Most Ardently By: Susan Mesler-Evans | Book Review

Most Ardently
By: Susan Mesler-Evans
Genre:Contemporary Fiction,YA Fiction, Retelling, LGBT Fiction
Rating: It was ok.
Publisher: Entangled: Embrace
Release Date: October 21, 2019

IndieBound | Amazon |

Synopsis:

Elisa Benitez is proud of who she is, from her bitingly sarcastic remarks, to her love of both pretty boys and pretty girls. If someone doesn’t like her, that’s their problem, and Elisa couldn’t care less. Particularly if that person is Darcy Fitzgerald, a snobby, socially awkward heiress with an attitude problem and more money than she knows what to do with.

From the moment they meet, Elisa and Darcy are at each other’s throats — which is a bit unfortunate, since Darcy’s best friend is dating Elisa’s sister. It quickly becomes clear that fate intends to throw the two of them together, whether they like it or not. As hers and Darcy’s lives become more and more entwined, Elisa’s once-dull world quickly spirals into chaos in this story of pride, prejudice, and finding love with the people you least expect.

My Thoughts

For me, this book was ok. I think this is the type of book for anyone not familiar or who hasn’t read Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice to be honest. Trying to be as abstract as possible here without giving too much away (as it is technically a re-telling) I will try to stick to the things I liked about the characters and the overall tone.

First, I love that the main characters include people of color and taken out of the context of this re-telling, I know that there is another book titled Pride that came out a few years ago that does the same thing, but I haven’t made it to that one—yet.

Getting back to Most Ardently, our main character, Elisa, in this book has strong opinions about those around her. But at the same time, her character came off as a bit timid and shy while around new people and in school. Her counterpart, Darcy, on the other hand, seemed to carry that same level of indifference that we expect from the archetype of the character. And while I actually expected this, I cannot be sure if that was more upsetting, getting what I expected instead of a character more relaxed, friendly and sociable.

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The Athlete Student: Sophomore Year By: Eugene D. Holloman | Book Review (ARC)

*note: cover image may no be visible to all depending on device.

The Athlete Student:  Sophomore Year
Genre:Sports, Student-life, Fiction, Quick Reads
Rating: It was ok
Publisher: Holloman House Publishing
Release Date: TBD
Goodreads | Amazon |
Synopsis:

After a rocky freshman year that included outstanding production on the field, unsatisfactory performances in the classroom, an unforgettable breakup and a suspension from the biggest game in school history – Michael “Tootie” Mayberry is ready to demonstrate growth and maturity in his upcoming college sophomore year.

However, while Tootie aims to improve upon a stellar season that made him a freshman All-American. He first has to rebuild a reputation that took massive blows stemming from a cheating scandal that landed him on academic probation. With his future of becoming a professional athlete hanging in the balance, how will Tootie respond to the increasing demands of being a student-athlete?

 

BOOK THOUGHTS:

Much like my impression of book one in this series, Athlete Student: Freshman Year two years ago, this book was a quick and easy read. And after going over my notes for book one, it left the lingering idea in my mind that these books are meant for a much younger audience than I initially remember.

Once that seed was planted it altered my take on the book and the series. With a more critical eye than before, as I tend to think of young readers like my cousin, turning the pages of this book. The thing that strikes me the most about the author’s concept is the level of insight and approach to tell a story like Tootie’s that I am sure mirrors many who grew up in similar situations like his and who live, breathe and sleep all things football just to fall victim to pressure or into a mistake that puts their (his) entire sports career, future, and life in jeopardy.

Then, having to come back to face those obstacles all over again, but have less faith in yourself or from others than they (he) did before. There are a lot of things that make me admire Tootie’s character in that sense, with his self-centered tendencies and impulsive behavior. With the book being as short as it is and not set up by establishing all the characters as book one did, it leaves me little room to discuss much without revealing key elements of the plot.

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LORD OF THE SENSES (STORIES) BY: VIKRAM KOLMANNSKOG |BOOK REVIEW

Lord of the Senses (Stories)
By: Vikram Kolmannskog
Genre/Themes:LGBTQ/Gay, Fiction, Drama, Short Stories, Religion, Multi-Culture, Anti-Classism (18+)
Publisher: TeamAngelica
Release Date:  September 6, 2019

TeamAngelica | Amazon | AmazonUK

Synopsis:  A groundbreaking collection of frank, provocative short stories from gay Indian-Norwegian Vikram Kolmannskog, published to coincide with the anniversary of the decriminalization of homosexuality in India.

From the forest-fringed suburbs of Oslo to the bustling heart of Bombay; from the timeless banks of the Ganges to the never-closing nightclubs of Berlin, Lord of the Senses captures a headily contemporary sense of what it is to be queer, cosmopolitan, spiritual and sexual.

