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Book Review: Strange Contagion by Lee Daniel Kravetz

Happy Independence Day! I hope you’re going out to see fireworks later. 

How do social behaviors become viral? I found Strange Contagion by Lee Daniel Kravetz to be a fascinating work exploring how it is that emotions can be passed from one individual to another. Have you ever noticed that if you’re around someone who is stressed out or who is complaining suddenly you begin to feel stressed out and you begin to complain and feel dissatisfied with the current state of affairs? I know that I have. Kravetz searches for the reasons that behaviors and emotions can be passed from one individual to another in a way that makes this book a page-turner. I find the idea of a social contagion to be absolutely fascinating (and true to my own experience), and I was unable to put this one down. 

About Strange Contagion

• Hardcover: 288 pages
• Publisher: Harper Wave (June 27, 2017)

Picking up where The Tipping Point leaves off, respected journalist Lee Daniel Kravetz’s Strange Contagion is a provocative look at both the science and lived experience of social contagion.

In 2009, tragedy struck the town of Palo Alto: A student from the local high school had died by suicide by stepping in front of an oncoming train. Grief-stricken, the community mourned what they thought was an isolated loss. Until, a few weeks later, it happened again. And again. And again. In six months, the high school lost five students to suicide at those train tracks.

A recent transplant to the community and a new father himself, Lee Daniel Kravetz’s experience as a science journalist kicked in: what was causing this tragedy? More important, how was it possible that a suicide cluster could develop in a community of concerned, aware, hyper-vigilant adults?

The answer? Social contagion. We all know that ideas, emotions, and actions are communicable—from mirroring someone’s posture to mimicking their speech patterns, we are all driven by unconscious motivations triggered by our environment. But when just the right physiological, psychological, and social factors come together, we get what Kravetz calls a “strange contagion:” a perfect storm of highly common social viruses that, combined, form a highly volatile condition.

Strange Contagion is simultaneously a moving account of one community’s tragedy and a rigorous investigation of social phenomenon, as Kravetz draws on research and insights from experts worldwide to unlock the mystery of how ideas spread, why they take hold, and offer thoughts on our responsibility to one another as citizens of a globally and perpetually connected world.

Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

About Lee Daniel Kravetz

Lee Daniel Kravetz has a master’s degree in counseling psychology and is a graduate of the University of Missouri–Columbia School of Journalism. He has written for Psychology Today, the Huffington Post, and the New York Times, among other publications. He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife and children.

Find out more about Lee at his website, and connect with him on Facebook and Twitter.

Book Review: The Art of Fear by Kristen Ulmer

Fear can be a powerful thing. It can bring us to our knees, freeze us in our tracks, and paralyze us. It can warn us of danger – either real or imagined. Fear can also motivate us and drive us, then sabotage us right before we’re about to receive what we’ve been striving for. Fear can also be moved past and turned into a positive factor in our lives. This is what Kristen Ulmer discusses in her book, The Art of Fear

It is so important to keep fear from biting us in the back when we’re trying to do great things. For many, the fear of failure keeps them from acting on their dreams, for others, the fear of success can be a powerful demotivator. Ulmer implores us to reshape the way we think of fear – to shift our thinking from fear being a weakness to the idea that fear is, instead a natural emotion, a “curiosity.” If you’ve been struggling with fear, this book can help you to reshape the way you think about its role in your life. 

About The Art of Fear

• Hardcover: 320 pages
• Publisher: Harper Wave (June 13, 2017)

A revolutionary guide to acknowledging fear and developing the tools we need to build a healthy relationship with this confusing emotionand use it as a positive force in our lives.

We all feel fear. Yet we are often taught to ignore it, overcome it, push past it. But to what benefit?  This is the essential question that guides Kristen Ulmer’s remarkable exploration of our most misunderstood emotion in The Art of Fear.

Once recognized as the best extreme skier in the world (an honor she held for twelve years), Ulmer knows fear well. In this conversation-changing book, she argues that fear is not here to cause us problems—and that in fact, the only true issue we face with fear is our misguided reaction to it (not the fear itself).

