Review of Jihadi: A Love Story by Yusuf Toropov

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About Jihadi

A former intelligence agent stands accused of terrorism, held without charge in a secret overseas prison. His memoir is in the hands of a brilliant but erratic psychologist whose annotations paint a much darker picture. As the story unravels, we are forced to assess the truth for ourselves, and decide not only what really happened on one fateful overseas assignment but who is the real terrorist. Peopled by a diverse and unforgettable cast of characters, whose reliability as narrators is always questioned, and with a multi-layered plot heaving with unexpected and often shocking developments, Jihadi: A Love Story is an intelligent thriller that asks big questions.

Complex, intriguing and intricately woven, this is an astonishing debut that explores the nature of good and evil alongside notions of nationalism, terrorism and fidelity, and, above all, the fragility of the human mind.

My Review

Absolutely brilliant, a read with a labyrinth of complexities demanding the perusers razor sharp focus and intelligence.

The layout of the book creates a multilevel story requiring the reader to savor at a somewhat languid pace otherwise the intricacies will be unappreciated. You’ll find yourself caught in the tangled web of truth, there are blurred lines on who to believe and authenticity.

Jihadi, government, politics and extreme circumstances. As the story unfolds you will experience shock and awe as well as disgust and loathing. Thelonius Lidell is a man caught up in a mess, he’s memorable along with his unimaginable story.

A challenging read well worth your time and effort. Masterfully crafted, reeling you in from the onset leaving you a mess at the end – no doubt you will be digesting what you have read long after the conclusion. A riveting, frightening yarn.

Yusuf Toropov will all certitude is a master storyteller, nothing less than impressive.

About Yusuf Toropov41qQTKOSMmL._UX250_

Yusuf Toropov is an American Muslim writer. He’s the author or co-author of a number of nonfiction books, including Shakespeare for Beginners. His full-length play An Undivided Heart was selected for a workshop production at the National Playwrights Conference, and his one-act play The Job Search was produced off-Broadway. Jihadi: A Love Story, which reached the quarter-finals of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, is his first novel. He currently lives in Northern Ireland.

Orenda Books (May 1, 2016)

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Review of The Yoga of Max’s Discontent by Karan Bajaj

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About The Yoga of Max’s Discontent

Max Pzoras is the poster child for the American Dream. The child of Greek immigrants who grew up in a dangerous New York housing project, he triumphed over his upbringing and became a successful Wall Street analyst. Yet on the frigid December night he’s involved in a violent street scuffle, Max begins to confront questions about suffering and mortality that have dogged him since his mother’s death.

His search takes him to the farthest reaches of India, where he encounters a mysterious night market, almost freezes to death on a hike up the Himalayas, and finds himself in an ashram in a drought-stricken village in South India. As Max seeks answers to questions that have bedeviled him—can yogis walk on water and live for 200 years without aging? Can a flesh-and-blood man ever achieve nirvana?—he struggles to overcome his skepticism and the pull of family tugging him home. In an ultimate bid for answers, he embarks on a dangerous solitary meditation in a freezing Himalayan cave, where his physical and spiritual endurance is put to its most extreme test.

By turns a gripping adventure story and a journey of tremendous inner transformation, The Yoga of Max’s Discontent is a contemporary take on man’s classic quest for transcendence.

My Thoughts

Amazing book. I was swept away with Max’s quest for enlightenment. I felt such a connection with him, his many trials, self-doubts, inner struggles and thoughts. With each challenge presented, spiritual discoveries and determination left a lasting impression. He was ready to tap into his internal yogi, all he really needed was guidance and to pursue his quest full gusto, which as we discover is not easy.

This story felt more nonfictional than fiction, I identified with Max on many levels. The highs and lows, questions answered, questions still requiring answers, there is no way you cannot become attached and invested in Max. I had no idea how his search would end, all I know is I kept rooting for him and celebrated his achievements and mourned setbacks.

I love a book posing questions, evoking my mind, engaging my senses, cutting deep emotionally and Bajaj fulfilled my need. His wonderful writing and intense characterization of Max is powerful. Based loosely on Bajaj’s own experience is no surprise there is an unmistakable rawness and authenticity throughout.

Captivating read, engaging and convincing leaving me more than satiated. Max is memorable and will stay with me quite a while, in fact, this book we be reread often, yes, it’s that amazing. Looking forward to more for the talented Karan Bajaj.

About Karan Bajaj1687270

Karan Bajaj is the #1 bestselling novelist of KEEP OFF THE GRASS (HarperCollins India: 2008) and JOHNNY GONE DOWN (HarperCollins India: 2010) with more than 250,000 copies of his novels in print. Both novels were optioned into films, the latter just entering pre-production and slotted for a 2017 international release. He was selected as one of the “Top 35 Under 35 Indian” by India Today and was nominated for all of India’s top literary awards—the Crossword Book of the Year, Indiaplaza Golden Quill and Teacher’s Indian Achievers Awards(Arts).

