Book Review: Good Boy: My Life in Seven Dogs @JennyBoylan @CeladonBooks

Good Boy: My Life in Seven Dogs
Jennifer Finney Boylan
Celadon Books, April 2020
ISBN 978-1-250-26187-8

Throughout Jimmy’s childhood, he felt torn between loving alone time and aching from emptiness. It’s easy to understand the left-out feeling of one sibling when the rest of the family is off, rallying around the other child. He was genuinely proud of his sister and her mad equestrian skills and obviously his parents had to get her, and her horse, to the shows. He could have joined them; he chose not to. Inevitably, the weekends alone could feel downright lonely. Even with canine company.

But there was another reason. Jimmy didn’t exactly understand it himself, nor did he crave the contemplation needed to attempt to articulate the strong, something-is-not-right gnawing. He more than made up for it by being immensely entertaining, even allowing for a bit of eccentricity. 

Based solely on a shared, whole-hearted adoration for all of the dogs, I expected to enjoy this memoir. I did not anticipate being so enamored with the author. I felt a kinship, in an I-want-to-be-that-true kind of way. I can easily imagine an encounter with Ms. Boylan wherein I would enthusiastically profess my fondness for her latest book and then immediately ask if I could pet her dog. I’m sure she’ll have one with her.

Reviewed by jv poore, May 2020.

Book Review: Here We Are by Aarti Namdev Shahani @aarti411 @CeladonBooks

Here We Are
American Dreams, American Nightmares
Aarti Namdev Shahani
Celadon Books, October 2019
ISBN 978-1-250-20475-2

I want to be Aarti Shahani when I grow up. Not just adult Aarti, author of this exquisite memoir, but the young girl that, after exhausting all other avenues, wrote directly to the judge presiding over her father’s case. So often, in fact, that the judge called her his “pen-pal”. In a way, that sums up her essence. In no way does it encapsulate her whole-hearted determination or accomplishments.

Ms. Shahani shares her story, alongside her father’s, generously and honestly. Here We Are: American Dreams, American Nightmares is a courageous and remarkably thoughtful way to illustrate stunning errors, inconsistencies and absolute apathy within the immigration system of the United States.

Her self-education started in adolescence when her family’s American-Dream-Life was demolished. The successful electronics store that her father and uncle were so proud of, was ensnared in the criminal investigation of so many cash-based-businesses on Broadway. A Columbian cartel was laundering money. No one within the judicial or legislative system mentioned that it would be highly unusual and unlikely for Indians to be Cali foot-soldiers.

At that time, Ms. Shahani did not imagine the volume of mistakes that had been made and ignored throughout her father’s processing. She did know that things were not right. For her family and, to her initial surprise, many of her immigrant neighbors. As she learned, she passed on her knowledge. Her assistance and action created ripples all across the continental U.S.

Ms. Shahani’s tone elevates this already compelling narrative. She does not attempt to hide her feelings or opinions, but they are clearly separated from explanations of policies and procedures. The objective, but not unfeeling, telling also shows that other countries have issues as well. It was not the U.S. that errantly issued a new passport to someone…immediately after London’s highest court had revoked all travel papers.

I finished this book with a new awareness of the intricacies and gaping holes in the immigration and deportation system. Ms. Shahani’s conversational tone, warmed by her obvious affections and admirations, make reading her memoir like catching up with a cherished friend in the comfiest of coffee shops. I am so glad that I get to take this gem to ‘my’ students next week; I don’t think I could wait any longer.

Reviewed by jv poore, October 2019.

Book Review: The Blind Side by Michael Lewis @wwnorton

The Blind Side
Michael Lewis
W.W. Norton and Co., September 2007
ISBN 978-0393330472
Trade Paperback

The Blind Side by Michael Lewis was not one of the Biographies on my massive To-Read list. I did not see the movie and I am probably not a true sports fan. Nonetheless, when Boy brought the book home for his Sports Literature class, I had to read it first. He told me it was about football.

It is not about football. Not exactly, and not entirely.

I will admit to being pleasantly surprised by how incredibly interesting the football parts were. I thoroughly enjoyed learning about Tom Lemming and it was nifty to understand roles and responsibilities for different player positions.

The story of Michael Oher and the Touhy family is uplifting and inspiring. An example of good people, simply doing what they feel is the right thing. A demonstration of the fierce power invoked when huge hearts and open minds collide.