Rebuilding our understanding of fear from the ground up, Ulmer starts by exploring why we’ve come to view it as a negative. From here, she unpacks fear and shows it to be just one of 10,000 voices that make up our reality, here to help us come alive alongside joy, love, and gratitude. Introducing a mindfulness tool called “Shift,” Ulmer teaches readers how to experience fear in a simpler, more authentic way, transforming our relationship with this emotion from that of a draining battle into one that’s in line with our true nature.

Influenced by Ulmer’s own complicated relationship with fear and her over 15 years as a mindset facilitator, The Art of Fear will reconstruct the way we react to and experience fear—empowering us to easily and permanently address the underlying cause of our fear-based problems, and setting us on course to live a happier, more expansive future.

Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Photo by Meaghan M. Golden

About Kristen Ulmer

Kristen Ulmer is a facilitator who draws from her tenure as the best woman extreme skier in the world for twelve years and from thousands of hours facilitating clients on the subject of fear. Her work has been featured on NPR and in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, USA Today, Outside magazine, and many other publications. She lives in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Find out more about Kristen at her website, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram.

Book Review: It Happens in the Hamptons by Holly Peterson

Who doesn’t love a cheesy Lifetime movie? I’m a huge fan of them myself, and sometimes I give into the guilty pleasure of following along some whacked-out tale that gives me the warm fuzzies at the end. That’s kind of how It Happens in the Hamptons by Holly Peterson is. This novel is pure guilty-pleasure reading. It’s a very quick read, perfect for sitting with by the pool this summer.  Have fun with a romp in the Hamptons, living large alongside Katie Doyle. 

About It Happens in the Hamptons

• Paperback: 384 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (May 9, 2017)

In the Hamptons, everyday people are as complicated and fascinating as millionaires…

When Katie Doyle moves across the country to the Hamptons, she is hoping to find summer employment, new friends for her young son, and a chance to explore a new love affair with George, a dazzling investor. What she finds is a strange cocktail of classes, where society’s one-percenters vacation alongside local, hardworking people who’ve lived in the Hamptons for generations. Though she’s looking forward to her move, Katie is wary about mingling in her boyfriend’s East Coast elite circles. She soon discovers Southampton isn’t all that it seems to be on the surface—and neither are the people who live there.

As George takes Katie on a whirlwind tour of country clubs, haute couture, and lavish events, Katie is amazed to witness sudden whims becoming dire needs, extramarital affairs blossoming right and left, and people purchasing friends and loyalties like a pair of shoes. Even the middle-class townspeople maintain determined façades while maneuvering like sharks among the wealthy summer invaders.

The more Katie becomes immersed, the more she learns the stories of both the upstairs and downstairs, the upper crust and middle of the road. The combustion between classes becomes explosive as the summer tears on. Betrayals, a sexual predator, and a missing person lost in murky waves drive the reader on a racing Learjet through impossible twists and turns before landing at the shocking conclusion. When Katie meets Luke, a marine biologist and teacher, he makes her what it is she really wants as she understands the life she’s begun for herself is built on shifting Hamptons’ dunes.

Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Photo by Eric Strifler Photography

About Holly Peterson

Holly Peterson is the author the May 2017 social satire fiction release, It Happens in the Hamptons. In 2016, she curated an outdoor cooking book, Assouline’s Smoke and Fire: Recipes and Menus for Outdoor Entertaining. In 2014, she published The Idea of Him and of the New York Times bestseller The Manny in 2007.  She was a Contributing Editor for Newsweek, an Editor-at-Large for Talk magazine and an Emmy Award-winning Producer for ABC News, where she spent more than a decade covering everthing from trials of the century to global politics. Her writing has been published in the New York Times, Newsweek, Town and Country, The Daily Beast, Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Elle Decor, Departures and numerous other publications.

Find out more about Holly at her website, connect with her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

Review of How to Be Everything by Emilie Wapnick

I don’t know about you, but I have a lot of different interests. In fact, while I’ve always known I’ve wanted to be a writer, it hasn’t been easy eliminating other potential career paths. I also LOVE architecture. In another lifetime, I’d totally be an architect. Maybe I’ll go back to school and get an MFA in fiction writing…oh wait, maybe I’ll go and do a MPA and work for the city. I already have an MA in philosophy and most of a Ph.D. in the same discipline, but for a while, I toyed with the idea of getting an MFA in creative writing and social justice then getting a joint Ph.D./JD in social justice law and political theory. Yup.  I can be a bit of a hot mess when it comes to deciding what I want to be – AND I’M GROWN UP…sort of…kind of…maybe.

