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From An-Other Land Spotlight

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From An-Other Land dives deep into immigration today for the diaspora and its many facets with characters who seek to define themselves in an intercultural setting that is less and less sure of itself.

About From An-Other Land

Never has been the conversation on immigration more pertinent than now, post 2016 US elections. From cancellation of refugee protection and zero tolerance to undercurrent crackdown on H visas to the border wall – the resurgence of nationalism is hitting the globalized population head-on.

But what is immigration today? A question of life or death – fleeing of persecution? A compulsion? Or a mere pursuance of privilege? And what is the US today? A land of opportunities? Or a quagmire impossible to comprehend, inherently racist and selfish?

From An-Other Land dives deep into immigration today for the diaspora and its many facets with characters who seek to define themselves in an intercultural setting that is less and less sure of itself. A reality check and a guide for anyone who wants to understand the modern-day US.

You can purchase a copy of this book on Amazon.

About the Author

Tanushree Ghosh works in Tech and has a Doctorate in Chemistry from the Cornell University. She is also a social activist and writer. Her blog posts, op-eds, poems, and stories are in effort to provoke thoughts, especially towards issues concerning women and social justice.

She is a contributor (past and present) to several popular e-zines (incl. The Huffington Post US, The Logical Indian, Youth Ki Awaaz, Tribune India, Women’s Web, and Cafe Dissensus). Her literary resume includes poems and stories featured in national and international magazines (Words Pauses and Noises, UK; TUCK, Glimmer Train Honorable mention) as well as inclusion in seven anthologies such as Defiant Dreams (Oprah 2016 reading list placeholder) and The Best Asian Short Stories 2017 (published out of Singapore by Kitaab). Her first single author book, From An-Other Land is on immigration.

She has held different leadership roles in non-profits (ASHA and AID India) and is the founder and director of Her Rights (www.herrights.website), a 501(3) c non-profit committed to furthering the cause of gender equality. She is often an invited speaker or panelist for both corporate and non-profit endeavors.

Connect with her on her website, Twitter and Facebook.

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#TakeFlight and Soar with the Mini Pop Kids!

Get ready for an incredible live singing and dancing performance from an outstanding group of young children, the Mini Pop Kids!

We were first introduced to the Mini Pop Kids when my eldest was quite a bit younger. They did an amazing job of covering popular songs and making them age appropriate yet still being enjoyable for adults and kids. They originally launched in the 1980s (yes you heard that right) and went on to sell millions of albums worldwide. They relaunched in 2004 and their popularity has continued to soar.

The Mini Pop Kids landed in Hamilton on February 23rd at FirstOntario Concert Hall and they set the place on fire with their energy, fantastic vocals and dance moves. The atmosphere was electric the moment you walked into the hall. Children were dressed up to match their favourite Mini Pop Kids and I have to admit some of those children were quite the little fashionistas! We took several photos in front of the signs marking our very first concert and made sure to pick up a light up microphone. Once we entered the hall roughly thirty minutes before the concert started, we were treated to recordings of the group that had us dancing and singing long before the show started.

Once the group made their entrance on stage, the audience went wild with excitement. Kids were singing, dancing and screaming. I was embarrassing my youngest with my off tune vocals! The group covered many of the current top hits as well as two of their own original songs, Take Flight and Get Loud. Their Get Loud song is a song that you may have heard before and is associated with the Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto (a place close to my own heart) and a portion of the proceeds from this song goes right back to the Hospital.

The show was engaging, the vocals were amazing – this group of kids are beyond talented. While the songs were from the top hits, parents will love how well they covered the songs that had a few words that may not have been age appropriate. They also had the words to each song running live on the main screen behind them to help encourage you to sing along, I have to admit I had been singing quite a few of these songs wrong for quite a while! It was so special and heart warming to watch the children dance in their seats, run up to the stage and how warm and responsive the Mini Pop Kids were in coming down to give the kids high fives.

