Book review: ‘Dark Blossom’ by Neel Mullick

‘Dark Blossom’ is the exciting debut novel by Neel Mullick. Courtesy photo, used with permission. 

Neel Mullick is the Head of Product and Information Security at a Belgian family-office technology company and has degrees in Software Engineering from Carnegie Mellon, USA and Business Administration from INSEAD, France. He mentors women entrepreneurs through the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, is involved in raising a generation of digital and socially-aware leaders with the Steering for Greatness Foundation (Nigeria), supports improvement in the quality of life of domestic workers at Emprendedoras del Hogar (Peru) and is helping IIMPACT (India) break the cycle of illiteracy plaguing young girls from socially and economically impoverished communities. In his new book “Dark Blossom,” the lives of Cynthia, a therapist, and Sam, her new client, intertwine in a story that shows a glimpse of what lies under the surface of apparently normal people.

“Dark Blossom” begins as Sam, who is struggling to deal with his son’s death a day before his thirteenth birthday, shows up at Cynthia’s office, seemingly ready to start counseling. His depressed demeanor and volatile mood say another story. Tragically, his son and wife were killed in an automobile accident which cruelly shattered his world. Cynthia has recently restarted her counseling practice after taking half a year to deal with a bitter divorce, so she sees in Sam a sort of kindred spirit who so desperately needs her help. At first she tries to brush off the similarities between them as coincidence, but when he meets her daughter Lilly, the pieces of the puzzle start coming together. Sam knows too much about their personal lives and as it turns out, he as well as Lilly have secrets. She has more to do with the death of Sam’s family than anyone knows and his presence in Cynthia and Lilly’s life is no accident.

Neel Mullick’s debut novel is part thriller/part drama and offers readers an inside view of a therapist’s mind as she deals with patients and how to properly treat them. Told in the first-person point of view of Cynthia, it starts off as a routine trip to a therapist’s office and soon unravels as situations are more complicated than they seem. Sam clearly is resisting Cynthia’s help, but it becomes evident that he has plans of his own. Even though it is a short book, the character development is excellent as it gives the necessary background needed to propel the plot forward. It is well written, with easy to understand language and the author tells the story without any extraneous information. Since this emotional rollercoaster of a novel is fast paced and a page turner, it can easily be read in a few days, but the plot twist and surprise ending will dwell in readers minds for days. To interact with them, the author has created a competition where readers can chime in with their opinions. Details and rules are available online. “Dark Blossom” is a suspenseful novel that packs an emotional punch and is recommended for readers who enjoy getting lost in the inner workings of the mind.

*The author received a copy of this book for an honest review. The views and opinions expressed here belong solely to her.


Spring Jazz at the Falls at The Shops at La Cantera

Spyro Gyra will be performing as part of this year’s Spring Jazz at the Falls. Courtesy photo: used with permission. 

For the past nine years, the Spring Jazz at the Falls concerts at The Shops at La Cantera have earned a reputation for artistic creativity. This free, family-friendly event, located at The Falls near the Yard House, showcases and fosters an appreciation for all forms of jazz through free, quality, live musical performances. The Jazz at the Falls concert series has expanded to include local talent alongside national and international artists. This year’s jazz performances, presented by Porsche of San Antonio, are from 7p.m. to 9p.m., Wednesdays April 3, 10 and 17. The 2019 Spring Jazz at the Falls showcases Tejano Saxophonist Joe Posada; Latin Jazz by The Brew and Smooth Jazz by Spyro Gyra. Enjoy specialty sips, snacks, exclusive giveaways, photo opportunities and shopping incentives. Bring your lawn chairs; placement is allowed starting one hour prior to show at 6p.m. Schedule is subject to change. No outside coolers allowed. (The Shops at La Cantera, 2019)

Concert lineup:
Wednesday April 13 – Joe Posada, Jazz/Tejano Saxophonist
Joe Posada, one of Tejano music’s most celebrated saxophonists, is also recognized as a timeless vocalist and a well-versed lyricist. In November 2013, Posasda won his second Latin Grammy for a collaboration with David Lee Garza. A seven-time Tejano Award and four-time Tejano Academy Award winner, native San Antonian Posada, also is an accomplished composer. He has managed to successfully fuse the sounds of Jazz and Tejano by creating a melodic flow that music lovers find intriguing.

