Book Review: Man Mission-Four Men, Fifteen Years, One Epic Journey by Eytan Uliel

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“The pick-up truck hurtles down a dirt road in rural New Zealand. In the back it’s just me, four loaded guns, and some kilo of drugs. I’m going to die, I think. And not for the first time today.”

Well, that’s one way to grab my attention. It’s also the opening of the book Man Mission-Four Men, Fifteen Years, One Epic Journey-a bloke version of Eat, Pray, Love, but also a complete anti-thesis.

Written by seasoned traveler and writer Eytan Uliel, Man Mission is an exotic stew with hearty heapings of fiction, travel guide and possible memoir. And it’s also an eye-opener for anyone whose idea of roughing it is no room service and believes a week of adventure is a vacation at the local water park.

Man Mission is about four young men, still in college and about to start life in the “real world.” Because of their friendship and their love of travel, these four mates will get together to travel to one country per year and will deal with the good, bad, and ugly as only they can (or think they can). They continue to do this even as they embark on careers, marriage and family life. All four friends find challenge in both the humdrum of domesticity and the excitement of their “Man  Mission.”

Man Mission is divided into three parts, simply called part one, part two, and part three; and it packs it up at the end with an epilogue called Home.

Some of the countries these mates traverse include Vietnam, Thailand, Fiji, South Africa, Iceland, Spain, Peru, and the good, old US of A. Included with the Man Mission is their manifesto, which includes such gems like going beyond one’s limits and no luxuries allowed.

A certain pink bracelet also is part of the Man Mission, a dude’s version of “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.”

Over the course of 15 years these mates straddle a high wire of challenges of their vacations with the challenges of careers and domesticity (and like I mentioned, often the last two seem more challenging than the actual adventures).

The travels are definitely crazy and audacious. And the dialogue among the men is very rich and detailed, filled with both macho bluster and candid vulnerability. It certainly gave me a look into the male mind. Men, are both simple and complex (in other words, human).

If I have one quibble when it comes to Man Mission, I do wish Uliel would have painted the women in Man Mission with a more colorful brush. To me, they came across with all the depth as a shot of tequila when I would have preferred a full margarita (FYI-raspberry margaritas are my fave).

But at the end, Man Mission is a fast-paced, comical, and riveting book. I think it would make one heck of a movie. Hugh Jackman, call your agent!

 

 

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“Author! Author!” An Interview with A.R. Geiger

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I first made A.R Geiger’s acquaintance when I joined Twitter. We connected as readers and writers, but I knew I had to follow her because of the inspiring things she writes that urges writers to keep going on no matter what hurdles or challenges they face. So I am very honored to have interviewed Ms. Geiger. She’s an absolute delight.

1. First, give me a brief bio about yourself, where you grew up,  education, where you live now, writing jobs, other jobs, like and dislikes, whatever you want to share.

 

 I’m a Jesus-loving traveler, a reader, and a mythology enthusiast! My bookshelves are always overcrowded. I believe that all books have something to teach us, whether they are truth or fiction, history or myth. My stories are my heart and soul. They stem from places I’ve visited and things I’ve seen. Airplanes are my happy place! I’ve backpacked through Southern Europe, eaten snails in France, bought books in Portugal, and lived in a castle on the beach in Scotland for four months. (I vacuumed the hallways every week. Apparently, this is called ‘hoovering’ in Europe.) I’ve ridden elephants in Cambodia, slept on buses and church floors, and fallen in love with cultures very different from my own. To quote Mary Anne Radmacher, “I am not the same for having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world.
The places I’ve seen have
seriously influenced my work and the stories I tell. Words are my art supplies, and I am passionate about painting an honest, accurate picture of life in every sphere of society. I have been writing for five years, but I was making up stories long before I learned to put them down on paper.

 

2. When did you you start writing and why?

I have always been coming up with stories and writing many of them down, but I started writing seriously when I turned eighteen. I was on a trip that turned out to be very boring for me, and I needed a distraction! Thus, my novel was born, packed into the notes section of an iPod touch. Once I started, I was hooked, and I haven’t been able to stop since. I have too many stories in my head to let them all wither and die.


