“Siding with Plato” by Michelle Manning

Siding with Plato: A Romantic Comedy Chick Lit about College Life, Love, and Chaos“Siding with Plato” is a funny novel about freshmen adventures of Brooke and her three new friends Darci, Stella and Kate in their first year at the University of Texas, Austin. They go out and party, do a lot of stupid things, get into different kinds of trouble and still manage to have fun and find love.

As someone who never had the American college experience, I found it really interesting, especially the way the author manages to talk about some serious issues of the culture. You have a bunch of young people who leave their parent’s homes for the first time and things happen, like binge drinking, random hookups, having guys keeping tally over sex and girls fighting other girls over dumb things. None of us are strangers to this kind of behaviour and it’s important to recognize that it’s not exactly a healthy behaviour. Michelle Manning manages to do it in a fun and engaging way and I thought that was pretty cool.

James was a bit of a too perfect character and I felt myself completely swooning over him, but that’s what we’re all looking for in a good book boyfriend, isn’t it? A perfect gentleman.

So if you’re looking for a good chick-lit that will definitely make you laugh, look no further. “Siding with Plato” will remind you of your college days or give you a bit of an insight into what it might be if you haven’t enrolled yet. I’ll be patiently waiting for a sequel that seriously needs to come.

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“The Long Body That Connects Us All”

The Long Body That Connects Us AllThe long body that connects us all” is a poetry collection composed of fifty-three poems and divided into three parts. It’s written by Rich Marcello who is an accomplished musician and songwriter, a creative writing teacher, a poet and an artist to his core. He already had three books published, two romance novels and a novel about grief and loss.

The poems found in this collection are often encompassed by the same theme of love and the human experience of what it means to be a man. There is something really special about poems and that is the way they manage to convey us so many emotions and images in so little words and poetry of Rich Marcello is no exception. He manages to provide us with a guide to life and a more emotional experience of manhood.

The first poem in the collection is a great start. “A Piece of Bark,” tells us how the author is heartbroken and that he harbours some guilt to what he had done to his former lover, but he knows that like the tree in the poem, he will heal too. Another poem which I really liked is “Thanksgiving”, which speaks of the family tradition and how the author connects with his father and recognizes that they are both uncertain how to treat each other.

The poet is direct and genuine and he uses metaphors to accompany the sentiments he is expressing. Enjoyment of these poems might be based on whether or not the readers have similar experiences though. But the poems are deeply confessional in nature and they are quite universal.

Poetry today, at least in its classical form, is somewhat a dying art. Although it isn’t my prefered form of literature, I quite enjoyed this collection. The author definitely made his mark on the medium and has developed his own style. I can’t wait to see what else he will produce in his future and I‘m sure many people would find his art enjoyable.

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“The Backseat” by Claire Rye

The BackseatAs American as apple pie, “The Backseat” is a collection of short stories written by an Australian writer Claire Rye. The stories follow lives of a couple of dozen people who are all connected to the 1959 Gothic Gold Chevrolet Impala is some way or another. They describe the little people who lived all around the US (and a couple of Aussies as well). They are a sweet reminder of the simpler times of the mid to late twentieth century, with a high focus on family values.

It all starts with one man who has been a worker for the General Motors for over forty years and his last day before retirement. He assembles his last car, a Gothic Gold Chevy, in which backseat people would give birth, lose their virginity, conceive a child, become a runaway bride, drive all the way to LA to find their fortune, try to reconnect with a father that passed away and so many other things. The car is a witness to life and all its little curiosities and circumstances.

The way the author writes almost resembles taking a quick photograph. The language is clear and simple, but it still manages to bring an emotional response. Also, the fact that she is Australian who managed to portray these snapshots of American culture so effortlessly tells so much about her competency as a writer. Not many people can depict a culture they haven’t grown up in truthfully enough.

There’s something pretty neat in the way all the stories are connected to one another. It really makes you question every little coincidence we all encounter in everyday life and makes you wonder just how many people are connected to us, without us ever meeting them. It certainly puts a smile on my face for some reason.

If you’re looking for a few short stories that will relax you after a long day and put a smile on your face, this is definitely something you should check out.

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“Men at Arms” by Terry Pratchett

Men at Arms (Discworld, #15; City Watch #2)Back in my early teens I rather enjoyed the Discworld series. I thought the books were kind of funny. It was a nice introduction to the genre of epic fantasy. But now, almost a decade later, I am completely convinced that Terry Pratchett was a complete genius and I can’t bloody believe that these books were put in the children’s section of my local library. Well to be fair, back then most of the jokes went over my head anyway.

What’s awfully depressing once you really think about it is the fact that I will never write as good as Terry (we’re basically on the first name basis at this point). At the first look, it seems like these novels are just a bunch of dirty jokes and you’d be completely right, but they are a bunch of intelligently scattered dirty jokes that are mostly hinted at, in the proper way of British humour.

It was especially interesting how the author talks about racism through this book. You’ve got trolls, dwarfs, the undead and humans living in the same city, all having some prejudice against the other. But once they get into the Night Watch, they stop being trolls, dwarfs, the undead and humans and just become the Guards. And that’s pretty neat. Especially the unlikely friendship of Cuddy the dwarf and Detritus the troll.