Wednesday April 10 – The Brew, Latin Jazz
The Brew consist of three brothers Michael Rodriguez (classical and electric guitar), Joe Rodriguez (harmonica, percussionist congas) and Mark Rodriguez (bassist). Continually inspired by jazz and Latin artists, The Brew has introduced a more organic, nouveau flamenco flavor into the band’s performances, following the influence of Ottmar Liebert, the Gipsy Kings, Jesse Cook and Strunz and Farah. An accomplished group with an incredible grass roots following, The Brew has opened for such diverse notables as the Rippingtons, George Howard, Everette Harp, Jeff Lorber, Chuchito Valdez, Hiroshima, Acoustic Alchemy, Larry Corryel and Kirk Whalum.

Wednesday April 17 – Spyro Gyra
Spyro Gyra has performed more than five thousand shows, released thirty-one albums (not counting “Best Of…” compilations) and sold over ten million albums while earning one platinum and two gold albums. Since the mid-1970s, long before the radio-generated buzzwords “New Adult Contemporary” or “Smooth Jazz,” Spyro Gyra was creating its own instrumental hybrid, incorporating elements of R&B, Latin, Brazilian and whatever struck their collective fancy into an infectious sound which coincidentally became a forerunner of today’s popular style. Signature songs include “The Shaker Song,” “Morning Dance” and “Catching the Sun.” The sound is described as smooth jazz with tropical flair.

The Shops at La Cantera
15900 La Cantera Parkway
The Falls, on the east end of Main Street near Yard House
San Antonio, TX 78256
(210) 582-6255

Theater review: ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ at the Majestic Theatre

Cast performing The Bottle Dance from ‘Fiddler on the Roof,’ which plays at the Majestic Theatre until Sunday March 31. Photo: Broadway in San Antonio, used with permission. 

The Tony Award®- nominated Broadway revival of ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ returns to the Majestic Theatre this week. It opened last night and will play for eight performances through Sunday March 31 with showtimes at 7:30p.m. through Thursday, 8p.m. on Friday, 2p.m. and 8p.m. Saturday and 2p.m. and 7:30p.m. on Sunday. Tickets start at $40 and are available through Ticketmaster online, by calling (800) 982-2787 or by visiting the Majestic Box Office. This acclaimed revival of the classic musical is the story of Tevye, a Jewish milkman whose three eldest daughters get married, each one moving further from traditional ways, as he copes with the growing anti-Jewish sentiment in his country.

‘Fiddler on the Roof’ is set in the Russian shtetl of Anatevka in 1905 where Tevye, (Yehezkel Lazarov) lives with his wife (Maite Uzal) and five daughters. The opening scene consists of Tevye pointing out the fiddler and explaining why he sits on rooftops and remains there despite the danger—because it is tradition. He goes on to explain the various Jewish customs, one of which is arranged marriages “Prologue: Tradition.” His three eldest daughters are not looking forward to their eventual arranged marriages “Matchmaker, Matchmaker.” When Yente (Carol Beaugard), the matchmaker, matches Tevye’s older daughter Tzeitel (Mel Weyn) with Lazar Wolf, the butcher (Jonathan Von Mering), she resists because she wants to marry her childhood friend Motel (Jesse Weil). Tevye gives in to her wishes and the family celebrates the wedding Tzeitel and Motel “The Wedding” until Russian soldiers interrupt it. Tevye’s two other daughters also wish to marry for love and their choice of husband is anything but traditional. The story ends on a somber note as the government forces everyone in the village to relocate “Anatevka.”

This revival production proudly introduces a new generation to the iconic musical adored across the globe. From the first mesmerizing notes of “Prologue: Tradition” to the reverence of “Sabbath Prayer,” it is a treat to experience live. Yehezkel Lazarov is outstanding as Tevye, especially during the infectious “If I Were a Rich Man.” His witty conversations with God make his character relatable. The breaking of the fourth wall draws the audience in to empathize with the characters and share in their human experience. Highlights include “Prologue: Tradition” by the Tevye and the Villagers, “To Life” as the men celebrate when Lazar Wolf is matched with Tzeitel and “The Wedding” which includes The Bottle Dance, a crowd pleaser that drew the most applause and cheers. At the center is the importance of family traditions and faith as the older generation tries to hold on to these values in the face of a changing world. With topics such as family and history, the occasional self-deprecating humor and spectacular dancing, ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ is a must-see musical with universal appeal.

PechaKucha San Antonio Vol 33
Carmen Tafolla, State Poet Laureate, will be one of the presenters at this year’s PechaKucha at the San Antonio Museum of Art. Photo: Josh Huskin, used with permission. 

