A Lucky Day – Carlos J. Server (Author), Annie Crawford (Translator)

(Reviewed by JD Jung)

Sainte Marie D’Azur, a small village of 712 inhabitants in the French Riviera was considered to be the “luckiest” town in Europe by the media. The winning ticket of the EuroMillions lottery, the largest prize offered by any lottery in the world—152 million euros— was purchased at Pierre’s Bar.

People came from all over in hopes of witnessing the lucky person cashing in their winning ticket. Business boomed from the butcher shop, to the bakery and of course, Pierre’s Bar.

The problem was that as no one appeared to cash in, the media and visitors left and business plummeted.

Now, if three months  pass and no one claims their winnings, the money goes back to the Ministry of Finance, and then of course the money won’t  be  spent in the village.

Citizens start to accuse each other of trying to leave town with the winning ticket. Some feel entitled to some of the winnings. Sainte Marie D’Azur was now thought to be the “unluckiest” city in Europe.

As this three month deadline is approaching we learn about the quirky characters in this town, many who have lived here their entire lives. This is the fun part of the book.

Dominique, the town baker and somewhat of a gang leader, stations his lowlife friends to stop anyone from leaving town. Citizens try to get the local priest drunk to get possible information on the winner , since he is known for gossiping about confessions when inebriated, which is quite frequent. The mailman is in love with the baker’s wife. The mayor of thirty years keeps changing political parties; his son is secretly having an affair with the married pharmacist while the elderly widow has a crush on the butcher. This is just the tip if the iceberg. And to think that the young, lost family just passing through believes that this town is sleepy and deserted.

A Lucky Day is a fun, whimsical read and all the while we’re in suspense of who the winner is, speculating on whether the winner will ever show up and what will happen to the town and its inhabitants. With all the dark reality going on in the world, this story is a welcome, light diversion.

Posted in Humor & Satire, Light Fiction, World Literature | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

a jarful of moonlight-Nazanin Mirsadeghi

(Reviewed by Jeyran Main)

A jarful of moonlight is a collection of inspirational poems about love, hope, pain, grief, self-discovery and empowerment. The love poems are written with many exemplars and it is like a story. They are divided into three sections and each section describes the story as an incident with a continue flow of relativity to this raw emotion, love.

The love declared is one way though. The other half is in love with the moon and so the poems are written with a continuous flow of adoration and attention seeking from the person who leads. There are no names or characters implied.

I particularly liked the segment below taken from the book. I appreciated the perspective of the author viewing falling in love as not so much of a fall, but a rise.

“I’d love is falling

I don’t want to fall in love

I want to rise

I want to climb

I want to fly in love”

I only found the last chapter to be inspirational and directed towards a crowd that may not be seeing life as it is or is disheartened towards what their goal has been.

In summary this short book is written with a nice flow of poems that you may wish to read on a nice summer day.

Posted in Poetry, Short Stuff, World Literature | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

My Ladybird Story: The growing pains of a Transgender – Magus Tor

(Reviewed by Ishita RC)

Exceptional

When a Man loves a Woman, It is Heterosexual

When a Woman loves a Woman, It is Homosexual

When a Female Transsexual loves a Woman, What will it be?

That is the synopsis of My Ladybird Story, and it is such a fascinating book! Comprised of an inspiring and empowering chronicle of self-discovery, the plot has been beautifully narrated from two perspectives – the lead character John and his best friend Aureus. This includes bullying from peers and the struggles and self-depreciation of a teenager who is stuck in a body that he is not able to understand or relate with.

Despite the fact that the entire plot has been divided into four sections, there is no distinction in the way the story flows. The lesson imparted goes beyond what was expected of the plot. The characters are strong and empowering and immediately form a bond with the readers without any hardship. The cover image definitely could have been better, though.

This is a beautiful, empowering book that can be recommended to all age groups.

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Neanderthal Man – Cay Gould

(Reviewed by JD Jung)

“Among all the things she told herself about Adam Savent, imagined about him, she just never got so far as to confront what she knew and should have confessed to someone, anyone, her knowledge that Adam Savent had always been a homicidal madman.”

Now it is 1997 and Adam Savent , self-named “Neanderthal Man” , and professor of paleontology at the University of Iowa is accused of killing at least eighteen women over a twenty five year period.

