Book Review: Benevolent King by Joe Albanese

If gang member Travis has one goal it is to be the biggest and baddest gang leader on the gritty mean streets of Baltimore. And he’s got just the right hustling skills to make this happen, especially after he gets his hands on some Colombian Devils Breath, a particular desired brand of cocaine.IMG_20200209_155848

However, there is local drug dealer Isaac who just might thwart Travis’s “high” ambitions. Travis has a closely held secret and Isaac knows all about it. If this secret is revealed Travis could lose his life and livelihood.

And then there is Shannon who is involved with both Travis and Isaac, and a woman her own desires and ambitions.

The three main characters spend their days and nights filled with dealing and drugging. They are both violent and victims of violence. They spend their time at less than wholesome places, including a local strip club.

And every day, they wake up wondering if it will be their last.

The plot zigs, then zags. And it twists and turns like an overturned steaming plate of pasta. It’s not exactly for the faint of heart but it is compelling.

The three main characters could be cardboard cut outs but are richly detailed. Supporting characters are also multi-dimensional.

Albanese expresses his novels like a director. He’s a very visual writer. I think fans of the TV show “The Wire” would appreciate his work.

Book Review: Nina’s Memento Mori by Mathias B. Freese

IMG_20200101_205512

I have no doubt my much appreciated readers remember the name Mathias B. Freese. I reviewed his memoir When I’m Alone.

Mr.Freese is back with another memoir, this time about his relationship with his late second wife, Nina. This memoir is called Nina’s Memento Mori.

Two lovebirds in their.golden years, Mathias and Nina meet in a very modern way-e.harmony.com.  They bond over troubled childhoods, failedrelationships, heartbreak, shared interests, and so on. But they connected the way that knows no age-true blue love.

One way Mathias and Nina bonded was through a shared love of movies. Freese uses various film terms like fade-in, dissolve, close-up, and director’s cut. And Nina’s Memento Mori is divided into five parts:

  1. Ticket, please
  2. Four Takes
  3. Intermission: Tesserae
  4. Cutting Room
  5. Coda

As a movie fan-especially of the classics-I loved this clever touch.

Throughout Nina’s Memento Mori are photographs. Some are of Nina as a little girl with blonde curls, wearing pinafores and smiling in a way that belies here problematic homelife. And then there are photos of Nina as young woman, slender and, gamine. Her face is both stoic and lovely, determined to overcome her past as only she can. She has a beauty no longer welcomed in an age of plastic Instagram models and reality show manneqins.

Freese writes in a style that is sensitive and compelling, but never maudlin and self-pitying. He writes so vividly of Nina and their marriage that I can’t help but see this book  in cinematic form. Who should play Nina? Then again perhaps Nina Memento Mori is best served not touched by celluloid. I am satisfied to see Nina in my mind’s eye.

Book Reviews: You Are Awesome-9 Secrets to Getting Stronger and Living an Intentional Life by Neil Pasricha

IMG_20191017_215944

In this day and age it’s difficult to feel somewhat mediocre let alone awesome. Our country is deeply divided, our global world is spinning out of control, and Mother Nature is a harsh mistress.

On personal level we are constantly bombarded with messages telling us we are never enough. We are told by advertisers and marketers, social media, reality TV, corporate owned news, and celebrity culture. We’re not rich enough, smart enough or just enough.

It’s all enough to make us feel awful. But Neil Pasticha begs to differ in his book You Are Awesome: 9 Secrets to Getting Stronger and Living an Intentional Life.

For the uninitiated Pasricha is a best-selling author, popular public speaker who has given speeches at TED Talks and SXSW, and award-winning podcaster at 3 Books.

I admit I have a love/hate relationship with self help books. Some have all the appetizing quality of a breath mint and others are a delicious feast.

After a brief introduction where Pasricha reminds us to be resilient, he gives us the 9 secrets to claiming his awesomeness.

