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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The Athlete Student: Freshman Year By: Eugene Holloman | Book Review & Scholarship Opportunity!??

Title:The Athlete Student: Freshman Year
Genre: Sports, Student-life, Fiction
Rating: 3.5
Release Date: February 1st 2018
Synopsis:
High school senior Michael “Tootie” Mayberry has a dream of becoming a professional football player—but he faces one obstacle, COLLEGE.  Over 480,000 student-athletes like Michael “Tootie” Mayberry want to play professionally, but less than 3.5% will. They train hard, planting and watering the mental seed that tells them they will reach the pinnacle of their sport. In the process, they often pick the easiest major available, and after graduation, they pay for it.

HOW DO STUDENT-ATHLETES GET TO THIS POINT?

Join “Tootie” Mayberry as he embarks on his college career, balances the stresses of high-level performances on the field and in the classroom, and fights through other challenges student-athletes face.

 

BOOK REVIEW:

My first impression of this book was that it read like a novella because it was not an extremely long story and that it was passable for as an upper-middle school appropriate book for the most part. However, the author was able to touch on a lot of different scenarios as to how life as an athlete in school can be a huge challenge and a bit of a burden.

Such as the pressure to be good, to stand out, to stick to your guns and your passion; on top of the pressure from the media can affect you when aspects of your life start to unravel. With all that being said, I would have liked it if there were better pacing and resting periods in between each issue/obstacle that Tootie faced in this story. The reason for that is because it began to feel like everything was happening all at once the closer I got to the end and it made processing it all (and Tootie’s reactions) a bit difficult.

I think I should also mention that I am NOT a sports person by any means. Which is why I really liked the insight this book gave me about the high school to college football experience; from picking the perfect school or what might feel like the perfect school possibly feels like for athletes. As well as just how much they are pushed, both physically and mentally, in school with having such a rigorous schedule separate from the academic side of college.

Just from my personal experience, I knew and felt the pressure of the projects, test, papers, and studying. So, this book was really an eye-opener. It was also great to see the way Tootie’s s character instantly knew what college was right for him based on his personal aspirations for the future contrasted to the different ideas and expectations from nearly everyone else in his life perceived for the future. Tootie seemed to see those options as “safe” and “basic” schools, which I could really respect because he had something to prove, but at the same time, it gives Tootie a tough and maturing life lesson to learn and experience all on his own.

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Drapetomania By: John R. Gordon | Book Review w/ Author Q&A

Drapetomania; or The Narrative of Cyrus Tyler & Abednego Tyler
By: John R. Gordon
Genre: History, LGBT, M/M, Slavery, Fiction, Literature
Rating: 5 stars
Publisher: Team Angelica
Release Date: May 17, 2018
Goodreads | Amazon| B&N

Synopsis: When house-servant Abednego is sold away south, his heartbroken field-hand lover Cyrus snaps and flees the estate on which he has lived his entire life. Leaving everything he knows behind him, evading dogs and patrollers as he heads north, in the midst of a dismal swamp Cyrus receives the revelation that Abednego is his true North Star, and, impossible though it seems, he determines to find and rescue his lost lover from slavery.

Ten years in the writing, Drapetomania, Or The Narrative of Cyrus Tyler & Abednego Tyler, lovers, is an epic tale of black freedom, uprising, and a radical representation of romantic love between black men in slavery times.

A riveting, masterful work. Set against the brutalizing, material captivity meant to break the soul, that came to define the chattel enslavement of Africans in the American south, Drapetomania tells the compelling story of two men whose love for each other reimagines the erotic contours of what was possible under the whip and scrutiny of catastrophic bondage. Here is a story of love so powerful, so achingly present, it dares to consider not just the past but the future, as vital to freedom; and in doing so, defies any notion of the black enslaved body as an ugly, unpalatable thing, unworthy of the sweetness of love. Gordon’s novel enters the company of such classic works as Edward P. Jones’s The Known World, Toni Morrison’s Beloved, and Barry Unsworth’s Sacred Hunger. We will be reading and talking about this extraordinary novel for years to come.

 

Book Review:

Reading this book was such an experience for me. Each chapter, character action, the accuracy in the details, the pacing; all of it reads like an epic.  I went through several stages of what felt like a symbolic, yet temporal, metamorphosis, both emotionally and consciously, by the lives illustrated by some of the enslaved characters in this book. So, I will try to keep my notes and thoughts on the story linear with this post.

Drapetomania is broken up into three books in this novel and told in a third person perspective that alternates between the lives and experiences of the two main characters, Cyrus and Abednego. Set in the late 19th century, where bristling talk and whispered rumors of a war between the Southern plantations faction of the United States, against the industrializing, forward-thinking North. However, unaware of the truth behind the rumors of a Civil War on the horizon, Cyrus, and Abednego, two enslaved men who live and work on the same plantation, have fallen in love.

I already knew a lot about the horrible treatment, abuse and dehumanizing conditions that enslaved Africans & African-Americans lived in, but to be placed in the middle it while reading this book took a whole other form and meaning.

During my Q&A with John, (the full interview is below) I asked about certain story themes and relative messages that he placed in the narrative. And one of those was the appalling suffering of enslaved African women, which I found one of the toughest aspects of this book I found to get through. Which is why I felt the practically spiritual connection and love between Cyrus and Abednego truly represented not only the light of this book but also the feeling of hope that pulled me through the story.

In book one, we follow Cyrus, a field-hand, as he runs away from the Tyler estate several months after Abednego has been sold away. He sets out for freedom and follows the North Star while being hunted until he realizes that he is running for a sense of freedom that he has only ever felt when with his lover, Abednego. Once Cyrus understands what he is truly missing, his character is driven by that singular desire of feeling whole once more—with Bed.

The journey we watch Cyrus go on to try to track down his lover’s potential whereabouts is anything but easy, clear or hopeful, but his compulsive need to try really resonated with me. I know it will with other readers as well.

And while I felt I was kind of on pins and needles reading this book with the tension engulfing Cyrus’ situation, I enjoyed the emotional connection I gain toward his character’s personal growth from one daring escape—each more intense than the last—to the other of the many hold-your-breath peril moments he encountered.

Cyrus’ shift from relying solely on his physical abilities, to quick thinking and blending in with other enslaved individuals really brought his character to life. In book two, the perspective shifted to Abednego and I love, love, loved that I was able to see Abednego’s point of view first-hand as all the information we have up until this point was from Cyrus’ s point of view.

And while book two depicts his life after Tyler’s estate and several months before Cyrus’s escape, it brought a validation to their relationship, their love for each other and their story all at once. As at the heart of everything that unfolds in Drapetomania, it was a reminder that it is a love story of one heart beating within these two men.

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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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