THE YOGA OF MAX’S DISCONTENT, Karan’s first international novel, will be published by Penguin Random House on May 3rd 2016. It was inspired by Karan’s one year spiritual sabbatical learning Yoga in a South Indian Ashram, meditating in complete silence in the Vedantic tradition in the Indian Himalayas and living as a Buddhist Monk in a Scottish monastery. Now back in New York, Karan is a certified Yoga teacher attached to the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Center while working his day job as the Chief Marketing Officer of the cult mom brand, Aden and Anais.

Born in 1979 into an Army family, Karan is an engineering graduate from BIT Ranchi and an MBA from the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore.

Published May 3rd 2016 by Riverhead Books (first published June 11th 2015)

Review of Too Close to the Edge by Pascal Garnier, Emily Boyce (Translation)

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About Too Close to the Edge

Recently widowed grandmother Éliette is returning to her house in the mountains when her car breaks down. A stranger offers help and Éliette gives him a lift, glad of the company and interruption to her routine.

A tale of retirement and calm domesticity, with a hint of menace about to explode.

My Review

With each turn of the page the story becomes darker and darker. Éliette certainly blossoms from mild mannered mature woman to a stealth bad girl before our very eyes. Her quiet, lonesome life dives headfirst into sheer mayhem. Lots of humor peppering the narrative with precision timing. Secondary characters along with subplots enhance the foreboding impending events. Another prize from Garnier. The ending was fantastic. Once again translation is excellent, kudos to Emily Boyce.

About Pascal Garnierimage

Pascal Garnier, who died in March 2010, was a talented novelist, short story writer, children’s author and painter. From his home in the mountains of the Ardèche, he wrote fiction in a noir palette with a cast of characters drawn from ordinary provincial life. Though his writing is often very dark in tone, it sparkles with quirkily beautiful imagery and dry wit. Garnier’s work has been likened to the great thriller writer, Georges Simenon. Read an article by Pascal Garnier, describing his path to becoming a writer.

Published April 1st 2016 by Gallic Books (first published June 7th 2010)

Review of Confessions of a Paris Party Girl by Vicki Lesage

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About Confessions of a Paris Party Girl

When newly-single party girl Vicki moved to Paris, she was hoping to indulge in wine, stuff her face with croissants, and fall in love. It proved to be much more “difficile” than she’d imagined. In this laugh-out-loud memoir, this cheeky storyteller recounts the highs and lows of her life in the City of Light. Sassy and shamefully honest, Vicki makes you feel as if you’re right there in Paris stumbling along the cobblestones with her.

My Review

Lesage shares her experiences adjusting to life as an expat in France. Despite the adjustment and challenges Lesage maintains her sense of humor and positive attitude as she initially starts off contending with the key to her apartment which leads to a hilarious first adventure. Dealing with the famous French bureaucracy, learning the ropes of French office decorum, baptismal shopping experience, Lesage is quickly adapting to life as a resident of France without batting an eye. However, mastering the bar and culinary scene comes with ease, Lesage even dips her toe into the dating pool while acquiring friends along the way.

An entertainingly humorous story of an all American girl acclimating to call France home along with the intricacies associated. I admire Lesage’s patience, courage and determination, I truly lived vicariously through her, quite a fun reading adventure.

About Vicki Lesage7760779

Amazon best-selling author Vicki Lesage proves daily that raising two French kids isn’t as easy as the hype lets on. In her three minutes of spare time per week, she writes, sips bubbly, and prepares for the impending zombie apocalypse. She lives in Paris with her French husband, rambunctious son, and charming daughter, all of whom mercifully don’t laugh when she says “au revoir.” She penned two books, “Confessions of a Paris Party Girl” and “Confessions of a Paris Potty Trainer,” in between diaper changes and wine refills. She writes about the ups and downs of life in the City of Light at VickiLesage.com.

Published January 12th 2014 by Createspace Independent Publishing

Review of Street of Eternal Happiness: Big City Dreams Along a Shanghai Road by Rob Schmitz

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About Street of Eternal Happiness

Modern Shanghai: a global city in the midst of a renaissance, where dreamers arrive each day to partake in a mad torrent of capital, ideas, and opportunity. Marketplace’s Rob Schmitz is one of them. He immerses himself in his neighborhood, forging deep relationships with ordinary people who see in the city’s sleek skyline a brighter future, and a chance to rewrite their destinies. There’s Zhao, whose path from factory floor to shopkeeper is sidetracked by her desperate measures to ensure a better future for her sons. Down the street lives Auntie Fu, a fervent capitalist forever trying to improve herself with religion and get-rich-quick schemes while keeping her skeptical husband at bay. Up a flight of stairs, musician and café owner CK sets up shop to attract young dreamers like himself, but learns he’s searching for something more. As Schmitz becomes more involved in their lives, he makes surprising discoveries which untangle the complexities of modern China: A mysterious box of letters that serve as a portal to a family’s – and country’s – dark past, and an abandoned neighborhood where fates have been violently altered by unchecked power and greed.