Not only is the group vocally incredible but they are also very talented in dancing. Our son loved the way Kalan danced (he made me record several of his dance moves) and follow him on Instagram so that he could practice his moves. For an extra bit of local love, the group was joined on stage by a local dance group, which I found out later is something they do in each stop. What an special moment for those children and parents – watching them dance along side the group.

Make sure to check to see if the Mini Pop Kids are stopping at a location near you (they have stops until the end of April) here.

Don’t forget to give the Mini Pop Kids some love on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Disclosure: We received tickets to see the Mini Pop Kids live. All opinions expressed are my own.

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Out of the Darkness Book Review

Solving cases for ghosts comes with a unique set of circumstances in Out of the Darkness.

About Out of the Darkness

Gus wakes up in a dark void with no memory and no body. Screaming and cursing does him no good. He’s trapped, until he learns about one man who can help.

Joe Cavelli is a PI who hears ghosts, solves their murders, and sometimes fixes their personal problems. Now he finds himself pestered by an invisible, impatient, and brash amnesiac.

Solving cases for ghosts comes with a unique set of circumstances. This time, Joe can’t even claim to be investigating a murder, since Gus’s body is nowhere to be found. Together, Joe and Gus delve into Gus’s past, uncovering clues that lead to a startling conclusion.

My Thoughts

I wasn’t too sure what to expect when I first picked up this book but it blew me away. We have Joe, a PI, who works on the fringe of police work who has an interesting in with the victims and their families – he can speak with the murdered victims. Then we have Gus, a foul mouthed, angry at the world kind of guy/ghost who isn’t quite sure where he is and what has happened to him. He seems to have lost all of his memory, which is a first for Joe as he tries to solve Gus’ case.

The two, who are complete opposites in personalities, set off to solve a case that they aren’t even sure where to start. Gus appears to be stuck in a black void, with no recollection of his past, his name and what happened to him. He wants to help Joe but he struggles with many parts of his own history. Throughout the novel, we watch as he struggles with his own past, receives visits from other ghosts who try to guide him through his anger and hate.

While Joe struggles with this case at first, the breakthrough comes when he finds out Gus’ full name and that Gus is still listed as missing, which gives hope that maybe just maybe Gus isn’t dead but caught in limbo. The two set out to solve the case and unwrap a series of events that led to Gus’ downfall that will blow your mind.

This is a fantastic, fast paced read with a lot of moving parts. I was hooked into the story within the first ten pages and could not put it down. The last quarter of the book was not what I was expecting but was perfect for this story and ending. A definite must read novel!

You can purchase a copy of this book on Amazon.

Rating: 5/5

About the Author

Darcia Helle is a Massachusetts native, who escaped the New England winters to write in the Florida sunshine. She lives with her husband in a home full of spoiled rescue animals and an occasional stray lizard. She writes because the characters trespassing through her mind leave her no alternative. Connect with her on her website, Twitter and Facebook.

Book Excerpt

Joe put the few dishes in the dishwasher, made himself another cup of strong coffee, and said, “Okay, Gus. Let’s see if we can figure this out.”

He walked out of the kitchen, Gus’s voice trailing after him. “Where are we going?”

“My office.”

Joe stepped into the room that was the smaller of the two spare bedrooms. He crossed over to his desk, opened his laptop, and switched it on.

“This is your office?”

Joe sat in his padded leather chair. “My home office. I have another, professional place, with an assistant. No need to go there, though, particularly since she doesn’t know about—” He waved his hand in Gus’s general direction. “—you. This.”

“She doesn’t know you talk to ghosts, is what you’re saying?”

“Right.”

“Afraid she’d think you’re crazy?”

“No. It’s just not something I feel like sharing.”

“You banging her?”

“Jesus. No.”

“Huh. I thought all guys banged their secretaries.”

Joe heard the dry humor in Gus’s tone, though the statement still irritated him. “No, all guys don’t. And I said assistant, not secretary.”

