Wednesday, August 7, 2019

G1085 Book Review of The Exile by Gregory Erich Phillips

Name of Book: The Exile

Author: Gregory Erich Phillips

ISBN: 978-1-63393-765-9

Publisher: Koehler Books

Type of book: Housing crisis, immigration, American dream, 2007-2008, South America, Columbia, secrets, romance, younger male/older female, white male/Hispanic female, Phoenix Arizona

Year it was published: 2019


Leila stepped off the plane in Colombia, recognizing the familiar air. She couldn't believe she'd been deported. It had to be a mistake. She had to find a way back before it was too late, before the people she fled from years ago were aware of her return. It had all been going so right. A successful career working for one of the top mortgage brokers in Phoenix. Love. Leila had all the elements of her life just where she wanted them. Then everything began to unravel, precipitated by the 2008 mortgage meltdown, and a romance that quickly spiraled out of her control. The Exile is a heart-wrenching love story that crosses cultures and borders, shedding light on the challenges faced by Hispanic immigrants living in the United States.

The Exile won first prize for mainstream fiction in the PNWA literary contest.

Fast-paced, suspenseful, steamy.


I feel that one of his strongest characters, and the best, is Leila del Sol, a young woman who got an unexpected opportunity to make something of her life. One can't help but admire and root for her throughout the story and to just tell her to go after her dreams. The more I got to know Leila, the more I grew to like her. There are other characters in the tale such as Ashford and Ashford's mother who happens to be Leila's boss, as well as Leila's father, but I often feel that they aren't drawn as well as Leila was. Ashford is younger than Leila and grew up on ideas that he can have whatever and whoever he wants. He is a very kind and tender-hearted young man who is hopelessly in love with Leila and desires to be a doctor as well as get out from his mother's domineering thumb. His mother is best described as very ruthless and merciless when it comes to her company and employees. Leila's father cares a lot for her and wants for her to be happy, even daring to do what he can for Leila.


There is a double standard when it comes to native Europeans and immigrants


Most of the book is in third person narrative from Leila's point of view, although from time to time other characters also take up the narrative. The author does a terrific job of researching multiple aspects of the tale, be it immigration, the American dream, living as a Columbian woman, romance and being forced to be judged by different stereotypes, and yes, the housing, although a lot about the mortgage flew over my head, to be honest. Overall, great research and well-done female character in terms of Leila del Sol. I also would have wanted a bit more chemistry between Leila and her paramour Ashford.

Author Information:
(From the book)

Gregory Erich Phillips tells aspirational stories through strong, relatable characters that transcend time and place. His debut novel, LOVE OF FINISHED YEARS, won the grand prize in the prestigious Chanticleer Reviews international writing  competition. Living in Seattle, WA, Gregory is also an accomplished tango dancer and musician.


At one point when I checked the rating for the book on Goodreads, I was sad to see that it didn't reach 3 stars! And this story does not deserve such a low rating. There are plenty of reasons on why I loved THE EXILE by Gregory Erich Phillips; one is the fact that Gregory Erich Phillips genuinely writes from a feminine point of view (Leila is beautiful, and at times gets treated as an object, but the author is very conscious in pointing that out.) My favorite scene is when she tells a male co-worker to stop looking at her boobs) I also grew to love and admire Leila's pluckiness and headstrong personality, especially how she kept her life together. I also loved the details about immigration process and the attention to what stereotypes Leila is forced to encounter, and the fact its a young male/older female romance is a big bonus in my book. If you enjoy detailed stories of immigration, American dream and a very sweet romance, give this tale a try.

This is for Claire McKinneyPR, LLC review

4 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)

G1056 Book Review of Wunderland by Jennifer Cody Epstein

Name of Book: Wunderland

Author: Jennifer Cody Epstein

ISBN: 978-0-525-57690-7

Publisher: Crown

Type of book: 1930s to 1989, dual timeline, Germany, life as Mischling, friendship, family, relationships, secrets, life post WW2, America, living, estrangement

Year it was published: 2019


East Village, 1989
Things had never been easy between Ava Fisher and her estranged mother Ilse. Too many questions hovered between them: Who was Ava's father? Where had Ilse been during the war? Why had she left her only child in a German orphanage during the war's final months? But now Ilse's ashes have arrived from Germany, and with them, a trove of unsent letters addressed to someone else unknown to Ava: Renate Bauer, a childhood friend. As her mother's letters unfurl a dark past, Ava spirals deep into the shocking history of a woman she never truly knew.

