Book review: ‘Touching the Jaguar’ by John Perkins

‘Touching the Jaguar’ is the new book by author and activist John Perkins. Photo: google

John Perkins is an author and activist who has written books on global intrigue, shamanism and transformation including “Shapeshifting” “Confessions of an Economic Hit Man” and “Touching the Jaguar.” His books have been on The New York Times’ bestseller list for more than 70 weeks, have sold over 2 million copies and are published in at least 35 languages. As chief economist at a major consulting firm, John advised the World Bank, United Nations, Fortune 500 corporations, US and other governments. He regularly speaks at universities, economic forums and shamanic gatherings around the world and is a founder and board member of the Pachamama Alliance and Dream Change, nonprofit organizations that partner with indigenous people to protect environments and that offer global programs to change the destructive ways of industrial societies. In his latest book “Touching the Jaguar: Transforming Fear into Action to Change Your Life and the World” Perkins details how his experiences in the Amazon converted him from an Economic Hit Man to a crusader for transforming our failing Death Economy that destroys its own resources and nature itself into a flourishing Life Economy that renews itself.

“Touching the Jaguar,” begins with an Introduction by the author that defines the phrase touching the jaguar – [it] ‘means that you can identify your fears and barriers, confront them, alter your perceptions about them, accept their energy, and take actions to change yourself and the world.’ His goal in writing this book was for it to serve as a connection between his previous books on Indigenous cultures and those on global economics. In the Prologue, he defines EHMs, or Economic Hit Men as ‘highly paid professionals who cheat countries around the globe out of trillions of dollars…Their tools include fraudulent financial reports, rigged elections, payoffs, extortion, sex, and murder.’ These terms are found throughout his story which starts in the summer of 1968 when he was a young Peace Corps volunteer and an Amazonian shaman saved  his life by teaching him to “touch the jaguar.” From there he went on to become an EHM and sincerely thought this was the best model for economic development but soon realized it was merely a new form of colonialism.  Eventually he takes his experiences in the Amazon and uses them to transform our Death Economy into a Life Economy.  In this book, he shares his strategies for transforming personal lives and defending the earth against destructive policies and systems. It is divided into eight parts that start with The Perception Trap 1968 -1970 and end with Decolonization 2017 – Present.

There is so much to learn from this incredibly eye-opening book: history, personal fulfillment and earth consciousness. It combines John Perkins’ experiences as an Economic Hit Man, expertise on indigenous cultures and shamanism and knowledge of ecology and economics. All of this is told in a down to earth tone with a narrative  that pulls the reader into the jungles of the Amazon, among other places. The chapters are short, the action flows easily from page to page and the language is easy to understand. Standout sections include ‘Chapter 2 Ayahuasca’ when he got sick while in the Amazon and the local shaman gave him ayahuasca, a plant used for healing, which resulted in his first vision of touching the jaguar; and the explanations on colonialism and how the United States has affected countries and economies worldwide. The Resources section at the end has ideas to help readers discover what they can do to change themselves and the world.  Every reader will get something out of it: in the least, become aware of the dangers of economic hit men and how truly harmful colonialism can be and at most, inspire them to get involved and become a better citizen of the world. “Touching the Jaguar” is not only a lesson in personal empowerment but a wake-up call about the true influence of American politics and economy. A definite must-read.

“It is time to end our fear of change and instead embrace the powers for change the jaguar offers, break through the mind-sets that have burdened us with failing systems, and apply the human and natural resources to create systems that will be successful for generations to come.”

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


Twang Reserve Michelada Mix now available at HEB

Twang’s Reserve Michelada Mix is now available at HEB. Photo: Karissa Rangel, used with permission. 

Twang Partners, the family-owned company and manufacturer of premium-flavored salts and beverage mixes, recently announced that Reserve Michelada Cocktail Mix is now being carried at HEBs throughout Texas. (Twang, 2020)

Due to customer requests and inquiries about the Treviño family’s first liquid product, 137 HEB stores throughout the state are now carrying Twang’s 16 oz Michelada Cocktail Mix, making it easy and convenient for fans of the cocktail to make one at home. The mix retails for $4.99 and can be found at stores in the San Antonio and Houston areas, the Rio Grande Valley, central Texas and west Texas.

