Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Cody Ody Dody: The Secret Laundry Helper by Marianna Marra



Summary via:
Dakota "CODY" Whitepaw, a beautiful, pure bred golden retriever is 9 years old. She loves to play ball, go for walks, get a bath and one more thing. . . In this book Cody uses her natural instincts to help James, Jessica, and Julia to solve a big mystery. The children have fun discovering just how smart Cody really is!

 Since our last hiatus we decided we would no longer review children's books but I had to make the exception for this one. Cody Ody Dody would be my first review of a children's work for Flying Off the Shelves so naturally, I said yes. 

Cody Ody Dody by Marianna Marra is an adorable story of an misadventure between the family pet and the children.  The story is simple and is centered around Cody, the family's golden retriever.  
The work is perfect for any beginner reader, or level 1, and the words are easy to read and understand. The work is short, sweet and to the point with a focus on the illustrations to help support the imagination.
Although the book appears finished there are two major flaws in the work.  It lacks a central theme which I believe is very vital to an early reader book and there is a small plot hole hindering the work itself. I firmly believe that children learn their most basic values from their parents or caretakers and those parents or caretakers teach these values early on in the books they whose to read with their children. Cody Ody Dody lacks a central theme, a lesson to be taken away by the end of the work.  What is the lesson the characters have learn and what should the reader acknowledge by the character's misadventure?
The other flaw is the plot hole tied to the conflict. It must be inferred by the end of the book by the reader that the dog has stolen the socks from the laundry but then reveals the location of the socks later.  While inference isn't a bad thing, an early reader cannot make inferences because his/her brain is not fully developed yet. If a scene or section was added to the book to sum of this issue it would only add to the book's value.
Overall, the book does offer a story about a cute and lovable dog that loves to play with his family.  Again, it is good for the first reader and the illustrations do help to aid the imagination and develop the story further. There is plenty of good to be had with Cody and would make an excellent main character for a lengthy series of novels surrounding his misadventures. Cody is lovable and sweet and his touch of mischief only adds to his personality. This work rates at a solid three and could be raised to a four if certain elements were added.

Reviewed by:  John Kompa

ISBN:  1479798479 

Friday, September 27, 2013

Review: The Four Agreements: A Toltec Wisdom Book by Don Miguel Ruiz

Summary:  In The Four Agreements Don Miquel Ruiz reveals the source of self-limiting beliefs that rob us of joy and create needless suffering.  Based on ancient Toltec wisdom, the Four Agreements offers powerful code of conduct that can rapidly transform our lives to a new experience of freedom, true happiness, and love.

Members of the church I have been frequenting have been ranting and raving about the wonders of this book so when I saw it in my library's for sale cart I jumped on the opportunity to learn about these fantastic four agreements.

I read page after page, marking section after section with my thoughts and for a while I tired to incorporate the "teachings" of the four agreements in my everyday life and dealings. About a week or so passed by before I had to stop and wonder if I was doing something wrong or that I was subconsciously fighting Ruiz's words - maybe I was doing both, who knows?  Eventually, I saw what Ruiz was saying: life is but a dream. This is a dangerous attitude to hold and whether or not the author believe this or intended to say this is unknown but his blind faith in these four agreements creates an atmosphere of apathy, selfishness and emotional surrealism. If the reader abides but these agreements he is guaranteed a blissfully happy existence whereas one only thinks of himself always and should not recognize how he can affect others. Yes, as humans, should aspire to feel happiness, take care of ourselves and not allow what others say or do affect us but not to the extreme of denying sorrow or sympathy or empathy. We cannot experience the day without the night.

This is a perfectly delusional guidebook for those who don't have to worry as to where their next meal will come from or if they have enough money to cover this month's rent. That isn't to say that there is nothing good worth mentioning from the author's text.  Without following Ruiz's convoluted examples but just following the the four agreements at their base root makes much more sense. In a moment we'll review the four agreements individually but first a word of warning to the reader.  Ruiz's examples contradict each other, fall into some form of fallacy named circular logic or are so convoluted it is difficult to derive sense from it all. For example, the author preaches that noting others do is a direct reflection of us. Ruiz writes " is that you have wounds that I touch by what I have said, you are hurting yourself."  Yes, on lighter terms, how they react to us is not a reflection upon us but how they see the world it is their choice as to how to react or not at all but the author said it himself:  "...wound that I touch". I may have a wound but you have touched it, prodded it with your own finger attached to your hand, your body, your mind. If someone stabs me as a reaction to something I did is not because I have allowed them to stab me or they secretly wish to be stabbed themselves.

As humans we do have the ability to affect others - we can choose to not react - but others can perform actions that are so grievous against our very beings that we must stand up and fight. A great example of this is the civil rights moments. One entity (the majority) sought to repress the rights and humanity of another entity (the minority) which then rose up to stand for what they believe in.  If the minority sat back and had not allowed the actions of the majority to not affect them because they must not take things personally the minority would cease to exist. Inaction or denial of how we affect others creates apathy and a false sense of person. Again, this is a perfect example of how the four agreements, as presented by Ruiz, is great for those who have their needs catered to. This is just another book to tell you everything is wrong and you need to believe the author's words over your own to correct your horrible living situation. Ruiz is just another fraud telling you how to live your life.  With a few minutes of research you would find that the Toltecs never existed, that they were just a fictional society invented by the natives of southern Mexico. If you do decide to read this book, use caution. Integrate what resonates with your soul and throw away the rest. 

