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Run To You by Rachel Gibson

IMG_20180705_183804_928.jpgTo have Beau, a strong, tall, mysterious, muscle bulging ex-Marine turned private investigator come rescue you from your mob affiliated boss in Miami would be what any woman who hope for when in that kind of trouble. Not Stella the beautiful raven haired, blue eyed Latina mix bartender who swears she can handle her own and believes her troubles only started once Beau (the ex-Marine now PI) dropped into her life. 

Stella’s half sister who wasn’t aware of Stella’s existence until their mutual father died, hired Beau to track Stella down to bring her to the Texas cattle ranch where at last they could meet. Believing it would be a walk in the park, Beau agrees to the mission and seeks out Stella in the dive bar in Miami. However, once he reached the bar in Miami and meets Stella, he soon discovers getting Stella to come to Texas to meet her half sister is more difficult than expected. Stella has no desire to meet her half sister as she suffers from anxiety and fears she would only be looked at as a disappointment or outcast. However, the freedom of choosing to go to Texas is quickly obliterated. Once Beau knocks out Stella’s mob-boss (because he refuses to let go of Stella’s arm) and Stella slamming a door on her boss’s right hand man, the exit strategy for getting to Texas because improvised and hurried. Now as a target, Stella has no choice but to hop into the black SUV with Beau and head for Texas whether she wants to our not.

After years of sleeping around with many women, Beau decides to take a vow of celibacy and vows to stay away from sex until he is married and it is meaningful. However, through tension, quirks and heat of the South, Beau finds himself now stuck in a rented SUV with Stella and is captivated by her beauty and curves. As the hours pass he feels the need to protect her. Without her trying to, he finds Stella has an ability to stir emotions within him sexually and dare he say his heart. In the mean time, Stella finds Beau cold, irritating and rough but yet is drawn to his masculinity, body and warm personality that she sees hints of. Stella is a virgin and promised to not have sex with anyone who she isn’t in love with. However, by the time they reach New Orleans, sparks fly, Beau’s southern bulge grows and they way Stella’s black hair falls around her soft plump breasts the two can’t resist each other. After a night filled with erotic and tasty pleasure (that excludes penetration) Stella experiences orgasms unlike any before. Having now broken all his “rules” with Stella, Beau finds himself caught between wanted to distance himself from her and wanting to be with her all the time. 

Once they reach Texas, the sisters meet and questions from the past are finally answered. Stella decides to spend another night of blissful rubs and touches with Beau in Texas and she ultimately confesses that she is in love with Beau. Of course, not wanting to admit his true feelings, he breaks Stella’s heart causing her to run out of his place, leaving him alone. Beau does go to run after her, but she refuses to listen as her heart has been crushed she just wants to move on with life. After weeks go by with none of his calls or texts being answered, Beau decides to use his private investigator skills to work and arrives as Stella’s doorstep. Will Stella take him back? Will they live happily every after? Find out by reading this sexy brain-candy romance. Perfect for a beach or weekend read. 5 stars

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I Can’t Make This Up, Life Lessons By Kevin Hart

IMG_20180705_171309_733This hilarious autobiography/ memoir is exactly the type of story we need to read in today’s stressful times as it will have you laughing out loud. Famous comedian, Kevin Hart takes the reader through a roller coaster of events that occurred throughout his life including the good, the bad and the ugly. Hart begins his story by taking us back to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where he grew up. From childhood to teenage stages, to being a young man to adulthood, Kevin provides insight and wisdom on life that he gained either through experience or via the characters that have entered and/or left his life. With each chapter being a new “life lesson”, we learn about his drug addicted womanizing father, his brother who was in and out of trouble but eventually got his act together due to the military, the co-worker who told him he should go into comedy and to Tory, his baby momma who added drama. We learn Kevin loved his Dad but never wanted to end up like him, and loved his brother but were two different people, to how Kevin was Mr. Awesome in high school but graduated with no plan and ended up working retail all while dealing with a love-hate relationship with Tory that all lead to self destruction, self discovery and relationship wisdom. Kevin provides us with keen insight into the hustle that he endured during the early stages of his career driving from Philly to NYC to perform in comedy shows that either paid little or nothing at all.

Throughout all the hustle and hardship that Kevin mentions in the book, he continuously makes references to his solid foundation that came from his rock which was his mother, Nancy. He comments on how she kept him consistently busy with activities like swimming lessons and then having to be watched by a neighbor everyday so he would stay out of trouble. He mentions how all she had to do was give “the look” and knew that he was in deep water. While he describes her as a strict, fierce, highly disciplined, church-going, bible-reading tough love kind of a mother, he also mentions how she was his everything and biggest supporter all along whether he was aware of it or not. Kevin mentions that it wasn’t until she got really sick and eventually passed away while he was shooting the film Fool’s Gold (2008) in Australia that he realized how much she meant to him and that life lesson number whatever is that there is nothing stronger than a mother’s love.

The take away from this memoir is a mix. By the end you feel as though Kevin is a good friend, yet also a comedian who provides you with life lessons that don’t always hold value but then shockingly your heart is melted by the fact that Kevin learned and shared the biggest life lesson of all. That lesson is that is life is short, and you should spend it with your family and loved ones and that you can’t expect 100% of anything when you give anything less that a 100%. That you should work hard everyday, stay disciplined and focused on your goals and that you will achieve success through all you hard work. 

My advice to the readers out there reading this article is to not read this book but rather listen to this book through audible.com or audio books via apple or the library with books on tape. Kevin Hart reads his own story and thus adds comments that are improvised throughout the reading that is not on page. Kevin’s energy throughout the reading makes the words come to life and fills the atmosphere with laughter, wit and love. Hard copy 4/5 stars, audible version 5/5 stars. 

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It’s Not Easy Being a Bunny by Marilyn Sadler

IMG_20180430_002657_033.jpgThis illustrated children’s book is the perfect spring time read for your little ones. The story is about a bunny named P.J. who does not like being a bunny. P.J. thinks it would be better/easier to be another animal and sets off to become something else. P.J. attempts to be a bear, a skunk, a beaver and many other animals, but like many who think that the grass is greener on the other side, P.J. soon discovers that is not necessarily true. After many attempts to become something he isn’t, he learns that in life it is best/easier and more joyful to be yourself. A simply, yet funny book that’s good for self esteem and encouragement amongst young readers. 4/5 stars. 

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Back To The Future (Pop Classics) by Kim Smith

IMG_20180507_005330_823.jpgI loved this book! I am happy to see that Marty, George, Doc and the whole gang are coming from the past and making it #backtothefuture for newer generations to absorb. It is an excellent illustrated children’s book that introduces children to the story of Back to the Future. This book is true to the original film production from plot, to characters to humor. Fun, colorful and heart-warming, this is a wonderful gift to give to any child, 80’s born baby, nostalgic lover or Back to the Future fan. I highly recommend. To the delorean! 5 stars

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Ramadan (Celebrate The World) by Hannah Eliot

IMG_20180617_173647_477Ramadan (Celebrate The World) is an excellent early readers illustrated book that helps your little one to understand Ramadan and it’s meaning. Ramadan is the 9th month out of the Lunar calendar and it is a time in which Muslims fast from dawn till dusk. They fast during this Holy time to remind themselves of how others (who are less fortunate) in the world live as well as to realize and be grateful for how lucky they are. It is a time for self reflection, prayer and family. When the sun goes down they have a meal called Iftar which is the first meal of the day that breaks the fast. Later in the night families will gather for Sahoor (supper) that is filled with delicious food to help them fast for the next day. When the crescent moon is in the sky Ramadan is over and Muslims celebrate Eid al-Fitr or the “sweet festival”.  The Sweet Festival is when families come together over a grand feast and celebrate. This book is a wonderful way to introduce your little ones into your Ramadan holiday or to introduce non-muslim children to Ramadan to encourage a sense of tolerance & understanding

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Year One by Nora Roberts

IMG_20180306_125157_341Year One is a wonderfully well written science fiction / fantasy novel that will suck you in and captivate you by it’s characters. As the new year rings in, a new apocalyptic world develops where a dark and mysterious disease with no cure insight known as “the doom” takes a human life each second throughout the world. As witches, fae, elves and shape shifters (of good and evil) emerge as the more dominant race as many humans are dropping off the face of the Earth, the only humans who do survive are somehow immune to “the doom”. 