In 2019, Twang launched its popular Reserve Michelada Mix, a high-quality, tomato-based blend that can be used to create the perfect michelada quickly and conveniently from home. Native to Mexico and popular in Texas, the popular beer cocktail is quickly gaining notoriety throughout the United States. The prepared mix works best with Mexican beers and domestic lagers and is commonly referred to as a milder version of its American cousin, the Bloody Mary.

Watermelon-inspired cocktails to celebrate National Watermelon Day on August 3

EVO Entertainment’s Patron margarita. Courtesy photo, used with permission.

This Monday August 3 is National Watermelon Day and EVO Entertainment and Taco Cabana have watermelon-inspired cocktails to help customers celebrate accordingly. (EVO Entertainment, Taco Cabana, 2020)

EVO Entertainment – Watermelon Margarita

  • EVO Entertainment is making it easy to celebrate safely. Their Watermelon Margarita, made with EVO’s signature EVO Patron Barrel Select Tequila, Triple Sec, agave, fresh watermelon and fresh lime is the perfect treat to enjoy as you take in a socially distant movie in one of their theaters or enjoy one of their drive-in movies. This refreshing margarita is a great addition to any film.

Taco Cabana – $2 Watermelon Margarita

  • As part of Taco Cabana’s MargaritaPalooza, the popular San Antonio-based chain is offering 12 flavors of $2 margaritas, including one of their most popular – Watermelon. The beverage, perfect for celebrating National Watermelon Day, is available for drive-thru and curbside pickup throughout participating locations in Texas. The margaritas are also available for delivery in San Antonio.

Grilled Watermelon Margarita featuring Twang

If you are keeping your distance at home, or just feel like doing something a little extra when it comes to your next Margarita, check out this Grilled Watermelon Margarita by Aaron Pena, owner/bartender at The Squeezebox in San Antonio, TX. (Twang, 2020)


  • 1/2 cup fresh grilled fruit – we used grilled Watermelon
  • 1 ounce fresh squeezed Lime Juice
  • ¾ ounce Agave syrup – adjust to your taste
  • 2 ounces Blanco Tequila
  • 1 cup of Ice


  • Add all ingredients to blender on high speed
  • Rim glass with Twang-A-Rita Sunrise spice or your favorite Twang salt.
  • Pour into your rimmed glassware and enjoy!

See step-by-step tutorial.

Excerpt: ‘Gaijin’ by Sarah Z. Sleeper

‘Gaijin’ by Sarah Z. Sleeper. Courtesy photo, used with permission.

Prologue from “Gaijin” by Sarah Z. Sleeper

Excerpted from “Gaijin.” Copyright © 2020 by Sarah Z. Sleeper. All rights reserved. Published by Running Wild Press.

Mono No Aware

Awareness of Impermanence
Love, tea and flowers.
Impermanent, transcendent.
Are you aware of beauty that flames up and out
before it can root itself in the earth of truth?
Memory is truth, like brown dirt
smeared on a cherry-blossom pink canvas

—Inspired by antique Japanese porcelain gilded with makie

A person or a memory can sit inside you and you might have no choice about it. You don’t have to think about a person for him to be part of you. That’s what my best friend Rose told me years ago, in a moment when she saw me more clearly than I saw myself, a moment when I was restless and heartsick and about to board a plane to Japan.

“I can’t believe it,” she said. “You’re going to hunt down Owen.”

I scoffed and lied, said I never thought of him.

Now years later, I know Rose was right, that you don’t get to decide what sticks and what doesn’t, who gets in and who gets blocked. You like to think you control your destiny and choose your path, but that’s not always the case. Sometimes you’re propelled forward in the most unexpected way when something or someone takes hold of you and doesn’t let go.

That’s how it happened to me. My college love, Owen Ota, burrowed his way into me one tantalizing moment at a time, over the course of a sweltering Indian summer at Northwestern University. He etched himself into the side of my neck and he took root in the pit of my stomach. He changed the trajectory of my life, set me in motion, and then he disappeared, like a puff of smoke or a phantom I’d hallucinated. He gave no feasible explanation, stopped all communication, and fled back to Tokyo in the same startling way he’d arrived. He was gone but I couldn’t let go. I needed to find Owen, and to experience the Japan he described. I clung to the notion that my dreams of the person and the place would match the reality.

