Happiness and Other Small Things of Absolute Importance by Haim Shapira



Shapira was born in Vilnius, Lithuania in 1962 and immigrated to Israel in 1977.Haim Shapira holds two PhD’s (Theorethical Mathematics and Science Education) , is one of Israel’s most popular and in-demand lecturers, an author of seven best-selling books, a pianist and an avid collector of anything beautiful. He teaches mathematics, psychology, philosophy and literature.


What is your happiest moment? How can you know it? Do we waste time or does time waste us? Are questions about meaning truly meaningful? What’s really important? How do our emotions, our desires, our imagination and our understanding of our ever changing relationship with meaning help us to define and understand what happiness really means and what really matters. Drawing on literary and philosophical sources ranging from Alice in Wonderland, Winnie the Pooh and The Little Prince to Descartes and Nietzche, Haim Shapira invites us to challenge our perspectives on happiness and provides us with alternative ways we may view what is important. As Haim concludes it is the spaces in between the possible paths that we might take, where we are able to find a place of grace that the important things that matter to us will light our way. The choice is ours.


Lately, I have lost grasp of my life. The earth has shifted from beneath my feet and I have reached a stage where I need all the guidance I can get.I have always been the person with the goal, the plan to get there an the tools to reach it, but lately this is not the case.  I have become more self reflecting, trying to re-evaluate my life, my value system… my purpose. And somewhere on the way I got into reading literature that reflects my condition. Shapira was right there staring at my from a shelf, and I knew I need to read it, so that I can progress on my journey forward.

I read it a couple of times ever since I got it, and I believe I will need a couple of more re-reads until I have extracted every last drop of wisdom from it. Haim Shapira has a wonderfully refreshing voice:”Leafing through one of these how-to guides, I came upon an amazingly wise piece of advice: ‘Rise every morning with a big smile and in an excellent mood.’ How lucky I was that the authors chose to share their insight with me. Before I stumbled upon this wonderful idea, I used to think that I should rise every morning with a sharp pain in my left kidney, feeling deeply depressed. Now I knew I’d been wrong all along”.

He has this little sarcastic attitude towards life that I appreciate so much. In his book he offers us musings on the idea of happiness as it has been understood by many different people, quoting from various sources (Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s “Le Petit Prince” being the one he references most frequently) and from his own work and experience as well as research (the section on women’s happiest moments versus men’s will burst many a male ego). It offers much food for thought, but in the end happiness is up to us and to be attained in our own individual way rather than achievable by a one-size-fits-all formula. And I absolutely love it!

This is a read that revisits childhood favourites and more, only to bring you a mischievous and serious retrospect of how our understanding of happiness has been entirely moulded by society. Moulded so that it will never fit… We are doomed to become Sisyphuses of our own universe, never being able to reach the end of the climb, crumbling from beneath the weight of not being able to fit into somebody’s idea of complete, wholesome, happy.

Every page surprises you with the comprehensive review of the subject presented in a conversational and down to earth manner. It is witty, engaging, humane and mostly honest. I wish it was written a decade earlier, so I can read it during my teens and prevent my misconceptions from ever rising. Definitely recommend it!5FOXGIVEN


The Sender: A Story About When Right Words Make All The Difference by Kevin Elko, Bill Beusay



Dr. Elko received his Bachelors in Biology Education and Coaching from California University of Pennsylvania. He then went on to West Virginia University where he received two Masters and a Doctorate and was later inducted into West Virginia University Hall of Fame.

He went on to intern at the United States Olympic Committee in Colorado Springs. In Sports, he has consulted with various successful NFL teams including The Pittsburgh Steelers, The Dallas Cowboys, The Philadelphia Eagles, The Miami Dolphins and The New Orleans Saints.  In college sports, Dr. Elko has worked with seven BCS National Championship Football Teams including The University of Miami, L.S.U., The University of Alabama and Florida State University.

In the business world, Dr. Elko focuses on helping organizations in the areas of Leadership, Goal Setting, and various other motivational topics. His corporate clients have included ING, Tyson Foods, Abbott Labs, LPL Financial, The Hartford, Genworth, Jackson National Life, Pioneer Investments, Morgan Stanley, Bank of America, Merrill Lynch, and Sun Life just to mention a few.

