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Book Reviews

February 2018 Book Reviews



Story Sparks


  • Writer's block. Again. And the muse of motivation is on vacation. Again.
  • The whine of the critical voice: Is this story good enough?
  • 100 pages in and I'm stuck. Now what?

These are just a few of the challenges facing creative writers today. There's good news in Story Sparks: Finding Your Best Story Ideas & Turning Them into Compelling Fiction by Denise Jaden. Many creative writing books cover the mechanics of writing a novel; Story Sparks helps writers find a great story idea before writing hundreds of pages.

Anyone who has been hamster-wheeling a story idea for years or has hundreds of pages exploring various approaches on their hard drive knows there must be a better way. There is. Successful young adult novelist Denise Jaden shows exactly how to create the captivating stories that prevent dispiriting wasted time. Busting the "visitation from the muses" myth, she shows that inspiration is a skill that can be learned by understanding how story ideas work (or don't), fertilizing the ground for fresh and sound ideas, and moving swiftly through stuck points. Practical and inspiring, Jaden's approach celebrates the imaginative sparks that make innovations of all kinds possible while pinpointing the precise tools writers need to fan their unique creative flames.

Jaden shares, "I think the idea that everyone has a story in them is universal. I speak with many people who say, "I could never write a book," but when I start to delve into their lives and the possibilities for stories within them, something lights up." The truth is, finding great story ideas does not have to be a gift or a talent grown from birth. It is a skill, and it can be learned.
In Story Sparks, you will ...

  • Learn how and why stories resonate with us
  • Discover new and fun ways to come up with story ideas
  • Get help in choosing from ideas and then following through with them
  • Troubleshoot ideas for potential pitfalls
  • Find a lengthy appendix of ideas for getting unstuck

About the Author: Denise Jaden, author of Story Sparks and Fast Fiction, fast-drafted her debut novel, Losing Faith (Simon Schuster), in twenty-one days during National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Her second fast-drafted novel was published in 2012. She runs a fast­drafting challenge on her blog each March and lives outside Vancouver, BC, Canada. Her website is: www.denisejaden.com.

Story Sparks by Denise Jaden
  • 184 pages
  • $14.95
  • 978-1-60868-509-7
  • Release from New World Library





The Only Life I Could Save

Katherine thought she knew it all when it came to addiction and recovery. By 2001, she had over 20 years of hard-earned experience and had written over 10 books on the subject. But then the day came when addiction entered her own home, and she quickly realized that she really didn't know a damn thing.

"Ben is not addicted, I keep reminding myself. I would be able to see it, even in its early stages. I know what addiction looks like."

Like most parents, Katherine Ketcham never imagined she'd need to have an intervention with her child. She was an expert on the subject, knew the cautionary signs, and even led treatment and recovery groups at her local Juvenile Justice Center in Washington State.

But then, in 2001, the call came from the middle school principal. Katherine's 12-year-old son, Ben, had been found with drugs in his possession. And just like that, her world was flipped upside down, She soon recognized that so much of what she'd learned about addiction no longer applied. "And then the battle came to me, engulfing my family in an agony of helplessness, fear, and threatening to take everything good, strong, and kind from the son I love more than life itself. In those ditches, though, in the muck and the mud and the horror of it all, I learned the most important lessons of all about honesty, humility, hope, faith, gratitude, and forgiveness."

It's through Katherine's breathtaking gift of storytelling that we experience firsthand some of her darkest, most vulnerable, most painful life moments as a mother. Poignant, raw, and yet, ultimately uplifting, The Only Life I Could Save: A Memoir is an intimate look at addiction through the eyes of an expert who must let go of what she thought she knew and learn to confront her son's battle in the way only a mother can.

About the Author: Katherine Ketcham has been writing nonfiction books for over 30 years and has co-authored 16 books-10 of which are on the subject of addiction and recovery. She co-wrote the New York Times bestseller, Broken, by William C. Moyers. Her books have been published in 16 languages. Ketcham has led treatment and recovery efforts at the Walla Walla Juvenile Justice Center, and in 2002 she founded Trilogy Recovery Community. She lives in Washington State. For more information, visit katherineketchambooks.com

The Only Life I Could Save by Katherine Ketcham
  •  240 pages
  •  $21.95
  •  978-1-62203-977-7 (April 2018 release)
  •  Release from Sounds True World Library




Perceptual Intelligence

With the rare combination of lucid verve and solid scientific grounding evocative of Oliver Sacks or Malcolm Gladwell, Dr. Brian Boxer Wachler guides readers on a fascinating tour of the bedrock of our existence the way our senses perceive everything and everyone in the world around us.

Dr. Brian (as he's known to his patients) has pioneered treatments in vision correction, has published more than 100 scientific, peer-reviewed journal papers and book chapters, and is the first choice of many doctors for their own eye treatment. In this book he offers a fascinating, accessible description of how we see what we see and why this affects every aspect of our lives.

Montel Williams, whose MS (multiple sclerosis) was misdiagnosed for years, has provided a foreword and shares: "Dr. Brian has done a masterly job of exploring the underpinnings of human perception, along the way helping us understand our motivations and behavior." He goes on to say that "Dr. Brian has taught me a lot about illness perception and why maintaining a positive outlook is critical to effective treatment and eventual outcome."

This is just one of the areas Dr. Brian addresses. As a surgeon and ophthalmologist who has devoted his career to the field of vision correction, he is fascinated by the connections among our five senses - sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch - and how our brains register and interpret them to distinguish reality from illusion.

Defining Perceptual Intelligence (PI) as how we interpret and occasionally manipulate our experiences to distinguish fantasy from reality, he explains that PI relies heavily on our senses and instincts, but it is frequently influenced and distorted by our emotions and memories. As with other forms of intelligence, some people have higher PI than others, but PI can be improved with both awareness and practice and can be used to make desired changes in our lives.

Exploring the brain's ability to interpret and make sense of the world, he explains, with concrete examples and case studies, why our senses do not always match reality, and how we can influence the world around us through perceptions, inward and outward. Dr. Brian is prepared to talk to you about:

  • When the mind is healing us and when it's doing more harm than good (page 21)
  • Presidential PI off the rails: self-delusion and the high cost for those caught in the wake(s) (page 59)
  • Why some people see Jesus in their cornflakes, or the Virgin Mary in a grilled cheese sandwich (and are willing to pay $28K for said sandwich) (page 87)
  • Why we feel compelled to "return a favor" and how reciprocity hijacks our perceptions (page 99)
Perceptual Intelligence by Brian Boxer Wachler, MD

  • 280 pages  
  • $15.95
  • 978-1-60868-475-5
  • Release from New World Library




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