Nothing, not Rose, not the application of common sense, could have dissuaded me from leaving Chicago on that overheated afternoon at O’Hare, when car horns, screeching voices and jet engines drowned out our goodbyes. A jumble of images jostled around in my brain, crowding out logical thoughts. Delicate pink cherry blossoms on porcelain teacups, a thin ivory book of haiku, a red silk blouse on polished glass skin, steaming spicy cuttlefish served on a black lacquer tray; a dazzling collage of the things Owen had shown me.

I was naïve and grief hollowed out my heart; I was determined to solve the mystery of his disappearance, as if finding him could erase the pain I’d felt when he abandoned me. I didn’t put it together then, the folly of searching for someone who didn’t want to be found, moving to a country I didn’t understand. And so, I went, flying into the unknown with a single suitcase of clothes, clutching my computer and cell phone as if they were life preservers.

On the plane I read the latest news from Japan. There were stories about the failed economic policies of the prime minister, the scandal of the royal princess who wanted to marry a commoner, the looming threat of North Korean missiles. Of course, I’d studied Japan in college, but looking back on that day, I knew nothing of the true character of the country.

The flight took an eternity and I immersed myself in a book of Japanese art filled with photos of ancient pottery and porcelain, chipped and faded, but glowing and glorious at the same time. I was striving to be a poet back then, a person who dealt in beauty and art, not only a journalist who worked with black ink and cold data. The art book held a luminous photo of a powder blue teacup swirled with feathery gold patterns, captioned, “Makie.” I Googled and learned that it meant “sprinkled picture.” Makie was an art object sprinkled with gold or silver powder, so that it gleamed with warmth. Inspired, I wrote a little poem on the plane, which I still have today. I titled it “Mono No Aware,” Awareness of Impermanence, a Japanese term I would come to understand deeply over time.

On my way to my new life in Japan, memories of my moments with Owen colored my mind with a makie haze. The landing of the plane brought the crash of reality. I was confronted by a gritty, dangerous nation, so unlike the exotic islands he’d described to me. A place where coworkers gave me gifts wrapped in gold foil while darting disdainful glances at me. I found few of the glamorous, mannered people I’d expected, and instead found an angry schizophrenic culture, alluring and hostile by turns, that kept me constantly at bay and confounded. And as I ventured further, in my quest to discover Owen’s fate, I realized I might not be able to find him before Japan chased me out, like the gaijin I was, a foreigner, unwelcomed by my adopted country.

Sarah Z. Sleeper is an ex-journalist with an MFA in creative writing. Gaijin is her first novel. Her short story, “A Few Innocuous Lines,” won an award from Writer’s Digest. Her non-fiction essay, “On Getting Vivian,” was published in The Shanghai Literary Review. Her poetry was published in A Year in Ink, San Diego Poetry Annual and Painters & Poets, and exhibited at the Bellarmine Museum. In the recent past she was an editor at New Rivers Press, and editor-in-chief of the literary journal Mason’s Road. She completed her MFA at Fairfield University in 2012. Prior to that she had a twenty-five-year career as a business writer and technology reporter and won three journalism awards and a fellowship at the National Press Foundation.

Book review: ‘Act of Murder’ by John Bishop, M.D.

‘Act of Murder’ by John Bishop, M.D. is the exciting first book in the Doc Brady mystery series. Courtesy photo, used with permission.

John Bishop M.D. is an orthopedic surgeon, keyboard musician and author of the beloved Doc Brady mystery series. The series includes “Act of Murder,” “Act of Deception,” “Act of Revenge,” “Act of Negligence,” “Act of Fate” and “Act of Atonement.” Doc Brady, the protagonist and his fictional counterpart, is an accomplished orthopedic surgeon with a talent for solving mysteries who moonlights as a blues musician. The series is set in the 1990s and features Houston and Galveston locales. In “Act of Murder,” Doc Brady witnesses his neighbor’s ten-year-old son killed by a hit-and-run driver and is prompted to investigate whether it was truly an accident or an act or murder.