Michael has a million reasons to be angry, bitter and seriously cynical. He is none of those things. Instead, he’s the go-with-the-flow guy. Crashing on the right floor, at the right time led to Michael attending the elite Briarcrest. A world away from the public schools he had barely bothered with.

To say that Michael stood out would be a gross understatement. He quickly caught the eye of Sean Touhy. Touhy came from very little. He worked hard and became a force to be reckoned with on the basketball court at Ole Miss. He felt a connection to the quiet newcomer.

Sean was not alone. Leigh Ann, and their two children, quickly developed the same kinship. The Touhys welcomed Michael Oher into their family. The four rallied around him to ensure a successful senior year of high-school and to help him transition into college.

I am so happy that I read this. I will absolutely be adding it to a few of my favorite high-school classroom libraries.

Reviewed by jv poore, October 2020.

Book Review: On the Hunt for the Haunted by Robin Strom @LlewellynBooks

On the Hunt for the Haunted
Robin Strom
Llewellyn Publications, April 2019
ISBN 978-0-7387-5841-1
Trade Paperback

On the Hunt for the Haunted is a non-fiction narrative highlighting processes and tools often employed in meta-physical investigations. Written by part-time paranormal researcher, founder and director of the Delaware Paranormal Research Group, it features odd experiences of a few (self-professed) normal people; along with the findings of Ms. Strom and her team.

It is difficult to doubt the author’s sincerity in simply seeking answers. To satisfy her own curiosity, certainly, but also for the opportunity to assist people with potential paranormal problems. She happily shares findings of concrete reasons for seemingly inexplicable reactions.

A particular room that adversely affects everyone who enters, must be haunted. Headaches, feelings of fatigue and general sickness are commonly reported. But the investigation team’s equipment identified a breaker box giving off extremely high electromagnetic fields, creating very the real symptoms.

On the eerie side, however; recording equipment captures voices and statements that are not so easily explained. Ms. Strom’s personal-use dowsing rods exhibit sporadic, unique and somewhat wild, behavior. Everyday folks relaying their unusual episodes in an almost-embarrassed way is as sweet as it is scary.

I truly enjoyed this neat little book’s intriguing stories as I learned the categories of equipment and how everything works together.

Reviewed by jv poore, August 2020.

Book Review: Halloween Monsters by Eric Guth and How to Handle a Narcissist by Theresa Jackson @guthbooks

Halloween Monsters
A Guide of Spooky Facts & Faces
Eric Guth
Eric Guth, July 2020
ISBN 979-8667180388
Picture Book

Halloween Monsters: A Guide of Spooky Facts and Faces by Eric Guth is so remarkably good, I’m downright giddy. Immediately intrigued upon hearing about this upcoming Children’s Picture Book with truths and origins of some spooky creatures, I was over-the-top enamored with the actual tome. Engaging, fresh and fascinating fast-facts, such as when witches were depicted with black-pointy-hats, rather than hair of smoke and fire; alongside confirmation of the familiar, result in a groovy bigger-picture.

Speaking of pictorial representations, I absolutely adore the collage-style pictures. The author uses an incredibly cool concept, wherein he maximizes the common accessories associated with each mythical being, but in a minimalist-kind-of-way. A few bats; a couple of garlic bulbs, stakes and mirrors—with a coffin tossed in—magically morphs into the face of a vampire.

Halloween Monsters is one of those rare treasures that I expect to appeal to all types of readers. Self-professed “non-readers” may like facts over ‘a silly story’ and this presentation makes for a very quick and easy read. Voracious readers tend to love trivia, particularly when it is timely. Learning a little monster-history as autumn approaches is fitting. Finally, for those youngsters that may be a bit more than apprehensive about the freaky-frights frequently spotted in October; reading how they came to be may make them a little less scary.

Huge thank-you to the author for the sneak-peek-copy to donate to one of my favorite classroom libraries.

Reviewed by jv poore, July 2020.


How to Handle a Narcissist
Understanding and Dealing with a Range of Narcissistic Personalities
Theresa Jackson
Theresa Jackson, May 2017
ISBN 978-1521339978
Trade Paperback

I was wrong.

I thought I had a basic understanding of what it means to be a narcissist and—here I am so embarrassed for me—I was neither particularly empathetic nor sympathetic to the why. Which is not only disappointing, but stupidly hypocritical. My feathers will ruffle whenever I hear a misunderstanding about clinical depression stated as a fact.

Without rebuff, Ms. Jackson brings the facts. For example, we are all somewhere on the narcissistic scale. At the top of that scale looms Narcissistic Personality Disorder. A lofty sense of self and need to be admired are typical characteristics of NPD. For everyone else, personality traits are developed to handle narcissistic tendencies.

