Book Review: “A Teen’s Essential Guide to Social Anxiety Relief” by Emma Lou Parker

Rating: 1 star

Headline: This strangely pessimistic-toned approach to self-help will have you reaching for your chocolate more than an optimistic outlook

Review:

Life coach Emma Lou Parker turns to writing in this new self-help guide, A Teen’s Essential Guide to Social Anxiety Relief. The target demographic of this book are teenagers and young adults who struggle with mental health conditions such as anxiety and stress.

The book is broken down into five chapters and includes physical stress reducing activities and recommendations on improving mental health and outlook. According to Parker, reducing anxiety is not a ‘one and done’ activity, in fact readers are actively reminded at every turn that the path to self-improvement will be filled with setbacks and slip-ups. And this is where I struggle. The core tone of voice in this book is very pessimistic.

I fully appreciate mental health is a sensitive topic and one to be approached in the right way, but even with one glance at some of the chapter sub-topics you very quickly identity a theme. “Stop the negative thoughts, stop telling yourself you can’t change, stop predicting you will fail”, there are another three “stops” in this chapter before you reach the topic “acceptance”. After this particularly downbeat chapter I found myself reaching for my emergency stash of chocolate just to lift my spirits.

Tone of voice is made all the harder to stomach by Parker’s choice to isolate readers by referring to them as “you”. Separating younger readers in such a way only makes the author come across as preachy, when anxiety is a very common mental health condition affecting millions of people (of all ages) globally. Reading this you would think otherwise. I felt uncomfortable with the number of times Parker’s activities asked young readers to write down traumatic events, perhaps not considering how this could be quite triggering without the right support.

Other minor but amounting to significant issues, starting with the web-links. Anything that encourages readers to jump to content outside the book is generally not good practice, even in eBooks. Write it well enough in your own words with references or cut it out altogether. Grammar and spelling are off in places, the drawings, while pretty, are hard to read (and I have good eyesight) and, arguably worst of all, there are no page numbers. A contents page is pointless if there are no numbers to match up.

My only hope is that Parker is able to absorb this constructive feedback when moving onto her next project. The passion is there, the writing ability, not quite yet.

AEB Reviews

Links:

Reedsy Discovery Review: AEB Reviews – “A Teen’s Essential Guide to Social Anxiety Relief”

Purchase Link: “A Teen’s Essential Guide to Social Anxiety Relief” (Amazon)

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Book Review: “Another World” by Maximillian Matthews

Rating: 3 Stars

Headline: A good read for anyone wanting to better understand a minority subsection of American society

Review:

Another World is the autobiographical memoir by Maximillian Matthews, covering his life growing up in North Carolina and forging a professional career during the late noughties. Self-identifying as black queer, Matthews’ memoir aims to provide readers from the same community with the type of material that does not readily exist on accessible bookshelves.

From growing up in North Carolina, to living and working in Boston and Washington DC, Matthews draws on various colourful experiences to convey the highs and lows of integrating himself into both the LGBTQ+ community and broadly within American society. The way Matthews recounts the key drivers behind his actions makes for some touching moments in the book, particularly in scenes where he acknowledges some of the harmful actions and behaviours self-inflicted in the pursuit of acceptance and love.

Good for bringing out some of the general themes around systematic racism and homophobia in America, Another World does tend to lose focus, in places pulling on quotes from external sources to draw in entirely separate debates. In one instance the dramatic retelling of a traumatic break-up is punctured by a tangent on the politics of attraction. Such tangents are all of insightful importance, but their placement sometimes does Matthews’ life experiences a disservice.

The flow of Another World also comes across as a bit hap-hazard. Having been brought on a chronological journey in the first third of the book, readers are suddenly dropped into Matthews’ strained efforts to work hard at his educational studies in High School whilst concealing his true identity. It was about ten or so pages on, when Matthews refers to his mother’s presence while growing up that I wondered if the book would have benefitted from a structural rejig.

Another World is a starting point for anyone wanting to better understand a minority subsection of American society. As someone who self-identifies as a white woman living in the United Kingdom, it has given me plenty to think about. That alone should be treated as a success.

