Sunday, October 6, 2013

A Full House But Empty by Angus Munro Book Review

Paperback: 268 pages
Publisher: iUniverse, Inc. (September 25, 2007)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0595437192
ISBN-13: 978-0595437191

Book Synopsis: Filled with anecdotes, lessons learned, and an inspirational message for everyone, who believes that hard work breeds success, this moving autobiography shares the remarkable story of Angus Munro. Munro is just three when he suffers from appendicitis and spends several weeks in a Vancouver hospital as his family struggles to survive the Great Depression. After finally arriving home, Munro asks his sister, "Where is Mummy?" and is promptly told his mother doesn't live there anymore. It is this traumatic event that changes the course of Munro's life forever. His father is suddenly a single parent while simulataneously turning into Munro's mentor and hero. He teaches Munro the motto, "Always do the right thing," while raising his children in an environment that is at the very least hectic, and more often completely chaotic. Through a potpourri of chronological and heartfelt tales, Munro reveals how he learned to view incidents in life in terms of responsibility, recognition, personal conduct, and consideration for others. Despite dropping out of school at a young age, Munro perseveres, eventually attaining professional success. Munro's memoir is a wonderful tribute to his father's legacy and the greatest lesson of all - Whatever you do, follow through.

This book hit home very early on for me. At the age of 3, Angus suffers from appendicitis which causes him a lengthy hospital stay. Once released from the hospital, he returns to a home that his mother has left, without so much as a goodbye. Even though Angus's father is not perfect (by a long shot), I applaud the fact that he raised his children during the Great Depression and they never wanted for anything. I too was raised by a single parent who worked hard her entire life to provide for me, and like Angus's father, she isn't perfect but I admire her more than she knows. There is nothing harder, I imagine, than trying to raise a child by yourself when food and money are scarce.

 In this autobiography, Angus takes you down the path of his life - a path strewn with obstacles many of us can only imagine. Yet, in the end his conviction and strength carries him through it all. To say he had a hard life would truly be an understatement. After he drops out of school at 14, he isn't sure what his life will become. He holds various jobs, and has some time to visit relatives on both sides of his family that he had never met. The descriptive tone used is so nice to read, it makes you feel like you are sitting there with Angus, experiencing the things he is describing. I also love the way he draws on the positives of each experience and tells us the lesson he learned, whether good or bad. It is something I think the world needs more of today - we all have bad things happen, try to learn from them and move on, there's always tomorrow. One of the other amazing things is the detail this story is told in. Many of these events happened MANY years ago, yet you never feel as if you are lacking for information. The only thing I would have liked to heard more of was some of his personal life experiences as he got older. Otherwise, this is truly and excellent read, and something that has a lesson in it for all of us.
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Friday, October 4, 2013

Sam's Quest for the Crimson Crystal by Ben Furman Book Review

Reading level: Ages 9-12
Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: Black Hawk Press (April 16, 2007)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0977873188
ISBN-13: 978-0977873180

Book Synopsis: "Sam" Mae Costas is nobody's idea of a hero. She is constantly teased about her thick glasses, her small size, and her asthma attacks are embarrassing and difficult to control. When Sam is forced to spend the summer on her grandpa's farm she thinks things can't get much worse. Deep in the caverns below the farm, Prince Buznor is a young Awok on a life-and-death mission to save his world. He has to find Sam and prove to her that only she can find and control the Crimson Crystal...the one weapon that can defeat the evil threatening his people. To reach the Crimson Crystal Sam must journey through the hostile Land of Geffen, facing hordes of catacomb dwarfs, vicious vampire bats and deadly monsters. Can Sam overcome her fears, her doubts, and find the Crimson Crystal in time to save the Awokian world?

It has been quite some time since I have read a book classified as young adult and also quite some time since I have read something in the fantasy category so it was a pleasure to read this book by Ben Furman. There are quite a few things that I love about this book, but most of all I love the fact that the author portrays the hero as a young girl who is not what you would typically classify as a hero. She has asthma, is small for her age, wears big thick glasses, and is what you would consider a tomboy. Summer is here, and that means that it is time for Sam's parents to head off on their archeological expedition. It also means it is time to leave New York and head to Grandpa Paul's farm, the place where Sam will spend her summer. Sam loves her Grandpa, but would much rather go with her parents. Unfortunately, the still think she is too young. She is worried that this summer will be like every other, with some fun in the beginning, but with boredom setting in before too long. She couldn't have been more wrong!