  1. Add a Dot, Dot, Dot
  2. Shift the Spotlight
  3. See it as a Step
  4. Tell Yourself a Different Story
  5. Lose More to Win More
  6. Reveal to Heal
  7. Find Small Ponds
  8. Go Untouchable
  9. Never, Never Stop

Now my fully competent readers, you can probably figure out a few details of Pasricha’s secrets from the nine titles. But the titles are not sentimental greeting card verse. Pasricha goes very much in depth, using care and craft, the hard work, scientific facts, true stories (including his own) and various resources to achieve transformation. Believe me, you’re not awesome because you are breathing.

In the wise words of one of my favorite  philosophers, RuPaul:

“You better work!”

You’re going to have take an in-depth look at your life, past, present, and and possible future and do a full assessment of your missteps. It won’t be pretty.

But you will also be encouraged to revisit the times where you succeeded and found true joy, professionally and personally.

In the end You Awesome is both a regular book and workbook. While reading it I found myself writing down notes, highlighting passages, and applying Post-it notes to several pages.

Written in voice that is both honest and relatable, Pasricha’s You are Awesome is a good primer on gaining more resilience and living a life of purpose and meaning.

*Thank you to Simon and Schuster Canada for the advanced copy of You Are Awesome: 9 Secrets to Getting Stronger and Living an Intentional Life. This book will be released this Tuesday, November 5th.

Book Reviews: All the Good Things by Clare Fisher

81f7houx5eL

Beth has done a bad, bad thing. And while she ruminates about the tragedy she brought on herself while paying the ultimate price, she goes on a journey of healing and redemption.

In Clare Fisher’s novel All the Good Things, Beth is seeing a counselor while serving a prison term. Convinced she is completely worthless, Beth’s counselor, with both compassion and wisdom, tells her to write a list of all the good things that have to her.

This is pretty difficult for Beth. In her young life, Beth has dealt with tragedy, abandonment, and heartbreak. Among these include being deserted by her mother, mental health issues, abusive relationships, one crappy job after another, and a series of dreadful foster homes.

But as she looks back on her life, Beth remembers the things. She’s very creative, she has a network of supportive friends, she’s felt the embrace of true love, and her sweet baby girl who she loves with great intensity.

Beth writes this list in a journal form that comes across like a series of letters to her daughter. And as he writes these letters she comes to terms with the lowest moments in her life, the moments that gave her life purpose, and one horrible mistake that altered her life. Now she’s asking herself is she can be forgiven and can she be redeemed?

All the Good Things kept me riveted, page after page. Beth’s story both broke my heat and uplifted my spirits.

Fisher’s debut novel is written with a great deal of clarity that fulfills all the senses. Beth is written as a fully-dimensional character, as are the tertiary characters.

Obviously I’m not going to reveal why Beth is being punished and in prison. But you just might gasp out loud when she admits her crime…like I did.

Book Review: Edith Head-The Life and Times of Hollywood’s Celebrated Costume Designer by Michael Chierichetti

IMG_20190913_204830

When you think of Hollywood’s golden age you probably think of the movies, stars, and directors of that glittering era. I know I do. But I also think of Edith Head, costume designer extrodinaire.

Edith Head’s career began in the silent era and ended in the early 1980s.

Some of the movies she worked in include All About Eve, A Place in the Sun, Roman Holiday, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid, and several films by Alfred Hitchcock.

One of the most Oscar nominated people in show business, she won eight of those golden boys.

Head also designed for television productions, often working with Bob Mackie and Nolan Miller. She even designed costumes for the Muppets!

Head had one heck of a career, which deserves one heck of a biography. Is Michael Chierichetti’s book Edith Head: The Life and Times of Hollywood’s Celebrated Costume Designer up to such a daunting task? I should think so considering Chierichetti is a film historian, costumer, and was a confidant of the legendary Head.

After an opening chapter recalling Head’s early life, Chierichetti quickly moves onto Head’s lengthy and impressive career, starting out as a lowly apprenticeship, her commitment to getting costumes just right, her strong work ethic, her talented design staff, and the relationships she had with the stars she fitted with her costumes.

But Chierichetti isn’t shy about revealing low moments in Head’s life and career. He also gossips about some of her unsavory personality quirks.