AEB Reviews

Links:

Reedsy Discovery Review: AEB Reviews – “Another World”

Purchase Link: “Another World” by Maximillian Matthews (Amazon)

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Book Review: “14 Lessons in Happiness” by Gina Ross

Rating: 4 stars

Headline: A sweet little read with useful tips and methods to bring out your inner calm

Review:

14 Lessons in Happiness by Gina Ross is a simple self-help guide which aims to give the reader quick, nugget-sized, doses of advice to improve internal positivity and outlook on life. Each of the fourteen chapters is introduced by an inspirational quote, a summary of the topic (sometimes bringing in the author’s personal experiences) and then several step-by-step meditation activities. These activities are, like the rest of the content, intended to be straightforward and quick to apply, the kind of activity that can be sandwiched between daily activities, without the need to carve out hours of time or invest in a back catalogue of whale music and their weight in incense.

There is a lot to admire in this self-help guide by Ross. It neatly draws on the author’s personal experiences without becoming a sob story, the writing style is light and the right side of informal and the activities are numerous (there is plenty of option to pick and choose between different mediative exercises). Ross also clearly notes at the start that this guide is not intended to replace that of a professional practitioner, a nice touch that goes a long way to showing Ross’ intentions with this book is to support, not cure.

What I would note here is that the contents of this book are by no means detailed and exhaustive. The fourteen chapters are each quite brief and the content fairly generic with an intention to be as inclusive as possible to all readers from all walks of life. Those wanting something better tailored to a particular challenge (for instance grief) will most likely not get all the answers they need from the ten or so pages dedicated to this topic. Also, and one that is more of an admin point, the references in the footer are not correctly formatted (it needs to be more than a website link, instead it should also feature article titles, authors etc).

14 Lessons in Happiness is a handy little guide when it comes to self-help and succeeds in being a book which can introduce new readers to the art of meditation. Something for your coffee table, this guide would serve as a great pick-me-up alongside a fresh hit of morning caffeine to start the day off right.

AEB Reviews

Links:

Reedsy Discovery Review: AEB Reviews: “14 Lessons in Happiness”

Purchase Link: “14 Lessons in Happiness” by Gina Ross (Amazon)

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Book Review: “Writing the Perfect Christmas TV Movie” by Fred Ray

Rating: 4 Stars

Headline: If you enjoy Christmas movies as much as candy canes and baked cookies, you’ll love this

Review:

I love television Christmas movies, cheery 90-minute productions where cookies are always in the oven, mugs of hot chocolate plentiful on the counter, small town celebrations every other day. More festive than tinsel itself, I cannot get enough of them. When Fred Olen Ray’s book, Writing the Perfect Christmas Movie, appeared in my inbox I could not resist, jumped at the first chance I got.

Ray is no stranger to the industry of televising Christmas charm, in the space of ten years he has written fifteen Christmas films for television and directed several more. Having spent time with aspirational hopefuls wishing to break into the industry, Ray’s guide pitches itself as a one-stop shop for any budding scriptwriters of the genre with chapters that are intended to be all inclusive of the various considerations that need to be made when putting pen to paper. From story and act structure to considerations around budgets and casting and, the all important question, how Christmassy is too Christmassy? (In the world of festive films? It transpires there is no such thing.) In a short space of time Ray does an excellent job and condensing a genre and getting the main points across professionally and informally. You get a real sense of this being an author who genuinely wants to help others break into the industry.

Ray’s approach to producing this guide is consistent with an experienced professional; recounting past projects and how to avoid potential pitfalls with each approach. It is almost semi-autobiographic, from a place of passing on experience as opposed to providing a line-by-line tutorial of scriptwriting. There is a general expectation here that you can already write screenplays. To this end, Writing the Perfect Christmas Movie could be more likened to the Masterclass brand of video tutorials and may therefore cause disappointment to those hoping to see annotated case studies of previous scripts.

A choice purchase for those who are actively trying to pursue a career in scriptwriting whilst also sitting comfortably as my recommendation to any festive film-fans, Writing the Perfect Christmas Movie offers a rare peak under the covers of what makes the seasonal film genre tick.

AEB Reviews

Links:

Reedsy Discovery Review: (AEB Reviews) Writing the Perfect Christmas Movie

Purchase Link: Writing the Perfect Christmas TV Movie

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Book Review: “Think in Color” by Sofia Santiago

Rating: 4 stars

Headline: Three simple mantras to change mindset and create lifelong opportunities? Sign me up!

Review:

Think in Color by Sophia Santiago is a self-betterment guide which puts forth a proposition for a new way of thinking, branded “ColorThinking”.

