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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I’ll Be Your Blue Sky By: Marisa De Los Santos | Book Review

I’ll Be Your Blue Sky
By: Marisa De Los Santos
Genre: Contemporary, General Fiction
Rating: 3.5 stars
Released: March 6, 2018

Synopsis: On the weekend of her wedding, Clare Hobbes meets an elderly woman named Edith Herron. During the course of a single conversation, Edith gives Clare the courage to do what she should have done months earlier: break off her engagement to her charming, yet overly possessive, fiancé. 

Three weeks later, Clare learns that Edith has died—and has given her another gift. Nestled in crepe myrtle and hydrangea and perched at the marshy edge of a bay in a small seaside town in Delaware, Blue Sky House now belongs to Clare. Though the former guest house has been empty for years, Clare feels a deep connection to Edith inside its walls, which are decorated with old photographs taken by Edith and her beloved husband, Joseph.

Exploring the house, Clare finds two mysterious ledgers hidden beneath the kitchen sink. Edith, it seems, was no ordinary woman—and Blue Sky House no ordinary place. With the help of her mother, Viviana, her surrogate mother, Cornelia Brown, and her former boyfriend and best friend, Dev Tremain, Clare begins to piece together the story of Blue Sky House—a decades-old mystery more complex and tangled than she could have imagined.

As she peels back the layers of Edith’s life, Clare discovers a story of dark secrets, passionate love, heartbreaking sacrifice, and incredible courage. She also makes startling discoveries about herself: where she’s come from, where she’s going, and what—and who—she loves.Shifting between the 1950s and the present and told in the alternating voices of Edith and Clare, I’ll Be Your Blue Sky is vintage Marisa de los Santos—an emotionally evocative novel that probes the deepest recesses of the human heart and illuminates the tender connections that bind our lives.

 

Book Review:

Without giving away too much, I’ll Be Your Blue Sky, in my opinion, was not overly dramatic or heart pounding with suspense or anything. Nonetheless, the whole story felt lighthearted, kind of whimsical and slightly reminded me of a Hallmark version of Sleepless in Seattle with a stronger family backdrop (but only for the first chapter or so.)

Although this story centered on Clare and Edith’s lives, while I was reading it the narrative felt universal to me. Clare’s quest to really find herself, parallel to Edith’s character who is so self-aware of who she is and the type of person she wasn’t, really resonated with me as I was reading this book.

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Love Unleashed: Tales of Inspiration and the Life-Changing Power of Dogs By: Rebecca Ascher-Walsh | Review

Love Unleashed: Tales of Inspiration and the Life-Changing Power of Dogs
By: Rebecca Asher-Walsh
Genre: Non-fiction, Pets, Animals, Dogs, Adoption
Rating: 5 stars
Publisher: National Geographic
Released: March 6, 2018

Synopsis: A book for dog lovers everywhere. Celebrating the amazing relationships shared with our four-legged friends, each story recounts the love of dogs and the powerful ways dogs impact our lives. In this heartwarming collection of stories, readers meet 38 incredible dogs who have gone above and beyond the job description of best friend.

Each uplifting story provides an inspiring look at the animals who change our lives. Meet rescue dogs who learn to serve others, working dogs who go beyond the call of duty, and underdogs who surmount extraordinary challenges on the road to finding their forever home. This treasury of man’s best friend features photographs and personal anecdotes from those who have been touched by the selfless love of a beloved pet.

 

Thoughts:

As a new-ish canine parent (two years this June) and a lifetime pet owner, I loved this book. Some of the stories in this book about the the dogs and their new families were sad and really hard to read because I personally feel it is impossible to not adore animals.

Moreover, ignore the unique personalities that they all have. I also loved this book for the insight Walsh gives on dogs who are given second chances. As well as for the peoples’ lives that are affected and enriched when they bond with them.

I understood how profoundly and deeply the lives of all the individuals who shared their stories in Love Unleashed felt because of the dogs (and cats too) that are in or have been in my life and how much caring for them and them carrying for me and my family has impacted our lives.

 

All of the stories in this book are wholeheartedly worth mentioning, but there were a few that really stood out for me.

Hooch, a French mastiff mix, who suffered severe abuse as a puppy which left him unable to eat or drink. Since his rescue, Hooch now works as a therapy dog for children.