So when I had the opportunity to review Emilie Wapnick’s How to Be Everything, I was really excited. Maybe now I could figure out how to do all the things I’ve always wanted to do within a lifetime. I love her concept of a multipotentialite, what I need now is a strategy for making that work in my favor. The chapter on productivity was especially helpful. Since I have so many projects all the time, keeping track of them and making sure I progress on the projects waiting in the wings can be a bit daunting. 

If you’re looking for a way to make it all work, this is a handy book to have on hand. What would you do if you could figure out how to be everything? 

About How to Be Everything

• Hardcover: 240 pages
• Publisher: HarperOne (May 2, 2017)

What do you want to be when you grow up? It’s a familiar question we’re all asked as kids. While seemingly harmless, the question has unintended consequences. It can make you feel like you need to choose one job, one passion, one thing to be about. Guess what? You don’t.

Having a lot of different interests, projects and curiosities doesn’t make you a “jack-of-all-trades, master of none.” Your endless curiosity doesn’t mean you are broken or flaky. What you are is a multipotentialite: someone with many interests and creative pursuits. And that is actually your biggest strength.

How to Be Everything helps you channel your diverse passions and skills to work for you. Based on her popular TED talk, “Why some of us don’t have one true calling”, Emilie Wapnick flips the script on conventional career advice. Instead of suggesting that you specialize, choose a niche or accumulate 10,000 hours of practice in a single area, Wapnick provides a practical framework for building a sustainable life around ALL of your passions.
You’ll discover:
•  Why your multipotentiality is your biggest strength, especially in today’s uncertain job market.
•  How to make a living and structure your work if you have many skills and interests.
•  How to focus on multiple projects and make progress on all of them.
•  How to handle common insecurities such as the fear of not being the best, the guilt associated with losing interest in something you used to love and the challenge of explaining “what you do” to others.

Not fitting neatly into a box can be a beautiful thing. How to Be Everything teaches you how to design a life, at any age and stage of your career, that allows you to be fully you, and find the kind of work you’ll love.

Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

About Emilie Wapnick

Emilie Wapnick is a speaker, career coach, blogger, and community leader. She is the founder and creative director at Puttylike.com, where she helps multipotentialites integrate all of their interests to create dynamic, fulfilling, and fruitful careers and lives. Unable to settle on a single path, Emilie studied music, art, film production, and law, graduating from the Law Faculty at McGill University in 2011. Emilie is a TED speaker and has been featured in Fast Company, Forbes, The Financial Times, The Huffington Post, and Lifehacker. Her TED talk, “Why Some of Us Don’t Have One True Calling,” has been viewed over 3.5 million times, and has been translated into 36 languages. She has been hired as a guest speaker and workshop facilitator at universities, high schools, and organizations across the United States and internationally.

Find out more about Emilie at her website, and connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Book Review: Extreme You

When you want to be successful, it’s important to find mentors and those you can learn from. Sarah Robb O’Hagan is one such person. She worked hard to get where she is, and she wants to help others climb the ladder of success. She talks about taking chances, letting go of pride, and proper planning. The great thing about her book, Extreme You is that she writes as though she’s talking to you over coffee or cocktails. This separates Extreme You from other books in this genre.  

The other thing I appreciate about Extreme You is that O’Hagan isn’t just some woman with a high-earning career. She’s also a mom, she’s someone who failed before she climbed the ladder, she’s a friend. It can be easy to dismiss women who are successful when you are a mother because you can say “but I can’t do that while I have young children” or “women can’t have it all.” Here’s someone who appears to have it all – at least from what I’ve read in the book and in the backstory. 

I recommend this to anyone who wants to get ahead and who is willing to put in the work necessary to be successful. 