The First Agreement:  Be Impeccable with your Word
According to the author, this is the most important of the four agreements and justly so.  All of the agreements are just spokes in the wheel. To be impeccable means to be without sin. Sin, although the author uses a different definition (one that does not make sense "anything you do which goes against yourself") is literally translated as "to miss the mark". Simply stated, don't say anything you don't mean. 
The Second Agreement:  Don't Take Anything Personally
Nothing others do is a reflection upon you but that doesn't mean you can affect others. The author has a point here, following this agreement we release ourselves from the trap called "personal importance". We are released from selfishness, supposedly. It is great to not be selfish but in its extreme, like the author seeks for his readers, we lose empathy and sympathy because we are no longer connected with the self. 
The Third Agreement:  Don't Make Assumptions
Not making assumptions gives others a chance to express themselves to us. The author is correct in saying that when we stop making assumptions we cease producing the "emotional poison" that slowly seeps into our veins. 
The Fourth Agreement:  Always Do Your Best
"Keep in mind that your best is never going to be the same from one moment to the next."
Here the author muddles his words. He says. " if you try too hard to do more than your best, you will spend more energy than is needed and in the end your best will not be enough."  Overdoing and striving to do your best are not dependent upon each other. Overdoing is repeating the same action while striving for your best is proving to yourself that you can always do better making "your best will become better than it used to be."  If you can do better than your best, isn't that your best?
Don Miguel Ruiz's The Four Agreements:  A Toltec Wisdom Book deserves no more than a two. It is preachy at best and at its worst, well it's pretty horrible.
Reviewed by: John Kompa
ISBN:  1-878424-31-9

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Review: The Storyteller By Sharon Tillotson

Summary via Amazon:
An ordinary human being finding her life purpose... With a little help from her soul...

Sarah is a Soul who is trying to guide Suzy along her path of rediscovering herself... Or is it redefining? Reinventing? Sarah thinks it might be better defined as remembering, but it's only Suzy who is concerned about the semantics. Sarah just wishes Suz would get on with it. A rather spirited Spirit, Sarah often finds herself rolling her eyes at Suzy's antics and the walls she has built up following the death of her husband. Sarah knows the body/mind/spirit energy who is currently housed in the human called Suzy has faced far more difficult challenges than the one she chose for this reincarnation. Storyteller is the most common role this body/mind/spirit has chosen for its human lives and Sarah chooses to tell the story of Suzy's spiritual awakening as it unfolds, interweaving compelling stories of past lives and how these individual energies accomplished their shifts in awareness.

There are three such interwoven stories beginning in 10,000 BC in Eastern Europe where a young apprentice storyteller named Luza is thrust into her awakening by the death of her mentor/shaman and a natural catastrophe.

The next story Sarah reveals takes us to 5000 BC and the American Southwest, into the life of Chu-Tze, a healer who milks snakes to aid in her treatment of children. Chu-Tze must overcome the unbearable loss of her husband and children and find a way to the ultimate forgiveness.

Sarah then tells the tale of Zhumbee, a prince in East Africa at the time of Jesus. Zhumbee's grandmother takes the prince on a journey to meet this mysterious prophet whose words he holds in his heart as he leads his city-state to its glory.

Suzy's journey takes the reader from the lush shores of Seattle to the deepest heart of Africa where humanity is said to have made its first appearance.

Quick Note:
Please keep in mind this review mainly covers the main story line rather than the three interwoven short stories. While I didn't care for the main story line, I greatly enjoyed the short stories.

The Storyteller is a new age tale about a middle aged woman seeking enlightenment through the trials placed before her. The protagonist, Suzy is a comfortably well off woman who lost her husband suddenly which triggers her to "rediscover" herself. What makes this book unique is its stretching of the first person point of view, Suzy is not the narrator, rather the story is told by her soul, Sarah. This view is both interesting and off putting. The reason I find this off putting is that although Suzy is herself, Sarah is her as well. What makes this even more confusing is that Suzy refers to her own soul as Sarah rather than as herself. Personally, my soul is me not separate from me so I wouldn't see it as separate from myself and I also wouldn't refer to it by another name. Once one gets past this disjointed concept, the view is very interesting. Sarah is experiencing Suzy's life along with her and they both share their differing thoughts throughout the story.

As we are reading about Suzy's story we get to read about her past lives through Sarah. Sarah interjects these to explain different concepts that Suzy is revisiting in her current incarnation. While these interjected stories are interesting and the motifs are mostly thematically correct, they cause a jump in view that derails Suzy's story. After the first story, Suzy's story barely recovers and before too long you have the second story. By the time I hit the third story, I didn't want to hear anymore from Suzy about her new age principles or love life. Overall the short stories were more interesting to me than the overarching story line. I think the author would have been better off releasing these as short stories rather than interjecting them into this book.

Suzy's story really only deserves a brief mention and thus that is all it will get. Her story was interesting in its span as she did travel from Seattle to the African bush but most of her "trials" seemed stilted and staged. Her characterization was flat and did not inspire me to sympathize with her after the first half of the book. I did however sympathize with the characters in the short stories as they felt more realistic. Her love life is a mess of on again off again relationships because she can't decide if she is into the men in her life or not.

What made this book impossible for me to finish (and I tried to force myself) were the huge errors in the continuity, poor grammar, flat characterization, slow pacing, and the disjointed storytelling. As far as I can understand the author, Sharon Tillotson was trying to convey as many new age concepts as she could while still telling a story. This made me not only disinterested, it annoyed me. I finally couldn't read anymore after finishing up to 85 percent of the book (according to my kindle). So this book rates a DNF for Did Not Finish because I didn't just lose interest. However if Ms. Tillotson were to release her short stories separately I would recommend those but they aren't worth the 5.95 this book is selling for on Amazon. If you do see the short stories released in the future check them out they were very enjoyable.

Reviewed by: Beth Negri