Zagreb, Milan, Nice, Barcelona: The Summer of Heartache and Fickleness by Maya Berger


zagrebphotoOn the one hand, this book is a light-hearted story about summer travel and romance, with young female friends Una and Maya as the main characters. They live in Zagreb, Croatia and are planning a trip soon – one that turns into a group experience and includes guys as well as girls as the number of travelers grows. It’s a fun reading experience. The group decides to ride in two aged vans, leaving at the same time and meeting at pre-planned locations.  The plan is to visit, as the title suggests, Milan, Nice and Barcelona.

But arguments soon begin, especially between a couple (Daria and Jakov), and this turns the summer plans upside down and takes their original group and the new friends they make along the way on a journey no one anticipated.

On a deeper level, the story explores love, friendship and life itself – the expected and the unexpected. Author Maya Berger knows just how to capture the reader’s attention, from an opening quote about travel by Robert Louis Stevenson, until the very last page.  She has a way of describing places, the food and the sights of various locations, giving the reader a sense of going along on the trip.

She also includes some simple but thought-provoking comments about life. “How easy it was to be happy when you were a child; an ice cream did it,” one of the characters observes.

It’s a book aimed at women of all ages, who want to get lost for a while in this charming and romantic adventure through cities some only dream of.  But along the way, in the reading experience, this story promotes a love of travel and an appreciation of friendship.




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7 Simple Tricks to Remembering Names by Travis Tyler

       I’ve been in a few situations over the years, whether in a business setting or in a social gathering, where I am introduced to someone, talk to them, and then can’t remember their name the next time I come across them. It can happen at a later date, or even at the end of an event that same day or night.  Embarrassing!  The face is easy to remember – the name, not so much.  This book excited me because of two things in the title – 7 and Simple.  And it delivers on its promise to help you remember names in the future.  Each of the 7 techniques is unique. I had heard of a couple of them (repeating the person’s name, for example) but in spite of that, the author offers more of a reason why the technique may work.

The writing is easy to understand and simple to follow.  There is just enough scientific information to help explain why we can’t remember a name, but not so much that it reads like a textbook.  A couple of the techniques are a bit odd, to me, such as fictionalizing the person’s name, making them into a character, but for some people, that will probably work great.

My feeling, after having read the book, is that the next time I meet someone new, all of the techniques will be racing in my mind, and I’ll pull on several aspects to help me remember their name.  This is a good book for pretty much everyone, because the problem of forgetting a name is universal, I am sure. I’m anxious and confident to put it to the test.

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The Dungeons of Dogwood by Dom Maggiore

I’m not the target audience for The Dungeons of Dogwood – that would probably be pre-teens or young adults. But the cover caught my eye, and when I saw that the theme was about the supernatural, I was hooked! I can only imagine how captivated a younger audience would be by this story of 11-year-old Archie Riddle, who has been bounced back and forth between schools and has just been enrolled in Dogwood School, a former castle.
His abilities to sense ghosts and the paranormal have gotten him into trouble at previous schools, but hope runs high that his luck will change. Once he arrives at Dogwood, though, he senses the haunted essence of the school and is drawn to solving the school’s mysteries, one of which is the tale of The Three Robbers, who passed away in the dungeon of the castle, near the school’s library.
Grumpy Headmaster Mr. Belchard is leery of Archie because of his track record, but sends him on to his first class. He meets straggly but friendly fellow student Hamish, who quickly becomes his “ghostbusting partner in crime.” Their search for the dungeons and the ghosts takes them through secret passages and spooky areas, and it’s a thrilling read at all times. The book’s illustrations are a perfect fit for the story and add a great deal to the experience. This is Book 1 in a series, and I’m now planning to read the others. Highly recommend it!

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Scars – by Eliza Bates




Scars: A Contemporary Suspense Romance Novel (The Survivor Series Book 1) by [Bates, Eliza]

It’s always fun to discover an author you haven’t read before.  I did just that recently, with Scars by Eliza Bates. The book had my attention from page 1 until the end, never disappointing for a moment.

The story features Anabelle Cahill, a catering assistant whose life is about to be changed forever. Her plans for the future were very different from what she has now, shattered by the secrets she carries. They’ve almost destroyed her. Into the party she’s working comes handsome, drunken, drugged, or both, Luke Klein, heir to his family’s hotel business fortune, and also burdened with his own deep secrets. Their two worlds collide in an unlikely but exciting way.  Soon they’re playing roles in an elaborate attempt at accomplishing a public relations miracle that could save Luke and his family’s empire — or ruin it.

In lesser hands, the premise might be a bit hard to believe, but in talented author Eliza Bates’ case, she handles it beautifully and creates a suspense-and-romance-filled book that I couldn’t put down.  I’d say the emphasis is more on romance, though there are definitely suspenseful, thrilling moments.