About Extreme You

• Hardcover: 320 pages
• Publisher: HarperBusiness (April 4, 2017)

“Every once in a while, you need someone standing by your shoulder, inspiring you, cheering you on, pushing you to go further. Sarah might be just the coach you’re looking for.”—Seth Godin, author of Linchpin

As a child, Sarah Robb O’Hagan dreamed she could be a champion. Her early efforts failed to reveal a natural superstar, but she refused to settle for average. Through dramatic successes and epic fails, she studied how extraordinary people in sports, entertainment and business set and achieve extremely personal goals. Sarah became an executive at Virgin Atlantic and Nike, and despite being fired twice in her twenties, she went on to become the global president of Gatorade and of Equinox—as well as a wife, mother, and endurance athlete.

In every challenging situation, personal or professional, individuals face the pressure to play it safe and conform to the accepted norms. But doing so comes with heavy costs: passions stifled, talents ignored, and opportunities squelched. The bolder choice is to embrace what Sarah calls Extreme You: to confidently bring all that is distinctive and relevant about yourself to everything you do.

Inspiring, surprising, and practical, Extreme You is her training program for becoming the best version of yourself.

Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

About Sarah Robb O’Hagan

Sarah Robb O’Hagan is an executive, activist, and entrepreneur, and the founder of Extreme You, a movement to unleash high performance. As the global president of Gatorade, she led its reinvention and turnaround, and she is the former president of Equinox Fitness Clubs. Named one of Forbes’s “Most Powerful Women in Sports” and one of Fast Company’s “Most Creative People in Business,” she has also held leadership positions at Nike and Virgin Atlantic Airways.  She is now the CEO of the fitness company Flywheel Sports. A sought-after expert on innovation, brand reinvention, health, fitness, and inspiring human performance, Sarah lives with her family in New York.

Follow Sarah on Twitter, and check out the website for Extreme You.

TLC Tours Book Review: Forever Painless by Miranda Esmonde-White

I have been dealing with nasty chronic pain for almost 5 years now. I took an antibiotic, Cipro, that wreaked havoc on my entire body. Some days, just standing up is a chore. Other days, I feel fine. When I was offered the opportunity to review the book Forever Painless by Miranda Esmonde-White, I jumped at the chance, hoping that I might garner some new knowledge about things I can do to combat the pain in my life. 

The premise of Esmonde-White’s book is that we need to move more to combat pain using the Essentrics method. This method involves stretching and muscle conditioning. She wants doctors to pay more attention to the role chronic pain plays in health and wellness, and she wants it to become a routine part of our checkups – and one that doesn’t immediately and automatically resort to medication when it crops up. I can definitely jump aboard that ship. Prior to getting pregnant again, I was relying on the smallest dose of Motrin possible to get through the day relatively pain-free. That’s a dependency I’d rather not have. I cannot take stronger medications since I tend to be allergic to everything. 

Through the early chapters of the book, Esmonde-White talks about the root causes of chronic pain as well as the body’s built-in mechanisms for healing pain. She then talks about how a sedentary lifestyle can lead to chronic pain. Many of our modern jobs are built on sitting. She writes:

When we wake up in the morning, we usually feel a little stiff from a long night of immobility. The less we move upon waking, the stiffer we feel–but after some stretching, the stiffness can go away. 

Magnify that just-out-of-bed stiffness many times over, and you may better understand the sort of stiffness that many people chalk up to the aging process. Most people respond to this discomfort by moving less. But the less we move, the more our connective tissue solidifies, creating a chain reaction and exacerbating the problem. Remember: Pain is a message from the brain telling us that there is something dangerous happening to our body. The message of stiffness is a precursor to the pain message. (p.27)

This theory does make sense, as many times when I feel pain it is after having spent a day resting – because I felt pain! My back pain is the worst if I sleep in.  I feel like I can barely move. I also have a lot of hip pain following my last pregnancy that manifests most after I sit for a while.  

Once you’ve read through the introductory chapters, Esmonde-White introduces her readers to the exercises one can do to help combat pain. She organizes this section by area where one is having pain. This is really helpful for those who want to stick to her promise of helping you to “reclaim your life in 30 minutes a day.” You can follow her structure and focus on the areas that need to be focused on.

Overall, I’m hoping that following the guidelines in this book will help me to get on a path to being consistently pain-free. I recommend it for anyone who is looking for ways to fight back against chronic pain in low-impact ways without resorting to medications. 