The main characters Lana and Max who are both witches living in NYC, realize they must finally leave the city they love so much if the are going to survive in this new world as it has now become overrun by “the doom”, mobs of angry rioters known as the “riders” and some sort of dark magical force. Max leads the way to Pennsylvania in hopes of reaching his young warlock brother Eric who is safe in a cabin in the woods. While at the cabin, Lena discovers she is pregnant with Max’s baby and once again these two (or now three) are in danger. Eric and his spunky girlfriend have turned and are consumed with dark magic determined to destroy “the one” within Lana. Through a heart breaking dual between two brother’s Max annihilates Eric in order to protect Lana and his baby. With a sadden heart, the Max, Lana and the unborn baby head towards the middle of the country and then South in hopes of finding a more stable environment to survive.

Secondary main characters such as Chuck who is a tech genius from Hoboken, NJ, Arlys the journalist from NYC who is with her overly optimistic female fae colleague Fred know they too must find a safer place to be. Rachel the successful Brooklyn doctor and Jonah the paramedic who has the ability to see death within people before it takes hold of them and Katie who’s the new mother of twins and an infant know they must survive and exit the city via boat to NYC and head West then South. Along the way, the lives of these characters intersect and ultimately, they all come together in hopes of having a new and stable life in a town they named New Hope. As more and more survivors roll into New Hope, life is looking better, as everyone has something to offer whether it be that they’re one of the “Un-canning” (non-human magical folk) or human. Unfortunately chaos breaks when Eric returns high in the sky with consumed with more evil power and kills Max instantly. Feeling the magic grown inside her daughter and knowing Eric will not cease until her and her daughter are dead, Lena, who is far along in her pregnancy flees New Hope embarking on a journey of her own to survive. 

Dirty, weak and nearly starving Lana stumbles upon a small farm tucked away in the woods and is taken in by the kind and handsome ex-US Army Captain named Simon Swift. The two are skeptical of each other at first, but ultimately end up helping each other and become great companions. Simon helps to deliver Lana’s baby and from that moment of birth they’re a family. Fast forward to the beginning of a new year, a mysterious bearded man on horseback named Mallick arrives to pay tribute to “the one” (Fallon, Lana’s daughter). He informs Lana and Simon that “Her coming has been written, sung and foretold. One year ago today, the fabric ripped, the scales tipped when the blood of the damned defiled holy ground. So the purge followed, and magick strikes back, you have nothing to fear of me” (location 6102, via Kindle version). Malick informs them that when Fallon is thirteen, he will come back for her and take her for two years of training to become what she was born to become. Malick then gives baby Fallon a ball of crystals that only she will be able to use and a pink teddy bear and vanishes, leaving the reader Lena and Simon in thoughts of confusion. The story ends as what I consider a cliff hanger, because while story has finished, a new one has begun. 

This new novel by Nora Roberts is the perfect story to devour if you are a True Blood and/or The Walking Dead fan. Set to be a series, this is book one, and while it is filled with despair, loss, fear and sorrow it is also extremely adventurous, captivating, exciting, hopeful and at times humorous. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and am on heels of anticipation for the sequel. Happy reading! 5 stars – Loved it. 

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The Art of Running in Heels by Rachel Gibson

IMG_20180305_130538_629.jpgThis humorous and romantic dramedy is the perfect and easy to read brain candy any woman would be happy to indulge in. Sean Knox is the brown eyed, dark haired muscular hockey player for the Seattle, Washington Chinooks who is waiting in the Sea Hopper (private helicopter service) to fly to his hypochondriac mother. His mother has always been “sick” and is once again “dying” from another “disease” in Sandspit, British Columbia. Already 15 minutes behind schedule, Sean is annoyed and begins wondering why the pilot insists on waiting for the last minute/late passenger. Just then the tall and leggy, triple D breasted, model looking blonde dressed in an over-the-top poofy/tacky white wedding gown is sprinting down the dock in five inch Christian Louboutin stilettos heading straight for the Sea Hopper. Without much care for poise and dignity, Lexie Kowalsky leaps into the Sea Hopper like a robber leaping into a get-away car yelling to the pilot to take off. With hair out of place, fabric and tool covering her every which way and her breasts about to fall out of her dress, Sean can’t help but think she is a total chaotic mess who he is instantly aroused by. Lexie is lying down on the sea next to Sean coming off of an adrenaline rush from just running out on her realty TV wedding, and peers up into the face of the man (Sean) and begins to think of how handsome he is.

Upon landing in Sandspit, the two go their own ways but bump into each other the next morning at a diner. With Lexie seeing her face aired on every news channel as the “runaway bride” from the reality show “Getting Hitched”, she is desperate to lay low and asks to tag along with Sean to his mother’s. When Lexie meets his all day TV watching mother, her identity is known immediately and in order to prevent Sean’s mother from calling the Wendy Williams Show (to win the contest in locating where Lexie is), Sean and Lexie pretend to be an in love boy-friend and girl-friend. With Lexie not even knowing Sean’s last name and Sean knowing Lexie is nothing but trouble (because she is the daughter of his Coach, John Kowalsky,) the attraction/ sexual tension continues to build. After two days of pretending, Sean can’t hold it in anymore and finds himself with Lexie in her hotel room. They share a night of sensual pleasure and release in which Lexie “felt him everywhere, his body covering hers as he moved within her, touching and stroking the exact place where her pleasure was centered, in and out, driving her wild.” (pg. 139) Knowing that is was just great sex and only great sex, the two leave and go their own separate ways back to Seattle, Washington. 

However, once Lexie gets back, she soon finds a picture of her being held against her hotel door with a man kissing her plastered all over the gossip magazines and news. Furious as hell, Lexie believes Sean had a photo taken and leaked it to the press. Hurt and embarrassed, she attempts to keep a low profile and forget about what happened in Sandspit. Fate has a different plan because while Lexie is attending the Chinhook’s home game, (to support her father, John, Coach of the Seattle Chinhooks hockey team), the newly added player is shown on the huge flat screen TVs (prompting his stats and info), she is shocked to discover Sean is the newly added player that her Dad has been despising. Needless to say Sean and Lexie reunite, and once again Lexie needs his help. In hopes of re-directing her social image as she doesn’t want her pet-clothing line company so suffer anymore than it already has since becoming the “runaway bride” she asks Sean to pretend to be her boy-friend again in-order to make the recently circulated photo of them understandable and not scandalous. Reluctantly Sean agrees to help as he doesn’t want John (his coach, Lexie’s father) to hate him anymore that he already does. With secrets to hide, plots to twist, images to repair and a business to save, and two of the sexiest people on Earth working together so intimately what could every go wrong? In the end the attraction, the words said, the touches shared, the feelings felt, and orgasms experienced, is it all lust and pretend or could these two sexy polar opposites be the real deal? Enjoy this gossipy, indulgent, brain candy soft erotica to find out what happens. 5 Stars – Loved it 

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A Raisin in The Sun by Lorraine Hansberry

IMG_20180226_131733_560The yearning for a bigger home, a better wardrobe, a cleaner/nicer neighborhood, a good education and the opportunity to pursue one’s dreams are the epitome of the American dream & should be available to everyone. Unfortunately for the Younger family in the late 1950s in Chicago’s Southside, being black created more than just economic problems, but educational, gender and social class problems causing the American dream for blacks to become less obtainable.

