6. Beliefs create mind-sets, and we have control over our beliefs. This is the big takeaway—I was stressed and overwhelmed not because I had an ineffective boss but due to my own beliefs. I was capable of being happy. I could have chosen to leave work behind when I went home at the end of each day. Instead, I chose to bring the troubles home with me and whine about my situation over a few glasses of wine. When Shelly was gone in a wink, I realized I’d been resisting harder than necessary, and it felt strange when suddenly I had nothing to resist. A huge weight was lifted from my shoulders with that realization!

Working for Shelly wasn’t a pleasant time in my life, but I learned some extremely valuable lessons from her, for which I’ll be forever grateful. So, to Shelly, wherever you are, thank you for teaching me these lessons. And I hope you found your suit pants.

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About the Author

Terry HSs-3

Terry Boyle McDougall is an executive coach, speaker and best-selling author of Winning the Game of Work: Career Happiness and Success on Your Own Terms. She works with managers, executives and professionals who want to draw upon their greatest, most authentic abilities to positively impact their organizations. She supports clients who are creating change, driving innovation, and navigating transitions.
Terry relies on both her formal training as a coach and firsthand experience as a corporate leader to support her clients as they work towards their goals. In coaching engagements, Terry serves her clients as a partner and encourager as they break new ground; as a sounding board, supporting them as an objective listener; as a scout, who sees the larger context, their possibilities and potential; and, as a catalyst, helping to spark their commitment and action.
After 30 years of corporate business experience, 15 of which were in senior managerial roles, Terry chose to become a coach to concentrate on helping leaders step fully into their potential to lead satisfying careers. Though the majority of Terry’s professional experience is in financial services and marketing, her work exposed her to a wide variety of industries, business climates and corporate transitions such as mergers, acquisitions, divestitures and restructures.
Areas of leadership skills development include: Goal setting Prioritization Staff management Delegation Strategic thinking Decision making Project management Facilitating meetings
Change management Effective communications Customer relations (internal/external) Onboarding & career transition

She has worked with clients from: AbbVie ACCO Brands BMO BMW Chubb Ernst & Young Four Square Hyatt
JLL JPMorganChase Kendra Scott MediaCom
Mindshare Motorola Newsela Nuveen
Univar Solutions USG Corporation Wells Fargo Zillow

EDUCATION CERTIFICATIONS University of Maryland, MBA College of William & Mary, BA, Economics iPEC, Coach Certification Training ICF, Professional Certified Coach iPEC, Master Practitioner, Energy Leadership Predictive Index, Talent Optimization Partner

Terry B. McDougall| Twitter | Facebook

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Book Review: Battle Royale

Oh My God! This book was so freaking good! I absolutely loved it with every part of my being and wish I could experience it again for the first time! This book is none other than Battle Royale by Koushun Takami.

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Synopsis: Koushun Takami’s notorious high-octane thriller envisions a nightmare scenario: a class of junior high school students is taken to a deserted island where, as part of a ruthless authoritarian program, they are provided arms and forced to kill until only one survivor is left standing. Criticized as violent exploitation when first published in Japan—where it became a runaway best seller—Battle Royale is a Lord of the Flies for the 21st century, a potent allegory of what it means to be young and (barely) alive in a dog-eat-dog world.

I adored this book! I heard that it was like the Hunger Games and my friend gave it to me for my birthday so I read it and it blew me away with how good it was. I felt so many different emotions while reading this book and it always had me on the edge of my seat. The author introduced you to so many amazing characters just for them to be taken away from you, it was heartbreaking. I even had tears in my eyes at some parts because I had become so attached in such a little amount of time.

The political aspect of the book was also very intriguing because it shows how this society deals with preventing potential wars by putting children on a deserted island to fight to the death. I also did find it hard at times because a lot of the character’s names all sounded kind of similar so it was a bit hard to remember who was who but in the end, it did not hinder my love of the book one bit.

I need another book like this! The high intensity of it had me not wanting to it down. I have been telling everyone about it since I have read it and can’t stop thinking about it. It definitely sticks with you once you are done. I would recommend this book to anyone! Literally, anyone because it is so good.

Book Rating: 5/5

You can buy this book on Amazon and find it on Goodreads.

Disclaimer: I read this book because I wanted to and was in no way compensated for my review.



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Anyone interested in rock music? I did the Classic Rock Book Tag and it was a blast! All of the prompts were named after classic rock songs and it took me on a journey. Check out the video below: