Saturday, December 26, 2015


**** This is a guest blog post. The views in this post do not necessarily reflect those of Author Jess. ****
Over 15 million children face hunger only in the United States, think about Africa or Asia, and how many go hungry there? Eleze “Lisa” Thomas-McMillan of the Carlisa Inc. food bank in US took up just that mission- eradicating hunger from the world. In the book “Living Fulfilled: TheInfectious Joy Of Serving Others”, Thomas-McMillan educates us that we could have everlasting joy in helping the poor, needy and the hungry. The book is a biography as well as a testament to Thomas-McMillan’s philosophy and mission: if we all live for one another instead of for ourselves, no one will go hungry or have to endure the many sufferings that accompany a life of poverty.
In her memoir, Thomas-McMillan describes how her family of fourteen was squeezed into a six room wooden house in Brewton, Alabama. Her father worked three jobs and brought them up so that they  could turn out to be community helpers. She settled in Los Angeles later on, but returned home with a mission.
For spreading awareness about the plight of the hungry in the US, Thomas-McMillan walked over 1500 miles across the states of Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia and at last reaching Washington DC, spreading her wings of compassion about the poor in the States and giving away free food. Her message is simple: no one should go hungry.
Living Fulfilled is part biography and part call to action for helping the poor and the hungry. The book is littered with inspiring and afflicted accounts from the author’s own troublesome beginnings.
On her journey to Washington DC from her hometown she encountered hungry people. She fed them and talked to them, listened to their stories, encountered other challenges but at last she did reach her destination. A whole chapter is dedicated to this great ‘pilgrimage’ which evokes images of Martin Luther King who took great walks in the name of freedom.
Aside from the inspirational accounts from the life of this great philanthropist, the memoir is also a great read for any social worker who wants to do something good for his/her community or be someone who doesn’t just live for himself but for the welfare of his fellow humans, because that is where, according to Thomas-McMillan, true joy is to be sought.
The book is also a sort of volunteering manifesto, where everything from why to make donations to how to help the poor is explained. Almost everyone will find the book a great read , but not everyone will sense the great purpose of the book- the infectious joy of serving others- unless the reader finds his own strength and does something for the community, because joy can only be experienced.
Although written by a US author primarily for eradicating hunger and poverty in her local area and the States, the message is effectively universal. The spiritual awakenings are part of the reason for the author’s dedication to her mission.

The religious connotation of the book is a bit offsetting for some people, but ‘Living Fulfilled’ is Thomas-McMillan’s own memoir and no one else can have a say in that. Aside from the religious element, the book is choke-filled with motivational messages for volunteerism, philanthropy and community work all for the sake of a truly fulfilled life. 
You can find out more by visiting the Living Fulfilled website, or by viewing this video: 

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Recommended Read - Regina Shen: Defiance by Lance Erlick

Regina Shen: Defiance (Regina Shen, #3)Regina Shen: Defiance by Lance Erlick
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This third book in the series takes Regina far from the swamps outside the wall and on a journey to the north west to find her recaptured sister. Along the way she meets many new allies, some who may potentially have other motives. And she learns new things about the Chief Inspector that makes her wonder whose side she is really on...
Defiance is a great addition to the series and is filled with lots of action and adventure, and develops the characters well. Looking forward to the 4th book!

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Friday, December 4, 2015

Recommended Read - Regina Shen: Vigilance by Lance Erlick

Regina Shen: Vigilance (Regina Shen book 2)Regina Shen: Vigilance by Lance Erlick
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This second book of the series has Regina doing the unthinkable - crossing The Wall in search of her sister! We meet some new characters in this book, and say goodbye to others. Much like the reality of University, this book dragged in parts pertaining to the university, but otherwise kept a steady pace. It still also kept me guessing who Regina could trust and who she couldn't. I didn't love it as much as the first book, but I still enjoyed it very much and am looking forward to reading the third book in the series.

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Tuesday, December 1, 2015

BOOK GIVEAWAY!!! Enter to win a copy of I Wish... and a copy of I Could by Omaha author EB Tatby!!

I'm proud to support my local authors, and really enjoyed reading EB's books so I'm excited to give one of my followers the chance to WIN the first two books of her series! :) The contest starts December 2nd and goes until December 9th, so you need to act fast. Rafflecopter will do a random draw at the end of the contest and EB will send the winner the books within a few business days.

