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.

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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 .

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After You’re Dead: A Jake Roberts Novel, Book 5 – Cary Allen Stone

(Reviewed by Cathy Carey)

“At exactly shift change, Richard stood in the doorway of his bedroom. It was the signal. The five other killers that shared the board understood the directions he had given them, and the consequences if they failed him. “

This installment in the series begins at Broadmoor Hospital which is a high-security psychiatric hospital at Crowthorne in Berkshire, England. Just as Jake Roberts is starting to recover from the death of his wife, the man who gave instructions to his daughter to kill her—the hospital’s most dangerous and deranged inmate— escapes.

As Jake is getting ready for a dinner party for his employees, another dangerous man from his past knocks on his door . Pablo, who had helped Jake in the past, is now distraught over the fact that a powerful drug lord has kidnapped his wife.

This drug lord, El Mencho, brought the escaped inmate to his facility in Mexico to torture and kill anyone who crosses him. Jake and Pablo have to come up with a plan to rescue his wife.

At the very onset of reading this novel, it is difficult to put down. Author Cary Allen Stone never disappoints. He has a gift of educating you as well as terrifying you at the same time. I never knew that there was a special hospital for the criminally insane.

Though I like the sequence, you can pick this one up and enjoy it as a stand-alone. It might even make the reader want to read the earlier ones.

After You’re Dead is an adrenaline rush that has you on the edge of your seat. Anyone who enjoys a fast past crime story will enjoy this one.

As you can tell, I can’t get enough of this character, Jake Roberts.

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Sugar – Kimberly Stuart

(Reviewed by JD Jung)

“Oh, to escape the daily hostility of Felix, the rampages of Alain, the snarky comments from the army of egocentric, narcissistic, self-absorbed males in the kitchen.”

Thirty-something Charlie Garrett worked at L’Ombre, a top Manhattan restaurant for six years. After long nights of “pursuing perfection” and unfulfilled promises that she would become head pastry chef, another opportunity suddenly comes her way.

Charlie’s ex-boyfriend from culinary school, Avery,  invites her to come to Seattle to become head pastry chef at his restaurant, Thrill. This will include a fantastic apartment and a salary to match.

Though she initially feels that moving to Seattle will be a step down from her trendy New York hot-spot, she realizes that she will finally live her dream and be able to see her long-time friend Manda.

Though Avery does keep his promises, there is an important detail that he keeps from Charlie. This secret doesn’t sit well with her, as she is rigid and always likes to be in control.

Add to that, a budding romance further threatens her need to be in control. And with her long, tedious work days, could she ever lead a life like Manda, who has a family and keeps reminding Charlie that there’s more to life than just a career?

Sugar is a fun, well-written novel sprinkled with light romance and yummy imagery. This is contrasted with the competitive  and often mean-spirited personalities portrayed in the story. The characters are enjoyable and well-developed and the story will keep you reading for hours.

With all of the heavy, depressing news in the world, Sugar will make  for a nice diversion. Just make sure you don’t  RWH (read while hungry).

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The Fix Is in: The Deutsche Bank Building Fire Conspiracy- J A Graffagnino

(Reviewed by Ishita RC)

The truth is revealed in this detailed account regarding the devastating fire at 130 Liberty Street, Manhattan’s Deutsche Bank, located in the heart of the financial sector, a short distance from what was the World Trade Center. Two firefighters were killed, and 105 were injured. One of the firefighters who died was the son of the author.

Graffagnino refused to believe the polished report provided by the high-level decision makers. After eight years of relentless research, the truth was finally revealed.

“It was the defining event in my 20 year career. It completely changed my view of my job. It completely changed my view of government. It completely changed my attitude about how to handle the risks on this job. I was determined from that point forward to teach everyone I could that we have to look out for ourselves. It is naive to rely in the other agencies. ”– Captain Simon Ressner

Such a simple and heartfelt sentiment expressed by one of the firefighters in the scene; but every word echoes the sentiment: This was no accident. The book can be considered as a tribute to unvarnished truth; there is no conspiracy theory or undocumented rumour. This is a journey taken by a grieving author to find out the truth. The narration style has a frankness that will grip the attention until you finish the book. There is nothing about climax or anticlimax; it is simply a representation of what it is: The truth.