My Thoughts

~~With a combination of an extended month of unanticipated work, and several hiccups at the beginning of the school year for my cousin—this post is well overdue.~~

In terms of context and themes, Lord of the Senses does not hold any punches. The stories are straightforward, in your face, honest, revealing, open and unapologetic with a lot of the erotic material the stories cover. That’s not to say that the book needs to be apologetic or reined in. Moreover, since the stories build on this sense of caution, due to shameful (and dangerous) social judgment, the secretive means of being affectionate with their partners and the openness of these stories seem to counteract those barriers.

Trying to condense all of the themes and genres we can pick up in this book was a challenge as I did not want to spiral down any mythological or fantasy rabbit-holes, but Shredded Dates and Raven Leela were two of the main contenders for my notes on that.

And I love the simplistic bittersweetness we get from the shorts Raja, Nanima and Roger Toilet, Growing Up Queer, The Sunset Point, and The Sacred Heart. Moments and pieces from each of those just seemed to linger with me the longest as I moved on to the next story.

Lord of the Senses should not be viewed as a book entirely made up of short stories that have physically erotic scenes—even though it does—but rather, a collection of stories intent on invoking a connection of each character to the reader. Hence, another aspect I liked in this book was the different levels of (sometimes anonymous) intimacy; emotionally, physically, and spiritually.

The writer takes us on these brief journeys with each character/tale conveying these strong, open, and liberatingly potent perspectives. Some of which came directly from the deeply obscured minds of the characters, that as an outsider, I felt like I had been intruding on their private thoughts.

While organizing my thoughts to mention how the micro-detailed descriptions interlaced with the intricate sensory markers, and scenery specifics of these stories help to transport your mind to some of these places—I ended up reading this great interview with Vikram.

He brings up points on how some of the pieces in Lord of the Senses have developed from drafts over the years and through the course of the movement for equal rights for the LGBTQ community in India. In the interview, Vikram also speaks about his desire to not only have his stories tether connections to the LGBTQ community within India. But also, to straight individuals outside of the community with ties to India as a means of highlighting, as I understood it, just how similar we all are at our core.

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The Expedition by: Chris Babu | Book Review

The Expedition
By: Chris Babu
Genre: Dystopian Fiction, YA Fiction, Drama, Adventure
Rating: 3 stars
Publisher: Permuted Press
Release Date: December 4, 2018

IndieBound | Amazon | B&N |

Synopsis:

THEY SURVIVED THE INITIATION. NOW THE REAL TEST BEGINS.

Drayden and his friends thought nothing could be harder than the Initiation. Little did they know it had only been a warmup for the challenge that lay ahead.

With New America’s situation dire, Drayden and the pledges venture out into the unexplored world outside the walls, escorted by a team of elite Guardians. The group seeks to contact another civilization in what remains of Boston, but Drayden has secret goals of his own.

Dangers abound in the real world, including Aeru, the deadly superbug that wiped out humanity. While they battle the elements of a desolate landscape, a power struggle emerges within their ranks. The Guardians seem to be carrying out a covert mission themselves, and the quest turns everything they thought they knew about New America upside down.

My Thoughts

As this is a part of a series, I thought it best to separate my personal pros and cons in a generic way because some of my notes directly relate to the open-ended plots of the series. In addition to a few of the plot twists that happen in the last few chapters of this book in particular.

PROS:

Overall, The Expedition offers way more character development, action and suspense scenes than book one. It also gives the reader more in details on the secrets the Bureau wants to keep hidden from the people of New America and even a (very) few details about the main character, Drayden, mother’s exile. Drayden shows that the Initiation has given him more of a backbone and a willingness to assert himself in a position of power when going up against a few Bureau members and Guardians, even if the odds are stacked against him.

His character showing and taking initiative during their journey outside of the wall towards Boston made him more likable (in my opinion) compared to book one because he doubted himself too much and was really reserved. This, I feel was a combination of Drayden having to process what happened to his mother, best friend and the Initiation one after another. So, I thought to see him actually acknowledge this a bit in the book while going to Boston was pretty fundamental.

Of the other three who made it through the Initiation with him, I didn’t really feel there was a major shift in their characters between the two books; more like Drayden seemed more comfortable with them as a team and people he could trust. In book one, because Drayden was smart, everyone kind of leaned on him as a default. In this book, his leadership has been earned and I actually agreed that he deserved the leadership and respect that he was fighting for.

Moreover, I really liked the strength and bond present in this book among Charlie, Sydney, Drayden, and Catrice because it was something I could bank on growing even stronger facing the dangers outside of the wall. Both with the strangers they encountered along the way as well as with the group of Guardians assigned to go with them.

