The Fox Hunt by: Mohammed Al Samawi | Book Review

The Fox Hunt
By: Mohammed Al Samawi
Genre: Non-fiction, Memoir, Religion, War,  Politics, Non-Western
Rating: 4.5 stars
Release Date: April 10, 2018
Publisher: William Marrow
Synopsis:

A young man’s moving story of war, friendship, and hope in which he recounts his harrowing escape from a brutal civil war in Yemen with the help of a daring plan engineered on social media by a small group of interfaith activists in the West.

Born in the Old City of Sana’a, Yemen, to a pair of middle-class doctors, Mohammed Al Samawi was a devout Muslim raised to think of Christians and Jews as his enemy. But when Mohammed was twenty-three, he secretly received a copy of the Bible, and what he read cast doubt on everything he’d previously believed. After connecting with Jews and Christians on social media, and at various international interfaith conferences, Mohammed became an activist, making it his mission to promote dialogue and cooperation in Yemen.

Then came the death threats: first on Facebook, then through terrifying anonymous phone calls. To protect himself and his family, Mohammed fled to the southern port city of Aden. He had no way of knowing that Aden was about to become the heart of a north-south civil war, and the battleground for a well-funded proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia. As gunfire and grenades exploded throughout the city, Mohammed hid in the bathroom of his apartment and desperately appealed to his contacts on Facebook.

Miraculously, a handful of people he barely knew responded. Over thirteen days, four ordinary young people with zero experience in diplomacy or military exfiltration worked across six technology platforms and ten time zones to save this innocent young man trapped between deadly forces— rebel fighters from the north and Al Qaeda operatives from the south.

The story of an improbable escape as riveting as the best page-turning thrillers, The Fox Hunt reminds us that goodness and decency can triumph in the darkest circumstances.

 

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1,001 Ways to Be Creative: A Little Book of Everyday Inspiration By: Barbara Ann Kipfer | Book Review

1,001 Ways To Be Creative
By: Barbara Ann Kipfer
Genre: Self-help, Nonfiction, Creativity
Rating: 5 stars
Publisher: National Geographic
Release Date: March 27, 2018

Synopsis:
Best-selling author Dr. Barbara Ann Kipfer is back with a new, beautifully illustrated book that will help you break free from to-do lists and find time to think and live more creatively. The third entry in Kipfer’s successful 1,001 Ways series, this interactive list book will inspire anyone looking to unleash their creative genius.

In today’s overscheduled world, there is often little room for creativity in our daily lives. 1,001 Ways to Be Creative shows you how to set your brain free, and will help you find the time and energy to play, dream, imagine, breathe, and explore. This inspirational book of lists offers a treasure trove of ways to bring a little creativity into your life, including ideas for innovative things to do, practical tips, and thought-provoking quotes. Interactive prompts inspire art projects, storytelling, innovative thinking, seeing like an artist, and more. With this energizing book by your side, your next Big Idea could be just around the corner!

 

Thoughts:

Just grazing though this book sparked it’s own independent  burst of inspiration. I intended to only pick out 20 creative spurs that caught my eye right away. However, I quickly became so immersed with the passages and ideas that I lost track of how many I marked down to try.

There really isn’t any one way of approaching these ideas based on a person’s creative venture and like the author states in the introduction, you really can just skip around in this book until you find the best ideas that speak to you. For now, here are some of my favorites (with quotes):

 

 

#523: The first step to controlling you destiny is to imagine it.

#600: Can you play any song on an instrument? Try to expand your repertoire.Considering it’s been a while since I picked up my guitar and viola or even touched my keyboard, this one put a few things into perspective. I need to play more.

#596:  Use popular culture to inspire your work. —This one jumped out at me because doing this takes me outside of my comfort zone when it comes to how I approached my creative projects, so this would definitely be an interesting one for me.

#557: Choose a creative project with the express purpose of learning something about yourself.

Quote: “They’re only crayons. You didn’t fear them in Kindergarten, why fear them now?” Huge MacLeod

#492: How would you like to contribute creatively to the world during your lifetime?

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That’s What She Said: Wise Words From Influential Women By: Kimothy Joy|Book Review

That’s What She Said: Wise Words From Influential Women
By: Kimothy Joy
Genre: Non-fiction, Politics, Equality, Quotes
Rating:  5 stars
Release Date: April 3, 2018
Publisher: Harper Wave/Harper Collins

Synopsis:
An artist and activist committed to the empowerment of women and girls has created a gorgeous illustrated volume, blending watercolor and short biography to showcase the contributions of more than fifty influential female leaders whose words and actions are a passionate call to arms.

Distraught by the results of the 2016 election and the realization that the nation was not ready for its first female president, Kimothy Joy found herself poring over the biographies of brave women throughout history—those who persisted in the face of daunting circumstances—to learn from their experiences.

