Renita D’Silva ‘The Girl in the Painting – my review

Motto: sati, noun, (in Hindi from Sanskrit it means ‘faithful wife’): a old practice in India whereby a widow threw herself on to her husband’s funeral pyre. Unless…

‘The Girl in the Painting’ is Renita’s newest novel, to be released on 11th of April. I couldn’t wait, therefore I took my copy from Netgallery, as soon as it was available. It was like a much-desired gift and more. The book met all my expectations, made me emotional, made me re-read paragraphs and made me think again about the human condition, history, from where I can save for a trip to India, and how much I would like to share justice for 24 hours.

In the rural England, the war dismantled a family; the fire (which runs like the leitmotif throughout the book) killed some of them; and the malevolent relatives completed the disaster: two sisters were pushed on different roads for good. While Winnie got married, Margaret devoted herself to study and drawing. Soon she’ll fall in love and she’ll move to the other half of the world. Did I mention, at the beginning of the 20th century, love was a forbidden concept?

Meanwhile, in India, the untouchable – a word of fear, defining the lowest caste, takes the story to unexpected picks. Renita built an untouchable – like feeling in Archana, which drove her to the pyre. The strong symbol of fire has a double connotation here: purification and redemption, but would be that a free choice?

With every new novel, Renita’s style becomes more sophisticated, fine braid of feelings. Her characters live long after the reader finishes the book, the action is a high spiral of surprising events; her books are ‘one more chapter, until the dawn’ type.

But reading the last book I noticed something else, something that makes each of her books one of a kind; the endless love for India, Renita D’Silva’s birth place and UK, her present home. With all the words, the lines, the paragraphs, the chapters, this writer weeps her nostalgia. Being unable to choose, she mixes her love in the amazing melting pot of literature, producing unforgetable novels.

I’ll draw 5 shining stars on Renita’s tiara for ‘The Girl in the Painting’.

Pre-order, or, if you read this review after the 11th of April 2019, take your copy from here!

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C. A. Asbrey ‘Innocent Bystander’ my review

What do I know about C. A. Asbrey? 1. She wrote the first 3 books of The Innocents’ series (and a lot of posts on her blog): ‘The Innocents’, ‘Innocent as sin’, and ‘Innocent Bystander’. The great news is: the series will have 6 books, the 4th to be released soon. 2. She has a solid sense of humour. 

I can’t remeber why I decided to start with the third ‘Innocent Bystander’ (after I read all three samples on Amazon), but what I can figure out is: I thought I would understand what happened in the first two. Wrong! For complete entertainment, the reading of the whole series is a must. Needless to say, I read it in a blink and felt sorry I didn’t start with the beginning!

The book paints an extremelly well documented story about the troubled times in the western part of the United States, in the 19th century, (don’t beg, I won’t say more), when Abigail met Nat (the right chemistry is there, but they are on the opposite side of the barricade, Nat being an ‘Innocent’!). 

What I felt reading The Innocent Bystander? I like when things are in their place. I, also, like when right smashes evil for good – this is the point in a tale! My satisfaction was guaranteed. Do I recommend The Innocents? Absolutely!

Grab your 5 stars copies!

Milan unconventional

The end of the year got me wandering far from home. After a 5-hour train ride through the vallachian plains, I arrived in Drobeta Turnu Severin to get a taste of the south western romanian culture, characterized by sword fights and leek. That night I also got a glimpse of serbian cuisine, tasting pleskavita in the village of Kladovo, just across the Danube.

Next day, my friends and I left for the far western part of the country. Three hours later we were arriving in Timișoara. That night we had an eye-opening/traumatic experience watching Netflix’s “Black Mirror: Bandersnatch”, but more on that on an upcoming movie review series.

In the morning we had to catch a plane, for we were leaving for Milan. Chilly morning weather in the fashion capital got us shivering a little bit, making it a lot harder to find our way home. I have to say that markings in the city are really counter intuitive, so an Internet connection is required for not losing a lot of time wandering through tunnels. Finally, we got the right subway, but we would find out that we also need to take a train, because we were not staying in the city as we believed.

