First Look Through the Window: Roxanne Collins

This is a cut&paste of a review posted on

First Look Through the Window      Roxanne Collins

Not just another self-help book. This is the real deal.

five stars

Star counts are hard, especially in rating a work outside this reader’s normal scope.  More on the stars, counting, and my rating decision later.

The book includes many short but relevant quotes. Clearly Collins is extremely well read and well-informed. There are several book references, for those needing more on any particular topic. Direct quotes from Collins herself are given within quotation marks below.

“The manner in which we are all raised and the messages sent by the society we live in affects the manner in which we develop and perceive the world. When we come into this world, we come as a whole; but this completeness doesn’t last long, because we depend on our parents, on relationships; we are social beings.”

One key lesson here reminds me of a Go proverb: don’t be going back to touch up your plays. As a friend (David Dinsmore) once said it, once you’ve made a decision, it is a good decision. Collins tells her reader to live with what cannot be changed, and not to fuss overmuch about decisions already made.

I remember advice from somewhere, when in a mental rut of frustration, anger, or feeling inadequate: ask oneself these questions: 1) what am I feeling 2) what am I reacting to 3) what am I doing to make/keep myself reacting this way. Collins’ book covers this in many ways, and much better. I am embarrassed that I got a great deal of personal benefit from her work while reading it for free.

“They became prisoners of their own defence mechanisms.” Been there, done that.

“Understanding the essence of a person is truly a conquest, a conquest that demands time and makes you slow down. This way, we can feel understood, connected, we will want to discover more, after building a safe environment, and to solve an endless mystery. We permanently change; we learn and develop together.”

Read the book in order. But when you get to Chapter V, slow down just a bit. If you want my own view of the meaning of life, read The Scroll of the Violin: life has no meaning; we evolved to enjoy it.

“The greatest gift of your existence is the fact that you have a pulse. If you were to remain without air and you could renounce all of your possessions in order to live, you would do it without blinking. And you could start all over again, being grateful that a new chance was offered to you, to be able to live.”

Collins does not quote an older concept, Transactional Analysis, but she certainly is aware of its major insights. Inner voices can represent the ‘parent’ part of the persona, which is always ‘should-ing’ on us.

The above should give you a decent ‘feel’ for this book. Now for my star count boilerplate. My personal guidelines, when doing an ‘official’ KBR review, are as follows: five stars means, roughly equal to best in genre. Rarely given. Four stars means, extremely good. Three stars means, definitely recommendable. I am a tough reviewer. I try hard to be consistent. I have read some of the references given by Collins. I have been sent to ‘charm school’ when I worked for IBM Canada and CIBC. I have other, older works in my personal library. This book is at least equal to the best of them. Thus five stars is an easy decision. If you wonder about yourself and your life, this is part of your answer. Extremely recommended.

Kindle Book Review Team member.

(Note: this reviewer received a free copy of this book for an independent review. He is not associated with the author or Amazon.)

Writing: an introductory thought

Richard Ketchum taught me creative writing. One thing I remember was his suggestions for starting any work: Include as many of the following as early as you can naturally do it:

  • time of day
  • weather and season
  • geographic location
  • distances

to which I added:

  • point of view.

Ketchum said we could learn to write in any form we chose. I mostly chose poetry.


I’d like to share with you the opening lines of a song by Harry Chapin:

it was raining hard in Frisco
I needed one more fare to make my night
a lady up ahead waved to flag me down
she got in at the light

Note that you don’t even need the title (Taxi) to know exactly what’s going on here.


Amazon Kindle, and often GoodReads

I have done 174 Kindle Book Reviews as a KBR Team Member. Many of those authors wanted their review on GoodReads as well. 94 of them are. A few are also on my blog. Today’s review was for a fabulous poetry collection, which you can find out about farther down in this blog.

I take KBR reviews seriously. I always send the author a draft review. Almost always the author is OK with it and I post it on Amazon and often on GoodReads.

I read every word on every page of every work. I generally skim long dedication name lists, but that’s about it.

When I do a review, I’m working for you, and for free. Many authors have come back for seconds and thirds on subsequent works. I am tough and thorough.

I also note typos and other minor things which are ‘not part of this review but for your use or not, as you see fit.’ After a couple of passes I can’t see the typos anymore either.

If anyone out there is interested in reviewing my unpublished poetry, please advise by responding here. I benefit from and appreciate alternate ideas about what works (or not) in my own poetry.



