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Sunday, November 30, 2014

Unlocking Potential

Unlocking Potential: 7 Coaching Skills That Transform Individuals, Teams, and OrganizationsUnlocking Potential: 7 Coaching Skills That Transform Individuals, Teams, and Organizations by Michael Simpson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received a free copy of this book from 12 Books Group in exchange for this revies.

This book is about coaching. When most people think of coaching, they think of sports. This can be a useful analogy to what business coaching does. In sports, the coach draws up the plays, analyzes strengths and weaknesses of the other teams, and calls the plays from the sideline or bench. The coach also supervises workout drills, and helps players improve their strengths and fix their weaknesses. The coach can't actually do the workout, or run the plays; the coach has to rely on the players to do that.

The business coach does many of the same things. The coach can provide guidance, analyze strengths and weaknesses, and draw up a general plan for improvement. The business coach can't actually do what's on the plan, that's up to the individual or business being coached. The author says that the current generation of workers doesn't want to be micromanaged; I know I don't. They want to be given a project, given a deadline, and left alone to finish the job. This is similar to their experience in college. The professor gives the assignment, or schedules the exam, and leaves it to the student to figure out how to get it done. They can either plan it out over several weeks, or cram and finish it the night before. As long as the work is done on time, the professor doesn't care.

The author provides what he sees as the 4 principles of coaching: Trust, Potential, Commitment, and Execution. His 7 Coaching Skills, as mentioned in the subtitle, are these: Build Trust, Challenge Paradigms, Seek Strategic Clarity, Execute Flawlessly, Give Effective Feedback, Tap Into Talent, and Move the Middle. He goes into detail about what questions to ask, and uses examples from his own experience to illustrate them.

I've read other books like this, and they tend to devolve into what I call "corporatespeak", with all kinds of buzzwords that don't mean anything. Sometimes they're accompanied by diagrams, many of which don't make any sense. They also give a lot of ideals that are supposed to turn things around, but the procedures are almost impossible to implement. The author avoids this for the most part. He keeps the diagrams to a minimum, and explains things in real world terms. He makes it clear that it's up to the employees to make the change.

The one thing I would have appreciated is a website. He gives examples of various forms in the book. Many of these books have a website to download the forms for use in the organization. I didn't see that here.

All in all, a good book on coaching. In sports, if the team doesn't perform well, the coach is fired. The same can happen in business coaching.

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Braving Fate

Braving Fate (The Mythean Arcana, #1)Braving Fate by Linsey Hall
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for this review.

Note: This book is recommended only for readers 18 and older.

This is the first book by author Linsey Hall. She writes of a world where supernatural beings, called Mytheans, keep the peace between this world and the supernatural. As the book opens, Cadan, one of the guardians, is informed that the spirit of Boudica is being reincarnated. Boudica was a 1st-century Celtic warrior. She led an army that fought the Roman invasion, and nearly won. In the book, Cadan was her husband back in the 1st century. In the US, Diana is a professor of history. She is attacked by a demon, and easily defeats it, much easier than she should have been able to. She then sees a tattoo on her arm of Edinburgh, in Scotland. When she gets there, she meets Cadan, who has been assigned to be her guardian, and who also knows that Diana is the reincarnation of Boudica. Cadan takes her to Immortal University, where guardians work to keep the peace. Diana has to train to fight the mission that brought her back, even though it could lead to her death. I won't say any more, because I don't want to give

This was an entertaining book. Immortal University is based on Hogwarts from Harry Potter. There are even a few references to this in the novel. The relationship between Cadan and Diana is described in very graphic detail. (that's why I put the 18 and older recommendation at the top of the review.) The novel didn't say anything, but the choice of Diana for the reincarnation of Boudica was very appropriate. Diana was the Roman goddess of the hunt, which the book's Diana had to do to complete the mission. Diana was also the name of Wonder Woman, and the book's Diana had to do a lot of physical stunts, although she didn't have a magic lasso or bulletproof bracelets. The action kept me involved. The plot twists were good, and kept me guessing about most things right up to the very end. Like most romantic novels, though, I could figure out the relationship between Cadan and Diana early on. All in all, a good book. She has 3 more in the series coming out. I look forward to reading them.

