Caresaway – DJ Cockburn

(Reviewed by JD Jung)

“If Caresaway had infected the executive boards of the world’s corporations with people incapable of remorse and obsessed with short-term gain…was it any wonder that so many corporations were so badly managed?”

British scientist, Dr. Edward Crofte was a self-proclaimed victim and failure. Now living in South Africa, he is the CEO of a successful pharmaceutical company, driving a Maserati and not afraid of anything. What changed?

Crofte, along with his girlfriend Tia de Jongh, truly wanted to help people and so invented Caresaway, the only fast-acting anti-depressant that seemed to work on everyone in their test trials. What didn’t come out in the trials was that users of the “miracle” drug seemed to develop other characteristics and habits: pathological lying, glibness/superficial charm, poor behavior control, promiscuous sexual behavior, cunning/manipulative personalities and lack of empathy. In other words, they turned into psychopaths. Note, most psychopaths aren’t crazed killers.

This became a popular drug among business executives as they noticed an increase in profits and personal gain.

Since Crofte himself was depressed, he felt that he should test the drug on himself. Once Crofte discovers this dire side effect, what will he do?

I usually don’t care for novellas that are this short. The characters don’t seem developed and the plot is typically rushed. Author DJ Cockburn doesn’t fall into that trap.

Caresaway will keep you engaged at every page as you imagine what the domino effect of this wonder drug will be and what the long-term effects that this medication will have on personal lives, business and society as a whole.

I recommend Caresaway not only for the entertainment value but for a quick read that you keep you thinking.

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Mocktails, Punches, and Shrubs: Over 80 Nonalcoholic Drinks to Savor and Enjoy – Vikas Khanna

(Reviewed by JD Jung)

“Inspired, I embarked on a quest to collect and catalogue as many flavors and scents from foreign cultures as possible. A plethora of tasting experiences provided me with insights on what is mixable, edible, and most importantly, what can stimulate and benefit us in a positive way.”

Award-winning Michelin starred Indian chef and restaurateur Vikas Khanna introduces a collection of varied non-alcoholic drinks from floral and fragrant to tangy shrubs, refreshing to hot, in his latest cookbook, Mocktails, Punches, and Shrubs: Over 80 Nonalcoholic Drinks to Savor and Enjoy.

From teas to elixirs to smoothies and slushes, there is something for everyone. While many are considered Superfoods, some are so decadent that they could even act as a dessert course.

He has a pantry list, but what I appreciate is how he describes the ingredients and how best to use them in your own drink recipes. He also explains technique and equipment needed in detail.

Some of these exotic drinks are more complicated and require unusual ingredients not readily available, so my eyes just skimmed past these. However, there are enough simple delicious recipes to make this book worthwhile. I especially liked the raspberry lemonade and some of the carbonated drinks (that is, when club soda is added.) I also liked the idea of creating your own sugar syrups infused with different herbs.

Khanna gives serving and presentation suggestions, so these recipes—or ones you concoct yourself—will be perfect for entertaining, like the various teas.

I have to admit that while reading many of these recipes I couldn’t help but think how wonderful they would taste with an ounce of tequila or vodka. However, this book will especially appeal to those who want to keep their beverages healthy and alcohol free.

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Buzz- Upcoming release

(Reviewed by JD Jung)

Exceptional

“…I may have arrived without an invitation but I work just like the rest of you do, I pay the same taxes as the rest of you do, and most importantly my boss, or rather, my bosses, need me. Yes, I do realize that you are feeding me, but let me tell you that I more than repay it. Yes, I am dependent on you for my survival, but you depend on me for your wealth. That’s life. Give and take. I have started to build a new life here. I have got used to this city, and who knows, this city might eventually get used to me. So why am I illegal and worse than a stray dog?”

These could be the words of any undocumented worker from any country, but these are the thoughts of Gazmend Kapllani as he realized that his new country wasn’t quite what he thought it would be. But he knew that he didn’t want to go back to Albania. He, along with others, crossed the border into Greece on January 15, 1991. They knew where they escaped from but had no idea where they were going.

Part auto-biography and part fiction based on true conversations and events, A Short Border Handbook is an emotional but also often darkly comical account of what these immigrants experienced after the fall of the Soviet Bloc and what immigrants all over the world continue to endure. He also relates  the oppressive life in Albania prior to leaving.

A full review of A Short Border Handbook: A Journey Through the Immigrant’s Labyrinth will be posted on UnderratedReads on its re-release date on October 3, 2017. Look for this engrossing and riveting book!

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The Haven’s Kitchen Cooking School: Recipes and Inspiration to Build a Lifetime of Confidence in the Kitchen – Alison Cayne

(Reviewed by JD Jung)

Exceptional

Haven’s Kitchen, a recreational hands-on cooking school with a café and event space was opened in 2012 in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood. They don’t teach off of printed recipes, as the purpose is to “ teach the joy of cooking with the understanding that our food choices are deeply connected to a larger food economy. “

Since most of us cannot attend this school, The Haven’s Kitchen Cooking School is a wonderful alternative.

Founder Alison Cayne teaches you how to cook, not just how to follow recipes. The recipes that are included are from all over the globe and have a purpose to teach technique and principles. In fact she urges readers to experiment and improvise on them.

