Book Reviews · Fiction

Book Review: “Pale” by Edward A Farmer (pub 5/19)

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Thank you @blackstonepublishing (partner) for my gifted copy of “Pale“, the impressive debut novel by Edward A Farmer! (pub date 5/19).

Some things just don’t keep well inside this house …”

The summer of 1966 burned hot across America but nowhere hotter than the cotton fields of Mississippi. Finding herself in a precarious position as a black woman living alone, Bernice accepts her brother Floyd’s invitation to join him as a servant for a white family & she enters the web of hostility and deception that is the Kern plantation household.

The secrets of the house are plentiful yet the silence that has encompassed it for so many years suddenly breaks with the arrival of the harvest & the appearance of Jesse & Fletcher to the plantation as cotton pickers. These two brothers, the sons of the house servant Silva, awaken a vengeful seed within the Missus of the house as she plots to punish not only her husband but Silva’s family as well. When the Missus starts flirting with Jesse, she sets into motion a dangerous game that could get Jesse killed & destroy the lives of the rest of the servants.

Bernice walks the fine line between emissary & accomplice, as she tries her best to draw secrets from the Missus’s heart, while using their closeness to protect the lives of the people around her. Once the Missus’s plans are complete, families will be severed, loyalties will be shattered, & no one will come out unscathed.

With a dazzling voice & rich emotional tension, “Pale” explores the ties that bind & how quickly humanity can fade & return us to primal ways.

Farmer is such a very talented storyteller & writer, it is hard to believe that this is a debut novel. “Pale” slowly builds tension & suspense with its complex, riveting & emotionally engaging prose. Family secrets, betrayal, lies & a woman hellbent on vindication & revenge, no matter who gets hurt on the way.

Pale” is powerful, gritty, atmospheric & utterly gripping from start to finish. Farmer is definitely a writer that we can expect more great stories from in the future. Kudos on this debut! “Pale” is available now, so add it to your TBR list & get it from your local indie bookseller today! Use BookStoreLink to find this book & others at a local or online independent bookstore. Click HERE to get started. You can also click HERE to add it to your Goodreads list.

What others are saying about “Pale“:

”More than once I had to remind myself to take a deep breathe while reading Pale. It’s a slow walk through a poetic dream, or rather an inescapable nightmare. Edward Farmer deftly portrays characters that are trapped by choices other people made long ago. A beautiful exploration of the tension between choices and circumstances. The evil of intergenerational racism is revealed by the preference to live in a quicksand of hatred, to choose slow vengeance over breaking free.” —Laila Ibrahim, bestselling author of Yellow Crocus

”Edward A. Farmer’s novel, Pale, takes readers on a twisting, turning journey of unexpected passions, forbidden love, and practiced cruelty. His sumptuous prose creates an operatic vision of life on a cotton plantation in 1960s Mississippi, a world on the cusp of great change that many of its characters resist with all their power. Farmer’s debut marks the emergence of an exciting new voice in American fiction.” —May-lee Chai, author of Useful Phrases for Immigrants: Stories and Dragon Chica

”Edward Farmer’s powerful debut, Pale, lures you in with its atmospheric prose, grabbing hold gently and then slowly tightening its emotional grip with each page. His main character, Bernice, must navigate Mississippi plantation life circa 1966 with its deeply embedded racism and well-established patriarchy, as well as the complex tensions between both Mr. and Mrs. Kerns and their servants. It’s a beautifully wrought novel, with each character sensitively drawn, exposing the lasting effects of trauma. Farmer is a writer to watch!” —John Copenhaver, author of the Macavity Award-winning Dodging and Burning

”Edward A. Farmer’s Pale is a novel that surges full force into the power of language. The music of the words builds and builds, rendering tension as thick as the humid Mississippi air. The characters overflow with this music, driven by intense passions, often to the point of madness. They try to make melody of circumstance and loss, but instead find only dissonance. Farmer orchestrates this story with the genius of a maestro, only releasing the reader through a deft and lovely resolution in the novel’s final pages. A striking debut by an author to watch.” —Zach Powers, author of First Cosmic Velocity and Gravity Changes

”Farmer’s debut captures the delicate and dangerous lose-lose reality of a person in Bernice’s position … Farmer opens with cotton imagery and returns to it throughout, disallowing any visions of beautiful, puffy whiteness … The story’s rewards and Bernice’s experience are important.” —Booklist

Edward A. Farmer is a native of Memphis, Tennessee, where he journaled and cultivated stories his entire childhood. He is a graduate of Amherst College with a degree in English and psychology, and recipient of the MacArthur-Leithauser Travel Award for creative writing. He currently lives and writes in Pasadena, California. Pale is his first novel.

