Consuming Love: The Joy of Sharing Meals, by Timi O’Malley, is a fascinating journey through the author’s life. O’Malley brings her readers to her table where she fulfills their need to be nourished in more ways than one, and it is at that table where the author invites her readers into more diverse chapters of her life.
Connecting her love of culinary traditions with her belief that we are all connected through our purest and most basic needs, O’Malley makes it very easy to understand just how easy it is to achieve true happiness. Consuming Love sends a message of love and togetherness, but more importantly, it teaches us how we can find genuine satisfaction and fulfillment by just noticing the world around us, and by being consciously present within it. O’Malley masterfully intertwines her love of food with her experience to paint a wonderfully meaningful picture for her readers.
The people you will meet along O’Malley’s journey are incredible, but it is in O’Malley’s reaction to the personalities around her that seem even more so. She has deep respect for the people that have had an impact on her life, whether those people created positive experiences or negative. In fact, her reaction to everyone that she has shared meals with have one thing in common, and that commonality is a large part of what makes Consuming Love: The Joy of Sharing Meals so special. Everyone, it would seem, is a teacher, and over a plate of delicious cuisine is one of the best ways to be truly present with the people who pass through our lives.
For anyone who wonders about the nature of happiness and why some people are better at maintaining it than others, this book is a must read. Those interested in hearing of adventures across the country and into the far reaches of the globe would also be interested in this book. And for anyone who would like to gain a better understanding of the value of presence in our lives, Consuming Love: The Joy of Sharing Meals might just be the book you’ve been looking for. Timi O’Malley certainly deserves the full five stars for her offering to the table of life.
Pages: 150 | ASIN: B07L3Q91CG
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With a collection of singular point of view narratives the author, Mayne Leitzer, offers his first complete book of poetry; 103 Simple Poems From One Simple Person. The book is sectioned into chapters outlining the types of poems that follow, what those writings mean to the author, and how they came to be. The title is indicative of the style of writing, not the writer, as the poetry is fairly simple; using straight forward thoughts and uncomplicated prose to reflect on life’s complications. The story arc is more of a summation of personal perspective and reflection than a journey forward or illustration of action.
In penning “103 Simple Poems” Mayne Leitzer offers up self reflection, self deprecation, a heavy dollop of fundamentalist religious dogma, and more than a little bit of sadness and remorse, with a glimmer of joy and hope.
Many of his poems are jargon one could find on a motivational poster or greeting card, but that is not at all bad. Life can get messy and sometimes people need soft, plushy words to find comfort and solace. The reader will find many situations that they can relate to; lost love, death, pursuing success, loneliness, finding your destiny, conflict of conviction, etc.
However, there are many poems that can be divisive. Sex before marriage, gun control, abortion, prayer in school, Heaven and Hell, those types of things. The thoughts Leitzer lays out are organic in nature and not derived of a need to be quoted for inspirational prose or to start a deep conversation, but rather, just as he states; a need to express his soul at different stages in life.
Some poems showcase the more complex layers of his humanity that struggle to shine under the dominance of a narrow vision. The Promised Land poem is thoughtful and embraceable. Not a Bad Day and One Moonlit Night lets out his optimistic side which he admits is not in his nature. Leitzer is honest about his mistakes and his struggle with alcoholism. His love poems are truly good; especially Seasons, A Smile and Rock A-bye.
There are a few grammatical, punctuation and spelling errors, which are distracting as is his zealous religious fervor, but his writings let the reader feel his authenticity and the last few poems wrap up nicely to summarize his goal and wishes for success.
This book uses simple and fluid style to expand peoples emotional depths but seemed content to keep its voice generalized. The individual writings have value no matter your religious leanings. At the end the reader will come away with some reflections of their own and maybe, quote a few lines for their own stages of life.
Pages: 124 | ISBN: 1425979149
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Free Yourself is a collection of intimate and engaging poetry written by Juliana Garcell. The poems are written in various styles and in various formats which helps to keep things interesting. The poetry sometimes hits on current social and political topics, but there is an overall focus on love, loss, and identity. Especially the struggle with identity in the face of love and loss; but having to define it in this way is somewhat limiting as I feel the poems are about much more.
