Wednesday, May 16, 2018

, ,

Smart Trust - Stephen M. R. Covey (Excerpts)

Smart Trust - Stephen M. R. Covey - Quotes I liked

One time, I hired a guide to take me fly-fishing. While we were fishing, he asked me, “What do you see?”

“I see a beautiful river.”

“Do you see any fish?”


Then he told me to put on a pair of polarized sunglasses.

Suddenly everything looked dramatically different. I could see through the water, and I could see fish—a lot of fish. Suddenly I saw enormous possibilities that I had not seen before. The fish were there all along, but until I put on the glasses, they were hidden. (...)
• What kind of glasses am I wearing?

• Where did I get them?

 • Are they creating the results I want in my life?

• Are they enabling me to see the abundant possibilities that exist for creating prosperity, energy, and joy?

2. I remember a time years ago when I was traveling with my parents. We visited a less developed country that was known to be corrupt. We hired a driver we thought we could trust to take us several places, and we left a number of watches and other gifts we had purchased in our bags locked in the trunk of his car while we did some sightseeing. When we returned, we checked inside our bags to make sure the boxes were all there. They were. But when we got back to the U.S. and opened the boxes, we discovered they were all empty!

3. Experiences such as these affect us on a personal level. Even more, deeply wounding experiences—such as discovering someone has lied to you, finding out your spouse has cheated on you, going through a difficult divorce (either as a spouse or a child), having a “friend” talk about you behind your back, discovering drugs in your child’s room, having your wallet stolen, finding out that your child has been mistreated at day care, or having a business partner continually break promises to you—can easily shift an innate propensity to trust into an acquired propensity to distrust.

Just as with blind trust, it’s sometimes easy to put on the glasses of distrust. In fact, if we start out wearing blind-trust glasses but then get seriously burned, we often swing the pendulum to the other extreme and trade them in for thick glasses of distrust and suspicion. It seems like a natural response in a low-trust world. It’s an approach that’s easy to hide behind. It feels safer and less risky and that we’re more in control. It can make us appear more careful, more intelligent. It seems more expedient in an urgency-addicted world where the focus is on short-term gains rather than long-term sustainability. Moving quickly to distrust and suspicion is the common response of society to almost any violation of trust because it is the easiest lever to pull and seems to provide the best legal and defensive cover.

Experiences such as these affect us on a personal level. Even more, deeply wounding experiences—such as discovering someone has lied to you, finding out your spouse has cheated on you, going through a difficult divorce (either as a spouse or a child), having a “friend” talk about you behind your back, discovering drugs in your child’s room, having your wallet stolen, finding out that your child has been mistreated at daycare, or having a business partner continually break promises to you—can easily shift an innate propensity to trust into an acquired propensity to distrust.

Just as with blind trust, it’s sometimes easy to put on the glasses of distrust. In fact, if we start out wearing blind-trust glasses but then get seriously burned, we often swing the pendulum to the other extreme and trade them in for thick glasses of distrust and suspicion. It seems like a natural response in a low-trust world. It’s an approach that’s easy to hide behind. It feels safer and less risky and that we’re more in control. It can make us appear more careful, more intelligent. It seems more expedient in an urgency-addicted world where the focus is on short-term gains rather than long-term sustainability. Moving quickly to distrust and suspicion is the common response of society to almost any violation of trust because it is the easiest lever to pull and seems to provide the best legal and defensive cover.

4. You’ve likely been scripted, conditioned, and/or experienced into primarily one set of glasses or the other. Whichever glasses you wear tend to magnify the evidence that fits your paradigm and filter out the evidence that doesn’t, and they significantly affect the degree of prosperity, energy, and joy in your life. Keep in mind that the differentiation is not all or nothing, black or white. You may be wearing a strong prescription or a mild one. You may switch back and forth. You may even be wearing bifocals, so to speak—looking at your professional relationships with distrust and your personal relationships with blind trust or vice versa. Or you may view your family with blind trust and people dating your daughter with distrust. The point is that whatever glasses you’re wearing at any time are affecting the way you see the world—and as a result the quality of your life and your ability to enjoy relationships with others and work with them to accomplish meaningful goals.

5. In the end, reciprocity works both ways: When we extend trust, we generate trust; when we withhold trust, we generate distrust.

6. Sometimes it’s incredibly hard to overcome intense experiences that can script us for a lifetime. But it’s possible. Even if all we can start with is a bias to believe, we can work on building that bias. We can put on our trust glasses and look more thoughtfully at the world around us. We can analyze how trust plays out in other people’s lives and relationships as well as in our own. We can study it. We can test it. We can take steps to build trust—and perhaps even take an occasional leap of trust—and notice the results.