Two hours later, we were arriving in the village of Trecella, about 25 km south from Milan. Trecella is a really small and nice place, but I would not find that out until the next morning. The house, a tidy villa of which we Airbnb’d a living/kitchen and a bedroom. Our host was a kind young man named Andrea. For the moment, we had to rest, so we slept for an hour, then we left for the city again.

Milan has a rather large center, that holds a lot of landmarks for the tourists to visit, and I mention here Arco del Pace, Victor Emanuel Galleries, and the famous Dome of Saint Mary. The Dome plaza is a big place surrounded by bars and other small attractions. To me it really resembled other european places of the same nature, like the Brussels center. We tried to take some of those infamous pictures with the dome as background, but we weren’t capable of taking any good frame for there simply were too many people.

A ten minute walk on a large promenade brought us to the Sforza Castle. It was a big stronghold, guarded by tall walls and barracks in each corner, as well as watch towers. The open space between the walls gave it a really nice vibe, as if you would be connected to the minds of all the people around.

Further away from the castle, we took a walk through a park frequented mostly by teenagers and afro people, and also the well known roma, some of them even from Romania.

At the far end of the park, the Arco del Pace was guarding a medium sized plaza, which looked like a very good meeting place.

We went back to see the Victor Emanuel galleries, a big hall starting from the dome plaza and hosting a variety of things to see. The Christmas decorations and the swarovski tree according to the time of the year.

I couldn’t wait tasting the pizza, but I was disappointed, for it tasted exactly like a poor one made by some unknown restaurant from back home. And three times more expensive.

After the anticlimactic pizza moment, we headed back home to cook our own pasta and drink a glass of grocery store prosecco. Cheap thrills, but very appealing to people like us.

In need of rest, we slept until the next day at lunch.

At around twelve o’clock we couldn’t find any coffee around the house, so I went looking for some.

That was the moment I observed the village more closely. The first thing that got my eye was a church tower in the distance, so I went it’s way. What I discovered is that the church wasn’t far at all, and I got to it two streets away. I went around one time, and got inside through a side door, the only one unlocked.

A Catholic cathedral, but it didn’t feel much different from the orthodox ones at home. The absence of people inside it made the experience rather eerie, but in a good way. They got a lot of statues, and prayer books for the adepts, as well as the stained glass giving the whole place different colors. To me, it resembled certain hip hop music videos.

After taking some more pictures through the church, I headed further to find some grocery store. I didn’t have to walk much more, because the village was quickly done. A central plaza hosted a postal office, a grocery store, a library, a coffee shop, and a restaurant. Unfortunately, apart from the last two, they were closed, so I just took some pictures and got back home without any coffee. Wasn’t disappointed though, because the town had a really nice vibe that stuck to me for the rest of my stay. It almost reminded me of my father’s home town.

Later that day, we went back to Milan to celebrate the New year. But first we headed to “City life” an urban area where 30+ level buildings erect everywhere around. A business center, as I like to call it. Nice, but empty of substance, in contrast to our small village. Photos below.

After visiting the business center, we went to the dome plaza for the celebration. Security was everywhere, and it took us about half an hour to get to the entrance, only to be sent back by the guards because we weren’t allowed to take glass bottles inside. Witty as always, my friends moved the alcohol in tiny plastic bottles so we wouldn’t have any problem walking inside with them. After another half an hour, we were inside. Just four more hours to midnight. The party went as any public party back at home, some artists performing, some politicians speaking, everyone doing their best (accordingly to the money they got) and wishing for a better year. We got to the countdown, passed 2018, hugged each other, didn’t call home because they were in 2019 for an hour already. Then we headed to the social center to go clubbing. Nothing special if you ask me, I like the social center at home better, but still nice enough. That night we stayed in town until 6am then took the first train of the morning home. We had a lot of sleep to catch on.

