Book Review: Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

Finished this today. Some thoughts:
1. Marcus Aurelius was a Roman emperor who lived from 161-180 A.D.
2. He is also a philosopher.
3. His book, Meditations, is exactly that — a collection of his meditations or thoughts about a variety of mainly philosophical topics.
4. He wrote it for himself or his own benefit. He had no idea it will be read by millions of people throughout history.
5. I only understood around 60-65% of this book. I listened to an audiobook version so I did not get to read it at my own pace and, of course, I did not get to underline or mark the passages that strike me the most.
6. I don’t agree with everything that he said.
7. The parts that I agree with, I truly value.
8. He talked a lot about virtues. This was my favorite part of the book. He painted a picture of what a man (or woman) ought to be — virtuous, of excellent moral character, pure or just in thought, resilient, unperturbed by the opinions and attitudes of other people, untouched by misfortunes, knowledgeable about philosophy and wise in making judgments, and so on. What he discussed sounded a lot like the cardinal virtues in Catholic theology — prudence, justice, temperance, and fortitude.
As a man, I find his ideas and manner of speaking very “relatable” and even appealing, because he speaks in a very manly, strong, and virtuous manner. He sounds like a very wise uncle or a strong dad who wants to help you become more wise by giving you counsel that are both philosophical and practical.
I would love to get my hands on a paperback and read it again. I highly recommend it.

Penguin Random House’ huge ebook sale

Penguin Random House is having a massive ebook sale. See titles below.
1. Golden State
by Michelle Richmond (87% off)
2. Beginner’s Luck: A Novel
by Laura Pedersen (87% off)
3. The Rise and Fall of Great Powers
by Tom Rachman (88% off)
4.The Book of Daniel
by E. L. Doctorow (88% off)
5. One True Thing
by Anna Quindlen (87% off)
6. Finn: A Novel
by Jon Clinch (88% off)
7. A Garden of Earthly Delights
by Joyce Carol Oates
8. Emperor: The Gates of Rome
by Conn Igulden (88% off)
9. All We Ever Wanted Was Everything
by Janelle Brown (88% off)
10. An Available Man: A Novel
by Hilma Wolitzer
11. The Plague Tales
by Ann Benson
1. Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison
by Piper Kerman (81%)
2. Oswald’s Tale: An American Mystery
by Norman Mailer (87%)
3. Just Like Someone Without Mental Illness Only More So
by Mark Vonnegut, MD (88%)
4. Reading Claudius: A Memoir in Two Parts
by Caroline Heller (87%)
5. The Tale of the Rose: The Passion That Inspired The Little Prince
by Consuelo de Saint-Exupery (88%)

Free and Discounted Books for April 30, 2017

Hello there!

Here are today’s free and discounted books. Enjoy!

The Eye of Minds
By James Dashner

Before: $9.99
Now: $1.99
Amazon rating: 4.5/5 stars

“Exhilarating… with touches of Anthony Horowitz’s Alex Rider books and Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game” (Booklist): Michael spends most of his time in a virtual world — but as players are held hostage inside the game, can he stop the nightmare? A New York Times bestseller!

By Rainbow Rowell

Before: $18.99
Now: $2.54
Amazon rating: 4.5/5 stars

A New York Times bestseller that’s “absolutely captivating” (Kirkus Reviews starred review): Cath loves the Simon Snow book series more than anything — but does growing up mean letting the fandom go? “Touching and utterly real” (Publishers Weekly starred review).

By Neal Stephenson

Before: $19.95
Now: $1.99
Amazon rating: 4/5 stars

A #1 New York Times bestseller: The Concent is a sanctuary for the world’s great thinkers. Now, as they prepare to open their community to the outside world, Erasmas faces an extraordinary journey that will challenge everything he’s ever known.

Love in Rewind
By Tali Alexander

Before: $2.99
Now: Free
Amazon rating: 4/5 stars

Married to the perfect catch — a handsome billionaire — Emily is heartbroken when she notices her husband drifting away. Can they turn back the clock and rediscover their passion? A beautifully wrought story that illuminates the complexity of love, with over 600 five-star ratings on Goodreads!

He Chose the Nails
By Max Lucado

Before: $12.79
Now: $1.99
Amazon rating: 4.5/5 stars

 Jesus could have spared himself the cross, but instead he chose sacrifice. A beloved New York Times bestselling author reveals the true gifts that were given the day of the crucifixion.
Fifty Acres and a Poodle
By Jeanne Marie Laskas
Before: $17.00
Now: $1.99
Amazon ratings: 4.5/5 stars

“Humorous” (People): When city dweller Jeanne fulfilled her childhood dream of buying a farm, her life changed in ways she’d never imagined! A heartwarming memoir from a New York Times bestselling author and “wonderful writer” (Pulitzer Prize–winning author Annie Dillard).

Beethoven’s Skull
By Tim Rayborn
Before: $21.99
Now: $1.99
Amazon ratings: 4/5 stars

Learn strange but true stories from music history throughout the last 2,000 years, from rumors of a cursed song to a composer’s eerie exhumation! This “rollicking” compendium (Library Journal) is “an enjoyable source of well-researched material and quirky anecdotes” (Publishers Weekly).