I’m excited that Scars is Part 1 in a series, and hope that the author hurries, because I can barely wait for the next installment!



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The Zodiac Cooks by Penny Thornton

The Zodiac Cooks: Recipes from the Celestial Kitchen of LifeIt’s not a combination that people easily think of – cooking and astrology. In fact, I wondered how an entire book could focus on this. The answer – the topics work very well together, especially in the hands of world-famous astrologer Penny Thornton.

Penny, based primarily in the U.K., has been an astrologer for more than 30 years, with her best-known client having been Princess Diana.  She’s been involved in cooking for many years, too, and her knowledge shines through in this book. She had a regular segment on the Food Network here in the U.S., where she spoke of astrology and cooking. It turns out that since the Middle Ages, there’s been a belief that planets and signs influence not only humans but other living creatures, food, and plants.

The Zodiac Cooks takes readers on an exploration of all 12 signs, with information not only on each sign and their personality traits, but also insight into their behavior in and out of the kitchen, what foods they may like or dislike, what table décor suits them, and what to do or not do in their kitchen. And then there are the recipes — all 130 of them.

It was a joy to read and identify with so much about my sign of Aquarius, and it was equally enlightening to read what my friends in other signs relate to in the culinary world.  And please – don’t just focus on particular signs, because you’ll miss some wonderful recipes throughout.

Some of the ingredients are out-of-the-ordinary – star anise, quail, lavender, elderberry, coriander, and venison, for example. Recipes include a pear and almond tart, ginger cake, white chocolate and raspberry mousse, and Swedish meatballs with dill noodles and lingonberry sauce, plus new takes on more standard fare. A few British favorites are naturally included: Shepherd’s Pie and Yorkshire Pudding, for example. Each recipe sounds delicious, and the photography makes your mouth water in anticipation.

What a perfect birthday or holiday gift for someone who loves cooking, astrology, or both. And what a great way to get insight into, and then prepare a meal for, a special someone in your life! This unique book by such a well-respected astrologer combines two worlds into one fascinating reading and culinary journey.

For more information on Penny, her astrology forecasts, and her book The Zodiac Cooks, visit her website

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The Naturalist – by Andrew Mayne

61preix-mvl-_ac_us218_Don’t panic. I’m about to drop the word “science” into this review. If you’re anything like me – curious and intrigued by science but totally clueless on some levels – this could be a slight turnoff in a novel. Don’t let it be! You’d be missing out on an intelligent yet easy-to-read thriller.

The Naturalist focuses on Dr. Theo Cray, a scientist/professor who unwittingly gets drawn into the murder of a former student while he’s studying frogs in a remote area of Montana. The bad news – this comes about because he’s considered a suspect or at the very least, a person of interest. Local authorities soon shift the identification of the killer to a bear. Case closed. Or is it?

It’s not just any bear. Perhaps it’s a super-bear, something unnatural, extremely dangerous and powerful.

Theo begins investigating on his own, sometimes ethically, mostly unethically. Before long, he begins to suspect a serial killer is on the loose as he ties several other mysterious murders to this killer. But is the predator something unnatural?  The delicious secret of this book is that author Andrew Mayne lets readers in on information that even those working the case don’t know yet (with the exception of Theo, of course).

Small chapters make it easy to read and also encourage the “Just one more chapter syndrome,” where the reader knows he or she should quit, but it’s just too tantalizing and the urge to go on is too strong.  For me, after the first chapter, there was no turning back.  I let the roller coaster ride take over. Think Michael Crichton or Dan Brown – it’s that kind of excitement.

The Naturalist is the first in the series, with the second Theo Cray book, Looking Glass, due out in March 2018.  I’ve read Andrew Mayne books in the Jessica Blackwood series (non-scientific and dealing with the FBI and the world of magic). This series is equally as spellbinding.

I only discovered him a few months ago, but he’s quickly become one of my favorite authors. Give this talented, high-ranking, best-selling author a try!





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Between Two Banks by Wajdy Mustafa

betweentwobanksThis  book was originally written in Arabic by author Wajdy Mustafa, while he was in the midst of serving a Syrian prison sentence that was politically related. It was passed, in a rough form, from one prisoner to the next, as they waited eagerly for their turn at reading the haunting and captivating pages.

After his release, Mustafa was able to publish the work in English as well. It is a testament to the fact that love is love in any language, and its joys and sorrows are something anyone – anywhere – can relate to.

At the heart of the story is a forbidden love between a married woman named Julia and Selim, a young man she is tutoring in French. But there are many sub stories and characters, each with their own tale to tell – so much so that only careful reading will keep the changes in point of view and tense from becoming confusing. But it’s well worth paying close attention. The reader comes to know each character and is eager to find out more about their life and how it intertwines with the main characters. It’s impossible to divulge more information, because as mentioned, it’s complicated – but highly intriguing.

