Hello Around the World by Sindhu Narasimhan

Hello Around the World by Sindhu Narasimhan
Publisher: Self Published
Genre: Children’s (0 – 6 y.o.), Non-Fiction, Contemporary, Historical
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

“Hello Around the World: Learn to Say Hello in 20 Languages – A Practical Guide with Pronunciation, Flags, and Traditional Dress for Kids Across Cultures” offers an immersive learning experience for children aged 2-6. This paperback book is designed to open young minds to the richness of global cultures and the power of simple greetings.

Saying hello can be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

I appreciated the pronunciation guides for saying hello in all of these different languages. It made it easy to sound them out and practice this greeting with all of the characters I met in this picture book. I was surprised by how many syllables are required for this greeting in some languages as well as how similar some of the answers were depending on which parts of the world they came from and how closely related they were to similar tongues. What a fun discovery that was!

It would have been nice if the children’s names were given the same treatment. While I already knew how to pronounce some of them, others weren’t so familiar to me. Knowing someone’s name is such an important part of socializing and learning about other cultures, so I wish there had been some assistance here as well. I would have chosen a higher rating if this had been included.

This little book was the perfect length for toddlers or young preschoolers. Those aren’t always easy ages to write for by any means, so I commend the author for condensing his messages about kindness, inclusion, and learning small pieces of new languages down to something that can be read in a few short minutes and adapted to even the shortest attention spans. What a good job he did with that. I look forward to seeing what he might come up with next.

Hello Around the World made me smile.

2024… Your Year of More by Noah William Smith

strong>2024… Your Year of More by Noah William Smith
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Non-Fiction, Contemporary
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe


2024… Your Year of More is your go-to book to set goals and mindfully invest your efforts. It appeals to adults of all ages, nationalities, and backgrounds who wish to improve their lives. Its pages are packed with something special for everyone.

The pages contain practical ideas from A to Z, thought-provoking questions, and self-reflective exercises that inspire you to live your best life.

The book is an ideal companion during your moments of solitude. You can read it in the early morning before the rest of the world wakes up or during the evenings after a long day. You may also find it enjoyable while writing in your journal or taking a lunch break.

Enthusiastic indie author Noah William Smith knows the blessings and challenges of intelligence, creativity, high sensitivity and being a minority, underdog and outsider. While his books are based on his experiences, they offer valuable insights without being prescriptive or offering advice.

The book’s authenticity and invaluable insights make it a compelling read that will remain relevant for many years!

Are you considering investing in yourself or searching for the perfect gift for someone special? 2024… Your Year of More is a life-changing book that you cannot afford to miss!

The new year is a fabulous time to turn over a new leaf.

This was a gentle look at self-improvement that included plenty of tips for self-care and for determining if the things you might have wanted in 2023 (or 2013 or 2003!) still resonate with you today. Incremental changes over time are often the most effective way to begin any sort of new habit or lifestyle change, so it was nice to be reminded regularly to be kind to myself and to focus on small steps one at a time instead of trying to drastically change everything at once.

The repetition made it difficult for me to remain interested in reading this at times. Every section began with an anecdote or two from the author’s life before diving into the same series of questions about goals the reader might want to set in three-month increments in 2024. I must admit that due to this I felt the urge to skip ahead to sections that appealed to me more, although I did read the entire thing in order.

One of the things I appreciated most about this book was how much it could be customized. It made few if any assumptions about the ages, backgrounds, or values of the people who will read it. This meant that nearly ever section could apply to anyone in any stage of life from being a student to being retired. The few that were more specific could still easily be altered for people who are disabled, stay-at-home parents, otherwise out of the workforce, working multiple jobs or long hours, or who feel out of step with most other adults for any other reason. There is definitely something to be said for making goal setting so accessible to anyone who wants to change a few things in their lives next year!

2024… Your Year of More was a thought-provoking look at how to make goal setting easier for everyone.

Hot Potato: The story of The Wiggles by Jeff Fatt, Directed by: Sally Aitken

Hot Potato: The story of The Wiggles by Jeff Fatt, Directed by: Sally Aitken
Publisher: Amazon MGM Studios and Screen Australia
Genre: Contemporary, Non-fiction, Documentary, Film
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Hot Potato is a backstage pass to the global phenomenon, The Wiggles. The documentary chronicles the story of three preschool teachers, Anthony, Murray and Greg, and their friend Jeff, as they triumph over the odds to become one of the most successful children’s acts of all time.