Turning to art, Joy channeled her feelings to the canvas, bringing these strong women to life in bold watercolor portraits surrounded by inspirational hand-lettered quotes. With each creation, Joy found catharsis and hope. She shared her watercolors with her online community and encouraged everyone to raise their own voices and recharge for the battles ahead.

Now, in this beautiful gift book, Joy has gathered her stunning illustrations and quotes and paired them with surprising, illuminating biographies of her subjects to inspire women of all ages, races, and backgrounds. That’s What She Said honors a powerful and diverse group of over fifty women—from Maya Angelou, Gloria Steinem, and Virginia Woolf to Sojourner Truth, Malala Yousafzai, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg—role models whose words and insights remind us that we must never give up the fight for a more just and equitable society.

Reclaiming the derogatory cultural barb “that’s what she said,” this stunning book celebrates strong female leadership throughout history and empowers current and future generations to find their voices and inspire change in their communities.

 

Thoughts:

Along with the ingenues idea of reclaiming a phrase that has been overtly sexualized, That’s What She Said was such a breath of fresh air. It was hard to put it down and I found myself smiling with each turn of every page. I was happy to see that there were quiet a few women I recognized in this book and even more thrilled that there were others I didn’t know much about at all.

The snapshots of their biographies and the selected quotes were all inspiring and comforting. It made me feel like I was getting to know these wonderful women personally on a level.

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The Lost Ones By: Sheena Kamal | Book Review

The Lost Ones
By: Sheena Kamal
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense, Mystery/Thriller Fiction
Rating: 4 stars
Release Date: July 25, 2017

 

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Synopsis: “A brave, unflinching heroine and brave, unflinching writing add up to an extraordinary debut–highly recommended.”–Lee Child

A dark, compulsively readable psychological suspense debut, the first in a new series featuring the brilliant, fearless, chaotic, and deeply flawed Nora Watts—a character as heartbreakingly troubled, emotionally complex, and irresistibly compelling as Stieg Larsson’s Lisbeth Salander and Jo Nesbø’s Harry Hole.

It begins with a phone call that Nora Watts has dreaded for fifteen years—since the day she gave her newborn daughter up for adoption. Bonnie has vanished. The police consider her a chronic runaway and aren’t looking, leaving her desperate adoptive parents to reach out to her birth mother as a last hope.

A biracial product of the foster system, transient, homeless, scarred by a past filled with pain and violence, Nora knows intimately what happens to vulnerable girls on the streets. Caring despite herself, she sets out to find Bonnie with her only companion, her mutt Whisper, knowing she risks reopening wounds that have never really healed—and plunging into the darkness with little to protect her but her instincts and a freakish ability to detect truth from lies.

The search uncovers a puzzling conspiracy that leads Nora on a harrowing journey of deception and violence, from the gloomy rain-soaked streets of Vancouver, to the icy white mountains of the Canadian interior, to the beautiful and dangerous island where she will face her most terrifying demon. All to save a girl she wishes had never been born.

 

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Like A Fly On The Wall By: Simone Kelly | Book Review

Like A Fly On The Wall
By: Simone Kelly
Genre: Contemporary, New Adult Fiction
Rating: 3 stars
Release Date: July 11, 2017

 

Synopsis:

From talented debut author Simone Kelly comes this suspenseful novel that crackles with intrigue, sex, and plenty of surprises—perfect for fans of Eric Jerome Dickey and Carl Weber.

Meet Jacques Berradi. Moroccan-born and Manhattan-raised, his genuine, sexy-smooth allure goes hand in hand with a unique gift. Since Jacques was young, he has had the ability to read peoples’ energies, communicate with spirit guides, and even catch glimpses of people’s futures. Now a professional “intuitive counselor,” Jacques’s clients pay him handsomely for his insight. Unfortunately, Jacques’s psychic abilities don’t come with an off switch to tune out the world’s noise, nor do they always provide him with easy answers; recently Jacques has begun having dark, alarming dreams about his beloved father, a Moroccan immigrant who died when he was a boy.

Meet Kylie Collins, an adventurous, Miami twentysomething who is trying to find her footing after being laid off from a cushy music industry job. When a mishap brings them together, Kylie is instantly mesmerized by Jacques’s cool demeanor and intuitive abilities, and he’s captivated by her outgoing charm and breezy good looks. Seeking to learn more about her family history—including the identity of the father she’s never known—Kylie visits Jacques’s office to gain some insight about her future, and about her free-spirited and headstrong Jamaican mother, True.

But on the night that they meet, a rolling blackout cuts off power throughout Miami. Kylie and Jacques, and a few of his clients, head to the only place in the neighborhood with enough light to see: Like a Fly on the Wall Detective Agency. There, Kylie serendipitously lands herself the perfect new job as an apprentice private eye.

As partners, Jacques and Kylie are an unstoppable duo. Can Jacques’s intuition reveal the scandalous history of Kylie’s mother and father? Will Kylie’s newfound detective skills uncover evidence about the death of Jacques’s father? And will the chemistry that charges their friendship bubble over into something much, much hotter…?