To me, this is the quintessential “How To” story. I appreciated Ms. Jackson’s straightforward explanations and I love that she worked so hard to help us understand that, while it may seem quicker and more effective to go through life with a yes-or-no/black-or-white view, it is actually inaccurate.

The case-studies, assessments and apt advice on understanding and associating with a person high on the narcissistic scale are invaluable. I am amazed by all that I learned in this quick, easy-to-follow guide and, although humbled, I truly feel that I will behave better.

Reviewed by jv poore, April 2019.

Book Reviews: Britain’s Forgotten Serial Killer by John Lucas and Phoenix Burning by Isabella Moldonado @johnlucas_news @penswordbooks @authorbella1 @midnightinkbook

Britain’s Forgotten Serial Killer
The Terror of the Axeman
John Lucas
Pen & Sword Books, September 2019
ISBN 978-1-52674-884-3
Trade Paperback

In 1975 a young, deeply troubled alcoholic boy, came before the court in London, charged with three brutal murders. Two were elderly women, one a neighborhood priest. The youth charged with their murders, Patrick MacKay, was twenty-two at the time and had a criminal career stretching back eleven years.

Journalist John Lucas has written a sober, detailed biography of this Nazi-obsessed youth, speculating over eight other similar murders of which Mackay might reasonably be accused, making him one of the most prolific and dangerous serial killers ever experienced in England.

At the time of his trial, Mackay was dubbed The Axeman, The Monster of Belgravia and the Devil’s Disciple. He never held a regular job for more than a few days, he was committed numerous times to psychiatric and other mental institutions for evaluation and treatment, but he was always released after short treatment or simply left the institution. Early on, a number of omissions, errors and missteps by various law enforcement agencies allowed Mackay to escape arrest and thus eight brutal murders attributed to him remain unresolved.

The book is evenly written with comprehensive research clearly presented. One of the most interesting aspects of the case of Patrick David MacKay is the number of citizens with whom he interacted and even occasionally lived with who, despite his erratic behavior, never saw clues to his murderous behavior. The book contains an extensive index, bibliography and several photographs of some of the principal characters.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, May 2020.
Traces, Grand Lac, Reunion, Red Sky.


Phoenix Burning      
A Veranda Cruz Mystery #2
Isabella Maldonado
Midnight Ink Books, March 2018
ISBN 978-0-7387-5102-3
Trade Paperbacks

This is a novel of crime, of brutality, of family secrets, of conflicts and of resolution. It is also a novel rich in a variety of good and evil characters, of violence expertly described and of characters conflicted, misunderstood and striving for their goals, personal and social.

In Phoenix, Homicide detective Veranda Cruz with her partner riding shotgun races to connect with an important drug dealer. As she dodges mid-day traffic on a busy street she worries about the unusual timing of the contact and immediately discovers her instincts are still working well when her vehicle is intercepted and the drug dealer is killed. She and partner Sam Stark pursue the killer into a crowded mall.

Thus begins a fast-paced, terror-filled novel that carries the talented Cruz through incident after incident, some fraught and dangerous, others poignant and emotional, all thoughtful and often original in design and result. Phoenix is the site of most of the action with a few side trips to somewhere in Mexico and the summer season is recognized if not belabored. The novel is a judicious blend of modern electronic uses and mis-uses, and good-old-fashioned policing, mostly the action is physical, dangerous and logical. The pace can be best described as fast and furious, interspersed with more normal family-based rhythms and interactions.

Cruz’s target is a powerful Mexican drug cartel of epic proportions and ruthless actions. Her partners in a monumental effort to take down the cartel represent every available local and federal law enforcement agency, requiring negotiation skills beyond belief, almost.

In sum, the novel careens to an unusual if satisfying ending leaving multiple traces of future possibilities. For fans of violent crime novels, this is a definite winner.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, March 2019.
Traces, Grand Lac, Reunion, Red Sky.