Before she starts cooking, she demonstrates basics: types of knives needed and how to use them to create different cuts. How do you cut herbs and onions? She lists pantry necessities and how to store them. What type of spices and sweeteners do you need for what food? What should you keep in your refrigerator? She also suggests how to keep clean and organized while you cook.

The recipe portion consists of nine sections and what principles apply: grains and beans, fritters, vegetables (seasonality), soups (layering flavors), eggs (timing and temperature), salads (composition), fish, poultries and meats (heat), sauces (balance) and desserts. She also has a section on cooking with wine.

The helpful charts, illustrations and inspiring photographs are a plus to the clear explanations.

I usually don’t recommend cookbooks, as you can get recipes off the internet. However, this isn’t a cookbook. It’s more of a cooking manual and she recommends writing notes in the columns.

The Haven’s Kitchen Cooking School is both comprehensive and concise. I recommend it to the casual cook who prepares food just to survive all the way to the home chef who loves to create complex dishes to serve to guests.

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The CEO’s Seduction – Diane Alberts

(Reviewed by Ishita RC)

Brett Ross managed to avoid the lure of his small town until his best friend decided to fall in love and get married. He knows what he is getting into, coming back here, but what he didn’t calculate was the way Anna Hamilton would make him feel.

Anna has been in love with Brett as far as she could recall. But being the annoying sister of his best friend doesn’t appeal to her anymore. Now it’s time to make Brett realise that behind the tough exterior of a CEO, there is a soft beating heart that has been in love with her, and not in ways of a little sister. The only problem is her pesky, protective, overbearing, four older brothers.

Well, the main idea is the same old concept – one tortured, insecure soul and one pure heart that is the key to happiness. But what is appealing about the book are the lively characters who are appealing to the readers and who bring a depth of emotion to the plot. I loved both the lead characters and the way they have been pictorised. But the minute detail of characterising the secondary characters not only made the plot entertaining but also provided a glimpse of what the future installments are going to be like.

The narrative style of writing an old concept in a new form definitely added a huge benefit to the appeal factor of the book. The ease of writing and the flow of words prevented it from becoming a task of reading lusty characters. While the sex appeal was kept intact, the nostalgia of a sweet romance helped in making it a beautiful story.

The CEO’s Seduction is a quick and light read, especially when you are jet-lagged.

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The Painted Gun – Bradley Spinelli

(Reviewed by JD Jung)

“I was in it now, there was no getting out. But since Ashley was painting creepy snapshots of my life, I guess I was always in it. The fact that I didn’t know what I was into no longer made any difference.”

It’s 1997 and former San Francisco journalist, current information broker and heavy alcoholic, David “Itchy” Crane is offered a lucrative case from a former acquaintance, a Southern California private investigator. Even with the emergence of the Internet causing his business to become obsolete, he’s not going to take the case. He doesn’t trust this PI, as he still owes him money for a job years back.

David is asked to find a missing twenty-one year old artist named Ashley (last name and recent addresses unknown). After he initially rejects the case,   P.I. sends him one of Ashley’s portraits: a man getting a haircut. The strange thing is that the man in the picture looks exactly like David. OK, that entices him to take the case.

But as he gets deeper into it, David walks into murder scenes as new portraits of him are uncovered. Could he be the cause of these homicides? Things get really weird as these portraits are of him inside his own apartment, doing some mundane as well as some private acts. In any event, his obsessive behavior takes over while his reasons for sticking this dangerous case out become blurred.

We’ve all read about the self-destructive journalist or P.I., but The Painted Gun is actually quite different. It’s classic noir with a little technology that turns into an international thriller. Though it’s a dangerous leap mixing both genres, author Bradley Spinelli succeeds. Each of the many characters adds depth to the plot and uncovers a little more about our protagonist. Personally,  I wish he would have stayed with the noir-esque tone and kept the story local. However, I think that’s just my preference.

The Painted Gun will keep readers hooked at every page. I think you’ll enjoy this one.

Posted in Crime, Mystery and Thrillers, Noir-esque fiction, San Francisco | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The Fire in the Rock – Charles Norman

(Reviewed by Jeyran Main)

Exceptional

The fire in the rock is written about the time of Moses (Kisil) before he became the prophet. It is set at the time of the plagues on Egypt, the Ten Commandments and when Moses was a wanderer and an ordinary man.

Tzipporah is the wife of Moses, and the story begins before she was married to him. She is faithful and a ferocious lady. The love they had for each other was very sweet.

Although this book is fictional, it still narrates from existing biblical and historical references. It addresses a cataclysmic volcanic eruption that took place in the Easter Med at about the Exodus time. There are no superheroes or preaching of God appearing. It is simply a story of a man and woman defying a king, freeing people and ultimately changing the world.

I found the literary standard of this book to be of high quality. The layout of the book was exceptional. It is evident that the writer is in full understanding and control of all the historical and religious subjects related to the story. There wasn’t anything written that would offend or frown anyone religious reading the book. It is always a little tricky to write about prophets in a fictional way, and I think Charles Norman did an excellent job doing so.

I highly recommend The Fire in the Rock to people who like to read religious stories and historical events.

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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.

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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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