Being that February is black history month I decided to dive back into a literary classic from high school that is dramatic & at times a humorous tragedy. A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry, has us follow the Younger family through their ups & downs of being black in a “white man’s world”. With an insurance payout check on the way dreams become tangible & moving into a home in a nicer neighborhood become reality. Faced with racism, segregation and sudden money loss, the family must choose between succumbing to the “white man” & his way or keeping ones pride, sticking together as a family through thick & thin in pursuit of a better life. No matter who you are, this play is relatable, as all people have at some point experienced hope, loss, family drama & the dream of becoming something more. 

This play records the unfair inequalities, segregation & racism black individuals faced throughout American history. It also proves that through families sticking together & keeping the American dream alive within your heart, you too shall overcome

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LOVE by Matt De La Peña (Illustrated by Loren Long)

IMG_20180207_104304_432.jpgLove by Matt De La Peña is an illustrated children’s book that brings the word “love” into a new perspective. Often, when people think of the word “love”, happy couples, hearts, sunsets, romance and/or marriage comes to mind. What I enjoyed about this picture book is that Matt De La Peña brings to light all the different ways people can experience love throughout their life. Love is not pigeon-held to just couples, romance, marriage etc, but it is the relationship we have with parents, friends, neighbors, brothers, sisters, our city and/or food. He mentions how a parent holding a child in their arms as the child is waking up from a nightmare saying “it’s okay, it’s okay”, is an act of giving and receiving love. Matt mentions how seeing the same musician outside of the subway playing “love notes that lift into the sky like tiny beacons of light” provides a sense of comfort and in a sense love. A grandfather and each crease in his face as he is fishing with his grandson is also an act and sense of love. A sister providing a piece of toast for her brother is another act and/or experience of love. It’s a perfect children’s book to help kids understand that love can be all around them and all they have to do is recognize it. What everyone else can learn from this storybook is to appreciate the small gestures in everyday life and how they add up over time resulting in happy memories, stability and most of all…love. A good story to read to your kids around Valentine’s Day. 3 stars – Liked it. 

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Top 10 Books I Read in 2017

It was a busy year when it came to reading and out of the 32 books I completed (ranging from children’s books, to sci-fi, to murder/mystery, to fiction, historical fiction and audio books), I have narrowed down my favorites to 10 finalists. The winners are

IMG_20171111_172307_6451. THERE WAS AN OLD MUMMY WHO SWALLOWED A SPIDER BY JENNIFER WARD – is an illustrated Halloween children’s book filled with silly rhythmic and funny words perfect for capturing any young child’s attention. In short, a mummy wakes up from his sleep and sees a spider and decides to swallow it. Throughout the story he continues to swallow an eclectic range of items and living organisms making any child squirm and squeal with skepticism and delight. With phrases like “He swallowed the ghost to scare the witch….” and “He swallowed the rate to chase the spider” the reader wonders what on Earth the mummy will swallow next. Will it be another strange item or will it perhaps be you? Definitely worth picking up for any young reader who enjoys Halloween and being silly.  Category: Children’s Picture Book
https://g.co/kgs/SshH9b

IMG_20171024_164700_3832. THE CRUCIBLE BY ARTHUR MILLER – One of my all time favorite plays and classic pieces of literature. Miller’s play captures the essence of the contagious and rapid insanity of “witchcraft” hysteria during the years of 1692 and 1693 in Salem, Massachusetts. Through descriptive character development Arthur Miller takes the readers on a journey back in time to witness the chaos, torture, desperation and despair. Through these accusations and ultimate deaths of many of the characters, Arthur Miller eloquently displays how men at that time used religion as a means of control to achieve a desired outcome. They used the fear of God to persuade people to conform whether they wanted to or not, which is against the true meaning or message of Christianity. The Crucible’s strong undertone proves how corrupt man’s spirit can be despite religious affiliation and how righteous a man’s spirit can be even if he has committed sin. Witchcraft be only the icing on top of this cake. In the event that you haven’t absorbed this play yet, please consider it a must read and place it on your “to be read” list as it is written beautifully and touches upon human characteristic flaws and how if provided a spark everything will ignite. Remember, history does repeat itself.
Category: Historical Fiction, History, Plays, Dramatic Theater
https://g.co/kgs/fUZjRp

IMG_20171025_095500_9983. ROOM ON THE BROOK BY JULIA DONALDSON –  A delightfully illustrated children’s book perfect for Halloween time. It’s a simple, short and entertaining rhythmic story about a witch who shares her broom with a dog, a cat, a frog and a bird. With the simple teachings of being kind to others and they’ll be kind to you, this is a funny and cute story to read to little ones this Halloween season.
Category: Children’s Picture Book, Halloween
https://g.co/kgs/ENLLPG

IMG_20171016_145520_7394. LIES SHE TOLD BY KATE HOLAHAN– Ever tell that lie so much that you’ve come to believe it yourself? Is there a distinct line between fiction and non-fiction? One never really knows except the story teller as the truth normally dies with them. This is a mind-boggling, line blurring, cross over of fiction versus non-fiction suspenseful murder/mystery novel in which the author, Cate Holahan engulfs the reader into the similarly complex lives of Liza and Beth. This makes the reader ponder which is the lie and which is the truth. A must read for anyone who enjoys character manipulation, suspense, murder/mystery, psychological drama and mind games. I highly recommend this novel as a must read for Fall as I haven’t read a story like this before.
Category: Murder/Mystery, Psychological Thriller, Fiction
https://g.co/kgs/dmK7sM

IMG_20170922_131010_3365. DARK MATTER BY BLAKE CROUCH – if you had to look at yourself standing right in front of yourself, would you trust that other version of you? This novel of science-fiction, mystery and quantum mechanics turns into a game of chess, a battle against his own thoughts (Jason, the main character) and a survival of the fitness leading into much suspense and murder. A fast paced, engaging and contemplating novel is an excellent read and leaves the reader in awe. Remember, life is laid out in a matter of minutes and in each minute we have a choice. Depending on what you choose will alter all the other minutes in your life. What choice will you make?
Category: Science Fiction/Fantasy, Romance, Fiction
https://g.co/kgs/Nd446R


IMG_20170901_173117_0496. THE HANDMAID’S TALE BY MARGARET ATWOOD – 
 (Audiobook read by Claire Danes)This novel was originally published in 1985 but touches the reader as though it was written today. This well written novel of a dystopian society scarily coincides with what takes place with women’s rights and politics today. Claire Danes’s voice adds familiarity and emotion to the story that I don’t feel I would have gained if I had just read the book alone. Her reading performance is wonderful and adds a voice to Ofred (the main character). Loved this audiobook and highly recommend for readers on the go and for all men/women. he Handmaid’s Tale is such a predominate piece of literature that it is considered a classic and must-read for men and women, young and old. I highly recommend this novel, for it surely will leave you stunned and breathless.
Category: Fiction, Women’s Interest
https://g.co/kgs/taeHpm

IMG_20170909_213716_986

7. THE FANTASTIC FLYING BOOKS OF MR. MORRIS LESSMORE BY WILLIAM JOYCE- a wonderful children’s book! Gorgeous illustrations & a terrific children’s book to inspire/teach the love and appreciation of books to youth. A must have in any children’s library or in any classroom. Category: Children’s Picture Book  https://g.co/kgs/1XrTcr

 

IMG_20170819_212438_3338. FINAL GIRLS BY RILEY SAGER – Thoroughly enjoyed this novel as it is filled with amazing plot twists loaded with suspense and psychological drama. Enjoyed every minute and could not put down. It plays on the human mind and how we block things out we don’t want to remember and how sometimes those closest to us are really the ones we should fear the most. Highly recommend. What really happened at Pine Cottage in the middle of the woods? Find out in this murder-mystery/psychological thriller. Heart racing, fast paced while leaving you on the edge of your seat. 
Category: Thriller, Murder/Mystery, Fiction 
https://g.co/kgs/QNX4oC

