Guest Review…Morning Star

Today’s guest reviewer is Annie K. Johnson – here she talks about Morning Star by Desiree Finkbeiner.


Morning Star is the first book in the Ethos series written by Desiree Finkbeiner.

The story begins with Brianna (Bree) Armstrong, a college student, having suffered some very serious injuries being tended to by a paramedic, then later, a doctor at the hospital. She had been nearly scalped and her neck broken, but somehow these wounds healed up almost instantly. Strangely enough, the doctors find a cocktail of opiates and narcotics in her system, though Bree hadn’t put them there herself, not that she remembered anyway. To make matters weirder, she finds a gigantic dead purple dragonfly at home. The next day, she and her friends at school see another followed shortly by a handsome stranger. Intrigued yet?

The story follows Bree as she discovers that she is not like everyone else. The handsome stranger is Kalen, from the fantasy world of Ethos, which is where the strange purple dragonflies are from as well. One of the most overlooked details in a book is the difference in culture. Most authors don’t account for anything like this, but Finkbeiner has the main character experience some culture shock as she adjusts to life in Ethos. Those little details add to the overall value of the story, making it more real for the reader.

There is also the element of romance between Kalen and Brianna, though the book is not primarily a romance novel. There is more action and adventure than romance, but the author strives to create a book that creates a story that includes the entire range of experiences and emotions a person feels. The spiritual element of the book as well as the idea of balance is a very important one to the characters and to the plot. Even the way the author describes the villain, Ellette, with a compelling back story and the depth of description to the same degree that the main characters were given finishes this picture of a complete world.

There are some old-fashioned things in this book that may make you roll your eyes like abstaining from sex until marriage, old-fashioned chivalry, those sorts of things. It’s nothing unusually shocking, and is likely something that will only add to the appeal to the targeted audience of adult women and young women.

Overall, the book flows very well and has a very consistent story. You won’t see anything more than maybe a couple of typos here and there, but nothing that  detracts from the story.


About the Book

It started with a mushroom, from another world… never before touched by a human hand, until Brianna… but life continued as normal… until a near fatal accident almost a decade later, reveals to Brianna… she’s… different…

Unexplained lab results, unusually fast healing, and recent sightings of Jurassic sized dragonflies… What is happening to her?

When a peculiar man delivers her from a violent assault, she becomes enchanted by his heroism and inhuman abilities. Her rescuer, Kalen, is sworn to protect the powerful secret she has yet to realize, from an ancient foe with evil designs…

With the secret exposed, our world is no longer safe. Kalen takes Brianna to Ethos, his home, unprepared for what happens next… An ancient prophecy unfolds and they must make make a choice… Give into their forbidden love, or sacrifice their heart’s desire for a chance to save their worlds.

Buy it on Amazon:


About the Author

Desiree Finkbeiner attained a bachelor’s degree in Graphic Design from Missouri Southern State University (2006) with a heavy background in business, marketing, music and fine art– She was heavily involved in campus affairs and served actively in several committees focusing on campus entertainment and events.

She performed with musical acts/bands in rock and electronic genres, released seven studio albums, performed in 11 states and has written hundreds of songs. Her band, Carbon Star, was a finalist for VH1’s “Bands on the Run” reality TV show in 2000. Then she performed with Pointy Teeth until finally leaving the music industry for the quiet life.

She had a scholarship for acting in college though she was not a theater major. Although she no longer performs or focuses on musical/performing arts, she has chosen to shift her talents to other areas that are more conducive to raising a family.

Continuing education is a constant adventure for Desiree with topics of interest ranging from civil and corporate law, history, political conspiracy, homeopathic medicine and spiritual healing. She prefers to read non-fiction, especially on topics that educate and broaden her perspectives on controversial issues.

Desiree has been a successful business owner since the age of 16 and currently operates an extreme sports store with her husband. Running a family business affords her the opportunity to focus on art, writing, and spending time with her family.