7. When people work interdependently, most want to be aware of the intentions and motives of the others involved. The best way to address this issue is simply to declare intent. Doing so increases awareness and diminishes suspicion.

When we don’t tell people what we’re going to do, they’re often not aware of it or looking for it. Therefore they may not recognize its fulfillment as a trust-building promise kept or as evidence that we (or our team or our organization) behave in a manner they can count on. In addition, they’re missing an important piece of information they need to assess credibility and make informed decisions. Though it’s clearly better not to declare intent and deliver anyway than to declare intent and not deliver, our failure to declare intent may cause us to come across as someone who stands for nothing—someone with no promise, no purpose, no hope to offer, no brand, or no value. And in today’s crowded marketplace that decreases trust.

8. What happens if you can’t deliver on a promise? What happens if circumstances change or something critical comes up and you absolutely can’t do what you’ve said you’re going to do?

One answer is to create, in addition to a contract, a relationship of trust that reflects the reality of today’s rapidly changing world. (...) Another answer is to be wise in the kinds of commitments we make.

*image via Leclife

Continue reading Smart Trust - Stephen M. R. Covey (Excerpts)

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

, ,

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman - Excerpts

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman - My favorite quotes

The psychologist Gary Klein tells the story of a team of firefighters that entered a house in which the kitchen was on fire. Soon after they started hosing down the kitchen, the commander heard himself shout, “Let’s get out of here!” without realizing why. The floor collapsed almost immediately after the firefighters escaped. Only after the fact did the commander realize that the fire had been unusually quiet and that his ears had been unusually hot. Together, these impressions prompted what he called a “sixth sense of danger.” He had no idea what was wrong, but he knew something was wrong. It turned out that the heart of the fire had not been in the kitchen but in the basement beneath where the men had stood.

System 2 also has a natural speed. You expend some mental energy in random thoughts and in monitoring what goes on around you even when your mind does nothing in particular, but there is little strain. Unless you are in a situation that makes you unusually wary or self-conscious, monitoring what happens in the environment or inside your head demands little effort. You make many small decisions as you drive your car, absorb some information as you read the newspaper, and conduct routine exchanges of pleasantries with a spouse or a colleague, all with little effort and no strain. Just like a stroll.

It is normally easy and actually quite pleasant to walk and think at the same time, but at the extremes these activities appear to compete for the limited resources of System 2. You can confirm this claim by a simple experiment. While walking comfortably with a friend, ask him to compute 23 × 78 in his head, and to do so immediately. He will almost certainly stop in his tracks. My experience is that I can think while strolling but cannot engage in mental work that imposes a heavy load on short-term memory

Suppose you must write a message that you want the recipients to believe. Of course, your message will be true, but that is not necessarily enough for people to believe that it is true. It is entirely legitimate for you to enlist cognitive ease to work in your favor, and studies of truth illusions provide specific suggestions that may help you achieve this goal.

The general principle is that anything you can do to reduce cognitive strain will help, so you should first maximize legibility. Compare these two statements:

Adolf Hitler was born in 1892.

Adolf Hitler was born in 1887.

Both are false (Hitler was born in 1889), but experiments have shown that the first is more likely to be believed. More advice: if your message is to be printed, use high-quality paper to maximize the contrast between characters and their background. If you use color, you are more likely to be believed if your text is printed in bright blue or red than in middling shades of green, yellow, or pale blue.

The illusion of pattern affects our lives in many ways off the basketball court. How many good years should you wait before concluding that an investment adviser is unusually skilled? How many successful acquisitions should be needed for a board of directors to believe that the CEO has extraordinary flair for such deals? The simple answer to these questions is that if you follow your intuition, you will more often than not err by misclassifying a random event as systematic. We are far too willing to reject the belief that much of what we see in life is random.

Changing one’s mind about human nature is hard work, and changing one’s mind for the worse about oneself is even harder.

Some regularities in the environment are easier to discover and apply than others. Think of how you developed your style of using the brakes on your car. As you were mastering the skill of taking curves, you gradually learned when to let go of the accelerator and when and how hard to use the brakes. Curves differ, and the variability you experienced while learning ensures that you are now ready to brake at the right time and strength for any curve you encounter. The conditions for learning this skill are ideal, because you receive immediate and unambiguous feedback every time you go around a bend: the mild reward of a comfortable turn or the mild punishment of some difficulty in handling the car if you brake either too hard or not quite hard enough. The situations that face a harbor pilot maneuvering large ships are no less regular, but skill is much more difficult to acquire by sheer experience because of the long delay between actions and their noticeable outcomes. Whether professionals have a chance to develop intuitive expertise depends essentially on the quality and speed of feedback, as well as on sufficient opportunity to practice.