“Act of Murder” begins in the spring of 1994 when Doc Brady hears the sounds of an accident in front of his house. At the scene, his neighbor Bobbie is kneeling down over a small blue lump that turns out to be her son Stevie. The distraught mother begs him to do something to help but by the looks of it, it is too late. When Detective Susan Beeson with the Houston Police Department starts investigating the case, details about Stevie surface, including that he had osteogenesis imperfecta, a genetic disorder that affects the bones. At first it looks like a random accident, until days later when another boy with a similar genetic disease and similar looks dies after surgery. Sensing that the two cases are more than just coincidence, Doc Brady starts digging for clues and together with his twenty-year old son J.J. and wife Mary Louise they uncover a sinister plot. The two boys were twins, one given up for adoption under the guise of helping out a family member but with the ultimate plan to gain money and power.

The most original authors are those who write from their own experiences and in this case, John Bishop M.D. successfully takes his real-life knowledge as an orthopedic surgeon to give his writing an authentic voice. The story is a combination hospital drama and murder mystery that draws the reader in right from the first sentence: “What I remember first about that day was the sound of a sickening thud.” It would be a mistake to call it a medical thriller because the case does not exactly involve any kind of medical issues but it centers around a doctor’s daily adventures. The language is easy to understand and does not include complicated medical jargon. Since it takes place in the 1990s, there are pop culture references like Seinfeld and Dave’s World that anyone who remembers those years can chuckle along with the author. Descriptions of his native Texas are spot one, especially Houston and Galveston and the character development makes them believable and relatable. It is a strong beginning for the series. A sure page-turner, “Act of Murder” is a must-read for fans of murder mysteries that center around the medical community and appreciate a behind the scenes look at hospitals and doctors.

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

Book review: ‘Gaijin’ by Sarah Z. Sleeper

‘Gaijin’ is Sarah Z. Sleeper’s debut novel about a woman who moves to Okinawa looking for answers after her boyfriend disappears.  It is scheduled for release on Saturday, August 1, 2020. 

Sarah Z. Sleeper is a former journalist with an MFA in creative writing.  Previously, she was an editor at New Rivers Press and editor-in-chief of the literary journal Mason’s Road. She completed her MFA at Fairfield University in 2012. Prior to that she had a twenty-five-year career as a business writer and technology reporter and won three journalism awards and a fellowship at the National Press Foundation. Her short story, “A Few Innocuous Lines,” won an award from Writer’s Digest and her non-fiction essay, “On Getting Vivian,” was published in The Shanghai Literary Review. Her poetry was published in A Year in Ink, San Diego Poetry Annual and Painters & Poets and exhibited at the Bellarmine Museum. “Gaijin,” a coming of age novel about a budding journalist who sets off to Okinawa in search of answers when her college boyfriend mysteriously disappears, is her first novel and will be released on Saturday, August 1, 2020.

In Japanese, the word gaijin means ‘unwelcome foreigner’ and it is often used as a slur directed at non-Japanese people in Japan.  “Gaijin” centers around Lucy, a college student at Northwestern University who is obsessed with an exotic new student, Owen Ota, who becomes her lover and sensei.  When he disappears without explanation, she moves to Okinawa in hopes of tracking him down.  The story is told in the first person point of view and begins with a Prologue where Lucy recounts how she ends up in Japan and how her experience with Owen motivates her to seek answers in a foreign land. It all goes back to Japan in 2016 and begins as Lucy arrives at Okinawa’s Naha International Airport.  For the next three months, instead of the glamorous culture that Owen described, she is confronted with, among other surprises, anti-American protests fueled by the rape case involving an American military man and a young Japanese girl.  She also meets Hisashi, Owen’s  brother, who helps her come to terms with Owen’s tumultuous private life that culminates at the base of Mount Fuji and the infamous Suicide Forest. With the biggest mystery solved, Lucy is now content to stay in Japan and enjoy the country and culture she admired for so long.

