For anyone looking for a pick-me-up, this is rather quite blissful.
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For anyone looking for a pick-me-up, this is rather quite blissful.
My review of Karen Kinney’s “Doorways to Transformation” has been selected as one of Reedsy Discovery’s spotlighted reviews.
(FAQ / Why this has got me a little bit chuffed)
What is Reedsy Discovery?
Reedsy Discovery supports authors by placing newly published titles in the hands of book reviewers, like me! As well as a full library of titles to browse through, Reedsy Discovery also compiles a selection of “spotlighted reviews” each month.
Why is it a big deal to be spotlighted?
I only started typing proper book reviews in July. There are 2428 book reviewers on Reedsy (at time of writing) and already one of my reviews has been bumped to the top.
It might not be the Literary Review or New York Times, but it’s got me chuffed.
Does this mean you’re going to stop your creative writing?
So, Champagne’s on Alice..?
Ha! No. While I’d love to say being spotlighted on Reedsy comes with financial incentives, it doesn’t.
Support new authors, always support independent and high street bookstores and, if you have a spare minute, support the reviewers by upvoting and sharing what we do.
Rating: 4 Stars
Headline: Offering bite-sized ways to make significant improvements, this is perfect self-help for creatives, big and small
The last two (plus) years have been challenging for the best of us. Lockdowns, 24/7 global news coverage, crises after crises, current affairs have taken a huge toll on even the most resilient of individuals, let alone the those of us who are prone to succumbing to negative thoughts and letting them play out into the everyday.
Against this backdrop Karen Kinney enters into the ring with her new book Doorways to Transformation, a self-help guide that aims to restore self-belief and confidence to the reader by means of personal mediation. Each chapter opens with an inspirational quote and closes with reflective questions or prompts to encourage the reader to broaden their horizons and apply the learnings on that topic to their unique situation. Of the 37 bite-sized chapters few go by without a nod to a personal experience linked to the topic in hand.
That’s what I like about Kinney, she brings a very real and relatable touch to this book by bringing in her own personal experiences (and challenges) from her relocation from America’s Los Angles to the city of San Miguel de Allende in Mexico.
The digestibility of this book also appealed to me. I’m a busy woman at the best of times and there are days where five minutes to myself can seem an utter luxury. The brief nature of the chapters meant I could pick this up and quickly flick to the relevant section before diving straight back into the hustle and bustle of daily life. Kinney even states in the introduction that there is no order to how the chapters should be digested, that their placement should be seen more as a guideline; music to my ears!
For anyone looking for a mid-morning alterative to coffee, Doorways to Transformation is the perfect pick-me-up. Caffeine, in paper form.
Reedsy Discovery review: (AEB Reviews) “Doorways to Transformation” by Karen Kinney
Purchase Link: “Doorways to Transformation” (Amazon)
Author website: https://karenkinney.com/
You know the feeling, you’re going about with the final touches on a birthday present. You’ve already got the gift (because you’re super organised like that) now all that remains is the wrapping up.
You go to your trusty roll of wrapping paper and, oh…
That amount of paper, well, that was not going to cover the item. Far too…rectangley.
But it’s okay. It’s not as if you’ve spent so much time on the present acquisition part that it’s now 18:30 and in 30 minutes you’re meant to be handing said gift over to friend. No one would be that much of a muppet…
This was around the time my improvise mode kicked in. Five minutes / mad rummage around later, ta-da! Present wrapping sorted!
(We will just ignore the fact that it came out as upside down on the ‘prettier’ facing side.)
I even made and effort and dressed-up the second gift.
*Whispers* It’s Pepsi Max.
There you go, birthday wrapping a-la Alice. Think of it this way, if you waited until the 25th December this would be perfectly normal.
That’s my argument and I’m sticking to it.
Book review on Katherine Chidiac’s self-help guide for young people, NOW IS NEW: Stop Struggling. Start Living.
Rating: 3 Stars
Headline: Self-help that doesn’t preach: A nifty guide for adolescent audiences seeking an introduction to the genre
NOW IS NEW Stop Struggling. Start Living. is a self-help guide that provides a reset point; asking its intended audience to take the time out to place themselves on pause, reflect on problem areas and gradually move to a place where they can change their attitudes and ultimately overcome them. The book is aimed towards the young person market, an age demographic that can be challenging to tackle.
Chidiac’s publication is filled with metaphors and anecdotes, which is incredibly useful when translating some of the more challenging concepts into easy-to-understand situations and scenarios. It was great to see the author making efforts to remove the stigma of there being a right or wrong way to process emotions, and the addition of simple line drawings help with making the content informal and visual so as to keep it engaging throughout.
The book is easily digestible and as you move through the chapters you feel a sense of progress acclimating in the final chapter “creating our next steps” where the author neatly summarises the content, reminding the reader that the pace of self-improvement is gradual and anything but quick. “The first step is not to become a YouTube star,” Chidiac says, “…[but] opening the app. Then, maybe we could create an account.”