Shirani Rajapakse – Chant of a Million Women

This is a cut&paste of a review your blogger posted on Amazon Kindle. A similar review is also on GoodReads.

Strong free verse on many topics. An experience.

five stars

This is a fine collection of some seventy-three poems. From the opening, At the Side of the Old Mandir, you will realize that Rajapakse is treating you like an adult. While there is sex in several of these poems, they are not graphic.

There are many points of view explored by Rajapakse, including what it’s like to wear a full body covering such as the Niquab (recently made illegal in the Canadian province of Quebec.) I’ve personally always considered all religions to include a strong dose of social control, and this poem, To Dance with the Wind, reinforces my prejudices.

For an example of a woman most definitely in control, turn to Colonized, from which I’ll include this teasing snippet: “You were marked. /Stamped with delicious dragon-fruit /pink. /Scandalous. //Mine. /Branded like a buffalo in the field.”

For a terrifying experience, turn to The Shower. For another, turn to The Lonely Woman. This is not for the faint of heart.

In The Decision, this: “They tasted alright to me, /sweet with a hint of sour /that is what I’ve come to expect of grapes, /and of this thing we call a relationship.”

For an introspection into another damaged relationship, turn to Inside the Old Room, which begins thus: “What would the walls say if only /they could speak? /Would they tell you of the fantasies I dream /when I am not with you?…”  and that’s just the opening.

I should mention that Rajapakse uses titles subtly, often setting the physical scene but not revealing the plot of the poem. For a rare example where she uses repetition, turn to On Campus: Just Before the Exam, which is quite frightening.

For one last favourite here, this is from The Man from Over There: “The verse about you /described you as you were. As you are. /Nothing seems to have changed. /You should have changed. /Grown wiser, better, /but you have not.”

Back to the star count and my usual boilerplate. My personal guidelines, when doing an ‘official’ KBR review, are as follows: five stars means, roughly equal to best in genre. Rarely given. Four stars means, extremely good. Three stars means, definitely recommendable. I am a tough reviewer. I try to be consistent. Rajapakse has great range in this book, writing with power and control. You will find your own favourites here, as well as those mentioned above. Five stars feels  right on. Highly recommended.

Kindle Book Review Team member.

A Small Brag – re Amazon Kindle book reviews

From time to time I get a request to review a book. I’m listed as reviewing poetry, but have been sent other genres as well.

It’s work and I take it seriously. I try hard to be consistent with star counts. I send the draft review to the author for approval, which happens almost every time.

I post the review on Amazon next to the Kindle edition of the book, and sometimes elsewhere. GoodReads is a frequent request.

I do this for free. Sometimes one or more of my authors will review some of my work, sent to them electronically. I choose writers I personally considered to be five-star talents.

Most of these authors don’t even reply to my request. Even ones for whom I’ve reviewed several Kindle books.

That’s OK. I do a review for you with no obligation on your part.

I will confess that I (almost always) really enjoy these works, and frequently learn something  – a bonus.

So, if you find me on the Kindle Book Review Team, you will know where to send your work.

I’ve done about 170 ‘formal’ reviews, and half as many informal/have a look please, ones as well. That’s the brag.

Gary Beck: Tremors

This is a cut&paste of a review posted on Amazon and GoodReads. I’ve reviewed Beck a few times (books,) and he never disappoints. Here’s the review:

social commentary, experience, and a trace of sex nicely done.

four stars

A review is one person’s view of a work and reflects both the work and the reviewer’s prejudices and limitations. So, as always, do not let my star count override your judgement of content. More on the stars, counting, and my rating challenges later. Let’s get to Beck’s work, some one hundred and seven poems.

Social commentary is here mixed in with the human condition. For example, Decline, where the wold gets larger because of the amount of it that one may not be able to witness.

For a short experience, turn to Pretty Picture, which ends thus: “then the unexpected rainbow /and the squirrel of evening, /perched on dead sunset limb, /jabbering of sleep to come.”

Again in Loss we have social commentary made personal.

I mentioned sex earlier, and Commerce is a fine example. Beck flips expectations slightly, thus being clever instead of cliché. For example, “proffer perfumed breasts /reaching for my hands.” Again in Detached: “You accidentally shift /on purpose. /Your soft back/ touches my unmoving hand. /I am tempted to pet your belly….”