3. How does your Christian faith inspire and influence your writing?
God is very much the center of my writing and the center of my life. Without Him, I would have given up long ago. I pray every morning before I start writing, and He gives me the ideas and creativity that I need to continue! When I get stuck on a problem, my solution is always to take a break, get away, and ask God what He thinks. He always seems to always have a solution for me. When I was still living at home, I had a quote written on my wall next to my computer that read, “Have you asked the Master Storyteller?” It helped remind me who was really the master of my stories.

4. What do you write and why?
I write YA fantasy, most of it centered around Justice and the reality of Human Trafficking. This is an area of passion for me, as I have spent time studying and working with people escaping from it.

5. What challenges do you face as a writer? Describe a typical writing day. 
Time. The hardest challenge I have right now is fitting writing time in between two jobs. Writing has not begun to pay for me quite yet, and so my stories have to fit themselves into the bits and pieces of my day when I’m not working to make ends meet. Sometimes that means waking up early or staying up late, sometimes it means being very intentional with an hour. Somehow I’ve always managed to keep my stories going, even in my hardest seasons.

6. Who are your favorite writers and why?
Cornelia Funke. Her Inkworld series is one of the best fantasy trilogies on the market. Hands down. After that . . . hmmm. J.R.R Tolkien, Victor Hugo, Charles Dickens, John Flanagan, Brian Jacques, Charlotte Brontë. . . I could send you a list a mile long and still come up with other names. Words are my passion and books are my obsession.

7. What are your future plans? What do you aspire to?
My plans are a little shaky right now! But I would love to be a self-supporting author and do lots of traveling. My passion is to tell people’s stories and give a voice to those who have none. I’ve written one biography already, for a man who was a Vietnam war vet and a missionary. I’d love to do more! Right now, the difficulty is finding the time . . . I’ve got at least two others who would like me to write their stories! Someday.
More on A.R. Geiger

Book Review: Delivering Virtue by Brian Kindall

It’s 1854. Some people would call Didier Rain a foolish rake with a sinful desire for both liquor and women of ill-repute. Didier would prefer if people considered him a gentleman poet and true bon vivant, a lover of the finer things in life. No matter what, Didier is the unlikely hero of Brian Kindall’s delicious mix of western and fairy tale in the novel Delivering Virtue.

Didier is chosen by a secretive Mormon sect to be a Sacred Deliverer of an angel haired baby girl named Virtue to the bride of the Prophet Nehi in the City of Rocks. Didier knows very little about taking care of babies but after being offered a princely sum of $30,000 Didier is only too happy to take on this task. How hard could it be? Didier is about to find out.

Outfitted with a few supplies and completely in over his head, Didier faces challenging enemies and encounters who want nothing more than to keep Didier from completing his colossal journey. But he also meets true allies like a Native American woman whose lactating breasts keep Virtue fed and growing oddly at a very fast rate. And all of these elements make Delivering Virtue one heck of a tale, with twists and turns that kept me riveted.

Are some of Didier’s actions a bit questionable? Well, yes. A lot of people wouldn’t approve his love of booze and brothels. But for the most Didier’s heart is in the right place and as Delivering Virtue unfolds you view Didier as a man of honor, a true hero, even if this knight in shining armor has a few rusty spots.

Delivering Virtue is hard to sum up in a review. My only advice is read it to fully capture it fantastical tale is a delicious blend of Louis L’Amour western, Brother’s Grimm fairy tale, Tim Burton film that hasn’t made its way to the silver screen and one really weird LSD trip (not that I know what an LSD trip is like).

Author Kindall has a magical way with words. His prose has a visionary quality; he truly shows while he tells this story. His use of dialogue is funny, thoughtful, bawdy and entirely entertaining. Every single character in Delivering Virtue is necessary and intriguing who move the story forward and the book closes with a fully-satisfying denouement.