Berlin, 1933
As the Nazi party tightens its grip on the city, Ilse and Renate find their friendship under siege--and Ilse's increasing involvement in the Hitler Youth movement leaves them on opposing sides of the gathering storm. Then the Nuremburg Laws force Renate to confront a long-buried past, and a catastrophic betrayal is set in motion...

An unflinching exploration of Nazi Germany and its legacy, Wunderland is a at once a powerful portrait of an unspeakable crime history and a page-turning contemplation of womanhood, wartime, and just how far we might go in order to belong.


Main characters include Ava, Ilse's daughter who has recently had to disclose a long-held secret to her own daughter. Ava has had a very turbulent history and has a very fractured relationship with her mother, Ilse, whom she sees as a traditional hausfrau. In 1930s, Ilse is best friends with Renate and tends to be daring and saucy, but then she becomes involved Hitler's Youth Movement, and is a very prominent writer. Due to her decisions, she is forced to keep many secrets secret from her daughter, causing the two become estranged. Renate is Ilse's best friend, a half-Jew (from father) who is forced to live as a Jew during 1930s when she identifies very little with her father's religion. (In fact, she doesn't even know she is Jewish.)


What do we really know of ourselves and our friends


The story is in third person narrative from Ava's, Renate's and even Ilse's points of view. Very similar to THE GODS OF HEAVENLY PUNISHMENT, the chapters are from different points of view, and they begin at interesting perspectives: Ava's begins in 1989 but then it goes backwards, while Renate's begins in 1933 but goes forward, and the two eventually meet up with an event that tests both of women's friendships with one another. I also was very sad at how Renate and Ilse viewed Judaism, although I understand why they viewed it the way they did. I also should mention that the going backwards timeline with Ava is reminiscent of THE HOPE FAULT by Tracy Farr, and WUNDERLAND is of the pre-WW2 years rather than the too oft described WW2. In here is where the reader watches hate rise up and where ugliness begins to fester over and then boils over, with second generation left to pick up the pieces and put them back together.

Author Information:
(From the book)

Jennifer Cody Epstein is the authro of the international bestseller THE PAINTER FROM SHANGHAI ("luminous...irresistible"-THE NEW YORK TIMES BOK REVIEW), and THE GODS OF HEAVENLY PUNISHMENT, winner of the 2014 Asian/Pacific American Librarians Association Honor Award for outstanding fiction. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two daughters.


I feel terribly guilty that I waited so long to both read and review WUNDERLAND by Jennifer Cody Epstein. I found it a great book, perhaps even better than her predecessor, THE GODS OF HEAVENLY PUNISHMENT, but I think mainly because of the topic it dealt with, as well as the fact that around that time I read Kelly Rimmer's novel, THE THINGS WE CANNOT SAY, which also dealt with WW2, it took me a long to process and understand the story as well as feel ready to review it. And both books affected me deeply. Because of my heritage and ethnicity, I have difficulty in reading tales that are set pre-ww2, and that is the year when WUNDERLAND takes place in. (It is a dual timeline between 1933 and 1989 (oddly enough, WW2 itself is skipped over) which contains mathematical precision of going back and uncovering the truth.) This is also a tale that will shock many readers to the core, especially in judging and of how hidden truths and heritages become.It is a very bittersweet tale of what happens when nationalism is in control.

This was given for a review

5 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Matt's Swirly World - Helping Parents Raise Mindful Kids, Understand Tantrums and Relief Stress& Anxiety (Growing Up & Facts of Life Emotions Feelings) by Madeleine Matthews/Illustrated by Cristina Diana Enache

Meet the Author:    

Aspiring contemporary ballerina, commercial poet, grateful wife and mother. Certified Life Coach, BA Finance, MA Statistics ( don't judge, I was young ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ ), now IT Product Manager. When I was pregnant with my now 3 y/o boy, I was worried of how I can raise my child to cope in a world of bullying, peer pressure, substance abuse, screen time etc. My husband told me that if we want our son to thrive in this world, all we need to do is build his self-confidence & firm limits. So that's how I started reading parenting books, and read a lot. I read tons of books on the latest research discoveries in interpersonal biology and brain development. I love anything that Daniel J Siegel ever wrote. I am also a fan of "How to talk so kids would listen" by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish.

​For "Matt's swirly world," I worked with a psychologist who specialized in child development and attachment parenting. That's because, I am above all, convinced of the immense potential every child has and their absolute innocence. I know from experience that raising kids can often feel quite differently, and challenging. I am convinced that the way to turn that potential into peaceful family lives and well balanced kids - is both intuition and science (and patience). Being emotionally available as a parent, being present for them and for yourself, to keep your own emotional highs & lows in check. Because they are good at triggering us, aren't they? When I was 8, I had no money to buy my mother gifts; I really wanted to create joy in her heart, so I started dedicating poems to her. That's what got me started writing.