“This fire was different than any other fire in that when we go in to fight the fire, we go in a floor below the fire because fire travels up. This was the first time I ever heard of that the fire and smoke came down. – Lieutenant Gary Iorio”

Every interview, every nuance that was captured puts light to the harshness of bureaucracy and the calculations and complex politics that underscores the system. The simplicity in which the author has brought limelight to the underlying corruption will definitely tug the heartstrings of the readers to such an extent that even you feel like joining the petition to honor the memories of the firefighters who lost their lives and those who were injured because of the criminal act that was conducted.

My opinion: Fantastic. Much recommended.

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Once There Were Giants: The Golden Age of Heavyweight Boxing – by Jerry Izenberg

(Reviewed by JD Jung)

“…the man who possessed one of the three best heavyweight jabs among the moderns, including Sonny Liston and Joe Louis; the man with an absolutely devastating uppercut that his corner named “Big Jack” after the late, great Jack Johnson; and finally, the man who never really got the credit due him (along with Joe Frazier) because of the long shadow cast by the legend of Muhammad Ali.”

 

Who is this heavyweight fighter that long-time sports journalist Jerry Izenberg considers to be the most underrated?

Izenberg was introduced to heavyweight boxing when his father made the family listen to the Joe Louis – Max Schmeling fight in 1938. Though Louis was black, he thought of him as fighting for Jews and all Americans.

The “golden era” were the years from 1962 to 1997, beginning when Sonny Liston beat Floyd Patterson and ending when Mike Tyson bit off part of Evander Holyfield’s ear. Since that time, Izenberg maintains that the heavyweight boxing division has “degenerated into a carnival sideshow.”

In his book, Once There Were Giants: The Golden Age of Heavyweight Boxing, Izenberg describes the stunning fights of the era while also including the historical and sociological significance.

Though this time was “the best of the best”, the commissions were incompetent, susceptible to bribes and the mob had tremendous influence until the fights of Muhammad Ali. Izenberg reveals the incidences along with the names, trainers and enablers. He also gives credit to those boxers who were unfortunately exploited by the system.

He also gives reasons why he believes that some champions who were part of the era like Lennox Lewis and Riddick Bowe were not “greats”. On the other hand, he explains why some of the era may have been champions if they were part of the next generation, like Ernie Shaver, Jerry Quarry, Cleveland Williams, and Oscar Bonavena.

As a fan of the Golden era’s heavyweight division, I couldn’t put this book down and finished it in a few hours. It gave me a complete picture of the boxing world at that time and answered a lot of questions I had throughout the years. Boxing fans will find this descriptive and engaging. It also gives a glimpse of American history in the sport’s context.

So, you say that I never answered the original question? If you want to find out who Izensberg considers to be the most underrated heavyweight, you’ll just have to read the book. It will be totally worth it.

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Defying Her Billionaire Protector – Angela Bissell

(Reviewed by Ishita RC)

Marietta Vincenti might be a paraplegic, but she values her independence. So naturally her Italian temper takes full form when her brother’s best friend – private security tycoon Nicolas Cesar—decides to swoop in and take her to his Mediterranean Island in order to protect her from a stalker.

The battle-hardened and scarred Nico sees light in his life since the time Marietta has stepped in. And he slowly unearths a vulnerable and passionate side to the fierce Italian beauty.

Can love light the way and give wings to the two broken souls?

What appealed to me most was the incredibly delectable, honest and vulnerable heroine; she is honest, strong, and disabled. This is something that is rarely seen considering how most of the books (like that of society) insists upon perfection – the perfect figure, creamy complexion, delicate dispositions. For this alone, I would like to appreciate the author; she created a beautiful heroine who might be physically helpless, but her strength in character makes up for it. The balance between a disabled individual and a person who is immersed in the world of physical security is striking, ironic and yet well balanced.

The setting of the book is definitely full of romance, but the world of disability has been beautifully and carefully handled with all the delicacy and tact that is required. The narrative style is simple and natural. The cover image reflects the characters while highlighting a strong title.

I can’t say anything bad about Defying Her Billionaire Protector: especially considering a different kind of heroine.

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Taste of Persia: A Cook’s Travels Through Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran, and Kurdistan – Naomi Duguid

(Reviewed by JD Jung)

Exceptional

I usually browse the internet to find recipes, since cookbooks just take up too much needed shelf space. Needless to say, it takes a lot for me to buy an actual cookbook. However, there is one that I highly recommend.

Taste of Persia is actually a lot more than your usual cookbook. It covers both food and culture from the area reaching from the Caucasus Mountains to southern Iran, between the Black and Caspian Seas. The languages and religions differ, but the food is somewhat similar. There are common elements, such as walnuts, pomegranates, mint, dried fruits and yogurt, but also different ones.