Dr. Elko is the author of four books, Nerves of Steel, The Pep Talk, True Greatness: Mastering the Inner game of Business Success and Touchdown: Achieving Your Greatness on the Playing Field of Business and Life.


Sometimes the right words make all the difference

A few months ago he was a high school football coach. Now Charlie Cristo is a cancer patient, battling not only an aggressive disease but also years of bitterness and disappointment. Then anonymous letters start arriving from a source known only as The Sender.

Lift your spirits. Work the process. Help one another. The short, wise counsel in the letters challenged Charlie Cristo to fight the disease ravaging his body and the anger threatening his soul.

What will you do with The Sender’s advice?

Based on actual letters sent to Indianapolis Colts head coach Chuck Pagano during his cancer treatment, The Sender blends creative storytelling and inspiration to communicate a powerful message of endurance and strength. As you journey along with Charlie, you will uncover profound lessons that challenge you (just as they did Coach Pagano) to live a life serving and loving others no mater what trials you endure.

“The Sender will touch your heart and change your life.”—Andy Andrews, New York Times bestselling author of The Traveler’s Giftand The Noticer

“Dr. Kevin Elko has certainly contributed to our success in providing a new twist on focus, attention to detail, team work, and grit which is the blueprint we use at The University of Alabama.”—Nick Saban, Head Football Coach, The University of Alabama

“The message in this book can lift a spirit and save a life—trust me—for me it has!”—Chuck Pagano, Head Coach, Indianapolis Colts

“The powerful message in this book is clear. Incredible things happen when we decide to just put one foot in front of the other. And if you look around and don’t like where you are, keep moving until you do—that’s grit.”—John Tyson, CEO and Chairman, Tyson Foods

“Anything Dr. Elko writes is a must read—if you’re committed to being great in the game of life!”—Cris Carter, NFL Hall of Fame, ESPN Analyst


CANCER – it is never easy to talk about it, especially when you have been through it. My family has, and even though it has been 10 years since it was all over, and my Dad is all healthy and full of energy it just stigmatises you and changes you for life.

Every once in a while a pick up a book that deals with the matter, just to make sure I don’t forget how precious life is and that there are still people in the world who go through the same struggles, but not all of them have the lucky outcome my family did.

If I have to compare The Sender to anything it will be P.S. I Love You meets The Fault in Our Stars… it is a very touching narrative that will restore your belief in humanity. It is inspired by the real-life story of Chuck Pagano’s fight against cancer. Although the story line is fiction, the letters are the ones that Pagano actually received from the mysterious persona, “The Sender,” and the life lessons contained therein are applicable to anyone, regardless of your particular struggle in life.

Throughout the story, there was a strong emphasis on choosing over feeling. This is usually not easy, regardless of your circumstances. And when it comes to circumstances, The Sender encourages the coach to “live in the vision” instead of living in his circumstances. Other lessons include choosing to be better instead of bitter, winning on three levels, fighting weary, and being where your feet are. My favourite lesson in the book, though, was the one about “fixin’ to”.

It is go-to book, when you need advice, consort or you have lost your hope. I definitely recommend it to every one, it is not just about people overcoming cancer, it is about living life and enjoying it. Exquisite read!5FOXGIVEN


Sudden Death by Álvaro Enrigue, Natasha Wimmer



Álvaro Enrigue (born 6 August 1969 in Guadalajara, Mexico) is the award winning author of four novels and two books of short stories. He has been translated into multiple languages, including German, English and French. He lives in Hamilton Heights, New York City, and is married to the writer Valeria Luiselli.

In 1996, Enrigue was awarded the prestigious Joaquín Mortiz Prize for his first novel, La muerte de un instalador (Death of an Installation Artist). Since then it has been reprinted five times, and in 2012 it was selected as one of the key novels of the Mexican 20th century, and anthologized by Mexico’s largest publishing house, Fondo de Cultura Económica. His books Vidas perpendiculares (Perpendicular Lives) and Hipotermia (Hypothermia) have also been widely acclaimed.

Both novels have been published by Gallimard. Hypothermia, which offers an “unflinching gaze towards 21st-century life and the immigrant experience”, was published in 2013 in the USA and England by Dalkey Archive Press in a translation by Brendan Riley.His latest novel, Decencia (Decency), has received praises in Latin America’s and Spain’s most relevant publications.