It was, again, the middle of the day when I got up. No one would be up at the time, so I went and took a shower. One by one, my friends begun to rise. But shortly we found out we were really hungry and there was nothing to eat. Oana was the only one brave enough to go outside looking for food, and shortly she returned saying that the local pizzeria was opened and we should hurry for it was closing soon. It was the first of January after all. So we went to Pizza Express 4, a very small local, of about 30 square metres. They had no bathrooms, but the guys were kind enough to let me wash my hands in the sink in the back of the garage. The place was full of positive energy, and they made the pizza right in front of us. The one in the center of the frame is Ahmed. He comes from Egypt and he does not speak English very well, so I had to use my little knowledge of Italian to ask him for another cola and a picture of him making the pizza. After the last pizza experience, I wasn’t expecting much, but I couldn’t be more wrong. I didn’t know what I was ordering, for the menu was in Italian, but what I got was a pizza with salami and some little fish, I suspect were anchovies. I may have been very hungry, but I swear that pizza had all the tastes it could, and did not feel like rubber when biting into it. The perfect experience if you ask me, it got me reminiscing the pizza my mother used to make at home. I left the place with a good feeling after this and I know I have to visit Trecella again when I come around Milan next time.

Next, after another brief visit through City Life, we headed for the airport. It was 11pm in the evening, and our plane was departing at 8am in the next morning, but the public transport could not get us there then, so we had to spend the night in the airport. This was the moment the third day should have been finished, but I can’t really tell when it does finish and when does the fourth start. Now it’s all blurry, but what I recall is spending the whole night on benches, trying to get a good sleeping position, and only hurting my back. Around 6 o’clock we went to McDonald’s to grab breakfast and some coffee, then we proceeded to our gate. On the plane it felt even more blurry, mostly because I was half asleep. I found this picture on my phone I can’t remember taking, but I’m really proud of it.

We got back to Romania, arriving in Timișoara at about 11 o’clock. Good thing our driver got a decent sleep, and he could take us back to Drobeta, where the train left me 5 days ago. Now I’m once again on a train ride through the vallachian plains, going back to Bucharest, still about three hours to go.

I’m finishing in the same note Santan Dave can be heard on Drake’s “Teenage Fever” postlude-ing:

“Slightly been awake for 24 hours, so please forgive me

More ideas and stuff comin’

Yeah, yeah, fam

I’m wafflin’, but man is tired, fam, Jesus Christ”

Chris Babu ‘The Expedition’ – my review

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Green is always fresh

Chris Babu’s ‘The Expedition’, the second book in the series after ‘The Initiation’, will be launched Dec 4th. I’m the lucky owner of a ARC, which has traveled, in silence, half of the Globe, from NY, USA to Romania, East Europe, for 45 days, by different planes, cars, trains (perhaps boats! who knows the twisted paths of the postal services!!). When I had ‘The Expedition’ in my hands I felt like I won the battle and got my reward!

I will allow myself to say: Long ago, in the future, due to Pseudomonas Aeruginosa, so inspired named Aeru in the book, (an antibiotics resistant bacillus which killed more then 90% of World population) Manhatan became the New America, an enclosed oppressive system. I’ll be brief: The administration of New America divided the humans in privileged people and the rest, rationalized the food and developed the propaganda and denouncement. Level? Expert! More? The threat of evacuation outside the ‘safe walls’, to Aeru, has made the half of the population to become terrified and obedient. The other half were Guardians. Was any hope left? And if so, where is it? More? New America’s energy equipment was outdated and useless. Therefore the food production was decreasing dramatically and the need for a diminished population became an emergency. Prepare yourselves for worse.

In these circumstances we meet Drayden Coulson and his friends. They dream for more then a plastic/grey life and passed ‘The Initiation’. Further they were forced to try ‘The Expedition’. Sometimes they are hungry, sometimes they are scared, most of the time they dare.

5 reasons to read this 5 stars book.