Book Reviews

Book Review: “The Burning” by Megha Majumdar

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Thank you @aaknopf & @shelf.awareness for my gifted copy of “A Burning” by Megha Majumdar! (pub date 6/2) (Click HERE to add the book to your Goodreads list.)

For readers of Tommy Orange, Yaa Gyasi, & Jhumpa Lahiri, an electrifying debut novel about three unforgettable characters who seek to rise—to the middle class, to political power, to fame in the movies—and find their lives entangled in the wake of a catastrophe in contemporary India.

Jivan is a Muslim girl from the slums, determined to move up in life, who is accused of executing a terrorist attack on a train because of a careless comment on Facebook. PT Sir is an opportunistic gym teacher who hitches his aspirations to a right-wing political party, & finds that his own ascent becomes linked to Jivan’s fall. Lovely–an irresistible outcast whose exuberant voice & dreams of glory fill the novel with warmth & hope & humor–has the alibi that can set Jivan free, but it will cost her everything she holds dear.

Taut, symphonic, propulsive, & riveting from its opening lines, “A Burning” has the force of an epic while being so masterfully compressed it can be read in a single sitting.

Majumdar writes with dazzling assurance at a breakneck pace on complex themes that read as the components of a thriller: class, fate, corruption, justice, & what it feels like to face profound obstacles & yet nurture big dreams in a country spinning toward extremism.

An extraordinary debut.

**Everyone has a right to their opinion, but there are things you just can’t post on social media or any online forum, whether jokingly or not, without possibly being flagged as a terrorist by your government or invoking a visit to your home from the FBI, maybe even arrested. This story is about what happens when one young woman, Jivan, shares a video & posts a seemingly innocent comment on Facebook.


Set in present day India & told from 3 POV’s, there’s a reason this book was selected as a June BOTM. Click HERE to use my referral & join Book-of-the-Month & add this book to your first monthly box. (See one of my previous BOTM posts for all of the wonderful benefits to joining BOTM.)

Relevant, propulsive, positively captivating, & often witty, “The Burning” is an exceptionally well-written & thought-provoking, debut novel that you can zip through in a couple sittings. It’s just that good! Use BookStoreLink.com to find this book & any others at a local, independent bookstore. Click HERE to find “A Burning“.

More editorial reviews of “The Burning“:

#1 Indie Next Pick for June

One of the most anticipated books of summer by the
Wall Street JournalEntertainment Weekly, Vogue, O, Elle, The Millions, Lit Hub

“Particularly relevant today… entertaining as well as intellectually serious… complex… nuanced… Captures the grainy specificity of life in India.”
The New York Times 

“In her captivating debut novel A Burning, Megha Majumdar presents a powerful corrective to the political narratives that have dominated in contemporary India.”
Time

“Propulsive…ambitious…headlong…beautiful and supple…heartbreaking.”  
The Boston Globe

“Remarkable…Early buzz is already comparing A BURNING to the work of modern literary stars . . . but the voice—or voices—here are entirely Majumdar’s own.”—Entertainment Weekly

“Combines fast-paced plotting with the kind of atmospheric detail one might find in the work of Jhumpa Lahiri or Daniyal Mueenuddin. . . A highly compelling read”
—Vogue

““Majumdar’s explosive first novel is an intimate epic”
—Elle

“A BURNING is an excellently crafted, utterly thrilling novel full of characters that I won’t soon forget.  Megha Majumdar writes about the ripple effects of our choices, the interconnectedness of our humanity, with striking beauty and clarity. A stunning debut.”
—Yaa Gyasi

