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: “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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A Christmas Exchange: The Most Wonderfully Low-Budget Film You’ll See This Year

I was flicking through the main streaming services, when I came across a television Christmas movie (the typically low-budget, “Hallmark” type). This one was called “A Christmas in London”.

(Although for reasons unexplained, the internet / outside the UK it’s called “A Christmas Exchange”, so let’s refer to it as that, or a “rip-off of The Holiday”.)

I went to watch the trailer online and was semi-instantly hooked.

This festive season, I’m going to share with you the tangled web of voice notes I bombarded my poor boyfriend with as I watched it in real time.

Couple of quick points: 1) editing this video took a stupid number of hours and 2) in trying to make this as accessible as possible, the closed caption tool I used…well it’s pants.

On that upbeat note, here you go!

I stand by all the comments made, other than the annoyance I forgot to verbally call out the shoddy scene setting and backdrops, including the montage that features this shot from “within the London Eye”.

And this other shot, within a phone booth:

There’s not even a phone in it! Good lord.

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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: “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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Book Review: “Picturing Freedom: African Americans & Their Cars, A Photographic History”

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

Review:

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.

AEB Reviews

Links

Reedsy Discovery Review: Picturing Freedom (AEB Reviews)

Purchase Link: Picturing Freedom: African Americans and Their Cars

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Five Minute Book Review: “Ways of Living” by Gemma Seltzer

Five minutes to type-up a quick review of a recent read. This time, I’m reviewing Seltzer’s collection of ten short stories in her anthology, “Ways of Living”.

Five Minute Book Review: “Ways of Living” by Gemma Seltzer

In this collection many of Seltzer’s short stories can be traced back to common, yet very relatable, themes. It feels quite apt that I’m writing this whilst buried deep in oversized lounge wear, cup of tea to my left. Isolation, personal loss, the constant readjustment of itchy face coverings; these aren’t always the most comfortable visualisations, but the ones we can readily embrace.

The anthology is set around working and living in London, drawing a lot on the author’s Jewish heritage and personal research within broad and diverse communities. Light humour peppers the emotional undertone of most stories, such was the case in Parched, with its protagonist who can’t stop crying, or the surreal tale of a woman who takes to believing her deceased mother is still alive and living in her coat (Some Women Carry Silence in their Pockets).

What Would You Have Said?, depicting the fallout of an enforced office policy of “Quiet Wednesdays” (with strong inklings of Blackmirror) and Handover, a tale about a friendship breakup, introduces some interesting topics for broader discussion. For instance why, in an age where people aren’t as geographically fixed as they used to be, doesn’t popular culture mourn the loss of friendships as much as romantic relationships? Maybe it’s a more generational problem as much as anything else.

These short stories were a nice quick-read during busy working days from home. A moment of urban escapism, within four magnolia walls.

AEB

(Author Website: http://www.gemmaseltzer.com/)

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Alice’s Book (Cover) of the Week #2

Again, as per the last one I shared, this too comes from an online forum.

Errrrrr…..

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