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, November 30, 2015

Highly Recommended Read - Regina Shen: Resilience by Lance Erlick

Regina Shen: Resilience (Regina Shen book 1)Regina Shen: Resilience by Lance Erlick
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I couldn't put this fast-paced book down! The best way I can describe it is kind of like Hunger Games combined with Their Eyes Were Watching God, with a little sci fi thrown in. Great characters with strong personalities, descriptions that put the reader into the swamps with the main character Regina, and enough danger to get your blood pumping. It's probably one of the best books I've read in 2015! Highly recommended!

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Friday, November 20, 2015

Guest Post: Buying Islamic Books

**** This is a guest blog post. The views in this post do not necessarily reflect those of Author Jess. ****

If you practice the religion of Islam, or if you have a keen interest in the religion itself, you would be well placed to learn more through the use of Islamic books and Arabic text.
Islamic books can be purchased across the world from a variety of sources including Islamic bookstores and online, and they can cater for a wide range of individuals.  You can also buy Islamic books for children to assist with their learning as they grow up.
Let’s look firstly at how you can find books related to Islam online…..
If you go onto any internet search engine of your choice, you can find books related to Islam by simply typing in any of the following key words:
  • Islamic Books, Arabic Text, Islamic Books Online, Islamic Books for Kids, Arabic Books, Islamic Book, Islam Book
and once you hit enter you will have a range of different options available to you to browse and potentially purchase depending on your thoughts and needs.
While it might be a common misconception, the fact remains that a lot of people feel that Islamic books are only published for people practising the religion of Islam.  This, however, is wrong.  Islam books can be utilised by absolutely anyone that feels they would like to read them, and they are designed to help you understand the religions and beliefs of the religion further.  What’s more is that a lot of Islamic book shops will stock a variety of texts that have been translated which means you can also pick one up to read even if you can’t read or speak Arabic, so there is no reason for you not to pick one up.
As previously touched upon, children are not left out either – Islamic bookstores and online stores even stock Arabic / Islamic texts for kids, and these books will play a big part in their education from the very first time they hear / read the text.  Books for both children and adults will provide continued learning on Islam and will open your eyes to things you may not have known before.
For those who are still wondering and asking themselves what the benefits of Arabic and Islamic books are then please read on….
  1. Arabic and Islamic books are very educational, allowing a person to delve deeper into their interest or religion to gain a better understanding and help them live their life according to their religious beliefs.
  2. They can be distributed out to different places to assist with education amongst groups of people too.  You will more than likely come across a range of Islamic and Arabic texts for people of all ages in the following places:  Research Organisations, Independent Scholar Libraries, Mosque Libraries, Large Academic Institutions, and Religious Seminaries.
  3. Arab literature has never been more energetic or varied than today – This means that you can select from the widest range of Islamic and Arabic texts that has been around in recent times with each piece detailing different eras and episodes of history.
  4. It promotes the engaging of people in both the Western and Arab worlds to ensure that we are together as one in life.
Arabic and Islamic texts are written by numerous authors, and there are more and more appearing now.  They each have their own insight into the world of Islam based on their experiences in life, and they are an interesting read because depending on the stage of life the author is at this decides on what you are getting.  For the older authors, you will more than likely come across readings that are reflecting on the era they were involved in and are now leaving to move into a new one.  You will receive a look back into the past to see what life has been like through the author’s eyes and storytelling skills.  For books that are authored by younger types, you will most likely be reading about their life so far with religion and look into the future to see what might be.
All in all, Islamic / Arabic books prove beneficial to a great deal of people, and have an audience all over the world, so if you want to expand your knowledge further, or if you want a change of scenery reading something new, then look no further.
If you’ve never been to an Islamic bookstore before, please do.  You will be welcomed with open arms and a calm, serene setting allowing you to relax and browse throughout the store with an open mind and nothing to worry about.
One place worth a visit should you be in or around London is the Arabic Books London Bookstore who can be found at 203 High Street, Harlesden, London, NW10 4TE or or on Amazon’s bookstore.  If you are nowhere near this location, look around your local area for other Arabic bookstores to meet your needs.
If you like to read about history, heritage, culture, and religion, or indeed any of those subjects mentioned, then where better to start than with an Islamic / Arabic text which is available for both kids and adults.