“Polyphonic…Lovely is a particular gem…brilliant”  —Kirkus Reviews

“This is a novel of now: a beautifully constructed literary thriller from a rare and powerful new voice.”
—Colum McCann

MEGHA MAJUMDAR was born and raised in Kolkata, India. She moved to the United States to attend college at Harvard University, followed by graduate school in social anthropology at Johns Hopkins University. She works as an editor at Catapult, and lives in New York City. A Burning is her first book. Follow her on Twitter @MeghaMaj and Instagram @megha.maj

Book Reviews

Book Review: “The Second Home” by Christina Clancy

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Happy Pub Day & Thank you @stmartinspress for my gifted copy of “The Second Home” by Christina Clancy! (pub date 6/2, today!)

A debut novel set on Cape Cod that centers on a beloved family home & the summer that changed the lives of three siblings forever, perfect for readers of J. Courtney Sullivan & Elin Hilderbrand.

Tender and compassionate, incisive & heartbreaking, Christina Clancy’s “The Second Home is the story of a family you’ll quickly fall in love with, & won’t soon forget.

After a disastrous summer spent at her family summer home on Cape Cod, 17-year-old Ann Gordon was left with a secret that changed her life forever, & created a rift between her sister, Poppy, & their adopted brother, Michael.

Now, 15 years later, her parents have died, leaving Ann & Poppy to decide the fate of the Wellfleet home that’s been in the Gordon family for generations. For Ann, the once-beloved house is tainted with bad memories. Poppy loves the old saltbox, but after years spent chasing waves around the world, she isn’t sure she knows how to stay in one place.

Just when the sisters decide to sell, Michael re-enters their lives with a legitimate claim to the house. But more than that, he wants to set the record straight about that long ago summer. Reunited after years apart, these very different siblings must decide if they can continue to be a family―& the house just might be the glue that holds them together.

Told through the shifting perspectives of Ann, Poppy, & Michael, this assured & affecting debut captures the ache of nostalgia for summers past & the powerful draw of the places we return to again & again. It is about second homes, second families, & second chances.

**They had me at ‘for fans of Elin Hilderbrand!’ I love well-written, debut novels that deal w/ family drama & stir emotions…& a Cape Cod setting makes it even better!

The Second Home” has well-fleshed out characters & is deftly plotted, complex, nuanced, & atmospheric. This is not a fluffy beach read, as there are a couple trigger warnings you should be aware of: rape & suicide. This is a deeply gripping & unforgettable book that you will have a hard time putting down. This riveting book would also make a super book club or book discussion group read.

Look for this book at your local booksellers today! Click HERE to add this to your Goodreads TBR. Click HERE to use BookStoreLink & find it at a local, independent book seller. (And I will another post about this book later this week, so keep an eye out for that.) What other books released today that you are excited to read? Please comment & let me know.

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Praise for The Second Home:

One of Good Morning America’s “25 Novels You’ll Want to Read this Summer”

“A sure-footed ode to the strength of family, the depth of loss, and the power of forgiveness.” ―J. Ryan Stradal, New York Times best-selling author, Kitchens of the Great Midwest

The Second Home shows us how families are knit together and how they unravel; how a place―a geography, a house―can act as the repository for our best and most important memories. And that even the most damaged past can be reclaimed, a hard-won wisdom that shines through on every page. ―Jean Thompson, New York Times bestselling author of The Year We Left Home

“Clancy imagines her complicated characters with such empathy and precision that every questionable choice, every mistake, feels like the only option. The Second Home is a big, sprawling, smart, beautiful story about love and betrayal, home and family, and the foundations of forgiveness.” ―Lauren Fox, author of Days of AweFriends Like Us, and Still Life With Husband

“Christina Clancy writes with an arresting vividness and a nuanced understanding of her characters, who are buffeted by a storm of conflicting desires. A poignant but also very entertaining novel―full of startling detail, humor, and above all, an abiding sympathy for its beautifully drawn characters.” ―Christine Sneed, author of Little Known Facts

“This deeply moving and heartfelt book explores what makes a home – and how homes make us. It’s deftly plotted, sensuously told, and incredibly smart about the secrets that pull families apart and the love that knits them back together.” ―Liam Callanan, author of Paris by the Book.