Sometimes it is easy for foreigners to get wrapped up in the fantasy of an unfamiliar culture and once it hits home, reality can be disappointing. Such is the case with Lucy in “Gaijin,” Sarah Z Sleeper’s superb debut novel.  The author has penned a poetic and charming story filled similes and metaphors “His energy was warm, like a favorite oversize blanket” and peppered with poems and haikus. Despite being a small, easy to read book, the reader is immersed in Japanese culture, terms and traditions like tea ceremonies, all of which make the narrative come alive throughout the pages. Impressive character development and descriptions makes them relatable, “As the snow drifts piled shoulder-high on the edges of Northwestern’s campus, I dug myself into a cave of loneliness, busying myself while keeping social interactions at bay.” Of special interest is the background on Aokigahara, a forest on the northwestern flank of Japan’s Mount Fiji.  It has a historical reputation as a home to yūrei: ghosts of the dead in Japanese mythology. Also known as “the Suicide Forest”, one of the world’s most-used suicide sites; signs at the head of some trails urge suicidal visitors to think of their families and contact a suicide prevention association. History fans will appreciate the section on the conflict between Okinawa and Japan. “Gaijin” is the chronicle of one woman’s journey from idealistic college student in love with an image to an adult who learns to accept life’s disappointments and build a life on her own terms.

“A culture so beautiful that taking tea was a memorable occasion and yet so dark it contained a forest devoted to suicide.”

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

Recommended read: ‘Trail of Lightning’ by Rebecca Roanhorse

Photo: google

Rebecca Roanhorse is a The New York Times’ bestselling author, and a Nebula award-winning and Hugo-nominated speculative fiction writer. She is also a 2017 Campbell Award Finalist for Best New Science Fiction and Fantasy writer. Her novel ‘Trail of Lightning’ is the first book in the Sixth World series, followed by “Storm of Locusts” in 2019. ‘Black Sun,’ an epic fantasy set in a secondary world inspired by the Pre-Columbian Americas, is her next novel and will be released on Tuesday October 13, 2020. ‘Trail of Lightning’ is a recommended summer read for science fiction/fantasy fans and features Maggie Hoskie, a Dinétah monster hunter and supernaturally gifted killer.

In ‘Trail of Lightning,’ while most of the world has drowned beneath the sudden rising waters of a climate apocalypse, Dinétah, formerly the Navajo reservation, has been reborn. The gods and heroes of legend walk the land but so do monsters. When a small town needs help finding a missing girl, Maggie is their last best hope. What Maggie uncovers about the monster is much more terrifying than anything she could imagine. She reluctantly enlists the aid of Kai Arviso, an unconventional medicine man, and together they travel the reservation, unraveling clues from ancient legends, trading favors with tricksters and battling dark witchcraft in a patchwork world of deteriorating technology. As Maggie discovers the truth behind the killings, she will have to confront her past if she wants to survive.

New release: ‘Red Zone’ by Luke Murphy

‘Red Zone’ is the newest novel in The Charlene Taylor Mysteries by Luke Murphy. Photo: google

Luke Murphy is the international bestselling author of two series: The Calvin Watters Mysteries: “Dead Man’s Hand” and “Wild Card” and The Charlene Taylor Mysteries: “Kiss & Tell” and “Rock-A-Bye Baby.” He is a teacher with a Bachelor of Science degree in Marketing and a Bachelor of Education (Magna Cum Laude). His newest novel, “Red Zone: A Calvin Watters & Charlene Taylor Mystery (A Calvin Watters Mystery) has Calvin Watters, a former running back at USC, and Detective Charlene Taylor, working together on a homicide case when a woman’s dead body is found on the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum football field.

In “Red Zone,” Calvin has not returned to USC since he was stripped of his scholarship.  Detective Charlene Taylor knows the freshman cheerleader’s murder is complicated because the USC football team is a close knit family and getting inside the trusted circle as a cop is nearly impossible. When Calvin and Charlene meet, Charlene sees an opportunity to use Calvin to penetrate the circle. Little does she know that Calvin is now an outsider who is no longer welcome and who many would like to see fail. Together they must find a way to solve this case without letting their egos get in the way.

New Whataburger gear to beat the heat this summer

Whataburger’s summer accessories. Photo: Whataburger, used with permission.