The psychologist Paul Rozin, an expert on disgust, observed that a single cockroach will completely wreck the appeal of a bowl of cherries, but a cherry will do nothing at all for a bowl of cockroaches. As he points out, the negative trumps the positive in many ways, and loss aversion is one of many manifestations of a broad negativity dominance

A good attorney who wishes to cast doubt on DNA evidence will not tell the jury that “the chance of a false match is 0.1%.” The statement that “a false match occurs in 1 of 1,000 capital cases” is far more likely to pass the threshold of reasonable doubt. The jurors hearing those words are invited to generate the image of the man who sits before them in the courtroom being wrongly convicted because of flawed DNA evidence. The prosecutor, of course, will favor the more abstract frame—hoping to fill the jurors’ minds with decimal points.

Regret is an emotion, and it is also a punishment that we administer to ourselves. The fear of regret is a factor in many of the decisions that people make (“Don’t do this, you will regret it” is a common warning), and the actual experience of regret is familiar. The emotional state has been well described by two Dutch psychologists, who noted that regret is “accompanied by feelings that one should have known better, by a sinking feeling, by thoughts about the mistake one has made and the opportunities lost, by a tendency to kick oneself and to correct one’s mistake, and by wanting to undo the event and to get a second chance.” Intense regret is what you experience when you can most easily imagine yourself doing something other than what you did.

Regret is one of the counterfactual emotions that are triggered by the availability of alternatives to reality. After every plane crash there are special stories about passengers who “should not” have been on the plane—they got a seat at the last moment, they were transferred from another airline, they were supposed to fly a day earlier but had had to postpone. The common feature of these poignant stories is that they involve unusual events—and unusual events are easier than normal events to undo in imagination. Associative memory contains a representation of the normal world and its rules. An abnormal event attracts attention, and it also activates the idea of the event that would have been normal under the same circumstances.
Continue reading Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman - Excerpts

Thursday, May 3, 2018

, , ,

The Shawshank Redemption (1994) - A Personal Review

My favorite movie – The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

The Shawshank Redemption is one of those movies you always remember after seeing. Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman make an exceptional pair as two convicts that spend their time in a prison. The story of the main character, Andy Dufresne, brilliantly played by Tim Robbins, is an example of courage and tenacity and it lets the film viewer know that everything’s possible when one sets one’s mind to it.

But what’s so special about the story? Andy, the main character, is found guilty of a crime he did not commit. After spending his whole youth as a successful banker, Andy is convicted to a sentence of life in prison.

Naturally, he thinks that he will never be able to integrate into the convicts’ community. To his surprise, however, he doesn’t find a crowd filled with dangerous individuals. Instead, he gets to befriend several of his prison companions, and one of them stands out as Ellis Boyd ‘Red’ Redding.

Red is the guy who can get you anything you want, cigarettes especially. He comes off as a makeshift entrepreneur, and some might believe that his intentions aren’t always pure as he always tries to make more money off of the rest of the inmates, but the truth is that Red is a good guy and is quite honorable. So how do these two eventually become friends?

Although Andy mostly keeps to himself and finds it hard to interact with the rest of the people in prison, he does have to talk to Red at some point to ask him to get him a tiny hammer. Andy claims that he will need the tool for his rock collection, but later on in the movie, the real reason will be revealed.

Red is an enigma to many of the inmates as he manages to keep his hopes up in spite of the fact that the parole board rejects his pardon attempts time and time again. In a way, this is a symbol of how racism might affect the opinion of law enforcers, and how African Americans are always thought of being more prone to becoming criminals than Caucasian Americans.

What makes it so difficult for Andy to integrate with the rest of the inmates is that, as one might expect from a prison, it’s mostly filled with uneducated people. The fact that he’s educated and skilled as a banker, as well as the fact that he comes from a rich background automatically sets him apart from the crowd. It doesn’t take long for Andy to understand that making friends is going to be nearly impossible in a place like this, where most anyone tries to take advantage of another individual. The friendship that grows steadily between Red and Andy is unexpected for both of them.

The prison environment is colorful, to say the least. It holds a wide variety of criminals, and as one might be able to guess, nobody claims they did the crime. Everyone seems to have been framed for their crimes. There are several episodes that might be considered violent, but what impresses the film viewer is their complete realism. It would be wrong to romanticize a place like jail.