This is a film about my favorite group that had a positive influence on my kids as they were growing up. The movie explores the backstory, creation and history of The Wiggles, starring Anthony Field (blue), Murray Cook (red), Jeff Fatt (purple) and Greg Page (yellow). My kids discovered them when the group made the arrangement with the Disney Channel. Kids in Australia and New Zealand knew about them years before and it’s not a wonder that they took the rest of the world by storm. I learned so much about them while watching this documentary that it simply blew my mind. Their songs may have been simple, catchy, bouncy, and fun, but the four guys’ journey wasn’t nearly so benign, easy or without serious challenges.

My most favorite aspect of the film was the nostalgia triggered by the awesome songs I sang along to with my kids as they watched the shows and videos over and over again, Hot Potato being only one of many. The dance moves that accompanied them always made me feel that if they had an exercise video based on the songs and all the moves, I would have bought the video for myself. To this very day, I’ll break out in songs like Hot Potato, Fruit Salad, Here Comes a Bear, and the silly, Do the Monkey. Man, those were awesome times when my kids were little.

Did you know that at their highest point, they made more money than AC/DC, Hugh Jackman and many others? The Wiggles did that – all while appealing to the sense of joy, fun, and energy of toddlers, and bringing their parents along for the ride. And, what a ride it was, in that Big Red Car.

Even to this day, one of my most favorite video/movies The Wiggles made was with Steve Irwin at the Australia Zoo. At that point, I was just as much a fan of the group as my kids. The documentary showed the amazing steps Anthony, Murray, Jeff and Greg took to get to that moment in their careers. It covers the difficult times after the 9/11 attack in New York City and there were a few moments in their retelling that had me tearing up. The tone was somber, respectful, and introspective. The film also covers why Greg left The Wiggles. By the time that happened, my kids were fully immersed in their school career, and we no longer subscribed to the channel that brought The Wiggles singing and dancing into our lives. I had no idea about the seriousness of Greg’s condition, nor the challenges the group faced to find someone to step in for him. Nor did I have a clue as to what role Anthony played in The Wiggles existence as the years went on.

After I watched the documentary, I looked at some reviews. Wow – that was a revelation. The film shared some examples but that nowhere touched upon the emotional response and backlash that occurred during the many transitions The Wiggles went through. I even read one where the commenter claimed that Anthony ruined The Wiggles because of the changes and decisions he’d made over the years after two other members retired. After watching the film, I disagree with that sentiment. Anthony saved The Wiggles by keeping it going, keeping their name, music, and presence alive, not letting it fade away until the point in 2019 when they were all able to come together to do a benefit in support of the Australian people who were suffering the worst fire season in the country. Society and pop culture change frequently and what is popular one day becomes lost and forgotten the next. If not for Anthony, I don’t think the public would have responded so well and enthusiastically for a band no one remembered. Instead, according to the film clips I saw, many of the attendees were in their 20s, kids that grew up singing and dancing with The Wiggles and were now young adults, with jobs and incomes that allowed them to attend and support the cause. That joy came across the screen and brought me back in time when my kids and I had the best time singing the songs together.

Do you know what else I learned while watching this documentary? Anthony and Jeff were a part of a successful singing group called the Cockroaches. One of their songs was played during an interview with Greg and I’m thinking, “I’d listen to that!” In fact, if you pay attention, you’ll get a hint of the energy and talent that would later contribute to the success of The Wiggles. I also learned the background of Dorothy the Dinosaur. I had no hint how important that character ended up being to their success. I even laughed when I heard how Captain Feathersword came about. Little by little I was seeing how The Wiggles I knew came to be. It was so cool!

Another adorable thing I enjoyed while watching the film were the film clips. Parents must have submitted them to the group. They showed their toddlers reacting and interacting with The Wiggles on television and generally having a great time singing, learning and laughing. There is power in laughter and in music.

Hot Potato: The story of The Wiggles was one of the most enjoyable documentaries I’ve ever watched. How the group came to be such a success was fascinating to watch. To think, if not for two of them being teachers, and their passion and joy for teaching, which I believe contributed to the focus of singing songs for preschoolers, I don’t think The Wiggles could have come to be. Learning how Anthony, Jeff, Greg and Murray came together to create a singing group that touched generations starting with the littlest of fans, was a sheer joy to experience. I am awfully glad I discovered this film. I highly recommend this documentary for all those who were parents at the time who repeatedly watched the videos and sang the songs with their kids. I think it would be great for those littlest fans, now grown up, to learn more about the men and characters that enriched their childhood. It’s fascinating, entertaining and eye opening. This film made me appreciate The Wiggles all the more.