  1. The principle. ‘The sleep of reason produces monsters’ Francisco Goya. Appliable today? Hm! Our consumer society, in Chris’s Babu vision, is a mixture of chaos and disorder. The decline can’t be stopped by the adults who are already caught in the vortex of daily habits, too tired or too bored to act. Showing the right from wrong to the young generation, encouraging them to follow a healty life, and to be responsible, are good reasons for Chris Babu to write a book and for us to read it and think about. Especially when the author uses a captivating way to explain this priciple.
  2. The characters: Drayden, Tim, Sidney, Charlie, Alex, Catrice. The protagonists. The universe of the book revolves around them. Young adults having their ups and downs, confident or not – they are extremely well shaped by the author. They live in the book and serve as models to the readers. The rest of the characters are examples for normal humans beings, just like you and me, but having thick nuances of ‘iron curtain’ – the inflexible captain and his versatile son, the democrat mayor or, one of my favourites (despite his short role), Professor Worth who belives the humanity needs a fresh start.
  3. The action. There is no peace in ‘The Expedition’ and there was none in ‘The Initiation’. The readers will have to practice the breath control and anger management. My personal advice for them is to do patience exercises too, until the third book in the series will be released. I’m going to place ‘The Expedition’ in the can’t put this book down category.
  4. The writing. The themes of a killer-bug and a decadent society are not new on the market. The writer must have an unshakable faith to fulfill his task (see #1). Chris Babu passed this exam twice. The writing is fluent and alert. I noticed the book is extremelly well written because I didn’t notice the writing at all. Nothing has bothered me to be deeply immersed in the action.
  5. The fun. All from above.

About the author

James Ferretti ‘Six Stories’ – my review

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I purchased James Ferretti’s ‘Six Stories’ by mistake. I can explain. I read every night (it depends) few pages or a book. I was sleepy. Amazon knows my credit card number. I touch buy now by mistake. I heard (like in a dream) the sound of a new mail and got up to check it. It was Amazon Kindle your book is in the newsfeed or something like that. And, of course, I started to be confused. Well, the Six Stories was there! What stopped me to finish the book in that very night was the next working-day and the proximity of the week-end (when I finished it).

A mixture of humour and absurd, the stories treat the human alienation in a the contemporary context: from the lunacy and enrolling of a bank employee, to the final sacrifice of the artist and the extreme sexuality of our world, with a touch of  paranormal. Like packing Kafka in Edward Munch paintings and deliver it in the Jay Leno show. 5 stars

Dublin unconvetional

We arrived in Dublin on a Monday morning, about 11 am. Local time: 2 hours earlier than Romania, so we started our trip in Ireland having the feeling of a free gain from the very beginning. The way from the airport was pretty short. By the time we arrived at the hotel I had in mind what to write in this post about the buses/shuttles, prices, best route etc. What changed my mind totally?

The receptionist looked to us and through us First time in Dublin? he smiled getting a map and a pen. Trinity College is the first, he pointed on the map, how many days in Dublin? Only 2 and half? We nodded. He drew circles, lines and arrows and he handed us the map, smiling again, It’s free.

Happiness is, sometime, a free map, a smile and good boots. It’s first about the people, and then about the places. Definitely about taking photos. The rest is legend.

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Barry’s Hotel. Cosy. 10 mins walking from the centre of Dublin. The average of ghosts? Actually I saw and felt none, but I have assumed they were shy.

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Peaceful street in Dublin

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Henry Street, great place for shopping

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O’Connel Street, midday

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Daniel O’Connell The Liberator or The Emancipator, Irish political leader in the first half of the 19th century; former Mayor of City of Dublin, National Hero. One of his famous meme was: ‘The altar of liberty totters when it is cemented only with blood’. O’Connell Monument now is a important landmark for both visitors and Dubliners.

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The lovely gentleman was welcoming the ladies at the entrance of an exquisite shoe/bags-shop, on Grafton Street. Unfortunately this shop was not on my list of places to visit, but he didn’t mind.

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The Spine of Dublin, Monument of Light, An Túr Solais, is a elongated cone, of diameter 3 m at the base, narrowing to 15 cm at the top, 120 m in height (Wikipedia), located on the site of the former Nelson’s Pillar (destroyed by a bomb in 1966) on O’Connell Street. It was installed in January 2003.

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The Dubliners have different opinions about The Spine. Some of them like it, others don’t. The Spine seems to me (the outsider) and elegant piece of metal, nice because of its slim intrusion between all these pieces of history and useful because it’s seen from all the places. Plus is very photogenic.

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Butterflies and green lights – evenings in Dublin

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Remember Arthur C. Clarke The Fountains of Paradise?