Washington: The Indispensable Man
By James Thomas Flexner
Before: $14.99
Now: $1.99
Amazon rate: 4.5/5 stars
With over 1,700 five-star ratings on Goodreads: A National Book Award–winning author paints a vivid portrait of George Washington in this definitive biography. A perceptive look at America’s first president that “deserves a place on every American’s bookshelf” (The New York Times Book Review).
By Thomas Fleming

Before: $9.99
Now: $1.99
Amazon rating: 4.5/5 stars

The story of Benjamin Franklin — perhaps the most beloved, enduring, and misunderstood of America’s Founding Fathers — comes to life in this intensely personal New York Times bestseller.

Reading Jane Sincero’s You Are a Badass

Currently reading You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero.

Basically, it’s a practical book that aims to help the reader overcome the psychological barriers that prevent her from living a full and awesome life.

The title is catchy, yes, and it does contain some interesting and useful suggestions, but I’m bothered (and annoyed) by a few things:

1. It’s too “New Age-y”. The author keeps on referring to “The Universe” as if it is a person, conscious and capable of making decisions.

2. It talks about “Source Energy”, “vibrations”, and “The Law of Attraction”.

3. It claims that time is an illusion.

4. The author occasionally swears and cusses.

I’ve never bought into New Age philosophy, and the Universe is not a person. So it’s not aware of itself nor is it capable of caring about people. The Universe is not God. 

I also don’t believe in “The Law of Attraction”. 

It’s simply silly to say that time is illusory.

And I just find swearing off-putting.

But the book does have some useful advice, such as the importance of examining our paradigms and letting go of self-defeating beliefs, not allowing people’s opinions about us to determine our sense of self-worth, and choosing to focus on the more positive and beautiful aspects of experience.

Reading St. Josemaria’s The Way

Reading this book now.
It’s on sale in Amazon. Go here:
This is what I love about St. Josemaria Escriva: He is tough. He has grit. He is very manly. He sounds a lot like a strict father or a stern uncle — or a tough coach, or an army general, or a Navy SEAL officer, or a knight — giving you a jolt of reality, shaking and waking you up, telling you things you needed to hear. And for some reason, too, he reminds me of Johnny Cash.
He has a no-nonsense, straightforward style that I really love. Because Christian spirituality is not for wimps. It’s not for the faint of heart. It’s for warriors, because the Christian life involves struggles and battles and waging wars against the self, temptations, and real evils in the world.
I’m just a few pages into the book and already I found these gems:
“Don’t let your life be sterile. Be useful. Blaze a trail. Shine forth with the light of your faith and of your love.”
“May your behavior and your conversation be such that everyone who sees or hears you can say: This man reads the life of Jesus Christ.”
“Maturity: Stop making faces and acting up like a child! Your bearing ought to reflect the peace and order of your soul.”
“Don’t say, “That’s the way I am — it’s my character.” It’s your lack of character. Esto vir! — Be a man!”
And my favorite:
“You clash with the character of one person or another… It has to be that way — you are not a dollar bill to be liked by everyone.
If your character and that of those around you were soft and sweet like marshmallows, you would never become a saint.”

Today’s Free and Bargain Books

Hello, fellow bibliophiles!

Do you like ebooks? How about bestselling ebooks? How about hugely discounted bestselling ebooks? How about free bestselling ebooks?

Me too!

Did you know that the Internet is flooded every single day with free or hugely discounted (read: 70% off) bestselling ebooks?

Me neither. Until recently.

I absolutely love books, especially if they’re free or discounted. I love sharing them, too. So I figured, hey, why not post them here for my readers?

Every day, I will post the links to these titles here in my blog. Take note, though, that they will only be free or discounted for a limited time (typically 24 hours), so get them as soon as I publish them here.

You’re welcome!

Here are the books for today, along with their descriptions:

Little Swan 
By Jonathan London and Kristina Rodanas

Before: $3.99
Now: $1

Amazon rating: 4.5/5 stars

A young swan has much to learn before he migrates for the first time — but will a giant bear keep him from spreading his wings? A “lyrical text” illustrated with “stunning paintings” (Booklist) sure to delight children.

By K. M. Shea

Before: $2.99
Now: Free

Amazon rating: 4.5/5 stars

An enchanting twist on a classic fairy tale: Cinderella has a daring plan to save her homeland — and the dashing Colonel Friedrich is determined to help. But can Cinderella trust a man who works for the kingdom’s cruel queen? With over 800 five-star ratings on Goodreads!

Darkest Journey
By Heather Graham

Before: $6.99
Now: $1.99

Amazon rating: 4.5/5 stars

A New York Times bestseller from a “talented author” (Charlaine Harris): Charlie’s trip back to her hometown takes an unexpected turn when two Civil War reenactors are murdered — and her father becomes the prime suspect. A thrilling mystery with a supernatural twist!