Beck can rhyme perfectly when he chooses to do so, as in the short neat poem Commuter Line. I’ve been in Norwalk, Connecticut, once and long ago on a one week course. It is a very wealthy bedroom community (four acres to build a house in the suburbs) grown up around a small village. I can’t give you the force of this work without giving you pretty much all of it, so when you get this book, turn to this poem  and see how nicely Beck merges social commentary with personal experience.

For another interesting comment on sex and desire, turn to Woman, which opens thus: “I can do without you no longer….” There are other ‘interesting’ pieces I could mention, but I’ll move on.

For a punch in the gut, turn to Profile of a Failure, which has a surprise ending.

I think the above should provide a decent feel for this book.

Given all that, how do I manage to come up with a star count? My personal guidelines, when doing an ‘official’ KBR review, are as follows: five stars means, roughly equal to best in genre. Rarely given. Four stars means, extremely good. Three stars means, definitely recommendable. I am a tough reviewer. I try hard to be consistent. Beck is for sure extremely good. Four stars feels right to me; your personal rating may well be higher. And, there are a lot of poems here to choose from. Your favourites may be different from mine.

Kindle Book Review Team member. – what is your problem? Two complaints

I have five poetry books available in several places, including Two of these books still have the same dumb problem I’ve reported to Amazon several times over several months.

They show more than half the book on a ‘look inside.’

My other three books show only a few pages of text, but enough for you, a potential reader, to get a feel for the work and this author’s voice.

I reported this to Amazon last July and was told again in October that it would be fixed. It’s pretty easy to see the problem. Simply go to my author page and select each book in turn, and ‘look inside.’ It’s pretty obvious that three books show a few pages, and that two show more than 40 pages.

That’s my first complaint with Amazon. They give away too much of two of my books. And they can’t fix it, despite repeated promises and apologies.

My second complaint concerns disappearing reviews. One of my earliest positive reviews was by one Shell Tidings and it has disappeared.

I do Kindle Book Reviews for other writers under my own ID but as a Kindle Book Review Team member. I follow all the rules. I keep all the files. I have every eMail ever involved. I am, I think, the only person currently doing poetry. I take all genres, although the KBR team page only mentions poetry. Somehow word gets around. I am tough but thorough.

Several of my book reviews have been re-requested because the author involved found out it (the review) had disappeared. Of course I simply re-posted it from my files.

Recently I received an eMail from Amazon requesting me to review two specific books. Since I keep records, I checked and confirmed that I had indeed previously seen both works. I had reviewed one, and had suggested to the author of the other that some changes should be made. I don’t give a poor review when I think an author can easily fix a work and get better marketing help from what I might decide to write.

So, I checked and found the following: My review of the one work had for sure disappeared, and it wasn’t that long ago – October 5. As for the other one, I had checked its reviews and noted one that was a bit harsh. You will recall I chose not to review this particular version of this particular work. Well, that rough review is missing also.

That’s my second complaint with Amazon. They lose Kindle Book reviews. It seems to be random.

A Public Thank-You to Some Great Writers

There are a number of fine writers out there who responded to my request to help my by critiquing a draft poetry collection.

I got more responses than I had hoped for. So I thanked those I did not choose to use, and picked the earliest positive responses and sent the draft work.

There was at least one offer to critique other things I have in the sort-of-done category, where I need a pair of eyes connected to a fine mind to have a look and see if I’ve missed anything.

If you are one of those now looking over my proposed poetry book 7, I thank you. If you are going over some of my rougher work, I thank you as well.

If you are one of those who was not selected by me this time, I thank you too and assure you that I will be asking again, from time to time.

It can take me several weeks or months to put a book together, once the final vetting process has been completed. So please be patient.

Everyone that helps me by reading and critiquing a draft book will get a copy. Physical if you’re in the Toronto area; eBook file if you are not. Critiquing an entire book means you’ll be mentioned in the acknowledgements. Your web page of choice can be there too. I will publish each book in Amazon Kindle, Lulu ePub, and Lulu Print. I think url’s can be live in electronic versions.

That’s the least I can do to recognize those who help me in my quest for quality.

Thank you all.


Heavy Breathing? I don’t often get to review these: Sparkling Passion is exceptional!

This is a cut&paste of a review done for Bella Forro and her romance novel, as it appears on Amazon and elsewhere.

Romance. Extremely well done, sexy (for adults only); a compelling read.

five stars

Forro’s work is in a genre that is a little unusual for this reviewer, so the star count was (as it often is) a tough decision. Until I realized I’d done a ‘fast first peek’ and read three chapters, only stopping because of an appointment I could not possibly reschedule.