This approach is broken down into three mantras, also referred to as mental cones:

  1. Think “and” before “or”
  2. Think “how” before “no”
  3. Think “can be” before “is”

In all three scenarios theory and approach is backed-up by some interesting real-life and fictious scenarios, coupled with a step-by-step walkthrough of how things could have been better handled. A fourth section focuses on how to break away from external negative influences which may be impacting on your ability to implement a new way of thinking, and finally there is an advisory on the dangers of overuse; applying ColorThink to every scenario.

Santiago’s style of writing may not suit every reader, author jovialness bubbles to the service with the use of phrases including “just kidding!” and “a nice twist, ha?” In a self-help guide I prefer the tone of author voice to be informed and neutral; in places the over-informality of the writing distracts from the otherwise invaluable information and action items which the book is trying to impart.

As someone who works in Project Management, I really like what Think in Color is trying to do. Whether Santiago was aware when devising the concept of ColorThinking or not, the three mental cones have striking resemblance to Agile methodology, with its four simplistic principles for transforming and embedding efficient delivery. While the subject matter differs, the theory of ColorThink is similar in that respect and, at just over eighty pages in length, it is as equally digestible as another ground-breaking manifesto adopted by millions worldwide.

Think in Color convinces readers to reconsider the traditional black and white principles of thinking, offering a fresh perspective in a way that does not seem that different at all. I like it.

AEB Reviews

Links

Reedsy Discovery Review: AEB Reviews – “Think in Color”

Purchase Link: “Think in Color” (Amazon)

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Book Review: “Diagnosis: BURNOUT” by Ariyana S. Nishe

Rating: 1 star

Headline: Questionable facts, confusing anecdotes that lead nowhere and uncomfortable levels of over familiarity. Diagnosis? Checkout

Review:

Burnout is, to pardon the pun, a hot topic at the moment. I only need to pop down to my local community centre, shop or healthcare provider and within seconds there will be someone venting about their personal frustrations of working in an increasingly pressurised environment. From this inevitably comes the term ‘burnout’, a mental health condition that can be triggered by chronic workplace stress.

From this the writer Ariyana S. Nishe has decided to invest her passions into producing a 45-page self-help guide, Diagnosis BURNOUT.

With the subline, “Reclaim your time, health, energy and relationships” I was expecting something that could provide clear and concise guidance for those on the brink (or wanting to take proactive steps to avoid) a mental health crises. However the cover imagery is very divisive and features an eclectic mix of imagery that is distracting.

Nishe states in her introduction that burnout has been added to the list of medical diagnoses by the World Health Organisation (WHO), yet when visited the WHO website the only definition of burnout I could find was that the condition is “an occupational phenomenon. It is not classified as a medical condition.”

My confusion over the author’s interpretation of burnout left me doubting many other elements of this book. I’m not an expert on mental health conditions, let alone burnout syndrome; that is why I turn to publications like these. Yet suddenly my eye is drawn to other elements; the formatting could be tightened, use of imagery could have been reduced and improved and the tone of voice would have significantly benefitted from editorial input.

It’s clear that the author is passionate about this field of study, and I appreciate her detailed reference section to acknowledge her source materials, but it’s not enough to pull at quotes from obscure places, couple them with images pasted from search engines and label it as self-help. This is a publication that is both confused and lacking direction.

While Nishe’s attempts are valiant, sadly they don’t hold enough water to make Diagnosis: BURNOUT marketable to the audience it’s intended for. This should be seen as a product of the author’s aspiration to be published, not something for mass-market consumption. Less book material, more blog.

AEB Reviews

Links:

Reedsy Discovery Review: AEB Reviews – “Diagnosis Burnout”

(Since publication of this review the author has decided to remove the book from sale)

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Book Review: “The Customer Affinity Manifesto: How AI can Help Businesses Connect with Customer Emotions”

Rating: 5 stars

Headline: For those who want to stay ahead of the increasingly steep and bloody curve of customer satisfaction, this book is a must

Review:

Once upon a time, loyalty was decided by large armies and costly landgrabs. A knight (or similar) would swear their loyalty and in turn all the sprawling hordes of peasants (or similar) underneath would also find themselves also pledged to that cause. But we are no longer in that period. In Westernised countries, gone are the knights, swept away the uneducated masses and in its place born is the freely accessible internet.