Despite desperately wanting to prove his innocence, Andy never gets his case reopened, and that’s because the prison’s warden uses him to sort out his finances. The warden is one of the most vicious film characters ever to have been invented as he tries his best to create as many obstacles as possible for Andy so that he never loses him. As a skilled banker, Andy is a prized ‘possession’ of the warden.

When Andy starts to understand that he might never be able to see the outside world again, he develops a plan and creates an escape method that will never be suspected by his inmates or guardians.

Although it is based on a novel written by Stephen King, the movie has a somewhat happy ending. King is known for his grimy and horror stories, and this one gets in the same category as The Green Mile, another movie masterpiece that’s ironically also based on another of King’s novels.

In the end, Andy did lose part of his life because of an unfair sentence, but that doesn’t mean that he can’t start over anytime. And being so resourceful, that’s precisely what he does. In short, this movie tells us that we can always hope for the better, no matter how difficult our current situation might be.

Photo via IMDB
Continue reading The Shawshank Redemption (1994) - A Personal Review

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

, , , ,

Start With Why by Simon Sinek (Excerpts)

1. Just about every person or organization needs to motivate others to act for some reason or another. Some want to motivate a purchase decision. Others are looking for support or a vote. Still others are keen to motivate the people around them to work harder or smarter or just follow the rules. The ability to motivate people is not, in itself, difficult. It is usually tied to some external factor. Tempting incentives or the threat of punishment will often elicit the behavior we desire. General Motors, for example, so successfully motivated people to buy their products that they sold more cars than any other automaker in the world for over seventy-seven years. Though they were leaders in their industry, they did not lead.

Great leaders, in contrast, are able to inspire people to act. Those who are able to inspire give people a sense of purpose or belonging that has little to do with any external incentive or benefit to be gained. Those who truly lead are able to create a following of people who act not because they were swayed, but because they were inspired. For those who are inspired, the motivation to act is deeply personal.

2. If someone were to hold up a bank with a banana in his pocket, he would be charged with armed robbery. Clearly, no victim was in any danger of being shot, but it is the belief that the robber has a real gun that is considered by the law. And for good reason. Knowing full well that fear will motivate them to comply with his demands, the robber took steps to make his victims afraid. Fear, real or perceived, is arguably the most powerful manipulation of the lot.

3. If fear motivates us to move away from something horrible, aspirational messages tempt us toward something desirable. Marketers often talk about the importance of being aspirational, offering someone something they desire to achieve and the ability to get there more easily with a particular product or service. “Six steps to a happier life.” “Work those abs to your dream dress size!” “In six short weeks you can be rich.” All these messages manipulate. They tempt us with the things we want to have or to be the person we wish we were.

Though positive in nature, aspirational messages are most effective with those who lack discipline or have a nagging fear or insecurity that they don’t have the ability to achieve their dreams on their own (which, at various times for various reasons, is everyone).

4. People don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it. This is the reason Apple has earned a remarkable level of flexibility. People are obviously comfortable buying a computer from Apple. But people are also perfectly comfortable buying an mp3 player from them, or a cell phone or a DVR. Consumers and investors are completely at ease with Apple offering so many different products in so many different categories. It’s not WHAT Apple does that distinguishes them. It is WHY they do it. Their products give life to their cause.

5. Dell came out with PDAs in 2002 and mp3 players in 2003, but lasted only a few years in each market. Dell makes good-quality products and is fully qualified to produce these other technologies. The problem was they had defined themselves by WHAT they did; they made computers, and it simply didn’t make sense to us to buy a PDA or mp3 player from them. It didn’t feel right. How many people do you think would stand on line for six hours to buy a new cell phone from Dell, as they did for the release of Apple’s iPhone? People couldn’t see Dell as anything more than a computer company.

6. Knowing your WHY is not the only way to be successful, but it is the only way to maintain a lasting success and have a greater blend of innovation and flexibility. When a WHY goes fuzzy, it becomes much more difficult to maintain the growth, loyalty and inspiration that helped drive the original success. By difficult, I mean that manipulation rather than inspiration fast becomes the strategy of choice to motivate behavior. This is effective in the short term but comes at a high cost in the long term.