PechaKucha San Antonio, the global arts and culture series that hosts speakers who share their passions in a unique format, is excited to announce the lineup for its Volume 33 edition, scheduled for Tuesday, April 2, 2019, at the San Antonio Museum of Art. The night will begin with a welcome reception at 7p.m., followed by presentations starting at 8:15 p.m. PechaKucha San Antonio is presented in partnership with the Las Casas Foundation. (PechaKucha, 2019)

Vol. 33 will feature a talented group of locals that includes writers, authors, artists and more.
Presenters include:
· Michaele Thurgood Haynes, Cultural Anthropologist
· Annie Montgomery Labatt, Gallery Director/Professor
· Jesse Mata + Elaine Wolff, Fiesta’s Fifth Column
· Franco Mondini-Ruiz, Compulsive Artsessive
· Michael Quintanilla, Disco Confessionist/Glue Gun Expert
· Carmen Tafolla, State Poet Laureate

Emcees for the evening include popular News 4 San Antonio anchor Randy Beamer as well as artist Justin Parr. The welcome reception will feature live music and complimentary bites curated by local chefs and restaurants. Tickets are $5 per person and are available online.

PechaKucha San Antonio would not be possible without the support of annual sponsors, including Centro Properties, Lake Flato Architects, Zurich International Properties, Schroeder Art, MBS Fitness, San Antonio River Foundation, RYNO General Contractors and Artist Gary Sweeney.

Pronounced “PEH-chuh KOO-chuh,” PechaKucha is a 20-image x 20 second arts and cultures series that hosts speakers who share their passions in a unique format. Each presenter gets exactly 20 images, and each slide advances automatically every 20 seconds (for a total time of 6:40). San Antonio’s first quarterly PechaKucha Night was held in February 2011 and now attracts hundreds of attendees to venues throughout San Antonio. It showcases a broad range of individuals, including architects, artists, makers, academics, community leaders and more. PechaKucha (Japanese for “chit chat”) is an event format developed by Tokyo’s Klein Dytham Architecture to encourage creative professionals to share projects and ideas that they are passionate about. Since it began in 2003, PechaKucha has expanded to more than 1000 cities around the world.

San Antonio Museum of Art
200 W Jones Ave.
San Antonio, TX 78215

Easter Bunny at North Star Mall

The Easter Bunny will be at North Star Mall through Saturday April 20. Photo: North Star Mall, used with permission.

Easter is right around the corner and everyone is invited to come visit and sit for a special Spring-time photo with the only female Easter Bunny in Texas, exclusively at North Star Mall. Commemorative photo packages start at $29.99. All children under 12 receive a complimentary surprise when they strike a cozy pose with Ms. Easter Bunny, located in front of Macy’s. (North Star Mall, 2019)

Ms. Easter Bunny is furry, fluffy and full of hugs. She is also fashionable and easy to spot in her brightly colored, polka-dot apron with deep pockets that sometimes hold additional surprise treats for her pint-sized friends. The Easter Bunny will greet visitors during mall hours beginning Tuesday, March 26 through Saturday, April 20, when she leaves to deliver eggs to children around the globe. The Easter Bunny does take occasional carrot breaks. North Star is closed Easter Sunday.

PET NIGHTS: Ms. Easter Bunny also welcomes cats and dogs for three nights only, Monday April 1, Thursday April 4 and Monday April 15 from 5p.m. to 8p.m.Pets must be on a leash and guests are asked to use the entrance by The Cheesecake Factory.

Tuesday, March 26 through Saturday, April 20
Monday through Saturday 10a.m. to 8p.m.
Sunday 12 noon to 6p.m.

North Star Mall
Located inside the mall in front of Macy’s
7400 San Pedro
San Antonio, TX 78216
(210) 340-6627

Whataburger fundraiser for Aue Elementary

The next Oh Whata Night is Thursday March 21 to benefit Aue Elementary. Photo: Whataburger, used with permission. 

Whataburger periodically hosts events to help the community and its various schools. These events have ranged from “Oh Whata Nights” to jalapeño eating contests, drawings and raffles. This Thursday March 21 from 4p.m. to 7p.m., Whataburger is hosting a fundraiser to benefit Aue Elementary School. The public is invited to come and show their support by enjoying their favorite menu items and during the posted hours, Whataburger will donate 20 percent of the sales to the school. (Whataburger, 2019)

The first 100 guests will receive a free Whataburger drawstring pencil bag. Attendees will also have a chance to enter the popular Whataburger for a Year prize drawing where one lucky winner will receive a free Whataburger each week for an entire year. There will also be fun, family-friendly activities, including a photo booth. This Whata Night fundraiser will be at the posted location only.