For more information on where to purchase these writings from, please visit the internet where you will find a variety of reputable Arabic and Islam book sellers and stores that are local to your area.  You will also find a variety of online shops on reputable sites including Amazon.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Recommended Read - The Rebel Trap by Lance Erlick

The Rebel Trap (Rebel, #2)The Rebel Trap by Lance Erlick
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What I loved about this book - I loved the strong female lead, and the cast of characters was interesting. There is a good pace to the novel, with a compelling storyline.
What I didn't love - Somehow I ended up reading this book without having read the first book in the series, which slowed me down a little! I received the book from the author but must not have checked to see if I needed to read another book before this one.

Overall, great read and I need to see about reading the first one eventually! ;)

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Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Flop - Life and Death: Twilight Reimagined by Stephenie Meyer

Life and Death: Twilight ReimaginedLife and Death: Twilight Reimagined by Stephenie Meyer
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

When I heard that Stephenie Meyer was releasing a gender-swapped Twilight book, I was curious and a little excited that maybe she fixed one of my biggest problems with her original series - namely, that Bella was a whiny little twit who goes against every feminist ideal. Don't get me wrong - I still devoured her series, they were the books I hated to love and loved to hate. But the idea that a 17 year old was ready to settle down with someone, who happened to be her very first boyfriend, and not just for life but for ETERNITY... well... it just made me sad.

Getting this "book" sucked, because it is only available if you repurchase the first book in the series but with the "bonus" flipbook. Thankfully the library had me covered, because it's lame to make someone repurchase one of your books in order to get your latest book.

Those issues aside, reading the book was kind of cringe-worthy, but still something that is an admirable undertaking for any author. Some of the characters were a little more interesting (like Dr. Cullen), but most still seemed a bit awkward as the other gender. And sadly, there were still many instances that my feminist side couldn't help but cringe - do you really have to play on sterotypes? I thought this story was to put to rest the idea that you weren't trying to be anti-feminist?

Overall - while I love the idea of taking a story and doing a gender swap to showcase that a good story can be a good story no matter if a character is female or male, this didn't really do it for me. I DID enjoy the new ending, though, even though it was a bit under-developed.

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Friday, November 6, 2015

Sorta Recommended Read - Forgotten by Linda Hervieux

Forgotten: The Untold Story of D-Day's Black Heroes, at Home and at WarForgotten: The Untold Story of D-Day's Black Heroes, at Home and at War by Linda Hervieux
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book is an in-depth look at the pervasive race discrimination in the American military during the World Wars, and provides the tales of some of the young black men involved in the D-Day attack. These men were extraordinarily resilient and brave heroes, and few received any of the honors that they were due. My only complaint is that there wasn't as much focus on the men as on the general racist climate, but overall this was still an original look at Barrage Balloon Battalions and their impact on D-Day.

I received an Advance Review Copy of this book.

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Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Recommended Read: I Could by E.B. Tatby

I Could: I Wish Series, Book 2I Could: I Wish Series, Book 2 by E B Tatby
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This second book of the series takes things up a notch - our heroine Kenza finds herself working with an enemy, with her camp dreams on the line. Mazin's back and causing trouble. Her relationship gets complicated. And did I mention superpowers?
Overall, this is a fantastic second book, with a much more cohesive storyline and character development that really works. There are still a few areas where it gets a little scattered, but it's still a fun and unique read in the YA genre.
I read a pre-release copy, so there might be a few tiny revisions and changes, but it was still great and I look forward to reading the rest of the books in the series when they become available!

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Monday, November 2, 2015

Sorta Recommended Read - I Wish... by E.B. Tatby

I WishI Wish by E.B. Tatby
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I ADORE supporting local authors, so when I stumbled upon this author at a local event in Omaha I couldn't resist trying out her books!
This first book of the series introduces us to Kenza and her Moroccan heritage mixed with Midwestern sensibility. The action starts immediately when we find out that Kenza is tied to a jinn from her family's past and she suddenly finds herself working against a great evil.
It took some work to get used to the spelling of "jinn" rather than "djinn" as I have usually seen, and the story did jump around quite a bit. It could have benefited from a bit more focus and several more chapters to really develop a more cohesive feel. However, the characters were fun and easy to visualize and there were some great original ideas that you don't always find in the YA genre. I enjoyed the mix of old myths with new technology, and of course liked the references to my home city though they were a teensy bit overdone.
Overall - a very solid read! And definitely one you should check out, because I received an advance copy of the second book and it is even better. ;)