“Same thing, isn’t it?”

“No. But it doesn’t matter anyway. I’m a one-woman man.”

Joe opened a browser page, then the Tampa Bay Times website. He typed ‘Angus Smith’ into the search bar and clicked the Enter key.

“What are you doing?”

Gus had a gruff way of asking a question that made it sound more like an accusation. One minute Joe felt bad for Gus, and the next he wanted to punch Gus in the face. If he could see Gus’s face. If Gus even had a face. Did ghosts have faces, or were they just invisible blobs of energy? Joe was too tired to deal with this.

“I’m trying to find out how you died,” Joe said.

“Why?”

“I don’t know, Gus. Because it’s a place to start? Figure out how you died and maybe I’ll figure out why you’re stuck in the dark? Unless you have a better idea?”

A huff, then, “No. I got nothing.”

Gus kept silent while Joe scrolled down and clicked a link. Gus’s photo stared back at him from the screen. Seeing the person for the first time was always an odd experience. He couldn’t help but form a picture of each ghost in his mind, based solely on the voice and the little he knew about who he or she had been. Sometimes he was way off. Other times, like now, he was pretty close.

“That’s a crapass picture of me,” Gus said.

Joe studied the grainy image accompanying the article. Buzzcut. Deep brown eyes. Tattoo snaking down the side of his neck, disappearing into his shirt. He seemed to be snarling at the camera. The article put him at 6’3”, 230 pounds, and Joe could see it was all muscle.

He didn’t address the quality of the photo, ignoring Gus while he read through the article. He double-checked the date on the article, then said, “You’re missing.”

“What d’you mean, I’m missing? I’m right here.”

“I mean, you were reported missing. Last Friday, so three days ago.”

“Missing? That makes no sense, since I’m dead.”

“No one appears to know you’re dead.”

“Huh.”

“Do you remember where you were when you died?”

“No.”

“Were you sick? In an accident? Traveling somewhere?”

“I don’t know!”

Joe leaned back and closed his eyes. He forced himself not to react to Gus’s abrupt tone. The guy had every reason to be upset, though this mess sure as hell wasn’t Joe’s fault.

“Who reported me missing?”

Joe opened his eyes and scanned the article.

“Cat Loring.”

Silence. Joe waited a moment before adding, “Says she’s your live-in girlfriend.”

“Yeah.”

“Do you remember the last time you saw her?” Joe felt a cool wall of air pressing around him.

“Are you leaning on me?”

“I’m trying to read the article.”

Joe suppressed a shudder—barely. “It doesn’t say much. You left the house at your usual time on Thursday morning. You’re not answering your cell phone, and no one has seen you since.”

“I don’t remember.”

“What’s the last thing you remember?”

Silence.

“Gus?”

“The very last thing? Hell, I don’t know. I might’ve been at a bar with some buddies. I might’ve been driving my truck. Or having sex. It’s all a jumble.”

“Did you and Cat fight the last time you saw her?”

I don’t know. I don’t think so. Maybe.”

“Could she have killed you?” Gus snorted a laugh.

“Cat? Kill me? That’s funny, Mr. Detective.”

“Yeah? Why is it so funny?”

“She just wouldn’t.” Joe rubbed at his burning eyes.

“Tell me about your relationship.”

“Why?”

“Maybe it’ll trigger a memory. Help me figure out where your body might be.”

“Well, shit.”

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Disclosure: I received a digital copy of this book in order to facilitate this review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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The Children’s Illustrated Bible

DK Canada

Written in conjunction with educators, scholars, and religious advisors, this retelling of favorite Old and New Testament stories retains the original feel and poetry of the Bible while appealing to contemporary young readers.