7. Consider the experience of buying a flat-screen TV at your local electronics store. You stand in the aisle listening to an expert explain to you the difference between LCD and plasma. The sales rep gives you all the rational differences and benefits, yet you are still none the wiser as to which one is best for you. After an hour, you still have no clue. Your mind is on overload because you’re overthinking the decision. You eventually make a choice and walk out of the store, still not 100 percent convinced you chose the right one. Then you go to your friend’s house and see that he bought the “other one.” He goes on and on about how much he loves his TV. Suddenly you’re jealous, even though you still don’t know that his is any better than yours. You wonder, “Did I buy the wrong one?”

Companies that fail to communicate a sense of WHY force us to make decisions with only empirical evidence. This is why those decisions take more time, feel difficult or leave us uncertain. Under these conditions manipulative strategies that exploit our desires, fears, doubts or fantasies work very well. We’re forced to make these less-than-inspiring decisions for one simple reason—companies don’t offer us anything else besides the facts and figures, features and benefits upon which to base our decisions. Companies don’t tell us WHY.

8. Once you know WHY you do what you do, the question is HOW will you do it? HOWs are your values or principles that guide HOW to bring your cause to life. HOW we do things manifests in the systems and processes within an organization and the culture. Understanding HOW you do things and, more importantly, having the discipline to hold the organization and all its employees accountable to those guiding principles enhances an organization’s ability to work to its natural strengths. Understanding HOW gives greater ability, for example, to hire people or find partners who will naturally thrive when working with you.

9. I’d like to introduce you to our imaginary friend Brad. Brad is going on a date tonight. It’s a first date and he’s pretty excited. He thinks the woman he’s about to meet is really beautiful and that she makes a great prospect. Brad sits down for dinner and he starts talking.

“I am extremely rich.”

“I have a big house and I drive a beautiful car.”

“I know lots of famous people.”

“I’m on TV all the time, which is good because I’m good-looking.”

“I’ve actually done pretty well for myself.”

The question is, does Brad get a second date? (nope :)))

10. Now consider how most companies do business. Someone sits down across a table from you, they’ve heard you’re a good prospect, and they start talking.

“Our company is extremely successful.”

“We have beautiful offices, you should stop by and check them out sometime.”

“We do business with all the biggest companies and brands.”

“I’m sure you’ve seen our advertising.”

“We’re actually doing pretty well.”

11. Great companies don’t hire skilled people and motivate them, they hire already motivated people and inspire them. People are either motivated or they are not. Unless you give motivated people something to believe in, something bigger than their job to work toward, they will motivate themselves to find a new job and you’ll be stuck with whoever’s left.

12. The feeling of trust is lodged squarely in the same place as the WHY—the limbic brain—and it’s often powerful enough to trump empirical research, or at least seed doubt. This is the reason why so many manipulations are effective; we believe that, for better or worse, others know more than we do. Clearly, four out of five dentists know more than us when choosing chewing gum (but what about the one holdout . . . what did he know that the others didn’t?). Of course we trust the celebrity endorsement. Those celebs are rich and can use any product they want. It must be good if they are putting their reputation on the line to promote it, right?

You probably answered that question in your head already. Clearly they are endorsing the product because they are getting paid to. But if celebrity endorsements didn’t work, companies wouldn’t use them. Or perhaps it’s the fear that they “might” work that fuels the million-dollar wink and a smile that encourages us to choose one car over another or one lipstick over another. The fact is, none of us is immune to the effect of someone we know or feel like we trust influencing our decisions.

13.All the products and services that the company sells, all the marketing and advertising, all the contact with the world outside communicate this. If people don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it, and if all the things happening at the WHAT level do not clearly represent WHY the company exists, then the ability to inspire is severely complicated.

14.In the course of building a business or a career, we become more confident in WHAT we do. We become greater experts in HOW to do it. With each achievement, the tangible measurements of success and the feeling of progress increase. Life is good. However, for most of us, somewhere in the journey we forget WHY we set out on the journey in the first place. Somewhere in the course of all those achievements an inevitable split happens. This is true for individuals and organizations alike.

15.Money is a perfectly legitimate measurement of goods sold or services rendered. But it is no calculation of value. Just because somebody makes a lot of money does not mean that he necessarily provides a lot of value. Likewise, just because somebody makes a little money does not necessarily mean he provides only a little value. Simply by measuring the number of goods sold or the money brought in is no indication of value. Value is a feeling, not a calculation. It is perception.

Continue reading Start With Why by Simon Sinek (Excerpts)

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

, , , ,

The Red Scot by Twyla Turner (Personal Review)

The Red Scot by Twyla Turner Review

I really liked this book, which is also why I decided to give it a five-star rating on Goodreads. This is not my first encounter with the magnificent Twyla Turner, who is an incredible storyteller in my opinion and whose novels I will continue to read in the future. I also read Damaged Souls series and Winter's Beast, which I will both review as soon as I get the chance. I thoroughly enjoyed the Damaged Souls series!