I am aware of this genre mostly from earlier experience with Lynda Simmons, who wrote for one of the Harlequin titles as Linda Simons (they already had a Simmons.) Lynda is now a successful novelist (Island Girl, for an example) under her own name. Forro is roughly her equal in the romance field. To add to the interest, the chief characters get chapters told from their own point of view. And, both viewpoints are believable. Add to this real social knowledge of clothes, makeup, fine dining, whatever.

The story has the predictable love interest, conflict, reconciliation. There is desire and frustration. However, the plot details are clever and unique, and utterly convincing. I’ll give you a few quotes:

“I couldn’t say why, but I reached forward and slipped my hand into his, not sure why or what I was even trying to say in doing it. He seemed surprised, and at least distracted from what was in front of us long enough to tip his head toward me, so I could see the length of his eyelashes and the flash of that heat in his eyes I had seen the night before.”

“…front of my building — disappearing inside to my own room, to tug off these clothes and pull on a pair of cotton shorts and a tank top and crash for a few hours before I had to endure a Monday morning from hell — when Will pulled open my door and I was stepping out into a garage that hosted nothing but beautiful, imported cars. There were so many reasons I shouldn’t be there.”

I should mention that there are a couple of sub-plots that have a surprise interconnection. This is a well-thought-out story. If romance novels are escapist literature, this one will take you in for sure. My personal guidelines, when doing any review, are as follows: five stars means, roughly equal to best in genre. Rarely given. Four stars means, extremely good. Three stars means, definitely recommendable. I am a tough reviewer. I try hard to be consistent. Five stars it is, and an extremely recommended sexy romance.

Kindle Book Review Team member.

(Note: this reviewer received a free copy of this book for an independent review. He is not associated with the author or Amazon.)

The Car: Stuart Larner

This is a cut&paste of a review I did on Amazon. Full text follows:

The Car     Stuart Larner

pictures and diagrams; car experiences, explanations in sonnets (!)

four stars

Really unusual works are hard to rate.  So as always, do not let my star count override your judgement of content. More on the stars, counting, and my rating challenges later. Let’s get to my task: to describe this work to you.

Larner can do social commentary, as in Checking One Out, where the author slyly comments on the owners trying to sell a used car. “Inside seems strange, their car scent makes me cough. /Well-spruced today, but some days not at all.” The sellers’ home and vehicle are gently mentioned in a similar vein.

There are insights into British motoring, more than just calling the trunk ‘the boot’ and jack et cetera ‘breakdown tools.’ This is a fun walk into another culture, at least for this Canadian reader.

There are explanations that range from almost-praying that a car will start, to details of how essential parts work. For example, the cooling system diagram is from a Model T Ford. Much of the technology mentioned is from the simpler era where interested folk like myself actually understood how ignition, timing (and other things, like suspension) worked.

If you’re scrolling for the tiny carps, stop here. There is the odd phrase which I didn’t get. That’s it. Back to  the good stuff.

A favourite here is Epithalamium, which includes this: “The starter cranks its bridal march for this: /The well-groomed air drawing your vapour veil. /Both mists co-mingling in one tingling kiss /To share a breath that burns as you exhale.”

For a bizarre and fascinating explanation, turn to The Right Gear, which is told from the point of view of a cog.

I should mention the images included in this book. They are all credited at the end. All are appropriate for the sonnet each accompanies. It is clear that the author chose these images with care. They vary from photos of cars, of car components, to diagrams of engines, carburetors, ignition systems.

Fittingly, the volume ends with The Garden of Remembrance – a scrap yard.

Back to the star count. This is my standard boilerplate:
My personal guidelines, when doing an ‘official’ KBR review, are as follows: five stars means, roughly equal to best in genre. Rarely given. Four stars means, extremely good. Three stars means, definitely recommendable. I am a tough reviewer. I try hard to be consistent.

Larner’s sonnets vary from literary to mechanical description. The images are all relevant. The work is imho unique. So is it best in genre? Worst in genre?

If you’re looking for some car nostalgia, this book is for you. If you’re looking to explain the automobile to a relative neophyte, this will definitely help. Four stars seems a fair rating for a general audience; your personal rating may well be higher.

Kindle Book Review Team member.

(Note: this reviewer received a free copy of this book for an independent review. He is not associated with the author or Amazon.)