Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi

Date Read: December 10th 2017

Published: February 2018

Publisher: Grove Press

Pages: 240

 

 

 

The Blurb

An extraordinary debut novel, Freshwater explores the surreal experience of having a fractured self. It centers around a young Nigerian woman, Ada, who develops separate selves within her as a result of being born “with one foot on the other side.” Unsettling, heart-wrenching, dark, and powerful, Freshwater is a sharp evocation of a rare way of experiencing the world, one that illuminates how we all construct our identities.

Ada begins her life in the south of Nigeria as a troubled baby and a source of deep concern to her family. Her parents, Saul and Saachi, successfully prayed her into existence, but as she grows into a volatile and splintered child, it becomes clear that something went terribly awry. When Ada comes of age and moves to America for college, the group of selves within her grows in power and agency. As Ada fades into the background of her own mind and these alters—now protective, now hedonistic—move into control, Ada’s life spirals in a dark and dangerous direction.

Narrated by the selves within Ada, and based in the author’s realities, Freshwater explores the metaphysics of identity and mental health, plunging the reader into the mystery of being and self. Freshwater dazzles with ferocious energy and serpentine grace, heralding the arrival of a fierce new literary voice.

 

Review –★★★★ (4 stars)

Freshwater by Igbo and Tamil writer – Akwaeke Emezi, has to be the most anticipated debut of 2018. I received an Advanced Reader’s Copy (ARC) early December and devoured the book the weekend I received it. Even though Freshwater is highly anticipated worldwide, I’m curious and quite nervous to see how Nigerians and other African readers will take this novel.

If I had known this book was as evil, dark and sinful as it was, I probably wouldn’t have bothered to read it. But now that I’ve marinated the story in my mind for a while, I can confidently declare that Freshwater is SO MUCH MORE than it’s insane level of lust and blasphemy. Freshwater is a dark, layered tale based in and out of the spiritual realm, which focuses on how past traumas deeply affect one’s well-being and mental health.

Ada (she/they) – the main character, has many selves. The selves within Ada are different gods or spirits who are birthed during different phases and traumas of her/their life. These gods are almost like her/their alter egos and they sustain her/their human body through protective and destructive means. Multiple Personality Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, anxiety, suicide, panic attacks, rape (this was VERY difficult to read), lust, violence, sex (A LOT OF IT; it was unbelievable), self-injury, love, religion, strained family relations, sisterhood, immigration, homosexuality and gender fluidity are all explored in this complex debut.

In the beginning, reading Freshwater was frustrating. The story didn’t seem to make sense to me because I didn’t know who was talking! There are many voices in this book and I wasn’t sure whether Ada, Asughara, Saint Vincent, brothersisters or Ala was speaking (these are all the names of the gods we encounter in the story). There’s a certain rhythm to this debut which will only make sense if the reader has an open mind and patience. Some parts of this book still don’t make sense to me and I feel some characters/gods didn’t need to be introduced at all. But all in all, my weekend was well spent indulging in this extraordinary tale, even though it felt sinful at times. I was very fond of Emezi’s writing style which is accessible, calculated and not overly embellished.

For me, the most fascinating thing about Freshwater is the juxtaposition between God of Christianity versus the gods of the dark world. Ada’s relationship with the two associations speak volumes on our (Africans/Black folks) relationship with religion and how it guides and/or controls our lives, whether it feels real or not… it’s hard to explain! I absolutely loved that Emezi explores the difficulties of loving and accepting oneself in this novel, through Ada’s character. As humans, we all have other selves within us – in the form of our blended temperaments, alter egos and moods; these are all explored in a scary, extreme way.

Freshwater is definitely not for everyone (for example: hardcore Christians who can’t appreciate the art of the imagination that God blessed writers with), especially with how difficult it was to read. The book is laden with triggering incidents and the storyline has a non-linear trajectory, which may be confusing to some readers. It takes work to understand this type of novel, whose genre isn’t even clearcut- I’d say Freshwater is a mix of sci-fi, mythicism, thriller and memoir, as parts of Emezi’s real life are part of the story. I don’t think there’s a book out there like this. Akwaeke Emezi is a beast – no pun intended.

