Intoxicating Tango: My Years in Buenos Aires by Cherie Magnus

Intoxicating Tango: My Years in Buenos Aires by Cherie Magnus was a captivating read from the very first page. The author used such vivid descriptions to describe her South American expat life that I could picture the chaotic streets and smokey rooms perfectly. Tango is the perfect metaphor for living abroad, really. The seduction, the nuances, the rhythm, the surrender and finally the disillusionment are the stages most expats go through. 

In June 2014, Cherie Magnus stepped off a plane with a few suitcases to begin her life in Buenos Aires, Argentina. This third installment of the author’s life covers those 10 memorable years in the birthplace of the tango. She tells us how she infiltrated the dance halls of milonguero, mastered the miradas, and tangoed her heart away. What an amazing story!

Although not particularly familiar with the steps of the tango, the author made it come alive in my mind. So don’t let not knowing how to tango keep you from finding pleasure in Ms. Magnus’s accounts as she chronicles the trials and tribulations of learning how to manage in a foreign country.

You don’t have to be well-versed in South American language or culture either to enjoy this particular story. A glossary of Argentine terms was included at the end, which certainly helped on some words that aren’t used in the Spanish speaking country I live in. Mostly though, the Spanish terms were easily understood in the narrative. 

I found no typos or spelling errors, although there was that strange twist of fate (or perhaps lapse in editing) that turned Ramon, the Latin lover, into Ruben briefly in chapter 23. The languorous tone that most of the story was told in changed towards the end into more of an anxious and hurried summary of events. I’m not sure if it was deliberate or an unconscious shift mirroring how the events unfolded, but all in all, that was perhaps my only complaint about this fascinating memoir. 

I’m sure that you too will get swept away by the dips and turns found in Intoxicating Tango: My Years in Buenos Aires by Cherie Magnus.

I received an ARC from Reedsy Discovery. You can read my review here.

Live Your Gift Companion Guide: The Workbook for Creating Your Life Map by Dana V. Adams

Over the last few months, I’ve been concentrating my studies on learning more about Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in order to become a certified life coach. I have to say that the Live Your Gift Companion Guide: The Workbook for Creating Your Life Map by Dana V. Adams is the perfect complement to my studies.

I eagerly dove into the material. The informative sections were clear and concise. The worksheets were thought provoking and had plenty of space for reflection. The activities build upon each other so that at the end, I had a completed action plan. 

Since I’ve been studying CBT, the concepts weren’t completely new to me. In fact, several of the activities were exactly like those I’ve seen in my courses. The fact that they were familiar in no way detracted from the effectiveness. I thoroughly enjoyed working my way from defining my beliefs and principles to creating goals that aligned with my core values, and so will you!

I was a little leery about the quality of the book since it is meant to be a companion workbook for the book Live Your Gift: Discovering Your Authentic Life Through Life Mapping. However, I found that there was enough explanatory material included for each activity that I had no problems following the reasoning behind it without having read the other book.

There were very few typos, a double ‘the’ and a ‘youself’ were all that I found. The layouts of the worksheets were appropriately designed. The graphics, like the Personal Well-being Wheel, were also large enough to write on. There were duplicate forms included at the end of the book for the development of additional goals and plans. 

All in all, I was delighted with Live Your Gift Companion Guide: The Workbook for Creating Your Life Map by Dana V. Adams and not just because it fit so well into my current pursuits. I would recommend this workbook to anyone that wants to improve any aspect of their life, no matter how small or large. It’s especially good reading when designing those New Year’s Resolutions. I encourage you to pick up your copy today so that you can create a life that lives up to its potential this year.

I received an ARC from Reedsy Discovery to review this book. You can read my review here.

The World is Your Lobster by Lee Mountford

Lee and his wife Nicki decided to take a belated gap year in their 40s and travel the world. Beginning in Melbourne, Australia, they went to 27 countries, covering a total of 77,427 kilometers and sampling 276 domestic beers. Lee recounts the highlights and little adventures in a tongue-in-cheek fashion, with corny jokes, and nearly funny puns. You can’t say the man didn’t try. 

The adventure itself had some inevitable lows, including icky accommodations, being charged extraordinarily high prices, and one instance of denied entrance to the temple for the blatant display of knobby kneecaps. They met some memorable characters on the way, such as the Italian Hamster and Paul, the poetry reciting Russian. 

As I was reading, I kept thinking that I would love to see some of these pictures Lee was yammering on about. Lo and behold, midway through the book, there was a QR code above to view some of the pictures online. Since I may be one of the last remaining people in the world that does not own a smartphone, that feature wasn’t as exciting as the link to their Instagram account. (https://www.instagram.com/worldisyourlobster/). My personal favorite photo was of Lee carting around the hotel safe in Myanmar.

Roundabout the time when the Mountfords arrived in Europe, both trip planning and book proofreading went to the dogs. Random apostrophes appeared in places they had no business being (her’s). Muddled homophones confused the issue at times (who’s vs. whose). Enough inconsistent capitalization sprouted up to drive this English teacher bonkers. (Eiffel Tower, Eiffel tower, eiffel Tower, anyone?) Maybe Maggie-Jane, the orange Brazilian VW camper van that the couple was trundling around in, affected the grammar in some way.

