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

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*

 

 

 

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)

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)