About The Children’s Illustrated Bible

Written in conjunction with educators, scholars, and religious advisors, this retelling of favorite Old and New Testament stories retains the original feel and poetry of the Bible while appealing to contemporary young readers. DK’sChildren’s Illustrated Bible features some of the best-known Bible tales, including, the Birth of Jesus, Jacob’s Ladder, Noah’s Ark, and the Resurrection, written especially for children in a clear, easy-to-understand tone. A “Who’s Who in the Bible Stories” section and quotations from the King James Bible, listed by chapter and verse, add even more value to this unique resource.

My Thoughts

A Bible is a truly special gift that you can give to someone important in your life. I have the Bible given to me at my Baptism in a keepsake box along with another Bible given to me at my Confirmation. It is an important part of my faith and learning about our faith.

For children, it is so important for them to understand and relate to their faith in a way that makes sense to them while still staying true to the original stories. They need to be able to see pictures and have the stories told to them in a manner that they understand.

The Children’s Illustrated Bible does this perfectly. It is hardcover and roughly letter sized. There is around 310 pages of stories, pictures and facts that help to bring the stories to life. It contains many of the most loved stories from the Old and New Testament, including Noah’s Ark, The Sacrifice of Isaac, The Prophet Isaiah, The Birth of Jesus, John Baptizes Jesus and so many more.

The stories are beautifully told with illustrations that are respectful and appropriate for the content. It is easy to read out loud if you are reading to a young child as well as being easy for an older child to read on their own.

As we head into the season where many children will be receiving their First Communion, this is definitely a book to keep in mind to gift them. It is definitely a special keepsake, that they will be able to cherish for years as they learn more about their faith and the community that they belong to.

You can purchase a copy of this Bible on Amazon and Indigo.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in order to facilitate this review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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DK Eyewitness Books: Bible Lands

DK Canada

Take a journey through the Holy Land – learning its history, geography and people.

About Bible Lands

From the early ancestors of the middle stone ages to the Greeks and Romans in 40 BCE, countless civilizations and people have lived in the eastern Mediterranean area known as the Bible Lands. Discover the story of the Holy Lands and the people who lived there before the time of Christ in DK Eyewitness Books: Bible Lands.

Learn what kind of jewelry and pottery the Canaanites traded with Egypt and see armor from ancient Assyria. Explore the different gods and goddesses each civilization worshiped, how the people of the Bible Lands defended their cities, and more.

My Thoughts

I am a huge history buff – I can spend hours reading books, watching documentaries and in museums. I love learning about the past, the culture, the beliefs and the people themselves. I could not wait to learn more about the Holy Land which is a land rich in history and mystery for me.

This beautiful hard cover book is a history lover’s dream with page after page of bold images and insights into the Holy Land. We learn about the people that lived during this time period and what they wore, what they ate, what they created and so much more. It contains a fantastic blend of photos, information and points of interest.

The book starts off describing the lands of the Bible, with a large two page map that really helps give a better understanding of the lands, rivers and areas they will be discussing in relation to each other. We then immediately jump into early ancestors and the patriarchs, learning about the times they lived in, the items they used and some of their cultural beliefs. We then jump into Middle Bronze Age in Egypt and the Philistines and Canaanites. We are re-exposed to stories we may be familiar with (the parting of the Red Sea in the Hebrew Exodus) and learn new facts and aspects of daily life. I loved learning about the artifacts from pots to dippers to jewellery to plaques, the book covered a lot of different angles of every day life. As we continue on in the book we dive into the Israelites, the Phoenicians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persons, Greeks, Romans and King Herod! While some were familiar to me, learning about the Assyrians was new and I enjoyed learning about that kingdom and their culture.

This is a great book for children, young adults and parents to read with their children as they learn more about the civilizations that lived during these time periods in the Holy Land. While we learn so much at a young age, we never learn enough about the culture and the day to day lives of these people, so learning about what they ate, what they wore, who they worshipped is an important part of our faith and understanding. A great read from start to finish!

You can purchase a copy of this book on Amazon and Indigo.

Rating: 5/5

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in order to facilitate this review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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