I enjoyed this collection and found the poems to be lyrical, as if written for a song. Each poem has its own focus, although they area about slightly similar topics. The emotions expressed are often raw and painted in vivid detail with colorful connections and allusions to nature and culture.
Each poem is impactful, if not relatable, and I was able to understand each one. Understanding a poem is important for me, as I feel that poets often go off on some abstract ideas. But this collection is down to earth, and simple to follow, which makes the message ring clearly.
I appreciated the poems that left me with singular emotions at the end, but I really enjoyed the poems that were able to do the same work with just one or two lines. ‘Free My Expression’ is one of my favorite of the shorter poems, with the line “want you to stay but I always run away”. And the very last poem, which I believe is untitled, is probably my favorite of the collection because it manages the same emotional impact as one of the longer poems with only four lines.
I recommend this collection to anyone who enjoys poetry that is emotive yet easy to understand. The collection is short, but I suggest you give yourself some time to stop and ponder the thoughts, concepts, and ideas conveyed in each of these poems as this is an engaging assortment of passionate poetry.
Pages: 56 | ISBN: 1483622444
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Stockboy by Thomas Duffy is the story of Phillip, a man who is in his dead-end job. Stuck with no relationship. Stuck in his mundane life. Phillip is a good guy. He is smart. He has a degree. He has an excellent work ethic. However, he feels like he is only spinning his wheels and wasting his time on a life that is going nowhere. He feels his life ticking away while waiting for his love life to work out, his bosses to see his potential, and fulfillment to come his way.
Phillip is such a relatable character. He is sort of an “everyman” underdog. Everyone has felt unfulfilled at some point in his or her life. Readers will definitely identify with this character. He is the typical good guy who finishes last. He’s smart and capable and a great worker. He also gets passed over time and time again for promotions or wage increases at his bookstore job. When he does find a woman he loves, his life tailspins in that area as well. He can’t catch a break. As my grandfather would have said, “If it’s not one thing, it’s the same thing.” Phillip lives a “Groundhog Day” sort of life on his cyclical hamster wheel of a life.
The themes in the story fit right into our current social climate. Wages are stagnant. Growth is slow. College students owe student loans they can’t pay while working jobs below their qualifications. People can’t go to the doctor because they can’t afford insurance. When they do get insurance, they are still scared to go to the doctor for fear that the condition will be worse than they expect. People are living paycheck-to-paycheck. Opportunities for a better life are few and far between. People still manage to get up, put their torn sneakers on, and go back to the grind everyday. This is Phillip. He personifies a big chunk of the American workforce, and likely those abroad.
The writing is great. It is simple and direct without being boring. It doesn’t feel pompous or overbearing. Thomas Duffy is a good author that way. He reels you into his stories and his characters in a way that doesn’t leave you feeling he’s attempting to make up for content with flowery language. The content is there, so he doesn’t have to put on airs. I saw one or two simple typos. Beyond that, the spelling, sentence structure, etc. are great. This was an easy read. The book is easily digestible and could be knocked out in a weekend. Duffy books are always page-turners for me.
Other than a few minor errors the writing is solid, the characters are relatable and the situations they find themselves in will hit close to home for many readers. I like this writer’s style and have read his work before. He delivered again and didn’t disappoint. I’d love to read more of his work.
Pages: 200 | ASIN: B00CA517C8
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Skeins follows a group of Indian woman as they travel through Europe learning something about life, each other, and themselves. What served as your inspiration for this uplifting novel?
Both my novels relate to a world well-known to me: urban educated India. I have been travelling a great deal for the past 14 years and I undertake at least one group tour overseas each year. Though the itinerary for the tour described in Skeins is similar to that of a group tour I undertook with Cosmos© in 2015, the similarity ends there as the tourists in the latter included men and women of varied nationalities. Also, when I had traveled to Ireland in 2016, my suitcase had not been transferred in time to the connecting flight by the airline staff at Munich airport during transit. These experiences sparked off my imagination, which led to the birth of Skeins.
There is a great collection of women from several generations in this group. Who was your favorite character to write for?