Connect with the author:    Website  ~  Twitter  ~  Facebook  ~  Instagram

Enter the Giveaway:

The Emperors of the Deep by William McKeever

Book Details:

Book Title: Emperors of the Deep by William McKeever

Category: Adult Non-Fiction, 320 pages

Genre: Environment, Ocean Wildlife, Marine Life

Publisher: Harper Collins

Release date: June 25, 2019

Tour dates: June 25 to July 12, 2019

Content Rating: PG-13 + M (Intense underwater moments and descriptions of interactions with Sharks both in diver and hunting situation)

Book Description:

In this remarkable groundbreaking book, a documentarian and conservationist, determined to dispel misplaced fear and correct common misconceptions, explores in-depth the secret lives of sharks—magnificent creatures who play an integral part in maintaining the health of the world’s oceans and ultimately the planet.

From the Jaws blockbusters to Shark Week, we are conditioned to see sharks as terrifying cold-blooded underwater predators. But as Safeguard the Seas founder William McKeever reveals, sharks are evolutionary marvels essential to maintaining a balanced ecosystem. We can learn much from sharks, he argues, and our knowledge about them continues to grow. The first book to reveal in full the hidden lives of sharks, Emperors of the Deep examines four species—Mako, Tiger, Hammerhead, and Great White—as never before, and includes fascinating details such as:

Sharks are 50-million years older than trees;

Sharks have survived five extinction level events, including the one that killed off the dinosaurs;

Sharks have electroreception, a sixth-sense that lets them pick up on electric fields generated by living things;

Sharks can dive 4,000 feet below the surface;

Sharks account for only 6 human fatalities per year, while humans kill 100 million sharks per year.

McKeever goes back through time to probe the shark’s pre-historic secrets and how it has become the world’s most feared and most misunderstood predator, and takes us on a pulse-pounding tour around the world and deep under the water’s surface, from the frigid waters of the Arctic Circle to the coral reefs of the tropical Central Pacific, to see sharks up close in their natural habitat. He also interviews ecologists, conservationists, and world-renowned shark experts, including the founders of Greenpeace’s Rainbow Warrior, the head of the Massachusetts Shark Research Program, and the self-professed “last great shark hunter.”

At once a deep-dive into the misunderstood world of sharks and an urgent call to protect them, Emperors of the Deep celebrates this wild species that hold the key to unlocking the mysteries of the ocean—if we can prevent their extinction from climate change and human hunters.

Buy the Book:

Watch the trailer:

About the Author:

Photo Credit: Debra Somerville
William McKeever is a writer and documentary Filmmaker. He is the founder of Safeguard the Seas, an NGO dedicated to ocean conservation. He is the producer and director of the forthcoming feature-length documentary Man Bites Shark.

Connect with the author: Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Instagram 

Enter the Giveaway!
Ends July 20, 2019

Coming attractions for August 2019

For some years, I have been reading 5 books at once, thinking that it will help me finish books faster. In truth, I don't think it worked that well, so I have only began to read 2 books (well 3 if you count e-reader) and let's see if that assumption will help me finish books faster. So far I think I'm finishing them faster than 5 at once. Here are some book tours and book selections that I promise to do this month.

Book Spotlights/Reviews:

Matt's Swirly World - Helping Parents Raise Mindful Kids, Understand Tantrums and Relief Stress& Anxiety (Growing Up & Facts of Life Emotions by Feelings)  by Madeleine Matthews/Illustrated by Cristina Diana Enache (August 1st, 2019)

120 Days by Ronald L. Ruiz (August 23rd, 2019)

Possible Reviews:

Alice and Gerald; a Homicidal Love Story by Ron Franscell

The Devil's Wind by Steve Goble

Wunderland by Jennifer Cody Epstein

Promised Land by Martin Fletcher

The Exile by Gregory Erich Phillips

Planned Reads:

The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez (50 States)

The Lost Girls of Paris by Pam Jenoff

Parlor Games by Maryka Biaggio

The New Evil; Understanding the emergence of modern violent crime by Michael H Stone, MD and Gary Brucato, PhD

For Fresh Fiction: 