In 2007, he was selected as one of the most influential contemporary writers in Spanish by the Hay Festival’s Bogotá39. In 2009, he was awarded a Rockefeller Foundation Residence Fellowship at the Bellagio Centre to finish the manuscript of his last novel, Decencia (Decency). In 2011 he became a fellow at the Cullman Center for Writers and Scholars of the New York Public Library, where he began working on his fifth novel.

On November 4, 2013, Enrigue’s novel Muerte súbita (Sudden Death) was announced as the winner of the 31st Herralde Novel Prize, joining a distinguished list of works by authors from Spain and Latin America, including Álvaro Pombo, Enrique Vila-Matas, Antonio Ungar, Javier Marías, Juan Villoro, and Roberto Bolaño.


A funny and mind-bending novel about the clash of empires and ideas in the sixteenth century, told over the course of one dazzling tennis match

A brutal tennis match in Rome.

Two formidable opponents: the wild Italian painter Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio and the loutish Spanish poet Francisco de Quevedo.

Galileo, Saint Matthew and Mary Magdalene heckle from the sidelines.

In England, Thomas Cromwell and Henry VIII execute Anne Boleyn, and her executioner transforms her legendary locks into the most sought-after tennis balls of the time.

Across the ocean in Mexico, the last Aztec emperors play their own games, as Hernán Cortés and his Mayan translator and lover scheme and conquer, fight and fuck, not knowing that their domestic comedy will change the course of history.

Over the course of one dazzling tennis match – through assassinations and executions, carnal liaisons and papal dramas, artistic and religious revolutions, love and war – Sudden Death tells the grand adventure of the clash of empires and the dawn of the modern era.


This is one of the hardest books to read, and not because it is not clever, funny or compelling, it is a matter of charm I presume. I just wasn’t as captivated as I wish and I couldn’t help it.

It is a very well explored book, that has its own tempo and it is very easy to follow. The plot reveals itself at fast- pace and every twist and turn keeps you on your toes. Enrigue has done a marvellous job intertwining significant historical figures and their stories together over the course of a wild tennis match acting as a duel between two people who can’t quite remember why they’re duelling in the first place! Honestly said, that was the only reason I ever picked up the book, I just wanted to see will he manage to pull it off, and he did!!!

Although, I would have wished it to be a little more periodical, you know, chronologically wise. It is not that I can’t deal with chaos, I can, but it sort of robbed the whole thing. The story jumps all over the place, both in location and timeline. It’s certainly a book that lacks in continuity. In that way it feels somewhat like a tennis match. As a reader you feel like the tennis ball being bounced back and forth around the court (with significantly more than 2 players!) The seemingly unrelated stories do all intertwine eventually which is very satisfying, assuming you’ve managed to keep track of it all…

On the whole it is a very good idea, and a very well explored topic, but as I said it just didn’t keep me glued to it at all times, mainly because of its inconsistency. The author switches rapidly between different names/titles for characters. One of the main characters was referred to as Caravaggio, Merisi, the Italian, the painter, the artist and the Lombard at different points during the story, switching between them from sentence to sentence. This book demands your attention as if you miss or forget something, it can be easy to lose track. Some characters switch names based on historical context and who they are speaking to etc. which I can understand, but I feel like there was an awful lot of name/title switching on top of this! A couple of other minor things pulled me out of the story; namely some unusual chapters (the author’s emails with the editor which seemed to add little to the plot to name just one) and the lack of speech punctuation or line breaks within conversations.

Maybe I am getting old, and my memory isn’t as good anymore, but the end result was that my excitement was kept at bay, it just didn’t reach full capacity!2FOXGIVEN


The Bastard’s Grimoire by Joseph Hirsch



Joseph Hirsch’s books Ohio at Dusk and Flash Blood were both published by Damnation Books. His novel War-Crossed Eyes was published by Mélange Books, and his novels Rolling Country and The Last Slice of Pizza were published by Moonshine Cove Publishing. He has sold work to Underground Voices and Zahir Tales. His novella House of Crystal was published by Silverthought and his novella Orphan Elixir was serialized in The Western Online. His short stories were also featured in 3 AM Magazine. He previously worked as a sports correspondent for Fight Hype covering boxing matches around the globe, and he was also a finalist in a Glimmer Train Short Story Award Competition for New Writers. His novels Kentucky Bestiary and The Dove and the Crow were published by Paragraph Line Books. His novels Veterans’ Affairs and The Bastard’s Grimoire were published by Black Rose Writing. His novel, Up in the Treehouse, is forthcoming from Damnation Books. More information can be found at
He served four years in the U.S. Army, wherein his travels took him to Iraq and Germany. He currently lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, and attends the University of Cincinnati. He can be found online