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About Forever Painless

• Hardcover: 320 pages
• Publisher: Harper Wave (November 15, 2016)

End chronic pain—for good—with this practical guide from the PBS personality behind Classical Stretch and author of the New York Times bestseller Aging Backwards.

Chronic pain is the most common cause of long-term disability in the United States. Twenty percent of American adults accept back spasms, throbbing joints, arthritis aches, and other physical pain as an inevitable consequence of aging, illness, or injury. But the human body is not meant to endure chronic pain. Miranda Esmonde-White has spent decades helping professional athletes, ballet dancers, and Olympians overcome potentially career-ending injuries and guiding MS patients and cancer survivors toward pain-free mobility. Now, in Forever Painless, she shows everyone how to heal their aching bodies and live pain free.

The root of nearly all pain is movement—or lack thereof. We need to move our bodies to refresh, nourish, and revitalize our cells. Without physical activity, our cells become stagnant and decay, accelerating the aging process and causing pain. People who suffer chronic pain often become sedentary, afraid that movement and activity will make things worse, when just the opposite is true: movement is essential to healing. In Forever Painless, Miranda provides detailed instructions for gentle exercise designed to ease discomfort in the feet and ankles, knees, hips, back, and neck—allowing anyone to live happier, healthier, and pain-free no matter their age.

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Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

About Miranda Esmonde-White

Miranda Esmonde-White is one of America’s greatest advocates and educators on healthy aging. She is best known for her PBS fitness show Classical Stretch, which has been on the air since 1999. A former ballerina, she designed the Essentrics technique, which uses low-intensity strength and stretch exercises to relieve pain, prevent injury, and slenderize the body. Esmonde-White works with professional and Olympic athletes and celebrities, and teaches classes to thousands of students worldwide each year.

Follow Esmonde-White on Facebook.

Book Review: Carry On

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Sometimes, you want to read a book that knocks you on your feet with the story it tells. When I agreed to review Carry On, I was excited because the story sounded so good. I’ve always been a big fan of books and films that let you get to know someone – either fiction or biography – to the point where you feel that you know that person. Lisa Finn’s Carry On is one of those books. 

The only constant was the black canvas duffel bag Dartanyon carried with him, large enough to fit a child. Having worked as a detention officer in the juvenile justice system, McKinney knew what that bag meant. ‘Nobody needs to carry a bag that big unless they are carrying everything they own, to a destination unknown,’ McKinney said. Dartanyon was transient.

Kerry McKinney was a wrestling coach who wound up in one of Ohio’s most impoverished schools. When he came into the gymnasium, he learned that most of the kids were barefoot and that the team only had two pairs of shoes for seven kids. He recruited Dartanyon to be on the wrestling team due to his size, and noted his skill for learning the wrestling moves. He moved smoothly…and then…McKinney learned Dartanyon was blind.  

From the first pages, Carry On draws you in. From Torry Robinson taking over the team and meeting Leroy Sutton, a “Lower-extremity double amputee” to the piecing together of a family born of love rather than blood, this book is beautiful in its storytelling as well as the story itself. Fenn does a majestic job of showing these two phenomenal athletes and telling their stories. 

strongly recommend this book. It’s possibly the best I’ve read thus far this year.

 

Carry On coverAbout Carry On

• Hardcover: 320 pages
• Publisher: Harper Wave (August 16, 2016)

In the spirit of The Blind Side comes a deeply moving memoir about the unexpected bonds that would transform three lives.

Lisa Fenn produced human-interest features for ESPN for over a decade, but one particular story came into her life and never left. After seeing a newspaper image of two young wrestlers from one of Cleveland’s tougher public high schools, Lisa followed a hunch and flew back to her hometown to meet the boys that very day. What she found caused her spirit both to sink and to soar.

Leroy Sutton, who lost his legs in a childhood train accident, could often be found riding on the back of Dartanyon Crockett, who was legally blind and had no permanent place to call home. Initially drawn together by their handicaps, the boys soon developed a brother-like bond. When one wrestled, the other sat on the edge of the mat, and their cheerful friendship was a source of inspiration throughout the halls of their high school.