The Best Horror of the Year: Volume Seven
Edited by Ellen Datlow

Before: $9.99
Now: $1.99

Amazon rating: 4/5 stars

From a Bram Stoker Award–winning editor, this anthology of chilling tales will take you into the darkest part of the night… Featuring work by Neil Gaiman, Laird Barron, Garth Nix, and other bestselling authors.

By David Gimmel

Before: $ 7.99
Now: $ 1.99

Amazon rating: 4.5/5 stars

Druss, a fabled axe-wielding warrior, has laid down arms at last — but an unstoppable invasion forces him back to the battlefield! A perfect choice for Tolkien fans, with over 9,600 five-star ratings on Goodreads.

The Flight of the Silvers
By Daniel Price

Before: $9.99
Now: $1.99

Amazon rating: 4.5/5 stars

An action-packed sci-fi read with over 1,100 five-star Goodreads ratings: When their world comes to a devastating end, Amanda and Hannah are transported to a new Earth where the laws of nature are completely foreign. “Highly recommended” (Library Journal starred review).

Final Witness
By James Scott Bell

Before: $13.99
Now: $0.99
Amazon rating: 4.5/5 stars
Law clerk and devoted Christian Rachel has just been handed a major career opportunity. But when a key witness is found dead, Rachel will have to fight for justice with everything she has. A Christy Award–winning legal thriller!
 What the CEO Wants You to Know
By Ram Charan

Before: $22.00
Now: $1.99
Amazon rating: 4/5 stars
From a New York Times bestselling author comes a “book that should be read by everyone” (Jac Nasser, former president of Ford Motor Company): Learn how to develop the instincts of a great CEO using these savvy insights into truly successful businesses.
Furious Love
By Sam Kashner and Nancy Schoenberger
Before: $11.99
Now: $1.99
Amazon rating: 4.5/5 stars
A New York Times bestseller: At the peak of their fame, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton came together in an explosive romance. “Life outdoes movie melodrama in this raucous, intimate dual biography of Hollywood’s ultimate It Couple” (Publishers Weekly).
 You Are Here
By Christopher Potter
Before: $7.99
Now: $1.99
Amazon rating: 4/5 stars
Take a mind-boggling tour through the mysteries of the known universe in this “popular science masterpiece” (The Guardian) for fans of Bill Bryson and Richard Feynman. This astonishing read is “a wonderful, miraculous book: the whole universe bottled for your delight” (Stephen Fry).

Non-Book Review: Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss

Have you heard of Tim Ferriss? You probably have. He’s a pretty impressive guy: Praised by Fast Company, Forbes’ Magazine, and Fortune Magazine as a businessman and entrepreneur; investor of companies like Facebook, Alibaba, Uber, Shopify, Twitter, and dozens of other successful startups; New York Times best-selling author; and host of his own hugely popular podcast.
This, Tools of Titans, is his latest book. It’s sort of a compilation of the best interviews he’s ever had with some of the most interesting, successful, and creative people in the planet. His podcast has been around for many years, so if you want to get the best of what those interviews had to offer but don’t have time to listen to thousands of hours’ worth of podcast episodes, you might want to read this book instead.
Also, look at that cover art. Awesome. Get the book here.
(My apologies for this non-review. I’ll have more substantial things to say after reading the book.)

Book Review: Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin

Have you read this book? You should.

Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin is a leadership book that has application on businesses/organizations, groups, and individuals.

At the heart of the book lies this one principle: extreme ownership, and that is what the book is named after.
It’s partly theoretical (it talks about principles) and practical (it talks about ways the reader can apply these principles in real life). Each chapter also begins with the authors’ stories and experiences in the field of battle, so it reads a little bit like a war memoir. The lessons and principles are drawn from these.
I had so many insights, but these are my greatest takeaways:
1. The success or failure of your organization, business, or group, including your family, depends solely on you as the leader.
2. Ego is a good motivator for winning and succeeding, but too much of it will destroy you. You need to be utterly humble as a leader. Keep your ego in check because it’s not about you, it’s about fulfilling the mission of your company or group.
3. Discipline equals freedom. Motivation is overrated. Discipline is the only key to winning and succeeding.
I highly recommend it! Go here to grab your copy:

Major News!

I have some major news regarding this blog! I’ve been thinking about it for quite a while, and I think now is the perfect time to do this.

I plan to totally overhaul the blog. What that means is that the contents that I will share here will no longer be limited to books, reading, and writing. It will include many other things as well, things I am also passionate about, like vlogging, which I’ve done recently.

I realized that writing and reading are just two of the things I love: I also am fascinated by business, entrepreneurship, startups, public speaking, philosophy, technology, camera gears, vlogging, travelling, luxury, parenting, and many other things. So from now on, I will be doing all sorts of things in this vlog. It will be colorful, exciting, new, fun, different, important, and valuable.

Of course, I’d still be writing stories, and eventually I’d still be able to come up with my own book in the near future. All of my other literary dreams are still there and I’d still reach for them. But I will be expanding to other fascinating interests and ventures and I’d like you to journey with me.


By the way, I really hope to meet each of you in person one of these days. I plan to travel the world with my family in a few years’ time.