The book is at times poignant and beautiful, and at other times deliciously mysterious. As in his previous book, Levant Fever, Mustafa sets his story in Syria and Lebanon, giving it a unique glimpse into a region normally thought of as only hostile and dangerous. The author proves once again that good storytelling, the universal human condition, and the power of words can touch the heart and keep the pages turning.

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Driving Grandpa by John Redstand


There are times when a reader wants to get lost in a heart-pounding romance – a nail-biting thriller – a complicated but exciting mystery. And then again, sometimes simple, easy and down-to-Earth is just the thing. Good storytelling can be found in a book with no major plot twists or high drama, and Driving Grandpa is a prime example of  this. It’s a folksy tale of a grandson (author John Redstand) and his grandpa. The story is based on true events, but author Redstand has fictionalized the many mini stories here, resulting in an entertaining book with a very personal touch. None of the stories, on their own, is particularly powerful or highly dramatic, but put them all together and something magic happens. Love shines through and family bonds are highlighted. Redstand weaves stories of his life helping to chauffeur his grandpa around, after he’s “grounded” from driving. But Grandpa surprises his grandson by actually passing his driver’s license test (we’re not told how, but it’s a cute story). Their stories share life’s joys and challenges, and even though Grandpa is about 90 years old, he’s still “got it.” Some of the stories are simply a slice of daily life in nature. They focus on how the author, who cleans up and changes locks on homes that are being primed for bank sale, blends his job with being part-time driver to his grandfather. Because Grandpa comes with him on his jobs, they turn from routine  into all sorts of adventures and misadventures. Other stories reveal a bit about Grandpa’s time in World War II. There’s even an encounter with the widow of his former friend – and it turns out, she and Grandpa briefly dated before their respective marriages.

Overall, the effect is that grandson and grandfather have a very meaningful time together and one knows it’s a time they will both hold dear. There will be laughter and tears as readers delve into the book, but it will become a memorable reading experience either way. It’s so refreshing to come across a wholesome book that doesn’t rely on violence, graphic scenes or shocking language. I highly recommend this easy-to-read book by a very talented writer.



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Sex Tells by Darick Spears

Sex Tells

If you’ve read my blog for any bit of time, you’ll know that sexy is not my “normal” genre. But this book was offered to me out of the blue and I decided to give it a try. I put aside my softer, gentler (slightly prudish) side and promised myself not to be offended or shocked.

Well, I didn’t totally succeed there. But I also think I  actually did get the message the author was going for. This is a fast-paced, explicit novel that seems like a simple story of two sex-crazed guys – Ice and Darnel, living the dream of many males – sex with several different and very willing partners.

It is a graphic book, I’ll tell you up front. But dig a little deeper and it’s also a story of the male viewpoint on sexual attraction, the messages we all send out, and the consequences we might have to pay. It’s gritty and fun – definitely representing the attitudes of the young streetwise male. There are many grammatical issues for sure, and the book isn’t exactly “polished”, but maybe in this case, since it’s told from a young male’s perspective, this is excusable – even right. If it were perfect, maybe it would take away from the overall “feel” of the book. It almost seems the target reader should be a very young adult, who can hopefully get the moral of the story about sex from its raunchy side to the possible aftereffects of it.

The author has written other books, including, surprisingly, one called The Diary of a Stay-at-Home Dad (go figure). Read Sex Tells for excitement, but don’t miss the messages along the way. Its shocking ending definitely leaves the door open for a follow-up book and I’ll bet readers will be waiting to find out what happens next

For more information about the author, visit his website, or his Facebook page, darickbooks.


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Levant Fever – True Stories from Syria’s Underground by Wajdy Mustafa


This book couldn’t be more timely…or controversial. Terms or phrases that have sadly become part of the world’s vocabulary in a negative and frightening way – Shiites, Muslim Brotherhood (precursor to Islamic extremists), Allah–o-Akbar — are presented here as part of the daily life of the author. He spent a great deal of his life in and out of prison for the “crime” of associating with the wrong people or speaking out against the atrocities around him.

It’s not an easy book to read, with graphic details of beatings, torture and assassinations, not to mention prison conditions that were themselves a form of torture.  Yet this book is something of a history lesson, and while it’s doubtful that most readers will feel much sympathy for those involved, it does provide a better understanding of the conditions in Syria and Lebanon, past and present.

Even though the violence is predominant, perhaps the saddest portions of the book are the author’s childhood memories of playing with friends in a land that was once considered beautiful, at least through the eyes of a child. He also relates very “human” tales of family and love. One can’t help but wonder if things could have been different if generation after generation hadn’t resorted to fighting and brutality. Or is it impossible to break the vicious (literally) cycle of violence?

History buffs and readers curious for some explanations or understanding will surely be very satisfied by this book, powerfully written by Wajdy Mustafa.


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