“From the first pages of The Second Home, it’s abundantly clear that Christina Clancy has an abiding love for outer Cape Cod, which she conjures in all its bluster and beauty. But as this compelling novel progresses, it also becomes obvious that Clancy has a keen awareness of how secrets can tear apart even the closest of families. Drawn in by the exquisitely-rendered setting, I was riveted by this stirring, family drama.”―Karen Dukess, author of The Last Book Party

Warm, absorbing and thought-provoking…” ― Shelf Awareness

A riveting family saga that fans of J. Courtney Sullivan, Cristina Alger, and Maria de los Santos will devour, Clancy’s debut novel is a delight. With nostalgia as thick as the scent of coconut-scented sunscreen, The Second Home explores the consequences of emotional decisions and the strength needed to set things right.”―Booklist (starred review)

Transporting
…Clancy’s beach-ready debut is sure to be a favorite with book clubs.” ― Publisher’s Weekly

Witty and compassionate, this is the page-turning saga, unfolding in several voices, of two sisters, their estranged adopted brother and the dispute that arises 15 years after their parents’ death.” ― Naples Daily News

“With its fond descriptions of Cape Cod’s land and seascapes and an evocation of a historic house layered with love and secrets, Clancy’s debut clearly has its eye firmly set on the summer-read market.” ― Kirkus

Christina Clancy‘s work has appeared in the New York Times, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, The Sun Magazine and in various literary journals, including Glimmer Train, Pleiades and Hobart. She holds a PhD in Creative Writing from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. 
The Second Home is her first novel.


BOTMs,

June Books of the Month selections are up!!

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🎉Whoo Hoo!! The June BOTM’s are LIVE! And this girl is HAPPY!😁
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📚Why am I so happy? Because I had my hopes up that the upcoming, new Sager novel, “Home Before Dark“, would be a Book of the Month selection & I’m excited to say, BOTM came through! I think this is the first month in awhile where every one of the 5 BOTM choices are on my TBR list.
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📚I have an arc of “A Burning” by Megha Majumdar & can’t wait to read that one soon! And I loved Brit Bennett’s last book “The Mothers” so much & I’m looking forward to this new one of hers, “The Vanishing Half“. Then, because one can never have too many thrillers, I added “The Last Flight” by Julie Clark to my box along with the romance choice, “One to Watch” by Kate Stayman-London.
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📚What a fantastic group of books & of course, there are still plenty of awesome add-on choices available as well!
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📚Once you have received 12 BOTM monthly boxes, you are officially a BFF. With that new title comes great things: a FREE BOTM tote bag, a FREE BOTM add-on during your bday month, & a FREE book at the end of the year from the Book of the Year finalists. It’s pretty freakin’ awesome!
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📚Many of the books each month are Early Releases (like 3 of this months!) meaning you can get a nice hardback copy of a book sometimes a month or more before the gen public! Full-size, beautiful hardback books for nearly HALF of what you would pay anywhere else, & well-curated selections of various genres. A little something for everyone! You can add-on other books for even LESS (up to 3 books total per month) & you can skip any month you like. (You can cancel anytime, but trust me, you won’t want to!)
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📚To use my special referral code & get your first BOTM at a discount, click on any of the highlighted BOTM’s in this post. You will so happy you joined! If you are already a member, what book(s) did you choose this month? Or perhaps you skipped? Do tell!

Here are the June selections:

Jivan is a Muslim girl from the slums, determined to move up in life, who is accused of executing a terrorist attack on a train because of a careless comment on Facebook. PT Sir is an opportunistic gym teacher who hitches his aspirations to a right-wing political party, and finds that his own ascent becomes linked to Jivan’s fall. Lovely—an irresistible outcast whose exuberant voice and dreams of glory fill the novel with warmth and hope and humor—has the alibi that can set Jivan free, but it will cost her everything she holds dear.