Since this isn't my first novel by this author, I didn't really know what to think about it when I started reading it. The story is totally different compared to those from Winter's Beast and Damaged Souls, so I was a little taken aback. However, I loved the whole 'shy curvy girl meets shy brawny Scottish dude' plot. They were both adorable.

What's it about?

When she was a freshman in college, Payton almost got molested. If it hadn't been for three other girls who happened to be in the area where the event happened and who got her out of the entire situation, she could've ended up being raped. From that point, she lost her trust in pretty much all men aside from those related to her. She never went on a date again and ended up being a virgin at the age of 29.

One day, Payton decides that she would start going to the gym (called The Red Scot after the looks of the owner). She's coaxed into it by a work colleague, and when she gets there, she meets (or rather, sees for the first time) the owner, Bradyn MacTavish. He is a hunk of a man - very tall, muscly, strong, and an MMA fighter. Needless to say, Payton hates any kind of violence, so she's scared out of her mind whenever she has some kind of contact with him.

Bradyn is a bit awkward himself, especially when it comes to talking to women. He's had his one-night-stands before, but those didn't involve conversation. Now, he knows that what he wants with Payton is far more than just sex and he's willing to wait for her to realize that he's not the bad guy.

But somewhere in the dark, there's a threat that might be lethal to Payton...

I'm not going to reveal anything else because I don't want to spoil the book for you.

Is it worth reading?

If you like romance with a bit of sexiness, definitely give this book a shot. It's one of the most relaxing novels I've read in quite a bit. I'd like to make a note and say that it isn't kinky in the least. There are several steamy scenes, but there isn't anything that might shock erotica fans, for example.

I loved the whole 'curvy girls stay strong' vibe I got from this book. I found the relationship that Payton has with her friends to be endearing. They're always caring, and they've got each other backs. That's what true friendship really is. I'm looking forward to reading the next installment in the series (yes, The Red Scot is the 1st book in the A Curvy Girls Club series) featuring Mia, Payton's friend, as the main character. While I was reading her description, I got the feeling she's like Samantha from Sex and The City, if you know what I mean ;). I'd like to live vicariously through her experiences.

In a nutshell, this book is sweet and hot enough to get your panties on fire. It was the perfect mix for me. The guy is tough, yet at the same time, really caring and attentive, and the girl is curvy and panicked but learns to drop her defenses once she finally starts trusting him. They make a lovely couple. I thoroughly enjoyed Bradyn's Scottish accent - that's how his lines are written. Note: she's African American, and he's Caucasian, so I really hope that doesn't bother you - it definitely did not me, it was SO HOT.

Get the book here if you want it.

Read some of my other posts:

The Villain & The Dove by Victoria Vale - Personal Review

J.K. Rowling's Favorite Books

Oprah Winfrey's Favorite Books
Continue reading The Red Scot by Twyla Turner (Personal Review)

Monday, April 2, 2018

, , ,

The Villain & The Dove by Victoria Vale - Personal Review

Review :: The Villain & The Dove by Victoria Vale 

Let me just take a second to take a breath and understand what I'm about to write. I finished The Dove, the 2nd book in the duology yesterday evening and I cannot stop thinking about the two main characters, the plot, everything in these two novels! I haven't been this excited about an erotica book since... wait for it... never! Well, maybe since I read the Mercy Trilogy by Lucian Bane. That one was also dark enough to make my skin tingle.

Oh, I can't tell you enough how much I enjoyed these two books. Ironically, if the first one hadn't been on sale on Amazon, I would've never found out about Victoria Vale. Now I am hooked and want to read all of her books! Yes, they were that good.

I'm going to make an effort to keep this review as composed as possible, but I can't make any guarantees. I am just too excited about this duology to stop myself from fangirling about them.

What are they about?

So, first off, these two are categorized as Regency Romance, so the action takes place somewhere between the end of the 1700s and the beginning of the 19th century, aka 1800s. I had to specify this detail because you'll get the main picture (historical background, how people used to behave/dress/talk etc). The action takes place in the United Kingdom - partly in Scotland and partly in London.

I enjoyed the way the first book, The Villain, began. Daphne is horseriding in the rain and in the middle of the night toward a destination we have no idea about. She is going to seek out a man, Lord Hartmoor, who lives in a palace, Dunnottar. (which, by the way, actually exists! I looked it up on Google, and it's there!)