CONS:

In order to get to the core of this book, I was gifted book one to read also. I think that out of the two, I preferred The Expedition over The Initiation because the story has Drayden placed in the middle of an active, narrative plot that shows his character in more progressively/active manner. He is a deeply flawed character that struggles to grasp the people and situations around him. I appreciate a flawed protagonist and find it interesting when the secondary characters draw attention to the same flaws or begin to dislike the main character the same way that I do.

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When Women Ruled The World by: Kara Cooney | Review

When Women Ruled The World
By: Kara Cooney
Genre: History, Politics, Egypt, Non-fiction
Rating: 2 stars
Publisher: National Geographic Society
Release Date: October 30, 2018

National Geographic | Amazon | B&N |

Synopsis:  This riveting narrative explores the lives of six remarkable female pharaohs, from Hatshepsut to Cleopatra–women who ruled with real power–and shines a piercing light on our own perceptions of women in power today.  Female rulers are a rare phenomenon–but thousands of years ago in ancient Egypt, women reigned supreme. Regularly, repeatedly, and with impunity, queens like Hatshepsut, Nefertiti, and Cleopatra controlled the totalitarian state as power-brokers and rulers. But throughout human history, women in positions of power were more often used as political pawns in a male-dominated society. What was so special about ancient Egypt that provided women this kind of access to the highest political office? What was it about these women that allowed them to transcend patriarchal obstacles? What did Egypt gain from its liberal reliance on female leadership, and could today’s world learn from its example?

Celebrated Egyptologist Kara Cooney delivers a fascinating tale of female power, exploring the reasons why it has seldom been allowed through the ages, and why we should care.

My Thoughts:

I really wanted to dive into this book and become immersed within its promise of breaking down the ancient, political power and stance for six of Egypt’s female Pharaohs, while comparing and contrasting it to the United States’ current political landscape from the female opposition.

However, the further I got into the book, the more I felt a deviation from the promised synopsis and expectations I had for the context. As I did not think it would resonate with any forward-thinking, politically-conscious feminists interested in similarities or uniquely explicit details of these female pharaohs’ reign (as I was) that could have been seen as awe-inspiring.

On top of feeling left out of the conversation as a queer, WOC in the perspective and points made for the “female” opposition. I felt dishearten and saddened by all the negativeness toward women with the general stance of this book. I just could not bring myself to stand behind it and it was really upsetting to be so excited to read this book and to come out on the other side having not liked it.

There were a few things that I felt went wrong with the direction and overall tone of this book that each chapter continued to repeat or reword a negative (semi)dated, and de-constructive viewpoint of the female in regards to both the past and the current references of women in power. I say “semi” because there are still difficulties, stereotypes, and biases that women in politics and positions of power have to face in the present. However, I strongly felt a lack of inclusion/mention of several positives that have happened over the years. Continue reading

Louisiana Catch by: Sweta Srivastava Vikram | Book Review

Louisiana Catch
By: Sweta Srivastava Vikram
Genre: Domestic Abuse, Drama, Self-Esteem, Personal Growth
Rating: 4 stars
Publisher: Modern History Press
Release Date: April 10,2018

IndieBound | Amazon | B&N |

Synopsis:
Ahana, a wealthy thirty-three-year-old New Delhi woman, flees the pain of her mother’s death, and her dark past, by accepting a huge project in New Orleans, where she’ll coordinate an Annual Conference to raise awareness of violence against women. Her half-Indian, half-Irish colleague and public relations guru, Rohan Brady, who helps Ahana develop her online presence, offends her prim sensibilities with his raunchy humor. She is convinced that he’s a womanizer. Meanwhile, she seeks relief from her pain in an online support group, where she makes a good friend: the mercurial Jay Dubois, who is also grieving the loss of his mother. Her work in the U.S. and the online medium bring the two men into her life, and Ahana learns that neither is what he seems. With their differing sensibilities on a collision course, Ahana finds herself in a dangerous situation—and she discovers a side of herself that she never realized she had.

Louisiana Catch is an emotionally immersive novel about identity, shame, and who we project ourselves to be in the world. It’s a book about Ahana’s unreliable instincts and her ongoing battle to determine whom to place her trust in as she, Rohan, and Jay shed layers of their identities.

As Ahana matures from a victim of domestic sexual abuse into a global feminist leader, she must confront her issues, both with the men in her life and, ultimately, with her own instincts. Whom can she rely on to have her best interests at heart?