Once upon a time an evil wizard waved his wand over a sullen wretch named Casper Namlos. This wizard recited a bit of the biblical Vulgate backwards, entreating the lad to be fruitful and multiply. And so the boy obeyed the magician’s spell, wandering the land and sowing his demon seed whenever and wherever he could, until parts of the kingdom lay in ruins, while the rest of the realm waited in terror for that final day when the boy was prophesied to bring forth the Great Beast to stalk the land. Now the only thing keeping Satan from reigning on Earth is another young lad who appears laughably weak compared to the demon hordes.


I had some idea about what is going to come out of this book, but God, I never expected it to be that Good. I haven’t read anything else by Hirsch, but now I definitely have to, because he blew my mind! Well written with some gritty depictions of Medieval life, scenes of gratuitous violence, and the weird and perverted sex acts what more can a girl ask for?!

A very awesome book cover, great font & writing style. A very well written historical fiction erotic fantasy book. It was very easy for me to read/follow from start/finish & never a dull moment. Lots of exciting scenarios, with several twists/turns & a huge set of unique characters to keep track of. This could also make another great erotic fantasy movie, animated cartoon, or better yet a paid-per-view mini TV series. To be continued?

This is a very strong narrative of medieval lore couched in archaic language with blood, gore, grotesque sex, carnage, buggery and wizardly mayhem. The author walks across your imagination with the detritus of castle privies. It is fascinatingly well done but clearly for the “mature” reader”.5FOXGIVEN

Definitely recommend it for reading!


Diary of an Ordinary Woman by Margaret Forster



Margaret Forster was educated at the Carlisle and County High School for Girls. From here she won an Open Scholarship to Somerville College, Oxford where in 1960 she was awarded an honours degree in History.

From 1963 Margaret Forster worked as a novelist, biographer and freelance literary critic, contributing regularly to book programmes on television, to Radio 4 and various newspapers and magazines.

Forster was married to the writer, journalist and broadcaster Hunter Davies. They lived in London. and in the Lake District. They had three children, Caitlin, Jake and Flora.


Margaret Forster presents the ‘edited’ diary of a woman, born in 1901, whose life spans the twentieth century. On the eve of the Great War, Millicent King begins to keep her journal and vividly records the dramas of everyday life in a family touched by war, tragedy, and money troubles. From bohemian London to Rome in the 1920s her story moves on to social work and the build-up to another war, in which she drives ambulances through the bombed streets of London.

Here is twentieth-century woman in close-up coping with the tragedies and upheavals of women’s lives from WWI to Greenham Common and beyond. A triumph of resolution and evocation, this is a beautifully observed story of an ordinary woman’s life – a narrative where every word rings true.


I have never been much of diary girl, neither have I ever been keen on reading other people’s diary, but something spoke to me and I found myself leaving a car-boot sale with this book in hand, actually looking forward to see what Millicent King had to say about life then. I think it was mostly that fact that I miss my grandmother that made me buy it. My nan was born in 1924, I loved the times when she was telling me stories from her youth, she was a hell of a woman, still is, although dementia is taking hold on her. I wish that I could be half of the woman she is… But lets not get distracted, back to the diary.

I remember having read  Lady’s Maid and Forster’s biography of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, this means that more or less I knew what I was getting myself into, although I never expected it to sink in so deep. I finished this book this morning and spent the next few hours grieving – both for the death of this remarkable woman and for the book/diary ending. I had so enjoyed ‘knowing’ Millicent and felt quite cut adrift to have ‘lost’ her. I knew she was a fictional character, but she felt so real, so alive that I wish she was a living person.