Daphne wants to know why Lord Hartmoor has been after her family for some time and why eventually, his efforts ended up with her relatives being close to bankruptcy. As you probably imagine, it was really important for people back then to be financially potent, especially for women. If a lady didn't have a dowry, it was practically impossible for her to get a suitable marriage.

Adam (Lord Hartmoor) convinces Daphne to make a deal with him and give herself to him for thirty days and thirty nights in exchange for the answers she seeks so desperately. Needless to say, she had left the home of her parents without their knowledge, so she basically ran off to Scotland to demand answers from a (HOT) Scottish lord. The gesture was rather irrational, for a woman at that time, but Daphne wasn't known to abide by all of the rules of her society.

I can't give you any other details because I don't want to spoil the duology, but MAN! The things that Adam does to Daphne and how their story evolves over the course of the two books - I literally can't say anything other than OMG.  I can't even!

These two are like water and oil. One's pure, innocent, but highly corruptible, and the other's dark, vengeful, and tired of living with a burden for five years. While they don't seem to get along at the beginning, their bizarre relationship grows over time. They become accustomed to each other, and Daphne learns A LOT about herself and her physical needs. And yes, in case you were wondering, that deal I was mentioning earlier on also includes her having to give Adam her virginity. Which, as you know, was the 'get out of jail free card' of that time, meaning that ladies could get married only if they were pure - sexually.

What did I like about these two books?

I really enjoyed the characters and the way they were described. As a reader, I was actually capable of telling how Daphne and Adam looked like, so much so that I managed to picture them in my head (that rarely happens if the characters aren't interesting).

These two are at one another with a force that I haven't seen in other 'couples.' They both try to think they're in control, when in fact, none of them is. Sure, Adam is stronger than Daphne on all accounts, but in the second book, we get to see another side of him. He isn't the ruthless lord constantly seeking retribution anymore. In fact, he's pretty confused as to what he's feeling for Daphne and isn't willing to admit that he has other types of feelings for her. However, he might at times wish that she wasn't a member of the Fairchild family.

I also enjoyed the backstory, how the things that happened five years ahead of Daphne meeting Adam were explained, and the reasons that he is so hell-bent on getting his revenge. Nothing is what it seems in this duology, and I loved that a lot! It's very rarely that a novel manages to surprise me, and this one did! Sorry, but I read a lot of fluff erotica this year and last year and I've pretty much had it with the 'billionaire meets virgin who's willing to try BDSM' plots. Those are stupid.

But this book is intelligent, well-written, and it has you hooked so much that I finished both books over the course of one week - and I work full-time, and I'm pretty tired at the end of a working day.

Finally, I couldn't avoid telling you about the SEX they have. Sweet Cheeses! This guy... if only he existed in reality, really! Sure, there might be some rough scenes that not every erotica fan might enjoy, but he basically tries out all of his kinkiness on Daphne, and she adores it. Her body craves it and wants more of it although her mind is not willing to surrender. But when it comes to giving up her power sexually, she does it because she can't help herself. And Adam is especially good at convincing her. Really good. Believe me and read the book!

I'm sorry if this seemed like a big ole ramble, but I couldn't help myself. I am going to read everything that Victoria Vale ever publishes - she's won me as a reader forever.

*The featured image is Dunnottar Castle in Scotland. (via Pixabay)

Get the books here, if you want'em.
Continue reading The Villain & The Dove by Victoria Vale - Personal Review

Monday, March 26, 2018

, ,

J.K. Rowling's Favorite Books

What books does J.K. Rowling recommend?

‘Emma’ by Jane Austen

With a penchant for matchmaking and interfering in the romantic lives of others, Emma Woodhouse is a headstrong, beautiful, and rich young woman who sees no need for either love or marriage.

Her skills, however, are put to the test when she tries arranging a match for her protégée as her plans soon unravel and consequences she never would have expected unfold. J.K. Rowling has supposedly lost count of how many times she has read Jane Austen novels with “Emma” being her favorite saying she has read it at least 20 times.

‘The Woman Who Walked into Doors’ by Roddy Doyle

Narrated by the victim, the book tells the story of Paula Spencer, a middle-aged woman struggling in her marriage to an abusive husband with a drinking problem. The title of the book comes from an incident where Paula’s husband asks how she received a bruise he was responsible for to which she replies she walked into a door.

