The Self-Discovery Book: Inner Self-Improvement, Book 1

A Review by Joey Madia

There are decades’ worth of self-help/self-improvement books, DVDs, YouTube channels, workshops, retreat weekends, and so on out there. So the first question for both a reviewer and a reader when another book like this comes out is, “What sets this one apart?” In this case, there is more than enough that is new and insightful to recommend it, even if, like me, you have been on this path for most of your life.

First and foremost, this is a workbook, and I am impressed with the thoroughness of the various questionnaires. I also like how closely they align with the text that precedes them. There are hours of work (and many revelations and ah-ha moments) ahead for the committed reader. As you engage with the text and complete the questionnaires, you’ll begin to resonate with the twin goals of “awareness” and “awakening” that are fundamental to the journey.

Another plus is that the book is designed for you to become an active creator of your life. This aligns with the work of currently popular Dr. Joe Dispenza, and my three decades using spiritual practices in storytelling to train actors, directors, and writers. The author identifies eleven attributes of a creator (typically there are seven, correlated with the chakras), which you’ll need to read the book to discover. Being a creator keeps you from falling into the familiar patterns that constitute a life lived under repetitive loops and a semi-conscious hypnosis. Continue reading

American Refugee

A Review by Joey Madia

Disclaimer: I have known Sam Graber for 16 years and have worked with him for 14. We have co-written children’s shows, he’s published four of my nonfiction books, and my theatre company has debuted or work-shopped many of his plays.

That said, American Refugee is an important new podcast that stands on its merits without my doing a fluff piece for an old friend and colleague. Although, after hearing the first two episodes multiple times, I felt compelled to get the word out.

American Refugee is hosted on the OD Action website, which has “a network of more than a quarter million Americans committed to doing our part to right our ship of state and restore a sense of basic decency to our government.”

Of American Refugee, they say: “the big bold podcast finding the heartwarming, heartbreaking and sometimes hilarious stories of American refugees. … You’re about to hear remarkable stories rooted in the most pressing human rights challenges of our time.”

Although it’s rare in advertising, there is truth to this.

American Refugee is immersive journalism in the tradition of Sebastian Junger. It’s not phone interviews cobbled together around a theme. It’s not a progression of talking heads. All the interviewees, locations, and perspectives circle around and illuminate different aspects of the theme, as one would expect from a high-quality narrative. American Refugee is classic storytelling in an audio package with high production value and compelling subject matter. Continue reading

The Jewel in the Manuscript

Review of a Stage Play by Joey Madia

Fyodor Dostoevsky is recognized by many as one of history’s greatest novelists (myself included). Crime and Punishment is ubiquitous in high school and college literature classes, and Notes From Underground, the Brothers Karamasov, and The Idiot beg numerous readings over the course of one’s life.

His novels dig deeply into the human psyche, tackle complex moral issues, and are rich in both characterization and imagery.

That said, I knew little about the personal life of the man whose novels were part of the reason why I became a writer. And so it was, with no hesitation and great interest, that I accepted the request to read and review this play, which, as the playwright tells us, “was inspired by events in Dostoevsky’s life.” “Inspired by” is a phrase I much prefer in place of “based on a true story.” It gives the writer ample room for interpretation, as “inspiration” indicates the writer’s role clearer than “based on.” Because of “inspired by,” I did not fact check the play beyond the playwright’s own notes to the reader at the end of the script. Continue reading

The Art of Divination

A review by Joey Madia

Before I begin this book review, some background on the author is essential.

For several decades, William Douglas Horden has focused on the I Ching. Of his more than twenty books, nine are part of a series that concludes with the book being reviewed. The others—directly or by way of energetic and experiential connections—further explore the ancient tool of divination and spiritual practice called the I Ching.

Interested readers should read my previous reviews of Horden’s works for details on his background and training, which are extensive and impressive.

The Art of Divination is a handbook for those who are diviners and those whose path may be leading them there. My wife, a psychic medium, makes her living in large part as both a diviner (with tarot, other readings, and communications with the dead) and when using aspects of divination in her work as an energy healer.

As for those who may be considering divination in whole or in part as a focus of their life—the category into which I fall—The Art of Divination will provide invaluable insights into what is involved. And, I have to tell you, it is quite a lot.

But don’t let this daunt you. Horden is a Master Teacher, a statement I base on having been blessed over the last decade to experience his skill through books and exercises, I Ching readings, and in-person visits. Continue reading

Desa Kincaid: Bounty Hunter

“Sci-Fi Western Heaven”

A review by Joey Madia

In this age of comic book and tent-pole action film mania (I am listening to the soundtrack of Thor: Ragnarok as I type), it is a given that talented authors who write cinematically with plenty of action and larger than life characters should enjoy increased readership.

R.S. Penney and his writing meet these criteria. Desa Kincaid: Bounty Hunter is a fun, action-packed horse-ride from beginning to end.

Another area where I am seeing increased traction as a writer and reviewer is in genre-bending and mashups. Desa Kincaid is a Sci-Fi Western (sort of a Cowboys vs. Aliens meets Stephen King’s The Dark Tower) that succeeds because it employs both its genre Tropes with confidence and effect while smashing to bits just as many.

Sci-Fi and the traditional Western, when you deconstruct them, are excellent bedmates. They each traffic in religious and philosophical questions and metaphors and both are driven by Landscape. Vast, unexplored spaces. They pit humans not only against each other, but that very Landscape, and, like Fantasy, they feature the journey in the Hero’s Journey as a major part of the plot. Think of the success of Star Trek (pitched by Gene Roddenberry as “Wagon Train to the stars”), the cowboy archetype that is Han Solo, and the cult following enjoyed by Joss Whedon’s Firefly. Continue reading