IMG_20180206_1235059949. THE SEVEN HUSBANDS OF EVELYN HUGO BY TAYLOR JENKINS REID – Excellent book about classic Hollywood during an era in which stars and studios were everything. The story follows one woman Evelyn and how she had her ups and downs and what she did to rise to fame and what she did for the love of her life. The question is who was the love of her life? Was it one of the seven husbands or was it someone else? Were all the marriages for love or publicity? What really happens once the cameras stop rolling and the paparazzi is gone? Excellent historical fiction read filled with a great plot twist, sprinkled with juicy brain candy. A pure delight and I can’t wait to read it again.  Category: Historical Fiction, Romance   
https://g.co/kgs/ZfwC43

IMG_20170910_184606_051

10. FAHRENHEIT 451 BY RAY BRADBURY – a literary classic originally published in 1953 and yet the content of the story is so relevant to today’s time (2017). Having read it once in high school and once this year, I consider it to be a must read for all readers young and old. This novel will stop anyone today in their tracks & make them observe their surroundings. Read this wonderful novel to discover all that is important and why books and knowledge are always the most powerful resource.
Category: Science Fiction, Fiction 
  https://g.co/kgs/dUuXv8

 

IMG_20180206_123532054_HDR***BONUS*** EXIT WEST BY MOHSIN HAMIDAn excellent story that I consider to be a realistic fiction. While the story is fictitious, it could very well be one survivors story. Mohsin writes about Nadia and Saeed who are living their lives in the Middle East and end up falling for each other in one of their colleges classes. Starting out as friends, their relationship grows into something more as their town is soon taken over by the military and is subjected to air raids. The dismantle of their home, loss of loved ones and loss of electricity forces them to seek refuges elsewhere. They end up in Greece, then London and finally California. Though Mohsin Hamid does not specify the exact settings, one understands through context clues that this story is highly based on the Syrian refugees who fled to Greece, then London and then came to America. It is a beautifully and poetically written novel that touches the human soul through human connection, love, the need for survival, violence, anger, confusion, hate, despair, friendship and above all hope. A literary must read. This novel is one of the top 20 Amazon Editors picks for best books of 2017 (https://www.amazon.com/b?node=17276804011a book of the month club pick for March 2017, (bookofthemonth.comand a NY Times Top 10 Best Books of 2017. https://g.co/kgs/e7tEYN

*All website links are dated as of February 6th, 2018*

 

 

 

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i hope this reaches her in time By r.h. sin

IMG_20180102_014335_601“i hope this reaches her in time” is a poetry book filled with wisdom that is beautifully written to touch the soul. These seventy two pages are essentially another poetry book that focuses on love, (or lack there of), relationships (good and bad), and the strength within each of us to proceed forward in our own lives. Early in the book r.h. sin writes “don’t you miss who you were before who you became took over your life. do you miss yourself like i miss you. do you even remember what it felt like to be happy. have you forgotten yourself beneath your troubles” and in another poem “you owe it to yourself to give yourself the love that you’ve misplaced in others”. I love it, for it’s  simple yet true. Again while this poetry book focuses more on love/relationships, personally I feel these exerts that can apply to anyone at any age. Often we tend to focus on our problems/troubles allowing them to take over our lives to the point in which we forget and neglect ourselves. Simply put r.h. sin reminds the reader to take care of themselves so they may once again be strong and happy to carry on. 

“the girl you don’t appreciate will get tired of loving you”……… (enough said)

Another poem that I flagged in the book was “your absence taught me how to be my own lover”. It remains in my mind as something wise and profound. You loose anyone or anything in life that had value to you at one point or another and you’re at first sad, but eventually you learn to survive and thrive on your own. You learn to provide your own source of peace and happiness resulting in you being your own lover. 

Being a female, I must shine light onto one particular poem that solidifies the strength every woman has inside her. R.h. sin writes “it’s almost as if her soul is a pack of wolves she’s brave, she’s strong she’s unstoppable”. Thank you r.h. sin, thank you for putting feminine strength on paper. 

Another favorite of mine from the book is when r.h.sin writes “you can miss people but you don’t have to want them back….you can forgive people but you don’t have to give them second chances”. Again, main concept is relationships and one would assume a love interest, but truthfully this poem relates to all kinds of relationships whether it be between lovers, friends and/or family members. It sheds light on the harsh truth that someone can be toxic for us and/or no longer in our lives, but we are still subjected to the human condition of missing what once was. You can forgive those that have wronged you but you don’t have to be a fool and let them play the game again. 

An exert from one of the final poems is alluring in its simplicity and sophistication and what is says is “what we love should inspire us, who we love should inspire our strength”. We always hear “find what inspires you” from mentors, teachers, friends and/or family but never do we hear that what we choose to love should inspire us. I mean simple yet what a ground breaking way to approach life. The last part of who we love is something I completely agree with. Why love someone who makes you demotivated in life? Love someone who inspires you to grow and blossom like a wild flower; uninhibited and free. 

Without giving anything else away, I must end now and say that this poetry book is just lovely and is one that I would recommend to read and to gift. (4/5 stars – really liked it)

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The Deal Of A Lifetime by Fredrik Backman

IMG_20180101_011647_189The Deal of a Lifetime by Fredrick Backman is a fast paced, easy to read novella that combines Fredrick’s blunt styled quirky characters with the humor and mysticism of Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief. Backman never reveals the main character’s name, but the reader knows him as “Dad or Father”. The Father begins by writing a letter to his son, taking us through a short but vivid memory of his life. We (the readers) learn of the Father’s accomplishments as a well-known business man all the way to his short comings as a father. We learn that the Father was not the ideal parent and has regrets as to how he has raised his son. Time is short for Father due to the recent diagnosis of a rare form of cancer, (or so he thinks).

While in the hospital, the Father meets a brave little girl who puts on a happy face for her mother everyday (even though she too is dying from cancer). Low and behold the little girl has captured the Father’s heart and so when the woman in the grey sweater, with the folder and black pencil in hand comes to the little girl’s door, Father is heartbroken. Unfortunately, Father has seen this woman before (when all the people he has loved in his life have died) and he feels the urge to save the little girl. He snatches the folder, runs out the hallway and out of the hospital, into his car and hastily drives away. In despair, Father drives into a truck resulting in a obvious car crash. The woman in the grey sweater appears again to Father and he shouts “I can give you someone else to kill” (pg 51). Father says this in hopes of offering up his life to save the little girl, believing that the woman in the grey sweater is death itself. The woman in the grey sweater quickly explains that she is not death but rather a messenger and that one death cannot replace another death, but rather a life for a life. She explains to father that if he gives up his life for the little girl, not only would he die, but everything he has accomplished, worked for, created etc (including his son) would belong to someone else. It would be as though Father never existed, also meaning that his son would still be alive, but would have a completely different man as a father. 

With wit and humor, the woman in the grey sweater brings Father to see his son (who works at an old bar in town that represents nothing but nostalgia) one last time before he comes to a conclusion of his fate. At the bar, Father sees that his son his content and upon talking to his son, the son actually expresses how he is happy for his Dad. Father ends up experiencing flash backs to when he never showed up for his son and to all the times he “failed” him. The son smiles, kisses his Dad on the cheek and wishes him “Merry Christmas, Dad” (pg 61) and goes into the bar kitchen. The Father’s heart breaks again, and he suddenly knows what the right decision is for him. Walking out of the bar with the woman in the grey sweater, Father proceeds to ask if the little girl will live and the woman in the grey sweater assures him that she will and that she will watch over his son. As Father and the woman in the grey sweater jump into the river between Helsingborg and Denmark, Father writes to his son “You’ll never read this. You’ve never sat waiting on the steps outside your mother’s house. I never wasted your time……You’ll wake up soon. It’s Christmas Eve morning. And I love you.” (pg 64/65). 