Paula recounts her pleasant childhood, the audacity she learned as a teenager, the pleasure she felt in the early stages of her marriage to her husband and its eventual downfall, which left her feeling powerless. Telling O, The Oprah Magazine, Rowling says “I don’t think I’ve ever encountered such a believeable, fully rounded female character from any other heterosexual male writer in any age.”

‘Team of Rivals’ by Doris Kearns Goodwin

Published in 2005 by Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, the book tells the story of the political genius that was U.S. President Abraham Lincoln and the men who served with him in his cabinet in the mid 19th-century. The book focuses on the leader’s mostly successful attempts to mediate competing personalities and political interests during a rather tumultuous time in American history that saw abolition and the American Civil War.

Goodwin attributes this success to his character which was forged by experiences that shaped him above his more seasoned rivals. In addition to being a favorite of J.K Rowling, US President Barack Obama has cited it as one of his favorite books and was said to have used it in constructing his own cabinet.

‘The Little White Horse’ by Elizabeth Goudge

An orphaned Maria Merryweather finds wonder and mystery at Moonacre Manor and feels as if she has entered paradise. Like the manor itself, Maria’s uncle and new guardian, Sir Benjamin, and every person and animal she meets is as comforting as an old friend; she feels at home right away. 

However, she soon discovers that beneath this beauty, there is a tragedy that happened long ago shadowing the estate, village, and vicinity with Maria determined to find out what happened, change it, and leave her own mark to what she hope is a happy ending. The children’s book is as charming as Harry Potter with Rowling stating she “absolutely adored” the heartwarming book and can be enjoyed by anyone at any age.

If you enjoyed this post, maybe you'd also like...

7 books recommended by Stephen King

How to get free books

The Woman on the Orient Express by Lindsay Jayne Ashford (Review)

Image credit: Wikimedia

Continue reading J.K. Rowling's Favorite Books

Monday, March 19, 2018

, ,

Oprah Winfrey’s Favorite Books

What are Oprah's favorite books?

‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ by Harper Lee

The Pulitzer Prize winning book has been Winfrey’s favorite book ever since she was a little girl. The classic about a young girl in a sleepy town in the deep south and the racism and crisis of conscience that has engulfed the small community. The book taps into the very essence of human emotion and behavior. In an interview with the Baltimore Sun, she said “I remember reading this book and then going to class and not being able to shut up about it… I was trying to push the book off on other kids.” She recalls the importance of the book in shaping who she would eventually become today.

‘Night’ by Elie Wiesel

Wiesel is a horrific but uplifting autobiographical account of his struggle and survival as a teenager during the Holocaust. More than just illustrating the terrors at the Auschwitz and Buchenwald concentration camps, the book addresses and asks many philosophical as well as personal questions necessary when holistically considering the Holocaust and its legacy. Oprah traveled with Wiesel to Auschwitz where he recounts daily life in the camps—sadism, hunger, and betrayal. It was here where he underwent a profound crisis of faith and was one of the first books according to the New York Times, which raised the question: where was God at Auschwitz?

‘Discover the Power Within You’ by Eric Butterworth

In “Discover the Power Within You”, the internationally known spiritual teacher shares one his greatest discoveries: the ability to see the divine within us all. The inspirational classic has guided thousands of readers with many saying the book has been truly a life changer. Butterworth says tapping into this divine dimension in every human being can be a souce of unlimited abundance and that through exploring this exposes our “depth potential”. He outlines ways readers can release the power locked within for greater confidence, better health, success, and how to be an inspiration for others.

‘East of Eden’ by John Steinbeck

“East of Eden” is a novel by Nobel Prize winner John Steinback with the plot playing out in a late 19th-century California’s Salinas Valley and follows the intertwined stories of two farming families, the Trasks and the Hamiltons, and their trials and tribulations. With biblical parallels to the story of Cain and Abel, many themes are explored such as love, the capacity for self-destruction, guilt, freedom, and the battle between good and evil. Winfrey says even if you read the classic in high school, reread it!

‘The Bluest Eye’ by Toni Morrison

The book tells the story of a conflicted black girl who thinks she has to have blue eyes to be beautiful. Set in the author’s hometown in northeastern Ohio, it tells the story of eleven-year-old Pecola Breedlove who prays for her eyes to turn blue so that she will be beautiful and loved as all her blond, blue-eyed counterparts across America. Winfrey considers “The Bluest Eye” to be one of the best among Morrison’s many novels.

Image credits: Wikimedia

*If you liked this post, maybe you'd also enjoy reading about...

5 great-looking bookshelves

7 books recommended by Stephen King
Continue reading Oprah Winfrey’s Favorite Books