One of the best decisions I’ve made this year is to get my hands on all of the audiobooks. I’m going to try to listen to them all. I’m doing quite well at the moment. I’m even reading this in the awesome voice of Nigel Planer who really managed to make the characters quite real in my head. I swear I could almost see them all, Carrot walking around the city, Captain Vimes lighting his cigars and Cut-Me-Own-Throat Dibbler selling his sausages in the bun. It definitely makes the time I spend commuting just flash through. I end up bursting into laughter randomly and people look at me funny.

One of the things that really impressed me about Terry’s writing was the obvious, but not overbearing character growth through the series. For instance, Carrot was so much simpler when he arrived at the city in Guards! Guards!, but now his royal blood is starting to shine through.

Anyway, I’m moving on to the Feet of clay. I really can’t get enough of the Night Watch.

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“African American Women With Incarcerated Mates” by Avon Hart-Johnson

African American Women with Incarcerated Mates: The Psychological and Social Impacts of Mass ImprisonmentIn the United States, one in fifteen African American men is incarcerated. The same ethnicity makes 40% of the total prison population, making it a high-risk ethnicity. In her book, Hart-Johnson provides a lengthy insight into lives of African American women who share the experience of having their partners incarcerated. Using interviews with 20 different women who shared their lives stories, the author describes all the consequences of that these women felt.

Incarceration really causes a lot of suffering to all the involved parties. Families often lose their breadwinners, children grow up without fathers and women lose emotional support that their partners provide. And not to mention what kind of monetary strain the families experience in just court-related fines and fees. There is also the sense of shame that comes with the involvement with imprisoned men, but also so much grief since they are removed from their families’ lives. They know that their husbands, sons and brothers are alive but they can’t share simple life moments with them.

What is unfortunate is that these men are often victims of the system which is almost rigged to make them fail. A combination of socio-economic issues like dysfunctional families, lack of proper education and living in a low-income household makes these men turn to crime. It often starts a new cycle in which the next generation has to deal with the similar circumstances.

“African American Women with Incarcerated Mates: The Psychological and Social Impacts of Mass Imprisonment” is a great guide for counselors that come from different backgrounds than the women they would like to help. After every chapter, there is a list of questions to think about and they definitely help to understand the matter better.

As someone who comes from a completely different cultural background than the subjects in question, I found this book extremely insightful. The US has the largest incarceration rate in the world and the fact alone should call for a reform of cultural and political norms that would provide a solution to this problem.

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“operationFRUIT” by [REDACTED]

 

“operationFRUIT” is a peculiar debut (or at least, I assume so) novel that explores the human nature and the parts of the human psyche that are disturbing and haunting. It begins with Dave, a mechanical engineering student and a pothead, who is a quite an intelligent young man but has a very cynical and depressing view of life. As the story progresses, he takes you along a path which shows you all the dangers of human trafficking and drug abuse.

The writing style which the author uses is a little rough around its edges but it still manages to communicate the way he sees the world, in one of its most terribly disturbing editions of itself.

The main character’s inner voice carries a unique heaviness. His relationship with Eve, his ex-girlfriend/flame/ fuck buddy accurately reflect the state of romantic relationships in the contemporary society, especially among college-aged kids.

What I particularly enjoyed about this curious novel is its raw nature. It spoke to me on an almost primal level. Although, it still needed some cleaning up to do and I would’ve appreciated more descriptions that eased me into the story rather than just straight on dumping me in it. But then again, “operationFRUIT” isn’t really something I usually read, but it was still worth my while.

“Eternal Victim” by Dexter Morgenstern

Eternal VictimIn this paranormal novella, we follow the unnamed Witness who travels back in time and testifies to a series of bloody murders which are somehow connected. It’s up to her to find the thread that connects them to each other and to her

Guaranteed to make your skin crawl, “Eternal Victim” is a well-written story. The author uses language as a simple and efficient tool to make the blood in your veins go cold. For some reason, his style and the plot reminded me of countless room escape games I played in the mid to late 2000s. Add some creepy music and I’m 11 years old again.

Mr Morgenstern (whose last name I simply adore – meaning the Morning Star) has written a very uncommon book. His approach to horror and suspense isn’t something you see often these days and the story is quite carefully crafted.

The character that I really liked was the Whistler. He’s terrifying and he kills so easily, almost effortlessly. Everything about his sinister and evil. He has a bit of a noir quality of him and reminds me of a murderer in this one old German film from 1931, called “M – A city searches for a murderer” where the bad guy whistles a particular song as if to warn the audience that he’s going to strike soon.

If you want something to make you scared of the dark and give you a serious case of goosebumps then “Eternal Victim” is a novella worth checking out.

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“Best Friends” by Ronald and Juanita Destra

Best FriendsBest Friends by Ronald Destra

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“Best Friends” is a children’s picture book that tells us a story about two boys who were together in the hospital for many years and they shared a room there too. They soon became best friends. They share more than just the hospital but also many memories.

There’s nothing much to say about this picture book, other than it has a really sweet story and a message about how even children who are robbed of a normal childhood by being born with serious birth defects can have a meaningful friendship, even more so.

This short children’s book provides a great reading experience for both the child and the parent. The illustrations are soft and sweet and they really help to make the story more vivid.
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