I Am Changing Careers: Questions to Guide a Job Seeker by Anita Job

I Am Changing Careers: Questions to Guide a Job Seeker by Anita Job
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Non-Fiction, Contemporary
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

In “I Am Changing Careers” you will learn:

How to find fulfilling work
Receive a daily job search roadmap to focus on the right activities
Leverage non-traditional job search techniques and strategies that worked for Anita and will work for you
How to maintain your physical, mental and emotional health while job hunting: a holistic approach
Make a great first impression at your dream job!
Perfect for high school guidance counselors, those entering the workplace (school-to-work transition), college graduates, or those changing industries mid-career.

So what are you waiting for? Buy now and join the many readers who have gone from job seekers to employed in their perfect career!

A good attitude is essential while looking for work, but that’s just the beginning of what one needs to succeed.

It was nice to have so many open-ended questions to mull over as I read this. The job hunt can vary quite a bit for people in different industries or stages of life, so it made sense to ask the audience to think about what they bring to the table and what sort of company they’re interested in instead of making any assumptions about that. I also liked the fact that readers were asked to consider their own preferences for working conditions and any personal or medical considerations they might want to think about when deciding whether to pursue options like shift work, long commutes, long workweeks, or similar issues.

Online applications, virtual job interviews, and asynchronous interviews are incredibly common in many fields these days. Ms. Job spent almost no time discussing how technology has changed the process of looking for work or how to reword resumes with keywords from the job ads in order to get them past the automated applicant tracking system (ATS) and into the hands of a manager or some other employee at a company who screens applications. I was surprised by these choices and wished the author had included a chapter or two of advice on how to get your resume or application seen by an actual person. It would have also been helpful to have advice on how to ace interviews that either happen online or involve the applicant recording their answers in front of a camera without ever having a chance to talk to a live person from the company they’ve applied to until or unless they happen to be selected for the next round of interviews.

One of the things that surprised me about this work was how much time it spent talking about the importance of maintaining one’s physical and mental health while job hunting. Everything from exercise to eating a healthy diet to keeping one’s spirits up if things aren’t progressing the way you might have hoped they would, were covered in detail here. There is definitely something to be said for looking out for all of these things and doing plenty of self-care activities during what can be a stressful and lonely time for some folks.

With that being said, I did find myself wishing for more chapters that included practical advice for changing careers or otherwise landing work. This could have easily been expanded from 90 pages into a full-length book on the topic, and there was so much more the author could have said about best practices for trying to find a new position in the current climate. For example, cover letters seem to be less common in some industries, and many places have relaxed their dress codes as well.

The bibliography was filled with links to all sorts of organizations that can make life easier for people who are currently going through hard times. While many of them were specifically about careers, others could be used by folks in a wide variety of other circumstances. I appreciated the work that was put into compiling this list. It highlighted some of the best parts of the earlier chapters about networking, self-care, and so many other relevant topics.

I Am Changing Careers – Questions to Guide a Job Seeker was a thought-provoking read.

Rat Race Reboot by Laura Noel

Rat Race Reboot by Laura Noel
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Non-Fiction, Contemporary
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Escape the rat race and create your ideal future today!

Are you tired of the endless daily grind? Of feeling that constant need to do more, achieve more, be more? Are you reaching the end of the day and feeling exhausted after going nowhere so fast?

You can design—and have—your dream life, if you learn how to reboot your mind. Your brain is more powerful than you realize and knowing how to use your thoughts to empower you is the key to setting and achieving “impossible” goals every single day.

Rat Race Reboot contains the answers you need to maximize your potential, find a meaningful purpose, and create a fulfilling life. With the strategies you’ll learn in Rat Race Reboot, you can become your best, most successful self, and discover the joy you’ve always wanted.

Hope and hard work never go out of fashion.

I liked the author’s emphasis on having a good attitude and persevering even if your second or your tenth attempt to do something doesn’t succeed. There is a lot of wisdom in that advice. Sometimes it takes multiple attempts to reach a goal, and others are more likely to help people who remain positive and focused on what they want to accomplish in life than those who look at everything through a negative perspective.

With that being said, I wish the author had spent more time explaining what realistic goals look like and which signs might let someone know that what they’re trying to accomplish isn’t going to happen right now for whatever reason. Imagining a better future is critically important, but thinking positive thoughts cannot make every single dream a person can think of come true. Some fantasies require many years of hard work and a lot of luck to turn into reality, while others could be seriously hampered by, say, the quiet prejudice of the person who decides whether to hire someone for their dream job or offer them the loan they need to start a small business. This is a complex topic, and I wish the author had spent more time leaning into the many different outcomes that are possible other than relatively quick success.