Joss Gillet’s guide to business, The Customer Affinity Manifesto: How AI can Help Businesses Connect with Customer Emotions, brings into conversation the need to incorporate artificial intelligence (AI) into brand building. Before all else, Gillet details two home truths, 1) AI is not going anywhere and 2) your business is not going anywhere without it. (The phrase “suck it up and move on” springs to mind.)

That said, Gillet is equally keen to not let AI become seen as a digital enemy, if anything in many cases throughout recent history he cites many examples of where AI systems have benefited improvements in marketing and how, before then, psychology experimentation was mimicking a lot of what we see today, be it on a much more labour-intensive scale. From telephone response times to the words and colours on a digital app, a better understanding of customer frustrations can lead to better targeted improvements. Happy customers equals happy economic growth.

Using his previous experience in the Telecommuncations sector to build a case study, Gillet identifies sixteen specific pain points (or ‘topics’) where customers feel particular disillusionment with their provider’s service. Gillet then presents the case that anyone can use deep learning to build a simple AI model to utilise freely accessible data on social media platforms, such as Twitter, to produce highly effective data charts and sentiment scores. Later on, there contains more detail about how business can implement effective AI, without needing to rely on the brand popularity of 10,000+ Tweet mentions a day.

Gillet’s book is well researched, well put together and visually is very engaging (the use of clearly explained graphs being welcomed sight). Granted, this would perhaps not be the best birthday present for someone selling the occasional bead necklace on Etsy, but for the truly aspirational, those who want to grow their business and stay ahead of the increasingly steep and bloody curve of customer satisfaction, this book is a must.

AEB Reviews

Links:

Reedsy Discovery Review: AEB Reviews – “The Customer Affinity Manifesto”

Purchase Link: “The Customer Affinity Manifesto” by Joss Gillet (Amazon)

Author Website: https://jossgillet.com/

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Book Review: “The Ultimate Workbook to Train Your Brain, Body and Spirit” by Steven Clinch

Rating: 3 Stars

Headline: The only place where you can complete sudokus and hug trees: a little book of fun

Review:

The Ultimate Workbook to Train Your Brain, Body and Spirit by Steven Clinch is a neat little publication, at 129 pages there is by far more visual content in here than words (for context, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is around 77 thousand words in length, The Ultimate Workbook nears a modest 1000). It is a welcome relief from a lot of the denser material that exists in the market.

This publication provides the reader with 150 different exercises to conduct at their own pace. Activities include colouring in, wordsearches and short exercise routines, all of which are intended to trigger feelings of relaxation or deep thought as the reader is given the opportunity to pick (and subsequently tick off) the activities they’ve completed. For those needing a bit more guidance, answers to the puzzle activities are provided towards the back.

Be it sudoku or crosswords or even wordsearches, for a indecisive person like me I like the variation in activity and puzzle. I could pick and choose an activity based on how much time I had or how I was feeling on a particular day. I tended to reserve the ethical dilemma questions for when I had the most time and use the brain teasers as a bit of fun when spending time with friends and family. In this sense the book is perfect across a broad range of age groups.

The cover’s intense and dark imagery is easy to misconstrue, I had to take a second glance before recognising this as being aimed toward mental stimulation rather than physical. The solutions on the final pages have not taken into consideration accessibility – my eyesight is perfectly fine but I still found myself struggling to read some of the answers and I am not convinced the author should be making bold statements. Claiming the completion of the activities will create more brain neurons and therefore result in to a longer and happier life? The colouring lead to a happier half hour, let’s start there.

AEB Reviews

Links

Original Reedsy Discovery review: AEB Reviws – “The Ultimate Workbook”

Purchase link: “The Ultimate Workbook” (Amazon)

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Book Review: “Doorways to Transformation” by Karen Kinney

Rating: 4 Stars

Headline: Offering bite-sized ways to make significant improvements, this is perfect self-help for creatives, big and small

Review:

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.

AEB Reviews

Links:

Reedsy Discovery review: (AEB Reviews) “Doorways to Transformation” by Karen Kinney

Purchase Link: “Doorways to Transformation” (Amazon)

Author website: https://karenkinney.com/

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Book Review: “NOW IS NEW: Stop Struggling. Start Living.”

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

Review:

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.

AEB Reviews

Links:

Reedsy Discovery Review: Now is New (AEB Reviews)

Purchase Link: Now is New

Author page: https://www.nowisnew.co.uk/

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