Like all good things, eventually, the journey came to an end. Nicki and Lee took up the yokes of the middle-aged once again, albeit with a gleam of wanderlust in the eye from time to time. So if you are an armchair traveler and enjoy a good travel story, or in this case hundreds of good travel stories, then The World is Your Lobster by Lee Mountford is the book for you!

I received an ARC from Reedsy Discovery. You can read my review here.

The Grape Series by Laura Bradbury

If you are looking for fun and lovely memoirs, you can’t go wrong with The Grape Series by Laura Bradbury. Whimiscal and throught provoking, you’ll find yourself shaking your head at the situations that Laura finds herself in.

In My Grape Year, Canadian teenager Laura participates in a study abroad program in France and finds the love of her life. 

In My Grape Paris, Laura and Franck head to Paris for a year so that Laura can study Medieval French Literature.  

My Grape Wedding is the crazy marriage ceremony of Franck and Laura. 

My Grape Escape chronicles Laura and Franck’s efforts to create a French village vacation rental. 

And in My Grape Village, Laura and Franck return to live for a year in France with their two young daughters in tow. 

My Grape Cellar finds Laura and Franck remodeling a thirteenth century wine cellar.

All of these books are delightful reads. And you can actually see some of the places that Laura describes on her website Graperentals.com. Once you start on this adventure with Laura, you’ll want to continue.

Laura’s descriptions of her life, her cultural struggles as an expat, and her descriptions of village life in France are amazing. I enjoyed living vicariously with her through these stories and I think you will too!

Bad Sons by Oliver Tidy

I love a good mystery and Bad Sons by Oliver Tidy didn’t disappoint me. David Booker was teaching English as a second language in Turkey when he came back to the UK to help his aging relatives liquidate their bookstore. When he arrived, no one was there to meet him. No one had seen his aunt and uncle that day. And then a body washes up on the beach.

The descriptions were so detailed I could imagine myself on the gray, chilly mornings, standing next to David looking out at the English Channel. David wasn’t a superhero, quite flawed actually, a smoker, drank a little too much, had a bit of a temper but was overall decent. His concern for his relatives drives him to do more investigation than the local police would like. 

David forms a sort of alliance with Detective Cash, the female detective assigned to his case. Together they do some poking around in an effort to discover what has happened. Not to spoil the story, but they discover that sometimes things are exactly what they seem. 

Delightfully, this is only the first book of the Booker and Cash trilogy. I wonder what sort of other mysteries find themselves entangled in. 

Get Aligned Now: Free Your Mind Through Body Intelligence, The Path to Achieve Aligned Results by Bethany Londyn

I’m currently on a quest to become a certified life coach and picked this book for this reason. Initially, I thought I had made a mistake. Some sentences in the introduction were so poorly worded and word choices were so unusual, that I thought perhaps the author was someone whose native language was not English. However, the author chose to include one of my favorite quotes by Joseph Campbell, and I decided to keep reading. 

I’m glad I did. Although I won’t say that every chapter resonated with me, quite a number did. Each chapter focuses on a single type of activity that you can do to start listening to your body to begin to make better choices. There were seven sections that used the imagery of a mighty tree as a representation of your body, from roots to the process of photosynthesis.

Each of those seven sections were further divided into daily activities. At the end of each chapter, there was a recap list, which was quite helpful. For example, one chapter was about minimizing distractions and included brief discussions on how applying the concepts of Feng Shui, Minimalism and saging your home environment could help you do that. 

As I mentioned, some of the chapters weren’t for me. I don’t feel that restless energies are trying to speak to me at 3 a.m. I am not in any way clairvoyant, nor do I regularly comune with a guardian angel. But that’s just me. Undoubtedly, there are those out there who would find tapping into those aspects of the unconscious a useful exercise. 

On the other hand, the sections on listening to your body, overwhelming yourself in gratitude, and seeing the world as one of abundance rather than scarcity were spot on in my opinion. So, in the end, I found Get Aligned Now: Free Your Mind Through Body Intelligence, The Path to Achieve Aligned Results by Bethany Londyn worth reading.

I received an ARC from Reedsy Discovery. You can read my review here.

Why We Left: An Anthology of American Women Expats compiled and edited by Janet Blaser

why we left.jpg

Why We Left: An Anthology of American Women Expats is a collection of 27 essays written by women who relocated to Mexico. Some of the women may be familiar names. Roxana Bangura from the Bangura Chronicles wrote about raising her daughter as a polyglot in Mexico. Holly Hunter, the better half of Dan Gair, wrote about her side of the Mexico Diaries adventures. Dianne Hofner Saphiere from VidaMaz wrote about not being in Kansas anymore.

The women were honest about the struggles they had to create the life they love in Mexico. All of the women told their stories from the “other side” after prevailing against discrimination, income loss, relationship challenges, and just plain ol’ culture shock. All in all, it’s an inspiring “happy expat” read.