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A House Without Windows By: Nadia Hashimi | Review

A House Without Windows
By: Nadia Hashimi
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Culture, Mystery, Family, Friendship
Rating: 4 stars
Reprint release Date: May 16, 2017
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks/ Harper Collins

Synopsis:

A vivid, unforgettable story of an unlikely sisterhood—an emotionally powerful and haunting tale of friendship that illuminates the plight of women in a traditional culture—from the author of the bestselling The Pearl That Broke Its Shell and When the Moon Is Low.

For two decades, Zeba was a loving wife, a patient mother, and a peaceful villager. But her quiet life is shattered when her husband, Kamal, is found brutally murdered with a hatchet in the courtyard of their home. Nearly catatonic with shock, Zeba is unable to account for her whereabouts at the time of his death. Her children swear their mother could not have committed such a heinous act. Kamal’s family is sure she did, and demands justice.

Barely escaping a vengeful mob, Zeba is arrested and jailed. As Zeba awaits trial, she meets a group of women whose own misfortunes have also led them to these bleak cells: thirty-year-old Nafisa, imprisoned to protect her from an honor killing; twenty-five-year-old Latifa, who ran away from home with her teenage sister but now stays in the prison because it is safe shelter; and nineteen-year-old Mezhgan, pregnant and unmarried, waiting for her lover’s family to ask for her hand in marriage. Is Zeba a cold-blooded killer, these young women wonder, or has she been imprisoned, as they have been, for breaking some social rule? For these women, the prison is both a haven and a punishment. Removed from the harsh and unforgiving world outside, they form a lively and indelible sisterhood.

Into this closed world comes Yusuf, Zeba’s Afghan-born, American-raised lawyer, whose commitment to human rights and desire to help his motherland have brought him back. With the fate of this seemingly ordinary housewife in his hands, Yusuf discovers that, like Afghanistan itself, his client may not be at all what he imagines.

A moving look at the lives of modern Afghan women, A House Without Windows is astonishing, frightening, and triumphant.

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The Day I Died by Lori Rader-Day | Review

The Day I Died

By: Lori Rader-Day
Rating: 4 stars
Genre: Psychological, Thriller, Mystery, Contemporary Fiction
Release Date: April 11, 2017
 Synopsis:
From the award-winning author of Little Pretty Things comes this gripping, unforgettable tale of a mother’s desperate search for a lost boy.Anna Winger can know people better than they know themselves with only a glance—at their handwriting. Hired out by companies wanting to land trustworthy employees and by the lovelorn hoping to find happiness, Anna likes to keep the real-life mess of other people at arm’s length and on paper. But when she is called to use her expertise on a note left behind at a murder scene in the small town she and her son have recently moved to, the crime gets under Anna’s skin and rips open her narrow life for all to see. To save her son—and herself—once and for all, Anna will face her every fear, her every mistake, and the past she thought she’d rewritten.

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Orphan Train by: Christina Baker Kline | Book Review

Orphan Train
By: Christina Baker Kline
Rating: 3 stars
Genre: Historical Fiction, Coming of Age, Literary Fiction
Release Date: April 2, 2013
 

Synopsis:

The author of Bird in Hand and The Way Life Should Be delivers her most ambitious and powerful novel to date: a captivating story of two very different women who build an unexpected friendship: a 91-year-old woman with a hidden past as an orphan-train rider and the teenage girl whose own troubled adolescence leads her to seek answers to questions no one has ever thought to ask.

Nearly eighteen, Molly Ayer knows she has one last chance. Just months from “aging out” of the child welfare system, and close to being kicked out of her foster home, a community service position helping an elderly woman clean out her home is the only thing keeping her out of juvie and worse.

Vivian Daly has lived a quiet life on the coast of Maine. But in her attic, hidden in trunks, are vestiges of a turbulent past. As she helps Vivian sort through her possessions and memories, Molly discovers that she and Vivian aren’t as different as they seem to be. A young Irish immigrant orphaned in New York City, Vivian was put on a train to the Midwest with hundreds of other children whose destinies would be determined by luck and chance.

The closer Molly grows to Vivian, the more she discovers parallels to her own life. A Penobscot Indian, she, too, is an outsider being raised by strangers, and she, too, has unanswered questions about the past. As her emotional barriers begin to crumble, Molly discovers that she has the power to help Vivian find answers to mysteries that have haunted her for her entire life – answers that will ultimately free them both.

Rich in detail and epic in scope, Orphan Train is a powerful novel of upheaval and resilience, of second chances, of unexpected friendship, and of the secrets we carry that keep us from finding out who we are.

Book Review:

Told from two different perspectives between the past and the present, spanning from the early 1900s to 2011, I had certain  expectations when I started Orphan Train. However, I must admit that when I finished this book my thoughts were a mixture of empathy, scrutiny, disbelief and admiration in contrast to the two main characters Molly and Vivian.

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