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Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Recommended Read - All the Stars in the Heavens by Adriana Trigiani

All the Stars in the Heavens: A NovelAll the Stars in the Heavens: A Novel by Adriana Trigiani
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Admittedly, I'm not the biggest movie fan in the world, and I know even less about The Golden Age of cinema back in the 1920's-40's. But this book brought it all to life and I was transported to a time of stars such as Clark Gable and and Joan Crawford. This book flowed so beautifully that you couldn't really tell what was fact and what was fiction, but the underlying story is surprisingly true and shows that Hollywood then was just as full of affairs and rumors and intrigue as it is now. I was easily sucked in to the story and had a hard time putting this book down. Even if you aren't into golden oldies or don't know much about that time period, you will still find the characters interesting and the scenes poetically drawn. Highly recommend - probably my favorite book of 2015 so far!

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Saturday, October 3, 2015

Flop - Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

Of Mice and MenOf Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I am not sure why this is considered a classic, but it was one I never got around to reading in high school or college so I thought I'd give it a whirl now. It really wasn't my style - didn't like the writing, the characters seemed overly simplified, and it wasn't terribly interesting. Not the worst book I've ever read, but definitely not one of the best.

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Recommended Read - Crooked Heart by Lissa Evans

Crooked Heart: A NovelCrooked Heart: A Novel by Lissa Evans
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was a delightfully fresh perspective on a familiar subject! It's rare that you can find a World War II book that pulls off such a different kind of story and I really loved it. Follow a boy who is strange and his "war mom" who is even stranger as they attempt to make a living off the war. Great characters and a great story!

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Friday, September 25, 2015

Flop - You Don't Have to Live LIke This by Benjamin Markovits

You Don't Have to Live Like This: A NovelYou Don't Have to Live Like This: A Novel by Benjamin Markovits
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This novel examines a fictional life in Detroit following the economy crash in 2008, and a man who believes he can rebuild the city with a unique housing project. While the idea sounded great, trying to actually read the book didn't go so well. The characters were... well... they came off as whiny and entitled (and before you ask, I actually fall into the age range of a "Millenial" and don't believe that we are all whiny and entitled), the situations hopped around, and it just didn't draw me in. I kept hoping it would get better, but by halfway through I gave up. It just wasn't the right book for me.

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Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Recommended Read - Driving the King by Ravi Howard

Driving the KingDriving the King by Ravi Howard
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

We all know Nat King Cole, but the author portrays him in a new light with this glimpse into the Jim Crow south. Follow Nat and his friend Nat as they live with consequences, rewards, and everyday life in a world that just isn't fair. I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone looking for a good read!

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Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Recommended Read - The Bookseller by Cynthia Swanson

The BooksellerThe Bookseller by Cynthia Swanson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow what a page turner! Follow the main character as she tries to decide if she is Kitty Miller, bookseller and devoted friend to Frieda; or Katharyn Andersson, married to Lars. Or is she both? This book will definitely keep you engrossed - it was easily one of my favorite books this year!

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Sorta Recommended Read - A Reunion of Ghosts by Judith Claire Mitchell

A Reunion of GhostsA Reunion of Ghosts by Judith Claire Mitchell
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

While billed as hilarious, I would say this is actually a pretty dark read. Three sisters decide that there is a curse in their family that means that they have to commit suicide, so they make a pact to do it together. Of course, life gets in the way of the best laid plans sometimes.

The characters are interesting, though some of the references were a little hard to understand. I would still recommend checking it out!

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Sunday, August 9, 2015

Recommended Read - The Unraveling of Mercy Louis by Keija Parssinen

The Unraveling of Mercy Louis: A NovelThe Unraveling of Mercy Louis: A Novel by Keija Parssinen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Being a student is hard - being a student athlete even harder - but the hardest of all is growing up with only a hazy understanding of your parents and confusion over what to do with your life. Follow a small town athlete as she makes her way through her senior year in the midst of a horrifying crime, a blossoming of young love, and an insight into her parent's past that makes her question everything she's been raised to believe. This is a great book with a solid cast of characters.

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Flop - The Small Backs of Children by Lidia Yuknavitch

The Small Backs of ChildrenThe Small Backs of Children by Lidia Yuknavitch
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

While the overall premise of this book sounded promising, the actual verbiage used was tedious to read and did not draw me in. The jumping around between different character voices felt forced and disruptive, and it was hard for me to really come to an understanding of any of the characters. It just wasn't my style.