If you’re wondering why I haven’t given the plot of Delivering Virtue away too much in this review it’s because I believe it needs to be read to be truly enjoyed. I can’t truly sum this book up in one little review. I want the reader to experience the book like I did.

Though I finished reading Delivering Virtue a few weeks ago; it is still with me. I think it would make a great film and I keep thinking of actors who would make the perfect Didier (sadly, Paul Newman is no longer with us). 2018 isn’t even half-way over, and already Delivering Virtue is one of the best books I’ve read this year. And I do hope it’s not the only adult-oriented book Brian Kindall has in him (he’s written several books for young adults). He’s immensely talented and I hope for more great work from him. He’s definitely a writer to watch out for.

Bonjour! Let’s Learn French-Visit New Places and Make New Friends by Judy Martialay

I usually don’t review children’s books, so I was a bit surprised when writer, illustrator and educator Judy Martialay sought me out to review her book Bonjour! Let’s Learn French. But being a bit of a Francophile and having a niece and nephew who are currently attending a French immersion school, Martialay’s request piqued my interest so I accepted her offer

Bonjour! Let’s Learn French follows the adventures of world traveler Pete the Pilot. Wherever he travels Pete learns the country’s language, so he can better communicate with a country’s citizens and make new friends. In this book Pete finds himself on a French beach where he meets several children and a certain snail named Louis l’escargot. This story is written in English with several key words within the story translated to French, including words like sand, beach, castle, children, which are in bold type. Though the story is quite short it packs in a lot of basic French translations children can recite as a parent reads to them or the child can read him or herself.

But Bonjour! Let’s Learn French offers a great deal more than a short story with English to French translations. It also offers quite a few activities that also help children learn French words and phrases. They include a skit which parents can play out with their children or can be done as a classroom activity. Another activity asks children to look at various people and objects within the book, their home and neighborhoods and translate them to French.

The musically inclined will enjoy a French song in the book and the artsy set will discover their inner Monet or Renoir have fun making their own impressionistic painting, both activities fully explained in the book.

And for convenience sake, Martialay provides a glossary of French to English translations at the end of the book just in case.

Interspersed throughout! Let’s Learn French are Martialay’s cute illustrations and various photographs of people, places and things one might find during a French holiday, including the buildings, art work, the French flag, cafes, and one of my personal favorites, French cuisine, including French onion soup and various French pastries like croissants.

Bonjour! Let’s Learn is for children ages six through 12. Though I think some older children might consider this book to be a bit babyish if they’ve been studying French since they were very little like my niece and nephew. However, I think it’s an ideal book for children learning French for the first time and it’s a way to bond with their parents, too. And, no parents, you don’t have to be fluent in French.

As for school teachers, I think a lot of them will welcome a book like Bonjour! Let’s Learn French in their classrooms, whether the French language is a part of their curriculum or not. We live in a very global world and a book that not only teaches children a foreign language but also about a foreign culture can only be an asset to their learning.

 

 

 

Book Review: Dante’s Garden-Magic and Mystery in Bomarzo by Teressa Cutler-Broyles

Frank Farnese is a collector of antique books when he chances upon a first edition of Dante’s classic novel The Divine Comedy. Inside the ancient tome is an inscription. Frank finds this inscription intriguing noting it mentions a mysterious garden located in Bomarzo, Italy. Frank wants to visit this garden to learn more about Dante and The Divine Comedy. Frank decides to visit Bomarzo where he finds himself exploring and falling through Hell’s Mouth, a particularly gruesome and odd sculpture.

When he awakes, Frank no longer finds himself living in the 21st century. He has somehow, through the works of time travel, in the year 1570. To greet him, is Pyrrho Ligorio, a legendary antiquarian of literature and his lady companion, the lovely Lurcrezia Romano. Both Pyrrho and Lucrezia find Frank to be a kindred spirit and invite him on what is about to be an incredible journey.