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Special thanks to Grove Press for the ARC.

[Side note: My rough thoughts on this book were initially posted on my Goodreads, where Akwaeke Emezi spotted it and gave me a shout out on Twitter + Instagram + in their newsletter. It was a pleasant surprise! 🙂 ]

 

★★★★ (4 stars) – Great book. Highly recommend!

Purchase Freshwater on Amazon

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2018 READING INTENTIONS

New year, new set of reading intentions!

Instead of using the word ‘goals’, I’ll use the word ‘intentions’. Goals are focused on a specific achievement, while intentions are lived on a daily basis – which is how I intend my reading experience to be this year. My 2017 reading intentions were tough to adhere to, so this year I hope to set some reasonable intentions. I discussed my struggles with my 2017 reading intentions in the 2017 RECAP post.

I’ll continue to read what my mood calls for. I don’t have a set number of African, Caribbean or African-American books to read nor do I have a specific number of books written by women or men I’d like to read either. I like to track books read each year via Goodreads, so entering the Goodreads Reading Challenge helps me do that. Every year I like to declare a goal of at least 18 books as a set point, just to help me gauge my reading experience for the year. I’ll probably read a fewer number of books this year  as (dental) SCHOOL life is very real at the moment. I’ll just be going with the flow – no need to make reading stressful. Reading isn’t a race or competition – at least not for me.

Below are some intentions I’ll be considering during the year:

[Some of the books I enjoyed LAST YEAR (2017)]

  • To READ FOR AT LEAST 40 MINUTES A DAY. Life is quite hectic at the moment. I’m a 4th year dental student and will be in 5th year soon (its a 6 year program) so my nose always has to be in a textbook, in group-study discussions or on the ward/in the clinic completing requirements and attending to patients. But if I’m able to dedicate 40 minutes a day to just reading leisurely, I think that would keep me sane.

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  • To CATCH UP ON MY BOOK REVIEWS. I’ve incorporated interesting book chats and discussions onto this platform. I plan on continuing the book chats, but I must stay true to the essence of this book blog – which was initially (and still is) a book reviewing / book recommendations space. I have a growing backlog of book reviews from the previous years that I plan on posting throughout this year.

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  • To READ MORE GHANAIAN LITERATURE. Last March, during Ghana’s 60th Independence Anniversary, I showcased 75 Ghanaian writers and their books. It was a daunting, yet fulfilling mini project that I’m very proud of! As I was researching the writers and books for the project, I realized I had read just a handful of the books highlighted. As a Ghanaian, its important for me to read and celebrate the works of writers from my homeland. I hope to read at least 5 books by Ghanaian writers this year. Please join me in this challenge, if you can! Ghanaian literature is so underrated.

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  • To RE-READ BOOKS I LOVED IN THE PAST. Some readers don’t believe in re-reading books. We live in an age where the hype of new releases makes us forget the phenomenal books of earlier years. I personally don’t think books are meant to be read and forgotten. Books should be read, meditated on and read AGAIN whenever the need arises. So this year, I want to re-read at least 3 books I loved in the past (that haven’t been reviewed on this platform).

 

Here’s to a successful year of reading (with few reading slumps), for all of us!

It’s almost the end of the 1st month of 2018, have you figured out your reading intentions/goals yet? Please do share some!

2018 NEW RELEASES TO ANTICIPATE!

Happy New Year, everyone!

What books are you excited to read this year? Below are 56 new African, African-American and Caribbean books that look very promising. This is just a snippet of the books 2018 has to offer!

Please click on the images to read the blurbs and/or to purchase the books.

(this post contains Amazon affiliate links)

MORE books to look out for in 2018:

Image via Nylon

Well-Read Black Girl: Finding Our Stories, Discovering Ourselves

Yes! Glory Edim, aka – Well-Read Black Girl, is working on an anthology that will feature black women writers like – Zinzi Clemons, Nicole Dennis-Benn, Marita Golden, and Tayari Jones as they highlight the first time they saw themselves represented in literature. To be published by Random House.