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Sunday, July 19, 2015

Recommended Read - This house is not for sale by E C Osondu

Recommended Read - Tunnel Vision by Susan Adrian

Tunnel VisionTunnel Vision by Susan Adrian
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A thrilling new contender in the young adult genre! Follow Jake, a seemingly typical teenage boy with a less than typical talent - he can find people by "tunneling" to them with his mind. When the truth comes out, Jake finds himself wanted by the government, and has to decide who is on his side. The characters are fun, some of the story is a little cheesy but overall this is a great read.

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Sorta Recommended Read - Diamond Head by Cecily Wong

Diamond Head: A NovelDiamond Head: A Novel by Cecily Wong
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A decently interesting book following the struggle of one family through the generations of adapting to a new country. The characters were well-thought, but the story didn't have anything to make it a really standout book that would make me rave. It was just a good, solid book.

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Saturday, June 27, 2015

Recommended Read - Where They Found Her by Kimberly McCreight

Where They Found HerWhere They Found Her by Kimberly McCreight
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

While it can be difficult to follow at times due to the rotating narratives between multiple points of view, this is true psychological thriller that keeps you guessing until the end! The gruesome discovery of an infant's dead body leads a new resident of a small town on a chase to find the truth about what happened. The version I read was an advanced reader copy, but this story definitely shines as an addition to your "To Read" list.

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Sunday, May 24, 2015

Recommended Read - Miss Jessie's: Creating a Successful Business From Scratch - Naturally by Miko Branch

Miss Jessie's Natural Millionaires: Our Story from the Kitchen Table to Stores EverywhereMiss Jessie's Natural Millionaires: Our Story from the Kitchen Table to Stores Everywhere by Miko Branch
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As an entrepreneur myself, I enjoy reading about others' forays into the world of business. Miko and Titi had an amazing story to tell! While the copy I received had not been fully edited yet, it still contained enough of the basic premise to make me want to recommend this book to many women out there who are entrepreneurs (or aspiring ones), as it is nice to know that you aren't alone and we all face difficulties on our paths. I enjoyed learning about their products and how they were able to make things work without the need to heavy amounts of financing or loans. Great read (and great way to promote their product, which I of course started considering for myself!).

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Recommended Read - The Jesus Cow by Michael Perry

The Jesus CowThe Jesus Cow by Michael Perry
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Part hilarious, part soul-searching, this book is all entertainment and definitely worth a read! When Harley Jackson's cow gives birth on Christmas Eve to a calf that has the unmistakable portrait of Jesus Christ himself on his side, he knows that this means trouble. What ensues afterward is a series of ups and downs not only for him but his entire town.

My only complaint is that the ending felt... abrupt and disappointing. But perhaps that's because I only had the Advance Reader Copy and not the finished product. Overall I'd still read it again!

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Recommended Read - Born Survivors by Wendy Holden

Born SurvivorsBorn Survivors by Wendy Holden
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Holocaust was a dreadful time in human history, and this novel follows three women who had remarkable journeys of survival through that time - not only did they survive, but each gave birth after hiding their pregnancies in the camps.
These stories are interwoven nicely, though it is a little hard to keep track of names in the beginning. All three women were so brave, and so lucky, and it was just a wonderful portrait of the good things that happened despite all of the bad.

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Sorta Recommended Read - Orient by Christopher Bollen

OrientOrient by Christopher Bollen
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

While touted as "gripping", I feel like this novel didn't quite hit it's pace until halfway through. But then it did really pick up and was a fantastic murder mystery, with an ending that I didn't see coming!

So my advice is even if you want to give up in the beginning, stick it out. It gets better, and you'll enjoy the twists and turns.

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Where has the time gone?

Omigosh, guys,

I'm so so sorry that it's been so long!! I have been busy, that's for sure - between working a full time day job and running my travel agency during the evenings and weekends, I've barely had time to really read, let alone update my blog!

But I promise you, I have still been reading, and even occasionally been updating my Goodreads account with reviews. And I will be posting them here when I am able.

And some day when I'm not having to work so much, I really will bring this back up to the caliber it was! :)

In the meantime, please enjoy these few scant reviews. Don't stop reading!