Book Review: Treasure of Saint-Lazare: A Novel of Paris

Most recently I finished reading Treasure of Saint-Lazare: A Novel of Paris. I borrowed this book for free on my Kindle as part of the Prime Reading membership on Amazon, and it was exactly the kind of book I needed after reading Little Women. Now don’t get me wrong, I loved Little Women, but this kind of gripping and fast moving story was perfect after such a lovely tale of four sisters, where not much happened other than some tragic deaths in the family and lovely romances…

The story of Treasure of Saint-Lazare follows protagonist Eddie Grant when his former lover (Jen) shows up in Paris with a letter addressed to his deceased father. Jen & Eddie’s fathers were special operatives in World War II and were in charge of tracking down and retrieving all the famous art the Nazi party stole. Combining MYSTERY and ART HISTORY, this book was bound to be my cup-of-tea. There were many fun and exciting surprises throughout the book, where I’d audibly gasp while reading.

Jen’s appearance in Paris is the catalyst for Eddie and his friends to embark on a dangerous adventure through the romantic city and even Sarasota to discover the most valuable Nazi loot that still has not been found; a famous ‘Raphael self-portrait’ with crates of gold- worth billions today. Those treasures are intended to finance the Fourth Reich.

Plot locations were straddled between Sarasota, Florida and Paris, France. When reading the author’s bio I learned that he indeed was from both spots as well. It was really interesting reading his descriptions of all things Parisian, how elegant and smooth the culture was compared to America. It was quite apparent that he definitely thought higher of France than he did of the States.

Action. Adventure. A manhunt with twists, turns, and surprises that make your heart race…”

One thing that I did not care for in the author’s narrative was how many American’s depicted in the story were overweight or obese. Granted I get it- ‘the greatest country in the world also has the greatest problem with obesity’. But it would just rub me the wrong way how the author was almost fat-shaming several of the characters. Yes, all individuals within a novel should be all shapes and sizes, it was just rude to paint the overweight people in such a negative light. 

Other than the occasional fat-shame and fleeting cliché crime-novel dialogue, I really did enjoy Treasure of Saint-Lazare. It inspired me to keep reading and discover what was going to happen- if this painting even still existed…

If I purchased this in the bookstore I would’ve been a bit disappointed, due to some thoughts stated above, but I actually enjoyed it as it had been a free novel through the Kindle Prime-Reading membership. If you want fast paced adventure then I think this is definitely a library borrow. It was a quick and interesting read.

Details

Title: Treasure of Saint-Lazare: A Novel of Paris (The Eddie Grant Series Book 1)
Author: John Pearce
Series(?): The Eddie Grant Series

Publisher: Alesia Press LLC
Publication Date: January 13, 2017

Source & Format: Kindle, borrowed from Amazon
Page Count: 252
Genre: Mystery, Historical Fiction
Rating: ★★★

The Beginning

Welcome to my new blog! *Cue Cinderella’s trumpeters and a whole lotta glitter being thrown haphazardly into the wind*

“Wait, I thought you already had a blog?” – My Therapist (after I told her I made this)

During the last couple years, I’ve been lucky enough to dabble a bit in the blogging sphere. I’ve written a handful of articles for The HuffPost, BroadwayWorld.com, The Odyssey Online (where I first start writing on the interwebs!), and I’ve even guest authored posts on other sites. But I also wanted a place on the web that was completely and utterly my own.

Even though you (totes) probably know who I am, as my Mother undoubtedly shared this with you via her FaceBook page, let me give you a little background on who I am. My name is Christopher (nice to meet you), I’m 22 and currently have a full-time job at a professional theatre in Virginia. I graduated last May (I know I’m a baby!) with my Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Musical Theatre and was lucky enough to snag a wonderful job and meet the love of my life, all at once (crazy right?).

How’re ya likin’ it so far? Comfortable?

I titled this blog ‘A Silver Lining’, as that is one of my favorite talents: being able to find the positivity in every situation. I hope to populate this blog with my experiences, ideas and hope they entertain you!

There will be several posts on this page that I have published on other platforms, for the reason that some of my favorite or most important pieces (such as my coming out article, published via HuffPost) should live on this domain as well.

I plan to write about lots of subjects, featuring LGBTQ themes, books I’ve read, movies I’ve seen, personal experiences etc. Feel free to shoot me an email, comment on this post, or even send me a good ol’ tweet, etc on things you’d like me to talk about!

-Christopher

My Mindful Journey

Originally published on The Huffington Post on September 5th, 2017

My sophomore year of college I decided to attend a yoga class at a local studio and after sixty minutes of “Gentle Flow” my nineteen year old self was feeling rejuvenated, refreshed, and ready to take on the world. Soon I discovered, throughout my time at Dharma Studio, I didn’t particularly love the exercise, but loved the moment at the end: savasana. I learned that the purpose of savasana was to bring a deep meditative state of rest to conclude class. I much preferred the rest at the end, than the work in the middle, which made me think I would rather enjoy meditation.

 

When I used to hear the word meditation I would pair it with an extreme scenario like sitting a top a mountain at sunrise burning incense. But meditation can be as simple as sitting in a chair and focusing on your breath.