 


Image via Simon & Schuster

I first encountered Bahamian writer – Janice Lynn Mather’s writing in the 2014 anthology, Pepperpot: Best New Stories From The Caribbean. Her short story- ‘Mango Summer’ was such a poetic, gentle and innocent tale on sisterhood and loneliness; with the abundance of mangoes being a humorous distraction to the heartfelt tale.

I loved her writing in ‘Mango Summer’ and eagerly look forward to this debut! To be published by Simon & Schuster, June 2018.

 


Image via Reader’s Digest 

She Would Be King by Wayétu Moore

Wayétu Moore is a writer of Liberian heritage and is the founder of One Moore Book, which is a children’s book publishing company that focuses on providing culturally sensitive and educational stories for children living in regions with low literacy rates and underrepresented cultures. Her debut – She Would Be King, reimagines the dramatic story of Liberia’s early years through three characters who share an uncommon bond. I can’t wait for the book cover to be revealed soon!! To be published by Graywolf Press, September 2018.

 


Image via Anissa Photography 

On The Come Up by Angie Thomas

If you loved The Hate You Give, you’ll probably love Angie Thomas’ second novel – On The Come Up! I hope the book cover is revealed soon. To be published by Balzer + Bray, May 2018.

 


Image via Ibi Zoboi

Pride by Ibi Zoboi

Haitian writer – Ibi Zoboi’s second novel, Pride is a love story inspired by Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, set in Bushwick (Brooklyn, NY). To be published by Balzer + Bray, September 2018.

 

What new releases are you excited about? Please do share!

Book chat | The Sankofa Book Club

Are you a member of a book club? If you haven’t found the right book club or you haven’t had time to seek one out where ever you are in the world, I introduce to you a super rich and engaging DIGITAL book club, in the form of a podcast – The Sankofa Book Club.

[collage created by African Book Addict! ; images via The Sankofa Book Club]

I stumbled upon The Sankofa Book Club when I was participating in a book chat (on Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi) on Twitter, last year. I resonated with some of the responses the co-founder – Akua, was tweeting and decided to check out the podcast via iTunes. The Sankofa Book Club is a digital book club with a focus on African literature. The co-hosts are of Ghanaian descent who engage in intelligent and honest conversations around books I adore. The podcast is currently 10 episodes deep and my favorite episodes so far have been their discussions on Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi and Everyday is for the Thief by Teju Cole.

Enjoy the conversation I had with The Sankofa Book Club team where we discuss their origin story, their favorite writers of African descent, favorite snacks to indulge in while reading and more!


  1. What’s the story behind the book club’s name – The ‘Sankofa’ Book Club?

Sankofa is an Adinkra symbol – Adinkra is a collection of symbols from the Akan tradition in Ghana. You can see the symbol incorporated in our logo. The term “sankofa” translates from Twi as “return and get it” and it symbolizes the importance of learning from your past. As we were thinking about what to call the book club, this just seemed so apt. The co-founders are both Ghanaian and we want this book club to be a platform for people to learn about Africa – especially those of us Africans born and raised outside of Africa.


  1. Who’s behind the scenes of The Sankofa Book Club? Briefly tell us about the team members and co-hosts. 

We’re a small team of three. Akua and Mel are co-hosts of the podcast and co-founders of the book club. We focus on producing the podcast and growing our community. Sam is our curator – she researches the books and allocates them every month. However, we are looking to grow, so get in touch if you’re interested!


  1. What was the inspiration for starting a digital book club in podcast form? Will there be book club meet-ups in the future where the team is based?

The inspiration was several different thoughts popping up in my head in no particular order:

  • I (Akua) worked on podcasts through work in digital marketing.
  • It was an exciting new media but like most things in this world, it was whitewashed.
  • Mel and I have thought-provoking conversation anyway.
  • I really like African lit and wished I could join a book club like that.
  • I don’t live in London, don’t have the time or energy to do that in London.
  • Why are we limiting ourselves to London?
  • Let’s do a podcast on African lit.
  • It may as well be a book club.

We love that we’re digital and interacting with people all over the world and we don’t want to lose that. However, a live recording in London will definitely be happening in the near future.


  1. How do you decide on which books to read? Why focus on African Literature?

Sam does research into the themes, what people are currently reading and uses that choose a book each month. It helps us stay relevant and prevents us from being repetitive.