Just like the Father, your heart breaks when you realize that he gave up his life and previous existence so not only could a little girl with cancer have a second chance at life, but so his son would never know the pain of a father not being there. He had the woman in grey take his life so his son could live a better life and a little girl can live. The Deal of a Lifetime reminds us once again of how parents always, at some point or another do a great sacrifice for their children and that time, no matter how much we think we have, is always fleeting and can never get it back. Make each day of your life count. A good novella to pull at your hearts and remind you to make good use of the time you have.  (3.5 stars – liked it)

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A Plump and Perky Turkey by Tessa Bateman

IMG_20171121_143734_461Upon seeing the cover for A Plump and Perky Turkey by Tessa Bateman, I made the incorrect assumption that it was going to be a children’s story about a plump and perky turkey who has a grand Thanksgiving day feast. I couldn’t be more wrong. Instead the story takes place in the small town of Squawk Valley and the village people don’t have any turkeys for Thanksgiving! All of the turkeys seem to have left the area once the leaves had started to fall. The people of Squawks Valley were devastated that there would be no turkey to eat on Thanksgiving.

However, Mr. Ebenezer Beezer has a plan to get a turkey for the townspeople. He announces that they shall have an arts and crafts fair that is “turkey themed” and that in order for people to create “turkey art”, they will need a model turkey. Therefore Beezer and the townspeople go out and put “turkey model wanted: plump and perky” signs in the nearby woods hoping a turkey will come forward. Along comes Pete, a very plump and perky turkey who is very cocky and feels he would be a great model, and so the townspeople hire him to “model” for their “artwork”. (Little does Pete know they are all looking at him as the perfect Thanksgiving dinner and not as a turkey model).

As Pete poses, the townspeople create turkey sculptures out of oatmeal, wheat, soap and rope. Upon completion of the sculptures, Pete is lead around by Ebenezer Beezer to judge the art work and after he makes a decision as to who the winner is, Pete hides amongst the artwork, blending it perfectly. Next think you know, the townspeople see that Pete fled Squawk Valley with what he feels is his grand prize (the oatmeal turkey sculpture) and the townspeople have been outsmarted and once again are left turkey-less. The story ends with Pete on the beach in Florida devouring his oatmeal turkey with all the other plump and perky turkeys who fled South for the winter. Low and behold the townspeople of Squawk Valley are left with munching on wheat for Thanksgiving. 

In conclusion I am a bit disappointed at the lack of concrete story development, as I feel the plot was good but the resolution was lacking depth and abrupt. Why did the townspeople have to resolve only to wheat? Why not fish or ham or beef? Why give up after all that effort? I also feel deceived with the plot because as stated in the beginning of this review I made the assumption that the story was something different. All in all, it is a short and simple children’s book with delightful illustrations, but not my top pick for a Thanksgiving children’s book. (2/5 stars – it was okay)

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Hallowe’en Party by Agatha Christie

IMG_20171119_180534_046Agatha Christie’s hero and great detective, Hercule Poirot has once again solved another murder mystery in the novel Hallowe’en Party. However, please be forewarned that this novel is not taking place at a Hallowe’en Party nor does the story have much to do with the party itself other than the fact that a thirteen year old girl named Joyce Reynolds died at the party. A child drowning while bobbing for apples is no accident and Mrs. Ariadne Oliver (Hercule’s crime/mystery writer friend who was at the party) believes it to be murder. Mrs. Oliver begs Hercule to come to Woodleigh Common (small town within the Untied Kingdom) and help uncover what really happened at the party. 

With precision, wit and keen investigation Hercule Poirot interviews and questions many of the townspeople to gather additional information. This ultimately uncovers a deeper underlying current revealing people’s downfalls and secrets. Characters like Rowena Drake (hostess of the Hallowe’en party), to Mrs. Llewellyn-Smythe (the deceased wealthy widower who left a Will and a codicil Will), to Olga Seminoff (the au pair who served Mrs Llewellyn-Smythe and is supposedly in the codicil Will), to Judith and Miranda Butler (mother and daughter; Miranda the best friend of deceased girl Joyce) to Michael Garfield (the landscape gardener) all the way to Leopold Reynolds (brother of Joyce Reynolds who gets murdered as well) leaves no one safe and almost anyone a suspect. 

Once Poirot has deciphered all the clues and made his synopsis, he employs both his long time friends Mrs. Oliver and Superintendent Spence (a retired police officer) to catch the killer. Without a moment to loose all three devise a plan and catch the murderer stopping his vicious crimes just as he was about to strike again. 

While I was disappointed that the story didn’t have much to do with Hallowe’en, I was even more disappointed at the lack of character depth and ironically felt as though the story dragged on. I feel that while Agatha Christie is the queen of mystery and that Hercule Poirot may be the greatest detective, this novel for me was walking through mud. My only perseverance to complete this murder/mystery was that I needed to know “who-done-it”. This novel’s saving grace however is the ending. The conclusion, while abrupt and not very suspenseful is also unexpected making it worth finishing but not satisfying. All in all Agatha Christie is a great writer but this is not her best work and it is not one that I would recommend. (2 stars – it was ok) 

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Good Night New Jersey by Dennis Clark

IMG_20171113_125837_434Whether you’re a New Jersey native or a new resident to New Jersey, this is the perfect good-night story to read to your little ones. The 20 page board book (preschoolers and above) covers all major/recognizable locations throughout New Jersey allowing your little ones to get a sense of location and history. This picture book provides kids with the feeling that not just them but their whole state is now going to sleep. From the Jersey Shore, to George Washington and the Delaware River, to Princeton and all the way to the Palisades, all of Jersey so now falling fast asleep. Short and sweet, I recommend this picture book to any parent/guardian in New Jersey looking for a good bedtime story. (4/5 stars – Really Liked It)

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There Was An Old Mummy Who Swallowed A Spider By Jennifer Ward

IMG_20171111_172307_645There Was An Old Mummy Who Swallowed a Spider by Jennifer Ward is an illustrated Halloween children’s book filled with silly rhythmic and funny words perfect for capturing any young child’s attention. In short, a mummy wakes up from his sleep and sees a spider and decides to swallow it. Throughout the story he continues to swallow an eclectic range of items and living organisms making any child squirm and squeal with skepticism and delight. With phrases like “He swallowed the ghost to scare the witch….” and “He swallowed the rate to chase the spider” the reader wonders what on Earth the mummy will swallow next. Will it be another strange item or will it perhaps be you? Definitely worth picking up for any young reader who enjoys Halloween and being silly.  (4/5 stars – really liked it). 

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Room On The Broom by Julia Donaldson

IMG_20171025_095500_998A delightfully illustrated children’s book perfect for Halloween time. It’s a simple, short and entertaining rhythmic story about a witch who shares her broom with a dog, a cat, a frog and a bird. As they fly through a storm the witch’s broom breaks! As they fall to the ground the witch looks for her new friends and suddenly a dragon appears! Oh no! Left all alone the witch is in danger for surely the dragon will eat her. Suddenly a new monster covered in mud appears and rescues the witch from the evil dragon. In the end the witch, the dog, the cat, the frog and the bird fly away on the witch’s new and improved broom soaring over the land high in the sky. With the simple teachings of being kind to others and they’ll be kind to you, this is a funny and cute story to read to little ones this Halloween season. Happy Halloween and Happy Reading! (4 stars)

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The Crucible by Arthur Miller

IMG_20171024_164700_383One of my all time favorite plays and classic pieces of literature is The Crucible by Arthur Miller. Miller’s play captures the essence of the contagious and rapid insanity of “witchcraft” hysteria during the years of 1692 and 1693 in Salem, Massachusetts. The Salem Witch Trials were a dark time in American history in which roughly 200 men and women were accused of practicing witchcraft and roughly 20 people were hanged on the accusations. Interesting thing about the Salem Witch Trails is that a lot of the accusations had to do with “witnesses” claiming falsehoods as true and fabricating elaborate stories to seek a desired outcome. Through descriptive character development Arthur Miller takes the readers on a journey back in time to witness the chaos, torture, desperation and despair. 