For Maggie, it started at her small college in 1972 . Adam was a housemate of hers along with several others. They also encountered his anger and violence along with his strange theories, but still did or said nothing. Maybe he was just “overly passionate” about his beliefs. Twenty five years later, what responsibility does she take for her silence?

Even though most of the story takes place in just that one year, this short novel kept me on the edge of my seat. We learn of Adam’s inner struggle with believing that his Neanderthal soul is trapped in a twentieth century body ; and in a global sense how Modern vs. Neanderthal man challenges the natural order of things. Though some of the novel is from Adam’s perspective, and some from that of  the other roommates, most of it is from Maggie’s point of view during that year. She questions herself about being too judgmental. Should she just accept others as they are?

Though we discover  Adam’s motives and belief system, I would have liked to seen an in-depth study into this serial killer and his actions after college up until his arrest. Maybe author Cay Gould will consider that for another book. I do realize though, that it was not the point of this one.

Instead, we need to question our acceptance of evil,  and,  not to over simply the issue, apply the adage, “If you see something, say something.”

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Eternal Ecstasy (The Guardians of the Realms Book 10) – Setta Jay

(Reviewed by Ishita RC)

Exceptional

As the ruling God of Thule, Hroarr’s priority will always be his duty towards his world. Gifted with the ancient ability of sjá, he has seen the birth and destruction of hundreds of worlds, but at the great personal cost of numbing his emotions. And yet, the petite and seductive Guardian healer from Earth seems to heal his broken soul.

Sirena has done her duty diligently just so that she can ease the burden of her secret and vile bloodline. With the growing threat to the world that she and her fellow Guardians protect, she doesn’t need the distraction of a domineering God from another world.

Will the two strong-headed being survive their fated destiny before the end of the worlds is here?

I have followed this series from the very beginning, so I am duty bound to write about it. Let me just clarify one thing, you cannot read this book as a stand-alone and expect things to make sense. The plot-line is far too evolved to make any judgement or correlation. The same disclaimer has been made by the author at the start of the novel, though she has also provided a succinct summary of the story that has evolved so far.

Coming to the plotline, I am extremely happy that the author has maintained the authenticity of the content with all due diligence and given it every opportunity to bloom like the rest of the predecessors of the series, despite the fact that this is a culmination to the entire series. The story-line is combustive alone with the drama of the impending finale. The characters definitely added to the plot with their explosive chemistry. The overall dynamics of the book will keep the readers engrossed till the very end, a guarantee from a reader who just finished the book and is writing this review.

The title of the book is in pace with tone of finality of the book, while the cover image reflects the raw appeal of an erotica.

I am just glad that I finished the series with the same satisfaction that I started with.

Check out Ishita’s reviews of the other novels in the series:

Searing Ecstasy

Divine Ecstasy 

Storm of Ecstasy

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One Sip at a Time: Learning to Live in Provence – Keith Van Sickle

(Reviewed by JD Jung)

Have you ever dreamed of quitting your job and moving to Europe to live part time? That’s exactly what Keith Van Sickle and his wife, Val, did.

While working on a long-term assignment in the French-speaking part of Switzerland, Keith appreciated that life was less hectic. People took their lunch breaks and vacations. “Work wasn’t the be-all and end-all “ like it was in Silicon Valley. Since Switzerland is a central location for travelling all through Europe, the two took advantage of the opportunity and explored the culture, history and food of the towns they visited. Also during that time, they fell in love with Provence.

When it was time to go back to California, they knew what they had to do. They quit their jobs and started a consulting firm, so they could spend part of the year living in Provence. Oh yes, did I mention that they didn’t even speak French?

One Sip at a Time is a light, humorous memoir that explores Keith and Val’s adventures as they discover and try to fit in French society.

How do you deal with contrasting cultural beliefs from money (bad) to melons (good)? How do you eat a flaky croissant and not make a mess? How do you learn to exit the off-ramps and why is blocking traffic so acceptable? Why is it so hard to buy cold medicine and beard trimmers? Most importantly, how do you learn to communicate and make friends?

These are just a few of the obstacles they faced. Each short chapter features a cultural difference or irritation that they faced and how they dealt with it. Some produced embarrassing situations, but they convey their feelings with humor which keeps the reader engaged.