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Coláiste na Tríonóide, College of the Holly and Undivided Trinity of Queen Elizabeth near Dublin, better known as Trinity College, was founded in 1592 by Queen Elizabeth I. Wikipedia

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Trinity College is now located on College Green, opposite the historic Irish Houses of Parliament, hard to miss in the local geography. Large entrance, a lot of youngs, people looking busy and the traditional flock of turists (large open mounths, big eyes -usually coverd by cameras, smartphones or tablets, the sound of flashes, wows, heys…).

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Old Library

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The Long Room of the Old Library was built between 1712 and 1732. Initially had a flat ceiling, shelving for books only on the lower level, but by 1860 the roof was raised to accommodate an upper gallery. The Long Room is lined with marble busts (great philosophers, writers, and men who supported the college). Wikipedia

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The Long Room houses 200,000 of the Library’s oldest books.

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The Long Room holds one of the last remaining copies of the 1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic.

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Arnaldo Pomodoro – Sfera con sfera at The Berkeley Library, Trinity College; I would like to name this picture “The importance of the Day”! No reason.

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The Teacher

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Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Ard-Eaglais Naomh Pádraig, founded in 1191, is the National Cathedral of the Church of Ireland. I had to take many steps back until I could shoot this image (base + top). The tower (43 m) didn’t fit in the frame from the beginning. Saint Patrick Cathedral is the tallest church in Ireland.

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The Boyle Family Monument (St. Patrick Cathedral), was erected on the East wall of the choir, in 1632. Along the time the monument developed a interesting story (check out here) and now it can be found at the West end of the cathedral, placed here after it was repaired by Jonathan Swift, in 1863.

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The present Cathedral building dates from 1220-1259 (find more here)

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It is fascinating how the light plays hide-and-seek with the statues, underlining the personalities of the day!

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Christ Church Cathedral, The Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, was founded probably in 1028, after the inspired king Sitric Silkenbeard made a pilgrimage to Rome (more on wikipedia).

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What impressed me the most in Christ Church Cathedral were the mosaics and the crypt. The cathedral has the largest crypt (63.4m) in Britain or Ireland, renovated in 2000s, open for visitors.

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“Returning from the Battle of the Boyne on 6 July 1690, King William III gave thanks for his victory over King James II and presented a set of gold communion plate to the cathedral” (more )

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“The cat and the rat” displayed on the Christ Church Cathedral is a pièces de résistance of the crypt’s exibitions.  And no, I didn’t take any pic of the mummies!

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Dublin Castle was initially a medieval fortress under the orders of King John of England. It had four towers, located in the corners of a big quadrilateral build around a large enclosure. In 1684 a major fire distroyed important parts of medieval structures (but there are some parts survived the fire that can still be visited today). The rebuilding of the castle (in the 17th and 18th centuries) transformed the old, medieval bastion into a Georgian palace. more

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Dublin Castle, medieval part

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For the Kilmainham Gaol I selected the most known pictures. This part of the prison was built in the late 1850s. Comparing with the old  prison, the new part is brighter and larger, having the mainly purpose to spiritually inspire the inmates and encourage them to turn heavenward. Still harsh and auster. It was also the site where more then 15 movies were cast: The Face of Fu Manchu (starring Christopher Lee), The Italian Job, The Makintosh Man, In the Name of the Father, or The Adventures of the Young Indiana Jones (I named just few).

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To the visitors the hall seems warm and peaceful. The whispered voices of the guides, the peaceful rattles of cameras, the murmurs of astonishment, the soft echo of the steps… Yet history is overwhelming.

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I measured (guessing) the height of the stone walls. About 10 meters of real stone. The only way to escape is to fly over.

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‘Don’t even dream to go to Kilmainham Gaol if you didn’t book your tickets long before, on-line’ the hop-on/hop-off driver told us. We found out this important piece of information 3 seconds before we’re hoppin’-off to reach the museum-prison. Sometime you have to decide fast. Looking at the cashier (you have 3 trials to guess) what do you think? Did we get the tickets or not?

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Happiness is a matter of choice, my friends! She was happy to see us and to offer us the last 2 tickets, she said! Welcome, she said: and we were happy to meet her and she made up our day.

