Reviews by Elisa Claassen



Learning to Breathe: My Yearlong Quest to Bring Calm to My Life
by Priscilla Warner

Birth is suffering, aging is suffering, sickness is suffering, dissociation from the loved is suffering, not to get what one wants is suffering.” First Noble Truth of Buddha.

You would think “breathing” would be easy. Not for many of us. Since I have been stressed, caring for a senior mom with bouts of dementia, I gravitated toward this title. The author also has a mother who is in the throes of dementia and who has struggled with anxiety and panic attacks since her youth, which had left her breathless on and off for 40 years. After adopting a mantra of “Neurotic, heal thyself,” she sets out to find ways to reduce her stress and enjoy life more in the course of a year. The so-called “self-discovery” sub-genre seems to be popular, as many are seeking to find themselves or better their lives in different ways. Warner plays Tibetan singing bowls, seeks or tries Buddhist meditation teachers, joy therapy, eye movement therapy, ways to ground herself, massage and Trager therapy, gratitude, Somatic Experience therapy, smiling at fear, yoga, and breathing exercises. By the end of her year, she ends with “Slow down and be quiet” and “Try to be kind.” Slowing is not easy in a world obsessed with getting places faster, eating faster, and getting to goals faster, but in her case, she has benefited from a lot more peace and fewer medications.

The Billionaire’s Curse (The Archer Legacy: Book One)
by Richard Newsome

“Hello, Gerald. I hope this isn’t too weird for you—a letter from beyond the grave! By now you are my heir and worth a good deal of money. I hope you don’t mind. I have a favor to ask…So I expect you’ve figured out that I was murdered. I want you to find out who did it.”

One minute 13-year-old Gerald is daydreaming of adventures while in class; the next he is living adventures as the heir to one of the world’s vast fortunes from an aunt he had never met. I discovered Book One of the Archer Legacy from an annual sale of children’s literature from our local university. Richard Newsome’s debut novel came about after telling stories to his own three children and then won the Text Publishing inaugural Young Adult Writing Prize. To research the three stories, he got on a plane and traveled beyond where his imagination would take him (something many of us wouldn’t mind doing as well). The protagonist, Gerald, has a new life that includes 20 billion pounds, castles, aircraft, servants, sidekicks, an unknown family heritage, and danger. I found myself envisioning a castle or two myself.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking
by Susan Cain

Citizenship, Duty, Work, Golden deeds, Honor, Reputation, Morals, Manners, Integrity….Magnetic, Fascinating, Stunning, Attractive, Glowing, Dominant, Forceful, Energetic.  (Character traits to be embraced by Orison Sweet Marden in Character: The Grandest Thing in the World by Dale Carnegie).

Cain, a negotiation consultancy trainer, is fascinated by our fascination of extroverts, something she calls the “Extrovert Ideal.” I was walking through the library and the title caught my eye. When posting on my Facebook page, I found this unlikely topic (for me) for a book was quite popular and well-read. Starting her mix of narrative and research with a look at the late Rosa Parks, she points out that the famous civil rights activist was actually soft-spoken, sweet, small, timid, and shy. She isn’t alone, as many leaders aren’t classic examples of extroverts. In her varied research, Cain finds herself jumping up and down, dancing and yelling with Tony Robbins leading the masses toward being top salespeople.  In her chapters, she examines the influence of Dale Carnegie and his classes, advertising to the masses, toastmasters and civic groups, evangelical leaders in the church, Harvard Business School, and other institutions of higher learning, politicians, and other sectors.

The Marriage Trap
by Jennifer Probst

“He was falling in love with her.
At the same time, she scared the crap out of him. Maggie wasn’t the woman he’d ever imagined spending his life with. She twisted everything inside him until he vibrated at a high pitch….”

It had been at least a decade since I had picked up anything that resembled a Harlequin romance novel, and I’ve found from romance writer friends that there are now countless sub-genres of the romance story. While elements of the “classic” template are still there—gorgeous sexy leads in glamorous locations (versus dumpy, middle-aged, everyday people at the neighbourhood 7-11 shop buying beer)—Maggie, a photojournalist of male underwear models is self-made, has her own fortune, and is vastly more independent than I had remembered from past excursions into this genre. The story: Billionaire (apparently being a mere millionaire is simply too commonplace now) Michael needs a pretend wife so that his younger sister may be permitted to marry. Now—how to convince his family it’s real without having to really go through with it? Problem: What if they end up liking each other—for real?

Reviews by Elisa Claassen