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

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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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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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