Book Review: GenTech by Dr. Rick Chromey @MyGenTech2020 @MorganJamesPub @iReadBookTours


Title: GenTech: An American Story of Technology,
Change and Who We Really Are
Author: Dr. Rick Chromey
Publisher: Morgan James Publishing
Publication Date: May 26, 2020
Genre: Adult Nonfiction,
History / Cultural & Technical History


Purchase Links: ~ Barnes & Noble ~ IndieBound
BAM ~ Powell’s ~ Indigo ~ Rediscovered Books



Every twenty years a new generation rises, but who and what defines
these generations? And could current generational tags mislead
and miss the point? In this insightful analysis of technology history since 1900,
Dr. Rick Chromey offers a fresh perspective for understanding what
makes a generation tick and differ from others. Within GenTech,
readers learn how every generation uniquely interacts with particular
technologies that define historical temperament and personality and
why current generational labels are more fluid than fixed, and more loopy
than linear. Consequently, three major generational constellations emerge,
each containing four, twenty-year generations that overlap, merge, and blend:

The Audio Generations (1900-1950): Transportation-Telephone Generation
(1900-1920), Motion Picture Generation (1910-1930), Radio Generation
(1920-1940), Vinyl Record Generation (1930-1950)

The Visual Generations (1940-1990): Television Generation (1940-1960),
Space Generation (1950-1970), Gamer Generation (1960-1980)
and Cable Television Generation (1970-1990)

The Digital Generations (1980-2000): Personal Computer-Cell Phone
Generation (1980-2000), Net Generation (1990-2010), iTech Generation
(2000-2020), and Robotics Generation (2010-2030). Dive in and revel in
this exciting, compelling, and novel perspective to understanding
recent American generations with GenTech.


Review by John Zaleski

FIVE STARS. A really interesting book. The first three chapters alone are worth getting the book for their explanation of how we’ve traditionally thought about generations in America.

Dr. Chromey starts out by asking very basic questions. What exactly constitutes a “generation?” What’s the criteria for saying when a generation starts and stops? How long is a generation?

The author explains that traditionally it has been major political and socio-historical events that have been used as generational markers. Using that criteria there are currently six living generations in America:

·         G.I. Generation (1901-1924) – WWI, Great Depression

·         Silent Generation (1925-1942) – Pearl Harbor and WWII

·         Boomer Generation (1943-1960) – Eisenhower, JFK, Vietnam

·         Gen X (1961-1981) – Watergate, Iran Hostages, Reagan

·         Millennials (1982-1999) – Desert Storm, OJ, Columbine, 9-11, Katrina

·         Gen Z (the author uses iTech) – Those born after 2000 – Great Recession, War on Terror

Drawing on the work of Neil Howe and William Strauss, Dr. Chromey illustrates how identifying generations, going as far back to the middle ages, has focused primarily on these sorts of random historical events.

The book challenges this approach by arguing instead that technological change is what shapes the personality of a generation:

Technology is what creates our cultural awareness. It could be argued that the “printing press” generations were more “aware” because of Gutenberg’s invention. The historical events that shaped them were exposed and explained through print technology. The same could be said for radio generations or television generations or web generations. The automobile and airplane allowed people to travel great distances, to personally experience what they once only heard through story or read in print.

In short, it is the technology of a generation that that determines its personality.

Chromey also offers the interesting observation that most of us begin to retain memory of cultural events between the ages of 5-7. Consequently, it’s very difficult for someone, like myself, born in 1998, and so classified a Millennial, to relate to the Columbine High School massacre (even though it’s one of the seminal events used to identify Millennials), because I was too busy cutting teeth to remember it. On the other hand, my generational psyche was formed by other, later events like the War on Terror. Therefore, I identify more with Gen Z. Essentially, we are the product of certain technologies that shape us between our tenth and twenty-fifth birthdays.

The remaining chapters make the authors case in more detail – covering technologies from the invention of the telephone to the iPhone. From automobiles to robotics.

Any criticism? I wish the author would have addressed the work of Ray Kurzweil and what it may mean for the very concept of a “generation.”  For readers unfamiliar with Kurzweil, in his blockbuster book, “The Singularity is Near,” he predicts that technological change, already growing at an exponential rate, will reach a point in time (he predicts 2045) at which technological growth becomes uncontrollable and irreversible, resulting in unforeseeable changes to civilization and the human species.

Won’t that be awesome to see?



About the Author

Rick Chromey is a cultural explorer, social historian and generational futurist. He’s also served as a pastor, professor, speaker/trainer, and consultant. In 2017, he founded MANNA! Educational Services International to inspire and equip leaders, teachers, pastors, and parents. Rick has a doctorate in leadership and the emerging culture; and travels the U.S. and world to speak on culture, faith, history, education, and leadership topics. He has authored over a dozen books on leadership, natural motivation, creative communication, and classroom management. He lives with his wife, Linda, in Meridian, Idaho.

Connect with the Author:
website ~ youtube ~ facebook ~ twitter ~ instagram


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