Book Review: 14 Steps to Happiness, by Kristian Hall

Having suffered from depression and anxiety myself, I was very interested in this book. It lays out a step by step program with summaries at the end on how to cure yourself of this disease along with very informative discussions on how our emotional health is related to the mechanics of the brain and the body.

It’s an easy read with a personal touch. The summaries are great to go back and read when there’s no time to go through a chapter again. Sometimes I found it to be a little repetitive, but that is probably necessary to make information stick. Learning about the author’s own trials and miseries makes it almost feel like you are talking with a friend, which is more encouraging than a conversation with a complete stranger to whom you are just a paycheck, and whose office you leave feeling like you got nothing. After all, we learn more from our peers than anyone else, right? Moreover, his desire to help others suffering from depression is free of the arrogance and judgmental attitudes found in so many, and rings true.

The most important advice, I thought, was the one to take baby steps to recovery. Growing up with an overachieving parent who expected everything to be perfect right away, I can attest to the fact that that approach fails. I was also excited to read the “Eat Yourself Happy” chapter, because I turn to ice cream when I’m feeling sad. But alas his advice followed that of other health experts and left out my favorite tranquilizer from the list of foods that help depression!

14 Steps to Happiness, by Kristian Hall


Book Review: Out of the Madhouse and into The Doghouse by Mary Markstrom

Mary Markstrom is in her fifties and has had it with her unrewarding, often punishing job as a social worker. She sells her place in England, buys an old, beat-up, vintage caravan and leaves for Spain to start a new life.

While I admire the courage of this woman and wish I had it myself (!), I would not have taken the questionable character named Max with me. She hasn’t known him that long and he seems more interested in her money than he should be. But who wants to do something like this alone?

A wild ride of ups and downs, some funny, and some positively disastrous, eventually leads her to a fulfilling career in taking care of dogs.

An easy and fast read, the book is full of gorgeous descriptions crafted with imagination, sometimes with words one would not expect but which worked perfectly, and often with humor.

I would have liked to have seen longer, better planned chapters with a bit more defined beginnings, endings and transitions. They were very short, no more than a page each, and often jumped from one topic to another in a manner which felt disjointed and abrupt to me. But I soon got caught up in the writing and descriptions again.

All in all, a fun read!

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

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Abigail cover

That night I woke up suddenly with my heart racing, sweat pouring down my neck. The feeling that something was not right throbbed in every pore of my skin, every cell in my body. My eyes tried in vain to adjust, to distinguish shapes in the room, but gone were the usual glow coming through the windows, the fire in the hearth. It was pitch black. I rose, disoriented. What on earth was happening? The wood floor felt frozen on the soles of my feet, and I groped around for my slippers and robe and hurriedly put them on.

Suddenly, a wild slamming, clattering, and banging erupted from somewhere.

It sounded as though it came from the room next to mine, but there was no room there. On one side was the back garden, and on the other side was the servants’ staircase. I whirled around, bewildered, as the house began to sway, creak and groan, and the sounds of heavy objects thudding against walls and windows being smashed ripped through the walls. There was a roar that made my blood curdle. It was the sound of someone trapped in torment. And rage. It sliced through me, burning, searing, and all the while the roaring went on and on.

Abruptly, all the sounds ceased, and a deathly silence swelled in the room, followed by the faint sound of a woman keening. My eyes frantically searched the dark, but I could see nothing. The sound became louder and louder until it turned into a deafening wail that rang and quivered in my ears, my heart, my limbs. I covered my ears and squeezed my eyes shut, then opened them and gasped.

My childhood tutor, Miss Wilkins stood in front of me.

Lit by an eerie glow in the blackness, she held out her hand, eyes beseeching, and kept moaning and wailing. A scream rose in my throat, and I opened my mouth to let it out. But it gurgled and spewed, making me gag. Feeling as though I were drowning in my own spit, I lurched towards the bedroom door and found the handle. The wailing behind me became even more intense, as though in protest at my leaving, as I yanked the door open and stumbled into what should have been my study. But it was the hallway. The study had disappeared as though it had never existed. I staggered through the hallway toward where I hoped the kitchen would be…and ran headlong into a figure in the dark. Now the scream broke out of my throat and I struggled furiously as I felt someone’s hands grip my shoulders…


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“I know not all that may be coming, but be it what it will, I’ll go to it laughing.” ― Herman Melville

moby dick

In Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, Ahab, the captain of a whaling vessel, is obsessed with a gargantuan white sperm whale that took his leg. Hopelessly entangled in that obsession, he loses regard for all other life, including his men, his family, and himself. He has to get that whale. Kill it, conquer it…or maybe he wants to be a part of it.