Thus, begins Teresa Cutler-Broyles novel Dante’s Garden-Magic and Mystery in Bomarzo.

Just as in the modern age of 2017, things aren’t quite right in the world back in 1570 and the three of them know they should make things better.

Frank and his newfound companions find themselves wrapped up in a multitude of adventures, some exciting, some dangerous, some educational and for Frank and Lucrezia quite romantic. Among their adventures is the infamous Inquisition and an astonishing retreat to the iconic Venice. On their journey they meet people (some who actually existed and others fictional). As this unique tale unfolds, Frank and his traveling companions must learn if these people are true allies or those they should avoid for they are truly perilous (and then there are some characters shrouded in mystery).

Did I mention romance? Frank can’t help but fall in love with Lucrezia. Though she is a woman of her time, she is also one with a keen mind and a desire to learn and grow even though educational and vocational opportunities are limited for women. Lucrezia is also a woman with fleshly desires and fully gives herself to Frank despite 16th century sexual mores.

Frank so wants to stay in 1570 but also misses his life in the 21st century, not just the modern conveniences, but his relationship with longtime girlfriend Matilda, who he lovingly calls Tilly.

Or maybe Frank could find his way back to the modern day and bring Lucrezia with him. But how would she live in a world of modern conveniences that we take for granted? How would she adjust? And would she miss her old life back in 1570? And how would Frank explain his absence? Would Tilly and his friends and colleagues buy his tale of time travel? Hmm, he might as well tell them he was in a coma or kidnapped by aliens.

And of course, there is the issue of what brought Frank to this adventure and him questioning his stake in both worlds-his acquisition of an original copy of Dante’s The Divine Comedy.

Dante’s Garden is richly written and wonderfully descriptive. Cutler-Broyles has a gift for showing not telling. In my mind’s eye I could see the people, places and things she writes about in glowing detail. In one passage, Cutler-Broyles describes a beautiful gown in shades of green, blue and purple, which filled me with pure joy!

If I have any regret, it is my grasp on European history is way too limited, and I must expand my knowledge gained through PBS documentaries, classic movies and vintage fashion. Cutler-Broyles has a vivid imagination and she clearly has a full grasp on Italian history, which isn’t surprising considering she is a visiting professor at the Umbra Institute in Perugia, Italy and has spent the past ten years leading travels throughout Italy.

Now I’m left wondering if Cutler-Broyles has a sequel in mind. I would love to know how Frank and Lucrezia are affected by their remarkable expedition in the long run, long after their initial story plays out in Dante’s Garden-Magic and Mystery in Bomarzo.

Brag Book (Not About Me)

Tari Jordan!!!

Readers of this blog are quite familiar with Tari. She’s written several guest posts at The Book Self. She also wrote a review of the movie 68 Kill for my other blog Popcorn In My Bra featuring her favorite actor, the multi-talented Matthew Gray Gubler. Tari is a huge fan of the television show Criminal Minds featuring Mr. Gubler as resident genius of the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU) Dr. Spencer Reid. Ms. Jordan is the resident genius of her blog Criminal Minds Fans, where she has written about the show for several years now.

Recently Tari got treated to an amazing adventure.

She and her friend Ryka got to visit the Criminal Minds set and learned about the blood, sweat and tears that makes Criminal Minds happen!

But don’t take my word for it. Be a lamb and learn about Tari and Ryka’s excellent journey at Criminal Minds Fans.

(Squeals up in 30 milliseconds)

Once again, congratulations Tari. No matter, what you’re always a winner is my book!

Retro Review: My Way of Life by Joan Crawford

When it comes to a film diva’s way of life I can’t help but think of Joan Crawford. Certainly she was so much more than using evil wire hangers to beat her kids and being hailed as Mommie Dearest, right?

Well, of course one of the first ladies of Hollywood’s Golden Age is full of wisdom, so what a blessing it was to find Crawford’s book My Way of Life, a book written long before Gwyneth Paltrow thought up “unconscious coupling” and told us to stuff vagina eggs up our tampon tunnels via her lifestyle website Goop.