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Lona Chang: A Superhero Detective Story by: AshleyRose Sullivan | Review

Lona Chang: A Superhero Detective Story
Genre: Mystery, Supernatural, Contemporary Fiction
Rating: (it was okay)
Release Date: September 8, 2017
Publisher: Seventh Star Press
Arc Received From Author In Exchange For An Honest Review.
Synopsis:
 When one of the world’s greatest superheroes dies in her arms, Lona Chang takes it upon herself to investigate his murder.  Armed only with a power she barely understands and a mysterious coded book, Lona begins a quest for answers that leads her down a dark rabbit hole of secrets—secrets the ancient organization known as the Guild is determined to keep hidden at all costs.

Meanwhile, when a new threat descends upon Arc City, Lona’s soulmate (and freshly minted superhero) Awesome Jones defies the Guild, dons the cape and cowl of his father and finds a group of unlikely allies. But can Awesome trust them—or himself? He’ll have to fight his own demons first if he has any hope of defending the town–and the people–he loves.

As tensions rise between the Guild, Lona, Awesome, his allies and Arc City’s criminal underground, Lona realizes that life, and the answers to its questions, are never as simple as they seem in comic books.

Book Review:

First Impression:

My first impressions about this book were that the story made me thinks about Superman and Lois Lane which and that Lona and Awesome, at first glance, seemed to be paired off pretty well. Likewise, I did like Lona’s overall character in the narrative. She’s very down to earth; if a bit too critical of herself for just being “ordinary” and a “normal” person especially because of her unique ability.

As her character is very perceptive, smart and a natural people-person. I also thought the big reveal regarding the Guild and Pythia’s secret operations under the guild’s noises. This gave the story a bit of dark theme to it which was a niche surprise in this book.

The Things I Struggled With The Most While Reading This Book:

After having read portions of the first book for a bit more context regarding Lona’s adoptive parents, and discovering the apparent instructions left behind by her birth father for his former butler and maid to adopt his daughter. It made it seem as though her adoptive parents didn’t have a choice in the matter. As if the two weren’t truly parenting her, but doing another form of service.

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Unforgivable Love By: Sophfronia Scott | Review

Unforgivable Love: A Retelling of Dangerous Liaisons
By: Sophfronia Scott
Rating: 4.5 stars
Genre: Historical Fiction, Retellings, Romance,
Release Date: September 26, 2017
Synopsis:

“A dazzlingly dark and engaging tale full of heartbreak, treachery, and surprise.” – Kirkus

In this vivid reimagining of the French classic Les Liaisons Dangereuses, it’s the summer when Jackie Robinson breaks Major League Baseball’s color barrier and a sweltering stretch has Harlem’s elite fleeing the city for Westchester County’s breezier climes, two predators stalk amidst the manicured gardens and fine old homes.

Heiress Mae Malveaux rules society with an angel’s smile and a heart of stone. She made up her mind long ago that nobody would decide her fate. To have the pleasure she craves, control is paramount, especially control of the men Mae attracts like moths to a flame.

Valiant Jackson always gets what he wants—and he’s wanted Mae for years. The door finally opens for him when Mae strikes a bargain: seduce her virginal young cousin, Cecily, who is engaged to Frank Washington. Frank values her innocence above all else. If successful, Val’s reward will be a night with Mae.

But Val secretly seeks another prize. Elizabeth Townsend is fiercely loyal to her church and her civil rights attorney husband. Certain there is something redeemable in Mr. Jackson. Little does she know that her worst mistake will be Val’s greatest triumph.

BOOK REVIEW:

Unforgivable Love is a retelling of the classic Les Liaisons Dangerous, but I’m not familiar with the original story. What I do know is that this book is filled with this laid-back, passionate and vibrant imagery elegance from start to finish. The love and details of music associated with Harlem and the rippling complexity of each of the characters draw a number of favorable points for this book.

Besides being set in one of my favorite eras, I found that the cockiness of the main characters was something that really kept me hooked almost right away because their confidence and self-assurance was not only entertaining but intriguing; almost daringly pulling the reader into their games with them. Likewise, the characters brought an infectious intensity, twists and at times bits of humor in the narrative.  Like others will, I’m sure,  I really loved the well laid out social intrigue between Mae and her inner circle.

Underneath Mae’s calculating motives and cool demeanor, there’s a girl so hungry for love that I couldn’t help but empathize with. It is clear that the loss of her closest and dearest friend, and first true love has turned Mae against the world and the core motivations behind her plan regarding her cousin comes from a place of pride, ego, rejection and old wounds that haven’t healed around her heart.

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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