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Friday, November 28, 2014

"Fishy" Business; My Life as a Mermaid

"Fishy" Business: My Life as a Mermaid by Raina Mermaid
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Raina's second book. This one focuses on her personal story since the publication of her first book. She starts with a party she she was working. Things were going somewhat well, when she noticed some kids hanging on her sister, Mermaid Ama. No parents were watching. It threatened to be a bad situation. Fortunately, there were no major injuries, but she did get the idea for a booking agreement, to prevent this from happening again. She is quite candid about her struggles, both business and personal. She started the year with a mountain of debt from college, and some severe physical problems. She has previously stated that she was born prematurely, which may have contributed to her health issues. She also says that being in the water is one thing that consistently helps her pain. She discusses all of the friends she made (although she uses initials instead of names for some of them, I assume for privacy reasons). She also discusses her presentation at NCMerfest in January 2014. She's quite candid about everything. She talks about her decision to quit her day job and be a full-time mermaid. It was a very risky decision. She also talks about getting serious with her business.

This book shows that the business is not always smooth sailing. There will be challenges, and times when things go wrong. It's not just slipping on a mermaid tail and showing up. It also, though, shows that anyone can be a professional mermaid. If someone like Raina can make it, so can you. All in all, a good book.

Update since publication: Since this book was published, Raina has had some changes in her life. In the book, she talks about adopting a cat, Chicklet. She now has a second cat, Charlie. She is now an After School Age Educator at Needham Rec Centre in Halifax.

Purchase link for the book:

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Wednesday, November 26, 2014



I just finished 50,000 words of my novel today! I still have to polish it before it's ready for publication, but this is just a great accomplishment.

For more information, like this page on Facebook:

Photo: Mockup cover. Not final yet. I'm open to suggestions.

Friday, November 14, 2014

The Color of the Season

Thank you for joining us for The Color of the Season Review Tour, with Julianne MacLean and Wordsmith Publicity! Visit the tour homepage to follow all the participating blogs.

Title: The Color of the Season (Color of Heaven #7) Author: Julianne MacLean Age: Adult Genre: Contemporary Women's Fiction Goodreads:

From USA Today bestselling author Julianne MacLean comes the next installment in her popular Color of Heaven series - a gripping, emotional tale about real life magic that touches us all during the holiday season… Boston cop, Josh Wallace, is having the worst day of his life. First, he’s dumped by the woman he was about to propose to, then everything goes downhill from there when he is shot in the line of duty. While recovering in the hospital, he can’t seem to forget the woman he wanted to marry, nor can he make sense of the vivid images that flashed before his eyes when he was wounded on the job. Soon, everything he once believed about his life begins to shift when he meets Leah James, an enigmatic resident doctor who somehow holds the key to both his past and his future…
 ** This is book 7 in the Color of Heaven series, but can be read as a stand alone. ** 

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The Color of the Season (The Color of Heaven Series Book 7)The Color of the Season by Julianne MacLean
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is part of The Color of Heaven series. They are more of the heartwarming romance novels than steamy bodice-rippers.

In this book, we meet Josh, a Boston police officer who has just had his girlfriend break up with him. She found someone else. While on patrol that night, he gets into a shootout with a drug dealer who carjacked a van. Josh nearly dies. He is rushed to the operating table, and begins to experience himself floating out of his body, watching his surgery. He flashes back to his childhood friends Riley and his sister Leah. He is also there when Riley's sister Holly is born. Then he comes back to reality--or is it?

I don't want to give too much else away, because of spoilers. The scenes in the operating room where Josh is floating above his body reminded me of Heaven Is For Real. I'm not familiar with near death experiences, but this sounds very real to me. The narration goes from Josh to Holly in the middle of the book, which at first I found disorienting, but then I got used to it. When it switched back to Josh at the end, I was somewhat prepared for it. It does raise the question, are near-death experiences real? If they are, why do we come back. Parts of this also reminded me of The Sixth Sense ("I see dead people.") She's writing a sequel to this book called The Color of Joy, to be published in February 2015. I look forward to it.

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About Julianne MacLean 

Julianne MacLean is a USA Today bestselling author who has sold more than 1.3 million books in North America, and her novels have also been translated into many foreign languages, including Spanish, German, Portugese, French, Japanese, Turkish, Russian, and Dutch. She has written twenty historical romance novels, including the bestselling Highlander Trilogy with St. Martin's Press and her popular Pembroke Palace Series with Avon/Harper Collins. She also writes contemporary mainstream fiction, and THE COLOR OF HEAVEN was a USA Today bestseller. She is a three-time RITA finalist and has won numerous awards, including the Booksellers' Best Award, the Book Buyers Best Award, and a Reviewers' Choice Award from Romantic Times for Best Regency Historical of 2005. She has a degree in English Literature from the University of King’s College in Halifax, and a degree in Business Administration from Acadia University. She lives in Nova Scotia with her husband and daughter, and is a dedicated member of Romance Writers of Atlantic Canada.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

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Monday, November 10, 2014

Stage Fright on a Summer Night

Stage Fright on a Summer Night (Magic Tree House, #25)Stage Fright on a Summer Night by Mary Pope Osborne
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a review.