As Lisa filmed her feature about this remarkable friendship for ESPN, she grew to understand the suffering Leroy and Dartanyon had endured, and she fought for their trust and their confidence. The three formed a surprising and meaningful connection—and once the television story ended, Lisa realized she couldn’t just walk away.

Though Leroy’s and Dartanyon’s futures were limited by abject poverty, Lisa resolved to give them the chance she knew they deserved. She worked tirelessly to see them through school and athletic pursuits, broken hearts, phantom limbs, and the bewildering obstacles that, at every turn, tested their individual strengths even while strengthening the bonds between them.

More than a story of two underdogs overcoming innumerable hardships, Carry On is a touching tale of an unlikely family forged through barriers of race, class, and disability. It is a powerful memoir about grit, love, hope, and faith—and the courage to carry on, even in the most extraordinary circumstances.

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Purchase Links

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Photo by ESPN

Photo by ESPN

About Lisa Fenn

A three-time winner of the Edward R. Murrow Award and a six-time Emmy Award—winning feature producer with ESPN for thirteen years, LISA FENN interviewed every big name in sports. Today she is a sought-after public presenter, speaking on leadership, poverty, and trans-racial adoption, in addition to her Christian faith and its relevance in both her media career and her daily life. Lisa received her BA in communications from Cornell University. Her work has been featured on ESPN,Good Morning America, and World News Tonight. She continues to produce sports stories and write about the redemptive power of love. Lisa resides in Boston with her husband and two young children.

Connect with Lisa on Facebook.

Shadows of the Forest Cover Reveal

Shadows of the Forest
Emma Michaels
Publication date: November 5th 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult

Everyone is dying to live in the Shadows of the Forest.
They gave me three rules to follow in exchange for my brother’s life:
1. Do not enter the West Wing;
2. Do not go outside after darkness falls; and
3. There is only one exit; The Gates.

This is what happened when I broke them…

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Author Bio:

Emma Michaels is the award winning author of the Society of Feathers series with over 15 publications under her belt. With a love for all things story-telling this bibliophile plans to take over the world one cup of coffee at a time. A rule breaker who isn’t afraid to have uncommon opinions she is an avid lover of mathematics and stand out fiction which transcends both its genre and format whether books, games, movies, or otherwise. A good story is a good story. When she isn’t online she is out dancing in the Washington rain or seeking new adventures.

Website / Facebook / Twitter

 

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Book Blitz & Giveaway: Dotz

Dots
Angie M. Brashears
Publication date: October 1st 2016
Genres: Adult, Contemporary

This is a story about two strangers with nothing but grief in common.

Mason is great at connecting dots in other people’s life’s, but not so much in his own. His website, The F#ck it List, is all about connecting sexual requests. Matching never have I ever’s like a pair of socks. Efficiently. All in an effort to raise money for charity. That’s all he wants, to give. Why is that so hard?

Chloe’s in denial, but that’s not going to make the cancer go away. When her doctor gives her an expiration date, she can’t deny it any longer. It’s time to break the news to family and her best friend. She thought she’d have more time. There’s things she needs to say. She needs to be heard, but not by her loved ones. They’ve got enough on their plates with the diagnosis.

Two Months? Not long enough to do anything except…dig the hole.

It’s time.

This is Chloe’s story and how she copes with the end.

Just as there is a song for every occasion, Chloe has a friend for every occasion.

A pity party friend.
A truth friend.
A fixer friend.
And an end friend. Mason.

Mason and Chloe have nothing in common but grief. Two dots, floating in a sea of sorrow.

He’s lost his mother. She’s losing the fight.

When the end is near, is it too late for a new friend?

One woman’s end journey. Even when it’s time to get your affairs in order, it’s never too late for an “end” friend. Someone that will listen? Share your burden, so the family doesn’t have to. Help with the mess she’s created by keeping secrets. Be there for her best friend, a shoulder to cry on when the time comes.

It’s one thing to donate money to a cause.

What about your time, heart and soul? How much should you be expected to give?

If a stranger asked, could you be an end friend?

Goodreads / Amazon / Angie M. Brashears Pre-Order Form

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Until October 1, 2016 50% or 5.00 from each print book goes to Avon Walk for Breast Cancer!