This is a great book – the emotional ambiguities and twists & turns of Millicent’s life were, for me, devastatingly real, making this an intense and powerfully engaging reading experience. Inspires reflection on past and present connections with my own mother, my grandmothers, great aunts etc, and a sharp (and uncomfortable) awareness of the ease with which we can, in our relative youth, disregard/dismiss their knowledge, perspective, experience and insight (as did the twins – Connie and Toby – to Millicent).
The rest of my day will be spent adjusting to the fact that there is no Millicent King! I know that this would be a sharing-too-much-situation, but I am crying as a write this review… I wish I was wiser to spend more time with my grandmother, but a time lost can rarely be made up for. Definitely recommend it! Read it, so that your wake-up call comes more on time than mine.5FOXGIVEN


Summerlong by Peter S. Beagle



Peter Soyer Beagle (born April 20, 1939) is an American fantasist and author of novels, nonfiction, and screenplays. He is also a talented guitarist and folk singer. He wrote his first novel, A Fine and Private Place , when he was only 19 years old. Today he is best known as the author of The Last Unicorn, which routinely polls as one of the top ten fantasy novels of all time, and at least two of his other books (A Fine and Private Place and I See By My Outfit) are considered modern classics.


Retired history professor Abe Aronson is a cranky, solitary man living out his autumn years on Gardner Island, a ferry ride away from the hustle and bustle of nearby Seattle. One rainy February night, while dining at a favourite local haunt, Abe and his girlfriend Joanna meet an engaging enigmatic waitress, new in town and without a place of her own. Fascinated and moved by the girl’s plight, Joanna invites her to stay in Abe’s garage. It seems everyone falls for the charming and invigorating the waitress, but she is much more than she appears, and an ancient covenant made a millennium ago threatens to disrupt the spring and alter the lives of Abe, Joanna, and all those around them forever…


The beginning of Autumn is a very special time and I always try to make it as magical as possible, therefore I was really happy when I was given the chance to read Beagle’s latest novel, because he is an author that has had a special place in my heart for many years now. He’s style of writing takes you to other worlds like no other and turns reading a story into the greatest adventure of your life.

Where I come from we have those amazing transition days from summer to fall, where the sun is still warm, but the rain and the wind remind you that October is close, you begin to smell pumpkin and apple pies from every corner, you see people beginning to wrap themselves in warm scarfs and sweaters, still bearing the sun-kissed skin on their faces. It is one of the most beautiful seasons of the year, for me at least. Like one of those days, Peter S. Beagle’s upcoming novel, Summerlong, is charmingly quiet yet deeply thoughtful, with an ambience that will keep readers spellbound to the final page. It is the kind of read you will engage in from beneath you warm blanket while the rain is sweetly whispering its words on the window and you are reminiscing amazing, wild  memories of summer. You are going to taste that book, smell it and feel its warmth from the cover to the very last word in it.

Summerlong relies upon Beagle’s literary mastery for its success. The setting on a small island outside of Seattle becomes an extra protagonist to the story as our characters conduct their day-to-day lives. From the fish markets of Seattle to the quiet peace of island life, Beagle paints a vivid picture of the community in which these characters live, and sets the foundation for the changes he will visit upon them. It’s a strange novel, blending the monotony of day-to-day living with the world of myths and legends, and even in the spots where it is uplifting, you can’t help but catch a hint of sadness and melancholy, as the choices that allow the characters to find new joys or ease their pain bring entirely new problems.

Beagle has made some extraordinary choices: for example the way Abe and Joanna communicate, although their dialogues are truthful and feel real, the are peppered with archaic expressions that don’t really match the modern era in which the novel is set. Although, I admit that I have similar modes of communication with my literary comrades, but it happens on occasion and is never the standard, while in Summerlong it has become the recognised go-to for transferring information. It does give a whimsical touch to the story, but I find it bizarre for some reason.

If I have to strip it to basics Summerlong is a rather deep exploration of both points of view in the grand myth of Persephone and Hades, too, so it’s actually rather rich in contemplation. It is very introspective and I often found myself distracted by my own thought, because I found pieces of my own doubts and struggles connected with the characters’ battles. It was an eye-opening read. I did surface from in as a melancholic mermaid from an ocean of thoughts and feelings, but I found a lot of hope and content, just like those last rays of sun that sneak in-between the falling autumn leaves.

I loved it. I lived it.

And I think you should too.5FOXGIVEN