Head made sure her costume were true to the time period the movies’ reflected. She had a gift for highlighting a star’s figure assets while hiding his or her faults. And like many of the stars she outfitted, Head was often a media sensation.

As a fan of film and fashion, I thought I knew a lot about Head. But my knowledge wouldn’t fill up a thimble. Fortunately Chierichetti’s research and commitment to telling Head’s life story as thoroughly as possible helped me sew up some loose threads. I have to admit I was overwhelmed by the names of film, dates, studios, colleagues, and movie stars named in this book.

Interspersed throughout Edith Head are pictures of her actual sketches, film stills, screen tests, professional and candid photos, and glossies that do a wonderful job illustrating Head’s exemplary career. Chierichetti also divulges some secrets about her creative process.

Edith Head: The Life and Times of Hollywood’s Celebrated Costume Designer sews things up for film lovers and fashionistas alike.

 

The New Me by Halle Butler

IMG_20190913_204754

Meet 30 year old Millie. Millie works as a temporary receptionist at an interior design firm located in Chicago’s Merchandise Mart. She’s addicted to homicide forensic TV shows. Her basic hygiene and housekeeping habits are less than ideal. Her love life is non-existent. Her friend Sarah is more is more frenemy than true blue pal.

Millie is one messed up millennial. She’s pitiful, anti-social, unproductive. But she’s also bright, funny, self-aware.

In otherwords, Millie is absolutely fascinating and she’s portrayed in Halle Butler’s expertly observed and written novel The New Me.

Millie’s job is a complete bore. The phone rarely rings and when she works up a smidge of ambition she asks for additional tasks. She’d given only one, shredding documents, not exactly challenging or exciting.

Millie’s homelife is a treadmill of bingewatching TV and ignoring basic household chores. And her social life consists of mostly dealing with Sarah’s condescending attitude and all-around bitchiness.

Millie is stuck in neutral and it is implied she’s suffering from depression.

Despite all of this Millie is self aware enough to realize she has to make some positive changes in her even though they seem insurmountable. Thus, the title of this book.

A big part of The New Me consists of Millie attempting making these improvements, some that work in her favor and others are utter failures.

I kept cheering Millie on, wanting her to succeed. Sure, she’s completely pathetic but she’s also bright, funny, good-hearted, and completely relatable.

Butler is an innovative writer who has a clever way of unfurling characters and a plot that kept me riveted. I really like how she combined Millie written using first person while two of Millie’s co-workers are written in third person.

Butler is relatively new to the writing, but she’s definitely an author to watch.

We Interrupt This Blog For This Special Announcement

If you have a child in your life who adores animals and loves reading then this child is going to be over the moon over author Pop Jamison’s Skwerdlock series. Skwerdlock is a whimsical character who delights and encourages young readers. The latest book in the Skwerdlock series is Never Take a Skwerdlock to the Doctor.

“The Skwerdlock is always fun to be with, and is always curious and excited to try new things. The Skerdlock watches everything you do and then likes to try it all. Because of that, the Skwerdlock is a great friend to have around.

The Skwerdlock would never do anything to hurt anyone or to cause any problems. But sometimes, just being a Skwerdlock means that strange things can happen when a Skwerdlock is nearby. This little story is a friendly reminder of what can happen when a Skwerdlock is around.

But, mostly, the Skwerdlock is just an excuse to curl up in the recliner or sofa with your favorite early reader or listener and smile together.

And, if the illustrations seem a bit “amateurish”, that’s something Pops and the Skwerdlock have done intentionally. They both love really nice illustrations, but they also want to remind your young storytellers they don’t have to be “perfect” to create a really good story.

Just remember, ‘Never Take A Skwerdlock to the Doctor!'”

Pops Jamison’s first name is John and he’s been writing for children for nearly sixty years, much of it inspired by his daughter Tricia.

As a writer, Pop’s goals include making kids laugh, love reading and tell “just good stories.” Ultimately, Skwerdlock is a true blue friend to everyone he meets.

Book Website

Author Website

Facebook

Publicity Team
Ellen Whitfield-Publicist

JKS Communications – Literary Publicity

ellen@jkscommunications.com