There have been questions about Sam's lineage from an early age. She looks nothing like most of her relatives, but does have an unusal characterisitic, a birthmark on her neck in the shape of a diamond. This birthmark seems to appear on relatives in Sam's family every 100 years...she thinks this seems too unusual to be just a coincidence. And she was right. Sam finds out that she comes from a long line of protectors of creatures no one in this world has ever heard of. She has experienced odd sensations while on her Grandfather's farm, but never dreamed it was due to the fact that there was a portal to another world rooted in his land. Not only does she have powers, she is truly a legend in the world of Prince Buznor. She needs to draw on the strength she has buried to find the Crimson Crystal so she can save the Awokian people from elimination. I am surprised and pleased to say that this book really held my attention. Even though it is geared towards a younger audience, the author does a good job of keeping the pace exciting. I would recommend this for young and old alike.

About the author: Ben, a former FBI counterterrorism chief, has drawn on this experience to write about high-tech terrorism, chemical, biological, and nuclear threats, and transnational criminal cartels. During his career he investigated kidnappings, extortions, bank robberies, led SWAT teams and was the FBI counterterrorism chief assigned to address threats against the United States by terrorists of all stripes. He also writes fantasy adventure novels with positive messages for the young adult, juvenile market. He is the Rexus CEO, a corporation that conducts international corporate investigations involving industrial espionage, internal theft, business due diligence and background screening. You can visit his website at

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Lost Diary of Don Juan by Douglas Carlton Abrams Book Review

Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Washington Square Press; Reprint edition (July 1, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1416532528
ISBN-13: 978-1416532521

Book Synopsis:   In a time of discovery and decadence, when the gold that poured endlessly into the port of Sevilla devalued money, marriage, and love itself, young Juan Tenorio was abandoned and raised by nuns. He grew up loving and worshipping all women, but a clandestine affair with one of the sisters forces him to leave the Church-and his plans for the priesthood-forever. Juan becomes a spy, as well as the world's greatest libertine. But far from the heartless seducer that legend recounts, he seeks liberation and redemption as much as personal pleasure and gratification. He begins to keep a diary of his greatest adventures and the Arts of Passion he has mastered. The most perilous adventure of all-the irresistible fall into the madness of love with the only woman who could ever make him forget all others-finally compels him to confess everything. Douglas Carlton Abrams's magical debut novel captures the heart of the Spanish Golden Age and the secret life of the world's greatest lover-Don Juan-who came to embody the spirit that would inflame the modern age.

This year has really been a great one for me, and let me tell you why. In the past, if someone would have suggested a historical fiction book to me I would have told them that it wasn't my kind of book. All of these years I have steered clear of books of this nature because while in school history was the subject that I liked the least. It is amazing what books like this can do, as now I jump at the chance to read books about history, fiction or not. I admit going in that I didn't know a whole lot about the legendary Don Juan. Just the same information that most of the general public knows...a true ladies man but not one to stay with one woman for any period of time.

This book certainly gives the readers a new look into this man - he truly loved women and his goal was to bring them pleasure by getting them to feel confident about themselves and their bodies. I loved the way this book was written, it sheds a new light on this story and really makes me want to dig into the history of Don Juan and find out more about him. Although this book is about Don Juan, Douglas does an excellent job of depicting 16th century Spain. One of my favorite part in the book is when Fray Ignacio comes to the convent to speak to the nuns about there being a heretic among them. After he questions the nuns, he decides to take one of them-Hermana Jeronima back to the headquarters of the Holy Office in Sevilla where she would be questioned further. She was being taken to the horrifying! This book was an excellent read, and with its fast pace made for a delightful weekend read. I would highly recommend it.

About the author: Douglas Carlton Abrams is a former editor at the University of California Press and HarperSanFrancisco. He is the co-author of a number of books on love, sexuality, and spirituality, including books written with Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Yogacharya B.K.S. Iyengar, and Taoist Master Mantak Chia. He lives in Santa Cruz, California, with his wife and three children. In his life and work, he is interested in cultivating all aspects of our humanity —body, emotions, mind, and spirit. His goal in writing fiction is to create stories that not only entertain, but also attempt to question, enchant, and transform. Doug’s desire in writing the book was not only to resurrect this greatest of historical lovers and to give voice to his true motives; he was also moved to write a book that would explore the tension between lust and love and that would confront the human question of how any man or woman can find lifelong satisfaction in one committed relationship. To find out more about the origins of The Lost Diary and the myth of Don Juan, and to learn about forthcoming novels, please visit or