It’s like asking someone who is your favourite child. Each woman character is alive in my imagination with her own distinct personality, dreams and circumstances. They are all resilient as I don’t sympathize with whiners. I like women who get back on their feet after a hard tumble and find their own path in life without seeking sympathy or support. However, I particularly empathized with the characters Sandra D’Souza and Vidya Rao who are caught in a conundrum and need to make tough decisions.
I enjoyed how the characters each had their own story that contributed to the depth of their character. What were some themes you wanted to capture in this book?
Though the novel is a breezy read, it deals with serious societal issues related to women. I feel very strongly about the thwarting of women’s emotional, professional and intellectual independence and expression by a patriarchal society and a dominant partner who limit her role to that of a mother and a comfort provider. The novel also depicts the generic issues of social hierarchy, aspirational lifestyles, the violence within and without our homes, loneliness and dementia.
What is the next novel that you are working on and when will it be available?
I have a few ideas that I am exploring. When that creative spark is ignited, I know I will not take longer than two months to pen the story and edit it.
With a galaxy of identifiable characters from modern urban India depicted with light-hearted mirth in a travel environment, the novel explores serious issues, such as the quest for an independent identity and economic independence, the violence within and outside our homes, the loneliness of old age and the need for constructive channelization of youthful energy. Spanning events across a little more than a year, Skeins depicts how self-expression and a supportive environment trigger a cataclysmic effect and stimulate the women to realize their dreams.
Posted in Interviews
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Madeline Clark’s life seems like the life of a dozen different individuals. From the beginning of her troubled life, she is met head-on with one horrific circumstance after another at the hands of people she hopes and prays will be her saving graces. After finding her way out of South Africa, Maddie finds fleeting hope with David Blakely, a man she has no choice but to trust to pull her from poverty and imminent death, but cannot possibly know that his attention will be the beginning of her end and the catalyst for a lifetime of heartache and repeated loss and grief.
Maddie’s life, laid out for readers by Lucia Mann in her book, Addicted to Hate, is one of the most tragic about which I have ever read. It’s difficult to know where to begin explaining the layers Mann has revealed with her vivid and gripping descriptions of Maddie’s harrowing childhood, her abusive marriage to a vile man, and the horrific road she travels as a mother to three girls who could not care less if she lived or died. It is almost beyond comprehensible that Maddie could survive the mental and physical challenges with which she is faced from the beginning to the bitter end of her amazing and tortured life.
Mann has taken this story, based on actual events, and set Maddie forth as an unlikely heroine who overcomes insurmountable odds as she talks herself through each of her hardships including three pregnancies that, by all accounts, were miracles and curses at the same time. Maddie is the poster child of life testing us. She seems to have received each and every trial imaginable, the most tragic of which is the complete abhorrence her daughters have for her. I found myself rooting, paragraph by paragraph, for a turn of events for Maddie. I felt a visceral reaction with each mention of her daughter Mara’s blatant and evil brutalization of her mother. I wanted desperately for Maddie to see the light and make a break from her toxic children, but Maddie is better than most; she may be better than all of us.
Maddie’s intellect is her own saving grace. Her abilities are put to use in the most fascinating ways, and even that amazing opportunity cannot completely pull her from her spiral. Mann is a master at having her readers draw hopeful conclusions before letting them down abruptly.
The overall subject matter of Mann’s work is enhanced by the tone in which she writes. While maintaining a third person point of view, she manages nicely to incorporate a hint of second person questioning while drawing the reader further into Maddie’s overpowering drama.
Mann has given audience to an amazing tale of endurance and determination. In addition to the heartbreaking events of Maddie’s life, Mann shows readers the embodiment of true and unwavering unconditional love. Nowhere else can readers find a more poignant tale of loss, betrayal, and incredible triumph.
Pages: 254 | ASIN: B07K4TXQC7
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For most of his life, Bing has prepared ceaselessly to take the civil servant examinations, with little time for anything beyond the collections of texts that dictate political matters. Passing the exams would be the first step in following his father’s path, and also determine nearly everything else about his future. Finally, the day to begin them has arrived, and Bing faces the grueling challenges before him with understandable anxiety, but also a necessary determination. Outside of the exam compound, however, his focus is frequently drawn to a mysterious dream that recurs almost nightly, as well as a glimpse into history from his beloved grandfather.