Taut, symphonic, propulsive, and riveting from its opening lines, A Burning has the force of an epic while being so masterfully compressed it can be read in a single sitting. Majumdar writes with dazzling assurance at a breakneck pace on complex themes that read here as the components of a thriller: class, fate, corruption, justice, and what it feels like to face profound obstacles and yet nurture big dreams in a country spinning toward extremism. An extraordinary debut.

The Vignes twin sisters will always be identical. But after growing up together in a small, southern Black community and running away at age sixteen, it’s not just the shape of their daily lives that is different as adults, it’s everything: their families, their communities, their racial identities. Ten years later, one sister lives with her Black daughter in the same southern town she once tried to escape. The other secretly passes for white, and her white husband knows nothing of her past. Still, even separated by so many miles and just as many lies, the fates of the twins remain intertwined. What will happen to the next generation, when their own daughters’ storylines intersect?

Weaving together multiple strands and generations of this family, from the Deep South to California, from the 1950s to the 1990s, Brit Bennett produces a story that is at once a riveting, emotional family story and a brilliant exploration of the American history of passing. Looking well beyond issues of race, The Vanishing Half considers the lasting influence of the past as it shapes a person’s decisions, desires, and expectations, and explores some of the multiple reasons and realms in which people sometimes feel pulled to live as something other than their origins.

What was it like? Living in that house.

Maggie Holt is used to such questions. Twenty-five years ago, she and her parents, Ewan and Jess, moved into Baneberry Hall, a rambling Victorian estate in the Vermont woods. They spent three weeks there before fleeing in the dead of night, an ordeal Ewan later recounted in a nonfiction book called House of Horrors. His tale of ghostly happenings and encounters with malevolent spirits became a worldwide phenomenon, rivaling The Amityville Horror in popularity—and skepticism.

Today, Maggie is a restorer of old homes and too young to remember any of the events mentioned in her father’s book. But she also doesn’t believe a word of it. Ghosts, after all, don’t exist. When Maggie inherits Baneberry Hall after her father’s death, she returns to renovate the place to prepare it for sale. But her homecoming is anything but warm. People from the past, chronicled in House of Horrors, lurk in the shadows. And locals aren’t thrilled that their small town has been made infamous thanks to Maggie’s father. Even more unnerving is Baneberry Hall itself—a place filled with relics from another era that hint at a history of dark deeds. As Maggie experiences strange occurrences straight out of her father’s book, she starts to believe that what he wrote was more fact than fiction.

Bea Schumacher is a devastatingly stylish plus-size fashion blogger who has amazing friends, a devoted family, legions of Insta followers—and a massively broken heart. Like the rest of America, Bea indulges in her weekly obsession: the hit reality show Main Squeeze. The fantasy dates! The kiss-off rejections! The surprising amount of guys named Chad! But Bea is sick and tired of the lack of body diversity on the show. Since when is being a size zero a prerequisite for getting engaged on television?

Just when Bea has sworn off dating altogether, she gets an intriguing call: Main Squeeze wants her to be its next star, surrounded by men vying for her affections. Bea agrees, on one condition—under no circumstances will she actually fall in love. She’s in this to supercharge her career, subvert harmful anti-fat beauty standards, inspire women across America, and get a free hot air balloon ride. That’s it.

But when the cameras start rolling, Bea realizes things are more complicated than she anticipated. She’s in a whirlwind of sumptuous couture, Internet culture wars, sexy suitors, and an opportunity (or two, or five) to find messy, real-life love in the midst of a made-for-TV fairy tale. In this joyful, razor-sharp debut, Bea has to decide whether it might just be worth trusting these men—and herself—for a chance to live happily ever after.

Claire Cook has a perfect life. Married to the scion of a political dynasty, with a Manhattan townhouse and a staff of ten, her surroundings are elegant, her days flawlessly choreographed, and her future auspicious. But behind closed doors, nothing is quite as it seems. That perfect husband has a temper that burns as bright as his promising political career, and he’s not above using his staff to track Claire’s every move, making sure she’s living up to his impossible standards. But what he doesn’t know is that Claire has worked for months on a plan to vanish.

