New Yorkers

New Yorkers: A Fiesty People Who Will Unsettle, Madden, Amuse and Astonish You by Clifford Browder

Reviewed by Lisa Brown Gilbert

When it comes to New York City, its dynamic environ and multicultural fusion of distinctive inhabitants, author Clifford Browder focuses his keen literary eye on his life and experiences as a seasoned resident there, as well as providing glimpses of the eclectic history of the city in his recent work, New Yorkers: A Feisty People Who will Unsettle, Madden, Amuse and Astonish You. Moreover, being no stranger to using the backdrop of New York as a setting for his previously published books, including a series set in nineteenth-century New York, titled Metropolis, author Browder once again provides an intriguing exploration of a very culturally distinctive locale. Purchase Here.

Moreover, this is not your typical cut and dry biography, providing dry facts; instead, the read is a heartfelt memoir of a man and the city he lives, loves, survives and works in. The narrative keeps you rapt in its pages with a winning combination of information gleaned from Mr. Browder’s unique standpoint, research, and experiences from his many years as a resident. Consequently, author Browder does well with transfixing the mental eye with descriptions of his life as a longtime resident, including historical glimpses and insider tidbits of the better-known aspects of New York as well as the lesser-known and even the obscure.

Providing a narrative which flows well, as Author Clifford Browder employs a friendly, authentically knowledgeable tone, within which he gives literate life to a multilayered perspective of New York, through his work in this book. In no particular chronological order, the text is divided into five parts with each section bringing into focus an intriguing variety of elements.

Firstly, Part one includes topics covering looks into the many people, languages, the hustlers, scavengers and the rich. Next, Part 2 looks at how New Yorkers live with chapters including Fun, Booze, Smells, and Graffiti just to name a few. However, also included within this section is my favorite chapter #16, Are New Yorkers Rude? I think author Browder explored this question in fine style. Consecutively, Part 4 covers some of the more iconic locales including Broadway, Fifth Avenue, The Bowery, Wall Street and 14th street. Part four continues with a tour of some of the museums, statues as well as an obscure but interest-piquing, whiskey-tasting cemetery. Followed by Part 5 which delves into some of the past history of New York, providing the insightful histories of both the good and the bad.

Overall, I enjoyed reading New Yorkers. Author Clifford Browder gave a fascinating insiders tour of New York. Part biography, part historical dive and part travel guide, this work offers a tantalizing vision of an exciting city overflowing with diversity in all respects. This was a worthwhile read which I do recommend. However, as a fellow New Yorker, I experienced some turbulent emotions while reading this book particularly with the advent of Coronavirus and the current lockdown in NY and all those wonderful people locked inside of their homes because of a virus. My heart and prayers go out to my family and friends as well as the author, his family and all other New Yorkers-God Bless Us All.

Kensington

Kensington: Kensington: a memoir about friendship, love, and life in a small town by Robert Haydon

Reviewed by Dianne Woodman

Kensington: a memoir about friendship, love, and life in a small town is a fascinating recollection of Robert Haydon’s life in the 40’s and 50’s that also includes enthralling ancestral stories along with entertaining anecdotes involving animals. Haydon’s family moved from Kensington, Maryland, to Dallas, Texas, in 1957. Haydon not only shares some of his unforgettable memories of Kensington through engrossing stories but also writes about the tough scenario the family faced that prompted the move to Dallas. During Haydon’s teen years in Dallas, music became an important part of his life, especially after he met Steve Miller, a fellow classmate, who shared his love of music. This friendship led to the formation of a band that included other fellow classmates, and the group named themselves “The Marksmen Combo.” This was the beginning of Haydon’s performing career, which brought him into contact with some of the greatest musicians of all time, who are mentioned in the book. Purchase Here.

This memoir grabs readers’ attention from the very beginning with the wonderfully written prologue that sets up the story, which is told in the stylistic tradition of a novel. The Haydon and Mann families joined together through marriage and had different outlooks on life. The Haydon’s led a rural lifestyle, whereas the Mann were city folks. Haydon shares intriguing snippets about his ancestors along with more specific details about the lives of his grandparents and immediate family members. Pivotal and historical events in the lives of both families that are touched on by Haydon connect with readers’ emotions. Haydon also uses vivid, sensory details along with realistic dialogue to draw readers in and keep them invested in continuing to turn the pages. The black and white photographs sprinkled throughout the book not only help legitimize the story but also help readers visualize the people that are an inherent part of it and the places where events have taken place.

Haydon does an excellent job of using anecdotes that pull readers into the heartaches and celebratory moments experienced by individuals in this well-researched narrative that also provides readers with opportunities to form their own opinions about some of the material presented in this historical account. The honest and genuine telling of moments and events that encompass family and friends will appeal to readers, especially anyone who is interested in influential rock music icons and a real insight into what it was like growing up in the 40’s and 50’s. Kensington is an enjoyable, moving, and enlightening memoir that covers historical junctures and personal incidents of a time period in history that was far different than today’s culture.