“Whataburger believes in investing in the communities we call home. We’re fortunate enough to have the most generous customers, and with their help, we’re so proud to host a fun-filled evening for the San Antonio-area community and the students at Aue Elementary School.” Tom Willet – Whataburger Director of Operations

Whataburger has been making burgers since 1950 when Harman Dobson opened a humble hamburger stand in Corpus Christi, Texas. He wanted customers to take one bite and say, “What a burger” so he named his stand on Ayers St “Whataburger.” Whataburger now has over 700 locations across the country and continues to deliver fresh, made to order meals every day with superior customer service. Community support includes charitable giving and volunteerism to nonprofit organizations that focus on children’s charities, cancer research, hunger assistance, disaster relief and military support.

25111 W IH 10 (near Ralph Fair Rd)
San Antonio, TX 78255
(210) 698-5485

San Antonio Book Festival 2019

This year’s San Antonio Book Festival will take place on Saturday April 6. Courtesy photo, used with permission. 

The San Antonio Book Festival is a family friendly event that brings over 20,000 festival-goers to downtown San Antonio for free fun activities suitable for all ages. Set for Saturday April 6 from 9a.m. to 5p.m. at the Central Library and Southwest School of Art, the 2019 schedule features over 100 renowned authors participating in panels, book signings, book sales, children and teen activities, ghost story telling and more. The festival showcases first-time novelists and established writers while introducing attendees to new literary talents and connecting them with their favorite authors. (San Antonio Book Festival, 2019)

Events worth noting include the Stories of the Ghosts of the Rio Grande Valley with David Bowles for teenagers and adults looking for a thrill, a performance of Dr.Krashundbang! presented by The Magik Theatre for the kiddos, a book signing and discussion with Cristela Alonzo, Oscar Cásares and Fernando Flores about their new books, talks with New York Times bestseller Tayari Jones about her novel ‘An American Marriage’ and much more. The complete schedule is available online.

San Antonio Central Library
600 Soledad St.
San Antonio, TX 78205
(210) 207-2500

Southwest School of Art
300 Augusta St.
San Antonio, TX 78205
(210) 200-8200

First presented in 2013, the mission of the San Antonio Book Festival is to unite readers and writers in a celebration of ideas, books, libraries and literary culture. Founding Partners are the Texas Book Festival, the San Antonio Public Library and Southwest School of Art. Through active partnerships with school districts and community organizations focused on literacy, education and culture, the Festival connects with educators, parents and students, pre-K through college and reaches out to those who are well read and those who love to read well.

Main Plaza Farmers Market re-opens Tuesday

mainplazaThe Main Plaza Conservancy and the San Antonio Food Bank will kick-off the re-opening of the seasonal Main Plaza Farmers Market on Tuesday March 19. The Market will run each Tuesday through November and will feature local farmers and their produce, vendors with soap and jewelry, cooking demonstrations and mariachis and other entertainment. (San Antonio Food Bank, 2019)

The event begins at 10a.m. as the Main Plaza Farmers Market opens for sales, culinary demos and more. There will be an opening ceremony and speakers, including Jane Pauley, Executive Director, Main Plaza Conservancy, Eric Cooper, President and CEO of San Antonio Food Bank and Justin Rodriguez, Bexar County Commission, Precinct 2.

Main Plaza
115 N. Main Ave.
San Antonio, TX 78205

The San Antonio Food Bank is a 501c3 non-profit organization providing millions of pounds of food to more than 500 charitable organizations in Southwest Texas serving those in need. In addition to food distribution, the San Antonio Food Bank provides numerous programs that not only solve the immediate problems of hunger, but help individuals and families gain long-term food security.

Book review: ‘The Book of Mistakes’ by Skip Prichard

‘The Book of Mistakes’ is Skip Prichard’s new book on creating a successful future. Courtesy photo, used with permission. 

Skip Prichard is an accomplished CEO, growth-oriented business leader and keynote speaker. He has spoken on topics such as leadership, personal development, growth strategies, culture, corporate turnarounds and the future of publishing. In his new book “The Book of Mistakes: 9 Secrets to Creating a Successful Future” he shares the nine mistakes that prevent many people from achieving their goals and how to overcome them to help reinvent their lives.