Abigail Williams is a teenage girl who lusts for John Proctor, who is a good Christian farmer and married to Elizabeth Proctor with three sons. In a night of lust John commits the sin of adultery providing Abigail with false hope. Abigail who is young and filled with lust and envy asks Tituba (a slave girl from Barbados) to conjure up spirits to help her get rid of Elizabeth in hopes of becoming John’s new wife. During the night in which Abigail, Tituba, (and two other Christian girls from the town), Betty and Mary head into the woods and dance around in a circle as Tituba sings, Reverend Parris witnesses this and finds it uncouth. The next day Betty (Reverend Parris’s daughter) is ill in bed and will not wake up. Reverend Parris (being a man of God) chooses to look at the “dancing” as the Devil’s worship and that the girls were working for the Devil. (In the modern world of today we tend to look at dancing in the woods as free-spirited fun). Abigail denies she had any part in it and blames it all on Tituba saying that it was Tituba that spoke with the Devil. From this point forward accusations of “I saw”, “she saw”, “she did”, “she didn’t”, “I did” and “I didn’t” are thrown like a ball at a ping pong match.  

John Proctor’s wife Elizabeth is convicted of witchcraft because she happened to have a poppet (a doll) with a needle in it inside her home and John is thrown into jail for not knowing all 10 commandments, adultery and saying “God is dead in this town”. The mid-wife Rebecca Nurse is also convicted of witchcraft for helping deliver babies who happened to be still born or die shortly after. (Remember that was common for that time period due to lack of proper medical care). Giles Corey is crushed to death by stones for neither denying or agreeing to committing witchcraft stating the famous phrase “more weight” choosing to die with his pride and his name intact. 

Through these accusations and ultimate deaths of many of the characters, Arthur Miller eloquently displays how men at that time used religion as a means of control to achieve a desired outcome. They used the fear of God to persuade people to conform whether they wanted to or not, which is against the true meaning or message of Christianity. The Crucible’s strong undertone proves how corrupt man’s spirit can be despite religious affiliation and how righteous a man’s spirit can be even if he has committed sin. Witchcraft be only the icing on top of this cake. 

In the event that you haven’t absorbed this play yet, please consider it a must read and place it on your “to be read” list as it is written beautifully and touches upon human characteristic flaws and how if provided a spark everything will ignite. Remember, history does repeat itself. Read, learn and be aware. Happy reading. (5 stars)

 

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Lies She Told by Cate Holahan

IMG_20171016_145520_739Ever told a lie to get out of trouble or to avoid the truth? Ever tell that lie so much that you’ve come to believe it yourself? When do dreams end and reality begins? Is there a distinct line between fiction and non-fiction? One never really knows except the story teller as the truth normally dies with them……

“Lies She Told” is a mind-boggling, line blurring, cross over of fiction versus non-fiction suspenseful murder/mystery novel in which the author, Cate Holahan engulfs the reader into the similarly complex lives of Liza and Beth.  This makes the reader ponder which is the lie and which is the truth. Our main character, Liza is a thirty something female author living in NYC who undergoes intense hormonal treatment in hopes of achieving a baby with her attorney husband David. While Liza’s first book, “Drowned Secrets” was a best seller her most recent novels have flopped. Her handsome British accented, black editor Trevor permits her an extension (of one month) on her new novel encouraging her to write more of a romantic suspense story sprinkled with hints of sociopaths. With the pressure mounting, Liza embarks on this new novel and creates the character Beth. Beth, also happens to be married and living in NYC, but already has a new born baby girl (something Liza hopes for). Like Liza’s husband David, Beth’s husband Jake works long hours, isn’t home that much and doesn’t engage in great lengthy conversations. As Liza progresses with her writing, both Liza and Beth deal with their husbands who are hiding secrets.

In Liza’s life, David’s business partner Nick has disappeared and it is ripping him apart from the insides as though Nick was more than just a friend. David obsesses over Nick’s disappearance and goes on for a month of non-stop attempting to solve the case and find his friend. Nick was also the best man at Liza and David’s wedding and has never approved of David marrying Liza, causing some waves amongst their marital bliss. Conveniently in Liza’s story Beth begins to notice that there is something disturbing her marriage with Jake. That disturbance is non other than police officer Colleen who has mesmerized Jake with her curvaceous pre-baby body and her skillful maneuvers in the bedroom. While Beth’s insides shake like a wild animal caged at the zoo, she goes to confront Jake about the affair, but gets manipulated by her blue eyed dreamy husband and is persuaded to see a therapist (Jake believes her issues are due to being cooped up inside the apartment with the baby and postpartum depression). Similarly, Beth’s new therapist Taylor, is also a muscular, smooth skinned British accented black male just like Liza’s editor Trevor.

Needless to say the similarities of Liza’s and Beth’s lives are very close and it doesn’t stop there. Next thing you know Liza’s gun (which she keeps in her closet) is missing and Beth is heaving Colleen’s body into the East River. Turn a few pages, and the police knock on Liza’s door claiming Nick’s body has been seen and pulled up out of the East River, all while the police knock at Beth’s door stating that Colleen is missing. (Cue the Law and Order scene change noise aka dum dum). 

Questions and words of plea on all ends fly from each character to another like daggers in sword fight. Phrases of “How could you?” and “Why?”and “How could you do it?” and “I don’t remember!” and “But it was only a story!” are screamed.  Despair, infidelity, loss, murder, rage and revenge are the icing on this cake of suppressed psychological and physical trauma. The reader believes the question of “how far will one go to achieve the so called perfect life?”, but towards the end we realize something more. We discover how beautiful and dangerous is the human mind in creating a web of fabricated lies to protect the individual’s soul from the memories of anguish and torment. For Liza who is also known as Beth, her story ends with the truth, but begins a new with lies. 

A must read for anyone who enjoys character manipulation, suspense, murder/mystery, psychological drama and mind games. I highly recommend this novel as a must read for Fall as I haven’t read a story like this before. 

 

 

 

 

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The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

IMG_20171002_123824_951Before diving into The Woman in Cabin 10, I heard Ruth Ware was an excellent author whose writing resembles that of Agatha Christie and that her novel “In a Dark, Dark Wood” was excellent. Even Reese Witherspoon has raved about her on instagram, so I was extremely enticed to read Ruth’s Woman in Cabin 10 (published June, 2016), but upon commencement I was disappointed. This murder/mystery, “who done it?” novel is filled with plenty of interesting characters responsible for the unique plot twists and turns that keeps the reader intrigued.  However, it is in my opinion that the creative writing is masked by the insistent whining and nausea of the over-dramatic, anxiety driven, booze gulping main character Lo (short for Laura Blacklock). Granted in the beginning of the story, Ruth has Lo endure a home invasion in which the burglar does nothing to Lo but slam the door in her face, trash the place and take her purse. Lo was not attacked in a way that would justify the consistent use for booze and worry. 

Progressing forward into the chain of events, Lo who happens to work for a travel magazine is provided the career breaking opportunity to experience the madden voyage for the Auruoa Luxury Norwegian Ship. Feeling that this is an opportunity she can’t pass up, and that it may be the relaxation she needs, she goes without hesitation. While reading the passage in which Lo boards the luxury liner I imagined a grand, luxurious ship somewhat like a Carnival Cruise Liner. The descriptive language that Ware used to depict the grand stair case and Swarovski crystal chandelier gives the reader the sense  and epitome of luxury. Apparently that was not the case, because as I continued to dive further into the novel Lo constantly complains about how she feels each movement of the ship and each wave that thrashes upon the bowel resulting in vertigo and nausea. This leads me to believe the ship is not a ship but more of a yacht. This discrepancy in the writing bothers me, because how could all the crew, the crew cabins, ten luxury passenger cabins, a spa, a hot tub, a dining hall and more fit on a yacht? I really wish there would have been more of a concrete setting. 