You may be tempted to skip the “Resources” chapter at the end, but definitely don’t! The suggested sites include finding long-term rentals, seeking out native speakers to practice your language skills on and even English-speaking businesses in France. This resource chapter will even provide ideas for trips outside of France.

If you ever thought of escaping your current surroundings and living as an expatriate,  One Sip at a Time is the book for you.

Posted in Bios and Memoirs, Culture, Non-fiction, Travel | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Trans Voices: Becoming Who You Are – Declan Henry (Author), Jane Fae (Afterword), Stephen Whittle (Foreword)

(Reviewed by Ishita RC)

Trans Voices is an enlightening book that accounts the voices of those who have opted to accept their real self by transitioning.

The book is a rich account, comprised of over 100 interviews with individuals who came forward with their various challenges and experiences they faced while making the journey of transitioning – from male-to-female and female-to-male. From a range of topics like hormone treatments, reassignment surgeries, sex and sexuality, emotional and mental health, legal issues, this book is a know-it-all guidance into the world of transgenders. This will benefit those who are ignorant, biased, phobics or are currently undergoing something similar.

“It is important not to forget that being a trans person is entirely about gender and is independent of sexual orientation. Trans people can be lesbian, gay, bisexual or heterosexual, just like everybody else. These days, being trans is an issue that is steadily becoming more visible, more talked about and ultimately more acceptable, after centuries of suppression and denial.” 

I am not ashamed to admit to the fact that I have been largely ignorant and little scared of the whole community of trangenders. I can attribute this mostly to the fact that the Hijra community of India (male to female trans people) have a tendency of becoming more aggressive and scare the shit out of me. As a result I have opted for ignorance. But curiosity made me pick this book, and I can safely say that I haven’t regretted my choice. This is a book that has a solid foundation on research and evidence to validate each point. There are things that I didn’t know about as a bystander, especially how to identify such a person considering the ambiguity in the gender, not to mention the general lack of awareness. Thanks to the various interviews, there are many questions that have been answered.

“With regard to what pronoun to use when speaking to or about a trans person, it is important to remember that a person’s gender identity can differ from their appearance or the pitch of their voice. We should only use gendered pronouns such as ‘he’ or ‘she’ if we are certain that a person identifies themselves in that way. If we are not sure which pronoun to use, it is better to ask politely rather than make assumptions. It is also advised to ask non-binary people what pronoun they prefer because some dislike being referred to as ‘he’ or ‘she’, preferring instead the more ambiguous pronouns of ‘they’ and ‘them’. Cross-dressers like their persona to be referred to with a female pronoun when dressed in female clothing. “

The candid viewpoints provided by the various interviews helps in making the book feel like a journey; it definitely helps the reader in connecting and keeping pace. The clarity in the way the book has been divided reflects the diversity that is present within a community that is a minority and largely ignored, stigmatised and trivialised.

The only thing that didn’t sit well with me would be the referencing of some of the medical or scientific statements. Though the author has provided a list of references that has been used, it does feel inadequate considering the vastness of a subject that is rarely talked about.

In spite of that, I  loved the book, and it’s much recommended!

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The Mating Game: What Every Woman Should Know – Lyndon McGill

(Reviewed by Jeyran Main)

Exceptional

When it comes to relationships and how to maintain a healthy connection with someone, it is very hard to understand and to read the other person’s thoughts and feelings. This book, although written from a male perspective, does give you an in-depth insight into human behavior, needs and how to keep a relationship.

The Mating Game introduces four urges, which are called the 4 “F’s.” These are what “motivate human behavior and ultimately determined the success or failure of a male- female relationship.”

At first, I thought that this book was going to be an all male-dominant “what we need,” “what we want” kind of book. The ones that bash woman and suggest men have no feelings and that it is all physical for them. However, the book surprised me. The Mating Game is more like a mental and psycho-social take on what is in the mind of the counterpart. The book also discusses underlying conflicts between the man and the women, which is one of the main reasons why we have such a high ratio of divorces in the 21st century. Dr. McGill covers many sensitive topics like loneliness, depression, how to reclaim respect and how to re-light a relationship that has lost it’s spark.