This is a kids' book, so it's not my usual reading material. I can only guess the ages this book is intended for by the ages of the main characters. Jack is 8 and his sister Annie is 7. This is part of the Magic Tree House series, book 25. Jack and Annie find a magical treehouse full of books. All they have to do is point to the book, and they go there. In this book, they go back to Elizabethan England, where they meet William Shakespeare himself. They have to help him with his production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, by taking the parts of 2 fairies. They also try to save a bear from having to fight for sport. Jack has to battle stage fright, and they also meet Queen Elizabeth I. Everything works out in the end, and Jack and Annie go back home, with no time passing.

Obviously, I'm not a 7 or 8 year old kid, so I don't know exactly how they'd react. I can only give you my reaction. The author does a good job of recreating Elizabethan England, simplified for kids. She doesn't shy away from the negative aspects, including the smell of that time, and the bear fighting. She includes some facts at the end to anchor the story in real life. The plot was simplified, but it carried well. All in all, a good book.

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Sunday, November 9, 2014

The Food of Love--Concert by the Rochester Choral Arts Ensemble and Great River Shakespeare Festival in Winona, MN


Rating: 5 of 5 stars

"If music be the food of love, play on."--William Shakespeare, 12th Night, Act I, Scene 1.

This quote from Shakespeare's 12th Night was the theme of the concert this afternoon, a collaboration between the Rochester Choral Arts Ensemble in Rochester, MN,  and the Great River Shakespeare Festival in Winona, MN. The concert was at Central Lutheran Church in Winona. In the 400 years since Shakespeare wrote his plays, many composers have set his words to music. Some of those may have been for Shakespeare's performances. Today's concert was a performance of some of this music, combined with dramatic readings from the Shakespeare plays the lyrics came from. i don't know if it's been done elsewhere, but it was the first time here.

The concert started out with two of Shakespeare's sonnets, then into As You Like It. There were two settings of Blow, Blow Thou Winter Wind, which was especially appropriate today. (There is a winter storm watch for this part of Minnesota through Tuesday. It won't be long before Minnesota looks like Disney's Frozen. I keep expecting Olaf the snowman to come out and ask, "Do you need a hug?" But I digress.) The next selections were Under the Greenwood Tree and A Lover and His Lass, also from As You Like It. The next selections were from the Tempest, Macbeth, and A Midsummer Night's Dream. (By the way, I wonder about that superstition about Macbeth being bad luck. The performance tonight was from the play, and the song Double, Double, Toil and Trouble, and nothing happened. The theater didn't collapse or catch fire, and no one got seriously hurt. Maybe that superstition is nothing.) The performance concluded with a selection from Much Ado About Nothing, which will be performed by the Festival in 2015.

I sing in choral groups myself, and have for many years. It was actually nice to sit and watch a concert from the audience. I know the work they put in, because I've done it myself. The choir was excellent. One of the hardest things to do is to stay in tune on a capella songs. They did well, although on some of the 20th century songs, I couldn't tell what in tune was. They were intentionally dissonant, with some of the songs dividing into 11 parts. They have obviously put a lot of work into this, and it showed. At the end of Double Double, Toil and Trouble, the song called for them to shut their folders together. They were actually able to do it. I know I'd have problems with that. One of the songs was John Rutter's Blow, Blow, Thou Winter Wind. When I heard this, I remembered performing it at a high school choral festival. It still had the same wintry feeling that it did back then, and the chorus did a great job of bringing that to life.

Special shoutouts to Doug Scholz-Carlson and Tarah Flanagan from the Festival, who performed the Shakespeare readings. One great thing about Shakespeare is the you don't need a lot of staging to perform it. The words themselves carry the action. They did an excellent job bringing life to Shakespeare's words. Even though they were in formal wear, you could picture them in the forest in As You Like It, or contemplating Duncan's murder in Macbeth. (Special note to Doug Scholz-Carlson for his singing solo on one arrangement of Blow, Blow, Thou Winter Wind. It's an arrangement that written for him by Dan Kallman, and was first performed when the Festival performed As You Like It.)

All in all, a great concert. On one of the chorus's CDs. there was a song called If Music Be the Food of Love, Play On. This would be a great song for next year. (Hint, hint.)