Africa is more than the world’s charity case, and who better to tell the true story of Africa than Africans. That’s why we focus on African literature. We want to hear a different narrative. We want to be a different narrative.


  1. Who is your target audience? How has the reception been, after the 10 episodes (and counting) that are available?

Anyone interested in Africa, literature and/or both! What we’d really love is for people who don’t feel connected to the continent to use this as a relaxed and fun way to learn, or just read something different. There’s loads of brilliant African literature out there getting very little attention. We want to change that.

The reception of SBC has been really positive. It’s interesting to see that a lot of our audience is actually in Africa, who just appreciate the discussion.



6. Random Bookish Facts:

  • a) How do you like your books – Hardcovers, paperbacks, audiobooks or e-books?

Akua – Paperback.

Mel – Paperback mostly, hardback if it’s affordable; not a fan of audiobooks.

Sam – Paperback until quite recently. E-books are more handy and make my commute less boring and bulky.

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  • b) Do you usually read – New books, used books, borrowed/stolen books (from friends) or library books?

Akua – A brand new book from Waterstones.

Mel – Usually brand new books but I’m also a lover of borrowed/stolen books.

Sam – Definitely new books (I do steal a lot of book lists though).

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  • c) What is/are your favorite book genre(s)? (Poetry, thrillers, romance, short stories, literary fiction, non-fiction etc.)

Akua – Poetry. It’s simple but deep.

Mel – Thrillers. I enjoy the suspense and drama.

Sam – Historical Fiction! I love a good mystery too.

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  • d) Favorite snacks/beverages to indulge in while reading?

Akua – Biscuits or cake.

Mel – Peppermint tea all day everyday.

Sam – Potato Chips and chocolate. There’s something about the crunch that keeps me going.


  1. Who are your top three favorite African writers, and why?

Akua – Her Majesty Queen Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Chinua Achebe and Afua Hirsch. The first two are authors of my favourite books so by default my favourite writers. Afua Hirsch is a journalist, half English, half Ghanaian. When I see a cutting edge, non-conformist article on current affairs, I just know she wrote it. Such an intelligible Black British voice! I so appreciate her. She has a book coming out in January 2018.


Mel – Chimamanda Ngozi and Chigozie Obioma. I’m still on the hunt for my third favourite African author. Chimamanda is amazing for her attention to detail and empowering me as a women and an individual of African descent. Chigozie is special for his gift of reflecting his literary influences in his novels. He also has a knack for eloquently describing a mere moment, allowing the reader to see it from an in-depth perspective.


Sam – I’m pretty old school so I’m going to say Ama Ata Aidoo because of her style and her pioneering work in African Literature with regards to female independence and empowerment. Wole Soyinka next because I love his sense of humour and the wisdom in his writing. I will have to concede that more recently I too have developed a soft spot for Chimamanda Ngozi. She just embodies everything. She is intelligent, eloquent and still relatable. She has a way of dissecting literally all things that matter to young black women so plainly yet extremely intuitive.


  1. Finally, what can listeners and readers look forward to in the future for The Sankofa Book Club?

Akua – Amazing guests on the podcast and more interaction with our book club members! We know we have a consistent audience out there, we see you and we love you!

Mel – I’d like to echo what Akua has said and add that listeners can also expect that we will continue to encourage their inner book worm.

Sam – More exciting and representative books!!


Catch up with The Sankofa Book Club: Website | Soundcloud  | Twitter | Instagram

2017 Reading Intentions

New Year, new reading goals – right?

Instead of using the word ‘goals’, I’ll use the word ‘intentions’. Goals focus on the future, while intentions focus on the present; goals are focused on a specific achievement, while intentions are lived on a daily basis – which is how I intend my reading experience to be this year.

My reading intentions for 2017 won’t be as intricate as my 2016 reading goals. This year, I’ll be reading what my mood calls for. I don’t have a set number of African, Caribbean or African-American books to read nor do I have a specific number of books written by women or men I’d like to read either. I like to track books read each year via Goodreads, so entering the Goodreads Reading Challenge helps me do that. Every year I like to declare a goal of 20-25 books as a set point, just to help me gauge my reading experience for the year. Whether I exceed the 20-25 books goal or not, I’ll just be going with the flow – no need to make reading stressful. Reading isn’t a race or competition – at least not for me.