My Way of Life is part memoir/part self-help book. Published in 1971, long after Crawford’s heyday and just a few years before her daughter Christina told us her tale of the abuse she and her siblings were slung at the hands (and yes, wire hangers) of “Mommie Dearest.”

My darlings, Crawford just knows we are clueless when it comes to our love lives, our careers, our households, our looks, our child rearing and our entertaining skills. And she’s only too willing to help because she’s a giver. Plus, she does this with a lot of juicy Hollywood tales and a steaming heap of name dropping that TMZ’s Harvey Levin and Perez Hilton would sell their mothers for!

Now, I’m sure most of you know some of the common sense ideas Crawford pontificates upon in My Way of Life. You’re very own Mommie Dearests probably taught you these things when you were growing up. You should always prepare for the day by writing down a to-do list, or as Crawford calls it “plan of action,” and it’s best to do this the night before. No matter what, remain confident and positive. And it’s a good idea to have your day’s outfit already laid out and cleaned and pressed.

Okay, but what else Joanie?

Well, we should never let our husbands know about childrearing and cleaning routines. Apparently, they can run Fortune 500 companies or run a country, but that can’t handle changing a diaper or loading the dishwasher.

Crawford also tells us to not to get fat and ugly or a man will leave us for another woman.  But a man should never catch his wife without a full face of make-up on or with curlers in her hair.

When it comes to eating Joan admonishes us to never serve a dish featuring the colors red and yellow together. Well, there goes my corn, tomato and basil salad. And Crawford wasn’t exactly fond of butter, potatoes, cheese and avocados. You’ll get my butter, potatoes, cheese and avocados out of my cold, dead hands.

When it comes to making your figure slim and chic, Crawford advises us to never sit on a soft chairs because it spreads out one’s hips. And here I thought my curvy hips was due to genetics.

Scrubbing the floor is great exercise. If you want to go without a bra you should swim for it’s good for the chest. Well, sorry, but my girls need a house.

Crawford is full of advice when it comes to beauty and fashion. Moisturizing is key. Or as Crawford puts it, “Moisturizer is probably the most blessed invention of the past two decades” (Dr. Jonas Salk, “Bitch, please!”)! We should never have our face in a sour, disagreeable expression because it makes us ugly.

Ahem…

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As for our wardrobes, Crawford has a lot of advice on extolls the virtues of matching, hats, gloves, and jewelry. And never dress for yourself; dress for the man in your life.

Did I mention men? Yes, according a Crawford thinks a woman needs a man like a fish needs water. And she isn’t reticent on how to please our husbands. For instance, learn about every aspect of his life including his job (as for you having a job? Well, your husband is your job, silly!). It doesn’t matter if your man pumps gas for a living or is the Chairman of the Board for Pepsi-Cola like Crawford’s fourth husband Alfred Steele. Make his career your career and he’ll be happy morning, noon and night. Also, never let you man know about the mundane aspects of your life. You’ll just bore him. Let him know nothing of household purchases. Goodness, don’t you ever let hubby see that box of Kotex or his testicles will shrink into Rasinettes.

As for childrearing you ask? Well, never once does Crawford mention wire hangers as a method of discipline. But boy does she know how to raise kids. According to My Way of Life. Crawford is the perfect mother.

For the most part, I couldn’t help chuckle and roll my eyes while reading this book. However, I did think it had some good advice on keeping healthy with both exercise and good, decent non-trendy food choices. I do think some of her fashion advice was pretty timely even today like finding your own style, choosing your clothes for your way of life and find the colors that make you most happy. I also appreciated her praise of sex, not just for one’s man but for one’s self, too. She also mentions about the importance of relaxing after a long, hard day, advising readers to put the phone away, have a glass of wine and have a good conversation with people you love.

Yes, a My Way of Life is dated and a bit silly, but it’s still a fun read in our age of Kardashian, and one retro read I can highly recommend!