This publication could have been improved in its placement of reflection exercises. Often the reader is recommended to undertake a mini-exercise in the middle of a chapter, such as completing part-started sentences or pausing to reflect or mediate. They are contained in the body of the text, often sandwiched between two analogies and an inspirational quote. There was times I became so engaged with the exercise that afterwards I lost my engagement of the content contained in that section. Reflection exercises would have sat better at the end of each chapter or at a clear break-point.
The book would have benefitted from consumer or editorial feedback on tone of voice. While agreeable on the whole, at points copy dipped into the overly familiar and I wasn’t too convinced by the use of curse words for something aimed at young adults, even if they were concealed by use of asterisks. I would also have liked to have seen a clear statement of this book’s intended readership age range in the introduction.
A nifty book that provides young people with a gentle introduction to self-betterment.
Reedsy Discovery Review: Now is New (AEB Reviews)
Purchase Link: Now is New
Author page: https://www.nowisnew.co.uk/
I don’t know if I’ve shared this before but even if I have I’m sharing it again.
This was in York Castle Museum, as part of an exhbit on exercise through the ages. Originally produced to highlight the importance of cycle safety, the whole overdramatization of scenario is hilariousand (even though I am the first to accept it does feminism no favours).
Having read some of my fabulous book reviews on MHAM, the good editorial team at Reedsy Discovery approached me to start writing reviews for them.
Here’s my first one…
“Picturing Freedom: African Americans & Their Cars, A Photographic History”
Rating: 5 Stars
Headline: The pictorial history of American civil rights you never knew you needed
I’m not always a fan of photographic books, most often the content seems to take a back seat to a random consortium of imagery, thrown together by the author to fill out pages. They don’t provide the level of substance I look for when I want to fully immerse myself in a period of History. Not this book, however.
Picturing Freedom is a fascinating collection of imagery of African Americans with their motorcars from across the twentieth century. Shedding light on an overlooked element of American culture, Burns highlights the significance of car ownership for what was most often the most impoverished segment of society. It offered freedom from segregation, class and gender structure and from the bindings of Jim Crow laws.
Opening with an introduction, extensive historical context, and several case studies of influential African Americans, the book showcases hundreds, if not thousands, of images from the Burns archive. Moving chronologically from the turn of the 1900s, where expensive cars limited most to posing in studios with set props, through to the roaring twenties, thirties and forties and beyond, the clothes and models may change must the sense of owner pride remains the same.
As I moved through this book I found myself completely transfixed by the characters and the stories I desperately wanted to learn more about. The young solider headed to war, the women with the blunt stare down the lens, elbow proudly rested on the bonnet. These are truly the untold stories of ordinary people during a turbulent period of American civil rights. And yet for the most part, these individuals are nameless, limited to the occasional half-written note on the back of a photo. It leaves the reader guessing, who are these people? What were their thoughts, ambitions and dreams in life? And did they achieve them? Forget people watching, this is photo watching at its very best.
The time and effort Burns has invested into compiling, researching and editing this book is nothing short of admirable. If you’re looking for something to spark a deep and meaningful conversation, or simply a new addition to your coffee table, then look no further.
Reedsy Discovery Review: Picturing Freedom (AEB Reviews)
Purchase Link: Picturing Freedom: African Americans and Their Cars
Here’s a quick run-through of what happened when I went on London Underground’s newest service, the Elizabeth line.
The first thing I was aware of when I descended the escalators at Paddington was the whizzy LED signs.
I don’t know why, but I found them mesmerising, like a lava lamp. It was also 7:30am and I hadn’t had coffee, which I acknowledge may have been a contributing factor. Nudged by another commuter in that classic “get-on-or-move-on” fashion, I hopped onto the next Eastbound train.
Now the thing is…well, I wanted to illustrate that even though it was very busy at Paddington station the train was pretty quiet. But, equally, I didn’t want it to be obvious I was taking random photos of the train. You can see my predicament. So what do you get?
A slightly burred picture of a door.
It really was a classically Alice dilemma.
Oh, thumbs up for the seat coverings by the way.
And the floor? I mean, I wouldn’t say I’d be eating off it, but by London standards it was fairly squeaky.
I just wish I could say it was seam-LESS! (Get it? Because there’s a joining line? Well, I thought it was witty).
And here’s a photo of Custom House, before a-la-mosh pit I got scooped up by corporate commuters and funnelled toward the ticket gates.
*Then Alice did actual work stuff at the ExCel conference centre*
On leaving the ExCel I was running back what felt like the thickest black jacket in the hottest day. To say I was a bit toasty was an understatement, I was effectively drowning in a pool of sweat and free pencils.
