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.

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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.


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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.

Guest Review…A Far Cry from Sunset

Today’s guest reviewer is Annie K. Johnson – here she talks about A Far Cry From Sunset by Billy Franks due for release in 2012.


The question posed by the author, Billy Franks, is “Can four friends get ten superstars to appear on a tribute album to an unknown songwriter?” The question refers to author Billy Franks himself, who is a himself a performer and songwriter. He wrote a book about his journey with three of his colleagues as the group sought to connect with – Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, Elvis Costello, Rod Stewart, Bon Jovi, and Bryan Adams. The author clearly aimed high and details his pursuit of these superstars that had occurred over the summer of 2005.

The book apparently goes into the eight-month trip across North America and Europe as the author and company spoke with managers, publicists, and security all in an attempt to persuade the superstar artists to perform for a tribute album. The actual album is available for free through the author’s website,, and features seven of the ten pursued artists. It is sort of mind-boggling that a relatively unknown performer would be able to convince some of the biggest names in the music industry to do something like this, which adds to the interest of the book.

The story, as the author explains, goes into the actual process of tracking down and persuading these artists to appear on this album and will include the experiences of the group in sort of the task of traveling. Apparently, the group had shared with other people what they were intending to do and received a lot of warm encouragement from the regular people they had encountered along their travels. Franks explains that the process had been a tremendous experience, which one could imagine is likely very true, and that the group traveling with him had bonded a great deal. I can imagine that this may be on the heart-warming side and will likely give the reader a look into the offstage life of musicians as observed by someone in a unique position – not entirely on the outside, but not on the inside either.

On the site, the author ponders whether the superstar artists experience life in the thrilling sort of way that the author and his friends had over that summer. I’m not sure how the author handles that particular point, but the claim at least seems to be a bold one to make. In the book, he may back it up with some experience he had in speaking with the artists (according to Franks, he spoke with two of the ten artists). It may be a very profound point in his book that hits at the core of the cost of fame or it could be something that only attempts to earn sympathy for celebrities from readers. It’s hard to say which way things will go, but at the very least, the book does sound very unique and interesting. This will be one to keep an eye on, especially for those interested in the music industry.

The book is set to be released over the summer of this year, so if you would like to read more about the book, sign up for a notification when it is released, or to download the free album that Billy Franks put together featuring superstar musicians, visit his website:

About the Author: Billy Franks was the lead singer and songwriter for “The Faith Brothers”, whose two albums and six singles all made the UK chart. Billy has since released six solo albums to critical acclaim. Last summer he released a charity single in partnership with his friend, Prince Harry, to raise money for the Prince’s African charity Sentebale.

In addition to his musical passions, Billy was recently the focus of a feature length documentary film, called Tribute This! The film chronicles the adventures of 4 friends as they travel the world to ask ome of its biggest stars, Springsteen, McCartney, etc., to appear on a tribute album to an unknown but worthy recipient of such an honour: Billy Franks.

Billy Franks lifetime dedication to his craft says it all. “Billy has devoted his entire life to song writing. He has given so much to others through his music. Dedicating ourselves to a project that would honor him was a no brainer on our part,” said Mick McCleery. (Director of Tribute This!)

This spring will see the publication of his book “A Far Cry from Sunset”, chronicling the adventures of making the movie as well as stories from a musical career that involved touring with the likes of U2 and REM. In conjunction with the release of the book, Billy will release a live album entitled “From the Court to the Empire”, recorded at London’s famous Shepherds Bush Empire theatre.