This was a well-organized book that was easy to read. I appreciated the many lists included in it of ways to change everything from one’s office to the way one thinks in order to maximize the possibility of success. While not everything in life is within our control by any means, there is still something to be said for making the best of life and looking on the bright side even if it feels like there will never be a breakthrough. Having something to quickly reference during times like these is important, especially when it’s as accessible as this was.

Rat Race Reboot was a thought-provoking read.

Feline Behaviour and Psychology (audio book) by Centre of Excellence (Author), Brian Greyson (Narrator)

Feline Behaviour and Psychology (audio book) by Centre of Excellence (Author), Brian Greyson (Narrator)
Publisher: Author’s Republic
Genre: Non-Fiction
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Lavender

The Feline Behaviour and Psychology audiobook provides a greater understanding of what is going on in the mind of your cat(s), why they do certain things, and how to improve your and your other pets’ relationship with them.

For cat lovers, part of the attraction to their feline friends is the very thing that sets them apart from other pets: their intelligence and behaviors, though this can also be an avenue of confusion, leaving you with unanswered questions:

“Why is my cat constantly spraying my curtains, even though he’s been neutered?”
“Why does my cat chew my plants?”
“Why does my cat sometimes bite me when I stroke her?”
Written by our feline psychology expert who has more than 12 years of experience in this fascinating field, this audiobook aims to give you the latest comprehensive, up-to-date knowledge that can help you answer many of you cat-related questions, aiding you to build stronger relationships with your feline companions.

Have you ever wondered why your cat does such strange things? It’s certainly amusing to watch cats in action.

This book gives us an inside view into cat behavior. We learn things such as: are certain personality traits of cats linked to certain breeds? What are the signs that your cat is unhappy? What are cats trying to express to us? Can cats ever be social creatures, and if so, how? Can they be trained?

Even people who don’t have cats might find this book interesting. It has many good points that are not so commonly known. Why not give this short book a quick listen and learn something while being entertained?

Beyond Codependency and Getting Better All the Time by Melody Beattie

Beyond Codependency and Getting Better All the Time by Melody Beattie
Publisher: Hazeldon
Genre: Self-Help, Contemporary, Non-Fiction
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

In simple, straightforward terms, Beattie takes you into the territory beyond codependency, into the realm of recovery and relapse, family-of-origin work and relationships, surrender and spirituality.

You’re learning to let go, to live your life free of the grip of someone else’s problems. And yet you find you’ve just started on the long journey of recovery. Let Melody Beattie, author of the classic Codependent No More, help you along your way. A guided tour past the pitfalls of recovery, Beyond Codependency is dedicated to those struggling to master the art of self-care. It is a book about what to do once the pain has stopped and you’ve begun to suspect that you have a life to live. It is about what happens next.

In simple, straightforward terms, Beattie takes you into the territory beyond codependency, into the realm of recovery and relapse, family-of-origin work and relationships, surrender and spirituality. With personal stories, hard-won insights, and activities, her book teaches the lessons of dealing with shame, growing in self-esteem, overcoming deprivation, and getting past fatal attractions long enough to find relationships that work.

IF you’ve ever been in a toxic relationship, this might be the book you’re looking for.

I picked this book up because I’d read others by Beattie and liked them. This one helped a lot because it’s about getting beyond the point of codependency. What happens next? What about the rest of your life? This book talks about that. How we get into patterns, how we let others in and allow them to do what’s been done before, how we need to move forward but with kindness for ourselves.

This book isn’t easy to read, but it is. There are parts that are emotional and will make the reader well up. There are also points of light that can give the reader lots of hope. There is something bigger out there and it’s up to the reader to decide what or let the path be shown to them.

I liked this book and recommend it if you’re in need of a help when dealing with codependency.

All Up in Your Bizness by Julianna Newland

All Up in Your Bizness by Julianna Newland
Publisher: Fulton Books
Genre: Non-Fiction, Contemporary
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

All up in Your Bizness is my first book (not counting my diary). Although I have written dozens of speeches, testimonials, newsletters, and talking points, they do not contain the wit and whimsy of this book. I have been employed for more than thirty years in several jobs, where I have seen hilarious shenanigans of the men and women who worked with me and the processes and programs that often befuddled us.

A labor of love and giggles, this book is to be enjoyed as a tongue-in-cheek look at many business circumstances, such as the interview, office kiss-ups, performance reviews, working from home, and working in the open office. Practical and useful advice is also provided.

Unspoken rules can be the hardest ones of all to follow.

As soon as the blurb mentioned this was going to be a tongue-in-cheek book, I knew I had to read it. The author had a fabulous sense of humor, and I chuckled my way through her various anecdotes about what Human Resources may claim a business is like versus what it’s actually like to work there. This is a fun choice for anyone who has ever silently wished they could add a few pages to their employee handbook about what it’s actually like to work for their company.