Moving forward, during the first night out at sea, Lo is getting read for the evening event, and realizes she hasn’t brought mascara with her. Rather than asking if the stewardess can bring her some, Lo decides to knock on the door of Cabin 10. A beautiful, strong featured, black-haired beauty donning a Pink Floyd t-shirt answers the door in an abrupt and sharp manner. practically thrusting the well known Maybelline pink and green mascara in Lo’s hand saying “keep it” the woman in cabin 10 slams the door closed sending Lo back to her cabin. Later in the evening after the luxury dinner and evening events, Lo returns to her cabin overwhelmed with exhaustion, dizziness, nausea and drunkenness resulting in her passing out on the bed. Suddenly, early in the morning Lo is awakened by a loud, terrifying scream and the sound of a great big splash. Thinking it was just a dream, but feeling that it was real, she goes to her balcony, pears out to sea, sees nothing, and pears over the glass to the next balcony of cabin 10, all to find blood smeared on the glass doors. With shock and horror, she leaps back into her cabin afraid that whatever happened to the woman in cabin 10 will happen to her. 

From here, the story progresses into a “I know what I saw, but no one believes me” situation in which Lo is left fearing for her safety all while unable to let go of what she saw. She heads out on a mass detective spree with another character Ben (who is also her ex-boyfriend and who happens to also be enjoying the madden voyage), ultimately trying to discover “who done it?”.  Moderate paced, descriptive vocabulary, entertaining yet annoying characters, and surprising twists and turns sprinkled with yet again unnecessary anxiety, nausea and booze, this novel is a good read, but not what I consider a must read. Worthy of three stars (3 Stars). Happy Reading. 

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Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

IMG_20170922_131010_336.jpgWhen you look into the mirror do you trust the person looking back at you? Most likely the answer is yes, but what if you had to look at yourself standing right in front of yourself, would you trust that other version of you? You know it is another of version of you, but does that mean they’re exactly like you and have the same morals? It’s a tough question and something that one will not know the answer to until they are in the moment like Jason Dessen, the main character of Dark Matter by Blake Crouch. Jason lives a wonderful life as a physics professor and has a beautiful wife Daniela and a great son Charlie. One night he goes out to meet his old friend Ryan for a drink and on his way home, Jason is kidnapped, drugged, held at gunpoint and ultimately wakes up strapped to a gurney surrounded by hazmat suits. However, Jason also leaves the bar and arrives safely home and makes love to his wife on the same night. 

At this point, I as the reader begin to wonder if I missed something? Did I skip a page by mistake? The answer is no and so the story unfolds as such. This science-fiction novel is sprinkled with quantum mechanics propelling Jason into a multitude of time travel adventures where he can witness first hand how his life would have been different had he made a different decision in different moments. Having witnessed his life is splendid times and horrific times he is now desperate more than every trying to figure out how he ended up where he is and if he can ever return to his real home and be with Daniela and Charlie. As his misadventures down the time travel cube (which he created in another life of himself) Jason gets closer to where he wants to be, but ultimately is being followed and targeted by other versions of himself who are attempting to get back to the same rendition of reality that he knows is the one he wants.

Once Jason achieves the goal of going through the door that leads him to his original life (where the book started), this novel of science-fiction, mystery and quantum mechanics turns into a game of chess, a battle against his own thoughts and a survival of the fitness leading into much suspense and murder. The reader ultimately begins to feel like Jason and initiates the questions of what is real? Who is real? Did it happen or are you dreaming? Can you trust yourself even if it isn’t the current version of you? How do our decisions change versions of ourselves? How far is one willing to go for love? What is one willing to do to oneself so save the ones you love? This fast paced, engaging and contemplating novel is an excellent read and leaves the reader in awe.

Remember, life is laid out in a matter of minutes and in each minute we have a choice. Depending on what you choose will alter all the other minutes in your life. What choice will you make?

 

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The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins

IMG_20170919_140115_799.jpgGirl on The Train by Paula Hawkins is a great psychological thriller/mystery sprinkled with alcoholism, murder, adultery and deception. This best seller follows Rachel, as she commutes back and forth between her suburban town and London. Like any commuter who isn’t reading or listening to music, she day dreams gazing out the window of the train pondering or enjoying the scenery. Everyday the train stalls at the same spot and Rachel has the opportunity to admire the beautiful house that once belonged to her and Tom (now her ex-husband). New couple, Megan and Scott now occupy the house and she witnesses them everyday (on what used to be her back porch) hugging, kissing, drinking coffee etc. Rachel imagines their life to be the beautiful life that she once thought she had with Tom, but that all changes when one day she sees Megan with a man who is not Scott. Her fantasized image of the couple is now broken, (which for anyone else would just be disappointing), but for Rachel it is devastating. How could Megan do such a thing? Since Tom left Rachel for Anna while they were living in that house, Rachel reverts back to her feelings of being betrayed and transfers her anger and disappointment towards Megan.

Days later Megan is in the newspaper announced missing and the disillusioned Rachel feels as though she must get to the bottom of this. Her obsession becomes more than just a concerned citizen and border lines that of disturbing and psychotic. The novel then progresses forward unveiling dark secrets not just about Megan’s and Anna’s past but Rachel’s as well. We see Rachel’s world through wine induced glasses where even the reader doesn’t know if she is just a drunk or onto something real. As she dives deeper into the complicated web of lies and deceptions, Rachel discovers Scott has a dark past filled with control issues and rage, just like Tom. Caught in a dangerous situation with Scott, Rachel ultimately begins to uncover the truth of what she already knows but was buried underneath her hangover after hangover. Ultimately Megan’s body appears in the woods and Scott is now the major suspect. Statements of Tom being abusive, a sex-addict and more become relevant, and Anna (Tom’s new wife) no longer knows if she is safe.

What is real and who should you trust becomes the theme, leaving every character strong and yet vulnerable. At times sad, emotional and perplexing this novel definitely keeps the reader guessing, feeling and pondering….Did she? Did he? Will she? Will he? How? When? Why? Is this real or just the alcohol? Can Rachel untangle this complicated web of lies and reveal the truth or die trying? The ending is heartbreaking and encouraging for the main character. I recommend this novel as a great fall read… especially if you’re a daily commuter. Enjoy! 

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The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

IMG_20170901_173117_049The Handmaid’s Tale written by Margaret Atwood was originally published in 1985 but touches the reader as though it was written today. This well written novel of a dystopian society scarily coincides with what takes place with women’s rights and politics today.

Ofred (the main character) is a handmaid and lives in what is essentially America, but is extremely micro-managed by the religiously extreme government entitled the Republic of Gilead. This Republic divides women into classes of legitimate or illegitimate. Legitimate women are then classified as either wives, daughters, handmaids, aunts, marthas and econowives. The illegitimate women are classified as either unwomen or jezebels. The handmaids are women who have voluntarily (or should I say involuntarily) offered themselves as basically sex slaves, but not for sex, but rather to consistently reproduce for the “wives” they are assigned to. That’s right, if a woman is considered fruitful “blessed be the fruit” she is called a handmaid and then is assigned to a wife and husband (or commander) who are not. The handmaid is basically a surrogate and serves no other purpose is life but that. The process to become impregnated is torturous to read and feels more like rape. The handmaid is to lie in bed with her head on top of the wife’s pelvic bone, hold the wife’s hands and then allow the husband of the wife to penetrate her (the handmaid). While reading this I actually said out loud “did it really just say that?!”.

Once a handmaid produces a child for the family, she is considered highly valuable and is sent to another family to do the same thing. Once a handmaid can no longer reproduce (whether she hits menopause or not) she is essentially sent out to pasture. Does Ofred remain trapped in this society or does she manage to escape to freedom in what is today’s Canada? Does she give birth or is she sent away as a useless woman?