I found the book to be very easy going and the literary standard was in good standing. The topics were pleasantly connected and the layout was smooth. The sensitive and important issues came with the right flow. I especially enjoyed reading about how and why men are attracted to a certain type of women.

I believe many will benefit from reading this book. It has logical and medical reasoning to back its claims, and above all, it is easy to understand.

I recommend this book to anyone who appreciates comprehending the knowledge and reasoning behind relationships.

Posted in Non-fiction, Your Best Self | Tagged , | Leave a comment

The Secret Sex Life of Angels: Mysteries of Isis – I. J. Weinstock

(Reviewed by Pat Luboff)

Exceptional

“When one man questioned the belief that the earth was flat, A New World was discovered and a Renaissance of unimaginable possibilities was born. Once we question our limited and destructive beliefs about sex, who knows? We may discover that, instead of being the curse of Eden and the highway to hell, sex is a gift of the gods and the gateway to heaven.”

If you’re an avid reader like I am, and you probably are if you’re reading this, you can tell right away if the writer knows what he or she is doing. Sometimes I read the dedication and say, “Eeek, if he can’t write a dedication, how can he write a whole book?” Sure enough, one or two pages in, I toss the book into the “not going to waste my time” pile.

This book was delightfully the opposite situation. I was halfway down the first page when I said to myself, “Self, this guy knows how to write!” And I dove into the story.

The story is a fantasy, especially considering the actual person in the White House now. In this story, the President of the United States is initiated into ancient mysteries that give him the ability to connect directly to the creative energy of the universe and save the world from destruction. Through sex.

When I came upon the first sex scene in the book, I cringed a bit inwardly. “Is this going to be pornographic? I’m not sure I want to read it.” But I plunged onward. As I continued reading, I felt that the author had done something very tricky. He had exposed my own prejudices about sex to me. Not that I’m alone. Our society will let our children see a hundred acts of violence, torture, murder, every night on TV and in video games. Killing is acceptable. But sex is dirty. That’s our society’s basic message, and it goes back to Adam and Eve being ashamed and donning fig leaves.

But Weinstock wants the world to see that sex is pure spiritual power that can transform us. The president’s initiation is told in detail. And, although the details were explicit, I didn’t feel that they were intended to titillate, but to inspire. His point is that sex is so much more than the thrashing about usually depicted in our media. I came away a believer.

If you are squeamish about sex, I don’t recommend this book. But if you are open to learning about elevating your opinion about the role that sex can play in your life, I recommend it highly.

Posted in Modern Literary Fiction, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Mythology | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Obama’s Legacy: What He Accomplished as President – Michael I. Days

(Reviewed by JD Jung)

We all know those who refuse to acknowledge the vast accomplishments of the Obama presidency, even though the facts stare them right in the face. I personally think it is due to racism, but it is not for me to guess people’s motives. I have found many such residents and citizens even in my “blue” state of California.

Therefore it was nice to find this book. Philadelphia Daily News Editor,  Michael I. Days objectively documents our forty-fourth president’s accomplishments. He starts each chapter by who the legislation signed has affected, such as workers, veterans, the disabled and elderly. In Part II he spells out accomplishments by issue: defense, diplomacy, justice, labor, education, housing and urban development, transportation, homeland security and agriculture. Part III centers on health reform and energy and the environment.

Though succinct, Days goes into the detail of President Obama’s appointments and signed legislation. He includes a biography of each of his Supreme Court appointments and the background of the legislation including those individuals and organizations who were behind the various bills.

Though he includes quotes to show Obama’s long-term vision, he mainly uses actual instances of what he achieved. Some of the executive actions were limited to federal employees and contractors, as Congress refused to enact laws to benefit workers (such as paid sick leave) in the private sector.

The book concludes with a long but concise timeline which will be especially useful in proving your point to those who refuse to read this book. Unfortunately, I have found that most “Obama – haters” refuse to debate the issues, but speak about the former President solely on emotional terms.

Since this book centers on accomplishments, as the title states, Days does not spend time on what I believe is one of the most important aspects of what a president should possess , and what President Obama indeed embodies. That is an outstanding character.

I recommend Obama’s Legacy: What He Accomplished as President to all Americans. It will remind us in years to come what a president should exemplify .

Posted in History, Our Best, Politics | Tagged , , | Leave a comment