The Song of the Jade Lily by Kirsty Manning

The Peacock Summer by Hannah Richell 

If You Want to make God Laugh by Bianca Marais 

Without Her by Rosalind Brackenbury 

A Fist or a Heart by Kristin Eiriksdottir

August 2019

Without her- Rosalind BRACKENBURY
SR: August 2nd, 2019
FR: August 15th, 2019
A House Divided-Pearl S Buck
SR: March 11th, 2016
Like water for chocolate- Laura ESQUIVEL
SR: July 26th, 2019
FR: August 2nd, 2019
The body in GRIFFITH PARK- Jennifer Kincheloe
SR: August 15th, 2019

Tree of Souls-Howard Schwartz
SR: February 10th, 2014
Caligula the mad emperor of Rome- Stephen Dando-Collins
SR: July 30th, 2019
FR:  August 10th, 2019
The new evil; understanding the emergence of modern violent crime- Michael H STONE, Gary BRUCATO
SR: August 10th, 2019

Monday, July 22, 2019

G1054 Book Review of A Knife in the fog by Bradley Harper

Name of Book:A knife in the Fog

Author: Bradley Harper

ISBN: 978-1-63388-486-1

Publisher: Seventh Street

Part of a Series: Prequel to Queen's Gambit

Type of book: Jack the Ripper, Sherlock Holmes prototype, Arthur Conan Doyle, England, 1888, Margaret Harkness, Joseph Bell, mystery, immigration attitudes, history, murders, friendship, mentoring, observation

Year it was published: 2018


Physician Arthur Conan Doyle takes a break from his practice to assist London police in tracking down Jack the Ripper.

September 1888. A twenty-nine-year-old Arthur Conan Doyle practices medicine by day and writes at night. His first Sherlock Holmes story, A Study in Scarlet, although gaining critical and popular success, has only netted him twenty-five pounds. Embittered by the experience, he vows never to write another "crime story." Then a messenger arrives with a mysterious summons from former Prime Minister William Gladstone, asking him to come to London immediately.

Once there, he is offered one month's employment to assist the Metropolitan Police as a "consultant" in their hunt for the serial killer soon to be known as Jack the Ripper. Doyle agrees on the stipulation his old professor of surgery, Professor Joseph Bell--Doyle's inspiration for Sherlock Holmes--agrees to work with him. Bell agrees, and soon the two are joined by Miss Margaret Harkness, an author residing in the East End who knows how to use a Derringer and serves as their guide and companion.

Pursuing leads through the dank alleys and courtyards of Whitechapel, they come upon the body of a savagely murdered fifth victim. Soon it becomes clear that the hunters have become the hunted when a knife-wielding figure approaches.


Main characters include Arthur Conan Doyle, a former physician who desires to become a writer and seems to be struggling with his next Sherlock Holmes story. He is protective, and really looks up to his former teacher, Joseph Bell. (I am thinking that in Holmes' mind, Bell was Sherlock while he was Watson.) There is also Joseph Bell, a very talented and observant physician who takes on to solve the case and who also happens to be protective of his partners. He often teaches Arthur Conan Doyle his methods and often encourages him to continue studying. I really admired Joseph Bell's powers of observation. Margaret Harkness is a fearless journalist who also cross-dresses when necessary and is the brave one in the group, rarely needing someone to help her out. She also has a soft heart towards her neighbors and will do what she can.


Expect the unexpected


The story is in first person narrative from Arthur Conan Doyle's point of view, and its definitely chronological. I feel as if everything was well done and not even the smallest detail was missed by the author, although I think that its good to have an overall timeline of the events of Jack the Ripper before starting to read the novel because at the time I wasn't sure what was going on. The author does tackle some controversial topics that was raised by Jack the Ripper case and there is weariness and suspense within the tale, especially how the characters feel as Jack the Ripper case just drags on.

Author Information:
(From the book)

Bardley Harper is a retired US Army colonel and pathologist, experienced in autopsies and forensic investigation. This is his first novel.


First of all, I have to give kudos to the author for creating a dark and atmospheric tale of when the hunter becomes the hunted and I also admired how well the characters were drawn, in particular Margaret Harkness. Probably like a lot of readers, I knew very little about Arthur Conan Doyle, aside from the fact that he was the writer of Sherlock Holmes mysteries and I even heard a rumor that he possibly killed someone which is how he became good. I also liked finding out about Margaret Harkness and Joseph Bell, the man on whom Sherlock Holmes was based. I knew a bit more about Jack the Ripper (thanks to a college class where the teacher talked about Victorian England) and I had a lot more knowledge on how minorities were treated. I also enjoyed learning more about the Jack the Ripper case and I was surprised in the direction it went.

This was given to me for a review

4 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)
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