My hope is that this book does two things_ That it inspires others who may be feeling an urge, an itch, something deep down that just won't go away, to live a different life, outside of the proverbial box, where happ.jpg

So why did these women leave their home countries? Some left because of the current political climate. Others left to provide life experiences for their children they would not otherwise have. Some women came for the culture, others for the cost of living. Some lost their marriages to Mexico, others found love and stayed.

What did these women find in Mexico? Purpose. Simplicity. Patience. Confidence. Seem like pretty good trade-offs to me.

I would have liked to have seen more stories from women who chose voluntary exile after their spouses were deported, but then perhaps they don’t fit the criteria of “expats”. Most of the women in this anthology were also living in areas full of gringos or small towns near those epicenters, San Miguel de Allende, Mazatlan, Lake Chapala, Mexico City, Puerto Vallarta, Cozumel and so on. Perhaps that’s the book I need to write…

Regardless, Why We Left: An Anthology of American Women Expats is an interesting collection and I’m sure you’ll love reading about the process of crafting a life you love in Mexico as told by these 27 brave women.

four stars

Mirador by James A. Jennings

mirador pic

Sarah and Nate Hunter become embroiled in more than they bargained for when they volunteer to help restore a crumbling church in Mirador, Chiapas. Unbeknownst to them, el Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional (EZLN) has big plans to use Nate’s internet savvy in order to make public their War Against Oblivion. Then the unthinkable happens. 

prefiero.jpg

I have to say that Mirador by James A. Jennings was a great read. The Zapatistas (EZLN) have been in the news lately as they continue this struggle against oblivion begun in 1994. The pivotal events in the story occur just months before the Zapatista battle cry ¡YA BASTA! was heard on January 1, the day NAFTA was signed into effect. 

The characters were well-developed and believable. The locations were described in exquisite detail. The political situation was explained in the introduction and then again in a historical note at the end, bringing the events up to the present. 

Prefiero morir de pie que vivir de rodillas.--Emilano Zapata.jpg

What this book really needed, however, was a Mexican consultant for the Spanish phrases included in the book. These lacked the proper cadence and rhythm found in Mexican Spanish that just can’t be duplicated by a non-native speaker. 

For example, although “Mi hijo” is grammatically correct, no one says that, mijo. It was to the point that I was reading the Spanish text as if a gringo were speaking, not a Mexican. There were also grammar errors. When speaking of the native people of the area, the correct term is “los indígenas” not “las indígenas” even though the word ends in the feminine “a.” Another incident was that a young man would NEVER use the informal “” tense when speaking to a woman he revered as a grandmother which occurred in the book. There were sentences that were totally incomprehensible in Spanish, as if the author tried to translate directly from English. “Ser grave” should have been “Se serio” and so on. 

While I understand that the book was meant for English speakers, these glaring oversights detracted from my enjoyment of the story to some extent. Although to be authentic, most of the characters would have been speaking in one of the nearly 70 indigenous languages found in Mexico. 

subcomadante

On the other hand, I took immense pleasure imagining life among the Zapatistas, something I probably will never experience. I was delighted to learn just a little more about el lek’il kuxlejal which roughly translates as buen vivir (living well) that is at the heart of the indigenous resistance movement in Mexico. 

I believe you will enjoy Mirador by James A. Jennings as much as I did!

I received an ARC from the publisher to review this book.

The Creative Journey by Tim Cigelske

Each and every page of The Creative Journey by Tim Cigelske was a delight for me to read. There were quotes from my favorite creative people, Jim Henson, Joseph Campbell, and Mr. Rogers. Excerpts from the writings of Buddha and the bible were scattered like wildflower seeds throughout the text. Real life creative success stories and commentary from Professor Cigelske’s college students drove each chapter’s point home. And then there were the activities! Write your own obituary, create a children’s book about your dreams, keep a logbook. Wonderful stuff!

Although many of the items discussed in this book were not new to me, I did learn a thing or two along the way. We often get so bogged down in what we have to do, we forget what it is we should be doing. Thus was the reading of this book for me. I remembered what I wanted to do before paying bills and assignments and even book reviews got in the way. I want to create.

The path to creating isn’t a well-traveled road. Each of us must find our way by going on own hero’s journey, a concept made famous by the anthropological studies of the esteemed Joseph Campbell.

We are born. We go forth into the world. We are tested and found wanting or we are challenged and found sound. We need to be brave enough to search out our true purpose. We need to be humble enough to learn from those that have gone before us. We need to be committed enough to follow through and not give up. Only then can we say that we have become masters of our own destinies. Even then, sometimes the end of the hero’s journey is just the beginning of another.

Creativity is not something we are naturally endowed with or not. Rather, it’s a way of looking at life. Each section of this well-written book will encourage you to find the creative life that is already inside of you. Whether you run off and join the circus or invent the iPod, living creatively is the only way to find meaning and purpose. And who doesn’t want to live a life full of meaning and purpose? 

For those brave enough to seek a life of creativity, this is the book for you.

I received an ARC of this book from Reedsy Discovery. You can read my review here.