This summer, whether poolside or grilling outdoors, Whataburger has you covered with crave-worthy orange-and-white accessories and clothing. Plus, you can get them delivered right to your doorstep without any hassle. You can find new gear perfect for summer and more online. While prices vary by product, free shipping is included on orders of $50 or more. (Whataburger, 2020)

The new collection includes all the essentials needed to have fun in the sun, like a Whataburger beach towel, umbrella and pool float. Other popular items include swim trunks, UV shirts, straw hats and button-down shirts.

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.

Book review: ‘The Last Sword Maker’ by Brian Nelson

‘The Last Sword Maker’ is Brian Nelson’s exciting novel about the future of warfare. Photo: google

Brian Nelson is a former Fulbright Scholar who holds degrees in international relations, economics and creative writing (fiction).  His first book “The Silence and the Scorpion: The Coup against Chávez and the Making of Modern Venezuela” was named one of the Best Books of 2009 by the Economist.  His work has appeared in the Virginia Quarterly Review, Christian Science Monitor and the Southern Humanities Review, among others. “The Last Sword Maker” is his second book and an action packed thriller about a high-tech arms race between the United States and China as they both strive to create the next-generation of weapons using a mixture of artificial intelligence, genetic engineering and nanotechnology.

“The Last Sword Maker” takes place in the not-too-distant future, between January 2025 and May 2026 as each chapter is given a time and place. The action begins with a prologue titled The Letter which informs of a letter written by Nobel laureate and biochemist Bill Eastman after he hosts a conference at the Millennium Institute in San Francisco in August 2018 for some of the greatest minds in science.  The letter is modeled after Albert Einstein’s 1939 letter warning President Roosevelt about the possibility of an atomic bomb, but this one warns the current president of the possible dangers from emerging technology and is signed by Eastman and twenty-seven other leading scientists. The novel is divided into three parts: Part One: The Ends of Peace, Part Two: The Race and Part Three: Red Dragon Rising. Part One begins seven years after that infamous letter and has Admiral James Curtiss being called to the Pentagon for an emergency meeting about a massive genocide taking place in the high mountains of Tibet.  This is not a disease, but a weapons test.  Chinese scientists have developed a way to kill based on a person’s genetic traits. The real danger will come if they achieve “Replication” – the breakthrough that will tip the global balance of power. To try and beat the Chinese, Admiral James Curtiss assembles the nation’s top scientists, which include a promising young graduate student named Eric Hill, who could provide the missing piece to the replication puzzle.  Sensing that the Americans have a leg up, the Chinese will stop at nothing, including kidnapping Eric, to force him to help them win this arms race.

Part techno-thriller, part political suspense novel, “The Last Sword Maker” is a thrill ride of a story. It starts off slow, but thankfully the action in the second half takes off and rewards readers for their persistence.  The history of the conflict between the Chinese and Tibetan people is eye-opening and serves as back story for Sonam Paljor, a member of the Tibetan resistance who is kidnapped, fed propaganda and converted into an elite solider for the Chinese. The language is descriptive “From here, they could see the top floors of other tech giants—silver-and-glass towers jutting above the trees like Mayan temples above the rain forest” and the deep character building is impressive which makes them relatable. Sometimes the torture scenes can get too graphic and violent but luckily there are not too many of them. Standout moments include ‘Chapter 17: Replication’ during the artificial intelligence final test and replication testing: “They worked silently, like peasant farmers tending to row after row of computer code” and when Eric, Bryan Ying and Mei finally escape the Chinese facility. The programming drama should appeal to programmers who understand the satisfaction of successful programming.  Hopefully, since it is advertised as the Course of Empire Series, Book 1, the Inventor, a cryptic ‘observer’ who seems to be a powerful and immortal being, comes back in subsequent books. There is something for everyone, from science, to politics, history and romance and that makes “The Last Sword Maker” a must-read page turner to rival the best from Tom Clancy and David Baldacci.

“You can’t know what it’s like until you’ve felt it. That was what he’d tell them. Bill, Jane, the admiral. When it was all over, he’d make them understand why he did it.  Why he had helped the enemy.”

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