 

I had heard many things about a mediation practice, I knew my uncle meditated, my friends had taken a course on mindfulness in college, but I didn’t really understand how to get started. I started doing research on different techniques and tools I could use to start and found this app called “Calm” in the app store. I decided to download it onto my phone and the rest is history, I can say that it has absolutely changed my life.

As I am extremely fortunate to have been given opportunities in the writing world, theatre realm, and life in general, my anxiety can flare up sometimes; making it hard to walk through my day without feeling panicked about all the things I need to do. I had been searching for a way to ease my apprehension and was lucky enough to find meditation.

 

I am not sitting cross legged on a bare concrete floor, or breathing in incense at dawn. I am sitting comfortably on a pillow, which I specifically keep in my room for my practice, and focus on my breath. There is nothing religious in my practice; I know that some faiths like Buddhism have affiliation with such methods, but for me I am focusing on becoming the best “me” I can. Channeling into my breathing and allowing my worries to “pass like clouds in the sky” are my goals.

Meditation has made me a happier and more grounded person.

There are many different ways to meditate and tools you can use to help you center yourself. My favorite app to use is Calm.com, which provides soothing sounds like “Mountain Lake,” “Sunset Beach,” or my favorite, “Gently Flowing Stream,” to play in the background as you meditate.

There are several guided programs, and the “7 Days of Calm” gives you a taste of numerous types of focus techniques like “Body Scan” or a simple practice called “Calm” which has you relax specific parts of your body through your breathing. Calm is also really wonderful because you’re able to track when you meditate, for how long, and helps set personal goals to become more mindful in your practice.

Whenever I am irritated, sad, lonely, or overwhelmed I turn to my practice of meditation. I implore you to do more research on what meditation is and to try it yourself. I meditate for a 10-minute session every morning. I suggest starting at smaller increments of time, like two-five minutes with using an app like Calm or Headspace.

Meditation has changed my life.

Always remember that you are striving for the journey, not a destination. So do not be frustrated that it doesn’t provide mind-blowing results after the first couple sessions. Keep practicing. I am no expert on mindfulness or meditation, as I learn more and more about it every day, but it has changed my life in a wonderful way.

My Time In Therapy

Originally published on The Huffington Post, March 3rd, 2017

Becoming the Me I can be.

A subtle smile rests on my face as I walk down the sidewalk during a brisk and sunny February afternoon. I’m smirking because I feel as if a weight has been lifted off my chest; my mind feels clearer. What could have caused such a great sense of serenity? A session with my therapist, of course.

There tend to be a lot of misconceptions when you think of people going to therapy. “People who go to see a therapist are crazy. They don’t have support from their friends or family. Those people must be in a ‘bad place’.” I personally think that going to therapy is a smart and healthy decision. I have definitely benefitted from seeing a therapist, and I greatly recommend it. You should never be embarrassed for taking care of yourself mentally, people are always one to talk about how they’re improving their physical health. “Yeah, I’m on this new diet…”

You should never be embarrassed for taking care of yourself

Recently I have been feeling large amounts of anxiety as I am reaching a metaphorical crossroads in my life: I will be graduating college this May and though this excites me, it also stresses me out. Fears of my hopeful career, finances or lack thereof, and just the future in general have been plaguing my mind: robbing me of a good night’s rest. When asked the dreaded question “What are your plans after you graduate?” I respectfully reply “As soon as I find out, I’ll let you know.” And that’s the truth: I have no idea. The constant fear in the pit of my stomach was the catalyst for me to start going to therapy again.

 

I first saw a therapist during my freshman year of college; which was not successful because I didn’t connect with my counselor, making it difficult for me to open up about things that bothered me, disallowing me to talk about my true feelings and get to the root of the problem. I went back to counseling during my sophomore year of college because I had a strong will to “re-build myself”. I wanted to get a greater understanding of who I am and feel a better sense of balance in my life. It sounds all hippy-dippy, but it’s still something I strive for everyday. I went to therapy this (second) time because I wanted to be the best me I could be. I had a great connection with my therapist and was eager to learn more about bettering myself. It was a successful experience and I couldn’t be more grateful nineteen-year-old Christopher was able to make that choice.

“Our wounds are often the openings into the best and most beautiful part of us.” ― David Richo

I was tired of feeling mad, jealous, or scared and not knowing the reason why I was feeling that way. I wanted to further analyze and get a deeper understanding of my emotions in order to live my happiest life. Therapy is a great tool to understand my feelings, how I react to certain situations or people, and how to continually improve myself; using it as a looking glass to see my words and emotions from a different point of view. It’s my metaphorical backboard: I come in every week telling my counselor what has been bothering me and she will help me come to the conclusion why those issues are getting me so worked up.

 

For a while I would use the ominous or generic excuse “I have an appointment” in regards to meeting with my therapist, as I never felt the need to let others know I was going to see my counselor. But I think honesty and transparency are two things the world seems to be lacking at the current moment and I have no shame in receiving help to better myself. Therapy is a safe zone for you to analyze situations, maybe even come to the conclusion that you might be at fault, and how to not make the same mistake again.