Below are some intentions I’ll be considering during the year:

  • To READ MY OWN DAMN BOOKS! On my bookshelves, I have about 55 books that haven’t been read. I’d like to get through a good chunk of those books by the end of the year.
  • To PURCHASE LESS books, especially during the first half of the year – so help me God. (So far I’ve only purchased one book, so I’m trying here!)
  • To buddy-read with other book lovers/ book bloggers. This should be exciting! Thus far, I’ve planned to read 1 book each, with 3 different book lovers/ book bloggers. Due to scheduling issues, I haven’t successfully buddy-read a book with anyone yet, so I’m really looking forward to this experience!

There are definitely other things I’d like to pursue throughout the year with respect to reading and this book blog, but these are the intentions I’ll share for now.

Here’s to a successful year of reading (with few reading slumps), for all of us!

It’s almost the end of the 1st month of 2017, have you figured out your reading intentions/goals yet? Please do share some!

2017 New Releases to Anticipate!

Happy New Year, everyone!

What books are you excited to read this year? Below are some (this is just a snippet of books 2017 has to offer!) new African, African-American and Caribbean novels that look very promising.

Please click on the images to read the blurbs and/or to purchase the books.

(this post contains Amazon affiliate links)

Other books to look out for:

What new releases are you excited about? Please do share!

2016 Recap & My Top 5!

Hey everyone!

I hope the holiday season has been relaxing for you all. 2016 is almost over and it’s time for a recap of the year! I ended up reading 24 books this year. The break down of my 2016 reading experience is as follows:

Average books read per month: 2 books

e-books read: 11 books (wow! I didn’t realize this, even though I really dislike e-books) 

African literature: 17 books

Caribbean literature: 2 books

African-American literature: 3 books

Other: 2 books (these are non-African/non-diaspora books. I read books written by – Rupi Kaur and Tim LaHaye).

19 women writers ;  5 men writers


Top 5 favorite books of 2016

  1. Fairytales for Lost Children by Diriye Osman
  2. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
  3. Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee
  4. So The Path Does Not Die by Pede Hollist
  5. Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge Danticat

These books took a toll on my emotions the most! If you’ve read my reviews for these books, you know exactly why they’re my top 5 of the year. Definitely look into reading these 5 books if you haven’t already!

Reviews for books read this year are in the Book Reviews section of the book blog. [Missing reviews (6 of them) will be posted in 2017].

What were your top 5 favorite books of 2016?


Favorite bookish events / images of the year:

Also:

  • African Book Addict! was featured on Mary Okeke Reviews and Brown Books & Green Tea for the blogger spotlight project and #DiverseBookBloggers feature, respectively.
  • In May, I joined the ladies of Not Your African Cliché podcast to discuss Somali-Brit writer – Warsan Shire, Beyonce’s album Lemonade, and the need for us (Africans) to support our art/artists more.

2016 Reading Goals round up:

At the beginning of the year, I set 4 reading goals and I believe I’ve achieved most of them!

  • I planned to read a wider array of African novels: I ended up reading wonderful books from 10 African countries: Botswana, Sierra Leone, Uganda, Sudan, Ghana, Somalia, Nigeria, South Africa, Côte d’Ivoire and Zimbabwe. (All reviews are in the book reviews section of the book blog)
  • I also set out to read more poetry: I wasn’t a big fan of poetry prior this goal, but I ended up reading 5 poetry collections and seriously enjoyed them! I hope to continue reading and feeling the words of many more great contemporary poets in the years ahead.
  • I wanted to broaden my horizon and read 1 African romance novel and/or 1 African thriller: Thanks to Ankara Press, I was sent 2 African romance novels in exchange for honest reviews. With regards to an African thriller, I read Tendai by Boakyewaa Glover which is actually of the science-fiction genre, but felt like a thriller to me! (watch out for the review in 2017). So maybe I kinda sorta missed the mark on the African thriller goal?
  • My final goal was to give back by hosting 2 or 3 giveaways this year: I achieved this by officially hosting 2 international giveaways and gave away 3 books in total (plus a cute African City tote bag to hold books!).