A tale of 21st century China, Street of Eternal Happiness profiles China’s distinct generations through multifaceted characters who illuminate an enlightening, humorous, and at times heartrending journey along the winding road to the Chinese Dream. Each story adds another layer of humanity and texture to modern China, a tapestry also woven with Schmitz’s insight as a foreign correspondent. The result is an intimate and surprising portrait that dispenses with the tired stereotypes of a country we think we know, immersing us instead in the vivid stories of the people who make up one of the world’s most captivating cities.

My Review

I loved the eclectic mix of people Schmitz introduced. We discover Shanghai and China’s history past and present with the future ambiguous.

Schmitz possess a casual yet sharp writing style sucking the reader into the lives of the people depicted. The various stories run from heartbreaking to inspiring. The colorful cast each has a very different view of their country and its history based on generation and political views. CK an entrepreneur determined to succeed, Zhao a smart businesswoman attempting to marry off her son, Auntie Fu caught up in a Ponzi scheme – all scratching and clawing in modern China. Nice comparison between US and China both in similarities and differences. Each person pursuing their dream and each dream is as different as each person. Shanghai offers much yet carving your path is quite a challenge. Fascinating and absorbing read.

About Rob SchmitzA1-GGWtjoEL._UX250_

Rob Schmitz is the China correspondent for American Public Media’s Marketplace, the largest business news program in the U.S. with more than 12 million listeners a week. He has reported on a range of topics illustrating China’s role in the global economy, including trade, politics, the environment, education, and labor. In 2012, Schmitz exposed fabrications in Mike Daisey’s account of Apple’s Chinese supply chain on This American Life, and his report headlined that show’s much-discussed “Retraction” episode. The work was a finalist for the 2012 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award. He has won two national Edward R. Murrow Awards and an award from the Education Writers Association for his reporting on China. Schmitz first arrived to the country in 1996 as a Peace Corps Volunteer in rural Sichuan province. His Marketplace stories can be heard at http://www.marketplace.org/people/rob-schmitz. This is his first book.

Expected publication: May 17th 2016 by Crown

Review: Mama Cried by Talia Haven

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Can’t go into great detail without giving much away. You will find yourself with plenty to consider after reading. I had no idea what I was stumbling upon, best to approach this blindly, adds to its high impact.

Impressive emotional short story addressing mercy vs justice with a stunning twist thrown into the mix. Powerful especially given somewhat detailed content and length.

The reader will certainly ponder the sensitive topic – seeking answers, asking questions, the main protagonist along with her story is gut wrenching. Fragile matter presented in a poignant and creative fashion. Highly suggest. Great for deep discussion.


•Kindle Edition, 12 pages
•Published January 9th 2015 by Sheehan and Haven; 1 edition (first published January 7th 2015)
•ASINB00S2RKNFU

Ugly People Beautiful Hearts by Marlen Komar

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•Kindle Edition, 96 pages
•Published March 13th 2015 by Marlen Komar

Ugly People Beautiful Hearts is a poetry book with over 70 poems that explores loneliness, quiet sadness, bursts of happiness, and contentment over the fact that everything you have, will eventually go okay. But that’s sort of beautiful in its own right.

It has verses moving between the feelings of loving someone, feeling loss, trusting the night sky, losing your light, resolving that hurt is beautiful, and finding compassion in a stranger’s smile.

Komar’s poetry collection affected me greatly. I not only connected with her prose but I felt her words. It’s as if she crafted the words, thoughts and feelings with the emotion I carry in my heart as well as life experiences. If you have ever loved, lost, failed, endured, you will undoubtedly find solace and correlation to many in her collection. A panoramic glimpse of life, a kaleidoscope in variety.

Simple yet profound, you will find Komar’s poetry filled with raw emotion and truth. She writes what the masses feel, eloquently presented. All ages will enjoy verses filled with joy, melancholy, a nudge remembering the past, a moment in time reflected, no matter you will find pleasure in Komar’s numerous poems.

A beautiful collection I encourage all to explore, both tactile and visual stunning the peruser. Marlen Komar is clearly a gifted poetress, I look forward to reading more from this über talented woman.

Personally I enjoy all the poems, however, my favorites –
Too Much of a Good Thing
Hours Gone
Blue is Blue
Lavenders
Have Courage, My Love
When I Go Missing
A List of, Essentially, Loves

About Marlen Komar13666655

Me = Chicago writer. Barefoot in the summer grass walker. Moonlight in hair braider. Sky pooling underneath skin bruiser. Sad eyes seeker. Broken heart holder. Mended heart owner. Wind’s name inquirer. White clover picker.

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