 

My Thoughts

In a nutshell, Louisiana Catch centers around a woman, Ahana, who has completely lost her self. She just got out of a marriage that has caused her to break down due not only to the downward glances of those in society but also due to a secret she has never told anyone. Her ex-husband was emotional controlling and both physically and sexually abusive. The domestic abuse in Ahana’s marriage from her ex-husband still lingers around everything in her life.

And while she has the support and guidance of her strong, smart and independent mother to fall back on, that over-protectiveness and sheltered world Ahana allows her mother to place her in, only continues to hinder her. I loved Ahana’s mother; it was clear she was well respected, sweet, kind and knew her worth, but following along Ahana’s journey without her, other readers might pick up on how much influence she really had in her daughter’s life.

When we are introduced to Ahana’s character, she’s stuck at a mid-point in where she is unsure of how and in which direction to move forward in her life and unable to face or talk about her marriage and the sexual abuse.

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Journeys Of A Lifetime: 500 of the World’s Greatest Trips | Book Review

Journeys Of A Lifetime: 500 of the World’s Greatest Trips
Genre: Travel, Explore, Informative, Non-Fiction
Publisher: National Geographic Society
Release Date: October 23, 2018

  

Synopsis: Featuring 120 new destinations, this best-selling inspirational travel guide reveals 500 celebrated and lesser-known destinations around the globe, from ocean cruises in Antarctica to horse treks in the Andes. Completely revised and updated for its 10th anniversary.

Compiled from the favorite trips of National Geographic’s legendary travel writers, this fully updated, 10th anniversary edition of Journeys of a Lifetime spans the globe to highlight the best of the world’s most celebrated and lesser-known sojourns. Offering a diverse array of possibilities, every continent and possible form of transport is covered, illustrated with glorious color photographs. With 16 new pages; new destinations like Cartegena, Colombia; and updated information throughout, this timely new edition is the perfect resource for travelers who crave adventurous trips–from trekking the heights of Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania to mountain biking in Transylvania–and those searching for more specific experiences (the world’s top small cruises, hot new museums around the world, secrets for following in the footsteps of film and TV heroes, and more). Each chapter features stunning photography, full-color maps, and practical tips, including how to get there, when to visit, and how to make the most of your journey.

Informative and inspiring, this luxurious volume is a lifelong resource that readers will treasure for years to come.

My Thoughts:

First off, I think this book will definitely make those novice or inexperienced travelers that lack that last nudge of motivation to plan their first trip thirsty, hungry and excited to travel around the world.

The pictures in this (text)book of travel were exquisite and while I share a few photos from the book, I know that I am not doing them enough justice. Some of the pictures I chose to share with you today were places I personally wanted to visit and others were just a few that really caught my eye while perusing through the pages.

The book of sectioned off into a number of categories that offers a bit of something for the travelers who seek out great places to eat, to hike, to take in the scenery, to see iconic landmarks etc. So, if your goal is to plan your trip or pick a destination based on specific parameters, Journeys of a Lifetime gives you the options of Across Water, By Road, By Rail, On Foot, In Search of Culture, In Gourmet Haven, Into The Action, Up & Away and In Their Footsteps. Going through this book brought back so many Art History memories and I LOVED it. Especially in the in Search of Culture section.

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Yeled Tov by: Daniel M. Jaffe | Book Review

 

Yeled Tov by: Daniel M. Jaffe

Genre:YA, Coming of age, mental illness, LGBT, Religion

Rating:4 stars

Release: April 18, 2018

Publisher: Lethe Press

Goodreads | Amazon

Synopsis: As he’s about to turn 16 in the mid-1970’s, Jake Stein notices a prohibition in Leviticus that never caught his eye before:  “Thou shalt not lie with mankind as with womankind; it is abomination.”  This discovery distresses Jake, an observant Jewish teen, because he’s recently been feeling increased attraction to other teen boys and men. He’s even been engaging in sexual exploration with his best friend.  In an attempt to distract himself, Jake joins his high school’s production of The Diary of Anne Frank, but falls in love with the romantic male lead, obsessively fantasizing about him.  Jake feels lonelier than ever.

The next year, while a freshman at Princeton University, Jake falls for his handsome roommate, is beset by serious temptations, and engages in a traumatic sexual encounter with a stranger.  Seeking help from God, Jake tries to alter his desires, even dates a young Jewish woman in the hopes that she can change him, but to no avail.   Jake concludes that God could never love an abomination like him, so he attempts to prove his faith by ending his own life.

After he’s saved by his roommate, Jake receives unexpected support from doctors, family, and friends, some of whom have been suspecting his secret.  With their help, Jake explores a different way of thinking about the rules of Torah and himself, and begins to consider that he might actually be a yeled tov, a good Jewish boy, just the way he is.

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