It’s truly rewarding to see that I have reached my goals, especially with my hectic (dental) school schedule. I always had these goals at the back of my mind and slowly tried to achieve them on a daily monthly basis. I’m proud of these achievements!

Were you able to achieve some of your 2016 Reading Goals? 

[Don’t beat yourself up if you weren’t able to – its definitely not that serious and you can still achieve them in 2017!]

Total books read in 2016

I’m truly grateful to everyone who frequents this book blog and for the great discussions (agreements, disagreements and recommendations) we have in the comments section. I really appreciate the support and love shown here from you all. This year, I’ve enjoyed discovering lots of new book blogs + book lovers and hope to connect with more in the future! Here’s to more great years of reading ahead, for all of us. 🙂  

2016 Christmas Wish List

Hey everyone!

Christmas is right around the corner! I honestly have no business buying any new books, anytime soon. But a simple wish list won’t hurt would it? Below are books I’d love Santa to drop into my imaginary Christmas stockings (not in order of preference; click titles to read the blurbs on Goodreads):

The Turner House by Angela Flournoy has been on my TBR for a while. It actually got bumped up my list after Flournoy was shortlisted for the National Book Prize last year + some of my friends highly recommend this novel. I hear there are similarities between The Turner House and Ayana Mathis’s The Twelve Tribes of Hattie, which I LOVED (and reviewed).


The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears by Dinaw Mengestu is a book I’m very keen to read. I haven’t read anything by Mengestu but I’ve seen many reviews of his books – especially his 2014 novel, All Our Names on several book blogs. I’m eager to read about the immigrant experience in the U.S through an Ethiopian lens in this book!


Birth of a Dream Weaver: A Memoir of a Writer’s Awakening by Ngūgī wa Thiong’o was released late October of this year. I found out about this book from highlights of the 2016 Aké Arts and Books Festival and was surprised this book existed, as I didn’t even know Ngūgī wa Thiong’o was actively writing a new memoir! I deeply enjoy anything Thiong’o writes, so this would be a great addition to my already growing Ngūgī wa Thiong’o collection.


Mo’ Meta Blues: The World According to Questlove by Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson has been on my TBR for a looong time. I love, love, love The Roots (hip hop group) and for those who don’t know, Questlove is the drummer and one of the leaders of the group (the other leader is rapper – Black Thought). My life was semi-complete when The Roots came to Middlebury back in 2009 and I admired Questlove’s finesse with the drums! He came out with another book this year – Something to Food About: Exploring Creativity with Innovative Chefs. But I hope to read Mo’ Meta Blues first!


Longthroat Memoirs: Soups, Sex and Nigerian Taste Buds by Yemisi Aribisala was published back in November (2016) by Cassava Republic. I have been waiting for a book like this for a while! If you’ve read my review of Pig Tails ‘n Breadfruit: A Culinary Memoir by Barbadian writer Austin Clarke (RIP), I spoke on my desire to read more books that highlight African food. Longthroat Memoirs showcases Nigerian cuisine while discussing various feminist issues. I need this book.


My Name is Leon by Kit de Waal has the best book cover! From what I hear, My Name is Leon is a story about 9 year old Leon – who is biracial and his new baby brother Jake – who is white. Once their mother is deemed unfit to care for them, they are taken into the foster care system. When Leon’s baby brother is adopted before he is, readers see Leon face various prejudices, while trying to save his broken family. I’m ready to have all the feels reading this book.


You Can’t Touch My Hair: And Other Things I Still Have To Explain by Phoebe Robinson looks like it’d be a great book to get anyone out of a reading slump. Every once in a while I like to let loose and read something humorous and light. The author, Phoebe Robinson – is a comedian and hosts a podcast with Jessica Williams called 2 Dope Queens. I’ve given their fun podcast a couple of listens and even downloaded a sample of this book on Kindle. All I can say is, I know I’ll be entertained by this book!


What books are on your Christmas wish list? Please share some titles!🙂

Happy Holidays & Merry Christmas, everyone!