Honestly I was so relieved to be somewhere with air conditioning and seating I forgot to take any photos. Minor detail.
It was probably owing to this (realising at Bond Street I hadn’t taken any photos and unable to, thanks to the copious amounts of free pencils filling my hands) that I became very obsessed with scoring a selfie with the Underground sign at Paddington. That, and in part because of the very strong coffee I knocked back before leaving the ExCel.
Ten attempts later (not kidding), I settled with what I got and shambled upstairs to find out the outbound train I’d been racing to get was actually a very slow train so ended up loitering around Paddington for 40 minutes for the train which, it turns out, all my colleagues were on as well. None of them were interested in my pencils, only moaning about the cleanliness of the toilets at Paddington. For a whole hour.
The Elizabeth line! Clean (enough), mesmerising signs (if you’re suffering from caffeine withdrawal) and just enough air con to stop you gagging on the stench of someone else’s body odour. What more could you want?!
Oh, and it’s actually super quick to get places. Minor detail.
Having read some of the content on MHAM, the editorial team on the book reviewing platform Reedsy Discovery approached me with a favourable proposition. Behind the scenes a few conversations have been taking place but now some of my reviews have gone live I can officially announce that as of this month I have have joined the team at Reedsy as an verified book reviewer.
To say those reviews are going down well is perhaps a smidge of an understatement. Put it this way, I have been ranked as number two.
*Polishes knuckles on chest*
To help maintain a healthy balance with work/life/my other writing exploits my reviewing inbox is currently open to mostly non-fiction and short story. My reviews are published on the website to coincide with the book’s publication release date so expect plenty more going live in the upcoming weeks.
Since starting I have already been approached by several independently published authors to ask for my services in an editorial capacity. Therefore…
In addition to book reviews (which you can submit to me direct), I am now also taking on commissions as a Developmental Editor.
Drop me an email with an overview of your work in progress (details on the contact tab) and I will get back to you.
Keep an eye out on the MHAM webpage (even better if you subscribe) for plenty of upcoming book reviews as I vet my way through some of the best hidden gems independent publishing has to offer.
Reedsy Discovery Profile: https://reedsy.com/discovery/user/aeb_reviews
What do you picture when you think of the writer? A recluse, working in the half-light of winter or in the sun-kissed parklands of summer? Novel thoughts that flow through dainty calligraphy on tanned pages? Web string ideas that will one day sit proud and hardbacked in Waterstones or Foyles. Half an hour to transpose to pixel, twelve weeks to complete, another month or two for luck.
If that’s the vision, let me grace you with the reality, as I find myself propped in a generic coffee shop. The table is scratched as a post, the air sticky and the green chair worn away to the bare threads. There is only one word for it, uninviting. But what does it matter? My leggings are peppered with rips and holes anyway, the stains and the marks, it’ll wash out.
A train goes past, one of those piddly little things that carry children at walking pace, no, slower than that, a snail’s. The driver sounds its electric toot-toot as it crawls by, my right ear left ringing while my left is pumped with coffee grinding and the tinny music of overhead Electric Light Orchestra. The best ambiance £2.25 of tea can buy. I sip the cold fluid with a grimace, bitter and stewed.
It’s gone 18:00, my hair is wet with grease and my young face slightly more etched from another exhaustive day at the office-come-dining table. Eyes swollen, fingers twisted. I worked through lunch, which every psychologist from here to Timbuktu will say is a one-way trip to an early grave, but the extra hour of toil then means an extra hour of freedom now. A fragment of bliss with a half-eye on time. Later, a stranger beckons at my door to collect dusty offcuts from my garage; he won’t negotiate on the timings and I really could do with that £20.
Writers are leather beaters, we take the skin of an idea and scrape, beat and dunk until that piece of flesh returns gold. Sometimes our elbows linger for too long in foul-smelling liquids that the only thing golden is our stained skin, saturated with stench.
Write. Write harder and faster and quicker and smarter and eloquently, until your fingertip pads run smooth and your skin cracks with effort. That’s what writing is. I’d consider myself a very successful woman indeed if I were ever to stumble across my work in a library or charity shop. Maybe that makes me simplistic, or maybe that makes me even more of a dreamer. I scrub my manuscript some more.
I started putting keyboard to laptop in 2014 on little more than a whim and utter boredom, to fill lonely nights in a strange town I barely knew. Eight years later I find myself plagued with a parasitic urge I can barely comprehend. What time is it? When did I last eat? How long before the staff spot my empty cup and kick me to the curb?
I don’t write because I want to, I write because it is an addiction. Leave hollow hope be for there is nothing to be saved.
My colourless eyes glance sideward as the same empty train edges closer once more.
This piece was kindly sponsored by Ben Miller, who spotted my business card on a noticeboard and commissioned me to write a post on “Why I Write”.
Please sponsor me to keep doing what I love by donating here: Alice’s Funding Page