EXCERPT:

All your weight, it falls on me. It brings me down.
Truer words have never been spoken. My family and their feelings, that’s the weight of my world on my shoulders right now. How am I supposed to tell my overprotective mother, who freaks out over a sniffle…that, I’m…dying? My brother, Ronny, out doing his job, protecting us, battling on the front lines. Is it fair to distract him from his task at hand? Maybe he gets killed, or maybe his buddy takes a bullet? Why, so I can feel better? What about dad? Thoughts of the man that stuffs a pink can of mace and rape whistle in my stocking every year, and my burden just got heavier. And last but not least, my best friend, Lola. We’ve been the odd couple since the tampon video in fourth grade. Neat as pin, she never has loose ends, never commits to anything, no tangles no mess. That’s where I come in. I’m a friggin mess. Everything I touch gets smudged. Or at least, I’ve been told that, since as far back as I can even remember leaving a mess. Possibly, Lola’s bored with her muted tones life, maybe that’s why she steps into my sunshine and rainbows. Cluttered with dust motes, dancing on sun rays, like spritely fairies. Could be. So, what happens when I tell her I’m taking the sun with me? Some days, I can’t get off this sagging futon. Between the pain, the isolation, the guilt, the secret… I just can’t. I look at the website again. The F#ck It List. A place to put your Never have I ever… and you’ll be matched with the right person for you. I’m not interested in the sexual stuff. I’m so over that, and besides, my boyfriend, well, not boyfriend, stops by twice a week and we’re compatible enough as it is. And he’s another one. I broke up with him, so I wouldn’t have to paste a smile on twice a week and pretend like my world’s not falling apart. I love him, but man, does he need a lot of coddling. I haven’t brought myself to click past the privacy screen. That’s not what I’m interested in. The thing my nurse keeps talking to me about. My chemo nurse, Courtney, whispered to me. “You need someone to talk to, get things off your chest. I know you don’t want to burden your family, Chloe, but who takes your burden?” I shrugged, not really caring one way or the other. “I’ll be dead soon, so who cares? They can bury it with me.” She smacked my hand, the one without the IV. She was the one who had to poke around for an hour to find it, so she was protecting it like gold. But her words were kind. “Just like that. Who do you get to say those things too? You’re too worried about acting normal for your chemo buddy over there.” Em’s on her phone. She hates needles. I do too. “You need someone to hear you and not your cancer, you got me?” Her eyes look so compassionate, so loving I nod. She rests her hand on top of mine. I didn’t realize I was crying. “It’s my first time, I’m still a rookie.” I blubber out. She produces a tissue box from thin air and rubs my hand. “I have a friend; grandson has a website.” She lowers her voice. “It’s like a sex something or other,” then she’s back to full volume, “but that’s just to raise money for charity. I know she said he’s always looking for people with illnesses to help. “I guess my face must look funny, because she feels the need to add, “not like murder or anything like that.” I laugh. “Honestly, I was just wondering when this nausea would start to go away.” She nods, and squeezes my hand. “It doesn’t.” Later, when I’m pumped full of poison, she presents me with a gift bag. It’s got Band-Aids and syringes all over it. “Wow, Courtney how’d you know it was my birthday?” She laughs, “Well it kind of is. It’s your Chemo-day. You’re very first. Congratulations, kiddo, you made it through. Enjoy. Inside is the softest, most luxurious cashmere blanket. Pink, with raised dots. “Very chic, Courtney. I love it!” She hugs me and wraps it around my shoulders. “For the chills,” she whispers in my ear and I nod. She reaches in the bag and takes out a box of masks. “Remember your nadir.” There’s hard candies to suck on, for when my mouths dry. And an oral bag! With a rainbow toothbrush. “Thanks so much, I would’ve never thought of any of this. On the very bottom, a free month membership to Netflix. “For when you can’t make it out, but still want to watch something.” “I’m touched, really.” I use my new blanket, to wipe away a tear. “But I’ll have to read up on the rules, I don’t know a thing about Netflix.” As I leave, in search of my chemo buddy, who I haven’t seen in the last thirty minutes, Courtney calls out to me. “Chloe, did you want me to check on that thing, Mason’s website?” I think about it. I’ve got nothing better to do. “Sure.” That was four months ago. I’ll never see her again, chemo’s done dude. I’ll miss her. But not in the add another brick to the pile way. No, I’ll miss having someone who listens with their whole self. Two dots, connected by Courtney.