She hates television and chose to stop watching at age 14 when it became clear to her how precious time was. She’d rather spend her time creating and accomplishing her aspirations than waste time viewing TV or engaging in other time-wasting activities.

With thousands of completed art works in her archives, most of which appear in private collections worldwide, Desiree hopes to focus more on publishing, marketing and licensing her work so she can leave a legacy behind.

Guest Review…Making Life Better

Today’s guest reviewer is Annie K. Johnson – here she talks about Making Life Better by James Vandenburg.


Making Life Better by James Vandenburg is best understood as being a collection of philosophical essays that explore personal choice, thought patterns, and the general state of the mind. This is really what a self-help book should look like without really being a self-help book. It’s definitely more of a collection of related philosophical essays and one that a wide variety of readers could enjoy and appreciate. The only thing that matches the usual genre is the title. The actual content of the book is so far from anything I’ve ever seen in a self-help book and is so plainly honest that you just can’t help but like it.

Making Life Better is really sort of a fundamental philosophy book. I could easily see this being required reading for a Philosophy 101 course because of the simplistic style of writing and the sheer depth of Vandenburg’s arguments about the mind. This book is meant to stimulate thought and it does, whether you’ve come to his same conclusions already or not.

It is laid out in such a way as to connect with the reader and is written in a style that anyone can understand and follow. This is a feat only rarely achieved by authors who write something as intelligent as this is. Vandenburg does not just stop when he says that everything is a personal choice; he goes very deep into his own mind about it. It was very clear in reading this book that the author has spent a great deal of time actually conceptualizing what would be in this book and putting it into words. Still, he manages to piece his piece his arguments together without rambling or losing the central point of them.

What I didn’t like at times was that Vandenburg used specific examples throughout his book while still remaining somewhat vague. He talked about his fifth grade teacher early in the book who was the first to turn his fifth grade belief that “I had no choice” on its ear. At the same time, he doesn’t mention exactly what he was trying to assert having no choice on. The reader has to assume that it has to do with homework, but it would have been nice for the author to be more specific. Still, the point comes across that he learned a valuable lesson about his thought process from interactions with that teacher. With that, he does go into incredible detail on are the actual discussions of that particular thought process.

Similarly, the book starts off at the end of a conversation between the author and an unnamed friend. I think it would have been better if the entire conversation, or at least the stunning realization that had inspired the conversation, had been shared with readers. Instead, it was vague and I didn’t grasp the full point of that conversation. I’ve had the “Well, duh” moments that the author describes, but I’m not sure what kind of “Well, duh” moments he specifically meant. I can’t identify with that story because there aren’t enough details in the author’s description to stimulate a recall of those memories. As that’s the biggest and only flaw I’ve found with the book, it’s not something that makes it any less enjoyable or any less intelligent.

Overall, this is a very intelligent book that a lot of people would enjoy and would benefit from. If you don’t want to reach for a self-help book for whatever rut you’re in, this is the book you should go for.

About the book: Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. once said, “A mind stretched by a new idea can never go back to its original dimensions.” For a control freak like myself, this is no small matter. Making Life Better is an invitation to own our part of our making and embrace our unique opportunities to make our lives better. It’s about making routine and daily choices of action, reaction, thought and feeling more profoundly connected to who we are, what we desire and what’s most important to us. It’s an invitation to turn off our auto-pilot setting and allow our sense of purpose, identity and direction to break into our lives with greater wisdom, clarity and intention. It’s a recognition that a meaningful, fulfilling and happy life is really nothing more, though certainly nothing less, than a very long series of meaningful, fulfilling and happy moments. How we experience each of those moments is always completely within us.


Buy the book on Amazon:

About the author: James Vandenburg is a geek.  He’s also a Writer, Composer, Motivational Speaker and quite often, a Philosopher.  He holds Bachelor degrees in Music Theory/Composition and in Philosophy/Religion, a Master’s in Music Composition, and continues to be an eternal student of life and culture with a penchant for reading everything he can get his hands on.  He’s traveled to some of the most remote places on the planet but for now, is perfectly happy living in sunny San Diego, CA.