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Amazing sky over the Guiness Brewery. I wonder how many pints of valuable beer in the grey container on the right side of the image?

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Afectionally nicknamed by the Dubliners ‘The Tart with the Cart’, the statue of Molly Malone is located on Suffolk Street, a stone’s throw from Trinity College, near St. Andrew Church. Initially, the statue was located on Grafton Street and moved on July 2014 to make room for the Dublin’s tramcar. More then a person, Molly Malone is a famous song, unofficially anthem of Dublin. There is no evidence that the song is based on a real woman’s story, but is nice to put a face on such a wonderful music. So it was established a ‘Molly Malone day’ on 13 of every June (as a celebration of her death on 13 June 1699).

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James Joyce statue on North Earl Street

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This guy looks like he caught the oldest philosophy of the world and has no idea what to do with it!

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Liffey River An Life

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Also known as the Anna Liffey, possibly from the abbreviation of the irish Abhainn na Life. I tryed my old trick with bread and biscuits. Nope! the seagulls didn’t take the bait; ok, they said, one shoot! and they flew away.

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My favourite shop regarding souvenirs.

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I had to remove all the price tags and hide them away (for the sake of a good photo) when the seller was busy with a client. At the end I couldn’t put them back in the right places so I has pretended that nothing had happend when he has returned to his counter.

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Fresh and crispy

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Same shop. Nice dinner, minimum calories, healthy food, a drop of wine. They sell ham, too!

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A frenchman in Dublin and the final countdown.

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The right man in the right place. And he has pretended there nothing was wrong with the price tags.

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Small restaurant famous for fish and chips and more. Crowded. Highly recommended.

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The fish was bigger then the plate with 5 cm at both edges. A ‘mountain’ of hot, well cooked chips, orange fresh juice. Monday evening.

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Charming young lady. Huge desert (ice cream). On the way to the hotel we realised we have no chance to get rid of the thousands of calories. It is always an assumed risk.

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Temple Bar. Center of the nightlife. Packed with tourists. Dublin’s Boema. And no, never stepped inside the Temple Bar, but right near it, on The Shack.

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Cheese cake. I had half of it and then remembered I didn’t take a photo. The red sauce that flows through three parallel lines is my work to impress you. Delicious. The Shack Pub, near Temple Bar.

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I took this picture because  The Quay’s Bar is famous. I was sitting on the steps right in the front of it, enjoying the sunny day.

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Crafton Street. Bewley’s

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At least once in your life try Irish coffee. Plenty alcohol. When we left the coffee shop life looked so pink!

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By night

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St. Stephen’s Green Ducks, seagulls and swans

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Silent and majestic. Imagine how to fit these colors in a dress: red, green and blue. No way! The conception changes 180° when it comes to the nature.

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The best hop-on/hop-off driver. Matt with double t. We laughed out loud all the way.

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Gabriella is a seller in Dublin Airport. Social media is not real life, she said, happiness is out here, and we believed her.

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That green

Kristina Gallo’s ”Get Over Your Ex-lover” – a review

Kristina Gallo kindly offered me, long time ago, two of her books, free, in exchange of a onest review. There we are!

I felt in love from the very first moment with the books’ titles and the covers: ”What does it mean to be black sheep” and ”Get over your ex-lover”, but I must admit I had different expectations from the content; I thought I’ll read some fiction. But what I read made me think again and again.

Kristina Gallo is a life coach and her books are realistic guides of behaviour and attitudes. In a skilled manner, she collected valuable experience and spread it in a professional way, in her books.

Kristina Gallo is a rule maker, but her rules are inspired, very often, from bitter experiences of the women/teenagers she advises.

And

Kristina Gallo is a leader, her writing has a strong ’’voice’’ and it has the power to gather injured souls and to rise questions. And yes, fortunately the answers are there, in the books, being conclusions and practical solutions in the same time. Find Kristina’s books here

Also, Kristina Gallo continues to spread valuable counselling through her blog posts. Although she named the site Rebellious Rules, there are common sense tips and lessons to learn. RR

I recommend this books to be read, kept and checked every time a situation/life requires an alleviation, and for the daily routine, check / follow her blog.

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