 

Author Bio:

Angie M Brashears is a lover of everything books. When not writing, she’s reading anything she can get her hands on. She grew up in Southern California, and loves the mountains, hiking with her dogs, the beach, and of course, Disneyland! She loves music, and loves singing along to the radio, loud and off-key, performing for anyone unlucky enough to be in the passenger seat.

Angie loves dark and twisted, which she refers to as Dark Ever After books, but is known to read an occasional HEA story as well. When she’s not writing, she working, saving lives. A busy Trauma ER nurse for over twenty years, she gets enough reality in her life, and is always looking for a story to take her away from the harsh reality of Emergency Nursing.

If there’s football on, she sure to have a huge party going on to cheer her team on…Go Patriots!

As a new author, she’d love to hear from you!

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Guest Post: Autumn Brunch Pairings

Fall Brunch Wine Pairings

Today, we have a guest post provided by Jeriann Watkins, blogger at dairyairhead.com. She’s talking about how to offer fall brunch wine pairings that will please all of your guests.

Summer gets a good reputation for social eating: picnics, baseball games, family reunions – these are all food-centric events that happen mostly in the summer. But fall is a wonderful time to enjoy delicious food and drinks with those you love. And what better way to do so than with brunch?

I’ve been hosting monthly brunches with several of my friends. We all take turns hosting and everyone brings tasty goodies to share. Below are some ideas for fall-themed brunches, complete with wine pairing recommendations!

Setting a Fall Tone

Fall is probably the easiest seasonal theme. The colors of the outdoors are the colors you can bring to your table, and conveniently, the seasonal produce matches the oranges and reds of the leaves on the trees. You can even dry leaves to use as decor. Mod-Podge leaves to the bottom of glass plates for some seasonal dishware that’s sure to impress. Be sure to use a thick lacquer and not to wash these dishes in the dishwasher though! My friend Rachel went above and beyond and got a wine barrel tasting table, which not only brings to mind bobbing for apples, but also provides a nice prep area for drinks!

Hearty Vegetables Make for Great Fall Brunch Wine Pairings

Autumn is not only when hearty squash and root vegetables are in season, but it’s when they taste the best. Personally, I think it’s because the best cooking methods for these vegetables involve prolonged amounts of heat, and they absorb that heat so well. Cutting into s steaming-hot sweet potato just isn’t as satisfying on a 90 degree day. Here are some of my favorite veggie-centric brunch dishes:

Autumn Hash with Sweet Potatoes and Peppers – This tasty dish goes great with a crisp white wine. That will enhance the heat from the peppers as well as contrast the sweetness of the sweet potatoes.
Brussels Sprout and Purple Potato Hash – I love Brussels Sprouts! I can’t think of a wine that wouldn’t go great with this, but I lean away from the sweeter ones here. A drier wine will highlight the saltiness and starchiness of the veggies. Gardener’s bonus: Here’s how to plant Brussels Sprouts and other veggies that pair with them for optimal autumn harvest!
Breakfast Burrito Bowl with Spiced Butternut Squash – This dish was made for sparkling wine, which in turn, was made for brunch. Whether you’re drinking it on it’s own or mixed with fruit juice, the carbonation of the sparkling wine will enhance the spices on your butternut squash. Yum!

Warm Wine?

It’s the time of year when a slight chill feels brisker than the full-on cold will in 3 months. Putting cold beverages in your body just may not seem appealing. There are great warm breakfast drinks like coffee and hot chocolate, which can be spiked with a liquor of your choice, and of course there are hot toddies, which are wonderful in the chilly weather. But what about warm wine cocktails? While it may sound strange, drinking mulled wine, which is really just spiced wine, warm is pretty traditional. Go ahead and give it a shot! Best thing is, if you don’t like it warm, this same recipe can be consumed chilled as well.

These are just a few ideas for autumn-themed brunches. Have some fall favorites of your own? Share in the comments!
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