Counseling is my time of self-reflection.

I started chuckling to myself a couple weeks ago because in my previous session that week I had finally gotten to the cause of why something was bothering me. “Therapy does work.” I thought while grinning.

Going in every week and talking over my frustrations and concerns with a therapist has benefitted me immensely. I regretfully admit that I tend to be somewhat of a perfectionist, which can be as detrimental as much as it is admirable, but I know that I will continue working, for the rest of my life, on being the best me I can be. I am so lucky to have such supportive, loving family and friends, and within the past year I have finally felt I can be fully honest and open with them. Living my best and authentic self.

 

“I am the one piece I hope to never call finished.” -Addison Peacock

I am proud of my time in therapy.

To Thine Own Self Be True

Originally published on The Huffington Post, October 10th, 2016

I’ve never felt the need to advertise my sexuality on the internet because when you meet me, I don’t say “Hi, I’m Christopher and this is my sexuality.” So why should that be your first impression of me behind your screen? There’s far more to me than who I’m attracted to. But today is a special day: National Coming Out Day. 29 years ago, half a million people marched on Washington in our nation’s capital for Gay & Lesbian Rights, and to honor their bravery and spirit, I am sharing my own personal story.

 

I am gay, but it’s not the only thing I think of when defining myself: I’m an optimist, hard worker, comedian (when people laugh at my jokes), honest, blonde, skinny (as my grandma reminds me far too often), a human being, the list goes on and on. I always think it’s interesting when people become so enveloped in labeling themselves. I’m Christopher, and that’s that.

 

***To those who are receiving this as new information: I’m still the same Christopher you knew before this article. I still love my family, am obsessed with Theatre, love to write, and will continue to crack jokes at the dinner table- pretending like the Buffalo Wild Wings waitress is hitting on me, even though she just asked me if I wanted a refill…I just want to get married to a man one day, and if that makes you think less of me, you can think so less of me: you don’t think of me at all.***

 

It’s taken me a long time to accept myself for who I am. I remember countless nights laying in bed and staring up at the ceiling: my brain and heart wrestling with the fact that I might be different… People always say that growing up and “finding yourself” can be a hard journey, but discovering that you’re gay can be a whole different level of difficulty. Throughout my adolescence, my stomach would hit the floor whenever I would even hear the word “gay” or “homosexual”. It made me upset, I didn’t want to think about how I could be “abnormal.” I just wanted to be cool and fit in, so this whole ‘liking boys’ thing was definitely putting a wrench in my “fitting in” plan.

 

I tried to convince myself I wasn’t this way. Telling myself it was a phase or labeling my feelings as other things that were easier for me to understand. I never really had any gay people to look up to when I was little, no gay family members or family friends. It was a foreign thing to me. Eventually, there came a time when I realized that I am a loving, smart, funny, and caring person, so why should it matter if I was attracted to men? Why can’t I still be a good person and be gay? Although those thoughts were summed up in a few sentences, coming to terms with myself took years.

I also think that the world has changed since I was young and people are far kinder and less harsh on the topic of sexuality, as it has become a more mainstream topic. More and more generations are accepting others for who they are. On the flip side, there are still a lot of sad and angry people, who like to focus their negative energy on things they don’t understand, and unfortunately homosexuality is a common target. For those who just do not know: gay people don’t possess a specific genetic disease, not all gay men like to wear dresses, and not all lesbians possess deep voices and are less effeminate than other women.

I am a happy, educated, intelligent, positive young man, who just happens to be attracted to the same gender.

 

I’m so very lucky to have the parents I have. My mother and father always made it clear to me that they would love me no matter what. Even with that kind of loving support, telling your parents you’re gay is something that can still terrify you. I remember making my bed one Saturday morning and wondering when I would tell them, and questioning if I even really needed to tell them. “I’ll get around to it sometime.” When I did finally tell them, it was as you’d expect from my first couple sentences: they will always love me, for which I am forever grateful.

 

I will never apologize for being myself because I love who I am. In the classic Shakespeare play “Hamlet”, Polonius is giving his son wisdom and advice before he embarks on his journey back to school. One of the lessons he tells his son is: “To thine own self be true.” I have always felt an immense attachment to that quote, because, throughout my twenty-one years of life, I have discovered that the only person you should ever be is yourself. Being comfortable and truthful of who you are can be the difficult thing to obtain, but keep trying, because it truly is all worth it in the end.

“To thine own self be true.” ~William Shakespeare

I can understand that if you do not have a lot of knowledge on this subject, it can make you uncomfortable, as we often get nervous or cramped when talking about things we know little about. But I implore you to do research, the internet is a marvelous tool to educate oneself on cultures you are not a part of. And just a reminder to Love One Another. Love is one of the most powerful things in this crazy world we live in, so love one another for who they are.

 

Whether you’re gay, bi, queer, lesbian, transgender, straight, or anything else, I hope that you find it in your heart to accept yourself and others for who they are. The fact that someone is different makes them unique, and we should celebrate that. After years of being open with my immediate family and friends, I’ve come to discover that:

Life is only the best if you live it in your truest form.