Geraldina & the Compass Rose

Geraldina & the Compass Rose by Geraldine Brown Giomblanco

Reviewed by Timea Barabas

Geraldine Brown Giomblanco’s compelling memoir Geraldina & the Compass Rose is an inspirational read that prompts to self-reflection and action. By telling her story in a most candid way, the book outgrows just one person and gradually reveals its reflective surface in which the reader’s own psyche is mirrored. Purchase Here.

The novel closely follows the life of a woman along the major spheres of her life: faith, family, career, and love. Throughout the pages, Geri skillfully tries to find balance between all these which proves to be far from an easy task. However, even in the darkest hours, at least one thing remains constant and safely guides her through hardships – a strong devotion that springs from her beloved Grandmother. When least expected, but most needed, subtle divine interventions illuminate the right path.

Geri is a big personality who does not hesitate to rely on wits and instinct to propel her through career and guide her through personal matters. Even so, she is constantly reminded that the road to success is not easy. Often enough she hits the stop button and gathers all strength to restart hoping for a better outcome. The final payoff is well worth it, as she grows ever closer to her aspiration. After flicking through a magazine an image made a great impact on her and it served as a personification of a successful business woman. Striving to grow into that glossy image, she ends up becoming much more. Behind the aesthetics hides a savvy business brain and the courage to break the mold.

Beyond the ups and downs, Geri’s career seems to have a general upward trend, something that cannot easily be said about her love life. She seems to be a lucky love charm to many of her friends at playing a hand in matching them up with a Mister Right but she is having trouble finding the same kind of luck. Geraldine Brown Giomblanco takes us behind closed curtains and reveals some of her most intimate thoughts and actions in a frank and considerate tone. She does not shy away from hurt and heartache nor from passion and blind love. Trying to balance emotions and rationality in romance is a challenging task, but she relies on both in trying to undo some of the more difficult relationships.

All in all, it is Geraldine Brown Giomblanco’s honesty and courage to unravel her life story that makes the novel so appealing. Whether it is in the big picture or the smallest of details, certainly every reader will find a piece of herself or himself in the pages of the author’s life.

Dancing with Death

Dancing with Death: An Epic and Inspiring Travel Adventure

Book Reviewed by Lisa Brown-Gilbert

Offering an intensely evocative and aptly titled narrative, Dancing with Death both guides and inspires, armchair adventurers as well as venturesome travelers to the jungles, seas, people and cultures of the world’s “roads” less traveled within the beautiful panoramas of Latin America. Co-authored by co-adventurers Jean-Philippe Soulé and Luke Shullenberger, this dynamic read memorializes not only their experiences during their expansive sea kayaking journey, but also serves to help bring awareness to the cultures and history of the seldom seen or noted native peoples they encountered. Purchase here.

From the start, the story treats the mind to the emotions and visages entwined in this thrilling narrative which memorializes the unforgettable and awe-inspiring expedition by sea touted as a one of a kind undertaking. Author, guide, and adventurer Jean-Philippe Soulé accompanied by fellow adventurer and able friend Luke Shullenberger find themselves and their kayaks sorely tested by weather, tides and their bodies as they paddled thousands of miles braving often life-threatening conditions including near drowning, malaria, shark attacks, crocodiles, guerillas, armed bandits and corruption during their one of a kind undertaking. The overall journey spanning three years, 3000 miles and seven countries included Baja, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama. The expedition fully titled as the Central America Sea Kayaking Expedition 2000, but also known as the CASKE2000, was a quest intended as an effort to connect with, learn about and preserve in writing the history of the self-reliant, indigenous peoples and their respect for and relationship with the earth.

Overall, the book provides an absorbing view of life for the two sea bound kayakers. Readers are made privy to the challenges, successes, and failures of their journey supplied via their intimate thoughts and experiences through the inclusion of their alternating journal entries, of which I found did well to enhance the read by providing deep insight and focus to emotions with differing perspectives concerning the elements of planning, preparation, and embarking on the expedition.

Altogether, I did enjoy reading Dancing with Death. The book was easy to engage with and well-organized. I found the narrative an intelligently composed chronicle and compelling read that riled the senses with descriptive exposition and well-organized literate visions of superhuman determination, extreme traveling adventure, fraught with kayaking adventure, spine-tingling moments, exotic environments and intriguing people and cultures.

I also enjoyed their close up encounters with wildlife which made for particularly exciting reading especially the section on playing hide and seek with giant sea turtles. Additionally, aside from portraying a phenomenal travel super-adventure, included in the book are some of the most stunning photos that I have seen, as well as the additional perk of a fantastically organized website where you get to experience even more details of their journey. However, the very best aspect of the book is the inspirational tone of the whole book. The authors, although faced with the adversity and danger of their expedition, did not quit. They simply followed their dreams, a must I think, for all travelers. I definitely and heartily reco