In 18 Cranes by Robert Campbell, we’re introduced to Bing, his loved ones, and some of the traditions of village life in 17th century China. With an engaging narrative and colorful descriptions of Bing’s world, 18 Cranes does an excellent job of holding the reader’s attention, even while discussing a subject as mundane as civil servant exams. Despite a lack of any real action, the story never seems stagnant. Of course, there’s more going on than just rigorous testing. Bing is also suddenly plagued by a recurring dream, the meaning of which eludes him. The reader learns a lot about Bing and his relationships with his loved ones over the course of several expertly crafted conversations that examine each part of the dream, which always ends with 18 red-crested cranes ascending into the sky. The number 18 in particular holds special intrigue and multiple explanations are suggested for its meaning. To further the feeling of mystery, toward the end of the story, Grandfather Ai begins to tell Bing about the origins of their family. The short oral history is enough to stoke Bing’s stifled imagination. Restricted by his strict studies, Bing has never had the opportunity to read many legends or works of fiction and his curiosity, although kept under control, nonetheless exists. Grandfather Ai’s revelations also provide an interesting twist for the reader.
The uncertainty of the future is an overarching theme throughout the book and is explored through both tangible avenues, like Bing’s performance in the exams, as well as in deciphering the symbolism of his dream. There is also a considerable emphasis placed on Bing’s age, with repeated mentions that he could be one of the youngest people to ever pass the exams on the first try. Because of this, it reads a good bit like a coming of age story.
18 Cranes is subtitled “Kaifeng Chronicles Book One”, in reference to the village that Bing’s maternal ancestors came from. I’d be excited to read the rest of the series and follow Bing further through the avenues of his life. The abundance of detailed descriptions make it easy to picture the aspects of Bing’s village life, from the shores of West Lake to the flowers in the gardens. This book is an interesting and well written story that moves at a good pace.
Pages: 123 | ASIN: B07C8LC32H
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From Despair to Hope and Healing is a poetry book by Barbara K. Mezera. When reading this book of poetry, you can see that it follows through the various stages of the author’s life. The book is conveniently set up through different sections, with an explanation for each section beforehand. The poems are deeply personal, giving details of life and their emotions. This deeply personal collection can resonate with anyone who has dealt with dark feelings and had inner battles of a profound and personal nature.
I was not prepared with how raw, real, and deep the poems got. Even though this is a book of poetry, it tells a story in a way. It is an incredible personal journey that tells the story similar to a novel. This book is not just a book of poetry, but an autobiography of sorts, where the author’s feelings and thoughts jump off the page at you. These poems resonated within me in so many. I think that anyone who has struggled or had mental health issues can relate to it.
One of my favorite lines from the book is “gaining six inches only to slide back four.” It is such a universal feeling. When you have fought to get so far and then something happens where you are going back and have to fight to get back to where you were. You know poetry is good when the underlying meaning and message can be grasped by anyone and the emotions are felt universally.
One of the poems talks about being grateful. Mezera writes about the many different things that can cause heartbreak or even depression, but to be grateful for them. I think this is one of the more thought-provoking poems of the bunch. This poem really got me thinking about how everything, no matter what I have been through has made me the person I am today. In a way, I am thankful for those things. But then there are the truly horrific aspects of life that I do not think people can say they are thankful for. It had me thinking about it for quite a bit, which is something I enjoyed.
I would say this is a splendid collection of poems. Not only does it have what someone would want in a poetry book, but it also tells a story in a unique way. I have never read a book that could tell me about a person’s life in such an intimate way that reveals the author. I absolutely love that it was a personal autobiography in a way.
Pages: 186 | ASIN: B07921S57Q
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Skeins by Richa Gupta is the story of a large group of globe-trotting Indian women who take a trip to see the sights in Spain and Portugal. The women are similar in heritage, but vary widely in age and experience. Even though they are from the same general area, they also differ in culture and socio-economic status. As the women grow closer, they let each other into their personal lives. They confide in each other and share secrets, regrets, hopes, and dreams. However, it’s not one big happy slumber party. Some of the women find some serious trouble along their journey.