A chance meeting in an airport bar brings her together with a woman whose circumstances seem equally dire. Together they make a last-minute decision to switch tickets—Claire taking Eva’s flight to Oakland, and Eva traveling to Puerto Rico as Claire. They believe the swap will give each of them the head start they need to begin again somewhere far away. But when the flight to Puerto Rico goes down, Claire realizes it’s no longer a head start but a new life. Cut off, out of options, with the news of her death about to explode in the media, Claire will assume Eva’s identity, and along with it, the secrets Eva fought so hard to keep hidden.

***Again, be sure to use my Book of the Month referral link & you will get a big discount on your first month’s BOTM box & be well on your way to earning your BFF status & start getting those awesome benefits I mentioned above.

Hope you all have a wonderful weekend!

BeachReads · Book Reviews · Giveaway

Book Review: “A Week at the Shore” and GIVEAWAY(s) reminder!

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Thank you @stmartinspress for my beautiful, gifted copy of “A Week at the Shore“! (pub date 5/19)

In her new book, New York Times bestselling author, Barbara Delinsky explores how lives & relationships are forever changed when three sisters reunite at their family Rhode Island beach house.

One phone call is all it takes to lure real estate photographer Mallory Aldiss back to her family Rhode Island beach home. It’s been 20 yrs since she’s been gone—running from the scandal that destroyed her parents’ marriage, drove her & her two sisters apart, & crushed her relationship with her first love. But going home is fraught with emotional baggage—memories, mysteries & secrets abound.

Mal’s 13-yr-old daughter, Joy, has never been to the place where Mal’s life was shaped & is desperate to go. Fatherless, she craves family & especially wants to spend time with the grandfather she barely knows.

In just seven watershed days on the Rhode Island coast three women will test the bonds of sisterhood, friendship & family, & discover the role that love & memory plays in defining their lives.

Click HERE to add to your Goodreads list

I am always drawn to books that take place in beachy, shoreline towns since I live in one myself. Gives me more of a sense of being there, even if my shoreline is Lake Erie & this books is the ocean. This book is not a light, fluffy beach read, as it is heavier on family dysfunction, fractured sibling relationships, drama, secrets, & confronting the past. It’s around 400 pgs & a bit of a slow-burn, but it’s also engaging, well-written & captivating.

Amazing writing, atmospherically breath-taking & emotionally gripping, this is a fantastic book that is full of heart & soul! Look for this book next week everywhere books are sold, & since many indie bookstores are starting to open back up, start there first. Use BookStoreLink to find “A Week at the Shore” & any other books at a local independent bookstore. They need our sales now more than ever to stay afloat & get back on their feet.

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Speaking of “beach reads”, be sure to enter my HUGE 3-winner giveaway on Instagram (Click HERE) AND the 3-book thriller giveaway (Click HERE)! And keep an eye out for ANOTHER one coming soon! I’m feeling very generous this week as I clean my office out & pull more & more books from my overwhelmed home library shelves. I am in full Marie Kondo mode!

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Here in Ohio many businesses are starting to reopen (even though Covid #’s continue to rise.) Personally I will continue to limit my socializing & where my family & I go for the rest of the summer (probably year). No summer day camp for my autistic sons either & they LOVED going. We do have an in-ground pool, so luckily we have that to keep them occupies & happy once Mother Nature gets her act together & realizes what month it is. High 70’s one day, low 40’s to high 30’s the next…that is life in Ohio for ya!

I am having such a hard time with wearing a mask everywhere I go. I will continue to & I definitely NEED to due a compromised immune system, but man…they get so freaking hot & I am claustrophobic so I tend to start getting into anxious, panic mode after about 15 minutes in one. I really feel bad for the healthcare workers & others out there that have to wear masks (& more!) for hours at a time. I truly can’t even imagine how awful that must be for them.

Me visiting my mom recently after not seeing her for 5 mos!

As always, stay safe out there. Stay home if you can. Reach out to others online or on the phone if you are getting out of sorts, stressed, exhausted, depressed, or just need a virtual hug. Think of others with all of your actions & reactions. Just stay safe… Now go wash your hands.