To many people it’s madness, the term used to the ones who have said, “to hell with society, civilization, to hell with man made rules.” They are called mad because they defy majority opinion, the limitations placed on behavior and thought designed to keep a level of control over communities. And while those limitations are understandable…after all, we can’t have people doing whatever they want to the detriment of the whole…is there anyone who hasn’t thought now and then, “to hell with it all?”

Every now and then we see someone, perhaps an artist, perhaps a whaler, who says, “this is not doing it for me.” The vastness of existence looms before them, beckoning, hypnotizing, and everything thing else is laid bare in its meaninglessness. They want to look deeper, further, and challenge, explore, understand, and grow past what life offers.

That sense of challenge is what possesses Ahab as he chases, smiling, after something that seems unconquerable. To surrender control of life and be swept away on a wave of the unknown – isn’t that why people go on roller coaster rides? To experience for a brief moment the not knowing of what is coming next, and not caring; that madness is exhilarating. Of course, those who go on roller coasters feel safe in the knowledge that they will most likely come back down and resume life as they know it. Most likely.

To Captain Ahab, that gigantic white whale is the very incarnation of the boundlessness of the universe, of everything untouchable that throbs and pulses around us. He wants to conquer the unconquerable, one might say, or maybe he is just fed up with the pettiness of life around him, and wants to be a part of something bigger and more powerful. He knows full well he will not survive and goes to it laughing.

There are those who say his complete disregard for the lives of the sailors and their families is unconscionable and selfish, etc., etc. But the very first time Ahab encounters the whale, he catches a glimpse of the enormity of the whole picture. And there is no return. It’s undefinable, which is what beckons us, the artists, writers, spiritualists. physicists. We are all looking for a bigger meaning.

Rumi says, “You are not a drop in the ocean. You are the entire ocean in a drop.” Perhaps this is what Ahab wants to touch in the end. The ocean within himself. For in that seemingly endless, powerful body of water, that giant whale is God.

It can be called madness, to be sure, in that moment, that place in time. But when we look at it in the framework of death, infinity, and with the underlying feeling that perhaps none of this is real, but just a dream that we will all waken from one day, is it madness?

In the end, we see him being dragged along the ocean by the whale, but he seems to be smiling…he’s finally free, free of the limitations of life, the narrow-mindedness, the limited vision and petty rules of society.

He’s one with the universe.


“This book seeps into your soul.” New Review of my book Owl Manor – the Dawning

Reviewed by: N.N. Light’s Book Heaven

There has possibly never been another book like this one. The author crafts a story in duality with the strident suffragist Eva – who seems to be at least sixty years ahead of her time, and with Rafe – the deranged yet calm when not fulminating murderer of ‘sinful’ women.  The book carries you through two tales that only begin to intersect halfway along.  The relationship between Eva and Rafe is one of the most complex ever created by an author.  You have a woman who has spent her life fighting for the right to be considered an equal and a man who has spent his life thinking all women are scheming and evil.

The twist is when Eva, knowing only that there is something seriously wrong with Rafe, but finds comfort in his accepting her forthright opinions.  Rafe detests all women but comes to find Eva has a way about her that doesn’t remind him of any other woman he has met and that enthralls him.

One might think the central point of this book is a philosophical analysis of women’s rights in mid 19th century America.  The premise seems to be a woman who demands an equal place and voice in society is so alien to society that only a mentally deranged murderer sees value in her.

This book seeps into your soul.  I found myself dreaming about this book as I read it.  The reader will also find that this story is all encompassing that the length of time spent reading will seem like an endless journey.

There is so much in this book that it has the capability of appealing to almost everyone.  I recommend it to any fans of gothic horror like Poe wrote and anyone who enjoys deep character exploration rarely seen in 21st century fiction.

My Rating: 5 stars

final cover copy

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