Overall, Skeins was a pretty easy read. The grammar and sentence structure is impeccable. I didn’t find any errors at all. If anything, there were only a few turns of phrase that only suggested that the author’s roots were different than my own. That’s not a bad thing.
If I have any complaint, it’s that the cast of characters was very large. I found it hard, at times, to keep the names of characters and their story lines straight. There seemed to be so much going on at once between all of the background stories.
I enjoyed the diversity of the characters. I especially enjoyed the diversity paired with the camaraderie that the women enjoyed. They came from all walks of life, different social classes, and different customs to form one big, instant family. They seemed to get along very well. They will make readers hope for these kinds of quickly formed but long lasting friendships.
Readers will also identify with the problems that the women face. They discuss the not-so-perfect aspects of their lives without giving the story too heavy of a feel. The story doesn’t bog down or get lost in their troubles. They simply state what’s going on in their lives, but characters don’t seem to dwell too much for the most part. For a story that deals with adultery, a crime ring, decades old grudges, etc., it is a decidedly uplifting tale. The women tackle their problems instead of becoming victims of circumstance.
I liked that Gupta showed the women as strong, powerful, and independent. None of them were “just a wife” or “just a mother.” None of them were leaning too hard on anyone but themselves. In a country where women aren’t generally in hierarchical positions, it was refreshing to see these women being so self-sufficient. Still, they walked the line between traditional arranged marriages and living their dreams, while sometimes doing both with one foot in each world. They seek out independence, their wildest dreams, and love all at once.
The book feels light-hearted in nature. I enjoyed that combination woven with real-life issues. I enjoyed the cultural journey following the women from India touring the Iberian Peninsula. The characters felt real. I’d love to see one of the characters step forward to star in a sequel.
Pages: 312 | ASIN: B07HP6ZPYM
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Between the Ticks of the Clock by J.H. Barnes is a spiritual novel that evokes the senses of mystery and redemption. It’s an introspective story that helps frame theological and societal questions within a framework particular to the dredges and monotony faced in daily life. This is accomplished through the perspective of the novel’s main character, Jamison Haro
ld Donovan, an executive working for a business known as Omni Cron Corp. Donovan is placed within the confines of a failing marriage and a dreary workplace. However, it becomes clear that these factors are minute points in a grander tale. This banal existence is quickly juxtaposed by a spiritual experience, where Donovan comes to grips with forces higher than himself and where he leaves the event a changed and more enlightened individual. From there, the novel examines Donovan’s growth and his spiritual enlightenment while at the same time highlighting the challenges and responsibilities that come with such an awakening. Between the Ticks of the Clock is unique in its pondering and musings, and as the novel progresses, it ascends to newer heights and different dimensions than one could have anticipated.
More importantly, Between the Ticks of the Clock is written in a literary style incredibly suited to its plot. The diction is easily digestible and the first-person narrative helps place the reader within the shoes of Jamison Harold Donavon, allowing us to experience some of the spiritual revelations he faces. This is coupled with emotive word choices that help paint clear imagery and scenes for the reader. J.H. Barnes does a wonderful job in setting the scene. All of this is framed within a writing style that is introspective, ethereal, and lithe. When taken as a whole, one is left with strong themes and feelings of wonder, of spirituality, and of internal pondering once the book is put down. However, there are moments where this style of writing can lead to some confusion. Points of discussion within the novel are often interjected with additional ideas or flashbacks that might hinder some comprehension of the overall idea. Yet, this stylistic choice helps remind us that the story is based around the perspective of Donavon, and this free-form stream of consciousness helps remind the reader that these experiences are still derived from a human perspective and thus creates a sense of immersion.
Overall, Between the Ticks of the Clock by J.H. Barnes is a lucidly written novel that provides readers with hard-hitting questions about life, religion, and their place in the modern world. It is an incredibly deep story, filled with important ideas and concepts.
Pages: 288 | ASIN: B07GC8GSZK
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