I loved Ms. Newland’s observations about how life has improved for women in the workplace over the past few decades. It would have been wonderful to also have sections on how things have evolved for people of color, the LGBTQ+ community, disabled workers, and other minority groups over time. I was surprised that none of these topics were covered and would have happily gone for a full five-star rating if they were.

With that being said, I was pleased to see the comparisons between various generations in the workplace. Not everyone from the same generation will behave the same way, of course, but there have been some cultural shifts over time when it comes to things like what an appropriate outfit for work looks like or how much overtime a worker is or isn’t willing to do on a regular basis. Bringing these assumptions out into the open is an important part of making sure everyone is on the same page, and it can also add extra humor to the mix if finding common ground is harder than expected.

All Up in Your Bizness made me smile.

Dozer’s Run – A True Story of a Dog and His Race by Debbie Levy and Rosana Panza

Dozer’s Run – A True Story of a Dog and His Race by Debbie Levy and Rosana Panza
Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press
Genre: Children’s (0 – 6 y.o.), Non-Fiction, Contemporary
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Dozer the Goldendoodle has a wonderful life! He and his best friend, Chica, belong to a loving family. They have warm beds to sleep in, enough food to eat, and plenty of room in their yard to play and investigate. What more could a good dog want? As it turns out, Dozer wants an adventure. And when a runner runs past his yard, followed by another, and another, and another, Dozer decides to follow and see what is happening. In May 2011, unbeknownst to his owner, Dozer slipped out of his yard in Highland, Maryland, enticed by the sight of people running past. The runners were participating in the Maryland Half Marathon, a race benefitting the University of Maryland Greenebaum Cancer Center. Dozer joined the 2,000 runners in the race, inspiring everyone along the 13-mile race course. By the time his adventure was over and he was reunited with his family, Dozer’s “Run” encouraged thousands of pledges in support of the Greenebaum Cancer Center. This true story of a playful dog that actually runs a half marathon entertains as well as inspires.

There’s more than one way to win a marathon.

I loved the gentle humor of this picture book. Some of the funniest scenes were the ones that tried to explain Dozer’s explanation of what those mysterious humans were doing when he found so many of them running past his yard. Surely they must have been chasing something amazing, right? I grinned as he made the sudden decision to join them in their race to see if his assumption was correct.

It would have been helpful to have a better explanation of how this dog escaped from his yard, especially since Chica, the other dog in their family, stayed put. Did he find a hole in a fence or slip out of his leash, for example? If this question had been answered, I would have gone for a full five star rating.

There’s a chapter of this tale that nobody except Dozer will ever know the true details of that involves where he went and what he did after the marathon ended and he was relatively far away from home. The authors did a wonderful job of sharing what the humans were able to figure out about how he spent that night while still keeping everything factual. That must have been a tricky balance to maintain, so I’m glad they pulled it off so nicely.

Dozer’s Run – A True Story of a Dog and His Race was a thrilling adventure.

Memories of John Lennon by Yoko Ono, editor

Memories of John Lennon by Yoko Ono, editor
Publisher: It Books
Genre: Non-Fiction, Biography
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

John Lennon . . . as much a part of our world today as he ever was

He touched many lives in his brief forty years, and continues to move and inspire millions more to this day. Now, invited by Yoko Ono, friends, family, and fans from all walks of life—including some of the great artists of our day—reminisce about Lennon as a visionary and friend, musician and performer, husband and father, activist and jokester.

In their own words and drawings, poems and photos, Lennon’s life from his childhood through the Beatles years to the happiness and tragedy of his final days become stunningly vivid.

Intimate glimpses gathered from musicians who knew John, such as Pete Townshend, Sir Elton John, Billy Preston, and Joan Baez; friends and relatives such as producer David Geffen, publicist Elliot Mintz, and cousin Mike Cadwallader; and artists who followed him such as Bono, Alicia Keys, Steve Earle, Jello Biafra, and Carlos Santana.

And, for the first time, renowned photographer Annie Liebovitz presents every frame of the historic last session with John and Yoko.

Memories of John Lennon is a rich and deeply felt appreciation of a truly great man.

How do you speak about a legend?

I picked up this book because I wanted to read what others had said about John Lennon. I know how I felt about him and his music, but what about his peers? This is a good way to see how they felt and what they thought. Ono adds her own special touches and the little drawings really added to the stories.

I liked the stories about how Lennon affected their lives, but also the court paperwork and the paperwork from the FBI. Lennon was a complicated man and it shows in these pages.

If you’re a fan of the Beatles, then you need to read this. If you like John Lennon, then you really need to read this.