Written with such raw depths of emotion and confusion, this novel is at times curious, relentless, humorous, downright torturous and terrifying while ironically providing a sense of optimism. Margaret Atwood’s ending to the story leaves the reader unknowing while knowing everything. The Handmaid’s Tale is such a predominate piece of literature that it is considered a classic and must-read for men and women, young and old. I highly recommend this novel, for it surely will leave you stunned and breathless. 

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Coco Chanel by Ma Isabel Sánchez Vegara

IMG_20170914_215055_832Coco Chanel by Ma Isabel Sánchez Vegara is a wonderfully simple children’s book for early/young readers. It provides a good introduction to Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel and who the girl was behind the double C’s. Beginning with the start of her life and being raised in an orphanage, it shows how she developed a passion for sewing at an early age. The story then moves into how as an adult she took her love of sewing, and did it professionally by day and did singing by night to make extra money. It was there in the night lounge that she earns her now famous name “Coco”. She began designing hats for women that were simple and modern (which many millineries for women didn’t do at the time). This bold move resulted in a following and lead to her opening her own hat boutique in France. With an eye for detail and a flare for defying standards, she ultimately created a line of dresses that were stylish and comfortable for woman. This new breed of clothing placed Gabrielle into “in demand” status, launching her to establish the brand, the empire, the house of Chanel. Aside from the history, the beautiful children’s book delivers the important message of never giving up on your dreams and to not be afraid of who you are. In the words of Chanel herself “To be irreplaceable one must always be different”. Great for any young to be fashionista and anyone wanting to follow their calling. 

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Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

IMG_20170910_184606_051Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury is a literary classic originally published in 1953 and yet the content of the story is so relevant to today’s time (2017). It dives into the concept of how the lack of education/knowledge and with books being forbidden that individuals will become less enhanced relying on “technology” for entertainment. Due to this dependency on “technology” people as a whole become a failed species and develop into nothing more than a massive brain warped/communication breakdown society.

The main character of this dystopian novel is firefighter Guy Montag whose job is to ignite fires with the purpose of demolishing books. In this community education is the enemy, reading is forbidden & sources of entertainment are electronics, tv walls and headsets that are filled with mindless chatter. Schools have closed, teachers hide, & books are the most dangerous items on the black market. Those caught with them will be thrown in jail or killed. During a raid Guy Montag witnesses a woman willing to die in her house surrounded by her books & curiosity gets the best of him. What is so great about these books? Why are people willing to die for them? With a swift hand he swipes one for himself before it’s engulfed in flames causing his life to be forever changed. With his brain dead wife hauling off in their car, Guy narrowly escapes the sting of a massive robotic dog. With all of society watching, he’s in danger and on the run from his co-workers and the government. Along the way he befriends intellectuals who have been in hiding preserving the last remaining books. From there he discovers a whole new aspect to life that he never thought existed.

This story is funny, suspenseful, thought provoking, and heart wrenching as we realize our society today is very much becoming the lifeless society in the book. Has our society today let technology take over our lives? Are we loosing our ability to think? Can we be like the main character by sticking to the truth and keeping the love of knowledge and books alive? Having read it once in high school and once this year, I consider it to be a must read for all readers young and old. This novel will stop anyone today in their tracks & make them observe their surroundings. Read this wonderful novel to discover all that is important and why books and knowledge are always the most powerful resource

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How To Relax by Thich Nhat Hanh

IMG_20170819_220443_139Many know Thich Nhat Hanh for his words of wisdom and life alerting practices. Out of all of his books, I thought reading “How To Relax” would be a good first read, (considering I myself am in a constant juggling performance). I found it to be an easy and short read for anyone and can be finished within a day. Many books that are created to help individuals alter their life for the better are filled we things we’ve heard time and time again. What makes Thich Nhat Hanh so different? Aside from the fact that many are aware of his name, I feel that this particular book differs in its simplicity. Hanh is able to deliver words of wisdom and life altering practices in a clear and precise manner that they don’t intimidate or overwhelm the reader. Many “self-help” or “self-improvement” books can feel like diving into a text book filled with graphs, measurements, references etc, but “How To Relax” was relaxing enough just to read it. Straight to the point in a harmonic presentation in the section of “Notes on Relaxing” under the title “Lazy Day” he does just that. Under Lazy Day he says

“Do we have enough lazy days in our calendar? A lazy day is a day for us to be without any scheduled activities? We just let the day unfold naturally, timelessly. On this day we have a chance to reestablish the balance in ourselves”

His message is clear in that in today’s society we are constantly on “the go” even when we are not at work and that if we can allow days of no schedule, we can truly be at ease. Being at ease is what will restore the necessary inner balance to be one with ourselves and find peace. You don’t have to be a scholar or a book lover to realize the truth within his words and I feel that anyone and everyone can take something away from this novel. Go now, grab yourself this pocket sized relaxation and take from it what you will. I’m sure something will strike true…..Happy Reading! 

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The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore by William Joyce

TIMG_20170909_213716_986he Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore by William Joyce is a wonderful children’s book! Such a great story about a man who wrote, but lost his words & found his inspiration amongst a library reading other genres of books. He showed love & devotion towards the books & in the end they showed him the same love & devotion back. Towards the end he wrote his own story & left his words behind in the library for another book lover or lover of words to devour. Gorgeous illustrations & a terrific children’s book to inspire/teach the love and appreciation of books to youth. A must have in any children’s library or in any classroom.

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Milk & Honey By Rupi Kaur

IMG_20170819_210312_093After much hype and discussion, I finally decided to jump on the bandwagon and read Milk & Honey by Rupi Kaur. To my surprise it was not what I was expecting, but I agree that this particular poetry book deserves all the attention it received. Written with beautiful precision and progression composed within four chapters; The Hurting, The Longing, The Breaking and The Healing. Rupi’s story begins with heartbreak, deception and molestation/rape. (The Hurting) As she grows she enters what we would title an “emotionally and mentally abusive relationship”. She discusses manipulation, alternative motives and longing. Manipulation by a man, him not in love with her and only using her for intercourse, and her longing to feel true unconditional love that is not being provided. (The Longing) Like any true poet she experiences even more heartbreak through an emotional hurricane of a break up resulting in anger, frustration, sorrow and eventually landing with clarity and epiphany. (The Breaking) Her final chapter embraces inner strength, femininity and how one’s self worth is based on their inner beliefs / thoughts and not based on what your partner says. (The Healing) Having been though an emotionally and mentally abusive relationship before, a poem from Chapter 2 – The Breaking on page 210 spoke volumes to me. It read “i didn’t leave because i stopped loving you i left because the longer i stayed the less i loved myself”. This was just a taste of the honesty she provides. Trust me when I say with poems as blunt and provocative as hers, one will thoroughly enjoy this read. 

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The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena

IMG_20170703_170023_131A 308 page psychological thriller with an ending that one does not foresee. Within the first chapter, Cora, the baby of Anne and Marco go missing while they are attending a dinner party at the couple’s next door home.  Anne and Marco think their baby was stolen, but Detective Rasbach presumes otherwise. Detective Rasbach concludes that it was an inside job by Marco to obtain money to help his struggling business. However, Rasbach entertains the idea that Anne (who suffers from postpartum depression and looses time when under severe stress) may have murdered her Cora herself when Cora wouldn’t stop crying. Perhaps it was the couple next door who decided to get ride of the baby out of jealously.  The consistent back and forth of “was it this? was it that? did I? did she?” contemplation makes the progression of the story somewhat sluggish. I as the reader, began to ask myself “when is it going to speed up?” Then BAM!! Suspense builds, the climax hits and the reader is left wanting more information, making this somewhat slow novel turn into a suspenseful page turner. Heartbreaking and heart-racing the reader follows Anne down a dark and confusing psychological mind twist of events that makes her and the reader stunned in complete bewilderment and terrifying awe. The change in characters is unpredictable, and the ending is one that the reader never sees coming. The ending makes you wonder, who is the real couple next door and when does the horror begin and end?