“The Book of Mistakes” begins with a Prologue set in England in 1425 where an unnamed monk is on a mission to hide the last of the ten copies he had transcribed from an ancient manuscript. His goal is to keep them from falling into the wrong hands until they can be distributed to the nine Teachers and the new Keeper. From there, the stories take off: one is in the present where David is living a generic life that includes an unreliable job, until he meets a young woman who jump starts a journey that changes his life forever. The other story take place in the American colonies in 1771 and centers around Aria, a teenager who is trying to fulfill her sick Uncle Raymond’s last wish. She needs to retrieve a manuscript from the family home and protect it at all costs. The two stories eventually coincide as David crosses paths with several strangers he names the Playwright, the Bartender, the Artist and so on, who each give him one “mistake” that he can learn from to improve his life. These include, among others, “working on someone else’s dream,” “allowing some else to define your value” and “surrounding yourself with the wrong people.” As he gets each life lesson, he finds his life slowly improving until he is ready to share them with others.

At first glance, it seems that this is a self-help book, which it is. But it is a self-help book cleverly disguised as an adventure complete with an ancient origin story and a scavenger hunt of sorts. This makes learning fun as the reader goes along with David as he meets these strangers who share their knowledge with him, eagerly flipping pages to get to the next “mistake.” Without giving too much of the content away, the advice that Skip Prichard gives may sound like common sense, but sometimes it is necessary to be reminded that it is indeed a mistake to “stay in your comfort zone” and “blend in instead of standing out.” He does so without sounding condescending and in language that is easy to understand and filled with details and imagery. Since the sections are conveniently divided by Mistakes and Laws, it is easy to refer back to them as needed. Highlights include Mistake #9: Believing You Have All the Time in the World and Mistake #6: Allowing Temporary Setbacks to Become Permanent Failures. Self-help books tend to be dry and boring and therefore difficult to get through to get much needed advice, but this is a fast-paced book, similar to Dan Brown’s “The DaVinci Code.” “The Book of Mistakes” brilliantly combines advice and a storytelling to get the message across and is recommended for readers who enjoy a suspenseful story jam-packed with life lessons.

“…on the one hand, live each day as if it’s your last and, on the other, as if it’s your first. Your last keeps you focused on what really matters…Your first is important because you also must have a longer view, or you will never accomplish the goals that are hard and take longer.”

*The author received a copy of this book for an honest review. The views and opinions expressed here belong solely to her.

Book review: ‘Let Go of Emotional Overeating’ by Arlene B. Englander

emotionalovereatingArlene B. Englander, LCSW, MBA is a Columbia University trained licensed psychotherapist who has created health promotion programs on stress management, emotional overeating and other subjects for hospitals, corporations and law firms. Currently in private practice in North Palm Beach, she specializes in helping emotional overeaters move past their emotional issues to lead happier and healthier lives. “Let Go of Emotional Overeating and Love Your Food: A Five-Point Plan for Success” is her psychologically centered program to help people learn to eat whatever they like and stop just at the point of satisfaction without overeating.

Emotional overeating is “eating neither for enjoyment nor for the satisfaction of hunger, but in a desperate attempt to distract oneself from painful thoughts and feelings.” As a former emotional overeater, the author offers psychologically sound techniques for recognizing the symptoms of overeating and methods for addressing it in effective and enjoyable ways.

“Let Go of Emotional Overeating” begins with an Introduction, where she lists the sobering statistics from a 1999 article in American Demographics that stated that 54% of Americans clean their plates even when they are full and that 19% continue to eat even when they are stuffed. Her main purpose in writing this book is to help readers cope with life’s stressors without using food as a crutch and instead get more enjoyment out of food and life. The book is divided into ten chapters: the first two deal with the difference between truly tasting and savoring food versus using it as a stress reliever and how destructive diets really are; the rest explain how to deal more effectively with stress, how to learn to love exercise and how to eat at parties, vacations and with friends and family.

The subject of overeating can be hard to navigate but it is helpful to have someone who has been there and understands the struggles involved. This gives Arlene Englander the credibility to write such an insightful book that gives readers hope that they too can successfully manage the issue. Mindfulness has become mainstream lately and that, along with self-awareness, is the breakthrough method of dealing with overeating. She effectively uses her own experiences, case illustrations and humor to relate to her readers. The language is plain and simple to understand without too much medical and psychological terminology. Highlights include Chapter 3, where she explains how readers can spot the symptoms of excessive stress and Chapter 5 which gives readers the RAFT technique she uses to enjoy a meal so that they too can determine when they are full so they can stop eating. Also helpful is Chapter 6, as it gives helpful tips on learning to eat healthier foods. “Let Go of Emotional Overeating” is an incredibly useful resource guide and is recommended for readers who wants to learn how to stop letting food control their lives.

“The beauty of learning to soothe ourselves-on our own, or with the help of others-is that it enables us to seize the power that food once held for us.”

*The author received a copy of this book for an honest review. The views and opinions expressed here belong solely to her.