Recipes include meats, poultry and fish such as grilled kebabs, rich soups and stews —like my favorite “Classic Pomegranate – Walnut Chicken Stew “(Fesunjun Khoresh)— colorful vegetables, flat-breads, rice and pilafs, sauces, marinades, spice blends and desserts.

This comprehensive cookbook also contains a section on pantry necessities and substitutions on difficult to find ingredients.

The photographs and maps are vivid, and along with the stories, the reader learns how the climate and culture affects the food. Author Naomi Duguid explains how the countries of Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan are traveler- friendly since the fall of the Soviet Union. In between the nearly 125 recipes she provides anecdotes of her travels to the region.

These rustic recipes will require practice and perhaps more than one attempt (like some did for me.) It may be tempting to quickly jump in, but make sure that you read through each recipe in its entirety before attempting to prepare. There is a summary of the cooking procedures preceding the ingredients, but the actual instructions follow the ingredient list.

For those home cooks who want to try some delicious, unique dishes, along with learning the related culture, Taste of Persia is for you. However, I won’t stick this one on my bookshelf. It is so gorgeous that I will put it on my coffee table for all to see.

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Whatever Happened to Interracial Love?: Stories – Kathleen Collins

(Reviewed by JD Jung)

“His white face floats in a sea of black protest. It is a time that calls forth the most picturesque of metaphors, for we are swimming along in the underbelly of America..there where it is soft and prickly, where you may rub your nose against the grainy sands of illusion and come up bleeding. “

It’s 1963 Mississippi and a white freedom fighter from Boston falls in love with a black woman. “We are in the year of racial, religious, and ethnic mildew.”

“Idealism came back in style. People got along for a while. Inside the melting pot. “

However we all know it wouldn’t last. “Whatever Happened To Interracial Love” is only one exceptional piece of fiction in this never-released collection of short stories by the late playwright Kathleen Collins, who herself was a Civil Rights activist in the 1960s.

Here is just a sampling of the many exceptional stories included in the collection:

“Broken Spirit” tells of a woman’s relationship with an opinionated self-destructive journalist from South Africa. The ending will surprise you.

In “The Happy Family”, a girl is jealous of her friend’s family, the only happy family she knew. But what is happiness and at what cost does one have to pay for it?

“Dead Memories…Dead Dreams” demonstrates the confusion of a young girl whose mother died before she could remember and the family that won’t accept her dark-skinned father .

There are around fifteen intimate stories. Each one is so different while still timeless. It was so hard to pick a favorite, so I won’t. Some I wished were longer, though. Collins approached many of the stories in a “matter-of-fact” , objective tone in the first person which magnifies the impact.

Collins wrote in delectable prose. Through the stories she dealt with issues of race, gender and love while avoiding the typical stereotypes. Some stories will require an additional  read.

Collins died in 1988 from breast cancer at the age of 46. Unfortunately I’m sure she had more stories in her that we could have learned from.

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The Helper – M. N. Snow

(Reviewed by Jeyran Main)

The Helper takes you on a journey where friendship, relationships and the desire to help others means more than anything. Three friends with three secrets have the power to heal people, meaning they are givers.

John Sloan is a marine and loses this generous ability to heal. Since being a healer is all he has known from the age of four, the loss takes on several tumbles and falls. He has to figure out why and how to now carry on without it. Dusty Hakalla is a healer with a past. His powers were once abused and he is not quite over this ordeal. Deena Morrison is John’s love interest and also a healer. She too has a past where she was adopted and does not know much about her biological parents.

The Helper begins with an absolutely beautiful prologue. I highly recommend readers start the book with that. It truly gives you an insight on what you are to expect walking into this story. I use the term “walking” because it was truly a walk-through rather than a read through. The use of accurate terminology, wording and the high-quality literature standard flying off the pages impacted my vision so much so that it was off my scale of conception.

There is quite a substantial amount of backstory to how everything begins for all three friends. The chapters are short and easy to read through. The connection between the characters and the bond between them was touching. All of them had relatable personalities and were written up to draw you in. The setting of the world and description was very well put together and the plot did consist of enough twists and drama to keep you reading and feel engaged. I have to also add that there is profanity regularly used across the book.

I recommend this book to anyone who loves to read on magical realism, science fiction, and fantasy stories. I look forward to reading more from this author.

Posted in Our Best, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Mythology, Spiritual/mystical | Tagged , , | 1 Comment